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Ethnonationalism for Normies
(Or, “On the Sense of Coming Home”)

2,083 words

HobbitHouse [1]I want to run my household one way. My friends Travis and Kyle each want to run their household a different way. For example, I may prefer to wash my dishes immediately after I’ve finished eating, and resent ever seeing a dish left in the sink; Travis might prefer to leave one set of dishes in the sink, and wash them again immediately before each use; and Kyle might like to let the dishes pile up for a week, and then wash them all at once on the weekend when he’s done with work. 

Forcing the three of us to live as roommates wouldn’t cause us to become better friends; it would simply create conflict where no conflict need exist, because when we’re forced to live in the same room in the same house, only one of us can have things our way at any given time — at all times, one of us wins while two of us lose. Either Travis and I are resentful of how many dishes are always in the sink, or else Travis and Kyle are resentful of how often they’re forced to wash dishes, and only one of us is ever temporarily happy.

If we live as neighbors rather than roommates, however, then each of us can live however we’d like within our own home. We can all be happy with how things are being run — and we can eliminate an utterly unnecessary obstacle to our continued good-will and friendship. If everything that I’ve just said above is obvious common sense, then why is ethnonationalism so controversial?

As one person I floated the above paragraph to said in reply, ethnonationalism is controversial “because not all black/white etc. people do their dishes the same.” True — but that hardly demolishes the case for ethnonationalism.

I grew up around a side of my family that, unbeknown to everyone but my mother and maternal grandparents until I was informed in my late teens, I wasn’t biologically related to. Yet, long before I ever knew this fact, it couldn’t have been clearer that something was “off.” There was no open antagonism between us; it wasn’t that we disliked each other — it just never felt “like family” in the way that, say, spending time with my grandmother (who I was biologically related to) felt “like family.”

I also felt attracted to one of my female cousins, and once when I was talking to a male cousin about girls at the school we went to and I let a small comment to that effect slip out, I was blindsided when the tone of the conversation changed because he was repulsed by the idea that I was even ranking how attractive I thought she was — but it hadn’t even occurred to me that there could possibly be any difference; after all, for me, there wasn’t.

When I finally made contact with the side of the family I was related to, the connection was instant. One cousin looked like the “Mario” version of me (squished vertically and stretched out horizontally); the other looked like the “Luigi” version of me (squished horizontally and stretched out vertically). Though of course we didn’t agree about everything, the conversation very naturally progressed into discoveries of common feelings about a whole range of different topics and experiences. What mattered for creating this feeling of “kinship” was not whether or not I shared a life’s worth of childhood experiences growing up with them; what mattered was that I was biologically related to them.

One of the most striking illustrations of this phenomenon can be seen when identical twins who were separated at birth reunite with each other as adults. Invariably, they discover that they share the same odd habits (like never using a toilet without flushing it first), prefer the same styles of dress (often literally identical), and more — even if one was raised Jewish and the other became a Nazi [2]. These people don’t feel like they’re just encountering a member of the population who happens to look like them; there is an immediate and deep lasting significance to these relationships—and the one and only reason for that significance is genetics.

Last but not least, studies have recently confirmed that people form friendships with people who are, on average, about as genetically related to them as fourth cousins [3].

What all of this shows is that genes matter. In general, we can say that any gathering of people will be defined by a feeling of “kinship” in proportion to how genetically similar the members of that gathering are. This is true for families, and it is true for friendship. I felt closer to family I was actually kin to than I did to “family” I had spent far more of my actual upbringing around. Identical twins feel closer to their rediscovered twins than they do to other friends they’ve spent their whole lives around. And all of us are finding people genetically more like ourselves than average nearly every time we form any friendship at all.

But if genes matter, then that means that race matters for just exactly the same reasons it means that families matter — because “race” is nothing other than one’s very extended family. Just as personality traits and tendencies ‘run’ in families (which are really just collections of individuals), so it necessarily follows by definition that they must ‘run’ in racial groups (which are really just collections of families). For example, anyone with eyes can observe that Asians are far more introverted and conformist [4] than other ethnic groups. I say “Asians are . . .” rather than “people from Asian cultures are . . .” because we now know that these traits, like practically all others, are in fact heavily influenced by heredity [5].

We even have an explanation of how these traits evolved into Asians more frequently than they evolved into other non-Asian populations: the wheat farming that Western society evolved from enables individuals to strike out on their own and succeed, thus fostering individualism; the rice farming that Asian societies evolved from require far more interdependence and co-operation in order to work at all, conversely fostering the evolution of collectivism [6]. Thus, not only are Asians much more introverted on average than non-Asians, they are more introverted for reasons that basically boil down in everyday common language to “because they’re Asian.”

