Identity Defies the Global Marketplace

Jack Donovan, American Renaissance, May 23, 2014

The search for authentic diversity.

I am here today to “celebrate diversity.” I’m all for it. I think the world needs a lot more of it: Ethnic diversity, religious diversity, cultural diversity. Authentic diversity that is alive and thriving in the present. Not stagnant, recycled, sterilized artifacts of the past. Other people say they want to “celebrate diversity,” but too often they’re just repeating slogans that make them feel good, and that ultimately facilitate entities and patterns of thought that can only destroy “diversity.”

A few years ago, I walked past a television and the World Cup was on. Before the game started, the two teams ran across the field. Black, white, brown, red and yellow players ran out together to meet in the center and both teams were holding a giant banner that said: “SAY NO TO RACISM”.

But, what I immediately noticed is that these two teams from different nations were all wearing Nike uniforms. And that one image has captured for me both the interest that merchants and global corporations have in promoting what is called “diversity,” and the extent to which that “diversity” is allowed to be meaningful.

A bunch of competing athletes dressed in uniforms made by the same company, promoting the end of racial boundaries, demonstrated the ability of the global brand to transcend and undermine race, tribe, culture and nation. You can be black, white, brown, red or yellow. You can be from different countries, and you can compete against each other, but no matter who wins, Nike wins.

That image of all of those players out there with the same logos on their uniforms reminded me of a classic Coke commercial–the one in which people from every race and nationality sing in perfect harmony about a sugary beverage that makes you fat and gives you “the diabeetus.” That commercial was made in 1971, three years before I was born.

People blame commie academics, hippie schoolteachers, progressive politicians, and the lefty shills in the media for the deracination of whites . . . and–I would add–the deracination of almost everyone else, too. But it is my habit to doubt the conspiratorial talents of hippies and academics and even politicians, though they all have their moments. It always seems more plausible to me to rely on human weakness, ineptitude, sloppiness, selfishness, short-sightedness, and greed for an explanation of everyday human affairs.

I’ve worked for small companies and big corporations, and a “feel good,” “hug the world” ideology is so often an easy personal rationalization for taking the path of least resistance, to improving a balance sheet or justifying that next pay raise. Small businesses hire illegal immigrants so they can make more money. Big businesses have anti-discrimination policies to avoid liability but perhaps even more importantly, because their interests are everywhere and their customers are everyone.

Big businesses have no interest in alienating potential customers. They serve no one because they serve everyone. Like Nike, businesses want to play on every team. They don’t see “us” and “them.” Businesses see existing markets and emerging markets. Sure, hippies, commies, schoolteachers, reporters, activists and progressive politicians may have given what we call “multiculturalism” a push and they continue to be its best bumper sticker supporters, but it works, it spreads, it’s viable–because it is profitable.

Loyalty, of any kind, necessarily limits your options. Loyalty to no one makes you flexible and opens up your options. You become a mercenary, and so does everyone else. Once a tipping point has been reached and there is no social or legal deterrent to disloyalty, it becomes more profitable for everyone at every level to trade loyalty for opportunity. “Discrimination” then becomes the only dirty word. Discrimination in this sense–a product of loyalty to a group–becomes taboo not because it is innately evil but because it is simply unprofitable.

Preaching anti-discrimination becomes profitable, no matter what men actually believe about themselves or other people, because without loyalty to a group everyone is a free agent, a self-salesman with no other means of support–a loner who can’t afford to alienate anyone who could one day become an employer or a customer. Almost all people participate willingly–for their own immediately personal gain or convenience–in the erosion of their own cultural and ethnic boundaries, connections, and identities. In return, they become part of the “global economy.”

But as they put on their Nike jackets and become “people of the world,” their cultures die or become commercialized caricatures of themselves: a costume, a folk dance, a food cart.

What is called “multiculturalism” is not so much an acknowledgement of separateness, uniqueness, or independence, as it is an invitation to put aside old loyalties and rivalries while maintaining some superficial elements of your old identity to help ease your transition into the new global commercial culture.

I was having dinner at an Italian restaurant a couple of weeks ago at a table next to a family of second- and third-generation Mexicans. All of the men at the table were talking about the same thing. Do you know what they were talking about? Multi-level marketing. Amway. Avocare. They were all passionately debating marketing strategies and business plans, arguing about the best way to sell more products to friends and neighbors. One guy said to his brother or cousin:

You have to set goals for yourself and figure out how much revenue you have to generate to get there. That big house. That nice car. That big vacation.

