September 14, 2010

Obama and anticolonialism

Dinesh D'Souza has written a cover story for Forbes, "How Obama Thinks," that argues that "anticolonialism" is an important part of Obama's intellectual make-up.

D'Souza's article has just about everybody howling with rage. It's not a terribly well-done article -- D'Souza's attempts to draw straight lines between Obama's intellectual heritage and various current Obama Administration policies are often silly. Yet, the outraged response to D'Souza's piece just shows how few people out of the millions who have bought the President's memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance have actually read the book, and how many fewer have read it with the care it deserves.

Anticolonialism, especially anti-neocolonialism, is merely a subtheme in Dreams from My Father (the main theme is, not surprisingly, "race and inheritance"), but it's a totally obvious one, although everything is filtered through Obama's self-absorption. Here, for example, are some excerpts from Chapter 15 of Dreams from My Father, the first chapter about Obama's trip to Kenya in 1988:
CHAPTER FIFTEEN

I FLEW OUT OF HEATHROW Airport under stormy skies. .. a pale, gangly youth, still troubled with acne-took the seat beside me. 

“Nairobi’s a beautiful place, I hear. Wouldn’t mind stopping off there one of these days. Going to Johannesburg, I am.” ... “But then the rest of Africa’s falling apart now, isn’t it? Least from what I can tell. The blacks in South Africa aren’t starving to death like they do in some of these Godforsaken countries. Don’t envy them, mind you, but compared to some poor bugger in Ethiopia-” ...

I pulled out a book from my carry-on bag and tried to read. It was a portrait of several African countries written by a Western journalist [most likely The Africans by David Lamb of the Los Angeles Times] who’d spent a decade in Africa; an old Africa hand, he would be called, someone who apparently prided himself on the balanced assessment. The book’s first few chapters discussed the history of colonialism at some length: the manipulation of tribal hatreds and the caprice of colonial boundaries, the displacements, the detentions, the indignities large and small. The early heroism of independence figures like Kenyatta and Nkrumah was duly noted, their later drift toward despotism attributed at least in part to various Cold War machinations.

But by the book’s third chapter, images from the present had begun to outstrip the past. Famine, disease, the coups and countercoups led by illiterate young men wielding AK-47s like shepherd sticks-if Africa had a history, the writer seemed to say, the scale of current suffering had rendered such history meaningless.

Poor buggers. Godforsaken countries.

I set the book down, feeling a familiar anger flush through me, an anger all the more maddening for its lack of a clear target. Beside me the young Brit was snoring softly now, his glasses askew on his fin-shaped nose. Was I angry at him? I wondered. Was it his fault that, for all my education, all the theories in my possession, I had had no ready answers to the questions he’d posed? How much could I blame him for wanting to better his lot? Maybe I was just angry because of his easy familiarity with me, his assumption that I, as an American, even a black American, might naturally share in his dim view of Africa; an assumption that in his world at least marked a progress of sorts, but that for me only underscored my own uneasy status: a Westerner not entirely at home in the West, an African on his way to a land full of strangers.

I’d been feeling this way all through my stay in Europe-edgy, defensive, hesitant with strangers. I hadn’t planned it that way. I had thought of the layover there as nothing more than a whimsical detour, an opportunity to visit places I had never been before. For three weeks I had traveled alone, down one side of the continent and up the other, by bus and by train mostly, a guidebook in hand. I took tea by the Thames and watched children chase each other through the chestnut groves of Luxembourg Garden. I crossed the Plaza Mejor at high noon, with its De Chirico shadows and sparrows swirling across cobalt skies; and watched night fall over the Palatine, waiting for the first stars to appear, listening to the wind and its whispers of mortality. And by the end of the first week or so, I realized that I’d made a mistake. It wasn’t that Europe wasn’t beautiful; everything was just as I’d imagined it. It just wasn’t mine. ...

We [Obama and his half-sister Auma] wandered into the old marketplace [in Nairobi], ...  And all of this while a steady procession of black faces passed before your eyes, the round faces of babies and the chipped, worn faces of the old; beautiful faces that made me understand the transformation that Asante and other black Americans claimed to have undergone after their first visit to Africa. For a span of weeks or months, you could experience the freedom that comes from not feeling watched, the freedom of believing that your hair grows as it’s supposed to grow and that your rump sways the way a rump is supposed to sway. ... Here the world was black, and so you were just you; you could discover all those things that were unique to your life without living a lie or committing betrayal. ...

We turned onto Kimathi Street, named after one of the leaders of the Mau-Mau rebellion. I had read a book about Kimathi before leaving Chicago and remembered a photograph of him: one in a group of dreadlocked men who lived in the forest and spread secret oaths among the native population-the prototype guerrilla fighter. It was a clever costume he had chosen for himself (Kimathi and the other Mau-Mau leaders had served in British regiments in their previous lives), an image that played on all the fears of the colonial West, the same sort of fear that Nat Turner had once evoked in the antebellum South and coke-crazed muggers now evoked in the minds of whites in Chicago.

Of course, the Mau-Mau lay in Kenya’s past. Kimathi had been captured and executed. Kenyatta had been released from prison and inaugurated Kenya’s first president. He had immediately assured whites who were busy packing their bags that businesses would not be nationalized, that landholdings would be kept intact, so long as the black man controlled the apparatus of government. Kenya became the West’s most stalwart pupil in Africa, a model of stability, a useful contrast to the chaos of Uganda, the failed socialism of Tanzania. Former freedom fighters returned to their villages or joined the civil service or ran for a seat in Parliament. Kimathi became a name on a street sign, thoroughly tamed for the tourists.
I took the opportunity to study these tourists as Auma and I sat down for lunch in the outdoor cafe of the New Stanley Hotel. They were everywhere-Germans, Japanese, British, Americans-taking pictures, hailing taxis, fending off street peddlers, many of them dressed in safari suits like extras on a movie set. In Hawaii, when we were still kids, my friends and I had laughed at tourists like these, with their sunburns and their pale, skinny legs, basking in the glow of our obvious superiority. Here in Africa, though, the tourists didn’t seem so funny. I felt them as an encroachment, somehow; I found their innocence vaguely insulting. It occurred to me that in their utter lack of self-consciousness, they were expressing a freedom that neither Auma nor I could ever experience, a bedrock confidence in their own parochialism, a confidence reserved for those born into imperial cultures.

Just then I noticed an American family sit down a few tables away from us. Two of the African waiters immediately sprang into action, both of them smiling from one ear to the other. Since Auma and I hadn’t yet been served, I began to wave at the two waiters who remained standing by the kitchen, thinking they must have somehow failed to see us. For some time they managed to avoid my glance, but eventually an older man with sleepy eyes relented and brought us over two menus. His manner was resentful, though, and after several more minutes he showed no signs of ever coming back. Auma’s face began to pinch with anger, and again I waved to our waiter, who continued in his silence as he wrote down our orders. At this point, the Americans had already received their food and we still had no place settings. I overheard a young girl with a blond ponytail complain that there wasn’t any ketchup. Auma stood up. “Let’s go.”

