- 1.A Brief Critique of Cosmopolitanism – Part 1
- 2.A Brief Critique of Cosmopolitanism – Part 2
The cosmopolitan ideal of a ‘global village’ leads to one thing only: a single yoke for all necks.
Cosmopolitanism, as a doctrine not only of individual ethics but of the order of the state, has rightly been critiqued from a wide variety of angles. Its invidious erasure of human differences and cultural richness, its implicit contempt for both tradition and for the natural and native ways of human societies, its dangerous extension of the condition of specific individuals (the ‘artist’, the ‘philosopher’, the ‘homme du monde’) to the generality of humanity and human societies, all contribute to making this one of the most deleterious doctrines of our time.
The author himself has contributed to the work of critiquing this notion in several places, and in one essay in particular has striven to show how cosmopolitanism, under the guise of the so-called ‘open society’, is in fact an inevitable recipe for universal dictatorship.1 The present essay restricts itself to considering a more limited, but not for that less important, final consequence of cosmopolitanism.
Before coming to that, however, a word on the idea of cosmopolitanism itself. It, like practically every contemporary notion of political or ‘social’ philosophy, is susceptible to a variety of interpretations and proposed meanings. Some of its practitioners or theoreticians like to look for ancient philosophical antecedents to it, particularly in the Ancient Greeks; they are aided in this by the fact that the word itself stems from the Greek, and was evidently first used by Diogenes the Cynic in description of himself – a likely story, from which, however, one should not be tempted to draw too many stringent conclusions.2 In the present day it is used in a variety of senses and contexts, and by a variety of philosophical stances. We recur therefore to the most basic sense of the word as it is presently in use today: it means to suggest the ideal of the ‘citizen of the world’ as a generally attainable human ideal.
The ‘citizen of the world’, though necessarily born in a single geographical location and raised to a single set of mores, languages and customs, has learned the inherent limits of locality and has consequently come to transcend them in his personal attitude and beliefs. He sees most immediately, not the unique texture and special charm of his native people or hometown or nation, but rather their parochialism and blindness, and he tacitly if not explicitly denies the possibility that such quaint customs might be deeply and secretly connected to the wellspring of a primordial wisdom tradition. His view represents therefore a break with history. He shuns the dogmas of his grandsires, no longer holds to their ways or manners, and reveals this mundane rebellion in the totally generic, workaday clothing he likes to sport and in his tending lack of clear gender. He makes a cult of ‘travel’ for travel’s sake, seduced by the movement of it and by the (generally unwarranted) aura of worldliness that it grants him. If he is not a polyglot, competent in a number of widely spoken languages, then he is at least fluent in English, the lingua franca of our day, which permits him some degree of communication wheresoever in the world he may go. He is characterized by liberal attitudes, for these alone, he understands, grant a man that magnanimous and tolerant breadth of opinion in which he perceives the watermark of an educated and humanistic individual. He looks benevolently on all the ways of the world except those which are restrictive, censorious, violent, closed and intolerant. These traits, however, are characteristic of practically every worldview other than his own; this tension forms a sensitive point upon his personal views, marking an evident contradiction within his worldview which threatens ever to leap out and strike at him. He avoids contemplating this dangerous issue by means of a singular talent at mindlessly adopting and repeating pleasant, if utterly false, platitudes, and a keen knack for what might be called ‘bromidal logic’, by which stern reasoning, loftiness of thought and obedience to the intellectual conscience are all replaced with ‘positive thinking’.
He nonetheless fancies himself a free thinker, and quite naturally and instinctively posits himself as the end and culmination of history. This attitude deeply informs him, quite despite the personal humility he probably likes to feign, which might even be marked in him to the point of becoming quite irksome; the average cosmopolitan would never dare to express his sense of historical superiority in any but the most generic sense (speaking, that is, of ‘technology’ and ‘great strides’, ‘evolution’ and ‘progress’, etc.), but it is evident that this sense of superiority colours his entire outlook, as can be easily attested in the tone of easy condescension he takes when speaking of even yesterday, not to speak of his shocking lack of curiosity regarding the depths of our human past. For unless he personally feels some special affinity for historical studies (generally on account of some personal feature of his, such as an unusually fine memory or the vain delight in knowing what others do not know or of passing judgement on the children of yesteryear), he is liable to be ignorant of ‘history’ to an extent unheard of in the supposedly ‘educated’ classes of any time or any nation of any epoch or place in the West. His fundamental and unshakable belief in his own openness, tolerance, freedom etc. forms a protective barrier against all really new or radically old ideas; he is surrounded infallibly by a kind of glowing haze, a mist infused with light, which easily blinds him and persuades him that he gazes ever upon the splendid face of reality itself. All societies have their special lies and restrictions, their closures and their limitations; the cave, as Plato taught, is inherent to human society as such. But the cosmopolitan is characterized precisely by this: in believing that he alone of all historical men has by his very birth escaped from the cave, he carries his own cave turtle-like with him everywhere he goes, as his own and most personal raiment; it lies so near to him and so heavy upon his back, that he could no longer twist his head to rightly perceive it even if he tried. The depth of his own parochialism, closure and dogmatism is to be measured in the fact that he naturally and unhesitatingly supposes that any educated man he encounters will think and judge the world precisely like him, implicitly sharing his vision and his general outlook; and he will go so far as to immediately speak to such a man in the tones of comfortable confidence regarding the latest political questions and affairs of the day, never so much as suspecting that there might be anything offensively familiar and presumptuous in this attitude. Should his presupposition prove false – should his educated interlocutor dare, in his turn, to express ideas that are not drawn from the tepid well of contemporary ‘liberal’ opinions – our good cosmopolitan will remain amazed by the fact, and, supposing he does not retract from the conversation at once like a man stung by a viper, will certainly utter some revelatory remark to the effect that he never would have expected such objectionable views to exist in the mind of a man who is otherwise so enlightened.
