Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Culturist Movie Recommendation

All culturists with Netflix must see Border Incident. Netflix is required because this is a 1949 film. It stars Ricardo Montalban, has amazing cinematography and concerns a very important topic: illegal immigration. But beyond its particular topic, this film portrays a way of looking at the world that is essential for civilization and orderly lives. As such, Border Incident makes a great counter example to the Academy Award winning No Country for Old Men.

The old culturist adage, "Good fences make good neighbors" is illustrated in this film. The opening scenes include a voice over that explains how the United States and Mexico both benefit from the braceros program. That was a program whereby Mexicans were given permission to be in the country to work and then had to return home. Shots from the sky show us the fields that need tending. This is followed by a long shot which shows us eager Mexicans waiting for permission to enter as seen from our side of the border fence. The mutual need and ordered process provide a model of how Mexico and the United States have both benefited from each other's presence.

We lunge into the dark world of chaos and anarchy, however, when would be workers try to go around the law and cross into the United States illegally. When the unsavory purveyors of this illicit business kill some illegals, the Mexican government (represented by agent Ricardo Montalban's character) and the American government (represented by George Murphy's character) work together to inflitrate this underworld and destroy it. Thus, again, we see Mexican and American officials working together in cooperation, legally, for each others mutual benefit.

The cinematography in Border Incident depicts a thought world. It is shot in Film Noir black and white by the famous John Alton. The underworld is dark. The people in it are scum and act treacherously towards each other. They are constantly looking to stab each other in the back as they do not have the rule of the jungle, rather than the rule of law, guiding them. Law enforcement's world is portrayed in light. People do not need to hide their intentions or actions in this world. People acting within the law can cooperate. The willingness to be so clear about the contrast between how good people can be and how ugly ugliness can get makes Border Incident extremely gripping and meaningful. Alton's beautiful framing and lighting paralleling the moral themes makes Border Incident a masterpiece.

The oscar winning film, No Country for Old Men, and our current policies towards our border show ignorance of the thought world present in Border Incident. In No Country for Old Men criminals have no fear of appearing in daylight. They have infiltrated our common experience. That is why children riding bikes and old men can not live safely with the comfort and protection the rule of law provides. There are no "undocumented" in Border Incident. The undermining of the distinction between legal and illegal had not yet taken place. Those who would undermine such distinctions fail to realize, as the bad guys both these films portray so well, that the opposite of law is dark, dangerous and scary. Being clear about the value of law, like a good fence, is required for us to be good neighbors. Border Incident provides one of the clearest representations of these vital culturist truths.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Kosovo and Culturist Basics

Serbians are attacking U.S. embassies because we have destroyed their country. Serbia used to include the area now called Kosovo. Kosovo was forming militant separatist cells. Serbia tried to stop this and it got ugly. Both sides claim war crimes. We intervened on the side of the Kosovars. The U.S., in cooperation with NATO, gave them police protection, stood by as all signs of Serbian life and property were destroyed.

Culturism cautions us against getting into the middle of civil wars where we don't really know what is going on. As this conflict is on European turf we had more cause to intervene than normal. Still, we can never be sure who are "the good guys" and who are "the bad guys" in distant conflicts. Certainly, at a minimum, we can expect our intervening will infuriate one-half of the neighborhood. As the obvious culturist truths would predict, Serbians are infuriated with us.

Culturist philosophy tells us we are situated. The ideal of a neutral observer does not exist. When we interfere we are taking a side. In this conflict we took the side of the Kosovars. At this point in world history, the sides are Western civilization versus Western civilization. America is not a neutral space. NATO is not a neutral organization. Australia does not exist in some cultureless ethereal space. We are all part of Western civilization. If it is relevant, that basic fact should tip the scales when deciding whom to back in a conflict.

All of these lessons should be so mundane as to merit snide comments about "Captain Obvious being in the building." But, in the Balkans we have taken the Islamic side against the Western side. We dismantled a Western nation, secured an Islamic enclave and have helped the training of a police force that is - gasp - armed by Al Queda. Al Queda provides Kosova arms because they know who is on their side and what their goals are. Beyond creating a safe haven for Al Queda in Europe we have pledged to up their foreign aid from $77 million to $355 million next year. We need to stop pretending we are neutral. We had better remember our culturist basics.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Culturist History Lesson

Citizenship did not exist before the Civil War, William Novak tells us in “The Legal Transformation of Citizenship in the 19th Century.” “Citizen” appears in the Constitution, but is more of a place marking word, like “thing.” It did not, as it does now, mean that you have inviolable rights. Individual rights and obligations remained the product of local governments and courts. Though a definite boon for black Americans in particular, not having citizenship gave people more responsibility and hence more culturist sensibilities.

