February 9, 2002

Homi Bhabha, Homi Bhabha, I just love to say that name

I don't want to pick on Jonah Goldberg - he's an insightful and often funny guy - but in his string of attacks on post-modernists, he keeps missing the most amusing ironies. Here, he dumps on a Harvard professor with the wonderful Arabian Nights name of Homi Bhabha. Homi Bhabha (I just love saying that name) is a hot "post-colonial theorist" who has an even more muddled prose style than is normal for the breed. What Jonah doesn't realize is that Homi Bhabha is a fellow conservative. (Read this NYT article carefully.)

This fabulously rich Parsi from Bombay writes in such a tortured prose style to cover up his commonsensical dissent from the Edward Said-orthodoxy of his field. Unlike Said, who denounces Europeans who write about Arabs to cover up how embarrassed he is by his fellow Arabs, as a Parsi, Homhi Bhabha simply doesn't feel like purely a victim of colonialism. His remarkably intelligent race of Zoroastrians (they are to South Asia what Hungarian Jews were to pre-Holocaust Europe) did very well for themselves under the British as industrialists, although British racial snobbery was no doubt galling. In fact, a Parsi was elected to Parliament as a Tory M.P. from the English Home Counties in the 1890s! To Homi Bhabha, it's obvious that colonialism wasn't all bad, and that Said's model of the world is stupid. But he's too smart and too careerist to come out and say it clearly.

February 8, 2002

God Save the Queen on her 50th Anniversary

Queen Elizabeth's 50th Anniversary: The only time I ever sawn the Queen was in 1983. I had just arrived in San Francisco on business, and the TV news was trumpeting that President Reagan was going to have dinner with Queen Elizabeth at a Golden Gate Park museum. So, I grabbed a taxi and issued the Mother Goose-like command, "Take me to see the Queen!"

"Any queen in particular?" asked the cabbie. "This town's loaded with 'em."

I eventually landed on a street corner full of Irish protestors holding signs denouncing British rule in Northern Ireland. After a long wait, the biggest motorcade in the history of world rolled by, and there at the back was Elizabeth II, giving her famous little wave to all of us on the corner. I turned around to watch the furious Irish protestors, only to see them leaping up and down in joyous excitement, waving back with tears of adulation in their eyes. When she was gone, the embarrassed Fenians skulked off.

By the way, a lot of hyper-intellectual bilge has been written in the years since the Queen's 25th anniversary "explaining" the Sex Pistol's great single "God Save the Queen." The real reason Johnny Rotten (a.k.a., John Lydon) hated the Queen with such memorable passion was simple: he's an Irishman.

February 7, 2002

Edward Said, Jonah Goldberg, and "Orientalist" scholars

Jonah Goldberg in NRO defends the old European "Orientalist" scholars of Middle Eastern culture against the Palestinian-American literary critic Edward Said's celebrated attack on them as racists. But Jonah misses three key points.

First, as is so common among multiculturalists, Said prefers to write about Europeans who wrote about Arabs, rather than writing about Arabs themselves, because Said is bored and embarrassed by his own people.

Second, many of these European scholars were not only not biased against Arabia, they were in fact "desperately in love with the Arab Muslim world," according to the great economic historian David Landes (click here for my review of his last book.) The British archaeologist turned Arab guerilla leader Lawrence of Arabia is only the most famous "sand-smitten" example.

Third, more than a few Orientalists were not only in love with Arabia, they were in love with individual Arab boys or men. Arab culture's tendency toward bisexuality made it particularly attractive to gay Englishmen. When asked why he had fought for Arab independence, Lawrence replied, ""Personal: I liked a particular Arab, and I thought that freedom for the race would be an acceptable present." This particular Arab was apparently Dahoum, a teenage waterboy. In The Source, James Michener suggested that British rulers in Palestine tended to emotionally bond with the Arabs because they both shared a taste for Brideshead Revisited-style male-male "romantic friendships." In contrast, the highly heterosexual Jews and Americans found each other on the same wavelength.

The essential problem with the European Union

The essential problem with the European Union: It's not democratic, and it can't be - because Europeans don't speak a common language. Until they do, power will be in the hands of multilingual bureaucrats in Brussels, not of the people.

February 6, 2002

New Frontiers in Multicultural Sensitivity

New Frontiers in Multicultural Sensitivity: My 7th grader's Spanish teacher just announced that she does not want her students to develop correct accents because "some people think that would be making fun of my people." Man, I would have ruled if she had been my Spanish teacher, because I always sounded like W.C. Fields trying to speak Spanish. Unfortunately, my high school Spanish teacher, Mr. De Soto, had reactionary ideas about how the language of Cervantes and Borges should be pronounced. After I'd recite, he'd groan and call me "Super Gringo."

Why Canada admits so many immigrants:

Why Canada admits so many immigrants: It's not to fill up Canada's vast empty spaces, since a large majority of the newcomers crowd into Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. No, immigration and multiculturalism are the passive-aggressive revenge by English Canada and the bilingual elite on the monoculturalists of French Canada. Since few immigrants want to learn a declining language like French, the immigrant vote is all that keeps Quebec in Canada. Wouldn't it be simpler just to expel the French?

February 3, 2002

Is Human Evolution Finally Over?

Is Human Evolution Finally Over? asks the British Observer. Of course not. Some genes are always being selected for and some against. For example, Palestinians are having three times as many children as Israeli Jews. Thus, the gene frequencies in the Holy Land are evolving at a dramatic rate, with massive real world consequences.

Of course, the rate of current gene change pales in comparison to what will be happening not far in the future when genetic technologies mature. (Already, there are children alive today whose embryos were scientifically selected for being genetically superior to their sibling embryos.) This will have massive political and social impact.

Francis Fukuyama's next book Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution will try to predict these consequences. Unfortunately, I fear Fukuyama will ignore the single best tool for estimating the impact of future differences in gene frequencies: looking at the impact of current genetic differences between individuals and groups. He's always played it safe (in career terms) by ignoring race, even to the point of silliness in his last book, which was about crime and illegitimacy!

To see how understanding genetic differences today sheds crucial light on the genetically engineered tomorrow, read my Thatcher Lecture and my "The Future of Human Nature." 2/3/02