Citizenship And The Nation State Remain Relevant, Despite The Efforts Of Their Detractors

Katy Perry - Treaty of Westphalia - Nation States

There’s life in the humble nation state yet

As the backlash against Brexit grows ever stronger and the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics eats away at our national fabric from within, there are many legitimate reasons to fear for the future of patriotism, citizenship and even the nation state itself.

However, there are also a few reasons for optimism, and Rebecca Lowe Coulson sets some of them out in Conservative Home. But first she paraphrases the question that many people are now asking about the continued relevance of the concept of citizenship:

In an increasingly globalised world, however — in which the Westphalian order of nation states is regularly criticised as inward-looking — citizenship is repeatedly denounced as an outdated representation of division and exclusion. It hardly seems necessary to comment that such denouncements typically come from the privileged, within the most economically and politically secure nations. And that, like those Britons angered at the imminent loss of their EU citizenship after Brexit, few “global citizens” seem keen to give up the privileges of their current national citizenships.

Of course, what many of those citizenship-snubbers truly want (like most of the rest of us) is for their own privileges to be extended to those living in less secure places. It is undeniable that great global imbalances remain, even though living standards continue to rise across the world. But then, the question should not be whether the concept of citizenship precludes opportunities in the sense that being a member of one state can be highly preferable to being a member of another, but whether it is still the case that one’s rights and opportunities are best protected and afforded through membership of an individuated state. In a world in which secure states increasingly offer extensive rights to non-citizen inhabitants, aCitind less secure states need more substantial upheaval and help than an improved understanding of the intricacies of membership rules, is the concept of citizenship relevant?

Coulson Lowe then goes on to explain exactly why the concept of citizenship remains relevant, and will not be undermined despite the best efforts of those who see the nation state as an obstacle to be overcome rather than a crucial guarantor of rights:

We all remember how, in her 2016 Conservative Party conference speech, Theresa May said that “citizens of the world” were “citizens of nowhere”. The comment has become symbolic of an approach for which she has been widely criticised: an approach seen both as arrogant, and as attempting to appeal to those on the further right of her party.

At the time, I felt her tone mistaken, in that I would have preferred a use of language implying greater keenness to heal, or at least address pressing divisions within the country. General criticisms of the comment often overlook the argument May was setting out, however. The words came within a section about the “spirit of citizenship”, and read, in full: “But if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizen’ means”. Surely, it is that forgotten second sentence that is key, here. And that the point May was in the midst of making was about the importance of “respecting the bonds and obligations that make our society work”.

The state, and the society that exists within it, still matters profoundly to those people who aren’t happy with the countries they call home .. Official membership of such societies is conferred in different ways: from the automatic rights of familial lineage to the successful passing of a test. But the standard way of gaining the citizenship of a state is by being born and growing up in it. For those of us fortunate to count somewhere like Britain or Australia as that place, it can be easy to take for granted the relative privileges this affords us.

Yet most of us see that the uncertainties and risks of life make it expedient for us to live together in societies, and that, as social creatures, it is natural for us to want to do so, over and above that expediency. The advancements of the past centuries — in communication, travel, science, military capabilities, commerce, and on — have made it impractical for societies to remain limited to the family groups, villages, or cities they once were. The continuation of that advancement does not mean that our embrace of the nation state must also become outdated, however. For simple reasons of functionality — not to mention the more complex, such as those related to culture or national identity — it is hard to see how bigger blocs or idealist internationalist approaches could work.

This is what many on the Left fail (or are unwilling) to grasp. The Westphalian concept of statehood and sovereignty (combined with 19th century concepts of nationalism) survive the test of time because they work with the grain of human nature rather than against it. Rather than pretending against all available evidence that somebody from country A has as much in common with someone from country Z as their next door neighbour, the system of nation states is a tacit admission that the human instinct to be part of a social communities mean that harmony is best achieved when systems of government are aligned with societal boundaries. And indeed, when there is a mismatch between government and society, nation states have often split and reformed in response.

But the bigger blocs and non-state actors championed by the nation state’s detractors will not become a viable replacement in the foreseeable future, precisely because an entity’s democratic legitimacy and popular support are derived from having a demos which identifies as a cohesive whole and consents to being governed at that level.

The United States works as a country because US citizens see themselves as American first and foremost, and not Californian, Texan, Iowan, Alaskan or North Carolinian. The United Kingdom survived the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum because a majority of Scots (just about) considered themselves British as well as Scottish, if not more so.

Supranational blocs do not command this sense of loyalty or commonality among the people they nominally represent, as the European Union discovered with Brexit and will continue to discover as member states chafe against one-size-fits-all dictation from Brussels. Brexit occurred because the European Union’s drive for ever-closer union and a grander role on the world stage was plain for all to see, and the majority of voters who consider themselves more British than European wanted no part of it.

The “if you build it they will come” approach – where ideological zealots construct all the trappings of a supranational state in the hope or arrogant expectation that a common demos and sense of shared purpose will follow on automatically – has been proven to be nothing more than wishful thinking.

And this is a good thing, because as Rebecca Lowe Coulson correctly observes, supranational and non-state actors have generally proven themselves far less able to effect change than unilateral, bilateral or multilateral efforts by nation states with common purpose. The very nature of trying to shoehorn the competing national interests and priorities of multiple countries into a “common” foreign, fiscal or defence policy gives rise to resentment, suboptimal outcomes (such as stratospheric youth unemployment in Southern Europe) and inevitable net losers.

And yet the myth persists – amplified by bitter Remainers and much of the corrupted civil liberties lobby – that cooperation between countries is only possible under the umbrella of supranational government, and that these non-state actors are somehow a better guarantor of individual liberties than nation states themselves.

Take this hysterical email recently sent out by “civil liberties” organisation Liberty:

Yesterday we took another huge step towards our withdrawal from the European Union as the Government published the Repeal Bill.

If the Bill passes in its current state, people in the UK will lose rights after we leave the EU. It’s that simple and the stakes are that high.

The vote to leave the European Union was not a vote to abandon our human rights.

Yet the Repeal Bill includes worryingly broad powers for ministers to alter laws without parliamentary scrutiny and contains no guaranteed protections for human rights. Worse, it takes away the protections of the Charter of Fundamental Rights without ensuring that we will continue to protect all of those rights in the UK after Brexit.

Every single right we have now needs to stay on our statute books – from those contained in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, to equality protections we’ve gained from our membership.

