Eyes on Prevailing Customs and Traditions: The Soul of the US
by Aiden Wetterhan, Form VI
13 min. read — December 13, 2023
Taking a moment to silence your phone, turn off your TV, and clarify to your mind your stability, reflect on a day – a whole entire day – when you did not concern yourself with Apple News notifications, geopolitics-themed shorts, or the permanent firmament of “Breaking News” stories. Now, compare this to a day when those things settled in and reclined in your mind. It can be useful to turn yourselves into active interpreters and analyzers of this vast stream of media consumption in order to not only scale the cliffs set forth by the creators of this content and best realize their wishes, but also to maximize your understanding of which thread you are and the image you form in the grand tapestry of the globalizing world. Common chattering refrains in one’s mind probably include the Russian war on Ukraine, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and developments between Taiwan and China to name a few. Additionally, I am sure many hold in their hearts personal local developments not only within the United States but within other parts of the world with which they might hold deep cultural, ethnic, and religious ties. Then society, economics, and the environment might dominate the personal attention of others. In order to best address these first few examples which all have a close connection to each other or mutual preservation on account of actions taken by the US government and seeing how these latter personal examples are greatly influenced by the cultural and ideological melting pot of the United States, let’s find the principle of the thing. Who is the United States?
First of all, let us specify that we refer to the United States of America, a joyous name to many and a compact of cerebral gymnastics to others. Once you successfully differentiate the United States of America from the United States of Mexico you are still left with a confusing parallel between the America which is a suffix for one of two continents for some, a name lacking an “s” to denote one continent for others, and a name which has little real connection to the United States for many abroad. And yet, all it takes for swaths of tourists is a simple greeting, waltz, or if need be, mention of the name United States or America for the local population to recognize this foreigner. But how has this come about? I don’t mean merely through what source of knowledge one recognizes an American’s accent, affect, or attitude demanding an exception for its name. That can all be swiftly accounted for through general knowledge or an aptly placed Google search if need be, but I am asking: how did this come to be?
I will begin this exploration of America’s identity with a brief analysis of one potential term often used to describe America followed by delving a reasonable deal into its efficacy in describing America and what such a term should really entail. This will pave the way for one to consider their pre-existing views of America’s interaction with herself and some of the transitional and foundational logic for those contemplations might be treated on in the subsequent edition of the Priory Press. For anyone who believes that this might be putting the cart before the horse, I respond that even a man must undergo a preliminary vision and understanding of war, and peace, and the truths that surround him before he might more frankly and generously treat with his own conflict and affliction. And, as per usual, if for nothing else but sheer fun, we will be answering some objections along the way. Incipiamus.
Part 1. America: The Empire
If for no other reason than as an ode to Amerigo, the man who keenly identified the Americas as separate from now eastern territories, I first chose to refer to the United States as America – a land brewing with potential for itself and for those who voyage the crashing shores to soar with the thrashing of the waves with her presence. We shall define an empire here as a singular state comprised of various ethnic and cultural groups. I do not believe this preliminary definition differs significantly from any mainstream way of enclosing with words an empire. Still, there is much more to be seen to and elaborated upon which history books are usually swift to pass over, or douse with presentism, or to meet with chintzy servings of presentism. The word ethnic derives from the Greek word ethnikos, which itself derives from the word ethnos, meaning nation. The only thing bolder than describing the word empire is to describe the word ethnicity since a nation can mean so many things to each multitude. Just think of the difficulty men have in defining those who are really a part of a given religion, which term is meant to reflect those who once were or still are entrusted to a distinct national group.
