Friday, February 24, 2017

Interesting! ~ The Time-defying Property of Controversy around Racialism

 Back from a hiatus!

Introduction:

This is the first of what will from here on out be a series of commentary on "interesting" items identified both in and out of the internet world; hence, accommodation of the word "Interesting! ~" in the header.

Similar sub-categorizing of blog articles had in fact already been undertaken on this site, albeit without official acknowledgement of the kind...until now, of course; few perceptive observers might have noticed a trend, however. A good example of this is what has been termed, "Knowledge-base Tool Kit", which primarily deals with topics that are supposed to be either well known or ought to be well known, but are usually not. Said sub-category of entries thus serves as a tool kit that could potentially be used as a gauge for observers' knowledge base, mainly at a basic level, and hence offer potential expansion opportunity for such a base where necessary. One can expect other sub-categorizing to come up in future, if and when deemed necessary, thereby supplementing the examples offered above.

Now, comes the first issue of the current sub-category of entries...

Interesting!

The present author came across an interesting discussion on the net, fairly recently, and it had to do with an article that was published on a Trotsky inspired website by the name of WSWS, which has on occasion — not out of any affiliation or association — been referenced on this blog, with regards to certain subject matter. The article at hand is titled The racialist agenda of the "Decolonize Education" Movement (clickable), by an author by the name of Joe Mount, dated to February 24th 2017. [1]

One reader apparently quoted a David Hume piece, which can be retrieved easily on the net with a simple googling or search engine browsing, and which seems to be making a case for the "natural inferiority" of "non-WHITE species of men to WHITES", in response to what was argued in the body of the aforementioned WSWS article. This is how the exchange went...

Reader - Rosa Roja posts:
Here's a quiz. Who wrote the following words? (caps are in the original) 
I am apt to suspect the negroes, and in general all the other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation....

... In JAMAICA, indeed, they talk of one negroe as a man of parts and learning; but 'tis likely he is admired for very slender accomplishments, like a parrot, who speaks a few words plainly.

Author - Joe Mount replies:
This is a quote from David Hume, taken from a single footnote that he revised before his death. It has no connection with his philosophy. 
 Then Mr. Mount goes onto say:
"Hume (1711 - 1776) was inescapably limited in his views by the period he lived in and can't be judged by 21st century standards."
Whereupon he recites a portion of the above cited article he authored, presumably as some sort of a vindication that he acknowledged "limitations to the goals of the Enlightenment" as follows:
"There were inevitable historical limitations to the realisation of the goals of the Enlightenment. Despite the genius of Rousseau, Locke, Hume et al., they could not escape their historical epoch. Although many thinkers of the time were critical of private property, slavery, colonialism and their attendant social evils, their ideals could not be fully realised in the context of the capitalist society that emerged from the bourgeois revolutions." [1]
Along with this acknowledgment of "limitations to the goals of the Enlightenment", the reader is also more specifically alerted to the acknowledgment that "despite the genius of Rousseau, Locke, Hume et al., they could not escape their historical epoch". With the latter acknowledgement, it would appear that author Joe Mount was seeking to justify the sentiments that David Hume expresses in the earlier quote presented by reader Rosa Roja, and hence to claim that the man's own quote amounts to "having no connection to his philosophy". To demonstrate this, Mr. Mount furnishes his reply with yet another quote from David Hume, this time supplied by Mr. Mount himself as opposed to the referenced reader; the quote-furnished reply notes as follows...
Hume wrote on slavery:
"The remains which are found of domestic slavery, in the AMERICAN colonies, and among some EUROPEAN nations, would never surely create a desire of rendering it more universal. The little humanity, commonly observed in persons, accustomed, from their infancy, to exercise so great authority over their fellow-creatures, and to trample upon human nature, were sufficient alone to disgust us with that unbounded dominion"
Perhaps the angle from which Mr. Mount was approaching the two cited quotations of David Hume was to put forward that the earlier quoted piece — which was referenced by his reader, and which in any sober assessment essentially amounts to NARROW-MINDEDNESS — is reflective of limitations to the goals of the Enlightenment which were caused by the condition of authors [like David Hume] being the victim of, and hence, not being able to escape their historical epoch. On the other hand, the latter quoted piece — which Mr. Mount himself referenced [immediately above] — is reflective of his (David Hume's) true philosophy.

BUT then...

