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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)

Honesty in politics

Amy B. Wang of The Washington Post [1] is calling on experts to answer an important and timely question: was Abraham Lincoln a “paragon of honesty,” or was he rather a “shrewd politician who was not above stretching the truth”?

“Lincoln was certainly essentially honest,” but he was also “a consummate politician,” according to Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln biographer Eric Foner; that is, “Abe may not have lied, but… he stretched the truth now and then.”

“We don’t really have an example of his telling a lie,” according to Lincoln historian James Cornelius. Characterizing his notoriously secretive subject as “the most recorded person in the 19th century,” Cornelius avers that “checking [Lincoln’s recorded words] against Lincoln’s own later statements pretty well demonstrate[s] that he was honest with himself and honest to others.”

“All his life,” Lincoln exhibited “impeccable, peerless, gratifying honesty,” according to Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. “Even as a young man, he was the guy most often recruited to judge horse races and wrestling matches.” Plus, his wife said so. Yes, “Lincoln truly deserved the sobriquet ‘Honest Abe.’”

For the record, in a speech to the Republican State Convention at Springfield, Illinois on June 17, 1858, Abraham Lincoln accused President Buchanan, former President Pierce, Chief Justice Taney, and Senator Douglas of a secret conspiracy to establish national slavery: to “push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.”

Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machinery, so to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider, not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted, but also let him study the history of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design, and concert of action, among its chief architects, from the beginning.

[…]

We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen, — Stephen [A. Douglas], Franklin [Pierce], Roger [B. Taney], and James [Buchanan], for instance, — and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortises exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few, — not omitting even scaffolding, — or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece in, — in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.

Thanks, Abe, but I think I’ll side with Franklin Pierce on this one (1856):

Perfect liberty of association for political objects and the widest scope of discussion are the received and ordinary conditions of government in our country. Our institutions, framed in the spirit of confidence in the intelligence and integrity of the people, do not forbid citizens, either individually or associated together, to attack by writing, speech, or any other methods short of physical force the Constitution and the very existence of the Union. Under the shelter of this great liberty, and protected by the laws and usages of the Government they assail, associations have been formed in some of the States of individuals who, pretending to seek only to prevent the spread of the institution of slavery into the present or future inchoate States of the Union, are really inflamed with desire to change the domestic institutions of existing States. To accomplish their objects they dedicate themselves to the odious task of depreciating the government organization which stands in their way and of calumniating with indiscriminate invective not only the citizens of particular States with whose laws they find fault, but all others of their fellow citizens throughout the country who do not participate with them in their assaults upon the Constitution, framed and adopted by our fathers, and claiming for the privileges it has secured and the blessings it has conferred the steady support and grateful reverence of their children. They seek an object which they well know to be a revolutionary one. They are perfectly aware that the change in the relative condition of the white and black races in the slaveholding States which they would promote is beyond their lawful authority; that to them it is a foreign object; that it can not be effected by any peaceful instrumentality of theirs; that for them and the States of which they are citizens the only path to its accomplishment is through burning cities, and ravaged fields, and slaughtered populations, and all there is most terrible in foreign complicated with civil and servile war; and that the first step in the attempt is the forcible disruption of a country embracing in its broad bosom a degree of liberty and an amount of individual and public prosperity to which there is no parallel in history, and substituting in its place hostile governments, driven at once and inevitably into mutual devastation and fratricidal carnage, transforming the now peaceful and felicitous brotherhood into a vast permanent camp of armed men like the rival monarchies of Europe and Asia. Well knowing that such, and such only, are the means and the consequences of their plans and purposes, they endeavor to prepare the people of the United States for civil war by doing everything in their power to deprive the Constitution and the laws of moral authority and to undermine the fabric of the Union by appeals to passion and sectional prejudice, by indoctrinating its people with reciprocal hatred, and by educating them to stand face to face as enemies, rather than shoulder to shoulder as friends.

