Regions and Generations

Is Latin America part of the West? Pat Buchanan implicitly, and Samuel Huntington explicitly, exclude the Americas between the Rio Grande and Cape Horn from the ambit of Western civilization. But this will not do. Those nations are (predominately) Roman Catholic in religion and Latinate in language; historically, they are the constructs of the Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires; politically, they are the products of modern ideologies awkwardly superimposed upon quasi-feudal societies. In sum, they are part of what one might call the "Iberosphere," by analogy to what has come to be called the "Anglosphere" -- or as I prefer, Anglo-Saxondom.

Both of these outliers of the West are distinguished from the Continental heartland by geography and history. They have been relatively isolated: England is literally insular; Iberia is a peninsula, largely cut off from the Continent by the Pyrenees. The national identities of Spain and Portugal were forged in their centuries-long struggle to reclaim Iberia from the Moors; in the late 15th century, they simultaneously expelled the Moors and began their overseas expansion. Similarly, the English first fought to expel the pagan Danes, then gradually expanded their dominion over the British Isles and then overseas.

What distinguished these two subcivilizations of the West was their disparate responses to the challenge of the Reformation: the English embraced it, the Iberians rejected it. Significantly, Martin Luther and Ignatius Loyola were almost exact contemporaries, participating in opposite ways to a generational Awakening that sundered Western Christian civilization in twain.

It is an interesting fact, too little known, that England's first colony in the New World was Newfoundland, founded in 1583 (and not to become a province of Canada until 1949). Be that as it may, the thirteen more famous colonies were settled along the Atlantic seaboard of North America from 1607 to 1732, with disparate characters according to the regional source of the settlers from within England: the Puritans of New England, the Midlanders of the Delaware Valley (Philadelphia was long the largest city in America, and the original capital), the Cavaliers of the South, and the Borderers (originally from the border between England and Scotland, and from the Protestant settlements in Ulster) in the Southern back-country. (New York -- originally Nieuw Nederland -- had a distinctive character of its own, except for the upstate areas settled by Yankees; and the greatest New Yorker of all time originally hailed from the West Indies.)

As is well known, of course, relations between these thirteen colonies and the British Empire came to a crisis, a Revolution that sundered Anglo-Saxondom in twain, the republican half and the royalist half. But the regional cultural patterns inherited from England persisted and spread with the westward expansion of the nation. Unfortunately, the most extreme cultural patterns predominated: Puritans in the North, centered in Massachusetts -- home of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison; Cavaliers in the South, centered eventually in South Carolina -- home of secessionist John C. Calhoun.

These two distinctive regional subcultures reacted diametrically oppositely to the generational Awakening of the 1820s and '30s. A middle course between them was steered by Andrew Jackson -- classic exemplar of Borderer subculture -- and his followers, who detested both Southern secessionists and Northern moralists. They were for Union and expansion, as Daniel Webster was for Union and liberty: impatient both with Southern intransigence and Northern qualms, they threatened force against South Carolina in the Nullification Crisis, and exerted it ruthlessly against Spanish Florida, the Indians, and Mexico.

But, tragically, this course was not the one ultimately taken; in the end, it was the fanatics of Massachusetts and South Carolina that prevailed. The religious enthusiasms of the North turned to such causes as the prohibition of alcohol (and in the Mormons' case, tea and coffee as well), which seemed to the South absurd, and abolition of slavery, which seemed to the South to threaten its very life. Instead, the South turned to political enthusiasm, a single cause, a single obsession -- the preservation, indeed the expansion, of slavery. The fire-eaters of the South were determined not only to preserve slavery where it existed, but to restore it throughout the Union. They even wanted to restore the slave trade, which had been prohibited in the Constitution.

Even yet, there were glimmers of hope. The antislavery sentiment of most Northerners was limited to merely preventing the spread of slavery -- this was, indeed, the correct Constitutional position, and Abe Lincoln's stand until the Southerners forced the crisis of the Civil War. The American Party, the nativist movement, was, in the words of one crudely blunt spokesman, for those "tired of talk about rum and talk about niggers." Alas, Southern instransigence made compromise impossible, and war inevitable. The American Party chose to yield, and its support in both the North and the Deep South collapsed. The Republican Party emerged to stand up to the Southern fanatics and Northern appeasers, saved the Union and finally abolished slavery.

