Saturday, March 13, 2021

DR. SEUSS


In July 1573 the artist Paolo Veronese was summoned to testify before the Inquisition. This was never welcome news.  The Inquisition had a nasty habit of torturing citizens whose thoughts strayed from the true faith.

It turned out that Veronese's crime was his painting of The Last Supper which the Inquisitors deemed unseemly.



The painting showed cats, dogs and even drunken revelers at the last supper.  The Inquisitor demanded: 
Does it... appear fit to you that at our Lord's Supper you should paint buffoons, drunkards, Germans, dwarfs, and the like fooleries ?.... Do you hold that it is right or even decent to have painted your picture in such a manner?
The terrified Paolo escaped the wrath of his Inquisitors by quickly changing the name of his painting from The Last Supper to Feast in the House of Levi.  The painting remained physically identical, but now the Inquisitors no longer cared.  A simple name change transformed it from a life threatening heresy to a non-event. 

In Hamlet Shakespeare wrote, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."  Our minds can perceive a palace to be a prison, or a prison to be a palace.  The same painting can be good or bad depending on the title we project upon it.

Last week, the estate of Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) announced that it would stop selling six books by Dr. Seuss which are now perceived to contain "hurtful and wrong" stereotypes.  It's good to be sensitive to malevolent intent and unnecessary hurts, but many of the criticisms now being leveled against Dr. Seuss strike me as fundamentally ignorant about the nature of drawing. 

Professor Philip Nel, author of Was The Cat In The Hat Black? The Hidden Racism of Children's Literature, explained that "The most egregious ones come in If I Ran the Zoo, from 1950, which includes a page featuring the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant, with helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant."  


But for centuries, Asian artists have been drawing Asians with similar or even more extreme exaggerations. These images remain honored today.  They can be found in traditional, highly respected museums and books.





   
Exhilarated by the prospect of finding racism, the New York Times jumped to label this next drawing a "crude racial stereotype." 



However, the "slanted" eyes of the Chinese man are virtually indistinguishable from the eyes of half the band playing behind him.


The expressive distortions of the Asian character are no more extreme or derogatory than the expressive distortions of the caucasians or any other character on the same page. 


If the Asian character had been drawn more realistically, he would stand out as the only character in the book drawn that way.  I have yet to see a critic of Dr. Seuss' drawings offer what they consider a "non-racist" way to draw an Asian person in this style.  The same whimsical drawing style is applied uniformly across all characters in the book, none more insulting than the other.  The same quick jots and lines for eyes, the same brightly colored clothes.  Perhaps the drawing of the Chinese man is deemed more insulting because "thinking makes it so"? 

This brings me back to the esteemed Professor Nel, the leading academic responsible for rooting out racist undertones in the work of Dr. Seuss.  I was curious about his methodology so I listened to his lecture, Was The Cat in the Hat Black?  There, he claimed that "The Cat In the Hat is racially complicated, inspired by blackface caricature and by actual people of color." 


How so?  Well, the professor researched different stories behind Seuss' creation of the Cat, and "one story" suggests that Seuss may have gotten the idea for the Cat's white gloves from seeing the gloves on an African-American elevator operator (rather than, for example, seeing the white gloves on Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny.)  

If that's not racist enough, the professor continues, "A source for the Cat's red bow tie is Krazy Kat, the ambiguously gendered creation of bi-racial cartoonist George Herriman."  

 
For the coup de grace, Professor Nel reveals that 35 years before he wrote The Cat In the Hat, Seuss wore blackface in a high school minstrel show.

This is the type of mental gerrymandering for which the lunatics at QAnon award scholarships. 

In an era of high stakes and serious issues, important liberal causes are undermined when silly people create such an easy target.  "Thinking" can make a picture seem good or bad, but apparently "not thinking" plays a role too.
 

95 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Seuss drew propaganda cartoons during World War II.

JSL

Li-An said...

I just heard something about this kind of speech - relative to Professor Nel : accumulation of light or non proofs is a traditional way of rhetoric. If you cannot prove what you think, try to accumulate a lot of tiny things. People can be convinced by the accumulation even if demonstration is not very strong.

I suppose you can prove the same way that Dr. Seuss fought against racism and stereotypes. But as he is dead, he cannot defend himself.

Richard said...

A funny little thing about the modern fear of racist cartooning is the near total erasure of black or Asian characters from illustration.

In their place is a slightly tanned but generally Caucasoidal kind of ethnically ambiguous character, looking something between a light-skinned Pakistani and a Greek, who stands in for all diversity of non-white human genetics.

Tin Tin’s Herge may not have been particularly kind in his depictions of rural Africans, but at least he depicts black characters with skin darker than a Mocha Frapp.

Either way, the modern distaste for so-called racist depictions of nonwhite ethnicities is a catastrophic loss for criticism and growth.

“Racism”, as all ethnic criticism of any kind is now casually labeled, was an important way to explore the comparative strengths and weaknesses of a culture. If you only depict the strengths of a group of people, you leave little room for that growth.

Now only whites are given this opportunity. As a result, I expect white people will become better dancers, but the diets of black people won’t improve one iota.

Tom said...

https://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/the-trial-of-winnie-the-pooh/

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous-- Yes, and his detractors have tried to make an issue of those war drawings but in my view they are irrelevant to the children's books now under attack. It's difficult to think of a top illustrator who didn't do wartime propaganda; N.C. Wyeth, James Montgomery Flagg, Henry Raleigh, Arthur Szyk, Al Dorne, Norman Rockwell, Austin Briggs and many others worked for the war effort, just as Japanese artists worked to rally the Japanese people during the war.

Li-Ann-- I agree, in my my view professor Nel takes a mountain of facts and comes to a molehill of a conclusion. It's amazing how many years he has devoted to investigating Dr. Seuss.

Richard-- Three illustrator/writers recently boycotted the Seuss museum because it contains a mural of the Chinese man, which they labeled a “jarring racial stereotype of a Chinese man who is depicted with chopsticks, a pointed hat and slanted slit eyes.” The notion that chopsticks used by billions of Asians are a "jarring racial stereotype," or that the the traditional conical hat worn by billions of Asians is a "jarring racial stereotype" seems to me not just ignorant but stupid. As for "slanted slit eyes," those of course can be done in a highly offensive way, or a descriptive way, but the artists who now complained generally worked in a neutered style that never had to deal with the drawing challenge honestly.

Richard said...

> jarring racial stereotype of a Chinese man who is depicted with chopsticks, a pointed hat and slanted slit eyes

You see the same thing with female characters, where it’s considered sexist to make a female character feminine and mothering, and woke if you make them masculine and career obsessed.

The irony of “anti-racists” and “anti-sexists” insisting that all characters have the culture ephemera and gender norms of European men is apparently lost on them.

HP Secretary said...

These cancel-culture intellectuals are just like the pharisees who Jesus described as"...blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel."

Joss said...

I came here tonight to see if you had a take on the NFT hype. Seems right up your alley. I haven’t even been interested enough in the Dr, Suess story to suss it out. But I’m excited to learrn if it involves a take from you. Will have to wait for after sleep🙏🏼, Joss Paddock

kev ferrara said...

The worst thing about people who do evil while thinking they're heroes is that they'll never stop. Righteousness is a hell of a drug.

Meanwhile, in the mannic state of zealotry, nuance, second order consequences, the complexity of history and humanity, understanding, forgiveness, and other people's lives, works, and livelihoods are too boring to bother with. Catastrophism breeds Hysteria and Anxiety. And then thoughtfulness becomes impossible.

Given how much of this 'woke' psychopathy is going on, how it's being taught and defended and spread through social media and amplified by global algorithms tuned for what gets 'clicks', how its overwhelming formerly great newsrooms and schools...'silly' is hardly the term for it.

Anonymous said...

Kev - have you seen this: https://quillette.com/2021/03/12/the-threat-to-academic-freedom-from-anecdotes-to-data/

kev ferrara said...

Anon,

Non doubt that's part of the issue. But it's still a tiger by the tail. The bigger picture looks like this: “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” - George Orwell, 1984

Richard said...

Orwell’s description is just the nature of history, it’s always been that way, it will always be that way. The only time anyone notices that something is amiss is for a few short moments (historically speaking, decades to a century) during the process of regime change.

Once the regime change is over, the only people who will notice/remember are schizophrenics and witches. Nothing to be done.

This is all perfectly normal.

chris bennett said...

Then how would you know if this were true?

Richard said...

Fortunately, regimes only care about rewriting the parts of history that effect their narrative. The censors of history ignore everything they think is irrelevant, and so like an archeologist discovering dinosaurs, once a regime is gone you can piece together bits of reality based on the things the regime thought too small to censor.

For example, the early Christians busily eradicated all knowledge of the early northern pagans that they could get their hands on; murder, forced conversions, book burning, burning down temples, etc. (Happy St. Patrick’s day everybody !)

But small references here and there have allowed us to reconstruct a vague sense of their existence, now that the Christian empire has collapsed.

Similarly, over the last 50-100 years of this regime’s collapse we’ve learned all about the various sins of Europe and Empire, but we’re also being fed the fictions of the next regime.

To someone living 300 year from now, there will be essentially no way for them to discover the reality of the world today, outside of digging into some obscure and seemingly irrelevant line of research. (Maybe they’ll read this blog, which would make us The Foundation and David Hari Seldon — everybody say hi!)

kev ferrara said...