And I thought to myself, “You sure are Americans now.”

Their grandparents might have been different. They might have had a different culture. But these guys weren’t different. They were just like everyone else in the restaurant. As American as Tony Robbins, Joel Osteen, the Olsen Twins, and P.T. Barnum.

As I said earlier, I’m not much for using conspiracy theories to explain what human nature already explains well enough. There are elites and corporations with investments and customers all over the world, who stand to benefit immediately from increased fluidity in the global marketplace. Many similar decisions are also made by small-business owners, job seekers, low-level bureaucrats, entertainers, and middle managers.

More than a conspiracy, what I see on the horizon reminds me of “The Nothing.” Some of you may be too old and some of you may be too young, but anyone who grew up in the 1980s will remember the movie The Neverending Story. In The Neverending Story, a young boy acquires a book that he was told is “not safe.”

As he reads it, he becomes involved in the story of a dying world. The world is not being conquered by some foreign invader. The world is simply disappearing, succumbing to a force known as “The Nothing.” All of the creatures, the peoples, the rocks, the lakes, the mountains and trees are all disappearing.

The hero learns that the fantasy world of the book–the world that is disappearing–is the product of human dreams, and that “The Nothing” is evidence that people are forgetting their dreams. And that the power behind “The Nothing”–the mysterious force that moves it–is happy that people are losing their dreams because hopeless people without dreams are easy to control. That’s what is happening to human culture, to human difference, to “diversity.”

People are forgetting their connections to their ancestors and losing their sense of belonging in human groups. And instead of replacing old identities with new ones as they have throughout human history, they are forgetting the idea of collective identity. They are forgetting the idea of loyalty, of the discrimination between “us” and “them.”

To compete in the global marketplace for disposable jobs and disposable goods, to protect themselves from social and financial risk, people around the world are forgetting who they are.

They are forgetting the differentiation and individuation of groups that leads to the collective actualization and collective becoming that makes authentic, vibrant and “diverse” cultures possible. They are assimilating and disappearing into a world-crowd, an endless crush of indistinct humanity.

They are putting on their Nike uniforms and drinking Coke and playing pointless games as free and rootless agents for entertainment and profit and the synthetic thrill of playing for a temporary tribe. The emptiness that is left is “The Nothing.” A world without culture, a world without “diversity,” a world defined by commerce and consumption that can produce only . . . products.

Before I started writing about manliness, I actually went to art school. I love culture and beauty and art and passion. I grew up going to libraries and pouring over old art books. I was fascinated by all of the different styles and themes and ideas created by different people at different times in different places with different technologies and different materials, who spoke different languages and worshiped different gods. I studied art history and art movements, and I believe that culture, not just flash-in-the-pan fads or marketing gimmicks, but culture, is the product of identity, of difference, of separateness, of proximity, of location, and to some extent, the product of isolation.

Living culture is the zeitgeist of a people who are connected to each other and separated, in some way, from everyone else. Thriving culture is the product of human tribalism. But anti-tribalism, anti-racism, human interchangeability, globalism, commercialism . . . “The Nothing” . . . creates an environment that can no longer support the growth of new culture.

Many languages blend into a few because it is more convenient for commerce and negotiation. People all around the world read the same news, go to the same websites, listen to the same music, and use the same computers, at different divisions of the same companies. They watch the same Hollywood movies, play the same sports, shop at the same stores, wear similar clothes, read the same books, watch the same porn. Everything seems recycled and half-hearted, because it is.

Everyone converts to watered-down, all-inclusive, inoffensive universalist religions, or instead becomes an atomized, annoying atheist, who wants everyone to believe the same thing and think the same way. No collective culture can grow and thrive in an environment in which everyone is interchangeable and no distinction–no discrimination–between “us” and “them” is permitted.

There are subcultures, of course, but most of them are or quickly become commercialized. They aren’t about groups of people. They are more like producers and fans. Music subcultures, gaming subcultures, literary subcultures, sports subcultures, recreational subcultures. These are mini-identities, disposable identities, consumer identities. These recreational consumer identities force enthusiasts to keep one foot in the mainstream, globalist culture to continue to participate and consume, and the producers will want to invite everyone and exclude no one to make sure they can stay in business.

