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The Morality of Majority Rights and Interests

Kevin MacDonald

September 6, 2009

I’ve managed to avoid the vast majority of the outpourings of praise for Sen. Kennedy.  But I couldn’t help noticing Neal Gabler’s op-ed in the L.A. Times because it mentioned Kennedy’s notorious moral lapses. The article, titled (ironically) “Ted Kennedy, America's conscience” notes that

after his brothers' deaths and after he had inherited not the presidency but their political mantle, Kennedy compromised all that he had been given. It began with Chappaquiddick, continued with a decade of womanizing and debauchery, and climaxed with his nephew's arrest for rape in Palm Beach, Fla., in 1991, on a night when Kennedy had induced the young man — who was later cleared — to go out for drinks at a local bar. He remained a great senator, but he was now also America's fallen angel, his halo badly bent.

… Publicly confessing his errant ways, committing himself to do better, and then marrying a woman who helped him fulfill that promise, Kennedy achieved redemption. He fought even more ferociously for the powerless and voiceless. He demonstrated personally and politically what it meant to be rehabilitated. He reassumed his moral authority.

It was an extraordinary performance, not least because Kennedy's personal psychodrama mirrored the nation's. His divisions were our divisions; his struggles, our struggles. Kennedy was us.

Well, not many of us have been involved in the death of a woman-not-one’s-wife under circumstances that would have resulted in a charge of manslaughter for ordinary people.  

And then there’s the matter of lying about the ethnic effects of the 1965 immigration law. Kennedy never retracted his statement that “it will not upset the ethnic mix of this country.” That law was the result of a long effort, mainly by Jewish organizations and activists, whose main goal was exactly that. But Kennedy was more than willing to lend his abilities to the cause, and he continued to be a pro-immigration advocate the rest of his career.

But let’s assume that what Gabler says is true: Kennedy managed to regain his moral authority despite his personal failings by fighting “even more ferociously for the powerless and voiceless.” Such a statement resonates with all we know about human psychology. Most people strive to get a good reputation and they are motivated to atone for their sins by loudly proclaiming their moral rectitude.

Of course, the problem is that the conventional moral imperatives are all on the side of the multiculturalists. Gabler can blithely call Kennedy “America’s conscience” in a mainstream publication and most people will agree.

This presents a great difficulty for people who see moral virtue advocating for a resurgence of White racial/ethnic identity and explicit assertions of White interests. Such assertions are met with a firestorm of moral condemnation and ostracism. These moral panics warrant any and all actions against the miscreant, including removal from one’s livelihood, or even physical assault.

So what is the morality of ethnic self interest? There are at least two ways to think about. One is that many of the people who are most eager to create moral panics about such ideas also have strong ethnic identities and interests of their own. This is one of the first things that struck me about Jewish political and intellectual rhetoric — that they managed to create a culture of critique in which only Whites had a moral obligation to disappear as a racial/ethnic entity while minority cultures such as their own were encouraged to hold on to their traditions and group cohesiveness.

This way of thinking goes back to Horace Kallen, an important Jewish intellectual who was the first to develop a vision of multicultural America, combining this vision with a deep attachment to Zionism. Obviously, Kallen's prescription for America is quite the opposite of his vision of the Jewish state as a state for the Jews. The only thing these beliefs have in common  is that they serve Jewish interests. This is an example of Jewish moral particularism — the age old "Is it good for the Jews?." Kallen appeals to the tradition of Western moral universalism to attain the interests of his ethnic group.

Kallen had a major influence on Randolph Bourne who wrote a classic statement of a multicultural ideal for America in his famous "Trans-National America" that appeared in Atlantic Monthly in 1916. All other ethnic groups would be allowed to retain their identity and cohesion. It is only the Anglo-Saxon that is implored to be cosmopolitan.

Randolph Bourne: High-minded Anglo-Saxon

This is a prescription for racial/ethnic suicide. However, at the time he wrote it, Anglo-Saxons like Bourne may have been confident enough to believe that they could safely allow others to have an ethnic identity and retain their cultures while shedding their own. Bourne's implicit view of the world is that the ethnic identities of non-WASPs would make his world more colorful and interesting but not really threaten his basic interests. Like his mentor Kallen, he envisions of world of peaceful harmony amidst ethnic diversity:

America is already the world-federation in miniature, the continent where for the first time in history has been achieved that miracle of hope, the peaceful living side by side, with character substantially preserved, of the most heterogeneous peoples under the sun. Nowhere else has such contiguity been anything but the breeder of misery. Here, notwithstanding our tragic failures of adjustment, the outlines are already too clear not to give us a new vision and a new orientation of the American mind in the world.

