YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

December 9, 2015

The “diversity” argument

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:04 pm
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diversityFirst read this: http://legalinsurrection.com/2015/12/supreme-court-preview-will-affirmative-action-survive/.

This blog considers the mistaken view of “diversity” that is virtually hegemonic in our society, thanks to the “moderate” strategy that prefers “social cohesion” over individual intellectual and emotional development to achieve some semblance of “authenticity.” (My focus is on “racial” diversity.)

At stake are contending views of “fairness” shaped by cultural nationalist threats during the late 1960s, to which liberals, leftists, and “moderate conservatives” simply caved, even though they should have known better. (For “moderate conservative” attitudes consider such outposts of mild dissent as Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal.)

The current case before the Supreme Court deals with the “diversity” or “affirmative action” policies that have almost erased prior notions of scholarship: i.e.,  that competition, not racial, gender, or sexual preference bean counting, would be the criterion to be protected in college admissions.

By the time that students are in the application process for college entrance, it is simply too late to compensate for parental neglect/anti-intellectualism/indifference in the early years, including childhood, elementary school, and high school. But in the interest of “social peace” liberals (ever attuned to teacher unions and their versions of child psychology) have made the argument that “racial” diversity is indispensable to a proper education.

Forget the fact that the Left once opposed the very notion of “race”; those days are gone forever. What is surprising is that so many “moderates” fail to support scholastic achievement against the assumptions of multiculturalism—that ethnicity (or “race”) should be “balanced” in the interest of their versions of “social justice.” Need I remind the reader that multiculturalism depends on views of “national character” that should have been discredited after two world wars, but were not? See https://clarespark.com/2014/07/20/national-character-does-it-exist/.

Hence the claims of [inherently oppressive] “white supremacy” are out of bounds in our universities. The aim of good liberals and many hard leftists is clearly the supremacy of “persons of color,” following, they say, demographic changes in the [uncontrollable] big cities. Such feckless pandering should be beneath ostensibly deep thinkers, but is not.

That it is obviously racist to enforce different intellectual criteria for college entrance, depending on “race,” should be obvious. Can the US remain competitive in such a dumbed-down society?

Similar quotas were common in the 1920s and 1930s, directed then against [over-represented] Jews, whose religion upholds scholarship above all other values. We can see how well that turned out.

RanbowHanukkaMenorah

 

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July 20, 2014

“National character”: does it exist?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:33 pm
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nationalcharacterOne of the worst habits of journalists and academics is to refer to countries or regions as if they were one individual, all virtuous or all evil, depending on the author: hence “America” or “Germany” or “the South” as opposed, say, to the real material and ideological divisions in a particular country or region, and to individual differences and variations within those divisions. The same goes for class stereotypes, such as “bourgeois” or “working class.”

The omnipresent “multiculturalists” try to correct this habit of personifying nations, by pointing to the need for “inclusiveness” in societies characterized by “diversity”. But they don’t mean that individuals count for anything, for their discourse is collectivist, whether applied to countries or classes. Thus American blacks, for instance, have group character that is incomprehensible to other groups (especially white people), unless they are “people of color” who know the White Man’s nasty habits. If the [dominant culture] is “good” (i.e., anti-racist) it will practice “toleration” and give a leg up to “people of color” through various state-imposed programs such as affirmative action or immigration reform. Since the multiculturalists control the dominant discourses, their opponents are ipso facto “racists.”

So don’t expect a revival of the [evil] melting pot, as that was a bourgeois, culture-crushing imposition on its victims. No, we will devolve into a society of grouplets, each with its own “group facts.”

This social theory we owe to German Romanticism, that was then revived in the 20th century, particularly by the “ethno-pluralists” of the New Deal in the 1930s and 1940s, trying to explain Nazism. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/04/12/multiculturalismethnopluralism-in-the-mid-20th-century/. Hayek was up against this tradition in all his books: see https://clarespark.com/2010/10/09/david-riesman-v-friedrich-hayek/.

