Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Hampshire turning 'blue'

According to the Christian Science Monitor,

The Republican Party in New England's only "red state" may be going the way of the Old Man of the Mountain, the craggy icon of independence that crumbled a few years back in a rock slide.

In the last election, Democrats took both seats in Congress for the first time in nearly a century and both houses of the legislature for the first time since 1874. Democratic Gov. John Lynch won a second term with a record 74 percent of the vote, and lawmakers recently authorized same-sex civil unions and a smoking ban in bars and restaurants.

The "Live Free or Die" state is becoming "Blue Hampshire." The Granite State, said a blog for the conservative National Review, is "trending alarmingly Granola State."...

The shifting political landscape is mainly a product of demographics. New Hampshire is the fastest-growing state in New England, growing more than 6 percent since 2000 as the Massachusetts suburbs sprawl northward, baby boomers retire to their second homes, and vibrant high-tech and healthcare industries draw affluent city dwellers from across the country.
Call me paranoid, but the first thing that came to mind when I read this story was "immigration, anyone?" The article doesn't mention the i-word, so I looked for some other sources.

According to FAIR's page on New Hampshire, between 2000 and 2006, the foreign-born population of New Hampshire grew from 54,154 to 65,465, or from 4.4% of the population to 5%. That, taken together with the fact that the majority of foreign-born persons are not naturalized and thus not eligible to vote (or at least, aren't supposed to be able to vote) indicates that the problem is probably not with immigration to New Hampshire directly.

However, look at who is moving to New Hampshire. "Affluent city dwellers from across the country" who work in high-tech and health care (when did that phrase become one word?) industries, people who are, in the words of a pollster quoted in the story, "highly educated, liberal Democrats." While this group no doubt includes large numbers of left-wing whites, it is well-known to anyone who has worked in the high-tech or health care industries that there is one population group whose representation in those fields is much higher than their proportion of the U.S. population: Asians.

And how do Asians vote? According to a blogger at the disturbingly named asian-nation.org (is the USA an Asian nation now?) they vote Democratic.

As reflected in my article on the 2004 Elections, national-level aggregate data tends to show that in terms of political affiliation among those stating a preference, about two-thirds of all Asian Americans lean Democratic and the other third identify with the Republicans.

But as reported by Politico.com, new data from a Harvard research team shows that among young Asian Americans, the percentage who lean Democratic is much higher:

The Institute of Politics at Harvard University recently released data from an online survey of 2,525 18- to 24-year-olds. Among the survey’s more notable statistics are those concerning party affiliation among Asian-Americans: 47 percent identify themselves as Democratic, 15 percent Republican and 39 percent independent — making them more Democratic than any other ethnic group except African-Americans in the survey. . . .
So, while I suspect that the spread of the Boston exurbs means that white liberals are the main source of Democratization of New Hampshire so far, there is no doubt that Asians play a role. And the vast majority of those Asians would not be here if we had not had, for the past 40 years, an immigration policy which regards all peoples in the world as equally worthy to come to America, and permits massive amounts of chain migration through family reunification provisions.

What a tragedy, to see the "live free or die" state forced to throw its lot in with the socialist left by a bunch of recent transplants who have no love for or long-standing connection with New Hampshire. Wasn't this the state of the Free State Project, whose goal was to have libertarians move there en masse and try to create a society with a drastically reduced government? According to the website 8,142 people have joined so far, while the Monitor says that there have been 145,000 "newcomers" to New Hampshire in the past 6 years. So much for that. Can New Hampshire's vestiges of traditional self-sufficient America be saved, or will it become the latest fatality in the left's push for a unified bureaucratic socialist state?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

How liberals see Western culture as a vacuum

Back in August, Mark Richardson of Oz Conservative and John Savage of Brave New World Watch commented on how liberals often admire traditionalism and "authenticity" among non-white, non-Western peoples but despise those same traits in the white Western world. Their posts sparked a few thoughts which I made a note of, but I never got around to actually writing a post. More recently, however, a post from Vanishing American and a comment on her blog from John Savage have brought this concept to mind again, so I was inspired to comment.

Richardson quotes Robert Manne, a professor of politics at La Trobe University, waxing nostalgic about the Australian Aborigines, and then provides his own comments:
Manne recently defended the traditional Aboriginal way of life by referring to the work of white anthropologists who, Manne believes, observed:
not an Edenic but an enchanted world, in the technical sense of the sociologist Max Weber. They discovered an intricate social order in which, through the kinship structure, every human being held a precise and acknowledged place. They discovered a world that was filled with economic purpose; leavened by playfulness, joy and humour; soaked in magic, sorcery, mystery and ritual; pregnant at every moment with deep and unquestioned meaning.
It's difficult to imagine anything more out of line with liberal modernism. At the moment the bookshops are full of works by the liberal intelligentsia claiming that religion is a dangerous threat to humanity. Yet here the Aborigines are given a free pass to live in an enchanted world in which there is not only religion, but a world "soaked in magic, sorcery, mystery and ritual" and "pregnant at every moment with deep and unquestioned meaning".

Why isn't the ethos of liberal rationalism and scientism applied to Aborigines?

Similarly, liberals have pressed for an ideal in which we are unimpeded in choosing who we are and what we do. We are supposed to be self-determining individual agents, who aren't constrained by unchosen forms of identity based on gender or ethnicity, or by traditional social roles or patterns of family life.

