Tribalism just isn't our thing.

by James Lawrence

In a classic 1995 article for American Renaissance, Michael W. Masters defended the “morality of survival” against what he saw as the self-destructive universalism of the Western peoples, arguing that morality should instead be practiced according to an in-group/out-group distinction.

This position has clearly been inherited by many on the Alt-Right, who propose to solve the problem of white passivity in the face of dispossession by narrowing our moral horizons. In this view, universalist ideals drive whites to engage in indiscriminate altruism towards other peoples at the expense of their own kith and kin; thus, whites need to do their best to forget about moral standards that encompass the whole of humanity, and revert to the “morality of the tribe” in which altruism is restricted to one’s genetic in-group and enmity or indifference are shown to those outside it.

The purpose of this article is to subject this view to a more critical examination than is customary in these circles. I should make it clear from the outset that I am not interested in setting up a simple binary opposition to tribalism, or claiming to personally hold aloof from it, as if this were a valid option in the present era. Decades of one-sided anti-white aggression by the Left, conducted in accordance with non-white group interests veiled by the flimsiest fig leaves of hypocrisy, have made tribalism (or “identity politics”) an inescapable fact of life in the West. The emerging white adoption of tribalism in response is a justified reaction against these forces.

The point that I wish to make is that this tribalism is only a reaction. It can push against its universalist opposite number in the ever-shifting arenas of politics; it cannot absorb and transcend it, which would seem to be the prerequisite for replacing it as a fundamental paradigm.

Perhaps the binary opposition of tribalism to universalism will prove a short-term aid to breaking out of the paradigm that dominates at present, as this tribalism cannot be co-opted or corrupted in the same way as an alternative conception of universalism might be. But, if people of European descent are, as so many proponents of tribalism admit, innately predisposed to conceive of the world in universalist terms (perhaps because of centuries of Christianity, perhaps because of an older evolutionary psychology – the reason is irrelevant to the fact of the predisposition), then tribalism may only make advances for long enough to create a “flash in the pan” before a powerful universalist backlash hurls it back onto the margins of white society. Considering things from this perspective, engaging with the Alt-Right’s bête noire of universalism is far less dangerous than excluding it from our idea-space and allowing our enemies to lay claim to it.

Against Tribal Relativism

It is also dangerous to expect too much of the partial and limited white tribalist reaction, allowing it to overreach itself to the point at which it swallows not only the Good but also the True, so that everything from Aristotle’s ethics to Beethoven’s music is to be used or discarded on the basis of whether it is “good for the group.”

Will it make White babies?
For some who hold this view, even religious beliefs are to be picked and chosen on the basis of tribalist concerns, which raises the question of why a religion should be necessary in the first place; and, more disquietingly, it is not uncommon to read in comment threads statements to the effect that this or that atrocity or genocide is “evil” from one group’s perspective, “good” from the perspective of another, and perceived as one or the other by everyone else purely as a result of the will of the stronger party. Although this is no place for an abstract critique of these positions, is it not enough to say that they represent an extraordinary case of taking careful aim at the enemy and shooting oneself in the foot?

On the basis of the universal morality that is constantly evoked in favour of other indigenous peoples, Europeans surely have a cast-iron claim to the lands of Europe that were inhabited by their ancestors for millennia and are now being stolen from them without popular consent. If this is not entirely true for the white populations living on conquered lands outside Europe, they nevertheless possess their own claims by virtue of having erected the civilisation that presently stands upon these lands. That Europeans should feel the need to reinvent basic moral concepts to justify self-defence is in fact something of a “colonial” argument, rooted in the histories of extra-European nations like the United States, something that should be borne in mind by Europeans.

The anti-white and politically-correct global parasitic classes, for their part, are drenching themselves in blood abroad and wilfully enabling sickening atrocities at home, as well as making a killing from running their host countries into the ground and dispossessing their native peoples through replacement migration.

