Hatred never ceases through hatred. Hatred only ceases through love. This is the eternal rule. – Siddhartha Buddha, in the Dhammapada
The man who best knows how to meet external threats makes into one family all the creatures he can; and those he can not, he at any rate does not treat as aliens; and where he finds even this impossible, he avoids all dealings, and, so far as is advantageous, excludes them from his life. – Epicurus, PD 39
In the recent months, beginning with Trump’s preparations for the presidency and later with his inauguration and the aftermath, hate has evolved from a marginal war cry into a pastime, and Richard Spencer has apparently now become the most punchable face in the extreme right. I admit I enjoyed the video and the numerous memes of Spencer being punched, then felt bad for him, and am now just disappointed in what America is becoming. Honest conversations about race are needed, and a process of education should emerge from this junction. But these conversations are likely to be uncomfortable, and passions have to be put aside in favor of cold, sober consideration of facts and–most importantly–of fairness/justice (aka mutual advantage). Trump has forced this conversation on us. Let’s treat this as an opportunity to philosophize.
Spencer heads the National Policy Institute, an organization that is attempting to normalize, legitimize, and market white supremacist ideology in the 21st Century. While his ideology does sometimes raise legitimate concerns and grievances about diversity, these get lost in a complex web of antiquated hostilities, misinformation, and misinterpretation of facts which go on to inform policies that can only be detrimental if implemented BECAUSE they are misinformed and hate-based.
As a result, those grievances that ARE legitimate may never get a fair hearing. As I see it, based on (frequently ignored) data gathered by people like Paul Gregory on the statistical link between high levels of religiosity and crime and other symptoms of dysfunction, these grievances concern in part the future population of America and the proliferation of unwanted children–a problem that is likely to get worse if authoritarian Christians successfully ban abortion and continue to disarm responsible methods of family planning. Within one generation, these unwanted children will produce higher rates of crime, mental illness, and other signs of societal dysfunction, which will then produce more unwanted children, and the cycle goes on. But the religious “entanglements” of many in the alt-right keep them from naming the problems named by Gregory. Where white supremacists fail is in recognizing that:
- Christianity–particularly in its politicized expression as a far-right ideology–adds to the “population hygiene” or “genetic hygiene” problem in the above-mentioned manner. (Consider how Catholic doctrine has exacerbated the problem of unwanted children at the Mexico-U.S. border)
- Early Christianity was the main contributor to the wiping out of the European population during its imperialist expansions, initially through the genocide suffered by the indigenous Europeans for their practice of Paganism, and later through the religious wars and the fact that Christianity has always represented a grave threat to public health–not just in our day. For instance, while the Islamic culture taught that one should bathe oneself daily and enforced hygienic practices, the Christians in medieval Europe linked hygiene to the Muslim infidels and banned daily bathing practices, as a result of which–as rats proliferated and badly preserved meats were consumed–the Black plague claimed a huge proportion of the European population. The plague barely touched the Muslim world. The European peoples have paid a steeper price for adopting Christianity than most people in “Team Europe” are willing to admit.
- Another inconsistency in the alt-right‘s–this is the new euphemism for white supremacy–emphasis on White Christian identity is the bankrupt assumption that religion can unite a race. We can quickly cite two examples from recent European history to demonstrate the falsehood of this assumption: Yugoslavia? Northern Ireland? In former Yugoslavia, the hatreds between Serbs, Croatians, Albanians, and Bosnians–who frequently have nothing but religion to differentiate them from each other–still simmer under the surface.
It’s therefore an irony that Christian and White nationalism have found a way to become one and the same narrative, and that so many legitimate grievances have to unfortunately be cloaked in this narrative–their credibility forever affected by its credibility.
We must begin by admitting that not all diversity and not all immigrants are the same: it is wise for a country to welcome doctors and engineers and other educated professionals as immigrants, and it is unwise for any country to welcome people from societies notorious for their fanaticism and religious violence without filtering who’s who. There should be absolutely nothing controversial about this, and in fact many countries have clear policies in this regard. Why should the US be any different? By making such ostentatious and ludicrous displays of hatred while implementing immigration policies–perhaps in order to distract us from other issues–the executive branch of the US government has made itself a target of global criticism, demoralized large segments of the American people, and turned into a circus what should be normal, rational, calculated policy making.
