We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Less economy of truth, please: who pays whom?

In today’s UK, we can only envy the US its first amendment, but Brits familiar with the PC narrative on race over here still find some US excesses hard to credit. Even Brits who hang out with lefties can be astounded by the wilder shores of the US narrative.

Enthroned on this mad narrative, Ta-Nehisi Coates nevertheless gets some push-back. He’s not hard to criticise. In his own memoir, some shoving on a crowded New York escalator is the worst that white people ever did to him in propria persona, but their malign influence is everywhere: when a black kid points a gun at the young Coates, it’s the fault of whites; when a black friend is shot by a black cop in a black majority area, it’s the fault of whites.

However, those who dare question this feel they must virtue-signal even as they do so.

“Coates’s book is … angry about things we should be angry about” signals an article that shreds Coates’ memoir.

“Coates reminds us of the shame of the American inner city … His account of slavery and the ensuing discrimination against blacks is powerful and true.” says an article titled ‘The Toxic World-View of Ta-Nehisi Coates’.

While cringing white ‘liberals’ tell each other that “Coates is right about white supremacy — but that doesn’t mean that Bernie Sanders is wrong”, other critics seem to be saying that “Coates is absurd, dishonest or channeling racism – but that doesn’t mean I’m a racist for saying so.”

This lets lies survive even in the words of those fighting against them. After denouncing “genocidal whiteness”, Coates demands “reparations” for slavery. Consider the following thought experiments.

– Suppose the US government tells Mr Coates they have just learned he was in fact born in Senegal and adopted as a tiny infant by his US parents, who neglected the relevant legalities – so he is not a US citizen and should depart for his true country. In this thought experiment, Mr Coates’ true parents were not descended from slaves sold to white traders on the West African coast centuries ago. His true ancestors did not suffer from “genocidal whiteness”. How much money would Mr Coates spend on lawyers and investigators to overturn this assessment? How much money would Mr Coates pay to reacquire the legacy for which he says he should be paid?

– As another way of asking the same thing, suppose a powerful witch offers to wave her magic wand over Mr Coates. His ancestors’ past will be changed. The “genocidal whiteness” that has affected that past will be expunged. At every moment when one of his ancestors was about to be pushed onto a white trader’s ship – at every moment when the white western world was about to impinge upon them – they will instead be among the unselected, remaining in Africa. As a special bonus, the witch will ensure that they are not instead sent into the King of Dahomey’s murder spectacle, nor have their eyes gouged out by the Bemba, nor die entertaining the Ashanti, nor be eaten by a cannibal tribe. They will instead live to give rise to Ta-Nehisi Coates, still himself, but now a slave-descended citizen of Senegal from whose past all “genocidal whiteness” has been erased. How much would Mr Coates pay the witch not to wave her wand?

It seems so superfluous to point out that the sums Mr Coates would pay (in these hypothetical examples) to keep his heritage are the sums he should pay, not be paid, if his agitation for reparations ever overcame the many better, more fundamental reasons against it.

I understand the urge to utter that ‘but’but I’m not a racist, but I know evil things were done, but I’m not Adolf reborn. Even I find myself wanting to tell you that being sold as a slave by his jealous brothers, and then falsely accused by Potiphar’s lustful wife, worked out really well for Joseph in the end – but they all needed Grand Vizier Joseph’s forgiveness, not his thanks, and his giving it was an act of grace, forgoing the punishment he could so justly have inflicted. I so needed to make sure you all knew I knew that – even though I already knew you all knew I knew that. Even though I already knew what surely we all know by now: that cringing to the PC only encourages them. Even though I already knew that anyone who would have pretended not to know I thought it if I did not say it will still pretend just as hard although I have.

And that is how this need to virtue-signal lets lies survive even in the words of those fighting against them. Yes, all the perpetrators and victims are dead. Yes, how could we unravel all their clashing inheritances. Yes, reparations for the past opens a pandora’s box of endless complications. But all this general philosophy merely hides specific points. You can hate the British Empire or you can hate slavery but no-one honestly hates both – and the PC hate that fact. If Mr Coates’ ancestors had never been put on the ships, their enslaved descendants might have had to wait decades longer for the Empire to reach and free them in their homeland. Reparations for centuries-old events may be philosophically impractical in general, but focussing on that only obscures that when you indict a whole society’s dead past on behalf of another, as Coates does, then you should ask whether that society was peculiarly guilty, or peculiar only in its relative lack of guilt. Slavery was ‘the peculiar institution’ in the pre-war south. In the non-western world, it did not look peculiar – and would not today, but for the western world.

