Category Archives: nationalism

The European Union is foundering

The so-called European project, writes Dalrymple, is

to build a superstate whose most likely eventual destiny is break-up, either violent or peaceful but bitter, on the rocks of nationalism.

Nationalist feeling, he points out, is

far stronger than pan-European feeling, which is, at most, a very pale ghost of the nationalist variety.

The cards Putin holds

One form of hubris, says Dalrymple,

is the belief that the need for vigilance has been abolished because everyone now has the same worldview as ourselves, that the end of history has come, and we are it.

Vladimir Putin, Dalrymple notes, has these things on his side:

  • military power
  • his increasing control of the media and over public opinion in Russia
  • the appeal of his policy to nationalist passion (which, apart from ethnic hatred, is probably the strongest political passion)
  • the weakness of his European opponents

Nationalism is fraught with danger

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-08-37-20But so is refusal to recognise that attachment to one’s culture and history is a normal part of human experience

A democracy that stifles debate on vital and difficult matters by means of speech codes, explicit or implicit, is asking, writes Dalrymple, for a fascist reaction. He points out that in France, the genie of unease about the North African influx cannot be returned to its bottle. For the sake of democracy,

vigorous, civilised debate must replace the law of silence that political correctness has imposed.

France, Dalrymple reminds us, has

a large, undigested, and growing immigrant population from North Africa that congregates—unwanted by the bulk of the population—in huge and soulless modern housing projects that surround French cities, as if besieging them. There are now Muslim ghettoes in France so crime-ridden that the police will not enter, except in armoured convoys.

The Front national addresses

widespread anxieties that ‘respectable’ politicians have preferred to ignore for fear of appearing illiberal and unenlightened.

The party dares say on the subject of mass immigration

what many Frenchmen think and feel. A problem as essential to France’s future as how 5m North African Muslims are to be integrated successfully into French society has been left unexamined, obscured behind a cloud of wishful thinking and politically correct platitudes.

Dalrymple explains that the ‘respectable’ politicians,

by espousing the banalities of multiculturalism, left those with a desire to conserve something of traditional French identity with nowhere to go but Le Pen. By declaring that realities as obvious as the high immigrant crime rate and the resulting fear that many Frenchmen feel cannot be mentioned by the polite and sophisticated, they have ceded all public discussion of such evident facts to the impolite and the outré. The élites were the architects of the Front national‘s triumph.

Van de wal in de sloot belanden

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 07.51.26Dalrymple schrijft:

Alle huidige nationalistische partijen van kleine volken in Europa – de Schotten, de Welshmen, de Basken, de Catalanen, de Vlamingen – zijn grote voorstanders van lidmaatschap van de Europese Unie, dat toegewijd is aan, en zelfs gegrond op, het verdwijnen van nationale soevereiniteit. Je zou denken dat deze partijen op zijn minst nationale soevereiniteit wilden. De tegenstrijdigheid is zo schril, dat ze vraagt om een verklaring.

De menselijke geest is geen perfect berekenende machine, en zonder twijfel spreken we onszelf allemaal wel eens tegen. Volmaakte consistentie is dikwijls verontrustend, maar dat geldt ook voor schrille inconsistentie. Het is mogelijk dat de leiders van de nationalistische partijen de tegenstrijdigheid niet zien, dat ze zo verblind zijn door ideologie dat ze het simpelweg niet opmerken. Maar er bestaat ook een andere mogelijke verklaring: door hun nominaal onafhankelijke landen te leiden, zullen ze tot in lengte van dagen in staat zijn als een varken te voederen aan de volle Brusselse trog en op cliëntelistische wijze hiervan uit te delen. De nationalistische leiders leiden hun volk, zeker, maar ze hebben het bij de neus.

De Schotten, ooit een zeer voorzichtig en vooruitziend volk, menen nu dat zorgeloosheid een grote politieke deugd is, en dat het hun onvervreemdbaar recht is om gigantische begrotingstekorten te laten oplopen omwille van ‘sociale gerechtigheid – dat wil zeggen voor diensten die door een ander betaald worden. Hun minachting voor George Osborne, de Conservatieve minister van Financiën, is tamelijk disproportioneel ten opzichte van zijn onsuccesvolle pogingen om balans in de begroting te krijgen; de Schotten denken dat als ze het Verenigd Koninkrijk verlaten en zich bij de Europese Unie aansluiten, ze in staat zullen zijn het begrotingstekort net zo ver op te laten lopen als ze maar willen.

