Who owns the dead white men?

The mainstream progressive position, as I infer it, is subtle.  It’s not contradictory, but the balance is delicate.  On the one hand, racists/sexists/etc are losers.  They’re dumb; they’re ugly; they have low-status jobs.  Progressives are not just right; they’re superior people in every way.  Therefore, great men of the past were surely proto-liberals. If they had lived today, Plato and Shakespeare would surely have voted for Hillary Clinton.  On the other hand, Western civilization is so irredeemably racist/sexist/etc that all its ideas, institutions, and cultural products are tainted.  This includes, of course, the works of our geniuses, and the fact that they are thus corrupted shows how wicked our civilization is to its very core.

So, insofar as the dead white men were genuinely accomplished, they belong to progressivism, rays of light that shown in spite of, and in no way because of, their white, Christian, European context.  Insofar as they held unprogressive beliefs or their creations reflected such, they belong to the West and add to the list of things that lower class whites should be ashamed of.  To sum up, we get all of the guilt, but none of the glory.

In the past, liberals wisely focused on the first first point.  Denying racists/sexists/etc any proud heritage was the most important thing.  Now I’d say the balance is shifting.  An insecure high-status man wants to show that he’s the same as other high status men.  A secure and ambitious high-status man wants to show that he’s different.  Progressives are secure in their status as monopolists of morality and feel no further need to associate with dead white men.  So I see more articles on how Feynman was a sexist, Watson and Crick were racists, Puccini was a fascist, etc.  I’m all for this.  If every great scientist, artist, and composer can be cast as a deplorable, it’s going to be very hard to keep up the pretense that we’re all losers.

7 Responses

  1. Serendipitously, as I was preparing to publish, I saw this:

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/katz-its-time-to-take-the-great-white-men-of-science-off-their-pedestals/

    Keep it up, guys. Keep it up.

  2. They will need a doctrine similar to the Christian story of the “harrowing of Hell.” Let’s say that MLK goes down to “the Ghostly Quarters” where bigoted men languish after they die. Among those men, some held their reprehensible ideas for purely environmental reasons, others because they carried a bad seed. As it happens, the first class includes all the scientists, artists and saints. So MLK leads this first class out from “the Ghostly Quarters” and up hill to “The Big House of the Blessed,” where they forever after feast along side Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel.

  3. You didn’t mention William Shockley. He was REALLY deplorable.

  4. I’d like somebody to draw more attention to that. Then next time two liberals are talking, and one says “Look at that racist. What a loser!” the other might think to himself “Well, on the other hand, guys like that gave us the transistor.”

  5. It is a simple fact that most of the greatest/ genius early-mid 20th century biologists were eugenicists – for example Sir Ronald Fisher, Sir Julian Huxley, Sir Peter Medawar, J.B.S. Haldane, Francis Crick and WD Hamilton.

    They were all on the left. Indeed, eugenics was intrinsic to mainstream and high prestige Leftism – The Fabians such as GB Shaw, HG Wells, Beatrice and Sidney Webb advocated eugenics; Harold Laski, William Beveridge (father of the welfare state) etc. etc. The National Socialists were presumably eugenicists because they were socialists.

    Indeed, not many spoke against eugenics except Roman Catholics like Chesterton.

    It wasn’t until the mid-1960s with the New Left (feminists, sexual revolutionaries, antiracists etc.) that eugenics became regarded as evil among ‘liberals’, socialists and communists – but only because New Leftists needed to be able to lie in their claim that the main causes of modern social inequality are environmental/ prejudice-caused – and not hereditary/ genetically-caused.

    The eugenecists were factually correct (overall) that heredity is indeed the main cause of group social differences – but morally wrong in what they wanted to do about the fact (or, perhaps wrong that they wanted anything at all to be done about it).

  6. No, MASCAGNI was a fascist!

  7. […] asks, Who owns the dead white men? Hopefully, it’s the […]

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