Rights were debated, with responsibilities, locally. Accepting you meant making you a part of society. Your pattern of residence, office, job, service, association, family position, age, and gender qualified you for different roles. But as master, servant, wife, parent and child, you had different duties to fulfill. But along side belonging to municipalities, you would be a member of many associations. Your church, college, dock workers, scientific society, water company were all institutions that regulated who was in and who was out too.
Municipality did not hesitate to prohibit nuisances, enforce practice eminent domain, tax what they considered to be bad things, and kick out whomever they pleased. At some level this seems like arbitrary tyranny to us. We partially see it this way because we are used to the idea of government being something outside of us. We do not volunteer for the DMV. But since most government was voluntary and extra legal, these decisions would not be made by groups you didn’t have say in. When regular tax-paying citizens decided who got poor relief, public burial, the right to stay, and what got taught, the resentment of top-down imposition was not prevalent.

Novak does not seek to glorify this situation. His goal is to make us better historians. When we say that women were not allowed to vote because they were not full citizens, we are reading our view of citizenship back in time anachronistically. They did not get to vote because they were women. The difference is that the definition of woman is not contrasted with an absolute notion of decontextualized person. Slaves were not free because they were slaves. There was no totally unrestricted person to compare this status too. Everyone had a role, status and obligation to participate.

We, of course, appreciate our gains. But there is something unrealistic about no one having more expected of them or less opportunity. Much of self-government is derived from the ability to shun and make decisions. When the government says we do not need your participation and all will receive regardless of merit or legal status, our space for participation and discretion are diminished. To create cultural solidarity it would behoove us to demarcate the limits of our tolerance and involve as many as possible in directing local institutions. When you do not know about other paradigms, even within your own history and tradition, you lose the ability to conceive of options. Thanks to Mr. Novak for reminding us of these culturist options.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What is Good American?

Culturism holds that majority cultures have a right to define, protect and promote themselves. In speaking about culturism I’m often asked to define the majority culture. Here, a member of the majority culture is an American. The question then is, “what is an American?” In this day of nearly open borders and multicultural confusion, this is a very important question.

I concede that Americans are not easily defined. We have neither a shared religion nor race like other countries. We do have a shared history, Western ideals and a shared future. But beyond that, being an American leaves you with such a broad range of behaviors that it boggles the mind: Gay ministers are good Americans and conservative gun proponents are good Americans too. We are a nation full of liberty and spectrum. Though the definition of Americans needs to be broad, it is still definable and a prerequisite to guiding our nation.

First of all, to be an American is to want what is best for America. This sounds like the utterance of a politician, but we need to remember this basic idea. If you violate our laws and only complain about America you may not be a good American. Like being a sports fan, being a good American requires love. Fans can complain about their team, you might disagree with its policies, but at heart you have to really want your team to win. If you want your team to lose, you cannot be said to be a proper fan of that team. GO LAKERS! No matter what their legal status, if people hate America and wish it ill, they cannot be said to be Americans. Our immigration laws have always paid attention to this emotional bond because we have traditionally realized that loving America is not a universal trait. We need to remember this component of citizenship.

The analogy with sports breaks down at the level of action. As a Lakers fan I am inactive. As an American, I speak with people about what I think will make America better. I attend rallies. But more than that, I try to improve myself and be a really good person in order to do credit to my grandparents and our forefathers and our traditions. I work hard at what I do and take my work and role in America seriously. When we say a movie is good, it is infrequent that we are referring to its moral message. Good here means entertaining. But to be a good American in a moral sense means, again, that your actions contribute to our country in a positive way.

If we need to change our institutions for your cultural group you are probably not a good candidate to be an American. For example, many Muslims are currently challenging our basic holidays such as Halloween and Christmas, requesting we build footbaths in quasi-public institutions, change our photo identification laws and refusing to serve customers with American tastes in markets and taxis. Many Muslims have asked us to accept Islamic dress, polygamy, honor killing and female genital mutilation. Worse than that, in Western Europe they have challenged our sacred right to free speech. These do not show an affiliation for Western culture. Wherever you see efforts to challenge our traditions, it helps us see the contours of American culture. These examples show we have a culture. If you love America you want to assimilate into its core culture and help perpetuate it.

