In relation to my last argument on the subject, I think it is appropriate to consider some further implications deriving from the sacrifice made by many Europeans of an ethnic identity, which they have been forced to do in order to create a more inclusive civic national identity.
In terms of the history of ideas, it is clear that the imperative to exclude their and their children’s’ claim to their own ethnic identities derives from a rather distinctively European notion that ones’ ancestral history, as is sometimes denoted by phenotypical characteristics, should be considered irrelevant as an aspect of ones’ identity. This curious European trend assigns a moral imperative to the notion that the land of ones’ birth, or the culture to which one is mainly exposed, should be the exclusive marker of what “clan” or “tribe” (nationality) one belongs to. This is connected to the larger, and again mostly European, notion that a common connection to the “human” group means that, being of a common “human” tribe in genetic terms, there are no other legitimate distinctions to draw between groups of people in ancestral terms. The notion driving this rather unprecedented and unique project is the fervent belief that anything else is a dangerous, regressive, and imagined falsehood which appeals to a baser human instinct that is inclined to divide individuals and lead to conflict.
It is vitally important for Western Europeans to know that this is a particular way of seeing the world and not a universal norm, even if one believes it to be a universal truth. Instead, the individualist approach derives from Western Europe’s own ethno-cultural tradition. There is no reason to believe that liberal, individualist, or libertarian ideals regarding the primacy of individual humans, and the utter irrelevance of ones’ ethnic history, will find a significant foothold in any other parts of the world which lack the cultural lexicon that gives these apparently self-evident ideals any meaning. There is also, as of yet, little reason to believe that this refusal to recognize ethnic history, ascribe any meaning to it, or organize around it, will even take hold among the non-European populations that could plausibly outnumber Europeans on their home continent.
In this respect, regardless of whether or not race or ethnicity “exist”, in the sense that these categories refer to a genuine joint in the interconnected continuity of nature, that discussion belongs in the philosophical debates concerning scientific realism. To quickly digress into this philosophical scientific issue, if race is not “real” in brute ontological terms, then similar arguments could delegitimize everything from the “canine” category, to the species categories in biology, to in fact all categorizations in science. However, the point that Western liberals and libertarians need to understand is that, regardless of the ontological status of “race” or “ethnicity”, when enough people imagine such things into existence they have very real consequences. These consequences are not removed if one small and shrinking group of people decide to deny that such things exist, since they will still be imagined by the vast majority of humanity, and thus have consequence, for all humans, including those who stubbornly deny their own collective existence in the terms that govern how the ever more powerful human majority interacts between its subgroups.
Because humans have causal relationships with each other, if most of humanity still considers ethnicity, ancestry, phenotype, or “race” as relevant categories around which to organize, then being the minority that does not believe as such will result in nothing more than you and your children being at a disadvantage when it comes to organizing a community, deriving meaning from a common history, or using a collective group to protect the wellbeing of the individuals therein. Insisting on oneself being nothing more than an individual, and pursuing your wellbeing as an individual among groups doing the same thing collectively on behalf of their individual members, puts the individual at a massive disadvantage. That being said, let us consider what it might take for the increasingly parochial project of creating a-racial, a-ethnic, civic European national identities to succeed.
If a truly civic nationhood in a once homogenous state were possible, what would it take?
(The points I am about to make are easiest to understand if one maintains an awareness that:
- With the schizophrenic integration philosophy of Europe, most non-European members of European nations continue to retain an ethnic identity, should they or their children choose to identify and organize around it
- They do so while partaking in the national identity shared with indigenous Europeans, which indigenous Europeans had to sacrifice their ethnic identity to create.)
Firstly, it is necessary for those people whose ancestry derives from Asia or Africa, who want to be “Swedish” or “Dutch”, to understand that their integration into these civic identities must come at a cost to themselves. That is because it has already come at a huge cost to the indigenous population. By creating a civic category of “Swedish” or “Dutch” that can potentially be filled by anyone with any ancestral history, Europeans have imploded their ethnic “Swedish” and “Dutch” ethnicities in the process. To be “Swedish” or “Dutch” can then no longer define their history, their ancestry, or their culture.
