Friday 2 October 2015

Mass migration: the secular debate inevitably channels attitudes into the choice between self-hatred versus other-hatred

In few matters has the impossibility of a viable secular culture been shown so clearly as the current debate on what to do about the existential and imminent threat of mass migration.

The secular debate offers two alternatives: either embrace mass migration and open borders, and accept cultural annihilation; or else develop a counter-revolutionary ethic of hatred towards mass migration.

This dichotomy is being forced upon people by the secular framing of the debate in purely material terms: in terms of life being reduced (by the secular frame) to economics and crime; of spirituality and national character being reduced to mere traditions and habits; of ultimates being reduced to the utilitarian hedonic calculus of emotional states of happiness or misery, fulfilment or suffering.

The hatred is being forced upon people by the need for motivation and the fact that (as more than two centuries of experience with secular cultures shows us) hatred is the only kind of powerful, sustainable, manipulable mass motivation available to the secular perspective.

Actively to embrace unlimited mass migration requires that the host culture must develop powerful self-hatred and Despair; such that people feel it is just and right and necessary that that they destroy themselves.

To resist, repel, and reverse mass migration (from where we are now) would require a tidal change in cultural attitudes - a reversal of many decades of the consensus of mass media propaganda, laws and regulations and training - which could only imaginably be achieved in practice by the power of organized other-hatred and the deliberate inducing of pride (I mean sinful Pride, well-understood by Christianity).

Of course people can (and should), in the privacy of their own minds, adopt a non-hating attitude - but public discourse will be channelled into one form of hatred or the other - because there is nowhere else for it to go.

Only if we are able to see the problem of mass migration in a religious frame could we potentially be able to adopt a public, national attitude which is (as it should be, and as it must be if it is to be Good) both 1. non-hating and 2. very powerfully motivated.

The choice is stark: between the sin of Despair on one hand, or the sin of Pride on the other hand... or a powerfully-motivating revival of Christianity such that the public discourse on mass migration can be re-framed, and the problems addressed, in ultimate and spiritual terms.

Since I do not see the prospect of such a Christian revival on the horizon among the nations of The West - I am a pessimist, either way.

But a Christian revival is not excluded from possibility, not at all; so I continue to hope.


David said...

I hope so too Bruce I really do. As many as possible of us need to keep praying and hoping that Christ's redeeming work will rise like a phoenix in the west to end this kind of loathsome human tragedy and destruction.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - Well, we can be pretty sure it will not arise *for that reason* but only because individual people, en masse, choose it because they believe its truth.

...After which good 'politics' may or may not emerge - but without which good politics cannot emerge.

And even the best imaginable politics cannot solve intractable problems - but we can do much better than we are now doing (when we do not even have any idea of what 'better' might mean; and insofar as we do understand, we aim at the opposite).

David said...

That's true. Let's hope the critical mass of *individuals* is not as far away as it, at times seems from an en mass change of heart but certainty in the West it seems very much so. The media can distort things so much that it can at times seem that there are hardly any Christians out there at all. It is heartening to know via blog's such as this that there are many others who care very deeply about the Gospel of Christ, and of course, every day all around the world there are new converts and quiet miracles happening in unseen and unsung hearts and minds thanks to churches such as the lds. The media is not covering *that* ! But it is a magnificent work in progress.

Gary said...

This is an extremely interesting article, Bruce. I cannot think of any another single recent (i.e. last 30 years) event which seems more destined to become a clear turning point in the historical evolution of the West. And I completely agree that the only two realistic options for most secular Europeans (that is, most Europeans in general) are either self-hatred or hatred-of-the-other (not because other options don't exist, but because, lacking any other strong source of motivation, only hatred will have the power to motivate sufficiently to "make a difference").

I am a South American of European descent, but have been living in the UK for half a decade now. Given what I have experienced so far, I suspect that self-hatred will win, as the meekness and self-abasement of the native stock seems to be almost bottomless. Indeed, almost nobody is even capable of thinking in terms which would allow solutions to be found to our current predicament, which makes me think that the odds of these solutions being arrived at by democratic means are perilously close to nil. So many avenues of thought have been so effectively closed to the native European mind that the things which actually need to be done, and the reason behind them, are completely incomprehensible to them.