Immigration that does not recognize the rule of law is another area of concern. Again, if we need to change our institutions to fit you, it is a sign you are not fitting in. Many immigrants believe that we need to dismantle our border laws to suit them. It is not clear that they want this because they think it is best for America. When people do not pay taxes once they are here or overuse public services and send money “home” it is not clear that they have America’s best interest at heart. When you advocate cockfights, have no qualms about underage pregnancy or live a criminal lifestyle, it shows you do not have any idea what America is about. A good American has upholding American institutions, fiscal stability and reputation as a goal.

This gets us to our last category. If you are a businessperson who puts profit above nation, you are a bad American. Divesting from America and running sweatshops domestically undermines our tax base. It enervates the foundation of our liberal democracy: the middle class. If poor opportunities give rise to demagogues, frustration and riots, we will lose liberties. Where will the businessman then live and enjoy a good quality of life? Do you really want to be secluded from America? Would it not feel better to be a part of an America that is strong free and something you can proud of? When businessmen’s consciences are so checked out that they think porn on television and gangster rap on radio have no negative consequences, they have shown that they have forgotten that we are all in this together. And remembering that we are all in this together is a big part of being a good American. Go team!!

The limits set in this broad definition of what constitutes a good American may seem harsh. But we have defined ourselves and had fear of cultural decline since the Puritans. This healthy habit has served us well. In the age where television tells us we can have all fun and no responsibility, being clear on such definitions has extra importance. If you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything. Multiculturalism provides the perfect example. It tells us that we have no culture. In schools it can provide no moral guidance. It tells us that Islamic law, porn, sending our infrastructure to China and the gang lifestyle are all equally American. This means in school it must lie about history. When our culture provides so few value assertions outside of schools, it behooves us to remember we do have a culture, fragile traditions to be proud of, and a set of responsibilities that go along with our liberties.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Culturist Asylum

In U.S. law, in order to qualify as a refugee and apply for asylum, an alien must be unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality because he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or "membership in a particular social group." This quoted portion of our law has been used to argue that women who fear female genital mutilation should all be granted asylum. Laws such as this show no appreciation for the existence or impact of international cultural diversity. We need to replace internationally-oriented, culturally-neutral laws with laws informed by culturist understandings.

Some of our asylum criteria make more sense than others. Race is not a reasonable basis for discrimination. But does persecution for political opinion automatically make you a great candidate for residence in the West? Perhaps the person in question is one of the rebels disrupting elections in Kenya. There might be reason for the government to try to stop your murderous destabilization of the country. Not discriminating on the basis of religion makes us vulnerable to penetration by those from bizarre cults. In Egypt or Turkey your "religious persecution” might actually be for trying to overthrow the separation of church and state and impose Islamic law. Not all “persecution" is irrational. We have a right to ask if illiterate, violent, nomadic, disrupters of government from an entirely different culture will make great Western citizens and improve our sustainability before admitting them.

The cultural neutrality of our government stems from supposedly universal and multiculturalist presuppositions. The United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights posits a world law based on universal truths. These rights erase sovereignty and override cultural particulars. But we are the only ones who buy into this universal vision. China and Iran do not even domestically provide the rights the U.N. let alone accept refugees based on violations of them. The fact that few nations buy into this scheme shows that the U.N.’s declared rights are not "universal." Multiculturalism also bolsters Western acceptance of such policies as it tells us we have no core culture to protect; Islamic precepts and African tribalism are just as Western as anything else. Culturism recognizes that Western values are not universal - diversity exists.

Western cultures believe in rights, freedom of speech, lots of separation of church and state, female equality, ignoring race, applying reason to the problems of the world and democracy. Other nations do not. Diversity exists. Iran bars Christian refugees because they are not Islamic. China bans them if they are not racially Chinese. These countries, and the civilizations they represent, have different views of the world and want those views to predominate. They protect and prioritize their own cultures to that end. We must do the same. If Western cultural attributes do not survive in the West, they will not exist in some metaphysical space outside of a U.N. document. If we cherish and want to protect Western values, we must be willing to prioritize the survival of Western cultures.

