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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, fife'n'drum version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Welcome to the podcast, ladies and gentlemen. That was a snippet of Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, and this is of course your extravagantly genial host John Derbyshire with commentary on the passing charivari.
Still counting down to the election: six weeks this coming Tuesday. I don't have much to say about the outcome that I haven't already said, so having noted where we are in the countdown, I shall pass on to other things, mainly things about our society and culture outside the Washington D.C. beltway.
First, the onward march of woke capitalism.
02 — A peek into woke capitalism. I shall tread carefully in this segment. I am working from inside information, and I don't want anyone to lose his job for being associated with an outlet as hatefully hateful as VDARE.com.
The particular corner of capitalism featured in this story is the fine old financial-services firm of Goldman Sachs. You may recall Goldman Sachs signalling their virtue to the world back in January when they announced that they'd only do business with firms that had at least one diverse board member, which I think means not a straight white male.
Well, a friend of mine is employed at Goldman Sachs, and he's been passing stuff on to me: stuff like this, which I reproduce with my friend's permission, some names redacted
It's a memo that was prominently featured on the main page of the internal Goldman Sachs website August 27th, for the edification of all employees. The title of the memo is: Why Language Can Be One of Our Biggest Allies at Goldman Sachs. The main text is over seven hundred words, too long for me to read out in its entirety, so I'll just cherry-pick a few representative quotes.
Quote: As a firm, we made the decision to capitalize the "B" in Black consistently in all communications … on June 5, weeks before the Associated Press officially changed its writing style on June 19.
End quote. I guess you could say that at least the competitive spirit of capitalism is visible there. Gotta be better than the next guy; gotta stay ahead of the market; hey, look — we did the capital-"B" thing two weeks before AP!
Quote: In Engineering, our colleagues … [have] collaborated with others in the financial services industry to address racially insensitive terminology in computer security terms. This work included eliminating the use of "blacklist" and "whitelist," as well as of "master" and "slave," when describing the relationship between hardware components.
End quote. Perhaps the use of those words "master" and "slave" in the computer department just gets people thinking a bit too much about the power relation between the Indian project manager and his legacy-American subordinate who's being kept on for three months to train his replacement, an H-1B also from India — in fact the project manager's nephew.
Quote: Another example of a phrase that can have harmful impact is "All Lives Matter." … The death of George Floyd, and, as recently as this week, the shooting of Jacob Blake multiple times in the back, demonstrate that until the deadly violent acts against unarmed Black people subside, all lives will not matter until Black Lives Matter.
End quote. You didn't think we were going to get through this without a reference to the Holy Blessed Martyr Floyd, did you?
Although I'll give a smidgen of credit here to Goldman Sachs: They merely wrote "the death of George Floyd." It's routine in mainstream media outlets now to see "the killing of George Floyd," or even "the murder of George Floyd." The Economist, for example, has used both in straight reportage. It has of course not yet been established to any good evidentiary standard that Floyd was killed, let alone murdered.
Quote: It's … not accurate to refer to someone's "sexual preference," which would imply a choice that can be changed, instead we refer to an individual's "sexual orientation."
End quote. That's a bit hair-splitty, isn't it? A bit dubious, actually. An orientation may be voluntary, mayn't it? I can orient myself to the north, south, east, or west, according to my … preference.
Goldman Sachs doesn't just rely on memos to keep its workforce up-to-date on the Party line. Conversations! — gotta have conversations.
To give employees the right idea, the firm records the kind of conversations it wants them to have and puts them on YouTube so they can watch at home. I'm not sure what the rule is for watching in office hours, but I'd guess it's OK … ah, heck, probably compulsory.
Here's a wee clip of one of those conversations from early June. The speaker here is Frederick Baba, a Managing Director in the Global Markets division of the firm. Mr Baba is black. In fact he's an immigrant from Nigeria, came here as a youngster thirty years ago. Hearken to his pain.
[Clip: I think for me personally and for a lot of the members of the black community here at Goldman Sachs, these things are just extremely difficult for us to process. And so you'll be here trying to show up, trying to be your best work self, and then at times you don't even know if it matters, right? You're sitting in a Zoom call-in, you're talking about the thing you're talking about, you're trying to service your clients, but then … There's this backdrop and this, like, cloud hanging over you about all of the other things that are happening in the world, and you just don't know if you really care about bonds at that moment in time.]
