Today’s Western elites, in the U.S. as much as in Europe, have never been so self-confident. Products of meritocratic selection who hold key positions in the social machine, the bien-pensant custodians of post-historical ideology—editorial writers at the NY Times, staffers in cultural and educational bureaucracies, Eurocratic functionaries, much of the professoriat, the human rights priesthood and so on—are utterly convinced that they see farther and deeper than the less credentialed, less educated, less tolerant and less sophisticated knuckle-dragging also-rans outside the magic circle of post historical groupthink.
And while the meritocratic priesthood isn’t wrong about everything—and the knuckle-draggers aren’t right about everything—there are a few big issues on which the priests are dead wrong and the knuckle-draggers know it.
- Walter Russell Mead
When I outlined The Empire’s Corps for the first time, intending to split the books between mainline stories and side-stories covering modern-day issues, I knew I would eventually have to tackle the subject of immigration. My original plot for Culture Shock, which was first marked down for development back in 2010, was very different. This was after the shockwaves of 9/11 and 7/7, but before Cologne and assorted other Jihadist attacks across Europe. In a sense, my attitudes had hardened well before the current Migrant Crisis, yet the Crisis - and the lacklustre response of establishment politicians - brought the looming demographic disaster into sharp relief.
Immigration is not an easy subject to tackle. Like many issues today, it requires maturity, a cold grasp of the facts and a determination to put the interests of the West - and its population - ahead of everything else. There can be no room for sentiment, yet sentiment is what the extremists on both sides use to fuel their arguments. A rational analysis of the situation is very difficult precisely because it is so highly charged. And yet, a rational analysis of the situation is precisely what we need.
I know, in writing this, that I will be accused of:
This will not surprise me. People on both sides are resistant to any sort of measured analysis of the situation. Instead, they scream emotive words and accusations, trying to bury valid points - such as they are - by branding their speaker all sorts of horrible things. But this is not an attitude that can be allowed to stand. A jerk may be a jerk, but that doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't have a point. Truth - objective and subjective - doesn't change, even when the speaker is a complete monster.
The charge of racism can be easily dismissed. These days, ‘racism’ is a meaningless word. It is, at best, an irrational reaction to skin colour and general appearance, not to culture, behaviour or anything that can be helped. A murderer is a murderer if his skin is white or black, regardless of the excuses he uses to justify his behaviour. It is not racist to call out a murderer, whatever his skin colour.
The charge of hypocrisy is rather more likely to stick. I am married to an immigrant woman and father to a mixed-race child. Furthermore, I spent several years in Malaysia as a long-term guest, during which time I cannot be said to have integrated. In my defence, my wife is a practicing medical doctor and harmless. She poses no threat to the country. And I certainly never intended to spend the remainder of my life in Malaysia. I did not believe that I would never leave, save for short holidays. My very limited grasp of Malaysian was not helped by a form of dyslexia. My linguistic skills have always been pitiful.
But this is not about me. It never was.
If you disagree with any of the points in the novel, or this afterword, I welcome calm and reasonable debate. I have a blog, a Facebook page and a discussion forum. But if you merely want to send me a stream of insults, accusations or threats, I’ll let you know in advance that I will simply ignore them. Life is too short to spend it engaging in pointless and petty flame wars.
One of the classic academic jokes centres around attempts to ban a chemical called ‘dihydrogen monoxide.’ The prankster will reel off a list of horrible (and completely accurate) facts about the liquid, then call on his listeners to sign a petition against it. At that point, he will reveal that ‘dihydrogen monoxide’ is actually a scientific term for water, without which we could not live.
And yet, water can be lethal. We can drown in water. We can die by drinking poisoned water. Ask any sailor just how harmless the ocean can be and you’ll get plenty of horror stories about storms, strong currents and tidal waves. We need water to live, but - like oxygen - too much of it can kill us. The level of danger, of toxicity, in anything is directly proportional to the dose.
