People will criticize–because people always criticize–but I see Rammstein grappling with a difficult thing: identity.
The song–intense, burning–glorifies and repudiates. At times Germania is strong; at times she is devoured; at times she is lovely; at times she is brutal. In one scene, the band members, dressed as concentration camp victims, shoot her in the face. In another, Germania makes out with a band member’s decapitated head.
Modern identities in countries experiencing massive change–technological, demographic–are fraught, particularly so in a place like Germany, whose history is so controversial:
Germany My heart in flames Want to love you Want to damn you
Some will criticize the band’s decision to represent Germany as a black woman. (If you didn’t catch that before, go back and re-watch. The black woman is Germania, Germany.) Controversial, yes. But it makes her much easier to spot and thus the video easier to understand.
Others will criticize the band members’ decision to dress themselves as Holocaust victims. This is, for many, a no-go; they cannot watch or find peace with such depictions. But the band is in no way glorifying the Holocaust. I do not think they are trivializing it, nor merely trying to capitalize on it for money. They are artists dealing with a very difficult subject–German identity–and the Holocaust is part of that. It is a history that has to be dealt with, even if by shooting it in the face. If someone manages to depict the holocaust in a way that isn’t horrifying, something has gone wrong.
We should not criticize art simply because the artist is good enough at art that they get paid for it.
The lyrics are minimal; QankHD on Reddit did a nice job of translating them (I have included their notes):
You have cried a lot In the mind apart In the heart united
We have been together for a very long time Your breath is cold The heart in flames You, I, Us, You (plural)
Germany My heart in flames Want to love you Want to damn you Germany Your breath is cold so young and yet so old Germany
I never want to leave you One want to love you And want to hate you Overbearing (arrogant) Superior To take over (I think this is the only proper way to translate this in context here) To surrender (giving away, can also be read as throwing up) Surprising To attack (to assault, raid, invade) Germany Germany over everyone
Superior (super powerful) Needless (dispensable, a waste) Übermenschen Sick of (tired, bored) The higher you climb, the farther you fall Germany Germany over everyone
Germany Your love is a curse and a blessing Germany My love I cannot give to you Germany
Many people will mistakenly accuse Rammstein of being fascist reactionaries simply because they sound like angry Germans. No honest reading of the song supports this; everything from the lyrics to the casting of a black woman as Germania indicates pure leftism. Rammstein’s industrial beats, no matter how intense, come out of an era when the shocking was still primarily in support of liberalism.
Most songs deal with love in some way. Pop songs are about falling in love, rap about sex, goth about how the singer’s love has died and he will never love again. In Rammstein, love is death:
Du Hast (You Have) depicts the band members kidnapping and murdering a man, apparently on behalf of a woman (perhaps someone he has harmed).
The core of Du Hast:
You have asked me and I have said nothing Do you want to be faithful for eternity Until death parts you?
In Rosenrot, a monk is seduced by a young woman, who convinces him to murder her husband. She then betrays him, and he is burned at the stake, the young woman throwing the first flaming torch onto his pyre.
In the lyrics, a young man falls to his death attempting to bring a red rose to his love.
Sonne (Sun) depicts the band members as the Seven Dwarves, enslaved to Snow White, who forces them to toil in the mines all day to keep her supplied with gold and drugs.
Love is a conflicted emotion for these guys; nationalism no less so. Anyone who criticizes Rammstein for being shocking has missed the entire point of the band. These are guys who regularly perform with flamethrowers and incorporate jackhammers into their songs. One band member had his cheeks pierced so he could perform with a light inside his mouth. Shock and horror are an integral part of what the band does.
The song itself, played without the video, doesn’t stand out to me. Engel combines innovative sounds (whistling) plus the high pitch of a woman’s voice against the industrial steel. Du Hast carries you on its rhythm with an intensity that makes English speakers mistranslate “have” as “hate.” Of course, songs often become more loved with repetition (which is why I listened to the song 5 or 6 times before writing this); part of the joy of music is the joy of counting without realizing it, of expectations fulfilled (repetition of the chorus) and violated–the introduction of new instruments, alteration of previous chords.
Deutschland doesn’t stand out musically to me; the song is almost just background music to the video, with sections lifted from previous works–most notably the ending, when Germania, having given birth to… a litter of puppies? is finally sent to space, in Snow White’s glass coffin, while the instrumental music from Sonne (the Snow White song) plays quietly. It is peaceful in space. The lyrics of Sonne, if you know them, translate to “Here comes the sun;” I interpret the ending as hopeful. Germania is asleep, but a new day is dawning, perhaps a better day.
In contrast to Deutschland, Gary Numan’s Basement cover of “Are Friends Electric?” was an immediate emotional punch to the gut:
The video itself is not much–mostly the band performing in a damp basement–but the song is haunting and atmospheric. The basement is decayed, almost crypt-like. Water drips, forming stalactites and puddles. Piano notes in discordant tones.
It’s cold outside–and a puff of breath in the air, damp claminess.
Words are whispered, almost inaudible. The instruments take over. The song is transformed. Loneliness. Emptiness. Hearts burst. Feelings explode. The instruments are like sirens in the night.
In the end, we are alone. Are friends electric? Mine’s still broken.
I don’t have nearly as much to say about this video, but I love the song.
The material-grievances theory and the cultural-resentments theory can fit together because, in both cases, they tell us that people voted for Trump out of a perceived self-interest, which was to improve their faltering economic and material conditions, or else to affirm their cultural standing vis-à-vis the non-whites and the bicoastal elites. Their votes were, from this standpoint, rationally cast. … which ultimately would suggest that 2016’s election was at least a semi-normal event, even if Trump has his oddities. But here is my reservation.
I do not think the election was normal. I think it was the strangest election in American history in at least one major particular, which has to do with the qualifications and demeanor of the winning candidate. American presidents over the centuries have always cultivated, after all, a style, which has been pretty much the style of George Washington, sartorially updated. … Now, it is possible that, over the centuries, appearances and reality have, on occasion, parted ways, and one or another president, in the privacy of his personal quarters, or in whispered instructions to his henchmen, has been, in fact, a lout, a demagogue, a thug, and a stinking cesspool of corruption. And yet, until just now, nobody running for the presidency, none of the serious candidates, would have wanted to look like that, and this was for a simple reason. The American project requires a rigorously republican culture, without which a democratic society cannot exist—a culture of honesty, logic, science, and open-minded debate, which requires, in turn, tolerance and mutual respect. Democracy demands decorum. And since the president is supposed to be democracy’s leader, the candidates for the office have always done their best to, at least, put on a good act.
The author (Paul Berman) then proposes Theory III: Broad Cultural Collapse:
A Theory 3 ought to emphasize still another non-economic and non-industrial factor, apart from marriage, family structure, theology, bad doctors, evil pharmaceutical companies, and racist ideology. This is a broad cultural collapse. It is a collapse, at minimum, of civic knowledge—a collapse in the ability to identify political reality, a collapse in the ability to recall the nature of democracy and the American ideal. An intellectual collapse, ultimately. And the sign of this collapse is an inability to recognize that Donald Trump has the look of a foreign object within the American presidential tradition.
