From God to monsters – the “new nationalism” of the US right

Of interest:

In the New York Times on 1 June, one of the rising stars of the conservative movement, Nate Hochman, articulated what he takes to be the direction and meaning of the American right. The central thesis of his essay is that the religious right has been supplanted by “a new kind of conservatism” more secular in orientation and focused on culture war issues such as gender, identity, and what he ever-so-gently calls “race relations”. For Hochman, this new conservatism is based in a kind of class consciousness, with much of the coalition being comprised of dissatisfied – “exploited” – middle Americans countering the depredations of cultural elites: “Today’s right-wing culture warriors think in distinctly Marxian terms: a class struggle between a proletarian base of traditionalists and a powerful public-private bureaucracy that is actively hostile to the American way of life.”

To bolster his claims, Hochman refers to Don Warren’s 1976 book The Radical Centre: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation:

“The right’s new culture war represents the world-view of people the sociologist Donald Warren called “Middle American radicals”, or MARs. This demographic, which makes up the heart of Mr Trump’s electoral base, is composed primarily of non-college-educated middle- and lower-middle-class white people, and it is characterised by a populist hostility to elite pieties that often converges with the old social conservatism. But MARs do not share the same religious moral commitments as their devoutly Christian counterparts, both in their political views and in their lifestyles… These voters are more nationalistic and less amenable to multiculturalism than their religious peers, and they profess a scepticism of the cosmopolitan open-society arguments for free trade and mass immigration that have been made by neoliberals and neoconservatives alike.”

Hochman also draws on the work of the late right-wing American writer Sam Francis, one of the “paleo-conservatives” who in the 1990s augured the rise of Donald Trump, and who is among the best guides to understanding the trajectory of the contemporary right. Far from being a marginal or eccentric figure, he is read by prominent conservatives as both prophet and guide. There are even rumours that Francis is the favoured reading of some Department of Homeland Security officials. That Hochman himself, a fellow at National Review and a key figure of the US intellectual right, leans so heavily on Francis is proof enough of his importance.

“What is occurring on the right,” Hochman argues in his New York Timesessay, “is a partial realisation of the programme that the hard-right writer Sam Francis championed in his 1994 essay ‘Religious Wrong’. He argued that cultural, ethnic and social identities ‘are the principal lines of conflict’ between Middle Americans and progressive elites and that the ‘religious orientation of the Christian right serves to create what Marxists like to call a “false consciousness” for Middle Americans’. In other words, political Christianity prevented the right-wing base from fully understanding the culture war as a class war – a power struggle between Middle America and a hostile federal regime. He saw Christianity’s universalist ideals as at odds with the defence of the American nation, which was being dispossessed by mass immigration and multiculturalism. ‘Organized Christianity today,’ he wrote in 2001, ‘is the enemy of the West and the race that created it.’”

Is Hochman’s argument persuasive? As others have pointed out, there are good empirical reasons to insist on the continued importance of the religious right as a key constituency, from its role in Trump’s election to the assault on Roe vs Wade to the centrality of churches in the political base of the Republican PartyBut the religious right is part of a larger whole; a broader right-wing whose central inspiration is not primarily religious.

Other features of Francis’s vision are also instructive when thinking about the contemporary American right. First, the radicalism of the project: Francis was not really a conservative; he felt that the conservative movement had failed and even urged his friend Pat Buchanan to drop the “conservative” label when running for president in 1992 and 1996. His vision of nationalism was as much a call for a new order as a return to the past. In his 1992 essay  “Nationalism, Old and New”he rejected the “old nationalism” for a “new nationalism” that would replace the individualism and egalitarianism of Hamilton and Lincoln with something else:

“The pseudo-nationalist ethic of the old nationalism that served only as a mask for the pursuit of special interests will be replaced by the social ethic of an authentic nationalism that can summon and harness the genius of a people certain of its identity and its destiny. The myth of the managerial regime that America is merely a philosophical proposition about the equality of all mankind (and therefore includes all mankind) must be replaced by a new myth of the nation as a historically and culturally unique order that commands loyalty, solidarity and discipline and excludes those who do not or cannot assimilate to its norms and interests. This is the real meaning of ‘America First’: America must be first not only among other nations but first also among the other (individual or class or sectional) interests of its people.”

