Monday, November 14, 2005

Identity Fascism (2)

"This sacred land has belonged to the Palestinian Peoples from the beginning of time. It is ours, and it will be ours forever."

Chop and change all you like, swap the Palestinians for the "natives" of X in the land of Y, and off you go on a whole new crusade of Identity fascism in the name of Z.

There is no such thing as the X people. There is such a thing as the identity of the X people, and it comes from families grouped together for inbred generations on small parcels of depleted land they couldn't escape from because they were part of the landowners' holdings. There are ties that bind, family ties, and ties of custom and language, and perhaps they make up an ethnic group one can recognise with a keen eye for such things. But for the concept of the people, it's a stretch to claim ownership of land by virtue of ethnicity over the course of anything longer than owns own life time. What my grandfather owned isn't mine but his. Unless, of course, I own what he owned by virtue of atavistic whim. If I can convince myself and you and others that I am continuous by racial identity, and if not there, by language and personal custom, then I can make an argument that this is mine and not yours because I am mine and you are not. If I can convince us that I am of my own kind and you are an outsider, not an authentic insider, not part of the group who owns by virtue of being of the group, then you are excluded by the laws of nature and spirit.

The point of the exercise is to claim that I have an identity within a group, and that you do not share that identity. If you do not share it, you are not a legitimate recipient of the goods and services we have, not entitled to what we have and get and give, and you do not have a right to be among us as an equal.

There are common instances of separateness that make fine sense to all but communitarians of all sorts, those who claim the family of man takes precedence over the smaller group, including the nuclear family. One can find theoretical expression of communitarian families in Plato's Republic and in the writings, such as they are, of Sparta. More recently, a great deal of ink is wasted in the 19th century socialist and anarchist press on the concept of internationalism and community of nations. Today we live with daycare centres and the U.N. Altogether, we have, in the Modern West, multi-culturalism, the family of man and the unity of all peoples. And too we have identity. We have the common idea that man is not individual by only valid in comparison and in contrast to others, and that his identity and validity comes from his belonging to a group who defines him by virtue of boundaries, a shore around a body of water that defines a lake, for example, a body of language that defines a German, a religion that defines a Muslim.

This is a relatively new concept, this idea of identity. Until recently there was no such thing as nation, (cf the Treaty of Westphalia here,) and there was no sense of the universality of man outside his family, clan, and tribe (cf Modern Agriculture here.)

Here we will look at the concept of national identity as formulated by J.G. Herder (cf Herder here.) We will see again more of the roots of the common concepts of our time in the Modern West, and below we will see the evidence again of the fascist reactionary Counter-Enlightenment that is to day Left dhimmi fascism. We will see the roots of such repugnant cliches as "the people." We will see the beginnings of nonsense such as "we have always lived on this sacred land." We will see the beginnings in Herder of the Nazi quest for racial purity and living space for Germans, and also the place held today by those who claim the Palestinians are a people with a right to land by virtue of identity. We will see the mass of confusion that creates both multi-culturalism and fascist identity politics. We will see "We are all one, but you are different, you have a right to the sacred soil of your ancestors, and we, being outsiders, defer." All of the seeds of identity fascism and Left dhimmi philobarbarism are in the two short excerpts below. We will continue this look in further detail in our next post, and there we will sort it out to show the fascism of identity and the roots of modern anti-Semitism as well.

Our first piece is a breathless introduction to Herder from the Goethe Institute, which we have mercifully cut severely for the sake of our readers. We follow it with more of the same from wikipedia. We will take time again tomorrow to follow up on this important and sinister thinker as preparation for the introduction to Fichte, and he as introduction to our eventual look at identity and ecology fascism.

"I feel! I am!" - Johann Gottfried Herder
Copyright: BundesbildstelleJohann Gottfried Herder was undoubtedly one of the most significant representatives of Weimar Classicism. Nevertheless, he tends not to be mentioned in the same breath as Goethe and Schiller. However great his impact on the "Sturm und Drang" movement, German Classicism and Romanticism, philology and history may have been, it is not easy to sum up Herder's work under a single heading .