Liberty – and other groups who are content for British citizens to have “rights” imposed on them from above rather than argue for and win them at a domestic level – see supranational organisations as a convenient bypass for national democracy. If the stupid British people are too dumb to vote for more employment protections and other government treats, this line of thinking goes, then advocacy groups who know better should just go over their heads to the EU. This is profoundly undemocratic, but more than that it only affirms the dangerous idea that our rights should be granted by government (at any level) rather than being innate and inalienable.

This is utterly wrong, as I explained back in 2015:

The new, emerging institutions which will replace them are being designed behind closed doors by small groups of mostly unelected people, as well as the most influential agents of all – wealthy corporations and their lobbyists. We have almost no idea, let alone influence, over what they are building together because instead of scrutinising them we spend our time arguing over the mansion tax or the NHS or high speed railways, which are mere distractions in the long run.

The liberties and freedoms we hold dear today can very easily slip away if we do not jealously guard them. By contrast, power is generally won back by the people from elites and powerful interests at a very heavy price – just consider Britain’s own history, or the American fight for independence from our Crown.

The yawning gap in the argument of those who would do away with the nation state is how they intend to preserve democracy in its absence (assuming they even care to do so). Even many of the EU’s loudest cheerleaders concede that the current institutions are profoundly undemocratic and unresponsive to popular priorities or concerns – this tends to be expressed through an exasperated “of course the EU needs reform!”, sandwiched between odes of love and loyalty to the very same entity, as we witnessed countless times during the EU referendum.

But what that reform actually looks like, nobody can say. Or at least, those few tangible visions for a future EU which do exist are so unmoored from reality as to be little more than idle curiosities – see former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’ DiEM25, which contends both that the European Union can be persuaded to undertake meaningful reforms (ha!), and that this reformed EU should then amplify left-wing priorities to the exclusion of all others (how very democratic).

If you want to do away with the concept of the nation state or actively agitate for its demise then I think you have a responsibility to state clearly and unambiguously what you would have in its place before pushing us all into the undiscovered country. Yet the assorted citizens of the world, so anguished by Brexit, refuse to come up with an answer – at least not one which they are willing to utter in public.

The European Union is not a static entity – it is an explicitly and unapologetically political project moving relentlessly (if erratically) toward the clear goal of ever-closer union. If this is not their preferred outcome for Britain and all other nation states (and few pro-EU types will admit that this is what they want) then it is incumbent on them to offer an alternative goal with a politically viable means of achieving it.

And until they do so, the assorted enemies of the nation state do not really deserve a hearing.

Treaty of Westphalia

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Centrists Cling To Their Failed Dogma Even As It Tears Their Countries Apart

Tony Blair - Hillary Clinton - centrism

In a wide-ranging essay, Michael Lind argues that the elite managerial class have broken their compact with the working classes to the detriment of the country, thus explaining the populist backlashes witnessed in Britain and America

“The New Class War”, an essay in the American Affairs Journal by writer Michael Lind, perfectly captures the intersection between trade regulation, democracy and the interests of the managerial elites which is at the heart of the current debate over sovereignty – and which fuelled the Brexit vote in the UK and Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency in America.

It is necessary to quote at some length from the section entitled “The Politics of Global Arbitrage“, in which Lind discusses the ways in which corporate behaviour has influenced the contours of our democracy:

Even as they have exploited opportunities for international labor and tax-and-subsidy arbitrage, firms in the post–Cold War era of globalization have promoted selective harmonization of laws and rules, when it has been in their interest to do so. In the second half of the twentieth century, successive rounds of negotiation under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and, more recently, the World Trade Organization (WTO) effectively reduced most traditional tariff barriers. By 2016, when the WTO effectively terminated the failed Doha Development Round of global trade talks, the United States and other leading industrial nations had shifted the emphasis from removing barriers restricting the cross-border flow of goods to harmonizing laws and regulations through “multiregional trade pacts” like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), in the interests of transnational investors and corporations reliant on transnational supply chains.

The areas chosen for arbitrage and harmonization reflect the interests not of national working-class majorities but of the managerial elites that dominate western governments. Harmonizing labor standards or wages would undercut the labor arbitrage strategy, while transnational crackdowns on tax avoidance would thwart the strategy of tax arbitrage by transnational firms. Instead, the emphasis in harmonization policy has been on common industrial standards, the liberalization of financial systems, and intellectual property rights, including pharmaceutical patents. These kinds of harmonization benefit transnational firms, investors on Wall Street or in the City of London, and the holders of intellectual property rights in Silicon Valley and the pharmaceutical industry.

In many cases, this kind of regulatory harmonization makes sense—standardizing product safety measures, for example. But the new regulatory harmonization agreements produce a “democratic deficit” in two ways.

First, they remove whole areas of regulation from the realm of ordinary legislation, replacing it with “legislation by treaty.” Favorable laws and regulations that corporate lobbyists are unable to persuade national democratic legislatures to enact can be repackaged and hidden in harmonization agreements masked as “trade” treaties. These treaties, often thousands of pages long, tend to be drafted in secret by committees involving corporate lobbyists and may be ratified by legislatures without careful scrutiny.

Worse, most of these contemporary regulatory harmonization agreements include “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) provisions that allow individual corporations to sue national governments that change the rules in their countries after the passage of the treaty in private tribunals, dominated by corporate lawyers, with no appeal mechanism. If Congress enacts a statute that adversely affects the interests of Acme Inc., then Acme has few options, other than paying lobbyists and making campaign donations. But if Congress ratifies a treaty, and later changes a provision by passing a new law, Acme can sue the federal government for financial damages. The United States has yet to lose a case to ISDS, but other countries have, and some believe that the prospect of corporate lawsuits has a chilling effect on new laws and regulations of which particular corporations disapprove.

None of this is to imply that the transnational managers of the West and littoral East Asia who control the new global oligopolies are more selfish or less public-spirited than the managers of national corporations during the Second Industrial Era. On the contrary, in personal terms, today’s managerial elite is for the most part less bigoted and often quite philanthropic. The point is simply that the American, German, and Japanese corporations of half a century ago were constrained by kinds of Galbraithian countervailing power and Burnhamite/Moscian juridical defenses that have crumbled. Thanks to globalization, itself a voluntary policy choice enabled but not required by new technology, today’s transnational firms have much more bargaining power in their dealings with workers and democratic nation-states.

My emphasis in bold.

This perfectly sums up a core part of the democratic case for leaving the European Union as it relates to trade, and is very much in line with the analysis and arguments advanced by Dr. Richard North of eureferendum.com and Pete North.