Whereas the “old nationalism” spoke the “abstract” and “alienating” language of universalism, the “new nationalism” is supposedly something rooted in the essence of the “real” American people. Here Francis echoed the “concrete nationalism” of the French far-right authors Charles Maurras and Maurice Barrés that emerged towards the end of the 19th century, which differed from the “old nationalism” of liberté, égalité, fraternité. As the French historian Michel Winock writes, this nationalism would “subordinate everything to the exclusive interests of the nation, that is, the nation-state: to its force, its power, and its greatness”, and was pitched in darker, more pessimistic registers than the old republican patriotism. “This mortuary nationalism,” Winock argues, “called for a resurrection: the restoration of state authority, the strengthening of the army, the protection of the old ways, the dissolution of divisive forces. In varying dosages, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-parliamentarianism were dispensed in the manner appropriate to each of the publics targeted.”

Today, in order to give an accurate picture of the conservative movement Hochman describes, the list of “varying dosages appropriate to the publics targeted” could be altered to include anti-transgenderism, immigration fears, the thinly veiled racism of the anti-critical race theory (CRT) panic, or any of the other demagogic issues the right regularly summons.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Francis would sound like a 19th-century European reactionary since he was an admirer of the work of Georges Sorel, a heretic socialist and Dreyfusard turned anti-Dreyfusard. The major concept that Francis gets from Sorel concerns the importance of political myth. Myths in this sense are concrete, imaginative embodiments of a group’s self-conception and political aspirations; they are not abstract party programmes or utopias. Francis believed that the Middle American Radicals and their leaders had to develop such a myth to replace the myths of “old nationalism”, all that nonsense about “all men being created equal”.

Well, they have at least one now in the form of the “stolen election”: what better way to embody the entire sentiment of dispossession, be it ideological or explicitly racial, than the idea that political power is being held illegitimately by one’s opponents. Another such myth is QAnon, which imagines an elaborate, evil cabal pulling the strings and then a sudden moment of eschatological deliverance from their machinations. Arguably, anti-vaxx sentiments function this way, too: creating an opposition between a rapacious overclass and the resistance of the people’s “salt of the earth” wisdom. The idea of “the Great Replacement” is another one, too. Hochman is probably embarrassed to speak about the centrality of these lurid myths on the right, but they might help explain the “secularisation” of the GOP: maybe there are just other, more chthonic gods now.

What about the “Marxian” elements of the new right? Hochman is right about its emphasis on class struggle but wrong about on whose behalf it is being fought. One of the characterisations right-wing culture warriors like to make about identity politics or critical race theory is that it replaces the structural role “the proletariat” once had in Marxism with some dispossessed ethnic group: so, instead of the industrial working class, now it’s – to use an extreme formulation – LGBT+ Latinx people with disabilities who are supposed to be the bearers of the revolutionary project, since the proletarian revolution failed.

This sounds like a poor interpretation of Georg Lukacs’ conception of class-consciousness, but it’s also exactly what Hochman and his fellows are doing: their class might not be really working class – Hochman admits it’s really the middle and lower-middle class – but they are somehow still “proletarian”, the revolutionary, or the “counter-revolutionary” – subjects that are achieving class consciousness of their historic mission to Make America Great Again. This is almost exactly “Cultural Marxism”: it simply replaces the material determinations of class struggle with the terms of the “culture war”.

