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The conceit that we can “define and express” our own identity is perhaps the cruellest hoax ever perpetrated on civilised peoples. We are neither clever enough nor strong enough to do so; to the extent that we succeed in such an endeavour, we make ourselves into monsters. There is a better word for postmodern identity, and that is anomie. Cut off from its past, the postmodern West has no vision of its future, and its most characteristic response is to fail to bring children into the world, thus ensuring that it will have no future of any kind.

The New Nationalism proposes instead to return to the well of our national culture. But what is this? T.S. Eliot’s formulation seems quaint today: “[T]he term culture . . . includes all the characteristic activities and interests of a people: Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes, the 12th of August, a cup final, the dog races, the pin table, the dart board, Wensleydale cheese, boiled cabbage cut into sections, beetroot in vinegar, 19th century Gothic churches, and the music of Elgar.” The enumeration of “characteristic activities and interests” hardly seems adequate. The Brexit vote did not coincide with a renewed fancy for grouse shooting. We must isolate what is sacred in our culture from the merely contingent. In the contemporary United Kingdom this may seem an odd endeavour, given that a majority (53 per cent) of all Britons and nearly three-quarters of young people declared themselves to be non-religious in the 2017 Social Attitudes Survey. But the sacred does not necessarily manifest itself in organised religion. One gauge of British identity is stronger than ever. Three-quarters of Britons believe that the monarchy has an important role to play in Britain’s future, compared to only two-thirds shortly after the death of Princess Diana.

Democracy without an overarching sense of the sacred would be a nightmare. The American Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod wrote in 2010:

To discuss theological criteria for the constitution of a secular republic runs against the grain of modern political thought, even though constitutional restrictions on popular sovereignty imply reliance on an authority that is greater than human. In a republic the people are sovereign, yet the purpose of a constitution is precisely to restrict the power of any future majority . . . The only basis for a polity to accept severe restrictions on popular majority rule is the conviction that the founding constitution derives its power from a higher form of sovereignty than the voters in any given legislative session. Without such a theological foundation, a republic cannot feel bound by the rules laid down by its founders. A purely secular republic would self-destruct because it could not protect its constitution from constant amendment.
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Pan Cogito
December 10th, 2017
4:12 AM
@Alan Vainman Do not dispense the f-word before trying the perfect fit it makes for you. You no more understand Trump than you do, it appears, the greater mysteries of life. God--and you may translate it as "the Energy of the Universe," the Great Wheel of Karma or whatever--often chooses a broken vessel to carry the most precious nectar. Maybe Spengler would consent to write an essay titled "The music and the men," illuminating for fool vainmen what shits the vessels we know as Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner and Chopin were and why their music attained the highest degree of luminosity.

Surak
December 5th, 2017
10:12 PM
Anonymous: America is indeed experiencing a wave of fascism, but it is not at the hands of the nationalists. It is at the hands of ANTIFA, BLM, and university students, faculty, and staff beating to a pulp, or attempting to murder, those people who believe that nations are allowed to have borders. What name would you apply to the belief system that commanded the decapitation of a British policeman, and the systematic rape of a continent's women? AnonymousHegelman: Most of the world's sacred systems prohibit murder. Only one religion's scripture commands the murder of all non-believers.

Rick Groves
December 5th, 2017
3:12 PM
In America, enlightenment values used to be held sacred. This was the key differentiating point about America. It was not based on arbitrary lines on a map nor wrongly held ideas about the superiority of one's own tribe. It was an idea of a polity held together by the commitment to liberty and justice. Cultural practices evolve by their nature. That's what they are and what they do. Holding cultures sacred is misguided and destined to create conflict as that inevitable evolution pushes forward. The path forward is not through embracing the arbitrary and superficial and trying to entrench and protect it. It is finding core, deep values that benefit all peoples and following those ideas where they lead us.

AnonymousHegelman
December 5th, 2017
9:12 AM
When people talk of the sacred, they usually mean murder. All of us have a sense of the sacred. We just differ as to what precisely.

Anonymous
December 5th, 2017
4:12 AM
there is no such thing as a new nationalism, as there is no such thing as an illiberal democracy. There is a good, old fascism.

Matt
December 4th, 2017
9:12 PM
Anglo-American identity is built on the individualism of Appalachia and the pragmatism of Colonial Virginia as much as the Utopianism of the Puritans.

Warren Bonesteel
December 4th, 2017
4:12 PM
A great start...but... imposing your own belief system upon a movement comprised of several billion people, from a wide variety of ancient and modern cultures and sub-cultures, who hold a wide variety of religious and spiritual beliefs? That supposition is unfounded. Instead of religion, try 'freedom' and 'personal liberty'. I think you'll find a better fit, with that premise.

Marvin J. Greenberg
December 4th, 2017
8:12 AM
I greatly appreciate the way Goldman takes the usually superficial level of political discussion to a much deeper level, as he does in this essay emphasizing the vital importance of the sacred.

Surak
December 4th, 2017
2:12 AM
Alan Vanneman, America will not go gently into that bad night of sharia. Enjoy Europe, while its women are not yet required to wear burqas!

Alan Vanneman
December 1st, 2017
3:12 PM
"occasionally vulgar"? Don't you mean "constantly vulgar and utterly meretricious"? What fools these mortals be.

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