Nothing to be done. (...) Fortunately, regimes only care about rewriting the parts of history that effect their narrative.

Richard, your blasé take on the issue is defeatist and craven. I think the battle is just beginning. So many people are just now becoming aware of what's going on. Whistleblowers are coming out. Lawsuits are starting. People are organizing all over the country and they're angry as hell. Now is not the time to kneel. All you need to do is start saying no. And say the truth. Stand up for people and things that are unjustly attacked and against those that do the attacking. And find other people who will do the same.

Richard said...

> your blasé take on the issue is defeatist and craven

To be a Hari Seldon-ist isn't defeatist, exactly. When you see that the current regime has fallen, hiding the forbidden cultural jewels is a real and optimistic way to prepare for the collapse of the next regime.

I'm pessimistic, but only in the short term; Whistleblowers and lawsuits are just the last gasp of the old regime -- the history books have already been rewritten, the children are already indoctrinated in the new regime's creation myth, every institution that matters has already been conquered, the elites have all changed allegiances, the poor are easily bought.

Any attempt to fight the new regime only goes to strengthen it. Like Emmanuel Goldstein, the new regime needs a villain that seems capable, and you can easily lionize even the most ineffective protest as a "violent insurrection".

But in the long term, I'm extremely optimistic, every king will bend low, every empire fall, every regime crumble. The second law of thermodynamics is sovereign.

Ryan said...

First, a respectful disagreement. The point of changing the name of the painting to "Feast in the House of Levi" wasn't because it made it about Jews. The story in the gospels specifically mentions "sinners and pharisees" so it would make sense for the scene to contain drunkards etc...Not sure if that's a better explanation morally for you, but its an important distinction.

In regards to the rest of the post: I agree with much of the above. There seems to be contradictory tendency in the current cultural moment to champion diversity but at the same time try to flatten all differences. Not sure what to make of that.

kev ferrara said...

Richard,

If you want to hang out and wait x number of years for the maoist control-freak wave to crash of its own internal contradictions because you're suddenly Nostradamus and your crystal ball says its gonna be alright, I can't stop ya. But don't demoralize other people who see what's going on, detest it to the depths of their souls, know the history of this kind of top down totalism, and have a little fighting spirit.

Personally, I think the Collegiate Self-Righteous Postmodern Freedom Thresher and the Corporate Legacy Media Slander and Brainwashing Operation are already past their prime. And I get it, that on the way down they'll both do their damndest to demonize and deplatform their competition and target and socially assassinate their most effective critics. But their weakness leaves them relying on Google, Facebook, and Twitter as their narrative enforcers. And tons of people are already building and using workarounds to those grotesque psy-op apps. So, I think the near future is still in play. And the more people that start saying no and telling the truth, the more 'in play' it'll be.

chris bennett said...

Hey Kev, good words to wake up to this Saturday morning on the eve of spring. The intellectual asbestos that has been quietly pumped under the door of our culture is showing its symptoms in the mainstream as the unworkable absurdities come to light. It's only the fools or a cowards who would not start operating on it. Ignorance or innocence of the disease is increasingly no longer to blame.

Manqueman said...

The Seuss copyright owners exercised their right to remove a couple of books from publication. As the IP owners, they have a right to run their business in accord with their sensitivities. The flip side of that is once a work is published, the IP owners lose the right of publication or, as here, not publishing. The discussion predominantly from conservatives about how awful and repressive the decision by the IP owners is inane at the most benign and intellectually perverse.
As for the inference that some group's sensitivities should be ignored, well, that shouldn't need any response. Sad that we're still at the point that some hateful groups appear to be entitled to exercise their hate.

chris bennett said...

So the IP owners after decades of being OK about their content suddenly decide their 'sensitivities' are harmed by it? And to have an opinion about what is going on is immediately badged as 'hate'. And with that the intellectual asbestos is wafted among us.

Tom said...

'In regards to the rest of the post: I agree with much of the above. There seems to be contradictory tendency in the current cultural moment to champion diversity but at the same time try to flatten all differences. Not sure what to make of that."

I think you nailed it Ryan.

The world is changing

https://twitter.com/Cernovich/status/1372749015155019777?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1372749015155019777%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theautomaticearth.com%2F2021%2F03%2Fdebt-rattle-march-19-2021%2F

David Apatoff said...

Ryan wrote: "The point of changing the name of the painting to "Feast in the House of Levi" wasn't because it made it about Jews. The story in the gospels specifically mentions "sinners and pharisees" so it would make sense for the scene to contain drunkards etc..."

You're absolutely right. I'd read two accounts of the name change which said that, since Levi was a Jewish name, the inquisition (which persecuted Jews) no longer viewed the painting as blasphemous. However, when I went back to the original source material in the gospels of Mark and Luke, it was clear that Levi was holding a "conversion party" of sinners, regardless of their religion. Thanks for the correction. I've gone back to edit the original post so it's not misleading.

As you agree, the original point-- that Veronese was able to escape persecution by changing the name instead of the painting-- remains true, but it was not an anti-semitic change.

kev ferrara said...

The Seuss copyright owners exercised their right to remove a couple of books from publication.

Yes they exercised their 'right' to cave to an irrational online mob, which roams the Arts & Letters/Communications landscape imposing its own law extra-judicially against any and all apostates from their cult. A cult whose weekly-updated bylaws manage to be simultaneously contradictory and sacrosanct.

Richard said...

> I think the Collegiate Self-Righteous Postmodern Freedom Thresher and the Corporate Legacy Media Slander and Brainwashing Operation are already past their prime

I think you’ve severely underestimated their longevity. It’s 800 AD, and you’re predicting the fall of Christendom in the British Isles. Yes, it’s preposterous, and yes it will fall, but it’s got a long way to go. The glories of Roman England shall not return.

Globalism is here to stay, for a very long time, and the Frankfurtian schools vision of the world is perfectly suited, memetically, for that post-Imperial globalism.

You can’t replace it without devising a new, shiny and memetically superior philosophical system, and as yet, none have been devised. Maybe the closest thing is Scientology. Either way, you can’t just turn the clock back to a better, but less viral system — humans in large groups are not that intentional.

Further, as demographics shift, women and minorities (and newly minted minorities) have obvious psychological and political interests in hearing a history of the world in which they were heroes, as well we should expect, and so the social pressures will continue to build narratives such that Africa would be Wakanda absent the evils of Colonialism, that all politicians should be women or gay because straight men are evil, that transexuality should be taught to children, and so on. Anything you do to fight that will be met, not as welcome sanity, but as incarnated hate.

Sure, the worst offenses of Critical Theory will meet backlash and be quashed, but this will only make the theory more memetically fit. Just as Christianity lost its anti-materialist and pacifist extremism, and *then* exploded globally.

For every single generation in the history of the world that were convinced that this was the last straw, and that the madness would end, there’s a generation of children ready for the revolution to march on.

> know the history of this kind of top down totalism

We’ve lived through this for hundreds of years, and as yet, no one has seemed to mind except the witches and psychopaths. The newspapers didn’t suddenly get pro-regime in the last 20 years, they’ve always been pro-regime. Try getting a Tory article published in a newspaper in 1778.

People didn’t suddenly start canceling people who don’t support the regime 20 years ago, they’ve always canceled people who don’t support the regime — try being a published novelist as an outspoken Tory in 1778. What’s changed isn’t human behavior, it’s just the regime.

You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t think it’s particularly strategic or wise for the witches to come out of the woods and try to take on the Hospitalers, or for the Tories to march in protest of their being tarred and feathered.

You already lost that war, long before you were even born. You’re not going to suddenly pull the Critical theory out of the culture, you couldn’t even take it out of yourself if you tried. It’s already eaten to the core of civilization, this is all epilogue.

Anonymous said...

Richard's right. In the last six days the new york times and washington post have run 25 different stories on the massage parlor killings saying they were the result of anti-Asian white supremacy and denying the police reports and what the roomate said. These outlets are just shoving CRT down the throats of their readers. Every story is about the CRT narrative.

kev ferrara said...

Richard,

I don’t have time to offer a coherent response to your post, so I’ll just spit counterpoints.

800 AD was a galaxy far, far away. There are no more islands. The rate of change has been accelerating since. We don’t have kings and popes here. We barely have continuity. We have consultants, editorialists, influencer accounts, and talking heads. Mimetic revolutions sprout, spread, and take over in months. Mimetic tribes evolve constantly. They come like the far tide, crash like a wave, and recede as undertow. The hipsters sit down at a Starbucks to type a screenplay and by the time they get up, they’re befuddled and old.

It is absolutely wrong to say that nothing has changed in the last forty years in terms of narrative control and “sense making” mediation. Yes, to some degree it was always gatekeeping of the overton window for certain interests. There always was interested parties in and out of government seeding information into the public through the papers.

But your insinuation that the media has always been canceling people on behalf of the establishment has only a small grain of truth to it. It has never been the case where a social control mechanism was in place to destroy the average person and remove their livelihood for utterly banal forms of dissidence or misbehavior, as now. (Which is why so many call it Soviet-like. Especially those who have come here from Soviet countries and recognize the smell.)

But is this grotesque exercise of power an indication of actual power? Or even staying power?

1/n

kev ferrara said...

