Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The English and Jewish Nations, Considered

In attempting to characterize the unique, 4-millenia-long survival of the Jewish nation as a comparative failure, JR first contrasted the meagre number of present-day Jews with the comparatively robust population of Christians. I objected that it was not appropriate to compare the population of a small nation with the numbers of adherents of a multi-national, poly-confessional worldwide religion, many members of which are not even in communion with each other.

JR then offered a contrast between what he views as the successful survival strategies of the English, mainly the practice of always seeking allies and the habit of intellectual fuzziness he calls "fudge" and what he sees as the Jewish propensity to discourage political allies.

Before proceeding, I want to take a moment and underscore why I think that the correct designation of the Jews is not a race, not a community of religious believers, but rather a nation.

What is a "nation?" The most convenient, although not necessarily best, way of approaching this question is to turn to the often untrustworthy but widely accessible Wikipedia for a definition. There we learn that:
Nationhood is an ethical and philosophical doctrine and is the starting point for the ideology of nationalism; a nation is a form of self-defined cultural and social community.[2] Members of a "nation" share a common identity, and usually a common origin, in the sense of history, ancestry, parentage or descent. A nation extends across generations, and includes the dead as full members. Past events are framed in this context: for example, by referring to "our soldiers" in conflicts which took place hundreds of years ago. More vaguely, nations are assumed to include future generations.
I think it is unquestionable to observe that the Jews fit this definition to a "T." Across millenia of living both within their borders and in widely dispersed and often persecuted communities across most of the world, the Jews maintained a self-conscious identity, and recognized themselves as a community, with their own language, their own literary traditions, their own schools and systems of education, their own civil and criminal codes of law, their own particular religion, a shared ancestry, and a sense that across the centuries, they were engaged in the same individual and collective struggles.

The Jews were a nation when the present nations of Europe were roving tribal bands on the eastern steppes, very far from from the borders which define their current nation-states. Most of the locations occupied by European populations today derive from no earlier than the great Voelkerwanderungen of the early Middle Ages. To provide only one example, the Magyars did not arrive in present Hungary before a mere 1,000 years ago.

But let us return to our English.

Regarding the English, JR makes these points, here:

What I did, then, was to look at another group that has not only survived for a significant length of time (c. 1500 years) but done so in style -- without having to endure horrendous pogroms, holocausts and decimating wars -- the English. Their influence on the modern world has been immense so I was comparing Jews not with unsuccessful groups but with an outstandingly successful group. The English may well by now have had their day but how they had such a splendid day is surely of interest. For nearly a thousand years their land has not been invaded. Unlike most other countries and groups, foreign soldiers have not tramped through their land, destroying, stealing, killing and raping women. Instead the English have conquered huge slices of the lands of other people and left those lands in the control of their descendants. Biologically, that is hot stuff, awesome, even. It is certainly without precedent. So we see, for instance, that Richmond-upon-Thames, the affluent southwest London borough has given its name to 55 settlements on three continents.
Previously, he had put the case this way:
Again, however, I think the British offer a safer example -- a way of handling others that any target of hostility should find thought-provoking. The Brits are experts at deflecting hostility. They don't succeed entirely at it of course but their historic civility and their ability to find allies shows that they are pretty good at it nonetheless. And their way is what outsiders often condemn as "British hypocrisy". But it is not really hypocrisy. It is just an attempt to respect the sensitivities of others. And the tools for doing that are compromise and the "fudge". You almost have to be British to understand what a fudge is and probably the best way of finding out is to Google "British fudge" and read some examples of it. It it is basically a partial retreat or concession that is disguised as not being a retreat or a concession. So it means something like "an evasive compromise", "handling a dilemma by vagueness" or "concealing what is really going on by vague or misleading words". It might not be too unkind to describe the whole of British politics as one big fudge.
And he also made these points:
As Winston Churchill said, not for a thousand years has Britain seen the campfires of an invader. While the rest of Europe was tearing itself apart with internecine wars, Britain was securing for itself a couple of continents (Australia and most of North America) plus some rather nice Islands (The British Isles and New Zealand, for instance). And their progeny populate those places to this day.