It is by the agency of such unwarrantable interference, foreign and domestic, that the minds of many otherwise good citizens have been so inflamed into the passionate condemnation of the domestic institutions of the Southern States as at length to pass insensibly to almost equally passionate hostility toward their fellow-citizens of those States, and thus finally to fall into temporary fellowship with the avowed and active enemies of the Constitution. Ardently attached to liberty in the abstract, they do not stop to consider practically how the objects they would attain can be accomplished, nor to reflect that, even if the evil were as great as they deem it, they have no remedy to apply, and that it can be only aggravated by their violence and unconstitutional action. A question which is one of the most difficult of all the problems of social institution, political economy, and statesmanship they treat with unreasoning intemperance of thought and language. Extremes beget extremes. Violent attack from the North finds its inevitable consequence in the growth of a spirit of angry defiance at the South. Thus in the progress of events we had reached that consummation, which the voice of the people has now so pointedly rebuked, of the attempt of a portion of the States, by a sectional organization and movement, to usurp the control of the Government of the United States.

I confidently believe that the great body of those who inconsiderately took this fatal step are sincerely attached to the Constitution and the Union. They would upon deliberation shrink with unaffected horror from any conscious act of disunion or civil war. But they have entered into a path which leads nowhere unless it be to civil war and disunion, and which has no other possible outlet. They have proceeded thus far in that direction in consequence of the successive stages of their progress having consisted of a series of secondary issues, each of which professed to be confined within constitutional and peaceful limits, but which attempted indirectly what few men were willing to do directly; that is, to act aggressively against the constitutional rights of nearly one-half of the thirty-one States.

Now, to a competent biographer (say, Albert J. Beveridge), Lincoln was many things: cunning, ambitious, slippery, perhaps vindictive, and above all secretive. As for his honesty, we may turn to Edgar Lee Masters in Lincoln: The Man (1931):

The First Inaugural furnishes texts for a constitutional survey sufficiently complete by which to test Lincoln’s theories and his acts as president. The subject as a whole would require a volume by itself, and therefore great condensation must be observed. Lincoln first adverted to the recent secession of seven Southern states, the first being South Carolina, which had seceded a little more than a month after the presidential election in the fall of 1860. Of this Lincoln said: “I hold that in the contemplation of universal law, the union of these states is perpetual.” What “universal law” was, or had to do with the question, he did not stop to explain. “Perpetuity is implied,” he went on, “if not expressed in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” In other words he urged the fact that no government ever provided for its own termination as proof of the false conclusion that no government was terminable. Then he went on: “Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national constitution, and the Union will endure forever.” That could have been said of the Union under the Articles of Confederation. “It being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.” This was a truism, a platitude, which had no logical bearing upon the question of the right of states to get out of the Union, if they chose to do so.

[…]

He announced that he would take care that the laws of the Union should be faithfully executed in all the states. How was that to be done in the seceded states? There was no Federal officer to execute any law. Every one of them had resigned: Federal judges, collectors, postmasters, marshals — there was not one left in office in all the seceded states. This was not nullification where a state was still in the union, but resisting its laws; but it was secession where there were no laws to execute, and no officers to execute them. What could he do therefore to execute the laws there except to do it himself? And how could he do it himself save as an emperor, a czar? There was no other way. As his words could mean nothing else but this, they constituted a declaration of war. It was advice to the South to get ready for battle, just as the fulminations of the war ministers of George III were notice to the Thirteen States to prepare for invasion. Lincoln then declared that he would so observe his oath until “my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means.” Did that mean that he would do nothing until Congress acted? The American people can act no other way save by their Congress. No, he did not mean that. For in six weeks he was to inaugurate a war without the American people having anything to say about it. He was to call for and send troops into the South, and thus stir that psychology of hate and fear from which a people cannot extricate themselves, though knowing and saying that the war was started by usurpation. Did he mean that he would bow to the American people when the law was laid down by their courts, through which alone can the law be interpreted as the Constitutional voice of the people? No, he did not mean that; because when Taney decided that Lincoln had no power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, Lincoln flouted and trampled the decision of the court. Did he mean that there could be a plebiscite on his acts, whereby his rightful masters might approve or reject and forbid what he did? That could not be in the nature of things. There was no provision in the Constitution for any such process. There was only provision for the voice of the American people to speak through Congress and the Courts — and through Lincoln, in obedience, always, both in peace and war, to the Constitution.

