Never Again, Gentile Nationalism

“The European project was inspired by the injunction “never again”. Never again would European nations allow virulent and competitive nationalism to tear them apart as they had done in two disastrous wars. Never again would the fate of minorities be left to national parliaments, and racist and populist sentiments. According to Europe’s founding myth, a new commonality, beginning with a European common market, respect for democratic institutions, human rights, and the rule of law, would define the European project.” —Neo-nationalism threatens Europe, Sept 10, 2010.

Mark Steyn was recently replying to this idea.

Steyn: I think, since the Second World War, and even since the First World War, European elites have not believed in them selves or their own people.I think European elites drew the wrong conclusion at the end of the Second World War, when they said, ‘never again’, on the German death camps. They didn’t really mean never again to standing up to intolerance and,.They drew the wrong conclusion; they thought it meant rejecting nationalism, rejecting national identity, rejecting your own cultural inheritance. And there’s a huge hole in the heart off where European Identity ought to be.

Regardless, using the Shoah to make a case for post-nationalism simply makes no logical sense. More than not, it is used as a moral sleight of hand. To see this, one simply needs to ask: What, exactly, was wrong about the Jewish Holocaust? Either it was perversely wrong because it was democide, that is, because a sum of X million individuals were killed by a state or it was perversely wrong because it was genocide, that is, because a particular people, or nation, was targeted for elimination, which, accordingly, is thought to be more wrong given some value of groupness in addition to the sum of the individuals. If the former sense of wrong is used to make the case, the endemic democide of transnational socialism and Bolshevism, of course, calls the moral case of transnationalism into question. At very least, the numbers should be looked at. But this sense is rarely intended. Rather the idea of genocide is, which is where the sleight comes in. Logically, it’s hard to see how the particular evilness of eliminating not just a sum of individuals but a nation can make the case for the elimination of nations. Genocide can only be particularly bad if there is something particularly good about particular nations, cultures, or religious groups as wholes– otherwise we are just counting individuals.

This moral sleight of hand plays off of the natural right-thinking intuitions of people. People are predisposed to feel that genocide is worse than democide, that racial bigotry is worse than random bigotry, and, more generally, that a crime committed by members of one group against another is worse than a crime committed by members of that same group against other members. If Kim Jong Il and the North Korean elite, for example, were other than North Korean, the rest of the world would process the situation quite differently — regardless of whether the consequences were the same. Of course, it’s not difficult to imagine the conditions under which this intuition evolved. It is interesting that these intuitions are often, in a way, turned against themselves.

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