There proceeds the first definition of an ethnos – a group of people with a shared religion, or other sublime duty. One can almost hear the words leaping from the pages of St. Joan where the priest Cauchon who wages wars against heresy becomes dynamized at the prospect of nations dividing the kingdom of God. Again, nicely afforded for us is a second definition of an ethnos – a group of people who hail one person, or more broadly, creature or creator, as their suzerain. Rarely, but not never the duty to rule traditionally held by one person will be replaced by a group of leading persons who act as a single body. Our third way to define an ethnos will be by the shared hope of its people for the preservation of its state: as Constantine the XI Palailogos hopped from his safety and descended into the throng of the enemy for the sake of their hewing, the Byzantine nation existed in Constantinople. The moment his people had presumed him dead, their hope dying with him, the nation ceased to exist in Constantinople. However, if they had fitted their nation with a new ruler with their hope being preserved in their people, the Byzantine nation in Constantinople would have existed for some time.
So, there you have it: the three conditions for the existence of an ethnos are a religion (with the proper stretched merits mentioned earlier), a suzerain, and hope for the existence of the nation. The next most immediate question shews itself to be whether or not all three of these conditions must prove necessary for the existence of an ethnos. To that, I answer no. I do not endeavor to say that in the Middle Ages when a queen died, its people were for some time without a nation. However, I do, in fact, mean to say that these three characteristics of a nation are mutually supporting and fulfilling – with enough time passing without one of these conditions being fulfilled, the other two begin to atrophy. This is especially true of a nation which lacks two of these conditions but maintains one. For example, see to the Portuguese Empire when its leader Dom Pedro fled to Portugal by the aid of the British to escape almost certain doom from the approaching French. Without a ruler in his proper place attending to his duties, upkeeping that might expected from a suzerain upon his seat of power and administrative content, the hope of Portugal’s people dwindled, and, to add insult to injury, Portugal’s local legislature and growing royale family descended into a state of contest propped up by aligned Brazilian states until it seemed that you would have an easier job telling who was the proper Pope in the Avignon crises than for the Portuguese Empire at this period. Finally, to really muddy the waters the people of Brazil began to question the religious morality of him whom they claimed to be a pretender, he who was once their god-given and belovéd ruler.
Now, some will say that an ethnos should not include a given religion since such a description of an ethnos is not necessary for many ethnoi today and various throughout history. What’s more, if the generalization is afforded for religion in its first enumeration, would not it be more proper to find a broader description of this quality of all ethne (plural of ethnos) which is holistically and continually applicable? To the first, I respond that all who consent to marking out a space for an ethnos based on its suzerain must accept this quality of an ethnos by religion too since all suzerains knowingly or unknowingly model themselves on he who receives the due in a given religion. The suzerain binds a society as a religion binds its people, and the administrators under a suzerain subtend themselves to the will of their suzerain and are said to speak his will in all official matters as is said concerning the ministers of a given religion. Finally, a religion (Latin: re back, again +ligo to bind) is said to be binding upon its people just as a suzerain provides a sense of centrality and order to the bounds of an ethnos. However, neither binds in the way as does rope or locks; rather, both these bind a people to its ethnos as night binds day and day binds night. That is, where one travels, so too, the other also follows in pursuit. As a people’s religion leaps, so does its devotion to its nation whenever its ethnos is said to survive – otherwise, there might be fomented two peoples from one or two of these ways of conducting an ethnos from a singular unit. This last description concerning binding is to be found sufficient for the last question.
However, to be both, it actually appears that it might be more fitting to admit this third quality of an ethnos to its suzerain. On the other hand, the suzerain derives his legitimacy from the religion of the nation, and so it would be unreasonable to say that a thing derives its own legitimacy from itself. Then, to make our dire connection to historical affairs, it ought to be said that I support the belief that it was not agriculture but religion which promoted the first semi-sedentary humans, i.e., those in Anatolia.
Now let us come upon the elusive prospects here: location. How is an ethnos not defined by its location? After all, it would seem that the loss of a people’s connection to a certain soil would result in the degradation of its religious unity, a suzerain who is ultimately capable as acting in such a position, and hope in its nation. Let us first cling to the essential methodologies of dividing land: de sanguine, de iure, and de facto. If a de facto map is drawn it is designed to reflect the de facto, by the very fact, administration over the land. Then, if a de iure map is drawn, the intent becomes to show a general agreement concerning who controls a given stretch of land. Finally, a map, though rarely used in this content or fleshed out (get it) sufficiently in this regard, can be created tracking the de sanguine, or by blood, control over land based on who by the right of their blood lives in a certain area. Therefore, the simplest reason for why location does not matter in determining an ethnos is that we do not divide land, at least not today, along lines of blood. You would have to search very hard to find a world leader or UN facility around the globe which possesses a single de sanguine map which they believe details the nations of the world. But if you hold this to be more of a conveniens, or convenient argument, than a proof, then we can reason negatively.
