Join the Dots
Walter Russell Mead muses on identitarian blood-letting.
First the sermon:
The eastern Congo and the African Great Lakes are remote places, and many people might wonder why Americans or the world at large should care much about what goes on there. The short answer is that the people who live there are made in God’s image as much as anybody else and they are infinitely dear to him, and to remain indifferent to the suffering of people there is to fail in our clear duty to our Creator and to some degree to betray our own humanity.
Then the analysis:
While the world’s intelligentsia today spends an endless amount of time “celebrating difference” and singing the praises of diversity (and we join in that chorus), diversity and difference constitute potentially catastrophic political challenges. One thing that seems to happen with modernization is that groups of people start feeling more need to have the state and the laws reflect the values and the priorities of their own ethnic or religious communities. Identity demands to be reflected in politics.
Pre-modern and “primitive” cultures don’t seem to feel this as strongly as more modern ones do, and democracies are sometimes even more chauvinistic than other forms of government as these pressures are felt. It is often populists who lead campaigns for ethnic cleansing or nationalist war. The history of Europe and the Middle East has been shaped by 150 years of sometimes genocidal wars of conquest, revenge, national liberation and religion. Tens of millions have been killed in these wars, multinational states have broken down into ethnic nation states, and millions of refugees have been forced into exile.
[…] One of the biggest questions of the 21st century is whether this destructive dynamic can be contained, or whether the demand for ethnic, cultural and/or religious homogeneity will continue to convulse world politics, drive new generations of conflict, and create millions more victims. […] … the foundations of our world are dynamite, and that the potential for new conflicts on the scale of the horrific wars of the 20th century is very much with us today.
In other words: “If everyone shared my (religious) identity, we wouldn’t be tilting into a century of blood and horror.” Even if this dubious argument was to be accepted at face value, they don’t, and we are.
ADDED: “… Great State leaders take the erroneous intellectual short cut of assuming that foreigners are just human beings who think just like they do and who focus on the same priorities. … This tendency to a kind of passive, subconscious, egalitarian universalism is, of course, greatly amplified if you are actually an Egalitarian Universalist because that is effectively your official state religion …”