She started heading for the exit, then suddenly turned and walked back to the waiter, who was watching us with an impassive stare. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” Auma said to him, her voice shaking. “You should be ashamed.”

The waiter replied brusquely in Swahili.

“I don’t care how many mouths you have to feed, you cannot treat your own people like dogs. Here…” Auma snapped open her purse and took out a crumpled hundred-shilling note. “You see!” she shouted. “I can pay for my own damn food.” She threw the note to the ground, then marched out onto the street. For several minutes we wandered without apparent direction, until I finally suggested we sit down on a bench beside the central post office.

“You okay?” I asked her.

She nodded. “That was stupid, throwing away money like that.” She set down her purse beside her and we watched the traffic pass. “You know, I can’t go to a club in any of these hotels if I’m with another African woman,” she said eventually. “The askaris will turn us away, thinking we are prostitutes. The same in any of these big office buildings. If you don’t work there, and you are African, they will stop you until you tell them your business. But if you’re with a German friend, then they’re all smiles. ‘Good evening, miss,’ they’ll say. ‘How are you tonight?’” Auma shook her head. “That’s why Kenya, no matter what its GNP, no matter how many things you can buy here, the rest of Africa laughs. It’s the whore of Africa, Barack. It opens its legs to anyone who can pay.”

I told Auma she was being too hard on the Kenyan, that the same sort of thing happened in Djakarta or Mexico City, just an unfortunate matter of economics. But as we started back toward the apartment, I knew my words had done nothing to soothe her bitterness. I suspected that she was right: not all the tourists in Nairobi had come for the wildlife. Some came because Kenya, without shame, offered to re-create an age when the lives of whites in foreign lands rested comfortably on the backs of the darker races; an age of innocence before Kimathi and other angry young men in Soweto or Detroit or the Mekong Delta started to lash out in street crime and revolution. In Kenya, a white man could still walk through Isak Dinesen’s home and imagine romance with a mysterious young baroness, or sip gin under the ceiling fans of the Lord Delamare Hotel and admire portraits of Hemingway smiling after a successful hunt, surrounded by grim-faced coolies. He could be served by a black man without fear or guilt, marvel at the exchange rate, and leave a generous tip; and if he felt a touch of indigestion at the sight of leprous beggars outside the hotel, he could always administer a ready tonic. Black rule has come, after all. This is their country. We’re only visitors.

Did our waiter know that black rule had come? Did it mean anything to him? Maybe once, I thought to myself. He would be old enough to remember independence, the shouts of “Uhuru!” and the raising of new flags. But such memories may seem almost fantastic to him now, distant and naive. He’s learned that the same people who controlled the land before independence still control the same land, that he still cannot eat in the restaurants or stay in the hotels that the white man has built. He sees the money of the city swirling above his head, and the technology that spits out goods from its robot mouth. If he’s ambitious he will do his best to learn the white man’s language and use the white man’s machines, trying to make ends meet the same way the computer repairman in Newark or the bus driver back in Chicago does, with alternating spurts of enthusiasm or frustration but mostly with resignation. And if you say to him that he’s serving the interests of neocolonialism or some other such thing, he will reply that yes, he will serve if that is what’s required. It is the lucky ones who serve; the unlucky ones drift into the murky tide of hustles and odd jobs; many will drown.

Then again, maybe that’s not all that the waiter is feeling. Maybe a part of him still clings to the stories of Mau-Mau, the same part of him that remembers the hush of a village night or the sound of his mother grinding corn under a stone pallet. Something in him still says that the white man’s ways are not his ways, that the objects he may use every day are not of his making. He remembers a time, a way of imagining himself, that he leaves only at his peril. He can’t escape the grip of his memories. And so he straddles two worlds, uncertain in each, always off balance, playing whichever game staves off the bottomless poverty, careful to let his anger vent itself only on those in the same condition. A voice says to him yes, changes have come, the old ways lie broken, and you must find a way as fast as you can to feed your belly and stop the white man from laughing at you.

A voice says no, you will sooner burn the earth to the ground.

... The travel agency was owned by Asians; most small businesses in Nairobi were owned by Asians. Right away, Auma had tensed up.

“You see how arrogant they are?” she had whispered as we watched a young Indian woman order her black clerks to and fro. “They call themselves Kenyans, but they want nothing to do with us. As soon as they make their money, they send it off to London or Bombay.”

Her attitude had touched a nerve. “How can you blame Asians for sending their money out of the country,” I had asked her, “after what happened in Uganda?” I had gone on to tell her about the close Indian and Pakistani friends I had back in the States, friends who had supported black causes, friends who had lent me money when I was tight and taken me into their homes when I’d had no place to stay. Auma had been unmoved.

“Ah, Barack,” she had said. “Sometimes you’re so naive.”

I looked at Auma now, her face turned toward the window. What had I expected my little lecture to accomplish? My simple formulas for Third World solidarity had little application in Kenya. Here, persons of Indian extraction were like the Chinese in Indonesia, the Koreans in the South Side of Chicago, outsiders who knew how to trade and kept to themselves, working the margins of a racial caste system, more visible and so more vulnerable to resentment. It was nobody’s fault necessarily. It was just a matter of history, an unfortunate fact of life.

89 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1311533/Black-white-twins-Sisters-Marcia-Millie-Biggs-set-day-school.html

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excerpt. That's actually really good stuff on Obama's part. He has a novelist's ear for dialogue and incident.

Omnivore said...

"I crossed the Plaza Mejor at high noon, with its De Chirico shadows and sparrows swirling across cobalt skies;"

Ayers! Ayers! Ayers!

Anonymous said...

Now that Obama's slogan of "Change" seems to have petered out and Obama just kowtows to the press and other politicians, I wonder if he feels the same as the waiter in the Kenyan restaurant?

Zachary Latif said...

Chapter 15 is well-written!

Fred said...

"Now that Obama's slogan of "Change" seems to have petered out and Obama just kowtows to the press and other politicians, I wonder if he feels the same as the waiter in the Kenyan restaurant?"

Comments like that, combined with posts like this one, make this blog such a pleasure to read. Steve opens the ball park, lets Obama throw out a long, graceful pitch, and then Anonymous #3 cracks it out of the park.

Jack Jumper said...

D'Souza's article has just about everybody howling with rage.

Sure, some liberal commentators are understably unhappy about his article and said so. But how many prominent conservative commentators have actually howl? I have seen only 2 conservative commentators saying something negative about it: Ponnoru and Frum.

I think Dave Weigel's take on D'Souza is exactly right (http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/weigel/archive/2010/09/12/what-was-newt-gingrich-talking-about.aspx). In effect, D'Souza's absurd piece stole the thunder from a line of argument you've been unsuccessfully pushing for years now.

corvinus said...

