Sorting through the wreckage as the crash happens
Mike Meyer
91

Mike, thanks for weighing in with this summary — well written and well thought-out. Although as a nationalist I disagree with much of it, it is a luxury to disagree with a cogent and intelligent position. And so:

First, you state that “in the larger sweep this [cultural shift] is the movement to diversity and self determination”. Perhaps back in the 1960s-1980s, when the bulk of the shift was happening, it really was increasing diversity; now it seems to be inhibiting it more than anything else.

“Diversity” to me has little to do with skin color or what holidays you celebrate. It is about diversity in terms of ideas. And the fact is simple: among my friends here at university, not a single one voted for Trump (even I didn’t). Our university had a day off for a “Day of Action”, with various political events. Scroll down the list of sessions — every one, every single one, is some sort of leftist or progressive advocacy. So, diversity this ain’t.

And if it is about self-determination, it is a funny sort of self-determination which presents itself not only as choice but to some degree as a cultural obligation. G.K. Chesterton, in his book The New Jerusalem (about the Zionist project, which in his time was still an experiment), wrote:

The true test of Zionism may seem a topsy-turvy test. It will not succeed by the number of successes, but rather by the number of failures, or what the world (and certainly not least the Jewish world) has generally called failures. It will be tested, not by whether Jews can climb to the top of the ladder, but by whether Jews can remain at the bottom; not by whether they have a hundred arts of becoming important, but by whether they have any skill in the art of remaining insignificant…
When the Zionist can point proudly to a Jewish navvy who has not risen in the world, an under-gardener who is not now taking his ease as an upper-gardener, a yokel who is still a yokel, or even a village idiot at least sufficiently idiotic to remain in his village, then indeed the world will come to blow the trumpets and lift up the heads of the everlasting gates; for God will have turned the captivity of Zion.

Chesterton’s point is that to build a nation requires the humble more than the luminous. Jews, known in Europe at the time for participation in the professions, academia, and commerce, would have to learn to be peasants in order to make Israel a viable state (and as it turned out, the Israelis did in fact pass Chesterton’s test).

The shift towards self-determination has been accompanied by a dangerous pressure to ‘make something of yourself’ and to ‘chase your dreams’. It exalts the luminous and shames the humble. There is little cultural respect left for the equivalent of Chesterton’s Jewish peasant.

So, a huge number of young people aspire to a small set of professions. But since not everyone can be a writer, a scientist, a doctor, or an entrepreneur — the ‘aspirational’ professions in general have a limited capacity — we run into our problem. There is a surplus of those with useless degrees. And worse, a vast part of our country who could not dream a fashionable dream have been robbed of respect and are looked down upon, with all the attendant social consequences you can expect from that.

[For those who have dreams already, the freedom to chase them is wonderful indeed, and I do not want to take it away! But I suspect that many people are pressured by our culture into pretending to have certain dreams so that they may chase them. Consider the number of people who attend college, not really knowing why they are there except that this is what is expected of them. Looking back at my childhood, I certainly feel that I was pressured into choosing a ‘respectable’ dream. If I’d really had self-determination, would I have chosen the same thing? Maybe, but I can’t know for sure.]

So, my discomfort is not with “change and choice” — it’s with the new culture’s values, specifically the disdain for nationalist sentiment (and promotion of transnationalism) and the premium it places on ‘intellectual’ thought. As I’ve mentioned, it is now fashionable to have ‘sophisticated’ tastes — in food, entertainment, clothing, etc. This might sound benign, but it does translate to a real contempt for our less ‘sophisticated’ or ‘educated’ co-nationals. See the SMBC cartoon about NASCAR that I linked earlier for a perfect illustration (literally), or the mockery Trump earned when he proclaimed “I love the poorly educated”.

[I should mention that we see a similar dynamic on the right-wing, a barely-concealed poisonous attitude towards the coastal culture; Hannity’s infamous Dijon mustard attack on Obama is probably the starkest and funniest incarnation of this. But the left-wing hatred is classic contempt (disdain for ‘inferiors’) while the right-wing hatred is resentment (anger at those who you perceive to be more powerful) — and in this dynamic, resentment is always a reaction to contempt. Hence, my feeling that amending the left-wing attitude is more urgent.]

