Friday, March 31, 2017

Some Thoughts on Race and Identity for the Post-Conservative

I've had an exchange of blog posts with a blogger called The Post-Conservative, all of which can be found below. I've been arguing in favour of Irish identity being based on a shared culture, while the Post-Conservative believes that genetics and race are central to identity. (I think that's a fair summation; I hope he will correct me if I'm wrong.)

Though the Post-Conservative does not consider himself Alt Right, our discussion is against the background of that ideology, which seems to be gaining tremendous traction on the right. How much traction it is gaining, is difficult to say.

I heard one Alt Right figure describe his own journey to "race realism", one which passed through the very stage of cultural nationalism and anti-political correctness which I myself espouse. His suggestion was that conservatives have so internalized the taboo on this matter that they can't bear to take the final, logical step-- to admit that, yes, it is about race after all.

I simply don't believe this of myself. If I'm suppressing my true feelings about race, I've been doing it very effectively for decades, because culture and tradition have always been the terms in which I understood nationalism and Irishness, from my earliest childhood. I've passed through anti-nationalist phases as well as nationalist phases, and race simply never came into it either way.

Here are some very quick points about race and identity, and my views on the matter:

1) I agree that discussion on matters of race have been hysterical for decades now, and the subject should be discussed calmly, without impugning motives or the ridiculous slinging around of the ubiquitous r-word. If we keep a lid on the subject of race, resentment and reaction builds up and explodes, over time. I'm sad to read that the Post-Conservative seems to have had some hostile correspondence as a result of his posts.

2) In terms of identity, race just seems to me to be too general to satisfy the human need for belonging. When someone from the Alt Right talks about "our people" or "my people", he (or she) seems to mean whites, or perhaps European whites. Well, there are hundreds of millions of white people in the world, living all around the world, speaking many different languages and having many different heritages. It's far too many to be "my people", even if it's narrowed down to mean "European whites".

To base identity on race seems to me to be giving in to globalisation, and to internationalisation, rather than resisting it. The nation, or the tribe, seems to me the right-sized "unit" for cultural identity, and one that is hallowed by tradition. I'm not a "European" (except in the most descriptive sense) because Europe is just too big and to diverse for me to feel any sense of belonging towards it, despite being subjected to Europhile propaganda all my life. How much more this applies to the white race! (Perhaps I might point out here that all the worst troubles in Irish history came from white Europeans, from the Vikings to the European Commission..)

Also, I'm a traditionalist and the fact that race-discourse is something that began in the nineteenth century, and is based on a biological and scientistic outlook, is a black mark against it for me. It doesn't arise organically from folklife and folkways. It's too clinical to be warm and human.

3) I can agree that race isn't literally "skin deep", in that our biological differences may be non-trivial in some regards. My lack of interest in this matter reflects my lack of scientific curiosity in general. However, I think the differences are not as important as all that. Equality of opportunity and colour-blindness of public policy seem the right attitude to me. No discrimination, positive or negative.

4) The argument that Europe and America must be doing something right to attract so many people from the rest of the world is, to me, a fair argument when it's made against hysterical leftists who have nothing good to say about the West, but I'm less keen on it intrinsically. Success is a crude measure of merit. Dan Brown is not a better writer than W.B. Yeats.

I don't accept that some tribal village in the Congo is inferior to Las Vegas just because lots of people want to go to Las Vegas. In fact, I could even be called a cultural relativist (though I don't think of myself as one) in that I don't think you can say one culture is better than another, on the whole. Yes, we can criticize cultures on various grounds, but I think every distinct culture is equally precious in itself. (I'm not talking about religion here.)

The Alt Right seem to equate the white race with "progress" and to glorify this. But I'm not a progressive. I'll take every claim of progress on its merits-- and many of them I consider to be "improvements for the worse".

5) I feel I should make it clear that I'm against mass immigration, as I think it usually (perhaps always) leads to problems in the long run, and because I'm a conservative and I think mass immigration breaks the thread of tradition. If mass immigration is required for humanitarian or economic purposes, I think it should be a temporary measure as far as possible. I certainly don't sympathise with the left-wing, internationalist project to mix everybody up as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

However, that still leaves small-scale immigration, which most people accept. Then there is marriage and adoption of children. Plenty of time-honoured routes for people of other nations, cultures and races to become naturalised and nationalised.

Ireland (to take this example) is a multiracial society already, and there are Irish people of Asian and African extraction. I have first cousins who are half-Filippino! In my job in UCD university library, I very often find myself dealing with students who look entirely African or Asian but whose names are Conor or Sinéad and who have Irish accents. And what about black Irish people such as Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, who was passionately proud of his Irishness, and the soccer legend Paul McGrath?

When I asked what we should say to the child of Nigerian parents who is growing up in Ireland, and who considers himself Irish, the Post-Conservative asked: "Why should we have to say anything to him?". My answer to that would be: "Because you can be sure he is listening." Not to this particular exchange, perhaps. But people in this category are listening to discussions such as this-- not only in Ireland, but elsewhere. Many of them, I have no doubt, despise progressivism and want to be on the same side as us, to root and fight for the things we value.

When I appealed to chivalry in such matters, the Post-Conservative suggested that the time for chivalry might have passed. I think chivalry is one of those things that must be preserved at all costs; that we are nothing without it. I do, however,  acknowledge his point that chivalry has often morphed into something distorted and perverted, a kind of self-hatred and self-destructiveness, the attitude that breeds the male third-wave feminist and the self-hating white American. But that's not chivalry; and the very people who are afflicted with this sickness would foam at the mouth if you congratulated them on their chivalric attitude.

Chivalry is, amongst other things, tenderness and consideration towards the outsider, the minority. So, given that I put such an emphasis on tradition and on heritage, I feel a corresponding eagerness to reassure those who might feel I'm excluding them on the grounds of their colour, race or ancestry; no, I'm absolutely not excluding you. I consider you just as Irish as me.

And now I must apologise for the Post-Conservative; for having said I would not respond at length for some considerable time, I have now overwhelmed him with several responses in a row, one of them rather long!


  1. There is something great here - and greatly needed. I am revolted by the new racism and yet it is becoming tragically inextricably mixed with genuine cultural aspirations in the minds of certain conservatives and tragically even Catholics. I see the above, again, as a _greatly needed_ attempt to extricate what is real and true from what frankly seems to me not only revolting, but diabolical.

    1. Thanks, Roger. Many of the spokesmen for "race realism" on the internet make valid points-- that people tend to naturally associate with others of the same race, that social unrest seems to increase with ethnic diversity, and so on. However, what really perturbs me is not the actual spokesmen, who are usually articulate and genial, but the commenters, who are so often really vicious and hateful-- and I don't just mean a minority.