Friday, April 18, 2014

Kirsten Dunst: I feel like the feminine has been undervalued

The actress Kirsten Dunst ruffled a few feminist feathers by making the following comment in a magazine interview:
"I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued," she says. "We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking – it’s a valuable thing my mum created. And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armour. I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s why relationships work..."

It's an interesting comment. We live in a liberal society which values, above all, individual autonomy. Therefore, women are instructed to aim for independence from men, particularly through careers. Motherhood then comes to be seen as a restriction on women (as a potential disadvantage). That leads to the idea that there should be one, unisex parental role that men and women share equally.

In her comment, Kirsten Dunst articulates some of the limitations of this liberal view. If autonomy is made the overriding good, then other things that we value are lost. For instance, Kirsten Dunst clearly values what her mother did for her as a mother and doesn't want it to be lost in the pursuit of female autonomy. She thinks too that heterosexual relationships are based on a distinction between the masculine and the feminine and that therefore it is better for men to retain something of the masculine role within relationships.

Kirsten Dunst

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Next Eltham Trads meeting

Just a quick post for Melbourne readers. Next week we're having an Eltham Traditionalists dinner. These are always very enjoyable nights out, catching up with other like-minded people. It's also an important way to contribute to a growing traditionalist movement here in Melbourne. If you live within driving distance of Eltham and would like to attend please get in touch - you'll find more information on Eltham Traditionalists here and contact details here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The beginning of thought

Bonald threw down the gauntlet to liberals earlier this year in a post titled "Rejecting the Enlightenment is only the beginning of thought".

He began by noting that liberals tend to reduce possible alternatives to either the liberal position or something nasty:
One way that the Enlightenment controls the minds of billions, locking them into a degrading and absurd mental slavery, is by making people imagine they know what’s on the other side. “Without the social contract…tyranny! Without separation of Church and state...religious warfare! Without feminism...rape! Without capitalism...communism! Without cosmopolitanism...Nazis!"

Bonald hits liberals where it is likely to hurt most, by noting that this poverty of vision represents "a narrow, unimaginative, and parochial worldview."

Furthermore, liberals - in claiming to be neutral - evade the task of having to justify their particular conception of the Good as being objectively true:
The key to rejecting liberalism (the political expression of the Enlightenment project) is to realize that it’s a swindle. It claims to stand above every particular conception of the Good, granting freedom to all and favoritism to none, when in fact it imposes its own narrow vision on all of us. Its claims to neutrality just mean that it gets to impose itself without ever being forced to argue (or even assert) that its claims are objectively true, and that it never has to assume the responsibility that comes from being a recognized establishment.

But in rejecting liberalism it becomes possible to take a more sophisticated approach to issues of human flourishing. Bonald gives the example of relations between the sexes:
Now that you realize that gender roles are not inherently iniquitous, you can finally start thinking about the proper relationship between the sexes. Just because you notice that women are being treated differently than men in some context, you can no longer automatically conclude that the women are being treated unfairly, as you would have done when you were a liberal. On the other hand, it is possible that the women are being treated unfairly. What’s more, there is the new possibility–undreamed of by liberals–that the men are being treated unfairly. You must dig into the particulars of the case, the historical context and social functions; you must then apply general principles of natural law (none of which are as simplistic as “gender equality”). You must try to conceptualize the universal masculine and feminine virtues that society should foster, remembering that any given instantiation of masculine and feminine roles will be conditioned by culture and economic organization. Given this background, do the laws and culture provide a path for the achievement of masculine and feminine excellence? Or are the man’s protective instinct and the woman’s nurturing instinct being thwarted or deformed? These are subtle questions.

It's a long paragraph, but it gives a good picture of how traditionalists tend to think about such issues and why traditionalism can't be easily expressed through simple slogans.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Can pride be humbling?

Most religious traditions are critical of pride and for a good reason. There is a kind of pride which gives us a self-sufficient arrogance in our own powers. This pride makes us self-enclosed and therefore closed off to any powers higher than ourselves. Little wonder, then, that religious traditions often warn against hubris, or seek to quieten the egoistic self, or seek to cultivate a reverent, outwardly turned humility.

However, if this is the type of pride to be avoided, there still remain aspects of pride that are either not harmful or that perhaps even help to promote a more humble type of outlook.