I suspect that we are witnessing the burying of Europe as it has been known for at least the past millenia. The reasons for this are not only the direct effects of the complete cultural and ethnic invasion going on, but also the fact that the EU and many of its vassal states have proven themselves, beyond any pale of a doubt, to be anti-democratic, anti-nationalistic, elitist (in the worst sense of the word), callous, and absolutely willing to destroy the people they are supposed to be representing if they feel that that is what needs to be done to push their agenda forward (i.e. they have absolutely no moral limits whatsoever) - and yet any sort of movement destined to dismantle (not merely get-out of) the EU seems inexistent. If the people of Europe, so far, seem unable to "course-correct" at this stage in the game, then I find it hard to see hope for this to happen later on, when the issues which are stopping it from happening at the present time will only be more pressing!

I truly hope I am wrong, as I have no doubt that the coming "Europe" will be disaster - it will have all the vices of the third world, and all the vices of the first world, mixed into one hellish concoction. And very few will be able to crawl out of that morass and live a really decent, dignified life.

Of course, there is still room for hope, and I am not advocating defeatism in the slightest. Always remember the monks who carried with them, and preserved for generations, the great books of antiquity while Rome was sacked, in the hope that they would flourish again under more favourable circumnstances. Even in the face of disaster, there is always meaningful work to do, and positive steps to be taken.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Gary " Given what I have experienced so far, I suspect that self-hatred will win, as the meekness and self-abasement of the native stock seems to be almost bottomless. Indeed, almost nobody is even capable of thinking in terms which would allow solutions to be found to our current predicament, "

I agree - and attribute this mostly to the fact that England was the first nation in the world to industrialize and go through the changes of modernity culminating in the present atheism, alienation, nihilism and despair.

We are partly hypnotized, partly paralysed by the residue of socialism (which we invented) - which now amounts to nothing more effectual than a generalized combination of guilt and resentment.

We have come further down the slope than probably anybody else - not least because we started higher up; and the mass media have a grip here.

Yet there is something of great power and goodness - not in the people - but somewhere unknown and inarticulate; probably in the 'bones' of England - rock, hill, woodland and water.

If people chose to open their hearts to it.

Maybe we will get another chance, unasked, undeserved - and this time will take it?

AnteB said...

So far I have not seen so much hate from those that are concerned/opposed to mass migration but it might change considering how little understanding and sympathy there is for dissenting view points in Europe today. It is scary to see how aggressive the tone is in discussions about this and how it turns people against each other. I fear Europe might be torn apart, not because of the crisis as such but because the various responses will be so contradictory and violent. Which perhaps was one of your points.

Do you have any idea how a solution would look like if in fact there would be religious revival?

Gary said...


Interesting to hear your thoughts on the historical cause for this in England. Makes sense, inasmuch as it would be a clear case of the curse associated with being promethean - uncovering hitherto hidden and awesomely powerful knowledge, only to become eventually subjugated, and therefore degraded, by the inability to sanely resolve the demands that that knowledge places on its holder. Without necessarily subscribing to his metaphysics of history, Oswald Spengler called this the "Mephistophelian" spirit of the West, which has defined it, in different ways throughout its different stages, since inception.

As for the great power and goodness being latent in the bones of England, I cannot honestly say that I entirely understand what you mean by this. I (like so many others) grew up in a secular household, where imagination and intuition were experienced as something almost "disneyeque" (a caricature, slightly deformed and quite sinister - also, quite useless and very divorced from everyday life). Therefore, I am still a learner when it comes to forms of poetic, imaginative and intuitive knowledge or understanding, subjects which I'm trying to understand more about, to a large extent, by reading about them on your blog.

However, the English countryside does strike me as one of the most beautiful areas in the world (which only makes the contrast with English cities all the starker!), so on some level I can understand that there is definitely something special and powerful about this place, beyond the people.

Bruce Charlton said...

