Of PIGS and Men: A Review of Michael Novak’s Unmeltable Ethnics

“Industrialists like Henry Ford were bitterly anti-union and made a practice of playing one ethnic group against the other in keeping the workers under control and wages low. One of the groups which Ford favored the most was southern Blacks…”
                                              – E Michael Jones, The Slaughter of Cities, 43.
Michael Novak’s Unmeltable Ethnics (1996) is indispensible reading for the AltRight, specifically focusing on the ethnic experiences of southern and eastern Europeans, who will find exceptional resonance and relevance. But it should also be mandatory reading for WASPs, as they are the favorite target of Novak’s pen and often times justifiably so. Novak sees a WASP tendency to externalize faults, the world is impure outside of themselves and though much of Novak’s criticism may come from angles and perspectives that seem a little distorted, they are on the whole worth it. Unmeltable, is the second edition, the first was optimistically titled The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics (1972), the change in the book’s name perhaps corresponds to a change in the author’s perceptions and political aspirations. The new edition runs a little long at over 450 pages with added chapters amended from follow up essays for academic journals filling out the final four chapters. In Novak’s own words in the introduction to the ‘transaction’ edition:
“The publication of this book in 1972 marked my own declaration of independence from the cultural Left, at the time the preeminent force watching over what could be said and what couldn’t in American culture. As readers will see firsthand in this new edition (which leaves unchanged most of the original text), I was still writing as a man of the Left, certainly a man of the anti-capitalist Left. But I was, in truth, departing from leftwing orthodoxy in singling out cultural issues, rather than economic issues, as the primary neuralgic point in American (and not only American) life. I was defending – no, calling into political and cultural self-consciousness, and trying to inspire – those whom the elites liked to picture as paunchy fascists in undershirts, bigoted and unwashed. I was repelled by ‘the bigotry of intellectuals’ and the unworthy prejudices of the cultural Left. At the time celebrating the ‘liberation’ of the swinging singles, I thought intellectuals ought to be stressing the importance of family, even the psychological differences between ‘family people’ and those who find the unencumbered self a more fundamental reality. They ought to admire the latent strengths of traditional values and ethnic neighborhoods… To say the least, these ideas were premature. At the time, they were regarded as reactionary. They were said to be – the insult our elites hurl when they are being unmasked – ‘spreading hate.’”
The critics tend to misjudge the work from their own liberal pretensions, as one put it, “‘A Pole who knows he is a Pole, who is proud of being a Pole, who knows the social cost of being a Polish worker in American, who knows he stands in power, status and integrity – such a Pole can face a black militant eye to eye.’ Such writing, regardless of its literary power, regardless of whether or not it accurately depicts the feelings of a South Chicago steelworker – leaves me cold. Perhaps it brings back too many bad memories of Cicero, Marquette Park and Trumbull Park.” What they completely miss is that it is precisely Novak’s intention to redress Cicero, to return to it and provide the missing and obfuscated narrative of white ethnics themselves – “If you are the descendant of southern and eastern Europeans, everyone else has defined your existence. A pattern of ‘Americanization’ laid out.” E Michael Jones, has done the best work to date unmasking liberal pretensions and revealing integration as a way for elites to destroy white ethnic, largely Catholic communities, and political power. “The melting pot… may have been a rationale for deculturizing immigrants, depriving them of their cultural values and strength, and thus reducing their political and economic power. If one deprives people of their affective bonds to family, culture, and value, then one can reconstruct them afresh.”  Jones points out for example, the Racial Imbalance Act of 1965 “defined racial imbalance as schools having student bodies which were more than 50 percent black, a stroke which eliminated the need for racial redress in every suburban community in the state.”  Meaning that integration of blacks into ‘white schools’ meant largely only into urban ethnic schools, while WASPs and Jews pushed and laughed from their suburban incubations.
Novak sees the immense injustice of such policies, but unlike Jones is unable to conceive of a conspiracy or give proper voice beyond pretensions of injustice; Novak’s solution is for a black-Jewish-ethnic coalition to replace the black-Jewish-liberal-WASP one. In part this is because of a less rigorous collection of resources and texts, thus Novak’s solutions reek of liberalism, “If there is to be bussing of children in such circumstances, ethnic whites should be promised equal gains with blacks: equal opportunity for an experience in the better, more advanced suburban schools.”  Rather than outright disavowing such social engineering, Novak seeks to egalitarianize it.
Novak similarly identities specific insistences and techniques in the weaponization of the negro, “Many ethnics in particular do not object to school integration unless the ration of whites to blacks falls below 60 to 40. If it does, they claim, quality and services deteriorate.” – A very liberal estimate of the Peak Negro phenomenon.