For instance, is it really a bad thing to take pride in our work? The sense of "pride" here simply means to have a standard of care in what we do; to be willing to work in a careful and concentrated way; and to create something of quality. Think of a craftsman who wants to create a beautiful, well-constructed piece of furniture; his mind will be quietly concentrated on the value of what he is working on (on something of value outside of himself) rather than on a self-vaunting arrogance.

Then there is a pride we feel in the achievements of our family, town or nation. The positive aspect to this kind of pride is that it begins with the individual feeling connected to something outside of, and larger than, his own egoistic self; it is a sharing of identity and endeavour and a recognition that you owe something of yourself to others. In this sense this kind of pride is also a kind of humility.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Change

Via Happy Acres:
“Modern man calls walking more quickly in the same direction down the same road “change.”

The world, in the last three hundred years, has not changed except in that sense.

The simple suggestion of a true change scandalizes and terrifies modern man.”

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (Don Colacho)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A temporary change

I'd just like to let regular readers know that I'll be away from any certain internet access for a couple of weeks. I will try to post in this period of time, but bear with me if it's not as frequent as usual (or if I'm unable to moderate comments or respond to emails). I promise to resume with gusto in two weeks.

Past, present, future

A good observation from Mark Moncrieff:
What is More Important, the Past, the Present or the Future?

Liberals would say without question that the future is the most important of the three as the past is over, the present is here but the future is where all potential lies. But Liberals are confused because they really believe that the present is the most important. They pillage both the past and the future to create the present. We can see this in Liberal economic policy and in Liberal social policy. Short term thinking is preferred to any long range plans or visions.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Isn't what Aly is saying a type of vilification?

There is a law in Australia which means you can be prosecuted for insulting or offending someone on the basis of their race. A prominent journalist, Andrew Bolt, was found guilty under this law merely for questioning why a light-skinned Aborigine would identify with only one part of her heritage.

The Liberal Government wishes to change the law to prevent a repeat of such incidents. The new standard will be not insulting or offending, but inciting hatred or causing fear of physical harm.

Waleed Aly has written a column for The Age denouncing the changes as racist. Aly has not exactly been hard done by in Australia. He married an attractive Anglo woman; was made a lecturer in politics; and has a radio show and a newspaper column. He belongs to the privileged 1%.

But there isn't much gratitude on display in his newspaper column; nor any recognition of his privileged status. In fact, Aly runs the line that he is part of an oppressed minority, and that white Australians are a bunch of nasty racists - and that therefore the law should grant a higher moral status to people like himself.

It seems that it's OK now in the mainstream Australian media to vilify white Australians when discussing anti-vilification laws.

It's important to remember how we got to such a political situation. The problem is that we have not escaped a political framework that first emerged about a century ago.

So on one side of the debate we have the right-liberal assimilationists. These people believe in mass immigration, albeit legal migration, and that migrants should then assimilate to right-liberal political values (race blindness / free market / individualism etc.).

Waleed Aly doesn't like the right-liberal position:
...this lawyer, qualified engineer and academic reveals some illogical statements and mistaken beliefs from people like John Howard, Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews or Nick Minchin. “The conservative would certainly not run immigration at record levels (as the Howard government did) and then lecture its migrant population on what their values should be...”

Aly is right: it makes little sense for someone like John Howard to ramp up immigration to record levels and then expect a group of white, right-liberals to insist that everyone assimilate to their values. If you open the borders, you are giving up on the right to do this.

Aly is pushing instead for the left-liberal position, the one that emerged fully with Randolph Bourne in 1916. In the left-liberal view, the majority is guilty of trying to dominate and should instead encourage immigrants to maintain their own "vibrant' cultures whilst at the same time giving up on their own culture as being parochial and limiting.

It's a twisted view of things, as it requires a form of double-think: the white majority has no culture and should disband itself, but should at the same time celebrate and enjoy everybody else's cultures which are enriching.

