This season’s premiere of W. Kamau Bell’s United Shades of America took a look at immigrants and refugees in the US. In our recent political climate over these persons, Bell definitely stakes out the usual liberal claim. To get the opinions of the “other side”, he attended a conference at the National Policy Institute and the highlight, put off for the end of the episode, was an interview with Richard Spencer, one of the most public faces of the alt-right movement.
You can watch the hole painful thing here: “Watch W Kamau Bell Hold it Together While Richard Spencer Gushes About Bathing in White Privilige (sic)”.
I hate White Nationalist rhetoric. I hate it even more because it claims to be speaking about the same things I hold dear – European identity and culture (which is Catholic culture, but I’ll leave that obvious claim for another day). It makes no sense to me to equate the cultural magnificence that came out of Europe and the peoples influenced by Europe with any racial identity, much less one that has no basis in actual fact. The emphasis on white, at least in the current American discussion, is most probably in reference to the black community’s use of black (Spencer about admits this in defending the term to Bell). However, it should be noted that the American Black community uses the term because, well, they couldn’t really call themselves Africans after hundreds of years of displacement influential on their culture and way of life. Methinks using the term “white” reveals a similar sort of implicit displacement. That it’s used mostly by non-Catholic communities also makes me want to draw some other conclusions…
Europe’s culture is not racially based. Otherwise you have to start playing some weird racial games like explaining how a goodly amount of Spain’s southern provinces have Moorish blood in them. Or the Mongolian in Russia’s very European cultures. Or how the Italians and Germans were mortal enemies during Roman times. Not to mention the way Europe was not only defending the ruins of old Greco-Roman culture that were among them, but having to steal the intellectual insights (and more complete copies of said culture) from the Arabs to restart their own. I’m a Thomist. I thank Avicenna, Averroes, and Maimonides for their intellectual aid in forming the greatest thinker the world has ever known.
This being said, I also can’t stand the sort of diversity for diversity’s sake talk that Bell and others peddle. Such talk inevitably involves matters of culture and life which more often than not touch dangerously close to relativism on the plain of reality. Bell shows his hand here especially in lauding and praising the work of an LGBT refugee safe house, Casa Ruby. Yes, give refugees aid, but I’m very leery of giving any sort of special privilege to those involved in denying the reality of sexual identity. This smack of relativism.
The matter of immigrants and refugees needs to not be discussed in the context of diversity, but rather in the context of the Common Good – both the good of the nation (Does our current immigration practice contribute to peace and good order?) and of the wider world (does our current immigration practices contribute to global peace and good order?). The former must be answered first because one cannot contribute to another’s peace and good order if one lacks it within oneself.
I’ve always understood an increase of immigrants and refugees to be a sign of a failure. If a nation needs immigrants, this is a sign of something rotten at the heart of that nation (and they are basically acting like parasites on the global community). If other nations are shedding peoples, either by lack of opportunity or by dangerous atmospheres, this is a clear sign that that nation is in need of aid and intervention – one does not flee one’s home because it is vibrant and thriving.
In America, and the west in general, we are experiencing both of these phenomena. There is something rotten at the heart of western nations – it’s revealed in our lack of local involvement in government, our declining replacement rates, our shrinking middle classes, our loss of public spaces, our dearth of sober, refined patriotism, our confusion over sex, our obsession with money… The list goes on. We amassed huge cultural and material wealth, yes, but we no longer know what it’s purpose is and it’s eating us alive with a kind of virulent apathy vis-a-vis reality. So what do we do? Bring in the more vibrant, alive, and virile peoples to try and displace our apathy. Like parasites on the global community we bring them in to keep us propped up in our sickbed but refuse any sort of actual medicine or therapy to restore ourselves.
And this apathy has allowed economic, military, and ideological forces to run rampant and destroy whole societies and cultures in such a way that the peoples are willing to feed into our parasitical desires just for a chance at peace and good order. Of course, they unknowingly and innocently feed into the disorder that is growing at our heart. Or, as in the case of certain Islamist groups, recognize it and are trying their damndest to take advantage of it. And maybe even succeeding.
This may be the first time in history where the major powers of the world exercised their might by drawing people in rather than expanding – not just territorially, but most importantly culturally. Great powers of the past sought to bring their wealth, material and cultural, to others. We screwed it up plenty, sure, but the impulse was still healthy. Today we’re just parasites trying to keep from societal and cultural collapse.
The whole discussion about immigration and refugees needs to be about who we are as a people. Not in whether we’re “big hearted” or “open to diversity” or similar crap. But whether we are a people materially and especially culturally healthy enough to actually aid in these problems, to uphold the Common Good. If we aren’t (and let me tell you, we aren’t), it’s time to remedy that.
I’ll leave the more proximate questions to matters of prudence. However, this more remote and ultimate question needs to be asked and needs to frame those prudential matters.
“But Tomas, that’s not going to happen!”
And now you know why I just read science fiction and think. Cause people are stupid.