Born in 1744 ....

Folk Song and "Sturm und Drang"

Herder studied theology and philosophy in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) – where his lecturers included Kant and Hamann. He subsequently worked as a teacher and preacher in Riga until setting off for France in 1769. He then got to know Goethe as a result of a chance meeting in Strasburg.


Herder looked across state borders in his search for lyric poetry rooted in the traditions of folk song; his anthology, "Volkslieder" (Folk Songs), helped to establish the concept of "world literature", a term coined later by August Wilhelm Schlegel. This significant anthology contains over 90 texts translated from English and Scots, a variety of Romance, Slavic and Northern European languages and Greenlandish.

National character and humanity

In the 19th century, Herder's view of peoples, their languages and the character of individual nations – which was untainted by nationalistic bigotry – also encouraged smaller nations to explore their languages and cultures and regard them as having value in their own right.

The preacher and educationalist had a lasting influence with his belief that nations (like languages as well) are subjects of history and manifest a character of their own tied to particular places and times. The modern philosophy of history begins with Herder, as does a historiography that concentrates its attention on the formation and development of individual nations.

His unfinished major work "Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit" (Ideas for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, 1784-1791) can be read as a synthesis of his thought. ... And he ascribes a central function to humanity: "Humanity is the purpose of man's nature and God has placed our race's own destiny into its hands with this purpose" (Book XV).

Like the "Ideas", Herder's "Briefe zur Beförderung der Humanität" (Letters for the Advancement of Humanity, 1797) .... In the "Letters", Herder argues strongly for other nations to be accorded respect and esteem: "The insolent violator of others' rights, […] the audacious abuser of others' customs and opinions, the boaster who imposes his own merits on peoples who do not desire them will be hated."

Thinking and feeling

The recent interest in the Age of the Enlightenment has probably contributed to the renaissance of Herderian models of thinking. Herder's holistic attitude contrasts with the total domination of rational thought from Descartes to Kant, an approach felt by many to be inadequate. Herder's thinking also encompasses the "other" of reason: "Loving the body without the spirit, said a philosopher full of great insight, is idolatry; loving the soul without the body is zealotry; loving each in the other, is true, whole humanity" ("Vom Erkennen und Empfinden", Of Cognition and Sensation, 1775).
Herder stands for the anthropological turn. Following French sensualism, Herder accords greater significance to sensual cognition, and associates the senses and the intellect more closely with each other. In his posthumous text "Zum Sinn des Gefühls" (On the Meaning of Feeling), Herder sets out his own counterpart to Descartes's "Cogito ergo sum" when he says, "I feel! I am!"


In 1772 Herder published Concerning the Origin of Speech and went further in this promotion of language than his earlier injunction to "spew out the ugly slime of the Seine. Speak German, O You German".


Herder wrote that "A poet is the creator of the nation around him, he gives them a world to see and has their souls in his hand to lead them to that world." To him such poetry had its greatest purity and power in nations before they became civilised, as shown in the Old Testament, the Edda , and Homer, and he tried to find such virtues in ancient German folk songs and Norse poetry and mythology.


Herder's philosophy was of a deeply subjective turn, stressing influence by physical and historical circumstance upon human development, stressing that "one must go into the age, into the region, into the whole history, and feel one's way into everything". The historian should be the "regenerated contemporary" of the past, and history a science as "instrument of the most genuine patriotic spirit".

Volk and Nation

Herder replaced the traditional concept of a juridico-political state with that of the folk-nation as organic in its historical growth. Every nation was in this manner organic and whole, nationality a plant of nurture. He talked of the "national animal" and of the "physiology of the whole national group" , which organism was topped by the "national spirit", the "soul of the volk".