“It is in their interest as an ethnic group to insist on high quotas for blacks in schools and jobs, and not to accept as valid the argument that equality is only for those who ‘qualify.’… hence blacks have seen fit to ‘change the rules’… They know that whites will not commit genocide – that is their ace. But whites do wish the race problem would ‘go away’; and that is a fantasy of genocide. It is a deeply buried fantasy precisely because it is too awful, difficult, and normally impossible to contemplate. Rather than face such fantasies, whites will pay a ransom. Still, whites both hate themselves for giving in and feel guilty for their fantasies. So the taunt of genocide intensifies their desire to be generous.”
Herein Mau-mauing, white guilt and ethno masochism are given adept psychological examination and expression. However Novak justifies ethnic resentment he cannot seem to condone political violence, in part because he knows that such use of violence will be, as it has been, used as a red herring to cover liberal WASP and Jewish machinations and thereby justify them.
“Special treatment and open enrollment and quotas are designed only for certain segments of the population. Among those most upset are ‘white ethnics.’ Their spokesmen argue that in the old days meritocratic principles were what they accepted as the measuring rods of success. Each person had to make it on his own… Black Power Movement…. In addition to the general reaction -anger and fear heaped upon ignorance and, in some instances, blatant anti-Negro sentiment… was astonishment at capitulations being made to demands for group rights rather than for greater access to individual opportunities. A sense of righteous indignation was apparent, especially since, as many argued, they were loyal, decent, hardworking, God-fearing Americans who never had anything to do with slaving but were being forced to pay for the sins of other peoples’ fathers.”
Despite his shortcoming Novak gives voice to white ethnics, who “do not like all that has happened to America these last fifty years. They look at it, not as a genuine expression of America, but as a betrayal.”
Novak writing the second edition more than two decades after the publication of the first, disavows the “new beast called ‘multiculturalism’”  despite being credited for paternity. Novak briefly challenges radical feminists, gay activists and environmentalists, as metaphysically “returning to gnostic worldviews” before God. Indeed Novak is a Catholic, and most of his extensive literary output is put in the service of Church themes, in this Unmeltable is rather unique. One of the problems and perhaps the principle contention of the book, is that ‘white ethnics’ were historically discriminated and taken advantage of from above by Nordics, and liberal Jewish intellectuals on the one hand, and are now excluded from considerations of historical remunerations from below historically blacks but now by all nonwhites (in whatever form – affirmative action, employment equity, media attention). “Two forms of prejudice stamped the immigrants. Both had a peculiar ‘northern’ quality: one was racial, the other ‘progressive.’ According to one view, it was his race and religion that made the southern European inferior. According to the other, it was his social and political backwardness.”  Novak further points to political maneuvering in this system of ethnic betrayal and dispossession, “Just as they were excluded before the early 1970s, the ethnics from Southern and Eastern Europe are again today given no place in curricula about ‘diversity.’ Ethnicity doesn’t seem to matter, only race, sexual preference, and gender. Intolerance is the new agenda. It never occurs to the ‘new multiculturalists’ that ethnic differences among Europeans alone… are full of passionate power, and heavy with political significance. All this lies beyond their own narrow, politicized agenda.”  Novak lists “nine perversions of ‘multiculturalism’” all of which could have come from an AltRight perspective. Without going into each of them: Anti-Americanism, victimology, ego-boosting, evasion, tactical relativism, censorship, groupthink, egalityranny and double standards. In this Novak identifies what is called cultural Marxism, “Multiculturalism tends to divide the world into a privileged set of victims and their alleged oppressors, through the lens of a loose and vulgar Marxism. This Marxism is cultural rather than economic…. It further pretends that its privileged groups are innocent.”
On immigration Novak recognizes that massive increases in 1970s and 1980s and that “most of these new immigrants were nonwhite” and he also recognizes that “They succeeded perhaps, even more quickly often in one generation.” This recalled a corporate meeting I was once compelled to attend working as a deracinated cog in a MNC in which a Vietnamese woman, who was a superior in another department, told us of her mother’s and other nonwhites immigrants struggles to get parity with Canadians – according to her it takes about 15 years, this was said without the slightly hint of irony. Novak also seems to miss the radical implications, he acknowledges that those “who migrated from entrepreneurial or market cultures” (Koreans, Chinese, West Indians and Middle Easterners) tended to adapt much better than those who came from peasant cultures (southern and eastern Europeans), the major problem Novak and the Vietnamese woman both miss is the radical change in the nature of the work these immigrants who expected to perform. For the older Europeans it was immigration into a subservient and well defined field, which is immigration for a specific purpose in poorly paid hard labour wherein they had to fight collectively for better wages and unionization. While for the new nonwhite immigrants it is preferential treatment in white collar and service industry and often well-paying jobs in an infrastructure built largely on the sweat and blood of those PIGS – PIGS being Novak’s acronym for Polish, Italians, Greeks and Slavs. This double-betrayal is not approached but I have felt and known it my whole life. “When the immigrants from southern and eastern Europe arrived in America industry was unregulated and capitalism was cruel.”
