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Roots Without Soil

American Gothic, by Grant Wood [1]1,249 words

Alexander Dugin’s recent essay, “Some Suggestions for the American People [2]” grapples with the riddle of American identity. While he offers insights on our predicament that warrant consideration, he begins with the same error every Continental Traditionalist makes, namely, he believes the American creation myth presumed and propagated by our coastal elites.

He explains:

[America] is a very individualistic society and a very liberal (in all senses) society. It is strictly coeval to the European Modernity, it was born Modern. That is important. To be born Modern means that the USA never became Modern, it never has been Pre-Modern. It is not relatively Modern. It is absolutely Modern. The USA doesn’t know what it is like to be non-Modern.

[ . . . ]

The only root of North-American society is the Modern concept of the individual. There is no other low level beneath individual. There is no Pre-Modern dimension, no deep roots. All began here in North America too late for roots, for the soil, for the space.

My own Appalachian pioneer forefathers were notoriously clannish, with a mystical Christian worldview and an intimate relationship with the land. Geologically speaking, even the very soil changed little for them, as both the homeland and the fatherland belong to the same Central Pangean mountain range they had inhabited before. In the Deep South, a quasi-feudal culture and economy flourished. Out West, a traditional honor culture thrived on the open plains. Even along the Eastern seaboard, rooted communities with Deep Identity flourished.

Dugin’s America [3] has systematically subjugated and broken all those identities in favor of its Cosmic American [4] anti-identity. While Jews are certainly the quintessential “rootless cosmopolitans” who escaped to America as a refuge from traditional European power and culture, they weren’t alone. The capitalist oligarchs (founding fathers), Transcendentalists [5], Puritan radicals, and other factions helped. They’ve won so decisively that for the rest of the world, “America” and Modernity are pretty much interchangeable.

Walking backward from the disputed conclusion that America is uniquely devoid of Deep Identity, Dugin explains why: We have no roots, no real connection with the soil . . .

Dasein exists as space, through space. People exists through space. The landscape is the living image of the country and people that dwells there. The soil is sacred for the deep identity as the basic vegetative level of the soul. The soil of Europe is a kind of visual material manifestation of culture. German archaeologist and anthropologist Leo Frobenius used to say: “the culture is the earth manifesting itself through the man.”

This popular romantic notion — call it geographical determinism — that the land determines the character and spirit of a people, is partially true. We, as individuals and communities, are partially molded by our environments. Ignoring genetic factors, and dismissing tangible beliefs and ideals as superficial, we’re left with the impression that human differences are pretty much entirely reflections of the soil beneath our feet. This, frankly, strikes me as an evasion of a deeper, common root of European identity, namely race.

Black Midwesterners are more strangers to me than Australians in the outback, Canadians in the tundra, and South Africans in the savanna. Black Americans and I certainly do share some cultural commonalities derived from the soil, such as a shared love of cornbread, but our racial differences mean that we retain distinct identities in the same habitats. Predictably, North America’s New Right is the only New Right which clearly identifies and openly discusses this vital racial aspect of identity and culture, although we do not reduce identity to race.

For most of recorded history, and during most of the time when people casually conflated “soil” with “environment,” agriculture — working with the soil — was the dominant occupation of the folk. That’s no longer the case, either in Russia, America, or anywhere else outside the Global South. People aren’t literally transformed by the soil, they’re transformed by their habitat, more specifically their niche within that habitat.

We no longer have mountain, valley, delta, and desert men. We have factory, service job, and bureaucracy men. This is the case the world over, with the regrettable leveling of geographical diversity. Russian men no longer awaken to the sunlight to till the soil in the brisk morning air. They wake up to an alarm clock to get to their jobs on the assembly lines or in their cubicles, just like we do. The rhythm of the seasons has been replaced by the time clock, the deep fryer buzzer, and the project deadline.

I don’t like it either. But advances in agribusiness technology categorically preclude reverting to an agricultural economy where people are busy working in the fields. The perennial principles of identity and tradition are as valid as ever, but they can’t be planted in soil that’s no longer there. A novel approach, a “Hydroponic Traditionalism” must be developed and promoted, lest we become delusional antiquarians. “Agrarianism” (Southern and otherwise) is not even wrong. I agree that the agricultural economy had a variety of virtuous effects on individuals and societies, but it’s not economically viable.

This problem isn’t merely America’s problem. It’s the world’s problem. We were merely the first ones to arrive at the problem. Russians will need to cope with it, too. Fortunately, beliefs and ideals can, in time, result in genuine “Deep Identity” as reliably as the soil did for our ancestors. America’s Amish communities are an instructive example, with heritage and soil indistinguishable from what the rest of us White Americans have, yet with a culture and rhythm of life alien and distinct from our own.

Western civilization is entering the mature stage of its mercantile age. I believe that transient occupations and fluid social classes are beginning to crystallize into insular and endogamous castes specialized for their specific niches within the overarching civilizational habitat. We can no longer expect or demand geographical boundaries to protect our identities or for our customs and traditions to emerge spontaneously from the soil.

I’m skeptical that Dugin’s own country’s identity can survive despite their own removal from the soil and their traditional lifestyles, without a similar embrace of a willful and deliberate ideal- and ideology-driven Russian vision. For their sake, I certainly hope they’re not too complacent about the security of their own identity against the twin challenges of modernity and automation.

The obvious and immediate death of the American “identity” presents us with the challenge and opportunity of forging entirely new communities and cultures around perennial principles. Surely enough, with time and the passing of generations, our efforts to embody and advance our “ideologies” will give rise to distinct concrete communities, just as a German Anabaptist quibble over subtle theological points resulted in the panorama of unique communities we know today as “Amish.”

What would it or could it look like? There probably won’t be one monolithic North American identity. Different currents and cultures within the White Nationalist and Traditionalist communities will choose different paths. White Southerners may create a socially conservative Southern nation. Greg Johnson’s “West Coast White Nationalists [6]” would likely take things in an entirely different direction. Traditionalist Catholics, Orthodox, Mormons, and all the other religious groups could form their own distinct communities.

But once the United States dissolves into distinct tribes and nations, what is to prevent them from falling into the fatal errors of warring with whites and blending with non-whites? Only an awareness of shared roots that run deeper than the religions, nations, small “t” traditions, languages, and landscapes that divide us. The deepest of those roots is race.