Roger Scruton writer and philosopher
Work In Progress - Books

The Need for Nations

*Here is a lecture I recently delivered in Hungary.  An English translation follows the Hungarian.

 

Európai értékek és a nemzetállamok

Az európai integráció terve, amelyet a II. világháború nyomán a legyőzött nemzetek elitje és poltikusai karoltak fel, arra a hitre épült, hogy elsősorban a nemzeti lét és akarat okozta az Európát romba döntő háborúkat. Vita volt róla, hogy ki kezdte el: Napóleon? Bismarck? A francia forradalmárok? Az 1848-as forradalmárok? A reakciósok és monarchisták? Metternich? Talleyrand? Garibaldi? Fichte? Wagner? XIV. Lajos? De bármilyen messzire mentek is vissza,  a felvilágosodás tiszta szellemével viaskodó nacionalizmus démona ötlött a háború politikai túlélőinek szemébe. Eme alapító mítosz eredményeként az európai integrációt egy dimenzióban képzelték el mint egy parancsnoki központból diktált egyre növekvő egység folyamatát. A központi hatalom bárminő növekedése csak a nemzeti hatalom rovására mehetett végbe.

          Más szóval irányt szabtak az európai politikai folyamatnak. Ezt az irányt nem az európai emberek választották, és valahányszor megadatik nekik, hogy szavazzanak róla, elvetik. – Így aztán az ellenérdekeltek mindent megtesznek, nehogy többé szavazásra kerülhessen sor. A folyamat mindig a központosítás, a felülről meghozott rendeletek, a szavazás nélkül kinevezett bürokraták és bírák diktatúrája, a választott parlamentek által hozott törvények eltörlése, a nép kizárásával megfogalmazott alkotmányszerű szerződések felé mozdul. A jelenlegi adósságválságban az európai elit – amelyet nagyrészt a francia és német kormányzó körök alkotnak – jogot formált arra, hogy Görögország és Olaszország választott kormányát elmozdítsa, és az engedelmes apparatcsikok közül hűséges csatlósokat ültessen a helyükre. Eközben Magyarországot folyamatosan provokatív kérdésekkel támadják és vizsgálatokkal fenyegetik, amiért saját törvényeket mert hozni olyan dolgokról, amelyeket az európai politikai osztály hallgatólagosan a saját döntéskörébe vont. Ily módon a folyamat mindig a birodalmi kormányzás felé halad, teljesen világossá téve, hogy a nemzeti önállóság nem a felvilágosodással, hanem a birodalomba tagozódással ellentétes. És ennek egyetlen dolog állhatja útját: Európa népeinek nemzeti érzése. 

          Angolként és a római civilizáció kedvelőjeként én nem vagyok  eleve birodalomellenes. Fontos azonban a birodalom rossz formáját a jótól megkülönböztetnünk és felismernünk, miféle birodalommal van dolgunk. Szerintem a jó fajta birodalom a civilizáció és a törvény védőernyője alatt megőrzi a helyi kötődéseket és szokásokat, a rossz pedig törvény nélküli központosított hatalom révén  megróbálja kioltani a helyi szokásokat és más kötődéseket. Az Európai Unió részben ilyen, részben olyan, de van egy alapvető hibája: az, hogy soha nem próbálta elfogadtatni magát Európa népeivel. Véleményem szerint Európa mindig is nemzetállamok civilizációja volt; ezek sajátos prepolitikai kötődésen alapulnak, amely a kormányzás rendjében a területet és a szokást előbbre helyezi, mint a vallást és a dinasztiát. Ezért, ha módjuk van rá, Európa népei kötődéseiket eszerint fejezik ki. Amennyiben van feltétel nélküli kötődésük – amely hova­tartozásukat, nem pedig beleegyezésüket fejezi ki –, az nemzeti kötődés.

          Európában a politikai osztály nem szereti ezt, démonizálta hát a nemzeti érzelmek közvetlen kifejezését. Aki Jeanne d'Arcot és a le pays réelt[1], a sceptred isle-t[2] és Szent Györgyöt, Lemminkäinen sötét erdeit és a bennük vándorló ,,igaz finneket" emlegeti, rögtön fasisztának, rasszistának és szélsőségesnek nyilváníttatik. Az ilyen megbélyegzésnek egész liturgiája van, amelyet szerte Európában gyakorol egy politikai osztály, amely gyűlöli az egyszerű hűséget, miközben rajta élősködik. Az utóbbi években Magyarország különösen kedvelt céltáblájukká vált. Ennek természetesen a magyar történelemben külön okai vannak; ezekre nem kell senkit emlékeztetnem. De az európai elitet nem ez mozgatja. A mostani magyar kormány, azzal, hogy épít a nemzeti hovatartozásra és a nemzeti érzelmekre, erős és szigorú szemrehányást váltott ki az Európai Unióból, tekintet nélkül arra, hogy van-e bármi egyéb alapja a szemrehányásnak.

                Másrészt azonban a legtöbb európai számára a nemzeti érzés az egyetlen együtt átélhető és átélt késztetés, amely a közös ügyért hozott áldozatot igazolja – az egyetlen kötelezettség forrása a közszférában, amely nem adásvételre vonatkozik. Szavazáskor az emberek nemcsak saját zsebükre gondolnak, hanem közös identitásukat is védik a zsákmányszer­zőktől, akik azt a közvagyont is próbálják kifosztani, amelyhez nincs közük. Philip Bobbitt szerint az európai nemzetek háborújának fő eredménye az volt, hogy  a nemzetállam helyébe egy ,,piacállam" lépett – ez olyan cégként képzelendő el, amely jogokat ajánl kötelességekért cserébe, és szabadon csatlakozhatnak hozzá, vagy ki is maradhatnak belőle. (Lásd The Shield of Achilles.)[3] Ha ez igaz volna, akkor a nemzet mint önazonosság-képző közösség elvesztette volna vezető szerepét a politikai kötődés megválasztásában. A politikai kötődés világából teljességgel át is léptünk volna az önérdekű alkuk birodalmába, amelyben áldozatokat többé nem fogadnak el, és talán nincs is szükség rájuk. De ha a jelenlegi válságból mást nem is, azt megtanulhattuk, hogy áldozatvállaló képesség nélkül nincs életképes közösség, és ha szorul a kapca, a politikusok áldozatokat várnak el tőlünk.

          Az iszlám hívei világosan tudtunkra adták, hogy a nemzet nem mindenki számára a lojalitás legfőbb tárgya. Sayyid Qutbnak, az egyiptomi Muzulmán Testvériség 1950-es–60-as évekbeli vezetőjének a követői úgy vélik, hogy a hűség egy nemzethez a bálványimádás egy formája, és hűséggel egyedül Allahnak tartozunk. Közvetlen kapcsolat van ezen eszmék és a között, hogy a közel-keleti országok az Ottomán Birodalom bukása és nemzetállamokra való felosztása óta nem képesek stabilitásra. Az európai nemzetek mindig teljes szívükből ellene voltak az effajta teokratikus abszolutizmusnak, és a vesztfáliai békében szilárdan el is utasították.  Európának az a problémája, hogy a területi törvényhozás az ezt követő századok során olyan érzelmeket ültetett el bennük, amelyek semmiféle birodalmi törekvéshez nem illenek. Modern demokratikus kormányzás alatt az emberek önérdekükön kívül csak a nemzetük keretében hajlandók gondolkodni. Így az új birodalmi terv ellentétben áll az egyetlen érzelemforrással, amelyből alkalmasint legitimitást meríthetne. A nemzetállamok nem egyformán stabilak, demokratikusak és szabadok, és nem egyformán jogállamok. De egyedül ők késztetik engedelmességre az európaiakat, és nélkülük az unió gépezete is tehetetlen. A nemzeti felelősségkörnek egy távoli bürokráciához rendelésével a mostani válságban az unió masinériája zavarodott tehetetlenségre ítéli az embereket.

          Ezt a közös pénz ügye mutatja világosan. Az ,,eurózóna" népei vagy akartak eurót vagy nem. A Mediterráneum sok politikusa azonban rögtön rájött, hogy az euró az államadósság növelésére használható. Görögországra nyilvánvalóan igaz ez. Euróban kibocsátott kötvények az északi gazdaságok erejéből és stabilitásából merítve biztos fogadásnak tűntek olyan befektetők szemében, akik drachmában kibocsátott kötvényekből álmukban sem vennének. És a görögök nem bánták, hiszen senki nem figyelmeztette őket, hogy nagy ára lesz ennek – amelyet a nemzet fizet meg –, mihelyt az eurózóna felbomlik, ami bizonyosra vehető. Most, hogy a számadás napja közeleg, az embereknek szerte a kontinensen nehéz időkre kell felkészülniük. Válságban az emberek ,,leltárt készítenek", ami azt jelenti, hogy társadalmi kötődésük elsődleges forrásának védelmére vonulnak vissza. Nem tudatosan teszik ezt, de teszik, és a politikusok hiába próbálják ezt a megdézsmált vagyonú népek ,,szélsőségességének" bélyegezni; ez csupán tovább mérgesíti őket. Szerencsétlen szituáció ez, mert nincs olyan nemzeteken átívelő Európa-eszme, amelyre egy politikus mint a ragaszkodás tárgyára hivatkozhatna a nemzetállam határain kívül. A fél évszázados béke és virágzás az európai kultúrák örökségéből élt, anélkül, hogy megújította volna. Egy európai politikus csaknem képtelen az európai civilizációra utalni, amikor forrása – a keresztény vallás – ki van tiltva a hivatalos iratokból, és az európai bíróságok nyiltan semmibe veszik. Az Európai Bizottságnak a ,,nacionalista" magyar kormány elleni mostani támadásai  részben a magyarok új alkotmányát veszik célba, amely preambulumában a magyarságot ,,keresztény nemzetnek" írja le; ez két olyan szó, amelyet kitiltottak a hivatalos európai szókincsből. És ha megnézzük az európai bíróságok ítéleteit, főleg az emberi jogi bíróságéit, szisztematikus részrehajlást találunk a kereszténység és a keresztények ellen, ami csakis az Európai Terv ideológiai alapvetéseivel magyarázható.

          Az alkotmányos egyezményekben hasonlóképp kifejezésre jut, hogy nem kedveznek a keresztény hitnek, sem a belőle fakadó erkölcsnek. A ,,kisebbségek kultuszát" felülről erőltették Európára, hogy a népein torolják meg európaiságukat. Ez a hivatalos multikulturalizmus semmit nem tett azért, hogy a bevándorlók közösségeit új környezetükkel összebékítse; helyette megsemmisített egy csomó olyan dolgot, ami bizalmat és örömet vitt az európai nemzeti kultúrákba, és egy rosszkedvű materializmus kedvéért megtagadta a keresztény hitet.

          A hivatalos multikulturalizmus eredménye valójában kulturális vakság – képtelenség arra, hogy a valódi kulturális kiválóságot felismerjék, amely szerte az európai kontinensen létezik, és a nemzetállami szokásokban és történelemben gyökeredzik. Ha az euró megalkotói a nemzeti kultúrákat kellően figyelembe vették volna, rájöhettek volna, hogy ha Görögországban és Németországban ugyanazt a valutát vezetik be, az Görögországot arra fogja bátorítani, hogy adósságát Németországra terhelje át, hiszen minél messzebb a hitelező, annál kevésbé szorít a visszafizetés kötelme.  Felismerhették volna, hogy törvény, kötelezettség és szuverenitás nem ugyanazt jelenti a Földközi- és a Balti-tenger partján, és egy kleptokratikus kormányokhoz szokott társadalomban a legtisztességesebb kiút a gazdasági válságból a leértékelés útja, vagyis mindekitől egyenlően lopni. És rájöttek volna, hogy ha Görögországban és Németországban mégis ugyanazt a valutát erőltetik, ezzel a kölcsönös harag magvát vetik el.

          Miért nem tudták mindezt az euró feltalálói? A válaszra az Európai Terv mélyén lelhetünk rá. Az eurokraták egyszerűen képtelenek a kulturális tények felismerésére. Ha megengednék maguknak, hogy a kultúrát észrevegyék, rá kellene jönniük arra is, hogy a Terv megvalósíthatatlan. Ez nem volna olyan nagy baj, ha tudnák, mit tegyenek helyette. Csakhogy a radikális tervekhez, amelyeknek a kommunizmus az őstípusa, általában nem szoktak B változatot kieszelni, és így van ez most is. Így aztán összeomlásra van ítélve, és az összeomlás során magával fogja rántani kontinensünket. Eközben a politikai osztály, mélységes képmutatását körülbástyázva, a végeken csatározik a valóság ismétlődő rohamai ellen.

          Tehát úgy kell tennünk, mintha a földrészünk protestáns északi és katolikus és ortodox déli része közötti rég ismert különbség gazdaságilag nem volna lényeges. Minthogy ez kulturális tény, nem szabad észrevenni, bár Weber gazdaságtörténete (beismert túlzással) központi jelentőséget tulajdonít neki. A britek és a dánok elidegenítése árán a szokásjog és a Code Napoléon kultúrája közti különbséget is el szokták hanyagolni, pedig számukra a törvény mindig is inkább társadalmi, mint politikai termék volt. A római és az ottomán jogi hagyományok eltérését félresöprik, csakúgy, mint azt a különbséget, hogy némely országokban a törvény biztos lábakon áll, és a bírák megvesztegethetetlenek, másutt viszont a törvény csupán a vesztegetés utolsó állomása. A munkaidő és -intenzitásbeli, valamint a munka és a pihenés egyensúlyában meglevő különbségeket, amelyek pedig minden közösség lényegi jellemzői, mert ezek határozzák meg, hogyan gazdálkodik az idővel, elhanyagolják, vagy értelmetlen központi rendelkezésekbe foglalják. Mindaz, ami a magyarok sajátos tapasztalata – a trianoni szerződés okozta megrázkódtatás, amely határokat vont magyarok közé, a tengertől elzárt föld kultúrája, a soha igazán meg nem telepedett nagyszámú roma, az iszlám uralom elleni harc nyomai – mindez szintén nem számít. És mindent egységesítenek azok a félelmetes törvényszékek – az Európai Unió Bírósága és az Emberi Jogok Európai Bírósága –, amelyek választás nélkül kinevezett bíráin soha nem kérik számon ítéleteiket, és akiknek a ,,diszkriminációellenessége" és az ,,egyre szorosabb uniót" célzó programja hivatott eltörölni a helyi kötődések nyomait, a családerkölcsöt és a hagyományos  életvitelt. Nem meglepő, ha az ilyen fokú képmutatásra épített birodalom nem tartós. 

          Én úgy látom, hogy Európát csak Charles de Gaulle tervét föltámasztva, a nemzetek Európájának megvalósításával menthetjük meg, amelyet egykor Jean Monnet hatásosan meghiúsított. Nem lesz könnyű 180 000 oldalnyi szabály és rendelkezés hálójából kibontakozni – ennyi az acquis communautaire anyaga –, és nem lesz könnyű az európai bíróságok szerepét és struktúraját és az európai intézmények feladatkörét sem újradefiniálni.  De abban lesz legnehezebb egyezségre jutni, hogy mit is jelent a nemzeti szuverenitás. Pontosabban: mit jelent majd a szuverenitás az Európai Unió után? Brit konzervatív politikusok gyakran beszélnek a hatáskörök Brüsszeltől való visszavételéről, mintha ezek a hatáskörök nem változtak volna meg a fogságban, és mintha könnyen megszelidíthetők lennének hazahozataluk után. Ez olyan, mintha Menelaosz azt hinné, hogy mükénéi otthonában az élet visszatérhetne a Heléna elrablása előtti békés kerékvágásba, mihelyt győztesen hazatér Trójából, mögötte az engedelmesen bandukoló visszavett  Helénával. 