Ukrainian souvenirs

Ukrainian souvenirs

Is there anything, then, to this notion of “national character”? It comes down to this: either we have a collectivist discourse or we look at individual differences and deviations from imputed group character. There are numerous scholars who believe that “traditions” create national character. For instance, all native born Brits are stoic, all Frenchmen and other Latins are sensualists, while for many Marxist-Leninists, the working class has its own group character, which is pure and hell bent for revolution under the benign guidance of bureaucratic centralists and dialectical materialism.

In my view, we pursue such easy classification at our peril.

John Bull

John Bull

May 5, 2011

Assimilation and its malcontents

Yesterday on Facebook I started a thread asking my friends what they thought that assimilation meant, then refined it to assimilation in a democratic republic. I got this strong response from Tom Nichols, a political scientist and frequent contributor to the History of Diplomacy (Humanities Net) discussion group:

“Assimilation, to me, has never had a negative connotation. To me it means that if you ask to immigrate to another country, you’re accepting that you’re asking other people to let you make your home with them. The house rules are posted up front: you don’t get to pick and choose. If the adopting country is attractive enough to you to move there and seek citizenship, then you must accept all of the communal responsibilities of citizenship. But let’s leave the U.S. out of it for a moment, and let’s pretend we’re talking about assimilation if you move to Saudi Arabia. If you want to move to the Kingdom, then suck it up: the little missus is going to have to wear a headscarf. It’s their country, not yours, and if you want to join their family, get it straight about who wears the veil and who wears the pants. It might be ridiculous, but it’s their right as a society. On the other hand, it’s our right not to have to move there, and this might explain why talented, smart people in the West are not deluging the Saudi consulates for immigration visas.

Or better yet, take France, which has had the stones to pass some laws we would never have the guts to pass here. If you move to France, you respect and practice French values, at least in public — and that means you don’t form roving packs of boys raping unveiled women in Marseilles. If your son is in one of those packs, you don’t later defend him by saying that in your culture, women who are unveiled are asking for it. (If you like your own culture so much, then stay where you are.) It means you accept the decisions of the legally-elected French government until the next election, and
if you lose in that election, you don’t protest those decisions by wilding in the streets because it’s your “culture” to do so. You become French, and you damn well stand up when the French flag is raised. Assimilation doesn’t mean losing your identity; in a democratic republic it means your public identity must conform to the values that made you want to move in the first place. It means not being cynical about being an immigrant. And in a democratic republic, the bargain is this: it means your private life is just that — private. Do what you like at home, but one you step outside, your public life conforms to the norms of the Republic. Most importantly, you cannot be a hypocrite. You cannot come to France, take citizenship, study in the great
halls of the Sorbonne, gorge on wine and cognac, chase the local gals, download porn at prodigious rates over Europe’s free and uncensored internet, and then complain that the EU is just a decadent, indulgent melange of perverts and that is why you therefore maintain two or three passports, just like you have two or three wives, no matter what those French snobs think about it. That all sounds harsh, maybe, but the solution is clear: if you don’t like it, don’t get off the plane at De Gaulle. Try Russia or Japan or Mexico, pull your anti-assimilationist *merde* there, and see how that goes for you. So vive la France. And good luck to every other country that takes in and tolerates immigrants who think that “immigration” means staking out a community like some sort of hostile base camp deep in enemy territory. Let’s have more assimilation and less use of the word “culture.” Oh, and PS: Learn French, damn it.” [end, Tom Nichols quote]

I was glad that professor Nichols picked France as his example, as it has been secular (off and on)* since the much derided French Revolution, a revolution that took its inspiration in part from the previous American Declaration of Independence and the First Amendment to the Constitution. This is significant to me because some “traditionalist” conservatives regularly condemn “secularism” as if the conception was derived from the godlessly atheistic Soviet Union. These same persons are busy finding fault with the separation of church and state, and combing through documents for proof that the Founding Fathers were godly and never intended to leave spiritual matters to the privacy of the individual conscience. Hence, the culture wars. I have written about that tendency among the social conservatives before on this website, and deplore their abandonment of libertarian ideas originated in the early modern period.

