Some Hidden Infrastructures of Civilization

Almost all political discussion today focuses on the official categories of liberal democracy—freedom, equality, consent— and, in particular, violations of these principles, which makes all such discussion all but worthless. We have completely forgotten that such political categories never have been and never could be anything more than surface modifications of more fundamental, ultimately more primitive and barbaric relations. Civilization is never anything more than veneer. This assertion doesn’t downplay the importance of civilization; quite to the contrary: the veneer keeps all kinds of human potentialities at bay. But it also allows us to turn away from what lies beneath.

For example, from a recent blog post from John Derbyshire (dumped by Conservative Inc.’s flagship journal National Review for the crime of peppering his articles [in other journals] with all manner of “hatefacts”):

A lot of people still think of “Left” and “Right” as some kind of difference over economics. There are still some traces of that, but when we talk about “Left” and “Right” nowadays, the real divide is between nationalism and demographic stability on one side, globalism and multiculturalism on the other.
In all Western countries, well-nigh everyone wants a welfare state, and well-nigh everyone wants a thriving capitalist economy. Those things aren’t controversial. What’s controversial is the idea of a nation as being the home of some one particular people of mostly common ancestry and common culture. The great divide today is between nationalism and demographic stability on the one hand, globalism and mass immigration on the other.
It used to be, a hundred years ago, even fifty years ago, you could get a quick rough gauge of how much you were likely to agree or disagree with someone by finding out how much he hated rich people. Note that the person whose temperature you were taking might himself be rich; the expression “limousine liberal” has been around for a while.
But nowadays, if you want to take someone’s political temperature, you get a much more accurate reading by figuring out how much he hates white people. Again, there is no bar to he himself being white: the word “ethnomasochist” hasn’t been around as long as “limousine liberal,” but I did once trace it as far back as 1981.

Derbyshire is speaking of victimary thinking and politics, something he understands very well (having realized, for example, that for white Americans, or at least what he calls the “goodwhites,” Blacks are sacred objects), while framing it somewhat more starkly than we are used to. Or, perhaps, he just frames it in reverse, by adopting the standpoint of the targeted victim of the victimary: the main political issue, for Derbyshire, is whether white countries can remain white. Donald Trump’s success proves that Derbyshire, and his colleagues (comrades?) on the “alternative” or “dissident” right are far from alone. The question is not being posed so bluntly by Trump himself, who gives no evidence of thinking in such terms at all—but those in hysterics over Trump’s candidacy certainly have started posing the question this bluntly, even if as an accusation that they assume will never answered with a righteous affirmation rather than admission of guilt—how far are we from supporters of Trump, or whoever comes after Trump, saying something like “yes, we want a predominantly white, Christian country—so what?” This emergence of tribal barbarism results from civilization being turned against what it previously covered, softened and intermixed with the specifically modern disciplines. Once the government decides its job is to fight discrimination, it goes to war against part of the population it supposedly represents, and with ever more precision and comprehensiveness. You cannot help but induce that part of the population to find itself at war with the government, and also against the beneficiaries of government patronage. Whether whites are really, in some ethnic or racial sense, an “identity” or “collectivity,” is irrelevant—it is much more important that they are a target of a bio-political war of subjugation, which could easily at some point, given present demographic tendencies, become one of extermination.

Here’s something far more amusing, but maybe just as interesting in its own way—a clip of Trump having read to him, by talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, a children’s book in the Dr. Seuss style, composed by Kimmel’s writers in Trump’s name:

The “book” is extremely well done, capturing Trump’s idioms and patterns of speech (along with some deft allusions to events in Trump’s campaign), while finding a point where public caricatures of Trump and Trump’s own self-image seem to converge (if Trump felt he was being satirized rather than celebrated—or that there was any meaningful distinction between the two—he certainly didn’t show it). More interesting, for my purposes here, is how unthinkable the tautology of the title is—yes, by definition, winners aren’t losers, but how many today could allow themselves to use a terms like “winners” and “losers” without finding some way to assert that the “winners” are really oppressors (and therefore, at least in the long term historical and moral sense, ultimately losers themselves) and the losers really victims? This is certainly part of Trump’s appeal, that he uses terms like “achievement,” “accomplishment,” “success,” “victory,” etc. unapologetically and without irony. Some people are superior, others (axiomatically) inferior, some are stupid, make “bad deals,” are to be “pitied,” etc. Like white Christians liking their country being white and Christian, this idiom of self-assertion, competition, and ranking is something that the founders of civilization (and the founders of liberal democracy more specifically) simply took for granted (while many of them, no doubt, were disgusted by the barbarism, the disguised warfare and systematic humiliation implicit in what we might call “top-doggism”) while hoping to at least prevent it from being institutionalized—and that the contemporary usurpers of civilized institution have declared outright war against.