The origin of cancel culture is actually in weakness. By media-hystericalized suburban moms overprotecting their children. Helicopter parenting, safetyism, Bike helmets in the driveway, nobody leaves the house alone, stay inside, go online, everybody gets a trophy, sit, obey, stay. Texting instead of talking. Media and Social Media addiction. Eventually these babies get old and don’t have babies themselves. We see sex and testosterone plummeting. This is not a replicating phenomenon.

Meanwhile the internet is decimating the media companies. They became activists. They sold credibility for political force and that evolved into canceling power. Not coincidentally, there is almost universal media skepticism. As others have pointed out, the salaries in media are plummeting. Trump was their lifeline, and now he’s gone. The competition is insane, the audiences fragmented and shrinking, the training ideological. So you get lower quality people in media. And since they’re not getting paid in cash, they use their posts to score social credit with their ideological group. They take payment in tribal currency. This is not good business.

2/n

kev ferrara said...

I think woke is an opportunistic infection. It’s always been waiting around, and as soon as the institutions we see it ravaging became truly weak, they attacked. But these insurrectionists aren’t stable people. They aren’t entrepreneurial enough to evolve the institutions, and they aren’t managerial enough to run them. And the institutions were staggering anyhow. So they’re just kamikaze pilots running wingedlegacy reputations full throttle into their enemies on the ground.

The ‘woke’ corporations are just annoying. Everybody knows woke’s just a cloak put on for the moment’s fashion show. Gillette tried one woke ad, it bombed and that was that. ESPN went woke, its ratings fell into the toilet. This has all the hallmarks of a fad. When it gets yawns instead of clicks, it’s over.

Similarly the fashionable 'Equity' religion of the social elites can’t last either. Because it will come for them soon enough, and their children. And it’s getting on everybody’s nerves. It is already the case that 64% of people in this country are afraid to voice their political opinions for fear that they’ll say something ‘wrong.’ And as ideological insistence becomes redundant then contradictory, people sense something has gone haywire. I don’t think the gentry class is dumb. They’re afraid, concerned and puzzled, and would like to stay above it all, but they’re not dumb. So the pressure is building up on them, and they get their way.

This is why I say, just say no, just resist. Just defend that which is and who are undeservedly attacked. Even defend those you disagree with or you think acted badly. And we can weather this thing.

If you want permission to sit on the sidelines for the big game, you got it. If nothing else, do nothing else. Distributing moldy and buggy Black Pills only helps the pearl clutching Soviet stasi keep up the pac man routine.

Quest said...

Hello, as an Asian reader who's been following your blog for over five years, I feel like I had to comment. For the Dr. Seuss drawings, I suggest that it's a different situation when a white American artist depicts East Asian features in the way he did, especially pointing out the "eyes at a slant," given the long standing Western tradition of racializing those very features in order to demean E. Asians as a people. It's the context of these types of images that people point to when they point out that they are racist, not just how the artist has drawn his/her mark. Thanks.

chris bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chris bennett said...

Hey Kev, that was an excellent snapshot of the why and how of what is going on. And thank you for articulating it with such care and attention. We must listen to our moral compass but also know and understand the landscape. Otherwise our destination will be dictated by the avoidance of tripwires rather than stepping over them and leaving a warning sign to help others on their way to somewhere worth living for.

kev ferrara said...

it's a different situation when a white American artist...

Racializing and Nationalizing this is truly grotesque. Sounds like you are targeting for 'group guilt' anybody with a particular set of "caucasian" features and an accidental geographical location.

I wonder dear "Asian" reader whether you are to be blamed for everything other "Asians" have done? Is every Chinese person to blame for the ongoing genocide against the Tibetans and Uyghurs and the Covid Pandemic? Is every Japanese person to blame for historical wrongs such as the Nanjing Massacre or Pearl Harbor attack?

Why not judge individual actions by individuals as you would like to be judged. As just you, yourself with no baggage other than your own

Wes said...

"Woke" is a perfectly legitimate term and quite useful, but it certainly might become a runaway train, so it really depends on what it accomplishes, or tries to accomplish.

Its a concept still in infancy, so its unclear how far it reaches. The point is not the repression of minds, but the opening of minds, as the dumb dumb dumb America culture has forgotten how truly totalitarian the american slave system was intended to be and how well it succeeded in ensuring the perception that the black race was totally, completely, absolutely, metaphysically and forever inferior -- unworthy of consideration. We still cling to the totalitarianism of the American slave system, and some white tribes (i.e., the Trumpers, Tea Party REpublicans, etc.) salivate and riot for its return. Be not confused by the train you fear already is runaway -- its only just got started. You should actually hop on and make sure it has a good run, not a destructive one. Undoubtedly, there is and will be much ado about nothing, such as the Dr. Suess imagery, but if anyone has even an inkling of the racist history of the Asian-American experience they should pause and consider before glibly disposing of its legitimate concerns. The experience of the Chinese in California by the "progressives" and the experience of the Japansese during the war by the democratic regime of Roosevelt should be enough to "woke" anyone. None of the racism against these two groups (and there are others) has really retreated, just often made irrelevant by the talent and drive of individuals in these groups that succeed despite the hatred.

Remember too that institutions are free (under the first amendment) to choose any "woke" or unwoke position that they want. Their repression is legal and acceptable, and whether its a new form of mindthink or "infection" or some other noxious set of ideas that are intended to scour out some other infection is always a good question. It is true that "mothers" are often the vanguard for some new totalitarianism ("don't ever talk to strangers") that results in asinine stuff. But "woke" is badly needed, and the totalitarian american slave system has not been busted, just as "winter's back has not broken". We need Spring to come for African-Americans and Asian-Americans, and "woke" may just be the first sign of better days.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lowman, who in the 1970's worked on the declassification and publication of the decoded Japanese cables, said that Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and a handful of other officials were on the limited distribution list of the cable traffic.

''Anyone reading this flow of messages during 1941 could easily conclude that thousands of resident Japanese were being organized into subversive organizations,'' Mr. Lowman said. ''Today we know that the Japanese Government misjudged the loyalty of Japanese Americans completely. But at that time no one knew for certain.''

https://www.nytimes.com/1983/05/22/us/1941-cables-boasted-of-japanese-american-spying.html

Richard said...

> the dumb dumb dumb America culture has forgotten how truly totalitarian the american slave system was

And here Kev is my short rebuttal.

Any state of American society in which African Americans are not performing at the level of Asian or Jewish Americans will be implicitly understood as a relic of slavery, because the vast majority of Americans believe the exact narrative that Wes outlined above, and cannot conceive of any other explanation.

In fact, if one believes as Wes does, then he’s probably right. We should all get on the woke train if that’s true.

When deciding how much of a fad Critical Theory is, I’d suggest trying to discern what sort of societal changes it would require for African American per capita income to match that of Asian Americans. That’s a good start on the sort of societal upheaval you should expect in your grandchildren’s lifetimes.

That’s regime change, no ifs, ands or buts about it — it is entirely impossible with a free-market Republic bound by a constitution which looks any thing like ours.

Richard said...

> what sort of societal changes it would require

And to be clear, that’s specifically asking what societal changes **absent any changed expectations for African Americans themselves**. No change to marriage rates or child rearing practices, work culture, educational emphasis, etc.

These changes must be from without.

Wes said...

Richard, you draw the wrong conclusion here.

It does not follow that the totalitarian slave system of the US is tantamount to an explanation of the lack of social mobility of African Americans compared to other groups. Stephen Thernstrom and Thomas Sowell noted this long ago. The better conclusion re economic effects is that African Americans should embrace capitalism and its benefits, and not turn to some egalitarian or collectivist system. That is what they were freed from -- a system where all Blacks were treated equally -- badly and cruelly.

Americans do not understand the totalitarian system from which blacks were released. That is precisely the point. In fact, they think it was all fixed 150 or so years ago, so what's the problem? Why can't they be free and be happy? Ain't my fault. They don't see that they don't see black people as people. Thus the residue is not that they are not free; its that they aren't considered people, and are invisible, unheard, unrewarded, ignored, and unwanted. Woke recognizes this blindness, but American culture is like Mr. Magoo, and refuses to put on glasses. And why not, it always worked out for Mr. Magoo in the end, didn't it?

Richard said...

> are invisible, unheard, unrewarded, ignored

I would argue just the opposite. It seems to me that their centrality and visibility in American culture is well beyond what would be expected.

Every American student knows the name George Washington Carver, but they do not know the names Fermi, Planck, Bohr, Salk, Von Braun, or Goddard.

They know Aretha Franklin, but not Gershwin, Bernstein, Copland, Ives.

They know Harriet Tubman, but not Gerrit Smith, Wendell Phillips, Horace Greeley, James Birney.

If anything, being black is a sure fire way to be celebrated and visible well beyond the norm. Jewish Guy wins a Nobel Prize? Zzz. Black dude wins one? He’s going to have a Time Magazine cover and a Hollywood biopic about him within a year.

Anonymous said...

>Americans do not understand the totalitarian system from which blacks were released. That is precisely the point. In fact, they think it was all fixed 150 or so years ago, so what's the problem? Why can't they be free and be happy? Ain't my fault.

Nobody thinks that.