Neither of these positions is a worthy one, but people do still tend to fall into them. When liberals controlled the media absolutely the limits of the debate could be enforced; that's a little less possible today when people can participate in various kinds of social media. Even so, things won't change unless there are intelligent voices in this media criticising the older views. The pattern of "idea formation" needs to be disrupted by a questioning of the older ideas and a suggesting of new ones. This just isn't happening to a sufficient degree yet, but it needs to develop over the coming decade.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Australian intellectual 1953

I'm reading the diary of Tim Burstall which begins in November 1953. Burstall was part of the Melbourne literati, which 60 years ago had its headquarters here in Eltham.

I was curious to read the diary, having written some posts recently on Randolph Bourne, an American writer who, in 1916, emerged as the prototype of a modern, leftist intellectual. Was Burstall something like Bourne?

I haven't finished the diary yet, but the answer seems to be decisively no. Burstall wasn't really the same as the Bourne-like Australian intellectuals of the 1980s onwards.

What kind of picture emerges of Burstall from the diaries? There are a few positive things I can say about Burstall and his associates. They weren't effeminate. They set about building their own houses; some of them laboured for decades constructing the impressive buildings of Montsalvat, the Eltham artists' colony.

Some of the buildings at Montsalvat, Eltham

Tim Burstall himself took a decision to start making films in Australia and helped to launch the modern Australian film industry. Nor were Burstall and his friends the supplicating types when it came to women; they were decidedly prefeminist in how they pursued women (radical feminists would have a heart attack reading some of the seduction scenes described by Burstall).

Burstall in 1953 was a member of the Communist Party. There was a very small branch of the party in Eltham (with about seven active members). What's interesting, though, is that Burstall seems out of place in the party (he resigned in the mid-50s). Burstall's political views were a type of left-libertarianism or anarchism, much more suited to the politics of the Sydney Push.

Why doesn't Burstall come across as a Bourne type intellectual? Burstall had the individualism and hedonism of the Greenwich Village types, but he didn't have as strong a "humanist" religion. I noted in the Bourne series, that there was a trend amongst American progressives early in the 1900s toward serving "humanity" as an ideal, and this meant sacrificing one's own closer identities and attachments in favour of a universal cosmopolitanism. The literati were thought to be the misunderstood, heroic avant-garde in achieving this aim.

There's a little bit of this in Burstall. He did believe that he had a duty to shift ideas in society and he supported open border positions. But it just doesn't seem to have been his religion. He records discussions with his friends in which some took a more nationalistic position and it doesn't seem to have bothered him that much (the main preoccupation still seems to have been life in Australia versus life in England). Nor did he take a view of himself and his literati friends as being the moral vanguard - he was honest in admitting his baser motives in life and he thought many of his associates were cut off from life.

He had a "flatter" view of things than Bourne. He had a terrific job which only required him to work a few hours a day; he would then catch up with his art friends for a long liquid lunch; he enjoyed discussing art and literature and the personalities of friends; apart from that, he dedicated some part of his life to his pursuit of mistresses.

It comes across as barren. The deeper experiences of life which inspire people have gone missing. His wife cheated on him early in his marriage; they subsequently decided to have an open marriage and he was good at attracting women. But it means that there is very little expression of love for his wife; nor does fatherhood seem to mean much to him. Even his liaisons with women seem devoid of emotional passion.

So far in the diaries there has been no expression  of a love of nature, despite the semi-rural setting of his home life and his artistic leanings. There is no obvious love of his national tradition; as mentioned above, he took an internationalist view politically. He obviously enjoyed reading, but again there is little sense of a passionate connection to art. He was an atheist, so there was no connection to a church or to an experience of the transcendent.

He was masculine, but not to the point that he had a patriarchal sense of wanting to lead or to help order a family or community. It was expressed instead more coarsely in drinking and bedding women (and, more impressively, in leading the revival of the film industry, though his own films often featured men who drank beer and bedded women).

Overall, he was perhaps part of an inbetween generation of intellectuals - those who had lost an older faith, but who had not yet committed to the newer one suggested by Bourne.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Another win in France

Some more good news from France. The National Front performed well in municipal elections held across France. The party won an outright victory in Henin-Beaumont, a small town to the north of Paris, and also led the vote in the eastern town of Forbach and the southern towns of Avignon, Perpignan and Beziers.

A more detailed report from Tiberge at Gallia Watch here.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Can we not have intergenerational loyalty?

