Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Are we all American?

On what do we base a national identity? Rudolph Giuliani, a prominent American Republican, has given this answer:

Abraham Lincoln used to say that the test of one’s Americanism was not one’s family tree; the test of one’s Americanism was how much one believed in America. Because we’re like a religion really. A secular religion. We believe in ideas and ideals. We’re not one race, we’re many; we’re not one ethnic group, we’re everyone; we’re not one language, we’re all of these people. So what ties us together? We’re tied together by our belief in political democracy, in religious freedom, in capitalism, a free economy where people make their own choices about the spending of their money. We’re tied together because we respect human life, and because we respect the rule of law.

Those are the ideas that make us Americans. And those are the ideas that I leaned on when it was time to lead, both after September 11 and long before.


This is a useful quote. Giuliani begins by rejecting, as liberal moderns do, the traditional basis for a national identity, namely a shared ethnicity.

Why reject a shared ethnicity? Part of the reason, as I've argued before, is that there is a strand of liberalism based on the principle that to be fully human we must be self-defining.

Ethnicity isn't something we can define for ourselves. It's something that we're born into, that we inherit. Therefore, it has come to have negative connotations within liberalism, as something limiting or restricting to the individual.

If, though, ethnicity is thought to be illegitimate as a basis for national identity, what is to replace it?

According to Giuliani, an American identity is to be based not on ethnicity, but on ideas and ideals. In particular, it is to be based on the ideals of democracy, religious freedom, free market capitalism, respect for human life and respect for the law.

So is this a realistic replacement for a traditional nationalism? I think there are reasons to believe it isn't. I'll let Lawrence Auster explain one important defect in Giuliani's model of national identity:

having told us the things that don’t make us Americans, he tells us the things that do make us Americans: belief in democracy, freedom, capitalism, and rule of law. But other countries believe in those things too. So how is America different from those other countries? If a person in, say, India believes in democracy, freedom, capitalism, and rule of law, how is he any less an American than you or I or George Washington? And how are we any more American than that Indian? Giuliani has removed everything particular and concrete about America and defined America as a universal belief system, not a country.


The Giuliani view of what makes someone American potentially makes everyone an American. This has a number of consequences. First, it means that being an American is not such a distinctive thing. There can be (and are) many different countries claiming much the same basis for their identity.

Second, it means that being an American is not really a "national" thing - it's not about being part of a nation, since the ideals defining Americanism exist in many different places.

Third, the Giuliani view makes the concept of a "nation" unstable. It is likely to lead to an open borders policy, in which the existing population is tranformed by mass immigration, as anyone can be thought of as successfully adopting an American identity.

Similarly, there is nothing to fix the borders of America. If Canada or Mexico were sufficiently committed to a free market, democracy and the rule of law, then there's no reason, under the terms set out by Giuliani, why these countries shouldn't merge into a larger entity.

(If you think this is an unlikely consequence, think of what is happening with the European Union, or even the proposal to set up a Pacific Union comprising Australia, New Zealand, PNG and a dozen smaller Pacific nations.)

The Giuliani view of national identity has other dangers. In effect, Giuliani is defining America as a political ideal. Politics, therefore, rises above its natural place, and becomes, as Giuliani himself puts it, a kind of secular religion.

The casting of politics as secular religion hasn't had a happy history. It tends to lead to mistaken attempts to impose abstract political ideals on unwilling recipients. Politics becomes the primary morality by which we are supposed to live, and (if understood to be universal) by which others are supposed to live.

Finally, I doubt if people really feel as closely tied together by a shared commitment to political democracy as they are by ethnicity.

The depth of a traditional identity has been described by Professor West of Suffolk College as follows:

... the sense of identity is so strong that it is an inseparable part of the personalities of most of the individuals in the group. People are born and raised to conceive of themselves as being a part of the nation, and rarely lose that self-conception in the course of their lives. There is a feeling of pride and a deep sense of loyalty associated with it.


The Canadian liberal Michael Ignatieff has conceded that this "psychology of belonging" of traditional nationalism has "greater depth" than its modern, civic replacement.

Similarly, two academics from the University of Melbourne, Brian Gallagan and Winsome Roberts, have written a book titled Australian Citizenship in which they describe an Australian identity defined solely in terms of shared political institutions and values as "hollow, lacking in cultural richness and human content."

Similarly they complain of,

an empty and flaccid citizenship based on abstract principles that lack the inspirational power to represent what it means to be Australian.


So, if you think through the Giuliani concept of identity, it doesn't hold. It can't adequately define a nation which is distinct and stable in its character or deep in its identity.

It cannot successfully replace what came before.

Further reading:

What happened to nationalism?

A hollow identity?

39 comments:

  1. Interestingly, you've hit on everything that we've discussed before in this one post. A quick recap:

    "Ethnicity isn't something we can define for ourselves."

    Bek absolutely refuted this in her comment here.

    "If, though, ethnicity is thought to be illegitimate as a basis for national identity, what is to replace it?"

    Put simply, the basis of national identity doesn't exist at all. Modern Australia cannot be defined by it's cultural mix, just as the US can't be. Which leads, of course to the title you've used, and the following quote:

    "First, it means that being an American is not such a distinctive thing. There can be (and are) many different countries claiming much the same basis for their identity."

    Exactly.

    And countries that have typically been viewed as extremely foreign in the way they operate suddenly become a lot less foreign because they're accepting the same things we accept - capitalism, rule of law etc. That's why, for example, property rights, are respected (more or less) the same in Aus, the US, the UK, many Asian countries (e.g. Taiwan, Singapore, and more), Canada, etc.

    We simply aren't that different. Which, of course then flows to your next point:

    Third, the Giuliani view makes the concept of a "nation" unstable. It is likely to lead to an open borders policy, in which the existing population is tranformed by mass immigration, as anyone can be thought of as successfully adopting an American identity.

    Which is what we're seeing more and more of, as you've pointed out.

    So, if you think through the Giuliani concept of identity, it doesn't hold. It can't adequately define a nation which is distinct and stable in its character or deep in its identity.