“They were, in a word, “peasants”-looked down upon not only by WASPs, who saw them as socially, religiously, and, yes, racially inferior, but intellectuals (of varying backgrounds themselves), who saw them as unwashed, uneducated, and uncouth, as culturally inferior.”  Novak also misses the radical changes involved in the growth of the service industry and the decline of manufacturing and a goods-producing economy, which should be the subject of another investigation.
As one reviewer put it, “There is little of empirical evidence in this book, little of historical proof. The book’s validity is simply that upon reading comment after comment (frequently funny, often pathos) the reader realizes the truth of Novak’s position.”
Novak’s primary focus is the big cities in the northeast; rarely does he discuss poor Appalachian WASPs or Midwestern ranchers, etc. On issues of immigration and elsewhere Novak is woefully liberal and often understudied. Hinting at a possible reason for this radical demographic shift that forecasts “a third world ethnic and racial composition for our future population” but never delving deep enough to criticize or understand, only in fact offering pathetically inept metaphors for getting along better, “symphony” rather than “melting pot.” In this and in his later radical shift towards cuckservatism (market liberalism), The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Novak betrays his own ‘constituency,’ for lack of a better term. He oddly confuses socialism with communism and the Soviet Union, something I cannot imagine an intellectual mistaking unless deliberately. However there are precious and insightful gems buried in Unmeltable Ethnics, which make it well worth it. Finally Novak admits that he may have been too hard on WASPs, perhaps somewhat identifying with whiteness and pan-European identity? Writing, “If I had had the faintest notion of how weak the WASP establishment actually was I think I would have rushed to shore up their resolve.”  Is Novak proposing a secular ecumenism along racial lines? In fact Novak’s initial publication has been heavily criticized, as a “WASP-baiting… hatchet job,”  and perhaps there is some validity to such objections.
In the new intro Novak writes some kind remarks on British institutional traditions even on English manners. He points to the wrongness of his prediction of a rising ethnic Democratic Party and coalition with blacks, “the growing alientation of liberal elites from the masses of liberal voters… only Jews (mostly) remain comfortably democratic.”  Novak believed that the 70s would be the time for a formation of ethnic power bloc and consciousness, however the revolution he thought would occur never formulated and instead the ethnics took on ‘white identity’ and ‘class identity’ as their markers. David A. Hollinger’s notion of the “ethnoracial pentagon” or “quintuple melting pot,” of European Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans, more accurately describes the present reality of identity and politics, than Ruby Jo Reeves Kennedy’s 1944 “triple melting pot” theory, Hollinger refers to this as “Postethnic America.”
This corresponds to all the early notions of “the melting pot,” which either implicitly or explicitly referred to a fusion of European people (“white people”) to form the American citizenry – on loose hierarchic grounds reflected in immigration preferences. The fragmentation of the American ideal built on ethnocentric assimilation into the ‘ethnoracial pentagon’ is a perversion of the original intention of the Anglosphere (‘White Australia’) ideal, exacerbated by the weaponization of black resentment, the incursion of white guilt and the systematic changes to the immigration and cultural policies of Western countries brought about largely by Leftist elites. Because of the demonization of all Europeans, the ethnocracial pentagon model is conceptually outweighed by the polarization of a dichotomy Whites vs. Others as a social model – this is confirmed by official policy of the minority statuses of other groups (with white women included as historically disadvantaged as Others). All European males are conflated into the White categorization regardless of nuance and all non-European people are conflated into the status of ‘visible minority’ – this creates a tension and dichotomy which can only strengthen both the in-group feeling of European males systematically discriminated by policies of affirmative action, and the in-group feeling of Others, those heterogeneous members of the privileged minority groups. Liberals then seem astonished to discover white males collectively forming a voting bloc, because even though they are being systematically dispossessed and discriminated against, in the countries they built no less, that would be racist, and racism is evil, expect when its Leftist racism directed against white men. Leftist then simultaneously ignore the political bias of the “privileged minorities” – as in this article titled: “Trump’s support base pits white males against the rest of America” – the growth of a ‘white male base’ of the Republican Party is wrongfully blamed on ‘racists’ when in fact cultural Marxist policies have marginalized white males and created divisive politics in which for whites to stand up for their own group interests, something every other group is encouraged to do is deemed racist!
