Icelanders will soon be able to publicly worship at a shrine to Thor, Odin and Frigg with construction starting this month on the island’s first major temple to the Norse gods since the Viking age.
[Iceland to build first temple to Norse gods since Viking age; The Guardian, February 2, 2015]
This is probably a sign of something or other, though I am not sure what. It brought to my mind an effort I made some years ago to understand the rationalization theories of pioneering sociologist Max Weber.
My effort wasn’t very successful. I really have no head for abstract philosophizing, and whatever points I may have grasped have slipped away with the passage of time.
I do recall, though, that Weber made much of the notion of disenchantment when describing the historical development of religious belief. The word is actually more expressive in the German original: Entzauberung.
Zauber is the German word for “magic”; ent- signifies a downgrading or abandonment; so Entzauberung is a de-magicking—or perhaps more accurately, de-sacralizing.
The colorful gods of ancient Europe had had their magic stripped away when monotheism came up, said Weber. More recently, the triumphs of science had sucked the magic out of monotheism, leaving us in a disenchanted world of secular rationalism.
(My dim and fragmentary recollections of Weber’s arguments should by no means be relied on as authoritative. If you want to have a go at Weber yourself, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a 10,000-word article on him. Enjoy!)
Perhaps those Icelanders are looking for some re-enchantment, if only in the rather watery, apologetic style of modern Western religiosity. The Guardian reports:
Iceland’s neo-pagans still celebrate the ancient sacrificial ritual of Blot with music, reading, eating and drinking, but nowadays leave out the slaughter of animals.Whether or not they are seeking re-enchantment, dis-enchantment is sometimes to be welcomed. Words have power—magic—and sometimes they have so much of it that we can no longer discuss rationally the things they refer to.
That has been the case with National Question issues for as long as I have been engaged with them. It has especially been the case with immigration. The whole topic has had an aura about it, a glow of magic, which acted as a kind of force field repelling all rational discussion.
I tackled this in my multiverse-spanning 2009 bestseller We Are Doomed:
Immigration is a difficult topic to discuss. The reason it is so difficult is that it has, more I think than any other aspect of U.S. policy, been moralized, in fact hyper-moralized … The complicity of cheerily optimistic conservatives in that hyper-moralizing is perhaps their greatest sin against good sense and proper conservative skepticism…Those remarks distilled years of experience with mainstream conservatives. You could never get them to engage with immigration. It seemed that in their minds there was something sacrilegious about doing so, something … unclean.
Immigration is just a policy, like farm supports, military recruitment, national parks maintenance, and income tax rates. Goodness, as the lady said, has nothing to do with it.
This was especially the case with Jewish conservatives (for them, I suppose, the correct term would be treyf). John Podhoretz, with whom for a while I shared blogging privileges at National Review Online, was particularly splenetic towards anyone who dared suggest that immigration on any scale is other than an unqualified good.
(Although Podhoretz always seemed to me a very nasty piece of work, he did once cause me to smile. At the time of my defenestration from National Review in 2012, Podhoretz tweeted that: “I spent years on NRO’s Corner expressing my disgust in ways large and small with John Derbyshire. Now he will reap the whirlwind.” To be dropped from the contributor list of a minor magazine is, in Podhoretz’s imagination, to “reap the whirlwind.” This is a guy to whom nothing much has ever happened.)
In the year or so prior to presidential elections in 2004, 2008, and 2012, GOP hopefuls would drop by at National Review to share their thoughts with us. The hopeful would meet with a dozen or so editors and contributors in the magazine’s library.
I think it was always the case that I was the only person in the room ever to ask a candidate about immigration policy. As I did so, the other staffers present would squirm and examine their fingernails. I recall thinking, time and again: “What’s the matter with you guys? It’s just a policy.” (The hopefuls were invariably clueless.)
That was the point, though. Immigration wasn’t just a policy: it was a sacrament. To ask questions about it was to pry into divine mysteries.
That seems to be no longer the case. The topic of immigration has lost its magic. It has suffered Entzauberung—disenchantment. National Review now runs immigration-restrictionist articles that would not have been out of place—well, not very out of place—in VDARE ten years ago. TV bigfoots like Bill O’Reilly treat immigration policy as policy, not high morality.
Republicans in Congress now deal with immigration as a front-burner issue, and a few of them—Senator Jeff Sessions, Representative Steve King—stand up forthrightly for American workers and taxpayers, regardless of the inconvenience to foreigners.
It’s been a slow sea change, and it’s still going on, but immigration patriots can only be hopeful.
Several things are driving the disenchantment. The most newsworthy factors have been Barack Obama’s extraordinary initiatives to maximize immigration both legal and illegal, and to displace American workers and to shield criminal aliens from normal law enforcement.
Probably more important has been the slow-dawning realization among ordinary Americans that continuing mass immigration has not been the boon economists promised. Working- and middle-class Americans can hardly have failed to notice that they are competing for a static pool of jobs with swelling numbers of foreigners.
As you send your resume for the latest job ad, do you ever feel like the labor market is rigged against you? The job boards have turned into such black holes that we need Stephen Hawking to come work out the equations for us. You send your resume in, and it disappears.There is still a long road to travel before we arrive at a sane immigration policy. Big-money interests are still pushing hard for mass immigration. Jeb Bush, an Open-Borders fanatic, is current favorite for the 2016 GOP nomination, with Scott Walker, who is hardly any better, the most credible contender. [The GOP Elite Puts Its Foot Down, By Bill Scher, Politico, February 2, 2015] Polls show a strong uptick in the “dissatisfied with current levels of immigration” number this past few months, but 33 percent are still satisfied. [In U.S., 6 in 10 Dissatisfied With Immigration Levels, by Andrew Dugan, Gallup, January 29, 2013]
In 2012, Eric Auld, an unemployed 26-year-old with a master’s degree in English, decided to find out what was on the other side of the black hole. He created a fake job ad as an experiment:
Administrative Assistant needed for busy Midtown office. Hours are Monday through Friday, nine to five. Job duties include: filing, copying, answering phones, sending e-mails, greeting clients, scheduling appointments. Previous experience in an office setting preferred, but will train the right candidate. This is a full-time position with health benefits. Please e-mail résumé if interested. Compensation: $12-$13 per hour.If you have ever applied for a job like that, I offer my condolences. You have better odds at the casino. Auld received 653 responses in 24 hours. 10% of the applicants had more than 10 years of experience, and 3% of them had master’s degrees. Presumably, one of them would get the job. But what does that mean? It means that all the other experienced applicants and master’s degree holders would remain unemployed. That is about 64 experienced workers and about 19 workers with master’s degrees. The only way to get a job like this is if you are sleeping with the human resources manager. And this is for a job that pays $12 in Manhattan. If this doesn’t qualify the United States as a third world country, what will?
[Fired Before Hired: How Corporations Rigged The Job Market And Killed The American Dream, by Daniel Drew, Zero Hedge, January 28, 2015]
The disenchantment of the topic has, though, I believe, been a key development, allowing immigration to be dealt with as we at VDARE.com have always wanted it to be: as policy, with costs and benefits to the American nation weighed calmly in the balance.
And if you miss the enchantment, you could always join the Icelanders in their devotions, although unfortunately you have just missed the midwinter Blot.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His most recent book, published by VDARE.com com is FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle).His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.
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