I am going to be an occasional guest on what I describe as a debate podcast named “The Pan-National Express”. Today the moderator, my fellow debater an ethnic-nationalist who went by the name Oslo, and I debated separatism (which may or may not get uploaded because of audio problems we had in recording it, but I enjoyed the debate and gained a better understanding of ethnic-nationalism because of it and want to have a conversation with my readers because of it). It was a very civil debate and I want to talk about it even before the episode is uploaded because I want people to remember how to have civil conversations with people we disagree with and how we can hopefully have productive and engaging conversations that result in increased understanding of one another and learn about other’s people’s positions in good faith. This reflection will explore the debate topic, my position, my understanding of my opponent’s position, what I wish I would have done better, and my purpose for engaging people who hold positions like this.
The topic of this debate was supposed to be about making a case for or against separatism. Separatism in the context of our debate was defined as advocacy for or practice of separation of a certain group of people from a larger body on the basis of ethnicity, religion, or gender. Separatism is not emblematic of all independence movements and to act like it is is problematic.
My opponent and I went in with vastly different expectations about our debate and each other (not to mention each other’s arguments) and I think our moderator did as well, and it ended up creating something that was at times a bit rough (thanks in part to our technological problems), educational, and at least in my opinion productive.
I was the anti-separatist in this particular discussion and it is my position in real life as well. I made a conscious decision to not focus on the morality of separatism as an idea, as in the idea of a state that is based on ethnicity, gender, or religion, as moral or immoral which some people just won’t like but I had a reason for making that decision. I simply don’t believe that I could convince someone who has Oslo’s position that their position is morally flawed. Someone else might be convincing, confident, or charismatic enough to try and do that but I am not and so instead I decided to focus on specifics and to make a case against separatism by focusing on that troublesome devil: details. I did this so that I could learn how seriously this idea is taken among people who hold these positions or otherwise agree with Oslo. I also did it to illustrate that oftentimes this idea even when being seriously advocated for by proponents at best needs to be fleshed out seriously & consciously
I hold two particular ideas that Olso discussed as morally neutral. The idea of voluntary separation, as in members of minority groups willingly choosing to leave a place for a variety of reasons including that they were financially compensated as morally neutral with the exception of this being that they experienced genuine discrimination and/or were threatened or otherwise forcibly compelled to leave. I also view ethnostates that exist contemporarily as morally neutral institutions at least on the basis of their ethnic compositions. Provided they are ethnostates not due to policies that criminalize immigration or policies that call for the violent extermination of minorities or the deprivation of their rights, but rather due to organic cultural perspectives and family-growth and immigration I have no issues with a theoretical ethnostate and find such a state to be morally neutral. In this debate, I pointed out that what we were discussing wasn’t really existing ethnostates but rather separatism as an idea and separatism as a vessel to create an ethnostate which is an important distinction in this discussion.
My Opponent’s Position:
My opponent was a proponent of ethnonationalism and a supporter of separatism as a vessel to create an ethnostate. His focus was fundamentally different from mine as he was instead focused on demonstrating that the idea of an ethnostate was not evil in and of itself and is at least an idea worth discussing. I agree with this stance and dislike labeling ideas that can be achieved nonviolently as evil or insidious. I agree with the basic position that ethnonationalism is a morally neutral position and that people have a right to want to live among their own people. What he and I disagree on are other things which I’ll get to in a second.
His basic moral argument was that people have freedom of association and thus that by extension people have freedom of disassociation which to an extent I agree with because I don’t think that argument by itself is unreasonable. I feel like he and I have a different view of freedom. When he discussed freedom in this discussion it felt like a big focus of his was discussing how freedom impacts the ability of the government to influence life on a communal scale. When I discuss freedom I tend to think of it as an individual thing impacting our rights relative to one another and not just from the government. When he thought of and discussed freedom in our conversation he often meant it from a government perspective. Which meant he and I differed fundamentally here. I agree with him that people have freedom of association but if I had been smarter I would have focused more on freedom of movement which is to me a fundamental freedom (and one I talked about in this debate as well) and I would have more intelligently discussed how I think that freedom isn’t just what the government can’t do but also what we can and can’t do to each other.
He cited a Robert Putman study which we discussed at some length. We all agreed that the data in it showed what Olso said but we disagreed about things like mitigating factors such as religion, and also about the importance of the data itself because as I pointed out things like trust in societies are subjective measures.
One of the things I am quite proud of in this debate was my effectiveness at pointing out a problem with one of his initial positions. He initially said that all ethnically-homogenous societies were superior to multicultural ones and outperformed them in metrics of social & societal indices. While we had some difficulty with specific examples I did at least get him to admit that this idea was flawed and untrue. He didn’t seem to mind this that much thanks to him having a preference for what he views as white-societies but it was nice to see him truly give credit where credit was due.
What I Would Have Liked To Do Better:
I would have liked to have focused more on the freedom of people of any and all races & ethnicities to travel and move anywhere within reasonable limits and the idea of an ethnostate is not a reasonable limit even if it is a morally neutral idea. Ideally, I would have also liked have focused on the data that Robert Putman had cited in the section of his paper focusing on the benefits and prospects of immigration and ethnic diversity.
Why Am I Debating These Ideas?
I have a variety of reasons for debating these ideas. First and foremost because I don’t want to misrepresent those I disagree with. I want to learn their views firsthand and I want to be capable of making an intelligent case against them, not one that relies on moral outrage or emotional evocativeness.
I want to equip those who hold my positions with the ability to meet people who hold positions we disagree with and defeat them intellectually and for me, this isn’t something I necessarily have right now but rather want to work towards over time. I also want to be intellectually honest enough to change my position if I become convinced that someone else’s position is correct and the only way I can ensure that I remain that intellectually honest is to enable in debate regularly and have conversations with people I disagree with instead of creating and sitting in my own echo-chamber.
I want to be a politician who creates compelling arguments and this is me practicing for that down the road. I want to be capable of facing off against those who disagree with me and convince them that my path is the correct one.
I also want to show people that we need to shed our internal biases about certain political beliefs and the characteristics of those who have those beliefs. I, for instance, am a progressive but unlike at the very the depiction of others who in theory share my beliefs & positions, I am not for silencing those who disagree with me, even those who are in the eyes of many in my political circles “radical”. I want to help push my party and those who hold similar beliefs to myself in the correct direction which is to me at least a direction that does not police ideas but rather encourages and is involved in the free exchange of ideas and beliefs. I want people to see and hear more bold progressives who don’t rely on emotional outrage to shape policy & discussions but instead rely on logical & evidence-based positions to create a country and society that is better for our members and the world itself.
All of these things are ongoing processes and I hope that this helps make sense of my willingness to be in these controversial and often heated conversations. I will continue being a member of the Pan-National Express and I am looking forward to having more conversations about separatism and other controversial topics.