Each passing day Westerners are confronted with yet more evidence that their world is one of constant discord and disconnect. Foreign concepts have infiltrated their lands like invasive weeds, threatening to make their way of life redundant in the best case, extinct in the worst. The philosophical teachings of long-gone European thinkers may just be their last hope.
In search of some reading material to make it through a torrential weekend, I chanced upon a book in my humble collection entitled, ‘Conversations with Isaiah Berlin.’ Since, like many people, I have been pondering the fate of Western civilization as it passes through a period of tumultuous social and political upheaval, the words on the page I had randomly opened to almost knocked me clean out of my chair.
“Solitude doesn’t mean that you live far from other people. It means that people don’t understand what you are saying.”
Eureka! The dilemma of enforced multiculturalism summed up in two sentences.
Berlin was quoting a friend, a native of the Balkans, who had sought refuge in the United Kingdom some forty years earlier. Although the émigré spoke perfect English, it was not nearly enough to fully assimilate into his new culture. There were simply too many other layers of separation that prevented him from being understood on the most fundamental level by his gracious hosts. It wasn’t his fault, or his host’s; it’s just the way it is.
The quote succinctly describes the quandary facing Western man as he is expected to absorb – with absolutely no say in the matter – millions of people from faraway lands with very distinct and different backgrounds. Although it has become politically impolite to even raise the question, can people with dramatically different religions, cultures, manners and language find any real sense of ‘home’ amongst those who could be considered ‘blood strangers’?
The conversation in the book turned to the German philosopher, Johann Gottfried Herder (1704-1803), who is said to have anticipated later luminaries, including Fichte, Hegel, Otto von Bismarck and many others. So what could a man who lived over 200 years ago possibly teach modern men in these turbulent times? As it turns out quite a lot.
Herder was one of the first thinkers to acknowledge that belonging to a community or tribe is a basic human requirement, just as vital as eating, drinking and shelter. And as it turns out, full membership in the tribe has its privileges.
As Berlin explained, “For [Herder] ‘to belong’ means that people understand what you say without your having to embark on explanations, that your gestures, words, all that enters into communication, is grasped, without mediation by the members of your society.”
Having lived in Moscow for many years, I quickly recognized this ‘gift’ among the Russian people. The society is homogenized to such a high degree through many factors, including literature, history, customs and traditions that total strangers are able to freely strike up conversation with each other as though they have been friends since childhood. And in some ways they are. Dialogue is filled with references to national literature, history and quite a few salty anecdotes that require no explaining (or apologies). At the same time, expressions, mannerisms and idioms are all part and parcel of the ‘Russian experience.’ The stultifying effect of political correctness is unheard of; the Russians poke fun of themselves – and others – with a healthy abandon. This high degree of comprehension and cohesion between people of a similar background – whether they are citizens of Russia, China, Israel or Mexico – allows for the smooth functioning of society where communication between the people flows naturally and easily.
If he were alive today, Herder would certainly have some choice words for countries like the UK, Germany, Sweden and France over their ‘open society’ philosophy, first popularized by Karl Popper and put into action by the financier George Soros, but not out of any innate nationalism or xenophobia (in fact, Herder condemned nationalists of all colors), but because such a program would destroy the vital “group electricity” of the community that is required for a nation to remain a viable force. Berlin used the example of a native of a Portuguese attempting to live like a German.
“The way in which Portugese eat, drink, walk, speak…and their laws, their religion, their language, all that we call typically Portugese, possess a certain pattern, a ‘Portugeseness’, which does not fit corresponding German behavior. It may be that the Portugese conception of law or history, and the German conception of these things may resemble each other, but they belong to basically different patterns of living.”
Try and imagine Berlin and Herder expressing similar thoughts in these days of political correctness gone mad. Yet what they are saying is nothing more radical than the most basic common sense and easily proven by anyone who has done any amount of traveling around the Continent. If Europeans living just a few hundred miles from each other have trouble relating to the customs and traditions, not to mention the language, of their closest neighbors, then how can we reasonably expect a massive influx of (illegal) migrants from South America and the Middle East to enter the US and EU without any serious issues? The short answer is that we cannot. Tourism is one thing; mass illegal migration another.
It needs emphasized that what Herder and Berlin were discussing was not ‘racism’ in the sense of xenophobia, which only really exists inside of the most backward, primitive minds. In fact, in the majority of cosmopolitan centers (where multiculturalism is a natural, unforced, and gradually evolving phenomenon) it is a minor phenomenon. In Moscow, for example, thousands of foreigners visit the Russian capital every day without incident. During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, meanwhile, millions of fans from around the world ascended upon Russia, which successfully hosted 64 matches in eleven Russian cities.
Few foreigners are truly afraid of each other except in times of war; most people are open-minded and eagerly embrace the opportunity to meet people from distant and diverse cultures. What people truly are afraid of, however, is being forced into a situation when they must accept – literally overnight and without any democratic voice in the matter – an invasion of illegals who share none of their own values, customs and traditions. To admit as much is not xenophobic, although those who have their own ulterior motives for advancing such a disastrous program will scream racism from every media outlet.
What the philosophers of old understood is that native cultures will quickly grind to a shuddering halt once the people become strangers to one another. In much of the Western world it is now considered tantamount to racism to even acknowledge differences between people, and even sexes. In order to survive the tumult of the present insanity, the people of the Western world need to consult their age-old philosophers – Johann Gottfried Herder for starters – who were neither racist nor nationalist, but simply open-minded as to what a real community means and what it can sustain.