August 29, 2005


Lessons for Islam from Quebec (Spengler, 8/20/05, Asia Times)

Quebec's "Quiet Revolution" of the 1960s, in which the birth rate of Francophone Canadians fell to among the lowest from the highest in the industrial world, may offer lessons for the future of radical Islam. Quebecois nationalism peaked after the Quebec's demographic fate was sealed, offering an embittered but futile remonstrance against inevitable decline. Last week I observed that Islamists have only one generation in which to establish the theocracy they want, before modernism catches up with the Muslim world and its birth rate crashes to levels associated with the infecund West (The demographics of radical Islam).

If the owl of wisdom flies at night, as Hegel said of philosophy, so does the buzzard of nationalism. When traditional life is placid and content in its faith and family life, nationalism does not require political expression. Europe's nationalist movements sprang up in response to the threat of Napoleon. Quebec's nationalists invented themselves in response to the imminent decline of the Francophone population of Canada. Something analogous may be said of the Islamists.

Islamism wells up from a profound and well-placed sense of fragility.

It's notable that nationalism is returning in Europe as folks realize they've driven over the demographic cliff, but has never managed so much as a toehold in America. To a truly heartening degree, Americans remain free men, as described by Eric Hoffer:
Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect. The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 29, 2005 11:16 AM

Your conceit that Americans, the most chauvinistic of people, are untouched by nationalism continues to be amusing.

Posted by: David Cohen at August 29, 2005 2:04 PM

I've seen a warning that unrestrained immigration from Mexico could turn the southwestern U.S. into another Quebec. If that means it becomes a declining backwater, that wouldn't be good but the rest of us could live with it.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at August 29, 2005 3:16 PM

Chauvanism isn't nationalism.

Posted by: oj at August 29, 2005 3:21 PM

Neither is chauvinism.

Posted by: obc at August 29, 2005 10:28 PM

Americans, the most chauvinistic of peoples?

David, you've got to get out more (and no, I don't mean Canada).

Posted by: Barry Meislin at August 30, 2005 1:50 AM


No, he's right, he just doesn't grasp the nature of the chauvinism.

The most characteristic beliefs of Americans, very nearly unique to us, are universalist and antinationalist:

(1) the belief that everyone wants to be just like us, and with a little help can be. Thus we assume everyone from Russia to Vietnam to Grenada to Iraq, etc. can and wishes to replicate the Republic in their own country. No Frenchman thinks Mongolia can be a little France.

(2) closely tied to this is our anti-interventionism/isolationism and anti-imperialism--we tend not to get involved abroad as much as we should and then bug out ASAP, rather than incorporating defeated states into our own.

(3) the belief that anyone from anywhere who comes here can be assimilated into our culture and be just as American as the rest of us. No German believes a Bantu can be a German.

(4) belief in Creationism, rather than Darwinism. Nationalism requires one to believe that one's own ethnic grouping is fitter than others.

Posted by: oj at August 30, 2005 7:54 AM

Might I dare suggest that the belief that anyone would not only want to but can indeed become American is in fact a kind of anti-chauvinism?

Thought not...

(Though I suppose first one ought to define just what "American" means....)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at August 30, 2005 9:27 AM


By chauvinism I mean that it is quite the opposite of multiculturalism. Europeans thought everyone could have a culture of their own--Americans think everyone can have ours, wants to, and will be well served by it. Regardless of their nationality.

Posted by: oj at August 30, 2005 9:54 AM


Everyone who wants to, can become an American.

I define an American as anybody who wants to come to the U.S. from any corner of the earth, of any color, race or religion and who is willing to work hard, to live by our laws and to fight for and cherish the freedom our founding fathers passed on to us as our birthright.

We who are already Americans can thank our ancestors for their courage in leaving all that was known and coming to a new land with only their brains and ambition and who succeeded in building the greatest nation the world has even seen.

We're not perfect yet, but we're working on it, so save your snide remarks about indigenous peoples and African slaves. We went to war with ourselves to end slavery and we've tried to address wrongs done to the Indians.

Other countries needn't become like us. We have the model for prosperity and freedom. It's free and downloadable, but each country can suit itself. Just stay out of our face and we'll leave you to stay mired in poverty and oppression. Don't be surprised though when your best people want to come here to become Americans.

Come after us and you'll find we haven't gotten soft while living the good life.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 30, 2005 10:16 AM

a pluperfect statement of antinationalist chavinism.

Posted by: oj at August 30, 2005 10:25 AM

Yes, yes, we're not at all nationalist. We just don't care what foreigners think and know that they'd be better off if they just conducted their affairs exactly like we do.

Posted by: David Cohen at August 30, 2005 12:30 PM

Yes, that's the opposite of nationalism.

Posted by: oj at August 30, 2005 12:45 PM