We have drawn this portrait of the cosmopolitan – creature who represents far less any Diogenesian kind of cosmopolitanism, than the decline, vulgar generalization and retrogression of the same – not certainly in order to convince him of his limitations; for, as noted, he is armoured against all critics with a marvellously thick intellectual (though not emotional – to the contrary!) skin. We paint this portrait rather because cosmopolitanism in miniature, in the life of the unreflective cosmopolite, is liable to parallel and reflect cosmopolitanism in the macro, on the level of society. The cosmopolitan society shows the same kind of naive and ingenuous closure, the same kind of internally self-defeating intolerant tolerance, the same kind of automatic if halfway-ashamed supposition of its own superiority, combined with an unprecedented protective shielding against the perception of its real limitations, as the cosmopolitan individual. To be sure, all societies, or all healthy societies, presuppose their innate superiority, their right to exist and to have a ‘place in the sun’; but it is characteristic of the cosmopolitan society particularly that its supposition of its superiority is combined with a connate inability to see the ways in which its peculiar outlook clashes with all other worldviews. This contradiction cannot help but raise its head in any number of neuroses encountered in these societies, which now and then, despite their iron-clad faith in their ‘liberal’ ways, break out into the most remarkable displays of mass self-loathing. And indeed, even their most cherished beliefs conceal something of this self-hatred, this subtle and secret will to immolate oneself on the alter of humanity. Hence the delusion of ‘multiculturalism’ and the stunningly ingenuous cosmopolitan belief that conflict in the world can be suppressed by mere adherence to the virtue of ‘tolerance’. No, there is nothing strange in believing in the superiority of one’s society; but only the cosmopolitan is deluded enough to believe at once in the superiority of cosmopolitan society, and in its essential compatibility with every other kind of human society.3
The cosmopolitan attitude, so far as the cosmopolitan himself is concerned, is incompatible with one thing and one thing only: and that is, ‘closed borders’. The cosmopolitan cannot countenance the division of peoples into tribes, clans or nations. This strikes against the very presupposition of his worldview, which purports to consider the human being qua ‘human being’, rather than considering the human being as the natural expression and manifestation of this or that unique race, culture or society. As has been discussed by many clear-sighted commentators, the idea of a ‘human being’ as such, totally detached from any and all peculiar customs and ethe, naturally results in a kind of skeletal view of man – a humanoid automaton, defleshed and disembodied, denatured and deracinated, who can be rightly measured by his ‘choices’ and his ‘merit’ alone; and since ‘choice’ and ‘merit’ in turn cannot be judged, according to the cosmopolitan view, from any particular morality or religion, from fear of thereby succumbing once more to the old individual customs and cultures of peoples and fatherlands, they must be understood in economic terms, in what a man purchases, in what a man earns for his work and for his ingenuity, in what job a man professes and what abstracted social role he plays in consequence. The cosmopolitan ideal thus naturally generates a conception of the human being as Homo oeconomicus, and is in turn strictly connected with the rather curious obsession of all globalist and cosmopolitan theoreticians with human movement. This obsession has gone indeed to such a point that a new word has been invented for it – a truly garish neologism in a sea of offensive linguistic novelties: ‘mobility’. The cosmopolitan, supposing he is only au courant with the going academese, will speak with pride about his society’s ‘mobilities’, or the ‘mobilities’ which are now permitted in the European Union – the ‘transversal mobilities’ of human beings, goods and ideas across borders, the ‘vertical mobilities’ of workers or wealth or status from one rank or class to another. The connections of this idea with the contemporary notion of ‘democracy’ are so evident as to warrant no comment here. We focus rather on the necessary conclusions which any man must reach, who holds to the intrinsic value of these things.