          Emlékezzünk rá: az európai civilizáció azzal indította el a felvilágosodáshoz vezető fejlődést, hogy a csírázó politikai, nem pedig a vallási kötődések szerint rendezkedett be. A nemzeti eszme nem ellensége, hanem szükséges előfeltétele a felvilágosodásnak. A nemzethez való hűség mellett a családi, törzsi és hitbéli lojalitás jelentéktelenné válik; a polgár látóterében a hazaszeretet fókuszába nem egy személy vagy csoport, hanem egy ország kerül. Az országot a területe, története, kultúrája és törvényei definiálják: mindaz, ami miénkké teszi ezt a területet. A terület a XIX. században előlép a vallás, a törzsiség és a dinasztia mögül a nacionalista művészetben és irodalomban is. A magukra ébredő nemzetek himnuszát nemzeti fohászként képzelték el, mint Sibelius Finlandiáját vagy a nemhivatalos angol himnuszt, a ,,Land of Hope and Glory"-t.

          A felvilágosodás röviden szólva határokat jelent. Tüntesd el a határokat, és az emberek hovatartozás és törvény helyett törzs, faj és vallás alapján kezdik magukat azonosítani. A nemzet egyben ország is, és   megszerzésének elbeszélése is hozzá tartozik. A területi kötődés eme formája tette képessé a nyugati demokráciákban élő embereket arra, hogy a hitbeli gyökeres különbségek ellenére családi, rokoni kötődések és a kölcsönös szolidaritás ősi hagyománya híján is egymás mellett éljenek, egymás állampolgári jogait tiszteletben tartva. Mert a területi kötődés megalapoz egy polgári hazafiságot, amely az intézményeket és a törvényeket közös tulajdonnak ismeri el, és kiterjeszti áldását azokra is, akik a társadalmi szerződésbe kívülről léptek be.  Az ember nem tud egy törzsbe, családba vagy hitvilágba bevándorolni; de egy országba igen, feltéve, ha betartja azokat a szabályokat, amelyek otthonná teszik az országot.

          A nemzeti kötődést a világon nem mindenütt ismerik. Vegyük Szomáliát. Szomáliát néha ,,sikerületlen államnak" mondják, mert nincs olyan központi kormánya, amely a nép egésze nevében tudna döntést hozni, vagy bárminő törvényes rendet tudna teremteni. De az igazi baj vele az, hogy sikerületlen nemzet lakja. Itt soha nem fejlődött ki egy világi, területi, törvénytisztelő szuverenitás, amely a versengő gyülevész törzsek és családok földjén  nemzetállamot teremt.

          Ugyanez igaz sok más országra, amelyben az iszlám az uralkodó vallás. Az ilyen országok, még ha államként működnek is, mint Pakisztán, nemzetként gyakran sikerületlenek. Úgy tűnik, ezek nem teremtenek olyan ragaszkodást földjükhöz, amely révén különféle hitű, származású és különböző törzsekhez tartozó emberek békésen élhetnek egymás mellett, és vállvetve harcolhatnak közös hazájukért.  Inkább egymás ellen harcolnak a haza birtoklásáért, mintsem hogy erejüket egyesítve védenék. És közelmúltjuk történelme elgodolkodtathat bennünket, vajon nincsen-e végül is mély ellentét a közösség iszlám felfogása és a mi felfogásunk között, amely nemzetiszuverenitás-fogalmunkat táplálja. Lehet, hogy a nemzetállam iszlámellenes fogalom. Mindenesetre Sayyid Qutb ezt igyekezett elhitetni velünk. Hírhedt szavai szerint ,,a Korán árnyékában" élve Istennek veted alá magad, nem a halandóknak. És minden kisszerű fennhatóságot, beleértve a területi alapúakat, minden szokást és ember alkotta törvényt eltöröl a Mindenható hatalma. (Fi zilâl al-qur'ân.) Khomeini ajatollah ugyanezt fejezte ki, amikor a hazaszeretet pogány szokásként vetette el.

          Ez a megállapítás persze a mai Közel-Keletre vonatkozik, ahol a nagy iszlám birodalom nemzetállamokra szabdalt utódait találjuk. A határokat kevés kivételtől eltekintve az 1917-es Sykes–Picot-megegyezés értelmében a nyugati hatalmak – Nagy-Britannia és Franciaország – húzták meg. Aligha meglepő, hogy például Iraknak nemzetállami létében ilyen viszontagságos a története, hiszen lökésszerűen lett állam, de soha nem lett nemzet. Meglehet, hogy egyszer az iraki kurdok, szunnita arabok és síiták majd mind irakiaknak látják magukat. De ez az egység törékeny lesz, osztódásra kész, és bármilyen konfliktusban e három csoport egymással szemben határozza meg a helyét. Az biztos, hogy egyedül a kurdok fejlesztettek ki nemzettudatot, mégpedig azzal az állammal szemben, amelyben élnek. Ami a síitákat illeti, vallásukhoz való hűségük az elsődleges, és viharos időkben a síizmus hazáját, Iránt tekintik példaképüknek. Ma annak vagyunk tanúi, hogy Szíriában omlott össze a polgári rend, amely soha nem volt nemzetállam, de ahol egy kisebbségi szekta, az alaviták birtokolják a fő hatalmi központokat, legitimitásukat Libanonnal és Izraellel szembeni agresszív területi követelésekkel támasztva alá. A jelenlegi polgárháború szekták közötti háborúvá fajul, s ennek a keresztények a fő áldozatai.

          Az iszlám és a modernitás nehéz kérdése túl messze visz bennünket tárgyunktól; annyit jegyezzünk meg, hogy a törzsi és vallási kötődés az iszlám gondolkodásmód számára mindig fontosabb volt, mint a szuverenitás,

és a nemezetek ki nem alakulása a Közel-Keleten részben ezzel magyarázható; mint ahogy az is, hogy ahol Európával régóta kereskedő jelentős keresztény kisebbség él, mint Libanonban és Egyiptomban, a kezdetleges nemzeti keretek már kialakultak.

          Fontosabb, hogy  Európában kétségkívül a keresztény uralom hosszú századai alatt vetették meg a nemzethez tartozás alapjait mint a hitbeli és a családi kötődésnél fontosabb kötődést, amelyre világi törvénykezés és állampolgári rend épülhetett. Paradoxonnak tűnhet, hogy egy vallást nevezünk meg mint a világi kormányzás kifejlődését siettető fő erőt. De emlékeznünk kell a kereszténység világra jövetelének sajátságos körülményeire. A zsidók zárt közösséget alkottak, a vallási törvények szoros hálója tartotta egybe őket, de azok a törvények, amelyekkel Rómából kormányozták őket, semmiféle istenre nem hivatkoztak, s így olyan ideális állampolgárságnak adtak keretet, amilyenre csak vágyhatott a birodalom minden szabad alattvalója.

          Krisztus ellentétbe került a zsidók törvényértelmezésével, s általános rokonszenvet érzett a világi kormányzás eszméjével – innen az adógarasról szóló példabeszéd híres szavai: add meg a császárnak, ami a császáré, és Istennek, ami az Istené. A keresztény hitet Szent Pál alakította a birodalomban élő közösségek számára, akik csupán szabadon akarták gyakorolni vallásukat, és nem akartak a világi hatalmakkal összetűzni. Ezt fejezi ki az, hogy ,,a mely hatalmasságok vannak, az Istentől rendeltettek" (A rómaiakhoz, 13.). A kettős hűség eszméje tovább élt Constantinus után is; I. Gelasius pápa a VI. században erősítette meg a két kardról szóló tanításban. Ezeket az emberiség az állam, illetve az egyén lelkének védelmére kapja. A korai Egyház tehát határozottan jóváhagyta a világi törvényeket, és ez szabott irányt Európa későbbi fejlődésének és – a reformáció és a felvilágosodás közbejöttével – a Nyugaton ma elterjedt tisztán területi törvénykezés kialakulásának is.

          Kontinensünk történetéből teljesen világos, hogy a szolidaritás új formái – jórészt a keresztény örökségnek köszönhetően –  annak a feltevésnek az alapján alakultak ki, hogy a legitimáció ember alkotta, nem pedig Isten adta eredmény. A nemzetek a kezdetleges politikai rend azon formáiból emelkedtek ki, amelyek magukban hordozták a szuverén kormányzást legitimáló elveket. A felvilágosodás politikai bölcselői, mint Locke és Rousseau, megpróbálták a legitimizálódás folyamatát egy társadalmi szerződés skatulyájába tenni, amely szerint a társadalom tagjai beleegyeznek, hogy egy bizonyos módon kormányozzák őket, és ennek fejében lemondanak természtes állapotukról. De nyilvánvaló, hogy ha az emberek összeülnek egy egyesülési szerződést megbeszélni, ezt azért tehetik, mert már összetartoznak, már tudják, hogy mindegyikük jóléte függ az összesnek a cselekedeteitől. Bármilyen szigorú legyen azonban egy szerződés, legfeljebb csak feltételes kötelezettséget állapíthat meg, a politikai rend viszont végső soron egy feltétlen összetevőn nyugszik, mint a házasság vagy a család. Ilyen feltétlen elem nélkül egyetlen közösség sem él túl egy valóságos válságot.

          Ezért a társadalmi szerződés olyan kormányt teremt, amely megvédi és állandóvá teszi a szerződést megelőző és lehetővé tevő szövetséget. A szövetséget a történelem és a terület alakítja ki az ezekből keletkező formák, nevezetesen a nyelv és a szokásos törvény- és vallástisztelet segítségével. Így gondolkodva a vallás gyakorlása több tényező egyikévé, a törvény tárgyává fokozódik le, ahelyett, hogy forrása lenne. Ez szerintem az európai civilizáció nagy eredménye: ember alkotta törvényt helyezni a központba, alárendelve minden társulást, beleértve a vallásiakat is, a világi törvénykezés kívánalmainak; mindezt  az után, hogy megalapítottuk azon intézményeket, amelyek révén a törvény a társadalom változásaihoz igazítható, ahelyett, hogy rég nyomtalanul elmúlt körülmények között kinyilatkoztatott ,,örök" igazságokat sütnénk ki.

          Az így elképzelt törvény azonban területhez kötött, tehát nemzeti. Ez rögzíti a határokat, amelyeken a rendelkezés érvénye nem terjed túl. Az e területen kívülről jövő jogi igényeket keményen vissza szokták utasítani, amint Anglia történetéből vagy a korona és a pápaság vitájából tudhatjuk, s ez döntő szerepet játszott Európa számos nemzetállamának létrejöttében. Amikor azt javasolják, hogy a corpus iuris alapján meg kellene engedni az európai bíróságoknak, hogy brit polgárok ellen bűnvádi eljárást indítsanak, és ki kellene adni őket, hogy ügyüket ott tárgyalhassák, ahol legkényelme­sebb, aligha meglepő, hogy a britek felháborodnak. Az ő fogalmuk szerint a jog szokásjog (common law), amely nem engedi meg a tárgyalás nélküli határozatlan idejű fogvatartást, és amelynek tekintélye azon nyugszik, hogy honi törvény, amelyet az Angol Korona szuverén területén előforduló esetekből szűrtek le. A törvénynek a területhez kötése nem önkényes korlát, hiszen nincsen univerzális jogalkotás, amelyből a helyi jogalkotás megkötésekkel levezethető volna. Az európai tapasztalat által definiált törvénynek ez a leglényegesebb vonása. Örökölt jogfelfogásunk szerint a törvény a konfliktusrendezés, az intézményalapítás, a jogszolgáltatás és a kötelességkirovás kísérleteiből keletkezett, olyan emberek számára, akik szomszédként vannak egymáshoz kötve. A jogot, ahogyan ma ismerjük, a helyi szükségnek megfelelően alkották meg, és viseli is a hely történetének bélyegét. (Nyilvánvalóan nem olyan, mint a Shari'ah vagy akár a sztoikusok és az egyetemes Egyház természetjoga.)

          Így nem csupán az Európai Birodalom létesítésének kísérlete van kudarcra ítélve, ha törvényei nem a nemzeti hovatartozásból merítik tekintélyüket. Valószínű, hogy az állami törvények tekintélyét is aláássák vele Európában. Már a társadalmi szerződés XVIII. századi elméleteiben is van egy vágyvezérelt gondolat az emberi természetről: azt hitték, hogy az emberek át tudják úgy rendezni kötelezettségeiket, hogy ne legyenek tekintettel vonzódásaikra, s így a történelmileg létrejött esetleges kötelékeket kiküszöbölve elvontan ki tudják mérni jogaikat és kötelességeiket. A francia forradalmárok így kezdték magukhoz ragadni a hatalmat az Emberi és állampolgári jogok deklarációjának megfogalmazásával, amely elsöpri az önkényes történelmi viszonyokat, és az Észt emeli arra a trónra, amelyet addig egy halandó ember foglalt el, véletlenül, öröklés folytán. De a Deklaráció után heteken belül már a Nemzet, a Patrie nevében kormányozták az országot, a régi esetleges társulást megszólítva – másképp ugyan, de (szerintem) sokkal veszélyesebb módon –, hogy kitöltsék az űrt, amely emberek rononszenvében a hagyományos kötődések, a vallási gyakorlat eltörlésével  keletkezett, és engedve annak a ténynek, hogy az emberek szomszédsági viszonyait nem lehet megváltoztatni.  Ez utóbbira Burke világított rá, emlékeztetve olvasóit, hogy az emberek véletlenszerűen, nem tudatosan vetődnek együvé, és szeretetük tárgyát sem döntéseik, hanem a körülmények határozzák meg. A közelség, nem pedig az ésszerűség a közönséges jóérzés alapja. Ha ezt a gondolatot komolyan vesszük, mindjárt rájövünk, hogy a területi formájú társulások nyújtják a legjobb biztosítékot a megosztó ideológiákkal szemben. Éppen a nemzeti kötődés az, ami megakadályozhatja, hogy a ,,szélsőségesség" felülkerekedjék az átlag  lelkiismereten.

          Ezért kell a hazaszeretetet, a megegyezéses mai kormányzás sine qua non-ját, megkülönböztetnünk a nacionalizmustól, amely harcias ideológia lévén a kományzás forrását magasabb szinten keresi, mint a szomszédok közti megállapodások gyakorlata. A nacionalizmus megpróbál a szokásos szomszédi kötődésre rátelepíteni valamit, ami a vallásosságra hasonlít – olyan kötődést, amely doktrínán és elkötelezettségen alapul. A közönséges nemzeti kötődés ezzel szemben a megegyezések mellékterméke. Azért keletkezhet, mert az emberek képesek vitáikat  megoldani, együttesen fellépni, együttműködni, együtt ünnepelni és imádkozni, és ez megpecsételi kötődésüket anélkül, hogy doktrínává tenné. Az egyszerű emberek bizonyosan így élnek, és innen ered, ami a legjobb az emberi társadalomban: az tundniillik, hogy megérint bennünket, ami a körülöttünk történik, idomulunk hozzá, és a békés társulás útját sajátunknak érezzük, ami helyes is, hiszen valóban a miénk, és mert összekovácsol az előttünk járókkal és azokkal, akiknek mi tapossuk ki az utat. Ebből a szemszögből a nemzeti érzések nemcsak természetesek, de törvénytiszteletre is késztetnek. Előhívják a társadalomból a szeretet forrásait, és időtálló szokásokban adják tovább ezt a szeretetet; ez megegyezésre, kiegyensúlyozottságra és a változó életviszonyokhoz való alkalmazkodásra tanítja a közösséget.

