Saturday, November 13, 2010

What's wrong with liberal identity?

Living in a multiculture poses problems for identity:

A study of 339 young people aged 14 to 17 who live in Sydney's west and south-west suburbs found only one-third of them called themselves Australian even though two-thirds were born here.

Instead they identified themselves by their ethnic background as Tongan, Chinese, Lebanese, and so on, and 16 of the indigenous young people identified themselves as Koori or Aboriginal.

Less than half of them also felt ''Australian'' all the time and one-fifth did not feel ''Australian'' at all.

The liberal academic responsible for the research put a positive gloss on the findings:

Jock Collins, a professor of economics at the University of Technology, Sydney, who presented findings from the study at a conference in Europe, said the unwillingness of these "cosmopolitan" youth to identify as Australian should not be seen as a problem.

"A lot of these young people have links to their parents' nations of birth and they have diverse and multiple identities," he said. "They incorporate their migrant identities with elements of 'being Australian'."

Liberals like the idea of "diverse and multiple identities" because it suggests that identity is something that we can choose for ourselves from a menu of options. It fits in with the liberal belief that the key good in life is autonomy, so that the ideal man becomes someone who is self-defining or self-creating.

However, I very much doubt if Professor Collins has it right. I doubt that in the long-term these young people will sustain diverse ethnic identities.

What's more likely is that they are in the process of being deracinated - uprooted from their original culture and ethny. They might still identify as being a Turk or a Tongan, but it will be difficult to sustain this identity over time living in the suburbs of Sydney.

What happens when an ethnic identity is lost? Identity doesn't disappear. Individuals do need a sense of personal identity. So it takes on different forms.

You can see this with the Anglo liberals who came of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of them are the "true believer" types for whom liberalism is something of a religion. These true believers have a hostile view of whiteness and so have rejected identifying with their own ethny. They have also largely rejected identifying positively with their sex (masculinity or femininity) and with their family roles (husband, wife, mother, father).

So what do they build their identity on? Obviously, partly on their political beliefs. They have a sense that they hold a morally superior politics which makes them good and superior people. They also put a lot of emphasis on their work identity. Some of them, from what I've observed, also fill in the gap of their "tribal" identity through loyally supporting a sports team.

For reasons I will try to explain later, these alternative identities are a step down from the traditional ones. But they are nonetheless better than the ones that the young people living in Sydney's south-western suburbs are likely to adopt.

What happens to youth identity in a liberal culture? This is the issue discussed in a paper by Sarah Riley from the University of Bath in the UK ("Identity, community and selfhood: understanding the self in relation to contemporary youth cultures" 2008).

How would we expect identity to be treated in a liberal society? For liberals, what matters is that we are autonomous; we are supposed to be self-determining, self-sovereign creatures. The good, therefore, is not in anything we choose to do or be but that we get to self-define.

So liberals won't like forms of identity that we can't choose between or that we are "destined" to have as part of our tradition or biology. They will prefer instead forms of identity that are temporary, elective, multiple and fluid.

With that in mind, consider the following excerpts from Sarah Riley's paper. Here, for instance, she describes the dominant "neo-liberal" approach to identity:

The need to story oneself with multiple narratives, whether drawn from traditional - or consumption-based identity markers, is particularly relevant...

Neo-liberalism describes the idea that people are encouraged to see themselves as if they are autonomous, rational, risk-managing subjects, responsible for their own destinies and called “to render one’s life knowable and meaningful through a narrative of free choice and autonomy"...

Neo-liberalism allows people to make sense of themselves in individualistic and psychological terms, understanding their consumption practices as freely chosen markers of their identity

Identity here is self-created and subjective. It is about "self-storying". The elements of identity being played with can be traditional ones (based on family or ethnicity) or they can be modern ones based on "consumption practices" (what we choose to buy, to wear, to own).

Sarah Riley uses the term "liquid" rather than "fluid" to describe the preferred liberal form of identity:

It is likely, however, that young people’s subjectivities are constructed through a variety of identities shaped by ‘traditional’ orientations to class, region, family and gender, and more ‘liquid’, flexible ones orienting around leisure-based activities, such as sports or shopping.

Identity, in the above excerpt, is described as a self-constructed "subjectivity". Although traditional elements of identity are still played with, the modern forms of identity, based on leisure activities such as sports or shopping, are considered more liquid and flexible and therefore superior in liberal terms.

More on the same theme:

This context has opened up the possibility for young people to engage in a playful pick-and-mix approach to identity as they move through a kaleidoscope of temporary, fluid and multiple subjectivities that often celebrate hedonism, sociality and sovereignty over one’s own existence.

Well, that's the liberal approach to identity in a nutshell. We playfully pick-and-mix our identity, and move through "temporary, fluid and multiple subjectivities".

And what about group identity? In her paper, Sarah Riley takes into account a theory of modern group identity called neo-tribalism:

Maffesoli’s theory of neo-tribalism ... characterises daily life as a continuous movement through a range of small and potentially temporary groups that are distinguished by shared lifestyles, values and understandings of what is appropriate behaviour. These groups give a sense of belonging and identity, examples of which include gathering to watch football in a bar, participants on service user websites or regular commuters sharing public transport.

What distinguishes neo-tribal social formation from traditional social groupings is that people belong to a variety of groups, many of them by choice, so that neo-tribal memberships are plural, temporary, fluid and often elective

This too is a liberal approach to identity. Group identity is held to exist, but only in autonomous, self-defining forms, i.e. in forms which are plural, temporary, fluid and elective.