I rather doubt that Bourne would have written what he did if he was aware that carrying out his recommendations would ultimately mean that Anglo-Saxons would lose control of their culture and their political destiny — and that even basic institutions like democracy and constitutional government would be in jeopardy.

What is the moral status of such a principled abdication of normal human strivings? Whites give up any claim to political and cultural control and hope that we will all enter a never-never land where we’ll all live happily ever after — White people expressing their individualism and everyone else advancing their ethnic interests.

The problem is that there is no way to rule out racial oppression and violence where Whites will be in a relatively powerless situation — at the mercy of people with festering historical grudges. Jewish historical memory about the 1924 immigration law and anti-Jewish attitudes, especially prior to World War II, is particularly bitter. The historical memory of Blacks in America is also especially bitter (Rev. Jeremiah Wright comes to mind), and Mexicans and Asians (see also here) have their own axes to grind.

The fact that Jews are an elite in the US and throughout the West and the fact that Jews have been a hostile elite in other times and places, most notably in the Soviet Union until at least the end of World War II, does not give much confidence in a rosy multicultural future when Whites cease to have the power to assert their interests. The great tragedy of the Russians and Ukrainians in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution is that they came to be ruled by ethnic outsiders with historic grudges against them.

Add to that the fact that Jewish political activism on behalf of a non-White America has often been accompanied by overt expressions of hostility toward White elites and toward Western civilization — even among Jewish "conservatives." There is no reason to think that such hostility will be eliminated when Whites have less power.

In the multicultural America of the near future, gulags and anti-White totalitarian controls are at least as likely as the multicultural utopia envisioned by Bourne. And if they can’t be ruled out, there is a compelling moral case to be made that Whites should not enter willingly into such a world. If there is one thing we should have learned by thinking about the history of the 20th century, it's that we should not believe in utopias.

I am reminded of the minister quoted in Eric Kaufmann’s The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America who stated “Political optimism is one of the vices of the American people…. We deem ourselves a chosen people, and incline to the belief that the Almighty stands pledged to our prosperity. Until within a few years probably not one in a hundred of our population has ever questioned the security of our future. Such optimism is as senseless as pessimism is faithless” (pp. 68–69).

The good minister wrote this in 1885 — definitely ahead of the curve. And he was quite right that the Anglo-Saxons should not have been too confident. That’s why the title of Kaufmann’s book refers to the fall of Anglo-America. Well-meaning White Americans who are not concerned that the future could turn out horribly for people like them are simply not paying attention to all the signs around them.

The good news is that there does seem to be a growing anger and insecurity in White America. Spurred by the Obama presidency, large numbers of Whites seem to be questioning their future. But it’s far too early to guess whether this will lead to effective political action — much less a resurgence of White identity and explicit and confident assertions of White interests. The fact that this White anger will probably benefit Republicans scarcely gives one confidence that it will have a positive long term result.

Another set of moral issues derives from biological differences among humans. If there is one common denominator to leftist activism throughout the last century, it is that biology doesn’t matter: Ethnicity is nothing more than culture. Unwelcome racial and ethnic differences in traits like IQ, academic achievement, and criminality are due to White evil. We are all familiar with this litany.

But this ideology leads to very real moral issues. The healthcare debate is a good example where the left is impervious to very real concerns among Whites that the proposed healthcare system will involve a massive transfer of resources, mainly from Whites to massive numbers of non-Whites, including tens of millions of legal and illegal immigrants imported by hostile elites against their wishes. From an evolutionary perspective, such concerns reflect evolved preferences and willingness to help people who look like them and have similar cultural proclivities.

Affirmative action raises a host of moral issues for the majority. Whites are doubtless concerned about the effects of affirmative action for Blacks and Latinos and competition from Asians, especially in states with high Asian populations, such as California which is ground zero for the multicultural future. By using “holistic” rating systems that deemphasize test scores, Blacks entering UCLA had SAT scores that were on average 300 points below White and Asian students. At the other end of the achievement curve, 46% of the undergraduates at the University of California’s flagship university, UC-Berkeley, are Asians despite the fact that Asians are only 12% of the state population.

