Neighbors and patriotism

By Paul J Cella Posted in Comments (42) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

The Sophist, an old and respected commenter, has returned to us after something of a hiatus; and is promptly falling into an old debate he and I have had over the nature and destiny of the American tradition. I’m going to touch on a few of his latest points. To get a full sense of the lineaments of this discussion, readers are advised to follow the comment thread link above.

(1) The question “who is my neighbor?” has informed an important part of our debate. In his latest comment, The Sophist writes that, in urban America, “What makes someone a neighbor is that you choose to interact with them, that you choose to care about them, and that you choose to include them in your ‘communion’ if you will (and vice versa), thereby creating community with them.” There is a great deal to be said in response to this. I will confine myself to two pointed questions: (a) What does this admission of “chosen” community leave for the idea of duty or obligation? If I may, at will, chose my community, chose who to care about, chose my loyalties, in what sense can they be said to be binding? May I not merely repudiate my choice when the inclination of my will shifts? If not, on what grounds do you say that a chosen loyalty can attain a compulsion deeper than the choice that made it? (b) What does this assertion that truly American “neighborliness” is fundamentally artificial leave for the idea of organic local democracy, which was, in the view of Tocqueville, part of the true greatness of American democracy and an indispensable bulwark against that tutelary despotism which would reduce democratic man into “nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd”?

(2) The Sophist writes, “your point about weak and subjugated countries having real patriots is well-made. However, [it is] not that weak countries cannot have patriots, but that whether weak countries have patriots or not doesn’t matter. There may be staunch patriots of Lichtenstein, but... who cares?” These patriots of weak and conquered nations “will have no impact on world affairs one way or another — except perhaps as cute historico-cultural artifacts.” Or again: “I worry, Paul, that your approach of ‘let me be proud of America because she is mine’ will ultimately end up making us the global equivalent of the Amish.” I cannot share The Sophist’s confidence in the final irrelevance of the small patriot. He might recollect that Americans were once thought of as small and petty patriots — rebellious provincials of a great empire. “The North American colonists are jealous of their liberty? . . . who cares?” Or consider the anachronistic local patriotism of Robert E. Lee, who despite his intense dislike of slavery, turned down a commission in the Union army out of loyalty to his state; and this perplexing anachronism notwithstanding, went on to lead an army that won the admiration of the world.

But more broadly, this response of “who cares” misses the point. The point is not that the patriot of the weak nation is relevant; it is that his patriotism is real. It is real despite the fact that it can never be universal in the way The Sophist imagines American patriotism must be. And my argument is that this latter conception of patriotism — the patriotism of universality — is in an important sense unreal. It depends for force and vigor upon things outside of it, fleeting things; and, supposing those are by violence or decay removed, it will vanish. Under the siege of Lincoln’s “silent artillery of time” these universalist patriots will become but the “loud and troublesome insects of the hour” of Burke’s vivid scorn.

Now, I want to head off an error that may arise because of the character of my arguments. It may appear that I make too much of patriotism, that I turn it into a kind of hagiography of place. I assure the reader that I do not. Indeed, part of my problem with the universalist patriotism against which I am arguing, is that it infuses love of country with a kind of religious significance. This is a weight it cannot bear. The only true universalism is that of Christ, and Him crucified. All else is derivative. The Sophist has said, in a grand and admirable flourish of rhetoric, that “our way of life is superior, that it is good, and that it is the true state of being for all people everywhere.” Much as it attracts me, I cannot credit this statement; and I think that to pursue its implications will debase us. Like any love of things that are good, love of one’s country is just and true; but it must always stand beneath He that is the Source of all good. Calling our way of life “the true state of being" for all men, it seems to me, is pride of a particularly insidious variety.

I was eagerly following the dialogue. I had made personal notes to your "more on confidence" post, but refrained from posting for fear of upsetting the dialogue. This issue is one I have longed to take up with you all and it seems I track closely with theSophist. Out of a sense of urgency for this topic I perhaps unwisely include my unpolished, perhaps abrasive notes below, while I work on a better response to the direction your diary entry has presently turned the dialogue.
John E.

By paragraph to "more on confidence"

Impose it by force in a particular circumstance: when confronted with zero-sum conflict. In non-zero sum conflict it will be imposed by the advantages it presents and preserved by its own adaptive traditions. You remind us of what needs changing. Are you with us or against us on that.

The people in Mexico, Canada, Peru, and Russia are all just as actual as you are The word “neighbor” is a concept which in and of itself involves abstraction. There is no cover for you there. Which differences are you hanging your opposition on? Distance, genes, culture?

Can you say what her goodness is dependent on? How do you ignore universality without granting that every tradition is as good as any other?

Faith without works is dead. It is not a static world. That which inspires belief inspires action. Beliefs which are true breed success. A particular class of subjugated patriot will rise.

Please specify what particular teaching of sophisticated Liberals you are referring to. I claim that the teaching that makes her feeble is the Standard Social Science Model: the idea that there is no universal; that cultures are incommensurate; that morality is a cultural artifact. And we find that even Conservatives advocating that cultures are incommensurate. (BTW: I inclined to believe that that is a misreading of Burke). The foundation of universality is nature and in particular human nature.

John E.

I think I will just wait for your response more tailored to my diary here, rather than reply to your "Notes" below. Some of what you ask has already been answered: for example your question of whether I believe in a universal. I certainly do, but without God, or at least without some notion of a transcendent order of justice, the cultural relativist position is very difficult to refute, I think. All societies will be judged, and many (perhaps all) will be found gravely wanting.

I think a good concatenation of my view is that we men can only approach the universal by means of the particular. We do not have access -- not really -- to Platonic ideals.

_______________
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

The Sophist made this comment on the other thread;

It seems a very peculiar sort of confidence in the rightness of one's way to refuse to impose it on others.

I'm not sure on what grounds we may object to Islam, once we accept this proposition. Whatever else may be said about Muslims, they don't lack for confidence in the rightness of their way, or in a willingness to impose it on others.

on the basis that its values and teachings conflict with ours.

Of course, that requires that we actually have some values and teachings that do indeed conflict with the teachings of Islamism. Therefore, if you are a contemporary Liberal or (non-)Progressive or some such Intellectual, then you have no basis for resisting Islam except some sort of aesthetic objection to burqa's.

Because you are absolutely correct -- the Islamists do not lack for confidence in the rightness of their way. So what happens when a confident vision conflicts with the ultimate in lack of confidence?

-TS

"What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

I'm don't believe that we are constrained to the two choices you seem to offer. Those being;

a) we have no confidence in our own culture and values and are helpless before Islam, or
b) we know that our way is best for all the world and have the right and even the duty to impose our way on others.

I believe there is a strong case to be made that we can indeed value our own culture and traditions without having the slightest need to see others adapt them. What makes other people "others" is precisely that they do not share these beliefs with us.

its values and teachings conflict with ours

What values and teachings are "ours"? Looking around America I'm struck by how little we agree on anything. The prerequsite for a country to endure is the existence of a "we". Some parties in this debate would like "we" to encompass the world, regardless of whether the world is interested. Perhaps Americans needs to come to some agreement about what they believe before expecting everyone else to join them.

On one thing, you, Paul, me, we all agree: we Americans need to come to some agreement about what we believe, and furthermore, we Americans need to come to agree that Our Way (whatever that ends up being) is in fact good and superior to Other Ways.

That we lost the first round of the war in Iraq is merely the symptom of the underlying civilizational sickness. Thankfully, I don't believe we're as far along in that sickness as Europe is. There is hope for us yet. And therefore, there is hope for the world yet.

However, I do not agree that we can value our own culture and traditions without having the slightest need to see others adapt them. Not if we see our own culture and traditions and values as something more than an aesthetic choice.

It's one thing to say, "I like chocolate, but I can see how you'd prefer vanilla." It's another thing altogether to say, "I like surviving widows to inherit, but I can see how you like tossing them on the funeral pyre of the dead husband." To be able to say the latter essentially means that one either (a) has no values, no traditions, and no culture apart from the aesthetic; or (b) has no confidence whatsoever in the values and traditions of one's own culture.

Clearly, we're not talking about love of apple pie and hamburgers here. We're talking about the things that make up the American Credal Culture (and here we go again back into that debate :) ) -- though I will say that such Creeds are built upon a historical context of an Anglo-European Enlightenment tradition. Those things -- whatever they end up being -- we must promote, export, and yes, impose in certain situations.

-TS

"What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

However, I do not agree that we can value our own culture and traditions without having the slightest need to see others adapt them. Not if we see our own culture and traditions and values as something more than an aesthetic choice.

So the logical progression of your way of thinking would be the elimination of all other cultures and the Borg-like assimilation of all else into America.

I like the world as it is, which is perhaps what makes me a conservative. I value America and American culture (more than some people at Red State do), but that does not prompt in me the slightest desire to see others adapt our ways. I would be rather sorry were they to do so. I like the variety of life, the different cultures and languages and customs. I have no desire to see Hungarians and Hutu's, Germans and Japanese, Arabs and Australians, all adapt the same identical American mindset and worldview.

The globalist and universalist mindset is that of a Leveler, seeking to destroy all that is local and particular in order to replace it with a single overriding abstraction.

First, I apologize for the late response to this and other posts -- I'm on the road, and Internet isn't easy to find in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. :)

But let me say that I don't believe you, not really, when you say:

I like the world as it is, which is perhaps what makes me a conservative. I value America and American culture (more than some people at Red State do), but that does not prompt in me the slightest desire to see others adapt our ways. I would be rather sorry were they to do so. I like the variety of life, the different cultures and languages and customs. I have no desire to see Hungarians and Hutu's, Germans and Japanese, Arabs and Australians, all adapt the same identical American mindset and worldview.

You're probably speaking of aethetic cultural elements and traditions. Lovely things like Chinese food or Austrian lederhosen or Hutu burial customs.

I assume you're not speaking of traditions like suttee or female genital mutilation. Do you really have no desire to see Thai parents stop selling their teenage girls into sexual slavery? Or would you rather they adopt the American mindset and worldview as it comes to child sexual slavery?