What is the point of this kind of group identity? It is to express "self-sovereignty:

when groups create opportunities to practice sovereignty over their existence they are creating spaces in which to engage in values that orient around sociality, emotionality and hedonism. In relating neo-tribalism to young people, it may be useful to recognise the similarities between Maffesoli’s concept of sovereignty and Hakim Bey’s ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’ (TAZ), a term he uses to describe transitory unsanctioned self-governing sites

Note the language used to describe these group identities: they are based on "transitory" affiliations, which once again emphasises the idea of identity being temporary.

Which brings us to the key question. What is wrong with these modern, liberal forms of identity? One part of the answer is that they are merely subjective:

Thus, the proliferation and globalisation of near instant forms of technological communication make available a dynamically-shifting range of stories and forms of knowledge that can inform young people’s identity management. Subjectivity, then, is not considered to be constructed from pre-formed essences which exist independently outside of time, talk or other social activity, but are constantly (re)produced in interaction, constructed from the range of subject positions available to the individual...

Our identity is held to be subjective, self-constructed and "managed". It is not thought to be based on "pre-formed essences which exist independently" of our own self.

But if identity is not related to anything that has an independent, objective value, if it has value only because we choose it, then it isn't very significant.

I'll put this another way. For liberals, the forms of identity are not very important or meaningful in themselves. What matters is the feeling of "self-sovereignty" that we get in the moment that we exercise our choice to self-define. Liberals focus on the individual saying "I exercised my choice to opt for this" rather than "this category of being has a meaningful essence I share in or participate in or embody".

The results can be shallow. Identity can be reduced to consumer, lifestyle or leisure choices. Traditional identity, in comparison, dealt more with the "transcendent," by which I mean sources of meaning existing independently of our own individual will, but to which we could feel connected.

There's another problem. Identity based on subjective, transitory connections is likely to be disintegrative. Sarah Riley herself puts this even more strongly than I would:

It may be that young people will experience fractured and multiple subjectivity in the same way that they are encouraged to consider high street clothing – as tools of identity to be temporarily appropriated, experienced and then cast off in favour of some new look or experience. Future subjectivity may therefore be conceptualised as a collection of multiple, diffuse selves existing across time and space, that have differing degrees of relationships with each other and perhaps no longer needing to be held together by the concept of a ‘core self’.

It is likely, therefore, that in the future young people will need to find ways to exist in the plural.

I'm not sure it will get to that stage, but I do think it's true that an identity that aims to be shifting, temporary and liquid will become increasingly fractured.

51 comments:

  1. And if all of that is too hard for the people of South Western Sydney they can always take up drug use and drinking.

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  2. Interesting post.

    On the concept of racial identity: what do you think about a country like Singapore? They have a good quality of life, good education system and yet 42% of the population is made up of foreigners. I'm not asking this to be inflammatory, I'm just genuinely curious about your views.

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  3. And when that transitory, fluid, fragmented, hedonistic identity runs into a major life event, such as the death of one's mother, what then?

    Well, there's always more of the same -- more hedonism, or more intense fragmented experiences. That will work for some people.

    Others may suddenly find themselves drawn back into an older identity, as Mohammed Bouyeri was after the death of his mother. He's still identifying himself in that older way, too, even in prison...

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  4. I'm not an expert on Singapore. But two things stand out about that country. First, although there is a mixture of races, three quarters of the population is Chinese. That's a large enough majority to hold sway.

    Second, the laws there are toughly enforced. It's been claimed that Singapore has the highest rate of execution per capita of any country in the world.

    My impression of Singapore is that it's a society which has created stable governance and a healthy economy. However, it has a very low birth rate and a fair proportion of its citizens seem to prefer to live in Australia.

    For instance:

    * Two-thirds of Singaporeans (aged 21-34) said in a survey that they had considered retiring in another country with a slower pace of life and lower cost of living.

    * Among youths (15-29 years of age), 53% are considering emigration. Despite having gone through national education, 37% say they are not patriotic. (Indian youths are the most ready to emigrate – at 67%, compared with 60% of Malays and 49% of Chinese).

    * Six out of 10 undergraduates said they wanted to go abroad to live or work, mostly to enjoy a higher quality of life with less stress.

    * An ACNielsen poll showed 21% of Singaporeans, mainly professionals, were considering emigration, half opting for Australia and New Zealand.

    For this small state with a short history, the steady exit is not just a ‘numbers’ problem which can be – and is being – resolved by substituting Singaporeans with foreigners.


    Maybe it's not enough to have law and order and prosperity.

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  5. In the army I noticed 2nd generations of Western European descent were completely assimilated.

    Those of from a non Christian background were not being assimilated.

    Its interesting you mentioned Turks, their national government funds the building of mosques in Australia and billionaire Islamic imperialist 'Gulen' funds the Isik colleges in Australia. In adition, 90% of their Australian born men serve in the army over there or pay an exorbitant fee to be excused. A significant portion also marry overseas and bring back their spouses to Australia.

    So much for autonomy for migrants.

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  6. Mark,

    Thank you very much for the comment. That was my initial thinking; that stronger law enforcement could be one solution to some of the problems that come with large numbers of immigrants. I actually wonder if diversity could work under a stricter form of government.