When the next generational Awakening rolled around, towards the end of the 19th century, both the peculiarity and commonality of all Anglo-Saxondom were proven again. On the Continent, two major new ideologies flourished: various forms of nationalism, racialism, and imperialism, on the one hand; and international socialism, on the other. Of particular significance, perhaps, was the emergence of racial "anti-Semitism" (a misnomer, of course, since Arabs, inter alia, are as Semitic as Jews; and besides, "Semitic" is a linguistic, not racial classification) and, in response to this challenge, Zionism.

(As I have said many times in many places, as if it need be said once more, my own feelings are entirely with Zionism and against "anti-Semitism." On the other hand, I'm not, frankly, particularly friendly to Jews qua Jews, because they are of an alien civilization. I look upon Ferdinand and Isabella's expulsion of the Jews from Spain with as much sympathy as I do the foundation of the State of Israel.)

Within Anglo-Saxondom, nationalism as such was not an issue, except of course among the subject nations of the Celtic Fringe and French Canada. On the other hand, this age was the zenith of the British Empire, which inspired the idealism of men like Rudyard Kipling, Cecil Rhodes and Joseph Chamberlain, while in English Canada the imperial connection was the mainstay of the Conservative Party from Confederation until the general collapse of British self-confidence after World War II (a transition symbolized by the change of Canada's flag from the historic Red Ensign to the factitious Maple Leaf). With us, of course, it was the time of our own -- misguided, but fortunately brief -- imperialist episode, when we took over the remnants of Spain's overseas empire. Within the royalist half, the Labour movement was the most important manifestation of the rising idealist generation; in America, Marxism, Populism, and Progressivism were even more so. On the religious side, fundamentalism emerged at this time, then sank from public view, to re-emerge as a political force during the next Awakening.

The fin-de-siècle was followed, in due course, by a generational Unravelling: World War I, followed by political turmoil in which Communism and Fascism emerged, and then a phase of gaudy and brittle prosperity. When this came crashing down, the various sectors of the American Left came together to enact the New Deal; on the Continent, an international civil war broke out as the rival forces of communism and fascism proliferated and fought for control. This crisis was resolved when America threw our vast weight in the balance for moderate socialism, fighting alongside totalitarian Communism. In Iberia, however, moderate fascism prevailed and survived, thanks to the good sense of Francisco Franco and Antonio Salazar.

Throughout Anglo-Saxondom, in the postwar years, politics was dominated internally by a narrow spectrum of controversy between moderate conservatives and moderate socialists (again, except in the Celtic Fringe and French Canada), and externally by the Cold War (better, perhaps, called the Third World War) between the Free World and Communism. This deadlock was broken when another generation arose, and yet another Awakening came, and new political enthusiasms were indulged.

In other parts of the world, nationalism flared up again -- all too often, influenced by the radicalism and violence of the New Left. The most notable examples of this phenomenon are the quasi-Marxist and terrorist FLQ in French Canada, IRA in Northern Ireland, and ETA in the Basque Country. But at least in Quebec and Euzkadi, there were also fruitful cultural renaissances -- in the latter case, particularly after the end of the Franco regime -- and the moderate, mainstream nationalist parties remained dominant.

On the Left, the old-fashioned socialists -- even the Marxists -- were outflanked by an array of weird, fanatical new sects, each with a different brand of wackiness but all managing to overlap and work in tandem. Their commonality, and distinction from the Old Left, was that they were all fundamentally about "lifestyle" and culture. They even involved the fabrication of new quasi- or pseudo-religions. The eco-pantheists want to radically change man's relation to nature. The lesbolsheviks want to radically change relations between the sexes. The anti-white racists want to radically alter the character of historically white West, to the detriment of white people. And so on. All this was explicitly expressed in the slogan, "The personal is the political."

As for us, the legacy of the '60s and '70s is that our common American culture has been divided in a kind of civil Cold War. Each side sees the other as a threat -- not just as a matter of policy, but by its very existence. There are many different ways of describing the polarization in America today: Left/Right, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, progressive/orthodox, red state/blue state, moonbat/wingnut. All are superficial; they do not define the polarization.

American politics has transcended the usual substantive issues and become primarily an issue of identity, i.e. of culture. "Culture" is a vague term, but what I mean is the sense in which it is who we are: the common core of beliefs, habits, and attitudes that make many different persons think, feel, and act in spontaneous harmony. It is both personal and social, because it is what each member of the culture shares with all the rest. This feeling of identification is the ground for common loyalty: "all for one and one for all" -- because we are all, in some deep sense, the same.