Our political masters have told us, time and time again, that ‘diversity’ is good for us. But is this actually true?
There is something to be said, and I concede this point without a fight, for a diverse selection of restaurants in any given city. A good city will have something to accommodate every taste, from steaming hot curries to sushi and ice cream. I can spend the next fortnight going to a different restaurant in Edinburgh every day, without ever repeating myself. This sort of diversity is not a bad thing. Indeed, there are quite a few restaurants in the UK that fuse different styles of cooking together to produce a truly unique experience.
But diversity can become dangerous when different cultures are forced to mingle.
It is a blunt fact, no matter how much progressives try to deny it, that people raised in different cultures think differently. People raised in the West tend to have a touching (and sometimes unjustified) faith in government and the police that is not shared by people raised elsewhere. The West’s legal system, about which more later, is largely free of the deadly corruption present in the Third World. One can make a honest attempt to seek justice in the West that would be fatal elsewhere.
These differences can lead to all sorts of problems. A person raised in a culture where women are treated as second-class citizens is going to have all sorts of problems dealing with a culture where women are treated as equals. (Even shaking a woman’s hand can be tricky if you’re raised to believe you shouldn't touch an unrelated woman.) Someone raised to believe that a woman is the property of her family (who will protect her from unrelated males) will regard unprotected women as an open invitation. And a person who is incapable of picking up a veiled threat will simply not recognise that threat.
Sex is not the only issue of concern. People raised in the Third World will think nothing of corruption, nepotism and tribalism. A civil servant in the Middle East is practically expected to use his position to enrich himself, find cushy jobs for his relatives and all sorts of other things that we in the West find abominable. A tribal leader - whatever position he holds on paper - will only stay in his position as long as he is in charge of distributing largesse to his followers.
‘Diversity’ forces us to believe that all cultures are equal. Yet this leads to the inevitable conclusion that different societies must be treated differently. Something that is unacceptable in one culture must be tolerated if it is acceptable in others. And this is lethal because the law must apply to all, equally. Murder is murder, regardless of why the victim was killed; rape is rape, regardless of the motive behind the atrocity.
Our society can only survive if the law applies equally to everyone, regardless of their colour, creed, gender, wealth, family connections or religion. And we must enforce this with neither fear nor favour.
The first waves of modern-day immigration (into Britain, France and Germany) came from the steady collapse of the European colonial empires. Britain felt an obligation to Indian and other East Asian populations that the British Empire had settled in various parts of the globe and, reluctantly, the doors were thrown open. France, likewise, felt a certain obligation to Algerians.
This was not warmly welcomed by the native population. Governments struggled to deal with the problems it caused, often choosing to discredit people who tried to speak out against it. Instead of breaking down the immigrant groups and spreading them out, successive governments allowed them to form ethnic minority enclaves. The more immigrants that arrived, the more these enclaves started to look and feel like the worlds they left behind.
I have no idea why this surprised anyone. Humans have a habit of clinging to the familiar and shunning the different. Immigrants naturally clung to their own kind - and there were enough of them to limit their contact with the outside community. (This is why we also have expat communities of Britons living overseas.) They had a strong incentive not to go native. Indeed, as more and more of the foreign culture was imported, there were very strong incentives not to go native. A young man or woman who started to move away from the enclave would find themselves completely excluded, if they weren’t forcibly dragged back home.
Politicians believed that the mere fact of immigrants being in Britain would make them culturally British. (The ‘magic dirt’ theory of immigration.) This was obvious nonsense. Absent a strong incentive to adopt British ways - and with strong disincentives to do anything of the sort - the immigrants effectively ended up redeveloping the communities they had left behind, complete with all the flaws. They didn't become British any more than my stay in Malaysia made me Malaysian.