Het is mogelijk dat de Schotten inderdaad een tijdje steun zullen ontvangen van Europa, al was het maar om ontevreden bevolkingen te laten zien hoe gunstig het is om in de Unie te blijven. (Kort voor het referendum kregen de Grieken zonder veel gedoe meer geld, want nog een Griekse crisis had de Britse stem kunnen beïnvloeden.) Maar deze periode van vrijgevigheid zal niet aanhouden. Het zal niet lang duren of de Schotten zullen gedwongen worden binnen hun middelen te gaan leven – of ten minste ongeveer daarbinnen, terwijl de drang om aan deze noodzakelijkheid te ontkomen nu juist de aantrekkingskracht van de Europese Unie uitmaakte.

Vreemd genoeg heb ik in de pers niets vernomen over de tegenstrijdigheid tussen het huidige nationalisme en steun voor het in de Europese Unie blijven, hoewel ik natuurlijk niet iedere krant in iedere taal lees. Maar dit zal toch één van de eerste keren in de geschiedenis zijn dat de uitdrukking Van de wal in de sloot belanden (‘Out of the frying pan into the fire’) geen waarschuwing meer is, maar een omschrijving van wat grote delen van hele bevolkingen lijken te willen.

Abasement before Brussels

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 08.26.22Dalrymple writes that all the nationalist parties

of small nations in Europe—the Scots, the Welsh, the Basques, the Catalans, the Flemings—strongly support membership in the EU, which is predicated upon the extinction of national sovereignty.

It is possible, he says, that

the nationalist parties’ leaders don’t perceive the contradiction, being blinded by ideology.

But there is another explanation.

By leading their nominally independent countries, they forever will be able to feed at the great trough of Brussels and distribute its largesse in true clientelistic fashion. The nationalist leaders certainly lead their people, but by the nose.

The Scots,

once the canniest and most provident of people, now believe that improvidence is the greatest of political virtues, and that it is their inalienable right to run huge budgetary deficits for the sake of ‘social justice’—that is, for services paid for by someone else. The Scots think that if they leave the UK and join Europe, they will be allowed to run any deficits they like.

But

before long, the Scots will be constrained to live approximately within their means.

It is one of the first times in history that ‘Out of the frying pan into the fire’

has become not a warning, but the desired destination of substantial proportions of whole populations.

‘Voor bralnationalisme voel ik niets’

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 23.02.48De conservatieve cultuurcriticus Theodore Dalrymple over nationalisme, zelfbeheersing en fatsoen. ‘Wij zijn beter dan jullie, en als jullie dat niet bevalt, hoepel dan vooral een end op’, daar voel ik niets voor.

Door het boekje dat u samen met Bart De Wever hebt gepubliceerd (Vrijheid en oprechtheid, 2011), wordt u in Vlaanderen sterk met de N-VA vereenzelvigd. Maar wat vindt u eigenlijk van nationalistische partijen?

Laat me eerst zeggen dat ik De Wever een van die zeldzame politici vind die althans gevoel voor humor hebben. Hij is ook erudieter dan ik van politici gewend ben, spreekt vier talen – dat verdient respect. Maar wat het nationalisme betreft: het hangt er helemaal van af wat men er precies onder verstaat. Het soort uitsluitende bralnationalisme à la ‘Wij hebben de bliksemafleider en de eierkoker en de sokophouder uitgevonden (lacht), wij zijn dus beter dan jullie, en als jullie dat niet bevalt, hoepel dan vooral een end op’, daar voel ik niets voor. Maar met patriottisme lijkt me niets mis.

Bart De Wever is een bewonderaar van de achttiende-eeuwse Ierse conservatief Edmund Burke. Schept dat een band?

Dat doet het inderdaad. Ik vind bij Burke met name het volgende zeer waardevol: het inzicht dat er niet zoiets bestaat als een bepaalde blauwdruk voor problemen die van tevoren kant en klaar gereedligt en die je maar hoeft toe te passen. En verder het besef dat wij onderdeel zijn van een stroom die het verleden met de toekomst verbindt, en dat we dus verantwoordelijkheden hebben tegenover zowel onze voorgangers als de mensen die na ons zullen komen. Dat besef van culturele continuïteit, en van het feit dat je als individu daar maar een heel klein deeltje van bent, dat je het meeste geërfd hebt, betekent anderzijds natuurlijk ook weer niet dat je het verleden slaafs moet navolgen. Burke was niet de soort conservatief die zei: alle verandering is uit den boze. Dat zou evident belachelijk zijn – en hoe zou ik, als arts, kunnen ontkennen dat er vooruitgang is, ik hoef alleen maar terug te denken aan de tijd dat we nog geen behoorlijke anesthetica hadden. Maar dat er ook zoiets bestaat als verandering ten kwade, of op zijn allerminst dat verandering behalve goede ook nadelige gevolgen kan hebben – ik vraag me weleens af of al die eeuwig enthousiaste hervormers van alles daar ooit bij stilstaan.

