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]

Kristallnacht versus BLM

Goering (shouting): “Why did you not kill 200 Jews instead of destroying so many valuables!”

Heydrich (defensively): “36 Jews were killed.”

[Words uttered during ministerial discussion with a representative of the German insurance industry after Kristallnacht.]

Kristallnacht was pretty-well the last of the Nazi’s anti-Jewish exercises that were more incentivised than directly commanded and supervised. They had learned the habit in their pre-power days. As the party court (the Uschla) reported afterwards, old party comrades understood that “certain hints meant more than their mere verbal contents”, so when told that “von Rath’s murder was a crime of Jewry as a whole … every party comrade should know what to do”, they went out and – to the great annoyance of Goering when he realised the economic impact – did a fantastic amount of property damage while only killing, by later standards, a derisory number of Jews.

BLM operate the same way. The stormtroopers broke glass and smashed things up because fire could spread to ‘aryan’ properties, whereas BLM don’t care if black-owned businesses burn. But with the exception of that very peculiar way of not making racial distinctions, BLM have shown the same common tendency of an incentivised but loosely-commanded Western/European mob to do a lot of property damage for each life they take.

Inflation adjusted, I think the direct financial cost of Kristallnacht far exceeded that of all BLM’s destruction to date. On the other hand, by murdering the eight-year-old black girl Secoriea Turner, the black man David Dorn and various others, it looks like BLM can get into the ballpark of Heydrich’s figure just in killing ‘Lives That Matter (TM)’ – and if you also count lives that don’t matter then maybe they can compete with the higher number that were actually murdered during 9-10 November 1938.

However, BLM needed many nights of rioting to achieve this, whereas ‘Crystal Night’ was done in a day and a night. So I leave it to readers to decide “the point of precedence between a louse and a flea” – or to take Dr Johnson’s advice not to bother – as my focus here is on the specific similarities of technique I’ve mentioned.

(Just a ‘seasonal’ thought prompted by the time of year. I apologise to any who are distressed by the very dark humour of this ‘Godzilla versus King Kong’-style comparison.)

Samizdata socialist anniversary quote of the day

“Our task is the protection of socialist achievements. … Those who do not respect our borders will feel the bullet.” (1970s Socialist Unity Party speech to Berlin Wall guards – video excerpts shown in The Secret Life of the Berlin Wall)

The Socialist Unity Party meant that people who disrespected socialism by trying to escape it were to “feel the bullet”. So I guess there’s no point telling modern socialists that it’s socialist to make people who do not respect borders “feel the bullet” – or even just the hardness of Trump’s wall. They would reply that trying to prevent people from entering your country is ‘not real socialism’ – and they’d be absolutely right. 🙂

The Berlin Wall fell in November, 31 years ago.

“Say BLM not ALM” is a performance bond

And why, you may be asking, do I think it is like a ‘performance bond’ (whatever that may be)? Here is a historical analogy:

The symbolic gesture of obeisance to Germany, made by Hungary [in winter 1938-9] but refused by Poland, was adherence to the Anti-Comintern Pact. … It was, of course, known in Berlin that the Hungarian, like the Polish, leaders of the time were vehemently, even violently, anti-communist; adherence to a German-sponsored Anti-Comintern Pact could not make them any more so. It could however be recognised as a sign of willingness to take orders from Berlin – and it was so regarded at the time. … this pact had become for the Germans a sort of performance bond to be exacted as a test of distance from the Western Powers and subordination to herself. (‘A World At Arms’, Gerhard L. Weinberg)

The Dean of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Dr Leslie Neal-Boylan, has been fired for this:

I am writing to express my concern and condemnation of the recent (and past) acts of violence against people of color. Recent events recall a tragic history of racism and bias that continue to thrive in this country. I despair for our future as a nation if we do not stand up against violence against anyone. BLACK LIVES MATTER,

If she’d stopped there, she’d still have her job – but she persisted:

but also, EVERYONE’S LIFE MATTERS. No one should have to live in fear that they will be targeted for how they look or what they believe.

