It's the blecks (1): Guns. My biggest email bag of the month came after I hypothesized, in the March 23rd Radio Derb, that the enthusiasm white Americans display for owning guns, unusual among Western nations, is connected to the other distinctive thing about our country: the presence in it, from the beginning, of a large black sub-population.
When I was through hypothesizing I said:
I'm exploring the dark depths of the white American psyche here. Or possibly they're just the dark depths of my psyche, I don't know. By all means email in and tell me.
People did. Their responses fell into four pretty distinct categories.
1. Well, duh! "Mr Derbyshire, that is the most obvious thing you've ever said. Of course it's the blacks. We know how much they hate us."
I'll say again what I said on the podcast: It's not hard to understand why a lot of blacks hate us. Strangely enough, though, it is possible to appreciate that a person has good reasons for wanting to kill you, while yet being unwilling to let him do it.
2. No, it's distrust of government power. "Mr Derbyshire, we cherish the Second Amendment because it guarantees our liberties against the rise of a despotic federal government. Plenty of black Americans feel the same way."
That's a noble sentiment, and one that appeals to my own love of personal liberty.
I have my doubts, though. The wording of the Second Amendment leaves it not altogether clear whether "the security of a free state" refers to security from foreign occupation, or security from domestic despotism.
The key factor in establishment of a domestic federal despotism would be the military. Would they be on-side with the despot? If they were, with modern weaponry and surveillance techniques, I wouldn't place my bet on Red Dawn-style citizen guerillas being able to restore the Republic.
Would the military take a stand for liberty? I wish I could be sure. With women in submarines, though, and General Casey telling us that the loss of "diversity" would be a greater tragedy than the murder of a few troopers … I'm not.
3. Yes, it's the blacks; and we don't have to wait for catastrophe to see law and order break down. As one emailer wrote pithily: "The name Reginald Denny mean anything?"
I got many hair-raising anecdotes from people who had lived through race riots and vowed never to find themselves unarmed in such a situation. It wasn't just the Rodney King riots, either. Many others have slipped down the memory hole. I got a long, graphic, and very eloquent email from an eyewitness to the 1980 Miami riots.
4. You've got it coming, cracker!
Your spoiled white ass wouldn't last a week after collapse. Don't kid yourself. It will mostly be your spoiled white neighbors after for [sic] your food and water. A moment of ultimate self defeat before you go down into the cosmic dustbin of pathetic existence.
Feel like kneeling yet?
No, actually: I'll die on my feet before I'll live on my knees.
It's the blecks (2): Immigration. Having gone this deep into the zone of the shockingly unmentionable, I may as well add the following, as further support for the hypothesis that a great many peculiarities of life in the U.S.A. have something to do with that big black subpopulation.
Here's a different peculiarity: the insouciance of white non-Hispanic Californians to mass illegal immigration from south of the border.
Thirty-seven percent of California's population is non-Hispanic white. Fifteen percent is Asian; 39 percent is Hispanic. The 37 percent, together with some portion of the Asians and identify-as-white Hispanics, likely give a clear majority of Californians with no tribal enthusiasm for the kinds of open-border lunacies we've been getting from state officers — including the Governor — recently.
If that majority truly has no enthusiasm for the sanctuary-state and related policies, why do they put up with them?
Possible answer: It's the blecks.
It may be that white and honorary-white Californians haven't minded the mass influx of foreign nonblacks because that influx has driven out domestic blacks. Ron Unz, who lives in California, has made this argument.
According to Census data, between 1990 and 2010 the number of Hispanics and Asians increased by one-third in Los Angeles, by nearly 50 percent in New York City, and by over 70 percent in Washington, D.C. The inevitable result was to squeeze out much of the local black population, which declined, often substantially, in each location. And all three cities experienced enormous drops in local crime, with homicide rates falling by 73 percent, 79 percent, and 72 percent respectively, perhaps partly as a result of these underlying demographic changes. Meanwhile, the white population increasingly shifted toward the affluent, who were best able to afford the sharp rise in housing prices. It is an undeniable fact that American elites, conservative and liberal alike, are today almost universally in favor of very high levels of immigration, and their possible recognition of the direct demographic impact upon their own urban circumstances may be an important but unspoken factor in shaping their views.
