Multiculturalism, Progressives, Humanitarians, etc
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[Author is Tom Kratman, of Carnifex]
Warning: Authorial editorial follows. Read further at your own risk. You’re not paying anything extra for it so spare us the whining if your real objection is that it is here for other people to read. If you are a Tranzi, and you read this, the author expressly denies liability for your resulting rise in blood pressure, apoplexy, exploding head or general icky feelings. (I am indebted to my former law partner, Matt Pethybridge, for his contributions to this afterword. Matt joins me in this dissent.)
“Do I hate cosmopolitans?” you ask. Why, no, of course I don’t hate them. That would be like hating sex . . . or drugs. Cosmopolitanism is like sex and drugs, you know; it just makes you feel all gooey and great inside. It’s like sex and drugs in another way, too. I’ll cover that later.
Okay, I’ll be serious now.
Imagine, just for now and just purposes of illustration, some solid geometric figure; a cube will do. One side of the cube is labeled “progressivism.” Another might be “pacifism.” Still another might be “multiculturalism.” Then there’s “humanitarianism” and “environmentalism” and “cosmopolitanism.” What’s inside the cube, if it is a cube, I can’t tell you, but surely it’s something that holds those six (or probably more) together. After all, scratch a cosmopolitan; wound a multiculturalist. Kick a progressive and set an environmentalist to screaming.
Some might say that what’s inside the cube is communism. I’m not so sure it’s that sophisticated. Really, I suspect there’s not a lot more holding all those –isms together than a mix of arrogance, envy, hate, and rage. Oh, and greed. Greed’s often very important, too. Still, I don’t know what’s inside. The cube—if, again, it is a cube—is not that opaque.
I know only what’s on the outside. One of those things is cosmopolitanism. And yes, that’s what I’m going to talk about right now.
There are a number of different kinds of cosmopolitanism, most of which are not really all that cosmopolitan. We have the religious versions, notably the Islamic and Christian ones. There’s also a communist cosmopolitanism. And then there’s what one might call “true cosmopolitanism,” the kind put forth by Immanuel Kant and, more recently, Martha Nussbaum. For the most part, I’m going to talk about “true cosmopolitanism,” hereinafter, just plain “cosmopolitanism.” To do that, though, we need to at least glance over the others.
“All wars are civil wars because all men are brothers.”
—Francois Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambrai
Cosmopolitan religions typically allow anyone to join in; they are open to anyone who will accept their tenets, laws and philosophies. That’s as far as it goes, though. If one has not joined in the circle of the given religion, and that religion means anything to its adherents, one is outside it. I don’t think I’m doing any violence to cosmopolitan thought by saying that religious cosmopolitanism is different, that drawing the kind of circle cosmopolitan religions do—us and them, in and out—is not really cosmopolitanism.
Communist cosmopolitanism, on the other hand, starts with the premise of ins and outs. It may cut across nations and ethnicities, but communist cosmopolitanism cannot avoid the distinction of class. It exists because of the distinction of class. Class is a bright line circle drawn around some men, and excluding others.
Cosmopolitanism, on the other hand, permits no circles. It would allow no “us and them.” It insists, to take Fenelon’s words, that “all men are brothers.” Of course, if all men are brothers then we are all part of the Family of Man. To cosmopolitanism, this is so, the merest truth. Any distinctions drawn, any circle that doesn’t include the entire human race, is arbitrary and illegitimate. Keep that—”arbitrariness”—in mind for later.
“No matter how much I care about progressive politics, at the end of the day, it’s my family and their well-being that’s going to come first.”
—Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, Kos
Kos here doesn’t mean the “Family of Man.” He means his own. One doesn’t usually get that much honesty from anyone, let alone from the Left. (Applause—sincere applause—to Kos.) But do they act that way? Do they act as if their families came first? Of course they do, even though they usually hide behind any number of high sounding phrases: “Family of Man,” “Human Rights” . . . “Progressivism.”