In the same Joe Mount article, Mr. Mount quotes Denis Diderot — another 18th century author — as follows:
Denis Diderot’s Encyclopaedia (1772) says of the trade,

"This buying of Negroes, to reduce them to slavery, is one business that violates religion, morality, natural laws, and all the rights of human nature... If commerce of this kind can be justified by a moral principle, there is no crime, however atrocious it may be, that cannot be made legitimate... Men and their liberty are not objects of commerce; they can be neither sold nor bought nor paid for at any price.”

It calls for the freeing of all slaves, stating that the sale of a slave is always invalid because,
“This Negro does not divest himself and can never divest himself of his natural right; he carries it everywhere with him, and he can demand everywhere that he be allowed to enjoy it. It is, therefore, patent inhumanity on the part of judges in free countries where he is transported, not to emancipate him immediately by declaring him free, since he is their fellow man, having a soul like them.”
Well now, what do we — as readers — have here? Perhaps one can discern noticeable contrasts of language used to frame the cited quotations from two different authors, both belonging to the 18th century:

In his quoted words, Diderot refers to the 'Negro' as a "FELLOW MAN" (emphasized in caps), endowed with "having a soul like them ["them" being a reference to 'Whites']", who "does not divest himself and can never divest himself of his natural right; he carries it everywhere with him", WHEREAS David Hume refers to 'Negroes' as "FELLOW-CREATURES" (with emphasis).

It does NOT appear with any clarity, that David Hume, despite the implicit COMPASSION in that cited quote for the victims of "domestic slavery", viewed 'Negroes' as equal to the 'Whites', even as this quote was presented by Joe Mount possibly as a "revision" to the sentiment expressed in the other, reportedly EARLIER, quote from David Hume, which seems to be making a case for why 'Negros' and "other species of men" are "naturally inferior to the whites".

The point being....If these two quotes from two Western individuals from the 18th century mean anything, short of any further examination to the contrary, it does seem to suggest that there were individuals from that era who held social standards that are not too different from those that exist in the 21st century today, BOTH progressive and reactionary! In other words: There were individuals who voluntarily hitched their intellectual freedom to what many at the time considered the "popular" viewpoint bandwagon and hence these individuals would have considered a viewpoint which was the widely-held viewpoint across the sheepish flock (otherwise also known as "the masses", in some circles) as the "accurate viewpoint", WHILE others were more independent minded and shaped their own viewpoints, as made possible perhaps through individual research/independent verification and assessment.

Individuals henceforth, as is the case today in the 21st century, either had the free-will to follow the flock of the day, regardless of whether or not the idea under observation is accurate, while others chose to rely more on rationality and independent verification to shape their worldview even if it meant that these were not widely held among the flock. Isn't that after all, what the so-called Enlightenment of the medieval period itself is purported to be all about?...moving away from the unverified widely-held or "officially" sanctioned viewpoint?

And of course, the U.S. "Founding Fathers" are commonly quoted as authors of the constitution which states that "ALL MEN are created EQUAL" (with emphasis), and yet these are the same individuals who did not find it odd to OWN other "MEN", or that these "men" had no rights to vote for that matter. PERHAPS, in contrast to what we see in the Diderot quote, the Founding Fathers did not view 'Negroes' as 'men'?

So yes, individuals of the early days of the so-called modern era can, and in cases like that discussed here, be held to similar standards as those we hold today in the 21st century. However, perhaps back in the earlier days of the modern era, people would have had the excuse to point out that modern communications didn't exist (internet, social media etc), or that the scope of discovery was not as vast as it is today, which makes it all the more scandalous that EXCUSES exist TODAY for reactionary and easily falsifiable viewpoints, no matter how widely-held they may be!

More on the issue of racism or racialism is expected to be published on this site in a not-so-distant (very near) future. So watch this space as a potential referencing source!

_____________________________________________________________________

Some thoughts:
Many articles are in limbo that were slated to be published in the past, as some of the more established visitors to this site will have been briefed on, which are in various states of editing, finalizing and/or revisiting to make them more current by the time they are finally published. Yes, the present author confesses that there has been some degree of procrastination due to other distracting extra-internet activities, BUT these pending articles WILL eventually be published!

Other material...