    From the article it seems that the desire to emigrate has more to do with societal stress/pressure than a fractured demographic. However this doesn't explain other homogenous East Asian countries where the lifestyle is even more intense and yet most are happy to stay. Hmmm.

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  7. What's more likely is that they are in the process of being deracinated - uprooted from their original culture and ethny.

    Many of these will redouble their efforts to maintain the identity of the old country. The distance from that country will allow the individual to create a very romantic vision of it, especially if he's never been there. Nationalism is rarely as strong as once-removed nationalism.

    The same is true of religion (Islam), as we saw on 7/7.

    But if identity is not related to anything that has an independent, objective value, if it has value only because we choose it, then it isn't very significant.

    Exactly. A house with walls of mist will not provide shelter from the elements. But the bonds that one has with one's own people can be unbelievably powerful. I have an obligation to honor the memory of the dead, provide for the present, and blaze a trail for the unborn. I am connected to all simultaneously.

    I actually wonder if diversity could work under a stricter form of government.

    Which answers the question of whether or not its worth it. I'm not terribly fond of the idea of sacrificing my rights for the sake of ethnic cuisine.

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  8. "It is likely, however, that young people’s subjectivities are constructed through a variety of identities shaped by ‘traditional’ orientations to class, region, family and gender, and more ‘liquid’, flexible ones orienting around leisure-based activities, such as sports or shopping."

    Jesus said that the wise man builds his house upon the rock; the foolish man builds his house upon the sand. Ms. Riley tells us to build our house upon...the water.

    Jesus' foundation=solid;
    the fool's foundation=semi-solid (sand);
    Riley's foundation=liquid.

    Didn't Jesus observe that when the rains come the sand turns to liquid and the house washes away? Riley skips the sand and tells us to build it directly on the liquid to begin with.

    Romans 1 tells us that when we reject the truth of God, our hearts are darkened, and our minds embrace foolishness. Liberals, desiring freedom, have rejected the order of God, and their minds have embraced foolishness.

    Who says there's no proof of Christianity?

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  9. Nationalism is rarely as strong as once-removed nationalism.

    That's true. I cared about being German less when I lived there. In fact, I didn't really even see myself as "German". I was just me, a person who lives in Germany.

    But now that I live in America, I feel like a foreigner here. I like the people around me and they are good people, but I don't really understand the way they think or behave sometimes. Experiencing a "culture clash" has made me more aware of the fact that I do have a culture.

    Americans think I am very odd. Feminine but highly analytical and outspoken, which is common in Germany. In America most women are either feminine or outspoken, but rarely both. I am very popular here, but I don't feel very comfortable or truly at home. We were discussing moving back to Germany again today. We're both very homesick.

    But we have this under-water mortgage! LOL. A few more years then. I miss my Heimat, and I am trying to recreate my own little Germany in my home. I could live anywhere on the planet and be happy enough, but I would always put up my Bavarian flag, cook my Bavarian food, read German news, speak German at home, watch German DVDs, and bore everyone by droning on an on about Germany.

    Dual citizenship is a dodgy concept, I think. It is impossible to split such loyalties 50/50 in practice. Everyone should have to choose.

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  10. My cousin experienced something similar. She is German but married to an America. They spent most of their marriage in Germany, where their kids went to school. Then he got a great job offer in America, and they all moved there. She called me crying all the time, wanting to come home. They didn't last a year there before moving back.

    I thought she was being childish, but now I understand. Americans are good people and I love this country, but they are not really my people. It feels like being invited to a party where everyone is pleasant, but you don't know anyone.

    I hide it very well, though, because my English is so good.

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  11. Batholomew said,

    "Jesus said that the wise man builds his house upon the rock; the foolish man builds his house upon the sand. Ms. Riley tells us to build our house upon...the water."

    Good point.

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  12. For many Westerners the rock of society or fall back point is the state.

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  13. "For many Westerners the rock of society or fall back point is the state."

    Yeah, that's true. And that's probably why Ms. Riley doesn't see the problem with "liquid" identities based on shopping habits. She's trusting that, however poorly we choose our mate, friends, job or colleagues, we'll always have the State to take care of us. That's probably also why they go ballistic whenever people like the Tea Partiers threaten to take it away/weaken it.

    Yeah, your explanation makes a lot of sense, Jesse.

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  14. I meant "mate" as in "spouse".

    Sorry, I forgot I was commenting on an Australian blog.

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  15. "That's probably also why they go ballistic whenever people like the Tea Partiers threaten to take it away/weaken it."

    Totally.

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  16. One thing that could be mentioned here in the comments is that a traditional identity is also "multiple" in its own way.

    It's not multiple within distinct categories. But it *is* multiple in that it embraces a number of different categories.

    For instance, the same person might identify with being a man (i.e. with his sex), a Yorkshire man, an Englishman, a Westerner, an Anglican, a father, a husband, a son, a working-class man and so on.

    So in this sense traditional identity can also claim to be multiple, but anchored to stable rather than "liquid" or "transitory" categories.

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  17. Mr. Richardson wrote,

    "So in this sense traditional identity can also claim to be multiple, but anchored to stable rather than "liquid" or "transitory" categories."

    Right, and don't those multiple, traditional identities tend to complement/build on each other rather than contradict? A husband is also often a father and a son and a brother. A Yorkshire man is also an Englishman, a Christian, a married man, and so on.

    Multiple, liberal identities on the other hand sometimes do contradict. You can be a foodie, but maybe not a fashionista--the clothes get a little tight, etc.

