aesthetics philosophy Societies

The Need For Grandeur

In a glorious order, there would be no homeless people and slums within sight of the Imperial Palace.
Living for about 4 years in Washington, DC, I got used to seeing dirty monuments and signs of abject squalor within a few blocks of some of the most important places on earth.
My first impression of DC was that everything seemed to have a dark layer of greasy soot on it, like seeing the world through a dirty old window pane. I was astonished by the horrid infrastructure. Power outages were common during the summer and once I went days without electricity. Growing up in a desert backwater of the American Empire and living for years in the “flyover” Midwest, I’d never seen or heard of such things in a wealthy country—it was embarassing to witness it in the capital of the world’s greatest power.
I went everywhere on the DC metro and was amazed at how often there were major delays and track shutdowns at peak hours. What should easily be a clean, reliable, safe system is instead notorious for its corruption, minor repairs that take months, and fatal accidents.
This sort of incompetence just comes to be met with sullen shrugs after awhile. Everyone knows the metro is a big affirmative action jobs mill and everyone suffers for it.
This kind of nonsense makes a mockery of the system’s legitimacy. At least most fools have the common sense to make sure it’s other people suitably far away who get burdened by their bad decisions. Who can but laugh when even the city of the rulers gets punished by their own stupid policies? They can’t even get incompetence right.
In a glorious system, it would be a point of pride that the trains arrive on time, especially in the Imperial Capital. Only the best would be allowed anywhere near infrastructure that millions of people see every day. When people see the system can get basic things done right, they can focus on higher things, their faith in the rulers is preserved.

Relentlessly literal-minded enlightenment thought has steadily diminished the old concept of grandeur. In the social cosmology, the elites dwell in heaven. Everything surrounding the rulers must be impressive. A rightful imperial capital would be off limits to most people, it would be pristine, its soil sacred. We can see how even ceremonial rulers like the English royal family are looked on by the whole world with a sense of awe. When a princess is with child, it’s as if she’s pregnant with a new God and millions look on in suspense at the prospect of a new addition to the pantheon. When legitimacy is properly cultivated, even the life cycle of the rulers becomes a living symbol of the continuation of an entire people. For society’s heaven is the source of ideal forms for the common people to emulate.

So in the rightful order of affairs, proper rulers cannot have ugly spouses or live in small houses. They must have the best of everything as a matter of course. The rulers can’t be seen eating French fries or consorting with entertainers. They must keep a mythic distance from the ordinary material world. It should be hard for the average person to imagine the rulers pooping, just as they can hardly imagine movie stars pooping. Lack of awe is why masses of millions would rather look up to entertainers than their rulers. The righteous ruler naturally outshines the celebrities and occupies an unquestioned spot at the top of Olympus.
This is not to suggest rulers would be out of touch with reality or sheltered. Running a state is deadly serious business. They would go through many rough trials in their ascent and much of their legitimacy would come from their bravery, integrity, vision, and competence. But once ascended, they would have a rightful role to fulfill.
Meanwhile, every day life below would reflect the grandeur cultivated at the top.

Perhaps police in important areas would be like old fashioned French guards selected for certain height requirements and dressed in imposing uniforms.
Flying airlines outside the US, I’ve noticed a sense of grandeur is cultivated by having mostly elegant and pretty young women as stewardesses.
Going through airports and customs in other countries is night and day compared to the US.
In America airports are heavily staffed by unsightly denizens of the lower and underclasses. Worse, they’re often in positions like TSA where they get to frisk people and question them in unintelligible mono-syllables. They’re placed in a position of power far above their station and the effect on social morale is devastating.
I still remember what it was like to come back from Argentina or Europe and the first sight that greeted me back to the US was lots of morbidly obese underclass blacks of ambiguous gender wearing uniforms that barely fit them. My stomach would sink into my feet and I would find myself wishing I’d just stayed where I’d come back from.
Like the trains, the airports are infrastructural institutions that form the public face of a nation.
We have only to glance at the magnificent rail stations of the 19th and early 20th centuries to see the importance of grandeur was once well understood.

Even outside official insitutions, architecture in general creates a cultural gestalt.
Just as broken windows invite crime, ugly buildings invite malaise and despair.
The USSR is commonly associated with its soul-destroying architecture but surely the USA with the same strip malls with the same floor plans repeating over and over across a 3,000 mile swathe has a similar crushing effect on the human spirit.
Travelling through Europe I saw the beauty of Munich contrasted against Berlin with its drab concrete slabs that dominate entire city blocks. Even the Berlin rail station looked like a borg cube from star trek and surrounding it was acres of empty land paved over with asphalt and concrete. It was depressing!
Where I now live in southern Ohio, I’m astonished to see that even the old water towers were built to look like stylized castles complete with crenellations. People used to simply understand the importance of raising mundane things to the spiritual plane through aesthetics.
In a proper society, grandeur is intuitively understood from the statecraft of rulers to the daily life of commoners. Just like good fiction has themes that tie all of its parts together, a good society engineers its aesthetics so that all its parts tell a compelling story of identity and cohesion.

