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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, piano version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greeting, listeners, from your expansively genial host John Derbyshire, here with some highlights from the week's news.
There's a good broad span this week, folks: lots of politics of course, but also some history, some classics, some delving into the national psyche, some nostalgic reminiscences, and an obituary.
Let's take the politics first. Radio Derb was at a severe disadvantage here, as the big political story of the last few days blew up last Friday, just too late for us to pass comment on it. That was of course the release of a tape — everybody still says "tape" apparently, though the NBC archives must surely be in digital form by now — of Donald Trump talking bro talk.
By now, everything that can be said about the tape and subsequent reaction to it has been said. Or … has it? …
02 — A play for the Old Maid Vote. The tape that caused all the fuss was of Donald Trump talking dirty about women to Billy Bush back in 2005 when both were involved with a TV celebrities show.
This gets us into a zone of the national psyche that is addled with contradictions and hypocrisy, even more so than the race zone. I'm going to dwell on it for a couple of segments; because it's interesting to an observer of the national psyche, and also because it's electorally consequential, though in ways not easy to figure.
The talk on this tape was bro talk, guy to guy, and not sensationally dirty. By the standards of our public culture — dialog in movies and novels, what you hear at a poetry slam or a rap concert, what you see at a Superbowl half-time show — it barely moved the needle on the filth dial. So what was all the fuss about?
What it was about was Trump's enemies — more on who exactly they are later — figuring to peel a few ten thousands more female votes away from him, and the media of course enthusiastically pumping air into the thing to help them.
So the cry rang out around the nation: "Trump disrespects women!"
Does he? He clearly likes to try seducing beautiful women, including married ones. When rebuffed, however, as he tells us on the offending tape, he lets it go, as a gentleman should. He is also cynical, when speaking in private to other guys, about how willing women are to let wealthy, powerful men grope them. That kind of cynicism is not surprising from a man in his position.
This is anyway an area of human behavior where it is hard not to be cynical, if you've observed much of what goes on in the mating game. Here's a quote from Tom over at the Radio Free New Jersey blog. Tom is a personal friend of mine, and he has done a lot of that observing. Quote from him:
If we were going to measure all the various components of American society by the degree of dishonesty involved, at the very top would be the gap between what women want from men, and what they say they want.
That's surely true; and it follows from its truth that the effect of releasing the Trump tape may not be altogether as intended.
I'm a bit ashamed to say that my first reaction to the fuss was in terms of national stereotypes. Every nation of course nurses stereotypes of the other nations it's familiar with: excitable Italians, hard-drinking Russians, money-grubbing Chinese, pugnacious Irishmen, and so on. Where the U.S.A. is concerned, the stereotype that my generation of English people grew up with was of American culture vigilantly patrolled by legions of prune-faced old maids who drank vinegar for breakfast instead of orange juice.
That stereotype is way out of date, as the aforementioned aspects of our popular culture amply demonstrate.
Change has worked in the other direction, too. Yankee Puritanism has fixed its cold, clammy grip on the Brits. The nation that once slapped its thighs at dirty jokes in Chaucer and Shakespeare is nowadays even more in thrall than we are to schoolmarm nagging about racism, sexism, and the rest.
For example: Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, is under pressure from his lieutenants to dissociate himself from Donald Trump on account of the Billy Bush tape. Farage's own instincts are the same old-fashioned easygoing tolerance you hear from your Radio Derb host; but that won't do in an age of Puritan rigor, and he will probably have to fold at last.
If my first reaction didn't stand up well to close scrutiny, though, it was not totally beside the point. The prune-faced old maids are still a significant demographic in the U.S.A.; and they are by no means exclusively female, as the scandalized squealing of Republican politicians like Paul Ryan show.
The spirit of the prune-faced old maids is still a component of the collective national psyche, and it can be enlisted for political purposes.
So politically this was definitely worth a try; though I say again, the results might turn out to be other than what was expected. We'll know more about this when the exit polls come out after November 8th.
