Untimely Observations

The Optimistic Tribalist


Reading James Kalb’s thoughts on Alternative Modernities and Paul Gottfried’s pessimistic assessment of proposed solutions put me in the uncomfortable position of disagreeing with men I respect immensely. Mr. Kalb dismissed racial preservation as an intellectually weak guiding principle of social order; Dr. Gottfried warned that creating a biologically homogenous community may be wishful thinking. I agree with Dr. Gottfried that there presently seems to be no hope to be found in working through the system in order to save society from late modernity’s decay—which is why I think we should physically separate ourselves from it.

A separatist movement today would be no less practical than the Massachusetts Bay Colony was in the seventeenth century. Indeed, given the advancements in transportation, communication, medicine and material resources, the main obstacle to sparking such a movement might be that its goal would be too easily attained. The call to create a separate society summons men who seek to live dangerously; imitating the Amish in that respect does not strike most as a particularly risky endeavor. Still, if it is the best chance we have at making our ideas matter I think it should be seriously considered.

In his analysis of modernity’s various forms of political organization I’m not sure that Mr. Kalb himself has stepped outside of modernity’s perspective. He says that the preservation of a race cannot serve as a guiding principle of social order because that is not what men find worthwhile in life. Well, it is a commonplace in these quarters to say that man is a tribal animal. There are certainly limits to our sympathies but the proposition that tribal loyalty is not a healthy or effective basis for binding an individual to a community is one of the more egregious lies of liberalism. Racial exclusion has been the rule, not the exception, throughout human history. Living with people who look and act like you is not a convention that needs to be imposed on society by tyrants; it is a preference rooted in our blood. Try telling the Japanese that racial exclusion is not a healthy or effective principle; they would probably pay even less mind to that argument than the Israelis.

What Mr. Kalb apparently misses is the extent to which culture is shaped by human biology. Culture is an “extended phenotype”: different races will produce different cultures even given the same environmental conditions. This is why a degree of racial purity is vital for cultural homogeneity and its preservation. As Sam Francis famously said,

The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people.

That statement has powerful implications which should not be dismissed as intellectually weak. Most whites may not rank preserving their race as a personal priority but most will admit that they do not wish to see America look more like Mexico.

Furthermore, is holding that the guiding principles of social order need to be based on what men find worthwhile in life not the liberal perspective in essence? What men find worthwhile has shallower roots than I think Mr. Kalb supposes. Religion is a natural phenomenon but it is not a universal need. We should not underestimate how much of what we value in life is shaped by those we consider moral authorities. Indeed, a basic problem is that we lack the kind of noble and charismatic leader whose moral authority commands the attention of a significant number of men; we have not heard a convincing political leader tell us that the preservation of the tribe is a worthwhile duty in a long time. (Jared Taylor would be a worthy candidate.) Pericles did not ask men what they thought was worthwhile in life: He told them their duties and they found honor in fulfilling them.

Now, it may be worth making a distinction between tribalism as a guiding principle and tribalism as a founding principle. Tribalism makes no sense as a guiding principle for a society that seeks to be more than one dimensional and in a world where men depend on people whom they will never meet for nearly all of their material needs; but we should not discount it as a founding principle. From there it follows that to preserve what has been founded is to be assumed.