Welfare, great society program, affirmative action for college admissions, community reinvestment act, low income housing tax credit, FDIC backed sub-prime credit, home ownership voucher programs, individual development accounts, fair housing enforcement, empowerment zones, prison reform, scholarships, grants, etc. etc. All these programs essentially functioned as smart kinds of reparations, and the results were mostly dismal.

At the end of the day what really counts is a stable two parent family. A decent education. Low crime in the neighborhood. Responsibility, effort, discipline. Above all, fathers or mentors. That's the only surefire way that people have good lives no matter what race color or creed. And since 1960 black families have been falling apart more and more instead of getting built up. Exactly the opposite thing we want to happen. Why? What happened? The answer is perverse incentives. The Economics a just wrong. Maybe the culture of rap music glorifying whores and pimps isn't helping either.

Calling people racist and running around screaming about fake white supremacy and the hoax that cops are targeting blacks doesn't do anything for anybody. Except drive a wedge between virtue signalling ignoramuses who watch tv news and people with brains in their heads.

Richard said...

>>Americans do not understand the totalitarian system from which blacks were released. That is precisely the point. In fact, they think it was all fixed 150 or so years ago, so what's the problem? Why can't they be free and be happy? Ain't my fault.

>Nobody thinks that.

They don’t? Africans were taken from Neolithic Africa, and dropped into Enlightenment European society with literacy, art, science, medicine...

The 1800s literacy rate and life expectancy of American slaves were exceeded only 50 years ago in most of Africa, and still on par in some places now. Seems like they were square 150 years ago, everything since has been humanitarian aid.

The belief that civilization owes someone equality of outcomes after lifting the veil of prehistoric night from their eyes is absurd to me.

The history of the world is superior civilizations conquering and subduing inferior ones, and thankfully so. I am extremely thankful that Rome brutally conquered and enslaved Europe or we’d still be cave people. Does Italy owe me a vila on the Amalfi coast? I for one am thankful that Britain brutally subdued and civilized Ireland. Do I deserve a cottage in the Cotswold’s?

But this is politically untenable. It hasn’t been polite to believe as I do in 100 years.

And once you believe that something is owed, you’ve opened the door to everything being owed, and that is a door that you cannot shut.

kev ferrara said...

Richard,

The two ideas can be held simultaneously; that it is a grotesque injustice and human rights violation that people were brought here in chains to work for free under brutal circumstances, and that, now that they’re here, and that era is gone, they should take pride in the country and use the opportunity.

The latter does not preclude considering rectification for the former. I think we needed to give compassion its due. A lot of people need to feel part of a compassionate nation, and they’re rather desperate to think the government can step in and be compassionate, can do good. And they have no other father. As long as that is limited to where government can actually be effective, why not try? Even if only to pacify some segment of the population, give them a sense of hope and community. So what if a few billion goes down the drain?

But as the prior caller pointed out, a lot of effort has already been made; reparations of a kind. And most of it was weakly effective at best, and much because of the incentives problem mentioned. But also because of pie in the sky thinking. (Resulting in, for example, the 60% drop out rate for affirmative action, which didn’t help those students one bit in life.)

I think the flailing and frankly disgraceful attempts to deflect the failures of compassion as a political mode to solve the problem is also one of the reasons why cancel culture is among us. When the core of an passionate ideology is put under strain, it gets defended violently as the sacred holy thing that it is to the tribe. I assume this is what you meant by ‘witch’ earlier. The truth telling heretic seems demonic to the primitives who worship at the lie. People just do not want to hear about the failures of their ideology. It’s often the only family they’ve got. But we must keep insisting that people actually look at the data. Over and over and over again. And if they hate you for that, so be it. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

As far as Wes goes, I realize there are many people out there like him. The only truly batshit crazy thing he wrote was “We still cling to the totalitarianism of the American slave system.” But this really goes back to the mediation and education problem I was talking about earlier. And the teaching of virtue signaling and the desperation for attention in the online world that leads to big ‘important’ declarations like that that have no basis in reality. I take your point that people sound like loons half the time, but I still see hope and light. And I’ll continue to do my little bit.

Matthew Adams said...

David, before all this descends into madness and paranoia, I would like to point out that it is not just the drawings, but also the writings of Dr Seuss that have led to six of his books being withdrawn from future publication. To make it just about the art seems to me to be missing the point, and maybe purposefully misleading?

Richard said...

> that it is a grotesque injustice and human rights violation that people were brought here in chains to work for free under brutal circumstances

It is unjust that the world is so brutal, that man is slave to the king, to the prison warden, to the landlord, to disease, to scarcity, to war, or slave to the plow.

But whether the institution of slavery as practiced in the United States was such a remarkable and clear evil, on that, it depends which sources one asks — those of the regime or those from without.

The pro-slavery authors, or as one might call them, witches, tell us quite clearly in their own words, that they saw it as a humanitarian thing. Moderns knowingly scoff at such a notion.

But imagine for a second that they’re serious, that the slaveholder stands before you, saying in earnest... What did they say again?

“It is thought by the present publishers, that the views here expressed, may still serve a useful purpose, in connection with those of others, in the defence of a domestic institution, which we hold to be not simply within the sanctions of justice and propriety, but as constituting one of the most essential agencies, under the divine plan, for promoting the general progress of civilization, and for elevating, to a condition of humanity, a people otherwise barbarous, easily depraved, and needing the help of a superior condition—a power from without—to rescue them from a hopelessly savage state.”

Quite a statement. Easy to swallow if you assume it’s a lie or conceit. Hard to fathom if the man is serious.

After all, if it were true, why were they so damned brutal? Strangely enough, they tell us that they weren’t. That the stories of their brutality were exaggerations by northerners to excite opinion against them —
“ The Southron asks with indignation, why it is that he and his people should be supposed guilty of brutalities and cruelties to the negro race, which are inconsistent with the civilization of that race to which he belongs? What do you see in us, our manners, tastes, opinions or habits, to lead you to think us less humane and intelligent than yourselves; less considerate of the claims, less solicitous of the sympathies of the inferior?”

And yet it is their unassailable guilt upon which is based the new origin story of our country.

Well, no matter, clearly these men are in denial of their own peculiar evil! It is not as if all civilized societies in human history also practiced this self same institution, and called it just. Best not to think too much about it.

kev ferrara said...

Richard,

I’m not much for rationales. One hears self-serving actions defended as civic goods all the time. Now we are dealing with Woke and the same applies.

"Beware of piety, it seeks power."

Anonymous said...

> Remember too that institutions are free (under the first amendment) to choose any "woke" or unwoke position that they want. Their repression is legal and acceptable,

Corporate repression is not sanctioned under the first amendment.

Richard said...

> Remember too that institutions are free (under the first amendment) to choose any "woke" or unwoke position that they want. Their repression is legal and acceptable,

The civil rights act decisions explicitly knocked that down. Protected classes were deemed to supersede those rights. The question is whether politics is a protected class in this case. It isn’t nationally in the US, but it is in California, which is where most of the big tech companies operate out of.

kev ferrara said...

Here Richard. An informal and candid conversation a few days ago between some 'happy warriors' engaged in this fight up to their necks. Authors of Cynical Theories and Impossible Conversations.

Wes said...

"happy warriors"

Clever guys that will never see it (the depth of racism in America) because they have too many Doctorate level ideas.

I miss H.L. Mencken, who would effectively deal with critical theory and these "happy warriors" in a couple of paragraphs.

I do sympathize with Boghossian, who stepped in his own IRB shit. Northwestern U held a 3 day symposium on IRB and academic freedom maybe 15 years ago and continues to look at this interesting tension.

kev ferrara said...

"The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to their oppression." - H.L. Mencken

"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." - H.L. Mencken

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." - H.L. Mencken

"A Newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier." - H.L. Mencken

Richard said...

> Clever guys that will never see the depth of racism in America

I think you're buying the lead on that one.

While there's clear disagreement about facts on the ground, e.g. whether black men are being "hunted in the streets" by police or are dying at lower rate than expected for the amount of police interactions they have, I don't think that's the main question.

The main question revolves around moral extremism.

Not whether racism exists. Rather, whether it's acceptable that there is some amount of racism in a society or if it needs to be quashed with the full force of the inquisition.

Moral extremism sees what it perceives as moral imperfection and seeks to destroy it. A more laissez faire attitude sees moral imperfection and accepts it, not seeking to make man perfect but to merely make him whole.

Ask a liberal what his strategy is to eradicate all racist attitudes among Chinese people, and he will likely approach the question with wisdom: "It's unfortunate, but people are imperfect. The best thing we can do is build community, and a healthy culture."

Turn the question to the racism of white people and his wisdom is gone, replaced with zealotic rage and evangelizing: "We must eradicate it!"

Wes said...

"whether it's acceptable that there is some amount of racism in a society or if it needs to be quashed with the full force of the inquisition."

Yeah, one size does not fit all. If we were a bit smarter, and not so extreme in our racism, we could practice old fashioned pragmatic Dutch tolerance: "I don't really like you but I'll tolerate you and even give you some elbow room." We don't really fall into being able to practice that more reasonable therapy. A little bit more is needed.

As far as cops and blacks, and the legal apparatus the supports it, I favor that their institutionalized racism should indeed be "quashed with the full force of the inquisition." But I only say that because I'm biased by experience -- I was a criminal defense lawyer for many years and it was pretty obvious that racism had developed many masks to perpetuate itself, including a good solid blowback when the lawyer dare raise the notion of racism in the streets and courtroom. I saw shit, pointed it out, and saw the shit blow back on myself and clients. I could always just get cleaned up, but the client got one more lash of the whip.

