A European Writer Worth a Read

Sunday, March 05, 2006
On occasion, I have been depressed by comments here at Flares that suggest it is time to give up on Europe. They strike me as falsely pragmatic, for a number of reasons we can argue about later. The apparent desire to see America condemn the treacherous Euro (elite)s and to go it alone with India and other non-European allies is an aspect of American identity I don't fully understand. There remain in Europe the national and folk cultures - and all the monuments to them - from which so many North Americans, and all of their nations, emerged. And if these cultures eventually die off, we will lose many landmarks for our own self-understanding.

Perhaps there is in the USA an over-estimation of the revolutionary nature of the American nation that allows one to imagine sacrificing a decadent Europe, and going it alone without the embarassingly-accented mama and papa? If so, it strikes me as unfair to future generations of Americans. I am reminded of the dictum of the Norwegian-American immigration historian, Marcus Hansen: "What the second generation tried to forget, the third generation tries to remember."

Incidentally, when I googled Hansen's name to see if I had remembered that quote correctly, I came across this page where i read about a documentary film looking into attempts to foster reconciliation between Germans and Jews:
At the beginning of the new documentary, "From Third Reich to Third Generation," 21-year-old Christoph Erbsloeh, the grandson of a doctor in Hitler's army, asks 101-year-old Holocaust survivor Arthur Lederman, "Do you think every German has a little Hitler in them?"

Lederman's response: "Yes, and I told you that, deep in your being, you're a Hitler."
Christian Staffa, the executive director of Action Reconciliation, tells the camera, "There is still an incredibly strong feeling of guilt among the third and fourth generation. You can sense it right away when they meet a survivor or grandchild of a survivor."
And so I was reminded that the problem Europeans face, when it comes to their need to become again a people who can defend themselves because they first know why they are worth defending (to paraphrase Wretchard), is the same problem American culture faces: the need to overcome the postmodern "white" guilt that emerged in the wake of the Holocaust and Hiroshima. And I wonder if the desire to write off Europe in face of its problems with low fertility and unassimilated immigrants practicing Jihad, is not itself evidence of a desire to quickly throw off the age of guilt without first a proper accounting of what one should be about defending.

In any case, the point of this post is to link to a blog I have just discovered, home of a European writer who gives me hope that the curse of the Holocaust may yet be broken and a new Europe that rediscovers the value in nationhood (i.e. that rediscovers, among other things, its Jewishness) can emerge alongside an international order of honestly self-interested nation-states without the utopian lies we see from EU elites. I'll shut up now and let Wolfgang Bruno speak for himself:
There is now a critical mass of Europeans who see clearly that Islam and Muslim immigration constitute a mortal danger to their freedom and their civilization. They feel confused and scared, but first of all angry. If this is the true face of Islam, doesn’t that mean that our academic elites, our media and our political leaders have lied to us systematically for decades? Muslims misunderstand the mentality and potential response from the infidels because they see mainly the appeasement of the political class. What they don’t see is the simmering defiance that is growing at the grassroots level.
The EU is not a joke, the EU is evil, destroying freedom across an entire continent and spreading instability far beyond the borders of Europe. The Cold War was won when Ronal Reagan publicly labelled the Soviet Union “the Evil Empire.” A generation later, we are witnessing the rise of another Evil Empire. Not the Soviet Union, but the European Union. It’s time to bring this one down, too. The European Union, not the USA and definitely not Israel, is the greatest threat to world peace today. It is appeasement by the EU that has emboldened the Islamic Jihad, and not just in the West. The EU is an increasingly totalitarian entity that is post-democratic and neo-feudalist. The buildings of the European Commission should be turned into a museum of the history of dhimmitude and Jihad across the world.
Perhaps instead of pinning our hopes on an Islamic Reformation that will probably never materialize, Westerners should rather focus on an Enlightenment and a new Renaissance. Not in the Islamic world, but in Europe and the West.
Read the whole thing.

I don't fully agree with this last point; I think the Islamic world will be engaged and forced to change for the better of all concerned. But the enormity of this task can only be imagined from the perspective of a world that still loves Europe for what is has been and can yet be.


David Thomson said...