Herder gave Germans a new pride in their origins, ... remarking that he would have wished to be born in the Middle Ages and musing whether "the times of the Swabian emperors" did not "deserve to be set forth in their true light in accordance with the German mode of thought?" Herder equated the German with the Gothic... equally he proclaimed a national message within the sphere of language. ... This urged Germans to glory in their hitherto despised language, and Herder's extensive collections of folk-poetry began a great craze in Germany for that neglected literature.

Along with Wilhelm von Humboldt, he proposed what is now called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis — that language determines thought . Herder's focus upon language and cultural traditions as the ties that create a " nation" extended to include folklore, dance, music and art, and inspired Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in their collection of Germanic folk tales.

Herder attached exceptional importance to the concept of nationality and of patriotism — "he that has lost his patriotic spirit has lost himself and the whole worlds about himself ", whilst teaching that " in a certain sense every human perfection is national". Herder carried folk theory to an extreme by maintaining that "there is only one class in the state, the Volk, (not the rabble), and the king belongs to this class as well as the peasant". Explanation that the Volk was not the rabble was a novel conception in this era, and with Herder can be seen the emergence of "the people" as the basis for the emergence of a classless but hierarchical national body.

The nation, however was individual and separate, distinguished, to Herder, by climate, education, foreign intercourse, tradition and heredity. Providence he praised for having "wonderfully separated nationalities not only by woods and mountins, seas and deserts, rivers and climates, but more particularly by languages, inclinations and characters". Herder praised the tribal outlook writing that "the savage who loves himself, his wife and child with quiet joy and glows with limited activity of his tribe as for his own life is in my opinion a more real being than that cultivated shadow who is enraptured with the shadow of the whole species", isolated since "each nationality contains its centre of happiness within itself, as a bullet the centre of gravity". With no need for comparison since" every nation bears in itself the standard of its perfection, totally independent of all comparison with that of others" for "do not nationalities differ in everything, in poetry, in appearance, in tastes, in usages, customs and languages? Must not religion which partakes of these also differ among the nationalities?"

Germany and The Enlightenment

This question was further developed by Herder's lament that Martin Luther did not establish a national church, and his doubt whether Germany did not buy Christianity at too high a price, that of true nationality. Herder's patriotism bordered at times upon national pantheism, demanding of territorial unity as "He is deserving of glory and gratitude who seeks to promote the unity of the territories of Germany through writings, manufacture, and institutions" and sounding an even deeper call:

"But now! Again I cry, my German brethren! But now! The remains of all genuine folk-thought is rolling into the abyss of oblivion with a last and accelerated impetus. For the last century we have been ashamed of everything that concerns the fatherland."

Herder presented formal defiance of the age of reason and Enlightenment . In his Ideas upon Philosophy and the History of Mankind he even wrote "Compare England with Germany: the English are Germans, and even in the latest times the Germans have led the way for the English in the greatest things."

Herder, who hated absolutism and Prussian nationalism, but who was imbued with the spirit of the whole German Volk, yet as historical theorist turned away from the light of the Eighteenth century. Seeking to reconcile his thought with this earlier age Herder sought to harmonize his conception of sentiment with reason, whereby all knowledge is implicit in the soul; the most elementary stage is sensuous and intuitive perception which by development can become self-conscious and rational. To Herder, this development is the harmonizing of primitive and derivative truth, of experience and intelligence, feeling and reason.

Herder is the first in but a long line of Germans preoccupied with this harmony. This search is itself the key to much in German theory. And Herder was too penetrating a thinker not to understand and fear the extremes to which his folk-theory could tend, and so issued specific warnings. While regarding the Jews as aliens in Europe, he yet refused to adhere to a rigid racial theory, writing that "notwithstanding the varieties of the human form there is but one and the same species of man throughout the whole earth".



This is a hurried presentation, and if there are questions you, dear reader, wish to ask, please feel free to leave comments so we can return to this with a perhaps clearer exposition later.

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