Nationalism and Schroeder

Trump’s inaugural argued: “We all bleed the same red blood of patriots.” It wasn’t an original thought or even expression, but spoke to our nationalism – our pride in others’ sacrifice for both the heightened values of our early documents and the mundane, daily values (bourgeoisie perhaps) of the marketplace and the free press. Americans see nationalism as a cohering force – one that joins Manhatten, New York to Manhatten, Kansas; the New England Puritans with the Southern planters in our defining war and Italian immigrant with Boston Brahmin in WW II.

Or at least that was the culture of my youth – made up of a village schoolhouse, 40’s movies on television and 50’s novels. But it isn’t just that it wasn’t bad (of course it had limitations) but that it understood some of the big ideas embodied in our habits and language. Okay, so maybe I’m becoming sentimental. But we can see what happens when leaders denigrate nationalism – the malaise of the 8 years of Obama, the nihilism that rejects history and dignity. Of course, our history contains venality and even evil, but also heroism and sacrifice. It helps us, individually, become more of what we can be because we have the idea of a “good” citizen, neighbor within us. Most of all, those documents gave us something to reach toward – and if we may never actually get our hands around that ideal, trying is a good thing.

At the end of Michael Ignatieff’s Blood and Belonging, he stressed a belief that Germans needed to reach into themselves and find a core in which they can take pride and identity, nonetheless remembering the mid 20th century. But that doesn’t seem to be happening. When Merkel sends more immigrants to a town than the long-established natives, she must consider the inevitable swamping and submerging of the original culture good. Certainly that is a way to leave the guilt behind as Germany becomes something other than itself. If a leader feels a strong identity with his culture, does he consider an appropriate post-chancellor job heading a rival country’s national oil company? Schroeder entered a company run by a state which has little interest in Germany’s independence nor integrity.

Nationalism may join a diverse culture; it may lead to an assertive, vicious vision. Still it is necessary for a coherence; it can draw heroism from its citizens if its identity is bound up with values of justice and self-sacrifice, independence and sympathy. Given Obama’s rhetoric and Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia, we took some steps toward self-annihilation. But our instincts, to turn to a blustering, assertive representative, were alerted. Nor are his instincts only venal and self-serving. His goal seems to be devolving power from the executive (and asking the legislative to take on more and the bureaucrats to take on less); these are not paths to a nationalism other countries fear, even if his words are bombastic and his positions shifting. And, Trump aside, I think we should look at some other nations as cautionary tales – not just from what they did a hundred or two hundred years ago but what they are doing now.

(And don’t get me started on what we can learn from Venezuela and Zimbabwe and Cuba – which may seem obvious, but neither South Africa nor Elizabeth Warren seems to see it.) [edited for clarity & grammar]

13 thoughts on “Nationalism and Schroeder”

  1. I’m currently waiting patiently for political philosopher Yoram Hazony’s new book The Virtue of Nationalism. In interviews and articles, he has mentioned that he doesn’t consider Hitler’s Nazism a form of nationalism. Instead Hazony says Hitler tried to revive a latter day imperial version of the Holy Roman Empire, whose goal was to eradicate national independence and, obviously, self-determination of ethnic groups.

    It’s interesting to note that ethnic cultures are today increasingly threatened by Internationalists who want to create homogeneous liberal utopias of iron-fisted equality, and they are increasingly protected by Nationalists who are uniquely equipped to recognize how difficult it is to reconstitute cultures once they’ve been smothered.

  2. “he has mentioned that he doesn’t consider Hitler’s Nazism a form of nationalism”

    I would say it was more focused on race/ethnicity than on nationalism. As an example of the difference, under the Kaiser, Anne Frank’s father Otto served in the German Army and was promoted to Lieutenant. Under the Nazis, he was thrown into a concentration camp.

  3. I agree that it was a type of tribalism more than nationalism. Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs who lived within the borders of Germany somehow didn’t count. German-speakers in Austria and Czechoslovakia somehow did. This is in contrast to America, where nationalism is defined by ideas rather than ethnicity.

    Yes, yes, we have done that imperfectly. Terrible at it, really. But we are steadily grasping a curriculum that other nations do not even attempt. We have below average grades in high school. Few other countries are even in middle school. Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Benelux…is anyone else even in the conversation? And are any of even those countries better at nationalism of a mixed population than we are? (Repeat after me: Maoris…Quebecois…Saami…First Nations…Northern Ireland…And those are the best nations.) WWII was not created by nationalism. It was solved by nationalism.

