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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The white-man-is-the-devil trope

All the recent publicity and retrospectives about Muhammad Ali stirred me to watch a few clips of his fights; he really could move beautifully. I was also curious to see if he had actually said himself that all white people are the devil, as some had recently mentioned. Sure enough, he had, as you can see for yourself here and here.

There's no point in calling Ali a "racist," since that term has been rendered all but meaningless through overuse. It's far more interesting to ponder whether what he said was true, and what the implications of his statement are.

In a sense, Ali was right: white people did invent bombs that rained from the sky, in fact created just about all of the current weapons of mass destruction, and they did conquer and subjugate other peoples. And, more specifically of interest to Ali, the white man did enslave the black man

You can hardly argue with those claims. But was it a matter of being more evil? It's not as if the other races didn't invent weapons of their own -- the bow and arrow, the spear, the club, and the sword -- and use them, to fatal effect. The other races simply lacked the inventiveness to fashion better weapons.

As far as whites having conquered other peoples, once again, that's unquestionably true. But there is no race on earth whose history does not encompass war and murder and slavery and rape. Blacks enslaved other blacks in Africa (and then sold them to whites for transport to the New World). Genghis Khan conquered all of Asia and eastern Europe. The Triple Alliance of the Aztec Empire, especially Tenochtitlan, conquered all within reach. And tribes in South America would regularly raid neighboring villages and steal each other's women.

The only difference seems to be, whites were simply better at extending their dominion.

Does that make the white man the devil? Maybe it does. But, as long as we're being honest, let's admit why it's so.

It's because he was more resourceful.

And, if the white man is to be called the devil for having invented the atomic bomb, should he also be called an angel for having invented the refrigerator, the telephone, the automobile, the airplane, the artificial heart, and so on?

Somehow, no one ever seems to see it that way.

The white-man-is-the-devil mindset is really not all that far in spirit from the cargo cult mentality of the Melanesian Islanders: "White man have powerful juju, he can rain down water in bottles [or death] from the sky."

The Devil, after all, did have supernatural powers. (And to a primitive mind, an object which can fly does seem magical.)

The idea that the rest of humanity are just powerless victims vis-a-vis the white man is not only passive and defeatist, but cedes mental superiority to him as well. Had Muhammad Ali really thought about the implications of what he was saying, he might have been a tad more reticent.

24 comments:

Mark Caplan said...

What astonishes me is the amazing comeback of the West after so many centuries of subjugation by North African Muslims. By all rights, the Saracens and the other Muslim conquerors should have annihilated the West. That the West, handicapped with its tender, effeminate religion, beat back the Muslims and for a time ruled the world seems almost miraculous, something no one could have predicted.

Since some group has to be on top at any point in history, I'm glad it was my group during my lifetime. If in the future white liberals choose to cede Western dominance to black Africans or North African Muslims, I hope they enjoy the shit they and their descendants will be eating, assuming the blacks or Muslims are favorably disposed to let them live at all.

Steven said...

The thing that struck me when I saw one of those 'white man is the devil' interviews (I think it was the Dick Cavett show during his exile...he was overweight) was how naive he was about non-whites. He seemed to think non-white tribes were innocuous and peaceful creatures in some kind of la la land before whites arrived and whites were the source of all evil. It was very simplistic thinking. He was not educated and was repeating what he'd been taught by the nation of Islam. Dick Cavett tried to point out how brutal the Incas had been and argued not to idealise pre-columbian Americans I think.

The African population has supposedly increased from 1 or 200 million in 1700 to a billion in 2016 and is projected to reach 4 billion by 2100. That's the result of contact with Europeans, modern medicine etc. Black lives matter....you're welcome Africa.

Then again, i've never invented anything myself...I'm just as much a beneficiary of people cleverer than myself as Africans are.

Steven said...

I don't think Christianity in the middle ages was all that tender and effeminate.

John Craig said...

Mark --
My initial reaction to your comment was yeah, that is pretty amazing. But there are two mitigating points. First, the Saracens and Muslims who dominated Europe really only dominated parts of south Europe (most Iberia and Eastern Turkey), and so never had much of an influence, if any, on the rest of Europe. Second, the Muslims who dominated were (I think) of mostly Semitic (Arab) stock, so it wasn't as if the interbreeding that went on was with the lower IQ's from further south. (The Roman and Greek empires did import some Nubian slaves, who were eventually absorbed into the southern Italian and Greek bloodlines.)

As far as "I hope they enjoy the shit they will be eating," unfortunately, the liberals will bring everybody else down with themselves. And that seems to be the direction we're headed in right now.

John Craig said...

Steve --
Ali was completely uneducated, no question. His grasp of history was limited, and he basically just swallowed everything that Elijah Muhammad told him. And yes, the picture he paints is of the nonwhite races living in the Garden of Eden before the white man in the form of a snake appeared.

