Surely one of the most grievously forgotten authors of the 20th century is Freda Utley. In the immortal words of Rutger Hauer, Utley “saw things… you people wouldn’t believe” – she moved to Moscow as a Communist true believer in the 1930s, lost her husband to the Gulag, and never remarried. Her honesty and fearlessness did not make her popular, especially when she spoke out against American abuses in the occupation of Germany, or against Maoism 40 years before it was fashionable.
As Utley put it in her compulsively readable autobiography, Odyssey of a Liberal, her friend Edith Hamilton once warned her “not to expect the material rewards of unrighteousness, while engaged in the pursuit of truth.” No such rewards appeared, and today her books are utterly obscure. But when all our “liberals” are Utley’s kind, as they once were and surely will be again, I’ll be proud to wear the label.
Perhaps Utley’s most acute realization in Odyssey, though on a trivial subject, is when she notices that her friend Bertrand Russell always uses the word “we” to refer to the government. She points out that this little linguistic tic is an unmistakable mark of any ruling class.
Apparently this “nostrism” (if I can risk another obscure quasicoinage) was more unusual in the ’50s than it is now. Because, although I have tried repeatedly to break myself of the habit, I use exactly the same pronoun. It’s an unmistakable sign of my Brahmin upbringing. I can’t imagine counting the number of times I’ve heard someone say “we should…” when what they really mean is “the government should…” Language is repetition, and though my considered view is that it’s just as bizarre to define “we” as the US Federal Government, especially for someone who isn’t actually an employee of said entity, as it would be to use the first person plural for Safeway, Comcast or OfficeMax, habits die hard.
Today, Russell-style nostrism is peculiar, I believe, to the Brahmin caste. Certainly Helots, Dalits, and Vaisyas all think of the government as very much “they.” If Optimates go with “we,” it’s probably because they’re so used to having to pass as Brahmins. I find it rather hard to imagine a cardiologist or a hedge-fund hotshot genuinely thinking of Uncle Sam as “we.”
It’s all too easy to see nostrism as a trope of monstrous smugness and arrogance. This is very much one with the view of Brahmins you’ll get from, say, Lawrence Auster (with whom I often disagree, but who is surely one of the most insightful and principled political writers of our time). To Auster they are all “liberals.” This label, which has meant so many things to so many people, is nothing but a brutal slur on his tongue. Auster sees Brahmins more or less the way most of us see Nazis.
And indeed one can imagine an Austerian future in which “liberalism” is just as “discredited” as Nazism is today (or as it was in the Third Reich, for that matter). There is certainly no shortage of crimes that such a future (which I find improbable, but not impossible) could blame on the BDH alliance. For example, it is very easy to see today’s Dalit caste as essentially a cynical creation of the Brahmins, a weapon of anarcho-tyranny in the sense of the late Sam Francis, and a key aspect of the ethnic cleansing of the white Vaisya inner-city neighborhoods, which surely if they still existed would be Bushist bastions. From this perspective it’s shocking how Europe, in its slavish postwar imitation of the Brahmin system, imported its own Dalit class to fulfill the same essential political function of (often literally) terrorizing the Vaisyas.
In a sense this view is credible. But in another sense, it is completely out to lunch. Because no Brahmin, at least no Brahmin I can imagine, ever thinks that he is (a) the ruling class, (b) allied with criminals and peasants to crush the white working class and the old aristocracy, or (c) a cog in a 75-year-old political machine whose goal is to dominate the world and convert all humans to the worship of a single transnational, bureaucratic superstate in which his caste will play the traditional role of the mandarin priest-oligarch.
Au contraire! He is working for peace and justice. He is fighting against racism, prejudice, corruption and oppression. He has never even considered the possibility of ruling the world. If he can, in some small way, serve it, this will be honor enough. His sincerity is obvious, and it is genuine. No fat salary, no pension plan, no incentive package, is needed to bring him on board. A grown man in his forties, he may work for a sum that is barely a stipend.
Yet to an alien observer, with no understanding of human psychology or motivations, I believe the former interpretation would seem perfectly plausible. Even obvious.
So we have quite a discrepancy to explain. Perhaps our “kernels” and “repeaters” can help us with this puzzle? More later…