An item from the American VDARE website interested me. It concerns opposition to an affirmative action scheme in California. These schemes are designed to favour students from ethnic minorities (e.g. blacks, Hispanics) when it comes to university admissions. The proposal to operate such a scheme hit a stumbling block when Asian-American Democratic representatives moved against it.
Over the last several weeks, the three senators who have had second thoughts about the referendum -- Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; and Carol Liu, D- La Cañada/Flintridge -- said they have received thousands of calls and emails from fearful constituents who believe that any move to favor other ethnic groups could hurt Asian-Americans, who attend many of the state's best schools in large numbers. A Change.org petition to kill the referendum now has more than 100,000 signatures, and email listservs for Chinese-American parents have been flooded with angry posts

Three days ago, the senators sent a formal letter to Assembly Speaker John Perez urging him to stop the bill from advancing any further. "As lifelong advocates for the Asian American and other communities, we would never support a policy that we believed would negatively impact our children," the letter states.

Remember, these are left-wing Democrat politicians, who might normally be expected to support affirmative action schemes. They are refusing, though, to act against the interests of their own children.

Compare this to white American politicians. Would they enact legislation that harmed the prospects of white children? Yes, they have and they would.

There are two angles to this issue. On the one hand, the Asian politicians are clearly more virtuous in having a stronger sense of fidelity to their own children and community. Parents are not supposed to abandon their own children; this relationship is a primary one, based on intergenerational loyalty and support. If it dissolves, then it can't be expected that much will remain of our sense of duty and service to others.

It is currently a major corruption within white culture that the sense of fidelity from one generation to the next is so thin. White parents are relatively good at working hard and responsibly to give their own children a decent upbringing; the failure comes at a public level - that is where the interests of young white people are abandoned.

This is true at various levels, such as the failure to uphold distinctively white communities or a culture of relationships, marriage and family. I'm starting to see it even in a lack of concern for the economic conditions young white people are experiencing. I know young people who are being left with massive student debt (partly because they are forced now to complete their studies to an MA standard), who then have to find work in a highly competitive job market and who are then priced out of the housing market (out of control here in Melbourne). There doesn't seem to be much sympathy for them from older generations who, in general, had an easier launch into adult life.

And the second angle from which to see this issue? Supposedly, Asian culture can be too limited to fidelity at the level of family - something which fosters an attitude of nepotism. It's a good thing about Western culture that there developed a sense of public service as well - service to the larger community and not just to one's family.

To fix things up we need to hold onto our strength (a commitment to public service) but overcome our weakness (a lack of fidelity at a public level to our children and community). Read again the words of the three Asian-American Democrats: "We would never support a policy that we believed would negatively impact our children." That should also exist in the conscience of our own representatives.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why did we get Bourne?

I've been posting a bit lately on an American intellectual by the name of Randolph Bourne. He is "special" in the sense that he was the prototype (as far back as 1916) of the artsy left-liberal so familiar to us today.

The writer at Happy Acres put it well in a post of his own, that in Bourne's writings:
It’s already there: boundless resentment, alienation, the loathing of Old America, valorization of The Exotic Other, etc.

I was curious to find out more about this man. I've been able to read a few chapters of a book about Bourne, and here are a few things to note.

First, Bourne was influenced by a variety of thinkers:
Add to his praise of Dewey and Dreiser, his earlier and sustained passion for Tolstoy, Nietzsche, William and Henry James, Shaw and Wells and one sees the making of a modern mind.

Bourne seems to have had the view that an older bourgeois moral sentimentalism should give way to the deliberate restructuring of society along more scientific lines. He was a "presentist" in the sense that he wanted to break with the past to do this; a "pragmatist" in the sense that he wanted to justify this reform according to what could be held to be useful; a vitalist nihilist in seeking out vibrant life experiences; and someone who thought of the pagan in positive terms.

This makes it sound as if he had a plan, but the truth is that he felt cut adrift. He had that intellectual personality which feels estranged from ordinary society. For instance, he could hardly abide by the people of his hometown or his own family:
I am constantly confounded there by the immeasurable gulf between my outlook and theirs and I feel a constant criticism of my futile high-browism and Godless pursuit of strange philosophers. My young sister is almost a passionate vulgarian and takes with really virtuous indignation any deviation from the norm of popular music, the movies, Chamber's novels, Billy Sunday, musical comedy, tennis, anti-suffragism, and the rest of the combination that makes up the healthy, hearty, happy young normal person of the well-brought up family of the day of the middle-middle-class. I find her an index to current America, but we scarcely get along.