So the first issue here is that people confronted with data that attempts to legitimize white supremacy should be ready to apply factors like cultural corruption and religion to the interpretation of statistics, and should be open to discussing the need to decouple Christianity from the priorities that benefit our society, which is something that white supremacists do not usually do. This is even more imperative when we consider that, unlike ancestry, the act of believing or practicing a religion is a choice, and that people who are informed can make a different choice.
Then there’s the issue of paranoia and self-alienation–perhaps the most dangerous and sick of the tendencies that we see in white supremacist ideology. When think-tanks allow themselves to be inspired by ideologies that give minorities only one choice–the choice of not existing–the policies and ideas that emerge can only be impractical, and are likely to be evil and dangerous to implement.
We can’t un-diversify America at this point in history without degenerating into rampant tyranny. Ancestors of Native Americans got here 14,000 years ago. Black and White people either came or were brought in hundreds of years ago and their fates are forever intertwined. The entire southwest was part of Mexico before it became part of the US, and there are populations in Colorado and New Mexico that have spoken Spanish for over 400 years. People born in Puerto Rico were given US citizenship in 1917, and after a full century of being American citizens and of constant back-and-forth migration, people there are unlikely to vote in favor of giving up their citizenship. It would take a time machine to change these paradigms. We could go on and on and on about the complicated centuries-old history of the United States and its many constituent peoples. Disentangling the millions of networks of human relations would be impossible, impractical, and the price to pay for such a “utopia” if anyone wants to call it that, would be hell on Earth and a civil rights catastrophe. The USA is a cosmopolitan nation, for better or worse. Love it or leave it!
Then there’s the pseudo-scientific claims, which under Trump have gained an embarrassingly high level of visibility. In the white supremacist ideology, we find claims of genetic “superiority”–often without clearly spelling out what exactly “superiority” means in this context. As I discussed in the Nietzsche’s Will to Power reasonigs, nature does not favor “superiority” except as adaptation, which in the case of the naked mole rat produced a race of ugly, hairless, blind creatures. They’re superior for THEIR environment. Without context, superiority lacks meaning.
I took a special interest in these matters when in recent years, biologist Lior Pachter said that Puerto Rican women possess “the ideal genotype of the ‘perfect’ human“. According to this Medical Daily piece,
Pachter then unveiled the perfect human with genetic advantages actually lives in the U.S.
“The nearest neighbor to the “perfect human” is HG00737, a female who is Puerto Rican,” he wrote.
Women who reside in the U.S. but were born on the island have been shown to have a mixture of 50 percent European, 30 percent West African, and 20 percent Native American.
Another DNA study carried out in Puerto Rico reported:
One of these earlier studies, published in PLOS ONE in 2011, found that on average Puerto Ricans’ ancestry is 15 percent American Indian (known as Taino), 21 percent African and nearly 64 percent European. But this ratio varies across the island, with more European background on the west side of the island and more African on the east side.
And the Genographic Project reported:
The average Puerto Rican individual carries 12% Native American, 65% West Eurasian (Mediterranean, Northern European and/or Middle Eastern) and 20% Sub-Saharan African DNA.
There are several problems with the assertions about a “perfect human”–some of which are quite obvious, and even more problems with the assertion that such a human would be Puerto Rican. First, Puerto Rico is and has always been a melting pot. As a result, many people carry DNA lineages that carry disease and other undesirable traits, and it is extremely difficult to make generalized claims about the DNA of a people as diverse.
