Wilfred Scawen Blunt’s diaries, pt. I

“The year 1888 saw the close of my activities in English public life.”

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Another bit on Wilfred Scawen Blunt

He was also a poet. His most famous work is Satan Absolved from 1899, which has a wonderful little section composed as a sort of response to Rudyard Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden. Not to linger on the subject of Kipling’s appreciation for imperialism, Scawen Blunt’s take on the subject is this:

The ignoble shouting crowds, the prophets of their Press,
Pouring their daily flood of bald self-righteousness,
Their poets who write big of the “White Burden.” Trash!
The White Man’s Burden, Lord, is the burden of his cash.
—There. Thou hast heard the truth. Thy world, Lord God of Heaven,
Lieth in the hands of thieves who pillage morn and even.

It goes without saying that this is miles away from Kipling’s idea of the white man’s burden, and the still-current view of the “white man” (Western nations) as the carrier of “civilization” in the form of democracy, in a process which is at best a sort of blind attempt to spread enlightenment through brutality, and at worst something much darker.

Sir Richard Francis Burton, typical colonialist?

I was first introduced to Wilfred Scawen Blunt (1840-1922) through selected, in-class primary source readings. He was a former British diplomat who traveled in the Middle East and India during the 1870s, settled with his wife in Egypt in 1880 and became involved in Egyptian politics and ran a horse farm. Most notably, Blunt was a critic of imperialism, and it seems some of the more notable entries of his diaries relate his arguments with British military men.

Continue reading “Sir Richard Francis Burton, typical colonialist?”

Concerning the riots, protests, etc.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” -Martin Luther King, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” 1963

“And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non­-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” -MLK, “The Other America” at Grosse Point High School

“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” MLK, Birmingham letter again

The blog will momentarily resume a regular posting schedule.

Moving on from that…

Since this is really a general interests blog, I thought I would go back to talking about history, culture, comics, and movies. As a breaking off point, here are a bunch of random thoughts:

  • Plato’s Charmides is an excellent dialogue. The primary thesis is that knowledge of good and evil is required by man to attain happiness and goodness. The central argument, however, is on the definition of temperance, and as in so many of Plato’s dialogues (the Euthyphro’s discussion of piety, for instance), that project finds itself in a series of dead ends as Socrates reveals contradictions in every definition. Raphael Demos in his introduction to B. Jowett’s complete translation of Plato tells us that “Plato, in his dialogues, is not giving formed and finished ideas to the reader.” His description of Plato’s philosophy is not in fixed/definite terms, nor resting on Socrates ultimately being correct in everything. Rather, Plato’s philosophy consists of a dynamic and persistent approach. The worth of Plato, in some sense, is therefore to perceive the problems of definition which Plato does, and to reappraise the definitions rejected by Socrates in his rigor.
  • I recently reviewed Police Story 2013 and was reminded on some level of New Police Story. Like the later film, Jackie Chan is undoubtedly the highlight of the film, as whenever he’s off-screen it feels suddenly kitschier (although it admittedly doesn’t get a lot more kitschy than the computer game introduction to the movie.) The earlier Police Story spin-off fails in that, unlike the latest effort, there are really no other actors in the film on Chan’s level.
  • The new-ish Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, is an entertaining character whose comics, for once, manage to broach cultural subjects in a satisfying and moderate way. The future was looking dark for non-white super heroes until pretty recently.
  • So-called two-dimensional Minecraft clone Terraria is a pleasure to play, and I’ve been doing so with a relative pretty regularly. I like it better, because to me Minecraft is a game about creating fantasy environments whereas Terraria is about locating, exploring, and surviving already existing and extremely distinct environments.
  • I am still the worst player in history, but I got a few Chess games in with a good friend recently.
  • Academic Hasa Azad hit the nail on the head when it comes to extremist Islam’s concept of modernism. It is sometimes difficult for Western observers to accept the current state of Islam as, in many ways, being the direct result of foreign intervention, but that is simply the case.
  • Before the semester kicks up in about a month, I hope to dig in to Thomas Wright’s biography of Richard Francis Burton. In many ways, Wright’s biography constitutes a polemic against the self-proclaimed sufi and so-called Arabian Knight. Unfortunately, although I love Burton, his stances on and attitudes towards other cultures are ethically problematic. Wright, however, attacks him on literary/linguistic ground, where he has no traction whatsoever. I also want to finish Friedrich Heer’s The Medieval World: A Period of Change and Ferment: Europe 1100-1350 which argues first and foremost that Europe in the 12th century was an open society, at every border and in most every way, with greater social mobility in and between societies than would be seen in the coming 13th and 14th centuries. Finishing with the first run of Jonah Hex comics, a few more Plato dialogues, and getting a good ways into Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica would be great, too.

One post on scientific racism (HBD)

Edit: Noticed that most of the views are from twitter, so I’d like to request that if you’re gonna talk shit on Twitter, do it directly so I can retweet your shit talking.
I didn’t even realize that scientific racism was still a thing until I was linked to the blog of JayMan, just one such racist (otherwise known as a proponent of human biodiversity.) I’m not one for debating bygone conclusions and frankly I don’t give a shit about the ad popurazum Ockham’s exploding digest fallacy, so expect to see opinions instead of arguments. If you want arguments, there’s a brilliant review of Nicholas Wade’s Troublesome Inheritance by Kenan Malik. Blogger Benjamin Steele also writes on this regularly, and schooled a racist on his own Amazon review recently. You can also see Heidi Beirich and Bob Moser report on “Human Biodiversity” here. Here, blogger bigWOWO talks about it. Blogger abagond talks about it here and here. Ken Weiss discusses it here. Magnus Hansen talks about HBD in the first of a four-part series here. The infamous and highly unfortunate PZ Myers has discussed it. Erasmussimo posted this on Dailykos. Here’s another post from Benjamin Steele. Blog Eurasian Sensation has a post on it here. Here, a blogger describes HBD as a cult.

