The Revival of Non-Self
L. Ali Khan
The 21st century is witnessing the revival of Non-Self, such as Herrenvolk and Hindutva, which assert a binary division of “Self” and “Non-Self.” Selfism advocates the exclusion of Non-Self, variously defined as immigrants, refugees, gypsies, indigenous people, minorities, or “others.” Nationalism, majoritarianism, and exceptionalism are its noxious crops. Ethnic cleansing, apartheid, segregation, settler colonialism, denial of citizenship, incarceration, and deportation are its blunt tools. Selfism has no tolerance for plurality or heterogeneity.
V.D. Savarkar, the 19th-century founder of Hindutva, explains the significance of Non-Self. “Self is known to itself immutable and without a name or even without a form. But when it comes in contact or conflict with a non-self,” it becomes self-cognizant. The presence of Muslims and Christians in India, says Savarkar, clarifies the uniqueness of Hindus, broadly defined as all those who belong to local racial stocks and whose gods and beliefs are indigenous. Accordingly, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs are “Hindus,” but Christians and Muslims are not.
Pierre Berghe coined the term Herrenvolk to explain the power of the “master race” be it the Nazis in Germany or apartheid in South Africa. White Nationalism surging in Europe and North America is Herrenvolk. Much like Hindutva, the presence of blacks distinguishes whites, and the presence of immigrants deepens nativism. American Herrenvolk unites the progeny of Europeans, including the Irish and the Italians who were previously excluded from whiteness. While what is included in White Nationalism is fluid, Asians, Arabs, Jews, African Americans, and Hispanics are certainly Non-Self.
Selfism draws its identity, vitality, and ideology from Non-Self. Selfism is not selfishness. Selfishness is obsessed with the self, whereas Selfism is obsessed with Non-Self. Selfism lacks ontology without Non-Self. Self is empty without Non-Self. For example, colonizers mean little without colonies. Slave masters perish without slaves. Ironically, however, Selfism would make every effort to abuse Non-Self, fantasizing annihilation, although Self cannot exist without Non-Self. This is the manufacturing defect of Selfism.
Despite inherent defectiveness, the dread of Non-Self is ingrained in the human phenomenon, found in almost all cultures and nations. The Uighurs viewed as Non-Chinese have been incarcerated en masse for posing a “threat” to the integrity of China. Rohingyas have been expelled to purify Buddhist Myanmar. Israel sees Non-Jews as an existential threat and is making extensive laws to fortify its Jewishness. Pakistan has declared that the native-born Ahmadis claiming to be Muslims are Non-Muslims.
Self-walling is a prime feature of Selfism, designed to safeguard the nation, race, religion, culture, identity, and continuity of identity from Non-Self. The walls are built around procreation, religion, and borders. Miscegenation laws, apostasy laws, and immigration laws are formulated to keep out Non-Self. The race will wither away if Self commingles with Non-Self to produce multiracial children. Hindutva will lose verve if Hindus and Non-Hindus are fused into a single “Indianness.” Likewise, the Gulf States will lose Arabness if citizenship is granted to Non-Arab immigrants. Selfism dreads Non-Self.
Selfism is the opposite of egalitarianism, a struggling notion of justice. If egalitarianism is inclusive, Selfism is exclusive. Egalitarianism safeguards the rights of Non-Self, uplifts the oppressed. Selfism suppresses Non-Self seen as a burden on state resources. Egalitarianism expands the reach of democracy. Selfism reserves power for Self whether a minority or majority. Under the lessons of Selfism, Non-Self is dirty, lazy, parasitic, disloyal, incompetent, indeed a paragon of negativity.
Selfism is not harmless psychology or sociology. It is prone to serious crimes. It inspires to enslave, degrade, segregate, expel, and exterminate Non-Self. Consider a few examples. The 16th-century slave trade initiates a worldwide degradation of the people of African descent. The 17th-century colonization racializes the human species. In the 18th century, Adam Smith publishes The Wealth of Nations, sowing the seeds of Self-interest. The 19th century Ottoman Empire massacres the Armenians. The 20th century Imperial Japanese Army disarms, rapes, and murders hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and soldiers. The more recent Rwanda Genocide involving Hutus and Tutsis reaffirms the terrors of Non-Self.
Selfism crimes are now trickling down to individuals haunted with Non-Self. A white supremacist kills nine parishioners in a Charleston Black church. An Australian xenophobe opens fire in a Christchurch mosque, killing more than fifty worshippers. Cow vigilantes roam around Mumbai and elsewhere to murder meat-eaters. Egyptian zealots attack buses carrying Christian pilgrims. Hundreds of olive trees belonging to Palestinians are uprooted, burnt, or otherwise vandalized by settlers.
The Trumpists are highlighting Non-Self as a political strategy, glorifying “Old America” that massacred Native Americans, enslaved Africans, conquered territories from Mexicans, and detained Japanese, all the avatars of Non-Self. The Trumpists lay into Non-White female members of the House of Representatives because these women do not love “our country.” The herds chant “send her back.” For them, Ilhan Omar (Black, immigrant, Muslim) is an absolute Non-Self.
When Trumpists liquify Selfism, slogans flow: Mexicans bring in gangs and drugs. Baltimore is rodent-infested, but “the Border is clean, efficient & well run.” Muslims are conspiring to enforce Shariah law. Jews are disloyal. Illegals vote in millions. By singling out Non-Self, piece by piece, the Trumpists covet to unify the scattered fragments of Self.
Globally, Selfism seeks alliances with likeminded Selfism. The French Marie Le Pen flocks with the Italian Mateo Salvini, the Dutch Geert Wilders, and the Hungarian Viktor Orban to resurrect “Old Europe” free of Non-Self, meaning Arabs and Africans. Modi woos Netanyahu who woos Trump by naming a new Golan Heights settlement as “Trump Heights.” Paleoconservatives congregate to co-equate Western civilization with white identity. Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram wage a common war against “Western colonists.”
For sure, Selfism is wired in human neurology, but so is the opposition to it. Selfism rises in waves and fades out. Its present revival is spreading, and its demise is unforeseeable. Fractures are deepening. Fences are being built. Refugees are being refouled. Hindutva is levitating. Herrenvolk is stoking ethnonationalism. Old America and Old Europe are powerful dreams. Fortunately, the human spirit lives through but does not surrender to Selfism.