Culturism holds that nations have a right to define, protect and promote their culture. Culturism does not judge by international standards. Islamic nations do not let their women choose their clothes. That is fine for them. It is not our place to judge them. China is racist and does not have presidential elections. Their culture may actually be more sustainable than ours. Mexico is a great country with its own culture. But their high birthrate and low educational attainment - measurable cultural attributes - do not create first-world economies. Each of these cultural examples being different implies different culturist concerns and policies. Rather than the multiculturalists blanket motto of "celebrate diversity" we need to have nuanced and rational culturist discussions. We have unique values to teach and protect domestically. Non-Western nations define protect and promote their vision. Culturism holds that Western nations also have a right to do so.

Culturism puts individualism in context. First of all, many people like "female circumcision." It is hard for international rights advocates to accept that cultural diversity actually exists, but it does. Women circumcise their daughters in these cultures and think it is right. We should not judge them or invade their countries to change them. What if one woman does not like circumcision? First of all it is not our business to tell other nations what their cultures should look like. Secondly, if we say the individual woman who objects has the right to come here, we have to accept all that do. Individualism often makes a bad basis of policy. Lastly, we cannot be so weak that we let the pain of one person - who in this case is rejecting something her fellows think normal and right - override our national sovereignty. We are the civilization that most respects individualism. If we want individual rights to exist, we must consider the viability of Western nations when considering individual’s requests.

Our current policy assumes that all people are just as Western as all the others. But, those who have broken our laws to get here, those who favor Islamic law, those who have tried to disrupt their home country's elections, illiterates who live in the bush and have never paid taxes, polygamists, those who do not think it wrong to impregnate thirteen year olds and Chinese nationalists may not automatically adopt Western cultural habits, values and goals. The West has a core culture. Many cultures are antagonistic to and hold values that are different from those of Western culture. Diversity exists. That is why, like every other nation, we cannot continue to be neutral to the long list of attributes listed at the start of this blog. We have a right and a duty to consider our cultural sustainability and foreigners' cultural compatibility when deciding who enters Western nations. Because diversity exists, we must be culturist.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Traditional Culturist Parties!!

How can large parties, parades, celebrations, and holidays help the nation? By what culturist means did we form our nation after the Revolution? What were the dangers for our young republic and how did parades help to avert them? Are these techniques applicable to our current nation? The fascinating and important answers to these questions are answered in David Waldstreicher’s “In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776 – 1820.” Since the book is somewhat dense and dry, allow me to take a stab at conveying his answers.

Waldstreicher puts public parades, celebrations, and holidays at the forefront of nation building. We took the celebration of the British King’s Birthday and turned it into the Fourth of July. We later added Washington’s Birthday and Thanksgiving. These celebrations were created by collective and conscious effort. We needed a sense of belonging and people saw that these would work. The celebrations got lots of media (at that time newspaper) attention. The holiday celebrations were copied around the country. These patriotic holidays were fun and they successfully gave all Americans something in common. These culturist creations of commonality were a win-win situation.

The values behind these holidays were also consciously fostered. Drunken mobs can be a dangerous thing. Furthermore, since we had a revolution against elites, we had an aversion to leadership. How to create a healthy sense of a public and leadership? The elite endeavored to do so by consciously cultivating the vision of an aristocracy of virtue. Virtue was to be defined by an attitude of self-denial in service of the public. By making this a prerequisite for leadership the Founding Fathers confirmed their right to rule. They did this by having responsible celebrations where they toasted the nation with reserve and eloquence. Via newspapers this also set the tone for what good behavior meant for the populace. Both leaders and the public thus imbibed that the route to respectability involved celebrating your patriotism with some restraint.

Though the parades, holidays and public celebrations had to have some decorum, they were not without political overtones or discord. The Stamp Act was celebrated with major mock funerals based on those they used to have for Kings. Federalists held parades for ratification of the Constitution and reporting them as orderly. Anti-ratification celebrations soon joined the fray with their parades and public celebrations and tried to show themselves as orderly too. These political parties set the tone for having orderly differences and displaying your feeling in the streets. Later, political parties had huge celebrations on holidays. Both parties, though, tried to show they represented the nation, were not into self-interest and studiously avoided the impression that they wanted division. As long as we all agreed we were Americans, holidays could be partisan and civic.