That's just a snippet. The thing drones on for half an hour. And yes, there's another participant in the conversation; but he's white, so of course he defers to Mr Baba.
So there's a glimpse into the heart of woke capitalism. It makes the point that this poisonous gibberish is now universal among our ruling elites. I mean, it makes the point because if a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs doesn't belong to the ruling elite, nobody does.
It's like this throughout the Establishment: Wall Street, Big Tech, Hollywood, the universities, … this is the reigning ideology. White supremacy and systemic racism are in the air we breathe, tormenting the soul even of a Wall Street MD on a high six-figure salary and a seven-figure annual bonus. And no, I didn't make those numbers up. In the matter of executive compensation, there is nothing niggardly about Goldman Sachs.
This is the reigning ideology. Yes, it's crazy and stupid and bears no relation to any actual facts in the world. You'd better pretend to believe it, though. Bend the knee and bow the head, or you'll get nowhere in life. Certainly not at Goldman Sachs.
03 — Defund the military! (Cont.) Last week's podcast included a segment titled "Defund the military!" In that segment I argued for a zero-based approach to our colossal military budget: What do we need to be doing, and how much should we spend on doing it?
I got some good argumentative emails back on that. I also, I should say, got a couple from that mighty cohort of citizens whose skills in listening or reading comprehension are seriously deficient. No, I don't want to get rid of the military altogether, and no-one who listened with attention to what I was saying could think so. Quote from self: "I think we should considerably defund it."
A couple of friends who know my circumstances charged me with hypocrisy. My son served in the U.S. Army, returning to civilian life in 2017. He has spent the last three years, and will spend one more, attending college on the GI Bill, which is wonderfully generous. So I'm arguing against interest, my friends said; or, to phrase it in proper military fashion, I am calling down fire on my own position.
To which I say: So what? Arguing against interest is honorable. A patriotic citizen should take positions that, as best he can figure, will benefit the nation at large. If they have negative impact on him personally, he should grin and bear it. I have in any case no way to stop Junior from cashing his government checks. I suppose I could try to persuade him, but … that probably would not go well.
And then one sly Radio Derb listener spotted this headline at the National Pulse website, run by National Conservative pundit Raheem Kassam. Headline: Chinese Communist Party Floats "Defund The U.S. Military" Campaign For U.S. Left To Adopt.
The story is about an op-ed in a ChiCom media outlet urging American comrades to add "Defund the military" to their list of slogans, along with "Defund the police." Their argument is that our military is a huge polluter, so defunding it would slow or stop climate change.
The ChiComs have a lot of nerve making that argument, given that, as the National Pulse story points out, China "overwhelmingly dominates the world in its pollution of air and water." That didn't stop my sly listener from chiding me for lining up with the Maoists. Again, not guilty. It's a coincidence of headlines, that's all.
Another listener wasn't clear how Zero-Based Budgeting would actually work. OK, let me explain. I'll take our fifty-five thousand troops currently in Japan for an example.
It's an alternate-world story: there's a hiccup in the spacetime continuum causing the lead character, a penniless and unknown guitarist, to find himself in a world identical to his own in almost every way except that on his new world-line the Beatles never existed and no-one knows any of their songs.
Taking a hint from that, let's do a thought experiment, a Gedankenexperiment. Imagine, please, that like the hero of that movie you slip through a crevice into an alternate universe. Everything in your new universe is precisely as it is here except for just one thing: there are no U.S. troops stationed in Japan.
Now please argue the case to me for us putting fifty-five thousand soldiers, sailors, and airpersons in Japan.
That's Zero-Based Budgeting; and that, I do believe, is the right way to do it.
Well, all is forgiven, Newt. Wednesday this week the former Speaker of the House was on some talking-heads show at Fox News, via a Zoom link. Three of the Fox anchorettes were asking him about the recent rioting and looting. Here's how it went.
And this was on Fox News, mind. If it had been any other TV channel the gals would have alerted the FBI to break down Newt's door and drag him away. Although, to be perfectly fair to them, Michelle Malkin has surmised that those long pauses were not, or not only, dumb-foundedness on their part; they were likely listening via their earpieces to instructions from the show producers.