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  18. Right, and don't those multiple, traditional identities tend to complement/build on each other rather than contradict?

    Exactly my thought.

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  19. Alte and others

    The priest at the Latin Mass today said that he had studied in a town in Bavaria. He mentioned various local Marian devotions, and the practice of putting stoups of Holy Water near people's graves. It was all in respect of the month of the holy souls. He also quoted St Augustine on the pains of Purgatory.

    The FSSP priests, who have a strong German presence, hence I think Pope Benedict's special interest in them, have brought some central European traditions here to Australia. I now use blessed chalk to write the year AD, and the initials of the traditional names of the three magi over the lintel of our home at Epiphany each year. I asked my mother, and she said that this was not something she had heard of. I suspect it is middle European.

    The priest upset me a bit by contrasting the poverty of Catholic culture and identity here in Australia with the organic Catholic identity of southern Germany. I said to a friend after Mass that Catholic culture and identity are particularly weak in Australia because of the relative intellectual and material poverty of the Irish Catholic basis to Australian Catholicism; the losses and dispossession inevitable on migration, sometimes under duress, to a new land; lingering anti-Catholicism in a British colony; the general pragmatism and anti-intellectualism of Australians; and finally the damage to Catholic identity done by Vatican II.

    Most Westerners today seem to be unable to be comfortable in their own skins, because all identities have been constantly challenged. Sociologists speak of "role distance", and it seems to me that people do often adopt identities with some feeling of ironic distancing. Most of the people I know in the Traditional Catholic movement have chosen to take on this role. It is rarely totally natural. All modern identity seems to involve some element of rediscovery. Although conservatives and traditionalists are often compared with liberals and progressives, with the latter being seen as those who have made a conscious choice; most conservatives have also had to make a choice as well. Unreflective conservatism seems to be increasingly confined to the kind of Bavarian pockets that the priest today described with such fond remembrance.

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  20. "Americans are good people and I love this country, but they are not really my people."

    I have been studying in Scotland for barely three months, and although I am fully proficient in English and learned in British literature and culture, I cannot identify to British people. I was already quite patriotic back in France, I now border on nationalism sometimes. Coming here helped to mirror our differences, and show that I am genuinely French. I can tell how British people will behave, because I happen to know them well. However, I can never bring myself to feel the same affection to them. And yet, God be my witness, I often chafe at my native country. They are not my fellow countrymen, full stop. I respect them as neighbours and there is still some connection due to their being Westerners (and, for a decreasing proportion of them, Christians), but my heart does not beat for Britain.

    You cannot have divided loyalties. I am an ethnic Italian, but I speak but little more than three words Italian ("Bahnhof, ich verstehe nur Bahnhof!"), I have no connection with Italy, except for a few scattered relatives in Venetia and Tuscany. On the other hand, I have maintained a lively and balanced Italian cuisine! I can speak my mind only in three languages: French, English and German. Still, I also happen to have French ancestry (I actually have Austrian ancestry as well). My grandfathers fought for France, one of them was an Italian citizen and fought in Algeria to earn the right to be naturalised, so unlike the brutish idiots who now turn up in my country and demand immediate accommodation and benefits. We know the price of Frenchness in my family, it is a dear one, and I am incredibly proud of what my forebears did. What I mean to say is that in spite of my being seventy-odd percent Italian, my loyalty is undivided, I bow only to France and I would gladly and readily serve my country in the event of a war or internal disruption.

    There is an invisible bond between France and I, a bond that also connects me with my fellow countrymen, bonds intemporal (language, culture, religion, ethnicity, history, and so on). I concur with Van Wijk who adequately quoted a Burkean idea: the state is a spiritual concept that unites the dead, the living and those yet unborn. However, I doubt my idea of France is and should be will earn me few friends in liberal circles or the treacherous internationalists who sold my country to Brussels and actively worship several golden calves such as international trade, globalisation, the UN and the like. May they suffer the full wrath of the nation when it finally awakes to the call.

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  21. Adele Horin wrote an article recently in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled Young Take on the Monoculture.

    It's an interesting piece because she conflates multiculturalism with multi-racialism. The irony is that her political correctness filters unthinkingly criticize the "monoculture" (she is a liberal after all) but at the same time she talks about ..."people of Indian or Chinese or Middle East background mingled in among the blond, blue-eyed Anglos, asking pointed questions in Aussie English, and simply fitting in".

    In other words she likes the fact that Australia is now a polyglot of races (racial diversity) but she also likes immigrants to "simply fit in" and "speak Aussie English". That doesn't sound like multiculturalism to me.

    So what she is, in fact, delighting in is racial diversity, not multiculturalism.

    At the end of the article she confuses things even further when she claims that..."A positive force propels these cosmopolitan young people to adopt multiple identities....They feel strongly attached to their parents' culture, and are embedded in their extended families. But a negative force is at work as well. Encounters with racism every now and then remind them they are different".

    In other words if they don't regard themselves as Australian it's never their fault it's always the racist Anglos' fault.

    If you add all that together it seems she has the classic self-loathing neurosis in relation to her own ethnic identity that is so prevalent amongst left-wing liberals. Anglo = monoculture = racist = bad.

    People such as Ms Horin seem to be taking a delight in the overthrow of the traditional Australia. I find such sentiment very hard to understand. To me it seems to be at best incredibly naive and at worst a kind of betrayal of her own people. At the very least it is positively dripping in political correctness.