I have seen only 2 conservative commentators saying something negative about it: Ponnoru and Frum.

Ponnuru and Frum are conservative?

Polichinello said...

You have to love the way Obama morally equates muggers with an independence movement. It's no different than Maxine Waters calling the LA riots an "insurrection" or an "uprising." Really, using Obama's logic, you could say O.J. Simpson was just like Nat Turner.

Anonymous said...

Interesting chapter and makes Obama look better than the impression I had before reading anything from that book. He doesn't seem all that angry at white people; more disappointed with his own people.

Anonymous said...

"I have seen only 2 conservative commentators saying something negative about it"

Also:

http://www.amconmag.com/larison/2010/09/09/obama-anticolonial-hegemonist/

Anonymous said...

Interesting chapter and makes Obama look better than the impression I had before reading anything from that book. He doesn't seem all that angry at white people; more disappointed with his own people.

---------------

Agreed, the main impression is of someone whose third world romanticism has been crushed

Whiskey said...

Oh he's angry at White people. Not the least of which is the complete failure of Africans to produce an "African way" that gives material wealth and prosperity and social cohesion, the way the European way does for Switzerland or Finland.

Finland is a small country, formerly reliant on paper mills and wood exports, that transformed itself into an industrial exporter with a population of around 6 million, threats from the USSR, a history of being flattened by WWII, and a climate where there is six feet of snow on the ground for about five months of the year.

By contrast the best Africans have been able to do, is not kill each other in large numbers in places like Burundi.

Yes, no wonder Obama is angry at White people.

The shame is, he has not delved deeply enough. In say, 800 AD, Europe was the plaything of the Northmen and the Muslims, a violent, poor, impoverished place that lacked even coinage, let alone cities or literacy. Europe's rise from plaything of the powerful to powerful itself contains valuable lessons for Africa. Such as nationalism, Christianity, classicism, small-holding, and the like. It wasn't easy or fast. But history did not just start in 1500 either.

Anonymous said...

Unless you maintain that Ayers wrote Dreams you have to admit that Obama has real literary talent and a high IQ.

Anonymous said...

Small wonder no one reads it. Was that boring! Better you than me, buddy. Life's too short to waste reading the self-indulgent ruminations of someone with nothing to say.

John said...

Interesting chapter and makes Obama look better than the impression I had before reading anything from that book. He doesn't seem all that angry at white people; more disappointed with his own people.

To me, it confirms my belief that Obama seethes with resentment towards whites. I think he uses Auma as a proxy for his own resentment. He frames the indictment of whites through her eyes and voice, while he tries to pass himself off as more reasonable and less militant. I don't believe it for a second. Auma's views are his own, as they are Jeremiah Wright's, etc, etc.

The man views everything through the prism of race, to whites detriment.

For a span of weeks or months, you could experience the freedom that comes from not feeling watched, the freedom of believing that your hair grows as it’s supposed to grow and that your rump sways the way a rump is supposed to sway. ... Here the world was black, and so you were just you; you could discover all those things that were unique to your life without living a lie or committing betrayal. ...

For all the resentment that he displays, he and countless other blacks would not dream of going back to where their hair grows as it's supposed to grow.

He and the vast majority of blacks seethe with resentment, while knowing full well that their lives are better in white created societies. They simply don't take responsibility for their own conditions. Everything is Whitey's fault.

elvisd said...

At least Obama's waiter is more real than Sartre's waiter was.


He also brings up the MDM (Market Driven Minority) paradox decently enough here.

Anonymous said...

Pollo, you live in an imaginary world where ideas such as right and wrong have some actual existence. They do not. A mugger is revolting against his condition and those who he believes can benefit his condition (by forfetting their cash) in just the same way that revolutionaries revolt against their own underclass status. You would be right to adress your question to Obama himself who (regardless of his actual beliefs) needs to claim to believe that there is Right and Wrong in the world but you're foolish to adress your complaints to us.

And if we were to pretend that ethics had some actual standing we'd still find a mugging to be little different from the activities of a revolutionary, an advertising executive and some kid who comfortably went to grad school thus making him someone else's owner in years to come (while that person didn't have the ability to go comfortably to grad school). Parotting your society's ethics do not make for an impressive statement.

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of talk about race in Obama's basketball league:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/15/sports/basketball/15nba.html?ref=sports

Maybe, in sports, race is ok to talk about.

Neoconista said...

Dinesh D'Souza said..."If America is going to remain on top, we have to compete in an increasingly tough environment"

We're No.1! We're No.1! We're No.1!

Mercer said...

"Agreed, the main impression is of someone whose third world romanticism has been crushed"

His romantic view of his father is also crushed in the book. Jeremiah Wright is the one person Obama expresses admiration for in the book.

Souza's article is boneheaded because Obama's political views are interchangeable with Hillary and Edwards. Does he think Obama Sr. influenced Hillary?

Conservatives should use Dreams to attack diversity. Obama grew up in diverse Hawaii and hated it. He moved to Chicago because he wanted to live in an all black community.

Anonymous said...

I love seeing the ethnocentrism of the Left on display. The waiter didn't care about white/black, he cared about green. In the waiter's experience there are few white poor in Kenya, and most whites tip well. On the other hand, there are many black poor in Kenya, and probably even those with money often don't tip well. All the Obamas needed to do in order to be served was to show money by the way they dressed and or flash a little money at the guy. Why wait till after you've not been served to throw your money on the floor? Flash it a little at the beginning, so that the waiter might at least think he might get a tip. Yeah, yeah, but the waiter is still feeling torn between worlds and the black cog in a white machine, blah, blah. As has been said, there is no black answer for this. If I were black, I think that would not complain so much but rather gather up the best and brightest and try to build a culture somewhere in Africa.

Anonymous said...

"Thanks for the excerpt. That's actually really good stuff on Obama's part. He has a novelist's ear for dialogue and incident."

No. His ghost writer Ayres has an ear. Or at least an eye for plagiarizing what others write. Actually it all sounds pretty generic "culture of colonialism" writing I've read in any number of works found among 3rd world writers and westerners who want to sound that way.
Forget patting BO on the back for his writing--does anybody believe that anymore? Has anything he's written or said since he became president (I mean himself not his speech writers) made you think he's any kind of writer or has any kind of ear for anybody's emotives?
Last year even MSM was admitting the book was ghostwritten.

B Lode said...

Thank goodness he's against colonialism. We can look forward to an end to both military adventurism and foreign aid in short order.

Naw just kidding.

Acilius said...

You've got the wrong Bill, Omnivore. Mr O's resentment of tourists and of metropolitan elites that demand people use alien objects shows a craving for "placefulness" that brings Bill Kauffman to mind. Too bad Mr O didn't start his elective career in a district where Kauffman was someone it was smart to cultivate, he was ready to learn a lot from him. He might have become a genuinely interesting figure.