Berman is insightful until he blames cultural collapse on the educational system (those dastardly teachers just decided not to teach about George Washington, I guess.)
We can’t blame education. Very few people had many years of formal education of any sort back in 1776 or 1810–even in 1900, far fewer people completed highschool than do today. The idea that highschool civics class was more effectively teaching future voters what to look for in a president in 1815 than today therefore seems unlikely.
If anything, in my (admittedly limited, parental) interactions with the local schools, education seem to lag national sentiment. For example, the local schools still cover Columbus Day in a pro-Columbus manner (and I don’t even live in a particularly conservative area) and have special Veterans’ Day events. School curricula are, I think, fairly influenced by the desires of the Texas schools, because Texas is a big state that buys a lot of textbooks.
I know plenty of Boomers who voted for Trump, so if we’re looking at a change in school curricula, we’re looking at a shift that happened half a century ago (or more,) but only recently manifested.
That said, I definitely feel something coursing through society that I could call “Cultural Collapse.” I just don’t think the schools are to blame.
Yesterday I happened across children’s book about famous musicians from the 1920s. Interwoven with the biographies of Beethoven and Mozart were political comments about kings and queens, European social structure and how these musicians of course saw through all of this royalty business and wanted to make music for the common people. It was an articulated ideology of democracy.
Sure, people today still think democracy is important, but the framing (and phrasing) is different. The book we recently read of mathematicians’ biographies didn’t stop to tell us how highly the mathematicians thought of the idea of common people voting (rather, when it bothered with ideology, it focused on increasing representation of women in mathematics and emphasizing the historical obstacles they faced.)
According to the Mounk-Foa early-warning system, signs of democratic deconsolidation in the United States and many other liberal democracies are now similar to those in Venezuela before its crisis.
Across numerous countries, including Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations. …
Support for autocratic alternatives is rising, too. Drawing on data from the European and World Values Surveys, the researchers found that the share of Americans who say that army rule would be a “good” or “very good” thing had risen to 1 in 6 in 2014, compared with 1 in 16 in 1995.
That trend is particularly strong among young people. For instance, in a previously published paper, the researchers calculated that 43 percent of older Americans believed it was illegitimate for the military to take over if the government were incompetent or failing to do its job, but only 19 percent of millennials agreed. The same generational divide showed up in Europe, where 53 percent of older people thought a military takeover would be illegitimate, while only 36 percent of millennials agreed.
Note, though, that this is not a local phenomenon–any explanation that explains why support for democracy is down in the US needs to also explain why it’s down in Sweden, Australia, Britain, and the Netherlands (and maybe why it wasn’t so popular there in the first place.)
Here are a few different theories besides failing schools:
Less common culture, due to integration and immigration
More international culture, due to the internet, TV, and similar technologies
Put yourself in your grandfather or great-grandfather’s shoes, growing up in the 1910s or 20s. Cars were not yet common; chances were if he wanted to go somewhere, he walked or rode a horse. Telephones and radios were still rare. TV barely existed.
If you wanted to talk to someone, you walked over to them and talked. If you wanted to talk to someone from another town, either you or they had to travel, often by horse or wagon. For long-distance news, you had newspapers and a few telegraph wires.
News traveled slowly. People traveled slowly (most people didn’t ride trains regularly.) Most of the people you talked to were folks who lived nearby, in your own community. Everyone not from your community was some kind of outsider.
During World War II, for example, three German submariners escaped from Camp Crossville, Tennessee. Their flight took them to an Appalachian cabin, where they stopped for a drink of water. The mountain granny told them to git.” When they ignored her, she promptly shot them dead. The sheriff came, and scolded her for shooting helpless prisoners. Granny burst into tears, and said that she wold not have done it if she had known the were Germans. The exasperated sheriff asked her what in “tarnation” she thought she was shooting at. “Why,” she replied, “I thought they was Yankees!”
And then your grandfather got shipped out to get shot at somewhere in Europe or the Pacific.
Today, technology has completely transformed our lives. When we want to talk to someone or hear their opinion, we can just pick up the phone, visit facebook, or flip on the TV. We have daily commutes that would have taken our ancestors a week to walk. People expect to travel thousands of miles for college and jobs.
The effect is a curious inversion: In a world where you can talk to anyone, why talk to your neighbors? Personally, I spend more time talking to people in Britain than the folks next door, (and I like my neighbors.)
Now, this blog was practically founded on the idea that this technological shift in the way ideas (memes) are transmitted has a profound effect on the kinds of ideas that are transmitted. When ideas must be propagated between relatives and neighbors, these ideas are likely to promote your own material well-being (as you must survive well enough to continue propagating the idea for it to go on existing,) whereas when ideas can be easily transmitted between strangers who don’t even live near each other, the ideas need not promote personal survival–they just need to sound good. (I went into more detail on this idea back in Viruses Want you to Spread Them, Mitochondrial Memes, and The Progressive Virus.)
How do these technological shifts affect how we form communities?
In a groundbreaking book based on vast data, Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and our democratic structures– and how we may reconnect.
Putnam warns that our stock of social capital – the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities.
Putnam draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We’re even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues. Putnam shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women’s roles and other factors have contributed to this decline.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) reported in its General Social Survey (GSS) that unprecedented numbers of Americans are lonely. Published in the American Sociological Review (ASR) and authored by Miller McPhearson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and Matthew Brashears, sociologists at Duke and the University of Arizona, the study featured 1,500 face-to-face interviews where more than a quarter of the respondents — one in four — said that they have no one with whom they can talk about their personal troubles or triumphs. If family members are not counted, the number doubles to more than half of Americans who have no one outside their immediate family with whom they can share confidences. Sadly, the researchers noted increases in “social isolation” and “a very significant decrease in social connection to close friends and family.”
Rarely has news from an academic paper struck such a responsive nerve with the general public. These dramatic statistics from ASR parallel similar trends reported by the Beverly LaHaye Institute — that over the 40 years from 1960 to 2000 the Census Bureau had expanded its analysis of what had been a minor category. The Census Bureau categorizes the term “unrelated individuals” to designate someone who does not live in a “family group.” Sadly, we’ve seen the percentage of persons living as “unrelated individuals” almost triple, increasing from 6 to 16 percent of all people during the last 40 years. A huge majority of those classified as “unrelated individuals” (about 70 percent) lived alone.
Long-run data from the US, where the General Social Survey (GSS) has been gathering information about trust attitudes since 1972, suggests that people trust each other less today than 40 years ago. This decline in interpersonal trust in the US has been coupled with a long-run reduction in public trust in government – according to estimates compiled by the Pew Research Center since 1958, today trust in the government in the US is at historically low levels.
