Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ferreting Out The Good in Folkism

Ok, I've said a few critical words about Folkism, and now, because I believe in balance, I want to explore the other side. The good side.

When I think of folkism, I always think of Disneyland and It's A Small World. I always loved that ride as a kid, and it has a beautiful vision, a vision of a diversity of cultures, all equally valid, all across the globe, and how wonderful it is for every folk culture to flourish.

That vision of cultural diversity, and cultural self-determination, is one of the best talking-points of Folkism.

But the thing about It's A Small World is that it assumes that every folk culture is going to stay completely pure and not inter-influence each other. And the Folkish are big to grab upon the Straw Man of globalization and accuse every hybrid of merely being a product of empire. Bullshit.

Small World is nice, and then there's my life. My life which is full of hybrids. I have friends and family from every continent on the planet. My lovers have spanned across cultures.

And sometimes you have to look at ethnic isolationists and say, man, you need to get out a little bit more. Y'know, a little rap is not going to kill you ; I know you don't think it's music, but some of it has got some spirit. (I don't really care what music you listen to ; I hate listening to music I don't like.)

Because my life is crisscrossed with hybridity, there is no way I could ever take some sort of ethnic isolationist or nationalist stance. It would be the most absurd thing in the world.

And Wyrd weaves, folks. That means crisscrossing, threads going this way and that.

Spengler, Nazi sympathizer that he sometimes was (and sometimes also courageously resisted), had a more organic vision of how various Folk crisscross throughout history, as Wyrd weaves its mighty loom. He said, in Die Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West), "A boundless mass of human Being, flowing in a stream without banks; upstream, a dark past wherein our time-sense loses all powers of definition and restless or uneasy fancy conjures up geological periods to hide away an eternally unsolvable riddle, downstream, a future even so dark and timeless - such is the groundwork of the Faustian picture of human history.Over the expanse of the water passes the endless uniform wave-train of the generations. Here and there bright shafts of light broaden out, everywhere dancing flashes confuse and disturb the clear mirror, changing, sparkling, vanishing. These are what we call the clans, tribes, peoples, races which unify a series of generations within this or that limited area of the historical surface. As widely as these differ in creative Power, so widely do the images that they create vary in duration and plasticity, and when the creative power dies out, the physiognomic, linguistic and spiritual identification-marks vanish also and the phenomenon subsides again into the ruck of the generations. Aryans, Mongols, Germans, Kelts, Parthians, Franks, Carthaginians, Berbers, Bantu's are names by which we specify some very heterogeneous images of this order. But over this surface, too, the great Cultures accomplish their majestic wave-cycles. They appear suddenly, swell in splendid lines, lessen again and vanish, and the face of the waters is once more a sleeping waste. A Culture is born in the moment when a great soul awakens out of the proto- spirituality of ever-childish humanity, and detaches itself, a form from the formless, a bounded and mortal thing from the boundless and enduring. It blooms on the soil of an exactly-definable landscape, to which plant-wise it remains bound. It dies when this soul has actualised the full sum of its possibilities in the shape of peoples, languages, dogmas, arts, states, sciences, and reverts into the proto-soul. But its living existence, that sequence of great epochs which define and display the stages of fulfilment, is an inner passionate struggle to maintain the Idea against the powers of Chaos without and the unconscious muttering deep-down within. It is not only the artist who struggles against the resistance of the material and the stifling of the idea within him. Every Culture stands in a deeply-symbolical, almost in a mystical, relation to the Extended, the space, in which and through which it strives to actualise itself. The aim once attained - the idea, the entire content of inner possibilities, fulfilled and made externally actual - the Culture suddenly hardens, it mortifies, its blood congeals, its force breaks down, and it becomes Civilization, the thing which we feel and understand in the words Egypticism, Byzantinism, Mandarinism. As such they may, like worn-out giant of the primeval forest, thrust their decaying branches towards the sky for hundreds or thousands of years, as we see in China, in India, in the Islamic world." (emphasis mine)

There is a seed of something marvelous here, but what he fails to see is that cultures do not organically birth, grow, and then simply die, but more marvelously, the ripples of these waves cross over each other and are taken up from each other in all kinds of wondrously diverse ways. So, in a sense, cultures are always reincarnating, rebirthing from the ashes, and reforming themselves. Ethnogenesis is continual, from the hybrid waves, which means the paranoia against the dissolution of "the Idea" is unnecessary, as is the "hardening" he thinks inevitable.

Spengler is wrong here to think that a "single" culture (cultures are so diverse that even a "single" culture is hardly singular, but full of rich and ripe variation) has one single "Idea" it propagates.

