Modern Manifestation of ‘The Noble Savage’

The Noble Savage

When describing the thought of the modern liberal, a plurality or pejoratives come to mind; from delusional to dystopian, rankly hypocritical to downright ridiculous – one may even go so far as to say, and not without foundation; pathological. Thankfully there is one way in which we would never describe the liberal mind, and that of course is “original”. Originality is severely lacking amongst the liberal classes and much of the left, who rely on 20th century student protest ideology or simply reproduce carbon copies of those arguments developed in the Frankfurt School in the early 1900’s, as opposed to actually entertaining the oh so arduous process of thinking for themselves.

Thus they are destined to continuously reproduce the ideas and dogmas that have long since been discredited. One such idea that I’ve given a lot of thought to lately is the notion of “The Noble Savage”, an idea that emerged as a side-effect of the Enlightenment era. The term was first used by English poet John Dryden in his 1672 poem The Conquest of Grenada, yet was later developed by enlightenment-era thinkers such as Anthony Ashley-Cooper and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, into a sort of romantic sentimentalism, wistfully thinking back to a time before man and the natural state of man had been “corrupted” by civilisation. However, it increasingly came to be used in reference to non-European peoples whose societies were less advanced and less civilised than our own, particularly those peoples in lands newly colonised by the European powers.

The concept was deeply entwined with enlightenment idea of egalitarianism, and many advocates of the “Noble Savage” concept not only viewed the natural state of man as inherently egalitarian, but also came to attribute this to the native tribes of the colonial properties of Europe. The native American is one such group that the enlightenment theorists viewed in this way; a tribe viewed by civilised peoples as savage or barbarian, but one that is closer to the supposed natural state of man. They held a romanticised view of the native American, projecting their convictions of egalitarianism, liberty and fraternity onto these people and, thus, christening them “The Noble Savages”.

Modern liberals have appropriated this concept to the Nth degree, although they perhaps misunderstood the musings of those romantic enlightenment theorists, who conceived their ideas within an entirely different metapolitical climate. Today the modern liberal uses this idea of “The Noble Savage” not so much as a model on which to mould their own societies, but more as a weapon with which to vehemently attack European civilisation – their thought process is akin to “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”, given their race-baiting view that the interests of minorities, or anybody who’s not European, are always diametrically opposed to the interests of white people.

It’s quite clear upon listening to the conversations of the chattering classes that many of them have taken this concept of the Noble Savage and fetishized it in a deeply disturbing way. They assert that the tribes of Africa and the Americas were once all the things they claim ours are not; egalitarian, ecologically-friendly, feministic, peaceful and economically-just. In their view, the cruel and prejudiced colonialists of Europe are responsible for the ruination of these Utopian societies, an idea they oft use as a stick with which to beat the traditional institutions of Europe and nations of European diaspora – America is especially inflicted with this strand of liberal thinking, which is plain to see in the midst of frantic iconoclasm and the sustained media campaign against the European population.

In his book “The Strange Death of Europe”, Douglas Murray devotes some pages to this phenomenon that I’ve referred to. He rightly derides this romantic view that the liberal class has of pre-colonial Africa and the Americas, asserting that these societies were far from the peaceful paradises of egalitarianism, liberty and fraternity that deluded western liberals would have us believe. Whilst not using the term “Noble Savage”, likely as a result of the internalised political correctness displayed by many on the conservative end of the spectrum, he does allude quite specifically to this phenomenon and explains that these places and these peoples were not the egalitarian agrarian societies they are often believed to have been.

And of course, Murray is thoroughly correct. To suggest that the tribal, pre-colonial societies of Africa, Australasia and the Americas inherently held dear the values of the European enlightenment is preposterous to the point that it must, in the first instance, be laughed at. It took multiple millennia and untold deaths at the hands of tyrants for Europeans to even begin to conceive the notions of freedom and egalitarianism, and countless years of synthesising competing ideas in order to arrive at the correct balance – even now, despite our phenomenally advanced society in relative terms, we are a long way from perfecting the ideals of the enlightenment thinkers.

