The Deep Identity of the South
The Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin lists three kinds of identity in his book Eurasian Mission – diffused, extreme, and deep. The diffused identity is vague and unconscious so it contributes little to a person’s or a society’s way of viewing himself or itself or the world (Eurasian Mission: An Introduction to Neo-Eurasianism, Arktos, U.K., 2014, p. 116). It resembles the mindset of Andrew Lytle’s ‘momentary man’, who is aware only of the concerns and pleasures of the present hour.
The extreme identity ‘is an arbitrary and artificial creation of some rational formula that pretends to express and manifest the diffused identity in the intellectual realm. Here the identity becomes an ideology, a conceptual framework, or a theory’ (Ibid.). This should sound disturbingly familiar to Southerners, as it describes precisely the Yankee ideology of ‘Americanism’, of America as a proposition nation. Accordingly, it equates ideological speculations with the essence of a people, which can only lead to the obscuring and/or disfiguring of the real identity of that people (Ibid.).
The deep identity, however, is different. It is the true self:
‘Deep identity is an organic, existential, basic identity that lies below diffused identity, giving it its content, meaning and structure. . . . It is not a superstructure that is constructed above diffused identity (as extreme identity) but an infrastructure that is beneath diffused identity, giving it reality, sense, and inner harmony. Deep identity is what causes a people to be what it is. It is the essence of the people, something that transcends the collectivity in its actual state. . . . The people is not what exists at the present time. Its language, culture, tradition, gestures, and psychological features don’t appear in the present, they come from the past and move toward the future through the present moment. An actually existing people is not a people as such but only a particular moment of it, and only a segment of it. The people includes those who are dead and those of its children who have yet to be born. It is a kind of music that can be perceived as such only if we remember the previous note and anticipate the next one. The deep identity is the whole that plays out in both time and space. Deep identity is people as existence’ (p. 117).
Now we have reached something the South can recognize, an identity that embraces past, present, and future all at once. But has the South truly uncovered and developed her deep identity to the fullest extent? To that we would have to say No, for the deep identity of the South is intimately tied to the past of her English, African, Celtic, and Spanish and French forebears, and to their good and healthy traditions -- both Christian and pre-Christian. But the extreme identity of Yankee Americanism forced upon her (along with her own misguided pursuit at times of oversized profits from cash crops, mineral extraction, etc.) has bled those memories and customs from the veins of Southrons, leaving them with only the faintest notions of what it means to be a Christian people with quick and lively traditions that go back through untold generations.
But there are still records of how Dixie’s ancestors lived. One of those great monuments of folklore that the South can draw from was compiled by the Scotsman Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912): the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of poems, stories, songs, practices, and so on from across Scotland in which one may experience the true depth and power and grandeur that comes from standing face to face with the soul of a people.
In so standing before her forefathers and mothers of Scotland, the South will see more clearly how she must live in order to attain a more complete formation of her own deep identity.
It is quite clear throughout the Carmina that being a Christian folk means that every act is consecrated by prayer to God. Remembrance of God and His saints and angels is in-woven into everything. Everything. All the moments of the day:
‘GOD with me lying down,
God with me rising up,
God with me in each ray of light,
Nor I a ray of joy without Him,
Nor one ray without Him.
‘Christ with me sleeping,
Christ with me waking,
Christ with me watching,
Every day and night,
Each day and night.
‘God with me protecting,
The Lord with me directing,
The Spirit with me strengthening,
For ever and for evermore,
Ever and evermore, Amen.
Chief of chiefs, Amen’.
And putting out the fire at night:
‘I WILL build the hearth,
As Mary would build it.
The encompassment of Bride [i.e., St Brigid of Kildare] and of Mary,
Guarding the hearth, guarding the floor,
Guarding the household all.
‘Who are they on the lawn without?
Michael the sun-radiant of my trust.
Who are they on the middle of the floor?
John and Peter and Paul.
Who are they by the front of my bed?
Sun-bright Mary and her Son.
‘The mouth of God ordained,
The angel of God proclaimed,
An angel white in charge of the hearth
Till white day shall come to the embers.
An angel white in charge of the hearth
Till white day shall come to the embers’.
From a blessing for the planting of the seed:
‘I WILL go out to sow the seed,
In name of Him who gave it growth;
I will place my front in the wind,
And throw a gracious handful on high.