03 — The horndog double standard. As Donald Trump remarked in the second candidate debate last Sunday, there's a heck of a double standard in play here. Bill Clinton forces himself on women and gets a free pass for it. He's not even expected to apologise — to the best of my knowledge, he never has. (Although he did apologize for his perjury to a grand jury. I guess we should be grateful for small mercies.) Then Donald Trump makes some off-color remarks to a male colleague in private, and he's a limb of Satan.
I guess The Donald should be glad at least that in this case his enemies can't play the Hitler card. Hitler seems to have been well-nigh sexless — definitely not a ladies man, in any case. Eva Braun once grumbled that he had never treated her like a woman. Nobody's quite sure what she meant, and whatever it was died with her in the bunker, but it's not a thing you can imagine a woman saying about Trump.
While I'm working the historical beat, let's also note that in the Presidency during recent decades both horndoggery and prune-faced Puritanism have been exclusively Democrat things.
On the horndog side the star exhibit is of course Jack Kennedy, who banged interns two by two around the indoor pool at the White House, and who once confessed to a U.S. Ambassador — a female U.S. Ambassador! — that, quote, "Dad told all the boys to get laid as often as possible. I can't get to sleep unless I've had a lay," end quote. LBJ wasn't in the same league charm-wise, but he was known to climb into bed with secretaries uninvited. All this was of course kept well hidden from the public by a compliant media.
Jimmy Carter was way over on the vinegary old maid side of the issue. To be sure, he did confess to Playboy magazine that he'd committed adultery in his heart; but it's not likely that Carter's lust ever escaped from that strange organ, or that, if it had, it would have been greeted with a welcoming sigh of submission by very many women.
Recent Republican Presidents have been more normal: straitlaced, but not prune-faced. The Bushes are loyal family men, as was Gerry Ford. Reagan had sowed all the wild oats he wanted to long before attaining the Presidency. Nixon could talk bro talk with the rest of them, in fact seemed to enjoy doing so; but his behavior was perfectly sexless. You have to go all the way back to Warren Harding, nearly a hundred years, for a Republican horndog in the White House.
So there's some historical precedent for the double standard. Where were the schoolmarms of our culture when JFK was prowling the White House corridors for his daily lay? Where were they, for that matter, when his brother ran for President, to widespread enthusiasm among media and cultural elites, just a few years after leaving one of his playmates to drown?
Where were the schoolmarms? Paid off by the Kennedys, that's where, or shut out by the Kennedy worshippers in the media.
And so the double standard continues. Donald Trump says, "Grab 'em by the pussy" and there is national — in fact, as the Nigel Farage story shows, inter-national — outrage. Bill Clinton says, "You'll want to put some ice on that," and the nation shrugs.
There are some issues of class and sex here not much explored in the news stories, but, I'm guessing, pondered deeply by the campaign managers and advisors.
With no offense intended to anyone, you can't help but notice that Bill Clinton's women are pretty ordinary looking. Bubba goes for low-hanging fruit. Trump by contrast likes models and beauty queens — really sensationally good-looking women.
That has to play out politically somehow, although it's not easy to figure how.
The great majority of women are, by definition, ordinary-looking. They can easily imagine themselves the objects of Bill's affections. They're bound to suspect that Donald Trump would not give them much of his time, except for purposes of business.
I return to Tom's remark, to "the gap between what women want from men, and what they say they want." The prophets of the "manosphere," where male-female relations are discussed in terms inspired by evolutionary biology, tell us that women want swaggering high-status alpha males — bad boys like Trump. What they say they want, on the other hand, is what our current state ideology tells them to say: they say they want friendly, well-behaved, non-threatening guys who offer them equality.
Which of the following do America's legions of nice, ordinary-looking women fantasize about more? Is it (a) being knockout beautiful and winning the heart and a share in the fortune of a swaggering alpha male; or is it (b) more realistically, being just sufficiently non-ordinary to hold the attentions of a Bill Clinton for fifteen minutes or so?
On such esoteric issues of biology and psychology the fate of nations depends.
What's my opinion? I have no clue. I'm an old married guy. I'll wait to see what the exit polls tell us.
