Non-fiction (Cultural Policy, Christianity)
A book in the collection: The West
A book in the series: Cultures
If the West believes in a multicultural world and that all races and cultures are equal, we’ll do what other races do. We’ll reclaim our cultures.
We’ll adopt a nationalistic multiculturalism like that outside the West, in the few countries there allowing multiculturalism. We’ll respect other races retaining their cultures but assert the primacy of our cultures in our countries.
For centuries, Christianity underpinned Western sciences, arts, and the rest of our cultures, including the Renaissance and Enlightenment, without everyone sharing the faith. We don’t need to be religious to want to live in a Christian West, safeguarding our rights to choose what we think and do.
Only the postmodern West separates religion from culture and them both from race. That is, unless we’re worrying about cultural appropriation. People of other races taking up our cultures should delight us.
- Christmas Day, 1914
- Religion by Race
- Vanishing Us
- The Religion of Europe
- Cultureless Individualism
- Owning Culture
- Who We Are
- Architecture and Design
- Homes and Houses
- Prose and Poetry
- Cultural Revisionism
- Haute Couture
Chapter 1: Diasporas
I am not an individual, at least not just an individual. The more millions and billions of people there are in the world, the more solitary each individual becomes.
“All the great nations of the earth have what the Jews call a diaspora,” Quintin McGarel Hogg told Britain’s House of Commons in 1968. “The Jews have it, the British have it, the Irish have a diaspora, the Chinese have an enormous diaspora, so have the Arabs, the Indians, and the Pakistanis.”
A diaspora means more than people dispersing from their homeland. It’s a continuing sense of collective identity: a cogent whole encompassing them, their generations passed, and their generations to come. It links them all to their ancient land wherever they are, no less their ancestral home if they’ve never been there. However long ago their ancestors departed and however many countries they’ve traversed, they enjoy and suffer their diaspora.
In 1950, black American Malcolm Little rejected his surname for being a slave name. Unable to know his family name, he chose to be called Malcolm X. His father had been a Baptist minister, but still he came to consider Christianity the white people’s religion. (Only white people imagine religion to be separate from culture and them both to be separate from race, unless we’re rebuking each other for appropriating other races’ cultures.) Malcolm X became a Muslim, changing his name again to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.
Despite having an English grandfather and other traces of European blood, by 1964 he rejected racial integration. Blaming high crime rates among black Americans upon the decadent mores of white society, he believed black people should govern themselves. He urged them to return home to Africa. Many did, before he decided Africans had no need to return. They could recover their peace of mind and self-respect by identifying with Africa: by being African Americans. He sought to unify the African diaspora.
Descendants of African slaves brought to the Americas have only their continental diaspora. Recent African immigrants know their tribal origins. They’re Africans and more.
New York Giants footballer Mathias Kiwanuka was born in Indianapolis and called it his hometown, but his homeland was that of his ancestors. “How much does Uganda mean to me?” he asked in 2012, the week before his team played in the Super Bowl. “It means everything.”
Increasing emigration led Indians across the Asia–Pacific to come together annually by race. In 2013, New South Wales welcomed a thousand of them to Sydney for their seventh gathering. “The aim of the Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, or Overseas Indian Conference, is to connect India with its vast Indian diaspora and bringing their knowledge, expertise, and skills together,” said Premier Barry O’Farrell. “New South Wales is honoured to be a part of this fantastic event.”
Diasporas mean most when a people are attacked, or even just mocked. When American actor Alec Baldwin joked about “getting a Filipina mail-order bride” in 2009, I suspect most of the furore came from white Americans. One press report referred to him angering the huge Filipino diaspora.
Speaking of the Jewish diaspora has fallen from favour, but diaspora it is: the original Diaspora. “I find as I get older,” said actor Warren Mitchell, born Warren Misell, in 2008, “I’m feeling more and more Jewish.” Born in Britain, he was an Australian citizen. “Maybe it’s time I visited Israel.”
I imagine many of us finding our diaspora more important as we age. I am. I didn’t always think as I think now.
I’m not sure anyone alive knows how many generations ago my forebears left Ireland, Scotland, and England: eight perhaps, seven, or nine. It was sometime in the nineteenth, or possibly late eighteenth, century. My mother, long passed away, would have known. There were never many Brackpools in the world and they came from England; my mother’s paternal something-cousins lived in Surrey. If our Mother Country wasn’t the United Kingdom, she was Mother Ireland: the Emerald Isle. If none of my forebears came from Wales, then certainly some of my wife’s forebears did. Our children’s family is my family too.