The awful demographics doom much of the European continent. It’s as simple as that. There are just not enough babies coming into the world. That harsh fact cannot be ignored. Is there any evidence whatsoever to indicate that young European married couples are willing to raise large families? Moreover, are the EU nations willing to abandon socialist economic policies which discourage the raising of children?

chuck said...

I don't fully agree with this last point;

I think it a bit strong also. I suspect that the vast majority of muslims in the US will integrate just fine; many already have. But we have the advantage of distance, traditional religious diversity, and many institutions developed to integrate immigrants, not to mention available work.

I tend to agree that the EU is becoming an evil institution, and if it doesn't threaten world peace, it certainly threatens the US with its propaganda and obstructionism.

and going it alone without the embarassingly-accented mama and papa?

Perhaps, but then again, my forebears have been knocking about the continent for some 300 years. I doubt that they have given much thought to Europe, outside of serving in WWII, and while several have been missionaries they were in places like the Carribean, or Asia, or New Guinea, or Africa.

It is probably true that Europe would be missed, perhaps more so by latter arrivals, but it is hard to say just how much it would be missed. I suspect the cultured would find it a greater loss. Personally, I would miss Robin Hood, but he is already long gone.

...the need to overcome the postmodern "white" guilt that emerged in the wake of the Holocaust and Hiroshima.

I don't feel any guilt for Hiroshima. I think it is mostly a manufactured issue produced by the left.

"There is still an incredibly strong feeling of guilt among the third and fourth generation. You can sense it right away when they meet a survivor or grandchild of a survivor."

A short tale here. There is (was?) a Jewish atmospheric physicist who, when argueing for funds and other support from German collegues, would sometimes quietly push up his sleeve to expose the tatooed number on his forearm and, oh so nonchalantly, lay his arm on the table. The friend who told me this story said this ploy could be quite effective.

gumshoe1 said...

tp -

if i'm not mistaken,
Bruno was writing articles for
"The Jung Page" Re: Man and Machine
durning the white hot days of the
Internet boom.

there were several good articles
if i recall correctly.

the article on Bruno's current website:
"Multiculturalism – Tribalism Recycled" looks very topical.
in McLuhan's later media studies
he stated his own fears that tribalism was in mankind's future.

Rick Ballard said...


Wolfgang Bruno is speaking the truth and to drown him in demographics is unworthy. Remember, straight line trends have been broken many times in history. At the turn of the century, a straight line projection would have had us buried in horseshit by now.

The tide will turn with the truth being spoken and anybody advocating trying EU leadership for treason is to be commended. I also liked his idea for buying the copyright to Bat Ye'or's book - he ought to add Fallaci's.

The Euro's have had to get a feel for Hayek's serf's collar for a bit and it's good to hear someone say; Enough!

Thanks, Truepeers, that was an excellent read. As well as a ray of hope.

gumshoe1 said...

dt -

"The awful demographics doom much of the European continent. It’s as simple as that. There are just not enough babies coming into the world. That harsh fact cannot be ignored."

so it's a quantity vs. quality thing,hey?

/only partly kidding.


BTW,David -

it may be a bit "New Age" for your tastes,but have you read
any Ken Wilber?

in his elaborate,personal philosophy,
he describes several stages of
civilizational/psychological development.

one novelized book of his ideas and theories is called "Boomeritis".
i've only read a review or two and several chapter excerpts,
but his "Integral Theory" provides a picture of some the the
competing "value-systems" and memes,
for lack of a better terminology.

short blurb here at Wiki:
Boomeritis - Ken Wilber

Wilber's exposition works its way thru primitivism,tribalism,
agricultural revolution,
emergence of democratic ideals,modern industrial cultures,
and then begins to grapple with the "Information Society" and the sub-tribes it seems to be spawning,
including the Tranzis and what Wilber calls "the Green meme".

Wilber is not particulalry sparing of any one group.

...and he has some sharp comments for what are considered
"Conservatives",(and points out
some of what it is they are rebelling against in "Modernity")
yet w/o writing them Conservatives off in favor of flaky "Progressives".

i suggest it not as definitive,
but as an eye opener.

Papa Ray said...

The EU was the [e]uropean elites last gasp to try and reclaim the greatness that they thought they once had.

In my opinion whatever greatness they ever had was far overshadowed by their stupidity and intolerance through out history. But that's just me.