Lind is quite correct to acknowledge that regulatory harmonisation can be an enormous force for good. In fact, the trouble only really comes about when there is no option for a democratic nation state to “opt out” of a certain regulatory change or edict when its imposition would harm the national interest in some way. Obviously there would be consequences for such an action, such as the non-recognition of standards relating to the product or industry in question. But the opt-out is a vital tool which nation states must possess in order to wield sensibly and with restraint on those occasions when the compromise hashed out by 27 EU member states is unacceptable to the sole outvoted dissenting country.

This is what we mean by the outsourcing of sovereignty. Remainers and assorted pro-EU apologists love to make the glib assertion that EU member states retain ultimate sovereignty at all times because they are technically free to leave the EU, but this is an asinine assertion. Sovereignty should not be a choice between having to go along with every diktat from Brussels or deploying the nuclear option and leaving the European Union. Indeed, how can you call it sovereignty when the choice is between accepting papercut after papercut (grave though the cumulative wound may be) or else enduring the disruption of severing ourselves from the union? This isn’t sovereignty, it is blackmail. Thank goodness that Britain finally called the EU’s bluff.

This section is also instructive:

To obtain social peace and mobilize national populations during World War II, the United States and its allies like Britain brokered business-labor pacts and promised welfare benefits to veterans. In the ensuing Cold War, every major industrial democracy devised some kind of “settlement” or compromise among business and labor interests within the nation.

The postwar settlements were a combination of employer-specific welfare capitalism and universal or means-tested, social-democratic welfare states. In West Germany, welfare capitalism took the form of “codetermination,” or union membership on corporate boards. Japan, following intense labor conflict after 1945, developed a system of corporate paternalism and lifetime employment for many workers. Organized labor was weak in the postwar United States, but the “Treaty of Detroit” negotiated among automobile companies and unions was a successful example of informal business-labor corporatism. Low levels of legal and illegal immigration, and social pressure on married mothers to exit the work force to become homemakers, strengthened the bargaining power of mostly male workers by creating tight labor markets.

These corporatist systems of welfare capitalism made the welfare states of the period from the 1940s to the 1970s much smaller than they would have been otherwise. Wage compression brought about by unions in the welfare-capitalist system made it easier for payroll taxes to fund entitlements like public pensions, which in turn were smaller than they might have been because of the widespread existence of private employer pensions.

The post-1945 settlements in the West and Japan demonstrate countervailing power and juridical defense in action. The result was the golden age of capitalism from the 1940s to the 1970s, combining high growth with a more equal distribution of its rewards than has ever existed before or since.

But Lind sees the end of the Cold War as a turning point when the post-war settlements established in the West and Japan began to be fatally undermined:

Following the Cold War, the global business revolution shattered these social compacts. Through the empowerment of multinational corporations and the creation of transnational supply chains, managerial elites disempowered national labor and national governments and transferred political power from national legislatures to executive agencies, transnational bureaucracies, and treaty organizations.

Freed from older constraints, the managerial minorities of Western nations have predictably run amok, using their near-monopoly of power and influence in all sectors—private, public, and nonprofit—to enact policies that advantage their members to the detriment of their fellow citizens. Derided and disempowered, large elements of the native working classes in Western democracies have turned to charismatic tribunes of anti-system populism in electoral rebellions against the selfishness and arrogance of managerial elites.

I have to say that Lind’s essay has given me pause for thought. This blog has consistently championed the Thatcherite revolution which took Britain from being the sick man of 1970s Europe, seemingly in terminal decline, to a revived and confident global power by the 1990s. I did so while acknowledging the various failures of the Thatcher government to ameliorate the decline of heavy industry outside of the wealthy Southeast and its cost in terms of suffering and wasted human potential, but I nonetheless saw (and continue to see) Thatcherism as a necessary if painful tonic for the economically sick Britain of the 1970s.

Lind, however, sees things differently. From Lind’s perspective, the post World War II settlements established between labour and the managerial classes in various Western countries were responsible for the great boost in productivity and living standards, not an anchor on these metrics (as I have always viewed the post-war settlement in Britain, partially deconstructed by Thatcher). To be fair, Lind pinpoints the start of the unravelling to the end of the Cold War when Thatcher’s premiership was nearing an end, but since many of the tenets of Thatcherism continued through the Major and Blair governments into the 21st century once can reasonably infer a criticism of Thatcher’s policies, which merely took a decade to come to full fruition.

This is food for thought for an unabashed Thatcherite like me, and I need to do more reading to decide how much of Lind’s narrative holds water. The narrative arc he constructs is persuasively argued and passes the “common sense” test, but to my mind Britain’s experience stands as an exception to Lind’s rule. In our case, the post-war settlement we constructed (based on the recommendations of the Beveridge Report) grievously held us back as a country. We did not benefit from enlightened German-style corporate governance or Japanese-style jobs for life in the post-war years, but rather sank into decades of adversarial conflict between unions and (largely state-owned) employers, with government policy repeatedly favouring the interests of the producer over those of the consumer.

Now, this could be because British government policy was particularly misguided and the British managerial class particularly useless (an argument I have some sympathy with), but it seems more likely to me that Lind’s blanket assertion that countries prosper most when there is a powerful countervailing force to push back against the elite managerial class is not always correct – or at least is only one of several other key factors determining economic growth and increases in standard of living. I would posit that Thatcher’s Methodist upbringing probably provided a great moral anchor that prevented excessive self-serving policymaking, while today’s decadent and avowedly secular elites are perhaps more prone to corruption and in greater need of the countervailing force that Lind describes (hence the populist backlashes we have witnessed).

Lind then goes on to discuss how labour arbitrage and tax & subsidy arbitrage in our more globalised world have worked to undermine the nation state and empower the corporation – a line of reasoning which would certainly be familiar to anyone on the Left.

He concludes by looking ahead to the likely geopolitical situation in the year 2050, and considers what will be the best strategy for the West to maintain power and influence:

Great-power competition, even in the form of limited cold wars, is likely to reward nations whose economic model is based on developing productive technology and raising the incomes of domestic worker-consumers, rather than engaging in labor and tax arbitrage, regulatory harmonization, and other schemes that boost profits without increasing productivity. In cold wars and trade wars, even if no blood is shed by the contenders, countries and blocs with empowered and patriotic workers are likely to do better than rival nations crippled by immiserated workforces and selfish, nepotistic, oligarchic elites.

[..]

Managerial elites are bound to dominate the economy and society of every modern nation. But if they are not checked, they will overreach and produce a populist backlash in proportion to their excess. By a misguided policy of suppressing wages and thus throttling mass consumption, unchecked managerial elites may inadvertently cripple the technology-driven productivity growth responsible for their rise and accidentally cause the replacement of managerial society itself by a kind of high-tech rentier feudalism.