Ironically, Whites may be unintended beneficiaries of recent policies put in place to aid Blacks and Latinos in a state where it is illegal to consider race in the admissions process. Even so, they will be underrepresented in elite public universities in a state that they built. Asians, who would be less overrepresented among UC students under the new rules (going from 35% to between 29–32%), are predictably outraged.

Welcome to a very small taste of ethnic politics in California where university admissions are still a zero sum game and political processes complexly interact with individual merit to determine how the pie is cut up.

Cleary Randolph Bourne did not think about what the long term effects of multiculturalism would be. There is simply no moral justification for  unleashing all this ethnic competition on the White citizens of California and the rest of the US without their consent. Indeed, the citizens of California voted for Proposition 187 that would have banned services for illegal aliens, but it was struck down by the courts. These same voters — mainly White and Republican — are now refusing to increase taxes that would keep the state of California afloat without drastic cuts in spending on education and health care for everyone.

Of course, the mainstream media sees this as a massive moral failing on the part of California voters. As an evolutionist, I see it as common sense. Why support a system that is fundamentally geared to support people unlike oneself?

This is the problem of donating to public goods like public education and public health care in a multicultural society. Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam has shown that increasing ethnic diversity lowers the willingness to contribute to charity or to public goods (including, apropos the current national debate, public healthcare). It also increases social isolation and it lowers trust both within and between races; it also lowers political participation and lessens confidence in political leaders.

Putnam himself is sanguine about the long term effects of immigration. (Such utopian hopes seem to be an occupational hazard of university professors.) These effects are massively unfair to the White people of the US who never voted for this onslaught and will never see any tangible benefits from it —  unless one counts ethnic cuisine as a really important benefit. Couldn’t we just import ethnic cookbooks?

The social isolation, distrust of the political process, and lack of willingness to contribute to public goods means that as this process continues, Western societies will be increasingly unlivable for everyone. Civic mindedness and a strong concern about the society as a whole have been a hallmark of healthy Western societies.

On the other hand, one of the most striking aspects of the behavior of Orthodox Jews in Postville, Iowa was that they didn't have any interest in developing social ties with their new neighbors or conform to community norms — even seemingly trivial ones such as taking care of their lawns, shoveling their sidewalks, or raking their leaves. They had no concern about the community as a whole; they treated their neighbors like strangers.

Civic mindedness and trust have been noted as unique features of Western culture. As I noted elsewhere,

Trust is really a way of emphasizing the importance of moral universalism as a trait of individualist societies. In collectivist, family-oriented societies, trust ends at the border of the family and kinship group. Social organization, whether in political culture or in economic enterprise, tends to be a family affair. Morality is defined as what is good for the group—typically the kinship group (e.g., the notorious line, “Is it good for the Jews?”).  

This lack of ability to develop a civil society is the fundamental problem of societies in the Middle East and Africa, where divisions into opposing religious and ultimately kinship groups define the political landscape. The movement of the West toward multiculturalism really means the end of individualist Western culture. 

In individualist cultures, on the other hand, organizations include nonfamily members in positions of trust. Morality is defined in terms of universal moral principles that are independent of kinship connections or group membership. Trust therefore is of critical importance to individualist society. 

Yet, as Putnam has shown, trust and civic mindedness are the first casualties of ethnic diversity.

To inflict the White populations of the West with multiculturalism — especially when support for multiculturalism and support for their own demographic and political eclipse have never been majority views among Whites — is profoundly immoral. Imagine what happens when White Americans begin to behave toward their communities in the same way the Hassidic Jews behaved toward Postville.

What is needed is to pay more attention to the morality of infringing on the legitimate rights and interests of the White majority. Everyone has rights and everyone has interests. The interests and rights of Whites as a majority are no less morally legitimate than anyone else’s rights. Whites must jettison the ideal of moral universalism and ask what is good for the future of Whites.

We have to seek a world in which Whites attempting to atone for their personal transgressions would seek moral legitimacy by working even harder on behalf of their own people.  

Kevin MacDonald is a professor of psychology at California State University–Long Beach.  Email him.

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