Demographics are very important, immigration is important too, both the people fleeing [e]urope and those moving there and sending for their extended families. Chart those three items for about ten to fifteen years and see what kind of numbers pop up.

Every year it is reported that so and so country has cut back on their military spending and that most of the military products that are sold are sold to countries that are not in the EU. Germany ranks right up there in the top countries exporting weapons.

As far as the cult of Islam taking over [e]urope little by little as it is doing now, there is really nothing that can or will be done about it until thousands of people die by the hand of Islamics.

Then it will be something to watch, if you have a strong enough stomach.

Papa Ray
West Texas

CF said...

I see no end to the social meddling in Europe and the erosion of the basic social unit, the family.. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2070308,00.html

I see some new, long overdue scepticism about multiculturalism which in a socialist context has meant over- taxing everyone while providing for the multiple wives and children of immigrants who will not be assimilated and who hold values inimicable to the host counties. Will it be enough to stem the demographic tsunami? Possible but not likely.

Finally, until I see the people of Europe pikes in hand marching to Brussels to evict the overpaid layabouts who have destroyed what was left of Europe's economy, inventiveness and culture, I remain pessimisstic.

On my most pessimisstic days, I think virtually everyone with any brains left there some time ago. (Except maybe in Italy or Denmark)

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Papa Ray,

Maybe. Or maybe they'll just keep turning up the heat on the frog, degree by degree.

truepeers said...

tp: "and going it alone without the embarassingly-accented mama and papa?"

chuck: "Perhaps, but then again, my forebears have been knocking about the continent for some 300 years. I doubt that they have given much thought to Europe"

linked article: "There is still an incredibly strong feeling of guilt among the third and fourth generation."

-Chuck, i would propose that in the ways we imagine, perform, and symbolize human events (and all human culture is rooted in eventfulness), there are always only three substantial positions: first, second, and third. He who goes fourth is always forgettable, beyond the zone of meaning.

Thus, when i quoted Hansen, i was thinking metaphorically - while he may have been more literally speaking about the attitude of the second and third generation immigrant families he observed - of our choice: we may affect the attitude of the second or third generation, if we are not so bold as to be firsters (which is what i have an inkling you may be), because there is no other attitude to affect.

I won't bore you with a long explanation of why I think there are only three positions. It may be more interesting to first think about it without explanation. But just consider that it may not simply be a convention of proper parliamentary procedure that in our public meetings we require that motions have a first, second, and often third, but we don't bother with a fourth. The convention reflects the fact that in symbolizing (hence recognizing and remembering) any event - there are essentially three moments in the scene in which the novelty is proposed, parleyed, and then established or institutionalized as a memorable event.

If this is correct - see Prospero (on our blogroll) who is the expert on the subject - then the above reference to the guilt of the fourth generation is meaningless rhetorical excess, a sign that we may be ready for a return to an age that will again value firstness, that which Israel and the US today affect in the world of nations.

truepeers said...

Gumshoe, thanks for the Bruno references, i'll look them up sometime

Skookumchuk said...

But they can't march on Brussels - they still lack the intellectual vocabulary to frame a new democratic system to take its place. That is far more worrisome than the demographics.

CF said...

Here's a test to propose for Wolfgang.
You cannot buy the very delicious little cherry tomatoes in Europe because the statists in the EU define every agricultural product that can be sold and these were developed after the tomato categories were set. When the Fightin' Euros succeed in overturning this nutsiness, I'll believe they are ready to fight for something bigger--like the right to democracy.

Skookumchuk said...

There remain in Europe the national and folk cultures - and all the monuments to them - from which so many North Americans, and all of their nations, emerged. And if these cultures eventually die off, we will lose many landmarks for our own self-understanding.

Truepeers, these two sentences are to me the keys. Do there remain in Europe the national and folk cultures from which so many North Americans emerged? Don't know. Fifty years ago, maybe so. But they have been so busy willing themselves to forget them, I don't know how much remains. As I said in my last post, I don't see the ability to rediscover these things barring a radical reorganization of society. And Europe has never been especially good at such reorganizations.

