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June 30, 2006

Roger Scruton and Oikophobia

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards

Thanks to Right Reason's Steve Burton for calling attention to this brilliant Roger Scruton speech. Scruton explores the touchiness of our ruling elites where the topics of immigration and integration are concerned:

For a long time now the European political class has been in denial about the problems posed by the large-scale immigration of people who do not enter into our European way of life. It has turned angrily on those who have warned against the disruption that might follow, or who have affirmed the right of indigenous communities to refuse admission to people who cannot or will not assimilate. And one of the weapons that the elite has used, in order to ensure that it is never troubled by the truths that it denies, is to accuse those who wish to discuss the problem of 'racism and xenophobia'.

Scruton discusses what it means to belong to a society:

Every society depends on an experience of membership: a sense of who 'we' are, why we belong together, and what we share. This experience is pre-political: it precedes all political institutions, and provides our reason for accepting them. It unites left and right, blue-collar and white-collar, man and woman, parent and child. To threaten this 'first-person plural' is to open the way to atomisation, as people cease to recognize any general duty to their neighbours, and set out to pillage the accumulated resources while they can.

Scruton also invents a nifty new word -- "oikophobia" -- to fight back against those who use terms like "racism" and "xenophobia" to stifle legitimate discussion of important matters. Here's how he defines "oikophobia":

Its symptoms are instantly recognized: namely, the disposition, in any conflict, to side with 'them' against 'us', and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably 'ours'. I call the attitude okophobia -- the aversion to home -- by way of emphasizing its deep relation to xenophobia, of which it is the mirror image. Oikophobia is a stage through which the adolescent mind normally passes. But it is a stage in which intellectuals tend to become arrested.

Here's a Salon interview with Roger Scruton.



UPDATE: Lexington Green (via Helen Szamuely) is reminded of an article on a similar theme by Kenneth Minogue.

posted by Michael at June 30, 2006


I've always called this patriaphobia, from the Latin root patria which gives us patriotism and so forth. It's for "the idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone/ all centuries but this and every country but his own." The view can be summed up as "the other country, right or wrong".

Oikophobia sounds like fear of pigs.

Posted by: Brian on June 30, 2006 3:20 PM

Oikophobia is pretty awkward. How about calling it "Chomskyism"? :-)

Personally, I'm more along the lines of "Gee, I like America! And one thing I like about it is that it's a mixture of people from all over the place - whoever wanted or needed to come here at various time, some quite recently." An America that isn't in the process of absorbing waves of new immigrants and dealing with new population pressures from unfamiliar quarters of the globe strikes me as a less interesting place than the one in which I grew up. Less American.

Posted by: Glen Raphael on June 30, 2006 7:27 PM

It is a good article. I had this post about it, which may be of interest.

Posted by: Lexington Green on June 30, 2006 8:26 PM


Chomskyism? Listen to this: Whooooooosh. That's the sound of the gist of this article flying way over your head.

The "ours" referred to has absolutely nothing to do with what Chomsky was talking about.

Posted by: Bob on June 30, 2006 10:50 PM

At first I thought Scruton was referring to an unreasonable fear of _oiks_; as in _All Oiks Now: The Unnoticed Surrender of Middle England_ by Digby Anderson.

It seemed possible that the xenophilic/xenomaniac elitist accusations might be silenced by accusing the issuers of prejudice against against the working classes.

But "oikos"-phobia works too. A large part of the elite these days seems to be viscerally hostile to normal home life; they sneer at traditional nuclear families, which they assume to be nests of sexual and emotional dysfunction, while applauding every conceivable 'alternative'.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on July 1, 2006 12:11 AM

Yeah, we should run our immigration policy so Glen can cure what seems to be an chronic case of boredom. Yeah, sure Glen. Pick up a book once in a while, or maybe try a trip to the mall.

So America is a mixture of all things? Is this somehow related to the borderless country concept? Or your preference for anarchy? What is America if we are multi-cultural and multi-racial? It can't be a race, or religion, or culture, can it? It's not even language anymore. Its not a border, because if we don't enforce it, we don't have one. And since all the criminals who cross it illegally are okey dokey with ol' Glen, it can't be the rule of law. What is America, Glen, if we have no borders, no common language, culture, race, religion, or rule of law?

Why, its Glen's favorite state of being--it's anarchy! And as the elites seemingly ignore as best they can the democratic process and the will of the people, it seems ro be turning into a totalitarian state run by an unelected oligarchy. Other than that, its anarchy. How do we assimilate anarchy?