A final, and related, example. There are now quite a few websites devoted to what Alpha Game, a blog run by Vox Day, calls the “socio-sexual hierarchy”:

Here, we have a blatant re-assertion of “Big Man” type hierarchies, explored in great detail and familiar, perhaps painfully so, to anyone with vivid memories of their days on the playground, or high school. As you can see, such analyses can become fairly detailed and sophisticated—and why not, given that these kinds of rivalries have been around for a very long time, are very evident in all kinds of everyday relationships, and, indeed, can only go unseen with the investment of considerable energy into avoidance. Thanks once again to Trump, whom bloggers such as Vox Day have marked as a kind of “super-Alpha,” such discourse is also only just below the surface of contemporary politics (note, too, the recurring meme of contrasting Vladimir Putin’s manliness to Barack Obama’s more “Gamma” persona). (I am not familiar with any similar analyses of female hierarchies, other than the fairly widespread recognition of female hypergamy, but I assume they exist—at any rate, part of the enduring appeal of the 2004 film “Mean Girls” is that it at least gave us a glimpse of such hierarchies.) These kinds of hierarchies were a given in earlier versions of civilized life, which tried to incorporate them into a more benign domestic monogamous patriarchal order, governed by notions of chastity, chivalry and fidelity. But, of course all this is unspeakable as well—one of the fascinating things about contemporary democracy is all of the things so many people are terrified of saying, even, at this point, in the privacy of their own homes. So, at a certain point, democracy becomes contingent on people not even thinking such things, not even when they are right in front of their faces—which also means that democracy becomes dependent on persistent vituperation against those who do notice them. But what if people keep noticing them nevertheless? (We are also, I’ll briefly add, on the verge [the gift of Trump keeps giving] of discussing openly the possible incompatibility of Islam with the rule of law—which is to say, of undermining the assumption of the equivalence of all religions, which is the only thing keeping the 1st amendment workable in its modern interpretations.)

Open and sustained conflict between these hidden infrastructures and the victimocracy is, I think, almost upon us. Of course, the complete victory of either side, along with various possible compromises, is not incompatible with our continuing to staff our governmental institutions through elections, so that’s not really the issue. (Not necessarily, at least—either side might find a suspension, elimination or severe dilution of democratic or liberal institutions essential to waging war.) But the liberal democratic consensus of the post-War West (economic and intellectual freedom, some loose cultural constraints, some redistribution, and an ethos of non-discrimination) is in tatters, and not available as a resolution. The victimocracy has repudiated intellectual freedom and cultural constraints while chafing at economic freedom; the new right, meanwhile, repudiates non-discrimination, seeing it as a battering ram aimed at demolishing the rest of the civilized order. (Both sides seem to accept the idea of redistribution, i.e., soaking the rich—which means they share one particularly destructive position, hardly a firm basis for reconciliation.)

Any reader of my posts knows that I don’t consider anything more destructive than the victimocracy—perhaps, under duress, I could consider the possibility that other political movements could be as destructive. And all the alternative right wants to do is return us to some longstanding historical norms, deeply rooted in civilized human nature—even if, inevitably, there will be some “extremists,” in response to whom, following the precedent set by Obama and Clinton, we should say: 1) they have nothing to do with the millions of peace loving civilization restorationists and, 2) we should be very careful of offending those guardians of civilization, so as not to unwittingly recruit more “extremists.” The hardest thing, even for those who are firmly on the right (or at least the anti-left), will be the willingness to sacrifice one’s anti-discrimination bone fides. Here is where no moderation is possible—however you want to run your own business or household, you must renounce any social or state project of enforcing non-discrimination norms, because that is the Trojan Horse containing the SJWs who will destroy the city. It is this question that will really decide which side each and every one of us is on.

