Man Without a Country

The statement of the convenience store owner allegedly robbed by Michael Brown seemed almost straight out of a 1950s TV show. The owner, of subcontinental or Middle Eastern appearance on the robbery surveillance tape,  issued a statement to the public through his lawyers. Leave me out of it.


The store’s owners, through their attorney, sent the message that they want to stay as far away from the situation as possible. In fact, he said, even after the initial alleged theft, it was a customer who called police.

“It’s not about them. They didn’t call the police, they didn’t ask the police to come and take the video,” said attorney Jay Kanzler….

Now, the Ferguson Market owners are hoping the video won’t make them a target.

“They would hope that the people of this community, who have consistently supported them, would continue to support them, and realize that whatever the police are looking at on the surveillance tapes has nothing to with what went on in the streets,” said Kanzler.

Target of whom? And won’t the cops protect him? Think of Robert Stack playing Eliot Ness uttering standard Golden Age lines about the melting pot based on truth and justice.  In the early part of the 20th century people saw the future as countries.

Ness: “Now Salvatore, tell us what you saw.”
Salvatore: “No  Mr. Ness. I no a-talk to the the police. In the old-ah country I learn that it’s-a better to mind your own business.”
Ness: “Salvatore, this is America. The police protect you here. We have courts. We have justice.”
Salvatore: “I prefer the old a-ways Mr Ness.”

The Ebola epidemic showed that most people don’t trust authority in West Africa. And perhaps that’s true in most places. In only a few countries would people say, “help police”. Most places they say, “help, it’s the police!” The national myth of the 1950s was that America could be different from the old country. But by the looks of it the convenience store operator doesn’t trust either the police, Al Sharpton or Eric Holder.

Shop owners appeared later in the day armed to the teeth.  Further photos of this shop owner depict him being reinforced by people who look like his cousin, brother or near relation similarly equipped.


I trust Mikhail and Eugene

I trust Mikhail and Eugene, the police and human decency, not so much

Tribalism is trending.  The End of History world is over. All of a sudden it matters again whether you’re Yazidi, Kurdish, Sunni, Shi’ite, Druze or Christian. It apparently matters whether you’re Russian or non-Russian, at least in Eastern Europe. And as Tolu Ongulesi in Nigeria notes, tribalism is alive and well in Africa, especially now that Ebola is running rampant.

Perhaps there is the answer to the rhetorical question in yesterday’s post.

That the current system is in flux is no longer in doubt. What everyone wants to know is where the attractor is. “In dynamical systems, an attractor is a set of physical properties toward which a system tends to evolve.” Where is the world going? Who is going to lead it?

History may be evolving away from the Westphalian State, with its unitary national culture, flags and traditions and moving towards affinity groups whose allegiance is primarily to themselves;  which only form temporary alliances based on expedience in competition with other affinity groups.

The evidence is suggestive. Nobody is just an “American” any more. Anyone who insists on the plain identifier must be a secret bigot. You are a [modifier][-][American]. In fact, Forbes noted that “the number of Americans renouncing United States citizenship or terminating long-term residency is on a record pace.” And why not? The unadorned term “American” is being drained of meaning; what value there is lies in the prefix, not in the suffix.

“Mr Ness, I used to be a-proud of just being an American. Now people say, ‘what’s a-that?'”

And it’s not just America. Other countries are in similar case. It’s amusing to read the papers bemoaning how many ‘Norwegians’, ‘Germans’ or ‘Scotsmen’ are joining ISIS and vowing to make the black flag of the Jihad fly over the Westminster or the White House. But what they really mean is that the Jihadi  holds a Norwegian, German or British passport. Nationality has become reduced to documentation. To suggest otherwise is, well, racist.


The Left for its part, has done its level best to multiply the hyphens while simultaneously trying to increase the size and power of the central state. They little realized or perhaps they realized all too well, that a program of cultural fragmentation combined with growing central power is the high road to dictatorship. You can have cultural diversity and a strong central government but not both — not unless it’s headed by a Sultan or an Emperor.

Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner notes that cultural diversity requires federalism. He argues that most of the problems in Washington are the result of tryng to combine fragmentation at the bottom with centralism at the top. Washington politics is gridlocked because governance from the center is impossible as the hyphens are multiplied indefinitely.

It may sound pedestrian to point out, but it’s critical to restate why it’s so important that our nation is called the United States of America, and not simply America.

The full name emphasizes that the Founders viewed the nation not as one monolithic entity but as a union of sovereign entities delegating limited powers to a central government….

There has been a lot of handwringing in recent years about how divided Washington is, and how it’s difficult for the parties to come together on anything. But the reality is that the states are divided among themselves.