More recently, a reader at Unz Review, apparently a Californian, posted this comment to an article by Jared Taylor:
We're down to only 7.5 [I think the commenter means "percent"] blacks thanks be to God. It's amazing how life in the cities has improved since the Asians and Hispanics have dispersed them.
The Hispanic police are even allowed to arrest them without fear of a Ferguson style uprising.
Could the Rodney King riots happen in Los Angeles today? The black population of the city has fallen from 14 percent at the time of the riots to probably less than nine percent today; so perhaps not.
Sacramento, on the other hand, is still 14 percent black. True, black Sacramentans are not rioting on anything like the 1992 L.A. scale. They've been kicking up some dust over a recent police shooting, though:
Just beyond the council chamber's doors, angry protesters took over City Hall's main lobby and in one instance skirmished with police officers. "You shoot us down, we shut you down!" they chanted.
Plainly what Sacramento needs is a flood of Asians and Hispanics.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? Bloggers and commentators occasionally feel the urge to list all the types of paid employment they have had.
This urge came over me recently, so I may as well post the results here.
- Putting corks in bottles of wine.
- General laboring work in a brewery.
- Sales assistant in a haberdashery store.
- Mailman. (Around Christmas the British Post Office used to recruit high-schoolers to help cope with the rush.)
- Warehouse porter (in a greeting-cards factory).
- Construction laborer.
- Military officer.
- Computer programmer.
- Nightschool ESL teacher.
- College lecturer (programming, accounting, airline travel, English language & literature).
- Newspaper proofreader (at The Bangkok Post).
- Movie extra.
- Dishwasher & general kitchen help.
Writing down that list, I can't suppress a shiver of pride at the number of links — that is, at the quantity of copy I have squeezed from some not-very-remarkable occupations.
That's a thing writers do: Turn the dross and drudgery of life into words and get paid for it. Amazing, really … although, looking at the hundreds of books I have amassed over the years, I don't feel at all sure I've come out ahead financially on the writer/reader balance sheet.
Only an 'opeless fancy. I linked to Orwell there because I have him in mind. I have him in mind because I was just browsing through my old "Straggler" columns, and re-read number 85, which is about the Singularity.
Included therein is a mention of the song Winston Smith heard the prole woman singing in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as he waited for Julia in their love nest.
Under the window somebody was singing. Winston peeped out, secure in the protection of the muslin curtain. The June sun was still high in the sky, and in the sun-filled court below, a monstrous woman, solid as a Norman pillar, with brawny red forearms and a sacking apron strapped about her middle, was stumping to and fro between a washtub and a clothes line, pegging out a series of square white things which Winston recognized as babies' diapers. Whenever her mouth was not corked with clothes pegs she was singing in a powerful contralto:
It was only an 'opeless fancy.The tune had been haunting London for weeks past. It was one of countless similar songs published for the benefit of the proles by a sub-section of the Music Department. The words of these songs were composed without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known as a versificator. But the woman sang so tunefully as to turn the dreadful rubbish into an almost pleasant sound.
It passed like an Ipril dye,
But a look an' a word an' the dreams they stirred
They 'ave stolen my 'eart awye!
It occurred to me that as pop lyrics go, those aren't bad. Has anyone ever tried to work up a suitable tune?
Over to YouTube. Of the TV and movie adaptations of Orwell's novel, both the 1954 BBC-TV production and the 1956 Hollywood version made an effort, but the results were not very good. I can't find a relevant clip from the 1984 John Hurt movie.
Full productions aside, there have been some amateur attempts on the song, but, while I'm sure people tried their best, I'm not impressed.
I'd like to think that some enterprising professional songwriter might take up the challenge. That's probably just an 'opeless fancy, though. The age of memorable pop-song writing is long gone.
Ask a roomful of well-socialized adult Americans the date of the most recent song anyone can spontaneously sing a few lines of, advertising jingles excluded. What would you get? Something later than 1980? I doubt it.
Bring on the versificators!
[Footnote: Did Orwell really write "diapers"? I copied that from an internet version. English people say "nappies." The word "diaper" is very American; I never heard it used in speech until I came to the States. Anyone got a first edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four to check?]