I’m not going to debate this with anyone, ever. It’s not worth debating. If you are a proponent of HBD, I will not respond to you. You’re not worth my time. Here are a few thoughts on scientific racism under the guise of Human Biodiversity:

  1. HBD bloggers fail entirely to delineate cultural/social factors from genetic in order to show that genetic factors are the most important. Their attempts to do so are petty and pathetic. Even more pathetic are their attempts to assert that ethnic populations are now more advantaged than white populations (this constitutes a sort of double whammy when paired with their other assertions.)
  2. Accordingly, HBD bloggers seem oblivious to all of the work done in the social sciences which provide more satisfactory explanations for the phenomena they bloat up and pin on genetics.
  3. HBD bloggers consistently ignore contrasting evidence.
  4. Accordingly, HBD bloggers fail to respond to criticisms on more than superficial levels.
  5. HBD bloggers consistently misconstrue history.
  6. Accordingly, some HBD proponents believe Jews are intelligent because they were selected for moneylending. These proponents think this because they are fucking morons.
  7. HBD bloggers consistently misconstrue science.
  8. Accordingly, HBD bloggers have a bad grasp on philosophy and philosophy of science. JayMan says we should just use Ockham’s Razor. What’s that, philosophy? There are a million and one anti-razors because Ockham’s Razor is a load of shit? Who’da thunk it? He also says “facts are facts.” Well, Kuhn and Popper think “facts” have a lot to do with current scientific theory. You could even say that our scientific judgment relies entirely on the current dominating theories. In JayMan’s case, scientific judgment relies entirely on thinly-veiled hatred of other blacks.
  9. Some HBD bloggers make the vague attempt to reject the label of racist, but their fellow proponents consistently put the lie to them: one commenter on JayMan’s blog (asdf, here) put forward an interesting “quandry,” that of his black girlfriend. She is “cathedral in idealogy,” “above average IQ,” but probably not “smart enough to overide her cathedral upbringing, especially since she is black.” He feels that if they have kids, his quandary is to figure out how to stop his “half & halfs” from “hanging out with blacks and acting black.” JayMan’s response is warm.
  10. Frankly, I have more respect for people who are willing to just come out and say they’re full-on racist or supremacist and would love to see scientific evidence backing their ridiculous and morally and intellectually bankrupt views. That’s right, I would rather have a beer with an admitted Klansman than an HBD blogger, because at least the Klansman is fucking honest.

Let’s be clear on one thing here. I’m not saying variation between populations isn’t a thing. Clearly it is, in a vast number of ways. On that basis, I’m not necessarily opposed to “Human Biodiversity,” insofar as the legitimate field of sociobiology. And I would even buy it that some HBD proponents are just fucking idiots and legitimately don’t understand that HBD is racism. But it is. Rest assured this marks the end as well as the beginning of my time with the odious subject of scientific racism (although I tend to have a hankering for 19th century anthropology and naturalism, so maybe not.)

Finally, because this was frankly funner than getting pissed off about modern-day scientific racism:

Blogger hbdchick claims that the breaking down of Mid-East civilization boils down to clan conflict, and connects it to “father’s brother’s daughter marriage.” That’s not unimportant, but so ridiculously far from the only factor I don’t know where to start. She also seems ignorant of some points that aren’t in line with her arguments: for instance, Abd al-Rahman III was the son of a Frank and grandson of a Basque princess [Joseph F. O’Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, p. 117]. Hardly the result of clannishness or “fbd marriage.” Further, although clan conflict can be said to have factored into the falling apart of the caliphate in Cordoba, such political situations are too complex to boil down to grr, I’m a clan, I don’t like other clans. O’Callaghan states that the dictator Almanzor (Ibn Abi Amir) hastened the destruction of the caliphate by excluding the caliph from his share in the government [126]. From then on, ineffectual caliphs was a rule of thumb until the office of caliph was abolished. The taifa period following was no more about abisiyyah. Good old Sam Naghrela, for instance, came to political power over a population of mostly Arabs. The late antiquity decentralization of the Arabized world could be attributed to ambition as much as anything: historians Ochsenwald and Fisher note that many upstart dynasties had military forces composed of Turks and Berbers, rather than fellow Arabs [The Middle East: A History, p. 70]. Additionally, historian James Gelvin (in The Modern Middle East: A History) does a great job at demonstrating that modern Middle East history is determined primarily by foreign intervention, largely in the form of the mandate system which arbitrarily set the current dividing lines of national entities in the ME. I might also say that hbdchick seems to put an odd emphasis on Arabic civilization falling apart. This is strange, given that the most successful caliphates constituted empires rivaling any ancient, medieval, or modern-day empires. The Ottomans, not Arabic nor a caliphate per se but the last great Islamic empire, lasted for a ridiculously long time (ca. 1300-1900 AD) and eventually became an admitted European power.

The visual cliff’s notes of Dangerous Female Teacher (NSFW)

Friendly warning: do not read this if you aren’t into pretty awesome trashy horror manga, mostly in the realm of body horror. If you don’t know what body horror is, ask yourself if you like horror, excessive gore, monsters, or images of physical degeneration and mutation. If you do, body horror may be up your alley and I encourage you to read on.

Also, if anyone knows where to find more like this from the same studio, hit me the fuck up or post a comment here.

Continue reading “The visual cliff’s notes of Dangerous Female Teacher (NSFW)”