Friday, December 24, 2010

Are we witnessing an emerging tribalism?

Some professional political commentators and average people, over the past several years and especially during the two most recent election cycles, have noted that they've observed more hostility between people of differing opinions. They lament the decline in civility and the lack of civil discourse on political affairs. Are we witnessing a coarsening of mores as discussion of political and social questions becomes more heated? Or is the divide being exaggerated by those who have a story to sell or are seeking self-exaltation? Are partisans losing patience, slowly coming to the realization that on certain issues there can be no common ground and no possibility of changing the opposition's mind? (Progressives may continue to believe that the problem is not with their reasoning but the intellect of their opponents, or their stubborn uncritical adherence to dogma and tradition.)

I think that the discussion that you see on the internet shows that the internet, for the most part, is a lousy tool for dialog. There may be some who have what it takes to be persuaded by an argument from the other side, but most are only interested in asserting their opinion, and most political blogs seem to have the effect of merely reinforcing opinion rather than challenging minds. Those who understand that the pirmary obstacle to moral conversion is related to desire, rather than intellect, will not be shocked by these facts.

When people become aware that they do not have the most important values in common, they may be forced to ask questions about their identity and their associations. Who are my people? With whom do I belong? Living together requires living in close proximity to one another, but that is not enough. I believe that social alienation resulting from the lack of strong ties to community and to other people makes this questioning even more likely.

I think it is possible that social alienation is mitigated in smaller communities or that private behavior which goes against community mores is ignored there so long as everyone does their share for the sake of the community. But one must remember that normal citizens have very little influence on legislation and the judicial system, and so there is very little they can do to address bad behavior if shaming and other social correctives no longer obtain and there is no common church. "Live and let live" might be the only path they can take. It seems as if the inertia of habit is the only thing that keeps such communities going. I believe it is likely that if a threat to traditional mores arose, the community would surrender rather than fragment or struggle in an internal conflict.

Still, unbridled sexuality heralds the destruction of society. Good mores and tradition exist to protect social life, even if we do not understand the rationale. But it is also in people's "self-interest" that all observe these morals, so as to not have to clean up after other people or deal with the consequences of their poor life decisions -- children who do not know how to behave and grow up to be criminals, and so on.

Perhaps the American people are realizing that it the differences are not just about preferred policies, but they result from contrasting world-views and values. Many are accustomed to thinking about a clash of civilizations as it exists between different nation-states or regions, but what about a clash of civilizations within a single nation-state (which is where we live, in effect, rather than a true federation)? It may be that American radicals/liberals/Democrats and conservatives/Republicans identify less and less with each other. A continued impasse in discussions and a failure to come to agreement can lead to frustration and anger or to acquiescence, and it looks as if so-called conservatives are the ones who will probably back down first. The instinct "to go along to get along" is strong in human beings, and in the face of a dominant liberal culture many may give into the temptation to surrender. (Besides, the devil is going to tempt those who are weak to give up the struggle, while he encourages liberals to continue to do what they are doing.) Liberals may not be more confident, but they may be satisfied that they have power and a growing number of America's youth on their side. This power may be actually illusory, but rashness does not need the truth.

With the decaying of family life, there may exist even big differences in beliefs within families. These differences also exist among neighbors -- how can it be otherwise in a land where physical mobility is exalted and many are not really tied to any one place? Where there is no common culture (which seems to be a necessary basis for dialog, pace MacIntyre) and identity, there is no single people. Many states have long ceased to resemble sovereign entities possessing an identity because of the size of population, the destruction of the smaller communities and their culture, and the loss of economic freedom.

It is unfortunate that many Americans currently identify themselves along party lines, rather than through a more "natural" identity. While many hold to an "imperfect" conservatism, one that is more aligned with being a member of the Republican party than tradition, they may be start to realize that their group trumps party allegiance, especially when the so-called conservative party is doing nothing to protect their values and families. There may be some hope for Sam Francis's MARs to be born, as people transition from an uncritical or resigned partisanship to a better understanding of tradition and identity and a new lay activism. Conservatives should  rediscover family ties and those fortunate enough to live in an authentic community should do what they can to strengthen that community. Some conservatives may seek to join intentional communities or to migrate to more "conservative" areas, but this is a less than ideal solution. Still, if they find that they live in an area which is determined to be liberal (certain parts of California), I can't blame them for leaving.

Are big cities in the United States generally more liberal while rural areas are more conservative? (And what about Yankee immigration into the South?) I believe liberalism is antithetical to community, despite what left communitarians might think (if they are liberals, they are inconsistent liberals?).  Liberals believe that we should be tolerant of those with different opinions about what constitutes the good life, and that all will be fine so long as they observe the no harm principle (harm defined broadly enough to cover "discrimination" but not other behaviors).* It may seem that the liberals are correct, in so far as issues of private morality will not be important in comparison to life-and-death issues, but we are not at that point of decline yet. A public orthodoxy that legitimates immoral sexual behavior cannot but have an impact on laws, social practices, and the education of children and others. More fornication has resulted in an increase in out-of-wedlock births, the weakening of marriage, and a greater inability of young people to form stable families. Liberals who cannot even exert some sort of discipline over their families and children will find that any efforts to "build community" will be for naught in the long run. While left communitarians advocate a return to community as a solution to an unsustainble political economy and the problem of peak energy, they fail to understand that a community is not perpetuated upon a shared concern for survival alone.

Difficult times will test bonds and relationships. Will the new year be a critical one? It is easy to be generous when you believe the Government will take care of you in turn. But what if there is no one coming to help you and your family? What do you do then? Liberals may find that they are not virtuous as they think they are.

*Quite consistent with their support of tolerance is a radical push for a change in mores, an acceptance of what had previously been prohibited or condemned when these acts do not violate their "no harm" principle, which in turn leads to that famous liberal "intolerance" of conservative laws and advocacy.

The desire for a "rational" moral system confronted with the fact that the right people are unable to agree upon one, or on the means for discovering one, leads to a dogmatic agnosticism or skepticism regarding human goods?

An interview with Jared Taylor of American Renaissance over at Taki's Mag. Need I say I disagree with him on many things?

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