Interpersonal trust attitudes correlate strongly with religious affiliation and upbringing. Some studies have shown that this strong positive relationship remains after controlling for several survey-respondent characteristics.1This, in turn, has led researchers to use religion as a proxy for trust, in order to estimate the extent to which economic outcomes depend on trust attitudes. Estimates from these and other studies using an instrumental-variable approach, suggest that trust has a causal impact on economic outcomes.2 This suggests that the remarkable cross-country heterogeneity in trust that we observe today, can explain a significant part of the historical differences in cross-country income levels.
Measures of trust from attitudinal survey questions remain the most common source of data on trust. Yet academic studies have shown that these measures of trust are generally weak predictors of actual trusting behaviour. Interestingly, however, questions about trusting attitudes do seem to predict trustworthiness. In other words, people who say they trust other people tend to be trustworthy themselves.3
Our technological shifts haven’t just affected ideas and conversations–with people able to travel thousands of miles in an afternoon, they’ve also affected the composition of communities. The US in 1920 was almost 90% white and 10% black, (with that black population concentrated in the segregated South). All other races together totaled only a couple percent. Today, the US is <65% white, 13% black, 16% Hispanic, 6% Asian and Native American, and 9% “other” or multi-racial.
Similar changes have happened in Europe, both with the creation of the Free Movement Zone and the discovery that the Mediterranean isn’t that hard to cross, though the composition of the newcomers obviously differs.
Diversity may have its benefits, but one of the things it isn’t is a common culture.
With all of these changes, do I really feel that there is anything particularly special about my local community and its norms over those of my British friends?
What about Disney?
Well, Disney’s most profitable product hasn’t exactly been pro-democracy, though I doubt a few princess movies can actually budge people’s political compasses or vote for Trump (or Hillary.) But what about the general content of children’s stories? It sure seems like there are a lot fewer stories focused on characters from American history than in the days when Davy Crockett was the biggest thing on TV.
Of course this loops back into technological changes, as American TV and movies are enjoyed by an increasingly non-American audience and media content is driven by advertisers’ desire to reach specific audiences (eg, the “rural purge” in TV programming, when popular TV shows aimed at more rural or older audiences were cancelled in favor of programs featuring urban characters, which advertisers believed would appeal to younger viewers with more cash to spend.)
If cultural collapse is happening, it’s not because we lack for civics classes, but because civics classes alone cannot create a civic culture where there is none.
Spencer I regard as somewhat like the Boogeyman: journalists like to pull him out when they want to scare someone. He doesn’t represent the Alt-Right inasmuch as the Alt-Right is mostly a vague collection of people/groups on the internet who don’t fall into mainstream conservatism, rather than a coherent entity with a single leader.
I am not personally well-acquainted with Spencer’s work–if I’ve read any of it, I’ve forgotten it–but he is famous enough that I am familiar with the gist of it.
According to Tablet:
…alt-right luminary Richard Spencer declared himself to be a “white Zionist.” Just as Jews want a state of their own, the Charlottesville far-right organizer argued, he merely seeks a state for white people.
“…you could say that I am a white Zionist in the sense that I care about my people. I want us to have a secure homeland that’s for us and ourselves just like you want a secure homeland in Israel.”
So far, so good: this sounds a lot like things Spencer has said elsewhere, eg, Wikipedia says:
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Spencer has advocated for a white homeland for a “dispossessed white race” and called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” to halt the “deconstruction” of European culture. To this end he has supported what he has called “the creation of a White Ethno-State on the North American continent”, an “ideal” that he has regarded as a “reconstitution of the Roman Empire.”
The white nationalist wants a white nation. Sounds tautological. But this is where Tablet gets interesting:
It’s an analogy with superficial plausibility. It’s also a malicious lie, and a deliberate one. …
Essentially, the alt-right maliciously appropriates the deeply held values of liberals and minorities in order to attack them. This is not because the alt-right shares those values, but because it wants to troll those who do.
This is quite the claim! It’s one thing to claim that someone has appropriated a cultural item, such as a white person performing a style of music invented by black people or an Asian person wearing a Mexican hat. “Cultural appropriation” is a logical mess in practice, but at least it rests on the somewhat coherent idea of “this is my culture, we do and make these things, therefore these things belong to us.”
What does it mean to appropriate someone’s values? “You can’t be an environmentalist, only people whose ancestors were environmentalists are allowed to care about the environment?” “I’m sorry, but since Freedom of Speech was not originally enshrined in your country’s laws, you’re not allowed to want it.”
But if we read the paragraph again, it becomes clear that Tablet doesn’t really want to accuse Spencer of appropriating liberal values, (which it thinks he does not hold) but instead the logicalarguments used to support liberal positions.
And for what purpose? Here Tablet’s answer is simple: to troll them:
This disingenuous dynamic of using liberal values to troll liberals has been documented elsewhere by journalists who have followed the alt-right. … As Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in his 1946 treatise Anti-Semite and Jew:
Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. … they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert.
Spencer’s doing it for the shits and giggles, folks.
To be fair, the alt-right is full of trolls and jokers, and many of them are anti-Semitic. Spencer himself is probably anti-Semitic, or at least anti-people-who-write-for-Tablet, but anti-Semitic trolling of the frogs-and-gas-chamber-memes-variety doesn’t appear to be his primary concern. He seems to be primarily concerned with promoting white nationalism. (It’s almost as though “alt-right” were a vague, poorly-defined term that includes a lot of people who might not even believe in the same stuff besides a general dislike of both the mainstream left and right.)
If Spencer is just trolling you, then what is his real intention? In this case, we have nothing–nothing but sound and fury, blustering for no reason. What’s the point? Does Spencer have secret reasons for promoting white nationalism other than white nationalism?
In my many years of trying to figure out why people believe and advocate for the politics they do, I have observed two things:
People often ignore each others’ arguments, respond to arguments their opponents didn’t make, assume their opponents are lying, or lie themselves about their opponents’ arguments
People I disagree with make more sense if I assume they are generally trying to be truthful
For example, in a debate about abortion, one side might argue, “We think women should have the right to control their own bodies,” and the other side might argue, “murdering babies is immoral,” and then side A responds, “You hate women and want to force them to be breeding cows,” and side B shoots back, “You hate babies and want to murder them.”
But it actually makes more sense to assume the anti-abortion side is opposed to baby-murder than that they’re interested in using women like cattle, and it makes more sense to assume the pro-abortion side is more interested in controlling whether or not they are pregnant than in maliciously murdering people.