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  22. Most Westerners today seem to be unable to be comfortable in their own skins, because all identities have been constantly challenged.

    It is, I think, more basic than that. The fraud of "multiculturalism" does not challenge "all identities" - on the contrary, all identities of non-Westerners are supported and encouraged. Yes, even sexual identities - only the traditional sexual identities and "folkways" of Western societies and Westerners must be gutted while, with a complete illogic that *ought* to expose the fraud to any reasonable individual, far more restrictive and repressive non-Western sexual mores are hastily explained away or celebrated as superior.

    So the purpose of the fraud is not to "challenge" and question, but to out-and-out abolish organic Western identities, Western cultural attachments. Notice the common sleight-of-hand in the article by a Ms. Horin that anon@1:19 discusses - the pretense that "cosmopolitanism" is synonymous with "multiculturalism". They are not the same thing. "Cosmopolitanism" has always been a positive attribute of intelligent people fortunate enough to have had access to education and travel. It was part of being considered "cultured", and assumed that one had a foundation in a real, living culture of one's own, not that one was "deracinated" in the word's basic etymological sense - cut off from roots. (I can't imagine, for example, having any real appreciation or understanding of foreign cultures that have interested me, if I did not know what it was to have a culture, myself. Thus the bizarre spectacle of the multiculturally mal-educated whites one runs into around the world, who seem so strangely oblivious to and unappreciative of the real differences, real virtues, real failings, real substance, of "the Other" that they're always bleating on about it.)

    So note that Ms. Horin's "non-blond, non-blues" are allowed cosmopolitanism, engaging with "out-groups" while rooted in their own traditions. But the Anglos are permitted only "multiculturalism": to be mere occupants of what must be reduced (for them) to nothing more than global strip mall and labor exchange, and any attachment or access to their own vast cultural repositories cut off as "racist".

    Not long ago I was watching a DVD of Kenneth Clark's old "Civilisation" series, and was struck by his observation that "civilized man must believe he belongs somewhere in space and time". Since the "liquid" (lol) state assumes that the individual have no anchor in either space (a coherent nation) or time (an education in the history of, and one's temporal place in, one's own history, people, culture, civilization), it follows that the liquid-identitarians of which you speak either long for an uncivilized existence, or are too stupid to recognize that this is exactly what they are promoting. Either way, I wish them joy of it, the bastards.

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  23. Rohan Swee, responding to Collard, wrote,

    "The fraud of "multiculturalism" does not challenge "all identities" - on the contrary, all identities of non-Westerners are supported and encouraged."

    Yes, but I think Collard was referring to something else (feel free to correct me, Mr. Collard). The leftists might only mean for white Christians to question their identity. But to effect that, they have created a culture of questioning identity in general. And everyone, white or not, who has even a tendency toward self-reflection picks up on that.

    For example, me. I am a white Christian man, but I was raised socially liberal. I thought "real man" was a punchline; "the white race" was a kind of Satanic incantation; and Thou shalt not discriminate the commandment God forgot.

    I didn't question all of that because liberals told me to question liberalism. I have no doubt they'd prefer I kept my liberal beliefs, or if anything, give up socially liberal Christianity and convert to leftism.

    I questioned it anyway in part because liberals tell everyone to question what they believe, probably because they assume everyone starts out a traditionalist.

    Anyway, I think Collard's right. In a liberal society, no one is free to embrace the identity he was born with.

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  24. In any workplace there will be one fairly hard core leftie at least. They'll be keen on the unions, the international agenda and the whole palaver. However, that individual will probably or possibly be seen as a bit less than professional by their peers, depending on the workplace they might be seen as perhaps a bit of a joke. This is because in the workplace to allow your personal ideas, politics etc, to bleed over into the realm of impersonal work, is seen as less than professional. Politics may enter the workplace but usually only in a more anodyne form and then be seen as primarily a reflection of good manners or the done thing.

    If we see the idea of politics in this way, a "personal" thing that shouldn’t get in the way of impersonal activities such as work, then its possible to say that politics isn’t really that important, that there are more important things in life. Politics, we can say then, is no more than a bit of a human tick that should be indulged sometimes but not excessively. Its possible then to expand from that and say things like race, culture and national connections, are all human "ticks". These things are largely only important in the personal realm and consequently not that important. Consequently, if culture or national connections aren’t that important and largely only personal, what does it really matter then if we minimise or change them? If it only affects individuals then they can adapt. The important things in life, such as professionalism in work, will remain unchanged because they are impersonal.

    To give another example, group loyalty and nationalism are ok, on the sporting field, but largely not elsewhere. So people may talk about their love of sport or their team, but also with a bit of a chuckle because they realise they're engaging perhaps in a "baser" group loyalty or tribalism, or something that also in the scheme of things is essentially irrelevant. Sport is irrelevant, tribal loyalties in the real world are largely irrelevant, what is relevant and important is the realm of the impersonal.

    I see society as trying to move beyond things like culture. There's the idea that we really shouldn’t need it that much, or anymore at least. So then what's the big deal about having a lot of foreigners around? They bring interesting flavor and different stories, but they're not a cultural threat because there really isn’t a culture as such that can be impacted by them. What does it matter if their cultures are promoted? That’s merely a transitory prop until they’re strong enough to move to the post-cultural, culture only a little bit in your private time, ideal.

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  25. Jesse wrote,

    "That’s merely a transitory prop until they’re strong enough to move to the post-cultural, culture only a little bit in your private time, ideal."