Grenzen trekken, en dan specifiek voor jezelf, met andere woorden zelfbeheersing, en zowel de noodzaak als het toenemend verdwijnen ervan in onze samenleving, is misschien wel hét grote thema van uw werk.

Dat zou je misschien zo kunnen zeggen, ja. Op de een of andere manier is het volgende idee overheersend geworden, en dan zeker in Groot-Brittannië: ‘Wie zijn impulsen moet bedwingen, gaat die verdringen, en verdringing is heel slecht, daar word je ziek van. Dus is het beter om je impulsen uit te leven, bij voorkeur onmiddellijk.’ Dat is, uiteraard, pertinent onwaar – het is bijvoorbeeld aangetoond dat mensen die bij relatief kleine ergernissen zichzelf al niet meer in de hand kunnen houden, juist méér last ondervinden van wat hen ergert dan mensen die zich gedragen en niet voor het minste of geringste in woede uitbarsten – wat sowieso ook een stuk prettiger is voor hun omgeving en dus voor de samenleving als geheel. Onmiddellijke driftbevrediging, althans het onvermogen om daar als de omstandigheden dat vereisen van af te zien, is slecht voor een mens. Het hedendaagse losgeslagen consumentisme is daar maar één voorbeeld van, maar ook de verruwing van de omgangsvormen, het verdwijnen van werkelijke empathie ten voordele van sentimentaliteit: het komt allemaal op hetzelfde neer. Ik pleit voor grotere weerbaarheid, en dus – dat vloeit er automatisch uit voort – meer fatsoen.

Monotony and feebleness of Eurofederalist argumentation

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.34.53The best hope for the European Union, writes Dalrymple,

would be for it to eventually evolve into an enormous Belgium. More likely, it will evolve into an enormous Yugoslavia circa 1990.

The European political class and its intellectual cheerleaders

appear determined to produce one or the other. Whenever I listen to the defenders of the European Union I am astonished at the thinness of their argumentation and the ruthlessness of their determination.

Here are just three of the feeble and sketchy arguments:

1. European civilisation is superior to all others, for it is the only one that has ever accorded adult status to individuals. From now until 2020, 130m children will enter forced marriages. Without the indispensable infrastructure that is the European Union, Europe will be swept away by ill winds that blow from all directions.

Dalrymple:

Preposterous and cowardly. European civilisation predated the European Union by some years. The malign trend does not reach Europe from all directions—not from North or South America, for example, or Russia. The words are directed against Muslims, though there is not the courage to say so. There is no danger or prospect of forced marriage becoming general in Europe, nor is there any reason to suppose that a Europewide state would be better at preventing or prohibiting it among Muslim minorities than the present nation states are.

2. The only way of combating the kind of nationalism that led to catastrophic European wars is European federalism.

Dalrymple:

Absurd. There is no reason to believe that, but for the European Union, Portugal would attack Estonia, Ireland Luxembourg, or Greece Denmark. The only plausible candidates for a serious military conflict on the continent are France and Germany. What is really being said is that the European Union is necessary to contain Germany. This is to subscribe to the view of the Germans as eternal militarists, the inevitable enemy of France. I do not believe that but for the European Union, Germany would attack France.

3. The countries of Europe must unite politically in order to compete in the world. Large countries such as China, India, and the USA have clout; there is no place for small countries. In order to be of any account, European nations must forgo sovereignty and become part of a heftier entity.

Dalrymple:

This ignores

  • the political difficulties of union
  • the impossibility of making a functioning democracy of so many different nations
  • the inevitable clashes of national interest that federalisation would entail

It also ignores the evidence that many of the most successful countries in the world are small. There is no reason why countries cannot cooperate, including militarily, without pooling sovereignty; such pooling as has occurred in Europe has held its prosperity back. The currency union without any kind of fiscal union has proved disastrous for several countries, and is economically deleterious for all. But the further step of fiscal union could only be imposed by an unelected, authoritarian bureaucracy upon countries unwilling to comply, and whose interests might not be served by compliance. Sooner or later, a federation would lead to war, or at least to revolution.

The arguments of the federalists

are trotted out with monotonous regularity, like the stories of someone with Alzheimer’s, and anyone who raises objections, however obvious and unanswerable, is immediately compared to a rabid nationalist, as if to be attached to a national identity were a symptom of hating everyone else. There are such rabid nationalists, to be sure. Forced federation is the best way of ensuring their increase in numbers and influence.

The badness of an idea

does nothing to halt its progress. Europe is sleepwalking (yet again) to cataclysm.

Europe is asking for a fascist reaction

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 08.14.51The price the West pays for stifling debate

Nationalism, writes Dalrymple,

is fraught with dangers, of course, but so is the blind refusal to recognise that attachment to one’s culture, traditions, and history is a creative, normal, and healthy part of human experience. A democracy that stifles debate on such vital and difficult matters by means of speech codes, explicit or implicit, is asking for a genuinely fascist reaction.