Right now, immigrant communities in Britain - and much of the West - can be described as onions. The outer layers are culturally very similar to the surrounding British society; the innermost layers have very little contact with society and no desire whatsoever to assimilate. Indeed, clinging to their culture is seen as a form of self-defence. And this tends to lead to a dismissive attitude towards law enforcement, a reluctance to accept the law when it conflicts with cultural norms. The police are seen as intruders in the community, even - perhaps especially - when they are fronted by minority officers. Such officers are either expected to put their ethnic groups first - thus making them part of the problem - or regarded as outright traitors.
In this sort of terrain, conflict is practically inevitable. There are two reasons for this. First, as a community expands, it will demand that the local surroundings change to suit them. (As more minority children move into schools, there will be pressure to add classes on cultural norms, segregate the sexes, etc.) Second, such communities are often breeding grounds for extremism. A strong group of radicals can dominate an entire community because the cost of opposing them is higher than accepting them. (Remember, these people cannot trust the police to help.)
Worse, perhaps, breaking down the community’s barriers is almost impossible.
These people do not always want to assimilate. Indeed, even when some of them do, they face strong resistance from their own community. Why should they act British when they practically grew up in a non-British community?
And even though they often despise or fear the extremists, they find it hard to ‘betray’ their own people by taking sides against them.
The problem with western governments today is that they are more obsessed with appearance than reality. (A common issue.) Decades of ‘spin doctoring’ have made it more important to look good, in the short term, rather than to actually be good. Long-term thinking is beyond the political elite. Accordingly, governments do their best to avoid or ignore problems rather than admitting that something has gone wrong.
Worse, perhaps, the political elites are increasingly separated from the people they are supposed to rule. They have lost touch with the people on the ground. It’s easy, given the gulf between them and their subjects, to fall into the habit of believing that their subjects are simply in the wrong, rather than admit that they might have legitimate concerns. A person who lives in a gated community, for example, may have a more tolerant view of criminals than people who have no such protection. The former is often incapable of understanding why the latter wants criminals off the streets.
When it comes to immigration, western governments have effectively been hoisted on their own petard. Their response to public opposition to the early waves of immigration was to brand all such opposition racist. They were quite successful. But this has made it impossible for them to muster an effective response to the challenges posed by successive waves of immigration and extremism. Taking steps - like removing violent preachers or banning charitable donations that go straight to extremist organisations - would rapidly lead to them being branded racists. Their political opponents, who are effectively in the same boat, prefer to use the issue to their own advantage rather than put the good of the country first.
Matters have been complicated, furthermore, by the simple fact that expanding migrant populations have the vote. Politicians who refuse to pander to them find those votes heading to their opponents instead. (An issue made more dangerous by communities being told how to vote by their leaders, a common problem in East Asia.) Politicians are therefore reluctant to subscribe to any form of immigration reform, let alone a defence of British (and European) values for fear of being branded racists. Instead, they promote ‘multiculturalism’ and move to accommodate the newcomers, rather than insist they learn to assimilate.
This has percolated down through society. The security services were reluctant to target extremists for fear of being accused of racism. Police were reluctant to take too close a look at child sex grooming rings for fear of being accused of racism. Social services are reluctant to challenge cultural traditions ... likewise. And so matters have steadily moved out of control.
By refusing to grasp this nettle, politicians have effectively gained the worst of both worlds. On one hand, the extremists believe that the politicians are weak, unwilling or unable to assert control; on the other hand, politicians have convinced their own people that the politicians are effectively traitors, untrustworthy idiots who are happy to sell out their populations just to look good. It doesn't bode well for the future.
If you’ve had the misfortune of enduring public schools, you’ll probably recall a classmate everyone called the ‘crazy kid’ or something along those lines. This kid was a loner, not always by choice. He wasn't the strongest kid or the smartest, but he was dangerously unpredictable. His classmates never knew when he was going to start screaming insults, throw poop around or attack the nearest victim. Everyone else, even the bullies and jerk jocks, tried to give him a wide berth. No one trusted him.