In truth Lincoln’s words in this particular had no meaning whatever. There need to be no bloodshed, he said; yet “the power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties and imposts.” Could that be done without invasion? He had said at Indianapolis that marching an army into South Carolina would be invasion, which he would not do. But if to hold Fort Sumter or to collect duties at Charleston required an army, then there was invasion; and thus his words were contradictory here. Moreover he would appoint no Federal officers to take the place of those resigned in the seceded states. Then how could duties be collected in New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, except by sending men there to do so, who would not be Collectors under the law, but representatives of Lincoln? And these would have to be supported by an army. For Lincoln knew that the seceded states were preparing for invasion, and that such processes would be considered invasion. He would deliver the mails, unless they were repelled; if they were repelled he did not say what he would do.

This was the Lincoln program. Yet all this quibbling and sophistry was clarified by war, was enforced by imperial arms, and what is remembered most now are the words with which he closed. When his feelings were moved, and, by consequence, when he wanted to move the feelings of his audience, he had a singular mastery of words. “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust in the best way all present difficulties.” And yet he would have nothing to do with the Crittenden Compromise; he would not receive or recognize the Commissioners of the Confederate States who came to Washington to negotiate about the forts and places of the late United States, and to pay for them in full; he would not treat with his old friend Stephens at Hampton Roads in 1865 when the South was exhausted and wanted peace if they could be assured that their capitulation did not mean dishonorable and cruel vanquishment, as it turned out to be when they battled on to Lee’s surrender. “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.” So, as of old, in the debates with Douglas and in his speeches, was Lincoln putting himself on the defensive, and fastening the wrong of aggression upon the other side. But he was not speaking the truth. He meant to “put the foot down,” to assail and coerce the South. Lincoln took no oath to protect the Constitution against the sovereignties which had rejected it. As originally written Lincoln had closed with the words concerning his oath to protect the government and the lack of an oath on the part of the South to destroy it, which was pure sophistry also. When Seward saw the draft of the Inaugural, he wrote these words for a conclusion: “I close. We are not, we must not be, aliens, enemies, but fellow countrymen and brethren. Although passion has strained our bonds of affection too hardly, they must not, I am sure they will not be broken. The mystic chords of memory which, proceeding from so many battlefields, and so many patriotic graves, pass through all the hearts and all the hearths in this broad continent of ours, will yet again harmonize in their ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angel of the nation.”

Then Lincoln took this paragraph, which Coolidge, or Garfield might have written, and made this prose poem of it: “I am loath to close. We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as they surely will be by the better angels of our nature.” Upon these moving words, and others of similar beauty, the fame of Lincoln rests; his blunders, his thinking power which was small, his lawyer-like honesty of mind and his many lacks of intellectual honesty, his mouth-tributes to liberty and his liberticides, his weaknesses and his strength, his sophistry and his cruel prosecution of the War — all these pass from memory. These words remain. They will not be dislodged from American thinking, even among men who have studied his life sufficiently to know how and where to put blame upon him.

Sources

  1. Amy B. Wang, “Being truthful isn’t what made Abraham Lincoln a great politician” in The Washington Post (2016)

Sneak attack

The war that we have carefully for years provoked
Catches us unprepared, amazed and indignant.

Robinson Jeffers

Not long ago, Americans commemorated the seventy-fifth anniversary of a totally unexpected Japanese surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor.

