Radical Individualism: The Solvent of Family, Race, and Nation
by Edward Dorsey
A post-ethnic perspective on communities of descent within the United States entails the principle of affiliation by revocable consent. This modest choice-maximizing principle supports the renewal and critical revision of those communities of descent whose progeny choose to devote their energies to these communities even after experiencing opportunities for affiliating with other kinds of people. A post-ethnic perspective denies neither history nor biology, nor the need for affiliations, but it does deny that history and biology provide a set of clear orders for the affiliations we are to make. (Post-ethnic America, David A. Hollinger, p.13)
David Hollinger presents a thoroughly liberal argument about individualism, and the importance and meaning of race. And in true liberal fashion, Mr. Hollinger argues that race and ethnicity are only as important as each individual decides for him or herself. It is important to make clear that liberal individualism is not to be confused with individuality which are the properties, characteristics and traits that make someone or something Unique. It will be one of this paper's contentions that individualism actually leads to uniformity in all facets of life.
But for Hollinger and millions of Americans who share what he calls a "post- ethnic" sensibility, race and ethnicity are only as important as each individual decides for himself. Although they have been born into particular ethnic and racial groups, part of what he calls communities of descent" (or birth), "post-ethnicists" see no "set of clear orders" or reasons as to why they should remain in their old groups if they don't want to. But if biology and history do not furnish a "set of clear orders," then what, if any, "orders" should one follow? One follows the "orders" or choices one has provided oneself. Old, unchosen communities of descent are to give way to new "communities of consent" (or choice) whenever the individual wills it - for whatever "reason" the individual proposes.
In such a view as Hollinger outlines, things have intrinsic importance only in so far as they please us or derive from our own individual will. But since we did not originally will our own existence or choose the groups that we were born into, our lives, the lives of others, and all "communities" (whether by birth or choice) have no intrinsic importance. They only have importance or meaning according to the extent that we desire or value them (to put it in the proper Nietzschean terminology.) Or no importance and no meaning if we don't desire and don't value them. Such a view is inevitably caught up in an atheistic world view, where all existence is arbitrary and without any ultimate meaning apart from the meaning we assign to it. Mr. Hollinger is proposing that men like him should be able to "revoke their consent," or withdraw their support for staying among their "own" people, because, in a sense, "one's own people" become whoever one has chosen at any given time. To put it in the quaint terms of the Old Testament, Mr. Hollinger wants to be able to renounce his birthright and all claims of obligation and loyalty, and that all others should be able to do likewise.
In Post-ethnic America, Hollinger politely but firmly explains to his audience which is composed of people who have at least some sympathy for the multicultural movement, that he opposes claims for the authority of official rights and claims of groups over individuals based on kinship, ethnicity and religion because these would stifle the individual's self-fulfillment and "self-creation," but also because such a recognition to groups would abandon liberalism's imperatives, the first of which is that the authority of the state comes from the consent of the individuals who are governed. To admit this would be a revolution in America comparable to the original Revolution and bring with it as well, the potential for inter-group war. In short, Hollinger is correctly informing his predominantly left-leaning audience that liberalism's basis in radical individualism makes it thoroughly incompatible with a group rights multiculturalism, But radical individualistic liberalism is also incompatible with any movement aimed at saving whites as a distinct people in a racially pluralistic America.
The Post-World War II Disestablishment of Whites and the Universalization of America.
In the years following the Revolutionary War, the newly independent American states began what in a few decades would become the complete separation of governments from officially supported churches. In 1965, less than 200 years later, the United States Congress liberalized immigration laws taking a decisive step in the "separation of ethnos and state." "European Americans" are to become, in effect, like, say, the once-established and legally exclusive Church of England living under the new dispensation of post-revolutionary war Virginia: trying to be just another "denomination" re-branded under a new and less offensive name, "Protestant Episcopal," while keeping its affluence and elitism in low profile amid the chaotic and increasingly bizarre stream of American life.
But even before the 1965 change in immigration laws, the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown V. Topeka Board of Education required the merging of black and white public schools students into bi-racial schools in the southern and border states, which were prohibited in their state constitutions. But also during the 1960's, while the liberal elite continued to seek state compliance for bi-racial schools and opened up a "free trade" in immigration that opened up membership in American civil society to nonwhites, they also sought to deny in the name of equality, fairness and "anti-discrimination," white citizens any "right of refusal" against nonwhites seeking to obtain membership within white civil society's "smaller platoons." Thus, under the new "social free trade," legal restrictions imposed punishments on whites who refused to sell or rent real estate to or not hire non-whites. The only socially, if not legally permissible outlets for white loyalists were private gatherings of the startled and the dazed, to commiserate with one another, tucked away from an otherwise continuous barrage of propaganda that belittled and execrated the idea of white loyalism and the character of white loyalists. As it continues to this day.
Today, stalwarts of the Republican Party establishment like President George H. W. Bush, Robert Dole, and Jack Kemp, and such mouthpieces as Tony Snow, Ben Wattenberg, Maggie Gallagher, etc. constantly reiterate their support for the above-mentioned policies that are "universalizing" the American nation, and thereby displacing and threatening to replace Americans of European descent through hybridization. They seem to believe that, at least in today's social and cultural climate, continued "free trade" in social relations, will result in the kind of "racial attrition" that David Hollinger obviously hopes for in Post-ethnic America.