The lesson here is: The left rules. They set the terms. In the case of Soros, who is Jewish, the left have issued an edict declaring that anyone who criticizes him or his organizations is motivated not by disagreement with Soros' goals and beliefs, but by antisemitism.
That's nuts; but the media bubbleheads have all internalized it. To contradict it is not just verboten, Newt; it's streng verboten.
What's the truth of the matter, though? If Soros dollars are being shoveled into District Attorney campaigns, that would be foreign interference in our elections, wouldn't it? Which, according to Establishment propaganda, is absolutely the worst thing in the world, isn't it?
So are Soros dollars being fed into District Attorney election campaigns? Sure they are. It's been reported all over.
Here's a news story from July 30th this year, headline: DAs backed by Soros, other liberal activists join fray in clash with police. Sub-heading: "Under-the-radar political investments made by progressive groups in recent years may be paying off."
The story under those headings is well-researched and detailed. It names names — the names, that is, of D.A.s whose election campaigns took Soros' cash: Kim Gardner in St Louis, Kim Foxx in Chicago, Chesa Boudin and Diana Becton in San Francisco, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Rachael Rollins in Boston, Marilyn Mosby in Baltimore, Mike Schmidt in Portland, Oregon, … the list goes on, and on, and on.
Where did I find that story? In some tacky anti-semitic neo-Nazi outlet? No, that was from FoxNews.com, July 30th this year.
Perhaps those three ladies who were stunned into long pauses by Newt's remarks, perhaps they — or, as Michelle Malkin surmised, their producers — should read their employer's own website.
05 — Solipsism Lit. I've done so much book reviewing this past forty years, it seems like a violation of the natural order to pay for books. So the other day, chatting with a friend who has just had a new book brought out by a respectable publisher, I asked my friend if I could have a review copy. "Sure," he said, "I'll have them send you a PDF file."
Could I get a hard copy? I asked. I already spend far more time than I like reading stuff off screens.
My friend shook his head sadly. "Publishers don't do that any more," he said. "Review copies are all PDF now."
That little exchange confirmed my suspicion that the printed word is gradually, little by little, slipping away from us. Printed with ink on paper, I mean. Plainly it's still with us on these damn screens; but it's reasonable to wonder how much longer that will be the case for long-form writing.
Fiction leads the way here, the way down into the pit. The short story is pretty much dead; and there's already something antique about writing a novel, like owning a landline phone. Sure, people are doing it: with the advent of cheap and easy self-publishing, in fact, more people than ever are doing it. Who's reading them, though?
The last current novel about which you could be sure of getting some conversation going round the office water cooler was Bonfire of the Vanities, 1987. I guess a few people will go on reading current novels, just as some people kept riding horses after the automobile came up; but it'll be a niche thing, a quaint thing.
And if technology doesn't kill off imaginative written fiction, political correctness will. The word "imaginative" in that context is already … what's the word? … oh yes: problematic.
In the stiffening totalitarianism of our cultural life, imagination is suspect. We have gone from "write about what you know" to "don't even think of writing about anything outside your own immediate personal experience." Fiction editors at the big publishing houses want solipsism. Their ideal novel would be a transsexual black dwarf writing a story about being a transsexual black dwarf.
Consider for example the Booker Prize, which used to be the most prestigious award in British fiction. There are six finalists on the shortlist for this year's prize.
The first thing you notice is, not one of the six is British. They changed the rules six years ago. Now any writer writing in English and published in Britain is eligible. Five of the writers on this year's shortlist are American; the sixth is from Rhodesia.
That's more than averagely annoying to me. When I published my Coolidge novel here in New York in 1996, it was considered for the National Book Award. I actually got a phone call from them. Was I an American citizen? they wanted to know. I confessed that I wasn't, not yet. Oh, sorry, they said, that means you're not eligible. I was vexed, of course, but I didn't feel any injustice had been done. Rules are rules, and this rule was a fair one.