I haven't invented anything which has helped mankind either, most of us are in the same boat. But I also don't complain about how the white man who did invent around 98% of modern inventions is the devil.

John Craig said...

Steven --
True enough, though it sure is now. Now it's all about turn the other cheek; back during the Inquisition, it was all about we'll torture you until you admit you consorted with the Devil, then we'll kill you in some gruesome manner. The Crusaders weren't exactly sissies either.

Steven said...

There is also this to consider:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_contributions_to_Medieval_Europe


The Islamic world had its golden age from 8th to 11th centuries. While Europe had stagnated, the Arabs were making exciting advancements in mathematics and science. These were later transmitted to Europe, along with some ancient Greek texts that the Arabs had preseved. The Arabs built on the ancient Greeks and then passed the baton back to Europe. This was apparently a significant factor in the renaissance and the development of science in Europe.

Hard as it is to believe now, there was a time when the Arabic world was the vanguard of civilisation.

.....

Later on, by the 15th century, China was probably the most advanced civilisation in the world.

What is amazing, according to Niall Ferguson, is that over the next 5 centuries, Europe came to dominate the world. He was fond of saying that if you'd looked around in 1450, you never would have guessed. Compared to the the dazzling cities of the orient and even what the Ottoman empire had to offer, Europe was an unlikely candidate: a plague infested backwater with terrible sanitation and constantly warring polities.

Steven said...

My point is that its true that the Muslims tried unsuccessfully to invade Europe (and good job too) but they didn't so much hinder as aid Europe's development. They provided a cultural and intellectual shot in the arm in the middle ages.

Now is a different story of course.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Thank you for that, quite educational. Though 1450 is about as late as you could have gone with that comparison. Da Vinci was born in 1452, Copernicus in 1473, Michelangelo in 1475, and after them Europe pretty much never looked back. The rest of the world never had men like these, or a Galileo, or a Newton, or a Darwin. Maybe it took a weakening of that overly strong, non-effeminate religion to allow these types of heretics to flourish. Had the Inquisition still been going as strong, they would likely never have spoken up the same way.

Rifleman said...

You can hardly argue with those claims.

Sure you can on the grounds of "essentialism".

And yes, the picture he paints is of the nonwhite races living in the Garden of Eden before the white man in the form of a snake appeared.

Isn't that the basic imagery of all the race-liberals, social justice warriors, "racism as America's Original Sin" advocates?

John Craig said...

Rifleman --
Essentialism? I was just speaking in terms of the bare facts; Ali was right, the white man did do all those things. Were they essential? I guess so, if you want to win wars. But what seems to escape the Left is that it was the same minds, or at least the same type of minds, which invented the atomic bomb as well as the computer and the television and the space ship and the iron lung and virtually everything else that separates us from the hunters and gatherers.

Ha, you're right, that IS the picture liberals love to draw. It would all be peace and love and Kumbaya if not for the white man.

Quartermain said...

I never liked Muhammed Ali by Monas TV Walter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnScuchi_SU

John Craig said...

Allan --
Just watched it; I think it's mislabeled, it's really not about why she dislikes Ali personally, it's more about what she dislikes about Islam. And as a woman who basically fled from Somalia, she certainly knows whereof she speaks. But as I said earlier, I think Ali's conversion was not about religion so much as racial solidarity, and is more understandable in the context of the segregated Kentucky in which he grew up. The woman is right, of course, about Islam, and about the original Muhammad having been a slaveowner and the hypocrisy of converting; but I don't see that as a reason to harbor a personal dislike for a boxer who was basically ignorant of history and didn't really know what he was doing. I actually liked Ali, despite all his flaws, and will explain in a post later today or tomorrow (I realize everyone is sick of hearing about Ali at this point, but want to say a little more ago thin anyway.)

Bob Wallace said...

Ali's IQ was 78, he admitted he could barely read and right, his own friends called him a moron, and if he had not been able to box he would have been a janitor. Even as a kid I saw though him as a big-mouthed black with nothing inside him - empty as a balloon.

Steven said...

"Maybe it took a weakening of that overly strong, non-effeminate religion to allow these types of heretics to flourish. Had the Inquisition still been going as strong, they would likely never have spoken up the same way."

Sure...I don't know much about it but perhaps the protestant reformation had something to do with it.

I think the church probably both blocked progress and facilitated it. The first universities were Christian institutions. Christian theologians like st Thomas Aquinas tried to reconcile Christianity with Aristotle and the scholastics developed systems of critical thinking and reasoning. Thus the church helped the lay some of the institutional and intellectual foundations of further progress, as well as trying to block some of that progress at times in defence of Christian beliefs.

('Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics ("scholastics," or "schoolmen") of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100 to 1700, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending dogma in an increasingly pluralistic context.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholasticism)

John Craig said...