By Giovanni Dannato

In 1547 I was burnt at the stake in Rome for my pernicious pamphlet proclaiming that the heavens were not filled with a profusion of aether, but rather an extensive vacuum.
Now, the phlogiston that composed my being has re-manifested centuries in the future so that I may continue the task that was inconveniently disrupted so long ago.
Now, I live in Rome on the very street where I (and others) were publicly burnt. To this day, the street is known as what I would translate as 'Heretic's Way'. My charming residence is number 6 on this old road. Please, do come inside and pay me a visit; I should be delighted to spew out endless pedagoguery to one and all...

9 replies on “The Need For Grandeur”

I agree. The ruler should be akin to the sun. Radiating majesty and splendor and having that bleed into the rest of society.

This grandeur should reach even to the basest of men.

Could also be going for the Dune vibe, which 40k clearly got huge inspiration from.
In any case, these are memes that seem well understood in this e-neighborhood and help convey a certain feel. Everything is unapologetically over the top in the 40k Imperium, part of its charm.

Indeed but the quasi-medieval mentality of the Dune universe is like barren soil for us; Their
knowledge hoarding and mysticism sickens even the likes of me!

The only genre where overeducated malcontents have a chance is Cyberpunk fiction! The characters are just punk versions of people I know IRL ( with improbable hacking skillz of course ).

For all its repressiveness, the imperium resonates with me because they’re surrounded by the most horrifying enemies imaginable that they must confront with ordinary human capabilities and still manage to hold their own.
As a lifelong dissident, I really empathize with their successful struggles for survival against overwhelming opposition. They make great sacrifices like Exterminatus on entire planets so they can live to fight another day. They do whatever it takes to endure no matter how much it hurts, like I had to do for my entire young life before I had control over my own affairs. At home and at school I was always fighting for survival on every side against a mass of millions just like imperial troops vs. tyranids or any of their myriad foes.

What bother me about the Imperium is that they don’t want to ‘evolve’ ( Ordo Hydra ) and be truly unstoppable, their stubborness is stronger than their desire for survival.

The same reasoning can be applied to you ! I am mean this is your chance to go “mad”, Joker style ! Failing that you can still become a dictator, the competition seems to be semi educated painters & paranoid whackos. Nowdays you don’t even need that much public speaking if you are on Twitter !

I wonder what hold us back from doing really crazy things instead of daydreaming !

You have a point about their inflexibility possibly reducing their survivability in the long run, the main thing for me is to borrow from their mood and aesthetic of grandiose grim determination. I just wrote a post about the need for adaptability in a social structure, which I have long believed in.
What cyberpunk fiction would be most suited to us? Which have compelling aesthetics?

I’ve wondered about “crazy stuff” before. Yes if there were already tons of competitors writing the same things I think about, I wouldn’t bother. It will be interesting to see where it all leads, if anywhere. Barely 5 or 6 years ago even the mild MRAs were seen in the same league as pedophiles and KKK. In those days I could write anti-feminist articles in a trollish tone and get hundreds of outraged people coming into the comments. Now, the dissidents have won themselves their own space for discussion and are even beginning to have an impact on pop culture, a big deal. I figure a next step might be development of small real-life local organizations as people get less afraid of being “thought criminals” that over time start to coalesce into something bigger.

What are you asking for is an oxymoron ! The closest we have to positive in Cyberpunk is Post-Cyberpunk which is bitter-sweet at best (Ghost in the Shell).

I remember back in 2008 when along a group of Nordic friends we started to observe patterns that lead to Muslim Reverse Colonization, Privacy violations, French pussification etc
Naturally we were considered delusional nutjobs but when all we predicted happened, I have to admit I felt a smug sense of satisfaction, the people they are killing in the terrorist attacks are not my “own” anyway moreover I genuinely feel that all this chaos is strengthening and awakening Europeans!

A bit late as I didn’t think about it but after rereading the comments the Cyberpunk that most closely resembles today is William Gibson’s Cyberpunk. Neuromancer is good but I like all his Cyberpunk books. It’s amazing how well he captured the present. We have a lot of high tech but it’s overlies a lot of grime. Older Sci-fi has everything more nice, shiny and clean. The real world is much more grungy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s