The “Dutch” or “Swedish” ancestry, history and related culture no longer define their identity, as they have stripped these categories of all ethnic meaning to accommodate newcomers. They have not merely let you become a part of their nation-state but they have let you become a part of their tribe, since their tribe was co-extensive with their nation-state before non-Europeans came in any relevant numbers (Eg. Sweden is the land of Swedes), and without that tribal identity, they do not have any. This process is less like the United States letting newcomers join their state, which is comprised of many ethnicities, and far more like the Zulu’s all the Igbo allowing millions of White Europeans become as “Zulu” or “Igbo” as they are, and changing the meanings of those categories to incorporate the European phenotype, European history, and European cultures.
By incorporating you into their citizenry, and by you becoming equally “Dutch” or “Swedish”, the indigenous Dutchmen and Swedes have destroyed any exclusive identity they may otherwise derived from the indigenous European ethnic group that they derived from, which existed long before your ancestors arrived.
With respect to the small numbers of Europeans who became “Dutch” or “Swedish”, they completely forgot their other ethnic category when they called themselves “Dutch”. Those who did not merely remained “French” or “Germans” who live in the Netherlands, but recognized that they were guests and never made any demands of the indigenous population to expand their ethnic identity to accommodate them. This particular, and less destructive, kind of ethnic minority phenomenon is still evident in minority European populations that retain their ethnic groups over many generations while living in states whose membership is defined by another ethnic group.
The distinction in European history between the small numbers of European immigrants who either: integrated into their host nation, or retained their ethnic identity while making no demands to be ethnically incorporated into the host nation, exists because of the violence that would otherwise have ensued. Up until European populations were forced by their own states (who have a monopoly on violence) to become the first of generation of their respective ethnic groups to completely forgo any meaningful attachment to their ancestral history, ethnic identities were only removed or changed beyond recognition through force. Whether by invasion and incorporation into a larger geo-political entity, or by the occasional extermination, forcing an existing ethno-national group to reject or fundamentally redefine their identities was invariably an act of violence, and mostly of the physical variety. To move, in unparalled numbers, into another ethnic groups territory, demanding that they forgo their exclusive connection to their ancestral history to accommodate you, while continuing to retain your own ethnic history, is an unprecedented hypocrisy, whose potentially violent ramifications are yet to be entirely understood.
Consequently, in most European countries, and in some Asian countries like Korea, civic nationhood needs to be all or nothing for all parties involved. Race/ethnicity must become 100 percent a non-issue. You cannot as a black Dutch person kick up a fuss that there are is no “Black history” in the Dutch curriculum, because they teach Dutch history of which you are now 100 percent a part. The fact that all Dutch people before your parents’ or grand-parents’ generation looked different must be a non-issue. There can be no howls about “white privilege”, because there is no “white” category in the Netherlands, there are only Dutch people, which includes you. You do not get “minority rights”, because you are not a minority. You are Dutch, which makes you in the majority. This has to be the case, because otherwise those who you consider to be the “majority” “white” people, imploded their one and only ethnic identity category, “Dutch”, to accommodate you. This means they no longer have any exclusive identity deriving from their ethnic history. Thus, you don’t get to keep yours as well as being Dutch. Otherwise, you get two ethnic identities and they get none, because they have accommodated you. Such an absurd hypocrisy is unlikely to end well for anyone involved.
If a newcomer is nationally “Dutch” but ethnically “Nigerian” then is someone whose family has always been there nationally “Dutch” and ethnically “Dutch”. That would make little sense in a civic identity situation, since to be “Dutch” refers to a single identity. Unless it is made explicit that there is an ethnic “Dutch” category that is somehow more “Dutch” than others who hold a “Dutch” passport, then you are either in, or your are out. Anything short of that leads to a growing privileged class who gets to keep an ethnic identity and a national identity, and a shrinking underclass that gets no ethnic identity.
To be honest the question remains unanswered if such an absolute civic identity that replaces exclusive ethnic identities is even possible across people of different ethnicities and phenotypes in the modern context. The all or nothing approach I describe would at least be required for a civic-defined nationhood in ancient societies to ever function in any meaningful way, even if such an approach is impossible or implausible.
