Kevin MacDonald writes: A recent paper by Sebastian Pothoff et al. published in Personality and Individual Differences finds that Northern Europeans (Germany, Netherlands) are less likely to “blame the other” than Southern Europeans: “Self-blame includes thoughts that relate to blaming yourself for a traumatic or stressful event. Other-blame is the process of blaming others for what happened to yourself.”
They also discuss evidence that northern Europeans score lower on power distance, where power distance refers to the degree to which less powerful people in a culture accept power inequalities; in other words, Northern Europeans are more egalitarian.
These findings fit well with the theory that there is a north-south cline in individualism and egalitarianism (see here toward the end), with the north being higher on both. Re egalitarianism, Scandinavian society in general has a history of relatively small income and social class differences. An anthropological study of hunter-gatherers found that the economic inequality approximated that of modern Denmark (Eric A. Smith, et al., Current Anthropology.51(1),19–34, 2010).
The difference in other-blame is particularly interesting in that it is consistent with the idea that Northern Europeans more readily take the point of view of the other when assigning blame. I think this is part of the deep structure of individualism. When Michael Polignano wrote a book titled Taking Our Own Side, he put his finger on a major problem for Western individualists: We tend to take a neutral point of view in moral issues — not biased in our own favor or what’s good for our group. We tend to take the point of view of the emotionally disinterested, rational observer, not swayed by personal interest. So we are less likely to blame others for problems and try our best to see the situation from the other person’s point of view.
So Swedes are more likely to blame themselves for migrant crime, no-go zones, and the hatred of many migrants for Sweden and its culture. For example,
the new curriculum [of the Stockholm Policy Academy] will be “progressive” with more focus on cultural sensitivity, ethical awareness, gender issues and more. The aspiring police officers will achieve “greater understanding of the intercultural perspective.”
Repeating some previous arguments, morality in individualist culture is defined not as what is good for the individual or the group, but as an abstract moral ideal — e.g., Kant’s categorical imperative: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” We understand that people tend to be self-interested, but in designing legal and moral systems, we understand, implicitly or explicitly, that everyone has interests. Proper behavior therefore is behavior that would be appropriate for anyone — Kant’s “universal law.”
Individualism implies an equality of interest—that everyone has interests but no one has a privileged moral position—philosopher John Rawls’ “veil of ignorance.” Arguments on morality therefore must necessarily seek an abstract sense of morality, independent of the interests of any particular individual; group interests have no privileged moral standing at all. As an extreme example, pro-slavery arguments that slavery is good for the nation (common among defenders of slavery in England during the eighteenth century) or for individual Whites but do not attach any moral significance to Blacks as individuals therefore fall on deaf ears.
On the other hand, collectivist cultures such as Judaism have a highly elaborated moral code that privileges ingroup membership. Slavery is not an evil in itself because it violates the legitimate interests of individuals; rather it depends on whether Jews benefit. There is an elaborate Jewish law on slavery that has never been abrogated, a long history of Jewish slave trading, and there are different ethical codes on how slaves may be treated depending on whether the slave is a fellow Jew; the same goes for criminal offenses (see A People that Shall Dwell Alone, Ch. 6). In collectivist cultures, group membership, typically the kinship group, is critical to moral evaluation.
Jews therefore are quick to “blame the other.” The purpose of Chapter 7 of Separation and Its Discontents (Rationalization and Apologia: The Intellectual Construction of Judaism) is to summarize the elaborate apologetics that Jewish religious leaders and philosophers have engaged in over the centuries in order to portray Jewish behavior as completely irrelevant to anti-Jewish attitudes. Further, The Culture of Critique discusses numerous Jewish theories of anti-Jewish attitudes and behavior based on psychoanalysis (e.g., many psychoanalysts, including Freud himself in his outrageous Moses and Monotheism, the Frankfurt School, the New York Intellectuals) in which such attitudes are the result of sexual repression or disturbed parent-child relationships, and many other Jewish writers have blamed an unfortunate Christian theology. Reading Jewish writers on this topic suggests to me that strongly identified Jews are utterly incapable of finding anything at all about Jewish behavior that could possibly contribute to anti-Jewish attitudes.
A morality of disinterest naturally leads to erecting moral ideals that do not reflect the interests of particular people or groups but are intrinsically good. Moral idealism is a powerful tendency in European culture, particularly since the seventeenth century apparent, for example, in the German idealist philosophers and the American transcendentalists. Universalist moral ideals are erected and then steps are taken to achieve the moral vision by changing the world, often accompanied by a great deal of moral fervor (see here). The anti-slavery movement in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is paradigmatic. This pursuit of moral ideals accounts for some of the dynamism of Western history.
The analogy with the contemporary world is obvious. The entire edifice of Political Correctness is framed as a moral in-group. Every attempt is made to shame and ostracize those who, for example, oppose massive non-White immigration or believe that Europeans, like other peoples, have legitimate interests in defending their territories. Labels such as “racist” function to define moral in-groups. All of the intellectual and political movements discussed in The Culture of Critique subjected to West a moral critique where dissenters are not just factually or theoretically wrong but evil.
And now we see the phenomenon of “principled conservatism” where moral ideals are erected (in the service of rationalizing control by elite donors addicted to free trade, an aggressively pro-Israel foreign policy, and open borders).
Thus the moral universalism characteristic of individualism is a liability in the struggle with other groups. Individualists are prone to acting against their own people on behalf of a moral principle—as in the American Civil War where a great many Yankees were motivated to go to war against the South in order to eradicate slavery as a moral evil. Such people place their moral ideals above ties of racial kinship.
There is an obvious sense in which such moral idealism can be fatally maladaptive. In the contemporary world of Political Correctness defined by the Cultural Marxist Left, moral ideals incompatible with the interests of European-derived peoples are constantly trumpeted by elites in the media and academic world. Such messages fall on fertile ground among European peoples, even as other races and ethnic groups continue to seek to shape public policy according to their perceptions of self-interest. The European proneness to moral idealism and disinterested moral reasoning thus becomes part of the ideology of Western suicide.
Luke says: I disagree with part of what Kevin MacDonald writes. Jews strike me as a frequently self-critical group. Look at the Hebrew Bible. It is full of in-group criticism. And that pattern continues down through the centuries in the various Torah commentaries. You can also find many examples in popular culture, such as Philip Roth. Hollywood often mocks Judaism.