From Europe, we children of empires came. We explored the world with Europe at our back, when Europe’s children shone with our diasporas, but diasporas are racial. We’ve felt less and less of them since two world wars we so painfully won and more painfully lost.
We no longer explore. Europe is no longer at our back.
The West lost our sense of diaspora. We’ve become individuals, without consideration or comprehension of being more than we already are, without thinking about it. Unwilling to link ourselves with our ancestors or anyone else in particular, we care little what our forebears reasoned. We associate ourselves with our ancestral homelands no more than with Timbuktu.
We might even associate ourselves more with Timbuktu. We think the Malians need us.
In our postmodern, multicultural West, the adjectives by which we call people African Americans and so forth aren’t supposed to be racial descriptors, since we no longer believe in race. They’re geographical, ancestral pasts, but we descendants of those who left Europe don’t call ourselves European. French Canadians aren’t Canadian French, but French-speaking Canadians. It’s a matter of language, not ancestry. Our ancestors don’t matter.
Nor do we call those of us living in Africa or Asia, Africans or Asians. We’re whites, as blacks and browns sometimes still are but reds and yellows never still are. We’re Caucasians, as Negroes and Mongoloids no longer are, but not from any last reverence for science in our treatment of race. Nor are we claiming ancestral links to the Caucasus between Europe and Asia. We’re just grappling for a word akin to race other than being European. We’re people without ancestry.
Europe becomes just a place. We treat being European as living there. Non-Europeans aren’t. We want to ensure immigrants there feel no less European for having forebears from somewhere else.
If descendants of ancient European peoples allowed in ourselves what we respect in others, we’d again feel our diasporas. We’d be what we are, wherever we are. Europe’s sometimes wayward children dispersed through the rest of the world would again be European. Other races would not, not even in Europe. We’d look upon our ancestral homelands as other races look upon theirs. We’d rediscover Europe and her colonies. Were we to take other races’ lead, we’d reunify our diasporas.
We’d be not just Australians but British too, however many generations ago we left our Isles. My children would savour Mother Ireland, Britain, and Europe, without begrudging other races their mothers too. Americans might be Germans too. For those of us carrying the blood of more than one European people, New Zealanders could be Scandinavians too, Alabamans Europeans too.
A British diaspora was the reason his father sent my father (with his mother) to London to complete his education in 1953. There he saw Princess Elizabeth became Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We colonial sons and daughters weren’t foreigners in Britain then, in anybody’s eyes.
Britain was too far away for my childhood family’s only overseas holiday to be there, in 1977. My mother’s Francophilia might’ve been the reason we visited French colonial New Caledonia.
In November 1979, while summer rose in Australia, my father took seventeen-year-old me to late-autumn Europe. The trip was my reward for completing the last two years of high school and so something like the completion of my education (except that I was headed to university as no one in my family had previously been). Great cathedrals, palaces, and squares had been storybooks and folklore to boys and girls raised on the far side of the world. What had been pictures and moving images in film and television became cool streets on which we walked and cold stones I tentatively touched. In the company of old London, Mother England and I made each other real. We weren’t strangers as much as we might have imagined.
Six and a half years later, finished with my undergraduate studies, I returned with my girlfriend to London, continuing my education. Moving onto more Europe, an Irish diaspora might have been the reason the first country we visited after the United Kingdom was Ireland.
A plaque in Galway commemorated the speech America’s President John Kennedy delivered there twenty-three years earlier, near the end of his first visit to the land of his forebears. “It is strange,” said Kennedy, the penultimate day of June 1963, “that so many years could pass and so many generations pass and still some of us who came on this trip could come home and, here to Ireland, and feel ourselves at home and not feel ourselves in a strange country, but feel ourselves among neighbours, even though we are separated by generations, by time, and by thousands of miles.”
I felt the same. I’d come home.
Twelve years after my first visit there, on Saint Paddy’s Day 1998, I again stood in Galway. With me were my wife and our infant son and daughter. We’d all come home.
The West doesn’t cease being European, because we think we’ve ceased. When I describe people as being Western or European, I refer to we whose ancestors came from Europe. Where we were born doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter, for these purposes, whether we live in Europe or elsewhere. We’re no less European for being colonial European.
When Western peoples feel our diasporas early in the twenty-first century, we do so with contempt. Journalist David Penberthy called Britain’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations “cringeworthy” in an article published the Queen’s Birthday weekend Sunday, 2012. For those few days commemorating sixty years since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Britons (nostalgically, perhaps) had celebrated being British.
“The images we saw this week of Britain in 2012 looked remarkably like Australia in the 1960s and 1970s,” Penberthy disdained of his heritage. He scorned his people wanting to keep our culture, as if our culture were worth keeping.