Anonymous said...

The shame is, he has not delved deeply enough. In say, 800 AD, Europe was the plaything of the Northmen and the Muslims, a violent, poor, impoverished place that lacked even coinage, let alone cities or literacy. Europe's rise from plaything of the powerful to powerful itself contains valuable lessons for Africa. Such as nationalism, Christianity, classicism, small-holding, and the like. It wasn't easy or fast. But history did not just start in 1500 either.

The industrial revolution was well under way when the modern concept of nationalism came about and Christianity was around for a millennium before the West took over the world. As a matter of fact, Christianity destroyed the ancient world and it took what's referred to as the "Enlightenment" to recover. Nationalism pretty much destroyed the West through WWI and WWII, instead of creating it. The US had trouble even agreeing on a strong federal state until Wilson at least and the Renaissance cities didn't see themselves as part of a larger Italian nation.

You're just as bad at history as you are trying to get girls.

Anonymous said...

"Unless you maintain that Ayers wrote Dreams you have to admit that Obama has real literary talent and a high IQ."

This prose doesn't square with the style of his other book. He didn't write this.

Claverhouse said...

Whiskey says:

'In say, 800 AD, Europe was the plaything of the Northmen and the Muslims, a violent, poor, impoverished place that lacked even coinage, let alone cities or literacy. Europe's rise from plaything of the powerful to powerful itself contains valuable lessons for Africa. Such as nationalism, Christianity, classicism, small-holding, and the like.'

This would be the year Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the West by Pope Leo in Rome, and the unspeakable Irene the Athenian ruled seven million in the Eastern Empire ? Both with plenty of mounted, stirruped, cataphracts with lances and swords. Both following on from the civilisation of the Roman Empire --- literate and with coinage --- which had been around from a 1000 years before ? Cities were small, as was the rate of literacy, but until --- and beyond --- the 18th century this was the norm anywhere in the world. The Norse were a minor inconvenience unless you lived near the coast, and they were soon melded into the rest of Europe; the muslims, who had only been around a couple of hundred years were scarcely better civilised than any of their adversaries, scavengers of previous civilisations, and were not influential except in Spain and hovering to attack on the outskirts of Christendom.

It's difficult to imagine you think Europe didn't have coins then.


What were the achievements of sub-Saharan Africa in 800 AD ?

rob said...

Let's look on the bright side. That hard-working waiter got a hundred shillings! I'm lolling at a halfrican tourist feeling's about white tourists.

It's interesting that subcontinentals are small-scale merchants and middlemen for blacks in both US cities and Africa. Did any African nations have significant mulatto elites? Did they all flee?

Garland said...

Obama's skillfully nuanced/conflicted style allows people to say, "No, see he recognizes the uselessness of his lectures to his sister; he hasnt embraced neo-colonialism at all. This is the story of how he was attracted to it but realized there was more to the story."

Harry Baldwin said...

Anonymous said ...Actually it all sounds pretty generic "culture of colonialism" writing I've read in any number of works found among 3rd world writers and westerners who want to sound that way.

Exactly my reaction; there's something so canned, so impersonal, about the impressions of Europe and Africa, and the writer's voice sounds nothing like the Obama we're heard in interviews and press conferences.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

What's the timing of the trip to Kenya? Why the references to Chicago? Did he make the trip after he became a "community organizer" but before he was married? Is there any contradiction here?

Anonymous said...

>'the shame is, he has not delved deeply enough. In, say, 800 AD, Europe was the plaything of the Northmen and Muslims, a violent, poor, impoverished place that lacked even coinage, let alone cities or literacy. Europe's rise contains lessons. . .'

Good point Whiskey. Europe was hosed by Muslims, Byzants, and Northmen until Manzikert broke Byzantium and 1066 and all that sated the Vikings. Like Africa was hosed by Euro slavers, Arab slavers and internal slavers.

And Dark Ages Europe wasn't just poor and illiterate. Dark Ages Europe was dumb. Look at the art, HBDers. Beowulf is like a bag of rocks compared to Aeneas, and as for sculpture and architecture-
I bet the IQ was a stat div lower among the brutalized dregs of the loser superpeninsula, say between AD 600 and 1066, than before or since. But what's the lesson? Don't get brutalized? Dark Age Europe was devoutly Christian, stuffed with brutalized small-holder peasants, and as classically minded as possible for a starving rape victim. Nationalism has its place, but compared to 'don't get brutalized' it is a small place indeed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excerpt. That's actually really good stuff on [whoever wrote the book]'s part. He has a novelist's ear for dialogue and incident.

Anonymous said...

The excerpt shows Obama not only as a loather of whites but as extremely self centered. He assumes the Africans will be thrilled to kiss his rump, then goes on to rage about them being unenthusiastic in doing so. He's the great American hybrid, why can't these Africans recognize this and treat him like a visiting prince? I get the gut feeling Obama deep inside hates having been born black (or a semblance of it) and will never be at peace with himself.

Anonymous said...

Funniest part of the article is where Dinesh says MLK stood for colorblindness. He was for everything Obama is for today. 'Content of character' nonsense was just something slipped into the speech by some clever Jewish guy.

Anonymous said...

It wasn’t that Europe wasn’t beautiful; everything was just as I’d imagined it. It just wasn’t mine.

Does he feel the same about the US?

beautiful faces that made me understand the transformation that Asante and other black Americans claimed to have undergone after their first visit to Africa. For a span of weeks or months, you could experience the freedom that comes from not feeling watched, the freedom of believing that your hair grows as it’s supposed to grow and that your rump sways the way a rump is supposed to sway. ... Here the world was black, and so you were just you; you could discover all those things that were unique to your life without living a lie or committing betrayal.

Clear policy implication: Obama could not have any objection to a generously funded repatriation scheme (no right of return) for American blacks.

He [Kenyatta] had immediately assured whites who were busy packing their bags that businesses would not be nationalized, that landholdings would be kept intact, so long as the black man controlled the apparatus of government.

A clear message for white folks who carlessly end up as minorities in their own countries: Dont dare think you will be allowed any political power of your own. Keep business going, run the buses and the trains and the police etc but thats it. We already know how well entrenched this idea is, white rule when whites are the majority is seen as somewhat less than legitimate, what happens the day they represent 49.9% of the population?

Fred said...

"You're just as bad at history as you are trying to get girls."

Anon's takedown of Whiskey is as harsh as Greg Cochran's but pithier.

Anonymous said...

Steve Sailer: D'Souza's article has just about everybody howling with rage.

Jack Jumper: But how many prominent conservative commentators have actually howl? I have seen only 2 conservative commentators saying something negative about it: Ponnoru and Frum.

