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Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.

C. S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books”

One time I recommended a book to a feminist. Yes, I know, in retrospect a huge mistake. Actually, we don’t mind feminists, here at Unamusement Park; in general, we find them interesting and amusing, and this one was no exception.

The book was In Defense of Women by H. L. Mencken, and it was published in 1918. “Why, a book from 1918!” she exclaimed, soiling herself fore and aft (I’m paraphrasing). “Why not recommend a book from — the 1500s! you enormous dunce?” As you may have guessed, she was being facetious, and incidentally providing another excellent example of the opposite of everything I believe.

I actually would read a book about men and women written in the 1500s: I think you could learn something from it. Believe it or not, in the sixteenth century there existed both men and women, who did most of the same things men and women do today. The Taming of the Shrew was written in the sixteenth century.

Anyway, the point is not to defend what for many in the present time is apparently a weird and frightening habit: the deliberate, premeditated reading of old books. Instead, I wanted to say a few words about the practical aspects of it.

How to find them

You can find old books in a number of places. The public libraries are full of them, but you have to put them back when you’re done (and librarians are not nearly as sexy as you’ve been led to believe). University libraries, too: for God’s sake, don’t enroll, but you can just walk in and read for a while. Used book stores, chain book stores, Amazon and the Apple store (which I understand are branching out into other products as well): all of them jam-packed with books, many of them old.

Most of my books are PDF files. I get them from the Internet Archive and Google Books, from the Liberty Fund and the Mises Institute (not only for libertarians), from Scribd (which takes a subscription), from HathiTrust (which works best from campus), from the Unz Review (in theory — not sure I’ve ever actually done it), and from more obscure and specialized sources (like American Deception).

If you think of anywhere else to find old books, please leave a comment.

How to store them

A paper book is traditionally stored upon a shelf; a digital book is perhaps best stored in a directory. My own library directory is organized by author like this:

  • Carlyle, Thomas
    • “French Revolution, The”
      • 1837 – London – 3 volumes – 1st Edition
        • Volume 1 – “The Bastille”
        • Volume 2 – “The Constitution”
          • [the files for this volume]
        • Volume 3 – “The Guillotine”
      • 1842 – London – 3 volumes – 2nd Edition
        • [the volumes of this edition]
      • [more editions of The French Revolution]
    • “Latter-Day Pamphlets”
      • 1850 – London – 1st Edition
      • 1855 – Boston
        • [the files for this edition]
      • [more editions of Latter-Day Pamphlets]
    • [more documents by Thomas Carlyle]
  • Chamberlin, William Henry
    • [his documents]
  • [more authors]

And so on. That way, it’s easy to find any specific book I have in mind, and it’s easy to just browse around and look for something to read. (Incidentally, the text file you see above contains my notes on the corresponding PDF file: see below.)

How to manage them

If you want to store more than basic information about your books, or if you want to automate the process of managing your library, then you need a program. I wrote a command-line tool that does everything I want in 15 milliseconds or less:

  • browse and search by author, title, topic, etc.
  • organize my directories
  • remember what I’ve read and what I’m reading
  • keep track of where all my PDF files came from originally
  • export my reading lists (for when I recommend books to other people)
  • manage the commentary files (my notes) for all of my books
  • and so on and so forth

I used to manage my library with a certain other program — I won’t name it here. Suffice it to say, it does not meet my needs. (Feel free to skip this rant.)

For example, instead of organizing my library directory with documents, editions, and volumes, it simply stores — documents. So, if I happen to own two editions of Thomas Carlyle’s History of Friedrich II of Prussia (which I do), let’s say a 10-volume edition published in London in 1873 and a 13-volume edition published in Leipzig in 1858–1865, then a certain other program will create 23 separate folders under “Thomas Carlyle” (not “Carlyle, Thomas”), two of them titled “History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Volume 1” — and I think you see the problem here.

For another example, that other program does not offer any way of adding little notes to books as I read them, and then storing all of those notes in special commentary files in such a way that I can later, for instance, search all notes on all documents (or all documents about Prussia, etc.), for references to “silly kittens” or some other typical search query. This feature is important to me.

Also, that other program is slow to load, slow to run, and frankly somewhat unstable (it crashes), probably because it’s bogged down with all sorts of features that are quite useless to me, like downloading cover art. I happen to know the cover art for the History of Friedrich II of Prussia (1858–1865, Leipzig, 13 volumes): it’s red, and I think it may be leather. But you can’t download leather.

How to read them (a note on notes)

If you’ve never read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler, I highly recommend it. I do want to add a suggestion of my own. Try it, and see if you like it:

When I read a book for the first time, I add a little note (a very little one), with a page and paragraph number, every time I find something particularly interesting. Then, after a few days, I go back to the book, read through all my little notes, look at the corresponding text in the book, and expand the note into either an excerpt (a direct quote) or some sort of commentary on the text. I don’t do it the first time through the book, because I would lose the author’s train of thought.

I started doing this after I found myself thinking about this one really excellent passage in that book by that guy, I think I read it in Amsterdam — and I think you see the problem here. I needed notes. And instead of reading every book twice, adding notes the second time, I just add very short notes the first time, and then re-read “from the notes.” This proved a satisfactory solution.

Anyway, if anyone is at all interested, this month I am going to post some examples of how I’ve annotated various old books, with the annotations serving as a sort of running commentary, critique, and review all in one.

Go read a book!

