April 12, 2012

Liberalism as leapfrogging loyalties

I want to come back to this new New York Times op-ed about how the guy in Toulouse, France who massacred those Jewish children was, when you stop and think about it, a victim of French nationalism. It's by:
Karl E. Meyer, a former member of the New York Times editorial board, is a co-author of “Pax Ethnica: Where and How Diversity Succeeds.”

It's such a perfect illustration of how the defining aspect of 21st Century liberalism (or leftism or whatever you want to call it) is "leapfrogging loyalties." 

The default human tendency is toward concentric loyalties. If you look at people in Szechuan or Paraguay or Burkina Faso, you'll notice that they tend to feel the most duties and allegiance toward people whom they consider most like themselves, moderate amounts toward people moderately close to them, and so forth onward and outward.

But the Western liberal is noteworthy for feeling loyalty toward his inner circle, however defined, then ostentatiously leapfrogging over a whole bunch of people who are kind of like him but whom he despises, in order to embrace The Other. 
Who Gets to Be French? 
By KARL E. MEYER 
Published: April 11, 2012 
THE French language is justly renowned for its clarity and precision. Yet on a seemingly simple matter its speakers stumble into a fog — who or what can be defined as French? The question arose afresh in the wake of the Toulouse killings. No one doubted that the perpetrator was 23-year-old Mohammed Merah, a native son of Algerian descent. But was Mr. Merah French? 
Impossible, declared four members of Parliament belonging to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right party. In a joint statement, they insisted that Mr. Merah “had nothing French about him but his identity papers.” 
Nonsense, retorted the left-wing journal Libération: “Merah is certainly a monster, but he was a French monster.” A childhood friend of Mr. Merah provided a poignant elaboration: “Our passports may say that we are French, but we don’t feel French because we were never accepted here. No one can excuse what he did, but he is a product of French society, of the feeling that he had no hope and nothing to lose. It was not Al Qaeda that created Mohammed Merah. It was France.” 
These opposing approaches to what it means to be French — one rooted in an uncompromising ideal of assimilation, the other grounded in the messy realities of multiculturalism — struck a chord with me. While researching a book on the politics of diversity with my wife, Shareen Blair Brysac, I encountered not only the exclusionary attitude prevailing in metropolitan Paris, but also the more tolerant worldview epitomized by the port city of Marseille — a worldview that the rest of France would be well served to embrace. ... 
Can and should the Marseillais spirit of civilized tolerance spread northward? My wife and I were reminded that it was a throng of volunteers singing a melody as they marched to Paris from already polyglot Marseille who gave France its national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” 

In other words, Meyer is embracing Mohammed Merah, an anti-Semitic mass murderer, as a handy club with which to beat the majority of the French for their insensitivity to Mr. Merah. Granted, even by the standards of anti-Semitic terrorists, Merah seems like nasty, dismal company, but he appeals to Meyer and to the editors of the New York Times because he's The Other. He's not like all those terrible people whom Meyer and the editors strive to be seen as better than, so that makes him useful

And, granted, French secular nationalism is the one of the main achievements of the signature event of the Left, the French Revolution, while Mr. Merah would appear to be, by objective standards, a would-be rightwing thug (who just got born in the wrong country), but who cares about all that stuff? Merah is a member of a designated victim group, so let's use him to bash the average French person for not being as down with diversity as we are!

42 comments:

IHTG said...

Karl E. Meyer is a third generation journalist. His grandfather, George Meyer, was the editor of the leading German language newspaper in Milwaukee, the Germania; his father, Ernest L. Meyer, was a columnist for The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) and then The New York Post.

Mr. Incredible said...

Meyer:

"the more tolerant worldview epitomized by the port city of Marseille — a worldview that the rest of France would be well served to embrace"

Yeah, that's great advice, considering Marseille is a notorious crime-ridden hellhole.

Anonymous said...

Marseille is the capital of Africa.

Anonymous said...

I get the concept loosely except it doesn't seem like quantum leapfrogging.

