Join with us, or else

I think most, if not all, of you want to build bridges. And if you don’t want to build bridges, I’m not talking to you!
—An Emory University instructor, in video at American Spectator

The person who posted the video describes the quoted remark as “beyond parody.” But really, there is nothing parodic about it, it is simply the standard leftist view, and always has been. From its birth in the French Revolution, the left believes in a single unification of humankind, from which no dissent or divergence is to be allowed. This drive for unity has taken various forms, in our time it has taken the form of diversity and multiculturalism, but it remains the same drive. As Ken Hechtman classically put it at VFR recently, “At the end of the day I want one world and one people, not 200 mutually suspicious nation-states and 5000 mutually suspicious tribes. The Brotherhood of Man and all that…” This may sound benign and idealistic to some. But the problem is, if we are to attain that one world, one people, persistent adherence to the respective 200 nation-states and 5,000 tribes cannot be tolerated. Meaning that the left will only deal with people—meaning, it will only tolerate the existence of people—who are willing to be joined into the One. “We are the One we’ve been waiting for.”

- end of initial entry -

Gilbert B. writes:

I would like you to remember the great biologist Sir Arthur Keith ((1866-1955), father of modern Nationalism. He said that “if we bring in a worldwide Universalism, we destroy Nature’s scheme of evolution; a fatally new order of things is introduced.”

Sir Arthur describes the Universalist vision in his book EVOLUTION AND ETHICS (1946), as follows:

What a world to look out on! The frontiers behind which sixty nations, tribes beyond number, and races are now entrenched have vanished; the earth below is as free as the sky above; among the peoples there is no longer any color bar; a common tongue has swept through the earth as in the palmy days of Babel. Tariff walls have been overthrown; there are no passports, no dues, no patriotism, for every living soul is a citizen of the world, free to come and go, free to trade as needs compel or moods suggest. There are no armies, no navies, for there is no longer any warlike spirit in human nature. Only a central airborne police to see that the one universal code of law is observed. There will be no competition, no rivalry, and hence no malice, envy, or evil ambition.

He develops this theme further saying:

Nowhere is Universalism welcomed and encouraged by a people; everywhere governments have forced and are forcing Universalism upon unwilling and resistant subjects. There is something in the Universalist ideal which runs against the grain of human nature.

Also the biologist Garrett Hardin demonstrated in his 1982 essay DISCRIMINATING ALTRUISMS, that universalism—a chimerical One World without borders or distinctions—is impossible. Groups that practice unlimited altruism, unfettered by thoughts of self-preservation, will be disadvantaged in life’s competition and thus eliminated over time in favor of those that limit their altruistic behavior to a smaller subset of humanity, usually their own genetic kin, from whom they receive reciprocal benefits.

Professor Hardin writes:

Universalism is altruism practiced without discrimination of kinship, acquaintanceship, shared values, or propinquity in time or space….To people who accept the idea of biological evolution from amoeba to man, the vision of social evolution from egoism to universalism may seem plausible. In fact, however, the last step is impossible….Let us see why.

In imagination, picture a world in which social evolution has gone no further than egoism or individualism. When familialism appears on the scene, what accounts for its persistence? It must be that the costs of the sacrifices individuals make for their relatives are more than paid for by the gains realized through family solidarity…

The argument that accounts for the step to familialism serves equally well for each succeeding step—except for the last. Why the difference? Because the One World created by universalism has—by definition—no competitive base to support it….. [Universalism] cannot survive in competition with discrimination.

LA replies:

I’m not sure how much help the cause of nationalism gets from evolution, meaning Darwinian evolution.

Arthur Keith writes: “If we bring in a worldwide Universalism, we destroy Nature’s scheme of evolution; a fatally new order of things is introduced.”

This implies that nations and nationalism are a part of the scheme of evolution. But nations only come into existence at the human stage. And there’s no evidence that humans are evolving into new species. Rather, the separation of mankind into geographically separate and mutually exclusive units, especially since the departure of humans from Africa about 60,000 years ago, has meant further differentiation within the human species, not the appearance of a new species. So, based on a self-consistent definition of evolution as the appearance of new species and new life forms on earth, not as mere differentiation within existing species (as important as such differentiation may be), evolution is not threatened by universalism. The evolution that resulted in mankind has already occurred. What is threatened is the valuable differentiation within the human species.

Second, if we assume, with Sir Arthur, that mankind is the result of a purely mechanistic process of Darwinian evolution by random mutation and natural selection, how could humans, whose entire brains and thought processes are mechanistically determined by the randomly appearing genes that have been “selected” in past generations, do anything that goes fatally against evolution? According to the Darwinians, every single one of our features exists for one reason and one reason only—that it helped in physical survival and propagation of offspring leading to the dominance of the traits that survived and were propagated. Therefore how could the purely gene-determined creatures produced by this process do something that goes fatally against the process? If man, produced by evolution, can do something that destroys evolution, that disproves the belief that man is produced by evolution.

