Monday, October 16, 2006


I embark upon this topic with more sobriety and caution than usual. One important reason for this sobriety and caution is the complex, and paradoxical, confluence in the modern West of Liberal Progress and its PC deformation. With today’s particular topic, both of these confluent factors intertwine with more intensity than usual, due to two respectively relevant and monumental historical kineses:

1) the perpetration of racism on the part of Western agents


2) the development of pathologically excessive self-criticisms in the West of #1.

Now, one thread we may pluck out by which to unravel the complexity convolved here is the fact that #2 has been intimately intertwined with a development of healthy self-criticism and reform. And one feature of the pathology of #2 is the sunderance of

a) the human beings and their dynamic organic institutions who embodied #1


b) the self-criticism and reform that grew out of, and eventually transformed #1.

We may, therefore, isolate the particular, and peculiar, pathology of #2 in the specific inability to perceive, and/or permit, a progressive amelioration and reformation within and among the very human beings and their organic institutional culture that are, during the era in question, pursuing a behavioral complex that needs to be reformed or, in certain respects, transformed or abolished.

Now, there is some residue of rationality to this tendency of the pathology of #2: the moral exigency of reformation often reaches, in a typical progressive liberal society, a point where internecine sociological tensions arouse and exacerbate divisions between those who want change, and those who resist change. And even though this division does not always represent a simplex fault line of “good guys” vs. “bad guys”—i.e., sometimes those wanting change are wanting it for the wrong reasons and/or are doing the wrong things for the right reasons, while those resisting change can be resisting for good reasons, scil., because they, at times, rightly see those wanting change as doing what we just characterized; and yet, the rationality of those wanting change is not necessarily forsaken when they indulge in their frustration and impatience at the recalcitrance of progress in their respective society. Nevertheless—to return to concrete history—: there has been a pathology of excess in the modern West with regard to the progress away from racism.

This pathology has not only been manifested in the inability to recognize the internal paradoxes inherent to the actuality and morality of the changing self of one’s shared society (as we noted in one of our previous blog essays, Spelunking the Leftist Psyche); it has also been manifested in the more banal error of—to put it simply—going too far. As we noted in the above-mentioned previous essay, the Leftist has a habit of “going too far” precisely because the mark he or she is aiming for is Utopia; and, while sometimes the old saw is true that progress is facilitated by pursuing a transcendent entelechy, it is not a harmless habit to be indulging in lightly. It too often has had tragic, indeed horrific results—particularly when the agents really believe in the realization of Utopia (as with the various eruptions of modern Gnosticism beginning with the French Revolution of the late 18th century, moving onto the various proto-Communist vortices of the 19th century, and culminating with the Communist Revolutions and Wars of the 20th century).

Some may argue—with apparently good reason—that, when we are dealing with such pernicious social ills as racism, the harm in “going too far” is sufficiently countervailed by the goods that result; and we may concur that many goods in this respect have, in fact, resulted, in the modern West of the latter half of the 20th century, our immediate springboard into the 21st century. This compelling argument, however, should not exempt from criticism whatever attendant ills unfolded in the wake of that good end—particularly when those attendant ills have attained sociopolitical dominance in our time and, furthermore, currently impede an analysis of the single most urgent and deadly problem of our time, that of an Islam Redivivus. Nor is it necessarily true that progress away from racism has required these attendant excesses. While the historical excesses may be a moot point now, our current miasma of excess just noted—viz., the PC ideology of counter-racism that is profoundly obstructing our ability to deal with the problem of an Islam Redivivus—is most certainly not.

The Legacy of Western Colonialism: Western Superiority, Western Evil, or Cultural Relativism?

In the context of this subheading’s question, we may recall our observation above about the Leftist pathology, to wit, that it exemplifies the sunderance of

a) the human beings and their dynamic organic institutions who embodied the social ill of racism


b) the self-criticism and reform within and among the society of those human beings and their dynamic organic institutions that grew out of, and eventually transformed them.

In concrete historical terms, what this has meant for the 20th century West is that the same movement by which the West reformed itself also included a powerful movement that has come to define its own West as evil. Of course, this is self-contradictory: a sane rational person would never characterize as evil a bad man who has mended his ways and become a demonstrably contrite and better man. This self-contradiction at the heart of modern Western Leftism becomes acutely ironic when we note the preoccupation in that same nebula of, for example, the faith and hope in rehabilitation—as opposed to punishment—of criminals.