That's hardly an uncommon experience for intellectual types. The problem is that Bourne didn't connect with an alternative. Early in WWI he complained that he lacked "a stable and satisfying way of living."

It's possible, I think, that the older liberalism might be partly to blame here. The older liberalism preached a kind of neutrality, according to which we either cannot know the good or that it is impossible to obtain agreement as to the good, and that therefore the guiding principle should be a willingness to allow the good to be individually self-defined and to respect each person's right to do the same.

You can see the predicament that this left Bourne's generation of intellectuals in. If a society doesn't have a sense of a higher truth that it takes to be objectively grounded in reality, then it becomes more likely that social values will be dismissed as private, individual and sentimental ones, rather than objective and profound, and it becomes difficult to uphold a higher tradition in which the intellectual class can obtain its moorings.

What was left to Bourne? He was still open to the idea of the importance of national cultures and identity for other peoples, but not for his own - so that was not there to sustain him. He had rejected his own religious tradition in favour of a vitalist paganism (prefiguring D.H. Lawrence). He did yearn for a woman who combined "high seriousness about personal relations" with "the sensuous" but he found it difficult to meet such a woman. In part, this was because of his own physical disfigurement, but also because the progressive women he mixed with in Greenwich Village had become by 1910 radically feminist and hostile to men. He himself supported feminism as a "vital idea" but he wrote articles criticising the women he knew who saw all men, including feminist men like himself, as the enemy.

The anchor that men like Bourne found was to think of themselves as members of a special caste in society, an avant-garde destined to be unappreciated in their own times, but harbingers of the future, reformed social order.

So how does a society avoid the Bourne mentality from catching on, as it has in the West?

First, a John Stuart Mill, define-your-own-good system isn't adequate. Intellectuals can't find the good in everyday life (as Bourne's young sister was able to do). Nor can they be expected to raise a serious tradition from scratch individually as adolescents and young men. There needs to be a serious tradition within which the higher values of society are transmitted from generation to generation.

Second, it is important that these goods are thought of as great and expansive, rather than narrow, stagnant and limiting. Intellectuals have a sense of the creative spirit in life, in which there is a creative unfolding of personality and a shaping of the social environment. Intellectuals are inclined to worry that if there is a communal identity it will be so closely defined that rather than inspiring the personality to higher loves and commitments, that it will close off avenues for development. Similarly, they worry that a masculine essence might only be expressed in one rudimentary fashion, rather than representing a questing spirit that raises and challenges the character and the ambitions of individual men.

It is up to each generation to so impart these goods that they retain a sense of greatness, and so inspire a sense of connection to an ongoing tradition.

A society should therefore take care with those institutions charged with transmitting such a higher culture: the schools, the universities and the churches, as well as the various branches of the arts.

Finally, it is normal for class or caste identities to arise in society, but these should be subsets of a larger communal identity that joins classes or castes together, rather than being set in opposition to, or as a substitute for, such a larger identity.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Bourne Identity 1916

In 1916 an Anglo-Saxon American by the name of Randolph Bourne wrote an essay titled Trans-national America.

In his essay Bourne criticises an older liberalism which combined open borders with an expectation that migrants would assimilate to an established Anglo-Saxonism. Bourne criticised the primacy of the Anglo-Saxonism by claiming that:
We are all foreign-born or the descendants of foreign-born

So here we already have the argument that we are all immigrants - which in one stroke denies the existence of an established national identity.

Bourne then dismisses the older Anglo-America as merely derivative:
They invented no new social framework. Rather they brought over bodily the old ways to which they had been accustomed. Tightly concentrated on a hostile frontier, they were conservative beyond belief...In their folkways, in their social and political institutions, they were, like every colonial people, slavishly imitative of the mother country...

It is just this English-American conservatism that has been our chief obstacle to social advance.

The immigrant has the superior qualities:
We have needed the new peoples—the order of the German and Scandinavian, the turbulence of the Slav and Hun—to save us from our own stagnation.