“You’re taught that on race issues you are morally obliged to suspend your usual standards of logic. Faced with a choice between some benign mendacity and being mauled, few human beings choose the latter.”

Those who do ‘choose the latter’ know what Burke did about economy of truth: “a man may speak the truth by measure that he be allowed to speak it longer”. But Burke never thought mendacity could be ‘benign’ – and nor do I. I think we should be less economical.

Less economy of truth, please: who kissed whom?

Punching back against PC lies – punching back “twice as hard” – is advice instapundit likes to offer. I wish I had a pound for all the times we instead push back half as hard, conceding one absurdity to a woke idiot in the very act of gently suggesting they tone down another.

The famous picture of a sailor kissing a nurse on WWII victory day is the latest target of the wokescolds. A US lecturer describes how a crybully in his class said

“That is the photo of an assault. That man should have gone to jail.”

after which a gay (who “could never get get to the end of a sentence without mentioning it”) asked why celebrate “colonialism”. The lecturer raised a laugh against the gay by reminding him that our soldiers went to France to free it from Nazi colonialism, but in doing so he effectively let the crybully off with a remark that implied she was merely overemphasising a valid point.

Let us consider some other celebratory moments from the end of that war.

The men flinched from the kisses of the ecstatic, filthy, stinking girls who tried to swarm all over them. (Kitty Hart, ‘Return to Auschwitz’)

The only unusual part of this end-WWII description is Kitty’s clear statement that these unannounced female kisses were not only unwarned but unwanted by the US soldiers on whom they were showered. After two years in Auschwitz and months of slave-labourer-trudge westward across the dying Nazi state, Kitty and her tragically-few fellow Jewish survivors were not looking their prettiest at the liberation of Salzwedel concentration camp – and they were looking pretty aggressive. (Kitty’s memoirs describe frankly how she took an aggressive personality into Auschwitz and a more aggressive one out of it. Jews who did not, did not survive, though you also needed a lot of what Kitty Hart’s maiden name – Kitty Felix – is Latin for.)

There are many other examples. When Paris was liberated in August 1944, a great many Parisiennes threw themselves on the soldiers and kissed them without the least hint of, “Excusez-moi, monsieur, voulez-vous que je vous embrasse” beforehand – but it is not recorded that the men of General Leclerc’s French 2nd armoured division ‘flinched’ under this onslaught.

The mad logic of the woke crybully says Kitty and friends should have been jailed. After all, the nurse in the iconic protograph became friends with the sailor, met him often thereafter, posed with him for an anniversary photo, always spoke of it in positively glowing terms – in short, gave every possible proof of her willing acceptance of the kiss – whereas Kitty shamelessly admits the men her cohort kissed were anything but eager. And since those women in Paris have no better excuse than the sailor – “Les hommes ne nous résistent pas” is clearly not enough for the crybully – they must belong in jail too.

Burke said that while falsehood and deceit were allowed in no cause whatever, “a certain economy of the truth may be practiced; a man speaks the truth by measure that he be allowed to speak it longer.” He has a point – sometimes one must pick the points to make to be able to go on talking – but I think we should try to do less of it. That crybully girl merited mockery, not the PC cringe.

Girl’s got a point

We need to be less ready to throw each other under the bus when the PC media tell us to.

In London recently, Candace Owens of Turning Point talked about globalism versus nationalism, and was asked the usual idiot question about nationalism meaning Adolf. She replied,

“Whenever we say ‘nationalism’, the first thing people think about, at least in America, is Hitler. He was a National Socialist. But if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, okay, fine.”

Though you can be arrested for quoting Sir Winston Churchill on Islam in the UK, it is (or was, last I looked) still safe to quote him on Hitler.

