Part 5: Love

And now gentlemen,
A word I give to remain in your memories and minds,
As base and finale too for all metaphysics.

(So to the students the old professor,
At the close of his crowded course.)

Having studied the new and antique, the Greek and Germanic systems,
Kant having studied and stated, Fichte and Schelling and Hegel,
Stated the lore of Plato, and Socrates greater than Plato,
And greater than Socrates sought and stated, Christ divine having
studied long,
I see reminiscent to-day those Greek and Germanic systems,
See the philosophies all, Christian churches and tenets see,
Yet underneath Socrates clearly see, and underneath Christ the divine I see,
The dear love of man for his comrade, the attraction of friend to friend,
Of the well-married husband and wife, of children and parents,
Of city for city and land for land.

–Walt Whitman, “The Base of All Metaphysics”

In part 1 of this series I discussed three of the forces that keep biological species stable and distinctive over time. In parts 2 – 4 I have discussed the corresponding forces at work in the case of ethnic and cultural groups. But there is an additional force at work in the case of ethnicity, one absent in the case of biological species. This is the emotional connection that the members of an ethnic group feel towards that group. As we have seen in the three preceding posts, people must perform certain behaviors in order to keep their kind in existence. In order to perform behaviors, humans must be motivated to do so, and for the most part (and perhaps entirely), humans are motivated to perform behaviors by emotions and feelings. Hunger, or the prospect of hunger, motivates people to get food; fear causes people to seek safety; anger motivates violence; sexual attraction motivates sex, and so on.

In the case of ethnic and other groups, the motivation comes from having the members of a kind form an emotional connection to the group. Commonly, the members of an ethnic group are passionately devoted to ensuring that the group persist and take great pains to ensure that it does. Most often the emotional connection is the result of individuals perceiving the group to be intimately connected to their sense of identity or well-being, or they judge the group to have an independent value of its own, one they deem worthy of preservation. People identify themselves as ethnic Russians, or Comanche, or Japanese, and take a personal interest in the survival of their group. They take threats to the group personally and are willing to make sacrifices to ensure the survival of the group. This desire to ensure that the group persists is the fourth force (in addition to the three discussed in the previous posts) that contributes to that persistence.

“Patriotism” doesn’t quite capture what I am talking about, but I can’t think of any other word that does a better job. Patriotism usually means love for country, and where the country represents the interests of the ethnic group as it does in ethno-states, it may be the appropriate word. But there needs to be another word for the affection for one’s own religion and people where this is independent of the state.

If members feel no emotional connection to the group and care not whether it persists or not, they are not as likely to take the effort to do the things required to ensure that group persists. Lacking such an emotional connection members may have no incentive to put in the effort required to keep the ethnic group in existence. Thus it is common for ethnic groups to take the time and effort to produce this affection among members for the group: setting aside holidays dedicated to significant historical events, making inspiring emotional speeches on historic dates reminding members of the sacrifices that were made in the past by members of the group on its behalf, or writing and performing songs, plays, films, or poems about their affection for the group and its history. Similarly, festivals and holidays are usually made to be enjoyable so that the members will look forward to and seek to reproduce them. These events are designed to produce a sense of the worth of the group and create an emotional attachment.

The logic is purely Darwinian: those groups whose members form such an emotional connection will be more willing to put in the effort to see to it that group continues to exist over time. Those groups that don’t, won’t. And those groups that manage to produce such an affection will be more likely to survive than those whose members feel no such affection. The result is that the world is full of groups whose members do feel such an affection. This group-affection, love, loyalty, or patriotism, is the fourth causal factor that contributes to the persistence of an ethnic group.

With all this under our best we will finally see how it applies to genocide in part 6.