          Háború idején a nemzeti érzések késztetik hathatósan az embereket az önvédelemre. De békeidőben is lényegesek. Ezt látjuk ma Európában, amint a kormányzati adósság válsága érinteni kezdi az egyszerű emberek életét. A kormányok a közjó érdekében várnak áldozatokat polgáraiktól. Nem azt kérik, hogy ,,Európáért" hozzanak áldozatot, még kevésbé az Európai Unióért. Ha ilyen nyelvet használnának, kénytelenek lennének elismerni, hogy Európa nem az a bürokratikus gépezet, amely csekély legitimációjukat rájuk ruházta, hanem lelki örökség, amelyet a gépezet megpróbált kiirtani. Így kérni csak a nemzeti érzésekre hivatkozva tudnak. Arról beszélnek, hogy a közösségünk érdekében kell összetartanunk, és minduntalan az esendő emberi szeretetre utalnak, hiszen le kell valamiről mondanunk a mások kedvéért – pedig a szociáldemokraták nem ezt a beállítottságot szokták serkenteni. Nem a nacionalizmus, hanem a kötődés nyelvén beszélnek, ami egészen más dolog. Az európai válságra adott válaszukból kiderül, hogy a nemzetállam nem a probléma, hanem a megoldás – ebben rejlik az az egyetlen indíték, amelyre a politikusok ma is  támaszkodhatnak, amikor az Európai Terv hatásai végre kontinensszerte érezhetővé válnak.

          Befejezésül mondanom kell valamit Magyarország mai helyzetéről, már amennyire értem, és a nemzeteszme érvényéről a magyarok számára. Hogy Magyarország esete speciális, az nyilvánvaló. A magyar nyelv egy olyan nyelvcsoport elszigetelt maradványa, amely az indo-európai vándorlások során nagyrészt kihalt, és alig van köze a környékbeli nyelvekhez, ha egyáltalán van. Így nyelvük miatt az iskolázatlan egyszerű magyarok el vannak szigetelve közvetlen szomszédaiktól. Egymástól is elszigetelték őket területüknek az első világháború utáni erőszakos felosztásával. A még birtokolt maradék területen a nagylétszámú roma kisebbséggel osztoznak, akiknek rendezetlen viszonyai gyakran haragot váltanak ki szomszédaikból, de akiknek az ügye feltétlen támogatást élvez a külvilágban. A náci megszállást túlélő zsidó kisebbség a kommunisták alatt további üldözést szenvedett el, ma viszont cselekszik azért, hogy felhívja jelenlétére a figyelmet. A budapesti értelmiségben sok a zsidó, és a Soros birodalom körüli kiterjedt hálózathoz tartozik. Ezen hálózatból sokan joggal gyanakodnak a nacionalizmusra, tekintik a nacionalizmust a XX. századi közép-európai tragédia fő okának, de nem különböztetik meg a nacionalizmust a nemzethez való olyan ragaszkodástól, amelyet ebben az előadásban védelmembe vettem. A világ tudomása szerint  az őshonos  antiszemitizmus is hat a magyarországi társadalomban és politikában, és ez akadályozza, hogy közös nemzeti kötődés alakuljon ki magyar származásúak és zsidók között.

          Ennyit a kollektív prepolitikai kötődés itteni akadályairól, teljesség nélkül. Az Európai Unió olyan állampolgárság-eszmét kínál fel, amely valójában a sehová tartozásé. Biztatja az embereket, hogy hagyják ott hazájukat, és máshol telepedjenek le az unióban. Ám akik elköltöznek, azok nyilvánvalóan az iskolázottak, akiknek a távozta tanároktól, orvosoktól, jogászoktól fosztja meg az országot, anélkül, hogy volna, aki a helyükre lépjen.  Az EU ugyancsak bátorítja a földeladást külföldieknek, ily módon egy nem ott lakó birtokos osztályt építve, amelynek nem személyes érdeke a vidéki élet szépsége és erkölcsi rendje, és amelynek számára a föld csupán hasznos befektetés. Ez máris és a jövőben is olyan feszültséget gerjeszt, amelyet csak szilárd politikai akarattal lehet feloldani.

          Bizony a nemzetnek nincs alternatívája. A budapesti kormány legitimitást csak alulról, attól a néptől várhat, amelynek egysége és önazonossága kormányzati munkájában kifejeződik. Ezt a legitimitást minden kormánynak örökölnie kell, legyen jobb- vagy baloldali, többségi vagy kisebbségi. Ezt nem helyettesítheti érdekkörök lojalitása, a vidék népét Budapestről megrovó állásfoglalás, sem pedig a városi árulók ellen a tősgyökeres vidékiek által kiadott kiáltvány. A választók körét területileg kell tagolni, hiszen a törvénykezés területi, nem pedig vallási vagy etnikai alapú. Ennek alternatívája a megosztottság, olyan etnikai vagy pártos érdekcsoportok küzdelme, amelyek nem mindenki érdekében kormányoznak, hanem a maguk számára fosztogatják a közvagyont. Nem akarok megjegyzéseket tenni a létező magyarországi pártokra vagy szóba hozni, hogy bármelyikük is a közjó kötelező gondozása helyett zsákmányszerzésre használta volna a kormányzást. De azt tudom, hogy mindaddig, míg a kormányzati intézményekben a magyarok nem az ország, hanem valamilyen párt megtestesítőjét látják, a kormány legitimációhiánytól fog szenvedni. Így könnyen elvesztegetheti az EU-val szembeni előnyét a magyar nép bizalmáért folytatott küzdelemben. 

               

Lovas Rezső fordítása

[1]              Az ,,igazi ország". Charles Maurras (1868–1952) fogalmai szerint Franciaország valósághoz kötődő része a  jogi értelemben vett országgal (pays légal) szemben.

[2]              Anglia, Shakespeare II. Richardjának szavai szerint.

[3]              Philip Bobbit: The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History (Alfred A. Knopf, Westminster, Maryland, 2002)

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 The Need for Nations

The project of European integration, advanced by politicians and elites of defeated nations in the wake of the Second World War, was founded on the belief that nationhood and national self-determination were the prime causes of the wars that had ruined Europe. There were disputes as to who started it: Napoleon? Bismarck? The French Revolutionaries? The Revolutionaries of 1848? The Reactionaries and Monarchists? Metternich? Talleyrand? Garibaldi? Fichte? Wagner? Louis XIV? But, however far back you went, in the eyes of the post-war political survivors, you came across the demon of nationalism, locked in conflict with the pure spirit of Enlightenment. As a result of this founding myth European integration was conceived in one-dimensional terms, as a process of ever-increasing unity, under a centralised structure of command. Each increase in central power was to be matched by a diminution of national power.

          In other words, the political process in Europe was to be endowed with a direction. It is not a direction that the people of Europe have chosen, and every time they are given the chance to vote they reject it – hence everything is done to ensure that they never have the chance to vote. The process moves always towards centralisation, top-down control, dictatorship by unelected bureaucrats and judges, cancellation of laws passed by elected parliaments, constitutional treaties framed without any input whatsoever from the people. In the current debt crisis the European elite – composed largely of the governing circles in France and Germany – has assumed the right to depose the elected governments of Greece and Italy, and to impose their own henchmen, chosen from the ranks of obedient apparatchiks. Meanwhile Hungary is constantly assailed with provocative questions and threats of investigation, for having dared to pass its own laws about matters in which the European political class has tacitly assumed sovereignty. In this way, the process is moving always towards imperial government, making very clear that the opposite of nationhood is not Enlightenment but Empire. And only one thing stands opposed to this result, and that is the national sentiments of the European people.

          As an Englishman and a lover of the civilisation of Rome I am not opposed to Empire. But it is important to recognise what it involves and to distinguish the good from the bad forms of it. In my view the good forms serve to protect local loyalties and customs under a canopy of civilisation and law; the bad forms try to extinguish local customs and rival loyalties and to replace them by a lawless and centralised power. The European Union has elements of both arrangements: but it suffers from one overwhelming defect, which is that it has never persuaded the people of Europe to accept it. Europe is, and in my view has ever been, a civilisation of nation states, founded on a specific kind of pre-political allegiance, which is the allegiance that puts territory and custom first and religion and dynasty second in the order of government. Give them a voice, therefore, and the people of Europe will express their loyalties in those terms. In so far as they have unconditional loyalties – loyalties that are a matter of identity rather than agreement – they take a national form.

          The political class in Europe does not like this, and as a result has demonised the direct expression of national sentiments. Speak up for Jeanne d'Arc and le pays réel, for the 'sceptred isle' and St George, for Lemmenkäinen's gloomy forests and the 'true Finns' who roam in them, and you will be called a fascist, a racist and an extremist. There is a liturgy of denunciation here that is repeated all across Europe by a political class that affects to despise ordinary loyalties while surreptitiously depending on them. In recent years Hungary has been a particular target of attack. There are extraneous reasons for it in Hungarian history, of course, and I don't need to remind you of them. But those reasons are not what animate the European elite. The present Hungarian government, by making issues of national identity and national sentiment fundamental to its platform, has excited a strong and censorious response from the European Union, regardless of any other grounds for such disapproval.

          On the other hand, national sentiment is, for most ordinary Europeans, the only publicly available and publicly shared motive that will justify sacrifice in the common cause – the only source of obligation in the public sphere that is not a matter of what can be bought and sold. In so far as people do not vote to line their own pockets, it is because they also vote to protect a shared identity from the predations of those who do not belong to it, and who are attempting to pillage an inheritance to which they are not entitled. Philip Bobbitt has argued that one major effect of the wars between nation states in Europe has been the replacement of the nation state with the 'market state' – the state conceived as a firm, offering benefits in exchange for duties, which we are free to join or to leave as we choose. (See The Shield of Achilles.) If this were true, then the nation, as an identity-forming community, would have lost its leading role in defining political choices and loyalties. Indeed, we would have emerged from the world of political loyalty altogether, into a realm of self-interested negotiations, in which sacrifices are no longer accepted, and perhaps no longer required. But if the present crisis has convinced us of nothing else, it has surely brought home to us that the capacity for sacrifice is the pre-condition of enduring communities, and that when the chips are down politicians both demand sacrifice and expect to receive it.

          We have been made well aware by the Islamists that not everyone accepts the nation as the fount of unconditional loyalty. The followers of Sayyid Qutb, the leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s, tell us that national obedience is a form of idolatry, and that it is to Allah alone that obedience is owed. There is a direction connection between those ideas and the failure of Middle Eastern countries to acquire stability since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and their division into nation states. The European nations have never whole-heartedly accepted that kind of theocratic absolutism, and firmly rejected it at the Treaty of Westphalia. The problem for Europe is that the ensuing centuries of territorial jurisdiction have implanted sentiments that do not fit easily into any kind of imperial ambition. In the circumstances of modern democratic government it is only on behalf of the nation that people are prepared to think outside the frame of self-interest. Hence the new imperial project has entered into conflict with the only source of sentiment upon which it could conceivably draw for its legitimacy. The nation states are not equally stable, equally democratic, equally free or equally obedient to the rule of law. But they alone inspire the obedience of the European people, and without them there is no way that the machinery of the Union can act. By replacing national accountability with distant bureaucracy, that machinery has left people disarmed and bewildered in the face of the current crisis.

          We see this clearly in the matter of the common currency. The Euro, imposed without proof that the people of the 'Eurozone' had any desire for it, was immediately understood, by many politicians in the Mediterranean, as a way of enlarging the national debt. This was very obviously the case in Greece. Bonds issued in Euros would benefit from the strength and probity of the Northern economies, and would be regarded as safe bets by investors who would not dream of buying bonds issued in drachmas. And the people of Greece agreed, since nobody alerted them to the cost – the national­ cost – that will be paid, once the Eurozone breaks up, as surely it must. Now that the day of reckoning is approaching, people all across the continent sense the need to prepare themselves for hard times. In a crisis people 'take stock', which means that they retreat to the primary source of their social attachment, and prepare to defend it. They do not do this consciously. But they do it nevertheless, and the futile attempt by the politicians to denounce the 'extremism' of the people whose inheritance they have squandered merely exacerbates the reaction. But the situation is not a happy one, since there is no trans-national idea of Europe to which the politician can appeal by way of identifying an object of loyalty outside the borders of the nation state. The half-century of peace and prosperity has fed upon the European cultural inheritance without renewing it. For it is all but impossible for a European politician to evoke the civilisation of Europe when its source – the Christian Religion – has been expunged from official documents and openly repudiated by the European courts. One ground of the current attacks on the 'nationalist' government of Hungary by the European Commission is that the Hungarians have drawn up a constitution which, in its preamble, describes the Hungarians as a 'Christian nation': two words that have been expunged from the official vocabulary of Europe. Indeed, if you look at the verdicts of the European courts, and especially of the Court of Human Rights, you will find a systematic bias against Christianity and Christians which has no other explanation than the ideological assumptions on which the European project has been built.

          The constitutional treaties likewise have made a point of granting no favours to the Christian faith or to the morality that has sprung from it. A 'cult of the minority' has been imposed from above, as a kind of rebuke to the people of Europe for being Europeans in spirit. This official multiculturalism has done nothing to reconcile immigrant communities to their new surroundings; instead it has destroyed much that was confident and joyful in the national cultures of Europe and rejected the Christian pieties in favour of a kind of morose materialism.

          The result of official multiculturalism is in fact cultural blindness – an inability to perceive the real cultural distinctions that obtain across the European continent and which are rooted in the custom and history of the nation states. If the architects of the Euro had taken national cultures properly into account they would have known that the effect of imposing a single currency on Greece and Germany would be to encourage Greece to transfer its debts to Germany, on the understanding that the further away the creditor the less the obligation to repay. They would have recognised that laws, obligations, and sovereignty don't have quite the same meaning in the Mediterranean as they do on the Baltic, and that in a society used to kleptocratic government the fairest way out of an economic crisis is by devaluation – in other words, by stealing equally from everybody. And they would have recognised that, by imposing a single currency on Greece and Germany nevertheless, they would sow the seeds of mutual resentment.

          Why didn't the architects of the Euro know those things? The answer is to be found deep within the European project. Cultural facts were simply imperceivable to the Eurocrats. Allowing themselves to perceive culture would be tantamount to recognising that their project was an impossible one. This would have mattered less if they had another project with which to replace it. But – like all radical projects, communism being the archetype – that of the European Union was conceived without a Plan B. Hence it is destined to collapse and, in the course of its collapse, to drag our continent down. An enormous pool of pretence has accumulated at the centre of the project, while the political class skirmishes at the edges, in an attempt to fend off the constant assaults of reality.

          Thus we have to pretend that the long observed distinctions between the Protestant North of our continent and the Catholic and Orthodox South is of no economic significance. Being a cultural fact it is imperceivable, notwithstanding Weber's (admittedly exaggerated) attempt to make it central to economic history. The difference between the culture of common law and that of the code napoléon has likewise been ignored, at the cost of alienating the British and the Danes, for whom law has ever been a social rather than a political product. The distinction between the Roman and the Ottoman legal legacies has been set aside, as has that between countries where law is certain and judges incorruptible and places where law is only the last resort in a system of bribes. Times and speeds of work, and the balance between work and leisure, which go to the heart of every community since they define its relation to time, are ignored, or else regimented by a futile edict from the centre. All that is distinctive of the Hungarian experience – the shock of the Treaty of Trianon, which divided the Hungarian people from each other, the distinctive culture of a land-locked country in which a large population of Roma has never properly settled, the still present record of the country's struggle against Islamic domination – all this too has been ignored. And everything is to be brought into line by those frightening courts – the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights – whose unelected judges never pay the cost of their decisions, and whose agenda of 'non-discrimination' and 'ever-closer union' is calculated to wipe away the traces of local loyalties, family-based morality, and rooted ways of life. Not surprisingly, when you build an empire on such massive pretences, it very soon becomes unstable.

          We can rescue Europe, it seems to me, only if we can recover the project that Charles de Gaulle wished to place at its heart, and which was effectively scotched by Jean Monnet – the project of a Europe of Nations. It will not be easy to unravel the web of regulations and edicts contained in the 180,000 pages of the acquis communautaire; nor will it be easy to redefine the roles and the structures of the European courts and the competences of the European Institutions. But the most difficult thing will be to obtain agreement on what national sovereignty really means. In particular, what will sovereignty mean in the aftermath of the European Union? Conservative politicians in Britain often speak of recapturing powers from Brussels, as though these powers will not have been altered by captivity, and as though they can be easily domesticated when they are brought back home. This is like Menelaus thinking that home life in Mycenae would be just the same when he had returned victorious from Troy, the recaptured Helen obediently trotting behind, as it was in the good old days before she left.