What about the quaint custom of strapping bombs to oneself to detonate in crowded buses and marketplaces? Is that a tradition that you haven't the slightest desire to see changed?

When I speak of our traditions and our values, I do not mean the aesthetic ones like eating turkey on Thanksgiving. I mean the core values.

And when it comes to those, then frankly, yes, the logical progression -- indeed, no progression is needed, as it is the stated purpose -- of my way of thinking is to eliminate all of those cultural practices, like the Borg, and replacing them with more enlightened practices.

-TS

"What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

You're probably speaking of aethetic cultural elements and traditions. Lovely things like Chinese food or Austrian lederhosen or Hutu burial customs.

One of the grotesque features of the modern American mind is its insistence on seeing "culture" as just this sort of concern with ephemeral matters. The things you mention have as much to do with culture as wearing a dress or trousers have to do with sex.

Culture has nothing to do with how much spice you like on your food. As the root of the word suggests, a culture is ultimately based on a "cult", or religion. As such each culture offers different answers to the questions of what is the appropriate relationship between man and man, between man and society, between man and God. These differences are in turn derived from different understandings of what the true nature of man, society, and God actually is.

This is something which internationalists have a very hard time wrapping their heads around. They think in a certain way, and they cannot conceive that anyone other than the mentally ill might ever think differently.

I apologize for the assumption then, that you did not mean, could not have meant, things like suttee and suicide bombing when you wanted to keep the "distinctness" of various cultures. Apparently, you do. Apparently, you would be rather sorry to see the Taliban abandon its worldview as pertains the proper relationship between Muslims and infidels, abandon its cult-ural beliefs about how to interact with Jews, or abandon its judgment about Americans.

In that case, let me modify my response as well. First step towards defeating the evil that is Islamsm must be to defeat the kind of vapid moral relativism mouthing the rhetoric of political correctness and cultural sensitivity which you apparently espouse. Having agreed that "culture" is more than mere aesthetic elements, to then refuse to condemn practices and beliefs that your own "culture" would consider vile and evil is moral nihilism pure and simple.

It's all well and good to look upon the practice of suicide bombing or child prostitution or sexual slavery and call them the result of "different answers to the questions of what is the appropriate relationship between man and man, between man and society, between man and God". But a value system that cannot look upon that and call it evil is not a value system at all. At least the shaheeds sawing off infidel heads and blowing up London buses believe something. You believe nothing at all, and that lack of belief is the cancer at the heart of our society.

I have no trouble wrapping my head around the idea that other people see the world very differently than I do. I just happen to condemn their world view, happen to believe that my value system or world view or "cult-ure" is superior to theirs. And I am willing to counsel action to see such "world views" defeated, disgraced, and discredited. I believe that the world would be a better place without certain kinds of "cultural" beliefs and expressions, among them the peculiarly self-abnegating moral nihilism of the modern Western intellectual.

-TS

"What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

There is a first time for everything I guess, including me being called a "vapid moral relativis[t] mouthing the rhetoric of political correctness and cultural sensitivity."

I won't make your mistake of thinking I know more about someone than I actually do. But I can't help but notice that in a general sense, the people who wish America to impose some undefined moral view on the rest of the world are largely also people who object strenuously to any such imposition on Americans.

It does come through loud and clear in your comments that you are quite comfortable converting other people to your way of thinking at gun-point. That being the case, the distinction between you and the Islamists is not that large.

I don't have a problem with other cultures having different customs than we do. That is, after all, what makes them different cultures. And these different customs will often go well beyond the trivial examples of food and dress.

I don't accept your basic proposition - that anyone who believes differently than I do is evil and must be converted through violence if neccessary. Were I to do so, I'd be compelled to engage in terrorism against many people in the United States, before expanding my attention to the rest of the world. I think you need to try making a case for why that proposition is valid if this discussion is to be meaningful.

I don't accept your basic proposition - that anyone who believes differently than I do is evil and must be converted through violence if neccessary.

I remember a very interesting lecture during my law school days when Ron Dworkin -- hardly a neo-con warmonger -- gave a lecture on moral relativism. He made the point that no one is actually a moral relativist, and argued that claims of moral relativism were in fact either (a) claims of ignorance (aka, "I don't know enough about XYZ to support or to condemn it), or (b) claims of modesty (aka, "I may think XYZ is wrong, but who am I to say?"). What he points out is that both positions break down in so-called extreme cases, if there is a moral system at all present.

What to think of ethnic cleansing genocide? It is impossible NOT to have a position on it. The "I don't know enough" approach doesn't pass the laugh test. What is there to know about ethnic cleansing to know whether it is good or bad? The "modesty" approach is not credible either. We're talking about rounding up men, women, and children and killing them simply because of the color of their skin or the ethnicity. To tolerate that isn't to be morally relativistic or to be tolerant of other cultures, but simply to be amoral altogether -- a moral nihilist, in other words.

Your generalized disagreement above suggests that I am simply intolerant, whereas you are "comfortable with other cultures having different customs than we do." And yet, I haven't heard your specific answers to specific different customs.

Beating one's wife because she talked back -- is that something you're comfortable with?

The Indian custom of throwing widows onto the funeral pyres of their husbands -- that's just a custom you accept, refusing to call it evil?

Is it acceptable for parents to sell their children into sexual slavery?

Should men rape a woman because she is walking outside of her home without a full-body covering?

What to make of the custom of taking wives and daughters of political opponents into rape rooms, to be violated in front of their husbands and fathers? Is that something worthy of condemnation, or just what makes that culture different from ours?

It's all so abstract to say things like, "anyone who believes differently than I do" as if we're talking about whether free school lunch is good or bad. Get specific. Are you seriously claiming that you do not believe the five examples above are morally wrong?

If you do, then frankly, there's no point in further debate. At that point, it isn't that we have differing views on morality, but that your system is not recognizable as a moral system at all.

However, if you are taking the second step of, "Well, of course I think those practices and customs are morally wrong, from MY point of view; I just don't think I should impose MY point of view, especially by force," then we're getting somewhere.

Then, your statement is recognizable as an extreme sort of "modesty" claim under Dworkin. As rephrased, it is this:

I don't accept your proposition that we should stop evil through violence.

Or perhaps an even more attenuated version:

Those practices are not immoral enough for me to support the use of force.

There's plenty of debate to be had whether a custom is immoral enough, and the situation dire enough, that violence is warranted in order to stop it. But now one must by logic engage in discussion of specifics.

However, none of that is necessary for my purposes and position. I have not actually made the argument you are ascribing to me. It may seem a semantic difference, but it is not.

What I have said is, "Where we have already committed force of arms, we must impose our values and our traditions." That is quite a different thing from "We must use force to impose our values."

For example, I consider the genocide in Darfur to be a great moral evil. The "custom" of raiding villages of blacks, killing the men, raping the women, and murdering children is not one that MY moral system could call anything other than evil. It cannot be tolerated.

However, we have not committed American troops to Darfur. Can something be done short of sending our men and women there? Perhaps. If diplomacy and sanctions and supporting rebels troops will get the job done, so be it. If letter writing campaigns can get the quaint custom of genocide stopped, wonderful. If the African Union wants to put a stop to genocide, grand. If France and Germany wish to do something about that custom, then it's their call. Those are policy questions at the end of the day.

The picture changes dramatically, for me, if we do decide as a matter of policy to commit troops to Darfur. Once our men and women have put themselves into harm's way and violence has been resorted to, then we must do everything in our power to ensure that our superior values and our superior traditions are the legacy of American use of force. If that means colonizing Sudan for the next fifty years, putting down American schools, American legal system, American capitalism, American civil rights, and American ideals of personal liberty... so be it.

I say this as a Korean-American -- a nation that Americans have shed blood to protect from Communism. If it were not for the sacrifice of Americans, I would be living in literal darkness under the Kim Jong-Il regime. I for one am grateful for the sacrifice of some 54,000 American soldiers who gave their lives in defense of freedom, and am proud to be an American today.

And yet, in retrospect, the years since 1953 would have been better altogether had the Americans simply colonized South Korea. My people have suffered military dictator after military dictator, repression piled upon repression, and outright massacres on their way to a democracy that is still today rife with corruption, elitism, and domination by chaebols, and is still today lacking important civil rights, particularly for women. Some customs would have been better off left behind in the dustbin of history.

And that's a success story in the annals of American use of force. I would much rather that South Korea gained independence in 2004, after having enjoyed fifty years of solid governance that left deep political, economic, and yes, cultural infrastructure to provide for the kind of liberal democratic society we Americans take for granted.

So here we are, as a nation, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trying like mad to extricate ourselves from a difficult situation. What faith, what confidence, do we have that twenty years after the last American soldier leaves Baghdad that Iraq will be a stable, functioning liberal democracy? Slim? None? Somewhere in between?

It's time we tried something different. It's time we start standing up our values for a change, peacefully wherever possible, but where we have already resorted to force, then by force if necessary.

Is my position extreme? Undoubtedly -- today. Right? Possibly. Realistic? Perhaps once we have regained our national and indeed civilizational confidence. Frankly, that is our first and in some ways, the most important, task.

-TS

"What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

You offer me the choice of "Well, of course I think those practices and customs are morally wrong, from MY point of view; I just don't think I should impose MY point of view, especially by force" OR of endorsing rape and murder.

I think that abortion and homosexuality are morally wrong. I can see nothing at all in your arguments which would prohibit me from employing deadly force against those who take the opposite view. There is no agreement even within "the West" or America as to what conduct is permissible and which is not. Which leads us back the my intial point - I'd like to hear more about what "our" values are, before I even consider attempting to impose them on the rest of the world.

You attribute to me the following position; Those practices are not immoral enough for me to support the use of force.

This appears to deliberately miss the point. What is "moral" and what is "immoral" are subjects on which there is profound disagreement. One solution to this difficulty is the federalist one - different places make different laws reflecting the differing outlooks of different people. With respect to America this might mean allowing its several states the freedom to eneact varied laws on contentious issues. With respect to the world it means accepting that the raison d'etre for differing countries existence is precisely because different people have very different conceptions of morality. If eveyone agrees about everything then we should indeed all live in one global political unit. I'm not sure if you are actively arguing for that position or if you have not followed your arguments to their conclusion.