Too few can go all in. Too few can commit completely. For most, this subculture, this mini-identity, is à la carte, one of many.

Take, for instance, the most conspicuous subcultural type of the past two decades–the “hipster.” Hipsters aren’t even a group. They’re an anti-group. The word “hipster” is a slur–an insult for young people who are fundamentally insincere. They borrow bits and pieces of fads and fashions from more sincere times and piece them together in a safely ironic way.

Hipster culture is the perfect anti-culture. It’s the natural product of global assimilation and commercialism. It is the smirking ghost of cultures past that echoes in the void created by “The Nothing.” Hipster culture is the product of people who are afraid to commit to anything that they won’t be able to disavow later. Hipster irony is a safety valve, an easy out. It is the security of always being able to say, “I wasn’t really serious.”

Salon actually posted a piece recently, written by two obviously progressive artists, titled: “David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture.” The authors wrote:

For a while, it seemed no new ideas were possible, progress was an illusion, and success could be measured only by popularity. Hot trends such as painted pornography; fluorescent paint; sculpture with mirrors, spray foam, and yarn were mistaken for art because artists believed blind pleasure-seeking could be made to seem insightful when described ironically.

They added:

At one time, irony served to reveal hypocrisies, but now it simply acknowledges one’s cultural compliance and familiarity with pop trends. The art of irony has lost its vision and its edge. The rebellious posture of the past has been annexed by the very commercialism it sought to defy.

Even these progressive Salon guys are starting to realize that irony and insincerity are masks for emptiness. They say that irony has been commercialized, but I would say that a culture of safe irony is the only possible end of global commercialism.

Another quote from the Salon piece:

Skeptics reject sincerity because they worry blind belief can lead to such evils as the Ku Klux Klan and Nazism. They think strong conviction implies vulnerability to emotional rhetoric and lack of critical awareness. But the goal of great art is the same whether one approaches it seriously or dubiously. To make something new, to transcend, one must have an honest relationship with what is: history, context, form, tradition, oneself. Dishonesty is the biggest obstacle to making original, great art. Dishonesty undermines a work’s internal integrity–the only standard by which a work can succeed. If the work becomes a vehicle for one’s ego, personal or political agenda, self-image, desire for fame, adulation, fortune–human as these inclinations may be–the work will be limited accordingly.

I agree. I believe that sincerity is the best weapon against the vacuousness of irony and cheap commercialism. I don’t believe that culture worth having can be the product of political or commercial triangulation. I don’t believe that culture worth having can be produced by people who are trying to please everyone, or by people who are worried that someone, someone–anyone, anywhere–might be offended. Great culture is the produce of passion and commitment. Living, thriving culture if is the product of love and hate.

According to Salon, author David Foster Wallace believed that anyone who broke from the culture of hip irony, “these rebels of sincerity” . . . “would be called out as “backward, quaint, naïve, anachronistic.” And it’s true. Sincerity is not of this age. Sincerity is incompatible with what people think of as “progress.”

But we’re still all human, and sincerity is what we really need. No matter the cost.

At the end of The Neverending Story, the boy reading the book finds himself in the void created by “The Nothing.” He is told that the world was made from dreams, so his dream is to restart the world.

Our world is becoming a cultural void. What passes for culture today is an echo of cultures that are aging, dying or dead, repackaged for everyone without passion or sincerity, but with a safe, saleable smirk of irony

The only way to stop the culture-destroying momentum of global commercialism–of “The Nothing”–is to set boundaries, to draw lines, to say “no,” to discriminate, whether it is profitable or not. To say, “This is for us, not everyone.” To say, “This is who we are and what we are about,” whether it is race, religion, ideology, or some other unifying idea. To abandon the universal in favor of the tribal. This is the new rebellion–to become “rebels of sincerity.”

Tribalism–discrimination-ism–is the only way to interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of “The Nothing,” of Nike, of those forces that must undermine difference and identity to continue to expand and profit.

As I said, I’m here to “celebrate diversity” and the only honest way to “celebrate diversity” is to make sure there is still some “diversity” left to celebrate.

This article is adapted from Jack Donovan’s speech at the 2014 American Renaissance conference.

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Jack Donovan
Jack Donovan is the author of The Way of Men and a forthcoming collection of speeches and essays called A Sky Without Eagles.
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