          The situation of Europe today reminds us that by conceiving pre-political loyalties in national, rather than religious terms, European civilisation has made room for the Enlightenment. The national idea is not the enemy of Enlightenment but its necessary precondition. National loyalty marginalizes loyalties of family, tribe and faith, and places before the citizen's eyes, as the focus of his patriotic feeling, not a person or a group but a country. This country is defined by a territory, and by the history, culture and law that have made that territory ours. It is the emergence of territory from behind religion, tribe and dynasty that characterises the nationalist art and literature of the 19th century, and the national anthems of the self-identifying nations were conceived as invocations of home, in the manner of Sibelius's Finlandia or the unofficial national anthem of England, 'Land of Hope and Glory'.

          In short, Enlightenment means borders. Take away borders, and people begin to identify themselves not by territory and law, but by tribe, race or religion. Nationality is composed of land, together with the narrative of its possession. It is this form of territorial loyalty that has enabled people in Western democracies to exist side by side, respecting each other's rights as citizens, despite radical differences in faith, and without any bonds of family, kinship or long-term local custom to sustain the solidarity between them. For on the foundation of territorial attachment it has been possible to build a kind of civic patriotism, which acknowledges institutions and laws as shared possessions, and which can extend a welcome to those who have entered the social contract from outside. You cannot immigrate into a tribe, a family or a faith; but you can immigrate into a country, provided you are prepared to obey the rules that make that country into a home.

          National loyalty is not known everywhere in the world. Consider Somalia. People sometimes refer to Somalia as a 'failed state', since it has no central government capable of making decisions on behalf of the people as a whole, or of imposing any kind of legal order. But the real trouble with Somalia is that it is a failed nation. It has never developed the kind of secular, territorial and law-minded sovereignty that makes it possible for a country to shape itself as a nation state rather than an assemblage of competing tribes and families.

          The same is true of many other countries in which Islam is the dominant faith. Even if such countries do function as states, like Pakistan, they are often failures as nations. They seem not to generate the kind of territorial loyalty that would enable people of different faiths, different kinship networks, different tribes to live peacefully side by side, and also to fight side by side on behalf of their common homeland. They are more likely to fight each other for possession of the homeland than to join forces in protecting it. And their recent history might lead us to wonder whether there is not, in the end, a deep conflict between Islamic conceptions of community and the conceptions that have fed our own idea of national sovereignty. Maybe the nation state is an anti-Islamic idea. Certainly that is what Sayyid Qutb would have us believe. Living in 'the shade of the Koran', as he famously put it, you surrender to God, not to mortals. And all lesser jurisdictions, including those founded on territory, custom and man-made law, are abolished by the supreme jurisdiction of the Almighty. (Fi zilâl al-qur'ân.) Ayatollah Khomeini said the same, when he dismissed patriotism as paganism.

          This observation is, of course, pertinent to the Middle East today, where we find the remnants of a great Islamic Empire divided into nation  states. With a few exceptions this division is the result of boundaries drawn on the map by Western powers, and notably by Britain and France as a result of the Sykes-Picot accords of 1917. It is hardly surprising if Iraq, for example, has had such a chequered history as a nation state, given that it has been only spasmodically a state, and never a nation. It may be that Kurds, Sunnite Arabs and Shi'ites in Iraq could all come, in time, to see themselves as Iraqis. But this identity will be fragile and fissiparous, and in any conflict the three groups will identify themselves in opposition to each other. Indeed, it is only the Kurds who seem to have a developed national identity, and it is an identity opposed to that of the state in which they are included. As for the Shi'ites, their primary loyalty is religious, and they look to the homeland of Shi'ism in Iran as a model in turbulent times. Today we are witnessing the collapse of civil order in Syria, a country which has never been a nation-state, but in which one minority sect, the 'Alawites, controlled the main centres of power, striving for legitimacy through aggressive territorial claims against Lebanon and Israel. The current civil war is degenerating into a war between the sects, with Christians as the principal victims.

          The vexed question of Islam and modernity takes us too far from our topic; suffice it to say that tribe and creed have always been more important than sovereignty in Islamic ways of thinking, and the non-emergence of nations in the Middle East is partly explained by this, as is their embryonic emergence in those countries, like Lebanon and Egypt, with substantial Christian minorities, maintaining long-standing trade links with Europe.

          More importantly, I have no doubt that it is the long centuries of Christian dominance in Europe which laid the foundations of national loyalty, as a loyalty above those of faith and family, and on which a secular jurisdiction and an order of citizenship can be founded. It may sound paradoxical, to identify a religion as the major force behind the development of secular government. But we should remember the peculiar circumstances in which Christianity entered the world. The Jews were a closed community, bound in a tight web of religious legalisms, but governed from Rome by a law which made no reference to any God and which offered an ideal of citizenship to which every free subject of the Empire might aspire.

          Christ found himself in conflict with the legalism of his fellow Jews, and in broad sympathy with the idea of secular government – hence his famous words in the parable of the Tribute Money: render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. The Christian faith was shaped by St Paul for the use of communities within the Empire, who wanted only space to pursue their worship, and had no intention of challenging the secular powers. Hence 'the powers that be are ordained of God' (Romans 13). And this idea of dual loyalty continued after Constantine, being endorsed by Pope Gelasius the First in the 6th century, in his doctrine of the two swords given to mankind for their government, that which guards the body politic, and that which guards the individual soul. It is this deep endorsement of secular law by the early Church that was responsible for the subsequent developments in Europe – through the Reformation and the Enlightenment – to the purely territorial law that prevails in the West today.

          It is very clear from the history of our continent, that new forms of solidarity have here come into being which owe much to the Christian inheritance, but which are premised on the assumption that legitimacy is a man-made and not a God-bestowed achievement. Nations emerged as forms of pre-political order that contain within themselves the principles that would legitimise sovereign government. Political theorists of the Enlightenment such as Locke and Rousseau tried to encapsulate this legitimising process in a social contract, by which the members of society form an agreement to be governed in a certain way in exchange for renouncing the state of nature. But it is surely obvious that if people assemble to consider a contract that will unite them, it is because they already belong together, already acknowledge that the welfare of each depends upon the actions of all. A contract, however strong its terms, can never establish more than a conditional obligation, whereas political order depends, in the end, on an unconditional component, as do marriage and the family. Without this unconditional component no community can survive a real crisis.

          The social contract therefore establishes a form of government that will protect and perpetuate an allegiance that precedes the contract and makes it possible. This allegiance is shaped by history and territory, and by all the forms of association that spring from these, notably language, customary law and religious observance. Seeing things in this way, religious observance is demoted to one factor among others, and is reshaped as a subject of law, rather than a source of it. That, to my mind, is the great achievement of European civilisation: to have placed man-made law at the heart of the community, to have subordinated all associations, including those stemming from religion, to the demands of the secular jurisdiction, and to have established the institutions through which law can adapt to changes in social life instead of blurting out some 'eternal' message revealed in circumstances that have vanished, leaving no other trace.

          However, law so conceived is territorial and therefore national. It is a law that defines boundaries, beyond which its writ does not run. Claims to jurisdiction from a place outside those boundaries are fiercely resisted, as we know from the history of England and from the conflict between the crown and the papacy that has been decisive in forming many of the nation states of Europe. When it is proposed that the corpus iuris should permit European courts to charge British citizens with criminal offences, and extradite them to the place most convenient for their trial, it is hardly surprising that British people receive this suggestion with outrage. Their conception of law is the common law conception, which does not permit people to be held indefinitely without trial, and which depends for its authority on the 'law of the land', as embodied in cases decided in the sovereign territory of the English Crown. This attachment of law to territory is not some arbitrary limitation, as though there were a universal jurisdiction from which local jurisdictions are derived by restriction. It is the very essence of law, as the European experience has defined it. We are heirs to a conception of law as arising from the attempt to settle conflicts, to establish institutions, to adjudicate rights and duties, among people who are bound to each other as neighbours. Law, as we know it, is produced by the place that needed it, and is marked by the history of that place. (The contrast with the Shari'ah is obvious, as is the contrast with the 'natural law' of the stoics and the Universal Church.)

          Hence the attempt to build a European Empire of laws that depend upon no national allegiance for their authority is not merely bound to fail. It is likely also to undermine the authority of secular law in the minds of the European people. There is already in the social contract theories of the eighteenth century a kind of wishful thinking about human nature, a belief that people can reshape all their obligations without reference to their affections, so as to produce an abstract calculus of rights and duties in the place of their contingent and historical ties. The French Revolutionaries began their seizure of power in this way, proposing a declaration of the rights of man and the citizen that would sweep away all the arbitrary arrangements of history and place Reason on the throne that had previously been occupied by a mere human being, who had arrived there by the accident of succession. But within weeks of the Declaration the country was being governed in the name of the Nation, the Patrie, and the old contingent association was being summoned in another and (to my mind) far more dangerous form, in order to fill the gap in people's affections that had been made by the destruction of customary loyalty, religious usage, and the unquestioned ways of neighbourhood. This was clearly perceived by Burke, who reminded his readers that human beings are thrown together by accidents that they do not choose, and derive their affections not from their decisions but from their circumstances. It is proximity, not reason, that is the foundation of ordinary charitable feeling. Take that thought seriously, and you quickly come to see that territorial forms of association are the best remedy that we have against the divisive call of ideology. National attachment is precisely what prevents 'extremism' from taking hold of the ordinary conscience.

          This is why we must distinguish national loyalty, which is the sine qua non of consensual government in the modern world, from nationalism, which is a belligerent ideology that looks for a source of government higher than the routines of settlement and neighbourhood. Nationalism is an ideological attempt to supplant customary and neighbourly loyalties with something more like a religious loyalty – a loyalty based on doctrine and commitment. Ordinary national loyalty, by contrast, is the by-product of settlement. It comes about because people have ways of resolving their disputes, ways of getting together, ways of cooperating, ways of celebrating and worshipping that seal the bond between them without ever making that bond explicit as a doctrine. This is surely how ordinary people live, and it is at the root of all that is best in human society, namely that we are attached to what goes on around us, grow together with it, and learn the ways of peaceful association as our ways, which are right because they are ours and because they unite us with those who came before us and those for whom we will in turn make way. Seen in that way national feelings are not just natural, they are essentially legitimising. They call upon the sources of social affection, and bestow that affection on customs that have proved their worth over time, by enabling a community to settle its disputes and achieve equilibrium in the changing circumstances of life.

          National sentiments enable people successfully to defend themselves in wartime. But they are also essential in peacetime too. This we are now seeing in Europe, as the sovereign debt crisis begins to affect the lives of ordinary people. Governments are calling on their citizens to make sacrifices for the common good. They are not asking them to make sacrifices for 'Europe', still less for the European Union. If they were to use this language then they would be forced to recognise that Europe is not the bureaucratic machine that has conferred upon them the small measure of legitimacy that they can claim, but a spiritual inheritance that the machine has tried to extirpate. Hence the only invocations that they can make address national sentiments. They speak of the need to pull together, for the sake of our community, and at every point their language invokes the contingencies of human affection, that make it possible for people to give up something for the sake of others – a habit of mind that social democracies do not normally encourage. They are not speaking the language of nationalism, but the language of attachment, which is something entirely different. Their response to the crisis of Europe reveals that the nation state is not the problem but the solution – it contains within itself the only motives to which politicians can now appeal, when the effects of the European project are finally being felt across the continent.

          In conclusion I must say something about the situation of Hungary today, as I understand it, and the relevance of the national idea to the Hungarians. That Hungary is a special case is evident. The Hungarian language is an isolated remnant of a linguistic group that was for the most part extinguished by the Indo-European migrations, and bares little or no relation to any of the surrounding tongues. Ordinary uneducated Hungarians are therefore isolated from their immediate neighbours by their language. They have also been isolated from each other by the forcible division of their territory at the end of the First World War. The remnant of territory that they still enjoy is shared with a substantial minority of Roma, whose unsettled ways are often resented by their neighbours, but whose cause inevitably gathers support in the wider world. The Jewish minority that survived the Nazi occupation suffered further persecution under the communists, but nevertheless is active in making its presence known. Many of the Budapest intelligentsia are Jewish, and form part of the extensive networks around the Soros Empire. People in these networks include many who are rightly suspicious of nationalism, regard nationalism as the major cause of the tragedy of Central Europe in the 20th century, and do not distinguish nationalism from the kind of national loyalty that I have defended in this talk. Moreover, as the world knows, indigenous anti-Semitism still plays a part in Hungarian society and politics, and presents an obstacle to the emergence of a shared national loyalty among ethnic Hungarians and Jews.

          Those are only some of the factors that stand in the way of a collective pre-political attachment in this part of the world. The European Union offers an idea of citizenship which is in fact a citizenship of nowhere. It encourages people to move from their homeland and to settle elsewhere in the Union, and inevitably those who move are the educated class, whose departure deprives the country of its teachers, doctors, lawyers and surgeons, and provides no replacements for them. The EU also encourages the sale of land to foreign nationals – so building a non-resident landlord class, which has no personal interest in the beauty and moral order of rural life, and which sees land merely as an investment, to be put to use. This has led, and will lead, to tensions of a kind that can be resolved only by a firm political will.

          For there is no alternative to nationality. If the government in Budapest is to enjoy legitimacy, that legitimacy must come from below, from the people whose unity and identity is expressed in the workings of government. This legitimacy must be inherited by each government, whether right or left, whether minority or majority. It must not be a loyalty of cliques, or a reprimand to the peasantry issued by the intellectuals of Budapest, or an edict issued by the true Hungarians in the villages against the traitors in the city. The electorate itself must be identified in territorial terms, since the jurisdiction is territorial, not ethnic or religious. The alternative is fragmentation, as competing ethnic groups or factional interests form parties whose purpose is not to rule in the interest of everyone, but to pillage for the sake of the group. I don't wish to comment here on the existing political parties in Hungary or to raise the question whether any of them has seen government as an opportunity for plunder rather than a duty to secure the common good. But I do know that, until the institutions of government are seen by Hungarians as representing the country, rather than some faction within it, the government will suffer a deficit of legitimacy. It will them lose its principal advantage over the EU in its battle for the affections of the Hungarian people.

         

 
Work In Progress - Books

Our Love for Animals

May 2013

All comments welcome

I live on a pasture farm, in a part of England where a thin top-soil covers a sub-soil of clay. You can grow grass on this top-soil; but you cannot plough it without turning up the clay, on which nothing grows; the only human use for the land, therefore, is to support things that live on grass or its by-products. That means cows, sheep, pigs, chickens by way of domestic animals, game birds by way of wild-life, and horses for riding. By far the most profitable of these animals, from the point of view of our local farming economy, are the horses, which bring people who earn real money into the countryside, and encourage them to turn that money into grass. Those who are trying to turn grass into money have a much harder time of it. Still, all in all, I see our little patch of farmland as an example of good-natured animal husbandry. All our animals live in an environment to which they are adapted, enjoy basic freedoms, and are saved by our intervention from the lingering misery of old age and disease, or from a long-drawn-out death from physical injury. This is true, for the most part, of the wild-life too. The game birds are either shot or eaten by the fox, the rats, field-mice, voles and other rodents are taken by the buzzards and hawks, and the fish are quickly swallowed by the visiting heron. Death from old age, disease or injury is rare, and we do what we can to help our wild animals through the winter, with scraps from the kitchen for the carnivores and corn and nuts for the birds.