Managerial society works best when there are not only concessions to national working-class economic interests—the bribes to the “losers” of neoliberalism—but also genuine economic bargaining power and political power wielded by the many. Far from undermining managerial regimes, Burnham’s “juridical check” and Galbraith’s “countervailing power” make them more legitimate and sustainable.

In other words, the policies favoured by the current dispossessed centrists in Britain and America are not as smart and self-evidently beneficial as their advocates love to claim. Status quo globalisation, which increasingly seeks to leverage labour arbitrage, tax arbitrage and selective regulatory harmonisation to benefit the managerial class while doing little to raise productivity (not to mention leaving millions of people in dead-end jobs or the unemployment scrapheap) is not only selfish on the part of the managerial class, it is also injurious to the future prosperity and security of the country.

In fact, according to Lind, it turns out that having a patriotic population and workers with a commitment to the country they live in, together with some degree of bargaining power (preferably due to their possessing valuable skills rather than the threat of withholding their labour, as deployed in the 1970s), is perhaps a net positive after all, particularly in the long term.

Again: I don’t buy everything in Michael Lind’s essay. But he spins a plausible narrative and argues his case well. And if Lind is correct, how regrettable is it, then, that the populist backlashes on both sides of the Atlantic have been held in check partly through their own incompetence (Donald Trump in America and the Tory hard Brexiteers in the UK) and partly by the fact that the resurgent centrists have effectively ground the respective movements to a halt?

Bear in mind, if and when the centrists retake power, they intend to revert to pure business as usual. They have learned nothing from the comprehensive rejection they received from voters only a short time ago, and think that the world can revert to its previous happy state where they got everything that they wanted while anyone who dissented could go jump off a bridge.

I have long contended that such an overturning of these populist movements by the elite would be poisonous, even fatal, to our democracy. But if Lind is correct, it could also be fatal to the future economic prosperity and national security of our countries.

 

Globalisation

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When Will Open Borders Zealots Just Admit That They Want To Abolish America?

new-york-would-never-dream-of-building-a-wall-new-york-magazine-immigration-propaganda

Talking about “undocumented immigrants” in the same breath as refugees, permanent residents and citizens has only one purpose – to imbue illegal immigration with a nobility it does not deserve, deliberately undermining the beleaguered nation state. And the time has come for open borders zealots to be honest about what they are trying to do.

Under the guise of discussing the sanctuary city phenomenon, New York magazine has a propagandistic but otherwise pointless article profiling 44 “New Yorkers” of varying and sometimes dubious immigration status, whose sole purpose seems to be to deliberately blur the lines between various types of immigration, thus giving political cover to the illegal kind.

Why 44 immigrants? Presumably this is an allusion to the fact that Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States, and because he supported the DREAM Act and implemented the DACA policy (even though only four of 44 people profiled in the piece are themselves beneficiaries). Yes, that is the kind of pseudo-analytical, emotional codswallop that we are going to be dealing with here.

The piece begins with suitable pomposity:

That ours is a sanctuary city — arguably, the sanctuary city — shouldn’t be surprising. After all, for 130 years we’ve displayed, in the New York Harbor, the most iconic symbol of welcome in the world. In the weeks after an election season defined in part by an ugly debate over who should be allowed to live here, New York photographed dozens of immigrants and new citizens, ranging in age from 1 month to 91 years, to suggest the breadth of the New York–immigrant experience.

Of course, capturing the full breadth would be impossible — there are 3 million New Yorkers who were born somewhere else, more than a third of the city’s population. All of which is a good reminder that even the city’s hoariest come-hithers — make it here, make it anywhere, etc. — contain an implicit promise: Our city is open to anyone who’s willing to give it a shot. Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses, yes, but also your ambitious, your artsy, your queer, your shunned, your misfits, and anyone else who can’t, for some reason, feel at home where they are. Whatever it is you’re a refugee from, this city can be your refuge. We may have a fabled reputation for crossed-arm toughness, but in reality, New York is the city whose arms have always been open the widest.

We then delve into the profiles, many of whom are of babies who clearly cannot speak for themselves but who are nonetheless selected because of their emotional resonance (using babies to build emotional support for a political argument is fine when it concerns immigration, apparently, but try to do so in connection with a …different subject, and many on the Left will immediately lose their minds).

Some examples:

Prioska Galicia
Age: 19
From: Mexico
Undocumented

“I remember the sound of helicopters, and running, and the cold breeze, and my mom trying to cover me up,” Prioska Galicia says about the night she crossed the border into Arizona in 2004.

She was 6 years old. A recent high-school graduate, Galicia aspires to go to college, but that hope is tempered by the uncertainty of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals under Trump. “We want to work. We want to succeed. Other people don’t see it like that. They see it as us wanting to take other people’s jobs.”

Okay, so here we have what might be a seemingly typical case of an illegal immigrant smuggled into the United States by her family – and a very sympathetic case, at that. Galicia is, I am sure, a model petitioner for citizenship in every way.

But then we see Galicia’s case placed alongside examples like this:

Tristan Kelvin Bosc
Age: 1 month
From: United States
Citizen

Bosc was born in November to German and French fathers who met in 2005, two years after moving to the United States.

“For us, it was a choice to move here,” says Benoit Bosc, one of Tristan’s fathers. “You don’t want to over-romanticize it, but you know, the land of dreams where things are possible. We hope that it stays this way because for him, that’s the future.”

Presumably Tristan’s German and French fathers both emigrated to America via one of the legal routes open to them. So why even include such people in an article about sanctuary cities, unless for the deliberate reason of muddying the waters that separate those who follow the process and those who circumvent the process? Maybe there is a word slightly less harsh than “propaganda” to explain what the New Yorker is doing here, but if so, I struggle to think of it.

More:

Pepper Tsue
Age: 2
From: South Korea
Citizen

Tsue and her family moved to New York in 2015. Her mother is Korean and her father is Taiwanese-American.

At home, her mother, Seyun Kim, speaks to her only in Korean. When Pepper started preschool in September, Kim packed a translation sheet for the teacher. It included words and phrases like water, mommy and daddy, and I want a hug. “She’ll learn English,” says Kim. “But it’s important for her to know Korean, too.”

What a marvellous case study in good integration – a mother who deliberately refuses to help her own daughter to assimilate into their new country by conversing with her in the dominant language, and who then has the temerity to pack her daughter off to school with a translation sheet for the teacher, so that those already living here can do all of the hard work. Yes, this is exactly the kind of example that we should be promoting.