Furthermore, the way the scientific data was interpreted sounds somewhat tinged with political correctness–he goes as far as identifying the “perfect human” as a Taino woman. Tainos are extinct, and were not particularly genetically diverse, whereas modern Puerto Ricans are a strong stock precisely because of their genetic diversity. On the other end of the political scale, we see that white supremacists also misinterpret data according to their own agenda and based on categories of humans that are a modern invention: for instance, among their references to the lower IQ of “Black people”, we find out about the “gifted 12%”–those Blacks who equal or exceed the average IQ of the so-called majority (“Whites”?) … but then in all the “races” we find such gifted minorities, and Black people are the single most diverse collection of peoples of humanity. Can data be significant when it is interpreted based on Platonic identities rather than real genetic lineages? There are many individuals who would fall into the ‘White’ category whose IQ is extremely low–and there are proven cultural, particularly religious, factors that produce a generalized lowered IQ in entire communities (Islam and Catholicism tend to lower IQ, atheism tends to raise it). Yet much of the white supremacist interpretation of data desperately tries to dismiss culture and to use nature to explain the differences in IQ.
But let’s consider the claims concerning Puerto Rican DNA, as there’s an important grain of truth here. The theory behind the “perfect human” hypothesis has to do with the importance of having a diverse racial background from the perspective of Darwinian natural selection, because this means that a person would have a broader gene pool to choose from. One of the reasons why Native Americans died by the millions during the era of European expansion is because of their lack of genetic diversity: they lacked the necessary immune defenses for the diseases brought by the more cosmopolitan and diverse Europeans and Africans.
If there’s ever in the future a major global cataclysm, and humans are forced to undergo extreme evolutionary pressures, those with the broadest gene pool will be statistically more likely to have the genetic mutations needed to adapt quickly to the new situation, and therefore to pass on their genes. The Medical Daily article, after citing the increased ability of mixed-race Brazilians to cope with stress, paraphrases this:
Science speculates being mixed race may contain biological advantages due to the genetic variation or diversity. Offspring tend to produce unpredictable characteristics that are advantageous to the human population. Diverse genetic ancestry could be the gateway to attaining better health.
… whereas closed groups that rarely breed outside a limited group of lineages are known to be far more likely than other groups to exhibit congenital diseases. Aeon published a piece on this titled The Future is Mixed Race.
The claims made by white supremacists must therefore be confronted with good science and good interpretation of data, as well as with the addition of considerations about culture to the interpretations that only focus on nature.
This lends greater credibility to the theory that populations experience a strong urge and instinct of expansion at certain times in history in order to secure genetic diversity. We see a small scale version of this in ape populations, where once individuals reach puberty, they feel a strong urge to leave their tribe to avoid incest and diversify the gene pool. It could be argued that historical expansions like the Bantu expansion through Africa, the pre-historic Aryan expansion, the Gengis Khan expansion of the Mongols through Eurasia, the European expansion during the age of discovery, and the Viking expansions are examples of large-scale instinct to diversify the gene pool in order to avoid the spread of congenital disease.
The study of nature does not create men who are fond of boasting and chattering or who show off the culture that impresses the many, but rather men who are strong and self-sufficient, and who take pride in their own personal qualities, not in those that depend on external circumstances. – Vatican Saying 45
One final note on the issue of national or racial pride: it is one thing to be happy or thankful that one is of a certain race or nationality, or to be thankful to one’s ancestors for their sacrifices, but pride is of a different nature than gratitude: it requires accomplishment. One does not have a right to be “proud” of things that are merely accidental, things like race or ethnicity or nationality that one did not bring about through one’s effort–unlike the acquisition of an education, or success in a project or a job. People who are obsessed with racial pride might do well to consider what they have accomplished through their own effort, and if they find (as I suspect that they will) that they have little to be proud of, they should make future plans so that they may deserve and justify the kind of pride that they wish to experience. If you want to take pride in yourself, accomplish something! Don’t rely on your ancestry or other accidents of history to give you the value and the heroism that you long for, without actually being worthy of magnanimity.
Many more things could be said about this, but I will stop here by inviting people to consider Gregory’s research on the correlation between religiosity and dysfunction, and by expressing gratitude to the previous generations that established a clear separation between church and state as one of the values upon which contemporary Western culture is founded. If we Westerners do not appreciate and love our secular humanist heritage, we do not deserve it!