Sunday 28 February 2016

Nations will be made of ink


Joseph De Maistre said that nations are not made of ink. In the future they will be. Made of values, anyway, which come to the same thing.

At the moment, European countries are ethnic states, made of blood and history, even where the bloodlines are partly fictitious. Renan, we recall, defined a nation as a group of

people united by a common misconception about their origins.

The immigrant countries of America, Canada and Australia, by contrast, are not ethnic

states, although they contain a lot of descendants of British settlers and are united by their British core identities. More and more they consider themselves united by common values, a set of intellectual propositions. This is the future that many powerful people see for Europe. 

People like Peter Sutherland, former Irish EU Commissioner, now UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration. He told a committee of the British House of Lords in 2012
The United States, or Australia and New Zealand, are migrant societies and therefore they accommodate more readily those from other backgrounds than we do ourselves, who still nurse a sense of our homogeneity and difference from others. And that's precisely what the European Union, in my view, should be doing its best to undermine.
EU leaders also want the EU as a whole to be more diverse and heterogeneous, for example by including Turkey, something the USA long pressed for. Former EU Commissioner Chris Patten said in 2011 that the EU, by accepting Turkey as a member,
would show that we could embrace an Islamic democracy and build a strong bridge between Europe and Western Asia. That, in turn, would create a new European identity and narrative, a new reason for the EU to exist in this century, a way of rejecting the divisive politics of old.
Lord Patten and Mr. Sutherland are not left-wingers. Both are (failed) centre-right politicians. Both are passionate Europhiles but, like most Europhile politicians, they don't want to foster a common European identity based on Europe's peoples, their shared heritage and Helleno-Roman Christian tradition, which might imply tight borders, fewer immigrants and not extending the EU to Turkey, 97% of which is in Asia. They want instead a Europe made of economics, values, human rights, of ink not blood. 

 is steadily losing its economic and political position and has been since the Second World War. Its population has been in decline since the 1960s, thanks to the pill and feminism. Many people therefore want Europe to co-opt the best people from around the world. In a lecture to the London School of Economics, of which he is chairman, Mr. Sutherland talked of a "shift from states selecting migrants to migrants selecting states". The EU's ability to compete at a "global level" was at risk because it did not take enough immigrants. 

Peter Sutherland is not arguing for a more diverse Europe, in which every country nurses a sense of its difference from others, but a less diverse one, where each nation is less unlike its neighbours than now. To some extent this is inevitable. The question is, to what extent.

Since politics in the rich world since 1945 has been almost entirely about creating economic growth and distributing its proceeds, the argument that immigrants help the economy is one that is hard to answer, except in its own terms, that they don't. There are strong arguments that they don't, but the argument for preserving national identity is very rarely made. Instead objections to immigration are usually couched in the respectable, materialistic terms of welfare considerations, in terms of pressure on schools and hospitals.

The arguments for immigration are also usually framed in economic/materialistic terms, though occasionally in moral terms. Behind them I detect the idea that ethnicity and religion are not important and an impulse to destroy the past, to destroy conservatism and overturn conservative institutions, of which the nation is the most powerful. 

The Greens exemplify this revolutionary impulse - they stand for completely open borders. Dr. Stefanie von Berg, a young German Green politician, said unguardedly last year what very many powerful people think but do not say.
In 20-30 years there will no longer be a German majority. We will live in a multicultural society. This is what we will have in the future. And I want to make it very clear, especially to right-wingers: This is a good thing!
In the age of instant communication, nations dominate our imagination much less than a generation ago, but nevertheless nations give our life meaning and make freedom and democracy possible. I like these words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
The disappearance of nations would impoverish us no less than if all peoples were made alike, with one character, one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind, they are its generalised personalities: the smallest of them has its own peculiar colours, and embodies a particular facet of God’s design.
Countries will not disappear, though their role and meaning will change, but nations in the original sense of the word, ethnic groups constituting communities, almost certainly will, at least in Europe. But what point is there in discussing this? While European women are having far too few children, what other future does Europe have?


  1. Countries have always risen and fallen, as Schuman said, " Borders are the scars of History" a 15th century Lithuania or Germany or Great Britain come to that is very different from a 21st century one. I think the nation has regressed back to a collection of City States and corporations having more influence than the hinterlands surrounding them, thinking of New York , London , Beijing, the corporations that have net worth and influence greater than many small countries while major economies bumble with ineffective management. You are entirely right though without the 1.7 offspring any ethnic group is doomed to extinction.

    1. In a healthy civilisation governments would try to encourage natality rather than, as our unconservative Conservative government does in the UK, encourage mothers to return swiftly to work and welcome outsiders to replace our unborn children. [I am on unsafe ground, as I did not marry.]

    2. If it was Robert Schumann who said, "Borders are the scars of History" he could have added that tight borders are essential for freedom. Ronald Reagan said that. And for democracy.