Gary Johns has written a lucid and compelling book to support the resistance to The Voice (The Burden of Culture, Quadrant books.) He points out that the demand goes far beyond fixing obvious problems to something very different – the demand for self-determism for ethnic and racial minorities.
Popper sounded an alarm about this movement in the Sixth Eleanor Rathbone Memorial Lecture, delivered at the University of Bristol in 1956. Eleanor Rathbone was a British MP and a stalwart campaigner on issues including female circumcision in Africa, child marriage in India and forced marriage in Palestine.
The theme of the lecture was “an optimist’s view of modern history.”
At the time Popper considered that the optimist’s view had considerable rarity value because “the wailings of the pessimists have become somewhat monotonous”. This was the height of the Cold War and many people considered that it was only a matter of time before one side or the other precipitated a disastrous military confrontation.
Popper considered that, by 1956, there was no need for further criticism of the communist system and he proceeded to criticise the nationalist faith which he regarded as equally absurd, when expressed as the doctrine of national self-determination.
The principle amounts to the demand that each state should be a nation-state: that it should be confined within a natural border, and that this border should coincide with the location of an ethnic group; so that it should be the ethnic group, the nation, which should determine and protect the natural limits of the state.
He noted that apart from the possible example of Iceland there are virtually no nation states of that kind and the attempt to realise that state of affairs has caused endless conflict and strife when ethnic minorities demanded that they be allowed to break away or join an adjacent state where they would be the majority. For example Czechoslovakia was formed under the principle of national self-determination but as soon as it was formed the Slovaks demanded (in the name of the same principle) to be free, and finally it was destroyed by the German minority, in the name of the same principle. The latest example of this principle is the demand for a Palestinian nation state which is used as a rationale for waging war on Israel.
“There are ethnic minorities everywhere. The proper aim cannot be to “liberate” all of them, rather it must be to protect all of them. The oppression of national groups is a great evil; but national self-determination is not a feasible remedy… Few creeds have created more hatred, cruelty, and senseless suffering than the belief in the righteousness of the nationality principle; and yet it is still widely believed that this principle will help to alleviate the misery of national oppression. My optimism is a little shaken when I look at the near-unanimity with which this principle is still accepted — even by those whose political interests are clearly opposed to it.”
This is a summary of the key points in the lecture.
Postscript. With the benefit of five decades of hindsigh it is apparent that Popper was wildly over-optimistic. Who would have predicted that, with the disasters of Stalinism about to be admitted by the Soviet leadership, within a few years radical youth in the west would make brutal thugs like Che and Mao into cult figures?
That the “liberation” of the Third World from western colonisation, and the delivery of untold billions of aid would result in the worst famines and genocides that Africa has ever seen?
That left liberalism would become a religion with all the attendant intolerance and prejudice, and be widely promoted in the universities of the western world?
That a civilisation with leading figures like Shakespeare, Milton, Beethoven and Mozart, would produce generations that would assign cult status to the purveyors of narcissistic and self-indulgent entertainment provided by the Beat generation and the aftermath.
That Popper’s ideas would be marginalised in the academic community by a series of fads and fashions – logical empiricism, language analysis, POMO? What next?
So much for optimism. Lets give pessimism a chance.
The world hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.Matthe Arnold, Dover Beach.
We decayShelley, an elegy on the death of John Keats.
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.
11 thoughts on “Gary Johns and Karl Popper on ethnic self-determinism”
Thankfully, I am an optimist. I have no idea why.
I thank God for delivering me from the living hell of pessimism.
And Jamie Kah too Tom.
I think we have Woodrow Wilson to thank (largely) for this noble sounding, but in practice rather divisive, principle being embdeed in various international covenants and international law.
Lefties currently control the aboriginal activist groups so they think the Constitutional change will cement in lefty control of the Australian Government. That will be true – until things change, as they always do.
The one thing we cannot do is predict just what disaster this proposed change will bring but I think the one thing we can be sure of is that it will be a disaster of some sort.
You give a particular racial group the power to influence Government decision making, and you seriously think it will not be used? Really?
If we pay reparations for alleged crimes of colonialists, can we then ask for reparations from every Marxist, Stalinist, Leninist, Trotskyite and associated travelers for the deaths and oppression of peoples more recently and with people now alive who have publicly supported these poisonous ideologies.
It would be far easier to find someone with a che Guevara t shirt in their drawer than some of the relatives of slavers…
Soros has spent billions on bringing Popper’s Open Society to reality.
DIE is merger of popperism and social justice under the umbrella of a global fascism.
We’re briefly in Singapore as a way stop. It’s changed over the years into a full-on tower city, but we are staying in the Hilton in Little India, where I’m playing ‘Lost in Translation’ sitting at a high-floor hotel window overlooking the remnant of a Singapore I remember well from the ealry 70’s, low rise and bustling. The country is obviously Chinese, but with various ethnic groups all being brought under the umbrella of being Singaporean. All the TV ads, much of the general zeitgeist, is about working together. Ethnic enclaves exist and are recognised but that’s as far as is allowed. It’s Singapore First. Given the past history and current placement of Signapore that’s not surprising either. It’s tough love for everyone, enforced with the rattan cane, applied via a magistrate’s edict yesterday to someone who was caught stealing.
