GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

August 24, 2006

The Anti-White Guilt Coalition

Filed under: GA — ericgans @ 2:09 am
Speaking intuitively rather than statistically, one effect of the recent fighting that gives me some ground for hope is that is has inaugurated a new sense of community among those who become aware of the immense damage wrought by White Guilt’s mindless moral narcissism. It is interesting to see Shelby Steele’s far more widely publicized use of the term come to coincide with my own: “White guilt in the West — especially in Europe and on the American left — confuses all this by seeing Islamic extremism as a response to oppression” (“Life and Death,” Wall Street Journal, 8/22/06).
No doubt Generative Anthropology provides the most comprehensive and parsimonious framework for understanding White Guilt, but in the present moment this strikes me as less important than that GA is part of this community, which is only one step from a coalition. White Guilt, as is increasingly obvious, is complicit with Hezbollah and Ahmadinejad in its desire to destroy Israel, and (why not) the Jews in general, not to speak of the United States. The West, and now the entire world that derives from Western civilization, is still working out the paradox raised by the Hebrews in 1800 B.C. or so by being the first to have the chutzpah to claim that “their” God is the only God, the God of everyone.
A further point to consider is the modern, market version of firstness: economic productivity. Because Nazi Germany was a “productive” state, in the victimary mindset productivity itself is not only not admired, it is reviled. Thus a comparison one never sees between Israel and Hezbollah is that Israel has a modern economy that doesn’t just “produce” but creates new products, notably in high tech fields, whereas Hezbollah and Hamas live on charity, which they redistribute to create good will, and basically produce nothing. (When was the last time you used a piece of Hezbollah software?) Considering that our entire social order would fall into disorder absent the kind of economic productivity that Israel, the US, and the “West” in the broad sense embody, it is striking that the only presence of this comparison in the world press is as a demonstration of the terrorists’ moral superiority as “victims” of Israel’s “war machine.”
What goes for Israel goes for us. It’s not the “Israel lobby” that links the US and Israel in the hatred of the jihadists; it’s their common firstness.
-eric gans


  1. “Life and Death” seems to be subscriber-only at this time — one can see a Steele piece from May (“White Guilt and the Western Past: Why is America so delicate with the enemy?”) at:

    Comment by stking — August 24, 2006 @ 3:28 am

  2. I wonder whether it might be helpful, both theoretically and politically (in terms of broadening the “anti-White Guilt coalition” and determining its “program”) to consider, as complementing the notion of “firstness,” the concept of “lastness.” If someone must have gone first on the originary scene, someone must have gone second, and then third, and then… and, ultimately, last. By the time we get around to the last, the community would be capable of restraining, physically, anyone who still tried to appropriate the object–perhaps such “police action” established the efficacy of the sign. For the last, whether they were actually restrained or were simply aware of the possibility that they could be, there would be something faintly illegitimate about the entire scene–they would sign in the end as well, but with an awareness that they didn’t do so completely voluntarily.

    Now, “lastness” could manifest itself in various ways, some of them innocuous or even beneficial–as a kind of perpetual skepticism, for one thing, or as an increased sensitivity to weaknesses in the social order; but also, of course, as evil–in a Iago-type hostility toward faith in the sign, and a desire to see such faith lead to destruction.

    Hypothetically, would it be plausible to see Islam as a kind of lastness? I’m not an expert, but Islam itself seems to insist that its is the final revelation; and, even more, that previous ones (especially the Judaic one) have been falsified–exactly what one would expect from the “last,” for whom the scene has been imposed, through some combination of force and fraud. And this would certainly lend support to Gans’ previous Chronicle, arguing that Islam is perfectly suited to represent all the resentments gathering against, ultimately, “firstness,” as well as his observation regarding the fundamental unproductiveness of Islam–the last would simply take for granted that everything has already been produced, and is there for the taking.

    Part of the task of those of us who wish to defend firstness would, then, be to integrate as well as contain lastness. Part of the problem is to prevent “lastness” from clustering around specific areas and groups too much–I believe in his Chroncle on “White Guilt and Democracy” Gans suggested that a successful Iraqi democracy would have a claim to firstness, insofar as it would be pioneering this form of government in an inhospitable region and thereby reclaiming and reminding all of us of its original meaning. But to the extent that lastness will always cluster a bit, perhaps it could be deflected towards a kind of insistence on reinforcing the existing system–in the way that latecomers often demand that the rules not be changed until they’ve had a chance to “play” even if those who have been around a while have begun to find them too “inflexible” (for example, in the way that the old Protestant Churches in the U.S seem to be the most profligate regarding our national heritage and honor–it’s easy for them to throw it all away!)–to take one example, in the way in which the Nation of Islam (however egregious in other ways) often enforces old fashioned norms regarding family and even personal appearance that are trivial and tedious to those who have already “made it.”

    One final question: what might be a “postive” name for the “anti-White Guilt coalition”? This is always hard, but what are we for? (“coalition for firstness” would be too esoteric) In a certain sense, the opposite of White Guilt is an old fashioned liberalism demanding equal treatment for all, but in a post-White Guilt world, that “naive” position is no longer adequate, at least not for those who wish to ground their thinking anthropologically.