Former US president and World War II naval aviator George H. W. Bush presents one popular historical narrative in USA Today [1]:

Like everyone, I was stunned that someone would attack our country. In the preceding years, President Roosevelt had tried to steer a course of neutrality, attempting to keep America out of the building conflagration that was consuming both Europe and Asia.

There are a number of weaknesses in (what we might call) the neutrality narrative, which bears a striking resemblance to American World War II propaganda.

In The Washington Post, for example, Ishaan Tharoor concedes that “Roosevelt was steadily trying to engage in the conflicts abroad, no matter his rhetoric” [2].

In March 1941, Roosevelt persuaded Congress to pass the Lend-Lease Act, which “loaned” arms and ships to the beleaguered Allies in Europe [meaning the British Empire and the Soviet Union]. U.S. warships engaged Nazi [meaning German] submarines in the Atlantic and protected convoys bearing relief supplies to the British.

For consistency’s sake, if the German armed forces are “Nazis,” then the Russians are Commies, the English are Tories, and the Americans are New Dealers.

Months of secret diplomacy with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill already bound Roosevelt’s administration to the Allied cause, but the United States was not yet formally in war. The attack on Pearl Harbor in December gave Roosevelt all the ammunition he needed. Germany, in alliance with Japan, declared war on the United States four days later, saving Roosevelt the trouble of having to do it himself.

But the author also warns us to ignore the wild-eyed, half-cocked “conspiracy theories” of “a coterie of revisionist historians alleging [Roosevelt] deliberately bungled military coordination and obscured intelligence in order to provoke the crisis that led to war. Most mainstream historians dismiss these claims.”

Here the author seems to conflate three distinct claims:

  1. That Roosevelt wanted a war and was happy to get it. This is obviously true and is accepted by everyone who knows anything about the history of the war, including Ishaan Tharoor, but apparently not Herbert Walker.
  2. That Roosevelt deliberately provoked an attack by Japan. This is also obviously true and is accepted by everyone who knows anything about the history of the war from a source other than Roosevelt’s own speeches.

In a bizarre commemorative essay published by CNN [3], Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick agree that “the Japanese attack had given President Roosevelt the pretext he sought to bring the US into the war,” but they go on to say:

By 1941, Roosevelt surreptitiously maneuvered the US into confrontations with both [Germany and Japan]. At Newfoundland in August 1941 [the Atlantic Charter conference], he told Churchill that he “would wage war, but not declare it” and do everything he could to “force an ‘incident’ that could lead to war.”

The most notorious primary source is the diary of Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, in which he outlines a meeting with the president on November 25, 1941: “The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.”

Which brings us to the ultimate Pearl Harbor “revisionist” claim:

  1. That Roosevelt knew, specifically, in advance, that the Japanese fleet was about to attack Pearl Harbor — but refused to warn the base. This may be debatable, but it is certainly plausible and is accepted by many experts.

A blog is probably not the place to write up the relevant facts, but if this is the sort of thing that interests you, I can recommend a few places to start:

  • William Henry Chamberlin: America’s Second Crusade (1950)
  • Charles Callan Tansill: Back Door to War (1952)
  • Harry Elmer Barnes (ed.): Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (1953)

And pertaining more specifically to the Pearl Harbor attack:

  • George Morgenstern: Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War (1947)
  • George Victor: The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable (2007)
  • Percy L. Greaves Jr.: Pearl Harbor: The Seeds and Fruits of Infamy (2010)

Finally, on the subject of surprises, here is an unrelated image of Anna Kendrick:

Anna Kendrick: no known involvement with Pearl Harbor attack

There is currently no evidence linking Anna Kendrick to the Pearl Harbor attack

Sources

  1. George H. W. Bush: “75 years after Pearl Harbor, strength renewed” in USA Today (2016)
  2. Ishaan Tharoor: “75 years ago, what if Japan never attacked Pearl Harbor?” in The Washington Post (2016)
  3. Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick: “Without Pearl Harbor, a different world?” in CNN (2016)

America’s latest fighter plane, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, is an “exceptional” aircraft, according to Todd Miller at The Aviationist [1]. And yet, despite its evident “sophistication” and “unique capabilities,” “many continue to question the performance and value” of the $400,000,000,000 project. Some people, apparently, some idiots, just “do not grasp the war the F-35 was designed to deter — or fight. 21st century warfare and capability has about as much in common with wars of the past as your 1970’s land line has to your smartphone.”