The willingness to use force to enforce morality ought to be at its maximum for those close to us, decreasing with distance. Sadly, many Americans take the contrary position. In other words, I think we can indeed use force to impose our moral values on those within our own cultural and legal system. That is, or used to be, the very definition of a state.

Are you seriously claiming that you do not believe the five examples above are morally wrong?

I'm claiming that it is immaterial whether I consider them morally wrong or not, since they occur in other countries. What is important is whether people in those countries consider them morally wrong. (Just as I think its meaningless what people in other countries think of the death penalty or abortion laws in the US. I don't care whether they oppose or support these laws, and I rather expect you feel the same way.)

It's time we tried something different. It's time we start standing up our values for a change, peacefully wherever possible, but where we have already resorted to force, then by force if necessary.

I certainly have no objection to standing up for our values, using force if neccessary. That's why I supported the Iraq war, among others. But some definition of terms is neccessary here. I don't see that the obliteration of all other values is neccessary in order to stand up for our own. You italicize the "our" in "our values". Can there even be an "our" without there also being a "them"?

You mention South Korea as an example of successful US intervention. It's worth noting the resentment and hostility towards America felt by large numbers of young Koreans. Whatever the blessings of liberal democracy, the recipients of it rarely seem very appreciative.

I have a partially completed response to the diary post which I am still working on and still plan to offer. But the simple clarity you offer here regarding universality offers direct access to what I judge to be the critical point of departure.

for example your question of whether I believe in a universal. I certainly do, but without God, or at least without some notion of a transcendent order of justice, the cultural relativist position is very difficult to refute, I think. All societies will be judged, and many (perhaps all) will be found gravely wanting.

I think a good concatenation of my view is that we men can only approach the universal by means of the particular. We do not have access -- not really -- to Platonic ideals.

I believe we happen to share a belief in a very particular god. There are many relevant effects of that and a certain meekness is one of them. Our faith tradition neither encourages nor permits us to impose its universal directives on others. And those who do not share our faith do not necessarily find in it any basis for universals. You may have refuted cultural relativism in you own mind by your belief in god, but without an imposing defense of your own belief in god you have provided no basis for refuting it in the public sphere. In essence, you are waiting for god's direct intervention to refute cultural relativism. But in the meantime, you have left it to rule the day.

It should not rule the day! And we should not let it. It can be refuted based on what is common to us all: the world we live in and human nature. This is a form of argument which though not absolute, purports to be valid for all extant people. From what I can tell, Pope B. in recent speech and encyclical is on this track. And it can and must be elaborated. I believe I have it at least partially worked out.

Lack of access to Platonic ideals is an epistemological position. Do you arrive at it axiomatically or derivatively? To the extent that you intend that the human mind may not be capable of perfect/absolute knowledge, I can accept your point axiomatically. To the extent that you intend that our knowledge is gained and perfected through experience, similar acceptance. To the extent that you mean that rational reflection on experience cannot produce conceptual knowledge that approaches by narrowing degree the (loosely speaking) 'Platonic ideal' I challenge your epistemology. I am prepared to argue that this is in the very nature of the mental faculty which we universally find ourselves endowed with.

John E.

though I do consider myself as belonging to a lower weight class than is revealing itself here. The arguments on all sides are difficult to ignore.

Debate about choosing one's urban neighbors doesn't really bear directly on whether nations have an obligation to each other outside of their own self interest. Men are not nations, and using individual morality to judge international relations is not worthwhile. While some principles may overlap, the uneven nature of the overlap will be a source of more confusion and error than understanding.

There are really two kinds of obligation at work, which do have some interplay, but can be considered separately. The first is a mandatory obligation, and the second is a discretionary obligation.

  1. Does nation A have an obligation, by virtue of its existence, to intervene in the unjust conditions it sees in nation B? Or is A under obligation not to interfere in the internal affairs of B?
  2. If nation A has customary, historical ties or has chosen to make formal treaties with nation B that do not explicitly require it A to aid B, is A under obligation to "help" B anyway?

At this point I would interject Thomas' notion that men are justly governed as they consent, rather than simply as they wish, throw my hands in the air, posit that nations have the right to self-determination, and excercise my right to a Corona.


Evil men hide from the truth, but good men stand upon it.

Socrates -

You are correct to say that the conditions of NYC residents becoming or more often not becoming neighbors don't necessarily connect directly to nations being "neighbors".

However, there is a connection of sorts.

If I care nothing at all about what is going on next door, then in effect, I have cut off communion (in the secular sense) with that person/family. I am in fact choosing not to recognize that person/family as being part of my "neighborhood". I think Paul's point may be that whether I care or not, that person is still my neighbor due to the accident of Place, Culture, Time. There may be a point there as well, since I don't think choice alone governs community.

Richard Gere might posit himself part of the community of Tibetan Buddhists all he wants. But it's a real stretch to see him as part of that "neighborhood".

Similarly, confronted with the modern world as it is, I am suggesting that nations also have a choice -- either to engage, or to disengage. Disengagement does not guarantee that the world will not intrude; it does guarantee that the nation is no longer part of the global community, but little else.

Living in suburbia now as I do, I realize that real neighbors do care about each other and do get into each other's business sometimes. If I let my lawn go to weed, my neighbors care -- because it diminishes the neighborhood as a whole. At the same time, if there's a death in my family, real neighbors bring over casseroles. And if I'm abusing my children, real neighbors report me to the police and have me hauled away.

If a neighborhood does not do these things, does not care for each other in this sort of way, then it is not really a community -- it's just a collection of individuals who happen to reside nearby each other.

The American character for most of our existence has been somewhat like the NYC resident -- don't bother me, and I won't bother you. Isolated from the rest of the world by two oceans, and from our southern neighbors by language and culture, we have been somewhat like an island unto ourselves.

And suddenly, we wake up one morning, on 9/11, to find out that as a matter of fact, what's going on down the street will set fire to our house as well. I have to wonder whether our current Islamist problem would exist if we the United States had been as active in exporting our values and our culture to other countries and other people as Saudi Arabia has been in exporting their values and their culture.

We send our troops into harms way in faraway places to save lives, to defeat evil ideologies of communism and fascism, but do not take our traditions and our values with us. Why? Is it reticence and modesty? Or is it an unwillingness to engage in the life of the global community?

What I am proposing, essentially, is that going forward, we (a) start having a spine and some pride about who we are, our traditions, our values, and our way of life in contrast to the way the Liberal-Left intelligentsia has been acting for the past few decades, and (b) start promoting those values and those traditions elsewhere in the world peacefully, and finally (c) where we have sent American men and women to die, that we make certain that the people there are fully indoctrinated into our way of being before we leave, even if that means colonial infrastructure and imposing our values. Yes, all of this is highly un-PC. Yes, all of this is extremely imperialistic, and likely to agitate the Al Qaeda types of the world. So be it. I'm not going to lose sleep over whether some San Francisco sophisticate approves of my redneck beliefs or whether Osama bin Laden is more upset at me than before.

To me, that's both in our national self-interest, and what it means for the United States -- as the world's hyperpower -- to start behaving like a good neighbor.

-TS

"What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

I'm not sure I can accept the route by which you got there.

Using the "friendly neighbor" argument, and even extending it as carefully as you did, stumbles into the same problem as always: men are not nations.

In this case, you are making the same mistake that liberals do when thinking that since being charitable is good, we should tax the rich and then we can all be charitable. It is no virtue to give unwillingly, nor to give willingly from another's resources. It is the same error to send our countrymen into harm's way to satisfy our own need for justice or humanitarian goodness.

On the other hand, if for whatever reason we do extend military force against a neighboring country, exporting our culture for reasons of creating a context for communication is essential. History tells us, however, that to carry that off properly requires a thorough eradication of the previous one, at a high cost in blood.

Or perhaps the main tenets of our beliefs about government are universal enough to be grafted into any culture, not depending on the specific conditions which gave rise to ours. We'll see.


Evil men hide from the truth, but good men stand upon it.

Socrates-

In a sense, we have two different debates going on -- as my response to Jon Sandor above makes clear.

On the one hand, there is the question of whether we should take action in the world, by force of arms. What circumstances call for our imposing our way of being on someone else? Paul, Maximos, you and others are making a distinction between the personal and the national, the local and the global, and criticizing my stance that "neighborliness" is a matter of choice. I think there's quite a bit there from a philosophical point of view, and I find that I'm engaging that line of debate in my response to Maximos's post.

On the other hand, there is the ancillary position which I have taken, which is exactly what you point out: where we have resorted to force of arms, for whatever reason, then we must export our culture, our values, and our systems -- by force if necessary. You are absolutely correct that history tells us that such a thing carries a high cost. What I am arguing, essentially, is that history also tells us that to refrain from paying that high cost, and to refuse to export the cultural context of a liberal society carries an even higher cost.

And finally, I am arguing (against Paul and Maximos and others, I believe) that the main tenets of our beliefs about government and society are indeed universal. I am arguing that the ideals of individual liberty, human dignity, equality under the law, free market exchange, personal property, etc. etc. may have been born out of a specific historico-cultural context, articulated by specific individuals such as Locke and Rousseau and Jefferson and Friedman and Reagan, but that their truth is indeed applicable to all people everywhere. That also is a matter worthy of debate, but perhaps it is because I am an immigrant and child of immigrants that I so strongly believe that the Anglo-American tradition applies to me as it does to a Daughter of the American Revolution.

-TS

"What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

I am arguing for the sophists position.

1) As I retrace the context of how the disagreement about neighbors entered the debate, the present argument appears somewhat tangential. TS's initial point was that the sense of obligation to treat with neighbors according to our own values ought to extend beyond the fellows next door. Paul called foul by abstraction. TS argued by experience that it was not abstract. Paul challenges TS's existential notion of neighbor as being artificial (arbitrary).