    You know, throughout all of these debates, you've never actually defined what you think Australia's ethnicity and values are. Particular to values, what do you see as Australias values and why do you think they're any different to the US, UK or any other major Western country?

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  2. Brett, Brett, Brett. Why is it that we see things that you cannot?

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  3. Perhaps Jaz, it's the other way around.

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  4. Brett, I see all you see, I was indoctrinated and brainwashed into it. I _know_ it. Only it didn't quite take, and now I am a reactionary traditionalist crank.

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  5. Nationality exists objectively even though it can't be perfectly "defined," just as race exists objectively despite having fuzzy boundaries. A nation is like a family: a group of people related to each other, with a limited capacity for "adoptions."

    In the traditional sense, Americans are people of European heritage who were born in America or immigrated and took an oath of citizenship. (Black Americans are also American though their position is problematic.) The grain of truth in Giuliani's statement is that being American entailed a certain set of America-specific, English-heritage values. Thus Communism was called "un-American," and so Islam should be regarded.

    In the non-traditional sense it is, of course, as Brett says: an American or Australian is anyone our governments decide to bestow citizenship papers upon. But this is what those of us who actually belong to our nations need to fight.

    Years ago I might have agreed with Brett, who sees the mixing and merging as a good thing. Brett is a serious thinker, but I don't think he's yet seen the horror and spiritual death that the collapse of Western societies is bringing. He only sees the good stuff (and I agree with him that there's much to learn from non-Western cultures). He doesn't see that even his freedom to "create himself" is predicated on his Australian identity. He isn't bothered by the possibility of a future generation with no one who looks like him, talks like him, thinks like him.

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  6. The basis of Liberalism is the negation of any type of ‘belonging’ or one’s place in a construct. Liberal’s believe in absolute freedom without concern for country, society or the future. (This is seen in liberal attitudes to the elimination of gender roles, ethnicity values, religion, marriage, etc)

    If I don’t ‘belong’ to (or identify with) anything central in my immediate life (such as country, family, wife, etc) – then it just shows that I care only for myself. Everything else matters very little. Everyone/everything else can just fend for itself.

    For liberals it makes ‘convenient’ sense to belong to a ‘global’ community – since it’s too far away (in all tactile respects that matter locally) – that it allows them to more freedom.

    I shook my head last year when U2 came down to Melbourne and did their ”Make Poverty History” concert. As the news reporter interviewed countless young liberals outside the concert for their ‘feel-good’ message, most of them echoed the same sentiment when asked what ‘they’ were doing to stop world poverty. The answer from most was (more-or-less), “I’m going to go to the U2 concert” & “Im much more aware now”.

    Great. Well done.

    To me, I see it as a ridiculous notion that some ‘free’ liberals will hold up high ideals for travelling the world (trekking Tibet & India), Saving the whales, trees & anything else for example, ---- but at the same time, care little for their immediate family at home.

    It’s a convenient belief system that allows people to remain petulant children for life.

    If, for example, one’s country is threatened – then why would I fight (and risk my ‘life’) for it? What for? What am I going to die for? More to the point in our current liberal/feminist world – what are we living for? We’re living longer, but for what purpose? So we can travel, party, have fun & have little responsibility?

    Are we only existing for capitalism, politics & corporations?

    Would you live, or die, for those ideals Brett?

    Liberals covet everything other than those institutions ‘they owe’. – (like country, family or gender) . To me it’s about knowing one’s place and paying respect to those things (and people) which have afforded most of us (often through great struggle) our greater freedoms & a world less dangerous.

    Everything seems ‘without consequence’ in the current liberal ideal. Liberalism is based largely on a belief system that takes little account of ‘cause-&-effect’ or ‘honor-&-respect’.

    Bobby.N

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  7. Steve,

    "but I don't think he's yet seen the horror and spiritual death that the collapse of Western societies is bringing [...] He isn't bothered by the possibility of a future generation with no one who looks like him, talks like him, thinks like him.

    As someone who has travelled extensively, and has lived in non-western countries for periods of months to years, the concept of being around people who don't look or talk like me is not a problem in the slightest, and is in fact something that I genuinely enjoy.

    I have to ask why you think this is a problem?

    Particularly to your point about people "looking like me", perhaps it's worth going and having a read of this thread.

    Bobby,

    This is exactly the sort of rant from you that I expected. Thankfully, that means that I can come nicely prepared for it.

    "If, for example, one’s country is threatened – then why would I fight (and risk my ‘life’) for it?[...] To me it’s about knowing one’s place and paying respect to those things (and people) which have afforded most of us (often through great struggle) our greater freedoms & a world less dangerous"

    Lets see here. Roughly 100 years ago, there was no federation in Australia, so you would've been asked to risk your life for your city (or maybe state). Today we have Australia as it stands, and you're saying that you'd risk your life for it. What's the difference between your state and your country? And 100 years ago, without the federation in place, would you have defended the continent from attack, or just your state?

    In 20 years time, there may well be something like a South Pacific Union (as Mark mentioned), so given that your state and country is a part of this union, why wouldn't you fight for that?

    In 1-200 years time, we may have colonised other planets (particularly in light of the damage we're doing to this one), so who are you going to fight for then? Your state, which is part of your country which is part of your planet? What if it's war against something that isn't human?

    But then if your going to fight for your planet then, what's the difference now? Why would anything change?

    Your argument is illogical. It's based entirely on the small little world that you can see. It doesn't translate to any other situation other than as it stands now. And you can be sure that that situation will change by the hour, by the day.

    Would I fight against oppression which didn't allow me to define myself, to broaden my experiences and my understanding? Of course I would.

    Would you?

    "Everything else matters very little. Everyone/everything else can just fend for itself."

    My, that's an awfully wide generalisation there. On what basis do you make that generalisation?

    If I didn't care, why would I espouse the removal of tax on superannuation so that everyone has a better chance of funding their own retirement? To be clear - not me. Everyone.

    Why would I espouse the notion of everyone travelling (within their own financial limits) so that they can appreciate all that we don't have here in Aus, not to mention the good bits. Again, it isn't for me, but for the good of society in general.