So who is the class that is doing the struggling here? Again, it’s worth returning to Francis. At some points in his writing, Francis calls his Middle American Radicals “post-bourgeois” to emphasise their dispossession and alienation from the old bourgeois traditions and values. But in his mature work Leviathan and its Enemies, which was published posthumously, he opposed the feared and hated managerial class that supposedly runs the state and corporate bureaucracies, through to the plain-old bourgeoisie, that is to say, the class that owns, the proprietors of the “entrepreneurial firm (the partnership, family firm, or individual entrepreneurship)”. Hochman is being too modest when he says it’s just the middle and lower-middle class: the right enjoys the patronage of many great magnates and their families: Thiels, Kochs, Mercers, Uihleins, Princes, DeVoses, and so on. The Republican coalition is simply the alliance of the most reactionary sections of the whole property-owning class, the bourgeoisie from petit to haute. I’d argue their attack on the administrative state and their tax raiding has as much to do with the protection of their interest in this regard than any feeling of “cultural dispossession”. Indeed, the right now seems to be successfully attracting a broader swathe of the entrepreneurial class, as Elon Musk recently signalled his “new” Republican allegiance over labour issues.

Hochman may be interested in another Marxist category: totality, the notion that we have to analyse a social and political situation in its entirety, and that failing to do so will give us a false or incomplete picture. While he is more frank than most, Hochman doesn’t want to look at the right in its totality. Although he seems comfortable with the portions of the right that, despite being demagogic and repressive, remain within the bounds of legal and civic behaviour, like the anti-trans and anti-CRT campaigns, he doesn’t want to talk about the storming of the Capitol on 6 January, or the myth of the stolen election, the great replacement theory, or the cultish worship of Trump, or the Proud Boys, who now have a significant presence in a largely Hispanic Miami-Dade Republican Party. But these things are as much, if not more, emblematic of the modern Republican Party as young Hochman isAs Francis knew and was much more open about, these primal forces were the real right, with the think tank intelligentsia trailing behind or vainly trying to guide the masses.

So now let’s recapitulate the totality of the political situation, with the help of Hochman’s essay. He wants to say this new right is essentially a secular party of the aggrieved Mittelstand that feels the national substance has been undermined by a group of cosmopolitan elites who have infiltrated all the institutions of power; that also believes immigrants threaten to replace the traditional ethnic make-up of the country; that borrows conceptions and tactics from the socialist tradition but retools them for counter-revolutionary ends; that is animated by myths of national decline and renewal; that instrumentalises racial anxieties; that brings together dissatisfied and alienated members of the intelligentsia with the conservative families of the old bourgeoisie and futurist magnates of industry; that alternates a vulgar, sneering desire to provoke and shock with phobic moral prudishness; that is obsessed with a macho masculinity; that looks to a providential figure like Trump for leadership; that has street fighting and militia cadre; and that has even attempted an illegal putsch to give its leader absolute power. If only there was historical precedent and even a word for all that.

Source: From God to monsters – the “new nationalism” of the US right

Nicolas: Fierté 101

Good commentary on Quebec (and Canadian) politics and youth, along with how nationalism can be the “last refuge of the scoundrel” to borrow from Samuel Johnson:

« Un cours axé sur comment être un bon citoyen […] ne peut qu’être bénéfique — avec, bien sûr, une petite saveur chauvine : histoire, culture, fierté québécoises. » C’est ainsi que la vice-première ministre Geneviève Guilbault a décrit mardi, à Radio-Canada, le futur cours de culture et de citoyenneté québécoises évoqué dans le discours d’ouverture de François Legault. Chauvin, faut-il le rappeler, signifie « qui a ou manifeste un patriotisme excessif, aveugle, intransigeant ou agressif ». Est-ce là la « valeur commune » que l’on cherchera à inculquer aux enfants dans le cours qui remplacera le cours d’éthique et de culture religieuse ?