If the guy who knew the castes of Bobby Jindahl and Nikki Haley is still lurking in these parts, then could he tell us the castes of D'Souza and Ponnoru?

Thanks!

[That stuff absolutely fascinates me.]

Anonymous said...

Leaving the question of authorship aside, the content is dull. It is derivative 'colonial identity crisis' shlock.
Also, it is effeminate to go on at such length about one's precious feelings; especially when they are so mundane.
As for the anger, the English call this 'chippiness'. The rage is palpable below the surface. Give him adoration and he will stay nice. Show him contempt and he will go all Frantz Fanon on yo as$.

TGGP said...

I didn't read Obama as saying anything moral about coke-addled muggers. His reference is to how the victims experience the situation, rather than the justification of the aggressors. Not nearly as egregious an analogy as his line about a "quiet riot" (that band was from before I was even born and I know better to use the phrase).

It's very self-absorbed but I give him credit for grasping the middleman minority issue. It is also discussed by Thomas Sowell in "Are Jews Generic?" which I provide here.

It should be obvious that Obama did not write his second book.

David said...

The main difference is that here in USA you can sue for slow service.

Waiter, they got their food before I got mine...they were served before me...and there's a fly in my soup....so I'm suing your racissst a$$!

Ask Denny's, Shoneys, Cracker Barrel, etc.

Some blacks seethe with resentment wherever they are. Auma perhaps would have made the same type of complaints in Chicago.

Anonymous said...

"The industrial revolution was well under way when the modern concept of nationalism came about and Christianity was around for a millennium before the West took over the world. As a matter of fact, Christianity destroyed the ancient world and it took what's referred to as the "Enlightenment" to recover. Nationalism pretty much destroyed the West through WWI and WWII, instead of creating it. The US had trouble even agreeing on a strong federal state until Wilson at least and the Renaissance cities didn't see themselves as part of a larger Italian nation."

Your view on what "destroyed" the ancient world is hilariously ahistorical. Rome was already on its way out by the time Christianity had gained any sort of prominence. Read about the crisis of the third century sometime. Not to even mention that Christianity continued to preserve the knowledge, works and culture of the ancient world in Byzantium for over a millenium.

Wanderer said...

John wrote:
[Obama] uses Auma as a proxy for his own resentment.

A good observation.

If Obama were really as wishy-washy as he presents himself in this excerpt [or as Ayers presents Obama, with Obama approving the text for publication one way or another], he would not have dedicated so much of his life's energy to black-racialism.

I vaguely recall Steve posting a confirmed instance or two of Obama [or Ayers] using another character in the book as a device for delivering Obama's own views.

Anonymous said...

"the young Brit was snoring softly now, his glasses askew on his fin-shaped nose."
Excuse me? 'His fine shaped nose... a FIN. SHAPED. NOSE.'

Rain And said...

"For a span of weeks or months, you could experience the freedom that comes from not feeling watched, the freedom of believing that your hair grows as it’s supposed to grow and that your rump sways the way a rump is supposed to sway. Here the world was black, and so you were just you; you could discover all those things that were unique to your life without living a lie or committing betrayal"

Obama is implying some HBD here that would generate sneers among white SWPLs:: blacks have big booty gaits.

But he seems to be projecting West African traits onto East Africans simply to imply pan-African unity. Also half-white Obama would stick out like a sore thumb in Kenya.

Wanderer said...

This prose doesn't square with the style of his other book. He didn't write this.

I wonder if anyone's done a serious in-depth analysis of this. Comparing syntax and so on in 'Dreams' to samples of 1.) BHO's other [confirmed] writing and 2.) Other writing from Ayers (especially his "Fugitive Days" reflective memoir, a narrative quite similar in scope in some ways to Dreams).

Just as with handwriting, a skilled eye can spot when two long pieces of writing were penned by the same person.

A prose style as unique as the author of Dreams', whoever that was, would be especially easy to see pop up again.

My best guess is that BHO and Ayers collaborated, with Ayers ultimately doing this lion's share of the writing, revising, and "punching-up" what BHO wrote. Obama was a nobody at the time of the writing, so it's only natural he'd seek out lots of help from an Ayers-like figure. Right?

David said...

>"It's the whore of Africa, Barack. It opens its legs to anyone who can pay."<

Classy character, eh? Gets slow service in a restaurant, sees some German girls greeted in a friendly manner, thinks a supervisor (stranger) is too bossy with Kenyan subordinates (also strangers), etc....and that's her conclusion.

Mansizedtarget.com said...

"Fin shaped nose" spoken like the former merchant seaman that was Ayers.

Seriously I think Obama provided Ayers a rough sketch of his thoughts and Ayers ran with it. Nothing out of this guy's mouth suggests he can write this well.

Bantam said...

I doubt any Steve's reader is still unaware of Africa Addio; it beats Master Barack's pompous prose any day.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Unless you maintain that Ayers wrote Dreams you have to admit that Obama has real literary talent and a high IQ.

Anonymous: Forget patting BO on the back for his writing--does anybody believe that anymore? Has anything he's written or said since he became president (I mean himself not his speech writers) made you think he's any kind of writer or has any kind of ear for anybody's emotives?

Exactly.

Anyone who has listened to the guy fumble and bumble and hem and haw and monosyllabically grunt his way through a news conference can't possibly believe that he had anything to do with writing these excerpts.

The very idea of it - that he could have written Dreams - doesn't even rise to the level of the ludicrous.

I mean - for Goodness's sake - this is a guy who needs dual teleprompters to make "impromptu" remarks to elementary school children.

Anonymous said...

"In say, 800 AD, Europe was the plaything of the Northmen and the Muslims, a violent, poor, impoverished place that lacked even coinage, let alone cities or literacy. Europe's rise from plaything of the powerful to powerful itself contains valuable lessons for Africa."

Whiskey, you are ridiculous. Northern Italy was composed of many great cities, literacy while confined to the priestly class was existent all across Europe, and Northmen WERE Europeans.

Europeans, while vacillating in power and relative technology, have been among the most developed and evolved in the world for at least the past 10,000 years.

Ray Sawhill said...

Put me down as another person who finds this passage amazingly boring. It's like a mopey undergrad's ruminations after his summer travels. (Granted, an undergrad at a fancy college ...) Juvenile baloney, presented in the windiest possible way. How on earth did Steve ever manage to stay awake through the book?

airtommy said...

"anticolonialism" is an important part of Obama's intellectual make-up.

That's an odd analysis, given the fact that colonialism (Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia/Venezuela, etc) is such a big part of Obama's Presidency.

Unimpressed said...

If you think that prose is great, you should pursue a career as a high school English teacher at a strong prep school. Somewhat smart, self-absorbed high school kids who think themselves brilliant churn that stuff out all day long. You will thoroughly enjoy your nights reading their dribble.