Bourne, an Anglo-American himself, claims that America up to 1900 simply had no culture:
The Anglo-Saxon was merely the first immigrant, the first to found a colony. He has never really ceased to be the descendant of immigrants, nor has he ever succeeded in transforming that colony into a real nation, with a tenacious, richly woven fabric of native culture. Colonials from the other nations have come and settled down beside him. They found no definite native culture which should startle them out of their colonialism

Haven't we heard that over and over from Western intellectuals from Sydney to Stockholm - a denial that a national culture even exists to be defended?

Bourne goes on and on attacking Anglo-America, attacking the South, for instance, as being a cultural backwater. But what happens next is quite revealing. His aim is to praise the immigrant cultures and so he argues that it is better for these cultures to stay strong:
It is not the Jew who sticks proudly to the faith of his fathers and boasts of that venerable culture of his who is dangerous to America, but the Jew who has lost the Jewish fire... Just so surely as we tend to disintegrate these nuclei of nationalistic culture do we tend to create hordes of men and women without a spiritual country, cultural outlaws, without taste, without standards...The influences at the centre of the nuclei are centripetal. They make for the intelligence and the social values which mean an enhancement of life.

OK, but surely this argument can be turned against Bourne himself. Where is his Anglo fire? Where is his boasting of his venerable culture? Where is his spiritual country? He has cast it all aside, denied its existence, identified it as a source of stagnation....

We have the beginnings here of that double standard, in which the leftist argues for pluralism (the vibrancy and enrichment of cultural diversity) whilst at the same time attacking and denying his own culture.

So what then is the role for an Anglo-Saxon American? According to Bourne, it is not to enjoy his own national tradition, but a newer cosmopolitan one. Bourne begins on this general note:
It is for the American of the younger generation to accept this cosmopolitanism, and carry it along with selfconscious and fruitful purpose. In his colleges, he is already getting...the privilege of a cosmopolitan outlook...If he is still a colonial, he is no longer the colonial of one partial culture, but of many. He is a colonial of the world. Colonialism has grown into cosmopolitanism, and his mother land is no one nation, but all who have anything life-enhancing to offer to the spirit...If the American is parochial, it is in sheer wantonness or cowardice. His provincialism is the measure of his fear of bogies or the defect of his imagination.

The Anglo-Saxon American is to liberate himself from his own repressed and stagnant provincial culture through a cosmopolitan intermixing with the vibrant immigrant cultures:
Indeed, it is not uncommon for the eager Anglo-Saxon who goes to a vivid American university today to find his true friends not among his own race but among the acclimatized German or Austrian, the acclimatized Jew, the acclimatized Scandinavian or Italian. In them he finds the cosmopolitan note. In these youths, foreign-born or the children of foreign-born parents, he is likely to find many of his old inbred morbid problems washed away. These friends are oblivious to the repressions of that tight little society in which he so provincially grew up. He has a pleasurable sense of liberation from the stale and familiar attitudes of those whose ingrowing culture has scarcely created anything vital for his America of today. He breathes a larger air.

Dual citizenship is necessary, thinks Bourne, because it would be unreasonable to expect someone to give up the identity they were born to:
Dual citizenship we may have to recognize as the rudimentary form of that international citizenship to which, if our words mean anything, we aspire...Once a citizen, always a citizen, no matter how many new citizenships he may embrace. And such a dual citizenship seems to us sound and right. For it recognizes that, although the Frenchman may accept the formal institutional framework of his new country and indeed become intensely loyal to it, yet his Frenchness he will never lose. What makes up the fabric of his soul will always be of this Frenchness, so that unless he becomes utterly degenerate he will always to some degree dwell still in his native environment.

Again, Bourne thinks it would be "utterly degenerate" for a Frenchman to lose the Frenchness that "makes up the fabric of his soul". But what about his own Anglo-Saxon identity? Why is it not utterly degenerate for him to deny it and to denigrate it in favour of cosmopolitanism?

