Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Nationalism doesn’t have to mean exclusion

Some incompetent Leftist philosophy below from Robert Zaretsky, a history professor at the University of Houston. He purports to discuss nationalism but nowhere defines it. If a student had handed that to me as an essay, I would have failed it. He seems quite oblivious that there are at least two major usages of the term -- which might for brevity be called passive and active nationalism.  The active nationalist wants his country to conquer others whereas the passive nationalist just wants his country to be independent and great. Both are patriotic but one is harmless and the other can be a terrible blight on the human race. 

My survey research found that Anglospheric countries such as the USA are mainly populated by passive nationalists for whom patriotism does NOT mean a wish for conquest.  And indeed, despite America's great power, America's only conquests date back to the Progressive era of over 100 years ago.  Leftists can easily transmogrify patriotism into aggressive nationalism -- as Hitler did and as Theodore Roosevelt did to an extent.  In WWII, America in fact waged an ANTI-nationalist war.

The main point of the essay below is derived from the confused theorizing of 18th century German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder.  Herder and Zaretsky propose the non-sequitur that all nations are different and that therefore we should not compare them.  I would have thought that it is precisely because all nations are different that we SHOULD compare them.  Even the USA has a lot to learn from places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan.  And if one wants to retire to a place least likely to be degraded by nuclear war, New Zealand is the near-universal choice.

Zaretsky obviously had an aim behind his silliness.  He wanted American nationalists to be passive nationalists, quite oblivious of the fact that they already are.  What a fool!  Leftism rots the mind

SINCE THE FRENCH Revolution, a brilliant cast of ideologies has starred on the world stage, ranging from conservatism to liberalism to communism. Yet the -ism that has been most resilient, and today has become resurgent, is one that modern thinkers dismissed as a walk-on.

Nationalism, the political theorist Isaiah Berlin once observed, was long thought to be an allergic reaction of national consciousness when “held down and forcibly repressed by despotic rulers.” Remove this particular allergen, and the sneezing fit of nationalism would end.

Yet in the 21st century, the sneezing has grown more, not less violent. Indeed, it threatens to tear apart the traditional and constitutional bonds that, ironically, hold nations together. From the Caucasus to the Atlantic, from North to South America and across much of Asia, nationalism has become a chronic global condition. At a rally in October, President Trump declared himself a nationalist and urged followers to use the term, too.

Few people would find the ascendancy of nationalism more surprising, and more depressing, than the man who coined the term. Though largely overlooked today, Johann Gottfried Herder was one of the 18th century’s most original thinkers, a deeply influential German philosopher who left a mark on fields ranging from linguistics to literature and history. He not only invented the term nationalism (“Nationalismus”), but is also widely seen as its greatest champion.

A friend of the great Goethe (who credited Herder with having saved him from dry-as-dust classicism), Herder was born in East Prussia in 1744. The son of devout Lutherans, he never lost his faith in God or Germany. Or, at least, the idea of Germany: Rather than a nation, “Germany” in the 18th century was a dizzying hodgepodge of small states and independent cities which shared little more than a common language.

Language, to Herder, is the very essence of a people. He called upon his fellow Germans to resist what he called the “cancer” of French, which had become the unofficial language of 18th century Europe. “Whoever wants to drive out my language,” Herder once declared, “also wants to rob me of my reason and my way of life, the honor and laws of my people.”

Yet here’s the rub: Herder wrote these words in an essay lambasting efforts by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II to force the German language on Hungarians and other linguistic minorities living under his rule. The proudly parochial Herder believed that, as Berlin put it, “every activity, situation, historical period and civilization possessed a unique character of its own.” For this reason, to subject a particular people to a foreign language and set of ideas — especially those that, like French, pretended to be universally applicable — was, in effect, an act of cultural genocide.

The sweeping line that opens Herder’s great work, "Ideas About the Philosophy of the History of Mankind", underscores the inclusive nature of his nationalism: “Our earth is a star among stars,” Herder wrote. Just as there is no hierarchy of planets, there is no ranking of peoples. No single measure exists by which cultures and peoples can be judged. More so than any other element of the Enlightenment, Herder rebelled against the belief that a single and universal set of laws applied to the world of men no less than the world of things. Instead, he wrote, a nation’s ways and wisdom, language and lore can be measured only against its own standard.

[Herder was clearly wrong. Nations can be compared using many different standards -- and often are.  Herder may think that nations SHOULD not be compared but that is just his opinion]

Two or three timeless insights follow: First, it is worse than pointless to parade the greatness of one’s nation, for this implies that there is a single standard. Since each and every nation has what Herder called “its own center of gravity,” each and every one is unique.

