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  • Norman Young

The Pagan Root of Identitarian Violence

Human beings desire immortality. For some people, this desire manifests itself in a weird faith that technology will soon be able to preserve (or download) their brain. For others, the desire finds fulfillment in a religious belief that the soul is eternal or in a hope for supernatural bodily resurrection. But, even for those who lack any sort of faith, religious or otherwise, they still get a sense of immortality from the continued existence of their culture, social group, or race. It is this last group that seems especially prone to violence.

Early Friday morning, a shooter opened fire at a New Zealand mosque, killing 49 people. According to reports, the shooter consciously imitated previous white identitarian shooters, including Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik. If you are interested in a thorough breakdown of what was going through the shooter’s mind without wading through over 70 pages of his rambling, head here.

Many media outlets are refusing to publish the killer’s name, worried that doing so will lead to copycat killings. Some politicians have proposed that the government should clamp down on online message boards where people who share the shooter’s ideology congregate. Still others have moved straight to the well-worn gun control issue. All of these reactions miss the point.

By American standards, New Zealand’s gun control laws are positively draconian—self-defense and personal protection are not even considered valid reasons to purchase, carry, or use a firearm. Restrictions on online message boards would merely clamp down on free speech—which is something few would tolerate if the situation were reversed and the perpetrator became radicalized in a mosque. Copycat killers are a real danger, but few of the recent mass shootings have been motivated by something as vague as mere notoriety. All of these reactions distract our focus from the real motivating factor in this case.

Conservatives are quick to point out the role of ideology in shootings that involve radical Islam. But, when it comes to right-wing shootings like the one in Christchurch, conservatives shift the subject away from ideology toward other possible motivations. There is no need for this inconsistency. It is abundantly clear that white identitarianism, an all-too-common ideology on the European far-Right and the American alt-Right, motivated the Christchurch shooter. We should not be afraid to say so.

A common myth suggests that “religion” is a primary motivator for most forms of violence. A famous song by John Lennon imagines that a world with no religion in it would be a peaceful utopia. As is commonly the case with naive-but-widely-held ideas like this one, there is a kernel of truth embedded within it. The truth is that, in civilized societies, people who are preoccupied with their own personal pleasure are rarely motivated to commit violence (which leads to punishment, and therefore pain) unless they are overcome by emotion or warped by drug-use. It is only those who see themselves as part of something greater than themselves who are willing to sacrifice their lives. Religion often fills that role, but so can family, ideology, or—for pagans—race.

Racial identitarianism has a history of motivating violence not only in the modern era (as with the KKK or the US organization) but also in the ancient world. We often romanticize the past, imagining it to be a harmonious way of life in tune with nature. But, in reality, primitive life was nasty, brutish, and short. Tribal warfare was exceedingly common. In fact, had the World Wars achieved a death rate approaching what was common for pagan antiquity, the carnage would have been orders of magnitude worse than it was.

The high levels of violence in pagan cultures stem, in my view, from the fragility of the tribe. As the Bible puts it, “all flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field; the grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows upon it.” In other words, all tribes and peoples of the earth are ephemeral; none will last any longer than God wills. Darwin’s perspective differs little from the Biblical account. For him, the genes of every group compete against those of other races in an endless, precarious struggle for life. Survival is uncertain and most genes do not make it. In other words, both biblical and biological wisdom agree that humans are naturally tribal, and that tribal existence rarely lasts. It is only natural, then, that many human beings should prove willing to sacrifice themselves for the continued survival of their genes.

American schools and universities reinforce the natural, human predilection toward tribalism by pressuring students to identify with their ethnic heritage and to pride themselves in the accomplishments of their race. Such pressure is aimed at minority groups, of course, but white students often overhear the message and sometimes even internalize it. The most rebellious of these kids, seeing no compelling reason why their white skin should be excluded from praise, begin to brazenly tout the accomplishments of white peoples. All of this is extremely toxic and utterly unnecessary.

In America, every racial distinction will eventually disappear into the melting pot—and this is a good thing. There is no reason why this fact should cause dread or angst in any person regardless of skin color. But, alas, an increasing number of Americans are frightened by the prospect of the dissolution of their racial heritage. Like the pagans of old, these misguided folks hear Biblical wisdom about the fate of human races and tremble. Such fears are misplaced. Americans do not define themselves by blood, but by creed.

There is little we can do about violence in foreign cultures. The ethnic nations of Europe will likely continue to suffer from identitarian violence. The Middle East will no doubt continue to be plagued by radical Islamic terrorism. However, we absolutely can do something about the terrorist violence that arises within our own culture. It starts by returning to America’s non-racial, non-tribal, non-pagan identity. For Americans, genetic distinctions should be nothing more than mere curiosities. Being an American citizen is all it should take to be considered “one of us.” And, when that is the case, we will all have one less reason to massacre one another.

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