On the Meaning of Racism
In a recent post, “How is Anti-Semitism to be discussed?”, I argued that a careful definition of anti-Semitism is necessary in order to resist, on one hand, the silencing of important debate that has been effected in the name of the utopian goal of stopping all ethnic intolerance including anti-Semitism, and, on the other hand, the rejection of the very concept of anti-Semitism—and thus the licensing of anti-Semitism—that we increasingly see in some sectors of the right. As a spur to such a discussion, perhaps the chapter on the meaning of racism from my 1990 pamphlet, The Path to National Suicide: An Essay on Immigration and Multiculturalism, might be helpful. (A .pdf and printed edition of PNS is available here.) In this chapter I attempt to delineate a coherent and limited definition of racism that can be tested against reality and thus used to critique the indiscriminate charges of racism that dominate contemporary society. While the chapter does not touch on anti-Semitism, its analysis could be readily applied to that topic as well. I welcome further suggestions toward useful definitions of both terms. This was an essay, not a definitive statement. However, I am convinced that without something like the approach that I take here, we will remain mired in the current polarization and paralysis.
Except for a few punctuation changes, the text is as it appears in the original. Footnote references have been omitted.
Chapter Three from The Path to National Suicide:
Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.
There is, of course, one inevitable and supposedly crushing rebuff to everything I have said so far about the danger posed by unrestricted immigration—that the very idea of such a danger is “racist.” Since it is the fear of this charge that has prevented the American people from even touching the issue in a serious way, this essay will not be complete without examining the question of racism with some care. As we all know by now, racism, like witchcraft, is a difficult charge to defend oneself against. The reason is that the word no longer has a defined meaning. I was first struck by this phenomenon several years ago when New York City’s closing of a hospital in Harlem, as part of an economy move, was ferociously denounced as “racist” by black leaders. This was a new and startling use of a highly charged word that I had associated mainly with race hatred. “Racism” now apparently meant anything that, in the view of black people, hurt their interests or offended them or, indeed, anything they did not approve of. In recent years, this limitless definition has come to include the entire structure of our predominantly white society, as well as all white people. As reported by Robert R. Detlefsen in the April 10, 1989 issue of The New Republic, a speaker at a recent “racism awareness” seminar at Harvard said that 85 percent of white Americans are subtle racists and the remaining 15 percent are overt racists. The speaker mentioned the following examples of “racist attitudes” even among compassionate whites: they prefer the company of other white people, they are more likely to make positive assumptions about members of their own group, etc., etc. The New Republic went on to say that the audience, “like a religious congregation … consisted entirely of the already converted; when told of their manifest racism, they nodded in agreement. During the question period that followed the speech, no one rose to challenge [the speaker’s] contention that we are all guilty of racism.”
What we have here is an Orwellian version of Original Sin—complete with a new class of racism-awareness “priests” who will absolve us of the sin of racism if we show a penitent attitude, utter the required formulae, and—last but not least—give in to all their demands. America, whose whole past is racist, can only become “good” to the extent it overcomes the evil of racism. But since America is inherently racist, it can never succeed in doing that. It follows that America can only become a good country when it ceases to exist, i.e., when its European-rooted civilization is dismantled.
It does not take a genius to realize that in America today, “racism” is much more than a word; it is an instrument of thought control—even of terror. If we are to free ourselves from the resulting intellectual paralysis, we must insist that the word be defined. One of the duties of leadership, Irving Babbitt observed, is the responsible use of words:
Confucius, when asked what would be his first concern if the reins of government were put into his hands, replied that his first concern would be to define his terms and make words correspond with things. If our modern revolutionaries have suffered disillusions of almost unparalleled severity, it is too often because they have given their imagination to words, without making sure that these words corresponded with things; and so they have felt that they were bound for the promised land when they were in reality only swimming in a sea of conceit.Since “racism” has become the most highly charged and carelessly spoken word in our political vocabulary, no word is more in need of careful definition. I am not a sociologist or historian, and what follows is merely an attempt at a common-sense, provisional definition. But at least this will give us a term we can test against reality and thus use responsibly.
According to Webster’s, racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. It is thus not a belief in the existence of racial differences as such, but the belief that those differences produce an inherent racial superiority, that constitutes racism. On this basis, for example, we could describe as racist certain racial theories, current in the early 20th century, which classified every observable ethnic trait or behavior as an immutable racial characteristic, and on that basis determined that the Nordic race is inherently superior to other races.