04 — The untouchable Clintons. You can't help but be somewhat in awe of the Clintons — I mean, of how much they get away with. With the media in their pockets, there are never any real consequences for any of their lies and crimes.
How on earth did they get so invulnerable? Well, most of it was just dumb luck. Bill Clinton's public image soared way high above his actual level of sleazy mediocrity as a result of his Presidency occurring when (a) the Cold War had just ended, and (b) the internet boom had just started. Clinton didn't sow either of those crops, but he reaped the harvest.
Americans today look back on that decade between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the War on Terror as a happy interlude of peace and prosperity, and they give Bill Clinton the credit, or at least associate him with it. In fact Republican congresses scotched most of the daft things Clinton wanted to do and assisted most of the good things to happen; but people have forgotten that now.
Add to that the fact that the Clintons have perfected the art of presenting themselves as liberal-progressive. This is about as genuine as the ghetto voice that Barack Obama uses when addressing black-activist crowds; but it's good enough for the media, cultural, and academic elites, 98 percent of whom are liberal-progressive themselves. Desperate to believe, they swallow it all gratefully. So the Clintons have the wind in their sails blowing from those elite quarters.
That's not to belittle the Clintons' political skills, which are considerable, though not that much out of the ordinary. Those skills have certainly helped them to rise. Most of what has lifted them, though, is just dumb luck plus being on the elite's side in the Cold Civil War.
And now they are invulnerable, untouchable, above everything. Even the FBI is covering for them.
There is actually a sort of pagan, mythic dimension to the power of the Clintons. To see what I mean, listen to the following short extract from one of Elizabeth Vandiver's lectures on Virgil's great epic poem The Aeneid.
First, here's the relevant plot background, as brief as I can make it.
Aeneas, a prince of Troy, has escaped from that city while the Greeks are sacking it, and sailed off across the Mediterranean. He lands in Carthage, which is ruled by Queen Dido, a beautiful widow, who gives him hospitality. Dido falls in love with Aeneas and they have a sex affair. Now when Dido's husband died, she made a vow to the gods that she'd stay chaste for ever more; so by having this fling with Aeneas, she's broken her vow.
The gods seem not to notice this until it's brought to their attention by Hyarbas, a neighboring king, who alerts Jupiter to what's going on. Hyarbas is ticked off because he'd tried to woo Dido after her husband died, but she'd given him the elbow, using her vow of chastity as an excuse.
Not all men handle rejection as gracefully as Donald Trump, definitely not Hyarbas. He snitches to Jupiter about Dido. Jupiter's angry, and his anger drives the next phase of the plot.
Here's a curious detail, though. This king Hyarbas was born to a nymph named Garamantis as a result of her having been raped by Jupiter. Jupiter was a serial rapist, as fans of W.B. Yeats will know. OK, over to Professor Vandiver.
[Clip. This detail I think stresses the gulf between the divine and the human plane, a gulf that we've seen already to some extent with the separation between Venus and Aeneas in Book One — even when Venus is helping Aeneas — and a gulf that we'll see elsewhere as well.
Perhaps every culture needs god-like figures who have human attributes and faults, yet who float above commonplace notions of responsibility and punishment. Virgil's Romans had Jupiter and Juno, Venus and Mars; we have Bill and Hill.
05 — Trump versus the GOP. I don't know whether people nowadays still read George Orwell's novel Animal Farm. It's a bit of a Cold War piece. The Cold War did happen, though; and as I've remarked elsewhere, it was a very big deal. It has lessons to teach; and Orwell was one of our best teachers.
The story of the novel, in very brief, is that the farm animals, under the leadership of the pigs, stage a revolution against the human owners of the farm. They drive out the owners and take the place over, again under the pigs' leadership.
In the last chapter, though, an odd thing happens. The pigs start behaving like humans. One day, as the other animals are hard at work weeding the turnip field, the pigs invite a delegation of neighboring farmers — all humans, of course — to inspect the pig-owned farm. Then the pigs and their human guests have a party in the farmhouse.