Below, is the original feedback provided by the present author to the WSWS author Joe Mount, which went unpublished for some odd reason. The tone and language applied, as far as this author is concerned, is measured and appropriate, and does not violate any — to this author's knowledge at present — of the approved codes of conduct as guided by the WSWS website. This is the original feedback — without any editing whatsoever — to the WSWS article under discussion, which was submitted with the anticipation of publication and to possibly thereof serve as a rallying point for further discussion, if need be, only to somehow mysteriously end up evading publication on that site. The absence of publication of these validly-held viewpoints is thus: Interesting/Odd? perhaps...Mysterious? definitely!

Anyway, here's that original feedback (unedited):

In Joe Mount's reply to another reader, he noted as follows, starting with a David Hume quote:
 "The remains which are found of domestic slavery, in the AMERICAN colonies, and among some EUROPEAN nations, would never surely create a desire of rendering it more universal. The little humanity, commonly observed in persons, accustomed, from their infancy, to exercise so great authority over their fellow-creatures, and to trample upon human nature, were sufficient alone to disgust us with that unbounded dominion." [1]
Then Mr. Mount goes onto say:
"Hume (1711 - 1776) was inescapably limited in his views by the period he lived in and can't be judged by 21st century standards."
Whereupon, he recites a portion of the article he wrote above, as follows:
"There were inevitable historical limitations to the realisation of the goals of the Enlightenment. Despite the genius of Rousseau, Locke, Hume et al., they could not escape their historical epoch. Although many thinkers of the time were critical of private property, slavery, colonialism and their attendant social evils, their ideals could not be fully realised in the context of the capitalist society that emerged from the bourgeois revolutions." [1]
Yes, in the above recited piece from the article, the reader can clearly see that Joe Mount recognizes the "historical limitations to the realization of the goals of the Enlightenment" or that "despite the genius" of such individuals as "Rousseau, Locke, Hume and others", they "could not escape their historical epoch, BUT then...

In the same Joe Mount article, Mr. Mount quotes Denis Diderot as follows:

Denis Diderot’s Encyclopaedia (1772) says of the trade,
 
"This buying of Negroes, to reduce them to slavery, is one business that violates religion, morality, natural laws, and all the rights of human nature... If commerce of this kind can be justified by a moral principle, there is no crime, however atrocious it may be, that cannot be made legitimate... Men and their liberty are not objects of commerce; they can be neither sold nor bought nor paid for at any price.”

It calls for the freeing of all slaves, stating that the sale of a slave is always invalid because, “This Negro does not divest himself and can never divest himself of his natural right; he carries it everywhere with him, and he can demand everywhere that he be allowed to enjoy it. It is, therefore, patent inhumanity on the part of judges in free countries where he is transported, not to emancipate him immediately by declaring him free, since he is their fellow man, having a soul like them.” [1]

I see noticeable contrasts in the language applied by two individuals from the same era —18th century! In his quoted words, Diderot refers to the 'Negro' as a "FELLOW MAN" (emphasized in caps), endowed with "having a soul like them ["them" being a reference to 'Whites']", who "does not divest himself and can never divest himself of his natural right; he carries it everywhere with him", WHEREAS David Hume refers to 'Negroes' as "FELLOW-CREATURES" (with emphasis).

It does NOT appear with any clarity, that David Hume, despite the implicit COMPASSION in that cited quote for the victims of "domestic slavery", viewed 'Negroes' as equal to the 'Whites', even as this quote was presented by Joe Mount as a "revision" to the sentiment expressed in another, reportedly EARLIER, quote from David Hume, which seems to be making a case for why 'Negros' and "other species of men" are "naturally inferior to the whites".

The point being....If these two quotes from two Western individuals from the 18th century mean anything, short of any further examination to the contrary, it does seem to suggest that there were individuals from that era who held social standards that are not too different from those that exist in the 21st century today, BOTH progressive and reactionary!

And of course, the U.S. "Founding Fathers" are commonly quoted as authors of the constitution which states that "ALL MEN are created EQUAL" (with emphasis), and yet these are the same individuals who did not find it odd to OWN other "MEN", or that these "men" had no rights to vote for that matter. PERHAPS, in contrast to what we see in the Diderot quote, the Founding Fathers did not view 'Negroes' as 'men'?!


*Content herein may be subject to revision or modification as made necessary by information inflow.

Update! 