The maps you will find in UN buildings and in the offices and speeches of many world leaders are de facto and, as has become increasingly relevant with the Ukrainian War, de iure maps. Alternatively, one could just interpret these latter ones as bureaucratically endowed de facto maps, whichever you prefer. Regardless, de facto and de iure maps are both legitimatized, popular, and quite utile in their respective spheres, admitting frequent interactions in various grounds as seen in the previous potential example. A de facto map derives its legitimacy from the strength of a certain people over another or, in sparse cases, merely over the elements. A de iure map happens to derive its legitimacy from the consent of those states which possess this given power. That is to say that a de iure map derives its existence from the principle of a de facto map though the same cannot be said for the de facto map’s existence. Meanwhile, a de facto map would not continue to exist, i.e. have its necessary data collected, compiled, and shared to continue the cycle, without some civilizing idea or consent for peaceful co-existence among the nations dominant by their mass, strength, and willpower. In other words, the production of de facto maps offshoots into the creation of de iure maps, but de iure maps propel the existence of future de facto maps. How can this be if a de facto and de iure map seem to be at odds in their intent and propositions by direct conflict at times? This is because carving out land is not the critical goal of any de facto or de iure map which seeks to define and set apart certain nations. Instead, their goals pertain to civilizing ideas as seen in the execution and advancement of culture in their creation, refinement, and implementation. These very civilizing ideas are found in all three of our binding parts of an ethnos. As to the other firmament of de facto and de iure maps, here is held the physicality and associated reverence which a nation imposes upon another nation. These, too, are found well characterized in all those three ethnic features drawn out earlier, but to the notion that imposition upon another nation could not possibly be a determining factor of one’s own national identity, it should be recalled from the example involving Constantine that often the self-preservation of a nation from which good things like religion, and “suzerainship”, and by extension civility come from rely on the existence of these things against one’s enemy which may at times take an offensive form just as Constantine leaped down and as Byzantium more broadly was amiss to not take more decisive Christian-mercantile league allied action against the Ottoman threat.
Since we have sufficiently harped upon three definitions for ethnos, I can now leave you with a brief summary connection between the rest of our definition for an empire and what we have reasoned about an ethnos. We have recently forged our way into a connection between culture and ethnicity, the former which can be more intensely defined as the compilation of speedy discharges of those who form an ethnos which, in turn, allows for ease of interaction between those who make up said ethnos. Thus, our definition has bent fully backwards to encompass the self-fulfilling nature of culture without consigning it to a condition for the existence of an ethnos since a man does not only use the word “cultured” to stress a person who well-conforms to their present ideals but also one who produces much of what is like himself or proper to his own way, along with a hermit who may be called cultured, and a prophet who is so in his own right too. Finally, we defined an empire as a singular state which comprises between these vast and varied cultures and ethnicities. Every empire first was its own, independent ethnicity, but by its zeal for power combined with fortune or fate is kicked and launched by the neighing horse, and like old Rome who one was its own people strewn as a “refugee from Fate”, so too does every genesis or ruling nation of an empire radically loose key aspects of its identity since it aspends or sacrifices readily available portions of its culture in free exchange, swift migration, or social mobility until the ethnos which has undergone a strange metamorphosis is left with some aspects of multiculturalism which are only best reflected in the spirit of empire since there rests a mighty perversion of the strength of man which is to propel his own ethnos into safety, but here the strength of man corrupts and overthrows, first mixes or turning, till overturning the very virility of its arts it was designed to protect.