Beyond Nationalism

In his response to Coke’s “America the Beautiful” advertisement on Sunday, Glenn Beck cringes in horror:

Beck continued by saying that several European Union leaders have been warning the United States and the rest of the world that multiculturalism does not work, which is what the Coke ad is implying, Beck said. “Every leader of the European Union that tried multiculturalism is now warning America and the rest of the world that multiculturalism does not work,” Beck said. “You have to come over here and assimilate. If you want to move to Germany you have to become a German. If you want to move to France, become French. But you can’t have separate languages and no-go zones and all that. Look at all the countries that have separate languages: it doesn’t work.”

Beck echoes the typical sentiments of other conservatives who are once again disgusted by multi-culturalism, but what exactly is their alternative? As always, these civic nationalists speak in the language of “assimilation,” sounding more like the cyborgs of a fictional dystopia than the conservators of traditional values. What does it mean to “become American?”

As usual, modern politics has created an insidious and false dichotomy. The contemporary leftist seemingly embraces differences between races, religions, and cultures, but then trivializes them by refusing to treat them differently or to assign them different values. He refuses to put them in any kind of order: trivializing them with the doctrine of equality and regarding as solely important the idea that nothing is important. In other words, he is nihilistic. For conservatives, the “melting pot” is apotheosized as a kind of “sacred blender” into which all differentiations between races, peoples, and cultures are eliminated and churned into a formless, grey mass. This grey man is dedicated to the feverish pursuit of comfort and economic growth at all costs: another kind of nihilism. Ultimately, the melting pot, true to its name, destroys form and order and leads to something promiscuous, miscegenated, and sub-human. The grey man is akin to the men who lose their shape and are transformed into formless, slithering serpents in the bolgia of thieves in Dante’s Inferno.

Unfortunately, the reaction of those confronted with this false dichotomy between multi-culturalism and civic nationalism is often to revert to an older kind of nationalism: mere ethnic nationalism. While ethno-nationalism can be considered a legitimate revolt against civic nationalism and the “proposition nation”, it makes the mistake of defining politics as being centered on the Nation rather than the State. The contemporary problem is not with proposition nationhood per se, but with the proposition itself: equality. A new state should not draw its life merely from the physical substance of the nation, but from a new idea and a new worldview. (Even the nations of Europe were carved out of Charlemagne’s empire, which embodied the old Roman idea of the imperium and the Platonic idea of the right of the self-governing man to govern others).

What, after all, is the purpose of the State? Is it merely to promote a comfortable existence, serve the whims of “society” (which develops in an arbitrary and chaotic direction), and grease the gears of the economy for maximum productivity and perpetual growth? We already see the results of this kind of State: the exclusively economic and communal view of life promotes prosperity without harmony and safety without peace, creating a type of man who is petty, cowardly, greedy, complacent, and altogether incapable of greatness. Compare this to Mussolini’s vision of the Fascist state and the man it strived to create:

To the agnostic liberal democratic state, ‘a mattress which people take turns using’, Mussolini contrasted a state ‘which necessarily transforms the people’ - and he added, ‘even in their physical aspect’. (Evola, Fascism Viewed From the Right)

“The Fascist accepts and loves life; he rejects and despises suicide as cowardly. Life as he understands it means duty, elevation, conquest; life must be lofty and full, it must be lived for oneself but above all for others, both nearby and far off, present and future.” (Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism)

Instead of transforming men into selfish, worthless slobs, the State should lift them up and give them purpose and direction. Put another way, “the State was the atmosphere within which the soul breathed.” The State should enable and guide men toward activities that the left considers “useless” and “luxurious”: the construction of temples, cathedrals, and monuments; the creation of high art, music, and literature; self-sacrifice in the name of beauty, loyalty, and honor. Given this, the practical role of the State should be to harmonize the differing elements of society and the economy and to subordinate them to loftier ends, actualizing man’s highest potential. Dante, defining the higher potential of man as action (similarly to the Fascist conception) and speculation (understood as contemplation), states it thus:

