My Facebook friend Kathy Shaidle invited me to join a Facebook group yesterday. (BTW, for those of you who are not familiar with her, you need to go to her blog Five Feet of Fury and buy her books and frequent her blog. She writes with the clarity and power of a laser death-ray and she can be very funny too.) The theme of the group was, “Stand up for Margaret Wente”. Wente has run afoul of the political correctness crowd in Canada for speaking plainly about things that the PCers want to pretend don’t exist and many of them are clamoring for her to lose her job over it.
Kathy, many of you will know is a member of a select group of some of the best bloggers in Canada who have been subjected to inquisition and excoriation for speaking plainly so she is more than a little sensitive on this point.
I joined immediately and found that the discussion trail at the bottom of the page was full of wandering moonbats and inexplicable bloviators. Sometimes I simply can’t resist the temptation playing whack-a-whack-o but the trail at the bottom of the join the group page was just too target-rich. Embarrassing in a way and I have ADHD- just too much stimulation…
The I happened upon the “discussion board” which was much less populated. I put up a post in support of Wente and we were off to the races. There were a few satisfying encounters. There was a “Poopy-header” http://breathofthebeast.blogspot.com/2007/05/no-poopy-heads-allowed.html named Hollingsworth who tried the old back-door moral equivalency gambit of calling Wente’s article an “atrocity”. Then I got to take a swipe at a poor old left-over anti-colonialist leftie trying to flog the old canards of colonialism and racism. But the one with staying power was someone named Antonia Zebrisias. I didn’t know it at the time but she is a newspaper columnist in Toronto.
In a sly aside she asked, “Mr. Ben Moshe, a question. Are you really concerned with American indigenous people here, or indigenous people in general?” Anyone with a Jewish surname knows what THAT question is about. So I answered (edited to remove typos):
I suspect the tone of your question is a geopolitical sneer so I will just say that “Indigenous” is a foolish, guilt-ridden concept and one which allows all manner of "I was there first!" quibbling. I address all of the questions in great detail in my two blog posts on the subject. In case you missed them above here they are again- just in case you, Mr. Hollingsworth or anyone else would like to engage some real information rather than slinging sneers and jibes...
My two basic posts on Indians can be found here:
I could see immediately what she was about. She had less of a position on this than she did a pose. She answered with one of those mind-numbingly indirect and unfocussed replies that you get when someone has no clue what they are talking about, doesn’t care to to do the research or thinking required to turn it into a position but won’t give up on their “pose”. Here she is baffeling us with movement and “stuff”:
“With respect, Mr. Ben Moshe, I have repeatedly tried but I cannot get past your inability to separate your apparent anti-Muslim agenda from any thoughts you might have regarding indigenous peoples.
I also am trouble by your constant blanket referral to ''Indian culture,'' as if the Incas were the Aztecs were the Mayans were the Anazasi were the Cree were the Sioux were the Iroquois were the Haida. Their language, art, architecture, even gods were dissimilar.
Furthermore, referring back to your blog post, many of these were matriarchal societies, a fact that the Christian invaders could not and would not deal with. The breakdown of that structure caused irreparable damage, as it did with the African-Americans whose families the slaveowners had no regard for.
As for definitions of savage, well, if you lived on the plain or in the high desert, you were hardly of the forest now, were you?”
It’s all very light and breezy sounding but quite subversive. Here is the outline of her argument- right out of the liberal check list of anti-western, multiculturalists’ playbook:
Lying about trying to understand
Back door accusation of Islamophobia- Implying that if you are Zionist –or even Jewish you are anti-Muslim
Silly, hair-splitting distinction about “culture(s)”
Name dropping pretense to real knowledge about Indians
New-age twaddle about Matriarchal societies
BAD,BAD Christians, Blame the BAD Westerners
What is even more disturbing though is the style- the tone. It is light and breezy- an attempt to disarm. La-de-da- she says, I just tried and tried but I don’t under stand… I’ll just rattle off names of Indian tribes, that’ll impress ya… Blah blah blah. It reminds me of Strunk and White’s caution in The Elements of Style, “Do not affect a breezy manner. The breezy style is often the work of an egocentric, the person who imagines that everything that pops into his head is of general interest and that uninhibited prose creates high spirits and carries the day.”
I was not going to let it go by:
“With equal respect Ms Zerbisias, I think you are right about some things and mistaken about other things. One thing on which you err is your accusation that I am possessed of an anti-muslim agenda. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am only pointing out that that cohort of Muslims who insist on believing (among other preposterous things) that I and all other westerners- yourself included by the way- are nothing but pigs, dogs or monkeys and that it is their duty to murder us- me and my family and you and yours- for the greater glory of Islam, should be considered a bad influence and resisted.
Even if you were a Muslim yourself, and a nice moderate one, in the prophesied days of the Caliphate (or in many Muslim countries today) that picture of you with a bottle, classy little open necked jacket and ciggy would have the local morality police on your case in a jiffy! Women in Iran and Saudi Arabia have been beaten, beheaded, stoned and hanged for the like. No, I'm not anti-muslim but I'll defend your right not to wear a burkha with my life.
On the other hand, you are quite right in that you seem to lack something (patience, fortitude, reading comprehension?) to get past that thought and get on with some of the more difficult reasoning and evidence that I have laid out in painstaking detail and at exhaustive length both here and in those posts you mention.
Another thing you are correct on is that I wrote of "Indian culture" instead of Indian cultures for although I unintentionally implied by that that there was one culture that was less sophisticated and not as technologically advanced than the western culture, there were,in fact, a whole continent full of them. Some of them were more advanced than others but you are quite correct in reminding me that they were all, every last one of them, less advanced than the West. Thanks for that!
You'll pardon me, I hope, if I point out that all of those tribes you mention practiced bloody warfare on their neighbors. Moreover, the more complex the culture the bloodier were their religions. The Incas sacrificed children to their Gods, The Aztecs took captives from neighboring peoples and cut their still beating hearts out of their chests and held them up as offering to their Gods.
Please, look again and consider your last sentence. It seems, at first to be something of a non-sequitur but underneath that appearance is something more dangerous. You see, what you have just written is that "everything is relative." It all depends on your point of view. No culture is any better than any other. That is simply not so- If you had lived in one of those wonderful matriarchal Indian cultures, the other women would turn you and your multicultural vagueness out into the wilderness. Or- just try going to Iran or Saudi Arabia and try it out.”
I had clearly let her get to me but it made me think. I could have saved myself the trouble of this long response if I had only thought of the Elements of Style criteria first. When someone is bloviating and posing as opposed to taking a reasoned position, it makes sense that it will show in their style. I have always believed that good writing , though not a guarantee, is a good clue that there is a good mind at work. A blithe response is almost a dead giveaway of a blithering idiot at the keyboard. I am going to try to use E.B. White's and Will Strunk’s test first in the future.