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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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pbasch
February 1st, 2018
1:02 PM
Matt, your comment on what Anglo-American identity is built on neglects so many things, two of which immediately spring to my mind: the pragmatic tolerance of the New Amsterdam Dutch, and the vicious racism of the Deep South slave lords. The Appalachians were indeed individualistic, but easily swayed by Southern racism. The bandying about of the word "liberty", meaning the right to oppress others, has always been persuasive to whites who feel powerless.

amcdonald
January 5th, 2018
3:01 PM
Vast emptiness, nothing holy ( Lao Tzu). The universe/Nature is inhumane. Scientists say humanity has peaked. Tory membership has shrunk to 70,000. What`s public sacred in the UK is Brexit and voting Labour.

Arnold Ward
January 3rd, 2018
9:01 AM
This appeal to romantic sentiment aka The Bible opens a pandoras box of confused irrationality. A better approach is principle based, i.e how can we create the conditions whereby all the individuals in a society are best able to achieve their full potential? Markets tempered by democracy are the tried and tested route and national sovereignty is the most reliable basis for democracy. There is no "New Nationalism". Belief without evidence is delusion.

Lawrence James
December 26th, 2017
12:12 PM
What makes me suspicious of the promotion of the 'sacred' as an antidote for contemporary woes are its historic stage props: priestcraft, intolerance, fairy stories and the coercion of the sceptical.

Anonymous
December 22nd, 2017
3:12 PM
It was inevitable that the fall of Western Civilization would occur as history attests to the objective truth that man, severed from God and thus relieving himself from his obligation to worship and serve God, simply acts according to his lower, animalistic nature. Human nature does not and will not change although man, playing God, has always believed he can construct all of creation, including and especially, humanity to his own liking. 21st century man has come to the point where he no longer has even a natural survival instinct as he has placed all his faith and trust in both himself and in science to create this idealistic but fruitless life and future as the "new man", created by him and for him. God has other ideas and since He is Creator and ruler over Heaven and earth, man's designs for himself will always be thwarted and his self-destruction inevitable.

Andrew Hamilton
December 19th, 2017
6:12 PM
Spengler gives true intellectual depth and seriousness to the existential issues facing the West. Weaving threads of great philosophers with current trends, he gets to the nub of the catastrophe and provides a way forward.

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.

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