Cuddling with Disaster

From the Looming Cloud department: In Taki’s Magazine John Derbyshire quotes Tim Wise, a white guy of positively asphyxiating virtue, to the effect that, what with high birth rates among American non-whites, the country will soon, much to Tim’s satisfaction, be chiefly non-white, at which point the knives will come out. The threat is clear:

Wise: “In the pantheon of American history, conservative old white people have pretty much always been the bad guys, the keepers of the hegemonic and reactionary flame….It’s OK. Because in about forty years, half the country will be black or brown. And there is nothing you can do about it.…We just have to be patient. And wait for you to pass into that good night, first politically, and then, well.…”

He makes clea, though unconincingly—he is worth reading—that the whites whose political demise he wishes are only those ol’ racist, conservative, etc. Not goodwhites, like Tim. See, once a dark majority is in place, all right-thinking whites, such as Tim, will live in harmony with the new rulers, who will be without racial hostility toward the pale minority. He is crazy as a bedbug in a moonshine jar. Races with little in common do not hold hands and sing Kum Bah Yah, however much we may wish it.

Now, the racial threat to whites is perhaps not quite so dire as Tim hopes. In particular, an alliance of Latinos and blacks against whites is very far from certain. I live in Mexico, and know Mexicans as friendly and courteous folk who run a functioning upper-Third World country with airlines, internet, telecommunications and all the trinkets of modernity. Switzerland it isn’t, but neither is it Detroit. My eleven years here have been 99.9% free of racial hostility. There is today little love between blacks and browns in America and, to the extent that Latinos rise economically, they will very likely align themselves with the other successful groups.

But a broader question, if I may. The well-being of everyone in the United States depends on economic competitiveness, which depends on high levels of trained intelligence. Who has it?

Here a little knowledge is needed to recognize how dependent the country is on the brains of…whites. If you grow up, with minimal education, among cars and television sets, you can come unconsciously to think that, like air, they just exist. Actually they are products of brains. Whose brains? Mr. Wise might reflect on this.

In a perfect world, we would all be brilliant. Yet the world does not seem to be perfect. In practice we all depend on the intelligence of those able to discover, invent, and manage. And that intelligence almost invariably belongs to whites, Indians, and North Asians. I wish it were not so, but it is. I believe in giving to all young the oportunity and encouragement to shine intellectually. But if it doesn’t work? Are we wise to yearn for the dominance of the resentful who can’t, or at any rate haven’t, over those who can and do?

I do not mean to be cruel, but it is worth asking: How many of any age in Detroit can recognize this, from eighth-grade algebra. You know, what pubescent white kids do.

It would be wonderful if black kids flourished mathematically, as it would obviate many problems, but they haven’t and show no signs of ever doing so. I believe that Latin kids can, but they mostly haven’t. That leaves….

How about elementary college material, Tim? When I was a white student in college we could explain s-p hybrid bonding orbitals—freshman chemistry forty years ago for us ofays. How about “The entropy of a closed system tends to remain the same or to increase”? What is that? An excellent exposition is found in Kittel’s Thermal Physics. How many in Newark have read it, or could?

We need people who understand these matters. Are source-drain-gate parts of a kitchen sink or a transistor? What do they do? What is a tracking thermistor? Q = inductive reactance over resistance, X L/R. What are those? Anger at evil white people is good fun, yes, but somebody has to make stuff work.

Pretty much everything that keeps us from squatting in grass huts and crushing lice was invented by, yes, white males. In this I am not being racially arrogant: I am quite aware that the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Indians and so on can play this game quite as well as white men. They have begun, and begun most impressively. But these do not spend their time complaining about trials caused by their own incapacities.

Those who can, do. The rest bitch.

But back to my point, that the unlettered do not realize the extent to which they depend on things they have never heard of, that they did not invent and probably couldn’t understand. How many of those whose coming rule you celebrate,Tim, know the purpose of a partial derivative of a function of two variables? Second semester, freshman calculus.

I am just a dumb-ass white gringo in Mexico, but I can grasp elementary math. I do not overrate myself: I know what a partial is, but do not have the talent to be even a fifth-rate mathematician. (I wish I were being charmingly modest, but I’m not.) Yet I have sufficient self-respect to acknowledge my debt to men, uncounted thousands of them, who by being smarter than I am have made life tolerable for me and mine. What do you think of them apples, Tim?

Your angry “people of color” owe everything that lets them complain in comfort to such white men as Shockley (the transistor), Claude Shannon (information theory), Carl Friedrich Gauss (pretty much everything), Boole (Boolean algebra), Newton and Leibniz (calculus, classical mechanics)…and countless other white men they have never heard of either.

We’ve been at ti for a while, Tim. It started with the Greeks, as for example with Euclid’s Postulates. I note that those ancient white men were smart enough to recognize the problem with the Fifth Postulate, opening the door much later to hyperbolic geometry and other neat stuff–you know, Riemann, Lobachevski, Bolyai, guys like that. You do know, right?

You have in all likelihood a high life expectancy, Tim. Why is this, do you suppose? Maybe you believe that when you come down with pneumonia, and it’s cured in a couple of days, your survival is something built into the nature of things. Not really. Much of our life span springs from medical science founded on chemistry and cellular biology discovered by…white men. Many of their recent advances spring from techniques that few have heard of and thus don’t appreciate. Think of RFLP (that’s Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism, Tim, as I’ m sure you know but most don’t) and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) and magnetic-resonance imaging and…well, you know the kind of thing. From white men.

White men discovered elementary biology. How many in Newark have even heard of, say, endoplasmic reticula, ribosomes, deoxyribonucleic acid, transfer RNA? Degeneracy of the codon alphabet? How many nuclear bases in a codon? In RNA, what pyrimidine in DNA does uracyl replace?

This is just freshman biology, Tim. Real students, which I am not, go on to infinitely more difficult biochem in grad school. They are overwhelmingly white, though disproportionately Asian or Indian. You might think about that.

And you might think about this: The almost infinite number of disciplines that keep most of us fat, dumb, and happy—a condition that is about all most of us can hope for in this life—are products of the intelligence of white men. If others want to play this game, and have the brains, well and good. But in today’s political clime in America, we actually enshrine incapacity as authentic or democratic or of the people or whatever. We dumb down everything for the emotional benefit of the incapable. The whole thrust in America seems to be to lower standards and punish competence and intelligence. And anyone who notices who has them.

As a white male (though of limited talent) I am happy that my species benefits others. But when the country is, as you so ardently hope, in the hands of people who have produced almost nothing, will we really be better off? Any of us? Think Uganda.

This, in the long run, probably in the short run, isn’t going to work. Boom boxes don’t grow on trees, Tim. And they only look simple.


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