Is Bernie right?

Mr. Ecclestone says:

“In lots of cases, black people are more racist than what white people are [sic].”

A Fulani speaking about Ibibio, a Zulu about Khoi San, could certainly make you think that. Robert Mugabe’s treatment of Ndebele might lead you to that conclusion.

But is he right?

56 thoughts on “Is Bernie right?”

  1. A racism ranking table eh.
    The EU compiled one 3 years ago and the UK came 2nd bottom of the 15 or so countries they did.
    Which is ironic because the small number of white supremacists out there should have voted Remain, because if Brussels decisions reflect aggregate attitudes of the peoples of the EU, then a bit more of pro-whitey policy will feed into those decisions.

  2. Nearly 50 years ago one of my colleagues was a (white) Kenyan. We were discussing Idi Amin’s expulsion of Ugandan Asians and I remarked that black people seemed to be at least as racist is we whites were supposed to be. Her amused response was, “No, much more”.

  3. “They” certainly have no problem using every slur under the sun when referring to their own kind and others. They might have a run for their money with the Chinese (who are fond of calling a spade a spade), but generally speaking, yes.

    As for people like Lewis Hamilton and Idris Elba who say “They’ve faced racism everyday”. You’re either lying, a bit too sensitive or an utter cunt. I’ll leave it to them to figure out which it is.

    …although, no doubt that too is racism… 🙂

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    In the sense that the Other Bernie means it, probably not. Although Blacks are a lot more free to express what feelings they have.

    But in another sense, it is highly likely. In the sense that White people pretty much invented everything and effortlessly build prosperous, functional decent societies in which to live. They do not need to think about it much. But the success of Whites is in the face of everyone else all the time – high lighting their failures. So Blacks have to think about it all the time,

    In the same way the joke goes about the Jewish academic condensed a life time of learning into three books on Elephants – Volume one was on African Elepants, volume 2 on Asian Elephants and volume three was on Elephants and why everyone hates Jews so much. They need to think about anti-semitism a lot. The rest of us don’t.

  5. Sierra Leone lad commenting on attractive black girl seen on Camden High Street.

    “Nah. I know her. She Nigerian. Dirty people. Animals.”

    How’d he get christened Justice & one of his his sisters Patience? He was constantly getting nicked & she had a hair trigger temper.

    With reference to the octoroon thread, another sister played a Jamaican in an ITV sitcom in skin-lightening slap. S’pose she wouldn’t get that part, now. Wrong colour of black.

  6. I’m only concerned about their blatant racism to whites like me. I couldn’t give a damn about their feelings regarding themselves or others.

  7. The view from Africa:
    Otherness begins at the level of clan, not even tribe. Everyone you’re not related to is untrustworthy and to be exploited. Race is just a convenient bolton for total strangers.

  8. “In lots of cases, black people are more racist than what white people are [sic].”

    ‘But is he right?’

    What are you getting at, Mr Worstall?

  9. “Everyone you’re not related to is untrustworthy and to be exploited.”

    “To be a gentleman, you have to be able to afford to be a gentleman.” – GC

    Whites can afford not to be racist, nor clannish.

  10. jOhn Galt – I’ve no doubt lewis hamilton feels a bit of an outsider but F1’s a weird world. *and you don’t need to ascribe it to racism. For one thing it’s definitely multicultural. Recreating the cultural mix that is stevanage might make him feel more at home but is that the point? That said I do know if you’re a Brit you’ve got a bit of an advantage, say over all those antipodeans that have to move across the world when they’re 17 to get experience or noticed by a Brit team. Anyone who got through the process of whittling down billions into the 20 who get a drive in an f1 car probably had an advantage or ten in the mix, but no-one can deny Lewis got to where he is by being fast, very fast. Despite his years in that wierd world I believe he’s still a monoglot (at a fluency level) and that alone is enough to unsettle you. Everytime Nico Rosberg switched to French or German or Italian when talking to someone in his earshot will reinforced that but here;s the difficulty – policy number one “everyone speak english or you’re being racist”… i can see a few problems with that.
    an example.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSg9tPTM9YU

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSg9tPTM9YU

  11. No more notice should be taken of Hamilton than Premier League footballers. Both undeniably brilliant in their field but fuckwits otherwise. Hamilton especially as he claims Britain is racist but he’s the only “black” F1 driver and claims that British fans are the best and he loves his home GP.