It is, of course, known in the University that the ex-Dean is vehemently (though not violently) anti-racist (when she was hired a few months ago, a now deleted University website page praised her ‘visonary’ advocacy of diversity and inclusivity, especially of the disabled in the nursing field). Making her say ‘black lives matter’ and not say ‘all lives matter’ could not make her any more so. On the contrary, just as signing the anti-comintern pact meant the signers would acquiese in Hitler’s alliance with Stalin a few months later (only the Japanese, ignorant of European mores, protested against Germany’s “outrageous violation of the pact” in August 1939), so demanding the Dean say “black lives matter” but not “all lives matter” was precisely to assure her acquiescence in theories that discriminate by race and in deeds that cost black (and other) lives.

Lording it over history can get out of hand

A Facebook friend of mine put this on her timeline, and after asking, she said I could post this here. I am sure Samizdata readers will appreciate the sentiments.

Since banning and toppling is now the lockdown activity de rigeur, I didn’t want to be left out, so have decided to add to the list:

– The Colosseum – hotbed of slave suffering and anti-Christian persecution. Turn it in to a car park, I say. Whilst we’re at it, the Pyramids and Acropolis didn’t build themselves, so send in the JCBs.

– The Guardian newspaper – founded by a man whose fortune was made on the back of the slave-intense cotton trade. Naughty.

– The Labour party – one of the founding organisations was the Fabian society, which, in the early 1900s called for eugenics and forced sterilisation. Off with your heads.

– Jeeves and Wooster – we all remember how they blacked up as minstrels in one of their episodes? Silence them.

– Most of Southern Spain – conquered and occupied by the Moors for over 300 years, around 1 million white Europeans were sold IN to the African slave trade (well before European colonialisation, Africa had booming slave markets). The historical legacy is everywhere, not least in those colonial place names (Al-Andalus, Al-Meria, Qurtoba) – abolish the lot.

– Scandinavians – what were they up to, sending their vikings over and enslaving our tribes? Actually, add the bloody Normans to that too.

– Mongolia – rapist-in-chief warlord, who had more slaves in his tenure than ever existed in the Western colonial slave trade, and killed 40 million people during his rampages. Apparently, there are 16,000,000 living direct descendants of his wayward penis. No yurts for you.

– Ghandi – Had a few unsavoury things to say about black Africans. No more blacked-up Ben Kingsley for you.

– All of us – that’s right, there is virtually no one alive today who is not the product of what is today considered paedophilia. Women were often married off as children, and started giving birth at 12 or 13, so we should no-platform ourselves and our ancestors.

OR

We could just grow the fuck up and consider that man has evolved faster in the last 3,000 years than any other species on this planet. We have gone from cave dwellers to sending humans in to space in a period of time that is barely a blink in the cosmic scale.

To apply our 21st century morality on our ancestors is so completely ridiculous, as to defy morality or reason. To educate our youth fairly and equitably on our progression is a far more powerful tool than to deny our pasts. This attempt to pretend that Britain has a history only to be ashamed of is not only factually incorrect, but so counter-productive and divisive, that we will make whatever problems we think we have, far, far worse.

Everyone calm down.

The Plague

“Are you able to condemn absolutely?”

“No – but surely that is not necessary?”

“It is not – though the situation is very bad. But testimony without reservation is the only testimony I will give – so I will give no testimony in support of your testimony.”

Ostensibly, these two characters at the start of Albert Camus’ The Plague are talking about the health situation of Algerian natives under French colonial rule. But The Plague is not actually about an outbreak of the black death in Oran. It is about France under Nazi occupation, recast as a description of French behaviour in an epidemic. The plague represents the Nazis: deadly, relentless, reigning in terror for a time and then gone. The book’s interest is in how people act when a thing like that sweeps over them; about the scum it brings to the top; about who decides to resist and when and why; about Vichy and freedom and the human heart.