Buccaneer – when the eastern bloc collapsed no repaeration’s were “awarded” to those countries absorbed by Russi,a.
Nor were there any investigation into. Genocide, murder,rape barbaric scientific experiments.
Rafe when my father arrived in Australia (greeted by Mr Caldwell), he lived his life with the philosophy of “I am a guest in this country”. Therefore I do not impose my nationalism on the population.
I will contribute and meld in.
This did not always go to plan – people are the obstacle.
What I found interesting especially in the workforce was the number of European migrants who “left behind”their nationality, customs and traditions when they arrived here.
A new life. I found these people were far more adventurous in their outlook and how they lived their lives. They became sole traders and after social resistance climbed the corporate ladder.
What the Voice is going to do is increase racism. The Jewish populations in Europe did this which was turbo charged by Lenin. Hence the result.
Who would have predicted?
Eric Arthur Blair by 1948 by which time the WW-II ‘ally’ Soviet was ‘enemy’, and the ‘enemy’ Axis leader / instigator Sukano was a ‘hero’ being championed by Unions and western governments alike. By the 1955 Bandung conference the writing for today’s dissociative fugue state was on the wall as our short sighted western governments remain silent about the Bandung assertion to African and other governments that all Colonialists are white, Africans are inferior needing guidance, and the Asian three were captains of enlightenment, decolonisation and prosperity who would guild the inferior races to honey and milk.
Meanwhile the real purpose of the Bandung was pressed on the African attendees who correctly identified the request as an illegal immoral colonial demand for the north western Australian Pacific territory in New Guinea. The Africans declined the Asian request to support a UN invasion and colonisation of West New Guinea. This didn’t stop Sukarno, Nehru or U Thant..
Today’s dissociative fugue states about racism, religion, sexism, and gender identity became inevitable by late 1961 when our governments began their ON-going pretence not to know that UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold had been murdered and by whom.. Geeze so difficult to work out. He’ was killed several hours before the opening of the 1961 UN General Assembly, about 36 hours after Indonesia had announced it no longer wanted Presidency and was thereby forcing the internationally popular Mongi Slim of Tunisia to accept the duty as President of the 1961 General Assembly, which was about two weeks after Sukarno & Nehru had jointly announced their stunning opinion that instead of Mongi Slim the next UN Secretary General (come 1963 when Hammarskjold’s term would end) should be their buddy U Thant – a fellow fascist oppressing dozens of communities in Burma who had never agreed to be part of Burma, just as India had absorbed dozens of the Princely States irrespective of their objections and wanted to annex Goa next, and the ‘Republic of Indonesia’ that in December 1949 had lied get its name on the UN list of “United States of Indonesia” (USI) members that Jakarta then preceded to annex as part of Sukarno’s Republic.
So who would assassinate the UN Secretary General and why? Geeze,, surely not the guy that wanted his job, or Nehru who wanted to annex Goa, or Sukarno who wanted the UN to invade and appoint Indonesia as colonial “administrator” of West New Guinea and the world’s largest gold and copper deposits for which the Freeport directors have been secretly negotiating an Indonesian mining license in event that Indonesia should just happen to become the new colonial master of them there ‘blacks’ in West New Guinea.. The three Asian wise-men who used the 1955 Bandung conference and 1961 Non-Align governments gathering to advance their claims to silence the UN about Burma’s domestic oppression, India’s quest to invade Goa, and Indonesia’s dream of UN invasion appointing Indonesia as administrator of West New Guinea… Why would such wonderful people do such as thing in their own interest ? ? Why did somebody kill Hammarskjöld, it’s a mystery unless your fugue state starts residing.
Ever since the rise of the Non-Align bloc following Hammarskjold’s assassination, the global community has been unwilling to call a duck a duck, to denounce petty self-serving misnomers for what they are..
Sure there are moral & political issues concerning racism, religion, sexism, and other personal issues. And there has been need for some preaching about racism, religious intolerance, sexism, and a never ending list of more occasional worries. BUT, lets NOT deny that preaching is preaching, and its O.K. to engage in some hyperbole preaching where people believe it is necessary, but lets NOT substitute those hyperbole for reality.
There’s a range of potential within the human genome, there is no science endorsing racist concepts, there is no need for a special “Freedom of religion” privilege to entitle individuals and communities their own choice of beliefs and customs, there’s no cause to differentiate employment or courtesy to fellow humans based on their gender, etc. A PROBLEM is created when society silently abides with exaggeration of these and other issues; people need to be allowed to call a duck a duck and not engage in dissociative propagation.
whoops – errata, “residing” should be “receding”.