17 October 2013

The secret origin of White people

This is more like notes toward a post rather than a proper blog post. I have these links burning a hole in my pocket and want a place to put them.

It starts with an essay Yo, Pundits! Here's What's Up With the Republicans, which submits that the two tribes of American politics thesis which many people (including me) tend to favor is too simple. Drawing upon David Hackett Fischer's book Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, it says that what is now the backbone of the Republican party is grounded in the Borderer ethnic group from the Scots-English highlands.

The more we study the Borderers' folkways in Britain and in America, the more we see how thoroughly the Republican Party has adopted this culture's worldview and purged itself of incompatible elements.

To begin with, right-wing authoritarianism has fertile soil in two aspects of Borderer rank ways: “tanistry” and “macocracy.” Tanistry is the selection of a “thane,” or warlord, to lead a clan. “By the rule of tanistry, one man . . . was chosen to head the family: he who was strongest, toughest and most cunning,” Fischer writes. “The winner became the elder of his family or clan, and was honored with deference and deep respect. The losers were degraded and despised” (694). The Borderers had no fixed social order, and they treated all outsiders alike, with what was seen as “insolence,” “impudence,” “forwardness,” “familiarity,” “unruliness,” “licentiousness” and “pride” (755)
“Macocracy” is a coinage derived from the “Mac-” prefix on the names of Scottish clans, defined by Fischer as “a structure of highly personal politics without deference to social rank". In other words, it's not a man's title that gives him power, but rather his personal leadership and ability to influence others. Charismatic leaders drew fanatical personal followings among Borderers, who placed a heavy premium on personal loyalty. We see this in elected officials' deference to media figures such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, to organizational leaders such as James Dobson and to political operatives such as Karl Rove.
Also, Borderer culture was intensely conformist. Those who broke the rules of Borderer society were “hated out,” or ostracized; “[d]eviance from cultural norms was rarely tolerated[, and] opposition was suppressed by force” (781). The Borderers' libertarian conception of freedom did not include the right to disagree or dissent.

This combination of cultural factors produces a political culture in which people can take marching orders and “talking points” and follow them day in and day out without deviation
Today's Republican Party tolerates inequality of wealth because Borderers have historically experienced more of it than any other culture in America.

The historical quotes describing Borderer culture are striking in how contemporary and fresh they seem. This stuff dates back to the colonial experience before White racial identity was invented.

It brings to mind an old favorite of mine, the screed Revenge Of The Mutt People from Joe Bageant which I've blogged before.

We the mutt faced sons and daughters of the republic. Born to kick your chicken breast meat to death for you in the darkest, most dismal corners of our great land, born to kill and be killed in stock car races, drunken domestic rows, and of course in the desert dusty back streets at the edges of the empire. Middle class urban liberals may never claim us as brothers, much less willing servants, but as they say in prison, we are your meat. We do your bidding. Your refusal to admit that we do your dirty work for you, not to mention the international smackdowns and muggings for the republic — from which you benefit more materially than we ever will — makes it no less true.
With the “fighting tradition” of Scots Irish behind us, we smashed upon each other ceaselessly in trailer court and tavern, night and day in rain and summer heat until finally, we reach our mid-fifties and lose our enthusiasm (not to mention stamina) for that most venerated of borderer sports.
liberal refusal to see white people as also being diverse, and seeing that some of them indeed need their own sort of affirmative action is exactly the kind of thing that helped the neocons lead these working white people buy the nose

Update: Add in Aaron Barlow at Academe Blog with Want to Understand the Tea Party? Look to How They See Themselves:

These are primarily people of European ancestry who see themselves as simply “American,” with no ties to other nations or other cultures. They do not descend from post-Civil War immigration; ties to any “old country” were broken long ago, probably even before the age of steam. Many of them are associated with the Borderer culture that rose between Scotland and England and that was hardened on Ulster Plantation in the 17th century, either by descent or incorporation–and all of them see themselves as being the “real” Americans who created the United States.

They do not feel that they have been treated well by the federal government, of late. In fact, they may never have felt themselves treated well (they were the rebels of the War of the Regulation in the 1760s and the Whiskey Rebellion thirty years later–not to mention, many were the stalwarts of the Confederate States of America, though few would have been counted among the rich slave owners).

And I have more on the Real Americans.

Update: Colin Woodard breaks American culture into eleven “nations”. In this article for Tufts Magazine Up In Arms, about the connection between guns, violence, and politics he lays out the thesis and it's pretty convincing.

Among the eleven regional cultures, there are two superpowers, nations with the identity, mission, and numbers to shape continental debate: Yankeedom and Deep South. For more than two hundred years, they’ve fought for control of the federal government and, in a sense, the nation’s soul. Over the decades, Deep South has become strongly allied with Greater Appalachia and Tidewater, and more tenuously with the Far West. Their combined agenda—to slash taxes, regulations, social services, and federal powers—is opposed by a Yankee-led bloc that includes New Netherland and the Left Coast. Other nations, especially the Midlands and El Norte, often hold the swing vote, whether in a presidential election or a congressional battle over health care reform. Those swing nations stand to play a decisive role on violence-related issues as well.


J'Carlin said...

Grammar nitpic: by the nose. at end

Jim Dickinson said...

I find this tendency to pursue the Thane reflected in a lot of the media coverage as well (even NPR) where there is a seriously disturbing obsession with the 'gamesmanship' rather than the substance of the issue being gamed. It is as if all the mouthy pundits are bookmaking on which brutal warlord will be victorious through the cleverest/ruthless tactics and, therefore, worthy of our fealty. There is so little discussion of the context and substance that I sometimes think they have forgotten what it is. It is a truly bizarre phenomenon in the reporting that reflects the madness in the political system - and has bothered me for many, many years.

Perhaps it reflects the reporters that have attempted escape from a Borderer upbringing but cannot shake the subconscious programming of it?

Jonathan Korman said...

Interesting, Jim. I generally think of that coverage of the horse race of politics rather than the content as symptomatic of the American press' stance of faux “objectivity”, but I think you may have something there.