So far Webster’s definition is helpful, but it only deals with racism as an intellectual theory. Explicit racist doctrines—except among groups such as the Nation of Islam— have notably declined in the last fifty years, and today we think of racism more as a matter of attitude and behavior than as a formal ideology. As an attitude, we may say that racism is contempt for members of a particular group because of their alleged inferiority or badness in relation to one’s own group, or that racism consists in the inability to see any member of the other group as a fellow human being. As action (and speech), racism consists of systematic oppression, violent acts, the stirring up of hatred, and so on.
I would say further that the racist belief in another group’s inferiority concerns their inherent worth as human beings, not a mere difference in some particular trait or talent. Otherwise, the distinction between an opinion regarding racial differences and a belief in racial superiority is lost. We may observe, for example, that Japanese are more disciplined and hard-working than Samoans, or that Africans on average have longer limbs than Caucasians, without denying anyone’s humanity. Depending on tone and context, such comparisons might or might not be invidious, but they are not inherently racist.
The virtue of this provisional definition is that it attempts to provide a clear and reasonable standard that distinguishes genuinely racist behavior from behavior which cannot be said to be racist by any reasonable standard but which is now routinely labeled as such. A well-known recent instance will show what I mean. When a television sports commentator named Jimmy (“the Greek”) Snyder remarked, in a chat with a reporter, that black athletes run faster than their white counterparts because as slaves blacks “were bred to have longer legs,” his network promptly fired him, declaring it “would not tolerate racism.” I think we would all agree that Snyder’s comment was offensive and insulting, as well as incorrect. But how in the world was it racist? The network did not bother to say. It was simply understood by everyone that the remark concerned race, that it was offensive, and that people (white people, that is) are not supposed to talk openly in today’s society about racial differences; therefore it was “racist.” Since he expressed no racial animosity or idea of inferiority, but had only talked about what he perceived as a physical difference, it is hard to comprehend how the remark could be racist, unless we conclude (1) that any statement that members of a particular racial group find offensive is, for that reason alone, racist, or (2) that the very idea that there are physically distinct races of mankind is itself racist. The first of these ideas was a theme of the Harvard conference mentioned above. Participants were told that professors teaching a class should never “introduce any sort of thing that might hurt a group”—a prescription for the massive repression of speech. As for the second idea, it’s simply absurd; if there were not these plainly discernible physical groupings of the human family, we would not even have a concept of race.
Apart from such ridiculous but common usages of “racism”—which I think any sensible person ought to reject—there is today the widely accepted idea of “institutional racism,” which we need to consider. In Portraits of White Racism, David T. Wellman argued that the traditional definition of racism as prejudice—defined as “a combination of hostility toward and faulty generalizations about racial groups”—was inadequate to account for America’s racial attitudes. Although the sentiments of many white Americans regarding racial issues “may not be prejudiced,” Wellman wrote, “they justify arrangements that in effect, if not in intent, maintain the status quo and thereby keep blacks in subordinate positions.” [Emphasis added.] Wellman wanted racism to be seen not as a psychological attitude, but as institutionally generated inequality, as structural superiority. “The subordination of people of color is functional to the operation of American society as we know it… . Racism is a structural relationship based on the subordination of one racial group by another.” Racism, then, is not a psychological or moral flaw, and thus an exception to the rule; it is the rule.
What Wellman saw as the advantage of this social definition of racism (its transcendence of the idea of mere individual prejudice) is precisely, I would suggest, its fatal drawback. By transferring a word connoting the deepest moral evil to an entire society, while divorcing that word from the idea of intent, the structural definition of racism destroys the idea of individual moral responsibility while at the same time making everyone guilty. It is a perversion of language that lends itself to exactly the kind of vicious generalization that it condemns. Though formulated in the neutral language of the social sciences, the structural definition inevitably leads—in the name of ending race hatred—to a new, more virulent (because ostensibly justified) race hatred. Thus the black filmmaker Spike Lee could make, with impunity, the remark that white people see blacks in only two ways: as celebrities, or as “niggers.” Such statements, we are told, are not racist. As Lee told an interviewer: “Black people are not racist. If I call you a white m—————r, that’s not racist; that’s prejudiced name-calling. But when you’re in a position of power to affect my life and economic reality and you abuse that power, that’s racism.” And, of course, what “abusing that power” means in practice is to fail to conform to any item of the black agenda, to doubt the veracity of Tawana Brawley, and so on. Meanwhile, actual expressions of hatred, as well as vicious generalizations (about whites), are, according to Spike Lee, mere “prejudiced name calling.”
