Friday, May 24, 2002

Let it never be said that I don't listen to conservatives.

John Derbyshire's review of David Cannadine's "Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire" contains a quote that I'm going to be chewing over for a while:

This is a lovely book, full of insights and unfamiliar perspectives. Were the rulers of Victoria’s empire more snobbish, or more racist? They hardly knew the difference, for the common people of their own nation were very little less mysterious or threatening to them than the dark sullen masses of India or Africa. At least this much can be said, though, and David Cannadine says it: the snobbery diluted and tempered the racism. “It may be that hierarchical empires and societies, where inequality was the norm, were ... less racist than egalitarian societies, where there was (and is?) no alternative vision of the social order from that of collective, antagonistic and often racial identities.” On this, as on much else, he is provocative — and may very well be right.

Class conflicts (in the traditional British sense, not in the Marxist sense) mitigate or transform racial conflicts? It really does remind me of what one of my university professors once said, though turned on its head: "the reason why socialism never took off in the United States is because people didn't identify as a class; and the reason they never identified as a class was because racial division dominates American political culture, not class division." Perhaps its somewhat of a Chicken-and-Egg situation... it's ironic that an article about the Brits could open up interesting questions about the U.S.

It's a pity, of course, that he also writes jingoistic nonsense as well. Newsflash: the entirety of the Rest of the World is not characterized by dictatorial governmental control, and there is a difference between disliking the political actions of America-the-State and the people or life within that country itself. I'd say that the drive to immigrate to the U.S. might just have something to do with the U.S. benefiting its own residents at the expense of everybody else. I'm not saying it does, but it's a legitimate explanation that fits the facts as well as "they want our freedom".

I mean, comments like this:

As D’Souza argues in his final chapter, American liberty, under American law, actually produces a superior type of human being — one who, free to choose, chooses virtue and nobility of spirit much more often than not: “[A] vast improvement,” as he says, “over the wretched, servile, fatalistic and intolerant human being that traditional societies have always produced, and that Islamic societies produce now.”

...are so unbelievably stupid and arrogant that I feel tempted to throw rocks at an embassy myself. If anything fuels Anti-Americanism, it's this notion that the U.S. is a better country and Americans are better people than everybody else. Disputing that point isn't envy; it's sanity.

(Canadians must fume when they read this sort of thing, huh?)

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