Again, Manne doesn't apply the logic of liberalism to Aborigines. Not only do they get to keep basic forms of family life and gender identity, they are even praised for having "an intricate social order, in which, through kinship structure, every human held a precise and acknowledged place".
Indeed, one hears this sort of thing all the time. How can liberals praise the authenticity of nonwhite, non-Western groups like Australian Aborigines, American Indians, African tribes, etc., and then, far from admiring medieval Europe or red-state Evangelicals for their authenticity, decry them as evil and oppressive? It's impossible to imagine a Robert Manne looking at, say, the insular Dutch Reformed communities in the Midwestern USA, with their traditional gender roles, prayer meetings, and Sundays that revolve entirely around church, and extolling their world for being "pregnant at every moment with deep and unquestioned meaning" and for possessing "an intricate social order, in which, through kinship structure, every human held a precise and acknowledged place." After all, they support homeschooling and oppose same-sex marriage!

Richardson, his commenters, and John Savage all had some thought-provoking ideas, but I wonder if something more basic is being missed. Recently I was ruminating on the epithet "white-bread," used to mean boring, bland, and homogeneous, as when Charles Murray said that he'd "a hell of a lot rather live in a Little Vietnam or a Little Guatemala neighborhood, even if I couldn’t read the store signs, than in many white-bread communities I can think of." The idea being that white-bread communities don't have the festive music, the vibrant colors, the spicy foods of Little Vietnam or a Little Guatemala, so no intelligent sophisticated man of the world would want to live in one. Yet, of course, traditional Western culture does have exciting or "vibrant" aspects--just listen to Beethoven's 9th symphony, visit a museum with a collection by Leonardo da Vinci or Manet, sample some French cuisine, attend a German Oktoberfest; the list goes on.

So what explains this? We conservatives, rightly, make much of the fact that the left simply hates traditional Western culture (for, e.g., its inequality) and wants to destroy it, as Richardson and John Savage have commented. Yet perhaps it is not always necessary to dig so deep. I believe that liberals fail to see the cultural distinctiveness, the "authenticity," of our own society because they have been immersed in it since birth; it is what they see as the "default," the state of man without any interesting cultural adornments. They view Western culture as a vacuum, a blank template onto which can be written all kinds of "enriching" distinctive cultural traditions, a kind of foundation for a culture, but inadequate as a complete culture.

In fact, this could be seen as a reason the left hates Western culture, that they view failure to provide any interesting "add-ons" as a moral failure. We could have had interesting cultural traditions, but we failed to develop them. Meanwhile, look at these wonderful non-Western cultures. They add loud, exciting music, parades with elaborate costumes and rich colors, spicy foods, and what do we do? Eat our dinners of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and cooked peas and then retire to the living room to put our feet up and read the Saturday Evening Post until little Jimmy gets home from Boy Scouts.

I can't point to any published examples that show this is how liberals think; it's based mainly on my observations of and interactions with college-student-style liberals. Based on the way they behave and innumerable little things they've said, I get the impression that they view that dinner of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and peas not as its own, perfectly legitimate cultural particularity, but as the base one is left with if one strips away the curry powder, habanero peppers, wasabi, or whatever.

This explains the incident Vanishing American referenced in the post I linked to above. David Yeagley was having a discussion with a student:

"Look, Dr, Yeagley, I don’t see anything about my culture to be proud of. It’s all nothing. My race is just nothing."

The girl was white. She was tall and pretty, with amber hair and brown eyes. For convenience’ sake, let’s call her "Rachel."

I had been leading a class on social psychology, in which we discussed patriotism – what it means to be a people or a nation. The discussion had been quite lively. But when Rachel spoke, everyone fell silent.

"Look at your culture," she said to me. "Look at American Indian tradition. Now I think that’s really great. You have something to be proud of. My culture is nothing."
Notice what this girl was saying. She didn't say her culture was evil, racist, discriminatory, intolerant, oppressive, imperialistic, etc. She may have believed it was all of those things, but that wasn't the particular objection she was raising to it at the time. She merely said it was nothing. In other words, you have your fancy feathered tribal headdresses, others have Cinco de Mayo, others still have the Chinese New Year. But we have nothing. Thanksgiving, fireworks on the Fourth of July, Christmas choirs in colored tuxedos and dresses accompanied by an orchestra and majestic pipe organ, those are all nothing. They're not interesting cultural traditions in their own right; they're just there.

It also explains something John Savage wondered about in a comment:
Thus I think most stereotypes about whites are pretty well justified (the "racist" one aside). The question should be, though, what qualities are necessary to create an advanced and free country. Whites possess all those qualities better than others. Blacks and Mexicans may have certain qualities we appreciate, but not those that help to sustain the kind of country we want. They don't spontaneously create cultures that sustain advanced and free civilizations. Asians, it would appear, can sustain advanced ones, but only with a minimal amount of freedom. It's telling that leftists usually care more about having people with "rhythm" who can jump, than the fundamental abilities and virtues that have traditionally made America what it is.
We know that liberals think that human beings are blank slates, that our natures are all fundamentally the same and it is only our environments that make us different. When we combine this fact with the concept of Western culture as blank slate, it makes sense that liberals would think the way John Savage describes. They don't see the fundamental abilities and virtues that have traditionally made America what it is--i.e., an advanced and free country--as being in conflict with having people with "rhythm" who can jump; they don't see the two as being the same kind of thing at all (i.e., civilizational characteristics particular to a population group.) They think that the ability to create a free and advanced country like America is present in everyone; it's part of the foundation or template which we see as Western culture, but which is unexposed but still present in other cultures because it has spicy foods and exciting parades built on top of it. America, or more broadly Western Europe, is nothing but the ability to create a free and advanced country, for we have no cultural traditions built on top of it. Other cultures are the ability to create a free and advanced country plus all sorts of interesting cultural traditions. Therefore, liberals think we will always have a free and advanced country, and in their view are merely "improving" on our society by painting on that blank canvas, by importing characteristics like rhythm and the ability to jump.