So how did the British do it? Basically through just one strategy: Allies. The British have always sought allies. That has long been the dominant aim of British foreign policy. Britain never goes it alone. They will even enter wars that really concern them little just in order to preserve alliances (WWI and the Iraq war, for instance). So any description of a war in which Britain has been involved has always been between two sides: "The Allies" and the other guy. But to achieve that, you have to be great compromisers and great propagandists. And the British always have been both. Even Hitler admired British WWI propaganda. But above all you have to VALUE potential allies. And as far as I can see, Jews generally don't. They value their enemies instead. The Iranians may get them yet.
So let us un-pack these comparisons between Zion and Albion, and see whether the comparison makes sense, and who comes out where.

First of all, I want to be very clear that I think that the English have been in fact an extraordinarily successful nation. As an American, I enjoy the traditional freedoms of an Englishman, and I am damn' happy about that. The extraordinary range of the English vocabulary, and the power and beauty of the English language as a means for developing and expressing thought are evident in its ever wider acceptance as the lingua franca, as it were, of more and more of mankind.

But although the English appear to be successful today, it is too early to tell if they will appear to be successful 1,000 or 500 or even 100 years from now. If past history is any guide, in a distant or not-so-distant future when the English nation will have disappeared and the English language as we now know it understandable only by an elite of academic specialists, a small remnant of the Jewish people will persist, preserving their language, laws, religion, and customs in continuity with a past that stretches back, in 2008, for something like 4 millenia.

At what point in history did the English nation, as we now know it, emerge? JR grants the English a history of 1500 years, which I agree is a significant survival. I would argue, however, that the English language and the English nation do not really emerge in history until several centuries after the francophone Norman conquest of the kingdom. Any initial date is somewhat arbitrary, but I think JR would agree that Arthur was not an "English" king but a king of Romanized Britons, that Alfred the Great was not an "English" king but a king of Saxons, and that William the Conqueror was a francophone Norman who never, if memory serves, set foot in England after conquering it. Chaucer is recognizably English, and I would say that the English nation emerges as such by 1400. So it has lasted for 600 years, which is still a good run.

For the first two centuries of that 600 years, the English were occupied with subduing the British Isles, and bringing the Scots and Irish into a United Kingdom (the Welsh, Cornish, and other relict "British" populations having been overpowered earlier by the increasingly unified nation of Anglo-Saxons and Normans that we call "English.") Creation of the grand British Empire began, I would say, in the XVIIth century, and reached its apogee in the XIXth century. The empire collapsed in the XXth century, having lasted in its most magnificent form for less than 200 years, and as I briefly argued in the first post in this series, the future survival of England itself is now in doubt.

To me that is a shame. The governance of the British Empire was in large measure superb, and the legacy of the English language and of English law which the English left behind in places as disparate as the United States, Australia, and India was a superb gift from one civilization to others. JR is well aware, and I think most readers of this exchange are well aware, of the disintegration of traditional English society that is currently underway. The abandonment of Christianity by large parts of the population and even large segments of the Anglican hierarchy in Britain has been chronicled on JR's admirable blog, Dissecting Leftism. The increasing influence of Islamst shariah law, and the ever-increasing deference paid by English institutions to Islamist culture and Islamist norms are nearly daily headlined in the English press. The rapid expansion of the (largely Pakistani and Indian origin) Muslim community in England is a demographic challenge unparalleled in English history.

(Let me add, parenthetically, that the Asian Muslim community in England --in contrast, perhaps, to the Jews-- is indeed an example of a highly endogamous population. As many as two-thirds or three-quarters of marriages among Asian Muslims are contracted between first cousins. The problem of "preferential patrilineal cross-cousin marriage" has been discussed by Stanley Kurtz in a series of articles at the National Review Online. They are well worth reading.)

So in essence, I agree that English history provides much that many peoples in the world could with profit learn from and emulate. I agree that it is a good policy to seek allies, and to understand who one's allies really are. As far as "evasive compromise" is concerned, I would suggest that it is a strategy not altogether unknown to the Jews, but that is another matter.