Apart from the ethnic double standard that emerges in Bourne's essay, there are two other features worth noting. The first is Bourne's emphasis on creative spirit, which I believe is one aspect of human nature that liberals tend to prioritise. The second is the "magic thinking" that runs through his essay, by which I mean his willingness to hold contradictory, inconsistent or mutually defeating positions at the same time. For instance, he wants America to be at the same time diverse but also unified and integrated; a land with a cosmopolitan outlook but in which different groups retain their distinct, historic national traditions; a land, in his words, whose "colonies live here inextricably mingled, yet not homogeneous. They merge but they do not fuse." He wants America to be trans-national and yet at the same time a nation.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Identifying the Adam of the American left

One of the most useful books I've read in recent years is The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America by Eric Kaufmann. You can buy it from Amazon here.

If you recall, the sixth chapter was about the shift in the Protestant church establishment (particularly the FCC) toward cosmopolitanism which took place between 1905 and 1913.

I'm now reading the seventh chapter, which is another very illuminating part of the book. It traces the rise of the modernist view amongst the intellectuals and artists of Chicago and New York in the period just prior to and during WWI. It also names the first American intellectual who truly had the leftist attitude to national identity that we are so familiar with today - but I'll get to him shortly.

Kaufmann begins his story in Chicago. There existed in Chicago a group of Liberal Progressives, such as John Dewey and Jane Addams who had "developed the first variant of American cosmopolitanism". However, what Kaufmann is interested in is the uptake of this outlook as a cultural and lifestyle movement amongst the literati (intellectuals/artists).

There was a group of such people, dubbed the Chicago Poets, including figures such as Floyd Dell and Sherwood Anderson, who by 1912 had their own magazine, Poetry. They were influenced by European thinkers such as Nietzsche, Bergson and Wells. They saw Anglo-Saxon culture in negative terms as being associated with a puritanical morality.

This foreshadowed what was to take place in New York. In the late 1800s, New York cultural life was still dominated by the "genteel tradition" with its "stress on Anglo-Saxonism, New Englandism, and cultural nationalism". This tradition was represented in the magazine Century which by the 1880s had a circulation of 250,000, and it was entrenched at Columbia University and in the Academy of Arts and Letters.

The critical era was just before and during WWI. The Academy was formed in 1904 and was relatively conservative (compared to what was about to come). However, in the 1890s, a man called James Gibbons Huneker began to introduce modernist European intellectuals, such as Ibsen, Shaw and Strindberg, to the New York bohemian scene; and from 1907 there was a bohemian migration to Greenwich Village. This migration reached a critical mass during 1910 to 1912, unleashing the "Village Renaissance" of 1912 to 1917.

The literati involved in this Renaissance were mostly Protestant Anglo-Americans such as Floyd Dell and Randolph Bourne, though there were Jewish figures involved as well. The beliefs of this group of people were based on "an ethic of inner nature, which corresponded to the irrationalist vitalism of Henri Bergson, Friedrich Nietzsche and Expressivists like Friedrich Schiller and Friedrich Hölderlin."

The movement looked more to paganism that to Christianity - therefore, it seems that the Protestant church establishment had moved toward cosmopolitanism a little earlier, and for different reasons, than the New York literati did in the period just prior to and during WWI.

Avant-garde left modernism

The older American liberalism had seen Anglo-Saxonism as a positive force, destined to bring liberal democracy to the continent. This older liberalism was in favour of assimilation to Anglo-Saxon values; it favoured the idea of new immigrants being culturally absorbed into a melting-pot.

In 1915, Horace Kallen, a Jewish intellectual, criticised this ideal of Anglo-Saxon dominance and of a melting pot. He argued instead for a pluralistic or multiethnic vision of American identity, in which America would be a "democracy of nationalities".

This was not exactly the modern leftist view, though, as Kallen thought that the Anglo-Saxons should continue to be part of this pluralistic identity. However, in 1916 the first statement of the modern leftist view was put by an intellectual of Anglo-Saxon background, Randolph Bourne. Understanding Randolph Bourne is important, as he represents the emergence of the modern leftist mind.

Bourne established that frustrating double standard, in which other ethnic traditions were considered to be authentic and vibrant, but the Anglo-Saxon was exceptional in being inauthentic, derivative and pallid. Therefore, the role of the Anglo-Saxon was that of the consumer of other cultures, rather than living through one's own culture.

It's worth finishing with Kaufmann's description of Bourne's position:
...the Anglo-Saxon was implicitly excluded from Kallen's "federation of nationalities" and placed in a special position: that of cultural consumer. Hence whereas Kallen held a Herderian, organicist view of ethnicity that included the Anglo-Saxons, Bourne considered ethnicity a cultural good to be experienced by a modernist cultural consumer. He bestowed this role upon young Anglo-Saxons....

