Our Current Malaise

Victimary thinking, the vicarious espousal by the privileged of the righteous resentment of ascriptive minorities, can be seen as a perversion of what most distinguishes American culture within Western Judeo-Christian civilization: its radical Protestant or Puritan origin, with its obsession with “virtue-signaling” to set an example that will humiliate those of lesser moral worth.

The current Wokism is a caricatural Left-wing version of Puritanism intent on denouncing less inborn human sinfulness than preestablished White Guilt. This newer mode treats our fallen state as the inheritance not of Adam’s sin but of a more recent historical phenomenon: the Western invention of modernity, which led to Europe’s subjugation of peoples of other continents, as well as the renewal, borrowed from Islam, of the institution of chattel slavery.

In either case—for this can serve as a critique of Puritanism in general—the inherent guilt for original sin is one for which the individual as such is not fully responsible, ultimately making him guilty only on the surface, just as White Guilt reflects skin color rather than any personal misdeeds. Whence the air of hypocrisy that attends these ostentatious attempts to relieve ourselves of a stigma that never really requires us to seek its roots in our individual soul.

The victimary society is one in which each “intersectional” minority is motivated to define itself less by its inherent uniqueness than by its real and/or imagined grievances, whose recognition by the society as a whole provides the group’s most anti-social elements with a guarantee that their crimes will be dealt with leniently if at all, and assures the remainder that no one will dare dismiss as unreasonable even their most far-fetched complaints.

Whereas Islam even today has no compunctions about treating non-Muslims as ontologically inferior, modern slavery was never truly compatible with Christianity, as its near-universal 19th-century abolition demonstrates. The idea that contemporary American whites must continue to repent for the benefits of slavery, whether through mere lip-service, like the new tradition of “land acknowledgements” to native tribes, or via improbable schemes of reparations to those of African heritage, is less a condemnation of one’s long-dead ancestors than of today’s white “deplorables” who fail to recognize its moral necessity.

On the one hand, the political usefulness of this so-called “cultural Marxism” is clear: to use Charles Murray’s categories in Coming Apart, it supplies the inhabitants of Belmont with a conviction of moral superiority to those of Fishtown, while assuring itself of the votes of racial minorities and intimidating those in the middle, always fearful of déclassement. This is in the spirit of an elite globalism that feels no compunction about dismissing the traditions of the US and of Western Civilization in general as expressions of parochial narrowness, of which racism is the exemplary form, linked to all the other modes of victimization by which the white majority affirms its privileges, including over those they unfeelingly classify as criminals—whence the recent spate of globalist support for the election of public officials marked by a supposedly Christlike refusal to punish the latter’s misdeeds save in the most extreme circumstances.

But on the other, it is difficult not to see Wokism as an expression of a Western death-wish whose most ominous correlate is Western-style nations’ abandonment of the reproductive process, such that Europe, and eventually North America as well, will almost certainly before the end of the present century be populated dominantly by ethnic groups originating in the Southern Hemisphere.

Meanwhile, the persistent thrust of Islamism undeterred by the dominance of Western technology is founded on a cultural self-confidence that the West is far from able to match. Trump’s MAGA slogan asserting our duty to assert ourselves as a community is decried as “fascist,” whereas Islamic aggression, even when opposed, is treated with respect, less for the inherent worth of the values that subtend it than for the enthusiasm of its adherents, as illustrated by the number of young people who are willing to die for it. Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission, in many respects his best and most “realistic” novel, describes a not implausible future in which Islam becomes France’s national religion. The most timid attempt to affirm the anteriority of the Bible to the Koran, most of which is derived from it, would be both dangerous and pointless at a time when nations debate outlawing the burning of the latter without any concern for the former.

But on the Other Hand…

The US need not submit to Europe’s post-colonial malaise. The American melting-pot may not be a post-national vision of the human community, but it is definitely a post-ethnic one. In this respect we can even try to sympathize with Nancy Pelosi’s kneeling to the spirit of George Floyd as a gesture of reconciliation among the races, but only if understood as pointing toward acknowledgement of the death of racial prejudice rather than as an avowal of original and eternal sin.

In this perspective, let me express my hope for the 2024 election. I have previously affirmed my support for Ron DeSantis, whose remarkable success in Florida provides the object lesson of an executive branch effectively repulsing the Wokist elite that should be of great value to a future Republican president. DeSantis would surely make an excellent chief executive. But to take office next year would oblige him to interrupt his exemplary governorship before having brought his transformation of Florida to its conclusion. There will surely be future opportunities.