So when my friend says that ethnonationalism is controversial because “not all blacks and whites do their dishes the same way,” the question that this actually translates into for our purposes is: would a very introverted black man get along better amongst more introverted Asians than he would amongst more extroverted blacks?

Maybe. But this misses the point: the point is that very few blacks, if any, will be as introverted as the average Asian — for reasons that essentially boil down to “race.”

The solution to political diversity is, in my opinion, the same as the solution to racial diversity: let’s separate, with mutual respect, into life as tolerant neighbors rather than irritated roommates. Give liberal whites liberal areas to live in, and give conservative whites conservative areas to live in, and establish the norm that people who don’t like the policies of the region they’re in should move to the one made for them.

Does this contradict the idea that race is of central importance in society? Doesn’t it show that ideological belief is more important than biological inheritance?

Well, actually, no. In the United States, we’ve faced years of attempts to promote the (mis)understanding that “race” represents nothing other than “skin color.” The meaning of “race” isn’t defined by “skin color” any more than my membership in my immediate family is defined by common hair and eye colors (although these do come along for the ride). This hasn’t just obscured our understanding of the differences between whites and non-whites; it’s even obscured our ability to understand whites.

An invaluable book from David Hackett Fisher called Albion’s Seed [7]can help us restore some of the knowledge we’ve lost. The book describes the four waves of British immigration in which the early Americas were settled: first, the Puritans came from East Anglia and settled in New England. Second, defeated supporters of the king and the Established Church of England (referred to as “Cavaliers”) settled around Virginia and Maryland. Third, Quakers came from the English midlands and landed in the Delaware Valley. Finally, the “Scotch-Irish” came from north England, lowland Scotland, and Ulster, settling the Appalachian backcountry, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Throughout American history, the Puritan- and Quaker-settled regions have represented progressivism; the Cavalier- and Scotch-Irish-settled regions have represented traditionalism. To a very large degree, then, establishing “red states” and “blue states” would actually mean splitting “whites” up by ethnic origin. To put it another way, much of the conflict in American political life today is actually between “whites” of different ethnic origins. It turns out that “race” is explanatory even here.

Incidentally, we also already know from entirely unrelated studies that there are biological differences between liberals and conservatives. In fact, these differences are so significant that you can flash a single picture of something disgusting or threatening at someone and have a really good guess at whether they’re conservative or liberal, simply based on how long they stare at the photograph [8]. We also know that political views are heritable (which, in short, means that children with liberal biological parents who are adopted into conservative homes will actually end up more liberal like their biological parents [9] than they will conservative like their adoptive parents).

And again, in many cases, we have evolutionary explanations of how these hardwired differences could have come about. The Jamaican-American race realist blogger known as JayMan has written a brilliant series of in-depth articles on what he calls the “pioneer hypothesis [10].” In short, when some regions of the United States were settled, conditions favored those who would reproduce the most quickly and therefore spread out into the new territory fastest. Meanwhile, other regions were settled by populations that had lived for a long time in densely populated urban areas situated around relatively fixed resource bases, who are inclined to limit their fertility until they have possession of the resources to try to raise children with. Unsurprisingly, the descendants of the latter populations feel favorably towards things like abortion and gay marriage that limit one’s fertility, while it is overwhelmingly the descendants of the former populations that condemn them.

So there is an evolutionary explanation for the social and political conflicts that exist between whites in the United States today, too; and establishing ethnonationalist states for whites and then dividing them up between conservatives and liberals would largely entail separating whites by their specific ethnic origins as well.

The ethnonationalist ideal, then, might end up looking roughly like a world where most people live within about 20 blocks from their first cousins, within about 40 blocks from their second cousins, within about 60 blocks from their third cousins, and so on and so forth. While the conservative focuses on giving ideological support to the two-parent monogamous family in isolation, the ethnonationalist wants to encourage creation of a world where the familial sense of community is palpable everywhere. But being realistic, he sees that this simply can’t be done unless we arrange ourselves so that our differences don’t become a source of conflict. And that means not only encouraging the family to stay together, but encouraging families to stay together — that is, to concentrate in common geographical areas. Just as the case for why I want to live in a house with my family and stay out of the house where you live with your family is one that I can make without saying a word about why I hate your family, so the case for ethnonationalism can easily be made without saying a word about what one dislikes about races other than ones’ own. In fact, because “race” is nothing other than one’s very extended family, the two are just shy of being literally the same case.

In an ironic twiswt, because by concentrating people around people who are much more “like them” than average it would allow peoples to express their differences with much less conflict from the immediate society around them, the implementation of this ethnonationalist ideal just might lead to the most “diverse” world of all. Local cultures could evolve and take their own path, and no one would ask them to assimilate into a wider culture, because no one would need to; everyone would have their own “home.”