I admire men who stand up for their country in defeat, even though I am on the other side. He [Hitler] had a perfect right to be a patriotic German if he chose.

That is how Churchill characterised a chance conversation with a fan of the fuhrer. So it seems Sir Winston held the same view as Candace. (Quoted in Churchill’s WWII Vol I, Chapter V, ‘The Locust Years’. In a follow-up conversation,

I happened to say, “Why is your chief so violent against the Jews?”

after which, it seems, these conversations, and Hitler’s reaction to the fan’s report on them, became less welcoming.)

Completing her answer, Candace went on to say

The problem is that he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize. He wanted everybody to be German, everybody to be speaking German, everybody to look a different way. That’s not, to me, that’s not nationalism… I have no problems with nationalism. It’s globalism that I try to avoid.”

Even those who despise socialism tend to study its theories with a certain seriousness. Hannah Arendt’s study of antisemitism (despite the title of its first section being ‘Antisemitism as an outrage to common sense’) is one of far fewer that make the effort to study that subject seriously. Hannah ridicules the

hasty … identification of antisemitism with rampant nationalism and its xenophobic outbursts. … not only the Nazis but 50 years of anti-semitic history stand as evidence against the identification of antisemitism with nationalism. The first antisemitic parties … were also among the very first that banded together internationally. … they called international congresses and were concerned with a coordination of international, or at least inter-European, activities. … the Nazis nationalist propaganda was directed toward their fellow-travellers and not their convinced members … Nazi “nationalism” had more than one aspect in common with [WWII-and-after] nationalistic propaganda in the Soviet Union … The Nazis had a genuine and never revoked contempt for the narrowness of nationalism, the provincialism of the nation state, and they repeated time and time again that their “movement”, international in scope like the Bolshevik movement, was more important to them than any state …

She notes the Nazis’ “spiteful contempt” for the German people “which they had always had, but could hardly show before” (i.e. before they won power). Hitler described himself as a magnet drawing whatever was good out of the German people – “those who are left are worthless anyway”. Hannah remarks, “Even then, it was clear to those in his circle what would happen to people Hitler considered ‘worthless anyway’.” Hitler ordered that the word ‘German’ be replaced with the word ‘Aryan’ throughout the Third Reich’s legal code, institutionalising this contempt. In parallel, the Nazis eagerly recruited all the foreign antisemites they could. [All quotes are from Hannah Arendt’s ‘Origins of Totalitarianism’]

So when Candace Owens talked about Hiler’s place along the globalism versus nationalism spectrum, she seems to have an ally in Hannah Arendt.

The Covington incident showed some on our side betraying it and cringing to its enemies by believing what those enemies said happened. The Candace Owens pile-on is an example of doing the same by believing what those enemies say our words mean. Candace discusses the incident here. Anyone who cares what is true is still free to argue that (things being as they are today) she should practice replying in ways even harder to misrepresent. But they could they stand up for the facts enough to include those words ‘even harder’ when they say it.

Death to English!

As part of my homework for this, I read, and have carried on reading since, a book by David Crystal entitled English as a Global Language. I’m enjoying it, and I especially enjoyed this (on page 90 of my paperback edition):

International politics operates at several levels and in many different ways, but the presence of English is usually not far away. A political protest may surface in the form of an official question to a government minister, a peaceful lobby outside an embassy, a street riot, or a bomb. When the television cameras present the event to a world audience, it is notable how often a message in English can be seen on a banner or placard as part of the occasion. Whatever the mother tongue of the protesters, they know that their cause will gain maximum impact if it is expressed through the medium of English. A famous instance of this occurred a few years ago in India, where a march supporting Hindi and opposing English was seen on world television: most of the banners were in Hindi, but one astute marcher carried a prominent sign which read ‘Death to English’ – thereby enabling the voice of his group to reach much further around the world than would otherwise have been possible.

Crystal dates the rise of English, from a merely big language among other big languages to its current status as the clear front-runner for global linguistic hegemony, from the immediate post World War 2 period. I recall noticing the phenomenon some time in the 1960s, when, in Youth Hostels in continental Europe, I observed conversations between groups of Europeans (not all of them Scandinavians, by the way) in their teens and twenties, not one of whom (I have a pretty good ear for accents) was speaking English as his or her first language. Interesting, I thought. And having become interested in where English seemed to be going, I became interested also in where it had come from.