  12. “…effortlessly build prosperous, functional decent societies in which to live.”

    I think it took, amongst many other things, rather a lot of effort. In fact, the going to the effort might be key.

  13. Yes. He is right. As far as Lewis Hamilton and Idris Elba if you consider everything that anyone says to you through a racist lens then you see it all the time.

    Prior to the 90s there were racists but they were seen as dinosaurs, in the 90s I would argue that the only racism was people finding it to justify them getting a hand out. Now I see racism increasing as white people see they are being discriminated against and that isn’t going to end well. The key word in positive discrimination is discrimination.

  14. “I’m only concerned about their blatant racism to whites like me. I couldn’t give a damn about their feelings regarding themselves or others”.

    +100

    Or what they do to each other, wherever they are.

  15. Being a citizen of UK/US/Canada/AU/NZ puts you in good position to succeed.

    Racist blacks call this white privilege. Cos whites succeed and they don’t.

    They squander the opportunity they have been given, then project their racism on those who do succeed. It’s not a race privilege. But that then means their failure is their fault.

  16. I’d say there’s a great deal more racism around than anyone’s owning up to. But it depends where you live. I’m perfectly willing to believe there’s few racists in whole tracts of the overwhelmingly white bits of the UK. They’ve no reason to be. In the cities? I’d say all of my mates back in the London Borough of Haringey are racist to some extent. They’ve got Tottenham next door. They stereotype by the colour of skin as a working guide to what you’re going to find if you have to deal with the person. But “You can’t call me racist. I’ve got lots of black friends” is exactly true. They have got lots of black friends who don’t necessarily fit the stereotype. Can’t imagine how you’d get on in a city like London without doing this. Always been like this. I grew up in a very Jewish part of London. They were Yids. We were Yoks. Not all Yids are frummers, but… Better than awkward cultural faux pas. You can’t go around asking everyone if they bacon sandwiches.

  17. Put it this way: we don’t eat midgets.

    As for the pygmies, I know they get enslaved still. Do they get eaten too?

  18. Bernie E practically is a pygmy. Who knows how far he would have got in life had he not had to endure shortist jokes in school.

  19. “But in another sense, it is highly likely. In the sense that White people pretty much invented everything and effortlessly build prosperous, functional decent societies in which to live. They do not need to think about it much. But the success of Whites is in the face of everyone else all the time – high lighting their failures. So Blacks have to think about it all the time,…”

    I don’t want to pidgeon hole people by race at all, I prefer to see everyone as an individual and not care what colour they are. But if people are going to make everything about race and blame whitey for everything wrong in the world I would say this. White people invented the modern world, without which the rest of you would be subsistence farming. Maybe the rest of you should be grateful to be invited to sit at our table.

  20. “But in another sense, it is highly likely. In the sense that White people pretty much invented everything and effortlessly build prosperous, functional decent societies in which to live.”

    Effortlessly? You serious? Do I start cussing you now?

  21. @Stonyground

    Not true that the move away from subsistence farming was exclusively (or even originally?) European. Up to about 1500 or 1600 there wasn’t even much technological or economic difference between early modern Europe and other leading civilisations (principally in Asia). In modern dollar terms, estimates of GDP per capita in the more developed parts of the world back then are in the region of a thousand dollars to a couple of thousand dollars per capita. Not great, but suggests they were better off than quite a few countries are today (Chad, Central African Republic, Niger and so on are, depending how you measure it, around the $1000 figure). It’s only really by the 1700s or even 1800s that “the West” really shot off on totally different trajectory. Other areas had different patterns, India completely stalling (in fact a period of decline and then improvement) that saw the population no better off in 1960 than it was in 1600, by some estimates. Two interesting reads if you don’t want to hit the book-length stuff:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Divergence

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_regions_by_past_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita

  22. India completely stalling (in fact a period of decline and then improvement) that saw the population no better off in 1960 than it was in 1600, by some estimates.

    Nehru imposing socialism has set India back at least 70 years in wealth growth.

  23. Is Bernie correct? Yes

    @SMFS

    +1 I’ve said similar and it often silences the SJWs

    When homo sapiens first left southern Africa we all had same opportunities. Over the next ~165,000 years some sat on the arse, others constantly sought ways to improve their lives. Nothing prevented anyone inventing or copying farming, crop rotation, enlightenment, industrial revolution… Some did, some sat on arses

  24. “White people invented the modern world, without which the rest of you would be subsistence farming.”