    Generalisations need to be grounded in something, and yours appear not to be in the slightest.

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  8. BRETT SAID:
    “Generalisations need to be grounded in something, and yours appear not to be in the slightest.”


    Brett, if you think your ‘theoretical’ hypothesis of Colonising other planets - somehow disproves my observable traditionalist ‘facts’ that served communities well in the past – then I think that you’re only after scoring points, rather than talking any sense. You just want to win an argument. It’s a game to you, as your comment of demonstrates:

    “This is exactly the sort of rant from you that I expected. Thankfully, that means that I can come nicely prepared for it.”

    Rant?
    Why am I ranting by espousing a differing viewpoint? A viewpoint of wanting to covet ‘my own’ – rather than find intrinsic value in ‘colonising other worlds’. Please.

    When you say things like:

    “This Lets see here. Roughly 100 years ago, there was no federation in Australia, so you would've been asked to risk your life for your city.”

    Note, those who ‘fought’ for Australia then, would have been “fighting” for England. Not for Australia as you see it.

    BRETT SAID:
    …so who are you going to fight for then? Your state, which is part of your country which is part of your planet?


    Is this the “kneebone-is-connected-to-the-hipbone” song? This is the same argument you feminists use when describing men & women as equal, without realizing that each entity needs to be treated ‘correctly’ – before the WHOLE (like the planet) can follw as a consequence.

    You take leaps and bounds in your arguments trying to prove that somehow we’re all alike, and that we’re all the same & that this whole planet should be one big nursery. Close the romance novel and think about reality for a change instead of you intergalactic hypothesis of humans fighting aliens, as though we were living a Hollywood movie. Even if I humor your analogy – then how is a selfish-liberal world (that’s wants little more than to be entertained with a life of luxury) going to ‘unite’ against another planet in war?

    First you talk about fantastic intergalactic wars, then you say:

    “Your argument is illogical. It's based entirely on the small little world that you can see. It doesn't translate to any other situation other than as it stands now.”

    Uh – yeah, right.

    Then you say…

    BRETT SAYS:
    Would I fight against oppression which didn't allow me to define myself, to broaden my experiences and my understanding? Of course I would.

    Would you?


    For THIS feminised society? Not a chance. I’m talking about how things were. How they should be (ethically).

    So Brett, your saying that you’d fight (die) for something that would simply broaden your experiences & understanding? Well, your more than welcome to be cannon-fodder for ‘understanding’.

    I would want TO ‘understand BEFORE I’d lay down my life.

    Bobby.N

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  9. Bobby,

    That last reply doesn't even warrant a response. Please try sticking to the topic and not rearranging my entry to suit your own ends. It was written in the way it was for a reason, and chopping, changing and rearranging doesn't validate your response whatsoever.

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  10. Brett, we value ethnicity, tradition and our ancestors. These are core values that make up who we are. They are not ‘opinions’ that can be changed. They don’t exist out of some ‘irrational fear of the other’ anymore than valuing family is about ‘an irrational fear of other families’.

    What are you trying to achieve by arguing that these things don’t actually matter to us?

    Over and over again, you’re throwing up fantastic hypotheticals based on your own personal preferences. These hypotheticals and preferences of yours are of no interest to us whatsoever, so you suggest that the onus is on us to ‘prove’ why we don’t want to give up everything that matters to us for them. There isn’t anything you’re arguing for that we want. The differences here are irreconcilable, something that was established after one of your first posts on this website.

    The difference between yourself and us is not political opinion, but culture itself.

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  12. Brett,

    I too have lived in non-Western countries and have no disagreement with you on how wonderful it can be.

    My point is that (as Shane said) you come to that experience with a pre-existing identity upon which the whole experience is based. Obviously if you go to Thailand to travel, work, or study, the experience is given meaning (on both sides) by the fact that you are NOT Thai.

    Indeed, to enter another culture, you have to give them something in return, and whether that's knowledge, English skills, or cultural commodities, it comes from your Western background. (You can also just give them money, but that has no meaning as a cultural experience.)

    Admittedly you could possibly make your way via a skill like bodybuilding, which isn't tied to a nationality, and "go native" by learning the language, marrying a local woman, etc.

    But that would more or less amount to dropping out of your own culture, and if everyone in your society did that, it would go out of existence.

    And even the choice to do that would only be made possible by the power and prestige coming from your Australian identity.

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  13. The liberal state is a vacuum. Values, aspirations and ideology are the empty matter that the political classes are trying to fill it with.

    They keep trying and failing, then holding conferences discussing the 'challenges' of trying to achieve something that no one voted for in the first place.

    That's social democracy.

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  14. The task of Traditionalists is to let people know that it's OK to fill the vacuum with actual matter, that their instincts were right from the start - and that anyone who tells them it's 'wrong' is either working from a false premise or has bad intentions.

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  15. Giuliani and many other Americans think the ideas they hold are necessary _and_ sufficient conditions for being American.

    Liberals like Giuliani use deductive reasoning to come up with what society should be. They start with some ideas, and work their way down to the particulars. That's why they are called idealogues.

    A different way, typical of traditionalists, is to use inductive reasoning. We start with particulars, and work upward to the general. However, the wise traditionalist also keeps in mind the transcendant reality under which the earthly reality should submit.

    Which starts with reality, and which starts with a thought?

    This is why liberals often dispense with aspects of reality, because reality often doesn't line up with their ideas, which may be fantastical to start with. In their hubris, if the data don't match the hypothesis, change the data!

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  16. Shane,

    "we value ethnicity, tradition and our ancestors

    O.k. - which "we" are we talking about? All of the immigrants? Does that include the European ones? And does it include all the European ones? How about the Germans, Italians, Greeks and others? What about the Asian families who came here in the gold rushs? What about the generations of south africans? Let's not forget that the Dutch found Australia a long time before the English did.

    So which "we" are we talking about?

    Traditions? Really? Which traditions are distinctly Australian? The problem with this is that each part of Australia has it's own traditions, from the Sunday Sessions in Perth (which I've not seen replicated to the same degree in any other Australian capital) to the complete distinction between the western and eastern ends of Sydney.

