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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Beat it, Ms. Fanon Mendes-France

Mme. Mireille Fanon Mendes-France, the daughter of the radical intellectual icon Franz Fanon, has apparently found a cushy job at the UN, and has cited the USA for a crime against humanity when it comes to the treatment of African-Americans.  She suggests that we pay reparations to this population.

You will not hear Uncle Cephas defending the "peculiar institution" or Jim Crow.  These are indeed blots on our history.  By it irks me no end to hear my country cited this way, and absolutely no-one else. But he has some things he would like to tell this UN "expert".

Ms. Mireille Fanon Mendes-France, you have no right to speak to us Americans. Had I the money, there are some men I'd like to dig up and ship home from your land of resentful ingrates, who have never forgiven us for making it impossible for you to labor under the benign eye of your beloved Stalin and enjoy the atoning, purgative effects of the Gulag.

Why haven't you and other UN experts also cited every African state from Morocco working down the Atlantic coast to Angola? The peoples there descend from the victors in the tribal wars that sent the defeated captives into slavery in the New World. The Muslim peoples from the Arabs to the Mandingo were notorious as slave hunters. The Muslim peoples of Africa gave up slaving only under the Maxim guns and bayonets of your forces and those of the British.  Why not cite all of our neighbor nations to the south, since the Latin countries also had and prospered from African slaves. And, of course, why not cite Britain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, and Portugal? Or, has voting SD and nurturing cleptocratic and aid-junkie elites in former colonies somehow absolved the descendants of those slaving nations?

Has your country paid reparations to the people of Haiti?  Come to think of it, there are African-Americans whom France sold up our way, as witnessed by the French Creole dialects which not too long ago were spoken by both black and white people in Louisiana.  Perhaps the double negative used in our Southern American English dialects may also be a legacy of your Latinate tongue.

It seems to me that the USA made an official apology for slavery in the post-Civil War Amendments, which have always been used by the advocates for African-Americans in all cases on their behalf brought to the courts of the USA--and since 1954, believe you me, our courts have heard the descendants of the slaves. Nor should you neglect that to end slavery, we Americans ended up with 300,000 Yankees dead in Southern dust; to say nothing of the thousands who returned home maimed for life. As for the South, its economy remained ruined for a century. The actual slaveholders were hit worst of all, since their economic slide was the greatest. As Pres. Lincoln said, every drop of blood drawn by the lash was repaid by much more drawn by the sword (and minie ball; and cannons named after your own Napoleon).  Indeed, our Civil War cost us more casualties than all of our other wars following it combined, until those of the Viet Nam War, added to all the others, got the total of the other wars just a bit higher than that for our Civil War.

Why not also ask Benin, the heir to the vicious state of Dahomeen, to chip in?  Every so often, the Dahomeen kings decided they themselves needed rum, calico, firearms, and Western tools more than their dead ancestors and gods needed human blood--and sold lots of war captives.  And I suppose you will also exempt the free immigrants we have accepted from West Africa in recent years simply on the grounds of skin color?  Remember, some of them may well be descended from slave hunters and sellers.  Africa itself was not "historyless" before our enlightened Western civilization came on the scene.

Mireille Fanon Mendes-France, as your father's daughter, you have no right to pontificate to anyone about the criminalities of governments.  Your father's intellectual legacy is a series of bankrupt, violent, dependent revolutionary states, especially his beloved Algeria, which descended into government by coup until, when left high and dry by the Soviet collapse, its young revolted for the simple right to buy and sell, and then descended into Islamicist civil war. Consider as well how Euro-Marxists such as your despicable, parasitical self taught Marxism to the likes of Pol Pot and his henchmen.

And, what will you say when your own countrymen re-read your late father and decide that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and rise up to purge their land of those migrants who have made your banlieux sinkholes of crime and violence, and now plague your continent with terrorism and rape? Something about the indigenous French (and immigrants who assimilate to them) wanting to "reclaim their manhood", perhaps?  Oops.  Forgive me.  Maybe I have mistaken the illustrious Mr. Sartre's comment on your father's work for your father's own words.