    I’d take a more modern context.

    Within living memory a lot of white people lined up to defeat fascism, and a lot of them died in the attempt, and this was so people of all colours could stand shoulder to shoulder as equals before the law as they do today, and it was a conflict that countries sacrificed their world empires for. White people did not have to do this, fascism was friendly to them and they had little to gain and much to lose, but they fought, and died, for what was right.

    And people talk of “white privilege”, hardly a single (white) person in this country of that generation was unaffected by the war against fascism, all of them knowing loved ones who gave their lives, the whole concept must be an insult to them.

  25. @Pcar

    “Nothing prevented anyone inventing or copying farming, crop rotation, enlightenment, industrial revolution… Some did, some sat on arses”

    This is above my pay grade but there’s definitely some geographers/historians/anthropologists who argue there’s a lot of geospatial luck involved. You need the right kind of soil, right species of plants/animals around you that you can use for agriculture and transport, right kind of physical materials available (at various stages, flint, wood, various ores, coal, whatever) and in some cases there’s a matter of luck in adoption of one technology leading decades or centuries later to progress in an apparently unrelated (certainly unexpected at the outset) area.

    I have no idea whether Europe coming out on top of the world during the Great Divergence (for just a few centuries mind you, bear in mind that at various times East Asian or Middle Eastern civilisations have had primacy too, in several cases for longer than Europe managed) was primarily due to cultural or social factors, or due to geographical good fortune for what was required at that stage of history. I reckon there’s got to be something in the theory – the Inuit are both ingenious and hardly renowned backside-sitters, but they were clearly never going to be the leaders of the world. But then things like the Enlightenment clearly had a philosophical component with cultural dependencies. Like I said, above my pay grade.

  26. So Much For Subtlety

    Stonyground June 27, 2020 at 5:37 pm – “I don’t want to pidgeon hole people by race at all, I prefer to see everyone as an individual and not care what colour they are.”

    That is pretty much the definition of White privilege. You can do that because you are White and live in a White majority country. So it doesn’t matter to you day to day. If you lived, or when you live, in a non-White majority country you would not have that luxury.

    Gamecock June 27, 2020 at 7:27 pm – “Effortlessly? You serious? Do I start cussing you now?”

    Please feel free. You put some random White people down on an island you get New Zealand. You put some random Black people down on an even better island and you get Jamaica.

    Why this should be I do not know. But it is universally true.

    MyBurningEars June 27, 2020 at 7:44 pm – “Up to about 1500 or 1600 there wasn’t even much technological or economic difference between early modern Europe and other leading civilisations (principally in Asia).”

    This is part of the West-minimising going on in modern academia. Is it true? I doubt it. Compare Greek philosophy with anything produced elsewhere. It is obviously not true in technology, up to a point, but it is in pretty much everything else.

    MyBurningEars June 27, 2020 at 11:55 pm – “This is above my pay grade but there’s definitely some geographers/historians/anthropologists who argue there’s a lot of geospatial luck involved. You need the right kind of soil, right species of plants/animals around you that you can use for agriculture and transport, right kind of physical materials available”

    Britain has a terrible climate, not particularly good soil, and the same animals the rest of Eurasia had. Jared Diamond’s argument works well for Peru. For the West? China and India look to be much better placed but they do not do what the West does.

  27. @SMFS

    “China and India look to be much better placed but they do not do what the West does.”

    Dunno, depends to some extent where you think the End Of History is, doesn’t it?

    If you’d stopped history in 1400 AD then you might think the West has had the odd moment (Alexander of Macedon, the pre-decline bits of the Roman Empire) but it wasn’t the only place that had experienced cultural or philosophical sophistication, definitely wasn’t always at the forefront of scientific and technical innovation and was quite often pretty far back in some respects, didn’t have the world’s biggest cities (though it had held that mantle for a couple of centuries, that was about a millennium ago – ancient history, literally), hadn’t carved out the world’s biggest empires, and one generally would have had the sense the next few centuries of the world’s history, like the last, were likely to be dominated by the great civilisations of Asia. Interesting question why it didn’t turn out that way. It wouldn’t surprise me if you stopped history in 2400 AD to find that the sages could write much the same thing, except throwing in “Alexander the Great, the Romans, and that industrial to early post-industrial period around 1750 to 2100” as exceptional times the West was ahead. Or perhaps the big developing economies of Asia will get stuck in a middle-income trap with simultaneous demographic timebomb and the West will stick it out rather longer. Not going to be around to find out!