On sentait mardi une préoccupation pour la formation identitaire de la jeunesse dans le discours caquiste. Le monde change, une bonne partie des nouvelles générations n’ont pas le même rapport au nationalisme que la base électorale de François Legault et on cherche à corriger le tir. Le premier ministre parle de protéger le patrimoine architectural, de rattraper le salaire moyen de l’Ontario et d’instaurer ce cours pour générer des sources additionnelles de « fierté ». Par les solutions proposées à ce soi-disant déficit de patriotisme, on montre à quel point on aborde cette différence générationnelle par la caricature.

Pendant qu’on cherche à générer de l’enthousiasme nationaliste, je suis entourée de jeunes adultes qui se demandent ce que ça signifie d’envisager la parentalité alors que les forêts brûlent, qu’aucun dirigeant ne semble prêt à s’attaquer de front à la crise climatique, que cette pandémie ne sera certainement pas la dernière, que le système de santé et les services sociaux ainsi que les écoles et les garderies s’écroulent, que le coût de la vie augmente, que les loyers explosent et que la propriété devient de plus en plus inaccessible, que les riches sont plus riches et que le filet social s’effrite, que les mouvements d’extrême droite se solidifient, que les frontières se resserrent et que les gens qui se battent contre les inégalités sociales font face à de plus en plus de violence, en ligne comme dans la rue.

Il n’y a rien, dans ces préoccupations, de particulièrement pro-Québec ou anti-Québec, ou pro-Canada ou anti-Canada. Les jeunes d’ici qui les partagent ne sont certainement pas seuls au monde, d’ailleurs. Souhaiter protéger ses enfants est un réflexe universel. De plus en plus de gens sont incertains de vivre dans un monde qui leur permettra de le faire.Il faudrait prendre acte que nous en sommes là. Mais non.

On continue de ne parler que de fierté dans la construction de l’identité citoyenne, alors qu’on devrait urgemment parler de confiance — envers les institutions, la société, ses pairs, le monde. Et la confiance, on le sait, est toujours conditionnelle. Elle se construit grâce à une attention bienveillante et constante, se brise à cause de la négligence et se répare avec l’honnêteté.

Lorsque la confiance envers l’État est rompue, la logique nationaliste diagnostique un problème de fierté, un déficit identitaire. On se demande s’il ne faudrait pas mettre plus de drapeaux dans nos écoles, s’assurer que leurs bâtiments soient plus « beaux », mieux y enseigner l’histoire de la Nouvelle-France, en sortir les femmes qui portent le hidjab et ces hurluberlus qui parlent de territoires autochtones non cédés. Il faudrait plutôt comprendre que la « fierté », ou, mieux, le sentiment d’appartenance, est nécessairement liée au sentiment de sécurité face au présent et à l’avenir, à la conviction que les institutions desservent le bien commun et que ce « commun » nous inclut. Aucun drapeau, aucun hymne national d’aucun pays, aucun cours de fierté 101 ne peut faire marcher un enfant la tête haute s’il vit de l’intimidation à l’école et que la pénurie de main-d’œuvre affecte son expérience d’apprentissage, et donc sa confiance envers les adultes, les institutions, sa société.

On brandit souvent le spectre des jeunes qui ne se sentent pas Québécois alors qu’ils ont vécu ici toute leur vie. On n’a visiblement jamais pris le temps de les écouter. On comprendrait que ces personnes ont la plupart du temps acquis une expérience intime de la violence d’État. Elles ont été exclues à l’école ou marginalisées par les cursus scolaires, harcelées par la police, ou ont fait l’objet d’un signalement abusif à la DPJ ; elles ont été négligées à l’hôpital ou ont subi la discrimination à l’emploi ; ont peiné à décrocher un boulot dans leur domaine ou ont vu leurs parents travailler d’arrache-pied pour des salaires de misère, souvent sous les insultes, parce qu’on a refusé de reconnaître leurs qualifications. Le gouvernement s’imagine qu’une plus grande connaissance de l’histoire et de la culture québécoises « corrigera » nécessairement les identités forgées dans ces contextes. Alors qu’il faudrait plutôt corriger les injustices des institutions publiques qui ont mené au sentiment de marginalisation.

