Not much to belong to

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In his new book The Strange Death of Europe Douglas Murray talks about a crisis of confidence among Europeans. It seems like everything we were once sure of has now been undermined by a relativistic frame of mind. When our confidence up and left us, so did our willingness to defend our way of life.

I think this is right. Uncertainty and self-doubt seem to be hallmarks of the modern world. We used to be confident Christians but now rationality and science have made religious belief untenable, at least for the intellectually honest. This is unfortunate because much of our present worldview grew out of two millennia of Christian ideas. It might turn out that some of our values need the bedrock of Christian beliefs to support them. After all, it is by no means obvious to me how you prove the worth of an individual through rationality and logic alone. We will soon find out if this tree will continue to grow after being severed from its roots.

And it’s not only religion that we have lost faith in. British people used to be prepared to defend their country, to the death if necessary, as they showed during World War II. (I don’t believe we were fighting for democracy as some claim. Had Hitler promised democracy for Britain if Germany won the war but Churchill had offered the British people a non-democratic constitutional monarchy if Britain won, I think most British people would have chosen the latter, democracy be damned.) Yet since our government implemented a policy of mass immigration and multiculturalism against the wishes of the people, I for one no longer feel tempted to fight, and certainly not to die, for a piece of land that no longer resembles my old country. Let the politicians who changed Britain against our will fight for it if they wish.

Some people would like to raise white consciousness and bathe in the kind of racial, ethnic and religious solidarity that blacks, Hispanics and Muslims, who sometimes refer to each other as ‘brother’, apparently feel. That isn’t something open to me since I feel no deeper attachment to cousins I have never seen than to a complete stranger, nor do I feel any closer to the white British teachers I work with than to my Japanese students.

It therefore seems that many modern westerners can no longer turn to religion, country or race to overcome a feeling of isolation and atomisation. That pleasant feeling of certainty, rightness and being ‘home’ that these institutions used to offer is no longer open to many of us.

Perhaps liberals would say that this is all to the good since we should all see the whole world as our country and the people in it as ‘our people’. Yet this is not how I feel. To experience the feeling of belonging to a group I also need to feel there is also an out group. But nowadays even criminals are not supposed to be viewed as members of an out-group but instead as victims of unfortunate circumstances; they are more to be pitied than despised and are often described as ‘the vulnerable’. The only people it is now permissible to view as an out group are political opponents. Yet even here there is no solid ground for the vacillating Hamlets among us. After all, maybe the other side is right when they say that it is bigots like me who are the only impediment to the creation of truly harmonious multicultural societies. Maybe wanting your country to be populated by large numbers of immigrants really is the enlightened way to look at things. Certainly a lot of well-educated people seem to think so.

As I said, a loss of cultural confidence seems to have overtaken many western people until they can’t even take their own side in an argument. A lack of conviction or an inculcated sense of guilt makes it hard for them to belong to an identitarian group. A reading circle or bowls club is about the limit of their group devotion.

So would I have felt close to other Christians if science hadn’t made a belief in God look daft? Possibly, though even then I would have needed the threat of an Islamic invasion to keep the sense of brotherhood fresh. Would I have felt more loyalty to my country if the government hadn’t repopulated it with people unlike me and with little or no historical, cultural, linguistic or genetic connection to either me or these islands? Probably, though I suppose there’s nothing to stop me from making friends with all my white British neighbours in Leicester, something I haven’t done and don’t intend to do. Would I have felt more race solidarity if the very idea hadn’t been smeared with accusations of racism and white supremacy since I was born? Maybe, but then again maybe not. Even without such demonisation it’s hard, after getting the hang of the objective viewpoint of science, not to view tribalism as essentially backwards and mainly the preserve of knuckle-dragging thickoes. Shame that liberals only say that to Richard Spencer and not also to Black Lives Matter activists.

It’s not only religion, country and race that I can’t belong to. Even when I used to go to pop concerts and people put their hands in the air, apparently subsuming their egos in the crowd and reveling in a shared experience, at such times I always felt more alone than ever.

I suppose family, friends and like-minded individuals partially fill the gap left by a lack of religion, patriotism and racial solidarity. So with their help do I sometimes feel like I’m part of a small community and that I’m where I belong, safe and among my own kind? Nope, not really. So either I’m a child of my times or this is what life usually feels like to most people in most places.