The other animals hear laughter and singing from the farmhouse. They sneak up to look in through the windows at what's going on. They see the pigs and the humans in happy concord, making flattering speeches and toasting each other. Last line of the novel, quote:
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.
Watching the Republican Party's response to last week's little media-manufactured outrage, I'm feeling a bit like one of those farm animals. Do we really have two political parties, each representing a broad interest? Or is the current party system just a hoax on the rest of us by an establishment who all fundamentally believe the same things?
Once you get into that frame of mind it's natural to start wondering whether release of the dirty-talk tape was an operation by the GOP establishment to discredit Trump.
There has been much speculation along those lines on the internet; see for example our own James Kirkpatrick on Thursday this week. There is considerable circumstantial evidence to support these speculations.
A key figure here is Dan Senor, a fierce NeverTrumper who is a senior advisor to Mister Cuck himself, House Speaker and open-borders fanatic Paul Ryan. Senor's wife was employed at NBC back when the infamous tape was made. It was NBC that produced the show Trump and Billy Bush were working on. Mrs Senor has herself hinted that she was the conduit for passing the tape from NBC archives to the Washington Post, who then publicized it.
So was digging for that tape Senor's idea, or his wife's idea, or Paul Ryan's idea? All possible, but none of them strikes me as canny enough. I would look higher up the GOP Establishment totem pole.
On a word-association test with the phrase "Republican establishment," the Bush dynasty comes to mind immediately. Billy Bush, the guy Trump was talking with on the tape, is a core member of that dynasty. His Dad, Jonathan Bush, is the younger brother of Poppy Bush, Bush 41. Bush 43 and Jeb are his first cousins.
Jeb for one would sacrifice a limb and a couple of major organs to hurt the Trump campaign. It's easy to imagine Billy, who seems not to be the brightest bush in the shrubbery, being called in to a family conference with these elders.
So after a nice convivial family dinner and a few drinks, Jeb says: "Billy, when you were doing that TV celebrity show a few years ago … what was that show?"
"Access Hollywood," says Billy.
"That's the one," says Jeb. "Weren't you working with Donald Trump there for a while?"
"Oh yeah," says Billy. "Great guy. We had a lot of fun with him."
"Doesn't he have kind of a potty mouth, though?" asks Jeb.
"Well, sure, he talks a lot of bro talk," says Billy. "When it's just guys, like. You know, off the set."
"Well," says Jeb, "I'd sure like to hear him off the record. Just to, you know, get the measure of the guy. He might be our next President, after all."
"Hey, I can put out feelers, see who might have access to the show tapes for you, no problem," says Billy.
"Unedited?" says Jeb. "I'd like to hear Trump talking naturally, what you call bro talk. Just to get inside his head."
"No problem!" says Billy. "I'll get on it."
Listeners, you think this is far-fetched? I don't. The Bushes are globalists in the marrow of their bones, especially in regard to our southern neighbor. Poppy Bush was thick as thieves forty years ago with Mexican elite figures like Raul Salinas Lozano, whose son Carlos was President of Mexico in the early 1990s. Jeb himself told us early in this election campaign how he likes Mexicans much better than he likes Americans. Possibly that was a factor in his failure to win the hearts of American voters, I don't know.
For the Bushes, Trump's negativity towards Mexico and his promise to build a proper, well-defended national border, must have sounded outrageously shocking. Confronted with evil like that, they may well have concluded that drastic measures were called for.
Sure, it's all speculation. We'll have to wait twenty years or so for the memoirs to know for sure. As I look from pig to man, though, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again, it's definitely getting harder to say which is which.
06 — Debate and speech. I apologize for not having much to say about the second candidates' debate last Sunday. Again, the news cycle works against me here; by the time I sit down at the mike for Radio Derb, everything you could say about the debate has been said.
For the record, I think Trump carried it off very well. He was aggressive, but not bombastic. He interrupted Mrs Clinton just enough to put her off her stride, but not so much as to be an annoyance, like Tim Kaine in the Vice-Presidential candidates' debate.