    Yeah, well put.

    Well, you Jesse, and I and others here gave the "post-cultural" thing a try. It didn't work. So why won't the libs just let it go?

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  26. I actually wonder if diversity could work under a stricter form of government.

    History tells me that diversity eventually requires a stricter form of government. The Russian multicultural empire, the Austro-Hungarian multi-cultural empire, various Chinese dynasties -- in order to get Moslems, Christians and pagans to get along, a strong, central hand is apparently required.

    So I say the cart is before the horse in the quote, and that multicultism will lead to increased authoritarianism. Sooner, or maybe later, but it will go there.

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  27. As far as I can tell, white American culture is based upon football, fast food, and shopping. And some go to church on Sunday before they go shopping, LOL.

    Southern Cross,

    I feel as you do! And my ideas about Germany are also not very "PC", outside of the most conservative parts of Bavaria. My ideas about most everything are not very PC, I suppose.

    but my heart does not beat for Britain

    My heart doesn't beat for America, but I do love the country (or what it stands for) for my father's sake. He is very patriotic (ex-military) and is very passionate for his country. But America seems much less now than it did to me as a child. Less patriotism, more materialism.

    I liked the Tea Party movement because I value austerity and thrift (German values), but I don't know if they really mean it. It seems more that they just want to spend the money differently, rather than spend much less money. Time will tell, I suppose.

    So I say the cart is before the horse in the quote, and that multicultism will lead to increased authoritarianism.

    Like in Iraq.

    It is the natural progression. All democracies eventually devolve into totalitarianism, according to Aristotle (and our founders agreed). By starting out as a constitutional republic, we bought ourselves some additional time because we first had to move from a constitutional republic to a democracy.

    People want to make more and more rules and use the state to enforce them. I think multi-culti accelerates that; you need even more rules because there is less societal consensus on ethical behavior, so everything has to be written down.

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  28. Unreflective conservatism seems to be increasingly confined to the kind of Bavarian pockets that the priest today described with such fond remembrance.

    Yes, that is how my husband is. He sees the way he lives his life -- and his political and theological views -- as "normal" and doesn't question it. He is from the same part of Germany as the Pope.

    I've adopted it all, and I find it very comforting. Everything fits together well, without holes or gaps.

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  29. Bartholomew,

    I was in Malaysia recently with the Army Reserve and we were on a tourist bus being shown the sites. The tour operator was trying to make a joke about racial differences and said, what would people from different cultures do if they saw a dinosaur today? The tour operator said the westerner would study and measure the dinosaur, whilst the Chinese person would eat it and that was the gag. The soldiers on hearing this definition of Westerner as scientist looked at each other a little confused. Was this how others saw us? As a soldier they though I'm not particularly intellectual/scientific so does that mean then that I'm not really a westerner?

    Science and matters of the impersonal are essentially western constructs. As science is a product of western culture then science is arguably a part of western culture. So as a white person you shouldn't need a broader culture because:

    1. Essentially scientific notions should dominate.

    2. As scientific notions dominate, which are a reflection of western culture, western culture therefore dominates and so you shouldn't need any additional culture, eg nation/race/etc.

    I was of the opinion that I liked all things Western, including science and the impersonal etc, but not at the expense of the things that got us here and also as part of the broader fabric of being Western rather than an as exclusive thing.

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  30. Jesse7

    Well, I suppose you flew in on a Chinook or some such thing, and of course they would see you as a Westerner having Godlike technological prowess. But they probably think you eat awful food.

    Alte

    I wish I could remember the sociological term for the feeling people normally have that everything they do is "normal". I put on a tie this morning, which seemed perfectly normal, but objectively speaking it was an odd thing to do.

    After ten years of attending the Latin Mass, it is increasingly seeming normal, but there is still an element of play-acting in it all, for most of us. I don't want to seem cynical. It is the Mass. But the Trads have consciously reinvented some of it, and as I once wrote in a Trad magazine, I believe that there has been a subtle inculturation from the vernacular mass.

    Most elements of my culture seem "normal", but as you know Alte, I questioned for years my own attitudes to women, which seemed so retrograde. It is only recently that I have come to accept them as natural, at least for me. That is what activists want, to "problematise" normality as much as possible. To make everybody scared to express any view at all, other than the most banal.

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  31. western culture therefore dominates and so you shouldn't need any additional culture, eg. nation/race/etc

    While I don't think race is everything, it is obviously something. I wouldn't see much point in following Chinese culture since I am not Chinese. But there is a sort of Coca-Cola, jeans, MTV culture that liberals all over the world seem to adopt. I think that is what they mean when they refer to "Western culture". But that is a culture without tradition.

    I put on a tie this morning, which seemed perfectly normal, but objectively speaking it was an odd thing to do.

    :-) I performed a cannibalistic ritual today and communed with the living dead, but I think also that is perfectly normal.

    We have a large crucifix (complete with thorns, nails, and dripping blood) hanging over or dining room table, per Bavarian tradition. I get some shocked looks from guests, but I find it comforting.

    That is what activists want, to "problematise" normality as much as possible.

    Yeah, watch a woman try to explain why she likes being a housewife. That's always a fun conversation.

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  32. My first serious boyfriend was a German dual-citizen, like me. He was fascinated with Japanese culture, but indifferent to German culture. I always thought that was sort of weird. I didn't talk to him about it though, because all he wanted to discuss were the Nazis. He thought Charlemagne was French (he was Franconian, Frankish not French), Bismark was Austrian, and Hitler was German. In other words, he was ignorant of his ancestor's own history.