Therefore, it is ludicrous to even attempt to argue that tribes who, until the advent of colonialism, had not even a written language, held these vales even by accident. The native Americans, the Africans and even the aborigines, didn’t even have the concepts of property rights, freedom of speech/thought/expression, common law, trial by peers, parliamentary democracy or universal suffrage, yet some still try to assert that these peoples had been bastions of enlightened thinking in an egalitarian, naturist paradise.

Rather, what the European colonialists found for the most part were tribes fighting over land, ruled by warlords and practising things such as cannibalism and religious practises we would mostly consider to be satanic. They had no concept of civilisation, let alone the aspects of civilisation necessary to achieve such an enlightened status as Ashley-Cooper, Rousseau et al had envisaged.

At this point it is prudent to differentiate between “The Noble Savage” of the 18th century enlightenment theorists, and the causes of minority groups that our modern liberals fetishize. The former was an observation of the natural state of man which, however misguided, was not an endorsement of multiculturalism or a multiracial society. Rather, it can mostly be dismissed as misplaced romanticism about places and peoples that the theorists themselves had never experienced first-hand – their evidence for these egalitarian native societies was confined almost exclusively to their imaginations. Or it can be considered as the result of a mistaken theory, namely that all humans are inherently good or, as Ashley-Cooper believed, neither good nor bad. This strand of thought, particularly when applied universally to aspects of humanity for whom it is not appropriate, is always destined to lead to a poor output.

Furthermore, at no point did the enlightenment thinkers propose what advocates of today’s Noble Savage doctrine themselves suggest; a multiracial world in which we all debase ourselves to the level of the barbarian. For instance, Anthony Ashley-Cooper never proposed and would never have proposed that his idealised foreign tribes all come to England and drastically reshape the cultural and ethnic landscape of our society. Similarly, Rousseau and those who emanated his ideology in Revolutionary France did not once suggest that the hordes of Africans should make their homes in Paris or Lyon. This notion that we owe some sort of debt to the Noble Savage is one that is exclusive to late 20th and 21st century “thinkers”, as is the original sin of colonialism – even enlightenment thinkers in practise did not move to abolish slavery in their colonies once in power, this came later.

Yet one cannot help but draw the link between the two schools of thought, given the similarities on display, the most potent of course being the fetishisation of the foreign tribes. And it is beyond doubt that the birthplace of such ideas was the indeed the enlightenment period in Western Europe. Although, those grandiose philosophers such as Ashley-Cooper and, in particular, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, cannot be held solely responsible for these ideas taking hold, but rather their naïve and romantic musings have been weaponised by the modern liberal, with an undoubtedly heavy influence of Soviet-style destabilisation on display, too.

To play devil’s advocate in the eyes of the liberal classes, perhaps we would do better to not cherry-pick elements of ideas that we like whilst disregarding their natural companions. For instance, the fetishisation of the foreign tribes or, “The Noble Savage”, is done so with great emphasis seemingly placed upon the word “Noble”, whilst forgetting that the word “Savage” is there for a very clear reason; regardless of their alleged moral virtue, those being described even by enlightened thinkers remained savages, or barbarians or whatever term you wish to use. That is to say, a savage or barbarian by definition is not of the civilised world, and would not be able to adapt therein.

It is worth offering this as a reminder to those who would seek to promote one romanticised (and false) society at the expense of our own European civilisations. Whilst it may suit their agenda, and they may even convince themselves of its validity, the notion of “The Noble Savage” is a false God and its adoption of it by the liberal classes is yet more evidence of their deep and often irreconcilable detachment from reality. Those who hold such revisionist views of history, particularly at the expense of our own culture, are not intellectually fit to hold high public office. Not only that, but anybody who would prefer to live under a pre-historic African warlord than in our enlightened, advanced European societies, requires a serious examination of their sanity.

William is a writer based in England, Great Britain.