Moral fog - a form of nihilism?
Why, then, should we abandon the universal and objective morality that ought to be our sharpest weapon against the brute fact of political power, and descend into a relativist fog through which no injustice or wrongdoing can be imparted to our enemies (apart from the insipid charge of “race treason” that does not wound them in the slightest?) Why, also, should we flirt with nihilistic “might-is-right” rhetoric that ought to be found in the mouths of our bureaucrats and oligarchs, and not in a beleaguered and persecuted movement that possesses no power except the truth?

It is true, of course, that most Europeans understand many basic moral principles in decidedly self-destructive terms. Like the Moriori of the Chatham Islands, who devised a pacifistic moral law that served them well for centuries until they were invaded by Maori warriors, Europeans find themselves hung on the noose of moral beliefs that were decided upon in very different circumstances: among these are the belief in the ideal autonomous individual judged entirely on his personal merits, a vision that deliberately omits any consideration for the pedigree of ancestors or the fate of descendants, and the belief that the will of the greatest number of these individuals (whoever they may be) constitutes the highest good and the source of governmental legitimacy. Just as the pacifism of the Moriori was resolved upon during a period of internal war, the present moral ideals of Europeans clearly originated in the internal struggle against absolute monarchs and hereditary aristocracies ruling by ancestral right; and just as the Moriori were massacred and enslaved after refusing to defend themselves in accordance with their law, the native peoples of Europe are now facing the prospect of being dispossessed of the lands that their ancestors possessed for untold generations, simply because there will soon be enough “autonomous individuals” migrating into Europe from foreign lands to outnumber and thus outvote them.
However, surely one does not have to resort to denying the existence of truth and justice per se to demolish these individualist and anti-hereditarian moral ideals. 
Rather, one need only point out that these ideals can now be seen in the light of new experiences to be neither true nor just, on the grounds that they are presently giving rise to the worst sort of injustice, and would never have been taken seriously in the first place had their true consequences been foreseen. This is made easier by the fact that these beliefs, while they might claim to be absolute principles, do not in fact spring from the moral foundations of Western civilisation (not even from the Christian religion) but were themselves adaptations to circumstances, which followed the pattern of the foundations, but nevertheless overthrew saner traditional conceptions. It is possible for us to throw out the stagnant and fetid bathwater without harming the baby.

To sum up, the core argument for European self-defence against dispossession can actually be defended in accordance with universal moral principles. What cannot be defended, of course, are things like conquering other peoples for European benefit, or waxing nostalgic for colonialism; but this is no loss to us, as it is to our anti-white politicians and businessmen who are obsessed with invading other lands, and who are in fact the true heirs of the profiteering colonialist spirit.

Can Universalism be Negated?

I suppose that the course of my argument so far may have reassured some readers that I am merely engaging in a clever “rebranding” of the tribalist message, sweetening this bitter pill so that it might prove more palatable to the majority of Europeans, in accordance with a purely cynical and external “strategy.”

However, I have no desire to deal in such smoke and mirrors; and, at the risk of losing esteem so recently gained, I must take my argument to its natural conclusion by asking: is the universalist position of moral concern for all of humanity legitimate? My answer is a qualified yes (the nature of the qualification, which is very important, shall be made clear later): if the tribalist perspective is “natural” and thus legitimate, then so is the universalist one, and it is unwise to try to build a new moral paradigm on the complete negation of it.

As I have mentioned, many advocates of tribalism believe that people of European descent are inherently predisposed to universalism, which raises the question of why they hold out any hope of converting white populations to tribalism. The answer (as far as I can see) is that they consider universalism to be an anomaly of the European race, born of an unfortunate convergence of evolutionary psychology and Christian teaching, whereas non-European races have at all times held to tribalism by natural instinct.

Different histories.
While it is certainly true that most or all non-whites act as tribalists today, and it also may be the case that the European race has some sort of inherent predisposition to universalism, I would caution against any Rousseauian attempt to derive “natural” principles from the observed behaviour of other races: these people are not exhibits of primevality, but are in truth no less influenced by the course of history than ourselves.

