“Salus Populi Lex Suprema”
Philosophy; Posted on: 2009-04-25 17:43:08 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
by Sam G. Dickson
(This essay is based on a talk given at The Occidental Quarterly Editor’s Dinner on July 26, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia.)
White people have a penchant for abstract thinking. This is one of the glories of our race, making possible advances in philosophy, mathematics, science, and technology. But it is also a danger, for white people can become so fixated on abstractions that we lose touch with reality.
This is particularly true in the realm of action. It is useful to formulate abstract principles of morality and prudence to guide action. The trouble comes when people fixate on the principles and lose touch with the real world in which they have to act. When that happens, abstract principles stop promoting success and start promoting failure.
Sometimes a general rule does not apply to a particular situation. Sometimes following a rule will lead to bad consequences. But the rule will not tell you that. You have to see it. You have to figure it out for yourself. It is a matter of concrete fact, not an abstraction. And people who focus only on abstractions do not see concrete realities, often at their own peril.
I want to share with you some thoughts about the necessity of our people using abstract principles in a much more mature and flexible way when thinking about political, economic, and racial issues.
The Greeks were very different from modern people. (By modern people I mean people of the last two centuries.) The Greeks had a much more mature view of things, a less categorical view of things. Two of my favorite Greek maxims were on the altar of Apollo at Delphi.
One was: “Moderation in all things, nothing in excess,” which of course is a self-contradiction, when you think about it. That also implies moderation in moderation. So there are times when it’s right to be immoderate. And the maxim will not tell you when that is the case. That is a matter of concrete circumstances. You will have to see and understand them for yourself.
The other maxim was: “Know who you are.” This is knowledge of the concrete, not the abstract. This maxim is often translated as “Know thyself,” which sounds like a counsel of subjective, atomistic individualism, as if the men who fought at Thermopylae and Marathon needed to “get in touch with their feelings” or “find themselves.” But who we are is not merely subjective. It is defined by our relationships to others: to our family, community, homeland, nation, and race. Knowing who you are means knowing all those things too. Being true to yourself means being true to them as well.
Contrast the spirit of these maxims to Lord Acton’s oft-quoted dictum that “Power corrupts, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” Americans love this maxim, Southerners in particular, because Lord Acton was a strong Southern sympathizer in our Civil War.
But it’s interesting to set the quote in the context of who Lord Acton was, the circumstances in which he made it, and the words that come before and after it.
It is often said that Acton made this statement in correspondence with Robert E. Lee. But that is not true. He actually wrote it in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in April of 1887, expressing his opposition to the doctrine of papal infallibility. (Lord Acton was himself a life-long Catholic, from a recusant family that had adhered to Catholicism for generations despite the Reformation and the establishment of the Church of England.) The full statement reads as follows:
"I cannot accept your canon that we are to accept Pope and King, unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men . . ."
Not only is Acton’s statement taken out of context, it is often turned into an absolute, categorical statement by omitting the words “tends to.”
Now Americans love this statement. When they hear it, their eyes glaze over, and they get a warm, gushy, virtuous feeling. They just know how bad power is. They feel superior to those who have it. They even feel glad they have none, and are thus in no danger of corruption.
Americans feel this way because this is a Whig nation: a nation born in opposition to monarchy, aristocracy, and tradition, and firmly wedded to individualism and the principles of the Enlightenment. America was settled mostly by Whigs. And with the American Revolution and the expulsion of the Loyalist minority, the United States became a firmly Whig nation. America is a totally Whig version of England. It is all Whig sail with no Tory anchor.
But even a minute’s reflection will show you how misleading and false Acton’s dictum is, as a guide to people in their personal lives, and in making decisions for their country and community and ethnic group. The most casual reading of history shows that many great men were good men, that power does not necessarily corrupt, that many good men exercised power for good purposes.
Was Charles Martel a bad man simply because he sought and used power? Remember that Martel used his power to unite the Franks and defeat the Moslems, who were on the verge of conquering Europe, which would have been catastrophic for our people. Would Lord Acton have deemed it better if the Franks didn’t have a powerful leader? Would it have been better if the Frankish lands had been divided and decentralized and incapable of uniting as the Moslems poured over the Pyrenees into France?
Was Pope Urban II a bad man, because he had power and helped rouse Europe to the Crusades? The crusades drove back the two pincers of Islam that were coming through Spain and the Balkans to take our continent from us.
And would it really matter even if Charles Martel and Urban II were somehow corrupted by their power, as long as they still used it for the common good? Acton’s dictum focuses exclusively on the effect that power has on the characters of those who have it. But what about the consequences of power for the larger community?
Charles Martel and Urban II are long dead, but every person of European descent owes them a great debt, a debt that increases with every new generation that is born. In light of that, the consequences of power on these men’s conscience matters very little.