In 1970, of course, the United States of America, land lines and all, was fighting a lengthy, undeclared war in Vietnam, while also bombing Laos and Cambodia. At the time, to the best of my knowledge, Air Force Colonel Jacksel Broughton (vice commander, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing) registered few complaints about the capabilities of his prehistoric Republic Aviation F-105 Thunderchief. In retirement, on the other hand, according to his obituary in The New York Times, Broughton vented “his anger at President Lyndon B. Johnson, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and the Air Force for limitations that he believed cost pilots’ lives and destroyed any chance America had of winning the Vietnam War” [2].

“We were poorly utilized, we were hopelessly misdirected and restricted, and we were woefully misused by a chain of stagnant high-level civilian and military leadership” that lacked fortitude in a “war that they ineptly micromanaged,” Colonel Broughton wrote […]

Citing restrictions on hitting important targets like major ports, antiaircraft-missile sites under construction and MIG fighters on the ground during the bombing campaign called Rolling Thunder, Colonel Broughton lamented “what was probably the most inefficient and self-destructive set of rules of engagement that a fighting force ever tried to take into battle.”

Makes you wonder how our 21st century smartphones would stack up:

“We have the capacity to annihilate the Taliban threat. But because of the rules of engagement under the new mission, our hands are tied,” said an American adviser to the coalition in Helmand, who described the rules as incomprehensible. [3]

Before they shoot, U.S. troops have to navigate a tricky legal and political question: When is it OK for them to kill Taliban?

[…]

At headquarters, the lawyer and officers focused on several concerns: Was there a risk that an airstrike would kill civilians? Were the men actually militants? Even if they were, did they pose a threat that made them legitimate targets on this particular night? [4]

Aviationist Miller is certainly right about one thing: I have absolutely no idea what kind of war the F-35 is designed to fight or deter. Last time I checked, the United States was bombing Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Iraq, and Yemen. Someone please explain to me: what sophistication, which unique air combat capabilities, does a rusty old F-16 lack against the mighty air power of Yemen?

I’m sure we’ll find out when the F-35 deploys to the region later this year — “for the real thing,” as The Aviationist puts it [5]. Until then, the last word on warfare and international law goes to Thomas Carlyle in “The New Downing Street”:

When the Continental Nations have once got to the bottom of their Augean Stable, and begun to have real enterprises based on the eternal facts again, our Foreign Office may again have extensive concerns with them. And at all times, and even now, there will remain the question to be sincerely put and wisely answered, What essential concern has the British Nation with them and their enterprises? Any concern at all, except that of handsomely keeping apart from them? If so, what are the methods of best managing it? — At present, as was said, while Red Republic but clashes with foul Bureaucracy; and Nations, sunk in blind ignavia, demand a universal-suffrage Parliament to heal their wretchedness; and wild Anarchy and Phallus-Worship struggle with Sham-Kingship and extinct or galvanized Catholicism; and in the Cave of the Winds all manner of rotten waifs and wrecks are hurled against each other, — our English interest in the controversy, however huge said controversy grow, is quite trifling; we have only in a handsome manner to say to it: “Tumble and rage along, ye rotten waifs and wrecks; clash and collide as seems fittest to you; and smite each other into annihilation at your own good pleasure. In that huge conflict, dismal but unavoidable, we, thanks to our heroic ancestors, having got so far ahead of you, have now no interest at all. Our decided notion is, the dead ought to bury their dead in such a case: and so we have the honor to be, with distinguished consideration, your entirely devoted, — FLIMNAP, SEC. FOREIGN DEPARTMENT.” — I really think Flimnap, till truer times come, ought to treat much of his work in this way: cautious to give offence to his neighbors; resolute not to concern himself in any of their self-annihilating operations whatsoever.