I don't think it's really that great. It shows he is somewhat smart, not necessarily highly intelligent. He has taken a few ideas and expounded on them through example. He is not a heavy weight who can actually tackle the issues and come up with valuable insights.

-

Anonymous said...

Ray Sawhill: Put me down as another person who finds this passage amazingly boring. It's like a mopey undergrad's ruminations after his summer travels.

Our problem now is precisely that that very same mopey undergrad grew up to be the most powerful man in the world, controlling Trident II SLBMs, Minuteman III ICBMs, and ALCM/ACM cruise missiles.

Let's just hope that he doesn't throw a thermonuclear temper tantrum before he leaves office.

Anonymous said...

Your view on what "destroyed" the ancient world is hilariously ahistorical. Rome was already on its way out by the time Christianity had gained any sort of prominence. Read about the crisis of the third century sometime. Not to even mention that Christianity continued to preserve the knowledge, works and culture of the ancient world in Byzantium for over a millenium.

I agree with this anonymous poster's comments. If you ever have the time, there is an excellent BBC series from 1969 that fills in the blanks about your comment.

Kenneth Clark's Civilisation

headache said...

The shame is, he has not delved deeply enough. In say, 800 AD, Europe was the plaything of the Northmen and the Muslims, a violent, poor, impoverished place that lacked even coinage, let alone cities or literacy.

Aaargh, Whiskey and history! I wish he would just talk about women.

travis said...

Steve, if you linked to D'Souza's article to make yourself look like a nuanced and insightful commentator in comparison, it worked!

We need more of your analysis of Obama's thinking. Both his supporters and detractors have managed to make him a total bore.

My biggest problem with D'Souza's analysis is the assumption that all the fault for Obama's thinking is to be assigned to his deadbeat African dad. D'Souza gives a pass to the only man we know for certain is related to Obama, indeed, the man who actually raised Obama, his deadbeat white granddaddy, (birth certificate?) Stanley Armour Dunham. Dunham is the son of Ralph Waldo Emerson Dunham, born in Sumner Country, Kansas. Sumner County named after the Abolitionist senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner. Sumner county is so puritanical in origin that it was "dry" until 1986.

Of course, eventually, Stanley Dunham moved his family to Hawaii, which was civilized by missionaries described by Mark Twain as "pious; hard-working; hard-praying; self-sacrificing; hospitable; devoted to the well-being of this people and the interests of Protestantism; bigoted; puritanical; slow; ignorant of all white human nature and natural ways of men, except the remnant of these things that are left in their own class or profession; old fogy - fifty years behind the age..."

Up from Hawaii, Obama managed acceptance to Harvard Law School (college transcripts?), named after the puritan minister, John Harvard.

There seems to be a pattern developing. It's obvious that Obama's big secret, even though it's right there for everyone to see, is that Obama's a Yankee, through and through (though he does play basketball and listen to Jay-Z!).

His silence on his Yankee heritage and, instead, his complete focus on his African heritage is puzzling. Or maybe not, considering how George W Bush became a born again Texas good ol' boy. Were those just cynical moves by each man to appeal to his base or indicative of something deeper?

Obama reminds me of Charles Bon the mulatto, illegimate son of a Mississippi plantation owner in Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom." Obama actually quoted Faulkner during his big race speech following Pastor-gate, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." Hopefully the future will be better for Obama than it was for Charles Bon.

Meanwhile, I hope Steve will write more about Obama's family and the CIA. another organization that Obama shares in common with the Bush's, other Yankee elite, and Mormons (Yankees once removed.) I'm not going to hold my breathe in anticipation of D'Souza's follow up article on the story of Obama's Yankee inheritance.

Anonymous said...

"Your view on what "destroyed" the ancient world is hilariously ahistorical. Rome was already on its way out by the time Christianity had gained any sort of prominence. Read about the crisis of the third century sometime. Not to even mention that Christianity continued to preserve the knowledge, works and culture of the ancient world in Byzantium for over a millenium."

Utter rot. Rome was not "already on its way out"; yes there was a CRISIS in the third century, but not a collapse. Early Christianity was a malignant virus that happened to capture the Roman State, unfortunately, and it immediately set about to destroy all elements of culture and civilization that it did not approve of, which was most of it.

Christianity "preserved" those fragments of classical civilization which it thought useful, yes, but it destroyed the rest. There's a reason why so little of classical civilization survived the transition to Christianity. Christian mobs destroyed the Library of Alexandria (and not the Moslems, who came too late, and were accused of the crime only many centuries later by the usual liars trying to divert attention away from the real criminals) and other centers of ancient learning, and the Christian-controlled Roman state banned what wasn't otherwise destroyed.

Read Gibbon; it is all outlined there and is just the tip of the iceberg of Christian barbarism - a barbarism more thorough and destructive than the barbarism of any invading tribes. Pagan religion and learning and philosophy were outlawed; temples and libraries destroyed, books burned, the mere ownership of non-approved books made illegal. The early Christian "Roman" state was a sick, totalitarian regime that did far more damage to our collective cultural heritage than any regime ever could hope to do until the totalitarian regimes of the modern era.

Barbarians didn't destroy the libraries of the ancient world or shut down the Academy of Athens. Barbarians didn't flay the skin off of Hypatia with oyster shells. Barbarians didn't ban books and religious practices and the like. It was Christians who did that. The fact that they preserved a few shreds of classical learning in later centuries doesn't make up for their initial spasm of destruction.

Anonymous said...

"Beside me the young Brit was snoring softly now, his glasses askew on his fin-shaped nose."

My own "fin shaped" nose can smell this seething cauldron of anti-white racial resentment a mile away.

Anonymous said...

I love seeing the ethnocentrism of the Left on display. The waiter didn't care about white/black, he cared about green. In the waiter's experience there are few white poor in Kenya, and most whites tip well. On the other hand, there are many black poor in Kenya, and probably even those with money often don't tip well.

I wonder if the same impulse would be portrayed as sympathetically if it were regarding a rich Arab sheik in a Western country? Or would it be portrayed as small minded?

TH said...

Interesting excerpt. I agree that Obama does not come off as a hater of whites, but rather as someone who is disappointed in blacks.

I don't think the prose is bad, except for really cliched bits like this:

I’d been feeling this way all through my stay in Europe-edgy, defensive, hesitant with strangers. I hadn’t planned it that way. I had thought of the layover there as nothing more than a whimsical detour, an opportunity to visit places I had never been before. For three weeks I had traveled alone, down one side of the continent and up the other, by bus and by train mostly, a guidebook in hand. I took tea by the Thames and watched children chase each other through the chestnut groves of Luxembourg Garden. I crossed the Plaza Mejor at high noon, with its De Chirico shadows and sparrows swirling across cobalt skies; and watched night fall over the Palatine, waiting for the first stars to appear, listening to the wind and its whispers of mortality. And by the end of the first week or so, I realized that I’d made a mistake. It wasn’t that Europe wasn’t beautiful; everything was just as I’d imagined it. It just wasn’t mine.