This self-contradiction can be obscured—temporarily—by the multiplicity inherent in Society. The Leftist pathology manages this self-contradiction either through incoherently failing to pursue its own logic, or—worse yet, by succeeding in pursuing its own logic unto totalitarian Utopia, which too often has entailed the mass-incarceration and mass-murder of all the diseased parts of Society that are perceived to stand in the way of its Utopian transformation.

I mentioned the analogy of the formerly bad man who has mended his ways and become a demonstrably contrite and good man. Let us extend this analogy further. Imagine two bad men: one has mended his ways, the other has not. Which is the better man? Obviously, on the pragmatic ethical level, the former is better than the latter. So far, this is a no-brainer, even for a Leftist with no brains. Let us then tweak the analogy a little, the better to probe the incoherent mush that passes for thinking among PC Leftists. Let us say the formerly bad man was a white man whose badness consisted, in great part, in oppressing, for racist motives, a black man. Now, let us say this bad white man over time, has mended his ways and become a demonstrably contrite and good man, while the black man has become bad in precisely the same way the white man used to be bad. According to the PC Leftist template, the reformed formerly bad white man is either as bad as the black man, or worse, even though the black man is the one currently being bad, while the white man has ceased to be bad.

One particular way the PC Leftist uses to accomplish this feat is to employ the torturous logic by which the badness of the black man is deemed not to be his fault but actually the fault of the white man (through various complex historico-sociological explanations of the pernicious effects of racism
with racism apodictically assumed, of course, to be a uniquely white disease); while the white man's good reform for all practical purposes of this comparison with the black man, counts for nothing. Indeed, nothing the white man can do (even though he, through the process of the development of the modern West, has made monumentally heroic and historically unprecedented progress in culturally transcending the ills of tribalism, xenophobia and racism which, incidentally, continue to fester in non-white non-Western societies) will ever exorcise or expiate the demon of racism and bigotry which are assumed to be uniquely, and eternally, white sins. And what is tragically comical about all this is that this grandly sweeping indictment of the white West has been spearheaded and assiduously cultivated and sustained on all levels of society (academia, news media, politics, popular culture, higher culture) by... white Westerners! Never before in history and in no other culture on Earth today has a People so profoundly and broadly turned on itself with such searing self-criticism. Self-criticism is good. Trying to transcend tribalism, xenophobia and racism is good. But taking these virtues to such grotesque excess as the modern West has in fact done, is pathological.

Thus, part of the PC Leftist mush involves trying to impugn the white man’s—i.e., the West’s—ethical reformation. When data that is easily marshaled to refute such an impugnation is presented to the PC Leftist, he or she then usually resorts to an incoherent promiscuity of multiculturalist relativism (no culture can be better than another) with a demonization of the West (one culture—the West—is worse than all others).

Western Anti-Westernism: The Counter-Cosmos

The multiculturalist relativism usually masks a profound and dark cynicism about ethics and progress, where marked differences in degree—evinced in practices of cruelty, savagery and barbarism on one end of the spectrum contrasted ostensibly with a cultivation of decency and order not merely reflected in laws imposed from above but also in an organic development of sociological self-control from below—mean nothing. This multiculturalist ethical nihilism, of course, is rarely the last word—since, for one thing, no opinion or judgment is logically possible within its confines—, and must be juxtaposed, psychologico-ideologically, with a condemnation of the West that is, in fact, not relativist at all. Though not relativist, it continues to be nihilist insofar as it is rooted in a Gnostic antipathy to the Cosmos in its Western incarnation, finding resolution and assuagement (i.e., finding Cosmic substance again) only in some form of a counter-cultural counter-Cosmos—whether this be an actual (albeit romanticized) non-Western culture, or whether this be some Utopian antichthon (an “Amerika”, perhaps), or some incoherent amalgam of both (at its logical ultimate, the self-immolation and self-sacrifice of the West, losing its soul to the chthonic, violently revolutionary purgation of the dark barbarians in order to save its evil white soul).

