Thursday 23 January 2020

Big cities and the global village

[England] 'doesn't have a sense of itself as a nation to be transformed and is divided between the vibrant, youthful and pro-European big cities — especially London — and the aging, stagnating and anti-European rest of the country.' English historian David Edgerton in the New York Times, a Remainer obviously.

This is the struggle across the rich, mostly white countries of the world - between cities and the rest and between young and old. 

The countryside used to be considered the heart of every country, except in Romania where the word peasant was, at least until very recently, the most contemptuous description Romanians could apply to anyone, except perhaps for gypsy. 

Once older people were respected but in the 1960s, as a kind of delayed flowering of the spirit of the Romantic Age, people began thinking young people were interesting, which, in the words of Peter Oborne, they are really not.

The young are better than the old, even though schoolchildren are often vile. The elan of youth is always appealing and moving - 'That Youth's sweet-scented manuscript shall close!' - but the young are by definition ignorant, even those who have read a lot of books. They are rarely intellectually stimulating. Older people, especially white men, who get on with things and love their country, are not only boring, but even ideologically suspect. 

In fact, the small towns and countryside are feared by the left and by progressives, as are what is now called the white working class.

Will the small town and rural people win by force of numbers or will Mickey Mouse degrees at pseudo-universities (a dreadful racket for making money from innocent 18 year-olds) make half the country into global-minded, internationalist big city mice? 

This is the political story in France (Gilets Jaunes), England (Brexit), Hungary and Poland, where outside Budapest and Warsaw the people love their governments, Romania, Russia. There is an internationalist elite in business, academia, media and politics in all those countries that is closely interconnected and not very connected with people who run shops in small towns.

These are the important legacies of the 1960s social revolution: the cult of youth,  preference for ethnic diversity for its own sake and dislike of ethnic homogeneity, dislike of patriotism and the masculine, martial virtues, dislike of tradition, hatred for war (this has no historical precedents I can think except in the 1920s and 1930s), consumerism and a love of celebrity gossip. 

The 1960s social revolution did not happen in the Communist countries, which is why they are so much nicer places in which to live than Western countries. None of the things I listed above has come to Eastern Europe, except the cult of celebrities and, for those who can afford it, consumerism.

The 1960s ideas had some precedents in the Weimar Republic and Republican Spain, both of which were crushed by right-wing strong men. 

Who will win, big cities or small towns? In the end, it comes down to demographics. Birth-rates and population movements. Immigration will play a big role. Immigrants cluster in capital cities and vote for left-wing parties. The internet is crucial too, or whatever comes after it, because the internet makes everyone who uses it a city-dweller, an inhabitant of the biggest city of all, which is the global village.


  1. This are the important legacies of the 1960s social revolution: the cult of youth, a preference for ethnic diversity for its own sake and dislike of ethnic homogeneity, dislike of patriotism and the masculine, martial virtues, a dislike of tradition, a hatred for war (this has no historical precedents I can think except in the 1920s and 1930s)

    The problem for traditionalists and for those who admire patriotism and masculine, martial virtues and love war, is that the mass butcheries of the first half of the 20th century (followed immediately by the threat of nuclear annihilation) really did discredit those values. And rightly so. Patriotism led to the Somme and Passchendaele. Patriotism led to all the horrors of the Second World War. It led young men to slaughter women and children from the air. After the Nazi horrors and after things like Dresden, the fire-bombing of Tokyo and the mass slaughter of civilians for the crime of being on the wrong side in a struggle they mostly didn't even understand it's hardly surprising that nationalism and patriotism went out of favour.

    And the criticisms levelled against enthusiasts for patriotism and martial virtues were entirely valid.

    That's the problem for the traditionalist Right. They find themselves having to try to defend the indefensible.

    The 20th century carnage was also the last nail in the coffin of Christianity in the West because Christianity was seen to be powerless to stop the butchery, and even to a limited extent complicit in it.

    Added to all this the traditionalist Right also finds itself having to try to defend the appalling history of European colonialism.

    If the traditionalist Right is to have a future it will have to find a way to distance itself from patriotism and the martial virtues. It will have to admit that a lot of traditional values really were disastrously wrong. It will need to focus on the positive traditional values and it will need to have the courage to admit to the negative ones.

    Unfortunately we now have the Dissident Right, with its enthusiasm for the very things that discredited the Right in the first place.

    1. I certainly do not love war, and like it less each year and the traditional masculine virtues, no doubt very important, are not something I think about or even warm to. I do not care for John Wayne or Clint Eastwood and certainly not that fascist, misogynist thug James Bond. For me masculinity means Leslie Howard in the Scarlet Pimpernel or Michael Redgrave in the Lady Killers or Steed in The Avengers, but much more some gentle scholar. Although scholars are usually very ferocious.

      What I am remarking on is that masculine virtues are for the first time in history out of fashion and you explain the reasons, but in Eastern Europe, which suffered far more than Western Europe in both world wars, the masculine virtues, etc. are not out of fashion.

      I disagree with you completely on colonialism. Australia exists because of colonialism.

      I think the war in general and particularly the discovery of the Nazi death camps had a big impact on Christianity, and helped inter alia move the clergy leftward. Left-wing theology has a huge impact on the world. Look at people like Angela Merkel or Barack Obama.