Posted by: s on July 1, 2006 2:32 AM

Strange that Scruton was invited to Brussels by the Vlaams Belang; a political party previously known as the Vlaams Blok [Flemish Block] that was forbidden for its openly racism.

They have become more clever now, and are desperately looking for acknowledgement, since no other Flemish political party wants to govern with it, in this country where governments on all levels are formed through political coalitions.

Posted by: ijsbrand on July 1, 2006 5:23 PM

Strange that Scruton was invited to Brussels by the Vlaams Belang; a political party previously known as the Vlaams Blok [Flemish Block] that was forbidden for its openly racism.

They have become more clever now, and are desperately looking for acknowledgement, since no other Flemish political party wants to govern with it, in this country where governments on all levels are formed through political coalitions.

Posted by: ijsbrand on July 1, 2006 5:24 PM

Strange that Scruton was invited to Brussels by the Vlaams Belang; a political party previously known as the Vlaams Blok that was forbidden for its openly racism.

They have become more clever now, and are desperately looking for acknowledgement, since no other Flemish political party wants to govern with it, in this country where governments on all levels are formed through political coalitions.

Posted by: ijsbrand on July 1, 2006 5:26 PM


I would love to take your assessment of Scruton at face value, but since lefties throw the word "racism" around like water balloons against anyone they disagree with, maybe you should define Scruton's great "thought crimes" to us in more detail. Does Vlaams Belang simply want to curb islamic and non-white immigration into your country (before your country is ruined by these people)? What's so wrong about that? Or will you be convicted of a "thought crime" for agreeing openly with them? Why are the europeans such cowards that they can't even force their own governments to allow the citizens the freedom of speech?

I guess that you can count me in as a sympathizer of Vlaams Belang. Living in America, I am also proud that I can say that openly! Too bad you guys can't!

Posted by: s on July 2, 2006 12:22 PM

Vlaams Belang

Belgium has been a bilingual Walloon/Flemish (~ French/Dutch) nation from the beginning, but Vlaams Belang wants the Flemish part to secede, taking some Walloon-majority cities with them.

Pym Fortune (probably) and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (definitely) have both called the party fascist. There is some evidence for Nazi sympathies.

Posted by: John Emerson on July 2, 2006 11:10 PM

What's the evidence for "Nazi sympathies"? Again, I have to ask that, because the words facist, racist, Nazi, etc. are hurled around by leftists ad nauseum. Why does the party want to secede? does it have anything to do with the disasterous immigration policies now in place? How does a european country save its culture with mass immigration which threatens to make the majority of native citizens a minority? Why can't the natives act to end it? Why can't we here do that too? Do we have self determination or not? Why are our preferences and laws being ignored by the elites?

Posted by: s on July 3, 2006 1:51 AM

John -- I have no first-hand way of evaluating Vlaams Belang, of course. Seems like a populist, anti-Muslim immigration phenomenon, as far as I can tell. Apparently many Jews support it, for example -- since they're the ones suffering from Muslim-immigrant anti-Semitism, it makes sense. Anyway, this posting and commentsthread at Samizdata illustrates how complicated the phenomenon seems to be.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 3, 2006 2:05 AM

*ijsbrand, can you opine on a tangential topic?
This article on A.H. Ali's site describes the events around the fall of the ND Government. The interpretation is that left-center party-member of the coalition, along with others on the Left (the Green Party, etc), have used the debate around Ms.Ali's citizenship to destroy the right-centrist government and to force imnmediate elections, in order to form a new Cabinet with higher percentage of Leftist partiers.
Do you read the conclusions [in the article] as I did?
Do you agree with this evaluation?
What is your take on this issue?

Posted by: Tatyana on July 3, 2006 11:09 AM

They're not just anti-immigrant, they're anti-French (Walloon). Belgium has been half French from the beginning -- the Walloons are not immigrants. This puts them in nut-case territory for me.

If Hirsi Ali and Fortune called them fascist, maybe they are. The word fascist is thrown around casually, but not by Fortune and Hirsi.

The evidence for Nazi sympathies is their demand that Flemings prosecuted for Nazi activity, including volunteering for the Nazi army, be exonerated. There are also individual connections with pro-Nazi Flemings. (I said "some evidence". It's not conclusive.) It was all there in the link.