We see, then, at the root of the PC multiculturalist response to the spectacular fact of Western superiority, a counter-racist ideology—erected, in part, to counter what it purports to be racism. Behind this counter-racism lies a simplex project to transform the West, by hook (Utopianism) or by crook (Revolution)—though the “hook” and the “crook” have usually, in history, worked hand in glove, either as ideological bedfellows or as outright co-conspirators. It is this amorphous milieu of Utopianism/Revolution that provides an inescapable nebula for most critiques and condemnations of racism in the modern West—even when the critics and condemners are only “Gnostics Lite” (i.e., Politically Correct Multi-Culturalists) and don’t pursue the logic of Utopianism and/or Revolution to its logical conclusion; for it remains the implicit matrix of their worldview
—even when they otherwise vitiate that worldview in practice through their hypocritical and incoherent parasitism upon the hand that feeds them.

Within this nebula, only white Westerners are capable and guilty of racism and racist behaviors—with the corollary being that non-white non-Westerners (and white Westerners who have become honorary non-whites—e.g., white converts to Islam) are incapable and innocent of racism and racist behaviors. The massive facts of Muslims purveying racist ideology and perpetrating racist behaviors must pass through the PC multiculturalist filter whereby all manifestations of such are inoculated and purified of racism; and when the racism is confronted as irrefutable, it is imputed somehow to the West as the ultimate culprit through its evil deeds (Colonialism and/or Post-Colonialist Globalism).

Western Racism

Yes—to answer a question that may be lingering in the reader’s mind—Western Colonialism did embody racism to a certain degree. However, a few points need to be borne in mind with regard to this:

1) Racism is universal among cultures, throughout history, and through to the present day.

2) The presence of racism among cultures and eras, however, admits of varying degrees, and part of the dynamic of degrees is the factor of progress (or lack thereof).

3) With respect to reducing racism, the West has demonstrated—and continues to demonstrate—the greatest progress among all cultures and throughout all history.

4) It is with this present point that I fear I can no longer put off the controversial crux of this essay with gingerly locutions: Some aspects of the racism embodied in the West—particularly during its Colonial epoch—were correct and justified, insofar as they partook of a mythotype by which to frame the mountains of real data discovered by Western explorers of the globe beginning in the 15th century (and exponentially expanding in following centuries) about obvious factual inferiorities of non-Western cultures—inferiorities on a variety of levels, ranging from the technological, to the scientific, to the artistic, to the social, to the ethical, to the political, and finally to the philosophical.

Concerning #4, it is well nigh aggrieving to note the necessity, in discursive nodes such as this, of assuring certain readers that the fact of cultural inferiority is sufficiently complex to admit of degrees of nuance and, at times, even of ambiguity: in slightly more concrete terms, this means that, when a given Western expedition, during the Colonialist epoch, encountered a given non-Western native culture, there may have been certain features of the native culture that were arguably superior to the particular warp and woof of the culture of those Westerners; and this inverse relation of non-Western superiority may have been the case on a broad, amorphous level, or on a very specific level, or in terms of any gradation in between. But the one fact—of non-Western superiority here and there—does not relativistically level, much less does it outweigh, the other fact—of the overall and comprehensive and startling superiority of Western culture (in its various forms) vis-à-vis those cultures Western explorers discovered during the Age of Discovery, and those cultures that perdure to this day in varying degrees of recalcitrance to the ameliorative and progressive effects of Western superiority.

Now, with respect to the above-mentioned ‘mythotype’, we may observe the following:

1) ‘Race’ is a mythological symbolism, not a mere fact based on self-evident percepts. The mythological symbolism ‘race’ is not a datum: it is a mythological construct, constructed to explain clusters of ethnological, biological and cultural data distributed among Mankind.

2) In its mythological embodiment, ‘race’ does not possess a uniform, coherent morphology, but evinces a rather ragged and amorphous taxonomic career that has, nevertheless, become forced into a semblance of artificial uniformity by the dominant PC ideology—and this uniformity is itself a central feature of the ideological bias of PC, since it fosters the conceit of an extent of paradigmatic knowledge not warranted by the complexity and amorphousness of the clusters of data, and not warranted by the conflux of various historically complex mythophemes which carry those clusters of data.