Novak writing in the 1970s has not yet seen the waves of immigration that would inflate the Other category and this massive injustice – the model he is working under is a tripartite hierarchy of liberal WASPs and Jews, Ethnics and Blacks.
In other areas Novak comes off as more liberal than he would like to imagine himself to be, in unsympathetically ascribing Mayor Frank Rizzo as a backlash politician who was thwarted by “The Project in Group Pluralism sponsored by the American-Jewish Committee, ably led by Irving Levine… as did the National Center for Urban Affairs led by Monsignor Geno Baroni,” these are the exact same groups that E Michael Jones points to as destroying the white ethnic neighborhoods with integration and urban renewal. Furthermore Novak’s treatment of Frank Rizzo is typically leftist partisan; in their view Rizzo “terrorized civil rights activists”  not that blacks supported by liberal Jews and WASPs were terrorizing, using black criminal gangs, their ethnic communities, hence from an essay on Rizzo:
“Whether we say ‘Italian’ or ‘Irish’ is not important, and yet we know we are talking about roughly the same people… the people are the same, and the issues are the same: their feelings that they have been ignored, have received little from government in recent years, and have borne the brunt of the costs involved in the economic and political rise of the Negroes.”
In effect “these feelings” are objective facts, but never let those get in the way of a good progressive story. The rise of Rizzo was in fact more legitimate than the marching of Martian Luther King jr and the demands for integration from blacks, Jews and liberal WASPs. Novak summarized it when he wrote: “There are, at present, no social rewards for integration, only penalties… but their persistent question is why the gains of blacks should be at their expense.”  To the WASP limousine liberal, or the Jewish intellectual, ethnic perception of reality is subject to subjectification and emotional error – and is generally always ‘bigoted.’ “They also resent the actual, daily contacts of their own culture with black culture. No amount of good will, theory or ideology blinds them to the actual experience.”
The most fundamental difference between PIGS and WASPs for Novak, a point tautologically expressed, is that ethnics are communal peoples, while Nordics are individualists. Novak is not a genetic determinist, but rather a cultural-historical one. “The Anglo-Saxon cult of the individual” is rather a result of protestant culture, Enlightenment thinking and the industrial revolution than genetics. At times the book is a series of observations, pithy points, and ranting, no rant more perspicacious than:
“’The poorer strata everywhere’… ‘are more liberal or leftist on economic issues…’ ‘But when liberalism is defined in non-economic terms – as support of civil liberties, internationalism, etc. – the correlation is reversed. The more well-to-do are more liberal, the poorer are more intolerant…’ why is it not open to persons of the poorer strata to assert that it is ‘extremist’ and ‘radical’ for privileged, educated persons to pursue their own interests and to solidify their own power by neglecting the fundamental economic needs of the poor and concerning themselves with luxuries like civil liberties and internationalism?
The basic interests of privileged, educated persons in a technological society lie on the side of superculture. A rationalized social order will function more efficiently if attitudes are universalized and if local pockets of tradition, ‘prejudice,’ and ignorance are made to give way to atomistic conceptions of self, society, and happiness. The pressures for civil rights are not simply moral; they are largely technological and economic.”
Novak gets a lot right, and by taking so many chances, gets some wrong, however what is beyond dispute is the insightful and thought-provoking quality of the work, with this in mind, I imagine categorically sharing quotes to be beneficial.
(By WASPs, Novak means educated liberal Protestant establishment of the northeast.)
“They take their own power, status, and sense of reality for granted, as no others in America can.”
“WASPs have been reduced to equality with other ethnic groups.”
“Not all WASPs are alike.”
“Their strong moral sense and their vulnerability to guilt feelings.”
“Irrepressible condescension.”
“Pilgrim’s progress never ends.”
“A sense of moral superiority is signaled in a thousand ways.”
“It is possible that Anglo-Saxon political creativity is exhausted.”
“Specialization, objectivity and technical proficiency, is notoriously sterile for the emotions, the instincts, the imagination. The rebellion of the elite youth against ‘corporate liberalism’ was in large measure a revolt in the name of instinct.”
“The body is more or less a machine.”
“Old America believes pain is useless.”
“Whereas the Anglo-Saxon model appears to be a system of atomic individuals and high mobility, our model has tended to stress communities of our own, attachment to family and relatives, stability and roots.”
“The reduction of metaphysics to a single test: success.”