            Of course there is much room for improvement, and there are aspects of our management that disturb me. In particular it worries me that our natural affections favour some animals over others. Thus we go out of our way to ensure that the predators get through the hard days of winter, but do little or nothing for the mice and voles, and do what we can to exterminate the rats. Of course, we don't poison the rats, since that would be to poison the owls, buzzards and foxes that eat their remains. But we interfere in the natural order, and could not envisage life on the farm if we did not do so. Hares are welcome, rabbits less so; stoats and weasels enjoy our protection, crows and magpies don't dare to come within range. So far I have not met any country person who does not make choices of the kind that we make, and when I read of 'wild life sanctuaries' I wonder how far their wardens are prepared to go, by way of managing those species which, if left to themselves, will turn a viable habitat into a desert – grey squirrels, for instance, Canada geese, cormorants.

            Although I worry about our meddling in the order that surrounds us, I take comfort from the fact that species that were never seen on the farm when I bought it 15 years ago are now re-establishing their presence there: bullfinches, wagtails, kestrels, kitty hawks, fallow deer, stoats and grass-snakes. We have many kinds of bee, and the ponds abound in frogs, toads and dragon-flies. But we also have neighbours, and by far the greatest threat to the animals that live on our land comes from that source. I don't refer to the farming neighbours, who maintain the ecological balance in much the way that we do. I refer to the incomers, those who have moved to the country in order to enjoy the tranquillity that is the by-product of other peoples' farming, and who come with their own menagerie of animals – much loved animals, who have enjoyed all the creature comforts that the town can provide. It is the dogs and cats of these people that do most to upset the fragile order that we have tried to maintain, and I cannot help drawing some conclusions about the distinction between the right and the wrong ways of loving them.

            One neighbour has a dog which she walks along the public bridle way, leaving it free to run in the hedgerows and out into the fields. This dog does what dogs do: it sniffs for quarry and, when it finds something, gives chase. In the winter, when birds are hidden under leaves, conserving their energy as best they can, they cannot easily survive being chased every day. The same is true of hares, rabbits and voles. Of course our neighbour is adamant that her dog would not dream of killing the things he chases – he is only doing what his nature requires. The same is true, of course, of the pheasant, the stoat or the rabbit that he is chasing. The difference is that the dog goes home to a warm house and a supper consisting largely of other animals which have been tortured into a tin, while its quarry goes hungry, trying to recover from the shock and weakened for its next encounter.

            Another neighbour has a pair of cats – attractive animals, which know how to simulate affection towards their human owners, while policing all around them with the invincible insolence of a dominant species. Both dogs and cats are predators; but dogs can be trained not to kill; they can be trained to focus their hunting instincts on a particular species, or they can be bred to focus the very same instincts on some other and more humanly useful pursuit, such as herding sheep or retrieving game birds. Not so cats. Everything in their nature tends towards the single goal of killing, and although they can be pampered into relinquishing this goal, they are by that same process pampered into relinquishing their nature. A true cat wants out, and when out he wants death. The distinctions between fair and unfair game, between vermin and protected species, between friend and foe – all such distinctions have no significance for a cat, which sets off from the house in search of songbirds, field mice, shrews and other harmless and necessary creatures with no thought for anything save the taste in his mouth of their blood. One estimate puts at 180 million the number of wild birds and mammals lost to cats each year in Britain.[1] The domestic cat is, without exception, the most devastating of all the alien species that have been brought onto our island, and the worst of it is that, thanks to the sentimentality of the British animal lover, it is a crime to shoot them.

            Love has many forms, and there is no reason to suppose that my love of farm animals and wildlife is in any way superior, as an emotion, to the love of our neighbours for their dogs and cats. But two questions should be asked of every love: does it benefit the object, and does it benefit the subject? Whether or not we agree with Wilde's bathetic line that 'Each man kills the thing he loves', it is certainly true that there are loves that destroy their object, for the reasons given by Blake:

            Love seeketh only self to please

            To bind another to its delight,

            Joys in another's loss of ease

            And builds a Hell in Heav'n's despite.

There are loves that enslave, stifle, exploit and abuse. And there again there are loves which corrupt the subject, giving him a false and flattering view of himself, and a comforting picture of his own cost-free lovableness. Love is not good in itself; it is good when part of virtue, bad when part of vice. In which case we should follow Aristotle, and say that it is not as such good to love, but good to love the right object, on the right occasion and to the right degree.[2] Learning how and what to love is part of growing up, and love, like other emotions, must be disciplined if it is not to collapse into sentimentality on the one hand, or domination on the other.

            There is much literature that takes the love between humans and animals as its subject, and we are none of us short of examples, with which to explore what might be good, and what bad, in such a cross-species affection. I am as susceptible to the love of pets as anyone, and still remember my childhood dog, a repulsive creature entirely deficient in canine virtues, as an object of deep and need-filled emotion. When my horse Barney, whom I loved, died beneath me while hunting I was quite stricken for a while, until setting eyes on Barney's successor. Cats have always taken a shine to me, purring and kneading in my lap with no knowledge of the contempt in which I hold their species. Still, none of this should impede me from asking the question when, and how, it is right to love an animal.

            The first point to make is that love for animals is only exceptionally love for an individual animal. I love the animals on our farm but few of them are objects of an individual love: it is the presence of bullfinches, not of any particular bullfinch, that delights me, and for which I work as best I can. Of course I am concerned when I come cross a bird or a mammal in distress, and will go out of my way to help it: but this is not love, only ordinary kindness. With the horses it is different, since I stand to them in another relation, knowing their individual traits and foibles, and riding them, often in hair-raising circumstances in which we depend on each other for safety and maybe even survival. A special bond grows from such circumstances – the bond that caused Alexander the Great to mourn Bucephalus and to build a city in his honour. However, it is unclear that horses respond to their riders as individuals, or that they are capable of feeling the kind of affection, either for us or for each other, that we feel for them. They distinguish a good place from a bad one; they recognise and relate to their stable mates; they know what kind of treatment to expect from which of the two-legged creatures that come to care for them. But their affections are weak, unfocused and easily transferred. Barney, for me, had some of the qualities of Bucephalus: bold, eager to be first in the field, and obedient in the face of danger. And that was the ground of my affection: not that he regarded me with any favour or made a place for me in his life as I made a place for him in mine.

            Now it seems to me that there are bad ways of loving a horse: ways that are bad for the horse, and also bad for the one who loves him. A love that regards the horse as a play-thing, whose purpose is to satisfy the whims of a rider, to be an object of cuddling and caressing of a kind that the horse himself can neither reciprocate nor understand – such a love is a way of disregarding the horse. It is also in its own way corrupt. A person who lavishes this kind of affection on a horse is either deceiving himself or else taking pleasure in a fantasy affection, treating the horse as a means to his own emotion, which has become the real focus of his concern. The horse has become the object of a self-regarding love, a love without true care for the thing that occasions it.  Such a love takes no true note of the horse, and is quite compatible with a ruthless neglect of the animal, when it loses (as it will) its superficial attractions. Horses treated in this way are frequently discarded, like the dolls of children. And it is indeed the case of the doll that provides, for the philosophy of love, the most poignant instance of error. Children practise affection with their dolls: it is their way of developing in themselves the expressions, habits and gestures that will elicit protection and love from those around them. But we expect them, for this reason, to grow out of dolls and into proper love – love which bears a cost for the one who feels it, which puts the self in the hands of another, and which forms the foundation of a reciprocal bond of care.

            Each species is different, and when it comes to dogs there is no doubt, not only that dogs reciprocate the affection of their masters, but also that they become attached to their masters as individuals, in a way that renders the master irreplaceable in their affections – so much so that the grief of a dog may strike us as desolate beyond anything that we, who have access even in extremity to consolation, could really feel. The focused devotion of a dog is – when it occurs (and not all dogs are capable of it) – one of the most moving of all the gifts that we receive from animals, all the more moving for not being truly a gift but rather a need.[3] It seems to me that the recipient of such a love is under a duty to the creature that offers it, and that this creates a quite special ground for love that we must take into account. The owner of a loving dog has a duty of care beyond that of the owner of a horse. To neglect or abandon such a dog is to betray a trust that creates an objective obligation, and an obligation towards an individual. Hence my neighbour is right to think that her obligation to her dog takes precedence over my duty to care for the wildlife whose welfare he is compromising. She occupies one pole of a relation of trust, and it would be a moral deficiency in her to assume the right to enjoy her dog's unswerving affection while denying him what she can easily provide by way of a reward for it. Hence I don't judge her adversely for her irritating dog or her equally irritating love for it: the fault is mine, like the fault of being upset by the selfishness of families, as they strive to secure the best seats on a train. Each of us has a sphere of love, and he is bound to the others who inhabit it.

            That said, however, we should still make a distinction between the right way and the wrong way to love a dog. Dogs are individuals, in the way that all animals are individuals. But they have, if it can be so expressed, a higher degree of individuality than birds, certainly a higher degree of individuality than insects. By this I mean that their wellbeing is more bound up with their specific nature and circumstances, with their affections and their character, than is the wellbeing of members of other species. A bird relates to its surroundings as a member of its species, but not as one who has created for itself an individual network of expectations and fears. The loving dog is dependent on individual people, and knows that he is so dependent. He responds to his surroundings in ways that distinguish individuals within it, and recognizes demands that are addressed specifically to him, and to which he must respond. His emotions, simple though they are, are learned responses, which bear the imprint of a history of mutual dealings.

            In this way it is possible to read into the behaviour of a dog something of the inter-personal responses that we know from human affection. The dog is not a person, but he is like a person in incorporating into himself the distinguishing features of his experience, coming to be the particular dog that he is through being related to the particular others in his surroundings. But why do I say he is not a person? The reason, briefly, is this. Persons are individuals too; but their individuality is situated on another metaphysical plane from that of the animals, even that of the animals who love them, and love them as individuals. Persons identify themselves in the first person, know themselves as 'I', and make free choices based on these acts of identification. They are sovereign over their world, and the distinction between self and other, mine and not-mine, deciding and not deciding, penetrates all their thinking and acting. The dog who looks into the eyes of his master is not judging, not reminding the master of his responsibilities or putting himself on display as another individual with rights and freedoms of his own. He is simply appealing as he might to a mate or a fellow member of the pack, in the hope that his need will be answered. There is not, in any of this, the I to I encounter that distinguishes persons among all other things in nature and which, indeed, for Kant, is a sign that they are not really part of nature at all. Although I relate to my dog as an individual, it is from a plane of individuality to which he can never ascend. Ideas of responsibility, duty, right and freedom, which govern my intentions, have no place in his thinking. For him I am another animal – a very special animal, certainly, but nevertheless one that exists on the same plane as himself, and whose motives he will never comprehend, except in terms of the kind of unquestioning unity of being that is the sum of canine affection.

            Now it seems to me that the right way to love a dog is to love him not as a person, but as a creature that has been raised to the edge of personhood, so as to look into a place that is opaque to him but from which emerge signals that he understands in another way than we who send them. If we base our love for our dog on the premise that he, like us, is a person, then we damage both him and ourselves. We damage him by making demands that no animal can fully understand – holding him to account in ways that make no sense to him. We will feel bound to keep him alive, as we keep each other alive, for the sake of a relation that, being personal, is also eternal. It seems to me that a person loves his dog wrongly when he does not have him put down when decay is irreversible. But it is not so much the damage done to the dog that matters: it is the damage done to the person. The love of a dog is in an important sense cost-free. The greatest criminal can enjoy it. No dog demands virtue or honour of his master, and all dogs will leap to their master's defence, even when it is the forces of good that are coming to arrest him. Dogs do not judge, and their love is unconditional only because it has no conception of conditions. From a dog, therefore, we can enjoy the kind of endorsement that requires no moral labour to earn it. And this is what we see all around us: the dwindling of human affection, which is always conditional and always dependent on moral work, and its replacement by the cost-free love of pets.

            Such a love wants to have it both ways: to preserve the pre-lapsarian innocence of its object, while believing the object capable nevertheless of moral judgement. The dog is a dumb animal, and therefore incapable of wrongdoing; but for that very reason he is seen as right in all his judgements, bestowing his affection on worthy objects, and endorsing his master through his love. This is the root cause of the sentimentalisation of animal life that makes a film like Bambi so poisonous – leading people to 'dollify' animals, while believing the animals to be 'in the right' and always endowed with the moral advantage. But you cannot have it both ways: either animals are outside the sphere of moral judgement, or they are not. If they are outside it, then their behaviour cannot be taken as proof of their 'innocence'. If they are inside it, then they may sometimes be guilty and deserving of blame.

            Human love is of many kinds. In its highest form, it comes as a gift, freely bestowed on another person along with the offer of support. But such love does not come without cost. There is a cost to the subject, and a cost to the object. Love can be betrayed by its object, when he shows himself to be unworthy to receive it, and incapable of returning it. And to undergo this experience is one of the greatest of human griefs. But love for that very reason imposes a cost on its object, who must live up to the trust bestowed on him, and do his best to deserve the gift. Love is a moral challenge that we do not always meet, and in the effort to meet it we study to improve ourselves and to live as we should. It is for this reason that we are suspicious of loveless people – people who do not offer love and who therefore, in the normal run of things, do not receive it. It is not simply that they are outside the fold of human affection. It is that they are cut off from the principal spur to human goodness, which is the desire to live up to the demands of a person who matters to them more than they matter themselves.

            Clearly, if we conceive human love in that way, we can see that we all have a strong motive to avoid it: we do not benefit by avoiding it, and it is always a mistake to try, as we know from the tragedy of King Lear.[4] Nevertheless, life is simpler without inter-personal love, since it can be lived at a lower level, beneath the glare of moral judgement. And that is the bad reason for lavishing too much feeling on a pet. Devoted animals provide an escape-route from human affection, and so make that affection superfluous. Of course, people can find themselves so beaten down by life, so deprived of human love that, through no fault of their own, they devote themselves to the care of an animal, by way of keeping the lamp of affection alive. Such is Flaubert's Coeur simple, whose devotion to her parrot was in no way a moral failing. But that kind of devotion, which is the residue of genuine moral feeling, is a virtue in the one who displays it, and has little in common with the Bambyism that is now growing all around us, and which seeks to rewrite our relations with other animals in the language of rights.

            I have argued against the idea of animal rights elsewhere.[5] My argument stems, not from a disrespect for animals, but from a respect for moral reasoning, and for the concepts – right, duty, obligation, virtue – which it employs and which depend at every point on the distinctive features of self-consciousness. But perhaps the greatest damage done by the idea of animal rights is the damage to animals themselves. Elevated in this way to the plane of moral consciousness, they find themselves unable to respond to the distinctions that morality requires. They do not distinguish right from wrong; they cannot recognise the call of duty or the binding obligations of the moral law. And because of this we judge them purely in terms of their ability to share our domestic ambience, to profit from our affection, and from time to time to reciprocate it in their own mute and dependent way. And it is precisely this which engenders our unscrupulous favouritism – the favouritism that has made it a crime in my country to shoot a cat, however destructive its behaviour, but a praiseworthy action to poison a mouse, and thereby to infect the food-chain on which so many animals depend.

            It is not that we should withdraw our love from our favourite animals: to the extent that they depend on that love to that extent we should continue to provide it. But we must recognise that by loving them as individuals we threaten the animals who cannot easily be loved in any such way. Loving our dogs and cats we put a strain upon the natural order that is felt most grievously by the birds and beasts of the field. And even if those creatures have no rights, this does not cancel the fact that we have duties towards them – duties that become everyday more serious and demanding, as we humans expand to take over the habitats which we confiscate without scruple and enjoy without remorse. And our lack of scruple is only amplified by the sentimental attitudes that are nurtured by the love of pets, and which inculcate in us the desire for easy-going, cost-free and self-congratulatory affections, and which thereby undermine the human virtue on which the rest of nature most depends.

[1] Michael Woods, Robbie A. McDonald and Stephen Harries, 'Predation of Wild Animals by Domestic Cats in Great Britain', report to The Mammal Society, Most Recent Revision March 1st 2003, available online.