Thomas Carlyle: Latter-Day Pamphlets (1850)

Sources

  1. Todd Miller: “Four of the most experienced USMC F-35B pilots speak about their aircraft. And they say it’s exceptional” in The Aviationist (2016)
  2. Richard Goldstein: “Jack Broughton, 89, Dies; Pilot in Vietnam Turned Critic of Leaders” in The New York Times (2014)
  3. J. Donati and H. K. Totakhil: “U.S. Military Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan Questioned” in The Wall Street Journal (2016)
  4. Michael M. Phillips: “Afghan War Rules Leave U.S. Troops Wondering When It’s OK to Shoot” in The Wall Street Journal (2016)
  5. David Cenciotti: “U.S. Marine Corps Planning F-35B Deployment to CENTCOM Area Of Responsibility To Get ‘First Taste Of Combat’ In 2018” in The Aviationist (2017)

The marriage woes of modern woman, courtesy of NPR [1]:

When I first met him, it was undeniably a passionate love affair. […] He’s seven years older than I am, and we met at work, where his power and seniority at the office was insanely attractive to me.

So far, so good. But the very year they married, her husband decided to quit his high-powered career in… whatever, go back to graduate school, and “follow his dreams,” spending all of his money and taking a huge pay cut in the process.

It’s fine, it’s not a problem: her own career “skyrocketed,” and she happens to be “a huge believer in women in the workplace and always will be. If they become the breadwinners in marriage, more power to them.” In theory, at least:

I’m very close to a breaking point, and I never stop thinking about leaving my husband. And no matter what other reasons I come up with, it always leads back to money, power and sexual attraction. I hate myself for it. I hate my sexist, wealthy, materialistic father, who likely instilled these ideals in me. I hate my mother-in-law, who thinks women shouldn’t have to work. I hate that I want a more traditional lifestyle with a husband who can provide for me. I hate that I’m not confident enough in myself to have children because I don’t think I can be the financial provider and a mother.

Obviously, no one is asking me for relationship advice, nor should they, but if I had to take a wild guess: maybe what you’re feeling — nameless, childless white career woman, circa now — is betrayal, because the ideology in which you’ve been indoctrinated (by schools and universities, newspapers, corporations — in short, by everyone except your “sexist” father), the ideology of sexual equality, turns out to be a poor fit for human nature — for what you actually want out of your one life.

I know, it’s profoundly anti-feminist to think that women should be allowed to live a “traditional” life — maybe even with a family. What can I say? I am a troglodyte.

There’s a relevant passage somewhere in Richard Weaver’s Occam-bashing tome:

I put forward here an instance which not only is typical of contempt for natural order but which also is of transcendent importance. This is the foolish and destructive notion of the “equality” of the sexes. What but a profound blacking-out of our conception of nature and purpose could have borne this fantasy? Here is a distinction of so basic a character that one might suppose the most frenetic modern would regard it as part of the donnée to be respected. What God hath made distinct, let not man confuse! But no, profound differences of this kind seem only a challenge to the busy renovators of nature. The rage for equality has so blinded the last hundred years that every effort has been made to obliterate the divergence in role, in conduct, and in dress. It has been assumed, clearly out of this same impiety, that because the mission of woman is biological in a broader way, it is less to be admired. Therefore the attempt has been to masculinize women. (Has anyone heard arguments that the male should strive to imitate the female in anything?) A social subversion of the most spectacular kind has resulted. Today, in addition to lost generations, we have a self-pitying, lost sex.