Thus, Waldstreicher tells us, we created the holidays and political rules of debate that we use today. Public celebrations have a long pedigree as nation building tools. When we add public art to the toolkit we can really create a sense of national unity, meaning and belonging. If such projects are created locally, civic pride and trust also be fostered. If you think celebrations lead to conformity, think again. While all in partisan celebrations will claim they represent America, they are still partisans. Sides parading for their vision for America is democracy in action. The line between parades and protests need not be so clear. Celebrating our revolutionary heroes can only disturb the sleep of potential tyrants. And when we do celebrate our versions of such heroes and events with holidays, parades and parties we not only have fun and send political messages, we can feel tied to our patriotic culturist predecessors. We should celebrate the culturist history that Waldstreicher depicts with parades, holidays, and street parties.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Culturism and Whiteness

Culturists and other Americans should all know about whiteness studies because they command a lot of respect in academia's humanities departments. The book "How the Irish Became White" by Noel Ignatiev popularized whiteness studies. Whiteness studies has an interesting perspective. However, logical fallacies, culturist ignorance and destructive tendencies make this field an overall disaster for America. Academia influences our culture and teaches tomorrow’s leaders. For these reasons, it behooves those of us who are concerned with the fate of America to be aware of whiteness studies and culturist critiques of it.

Whiteness studies notes that not all white immigrants were treated the same. The Germans were considered heavy drinkers, the Irish were said to have added negative attributes of allegiance to the Pope and rowdiness. Italians were stereotyped as criminals and anarchists. Jew's communist tendencies were feared. All-in-all, in that immigrants faced discrimination, they were not treated as equally white as the "native stock." Many thought that the Jews, Irish, Serbs, Italians and others were not exactly white. They were even seen to constitute different races and so not fully American.

Being white, according to the whiteness studies folks, gets one privileges. It removes suspicion. Access to better jobs is another perk of whiteness. Besides assimilating, the fastest way for the new immigrants to "claim whiteness" involved buying into and accentuating America's pre-existing racial binary system. That is they had to be racist and distance themselves from blacks. Some, like Jews, had a hard time of this as history taught them to empathize with the underdogs. The Irish, who were sometimes compared to blacks and got terrible jobs, were the most emphatic at claiming their whiteness by being racist towards blacks. Thus, whiteness studies teaches us, white identity was largely built upon racist attitudes towards blacks.

Whiteness studies provide some valuable tools of analysis for historians. Yes, in 1790 Congress made naturalization available to all "free white males." But as immigration increased diversity who was white was less easily determined. Asians were legally barred from naturalizing. It was fairly clear they were not free white males. But what of Syrians? What of Turks? What of the Italians? What of Jews? Since being white was a prerequisite of citizenship, defining it was important. As immigration increased we ceased automatically calling all those with light pigment white. Geography and other factors had to be considered. This is an interesting insight for those of us who study immigration and our traditional attitudes towards immigration.

Some logical fallacies, however, plague whiteness studies. The idea that all American identity stems from racist categories provides a major example. Beyond not being black, Americans have had a lot of sources of identity. Protestant and Enlightenment sources, for example, have been at the root of what has defined America and Americans. We have traditions going back to Jerusalem and Greece, filtered through the Magna Carta and tempered by the searing conscientiousness of our Puritan culturist forefathers. Much of the times when whiteness studies people say "white" they mean "Protestant Enlightenment mainstream culture.” Much of what they call oppressive racism is simple assimilation. When kids get accent-free speech, that largely has nothing to do with a pathological hate for their race or black people. Assimilation can be natural and healthy. American ideals and culture cannot be reduced to belief in color. Whiteness does not account for as much of American identity and culture as whiteness studies proponents claim.

The assumed truth of "white privilege" in whiteness studies provides another example of a logical fallacy. America's wealth is derived from the rational application of mind to material possibilities and problems as well as incredible amounts of hard labor. One does not get wealthy by "claiming whiteness." Those who were seen as white did not get to retire on a government pension at the turn of the century. All people engaged in labor. The majority of those identified as white did grueling hard labor. Demographically, blacks have consistently comprised around ten percent of our population. For ten percent of the population to live off of the labor of ninety percent makes sense. But the idea that white America got all of its wealth, let alone its identity, by exploiting ten percent of the population is ludicrous. Ninety percent of a population cannot live off of the labor of ten percent of a population. Even if they could, this would not generate the fabulous wealth that America has generated. Whiteness cannot account for as much of America's wealth as whiteness studies proponents claim. There has traditionally been very little "privilege" to go around in America.