When Kofi Annan abetted his son, Kojo’s, tax fraud, that was putting his family and their well-being first. It was the same with the post-tax fraud cover up. It’s there, too, in Benan Sevan’s use of his aunt as a notional posthumous money launderer for his little profits from the “Oil for Food” scam. It’s written in the lines of every Darien, Connecticut mansion or Manhattan penthouse owned or rented by the head of some humanitarian non-governmental organization. It is implicit in the very generous educational benefits the fund-starved United Nations grants to the children of its bureaucrats for the sacrifice, if that’s quite the word, they undergo of earning, if that’s quite the word, fifty or one hundred times more than most of them could hope to in their own lands. It is George Soros raiding the Bank of England and doing insider trading with the French Société Générale for his own personal benefit. It is a highway in Africa which is never built to standard and washes away with the first hard rain because the money for material went to line someone’s nephew’s pockets.
If there is a Third World politician who does not believe blood is thicker than water, he or she has probably been overthrown in a coup. It is the rule of Iraq, the rule of Iran. It is China. It is Latin America and Africa. It is, in ever growing frequency, the rule in Europe and the United States, too. Whether Third World or World Bank, that rule is “mine, first.”
It’s also one of the two default states of mankind. The other is “me first.” This latter occurs, for example, when environmentalist Cape Cod liberals invoke “Not In My Back Yard” to prevent the construction of energy saving windmills.
We are, each of us, descended from people who decided, generation upon generation, that their gene pool came first. The sociologists’ term for it is “amoral familism.” Note that that’s “amoral,” not necessarily “immoral.” It’s difficult to call something “immoral” that’s in our very genes.
Nor is this amoral familism by any means arbitrary. The connection to family is real. It is natural. It is, moreover, reinforced by close and intimate personal knowledge. It is also within the very natural human limit of what any person can really know or personally care about.
On the other hand, it’s even more difficult to call the Annans’ tax fraud and coverup moral behavior. Still less so Soros’ raid on the Bank of England, mandatory kickbacks and bribes to line the pockets of dictators’ and bureaucrats’ nephews, and—not least—the fraudulent scamming of little Maritza’s twenty-seven cents. This is so, even though it may be in the genes.
* * *
Camouflage is also in the genes, for some species of predators. The predator, Man, being rather white or black or brown or yellow or red and, in any case, generally shiny and of regular shape, has to create his own. Some human predators, descended no less than we from Og, the caveman, have to disguise themselves no less than did Og, if they, the wives and the kiddies are going to eat (and live in that Darien mansion or Manhattan penthouse).
For many of these, Cosmopolitanism is a cloak, the cloak behind which they can hide tax frauds and currency raids, insider trading and charity scams, graft and corruption and nepotism.
This doesn’t mean that every cosmopolitan is a lying, scheming, greedy, hypocritical, dishonest predator. No doubt many are sincere, honest, selfless and, at a personal level, generally admirable in the conduct of their own lives. They sincerely believe that any distinction between peoples is arbitrary and therefore illegitimate. It may even be true, though it is no doubt rare, that they give no preference to their own little families over the Family of Man.
“By conceding that a morally arbitrary boundary such as the boundary of the nation has a deep and formative role in our deliberations, we seem to be depriving ourselves of any principled way of arguing to citizens that they should in fact join hands across these other barriers.”
Arbitrariness appears to be one of the three core principles of cosmopolitanism; the others being, let us say, the complementary “Wouldn’t it be nice?” and “Isn’t it so awful?” When those for whom cosmopolitanism is more than camouflage ask those questions, in one form or another, they do have a point: it (life, the universe and everything) can be pretty awful and perhaps a more cosmopolitan world might be nice. Dull? Yes, probably, but that’s not the worst imaginable world, is it?
To concede those things, however, is not to concede much, for “Isn’t it so awful?” does not mean it can’t be or won’t become worse, anymore that “Wouldn’t it be nice?” proves that it will or even can be better.
Those we will take up later. For now, let’s look into the concept of arbitrariness.