Let's hope our man is on an upward trajectory here: from disappointing in the first debate, to effective in the second, let's hope to dominant in the third.
If the news cycle was against us in that second debate, though, it worked just fine for Trump's Thursday speech in West Palm Beach, Florida.
It was a good angry speech, except that, as always, I wish we'd heard more on the National Question. Trump's mid-August policy paper on immigration, for example, promised that he would end birthright citizenship. Ending birthright citizenship is a popular policy, with half to two-thirds of voters liking it, depending on how the question is framed. Why can't we hear more about that?
I'll take what I can get, though, and there were some gems in the speech. I thought this part came straight from the heart, and was quite moving:
[Clip: This is our moment of reckoning as a society and as a civilization itself. I didn't need to do this, folks, believe me — believe me. I built a great company, and I had a wonderful life. I could have enjoyed the fruits and benefits of years of successful business deals and businesses for myself and my family. Instead of going through this absolute horror show of lies, deceptions, malicious attacks — who would have thought? I'm doing it because this country has given me so much, and I feel so strongly that it's my turn to give back to the country that I love.]
I think the guy's sincere; and I can't imagine saying that about Mrs Clinton, in any context at all.
I voted for Donald Trump in the New York primary in April. I look forward eagerly to voting for him again in November.
07 — Dylan's Nobel Prize. So Bob Dylan's been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. This comes a couple of weeks after my confessing to a very tenuous past acquaintance with one of the judges, Göran Malmqvist of the Swedish Academy.
I'd like to think that Academician Malmqvist is a keen reader of my VDARE.com monthly diaries, spotted his name there in last month's diary, and went digging around in my archives to see what I've had to say about Bobby Dylan, as a guide to which way he should vote.
He would have found me writing and speaking of the midwestern troubadour in mostly positive terms in articles and diaries from 2004 and 2005, and in Radio Derb podcasts from 2011, 2012, and twice in 2014.
Executive summary: I'm a Dylan fan from way back. Talking 'bout my g-g-generation. Yes, yes, I know about the early leftism. I know how obnoxious the guy is, too. This is artistic creativity we're talking about, though. Percy Bysshe Shelley was an obnoxious jerk, too, and even more of a lefty than the young Bob Dylan; but what beautiful poems he wrote!
So do I think Dylan should have gotten the Nobel Prize for Literature? No, I don't. I think it perverts the meaning of the award.
I'm speaking here as a professional writer, understand. We ink-stained wretches need all the encouragement we can get to keep pegging on. The Nobel for Literature is an encouragement, even if you know, as of course the overwhelming majority of us do, that you personally are never going to be getting it. It signals that the world takes our line of work seriously.
And what is that line of work, that we toil at by candlelight through the long dark watches of the night? What is literature? It's books and periodicals, that's what. It's novels, plays, and poetry. It's history, biography, essays, and belles lettres. There are some borderline cases we might argue about — philosophy, journalism — but it's definitely not songwriting. We un-musical scribblers need an award all our own.
Songwriting anyway has its own awards, which nobody confuses with literary endeavor. Dylan himself has been awarded eleven Grammies and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame (that's his home state), the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the separate Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. What does he want, egg in his beer?
King Bhumibol was a constitutional monarch who had a distinguished lineage and lots of grand titles, but little actual power. Lineage-wise, he was the great-grandson of Thailand's reforming, modernizing King Mongkut, memorably portrayed by Yul Brynner in the 1956 movie musical The King and I. Among the grand titles, I think my favorite was "Possessor of the Twenty-Four Golden Umbrellas." It rains a lot in Thailand.
Like the current Queen of England, Bhumibol was the kind of constitutional monarch who makes the case for constitutional monarchy. He kept his nation's corrupt and frequently violent politics at arm's length as much as possible, intervening only in moments of extreme crisis, and then very carefully and judiciously. Since most normal people loathe politics and politicians, this kept him popular with his people.
He was popular also as a tireless practitioner of the grand old virtue of noblesse oblige, constantly travelling around the country to present himself to people of every station in life, to listen to their problems and try to help with solutions.