So transnationalism in the abstract is perfectly fine for me; if we really managed to build a cultural understanding, shared among all men and women on Earth, that we are all brothers and sisters, that would be great. The trouble is, it’s not happening, and it’s destroying national solidarity. I watch The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or Last Week Tonight, and I shudder at the barely concealed contempt for vast parts of the nation (worse, the contempt is aimed at exactly those elements which have lost the most in the cultural shift). People who cry over the plight of foreign migrants sneer at American communities ravaged by social decay, drug use, and economic hopelessness.

The sad reality is that aside from a few weirdos, humans are not capable of taking the whole species as their brothers and sisters. A transnationalist ethos therefore cannot hold unless it encourages one class of Americans to disdain another (in favor of identifying with some foreign population). Since this transnationalist ethos does hold across the American elite, we see the strange and terrifying consequence that, among the academic set, being against illegal immigration is political heresy while spitting on rural Pennsylvanians is de rigueur (a friend of mine on Facebook commented on 11/9/2016: “The scum of the nation have spoken” — what a disgusting sentiment!)

Hence why I am a nationalist and not a transnationalist. A transnationalist culture cannot maintain effective social services, as its ethics will eventually compel it to extend those services to too many non-citizens, and better-off citizens may even wind up viewing the worse-off as unworthy of help. Universal basic income (which I see as a necessity to prevent automation from ravaging countless livelihoods) is more or less impossible without strong measures against illegal immigration. Furthermore, the loss of social respect for certain citizens, in itself, leads to terrible outcomes for psychological reasons. Among these are family collapse, drug abuse, and shortening lifespans.

In my ideal nationalist ethos, an upstanding, law-abiding American citizen is always entitled to respect (even if they watch NASCAR); you have a duty to help your community and the American nation as a whole; and as an extension of that, the American government is run for the benefit of American citizens. There will be no presumption that college graduates are somehow ‘better’ than high-school graduates; if you have a dream of going to college, you may do so (so all the ‘choice’ that we have today remains), but with the understanding that socially you remain equal your neighbor the construction worker and his homemaker wife. The rich who keep their wealth off-shore or exploit tax loop-holes will suffer consequences, starting with fines but possibly up to being jailed or permanently exiled, as punishment for their refusal to aid their fellow countrymen.

Immigrants will still be accepted, but (except for extreme cases such as those fleeing war-zones) will be chosen expressly for their potential to enrich and improve the American nation — and will be expected to integrate. Illegal immigration will be energetically fought as a threat to national sovereignty. Explicit race-based entitlements like affirmative action will end, but the worst-off communities (which are mostly minority communities) will receive economic and social assistance on the basis that no American community should live in squalor and crime (though part of this assistance will involve heavy law enforcement — read the the linked book to see why). Foreign policy, especially armed intervention, will be limited to instances where American strategic interests are directly involved (by the way, I consider climate change to fall squarely in this category). “Regime change” will be permanently off the table as a justification for war or economic sanction.

Of course, the above is only my ideal culture; I have no means of producing it, though I hope to be able to at least nudge the culture in its direction.

[By the way, it didn’t escape my attention that you contrast “neofascist nationalism” with “neoliberal globalism”, with a mention later of “racist nationalism”. Would you judge the above program as neofascist? Would you judge it as racist?]

You write: “The inherent failings of late stage capitalism, producing unstoppable movement of capital into the fewest possible hands, is the cause for stagnant wages and loss of opportunity for the majority of people not reduction of trade barriers… This incorporates a whole range of culturally unique problems in the US including institutional racism and high levels of endemic political corruption.”

While I agree to some extent about late-stage capitalism, I consider the nationalist program to be better suited to correcting this problem. Redistribution is simply much cleaner to justify in a nationalist, rather than transnationalist, setting. I am not uniformly against trade agreements, but I would be much happier if I were confident that those proposing and negotiating them were nationalists rather than transnationalists. In short, I have a reflexive distrust of the Davos set because I am not sure that their motivations are for the good of their fellow-countrymen.

