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I am taken aback by the number of people – Americans – who want to impose a European homogeneity on the country. These people insist that North America is a “white” country despite the fact that Native Americans (non-white) came here before Columbus got lost in this end of the ocean. The yearning for a racially homogeneous America is a strange and malignant sentiment. This country was built upon rational ideals, Enlightenment ideals. This country is supposed to embody a secular, constitutional liberalism. Despite this, paleoconservatives pine for an aristocracy, preferably with themselves at the peak of the social pyramid.
I have just been reading E. Hobsbawn’s Age of Extremes, in particular the chapter about the rise of the fascists. Many fascists came from the middle and lower strata of society, fearful of their decline in status and the unavailability of a future more exciting and glorious than that which was promised to them for their participation in the “Great War”. In many ways, this is a parallel of the current situation, where we have a white working class resentful of the legal and social advancement of racial minorities, thinking that these were made at their expense.
Globalisation, while it made the world wealthier, made a lot of people better off and helped end so much hunger and suffering, affected the white working class unfavorably. Now they want their high-paying, low-skilled jobs back. But this is an egotistical request. Globalization benefits a lot more people than it injures – it benefits more Americans than it injures. It has made goods cheaper and raised our standard of living. Remember that the biggest problem in America regarding nutrition is obesity not starvation. We live in a world of plenty unrivaled in human history – and globalization made it possible.
Besides, the industrialized nations are now home to the highly technical service occupations. As of yet, these people cannot be replaced by machines. The white working class however refuse to acknowledge this state of affairs. Instead of adapting to the times, they want the entire globe retrofitted for their own narrow benefit.
One the reasons the white working class lashed out against Clinton was due to her insensitivity to working class issues. In particular she said that she wants to eliminate the coal industry. This incidentally is what all reasonable people want. There simply isn’t a future for coal. But yet again, we have a working class which insists on shutting its eyes and ears to the truth.
The future lies with natural gas, nuclear power, geothermal power, and a great many other alternative sources of energy. All these things are available to the most technologically and industrially advanced nation in the world. Coal in addition to destroying our environmental capital (the only other American heritage besides the Constitution) is a finite resource and will run out eventually. It is also a highly inefficient source of power. The technology involved in extracting energy from coal has not changed much from the early 20th century. The most innovative thing that has happened to coal power since then has been its scale-up.
To further compound the decline in income and the dying prospects of the white working class is the nation’s hostility to a competent education system. How could the lower and middle strata of society be trained to adapt to the modern world if the education system is outmoded and in shambles. How can the very people who have the most to gain from a decent education be the most hostile to its reform and modernisation? They see it as an ideological issue, as a battle between the spectre of the federal government and the phantasm of states’ rights, not as an issue which is of critical and immediate importance to their lives.
What is westernisation? Who are the Westerners? I consider myself Western, immersed in the western canon, brought up in the Western tradition, with Western conceptions of rights and liberties. I have however come across a traditionalist conservative essayist, Lawrence Auster, now dead, who claimed that ‘whiteness’ is a quality inherent in the idea of being Western. But before I get into the main topic, please allow me to make a few digressions (after all this is only a sort of diary).
Lawrence Auster was born Jewish and later converted to Episcopalianism and finally, on his deathbed, to Catholicism. I think he converted to Christianity for the role it played in the development and transmission of Western tradition; and that he converted to Episcopalianism in particular because of its Anglo-Saxon origin (the more one reads Auster, the more obvious his anglophilia becomes). According to Wikipedia, Auster was critical of the Episcopalian church in its modern state, claiming that it has ceased to be a Christian church by allowing the ordination of openly homosexual priests. So it seems to me that he donned the Episcopalian garb to embellish himself with Anglo-Saxon aspects; and when death approached, he welcomed the embraces of, according to his standards, an actual Christian church, which did not at the time permit the ordination of confirmed homosexuals and women. What does this day about the man? That he is very conservative is clear. But of course I point to his rejection of Judaism. I must also add that he has expressed a wish to remove political franchise from unmarried men, a category to which he belongs. I will take the liberty to speculate as to what his motives are for what looks like self-rejection. My speculations however will remain speculations and only that; but I remain firm in my determination to have a bit of fun.
It looks like Auster was enamoured by Western tradition, and associated it with its principal originators – white, Christian males. Western civilisation was somehow at its best under the exclusive direction of white, Christian male – of property, and therefore can only survive under the exclusive direction of white, Christian males – of property. He would like to turn society back to the time of the Founding Fathers, or the Rennaissance, or the 19th century – at any rate to a European society where women, non-whites and non-Christians (including Auster’s Jewish progenitors) were fundamentally second-class citizens or worse. That these formerly marginalised peoples have found a place in the helm of the Western world seems so much to Auster like the erosion of Western civilisation. These peoples’ continued efforts to gain equal rights and an equal place in society is somehow equivalent to moral decay. The question I keep asking as I read Auster is Why does he assume that Western civilisation is synonymous with the interests of white, Christian males, specifically, the ones who owned property?