Le problème, c’est que même nommer ces injustices et suggérer de les rectifier est trop souvent reçu comme une attaque à ladite fierté nationale — alors que c’est justement une condition du sentiment d’appartenance pour un grand nombre de citoyens. Un patriotisme qui reçoit toute critique sociale avec une levée de boucliers est donc nécessairement un cul-de-sac. Il est alors juste de le décrire comme excessif, aveugle, intransigeant et agressif.

Si seulement il y avait un mot pour décrire ce phénomène… Ah, oui ! Le chauvinisme.


An introduction to the new Quebec nationalism and the tricks it plays on federal leaders

To watch:

Quebec’s Bill 21 was a dominant theme in the first week of the campaign. Here’s why

The opening days of the 2019 election campaign have been marked, above all, by the attempts of federal leaders to navigate the new Quebec nationalism and its most potent expression, a law on secularism.

The main proponent of this resurgent nationalism is the provincial government led by Premier François Legault and his centre-right party, the Coalition Avenir Québec.

And Legault didn’t wait long before giving the federal leaders a taste.

The campaign was barely a few hours old when he demanded they renounce support for legal challenges to the secularism law his government passed in June — not just “for the moment,” as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he would, but forever.

It was a warning to steer well clear of a matter he considers to be solely within his jurisdiction, even though the law has raised constitutional concerns across the country, not to mention within Quebec itself.

“It’s up to Quebecers to choose and Quebecers have chosen,” Legault said Wednesday of a law that bans religious symbols in parts of the civil service.

But the roots of the new Quebec nationalism go well beyond Legault’s sweeping election victory last year.

It’s a political mindset that has displaced sovereignty as the main alternative to federalism and, as the first week of the campaign has already made clear, will define how the leaders court votes in the province this fall.

Civic vs ethnic nationalism

The nationalism that currently holds sway is conservative. It is based on a holistic conception of Quebec society that prioritizes the historical experience of francophones.

It’s mainly worried that the combination of immigration and official multiculturalism will make francophone Quebec culture more vulnerable in an increasingly interconnected world where English is the lingua franca.

No surprise then that cutting immigration levels and protecting Quebec’s secular identity were the chief highlights of Legault’s first year in office.

He has sworn off sovereignty since his days in the Parti Québécois, but the origins of the conservative nationalism that his government espouses can nevertheless be traced to the movement’s most decisive moment: the night of the second referendum.

That night, Jacques Parizeau, the PQ premier, opted to improvise his concession speech. “We are beaten, it is true,” he said. “But by what, basically? By money and ethnic votes.”

Already in crisis following the narrow defeat, the sovereignty movement was split in its reaction to Parizeau’s comments.

There were those who were horrified and spent the ensuing years trying to expunge the movement of any hint of ethnic nationalism; trying to promote a more inclusive, civic-style nationalism instead.

And there were those who believed Parizeau was right, and sought to emphasize the history of French-Canadians in their version of Quebec nationalism.

At the outset, the civic nationalists had the upper-hand.

“After 1995, because of Mr. Parizeau’s comments, there was a tendency within the sovereigntist milieu to adhere to a Trudeauist conception of society,” said Éric Bédard, a prominent Quebec historian whose writings helped spark the revival of conservative nationalism.

“Why claim a special status, maybe even Quebec sovereignty, if fundamentally we adhere to the spirit of Canadian multiculturalism?”

But the reasonable accommodation crisis, which lasted roughly between 2006 and 2008, tipped the scales in the other direction.

The rise of the conservative nationalists

As debate raged in the province about whether minority cultural practices represented a threat to Quebec’s secular society, conservative nationalists mounted a fierce attack on multiculturalism.

Bédard and others argued the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its application by federally appointed judges, was too accommodating of minorities, at the expense of a historically rooted Québécois culture.

According to a conservative nationalist reading of the past, this culture is defined by the solidarity forged among francophones fighting for their survival. And the legacy of this solidarity is a willingness to value collective rights over individual ones.