Barry Goldwater (who no one quotes anymore) said: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”





Richard said...

"Extremism in the defense of good is not bad. And moderation in the pursuit of good is not good."

This is, and always has been, the rallying cry for every extremist movement. Every witch ever burned at the stake, was burned to the intonations of this little prayer.

And unlike the false debate, about the quantity and kind of racism, this debate, the real debate, is not easily resolved with facts.

It's aesthetic or spiritual. Does the supreme truth look more like Zoroastrianism or Daoism? No one is going to resolve that with measured classical dialectics, despite what polite society pretends, it's not an intellectual question in the first place.

But I wouldn't worry too much about it. Your side has already won, and there's plenty of time before they come for your head.

Maximilien Robespierre agrees with Mr. Goldwater: "To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty."

Anonymous said...

>>>I'm biased by experience -- I was a criminal defense lawyer for many years and it was pretty obvious that racism had developed many masks to perpetuate itself, including a good solid blowback when the lawyer dare raise the notion of racism in the streets and courtroom.

Court listens to EVIDENCE. Not claims or accusations 'masked racism' and 'dogwhistles'. bc they have a long history with lying criminals and soft lib lawyers who don't have street smarts. They see what comes in and out of the courts all day. They know those criminals go back to their neighborhoods to kill and rob other black families, destroying life there, peddling drugs and shitty negative attitudes. Black communities know whats up. Which is why 2/3 want MORE police presence, NOT less (as you Baizuos are told to think) The criminals wont be dropping back to your neightborhood. You'll be safe and sound. Yall just showing how woke you are to other white people.

~JjJ

kev ferrara said...

Wes,

I think we need to get back to basics here. Our present culture is in trouble, pre-occupied with political posturing instead of truth, beauty, catharsis, universality, and personal restoration. The arts are in trouble. And with woke cultists sifting through the past and declaring this that and the other cultural object or personage 'problematic' we are allowing self-righteous interlopers to have a 'say' in what our culture should be, in what we are 'allowed to' enjoy. But they don't deserve that say. They are humorless and uneducated and produce nothing that will last beyond the day. They think talent is just a lie peddled by cheaters looking to assert cultural power (or some such postmodern bullshit.)

Censorship, deplatforming, and vandalism are all the same thing. All are ‘accomplished’ by authoritarians who think they know best and have ‘decided to put things right’ of their own accord. They’ve declared that the questions is settled, forbidding further reasoning and discussion. Through such epistemic arrogance the Authoritarian transmutes into the Totalitarian thug; the self-righteous fascist pushing and shoving others.

Hidden behind the beliefs that lead down this road are a suite of implicit claims to higher status; presumptions of moral superiority, intellectual superiority, informational superiority, civic superiority, experiential superiority, and so on. Even superior taste. A kind of holy self-image. Laughable if examined.

The will of the self-selected, self-righteous elite is then implemented via an arrogation of political power outside of electoral, democratic means; extra-judicially, through civic power plays, and often para-military (mob threats and violence) methods against institutions, corporations, schools, employers, and individuals.

It’s worth looking up the relationship between Authoritarians and Anxiety Disorders. It puts a clear connection between catastrophism in thinking and mediation and Authoritarian mindsets and behaviors. Not surprisingly the profession that showed the most anxiety issues was in the media. And not surprisingly they’re the ones who cause the most catastrophism and anxiety in others; they are the modern day demagogues sending bloody minded mobs out into the streets with heads full of vengeance and half-truths.

Richard said...

> I’m not much for rationales. One hears self-serving actions defended as civic goods all the time.

It helps when the rationale was measurably a civic good. People in slavery in the US were actually better off than free people in equatorial Africa.

People have trouble with the idea that something that would be a profound evil in most circumstances today could have been a civic good at times in history. They’ll say things like “So should African Americans be put into slavery?” No of course not that’s preposterous.

But should Stone Age cannibal headhunters on small islands in the pacific be left that way, when by way of slavery we could compassionately bring them into this eon? I think a form of slavery would be the kind response to their current situation.

That it’s universally evil rests on what many people at the time would have recognized as propaganda — e.g. the widely disseminated photograph which purports to show a slaves back terribly scarred for not working, but which the slave himself told a northern regiment was caused when he tried to murder his wife, and that the man who whipped him for trying to murder his wife was immediately fired for it. But to abolitionists at the time, and 99% of people today the image is purportedly proof of slavery’s violence. (I’d say that if you try to murder your wife, a whipping is getting off easy. The gallows is the reasonably response to attempted murder.)

Unknown said...

One of the Best art Gallery in CityAr Gallery in Kolkata

kev ferrara said...

Richard,

Who exactly made the judgment that ‘life was better under slavery than in equatorial Africa?” Wouldn’t you assume that anybody there to make such a judgment at the time was rather heavily-weighted toward a western perspective? Or towards justifying their business interests? And shouldn’t it have been the choice of the Africans as to their preferred lifestyle and home?

Since it is obviously so that no Africans ran towards the slave ships or plantations yelling, “Take me! Take me!” it must be your argument that they should have been doing just that. Yet it seems the reverse was the case. (What fools!) Reminds me of the simplest argument against communism; people only attempted to jump over the Berlin Wall in one direction. Presently, we have the case of the Apple Inc. factory surrounded by tarpaulin in China, so that the workers there putting together ipads can no longer commit suicide by jumping off the top of the building on lunch break.

Every race has taken slaves and been enslaved at one point or another in history. (Some still do not know that Slave comes from Slavic, such is the poverty of our educational systems.) Obviously these oppressions were not simply out of malice, but out of barbaric attempts to improve tribal living quality. One people allayed some of the brutality of their existence by harnessing another people’s energy. But before modernity just about everybody was brutalized by the difficulty of existence. Almost everybody was a workhorse. Even the wealthy were slaves to maladies and diseases for which there was no cure. Nature cracked the whip before man ever did. Any source of energy that could be harnessed needed to be harnessed all year long just to get through the winter alive. Life was so precarious, it is a wonder we’re here at all.

One could argue that the west harnessed slaves until it could harness engineering sufficient to find other modes of power creation and develop industrial machines to do the great labors once only doable through grueling physical effort. That we got here to Modernity is a testament not to the efficacy of that strategy - because I don’t think it was a strategy - but to the effectiveness of enlightenment values of rationality and discovery, science and engineering… of idealism strongly tinted with pragmatism, to cause industrial progress. Maybe the greatest testament to the West is that very thing; that every other slave culture collapsed or stagnated because it wasn’t actually progressing; for slavery was a crutch to others rather than a bridge. We alone escaped. And everybody, whether they like it or not, whether they understand it or not, whether they admit it or not, is sharing in that victory now. (Of course, life is complicated, so every solution causes new problems. C’est la vie.)

It is obviously the case that people dwell on the United States’ slavery because there is something to be gained by that complaint. Most cries of historical wrongs are complaints barked into the void. There’s nobody there to take the call and pick up the check. All the ancient theocratic slave states have perished. I cannot sue Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy to reclaim what they took from my ancestors. All I can do is point people toward our day’s data on human rights violations and hope that they get some perspective and start ‘speaking truth to power’ in the sensible direction.

Richard said...

> Who exactly made the judgment that ‘life was better under slavery than in equatorial Africa?”


I'm saying life was quantitatively better, their life expectancy was higher, where a slave in the US had a life expectancy equivalent to that of a Frenchman or Dutchman, higher than Ireland or Italy, let alone that of a displaced and conquered tribe in Equatorial Africa.

Life was also better because in only one of those circumstances wasn't happening. In short, selling their enemies into slavery was a peaceful alternative to largescale human sacrifice, which was the preferred method of dispatching an enemy people prior to the collapse of the Yoruba Empire, and the rise of the Kingdom of Dahomey with its integration into the international slave trade.

I'm also theorizing that qualitatively it was better, because generally speaking paleolithic cannibalism, human sacrifice, and brutal tribal warfare over diminishingly small tracts of a collapsing ecosystem are unpleasant affairs.


> And shouldn’t it have been the choice of the Africans as to their preferred lifestyle and home?

I think an equally relevant question is which choice their ancestors would make, having known the alternative?

Who among the freed slaves preferred to move back to Africa? If slavery was a net evil, should they not they have begged to be repatriated for fear of slavery's return? And yet, when Abraham Lincoln acquired congressional funding to send Africans back to Africa in 1862, what percentage took the offer? When the American Colonization Society founded Liberia, were African Americans champing at the bit to return? For that matter, are African Americans dying to return today?

Then there is some circumstantial evidence that slavery was preferable, when given the facts.

Similarly, we're not clamoring to have The Android Galactic Empire take over the planet Earth, but it might be better all told. After a couple centuries we might even get to sue them for reparations in high courts of Vega Prime, for making us mine the Sun for Substance X to power their star-drives, as we jetset off at lightspeed in our own star drives to the beaches of Alpha Centauri.


> But before modernity just about everybody was brutalized by the difficulty of existence. Almost everybody was a workhorse. Nature cracked the whip before man ever did.


That was exactly my point. We moderns want to conceptualize slavery in relation to modern living. Would I rather having a PS4 and drink Diet Coke, or be a slave on a plantation picking cotton? Clearly, I would prefer to get my drinks from the minifridge.