Race hatred, which denies the humanity of an entire class of people because of their race, is a real evil. I think it is essential that we confine the word racism to specific behaviors and beliefs that are discrete and identifiable. If we extend it to include this hopelessly vague notion of structural discrimination, which becomes, in effect, a denial of the humanity of all white people, then “racism” itself becomes a hate word, and the real racism escapes blame. As for the “systemic institutional practices” that allegedly deny blacks qua blacks equal access to social resources, we simply need a more precise—and less volatile—word to describe such phenomena. “Racism” will no longer do.
There is one more meaning of racism we need to consider. We said earlier that the very concept of race arises from the fact that there are physically distinct groups of the human species. The differences among racial and ethnic groups—which is a common-sense observation, not a theory to which we need attach any “ism” or any idea of racial superiority—is connected with another common-sense observation about human nature: the preference that human beings have for people who are similar to themselves. This tendency is observed in people’s choices of their mates, in the growth of families, communities and cultures, and in the myths and literature and art of those cultures. It is a fact of life clearly observable in all human experience (and proven in the American case by the persistence of structural pluralism). Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn has written:
As human beings we have two tendencies: one that is “identitarian” and prompts us to seek the company of persons belonging to our own ethnic group, race, class … [and] another that seeks diversity: we like to travel, to meet people with different backgrounds, to experience unfamiliar music, art, architecture, food. The first impulse seeks comfort and safety; the second, adventure and excitement.In itself, this identitarian impulse that seeks comfort and safety is a positive and unconscious discrimination, a discrimination “in favor of.” It is a component of the “radius of identification and trust” that Lawrence Harrison identifies as the basis of a happy community. No ideology of racial superiority need be attributed to it. Xenophobic hatred is a secondary phenomenon arising from territorial or economic conflict. We do not normally equate a healthy sense of pride, in oneself or one’s community, with hatred of others. Nor do we accuse a black man of bigotry for marrying a black woman or belonging to an all-black church.
Yet today most people would describe this simple preference for one’s own—stated plainly as it is here—as racist or xenophobic (if we are speaking about white people, that is); and all the powers of the state are directed toward its elimination. Because if people prefer to associate with members of their own group, then it follows that they will also seek to exclude and put down other groups. And this is what our modern conscience cannot allow. It is at this point that the concept of racism as it is currently used (in the sense of positive ethnic or racial preference) begins to break down as a result of its own inflation. The very idea of racism implies a human norm that is not racist, and from which racism, by definition, would be a departure. But in what does this norm consist? Where in the world are there families and communities that are not based on this mutual preference for people who are similar? The answer is that, outside of marginal and cosmopolitan exceptions, the preference for one’s own is the universal tendency. Since, then, there is no “non-racist” norm, from which racism would be a deviation, is it not clear that “racism,” in its contemporary inflated sense, has no meaning at all? It has no more meaning than calling people with noses “nosists.”
We begin to see the absurdity that results from allowing an undefined word to run riot. Racism is understood in such a broad, unreal sense that its theoretical opposite—a “non-racist” human nature—must also be unreal. “Man is born free of racism, and everywhere he is racist,” say our modern Rousseauists. The difference between this formulation and Rousseau’s famous dictum is that instead of starting with the imaginary state of nature, in which man is “free,” and on the basis of that imaginary idea deciding that the world we see around us is unfree and corrupt, our racial Rousseauism starts from the perception of the present “racist corruption” and on that basis assumes an idyllic, non-existent, non-racist human nature. All we see around us is “racist,” and since racism is by definition a deviation from human nature, there must therefore be a non-racist norm of human nature and society, which we can only attain by overturning the world we see around us.
In any case, the political attempt to reach that chimerical promised land where there is no “racism” must involve us in the ultimate totalitarian project: to change human nature by force. Since racial differences are the very source of racial preferences, the only way the nations of the earth could truly cease being racist would be to institute a world-wide exchange of populations, creating an identical racial mix in every country, followed by several generations of scientifically planned and state-controlled intermarriages, resulting in a single perfectly blended human race. We may see, in the current efforts of government to enforce statistical racial balance in every area of life (based on the assumption that the absence of such balance must be due to racism), the beginnings of just such a global experiment. Here, truly, is the ultimate opportunity for the egalitarian social engineers.