That, they said, is what a secularism law could do: protect the collective rights of Quebecers to live in a secular society against individuals who use the charter to carve out space for their religious practices.

This argument eventually found a sympathetic ear in PQ leader Pauline Marois, who was desperate to restore her party’s fortunes after a disastrous performance in the 2007 election.

Marois brought several conservative nationalists, including Bédard, into her inner circle.

It was a collaboration that ultimately produced the Charter of Values, a proposed secularism law that would have banned religious symbols from large parts of the civil service.

The charter died on the order paper when the PQ lost the 2014 election. But conservative nationalists didn’t blame the charter for the loss. They blamed Marois’s focus on sovereignty.

The CAQ’s successful 2018 election campaign was based on a similar reading of the political climate in the province.

“The CAQ is in the process of fostering a nationalism without sovereignty. And that’s the winning formula at the moment,” said Jacques Beauchemin, a sociologist and former adviser to Marois whose writings also played a big role in the nationalist revival.

“They are proposing a nationalism that suits Quebec of today; a nationalism that is not afraid of affirming things, like with Bill 21 (the secularism law).”

Of obstacles and opportunities

The federal election campaign thus opens in Quebec at a moment of deep suspicion about federal institutions.

Legault, and other defenders of Bill 21, have actively sought to delegitimize the charter and the court system charged with upholding it, fearing their power to strike down the law.

His government, moreover, seeks not simply to defend provincial jurisdiction, but expand it in key areas, like immigration.

In the meantime, multiculturalism, as both a policy and a value, is cast in ever darker terms by government officials and popular columnists.

The grid laid down by the new Quebec nationalism offers different opportunities and obstacles to the three main contenders in the province.

It helps explain why, when launching his campaign, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet began with a paean to the nationalism of the CAQ government. Sovereignty received only a second-order mention.

It also provides an explanation for why Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has been more timid than Justin Trudeau in his criticism of Bill 21.

Now that conservative nationalism has been shorn of its sovereigntist trappings, the Tories are trying to win over voters who once backed the Bloc.

There is, however, only so much Scheer can offer without departing from his federalist bedrock and alienating supporters in the West.

Of the three then, the Liberals would seem to have the most to lose from the present configuration.

Trudeau is seeking a delicate balance with his position on Bill 21, trying to present his pro-charter federalism as no immediate threat to the law without forsaking a document that’s at the core of his party’s identity.

But the Liberals, it bears recalling, have maintained a healthy lead in Quebec polls since the last election. Conservative nationalism may be ascendant in the province; it’s not yet hegemonic.

Source: An introduction to the new Quebec nationalism and the tricks it plays on federal leaders

And PM Trudeau’s carefully worded not closing the door on challenging the Bill 21 in court:

Pour sa première journée de campagne en sol québécois, le chef du Parti libéral, Justin Trudeau, est allé un peu plus loin au sujet d’une possible contestation judiciaire de la Loi 21 sur la laïcité de l’État en affirmant qu’il serait « irresponsable » pour un gouvernement fédéral de « fermer à tout jamais la porte » sur la question.

« Nous ne fermons pas la porte à une intervention éventuelle parce que ce serait irresponsable qu’un gouvernement ferme la porte à tout jamais sur une question de droits fondamentaux », a admis le premier ministre sortant, talonné par les journalistes après avoir annoncé une série d’incitatifs pour les entrepreneurs, à Trois-Rivières.

Justin Trudeau, quelques minutes après le coup d’envoi de la 43e élection générale fédérale mercredi, avait affirmé qu’il jugeait qu’il serait « contre-productif » de s’engager « pour l’instant » dans une démarche judiciaire pour contester la Loi 21.

Sa position a rapidement été entendue à l’Assemblée nationale alors que le premier ministre, François Legault, a bien averti les chefs politiques fédéraux de ne pas s’aventurer dans cette voie. Le chef du Parti conservateur, Andrew Scheer, a déjà fait savoir qu’il n’a pas l’intention d’intervenir dans le débat et qu’il ne contesterait pas la loi.