And if these cultures do die off, will we in North America in fact lose many landmarks for our own self-understanding? There I think the answer is a qualified "yes", though exactly how is something to ponder. It doesn't make a loss of Europe any easier to bear, but I am confident that America, created as the anti-Europe, could survive just fine.

gumshoe1 said...

for all the dread Re: the EU...

don't at least a few of you tke some heart at the very resounding NO!
regarding the not long past
EU Constitutional Referendum???
(IIRC,both France and the Netherlands voted NO,and the Brit and German referrenda were called offas it would have buried the [heavily Francophile]Constitution for good)

that said,
one can't help feeling
the lack of appetite in Europe for
representative democracy
seems an awful lot like the pessimists who view "Arab Democracy" as "One Man,One Vote...One Time".

gumshoe1 said...


(IIRC,both France and the Netherlands voted NO,and the Brit and German referrenda were called off as it would have buried the Constitution for good)

terrye said...


I agree iwth you. I do not think Europe is doomed. Nothing in the demographics today can compare with the huge loss of life in the past that they have suffered.

Nor do I think Islam is beyond assimilation and reform. Both will be necessary to its future survival.

People will only tolerate so much for so long.

Eric Blair said...

There remain in Europe the national and folk cultures - and all the monuments to them - from which so many North Americans, and all of their nations, emerged. And if these cultures eventually die off, we will lose many landmarks for our own self-understanding.

Yawn. So many of these "folk" cultures are ossified remnants of 19th century nationalism. One needs to look no further than the experience of the great mass of immigrants to the USA who ditched their own cultures to come to the USA. Did they keep bits? Sure. And the 'monuments' (just what do you mean, anyway?) will be remembered or not, as they are relevant to people.

The founders of the USA looked back the Roman Republic for inspiration, and that was dead over 1700 years when it was called on for that duty.

I think you're making a fetish out European cultures.

Knucklehead said...

Since I am one of the Yargbians who believes the US, as a nation, needs to look to the future with our attentions primarily focused on the rising "east" rather than the fading "west" I feel I should join this thread. My musings will be, of necessity, vast generalizations. I fully realize that.

The "east" (and to my mind that is primarily India and China but I believe Japan, Korea, and other nations must be figured out and worked with) is striving mightily to become something which it is not. There will be fits and starts, problems, two steps forward and one step back sorts of developments. Enormous pain and challenge lie ahead. But the key point, the overriding one, is that the "east" is fully committed to the future. They will surely have reactionary elements and setbacks but their eyes are on the horizon.

Europe, by contrast, is what it wishes to be. Europe is not driven by any vision of their own progress toward some better future. This is obviously tempered by the FSU bloc countries but they do not carry enough oomph to alter the overwhelming power of the old-europe nations. The EU, whether ultimately evil of not, is a mechanism put in place to prevent change. Oddly enough, Europe, is overwhelmingly conservative - they are trying their darndest to stand athwart history yelling "stop!" They don't want rugrats running around breaking the knicknacks. They've arranged everything they are interested in all nice, tidy, neat, and orderly. Changing fashion is all the change they want. Conflict beyond the most minor levels of intellectualized discourse is to be avoided at all costs. There is no struggle they believe worthy of any pain.

For nations and cultures there is no future in today. That which stagnates becomes barren. And without struggle, without some minimum levels of uncertainty and pain, cultures stagnate. The US doesn't need to look eastward for the future because it represents something recognizeably "superior" but, rather, because that is where the big changes are happening. We have to deal with those changes and do what we can to guide them in ways that are least dangerous, or most beneficial if possible, to us.

I don't advocate "writing off" Europe. We can and should continue to do cordial business with Europe as long as they remain viable - which will be for some time to come. But Europe offers nothing that is of any great value as far as dealing with the future is concerned. They are passengers on the train and they are aghast at the behavior of all the other passengers. They wish the rest of us in this world would just sit down quietly and read books and engage in polite conversation.

babushka said...

There is a contemporary problem involving the descendants of victims of Nazi history in Europe, just as there is with descendants of the victims of slavery in America. The problem is, no amount of support or reparations is ever enough to put away the perceived advantages of holding the guilt card, to level the moral playing field in the interest of the tasks of the future.

If there were a quantifiable agreement for Europe-support-Israel and finish the account, sincere apology complete, moving forward minus the queasy repressed shame -- likewise with reparations in the US -- it would be genuinely worth considering. But even people of good will quail at the infinite horizon of manipulated guilt and resultant extortion by identity groups. The result is rhetoric plus paralysis.

