Home Important Posts The Great Identity Crisis
Home Important Posts The Great Identity Crisis

The Great Identity Crisis

A moral crisis tends to go hand in hand with an identity crisis. It's when you don't know who you are that you're most likely to take refuge in a political or ethical identity that provides you with the comfort of a false sense of superiority. When all other identities fall apart, you can always rely on being the better man, the better nation and the empty space with the moral high ground.

Societies that go multicultural tend to experience identity drift and take refuge in a self-definition based on values. Who are Americans? As generations of presidents on the left and right have told us, they are people who believe in American values. What are American values? They're the values that Americans are told they need to believe in, in order to be Americans. Like tolerance, immigration, free trade, and respecting the right of anyone to be a member of the Communist Party or the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a time of crisis, nations and peoples have to choose to survive. But what is survival? Proponents of a values-based identity have argued that survival means the survival of our values. If we take Measure X against an enemy, whether it's outlawing the Communist Party or waterboarding Islamic terrorists, then we have "killed our values" and we are no longer Americans. It doesn't matter then whether an act saves millions of American lives, if it means we destroy our values, then we have killed the only worthwhile thing about us.

Physical identity and values-based identity are in conflict in a time of crisis when the question is asked, do we want to survive or do we want to be morally pure. A values-based identity appears to be superior, but it is actually the product of an identity crisis. And a nation or a people with an identity crisis is vulnerable because they no longer know who they are. Their identity has been replaced with an identity based on their superior values, values that require them to die rather than give up those values. And if they have forgotten who they are, then they are too afraid to risk their values-based identity by fighting back.

The problem is not a unique one. For example, Jewish assimilation dropped the 'peoplehood' aspect leaving behind a values-based identity. When liberal Jews express their identity, it is values-based, built around "Tikkun Olam", or "Social Justice". That opens up a hole for someone like Peter Beinart to crawl in with a crisis of Liberal Zionism, a conflict between values-based identity and Jewish survival.

Would you rather live as Jews or die as liberals? The determining factor here is whether you have a Jewish identity. Without a Jewish identity, there is only the posturing of values-based identity, and giving up the high "ethics" of bending over backward for the bad guys seems a lot like the death of the only identity such miserable people have. If all that matters about Jews is their "ethical values", then to step down from the moral high ground by bombing a terrorist stronghold is suicide.

The first question is; "Who are you?" That's a question that is asked to individuals and to nations. It's asked directly in the form of a national dialogue, and it's asked indirectly in the choices that are made in a time of crisis.

The second question is; "What do you live for?" The answer to this question is determined by the first question. What we live for derives from who we are. Self-knowledge gives purpose, and purpose gives self-knowledge. A lack of identity is also a lack of purpose. And a lack of purpose betrays a lack of identity. A nation adrift has lost its identity; it lacks direction because it has no starting point.

A thing that does not exist for its own sake has no existence. It has no existence, because it is not survival-based. It is well and good to dedicate yourself to higher causes and beliefs, but if they do not begin with your own existence, then they have no more substance than you do. You can volunteer for a thousand causes, but if you don't care whether you live or die-- then you have nothing to contribute to them.

After September 11, American leaders were asked who they were and what they lived for. And their response was to spread American values around the world. And that was what they sent the military to go out and do. In the memory of the dead, they create more dead, as sacrifices on behalf of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. This obscenity was described as making the world a better place.

And yet how can you blame them? What else were they supposed to do?

America was under attack, but what is that thing called, "America"? Is it an actual physical place or is it an idea of free enterprise, democracy and universal tolerance? And who are the Americans? Is Anwar Al-Awlaki an American? Of course, he was born here and he has the right papers, doesn't he?

If Anwar Al-Awlaki is an American and the people who died on September 11 are Americans, then this is a conflict between Americans. And it can only be settled by the legal system. To recognize an outside enemy, you have to be able to delineate a border between the "outside" and the "inside", and you have to reach for a physical identity to describe what belongs inside the organism and what belongs outside it. Otherwise, you have nothing left but values and legalisms. 

If we accept that definition, then the left is correct and this is just an internal conflict between Americans and other Americans, who are extremists, Resident Alien Americans, Undocumented Americans, and Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, who just don't know that they're Americans yet. If to be an American, all you need to do is be born here or happen to have the right papers, or believe in free enterprise, democracy and religious tolerance for Dhimmis, then this is truly a global American civil war within the body of the Pax Americana.