Second, there is no single form of nationalism. Herder was both a nationalist and a pluralist. He saw no contradiction between the claims of one’s own culture and those of other cultures. And he was especially alive to his own culture’s faults. “Our part of the earth should be called not the wisest, but the most arrogant, aggressive, and money-minded,” he wrote.

Some critics have questioned whether Herder’s kinder and gentler nationalism, which invoked the points of lights illuminating our world, is really different from more virulent forms. A sudden crisis, whether genuine or manufactured, can unleash the darker nature of nationalism.

This year marks the 275th anniversary of Herder’s birth. By its end, we may be in a better position to decide if Herder’s humane vision of humankind turns out to be as fantastic and fictitious as the German folk tales he loved.


Why some on the left hate white women

In the new tribal leftism, white women who vote Republican are traitors.

Over the past two election cycles, most white women voted for
the Republican Party – albeit by narrow margins. And after both elections, certain segments of the progressive intelligentsia were infuriated by what they perceived to be a betrayal of female solidarity. Some writers on the left have been taking white women to task for voting for an allegedly racist political party, arguing that white women’s votes reveal a desire to preserve white supremacy even when doing so involves also standing up for the patriarchy.

Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic insists that these sentiments are not representative of most Democrats – and he is probably right. Still, the fact that articles expressing rancour towards ‘gender traitors’ appear in such outlets as Cosmopolitan and Vogue and the New York Times suggests that the attitude is not entirely marginal. When Treva Lindsey writes at Vox – a hugely popular left publication – that ‘if you’re not voting like a black woman [ie, for progressive Democrats], you are probably on the wrong side of history’, her statement probably resonates with a fair number of left-leaning elites in the US. The animus against white women, then, is worth examining.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, several conservative writers have already denounced the criticism being directed at white women. At National Review, for one, Alexandra DeSanctis argues that the expectation that women are predestined to think and vote a certain way undermines the notion of female autonomy, which ought to be the principle that underlies any serious feminist politics. Even some left-leaning writers have distanced themselves from the resentment against white women. Katie Herzog, for instance, argues that one reason many white women tend to vote Republican is that they are themselves… well… Republicans. She adds that decrying white women as ‘gender traitors’ is unlikely to improve Democrats’ electoral prospects down the line.

In the process, Herzog raises a very interesting question – one that few people in the wars over white women’s voting patterns appear to have asked. ‘Why the hell aren’t [progressive intellectuals] shouting at white men? They vote for Republicans at even higher rates than white women.’

Why indeed? White men do vote Republican by higher margins than white women, so one would expect them to garner even more post-election disdain from progressive writers. That they do not requires some explanation.

Treva Lindsey’s Vox essay is a good place to start. She argues that, ‘Calling out white women’s continued support of conservative politicians isn’t excusing or ignoring white men’s commitment to electing these candidates. It’s an assertion of a profound and perpetual sense of betrayal’ (emphasis mine).

The idea here is that white women, as women, have a vested interest in voting for Democrats; so when they vote for Republicans, they act against their own interests. For Lindsey, white women’s interests are almost wholly determined by their racial and gender identity. White men, therefore, cannot be faulted as much as white women for voting Republican. After all, white men are merely defending their privileges, which is in some way not as reprehensible as what white women are doing: namely, placing their interest in perpetuating white privilege before their interest in dismantling gender oppression.

There are two obvious problems with Lindsey’s formulation. The first is that people bring many considerations to bear when they decide who to vote for. Beyond race and gender, there are also class considerations, geographical influences, religious motivations, political convictions, evaluations about contemporary events, etc. Many of these other factors seem to be more explanatory than gender or race for understanding recent electoral outcomes.

The second obvious problem with Lindsey’s line of thinking is that women’s left-leaning voting patterns are a historically contingent phenomenon – an odd thing for a professor of gender studies to overlook. Women in Western democracies used to be to the right of men. As Professor Miki Caul Kittilson writes, ‘After enfranchisement, women were more politically conservative than men in their ideology, party attachment, and vote choice across democracies’.

Much of this gap is explained through women’s higher religiosity, given that religiosity is often intricately bound up with conservative parties and ideologies. Moreover, Kittilson notes that women in post-communist and developing countries are more conservative than men in those societies. (Presumably these women are not all voting the way they are in order to uphold the patriarchy.) In short, women are not born to be on the left, and it is both empirically wrong and highly presumptuous to pretend that they are.

