Cross-post: Culture is an unsolved problem

Among those who are willing to entertain hypotheses other than “systemic racism” for the woes of American blacks, pathology of black culture is an often-suggested culprit. They try to put it delicately, but the gist is that black culture is anti-intellectual, discourages responsibility and hard work, encourages its men to respond aggressively to minor perceived slights, and resists law enforcement while protecting and celebrating the criminals that prey upon it. There would be no shame in admitting to most of this, since none of it is unusual among the cultures of mankind. To give just one example, one needn’t look back very far in Western history to find many examples of whites romanticizing criminals. I think it’s pretty clearly true that such aspects of black culture do indeed impose inconvenience and suffering on the majority of blacks who are reasonably conscientious and law-abiding. Saying that black culture is whites’ fault, whether this is true or not, doesn’t change the problem or help formulate a solution.

The implied solution would be for black culture to become more like white culture. Whites have presumably figured out how to do culture. Just look at affluent liberal white neighborhoods. Low crime, encouragement to studiousness and responsibility, high civic engagement, a surfeit of compassion overflowing to third-world strangers, stray animals, anything anyone could imagine as an object of pity. Only the Jews and the Asians might be said to exceed these splendid whites; they’re just like whites, only more so. On the other hand, lower-class, rural (“racist”) conservatives are the the only group of whites blighted with a trace of black oneriness.

In fact, the white solution to culture is not as satisfactory as it superficially appears. There is a reason God cares more about the motives in mens’ hearts than outward acts, a reason Augustinians and Calvinists believe that the good works of the reprobate are only splendid vices. Notice how uncritically these same whites jump on every moral panic the media feeds them, how their infinite compassion immediately vanishes when dealing with anyone their moralistic crazes mark as a scapegoat. See how they denounce their own parents, their own children, anyone the moralistic mob turns on! How remarkable it is that they are immediately willing to credit any accusation against one of their friends that comes from a victim group. Such noble even-handedness, that any human sentiment of loyalty should be so totally alien to it! A man with only white friends has no one in the world who will give him the benefit of doubt. A room of a dozen affluent liberal whites is a room of as many spies. If black culture is “snitches get stitches” culture, white culture is snitch culture. I’m no longer shocked by the number of Germans who reported to the Stasi on their neighbors and friends–Americans are no different. At the sight of such shameless treachery one recognizes white conscientious, white civic-mindedness for what it truly is, an overriding terror of ostracism.

(The conformism and docility of the white upper classes should be distinguished from the virtue of obedience, which can be thought of as loyalty to legitimate authority. Conformism is a mere psychological predilection. Morally, it is neither positive nor negative in itself, although it is ordinarily a useful trait, since society depends on people conforming to group expectations most of the time. True loyalty to one’s leader, on the other hand, remains resolute whether one is surrounded by fellow loyalists or by mutineers.)

(Also, the docility of upper class whites should be distinguished from simple cowardice, since a coward might only pretend to conform while secretly dissenting, but these people are terribly sincere. They really think the convictions being fed to them are their own. However, when a school of fish executes complicated movements in unison, one does not think that each fish is acting independently. The fact that all our moral betters manage to erratically change beliefs in unison is the tell. I can believe that old-school class-warfare Marxists and trans-exclusionary feminists have independent beliefs–they zigged when the collective zagged. But those who never miss a turn?)

Culture is an unsolved problem. We know how to make aggressive, reckless men and high-crime, low-trust neighborhoods. We know how to make docile men in neighborhoods that are very pleasant as long as one is a conformist oneself and doesn’t mind being surrounded by snitches. Neither is exactly the human type we are after. One can also find intermediate cases, where the virtues and vices of both extremes are present but at lower intensity. We do not know how to combine independent-mindedness with public-spiritedness, both at full strength, so that when such men arise, we must simply take them as a gift from God.

Whig history is unsatisfying, both intellectually and emotionally. Whigs believe both that their preferred policies are self-evident to all men of good will but also believe that human civilizations went by for thousands of years without ever suspecting them, and often violently rejected them when they were first proposed. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it leads us to have a low opinion of our ancestors, who must have been very great fools, and our inheritance, which would then be less valuable than this morning’s newspaper. Faced with this alternative, the idea that something is an unsolved problem is a surprisingly happy thought. No ethnicity has any cause for shame or chauvinism. None of us has found the magic formula for a successful culture; it hasn’t been found yet at all, if it even exists. We can still hold out the hope that there is something better in store for mankind than affluent white closed-mindedness and self-righteousness.

3 Responses

  1. Culture being unsolved is perhaps good for conservatives. If there were some culture, best in every respect, surely there would be some sort of obligation to adopt it. But perhaps it is impossible for every social virtue to be instantiated in a given society, and only certain virtues can be dominant. Then an argument for preserving cultural diversity is that it preserves a richness in the world of many different virtues being displayed.

  2. Indeed. Either there is no “solution”, for the reason you suggest, or it just hasn’t been found yet. I suspect the former, but either way, at least some cultures are on a level with each other and must be preserved either because it is the only way for its associated virtues to be fostered, or because it has an ingredient that an optimal culture will need for the development of those virtues.

  3. some cultures/ethnos/race groups have different virtues than others, in varying amounts and degrees, and in a way too broad to individualize.

    a Catholic integral society, whether mono or multiethnic, should harmonize all its groups and classes under the Faith. that way, whatever the cultural trappings of each subgroup, and their natural adherence to them, what comes from the heart and put into sincere Christian works is effectively judged what matters most.

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