An identity crisis leads to a values-based identity, and a values-based identity leads to a compulsive need to spread that identity to others. Islam is an example of an extended identity crisis and a values-based identity. Its adherents resolve a conflict between their practice and values by projecting it onto the infidel Other and then kill themselves to destroy that Other. Liberals do the same thing. Only their choice of tactics and orientation is different.

An individual or a nation in the throes of a values-based identity crisis is a "zombie"; its identity requires it to feed on and infect others. It is wholly other-oriented, whether in a friendly or hostile way. It strives to fill the gaping hole inside its own being by infecting others with its ideology. It is always insecure because it does not know itself. It is suicidal because it has no reason to live. Its existence wholly derives from its ability to spread its own species of insanity as widely as possible. Since it lives for this purpose, it must also die for it. This is the meaning of a human disease.

The loss of identity is a frightening thing and it can happen in any number of ways. Sudden change, national transformation, catastrophic war, contact with superior outsiders, technological revolution and a thousand other things. It is seductively easy to turn to a simple verity, the meditative chant that says identity derives from some form of moral and ethical superiority. It's child's play to link this up to national exceptionalism, without considering that national exceptionalism has no meaning without national survival.

In times of crisis, repeating "We are the good people" over and over again is no defense. And even before a crisis, it invites attack. It is tantamount to a refusal to defend yourself and makes it absurdly easy for an enemy to turn your own values against you. It then becomes all too depressingly easy for a nation to conclude that it would rather die than violate the absurdly dainty standards it has set for itself as proof of its own superiority.

A nation's self-worth is grounded in its accomplishments. As its accomplishments diminish, it either begins to live in the past or adopts a values-based identity that allows it to believe that it is better than the nations who are actually building, forging and making their future. The cycle feeds on itself until fossil nations remain, too good to lift a hand in their own defense. Such nations do not survive long in the natural order of things, but the twilight of the world wars left behind a Pax Americana that saw its stronger and more vital colonies protecting the mother countries from the consequences of their own degeneracy. That allowed them to rot in peace, while being colonized by their immigrant conquerors. Now that the colonies are degenerating at a rapid rate, the day swiftly approaches when there will be no one to protect the mother countries.

No nation or people can endure, founded on the belief in their own goodness, in their own ethics and their own superior values. Not only is this unforgivably arrogant and suicidal, but is a thing that has no existence. Physical identity is the heart of any group. When the group attempts to transcend its conflicts through a values-based identity, it either falls back onto physical identity or develops an identity crisis that eventually destroys it.


  1. Diversity destroys identity.

  2. Daniel7/6/12

    One's life is a good thing - worth fighting for. If one is going to die in fighting for it, that one ought to go down swinging.

  3. Daniel, just look what happened to a young Tunisian who decided to be baptized a Christian...I was so disgusted I couldn’t watch the video.



  4. Daniel, just look what happened to a young Tunisian who decided to be baptized a Christian..

    The page was in Greek, so I couldn't read it, but I got the message from the video preview that the person was beheaded. I also couldn't watch it since I'm still having 24-hour/day nightmares from the one such video I did watch a couple of years ago.

  5. Altalena7/6/12

    What do you call an identity that is not value-based: is it tribal identity? "National exceptionalism", does that mean loyalty to your particular tribe?
    Tribal identity will still lead you to feed on others if that's what your tribe traditionally does. If you define yourself based on where you come from, it's only a matter of being born into the right tribe to turn out to be a follower of Muhammed or a follower of the American Founding Fathers. The control of who you are is not in your hands anymore but in your ancestors'.

    I think the only way to have a solid identity is, ironically, to keep doubting who you are. If you fall into the illusion that you "know" yourself, you become a servant of those things you identify yourself with.

  6. Daniel: I think you are misusing the concept of a "values-based identity." I have a "value-based identity" – that is, I'm an American who believes in freedom of speech, laissez-faire capitalism, an un-adulterated Constitution, reason, and the unregulated pursuit of my own happiness. All that makes me an "American." That's my "value-based identity."

    Catholics, Jews, Protestants and other religious groups have their values, as well, but they don't conflict with my values because I'm not being asked or brow-beaten into acknowledging their "superiority." They're not enlisting government force to compel me to "submit" to their ethics. I can pass a Catholic, Jew, or Protestant on the street or even work next to him, and wouldn't know what his religion is. Nor would I know if he was a Republican or Democrat or libertarian or another atheist or a raving left-winger, unless we had political discussions.