In this connection, Garret Hardin says that if we believe that evolution is true, then universalism is impossible. I agree. But if universalism is impossible, then we don’t have to worry about its happening, do we? And therefore we don’t have to do anything to oppose it, do we? But in reality we DO have to worry about its happening. Mankind IS free to attempt to build this horrifying Babel. And therefore the project to build it must be resisted.

The upshot of the above is that the Darwinian theory of evolution is both untrue, and of absolutely no assistance to us in defending nationhood from universalism.

If some humans attempt to create a single, universal order, such a project will be the result of a conscious preference by the people pushing it, not a result of blind evolutionary forces. Similarly, if the attempt is to be stopped, the stopping of it will also be the result of a conscious decision by the people doing the stopping, not a result of blind evolutionary forces.

Thus the belief in Darwinian evolution—the belief that humans are machines produced and determined by the past natural selection of randomly appearing genetic mutations—is of no help to us in stopping universalism, nor, indeed, in dealing with any political, civilizational, or moral issues, all of which involve conscious decisions by human beings as to what is good and bad, desirable and undesirable.

Anthony O. writes:

I’m a relative newcomer to your site so have probably missed countless posts that answer this, but wouldn’t you agree that the universalism you deplore is to some extent written into American politics from the beginning?

Doesn’t this go back to Jefferson, the founding father perhaps most influenced by the French Philosophes? Doesn’t such thinking imbue the Declaration of Independence?

It seems to me that the United States begins with a kind of ideological compromise between a particularist view and a universalist one. Divergent threads of the “Enlightenment” come together with the engineering, so to speak, of a paper constitution, which nevertheless includes provision for the Common Law, which enshrines tradition in law. The Declaration is both an assertion of ancient constitutional rights and a statement of fashionable rationalist political philosophy. The Revolution itself, while argued on universalist principles, at least in the Declaration, preserves an existing social order rooted in centuries of legal custom.

The founding fathers depended heavily on a French philosopher but it was Montesquieu, not Rousseau. Montesquieu himself represents a combination of rationalism and a more grounded outlook as, perhaps, does Burke.

It seems to me that it is impossible to think philosophically about politics, or anything, without some appeal to universal laws. The Mosaic religious tradition (monotheism) is universalist, in differing degrees according to branch. Christianity is a proselytizing faith with a code for all men at all times (Islam too, in its way; both faiths transcend nation and race). I’m not in the least arguing that Christianity implies a thoroughgoing rationalist approach to politics, but I would argue that the appeal to universalism is rooted in Christianity. The rhetoric of the French and Russian Revolutions are heavily indebted to Christian universalist ethics.

Now, Progressives today behave as, like the French Revolutionaries, as if that universalist moral insight were immediately necessary and obvious to the un-blinkered reason. Their error is in failing to see how indebted their position is to an ancient moral tradition. Surely conservatives have to acknowledge that same universalist moral tradition in some manner.

In short, to the extent that philosophical thought (rather than just habit or custom) informs our politics, we are stuck with the insoluble problem of universalism versus particularism. Nothing exists except in particular circumstances, and yet we think in terms of generalizations, eventually arriving at universal laws. My view of conservatism is one that gives the particular circumstances their due. Perhaps that is enough: the chief error of rationalism in this respect is that it takes the particulars for granted or worse, seeing them as a source of friction impeding progress to an ideal of earthly perfection.

LA replies:

I don’t disagree with anything Mr. O. has said. The need for the co-existence and balance of universalism and particularism; the fact that America began with a compromise between them, and the fact that over time the universalist part of the compromise has taken over completely and excluded the particularism, have been central to my thought from the start, and have been stated many times at VFR.

Part of the idea is that the American Founding had a serious flaw in that the liberal, universalist, procedural principles were made explicit in the most authoritative founding documents, while the particularist aspects of America, though stated many times by the founders, were not made explicit in the founding documents. As a result, over time, the universalist principles overshadowed the particularist understandings.

On this point, see my article, Fixing the Founding.

Also, see my discussions of the “secular-democratic” aspect of America versus the “classical-Christian” aspect, in these entries: What is transcendence, and why does it matter? and What is the order of being?

Also, in the entry, Why homosexual liberation is incompatible with our political order, see my response to a commenter who rejects my idea that America had both the secular liberal and the Christian conservative aspects from the start, and who insists that America from the start was exclusively a secular, Enlightenment project.

Simon N. writes from England:

” if universalism is impossible, then we don’t have to worry about its happening, do we? “

We do have to worry about it.

The attempt to create Universalism is doomed to failure because peoples/cultures who embrace Universalist altruism will be replaced by peoples/cultures which do not. So if all you care about is that Universalism ultimately fail, sure you don’t need to worry. But if you care about the survival of a particular people/culture, you do need to worry.

Example: The Dutch embrace Universalist altruism. They invite in millions of Muslims. The Muslims do not embrace Universalist altruism. They eliminate the Dutch culture and people. Universalism fails. If you care about the Dutch, you need to worry.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 18, 2008 02:10 AM | Send

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