But that was not the equation. The question was, would you rather be starving, under the yoke of an inhospitable land, with a collapsing ecosystem, without even the basic knowledge of farming, being massacred by rival tribes over access to a Roman-dug well, or would you rather live in a hospitable climate, working 12 hours a day, fed, housed, clothed, and alive?

Americans, who worship freedom, and love to think themselves free (although it's increasingly hard to sell that reality), imagine that they would pick the free-ranging lifestyle of the Sahara Desert, but I think if faced with that reality and knowledge of the alternative, they would be clamoring onto the slave ship.

kev ferrara said...

Richard,

There are many accounts of slaves being directly captured by Europeans rather than having been captured as prisoners of war; they might entice them on the ship with jewels, bright clothing, parties, dances… then once enough were on board, they would surround them with weapons and set sail. There was free coffee and wine offered on land that was drugged; the natives would wake up in captivity. There was the old standby of visiting villages, stores, taverns, and so on with weaponry and simply rounding up native Africans like cattle. As if all that Shanghaiing weren’t enough, there was much kidnapping too; there are accounts of European soldiers simply walking into people’s yards and taking the children playing there.

As to your argument that their “ecosystem was collapsing” let’s recall that the slave trade lasted for some 400 years. That’s a long time for a ‘collapse.’ Again, they should have been able to decide for themselves whether their ecosystem was unfit or not.

I don’t think the argument that slavery was a mission of mercy holds water, either. I think it was strictly business. If the plantation owners throughout the Americas had wanted to bring western advancement to Africans as a charity they would have pumped money into ramping up the missions and missionaries program into Africa. But they didn’t. I think what we have been doing in Africa for the last half century, trying to teach business and investment, bringing clean water technology and sanitation, etc. That’s the actually moral method. Which, maybe, couldn’t really have been done well until recently. Again, there is a moral component to progress generally. Thus enlightenment values that cause real progress should be appreciated as relatively superior values.

So obviously, I agree that there are complexities to the whole thing that make for a much more rounded view of the era. And I generally agree we are all lucky to be here and now, rather than then and there. However I can’t agree that the ends justified the means, because the ends weren’t known. Nobody could have predicted the nature of now from then.

As for video games and Coca-Cola, I’d rather try my luck in Ghana.

Richard said...

>There was much kidnapping too; there are accounts of European soldiers simply walking into people’s yards and taking the children playing there

I believe that the scholarly consensus is that the early slaves were all already slaves to wealthy Africans, that slavery was the norm in Africa, and that the wealthy families would sell their slaves to the Europeans for weapons.

There is also scholarly consensus that the vast majority of slaves were purchased from Africans. Generally speaking, the slave ships were staffed and equipped for sea voyages, not adventuring across West Africa to kidnap tribes of people. Why do that dangerous adventuring, when other Africans would do it for you, know the terrain, and you could buy them cheaply at the port?

I certainly wouldn't be surprised if some kidnapping to sell into slavery happened, that's a story as old as time. In the Odyssey, the pig farmer who helps the disguised Odysseus tells the story of his being kidnapped as a baby from his wealthy home by some evil sailors.

But regarding what was the norm, this made for TV story about European sailors drugging whole villages and coaxing them onto the slave ships with jewels sounds... fictionalized.


> However I can’t agree that the ends justified the means, because the ends weren’t known.

It was not a mere accident that the seafaring modern civilization turned out a better place to be. I think you're underestimating a 17th century person's foresight if you think they couldn't divine the difference between living in Savannah, Georgia in a modern literate, scientific society, versus on the Savanna still living as man did 75,000 years ago.


> If the plantation owners throughout the Americas had wanted to bring western advancement to Africans as a charity they would have pumped money into ramping up the missions and missionaries program into Africa. But they didn’t.

I don't believe my contention was that slavery was done directly for the good it caused. My contention was that slavery was morally acceptable at the time, because of the good that flowed with it.

Just as the slave system we now enjoy with China isn't done for the good it causes. We do it for the cheap consumer goods. But today's slavery is morally acceptable because of the results -- our slaves-by-proxy in China and Bangladesh (and historically, Mexico and Japan) have a society that is rapidly uplifting due to that slavery.

We're not going to uplift Chinese society out of the goodness of our hearts, but if the East-West partnership uplifts Chinese society, then that modern slavery is similarly morally absolved.

Richard said...

> but if the East-West partnership uplifts Chinese society, then that modern slavery is similarly morally absolved.

And in 200 years, when the New Government of Democratic China is lobbying the UN for reparations from the now declining West for the century of capitalist slavery their people endured in the second millennium, I hope my great x6 grandchildren have enough thought-crime to say:

"Hey, maybe that slavery wasn't quite as bad as you say. Maybe the laborers of capitalist China had better lives as a result of their servitude. Maybe the ends justify the means, because they are now the leaders of the world."

But I hope they don't say it TOO loud, because people hate witches.

Wes said...

Given that the discussion of whether american slavery was beneficial to the slaves is fairly inane, I have no opinion about the detailed merits of the argument. We might as well discuss whether the holocaust occurred.

But it does illustrate the continued need for "woke", as its clear that some folks still don't get it.

kev ferrara said...

Given that the discussion of whether american slavery was beneficial to the slaves is fairly inane, I have no opinion about the detailed merits of the argument. We might as well discuss whether the holocaust occurred.

But it does illustrate the continued need for "woke", as its clear that some folks still don't get it.


Wait... wait... wait....

So your antidote to one discussion you didn't like - mere fucking words - is a renewed call for an ongoing nationwide fascistic browbeating and scolding of the entire population through educational, entertainment, governmental, and media organizations (that are supposed to be doing other jobs) and online mobbing, the denunciation of all the good the country has accomplished and a reverse myopic emphasis on all it has done wrong, the deliberate denigration and destruction of the country's history, heroes, culture, and values, continued shredding of the civil rights of our society's citizens as set out in and guaranteed by our founding documents, and the personal, financial, and familial destruction of anybody who dares disagree with you?

Wow Wes!

Has it ever crossed your mind that maybe you're the evil one?

Wes said...

America is no mere country, it is a civilization -- indeed, the greatest the world has ever seen, and it will not be browbeat by one strand of scolding or reparations or rectifying past ills. You have a weak view of this incredible civilization. In fact, it is America's strength that it holds its ideals of justice and fairness strongly, but holds its intellectuals (moralists and browbeaters) in poor repute for good reasons -- most of their ideas are shit.

If you fear "woke", you fear awareness. Yet awareness (of past ills) of any kind works its way into our soul because our soul is about fairness and justice, and we will get around to facing it, whether we like it our not.

America is about plumbers and truck drivers and engineers and scientists and farmers. Its ain't about ivory tower thinkers and puritans and book writers. It is "lumpy with talent" from the salt of the earth and will pick up any idea that has legs to fix any problem that needs fixing. (See Eric Hoffer for more insight on this point.)

Evil? Grow up.



Richard said...

> We might as well discuss whether the holocaust occurred.

I think that given the general thrust of my argument came from Thomas Sowell, a black man, I’d say the argument is more comparable with say, the German-Jewish Mommsen’s work on functionalist Holocaust historiography and the weak dictator hypothesis, specifically Mommsens theory that the Holocaust was the result of local decisions by concentration camp heads, that Hitler did not actually have the degree of power to lead the country that he represented in Nazi media and didn’t actually control local actions. And that therefore, the blame for the Holocaust rests not with Hitler singularly, but with the whole German people for producing the environment that it could happen.

It’s common that disruptive reanalysis of history comes from the people who are singularly allowed to make those sorts of hypotheses because of their class.


> But it does illustrate the continued need for "woke", as its clear that some folks still don't get it.

This is a common sentiment when a country militarizes.

In Whitney versus California the Supreme Court decided that communist theory was similarly not protected by the constitution. Writing in the majority:
“ The freedom of speech which is secured by the Constitution does not confer an absolute right to speak, without responsibility, whatever one may choose, or an unrestricted and unbridled license giving immunity for every possible use of language and preventing the punishment of those who abuse this freedom, and that a State in the exercise of its police power may punish those who abuse this freedom by utterances inimical to the public welfare, tending to incite to crime, disturb the public peace, or endanger the foundations of organized government and threaten its overthrow by unlawful means, is not open to question.

The statute does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in penalizing those who advocate a resort to violent and unlawful methods as a means of changing industrial and political conditions while not penalizing those who may advocate a resort to such methods for maintaining such conditions, since the distinction is not arbitrary, but within the discretionary power of the State to direct its legislation against what it deems an evil without covering the whole field of possible abuses.”

Interesting to note is that they determined that since any communist Revolution would require “violent and unlawful methods”, communism itself was therefore inherently violent and unlawful even in the abstract. Certainly our SJW jurists would do well to explore Red Scare legal tactics.

kev ferrara said...

If you fear "woke", you fear awareness.

Laughable.

The problem with teaching negativity, with emphasizing criticism, pumping scandals, shouting bigotry bigotry bigotry from every rooftop is that it completely crowds out the rest of the history, all its nuance and complexity, and destroys the ability to have full, coherent, sober conversations about current civic matters. Self-righteousness severs civic bonds.