By the way, I have taught students who are "dark French", children of immigrants from your former colonies, who have utterly shocked me. How? Not by anything bad that they did, I assure you; but by their astuteness and willingness to make their own observations.  After a lifetime (I am a grandfather) of hearing from French intellectuals berate me on how atrociously racist my country is, your dark children made my jaw drop to the floor by telling me how "relaxed" racial relations are in my country---in parts of it that were once the happy hunting ground of the Ku Klux Klan; namely southeastern Maryland, which was once dependent on slavery in its tobacco fields, and southern Illinois, ever a free state, where abolition too often meant the total abolition of the African-American from our national life.

We have no use, Mireille, for the toxic legacy of Votre Chere Papa.  His time is gone, and those who would address current injustices by resurrecting it offer dead-end paths leading to petty, destructive, zero-sum identity politics that give birth to at least five new injustices for every one they end.  History teaches all who have eyes to see and ears to hear.  We have seen and heard what people like you offer, and bid you a not-too-fond Adieu.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Confessions of a Mad History Teacher

As a world history teacher who wants to keep his job, and hence follows the curriculum, I often feel as if I am really a professional swindler of the young rather than a teacher.  So, to clear both the record and my conscience, I will let a few cats out of a few bags, and reveal some of the lies and misperceptions I was taught in high school, and--from what I can tell from the textbooks and conversations with others--continue to be perpetuated in secondary education.

1.  The period of time from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the late 1300's were the "Dark Ages".  It's usually assumed that the end of the historical Roman Empire (as opposed to its survival in Byzantium and its ghost carried on as the Holy Roman Empire between 800-1803 A.D.) marked the beginning of a long hibernation for scientific and intellectual life.  In fact, the period called "Dark Ages" contained the development of three-field crop rotation, the invention of carts with springs (which meant the possibility of their use for transporting humans rather than mere freight), horse collars, the development of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, and the rediscovery of Aristotle by the philosophers of what are sometimes called the High Middle Ages.  Let's not forget that Irish monasticism created the epithet "island of saints and scholars", influenced the historiography of the Venerable Bede, and fueled the Carolingian Renaissance.

While we're at it, lets not forget that many institutions of personal liberty and rule of law were also worked out during the so-called "Dark Ages", including English Common Law and Magna Carta.

2.  Islam saved science and Greek learning. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Greek learning never died in the East Roman Empire, and a trafficking of Greek learning from east to west continued in larger and smaller flows, becoming a flood chiefly due to Venice's extensive contacts and trade with the eastern Mediterranean.  Further, one of the neglected steps in the transmission of the classical tradition in the lands of Islam was the translation of Greek texts into Syriac, the liturgical (and, until fairly recent times, the vernacular) language of Christian communities across the Fertile Crescent.  Indeed, much of the preservation of the ancient world's literature and thought was an enterprise of the Dhimmi peoples (Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Sabians, and Hindus) under Muslim rule, not of the Muslims themselves. 

3.  Islam treated minorities with dignity and tolerance.  This is one huge lie.  Examine the legal codes of any pre-19th century Islamic polity and you will find that non-Muslim peoples living under Islamic rule were subject to a number of disabilities, not least of all were extra taxes (jizya), the undervaluing of their testimony in disputes with Muslims, the surrender of some of their sons to be raised as Muslims and put in the military service of their rulers, and acquiescence in the abduction of some of their daughters.  Often, Dhimmi had to step aside to let Muslims pass, were required to grant hospitality to Muslim travelers, were required to wear distinctive garb, could not allow their houses to be built higher than those of Muslims, and could not ride animals larger than donkeys (qhich had to be dismounted when meeting Muslims).  Indeed, the petty humiliations imposed on the Dhimmi by Islamic law got passed by their erstwhile victims--the Spanish and Portuguese Christians--to the Indians and Africans and on to the "Black Codes" of America's southern states.

While we're at it, one reason why Maimonides' Moreh Nebokim (The Guide for the Perplexed) is because he had to scrupulously avoid anything that might offend an orthodox Muslim censor.

4. John Calvin invented the doctrine of predestination.  In fact, questions about free will and predestination long predated Calvin.  His own doctrine is heavily informed by at least the Psalms, the biblical history books, Isaiah, and the New Testament works of John, Peter, and Paul. According to Josephus, the Pharisees also believed that all things fall out according to divine providence; and at least some schools of Islam also have a predestinarian doctrine.  Indeed, any theistic religion or philosophy will probably ponder this question.  Even those who pretend to be freed of traditional theism have their own versions of the doctrine:

Moderns, with great consternation,
Hate Calvin's predestination.
Economics, we know, 
Or our genes run the show

Of our lives! It's lliberation!