This new Booker Prize rule is not fair to British authors. They are a small minority worldwide among people writing in English. Their contributions are just getting swamped. Hilary Mantel, for instance, brought out the third volume of her Wolf Hall trilogy about Thomas Cromwell this spring — a best-seller for sure. It's not on the Booker Prize shortlist.
Why would the Booker people perpetrate such an injustice against British authors? Diversity, that's why. Worldwide, the tally of people who (a) can write English, and (b) have literary ambitions includes not only Americans but millions of Africans, Indians, Pakistanis, Caribbeans, and such. Why restrict the prize to boring white-bread Brits when there is all that vibrancy on tap?
Hence the lady from Rhodesia, who is of course black. Two of the other five are also black: one an Ethiopian-American gal, one an American black guy from Alabama. Along with the three blacks, there's an Indian-American lady and two whites, one male, one female. The white male is a homosexual (as also, by the way, is the black guy from Alabama).
The white female, incredible to say, has a husband and two kids. She looks quite normal. I'm calling tokenism on that one.
I haven't read any of these six finalist novels, and I don't intend to. Reading about them, "imaginative" is not the first word that comes to mind. That black homosexual from Alabama studied biochemistry in the Midwest. His novel is about, quote from the New York Times, "one pivotal weekend in the life of Wallace, a black gay biochemistry Ph.D. student in the Midwest." End quote.
The other homosexual on the Booker shirt-lift … Oh dear, I beg your pardon: I meant to say "short-list." The other homosexual, the white one, grew up in the Glasgow slums. He describes himself as, quote, "the queer son of a single mother who lost her battle to addiction." His novel is about a young boy growing up in Glasgow in the 1980s with a mother who is struggling with alcoholism. "A powerful, heartbreaking yet beautifully written account of poverty, homophobia and addiction," says this Scottish newspaper I'm reading.
The author now lives in New York. Would it be presumptuous of me to guess that his next novel will be about a Scottish homosexual living in New York? Probably.
Even when they're not totally self-referential, these books lean heavily to the left. The one by our token straight white lady, for example, quote, "explores a mother-daughter relationship in a world ravaged by climate change and overpopulation." End quote.
The white Scottish homosexual, talking about his book to an interviewer, said, quote, "so many people suffered through a difficult time under Thatcher in the 1980s." End quote. British lefties have an everlasting angry grudge against Maggie, parallel to the one our own commies have against Reagan.
The Alabama guy's novel, says one reviewer, quote:
crackles with the painful comedy of privilege and prejudice … His supposedly benign white friends … view him as a mirror in which to assess their own lives, often in self-congratulatory fashion.
End quote. And so on and so on. This is what gets fiction prizes in 2020. Be progressive, be transgressive, and write about yourself, yourself, yourself. After all, what else is real? Thomas Cromwell, some 16th-century dude? Why would anyone want to write about him? He probably owned slaves.
Evelyn Waugh would not be shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020.
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: As a kind of footnote to that last segment, here's some J.K. Rowling news. This is the lady who wrote the Harry Potter series of books, thereby going from being a jobless divorced single mother on welfare to, according to Forbes magazine, the world's first billionaire author.
Rowling writes adult fiction too. Her latest in this line was published on Tuesday. It's a private-eye thriller about a murderer who wears women's clothes and a wig when murdering. That's a bit cheeky of Rowling. She's been in trouble all this year for uttering heresies about transgenderism. She actually seems to doubt that men can menstruate. Good grief!
This new book adds a further offense against woke sensibilities. One of the characters is a working-class Englishwoman. When speaking she drops her aitches, as working-class English people often do. Rowling records this on the page. Sample: "Well, 'e 'ad these 'ead pains and 'e was def'nitley nervous." End sample.
That, said the wokesters, is patronizing and snobbish. Believing that men can't menstruate is outrageous enough; believing also that English proles drop their aitches — this lady seriously needs canceling.
I suspect Rowling's real crime is too much imagination. What's all this magic and private eye stuff? Why isn't she writing about the challenges of being a fifty-something billionairess? They just can't figure it out.
Footnote to the footnote: If transcribed speech with the aitches dropped is hurtful to you, stay well away from Kipling.
Item: That the loathsome plague of wokeness has infected college administrators, fiction publishers, Wall Street MDs, corporate Human Resources managers, and showbiz airheads is bad enough, but just about bearable. What I find really hard to take is the degradation of science and math by this low-grade witch-doctoring.