  4. We talk today as if nation-state is repetitive, but it’s not. The definition of nation, from wikipedia: “A nation is a stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. A nation is distinct from a people,[1] and is more abstract, and more overtly political than an ethnic group”

    Hence Jews, Gypsies, etc., aren’t part of the German nation, as viewed by the Nazi (Darwinian, progressive, etc.) outlook. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, a multi-national state, had lots of support from Jews who rightly feared what would happen to them in the component nation-states.

    America is not a nation-state, more like the first (and only?) idea-state.

  5. I would say it was more focused on race/ethnicity than on nationalism. As an example of the difference, under the Kaiser, Anne Frank’s father Otto served in the German Army and was promoted to Lieutenant. Under the Nazis, he was thrown into a concentration camp.

    I agree with this. I am reading “The Sleepwalkers” trying to understand more about the origins of WWII. So far it is mostly clear what animals the Serbs were.

    Next on my list is a biography of Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Minister who said, “The lamps are going out all over Europe tonight…”

    Pat Buchanan’s book, which I am also reading (in the car on audio), blames him and Churchill for WWI. I disagree with most of Buchanan’s opinions but not all.

    I will get to more of Reich’s book, “Who we are…” Right now he is bogged down in PC stuff about Africa and American Indians.

    Greg Cochran has excerpted much of the book at his blog, which I highly recommend for those interested.

  6. ““A nation is a stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.”

    There seems to have been considerable cultural commonality between German Jews and other Germans. Much less so of course in the case of the recent Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe.

  7. “There seems to have been considerable cultural commonality between German Jews and other Germans.”
    Hey, I’m just a 21st century American. The whole notion of a nation-state is beyond my comprehension, like having a king is. Mostly because the notion of race mattering at all is, because it’s so transparently political–if my great grandparents had moved from Italy to England, then today they’d be Italians living in England. If they had moved to Argentina, they’d be Hispanic. As it is, I’m just white, and the beneficiary of privilege, oppression, etc.

    But let’s not pretend that the concept of race and nationality is something from the distant past. How many people in Germany today really think the grandchildren of post-war Turkish immigrants, even if they are entirely assimilated, are Germans, and not Turks? And try to tell someone in Japan you want to move there permanently, and be Japanese, and they won’t even get mad, they’ll just look at you like you’re an alien with two heads, because you’re speaking gibberish.

  8. @Mike K

    If you want to really get into the mind of Edward Grey, and also learn some very interesting things about the origins of the war, I suggest you read the man’s memoirs. They are very well written and very informative. I know people tend to embellish their past a bit in memoirs, but IMHO it’s not usually too hard to get a handle on what kind of a person they really were by reading between the lines a bit. Biographies can be OK, but they often try to turn people into saints or heroes, and so can be just as deceptive as memoirs, if not more so. Grey’s memoirs in two volumes are entitled “25 Years,” and the author is listed as “Grey of Fallodon.” I see you can buy them on eBay at the moment for $40, and you may find them cheaper at Alibris or AbeBooks. They’re the best memoirs I’ve read from that period.

    As for the topic of this thread, I think that the key to understanding it was supplied by another brilliant Chicago boy, Robert Ardrey. Ardrey deserves more credit than any other single individual for smashing the Blank Slate orthodoxy which prevailed in the behavioral sciences for over half a century. If leftists ever tell you they’re champions of science, that episode in scientific history entitles you to laugh in their faces. The Blank Slate was probably the greatest bowdlerization and debauching of science in history. The “men of science” in anthropology, sociology, psychology, and the other behavioral disciplines promoted the idea that there is no such thing as human nature, a claim that is obviously ludicrous to any reasonably intelligent 10 year old. Among other things, Ardrey noted the existence of ingroup-outgroup behavior in human beings, crediting Sir Arthur Keith with being the first to describe the phenomenon in a formal theory. Ardrey called it the “Amity/Enmity Complex.” It is a universal human behavioral trait, and understanding that it exists, and why it exists allows us to get beyond the usual, endless “whack-a-mole” game of identifying its various manifestations, and trying to decide whether they are “good” or “bad.” Nationalism, tribalism, anti-Semitism, racism, religious and other forms of bigotry, hatred of the “bourgeoisie,” etc., are all manifestations of the same basic phenomenon. If you like you can claim that the behavior in question was planted in our heads by God, but I suspect it is more likely that it got there by virtue of natural selection. At the time that it evolved, there was no ambiguity about the ID of the ingroup or the outgroup. The ingroup was the group of hunter-gatherers to which one belonged, and the outgroup was the next group over. The trait tended to prevent over-exploitation of a particular territory by spreading us out. Now we are aware of the existence of vastly greater numbers and types of human groups, mostly of vastly greater size than anything we were likely to encounter in the Pleistocene. Obviously, by consulting our emotions and trying to make sense of them with our relatively large brains, we are quite capable of bamboozling ourselves into believing that any of them count as ingroups and outgroups. Modern leftists imagine they believe in the “brotherhood of all mankind,” are somehow immune to this particular universal trait, but that is far from the truth. They merely define their ingroup and outgroup in terms of ideology. They hate anyone who challenges their sacred beliefs about what is “good” with a vehemence seldom encountered among those who perceive their ingroups/outgroups differently. If you try to argue that nationalism or any other form of ingroup identification is “good,” but ethnic pride or any other form of outgroup identification is “bad,” you are simply falling back into the whack-a-mole mode of thought. Any form of ingroup/outgroup behavior can potentially have positive or negative outcomes, depending on your point of view. I think the key here is to understand the fundamental behavior, and then seek to maximize the positive and minimize the negative. Ardrey and Konrad Lorenz proposed some ideas along that line, but were laughed at and ignored. It is high time we revisited the subject.