Whoever wrote the book is clearly as much or more interested in displaying his literary flair than talking about politics or whatever. If Obama did write it, it should not be hard to find other pieces by him written in a similar style.

Graham Asher said...

"In say, 800 AD, Europe was the plaything of the Northmen and the Muslims, a violent, poor, impoverished place that lacked even coinage, let alone cities or literacy."

Not true. England had coinage and literacy - Alcuin of York was busy in Aachen teaching Charlemagne how to read and write - and the new Carolingian script was used for official documents throughout his empire; Ireland was literate; and there were cities in Europe, albeit not very large ones, and rather decayed since the end of the Roman Empire. There wasn't mass literacy, but let's not exaggerate.

dearieme said...

"Anyone who has listened to the guy fumble and bumble and hem and haw and monosyllabically grunt..": it's not all that uncommon for a decent writer to be rather inarticulate.

dearieme said...

It's all very inward-looking, isn't it? He talks a little to his half-sister, and recounts the few words of his British fellow passenger, but all the rest is really his musings, his projection of how other people, in his opinion, must be feeling. I'm used to clever people often being more inquisitive than that.

josh said...

Maybe its confirmation bias, but my first thought is that this does not at all sound like the voice of the current president.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Nice.

Privileged, resentful Obama takes time off from doing, well, whatever it is he did to drag his mopey ass to Kenya. Mopes around, angry and out of place, and mopes back to Chicago. Marries, has children, becomes a US Senator, and this time searches for identity in more 'authentic' Ghana. Nothing to see there, and the whole family mopes around some more. Now this mope with daddy issues occupies the White House, scolding the citizenry, insulting the Brits, and musing about why prosperity doesn't just appear from the government's Magic Cargo Planes (whitey--that's why!).

Just another pissed-off perpetual teenager. And we elected this guy.

MQ said...

There is precisely zero real-world evidence that "Dreams From My Father" is ghost-written, that charge comes from people who can't stand to admit a (half) black guy wrote anything literate. I mean, admit reality please. I've read Ayers "Fugitive Days" and it is nothing like Obama's autobiography in tone and noticeably inferior in literary skill.

You can tell from "Dreams" that Obama has a complex mind that is constantly balancing off opposites, that he's prone to self-indulgence and romanticizing his circumstances but also has a cold intelligence that fights against those tendencies. Those qualities are evident in this excerpt, where he balances off his own sentimental attachment to Africa as a victim of colonialism against his understanding of the extra complexities involved.

Also, if Obama was a true anti-colonialist, then what the hell are we still doing in Afghanistan?

Anonymous said...

dearieme's right that it's entirely possible for a great writer to be terrible at public speaking. Jefferson was famous for that. That being said, comparing the prose of Obama's two books shows that they're clearly the work of two different writers. I don't know how anyone could read them and come to any other conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Whiskey has once again hijacked a thread with his assertions about backwardness in Northern Europe in 800AD. A lot of commenters have risen to the bait and I guess I have too.

The reason this gets discussed at all is because today we know very well that IQ correlates with latitude. It may not be completely clear why but the observation can't be resisted. There was a thread a week or so ago about northern Italy versus southern Italy and again the key to the issue was acknowledging that northerners are just smarter.

There are only a few exceptions to this rule. Hong Kong and Singapore are southerly and have very high IQs but their populations are recent arrivals from the north - first century migrants in the rule of Wang Mang.

Classical Greece too was the result of the Doric invasions from the north.

This leads to the question of why the Romans were civilized and the Germans and Scandinavians weren't? Central Italy (not northern Italy) today is not a hot bed of native genius. Indeed another thread today is on the topic of Affirmative Action for Italians.

The pattern seems to be that cold temperatures made individuals smart but kept early societies from organizing. This all changed about the time of the invention of the chimney.

In northern Germany at the time of the Roman Republic, which was also the time of the Roman Warm Period, you could assemble. The temples and markets were open. There was little or no window glass. If you wanted light you met outside or in a temple that had columns not curtain walls.

In Germany or Scandinavia when winter set in, you assembled in a log house and sat around a central fire - for five months. There was no privacy because there were no separate rooms. There were no windows and there was no outside light. The houses were small and dark and you were stuck inside for nearly half the year talking to your relatives.

The Dark Ages were also the cold ages. The climate warmed up again starting about 800AD and Northern Europe enjoyed the High Middle Ages. That ended in the fourteenth century. When the climate cooled again with the Little Ice Age there was enough technology to keep warm enough for civilization.

In Scandivavia today when the snow falls a lot of Swedes and Danes cocoon and catch up on their reading. A thousand years ago you stared into a fire till Spring.

Albertosaurus

BamaGirl said...

"In say, 800 AD, Europe was the plaything of the Northmen and the Muslims, a violent, poor, impoverished place that lacked even coinage, let alone cities or literacy."

Ireland was literate at that point and had preserved many of the Latin classics. Kingdoms in England such as Mercia also had fairly good infrastructure in 800 AD. Not to mention freakin' Charlemagne's empire either....
All these places had coinage, small cities, and an educated elite/priestly class.

MQ said...

It's all very inward-looking, isn't it? He talks a little to his half-sister, and recounts the few words of his British fellow passenger, but all the rest is really his musings, his projection of how other people, in his opinion, must be feeling.

Yes, this is true of the whole book. What's so surprising about "Dreams" is how typical it is of the over-sensitive, inwardly focused young writer type, as opposed to the tough-minded, observant, practical politician Obama became. (And believe me, whatever you think of their political agenda, all politicians at his level are tough minded and practical). However, you can see the other side of him in the ways he second guesses his own sensitivities, the internal dialogue that's going on. It's sort of boring because a lot of it is Obama's argument with himself, and he's attempting to shape it into a narrative an outsider would find gripping and he doesn't quite succeed.

Polichinello said...

TGGP,

Granted, Obama's style defies quotation, but the equivalence between criminal and revolutionary is there. You have the coke-crazed passage (which, I admit, doesn't give explicit moral sanction to the mugger), and you have this passage which does:

...an age of innocence before Kimathi and other angry young men in Soweto or Detroit or the Mekong Delta started to lash out in street crime and revolution.

There you have it: the thugs who've destroyed Detroit are on a par with people opposing apartheid and colonialism, both of which in Obama's view are unalloyed goods.

To anonymous, I applaud your satire of Fannonian ethics.

Polichinello said...

Utter rot. Rome was not "already on its way out"; yes there was a CRISIS in the third century, but not a collapse.

Even the anti-Christian Gibbon, whom you recommend, admits that Rome after Diocletian was a shell of its former self. Other authorities, like Christopher Kelly, argue that Christian ethics and behavior gave Rome almost another two centuries in the West. The alternatives to Constantine were certainly not attractive. Again, see your own source, Gibbon.