My initial reaction was that neighbor is a concept and thus inherently abstract. There are real people separated from me by varying degrees of distance, genes and cultural traditions; and joined to me by a common human nature and person hood. The concept "Neighbor" applies to all these people in varying degrees. Thus one cannot deflect TS's initial argument (in support of universalizing) simply by associating it with abstraction.

That's not to say that working out the roles of choice and duty has no relevance to the fundamental debate. The experience of the process of choosing is universal. What is the usurpation of choice if not slavery? It is in the process of choice that we most clearly become aware of the categories of good and bad. And universally experienced sentiments (some identify sympathy for example) seem to join to form some moral sense which exercises judgment claims over choice. Duty is such a claim. Adam Gadahn made a choice which shifted his duty to al Qaeda. It is difficult to get into his mind prior to this choice and determine that he actually violated his own personal sense of duty in making this choice. His personal feelings about it cannot control without granting that they may make his choice right. To judge him, we have to appeal to an external standard which is valid to the degree which it is universal. We reject its arbitrariness.

Who is my neighbor? Think of the parable of the good Samaritan. It shows the concept is somewhat elastic in extension. Doesn't it push in the direction that TS originally presented his neighbor argument for universality? We ought not be making any assertions that the concept of "neighbor" is in any crucial sense uniquely American. And it is "artificial" in the sense that is a human artifact; not in the sense that is utterly arbitrary. As far as I can tell, there is no objection to your Tocquevillian conception in part 1b and no actually proffered conception of "neighbor" which is inconsistent with it. I think TS highlights elasticity while relying on universality as opposed to arbitrariness. You object to arbitrariness in lieu of what, if not universality?

2) Subjugated patriots are not necessarily made irrelevant by our contrary view. Goodness will produce greatness, but the world is not static. Present greatness will be superseded when superior goodness asserts itself. In any given circumstance it might come from the subjugated patriot or the dominant patriot. And from time to time perversions of goodness may subvert the association between greatness and goodness but ultimately beliefs which are true (am being imprecise here) in the sense of corresponding to reality, seems to breed success. With all of our technological success we could still be subjugated by a cruel/immoral belief system because our ignorant turn into cultural/moral relativism inhibited us from destroying it.

"Who cares" is applicable to subjugated patriot whose love is for the less true traditional belief systems in the sense of what is the ultimate fate of those belief systems. The universal patriotism tendency that you seem to champion is never irrelevant. It is an essential component of the process by which traditional belief systems interact, compete, adapt and ultimately tend to sort out the good from the bad. It is a social element of human nature that allows natural selection to play out over cultures for the benefit of the human constituents.

All this plays out in the domain of Caesar. We are in Caesar's realm as well as Christ's. Christ has affected some of us but not all of us. Nevertheless, we are presently all in Caesar's realm
John E.

I must confess to some frustration with vagueness of terms, but also confess that it is probably my fault.

Anyway, let me say a few quick things in response.

(1) TS's initial point was that the sense of obligation to treat with neighbors according to our own values ought to extend beyond the fellows next door. I don't dispute this. But I do insist that the category "neighbor" must begin with the fellows next door first, and can only expand outward from there. And this, also, seems fundamental to the idea of neighbor: he is not chosen. Yes, yes, perhaps prople aim to buy houses with an eye toward what kind of neighbors they expect is such-and-such neighborhood, but the specific concrete people who live there, in the vast majority of cases, cannot be chosen. This, indeed, is in my reading a key element of the Samaritan story: the first two passers-by fail the test of neighborliness precisely because they want to chose who shall be their neighbor.

Thus, in my view, in urban America there is a real risk that the "neighbors" will be rendered an abstraction; the true difficulties of neighborly love and loyalty -- difficulties attendant upon caring for people who you may not really like, etc. -- will be concealed; and the habits of civil life, neighborly life, will atrophy. I have lived in my life near some borderline insufferable people, and the result has generally been that I have failed to love my neighbor. There were no less my neighbor for my failure.

(2) I was using "artificial" in contrast with "organic." In a true community, neighborhood relationships will be organic in that sense of unchosen. I do not mean to idealize this traditional condition, anymore than I wish to idealize patriotism. I do wish to set it out as natural; I further wish to set it out, in its particular manifestation in America, as one of the glories of our tradition. Small town America, in its self-government, is Tocqueville's Democracy in America, the "new political science," for a new age.

(3) Now the most elementary human community is the family, which except in one aspect -- a wild vow of loyalty until death -- is utterly unchosen. And of course Christianity teaches that all men are brothers; teaches that even God Himself was incarnated in a family.

(4) "Who cares" is applicable to subjugated patriot whose love is for the less true traditional belief systems in the sense of what is the ultimate fate of those belief systems. Now look here, man, a patriot is not a lover of belief systems; he is a lover of a country, which is a place and the people who occupy it. Through these people, belief systems will enter the equation, but they are secondary. A lover of belief systems is something else, not necessarily more base, not necessarily more noble, but something else.

This conflation of patriotism with belief systems is precisely what I am trying to resist here. It is somewhat alarming to me that love of the particular attachments of life, without reference to their universality, is regarded (unless I misread you) as somewhat ignoble. Can there be no place for simple patriotism? I don't say the patriotism should efface belief systems. I don't say that a patriot may not also be a friend of liberty around the world, etc.

I think it is a debasement of the idea of patriotism to infuse it with this ideological content. We should not make so easy and almost unconscious a shift of talking about patriots to talking about belief systems. These are different things.

_____________
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

On 1-3 I make no quarrel. But TS's response below makes sense to me as well. There is some sense in which neighborliness places demands upon us based upon circumstance and demands which are prior to choice. Yet as a result of choosing a community (and choice is something we cannot take away), further demands accrue. It is difficult to finely delineate. And I am feeling sheepish for perhaps not understanding you well enough to grasp the particular significance of this to the broader dialogue. I perhaps mistakenly assumed simply that your fatal-abstraction-meter was flagging and consequently muddied the dialogue. ???

On 4, your reproof is in order. Belief systems are secondary, encompassed by the identity that enjoins specific people's patriotism. Country is a good word, but it seems there are cases where it spans or subdivides countries as well. There obviously are phenomenological forces that unify peoples and engender patriotism. In each specific case the blend of those forces are likely unique. Shared place, beliefs, traditions, and history are just a examples of elements that may come together in various measure to engender this real thing we are referring to as patriotism. I can make no general claim regarding the specific measure of the role of belief systems in all instances of patriotism. I hope that satisfies the concern over conflation, even if this does finesse the prior debate over creedalism.

I think you misread me in considering patriotism ignoble when its object is comparatively less meritorious. Simple patriotism is a good thing, a noble thing, kind of like how a mother's care for her infant is a good thing. You have to have it in order to turn children in to meritorious adults, but not all infants will grow up to be equally meritorious. So some instances of a mother's care are not as productive as others. But all mothers have to apply it in order to realize the potential for the most meritorious adults. Simple patriotism is noble because it is a necessary part of the unfolding historical process of mankind's development through cultural adaptation toward a better understanding of ourselves, the world we live in and, i hopefully expect, of god.

For me personally, overcoming the crisis of confidence that TS has articulated does involve overcoming the grip of relativism. He seems to have grounded confidence without reaching that issue and if he can convince you all without reaching it, I regret bringing it up. Confidence is the exigency. But I hope it will not flourish briefly and then whither due an inadequate root.
John E.

Calling our way of life “the true state of being" for all men, it seems to me, is pride of a particularly insidious variety.

I take that concluding sentence as a summary for the paragraph. I hope I have sufficiently explained that I believe I share your religious viewpoint, the ultimacy that goes along with it and the meekness of its campaign within the realm of Caesar. In defending this call to our way of life against the charge of insidious pride, I do not at all rely on the endorsement from my religious beliefs. Hence, I am not infusing patriotism with religious significance, but trying to restore its own natural and historical civic significance. Look at history. Has patriotism always involved this sort of circumspection that prevents it from asserting itself beyond present boundaries? I make no claim to historical expertise, but it appears to me that the predominant (and natural) course of patriotism has been confidently assertive toward the Other. Do we commonly find historical examples of peoples who checked the reach of their patriotism because it is too prideful? If so, what has become of them? Have we Americans always been so circumspect of our patriotism so as to limit its reach in order to avoid the loathsome plunge into insidious pride? I claim that this is a dangerous change to the natural order of patriotism that entered American (and more generally Western) consciousness through that Standard Social Science Model I referred to above. The nearly unconscious assumption of relativism in the social realm has checked the natural course of our patriotism and now threatens to upset the processes that have brought the civic life of all extant peoples to the present state. Patriots of Islamism can and are exploiting this self-doubt which checks the natural assertiveness of our patriotism and it very well could produce an upset in what would otherwise be the natural course of this conflict.

Supporting links for the prior ref. to Pope B.
commentary by Lee Harris h/t gamecock http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/736fyr...
commentary by James Poulos h/t Jon Sandor http://pomoco.blogspot.com/2006/01/god-is-love-first-of-all-says-pope.ht...

Encyclical specifically Justice and Charity (26-30).
John E.

I lean towards TS's imperialist point of view (if not his aggressive proposed actions) and since 911 discovered that I am and always have been a neo-con. You know, I was a democrat till 6/2001 after 20 years as a dem party activist. But I was always a hawk, always an advocate of American exceptionalism, and i remain a liberal in the sense that I believe America has a duty to spread freedom as it can, and post 911 to do so more aggressively as defensive measure as well given the parameters of the islamo-facist threat and the vast region untouched by western values of freedom that allow for tolerance and the resolution of disputes according to law and not the sword.

But the main reason I write is to state a theory I have concerning why America has achieved such unparalled greatness in economic prosperity at home and charity abroad and in goo behavior despite our might.

I think it is because of the dynamic of personal freedom that allows us to create in order to meet others wants and needs. When God created man, I think he did so to create beings that could, like him, create. God wanted humanity to interact with each other in a state of freedom. That freedom was lost when man chose to be his own God and became enslaved to sin and death.

After the fall, God instituted nations for the purpose of order and so that sin would not increase exponentially in a one world government as at babel. Nations would also be checks on each other.