[2] Adapting the celebrated remarks on anger in Nicomachean Ethics, Book 4 chapter 5.

[3] Among the many affecting accounts of this relationship in the literature I single out George Pitcher, The Dogs Who Came To Stay, New York 1995, since I knew the dogs, and the author.

[4] See the important essay by Stanley Cavell, 'The Avoidance of Love: A Reading of King Lear', in Must We Mean What We Say?, updated edition, Cambridge, CUP 2002.

[5] See Animal Rights and Wrongs, London, Continuum, 2002.

 
Work In Progress - Books

 Nonsense on Stilts. (Prepared for a Conference on Human Rights, Lincoln's Inn, London, 2011.)

All comments welcome.

The idea that there are universal human rights was expressed by its early defenders – notably by John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government – in another way. According to Locke there are 'natural' rights – rights which attach to individuals by virtue of their 'nature' as human beings, and independently of any man-made 'convention'. The distinction between nature and convention was a cornerstone of the Stoic philosophy of ancient Athens, and an important input into Roman jurisprudence. The Roman jurists distinguished the ius naturale or natural law, whose force derives from human nature and which is therefore recognised as binding by all people everywhere, from the ius civile or civil law, which summarises the rights and duties conferred by Roman jurisdiction on the citizen. The idea of a 'natural law' thereafter entered the thinking of philosophers and theologians, to become a standing justification offered by bishops for ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and for the right of the Church to adjudicate conflicts between sovereigns.

          Aquinas frequently refers to the natural law as the true foundation for every legitimate jurisdiction, but does not give a clear account of what it says. Nevertheless, it was one of the achievements of medieval Christendom to persuade people that laws exist which are not made by princes. These 'natural' laws do not provide a complete legislative programme, sufficient to govern a real human community in all the contingencies that generate the conflicts for which law-courts are needed. But they set limits to the civil law. Natural law describes the boundaries which cannot be transgressed without forfeiting the legitimacy of the jurisdiction. It therefore provides the fulcrum outside the political system, whereby the system's claim to legitimacy can be overturned.

          Modern discussions of natural law began with Grotius, the author of De jure belli ac pacis, the first comprehensive treatise on international law, and one to which we are all in the modern world indebted. Grotius argued that if there is such a thing as natural law it is not law because God so commands it; it is law because reason so discerns it. Even if God did not exist, Grotius argues, there would be a natural law, and rational beings would be equipped to recognize its claim on their behaviour. Although Grotius famously qualifies his observation, by condemning atheism as an intolerable sin, his thought has been endorsed by all defenders of the natural law in our tradition, and most notably by Kant, whose theory of the Categorical Imperative can be seen as providing metaphysical foundations for a natural-law theory of government.

          There is an important contrast here with Islamic law. In no respect does Islam recognize the existence of natural law. Although the shari'ah stands in judgement above all human codes, it is, like them, simply another system of universalised commands – although a system issued by the highest authority. There is no requirement that the commands of God should correspond to anything other than the will of God; certainly no requirement that they should correspond to a law independently accessible to all rational beings.[1] Nonsensical commandments, such as the forbidding of foods arbitrarily pronounced unclean, stand side by side with laws forbidding murder, rape and fraud, as though sharing the same authority. And the arbitrariness of the one command in time communicates itself  to the other so that, as we have seen, Muslims who begin from the trembling sense that all is forbidden, can quickly end in the defiant belief that everything is permitted – including the mass murder of innocents. It is precisely our natural law tradition that prevents us from going in any such direction. The natural law is a system of constraints - rules that forbid things, even to God who, being rational, freely both commands these rules and conforms to them. These constraints form a wall around every individual – they are the sum of what cannot be done to him. How they are justified is a deep question of moral and legal philosophy; but unless they can be justified, the law becomes as much a threat to the individual as a shield. Laws that protect the individual from the community and from the state are, according to natural law theory, the sine qua non of legitimate government. Such laws are not imposed from the top down, by a system of sovereign commands. They are built up from below, by studying the freedoms and constraints that reside in rational nature itself, and which must be respected if the law is to be accepted as legitimate by those subject to its demands. Not surprisingly, therefore, the idea of natural law tends to be stated in terms of the natural rights of the individual.

          It is not only Islamic law that sees top-down commands, rather than bottom-up constraints, as the ultimate source of law. Jurists like Jeremy Bentham and John Austin saw law as a system of universalised commands, laid down by a sovereign power, and enforced against transgressors. They recognized the existence of laws which define rights, powers, liabilities and freedoms; but saw these as parasitic upon the commands that held the system in place. And they recognized a distinction between justified and unjustified laws; though it was one that they analysed in utilitarian terms.[2] The idea of natural law seemed to them absurd. Either it meant a law laid down by God – and therefore another species of universalised command, not different in kind from that of any human legislator – or it referred to law without a legislator, without an enforcer, without an identifiable source in the world of written records, and without any court to decide its verdicts. At best the idea of such a law was a pious hope, at worst 'nonsense on stilts', to use Bentham's famous phrase. Genuine law, for Bentham and Austin, was 'positive' law, not natural law – law 'posited' by convention and enforced by a sovereign power. And the dispute between this legal positivism and the legal naturalism of Grotius, Locke and Kant continues in one form or another to this day.

          Bentham was explicitly referring to the emerging philosophy of 'natural rights'. For he was writing in the period of the French Revolution, when the clamour for the 'rights of man' was reaching fever-pitch. Bentham's ridicule notwithstanding, the idea of natural or human rights has lost none of its appeal, and has even become the first legislative principle of international bodies, and indeed the sole rational ground for adjudication in at least one court of law – the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The pursuit of human rights is fundamental to the UN Charter, and the European Court of Justice, whose remit is to adjudicate disputes under the insane regime of regulations invented by the European Commission, is also under an obligation to align its judgements with those of the ECHR in Strasbourg. The UK has followed the example of other Member States within the EU, and incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into its municipal law, and all attempts at international order are accompanied by the rhetorical demand for the protection of human rights, as the sine qua non of any lasting agreement. In an age of official scepticism, in which authoritative liberal thinkers, from Hart and Rawls to Dworkin and Nussbaum, assume that law is or ought to be neutral regarding the individual's 'conception of the good', there seems nevertheless to be complete agreement about the underlying principles of morality, and a desire to enforce them against all-comers. These underlying principles are those enshrined in the doctrine of human rights. The stilts have got longer since Bentham's day, but the question remains whether the thing that sways on top of them is really nonsense.

          The topic of natural rights was controversial in the years following Bentham's treatise on legislation, not only on account of the conflict between his utilitarianism and prevailing theories of natural law, like those of Locke and Samuel Pufendorf.[3] The experience of the French Revolution was fresh in people's memory; people recalled the paper constitution of the Revolutionaries – the Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen – which had been put forward as the fount of all revolutionary law, shortly after the storming of the Bastille. When the doors of the Bastille were thrown open, seven prisoners emerged, two of whom proved to be insane and had to be reincarcerated. Two years later 500,000 people were in the prisons of France, a great many of them dying, most of them imprisoned on trumped up charges, and none of them with any hope that those rights announced in the Declaration could be demanded from the people who had so glibly declared them. The Revolutionary Tribunals denied to the accused a right of representation, even a right of self-defence, and judge and prosecutor were identical. This violation of natural justice was defended as the only way to ensure that the population as a whole could enjoy their natural rights. Nonsense on stilts, but nonsense with teeth.

          Nowadays, of course, we think of human rights precisely as a shield against that kind of despotism – which Robespierre called the 'despotism of liberty'. And the construction of this shield has brought about the coexistence in the current legal orthodoxy of two seemingly incompatible views: first that all law is positive law, whose validity is established by convention, and secondly that all law must conform to human rights, which have a universal and overriding validity of their own. This seems like an uncomfortable amalgam of positivism and naturalism: it certainly calls out for an explanation. It seems as though, at the very moment when the law is being re-shaped as an instrument of moral relativism, by which the freedom of the individual is exalted above all the virtues that might restrict it, the prevailing ideology is becoming ever more absolutist, insisting on a list – and a constantly growing list – of human rights as the sole and sufficient justification for all political action.

          In fact, however, the two currents of opinion are connected. The emphasis on individual freedom. and the desire to see the law as an instrument for maximizing that freedom, arises from a profound distrust of government. From Mill to Robert Paul Wolff, the idea has been prevalent that all claims to authority are fraudulent, that no-one really has authority over anyone else, and that the sole excuse for government is that it makes us more capable of exercising our freedom.[4] No-one is entitled to dictate to anyone, and no moral judgement has a greater right to be enforced than any other: the law should remain neutral for the simple reason that it shouldn't be there at all, and is necessary only because people have the intolerable habit of restricting each other's freedom – a habit that can be rectified only by coercive rules.

          The emphasis on human rights comes from the same anti-authoritarian stance. All governments, and all claims to authority, are a potential threat to the individual. He must be shielded from their worst effects by a wall of rights. These rights protect his ability to go about his business undisturbed. And the first concern of government must be to uphold those rights, since the legitimacy of government is determined (perhaps entirely) by the extent to which it protects the individual and his liberties from encroachment. Behind the doctrine of human rights, therefore, there lies the same deep suspicion of government and authority that animates the view that law should be morally neutral. Human rights have, as a result, been shaped as moral absolutes which protect moral relativism. They confer on us the absolute right to repudiate all absolute duties. And that is part of their point: they belong to a world beyond duty, in which nobody can tell us what to do. 

          That makes it look as though human rights are to be understood always as fundamental liberties – freedom rights which we respect by leaving people alone. The doctrine of human rights is there to set limits to government, and cannot be used to authorize any increase in government power that is not required by the fundamental task of protecting human freedom. The original text of the European Convention on Human Rights certainly suggests that this is so; and the rights there specified spell out implications of those rights – to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – advocated in the American Declaration of Independence.

          However, the search for liberty has gone hand in hand with a countervailing search for 'empowerment'. The negative freedoms offered by traditional theories of natural right, such as Locke's, do not compensate for the inequalities of power and opportunity in human societies. Hence egalitarians, who dislike hierarchies of every kind, have begun to insert more positive rights into the list of negative freedoms. The liberty rights specified by the various international Conventions have therefore been supplemented by certain claim rights – rights which do not merely demand non-encroachment from others, but which impose a positive duty on others. This is particularly apparent in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which begins with a list of freedom rights and then suddenly, at article 22, begins making radical claims against the State – claims which can be satisfied only by positive action from government. Here is article 22:

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

There is a weight of political and social philosophy behind that article.  Contained within this right is an unspecified list of other rights called 'economic, social and cultural', which are held to be indispensable not for freedom but for 'dignity' and the 'free development of personality'. Whatever this means in practice, it is quite clear that it is likely to involve a considerable extension of the field of human rights, beyond those basic liberties acknowledged in the American Declaration. Those basic liberties are arguably necessary for any kind of government by consent; the same is not true of the claims declared in section 22 of the UN Declaration.

          The Declaration goes on in this vein, conjuring a right to work, to leisure, to a standard of living sufficient to guarantee health – and other rights which are, in effect, claims against the State rather than freedoms from its encroachments. I don't say that these are not rights: but even if they are rights, they are not justified by the same philosophical arguments as justify the freedom rights granted earlier in the Declaration. Moreover, they open the door to the 'rights inflation' that we have witnessed in recent decades, and to an interpretation of human rights which is prodigal of conflicts.

          Here is an example that might help to focus the issue. Between the wars there was much concern in Britain over the growth of urban sprawl, and the way in which the countryside was being invaded by 'ribbon development', using the road network as a cheap substitute for  proper urban infrastructure. Businesses were relocating to the edge of towns, to take advantage of lower rents and rural amenities, town centres were decaying and the countryside was being eaten up in a random and destructive way. The process – which we still witness in modern America, and which has been the subject there of radical and unanswered criticism from Jane Jacobs and Howard Kunstler, among others[5] – was widely deplored, and the war-time government decided that, as soon as the emergency was over, the problem must be addressed. The aim was to find a policy that would reconcile as many of the interests as possible – interests of the towns in retaining businesses in the centre, of urban residents in being shielded from pollution and noise, of rural residents in retaining their tranquillity, of farmers in retaining undisturbed fields, and of all of us in maintaining a self-sufficient agriculture in a beautiful countryside. The result was the 1946 Town and Country Planning Acts, which have remained in force, and which created the green belts around the towns, while strictly controlling building in the countryside. This legislation has met with widespread approval, and has helped to stabilize land use and land prices in the countryside. Planning controls mean that someone who buys a house in the countryside can be more or less certain that it will still be in the countryside when he sells it, since no building will be permitted in the vicinity, except according to strict guidelines, and he himself has a statutory right to raise objections and influence the course of any planning inquiry.

          I don't deny that there are negative aspects to this legislation. But it illustrates an important point: namely that the law can aim at a compromise solution, that it can take many competing interests into consideration; and it can provide a set of rules which achieve the most reliable way of reconciling the conflicts that are generic to the activities that stand to be regulated: in this case the conflict between the one who wishes to develop land, and the neighbour who will thereby suffer a loss of amenity, and a loss in the value of his property. All in all, it is one of the reasons for preferring legislation over adjudication, as a source of law, that a legislature can take the widest possible view of the many interests that need to be addressed and if possible reconciled.

          All went reasonably well until Irish travellers, taking advantage of the EU's freedom of movement provisions, began to settle in the English countryside, buying fields from farmers at agricultural rates, and then developing them as sites for mobile homes. The farmer cannot sell these fields for agricultural use, since agriculture is in a state of crisis. Nor can he obtain planning permission for any other use, and specifically for development as houses. So the deal offered by the travellers is the best he can get. Their practice is to scrape away the top-soil and replace it with concrete, then install mobile homes, and gradually change the mobile homes to stationary prefabs. Why, you ask, is this permitted? Well, it is not. However, since the incorporation of the European Convention of Human Rights into UK law, the travellers have argued that they have a right to pursue their traditional way of life, a right to which they are entitled as an ethnic minority, to deny which would be tantamount to 'discrimination' as forbidden by that very same law, and that this right entitles them to move freely about the country, settling where they will. Of course this is a piece of nonsense – nonsense on stilts, of a kind that makes one sympathize with Bentham. Nevertheless the courts have upheld the argument, and therefore granted a right that effectively nullifies one of the most carefully considered and expensive pieces of UK legislation, and one that represents an enormous investment on the part of the whole community.

          The consequences of this are worth studying. In the village of Minety, near where I live, the development of farming land as a travellers' camp has led to the collapse of property values all around, causing enormous social tensions between residents in the camp and those whose savings they have wiped out. It has also led to anger among villagers who have had planning permission for this or that comparatively innocent addition refused, and who now refuse to obey the law, causing huge problems of enforcement. So far there have been no murders – which distinguishes the Minety case from a similar case in Cambridgeshire – but there is also no sign that people are or ever will be reconciled to the decision of the court.

          The case illustrates four very important matters. The first is that, as Dworkin puts it, 'rights are trumps'.[6] That is, in a court of law, if you can show that your interest in the matter is also protected by a right, then you win the case against anyone whose interests, however great, are not so protected. (Rights provide 'exclusionary reasons', in Raz's plausible way of putting it.[7]) The huge interest of the Minety residents in retaining the value and amenity of their properties (which represent, for most of them, their life's savings) counted for nothing in the case I am considering, since – although protected by planning law – those interests were not protected as a right, but only as an interest.