The global English story is more complicated than just the matter of educated non-Anglos communicating by means of standard English, and Crystal seems to me to tell it very well, with lots of maps and historical details of how English spread in this or that particular place.

Crystal himself is anything but an English linguistic triumphalist. He lives and works in Holyhead, in North Wales, North Wales being the part of Wales where the Welsh language is strongest. Although Crystal is a major figure in linguistics and in English teaching, I have been unable to discover how fluent he is in Welsh. But as an academic whose basic tool is the English language, he entirely gets why English has gone global. It’s just so useful, for communicating with other people.

Zimbabwean currency basket (case)

A visit to Africa a few months ago produced many, many pictures of wild scenery and wilder animals – and this picture of civilisation after socialism.

BasketOfTenBillionDollarNotes

In times of inflation, you carry your money to the shop in a basket and carry your purchase home in your wallet. In times of socialist inflation, each note in the basket is for tens of billions. There is a rumour that Zimbabwe will imitate Venezuela and remove some of the zeros. (There is another rumour that says that this had already happened.) The socialist Mugabe is gone but socialism lingers on. I fear Kipling’s poem is not quite right:

But though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said, “If you don’t work, you die.”

Socialism doesn’t work but it also doesn’t die. Socialism is the modern name of an ancient evil that in every generation resurrects and must be slain again.

The elephant with more sense than to be in the room

After the armistice centenary celebrations, Macron is hosting some kind of talking shop about ‘peace’ for his fellow European leaders. Wisely, Trump has decided not to attend. (He’s already done his bit for European peace by extorting from Macron a verbal acknowledgement that Europe should do more for its own defence. We’ll see whether that amounts to anything in practice.)

The chattering classes love the saying that generals prepare to fight the last war, not the next one. Sadly, they rarely ask whether they themselves are trying to avoid the last war, not the next one. After 1918, many western leaders tried so very hard to avoid WWI that they greatly helped Hitler bring about the very different WWII. (The UK had a pacifist prime minister and pacifist leader of the opposition during Adolf’s first three years.) Now Merkel and co. are trying to avoid yesterday’s wars by enforcing ‘hate speech’ laws on every questioner of the PC consensus they can mischaracterise as a blond blue-eyed lover of the nordic race. Even if we did not know how Weimar Germany’s similar use of similar laws worked out, it would still be a great way to avoid the problems of the past by encouraging the problems of the future.

A Lusitanian* adventure

Last month, the Sage of Kettering and I went on another trip, this time to England’s oldest ally, Portugal. *It involved brief excursions into Spain over a raia (‘the stripe’ as it is called), one of Europe’s oldest borders, almost unchanged but still disputed many centuries after delineation in 1297, so it was an Iberian adventure. We focused on the north of Portugal, and then Lisbon.

We flew to Porto, with the least user-friendly tram system I have yet used, and made our way up north by noisy Diesel train through pleasant farmland, brushing the Atlantic coast on the way to our first stage, the fine fortress town of Valença on the Minho river, which here forms the border with Spain. Valença has a striking fortress citadel as its old town, with many layers of defences. The scale of the walls can be judged by the horses in the pictures. A drone video of the fortress, a 17th Century construction on an older 13th Century construction, is here.

→ Continue reading: A Lusitanian* adventure

Finally, an achievable socialist goal

Abolish profit is the proclaimed goal of The New York branch of Democratic Socialists of America (they would also like to abolish prisons, cash bail and borders, but abolishing profit comes first). Normally, I think that, this time, socialism won’t work – because it didn’t last time, and the time before that, and the time before that – but for once, that logic points in the opposite direction.

Sure, I’m for social insurance, medical care and the rest, provided it’s given to the people from the profits which the State, as owner and operator of the factories, makes on them – the profits that formerly were made by the capitalists – and not from the earnings of the workers themselves. In that was the gist of the revolution.

But where are your profits? Your industry and your whole economy work at a loss. And we, the citizens, are forced to cover those losses.