A murder and a suicide

Police in Germany arrest a 17-year-old “Afghan migrant” for the rape and murder by drowning of a 19-year-old medical student, Maria Ladenburger, in Freiburg [1]. The victim “reportedly worked in her spare time helping out in refugee homes.” The girl’s father, a prominent official with the European Union, used his daughter’s funeral to solicit donations for even more third-world “refugees” [2].

As usual, I turned to my old books for some perspective — with less than usual success, I’m afraid. Lately, I’ve begun to wonder if the Europe of the present is actually incomprehensible to Europe past, rather as the latter seems to be to the former. Is the verdict of history then “not guilty by reason of insanity”?

In the end, I could only dredge up the terrifying Revilo P. Oliver. “Six years ago,” he wrote in Christianity and the Survival of the West (1973), “I asked the one crucial question: Have we, the men of the West, lost the will to live?”

Nothing, certainly, has happened since then to suggest a negative answer. To be sure, after some sensationally flagitious outrage to our race, a considerable number of men, invariably the least “educated,” mutter angrily among themselves; and in a city of almost two million some fifty men and women may boldly assemble to voice their protest, thus embarrassing the vast majority of Aryans, who hasten to assure the world that their heads are so stuffed with mush that they love their Enemies and hope for nothing better than the privilege of being spat-on and kicked some more. And if the outrage is widely reported, the computers will whirr more loudly as they churn out appeals to patriotic suckers, and the travelling salesmen will drive harder as they rush from chapter-meeting to chapter-meeting to meet a temporarily increased demand for patriotic paregoric to soothe nervous stomachs. Nowhere can one discern the slightest indication that in the great majority of our people the racial instinct of self-preservation has not been lost.

The question remains unanswered, however, for we cannot yet determine whether the instinct has been extinguished or is merely in abeyance while our people are in a kind of cataleptic trance from which they may be roused by physical suffering and acute privation when the time comes, as it assuredly will in a few years. In the meantime the question remains open, although our fragmentary data point to an affirmative answer — to the loss of the will to live. The laws of biological processes, like the law of gravitation, are constant and unalterable; they cannot be evaded by magic or oratory or whimpering; and it would be supremely silly to expostulate with a people that is not biologically fit to survive.

Too harsh? Perhaps, but then again:

Our situation is desperate, and we can afford no illusions, no retreat into a land of dreams. Now, more than ever, optimism is cowardice.

We are born into this time, and there is no escape from it save in death. If the courage of our ancestors was not entombed with them, if their ability to meet desperate perils with clear-sighted resolution was transmitted to their heirs, if their will to live is not extinct in us, our race and our civilization may yet survive.

Sources

  1. Rob Virtue, Allan Hall and Monika Pallenberg: “Daughter of top EU official raped and murdered in Germany — Afghan migrant admits killing” in Daily Express (2016)
  2. “Todesanzeige von getöteter Studentin: Marias Familie bat um Spenden — auch für Flüchtlinge” in Bild (2016)

Sarah Zhang alerts us to a scientific crisis in The Atlantic [1] (just the place): racialists, particularly “white nationalists,” are “serious about understanding genetics.” Their “obsession with racial purity is easily channeled, apparently, into an obsession with genetics,” for “even seemingly benign genetics research can reinforce a belief that different races are essentially different.” Disturbing stuff!

Of course, it would be even more disturbing the other way round: seriously studying human genetics, then developing a belief in essential race differences…

Perhaps Ms. Zhang will refute this nutty obsession with “National Characters”:

I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences. On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of the Whites, such as the ancient Germans, the present Tartars, have still something eminent about them, in their valour, form of government, or some other particular. Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction between these breeds of men. Not to mention our colonies, there are Negro slaves dispersed all over Europe, of whom none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity; though low people, without education, will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession. In Jamaica, indeed, they talk of one Negro as a man of parts and learning; but it is likely he is admired for slender accomplishments, like a parrot who speaks a few words plainly.

David Hume: Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary (1742)

Sources

  1. Sarah Zhang: “Will the Alt-Right Promote a New Kind of Racist Genetics?” in The Atlantic (2016)

Academic freedom

George Ciccariello-Maher is an assistant professor at Drexel University who describes himself as “radical political theorist” and “an actual communist” [1]. On Christmas Eve, 2016, Professor Ciccariello-Maher publicly called for “white genocide,” i.e., the extermination of white people. “To clarify,” he added, singling out a real-life example of a white genocide (see here), “when the whites were massacred during the Haitian revolution, that was a good thing indeed” [2].

After several people complained about Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s call to murder all of the white people, Drexel University issued a brief statement [3]:

While the University recognizes the right of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate, Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s comments are utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the University.

Professor Ciccariello-Maher promptly issued his own statement, calling the university’s response “worrying” [4]. When he called for white genocide, he was only exercising his “right to free expression” (a right communists deny). Besides, he didn’t mean it: the message was “satirical,” because white genocide is an “imaginary concept,” notwithstanding his own real-life example. On the other hand, when other people — excuse me, when “white supremacists” — expressed opposition to his call for white genocide, that was “harassment,” not “free speech” at all. Indeed, to accuse the professor of having written what he wrote amounts to “a coordinated smear campaign.” Meanwhile, the university, by freely expressing its own opinion, “sends a chilling message,” “sets a frightening precedent,” and “encourages harassment.” It all goes to show that “white supremacy is on the rise, and we must fight it by any means” — including white genocide, like in Haiti, which is imaginary. This freedom of speech is a remarkably subtle thing.