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7 thoughts on “Some Hidden Infrastructures of Civilization

  1. John

    I think i agree with you but it would help me to see the conclusion fleshed out a bit though i appreciate the difficulty given much about what could happen in future can’t be known and must be approached on faith. One of the powerful impulses i see is for “victims of the victimocracy” to want to use state tools, or indeed this kind of rhetorical turn, to turn the game against the SJWs or some other victimising “victim” group. As i have read you over the years, you seem ambivalent about how effective playing a “victim 2.0” game might be as a tactical measure against the present regime. And i certainly remain unclear how best to argue for, or commit myself to, a complete exodus from the victimary state as presently constituted (uncertainty perhaps exacerbated when i see how the rhetoric of a rare creative thinker on how to move beyond modernity’s pathologies still needs or desires to invoke (with some reason – we already see the assaults and murders the media and police like to call random attacks or being in the wrong place at the wrong time) the possibility of anti-white extermination campaigns.

    I have always been unsure (as, i take it, are GA-inspired thinkers generally) how far to take the claim that WWII marks a fundamental turning point in victimary thinking and not more a deepening of earlier trends that may be inescapably part of any human organizing in the aftermath of the Bible, and are in any case clearly part of the advent of a leftist-created modernity.

    Take, for example, a recent news story in my neck of the woods which caught my eye for having a white woman “social justice” law professor calling out some local Chinese for racial discrimination for privileging the Mandarin language in a condo strata council. (The spirit of soaking the rich seems to apply to assumed beneficiaries of the Chinese Communist system in a city where there is more than a little resentment against the seemingly large numbers of wealthy Chinese newcomers buying up, allegedly pricing up – i still put the blame largely on bankers’ desire to create more and more debt/money – real estate.)

    In this situation, were one to find that his condo council was being taken over with the apparent aim of making non-Mandarin speakers unwelcome in the building (btw it has long been recognised around here that “ethnics” legally get around non-discrimination laws in hiring or renting by only advertising openings in their native language), how might we argue that he is best off, in the long run, taking an exodus, selling and leaving voluntarily in order to find more likeminded elsewhere? He could say that by playing the victim game before the agencies of the state he is helping to reveal the fundamental absurdity of the game: either the state has to recognise an implicit freedom to find means, in free association, to pressure people out and to live among those like you, or it has to recognise that in now defending the “historically privileged” against aggressive newcomers it starts to underpin its own justifications or at least reveal that there can be no stable basis on which to define the rules of the victimary game. So why not play relentlessly and ruthlessly the victimary game until it explodes of its own contradictions? How can we intuit the least destructive path forward?

    Esthetically i don’t find that idea appealing, and perhaps my example here is simply too unrepresentative of larger demographic tensions, in which case it might seem that many (if not all) white people will remain long necessary to a system that needs to create enough wealth to redistribute, thus calling into question your claims about victimary destructiveness. and perhaps, once the SJGreeks have taken the city, the Trojans have no choice but to pit them against each other?

    I think i would like the freedom openly to discriminate/be discriminated against, on (for my part) civilisational grounds, while being as detached from the state as possible; but i remain uncertain that this is not somehow Utopian. To discriminate through free association is to depend on a rule of law that can sustain the peace, and this need may always renew a process of dependency on state arbitration in multiple, expanding, forms until the system shatters and we begin again in smaller parts.

    If you don’t find much use in any of this, i’ll offer one more query: how do you think “alpha game” bloggers would respond to David “Spengler” Goldman’s claim that Chinese and Jews have an affinity based on the recognition that their men are similarly “hen pecked” and that this cultural practise is a key to long term success?

  2. adam Post author

    Sorry for the delay in responding–for some reason your comment didn’t show up in my email as it usually does.

    Regarding your last question–Vox Day, Alpha Gamer par excellence, was, as I recall, pretty derisive regarding just that claim of Goldman’s, albeit on somewhat different grounds–not the sexual question, but Goldman’s hope that here the Jews might find a powerful friend–but I suspect they would reject the assumption that “gamma” males can be the primary civilizing force. But, perhaps, “betas” might be. (The classifications allow for some pretty subtle analyses) Anyway, I’m pretty skeptical about Goldman’s claim regarding Chinese men, although perhaps the effects of the gender imbalance due to the Chicoms’ single child policy will alter the sexual market in that way. But, really, the question here is whether natural hierarchies can be respected, even while recognizing they must be limited, qualified, and sometimes counteracted.