Revolutionary socialist Andrei Kravchenko said that to his son, communist official Victor Kravchenko, in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1936. Socialism’s ability to abolish profit was later confirmed by Mao, Mugabe and Chavez – and by a number of nationalised industries in the UK. So I believe socialism can do this.

Unfortunately, the DSA’s second goal – abolish prisons – is one that socialists have never achieved, since prisons are the means by which “we, the citizens, are forced to cover those losses.”

Russia has been horrible for a long time

Amidst some of the commentary about the recent murders – attributed by the UK government to Russian operatives – in the UK, much has been written and said about the less-than-stellar response, in the eyes of many (including those on the political left) of Jeremy Corbyn. Now, my take on Corbyn is rather like that of George Orwell on leftist intellectuals (he was one of them, mind), which is that they’d sooner be caught stealing from a church charity plate than admitting they loved their country.

Even so, it is worth asking the question of quite why certain folk on the left are so beguiled by Russia. After all, in certain respects Putin is not their kind of hero. For a start, he is quite a “man’s man”, strutting about bare-chested, holding guns and riding horses; his regime isn’t nice to homosexuals, seems to extract a lot of CO2-producing gasses, and so on. There are no “safe spaces” in Russian schools and universities, I would guess.

However, it is worth noting that there was never really a time when the situation, particularly post-1917 and up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, was better. And this Daily Mirror writer comes up with a comment so flawed that for a second I thought it was some sort of parody. For the writer (adopting a sort of pen-name) suggests that poor old Corbyn is besotted with the shining image of a glorious Soviet Union that once – in the writer’s opinion – existed in its early years before certain things, inexplicably, went wrong. It had “free” healthcare, employment “rights” and a nifty big public sector. And it was egalitarian! The writer appears to buy this rosy view of Soviet Russia (the fact that opponents of Communism were murdered from day one appears not to register). The writer does not note the most important divide of all: the split between those who have power, and those who don’t, over others. The inequality in wealth of early 21st Century America or Europe is nothing compared to the inequality between the party bosses in, say, 1950 and that which exists in wealth terms in a Western liberal democracy. Wealth and coercive power are entirely different things.

The things that went wrong in the Soviet Empire were integral the very nature of collectivism itself; failure to understand that wealth inequality is entirely different from differences in coercive power is at the root of why leftists, and collectivists of all hues, get things like the Soviet Union wrong. The project was doomed because its underlying rationale was built on sand. (Here is a new and acclaimed biography of Lenin, making the point that what was set up in Russia was evil and mad from the start.)

So far from being an incisive takedown of Corbyn, the Daily Mirror article sort of affirms his infatuation with communism and says the main problem now is that Russia is run by thugs, as if what happened from 1917 onwards was ever going to be any different. When power is centralised, what does this writer expect will happen? And perhaps it is fitting to conclude that anyone who wonders “where did the dream of Soviet Russia go wrong?” should sit down with this 1944 masterpiece by a certain FA Hayek.

The Rank(ed) Evil of Socialism

Under Ian Smith (remember him?), only 5% of the population of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) had votes that counted (and all but one in twenty of them were white) but the other 95% of the population did eat: Mugabe inherited a country where their prosperity was rising. By 2016, only Mugabe and a few cronies had votes that counted, and Zimbabwe produced not the 300,000+ tons of grain per year that it once did, but 20,000 tons. Or, as the poet did not quite put it,

My other enemy is such
As you too should abhor:
Who justly hates white racists much,
Hates socialists yet more.

It seems so superflous to add that non-white racism (between the Shona and Ndebele tribes) was also a feature of Mugabe’s rule; he was a Shona as well as a socialist.

Some lies are long a-dying

Future historians will doubtless be wary of books on the history of the Negro in the United States when they find the word “Negro” being displaced by the word “Black” in the 1960s and 1970s – just as they are wary of books on German history in the era when the word “Aryan” became fashionable. … The history of the Negro American began to be chronicled, and was being well-chronicled, before “Black” became fashionable. … The “Black Studies” movement has tended to inflame the subject without proportionately illuminating it, and has become the Trojan Horse of a new racism.