Sometimes there's a Mrs. Jellyby, like what you describe, the outgrowth of a tenuous family or neighborhood unit, combined with ignorance of the remote and exotic. (Hey kids, remember Joseph Kony?)

But, if a person just really hates either his/her own milieu or the next "circle" over, he/she will act out in a particular way depending on political inclination & norms. Suddenly I'm put in mind of a U. of Iowa professor from earlier this year...

e-Spengler said...

Modernity can greatly drive down the day-to-day cost of lacking clan or tribe consciousness, to rehash an ancient point. But not only has the enlightenment dust been sprinkled unevenly, there're some spots left where it's not taking (and of course it might wear off in the other places before long)

Dr Cattle said...

The Toulouse mayor, Pierre Cohen, is jewish. Successful integration!

Chicago said...

Meyer is one more example of a person based in America who feels comfortable in prescribing to everyone else in the world how they should live, what they should think. Who appointed him, and others like him, owners of the world?

M.G. said...

Can and should the Marseillais spirit of civilized tolerance spread northward?

Mort de rire. Marseille is one of the least civilized places in metropolitan France. Gang warfare, drug trade, and political corruption are legendary. Inter-ethnic squabbling (which in most of France = anti-white aggression) is low because Euro gentiles have been the minority here for a long time. They hunker down in their southern neighborhoods and continue to give the Front National some of its highest scores in the country. Also a good chunk of the Whites in Marseille are of Italian origin (tons of Corsicans too), the gangs and corruption were their specialty in fact before all the Arabs/Africans/Turks rolled in to get their piece of the pie.

In any case these people consider themselves 'Marseillais' first and 'French' a very distant second. Yes, if only we could spread this winning formula to the rest of the country, France would be a veritable utopia...

--amused ex-pat

Anonymous said...

If there is one thing that would serve the whole world in this mess would be to understand the difference between a nominal kind and an historical kind. You can be French as a nominal kind, meaning "lives in France," but not French as an historical kind, meaning "ethnically French." The problem is that until recently, France was where the French lived, Germany is where the Germans lived, England was where the English lived. We didn't need to make this distinction. So with massive immigration we are all scratching our heads over what it means to be French, German, English, whatever.

Bruce Banner said...

What´s the problem? Frenchmen of native descent ("franÇais de souche"), don´t consider Merah one of their own and Algerian- and Moroccan- descended "Frenchmen" don´t consider themselves French. It´s no business of Meyer to decide who is French or not. Ethnic identification relies on in-group identity.

Drunk Idiot said...

Wait. This is getting confusing. Weren't the French supposed to be the benchmark for enlightened Continental sophistication, dovishness and colorblindness? Don't they still get to wear halos for having embraced Josephine Baker, Jazz and Woody Allen? Isn't it still true that French Women Don't Get Fat -- unlike all those obese, diabetic, white trash, "people of WalMart" whales out in the backwater American Midwest (who, no doubt, don't appreciate Jazz or Woody Allen)?

So now we're supposed to believe that the French are xenophobic, racist yahoos, just like the inbred, NASCAR-lovin' rubes with "low-sloping foreheads" out in places like Peoria, Kansas City, Mississippi, Texas and Wisconsin?

But weren't the French held out as morally superior for their lack of confinement by repressive, outmoded bourgeois sexual mores as recently as the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair? Didn't bien-pensant sophisticates at the Times purr with delight when Bernard Henri-Lévy declared uncivilized any nation in which law enforcement would prosecute a man of his buddy DSK's stature for allegedly forcing unwanted carnal knowledge on a mere, lowly chamber maid of African Muslim provenance (pretty sure they did)?

What's more, isn't it still a rite of passage for upper middle class princesses, upon returning from spending their junior years of college in Paris, getting tipsy on French wine and jumping into bed with one smooth-talking Gallic lover boy after another ... err, upon returning from studying abroad, to both sneer at their less-sophisticated American countrymen and womyn for their backward prudishness and to declare that Americans need to be more like the enlightened French?

And isn't it still a social marker for "new ruling class" poseurs like Ezra Klein to rhapsodize about their time spent wandering about in Provence?