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  33. Alte said,

    "But there is a sort of Coca-Cola, jeans, MTV culture that liberals all over the world seem to adopt. I think that is what they mean when they refer to "Western culture". But that is a culture without tradition."

    I think that this is a "culture" of individualism and sense gratification but as you say it is so skin deep and has no great tradition or history.

    We in the West say that anyone can be a Westerner. The Japanese or the Saudi's wouldn't say that.

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  34. In Germany, they see that "Western culture" as an American one that is trying to displace their own traditional culture (and largely succeeding). American consumerism is the new "Western culture"; it is all about shopping and entertainment. As my husband says, "Americans will buy any shit. They just buy to buy." (sounds better in German)

    Even the idea of a "Western culture" is a bit of a stretch, because the various Western cultures are very diverse. I suppose what is meant is a culture based upon European Christian classicism. That seems to be the main thing uniting us all.

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  35. Mark, a nice treatment of this subject. In different ways both the Australian (Western) side and the non-Western immigrant side are being deracinated.

    I think it is really only the foreign identities that are seen as legitimate. Supposedly a Chinese immigrant to Australia can feel 100% Chinese and also as Australian as he chooses to feel. (If he doesn't feel all Australian, it's because the Australians are deliberately "excluding" him.) For the Australian, though, only liquidity and fragmentation itself is legitimate.

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  36. In Germany, they see that "Western culture" as an American one that is trying to displace their own traditional culture (and largely succeeding).

    That's a little bizarre. Last time I checked, Germany was part of the West. But as you say, that "Western culture" is based on consumerism and is largely adopted by liberals, so it really has nothing to do with actual American culture. It's unfortunate that it is being identified that way.

    For the past several decades Americans have been told that we have no culture of our own, and that only minorities and foreigners have culture, but of course that's a calumny. There are pockets in America similar to those in Bavaria that David Collard mentioned where American tradition is explicitly followed. Many Americans have conservative instincts, even if they aren't able to articulate a conservative philosophy.

    Even the idea of a "Western culture" is a bit of a stretch, because the various Western cultures are very diverse. I suppose what is meant is a culture based upon European Christian classicism.

    It is widely understood what one means when talking about the West versus the East, just as it is commonly understood what a Western aspect is as opposed to an Eastern aspect. Christianity is a vital part of the West, but it is only a part.

    I think it is really only the foreign identities that are seen as legitimate.

    Then it seems that the "liquid identity" is merely and updated version of the same old song and dance. Heads the Other wins, tails you lose.

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  37. Van Wijk said,

    "For the past several decades Americans have been told that we have no culture of our own, and that only minorities and foreigners have culture, but of course that's a calumny."

    I'm not trying to be insulting when I say that I'm just trying to get a handle on why immigration as an idea seems to fit so "smoothly", ie with relatively light opposition, into Western societies. Other socieites would respond quite differently.

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  38. The reason immigration fits in so closely to current "Western culture" is that Westerners, despite what the "rest of the world" thinks, see their culture as "universal". Certainly the same "progressives" who carp about Bush trying to recreate Western-style democracy in Iraq, in one breath, are going on about the importance of our troops fighting for "women's rights" (as defined by the US and Europe) in Afghanistan, because these are "universal". I'm not defending the Taliban's treatment of women, but my point is that the only acceptable alternative is seen as Western feminism full stop, because "freedom" (as defined by the West) is "universal".

    Once you get to the point of seeing your culture and its values as not only a worthy expression of a national culture and great civilization, but as universal for the entire world, immigration seems to follow naturally "because of course everyone else wants to live in our culture ... our values are universal and attractive" and so on.

    The problem, of course, is that the "substance" of the culture defined by this is all in terms of individual rights and so on. There isn't any "there" there, in terms of cultural substance, because the progressives have delegitimized what there was, in terms of "American culture" and hollowed it out so that all that remains are the externals and consumption. The "internals" of what used to be American culture were deconstructed and replaced with individual self-determination a la the type described in the post. So what you have is a combination of (1) a bundle of more or less maximalist legal rights, mostly around sex at this point and (2) free consumption, with everything else determined by the individual. In that context, free immigration makes sense because (1) there is no legitimate "cultural substance" beyond the level of the individual and (2) it's assumed that the expansive personal freedoms, especially sexual ones, and free consumption, are universally esteemed and universally attractive.

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  39. We in the West say that anyone can be a Westerner.

    I think Novaseeker explained it rather well. Being "Western" is now more about values (freedom, democracy, feminism, libertinism) and "lifestyle", then about tradition, ethnicity/race, or culture. So it is easy to just put on some jeans, swallow your birth control pill, dance to Lady Gaga, and declare yourself "Western". It asks little of you other than that you abandon your ancestors' traditions, vote (if you can be bothered), and obtain a credit card.

    That's a little bizarre.

    Yes, it does sound odd when put that way. But it is the same sentiment behind the French demonstrations at McDonald's a while back and the campaigns against "Denglish". They feel as if their local culture is being attacked; first by the Americans, now by the Muslims.