Now some might feel a little frisson, a little thrill, of moral superiority as they say that it is right to disappear as long as one maintains one’s moral superiority. I don’t think so. I think it is better to survive and to triumph than to disappear. Those who feel otherwise will simply leave the world to people who feel differently, people who have no scruples about gaining and using power. Unfortunately, these people may have no scruples about anything else as well.
Because of the Whig sentiments that make Acton’s principle so appealing to Americans, the founding stock of the nation has been engaged in unilateral disarmament from the inception of the country—disarmament in contrast to their rivals, who do not believe that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The amazing thing to me is that this country is not even worse off than it is.
But there is no way that our people can win in the long run, so long as we remain enchanted and enslaved by a philosophy of powerlessness, by an abstract principle that tells us that coercive power is per se wrong and must never be used.
History is replete with tragic examples of the consequences of powerlessness.
Many American conservatives, Southerners in particular, find the doctrines of States’ Rights and decentralized government very attractive. But these very doctrines played a major and a decisive role in insuring the defeat of the South in the Civil War.
When the South seceded, when the Confederate government assembled in Montgomery, they were in a revolutionary situation. Things were fluid. Many new things were possible. And—as Lenin and Robespierre, alas, knew—in a revolutionary situation, you hit . . . and you hit hard. You go as fast and as far as you can while the time is favorable. You make the most of the opportunity before things solidify again.
But with the instinctive English desire to compromise, the South did just the opposite. Jefferson Davis had been a staunch Unionist and opponent of Secession until the late 1850s. And his government was made of people like him, who were relatively new converts to the idea of secession. There were no militant secessionists or Fire-eaters of any significance, none of the people who long before had prophetically seen the need to separate from an increasingly hostile North.
Even worse, in choosing their Vice President, they turned to a physical weakling and pettifogging legalist, Alexander H. Stephens, who had been opposed to the whole idea of the Confederacy. Stephens was chosen for the admitted purpose of placating Southerners who had opposed the Revolution.
As a result, the government was divided and hobbled from the start by its second-in-command. Stephens would spend the next four years disrupting the Southern war effort. He spent most of the war pouting at home, corresponding with people all over the South, attacking President Davis, urging that there be no draft, urging people not to support the army, warning that the central government was becoming despotic like the Lincoln government, and demanding more States’ rights and decentralization, in the middle of an invasion of the country.
Lincoln, representing the forces of evil in our society, was much wiser. He did not care about the Constitution. He understood that there was a crisis, and he meant to have his faction win. And he didn’t give a damn whether that required him to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, arrest members of Congress, shut down newspapers, impose a draft, or raise armies by presidential order. And he was quite frank about that.
In his correspondence, Lincoln made clear that he wanted to show that a republican government could be just as “strong”—just as harsh and coercive, capable of just as many atrocities—as a monarchical government. By the way, that is expressly what he’s referring to in the Gettysburg Address when he says that the war is testing whether any government “so conceived . . . can long endure.”
Well, the tragedy is that there wasn’t more Jefferson Davis and Alexander H. Stephens in Lincoln, and more Lincoln in Davis. Things very likely would have ended very differently if the South had leaders who understood the necessities of a revolutionary situation, and were willing to use power to save the country at a time of invasion.
You hear another categorical statement frequently in American politics today. We hear people like George W. Bush—the same George Bush who drew upon his profound mastery of world religions and history to tell us that Islam is a religion of peace—assuring us repeatedly that we must learn “the lesson of Munich”—that you never negotiate with dictators.
Well, the fact of the matter is that most of mankind has been ruled by dictators throughout most of recorded history. And if you adopted a policy of never negotiating with dictators, and always going to war with them, the United States would be engaged in perpetual war for perpetual peace. And we would be destroyed in the process.
The fact of the matter is that we have negotiated successfully with hundreds, if not thousands, of dictators in the more than two centuries the United States has been in existence. We’ve had many beneficial treaties with despots, with absolute monarchies, with dictatorships. So there isn’t any “lesson of Munich” that you never negotiate with dictators.
The people at Munich, the people who believed they could negotiate with Hitler, had learned “the lesson of August 1914”—that you always negotiate, that wars always occur because of failure to negotiate.
The tragedy of life is that concrete circumstances, individual personalities, and particular details are what determine whether you should negotiate or whether you should fight. It is the height of folly to ignore these and focus on abstract lessons based on wholly different circumstances, sometimes decades or centuries old.
Consider the issue of free trade. In October of 2007, a friend of mine attended a small financial seminar. He sat with a number bright young college students and recent graduates. When the issue of free trade came up, he pointed out what this means to America’s working people and increasingly the middle and professional classes: how free trade is destroying their jobs, pensions, health care, vacations, and ability to have and rear children, while undermining the nation’s economic and political independence.