@AnteB - "Do you have any idea how a solution would look like if in fact there would be religious revival?"

Not really - but the question of what attitude to take, what to (try to) do, was simply a non-problem for all the (religious) states of history. Which specific answer would depend on the religious imperatives that the nation adopted - but the *reason* for doing what would be done, would be religious and not economic, or some other self-ish, expedient/ means-but-not-an-end kind of reason.

@Gary - I would rather not be more specific about my sources of hope - no sense it telling the enemy where your 'troops' are hidden!

Saddened Observer said...

There are other frames that should be used: culture and people and nation before economics. But no, Germans are concerned whether the new migrants are 'workers', as if the capitalist paradigm is all there is!

Even nominally intelligent people are seduced by the modern media, even when their own people and own family suffer before their very eyes.

Europeans leaving God is leading to exactly what one would expect, alas.

Gary said...

Certainly not!

Bruce Charlton said...

@SO - " culture and people and nation" - These used to motivate, but no longer - not least because a century of elite opinion-shaping have made the West ashamed of all these. All these 'replacements for religion' have long since become ineffectual.

John Fitzgerald said...

The most incisive writing I've yet read on this crisis. Great piece. Great comments. Faces the truth of the situation head on, frames it in a deeper way and offers clarity and hope in the midst of social, cultural and spiritual chaos.

JP said...

Do you have any idea how a solution would look like if in fact there would be religious revival?

We know exactly what it would look like. The reconquest of Spain followed by the expulsion and/or conversion of the intruders is the model. One can also point to examples of expulsion/conversion from Byzantine history.

From a secular perspective, the desire to defend yourself is normal, natural, and sane. It should not require sinful pride or hate.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - "From a secular perspective, the desire to defend yourself is normal, natural, and sane. It should not require sinful pride or hate."

That should not is the problem - because *from where we are now* and to overcome the entrenched resistance of the entirety of the ruling elites in the mass media, politics, civil administration, law, the mass media etc... I am afraid that sinful hate is precisely what it would, in practice, require.

JP said...

The Devil on my shoulder says, "Let's do what it takes to get rid of the elites (and the invaders) tomorrow, and we can repent for our pride and hate the day after that..."

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - As Galadriel says: "‘That is how it would begin. But it would not stop with that, alas!"

Unknown said...

@ BC - Taking Galadriel's point, how then do we destroy the ring (mass media, politics, civil administration, law, the mass media) without destroying ourselves? I confess to an intense, even sinful hatred of the ring and its creation, but see no way of destroying its creation without wielding it in malice and hoping then to destroy it after the fact (repent as JP suggests). Save for some literal "the-eagles-are-coming!" deus ex machina breaking in and setting the world to rights, I am without hope.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Unknown - Well, if our civilization does *not* repent and turn to Christ, then it really would be better if we perished - because we are doing immense harm to the souls of men.

I have said before: it is possible that our is the most evil civilization ever - not because it does a lot of *evil things* but because we have subverted, confused and increasingly inverted Good and evil - we are teaching, propagandizing and enforcing inverted values on an expanding scale.

I suspect that this really does imperil salvation wholesale. (The argument is well put in Screwtape Proposes a Toast by CS Lewis)

Antonio said...

The muddle class, middle class have lost the feeling, the goodnes that lies within. They sold their lives to the market and are left devoid of anything to get their bearings with and take a look at the state of England. Perhaps still the working class have a rough resilience, a memory to get things started. Deep down though my brief trips back to the uk leave me in doubt. Still it is possible that a charismatic individual could lead us out. Possible?!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Antonio - I don't see any substantial and reasonably powerful group which has retained integrity - the masses are (self) poisoned by media addiction, alcohol and other drugs (eg 'antidepressants', antipsychotics and body building agents), self-mutilated, and sex obsessed (mostly aspirationally, as fantasy).

But, at the same tie, everyone of us stands just a moment away from repentance; so everything *could* change very suddenly and for the better.

As you say, the spark might come from a single individual placed (by divine providence) in exactly the right place at the right moment - something like Winston Churchill pulling us back from the brink. So there is always hope.