America was and is unique in its structure and creation as embracing judeo-christian values with the the government's duty to secure man's rigt to be free.

The US achieved the highest standard of living in the world in the 1820s. The consequence of our creativity, ie economic prosperity, also made possible the securing of the freedom by being able to afford to also be the strongest nation and so interrupt history, if we have the will, and its preponderance of dictatorships that rob the land and build armies to seize more land.

I think America is the closest approximation of eden man has acheived. Having said that, it is also closer to barbaric hellish paganism than heaven! And it will one day fall.

More later after I think about joining TS in liberating China!!!

http://gamecock.townhall.com and www.race42008.com
"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so." - Ronald Reagan

I've never been an activist or identified with Dems, but I always find I strongly identify with your stated views gc.

I read your theory with Paul's charge of "infusing" with "religious significance" in mind. If you would indulge me to take a liberty with your theory, I'd like to try something: namely, eliding God from all your observations until the end of the theory, because I think they may stand on their own. We who believe in god may ascribe his planning as the source of this particular outworking of history, but an atheist or agnostic might say all the prior things as a simple matter of natural observation. After all, if we are right about god, nature - which is clearly accessible to us - is god's creation. (BTW, from the Harris piece I take the impression that the Pope is engaging the secular community in this way).

I think it is because of the dynamic of personal freedom that allows us to create in order to meet others wants and needs. Our human species is creative. Our interaction with each other is most successful when conducted in a state of freedom. But we have particular natural characteristics that - when not managed - abuse freedom.

We are social and organize ourselves in civil communities for the sake of increased welfare and prosperity. There is a beneficial dynamic of interaction between communities that moves the ball forward for our species as a whole. (Personal aside: not to say it isn't sometimes a bloody zero sum interaction).

The above is according to god's plan.

America was and is unique in its structure and creation with the government's duty to secure man's right to be free. Judeo-christian values contributed significantly to the structure of American civil society.

The US achieved the highest standard of living in the world in the 1820s. The consequence of our creativity, ie economic prosperity, also made possible the securing of the freedom by being able to afford to also be the strongest nation and so interrupt history, if we have the will, and its preponderance of dictatorships that rob the land and build armies to seize more land.

I think America is the closest approximation of eden man has acheived. Having said that, it is also closer to barbaric hellish paganism than heaven! And it will one day fall.

John E.

further, and just to make sure you know, which I think you do, but just to make doubly sure

you do know that I had a conservative epiphany in 6/2001 and converted to the GOP?

whew......I was worried about you being on the streets not knowing!

will now read your post
and btw john
I always look forward to reading your stuff too brother and i admire the fact that you were never a democrat! truly!
Feel the Love

www.race42008.com
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson
http://gamecock.townhall.com

with a smile rising from a warmed heart. Back at you. And don't worry, I've read your testimony many times. I was just trying to give back something personal to you, since - as a friend once told me (ribbing with a smile) - I am such an unsocialbe prick. My emotional IQ is such that I can manage to sound offensive when I think I'm being nice. Anyway, I Love you man - gamecock ε {Salt-of-the-Earth}.
John E.

Its amazing how when one does what God prescribes in the way of conduct, how much better the outcomes.

But yes, my point was merely to note that fact. Yes, it is not necessary to convince people that our system works to also convince them of this underlying point of faith. In fact, many of the founders were agnostic, unbelievers or deists, but to a man, they considered judeo-christian VALUES as paramount and necessary to the form of government we have.

My theologian preacher brother as I, would vote for an agnostic or MORMON (I support Romney) that advocates judeo-christian values in law over a believing evangelical that doesn't.

www.race42008.com
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson
http://gamecock.townhall.com

<Has patriotism always involved this sort of circumspection that prevents it from asserting itself beyond present boundaries? I make no claim to historical expertise, but it appears to me that the predominant (and natural) course of patriotism has been confidently assertive toward the Other.

This is an excellent point -- not least because it forces me to clarify my argument in an important way.

I too desire a recovery of that confidence of which you and the Sophist have spoken, and which, I agree, is attendant upon the "predominant and natural course of patriotism" in history. But I think the universalism the two of you (and many, many others) espouse in effect puts the cart before the horse by highlighting what is distant and abstract before we establish what is near and known.

First we must recover what I have called patriotism (the natural love of place and people and tradition); from that base, we may well develop a kind of benevolent nationalism along the lines you envision. I fail to see how men who have forgotten how to love their own "sweet land of liberty," love her as she is, not as a matter of argument for her greatness or even goodness, but as a matter of instinct and passion -- how such men will be able to argue and contend for liberty abroad. I say you must have patriotism before you can have nationalism (a word I do not regard as a curse, as some do).

Put another way, the imperial impulse, the benevolent nationalism, which you and the Sophist espouse, is largely a matter of argument, of reason, of dialectic. What I am talking about is sentiment and passion. Or, more precisely, it is sentiment and passion disciplined by reason. I think it is simply nonsense to imagine that you can argue a man into patriotism. Love of country is prior to reason; and while one day reason may shape it into something that can be argued like any other idea, it must begin as this non-rational passion. But if it is imagined to be alone about ideas -- America the Abstraction -- then it has lost its force and vigor; it has become loveless and debased. It becomes an ideology masquerading as a love.

C. S. Lewis wrote brilliantly along similar lines in his book The Abolition of Man. He talks of the union of the belly and the mind in the heart. "The head rules the belly through the chest -- the seat ... of emotion organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. ... It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by the intellect he is mere spirit and by appetite mere animal." Then he hits the reader with the unutterable folly of trying to replace sentiment with pure intellect, in what is in my view one of the great prose passages in recent literature:

And all the time — such is the tragi-comedy of our situation — we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible . . . In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

This "ghastly simplicity" is what we are right now doing to patriotism. We denigrate the pre-rational love that gives it life and force; we disparage our own traditions, our heroes of legend; and then on the other side we clamor for "virtue and enterprise."

So yes, by all means let us be "confidently assertive toward the Other." But let us begin this restoration the only way it can be begun: by teaching ourselves and our posterity to love the things of our home.

_____________
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Paul, I feel it in my chest. In course of reading your post I experienced a full body tingle that lasted somewhere towards a minute with welling tears that shut down vision and after-shock tingles to this moment. Yes this comes from the chest! And what exactly has short circuited it in the common experience? That is the target of my opprobrium. Perhaps I have mistakenly identified that 20th century trick on the mind which is too smart by half. "So yes by all means" let us labor to restore this heart felt love for the legacy of our forbears with gratitude for the dear way of life it has brought us so that we may insure that it is carried forward to future generations and all the Other of us - present and future - who will choose to partake of it. And let us use all the might that it has made accessible to us to defend it from those who would destroy it. And let us nurture and cherish it for the precious thing it is. Let us nurse its new growths so it does not become stagnant and infertile. And, most urgently, let us bend our minds to comprehend what has short circuited this natural sentiment so we may cut it out as if it were a cancerous growth.
John E.

I think it is simply nonsense to imagine that you can argue a man into patriotism.

My concern is that the opposite has occurred. In effect, many a man has been argued out of the natural patriotic sentiment. And more insidiously the argument now enters into our rational framework unchallenged as though through a side door. And this rational framework checks - inhibits - our patriotic sentiment.

But I could be wrong about the cause. So, more particularly, what precisely do you identify as the "ghastly simplicity" which effects the denigration. We need to get about identifying the concrete cause for this effect so that we may set about inuring our compatriots to it.

Because of the exigencies I don't wish to divert our attention to the issue of "America as Abstraction" as it relates to the analysis of the immigrant - how precisely it is that a foreign patriot can become an American patriot. My intuition says that an interplay of reason and choice can recalibrate that natural sentiment though it does not construct it from whole cloth. And that may suggest a lowest common denominator for "American" that is less than your and my experience of "Americanness." We may have a difference of judgment about the effects of this: whether it is dilutive and destructive or fertile and productive. However, I don't see that reconciling this difference of judgment as being critical to the exigency of restoring the sense of patriotism. I agree that - existentially - the source of patriotism is sentiment not sterile reason; with the caveat that there is no clean separation between bowel, chest and mind - it's an integrated system and there appears to be a feedback loop of some kind. In your mind, is resolution of this issue crucial to the restoration?

John E.

I hope this does not divide us. Reflecting upon my own patriotic sentiment, I find that it is not much presently rooted in the sense of Mine. It ultimately attaches to a sense of Good. Hence my judgment comes into play and does engage my rationality. My heritage is a gift to me, yet if it does not seem to be good I may despise it and seek and *choose* something else. If it does seem to be good I am gratefully indebted. If *particular elements* of the tradition seem not so good as something new, I may adapt. If its goodness in general seems arbitrary - good according to us but bad according to Others - my sophistication contracts my sentiment. If I judge that the good is good for all, my sentiment expands. My reason and sentiment mutually affect each other. I am likely born with the capacity for a patriotic sentiment. As I grow and learn it extends from family outward to the community. As my capacity for independent and rational choice increases - though it can never become total - my sentiment is increasingly affected by my judgment.

Is this out of balance with your experience - the conception you advocate? I might be unusual but could I be an example of what you find to be problematic?
John E.

All this intellection may be fine for you, me and C. S. Lewis; but it will not move most men. This is where I worry that your sophistication runs aground. If we succeed in making "choice" -- choice, I gather, between approximations of the Good -- the master of our loves, then I do not see how we can retain the aspect of duty and unchosen loyalty.

An example. I grew up in Colorado, and have never lost my love of that great state. When I first came to Georgia, I was for some time dissatisfied. I longed to return to my home. But over the years, and quite against my "choice," I came to love the Peach State. This did not happen because someone set before me the virtues of both states, and Colorado was found wanting (I suspect that if such an foolish inquiry were undertaken, the thing might go the other way); nor did it happen because I undertook, with my reason, to discover which was a nearer approximation of the Good. It happened because over time I became a Colorado-born Georgian. Georgia is my home.

Let us not talk as though these is no difference in tradition or heritage between these two states, that this is merely an aesthetic matter. Horse hockey. Noble Globalization and beloved Capitalism have not yet succeeded in obliterating all the real variety of America -- not yet -- and there is yet a real and glorious difference between the Southerner and the Westerner.