It really is wrong, you know, to hate people on sight merely because they look a little different. It is as wrong to hate people just for being born on one side of a border rather than another. It doesn’t follow from those, however, that it is morally obligatory to love them on sight merely because they look a little bit the same or were born on the same side of the border as you. One reason why it isn’t morally obligatory to love all of mankind for looking a little bit the same is that it isn’t really possible to do so. Love, if it’s to mean anything, is a fairly intense emotion and there’s only so much of it any individual has to spread around. Even Kos saves most of his for his immediate family.
Hate and love aren’t really the choices though. Between them are such variables as like and dislike, trust and distrust. There’s also indifference.
I’m not convinced that the cosmopolitan notion of arbitrariness holds any water at all. It seems to me that the accident, the one truly arbitrary factor, is being born. Given that, it is no accident that a particular person is born to a particular culture and gene pool, that one is of a particular family. Unless people are purely fungible, and perhaps completely malleable, it is no accident that one is a product of those two factors. Really, one cannot be anything but a product of them. It is not accident, neither is it arbitrary, to like or dislike, to trust or distrust, based on genuine, natural similarities, acceptance of similar values, a common gene pool and a common culture.
Still, perhaps the question is not about accident, but about choice. If not quite accidental, it is true at the least that we didn’t have a lot of choice in the nation, culture and family to which we were born. So then, is lack of choice in the matter what makes distinctions between people arbitrary? Yes, but.
Choice is a problem to the cosmopolitan ideal, as is free will. Those very things they decry as arbitrary are, in fact, the results of some very non-arbitrary choices made in the past, distant or recent. Someone said, “I like this hunk of dirt. I think I’ll stay, of my own free will, and raise a family; maybe get together with the neighbors at need,” and thus was born a distinction, non-arbitrary at first, that would condemn the rest of us to an arbitrary future. Just as truly, someone said, “I’m tired of this piece of dirt. I think I’ll move on, of my own free will, and perhaps take a few of the more agreeable neighbors along with me,” and that, too, set for some of us an arbitrary future. For still others, it was, “I like the color of that man,” or “I don’t like the shade or shape of that woman,” and there, again, voluntary, non-arbitrary choices were made that became arbitrary for the rest of us.
And who can doubt but that—go ahead and set the clock back to zero—still more non-arbitrary choices would be made in the cosmopolitan future, unless it were somehow possible to eliminate free will, preference and choice. But that is an inhuman future. I believe I mentioned things could be worse.
“Thank God my granddaddy got on that boat.”
The United States, Canada, Australia and some other settler nations represent a problem for the cosmopolitan, and, especially in the case of the United States, in more ways than one.
Our choice—more commonly, our ancestors’ choices—was relatively recent. Moreover those choices are validated daily by the numbers of people who want to come and join us. Is the Mexican’s choice to risk the border to find work arbitrary? Hardly. Was the Soviet dissident’s choice, or the Cuban dissident’s choice, to come here for political or literary or artistic freedom arbitrary? Is it arbitrary when a young man or woman, born here, says, “I like this piece of dirt. I like the neighbors. I believe I’ll defend it and them,” and joins the military? No, except insofar as each is rejecting the cosmopolitan ideal and then only if the cosmopolitan eats her own tail and defines arbitrary as “that of which I do not approve.”
To an extent, that’s just what they do. When Martha Nussbaum, in her essay, Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism, calls for children to be educated away from patriotism, to be educated into and for cosmopolitanism, she is substituting her choice for anyone else’s. That, friends, is arbitrary.
But let’s not stop there. There are all kinds of voluntary, non-arbitrary choices people can make, choices, be it noted, that have no taint of nationalism. What, after all, is a member of the Mafia but someone who rejected his nation and society and opted for that non-nationalistic, cosmopolitan ideal? What of Mara Salvatrucha 13? The KKK? What of Legionnaire De Gaulle of the French Foreign Legion? All these are people who reject the nation and opt for a very non-arbitrary, tribal, even (accepting there is such a thing as a non-blood related—that is to say, a chosen—family) familial and ultimately exclusionary primary allegiance. What of the soulless, greedy, transnational Microsoft or Union Carbide or United Fruit CEO or corporate bureaucrat? Their loyalty is to the Family of Man? Their loyalty is to their paychecks, their stock options, and their golden parachutes . . . and, of course, to the families those things provide for . . . and to themselves.