In that fight, universities will need to choose whether they are on the side of free expression and academic debate, or on the side of the racist mob.

To clarify, the “racist mob,” under this interpretation, is made up of all the people who don’t want to carry out a “white genocide” on Christmas. Just to be clear.

To communist college professors who call for white genocide and hide behind talk of academic debate, I have little or nothing to say; to people who exercise empathy and reason, I would like to address a few words about free speech.

If the lucid John Stuart Mill was a great proponent of liberty, his lesser-known colleague James Fitzjames Stephen was an equally great proponent of coercion:

It seems to me that to publish opinions upon morals, politics, and religion is an act as important as any which any man can possibly do; that to attack opinions on which the framework of society rests is a proceeding which both is and ought to be dangerous. I do not say that it ought not to be done in many cases, but it should be done sword in hand, and a man who does it has no more right to be surprised at being fiercely resisted than a soldier who attacks a breach. Mr. Mill’s whole charge against social intolerance is that it makes timid people afraid to express unpopular opinions. An old ballad tells how a man, losing his way on a hill-side, strayed into a chamber full of enchanted knights, each lying motionless in complete armour, with his war-horse standing motionless beside him. On a rock lay a sword and a horn, and the intruder was told that if he wanted to lead the army, he must choose between them. He chose the horn and blew a loud blast, upon which the knights and their horses vanished in a whirlwind and their visitor was blown back into common life, these words sounding after him on the wind:

Cursed be the coward that ever he was born

Who did not draw the sword before he blew the horn.

No man has a right to give the signal for such a battle by blowing the horn, unless he has first drawn the sword and knows how to make his hands guard his head with it. Then let him blow as loud and long as he likes, and if his tune is worth hearing he will not want followers. Till a man has carefully formed his opinions on these subjects, thought them out, assured himself of their value, and decided to take the risk of proclaiming them, the strong probability is that they are not much worth having. Speculation on government, morals, and religion is a matter of vital practical importance, and not mere food for curiosity. Curiosity, no doubt, is generally the motive which leads a man to study them; but, till he has formed opinions on them for which he is prepared to fight, there is no hardship in his being compelled by social intolerance to keep them to himself and to those who sympathise with him. It should never be forgotten that opinions have a moral side to them. The opinions of a bad and a good man, the opinions of an honest and a dishonest man, upon these subjects are very unlikely to be the same.

James Fitzjames Stephen: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1874)

Sources

  1. Lee Stranahan: “The Far-Left Ideas that Motivate ‘White Genocide’ Professor” in Breitbart (2016)
  2. Ian Simpson: “Pennsylvania professor under fire for ‘white genocide’ tweet” in Reuters (2016)
  3. Drexel University: “Response to Professor George Ciccariello-Maher’s Tweet” (2016)
  4. Scott Jaschik: “Drexel Condemns Professor’s Tweet” in Inside Higher Ed (2016)

Human sacrifice

Anna Alboth, a young German woman, has decided to “march from Berlin to Aleppo to try to bring an end to the war” in Syria. Anna “has already welcomed a Syrian refugee into her own home,” in the form of “Akeel, a 50-year-old Syrian man who escaped from the war when it became too dangerous to stay” [1].

I can’t be the only one who thought of this story from 2008 [2]:

An Italian woman artist who was hitch-hiking to the Middle East dressed as a bride to promote world peace has been found murdered in Turkey.

The naked body of Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo, 33, known as Pippa Bacca, was found in bushes near the northern city of Gebze on Friday.

Or this one — truly a classic in the genre — from 2010 [3]:

Two weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I started to write what I thought was a very clever editorial […]. Ever committed to preserving the dignity of Black [sic] men in a world which constantly stereotypes them as violent savages, I viewed this writing as yet one more opportunity to fight “the man” on behalf of my brothers. That night, before I could finish the piece, I was held on a rooftop in Haiti and raped repeatedly by one of the very men who I had spent the bulk of my life advocating for.

It hurt. The experience was almost more than I could bear. I begged him to stop. Afraid he would kill me, I pleaded with him to honor my commitment to Haiti, to him as a brother in the mutual struggle for an end to our common oppression, but to no avail. He didn’t care that I was a Malcolm X scholar. He told me to shut up, and then slapped me in the face. Overpowered, I gave up fighting halfway through the night.

[…]

Not once did I envision myself becoming a receptacle for a Black [sic] man’s rage at the white [sic] world, but that is what I became. While I take issue with my brother’s behavior, I’m grateful for the experience.

The truth is, Anna, there’s a reason some countries are “too dangerous,” and it’s not the weather: it’s the people who live there. It’s “Akeel” on your couch.

And there is a larger point, as well, to this suicidal humanism (if you will):

Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide. When once this initial and final sentence is understood, everything about liberalism — the beliefs, emotions and values associated with it, the nature of its enchantment, its practical record, its future — falls into place. […]

Primarily, however, the ideology of modern liberalism must be understood as itself one of the expressions of the Western contraction and decline; a kind of epiphenomenon or haze accompanying the march of history; a swan song, a spiritual solace of the same order as the murmuring of a mother to a child who is gravely ill. […]

It is as if a man, struck with a mortal disease, were able to say and to believe, as the flush of the fever spread over his face, “Ah, the glow of health returning!”; as his flesh wasted away, “At least I am able to trim down that paunch the doctor always warned me about!”; as a finger dropped off with gangrene or leprosy, “Now I won’t have that bothersome job of trimming those nails every week!” Liberalism permits Western civilization to be reconciled to dissolution; and this function its formulas will enable it to serve right through to the very end, if matters turn out that way: for even if Western civilization is wholly vanquished or altogether collapses, we or our children will be able to see that ending, by the light of the principles of liberalism, not as a final defeat, but as the transition to a new and higher order in which Mankind as a whole joins in a universal civilization that has risen above the parochial distinctions, divisions and discriminations of the past.