But there is a final, less obvious flaw with the logic of those who decry white women’s voting patterns on the grounds that white women are gender traitors. Intellectuals of the left have traditionally rooted their demands in universalist principles, seeking to convince everybody to support the left on the simple grounds that the left’s positions are morally correct. A universalist left would not attempt to shame women by telling them, ‘You must vote for us because you are women’; it would instead try to convince them, ‘You must vote for us because we are right’. And it would make the same plea to white men, who, capable of critical reflection as all humans are, would have some basis to be persuaded to endorse leftist causes.

That segments of today’s left have chosen the parochial over the universal is lamentable – even, or especially, for those of us who might not personally identify with the left, but who do think that politics is a matter of promoting the common good rather than the good of select tribal groups.


What a Case Of Mistaken Identity Tells Us About Race-hysteria in America

Huge racist double-standards

Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old black girl, was buried this week in Harris County, Texas. She was fatally shot while sitting in the car with her mother and siblings on the morning of Dec. 30.

Initial reports stated that the shooter was a white man. Those reports led to a national outcry that this was a racially motivated attack. Activists and politicians demanded that the shooting be investigated as a hate crime. But in the days since the shooting, deputies in Harris County have charged two black men in relation to the shooting.

Jazmine Barnes was in a car with her mother and three sisters on Dec. 30 near a Walmart when shots rang out. Her mother was shot in the arm but survived. But Jazmine, who was 7, was shot in the head and died at the scene. The other girls in the car during the shooting said the gunshots came from a red pickup truck driven by a white male. And The New York Times reports that there was another still unsolved shooting in 2017 in the same area that witnesses say was committed by a white man in a Ford pickup.

So that, in combination with a police sketch of the suspect, created a real fear that this was a racially motivated attack.

But we now know that the suspected shooter was black

This week, the police have charged two suspects, Larry Woodruffe, the alleged shooter, and Eric Black Jr., the alleged driver. The police say they think the shooting was a case of mistaken identity. Eric Black and the alleged shooter, they say, were trying to retaliate against someone they had gotten into an argument with earlier, and they misidentified the car Jazmine Barnes was in.

The police said that they believe that both the white male and the red pickup the girls in the car saw were real, but probably belonged to an innocent bystander who sped away during the confusion of the shooting.

In the days after the shooting and before the arrests, Shaun King, an activist who is very prominent on social media, offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's arrest and helped publicize the police sketch of the presumed white suspect. During that same period, Sheila Jackson Lee, a congresswoman from Houston, called Barnes' killing a hate crime.

If this suspect were identified as black from the beginning, how might that have changed this story?

Crimes with both black victims and black perpetrators tend not to make national news. Just two weeks before Jazmine Barnes was shot, another 7-year-old in Harris County was seriously injured in a drive-by shooting. When these crimes do bubble up to this level, it's usually invoked to wave away concerns around structural racism or police violence — you know, concern-trolling like, "Well, what about black-on-black crime?"

There are sadly a lot of Jazmine Barneses in America, and lots of neighborhood rallies and memorials for slain little kids like her. It's telling that the relatively less common instance is one of a very few conditions in which those deaths would garner national coverage.


Why holding a door open for a woman could get you sacked for sex harassment

On a visit to the theatre a couple of nights ago, I was standing with a small group of friends when a man came to join us. His shoulders were stooped and his step heavy as he strode across the foyer, frustration oozing from every pore.

'I don't understand the rules any more,' he confessed. 'Everything I say seems to upset people. I told someone at work she had nice shoes on and was warned that it was inappropriate.'

There was a lot of head shaking and murmurs of sympathy as the group – particularly the women – derided the madness of banning compliments for nice shoes.

I decided to offer him my standard response.

'It's simple,' I said. 'You have to ask yourself – would I say this to a rather terrifying cellmate in prison? If not, don't say it to a woman in a professional environment.'

It's not a terribly scientific answer but, since few people are clear about the boundaries of what is appropriate, it works. Or rather, I thought it did.

Because having watched a new BBC documentary due to be screened this week which explores precisely this predicament between men and women in the workplace, my tried and trusted advice no longer seems quite so adequate.

In fact, it has left me petrified for my 18-year-old son, who has yet to enter the world of work.

In the programme, 20 young adults between 18 and 30 are brought together to see whether they understand the rules of behaviour in the workplace. Over two days, they watch a specially written drama telling the story of the working relationship between a man and woman.

The woman is Cat, who arrives on her first day and receives lots of attention from the man, Ryan, who describes himself as her 'mentor'. Both of them are good looking and the workplace is a bar – very relaxed, music playing, drinks being consumed – but it's still work.