    On the bigger question, which I think is the question of what to do (or, maybe, what are we doing). For a time, I thought the best approach was not so much to try and flip victim status as to defend the victims of the victims (women and gay victims of the Islamists, inner city black victims of crime, etc.). I’ve given up on that–the invasion of Iraq was the test case, and it was a clarifying one. The victim game is rigged, and there’s no way to revise the rules, at least not with some event of genocidal proportions, and there’s obviously no way of knowing how something like that might happen or how it would turn out. (Your example of resentment towards the Chinese seems to me a minor skirmish, regarding whether the Chinese are to be categorized as white or “of color”–a similar question having long been settled regarding the Jews. I suppose some ambiguity here will be tolerable, at least for a while.) In short, I don’t think we could play the game, even if we wanted to. And the inability of the media to take down Trump (so far) is really the first strong suggestion that we may not have to.

    You raise the question of whether, perhaps the Morlocks will need the Eloi, and will therefore necessarily give them the necessary scope to maintain current standards of living. In this connection, you single out my raising the possibility of white extermination. That may seem like a desperate claim, suggesting a weakness in the argument. Maybe, but I’ve been listening to what they’ve been saying. The sense of relief and joy on the part of SJWs whenever they talk about white people dying off, losing their majority and power, etc., is palpable. And one thing that “racial realists” like Derbyshire like to point out is how much the demographic situation has changed over the last 70 years–around WWII, Europeans significantly outnumbered Africans; by now, the numbers have dramatically reversed. From a global perspective, it’s not so implausible to see global whites as equivalent to South African whites, clinging to power and wealth they don’t deserve and seem increasingly unable and disinclined to defend. If they won’t voluntarily give up that power–well, what then? All of this is out in the open in discussions about immigration. In the US, at any rate, whites are certainly being prepped as victims–as you mention, violent crimes against whites are given a much lower priority than keeping up immigration levels, defending “diversity,” and the rest of the victimary agenda. The “goodwhites” think they can keep the bullseye on the “badwhites” (to stick with the S. African analogy, perhaps this is similar to the relation between the English and the Afrikaaners). At this point, I think we should expand rather than constrict our sense of possibility.

    I do think the best hope lies in nationalist revivals and revolts. And this will involve a real battle on the right–Breitbart, for example, which seems to be the most cutting edge organ in the right wing media (leaving sites like PJMedia and HotAir far behind), in terms of its willingness to seize upon new trends, radicalize its rhetoric and oppositional stance, and bring on board real risk-taking writers, nevertheless still largely relies on reversing the terms of the dominant media. In other words, “if they say x about Trump, we will say y about Trump (and z about Clinton, for good measure).” (For example, I was curious about their response to the “occupation” of a federal building in Oregon by some members of the Bundy clan. Vox Day hailed it immediately as a sign of the diminishing legitimacy of the federal government; Breitbart just–so far, anyway–vilified the Bundys and reprinted their “debunking” of the Bundys’s position in the standoff in Nevada a couple of years back. I don’t know who’s right and wrong in this particular case, but it seems to me telling that Vox Day’s initial impulse is to see a new possibility, while Breitbart is fundamentally reactive. If they’re not fighting back against the left, they don’t know what to say.) Ben Shapiro, normally a very reliable right-winger, also responded very hastily and negatively (really, in language mostly indistinguishable from that of the left) to Trump’s proposed suspension of Muslim entry into the country. They are still in “what will they say about us” mode, trying to “reset” the “narrative.” Vox Day and other nationalists (like Ann Coulter and VDare), meanwhile, immediately celebrated Trump’s proposal as a “good first step.” That’s what happens when you don’t care anymore whether they will call you a racist, when you’re not trying to claim that the left are the real racists, etc. (Another example–some writer on VDare today dismissed the “mismatch” theory of affirmative action that allows us to present blacks themselves as its real victims. No, they say, it’s just as it seems–whites and Asians are the real victims. Again, I don’t totally agree, since I do think that affirmative action harms a lot of blacks as well, but it’s the difference in attitude that’s important. Only the nationalists no longer flinch.)