James Burnham: Suicide of the West (1964)

Sources

  1. “The woman walking to Aleppo to ‘end the Syrian war’” in BBC (2016)
  2. “‘World peace’ hitcher is murdered” in BBC (2008)
  3. Amanda Kijera: “We are not your weapons — we are women” in AlterNet (2010)

When an Arab Muslim from North Africa murdered twelve Germans with a truck at a Christmas market in Berlin, the editorial board of The New York Times [1] lost no time identifying the real threat to Germany: German people! Specifically, the sort of German people who don’t want to be replaced by Arab Muslims from North Africa: a “populist right,” or perhaps “far” right, whose “dangerous — if predictable — reaction” was “to slam Chancellor Angela Merkel for her humane asylum policy and to push its xenophobic agenda” by “viciously,” sadistically writing about it. Thus, “the Berlin attack risks igniting in Germany an already charged debate on refugees.” Like a rape victim blowing on her stupid whistle: why does she insist on igniting an already charged debate? A dangerous — if predictable — reaction.

Under no circumstances will Germans be permitted to notice the invasion and destruction of their homeland, much less do something about it, according to the editorial board of The Washington Post [2]: “What Germans cannot and must not do is permit terrorists to sow internal division, much less succumb to the siren song of the anti-foreigner right wing.” Instead, Germans will have to adapt: population replacement will accelerate, through “better, swifter screening,” along with “better integration” of the foreign invaders (more handouts and younger rape victims). Meanwhile, the conquered populace will be forcibly re-educated; call it an “attitude adjustment toward security.” Germans will now be subject to “video surveillance” in “public spaces,” and never mind your old-fashioned “privacy concerns.”

“Unavoidably,” The Washington Post continues, “the burden of proving that democratic values are not only consistent with society’s safety but also, in the long run, its best guarantee now belongs to the chancellor” [2]. Naturally, The New York Times affirms that “if Europe is to survive as a beacon of democratic hope in a world rent by violent divisions, it must not cede” the democratic “values” of “tolerance, inclusion, equality and reason” [1], one of which is not like the others.

As long as we’re on the topic of “democratic values,” not to mention “hope,” and their role in the safety of society and the survival of Europe: those are not the lessons I would draw from current events. Consider, again, Henry Sumner Maine:

The advanced Radical politician of our day would seem to have an impression that Democracy differs from Monarchy in essence. There can be no grosser mistake than this, and none more fertile of further delusions. Democracy, the government of the commonwealth by a numerous but indeterminate portion of the community taking the place of the Monarch, has exactly the same conditions to satisfy as Monarchy; it has the same functions to discharge, though it discharges them through different organs. The tests of success in the performance of the necessary and natural duties of a government are precisely the same in both cases.

Thus in the very first place, Democracy, like Monarchy, like Aristocracy, like any other government, must preserve the national existence. The first necessity of a State is that it should be durable. Among mankind regarded as assemblages of individuals, the gods are said to love those who die young; but nobody has ventured to make such an assertion of States. The prayers of nations to Heaven have been, from the earliest ages, for long national life, life from generation to generation, life prolonged far beyond that of children’s children, life like that of the everlasting hills. The historian will sometimes speak of governments distinguished for the loftiness of their aims, and the brilliancy of the talents which they called forth, but doomed to an existence all too brief. The compliment is in reality a paradox, for in matters of government all objects are vain and all talents wasted, when they fail to secure national durability. One might as well eulogise a physician for the assiduity of his attendance and the scientific beauty of his treatment, when the patient has died under his care. Next perhaps to the paramount duty of maintaining national existence, comes the obligation incumbent on Democracies, as on all governments, of securing the national greatness and dignity. Loss of territory, loss of authority, loss of general respect, loss of self-respect, may be unavoidable evils, but they are terrible evils, judged by the pains they inflict and the elevation of the minds by which these pains are felt; and the Government which fails to provide a sufficient supply of generals and statesmen, of soldiers and administrators, for the prevention and cure of these evils, is a government which has miscarried. It will also have miscarried, if it cannot command certain qualities which are essential to the success of national action. In all their relations with one another (and this is a fundamental assumption of International law) States must act as individual men. The defects which are defects in individual men, and perhaps venial defects, are faults in States, and generally faults of the extremest gravity. In all war and all diplomacy, in every part of foreign policy, caprice, wilfulness, loss of self-command, timidity, temerity, inconsistency, indecency, and coarseness, are weaknesses which rise to the level of destructive vices; and if Democracy is more liable to them than are other forms of government, it is to that extent inferior to them. It is better for a nation, according to an English prelate, to be free than to be sober. If the choice has to be made, and if there is any real connection between Democracy and liberty, it is better to remain a nation capable of displaying the virtues of a nation than even to be free.