It would appear that an earlier attempt of the present author at issuing reader feedback—highlighting the same concerns as outlined in the above which was sent as a second attempt at submitting a feedback to author Joe Mount—did in fact appear in the comments segment, apparently some time after the writing of this blog entry. At the time of writing this blog entry, there was no indication of either the publication of the present author's concerns about the WSWS entry  in question or any reaction(s) to those expressed concerns thereof. Usually the moderation of these comments at WSWS website do not require lengthy amounts of time for "approved" comments to show up in the reader-comment sections...which happens almost immediately on the site—in some cases, along with a reaction to reader comments by the respective authors of a specific web/blog entry under discussion, while in other cases, reactions of the authors came at a later time, i.e. when they (entry authors) would have had time to digest a reader feedback and hence afford the authors ample time to appropriate the desired or relevant reply where needed. As a reminder though, reader commentary on this blog site are not necessarily promptly attended to—as a direct contrast to the WSWS website, which is managed by multiple authors; in fact, in many cases, i.e. where leisure time makes it possible—it can take a good amount of time for the present author—as the sole author of this blog—to get to and subsequently address, moderate and "approve" reader comments for publication. 

* Last revised (mildly) on October 10th, 2017
______________________
 References:

[1] The racialist agenda of the "Decolonize Education" Movement, by an author by the name of Joe Mount, dated to February 24th 2017.

3 comments:

Oswald Durand said...

The WSWS is allergic to facts when it comes to discussing racism. The party line is that racism doesn't matter, the "Enlightenment" was the greatest gift to humanity and its heroes such as Hume, Kant, Hegel, Jefferson, etc. should never be criticized for their racism! My comments have been banned for pointing out to them that black capitalists existed before Nixon talked of black capitalism, and that blacks made valuable contributions to the development of US industry.
I tried to comment on the article you discuss only to have my comment tagged as "spam"!
Judge for yourself how 'honest' they are.
"
Discussion on World Socialist Web Site 46 comments
The racialist agenda of the “Decolonise Education” movement
oswald durand
oswald durand 32 minutes ago
Detected as spam Thanks, we'll work on getting this corrected.

"This amalgam of the progressive ideals of the Enlightenment with the crimes of colonialism and the slave trade is ahistorical and reactionary. Firstly, it ignores the work of Guillaume Thomas Raynal and other thinkers opposing slavery, not to mention the crucial influence of the Enlightenment ideals of liberty and equality in shaping events such as the Haitian slave revolt led by Toussaint Louverture in 1791."
The 1791 St-Domingue slave revolt was led by Boukman, not Toussaint Louverture. Louverture didn't become a leader until 1792-93, first in the service of the king of Spain! Only after the French government abolished slavery on February 4, 1794, thereby ratifying the abolition of slavery by commissioners Sonthonax and Polverel in 1793 did Louverture make common cause with the French. These gentlemen undertook
such radical steps, not out of an abstract love of freedom due to the "enlightenment" but because of the military pressures of the British and Spanish that threatened French rule. They were originally sent to put down the slave revolt!
I find it strange that the Haitian revolution
is demoted to a mere revolt. Mr. Mount, Where was the ruling class uprooted as thoroughly as happened between 1791 and 1804?
Your claim to the contrary notwithstanding, the struggle to turn St-Domingue, the charnel house of the Antilles, to Haiti, clearly revealed the racist limits of the "enlightenment". The citizenship of the peoples of St-Domingue and Guadeloupe were revoked, Toussaint Louverture was illegally arrested, locked up in a dungeon and tortured to death for
defending the liberty of the former slaves of St-Domingue and extending such liberty to the eastern side of the island. The people of Guadeloupe were massacred and put back in chains. I'm not aware of any major figure of the European or North American intellectual elite who protested. I can recall only Wordsworth's ode to Louverture that went
against the spirit of the time. Maybe you know of others?
"To Toussaint L'Ouverture

Toussaint, the most unhappy Man of Men!
Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
Pillowed in some deep dungeon's earless den; -
O miserable Chieftain! where and when
Wilt thou find patience? Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow:
Though fallen Thyself, never to rise again,
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies;
There's not a breathing of the common wind
That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;
Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
And love, and Man's unconquerable mind.
By William Wordsworth"

Man's unconquerable mind took the form of Jean-Jacques Dessalines and his army who fought under the banner of "Liberty or Death" to create Haiti.The enlightened ones (Jefferson, Bonaparte, etc.) were not pleased, at
least, that's what their embargoes and naval threats leads me to conclude."

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Nobody's Business said...

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