This stuff is dizzying. It's hard to keep up with the conventional wisdom when the narrative turns on a dime faster than Kardashian sisters spread eagle for NBA players and rappers.

Still, weren't the "peacenik" French supposed to have absolute moral authority over Americans and other English speaking denizens of the Anglosphere for their historic revulsion/opposition to American "cowboy" militarism and imperialism? Wasn't that supposed to be the ultimate trump card of enlightened French superiority over reptile-brained American troglodytism -- especially since that tradition dates back to the time of Napoleon, but heated up in earnest from the time of the Cold War through the Haliburton Wars For Oil in pristine Islamic holy lands in the Levant (French colonialism from Napoleon to the 20th century notwithstanding)?

Or did that all change when the French pushed us into a war for oil in Libya (which they let us lead from behind so that neither of us had to acknowledge being "at war" in Libya)? If so, then good. F**k the French.

But it's hard to keep it all straight.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Marseille the Detroit of Mediterranean Europe? So similarly, America should become more like Detroit!!! Crime ridden, economically collapsing, horrible public schools. Hey Detroit is even a sort of French name, perfect.

Anonymous said...

Telling France to imitate Marseille is like telling the US to imitate New Orleans. These writers have some crazy racial fantasy unburdened by the real world.

Davis said...

Shooting children and recording it is a normal response to alienation. Le Pen and Sarkozy should announce their permanent embrace of ceaseless, relentless African migration to France. Vive l'Afrique!

Anonymous said...

The loyalties of France's large Jewish population must be severely frayed.
On the one hand you have the huge numbers of Arab and African immigrants who are extremely hostile to Jews, and don't even attempt to hide it. The Merah murders are just one of many rather nasty assaults, attacks and murders perpetrated on Jews by muslims.
On the other hand we musn't foregt the truly horrible and craven collaboration of the Vichy regime with German anti-semitic and genocidal policies in WW2, a painful fact that the french are still deeply ashamed of and continues to this day to wound the national psyche. I can imagine French Jews being privately hostile to muslim immigration and of the presence of the muslim population itself (which threatens to be the mjority population of France in the present century), but having a distaste in voting for nationalist politicians.
The Jewish question aside, the French poltical class, in the post war years, have managed to fuck up their ancient nation well and proper with their insane immigration fetish.
I've no doubt that bloody civil war will come to France sometime this century (believe me or not) due to the ass-clown crass stupidity of those fucking politicians.

Chris said...

That's kind of ironic since much of the Marsellaise could be taken as a rebuke of France's current immigration situation. To wit:


"Do you hear, in the countryside,
"The roar of the ferocious enemy?
"They're coming right into your arms
"To cut the throats of your sons and women!"


"What! Foreign cohorts
"Would make the law in our homes!"

Anonymous Rice Alum #4 said...

Leapfrogging loyalties make a lot of sense in evolutionary biology terms. An organism's biggest competitors are the ones occupying the same niche.

In paleolithic terms, the tribe in the next valley is similar enough to us, and close enough to us, that we fear they could supplant us and thrive in our homeland. On the other hand, the tribe two valleys over is far enough away, and probably different enough from us in culture, language, or economic activity that we view them warily, but not necessarily with hostility, and are more willing to build emotionless, arms-length coalitions (military alliances, free trade, etc).

Aside: it's only because our genes program us to try to keep their other vessels whole and healthy that we embrace our children and other close relatives.

Anonymous said...

http://lesswrong.com/lw/2pv/intellectual_hipsters_and_metacontrarianism/

Anonymous said...

F*ck me - I can't get sh*t through Komment Kontrol anymore.










[Komment Kontrol: "But that's because it's sh*t."


Me: "Yeah, but just because it's sh*t doesn't mean that it isn't also TRUE, dadgummit!!!"]

Anonymous said...

Drunk idiot you forgot to mention that they embraced Jerry Lewis as a mark of their uber sophistication and enlightenment.

walter condley said...