By setting the book in Oran, Camus gave himself an advantage: he could describe the city he grew up in very well (and the ostensible event – an outbreak of plague – was more likely). But he also gave himself a problem. France was under the Nazis but Oran was under the French colonial authorities. The French readers of Camus’ book are like the French readers of the newspaper whose journalist “cannot condemn absolutely”. So Camus explains – very exactly, in terms of his analogy – that he will say nothing, and from that point on, the book focusses only on how the ethnically-French inhabitants of Oran behave.

I have been a little surprised never to see mention of The Plague in my recent web browsing. (Only a little surprised – the amount that is on the web and not noticed by me is vast.) That an epidemic can be like an invasion, empowering Vichy-like petty tyrants and harming freedom, would seem topical at this time. I’m no great fan of Camus (though, like anyone honest, I greatly prefer him to Sartre and suchlike) and it is from old memory that I provide the quote heading the post. But some people think highly of him, and I’ll grant that, even in translation, a certain quality of the prose shines through. The left did not welcome his post-WWII advice that what they needed most was “pitiless criticism”, but they never managed to push him all the way down the memory hole.

In the UK and the US, I’ve seen criticism of the lockdown that I thought very fair – and other criticism I thought OTT, as if it were rational to think Boris and Trump really loved lockdowns and wanted them to last forever. The cruel absurdity I see in France seems to belong in the pages of The Plague.

L’absurdité cruelle

Not long ago, I posted that events in the UK distantly echoed

“the cruel absurdity of the Roman princes, unable to protect their subjects against the public enemy, unwilling to trust them with arms for their own defence” (‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’, Edward Gibbon)

But events in France offer more than an echo.

France’s general population remains under extremely strict lockdown; the police have been ordered to enforce the rules ruthlessly. Permits to leave one’s home were limited to 60 minutes, once a day, and no farther than half a mile. … more than 915,000 citations have been handed out; 15.5 million persons have been stopped and checked …

People living in no-go zones [zones-urbaines-sensibles “sensitive urban zones”] are treated differently. Police officers have been told by the government not to stop them at all and to avoid as much as possible going near where they live.

(Excerpted from France’s No-Go Zones: The Riots Return.
Read the whole thing.)

The ‘zones sensibles’ of Gothic immigrants in the dying western Roman empire were not ‘urbaines’ but they enjoyed the same cruel absurdity of being exempt from the harsh laws Rome enforced on the areas it still effectively controlled. They showed the same pattern of growth too. In 2005 there were less than 100 zones urbaines sensibles; today, France has more than 750 zones where the absence of lockdown casts the growing reality into stark relief.

The evolution of ruling attitudes makes another parallel.

In 2005, the police tried to quell the riots, unsuccessfully. For three weeks, the country seemed on the verge of a civil war. Today, because members of the government seem to believe that if riots occur, a civil war really could happen, the police are asked not to intervene and to stand aside until the destruction stops.

In ancient times, a similar period takes us from the Battle of Adrianople (378 AD) when the empire tried and failed to quell ‘rioting’ Gothic immigrants, to that of Frigidius (394) where the emperor used a Gothic army to defeat his internal rivals. The Goths lost heavily in that battle, which probably did not bother the emperor – but also did not slow much the speed with which they rotted the empire. I doubt Macron will lose sleep if the ‘zones urbaines sensibles’ lose people to the virus through ignoring his lockdown – which they won’t much, certainly not enough to slow their rate of growth much.

A similar number of years then takes us from Frigidius to the fall of Rome in 410. One day soon, France may do something sensible about the ‘zones urbaines sensibles’. Or, one day, France may do something horrible because for too long political correctness forbade her doing something sensible. Or Paris may ‘fall’ – may become one big zone urbaine sensible.

Meanwhile, I find it a disturbing symptom that the French government seems so acclimatised to the cruel absurdity of enforcing laws that take liberty from natives who obey you, while allowing exemptions that give liberties to immigrants who don’t. I can dislike a law yet dislike its arbitrary enforcement more. I do not care for this ‘lockdown pour nous, mais non pour vous’. Between 2005 and 2020, a kind of degeneration has taken place.