5. Newtonian Science informs the Enlightenment understanding of "natural law".  This is a major misperception fed to students.  the "natural law" discussed by 18th century political thinkers had virtually nothing to do with what Newton discovered about physics and optics, but continued a long dialogue in Western thinking about what moral principles may be innate (natural) to man, and hence might be discovered by unaided reason.  I have a sneaky suspicion that this misperception about 17th and 18th century thought may be informed by the scientistic (rather than scientific) pretensions of Marxism.

6. The ideals of limited, constitutional, and consensual government depend on the enlightment doctrine of basic human goodness.  If this is so, where did the Massachusetts Pilgrims, with their belief in the total depravity of fallen man (all of us descended from Adam by ordinary generation--hence all of us except for Jesus Christ) come up with their Mayflower Compact?
The fact is that the American founders had a number of republican ventures to examine in post-Classical Western history, including Italian city-states, Swiss cantons and federations, the Netherlands at times, and the English Commonwealth.  They were also heir to a long and often bitter argument against the idea of royal absolutism; which itself was a novel idea of the 16th and 17th century made possible by the decay of feudalism and the Reformation's dissent against the Pope's universal jurisdiction.  A host of Reformed divines and laymen penned polemics against the claims of Hapsburg, Valois, and Stewart monarchs.  Much of John Locke's Two Treatises of Government is anticipated in the writings of such Reformed thinkers as John Ponet, Christopher Goodman, Francois Hotman, Theodore Beza, Junius Brutus, Johannes Althusius, John Knox, George Buchanan, and Samuel Rutherford.  Both the defense and criticism of royal absolutism was essentially an extended debate on the proper interpretation of the mishpat hammelek (manner of a king) passage in First Samuel 8.

The crux of the Reformed polemic against royal absolutism was that unchecked power in one who is able to sin is an accursed power, and too great a burden for mortal shoulders (nod to Samuel Rutherford).  Hence, all power in states, church, and family was a ministerial rather than masterly power. The Commonwealth men sought to realize this through safety in numbers (Parliamentary Supremacy), while their American heirs took it a step further with separated powers.

7.  Eastern religious and philosophical traditions are tolerant.   Again, a parade of ignorance.  Read the Tang dynasty memorialist Han Yu, who remonstrated against the emperor's veneration of a bone of the Buddha, noting that Sakyamuni Gautama was born a barbarian (someone outside the pale of Sinitic civilization).  Zhuang Zi is full of sly digs at Confucius and his disciples; the Legalist schol's disciple Qin Shi Huang had Confucian scholars buried alive; and the Buddhist novel Journey to the West never misses an opportunity to poke fun at Daoists.  Our own era has seen Hindus massacring Muslims and persecuting Christians in India, while Buddhists and Hindus have been at each others' throats in Sri Lanka.

Maybe it would just be wiser to recognize that any truth claim is bound to exclude what it considders to be error.

8. The Modern and Post-Modern Eras are rapidly erasing the violence and intolerance of the past.  Count the silver, kids.  Dr. Rudolph Rummel of the University of Hawaii published a very sobering book entitled Death by Government, in which he documented how 20th century governments killed over 160,000,000 people to achieve the aims of social justice, national dignity, equality, and progress.  Of course National Socialism and Marxism-Leninism are the major culprits, but the scientificos of the Mexican Revolution and the Chinese Nationalists also played their part as well.  Before his death, Dr. Rummel revised his figures upwards.

The Jewish historian Ben-zion Netanyahu estimated that in Spain alone, the Inquisition was responsible for roughly 4,000 deaths between its inception in the 1480's and its abolition by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804.  Yet the sum total of political murders, purges, and internal feuds of the Spanish Left during the 1930's is far higher; and if Nationalist and neutral victims of Spain's political horrors are countered, the toll is higher (and let's not forget the victims of Nationalist white terror, either).

So much for now.  Much of what passes for the "unbiased" study of history is in fact propaganda for the current political programs of various parties.    This is not to echo Ford's view that history is bunk, or Napoleon's cynical view that history is a pack of lies on which everyone agrees.  Rather, it is a plea for all students who wish to learn from the past to go beyond the assignments, examine the less-explored areas, practice honesty, and above all, question.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

Just had back surgery and am laid up, but I will continue to post here from time to time!