To end this blog, let me make a distinction between multiculturalism ( a pseudo-solution to the existence of prejudice or bigotry) and the pluralism guaranteed by our Constitution, particularly in the First Amendment. The American and French Revolutions were children of both the Reformation and the Enlightenment, with the exception of the divergent German Enlightenment, the latter an irrationalist assault on the Age of Reason. Multiculturalism was consciously counter-revolutionary, a response to the French philosophes, materialists all, who preceded them. As I have shown with quotes from Herder and his followers on this website, the notion of national character, a racialist and collectivist idea, was the linchpin of their philosophy.

[Added after I was working on the blog, from Tom Nichols:  just to be clear, I think every country’s culture is its own business, and that each nation decides for itself what is acceptable within its own social norms — except when those practices become so dangerous to human life that they must be stopped (like, say, genocide or ritual female mutilation). I just happen to think that *Western* nations have the same rights.”

* When I first wrote this I had forgotten that the Declaration of the Rights of Man has had a rocky history in France. When Melville’s Billy Budd says farewell to the Rights of Man, we have a hint that Melville was not assigning to his character the qualities often ascribed to him.

October 18, 2010

The Dialectic of Multiculturalism: Helvetius vs. Herder, Fichte

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 11:54 pm
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Meissen chocolate pot

Angela Merkel’s recent statement that multiculturalism in German has “utterly failed” has provoked blogs and other punditry. What is not generally understood is that MC did not assume that all cultures were equal. As the Herder quotes show, he imagined a Golden Age and a hierarchy of value, preferring the Greeks. Moreover, he was arguing against Enlightenment materialism and its assault on the idea of national character (as shown in the quote from Helvétius). Finally, Fichte, a German idealist, clearly realizes that Herder’s hierarchy suggests that German culture will master the world. The remainder of this blog quotes from sources in English translation and includes footnotes.

[Helvétius, 1748; quoted in Marvin Harris, The Rise of Anthropological Theory, 1968, p.456:]  Nothing is generally more false and ridiculous than the portraits drawn to represent the characters of different nations.  Some paint their own nation after the particular society they frequent, and consequently represent the people as gloomy or gay, dull or witty…Others copy what a thousand writers have said before them; they have never examined the changes necessarily produced in a people, by those which happen in the administration and in the alteration of manners.  It has been said, that the French are gay; and this will be repeated to eternity.  They do not perceive, that by the misfortunes of the times having obliged the princes to lay considerable taxes on the country people; the French people cannot be gay, because the peasants, who alone compose two thirds of the nation, are in want, and want can never be gay; that even, in regard to the cities, the necessity, it is said, the police of Paris is under of defraying a part of the expence of the masquerades performed on holidays at St. Anthony’s gate, is not a proof of the gaiety of the artists and the citizen; spies may contribute to the safety of Paris; but being carried too far, they diffuse a general diffidence through the minds of the people, that is absolutely incompatible with joy, on account of the ill use that may be made of them.

[J. G. von Herder, “On Diligence in the Study of Several Learned Languages,” 1764:]  That flourishing age is gone when the small circle of our earliest ancestors dwelt round the patriarchs like children round their parents; that age, in which, in the simple and noble message of our revelation, all the world was of one tongue and language. Instead of the burden of our learning and the masks of our virtues, there reigned rouch, simple contentment. Why do I sketch a lost portrait of irreplaceable charms? It is no more, this golden age.—-

As the children of dust undertook that edifice that threatened the clouds, the chalice of confusion was poured over them: their families and dialects were transplanted to various points of the compass; and a thousand languages were created in tune with the climes and mores of a thousand nations. When here the native of the Morn glows under a blazing noon, the rushing current of his mouth streams forth a heated and emotive speech. There, the Greek flourishes in the most sensuous and mild of regions, his body–in Pindar’s words—is bathed in grace, his veins pulse with a gentle fire, his limbs are charged with sensitivity, his vocal instruments exquisite; and thus there arose among them that exquisite Attic tongue, Grace among her sisters.