Culturism holds that cultural differences are real and important. Whiteness studies treats all discrimination against groups as completely arbitrary, irrational and insane. The groups that most worried the Protestant "native stock" of Americans were the Irish, the Italians and the Jews. The Irish Catholicism was seen as a threat to democracy and prosperity. Worldwide, Catholic colonies are less democratic, have lower literacy levels, and lower GDPs than Protestant colonies. Italians were said to lack reverence for education and engage in criminality. Stephan Thernstrom has shown that as late as 1970 Italian economic mobility was not as high as other groups. This month the Gambino family was finally busted in New York. Jews were at the head of labor movements, communist organizations, Civil Rights organizations, and the ACLU. Karl Marx and Freud have not exactly had zero impact on the western world. Is it totally mad to think that Jews have cultural tendencies that did not perfectly meld with the mainstream of American thought? Whiteness studies is much too quick to dismiss all cultural distinctions as arbitrary, irrational and insane.

Whiteness studies bases its claim that America is built on irrational racism on the supposition that all European immigrant groups eventually just became indistinguishable whites. While this was, they say, done on the basis of racism against blacks, it shows we had nothing to fear from diversity. But part of the reason those of us with white skin became white was the 1924 Immigration Act which greatly reduced the influx of peoples from Eastern and Southern Europe (Jews and Italians). This act gets represented as the definitive proof of America's racist dependence on whiteness for identity. If one, however, makes an investigation of the reasons given in the hearings leading to this enactment of this law, they discover that the great preponderance of the reasons given had to do with cultural predispositions, not race. While some were, not all who crafted this law were racists; many were culturists. Whiteness folks would do well to carefully distinguish between race and culture. But that would require that they first admit that cultural differences exist and are important. That would require them to admit that not all decisions by this government and Americans have been made on the basis of something so arbitrary and inconsequential as the color of skin.

Though the perspective has some value, whiteness studies can sometimes seem pathologically antagonistic to America. Karen Brodkin's "How Jews Became White Folks" is symptomatic. Many of the chapters of this book do nothing but call America racist. She even accuses whiteness of leading to her Grandmother's suicide. Racism has existed in America. It has been a major wall between whites and blacks. But, we have many other attributes too. Like others who are into whiteness, Brodkin seems to not notice that our country has any other attributes other than obsessive and persistent racism. Ironically, she considers Jewish self-definition to be a good thing, but American self-definition to be solely racist and oppressive and pathological. Brodkin proudly notes that Jews have been the leaders in all sorts of "progressive" movements such as communism, but then wants paint all the majority cultures' stereotypes about Jews as irrational and insane racism. Culture is important and significant.

Whiteness studies makes some valuable contributions to our understanding of America as well as its treatment of immigrants and assimilation. We need to be aware of and leery of racism. But whiteness suffers from logical fallacies, a failure to distinguish culture from race and, sometimes, a seemingly pathological disdain for America. America has been racist. America has been culturist. Most nations are either still racist and/or practice extremely heavy-handed culturism. Culturism means that we define ourselves. As America is not evil, assimilating into its culture is not evil. Not all attempts at self-definition are oppressive, racist, and irrational. We should not, as multiculturalists would have it, celebrate the cultural attributes of teen pregnancy, the criminal lifestyle and the love for Sharia law. Diversity is real and that is why culturism is necessary. Whiteness studies needs to distinguish racism from culturism if it is to help America get better and not just tear her down.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Culturism, Wagner, Society and Lust

Great artistic classics teach basic culturist lessons. Richard Wagner's magnificent opera, The Valkyrie, provides an intense and amazing example. In high drama we get answers to the "why questions" that children and youth ask. Many times we are stymied by these. Authoritarian breakdown can be traced back to our inability to answer these basic questions. This inability can be, in turn, traced back to our failure to teach the classics anymore.

Incest is at the heart of this story. Siegmund falls in love with his long lost sister Sieglinde. And, make no mistake, they know they are brother and sister and still engage in lust and plan on marriage. I can only imagine how well this romance was received when it premiered in 1870. A further monkey wrench in this affair is that Sieglinde is already married. The marriage is loveless and was not her choice, but that was common back then and she is married.