I think this problem has made Europe ripe for takeover by Islam and the EU. At least the other problems cannot be solved without flushing that old stable filled with the dirty interlocked psychological contracts of pathological covert shame and injustice collection as a way of life.

And yes, of course let's support Bruno's tough and hopeful course of action. The battle is not over. But in casting light, let's look at all the shadowy corners. If Bruno is a Jungian, perhaps he will address this more thoroughly.

truepeers said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
truepeers said...

think you're making a fetish out European cultures.

-but it is you, my friend, who are calling them "ossified remnants". What i want is for European cultures to avoid becoming Disneyland-type fetishes where something is reduced to a few signs or symbols of a lost past, rather than being encouraged to live and grow as a full-fledged humanity.

I see western culture(s) as being essentially three fold: they mix the classical (mostly Hellenic) heritage with the Judeo-Christian religion, but that is not enough to understand what they are and will always be, even in revolutionary America. There is a third element, a folk culture, which cannot be neatly equated with nineteenth-century national cultures (or written off in some Marxist "invention of tradition" argument) because the latter were in large part high cultures (drawing as much on Athens and Jerusalem as on the folk traditions they sometimes referenced).

I have more of a Canadian perspective than a US American one, but i don't think folk cultures have been cast away here. Anything but; they have had to change and amalgamate with others (Vietnamese meet Galician), but so many of the interactions i have at the level of families and friendships, domestic and commercial life, cannot be explained in terms of either a classical, high religious or national culture. If anything, i feel it is the national high - not folk - cultures that are much in decline.

Perhaps one of the reasons the anglosphere nations seem to be doing somewhat better at this time is because their nationalisms are more deeply rooted than the nineteenth century - their political culture still draws much from a folk, perhaps even tribal, past. I am thinking, for example, of our greater respect for democracy, for seeing our leaders less as aristocrats of clerical intellectuals, but as chieftains who are merely our firsts among equals.

What i meant by "monuments" was nothing specific - simply whatever might serve as a memorial to our past, living or dead. So, for example, if I were to go to Belfast and watch people incorporating behaviours, using things, organizing themselves, in ways that i had thought were typically Canadian, i would gain a better self-understanding of how Irish Canada once was and in ways still is.

truepeers said...


I agree with much of what you say. The fundamental challenge for the US as leader of the global market system is to find relatively non-violent ways to integrate China, India, and the Muslim world into networks of both economic and political exchange.

I only think it is a mistake to think this enormous task will be well served by drawing further away from Europe. There is a crisis there right now. So what they can contribute in terms of political weight on the world stage is in doubt. But i don't think it's fair to say they know what they want and that they have found it. I believe Bruno when he says the Euro elites are widely hated. I believe there is a widespread desire there to rediscover the benefits of nation-states and internationalism as opposed to EU-type federations that erode national sovereignty.

And this is a fight that Americans cannot ignore - we must take sides - when it comes to shaping the world we would make with the peoples of the east. For example, do we embrace pan-Arabism, or Islamist imperialism, or do we encourage more specific nationalisms and sovereignties? Do we want China to break apart into smaller Taiwan-like units, or remain the empire it is? European questions remain world questions, and engaging the questions in Europe will be important for people around the world, because like it or not, the global system is a product of a successful (but sometimes self-destructive) western culture seeking marriages with peoples around the world.

CF said...

"manipulated guilt" is it? Actually, I think so many Europeans slavishly accept the Palestinian line because it absolves them of any responsibility for their complicity at worst and cowardice at best.(Price Phillip is quoted in a book out today observing that his family was "jealous" of the success of the Jews. Probably explains Prince Charles of Arabia, too.)

Has Wolfgang accepted my test yet?(I meant to say grape tomatoes, not cherry tomatoes BTW). Then he can work on weisswurst. Why do the Eurocrats have to come to a single definition? Why not simply require a listing of ingredients and let the consumer decide if he prefers it with nutmeg or cumin? And then there's bananas which the Eurocrats have limited sale of to those with only a specific angle of curve.

I'm not being sarcastic. If the Europeans cannot end this overreach they cannot begin to deal with the more odious of the Brussels directives--like making it illegal to criticize EU officials.
Start small--think Boston tea party.

truepeers said...