One doesn’t like to think ill of people. But what is one supposed to think of the New Yorker when it cherry-picks cases such as this, and celebrates them precisely because they go against the grain of integration and assimilation? Seriously, what is the excusing factor here? I fail to see it.

More:

Indigo Van Eijck
Age: 11
From: The Netherlands
Lawful permanent resident

Indigo Van Eijck is in sixth grade. His family started commuting back and forth from Rotterdam when he was 5 for his father’s work in landscape architecture.

“I had to learn a whole new language,” he recalls. “You do learn English in the Netherlands, but only very little. You say things like, ‘Hi, how are you?’ but in a very Dutch accent.” The family became legal permanent residents in 2011 but still goes back to the Netherlands for a month every summer. “The people are different here,” Indigo says. “Nobody really cares if you go to the store in your pajamas in the morning. At home, most of the strangers you meet on the street are nicer ― probably because the population is so much smaller.” He misses his native cuisine when he’s here, and he made Indonesian dumplings (which are prevalent in Holland) for Thanksgiving. But the sushi in the Netherlands, he says, “is awful.”

So now we have the son of a clearly wealthy landscape architect and a lawful permanent resident. What place do these people have in an article purportedly about sanctuary cities? What do Indigo Van Eijck and his family need to take sanctuary from, precisely?

More:

Fayza Gareb
Age: 22
From: Syria
Refugee

Fayza Gareb’s family fled Syria for Turkey in 2013 when the Assad regime began bombing her family’s village near Aleppo.

“I worked as a waitress in Turkey,” she says. “The first time I heard a plane’s voice over the restaurant, I went under the table because I was scared it would drop bombs like in Syria.” Her father longed to make it to the United States but died of cancer before the family was admitted last August. Gareb and her mother, sister, and brother were among the 15,000 Syrian refugees President Obama pledged to accept in 2016.

And now we have refugees thrown into the mix! Refugees who have been lawfully admitted into the United States and who therefore are at no risk of deportation or particular persecution by federal authorities. Why does New York Magazine see fit to include these cases side-by-side with undocumented child migrants from Mexico, lawful permanent resident children of successful landscape architects and natural born citizens?

Then we have that rarest of cases, a South Korean undocumented SJW, banging on about her relative “privilege”:

Stephanie Ji Won Park
Age: 24
From: South Korea
Undocumented

Stephanie’s family came to New York in 1998 when she was five and overstayed their tourist visas.

She first became aware of being undocumented in middle school, at Horace Mann. “I was thinking about the high-school-senior Bahamas trip, and my mom was like, ‘Hopefully in a couple of years something will happen,’” she says. “Whenever I introduce myself as undocumented I do a whole spiel where I say I think I’m one of the most privileged undocumented people out there. “Like, ‘Oh, I found out because I couldn’t go on a senior trip to the Bahamas.’” As she started applying for colleges, the realities of her status became more clear; still she considers herself lucky. “If I were to be deported, I’d be deported back to South Korea. Yeah, that’ll be tough, but it’s not the same as going back to a country where the chances of being murdered are very high. Maybe it’s a state of denial, but I’m just trying to focus my energy on people that are in a worse position.”

The heart bleeds. Thank goodness there are sanctuary cities like New York which provide a safe space for South Korean tourist visa abusers and their families to skip the queue, spurn the lawful routes of entry into the United States and avoid being sent back to the terrible, dangerous and backward country of South Korea.

More:

Kathleen Bomani
Age: 31
From: Tanzania
Lawful Permanent Resident

Bomani’s Tanzanian parents met while studying at Howard University. Her sister was born here, then her parents moved back home and had her and her brother.

“We spent most of our summers here in the U.S. So then I came for college — at Drexel University in Philadelphia. I studied corporate communications,” she says. She came to New York to live permanently in 2009. “In New York, no one asks you where you’re from because you have an accent. Everyone’s from somewhere. It has a completely different feeling from the rest of the United States. The possibilities of what one can be — there’s just something in the air here.”

Quite why that atmosphere of possibility cannot be maintained while observing federal immigration law is never quite explained, either by Bomani herself or by New York Magazine, who casually use her life story as part of their insidious propaganda.

And finally:

Lourdes
Age: 47
From: Mexico
Undocumented

“I wish for her the same thing I wish for them, the best of life,” Lourdes, 47, says about her granddaughter Kamilla and her children, Ricardo Aca and Montserrat Aca, who are both Dreamers.

Lourdes crossed the border in 2004 and worked as a housekeeper and factory worker before sending for her children. “For me the most important thing is for them to study so that they have a better future, and hopefully stay in this country that we’ve learned to love. Because, in reality, we consider this country now like our country. There was a moment when I felt exasperated, that perhaps I had made a mistake in having brought them over,” says Lourdes. “But looking at it now, I feel like it was worth it. Everything that we went through was worth it.”

It is great that Lourdes and her family have “learned to love” America. Of the various kinds of illegal immigration this is the best kind – people who have or are assimilating, and feel gratitude toward their new host country. Perhaps this kind of illegal immigration is even the most typical, as leftist zealots loudly insist. Perhaps. And certainly we should have sympathy for people like Lourdes and her family – though they retain agency and responsibility for their actions, they were also victims of the strong “pull factor” of illegal immigration, the blind eye turned toward illegal immigration by American business and government.

Many such people are already now American in spirit, and there is nothing to be gained by deporting them. But neither is there anything to be gained from placing them on a pedestal and attempting to endow their actions with some kind of undeserved nobility. Immigration laws exist for a reason. And as with all laws, either support them or argue for their repeal, don’t equivocate while openly celebrating lawbreakers.

As one reads the New York Magazine piece, one is struck by the fact that the vast, vast majority (40 out of 44) of those profiled are either full citizens, lawful permanent residents or approved refugees, none of whom need the shelter of a so-called sanctuary city to live in the United States without fear of deportation. There is absolutely no good reason for these people to be included at all. But there is one very bad reason.

Because the goal here is not really to celebrate sanctuary cities specifically. Despite the title and preamble to the New York Magazine piece, this is nothing more than a convenient hook, a ruse. The real goal is nothing other than the perpetuation of this omnipresent, simplistic, holding-hands-beneath-a-rainbow leftist vision of a borderless world where more than sharing a common humanity (which of course we do), we also share the automatic right to live wherever we want in the world, regardless of whether we choose to move there legally or illegally.

It is part of an insidious attempt to undermine the idea of borders, of nationality, of the nation state itself, and to smear anybody who objects to this radical and untested vision as being a backward-looking reactionary at best and a dangerous racist at worst.