As for capitalism causing racism, the opposite is true — capitalism works to counteract racism. If a racist country is undervaluing minority workers, a good capitalist can step in, hire them for lower wages, and profit.

The above are why I favor the Universal Basic Income over virtually all other redistributive options — it simply introduces the fewest economic distortions. Capitalism has immense benefits when given the right conditions.

Institutional racism in the United States is, in my estimation, close to dead. The drag on minority communities is better explained by a self-perpetuating culture which exists in impoverished communities (see this thread for a more thorough explanation of my views). Above, I linked the book Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh, and in it we find a community which is ruled by gangs and drug dealers. No amount of anti-racist campaigns can help these neighborhoods; only a combination of economic and social assistance (to restore economic hope) with strong law enforcement (to break the gangs which control these areas) can make a difference. And a return to an moral structure which discourages divorce and out-of-wedlock births (which have reached an astounding 70% among American blacks!) is also needed.

Why is nobody that I know freaking out about this?!?

Finally, while capitalism is certainly contributing to the cultural shift I describe, corporations are generally reactive to cultural changes rather than proactive, because their main objective is to make money out of the current culture. Thus, the main drivers of the changes are the universities.

Looking at the above, we see that the beginning of the uptick in out-of-wedlock birth rates in the United States coincides with the Sexual Revolution (~1960), which was primarily academic-led. This strikes me as unlikely to be a coincidence.

“So, the issue of what is called nationalism now is the final desperate attempt of the old to deny the changes that are already foreshadowing a new planetary age.”

I don’t know if by “deny” you mean ‘prevent’ or ‘ignore’ here. If the former, I agree with this (though I am neither ‘old’ nor would I consider myself ‘desperate’); if the latter I reject this completely.

The “new planetary age” as Amber describes (it is not 100% clear to me if you agree with her on this) is simply horrifying — the obsolescence of mankind, killing off of the ‘unproductive’ masses, etc. — though it is certainly a plausible outcome. But, if we have the right safety nets set up and the right cultural values (which recognize the right of someone to exist even if they have been made ‘obsolete’) we can pass through without inviting disaster. As I’ve explained above, I don’t think our current culture is set up for this; and I’ve outlined a culture which I think could handle it.

“Our concern, that Amber Lisa was summarizing, is how to get people out of the downward spiral represented by the easy answer of racist nationalism. Whether you call that fascism or any other pseudonym it is basically authoritarian feudalism and has a very short lifespan as it is inherently unstable and brutal.”

It’s your term, but I don’t consider what I am proposing to be “racist nationalism”. Some others, like Richard Spencer, are proposing this, but I am in opposition to them. Furthermore, Trump (who you mention later)— for all his myriad flaws — is probably not a racist. A racist would not have made all those campaign stops at black churches.

Additionally, while racist nationalism can be fascist or feudal, it is not necessarily either — and fascism is very, very different from feudalism. I don’t think you are using these terms in a sufficiently precise way, and in consequence your thinking suffers a bit in this passage. It degenerates into mushy left-wing pablum, losing all but the vaguest meaning.

In your penultimate paragraph, you discuss your own plans for the future. While I don’t really disagree with the idea of increasing application of AI in administration or with direct democracy, I think the basic prerequisite is that an appropriate culture exists in the country to prevent a disastrous outcome. You do reference this with your “social system based on the urban metropoles”. I consider this to be a dangerous idea, because you risk falling into the trap that these Americans are more valuable than those Americans — precisely the trap that my conception of nationalism is meant to avoid. On the other hand, gradually dissolving the United States into smaller political units is not inherently poisonous to me. If not an American nationalism, I can accept a Californian nationalism and a Texan nationalism, etc., or even a San Franciscan nationalism and a Bostonian nationalism, as long as they maintain a moral and legal equality amongst their citizens.

Finally, in your last paragraph, I find little to disagree with (except I think even climate disaster might be more than 20 years in the future, but these things are always hard to project). Even if our views diverge sharply on what the right solution is, we can at least agree that the problem is an urgent matter and that the future of the species depends on it.