Echoes of distant rhymes

“The Romans were blinded to what was happening to them by the very perfection of the material culture which they had created. All around them was solidity and comfort, a material existence which was the very antithesis of barbarism. How could they foresee the day when the Norman chronicler would marvel over the broken hypocausts of Caerleon? How could they imagine that anything so solid might conceivably disappear? Their roads grew better as their statesmanship grew worse and central heating triumphed as civilization fell.” (Eileen Power essay on the fall of the Roman Empire, written in the winter of 1938-9.)

“History does not repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes.” (attributed to Mark Twain)

It happened in Thessalonika near the end of the Roman Empire.

The empire had been in trouble for some time. It was not reproducing itself – “The human harvest was bad” (Seeley). ‘Agri Deserti’ – once-cultivated lands now abandoned for lack of people to till them – could be found in every province.

Internally, the empire tried its usual solution: more government, more laws, more force. Legislation to reward large families and tax bachelors was kept on the statute books for centuries although “successful it was not” (Power). As the empire waned, laws to deal with the consequence of this failure were added: binding cultivators to the soil (the origin of serfdom) was merely the most common example of assigning a hereditary obligation to more and more of the professions the state relied on as soon as a shortfall appeared in them, legally punishing any son who did not follow in his father’s footsteps. To draft and regulate these laws, the numbers and privileges of bureaucrats ballooned from Rome’s former proportion (small in numbers by our standards, but when human productivity was less, each unproductive mouth cost more).

Successful all these laws were not – so, externally, the empire addressed its chronic shortage of manpower by immigration,

to dose it with barbarian vigour. Just a small injection to begin with and then more and more

Goths arrived, first as recruits to Roman army units, then as foederate units under their own leaders, growing like a cancer within the armed forces until an Egyptian mother quite naturally wrote the emperor to return her citizen son who “has gone off with the barbarians” – by which she meant he had joined the ‘Roman’ army.

Emperor Theodosius made the Goths obey him, but his was an insecure authority over them. He used Gothic troops in battles where pyrrhic victories may have been welcome. As one summary of the costly victory of Frigidius (394 AD) puts it,

The loss of 10,000 Goths cannot have distressed Theodosius unduly.

Theodosius also had little choice but to use some of their leaders as governors. Mostly, the empire’s soldiers were also its police – so the leaders of those who were now increasingly providing those soldiers had to be both rewarded by, and used in, such posts. Thus did Butheric the Goth became governor (magister militum) over Illyricum, which included Thessalonika.

The urban elite of Thessalonika were university-educated Greeks.

It would be hard to imagine an education less suited to help them understand the dangers they faced. The study of rhetoric, its links with reality long severed, …

So Eileen Power described the ‘learned’ of the dying Roman world. (Today, 8 decades after she wrote those sentences, it is easier to imagine an education even less suited to helping elite intellectuals understand the dangers facing them, one whose links with reality are even more completely severed.) In the empire’s second century, Hadrian had dispersed those Jews he did not kill around the empire, confident they’d soon lose their primitive prejudices and assimilate to being broad-minded Graeco-Roman intellectuals like himself. Fourth/fifth century Graeco-Roman intellectuals thought the same of the immigrants. Sidonius Appolinaris wrote a ‘good-natured’ description of the “embarrassing friendliness” of the new barbarian neighbours he encountered on a fifth-century visit to Lyons:

“How can he be expected to compose six-foot metres”, [Sidonius] asks, “with so many seven-foot patrons all around him, all singing and all expecting him to admire their uncouth stream of non-Latin words.”

The shrug of the shoulders, the genial contempt of one conscious of an infinite superiority – how familiar it all seems.

Perhaps the Thessalonikan city leaders greeted their new governor in this spirit, as sure as Hadrian was about the Jews that this uncouth Goth would soon lose his barbaric prejudices.

