Monday, December 26, 2022

Runaway rights

If you visit the website of the Castlemaine Art Museum this is what you are greeted with:

This kind of thing is becoming normal now in Australia. At meetings and sporting events we acknowledge Aboriginal elders and are welcomed to Aboriginal country. Some left-wing politicians prefer to fly the Aboriginal flag rather than the national one. About 40% of the continent is now held by small Aboriginal communities, with more to come. In NSW there is a plan to hand over management of all national parks to local Aboriginal groups. This has already led to one significant trail at Mt Warning being closed to the public. There is also a referendum to be held next year to provide an Aboriginal "Voice" to Parliament, with no clear indication of what powers this voice will have.

Back in 2015 the Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau, told a journalist that,
Canada could be the “first postnational state...There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada.”

Australia is following a somewhat different course, one suggested by the feminist Germaine Greer in a book titled Whitefella Jump Up (2004), in which she claimed that an Australian national identity could be framed around Aboriginality.

How to explain all this? It is becoming increasingly clear to me that you have to understand politics as an inherited culture, with this culture being formed through accretions. The logic of each accretion plays out, each in its own way. It can be difficult to understand what is happening, because there are multiple sources that are not always entirely in harmony with each other.

One of these accretions is minoritarianism. There were campaigns to establish equal rights for religious minorities in the UK in the 1800s; these campaigns succeeded for Protestant dissenters in 1828, for Catholics in 1829, for Jews in 1858, and for atheists in 1888. Equal rights for minorities became an established part of the political landscape, but this does not explain why the identity of a majority should be stripped away and replaced by that of a minority. I think there are at least two additional points that need to be made here.

The first has been put forward by Eric Kaufmann. He has argued that the initial support for minority rights later became embedded as an emotional reflex:

Once liberalism turned from defending the rights of disenfranchised majorities to protecting minority rights, the narrative shifted. When it came to the rights of Catholics and Jews (in Protestant countries), racial minorities, or homosexuals, the “bad guys” were the majority, who menaced minorities in need of protec­tion. The emotive pairing of majority with malice and minority with empathy began this way. What started as a modest habit of mind has deepened into a reflexive demonization of majorities and lionization of minorities.

Kaufmann believes that this mentality crystalised in the US in the early 1900s. It led as early as 1916 to certain liberal progressives such as Randolph Bourne taking the now familiar attitude of lionising the culture of immigrant minorities whilst disparaging their own.

I do believe that Kaufmann is correct here and that there is an inherited emotional reflex at work that is deeply important for some people. It is noteworthy, for instance, that Germaine Greer felt so deeply about this majority/minority distinction, that she wished at one point in time to be Jewish and later on had herself adopted into an Aboriginal tribe.

However, I don't think this could have happened without a second factor coming into play. Let's say the aim is to extend minority rights. At some point in time, for there to be a workable politics, there needs to be an end point at which these rights have been satisfied. If there is no end point, then the minority will accrue more and more rights and eventually be in the far superior position. What is the logical limiting factor to ensure that this doesn't happen? It is the majority following through with a normal concern for their own common good, i.e. wanting to uphold their own existence and to pursue the best within their own tradition.

Liberalism has made it difficult for the majority to do this, thereby removing any boundaries to minoritarianism. For instance, the anthropology of the first wave of liberalism is a negative one, in which humans are selfish and solitary and only come together in society via a social contract. For first wavers, social life is to be organised around the pursuit of profit in the market, harnessing low aspects of human nature such as greed. The former PM of the UK, Boris Johnson, gave voice to this "accretion" within modern politics when he said:

I don't believe that economic equality is possible; indeed some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.
Those who hold to this view will see politics in terms of Economic Man, with the "nation" being conceived as something like a vast economic enterprise in competition with other such enterprises. They will not give much weight to traditional ties of kinship.

The second wave liberals held that human nature was perfectible. It was corrupted by institutions of power (by inequality, therefore by "distinctions"). The solution was to commit to the larger "wholes" in which humans were by definition equal, such as the human race. As Lawrence Auster wrote:
On the left, socialists and Communists...believe in larger wholes, but the wholes they believe in are seen in terms of equality: the whole of society—equal; the whole of the human race—equal. They believe that man has the ability to engineer this larger, equal whole into existence, wiping out the unequal, inherited orders of class, sex, nation, race, religion, morality, and thus creating a New Humanity. Only the largest whole—humankind—is good, because only at the level of all humanity can there be true equality and fraternity uniting all people.
White leftists, therefore, are not primed to uphold the existence of their inherited national identity. They are more likely to focus on issues relating to structural inequality that such identities are thought to create. Leftists often condemn white identities as "supremacist" for this reason - so again, there is nothing here to limit an excessive emphasis on minority rights from this "accretion" within modern politics.

The solution to all this is not an easy one, as cultures form over time and become deeply rooted. If you do criticise one particular policy it does not change the larger culture, which will continue to form people in a certain way.

There are things that might be done. Clearly articulating the negative accretions would help, as would recovering the worthier understandings that preceded them. And, at some point, there needs to be a challenge to the process of formation. This is particularly true of schools which are more focused on propagating the political culture than people realise.