Under your regime of choice, could I merely answer the question, "are you a Georgian or a Coloradan?" with, "I am neither; both traditions, it appears to me, fail in their test against the Good; therefore I declare myself a Virginian." Where, if choice rules, does unchosen loyalty, that organic growth of feeling or passion which, almost against my will, turned me into adopted Georgian, have any role?

I have a hard time seeing how love can answer to a master called Choice.

_____________
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

In response to your prior post I attempted to offer a phenomenological account of the interaction between sentiment and reason – to describe the implicit processes by which they seem to interact. I also carried it a step further following on the observation that I have – perhaps uncharacteristically – idealized this process somewhat by making it more explicit and calling it Platonic inquiry. This latter step may rightly be referred to as a regime or a discipline that could be prescribed. But I offer the former step merely as an attempt at phenomenology.

1) I meet your statement that “it will not move most men” with profound deference in that it rightly applies to the regime I envisioned (though, for obvious reasons, not to the phenomenology). Most men are not engaged in the level of self-reflection required by this regime and turning them toward it is an entirely impractical goal. It is not a prescription for what ails us.

The regime does have apparent practical value: it presents explicit access to a universalizing step. To the extent you or others disparage it I seek a hearing. (I might prefer to call it “a comprhensivizing step” if that were a word).

2) I meet your statement "if we succeed in making Choice master of our loves" with a denial. I am not attempting to make it so. Phenomenologically, Choice - and more particularly Good and Reason - either plays a role in the operation of our loves or it does not. Understanding the phenomenology is important in its own right and whatever consequences follow from it must simply be accepted, not prescribed.

The role of "master" perhaps characterizes my idealization more than my attempt at the phenomenology. I see how you reach it but “master” has a connotation of arbitrary-power-over that is not apropos. In that it seems my love attaches ultimately to the Good, it seeks to better comprehend the Good, and so it tends to employ Reason and Choice to improve itself. This interaction is better described as advising than commanding.

3) I meet your fear that Choice will emasculate “duty and unchosen loyalty” with an explanation. I concur that love naturally binds us to “duty and loyalty.” I observe that my love ultimately attaches to the Good. Community and tradition supply me with a heap of Goods. It seems to work out mostly as you would expect.

Compare relations.
RELATION-1: Love attaches to Good; Tradition and Community provide Good => Love transitively attaches to Tradition.
RELATION-2: Love attaches directly and unconditionally to Tradition and Community.

There is an interesting difference between the two relations. The first relational scenario provides a route – namely where Tradition is found wanting for Good - by which individuals may collectively reform Tradition and Community whereas the second cannot. Burke was a cautious reformer, no?

If however you subscribe to a statement like this:

“Since culture is relative and constructs perceived reality, cultures cannot judge one another. The Standard Social Science Model promises that humans may be ideologically trained. Since there is no human nature, we are programmable.” (ref)

then you are likely to see the Good as a completely arbitrary construct, unhinged from any reality, outside the context of culture. You will block the possibility of RELATION-1 as mere illusion. And so you would find cause to fear its impact.

Personally I think RELATION-1 accurately represents my natural, implicit experience and furthermore that the sense of Good must be a human characteristic foundationally prior to – even necessary for – the formation of culture.

Your comments generally seem to treat Choice as arbitrary. For me Choice is not arbitrary when it hangs on Good. Of course, if the Good is arbitrary then so is Choice.

4) Granted: Your Georgiafication did not occur as a result of some self-reflective explicit application of choice by which you constructed it theoretically from whole cloth. You do me an injustice if you confuse me with Rousseau. ;)

However, do you intend to claim that your love for Georgia developed completely in the absence of any implicit process of evaluation - as though that is not an inherent feature of your organism? To conceive that we are mechanistically programmed by Habit, Routine, or Practice in a way which is beyond the reach of implicit acts of evaluation is not something I can describe as organic. That would be mechanistic. I expect that if we reflect more specifically on the process of Gerogification we will find many implicit evaluations with both positive and negative outcomes. As a New Orleans boy with an Alabama family I moved to Milwaukee at age 10. My love for N.O. endured but I did not come to love Milwaukee and in my 20’s I moved to Atlanta to reestablish my Southern roots. I don’t know about you, but if I lived in Mecca for any number of years I do not think I would come to love its Muhammaden culture. Most thankfully, what I know would prevent me. Consider Ibn Warraq or Ali Sina.

5) ” Where, if choice rules, does unchosen loyalty, that organic growth of feeling or passion which, almost against my will, turned me into adopted Georgian, have any role?”
Yes feeling and passion grow organically. I have not claimed that Choice manufactures them by fiat – that they are produced by an incantation of will. Rather, that a manifold of small acts of evaluation and choice are engaged in an organic process by which your love grows, contracts or stagnates. To say choice has no role is to suggest that you are simply programmed, conditioned, brainwashed. And if becoming a Georgian was actually against you will you would have blocked at each little point of evaluation.

-----------

So why am I – a literal nobody - dragging you through all this analysis?

I look to you as an articulate spokesman for Conservatism. You appear to challenge my confidence in the general goodness of Our Way as a foolishness exposed by the wisdom of conservative philosophy. As best as I can tell you present me with the following conception.

I and the Muhammaden (and the heirs of Rorty for that matter) are nothing if not products of our culture. For no other reason than that, we owe it duty and unchosen loyalty. We love our cultures because they are ours or perhaps more importantly because we are theirs. There is no basis on which individuals can compare one culture to another; no basis upon which they can compare particular elements of one culture to another; no basis for expecting any kind of productive interaction between cultures

By implication, there can be no account given for the production of culture. No account of our role in producing it. No account of the role played by cross-cultural interaction. . Isolation and preservation are the strategies which present. When it comes to other communities it is live, let live and to each his own.

I don’t believe this view is natural. I don’t believe it is correct. And I highly doubt that it is conservative though it might be an interpretation of conservatism in light of the cultural relativism of mid-twentieth century social science.

I presently find this view dangerous due to the dilutive effect it presents on our confidence. The Muhammaden doesn’t think this way. He believes strongly in the universal rightness of his way. He is willing to die for the cause of spreading it. Out of love for the culture of my arbitrary circumstance, I certainly might we willing to hide for the sake of preserving it.

I am a conservative because I have received so much good from our tradition that I want to preserve it for the sake of future generations. Change may improve us but we must proceed cautiously. Our forefathers have known both tyranny and liberty. They chose liberty at risk of life and limb. We, their heirs, and immigrants from cultures around the globe, have prospered as a result. Peoples around the globe presently benefit from our prosperity and would benefit more if they could reproduce the core elements that allow our people to thrive. Our culture is thriving and dynamic – it assimilates and adapts in the milieu of liberty. Our knowledge grows exponentially to the benefit of all mankind. And my Samaritan-like love for men everywhere makes me hope they may have the same benefit of it that I have had. The Muhammaden who would substitute submission for liberty would return us to tyranny. We know tyranny. We know we don’t need to try that again. The ideas – the cultural tradition – that motivates this is wrong. It and all who advance it are bad not just for America and the West but for the whole world and all future generations. He must be stopped at the cost of my own life and limb not just for the sake of my country and my tradition but for the welfare of all, present and future. And a cultural idea which motivates a struggle to reduce all Other to submission must be challenged and discredited. If that unravels an entire culture, then that culture is rightfully cast onto the dung heap of history along with the others gone before. On the other hand, a struggle to extend liberty to the Other is noble.

If you tell me I am wrong for this attitude – that it is based on intellectual error – a failure to grasp the proper role of sentiment for community and tradition – a foolish belief that a man can comprehend the good and the virtuous - I challenge you to prove it. You mighty minds should have no problem dissecting my error if I am wrong. I am unaccomplished and unaccredited. Humiliate me. Else set aside your own heresy and join me.

As I continue to reflect on my personal experience of sentiment and reason I detect a strong interplay. This reflection is at the moment purely personal and extends no claims as to how this works out for others.

I find that when I engage in a certain rational discipline - perhaps I can refer to it as Plato's augmented inquiry which attempts to open sentiment as well as argument to challenge - my sentiment is either strengthened or weakened in terms of its depth of conviction. This also bears on my judgment of the appropriateness of its extension to others - or perhaps I might say: of the measure of universality. A capacity for reflection and empathy seems to offer me access to the Other's Way - for lack of a better term - so that I may compare the respective Goods. If the comparison presents paradox - irresolution - my conviction is weakened. Resolution may involve augmentation, modification or no change; but my conviction is deepened.

There is another step which confirms my conviction, which makes it more certain of its extension. That step occurs when others engage in the process just described and reach the same conclusion.

Personally, I cannot separate reason and sentiment. And my confidence in Our Way versus the Other Way is at least partially derivative from this process of comprehending - historically, empathetically, ... - both. The sentiment is present, as you say, prior to this process, but also in the process and at the end of the process. But, for me at least, my sentiment's maturation is very much subject to reason. I may be unusual and perhaps you wish to assert that I would be mistaken to project this on others. At least I hope you agree that this is no sterile application of reason on my part.

Paul-

Sorry for the late response; travel and lack of Internet access are to blame partially. The weight of your argument, requiring careful consideration, is the other part to blame. :)

I have no issue with your stance that we should put the horse of patriotism before the cart of universalism. As I might have said throughout this diary, I believe that the first step is here at home, in the United States. I believe that we must regain our confidence before we can assert it towards the Other, as it were. That is essentially what Mark Steyn has made me realize.

I still hold, of course, that where we have (perhaps rushed to) deploy force of arms, then we must do more than put up a face-saving measure and exeunt stage right. But I don't believe you've taken issue with that as yet. :)

Our old argument, perhaps, still remains: that you wish to contextualize the truth and value of the "American way" to a specific set of circumstances, a specific set of historico-cultural accidents, while I leap ahead to (what I see as) the universal truth of the "American way". In this, I simply cannot help believing as I do, since my specific set of historico-cultural accidents are not that of Locke and Jefferson, but of Lao-Tzu and King Sejong. Nonetheless, I embrace the Truth of what America stands for, respecting its origins and source. I could not do so in Olde Merry England; I can and do do so in America.