The Romans, sons of Mars, spoke more forcefully, and only later gathered flowers in the garden of Greece to embellish their tongue. More masculine yet is the speech of the martial German; the sprightly Gaul invents a skipping, softer language; the Spaniard gives his own an appearance of gravity, though this be merely by means of echoes. The languorous African mumbles weakly, waning away in broken tones, and the Hottentot, at last, loses himself in a stammer of gibberish. So this plant transformed itself according to the soil that nourished it and heaven’s breeze, that quenched its thirst: it became a Proteus among nations.

If thus, each language has its distinct national character, it seems that nature imposes upon us an obligation only to our mother tongue, for it is perhaps better attuned to our character and coextensive with our way of thinking. I may perhaps be able to ape haltingly the sounds of foreign nations, without, however, penetrating to the core of their uniqueness.

…[However, through commerce] state policy links languages together into a universal chain of peoples, and precisely in that way they also become a great bond of learning. So long as the scattered crowd of scholars is not governed by a monarch who would set one language upon the throne of the ruins of so many others, so long as the plans for a universal language belong among the empty projects and journeys to the moon, so long will many languages remain an indispensable evil and thus almost a genuine good.[1]

[Herder on patriotism and sacrifice: “Do We Still Have the Public and Fatherland of Yore?”:] …do we yet have the fatherland, the love of which will move us to the unselfish sacrifice of our selves; do we yet know the passion of the ancients to court the fatherland’s love, its honor and reward, as the patriot’s finest garland?–Whoever entertains noble feelings even for those above him, whose heart beats warmly in his breast for his brother, who seeks to be a link in the chain of the whole, and is so joyfully, will not answer no to this question.

Only a Helvetius, who claims to find only selfish urges in man; a Mandeville, who transforms us into mere bees; a Hobbes, who inscribes hostility upon each man’s forehead; a Machievelli, who creates that monster of a despot who sucks the blood through tax collectors, vampires, and ticks; only these base and cold misanthropes deprive us of the gentle sentiment of patriotism; and each rotten soul that tears itself away from its fatherland and after the Ptolemaic scheme of the world makes the self’s terrestrial clod the center of the whole, will deprive itself of this gentle sentiment.—

…If one should take away from a monarch, from an empress, the sweet awareness of laboring for a fatherland, of caring for subjects as children, what would he be but the image of Machiavelli, what should she be more readily but the mechanical queen bee of Mandeville? If one should take away the invigorating thought of the fatherland from a judge, from an authority who must sacrifice private business to the public weal, who exhausts himself and surrenders the advantage of the family and personal pleasure to the benefit of the whole, is it to be wondered at when such a one, instead of petty laurels, dons the green Jew’s cap, when such a one, instead of holding court, goes out to dig where no one will notice for gold and ecclesiastical treasures?…[2]

[Greeks, Germans, and Fichte resolve the conflict between nationalism and cosmopolitanism, 1806-7:] “The patriot wishs that the purpose of mankind be reached first of all in that nation of which he is a member. In our day this purpose can only be furthered by philosophy (Wissenschaft). Therefore philosophy and its widest possible dissemination in our day must be the immediate purpose of mankind, and no other purpose can or should be fixed for it.

The German patriot wishes that this purpose be attained first of all among the Germans and that from them it spread to the rest of mankind. The German can desire this, for in his midst philosophy has had its origin and it is developed in his language. It may be assumed that in that nation which has had the wisdom to conceive philosophy there should also rest the ability to understand it. Only the German can desire this, for only he, through the possession of philosophy and the possibility given thereby to understand it, can comprehend that this is the immediate purpose of mankind. This purpose is the only patriotic goal. Only the German can therefore be a patriot. Only he can, in the interest of his nation, include all mankind. Since the instinct of Reason has become extinct and the era of Egotism has begun, every other nation’s patriotism is selfish, narrow, hostile to the rest of mankind.