Culture may be more or less explicit. The credal manifestations of American culture, for instance -- things like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution -- are just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, culture forms the very texture and substance of life: all the things we take for granted. To continue the maritime metaphor, we are (normally) fish who don't notice the water we swim in.

The 1960s' "New Left" and "counterculture" merged to produce this weird, mutant hybrid that I call Bohemian Jacobinism (or "hippie commies"). Although the content of this subculture is mostly foreign (Rousseauan, Marxist, Nietzschean), it's still rooted in genuine, though partial and distorted, aspects of the American character: coercive communitarianism and religious innovation.

On the Right, new fervor and mass support emerged in defense of historic America. Again, there were various brands, but they all overlapped, (usually) worked in tandem, and were all fundamentally about "lifestyle" and culture. These included patriotism and militarism (but rarely explicit nationalism) and white race-consciousness (though rejected by the mainstream when acknowledged as such). This was the New Right, which ultimately swept Ronald Reagan into power and won the Cold War, ending that geopolitical stalemate and reuniting the West.

The crux of it is what I call the Yahweh-Mammon Axis. As H. G. Wells put it, "All Americans are, from the English point of view, Liberals of one sort or another" -- on the Right, "Whigs and Nonconformists." The paradox of American exceptionalism is that, as John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge put it, "America has failed to produce a xenophobic 'far Right' on anything like the same scale as Europe has."

Because the Bohemian Jacobins (or BJs for short) are constantly demonstrating obnoxious anti-American attitudes, the YMA is -- purely by default -- able to project an aura of pro-Americanism. However, the YMA distortingly emphasizes the traditional-religious and individualist/materialist aspects of the American character, increasingly at the expense of national unity and independence.

In 2004, the forces of the YMA were mobilized in an hysterical campaign on behalf of a candidate relentlessly committed to turning America into Mexico Norte. The BJs were mobilized in an equally hysterical campaign motivated mainly by hatred of religion and the military, expressed as paranoid fears of impending theocracy and histrionic objections to military action in America's national interest.

When we consider the 2004 electoral map, and the history of American regionalism, we can see that the parts of the country that went for Kerry were New England and areas settled mainly by New Englanders -- augmented by ethnic minorities: blacks, Jews, Hispanics, etc. The Democrats are essentially the party of alienated natives (both white and black) and of actual aliens. Setting aside their black and foreign constituencies for the moment, let's consider the core of the Democratic party: New Englanders and descendants of New Englanders -- i.e., Puritans.

Today's Puritanism has been turned upside down and inside out, as far as its beliefs are concerned, but the habits and attitudes remain the same. Today, we see exactly the same hysterical, paranoid, self-righteous fanaticism; the same lack of humor, irony, and real self-knowledge. Instead of hunting witches, they hunt "racists," "sexists," "homophobes," etc. Today's PC commissars have taken over the functions of the old Puritan theocracy -- even as they smugly congratulate themselves about how "tolerant" and "inclusive" they are.

During the Culture War, as in the period leading up to the Civil War, we see a dangerously aberrant regional subculture, defining itself in opposition to the majority culture while simultaneously trying to impose its will on the majority culture. Then it was the South, now it is the North; in each case, the West is the "swing region" (so to speak), placing its weight in the balance for national unity. In each case, the conflict is expressed on the highest level in terms of political principle; but fundamentally, it's about a whole way of life.

Immigration strengthened the North relative to the South -- and still does, for different reasons. Then, free white immigrant workers helped build Northern economic power; now, poor nonwhite immigrant voters help build Northern political power.

The North will never try to secede in reality, because the nation's capital is too full of Democrats. I doubt their party can persist forever in their internal secessionism, constantly losing support from Americans. Their long-term future hangs on immigration. I'm a short-term pessimist, but long-term optimist. When some foreign terrorists take out one of our cities, the backlash will force the Democrats to purge their moonbats and the Republicans to purge their open-borders loonies, and both parties will come together into a new pro-American consensus. It would be very sweet if one or more of the terrorists turn out to have been naturalized: if I'm still alive, I'll be able to say "I told you so" to every sentimentalist who feels that merely making someone a citizen actually makes him an American.

2008 by Karl Jahn