(Daniel Boorstin, ‘The Democratic Experience’, 1973)

It’s more than 40 years since Daniel wrote this – and less than 4 since I first saw “All Lives Matter” called racist by those who shout “Black Lives Matter”.

– I’ve read minutes of meetings of tiny lefty groups in Victorian London where other members patiently explained to Karl Marx that his theories had flaws. Since then, the world has been force-fed a huge slice of socialism. You might have thought it died in the 90’s – or at least transmogrified into watermelonish (green on the outside, red on the inside) environmentalism, but Sanders and Corbyn want to put us back on the straight stuff.

– In late 1991, before the first gulf war faded and the recession kicked in, I recall a UK article explaining why the Democratic presidential hopefuls were being called (by their unhappy US media friends) “the seven dwarfs”. It listed the failings of each in turn; 5th on the list came Clinton, whose dwarfishness was because of sleaze and even more because “The Democrats know that more sleaze is coming on the Clintons.” (‘Clintons’, plural, even then, IIRC.) Well, that was true, but across-the-pond had 8 years of Clintons and just missed having a second helping.

When mainsteam media like you, your lies are long a-dying. The new racism (anti-semitic, like the old) is still on its first growth cycle. I am so ready to reach Boorstin’s future when historians will “doubtless” doubt it.

[Boorstin’s quote is on page 648 of the Pheonix Press 2000 paperback edition]

“But she knows me !”

Late one night near the start of the 1930s in Germany, Leni Riefenstahl dropped in on friends whose house she chanced to pass as she returned from the very first Nazi rally she attended. For ten minutes, she raved about the the glorious future awaiting National Socialism, the insight of Hitler  – until the expressions on the faces of her stunned-into-silence hosts finally penetrated the haze she was in and she recalled that this married couple (that she’d been friends with for years) were two of her several Jewish friends. She murmured something about how she was sure that aspect of National Socialism would not amount to anything that need concern them. Then she finished her coffee and left. She never came back. Her circle of friends changed to contain fewer Jews, then fewer still.

(Leni’s next chance to meet Jews in numbers came in the early 1940s, when she borrowed concentration camp inmates to be extras in crowd scenes in her films, returning them to the camps after their scenes were shot. The couple who gave her coffee were not among them. Before that night, they were typical intellectuals, sure that National Socialists were all very stupid self-defeating people. That a girl like Leni – clever, strong-willed, career-minded, inventive, unorthodox – could become one was incomprehensible to them, so incomprehensible that it shattered their intellectuals’ conviction that they were the ones who understood things. Therefore they fled Germany early and so they lived – long enough to tell the story of that night on a television programme I watched long ago.)

I was reminded of this by the woman named by Sarah Hoyt in a recent post. Like the rest of Sad Puppies, Sarah has been accused of every sin in the politically-correct calendar by SJWs who’ve never met her, but also, to her astonishment, by Rose Beteem, a woman who knows her, who knows her views, who knows she’s from Portugal and can look like she comes from somewhere south of it, who knows Sarah is no more plausibly accused of all these -isms and -phobias than Leni’s friends were of starting WWI. Sarah was astonished that Rose could do that since “she knows me.”

I wasn’t. Beteem’s knowledge of Sarah Hoyt is part of her experience. Beteem’s knowledge that all Sad Puppiers are vile people, guilty of every -ism and -phobia, is part of her political theory. To be politically correct is to value theory above experience. Khrushchev noted the strength of Stalin’s tendency to believe a thing if he’d read it in a book or report, whatever the counter-evidence. In C.S.Lewis “That Hideous Strength”, Mark treats a sociology report on agricultural labourers as the reality and the actual agricultural labourers he meets as irrelevant because his modernist views meant “He believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of that which is not seen.”

Treating the theory you’ve been taught as a surer guide than your own experience is the essence of political correctness. SJWs don’t just refuse to learn from the past; they resist learning from their own present. If this ever changes, they become that well-known type who is a socialist at 20 but wiser at 40. Otherwise, don’t rely on their knowing you to make a difference.

[All quotations are from memory. Khrushchev’s remark is in Robert Coquest’s, “Stalin, Breaker of Nations.”]