Of course, no one actually believes in such a project. What we have rather is a rhetorical tendency toward an undefined racial utopia that governs all discourse. And it is not all the nations of the earth that are subject to this utopian standard, but only one: the United States. No one questions the right of Arabs to have an Arab nation; of China to be a Chinese nation; of the Africans to preserve their cultures. But the United States, which has never been limited to a single ethnic nationality but has instead—until 1965—drawn most of its people from the nations of Europe, is to be denied even this conglomerate, but still distinct, identity. We must absorb all the peoples of the world into our society and submerge our historic character as a predominantly Caucasian, Western society.
To criticize this multiracial utopianism is not to favor its opposite, i.e., an ideology of racial inequality. It is to see that racial equality, if taken as an absolute principle that supercedes all other values, destroys human liberty. In the words of Gaetano Mosca:
The absolute preponderance of a single political force, the predominance of any over-simplified concept in the organization of the state, the strictly logical application of any single principle in all public law are the essential elements in any type of despotism… . It has been necessary, nay indispensable, that there should be a multiplicity of political forces [in order to maintain liberty].Mosca is telling us to look for the multiplicity that is indispensable to liberty not just in a pluralism of political forces (what James Madison called “factions” and what we call interest groups), but in the ideas and principles that form the basis of the state. Rule by a single, overweening principle is as despotic as rule by a single, lawless man.
An immigration law which is based solely on utopian ideas of multiethnicism, and which excludes all other values, is just the kind of “strictly logical application of [a] single principle in public law” that Mosca criticizes as the essence of despotism. There are other interests which deserve to be taken into account along with equality, namely the general welfare and the quality of life of the people who already live here, and the preservation of our society’s political and cultural identity. We have already seen that the 1965 legislators implicitly understood this problem. When they spoke of equal treatment before the law, they meant it in terms of individuals, not in terms of mass migrations that would totally change the country. But today we have lost the ability to make that vital distinction. The idea of equality has been transferred, in effect, from individuals to entire peoples, and along with it, a moralism that brooks no opposition. Under this new dispensation we owe, as it were, an obligation to all the peoples of the world to let them migrate here en masse and recreate American society in their image. And no one can question this project for fear of being called a racist. Liberalism has thus overthrown its professed devotion to political pluralism by turning cultural pluralism into an absolute.
Paradoxically, many liberals declare that race is irrelevant, yet at the same time they support the movement among people of color aggressively to assert their own racial or national identity, which has allegedly been denied them by white racism. It is asserted by all opponents of white imperialism that societies have the right to maintain their cultural identities. In the interests of fairness I would say that the United States of America also has this right. Now, in trying to ascertain the cultural identity of any community, we would not ignore its ethnic and racial character any more than we would ignore its political traditions, its way of life, its language, its religion. Merely to make this common-sense observation does not mean we are repeating the race-idolization of the 19th century racial theorists—or the romantic nationalism that elevates particularity into an absolute. But we also seek to avoid the potentially fatal error of classical liberalism, which, in emphasizing the abstract rights of all men, totally ignores their cultural and ethnic particularities.
To take a simple example, it would be hard to imagine the French apart from their ethnic character, as a mixture of the Germanic, Celtic and Iberian peoples of Western Europe. If in some experiment in mass migration 50 million Chinese exchanged places with 50 million French—and even if the Chinese learned the French language and immersed themselves in French culture—the new society they formed would no longer be France in any recognizable sense. France, as we know it, would have ceased to exist. But the equalitarian creed, in reducing all humanity to a universal, rational and interchangeable standard (we are all “persons” with equal rights), ignores these qualitative differences that exist among men, nations and cultures. The Lockean natural rights philosophy does not exhaust the definition of society or of man. A Chinese person is not merely a locus of abstract legal and human rights identical and interchangeable with all other persons in the world. This ethnic and racial dimension of human identity is an obvious fact that everyone intuitively recognizes, yet which is censored by our equalitarian ideology. (Or rather, it is censored when whites are asserting their rights, but it is insisted on when people of color are asserting theirs.)
Now, a critic would say my hypothetical case is absurd. Who could imagine 50 million Chinese moving to France? I will grant that even pro-immigration liberals or free-market globalists might want to slow this migration somewhat on economic or other purely practical grounds. But for the true believer, these would only be contingent, technical concerns, to be viewed at best as a necessary evil; the liberal would have no morally justifiable principle by which to oppose the racial transformation of France or China, since the only moral principle he recognizes is universal equality.