Negative information is far more powerful that positive, far more rattling, much easier to remember, far simpler. Far easier to wield in argument as a catch all answer. Particular when life is so difficult for most everybody, when one's lack is so easily morphed into jealousy, which is so easily fanned into resentment, then escalated toward self-righteous vengeance.

Relentless negativity makes simple-minded people hate and resent their country and other people in it instead of being gracious and appreciative and nationally oriented. It makes people think of themselves as victims instead of agents in the world. It encourages tribal instincts and deadly notions such as 'group guilt.'

It makes people like you think that “We still cling to the totalitarianism of the American slave system.” An absurd claim that merely function as part of the relentless slander campaign against the country and its history being waged by woke.

Such teaching now causes college kids, when asked to discuss concentration camps, to immediately refer to the Japanese internment camps during WWII (where nobody was murdered as a matter of course) having no idea about the Nazi camps in Germany during the same period (where millions were murdered).

Knowing next to nothing about WWII then leads them to think of the development of the Atomic Bomb as nothing more than a fascistic war crime.

The NYT's 1619 project is another great example. A shoddy work of revisionist activist scholarship that was already being pushed out into schools before it was even read and critiqued by other, more reputable, scholars in the field. When one of the authors was confronted with this fact on Twitter, she posted a photo of herself sticking her tongue out.

If one were trying quite deliberately to destroy the country by turning its citizens against it, relentless myopic negativity of the sort that is being practiced is exactly the strategy for accomplishing that. That's why you're no hero.



kev ferrara said...

See Eric Hoffer for more insight on this point.

Here's a relevant Hoffer quote...

Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.'

Wes said...

"Laughable."

What's laughable is the notion that a single concept can destroy a civilization. Woke ain't gonna hurt nothing, and might even help. But not if we go back to sleep.

Eric Hoffer also said -- and perhaps his greatest insight:

"Compassion is probably the only anti-toxin of the soul. Where there is compassion even the most poisonous impulses are relatively harmless. One would rather see the world run by men who set their hearts on toys but are accessible to pity, than by men animmated by lofty ideals whoe dedication make them ruthless. In the chemistry of man's soul, almost all noble attributes -- courage, honor, hope, faith, duty, loyalty, etc. -- can be transmuted into ruthlessness. Compassion alone stands apart from the continuous traffic between good and evil proceeding within us."

Woke now is about embracing justice and compassion. Woke's not the enemy.





Richard said...

That quote doesn’t support your case.

The culture of Woke is when the proselytizers of “justice” let go of compassion, and become militant. That’s the whole problem.

When signs that say “It’s okay to be white” are considered hate symbols that warrant expelling students, that’s not a culture of compassion.

chris bennett said...

Or a culture of sanity.

Woke is the literal minded take on the world, pathological in its need to pin down experience, past and present, into category and in accordance with a manual of ideology. A dualistic, 'this or that' frame of mind which, technically speaking, is the opposite to the state of holistic awareness, the empathic hallmark of compassion and understanding.

The literal mind, in its fixated attention, only recognises control as the motivating force. Hence the Woke obsession with power. To speak to it of intrinsic value, morality, merit or love as a other forces belonging to, and shaping experience is like trying to describe a landscape to a blind man.

Wes said...


"this or that' frame of mind which, technically speaking, is the opposite to the state of holistic awareness . . ."

Such an awareness is not likely to exist, except for perhaps via God. All creatures' survival depend upon understanding the difference between "this or that" -- food or poison, etc. A holistic awareness is a dream of a mystic that prefers to deny material reality and desires to simply "intuit" the "this or that" in front of him sans mental work. A lazy creature, likely doomed by evolution.

Representation via multiplity is the genius of the creature that can see "this" and distinquish it from "that" via a different name, however crude or fancy. Such a creature is the human (and other animals too).

Yes, woke is quite specific -- it means the awareness of continued injustice.

kev ferrara said...

Notes for Wes...

• You seemed to have missed Chris' point. He means your maoist cult is manichean in its outlook. You're running a simple binary programming. In or out, friend or foe, good or bad. This is related strongly to Left Brain arrogance and its imperative to categorize regardless of sufficient research, snatching simplicity from the jaws of complexity, dogma from the jaws of investigation. Good ol' cult behavior. See Iain McGilchrist's work on this point.

• Activists constantly use catastrophism to create time-based fears in their cult group, to create a unifying siege mentality (which strongly activates left brain binary tribal thinking) and a theater show around their good intentions. Cult-activists cannot be trusted worth a damn. A recent study showed that most activists actually had a weaker grasp of the facts when compared to normal people. That’s because most activists have attention deficit problems and misinformation problems due to ideological indoctrination, sensationalistic media addiction and the resultant anxiety. They’re distractivists. They run with whatever moral declarations and panics were invented online last Thursday. Last month it was Dr. Suess, last week it was Pepe LaPue, yesterday it was bloody written music notation being too 'colonial.' Censorship and vandalism by ideologically blinkered idiots.

• Woke isn’t wise and it isn’t Liberal. And it has no sense of fun. Humorless pearl-clutching control freaks should have nothing to do with the Liberal Arts. You aren’t qualified to govern other people or ‘culture’, let alone Art.

• Nobody asked, appointed, nor elected you to govern other people or the culture or ‘civilization.’ You and your cult are not judge and jury about what is or is not 'justice.' The histories your cult puts out are tendentious and full of poor scholarship. Cease thinking of yourself as more educated than those who oppose your cult's project.

• Your cult is making people miserable, your M.O. is divisive and oafish and the unintended consequences look to be dire if you continue. "Too bad!" you're probably thinking, through your self-righteous haze. But you don’t know what you are doing. People are complicated. You don’t understand emergent phenomena nor stochastic problem solving. Nor Chesterton's Fence. Your solution is simple-minded ideology and self-absorbed and dismissive of any criticism because you are ego-invested in it. The shallowness of the solution is exactly why so much of woke is performative. It is fake compassion; virtue signaling masking a real spirit of vengeance beneath it based on personal misery, constant negativity, and media-stress addiction, no doubt exacerbated by the pandemic.

1/2

kev ferrara said...

2/2

• You are destroying and denigrating cultural figures, works and achievements that you don’t have a right to judge, and you couldn’t replace if you tried. That makes your cult not just vandals, but also a bunch of jealous assholes trying to level up by tearing down real achievers. Ain't happening. None of you really do anything except complain and mob.

• You don’t understand Art. Art is allowed to be insulting. Art is allowed to make mistakes. Art isn’t only for you and people who think like you. You don’t get to control the social status or 'correctness' of any particular work of art. You don’t get to choose who comedy makes fun of or parodies. Art is handmade, and like its creators it is imperfect. You are imperfect too. Never forget how imperfect you are as you seek to judge and govern others.

• You don’t have a right not to be offended, let alone a right to not be offended on behalf of someone or an entire group who you have neither affiliation with nor responsibility for.

• Your moral emotions are not the law. Woke does not supercede the constitution nor anybody’s rights. Woke is not a founding document. We have institutions in this country with important and fundamental responsibilities. They should not be tasked with your divisive and oafish agenda.

• There are a thousand ways to criticize anything. Just take an oppositional standpoint and fire away. Any dope can repeat criticism all day long. And they will. What's difficult is emotionally handling the gray area where the real complexity of the world resides. Maybe spend some of your life without hating on your 'enemies' so much, without crusading against all the perceived wrongs that catch your intense attention. Maybe realize that you ain't much and maybe you should spend more time improving your own life than trying to change all the other 'bad' people and wrongthink out there in the world.

Matthew Adams said...

Kev, I would have suggested removing the logs from your own eyes before, you know, using them to poke splinters in Wes, but I don't think exposing the gaping hollow sockets will do anyone any favours.

Wes said...

Polemics aren’t notes, they’re polemics.

“Left brain” is a myth.

Cults are for cultists. Irrelevant for me.

Everyone “constantly uses catastrophism to create time-based fears” in everyone. So what? Be brave and use facts.

Woke is just an idea. Create a better idea.

There is bad art and there are bad civilizations. Someone should judge them and shout out what they found.

Continued support of racism in America is “making people miserable” (and dead). The MO is myopia.

A racist culture creates lots of racist art (heroes on horses). If you want to keep them, stick them in the Museum of Racism.

“Never forget how imperfect you are as you seek to judge” those concerned about injustice.

The Constitution doesn’t interfere with justice – it seeks it.

There is one sure way to misinterpret anything. Don’t look.

Sidharth Chaturvedi said...
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kev ferrara said...

“Left brain” is a myth.

The old understanding of it was not sufficiently based in research and clinical observation. The new understanding is. This can be found in Iain McGilchrist's The Master and his Emissary.

Woke is just an idea. Create a better idea.

Humility.

Understanding.

Skepticism of facile media narratives.

Self-reflection.

Circumspection.

The Constitution.

Seeking help for anxiety and addiction issues.

Self-analysis.

Turning off the tv.

Meditation.

Appreciation.

Grace.

Sport.

Art.

kev ferrara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NEWS PLANET said...

nice article

Wes said...

Touche'

I was hoping that you would add another one mentioned earlier -- the need for greater individualism in the community that suffers -- nothing repairs like forgetting your losses, and to "start again at your beginnings/And never breathe a word about your loss ..."

Cheers!

Richard said...

>>Woke is just an idea. Create a better idea.