    There is the challenge: What are these distinctly Australian traditions which are consistent across the country, and aren't found anywhere else in the world?

    Our Ancestors? Except for the very small percentage of indigenous Asutralians, all of our "ancestors" are from other countries! Why is this distinctly Australian? Every country has immigrants.

    "What are you trying to achieve by arguing that these things don’t actually matter to us?"

    This statement is the reason why there's no point in you trying to meet the challenge a couple of paragraphs above - there is nothing consistent across Australia. "Us" is some nebulous term which doesn't apply in Australia because from east coast to west coast, there are different values and traditions.

    This is why the "values pledge" being tossed around by our government is rubbish - how possibly could we define a set of values that everyone in this country ascribes to? I can't do it - can you?

    "The difference between yourself and us is not political opinion, but culture itself.

    I think this is a little disingenuous of you. The reality is that the "traditionalists" are a small minority (as Mark mentioned here) and that opinion is not representative of broader western society, nor broader Australia, as was amply demonstrated by the lashings here.

    Technology is racing ahead and the things you think are not valid are becoming closer and closer to reality every day. For instance, we are now on the verge of creating methods of transport which require no fossil fuels. Leaving this dirt ball is not so far away.

    The modern world is moving forwards. You have a choice of staying stuck with mentalities which are not representative of the modern world, and a world that will never exist again, which will continue to isolate you, or you can modernise.

    To quote the recycling guy from the Simpsons:

    "Contemporise man, contemporise."

    Steve,

    "My point is that (as Shane said) you come to that experience with a pre-existing identity upon which the whole experience is based. Obviously if you go to Thailand to travel, work, or study, the experience is given meaning (on both sides) by the fact that you are NOT Thai"

    My question to you is when does your pre-existing identiy change? If your out of your "home country" for 50% of your life? How about after 5 years?

    Or how about someone like me, who has spent no more than 4 years in any one place in any time of my life? What does that say about my "pre-existing indentiy"?

    "But that would more or less amount to dropping out of your own culture, and if everyone in your society did that, it would go out of existence.

    It's interesting you say this. Part of the point of Marks original post was that Austrlian culture is now intermeshed with the US, and I would also add the UK, NZ, broader Europe, lots of parts of Asia and many more places.

    So, I have 2 questions:

    1) Given my statements above, which culture do I belong to, to then "go native" and drop? I suspect that I don't belong to any (which I'm quite happy with) and instead am an amalgum of all of the ones that I've experienced.

    2) If Australias culture is so intertwined with all those cultures in the first place, are we really dropping cultures when we move from western country to another western country? Or are we really just "changing to a different dialect" of the same culture?

    I can (more) accept your arguement if you go somewhere which is completely foreign to the way that we live, but even then people have been doing it for hundreds of years anyway, so I don't think it's anything bad - it's just the way the world works.

    And even the choice to do that would only be made possible by the power and prestige coming from your Australian identity.

    Not so. The ability to move to another country and then integrate is something that all people have. Someone from Africa, or an Inuit, or a Russian can move to Aus and integrate if they want to - there is nothing particularly Australian, nor as a part of growing up here which provides that ability.

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  17. Brett, you are a rootless human. At home everywhere and nowhere. Part of all peoples and no people. Free-floating in the world of liberal ideology, free from connections of place and time, free of traditional constraints. You are living the Nietzchean dream, the triumph of the will!

    Deogowulf knows you:

    http://curmudgeonjoy.blogspot.com/2007/03/in-keeping-with-times.html

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  18. Jaz,

    At home everywhere and nowhere. Part of all peoples and no people

    A quote:

    Don't these talking monkeys know that Eden has enough to go around?
    Plenty in this holy garden, silly monkeys
    Where there's one you're bound to divide it
    Right in two

    Angels on the sideline,
    Baffled and confused.
    Father blessed them all with reason,
    And this is what they choose?

    Monkey killing monkey killing monkey over pieces of the ground.
    Silly monkeys give them thumbs they forge a blade
    And where there's one they're bound to divide it
    Right in two

    Monkey killing monkey killing monkey over pieces of the ground.
    Silly monkeys give them thumbs they make a club,
    And beat their brother down.
    How they survive so misguided is a mystery.
    Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability,
    To lift an eye to heaven, conscious of his fleeting time here.


    We're all just silly monkeys...

    I think that Lary Teabag knows me better:

    "Certainly there is a pathological modernising "progressive" school of thought which will seek to destroy any tradition. But you exaggerate its extent.

    Equally there is a nostalgic "regressive" schook (sic)of thought will which argue against any change, any deviation from ancient ways, as nothing more than cultural vandalism, often in apocalyptic and hysterical tones. I assume you wouldn't wish to be grouped with it.

    In between are more reasonable people who wish to get rid of those traditions which are evil, adapt for the modern age those which need it to function better, and preserve untouched those which are truly sacred.


    Particularly the last paragraph. Sums it all up nicely, with some open debate on the last sentence: what is truly sacred? I think that every human would have a different opinion on that...

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  19. If Brett is right, and we are all just an undifferentiated mass of human beings, with no common roots, culture, or even ideas of what is right and what is sacred, then it truly is the Tower of Babel all over again, with everybody speaking his own idiosyncratic language, and no commonalities except for our basic animal functions.
    There is no basis for civilization in that kind of centerless, atomized world. The leftist or so-called 'progressive' ideal of a multiculti world in which everybody patches together their own crazyquilt of odd bits of culture, cuisine, and ideas, gives no basis for cohesion or cooperation.
    As for the quote from Larry Teabag
    ''In between are more reasonable people who wish to get rid of those traditions which are evil, adapt for the modern age those which need it to function better, and preserve untouched those which are truly sacred.'' -- I suspect that he probably has some very rigid ideas of what is 'evil' and what is 'sacred' and is quite willing to impose those ideas on the rest of us; people who claim that there are no absolutes are always the first to make absolute statements to that effect.
    That ultimate freedom of inventing oneself leads to a world in which 'things fall apart; the center cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.'