I'm one of those '60's kids who was taught that black people are as good as anyone. As I see it, here's the implicit message of post-1990 blacks for everyone else:

"Being dangerous is all we really have to take pride in. Don't talk about that. Don't think about holding us to your standards, cuz you owe us. We can talk about that. Racism means not givin' us the exemption. Don't talk about that. Don't ever say nothin' to us, cuz you got nothin' we want to hear. Zimmaman shoulda known you don't say nuthin' to a black man, and ain't no such thing as self-defense cuz if we beat your ass you deserved it. Don't talk about that."

Maya said...

1. As a lot of people had already mentioned, half of Marseille is a dangerous ghetto, not an example worth following.

2. From my time teaching there, I gathered that most French people really do believe in secular nationalism, and really do take pride in being French. This worked out for them as far as immigrants from many other places were concerned. I've met French people of Italian, Spanish, German, Romanian, Bulgarian, Armenian and Russian origins who had that same bravado regarding their french-ness as the rest of the French. In fact, they only brought up their family origins when it was very relevant in conversation (like when I'd explain that I might have an accent because even though I'm American, I was born somewhere else.) Still, they'd assure me that it doesn't make them any less French. I think that's what the founders of their current system had in mind- a national identity based, not so much on ethnic origins, as on shared pride in common culture and community.

But then, you got these folks from North Africa... ALL the French teachers, principals and school administrators I've worked with and ALL the grad students I've encountered at pubs and parties had told me that they are deeply troubled by this demographic. They stressed that they are not racists and are more than willing to accept all these Moroccans and Algerians as French, but these North Africans don't want to be French, don't consider themselves French and are openly hostile.

That was my experience as well. When I practiced the "Where are you from? I am from..." in 14 different classrooms, the kids would most often answer, "I am from Algeria", even though they were 3rd generation French citizens and never been to Algeria at all. The homeroom teachers, who were often present, would try to correct them every time, "No, you are French. You are from France." The kids would make disgusted faces and vigorously shake their heads "no". For soccer, the students, and their unemployed dads at the suburban cafes rooted against France and for Algeria. The other teachers told me that the first generation immigrants from Algeria decades ago weren't like this. They wanted to be French.

Anonymous said...

"Impossible, declared four members of Parliament belonging to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right party. In a joint statement, they insisted that Mr. Merah “had nothing French about him but his identity papers.” Nonsense, retorted the left-wing journal Libération: “Merah is certainly a monster, but he was a French monster.” A childhood friend of Mr. Merah provided a poignant elaboration: “Our passports may say that we are French, but we don’t feel French because we were never accepted here. No one can excuse what he did, but he is a product of French society, of the feeling that he had no hope and nothing to lose. It was not Al Qaeda that created Mohammed Merah. It was France.” These opposing approaches to what it means to be French — one rooted in an uncompromising ideal of assimilation, the other grounded in the messy realities of multiculturalism — "


So, according to Meyer (by the way, what tribe is he from, eh?) which one of those is the uncompromisingly idealistic verstion and which one is the grounded in messy realities of multiculturalism version?

Matthew said...

Hn article on the crime rate in Marseilles which, somehow, unlike Meyer's paean, fails to mention Marseille's glorious reputation for diversity.

Here's another, from Aug 30, 2011: "In the last year, the rates of violent crime have exploded. Some 26 physical assaults take place in the city each day. Robbery is up 23% from last year, burglaries are up 14%, while there has been a 40% increase in armed robberies. The murder rate increased by 9% in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010."

Sounds like paradise.

RKU said...

I really sometimes think most of the commenters here have never read a newspaper in their entire lives.

So we have some French Muslim, who seems really alienated from French society and angry about various things.

Maybe that has *something* to do with the fact that over the last few years Sarkozy's France has enthusiastically become America's junior partner in unprovoked attacks on five or ten different Muslim countries all around the world, bombing them all to pieces, and supporting wars that killed well over a million Muslims.

Nah, couldn't possibly have any connection! Must be because that Merah guy just hates baguettes or kosher pickles or something...