The architecture of the Constitution offers a natural solution to this problem. Instead of trying to solve every issue at the national level, power should be shifted back to the states. Those states whose residents are willing to pay higher taxes for more government services should be free to do so, as should states whose residents are willing to forgo government benefits in favor of lower taxes. Under such a system, instead of bitterly hashing out every issue in Washington, Congress could be focusing on a limited range of issues.

It’s clear that liberals don’t see things this way. But it should be no surprise that their efforts to impose one-size-fits-all solutions across the nation encounter so much resistance.


Washington has become a battleground between the hyphens instead of the meeting place between the states. The Left is addicted to centralization but it won’t give up the hyphens. The result is either paralysis or the alternative, diktat.

Who controls Washington? Who controls the Ferguson police? Not the shop owners at least. After national attention forced the Ferguson cops to withdraw from the streets on charges of racism, the looters and store owners were left to duke it out between themselves pending the resolution of the problem in Washington and in the national media.

Politics is becoming about identity all the time. Wired links to the ethnic map of the United States.

In Chicago, bands of whites, blacks, and Latinos radiate out from the city center like sun beams. In St. Louis, a buffer of a few blocks separates a vast area of largely black citizens from another of white and Asian ones. In Detroit, the most segregated city in America according to one recent study, there’s no buffer at all. We see how 8 Mile Road serves as the dividing line between two largely homogenous swaths–one predominantly white and one predominantly black.

Nor is this all. There are affinity groups which cut across ethnicity based on sexual orientation, religion, level of disability, age and degree of dependence on one industry or the other, including government. This creates a bewildering landscape of interests and competing loyalties. The Democrats believe that the key to understanding the wilderness they’ve created is Big Data and its interface, social media. But if hyphenation — indeed multiple hyphenation — is the future, then Washington may be in the past.

In some parts of the world, the nation state is the future. What do Kurds want, except Kurdistan? What do the Palestinians want but Palestine?  What do Jews aspire to except “next year in Jerusalem, the rebuilt”? Everyone’s dream, even of women qua women, according to Virginia Woolf,  is A Room of One’s Own. This is in contrast to the administration’s line about the southern border: America is  “A Room Not One’s Own”. While nations are burgeoning elsewhere, concepts like “America”, “England” or “Norway” seem on the way out. In those places, the national identity is in the past.


What if nations’, as traditionally defined, are now passe? Suppose we are moving to a future where Westphalian nationality is nominal and operational identity is associated with a primary affinity group (PAG)? The most obvious candidate PAG is money. The tribe of the executive airport lounge, first class seating and the non-motel hotel. Some believe it is now possible to speak of a transnational elite whose real citizenship is money.

Or perhaps the PAG will be defined by values, religion, or membership in a mutual protection association into which you pay dues, like the military, police or ISIS. If this is the future then the dominant attractor of 21st century will be self-identification. Then we are not watching the last religious or ideological wars, merely the first.

The Westphalian veneer is peeling off in places where it’s just been painted on. In Liberia, there are ministers, directors of health, people with fancy titles, just like anywhere else. All the furniture of the nation state. But in reality these are artificial ornaments overlaid on an ancient fabric.  The Daily Beast describes how the personal intervention of a senior Liberian bureaucrat made a mockery of quarantine regulations.  Buzzfeed has a terrifying account of how a mob looted an Ebola hospital in Liberia’s West Point township.

The calendar says we’re in the first part of the 21st century. But whether AD or BC nobody has specified.  The Liberians didn’t trust the police. They didn’t trust the health ministry, with reason since many “isolation centers” were merely places for people to die.  They are heartbreaking scenes compounded of compassion, necessity, poverty and ignorance. So some looters figured the best thing to do was run off with the beds, towels and equipment of the Ebola hospital.  What could go wrong?

A mob descended on the center at around 5:30 p.m., chanting, “No Ebola in West Point! No Ebola in West Point!” They stormed the front gate and pushed into the holding center. They stole the few gloves someone had donated this morning, and the chlorine sprayers used to disinfect the bodies of those who die here, all the while hollering that Ebola is a hoax.

They ransacked the protective suits, the goggles, the masks. They destroyed part of Tarplah’s car as he was fleeing the crowd. Jemimah Kargbo, a health care worker at a clinic next door, said they took mattresses and bedding, utensils and plastic chairs.

“Everybody left with their own thing,” she said. “What are they carrying to their homes? They are carrying their deaths.”

She said the police showed up but the crowd intimidated them.

“The police were there but they couldn’t contain them. They started threatening the police, so the police just looked at them,” she said.  And then mob left with all of the patients.


“What are they carrying to their homes? They are carrying their deaths.” When they start feeling bad in a few days it will just be bad luck.

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