He points out that in France the genie of unease about the North African influx cannot be returned to its bottle. For the sake of democracy,

vigorous, civilised debate must replace the law of silence that political correctness has imposed.

France, Dalrymple reminds us, has

a large, undigested, and growing immigrant population from North Africa that congregates—unwanted by the bulk of the population—in huge and soulless modern housing projects that surround French cities, as if besieging them. There are now Muslim ghettoes in France so crime-ridden that the police will not enter, except in armoured convoys.

The Front national addresses

widespread anxieties that ‘respectable’ politicians have preferred to ignore for fear of appearing illiberal and unenlightened.

The party dares say on the subject of mass immigration

what many Frenchmen think and feel. A problem as essential to France’s future as how 5m North African Muslims are to be integrated successfully into French society has been left unexamined, obscured behind a cloud of wishful thinking and politically correct platitudes.

Dalrymple explains that the ‘respectable’ politicians,

by espousing the banalities of multiculturalism, left those with a desire to conserve something of traditional French identity with nowhere to go but Le Pen. By declaring that realities as obvious as the high immigrant crime rate and the resulting fear that many Frenchmen feel cannot be mentioned by the polite and sophisticated, they have ceded all public discussion of such evident facts to the impolite and the outré. The élites were the architects of the Front national‘s triumph.

This is happening not only to the French. For example, the Danes

have seen that, in the name of diversity, everywhere is becoming the same. There are large parts of Copenhagen in which it is impossible now for a stranger to guess what country he is in. The Danes fear to become foreigners in their own land.

Too much national pride, and too little

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 00.00.31Getting the balance right is not easy

Dalrymple writes that absence of officially-held and sponsored nationalism

is welcome, after all the devastation that it caused in the 20th century.

Excessive national pride

dishonestly conceals alike the virtues of others and one’s own vices.

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 00.06.59On the other hand, absence of national pride

dishonestly conceals alike the vices of others and one’s own virtues.

Lack of pride or patriotism

renders a country, and the civilisation it embodies, vulnerable to or defenceless against its enemies.

Conservator of civilisation

Zweig in 1900

Zweig in 1900

The secondhand book dealer’s vital contribution

Dalrymple writes that in Buchmendel (1929), Stefan Zweig

indicates symbolically, and with great force, the destruction of cosmopolitan tolerance by the nationalist madness of the First World War in the fate of a single person.

Buchmendel

is a Jewish peddler of antiquarian books in Vienna. For many years before the outbreak of the war, he carried out his business in a Viennese café. Buchmendel lives for books; he has no other life. He is astonishingly learned, in the offbeat way of secondhand book dealers; every scholar in Vienna (the Vienna, recall, of Brahms, Freud, and Breuer, of Mahler and Klimt, of Schnitzler, Rilke, and Hofmannsthal) consults him on bibliographical matters.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 22.13.23Buchmendel is otherworldly.

His wants are few, his interest in money minimal. The café owner is happy to have as a customer a man consulted by so many eminent men, even though he consumes little and occupies a table all day. The café owner understands, as does everyone else, that Buchmendel is a contributor to, because he is a conservator of, civilisation, and being a civilised man himself, he is honored to welcome him.

But the war supervenes.

Buchmendel is arrested, because he has written to both London and Paris, asking why he has not received copies of bibliographical reviews. The military censors assume that this correspondence is a code for espionage: they can’t conceive that a man could concern himself with bibliography at such a time. The  authorities discover that Buchmendel, born in Russian Galicia, is not even an Austrian citizen. Interned in a camp for enemy aliens, he waits two years before the authorities realise that he is only what he seems, a book peddler.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 22.13.04On his release, Vienna has changed.

No longer the centre of an empire, it has become the impoverished capital of a monoglot rump state. Buchmendel’s café has changed hands; the new owner does not understand or welcome Buchmendel and ejects him. Buchmendel’s life has fallen apart, as has the civilisation to which he was a valuable contributor; now homeless, he soon dies of pneumonia.

Zweig makes it clear

that though Buchmendel was eccentric and his life one-dimensional, even stunted, he could offer his unique contribution to Viennese civilisation because no one cared about his nationality. His work and knowledge were vastly more important to his cosmopolitan customers than his membership in a collectivity.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 22.13.54No man was more sensitive than Zweig

to the destructive effects upon individual liberty of the demands of large or strident collectivities. He would have viewed with horror the cacophony of monomanias — sexual, racial, social, egalitarian — that marks the intellectual life of our societies, each monomaniac demanding legislative restriction on the freedom of others in the name of a supposed greater, collective good. His work was a prolonged (though muted and polite) protest at the balkanisation of our minds and sympathies.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 22.14.50