Interestingly, conservatives tend to understand liberals’ motivations and reasons for their political beliefs better than liberals understand conservatives’. As Haidt reports in The Righteous Mind, (quoted on The Independent Whig):
In a study I did with Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek, we tested how well liberals and conservatives could understand each other. We asked more than two thousand American visitors to fill out the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out normally, answering as themselves. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as they think a “typical liberal” would respond. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as a “typical conservative” would respond. This design allowed us to examine the stereotypes that each side held about the other. More important, it allowed us to assess how accurate they were by comparing people’s expectations about “typical” partisans to the actual responses from partisans on the left and the right.)’ …
The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal.” The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. When faced with questions such as “One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal” or ”Justice is the most important requirement for a society,” liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree. If you have a moral matrix built primarily on intuitions about care and fairness (as equality), and you listen to the Reagan [i.e., conservative] narrative, what else could you think? Reagan seems completely unconcerned about the welfare of drug addicts, poor people, and gay people. He’s more interested in fighting wars and telling people how to run their sex lives.
I find this holds among people I know in real life: the conservatives tend to understand what liberals believe, while the liberals tend to despair that they live in a country full of evil psychopaths who voted for Trump.
There has been a lot of debate (and public marching) lately about Free Speech, especially whether people like Richard Spencer should have free speech. It seems that some people see even their political opponents as basically honest and well-meaning, their political opinions therefore something a good person might believe if they had different life experiences or were just working with different information.
By contrast, some people see other people as fundamentally dishonest and malicious, their “opinions” as just justifications or deflective cover for being a bad person. (Would you debate the ethics of murder with a serial killer?)
If you fall into the first camp, then the principle of Free Speech makes sense, because knowledge and experiences can be conveyed. But if you fall into the second camp, then there are positions that you think are not honestly argued nor susceptible to logic or debate–in which case, there’s no point to extending “free speech” to such ideas.
Will this shift lead to a less diverse Eidolon? Our writers always have been, and will continue to be, a diverse group. Our writer pool has excellent diversity of race, age, gender, professional status, and sexuality. … we’ve been accused of not being “ideologically diverse.” This charge is a common one, but I think it is misguided, in addition to being morally bankrupt. Making ideological diversity a primary objective is fundamentally incompatible with fighting against racism, sexism, and other forms of structural oppression, and we choose to prioritize the latter.
In other words: liberals don’t think conservatives deserve free speech because they assume conservatives are basically lying to cover up their real agenda of hurting various minorities.
But why are liberals more susceptible to misunderstanding their opponents than liberals? Let’s return to Tablet, which makes two interesting arguments. First:
Thus, [the alt-right] wrenches causes like affirmative action, black pride, and Zionism from their historical and moral context—as defenses of minorities against long-standing majority oppression—and inverts them to serve white supremacist aims against minorities.
Well, I don’t think Spencer mentioned affirmative action in this article, but the rest is sensible.
In general, American conservatives tend to believe that moral principles should be applied universally–to quote Kant’s categorical imperative:
Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.
Tablet is in effect saying that nationalism is not meant to be a universal political value, but particular to specific groups in specific contexts. The universalizable principle is not nationalism, but, “Nationalism for minority groups in order to protect them from majority groups.”
By this logic, American whites shouldn’t be nationalist vis American non-whites, but South African whites would be perfectly justified in nationalism against South Africa’s black majority. This rule does not tell us, however, whether a group that expects to become a minority in the future is justified in pre-emptively trying to prevent this or look out for their future interests.
(Incidentally, US infants are already majority non-white, and the entire US will be majority non-white around 2050. NPR also estimates that about 20% of the 2060 US population will be foreigners. By contrast, the nation was 84% white back in 1965, before passage of LBJ’s immigration act.)
“Nationalism for everyone” is at least a clear principle that doesn’t get hung up on such nuances as “Are we a minority yet?” or “Are we sufficiently oppressed?” Unfortunately, it leads to other questions, like “Should Basques have their own country?” or “What about Northern Ireland?”
But to return to Spencer and Tablet, it appears that Spencer is working under the assumption that “nationalism is good” is a universal principle applicable to all peoples, while Tablet is working on the assumption that “nationalism is a defense for minority populations against oppression.”
Tablet unnecessarily muddles the waters by adding:
In this manner, the return of Jews to their indigenous homeland is recast by white nationalists, who are not indigenous to America, to justify kicking Jews and other minorities out of the country.
Whoa whoa whoa. “Indigeneity” is a whole different argument. If anyone gets to be called “indigenous” in Israel, it’s the Palestinians. Genetically speaking, claiming indigeneity based on having lived somewhere 2,000 years ago is nonsense–during the 1,900 years of diaspora, pretty much all Jewish groups intermarried with their neighbors and are now about 50% “non Jew” by DNA (most of that on their mothers’ side, as men are nigh universally more likely than women to travel long distances and then take local wives.) Ashkenazim–the majority of Jews–are about 50% Italian, having taken wives from among the Romans after their expulsion from Judea following the destruction of the Second Temple.
For that matter, I would like to point out that the majority of Jews are genetically “white” and that Jewish culture has been part of European culture for almost 2,000 years. (I don’t know how to politely express just how dumb I think two different groups of whites arguing about “white nationalism” is.) Jews have been living in parts of Germany for almost as long as the ethnic Germans, having been officially invited in during the Ostsiedlung. If Jews are indigenous to anywhere, they have a much better argument for Germany and Poland than Israel.
Luckily for me, I think “indigeneity” is a stupid argument and that countries should exist because there exists some entity with the military power to secure the area. By my logic, Israel gets to exist because it does exist: Israel is the only entity with the military strength to control the area, and denying this would just destabilize the area and lead to more deaths.
Likewise, Americans (whites included) have a right to their country because they are already here and controlling it.
Tablet’s justification for why it thinks Spencer (and the alt-right generally) is lying about being interested in white nationalism, or perhaps that white nationalism is comparable to Zionism, is that alt-righters tend not to like Israel or Jews:
That the alt-right does not genuinely support Israel or Zionism—that “they delight in acting in bad faith” on the topic—is readily apparent from how its members talk about Israel when they are not engaged in trolling.
(Here the article quotes several people from Twitter saying negative things about Zionism or Israel, none of whom, I note, are Spencer.)
But I don’t think Spencer (or any other alt-right spokesman) ever claimed to care about Israel. Just because someone believes in the generalized concept of “nationalism” does not mean they care personally about the national ambitions of all peoples. In fact, I wager a Serbian nationalist and a Kosovar nationalist take pretty dim views of each other. Kurdish nationalists have difficulties with Iraqi nationalists; Northern Irish Catholic nationalists don’t get along with Northern Irish Protestant nationalists. An American nationalist may not care one way or another about nationalist ambitions in Guatemala or Indonesia. And white nationalists are under no obligation to care about Jewish nationalism, nor Jews to care about white nationalism.
Here, I think, is the crux of the matter: the point of Zionism is to benefit Jews; the point of white nationalism is to benefit whites. If white nationalism results in Jews getting hurt, then that’s a pretty big practical difference (from the Jewish POV) between the two ideologies. And this, of course, is why Tablet would prefer that you not use Zionism as a justification for an ideology that is–at the very least–filled with people who are anti-Zionist.