    The NZ to Jamaica comparison isn’t really like-for-like. Any place whose economy starts out as a slave colony is stuffed when it comes to development economics, whereas NZ started off as one of the richest economies (GDP per capita) in the world due to a small labour force extracting rich resources. It’s not the same as dumping two groups of people on similar starting points and seeing who does better. Also worth pointing out New Zealand’s population is only about 60% bigger than Jamaica but its area is over twenty times greater…

  28. Bloke in North Dorset

    This is above my pay grade but there’s definitely some geographers/historians/anthropologists who argue there’s a lot of geospatial luck involved.

    In his book Prisoners of Geography, Tim Marshall claims that one of the biggest problems in Africa’s development was the lack of navigable rivers which restricted trade development. It will also have restricted the spread of ideas.

    As always with these things there’s no simple right answer.

    Please feel free. You put some random White people down on an island you get New Zealand. You put some random Black people down on an even better island and you get Jamaica.

    How random was it? The early settlers in NZ were, by and large, self selected highly motivated people and culturally homogeneous and so they started as a high trust society.

    Slaves were selected for their strength, from different tribes and clans that might have been at war with each other and they didn’t even speak the same language. Not the best start.

  29. So Much For Subtlety

    MyBurningEars June 28, 2020 at 3:45 am – “Dunno, depends to some extent where you think the End Of History is, doesn’t it?”

    That is true. It is probably a mistake to think that India will always be a backward poverty striken shithole. It is likely to return to some thing like its former glory – as China is.

    “If you’d stopped history in 1400 AD then you might think the West has had the odd moment (Alexander of Macedon, the pre-decline bits of the Roman Empire) but it wasn’t the only place that had experienced cultural or philosophical sophistication, definitely wasn’t always at the forefront of scientific and technical innovation and was quite often pretty far back in some respects, didn’t have the world’s biggest cities (though it had held that mantle for a couple of centuries, that was about a millennium ago – ancient history, literally), hadn’t carved out the world’s biggest empires, and one generally would have had the sense the next few centuries of the world’s history, like the last, were likely to be dominated by the great civilisations of Asia.”

    But how much of that is true and how much of it is academic hatred of the West? It is very unlikely that the rest of the world had particularly big cities. Certainly Islamic Cordoba was not even close to a million. Hangzhou in China? I would like to see the evidence.

    Others had some degree of technical and cultural sophistication but signs the West were about to pull away were there. Greek statues were so good that Buddhism took the Greek style all over Asia – displacing any local statue tradition if they had one. I think Greek philosophy was miles ahead of any one else as was Greek history.

    “Any place whose economy starts out as a slave colony is stuffed when it comes to development economics, whereas NZ started off as one of the richest economies (GDP per capita) in the world due to a small labour force extracting rich resources.”

    Well no. There is no reason to think that a slave colony is screwed. Virginia wasn’t. Why would it be? And the massive natural resources argument does not work for Brazil or Sudan or even Russia.

    Bloke in North Dorset June 28, 2020 at 6:50 am – “Slaves were selected for their strength, from different tribes and clans that might have been at war with each other and they didn’t even speak the same language. Not the best start.”

    Slaves were selected because people needed slaves and there were never enough. Buyers weren’t picky. When Jamaica became independent it was culturally homogeneous give or take some Asians. Similar religious distribution. Similar constitution.

    But a hell of lot closer to the US and Europe

  30. @Various

    All I’m reading is excuses for why non-whites didn’t achieve X, Y or Z couched in terms of supposed advantages of the physical environment possessed by that relatively small peninsula on the west of Asia (and the tiny islands to the west of that)

    Appalling heresy I know, but do you not think it might have had something to do with qualities of the people who lived there?

    How was the China or India of, say, 1600AD better for the vast bulk of its population than it had been in 160AD, and if the west hadn’t done it’s thing would the China or India of 2400AD be any better? I’d be fairly confident in saying no.

    Confucius, 500BC or so. Navel gazing really isn’t it. Most people will have heard the name though. Confucius he say: “man who goes sideways through airport check in going to bang cock”. (wonder if the communist funded “Confucius institutes” around the world might blacken the name?)

    Roger Bacon, 13th century. Studying nature using empirical methods.