There was in Thessalonika a popular charioteer. As Ganymede was charioteer to the god Zeus and also his catamite, so the Thessalonikan charioteer had strong wrists on the race track and Ganymede’s tastes in the bedroom. On the one hand, knowing Graeco-Roman culture of the time, there is nothing remotely surprising in the idea that the charioteer abused slaves, minors or other victims worse than some Hollywood celebrity of our day (Butheric accused him of assaulting a cupbearer). On the other hand, knowing the culture of the Goths in such matters, same-sex liaisons that were as consenting-adults-only as the sternest MeToo advocate could demand might still have disgusted a Goth.

The sophisticated Thessalonikans were at least as disgusted with their governor. If this uncultured Goth had not yet cured himself of his vile homophobia, had not yet been assimilated to their superior way of thinking, he could at least avoid displaying it in public.

The governor refused to back down. It might be he was very opinionated in such matters even for a fourth-century Goth. It might be he indeed knew there was a real abused victim in this particular case. Or maybe he was like many a governor then and now – challenging his authority only made him the more determined to assert it.

The Thessalonikans refused to back down. Maybe they were genuine advocates for sexual liberty (or for the taking of sexual liberties). Maybe they were full of Gothophobic prejudice (despite – or perhaps because of – the imperial government’s formal endorsement of these rapidly multiplying Gothic immigrants, there was plenty of it about). Or maybe they were infuriated at the way their Gothic governor treated the elaborate expensively-learned rhetorical style of their addresses to him as artificial, boring and silly. Whatever the reason, they cancel-cultured Butheric all right – they killed him.

(Gibbon notes, as the empire died,

“the cruel absurdity of the Roman princes, unable to protect their subjects against the public enemy, unwilling to trust them with arms for their own defence”

but it would seem Thessalonika’s civilians were not forbidden to carry knives.)

Perhaps precisely because of the tensions in his relationship with the Goths, Theodosius had a tetchy first reaction to news of this. By the time the less stern commands of his cooler second thoughts reached Thessalonika, some 7,000 Thessalonikan aficionados of chariot racing were as dead as their late governor.

We know about this – just barely enough to part-reconstruct, part-guess the rest as I have described above (in anachronistic terms) – because of what happened next. Saint Ambrose banned the emperor from receiving Christian communion until he repented his violence to the Thessalonikans. Theodosius yielded and did public penance. He also proclaimed a law: imperial orders for mass slaughter were not to be carried out until after 30 days had elapsed – just in case the emperor calmed down again. (Whether Butheric’s Gothic soldiers-cum-police would have paid attention to it is another matter.)

Theodosius was the very last emperor to rule from the British midlands to the Nile cataracts. In the fifth century, as the empire disintegrated, the educated Graeco-Roman elite acquired the familiar figure of Orosius, explaining that the Roman Empire was founded in blood and conquest, so could ill-afford to throw stones at the barbarians. Instead he advised:

“If the unhappy people they have despoiled will content themselves with the little that is left them, their conquerors will cherish them like friends and brothers.”

In the end, the rudely-awakened Sidonius did not find it so, though he did survive and even got freed from captivity – by composing a panegyric for his particular barbarian conqueror. However the confident so-superior intellectual of earlier years doesn’t seem to have felt too pleased about it:

“O necessitas abjecta nascendi, vivendi misera, dura moriendi!” [O humiliating necessity of birth, sad necessity of living, hard necessity of dying!]

So much for ancient history. I cannot exactly tell you that “Those who do not remember history are condemned to relive it” after telling you that history does not repeat itself, it only sometimes rhymes or merely echoes. What was done in Rotherham is eclipsed by what Goths did between the battle of Adrianople and Theodosius regaining tenuous control over them, just as the total of British dead from jihadi terror is eclipsed by the dead of that battle alone. But there could be rhymes. Imagine an inner-city Labour-appointed London magistrate who thinks Sharia-law has insight in such matters confronting a bunch of university-credentialled (but hardy, in any flattering sense, educated) intellectuals without intellects (also Labour-voting). Avoiding islamophobia can trump acting or preaching against QUERTYphobia, but at other PC intersections echoes of Thessalonikan confrontations can be dimly heard.