    So, the right will have to have these battles and, unsurprisingly, it’s likely to turn into a battle over the Jews. The nationalist right does not have (or want) charges of antisemitism as a weapon in its arsenal, and has immunized itself against charges of antisemitism coming from others. (Some of them are really anti-Semites, some not–but we could define the terms of this “charge” a lot more carefully than we tend to.) The Breitbart right (not to mention more neutered organs) still has strong neo-conservative strains, and sees defense of Israel and pinning antisemitism on the left as crucial elements of its strategy. I can’t really get a strong sense at this point of how this will play out. I have strong sympathies on both sides, and hope that the battle will be waged in such a way as to make the the right stronger as a result. That’s where the focus needs to be, at any rate.

    So, I don’t think that’s utopian, even if there’s no reason to be particularly optimistic.The biggest problem lies in white fertility rates, and it would take a real “spiritual” revival to reverse that. Such things do happen, though. But arguing that people should defend their families, neighborhoods, their moral ecology and national identity and even race against increasingly hostile forces is more straightforward and readily intelligible than trying to get inside the SJWs’ OODA loop (even if we’ll need some strategists who can do that as well). Whether this leads to some kind of secession or revolution (or even surprisingly easy reforms) is an unknown. But we do have to hammer away at the non-discrimination dogma, and that precludes trying to play the victimary game, or devising our own version of Piven-Cloward.

    Maybe the biggest question, theoretically at least, is how to date the origin of the victimary. You know that I have quite a few times suggested much deeper roots than Gans’s Holocaust origin account would allow. After all, why should the Holocaust have been understood in this way, if the ground wasn’t already prepared? Vox Day is an evangelical Christian, and that seems to be quite important to him and others on the dissident, nationalist right; but many others on that right seem impatient with or even dismissive of Christianity (and not just the established churches). This also brings us back to the Jews, and there are certainly some “pagan” tendencies there. (One of Breitbart’s most bizarre and interesting recent moves was to publish a long essay by a Satanist–Satanism seemed to be a version of the rationalist Enlightement, for the most part.) What I extract from Judaic monotheism is a “declarative culture” to be defended from (while drawing sustenance from) “imperative” (Big Man) forms of culture. This is the work of civilization, constant deferral and discipline. The evoking of victimage, in both prophetic Judaism and Christianity, is a short cut, seeking to evade the more difficult work of mediating the relations between the striving, the talented, the ambitious–the self-disciplining, who produce the cultural models and are the real source of the most dangerous conflicts.

  3. John

    Thanks, Adam, for the lengthy reply which i suppose, had i better digested your recent blogging, i would have better anticipated. It was helpful to see your thinking crystallized.

    Canada has had for many years now a larger (legal) immigration than the US, as a percentage of the existing population (adding about one percent per year). And the powers that be have opened channels from all over the world. So we are very, well, you know the sacred word. In the big cities whites aren’t much more than half and will be less than that soon. But there aren’t “dominant minorities” as in the US, though the aboriginal population has the greatest fertility rate and might become a powerful group if it can develop a substantial identity that unifies the many “First Nations”, as the basically tribal entities are now collectively known and made sacred to “good whites” (whose number includes, in this sacred context, many non-European immigrants).

    And while European whites are in faster decline here, it seems to me they are less targeted by a race war than is the case in the more polarized US (and in my experiece of cross-border family meet-ups, over the recent holidays, it seemed those most prone to parade their good white status were those sharing their American experiences). Many recent Canadian non-European immigrants are educated and relatively wealthy/successful so it seems harder to imagine your South African scenario, though admittedly various Asians could be declared white in a victimary end game.

    Anyway, if one has nationalist sympathies in such a country, because one understands nationalism as a viable basis, however limited, for governance, given the feedback it encourages between margins and centres, while multiculturalism and all manner of victimary thinking, encourage arbitrary imperialist dictates, and sundry, festering, unspeakable, resentments, secessionists, etc., it may well seem that one’s hope for a revived nationalism cannot be very racialist, that there is little room for the Vdare types.

    Now i don’t think i read you as saying that a strong racial identity is a necessary basis for nationalism just that its defence today, on the part of whites, is necessary to confronting a victimary assault that targets them. Yet when you speak of hidden infrastructures, and barbaric underpinnings, primal loyalties are implied.