Several of these young men, many of whom were working on their MBAs, actually conceded this was happening. But then they said we can’t ever abandon the “principle” of free trade. Free trade is the right principle, and we’ve got to hang on to the principle, even if it means the destruction of our nation and race.
Now is it conceivable that anywhere in China a group of comparable young men would be saying that China must be destroyed to adhere to the principle of free trade? Could you find any Chinaman this nutty? No. Only White Europeans are subject to such goofiness.
Consider also the issue of private property. During the time when Australia had an immigration policy designed to maintain its identity as a white and British nation, one of the largest groups that fought it were Anglo-Saxon farmers with large plantations. They didn’t want to have to hire free British immigrants. They wanted cheap labor. They wanted Chinese coolies who would work for less. Do we really want to respect that kind of private property right?
To save our people, it will be necessary not merely to change those who hold public power but also those who hold private power. A vast share of the nation’s wealth is held by our enemies. They are particularly heavily invested in the news and entertainment media. That has to change. But it cannot change except by the dramatic use of public power to change who holds private power.
Imagine that by some fluke a libertarian like Ron Paul were elected president. Imagine that he really could bring American troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, block the drive for war with Iran, and end Israel’s ability to loot our treasury and control our foreign policy.
Private money and private media power would immediately be used to thwart his policies. He would be lucky to avoid impeachment or assassination. And, as a libertarian, his own principles would prevent him from doing anything about it. After all, his enemies have freedom of speech and the right to use their money however they wish.
In England when the Wars of the Roses were concluded by the battle of Boswell Field, when Richard III was defeated by Henry VII and the Tudor dynasty was established, what was the first order of business? To take the lands and titles of the aristocratic families who had backed the losing side, and to give them to the able and devoted servants of the winner. Henry VII understood that if his enemies retained their estates and could still call their tenants out against him, the civil wars that had wracked England would soon begin again.
If Henry VII had followed the advice of a Ron Paul or an Ayn Rand, he would have failed.
So will we.
Jews have a much more supple and realistic attitude toward abstract principles. A few months ago, a Jew published an article in which he said, quite brazenly, that when Jewish survival is at stake, abstract moral principles must be set aside. In my circles, much to my disappointment, this was met with a great deal of clucking about how bad the Jews are.
Quite the contrary. It shows how wise the Jews are. The survival of their people should be more important to them than abstract moral principles.
Our people’s survival should be just as important for us.
To wed ourselves to a philosophy of powerlessness, a philosophy of decentralized government, a philosophy that always stresses private property rights and free trade over the health of the community as a whole, will inevitably lead to our downfall. Yet these very policies are embraced by the finest element of our nation’s citizenry.
I am not a statist. I don’t like the idea of government power. I’m a typical Anglo-Saxon Whig. I’d rather live on a farm and not have to see anybody else, not even the smoke from my neighbor’s chimney.
But as a realistic person I know that it can’t be that way. And, as unpleasant as it may be, in the kind of desperate life-or-death emergency our people are going to face some time in the next two generations, very firm action will be necessary if we are to survive. This will include state coercion on a scale that will make many in our movement unhappy. But the alternative will not just be military defeat, as with the South, but extinction. To stave off that day, we must learn to evaluate and apply all abstract principles by reference to the supreme principle of collective survival and flourishing.
Our people once knew this. Jews are famous for evaluating everything in light of their own collective interests: “Yes, but is it good for the Jews?” I certainly can’t condemn them for this. This is the key to their survival down through the millennia as a people scattered among other nations of the world, as well as to their current position of conspicuous wealth and power.
The ancient Romans had the same principle: salus populi lex suprema. The welfare, or the salvation, of the people is the supreme law. We too must learn to evaluate all issues of political and economic policy by this standard.
Which brings me to The Occidental Quarterly, which does stand as a unique publication in the English-speaking world. It’s an indication of the degree of our dispossession that it is the only publication dealing with issues like this in a thoughtful way.
TOQ is in its eighth year of publication. The Nation, which was founded in July of 1865, just celebrated its 143rd anniversary. We hope that TOQ will last as long as The Nation has lasted, even longer. We hope that it will impart the same sort of continuity to our movement that our enemies have enjoyed. We hope that its lonely defense of the legitimacy of white racial consciousness will become the common sense of a new age.
Lenin is an example of someone who was supple, not to say cynical, in choosing whatever policies advanced his faction. One of Lenin’s publications while he was in exile, plotting revolution, was called Iskra, which is the Russian word for “spark.” Its motto was: “From the spark shall come the flame.”
I hope that TOQ, by providing a forum for the thoughtful discussion of ideas like this, could be a spark that will touch off a flame and enable our people to understand what must be done for our survival, and to deal with a revolutionary situation with revolutionary means.
Sam G. Dickson is a lawyer, writer, and white community organizer.
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