We must now determine what is the end of human society as a whole, and having determined that, we shall have accomplished more than half of our labor, according to the Philosopher in his writings to Nicomachus. In order to discern the point in question more clearly, observe that as Nature fashions the thumb for one purpose, the whole hand for another, then the arm for a purpose differing from both, and the entire man for one differing from all, so she creates for one end the individual, for another the family, for another the village, for still another end the city, for another the kingdom, and finally for an ultimate end, by means of His art which is Nature, the Eternal God brings into being the human race in its totality. And this last is what we are in search of as the directive first principle of our investigation. ... Further, the intellectual capacity of which I speak has reference not only to universal forms or species, but, by a sort of extension, to particular ones. Wherefore it is a common saying that the speculative intellect becomes by extension the practical, whose end is to do and to make. I speak of things to be done, which are controlled by political sagacity, and things to be made, which are controlled by art, because they are all handmaids of speculation, that supreme end for which the Primal Good brought into being the human race. From this now grows clear the saying in the Politics that “the vigorous in intellect naturally govern other men.” (Dante, Monarchia, Chapter III: To Actualize the Whole Capacity of the Possible Intellect in Speculation and Action)

Unfortunately, the problem that we face is not confined to this or that nation or geographical area, but is a contagion and a dissolution that affects the entire occidental world. In a talk given to the Traditional Britain Group last fall, Richard Spencer identified this and criticized the narrow-minded, anti-EU nationalism of UKIP as a futile channeling of reactionary energies: even if Britain withdrew from the European Union, its fundamental problems would remain. A dangerous aspect of Nationalism is that it tends, for petty reasons, to set at odds groups that should be allied with each other in the service of a greater cause. Truly, there is something pan-European about our struggle and in a proper form, a European Union makes sense. A European Union should never eliminate differences between ethnicities and nations, but instead should harmonize and even accentuate those differences, while guiding them toward a single, overarching, even spiritual object:

We cannot claim to be "Europeans" on the basis of an analogous feeling due to which one feels Italian, Prussian, Basque, Finnish, Scottish, Hungarian, and so on, or believe that a unique feeling of the same kind may become widespread, thereby erasing and leveling these differences and replacing them in a "Nation Europa."

... But the principle of the Empire can have such a dignity only by transcending the political sphere in the strict sense, founding and legitimizing itself with an idea, a tradition, and a power that is also spiritual. The limitations of the sovereignty of the single national units before an eminent right of the Empire have as their sole condition this transcendent dignity of the Empire; as far as structure is concerned, the whole will appear as an "organism composed of organisms," or as an organic federalism similar to that realized by Bismarck in the second German Reich, which was not acephalous. These are the essential traits of a true Empire. (Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins)

This vision of the state and of imperial unity is commonly criticized as being oppressive, tending to suffocate national identity, and resulting in the totalitarian intrusion of a blunt central authority upon the smallest aspects of everyday life. Of course, these criticisms would be more astutely directed toward modern governments. The difference is between governing via authority and governing via force. Although the State must always have recourse to force in cases of necessity, it should ideally be obeyed out of a sense of reverence and respect rather than out of fear or physical coercion, and utilize the former kind of authority over the latter as much as possible. Here lies the problem of the secularized state: without any sense of the state’s transcendent nature and divine sanction, it has no real authority and must always resort to coercion. Julius Evola described his conception of the organic state in Fascism Viewed From the Right:

“The traditional state is organic, but not totalitarian. It is differentiated and articulated, and admits zones of partial autonomy. It coordinates forces and causes them to participate in a superior unity, while recognizing their liberty. Exactly because it is strong, it does not need to resort to mechanical centralising, which is required only when it is necessary to rein in a shapeless and atomistic mass of individuals and wills, from which, however, disorder can never be truly eliminated, but only temporarily contained.

... Once the mistake of ‘totalitarianism’ has been eliminated, it is therefore important to reject in the clearest way the accusation that a political system based on authority, is, in principle, incompatible with the values of the person and suffocates liberty. The liberty that is experienced as negative is only an insipid liberty, formless, small and basically of little interest, and all the arguments for a ‘new humanism’ offered by intellectuals and litterateurs with no centre are futile against this fundamental truth.” (Evola, Fascism Viewed From the Right)

The necessity of overcoming libertarian individualism highlights the need for the state to engender a new kind of man. As long as men are selfish, cowardly, and religiously individualistic, his natural condition will be that of a slave, and force will be necessary to keep him in line. It is only through reawakening the “religious” sensibility in western man that he can be harmonized with his allies and overcome his current condition of slavery. In the end, we should be libertarians, but of a fundamentally different type. We should seek to be free not from our responsibilities, duties, and restraints, but from our enslavement to pleasure, meaningless work, and the cult of the economy. We should liberate ourselves not in order to fritter away our lives with ephemeral pleasures and trivial pursuits, but in order to take control of our lives, regain our dignity, and pursue our own survival, actualization, and destiny as a people.