So this story in the Daily Mail set my teeth a-grinding. It's about the Natural History Museum in London. Says the news story, quote:
Museum staff were told that as a result of the Black Lives Matter protests, the museum would undertake a review of room names, statues and collections that [inner quote] "could potentially cause offence." [End inner quote.]
They're paying special attention to Charles Darwin and the various collections they have relating to him. The voyage of the ship HMS Beagle to South America and the Pacific, the wokeness commissars are telling the museum staff, was a, quote, "colonialist scientific expedition" whose purposes included enabling greater British control of those areas.
So it looks as though Darwin's on the list to be canceled. There is irony here. Twenty years ago we conservative science geeks were defending Darwin against religious Creationists. Now we're going to have to defend him all over again against the atheist CultMarx mob. Well, at least we've had plenty of practice.
Item: Here's a sad story about the legacy of slavery.
A couple of lovers, aged early thirties, wished to get married. As wedding preparations were under way, however, the family of one of the couple — it's not clear which one — discovered that the other was descended from slaves. They promptly vetoed the wedding. The couple killed themselves in despair.
See, in their society you inherit social status from your ancestors. If your ancestors were slaves, you are low-class — even though slavery was abolished in your society 120 years ago. You are considered inferior, and excluded from many kinds of social participation.
Pretty grim, huh? But who are these benighted people, treating each other so cruelly because of their ancestors' misfortune? Well, they are the Igbo people of Nigeria. The British abolished slavery among them back in colonial times, in 1900, but the stigma still lingers.
Perhaps Frederick Baba could spare a few minutes from agonizing over his own sufferings at Goldman Sachs to give thanks for having gotten away from Nigeria, where the legacy of slavery is a real issue.
And I can't forbear noting from the BBC News story about this what must surely be a leading candidate for the title Clumsiest Acronym Ever. I'll just quote the relevant sentence, quote:
In 2017, 44-year-old Oge Maduagwu founded the Initiative for the Eradication of Traditional and Cultural Stigmatisation in our Society (Ifetacsios).
Item: Some coronavirus news, this from India.
A month ago a politician of that nation, name of Sukhbir Singh Jaunapuria, Member of Parliament from the state of Rajasthan, uploaded a video to his Facebook page in which he could be seen sitting shirtless in a pool of mud, blowing a conch shell and munching on some leaves. Doing thus, he told us — the whole deal: mud, shirtless, conch shell, leaves — doing thus would make you immune to COVID-19.
Alas: On Monday this week Mr Jaunapuria, along with other Members of India's Parliament, was tested for the virus. His test came up positive.
Moral of the story: Don't take health advice from politicians.
Item: This one I'm a wee bit ashamed of, but confession is good for the soul, so I'll confess. I record my sin here for that purpose, and also to show how deep a kindly, humane, gentle, patriotic soul like me is now sunk in fed-upness over the sorry state of our once-great cities.
I live in the outer-outer suburbs of New York City, and I rarely go in nowadays. I take the New York Post to read over breakfast, though, so I'm up to date on city news — which, under communist Mayor Bill De Blasio, is uniformly terrible.
So I was reading my Post this morning, and on page nine I saw a small news item about North Korea. Kim Jong-un, according to this story, has developed a powerful new missile that may — opinions differ — be able to deliver a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the U.S.A.
The headline, which was of course the first thing I saw, right under a picture of Kim, said, quote: Can Kim's new rocket hit NYC?
That's where I sinned. The thought that flashed across my mind unbidden was: I hope so.
May I be forgiven.
07 — Signoff. And that's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and for your many suggestions, comments, criticisms, and donations.
Let's have some signoff music. I mentioned Kipling back there, and I see from my Radio Derb spreadsheet that it's been a couple of years since I signed off with something from him. Here's a favorite of my Dad's: "Danny Deever."
If you don't know the poem, it's about a military execution. There's a page about it on my website telling you everything you could possibly want to know, and with an audio clip of me reading the poem. For signoff here, though, we'll hear it sung by the great Australian baritone Peter Dawson.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Peter Dawson, "Danny Deever."]