The Olympians vs. human nature
0 comment Thursday, July 17, 2014 |
I happened across these two pieces, one by Kenneth Minogue and one by James Pinkerton, both of them from a while back, but they seemed like bookend pieces, and they address the very relevant issue of universalism vs nationalism or patriotism, and national sovereignty vs. internationalism or globalism.
Minogue notes that the people who are most determinedly pushing globalism and universalism are an odd collection of people who nevertheless have similar goals. He examines the different motives which lead a rather disparate collection of people to pursue similar ends. The most obvious people who advocate the universalist view are the 'humanitarian' types, the do-gooders who want to save suffering humanity, end war, and bring about some global utopia.
Kenneth Minogue on National Sovereignty Vs. Internationalism
...In arguing that sovereignty has become an irrelevant, indeed obstructive, hangover from the past, humanitarians present themselves less as assassins, than as executioners of the verdict of history.
Such is the negative element in the humanitarian project. The positive project is nothing less than that of transforming the human situation. It aims to remove the oppressions of torture and poverty so that each individual on the planet can be assured of what activists often call "a good quality of life", and what philosophers refer to these days as "flourishing". Each person must be given what one might call a "quality assured" life.
This is obviously a secular vision -- religious concerns are merely lifestyle choices within it -- and there is a sense in which one might well think it a highly desirable utopia. One could hardly say that it is a noble vision, however, because it treats the inhabitants of the globe as a set of victims who must be provided with these desirabilities. Humanity is to be the passive beneficiary of a perfection supplied by an élite of busy humanitarians.''
[A quote from H.L. Mencken comes to mind here: "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule."]
Minogue continues:
Still, given the horrors that take place in many parts of the world, humanitarianism is a very understandable aspiration. And as it operates in contemporary politics, it takes the form of internationalism, since its most evident character is the aspiration to transcend sovereign national independence and replace it with rights enforced by a benign world authority. Internationalism is a political movement, and its exponents are, as it were, the patriots of a patria which does not yet exist. Since most people seem instinctively to prefer their own values to those of foreigners, our next question must be to ask: who advances the project of internationalism?
The answer is that internationalism appeals to a self-consciously enlightened public opinion, an opinion whose doctrines descend, indeed, from the movement which actually called itself the Enlightenment. This is a public opinion prone to express its preferences in terms of abstractions such as rights, peace, negotiation, equality, rule of law, inclusion, etcetera. It is evidently a rationalist cast of mind, which treats every defect in the human condition as a problem for which lawyers and experts (lawyers especially) can always find a solution.
To say this is to say that internationalist activists have commonly been trained at universities in the social sciences, but have understood their training as having transcended the academic disciplines (which recognise that every logic of inquiry has its own specific limitations) in favour of a more general ideological orientation. This orientation rejects the current world order as radically imperfect, and aims at salvation by implementing whatever the favoured abstractions currently seem to intimate. Implementing such policies commonly collides, however, with the instincts and prejudices of most of the populations even of Western countries, and this is the reason I have on occasions referred to this area of public opinion as "Olympian".
Here, then, in the Olympians we have a new class, as they have been called, consisting of academics, journalists, lawyers, teachers, clergymen, politicians and administrators. They are not only prepared to take issue with their own governments, but positively take a pride in doing so. Such dissidence is thought to express a virtue above the mere parochialities of local patriotism. But as political actors seeking to transform the world, Olympians have several disadvantages. One of them is that they are not a very warlike set of people. They are crusaders of the pen rather than the sword. Today the levers of power in Western societies give Olympians access to a military power to which (except when they need it) they are essentially hostile. Their ultimate aim is to create a world that won't need soldiers -- indeed, even now they are trying to turn warriors into a different kind of thing called a "peace keeper".
There is another problem impeding their project of perfecting the world. Almost all of them are to be found in Western countries. They are all the products of Western liberalism. Their challenge lies in presenting an essentially Western middle class view of the world as if it expressed the essence of humanity itself. On the other hand, in their doctrines of rights and their recourse to international law, they do at least have instruments capable of disrupting other societies. Their secret weapon against non-Western societies is women, who have a great deal to gain from Westernisation.
Acute readers may already have recognised a contradiction in my account of the Olympians who sustain the humanitarian movement. On the one hand they stand for humanity itself, and therefore espouse equality, but on the other hand they conceive of themselves as having a rather superior status. But we need not dwell greatly on this point, for it merely reveals that we are dealing with something entirely familiar: namely, a new version of the Marxist doctrine of the vanguard of the proletariat.
...We began with something like a mystery: who is trying to kill sovereignty and the nation state ? We have discovered that there are many suspects both within and without the state, but that the real situation is that sovereignty is to be killed in order to turn the state into something that will subserve the Olympian ambition to create a world guaranteeing a good quality of life to every individual on the planet.''
However, James Pinkerton expresses a belief that these utopian 'Olympians' do not have human nature on their side, and hence have less of an advantage than we may think.
Pinkerton notes the presence of another faction of people who are aggressively promoting globalism: the right-wing corporate interests.