The problem is, no amount of support or reparations is ever enough to put away the perceived advantages of holding the guilt card, to level the moral playing field in the interest of the tasks of the future.

-Babushka, you are surely right that we need to find our way out of the postmodern guilt culture. Guilt is a delusional state of mind because it is often felt regardless of the rational justification for the difference about which one feels guilty. I may in no way be responsible for someone's suffering, yet it may be easy for him to make me feel guilty simply because he puts his suffering in front of my face. If i can help him, maybe i should (or maybe not), but why must i feel guilty before helping him?

Having said that, i would question how typical is the Jewish survivor I quoted in the post, still holding guilt over the head of the young German. Many Jews are increasingly repulsed by the postmodern guilt culture, not least because they have come to see how it is now being used against Jews and Israel. When the Israelis get painted as the new Nazis, when Arab "victims" and their western patrons endlessly indulge in the old antisemitism, one starts to think the usefulness of the Nazi-Jew paradigm to discussions of our contemporary differences is highly limited.

Unfortunately, the victimary left don't want to limit the use of the extreme paradigm, but use it in every context they can. Bush is Hitler, Cheney is worse, so on and so forth...

It's time for us to sweep all that away. And the intellectual resources are now out there for us to do it. The left have become rivals of the Jews for the victimary status few if any Jew seriously wish to embrace. I certainly don't see it as any kind of advantage to be used against others. At this time, i think it is best we all give up trying to apply the Nazi-Jew model of victimization to sundry contemporary situations and begin treating Germans and Jews as normal peoples.

To compare those who think Israel should be treated as a normal nation, with a right and responsibility to vigorously defend itself, to those calling for slavery reparations is to miss the point. Israelis don't want extra or special recognition because of the Nazi crimes. Most, i believe, just want the hysterical leftist victim-baiting era that constructs a monstrous image of the Palestinian (a victim image that traps Palestinians more than Israelis) to end.

Knucklehead said...


I only think it is a mistake to think this enormous task will be well served by drawing further away from Europe.

I don't see what the US can do about whether or not we "draw away". Europe has to change for us to "draw closer".

It isn't only the European "elites" who define the US as the world's most dangerous problem. That is an attitude that goes deep into the ordinary population. They have heard it for, well, forever. It permeates every level of their discourse.

There is a crisis there right now. So what they can contribute in terms of political weight on the world stage is in doubt.

What could they contribute before the current situation started to look like a crisis? Europe's only source of influence is money - commercial intercourse, foreign aid (international welfare payments). And much of what they distribute in foreign aid is paid to extortionists.

It would be nice if they could contribute at least their own defense. I don't think they can. I'm not really at the DT level of seening Europe as on the verge of bursting into flames and collapsing in another few years. They'll muddle through for generations yet. But they won't be looking to help create a future. For all their claims of traveled, sophisticated worldliness they really just want their comfy gig to keep on keeping on. Billions of people living in misery? Send some money and blame it on the US or, worse yet, "different cultural desires" is all they'll ever do.

Sorry, TP, but I'm down on Europe. I don't see them carrying any painful level of load to make a better world. When they want to talk about how big and important they are and how they should have more influence they are "European"; when it comes time to put their shoulders in the yoke they refer to their individual nationalities and how they are just a small bit of the pie. They don't want to try and solve the world's problems - they want to talk about them over a nice lunch or on holiday.

truepeers said...

Knuck, I'm down on much that is going on in Europe too.

Yet it was not too long ago that they were creative and ambitious, and out and about trying to colonize and civilize the world. Well you know how that story ended, no need to rehearse the litany of bad things done to people; but on the whole i think the world is much better off for that recently-ended European project, especially if we consider, without leftist blinkers, the nightmare that rapid decolonization has been in so many places, as was the often brutal tribal world before.

So, because the Euros could not satisfactorily tame their former energies, they are now caught in a fix, a fear of creativity, and they've lost their former confidence. Many have descended into disgusting attitudes, like anti-Americanism (of course in some form that was always part of who they were).

But, at the end of the day, i am optimistic that the fallen can redeem themselves. It seems to me that if one is to be anti-anti-American, for all the right reasons, perhaps one should logically also be pro-European, for perhaps America at its best is to be not unlike Europe at its best - a similarity from which true rivalries are born.

The difference between the two can be argued in numerous ways, of course, but i think we'd have to admit that any distinctions are in good part arbitrary (at least at their source, when they were first proposed) forms of signification, though no less necessary and useful for being that. When America's founding fathers decided not to promote their revolution as the re-assertion of the Englishman's traditional constitutional rights, but turned rather to imagine their new constitution in more revolutionary light, they were perhaps making a necessary move to distinguish "us" from "them" - a necessary move on which, pace the postmodern idiocies, all the fruits of human representation have always depended (one might almost forgive the Euros for doing the same thing) - but one cannot deny that there is something arbitrary in denying that AMericans are not Europeans too and will be diminished if the font of their culture is disappeared by a return of barbarism, perhaps clasping the nuclear-tipped residue of the old civilization in its threatening hands. America has received countless immigrants, cultural products, and investments from Europe, enough perhaps that the old world should be accorded some patience and encouraged to overcome present demons. Liking a good lunch and holidays is not necessarily antithetical to becoming a creative and industrious people again. Likewise talking and doing, i hope...

Rick Ballard said...


I wonder if some of this is due to the loss of "se vis pacem parabellum" as a cognitive measure in Europe? The American umbrella lightened the load for fifty years and allowed the growth of the "social system" that is now immiserating much of Europe. All free rides have a hidden price - even if it's talking to the driver of the car which picked you up.

I don't count Europe as lost yet but I'm not sure that nationalism is the answer. Neither Italy nor Germany nor parts of many other countries have a very strong "national" spirit. The UK and France are the exception rather than the rule. Most of Europe remained feudal turf until the middle of the 19th century - exchanged between the nobility like money. Italians and Germans have stronger feelings about people from other parts of their respective country than those which existed in the US up until about thirty years ago - and those that exist in Canada between the Quebecois and "others" today.

I simply can't think of "culture" as being denominated by national boundary, by language, perhaps, but lines on the map, no.

The other thing about the "anglosphere" that I find very intriguing is the fact that India is an agglomeration much like the UK in some respects. China also fits that bill. I believe that China could easily become anglo in nature because there is no national ethos that militates against it.

The English common law that has exported so well was developed by a people successively invaded by Romans, Danes, Saxons and Normans. The English took what fit and got rid of what didn't but there was no "national purity" involved concerning what was taken and what was discarded - what worked remained. There is a key in there regarding why it is such an exportable product.

truepeers said...

Rick, I agree with you about free rides, but wonder how you think you can get people to seriously defend themselves if not through loyalty to a polity and culture they consider their own?

"National purity", agreed, has been a bloody idea, but one more associated with, say, German than English nationalism. But, and this is key, this does not make England less a nation for that. In fact, i think - and perhaps here you might agree - England is much more a nation than Germany, precisely because of the way it has evolved, organically, over time. It works, it's proven for over a thousand years in the laboratory of history, and deserves loyalty for htat.

Language and religion and law are key in all this, more than political boundaries or bloodlines, since a nation is a way that people can involve themselves more or less democratically in figuring the means by which they will collectively represent and thus transcend their worldly conflicts. Nations are first of all forms of representation, though they are equally real-world forms of organization.

A nation is about having a stake in a self-ruling culture and polity. It differs from earlier tribal or ethnic forms in that (like the Jews, originally) it presumes to encapsulate universal truths (e.g. monotheism) in its particular, bounded constituency (e.g. Israel). In other words, a nation develops a high culture in alliance with an ethnic or folk culture and becomes consequently less dependent on identifying with a particular geographic place in order to know itself.

I am big on nations, not because it is easy to make them and get them to work; it is anything but, there are probably not more than twenty or so strong nations in the world even today. But in the long run, i see no alternatives, but forms of imperialism, socialism, caliphascism, all of which strike me as less satisfactory for reasons we can go into if you like.

You speak of the UK and India as some kind of hopeful agglomeration. I would qualify this.

FIrst, the UK is an agglomeration, not so much of regions or tribes or clans, as of pre-exisiting nations. Scotland was nationalized, if you will, before it joined the UK, and the Scottish never subsumed their nation in hte larger entity, at which they have been chipping away recently, since there is no longer so much usefulness in joining with the English in a larger imperial project.

When the "British" came to a place like, say, British Columbia, they remained quite aware, for a few generations, of their Englishness, Scottishness, Irishness, etc. These loyalties mattered on the streets, in workplaces, and to some extent in ladies' parlours (though this is arguably where they weakened first).

These identities remained just as strong as the "British" imperialism that united them to an extent. Only as a sense of Canadian nationhood (not very strong until the 1940s) developed in opposition to British imperialism, did the earlier national identities fade away in this neck of the woods, though they are still remembered to some extent.

They are remembered because they were conducive to democratic participation in an essential anthropological purpose: transcending ourselves, our conflicts, by re-presenting ourselves. The specifically British, imperial culture was never very good at that (empires, as i am defining them, are parasitic on their local constituencies but don't engender a democratic loyalty in their own name, which is not to say there can't be movement between imperial and national poles in any particular political unit). This is a good part of the reason you are an AMerican and not simply a citizen of the most powerful province in the imperial federation, recounting your days of power in London (the English would never have allowed you that).

India: i don't pretend to know very much about. But just to show you how I'm thinking about this, i'd say India will work and prosper as a democratic nation to the extent its cultural diversity does not already express itself, locally, in terms of democratic unities of local folk and high cultures. That's to say, as long as the English language and Indian identity remain important as a means for representing one's particular local experience in terms of human universals, then they will be used as such. To the extent, there develop locally distinctive marriages of folk and unique high culture - as in Quebec today - India cannot discount the possibility of separatism in future.

Obviously the big threat to India's future is the high culture of Islam. If Islam weren't lacking in certain respects important for success in a global economy, the Muslims in India would have little reason to remain loyal Indians, aside from questions of their geographic dispersion.

So to conclude, I'd say the UK and India work because England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and India, are nations, and the UK only works to the extent the smaller nations still see some good in joining together with England, while England - and its political class - does not feel swamped by the smaller nations, as they would have if Americans had fought for equal status in London. I still maintain the English were more responsible than any Americans ever were for the American Revolution, and also more responsibile than anyone else for Irish, Canadian and Australian nationhood, etc. And good on them, for that. It's a sign of a nation that takes politics, law, and religion more seriously than racial purity.

Rick Ballard said...


Well argued. In rebuttal I would say that Lord North and his faction were more responsible for the American departure than ever the English. He was a very small man with duties that surpassed his competence. At the same time, India was bringing in the fortunes that made Empire a palatable choice and also a measure of the cost of retaining the American colonies. Money was to be made in India, much more so than in the infernal colonies where a bunch of colonials were whining about the imposition of duties to sufficient to fight off England's one true enemy (France).

As to separtism in India - the '48 division took care of most of that - and set an enemy upon India's flank. Worse today than then? I don't think so.

Lay the blame where it properly belongs - English factionalism - and you'll get no argument from me. Burke argued against North's idiocy until the secession was accomplished - and then spent the rest of his days arguing against Lord Hastings and his abuse of the Indians. It's true that a more enlightened Parliament could have saved the colonies but you play the cards in hand, not the ones in the deck. America is simply a hand misplayed but is not evidence of any fundamental error concerning the export of English common law.

Were it so, we would have abandoned it around the world and instead it continues to flourish - in some peculiar forms (Singapore) to be sure, but still the substance remains.

You're right that much more than simple tribalism is required to achieve peaceful governance but I don't believe that nationalism is precisely where the burden should be placed. Switzerland is not a nation as you would have a nation be but it is successful nevertheless. And calling a Scot or a Welshman an Englishman is unlikely to be well received.

truepeers said...

Who's calling a Scot or a Welshman an Englishman? As for the Swiss, i didn't say there wasn't more than one kind of nation, just that the various folk cultures must commit to some amount of common high culture defined by law, politics, art, language in some but not all cases, etc., to serve as a basis for national unity. And then I suppose there can be nations within nations, as i think Quebec is, unless you take the view, as some do, that Canada is an empire. These idealized distinctions can't be precise in such cases.

Anyway, no doubt the American-British relationship could have evolved differently, so much does depend on contingencies. BUt only to a certain extent. One of the things that always struck me about Canadian history was how many Canadians (Kiwis, etc.) were often more British than the "British", i.e. they were always (until the 1950s or so) talking up schemes of imperial federation (with an imperial parliament, etc.) that the "British", i.e. the English and Scots running London, never were much interested in, for good reasons.