Maybe that is what leads to the tinge of religiosity about my arguments? After all, Christianity was not born by the Yangtze river; yet I attest to its Truth, without feeling one bit as if I were a traitor to my religious heritage?

By all means, let us teach ourselves and our posterity to love the things of our home. Just recognize that people everywhere want to live in "our home" not because it is "ours" but because it is indeed great. Like the Internet itself, a creation of United States Department of Defense, the people of the world embrace it because it works -- or hate and fear it because it works to expand freedom, actualize human potential, and despite all its faults and flaws, is the best society ever created by man in the history of man.

-TS

"What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

Paul,

Thank you for posting this to continue the discussion. As ever, your erudition and force of logic both do credit to the level of discourse at Redstate.

In response to your criticism, let me attempt to address the points you bring up here:

I will confine myself to two pointed questions: (a) What does this admission of “chosen” community leave for the idea of duty or obligation? If I may, at will, chose my community, chose who to care about, chose my loyalties, in what sense can they be said to be binding? May I not merely repudiate my choice when the inclination of my will shifts? If not, on what grounds do you say that a chosen loyalty can attain a compulsion deeper than the choice that made it?

I suppose my immediate and possibly over-hasty answer to your question is that "community" is in fact not binding. At least not in the "strong" sense that I suspect you would prefer. (I apologize for the assumption, but it's difficult to answer without making some assumptions.)

I would say that in contemporary America one does in fact at will choose one's community, choose who to care about, choose loyalties, and in fact repudiate those choices. A chosen loyalty cannot attain a deeper compulsion by the fact of the choice itself. Duty and responsibility may come with the membership in a particular community, but the choice itself does not create them. Let me offer an example.

Having been a Liberal -- one might even say a radical Leftist -- in my youth, I can honestly tell you that this was not always the case with me. I used to think, for example, that Asian-American women who married white men were traitors to their people. That they never chose to participate with other Asian-Americans, that they never chose to care about other AA's, these things were unimportant. Their personal choice was unimportant. The accident of their birth into a particular ethnic group is all that mattered for me to claim some sort of loyalty and allegiance from them. And so traitors they were.

As I've matured as a person and in my thinking, I realized that this belief was a form of racism. Those people never chose me as a "neighbor" if you will. They never chose to engage in communion with the existing "Asian-American community" (a term that is itself subject to much debate, by the way), so my imposition of a set of rules for behavior was wholly unjustified.

In a sense, logically speaking, this does mean that the duty and responsibility do not run deeper than the choice to affiliate. Duty and responsibility may arise out of separate, independent causes than the choice to affiliate, but those are all contextual.

For example, a good friend of mine is a Jewish woman who is in love with a Greek Orthodox man. As she isn't a particularly devout Jew, she's contemplating converting to Greek Orthodox church for him. But she is struggling what that means in terms of certain claims upon her loyalties and behavior; she recognizes that choosing to affiliate with the Greek Orthodox community has consequences attached to it. Might she choose to convert, end up breaking up with the man, and find that she still has an attachment to the duties and responsibilites laid upon her by her adopted religion? Sure. But if that were to happen, those duties would have a different and independent-of-her-original-choice basis.

Conversely, I have another friend who used to be a Mormon, raised in a Mormon household, in a Mormon community in Utah. She chose to leave the Church, leave Utah, leave the community, and frankly does not have the greatest relationship with her family as a result of those choices. Does she still owe some duty or responsibility to the Mormon church or community? She doesn't think so, and I do not either. Loyalty does not run deeper than the choice.

(b) What does this assertion that truly American “neighborliness” is fundamentally artificial leave for the idea of organic local democracy, which was, in the view of Tocqueville, part of the true greatness of American democracy and an indispensable bulwark against that tutelary despotism which would reduce democratic man into “nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd”?

Two things about point (b) from my perspective is that one, "neighborliness" is not wholly artificial, as it isn't simply a matter of claiming communion as much as sharing communion, which takes cooperation. It isn't enough for me to simply show up at my local yacht club and claim membership -- the existing members must accept me as one of them. So if your worry is that such an "artificial" bond is easily broken, rest assured that in reality, such choices are usually surrounded by and reinforced by substantive strands of culture, social mores, folkways, language, and values. However, it does require a choice. I could own a yacht, be a topnotch sailor, be wealthy, share all of the ways of the Yacht Club, and yet, if I choose not to join it, or they choose not to accept me, I will never be part of that community.

Second, claiming that choice underlies community does not in any way I can see endanger the organic local democracy. If anything, it strengthens it. Whether you agree or disagree about a particular policy question with your neighbors, you are at least choosing to engage in the debate with them. An organic local democracy could have differences of opinion, neighbors disagreeing emphatically on one issue or another, and still be considered a community -- because its members have chosen (subconsciously perhaps) to see each other as members of that community.

Now, as to the second part of your post:

I cannot share The Sophist’s confidence in the final irrelevance of the small patriot. He might recollect that Americans were once thought of as small and petty patriots — rebellious provincials of a great empire.

...

But more broadly, this response of “who cares” misses the point. The point is not that the patriot of the weak nation is relevant; it is that his patriotism is real. It is real despite the fact that it can never be universal in the way The Sophist imagines American patriotism must be. And my argument is that this latter conception of patriotism — the patriotism of universality — is in an important sense unreal. It depends for force and vigor upon things outside of it, fleeting things; and, supposing those are by violence or decay removed, it will vanish. Under the siege of Lincoln’s “silent artillery of time” these universalist patriots will become but the “loud and troublesome insects of the hour” of Burke’s vivid scorn.

I might urge you to recollect that brave those intrepid rebellious English colonists may have been in winning independence from Great British Empire, that they had no impact on world affairs until they became something far more powerful in the 19th century.

Let's just imagine an alternative history in which the original Thirteen never created a Constitution, lived under the Articles of Confederation, never had a Westward expansion, never brought in wave after wave of successive immigration from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, and so forth, and never became a world power. Instead, it remained the Thirteen more-or-less sovereign States living next to the Mexican Empire going from California to the Pennsylvania border.

The patriots of these Thirteen colonies may be deep and fervent in their patriotism; their patriotism may be real in every way in which you consider it real or not. Their patriotism is real, whether universal or not. They love their way of life, and will defend it to the death.

So what?

The world could care less then whether Virginians thought Islamism a threat or no. Whether the United States with 13 stars on its flag thought it wise or unwise to stop Nazi Germany would be about as important as whether Surinam wanted to stop Communism or not.

Such patriotism may be real; but it is ultimately unimportant.

We discuss patriotism, confidence in our way of life, re-engaging the world community with our traditions, our values, and our way of life and consider this discussion important because we're a global hyperpower. Our power lends importance to our patriotism, not genuineness.

For all we know, there could be a Belgian version of Redstate having this exact discussion right now. But their discussions are irrelevant to the sweep of history, because Belgium has not the power to stop the Islamist threat, or any threat really for that matter.

Frankly, being a patriot of a small powerless country is somewhat like being the fan of the Yale football team. I cheer for the Bulldogs, root for their victory, feel sad when they lose, rejoice when the win, and my fidelity and loyalty to the Blue-And-White is absolutely real, independent of any external factors for its vigor or force. But I'm not deluding myself into thinking we'll be facing Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship. Chances are, my beloved Bulldogs would get crushed by the Ohio State High School Championship's losing team, nevermind Ohio State. So in the scheme of college football, whether a Yale fan's fandom is real or not is completely meaningless.

You worry that under my "universalist-tinged" formulation of patriotism, a defeat would lead to loss of love of country. Frankly, it's the wrong worry. We should worry that our country would be rendered impotent such that the realness of our love of country would lead to insignificance.

Finally, I turn to this:

Indeed, part of my problem with the universalist patriotism against which I am arguing, is that it infuses love of country with a kind of religious significance. This is a weight it cannot bear. The only true universalism is that of Christ, and Him crucified. All else is derivative. The Sophist has said, in a grand and admirable flourish of rhetoric, that “our way of life is superior, that it is good, and that it is the true state of being for all people everywhere.” Much as it attracts me, I cannot credit this statement; and I think that to pursue its implications will debase us. Like any love of things that are good, love of one’s country is just and true; but it must always stand beneath He that is the Source of all good. Calling our way of life “the true state of being" for all men, it seems to me, is pride of a particularly insidious variety.

Let not your heart be troubled. Let me assure you that as a complexly-tortured-yet-at-peace Christian myself, I fully understand your point. Of course at the end of the day, if we were discussing personal philosophy rather than socio-political policy, I agree fully that love of country must stand beneath the Christ and His Ultimate Vision for mankind. Jonah-like I submit to that authority, having made that particular choice.

But I am not having a discussion of faith and its significance in our personal conduct. I am having a discussion with fellow Redstaters, Americans in spirit if not in legal citizenship, self-identified conservatives of varying viewpoints (and some non-conservatives who nonetheless self-identify as part of my American communion), Christians and non-Christians alike. To go beyond that boundary of "our way and our traditions" strikes me as a bit... presumptuous perhaps? And there is no need.

Perhaps with other Christians, I might have a discussion as to whether it is or is not God's will that we spread our culture and tradition of freedom, civil liberties, free market economics, equality under the law, and so forth. But with other Americans, I will confine it to our national-cultural traditions instead.

There is no requirement for me that the American Way be universal-in-objective-Truth-with-a-capital-T. I don't even need to get into some philosphical argument about moral relativism. Objective Truth is not my goal here; confidence is. And I am confident. I wish simply to claim that imperfect they may be, and ultimately false they may turn out to be when we stand before the final Judge of all things, but as we are today, in this world, facing down this vile ideology of fundamentalist political Islamism, that I believe our way of life, our traditions, our values, and our culture are all superior to theirs. And believing that, I further believe that our national-societal responsibility to the global community is to preach and promote those values and traditions, and where we have committed force of arms and American blood and treasure, that it is our responsibility to impose it.

