Who Are We?

Scott has a new post up that touches on a subject many are loathe to examine- what is America? What does it mean to be American nowadays?

His ultimate conclusion is one that I share:

No one knows.

There is no clear consensus about what America is or what it means to be American. At least, not any longer.

There was, once. America was a rather unique nation in its founding. It wasn’t united around race, although that certainly was a factor. It wasn’t necessarily united around culture,  although there was a lot shared there. What united America was its belief system- both political and religious. While there were still differences held by Americans about both, a general consensus could be formed in terms of politics and religion. Protestantism, in its various forms, was the general religious consensus. And politically there was unity around concepts derived from the English notion of Liberty (itself a particular product of the Liberal Enlightenment).

Again, plenty of disagreements. But more was held in common than wasn’t.

This is no longer the case. The differences between the different “wings” of the political spectrum are essentially irreconcilable. There is unity no longer. Back to this in a moment.

Taking a slight detour, this leads me to state something which has been explored many a time before: in order for a nation to exist as a nation, it needs something (or many somethings) to unite it. Whether it is ethnicity, culture or belief system (religious or political), there needs to be something that binds a people together for them to remain, you know, a people.

Accordingly, only a certain amount of diversity is tolerable in any polity. When there is too much diversity, the ties that bind the people of that polity together are too fragile to withstand stress. The weaker the ties, the less stress required for the structure to fall apart.

24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.

(Mark 3:24-25)

When the stress becomes too much, something has gotta give. There are two outcomes: Either the nation falls apart (or shatters), or it stabilizes itself by enforcing greater unity. That is a fancy way of stating that diverse elements are suppressed or eliminated. Force or the fear of force can only keep this away for so long. Eventually one of these outcomes will occur.

Which brings me back to America. We already had one of these moments: the Civil War. [Unlike some of the folks around these parts, I don’t support one side in that war. Looking back on it I can see that both sides deserved to loose, albeit for slightly different reasons.]

Before the Civil War the unity of the country was perilously low. Irreconcilable differences had accumulated. The ties that bind had weakened to the breaking point. The stress moment came, and enforced unity was the result, rather than breakup.

We find ourselves again heading towards that kind of moment of truth. America is too diverse to stand any longer. Racially we are more diverse than ever. Same with Ethnicity. Culturally there have never been so many American sub-cultures. Religiously we have never been as fractured. And politically? Ask a Sanders voter and a Cruz voter what they have in common.

I don’t think it will necessarily end in another Civil War. But the divide we now face cannot last much longer. There is no clear answer to the question of “Who Are We?” One way or another, an answer is forthcoming. What it is I won’t hazard to guess. But that answer is coming.

What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has been already,
    in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,
    nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to happen
    among those who come after.

(Ecclesiastes 1:9-11)

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20 Comments

Filed under Civilization

20 responses to “Who Are We?

  1. Maea

    There are several philosophical arguments surrounding the idea of the Revolutionary War as an immoral war. On some level this makes sense because one underlying principle behind the country– infiltrating everything– is the rebellion against authority.

    American culture by and large tends to be the antithesis of authority, hierarchy, and headship. I’m being quite cynical but I think this is a realistic assessment. Case in point: patriarchy’s struggled to have a strong foothold here, long before the early stages of feminism.

    [DG: This comment is on target.]

  2. A large part of the breakdown is thought our country was founded upon anti-reality. It was an outgrowth of enlightenment heresies and doomed to eventually fail without any conversion.

    Looking at history and scripture, it isn’t a surprise. God gives societies a great deal of time to either linger in their sins or to convert in sackcloth and ashes. We chose the first, descended from what few graces we had and temporal blessings, to our current state.

    As for revolution…. I’m unsure of the moral path for Catholics. However, my hope is that getting land and self reliance in the countryside, in a good community, will make it so the powers that be simply don’t care enough about me as things go south. Or they lose the ability to do anything before they get desperate enough to take what little I’ll have

  3. Scott

    Thanks for the linkback. I like yours better.
    In the former Yugoslavia, a “nation” created by President Wilson by drawing an arbitrary line around a bunch of people who her perceived as the same, the only thing that held it together was a despot (Tito).