And from the moment they meet, Ryan can't resist making subtle digs at Cat. In attempting to teach her to use software for stocktaking purposes, he says: 'When they told me the new duty manager needs help with the stock software, I was like: 'What have you employed her for, then?' But having seen you work, I get it.'

He then leans in slightly too closely over her shoulder at the computer, complimenting Cat on her perfume.

HOW THE MEN SEE IT: 'He is too close, he's leaning over her shoulder. But she doesn't seem to find a problem with it.'

HOW THE WOMEN SEE IT: 'I was shocked Cat didn't have the courage to identify the problem and call it straight away.'

THE LAWYER'S VERDICT: 'Ryan has texted friends about the "fit new duty manager", writing "She wants it mate. She just doesn't know it yet."

Definitely sexual harassment.'

She never tells Ryan of her discomfort. But he is so busy flirting that he fails to teach her how to use the software, instead opting to complete the job himself.

When Cat attempts to intervene to finish the stock order, he dismisses her efforts, remarking that it was 'team work… brains and beauty', reducing her contribution to looking pretty. He's clearly pushing his luck, but is he breaking the law?

The drama continues two weeks later as the pair enjoy after-work drinks on a Friday night, and dancing in a club. Cat, a little worse for wear, is sick and, when Ryan checks on her, he puts his hand on her shoulder then slides it down to her waist. She removes his hand and walks onto the dance floor.

But the nub of the story takes place the following week when Cat, unfamiliar still with the software, messes up a drinks order. Ryan consoles her by asking her to stay on for a drink, and joins her in a taxi home. But he gets out at her stop, and moves in for a kiss – a kiss Cat rejects.

The programme also observes the group of 20 youngsters as they watch the drama play out and reveals how divided they are in their opinions of what's taking place.

Some brush off the entire chain of events as little more than 'banter', while others agreed that the woman should have made her discomfort more clear. At the other end of the spectrum, some – mainly women – feel the man's behaviour is completely out of order.

But the most chilling part of the whole thing – the part which left me fearful for my son and which will undoubtedly shock any parent – is the concluding verdict by the barrister brought in by the programme.

She is unequivocal. There is no ambiguity in any of the scenarios, she states. Each one can be construed, by law, as sexual harassment, defined by statute as any unwanted conduct that has the intention of violating someone's dignity.

Take each scenario in turn and the shocking reality of this is clear.

HOW THE MEN SEE IT: ‘If someone compliments you on your smell, that’s nice. He just said, “That’s nice perfume.”'

HOW THE WOMEN SEE IT: 'If one of my work colleagues had complimented my perfume, I wouldn’t have taken offence. If she found it offensive she should have definitely said something.'

THE LAWYER’S VERDICT: 'The perfume comment is sexual harassment. For example, would he say to a man, you’ve got nice perfume? 'If not, then it’s likely that it’s related to sex.'

Ryan's flirtatious, throwaway remark to Cat – 'brains and beauty' – is sexual harassment. Leaning too close to Cat, touching her waist and commenting on her perfume could likewise potentially lead to a tribunal. All of these things, the barrister points out, violate her dignity and as such could constitute a harassment case.

As I watched the show, with a growing sense of unease, I thought about the man at the theatre who had complimented a colleague's shoes. It turned out that the woman was right: his approval, even if kindly and innocently delivered, was unprofessional and potentially illegal.

As someone who began her career in the breast-groping, bottom-pinching 1990s, I am delighted that the world of work has been transformed. For years, women kept quiet about all manner of abuse so that they could keep their careers on track. That was clearly wrong.

But if things have improved for female workers, there's also more confusion, particularly for men.

Just how are men and women supposed to deal with each other and just what sort of world do we want to see in the future? Will it be a sackable offence to praise a new dress, a suit, a natty tie?

Countless relationships, happy marriages and strong families have started in the workplace. In fact, one 2014 survey suggested that 30 per cent of relationships begin there. Are these to be banned?

And isn't it a little demeaning to suggest that women, who have spent centuries putting men in their place, are incapable of speaking up for themselves from time to time?

I can't help feeling there's something Orwellian in the way we seem determined to police and punish not just sexism and bullying, but normal, human behaviour, too.

As the mother of a son who has just left home, the serious consequences of an innocent mistake now seem terrifyingly real.

I hope, as any parent does, that George will meet the woman of his dreams, have a fantastic social life and enjoy good professional relationships with men and women in whatever career he chooses.