Bob --
That 78 number has been getting a fair amount of play recently, but I honestly believe he was smarter than that, some of that may have just been glibness without much intelligence behind that, but still, 78 is just 8 points above the cutoff for retarded, and he didn't come across retarded.

John Craig said...

Steven --
That's possible. I honestly know so little about it I'm not going to even try to give an opinion on that.

Anonymous said...

hey, I saw an article I thought you might enjoy

(no need to publish this comment this is a HEADS-UP is all
also it won't flick my ears if you don't reference it in the blog,
it's cooooo)

http://www.medicaldaily.com/art-charm-psychopaths-good-thing-389033

John Craig said...

Anon --
It's relevant to this blog, so I'm happy to post it. The study is interesting, but I have to wonder about its methodology. they asked each participant -- some of whom were sociopaths, or psychopaths, as they put it -- to choose two coworker who would rate their performance? And then those were the two people they got their feedback from? Every sociopath knows of at least two people who will vouch for them, who have been swept up by their charm and who don't yet realize what the sociopath is all about. So of course these sociopaths can get good marks at work. The thing about a sociopath is, the will ALWAYS disappoint those who get to know them well enough, and leave a trail of bitter people behind them. That's just the nature of sociopathy. If you interviewed those same two people a couple years later, they'd probably have a different tale to tell.

No question, though, that sociopaths can be charming, especially at first. No one is bette at making a dynamic first impression than a sociopath.

Rona said...

John wrote: In a sense, Ali was right: white people did invent bombs that rained from the sky, in fact created just about all of the current weapons of mass destruction, and they did conquer and subjugate other peoples. And, more specifically of interest to Ali, the white man did enslave the black man

Blacks enslaved other blacks in Africa (and then sold them to whites for transport to the New World).

Africans sold their black slaves to mostly Jewish dealers who resold them to White and Jewish plantation owners in Americas and to Arabs in the east (who already owned European slaves). As you said, many races practiced slavery, and yet Whites are singled out for it, and not singled out for they one thing they did alone, namely, outlaw slavery and condemn it as immoral.

It's so annoying how history is being distorted because even the institution of slavery was practiced differently in Christian vs. Muslim countries.

Americans had multiple rules on how slaves were to be treated, in most cases better than Irish and Chinese workers. Unlike slaves, who were property and therefore valuable, poor Whites and Chinese were easily replaceable and treated like trash.

There are accounts of bosses putting the Irish into the most dangerous jobs that often resulted in serious back injury and blacks into less dangerous work because they had no obligations to poor whites and asians.

In Muslim countries Arab slave-owners would castrate black men and often work them to death and use black women as wet nurses for their children.

The result of this different approach to slavery is that among Arabs there's no vibrant Black community bitching about slavery and lecturing Muslims on their privilege, while enjoying legally protected status and committing atrocious amount of violent crime.


Although, in light of this, I suppose the fact that blacks who call white man the Devil embraced Islam is kind of funny.

Rona

John Craig said...

Rona --
Great points. Whites were the only ones to condemn slavery as immoral and fight a war among themselves to outlaw it.

I never quite got the converting-to-Islam thing among American blacks either. The only contact sub-Saharans used to have with Muslims were with the ones who came to enslave them. I hadn't realized how much worse they treated their slaves than Europeans did until you told me, though.

Rona said...

John Craig said...
I never quite got the converting-to-Islam thing among American blacks either. The only contact sub-Saharans used to have with Muslims were with the ones who came to enslave them.


I believe American blacks are largely ignorant of historical reality of slavery and adopted Islam as a way to differentiate themselves from Christian whites.

Islam is a strong, masculine, warlike religion that innately appeals to them. People have a need for religion and I don't see them going for Hinduism or Buddhism. Mental differences between Africans and Asians are much greater and I doubt that religious concepts and practices so alien could be adopted by blacks.

Rona

John Craig said...

Rona --
True. I'd never even thought of that, but yes, I can see how Hinduism and Buddhism would not appeal to blacks.

Mark Caplan said...

Rona wrote: "I believe American blacks [...] adopted Islam as a way to differentiate themselves from Christian whites."

Valid point. African Americans strive to differentiate themselves from whites in almost every respect for fear of being labeled an Uncle Tom, "acting white," or of not being real.

If we're talking degrees of depravity, the (Christian, of course) Spanish and Portuguese imposed far more cruelty on their Caribbean and South American slaves than the Christian British and later Americans imposed on their slaves in America.

Bernard Lewis in Islam in History noted that Muslims ruled over the Iberian Peninsula for hundreds of years and unavoidably contaminated the inhabitants with, among other things, Islamic attitudes toward slaves and the institution of slavery, which might account for why the Spanish and Portuguese so brutally mistreated their plantation slaves.