"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Racism! Historical Revisionism And Moral Superiority By Erasing The Past

Everyone is ashamed of or embarrassed by some part of their past.  Northerners who find out that their New England ancestors participated in the Three-Cornered Trade of sugar, slaves, and rum hesitate to mention them; and those whose relatives worked for Standard Oil or any of the major monopolies of the Robber Baron era pretend they never existed. The violation of workers rights and the de facto enslavement of them in sweat shops and gulag-type factories by great-uncles and grandfathers deny any possible goodness.   The fact that these corporations were the engines of early American capitalism and the models of economic enterprise to this day was irrelevant.  All goods and evils have been thrown into one big bucket.

If we were to airbrush those past Americans who broke the current code of race, gender, and ethnicity, there would be few left in the photograph. Everybody in the past was to some degree homophobic, racist, anti-feminist, and hostile to different religions and ethnicity – everyone from cavemen, kings, and factory floor workers. Given the slightest bit of a chance, people will always find someone to hate.

If revisionists were to have their way, major highways, military garrisons, public schools, and parks will all have to be renamed. Ezra Pound and H.L. Mencken were both rabid anti-Semites, but their work was notable.  Immanuel Kant said, “'The Jews still cannot claim any true genius, any truly great man. All their talents and skills revolve around stratagems and low cunning ... They are a nation of swindlers.”

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Yet Kant,  whose comprehensive and systematic work in epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics greatly influenced all subsequent philosophy. Kant was one of the foremost thinkers of the Enlightenment and arguably one of the greatest philosophers of all time. He elaborated, advanced, and refined the rationalism of Descartes and the empiricism  of Francis Bacon. He thus inaugurated a new era in the development of philosophical thought.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Stop being Jews and start being human beings”. Theodore Dreiser said, “New York is a 'kike's dream of a ghetto,' and Jews are not 'pure Americans' and 'lack integrity”. Are we to burn their books? Consign them to the trash heaps of literary history? Yet Dreiser was one of the most important writers of early Twentieth Century narrative realism.  His American Tragedy and Sister Carrie are both tragedies and commentaries on early American industrialism. 

The plays of Shaw written in the 20 years after Man and Superman such as Major Barbara (1905), The Doctor's Dilemma (1906), Pygmalion (1912), Androcles and the Lion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923) established Shaw as a leading dramatist of his time. In 1925, Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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Once we start judging a person, a region, or even a country on the basis of only one of its contributing cultural factors, we are lost. There is no more point in ignoring the essential, fundamental philosophical works of Immanuel Kant because of his anti-Semitic sentiments than there is of consigning the South to historical oblivion.

We live in era of public apologies for the past.  National leaders are being asked to say they’re sorry for their countries’ activities a hundred or two hundred years ago.  These apologies amount to weak revisionism.  The past might have existed, but given today’s perspective we might have done things differently.  Queen Elizabeth was forced into apologizing for British atrocities in Kenya, convinced by her Prime Minister that such an apology for alleged murders of Mau Mau ‘freedom fighters’ would tighten the bond between the two countries.

The apology must have really stuck in the craw of the Queen, old enough to remember the glory days of Empire, when Kenya was the jewel in crown of British Africa, when her forbearers had brought civilization to the natives and prosperity to the land.  Her advisors of course had to tell her of the even more savage brutality of the Mau Mau who reputedly chopped up British soldiers and grilled them over charcoal in the Great Rift Valley.  The Queen must have had to practice her apology speech very hard indeed and muster all her English self-control to utter it.



Many are still waiting for the Mongolians to apologize for the outrages of Genghis Khan who killed at least 40 million people in his rampages out of the steppes to Europe and the Far East.

In other words public apologies for past events, demands for restitution or reparations, and judging the present by the past are misguided at best and silly at worst.

No one doubts that black Americans have rates of crime, low educational performance, unemployment, single-motherhood, social welfare dependency and many other indicators of social dysfunction; and after more than fifty years since the Civil Rights Act no one has yet figured out what to do.  Although billions of dollars have been invested in community services, welfare, job training, and primary education, many cities such as Baltimore, Detroit, and Chicago have seen inner city social dysfunction increase and the racial gap in productive performance widen. 

Conservative groups have argued that the focus has been misplaced; that increased public investment is not the answer, but personal, family, and community responsibility is.  The culture of entitlement has led to a consequent culture of dependency; and dependency is antithetical to enterprise, ambition, and competition.  It is time to address inner city problems with a new and radically different focus.

Yet such calls for a return to traditional morality, renewed respect for authority, and adherence to middle class norms have been criticized as ‘racist’.  The imposition of white values on the black community is demeaning, culturally insensitive, and wrong.  In other words, it is better to focus attention on white culture and its history of oppression than on black communities and their persistent social pathology.

‘Racism’ has become a catch-all phrase which includes everything from the most serious and academic look at racial disparity in performance, crime, and education; to virulent expressions of hate for all black people.  To publicly declaim racism confers an automatic green card.  It is a sign of being ‘woke’, being born again as a newly aware, committed, and faithful follower of social justice and a signifier for all progressive causes – not only racism but homophobia, sexism, income inequality, violence, and xenophobia. 

In other words it is a banner to fly, a badge of belonging, and a key to the right clubs.  Because the persistent plight of black communities is seen as the persistent legacy of historical enslavement, the continued, deliberate marginalization of the poor by white elites, and capitalist exploitation of the underclass, the social justice big top has grown in size to accommodate all those who oppose injustice.

Most importantly, the conflation of social ills allows for a common language expressive of a common culture.  Whether one is active in the fight for gay rights, against the glass ceiling, or the environment, for peace, or against racism, the language is the same.  Oppression, patriarchy, Euro-centrism, and social autocracy of the white elite are common to all.  It is one big jamboree.

This new, conflationary social justice movement is particularly damaging because of its rejection of the past based on a narrow interpretation of it.  In their desire to expunge all traces of Southern history, progressives have conflated all aspects of the South with slavery; and in so doing have begun an assault on everything Southern.  Nevertheless a distinct Southern culture that was not based on slavery, one of aristocratic manners, chivalry, gentility, and refined taste – was quite different from that of Northern traders and financiers who developed a sophisticated taste for music, literature, and the arts.  The cultural heritage of North and South were distinct, and both when looked at objectively were unique and valuable.

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Europe and its concentration of wealth and power in the hands of kings, monarchs, emperors and their courts, was responsible for a profusion of art, literature, philosophy and science, and an expansion of those cultural contributions to the rest of the world. While some may criticize colonialism and judge European legacy on it, many more understand the natural inclination of power to extend itself, and with that extension comes both good and bad. 

History is amoral, and should be judged critically but not subjectively.  Those who insist on looking at the past only from a modern perspective will always be hopelessly blinkered.  Such subjectivity is antithetical to rational inquiry and analysis and is itself a cause of further division and divisiveness.

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