If we turn from the foreign to the domestic duties of a nation, we shall find the greatest of them to be, that its government should compel obedience to the law, criminal and civil. The vulgar impression no doubt is, that laws enforce themselves. Some communities are supposed to be naturally law-abiding, and some are not. But the truth is (and this is a commonplace of the modern jurist) that it is always the State which causes laws to be obeyed. It is quite true that this obedience is rendered by the great bulk of all civilised societies without an effort and quite unconsciously. But that is only because, in the course of countless ages, the stern discharge of their chief duty by States has created habits and sentiments which save the necessity for penal interference, because nearly everybody shares them. The venerable legal formulas, which make laws to be administered in the name of the King, formulas which modern Republics have borrowed, are a monument of the grandest service which governments have rendered, and continue to render, to mankind. If any government should be tempted to neglect, even for a moment, its function of compelling obedience to law — if a Democracy, for example, were to allow a portion of the multitude of which it consists to set some law at defiance which it happens to dislike — it would be guilty of a crime which hardly any other virtue could redeem, and which century upon century might fail to repair.

On the whole, the dispassionate student of politics, who has once got into his head that Democracy is only a form of government, who has some idea of what the primary duties of government are, and who sees the main question, in choosing between them, to be which of them in the long-run best discharges these duties, has a right to be somewhat surprised at the feelings which the advent of Democracy excites.

Henry Sumner Maine: Popular Government (1885)

Sources

  1. “A Cruel Test for Germany, and Europe” in The New York Times (2016)
  2. “Germans face a new threat — and their democracy faces a test” in The Washington Post (2016)

Gender revolution

Katy, bar the door: a “gender revolution” is under way — or so reports National Geographic in last year’s “historic” issue on “the shifting landscape of gender.”

Look, if anything is shifting — especially if it’s a landscape — then I want to know about it! I turned at once to (a free online preview of) Natasha Daly’s article on “How Today’s Toys May Be Harming Your Daughter” [1]:

American society has made significant strides towards gender equality over the past century, but children’s toys seem to be moving in the opposite direction, reinforcing traditional roles rather than expanding them. The implications are serious: The way girls play may affect how their brains develop.

The author goes on to cite a woman sociologist, a woman education theorist, another woman sociologist, a woman psychologist, and a woman psychologist who is also an education theorist. The argument goes something like this:

Men and women are identical. They may appear to be different in a number of ways — indeed, they may appear to have always been different in roughly the same ways — but that is an illusion created by an insufficiently feminist society, which forces us to carry out an arbitrarily selected “gender” role forever.

Toy companies, in particular, choose to market toys by “gender,” which somehow works, even though the “genders” are identical. So boys and girls get different toys, and grow up to be different: “boys are more likely to play with toys that develop spatial intelligence,” and “boys opt to play with more complex puzzles.”

Of course! That’s why men have always dominated science and technology:

“Spatial skills are a piece of the explanation for the underrepresentation of women in science and tech,” says Jirout. […] Being comfortable with certain types of toys may also shape kids’ confidence in specific subjects, adds Auster.

Here’s my question: who’s marketing toys to chimpanzees? See, I found this other article, by Elizabeth Lonsdorf: “Sex differences in nonhuman primate behavioral development,” in the Journal of Neuroscience Research [2].

In a well-known study of captive vervet monkeys, Alexander and Hines (2002) found toy preferences among male and female vervets that paralleled human child toy preferences; males preferred toy cars and balls, whereas females preferred a doll and a pot. In a followup study of captive rhesus monkeys, Hassett et al. (2008) replicated the male preference for wheeled toys, but female preferences were more variable. […] There is emerging evidence of such differences in the wild. Immature chimpanzee males were found to engage in more object-oriented play than females (Koops et al., 2015), but female youngsters at one study site perform a specific behavior called “stick carrying,” in which a stick is cradled and carried in a form of play mothering, significantly more often than young males (Kahlenberg and Wrangham, 2010). Female biases in other forms of play parenting, such as interest in or attempting to interact with and carry other infants, are also widespread (e.g., western lowland gorillas, Meder, 1990; rhesus macaques: Lovejoy and Wallen, 1988; bonnet macaques: Silk, 1999; blue monkeys: Cords et al., 2010). Thus, there are diverse lines of evidence for sex differences in play behavior in many primate species. Indeed, these sex differences in play may represent evolved predispositions that reflect patterns of mating competition and parental investment that are shared by most mammalian species.

Sexist evolution: the eternal foe of gender revolution, in a special case of what historian Lothrop Stoddard called The Revolt Against Civilization (1922).

The idea of “Natural Equality” is one of the most pernicious delusions that has ever afflicted mankind. It is a figment of the human imagination. Nature knows no equality. The most cursory examination of natural phenomena reveals the presence of a Law of Inequality as universal and inflexible as the Law of Gravitation. […]

Now, in the face of all this, how has the delusion of “natural equality” obtained — and retained — so stubborn a hold on mankind? As to both its antiquity and persistency there can be no shadow of doubt. The slogan of “equality” was raised far back in the remote past, and, instead of lessening, was never more loudly trumpeted than to-day. It is a curious fact that just when the advance of knowledge and the increasing complexity of civilization have enhanced individual differences and rendered superior capacities supremely important, the cry for equality should have become fiercer than ever, should have been embodied in all sorts of levelling doctrines, and should have been actually attempted in Bolshevik Russia with the most fanatical fury and the most appalling results.

[…]

In his heart of hearts, each individual feels that he is really a person of importance. No matter how low may be his capacities, no matter how egregious his failures, no matter how unfavorable the judgment of his fellows; still his inborn instincts of self-preservation and self-love whisper that he should survive and prosper, that “things are not right,” and that if the world were properly ordered he would be much better placed.