…The Germans as the Urvolk, the original people, have learned to regard the state and the nation with truly religious spirit. Not in the manner of tyrants who preach religion as a cloak of despotism, urging submission, but in the manner of freemen who have learned to love their nation. For “a nation is the totality of all those living together in society, continuing its kind physically and spiritually, living under a special law of  the development of the divine out of itself.”  This law of development produces national character….The state must find its chief task in the education of its citizens for these higher ends.[3]

Johann Gottlieb Fichte


   NOTES.           [1] Johann Gottfried Herder, Selected Early Works 1764-1767, ed. Ernest A. Menze and Karl Menges. Transl. Ernest A. Menze with Michael Palma (University Park, Pennsylvania, Penn State UP, 1992), 29-31.

                             [2] Ibid., 61-62.

                             [3] H.C. Engelbrecht, Johann Gottlieb Fichte: A Study of his political writings with special reference to his Nationalism (N.Y.: AMS Press, orig. publ. 1933): 98, 117-18.    

September 15, 2009

Making mobs with bad words and concepts

Few have left comments on my blogs. I take this personally. One friend tells me that my views are too unorthodox, even though I look at class interests, which should at least elicit some response from the left and from left-liberals. The same friend tells me that I use too many big words. What is a big word or a big concept today? Here are some words in common use that few fully understand, though they throw them around in political speech in the media and in schools, with the consequence that we create mobbish political emotions, not thoughtful individual citizens, teaching each other how to think like participants in an advanced democracy, or, better, a constitutional republic:

1. FASCISM. It seems that both statists (the “big government” Left) and anti-statists (conservatives, small businessmen, and libertarian economists) are “fascists” if we are to look at signs at protest demonstrations, whether these be tea-parties or antiwar demonstrations. How many of us, if asked what is meant by the corporate state, would know how to describe its ideology and institutions? Does journalist Jonah Goldberg know, whose Liberal Fascism is popular on the Right, but to me is a scandal? [Why is it a scandal? Because he is tarring social democrats with the fascist brush, even though he makes the disclaimer that of course we have free speech here, so he is really only nailing the American Progressives for their production of the nanny state, eugenics, and other crimes against humanity that had parallels in states we abhor. As I have said earlier (https://clarespark.com/2009/09/09/preventive-medicine-and-preventive-politics/), state investment or state sponsorship does not necessarily imply state control, and the arguments against any form of “statism” are often mounted by those authoritarians who fear losing control of their children to such theories as science, evolutionary biology, or evidence-based medicine, including psychiatry.* Why do we not all know about Hayek and Rose and Milton Friedman as they call for both a public and private sector? OMG, I must be a neoliberal.]

2. NATIONAL CHARACTER. I could have substituted “group mind” for this. Why do few pundits, in academe or in the media, squash this absurd formulation? It is true that a set of customary laws, or religious pluralism can create a large segment of the population bound by common cultural patterns (such as skepticism toward arbitrary authority in America), but those who devised the concept had collectivist mentalities, and were hostile to dissent and the very concept of the individual as a person with rights, not merely duties to a presumably like-minded “community.” [See prior blog “The Fallen Flesh Brigade (repaired).”]

3. MODERATE. One of the first books I read on psychological warfare was by a forgotten social psychologist, Ellis Freeman, author of Conquering the Man in the Street (Vanguard Press, 1940). It was about organicism through the ages, starting, as I recall, with Plato and ending with fascism and Nazism. It was a primer for me on how to do sykewar (or recognize it), and the strategy I remember best is “flogging the dead horse.” In this one, you call yourself a moderate, and everyone wants to be such a balanced person, though no one knows exactly what you mean by it. Unless you get down and dirty by specifying concretely what the conflict is that you are supposedly moderating, you are appealing to a fictional feel-good word, not to a specific policy proposal or tactic that can then be criticized on its merits. Richard Crossman also wrote a book along these lines: Plato Today (1938). The organic conservatives (the pseudo-moderate men) are those protofascist historians who don’t write materialist history, but write history as a subset of poetic natural history. (See for instance my blog https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/, or https://clarespark.com/2009/09/03/advice-for-the-lovelorn-with-thoughts-on-hero-worship/, retitled “Manifest Destiny or Political Liberty?”) They may be avowed “anti-racists” but their discourse is racialist; i.e., they believe in group character transmitted through heredity and rootedness in a specific environment. The enemy is the rootless cosmopolitan, that unreliable and uncontrollable wanderer.