“Much more than Catholics, Protestants emphasized the ascetical value of works. But the actual operation of the American system was a boondoggle of favors from government to ‘captains of industry…’ America was socialism for the entrepreneurial classes, capitalism for the rest.” (116).
“Seek your own interest and help humanity in the bargain. Grace has seldom come so cheap.”
“What Anglo-Saxons mean by religion is control, propriety, conscience, order, mastery – all their symbols run in the patterns of dominating reason.”
“Both puritans and partisans of sexual liberation seem to see their essential task as the expansion of Reason.”
“Far too strong was the overriding Anglo-Saxon imperative to ‘civilize’ and ‘subdue’ the continent – as a mirror of course, of his own self-mastery.”
“By disdain for more lustful and relaxed races, he vindicated his fidelity to purer ideals than others were able even to imagine.”
“Stephen Thernstrom opened my eyes to the poverty and degradation exercised by upper-class WASPS for lower-class WASPS. He helped me to see more vividly how threatening to poor WASPS cheap immigrant labor must have been.”
“English conceptions of order, decorum, social planning, the free marketplace (of goods and ideas), friction-free consensus, etc., dominate American life so thoroughly that most WASPS seem unaware of them as ethnic preferences.”
“What used to be regarded as dignified reserve is now mocked as uptightness.”
“Who wants to be WASP? Not even WASPS are certain.”
“…the pressures of Americanization – which was really WASPification.”
“Kevin Phillips argued in The Emerging Republican Majority… that ethnic Catholics who, in Phillips’ acid scheme, had come to hate Jews and Negroes more than they hated WASPS.”
“Protestantism is the culture religion of modernity.”
“…a synthesis of WASP individualism and corporate teamwork, with a new sensuous mobility to fill up free time purchased by technology.”
“An Anglo-Saxon elite dominated America until the emergence of a national culture…”
“The WASP and the utilitarian like to handle difficult political decisions politely; it is called ‘civility’ but it is in fact a device useful for keeping power within a small circle… ugly scenes and direct confrontations are not ‘civil’… people in power who fear the ‘dirty hands’ essential and always implicit in the exercise of power. The Anglo-Saxon conscience is out of tune with Anglo-Saxon behavior, and internally divided as well. That peculiar form of duplicity – too unconscious to be called hypocrisy – is despicable in American culture. Ethnics perceive it just as clearly as blacks do.”
“The heart of WASP culture is the property relation. Upon property, the most easily rationalized of relations, WASP notions of freedom are founded.”
“The central WASP words are having and controlling… no expression therein of the dark struggles of the whole human spirit.”
“Protestantism, Mailer thinks, ‘was never that concerned to capture the private parts of a man.’ It is, he thinks, ‘not so much a religion as a technique in the ordering of communities, able to accelerate the growth of the scientific spirit.”
“The WASP way of life had made brilliant contributions to world history, but it was also profoundly sick.”
“Mastery of environment, mastery of self, mastery is given highest priority. The organism of the self is whole, healthy, ration; its underside… seems to be ignored.”
“Decorum and self control.”
“The WASP way – the almost universal industrial way of the modern age – is to put a harsh rein upon the impulses of man’s animal nature, to place him in the halter of the industrial machine, and to order him docilely to produce… Its God is law, order, and industrious Reason. Against it, man’s human instinct, his very flesh rebel.”
“The unspoken premise of WASP culture is violence and madness at a distance.”
“No race has ever designed techniques more efficient for distancing itself from the effects of its own power.”
“WASP culture insists upon formality and reason in such a way that the non-WASP feels suffocated.”
“WASP culture channels private rage into public horror.”
“A society of Marlboro men and ‘liberated’ women (for Women’s Lib, too, is infected with WASP individualism and the WASP metaphor of domination, despite its appeals to sisterhood) is condemned to being a lonely crowd.”
“There is nothing that so infuriates me as the disguised aggression of a Quaker.”
“When troubles arise in Anglo-Saxon democracies, the imagination immediately leaps to the language of ‘social problems,’ ‘programs,’ ‘reconstruction,’ ‘priorities,’…  ‘People’ is an organic, nongeometric, nonrational, nonmechanical concept.”
“Built into the language of Anglo-Saxon social work… is a scheme of manipulation.”
“Protestant American myths of personal success and self-help required immigrants to change their conception of themselves, their families, and society.”
“Deciding not to continue trying to become what they are not, can never be.”
“The question is, Can ethnic Americans be persuaded to side with nativist Americans in an ‘emerging Republican majority”?
“In a psychologically confused state. They are unable to be WASPS; they have lost confidence in being themselves.”
“The Church in America… has become Protestant, individualistic, and pietist in character.”