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  20. Lawrence Auster has posted an excerpt of a speech Giuliani made to the United Nations.

    The speech confirms some of the arguments I have already made about a "values" nationalism.

    For instance, Giuliani again sets out very clearly the difference between a more traditional ethnic nationalism, and the modern liberal version of nationalism:

    We are defined as Americans by our beliefs—not by our ethnic origins, our race or our religion. Our beliefs in religious freedom, political freedom, and economic freedom—that’s what makes an American. Our belief in democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human life—that’s how you become an American.

    So anyone can become an American. This means, first, that anyone can immigrate to the US, and second, that anyone living in any country can likewise be "American":

    Each of your nations—I am certain—has contributed citizens to the United States and to New York. I believe I can take every one of you someplace in New York City, where you can find someone from your country, someone from your village or town, that speaks your language and practices your religion. In each of your lands there are many who are Americans in spirit, by virtue of their commitment to our shared principles.

    Also, I warned in my article that there was a danger in raising politics above its natural place, and making it a secular religion, a primary morality to live by.

    The danger is that there is then a logic to spread political "Americanism" universally (since it is assumed to be an important good and there is nothing which limits it to a national border).

    And sure enough, Giuliani's speech assumes that Americanism belongs everywhere. In discussing terrorism, for instance, he said:

    The best long-term deterrent to terrorism—obviously—is the spread of our principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human life ...

    But the long-term deterrent of spreading our ideals throughout the world is just not enough ...


    It is much less likely that there would be such a drive to spread a more traditional ethnic Americanism, as this kind of identity is based on the idea of a distinct people occupying a distinct land.

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  21. Brett thinks I'm right that a values based nationalism makes nations less distinctive. For him, though, it's a positive outcome reflecting an underlying truth:

    "We simply aren't that different".

    What, then, Brett of all the talk about how much liberals love diversity? Here you are denying the very reality of diversity.

    I note too that in the discussion about whether people would fight to defend a modern liberal state, Brett wrote that:

    "Would I fight against oppression which didn't allow me to define myself, to broaden my experiences and my understanding? Of course I would."

    Note that what appears most important to Brett, the very thing worth dying for, is being able "to define myself".

    I point this out because sometimes when I debate with liberals they deny that "self-definition" is an important strand within liberalism.

    I agree with Bobby on this issue. A lot of men have lost the traditional reasons to defend their own societies in times of war.

    We are no longer allowed to think that we possess a nation for our own people and our own ongoing tradition.

    Nor are men allowed to think of themselves as the natural protectors of women - in fact, men are told that this belief is anti-woman.

    I expect it's already the case that in countries like the US and Australia, recruitment to the military is overly reliant on rural white males, where a traditional culture is more intact.

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  22. I have a number of responses to Brett, but no time to write them up at present. I can express the issues in questions to think about, though:

    1) Is it a universal truth that anyone can go and adapt to any other culture, or is this only something that seems to be true, temporarily, in Western countries that believe in liberalism and practice mass immigration?

    2) Does the existence of people with culturally ambiguous identities, or who master practices of another culture to a high degree, refute the commonsense notion that most people have a clear ethnic and national identity that they didn't chose?

    3) Does the feeling of an Australian that his own culture is weak and undistinctive (Americanized, globalized, etc.) mean that Australian nationality should be rejected? Does the inability to define national identity in a categorical formula mean it doesn't exist?

    4) Finally, what is the role of race in nationality? Is race a part of what makes up a culture? If so, this would place a limit on one's ability to define oneself. (As a matter of fact, the Chinese will never accept a white person as Chinese, and such attitudes are the norm outside the white West. Are the Chinese wrong in this? Do they need to be cured of their racism?)

    Mark, I think you're right that the U.S. military draws on the patriotic, conservative, white population for its recruits, but it is also a liberal institution that indoctrinates its soldiers in political correctness, recruits minorities, and even (to my horror) offers citizenship to foreigners who join. There is a real danger that the unconscionable sacrifice of patriotic American youth for the global liberal Iraq project will severely damage morale and patriotism in that sector of the military, indeed in that sector of the country. I see the U.S. military becoming less "American" and more like the U.N. forces in the future.

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  23. Another interesting comment by Brett was the following:

    "we are now on the verge of creating methods of transport which require no fossil fuels. Leaving this dirt ball is not so far away."

    Few of us would refer to the earth as "this dirt ball". Yet, if you've been raised within a strictly materialistic world view, I can see how you might do so.

    If it's all just combinations of atoms and nothing else, then maybe you could conceive the earth as a dirt ball, just as I recently had a feminist deny the importance of the male/female distinction on the basis that:

    "We are all human beings. We are all similar lumps of fleshy matter that moves and grunts and goes around its daily business."

    I'm not sure that a strict materialist can take seriously the meaning that most of us take to be within things.

    What's left, perhaps, is the existentialist idea of the self creating its own (unstable and provisional) meanings through its actions in the world (i.e. the creation of meaning through our assertion of our own unbounded self).

    BTW, thanks Shane, Bobby, Jaz and Steve for your high quality contributions to this thread.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Let me ask you Mark, do you think that the things that have been mentioned as the cornerstones of Americanism are any different to the cornerstones of Australianism? Are capitalism and the rule of law (for starters)not important to Australians?

    I think they are. I think they are also important in (probably) every (western and non western) first world countries. Do you disagree?

    "So anyone can become an American. This means, first, that anyone can immigrate to the US, and second, that anyone living in any country can likewise be "American""

    Same thing goes in the UK, Singapore, Canada and most other western and/or first world countries. This is not restricted to Australia and the US.

    As I have said before, we just aren't that different.

    "The danger is that there is then a logic to spread political "Americanism" universally (since it is assumed to be an important good and there is nothing which limits it to a national border)."

    Perhaps Americanism is the wrong word to use. Perhaps the right term to use is "basic freedoms", like being able to accumulate wealth (part of capitalism) and to be able to have the law applied equally.