Are we at the point that anyone accused of being a Fascist will be assumed to be right?

Posted by: John Emerson on July 3, 2006 11:22 AM

As a conservative, I don't get too excited about Hirsi Ali. From what I know of her, she is a radical feminist and secularist, with all of the attendant baggage.

Perhaps suggesting that she'd as soon bomb the Vatican as she would Mecca (as was once said of Christopher Hitchens) wouldn't be too far off in assessing her thinking.

Posted by: hugh on July 3, 2006 6:26 PM

Well John, It appears from the Wikipedia article you linked that more and more native Belgians are coming around to the "nut-case" party. Also, the so-called "Nazi sympathies" in the article were wisps of ether, smears made for the hurling of the dreaded leftist daggers of "racism" and "fascism" at conservative, citizen-first parties. Not conclusive is the key phrase.

Go Vlaams Belang! I hope they do well in the coming 2006 elections and garner the cooperation of other parties. Europe needs more nativist parties to survive the EU-Brussels Madness.

Posted by: s on July 4, 2006 12:09 AM

Well, the Vlaams Belang's primary goal seems to be to partition Belgium and form a Flemish rump state, within which the French-speaking Walloons (who are quite numerous within the "Flemish" sector) will be outsiders and second-class citizens. Theoretically they would join the Netherlands, which is predominantly ethnic Dutch, except that the Netherlands doesn't want them. They sound like Ian Paisley that way.

Apparently any anti-immigrant party is OK with you, no matter what else they stand for. I suppose you're going to be telling me terrible things about the cheese-eating surrender monkeys next.

Posted by: John Emerson on July 4, 2006 5:47 AM

John, apparently promulgating slander against citiizen-first parties who want to run their own countries for their own benefit is okay with you. How disgusting that you buy into the leftist propagandists who espouse democracy, then try to undermine it when it goes against their marxist agenda. Who has the VB party harmed? Nobody. They should do what they want. Its their country and their vote. I don't really care about France, except that they expel the welfare-dependent "guest workers", who aren't working or needed and just suck money out of the working natives, and then attack them!

Anti-immigration? You bet. Three hundred million is enough. Third largest country in the world, behind billionaires China and India. Not a race I want to be involved in. And 90 percent of Americans agree with me too. Ugly democracy, huh? But I'll take it over Ugly Anarchy and Ugly Tyranny any day of the week.

Posted by: s on July 4, 2006 12:55 PM

What I said was not slander -- it was factual. The Vlaams Beland is anti-Walloon (anti-French) in a binational Walloon-Flemish country. The Walloons are not immigrants, they're among the original citizens of Belgium.

Learn to read. Pay attention to facts. You're so desperate for anti-immigration action that that's all you care about. You're blind, like a dog biting himself where it hurts, or like a horse running back into a burning stable. I tried to tell you.

Posted by: John Emerson on July 4, 2006 11:46 PM

Tweet. Deep breaths everyone. It's possible to disagree yet be civil about it. Nothing we say on this blog is going to wind up on Tony Blair's desk tomorrow. Etc, etc.

Anyway, back to the debate. John, last I checked, the Basques want to secede (as do many smaller pops within many larger combines). Does that automatically make them fascists? Also, the response of the Belgian elite to the popularity of the first incarnation of VB was to, literally, outlaw them. That strikes me as a much more totalitarian, outrageous, and alarming act than anything VB has been party to. (Come to think of it, I don't know of any totalitarian acts that VB has been party to.) Disagree?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 5, 2006 12:38 AM

Does anyone here support or sympathize with the secessionist Basques, who in fact are long-time terrorists?

Fortune, and Hirsi Ali have called this party Fascist. Wiesenthal asked for an investigation, and the question of their relationship to the survivors Nazi Flemish Legion looks like an open one to me. I don't see why this is a difficult call.

Posted by: John Emerson on July 5, 2006 12:52 AM

John - I'm glad you aren't sitting behind a judge's desk! You're taking two unsupported accusations as definitive proof the most hideous kind of guilt. That's a little ... severe and premature, isn't it? Meanwhile, you're ignoring the fact that the Belgian establishment was so alarmed by the success of the VB that they had the courts outlaw it. I hate conversations where words like "fascism" and "totalitarian" get thrown around, but since we're there already: The outlawing of a successful populist political movement by the courts strikes me as alarmingly totalitarian, with the guilty part being not the VB but the Belgian Euro-enthusiast establishment.