“Nationalism for everyone” is a clear principle, but “nationalism for me but not for you,” benefits me much more. This is true for everyone. The only reason whites probably don’t generally think this way is that we’ve been the majority for so long.
But what’s best for the whole of society? It’s easy to say, “Hey, let’s do what’s best for the whole of society” when your group already is most of society. What about minority groups in that same society? Should they–as in the Prisoner’s Dilemma–cooperate with others for the greater good? Or should they look out preferentially for their own good? And what happens in a multi-ethnic society where no group has a clear majority? Can you convince people to cooperate for the greater good, or does the inevitable presence of some people who prefer to cooperate only with co-ethnics and defect on strangers inevitably drive everyone apart?
Long term, how does a multi-ethnic democracy prevent itself from breaking down into everyone voting for their own tribal self-interest?
Sayyid Qutb lived from 1906 – 1966. He was an Egyptian writer, thinker, and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was executed in 1966 for plotting to assassinate the Egyptian president, Nasser.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded back in 1928 by Islamic scholarHassan al-Banna. Its goal is to instill the Quran and the Sunnah as the “sole reference point for … ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community … and state”; mottos include “Believers are but Brothers”, “Islam is the Solution”, and “Allah is our objective; the Qur’an is the Constitution; the Prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; death for the sake of Allah is our wish”.
The MB’s philosophy is pan-Islamist and it wields power in several countries:
323/354 seats in the Sudanese National Assembly,
74/132 seats in the Palestian Legislature,
69/217 seats in the Tunisian assembly,
39/249 seats in the Afghan House,
46/301 seats in Yemen,
16/146 seats in Mauritania,
40/560 seats in Indonesia
2/40 seats in Bahrain
and 4/325 and 1/128 in Iraq and Lebanon, respectively
In 2012, the MB sponsored the elected political party in Egypt (following the January Revolution in 2011,) but has had some trouble in Egypt since then.
The MB also does charity work, runs hospitals, etc., and is clearly using democratic means to to assemble power.
According to Wikipedia:
As Islamic Modernist beliefs were co-opted by secularist rulers and official `ulama, the Brotherhood has become traditionalist and conservative, “being the only available outlet for those whose religious and cultural sensibilities had been outraged by the impact of Westernisation”. Al-Banna believed the Quran and Sunnah constitute a perfect way of life and social and political organization that God has set out for man. Islamic governments must be based on this system and eventually unified in a Caliphate. The Muslim Brotherhood’s goal, as stated by its founder al-Banna was to drive out British colonial and other Western influences, reclaim Islam’s manifest destiny—an empire, stretching from Spain to Indonesia. The Brotherhood preaches that Islam will bring social justice, the eradication of poverty, corruption and sinful behavior, and political freedom (to the extent allowed by the laws of Islam).
Back to Qutb:
In the early 1940s, he encountered the work of Nobel Prize-winner FrencheugenicistAlexis Carrel, who would have a seminal and lasting influence on his criticism of Western civilization, as “instead of liberating man, as the post-Enlightenment narrative claimed, he believed that Western modernity enmeshed people in spiritually numbing networks of control and discipline, and that rather than build caring communities, it cultivated attitudes of selfish individualism. Qutb regarded Carrel as a rare sort of Western thinker, one who understood that his civilization “depreciated humanity” by honouring the “machine” over the “spirit and soul” (al-nafs wa al-ruh). He saw Carrel’s critique, coming as it did from within the enemy camp, as providing his discourse with an added measure of legitimacy.”
“As a brown person in Greeley, Colorado in the late 1940’s studying English he came across much prejudice. He was appalled by what he perceived as loose sexual openness of American men and women (a far cry from his home of Musha, Asyut). This American experience was for him a fine-tuning of his Islamic identity.”…
Qutb concluded that major aspects of American life were primitive and “shocking”, a people who were “numb to faith in religion, faith in art, and faith in spiritual values altogether”. His experience in the U.S. is believed to have formed in part the impetus for his rejection of Western values and his move towards Islamism upon returning to Egypt.
The man has a point. American art has a lot of Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol schtick.
In 1952, the Egyptian monarchy–which was pro-western–was overthrown by nationalists (?) like Nasser. At first Nasser and Qutb worked together, but there was something of a power struggle and Qutb didn’t approve of Nasser organizing the new Egypt along essentially secular lines instead of Islamic ideology, at which point Qutb tried to have Nasser assassinated and Nasser had Qutb arrested, tortured, and eventually hung.
Aside from the fact that Qutb is Egyptian and Muslim, he and the alt-right have a fair amount in common. (Read his Wikipedia Page if you don’t see what I mean.) The basic critique that the West is immoral, degenerate, has bad art, bad manners, and that capitalism has created a “spiritually numbing” network of control (your boss, office dress codes, the HOA, paperwork), and a return to spirituality (not rejecting science, but enhancing it,) can fix these things.
My impression–Muslim monarchs tend to be secular modernists. They see the tech other countries have (especially bombs) and want it. They see the GDPs other countries have, and want that, too. They’re not that interested in religion (which would limit their behavior) and not that interested in nationalism (as they tend to rule over a variety of different “nations.”) Many monarchs are (or were) quite friendly to the West. The King of Jordan and Shah of Iran come immediately to mind.
(I once met the Director of the CIA. He had a photograph of the King of Jordan in his office. Motioning to the photo, he told me the King was one of America’s friends.)
But modernization isn’t easy. People who have hundreds or thousands of years’ experience living a particular lifestyle are suddenly told to go live a different lifestyle, and aren’t sure how to react. The traditional lifestyle gave people meaning, but the modern lifestyle gives people TV and low infant mortality.
That’s the situation we’re all facing, really.
So what’s a society to do? Sometimes they keep their kings. Sometimes they overthrow them. Then what? You can go nationalist–like Nasser. Communist–like South Yemen. (Though I’m not sure Yemen had a king.) Or Islamic, like Iran. (As far as I can tell, the Iranian revolution had a significant communist element, but the Islamic won out.) The Iranian revolution is in no danger of spreading, though, because the Iranians practice a variety of Islam that’s a rare minority everywhere else in the world.
I hear the Saudis and certain other monarchs have stayed in power so far by using their oil money to keep everyone comfortable (staving off the stresses of modernization) and enforcing Islamic law (keeping the social system familiar.) We’ll see how long this lasts.
So one of the oddities of the Middle East is that while other parts of the world have become more liberal, it appears to have become less. You can find many Before-and-After pictures of places like Iran, where women used to mingle with men, unveiled, in Western-style dress. (In fact, I think the veil was illegal in Iran in the 50s.) War-torn Afghanistan is an even sadder case.
“After the end of the Second World War, Zahir Shah recognised the need for the modernisation of Afghanistan and recruited a number of foreign advisers to assist with the process. During this period Afghanistan’s first modern university was founded.… despite the factionalism and political infighting a new constitution was introduced during 1964 which made Afghanistan a modern democratic state by introducing free elections, a parliament, civil rights, women’s rights and universal suffrage.“
While he was in Italy (undergoing eye surgery and treatment for lumbago,) his cousin executed a coup and instituted a republican government. As we all know, Afghanistan has gone nowhere but up since then.