Of course, there is nothing easier than to show that everyone before the current year was “racist.” But it is also true that at the time when Medieval Christendom was laying claim to universal Church and Empire, similar concepts held sway in several non-European civilisations (such as the Islamic Caliphate and the Chinese “All-Under-Heaven”) – as universalist in theory as they were particularist and race-defining in practice.

We simply do not know what would have become of these non-European universalisms had they, and not Western Christendom, transformed themselves into a modern form and undertaken the exploration and conquest of the world. In the event, European colonialism caused the violent destruction of the multipolar world and its reorientation into a single structure, with the “white race” at the centre and the “coloured races” at the periphery; and although multipolarity is now making a comeback in economic terms, and the white race is now expected to justify its position with self-flagellation rather than supremacist trumpeting, it is remarkable how little this structure has been altered in psychological terms.

The “white man” remains at the centre, the sole internally determined moral actor, alone capable of choosing to transcend his race; the “coloured people” (nowadays “People of Colour”) play the role of barbarian tribes jockeying for goodies on the periphery, their inferior position denying them the luxury of engaging in universalist magnanimity. Just as the designation “Person of Colour” is just an artificial reaction against whites, the tribalism observed in non-European populations today owes as much to post-colonialist paranoia, vengefulness and feelings of racial inferiority as to any natural or cultural predisposition (we shall lay aside the more complex and exceptional case of the Jewish people).

The point of this analysis, which is explained in greater detail here, is that the conversion of a majority of Europeans to the sort of “tribalism” practiced by other races today would require the reduction of the white race to a longstanding physical and psychological state of racial humiliation and inferiority; in other words, it would require the very catastrophe of Europe that we are presently hoping to avert.

The structure of universalism.
Returning to the matter of universalism’s legitimacy, it is of course also inaccurate to say that this idea was injected into Europe like a virus with the introduction of Christianity, for it was clearly alive and well in certain indigenous discourses that predate the religious conversion.

The Stoics of Greek and Roman antiquity conceived of identity as a series of concentric circles, the first drawn around the self, the next around family, the next around nation, the next around humanity, and so on: the ideal of Stoic virtue was to try to “draw the circles closer to oneself,” or from another point of view, to expand one’s own moral concern as far outward as possible from the centre towards the periphery.

As this metaphor is indigenous to Europe, yet it is also found in foreign intellectual traditions, such as Confucianism (as well as in certain modern arguments for animal rights, which identify a still wider circle containing all living things), it would seem to be a suitable model for thinking seriously about universalism. But it shall be seen that once we begin thinking seriously about universalism, rather than making knee-jerk reactions against it, we discover that “universalism” as a solely modern Western notion is a hollow counterfeit.

Let us start with the most obvious difference between Stoic morality and its modern Western counterpart, which is that in Stoicism the concentric circles of moral concern were expanded into one after the other: therefore, the Stoics could stress the importance of duties to one’s country in a way that would nowadays seem to bear the ring of nationalism, but could also go on to affirm universalism by stating that ultimate virtue involved taking up a wider duty to the whole of humanity.

In contrast, if we try to map the moral patterns of modern Western progressivism onto the concentric circle model, we are confronted with a bizarre sight indeed: the smallest circle, drawn around the self, is strongly fulfilled (by “individualism” and “self-esteem”), and so apparently is the widest circle drawn around the whole of humanity; but in between these two there is an empty circle, corresponding to the race or nation, which is not only ignored but also vociferously disowned and negated.

If the ethic of progressivism is to attain to the larger circles of moral concern by first going through the smaller ones (building love of others on love of the self, and so on), then it is not clear why the “circle of the nation” adjoining the “circle of humanity” should be negated; if the ethic is, contrastingly, to attain to the wider circles by negating and sacrificing the narrower ones (building altruism on self-sacrifice, and so on), then it is not clear why the smallest circle drawn around the self should be fulfilled.