Should a grain fall on a bare rock,
It shall have no soil in which to grow;
As much as falls into the earth,
The dew will make it to be full.
‘Friday, day auspicious,
The dew will come down to welcome
Every seed that lay in sleep
Since the coming of cold without mercy;
Every seed will take root in the earth,
As the King of the elements desired,
The braird will come forth with the dew,
It will inhale life from the soft wind.
‘I will come round with my step,
I will go rightways with the sun,
In name of Ariel and the angels nine,
In name of Gabriel and the Apostles kind.
‘Father, Son, and Spirit Holy,
Be giving growth and kindly substance
To every thing that is in my ground,
Till the day of gladness shall come. . . .’
To a blessing for the milk cow:
‘COME, Brendan, from the ocean,
Come, Ternan, most potent of men,
Come, Michael valiant, down
And propitiate to me the cow of my joy.
Ho my heifer, ho heifer of my love,
Ho my heifer, ho heifer of my love.
My beloved heifer, choice cow of every spieling,
For the sake of the High King take to thy calf.
‘Come, beloved Colum of the fold,
Come, great Bride of the flocks,
Come, fair Mary from the cloud,
And propitiate to me the cow of my love.
Ho my heifer, ho heifer of my love.
‘The stock-dove will come from the wood,
The tusk will come from the wave,
The fox will come but not with wiles,
To hail my cow of virtues.
Ho my heifer, ho heifer of my love’.
And for the hunt.
As seen in the foregoing, the past is very much alive in the present: The holy men and women (and angels) of hundreds of years ago are appealed to just as one asks a boon of one’s flesh-and-blood neighbor today. Indeed, a day is set aside each week to honor the great St Columba of Iona (not just once a year as for other saints; his main feast day is 9 June), and many acts are bound up with it:
‘DIARDAOIN, Didaoirn--the day between the fasts--Thursday, was St Columba's Day -- Diardaoin Chaluim-chille, St Columba's Thursday--and through him the day of many important events in the economy of the people. It was a lucky day for all enterprises--for warping thread, for beginning a pilgrimage, or any other undertaking. . . .
‘THURSDAY of Columba benign,
Day to send sheep on prosperity,
Day to send cow on calf,
Day to put the web in the warp.
‘Day to put coracle on the brine,
Day to place the staff to the flag,
Day to bear, day to die,
Day to hunt the heights.
‘Day to put horses in harness,
Day to send herds to pasture,
Day to make prayer efficacious,
Day of my beloved, the Thursday,
Day of my beloved, the Thursday’.
And the same spirit is present in Scottish story-telling as well. The heroes, deeds, and sayings of the forefathers are not forgotten but are transmitted from the elders to the bairns:
‘Gaelic oral literature was widely diffused, greatly abundant, and excellent in quality -- in the opinion of scholars, unsurpassed by anything similar in the ancient classics of Greece or Rome.
‘Many causes contributed towards these attainments--the crofting system, the social customs, and the evening 'ceilidh.' In a crofting community the people work in unison in the field during the day, and discuss together in the house at night. This meeting is called 'ceilidh'--a word that throbs the heart of the Highlander wherever he be. The 'ceilidh' is a literary entertainment where stories and tales, poems and ballads, are rehearsed and recited, and songs are sung, conundrums are put, proverbs are quoted, and many other literary matters are related and discussed’ (Carmichael, ‘Introduction’, Carmina Gadelica).
This returns us to the transcendent aspect of the deep identity that Mr Dugin writes of in Eurasian Mission: ‘This is transcendence: people being simultaneously immanent and present in every other person that belongs to the same people’ (p. 117). This very real presence of past generations in the hearts of the present members of the Scottish ethnos is plainly evident. It is not so with the New South. She has room in her heart for only the newest and the latest, the exotic and the foreign. Cultivating the deep identity means repenting of all that and filling the heart with remembrance of God and His holy ones, of our forefathers and their deeds and wisdom, of the long pageant of history that stretches out before us, of ways to hand all this on to our children.
Paper-thin individualistic piety toward an ill-defined deity (think Maren Morris’s ‘My Church’); saccharine sentimentalism afforded to distorted, perverted versions of the nuclear family; fidelity to flimsy political slogans and ideologies: These are among Post-Modernity’s laughable substitutes for the deep identity. But no people, the South included, will last for very long resting on such feeble foundations.