“Italians have been symbolic villains in American imagination ever since the puppet shows that Huck Finn went to see.”
“The establishment of systems of identity and self-respect is as crucial for whites as for blacks.”
“Only one out of four high-school seniors (males) desires blue-collar work. But almost half of the jobs in our economy are blue –collar. Much frustration. About half of Irish, Polish, and Italian households are in blue-collar work.”
“The psychological cosmos of workingmen and their wives is different than that of our professional elites.”
“Their lives are not political or social so much as familial and centered in the neighborhood.”
“Pain is one of the most poignant occasions for community, sympathy, tears caresses.”
“Family and food – the two great Italian joys.”
“The Irish… have qualities that make men interesting rather than successful.”
An ethnic group “a group with historical memory, real or imaginary. One belongs to an ethnic group in part involuntarily, in part by choice.”
“Yet Polish feelings do not go easily into the idiom of happy America, the America of the Anglo-Saxons and yes, in the arts, the Jews.”
“What is a Catholic but what everybody else is in reaction against. Protestants reformed ‘the whore of Babyon.’”
“English Catholics have little of the sense of inferiority in which many other Catholic groups tend to share.”
“We have most ambivalent feelings about suburban assimilation and mobility.”
“It must be said that ethnics think they are better people than blacks. Smarter, tougher, harder working, stronger in their families.”
“By being made conscious of our olive skin, brawny backs, accents, names and cultural quirks not plain to us.”
“…’humanism’ or ‘progress,’ it seems to ethnics like moral pressure to abandon their own traditions, their faith, their associations, in order to reap higher rewards in the culture of national corporations.” (72)
“To ethnics, America is almost a religion… Many millions proved that they were men, not PIGS, by expressing a willingness to die beneath those colors.”
“The feeling for religion among Slavic and Italian peoples is almost totally different from the feeling of WASP or Irish Catholics: more pagan, more secular, closer to earth, aesthetic rather than moral, meditative rather than organizational.”
“But in general the Catholic soul finds it difficult to value success.”
“This ‘Catholic difference’ is valuable. It weighs against the myth of personal success both by its sense of communal interdependence and by its holistic sense of society. In its view, society is not a machine composed of individual atoms, but an organism giving life to families, and through them, to persons.” (119)
“There is an untamed wildness in the Irish breast, a rebellion against neatness and order, an underlying Celtic rage, flash, imagination.”
“…the sexual attitudes of ordinary people in Italy or Greece or the Slavic countries are amply suggested by the life of Tolstoi, by ‘Zorba the Greek,’ by Fellini’s films. For unmarried persons to make love is to violate something sacred, but in the name of something healthy, attractive and wholly expected. The violation of the sacred adds to the enjoyment. It is wrong to fornicate; but it is delicious… One does not expect human beings to be strong, masterful, iron-willed; one anticipates ‘human weakness.’” (125).
“How desperately many tried to prove they were proper, reliable, chaste, self-disciplined, controlled. How earnestly they worked against their instincts, impulses, gestures, feelings, drives, and perceptions. How urgently they worked to find sex ‘dirty.’ The melting pot was a cauldron of lead for the purging and the encasement of passion. If one could not be a WASP, one could make oneself into a good metallic soldier.”
“The ethnic American is accustomed to direct expressions of anger; direct violence seems to him an ineradicable part of human life.”
“The innocence of Johnny Carson’s face insults the night. Even serious literature scarcely reflects the brutality most of the immigrants endured.”
“But concerning the urban experience of immigration, it is as though our grandfathers did not live and did not count: as if they were only grains ground to tasteless, powdered meal. Consumed.”
“When he despairs of WASP rationality, a Catholic does not automatically unfurl the banner of irrationality.”
“The Catholic does not have the WASP qualms about handling power, does not feel the WASP’s need to hide the exercise of power and to distance himself from its effects. Catholics are tougher, more direct – ‘ruthless’ is, shall we say, the ethnic slur.”
“The human being is a social network, necessarily dependent and psychically interrelated, a social organism, a political animal. The self is not an ‘I’ but a ‘we.’”
“I prefer entanglement to distance.”
“The religion of southern and eastern Europeans is not, as it is for northern peoples, a matter of morality and ethnics. It is rather a way of feeling, an attitude, a sentiment… There is a pagan quality to the religion of southern and eastern Europe that I find beautiful… In the south and east, the split between secular and sacred has not been thoroughly established in the soul. To be lusty, natural, enchanted with the earth, in agony or in despair is to be religious: everything is within God’s presence, enveloped by him.”
“The value deepest in the psyche of southern and eastern Europeans (I say yet once again) is an instinct for family and community.”