    This is your “or it stabilizes itself by enforcing greater unity” scenario.

    When he died, it almost immediately fell apart.

    America will either be held together by authoritarianism or fly to pieces. I don’t really see much in the way of a third option.
    I pray it is peaceful.

  4. DJ

    What are the marks of a sick culture?

    It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. A racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isn’t the whole population.
    A very bad sign. Particularism. It was once considered a Spanish vice but any country can fall sick with it. Dominance of males over females seems to be one of the symptoms.
    Before a revolution can take place, the population must lose faith in both the police and the courts.
    High taxation is important and so is inflation of the currency and the ratio of the productive to those on the public payroll. But that’s old hat; everybody knows that a country is on the skids when its income and outgo get out of balance and stay that way – even though there are always endless attempts to wish it way by legislation. But I started looking for little signs and what some call silly-season symptoms.
    I want to mention one of the obvious symptoms: Violence. Muggings. Sniping. Arson. Bombing. Terrorism of any sort. Riots of course – but I suspect that little incidents of violence, pecking way at people day after day, damage a culture even more than riots that flare up and then die down. Oh, conscription and slavery and arbitrary compulsion of all sorts and imprisonment without bail and without speedy trial – but those things are obvious; all the histories list them.
    I think you have missed the most alarming symptom of all. This one I shall tell you. But go back and search for it. Examine it. Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms as you have named… But a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than a riot.
    This symptom is especially serious in that an individual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength. Look for it.
    -Robert H. Heinlein in “Friday”

  5. Michael Kozaki

    American culture by and large tends to be the antithesis of authority, hierarchy, and headship.

    Yep. Well said. Chickens are coming home to roost.

    The Founding Fathers understood a Republic could not work unless the population was both religious and educated. Today, we have neither. And no way to get back. People would do well to prepare themselves for the worst. It will be black with black. brown with brown, white with white, all voting as blocks. Remember: 95% of blacks voted for Obama. Crazy unity; ideology has nothing to do with it. Older women are now voting for Hillary. This is the polity of the future. Tribal. Fairness or rule of law has nada to do with it.

    People forget the USA was only possible after 1500 years of unified Catholic European culture. All the big questions: rule of law, no cousin marriage, no divorce, private property, human rights, religious authority, were enforced for so long they remained unquestioned by the culture. Post-Reformation, everything was on the table. It took some years to use up all that cultural seed corn, but we finally did. It happened about 1960 or so with the pill, divorce, and birth control. Our foundation, the family unit and male-female relations – is smashed. Gonna be a wild ride.

  6. A Visitor

    @Chad

    Armed resistance is spelled out in 2243 of the Catechism.

    “There was, once. America was a rather unique nation in its founding. It wasn’t united around race, although that certainly a factor. It wasn’t necessarily united around culture, although there was a lot shared there. What united America was its belief system- both political and religious.”

    Right. If you read what some of the early Founding Fathers wrote, some were opposed to allowing anyone outside of Great Britain to settle here and the absolute maximum they were intending were for people in Europe in only.

    Our Republic may be on its last legs. Take heart, though. Who is to say what is to come won’t be better?

    As far as surviving, I recommend the following:

    1) $1k-2k in cash
    2) Enough food for a year
    3) Enough weapons and ammo for a year. Be sure to train with them. Enroll in a tactical shooting class if possible. Train monthly if possible.
    4) Know how to do some basic first aid.
    5) Have a place to bail if the cities go up in flames.
    6) Learn how to grow some basic food.
    7) Learn how to preserve food without electricity (i.e. canning, salt, etc.).

    and most importantly

    8) Be sure you can find a place where Mass is still offered, as well as Confession.

  7. 9) Stock up on the supplies needed for growing and preserving food (jars for canning, salt, seeds for growing crops, etc)

    10) Supplies for lighting (flashlights and batteries, candles and matches, oil lamps and oil) for if electricity doesn’t work anymore

    On a similar note…

    11) If you’re feeling adventurous, install solar panels on your house for solar power

    12) In case the water treatment plants become inoperable and shut down: stock up on water, whether it be gallon jugs, cases of bottled water, or whatever. Unless you have access to an old fashioned well, of course.