      I am not sure what you mean by the Dissident Right. The alt right, which I tend to think means anti-Semites or even fascists? Or palaeo conservatives a la Paul Gottfried, who is not alt right at all, despite having coined the term ‘Alternative Right’? But what I think of as the genuine conservatives (Peter Hitchens, Paul Gottfried, Pat Buchanan) are the peace party not the war party. It is the Clintonites and Blairites, including David Cameron and Lord Hague, who are pro-war. In fact, despite the 1960s, war is, as you say, all too popular and in vogue.

    2. As an Australian you are grateful that we settled Australia, I assume.

    3. I think anyone trying to sell the martial virtues today, or the idea of colonialism as a good thing, is not going to have any success with intelligent thoughtful people. They're ideas that are only going to attract the knuckle-draggers. If you can't win some support from the educated or intellectual classes or appeal to at lest some small section of the elite then you're going to lose.

      An interesting point that Anatoly Karlin has made is that the Right has a serious human capital problem. The Right does not attract the sorts of people who make successful political movements. That's particularly true of the various non-mainstream rightist groups.

      The Left was very successful for many decades in attracting high quality human capital. After the Economic Left was destroyed the Cultural Left continued to attract quality human capital.

      The alt-right has been a farcical failure because their human capital is of horrifyingly low quality. That's also the problem with Trump supporters - they don't include many intellectual heavy hitters.

      What's depressing about the good right-wing intellectuals you mentioned is that they're very old. Gottfried is nearly 80. Buchanan is over 80. Peter Hitchens (whom I admire tremendously) is the baby of the group and he's nearly 70. There's a definite human capital problem when your best intellectuals are very old men.

    4. As an Australian you are grateful that we settled Australia, I assume.

      I've benefited personally but on balance colonialism was still an evil. It was 80% short-sighted cynicism and 20% dangerously misguided.

    5. Do you feel patriotic for Australia or for Britain or for nowhere?

    6. I repeat that I am not alt right. I am not sure what they are but do not expect anything from them. But I do expect much from Salvini, Bannon etc. I repeat that I do not particularly want to revive military or masculine virtues. I simply remark that they ceased to be fashionable in the 1960s in the West - but not elsewhere and not here in Romania, which was nearly invaded in 1968 - by Bolshevik Russia.

    7. Saying the British Empire was an evil is like saying the Roman Empire was an evil. Lord 'Chris' Patten of all people said that.

    8. I completely agree with you about the lack of young people with views like Peter Hitchens'. There is James Delingpole, who was a few years younger than me when we met in our 20s and doubtless still is. A journalist I know told me writing for Breitbart makes you unemployable elsewhere, though this would not apply to him.

  2. a hatred for war (this has no historical precedents I can think except in the 1920s and 1930s),

    And how much hatred for war is there really? Modern Americans seem to be as addicted to war as ever. Trump's base is delirious with joy at the thought of war with Iran, to be followed by war with Russia and war with China. There must be war against everyone who refuses to accept American political and cultural values.

    And how much hatred for war is there in Britain? I remember the Falklands War. Britons were delighted by the prospect of killing dirty Argies. British voters keep voting for governments that gleefully join in every time America starts another war. Because only by fighting wars can the delusion of British greatness can be maintained.

    Those ordinary decent tradition-minded rural folk are remarkably bloodthirsty.

    1. I conceded above that there was far too much enthusiasm for war in the West and hope Iraq might put paid to that - but Libya shows it did not. No one talked of dirty Argies or took pleasure in casualties. The Falklands War was a wholly just war and we were very wise to take back the islands. Your views are an odder olla podrida than mine.

    2. No one talked of dirty Argies or took pleasure in casualties.

      I remember the Falklands War vividly. There was an extraordinary amount of jingoism.

    3. The Falklands War was a wholly just war and we were very wise to take back the islands.

      Unfortunately even just wars can tend to lead to jingoism. It seems that democracies cannot fight wars for rational reasons - they become moral crusades.

      In Thatcher's defence at least she didn't try to turn the war into a regime change war. In the 80s there was still some sanity.

    4. Jingoism is not the same as blood lust or racism. And we were not jingoistic, though I remember my neighbour at college looked shocked when I made a bad taste remark about small colonial wars being rather enjoyable.

  3. What the Americans call patriotards are tedious. On the other hand, there is a very strong anti war element in Mr. Trump's support.

    1. On the other hand, there is a very strong anti war element in Mr. Trump's support.

      I'd love to believe that.

    2. It is indisputable.

  4. Until Trump, Bush was one of America's most conservative presidents and led the utterly stupid and disastrous Iraq War, now practically forgotten in America. Mrs Clinton voted for it but it was Bush's project full stop. And a losing one.

    Trump is very ambivalent about war. His constituency is wary of war but his natural belligerence and desire to hurt and humiliate others draws him to it. We've come close and will again.

    1. Bush was certainly a Wilsonian liberal in his foreign policy and was not conspicuously conservative at home - he spent like a sailor and wanted an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Trump looked like an odd new sort of Democrat while campaigning. Katty Kay of the BBC said Trump "is really a democrat" but since he got in he has behaved a bit like an old fashioned Coolidge Republican, without Coolidge's taciturn modesty or racism or belief in eugenics. Or the tiger cubs that Silent Cal kept in the Oval Office.

    2. Look! Cal Coolidge speaks - and to Father Christmas!