On a few recent trips to eastern Hungary to visit a friend, a self-professed Identitarian and national socialist, a whole subculture that I’d thought only existed online emerged from the woodwork. Young, middle-class and immune to guilt, a surprising number of 20-something Hungarian nationalists today are far enough removed from the schoolmarmish speech codes and thought-policing pantywaists of the West that they don’t face so many daily challenges to their weltanschauung. This allows them to envelope themselves in groupthink both online and offline, boosting their self-confidence for good and for bad.
The good is a healthy pride in their history, language, religious culture, and people. Such pride is the polar opposite of what’s commonly taught these days: instead of feeling guilt for past atrocities they never committed, they take pride in past accomplishments they were never a part of. Although these are both extremes, their reaction is an understandable reflex in a post-Christian age when original sin has been repackaged as a hyperinflated sense of guilt. The bad is when pride in one’s identity becomes blinding, especially to the similarities of close neighbors. This type of petty nationalism is something vaguely familiar to me thanks only to the existence of Canada. In every region of Europe, there’s a cacophony of arguments over varying histories among close neighbors with long memories, and although bathing in the narcissism of small differences can be a blast, the debates too easily regress into a cesspit of petty rivalries.
Coming from the United States, European-style nationalism doesn’t stir me much because my home has historically been effective at boiling off these old-world identities and assimilating the rest into a broad American culture. There, the first-generation disparities between Hungarians and Romanians evaporate into the ether by the third generation. “Culturally Christian European-American” becomes the new implicit identity, and the rest is simply “Oh, your grandpa was Hungarian? Cool. One of mine was from Romanian.” The petty rivalries of predecessors are squelched. The post-’65 changes in immigration have brought a tsunami of non-Europeans to the United States, however, and Americans are losing their mettle to assimilate the newcomers. Because that’s raaycist.
No savant has the verbal chops to tease out a palingenetic mythos from the mystic chords of American memory that could make me feel schmaltzy toward my Spanish-speaking Salvadorian neighbors or my FOB Chinese classmates. Lacking the will to assimilate, we simply become inhabitants of the same geographic space, somewhere within a proposition nation. The New Colossus, though yet unratified, is the zeroth amendment that we’re expected to pledge our allegiance to. Beyond that, I see us as being no more bound together than if we were strangers in a stadium full of football fans: one franchise, of a sport, indistinguishable, with mercenaries lunging for balls. This being the case, the closest alternative that America has to nationalism is its watered-down, new-world cousin: patriotism.
In rural, eastern Hungary, there’s a sense that people are more than just fungible units of citizenship to be fed to The Economy in some experimental proposition nation. That sense is badly lacking in the United States, where social capital and diversity are inversely related, and diversity is on the rise. For today’s increasingly atomized America, coupling a moratorium on most forms of immigration with the promotion of a citizenist ethos are, in my opinion, the best ways to get Americans to organically take interest in promoting the general welfare of their fellow citizens over that of seven billion foreigners. Rather than give it away like flyers, if American citizenship were better protected in proportion to its value, then maybe New Deal civic-mindedness would make a comeback.
But this is a quixotic hope to have, even for a young person. The only comfort of having hope is in being able to double-down when confronted with facts that cut your aspirations to ribbons. Ditto for idols and ideologies. With the Cold War in the past, we are now entering a post-ideological era. It’s no longer a world strung between communism and capitalism, but instead one racked between globalism and localism. Globalization, for all its benefits, has reached a point of diminishing returns and the proles are getting restless. Populism, or giving the people what they want, will hopefully shatter the era of ideologies for good. Through it there’s a chance to smash established orthodoxies and pull ideas from all sides of the ideological spectrum. That’s why I have a modicum of hope that the future will be with patriotic socialism rather than faceless franchise globalism.