Here's a more upbeat story to report on. Over at Abandon Skip, there's a post on the popularity of the song De La Rey amongst Afrikaners in South Africa. The song has become something of an anthem for Afrikaners, expressing a pride in their own identity.
There are a couple of things about the situation which impress me. First, it seems to be predominantly young Afrikaners, both male and female, who are generating enthusiasm for the song. Second, some of the Arikaners have clearly rejected the idea that it is a mark of distinction to be neutral about ethnicity.
For instance, Bok van Blerk asks the audience before singing the song, "I'm proud of my language and culture. Are you?". He has also made the comment that, "Tswana, Zulu, Sotho, English or Afrikaner, take pride in who you are, it gives you backbone and direction in life."
This is exactly the shift Westerners need to make. For a long time, the neutrality strand of liberalism has set a different tone. The gist of this strand of liberalism is that it's best to be neutral about important public goods, and to orient ourselves instead to the pursuit of our private, individual interests. At best, ethnicity is then recognised as a purely personal sentiment, not to be defended as a good in a formal, public setting.
We are therefore supposed to win admiration by proving how neutral we are about our own ethnicity. The most advanced practitioners of this art achieve status by identifying the most "othered" ethnic group and displaying sympathy toward them. In general, though, the effect is to produce a Westerner who has little sense of his own culture and who thinks of culture instead as something he consumes according to taste from a range of other ethnicities.
It's not a sustainable way of ordering things. If everyone were to do it, and we were all neutralists, then there would be no range of "other" ethnicities to consume. In other words, even to maintain things as they are now, there have to be groups of people who reject the ideal of neutrality and who continue to produce distinctive cultures.
There is another problem with the neutrality strand: it trivialises our life aims. Much of what is significant in life requires a communal setting. If we limit ourselves to the pursuit of private interests, we undermine the opportunity to fulfil important aspects of life.
We can be better than neutral. We can identify positively with our own culture; we can defend its value as a real entity and not just as a personal sentiment; and we can admire those who show themselves to be most connected to their own ethnic culture and who represent it at its best.
(If you follow the link to Abandon Skip's post there are several short You Tube videos showing the response of young Afrikaners to the De La Rey song.)