[…]

Such, in a nutshell, is the train of thought — or rather of feeling — underlying the idea of “natural equality.” It is, of course, evident that the idea springs primarily from the emotions, however much it may “rationalize” itself by intellectual arguments. Being basically emotional, it is impervious to reason, and when confronted by hard facts it takes refuge in mystic faith. All levelling doctrines (including, of course, the various brands of modern Socialism) are, in the last analysis, not intellectual concepts, but religious cults. This is strikingly shown by recent events. During the past ten years biology and kindred sciences have refuted practically all the intellectual arguments on which the doctrine of “natural equality” relies. But has this destroyed the doctrine? Not at all. Its devoted followers either ignore biology, or elaborate pseudobiological fallacies (which we will later examine), or, lastly, lose their tempers, show their teeth, and swear to kill their opponents and get their own way somehow — which is just what the extreme “proletarian” ragings mean. Quite useless to point out to such zealots the inequalities of nature. Their answer is that superior endowment is itself a basic injustice (“injustice” of nature!) which it is society’s duty to remedy by equalizing rewards regardless of ability or service. […]

Such are the emotional bases of the doctrine of natural equality. But, as we have already stated, these emotional bases have been buttressed by many intellectual arguments of great apparent force. Indeed, down to our own days, when the new biological revelation (for it is nothing short of that) has taught us the supreme importance of heredity, mankind tended to believe that environment rather than heredity was the main factor in human existence. We simply cannot overestimate the change which biology is effecting in our whole outlook on life. It is unquestionably inaugurating the mightiest transformation of ideas that the world has ever seen.

Today, writes Anne Campbell, an evolutionary psychologist, “for many feminists in the social sciences, evolutionary psychologists are still seen as the enemy” [3].

Or again, in the words of Lothrop Stoddard:

Revolutionists are coming to realize that science, with its stern love of truth, is their most dangerous enemy, and that the discoveries of biology are relentlessly exposing their cleverest sophistries.

Sources

  1. Natasha Daly: “How Today’s Toys May Be Harming Your Daughter” in National Geographic (2016)
  2. Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf: “Sex differences in nonhuman primate behavioral development” in Journal of Neuroscience Research (2016)
  3. Jerome H. Barkow (ed.): Missing the Revolution: Darwinism for Social Scientists (Oxford University Press, 2006)

Survival guide

Flurt magazine bills itself as “a socially conscious community for young people around the world to make their own media” and talk about “real issues that are important to them.” In the “Mental Health” section, one Connie Levitsky is offering helpful tips on “How to Survive a Conservative Christmas” [1].

For those of you who genuinely enjoy your family’s company, this may be an enjoyable event, and you may even look forward to it. However, many people have strained relationships with relatives and may look to this event with mixed feelings of anxiety and dread. There can be several reasons for this. Maybe your racist grandmother can’t drink a glass of wine without complaining about “thugs” in her neighborhood.

Hold on a minute, my socially conscious friend! Look closely at the nasty old bitch: does she seem any uglier than usual? Does she have a black eye? Bruises on her neck? A cast on her arm? Let’s try to get at the roots of her ignorant bigotry.

The next day, The Baltimore Sun reported that an eighty-year-old Baltimore city councilwoman was assaulted and carjacked by a merry band of African-American “teens,” not to be confused with thugs, who “pulled her out of the car, slammed her in the ground and punched her in the face” [2] — unnecessarily, in my opinion.

“Your feelings are valid,” Ms. Levitsky assures her socially conscious, family-hating readership, “and it’s possible to make it through the dinner, even while entertaining thoughts of homicide.” Hopefully that goes for Connie’s grandmother, too: holiday thoughts of homicide, and robbery, and aggravated assault…

I don’t mean to poke fun. Truly, now more than ever, we need “a socially conscious community for young people around the world to make their own media,” and so on and so forth. As a matter of fact, Tocqueville pointed out the importance of a genuinely free and socially conscious press back in 1840:

In periods of aristocracy every man is always bound so closely to many of his fellow citizens that he cannot be assailed without their coming to his assistance. In ages of equality every man naturally stands alone; he has no hereditary friends whose co-operation he may demand, no class upon whose sympathy he may rely; he is easily got rid of, and he is trampled on with impunity. At the present time an oppressed member of the community has therefore only one method of self-defense: he may appeal to the whole nation, and if the whole nation is deaf to his complaint, he may appeal to mankind. The only means he has of making this appeal is by the press. Thus the liberty of the press is infinitely more valuable among democratic nations than among all others; it is the only cure for the evils that equality may produce. Equality sets men apart and weakens them; but the press places a powerful weapon within every man’s reach, which the weakest and loneliest of them all may use. Equality deprives a man of the support of his connections, but the press enables him to summon all his fellow countrymen and all his fellow men to his assistance. Printing has accelerated the progress of equality, and it is also one of its best correctives.

Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America (Vol. II, 1840)

So keep at it, Connie — but next time, get Grandma’s side of the story, too.

Sources

  1. Connie Levitsky: “How to Survive a Conservative Christmas” in Flurt (2016)
  2. Jessica Anderson and Yvonne Wenger: “Councilwoman Rochelle ‘Rikki’ Spector assaulted, robbed by teens Friday morning” in The Baltimore Sun (2016)

Mark Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, bless his heart, has called for “The End of Identity Liberalism” in The New York Times [1].

In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.