The adults in the school and wider community didn't understand why the crazy kid was so isolated. They weren't the ones who had to deal with his behaviour, day in and day out. It was easier to believe that the crazy kid was a victim, rather than a perpetrator. The adults sometimes even knew enough (they thought) about him to come up with excuses for his behaviour, rather than trying to change it. Accordingly, they would pressure their children to make room for the crazy kid, to invite him to play with them. It never seemed to occur to any of the adults that the children might have good reason to avoid the crazy kid.
And then the crazy kid gets invited to a birthday party, goes completely mad and ends up causing vast amounts of damage to a parent’s house.
This is not a perfect example, I will admit. But I think it gets across just how people are starting to think of immigrants and ethnic communities.
Our society is based on trust. Indeed, our society evolved because we developed, slowly, a trust-based system, enforced by courts of law. I, a mature adult, can enter into a contract with anyone else - perhaps a book publishing contract - in the certain knowledge that I have legal recourse, if the deal goes badly wrong. If I promise to deliver a book at the end of the year, I must deliver it; if the publishers promise to pay me, they must pay me. The vast majority of contracts, spoken or unspoken, are honoured because enforcement mechanisms are in place.
The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Nepotism is so prevalent in the Third World because only a fool would trust someone outside his own family. It is extremely dangerous to go outside the family circle because there are no ways to enforce whatever agreements are made. The law is simply not applied equally.
Right now, the vast majority of people no longer trust the governments, the political elite ... or the immigrant/ethnic communities.
It is difficult to say just how bad the problem actually is. People have been discouraged from talking about it for so long that there is no true idea of the scale of the problem. How many immigrants are in Britain? Or Europe? Or America? How many of them are potentially dangerous? How many of them are reluctant - or flatly unwilling - to assimilate? Just asking these questions is enough to get someone branded a racist.
But, because of this, a deep-seated sense of unease, of suspicion, of outright fear is spreading across Europe.
It has become clear in the last sixteen years that governments are unable or unwilling to recognise that there is a problem and do something about it. Governments, hampered by political correctness, prefer to try to cover up their mistakes. People who speak out, who demand answers, are harassed, threatened or arrested. It has become clear that governments are no longer on the side of their people.
Is it too much to ask that a government puts the interests of its own people first?
The rise of nationalism and nationalistic political parties in Europe and America is a direct response to politicians abandoning their voters. Those voters no longer want to hear about the economic benefits of immigration (a questionable concept, particularly when immigrants are unwilling or unable to work) or the joys of multiculturalism and virtue-signalling; they want action, they want definite steps, not words. Political correctness has infiltrated western governments to the point where they can no longer recognise the threat, let alone take steps to counter it. Their voters are going elsewhere.
Sympathy has its limits. It's easy to feel sorry for someone fleeing a war zone. But it is a great deal harder to feel sorry for migrants when the crime rate shoots upwards after their arrival, when taxpayers’ money is wasted on feeding and clothing them, when governments cover up sex crimes rather than admit that there might be a problem. I think it is fairly safe to say that there is no sympathy any longer, outside the ivory towers of the political elites. But even those towers are built on quicksand.
I wish I was sanguine about the future. I’m not.
In choosing to destroy the moderate middle ground, in choosing to try to cover up the problem rather than come to grips with it, politicians have destroyed the faith in government - the trust in government - that our society needs to function. The rise of Donald Trump in the US, BREXIT and the series of crushing electoral defeats suffered by Angela Merkel in Germany ... all are symptoms of a growing rebellion against the political elites and their view of the world. And yet, because the middle ground has been destroyed, it is unlikely that there can be any measured response to the situation. Sales of weapons are also on the rise. So are attacks on migrants and other immigrants. We may be looking at outright civil war across Europe.
Some people will say I am being alarmist. That the problem is not that bad - that we will not lose our way as a society because of it. But I am not so sure. In times of crisis, populations swing to the right and demand action, not platitudes. And the demand for action may push our society over the brink.
I hope I’m wrong. I fear I’m not.
Christopher G. Nuttall