  8. A large part of the breakdown is thought our country was founded upon anti-reality. It was an outgrowth of enlightenment heresies and doomed to eventually fail without any conversion.

    This is something that is difficulty for pretty much everyone to grasp, much less accept: America was doomed to fail from the very beginning. Its foundation was on rock… at first. But it was perilously close to a cliff… and erosion has had its way with the rock. Now it teeters on the the precipice, ready to tumble into the churning maelstrom below.

    At its core America was a fundamentally Protestant construct. And it is no coincidence that Protestantism in the US has drifted off towards the whirlpool alongside our politics. Catholics, in trying to ape Protestants for some generations now, have joined along in the madness and many will share the same fate.

  9. @ Scott

    Yugoslavia came to mind as the perfect example of a nation which fell apart. Just as the US is the perfect example of the alternative.

    If unity is the choice, it may not mean civil war here. Capitulation and acceptance of the new belief system might be the order of the day. One important thing to keep in mind is that for one side to win it doesn’t need everyone to support it. Just a solid enough majority- the exact number is context specific.

  10. Michael Kozaki

    One important thing to keep in mind is that for one side to win it doesn’t need everyone to support it. Just a solid enough majority

    The American Revolution was won using SJW tactics of fear (persecuting Tories, stealing their homes, tarring and feathering those who resisted) and had strong economic incentives (the smugglers made their living breaking the law). But they were 1) educated, 2) culturally and economically unified, 3) has all sorts of luck (scurvy at sea, English at war, etc.), And with all that they did it with less than 1/3 of the population, and forced 1/3 to flee to Canada or West. No true Christian could morally participate in such a war.

    Totally different today. No cultural unity. Media dominates. A million people could die unknown in prison before a successful revolution could work. The USSR is a better analogy for where we are. It’s not the government, it’s the people, who are the problem.

    As far as surviving, I recommend the following:

    Survival in modern times has nada to do with food, shelter, clothing, guns. It’s negotiating law and dealing with the State. The whole survival fetish is fighting the last war. The world is too small and unfree today.

  11. It is as Novaseeker has said elsewhere, and Maea alluded to above. We live in an era of maximum individual autonomy, where no one is or wants to be under anyone else’s authority. That individual autonomy had its first expressions in the western enlightenment, then the Protestant Reformation (Rebellion), then the Declaration and the Constitution and then the sexual revolution.

    The Declaration and Constitution are geared toward self governance and and intentionally decentralized government, but are fit to govern only a people firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian morality. The sexual revolution said everyone can have sex unmoored from responsibility to anyone or anything else.

    And now we’re at so much individual autonomy that more than half of all people are single. They don’t answer to or for even one other person. They aren’t even families. Single women are no longer under the authority of their fathers or older male blood relatives. Single men are not required to be responsible even for themselves.

    It’s all a result of the drive to maximize everyone’s individual autonomy.

    [DG: And fascinatingly enough, in our desire to be “free” we only make ourselves greater and greater slaves to sin.]

  12. Survival in modern times has nada to do with food, shelter, clothing, guns. It’s negotiating law and dealing with the State. The whole survival fetish is fighting the last war. The world is too small and unfree today.

    With all due respect Michael, I think you are quite off here. The government going all 1984 on folks is not the only outcome here. In fact, I’m not sure it is even the most likely. The unfortunate truth is that our infrastructure, both electronic and physical, is highly vulnerable to both attack and natural malady. The right kind of event, with attack being the most likely, could easily set off the kind of stress scenario that forces a “moment of truth.”

  13. Maea

    The Declaration and Constitution are geared toward self governance and and intentionally decentralized government, but are fit to govern only a people firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian morality.

    The idea of “E Pluribus Unum” no longer exists. Too many people have swallowed the pill of multikulti, expecting a giant kumbaya party when the opposite is true. Our society does much to pander to non-Christian groups and appease the feelings of the few.