  1. We have something similar here in NZ with the Maori. It’s become substantially more obnoxious in the last three years, in fact, under Jacinda’s Labour government. However, I’ve always a number of different interpretations, some of which are more influential at different times than others.

    1. What you might call the “tourist gimmick.” While intellectually if pressed our bureaucratic rulers would affirm that all humans are equal and no group differences exist, it’s sometimes necessary and useful to draw distinctions between places. In our case I think that’s mainly for tourism, and throwing superficial Maori cultural elements (such as dress, art style, or language) around helps set us apart for tourists without being illiberal. You could almost call it branding. If they could I think they’d trademark being Maori. I’m sure there’s also some vestigal impulse to belong to a distinct group of people rather than a bland, global whole, and tapping into safely impotent non-European cultural elements can satisfy that without running the risk of awakening any sort of “national consciousness” in the colonial Anglo majority with their own native traditions.

    2. Obviously it serves to undermine and demoralize the European stock majorities of colonial and Old World countries. The notable outliers here are the US and South Africa, but in the case of the US I think that’s just because it’s harder to get traction for it there. That leaves just South Africa as the outlier where it is certainly not the black majority being forced to promote minority (especially British or Boer) cultural elements, rights, or privileges. Notably, the British haven’t got any weight for the preservation of their people in Britain the way the Maori do in NZ, despite the fact that they’ve been there are at least ten to twenty times as long as the Maori have been here.

    3. It serves to muddle and confuse people, as well as advance the deracination agenda. An Australian man who sprinkles his speech with Aboriginal terms and phrases needlessly is a man much more alienated from his roots than an Australian man speaking pure English. And over here the mixed Maori-English pidgin or creole they promote only serves to make people less articulate (and thus more confused in their speech and thoughts).

    4. It serves anarcho-tyranny quite well, by definition a pincer attack by the top and bottom against the middle.

    I think it’s also worth noting that these governments never confer any real sovereignty to these groups. In a dispute between the Maori, Aboriginals, or American Indians and the NZ, Australian, or Canadian governments (a dispute where the government’s real interests were at stake, say if those groups began attacking liberalism or looked to demolish a university important to teaching liberalism to the youth), does anyone have any real doubt who would prevail?

    For another thing, none of these groups are truly allowed to advance their own interests, by building themselves up. These governments will spend millions on putting their language or land claims everywhere, but do nothing about their endemic drug and social problems (I think it’s safe to say liberal governments are both incapable of dealing with those problems and uninclined to do so, as well as being more inclined to waste or pocket the money).

    1. Thanks - the last point is particularly striking, namely the contrast between extraordinary largesse (land rights) and serious neglect (dysfunctional remote communities).

  2. As for the impulse to advance minority interests over majority ones, I think you can look at it from two perspectives. 1. From the more philosophical or theological one, I don’t think it need be more complicated than that this sort of anti-majoritarian behavior works to dismantle and corrupt human society, breaking it up into ever smaller chunks as everyone seeks to become a minority. Its promotion and use by the evil then logically follows without hitch. 2. From the more material perspective, since (modern) liberals allocate privileges based on a victim heirarchy, it makes sense to be anti-majoritarian, as the tendency towards numbers usually makes majorities the more powerful (and thus historically oppressive) group. Notably this isn’t applied in all cases (see South Africa above, feminism, or the various forms of anti-heirarchy action and sentiment).

    1. Many weeks ago on another post here I linked a blog post I made on how hollywood “masculinity” is actually the most potent effeminacy, and why feminism was designed to destroy women; but in part 2 of that same post talks about what the ultimate goal of the same atomization you reference here is:

      the denial of identity and the pushing of a false one are both related, obviously,

  3. One problem that tends to not be noted by conservatives though is tend to deny that minorities are menaced or negate their experiences. So to connect to your point about schooling the efforts of conservative to deny the obvious has repeatedly blown up in their faces and are not considered credible by younger generations.

    i.e. see the history wars from Australia to America

    1. Anon, you'd probably need to be more specific for me to respond adequately to your comment. I don't think that conservatives would deny the existence of frontier violence. What schools do, though, is filter reality to fit a narrative (I'm speaking here as an experienced high school history teacher). The issues are always treated from the same emotional valence noted by Kaufmann, namely seeking an emotional response via empathy for non-white victims and indignation toward white perpetrators. It does not surprise me at all that young people have been influenced by this, as they get at least a dozen years of it. From a leftist point of view it is meant to promote justice (social justice) because it is though to deconstruct structural inequality but from a traditionalist point of view it is unjust because it does not give due regard to one's own progenitors.

    2. I wouldn’t put much stock in who considers what “credible”, and certainly not popular opinion. That aside, it’s certainly true that there’s a lack of acknowledgement (perhaps even awareness) that things such as anti-racism and feminism do not really work in the interests of nonwhites or women among these corners of the internet. While that’s true, however, it’s also true that most in these circles are not those groups. It’s only natural (and in fact not immoral) that, for example, white men are more concerned about their own peoples and interests. The woes and ailments of other groups mainly only bear mentioning as a matter of knowledge and truth rather than particular concern, IMO.

  4. A great article. I am new to this website and the Sydney Traditionalists but have been a fan of the works and articles of James Kalb for a long time. Keep up the great work. Kind regards Tom