But I now understand the harsh reality of what he and millions of other young men are facing – not just in distant US college campuses, or high-tech 'start ups' in trendy parts of London or Manchester but increasingly in the everyday world.

A couple of colleagues have frightening stories to tell.

One has a son, Richard, aged 21, who works for a bank in London and was given a warning for simply holding a door open for a colleague – an act of chivalry or, at the very least, basic manners in any other generation.

Richard said: 'I saw her coming down the corridor so waited and said, 'After you', allowing her to go through first. Then I went through after her and a man came through behind me.'

Astonishingly, the woman complained to the bank's human resources department that his actions amounted to sexism.

Richard was called into a meeting with HR officials, who told him that opening the door for his colleague had 'infantilised' her, and made her feel 'less'.

'It was all really frightening,' Richard continued. 'I thought I'd lose my job. I got a letter confirming the warning and it said that if I held the door open only for black men, or only for white men, it would be racist, so it was sexist that I held the door only for the woman.

'I told them that I would hold the door for a man as well but they said I hadn't in this instance – I'd treated the woman differently. I learnt a tough lesson.'

Carl, 28, a retail manager in Manchester, has been forced to learn a similar lesson. A couple of years ago, his store took on extra staff before the Christmas rush. One was a woman in her early 20s.

'It's always frenetic and full-on in December,' Carl admits. 'We're a close-knit team anyway but with the music in the store and the increase in shoppers, the camaraderie between us can be described as casual, fun and close-knit. Our guards were down, I suppose.'

Carl was working with the young woman in the changing rooms, moving rails of clothing and emptying boxes, and put his hand out to stop her falling backwards when she had tripped.

'I'm quite a touchy-feely guy,' Carl admits. 'Not in a sexually aggressive way, but I will unthinkingly put my hand on someone's shoulder or their arm to emphasise a point. I do it with my male friends and platonic female friends.

'I didn't gauge my colleague's reaction at the time although, looking back, I can see that she did freeze. But I put that down to her being the new girl, rather than thinking I was totally out of line.'

A fortnight later, he discovered, to his shock, that she had reported him and two other members of staff for inappropriate behaviour. 'I was speechless,' Carl said. 'I didn't know how to react.'

Carl said it 'pulled me up sharp'. 'I really thought about who I was around my colleagues, and in particular her. But I genuinely couldn't see how my behaviour could have been misconstrued. It's the first time any allegations have ever been made against me.

'I had a few sleepless nights afterwards. Since then, the episode has made me re-evaluate what is normal behaviour between adults. Is a friendly gesture not allowed?

Well, no – as the BBC drama highlights. Working lives should not be blighted or undermined by unwanted attention, as the barrister explains on screen. The rules are the rules.

Don't get me wrong, misogynistic abuse can have a devastating effect and must be stamped out.

Take the case of Helen, a shocking real-life case explored by the show. She says: '[My male colleagues] talked about the size of my breasts. They talked about my vagina quite openly. They took a picture of me when I was asleep, graffitied an ejaculating penis on my face, put it on Facebook, put it on the company's social media page.

'I put up with quite a lot I guess. I felt unable to stand up for myself. I knew it was wrong – my instincts were telling me – but I didn't know what to do with it. That was the hardest thing.'

Helen took them to a tribunal and won her case, plus £10,000 in compensation. But facing them in the tribunal was not easy.

'It was insinuated it was wanted, that I enjoyed it and didn't have a problem with it. I felt I couldn't be myself any more because I'm naturally warm and smiley. Then you think: am I leading someone on by just being me?'

Yet the programme also highlights the terrible consequences that a culture of accusation can have, taking the real-life case of Keith, a co-ordinator in a hospital, who was wrongly accused of sexual harassment at work.

Keith, who is openly gay, describes how the allegations emerged after he failed to swap a shift with a co-worker. 'He accused me of touching his bottom 14 times… of saying he had red, sexy lips. 'He accused me of grooming him in the way that I would cook food and bring food for him.

'I was totally dumbfounded by all these accusations. There was an internal investigation. The accusations were proven to be unfounded and I was cleared of all allegations.

'I never, ever thought in a million years that anyone could be so cruel, vicious or vindictive.

'I've never drunk before but I found myself drinking up to a bottle of vodka a day to self-medicate. I was diagnosed with stress-related Type 2 diabetes.'

No wonder the men look sheepish as this revealing experiment draws to a close.

'I'm never going to talk to any of the women at work again, in case I say something wrong,' says one.

'I just don't want to upset anyone, but I don't know how…'

And it's not just them who have been left with questions. Every family in the country has some thinking to do.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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