    And now we’re at so much individual autonomy that more than half of all people are single. They don’t answer to or for even one other person. They aren’t even families. Single women are no longer under the authority of their fathers or older male blood relatives. Single men are not required to be responsible even for themselves.

    I agree with this assessment. I would ask if there’s a way to remedy it, but I’m not sure there are enough people who care about living in familial hierarchical structures. If there were, would they know how to go about doing it?

  14. I would ask if there’s a way to remedy it, but I’m not sure there are enough people who care about living in familial hierarchical structures. If there were, would they know how to go about doing it?

    The answer to both is no.

  15. Maea

    The answer to both is no.

    Then what do people do?

  16. “Then what do people do?”

    There isn’t a societal, society-wide, answer. People who want to, and care about, living in a familial hierarchical structure will choose that voluntarily and live it out, knowing that the culture and larger society won’t support it and are hostile to it in many ways. There will be a few who choose this; there will be many more who do not.

  17. There is no way to “remedy” this on a societywide scale. There are only individual solutions now. Chad might have said this in another thread. If there is a collapse or crisis in the short term (which I don’t hope for and which I think are unlikely), I can only hope to put enough time, distance and resources between me and any hostile governments. But as I said I don’t see this happening for a long time, not in my lifetime. I think the West will limp along for a good long time as is, and will continue sliding in the same general direction it’s going, for at least another 50 years.

  18. Scott

    There isn’t a societal, society-wide, answer. People who want to, and care about, living in a familial hierarchical structure will choose that voluntarily and live it out, knowing that the culture and larger society won’t support it and are hostile to it in many ways. There will be a few who choose this; there will be many more who do not.

    Yep. The 5 of us out on our little 10 acres feel like we are on an island. When I drive from the metro area into the country I feel like I am leaving the planet. Especially when I get out and the little ones coming running to my truck, barefoot, dirty faces from playing in the dirt, feeding chickens and horses yelling “daddy!” Smiling wife standing on the porch holding the baby. Its surreal.

  19. thedeti

    >the little ones coming running to my truck, barefoot, dirty faces from playing in the dirt, feeding chickens and horses yelling “daddy!” Smiling wife standing on the porch holding the baby. Its surreal.

    That made me smile a little bit. Well done, Scott.

  20. Michael Kozaki

    I think you are quite off here. The government going all 1984 on folks is not the only outcome here. In fact, I’m not sure it is even the most likely.

    I think you misunderstand me. The government is already in 1984. The largest prison population in world history. Yet people are worried about absurd things while ignoring the reality around us. The largest risks today? Child Support. Medial bills. Student loans. Obesity. Destitution. These place one square in the face of law and economic slavery. In a sense, we are already within a USSR environment. People are threatened with jail for missing child support or not paying student loans. You can lose your job merely for telling the truth. This is reality right now, not some theoretical construct. Yet people are buying guns? They should be studying law and saving money.

    The unfortunate truth is that our infrastructure, both electronic and physical, is highly vulnerable to both attack and natural malady.

    Donal, nobody can predict the future. Certainly not me. But I have a lot of experience regarding what you posit: 1) I grew up “off the grid” and know this lifestyle better than nearly anyone I’ve met (e.g. I have a hand well), 2) I’m well prepared for what you posit, both economically and physically. But the world has changed in the last 30 years. The true cost lighting, energy, and food has plummeted due to technology. Life is fairly easy if one can avoid the pinch points. We are, as a civilization, far wealthier than ever before in human history. We no longer eat the same foods (genetic engineering). Our understanding of the physical world has lead (and is leading) to prosperity like we have never seen before in human history. Communications. Computers. Transportation. Look at flying, for example.

    And this means the State will dominate our lives to feast off this economic juggernaut. We can feed ourselves 5x over, have enough resources and technology to live in comfort for life after 10 years of working. Our risks? War and social decay, sure. But the risk of loss of freedom and quality of life (speech, religion, jobs with living wage, etc.) is very much a current reality. Guns and stockpiled food doesn’t help much here, nor worrying about a theoretical collapse.

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