Robert Kennedy said in 1965: “This is the central problem of immigration today; that the law … has not recognized that one people is not intrinsically superior or inferior to another people.” But Kennedy was wrong. The paramount moral issue the United States faces is not racial superiority but self-preservation. At the Senate hearings on the 1965 immigration reform bill, Sam Ervin said:
I do not think that belief in a national origin quota system indicates that one believes that one foreigner is better than another. As I see it, it really indicates that on the basis of our experience, we know that some foreigners are more readily assimilable than others and thus contribute to the requirements of the bedrock of our survival.During the Senate floor debate, Strom Thurmond used a common sense analogy to make the same point:
The wish to preserve one’s own identity and the identity of one’s nation requires no justification and no belief in racial or national superiority any more than the wish to have one’s own children, and to continue one’s own family through them, need be justified or rationalized by a belief that they are superior to the children of others.This, finally, is the question on which all else depends. Does the United States, does any nation have the moral right to preserve its identity? If our answer is yes, then we have the right to open up this issue and re-evaluate our immigration law without fear of the crippling charge of racism. If our answer is no, then we shall simply continue on our present path to national suicide.
“Now, a critic would say my hypothetical case [of replacing France’s 50 million French with 50 million Chinese] is absurd. Who could imagine 50 million Chinese moving to France? … [However,] the liberal would have no morally justifiable principle by which to oppose [this] racial transformation of France … since the only moral principle he recognizes is universal equality. … This, finally, is the question on which all else depends. Does … [a] nation have the moral right to preserve its identity?” — Lawrence Auster
Larry, thanks for this rivetingly well-reasoned essay. The question which you end with seems indeed the central one for those who question current immigration policy and the 1965 bill. In all the history of human thought this question has never been identified and posed in this way, as far as I know — a right of a nation to the preservation of ethnic identity as well as cultural identity. I believe we of this generation are onto something revolutionary in terms of political philospophy. Pray God we persist, and succeed in our undertaking.
Posted by: Unadorned on December 31, 2002 7:10 PM
It’s not quite that groundbreaking, Unadorned. This “problem,” such as it is, has only arisen due to the principles our nation was founded on. It was never before us questioned whether a nation had the right to exclude whoever it pleased. With the advent of America, however, and its explicit declaration that “all men are created equal,” came the challenge to understand exactly what that phrase means and to honor it in our laws. This is what the fight is over.
Interesting essay, though, Mr. Auster. I enjoyed it very much.Posted by: Jim Newland on December 31, 2002 8:55 PM
Well then, that’s our challenge, Jim Newland — squaring “All men are created equal,” a great and sacred foundational cornerstone, wherewith we can all agree (and which has awed men round the world since it was penned and signed by our forefathers eleven score and six years ago), with a nation’s equally sacred right to preserve its heritage, ethnic as well as cultural, and to be immune from the charge of mean, low racism if it endeavors to exercise this right. The men of the Founding didn’t want the responsibility which was thrust upon them by history … but they shouldered it and never shirked. Let us also shoulder the one history has thrust upon us.Posted by: Unadorned on December 31, 2002 10:38 PM
I would add the this right of nations to preserve their ethnic and cultural identity is also what lies at the heart of the issue of support or rejection of Israel as a nation-state - to return to the question of anti-Semitism. While leftist Jews like Foxman (and neocons) support such rights for Israel, they deny the same right to European and Euro-derived Christian peoples. (As leftists, they are supportive of such rights for Mexicans, blacks, and others.) I wonder if anger at this glaring and lurid hypocasy is at least part of the reason behind the Buchananite drift towards anti-Semitism. There is a split withing leftist ranks on the issue as well: on the one hand you have leftsists like Foxman who make an ‘unprincipled violation’ of the liveral dogma for the sake of self-preservation; on the other you have the anti-Israel (and often anti-Semitic) left who denounce Israel as a “racist” state (Zionism is a form of racism) which seem to be surfacing on college campuses in the US and elsewhere in the West. This is why I think it is important that traditional conservatives support Israel’s right to exist - the principal reason being that Ethnicities were created by God for his own purposes and it is a fundamentally a rebellion against Divine order to destroy them.