Establishment figures seem to see individualism as the most effective and "moral" strategy for the self-extinguishment of groups for several reasons. First, because it is premised on equality of individuals which most Americans accept (at least in the abstract); second, the hoped for "attrition" will not be the result of a big government dictate or bullet in the back of the head or the bizarre doing of a religious charlatan like Sun Myung Moon "mixing and matching" total strangers, but, rather, through "consumer choice" backed up by advertising, on which, like equality, Americans base their lives. To attack such a "hallowed" concept as consumer choice is to attack what most people accept as the American Way of Life but also the relativism upon which it is premised.
Historical Analogies in the Rise of Liberalism: The Need for Conflict Management in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Europe.
Conservatives will often warn that too much racial and ethnic diversity will lead America to Balkanization - the division of the country into ethnically distinct and feuding regions. The Liberal Establishment reply is essentially that radical pluralism at least radical pluralism in a society dedicated to radical individualism will be a peaceful one. Essentially they are making the French liberal philosophe Voltaire's argument about eighteenth England and its radical religious pluralism. "If there were only one religion in England, we should have to fear despotism - if there were two, they would cut each other's throats; but there are thirty, and they live in peace and happiness," (Philosophical Letters). England was then undergoing an unprecedented commercial and industrial revolution, spurred in large measure by the rise and celebration of individualism which was also accompanied by a deep dislike of revealed, dogmatic religion resulting from the mayhem that rose in the wake of the original sixteenth century Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation, and the especially ferocious disputes over the nature and doctrines of England's own established church.
Eighteenth century liberal Enlightenment tirades against "prejudice," "bigotry," and "enthusiasm" were almost all directed against men hawking brands of Christian doctrine and practice, whether popes, Jesuits, Presbyterians or Baptists, not men stoking racial or ethnic hatreds. The Liberal solution was that of religious toleration championed by John Locke, the liberal philosopher who argued that religious disputes should be taken out of public life and privatized.
In many ways, the wars of nationalism in Europe from 1914 to 1918, and, probably even more importantly, the war against Adolf Hitler and his Social Darwinistic racial views spurred our own post-World War II western liberal elites to do what eighteenth century liberals like Voltaire wanted to do: "abolish the infamy." That is, men of the so-called "Enlightenment" sought to bring mankind happiness through the abolition of dangerous, dogmatic religions though they did often espouse their own vague brand of "natural religion" and a very unchristian notion of "Nature's God." (A modem counterpart is the desire to substitute universalistic or "civic-based" nationalities in place of ethnically, or even linguistically, exclusive nations. Such is the intention of those like Bill Clinton and David Hollinger for "the New America.") For men like Voltaire and Thomas Jefferson, the world could be substantially freed from the "infamy" of religious hatred, cruelty, and superstition, largely through the advancement of a scientific knowledge giving only natural explanations for the reality before men's eyes. In their "supreme graciousness," however, Enlightenment liberals did allow a certain compassion" for the many "weak-minded" who would need to continue clinging in their private lives to the faith in the Resurrection. Enlightenment liberals thought that the continuation of Christianity would probably still be necessary for maintaining the broader public's morals. (For the same reason, liberals like David Hollinger are similarly willing to extend a certain tolerance to ethnic groups, which have been properly "domesticated" that is make no authoritative claims over the individual or the civil state: These "weaker minded" people are unable or unwilling to live the life of the radical, self-directed individualist, and so need a group, even an inherited group in which to cling, in order to have a sense of belonging.) But for most educated that is liberal-minded men during much of eighteenth century western Europe, it was enough to trust in Reason and the general benevolence of mankind freed from "superstition," and the maintaining of a sense of "enlightened self-interest" by accruing profits in a mutually beneficial, peace inducing free trade. A rather similar view regarding race is currently espoused by the likes of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and other luminaries of our own post-modern, New Age "Enlightenment."
But even before the calamitous European ethno-nationalist wars from 1914-1945, the seeds of racial revolution were planted and germinating under the instruction and guidance of the anthropologist Franz Boas. Boas and his disciples preached the equality of the different peoples or races, thereby contradicting the general nineteenth century view of innate intellectual inequality, with Europeans placed atop a hierarchy, Africans at the bottom, and Asians and Hispano-Indians in between. Such a view was commonly wrapped in the garb of Social Darwinism which saw human life as a continuation of the survival of the fittest" (often merely the survival of the strongest) going on in all of nature. Some secular Europeans, cut off from Christian ethics, dreamed of repopulating the Earth with Europe's teeming masses - once weaker groups were removed from the scene." This common nineteenth century view of racial inequality contradicted the egalitarianism of liberalism's first philosophers (both Englishmen) Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704). Though, to be fair, Hobbes and Locke used rather different criteria to define equality than would the nineteenth century anthropologists. Hobbes and Locke in part based their view of equality on the rude ability of the weak to kill the strong or socially superior or in more recent times, riot, burn and loot private property, and murder passersby as in Los Angeles in 1992. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Liberalism was partly side-tracked from its original support of equality by a receptivity to theories of racial inequality. But by 1945, liberalism stood "armed and dangerous" fortified by the egalitarian findings of Frank Boas in anthropology, and having just defeated Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan, confident once more as in the days of absolute monarchs and landed aristocrats in the truth of egalitarianismand unafraid of contradiction.