    For instance, German restaurants are disappearing and being replaced by Spanish steakhouses, French bistros, Italian pizzerias, etc. Even the German restaurants that remain have "Westernized" their menus considerably. The local dishes (which vary greatly by region) have been removed and replaced by the generic schnitzel, schweinebraten, and bratwurst. Where you once got bread dumplings or spaetzle, you now often receive french fries. That may not seem like a big deal, but remember that my mother thought Italian food was "strange and exotic" growing up. This food is foreign. Chinese take-out places and Turkish restaurants are merely a continuance of that same trend.

    This "Westernization" is apparent everywhere. The Weihnachtsmarkt sells Barbie dolls, the children live off of doener and frozen pizzas, the schools teach English instead of Latin, the bread tastes like rubber, and the youth want to play football instead of fussball. It feels like an onslaught of generic Westernism.

    It has gotten even worse in the last 10 years, as Westernism has turned into globalism, but the pattern is the same. Everything unique to Germany is being tossed out and replaced by something "cooler". I can imagine that this multi-culti further depresses the birth rate, as well. Rather than feeling like an important part of a small culture who needs your progeny, you feel like a tiny part of an enormous culture that is overrunning the world.

    There are pockets in America similar to those in Bavaria that David Collard mentioned where American tradition is explicitly followed.

    Yes, I live in such an area. Very traditional and conservative. But it seems to be exceptional now, rather than the norm, and things are Westernizing here, too. The smaller shops and local stores are being closed down and replaced with gigantic chains, the dialect is fading, and the children are ignorant about their regions' history. Those are the first obvious signs.

    Once you make things "generic" you make them widely applicable and your more specific traditions disappear. Then you are more open to immigration.

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  40. Latino kids now majority in state's public schools. White people are still the largest single ethnic group in the state for now, but that is expected to change by 2020.

    That is absolutely astonishing. Looks like the chance to close the border is fading fast. That would explain why there are now so many white Californians moving to the DC area.

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  41. Novaseeker said,

    "The problem, of course, is that the "substance" of the culture defined by this is all in terms of individual rights and so on. There isn't any "there" there, in terms of cultural substance, because the progressives have delegitimized what there was"

    Thanks for the answer. I think that this is certainly the case in "popular" culture, which is as you describe, frivolous in many respects, open to everyone and self focused. “Serious” culture, however, is dominated heavily by scientific concepts and science is universal. The biggest issue I think is that things like racism, or a desire for cultural protection, are seen as illogical and hence wrong. They're not illogical in the sense that they're not human, they're seen as very much human, but in the idea that they're baser human desires. So as old fashioned human "passions" they may not be necessary anymore and consequently should be overcome or minimised.

    The continual refrain is that things can be changed through "education". This is not just the idea of message pushing or propaganda but the idea that through promoting higher understanding, or a higher focus, rationally is promoted. Please there's no need to say that leftie's in practice aren’t actually rational.

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  42. Jesse wrote,

    "Science and matters of the impersonal are essentially western constructs. As science is a product of western culture then science is arguably a part of western culture. So as a white person you shouldn't need a broader culture because..."

    Right, and we must arrest the logic at the point a person says science is a part of western culture: science didn't give birth to "scientists", i.e. a certain generation of Europeans; their ancestors did. Therefore, science cannot be all that those scientists were/are.

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  43. Alte, you quoted your husband saying,

    "Americans will buy any shit. They just buy to buy."

    That opinion is not without precedent among his people. I forget his name, but an early German critic of America was quoted in Max Weber's die Protestanische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus, saying the same.
    And Europeans have said similar things about other English-derived peoples, especially the mother country herself.

    I've always found the characterization to be a little uncharitable. While it's true that we buy a lot, it's not clear we do so just for the pleasure of parting with our money. Indeed, Americans like their money almost as much as Germans do.

    A more charitable observation is that there's a simple pleasure in discovering something new, and we Americans are fond of it. Like all pleasures, it can be perverted, of course. And I readily concede that the good, or pleasure if you will, that animates the American spirit has become perverted. But to reduce our animating core to avarice reduces our animating core to evil. And that is uncharitable.

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  44. "Indeed, Americans like their money almost as much as Germans do."

    Not that the Germans are any more avaricious than Americans, of course.

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  45. Well, you are right. It is certainly uncharitable, as I know many homeschooling families that would leave even the Germans in awe with their dollar-stretching ways. They can turn a penny over 4 or 5 times, I am sure, and know at least 20 ways to dress a chicken. And they raise the chickens themselves.

    I have noted that both Americans and Germans like to shop, but Germans drive a harder bargain and you have to practically pry the money out of their hands. Americans care more about the "shopping experience", and overpay for many things. There does seem to be an inordinate number of shopaholics here, though. Although this might be more a result of cheap credit, than a particular national penchant for frivolous purchases.

    Indeed, Americans like their money almost as much as Germans do.

    That would depend. Euro or DM? I have a deep fondness for the DM. I kept some that I could show my children what real money looks like.

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  46. There was a delightful advertisement for potato chips on Australian TV a few years ago. It had a man in a pub (bar) talking about all the different varieties and flavours - "Hey, Buddy, this is America. We like variety".

    I think it is charming in a way, and one of the nice things about Americans, their enjoyment of "bigger and better things".

    BTW, Alte, if you are around, do you have a new blog? Someone said you did.

    I got called a "white knight" on a blog today, again. Me, a white night. I suppose it is all a matter of perspective.

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  47. No new blog.

    You are just decent and fair, David. They can't handle that. :-)

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  48. I've changed my mind and decided to start a new blog, after all.

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  49. Funny, I have only just begun writing a blog as well!

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