“they consciously cherish (unlike many Jewish and WASP intellectuals) a cultural history antedating the Enlightenment.”
“There were only two aristocracies ready to receive the immigrants: city ‘machines’ and labor unions. These ‘aristocracies of the working man,’ moreover, were in large measure his own creation; they were seldom WASP in inspiration.”
“… the characteristically Catholic vice of extolling authority at the expense of liberty.”
“The white-black polarization is gross.”
“Martin Luther King came to Chicago as if its symbolic structure were the same as Alabama’s.”
“… the Negro represents the id of promiscuity, destruction and looseness.”
“Someone must make the argument in America, because it is true, that black militance can push some WASPS and some liberals around, but it will not push ethnics around.”
“The ethnics believe that they chose one route to moderate success in America; namely loyalty, hard work, family discipline, and gradual self-development. They tend to believe that some blacks… want to jump via revolutionary militance… over the heads of lower-class whites. Instead of forming a coalition of black and white lower classes, black militants seem to prefer coalition with white intellectual elites.”
“A relatively small number of Jews in New York and Los Angeles set a style for Jewishness that may be foreign to Jews in Cleveland or Utica.”
“The Jew represents the superego goals of ambition, money, and group loyalty.”
“The technique of the first wing of intellectuals has been to look upon ordinary Americans as backwards and unenlightened. The technique of the second wing has been to deliver a slap to the face of middlebrow America: the girl lifts her skirt and asks the cop, ‘This is what you want?’”
“The Jewish writer in particular, although not alone, set out to liberate the self-consciousness of Americans from WASP patterns of perception.”
“The most rigorous cultural standards in American life were maintained among the aliens by the family of New York intellectuals, almost all Jewish… they opened the way for ethnic pluralism.”
“The Anglo-Saxon imagination is radically individualistic; the imagination of most other cultures, not least the Jewish, is radically communal.”
“The single most liberating contributions given him has been made by Jewish writers. Almost without help from other ethnic groups, Jewish writers have broken the WASP hegemony over the American imagination and sensibility.”
“the Catholic, despite his social and political backwardness in several respects, is psychically more the brother of the Jew than of the Protestant. Both feel the weight of the WASP.”
“It is graphed that the Jewish experience is distinguished among all others in the West…”
“The Jew is seldom, if ever, a ‘self’ in the way an Anglo-Saxon is a self: atomic, alone, solitary.”
“For the time being, it will suffice to note the Jewish struggle against WASP consciousness.”
“I am the Raskolnikov of jerking off… One’s orgasm is the clue to how one is living.”
“Less than any other people have the Jews lived by property, or by production; more than others, by the arts of commerce and finance.”
“Like the Catholic, the Jew is not comfortable in conceiving of liberty in purely individualistic terms; to do so runs against the grain of his experience of life. More often than the Catholic, the Jew tries to imagine liberty without fully imagining the social and political institutions – with their inevitable authorities – that would enflesh it… Neither individualistic nor collectivist, it is in fact a sort of mirror image of the Jewish community through the ages: a people who without governmental or coercively structured economic institutions nourish in their midst strong persons, strong cultural selves.”
“The communal tradition of Jewish thought has ceded too much to WASP individualism.”
“The Jewish imagination, fortified by centuries of opposition to various penalizing and alien establishments, is anti-establishmentarian.”
“… the phrase ‘white racism’ has become for the Left what ‘communism’ was for Joe McCarthy: an indiscriminate scare word designed to prevent clear thought and apt strategy.”
“There are, at present, no social rewards for integration, only penalties.”
“By integration, intellectuals lose nothing, for them a moral gravy train.”
“But this particular class warfare finds the upper classes rhetorically on the side of revolution in values and structure, and the lower classes rhetorically on the side of stability, slower evolution, and loyalty.”
“No ‘enlightenment provides a purely rational, universal form. There is no such form.”
“To become professional is ordinarily to acquiescence in separation by no little gap from the people among whom one was born.”
“The professional classes describe themselves as a ‘constituency of conscience.’… They are the ‘human beings,’ others the barbarians.”
“The ‘constituency of conscience’ prides itself on its concern for the poor and oppressed in America and the Third World. But they do so in full knowledge that their own professional careers, economic security, neighborhoods, educational opportunities for their children, and summer homes are not going to be threatened.” (43).
“Behind the screen of universal values, the ‘constituency of conscience’ is far more coercive and self-interested than it cares to admit.” (45)
“Especially in America has the myth of homelessness been allowed to thrive, and a rootless class to grow.”