Zahir Shah returned to Afghanistan in 2002, after the US drove out the Taliban, where he received the title “Father of the Nation” but did not resume duties as monarch. He died in 2007.
His eldest daughter (Princess of Afghanistan?) is Bilqis Begum–Bilqis is the Queen of Sheba’s Islamic name–but she doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. The heir apparent is Ahmad Shah Khan, if you’re looking for someone to crown.
Back to the Muslim Brotherhood.
One of the big differences between elites and commoners is that commoners tend to be far more conservatives than elites. Elites think a world in which they can jet off to Italy for medical treatment sounds awesome, while commoners think this is going to put the local village medic out of a job. Or as the world learned last November, America’s upper and lower classes have very different ideas about borders, globalization, and who should be president.
Similarly, the Muslim Brotherhood seems perfectly happy to use democratic means to come to power where it can.
(The MB apparently does a lot of charity work, which is part of why it is popular.)
The relationship between the MB an Saudi Arabia is interesting. After Egypt cracked down on the MB, thousands of members went to Saudi Arabia. SA needed teachers, and many of the MB were teachers, so it seemed mutually beneficial. The MB thus took over the Saudi educational system, and probably large chunks of their bureaucracy.
Relations soured between SA and the MB due to SA’s decision to let the US base troops there for its war against Iraq, and due to the MB’s involvement in the Arab Spring and active role in Egypt’s democracy–Saudi monarchs aren’t too keen on democracy. In 2014, SA declared the MB a “terrorist organization.”
Lots of people say the MB is a terrorist org, but I’m not sure how that distinguishes them from a whole bunch of other groups in the Middle East. I can’t tell what links the MB has (if any) to ISIS. (While both groups have similar-sounding goals, it’s entirely possible for two different groups to both want to establish an Islamic Caliphate.)
The MB reminds me of the Protestant Reformation, with its emphasis on returning to the Bible as the sole sources of religious wisdom, the establishment of Puritan theocracies, and a couple hundred years of Catholic/Protestant warfare. I blame the Protestant Revolution on the spread of the printing press in Europe, without which the whole idea of reading the Bible for yourself would have been nonsense. I wager something similar happened recently in the Middle East, with cheap copies of the Quran and other religious (and political) texts becoming widely available.
I am trying to think through some ideas that have been slowly percolating. Any thoughts/comments welcome and encouraged.
I propose first that we can divide politics–on either side of the Red/Blue tribe divide–into “high” and “low”. High politics are those of the upper classes, the rich, the folks who already have power. Low politics are the concerns of rest of us.
“High” is not necessarily better or more important than “low.” They are just different.
To explain better, I want to draw an analogy with Free Northerner’s distinction between “Nerds” and “Geeks”:
One man did a statistical analysis of the usage of the words and how they correlate with other words. He defined them as such:
geek – An enthusiast of a particular topic or field. Geeks are “collection” oriented, gathering facts and mementos related to their subject of interest. They are obsessed with the newest, coolest, trendiest things that their subject has to offer.
nerd – A studious intellectual, although again of a particular topic or field. Nerds are “achievement” oriented, and focus their efforts on acquiring knowledge and skill over trivia and memorabilia.
… The statistical analysis comes to this conclusion:
In broad strokes, it seems to me that geeky words are more about stuff (e.g., “#stuff”), while nerdy words are more about ideas (e.g., “hypothesis”). Geeks are fans, and fans collect stuff; nerds are practitioners, and practitioners play with ideas. Of course, geeks can collect ideas and nerds play with stuff, too. Plus, they aren’t two distinct personalities as much as different aspects of personality. Generally, the data seem to affirm my thinking.
FN also includes this graphic, from Burrsettles’s article, On “Geek” vs. “Nerd”:
Or to put it more plainly:
There is a great deal of overlap between “geek” and “nerd” culture, otherwise no one would bother trying to distinguish between them–no one makes graphs on the difference between “motorcycle culture” and “chefs,” not because chefs never ride motorcycles, but because they are very distinct groupings. Geeks and nerds, by contrast, lie on a sort of personality continuum, where the main difference is probably IQ. (Though obviously some of the semantic distinctions are random, eg, “goths” under “nerd” and “#Linux” under “geek.”)
To return to our original discussion, “nerds” are the “high” end and “geeks” the “low” end of a single culture. Nerds are (relatively) high-status, with paying jobs that advance the well-being of humanity. Geeks are low-status, with lower IQs (on average) and jobs that are not generally recognized as advancing humanity.
This doesn’t make it morally wrong or bad to enjoy comic books or Firefly; it’s just kind of low status to be obsessed with them.
Young people in search of their own place in the world often explore a variety of different cultures, marked by particular clothes, music, TV shows, etc. This includes geek culture, which many people enjoy in highschool/college, but find less time for as they get jobs, marry, have kids, and generally age.
Studying quantum physics is hard. I can’t do it. <1% of the population can do it. But almost anyone can play video games or watch Firefly. Lots of people can read comic books and put together a nice cosplay. These activities are fun and let people feel like they’re part of the same culture as Neil deGrasse Tyson and Caltech professors.
Let’s go back to politics.
I propose a similar division between “high” and “low” politics. For example, globalism is high Blue-tribe politics; trans rights are low blue-tribe politics. Most of the people who are actively involved in globalization are high-status people like diplomats, businessmen, or lawmakers. Most of the people actively fighting for trans rights are trans themselves or their lgbq-“allies,” all of whom are much lower status than businessmen.
On the right, nationalism is high politics (at least currently); anti-trans rights is low politics.
Basically, SJWs are low blue, and your traditional blue-collar Christian conservative is low red.
Just as lots of nerds enjoy videogames or Linux, so do high-status blues basically believe in a lot of SJW things, and high-status reds believe in a lot of conservative Christian things, but the beliefs do not absolutely overlap. High-status blues do not actually spend their spare time hanging out with trans people or poor blacks and Hispanics, though many SJWs do (or are.)
Likewise, the Republican leadership says it opposes abortion, but has actually devoted far more resources to killing Iraqis than to stopping abortion.
How much of low politics do high class people actually believe in, and how much is just vaguely associated with them? How much do they use as a bludgeon against others without actually believing?
Low politics are very easy to get a handle on, because the vast majority of people talk about them–the vast majority of us aren’t part of the top 1%, after all. They’re also entertaining. But what about high politics?
Right now, I’d say it’s nationalism vs. internationalism. But I’m sure it’s more than just that.