London overtook New York in murders for the first time in modern history in February as the capital endured a dramatic surge in knife crime.
Fifteen people were murdered in the capital, against 14 in New York. Both cities have almost exactly the same population.
London murders for March are also likely to exceed or equal New York's. By late last night there had been 22 killings in the capital, according to the Metropolitan police, against 21 in the US city.
Eight Londoners were murdered between March 14 and March 20 alone and the total number of London murders, even excluding victims of terrorism, has risen by 38 percent since 2014.
Plainly the Brits need knife control.
That's flippant, though. What's happened to Britain — and is still happening — via mass Third World immigration is a horrible tragedy, a real case of national suicide. Recall Rudyard Kipling's definition of "white man":
The race speaking the English tongue, with a high birth rate and a low murder rate, living quietly under Laws which are neither bought nor sold.
That's somewhat idealized of course, but today's Britain has drifted way further from the ideal than she was in 1897. Kipling would have wept to see it.
Being old enough to remember England when she still was England, I'm sometimes close to tears myself. Just the other day, for example, when watching this YouTube clip of Winston Churchill's funeral, full of English faces and grave English reserve.
Orwell yet again: "The crowds in the big towns, with their mild knobby faces, their bad teeth and gentle manners, are different from a European crowd."
It's gone, all gone. And no-one did this to the Brits; they did it to themselves. Back to Kipling:
There was no need of a steed nor a lance to pursue them;
It was decreed their own deed, and not chance, should undo them.
The tares they had laughingly sown were ripe to the reaping.
The trust they had leagued to disown was removed from their keeping.
The eaters of other men's bread, the exempted from hardship,
The excusers of impotence fled, abdicating their wardship,
For the hate they had taught through the State brought the State no defender,
And it passed from the roll of the Nations in headlong surrender!
Kevin Williamson to The Atlantic. There's a flap — I think the technical term today is "Twitterstorm" — about Kevin Williamson, formerly of (conservative) National Review, migrating to the (left-liberal) Atlantic.
The cause of the flap is that Kevin has sometimes expressed himself very directly in ways that shock Progressives. Here he was four years ago, for example, mocking the conceit that you can be whatever sex you want to be.
A fellow named Laverne Cox, not otherwise known to me, had announced that he was, in fact, a woman. Kevin pooh-poohed this, and made a point of using male pronouns when referring to Cox.
Kevin's argument was not so much with the person, though, as with the defiance of reality that characterizes our age.
Cox's situation gave him an intensely unhappy childhood and led to an eventual suicide attempt, and his story demands our sympathy; times being what they are, we might even offer our indulgence. But neither of those should be allowed to overwhelm the facts, which are not subject to our feelings, however sincere or well intended.
To say that facts are not subject to our feelings is gross heresy nowadays. In the Current Year, feels take priority over reals.
As a fellow heretic, I'm mostly on Kevin's side. I also like his writing style, which is literate, punchy, and well-informed.
I actually know him quite well. We were two of the smokers at National Review. Since smoking isn't allowed in New York City offices, he and I would leave the building and stand on Lexington Avenue, chatting randomly while poisoning ourselves and any passers-by who ventured close enough.
Kevin has a ready wit. Here's a sample.
His most obvious personal problem is his weight. He packs on the pounds until he can't get through doors any more, then diets himself down to a normal physique, then gets complacent and balloons up again.
During the last few months of the time we overlapped at National Review Kevin was in the slim phase of this cycle. Then, in April 2012, I got canned from the magazine and didn't see him again until the Fall, when he showed up as a guest one evening at a dinner club I frequent. He was blimp-sized again.
Standing around in groups having drinks before dinner, I passed a gently-mocking comment on Kevin's weight, as one might with a close acquaintance. "Gone off the diet, I see, Kevin" — something like that. He laughed insincerely, the way you do when a friend brings to your attention something you would rather not have had brought to your attention. We then chatted very amiably, me quietly wondering whether perhaps I should not have made the remark, which several other club members had overheard.
We sat down to dinner, and went round the table introducing ourselves in turn for the benefit of guests and new members. Kevin introduced himself as being from National Review. He then added: "I'd like to say for the record that I had nothing to do with Derb getting canned. I didn't approve of it … although if it happened right now, I WOULD approve!"
