There is an old joke that if you look up French military victories on Google, it says nothing can be found, and asks “Did you mean French military defeats?” Back when Google was an accurate search engine, the result would be imaginable. Given, however, that looking up “American inventors” on Google now produces a parade of nobodies apparently selected only on the basis of their skin color, one imagines Google probably has found a way to turn Hitler’s destruction of the Maginot Line into the French merely advancing in an alternative direction. Which is to say, the wrong direction.
That is as good a description of French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent speech at the World War I centennial, and of the tendency he exemplifies, as any I can think of in Western thought: advancing in the wrong direction.
The quote that everyone has seized on from Macron’s otherwise tedious and workmanlike speech has since been reproduced on Macron’s Twitter feed:
Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By putting our own interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values. https://t.co/w9AltyvMDw
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 11, 2018
It is worth noting, as a matter of academic interest, that a literal translation of the original quote does not say that nationalism is merely a betrayal of patriotism: it says, instead, that “nationalisme en est la trahison,” i.e., “nationalism is treason.”
No doubt Bill Kristol will sue Macron for stealing his lines.
I joke, but only because what Macron said is such a transparent mangling of meaning as to be laughable. One wonders what dictionary Macron read that could possibly have confused him enough to say that patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. If anything, the two imply each other: to love one’s country (patriotism) is a meaningless concept without also loving its people and caring about their interests first (nationalism).
This is particularly true in a nation like France, which unlike the United States, is not even theoretically a “proposition nation.” It has always been, historically, a nation for the French. Was Macron’s invocation of the phrase Vive la France less nationalistic than “America First?” Why not? The questions rain down like hail as soon as you hear Macron’s quote.
But, to some extent, those questions are beside the point. Everyone knows that Macron wasn’t actually speaking about France itself. Rather, the lines were intended as a rebuke of our own leader, President Donald Trump, who does lead a nation popularly regarded as a proposition nation, and who has made a point of saying that America will look after its own interests first, to the exclusion of the interests of others, if necessary. Macron’s speech was effectively a freshman socialist’s argument against capitalism—“but capitalists are selfish, and selfishness is immoral, brah”—applied at a geopolitical level.
Even on its own terms, this is a dumb argument. Hence Macron’s lame attempt to strawman nationalism as looking after one’s interests first “with no regard for others.” I do not believe a single world leader believes in doing things this way. Most ideas of self-interest include some recognition that in certain circumstances, enhancing others’ well-being can also coincide with enhancing one’s own. Even Ayn Rand herself never advanced the idea that self-interest should be pursued to the total exclusion of others’ well-being—merely that, if the two came into conflict, self-interest should take precedence. By the same token, even Kim Jong Un, despite being one of the most ruthless, egoistic, and often stupid actors on the international stage, realizes that it is in his interest to keep China happy, and so keeps their well-being in mind.
Macron was tilting at a windmill, in other words, and I suspect he knew it.
Further, the motivation behind Macron’s address—to rebuke President Trump, presumably for demanding that U.S. allies actually act like allies and not freeloaders—was purely egoistic. As Trump noted with both particular acidity and accuracy, France historically has been terrible at defending its own borders, and Europe benefits greatly from essentially outsourcing its military protection to the United States. Trump’s unwillingness to let this one-sided situation continue was no doubt one of the contributing factors to Macron’s whine, which is more than a little ironic: in attacking President Trump allegedly for putting the interests of his country first, and damn the rest, Macron was actually doing that very thing. Granted, one doesn’t tend to look to the French for a sense of shame, but this is impressive even for them.
Moral Codes for Martyr Nations
But tu quoques and straw men aside, Macron’s address was weak for another reason: its treatment of moral values as necessarily at odds with self-interest was nothing less than a statement of institutionalized masochism. “Even if it hurts you,” Macron was saying, “if your values demand that you help others, you must.”
This is a perfectly serviceable moral code for a martyr, but for an average person it is masochistic and self-destructive, and for a nation-state it is suicidal. Indeed, a nation-state that adheres blindly to moral abstractions, without regard for their practical impact on its own people, has failed in its basic duty as a government. Many have tried to compare Macron’s address to the “white man’s burden” theory of imperialism, but there is a key difference: for imperialism, this was only ever a fig leaf masking typical economic and power-related calculations. For Macron, and the globalist class he represents, this is what many of them actually believe. And that is not merely a problem from a dry philosophical level: it is a problem that the most committed enemies of the very values that sustain the civilizations that produced Macron and his peers are actively and ruthlessly exploiting.