    I am suspicious of claims that American or Canadian nationalism was originally founded on a liberal idea, or a common rejection of the old world, and not on race. I think a white Christian identity has been central, but it seems now in this country a difficult cause. Yes, many non-white immigrants are Christians (i was admonished yesterday to remember the Biblical virtue of Hope, by a Fijian-Indo-Canadian) but i suspect rather more inclined to your “short cuts” than to declarative disciplines. Still, the Biblical model of a nation, Israel, is a family, and today a multiethnic one, which means, i think, it has become relatively more declarative than imperative in culture.

    Anyway, all this is just to pose the perhaps impossible question, can we usefully intuit whether there is more or less hope for nationalist revival in a country like Canada (or Australia, New Zealand) compared with the US?

  4. adam Post author

    Good questions, but not for me to answer–I know so little about Canadian society and politics, much less Australia or (much less!) New Zealand. Maybe a nationalist politics won’t be organized around race in these places. Maybe the US border with Mexico is a crucial factor here–and your point, which I hadn’t thought of, that we have “dominant minorities” (blacks and Mexicans) is a very interesting and important one. But even in the US context I’m not endorsing a racialist nationalism; I’m just accepting it as a possibility, one that would be far preferable to the continuation of victimary predations, and therefore a possibility we should resist the liberal democratic “proposition nation” impulse to strangle in its cradle. It would be good to have a few different forms of nationalism competing with each other. Maybe the more racialist threads will serve as a kind of “bad cop” encouraging non-whites to work with the “good cop” of cultural assimilation.

    Your point about Israel is also a very interesting one, and one I’ve been thinking about lately. It seems to me very few people know how incredibly diverse Israeli Jews are, ethnically–it’s Zionism and Israel that holds together the Polish, Yemeni, Iraqi, Russian, French, Moroccan, etc., Jews, not any ethnic, much less “racial,” identity (regardless of what DNA tests might show about shared biological heritage). Israel would reward very in-depth study into the making and keeping of a nationalist country–there is, as your reference to its “declarativeness” suggests, a very high level of trust across all Israeli Jewish groups (in large part because leftists have been marginalized), and the Ashkenazi/Sephardic conflict, which leftists for a while hoped to fan into a white/black style flame, has almost completely disappeared. The Ashenazi/Sephardic conflict turned out to be more WASP/Italian and Irish than white and black. The Sephardic (really, “Mizrachi,” or “Eastern”) Jews have been very successful and there is a great deal of intermarriage, while there is still some inequality. And religious Jews in Israel play a role in society and politics without equivalent in white Christian countries–here as well, it seems to me the trend is toward assimilation and religious Jews taking on more responsibilities. (In part because their population size relative to the secular is increasingly dramatically.) The Israeli situation seems very unique, but perhaps more of it is transferable than we may think.

    Anyway, you might say my concerns are primarily attitudinal, in the sense that I’m less interested in what should or is likely to happen, than in controlling our (whoever “we” are) responses to the unprecedented and rule shattering events that I think are inevitable. Unless you have really trained and detoxified yourself, even if you’re not a leftist your instinctive response will be to recoil at anything smacking of “racism” or “discrimination.” The question of whether something is true has become completely irrelevant–and, indeed, it’s hard to stay focused on the truth when social anxieties are high. It requires work and focus, so that’s what I hope to provide–first of all for myself!

  5. John

    Well, perhaps of interest, a few thoughts on anglophone Canadian nationalism…

    Anglo-Canadian nationalism is something I think many vaguely feel, by participating in the communcations networks of a modern society, but few Canadians can well illuminate beyond certain cliches. Thus one of the things that interests me in your writing is the emphasis on tacit understandings which seem to me particularly important in how our culture works. My own historical views draw on a handful of somewhat marginal historians, the greatest of whom is an American of Swedish descent (Don Akenson) who set out to study Irish history and landed up with a job in Ontario where he learned that understanding Ireland was key to understanding English Canada.

    English Canada, for a large part, begins as a refugee movement from the civil war you call the Revolutionary war. When British North America retreated to the largely undeveloped (from the point of view of commercial agriculture) lands north of the Great Lakes there was an effort to reward veterans, and establish a gentry leadership class with large land grants, an eventually failed attempt to establish the Church of England as state church, and the promotion of a cult of loyalty to the Crown which became important as many of the settlers, with time, were not veterans of the war but simply Americans looking for new land to settle. A small elite, a handful of semi- aristocratic families, held the high offices of state along with those top officials sent out from Britain. In time, they would clash with more commercial interests.