The best way to avoid rhymes is to hear distant echoes while they are still distant (my less emphatic version of “Those who do not remember history are condemned to relive it”). If only political correctness did not deafen us. 🙁

Disparate-Impact Anti-Semitism

Between Momentum activists complaining that Labour is

“not helped by the fact that the BBC has a lot of Jewish journalists

and Corbyn saying the BBC

“has a bias towards saying that… Israel has a right to exist

there seems to be a feeling in Labour circles that both Jews and their concerns are over-represented in the media.

This is not the first time round for such ideas. Complaints that the Germans were “a people with severed vocal chords”, that Berlin’s major newspapers were owned and/or edited by Jews, that “23 of 29 Berlin theatre managers were Jews” that “the barristers’ room in any Berlin state court was like a Jewish club” etc., were often made in the 1920s and 30s. Nazi statistics, even in the days when the press (Jewish-owned or otherwise) could still challenge them, were usually spun toward the high side – but aimed to persuade by describing areas where everyone knew Jews far exceeded their less-than-one-percent of Germany’s population. The Nazis would not have achieved anything by claiming that too many German farmers were Jews, or too many German generals. (It was the British empire, not Germany, that produced Sir John Monash.) In many a pre-power speech that Hitler gave, e.g. to students (students voted for him at twice the average German rate), he promised merely to remedy these disparate statistics and redress the historic injustices they revealed.

That’s the trouble with disparate-impact theory. Jews have often been victims of racism. But if the mere existence of racial disparities proves racism then a glance at many a country’s economic or cultural statistics will show, according to disparate-impact theory, how much more time Jews must have spent perpetrating racism. Percentages always sum to a hundred – so, even in countries where their fraction of the population is not much higher than in pre-war Germany or even lower, any Jewish higher-than-proportion achievement necessarily accompanies some lower-than-proportion percentages of other groups. Disparate-impact theory exists precisely to crush the racist excuses offered for such racist disparities.

And of course, this racism cannot remain confined within each country. Since there are fewer Jews in the world than there are citizens of Kazakhstan, disparate-impact theory makes Jews guilty of a lot of racism against Kazakhs (and almost everyone else) in Nobel prize awards. Even the evil of toxic whiteness, conveying disproportionate prosperity and prestige to caucasians, cannot quite compare statistically with Jewish disproportions, and if Jewish survivors of violent dispossession repeatedly arrived near-destitute in new places, but their descendants averaged more of such places’ increased fame and wealth than the indigenes, well, by disparate-impact theory that just proves how committed Jews must be to such racist behaviour. Don’t they understand that at some point you’ve made enough money and won enough awards – and that point is strict statistical parity with the locals.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one reason why a movement that calls you a Nazi for arguing with it so often sounds like it is taking its lines from one of Adolf’s early-30’s addresses. The political world, like the real world, is a sphere: go too far ‘fighting racism’ and you’ll meet your alleged opposites round the far side – and after that you’ll be so far gone you’re coming back.
________________________
[Nazi propaganda remarks quoted above are referenced in contemporary book ‘The House That Hitler Built’ by Stephen Roberts.]

A logical danger in PC illogic

(Normal service – i.e. prose – will be resumed promptly. I promised a follow-up poem about its being too easy to rebut the race scammers – or ‘race hustlers’ as is, I believe, the US term. Here it is.)

ADVICE TO A CAMPUS RADICAL

When true statements are uttered by those you despise,
It’s not logical (nor helpful, narrative-wise)
To shout “racist”, as if hearers will not realise
That from true factual statements do not follow lies.

Don’t unwittingly justify what you oppose,
by discarding all logic for wokeness, like those
intellectuals lacking in intellect who
‘prove’ some true facts are racist (so racism’s true?).

