Quitting Kumbaya: Why Division Works

The other day, I greatly offended an Arab associate of mine.  During a conversation about the social contract, I tried to use an example of a group forming itself into a nation.  I had begun the example with the statement, "suppose that a group of people like you were to get together and decide to build your own country with your own laws."

My associate's objection to my statement was that Christians and conservatives oftentimes enjoy separating themselves from everyone else, that we believe that people like him are not part of our group -- that, in essence, we discriminate.  In this particular instance, I referred to him as people like you, leading toward an idea and an effect which I had not intended.  Why, he asked, could we not just all be considered human, and on the same team? 

In this aspect, I believe conservatives are failing a major public relations battle.  Within the past sixty years, as the left has marketed itself as the locus of racial and cultural reconciliation and unity, the right has been spending its time and resources combating accusations of bigotry, racism, and all kinds of other malicious slander which has more to do with politics than reality. 

Yet some conservatives have begun combating these accusations by pretending that identity doesn't matter so much and that people who think it does are "intolerant."  But does identity matter?  And if conservatives are going to win the battle against the left, can they necessarily do so under such a big tent?

An interesting answer exists in the writings of John Locke.  In his Second Treatise of Government, chapter IX, Locke writes that although we many times view mankind as a series of nations and races and peoples and tribes, we really exist as one distinct community under our Creator and the authority of natural law.  Within the parameters of this so-called Natural Law -- the innate understanding of what it means to cheat, to steal, to murder, to rape, to assault, and to lie, as well as to bless, to protect, to shelter, and to nurture -- humankind would have found its ideal unity.  But none were content to live under the Law's boundaries, instead preferring to transgress it in every way imaginable, forcing others into distinctive groups out of self-protection. 

Had we kept ourselves under the total authority of our Creator, perhaps we might have still retained a uniform understanding of morality and thus been able to consolidate our resources and communities more easily.  But as time progressed and we became increasingly autonomous, being further removed from our natural circumstances, we found that humans were forming their laws around particular preferences.  What would be considered thievery in one nation would be considered taxation in another.  What would be considered murder in one nation would be considered acceptable and necessary revenge in another.  And so humanity diverged according to rights, although these rights still revolved -- and continue to revolve -- around the stone backbone of Natural Law.

This divergence from an objective, original standard was and is dangerous, because entrance into a social contract necessitates that those benefiting from the contract sacrifice two rights.  First, the citizen sacrifices the right to personally dispense justice, relinquishing that power to theoretically impartial public servants (this is not to be confused with the right to self-defense).  Second, the beneficiary of the state is to regulate his possessions according to whatever laws the society finds necessary -- for if a primary objective of the social contract is for the purpose of protecting property, then property must necessarily become subject to the government to which a person is allied.  And this necessarily impacts the means by which a person finds subsistence.

If we consider that these two very important rights have been forfeited to some degree by anyone entering into any particular government, we must also acknowledge that a person's ideology and culture will determine what kind of law he supports, and these laws will affect his defense and property.  In this regard, it makes sense to subject ideology and culture to serious inspection and healthy levels of skepticism, for ideology and culture, particularly in a democratic republic, will necessarily impact the law's ability to defend you in the way you prefer (Second Treatise, chapter VII, sect 87).  And were these ideological differences trivial, it would not be difficult to imagine society still united under a common world government, or at least under more heavily consolidated states.

Therefore, it is not a sin to be suspicious of people from different cultures or religions or to consider yourself part of a distinct group with distinct preferences about law.  John Jay had something specific to say about this matter in Federalist #2, remarking that Americans belong together not because unity is a value in itself, but because Americans share too many crucially important similarities to regard our differences as insurmountable. 

Thus, an important point conservatives must make is that these ideological differences which conservatives must supposedly overlook (which leftists do not, by the way, as made apparent in their treatment of white conservatives) appear superficial and unworthy of serious opposition when the majority is still relatively homogeneous.  But if we are to live in a free society, in which the people culturally unite to create their own government to suit their own purposes within the God-given boundaries of unalienable rights, we need to acknowledge that sooner or later, profound differences can and will become problematic.

Supposing these differences of opinion become so sharply opposed among the populace, the government's interest will become directed toward maintaining power and cohesion.  This interest may lead to repression of any differences arbitrarily determined to be divisionary, resulting in a government from the top down instead of from the grassroots upward.  We in America are rapidly approaching such a point of forceful cohesion, whereupon we will have forfeited both our liberty and one of the few lasting institutions of brotherhood our forefathers could create for themselves and their progeny.  And we will have ironically done so under the guise of peace and love -- ends which we shall not see.

So while some degree of ideological distinction may at first appear fearful and discriminatory, we must remember that people were forced to fearfully seek refuge in distinction due to the very evil of man -- an evil which we decided we would combat most peculiarly to the remaining nations of the earth.  We find solace in this common ideological identity, and while such identity may not always have pretty results, it is far preferable to the lawlessness we found ourselves in before, or we would not have united into states.   

While we are all made in the image of God, equality of human value and protection under an equal dispensation of human rights does not translate into equality of character.  Our ability to organize and discriminate according to character is the only way in which we can pursue any serious form of justice, peace, or equality (at least without divine intervention).  And if that is wrong, then perhaps leftists should be consistent and admit that the existence of states is wrong as well. 