Now I come full circle, back to my original inquiry. What does it mean to be westernised? And who is eligible to be called a Westerner? Cannot Western ideas evolve over time, adapt to new conditions? For in fact what we refer to as the Western world is not some homogeneous entity; it is composed of a multitude of nations with diverse traditions and variegated political systems. The natural question to ask is, of course, What unites them? For one thing, superficially or not, the Western world is composed primarily of people of European extraction – but it would be preposterous to conclude from this that whiteness is the defining criterion for being westernised. I rather doubt that an Indian, familiar with the Western canon and educated in the Western tradition, would be less westernised than an ignorant mountain man from Appalachia. For if race is the defining component of being Western, the Western world would become extinct: because , like it or not, our advances in technology and transportation and the diminishing influence of religious and social prejudice has made interracial marriages more likely and acceptable. And I do not find any fault with this. If once, long ago, the human species diverted paths and became physically distinct from each other, what really is so objectionable to having the resultant races merge into each other in the future? I see this merely as some sort of natural fluctuation. Thus I conclude that the importance of whiteness in the Western tradition is based on its historical contributions. To me it seems that the Western quality is something more rooted in principles and ideas, beginning with democracy in Athens: the belief that citizens should have a say in how they are to be governed. The Western tradition, in my opinion, lies not in the particularities of of race but in the worldview it imposes – the worldview of a freeman
Anyone with a coherent sense of morality should despise Walter White. But I suppose it is too late to harp on this subject, seeing that the series ended weeks ago, and that I have only watched about two seasons besides. I dispute the assertion that Walter White is morally ambiguous, that he operates in a ‘grey area’. From the episodes I have watched, every time White’s morality is tested, he invariably chooses the path that will satiate his greed and soothe his ego. To prove my point, let us take a man with a functioning set of moral antennae. Let us give him lung cancer, precarious financial circumstances and an unrewarding job. Let us say that one of his life’s missions is to provide for his family – and so on, etc. Now, after learning he has lung cancer, this man has a decision to make: either he could swallow his ego and accept the aid of his enviably successful colleague, or he could take a risk and manufacture drugs and expose his family to the dangers of the underworld and moreoever harm, possibly kill other people in the process. No moral man would take the latter decision. Walter White was evil from the very start. In fact a very mild description of him would be ‘enormous idiot’. But I maintain that he is evil and immoral because it would take persistence and the consistent application of intelligence to cook meth, peddle the stuff and elude the authorities.
The innate evil which Walter White harbours surpasses that of average. Because of his abnormal greed he treats Jesse Pinkman badly (again putting it mildly). Let us take a look at their relationship. Walt is a much older man, dying of lung cancer. But he has no qualms about sending a younger man – someone who would not yet fully qualify for an adult – to situations where he would sink ever deeper in blood. Walt pushes Jesse to intimidate and murder and to break more laws than Jesse would ever dream of doing. And when Jesse returns from his morally reprehensible and/or perilous excursions – typically undertaken with great reluctance – Walt never gives Jesse due credit and fails to see (wilfully ignores?) the terrible experiences Pinkman goes through on his account. In fact, White only keeps pushing Jesse to do even more reprehensible things. At the same time, Walt is always reluctant to give Jesse Jesse’s share of the loot. When it comes to murder, Jesse is certain it should not be done, while Walt is more inclined to the lawless practice and would have murdered even more people had not Jesse been so adamantly opposed to it. Just look at Walts reaction to Saul’s suggestion that the easiest way to handle the Badger situation is to have Badger bumped off: Walt was willing to do it. And when Walt murdered Jane and Jesse returned from rehab convinced he, Jesse Pinkman, was the bad guy, Walt did nothing to ‘save the boy’s soul’ – a shorthand way for saying that ‘Walt should have admitted to the murder to prevent Jesse from being so consumed with guilt that he gives up all attempts for reform and all hope of being good’. Walt chose not to admit to the murder because (a) doing so would have resulted in Jesse’s quitting from the partnership and (b) it is convenient for Walt to have Jesse in this hopeless state since Jesse would be less reluctant to do Walt’s bidding because, hey, he Jesse Pinkman already is the ‘bad guy’ so all sorts of criminality would be just in his line. Jesse may have started out as a pathetic hoodlum, and Walt a respectable teacher and family man, but it is clear which of the two is morally bankrupt. No amount of footage of Walt smiling over his baby would ever change my opinion of him – that he is the lowest form of scum. His intelligent evil guarantees him a place in Dante’s eighth circle of hell. And unlike other exemplars of intelligent evil, like Joseph Conrad’s ‘plain Mr Jones’ and the even more familiar Frank Underwood, Walt does not even have the decency to admit the truth about himself. There is nothing left for him but contempt.