    Muslims have values, too, but their values are antithetical to not only my values, but to those of the Catholics, Jews, and Protestants. Muslims hold anti-life values. Like annoying pop-up ads on various blog sites, Islam and Muslims keep shoving their existence in my face, into my consciousness. Islamists value their "supremacy" over all other religions and over all man-made law. They seek to convert all to Islam, or subjugate those who don't submit, or resort to force or subterfuge to compel obedience. But you can't deny that these are "values." Islam wishes to erase everyone's "identity" or at least denigrate it. The Muslim "identity" is that of a submissive, passive cipher who owes all to a contradiction-ridden ghost. That's the "value-based identity" of a Muslim, which is fundamentally anti-value, as well as being anti-life.
    America is in decline because of a concerted campaign by the Left to demolish the concept of being an American, which is an individual who supports the rule of law, and not of men, to guarantee his freedom to live his own life without interference by mobs, tribes, or gangs, either literally or through government force.

    This is a very confusing essay, and I hope my comments here help to clarify the issue.

  7. Anonymous7/6/12

    This great analysis explains what's wrong with post-Zionism. When the secular Zionists used the land given by G-d but without G-d they were trying to make an identity for themselves based on what? On something they did not identify with, hence the post-Zionism which is rootless with no connection to anything. Why fight for the country they don't identify with its "pretendet goals". On the contrary I think they secretly admire the Arabs and identify with them for their conviction (to destroy Israel as a Jewish state) because they lack it.

  8. Anonymous8/6/12


    I know what you mean. I haven't watched that video and won't. The Nick Berg beheading video was horrendous.


  9. Anonymous8/6/12

    This is an excellent article. I read it while listening to the Iron and Wine song Flightless Bird, American Mouth.

    A lot of people think the song is romantic. It is beautiful but the lyrics are very sad. I can't help but consider the lyrics, title and think of where our country is.

    I was a quick wet boy
    Diving too deep for coins
    All of your street light eyes
    Wide on my plastic toys

    "And when the cops closed the fair
    I cut my long baby hair
    Stole me a dog-eared map
    And called for you everywhere

    "Have I found you?
    Flightless bird, jealous, weeping
    Or lost you?
    American mouth
    Big pill looming

    "Have I found you?
    Flightless bird, grounded, bleeding
    Or lost you?
    American mouth
    Big pill stuck going down"

    That comes about as close as expressing how I feel about the US post 9/11.

    "The loss of identity is a frightening thing and it can happen in any number of ways. Sudden change, national transformation, catastrophic war, contact with superior outsiders, technological revolution and a thousand other things.

    "It is seductively easy to turn to a simple verity, the meditative chant that says identity derives from some form of moral and ethical superiority. It's child's play to link this up to national exceptionalism, without considering that national exceptionalism has no meaning without national survival."



  10. London_Liz8/6/12

    There is a discussion too in the UK about the things that hold us together as a nation/people. There are debates as to whether we are English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish, British, European, and what belonging to these categories means. Is a recent immigrant to (e.g.)Scotland Scottish or British? The fact that the default 'nationality' given to citizens of these Islands by those from the outside is 'English' not British is also problematical. Then came the Jubilee and suddenly the overwhelming majority was cheering and supporting the Queen! She became a renewed symbol of our nation, uniting all the disparate backgrounds as British. The rain which fell in torrents only proved another uniting force, "We British are united in defying the rain to celebrate"! Somewhere underneath the multiculturalism there was a kernel of Britishness which was allowed to flourish for a brief time at least.

  11. Anonymous8/6/12

    On the news (BBC of course) the issue is of "British parents forcing their children to marry". I was shocked, because what they mean is Muslim. A Muslim woman explained that she was removed from school and came back at 14 pregnant and gave birth at a British hospital. She laments that no-body asked questions....of course not, who wants to be labeled an "Islmaophobe".

    AND the BBC spokesperson said that marriage of minors was against the law in Pakistan and AGAINST ISLAM. Only the stupid (proper) British people of the leftish/educationalist/liberal variety will take this in hook, line and sinker, those of us who think will know that this is:

    a) a lie
    b) Mohamet is the pattern for all Muslims to follow and it is acceptable for men to have wives of 6 (it is unislamic to have a wive of 4/5 yrs old) and then have sex with her at 9

    There is nothing "British Parents" about this at all.

    I think I may have to disagree with you on this one, Daniel, because Psalm 33:12 states:

    "Blessed is the nation whose Gd is YY" and as the free West was once based (though now by a thread) on these values the majority of the indigenous (am I allowed to say this of predominantly white people?) of the UK do however have these values inscribed into the Psyche. Whether people like it or not the values of the Torah are actually superior to every other religion and man-made ideology

    kate b


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