...In effect, where ethnic minorities are given a traditional role, Anglo-Saxons are implored to be cosmopolitan. Thus, Bourne simultaneously lauds the traditions of the Jew "who sticks proundly to the faith of his fathers and boasts of the venerable culture of his," while imploring young Anglo-Saxon Americans to "Breathe a larger air...."

...In Bourne's writing, the freedom for individual creativity and the quest for cultural experience demanded by modernism are satisfied by the seemingly paradoxical coupling of Anglo-Saxon ethnic destruction with minority ethnic revival.

Bourne is very important in understanding how the modernist leftist view came about. I'm going to return to him in a future post.

For the time being, though, I'll point out once again that all this is happening just prior to and during WWI, mostly amongst Protestant Anglo-Saxon intellectual figures, though with Jewish intellectuals in the mix, with the main influences being figures like Nietzsche, James and Bergson rather than Marx.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The decline of Anglo-America: the role of the FCC

OK, back to Eric Kaufmann's book The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America. I've just read the sixth chapter, which is about the role of the Protestant elite. It's a very interesting account.

Up to the early 1900s, the Protestant elite followed the older ideas about dominant Anglo-Saxon ethnicity. For instance, Kaufmann relates that although Josiah Strong in 1885 thought that,
no race should literally displace the other, he also spoke eloquently of the providential destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race to Christianize and Anglo-Saxonize the world.

According to Lyman Abbott,
it is the function of the Anglo-Saxon race to confer these gifts of civilization, through law, commerce and education...

Whatever we think of such beliefs, it is clearly the case that the idea was for people to assimilate to a dominant Anglo-Saxonism.

This changed between 1905 and 1913. The Protestant churches became more ecumenical in their outlook, based on an ethical universalism. In 1908, this ecumenical movement led to the creation of the Federal Council of Churches (FCC), an organisation involving 32 Protestant denominations. The period was to see the emergence of an interfaith movement, a Goodwill movement, support for internationalism, and for a pluralist concept of the nation in which no single group was dominant. Those who took this new line agitated for open borders.

There was also a spirit of "humanitarianism," based not so much on a rejection of God but on the idea that we should serve humanity rather than particular nations. Summarising the views of Everett Clinchy (1934), Kaufmann writes,
...America could call upon a liberal tradition. Drawing on this tradition, its proper mission should be to lead the world toward a higher stage of liberal evolution, culminating in a cosmopolitan world view.

Another ecumenical commentator wrote in 1936:
There can be no fully civilized world until the arrogant independence of political sovereignty can be subordinated to the welfare of human life as a whole. We are far from that now, but everywhere the most civilized minds are thinking in the new patterns of world relationships.

It's a humanitarianism that overrides and endangers particular identities and attachments.

It is important to note, though, that the FCC represented most of all a Protestant bureaucratic, establishment elite view, rather than a rank and file outlook. Its point of view was not generally accepted by rural clergymen, nor by the laity in general. Furthermore, prior to World War II its efforts to bring about open borders were successfully opposed by patriotic groups. For instance, here is Kaufmann on the passage of immigration restriction laws in 1924:
The Protestant establishment also vehemently opposed the National Origins Quota immigration act of 1924, which was subsequently passed. The opposition of the Protestant establishment to the new law was so extensive, and pervaded all of the denominations so completely, that Robert Moats Miller exclaimed: "A list of the men who publicly opposed the exclusion measure would read like an honor roll of American Protestantism. Much the same could be said of the religious press."

In 1942, an FCC conference,
advocated an American foreign policy that would end "the sovereign power of the nation state" and lay the basis for a world political order.

In the early 1950s the FCC (now the NCC) once again lobbied for non-discriminatory mass immigration.

So, the basic conclusion is that one of the roots of the movement toward open borders and multiculturalism was the Protestant establishment from about 1905 onwards. This means that it cannot just be cultural Marxism which is to blame for the current direction of American society. It was not just foreign intellectuals from the 1920s onwards, but changes within the Protestant elite from the very early 1900s, which helped to establish the current template.