THE BIRTH OF PRUDENCE—A Novel About The West’s Decline (And Recovery?
It’s not just that the personal is political. It’s that the personal determines the political.
First-time author Ryan Andrews attacks some of the most difficult questions facing Western Man in The Birth of Prudence—just published by VDARE.com Books ($19.99). This is a novel that is going to make you uncomfortable, uneasy, and maybe even outraged. But it’s a story that cannot be ignored.
The eponymous Prudence is a Korean-American university student who identiﬁes with the glory of Western Civilization. She is a perfect example of what Establishment conservatives would consider the ideal—a foreigner who has come to identify with the West as a concept, as an abstract construct. And of course, there is much legitimacy to her approach—after all, as Prudence says, beyond the questions raised by the great minds of Greece and Rome, “there is nothing more worth knowing.”
This is the terrible temptation of Western universalism—the oddly imperialist notion that Western Civilization is not a distinct culture at all, but simply the highest development of human culture. Andrews addresses this head-on in the book, which begins with a short faux-academic essay on how imperialism has mutated from a forthright ideology of Western superiority into a subversive program of Western domination cloaked in universalistic and egalitarian terms.
Mark, a confused and alienated young white American, falls for Prudence after seeing her in a bar. Mark is not a bold paragon of Europa—indeed, he’s what we might call a “beta.” It’s to the credit of the author that this kind of character works in the book. The monologuing, overanalytical, and oddly romantic male is actually a kind of “type” on the Dissident Right, found throughout the forums, conferences, and meetings that characterize the subculture. For that reason, Mark actually seems relatable, or at least understandable.
For example, I stated laughing in recognition when Mark starts mentally berating himself and his friends for wasting time drinking at a bar. He then turns his rage on the other patrons.
A man sitting a few tables over had let his shirt ride up so high that a third of his back was exposed. ‘He is like three hundred pounds, he probably just doesn’t care. But, how can he be comfortable like that?… Jesus Christ. How pathetic this all this.”
Of course, Mark also was the one who agreed to go out drinking.
Mark’s scorn, though justiﬁed, is partially a cover for his own insecurity—the insecurity of self-conscious ignorance. By his own admission, he is looking for something, but he can’t even put a name to that which he seeks. Thus, he alternates between wanting to go out socially and wanting to turn away from the world, between throwing himself into the decadence and then backing away in disgust. Loneliness and bitterness here is a result of deracination, and the solution is love.
Somehow, in this seedy bar of all places, he ﬁnds Prudence, and his life changes forever. Though his approach may be sorely lacking in even elementary “game,” his desperate opening and Prudence’s reaction somehow works here. It works because to Prudence, Western art’s most sacred truth is the doctrine of the superiority of the man of deep-feeling. And by this measure, Mark is a supreme Alpha.
Mark clearly loves, even worships Prudence. She introduces Mark to his own culture, through Shakespeare, classical music, and history. Gradually Mark comes to see that he has a people, that he belongs, that he is a part of something greater than himself.
The solution though, becomes the problem. Mark belongs to a people—whereas Prudence only believes in an idea. Identity, after all, is something primal, vital, and inherent, not something that can be simply changed by reading a book or learning a new point of view. Ultimately, all universalistic theories of culture, hesitant conservatism, or ideological answers to the Death of the West collide with the brutal biological reality outlined by Sam Francis in the famous American Renaissance conference speech that ended his Washington Times career . Namely,
The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people, nor is there any reason to believe that the civilization can be successfully transmitted to a different people. If the people or race that created and sustained the civilization of the West should die, then the civilization also will die. [Why Race Matters, American Renaissance, September 1994 ]
At the same time this is going on, author Andrews uses the dorm room arguments of a racial-realist/ethnonationalist and an egalitarian universalist to explore and debate the societal background that has given birth to Mark and Prudence. These kinds of late-night bull sessions between friends can transform into deadly serious arguments between political enemies, once the forbidden subject of race is broached. And so it is happens here.
But this is part of what the book itself does. The tragedy of Mark and Prudence takes place within the tragedy of the West. And so it challenges readers who claim to believe in the West, whether they really mean it and are willing to be true to themselves and their ideals in the way they live their lives. It’s a sobering question, even an offensive one, to patriots accustomed to concealing their beliefs out of fear.
For that reason, The Birth of Prudence is an important book, touching on relationships, race, and above all, identity. It speaks to a generation that has lost its birthright, especially young men who are thrown into the swamp that the Main Stream Media calls a culture, tossed a weight called “white privilege,” and ordered to swim for their lives. To them, The Birth of Prudence throws a desperately-needed life preserver.
One of the greatest lines in The Simpsons comes when one character observes, “I’ve always admired your tart honesty and ability to be personally offended by broad social trends.” But of course, broad social trends do ultimately impinge on all of us. What is a fringe opinion on a college campus can become a policy within a few short years. The woefully familiar tales of political dissidents losing jobs, relationships, and even homes, show that even these abstract debates are deadly serious.
What The Birth of Prudence shows is that it can work both ways. By reforming our own lives, rediscovering our heritage, and living out what we claim to believe in, we can rebuild the culture from the ground up.
Yet there is always a price to be paid. No one says that doing the right thing won’t be tragic or costly—but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.
The Birth of Prudence is that rare product of the Dissident Right—something that addresses the core questions of our collapsing world without coming off as shrill, hysterical, or inhumane. Instead, the book treats life as it is—messy, paradoxical, and difficult. But despite all that—it’s uncompromising.
It’s a great introduction to those alienated souls who sense something is wrong, but can’t quite put their ﬁnger on it.
Hopefully, after reading it, they can, like Mark, rediscover their own people.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc.