Part 1: Racial Tensions
In recent weeks, talk of an impending race war has become commonplace — far more so than one would expect from the people of a deliberately multiracial, multi-ethnic nation. Moreover, in light of the multiple nationwide attacks on innocent Caucasians by Negroes (including gangs and impromptu bands of Negroes), it cannot be waved aside as mere scare-mongering. In short, though the probability is difficult to assess, a race war looks more likely today than ever before in American history.
Similarly, political forces have whipped up the notion of a “war on women” among left-leaning women. This is being done specifically for electoral advantage, but its effect cannot be contained to that subject alone. American women have been made steadily more aware that American men’s overall opinion of them is considerably lower than their own. Thus, women are accumulating reasons to fear that genuine hostility is growing up between the sexes, perhaps to the point that men might soon seek to do women objective damage.
Not very pleasant thoughts, are they? No, I didn’t think so.
Of course, quite a lot of this tension is propelled by political forces. Race tensions are deliberately fomented by race-hustlers such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who seek to enlarge their own public profiles and political influence thereby. Tensions between the sexes, though they’ve been rising since the emergence of gender-war feminism, are getting a big boost from the Democrats’ need to run a negative campaign in this year of Our Lord 2012. Were it possible to subtract politics and political aspirations from the mix, racial and gender relations would be far more amicable than they are today.
However, even with current politics excluded, tensions would still exist. Groups as disparate as Caucasians and Negroes, or as men and women, must always feel some uncertainty about their standing with one another. Such uncertainty sometimes manifests itself in ugly ways.
I’m about to step out onto a slender limb, so I’ll understand perfectly if you choose not to accompany me any further.
A population acquires its group-generic characteristics from adapting to its habitat. Only after shifting to a substantially different habitat will those characteristics experience any pressure to change.
Among anthropologists, the above are non-controversial statements. However, if given specific application to race, they suddenly become “unspeakable truths,” the sort of statement that can instantly trigger denunciation, ostracism, or worse. Yet they remain true, and possess great explanatory power.
For example, the Negro race originated in the world’s hotter, wetter climates. Energy and water are the fundamentals of life on Earth: the more of them are available in a given locale, the more abundant will life be in that locale. This, too, is non-controversial. So the Negro race’s origins are in a habitat where life of all sorts was plentifully supplied with its basic necessities: the jungle.
The jungle is a very dangerous place specifically because it teems with life of all sorts, from microbes to giant predators. Technology can make it more survivable, but the dangers cannot be eradicated without eradicating the jungle itself. For a non-technological or pre-technological population, the dangers cannot easily be addressed through defensive measures. If a jungle population is to survive, it must grow faster than it’s being worn down by the hazards of its habitat. This impels two adaptations:
- A high birth rate.
A tribal allegiance attempts to marshal a defense against both predatory species and competing tribes. A high birth rate attacks the problem of loss of population to predation and disease. Both of these characterized pre-technological jungle societies. (In a fascinating parallel, we can see race-independent, slightly weaker forms of these adaptations in pre-technological farming communities in the colonial-era United States.)
The Caucasian race, wherever it may have germinated, spread swiftly through the more temperate climates of the world. Less energy and less water meant less life, and therefore less exposure to the hazards of predation and disease than obtain in the jungle. Thus, the pressure on pre-technological Caucasians to form small, tightly-bound tribes and produce large numbers of infants was less than on their Negro cousins. Caucasian societies tended toward larger, more inclusive structures; Caucasian birth rates tended to be less than those of Negroes. Thousands of years of adaptation to their respective habitats cemented these differences rather firmly.
Adaptations of this sort tend to persist for some time even when the environmental pressures that evoked them have been altered, whether by technology or relocation. The new conditions “need time” to work on the adapted population through natural selection. That usually takes several generations, at least. More, the re-adaptation can be slowed or thwarted by other forces, which has happened to both Caucasians and Negroes.
When Caucasians penetrated to interior Africa, they brought their technology with them. Along with the survival pressures that militate toward tribalism and a high birth rate, jungle conditions also impede the development of technology. In consequence, the new arrivals weren’t only lighter-skinned; they also commanded machines and tools of considerably greater power than those wielded by the indigenes. The Euro-colonization of Africa could not have happened otherwise; neither could the persistence of recognizably European enclaves, which mimicked European communities of the Old World nations from which their populaces derived. The imported technology allowed Europeans in Africa to resist the pressures to which the indigenous populations had adapted willy-nilly.
Early tensions between black and white arose not merely from anatomical differences, but from the difference Europeans’ imported technology made to their way of life and their ability to impose themselves on the natives. Hilaire Belloc’s quatrain:
We have got
The Maxim gun,
And they have not.
…has more explanatory power than any number of socio-anthropological treatises.
This inequality in technological mastery compelled the Euro-colonists to seek a rationale for the dominance it conferred upon them. Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “White Man’s Burden” is probably the best known expression of that rationale. It wasn’t abhorred then, nor should it have been; it merely expressed the difference, so great as to be qualitative, between the moral and social outlooks of the two races Euro-imperialism had thrown together. Indeed, Europeans generally viewed the elevation of the Negro race to equal moral and social stature as a God-given responsibility, regardless of what it might demand from the Caucasian peoples.
The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were untroubled by our twenty-first century notions about absolute human equality.
The institution of slavery proved a devastating intrusion into the generally benign system of Euro-imperialism. When Caucasian slavers started cooperating with Negro slavers — yet another “unspeakable truth” — it became much more difficult for colonial powers that tolerated the slave trade to pose as wholly benign. (They’d never been “wholly” benign in any event; the desire to profit from the natural resources of the colonized lands had been an incentive to colonization from the first.) Slavery is always a benefit solely to a small, highly privileged group; a power that tolerates it has implicitly aligned itself with the interests of that group. Thus, even in African colonies where Euro-colonization had won substantial “buy-in” from native populations, the colonial power suffered a severe setback in its relations with the Negro population.
(Note that this effect never touched India, though the British ruled it for more than a century. The British Empire did not tolerate the sale of Indians to foreign slave traders, though somewhat milder forms of “domestic” enslavement persisted even under Imperial rule. In consequence, Indians’ attitudes toward the British Empire remained moderately favorable even after Mohandas Gandhi started the nativist movement that eventuated in Indian self-rule.)
There was worse to come. Caucasian involvement in the enslavement of Negroes started the admixture of the races in majority-Caucasian nations on the worst imaginable race-relations terms. The effects would persist for many decades; as Demosthenes once said, once you have destroyed a man, it’s no simple matter to make him whole again. Nothing is more destructive to good will or the human spirit than slavery. Even the invocation of remote memories of the era of slavery is sufficient to mobilize Negro animosity toward Caucasians, including Caucasians who haven’t even an ancestral involvement in the vile practice.
The Negro who crossed the ocean in chains went from his African habitat, the innate ferocity of which had adapted his people toward a tribal outlook and a high birth rate, to a temperate habitat where he was regarded as property: a rightless sub-human who existed for the convenience and profit of his owner. Even should he somehow attain freedom, his incentives for adapting to his new habitat and emulating the practices of the Caucasian majority were minuscule at best. Indeed, he had good reason to feel he was owed by those who had placed him in bondage.
In the United States in our time, the “legacy of slavery” is mostly a cant phrase by which race-hustlers hope to exacerbate racial tensions for political advantage. It does have some effect, but time and the gradual accession of American Negroes to social and economic equality with American Caucasians have devalued it substantially. It’s not nearly as potent a divisor as one of the most poignantly well-intentioned yet destructive social policies of all time: welfare.
Federal and state welfare programs do not differentiate the eligibility criteria nor the available benefits according to the race of the beneficiary. Even so, welfarism has had an effect on American Negroes far beyond what it exerted on American Caucasians. The reason is not far to seek.
Welfarism — the distribution by a government of material benefits to private persons according to legal criteria — requires a bureaucracy. A welfare bureaucracy incorporates the same sort of incentives as any other bureaucracy: it needs employees dedicated to its purposes, and external supporters who will fight to protect and expand the bureaucracy’s mission. The administrators of newborn welfare systems were aware of this, as are all persons in such positions. Therefore, they swiftly sought prospective client populations upon whom they could bestow benefits. The best “hunting grounds” for such populations were in the largest American cities.
Among the tragedies of the post-Civil War period was the reaction of the cities to the subsequent migration of Negroes toward urban areas, as they sought economic opportunity. Before that diaspora, the cities of the North were largely economically free; in reaction to the influx of Negro labor, they erected legal barriers to economic self-sufficiency that earlier immigrants had not faced. The completion of those barriers would take decades, but step by step, city governments opted to “protect” existing corporations and their pre-existent merchant classes from the newcomers arriving from the South.
The consequence was the steady concentration of the cities’ Negro populations into economically depressed zones: ghettoes. Whereas earlier Caucasian immigrants arriving in the port cities had found a freewheeling economic environment in which any man could immediately begin hawking his trade or his wares, America’s internal migrants confronted massive difficulties. This even extended to getting employment; the progressive constriction of the cities’ economies by regulation put a discouraging pressure on business formation, expansion, and hiring.
Urban Negro ghettoes were thus perfect targets for welfare workers eager to sign large numbers of clients up for the benefits from the new welfare systems. Indeed, so eager were the bureaucracies to enlist this large potential clientele that they established quiet preferential policies for hiring representatives of such ghettoes into their work forces. Owing to their economic disadvantages, those ghetto populations were unusually receptive to the suggestion that they had a “right” to government support. Few stopped to think through the probable effects on their futures, or on the futures of their communities as functioning components in a capitalist society. No one, with the possible exception of one or two exceptionally farsighted analysts, gave a thought to the retardant effect welfare would have on American Negroes’ need to adapt to the nation’s “habitat:” its social, economic, and political norms.
Every statistical difference in pathologies between America’s Caucasian and Negro populations derives, at least in part, from this progression.
Economic separation begets cultural alienation, which is amplified by any tendency toward tribal allegiances. Though the Negro influence on American culture before the burgeoning of welfare was largely agglutinative and positive, its more recent outcroppings have been quite the opposite. In retrospect, it’s easy for us of the twenty-first century to laugh at the scare-mongers who shrieked that “jazz is destroying our youth.” Those folks should be happy they didn’t live to experience rap or hip-hop.
Today, the most prominent aspects of what the media term “black culture” are militantly anti-Caucasian and anti-American. Ironically, by far the greater number of American Negroes has adopted traditional American norms about self-reliance, responsibility, and civic virtue. Indeed, it’s a mistake and an injustice to speak of “black America” as if it were a monolithic entity; it’s quite sharply divided internally by differential adoption of American norms. But the militants, the demanders of reparations, and the promulgators of overtly anti-American sentiments, get nearly all the air time and column inches.
Racial solidarity is a known phenomenon in all the conventionally recognized races. Though the degree varies, persons of race X will feel an inclination to “protect” their anomalous elements, including overt lawbreakers, against prosecution by persons outside race X. Inasmuch as it’s as likely as not that an “anomaly” is the child of one who has successfully adapted to the nation’s norms, the consequence pits respectable, law-abiding Negroes against respectable, law-abiding Caucasians, in the service of persons who feel contempt for the former and outright hatred for the latter.
Is it any wonder that there should be racial tension? Is it any wonder, given that our major media have made it their policy to suppress news of black-on-white crimes while aggressively promoting white-on-black crimes (and pseudo-crimes), that there should be so much talk about an impending race war?
There is no Last Graf. America’s social policies are so tightly intertwined with the political efforts of special interests that they constitute a Gordian knot. They cannot be unraveled; they must be cut. But slashing apart so large a system, with so many beneficiaries of so many kinds, will take more courage and more resolve than any contemporary American politician possesses. It is the recognition of the insolubility of the problem that, in my estimation, accounts for the recent willingness to speak openly of a possible race war: an armed struggle to reserve the American habitat for one race only.
War, as Sir John Slessor said, is horrible, but not the most horrible of things. Here and there, Americans of all races are beginning to wonder whether a race war, at the end of which one race would be expelled (if not expunged) from the United States, would be less horrible than the perpetuation of today’s highly tense, morally indefensible, sporadically violent conditions. Which way of thought will prevail, I cannot foresee. Should such a war come, what would determine its form, the level of its carnage, or its ultimate outcome, I fear to imagine.
Tension And Habitat
Part 2: Thoughts On Tribe And Tribalism
First, my thanks to those of you who have written to express appreciation for the previous essay in this new series and to warn me that I’ve “painted a bull’s-eye on my chest.” I’m aware of the risks inherent in telling people things they don’t want to hear; I’m also aware that the longer the “unspeakable truth,” of whatever import, remains unspoken, the more damage it will occur when those who have refused to face it are finally compelled to do so. In this and in all similar oppositions, I feel a personal moral obligation to take reality’s side.
And yes, I am attempting to “sleep with one eye open.”
Owing to its associations with various aboriginal groupings around the world, there are few words with as unpleasant a connotation as tribe. Yet it remains exceptionally useful as an envelope within which to study the great importance of habitat and adaptation in human social organization and interaction.
Tribe, first of all, has nothing to do with race. All the races of the world form tribes. Sometimes those tribes are even multiracial. This distinction is critical to making use of the concept.
A tribe is a group with certain social and political characteristics:
- It possesses a set of criteria for determining who is (and who is not) a member;
- It demonstrates a substantial degree of cohesion over time;
- It prefers members to non-members in significant ways;
- It enforces a code of conduct upon members, whether formally or informally;
- It regards interaction and interpenetration with outsiders as occasions of elevated danger and opportunity.
From that definition, it follows that the tribe is the precursor of the organized political unit. The explicitly political unit’s major distinction is that it has completely formalized its code of conduct, the penalties for violating it, and the mechanisms that enforce it. Yet we can see the outlines of the political unit, particularly the nation-state, in the characteristics and operation of the tribe.
What makes the tribe fascinating is the extent to which its formation derives from habitat.
The characteristics of a given locale will determine what sorts of life can flourish there. When some species become dominant in that locale is when we traditionally begin to refer to it as those species’ habitat. But a habitat, as I argued in the previous essay, never ceases to operate in shaping the species that adopt it. One of the most obvious, yet least studied, aspects of a habitat’s operation on its dominant species is in how it shapes whatever tribe might form there.
Remember that a tribe must exhibit both criteria for inclusion and cohesion over time. The most important determinants of these things are blood relationships and the distances over which individuals may practically travel, with the latter helping to shape the former. For example, a severe desert environment such as the contemporary Sahara sharply limits individuals’ radius of travel; thus, tribes that form in that environment will tend to be geographically compact. A more life-tolerant environment such as Middle Europe will permit individuals to move more freely and at greater distances; thus, tribes that form there will on average be geographically more dispersed. As a population advances technologically, those radii can be expanded, but characteristics of the environment, such as great heat or lack of easily accessible resources, can retard such progress.
Critical to the understanding of tribes’ political importance is the appreciation of how they function in relation to one another over time. The cohesive identity of a tribe causes it to resist subsumption in a larger unit. That resistance is not absolute; tribes have often allowed such subsumption, when given a sufficient reason, as in the case of the formation of the United States from the freshly liberated states. However, since a tribe’s ways and traditions incorporate preferences for its own members, the interpenetration of tribes, for whatever reason, will sometimes eventuate in violence. Neighboring tribes that have a history of violent interactions will thus have two reasons to resist subsumption, one considerably more powerful than the other.
The degree of resistance particular tribes exhibit to subsumption and unification is what gives rise to the sizes and shapes of the political units we recognize as nation-states.
Even after nation-states have formalized their legal systems and all that goes with them, whatever tribes they have subsumed will still exhibit tribal characteristics, at least for a while. In particular, members of a subsumed tribe will continue to prefer one another to the members of other subsumed tribes. In historical studies, this is often called sectionalism, but the geographical connotations of that word should not be allowed to lead us astray. After subsumption by a nation-state, the members of a tribe will often undergo some degree of internal dispersion. Yet they will continue to maintain tribal preferences as they disperse, until interpenetration and the slow process of binding to their new locales have had time to weaken them. Consider the resistance of various religious groups to exogamy as an illustration.
Should political incentives arise that reinforce tribal distinctions and preferences, havoc will ensue. A nation-state cannot endure under conditions of internal inter-tribal strife; as Abraham Lincoln put it, a house divided cannot stand. There must ultimately be either a convulsive reduction of the tribes to political passivity, for example by warfare, or a parting of the ways that dissolves the nation-state into two or more separate units, as happened after the British relinquished the rule of India.
A subsumed tribe reluctant to weaken its cohesion and its preferences, but unwilling to risk open conflict with the enveloping polity or with other subsumed tribes, will sometimes “go underground.” That is: it will attempt to pull its distinctive characteristics and its methods for preferring members to non-members out of public view. This isn’t always possible; when possible, it isn’t necessarily easy. But it does occur, for example in the case of the Amish, the Mennonites, and similarly insular groups in American history.
Most fascinating of all, interior conflicts brought about by political forces can actually germinate new tribes within the nation-state. Those conflicts, and the nascent tribes they elicit, can arise from:
- Legal privileges granted to some persons but not others;
- National policies that have regionally, racially, sexually, ethnically, occupationally, religiously, or otherwise discriminatory effects;
- De facto infringements or abridgements of the rights of recognizable groups.
When such forces causes new tribes to arise within an existing nation-state, their tribalism tends to be irruptive, disruptive…and sometimes violent. The extent to which they take hold and attract allegiants is the measure of their impact upon the health of such a nation, and the prospects for its continued existence.
Tribalism is shorthand for the perpetuation of the preferences and practices of a tribe by those who are or were once its members. Among the politically most important aspects of tribalism is the behavior political scientists call particularism: the willingness to grant one’s primary allegiance to the tribe in preference to the nation-state. When a tribe subsumed within a nation-state become restive, its members begin to be covertly particularist; when such allegiances become overt, open inter-tribal warfare becomes a real possibility.
There are far too many examples of such alignments in operation in the United States today to be complacent about them. In just the post-World War II decades, we have seen the emergence of tribes based on region (militias), on race (the Black Panthers, old and new), on religion (Muslims in America), on ethnicity (Aztlan, La Raza, et. al.), on gender (militant feminism), sexual orientation (don’t get me started), disability (the “deaf culture”), and so forth. A fully cohesive polity would refuse such tribes the slightest degree of political recognition or legislative influence. Sadly, that has not been the case these past fifty years.
I contend that the greatest of all hazards to America’s future inheres in the burgeoning tribalism / particularism we observe around us today. To the extent it prevails among us, we are no longer “One nation under God.” Rather, we are an assemblage of mutually hostile tribes jockeying for advantage over one another, the ultimate effect of which can only be either the forcible suppression of some tribes by others or the political dissolution of the United States. If we wish not to be impaled on either of those tines of the political pitchfork, we must quench the forces that have given rise to the tribes among us. How that is to be done, I cannot say.
Part 3: The Political Species
In every land and every generation there have been men whose overriding priority is acquiring power over others. They’ve espoused dogmas of many kinds, such that one cannot easily find an ideological thread to connect them all. But in one respect they’ve been entirely consistent: They’ve all labored to increase the power of governments over those subject to them.
The success of their efforts has varied from nation to nation. Now and then they’ve triumphed completely; in several places, their grip on power has yet to be seriously threatened. Even in the United States, they’ve made inroads far deeper than those of us who love freedom like to admit…and most of us are at a loss to comprehend or explain how that came to pass.
I’ve begun to think that habitat might provide the answer.
The concept of habitat as a locale whose characteristics conduce to the flourishing of particular species can be extended into the realm of abstractions. If a particular set of ideas must be established for persons whose livelihood depends on the widespread acceptance of those ideas to flourish, those ideas constitute a non-geographic sort of habitat: an ideological foundation which, when established among a populace, will permit persons whose ambitions they favor to rise in prosperity, prestige, and influence.
This sort of habitat is unlike the natural sort in a critical way: Those who desire to exploit it can take action to construct it.
There are many directions in which I could take this concept, but the one in which I have the greatest interest is the slow erection of a habitat for socialist premises and Big Government in the United States.
A country as large as the U.S. makes room for many sorts of ideas, and thus for communities dedicated to them. As early as the 1820s, persons such as Robert Owen and John Humphrey Noyes built communes — proto-communist states — within America’s borders. Those, of course, were entirely voluntary communities; their members were free to depart at any time. Nevertheless, they constituted a womb for the embryonic theories they expressed in practice…theories which persons of more abstract bent, such as Marx and Engels, would develop to their full malignancy shortly thereafter.
It’s not perfectly accurate nor entirely fair to those early utopians to call them socialists or Communists. They had a vision of a “good society” that they hoped to achieve by departing from the prevailing norms. Why they thought they could improve on conditions in the larger society around them isn’t easy to determine. Though their experiments failed to provide the results they sought, the ideas they germinated did not fail to find supporters and promulgators.
A period of general prosperity is a tough one for promulgators of radical doctrines. When people are happy with their stations in life and the fruits of their labors, selling them on the notion that the society that made their advancements possible is wholly incorrect in its premises is almost impossible. Yet throughout the nineteenth century, socialist ideas kept a fingernail grip on just enough minds that when conditions for their dissemination became more favorable, there were dedicated, energetic promulgators available to spread them.
The period approximately from 1880 to 1900 saw a downturn in the fortunes of rural communities, at least in comparison to those of the rapidly industrializing cities. Though the records don’t compel one conclusion over another, it’s possible that the most important aspect of the economic tensions of those years was a nostalgia, among farm communities, for the time before the industrial surge — a time when you didn’t have to worry about how you’d “keep ’em on the farm,” because the farm was essentially all there was. Rural families experienced significant “losses” to the centers of industry, where the prospect of quick riches glittered, while coping with the recognition that their own labors could not match the opulence available from the enterprises that clustered in the urban zones. Resentment, exacerbated by the inexcusable
favoritism shown by Washington and the state governments to certain industries and the captains thereof, swelled.
That period saw the emergence of the Progressives, whose chief public face, William Jennings Bryan, was personally responsible for the largest political realignment yet observed in American history. But Bryan was little more than a poster boy for a set of ideas that were finding the resentments of the rural populace fertile soil from which to flower.
A few names:
- Edward Bellamy
- Jeremy Bentham
- Lincoln Steffens
- Jacob Riis
- Upton Sinclair
- Richard Ely
- Colonel Edward House
- Herbert Croly
- Charles Sanders Peirce
These were the major promulgators of the socialist / Big Government ideas which, after careful laying of groundwork by the Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson Administrations, would burst forth from FDR’s New Deal as a replacement doctrine for traditional American conceptions of individual freedom.
Convenient crises — the Panic of 1906; World War I; the Great Depression — played a part in this progression, beyond all question. But the ideas had to be “waiting in the wings,” already well established in a sufficient number of Americans’ minds and favorable to the ambitions of energetic, opportunistic men, to exploit them. That idea-foundation provided just enough habitat for the earliest acolytes of the Omnipotent State to flourish and expand.
We’ve come a long way downhill since those critical decades. Today, the suggestion that there should be any topics, any areas of enterprise, or any venues of human interaction deemed off limits to the State is considered “controversial.” Property is now considered conditional. A man’s body is a thing to be regulated and “protected” by political force. Even freedom of speech is widely regarded as a charming vestige of a primitive time: something our forebears could tolerate, but which our “more complex era” cannot afford. In all things, the needs of the State come first — and woe to him who thinks to stand in its way.
We stand upon the threshold of a complete rejection of the concept of individual freedom.
Amidst all this, we who love freedom speak of a vulpine “political class,” no member of which can be trusted. We orate that it must somehow be removed from the levers of power, so that persons who genuinely love freedom and appreciate the importance of objective law can get to work at restoring those blessings. More openly than ever, sincere Americans, men of good will, mutter about the probable necessity of a Second American Revolution, aimed at deposing the current ruling class and restoring the Constitution in full and literal effect.
But wait: hearken first to Bertrand Russell:
Those who have seized power, even for the noblest of motives soon persuade themselves that there are good reasons for not relinquishing it. This is particularly likely to happen if they believe themselves to represent some immensely important cause. They will feel that their opponents are ignorant and perverse; before long they will come to hate them…The important thing is to keep their power, not to use it as a means to an eventual paradise. And so what were means become ends, and the original ends are forgotten except on Sundays.
Let’s imagine for a moment that a revolution were to take place. Imagine further that it were to succeed in deposing our current political masters. Given the assumptions and ideas prevalent among Americans generally, what would most likely follow?
It could be worse, of course:
In the end, the French and Dutch electorates voted No to the new [European] constitution. One recalls the T-shirt slogan popular among American feminists: “What part of ‘No’ don’t you understand?” In the chancelleries of Europe, pretty much every part. At the time of the constitution referenda, the rotating European “presidency” was held by Luxembourg, a country slightly larger than your rec room. Jean-Claude Juncker, its rhetorically deranged prime minister and European “president,” staggered around like a collegiate date-rape defendant, insisting that all reasonable persons understand that “Non” really means “Oui.” As he put it before the big vote, “If it’s a yes, we will say ‘on we go,’ and if it’s a no we will say ‘we continue.'”…
…For his part, the architect of the constitution — the former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing — was happy to pile on: why, even if the French and the Dutch had been boorish enough to want to vote no to the constitution, they would have been incapable of so doing, as the whole thing was designed to be way above their pretty little heads. “It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text,” declared M. Giscard….The point is that his ingrate subjects had no need to read beyond the opening sentence: “We the people agree to leave it to you the people who know better than the people.” [Mark Steyn, America Alone: The End of the world as We Know It
Europe, the majority of whose nation-states are nominal democracies, has proved utterly unable to shake off its masters, despite the well-established opposition of the majority of ordinary Europeans to them and their socialist-superstate scheme. The Old World has had longer to marinate in socialist and superstate ideas, though one might well wonder why the proximity of the largest failed socialist superstate in history hasn’t dampened their affection for them. What those ordinary Europeans fail to grasp is that their demands on their governments, jointly and severally, constitute a demand for exactly what’s being done to them. The ideological habitat of contemporary Europe is immensely favorable to authoritarianism, socialism, and the Omnipotent State, and ferociously hostile to freedom, capitalism, and national sovereignty.
And that is the direction in which the United States of America is headed.
Part 4: “Progressives”
To destroy a species, or even to compel it to relocate, one must destroy its habitat. When the habitat exists in the minds of men, there is one and only one way to do that: ideological warfare.
There’s little point to debating what income tax rates should be. There’s even less point to carping about “too much regulation.” We will not liberate this country by accepting the totalitarians’ premises and then haggling over details.
But are enough of us properly armed and motivated for a true combat of ideas?
A number of readers have written to me specifically about the “Tribe And Tribalism” segment in this series. Their missives have suggested both alternate approaches to “tribe” and a great many additional examples of recognizable tribes within this nation and others. It’s the sort of feedback that makes me pleased to have elicited it, because it indicates that people are thinking seriously about fundamentals.
One “tribe” that’s drawn particular attention is the ideological tribe of hard-left “progressives.” We can see from the criteria in that earlier essay that self-nominated “progressives” do constitute a tribe:
- It possesses a set of criteria for determining who is (and who is not) a member: Identification is by political alignment and the use of the proper “shibboleth” words.
- It demonstrates a substantial degree of cohesion over time: “Progressives” virtually never defect from their tribe.
- It prefers members to non-members in significant ways: Have you ever known a “progressive” who would willingly associate with non-”progressives?”
- It enforces a code of conduct upon members, whether formally or informally: Mandatory attendance at a certain number of public protests and demonstrations per year.
- It regards interaction and interpenetration with outsiders as occasions of elevated danger and opportunity: Mainly to meet “progressives” of the opposite sex for, ah, extra-curricular dialogue.
When Eric Hoffer wrote of “a compact and unified church” of “true believers,” he might well have had his era’s “progressives” in mind. However, it’s fairly clear that, whatever “progressives” might truly value, progress, at least as we regular humans understand it, is no part of their agenda:
“Progress is the improved satisfaction of human desires, morally, with less input.” — Kevin Cullinane
Indeed. Even if those “human desires” included all the ostensible policy goals “progressives” claim to cherish, they can’t claim progress toward those, either. As a recent humorous example, consider that wind farms, long a totem of the enviro-Nazi faction of the “progressives,” are now believed to contribute to “global warming.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17871300) That puts the “warmistas” at war with the renewable-energy bunch and the Left’s cadre of crony capitalists! Superb!
As matters are trending, “progressives” might soon become an endangered species. The tribe is incapable of advancing on its overt goals, ever more deeply riven by internal discord, completely dependent on a relatively small group of “sugar daddies,” and frowned upon by an increasing fraction of the American electorate. America still shelters enclaves within which it’s safe — nay, required — to pose as a “progressive,” but those habitats are relatively well demarcated geographically. More, their denizens seldom venture out, unless it’s by aircraft to another such habitat.
Perhaps it’s time to get the EPA involved…
Part 5: Safety And Adaptation
Once a species becomes dominant in a habitat, it starts to alter that habitat.
Granted, various species possess different degrees of power over their environments. We can’t expect nonsentient creatures without manipulative organs to do as well at altering their habitats as Man. All the same, the process gets under way as soon as species dominance is established.
The first of all alterations to be addressed, consciously or otherwise, is for safety.
Safety is a badly abused concept. In reality, it’s a matter of degrees and comparisons, but it’s often treated (especially by left-liberal political mouthpieces) as if it were a condition that can be made absolute. When a rational man says “We’re safe here,” or “This [item or practice] is safe,” he’s not guaranteeing that absolutely no harm could possibly come of it. Such a guarantee would be both fictitious and foolish, by the nature of the laws that govern the universe.
With regard to habitat safety, the usual progression of things is as follows:
- Category 1: Hazards to the Alpha members of the species are addressed until the rate at which they victimize the Alpha member is reduced to a tolerable level.
- Category 2: Hazards to the average members of the species are addressed next, with the same effect.
- Category 3: Hazards to the most vulnerable members of the species are addressed last, with the same effect.
Of course, the above assumes that those hazards have revealed themselves to the species in some unambiguous fashion, but we need that simplification for the purposes of comprehension.
The Alphas must come first, for the most obvious of reasons: They are the species’ primary defense. If they fall, mass carnage is likely to follow. The average members — the “worker bees,” if I may — come next because they provide the sustenance for all members. The weakest and
most vulnerable come third and last by default. This might seem odd to a species such as ours, whose alterations of its environment have been going on for so long that we’ve largely forgotten what it means for our strongest to be continuously exposed to mortal peril.
Note how the above pattern conforms to the pressures exerted on a species by natural selection.
Adaptation continues in the midst of alteration. The species’ characteristics will be shaped by the altered environment even as the environment is changed. The successful reduction of Category 1 hazards will cause non-Alphas to become more willing to “stand in” for Alphas,
at least rhetorically. The successful reduction of Category 2 hazards will concomitantly reduce non-Alphas’ appreciation for, and admiration of, the Alpha class. The successful reduction of Category 3 hazards will further diminish general appreciation for the Alpha class, while
simultaneously increasing the support burdens on non-Alphas and adding to the attractions of being (or becoming) one of those burdens.
Anyone who says that economic security is a human right, has been too much babied. While he babbles, other men are risking and losing their lives to protect him. They are fighting the sea, fighting the land, fighting disease and insects and weather and space and time, for him, while he chatters that all men have a right to security and that some pagan god — Society, The State, The Government, The Commune — must give it to them. Let the fighting men stop fighting this inhuman earth for one hour, and he will learn how much security there is. — Rose Wilder Lane, “The Discovery of Freedom”
Once active threats to life and limb have been adequately addressed, other demands on men’s time will become paramount, in particular the provision of nutrition, clothing, and shelter. These things are easily folded into the conceptual envelope of safety — “security” and “safety” are near to being synonymous, contextual differences to the side — and a dependent class for whose safety others have labored is unlikely to distinguish between active threats and the passive sort that arise from inability to see to one’s own maintenance…or unwillingness to attend to the necessity.
In effect, a species that protects its weakest members too effectively has created a sub-habitat suitable for dominance by a parasite class.
Among men, such a parasite class will be populated both by the genuinely incapable and by those who are merely unwilling to make their own way in the world. The former will provide political cover for the latter (cf. the “starving widows and orphans” defense for a luxuriant welfare state). It is in the nature of things that the truly incapable will reproduce thinly if at all, generally well below replacement rate. But the unwilling will reproduce according to their whims; worse, they’ll attract emulation from the “lower margin” of the capable and willing. The burden they represent on the rest of their society will increase over time.
If the Alphas and worker class agree to accept that burden, it will have several effects. Most significant among them will be an increase in the hazards to which Alphas and workers are exposed.
A grievance is most poignant when it is almost redressed. — Eric Hoffer
When he emitted the above, Hoffer was speaking principally of injustices and their consequences. However, the phenomenon extends without distortion to “problems” whose remediation has been successful yet short of complete.
Thomas Sowell has written eloquently on the tendency of our era to view any condition that we’d like to see improved as a “problem” to be “solved.” One of his most famous formulations is “There are no solutions; there are only trade-offs.” That epigram captures perfectly the nature of any effort to ameliorate conditions which some of us find distasteful:
- If we can achieve an improvement, it will be at a cost.
- As the improvement asymptotically approaches a 100% remediation, the cost of further progress increases asymptotically as well.
- He who is disinclined to consider the costs, perhaps because he’s their beneficiary, or has averted them from his own shoulders and wallet, will nevertheless demand a “solution to the problem,” rather than accept that the condition cannot be completely and finally eradicated except at infinite cost.
Along with this recognition goes the comprehension of the sub-habitat I discussed in the segment above. This is easily grasped in the context of welfarism. “The poor you will always have with you,” said Jesus, and as with everything else He said, this is beyond refutation, for reasons that are easy to see. As the hazards and discomforts experienced by “the poor,” however defined, are ameliorated by the labors and sacrifices of Alphas and workers, their sub-habitat will become increasingly attractive to new entrants. Therefore, the “problem of poverty” cannot be “solved.” Indeed, among the sub-habitats that will arise, we are likely to find a political sub-habitat, occupied by persons whose livelihoods depend on having “poor people” to “serve,” and whose class interests require the expansion of that domain to as large a size as the society can support.
Don’t try telling that to a left-liberal, of course.
Clearly, certain kinds and degrees of “safety” for some create large risks for others. This goes beyond the “Type I — Type II” risk dynamic Aaron Wildavsky wrote about in “Searching For Safety.” It’s about habitat, the way a habitat can subdivide internally, and the differential responses of its denizens to such internal divisions.
As with all the other segments in this series, there is no Last Graf. I have no solutions; indeed, as you can surely tell from the above, I disbelieve that “solutions” exist. I certainly won’t suggest a stark “survival of the fittest” ethic as a replacement for our species’ admirable concern for the plight of the weak and vulnerable. That ethic is what makes us more than just the most efficient predators to arise on Earth. Still, the topic is worthy of extended thought.
Part 6: Summation
The previous five pieces in this little series have emphasized habitat as an envelope-concept: a framework for comprehending the development and persistence of various social, economic, and political pathologies. That was my entire intent in writing them. A couple of readers have written to ask why I thought it a constructive use of time and pixels. The time has come to answer them.
There are many conceptual envelopes applicable to political dynamics and tensions. Habitat is merely the one I’ve chosen to exploit. It’s not inherently more significant than any of the other approaches; it’s merely one that hasn’t been used until now. Neither does it provide an especially potent insight into how America’s prevalent pathologies could be undone. But it does provide its own insights, and its own indications of directions to be followed. That’s sufficient justification for exploring it.
The constitutionalist / traditionalist / libertarian-conservative Right has had enormous difficulty in countering those pathologies. Its spokesmen and activists have tried one strategy after another to gain a purchase on our devolution and mobilize Americans into reversing it.
We’ve had little success, despite frequent, ingenious reconceptualizations and shifts of emphasis.
That doesn’t mean we should give up and let Leviathan roll over us. It does mean that we have to become more inventive. Indeed, given the failure of past monothematic approaches, I submit that our overarching need is to become concurrently inventive and mutually supportive:
- Any approach anyone can conceive should be developed and tried;
- All approaches should be wielded concurrently;
- Differences in approach must be prevented from engendering hostility
or fostering isolation;
- When one approach fails with a given target, another must be
deployed, until something has been found that produces ingress.
Habitat-analysis is merely one more arrow in our quiver. If it has some virtues, we should exploit them. If it proves insufficient with a certain target populace, we should prefer another scheme in approaching that sector. Add it to the persuasive arsenal, try it out when appropriate, and note where it hits and where it misses. That is all.
I was once briefly acquainted with a drug-legalization advocate who expressed great frustration at his inability to get his message across. He was intelligent, knowledgeable, impassioned, and perseverant: a good combination of characteristics for anyone resolved upon a public campaign. In appearance, he was a classic “hippie:” long hair and beard; tie-dyed shirts and ragged, multiply-patched jeans; sandals twelve months a year. I sympathized with him — always a good starting point — and proceeded to quiz him about his methods and his target audience. This is what I learned:
- Drug legalization was his sole political passion;
- He approved of the use of recreational drugs;
- He targeted middle class, preponderantly Caucasian audiences;
- His talks were heavy with details about the history of recreational
drug use in the U.S.;
- He routinely brushed aside questions about how to prevent young
people from becoming recreational-drug users.
- He tended to be combative toward those who disagreed with him on this
My acquaintance’s approach was poorly matched to his preferred audiences. They demanded a completely different approach — possibly a completely different proponent, as well. His conceptual envelope disallowed the recognition of that incongruity; as far as he was concerned, anyone who failed to see the inescapable implications of his arguments was simply too stupid to bother with.
Does that sound to you like a formula for success at persuasion?
The above is a specimen of intellectual rigidity — a lack of versatility when confronted with failure. He who fails, not once but repeatedly, must find some versatility within himself if he’s going to keep on trying. Versatility in the political marketplace demands that one have more than one set of intellectual and rhetorical tools. Any and every concept that might be the key to opening some minds — not all, just some — should be kept available for when it might prove
Perhaps my acquaintance could have used habitat as his conceptual foundation. Perhaps by suggesting that drug prohibition creates a habitat that all manner of corrupt and evil forces can and will dominate, he might have reached the audiences he targeted. He never tried it, so we’ll never know.
The future is looking grim. I hardly need to tell any regular reader how much we have to worry about. No matter how they turn out, the November elections won’t cause us to reverse course and sprint briskly away from disaster. At best, we’ll dig in our spikes and stop rushing pell-mell toward the abyss. It will take much more, and much longer, to get back on a wholesome, freedom-respecting political basis.
We need keys to the minds of our fellow citizens. Not one key, but many.
Every concept, every analogy, every parallel we can draw between the hazards of our time and any well-known period in history or easily grasped aspect of Nature should be available for use at all times. Politics doesn’t sit isolated in the vacuum, giving birth to itself; it arises from the assumptions and convictions prevalent among a nation’s people. Changing those assumptions and convictions isn’t something we can accomplish with a single skeleton-key concept. As with any other undertaking, we need the right tools for the job — and the job will change with every individual we confront.
If you really want to avoid a complete descent into tyranny, and have no stomach for a violent revolution, arm yourself conceptually as well as with “beans, bullets, and Band-Aids.”
You have my contribution.