Anonymous said...

Barbarians didn't destroy the libraries of the ancient world or shut down the Academy of Athens. Barbarians didn't flay the skin off of Hypatia with oyster shells.

This is good reading - http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2010/05/hypatia-and-agora-redux.html

I'll give the opening.

"Well, it's been just over a year since I wrote my article on Alejandro Amenábar's film Agora and expressed my misgivings that it would perpetuate some Gibbonian myths about how Hypatia of Alexandria was some kind of martyr for science, how wicked Christians destroyed "the Great Library of Alexandria" in AD 391 and how her murder and the Library's destruction ushered in the Dark Ages."

Other quotes:

"To begin with, as I detailed in my article last year, there was no "Great Library of Alexandria" as such in the city at this time. The former Great Library had degraded and suffered several major losses of books over the centuries and the last clear reference to it that we know of dates all the way back to AD 135."

"So the idea that any "Library of Alexandria" or any library at all was destroyed by the Christian mob in AD 391 is simply without evidential foundation."

"Amenábar depicts some of this tit-for-tat series of threats and violence, but invents a scene where the Taliban-style Parabolani instigate the whole dispute by sneaking into the theatre where the Jews are holding a Sabbath celebration and stoning them. This is found nowhere in the sources but, once again, Amenábar introduces a fictional incident into the story to make the whole conflict with the Jews and the subsequent feud between Cyril and Orestes into the fault of Cyril's faction - a clear distortion of the reported facts."

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Polichinello - contact me thru blogger. You know me from Liberty Forum.

ST

Mike said...

The ideologies spawned by the so-called enlightenment-nationalism, nazism and Communism have destroyed Europe. Rome was in its death throes when Christianity took root in the Roman Empire.

Steve Sailer said...

I can't recall a single new idea in "Dreams from My Father." On the other hand, Obama is deft at laying out old ideas.

His favorite ploy is to go two-thirds of the way toward a Hegelian synthesis about himself -- thesis, antithesis, but instead of any kind of synthesis, he stops and wallows in the romantic tragedy of his life's contradictions.

Ray Sawhill said...

As someone who's spent an adulthood around writers, I second Dearieme's observation that many writers are lousy speakers. It's often a practical thing. One reason they're writers is because writing gives them a chance to correct and brighten up their otherwise lousy (spoken) prose.

Other thought: what often strikes me about Obama is how generic a creature he is. Interesting racial background, interesting stuff about growing up in Indonesia and Hawaii. All that said: I've seen no indication that he isn't a completely typical example of the genus "bright middle-class kid who gets sent to a fancy private school and eventually winds up in the Ivies." Same agonies, same aspirations, same self-doubts, same habits, same dreams, same vanities as dozens of the kind that I've known.

Anonymous said...

Jack Cashill deconstructs Dinesh over at American Thinker. MQ, he also has some comments on the authorship question.

Brutus

dearieme said...

I know where I first came across that self-absorbed, self-indulgent immature literary type! He's bloody Hamlet.

Kylie said...

The Anti-Gnostic said..."Just another pissed-off perpetual teenager. And we elected this guy."

No. "We" most emphatically did not.

I will never forget hearing him for the first time when he gave that speech at the 2004 Dem convention. I heard that smug lecturing sing-song cadence some blacks use that leftist whites just lap up and I thought "Uh oh, we're in real trouble."

TGGP said...

Polchinello, I agree that sticking Detroit in there with the others is likely to make one associate it with the (justified among the left) causes in South Africa and Vietnam. But again there I'd point out that his subject is an "age of innocence" viewed from the perspective of those who enjoyed it, and the "angry young men" are an outside force which end it. From the perspective of a member of the comfortable white establishment it doesn't much matter why these young men are angry.

While it's highly doubtful Obama intended this, Soweto actually has strong similarities with Detroit in that it was more characterized by urban rioting than a serious military campaign conducted by a Maoist insurgency. "Charlie" was hardly an assortment of "angry young men".

Anonymous said...

"Since Auma and I hadn’t yet been served, I began to wave at the two waiters who remained standing by the kitchen, thinking they must have somehow failed to see us. For some time they managed to avoid my glance, but eventually an older man with sleepy eyes relented and brought us over two menus. His manner was resentful, though, and after several more minutes he showed no signs of ever coming back."

Across the globe blacks are known as lousy tippers. So why should Obama be surprised by the reaction of the black waiters, who know this from broad experience? Did it occur to Obama to hold up a ten dollar bill, basically offering the tip in advance?

Lot's of Joe Pecsi type I-talians do this -- it's not refined behavior, but it works gangbusters (pardon the pun).

Wanderer said...

Graham Asher wrote:
"[In 800-AD Europe] There wasn't mass literacy, but let's not exaggerate."

Mass literacy is hardly common in history anyway.

Flash forward a thousand years to 1800-AD: The Russian Empire was about at its apex. It had only 8% literacy!

In 1800, only the regions of Germanic speech in Europe and North-America had majorities who could read the words you are now reading. And even then, Germanic-Literates were barely a majority of their own populations (Literacy in 1800: 55% England and 'Germany', 58% USA). [Source {opens a .doc}. The Russian author concludes that Europe can thank the Protestant Reformation for "mass literacy", led by the Germanic peoples].

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"Unless you maintain that Ayers wrote Dreams you have to admit that Obama has real literary talent and a high IQ."

I maintain Ayers wrote Dreams.

Ayers and the rest of the trust-fund revolutionaries of the Weather Underground were obsessed with race and dripping with self-loathing over their whiteness. The repugnance with which the author obviously views white people is vintage Ayers.

The rest of Obama's writing confirms his lack of real literary talent.

Anonymous said...

I mean - for Goodness's sake - this is a guy who needs dual teleprompters to make "impromptu" remarks to elementary school children.

No, no. Obama used teleprompters in a news conference later in the day, speaking to reporters in a classroom at the Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Va.
Obama had spoken to the students themselves earlier, and he did not use a teleprompter then.

http://www.factcheck.org/2010/01/school-photo/

David said...

>"Anyone who has listened to the guy fumble and bumble and hem and haw and monosyllabically grunt..": it's not all that uncommon for a decent writer to be rather inarticulate.<

It's not all that likely, you mean.

Listen to the off-the-cuff interviews of authentically competent authors as different as H.L. Mencken and Stephen King. The lucidity of expression in their verbal behavior is striking. They can not only write, they can TALK - and how!

Speaking and writing are perceptibly different skills, but the gap between them doesn't seem to be very large for anyone who does either really well.

It seems truer to say that good or great thinkers are "not uncommonly rather inarticulate" (in either speaking or writing or both). All good writing and speaking is based on good thinking, but not all kinds of good thinking lead to good writing and speaking. Anyone can hear what I mean if he audits a typical undergraduate physics course.