As for Wiesenthal, well, that's a little more complicated than you're making it out.

Attacks against Jews and Jewish property — including an assault on the chief rabbi of Brussels and the firebombing of a Jewish bookstore in Brussels — prompted The Simon Wiesenthal Center in April 2002 to issue a travel advisory urging Jews to use “extreme caution” when traveling to Belgium.

In other words, the Belgian establishment has created conditions that are so bad that the Wiesenthal Center has urged Jews to watch it when they go to Belgium. Meanwhile, the VB's Filip DeWinter courts Jews, supports Israel, and issues warnings about what large-scale Islamic immigration might well mean for Jews. So ... you're supporting the Belgian establishment on this?

Happy to admit I have no first hand knowledge of anything here. But as far as I can tell from some web-trolling, this is a far more interesting and complicated story than you're making it out to be.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 5, 2006 2:17 AM

My original and main point was that these guys are anti-Walloon too. That passes a threshold for me, and to spare.

Fortune and Ali were pretty well established and well-respected in the anti-immigrant community, so I thought that their judgements might have some weight. I guess only when they agree with y'all -- once they disagree they just become random slanderers idly tossing around fascist accusations. Wiesenthal also has earned a degree of respect, or so I thought.

I found out about the then-Vlaams Blok some time ago because the thought of Belgian nationalism seemed so ridiculous to me. That's the problem with nationalism, that an ethnic group's unique defining traits come to seem more important than the traits they share with the rest of humanity. When it's German or Russian nationalism that can be frightening, but Flemish nationalism also just seems silly. Their anti-Walloon stance is the clincher.

Most anti-immigrant movements speak of universal human values or general European values, but the Vlaams Beland doesn't and can't.

There have been jokes about the U.S. North seceding and joining Canada, but those are jokes. But this is a serious movement that really thinks that way.

Posted by: John Emerson on July 5, 2006 7:45 AM

John -- To me the question is whether VB is a legitimate political party, not whether I want to vote for them or whether I agree with them. (And why do you find it so horrifying that they want to separate from the Walloons? It's not an issue that means anything to me ...) If they are legit, then it's roughly hundred times more appalling that they were banned than that they exist.

As to whether they're legit -- well, can you cite one reason why they aren't legit?

As to whether they're an interesting phenomenon ... Well, let's say a lot of Flemish Belgians are alarmed about immigration's effects on the country. Hey, here's a description of what conditions in Antewerp have been like recently. From an article that's no fan of VB:

Like neighbouring Rotterdam, power base of the murdered Dutch populist Pim Fortuyn, Mr Dewinter's home town, Antwerp, has become a multicultural powder keg, a recruiting centre for al-Qa'eda.

Last year, a former Hizbollah fighter from Lebanon, Abou Jahjah, led race riots that charged through the shopping district, allegedly smashing the windows of those who failed to pay protection money.

Children of ultra-orthodox Jews are preyed upon by North African gangs on their way to school and now have to walk in groups.

Seems to me unsurprising that a political movement expressing some alarm about these circumstances should arise.

And let's say that a lot of Dutch-speaking Belgians feel no loyalty to the French-speaking Belgians. From the same article:

Each year, the Dutch-speaking majority in the north pay a bigger share of GDP to subsidise their former masters in Wallonia than the west Germans transfer to their cousins in the eastern Lander.

Seems to me unsurprising that the Dutch-speakers should feel zero enthusiasim for this state of affairs.

So: They've clearly struck a nerve and they're clearly expressing something that demands expression. They may or may not deserve to ascend to power -- how would I know who to root for in Belgium? 90% of the time I'm not a rooter anyway. But I certainly find it interesting that the Belgian elites have gone and gotten themselves and their country into the pickle they're apparently in, and that the VB has gained such popularity. And I do find it appalling that the Belgian elite's response to the free expression of popular feeling in the country is to try to ban it.

Anyway, I can see zero reason to consider the VB illegitimate as a political party, and plenty of reason to find their ascendancy both interesting and telling about the ways in which conventional Euro-elites have screwed up.

Anyway: sure, of course, nationalism can become scary. At the moment, though, it's hardly as scary as the Tranzi-ism that's trying to suppress all expression of national feeling, and all discussion of several important political problems (of their own creation, btw).