A world in which a human being is defined exclusively in terms universalizable to the entirety of humanity is necessarily a world in which the borders standing between nations are to be slowly eroded and finally abolished, in which human beings are to be permitted and encouraged in the greatest possible freedom of movement – fact which itself suggests a great deal regarding the despiritualized and thoroughly materialistic nature of this view – and in which the one thing that will no longer be tolerated is intolerance. The exemplary concrete representation of intolerance on the level of law and politics is the watchtower, the border control and the border patrol, and above all the fence and the wall; such objects become then central symbols in the metapolitical struggle between cosmopolitanism and nationalism. Cosmopolitanism ideally would eliminate not only these physical traces of ‘intolerance’ themselves, but also the very need for them. The former is a relatively easy task; the latter is of much more moment, and leads us to the question we would like most closely to address in the present essay.
The elimination of the need for borders necessarily requires the production a kind of humanity and a kind of society for which borders are no longer necessary. None but the most naive and ignorant of the globalists would dare call for an immediate obliteration of national boundaries and the instantaneous and precipitous melding of all the world’s nations; the globalists who are presently at the helm of current events recognize that a deal of work must be done before this end can be fully achieved. But this is the end toward which they all of them are striving: they urgently crave the global society, the ‘global village’, as it is quaintly, but nonetheless significantly, called.
A village is a tightly knit human community which is marked in particular by harmony, well-established social roles and a homogeneity of mores, phenotype and of opinions. Inherent to the idea of a ‘global village’ is therefore the insight that humanity can be unified under the rule of a single society only insofar as the deep and decisive, indeed the characteristic, differences which separate human beings have been eroded or eradicated. These differences include the religious (hence the global village would require a universal de facto secularism which steals from every faith the dignity of being a holistic, and therefore political and social, standard for man), the racial (hence the global village would require the merging, interbreeding and final integration of all the world’s peoples and types), the economic (hence the global village would require the ‘elimination of poverty’ through welfare, healthcare, universal income, etc. and the generalization of the middle class to all of humanity – excepting, of course, the ‘meritorious’ rich), the customary (hence the global village would require a uniformity of human ways and an elimination of the deep divisions between the same, rendering all differences superficial and harmless, a mere matter of dress and affectation), and the ethical (hence the global village would establish a single morality for all men which, while permitting unusual breadth of action in what was once considered the realm of vice, would for the same reason decisively shut off the realm of what was once considered virtue, essentially inverting the older ethics).
A truly liberal man, in the original sense of this expression as a ‘free man’ or a man trained in the liberal arts, could embrace the universalization of a single worldview to all of humanity under one of two conditions alone: either if this worldview were the true worldview, and hence proved the right to reign over the whole of humanity; or else if it were a uniquely liberating worldview, which provided the human being with the maximal freedom to seek the truth or to attain to virtuous ends. Else the free man or the man desirous of freedom will be the first to oppose the advent of any ‘universal’ society, recognizing it for what it is beneath all its wiles and guiles: tyranny beneath the suave and mendacious mask of an utterly false ‘liberty’.
2In the first place, Diogenes was a great trickster and clearly had an acerbic kind of wit, which should make any man wary of noddingly accepting his reported pronouncements in universal key. But even supposing that Diogenes meant this self-description in perfect earnest, it remains a question of the first order (to any non-democratic thinker) if a virtue or a quality fit for a philosopher like Diogenes could or should be generalized to the whole mass of humanity. Let it be recalled that the Greek meaning of the term is not at all ‘citizen of the world’, as it is currently taken to mean, but rather ‘citizen of the cosmos’, of the ordered whole. The citizen of the cosmos is necessarily something more than the citizen of this or any state: Diogenes was not making a claim about the just political order fit for human beings, but rather of the being itself of the philosopher, and his pertaining to a wider sphere than can be contained by any given body politic. To this extent, far from expressing the current global socio-political cosmopolite ideal, Diogenes was simply expressing once again, as he had done on countless occasions and in countless more or less esoteric gestures, the asocial and indeed apolitical essence of philosophical thought. Every philosopher must indeed be regarded as a cosmopolitan in this special sense; but far from supporting current cosmopolitan ideologies, this unique status of the philosopher (which he shares perhaps only with the artist and the spiritual master) actually represents the final and decisive disproof of the same, as we will consider more closely in the second part of this essay.
3 Save of course ‘fascist’ societies. But this particular term in the cosmopolitan’s lexicon is reserved almost exclusively reserved for Western states, or for states that are perceived to have been established by Western ‘imperialism’; the singular opposition to ‘fascism’ on the part of the cosmopolitan thus reveals itself as but another facet of his special lack of truly ‘cosmopolitan’ vision. But all of that is matter for another essay; in the meantime, we defer to the reader to the very useful remarks that Richard Heathen has made on this score in his recent essay ‘A Reconstructive Revolution’, Arktos Journal, 13 November 2019.