    Comment by adam — August 24, 2006 @ 9:47 am

  3. This is my first post. Please excuse if I use your categoires incorrectly. It would seem, contrary to the liberal assertion, that we are not yet a global village. The firstness of our decadent(enlightened) Judeo-Christian culture is in competition with the desires of a resurgent Islam. They want what we desire and possess: Firstness? The goods? This is a new scene of violent confrontation. Possibly a new originary scene. Our culture, which is decadent in the sense that the sacred has lost its grip and its rituals and customs are not serving their original puposes, has its own internal confrontations. I would suggest that our ‘liberal’ culture might best be viewed as a possible lastness. Nietzsche’s description of ‘the last human beings’ in the first part of TSZ seems an accurate description. In your search for a ‘positive’ name for the anti-white guilt coalition you might refer to part four of TSZ and read “On the Higher Man” in which, it seems, Nietzsche is attemtping to convince the higher men of his epoch to ‘repudiate the innocence of the pitied.’ Nobody wants to be called a conservative in a decadent culture.

    Thank you for your insightful commentary.

    Comment by Complementary — August 24, 2006 @ 11:43 am

  4. Adam, my blogging colleague, Dag, recently showed up to one of our anti- (anti-Israel, pro-terrorist) “peace” movement protests with a sign that read “Filibuster for a Universal Modernity”. No one got it immediately. But is he just ahead of his time? He is someone doubtful that western elites are ever going to give up their white guilt, gnosticism, or naivete about Islam and do what he thinks needs to be done. So, in the spirit of his freebooting ancestor, he calls on westerners (which for him includes any developed country) to form private armies, to colonize the Middle East, to marry the locals, and to bring that part of the world into modernity with the help of that sterling motivation: individual greed married to the modernizing idealism of the business world.

    It doesn’t seem very realistic at the moment, as long as western states remain reasonably united or strong; but what if in a few years we are living in a world where terrorists do have WMD, and we have appeasing and faltering multiculti governments that can’t seem to win at asymmetrical warfare? As Belmont Club often argues, isn’t it likely that a private-sector nuke might get developed by those capable people in the west who grow sufficiently resentful of Islam and of appeasing governments, and come out for revenge or opportunism, playing by their own anti-statist rules?

    But my point isn’t to make a case for 4th Generation War theory, or to argue the western state is going to collapse. I don’t believe it’s likely. I only raise this thought to suggest that maybe Prof. Gans is right to use, in the recent Chronicle, the rallying language of modernity vs. tradition. Without addressing the several important points you two made on this question, I’ll just say that if we try to imagine a world in which westerners truly rebel against white guilt elites and terrorist blackmail, what, on a pragmatic if not intellectually cutting, level, would be the most accomodating rallying cry? It might have to be along the lines of “forcing/helping people to live according to the rules of the modern, progressive, world”. Just like we are learning that we can’t transcend the nation in some higher political form (the freebooters would eventually have to come to terms with this reality), perhaps we cannot transcend the symbols of progress and modernity in the post-millenial world.

    Comment by John — August 24, 2006 @ 2:48 pm

  5. Yes, that’s persuasive–if we were to think about rebelling against our impending dhimmitude as citizens/amateurs, bypassing our own governments, we would always find ourselves “demonstrating” (in the sense of “proving” as well as protesting in the name of) for the rule of law, what both Arendt and Hayek called “isonomy,” the freedom and equality of each individual. And the small things might be the most potent–reprising colonization, as you say, is just an illustration, and I wonder whether such a “privatization” of the fight would lead to revenge rather than imposed modernization (but even here, let’s keep an open mind!), but your broader point is well taken. I used to be rather dismissive of people who sued terrorists (it seemed to me part of the broader victimary subsumption of politics under law that made it difficult for us to fight terrorism) but why not? I hate hate speech laws, but why not sue some of these Islamist groups for slandering the Jews, or America; or some leftist group for libeling the American military (a Marine who was at Haditha is suing Jack Murtha–he doesn’t seem to have a strong case, but let’s keep trying)? Leftist lawyers are not such genuises, and look what they’ve come up with the last few decades. It’s astonishing that conservatives haven’t yet formed the kind of human rights groups that Amnesty International used to be–one that is non-partisan, that works on the ground, interviewing people, getting access to hidden places, etc. I’ve thought for a while that a lot of things conservatives were complaining that Bush wasn’t doing (like supporting democratic activists in Iran) all of us could be finding ways of doing ourselves. And you are right–all this would fall out along modern/traditional lines. And we could defer the question of how Islam fits into all this, which I also think is preferable.

    As for “complementary’s” interesting comment, it would seem we have differing notions of lastness here. Nietzche’s “last man” would be the exhaustion of Western firstness; it’s more of a lastness by default; in Islam, I was suggesting we might see a “militant” lastness, a lastness that denounces the first as a “fraud” (“you yourself acknowledge you were there first, i.e., alone–why should we believe you without corroboration?”).

    Even so, “pro-modernity” is not yet a distinctive enough “title.” Because, to allude to “complementary” again, the renewal of the sacred, of the sacred fount of our freedom, must also be part of the project. (I’ll mention George Gilder here–some you may find him a bit much, but he’s the only person I know of who has situated the kind of economic productivity Gans associates with firstness here with the sacred, with faith, without which Gilder claims capitalism will die)

    Comment by adam — August 24, 2006 @ 4:07 pm

  6. Here’s an interview with Shelby Steele at FrontPage

    Comment by adam — August 24, 2006 @ 4:54 pm

  7. Here is Shelby Steele again, saying all the right things about White Guilt and the War against Islamic Fascism:

    Comment by adam — August 27, 2006 @ 6:26 pm

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