This sort of reckless romance runs in "the family." Actually their father is the god Wotan. Wotan had many affairs on his wife Fricka. Siegmund and Sieglinde are the product of one such dalliance. Here is where the morality starts to creep in, Fricka wants Siegmund killed in a fight with his love's husband to stop their marriage. It incestuous marriage is an abomination that must be stopped! As the Goddess of marriage you'd expect her to say that. We would say that. But Wotan, like many today, does not see what is wrong with their love! They are brother and sister, but they really love each other.

Fricka lays out reasons for morality. Fricka starts with a personal reason. She has put up with Wotan's adultry. And, as the goddess of marriage, this has been humiliating. But if he gives his blessings to incest coming from his adultery, it will completely humiliate her. Next she moves on to a social reason. His approval of incest will undermine the authority of the gods. If they do not condemn incest, if they do not promote any standards, people will not respect them and all the gods will lose their source of moral authority. This reasoning teaches us that the underpinnings of morality rest on the ability to distinguish good from bad, the sacred from the profane. When all is okay, there is no reason to obey.

Plato liked to give different explanation of morality for different levels of thinkers. Herein Wagener does the same thing. Humiliating Fricka was bad. The Gods losing their power was bad too. But Fricka's third reason to not endorse incest convinces Wotan. Another superhuman being, Alberich, has given up love to more fully pursue power. Competition exists. In his youth, Wotan was all about lust and appetite. He lived from one pleasure to another. But he is now facing competition from an enemy that is out to destroy all he has. If Wotan is to survive, he must retain his power amongst people by being moral. Running around being lustful will not stave off the bad people in the world. Wotan, to be an adult and to survive, must give up appetite for reason and start to consider power relations in the world.

This reasoning is something that Western nations need to consider. We are seen as lazy sex addicts by much of the world. Our reputation undermines our moral authority amongst other humans. If not in our own eyes, this brings humiliation to us in the eyes of others. But, perhaps most fundamentally, the world is hostile. Alberich's giving up all love to gain power teaches the culturst truths that diversity and competition exist. The Chinese have different values and are playing to win. If the Chinese continue to beat us up economically, we will lose opportunity and real freedoms. Islamic Jihadis have different values and are playing to win. If we do not recognize and confront this situation, we can - like Wotan - fail to survive. Wotan's realization teaches us that our power cannot be taken for granted and it cannot be sustained by constant uncontrolled, irresponsible and inconsiderate lust.

As is morality, The Valkyrie is very personal and philosophical. Wotan is a God. Having to curb his appetite hurts him emotionally. Beyond this, to prove his worth, he has to allow his incestuous son to be slain. Watching his son die will not be easy. But as his son has transgressed the basic rules of decency in society Wotan understands the necessity of killing him. He tells his daughter, Brunnhilde the Valkyrie, of his woes and to make sure Siegmund dies in his fight. She agrees, but cannot carry out this harsh morality upon seeing Siegmund and his love for his sister up close. Emotions cause her to disobey the cold moral dictates of her father and god Wotan. And so we are presented with a visual, theatrical and musical dramatization of the clash between harsh abstract morality and human feeling.

Wotan's decrees that for disobeying him and his moral dicates, Brunnhilde, his favorite daughter, shall lose all of her god-like powers. Furthermore, she is to be put asleep and the first man that finds her will take her and make her toil domestically like a common slave. Her punishment, in other words, will be a domestic straightjacket with no room for passion like the one her father is in. In a very intimate moment Wotan laments that he admitted his deep secret thoughts to her, he told her that killing his incestuous son hurt him, and she listened. As being open about his feelings has led to her needing to be punished, he will no longer speak of his love or passion to anyone again. He is going into emotional shutdown. Brunnhilde pleads that she was partially right to disobey his rules and carry out his heart's wishes. He cannot, as we cannot, totally disown our passions in the name of abstract, absolute, cold morality.

Wotan still decrees that she shall be made unconscious and the first man who sees her shall have her. However, he allows her to be surrounded by a huge ring of fire. Only a man who has passed test can have her. In other words, she shall have a man who is worthy of her, that inspires passion. A balance is struck. The domestic control that our pride, order and safety depend upon will have passion in it. Rules will happen, but our standards and desires will be considered. To marry her, the prospective husband will have to pass tests. She will have to know that he is a hero. Their domestic life will have passion and glory in it. Wotan, as a God, however, is not as fortunate as her. His lynchpin status means that he must uphold the strictest levels of morality. Unlike Brunnhilde, Wotan's passions will henceforth have to become irrelevant to his morality.