The only reason one might be motivated to publish an article praising sanctuary cities and then profiling the wealthy children of notable Dutch landscape architects is if one is actively pushing this absolutist open borders agenda, a worldview in which there is zero moral or bureaucratic distinction between somebody who obeys immigration law and somebody who proudly flouts those laws.

And if one takes this position, if one tacitly argues that current illegal immigrants living in America should all be praised and lauded and conferred with immediate citizenship, then surely the same goes for anybody around the world who wants to pick up and move to America tomorrow? And then you have no nation states anymore. And no America.

The people at New York Magazine are not stupid. Many of them are blessed with the ability to spin a fine turn of phrase and argue convincingly for the things in which they believe. So when can we stop fighting this tiresome shadow war and get down to the meat of the matter? When will they come out and honestly admit that they want to abolish America?

_

Postscript: If “abolish America” sounds harsh, what else should one call a suite of policies and actions which actively seek to reward lawbreaking and encourage vastly more illegal immigration while demanding absolutely nothing in return by way of bureaucratic compliance, respect for the law or intent to assimilate?

open-borders

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A Strong, Christian Case For The Nation State (And Against The European Union)

Justin Welby - John Sentamu - Archbishops - Church of England - EU Referendum - European Union - Brexit - Remain

Here is an intellectually robust, theologically rooted argument in support of the nation state and against the European Union. Why are Christian EU apologists unable to produce a similarly heavyweight case of their own, instead of relying on woolly platitudes about ‘togetherness’ and ‘co-operation’?

The Reimagining Europe blog has just published a serious intellectual (and even theological) but highly readable case for the continuance of the nation state, and criticism of those who suggest that the age of supranational government is either logical, inevitable or a goal to which Christians should aspire.

While I do not agree with every single nuance of the argument put forward by Nigel Biggar (Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Christ Church college, Oxford) the overall thrust of his argument is quite unimpeachable. It certainly is rooted in a far deeper reading of scripture and theological analysis than the glib statements of support for the European Union and Remain campaign from Archbishops John Sentamu and Justin Welby.

Biggar begins:

Thirty years ago I was told by a senior Anglican clergyman that the nation-state was passé. I can’t remember why he thought as he did, but I do remember that his conviction was a fashionable one. Quite why it was fashionable isn’t clear to me now. The mid-1980s were too early for globalisation’s transfer of power from national governments to free global markets and transnational corporations to have become evident. Perhaps it was the recent entry of an economically ailing and politically strife-torn Britain into the arms of the European Economic Community that made the nation-state’s days look so numbered. And, of course, the Cold War, which would not thaw until 1989, made international blocs look like a monolithic fact of global political life.

Finally, someone raises the historical context of Britain’s entry into the EEC in their Christian argument about the EU referendum. Good. Nothing can be understood without understanding the history and purpose of the European Union, but also the circumstances which led Britain to join in the first place. For if those circumstances (global obsolescence and lack of a “role”, economic decline, industrial strife, the very real risk of being ejected from what Michael Moore might call the “Premier League” of nations) are no longer present, why on earth would we now wish to stay, given all of the EU’s manifold flaws and failings?

Biggar goes on to discuss differing national attitudes toward being a quasi-autonomous member of a larger supranational grouping:

But there’s another, historically deeper reason. This was graphically impressed upon me during a visit to last year’s exhibition at the British Museum, “Germany: Memories of a Nation”. (I’d strongly recommend the book, by the way.) One of the exhibits was a map of north-western Europe in the mid-18th century, on which were superimposed the coinages current in Germany and Britain at the time. In Britain, there was one coin; in Germany, about sixty. Britain was a unitary state; Germany a territory with a common language, but comprising dozens of different kingdoms and principalities.

And here’s where being both German and Roman Catholic comes into play. For the dozens of mini-states in mid-18th century Germany were the vestiges of the multinational, Catholic, Holy Roman Empire, which the Protestant Reformation had helped to destroy. For Roman Catholics, especially on the European continent, and especially in Germany, the notion of a federation of states, sharing a broadly common culture and subject to a transcendent, quasi-imperial authority seems a perfectly natural condition.

Not so for the English, who have inhabited a nation-state whose basic structures span a thousand years, and whose history has taught them to fear the concentration of continental power. It’s no accident, therefore, that one can find in Anglican thought a marked tendency, from F. D Maurice in the mid-19th century to Oliver O’Donovan now, to affirm the existence of a plurality of independent nations, whose external relations are governed by international law rather than a supranational state.

Quite so. The lived experience of Britons, and our national history, is simply too different to reconcile with that of continental Europe under the umbrella of an overarching set of political institutions. In some areas of Europe, particularly the disputed regions which have changed back forth between countries over centuries (think Alsace-Lorraine), people have a history of maintaining a cohesive identity almost separate to whichever nation happened to claim their territory at the time. There is no similar history in Britain (though one could argue that the experience of the non-England home nations within the UK comes closest).

The upshot is that there is precious little in our folklore, literature, art or indeed politics which well equips us to carry on functioning happily no matter which foreign king makes the key decisions, or from which city they may do so. We are not built for supranational rule – despite ourselves having presided over an empire which did exactly that, we have not been on the receiving end in a thousand years.

Biggar then gets biblical, something which too few of the most prominent Christian apologists for the European Union have been willing to do:

Christians tend to view the nation-state and so the prospect of a European federation differently, according to whether they are Roman Catholic or Protestant, and according to their historical experience. All Christians, however, are accountable to the Bible. What does it have to say about these matters?

On the one hand, the New Testament makes quite clear that a Christian’s affection and loyalty have to go beyond the nation. They have to transcend it. Primarily, they have to attach themselves to God and to His coming Kingdom or rule. This we read in the third chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians, where St Paul, having identified himself strongly with the Jewish nation—“a Hebrew of the Hebrews”—then firmly subordinates his Jewish identity to his loyalty to God in Christ:

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…. [O]ur citizenship”, he tells the Christians at Philippi, “is in heaven” (vv. 7-9, 20).

Taken at face value, it would seem that Paul is saying that Christian identity must obliterate and completely replace national identity. But Paul, I think, is speaking hyperbolically here; he’s exaggerating. In fact, he never entirely repudiated his Jewish identity, but rather sought to understand how his new-found loyalty to God in Christ could actually fulfil his original national loyalty.

Biggar is right to suggest that St Paul’s injunction to completely erase national identity is a rhetorical exaggeration. And it is certainly the case that if British Christians were indeed called to renounce their Britishness, there is absolutely no reason why they should then take up a European identity – if any passing allegiance to country is wrong, then allegiance to a supranational body which is actively trying to become a country in its own right is just as wrong.