Thus, to succeed, the cosmopolitan must eliminate free will and choice, for too many people will, left to their own, choose something besides cosmopolitanism. Indeed, true cosmopolitanism is the choice of a very tiny number. Why should this be? Kos’ admissions alone seem inadequate. Rather, they are closer in spirit to corporate greed and Mara Salvatrucha drug running than to the cosmopolitan ideal.
Breathes there a man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said:
“This is my own, my native land?”
—Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel
Ralph Nader, whatever else might be said of him, is a patriot. In 1996, he wrote to one hundred of America’s premier corporations, asking that they show their support for “the country that bred them, built them, subsidized them and defended them” by opening their annual stockholders’ meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.
In a stunning display of cutting edge, transnational, corporate greed, indifference and disloyalty, with no pretense to either nationalism or cosmopolitanism, ninety-nine declined. Ford, Motorola, Aetna and Costco, at least, declined explicitly. (No, I will never again buy a Ford, Aetna or Costco product. And I’ll dump my RAZR as soon as contractually possible. I’d rather buy a non-American product than an un-American one.)
I’ll suggest to you, though, that Ford, Aetna, Costco, Motorola, MS-13, the KKK, and Legionnaire De Gaulle are all rational. For people give loyalty to what matters to them: Kos to his family, the corporate CEO to his paycheck and golden parachute (which is usually, ultimately, for his family), the KKK member to his klavern and what he thinks of as his “race,” the MS-13 assassin to his peers and his pack leader. All have rejected loyalty to their entire nation, but they have not thereby acquired any notable loyalty, any transcendent loyalty, to mankind. Instead, each has picked a smaller group than the nation as the focus of their devotion.
This should come as no surprise. Humanity, the Family of Man, asks nothing but it also gives nothing. It is an abstract, distant and ineffectual. People need the closeness and emotional support of some group they can know or, at least, think they can.
It is human to hate. For self-definition and motivation people need enemies: competitors in business, rivals in achievement, opponents in politics.
—Professor Samuel P. Huntington
In Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism, Martha Nussbaum wrote about concentric circles and how, having drawn one arbitrary circle at the level of nation, there is nothing to stop people from drawing ever smaller circles, from nation to religion to class, etc. , Indeed she seems to make the claim that drawing the one circle practically demands that one draw ever narrower circles, excluding more and more of the human race.
Another writer, Lee Harris, has pointed out that this flies in the face of the historical record which demonstrates that the nation has, in many cases, been the only thing shown capable of overcoming such narrow circles.
That’s both interesting and true. More interestingly to me, though, is that the converse is also true. The nation overcomes interior small differences by presenting people with a set of exterior larger differences. But it is with de-emphasis on the nation, with a closer approach to that cosmopolitan ideal, with the decline of the legitimate nation, or in its absence, in other words with “post-national citizenship,” that people define themselves and confine themselves into ever smaller groupings. We see Scotland gradually seceding from the United Kingdom. We see Quebec threatening to disassociate itself from Canada (“Good riddance,” say most of my Canadian acquaintances). Yugoslavia breaks up, bloodily. Czechoslovakia splits, fortunately without bloodshed. Arab Shiites and Sunni Kurds in Iraq want out from under the Arab Sunnis. Indeed, everywhere we have seen some close approach to denationalization, we have seen just what Nussbaum informs us is the ultimate logic of nationalism. This is not a coincidence.
Consider Africa just as it was about to be decolonized. There, the European white devil provided the enemy, the outsider, the other, that held the locals together in a common cause. With that enemy gone, however, with that unifying phenomenon out of the picture, the overwhelming bulk of sub-Saharan Africa fell into mere tribalism and, wherever there was some power to be exploited for personal and family gain, amoral familism.