  9. @Mike K,

    Your statement that “So far it is mostly clear what animals the Serbs were.” is an interesting one, and makes it quite clear that you’re not going deep enough into the history behind it all. Yes, there were “animalistic Serbs”, but the question needs to be asked and answered “How and why did they get that way…?”.

    You cannot begin to understand Serbia and its contributions to Europe both good and ill, until you understand the Turk, and what the Ottomans did in Eastern Europe in the name of Islam.

    Much of what you’re no doubt observing and becoming outraged by goes back to the fall of the Roman Empire in the East and West, and how the Ottomans progressively and literally raped their way north in attempting to conquer Europe by way of the Balkans. The Serbs became what they are because of that, and many of the dysfunctions of that culture that contributed to the Balkan mess that bookended the 20th Century are due entirely to the Turks, their malign influence, and the Serb counterreaction to it all.

    Most Americans have no bloody idea at all what the hell goes through their minds, or the cultural buttons that get pushed when you start talking of innocuous things that are not innocuous to the historical victims of the Turk. When Izitbegovic and his ilk started talking about an Islamic renaissance in Yugoslavia back during the 1970s, American diplomats and citizens heard “anti-communist religious revival”, and thought it a good thing. Serbs heard those same words, and understood the code: Time for the Muslims to arise, and take their rightful place running things in Bosnia, and for the peasant rural Serbs to again go under the yoke. Which is why things were primed for disaster after Tito went away…

    You have to understand that the vast majority of Muslims in Bosnia were viewed as “race traitors” to the rest of the populace: They were the urban elite, who profited from the Turks, and who willingly served as their intermediaries. You’ve no doubt heard the term “Janissary”; did you ever wonder where those men came from? Huge numbers of them were Serbs, forced into slavery over tax debts and land rentals in the rural conquered parts of what was Serbia, and administered by the turncoat Quislings who’d abandoned their Orthodox faith in order to profit from the Turkish occupation and administration. God alone knows how many Serb children were sold in the markets of Istanbul, taken from their families by the converted Muslims of the Turkish administration, but the numbers were not insignificant. Serbian girls got a high premium in the markets, for the seraglios. The boys were sent to be Janissaries, and taught to be good Muslims–Should they survive, they might return to take part in the administration of their neighbors.

    You want to know where the hatred comes from? That’s where; the Serbs have long memories, and carry out generations-long vendettas the likes of which make the Hatfields and McCoys look like half-hearted parvenus at the game. There’s a reason for that, and the things you look at and decry as “animalistic” all come from that. The Serbs may indeed be animals, but they have had excellent teachers and trainers–Europe did jack for them, when the Turks came, and the Austrians repaid Serbian defense of their southern flank by turning their face from Serbia’s fate, and taking as much Serbian land as they could manage–Which is where the Catholic Croats come from, in all this mess. They, too, were originally compatriots and co-religionists of the Orthodox Serbs, and they too turned Quisling to the Serbian nation in service of the Austrians. Austrian administration of the annexed regions wasn’t quite as bad as the Turkish, but it wasn’t a walk in the park, either.

    I don’t mean to defend the Serbs, merely to point out that the issue is not quite as black-and-white as you apparently feel it to be. Yeah, they can be assholes, and have made many of their own problems as an ethnic group and nation, but they have certainly had plenty of help from their neighbors along the way…

  10. another brilliant Chicago boy, Robert Ardrey
    I didn’t know that. Thanks!
    As I recall, Ardrey was largely dismissed at the time as a mere playwright with no understanding of the sciences.

  11. The entire Balkans had been descending into ethnic conflicts for years as the Ottoman Empire weakened. The Serbs typically fought as guerrillas because they were up against far stronger neighbors. During World War I they were subjected to as many if not more brutalities than they dealt out because of the nature of irregular warfare.