    Where did two millennia of Confucianism lead (would another millennium or two make any difference)

    A few hundred years after Bacon there was calculus and celestial mechanics. A few hundred years later, look where we are.

    Bacon was a white European as where pretty well all those who have got us where we are (non-scientist, look at the list of SI units: Amp, Kelvin, Hertz, Newton, Pascal, Watt, Joule, Farad, Henry, Tesla etc. Disgustingly white isn’t it).

    Even those who try and rationalize that “the west” was somehow just luck and claim their “share” refuse to acknowledge that the science and engineering of the west are available essentially freely to any society that wants to improve for the benefit of its people.

    If you believe this yet have hissy fits at “culturally appropriating” some trivia (a hairstyle, a recipe, some style of clothing). You have the problem, not I. The last thing you’ll get off me is an apology and I’d have to be in a particularly good mood to even acknowledge you.

  31. I know that my history of human development was absurdly simplistic, it was also meant to be a little bit tongue in cheek.

    When SMFS described the rise of European civilisation as being effortless, I presumed that he meant in comparison with other people’s efforts to do the same.

  32. @Mark

    “How was the China or India of, say, 1600AD better for the vast bulk of its population than it had been in 160AD”

    Quite considerably? Economic growth worldwide was pretty slow everywhere, even in what was then considered the good bits, until the Great Divergence. But over a thousand years it still adds up, and both China and India progressed technologically in that time, they weren’t stuck in stasis.

    It isn’t about “making excuses” for why other places might have “failed” to emulate the West of the industrial era, any more than the West in 1400 needs “excuses” made for why it got whipped scientifically and militarily by the Muslim world (despite much of their knowledge being “freely available” too), or why it had “failed” to ever produce an empire as large as the Mongols, or why it was behind China in so many ways. I’m happy to accept that progress comes out of people and culture not just natural resources – Western empirical traditions were well-suited to scientific and industrial revolution, though it’s still hard to see how far that could have got the West without access to coal and iron deposits.

    Might the annals of 2400 say that “ultimately the West’s cultural and philosophical backwardness held it back from making full use of the technological capacities its scientific progress had unlocked – from European reluctance to accept GM food to a pan-Western refusal to countenance genetic selection of embryos that led to a substantial relative degradation of its human capital stock compared to more ethically progressive East Asian societies by 2200”? Perhaps you can be suited for a particular moment in history. Maybe ideas about democracy, rights, freedoms and openness will turn out less suited for the next stage of human history than techno-authoritarianism. (I mean personally I hope not, but there’s a reason Beijing is splurging on AI and it isn’t just the economic prospects for it. So some people are clearly taking a big-money gamble that I’m wrong.)

  33. @Smfs/Mark

    Re philosophies elsewhere. Confucius won out in China but there were many other schools which reached a degree of sophistication and popularity before fizzling out or being suppressed. Too many Indian traditions to shake a stick at. There are the Arab philosophers who European philosophers of the Renaissance seem to have rated highly. This is above my pay grade but I think you’d have to spend decades immersing yourself in comparative history of philosophy to make particularly meaningful or insightful comparisons between them (which to be honest isn’t something I have the time, interest or ability for) but I reckon even judging them by their “fruits” is difficult.

    The Western Christian philosophical-theological strand seems to have ended up with a belief system that is rapidly disappearing from the population due to its apparent non-credibility, where it does strongly persist is often used to try to hold scientific understanding back to pre-Victorian levels and generally hasn’t adapted well to modern times. The Western secular philosophical tradition seems to be disappearing up its own backside with post-structuralism etc and seems to end in a lot of Western self-loathing. The empirical stuff clearly came in handy but it’s overly teleological to think Western philosophy was somehow “working up to” or “culminating” in that, and that’s one strand among many. Development of liberal conceptions of governance, freedom and justice clearly had important economic roles too. But again that’s not been an ever upwards road to progress, where are we with our political and legal philosophy today? Having a bit of a wobbly moment I would suggest.

  34. @SMFS

    But if you’re talking economically not just culturally you also have to think about things like GDP per capita, capital stock per capita, some measure of human capital (average years of education maybe, ideally adjusted for quality of schooling somehow) and so on. For what it’s worth the style and economic model of slavery was very different between Virginia and Jamaica, and not in a way that favours Jamaica. If you look at a map of GDP per capita you’d also see much of rural Virginia is still pretty poor today – the really high-income bit is the suburban and commuter belt that’s built up around DC, and the various national administrative bodies that are based in Virginia as a consequence. There’s also the impact of labour mobility across the US with many descendants of slaves having moved north and many high-income graduates coming in to work in tech or the DC-related jobs. Jamaica is a very different case.

