The Majority of Minorities


Arguably, everybody is a minority of one. This fits the concept of the uniqueness of the individual who thereby occupies the center. Other narratives imply that minority communities are the basic unit of society which shatters the idea of a majority. This idea is especially attractive when minority status brings advantages that atone for the suffering of ancestors. Yet, in the face of peril, -the Wuhan Virus- internal dividing lines fade. That will be to protect the re-discovery of overriding common interests regardless of earlier lines of partition.

In the last two centuries, the dominant view tended to be that the characteristics that transcend the lines of class, language, and location, are more important than the more particularized subdivisions. The past’s nation-builders stressed the factors of unity. Their analogy would have been that a body is more than the total of its cells. At the moment, at least in advanced democratic countries, a cult of deconstruction is gaining ground. The talk is not about the members of a nation state, but about the discernible fragments found within the whole. The parts, defined by religion, ethnicity, race, status, define their members and are more important than their sum.

We should be aware of the exceptions to this generalization whose acceptance is by no means universal. Where the nation state is a yet unrealized dream, and wherever it has been achieved recently, especially in areas once subjected to foreign rule, another idea dominates. It is about a nation united by shared traits and in control of its land and destiny. In such a context, loyalty belongs to the nation’s cause and to the state that expresses a people’s existence and interests. Here primary loyalties given to sub-groups are evidence of lacking patriotism and are viewed as potentially treasonous. This fits the thinking of peoples without a state, new countries, or old ones resurrected to live out their national destiny.

Where we find a public that identifies with sub-national fragments, it is generally so that associations involving the “nation” are viewed with disapproving suspicion. Associating nationalism, not with the liberal nationalism of the 19th century, but with chauvinism, is a condition that appears mainly in the thinking of Western Europe. Here earlier political and economic advancement, secure and established statehood is enjoyed, and the persuasion prevails that, aside of CO2, nothing bad can happen. As a flavor enhancer, add a wide-spread conviction that the achievement attributed to their nation has been due to the exploitation of less successful peoples. Having a confused view of threats, unable to see the enemy through its colored glasses, the open society is exposed to the danger of subverting itself.

Those that give priority to the nation, and the ones that concentrate on its building blocks, have clashing views of human associations. It is unclear whether the camp that thinks in national terms and subscribes to the idea of an indivisible nation, or the one that concentrates on the fragments of the whole, will prevail. At least now, the latter approach is the fashionable one among the global opinion-making elite. In their extreme forms both camps can assume positions that can be said to be negative.

The advocates of the national idea can pursue unity to an extent that suppresses the individuality of its citizens, and they might apply force to prevent the formation of interest groups below the national level. A serious defect, if you think that the proper role of politics is to safeguard individual freedom which is a right to autonomy. Dictatorship stands at the end of the pursuit of a collective personality whose power is unlimited. Where loyalty negates the right to autonomy, the community fails as the protector of individual freedom at whose core is the right to be a minority of one.

Inconsistencies and abuse are also in the baggage that the “fragmenters” carry. While the leviathan state is a threat to its subjects, de-legitimizing the national community by reducing it to a loose association of unstable factions -as in feudalism- has chaos as its consequence. This is a danger that this element will deny. Oddly, those that concentrate on organized minorities at the expense of the national state, tend to put their trust in supranational organizations, preferably an ultimate world government whose budding beginnings they already control.

This worldview does not have the absolute right to individual autonomy in its focus. Individuals are defined by their membership in minority groups. (A reason for Marxist sympathies.) The existence and rights of these groups contradicts and overrides the authority of the traditional nation-state which they intend to destabilize. The sovereignty, and the loyalty demanded by the nation, is pretended to be the source of wars and it is associated with the suppression of minorities. Objectively, such disadvantages can occur. However, as the example of democratic national states demonstrates, the infringement of rights and unalienable freedoms is not a must.

The fragmenters have the self-serving habit to depict minorities as victims. This simplifies a complicated picture. Some minorities exist without any reaction of the majority. Other minorities under-perform the majority. As in the case of east central Europe’s Gypsies, this supports the prejudice of inferiority and uselessness. Whether this assessment is not the cause the observed trait, is an open question. Generally, however, under-par minorities will not be liked, even if they do not compete with the majority. We also find minorities that outperform the majority. These might be valued or, as in the classical case of the Jews, disliked for their success. Lastly, some minorities can dominate the majority which kindles hate. In this instance the minority will define itself as a (pseudo) race and proclaim the majority’s inferiority. A governess still taught the writer that “mankind begins at the rank of the Baron”.

Obviously, only a fool would argue that, to survive, a nation needs to have -or can have- a unity that fully overrides all of its subdivisions. In fact, a democracy needs to grant the right to association which results in special interest groups. These are normal, legitimate, and not agents of destabilization.

Difficulties with organized minority interests can, however, arise. Once primary loyalty is given to a minority, a problem unfolds for that minority as well as for majoritarian society. That is a reason why, a state is required to arbitrate conflicting legitimate interests within institutionalized legal boundaries.

Any system that refuses to accept the naturalness of conflicts of interests stands for a unity that is unnatural and, therefore, tends to be in practice a total dictatorship. Those whose worldview makes them detect in any state they cannot control a dictatorial institution, enlarge differences to the point at which cooperation breaks down and anarchy sets in.

Mankind has risen because of our ability to cooperate. All of us are created as sovereign individuals. However, we cannot convert that potential into a lived condition outside of a context that is secured by a web of institutions with which we can have a binding connection. These begin with the family, the group and end in the nation. Alleging that the idea of the nation is a fiction because there cannot be a legitimate majority, reduces the possibility of peaceful politics into a permanent struggle among competing radicalized interests. That prospect does not amount to a bad future; it implies no future.

2 comments to The Majority of Minorities

  • It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this brilliant blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

    • George Handlery

      So many thanks for the appreciation you express. I have, proudly, filed your note. gh



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