Fat as a substitute for concentric circles.
This puzzle, however, admits of an elegantly simple solution, which can be arrived at simply by considering things beyond their superficial appearances. It is this: modern progressivist moral concern (and, by extension, that of the dominant strata of Western white people) is in fact nowhere near the widest circle drawn around the whole of humanity, but is rather concentrated entirely in the smallest circle drawn around the self. In other words it is a “morality” of absolute selfishness, which negates the morality of nationalism not because it is too narrow but because it is too wide, and which claims membership in an amorphous “brotherhood of man” precisely because this concept lacks the structures and cohesion necessary to impose any actual obligations.

To answer the question of why this total self-centredness should bear a resemblance to its diametric opposite, we can borrow a concept from René Guénon’s exposition of Tradition and Modernity: the summit resembles the base, or to use a more common expression, “Satan is the ape of God.”

Far from being confined to esotericism and religion, this principle can be observed everywhere. The master warrior (summit) walks away after being spat in the face, but so does the coward (base), while those on an intermediate level respond to challenges by giving battle; the sage (summit) might often appear to talk nonsense, but so does the fool (base), while those on an intermediate level make rational arguments. But the lowest of cowards is surely the one who slinks away muttering some high-sounding saying about how the braver man chooses not to fight, and the most deluded of fools is surely the one who believes himself to be a sage.

In light of this principle, there are two opposite reasons why anyone would wish to take up the maxim “all men are my brothers”:
  1. In order to extend to all men on earth the moral obligations of love, protection, duty etc. ordinarily rendered to one’s brothers – something very noble and difficult, and attainable by only one man in a million;
  2. In order to evade all moral obligations towards one’s brothers, and instead treat them with the same indifference and contempt with which one treats everyone else – something very base and easy, and attainable by any common egoist or sociopath.
I ask you, which one of these best corresponds to the behaviour of Western progressivists – these decidedly parochial “universalists” who invite all the races of man into their country so as to spite their political opponents, and who promote “universal tolerance” but cannot even tolerate those who say “coloured people” instead of “people of colour”?

Which one can explain why “anti-racist” hysteria has risen to dominate the West in correlation with community disintegration, social atomisation, and the neoliberal economic revolution that has sluiced fortunes into the hands of powerful individuals while irresponsibly stripping the assets of entire nations?

To pose these questions is, I think, to answer them. And this brings us to another indisputable difference between Stoic and progressivist universalism: as the work of Pierre Hadot has shown, both the philosophies of antiquity and the Christian religion that followed them were “lived philosophies” that demanded spiritual practice of their adherents, and identified the highest moral values (e.g. universal moral concern) with a state of being comparable to spiritual enlightenment.

All under heaven.
One rose to the universal perspective, provided one stood among the small minority who could do this, through the more accessible duties to family and country that were proper for all men, and through action on oneself and others rather than allegiance to “vain syllogisms.” As for the pre-modern philosophies of universalist empire mentioned earlier (the “All-Under-Heaven” and so on), they seem to follow the same pattern by delineating the universalist perspective by rank: the place of the Emperor was to consider the “world” that he ruled, but those below him were concerned with more intimate groups.

In contrast, let us briefly examine how one lays claim to the status of "universalist" in the modern West, focusing our discussion on personal practice rather than intellectual allegiances.

Externally, all that one must do is to adopt the purely verbal conventions and cheap solidarity-displays of political correctness, perhaps the most degenerate and vestigial ethical code ever devised by man; and internally, the very most that is needed is to subject oneself to a sort of learned mental retardation, in which natural and useful thought processes, like stereotyping are impaired.

Once all special concern for one’s own kin and country is negated by this mental and moral regression, one is in practice freed from all obligations to others beyond following the law and mouthing the correct platitudes: the old joke “I’m not racist, I hate all people equally” is merely progressivism plus honesty. Those who instinctively care for their wider group, and are thus vicariously stung by ravings about the depravity of the white race, simply do not understand how liberating these doctrines are to a “moral idiot” who considers his entire race and nation separate from and inferior to his special, unique, and exalted self.

But what of the loud progressivist displays of magnanimity towards other peoples?