The world is a vastly better place because it contains people whose only fault is the desire to make all people as good and reasonable as they themselves are.
Respectfully, I disagree. For the world to be better the cosmopolitans would have to have some good effect. At a minimum one would hope that things might stabilize at a level no worse than we now have. Can they? What chance?
A cosmopolitan might say, “Look, if people can be educated and trained to die for artificial, even abstract, constructs like nations, surely they can be educated and trained to live for natural, concrete humanity.”
It’s not a bad argument, up to a point. Unfortunately for cosmopolitanism, that point comes quickly.
Nations, and especially first class and hyper-powerful ones, have many advantages in training and education that the Family of Man simply lacks. We typically share a common, or dominant, language and a common, or dominant, culture that is, in broad terms, knowable and comfortable to most citizens and legal residents of the nation. Where is Man’s common language? Not Davos Man’s, which is English, but Man‘s? Where is his common culture? Not Davos Man’s, which is money, but Man’s. Where is the history upon which Man can agree is important? Who are the heroes, the role models? They do not exist. They would all have to be created or recreated and imposed.
Nations have three kinds of neighbors and peers: different and potentially hostile, different and probably hostile, and different and positively hostile. These, the foreign difference and the hostility, can draw together very tightly even such linguistically differing folk as the Swiss. It is not clear that anything else can. It is unclear that cosmopolitanism can do what it would need to, in the absence of the sort of external threat that binds the citizens of a nation together. There is obviously a down side to all that hostility; I offer this only as an element of evidence that there are some educational advantages even an artificial construct like a nation has that cosmopolitanism is unlikely to be able to match.
Additionally, a nation can give its people a sense of superiority, even if utterly unwarranted, to all others that further binds them together. What, after all, binds the intellectual class of Europe and the Colleagues of the EU together if it isn’t their hate for the United States and all things American?
Perhaps the chief problem with cosmopolitanism is that, while Kant may have envisioned it and Nussbaum may preach it, both are powerless to overcome those human default states of “me” and “mine,” that narrow focus that allows people not only to join their efforts and affections to others, but to derive the emotional support and sense of belonging they need.
So, yes, cosmopolitanism can undermine nations but, no, it cannot then substitute for nations the Family of Man or Mankind.
There’s another problem, too, a worse problem, and it’s our problem. Cosmopolitanism is unevenly spread. Really, it exists only in the West and the West’s institutions, including, of course, the corrupt dictatorships of the Third World and the World Bank and the NGOs that shunt them their graft.
True, Islam has a different version of it, but that version is exclusionary. In a sense, it is ultimately exclusionary, as there are certain human types, atheists and gays come to mind, which Islam cannot accept but, rather, must destroy. Still others—women and those not of the Islamic faith, for example—must be subjugated. Communism, too, is a kind of cosmopolitan philosophy. Yet it draws a circle around and excludes, then usually kills, anyone who does not fit the communist cosmopolitan ideal.
Being, then, a fairly local phenomenon, what can true cosmopolitanism do? It can’t make cosmopolitans of tribalists. It can’t make true cosmopolitans of Moslems. It can’t stop the Chinese Communist Party cadres from looting or letting their children loot the people’s wealth. It can’t even get Kos not to put his family first.
But it can, where it is strong and accepted as logical and legitimate, undermine the faith of peoples, nations and cultures in their own worth, undermine their will to defend themselves, and leave them open to enslavement by those who still have that faith and that will. I mentioned in the beginning that cosmopolitanism feels as good as sex and drugs. Like those, it helps transmit a kind of disease. Cosmopolitanism, because it is a local phenomenon, that weakens, locally, is a sort of societal HIV, a disease that does not kill, of its own, but destroys the resistance of those who acquire it to those things that do kill. Cosmopolitanism—whatever the ideals or motives of the cosmopolitans—is doing so as I write.