Despite my inauspicious start, it turns out that I do have history of my own. For privacy reasons, I can’t give too many details, but so far, after reading family histories assembled by my grandparents, I’ve found immigrants in the early 1700s, the 1600s, and sometime between 60 and 12,000 years ago–the exact dates of that particular migration episode is still being debated–but none in the 1800s or 1900s. (This may, of course, be merely an issue of incomplete genealogy.) I can count over a dozen ethnic groups in my family tree (though I should note that I consider the “American Nations” ethnic groups, which you may not.)
If anyone has a right to call themselves an “American,” then I suspect I do.
My husband’s family I laughingly refer to as immigrants. Okay, half of them are good, old-stock Americans. The other half, though, seem to have immigrated at some point during the 1800s. Or maybe even the early 1900s.
I have no connections to the old country; indeed, I don’t really have an old country–there is no one place that a majority of my ancestors came from. I have never had any sense of being anything other than what I am, and for much of my life, not even that. For many years, actually, I operated under quite incorrect assumptions about my origins.
On a practical level, of course, it doesn’t really matter–I would still be me if it turned out I arrived here as an infant from Kazakhstan and my whole “history” was a colossal mix-up with someone else’s. But this is my history, and as such, it is special to me, just like that ragged old bear in the closet my grandmother made. It might be worthless to you, but it’s mine.
What does it mean to have a history?
When I read about the various Bering Strait theories, I think, “Some of my ancestors were there, hunting mammoths.”
When I look at the British, French, and Spanish colonies and the American Revolution, I get to think, “Some of my ancestors were there.” Indeed, some of them were influential folks in those days. When I think about the values of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, I can say, “These were my ancestors’ ideals.”
When I look at the Civil War, well, there’s a lot of family history. My grandmother still tells the stories her great-grandmother told her about watching the Yankees burn down the family farm.
Some ancestors were pioneers. Some were farmers and some professors and some scientists who helped develop technologies that sent satellites into outer space.
And yet… Nationalism isn’t really my thing. Bald eagles, Stars and Stripes, the Pledge of Allegiance… they’re all a big nope. I don’t feel much of anything for them. I have no interest in the “Southern Cause,” and I don’t even have a particular affection for Americans–most of my close friends are immigrants. And as previously stated, I am not a white nationalist–IQ nationalist is a much better description. I like smart people.
I look out for American interests because I happen to live here. If I lived in Japan, I’d look out for Japan’s interests, simply because anything bad that happened in Japan or to the Japanese would also be happening to me–even though I’d be an immigrant with no particular history there. It is natural (particularly among leftists) to assume, therefore, that immigrants to the US may do the same.
(Edited to clarify: Commonly assumed things are often wrong. Many on the left assume that unprecedented numbers of immigrants from non-Western cultures will adopt American culture in a way that does not substantially change it. The whole point of this post is to discuss the nebulous effects of cultural change and ethnic identity. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of graphs for “How proud I feel while looking at a picture of George Washington,” so this is difficult to express.)
In fact, I know plenty of immigrants who have far more nationalism for their adopted country than I do.
(Edited to clarify: I happened to write this after visiting the home of an immigrant family that had framed versions of the Pledge of Allegiance and the Signing of the Declaration of Independence on their walls. I recognize that these people are really glad to be in this country, which they consider a vastly superior place to the one they came from.)
Is it of any importance that people have some sort of cultural connection to the place where they live?
I’ve tracked down a bunch of graphs/pictures related to immigration over time:
(Oops, looks like a bit of text snuck in when I cropped the picture.)
ETA: Note that % of immigrants in the population is really at unprecedentedly high numbers, and the countries they come from have changed radically, too:
Total quantity of immigrants by region of origin.
ETA: I thought this was obvious, but immigrants from whatever country they happen to come from tend to bring with them the norms and values of their own culture. Sometimes those norms easily mix with American ones. Sometimes they don’t.
ETA: Another graph showing the ethnic makeup of American immigrants.
ETA: So what happens when immigration goes up? Well, for starters, it looks like a lot more crime happens:
And wages seem to stagnate:
(The increase in household median income is due to women entering the workforce, thus increasing the number of workers per household.)
I know there are other things going on in these time periods that could also affect income inequality, but that graph looks remarkably similar to the immigration graphs. Also:
A lot of these came from Migration Policy Institute, but I’ve tried to use a variety of sources to avoid any particular bias or inaccuracies.
Now here we began with poetic waxing about one’s ancestors, and are whining about Irish criminality in the 1800s and how hard it is to get a job. BTW, Irish criminality was a real problem.
The correlations are suggestive, but unproven, so let’s get back to nostalgia:
In the period from 1890-1920, the most common elements in the song titles seem to be family relations, friends, and nostalgia: Pal, Mammy, Home, Land, Old, Uncle, etc. This is in stark contrast to 1990-2015, when some sort of apocalyptic accident destroyed our ability to spell and we reverted to a savage state of nature: Hell, Fuck, Die, U, Ya, Thang.
Even in my own lifetime, historical nostalgia and appreciation for America’s founders seems to have drastically waned. As a child, Westerns were still occasional things and the whole mythology surrounding the settlement of the West was still floating around, though obviously nothing compared to its height in the 50s, when people were really into Davy Crockett:
(Look like anyone you know? , )
The “American Girls” line of books and toys was a big deal when I was a kid, featuring historically-themed dolls and books focusing on the American Revolution, Pioneers, Civil War, Industrialization, and WWII.
Today, the line has been re-branded as “Be Forever,” with far more focus on modern girls and cultural groups. Even the historical books have been re-designed, with “American Girl” reduced to fine print and “Be Forever” scrawled across the covers. The Revolutionary War, Pioneer, and WWII dolls have all been “retired” from the line. Yes, American history without the Revolution. The Civil War doll is still there, though.
Are slavery and the Vietnam protests the only parts of our history that we remember anymore?
History is dead.
(Sadly, since Mattel bought the company, they’ve become delusional about the amount of pink and purple girls historically wore.)
What would the US look like if all the Johnny-Come-Lateys from the migration waves of the 1800s had never arrived?
I have no idea. (This is an invitation for you to discuss the question.)
In the casually pagan style of our Christian forebears, the US Capital Building rotunda features a painting titled The Apotheosis of Washington, painted by Greek-Italian artist Constantino Brumidi in 1865:
This is not the only painting by this title:
Apotheosis of George Washington, by H. Weishaupt
How about a few more on the general theme?
Statue of Washington in the style of Zeus
Apotheosis of Washington and Lincoln, 1860s.
Things change. Life moves on. Nothing new.
Is a nation’s history worth preserving? How do our identities and personal histories influence our values, cultures, and connections? What does any of this mean to you?
ETA for the clueless: This is an invitation for you to present your own opinions/answers to the questions.
In retrospect, if god had turned me into an Indian, I think I would have just about died of joy. I fucking loved Indians. Alas, scouring my family tree didn’t reveal even one great-grandparent who could conceivably have been a Cherokee princess.*
For irrelevant reasons, I got sent to a ghetto school for sixth grade. I had no friends at this place. The whites wanted nothing to do with me. The blacks were openly hostile. A few of the Mexicans were friendly, but when it came to recess, they played with each other, not me. And besides, they didn’t speak English, and I didn’t know much Spanish.