    Starting from the early-mid 19th century there was a large immigration to Canada from Ulster, or Northern Ireland. There was also a Catholic Irish immigration, as in America, but in Canada the greater number of Irish were the Protestant (largely Scottish, but also English, in earlier origins, the people called, in the US, Scots-Irish). By the late nineteenth century, the Ulster people and their “Orange” culture were the largest demographic or ethnicity in English Canada. And, since Ulster was itself the prototype of a British settler society, there was a legacy of institutional histories and norms (in education, policing, military, politics, religion) that proved adaptable to Canadian life.

    Where the Orangemen settled they often became locally dominant in politics and controlled many sites of employment. They had a popular fraternal lodge that, with time, attracted Protestants whose families did not come from Ireland but who were adapting themselves to what was becoming a Canadian culture and source of power.

    However, the Orange culture was not well received by the more high Anglo elites who saw themselves as key to keeping the peace with the large French (and to a lesser extent, Irish, etc.) Catholic population. There was a fair amount of Orange-Green sectarian violence in Canada in the nineteenth century. The Orangemen, with their fear mongering about Papists, challenged for control of the rhetoric of loyalism to the crown, embarrassing the high representatives of the crown who needed to encourage and recognize the loyalty of French Canada and other Catholics (all this in a period where fear of American expansionism was rife).

    Roughly speaking, the Orangemen ended up the Afrikaners of Canada (both groups rooted in a seventeenth-century religion that drew heavily on the Biblical model of Israel and Covenants) a founding (lower) middle class. They were a powerful popular force, but never a clear majority in politics at the highest “national” or binational level, always needing to share power in alliances with more elitist (or leftist) English, and French, politicians, and they were thus moderated, eventually losing primal markers of Ulster identity as the cost of becoming a Canadian mainstream.

    Basically, it seems, the Orange culture became abstracted into something more generic, the fiercer elements of a narrative forged in the settler forts of warring Ireland were marginalized and eventually forgotten. The elites’ narrative of a nation built up by earnest mediation among immigrant and national groups won out. But no matter how many the iterations, the official “multicultural” narrative of national identity remains thin while in day to day life people share some common habits and norms whose history no one can readily grasp (and I am not saying they are in any sense uniquely Orange but I think that is an important source, variously institutionalized). Because its feared violence was deferred, we have forgotten that the dominant ethnicity in the key era of building a transcontinental nation was not English, and neither strictly Scottish, or Irish, an identity few would claim today eventhough many of us are at least partly descended from Ulster folk.

    Conservative movements in Canada have always witnessed a tension between what one might call Tory and popular elements. When Stephen Harper came to power by representing the latter in a new alliance with the former, he was never in a strong rhetorical position. His narrative or purpose has always been vague. And the elites, who felt he missed the point of Canada, have largely doubted him for things like his friendship with Israel, which, to the extent he ever offered a public explanation by way of a quiet word, was simply explained as a philosemitism taught to him by his father growing up in Toronto (the city once colloqually known as the Belfast of the Canadas). No one considers publicly that this may be part of a legacy from one of the few philosemitic populations in Europe.

    Harper tried to build up a vague, generic, conservatism by appealing to immigrant voters (who had traditionally tended to vote Liberal, a party with a tradition of paternalist clientelism) ill at ease with a decadent liberal culture; but the latest election throws into doubt whether he established a real counter force to the kind of victimary bullying that the dauphin Trudeau offered as the latest iteration of elitist mediation of multicultural realities in opposition to an allegedly crude francophone and anglophone nationalism that Harper supposedly played to with an awkward attempt to ban face veils at citizenship ceremonies for new Canadians. Trudeau learned a lot (not that there is much to it) from Obama’s anathematizing of Bush but one could also see in it a reworking of nineteenth-century anti-Orange politics, if one wanted to.

  6. adam Post author

    Very interesting–thanks for that. It almost seems as if the most genuine Canadian nationalism would be one that could recover that all but erased Orange identity as a kind of weak center.

  7. John

    Yes, but you couldn’t recover it in anything like its nineteenth (or earlier) -century form and if you could it wouldn’t work as a viable centre given today’s demographics or self-understandings. We need somehow to recover and deepen what is still out there in the tacit realm, shaping daily interactions, and this would require new revelatory events and narratives. And then how would we know what we had recovered?

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