I would never ask other races to celebrate our cultures, but it would be nice if we celebrated them. They’re all that we have.
“These days,” wrote Penberthy, “younger Australians with an urge to get away and get ahead are increasingly likely to look to Asia or the Americas than the once-glorious motherland.” Young people don’t know what they’re missing, because we tell them they’re not missing anything; people are confined by whatever they know. When those who were there speak of the past, we don’t hear their elderly memories.
“Most Australians have embraced or at least tolerate the concept of multiculturalism.” (We’d resigned to what our rulers command.) “Generally speaking we are proud of and recognise the contribution which successive waves of migration have made to Australia. The concerns which Pauline Hanson voiced just sixteen years ago in her maiden speech – “I believe we are being swamped by Asians” – seem kind of hilarious given that through the good fortune of our geography we have an Asian enterprise culture at home, and massive export markets and a rapidly-growing middle class right on our doorstep.”
Just because the West stopped believing anything worthwhile doesn’t mean everyone else has. While we criticise what smidgeons remain of Western cultures, we admire other races retaining theirs. Outside the West, most countries enjoy cultural and racial homogeneity, content to be left in their peace. We don’t call them backward, bland, or insular as we describe our past homogeneity. We don’t criticise their monocultures, traditions, and values. What Penberthy called Asian enterprise culture meant their obsession with business, replacing what had been our culture. We holiday in their countries of origin.
All Australians celebrate is other races. We think we’d be failures without them.
“As Britain continues to define itself desperately and defiantly through its Anglo monoculture, Australia has spent the past three decades becoming prouder of its diversity and more comfortable with its place in the world.” (Our population no longer cared that Australia doesn’t exist, which Penberthy thought was terrific. We serve the countries that do.) “We are located in the engine room of the world economy, with China and India to the north, Brazil and Chile to the east.” (Our economies build empires, but not ours.) “And Great Britain is stuck in once-great Europe, where bloated, incompetent, profligate governments threaten the world economic order.”
Penberthy went onto quote Englishman Theodore Dalrymple writing in The Spectator magazine. “At the start of the reign whose 60th anniversary we ‘celebrate’, Britain was one of the best-ordered societies in western Europe,” wrote Dalrymple. “Now, sixty years later, it is easily the most crime-ridden. Unpleasant social disorder is everywhere…our police, once a model to the world, increasingly resemble an occupying army. The state of the country is parlous in more ways than one. Large areas, once industrial, resemble the Soviet Union with takeaway pizza. The only ‘private’ enterprise consists of retail chains…the middle class in such areas is composed almost entirely of public employees and professionals who cater to the social problems caused by mass unemployment.”
Our English culture we’ve come to despise worked well, one of the best ordered societies of 1952 that Dalrymple described. We don’t imagine Britain’s problems nowadays being due to multiculturalism, but to trying to save something of being British. The essence of Australia’s multiculturalism, like that of New Zealand, America, and Canada, is that we’re discarding our countries and cultures. Abandoning ourselves to our immigrants, we have little left to retain, little to get in the way. We struggle whenever we try.
If the West believes all races and cultures are equal, then we’ll do what other races do. We’ll reclaim our cultures.
That Sunday I read Penberthy’s article, I sat among the congregation in our parish Anglican church: a high church myriad of Protestantism and Catholicism calling itself Anglo-Catholic, with a preacher called a father and Stations of the Cross. Hidden behind brick and stone walls, amidst our art and architecture, ours is the Church of England. There’s a wealth of our cultural inheritance we rarely notice around us. If we do notice, we don’t consider it ours.
Choral evensong each month is a complete cultural experience, with ritual and incense. Traditions express our connectedness with our forebears and theirs with us, supplementing biology with feeling. Cultures do the same for races. We stood that Sunday to sing in unison ‘God Save the Queen’, ‘Jerusalem,’ and ‘I vow to thee, my country.’
Our congregation is often no more than a few dozen worshipers. Most are much older than I am, and proud.
If we care about generations after ours, we’ll explore generations before ours, before politics and purchasing mattered so much. We’ll rediscover what we did before all we did was work, shop, and dine in other people’s restaurants. We’ll sense something greater than our momentary commercial interests: a greater well-being than anything economic. Among the treasures our forebears can bring us, we’ll find again fine arts.
We might feel as our forebears felt, becoming what we can be: peoples enjoying being ourselves, with everything full lives can offer. If we’re to be more than politics and economics permit us to be, then we need to be more to begin with.
With heritages, we’ll have futures. We need to learn of our peoples to learn who we are. If we can’t be ourselves then nobody can, and we can’t meaningfully be anyone else.