On the issue of the seemingly endless exemplars of leftist hypocrasy, one never encounters charges of racism against places like Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, or the new Mandela/Mbeki paradise of South Africa. Even the genocidal activities of Mugabe and others is regarded as merely an expression of ethnic pride or reaction to centuries of opression from the evil white devils, as is the ongoing dirty war being waged against whites by various “people of color” in the USA. In the leftist mind, of course, it all boils down to “opressed” and “opressor” - which is always the excuse given for outrages perpetrated by the favored groups (if the charge of hypocrasy is responded to at all).Posted by: Carl on January 1, 2003 1:06 AM
The phrase “all men all created equal” appears in the Declaration of Independence, which is not a legally-binding document. The US Constitution is the law of the land.Posted by: Exposing Truth on January 1, 2003 1:37 AM
“There is a split within leftist ranks on the issue as well: on the one hand you have leftists like [Abe] Foxman who make an ‘unprincipled violation’ of the liberal dogma for the sake of self-preservation; on the other you have the anti-Israel (and often anti-Semitic) left who denounce Israel as a ‘racist’ state (Zionism is a form of racism) which seem to be surfacing on college campuses in the US and elsewhere in the West.” — Carl
I agree with this analysis. A man like Abe Foxman who, though unprincipled, certainly is no fool, surely must see as clearly as everyone else does that “When you spread disease, you risk catching it.” One can only wonder what calculations he and those who run the Anti-Defamation League have made in regard to the cost-benefit analysis of their policy of pushing the dilution of traditional U.S. ethno-culture for the sake of (as they see it) Jewish-American well-being and the security of Israel, their two main concerns. As far as the former goes (Jewish-American well-being), I saw the other day where the size of the U.S. Jewish Community has shrunk by half-a-million from (I think these were the numbers) 5,800,000 to 5,300,000, the main source of attrition being intermarriage (other sources including emigration). How much more will it have to shrink before Jewish “leaders” like Foxman stop doing things like hiring Morris Dees every time they have two dimes to rub together, to give a talk calling whites “racist” and promoting cultural relativism? What goes around comes around, Abe. Maybe some of this intermarriage is the result of young Jews in Dees’ audience taking what he says seriously?
As for the latter — the security of Israel — the same can be said: given the decades of non-stop preaching by Foxman, Dees, and their whole crowd, of the false doctrines of “diversity”-worship, multi-culti, “white-ethnicity-per-se-is-racism-until-proven-otherwise,” and moral relativism, it’s scant wonder if every university campus in the Western World is seething with anger against Israel for the “crime” of defending itself.
If someone such as Rabbi Lapin, Michael Medved, or Don Feder were installed in Foxman’s place — men who honor tradition and accord it proper respect instead of trying to tear it down — I bet Jewish population numbers would start to rise instead of fall, and there’d be less confusion on campus about Israel’s legitimate interests.Posted by: Unadorned on January 1, 2003 2:05 AM
Unadorned is absolutely right when he says: “Well then, that’s our challenge… squaring ‘All men are created equal’ … with a nation’s equally sacred right to preserve its heritage …”
In fact (though this would astonish most contemporary people), the two principles are not opposed to each other. Jefferson has always been accused of hypocrisy for writing “all men are created equal” while owning slaves. But he also wrote, in Notes on the state of Virginia: “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free; nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live under the same government.” So he’s saying blacks should not live UNDER whites, but should not live WITH them as equals either, but in their OWN country. This is entirely in keeping with “all men are created equal” properly understood. The Declaration was saying “We British-American colonists, as a community, have the same right of self-government as the English.” In other words, the Declaration is not just asserting equality of rights of individuals, but the equality of rights of respective political communities; that after all is the main point of the Declaration (as M.E. Bradford persuasively argued). That implies the existence of distinct political communities, not the merging of all political communities into a single global community based on nothing but the equal rights of all individuals (which is the way modern liberalism would understand it).
So Jefferson’s ultimate hope that the slaves would both be free and would leave America to to form their own political community elsewhere which would then enjoy its rights as a political community is perfectly in accord with the Declaration properly understood.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on January 1, 2003 8:48 AM
A dialogue on Israel and Nationalism.
Fox: “As I was saying, America is a great country precisely because it takes in the chaff of the world, those folks the rest of the world views as disposable and has, as we can never forget, all too often attempted to dispose of.”
Hedgehog: “I see where you’re coming from, but I wonder if you would apply the requirement for openness to Israel?”