4. MIDDLE-CLASS. Do you remember when this term was either mocked as absurdly vague and too comprehensive to be descriptive, and at best, referring only to status, as if class was a ladder? No, you are too young. Today, our President uses it to refer to what used to be called the WORKING-CLASS. Now like it or not, there was and is such a thing as an industrial worker, and to conflate such workers with owners of small businesses, or members of the service sector, or bureaucrats, is meshugah to use my favorite word when I am very frustrated.

5. WHITE MALE SUPREMACY. Here is another example of political degeneracy in the spread of “whiteness studies.” It rests on a view ofAmerika” as one marauding individual, raping the environment, slaughtering Indians, grinding the faces of the [non-white] poor, and performing patriarchy on hapless females. It is the chief arrow in the quiver of cultural nationalists who really do behave like fascists under the banner of “self-determination,” but who are given a pass by guilty liberals. That is why this entire series of blogs has been devoted to combating the premises of multiculturalism, which is not the same as the non-discriminatory equality of opportunity that we strive for in a secular state. And of course the term “white supremacy” conflates the entire white working-class with the worst nativists who really did hate Jews, immigrants from Southeastern or Eastern Europe, blacks, Mexicans, the Chinese, and anyone who did not “build this country” and cross the plains in covered wagons, or earlier, defeat the British. (For a prime example of the type, see anything by Thomas Dixon, author of The Klansman, and a champion of the Scots-Irish, the true American Heroes. Now there was a true American fascist, see his Flaming Sword.)

6. FREEDOM. Need I elaborate this one? Years ago, I heard a famous leftist explain to an art student that freedom was yielding to the laws of historical necessity. And what was historical necessity? Ask any dialectical materialist, or Leninist for that matter as he attempts to co-opt the authority of science. For Herder (mentioned above) freedom signified freedom from the French language in favor of the German vernacular–the native language that would create a people’s community, the Volk, so as to express the natural Zeitgeist. The same goes for “the oppressed” who long to be free from “the West,” the banks, big business, white people, men, you name it. Social historians believe that they are striking a blow for freedom when they study “the people” instead of “literary sources” (by which they mean the documents that describe the actions of elites, whether these are diplomatic records, memoirs and diaries, high culture, or anything else that powerful people create). But for any thoughtful, introspective person, it is always ambiguous to separate “structures” from “agency”–how do we know when we are exercising free will or whether we are reacting to inherited qualities or events from the past or present that shape our preferences?

When I refer to intellectual freedom in these blogs, I usually mean the freedom of access to all primary source materials that could help us reconstruct the lives of others assessing them as friends or opponents. Whether or not we have access to our own interior lives is the subject of literature and its allied psychotherapies. If Melville, speaking through his character Captain Ahab, couldn’t figure out the free will-fixed fate conundrum, how can any of us? We need to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty. Now that is a form of freedom I can live with. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/01/08/is-ahab-ahab-the-free-will-debate/.)

7. Rugged individualist. For a Democrat or a leftist, this is the worst thing you could call someone. It means a Randian and randy selfish money-mad s.o.b. who lacks compassion, will cheat you out of house and home and senior medical care. In fact, such a one is exactly what our Constitution protects. But the rugged individualist was erased in the 1930s in favor of “the individual-in- society.” For these collectivists, we are all embedded in our historical context, and any hope of relative autonomy and objectivity is the blackest of propaganda. For details, see https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/.

*A psychiatrist friend explains it this way: “Non-evidence based medicine is when a doctor or other health care provider orders a test or prescribes medicine for which there is no peer reviewed evidence to support the practice.  Some think it is equivalent to off-label prescribing but there can be evidence for some of that but it has not reached legal standards. Some of it clearly harms patients or at the least deprives them of recommended treatment options.”

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