3) One important feature of the mythological symbolism ‘race’ is, of course, the differentiation into multiplicity—‘races’—as well as a framework of unity under which any typology of ‘races’ is subsumed, where symbolisms such as ‘Mankind’ or ‘the human race’ are employed. In this particular dynamic, an intrinsic paradox becomes evident—the paradox between unity and differentiation: this is a paradox precisely because the differentiation exerts a centrifugal effect on the unity, while the unity imposes a counterforce to that centrifugal effect. To the extent that racism veers into a pernicious vector, then the centrifugal effect of race mythology acquires dominance and threatens to undermine the unity (as in such concrete ideological movements as German Nazism and Islam’s division of Mankind into Muslims and Infidels). When the opposite effect is undertaken—the veering into a counter-racism, as with PC, then an artificial unity threatens to undermine (at least psychologically, through denial, buttressed by complex sociocultural theorization) the differentiation.

4) Another paradox of the mythological symbolism ‘race’—closely related to the paradox between unity and differentiation noted in #3—is the paradox between amorphous boundaries and distinct entities: on the one hand, it seems that there are the distinct entities of different ‘races’ among Mankind; on the other hand, the boundaries among various angles of these ‘races’ tend to blur in varying degrees of apparent miscegenation.

5) And finally, we may say that many key features of the mythological symbolism ‘race’ are irreducibly mysterious and cannot be dissolved into knowledge—including most importantly the differentiation itself of Mankind into ‘races’, and the complexly interlocking inequalities, or varying degrees, as we said before, of inferiorities and superiorities, distributed among them. Keeping #1 above firmly in mind, it should be evident that the ‘inequalities’ and ‘inferiorities’ and ‘superiorities’ mentioned pertain not to one datum—one ‘race’—erected over against another competing datum—another ‘race’—, but rather pertain to complex relatively abstract constructs further up the epistemological chain from the level of concrete percepts and so-called ‘facts’ that don’t need interpretive contexts.

Nevertheless, a further paradox exerts itself at this juncture as well, insofar as an interface of cultures will present a complex and dynamic amalgam of concrete human beings, and there will inevitably and variably present itself a centrifugal force militating against racist categorization, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, data which may at times reinforce the prudential and pragmatic, and even beneficent, application of categorizations that reflect differences among various groupings of human beings more or less consonant with the mythological symbolism of ‘race’—with all the complex factors and considerations that implies, as analyzed above.


Traeh said...

Hi Hesperado, you know me normally as Traeh, though on Google I'm "Ed".

You write, And finally, we may say that many key features of the mythological symbolism ‘race’ are irreducibly mysterious and cannot be dissolved into knowledge—including most importantly the differentiation itself of Mankind into ‘races’,

"Irreducibly mysterious"? My understanding of that which is "irreducibly mysterious" is that it is a sort of primal phenomenon behind which one cannot go seeking for a cause. Naked being. Pure phenomenon. Phenomenology has spoken in that way, of the irreducibly mysterious. Irreducible, because one knows from the phenomenon itself that it is a kind of absolute, that one cannot reduce it to some unseen cause. Your epistemology is a little arcane (but what epistemology is not a little arcane?). It seems to be a cousin -- perhaps a distant one -- to my own epistemology. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by an irreducibly mysterious mythical symbolism, which despite being a symbolism, seems to mediate for you realities (though not physical data). You say they cannot be dissolved into knowledge. I guess that is because they are, in themselves, a kind of irreducible fact (though not a "physical" fact, not "percepts" or data). Well, I'm just guessing what you mean at this point in your essay.

What are the sources of your epistemology? Which philosophers have been your main guides to epistemology?

Hesperado said...

Hi traeh, thanks for reading the essay.

On how and why I term the symbolism race "irreducibly mysterious", the main reason is that any alternatives that would reduce its source and nature to knowledge -- i.e., that would explain it -- aren't satisfactory. What would an explanation of the differentiation of Mankind into groupings symbolized as "races" look like? The most conventional one attempts a modern natural-science approach, assuming evolution theory: the various groupings of Mankind are due to patterns emerging, caused by climate and geography and perhaps localized genetic pools, as homo sapiens evolved and spread over the Earth. Of course, this would seem to require a belief in evolution theory, but in my estimation evolution theory similarly cannot explain the differentiation of life in general, and its explanation of speciation logically presumes or assumes a single ultimate biological source and from there a single non-biological source of life.

(I just realized my response is getting into some very complex areas, so I will continue later...)