As Jesus Himself said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). While we are indeed all brothers and sisters in Christ, it is made very clear to us that our common citizenship is at an embryonic stage in this temporal world, represented by the global Church, and that the nation to which we shall all one day belong is not one of Earth.

Biggar goes on to concede the transitory nature of nation states:

Against such idolatrous nationalism, Christians must refuse the claim that nations have an eternal destiny, and that their survival is an absolute imperative. Nations are in fact contingent, evolving, and transitory phenomena. They come and they go. The United Kingdom did not exist before 1707 (and could have ceased to exist this year, had the Yes campaign won the Scottish independence referendum.) The United States could have ceased to exist in the early 1860s. Czechoslovakia did cease to exist in 1993.

So a Christian cannot be a Romantic nationalist, idolatrously attributing an absolute value to any nation. That’s one part of the truth.

With this important counterpoint:

But there is another part. This is alluded to by St Paul’s continuing identification with the Jewish people. And it’s made explicit in the Old Testament, where the prophet Jeremiah addresses the Jews, who had been carried off into exile in Babylonia, after the sacking of Jerusalem in the year 586BC. This is what he says:

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the welfare of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper (vv. 4-7).”

Though they are citizens of another country, though they are currently exiles in Babylon, the people of God should nevertheless “seek the welfare of the city”.

Why is this? The answer lies in our created nature as human beings. We are finite, not infinite; creatures, not gods. We come into being and grow up in a particular time, and if not in one particular place and community, then in a finite number of them. We are normally inducted into particular forms of social life by our family and by other institutions—schools, churches, clubs, workplaces, political parties, public assemblies, laws. These institutions and their customs mediate and embody a certain grasp of the several universal forms of human prosperity or flourishing—that is to say, the several basic human goods—that are given in and with the created nature of human being. It is natural, therefore, that we should feel special affection for, loyalty toward, and gratitude to those communities, customs, and institutions that have benefited us by inducting us into human goods; and, since beneficiaries ought to be grateful to benefactors, it is right that we should.

This is true – we do indeed feel special affection and loyalty toward communities, customs and institutions which give us utility. But we should be wary of where this particular strand of thought may lead us. For as we know, the European Union is particularly adept at “purchasing loyalty” by using funds raised from nation state taxpayers and sent to Brussels as EU membership fees to then bribe national citizens with their own money in the form of development spending or sponsorship of various arts and community projects.

Pete North warns about this very phenomenon with this brilliant observation:

The founding fathers were savvy in their design of le grande project. They always knew it could never be done all at once because the central vision would never secure a mandate. Integration by deception has always been the modus operandi. It salami slices powers little by little, so gradually that few ever notice. And you’d never see it unless you know what the game plan is. They were long term thinkers. They knew it would take a generation or so to advance their agenda and they had a roadmap to do it.

It has always used funding of local projects to manufacture consent. It’s why you’ll find EU logos emblazoned on any nature reserve or community hall or obscure museum out in the shires, to convince the plebs that their benevolent EU guardians cared more for them than the London government. It is why it funds universities too. Every strata of civil society has an injection of EU cash. Education, NGOs, you name it. And it works.

[..] The founding fathers always knew a day would come where the legitimacy of the EU would be questioned. And now you see how well their pernicious scheme worked, with the entirely of the civic establishment coming out in favour of remain. They have made idle supplicants of our institutions, robbing them of their vitality, curiosity and dynamism.

While Biggar is absolutely correct to make his point, defenders of the nation state must be careful that this is not then used as justification by EU apologists for the behaviour and existence of the EU – a kind of retroactive justification for unwanted supranational political union based on the wheedling claim that people like it when Brussels gives them back their own money.

Biggar’s conclusion is a resounding rejection of pessimism about the nation state and the ignorant embrace of the EU by many in leadership positions in the church, based only on the woolliest of Christian thinking (my emphasis in bold):

Of course, institutions at a national level are not the only ones that enable us to flourish as human beings, but they do remain among them; and they are still the most important. This is true, notwithstanding the easy illusion of global identity that today’s social media create. While international institutions such as the United Nations have developed since the Second World War, they haven’t replaced nation-states and don’t seem likely to do so any time soon. Indeed, the UN only has as much power as nation-states choose to give it. So the nation-state is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and it continues to have great power to shape the lives of individual human beings. Insofar as it has shaped our lives for the better, helping us to prosper, we owe it our gratitude and loyalty; insofar as it has mis-shaped our lives (or other people’s) for the worse, we owe it our commitment to reform. Either way, we owe it our attention and our care.

So, in sum, as I see it, the Bible teaches on the one hand that no nation-state deserves absolute loyalty. Every state is subject to the universal laws of God, of which it may fall foul and deserve criticism. On the other hand, Scripture implies that nation-states can, and should, and often do furnish the structures necessary for human flourishing. They cause us to prosper. Therefore, they deserve our loyal, if sometimes critical, care.

[..] In the age of global capitalism, they are less powerful than they used to be. And they have always been bound, more or less, to each other by need, by treaty, and by law. Nevertheless, nation-states remain the fundamental units in the international order, and the day when they will be superseded by a global state is nowhere in sight.

Nation-states are not in fact passé, and the Bible doesn’t tell us that they should be. What’s more, my German Catholic friend really shouldn’t argue for Britain’s remaining in the European Union on the ground that the age of the nation-state is over. Because, of course, a federal EU would be nothing other than a larger state, serving the newly self-conscious nation of Europeans, and able to hold its own against the United States on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other.

There may well be good reasons for Britain to remain in the E.U. But if that is so, the unchristian nature, or the obsolescence, of the nation-state is not one of them.

An intellectually rousing piece with a resoundingly clear conclusion – that the nation state, for all its flaws, has been the underwriter of our most fundamental freedoms and liberties for too long to carelessly cast it aside in the blinkered rush toward supranationalism.

Those with senior leadership positions within the church – I’m thinking here particularly of Archbishops John Sentamu and Justin Welby of the Church of England – are too intelligent not to know the history, purpose and inevitable future trajectory of the EU. Unlike the average man on the street, we need not extend to them the charitable assumption that they are simply ignorant on the matter – after all, our state church is about as deeply embedded in the British establishment as it is possible to be.

Therefore, when the likes of Justin Welby or John Sentamu argue that Britain should vote to remain in the EU in the coming referendum, they do so from a clear base of knowledge that this would mean our continued participation in a project whose ultimate direction has never wavered – the creation of a common European state. This means that they either want Britain to be part of this reckless European endeavour (though they are too dishonest to admit as much, perhaps believing it is their duty to mislead their congregations, who they consider too stupid to appreciate the necessity of political union), or they think that Britain can somehow flourish as a kind of “associate member” on the margins of an ever-tightening political union of the eurozone countries, in which our existing influence would be greatly diminished.