The private man was just as admirable as the public man. Doctor Johnson said of England's King George the First that he "knew nothing, and desired to know nothing; he did nothing, and desired to do nothing." Bhumibol was the opposite of that. He knew a great many things, and did many too.
He knew math and science, having originally set out to train as an architect. He held the patent for a useful invention, an apparatus for purifying polluted water. He played the jazz saxophone, composed pop songs, and translated foreign literature into the Thai language. A keen sportsman, he held a gold medal for dinghy sailing from a regional competition. He married an exceptionally beautiful woman.
Bhumibol was a great believer in Walter Bagehot's dictum that constitutional monarchy works best if it keeps itself shrouded in mystique, or as much mystique as modern conditions will allow. "We must not let in daylight upon magic," said Bagehot.
Some people think the Thais have taken this principle to unnecessary extremes. Thailand has for example laws against lèse-majesté, very strict laws. That movie The King and I was for the longest time not allowed to be shown in Thailand, although that prohibition eventually had to be relaxed in the age of video recordings and DVDs.
I lived in Thailand myself for a few months forty-four years ago, in the middle years of Bhumibol's reign. My strong impression was that he was greatly liked and respected by ordinary Thais. I commiserate with them on the loss of a good and wise ruler.
So much of the case for constitutional monarchy. The case against it is of course that its success depends too much on the personal character of the monarch. He doesn't have to be a crazy Caligula to bring the whole thing crashing down, either; just less intelligent and sensible than Bhumibol. Constantine, the last King of Greece, illustrates that point.
So what are the prospects for the Thai monarchy? Shaky, to judge from news reports about Bhumibol's Crown Prince and successor, Vajiralongkorn. "Prone to violence, fast cars and dubious business deals," says one royal biographer. He's been married three times. And speaking of Caligula, Vajiralongkorn promoted one of his poodles — an actual poodle, a canine — to the rank of Chief Marshal in the Thai air force.
"Women find him interesting," said his mother. I think Walter Bagehot would agree with me that it's better for a constitutional monarch to not be interesting, especially to the opposite sex.
So once again condolences to the Thai people for their loss, and the very best of luck to them with their new monarch. It looks as though they may need it.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: What do Americans fear? Chapman University, a private institution in Orange County, California, has conducted its annual survey. They listed things that Americans might fear and asked respondents, for each item, whether they were afraid or very afraid of that item. Then they ranked the item by percentage who replied "yes" for each item.
The results show solid good sense on the part of Americans, in defiance of those who would tell you what deluded sheeple we are. Even after all the recent publicity, only eight percent are scared of clowns, nine percent of ghosts, and ten percent of zombies.
Way up at the top of the list, with 61 percent very afraid, was government corruption. That would have been my strongest answer, too. There are other items on the list I fear as much or more, but which wouldn't happen anyway in a nation under honest government. Aristotle said that courage is the most important virtue, because if you don't have it, you can't practice any of the other virtues. It's the same with honest goverment: If you don't have it, a lot of other desirable things are impossible.
Terrorist attack is way down in second place at 41 percent. Just below, 39 percent, is government restrictions on firearms and ammunition.
I see some complacency on the list. I think more than 17 percent of us should be afraid of "Computers replacing people in the workforce." I wish more than 18 percent feared "Whites no longer being the majority in the U.S." I'm going to look on the bright side and assume that fear of government corruption, gun confiscation, and terrorism exhausted most people's supply of fear.
If people only voted their fears, Donald Trump would be a shoo-in November 8th for sure. Number ten on the list, with 36 percent afraid of it, is Obamacare. There's a lot of common sense still in America, in spite of the best efforts of our schools, colleges, and media to eradicate it.
Item: Ever seeking new insights on the election campaign to relay to my listeners, I have this week turned to one of my most trusted, most impeccably objective sources. Yes, the election issue of Mad magazine is out.
Oh, I know: Mad isn't anything like as funny as it seemed when you were fifteen. That's always been true. It's a universal constant, like the speed of light in vacuo. And having been around as long as they have has the great advantage for a humor magazine that when you don't have anything original to say, you can just re-post a popular item from thirty years ago.