For evidence, witness a recent bombshell report produced by the famed nationalist journalist Lauren Southern, as part of a preview for her upcoming documentary on the European migrant crisis, titled Borderless. As part of her attempt to uncover the truth behind Europe’s sieve-like border policy toward third world migrants, Southern sent one of her team—British journalist George Llewellyn-John—to infiltrate the pro-migrant non-governmental organization (NGO) Advocates Abroad.
As part of this process, Llewellyn-John secretly recorded Ariel Ricker, executive director of Advocates Abroad, openly admitting that her organization teaches migrants to perjure themselves in order to be granted refugee status in Europe, often going so far as to coach them on how to pretend to be persecuted Christians, including providing them with nigh-unfalsifiable made-up stories of the “persecution” they have not actually endured. What’s more, Ricker casually admits at the end of the video to being involved with human traffickers, and even says that every similar NGO to hers (!) is similarly involved.
Ends and Means
In a sign that justice is not quite dead in the world, no sooner did Southern release her report than Advocates Abroad, and Ariel Ricker herself, shut down their social media entirely. The U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has also distanced itself from the organization, while the University of Denver, another former partner, has released a statement claiming to be “shocked and repulsed” by what Southern uncovered.
At time of writing, the Greek police are engaged in an effort to find and charge the group for its self-admitted acts of criminal conspiracy, which no doubt will cause actual persecuted Christians from the Middle East and elsewhere to suffer when applying for refugee status, after having their struggles so blatantly weaponized by the global Left.
What does this have to do with Macron’s speech? Well, consider this: one likely reason that Advocates Abroad was able to gain uncritical support from everyone from UK members of Parliament to elite universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, and Georgetown, is that they spoke to an ethos all-too-common among the world’s cosmopolitans: the ethos that helping those in pain must be done without critical inquiry of any kind.
Indeed, it was likely this very spirit that led Advocates Abroad to believe that subverting the few forms of critical inquiry that the Left did employ in vetting refugees was morally acceptable: why should they tolerate the requirements imposed by evil, selfish nationalists to keep out ISIS fighters, criminals, or even drains on the West’s generous welfare state, if they interfered with the West’s so-called “values” of inclusion and Rawlsian liberalism? No one is illegal, as the insufferable old leftist chestnut goes.
Moreover, some of the tactics that Advocates Abroad taught their “clients,” including acting lessons to make them able to cry and show emotion on command, show a willingness to weaponize a similar unquestioning altruism even on behalf of supposedly tough-minded European border guards. It’s hard to turn a seemingly terrified, crying person away from your border, and the risk that they may be a trained actor no doubt seems small in comparison to erring on the side of alleviating potentially genuine agony, to the globalist and cosmopolitan mind.
Macronism vs. Nationalism
Only nationalism, with its tough-minded allegiance to the citizens of a nation over undifferentiated mass man, is able to take the necessary step of saying “Trust, but Verify.” Only nationalism can build the wall that shuts out criminals, terrorists, and yes, economic migrants, and recognize that this is the price necessary to be able to let the genuinely needy (and more importantly, the genuinely deserving) walk through its gates.
This is why the enemies of Western civilization fear nationalism, and do their best to prop up soppy pathological altruists like Macron: because under nationalism, they will be lucky to invade Western civilization under the cover of darkness. Under Macronism, they will be allowed to walk through the front door, and greeted with apologies that they are not already in charge. After all, inclusion is one of our values, is it not?
Macron’s speech, in other words, did not express the logic of an antibody against evil. It expressed the logic of an autoimmune disease, determined to let lesions and bruises accumulate all over the body of Western civilization, rather than feel guilty over the potentially unfair application of the immune system. It is a worldview that will need to be checked, beaten back, and cured by the people of the West, even as it is fawned over by the cosseted elites who have forgotten those people, and who are deaf to their pain, even as they weep at the crocodile tears of criminals. And the cure for that disease, harsh as it is, will not be either patriotism or nationalism—it will be both, joined in harmony, as true political reality dictates they always must be.
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