|Monday, April 19, 2004
18:21 - The descendants of slaves
Further to my Fear of God post from last week, reader Thom T. sent me the following, which I believe crystallizes a very important historical perspective:
Just read the "Fear of God" post. While I normally
simply appreciate your blogging very much, for the
past few days, it seems like either I'm channelling
you, or vice versa. Scary, I know. :)
Anyway, I'd been thinking about precisely this issue
lately, about exactly what it is these cretins don't
get, and it crystallized in my mind when I read the
passage in which you wrote your solution.
What they don't get is that for the majority of the
world, existence on Earth is a pretty crappy
experience from cradle to grave, and for a good
number of those people, existence on Earth is a
horriffic, shitty, really, really, REALLY
unconscionable version of Hell on Earth.
This is not exactly a stunning revelation, obviously.
The vast majority of humanity lived somewhere in
between these two states until 1850 at the earliest
(and that's being generous, time-frame-wise), and we
know this. Why this is important in regard to the
cretins is that they have their history all mixed up:
I have heard, first-hand, several people, most of whom
are friends of mine and who are not extremists, posit
the view that there were so many other, greater,
NON-WHITE civilizations from the past that
accomplished so many great and beautiful things, and
that our civilization is but a crude, cruel, inhuman,
conformist joke on humanity, where the rich prosper,
the poor are crushed, and the rest of us are drones.
What they don't get is that while Michelangelo was a
great sculptor and painter, THAT WASN'T THE MAJORITY
OF ITALY AT THE TIME. That while the Egyptians built
some of the most breathtaking structures, which are
rightly named wonders of the world, THEY WERE BUILT BY
SLAVES. That while the Greeks may have been more
ahead of their time intellectually than any other
civilization before or since, THAT WAS ONLY A FEW VERY
FORTUNATE GUYS. The vast majority of people who lived
during those ages, and during the great ages of China,
Babylon, Persia, Phoenicia, the Almohads, etc., were
either slaves, or one or two steps above, and that
life for them was pretty damn piss-poor.
They see only the greatness, and, combined with their
ideas of multi-culturalism, project the past onto the
present, and see America as this crude infant
stumbling blindly across the world and wrecking all
that is good, and replacing it with Wal-Marts and
McDonalds. Among these people are those who went to
Iraq (remember, this was once Mesopotamia!!) to become
human shields, and were stunned to learn that the
majority of Iraqis really, really wanted freedom more
than anything else.
What they don't get is that the Industrial Revolution
was vastly more important than the Rennaisance. What
they don't get is that Adam Smith's "The Wealth of
Nations" is the most important work in the history of
humankind (outside of the Bible, for me), and not
Joyce's "Ulysses". What they don't get is that the
Cotton Gin was a far more important discovery than oil
What they really don't get is that personal and
economic freedom are the same thing, and the it was
recognition of such that truly freed the decrepit, and
that, if that didn't happen, they, and we, would be
the decrepit of today. They see themselves as being
the spiritual descendants of the Michelangelos, the
Plutarchs, the Aristotles. Wrong. We're the
descendants of their slaves.
And, finally, it's much simpler than all this, really.
It's freedom OF, or freedom TO, not freedom from.
And if they really want to free people from hunger,
poverty, and oppression, they should stop reading Maya
Angelou, and start reading Adam Smith. The world
outside the West largely sucks. The pagodas should
not be destroyed, but building a few Wal-Marts along
side them would be far more helpful than corrupt
That's the trouble with Communism: it claims to be the ideology of the huddled masses, the wretched refuse yearning to breathe free. But history shows us that when those huddled masses stop huddling and start revving up their hands and brains, the tools of capitalism are far more readily at their service than the tools of communism, and rewards them far better. It allows the best of them to rise to power and stardom, but any of them to freely and realistically aspire to it. The alternative is a world where the best possible future for a peasant is to remain a peasant.
Which is well and good, if we can convince ourselves that the life of the peasant is a good, honorable thing, or that being taken care of by a maternal State is the "right" way to live. But Americans have never quite taken to asceticism, nor to allowing anyone to dictate how we live our lives. Which is why we do the things we do.