After observing the results of the recent debate, I feel confirmed in my original intuition that the best candidate is Nikki Haley. As an experienced governor and a very effective U N Representative, she is at just the stage of her career where she can contribute her poise and leadership talent to bringing us back to the self-confident America that we knew before 9/11. A gracious personality, neither vindictive nor resentful like the 2020 presidential candidates, Haley strikes me as embodying the competence and confident authority so necessary in this most powerful of all executive positions.

Nor need we pass over in silence the fact that her election would symbolize the addition to the American melting-pot of the ethnic groups of the global South that had in the recent past been colonized by Europeans. Whatever our judgment of our recent African-American president, the current Woke obsession with racism is a clear enough demonstration that the long-term effect of his presidency, while at the time surely a point of pride for our black population, was rather to cast doubt on the unifying effect of the American melting pot. Ms. Haley’s election would, on the contrary, influence it in the opposite direction. Her accession to the presidency would be a step toward a multi-racial and multi-religious America that could renew its promise as an example to the world, not of overcoming “white supremacy” and/or “colonial exploitation,” but of the harmonious interaction of people of diverse extraction in a single nation: e pluribus unum.

The hope that the rise of the global South to world prominence can take place without renewing the murderous conflicts of the last century could not be better exemplified than by the choice of a lady whose ancestors came from the land of Gandhi to lead our nation currently governed by a party twisting state and federal laws in an unprecedented fashion to serve its will to power. The US cannot afford another administration like the present one.

And GA?

The perspective of generative anthropology is incompatible with deterministic theories of history; nor should we conceive its task as providing a new political model by means of which to maintain the exemplarity of our civilization. On the contrary, the very notion of world civilization is a Western idea, and its implementation is predicated not on the West’s Spenglerian Untergang but on the interactive globalization of the political structures that it originated. Just as Christianity has at last chosen to reconcile itself with its Jewish “older brothers,” so the non-West will in time be able to put away its resentment of the West’s “colonial” anteriority.

With respect to alternatives, leaving aside the world’s many démocratures, the choice is between the many times discredited model of communism—which, even in its Chinese implementation, has yet to show, despite considerable achievements, signs of being able to maintain the long-term efficiency, let alone the individual freedoms, that humanity must require from a world civilization—and the only other active model of world civilization, which is that of Islam.

Soumission may indeed be the future of much of Europe, but it is surely not that of the world. On the contrary, there are clear indications that Islam, which is by no means synonymous with Islamism, can learn to live with the other Abrahamic religions, and with the others as well. The Obama-Biden soft spot for Iran with its religious extremism, in contrast with Trump’s Abraham Accords, has had most unfortunate consequences for peace in the Middle East and the world; but these can be corrected, as Biden’s recent overtures to Saudi Arabia suggest. The proper role of the US in the community of nations is not that of a repentant colonial power, but of an ex-colony demonstrating its leadership within a world of independent states.

GA is not a political doctrine, but its understanding of morality has much in common with that of Judeo-Christianity. What the originary event taught emergent humanity was that the intuition I have called the “sense of the sacred,” by deferring each individual’s appetitive urge to satisfy his hunger, not only allowed the entire community to benefit from a source of nourishment, but replaced the conflictive nature of serial distribution with an act of egalitarian sharing in which the community not only obtains nourishment but celebrates its solidarity.

We cannot deny the reality of mimetic rivalry, but our continued existence demonstrates that the deferral that inaugurates human culture permits the conquest of rivalry by communal reciprocity. And we must understand the course of human history, with all its horrors, as embodying this conquest. Human love is founded on the originary faith that deferral of individual desire is the prologue to a communal feast.

I believe that there is still time for us to put away, without unnecessary vindictiveness, the victimary excesses that, although they have inflicted much damage throughout our society, from the academic to the military to the worlds of culture and business, yet have not profoundly damaged the fundamental cordiality that reigns among people in everyday circumstances.

To return to the 2024 election, I well understand both that Donald Trump’s unconscionable lawfare martyrdom deserves to be compensated, and that Ron DeSantis’ record as governor of Florida makes him more than qualified for the presidency. But there are roles other than the presidency that could compensate Trump for his travails, and DeSantis will remain a viable candidate for many years in the future. Whereas it seems to me that for the reasons I have given above, Nikki Haley is the candidate most likely not only to put an end to our recent banana-republic excesses, but to exemplify a step toward the inclusion of the global South in the world of modernity hitherto dominated by the West—while at the same time becoming our first female president.

Ms. Haley exemplifies the world that exists beyond the US’s never fully-healed racial dichotomy. Her example should do much to allow us to free ourselves from the unhealthy categorizing of the DEI era, and to treat each other not as intersectional grievants but as fellow members of a national, and incipiently international, human community. Which is finally only to apply a bit more to our mutual interactions the lesson of love learned in the event that made us human.