Jeremy Egerer is a recent convert to Christian conservatism from radical liberalism, and is the editor of the Seattle website www.americanclarity.com.
The other day, I greatly offended an Arab associate of mine.  During a conversation about the social contract, I tried to use an example of a group forming itself into a nation.  I had begun the example with the statement, "suppose that a group of people like you were to get together and decide to build your own country with your own laws."

My associate's objection to my statement was that Christians and conservatives oftentimes enjoy separating themselves from everyone else, that we believe that people like him are not part of our group -- that, in essence, we discriminate.  In this particular instance, I referred to him as people like you, leading toward an idea and an effect which I had not intended.  Why, he asked, could we not just all be considered human, and on the same team? 

In this aspect, I believe conservatives are failing a major public relations battle.  Within the past sixty years, as the left has marketed itself as the locus of racial and cultural reconciliation and unity, the right has been spending its time and resources combating accusations of bigotry, racism, and all kinds of other malicious slander which has more to do with politics than reality. 

Yet some conservatives have begun combating these accusations by pretending that identity doesn't matter so much and that people who think it does are "intolerant."  But does identity matter?  And if conservatives are going to win the battle against the left, can they necessarily do so under such a big tent?

An interesting answer exists in the writings of John Locke.  In his Second Treatise of Government, chapter IX, Locke writes that although we many times view mankind as a series of nations and races and peoples and tribes, we really exist as one distinct community under our Creator and the authority of natural law.  Within the parameters of this so-called Natural Law -- the innate understanding of what it means to cheat, to steal, to murder, to rape, to assault, and to lie, as well as to bless, to protect, to shelter, and to nurture -- humankind would have found its ideal unity.  But none were content to live under the Law's boundaries, instead preferring to transgress it in every way imaginable, forcing others into distinctive groups out of self-protection. 

Had we kept ourselves under the total authority of our Creator, perhaps we might have still retained a uniform understanding of morality and thus been able to consolidate our resources and communities more easily.  But as time progressed and we became increasingly autonomous, being further removed from our natural circumstances, we found that humans were forming their laws around particular preferences.  What would be considered thievery in one nation would be considered taxation in another.  What would be considered murder in one nation would be considered acceptable and necessary revenge in another.  And so humanity diverged according to rights, although these rights still revolved -- and continue to revolve -- around the stone backbone of Natural Law.

This divergence from an objective, original standard was and is dangerous, because entrance into a social contract necessitates that those benefiting from the contract sacrifice two rights.  First, the citizen sacrifices the right to personally dispense justice, relinquishing that power to theoretically impartial public servants (this is not to be confused with the right to self-defense).  Second, the beneficiary of the state is to regulate his possessions according to whatever laws the society finds necessary -- for if a primary objective of the social contract is for the purpose of protecting property, then property must necessarily become subject to the government to which a person is allied.  And this necessarily impacts the means by which a person finds subsistence.

If we consider that these two very important rights have been forfeited to some degree by anyone entering into any particular government, we must also acknowledge that a person's ideology and culture will determine what kind of law he supports, and these laws will affect his defense and property.  In this regard, it makes sense to subject ideology and culture to serious inspection and healthy levels of skepticism, for ideology and culture, particularly in a democratic republic, will necessarily impact the law's ability to defend you in the way you prefer (Second Treatise, chapter VII, sect 87).  And were these ideological differences trivial, it would not be difficult to imagine society still united under a common world government, or at least under more heavily consolidated states.

Therefore, it is not a sin to be suspicious of people from different cultures or religions or to consider yourself part of a distinct group with distinct preferences about law.  John Jay had something specific to say about this matter in Federalist #2, remarking that Americans belong together not because unity is a value in itself, but because Americans share too many crucially important similarities to regard our differences as insurmountable. 

Thus, an important point conservatives must make is that these ideological differences which conservatives must supposedly overlook (which leftists do not, by the way, as made apparent in their treatment of white conservatives) appear superficial and unworthy of serious opposition when the majority is still relatively homogeneous.  But if we are to live in a free society, in which the people culturally unite to create their own government to suit their own purposes within the God-given boundaries of unalienable rights, we need to acknowledge that sooner or later, profound differences can and will become problematic.

Supposing these differences of opinion become so sharply opposed among the populace, the government's interest will become directed toward maintaining power and cohesion.  This interest may lead to repression of any differences arbitrarily determined to be divisionary, resulting in a government from the top down instead of from the grassroots upward.  We in America are rapidly approaching such a point of forceful cohesion, whereupon we will have forfeited both our liberty and one of the few lasting institutions of brotherhood our forefathers could create for themselves and their progeny.  And we will have ironically done so under the guise of peace and love -- ends which we shall not see.

So while some degree of ideological distinction may at first appear fearful and discriminatory, we must remember that people were forced to fearfully seek refuge in distinction due to the very evil of man -- an evil which we decided we would combat most peculiarly to the remaining nations of the earth.  We find solace in this common ideological identity, and while such identity may not always have pretty results, it is far preferable to the lawlessness we found ourselves in before, or we would not have united into states.   

While we are all made in the image of God, equality of human value and protection under an equal dispensation of human rights does not translate into equality of character.  Our ability to organize and discriminate according to character is the only way in which we can pursue any serious form of justice, peace, or equality (at least without divine intervention).  And if that is wrong, then perhaps leftists should be consistent and admit that the existence of states is wrong as well. 

Jeremy Egerer is a recent convert to Christian conservatism from radical liberalism, and is the editor of the Seattle website www.americanclarity.com.

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