Aside from purely ritual charades like throwing a few nose-drippings in the direction of starving Africans, most of these displays can be done at other people’s expense with all the credit accruing to oneself, thanks to the lucrative opportunities for parasitism opened up by the nature of the modern state: thus we see so-called “bleeding hearts,” largely concentrated among well-off non-taxpaying students and public-sector workers, baying for their governments to accept foreign refugees who will be housed in other people’s neighbourhoods and paid for by other people’s money. These “parasite-altruists” are profoundly hypocritical, for they proudly disavow any solidarity with their nations, but rely for their moral status on the pretence that their whipping the less fortunate and more productive members of their nations equates to flagellating their own backs.

Of course, I do not wish to distort things by oversimplification. What I have said holds true as an explanation for why the dominant trends and people in most European societies are so incorrigibly universalist and anti-nationalist; it does not purport to explain the stated universalism of those Zionists, ethnic minority blocs and mixed-race individuals who are merely up to a game of hypocritical tribalism, nor the masochism of some among the less well-off “silent majorities” of whites, who avoid humiliation by identifying with the reasons offered as justification for their dispossession.

Moral parasitism.
There are, of course, some fairly genuine altruists mixed up in progressivist causes as well, many of them in the process of succumbing to disillusion (but do not be confused here: even the political sociopath liberated from all obligations to his group may commit some altruistic act once in a while, like defending a victim of racial bullying, just as a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day). These groups deserve careful analysis, but as for the dominant European strata identified above, their behaviour can be explained with reference to two simple trends: an increase in selfishness, and a decrease in honesty, both of which arise from social disintegration.

If we on the Alt-Right are so often unable to tell the difference between “summit” and “base,” that is because we ourselves are afflicted with the same disease to a certain extent, although we at least have the virtue of being aware of this. As Hadot points out, as a result of Christianity’s absorption of ancient philosophy and the subsequent separation of secular thought from Christianity, intellectualism in the West has long been divorced from the spiritual practice with which it was originally intertwined (although the relationship survives vestigially in the popular assumption that intellectuals are moral leaders).

In Intellectuals and Society, Thomas Sowell identifies an unrealistic, hyper-optimistic “unconstrained vision” of human nature in modern Western intellectuals, which he holds responsible for the excesses of progressivist moral crusading; and in light of what has been said, this phenomenon can be traced to the severing of the intellect from its strongest link with tragic, constrained reality (the human body and petty ego), sending it spinning off to construct externalised utopias while blaming any setbacks on “society.”

The attainment of a middle ground between the soaring intellects of Europeans and their base, everyday actions, and the grounding of their altruistic ideals in workable national communities, will require a far deeper correction than a mere conversion to a new political “ism” if it is to be a lasting change. But a correction of this sort may well be at hand, because the burden of politically-correct lying and dissimulation is becoming too heavy to bear, and the good fortunes of the parasitic classes promoting national ruin under the guise of universalist altruism are becoming too offensive to stomach.

So let us identify ourselves with that correction. We do not have to pick our battles on the losing ground of tribalism against universalism, because we do not have to take the universalism of our enemies seriously. We do not have to cobble together a reinvented morality, because we are already entitled to demand under the maxim “do as you would be done by” why those who advocate introducing hungry strangers into the nation do not lead the way by opening the doors of their own homes, and why those who negate the nation so ferociously should not be negated by it in kind.

On the positive side, we can conceive of the Alt-Right project in a radically new way: the liberation of the individual from the lies and delusions justifying a base and meaningless existence, and the restoration of basic virtue through the fulfilment of the concentric moral circles surrounding our nations and civilisation.

Our first task will be the correction of the injustice done to our nations and the punishment of those responsible; but once this obligation has been fulfilled, those of us who can rise to a concern for the wellbeing of all humanity should be allowed to practice their altruism, as long as it does not harm or negate the rights of their fellows. Although the intellectual battle of “isms” can serve us well as a starting point, ultimately we should strive to align ourselves with a more fundamental uprising, that of the honest against the corrupt and of the truth against the untrue.


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