-TS

"What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

In a sense, logically speaking, this does mean that the duty and responsibility do not run deeper than the choice to affiliate. Duty and responsibility may arise out of separate, independent causes than the choice to affiliate, but those are all contextual.

This conclusion simply does not follow from the examples provided. In fact, the interpretation of those examples presupposes the very voluntaristic conception of obligation that it is intended to demonstrate. Duties and obligations towards a religious community/tradition or an ethnic/racial group are determined by the traditions, customs, norms, practices, and expectations either expressly defined, or constitutive of established observance, within those communities or groups. Someone born into, say, the Jewish community will be expected, to some degree or other contingent upon the particular tradition observed by his family, to fulfill certain obligations, and to abstain from certain contrary actions. A Korean man I knew as an undergraduate once confessed to our circle of friends that the expectation of his family was that he would marry a Korean girl, not out of the belief that non-Koreans were somehow inferior, but simply to perpetuate a Korean lineage. The normative logic of these relationships is not that such obligations are binding only if positively affirmed by the individual, but rather that they are binding upon the individual until and unless he positively renounces them. The Jewish man is never requested to affirm that he wishes to remain a Jew by observance; it is assumed that he will so remain, and obligations and expectations are laid upon him on that basis. So also with my Korean acquaintance. It is the community, and the network of relationships within that community, which define the nature of the obligations to which the individual is subject; to a degree, the traditions of the community also establish the conditions under which the individual may renounce those obligations.

Stated differently, these are obligations to which the individual is subject simply by virtue of membership in a community or group, though they may be defeasable in certain circumstances, or subject to certain conditions, such as the willingness to endure ostracism and alienation if one renounces a religious community and tradition towards the end of realizing other goods, whether rightly or wrongly so considered. This understanding or model of communal relationships and dynamics better accounts for the actual life of the community, whether we are considering a religious group, and ethnic group, or a family. My duties towards my parents are not contingent upon a positive acceptance of them; they obtain in practice until and unless I renounce my parents, and obtain morally, even ontologically, even though I may attempt to renounce them in practice - for it is the blackest depth of impiety to renounce one's duties towards one's parents. Duties towards religious communities obtain in circumstances of greater complexity, given the pluralism and individualism that characterize the modern West. However, these conditions - radical contingencies given the history of humanity and the majority of societies which have existed among the children of men - do not alter the fundamental pattern. The fact that religious identity is now often something self-chosen should not be permitted to obscure the reality that a majority of the world's people are born into traditions and expected by those neighbours who are also bearers of those traditions to fulfill the obligations inherent in that identity. Surely a consideration of the Islamic example will make this manifest; if that example is considered extreme, one might also contemplate the Hindu community, who tend to react negatively when members opt, say, to convert to Christianity. Even in America, where religious mobility is assumed to be as natural as drawing breath, those raised in a religious tradition are typically expected by other members to continue therein, and departure from the tradition requires some positive action on the part of the individual.

The matter of ethnic groups is still more complicated, and controverted, but the example I have provided should suffice to illustrate my point. An ethnic group, or a community within an ethnic group, let us suppose, may or may not hold members to the expectation of, say, marrying within the group. This is, in my experience, almost inconceivable among Americans of European descent, more prevalent among Asian-Americans, and more prevalent still among African-Americans. Your experience may vary, and it may well be that no one in your community ever expected members to marry in-group. The norms, whatever they happen to be in a particular case, are established by the community, and the individual must himself opt out if he does not wish to be bound by their strictures. This need not have anything to do with racism per se, because the affirmation of an identity entails nothing, considered in itself, with respect to the value or status of some other group or identity. That my Korean acquaintance preferred to marry a Korean woman did not entail a contempt, on his part, for other ethnicities any more than my preference for an Orthodox wife entailed, on my part, a contempt for Catholics, Protestants, atheists, or adherents of any other creed or dogma.

To turn to the question of political communty, then, the incident of birth in a particular nation, governed in accordance with a given system of laws, and embodying a concrete tradition, or mode of being in the world, just does impose upon one the duties and obligations defined as being incumbent upon members of that nation. By the nature of the case, therefore, there obtains no obligation to disseminate a certain culture throughout the world, to propagandize on behalf of that culture, to to assume a self-imposed civilizing mission to bestow that civilization upon other nations by the force of arms. There exists - and from the perspective of the conservative, conversant with history, religion, and philosophy, with their uniform message of the ineradicability of difference, neither should there ever be - no substantive community which encompasses the nations of the world, such that one nation, by virtue of its civilization, capacity for the projection of power, or the combination of the two, is obliged to proselytize on behalf of its mode of existence. Obligation presupposes community, that is a commonality of history, custom, religion (yes), prescriptive norms, ethical discourse, habit, ancestry (in some instances), and manner of living; and obligation presupposes someone in a position to either impose, bear witness to, or receive the substance of the obligation. There is no meaningful conception of community which would yield an obligation to engage in grand missions of democratization in Islamic lands. Whether such missions are legitimate as objects of choice, considered in accordance with our own traditions and, I would add, the natural law, I will leave for others to argue, stating only that the nature of civilizational differences renders the proposition highly dubious or prudential grounds, at a minimum, to say nothing of other criteria. Further, whether there exists a conception of community substantial - "thick" - enough to warrant involvement on behalf of other nations claiming membership in something called "The West", or "The Heirs of Christendom", I leave to the side for the present; the resolution of that matter depends on the fineness with which one wishes to analyze the traditions of the various nations. However, confronted by the menace of Islam, our obligation is not to manifest the superiority of our civilization by effecting some transformation of theirs, but simply to defend and preserve our civilization and our people; the nature of obligation as grounded in community teaches as much.

Finally, where the nation and the nature of obligation are concerned, the process by which one positively declares that one no longer wishes to be bound by the obligations of citizenship and, by necessary implication, afforded the priveleges thereof, suffices to demonstrate that obligation is inherited, or assumed - that is, organic in nature - as one must affirm one's determinate will to renounce or negate that lattice-work of duties and privileges. Born an American, one remains an American until one renounces that identity.

Such patriotism may be real; but it is ultimately unimportant.


If the foregoing has demonstrated anything at all, it is that criteria of importance, by which I gather is here meant "world-historical significance", or something akin to it, are utterly irrelevant to the question of the value of patriotisms and the obligations attendant upon them. They do not need to be consequential for the world, or for others, because they do not, considered in themselves and with respect to their function in the lives of those who bear them, concern the world at all. They concern only those for whom they are expressions of love, veneration, piety, and devotion connected to particular places, things, folkways, and traditions.

I would that we abjure the notion that patriotism must be possessed of some world-historical gravity, that only by seeking the immanent vindication of our mode of being will we both realize the essence of that way of life and justify and legitimate it in our own eyes, for this is the animating passion of our adversaries, for whom the world is the bequest of their god to them, such that any part thereof lying beyond their power is naught but a usurpation and blasphemy, the conquest of which vindicates the truth of the creed, and the supremacy of that god and his prophet, in the name of which they wage their jihad. That way lies nemesis, and that way does, in fact, lie the conflation of the spiritual and the temporal, the immanentization of the eschaton, in a phrase once familiar among intellectual conservatives.

My harp is turned to mourning, and my organ shall speak with the voice of them that weep. Spare me, O Lord, for my days are truly as nothing.

I probably can't do this justice until I get home, but let me ask a few questions then.

1. If a Korean-American woman has never positively affirmed nor actively disaffiliated with the Korean-American community, can she be said to be a traitor to her people for marrying a white man?

2. How does one account for the influence of being in America in your model of social norms and identity? Put another way, does an individual's relationship to a "community" change in any way by virtue of being an American? What is the impact, if any, of America on her various peoples?

3. Finally, let us put to rest the idea that patriotism has no value if it does not have world-historical significance. I have never said patriotism derives its significance from external factors; I can be 100% on board with you and Paul Cella on some philosophical description of 'patriotism qua patriotism'. But can we agree that the patriot of Fiji can be dispensed with when we are discussing the problem of Islamism, or global Communism, or any other threat to world peace and order?

More when I return home. :)

-TS

"What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

Maximos expounds on the nature of community and duty with unparalleled clarity and precision. Right on! - as far as it goes. But...

However inconvenient, on this earth our communities do not exist in isolation. If we could make it so, the exposition would end quite neatly. We are a common species cohabiting this planet earth. We have organic and sometimes volitional identification with our communities. There is intense interaction between members of different communities. A dynamic of non-zero and zero sum conflict occurs over our common denominators, with our common humanity on earth being the lowest common denominator.

Its for exposition of that part that I'm pining.
John E.

The issue of whether to use this spice or that one, or whether men should wear pants vs. kilts vs. sheets wrapped around the body and thrown over the shoulder are matters of taste. There are a lot of matters of taste. Gobs. Since there are so many, it's easy to fall into the trap of seeing everything as a matter of taste.

There are also matters of morality. Freedom of speech without fear of governmental prosecution, for example. Freedom to worship one's concept of God without fear of governmental prosecution, for another. The right to one's person. The right to one's property. The right to contract. There are a lot of matters of morality. Gobs. Since there are so many, it's easy to fall into the trap of seeing everything as a matter of morality.

The problem is how one deals with grey areas. Alcohol, for example. Homosexuality, for another. Divorce, for another yet. People closer to one of the above extremes are more likely to say that "Oh, X is a matter of taste/morality and as such, we as a society should (not) make it illegal."

There are some issues that are matters of taste but, once adopted by the society at large, become matters of morality. For example, driving on the right side of the road. It is not a matter of morality at all to choose this side or that side of the road to drive on... however, once the decision has been made, driving on the right side of the road in, say, England is immoral. Even though, in America, it'd be immoral to drive on the left side.

The hard part is hammering out whether gay marriage is a matter of taste, a matter of morality, or whether it exists in that area where it's a matter of taste but since we've agreed as a society to do it this way, doing it another way is immoral.

(Redefining the problem without giving any real solutions is, I posit, a matter of taste.)

Man is free at the moment he wishes to be. --Voltaire

 
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