          The second important point is that, unlike the solutions issued by a legislature, those issued by a court are not compromises: they are not attempts to reconcile the many interests involved in a situation, and even if you think that Dworkin is right that questions of policy can play a part in determining the outcome of adjudication, the court does not see itself as formulating a policy for the good government of a community – that is the task of a legislature, not a court. The court sees itself as resolving a conflict in favour of one or other of the parties. In normal circumstances, a case before a civil court is a zero-sum game, in which one party wins everything, and the other loses everything. There are no consolation prizes. Moreover, the doctrine of precedent ensures that the court's decision will punch a whole in any legislation designed to solve issues of the kind that come before it. The decision could do irreparable damage to a delicate piece of legislation, and destroy a process of conciliation and compromise that has issued in that legislation. This is what has happened with the Town and Country Planning Acts. And it is a very good illustration of the dangers inherent in 'human rights' legislation – namely, that it places in the hands of the ordinary citizen, a tool with which even the most vital piece of public policy can be overturned, and overturned in favour of the individual, regardless of the common interest and the common good.

          The third important point is that the human rights declared by the various pieces of legislation, and the various decisions of the courts, are not obviously of the same philosophical, moral or political standing. A doctrine of natural rights is entitled to the name only if the rights declared under it can be established a priori. The attempt to do this, in the case of basic freedom rights, has been made by various writers – by Nozick, beginning from Kantian premises; by Finnis beginning from Thomist premises; and so on.[8] I think we can all see the force of the idea that there are certain things that cannot be done to human beings – certain basic goods, including life itself, that cannot be taken away from them unless they in some way forfeit them. Life, limb and the basic freedom to pursue our goals undisturbed (compatible with a similar freedom enjoyed by others) are plausible candidates. You can see how the entitlement to these things lies at the heart of political cooperation: for without some guarantee that, in these respects at least, people are protected from invasion, there really could not be a system of law that enjoyed the consent of those subject to it. And the rights in question correspond to basic deliverances, both of the Thomist argument concerning the fundamental goods which are the premises of practical reasoning, and of the Kantian categorical imperative.

          Furthermore we can understand those basic freedoms as rights partly because we can understand the reciprocal duty to respect them. My right to life is your duty not to kill me: and duties of non-encroachment and non-infliction are naturally upheld by morality and easily enforced by the law. However, once we step outside this narrowly circumscribed area of basic freedoms, the freedoms presupposed in consent, we enter a much more shady and conflictual territory. The travellers' case depends upon the provision for 'non-discrimination' – a provision that steps outside the area of basic freedoms, into that of justice. And the amazing thing is that this provision, meant to prevent one group of citizens from arbitrarily enjoying privileges denied to another, has been used precisely to claim minority privileges that are legally denied to the majority. Nonsense on stilts this may be; but it has an uncanny ability to survive the criticisms made in court.

          Fourthly, the case illustrates the increasing intrusion into the field of human rights law of the concept of a 'group right'. The original invocation of natural rights by Locke, Pufendorf and others was designed to protect the individual from arbitrary power. You held your natural rights, according to those thinkers, as an individual, and regardless of what group or class you belonged to. These rights force people to treat you as a free being, with sovereignty over his life, who has an equal claim on your respect. But the new ideas of human rights allow rights to one group that they deny to another: you have rights as a gipsy, a woman, a homosexual, which you can claim only as a member of that group. To think in this way is to resurrect the abuses to which Locke and others were in search of a remedy – the abuses which led to people being arbitrarily discriminated against, on account of their class, race or occupation.

          The case is one of many, which has led to a certain disaffection towards the idea of human rights, and a belief that it has been used illegitimately at both the legal and the political level, to dispense arbitrary justice in disputes that ought to be resolved by compromise, and not by zero-sum solutions. One thing is certain, which is that those who announce human rights seldom if ever attempt to prove that there are any such things, or that the rights they propose are included among them. The increasingly arbitrary lists that form the substance of international declarations seem to be more the product of political orthodoxies or social aspirations than any well-founded intuition concerning the a priori  grounds of law. So how should we proceed in winnowing out the plausible from the implausible candidates?

          First we should do well to respect the classic analysis of W. N. Hohfeld[9], whose typology of legal rights brought order into an increasingly disorderly discussion. Hohfeld was not dealing with natural rights, but with rights as defined by a legal system, and he distinguished claim rights from liberty rights, and both from powers on the one hand and immunities on the other. It is the first two of those, and the distinction between them, that is of principal concern to the discussion of human rights. A claim right typically arises from some past circumstance whereby one person becomes responsible to answer a claim made by another. For example, if I have transferred to you my house in accordance with a contract of sale, then I have a claim against you for the agreed price, and this is a claim-right of mine – in other words, a right that would be upheld in a court of law, should any dispute arise. Claim rights also arise in tort. If your negligently allowing your cows onto my lawn causes £500 worth of damage, then I have a claim-right against you, for that sum.

          In those straightforward cases of contract and tort, we easily see that every claim-right in one person defines a duty in the other. Indeed, Hohfeld defines a claim right as a 'directed duty' – a duty directed towards the particular person who has the claim. And this duty is a legal burden. Often it cannot be discharged: the person claimed against may not have the means to satisfy the claim. However, he ought to satisfy it, and the law will compel him to do so to the best of its power. Furthermore, the duty that the law imposes arises from a relationship of responsibility. In both contract and in tort – as well as in trust – the law holds someone liable for a claim made by another. And this liable person is identified, either as an individual, or a company or a group, which has acted so as to incur the liability in question.

          Hence claim rights, in the normal cases when they arise, are quite different from freedom rights. A freedom right imposes a general duty on others to observe it; but it may arise from no specific relationship, and may make no specific demands of any individual. It is a right that may be invaded by others; but by doing nothing they respect it, and the duty to observe it is neither onerous nor a special responsibility of any particular person. Such is my right to move freely from place to place, my right to life, limb and property, and the other rights traditionally acknowledged as flowing from the natural law. You respect them by non-invasion, and the duty to respect them falls clearly and unambiguously on everyone.

          This does not mean that there are no legal difficulties over enforcing freedom rights, or that special relations may not bear on them. For one thing, freedom rights can conflict: as when my freedom to grow vegetables in my garden conflicts with your freedom to plant a leylandi hedge next to it. The law takes the sensible view that freedoms of this kind are not unqualified, and that the conflicts can be resolved by inserting the qualifications. Nevertheless, if you really have a right to do something, then you are wronged by any judgement that forbids you to do it. A conflict of rights, which cannot be resolved by qualification, is strictly analogous to a moral dilemma, in which one is obliged to perform two incompatible courses of action. This absolute nature of rights should not be misunderstood. Rights define what Raz has called exclusionary reasons – i.e. reasons whose validity excludes countervailing arguments – not overriding reasons, i.e. reasons which must prevail. My right to close my door against you is breached by your decision to break it down. However unknown to me, but observed by you, a fire has broken out on the second floor and you are breaking in to fight it. In such a case your moral duty to save my life over-rides my right to exclude you. Nevertheless, your decision to break down my door is a violation of a right. 

          Claim rights arise in contract and tort – as Hohfeld recognizes. I doubt that, in Hohfeld's day, there was any legal recognition afforded to claims against everyone by anyone, regardless of the relation between the parties. However, this is the kind of right that has begun to creep into the lists of supposed 'human rights' proposed by trans-national legislatures. The switch from freedom rights to claim rights is made easier by the ambiguity of many formulations. Take the right to life. As proposed in the American Declaration of Independence this meant the freedom to go about my business without threat to my life. It imposes on others the duty not to kill me, and since this is a duty under any moral understanding, and one that Kant, for example, held to be justifiable a priori, there is no intellectual difficulty in including the right to life among the list of natural rights. However, the phrase 'right to life' can easily be inflected so as to acquire another meaning, as the right to be protected against anything that threatens to take my life away – disease, for example. A person with a life-threatening illness is, on this understanding, suffering a breach in his rights. And if we put it that way, we are immediately saddled with the question of duty: whose is the duty to help him, and how? Suppose there is a doctor somewhere who can cure the disease, but who is too tired, too far away, too fed up with unpaid demands on his time, and so on, and who therefore does not respond to the call for help. We might reproach this doctor. But do we want to go along with the claim-right understanding of the phrase, and say that he has violated another's 'right to life'? At the very least we can see that this is controversial in a way that the freedom-right understanding of the phrase is not. We surely have other, and better ways, of describing the duties involved in cases like this, ways which do not place the kind of absolute claim on another's conduct that is implied in the language of rights.

          Now it is easy to see why a libertarian might object to the expansion of the list of human rights to include claim rights – especially claims to non-specific benefits like health, education, a certain standard of living and so on. For, in the absence of any relation of liability, specifying who is to satisfy these claims, they inevitably point to the state as the only possible provider. And large, vague claims require a massive expansion of state power, a surrender to the state of all kinds of responsibilities that previously vested in individuals, and the centralisation of social life in the government machine. In other words, claim rights push us inevitably in a direction which, for many people, is not only economically disastrous, but morally and politically dangerous. Moreover it is a direction which is diametrically opposed to that for which the idea of a human (natural) right was originally introduced – a direction involving the increase, rather than the limitation, of the power of the state.

          But there is another reason for disquiet over the idea that claim rights might also be human rights. Hohfeld argued that the concept of a right belongs in a family of concepts – liability, immunity, duty, permission, power and so on – which are like modal concepts, such as possibility, necessity and probability – in identifying interlocking operations of rational thought. The concept of a right belongs to a 'circle of juridical terms', which are intricately interdefinable, and which between them specify a systematic operation of the rational intellect. There is, as I would prefer to put it, a kind of 'calculus of rights, responsibilities and duties', which rational beings use in order to settle their disputes and to reach agreement over matters of common or conflicting interest. The availability of this calculus is one of the things that distinguish us from the lower animals, and it would be available to us even if we did not attempt to back it up with a shared legal system. The concept of justice belongs to this calculus: injustice residing in the denial of rights or deserts, undeserved punishment, and so on.

          There is an interesting philosophical question as to how this 'rights talk', as it has been called, is grounded. And there is another question, partly philosophical, partly anthropological, as to the function of rights talk. Why do human beings make use of juridical terms? What do they gain from it, and why has it stabilized in so many different parts of the world, so as to be received as entirely natural? I would like to venture an answer to those questions. It seems to me that rights talk has the function of enabling people to claim a sphere of personal sovereignty: a sphere in which their choice is law. And spheres of personal sovereignty in turn have a function, namely that they give the advantage to consensual relations. They define the boundaries behind which people can retreat and which cannot be crossed without transgression. The primary function of the idea of a right is to identify something as within the boundary of me and mine. If I have a right to sit in a certain room then you cannot expel me from it without wronging me. By determining such rights we define the fixed points, the places of security, from which people can negotiate and agree. Without those fixed points negotiation and free agreement are unlikely to occur, and if they occur, their outcome is unlikely to be stable. If I have no rights, then the agreement between us provides no guarantee of performance; my sphere of action is liable to constant invasion by others, and there is nothing that I can do to define the position from which I am negotiating in a way that compels you to acknowledge it.

          Rights, then, enable us to establish a society in which consensual relations are the norm, and they do this by defining for each of us the sphere of personal sovereignty from which others are excluded. This explains  Dworkin's view, in Taking Rights Seriously, that 'rights are trumps'. A right belongs to the fence which defines my sovereign territory: by claiming it, I put an absolute veto on things that you might do. It also explains the direct connection between right and duty: the absoluteness of the right is tantamount to a duty to respect it. And it explains the zero-sum nature of disputes in a court of law, when rights are invoked to decide them.

          If we look at rights in this way, as instruments which safeguard sovereignty, and so make free deals between sovereign partners into the cement of society, then we see immediately why freedom rights have the best claim to universality, and why claim rights – detached from any history of responsibility and agreement – present a threat to the consensual order. A claim against another, if expressed as a right, is an imposition of a duty. If this duty arises from no free action or chain of responsibility which would provide a cogent ground for the claim, then by expressing it as a right we over-ride the other's sovereignty. We say to him: here is something you must do or provide, even though your duty to do so arises from nothing you have done or for which you are responsible. This is simply a demand that you must satisfy.

          How different such a case is, at least, from that of freedom rights. For these are by their very nature 'sovereignty protecting' devices. They are vetoes on what others can do to me or take from me, rather than demands that they do something or give something which I have an interest in their doing or giving. The duty that they define is one of non-interference, and the interest that they protect is the most fundamental interest that I have, namely my interest in retaining the power to make decisions for myself in those matters that most closely concern me.

          If there are such things as 'natural rights', therefore, they ought to have the essentially negative aspect of freedoms: rights not to be molested, rather than claims to be fulfilled. But no such limitation is acknowledged by the bodies that pretend to declare human rights in modern conditions. Bentham's view was the first conscious recognition of the danger represented by 'rights inflation', the danger that people might claim as a right, and on no legal authority, what is merely an interest.

          And that is what we have been seeing. The ordinary Italian wakes up one morning to discover that the crucifix on the wall of his child's classroom has been condemned as a violation of human rights. The ordinary Englishman wakes up to discover that the failed asylum-seeker who negligently ran over his daughter has a human right not to be deported to his home country and meanwhile to be maintained indefinitely at the taxpayer's expence. The ordinary Belgian has been told that saying the truth about radical Islam in public violates the human rights of his fellow citizens. The ordinary Pole has discovered that his country's abortion laws violate the human rights of women under the European Convention, which says nothing about the rights of the unborn child. The Catholic Church in Britain has been told that its policy of putting children for adoption only with heterosexual married couples is a violation of the human and legal rights of homosexuals. And so on. The cases (all recent) are controversial. But they have the accumulative effect of undermining the conception of human rights. That conception was supposed to provide a neutral standpoint outside legal and moral controversies, from which the legitimacy of any particular decision can be evaluated. In fact it is now used to take sides in political controversies, and usually the side congenial to liberals and offensive to conservatives. And since nobody who makes use of the conception, so far as I can see, ever asks how a right can be justified, I cannot help feeling that they have no greater trust in the notion than I have. They don't seem to care about the nonsense, so long as they can make use of the stilts.

         

[1] Such, at least, is the interpretation of Islamic law that prevails today, thanks to the triumph of the Ash'arite chool of theology in the 11th century of our era. See Robert Reilly, The Closing of the Muslim Mind, Wilimington Del. 2010.

[2] See Jeremy Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, London 1789; John Austin, The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, London 1832.

[3] Samuel Pufendorf, De jure naturae et gentium, 1672.

[4] J. S. Mill, On Liberty, 1859; Robert Paul Wolff, In Defence of Anarchism,

[5] Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities; James Howard Kunstler, The Geography of Nowhere.

[6] Rondal dworkin, 'Taking Rtights Seriously', in Taking Rights Seriously, Oxford 1977.

[7] Joseph Raz, The Authority of Law, Oxford 1979.

[8] Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, Cambridge Mass., 1974; John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights, Oxford 1980.

[9] W.N. Hohfeld, Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning, 1917.

 
Work In Progress - Books

 How to Change the World? (Prepared for a Conference with that Title in the Nexus Institute, Amsterdam, December 2012)

Roger Scruton

Posted February 2013 (All comments welcome)

There is another and more important question than the one contained in that title, namely: how can it be that people ask themselves how to change the world? What is it, about human nature, human history or both, that has placed such a question in the hearts and minds of my contemporaries? It is not a question that appeals to me. My concern throughout my life has been not to change things but to conserve them in the face of change. But I recognise the truth in Burke's remark, that one must also change in order to conserve. On the other hand, it is not the whole world that we should change, but the local conditions that pose threats to our cherished continuities. I realise, however, that I am exceptional among intellectuals, in that I cherish continuities (some of them) and wish to protect them from what I consider to be an intemperate desire for novelty and for all the things – the much trumpeted goals of equality and social justice for instance – that seem to demand the dismantling of the status quo. Far more normal among intellectuals in our time is the desire to do away with everything and to start again, with the intellectuals in charge. That, in my view, is what is wrong with intellectuals, and why we ought to minimise their influence.