If only I were Mexican, I thought. If only I woke up tomorrow with beautiful black hair and brown skin, then I could have friends and my classmates wouldn’t hit me.
Sadly, god was not forthcoming. I was stuck with whiteness, pale, useless, disgusting. Maggots are white, I thought.
For some reason my parents tacked up on the wall a portrait I drew of myself in art class. The portrait was supposed to express my misery. Every time I walked past it, I thought, Why do they have that thing on the wall? They never understood.
By middle school, I’d latched onto an identity that I could reasonably fake. It wasn’t really mine, but it was close. I at least had the right facial features, and was legally related (through adoption) to some people from that part of the world, if you went back enough generations. This became my obsession. I studied the language. I saved up my allowance to purchase traditional costumes. I read histories and novels; devoured the music. I talked endlessly about my heritage, no doubt annoying the everliving shit out of everyone around me. (No wonder no one liked me.) I even dyed my hair to look more like my ethnic ideal and lied about my eye color.
In retrospect, that was pretty dumb. But I was a kid, lonely and desperate. The people around me had culture, community, history, identity, pride. And I wanted that. I wanted something to call my own–my own music, my own history, my own country.
The place where I grew up was, obviously, not terribly pleasant or special to me. “Whiteness” is not a trait whites are taught to be proud of; “white music” or “white history” are not things that I was aware of as part of my heritage. On top of that, I came from a part of the country with a reputation for backwardness and bigotry, also not things I was proud of. Ethnically, I do not really have a particular European country I can claim as my own–I am not a majority English or French or German or Hungarian or anything.
As a statistical outlier in many ways, I don’t fit in terribly well with most people, except with other outliers like myself. (Finding such outliers is, I suppose, one of the purposes of this blog.) Not fitting in and what that does to your psyche is a thing I understand.
I have known other people like myself–other people who, at some point in their lives, desperately wanted to be part of an ethnic group they weren’t born in to, leading to what an outside observer would call, “talking all the damn time about it.” I suspect Dolezal experienced something similar. I suspect she just wanted to fit in with the people she loved being with and an identity to claim as her own. Our politics may differ, but I still feel really sorry for her.
Scratch a dozen whites, and I bet six of them secretly wish they could be something they aren’t. That’s why so many of them lie about being Irish, twisting one possibly Catholic grandparent or great-grandparent into a claim that they practically hopped off the land o’ blarney yesterday. No one wants to admit to being mostly English or German, even if they are.
I am struggling to come up with a neat and tidy conclusion to this post. I have obviously come to a point where I am comfortable admitting actual reality, and enough distance from the loneliness to think I was once kind of funny. I have some positive thoughts associated with various accomplishments of groups I have some kinship with. And I am an adult, busy with the everyday concerns of work, friends, family, etc.
But I look at my kids and wonder what sort of identity would make them happy.
*According to 23 and Me, I may actually have a sliver of Indian ancestry, but it’s pretty far back.
“There have been periods where the folks who were already here suddenly say, ‘Well, I don’t want those folks,’ even though the only people who have the right to say that are some Native Americans.” — Barak Obama, 11/25/14
As I see it, a country is like a garden. Run well, the garden will make food. Run badly, you end up with a bunch of dirt.
As much as anarchist philosophy appeals to me, unfortunately, running a garden well requires at least some coherent strategy bundled up with some property rights, otherwise obvious issues arise–if you’re not guaranteed rights to your garden from year to year, you have no interest in building up the soil, and end up with dry dirt. If just anyone can come eat your produce, they probably will, and you’ll have nothing to show for your effort. If a neighbor can dump their trash on your property, they often will.
Countries are obviously more complicated than gardens, but much of a country’s success or failure depends on how well it is run. North and South Korea, for example, began with very similar conditions, but now are radically different due to communism being kinda like trying to run a country while throwing bricks at yourself.
The point of gov’t is to make running the country easier by having a coherent decision-making and executing system in place, instead of making it up from scratch or trying to get 300 million people to all cooperate at the same time. It is the gov’t’s ethical duty to look out for the interests of its citizens and run the country to their benefit, because, frankly, no one else will. If the American gov’t doesn’t take care of Americans, the Canadian gov’t is unlikely to step in and do the job.
(Note: this does not countenance aggression against other countries.)
Unfortunately, governments experience all sorts of mission creep and sometimes do dumb things like communism. Or if you’re an American, the Republicans try to take all of your produce and give it to corporations, while Democrats want to tear down your garden wall and let anyone who walks by snack on your orchard. (Leading, pathetically, to the idea that the best strategy is to try to prevent the gov’t from actually governing at all.)
As an American citizen, I assert that Americans do, in fact, have a right to determine who does an does not come over their borders. We may decide to let in anyone who wants to come. We may decide to let in no one. But that is our decision, our right to make. All of us have that right, not just the Indians.
(Last time I checked, “Indian” was the preferred term by a small margin, with “Native American” reserved for more academic uses, like Anthropology.)
I happen to have some Indian ancestry (I happen to have ancestry from a fair number of groups.) This does not mean I have any more right to determine what goes on in this country than any other citizen. A citizen is a citizen. We have equal rights.
To say that Americans don’t have the right to run their own country… You cannot say that, and still claim to be acting in the interests of Americans, the gov’t’s one and only purpose.
Of course, that does not mean the policies involved are wrong. (There is nothing to stop a dictator from imposing good policies. Unfortunately, there’s not much to stop them from imposing bad policies.)
So, how do we understand the POTUS saying something anti-democratic, and that many people would interpret as basically treasonous? Surely the president doesn’t actually have any such intentions.
To return to our previous discussion of memes, the term “American” does not necessarily mean “all citizens of the US.” Rather, the term is taken to mean the remnant population of conservative whites. I think the statement actually means, not “Americans have no right to determine who enters their country,” but “Conservative whites have no right to determine who enters this country,” which is a more sensible statement, given that there are plenty of people in the country who are not conservative whites, and might have different opinions on the matter. (It is probably not much of a coincidence that most new immigrants tend to vote for the democrats.)
Of course, when giving conservatives the finger, I think it reasonable to consider whether the policy being pursued is actually in the best interests of everyone already here, but that’s a separate matter.
White IQs average around 100, maybe a little more–meaning that half or more of whites are below this threshold. With IQs around 110 to 115, the average Ashkenazi easily outclasses the average goy. Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Taiwanese IQs are roughly on par with whites–immigrants from these countries tend to come almost exclusively from the upper end of the IQ range. Some Indian castes have selected heavily for intelligence, with impressive results.
Smart people make the world a good place. They gave us vaccines, refrigeration, computers, airplanes, and massive quantities of food. I want to live in a world full of smart people.