    I’m not saying Jamaica has been well-run for what it’s worth. Would be interesting to see what the best case for a country like Jamaica would be. The model couldn’t be Virginia or NZ. Probably couldn’t be Singapore either.

  35. “You put some random White people down on an island you get New Zealand.”

    The founders of New Zealand would be stunned to find out it was effortless.

  36. So Much For Subtlety

    Gamecock June 28, 2020 at 1:14 pm – “The founders of New Zealand would be stunned to find out it was effortless.”

    Would they? They might not like me saying it. Let’s compare. The Battle of the Somme was tough. We can probably agree on that. The territory taken was trivial and its impact on the course of the war minor.

    Did New Zealand lose even 1% of the Somme casualties to win and build a really great country? Did they fight the Maori tooth and nail to the last man? Did they have to fight a Civil War like the US?

    To me it looks like they were given so much at a trivial price.

  37. So Much For Subtlety

    Stonyground June 28, 2020 at 11:29 am – “When SMFS described the rise of European civilisation as being effortless, I presumed that he meant in comparison with other people’s efforts to do the same.”

    What I meant is that it seems to be so little effort – we do it in a fit of absent mindedness. English speakers do not have to think and plan. They do not know what works or why. They just have to go somewhere and a good society arises. That is not true for anyone else.

    Singapore for instance is a hell of a lot of hard work

  38. “Within living memory a lot of white people lined up to defeat fascism, and a lot of them died in the attempt”

    They fought Italy, Germany and Japan, not fascism. Heck, the U.S. is fascist.

    “and this was so people of all colours could stand shoulder to shoulder as equals before the law as they do today”

    YGBFKM

    It was absolutely nothing of the sort.

    It is difficult to comprehend your naivety, Runcie.

    Fascism: strong, autocratic central control of a private economy.

    I don’t see race in there. Please tell me where you see it.

    Britain joined the war when Germany invaded Poland, due to treaty, having not learned their lesson of entrapment by treaty in WWI.

    The Soviets joined the war when Germany invaded Poland, taking part of Poland, then invading Finland. They switched sides two years later when Germany invaded them.

    The U.S. was partial to the Brits, and helped them more than the Germans. They got really annoyed by U-boat action in ’41. But didn’t join until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on 8 December. The U.S. added Germany to their declaration of war AFTER Germany declared war on the U.S. on 11 December.

    Nothing about white people lining up to defeat fascism fascism in any of those reasons for joining the war. Nor anything about people of colour standing together and singing they’d like to buy the world a Coke.

    And there were lots of non-white people fighting. China and India were involved. Colonial and Commonwealth forces, too.

  39. So Much For Subtlety

    MyBurningEars June 28, 2020 at 12:05 pm – “Western empirical traditions were well-suited to scientific and industrial revolution, though it’s still hard to see how far that could have got the West without access to coal and iron deposits.”

    Neither Greece or Italy or France have coal or iron deposits worth a damn.

    “Might the annals of 2400 say that “ultimately the West’s cultural and philosophical backwardness held it back from making full use of the technological capacities its scientific progress had unlocked”

    They might and our loons seem to be doing their best to make it happen. However there is no sign of anyone else even coming close to catching the West as yet. Not even Japan to be honest.

    MyBurningEars June 28, 2020 at 12:30 pm – “Confucius won out in China but there were many other schools which reached a degree of sophistication and popularity before fizzling out or being suppressed. Too many Indian traditions to shake a stick at.”

    We are all told this, and yet there is no sign of it. If they were all that sophisticated why have they had no lasting influence? Where are the Western Taoists? The Western mathematicians in the Chinese School? Our culture has totally displaced their culture – philosophy in China means Western methods, styles, questions to the exclusion of all else.

    “The Western secular philosophical tradition seems to be disappearing up its own backside with post-structuralism etc and seems to end in a lot of Western self-loathing.”

    So maybe that Christian tradition is necessary?

    MyBurningEars June 28, 2020 at 12:42 pm – “But if you’re talking economically not just culturally you also have to think about things like GDP per capita, capital stock per capita, some measure of human capital (average years of education maybe, ideally adjusted for quality of schooling somehow) and so on.”