Universalism vs. Nationalism
Here's a question: Why do Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and The Wall Street Journal editorial page have such similar views on immigration?
The answer is that all four of the above -- Mahony, CAIR, the ACLU, and the Journal -- have chosen universalism over nationalism. The four embrace different visions of universalism, to be sure, but each one of them is similar insofar as it seeks to transcend passports and borders. Each of the four pursues a trans-nationalizing, world-flattening globalism that regards nation-states as, at best, necessary evils -- and at worst, unnecessary evils. Far better, the universalists say, to unite the world, regardless of color and class, according to common belief. In terms of either religion or ideology, many find it inspiring to think that the whole world might be united into one big system, in which all pursue purity or prosperity. It's all pretty heady stuff, these universalisms.
But there's one big catch: Such universalizing is terrible politics -- the folks at home don't like it, and they won't vote for it. Regular people don't seem to like universalism; they like nationalism, particularism, localism. Electorates, each in their own homeland, seem to reject new world orders, preferring to organize themselves into something that many thought was dead and discredited: the nation state.''
[Note: Apropos of this, James Burnham once said]
But modern liberalism does not offer ordinary men compelling motives for personal suffering, sacrifice and death. There is no tragic dimension in its picture of the good life . . . In their place Liberalism proposes a set of pale and bloodless abstractions - pale and bloodless for the very reason that they have no roots in the past, in deep feeling and in suffering. Except for mercenaries, saints and neurotics, no one is willing to sacrifice and die for progressive education, medicare, humanity in the abstract, the United Nations and a ten percent rise in Social Security payments."
He seems to have been right; despite what the 'proposition nation' neocons and the left-liberal do-gooders say, loyalties to abstractions are watery and thin, compared to our allegiances to kith and kin, home, and native soil.
Pinkerton describes the four universalizing forces as Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, leftist internationalism, and right-wing internationalism, or globalism. Though on the surface, these groups might seem to be at odds, they are in general agreement on some things. Pinkerton continues:
All these universalists have come to agreement on the desirability of more immigration. And they have something else in common too: they are being routed in the public square by the nationalist immigration-restricters. Grand belief systems, vaulting overhead, are being shattered on the low-rising rocks of stable communities and reliable neighborliness.
The universalists have big ideas, but they are, well, too big. Albert Einstein, a big thinker if there ever was one -- who would be categorized into the lefty ACLU grouping -- disdained anything less than full internationalism: "Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind." But half a century after Einstein's death, it's apparent that humanity isn't growing out of its nationalism. The Kurds, the Chechens, the Palestinians, the Tamils, and the Montenegrins, to name just five groups insistently pressing for independence, would say that the full realization of nationalism has a way to go.
To the endless consternation of the globalists, most people prefer to think small: to express affection for their own, first.
To put it another way, the wind is in the face of the border-openers, such as George W. Bush.
In the long run, "normal" wins, because normal is also numerous. Which is why Bush & the Open Borderers are being beaten so badly on the immigration issue -- they are outnumbered. As we have seen, the normal mode of behavior is to be loyal to people, family, flag, and place, as distinct from distantly vaporous abstractions.
Those who aspire toward abstract universalism thus had better learn an important lesson: humility. And yet "humility" and "universalism" don't naturally go well together; after all, if one Knows the Truth about the whole wide world, it's hard to be modest.''
[Emphasis mine]
Minogue describes these 'Olympians' as people who conceive of themselves as a moral as well as intellectual elite, and Pinkerton seems to agree, adding that not only are the Olympian internationalists out of touch, but they are not likely to succeed in the long run since they are in opposition to human nature.
If Pinkerton is right, and I surely hope he is, then we who want to maintain our natural human loyalty to our people, our homes, and our faith and heritage, have the advantage of normality, of our following the dictates of healthy human nature.
The prescient Carleton Putnam said
I have already said something about brotherhood, but I will add one thing more. Love, like charity, begins at home. A man who loves all countries, and all races, as much as he loves his own, is like the man who loves all women as much as he loves his wife. He merits suspicion. I have seldom seen the matter put better than by William Massey in his article "The New Fanatics," in the section entitled "Whither Brotherhood?" To that question Mr. Massey answers: "Nowhere. The current furor over brotherhood is compounded of fallacy and foolishness. For it is fallacy to believe that men are no longer separated by enduring differences, and it is foolishness wilfully to believe this fallacy. Yet this fallacy is the basis for the present campaign for brotherhood. This is not a campaign by men who love humanity, but by men obsessed with a vision. Their vision is of a united mankind marching toward a Utopian world. It is the stylized, inhuman vision they love, not man. They do not look at man dispassionately, or even with affection, to see his condition and help him. Instead they preach a mystic brotherhood of man that is both goal and means to the goal. This brotherhood is not reached by good will, understanding and tolerance. It is a fanatic's dream, a will-o'-the-wisp that gives them the self-righteousness to vent their hatreds with a clear conscience. Better an honest enemy than so strange a brother."

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