I think some other commenter was correct, and Steve really is trying to grab Derb's vacant spot over at NR.

SFG said...

I wonder how much of this is a strange mirror-image Christianity? Christianity was the first pan-national religion.

james4480 said...

RKU:

well said. this piece by diana johnstone in counterpunch makes a similar point:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/02/the-toulouse-murders/

her last paragraph is great:

The French are particularly obsessed with psychology and subjective feelings. The point is not that such sentiments do not exist, nor that they are insignificant. But sentiments are impossible to control by exhortations and laws. There is much more concentration on the presumed “incorrect feelings” of the French population than on the unquestionably real involvement of France in Middle East wars of no interest to the majority of the French population. It would be more useful to examine the role of Middle East conflicts in creating hostilities at home than endlessly denouncing the French people for their incorrect thoughts. But France’s foreign policy – its role in starting the Libya war, its aggressive stance toward Syria, its total alignment with Israel and the United States in the Middle East – is not a major issue in the current presidential election, with the main Socialist candidate François Hollande adhering to this policy.

Anonymous said...

So we have some French Muslim, who seems really alienated from French society and angry about various things.

Maybe that has *something* to do with the fact that over the last few years Sarkozy's France has enthusiastically become America's junior partner in unprovoked attacks on five or ten different Muslim countries all around the world, bombing them all to pieces, and supporting wars that killed well over a million Muslims.

Nah. North Africans started piling up in suburban, highrise ghettos (Merci, M. Corbusier!) back in the 1970s. The current mess is the predictable outcome (worsened by continued immigration), a generation and a half later. Nothing to do with foreign policy.

Cennbeorc

F*ck Me said...

I'm one of those '60's kids who was taught that black people are as good as anyone...

There is so much that I want to say about this topic which would NEVER make it through Komment Kontrol.

But just as the Latin phrase "mea culpa" means "my fault", we desperately need a Latin phrase which means "Our WRONG", or "We were WRONG".

After spending some time at the Wikipedia full list of Latin phrases and at William Whitaker's Words, it seems to me that the word for "wrong" wouldn't so much be "malus/mala/malum" as it would be "pecco/peccare/peccavi/peccatus", with its sense of "to blunder".

Anyway, are there any Big Brains at iSteve who can give a good Latin translation of "We blundered"?

[I kinda doubt that you'd be able to find a good Latin translation for the English pseudo-word, "Oops".]

Anonymous said...

North Africans started piling up in suburban, highrise ghettos
liberals are adapting the french model here via section 8 housing - moving ghetto blacks to an outer ring and making cities more SWPL

Anonymous said...

"The other teachers told me that the first generation immigrants from Algeria decades ago weren't like this. They wanted to be French."

Those pesky 3rd generation immigrants, always with the regression to mean.

Maya said...

"So we have some French Muslim, who seems really alienated from French society and angry about various things.

Maybe that has *something* to do with the fact that over the last few years Sarkozy's France has enthusiastically become America's junior partner in unprovoked attacks on five or ten different Muslim countries all around the world, bombing them all to pieces, and supporting wars that killed well over a million Muslims."

No, North African refusal to assimilate into French society started long before Sarkozy. In my experience, they can't really articulate why they don't like France or the French, but maintain that France sucks and there is a lot of racism there. All while benefiting from french generosity. Overall the areas where North Africans live in large numbers have much higher rates of crime, and this population has now entered the phase of generational welfare.

Face it, when members of a group that's known to behave badly act out, it's not really due to some ideological reason. Their culture makes them prone to violence and acts of religious fanaticism.

Maya said...

"North Africans started piling up in suburban, highrise ghettos
liberals are adapting the french model here via section 8 housing - moving ghetto blacks to an outer ring and making cities more SWPL"

Of course, cities are expensive in France, so only those who inherit their apartments and the rich can afford to raise a family there. The suburban ring isn't very pleasant, so most normal middle class folk don't live there either. From what I saw, teachers, nurses, accountants and IT people with families lived in villages, mostly. These villages aren't very exciting, but they are clean, beautiful, with no crime, plenty of space for outdoor activities and every single one seemed to have an old historic church, a bakery and a small music school. Oh, and there are A LOT of restrictions on what can be built in these villages, where, how it must look and so on. All the hone owners in these villages are members of a committee that... controls things around there.