Doing some Googling, btw, I see no evidence that Fortuyn accused VB of being fascist.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 5, 2006 8:20 AM

The Fortuyn citation is at the Wikipedia link I gave. It was in the Flemish newspaper "De Morgen" two days before Fortuyn's death.

The VB is out of power and thus is guilty of nothing, since they've never done anything. Based on what I see, that's a good thing, and they should be encouraged to remain out of power and not do anything.

I disagree with you about the relative dangers of immigrants and nationalists: the breakup of Yugoslavia should tell you something about the dangers of nationalism.

Every country, including the US, has some kind of unfairness in the allocation of government spending. Separatism is a very harsh solution. The fact that the Flemings have an animus against Walloons tells me that they're probably not good Europeans at all, but just garden-variety ultra-nationalists. The business in the article about "their former masters" has a Balkan feel to it -- apparently the VB is nursing grudges which are several hundred years old.

Seemingly at this point no accusation from anyone about an anti-immigrant group is going to be heard here. That's pretty scary one-dimensional politics. I never said anything about banning VB or not. They just strike me as a group to avoid, for the reasons I gave, and not one to be neutral about or to give tacit support to.

Posted by: John Emerson on July 5, 2006 9:40 AM

Yeah, I saw the Wikipedia citation, tks. I saw no confirmation of it anywhere else on the web, so I'm suspicious. But who knows, maybe he did say it.

I think you're arguing with a phantom of your own creation, fwiw. I'm certainly no partisan of the VB. For one thing, how would I know who's trustworthy let alone otherwise-worthy in Belgium? I do find it interesting that immigration has become such a flashfire issue in today's world -- I've had a hunch that it would for a long time now, so I'm feeling very self-satisfied.

I do find it telling (and appalling) that US and Euro elites have done and are doing such a ferocious job of 1) promoting immigration policies that their people don't want and that create fairly predictable (and intractable) problems, and 2) suppressing debate about it.

And I think your strategy of demonizing all national feelings is a mistake. Like any other feelings, if you deny and/or suppress 'em too adamantly, they'll come back and bite us in the ass. And, honestly, I'm surprised that a rogue leftie borderline anarchist (as I take you to be) would have any faith whatsoever to spare for Europe's ruling elites. Good lord, what a bunch of know-it-all top-down bureaucracy-lovin' regular-people-defying pricks.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 5, 2006 10:39 AM

Well, I'll butt out. I didn't expect this to be as contentious as it turned out to be.

It doesn't surprise me that the Pym Fortune story doesn't show up on Google, but here's the VB denial of the story (I can't read it either): DE GECENSUREERDE COLUMN VAN PIM FORTUYN OVER DEWINTER.

I did follow your Telegraph link and some related links on that page, and they gave me a lot more evidence for the neo-Nazi sympathies of Flemish nationalists than I had had.

Belgium seems to be in a bad way, but the VB seems definitely to be a big part of the problem. I'm not so contrarian that neo-Nazi connections aren't a deal-breaker for me.

Posted by: John Emerson on July 5, 2006 11:10 AM

Someone wrote: "the breakup of Yugoslavia should tell you something about the dangers of nationalism."

I think that the lesson is quite opposite. The breakup of Yugoslavia should tell us someting about the dangers of multiculturalsim.

Posted by: hugh on July 5, 2006 11:10 AM

Hugh: I promised to butt out, but anyway.

If you went by one-culture-one-nation, Switzerland would be four nations, France would be three to six nations, Finland would be two, Russia would be about 50-100, Spain would be three or four, and so on. Yugoslavia was more peaceful under Tito than it had been before or has been since. And you tell me what the enormous, killer difference are between Croats and Slovenes, or Macedonians and Serbs, so that they can't live together.

There just aren't that many true monocultures in the world. In the case of Belgium, the Flemings and Walloons are not clearly separated geographically, and that's more the rule than the exception. Monoculturalism also would also lead to a lot of silly little rump states, and that's what Free Flanders would end up being.

Posted by: John Emerson on July 5, 2006 11:38 AM

Let me express my sincere gratitude for highlighting my lunch with this exchange.

Especially entertaining were vivid agricultural metaphors by Mr.Emerson-Vespucci. I'm not going to say another word, or I'll spritz my drink on Co's monitor.

MB: I could have enlighten you about Mr.Emerson's platform or lack thereof, but I'm weak with laughter at the moment; besides, my new job is too demanding to spend precious lunch minutes on deciphering this enigma.


Posted by: Tat on July 5, 2006 2:18 PM

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