    "What, then, Brett of all the talk about how much liberals love diversity? Here you are denying the very reality of diversity."

    Not at all. Very far from it actually and you're being rather disingenuous by saying this.

    I've never said that people are clones walking around exactly the same. Even people from the same country are different, which is what makes us interesting to each other.

    We are, however, all cut from the same cloth, and if you peel back the skin, we're all made from the same bits. Which is why anyone can become an Austrlian or an American. After all, it's been happening for years. Look at the variety of origins of people who have been in Melbourne for generations. Are they not Australians?

    "Note that what appears most important to Brett, the very thing worth dying for, is being able "to define myself"."

    Tell me Mark, do you want someone telling you how to think? How to feel? Tell you what your opinions on something are? What to wear? When to catch a bus? What to eat? How to cook? What's o.k. or not o.k.?

    You suggest that it's only liberals who want self authorship, but i'm willing to bet that if someone took away your ability to define things for yourself, that you'd be very unhappy. What if someone was to change things so that you had to be Ethiopian, and there was nothing you could do about it. Would you be happy with the loss of your own self-authorship?

    "We are no longer allowed to think that we possess a nation for our own people and our own ongoing tradition."

    Same question to you Mark - who are our people? When does an immigrant become an Australian? How many years? How many generations? And what are Australian traditions? Can you define for me traditions which are consistent to all Australians which are distinct? I'm willing to bet you can't.

    "Nor are men allowed to think of themselves as the natural protectors of women - in fact, men are told that this belief is anti-woman."

    Would you be willing to stand between a lioness and her cub? How about a bitch and her offspring? Any female (human or otherwise) and her baby?

    Women are not these helpless "things" which are incapable of defending themselves. If you think that, go stand in a cage with a lioness and see what happens.

    It's entirely appropriate for women to share the role of defence. This isn't your best comment Mark.

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  25. Please Mark,

    The term dirtball earth has been tossed around for years! A quick google will show you this:

    dirtball earth

    dirt ball earth

    Not every link there is relevant to this topic, but the term is nothing new...

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  26. Brett, as usual there are too many different arguments being considered.

    And, as usual, your arguments often seem ungrounded in real human experience.

    Take, for instance, your argument about men being protectors. You said:

    Women are not these helpless "things" which are incapable of defending themselves. If you think that, go stand in a cage with a lioness and see what happens.

    Now, I would never describe women generally as "helpless things". There are lots of areas of life in which women appear to be anything but helpless.

    Nonetheless, if you were to stand 100 women in a battlefield and fire guns at them I expect that most wouldn't cope well.

    C'mon Brett, think of some real women in your life. Think of your mother or sister or girlfriend. Do these women really have the instinct to fight wars? Are their bodies really designed for battle? Is their fighting capacity really what you instinctively admire in them?

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  27. BRETT SAID:
    Would you be willing to stand between a lioness and her cub? How about a bitch and her offspring? Any female (human or otherwise) and her baby?


    This was hilarious (if you it wasn’t meant to be a counter-argument). Here you go again Brett, trafficking in the extremes to ‘win’ a point. Lions & humans are different species. You may as well argue about a male rabbit threatening a female elephant.

    Why not argue realistically? Why not argue the scenario of a male lion threatening a female lioness? – because then we’d see the male lion tear ‘her’ apart. (Cubs or no cubs). Same with a man against a woman and her children. Without the ‘law’ coming to her aid, she’d stand no chance. C’mon Brett, think realistically.

    In most matters of the external world – men almost always outperform women. I know you feminists bristle at the fact that we’re not ‘all exactly the same’ – but it’s true.

    Q: You know the easiest way to ‘prove’ men can outperform women in most things ?

    A: Treat them as equals.

    Bobby.N

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  28. Again Mark, you haven't answered my questions:

    "We are no longer allowed to think that we possess a nation for our own people and our own ongoing tradition."

    Same question to you Mark - who are our people? When does an immigrant become an Australian? How many years? How many generations? And what are Australian traditions? Can you define for me traditions which are consistent to all Australians which are distinct? I'm willing to bet you can't.

    If I was to stand 100 people (irrespective of their race, sex or creed) and fired guns at them, I don't think they'd do well. So I think that's a bit of a silly statement.

    "Do these women really have the instinct to fight wars? Are their bodies really designed for battle? Is their fighting capacity really what you instinctively admire in them?

    Instinct to fight wars? Have you ever seen two women fighting? That's just nasty. I think they definately have the instinct for war.

    Are their bodies designed for battle? Maybe not in the same way as guys, but they have several traits like (for instance) a much higher pain threshold than men (for that whole giving birth thing).

    Is their fighting capacity what I want? I look for a lot of things in a partner, and yes - fighting in the sense of fighting for me, to look after me, fighting against adversity and my own flaws. That most certainly is a war unto itself (especially that last bit!! :P), and I would argue harder in a lot of senses than a standard military struggle.

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  29. Brett. Our "people" are those who are part of the mainstream Australian ethny. An ethny is based on common ancestry, history, culture, religion, language etc. Therefore, it's easier to accept and to be accepted as part of the ethny (to identify with and to be identified with the ethny) the more you have in common in these areas.

    Those who are of Anglo descent fit in. So will many who are of other European descent, though some more easily than others. Small numbers of those not of European descent might over a longer period of time be accepted.

    There is no clear cut line of demarcation, but the general principle holds. Could ten million African Muslims be assimilated into the mainstream Australian ethny as easily as, say, 150,000 Danes. I don't think so. It would rupture the sense of being a common people with an ongoing national tradition. The ethnic differences, and the numbers, would be far too great.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Brett - If seeing things in black & white is me being ‘simple’ – then I’ll take it as a compliment. I’m not the one talking about ‘hypotheticals’ like scenarios with other species, or leaving this “Dirt-Ball” for other galaxies.

    I’m trying to stay a little grounded on the topics at hand.

    Trying to act like a Head Mistress and (supposedly) ‘correct’ other posts who disagree with you by saying things like: “This isn't your best comment Mark.” , or saying things to me like:

    …“this was the single most ridiculous statement you've made yet, and you've made some pearlers…Most of the time when I read your comments, the first thing that springs to mind is that you need to stop and have a think before you speak, or in this case, type. And some work on your grammer would go a long way too.”