In a sense, we're all --- all of us --- trying to propagate the same Idea, and that Idea is Survival. The ideas that flourish out in the creative fleshing out of how to survive and thrive on this planet make for a cultural creativity that is vibrant and awesome. In this sense, cultures champion many Ideas, not just one Idea. Let's not be so monotheistic about it.

It's important to remember that MANNAZ, we are all human. The moment we forget that each of our cultures are but wonderful shimmerings and eddies of creativity and heirloom effervescence upon the rippling waves of our larger humanity, and begin to think that different tribes mean different species, we have lost our way completely. Time to come back to reality.

Spengler ends this thought with the idea that cultures can become Giants, and that these Jotnar are equivalent to what some call "Civilizations" or empires. (It's unfortunate he mixes this image of giantishness with the beauty of ancient trees.) This is not inevitable, but we do see it happen. It can happen where one culture, one way of life, tries to make itself monolithic and impose itself upon all other cultures. But there's something equally stingy and narrow about cultures closing up on themselves and refusing to interact with the rich diversity of the world. For it is rich interaction with the diversity of the world that continually recreates culture as something creative to affirm, as opposed to something paranoid and narcissistic.

The interweaving of the folk of the world is not some monster to fear. Wyrd goes on weaving, and in the interrippling, the ethnogenesis of the world flows onward. From these flows, new tribes will form, and old tribes will revision themselves anew. There's nothing to be paranoid about. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision still holds. It is still a future to look forward to.

This is not to say that globalization and the homogenization of cultures worldwide is not a problem, but it is to say that ironically, we preserve ourselves best where we interact most flourishingly. Welcome the interweaving, and give it your all, so that the folk who result from these crisscrossing of flows and currents will be a soulful folk.

And they will thank you and me. For passing on soulfulness along the great streamings of rippling time, where Wyrd works her wonders.

A toast to Njord, and lovers in every port, on every continent! A toast to Odr, who wanders amongst all the folk of the world, sharing songs and praises of love. A toast to Freya, who is known by many names across the world's expanses. And a toast to Odin, Way-Tamer, who wanders ever in search of wisdom, wherever it may be found. Hail!


Blogger Joseph said...

So this is about the _good_ parts of folkism? I'm trying to see the positive in what you wrote...

6:41 PM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

"That vision of cultural diversity, and cultural self-determination, is one of the best talking-points of Folkism" sounds pretty positive to me.

And after all, I compare folkism to one of my favorite rides at Disneyland. What better compliment could it get?

The vision of cultural diversity and self-determination is great! It's the cultural isolationism and nationalism that is the problem.

I think I give Folkism high praise here, but I also wanted to explore how it could metamorphosize to be more in tune with Wyrd. That's why I included Spengler's quote, because it's a turning-point piece that connects various volk back to the currents of humanity.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

And after all, I compare folkism to one of my favorite rides at Disneyland. What better compliment could it get?

Absolutely, but later on you undermine the good point completely by saying that the Small World vision is "bullshit" and expounding on its limitations. Then you go on to continue your critique of the folkish viewpoint.

I'm not trying to defend the folkish point of view here, or say that your observations about its shortcomings are somehow flawed. I myself belong to a heathen group which includes people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, and happily so. But it does seem a tad disingenuous that your post, which was supposed to point out the positive aspects of folkishness, ends up spending most of its time continuing the critique from the previous post.

7:23 PM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Well, not precisely. What I call bullshit is the idea that all hybridity is a result of empire. My assumption is that in a free situation, peoples would freely interact all the time, without being forced. Some people would be more cautious, conservative, and isolationist, while others would be more interactive and diffusionist. The vision of cultural diversity represented by A Small World is not bullshit, decidedly not, but we do have to acknowledge that there's going to be molecular interaction that changes from within these molar nationalist categories. That was my point.

I didn't mean to use the rest of the article to "undermine" folkism, but to engage some of its concepts in a more progressive direction. To begin at a certain point, and then use that point to progress to a more interesting place.

But if I have a hard time finding many good things to say about folkism, that is probably because I have a hard time finding many good things to say about folkism. It's a historical fact that it stems out of Volkism (as its very name suggests), and while not everyone who is folkish shares the racism, anti-semitism, and rabid nationalism that many of the Volkish did, it's still a strong enough current to eye with some suspicion. I probably should do a post about liking the idea that the "Gods are in the blood". There's something nice about that, but the concept needs some refining.

You make a good point, and I'll see if there's anything else I ought to be appreciating about folkism. Perhaps you or others could suggest some good points I might write about. I am, despite being opinionated, open to suggestion and critique.

9:55 PM  

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