“The realism of ‘enlightenment’ creates a windswept vacuum in the soul, into which, finally, only naked power can rush.” (57)
“to be modern is decidedly not to be medieval; to be reasonable is not to be dogmatic; to be free is clearly not to live under ecclesiastical authority; to be sciencific is not to attend ancient rituals, cherish irrational symbols, indulge in mythic practices.”
“Liberal education tends to separate children from their parents, from their roots, from their history, in the cause of a universal and superior religion.”
“In love with change, the new social activist dreads apathy and inertia, is excited by ‘breakthroughs.’ He likes things that are ‘forward-loooking.’ ‘Liberation’ is his banner.”
“A new religion is implanted: power over others, enlightenment, an atomic (rather than communitarian) sensibility, a contempt for mystery, ritual, transcendence, soul, absurdity, and tragedy; and deep confidence in the possibilities of building a better world through scientific understanding.”
“Becoming modern, then, is a matter of learning to be solitary.”
“The mobile ones, the swinging atoms, the true practitioners of the new religion.”
“Bigness, largeness, impersonality, national patterns of thought, and national methods began to reward men of a different social type than those who had been rewarded earlier.”
“The warmth and security of a vanished organic community was an attractive image to set against the realities of the present – the factory, the immigrant, the reign of the market.”
“The most revolutionary force in American life for the past hundred years has been the nationalizing, standardizing superculture shaped by industry.”
“Those in America who call themselves conservative are the chief agents in the destruction of what they claim to value.”
“The world of television is inherently visual, rich, baroque, and Catholic; Protestant sensibility was doomed by the cathode rays.”
“anti-Catholicism is – or perhaps was – the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals.”
“traditional New England WASP intellectuals and Jewish intellectuals. It is the prejudice of the enlightened against the unenlightened.”
“The intellectual appears to be in reaction against the family. Almost every cause he espouses destroys the tissue of the family.”
“Good words like ‘honesty’ and ‘authenticity’ become lost in the libidinal jungles of competing desires.”
“The pursuit of individual authenticity is stupid if a human is not a private but a social animal, not primarily an individual but primarily a member of communities.”
“America is sick because her intellectual classes are also sick…”
“America lack an aristocracy and a ‘truly conservative’ respect for elite institutions.”
“What these writers call ‘enlightenment’ is an imposition of values and attitudes that may be less humane, less than humanly satisfying, less than worthy of concrete men and women.” (173).
“Feudal hierarchies look to the past; lower classes live in the present; the middle class invent the future.”
“Joy and delight come from acceptance of the finite. There is no freedom without the finite. There is no freedom without ‘repression.’”
“The planet could well use, perhaps, a thousand years of slowing down…”
“The chief transition in recent Western history has been a transition from the legitimation of choices made through aristocratic-monarchical elites to the legitimation of choices made through corporate, professional elites.”
“… democracy is an ideology and a procedure which appeal most to privileged and relatively leisured elites… ‘more than one road seems to suggest the elitist underpinnings of pluralist doctrine.’”
“Democracy is in actual practice and in a very wide range of matters extremely fatiguing, inefficient, and a vast nourisher of illusions… It is a quasi-religious ritual of the most superficial and degrading sort.”
“The more educated people are, the more they cherish enlightenment values – is almost a tautology.”
“For enlightened persons, of course, ‘tolerant’ is a highly charged moral word. It is a little like telling Irish clergymen that ‘Jewish intellectuals are not chaste,’ when one perhaps only wants to say that chastity does not rank high in the moral priorities of one group as compared to another with a different morality.”
“Why, above all, do objective and value-neutral social scientists allow themselves to use of others words they would not like applied to themselves? Working-class consciousness seems coherent, in some respects enviable, in some ways weak, but above all appropriate to the real conditions of working-class life. The interests of the working-class are not those of the educated and privileged class.”
“For democracy is not a system for resolving real differences, only a procedure for neutralizing or displacing them.”
“I dream of more people on the land, of policies that make life on farms socially and economically attractive.”
“The Sovietization of the world and the Americanization look too uncomfortably alike.”
“The effective ideology of the modern world is neither socialism nor capitalism, it is pragmatism.”
“… conventional wisdom is that class identifications are important, but not ethnic identifications.”
“Human beings are imagined as monadic parts of a great social machine. No wonder that’s the way they feel.”
“Professionalization is necessarily an abstraction; a person concentrates upon becoming good at a narrow sliver of life. Many interests are reduced to one. All energy goes into a single wavelength. Earsplitting distortion accumulates. Human beings become grotesque.”
“In America it is wiser for ethnic groups not to throw stones.”

One thought on “Of PIGS and Men: A Review of Michael Novak’s Unmeltable Ethnics

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