However, as to whether the persistence of the Jews is a survival "success" when compared to the English, it is just too early in English history to tell. 600 years into their history as a nation, the Jews had defined borders, a language, a distinctive national religion, an hereditary monarchy -- and that was still in the First Temple period. A whole lot of history awaited them in the ensuing 3,000 years, including the Babylonian Captivity and return (a phenomenon absolutely unprecedented and unique in ancient history), conquest by Alexander, the overthrow of the (Seleucid) Greeks (also rather unique), Roman occupation, defeat, destruction of their homeland, and exile in many countries, and among many often hostile nations and empires, for 2,000 years, culminating in the re-establishment of a Jewish commonwealth in the same Land they had ruled for over 1,000 years, with the same language they had then spoken.

When and if (and may Heaven prevent it!) the English have been overpowered in England by the Asian Muslim and African populations, when the English have been for a millenium dispersed into exile in Asia, among peoples who respect what they have taken from English culture, but who despise the English people, when the English communities have been harassed and persecuted, with periodic bloodlettings that reduce their population by 50% or more, we will see what the English can preserve of their national traditions, language, culture, and religion, and we can then put it on one side of the balance over against the survival success of the Jews. Do the gedanken-experiment yourself: what would be left?

What started this exchange was JR's correct observation that today's Jews have important allies among Evangelical Christians in America and elsewhere, but that the Jews in America (less so in Israel) mistrust these Evangelical allies, and instead seek to accommodate secular, trans-national elites who are implacably hostile. I agree that is a mistake. But it is not grounded in Jewish political stupidity, but in the American Jewish community's inability to un-learn old lessons. For 2,000 years, Christianity has been the most important ideology responsible for the persecution of Jews in Christendom. Most American Jews are descended from Jewish communities in Christendom, and therefore the American Jewish community has a long historical problem with Christian persecution. Most American Jews are entirely ignorant about the history of Muslim anti-Semitism, and have been erroneously taught that Muslim Spain, for example, was a "golden age" of multi-cultural tolerance. The love that American Evangelical Christians feel for the Jewish people is something that most American Jews find unexpected and disconcerting, although welcome. In addition, the post-modern, multi-culturalist leftists who control many American Jewish institutions find themselves at odds with most of the political concerns of American Evangelical communities, and actively seek to prevent American Jews from achieving a rapprochement with the Evangelicals who, for example, support Israel.

However, in the interest of the complete truth, I think we have to acknowledge that support for Israel and love for the Jewish people are not unanimously espoused by all Evangelical leaders, and Pastor John Hagee, for example, has written eloquently and frankly about the opposition within the Evangelical community to his efforts in support of Israel. Nevertheless, I do agree that the Jews in the XXIst century have many allies in Christendom, and it would be wise for them to seek out, acknowledge, and work with them.

Finally, remember that the goals of the Jewish nation have not been the same as those of the English nation, nor of the Christian religion. The Jewish nation did not seek to dominate the world, did not seek to impose its laws on the entire world, and did not assert that its way was the only way to live or to worship God. The Jews sought, and seek today, only the right and freedom to live peaceably in their own land, and to themselves live according to the way of life in which they were instructed by the Creator who chose them for that purpose.


Reliapundit said...


Reliapundit said...

JR published the following comment at Dissecting Leftism:

“In the last 2,000 years, of course, there have been various invasions of Southern lands by Northern Europeans and that has left a small legacy of blue eyes in Mediterranean lands too. But the overwhelming rule remains blue in the North and dark in the South, with some regions being intermediate. But however you look at it, blue eyes in a predominantly dark-eyed population are a sign of racial admixture.”

However, this admixture could have occurred before Abraham's time, as blue-eyes evolved perhaps 10,000 years ago just north of the black sea – in a region closer to Iraq than to Scandinavia.

In other words: it may have just as easily occurred before the diasporas, and not after, and not as a result of Northern Europeans conquering/raping Jews, or even of exogamy.

Some Bible scholars have even posited that Sarah was a blond, and David a redhead!

There is no objective evidence at all that all Jews from biblical times were dark-haired and brown-eyed.

Therefore, the entire "blue-eyed Jews aren't really Jews from the middle east" argument is untenable garbage.