Fox: “Don’t be ridiculous. Israel could not survive as Israel if it accepted mass immigration.”
Hedgehog: “I agree with you. But doesn’t this logic apply to America as well? Isn’t mass immigration dissolving our traditional social patterns and destroying our traditional cultural core?”
Fox: “Now I understand why you’ve become confused. You fail to properly distinguish between two-types of nations: the universalist nation and the particularist nation. The United States, my friend, is a universalist nation. It is dedicated to a proposition creed. Ethnicity, religion, traditional social patters and culture are not important to the universalist nation. Every man may be an American if he can nod along to the Gettysburg Address. Israel, on the other hand, is a particularist nation: it is the nation of the Jewish people. As such, ethnicity, religion, habits and culture are absolutely vital to its survival.”
Hedgehog: “So America must be open because it is universalist and Israel must be closed because it is particularist? What if America decides it doesn’t want to be universalist anymore, or that universalism isn’t working out as planned?”
Fox: “These are destructive thoughts, I’m afraid. Since America is a creedal nation, rejecting the creed is the Path to National Suicide. You must remain universalist or perish.”
Hedgehog: “Uhm. Okay. But what about Germany or France or Britain or Spain? These are not universalist nations, are they? Aren’t they the nations of the Germans, French, British and Spanish? Yet you’ve told me that they too must remain open.”
Fox: “They are particularist nations, of course. But they have abused their particularism. By expelling, killing and persecuting minorities within their nations, they have lost the privileges ordinarily accorded to particularist nations. They must now become universalist nations because they have proven to be too dangerous as particularist nations.”
Hedgehog: “This is quite complex but I think I understand the rule. There is a two-prong test for being allowed to maintain a particular national identity. First, one cannot be a universalist nation. Second, one may not have misbehaved as a particularist nation.”
Fox: “You’ve got it!”
Hedgehog: “I suppose I do but I’m finding it hard to think of any nations that may be closed.”
Fox: “As I said at the start, Israel may be closed. And perhaps some islands in the south Pacific.”
A gem of an article by Mr. Auster. Amazing that things have gotten worse despite Mr. Auster having nailed any doubts closed over twelve years earlier. I am considering jumping into the discussions on this subject in other Websites (even one of the repulsive and boring name-calling sites). Mr. Auster’s ideas need to be spread. Problem is my activism already takes so much of my energy and blogging might be more efficiently handled by those with talent. Of course, if so few are doing it, maybe I have no choice. Until a professional corps of traditionalists is trained, Lieutenants and Captains might need to endure battlefield promotions to Major and Lieutenant Colonel.Posted by: P Murgos on January 2, 2003 10:50 PM
Re the dialog on the difference between Israel and the U.S., it needs to be pointed out that over the past decade or so (the period coinciding with the “peace process”) Israel’s intellectual and educational elites moved Israel quite far in the direction of a new national ideology called post-Zionism. This would redefine Israel as no longer a Jewish state but simply a generic, universal democracy. The contradiction between being a democracy and being a Jewish state has always bothered the Israeli left, and the “peace process” was the expression of (and the opportunity for) discarding the older sense of Israeli national identity. Much as has happened in the U.S., school history books were radically changed, the heroic founding of the nation was played down, and so on. Yet Israel was engaging in this process of national deconstruction at the very moment that the Palestinians were (with the permission and collaboration of the Israelis who never demanded Palestinian adherence to their basic agreements under the “peace process”) building up a genocidal national mythos of their own.
It is for this reason that I look askance at people who say the recent troubles in the Mideast are due to Israeli “intransigence.” I think they were due much more to Israeli super liberalism and appeasement, which empowered and encouraged Israel’s mortal enemies, resulting finally in the terror intifada of the last two years.