Shakespeare guilt. In common with, I am sure, a lot of other educated people, I'm occasionally afflicted with Shakepeare guilt. That is, I fear I don't know half as much of the Bard's work as I ought to.
So then I buy one of the BBC & Time-Life productions, feed it to the DVD player, and sit there with one finger on The Complete Pelican Shakespeare assuaging my guilt.
My latest venture in this line was Pericles. For one thing, it's the least-known of Shakespeare's plays, so there's underdog appeal. It's also the least regarded. My 1955 Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has a mere three quotes from Pericles; Othello gets 175. Even The Two Gentlemen of Verona gets 15. Scholars think Shakespeare didn't write more than half of Pericles.
For another thing, my Shakespeare guilt is a tad more acute in the case of the Romances. The standard drill at English schools in my boyhood was to make us read through one each of the Histories, Tragedies, and Comedies. (My year got Henry V, Macbeth, and Twelfth Night.)
The Romances were left out. I was well into adult life before I saw even The Tempest acted. (The BBC & Time-Life production of The Tempest, by the way, is gayer than an Easter bonnet. Check out the banquet scene in Act III. Hoo-ee.) I've never seen a stage performance of The Winter's Tale, Cymbeline, or Pericles. How often is there a stage production of Pericles?
So I bought the darn thing and watched it. Meh. Sure, the recognition scene is nicely done, and the Bawd is amusingly bawdy. The main storyline doesn't make much sense from the get-go, though. If Antiochus doesn't want people to know he's boinking his daughter, why does he invite her suitors to guess it?
I wouldn't be as harsh on Pericles as Dr Johnson was on Cymbeline ("unresisting imbecility") but I doubt I'll be replaying the DVD.
I've purged my Shakespeare guilt for a while, though — that's the main thing.
Former Trumpers. For the longest time there, people who had made some acquaintance with my name and wanted to know more about me would start by asking whether I consider myself Alt Right. I've never been able to think up a satisfactory answer in less than 500 words.
Now I may be off the hook. I'm anticipating that these inquirers will more and more often want to know: Am I a Former Trumper?
Frank Bruni at The New York Times, March 30th:
Donald Trump has a boatload of problems. Ann Coulter, the author of a 2016 book titled In Trump We Trust, is now one of them … During a long conversation with me at The Times on Thursday afternoon, she sent him a warning about the wrath he'd face if the wall doesn't rise: "The Former Trumpers should keep Donald Trump awake at night."
No, I'm not a Former Trumper. Sure, the President frequently drives me to exasperation and despair. I've vented freely about that.
Sometimes, though, it's the hour that makes the man. Yes: Trump is inconsistent and unreliable. So was Winston Churchill. He changed parties twice. He was widely regarded by parliamentary colleagues in the 1930s as a second-rater and showman. When the hour came, though, Churchill was a rock.
Perhaps that's Trump's destiny, too. Perhaps something big will happen: big enough to concentrate Trump's mind, to make him cast aside the dithering, tweeting, and double-talk — big enough for a real national leader to emerge from inside all that fluff and bombast.
Am I clutching at straws? Yes, I guess I am. Looking at the alternatives, though, while there are straws to clutch at, I'll clutch at them.
If nothing big does happen to bring Trump to the test, I'd expect his presidency to sputter out after four years in futility and rancor. He will have been merely a transitional figure, the too-early advocate of a style of populist nationalism that sooner or later will find more effective representation as the old cozy Republi-crat globalist consensus completes its disintegration.
Math Corner. For this month's brainteaser I'm obliged to an old friend currently employed at a major investment bank whose name (the bank's, not the friend's) is an anagram of ADAM'S SCHLONG.
You are last in a line of 100 people waiting to watch a play in a theater with 100 seats. Everyone has an assigned seat, but one of the people in front of you is a Free Spirit who will ignore his ticket and choose a seat at random (which might of course be his own).
The other theatergoers will all obediently follow instructions, except that if one of them finds someone else sitting in his seat he will also take a seat at random.
What are the odds that when everyone is seated you will be in your assigned seat?