    One thing I will give you Brett, is that my last post was written rather quickly, so any grammar mistakes are duly noted - (BTW: You really should learn how to spell ‘grammar’ before you try and correct me)

    Also Brett, you say:

    If you can't even discern that I was talking about the maternal urge to protect (which Mark himself has mentioned in previous discussions) then perhaps you should just sit in the corner and be quiet while the adults talk.

    BUT, you were trying to show Mark that men didn’t need to assume the ‘protector’ role, and as such, gave THAT rediculous “man-vs-lioness” example as an illustration. If you wanted to simply point out that she has paternal instincts to protect her young, you really should have made that apparent in another way, rather than following up that point by concluding;

    Women are not these helpless "things" which are incapable of defending themselves. If you think that, go stand in a cage with a lioness and see what happens.

    Do you see what I mean?

    If THAT is an example of an ‘adult’ talking (supposed) sense, then I’ll gladly take my place away from it.

    My take on your point of:

    …and this is exactly the point I was making - putting herself in danger against a stronger opponent to protect her offspring. That's a very worthwhile trait to have in a time of conflict.

    is analogous to Mark’s on the issue. It’s not the point that she will ‘try’. The point is that; why shouldn’t the man assume the ‘protector’ role when.

    (a) He’s more capable, and (b) He actually ‘wants’ to.

    Your debates don’t work to conclusions. Aside from trying to put down individuals (like myself) – you don’t try and work to something. Anything. You keep coming back to ‘grey’ areas.

    In fact, the only real ‘points’ you’ve made – are that you stand for very little.

    Bobby.N

    .

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  31. Brett, I decided to delete your last response to Bobby, as it was nearly entirely an ad hominem attack rather than argument.

    Let me add, too, that I agree with Bobby's argument. I think it's false to compare the fighting qualities of a lioness to those of a female human; the lioness is designed to hunt and kill in a way that the human female isn't.

    Bobby was also right to urge you to think realistically on this issue.

    You want me to accept the idea that women should share the protector role in time of war.

    Yet I've never met a woman I could even begin to imagine succeeding in battlefield combat.

    I can't help but think that you're wedded to the idea of women in combat for ideological reasons.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Bobby, a good response to Brett. I think the following criticism of Brett is particularly well observed:

    Your debates don’t work to conclusions ... you don’t try and work to something. Anything. You keep coming back to ‘grey’ areas.

    I expected that you'd handle Brett's ad hominem well, but I decided to delete his comment anyway, as I want to keep to certain standards of debate at the site.

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  33. No problems Mark: I'll ignore Bobby and he can do what he wants...

    Re your points on what makes us Australian, there are several holes in what you've written. The first, and most obvious is that even the white Australians are immigrants, which means that even though the "whites" are in the majority, we don't have common ancestry (except to say that we're all from other places than here)and have no more than a couple of hundred years of history here. Hardly compelling.

    Another point is that there was a large surge in the asian (amongst others) population more than a hundred years ago in the gold rushs. These asian families will have been in Australia for more than a hundred years and so have a very real and very tangible attachment to this country.

    Yet another is that for some time, there has been a considerable diminishing in the white population, through a lower level of white immigration and a lower white birth rate.

    The first two points show that your statement "An ethny is based on common ancestry, history, culture, religion, language etc. doesn't hold in Australia. Particularly a common ancestry - there are tens of countries in Europe, and that's not the full compliment of "white" Australians.

    The last point shows that your definintion becomes less and less representative as time goes on. Whether some choose to bemoan this or not is irrelevent - it is a statement of fact.

    Could ten million African Muslims be assimilated into the mainstream Australian ethny as easily as, say, 150,000 Danes

    What about 150,000 muslims vs 150,000 Danes?? I think that's a much more realistic comparison, to which I would say that yes, both groups would assimilate just fine. Both groups will have those who will choose not to assimilate, so there shouldn't be any surprises here.

    But the more valid question is whether 10 million Danes would be assimilated so easily. By your own logic, you on one hand say yes because they are european, but that many people from one country would blow historical representation out the window and would have a vast and significant impact on "Australian-ness" (however that's defined).

    I notice that you've still not tried to provide any instances of Australia wide traditions... Is there a reason for this?

    And for the record, 2 final points:

    I am not arguing for the sake of arguing - I'm asking you to logically defend your position. Consistently, I pose questions which no one answers. For example:

    *Particular to values, what do you see as Australias values and why do you think they're any different to the US, UK or any other major Western country?

    *There is the challenge: What are these distinctly Australian traditions which are consistent across the country, and aren't found anywhere else in the world?

    *If Australias culture is so intertwined with all those cultures in the first place, are we really dropping cultures when we move from western country to another western country? Or are we really just "changing to a different dialect" of the same culture?

    * Let me ask you Mark, do you think that the things that have been mentioned as the cornerstones of Americanism are any different to the cornerstones of Australianism? Are capitalism and the rule of law (for starters)not important to Australians?

    I think they are. I think they are also important in (probably) every (western and non western) first world countries. Do you disagree?

    And so on. And that's just on this thread. There have been plenty more on the others.

    The second point is that the "hypotheticals" are not so hypothetical. We have already left this "dirt ball" a number of times, we are creating an international space station, alternative propulsion methods are being built etc.

    There is a very real potential in our lifetimes, and the lifetimes of our childres (for those of us who choose to have them) that this world will be a thing of the past for some of our population.

    This bears consideration in many topics (not just the ones mentioned here), which is why I bring them up.

    Finally, I'll reiterate my point about the lions etc.: Maternal protection instincts. And while you might not have met a woman you didn't think you could best, do you really think that there aren't those out there trained with weapons, martial arts etc who wouldn't wipe the floor with you? That there aren't weightlifting women (in the olympics for instance) who couldn't out strength you? That there are women out there aggressive enough to saw you limb from limb if the triggers were right (for instance, if she saw you attacking her child).