>Humility.
>Understanding.

Those are better ideas in terms of what they produce for the host and their long-term staying power, agreed.

But when it comes to short term memetic success, they're not all that powerful.

Wes is unintentionally pointing to the central issue with battling Woke which I mentioned before.

Absent a more viral idea, you can't beat it. The history of human civilization is the replacement of less viral memes with more virulent strains.

Roughly speaking:
Survivalism -> Animism -> Polytheism -> Platonism -> Tribal Monotheism -> Universal Monotheism -> Idealism -> Rationalism -> Humanism -> Scientism -> Reductionism -> Sociology -> Liberalism -> Progressivism -> Critical Theory

You can't step backwards in the chain of memetic virality, only forwards. This is why every reactionary movements in history has been fundamentally doomed from the start, whether Romanticism or Monarchism, you can't put a memetic cat back in the bag for very long.

The world we know and loved was doomed from the moment the Münster rebellion went down in 1534. The virus escaped the level-4 biosafety containment, and has been slowly creeping through the population ever since.

Future generations have no antibodies, because they will never have been inoculated with the much weaker strain, Liberalism. They're getting the new high-test Twitter Strain C, and it's virulence factor is off the charts.

kev ferrara said...

Richard,

I am familiar with the viral-mimetic framework and I think it is a good standpoint to analyze the issue. However we should also be skeptical of the framework and critical of it.

A few points in the context of accepting the premise.

Mind viruses are always around. Viruses need hosts and the hosts need to be weak. The question of how so many hosts are so weak is the real question, imo.

I think this takes in an incredible range of factors.

Everything from safetyism, "the esteem movement" and aphysical online text-based 'lives' (little exercise or outdoor play, little brotherly physical and verbal roughhousing because so many families are only have 1 child, no interpersonal experience with nuance, gesture, and conflict resolution), to media and social media limbic hijacking and status anxiety caused by wasting time online and playing video games.

To vitamin D, Selenium, and Magnesium deficiency, to reduction in beef and saturated fat in the diet replaced with wheat and starch based carbs, to hyper-processed foods: acellular sugars, estrogenic compounds, and easily-oxidized O-6 seed oils in the diet and the gut permeability caused by the hyperpalatable junk foods made with the same...

Which leads to depression, mental illness and autoimmune responses.

To lack of belief in anything larger than self-gratification and emotionalism.

And of course, economic anxiety, lack of place in the world, lack of families, and especially a lack of fathers (or some kind of strong and real role model as a next-best substitute.)

A hell of a list. And I'm sure I've left lots out.

Slightly more hopeful thoughts:

Viruses can burn themselves out.

A common vision can transcend differences without resolving them.

Richard said...

> A common vision can transcend differences without resolving them.

Yea absolutely, which is why I don’t think my thesis is inherently a pessimistic one.

McDonald’s and Potato Chips replaced the home cooked meal from scratch, and our diets became garbage. But fast casual increasingly replaces McDonald’s. Keto snacks replace potato chips. HelloFresh replaces fast casual, and diets improve.

Similarly in our philosophy, it’s by discovering the better future state that one can resolve the emptiness of modern Woke thought.

We can’t step backwards. We’re not going to convince everyone to return to the philosophical home cooked meal from scratch, Woke fast food has made that untenable, but somewhere out there is the seeds of the future state.

But towards that end, we’re waiting on a certain type of genius to discover them. One with a grand unified vision. You cannot replace a grand unified theory of the world piecemeal. Monotheism did not replace Polytheism in starts, but with a madman and a flashbang.

When the next madman comes along, you’ll know it. His thought will light up the sky like an Aurora, and he will be impossible to ignore. We’re not there yet.

Richard said...

> We’re not there yet.

We're probably not even technologically there yet.

For example, one could foresee a future state in which everyone is biologically engineered, to the point that race is something invented not heritable, which would take all of the wind out of the Woke cause entirely.

To the stalwarts of Woke, this would seem like the end of the world.

The new bio-engineering regime and its media arms will crush the Woke-sters who want to keep their children Brown and obsessed with slavery, when those children just want to be Blue and Purple Polkadot and ride their jetpacks to the Cat Cafe.

The Woke-sters will breakdown when they hear Latinx child singing along with the radio "I only f*** girls who are green and have bionic tentacles".

Chris James said...

The new bio-engineering regime and its media arms will crush the Woke-sters who want to keep their children Brown and obsessed with slavery, when those children just want to be Blue and Purple Polkadot and ride their jetpacks to the Cat Cafe.

The Woke-sters will breakdown when they hear Latinx child singing along with the radio "I only f*** girls who are green and have bionic tentacles".


Better world-building than anything at the multiplex or on Playstation in the past 5 years.

kev ferrara said...
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kev ferrara said...

I remember remarking here a few years ago about the use of CRISPR technology to enable the new artform of competitive genetic creation. Pretty sure that - and your self-genetic sculpting interest - are still at some distance in the future, and suspect; ethically and morally and probably scientifically.

The main issue with genetic tinkering is something we didn’t know at first; that DNA doesn’t work in a simple linear fashion to create useful biological structure. Each bit of code is sending out a spray of a certain protein into the bloodstream and then those proteins find their way into various milieux/niches of self-organization, with different respective functionalities. So when you change any single little bit of code, you get a slew of changes across the organism, not one. The rate of change, I gather, is exponential, because of all the combinatorial changes. So if you try to encode for butterfly wings, you might also get a bit of head antennae and butterfly brain. And a heart missing a valve. The potential for creating biohorrors or stillbirths is rather daunting. It also means that, even though nobody on Earth is as similar to me genetically as my older brother, we still have far more significant difference than one might expect given earlier assumptions.

All to say, basic targeted/vector biotech to fix genetic errors of already existing organisms will be the mainstay for the short and medium term. The true extent of health change available through dietary and physical interventions is another short and medium term groundswell.

Anyhow, none of this deals with the problem of the stickiness of woke in the present. Again, 'Woke' lives in a certain kind of highly mediated, mostly aphysical person. And thrives/spreads through impersonal media/mediation, And impersonal mediation thrives in times of crisis, especially one requiring sequestering as with this pandemic.

Any trend cycles upward because corporations and politicians and partisan news outlets have jumped on board the trend for the obvious cynical reasons. When this crises abates and people are living in real space and in real time, we'll see how much people will finally put up with. The bloom is bound to leave the rose sooner or later. The corporations, politicians, and news hacks cannot keep playing the same song forever. There's simply too much competition.

Richard said...

> The corporations, politicians, and news hacks cannot keep playing the same song forever. There's simply too much competition.

Tell that to I-IV-V-I. :D

kev ferrara said...

The blues don't sell, man. Try VI-IV-I-V

I would theorize that a 'formula for success' is a bit deceptive in these cases. If the music isn't actually good, the 'hits' while still topping the charts are also charting a descent, but over a longer period of time, so not as noticeable. The signs of this that are noticeable in the meantime is the self-sabotage of the genre's or industry's reputation. And that's not a recipe for longevity.

chris bennett said...

Or I-VI-II-V a staple of the tin pan alley guys.

There is a reason chord progressions cannot be copyrighted, they are not the driving substance of the song (a point inferred by Kev's "if the music isn't actually any good"). And thank goodness you can't; A copyright on the progression I-II7th-II-V-I would have meant The Girl From Ipanema would not have been allowed to Take The A Train. Or the Theme music to TOS Star Trek would not have allowed to come from Out Of Nowhere.

kev ferrara said...

Just to get back to the analogy between the pop songs of music and the pop songs of politics, it turns out the peak year of the music business was 2000. And it has gone through a steady 20 year decline in profit, only recently leveling off.

Anyway, this is another good overview of the woke issue by those openly battling against it...

"If we want to defeat this movement, people are going to have to stand up against it."

"We have to recognize that this isn't going to be won on the battlefield of argument, on the battlefield of reason and evidence. Because at the core of wokism is a rejection of the mode of argument where one might have a debate, in which evidence might be marshaled and arguments made. The key to this kind of warfare is, it's all about character destruction and questioning the good faith of the person who objects. So anybody who thinks they're going to stand up and have a good argument about the rights and wrongs of positive discrimination, affirmative action, or you name it. They're not going to have that argument. They're simply going to have their character destroyed."

chris bennett said...

Thanks for the link Kev, that was a great discussion.
I think the main thing going for cogent argument against this stuff is that it helps those who are just beginning to be aware of what is happening to see under its righteous hashtag banners for the poison it really is, and also give courage to those currently in its grip but privately wishing to liberate themselves from its insidious and relentless suffocation of their spirit.

Richard said...

> "So anybody who thinks they're going to stand up and have a good argument about the rights and wrongs of positive discrimination, affirmative action, or you name it. They're not going to have that argument. They're simply going to have their character destroyed."

Could you give the TLDR, what's his answer for how one "stands up" against something, when a person's arguments are merely used as ammunition to destroy their character?

It sounds like he recognizes the issue of turning one's self into an Emmanuel Goldstein, but does he have a real solution?

I have as yet not heard any anti-Wokeists adequately respond to the dynamic as I see it --
Joe: We are weak and have ceded control of every major institution. When we fight back, they use it as ammunition against us, merely to weaken us further!

Bob: Then what shall we do?

Joe: Fight back!

kev ferrara said...

Go to minute 39.