Like all great art, Wagner's The Valkyrie teaches fundamental culturist lessons about society, life and where we personally fit in. Wotan's sad fate as a god reminds us that higher morality must have standards that do not bend for human appetite. The structure of our society and moral order depend upon it. Wotan must slay his son Siegmund for moral order to continue. Yet the changing of punishments for Brunnhilde teach us that morality and the society it supports need not be a cold, distant, harsh dictates. Her fate teaches us that passion, tests, and glory can be found within the basic guidelines society must uphold. Our society would be better grounded if it spent more time with great art; pieces like Wagner's The Valkyrie are entertaining, they create a shared vocabulary within our culture and teach fundamental culturist lessons.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Culturist Thought of the Day - We Must Not Give Up

It looks like there will be no one for us to root for in the upcoming election. All the leading candidates are going to be open border proponents. None of those still viable believe in sovereignty of any kind. The battle is not totally, however, lost. In four years hopefully we will have set the stage for a greater culturist understanding in our nation. Other Western nations did not have an election disaster today. We have no choice but to think of the long-term.

Though disheartened, I will continue to push the word culturism, try to undermine the unreflective acceptance of multiculturalism, and work towards Western cultural health and sovereignty. Perhaps someday it will be common sense that diversity exists and we, therefore, need to protect our particular culture.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Culturism Takes Sides - Vote Romney

This blog entry will likely stay up until Super Tuesday.

Culturism is a philosophy dedicated to American unity. It holds anything that divides us, multiculturalism for example, harms us. In E Pluribus Unum, it emphasizes the Unum. Culturism agrees with Benjamin Franklin's assertion that if we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately. However, when we go into the voting booth, we don't have the opportunity to vote for a little bit of both. At such a moment our democracy demands that you take sides. So, before Super Tuesday I must tell you which of the candidates I think has the most culturist sensibility.

Culturism also holds that culture is VERY important. For that reason, culturism holds out very little hope for our turning Islamic countries into stable democracies. These countries are permanently different; and if they are to change, our military won't be the reason. The only candidate who agrees with this culturist reasoning is Ron Paul. Yet he has no realistic hope of winning. Barack Hussein Obama is the only somewhat viable canditate who is reluctant to invest a lot of our money in other countries. Unfortunately, his muslim connections make his loyalty suspicious. His backing of those dedicated to Islam in Kenya means I will not vote for him. I cannot tell which candidate is most likely to take out Iran's nukes. Foreign policy cannot be a decisive factor in our decision.

Culturism, by definition and to the extent possible, is chiefly concerned with domestic cohesiveness. One could see the Democrats running a woman and black man as a great way to foster unity. It shows that we now have no limits by race or gender. But they might use their access to recusitate ghosts of ancient gripes. Romney's Mormonism might make him a multicultural poster child. Yet, while Govenor of Massachusetts, he was strong enough to empower State troopers to enforce Federal immigration laws. This shows that he has some understanding of the need to control our culture. Nothing can foster our unity as much as letting people know that we are a sovereign nation; if you are not a nation, you cannot expect unity. McCain wrote the rejected amnesty bill, and Clinton and Obama were for it. Not believing we have a nation, none of these people can unite America. Romney is our best hope for unity and sovereignty.

Perhaps our being in the Middle East will result in some good. But leaving our borders open, giving amnesty to everyone (al queda members included) who has illegally trespassed into our nation is definetely anti-culturist. About this there can be no question; this is a bedrock of culturist thought. The only viable candidate who agrees with this assertion is Mitt Romney. Ron Paul's immigration and war policies do not violate culturist principles. He has other points of view, smaller government for example, that can be recommended by culturist principles. But we must admit that Paul has no realistic chance of winning. Culturism is practical. If immigration is important to you, please realize that every vote for Ron Paul could be given to the only other candidate who agrees with him on the crucial culturist issue of immigration. For the sake of our borders, DO NOT VOTE FOR ANYONE ELSE BUT MITT ROMNEY THIS TUESDAY!!!!