    In addition to Kirk’s explanations of the background for Serbian social solidarity, it’s worth noting that they had (and have) a relatively sophisticated political and legal structure based on Roman law. The rule of law was (and still is) an important component of modern civilization, and it’s always attacked by warlords and aggressors following the laws of conquest. Serbia, where Constantine the Great was born, has made the plausible claim that they are the true heirs of the Byzantine Empire because of the continuity of Roman civil law, their Orthodox church, and, as Kirk mentioned, the bulwark against Islam.

  12. @Pst314

    “As I recall, Ardrey was largely dismissed at the time as a mere playwright with no understanding of the sciences.”

    I see that Wikipedia, at least, is finally starting to give Ardrey his due. Their page on him is much expanded from a year ago. He had actually studied anthropology at the University of Chicago, and lectured on the subject at the Chicago World Fair before becoming a playwright. When he took up the subject in earnest later in life he traveled the world, talking to a wide array of people who had interesting things to say about innate behavior, and immersing himself in the literature. He was anything but a dilettante. He published his first book on the subject, “African Genesis,” in 1961, and three more books, culminating in “The Hunting Hypothesis” in 1976. The “men of science” tried to ignore him, but he gained the attention of many intelligent lay people, who began to shake their heads in disbelief at what was going on in the behavioral sciences. Eventually, the whole Blank Slate house of cards began to collapse in slow motion. You would think that Ardrey, who was by far the most significant person in demolishing the Blank Slate orthodoxy, would be a great scientific hero today. His “hunting hypothesis,” theories on territorial behavior and, of course, the great theme of all his work – the importance of significance of human nature – have been amply confirmed as the data from neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, paleontology, and anthropology has accumulated. They are now treated as common knowledge, even in the pages of the reliably leftist “Scientific American.”

    In fact, he is an unperson today. Apparently the academic tribe couldn’t bare the shame of being debunked by a “mere playwright.” Steven Pinker concocted a whole mythical “history” of the Blank Slate affair, in which Ardrey was only mentioned in a single paragraph, and then only with the remark that he had been “totally and utterly wrong.” Stunning, really! Why was he supposed to have been “totally and utterly wrong?” Pinker was coy about that, but it turns out the quote came from Richard Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene.” Dawkins actually treated Ardrey with considerable respect therein. He merely stated the opinion that Ardrey, along with Konrad Lorenz and Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, had been “totally and utterly wrong” about the arcane subject of group selection! That was Pinker’s lame excuse for airbrushing Ardrey out of history. In Pinker’s fairy tale, he was replaced by E. O. Wilson as the knight in shining armor who had slain the Blank Slate Dragon with the publication of “Sociobiology” in 1975 and “On Human Nature” in 1978. Neither book had anything to significant to say about human nature that Ardrey had not already said more than a decade earlier.

    History has its little ironies, though. It turns out E. O. Wilson is an honest man, and refused to play the role Pinker assigned him. Who do you think is now the world’s most prominent proponent of group selection? That’s right, E. O. Wilson! I noticed a Wilson quote in the Wikipedia article on Ardrey regarding his last book, “The Hunting Hypothesis.” In his words, “In his excellent new book Robert Ardrey continues as the lyric poet of human evolution, capturing the Homeric quality of the subject that so many scientists by and large feel but are unable to put into words. His opinions, like those in his earlier works, are controversial but more open, squarely stated, and closer to the truth than the protests of his most scandalized critics.” I hadn’t seen that quote before. You gotta love the old man.

  13. A friend just e-mailed me an excerpt from a book she is reading; it seems a great example of the kind of general fogginess that comes when priorities don’t include a respect for history, one that surely leads to a kind of malaise and listlessness Jordan Peterson would see as the result of not being truthful:

    Pasted below is a short excerpt from a book I am reading (“The Strange Death of Europe”). I just have to share- it’s just too funny and I thought you would appreciate the humor.

    ” Many years ago, during one of the not infrequent breakdowns in peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a journalist was interviewing Yasser Arafat in his offices in Ramallah. Towards the end of the interview one of Arafat’s male assistants came into the Chairman’s office to announce that the American delegation was here. Wondering whether he had stumbled upon a scoop the journalist asked the Chairman who the Americans in the next room were. ‘They are an American delegation who are doing a tour of the region to apologise for the crusades,’ said Arafat. Then he, and his guest, burst out laughing. They both knew that America had little or no involvement in the wars of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. But Arafat, at any rate, was happy to indulge the affliction of anyone who believed they had and use it to his own political advantage.”

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