If it is the former, and the Archbishops are closet euro federalists who dare not declare their ultimate goal in public, then this is a truly reprehensible way for them to behave, advocating as they do a wishy-washy, hand-wringing argument for Remain based on economic fears rather than making their true political intentions clear. And if it is the latter, and they have convinced themselves that remaining on the margins of a steadily integrating European Union can do anything but marginalise us and diminish our presence on the world stage then their political judgement is bordering on the catastrophic – and only reinforces the case that the Church of England should be fully disestablished and severed from its anachronistic, unjustifiable constitutional role in the United Kingdom.

But here we have it – a muscular Christian case in support of the nation state, and implicitly against the European Union. Will we ever hear the equivalent pro-EU Christian case articulated so eloquently, or at such length? We have certainly seen nothing to date. In fact, the further up the church hierarchy the Christian EU apologists are found, the weaker and more insubstantial their arguments generally become.

I recently had an exchange on Twitter with Nick Baines, the Anglican Bishop of Leeds, in which I questioned his description of the Leave campaign as “insular” and asked when we might expect a substantive Christian case in favour of the EU:

Bishop Nick Baines - Sam Hooper - EU Referendum - Brexit - Christian case for EU

Bishop Baines promised just such an article, but none has yet been forthcoming. Indeed, a clear, unambiguous and unapologetic Christian case in favour of the European Union and a Remain vote in the EU referendum can scarcely be heard, despite the weight of establishment Christianity coming down on the side of remaining in the EU.

This is untenable. If the bishops are to retain any kind of temporal authority – at least in my eyes – it is not enough to make wishy-washy statements vaguely supportive of the Remain campaign without any intellectual or theological legwork to back them up. This reeks of confirmation bias – of bishops, comfortably ensconced in the establishment, making up their minds that the EU is a good thing in advance, and then cherry picking facts to support their existing viewpoint.

A common Christian complaint is that our religion is being increasingly forced from the public square in this new secular age. And it is partly true – freedom of speech and religious expression are sometimes outrageously curtailed in this country. But participation in the public square comes with a price: if one wants to be heard and taken seriously, one must say sensible things and be prepared to back them up with a solid argument.

At present, too many bishops of the church are willing to sell out the public square and everything else in this country to Brussels, and do so without offering a sound argument for remaining in the European Union based on our knowledge of the nature, purpose and direction of the EU. The bishops believe that a sprinkling of glib words about “togetherness” and “co-operation”, mixed with some hand-wringing concerns about the short term economic impact of Brexit taken straight from the Remain camp’s playbook, amount to a sufficient case. But they do not.

Ideally, the bishops should come down unanimously on the right side of this issue. But since that is not going to happen, they should at least participate in the debate with a shred of honour. And if they arrogantly proceed with their current approach, preaching the Remain argument on the flimsiest of pretexts, then they should not be surprised if they cause the gates to the public square to be permanently locked to Christians.

And what a dismal legacy that will be.

 

Postscript: More on the Christian case for Brexit hereherehere and here.

 

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Top Image: New Statesman

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The Daily Toast: Weaken The Nation State, Breed More Extremism

Brussels Lockdown - EU Building 2

When there is no healthy sense of national identity or commonly valued institutions, people inevitably start looking for different groups or subcultures to belong to. We should not be surprised that some turn to radical Islam

Why is one neighbourhood in Brussels rapidly becoming Europe’s chief exporter of homegrown terrorists, the Silicon Valley of Islamist extremism?

Daniel Hannan gives the most convincing answer by admitting something that many others have been furiously ignoring – that Belgium is essentially a “failed state”. It may be an advanced economy and home to the EU bureaucracy, but there is no real sense of national unity for first or second generation immigrants to embrace. And this lack of shared identity provides the fertile ground where extremism inevitably grows.

Hannan writes:

When Americans are afflicted by terrorism, they fly their flag. When Paris was violated, it turned red, white and blue. But in Belgium, you rarely see the national tricolor except on a state building.

Perhaps there is a connection between this lack of national feeling and the readiness with which several second-generation Belgians turn against their adopted country. Many Western European states have disaffected immigrant populations, but none has sent such a high proportion of its nationals to Syria. Molenbeek, the dreary quartier where most of the Paris murderers were raised, is Europe’s jihadi capital.

All human beings crave a sense of belonging. When they get no such sense from their nation, they cast around for more assertive identities. And what could be more assertive, more self-confident, than the monstrous cult of Islamic State?

And goes on to explain why this is a particular problem in Belgium:

The problem is especially severe in Belgium because Belgium is, so to speak, a mini-EU, a multi-national state whose political system is held together largely by public spending. There is no Belgian language, no Belgian culture, no Belgian history. The country is divided between a Dutch-speaking north, containing some 60 per cent of the population, and a French-speaking south. The two communities read separate newspapers, watch separate TV, vote for separate parties. To adapt René Magritte, one of those elusive famous Belgians, ceci n’est pas un pays.

[..] Unsurprisingly, the two communities have turned in on themselves. But where does this leave, say, a Moroccan-origin boy in Molenbeek? What is there for him to be part of? Neither Flemish nor Walloon, his every interaction with the Belgian state will have taught him to despise it. If he got any history at all in school, it will have been presented to him as a hateful chronicle of racism and exploitation. Is it any wonder that he is in the market for something stronger, more assertive?

The frightening thing here is that as goes Belgium, so will go the rest of Europe – at least if the master planners of European unity have their way. They have long regarded the nation state and patriotism as something gauche and vaguely embarrassing, and longed for the time when national identities and borders ceased to matter. Belgium’s unique circumstances mean that they are slightly further along the road to oblivion than the rest of us, having not had a very solid or cohesive identity even before the European Union project landed in their laps. But the same forces are at work in France and Germany and Sweden and Britain, too.

If there is no sense of common identity and purpose in a country, soon it will begin to fracture into an angry group of competing special interests and subcultures, each jostling for favour and becoming increasingly hostile to one another. Only last year, we saw how decades of failing to inculcate a sense of Britishness nearly led to Scotland voting to leave the union. And those kind of consequences are the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario – if we do not get serious about promoting and celebrating our values – is that we see more and more Paris style attacks, committed by people who went to school with us and who carry the same passports as us, but feel absolutely no connection or affinity with us.

We fail to promote and defend British, Western and enlightenment ideas at our peril.

Brussels Lockdown - EU Building

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