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Thoughts Online Magazine
Collected Articles on Culture & Politics
Pacifism, Appeasement, Globalism 
16th-Sep-2007 04:12 am
According to David Gelernter, , these are the principles of the Democratic party, at least in foreign affairs.

For those who, like me, don't recognize the third, it means those who aspire to be "a citizen of the world", preferring the abstract "humanity" to real people. There are those who recall this as a philosophical virtue advocated in Greece and Rome, and who think it ought to apply now.

But looking at the actual conditions in the world, I don't think it is a virtue. I think it is an evasion of responsibility to our neighbors, a distortion of the real divisions in the world, and an excuse to site anything blameworthy next to you, and everything lovely elsewhere, so you can pine for virtue at a distance, while remaining unfettered in your real life.

I think I'm going to have expand this further.

Further: See fbp's comment below, and read this article, particularly:

So let's go at this from the other direction. Whenever Diogenes the Cynic (not to be confused with Diogenes the CPA or Diogenes: The Guy Who Ate 52 Chicken McNuggets) was asked where he was from, he responded he wasn't from anywhere. Rather, he was a "citizen of the world." In other words, he held no loyalty to any city-state but only to humanity in toto. This is the root idea of cosmopolitanism, the belief or — more accurately — the pose which holds that one is at home everywhere in the world (for a more complex and contrary view see Lee Harris's essay).

Now as a matter of lifestyle, cosmopolitanism has a lot going for it. As a city-dweller I'm delighted to have a menu which includes tasty goodness from every corner of the globe. Indeed, Americans are by nature a lot more cosmopolitan than our detractors give us credit for. The crust of our culture is British (perhaps the most open and inquisitive culture ever known, particularly if you drain out the class warfare and substitute the Scottish enlightenment). Subsequently, we've sprinkled ingredients from every other culture on the globe on top of it.

But there's a downside too. Believing that there is nothing special about your own place, your own culture, your own side is an invitation to meander rudderlessly through events, mistaking the conviction of others for a new North Star. Just as Chesterton noted that the purely rational man will not marry and the purely rational soldier will not fight, the purely rational cosmopolitan sees any particular allegiance as silly. He will look at tradition and culture not as something which binds one man to many but as a fashion or fad, or perhaps as a quaint custom worthy of becoming acquainted with solely for the fodder it might provide for cocktail banter. He will use his finger-in-the-wind morality to say one group is a victim and another is an oppressor. He will confuse power with oppression (the late Edward Said's biggest failure) and forget that if power made one evil, then God would be the Devil.

Needless to say, the Cosmopolitan sees patriotic attachment as irrational, unnecessary, even silly. Hence the sillier peoples will get a free pass while the "enlightened" who still feel some loyalty to the old ways will face scorn. Tribes who eat endangered whales or lions, for example, are treated with reverence and condescension (which Cosmopolitans often confuse with respect), but societies with indoor plumbing and the rule of law are vilified as barbaric for maintaining, say, foxhunting.

Also, see this paper on moral reasoning -- there is more to morality than is captured in the words "justice" and "not harming others".
16th-Sep-2007 02:09 pm (UTC)
17th-Sep-2007 03:50 pm (UTC)
It is also wrong to ascribe it to the Greeks. There is no more memorable statement of patriotism in all the world's literature than Socrates' rolling-thunder closing speech in Plato's Crito - if you haven't read it, do, it will give you goosebumps. And the artist who said Homo sum, nihil humanum mihi alienum puto - "I am a man, so I do not regard anything human as alien to me" - was actually a Roman, and as patriotic as any of that highly patriotic breed. What he meant was that the love of your country did not remove from you the fact that you also had your common humanity to share with anyone, so that he could not alienate himself from the sufferings, the joys, or even the crimes, of anyone who did not have the good luck to have been born a Roman.
27th-Sep-2007 01:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Still developing, as you can see, but your reference, as always, is invaluable.

And Plato's Crito, on re-reading, does have a brilliance in its particularity.
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