Loi 21 : Justin Trudeau persiste et signe


Canada, the country that nationalism side-swiped: Salutin | Toronto Star

Salutin on the perverse, counter-intuitive nature of Canadian nationalism:

Here’s where it starts to get paradoxical. Stephen Harper, during his reign, tried to become the voice of Canadian nationalism in the traditional, exclusivist sense. He promoted militarism, including symbols like the Highway of Heroes, and shopworn imperial imagery like the Royal Family. He promoted undercurrents of xenophobia, nativism and racism in his policies toward immigrants and especially refugees, who were despicably treated. These became overcurrents during the election, with his attacks on Muslim headgear, the “barbaric cultural practices” snitch line and revocable citizenship.

What’s fascinating is that Justin Trudeau didn’t oppose him by declaring he was anti-nationalist, as you’d have to in, say, Serbia or Hungary. He fought back as a Canadian nationalist, defining it in terms of tolerance or even, the glory of diversity — a sharp rebuttal to most contemporary nationalism. It also had weird echoes. Justin’s dad, Pierre, rejected Quebec nationalism as parochial but embraced Canadian nationalism as a way to fight it. When he ran against Tory leader Joe Clark in 1979, Trudeau père scorned Clark’s notion that Canada was just a “community of communities,” for being wishy-washy and contentless.

Yet that’s essentially what his son endorsed. Now picture Harper: beaten not only by the son of his most reviled Canadian predecessor; but by the son’s embrace of the vision of Harper’s most loathed Conservative antecedent, Joe Clark. It’s beyond Shakespearean. Who says we don’t have a colourful history?

If we’d been more successful in creating a robust, conventional Canadian nationalism, who knows — the country mightn’t have as handily beaten back the nasty nativism cultivated by Harper. It could have provided unintended grist for his mill. So the real strength of Canadian nationalism might turn out to be its relative weakness. We’re the land that nationalism side-swiped. Lucky us.

In his book, Benedict Anderson quoted Walter Benjamin’s passage on the angel of history — based on a Paul Klee print. The angel stands looking backward sadly as history’s failures and disasters pile up at his feet. So, as history’s wind blows him into the future, he can’t see, behind him, the progress that may be about to arrive. You could call it, back to the future, in a literal sense.

Jonathan Kay: Scotland shows Quebec what an intelligent and mature independence movement looks like

Good piece contrasting the approach by the Scottish nationalist and the PQ:

Quebec’s modern sovereigntist movement has been around, in its modern form, since the 1960s. Yet to this day, its leaders (including Parti Québécois Premier Pauline Marois) are fantastically vague about what sort of “independent” country they want. Extraordinary claims — Quebec will keep the dollar, and, oh, yes, have a seat on the Bank of Canada — are casually made and then forgotten. The question of how the most per-capita indebted province in Canada will pay its way (including its share of the Canadian federal debt) while forsaking the $16-billion that the rest of the country sends its way every year is entirely ignored.

In Scotland, by contrast, such meat-and-potatoes questions about what will happen in a newly independent nation are the meat and potatoes of this year’s campaign — and are explored in great detail in a lengthy text published by the Scottish government entitled Scotland’s Future — Your Guide to an Independent Scotland. As Jonathan Freedland writes in the March 20 edition of The New York Review of Books, the 649-page document “is short on the rhetoric of self-determination, long on the quotidian details of self-government. In a ‘Q & A’ section, the third question — after ‘Why should Scotland be independent?’ and ‘Can Scotland afford to be independent?’— is ‘What will happen to my pension?’ There are few rousing calls to Scottish pride or the spirit of Bannockburn, their place taken by information on postal services and the administration of drivers’ licenses.”

Jonathan Kay: Scotland shows Quebec what an intelligent and mature independence movement looks like | National Post.