            But how could this situation have come about? From the mid 19th century onwards literature, art and philosophy have testified to the alienation of the intellectuals from the world of normal people. In many places, Russia in particular, the intellectuals have issued violent exhortations to the mass of mankind to join them in a work of comprehensive destruction. Dostoevsky was perhaps the first writer to examine and condemn this particular trait – witness his frightening novel, The Devils. But, even without the violent rhetoric of the Russian anarchists and revolutionaries, we know that modern intellectuals have declared to the world that they are mightily displeased with it. From Marx to Foucault and beyond, the intellectuals have identified themselves as victims of social power, exiles from the true community, united in their suffering with the oppressed groups and classes whom they will one day lead to liberation. That was the picture that fired the imaginations of the Bolsheviks, and also of Mussolini and many of the Nazi leaders. You find it in Sartre, and especially in the Sartre of Situations, in Foucault, in Althusser and Deleuze and all the gurus of 1968. It is there in the Frankfurt School, in the tormented and self-involved writings of Adorno and Horkheimer, in the play-group philosophy of Marcuse, and in the nasty books of György Lukács, written to justify the communist party in its great mission to exterminate all that is normal, competitive and unequal in the destiny of man.

            Reflecting on recent history I find it impossible to look with sympathy on the question contained in my title. But I know that the question survives every attempt to dismiss it, and that it stems either from something deep in the human condition – maybe from an adaptation once useful to those hypothetical bands of hunter-gathers – or else (as I rather suppose) from the nature of reflection, which fills us with a sense of the power of ideas and of the plasticity of all that lies before us when we dream by means of them.  Moreover, there is something about the modern condition that lends itself to the self-conscious alienation of those who reflect on it, and it is this thing that I wish to put before the reader.

            When Burke wrote his great analysis of the French Revolution it was in conscious defence of a historical settlement – the social and political order of England which, to his way of thinking, contained more dispersed wisdom than could ever be condensed into a single human head, and certainly more wisdom than was exhibited by the 'geometrical' rationalism of the French revolutionaries. He was right, of course. But what exactly was he trying to put in place of the 'rational' order that St Just and Robespierre proposed? Was it simply the English common law system, and the old forms of government by custom that he had experienced as a Member of Parliament? In my view it was something deeper than those contingencies. Burke was really defending attachment – the unconsidered and foundationless bond between people, and between people and the place, the history and the obligations that they recognise as theirs. And he was defending this against the detachment of person from person, and person from place, community and history, which is the universal result of modern ways of thinking and modern forms of life.

            In recent times psychologists, influenced by the ground-breaking work of John Bowlby, have recognised attachment as a fundamental process in the development of responsible and self-governing human beings.[1] Attachment to parents and to the routines and comforts of home is, according to Bowlby, a basic adaptation, which secures for children the protective strategies of their parents, and which also permits the emergence of the qualities necessary for the independent exploration of the world. Bowlby makes this suggestion as part of a theory of child psychology and moral development. But it echoes a much wider observation, already made by Hegel, which is that individuals develop into freely choosing and responsible beings only by first passing through a stage of dependency, in which obligations are not freely chosen but inherited. The first moment of social life, according to Hegel, is one in which piety and obedience, rather than justice and freedom, govern everyday conduct. The family is the place in which children learn to be free, and learn also to break out into the realm of civil society, there to exist in opposition to the dependence that has made them what they are.[2]

            Those stories – the one psychological, and told in the terms of evolutionary psychology, the other political, and told in the terms of the Hegelian dialectic – point to a single observation, which is that human beings stand in need of attachment. It is the condition from which responsibility grows – responsibility for oneself, and also for those to whom one is bound in relations of dependence. Marx and Engels may have been right that the workers in the factories of Victorian England suffered from alienation – the alienation that comes from being exploited, treated as a means, and deprived of the respect without which, Hegel argued, true freedom cannot be realised. But they were surely wrong in believing that this alienation lies also at the heart of the family, and the institutions of private property (the institutions that permit us to close a door on our private space) on which families in general depend. Yet, with the characteristic hubris of intellectuals, they set themselves against the social customs on which they themselves had depended for what scant moral education they had achieved. They argued as though the cure for alienation were not, as Ruskin believed, to re-attach people to the primary experience of community, but rather to detach them from all their old allegiances, to make them warriors on behalf of a new social order, which would be, for the time being, a disorder. And anyone who has witnessed the world that their theories created will know that the steps taken to achieve it were taken at every point against human nature, and with a compulsive disregard for our moral and spiritual well-being.

            Still, vital though the experience of attachment may be to the moral development of mankind, it is no longer the robust and reliable thing that it used to be. Not only are families fragmenting, and people detaching themselves at an unprecedented rate from their incurred obligations. Not only are children increasingly being abandoned to the care of the state by fathers who value their own freedom more than their children's happiness. There is a growing culture of detachment, which endorses and accelerates the process of decay. Maybe it began in the 19th century, with the mass migration of people to the cities. In the countryside the migrants had been poor but rooted, surrounded by vigilant neighbours to whom they were bound by ties of obligation and from whose judgements they could not escape. In the city they could live in comparative anonymity, enjoying wages that permitted another style of life. And with the escape from the small community came loneliness and isolation.

            But maybe the causes are deeper, in the Enlightenment itself and in the emancipation of mankind from traditional forms of obedience, traditional objects of worship, and the traditional hierarchies on which so much of customary morality had been made to hang. Whatever the cause, during the course of the 19th and 20th centuries all the old forms of attachment were both shaken from within by vast social changes, and scorned from without by an intelligentsia that found in them little besides the oppressive 'structures' of the bourgeois order.

            Now the bourgeois order, in my view, was a great achievement. The bourgeoisie discovered new forms of attachment in the routines of urban life. They developed forms of mass entertainment through theatre, opera and concert hall that were peaceful in themselves while permitting the public absorption in sublime and moving aspects of the human condition that are not easily put on display.  They developed architectural styles and urban plans that have proved durable and adaptable to the needs of the modern city. And they filled their streets with schools, colleges and hospitals that – in intention at least – reached out to the lower strata of society and offered the possibility of social and material advancement. In all these ways the bourgeoisie strove to replace and compensate for the old forms that had been swept away by industrialisation. But this fact has not on the whole attracted much praise from the intellectuals, who have typically condemned every arrangement in which decent people have striven to create a shared and durable order. Marx, of course, admired bourgeois society. But he admired it for its destructiveness, its ability to sweep away the old attachments, and not for its stunning achievement in putting something comparatively peaceful in place of them. And there is no doubt that the process of detachment continued through the 20th century, producing not only the all too familiar wars and genocides, but also new forms of unsettled communities, composed of unsettled people.

            When I look at Western society today, I am impressed by nothing so much as the extent to which detachment has become not merely the norm of social existence, but also the theme of art, music, architecture and high culture. There has been a steep decline in the experience of membership, and in the institutions – church, family, civil association, clubs and teams – through which ordinary people experience their social identity. What here is cause and what effect is hard to say. Durkheim identified membership as a defining characteristic of religion, and evolutionary biologists like David Sloan Wilson argue that religion is an adaptation that endures and reproduces itself because of its ability to bestow cohesion on the group.[3] Such thinkers would not be surprised, therefore, that the loss of religion brings with it a gradual detachment of people from each other. Nor would they be surprised by the weakness of our detached societies in the face of immigrant communities bound together by strong religious ties.  

            At the same time, because people yearn for attachment, and cannot exist happily in a state of collective solitude, we see in our time all kinds of short-lived but intense substitutes for religion: practices, rituals, forms of association which offer a kind of mystic unity to the participants, and shield them from the fact of their isolation. I rather think, looking back on it, that this was what was happening in Paris in May 1968, when the intellectuals declared their indissoluble unity with the workers, and began throwing cobbles at policemen (who were not workers or intellectuals, but instruments of bourgeois oppression) and setting fire to cars (which did not belong to workers, since only the bourgeoisie owned cars – intellectuals and workers merely borrowed them). I don't see this event as Alain Badiou sees it, as a break from the impossible to a new possibility. I see it as a collective act of self-deception among people who had no desire to count the cost of their actions. The sight of this caused me, at the time, to side with the bourgeoisie, whoever they were. And it also convinced me that the attempt to change the world completely, even if authorised by the Little Red Book of Comrade Mao, was much inferior to the attempt to hold on to the few good things that we already have, while fighting the hooligans who wanted to destroy them.

            Still, the process of detachment continued. We have all but lost religion, and we have all but lost the family too. Living through this, I have nevertheless entertained the hope that culture might provide a kind of substitute, a vision of home and homecoming, of the kind made vivid in the poems of Hölderlin and, much later in the Duino Elegies of Rilke and the Four Quartets of Eliot, that would enable modern people to enjoy in imagination what they had lost in fact – which is the immersion in a shared community of being.  But of course, high culture is a minority pursuit, and in a democracy it counts for little or nothing beside the clamorous products of mass communication. Moreover, whether we look at high culture or popular culture, we find a kind of routinised message of detachment, repeated at every level of reflection, together with a nostalgic longing to be re-attached. This longing for attachment is often expressed, as in the Harry Potter stories, through some sanitised version of an older and vanished form of settlement, with landscape, gothic pinnacles and the routine of school.

            My feeling, reflecting on this, is that we ought in some way to resist the process of detachment. Of course, it is a process with vast and hidden causes, of which technology and abundance are only a part. And who would want to get rid of technology and abundance? Moreover, for reasons made clear by the great sociologists of the early 20th century – and by Weber in particular – the emergence of mass society is a one way process, which replaces old customs, laws and modes of thought with entirely new social and intellectual parameters. We modern people must live within those parameters or not live at all. But what then happens to attachment, and how can this deep need of the species be satisfied, in the conditions of modern life? It is not enough to seek refuge in the nostalgic forms of popular culture, to retain as a Disneyfied vision in the clouds of what we need rather as an emotional foundation in reality. We have in some way to re-attach ourselves to the world if we are to feel at home in it. Or are we henceforward to be homeless?

            I give you an example that is near to hand. As you journey from the airport at Schiphol to the centre of Amsterdam, there comes a sudden moment of transition. It is a transition from the modern world to the older world – the world that Marx called bourgeois, but which I think we should rather describe as settled. The architecture that litters the roadside from the airport to the edge of the old city is an architecture of nowhere. It does not create a place, a dwelling, a settlement. It lies there by the road, as though some giant had dropped it as he strode across the landscape.

            It is not simply that these buildings are large, made from concrete, alloy and glass, and all the other very obvious features that distinguish modern architecture from its predecessors. It is that they are designed differently and on different principles from the canal-side houses of Amsterdam. They are organised not vertically but horizontally. They consist of horizontal planes, stacked up on top of each other. These planes lie on the ground, but do not grow from it. The old houses of Amsterdam are organized vertically. They grow up from below, and are divided horizontally not by ground plans but by mouldings inscribed on the façade – mouldings that represent the joints of invisible columns, endowing the façade with the elasticity that we associate with the upright human frame.

            This vertical organisation is combined with a loving use of detail – panelled doors, mullioned windows, sloping roofs and so on, the whole fitted into an allotted space so that the houses stand side by side, enjoying each other's company. Such symmetries as they exhibit are like the symmetries of the human form – not symmetries up and down, but from side to side. Those buildings on the other side of the city's edge do not stand side by side. They neither touch each other nor align with each other, but lie, stacked up like crates outside a factory, without any relationship to each other or to their surroundings. Their symmetries are vertical, each floor exactly imitating the one below it and the one above. Pascal wrote something interesting in this connection:

            Symmetry is what we see at a glance. It is based on the fact that there is no need for any variation. But it is also based on the human face. That is why symmetry is only desirable in breadth, not in height or depth. (Pensées, Preface 50.)

            Because it recalls the human posture, the architecture of old Amsterdam creates a place, and marks that place as a human settlement. People gravitate to the centre of old Amsterdam for that reason – not because it abounds in architectural masterpieces – for it does not – and not because it is especially full of excitements, unless you find the caged birds of the Red Light zone exciting. The charm of old Amsterdam is simply that it is somewhere, not nowhere, and a somewhere to which people – some living, some dead and some not yet born – belong.

            The rise of the new architecture, in which not belonging and nothingness are the unspoken spiritual goals, is simply one aspect of the process of detachment to which I have been referring in this article. And it points to ways in which that process can be resisted. We don't have to build using the modern archetypes. We don't have to scorn the thousands of years of tradition that have taught human beings how to make a place that speaks of dwelling. As Heidegger pointed out, in an important essay, building and dwelling are two sides of a single enterprise, and their relationship was understood perfectly until the very moment when he was writing.[4] Why not resist this enormous change, in the name of the thing that we all secretly want, which is to re-attach ourselves to the community, to the place and to the form of life that is ours?

            Always however there is the nagging presence of the intellectual, who urges us to stand outside community in an attitude of critical negation. Just look at the intellectual products of our time, and ask yourself what their fundamental message is for ordinary humanity. The art that is applauded by our art schools and official galleries is uniformly an art of transgression, of defiance, in which the seedy, the random or the violent are put forward as the repositories of true aesthetic value. This transgressive posture is one in which beauty is regarded neither as a value nor even as a possibility. So we are told by no less an authority than Arthur Danto.[5] The assumption has arisen among the intellectual class that the pursuit of beauty will now result only in kitsch – in other words in fake art, expressing fake emotion. Since there is no real way to belong to the world around us, the critics say, it is only the experience of detachment, of non-belonging, that can achieve genuine artistic expression. That is why the officially sanctioned new music – the music that here, in Holland, receives state subsidies and state-sponsored performances – is so often offensive to the ordinary ear. That is why all those painters of figurative art, all those neo-classical architects, all those tonal composers and writers of lyrical verse who still abound on every side are either unnoticed by the critics, or singled out for special vilification should their heads appear above the parapet. They are traitors to the cause of detachment.

            I too am a traitor to the cause of detachment. But where am I to look for the communities and places, the practices and customs that I can still defend in the name of home? It is a difficult question. People are of course forming new communities all the time – this is something that the internet makes easy. But maybe it shouldn't be so easy. Maybe communities should come about only after an effort of settlement from which real commitments flow. Social networks grow and fragment with the rapidity of oil streaks on a puddle, never resting in one shape long enough for people to vest them with the emotions of belonging, but always assuming some other shape, and some other meaning before our response to them has formed. And when we look at the crowds who assemble in our cities, each with a cell phone attached to one ear or a tiny screen held like a mirror before him, we must surely be tempted to think that we all now live behind an impenetrable screen of gadgetry, which never presents us with the image of the Other, but only with a reflection of the self. The great venture outwards into the community does not occur. And at the same time the home too is invaded by these gadgets, so that even there we exist in a state of mutual detachment. Technology, which has made it so easy to stay in touch, also forms a screen between us, so that our ways of being in touch remain fixed in the routine of detachment.

            But no, it is not so bad. In this area too resistance is possible. It is possible to resist the gadgets. It is possible to sit quietly around a table with the people you love without consulting a screen. It is possible to make music together. It is possible to find moments of tranquillity in which the old gods can still be worshipped and obeyed. And this, it seems to me, defines the real task for the educated person in our world today – not to proceed along the path of change and detachment, following those self-loving intellectuals into the void, but to stay put in a cherished place, and to build there the customs and relationships that make it more agreeable to stay than to leave. If you want to know how that might be done let me recommend a book of my own, I Drink Therefore I Am, which describes the great gift that comes to us through wine, the gift of staying where we belong, and not bothering the world with our self-indulgent complaints against it.

[1] John Bowlby, Attachment and Loss, three vols. 2nd edn., New York, 1999.

[2] Hegel, The Philosophy of Right.

[3] Émile Durkheim, Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse, 1906, David Sloan Wilson, Darwin's Cathedral, New York 2002.

[4] Martin Heidegger, 'Building, Dwelling, Thinking', in Poetry, Language, Thought, tr. Albert Hofstadter, New York, Harper, 1971

[5] Arthur Danto, The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art, Open Court, 2003.

 


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