Katherine Franke, a professor of law at Columbia University and an expert on critical race theory, responded that her colleague was actually carrying out the “nefarious background work of making white supremacy respectable” [2].

Let me be blunt: this kind of liberalism is a liberalism of white supremacy. It is a liberalism that regards the efforts of people of color and women to call out forms of power that sustain white supremacy and patriarchy as a distraction.

In a follow-up piece, defending his theory — and himself and his career — in Vox, Professor Lilla lays out his vision for the future of black-white race relations in America: “I want to get to a point where a white working-class guy in Flint, Michigan, with his lousy water, sees a black man being beaten by police on the television and says to himself, ‘That could be me.’ I want him to sympathize” [3].

While that was going on, pseudonymous guest blogger “Ammo Grrrll” of Arizona offered a less-than-sympathetic counterpoint over at Power Line [4]:

The civil rights movement eliminated all legal impediments to success decades ago. Untold billions have been spent to fight “poverty.” And what has changed in the inner cities? That’s because none of these BandAids can cover the wound of fatherlessness. Or make up for one terrible life decision after another.

So what the grievance peddlers are left with is a wholesale attack on “whiteness” itself. This might work with a few intimidated college students and guilty liberals, but it is not going to be a winning strategy for the vast majority of white people who will say:

You want success? Here’s the secret to our white “privilege”: Do what we did — stay in school, work for fifty years, don’t do or sell drugs, don’t commit crime, don’t have babies you have no ability to support, and get married. Speaking on behalf of all white people — since virtually every angry black person feels qualified to speak on behalf of all black people — unless you do those simple, “common-sense” things, we are really no longer interested in anything you have to say.

Hey, as long as we’re coming up with exciting new ways to make “a white working-class guy” sympathize with “a black man being beaten by police on the television,” it might be worth revisiting Carleton Putnam’s famous open letter to President Eisenhower in 1958, as reprinted in Putnam’s classic apology for Southern segregation, the excellent Race and Reason: A Yankee View (1961).

Neither the North, nor the court, has any holy mandate inherent in the trend of the times or the progress of liberalism to reform society in the South. In the matter of schools, rights to equal education are inseparably bound up with rights to freedom of association and, in the South at least, may require that both be considered simultaneously. (In using the word “association” here, I mean the right to associate with whom you please, and the right not to associate with whom you please.) Moreover, am I not correct in my recollection that it was the social stigma of segregation and its effect upon the Negro’s “mind and heart” to which the court objected as much as to any other, and thus that the court, in forcing the black man’s right to equal education was actually determined to violate the white man’s right to freedom of association?

In any case the crux of this issue would seem obvious: social status has to be earned. Or, to put it another way, equality of association has to be mutually agreed to and mutually desired. It cannot be achieved by legal fiat. Personally, I feel only affection for the Negro. But there are facts that have to be faced. Any man with two eyes in his head can observe a Negro settlement in the Congo, can study the pure-blooded African in his native habitat as he exists when left on his own resources, can compare this settlement with London or Paris, and can draw his own conclusions regarding relative levels of character and intelligence — or that combination of character and intelligence which is civilization. Finally, he can inquire as to the number of pure-blooded blacks who have made contributions to great literature or engineering or medicine or philosophy or abstract science. (I do not include singing or athletics as these are not primarily matters of character and intelligence.) Nor is there any validity to the argument that the Negro “hasn’t been given a chance.” We were all in caves or trees originally. The progress which the pure-blooded black has made when left to himself, with a minimum of white help or hindrance, genetically or otherwise, can be measured today in the Congo.

[…]

It seems clear that for 94 years — from the horrors of Reconstruction through the Supreme Court’s desegregation decision — the North has been trying to force the black man down the white Southerner’s throat, and it is a miracle that relations between the races in the South have progressed as well as they have.

Perhaps the most discouraging spectacle is the spectacle of Northern newspapers dwelling with pleasure upon the predicament of the Southern parent who is forced to choose between desegregation and no school at all for his child. It does not seem to occur to these papers that this is the cruelest sort of blackmail; that the North is virtually putting a pistol at the head of the Southern parent in a gesture which every Northerner must contemplate with shame.

Indeed, there now seems little doubt that the court’s recent decision has set back the cause of the Negro in the South by a generation. He may force his way into white schools, but he will not force his way into white hearts nor earn the respect he seeks. What evolution was slowly and wisely achieving, revolution has now arrested, and the trail of bitterness will lead far.

Sources

  1. Mark Lilla: “The End of Identity Liberalism” in The New York Times (2016)
  2. Katherine Franke: “Making White Supremacy Respectable. Again” in the Los Angeles Review of Books (2016)
  3. Sean Illing: “This professor set off a war of words over ‘identity politics.’ We debated him” in Vox (2016)
  4. Ammo Grrrll: “Thoughts from the ammo line” in Power Line (2016)

According to Barack Obama — then-president of the United States, “speaking… truth to power” in his own small way — Americans “have by no means overcome the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow and colonialism and racism” [1].

Moreover, “those who are not subject to racism,” or people of no color, “can sometimes have blind spots or [a] lack of appreciation of what it feels [like] to be on the receiving end” of centuries-old events. Therefore, “the challenge we face today, when it comes to race,” lies in “trying to reach folks in ways that they can hear,” while being careful not to make the problem people feel “uncomfortable.” After all, they might be “open to learning and caring about equality and justice.”