If there is a double standard, it is not Israel’s double standard so much as it is that of American Jewish neoconservatives. It is they who strongly promote the idea of a particularist Jewish state while insisting that America must be a universal nation. This is a truly objectionable position that we should keep holding the neocons to account for. But it is not something we should blame on Israel itself. Those who do are, I believe, doing Israel an injustice. As has been said, the neocons want Israel to be a particularist nation and America in effect to cease being a nation. The paleocons, in reaction against the neocons, want Israel to cease being a nation want America to be a particularist nation. Both those positions are immoral. The moral and consistent position is to support nationhood for both America and Israel.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on January 3, 2003 12:52 AM
” … over the past decade or so (the period coinciding with the ‘peace process’) Israel’s intellectual and educational elites moved Israel quite far in the direction of a new national ideology called post-Zionism. This would redefine Israel as no longer a Jewish state but simply a generic, universal democracy [in other words a big Los Angeles or New York City — Israel is being John-Rockerized by the same élites who John-Rockerized NYC then Borked baseball pitcher John Rocker for innocently, naïvely blurting out the truth of what was taking place — comment added by Unadorned]. The contradiction between being a democracy and being a Jewish state has always bothered the Israeli left … “
It “has always bothered the Israeli left” because leftists in general are narcissistic, and part of narcissism is not being able to view anything as being more important than oneself. They cannot for example conceive of a baby or child being more important than the recreations and whims of the adults who brought it into being — whence partial birth abortion, or the eating of dead babies by “artists” and broadcasting that on TV. In exactly the same way, leftists cannot conceive of a nation-state, with all the associated miraculous beauty and good that goes along with one, being more important than their selfish need to be viewed as holier-than-thou by giving all to the Palestinians in a Christ-like gesture of self-sacrifice — only, it’s never their own personal property they give away, as Christ proposed, but always the property of others, which Christ would have called hypocritical as he whipped them out of the Temple.
But there is a principle that readers of this Forum know about — which is, even now as we speak, struggling to be born and soon WILL be completely born thanks to our efforts and those of our friends — a principle which will give our side the means to protect nations from ever again being targeted and destroyed by narcissistic leftists. It is the principle that a “people” or a “nation,” in the sense of being a defined and coherent ethno-cultural entity, have a sacred right to preserve their ethno-cultural identity. This right is as sacred as any other that is enshrined in the Founding Documents of our own nation, or of the United Nations. Our forefathers didn’t think of enumerating this particular right, because it wasn’t under attack in their day. They couldn’t have thought of everything, or foreseen everything, but at the same time they never intended the list of rights they did bequeath us to be considered exhaustive. Our own generation is being called upon by history to add one more right to the sacred list, and with the help of God, we will.Posted by: Unadorned on January 3, 2003 9:01 AM
The Fox/Hedgehog allegory is a disturbing description of the argument made by some Jewish-American neocons and leftists on the “national question.” I would change the Fox’s final line to read: “As I said at the start, Israel may be closed, along with Latin America, Africa, and Asia. ‘Tis America, England and the old lands of Christendom that must forever be open.” To be fair, some of the neocons wish to add the Islamic lands to this list of nations to be punished by abolition through multiculturalism. In general though, the underlying impulse would appear to be a desire to carry out the ideas of Noel Ignatiev on one level or another. I’ve never read anything from a neocon like the fox described above which advocated the opening of China, or Mexico, by way of example. Only the US, England (and the white-majority colonies like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) and Europe itself are targeted.
What exactly is driving this destructive desire? Is there some sort of thirst for cosmic revenge against all Euro-Christian civilzation and peoples? Are they buying into Goldhagen’s idea that the Holocaust is rooted in Christianity, and that all Europeans are responsible in some way? The fox’s view comes frighteningly close to advocating genocide - though the fox is clever enough to avoid stating it so bluntly as Mr. Ignatiev. The hard leftists in Israel are at least consistent within their own leftist worldview - they want to get rid of all nation-sates, including their own. The Gentile elites in Europe (especially) and the US (to a lesser degree) seem to share the globalist ideal. If the underlying impulse of the the neocons and unpricipled Jewish leftists (Abe Foxman) who support Israel’s existence while working for the destruction of certain other nations is truly genocidal in nature, is it a genocide against Christians (or perceived Christians) or against whites (as with Ignatiev)? This double standard is glaring and not easily explained away. It certainly needs serious confrontation.
If it is a desire to wipe out Christianity, these folks are in for a very rude awakening. Even if they are successful in eradicating America, England, and all the old lands of Christendom, Christianity is gaining much ground in the third world. It’s not the Spong-like parody of Christianity found throughout the west, either. With a population approaching 2 billion, Christianity is going to be well-nigh impossible to get rid of. On the other hand, if the goal is the more achievable one eradicating the white race - genocide in the purest sense of the term - this could end up backfiring in a huge way and add much fuel to the anti-Semites who are presently marginalized and confined amongst the tin-foil hatters in the white societies - though they now seem to be finding a new home with the neocons’ former comrades in the left.Posted by: Carl on January 3, 2003 2:22 PM