    If so, that's a mighty arrogant position for any man to take.

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  34. It seems that Brett is taking the very simple position of feigned ignorance for those things he wishes not to covet while rigorously articulating those things he feels important.

    Brawn was irrelevant UNTIL it came to defending women in combat.

    Maybe this is transhumanism in action?

    Nations were irrelevant UNTIL we discuss the implication of massive Western immigration as opposed to massive Third World immigration.

    Ethnicity was irrelevant until it is time to talk of all the majesty of multiculturalism.

    Australian culture is undefineable only as long as it is not juxtaposed to other defineable cultures being ushered into Australia.

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  35. Brett, your argument that whites don't have a common ancestry is only partly true.

    If you go back far enough we would all have a common ancestry in an Indo-European tribe. That's why you can find people living in Holland or Poland or south-eastern Europe who physically resembe people living in England.

    However, I do agree with you that there are variations in the kinds of admixtures in different parts of Europe. I think too that there is a stronger sense of identity stemming from the national traditions in Europe rather than a broadly "white" one.

    That's why I personally prefer to identify with an Anglo tradition in Australia rather than a "white" one (although I'm happy for those who can to assimilate into this tradition).

    Also, when I set up the 150,000 Danes vs the 10 million Muslim Africans comparison I deliberately chose the starkest of contrasts. 150,000 Danes would assimilate seamlessly. 10 million Muslim Africans would never assimilate.

    Yes, you're right that if it were 10 million Danes it would change the sense of Australianness, despite the fact that Danes are European.

    Still, the point I was making holds true, that the closer people are to the ethnic mainstream the easier it is to successfully assimilate.

    That's why, if we go from hypotheticals to reality, some groups of migrants have in practice assimilated more easily than others.

    The 200,000 Dutch who migrated to Australia after 1950 assimilated within a single generation. Compare this to the record of Lebanese Muslims in Australia, numbers of whom still see themselves as hostile outsiders, and a few of whom have even dedicated themselves to acts of terrorism.

    As for your question about Australian values, I haven't answered it because I don't think national traditions are built on values.

    A national culture is what arises naturally when a particular ethny lives together for a length of time in a particular homeland. Inevitably distinctions of culture and character arise in these conditions.

    Also, you have asked for instances of Australia wide traditions. Again, I haven't anwered because a "tradition" refers to the whole ongoing venture of people and place, rather than to specific traditions within the national culture.

    Even so, some of these sub-traditions do exist. Think, for instance, of the surf lifesaving tradition in Australia. Or the ANZAC Day tradition. The Ashes tradition in cricket.

    Finally, the "fighting women" issue. I don't know any women who could beat me in a fight, though I grant that some no doubt exist.

    The problem with your position is that you're searching for exceptions to the rule, when what really matters in this instance is the rule.

    Australians fought exceptionally well in the world wars, because we were able to raise volunteer armies of men (many tens of thousands of men) who were raised to have a masculine pride in their ability to fight and in their courage, and who bonded well as men and knew that they could rely on each other in difficult battlefield conditions.

    There's no way that you could replicate this with tens of thousands of women. All of the women I know are too physically and emotionally feminine to make good soldiers.

    Nor would I want the women I know to be so physically and emotionally masculine that they would operate well on a battlefield. Would you really want your mother or girlfriend to be cut in the tough soldier mould?

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  36. Brett,

    You are careening between two difficult mindsets. On the one hand, your tranhumanism forces you to acccept a materialistic philosophy while at the same time you assert the notion of "mind over matter." You CAN have it both ways, but don't be surprised if others CAN'T argue forcefully against your contradictory stances.

    Take the example of your notion of a "maternal instinct" and whether it signifies women capable of combat.

    First, reality is rather ambiguous these days concerning "maternal instinct" with MILLIONS of abortions worldwide arguing against such a notion.

    Secondly, YOU have never experienced "maternal instinct" and so one is left to wonder how it is that YOU know it exists or why it's relevant?

    One could easily argue that killing one's child is as much "maternal instinct" as protecting one's child if we are to examine reality objectively.

    So what is "maternal instinct" and how does it translate to a combat mom...?

    In this case, it is simply "mind over matter." You think it therefore it is.

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  37. Lots of good points by Mark. As you say, a national culture exists first (though it's not a rule that every culture corresponds to a nation) and distinct traditions arise within that culture. What defines the nation is its quality of being a community united in the ways you describe, not "uniqueness" per se. Brett seems to think Australia can't exist unless there's some practice or thing utterly unique to Australia thad involves every single person. But these are secondary phenomena. Australia and England have broadly similar Christmas traditions, but they are not the same nation. And the disappearance of the Ashes tradition wouldn't mean the disappearance of Australia.

    In tourism, countries accentuate the things that visibly distinguish them from outsiders. Brett seems to be asking for a tourist definition of nationality so he can refute it.

    I would not completely deny the role of abstract values like rule of law and capitalism in national identity; obviously these would be Australian values in a way that they are not Egyptian values, but again, they are not constitutive of nationality.

    Finally, the whole question of who is and isn't assimilable would not be a life-or-death question in a healthy nation, which would be reproducing itself adequately and taking in only limited numbers of immigrants based on national interest. If the numbers are extremely small, perhaps almost any group can assimilate; if they're larger, only closely-related groups can assimilate.

    But it shows how distorted our Western discourse has become that we agonize over whether we can make groups assimilate to our countries and whether, if so, it's cruel and unjust to do so; and that we think that the successful assimilation of a single immigrant obligates us to allow mass immigration, and the negative experience of a single immigrant marks us as an illegitimate political entity.

    Immigration and race have become THE central issues of Western nations; how can we create good and beautiful civilizations when this is the case?

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  38. Giuliani was posturing; EVERYBODY in the U.S. knows that multiculti doesn't work. We've figured that out by now. Sadly.

    The last big wave of U.S. immigration, before the Mexican & 3rd World invasion, was roughly between 1880 and 1920. And this last wave was from EUROPE- so they were able to assimilate- they were all WESTERNERS.

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