In the interest of learning and caring and reaching and sharing, and not making anyone feel uncomfortable, I present four leading indicators that your country has finally overcome the legacy of colonialism (which is definitely a real thing).

1. Seven years after a natural disaster, your capital city is incapable of housing the survivors, even with billions of dollars in foreign aid.

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” the Associated Press complains of Haiti [2]. Indeed, the “oppressed people” [3] of Saint-Domingue threw off the shackles of French colonial rule way back in 1804: “a remote early stage of the anticolonial revolution.” There followed “a general massacre of the whites” and a prompt and permanent collapse into Haiti’s present-day barbarism and squalor (see here).

2. Your state security forces are so incompetent and corrupt, they are incapable of maintaining peace in entire provinces for decades.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo will remain “very unstable and very violent” for the foreseeable future, according to Deutsche Welle [4]. In other words, not a whole lot has changed since 1960, when the native Congolese (average IQ: 68) won their dubious “independence” from Belgium, and kicked off a “sad slide… into civil war and chaos” [5] with another general massacre of the whites (see here).

3. Your country, once the breadbasket of an entire continent, is now starving, as your people prove incapable of feeding themselves.

The Globe and Mail has outlined this paradoxical bit of history [6]:

Land reform has always been a crucial issue in Zimbabwe. Half of its arable land was controlled by a tiny number of whites in 1980 when the country won its independence from a white-minority regime. The ruling party of President Robert Mugabe unleashed waves of invaders to seize white-owned farmland, beginning in 2000. But it used the land seizures to reward its political supporters, gave no compensation to the farmers and allowed the farms to fall into ruin when the invaders were unable to run them productively. Much of the seized farmland has been left idle and a quarter of Zimbabwe’s population has become dependent on food aid.

Uh huh. Which brings us to the last of our leading post-colonial indicators:

4. The lights go out, the water runs out, and a post-apocalyptic band of robbers takes your faucets while you’re bathing in a bucket.

In 1994, South African “freedom fighters” finally broke the “cycle of repression” by terminating “white minority rule,” in the words of The New York Times [7]. The rainbow nation, free at last from white oppression! Today, the inhabitants of what is still, coincidentally, “the continent’s most advanced economy” find themselves “fighting a battle they thought consigned to history: keeping the lights on” [8].

Ms. Kutoane’s neighbor, Ms. Mkeshana, recently lost her outdoor copper faucets and wiring to theft. Three homes on their dusty block were robbed in June. Avoiding criminals is just one of the hardships power outages have created, Ms. Kutoane said. She has to buy coal or gather brush from an empty lot nearby in case the power fails before she cooks dinner. The water supply has been failing, too, so sometimes the reed-thin 70-year-old walks to a gas station a mile away to fetch a bucket for cooking and bathing.

And we know who to blame! The president “regularly reminds audiences of the deep scars decades of institutionalized racism left on South African society.”

(Meaning, of course, the president of South Africa.)

But enough of this banter: what is the moral for us, the civilized people?

A conservative is not merely an obstructionist who wishes to resist the introduction of novelties; nor is he, as was assumed by most nineteenth century parliamentarians, a brake to frivolous experiment. He has positive work to do, whose value is particularly emphasized by the plight of Mexico. Civilization has no force of its own beyond what is given it from within. It is under constant assault and it takes most of the energies of civilized man to keep going at all. There are criminal ideas and a criminal class in every nation and the first action of every revolution, figuratively and literally, is to open the prisons. Barbarism is never finally defeated; given propitious circumstances, men and women who seem quite orderly, will commit every conceivable atrocity. The danger does not come merely from habitual hooligans; we are all potential recruits for anarchy. Unremitting effort is needed to keep men living together at peace; there is only a margin of energy left over for experiment however beneficent. Once the prisons of the mind have been opened, the orgy is on. There is no more agreeable position than that of dissident from a stable society. Theirs are all the solid advantages of other people’s creation and preservation, and all the fun of detecting hypocrisies and inconsistencies. There are times when dissidents are not only enviable but valuable. The work of preserving society is sometimes onerous, sometimes almost effortless. The more elaborate the society, the more vulnerable it is to attack, and the more complete its collapse in case of defeat. At a time like the present it is notably precarious. If it falls we shall see not merely the dissolution of a few joint-stock corporations, but of the spiritual and material achievements of our history. There is nothing, except ourselves, to stop our own countries becoming like Mexico. That is the moral, for us, of her decay.

Evelyn Waugh: Robbery under Law (1939)

Sources

  1. Jeff Poor: “Obama: Country Has ‘By No Means Overcome’ Legacies of Slavery, Jim Crow, Colonialism, Racism” in Breitbart (2016)
  2. David McFadden: “Seven years after quake, 50K in Haiti stuck in camps” in CTV News (2016)
  3. Paul Berman: “A Biography Reveals Surprising Sides to Haiti’s Slave Liberator” in The New York Times (2016)
  4. Isaac Mugabi: “DR Congo to remain ‘unstable and violent’” in Deutsche Welle (2016)
  5. Suzanne Lynch: “Art exhibition confronts Belgium’s troubled Congo past” in Irish Times (2016)
  6. Geoffrey York: “‘It was horrific’: How Zimbabwe’s upheaval pushed this white farming family too far” in The Globe and Mail (2016)
  7. Mac Maharaj: “Fidel Castro, a South African Hero” in The New York Times (2016)
  8. Patrick McGroarty: “Power Outages Dim South Africa’s Prospects” in The Wall Street Journal (2015)

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