Evidence from Western European nations suggests the approach is indeed implausible, as it increasingly shows a class of “French” people who get to keep their “ethnicity” and “Culture” as minorities, whereas ethnic French get neither. They get no exclusive ethnic identity, because they imploded it to incorporate non-Europeans, and they get no culture as Macron tells us “there is no French culture, only cultures in France”. One is inclined to wonder then, what one calls the culture of making Baguettes in France, if one can call the culture of making Injira by a French national “Ethiopian”. Since there is no “French” culture that existed in any recognizable form before the unprecedented wave of non-European immigrants arrived in the 1960’s, then what is one to call that particular cultural disposition that has so famously been understood to designate those hailing from France. It seems it is not politically correct to name it. But I digress.
A Dark Historical Irony
It is worth bearing in mind that the identity problems that I have described for civic identities are primarily a problem for peoples whose ethnic group at some point acquired a specific nation named after than ethnic group and which became coextensive with it. Because an Englishman, Swede, or Korean became defined as those who are “from” the “land of the English” or something comparable eg. Swede-en, Eng-land, Korea, for anyone else to become a citizen of that country requires them to become recognized as a member of that ethnic group.
However, for nations within which many ethnicities have already existed, the ethnic group or nation may remain reserved for those who share a common ethnic ancestry, and there is no reason for that to change. Because there is no Igboland anyone from anywhere who moves to Nigeria and gets a passport will pose no ethnic threat to the Igbo, or their link to their ancestral history. They may retain their ethnic group, along with you, as fellow members of Nigeria. Any indigenous inhabitants of a particular nation who are members of ethnic groups not coextensive with that nation in terminology may continue to define their identity based on their common ancestry, culture and ethnicity, regardless of the immigration into their states. This is likely why the future of the Basques, or the Cornish will remain as recognizably Basque or Cornish, as they have been for thousands of years in terms of phenotype and culture. The same is unlikely to be said of Swedes, or Germans.
Ironically, the less successful an ethnic group was in conquering and defending its own territorial ambit, the more likely they are to survive into the future. The same may be said of those ethnically co-extensive states who were less economically successful. Those ethnic groups whose ethnicity is coextensive with their nation and state, like Poles, will likely retain their ethnic identity and remain recognizably and meaningfully “Polish”, because their relative poverty meant they did not face the societal pressures caused by immigration to forgo an historically meaningful ethnic identity. They were protected by their lack of wealth. Conversely, their wealthier Western neighbors whose wealth has encouraged non-European immigration, on unprecedented scales for a two generations, will cease to be recognizably “French” or “German” in any meaningful way in the future.
Remarkably, it is not hyperbolic to say that those ethnic groups (at least in Europe) that were most sophisticated and capable of conquest in the past (France, English, Germans) are the most likely to become replaced by other population groups, and by the most different ones possible at that. Those that were least successful (Slovaks, Poles, Czechs, etc.), if not able to expand in number or influence, are the most likely to at least continue existing in perpetuity.
This phenomenon is reflected in a broader sense too, albeit through somewhat different mechanisms. Those continental population groups that were most technologically sophisticated and successful at conquest in the past few hundred years (Europeans), and the culturally entrenched ideological universalism and low birth-rates that this success produced, are at the greatest risk of declining in number or ceasing to exist entirely. Those who were moderately sophisticated and successful at conquest in the past few hundred years (East Asians) will likely grow slowly in population, but will remain historically relevant for the forseable future. While their birth-rates have declined, particularly in places like Japan, they have no indigenous universalistic ideology, at will most likely not allow their indigenous population groups to become replaced by migration.
Finally, those who were the least technologically sophisticated and successful at conquest (sub-Saharran Black Africans), because of their tribalism, and because their high-birth rates were met with sophisticated foreign medicine, will see the greatest populational expansion in human history. They will grow in demographic strength, becoming an unprecedented biological superpower, and thus increase in historical significance (by mere force of numbers) more than any other group. They will be the most likely to replace other population groups, and show up recognizably and in force in the far future of humanity. It is precisely beause of their historical failures, and astonishing degree of relative technological unsophistication in recent and, mostly ancient history too, that the future of humanity will be primarily sub-Saharran Black African. If the European population family exists in any recognizable way 500 years from now, it will be historically irrelevant because of its negligible population. They will likely be outnumbered in their indigenous geography, which only happened at any other stage in human history through more powerful groups conquering others and displacing them. Modernity has a funny way of turning things on their heads.