There is a social history to this. At the source of the disorder there lies, I must repeat, an impiety toward nature, but we have seen how, when a perverse decision has been made, material factors begin to exert a disproportionate effect. Woman has increasingly gone into the world as an economic “equal” and therefore competitor of man (once again equality destroys fraternity). But a superficial explanation through economic changes is to be avoided. The economic cause is a cause that has a cause. The ultimate reason lies in the world picture, for once woman has been degraded in that picture — and putting her on a level with the male is more truly a degradation than an elevation — she is more at the mercy of economic circumstances. If we say that woman is identical with man except in that small matter of division of labor in the procreation of the species, which the most rabid egalitarian is driven to accept, there is no reason why she should not do man’s work (and by extension, there is no reason why she should not be bombed along with him). So hordes of women have gone into industry and business, where the vast majority of them labor without heart and without incentive. Conscious of their displacement, they see no ideal in the task. And, in fact, they are not treated as equals; they have been made the victims of a transparent deception. Taken from a natural sphere in which they are superior, they are set to wandering between two worlds. Women can neither have the prestige of the former nor, for the fact of stubborn nature, find a real standing in the latter.

So we began to see them, these homunculae of modern industrial society, swarming at evening from factories and insurance offices, going home, like the typist in The Waste Land, to lay out their food in tins. At length, amid the marvelous confusion of values attendant upon the second World War, came the lady marine and the female armaments worker. It is as if the centripetal power of society had ceased. What is needed at center now drifts toward the outer edge. A social seduction of the female sex has occurred on a vast scale. And the men responsible for this seduction have been the white-slavers of business who traffic in the low wages of these creatures, the executives, the specialists in “reduction of labor costs” — the very economists and calculators whose emergence Burke predicted for us.

The anomalous phase of the situation is that the women themselves have not been more concerned to retrieve the mistake. Woman would seem to be the natural ally in any campaign to reverse this trend; in fact, it is alarming to think that her powerfully anchored defenses have not better withstood the tide of demoralization. With her superior closeness to nature, her intuitive realism, her unfailing ability to detect the sophistry in mere intellectuality, how was she ever cozened into the mistake of going modern? Perhaps it was the decay of chivalry in men that proved too much. After the gentleman went, the lady had to go too. No longer protected, the woman now has her career, in which she makes a drab pilgrimage from two-room apartment to job to divorce court.

Women of the world’s ancien régime were practitioners of Realpolitik in this respect: they knew where the power lies. (One wonders what Queen Elizabeth would have said had feminist agitators appeared during her reign over England’s green and pleasant isle.) They knew it lies in loyalty to what they are and not in imitativeness, exhibitionism, and cheap bids for attention. Well was it said that he who leaves his proper sphere shows that he is ignorant both of that which he quits and that which he enters. Women have been misled by the philosophy of activism into forgetting that for them, as custodians of the values, it is better to “be” than to “do.” Maternity, after all, as Walt Whitman noted, is “an emblematical attribute.”

If our society were minded to move resolutely toward an ideal, its women would find little appeal, I am sure, in lives of machine-tending and money-handling. And this is so just because woman will regain her superiority when again she finds privacy in the home and becomes, as it were, a priestess radiating the power of proper sentiment. Her life at its best is a ceremony. When William Butler Yeats in “A Prayer for My Daughter” says, “Let her think opinions are accursed,” he indicts the modern displaced female, the nervous, hysterical, frustrated, unhappy female, who has lost all queenliness and obtained nothing.

Richard M. Weaver: Ideas Have Consequences (1948)

Sources

  1. Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed (Dear Sugars): “I Don’t Want To Be The Breadwinner In My Marriage Anymore!” in NPR (2016)

VICE News [1] reports a poster-based hate-speech crisis developing in Canada, where absolute tolerance and total diversity have proven surprisingly elusive:

Edmonton residents woke up Monday to posters […] that heralded white identity and encouraged people “tired of anti-white propaganda” to check out websites linked to the so-called “alt-right” movement. […] In Hamilton, Ontario, flyers also found Monday targeted those who wish to “preserve our culture,” while other versions plastered around Toronto asked white people whether they were “tired of being blamed for all the world’s problems.”

