One of academia’s handiest bullshit-masking tricks is question-flipping.
One of Rotten Chestnuts’ four regular readers (I think it’s Nate Winchester; please correct me if not) likes to quote Jonah Goldberg’s pithy insight that it’s not poverty that demands explanation, but wealth. I’d like you to imagine yourself captured by an evil genie, who tells you he’s going to insert your brain into either A) a modern trailer-dweller, or B) any famous historical figure from the 19th century or earlier. Pick whomever you like — Queen Victoria, Julius Caesar, Ramses II, Genghis Khan, Cesare Borgia, Shakespeare… anyone, so long as his life ended in 1900 or before, or choose Tornado Acres Trailer Park.*
If you know anything about history, you take the trailer. If for no other reason than trailers have aspirin, antibiotics, and air conditioning. Those three things alone make modern life unimaginably more comfortable than even royalty experienced back in the days. If you don’t believe me, try it — wait until a nice sultry summer’s day, then turn off the a/c and lock your medicine cabinet. I bet you don’t make it past lunchtime.
This is a simple, obvious, irrefutable point, but as Goldberg keeps pointing out, almost nobody ever makes it, or thinks through the implications. Politics in 21st century America assumes a baseline of material prosperity that goes well beyond the wildest dreams of science fiction from even the Fifties and Sixties. Where on earth do we get this idea?
Part of it is simply that familiarity breeds contempt, of course, but some of it is much more insidious. You’ve probably heard of “postcolonialism,” for instance, and even if you haven’t heard the term, you know the arguments — the Third World is so screwed up because the white man wrecked the place; anything that’s wrong with, say, Mexico is due to the “legacy of colonialism.” It’s one of the pillars of Obama’s worldview, for instance.
Question-flipping, Goldberg-style, is the only way they can get away with this. The obvious question should be, “well, if Whitey screwed it all up, why was life so much better when he was in charge?” Tanzania, for instance, had a pretty good standard of living back when the Germans ran the place. The average Indian peasant was obviously better off in the Raj’s glory days than in all but the last few years of independence. The difference between Ian Smith’s Rhodesia and Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is too gruesome to mention. Ditto South Africa pre- and post-apartheid. How many Average Joes, do you think, would happily invite Whitey back if they knew this?
The point of this exercise isn’t to show that wogs are incapable of self-governance, or some other Victorian-era bullshit. I simply want you to see the disconnect between what reasonably informed, but non-indoctrinated, people would conclude from this set of facts, versus what the ivory tower concludes. Because it’s obvious that Whitey wasn’t running everything out there in the colonies. One of the most cited figures in Postcolonial Studies — and you’ll never find a more wretched hive of fact-avoidance than “___ Studies” — is that Britain ran the Raj with something like 100,000 full-time white folks…. at most. Clearly there were a LOT of talented, dedicated, hardworking Indians making the Raj go. Why, then, did it all go to shit in 1947? Ditto just about any colonial possession of just about any European power — grotesqueries like Belgian Congo aside, most everywhere was run mostly by natives, most all of the time. Where did they go?
That’s the question you’ll never see asked, because the answer is “they swallowed Leftist ideology, which is as utterly destructive of personal integrity and work ethic as it is of infrastructures and economies.” Pick any country you like. Tanzania elected Julius Nyerere, who is still the collectivist wet dream in many parts of academia. He managed to ruin the economy and start a famine within a few years. And Nyerere was just dumb and ideology-blinded; he wasn’t batshit insane like Idi Amin or Mobutu Sese Seko or Francisco Macias Nguema.
But question-flip it, and you can have a long and lucrative career flogging Whitey with 50 cent words.
*yeah, I know, Queen Victoria died in 1901. Forget it, Hoover, he’s rolling.