When exam results don’t match what you want them to,
When too few of the prize winners have the ‘right’ hue,
Do not claim that it’s racist to add two and two:
“Mathematics is racist!” says “Racism’s true”.

If school discipline policies are colour-blind
and offender percentage results in each kind
are unequal, don’t say that is racist to do:
saying “colour-blind’s racist” says “racism’s true”.

That slavery is ancient, you should not deny,
Nor that blacks sold the blacks that white traders did buy,
Nor that one culture banned it and forced others to,
Nor that these truths aren’t racist (else racism’s true).

Falsifiable claims enforced by a loud few
Do not silence the minds whose mouths dare not argue;
Best let doubters weed errors in free speech review.
Don’t say free speech is racist; free speech finds what’s true.

Sadly, say what I like about freedom of speech.
How ‘respect’ means first hearing the viewpoint of each,
And how more diverse thoughts could expand your thought’s reach,
Your thought is:   we listen, while you alone teach.

When you welcome illegals, but back of the queue
Is where you put the Copt, Venezuelan or Jew
(anti-‘Zionist’ immigrants being welcome too)
It appears that some racism’s OK by you.

Know from false ideologies, falsehood derives:
You’ll be spreading the hatred, you claiming the lives.
If you war against truths then you will evil do,
For no truth can be racist – else racism’s true.

Too Easy to Rebut the PC Ta-Nehisi / NYT

The long-suffering readers of this blog know that, like Bilbo Baggins, I occasionally inflict poetry upon you (in deference to this blog’s free speech convictions, I also allow the word ‘doggerel’ 🙂 ).

Whether this poem says anything my prose did not say, I leave to readers, but since Ta-Nehisi is being echoed by Democrat candidates, and the NYT is promising to write essay after essay “demonstrating that nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery”, how can we avoid restating truths as they reiterate their lies? In pursuit of variety, I therefore offer as poem some thoughts mostly already expressed in prose. (If commenters know other ways of restating timeless truths to resist the fashionable lies of this time, by all means say.)

When white traders sought a profit in black endless tribal wars,
Where the winners sold the losers, pinioned in their slave collars,
Then the winners were the losers, left behind in Africa,
From the losers came the winners, free men in America.

If you thought that reparations were owed you by those you blame
Then the past you should have had, you would endeavour to reclaim –
Live with offspring of keen sellers, whence your captured forebears came,
Quit the nation that stopped buying, if you thought it owned the shame –

Since a man who claims repayment from a country where he’ll stay,
Clutching eagerly its passport (to live there, not go away),
Knows the winners don’t descend from those who won a tribal war;
He, descendant of the losers, knows he is today’s victor.

For we all have ancestors, and all have some who had it rough.
‘Fixing’ that would have no end, quite cause enough to say “Enough!”.
But to insolently claim repayment for great benefit,
When the losers are long dead, and in world terms you’re doing great,

When you say your country owes you yet remain its citizen,
Shows you don’t think you, today, inherit loss from way back then.
Better not repay your country with your self-indulgent hate,
But rejoice that negroes prosper as it is again made great.

That it is in one way too easy to rebut these idiots – that the antifa woke mob have a power in their fists and in their administrators’ and media-friends’ fraud that they do not have in their heads – prompts me to write parables and poems to make it interesting. But since we believe diversity of thought is the only diversity of value, ‘too easy’ has its dangers – those words are not just in my title for the rhyme. But that must await my next poem.

Meanwhile (reverting to prose), the whole NYT Ta-Nehisian project is like observing that in the 1850s, while a majority of free U.S. blacks were literate and literacy passed easily from them to slaves, a majority of US slaves were not literate – at a time when the large majority of the world’s people were not literate. It is only because the US population was exceptionally literate for its time that one has any basis for complaint. And southern slaveowners worried about slave literacy only because, in the exceptional US, a literate slave might read that all men were endowed with inalienable rights – and then read a map showing routes northwards – which was not a danger in the unexceptional parts of the world.

(This is another of my “Less economy of truth, please” posts – maybe I should make a tag.)

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.