While many have swiftly condemned the posters as hate crimes and acts of white supremacy, it’s still unclear who exactly is behind them, and whether they’re isolated acts or proof of a broader, earnest effort.

To some, it’s still unclear why a poster objecting to anti-white propaganda qualifies as a crime of any kind, let alone a “hate crime,” or an act of “white supremacy.”

At least one Edmonton resident is fighting back “with love” [2]: Matt Edmonds, by defacing the posters, is said to be “spreading love instead of hate,” and letting people know “‘that these ideas aren’t welcome in Edmonton, or anywhere.’”

“Tired of Anti-White propaganda?” the poster asked.

“Nope,” he scrawled. [3]

Really, Matt? You wanted the moral high ground, and picked this hill to die on?

A Vancouver- and Toronto-based group, the Northern Dawn [4], named on some of the anti-anti-white thought-crime hate-posters, had this to say in its defense:

The posters have revealed controversy which already exists and has existed for some time. Most of these posters did nothing more than note that globalization and mass immigration have been detrimental to white interests, a sentiment shared by many across the country too afraid to speak out publicly, lest they be subject to ginned up hysteria and hand-wringing.

That sentiment alone has been sufficient for some people to call for hate speech investigations.

All this hateful talk of sharing ideas through speech reminded me of this:

The transition from free speech to enforced silence is no doubt painful. What torment for a living society, used to thinking for itself, to lose from some decreed date the right to express itself in print and in public, to bite back its words year in and year out, in friendly conversation and even under the family roof.

But the way back, which our country will soon face — the return of breathing and consciousness, the transition from silence to free speech — will also prove difficult and slow, and just as painful, because of the gulf of utter incomprehension which will suddenly yawn between fellow-countrymen, even those of the same generation and same place of origin, even members of the same close circle.

For decades, while we were silent, our thoughts straggled in all possible and impossible directions, lost touch with each other, never learned to know each other, ceased to check and correct each other. While the stereotypes of required thought, or rather of dictated opinion, dinned into us daily from the electrified gullets of radio, endlessly reproduced in thousands of newspapers as like as peas, condensed into weekly surveys for political study groups, have made mental cripples of us and left very few minds undamaged.

Powerful and daring minds are now beginning to struggle upright, to fight their way out from under heaps of antiquated rubbish. But even they still bear all the cruel marks of the branding iron, they are still cramped by the shackles into which they were forced half-grown. And because we are intellectually isolated from each other, they have no one to measure themselves against.

As for the rest of us, we have so shriveled in the decades of falsehood, thirsted so long in vain for the refreshing drops of truth, that as soon as they fall upon our faces we tremble with joys. “At last!” we cry, and we forgive the dust-laden whirlwind which has blown up with them, and the radioactive fallout which they conceal. We so rejoice in every little word of truth, so utterly suppressed until recent years, that we forgive those who first voice it for us all their near misses, all their inexactitudes, even a portion of error greater than the portion of truth, simply because “something at least, something at last has been said!”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: From under the Rubble (1975)

Sources

  1. Rachel Browne: “Not-right” in VICE News (2016)
  2. Jeremy Simes: “Edmonton resident fights ‘alt-right’ posters on Whyte Ave with love” in Metro News (2016)
  3. Madeleine Cummings and Doug Johnson: “Pro-white posters appear on Whyte Avenue and draw swift responses from critics and supporters” in Edmonton Examiner (2016)
  4. Joseph Saint-Pierre: “Northern Dawn Talks With The Edmonton Examiner” in Northern Dawn (2016)

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