Not to say that I haven't met normal, working family men and women who lived in the suburban ring, but they are usually a bit cut off from the rest of the suburb by some geographic feature.

John said...

Not an original insight, Steve ;)

Orwell wrote a long essay on the psychology of nationalism and made precisely this point about the left, that the left feels a very intense form of nationalism just to another country or group. Back then it was Soviet Russia.

Like everything by Orwell, it is a very interesting and perceptive essay.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Marseille, its historic Vieux Port, its paradisiac Calanques, its unique Vibrancy . . .

Anonymous said...

Come to pleasant Marseille, and marvel at its elegant downtown, lose yourself in its historic streets, where you can shop till you drop among the übercool fashionistas.

Enjoy its permanent art exhibitions, be part of the "vivre ensemble" crowd, and last but not least, why not try your luck with one of those attractive petites Françaises?

Matthew said...

"The other teachers told me that the first generation immigrants from Algeria decades ago weren't like this. They wanted to be French."

Actually one of the earliest organizations fighting for Algerian independence was started in 1926 by Algerians living in France. They weren't assimilating 2-3 generations ago. They were just dealing with Westerners who hadn't yet turned into pussies, and so they had to be careful.

But to the degree they were assimilating, it's because 50 years ago the West was still a masculine culture proud of its heritage and not entirely degenerate.

F*ck Me said...

They were just dealing with Westerners who hadn't yet turned into pussies, and so they had to be careful.

This is such a fundamentally important point to make, but, again, there's no way in Hades that I would be able to get the American analogy past Komment Kontrol.

No. Way. In. Hades.

Maya said...

"But to the degree they were assimilating, it's because 50 years ago the West was still a masculine culture proud of its heritage and not entirely degenerate."

But you see... One of the things I really liked about France is that, over there, they are, in fact, proud to be French. In America, especially in an academic setting, people will compulsively inform you that everyone here is an immigrant, except for Native Americans. When I was discussing something with English friends, uttering "native Englishmen" unleashed a tirade about how there is actually no such a thing as a native English people. The French, on the other hand, had absolutely no problem acknowledging that many of them are of native French origin. They believe that the origin of a Frenchman shouldn't matter, but they definitely not ashamed of their European heritage.

Btw, they don't allow ethnic pride festivals over there. Some groups push for Minority History Months or days or Algerian heritage festival or some such a la United States. Not allowed. They are okay with a Festival of North African Art or Festival of Film in Arabic because that offers something for appreciation instead of celebrating some people as a group, and not others. It's an important distinction.

And, of course, all the traditional Catholic celebrations are observed as secular national holidays. They don't allow any type of religion in public schools, but they still do Christmas and Easter classroom activities because that's a part of French culture.

[enter username here] said...

So apparently a guy brandishing a good ol' hand-cannon decided to make a speech to passengers on the Paris subway on Friday: «On n'est pas tous des Mohamed Merah! Vous êtes manipulés!» (sorry about the language barrier, it comes from Mark Steyn under the synopsis, "Defying stereotypes"). What did Marx say about farce repeating itself? Something about those who do not learn from history being repetitious, I think...

Georgia Resident said...

"I think some other commenter was correct, and Steve really is trying to grab Derb's vacant spot over at NR."

Heh, that's funny. If Derb's crimes against The Narrative of the Great and Good were unforgivable, then Steve is doubly damned there. Plus, Steve has a long history of not sharing NR's commitment to ending financial regulations, enriching the wealthiest 1%, and bombing the entire middle east other than Israel. I could about as easily see him getting hired at NR today as I could see John Derbyshire getting hired by The Guardian.

Slavek B. said...

Karl Mayer has recently published book called "Pax Ethnica: Where and How Diversity Succeeds". I hope Steve or someone at Vdare will review it.