So what is Mad's line on the election? They don't really have one. Mad is an equal opportunity mocker. The thirteen pages given over to election coverage divide about equally between Trump and Clinton, not counting a three-page spread on "The Last 100 Days of the Obama Presidency." (Sample of that: "January 12 — Steals a freaking butt-load of office supplies.")
Their big spread on Mrs Clinton is a spoof of the popular kiddies toys'n'books franchise My Little Pony. Sample frame caption: "Frolic with her and her Goldman Sachs buddies as they learn about the magic of friendship!"
Yeah, OK, it's not as hilarious as it was in tenth grade, but in a world of accelerating change it's nice to see that some institutions endure.
Item: Finally, a book recommendation for the history buffs among my listeners.
Today, October 14th, marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, the greatest disaster ever to befall the English people until the mass immigrations of the later twentieth century.
Following the defeat of their king, Harold Godwinson, by the ruthless and cruel William of Normandy, the English people had to endure seeing their thanes and earls dispossessed, their monasteries and churches pillaged, their women ravished and their crops burned, their lands given to thuggish Normans speaking a babble of bastardized French.
Worst of all, they lost their common laws and understandings, under which everyone had had a voice and all had rights under the law. Those rights weren't equal rights, to be sure: that came later. Anglo-Saxon England was on the right path, though, and law was understood to stand above brute power.
There were no castles in England before the Normans came. There was no need for them: the English got on sufficiently well with each other. Not perfectly well, but sufficiently well that the mighty had no need to wall themselves off from the humble.
It's a small consolation, although a melancholy one, to be reminded that the English of those days at least had the guts to resist the alien invasion. They lost the battle, but they had stood and fought. Contrast that with their descendants of today, "A sneaking poor Race, half begotten and Tame."
OK, here's the book recommendation. To commemorate the disaster, I've been reading David Howarth's book 1066, The Year of the Conquest. It's short, crisp, and readable. If you want to know what happened in 1066, and what the key players were like in their human dimension, Howarth delivers the goods. Thanks here to the friend who recommended the book to me.
10 — Signoff. There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and may our nation and yours, wherever you are, never suffer the fate of Harold Godwinson's England, to be invaded and settled by barbarous foreigners who care nothing for its laws and customs.
I know, I know: You're expecting a clip from The King and I as signoff music. Well, you're mis-expecting; although the clip I'm going to play us out with is indeed inspired by my sojourn in Thailand back in the summer of 1972, which the death of King Bhumibol brought to mind.
I lived there several months, flat broke the whole time, doing such odd jobs as I could find, making just enough to feed myself while saving up a few bucks for a flight out.
One of those jobs was proofreading for the Bangkok Post, an English-language newspaper published in, of course, Bangkok.
So for eight hours a day I sat in a stuffy, windowless room with half a dozen other ne'er-do-wells waiting for galley slips to be pushed through a small hatch in one wall. We would read the galleys, mark up any typos or factual errors, and pass them back.
There was one single cheat sheet for the correct English spelling of important Thai names. To avoid having to keep asking for the sheet, I memorized the names of the Thai cabinet and half a dozen other key figures. As you'll know if you've practiced memorization, it helps to tag each memorized item with something from your deep memory bank, preferably something totally unconnected or even ridiculous.
Well, the Thai Prime Minister at the time rejoiced in the name Thanom Kittikachorn. My key for remembering this was the old minstrel ditty "Blue Tail Fly." I'd sit there in that room muttering to myself: "Kittikachorn, and I don't care …"
To eschew the sin of cultural appropriation, I was going to give you a clip from Leadbelly's recording of "Blue Tail Fly." Frankly, though, it's not one of Leadbelly's better efforts; in fact it sounds like he was drunk at the recording session, which wouldn't have been out of character. So I've gone with cultural appopriation after all, and defaulted to Burl Ives instead.
More from Radio Derb next week!
[Music clip: Burl Ives, "Blue Tail Fly."]