Do you have a people?

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Tue, 2006-01-31 22:27

Some people define themselves by what they call 'their people.' Do you have a people? 'Professional Maori' Willie Jackson says he's spent his life looking out for "his people" -- when resigning as a Labour MP Tariana Turia declared "it came down to a question of integrity and I had to act for my people" -- her present Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said in his maiden speech to parliament that "the hurt to my people" in being called "haters and wreckers" by [Prime Minister] Helen Clark was "very deep."

So Willie, Tariana and Pita seem to think they have 'a people,' and they're basing it on their race. They are making a virtue of their skin colour, about which they have no choice, but because of which they demand special 'race-based' favours. Such is the mistaken value of ethnicity:


ETHNICITY: The elevating of one’s racial identity and associated cultural traditions to a position of supreme importance – a racist version of collectivism, under-pinned by post-modernism in philosophy, and still very fashionable in academia.

How about you then? Do you have 'a people'? If so, on what basis do you decide who that 'people' is. Think about it for a minute, and while you do, let me ask you a question and offer you a proposition.

Do you choose 'your people' by something you can't do anything about, like your skin colour or the colour of your hair, or by something about which you have some choice. For instance, your kind of people might be tennis players. Or stamp collectors. Or foodies. Or Formula 1 drivers. Or thinkers, achievers, bon vivants, or humourists. All of these various 'persons' have something in common: they have chosen their pursuit, and they could have chosen otherwise. By contrast, defining yourself or others primarily by race, about which none of us can do nothing, takes away an important element of our humanity: our ability to make choices.

What I want to suggest to you is this: that the foundation of what it is to be human is our ability to make choices; fundamentally, our faculty of free will consists of our ability to choose to think, to turn on what makes us distinctively human: our brains. Defining 'your people' not by things that are consciously chosen but instead by things over which you have no control denies what it is to be human -- and this is the very evil of racism: that it de-humanises people, and views them as little more than as various kinds of cattle. This is the very reason Ayn Rand identified racism simply as a "barnyard form of collectivism" -- a grouping of people on the basis of attributes that deny their humanity.

This is the sort of view that still unfortunately persists in the Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Centuries, and which still allows all sorts of bad stuff to proliferate: from the persistent demands of the Turia/Sharples Maori Party for race-based favours; to the soft bigotry of low expectations decried by Walter Williams; to the outright evil of trainloads of human beings poured into the gas chambers and crematoria of Nazi Germany, buried in the mass graves of Bosnia, and bombed in the present mass murders in Iraq. When you ask yourself in depair how these horrors of 'ethnic cleansing' and inter-tribal warfare are able to happen, it starts with the de-humanisation of human beings; racism is the pre-eminent form of de-humanisation.

Recognition of free will is the enemy of racism. It is also the foundation of a genuine individualism.

Defining oneself by one’s race and tradition -- things over which one has no control -- is utterly incompatible with defining oneself by one’s conscious choices. Deriving pride in one's own achievements rather than just those of one's ancestors -- this is the very essence of individualism.

So, do you have a people then? And who exactly are they?

Linked Articles: Cue Card Libertarianism - Ethnicity
Conservative, Liberals & Blacks - Walter Williams
Tragedy in Iraq - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism - Individualism


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