    Sure. My problem is that the people who do this desperately want to make Asia look good and the West look bad. Can we trust their guesses? China appears to have been very poor for a very long time. There are just a lot of them.

    “For what it’s worth the style and economic model of slavery was very different between Virginia and Jamaica, and not in a way that favours Jamaica.”

    So it is not slavery, it is the type of slavery? Come on. This is just retrospective justification.

    “If you look at a map of GDP per capita you’d also see much of rural Virginia is still pretty poor today – the really high-income bit is the suburban and commuter belt that’s built up around DC”

    But not as poor as free West Virginia.

    “There’s also the impact of labour mobility across the US with many descendants of slaves having moved north”

    And then trashing those places too.

    “I’m not saying Jamaica has been well-run for what it’s worth. Would be interesting to see what the best case for a country like Jamaica would be. The model couldn’t be Virginia or NZ. Probably couldn’t be Singapore either.”

    No, it would be Liberia. Race may not be escape-able but it sure looks like it.

  40. What the west did was unique and is there any indication that China or India or anybody else would or could have have done it?

    Did the builders of the great wall or the Taj Mahal (or Chartres cathedral, or the pyramids or any other impressive old structure you want to name) calculate the bulk modulus of the stone used, the loadings in the foundations, the wind loading on the structure etc etc etc. No, of course not.

    The scientific and industrial revolutions come from Western empirical traditions. Yes, no coal or iron would certainly have hindered these, but without Western empirical traditions it matters little how much coal or iron is available. With reference to the above, its remarkable what can be built without empirical methods but without you’re never going to have CERN, the channel tunnel, a saturn 5, the internet, a laser, a mobile phone or a million and one other things that are so taken for granted.

    Take away Western empirical methods and you impose an absolute and impenetrable barrier on how far a civilization can advance. You can think and philosophize until the end of time but you wont get far materially (and literally, you would likely be limited to the walking pace of a horse assuming you can build decent roads. Can’t imagine you could get to a workable steam locomotive). You can create magnificent art and beautiful music but how many will be able to see the former or hear the latter?

    This matters as it is the difference between knowledge, culture etc and decent living standards being widely available, enabling true human potential being released and these things being the preserve of a small nobility, religious elite or whatever.

    West IS best why should we not say so?

  41. @Mark

    In so far as one feels entitled to be proud of what one’s forefathers have done (it’s got an irrational edge to it, I mean, if someone who happened to live in the same country as your great-great-great-granddad did something good that’s not the same as you doing something good, but then national pride or pride in one’s tribe seems to be a globally universal human emotion so it must have something going for it) then yes, sure, why not be proud of the Western empirical tradition? To be sure, I’d rather live in a world where empiricism and the scientific revolution had come along than a world in which it didn’t.

    Could anybody else have come up with it? Not sure. Some Big Ideas have a very narrow cultural context in which they make sense – the doctrine of Original Sin, for example, could only have emerged in a particular place and culture and time. The concept of universal human rights – well it says it’s universal, but even so, I bet they’d look quite different if the idea had emerged somewhere else.
    Empiricism feels like it ought to be a more genuinely universal idea. But I don’t know enough about comparative history of philosophy to know how close other places got. Avicenna and some of the Arabs/Persians who followed him famously had empiricist and rationalist approaches, and indeed the “Western” empirical tradition is partly a direct descent from the Arab one (the translations were influential). But for whatever reason the Arabs never really kicked on with it – one of my Muslim friends loves to bemoan the scholars he deems responsible for the failure of Arab empiricism to thrive, though I don’t know whether there were economic or institutional factors too – but that might also be a hint that empiricism on its own doesn’t guarantee a scientific revolution.

    @SMFS

    “Neither Greece or Italy or France have coal or iron deposits worth a damn.”

    Well Greece was hardly a pivotal centre of the first industrial revolution was it? Even France and Italy were industrial laggards. To be fair the role of coal in the industrial revolution (what drove what?) seems to be a matter of significant contention among economic historians: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41378456?seq=1

    “So it is not slavery, it is the type of slavery?”

    Moving from one economic model to another is always hard and depends a lot on where you were in the first place. And yes, there’s more than one economic model for slavery, so why shouldn’t it matter? Also, institutions matter, human capital matters, physical capital matters. From memory, the Jamaican plantations had been such unspeakably awful places that former slaves were not keen to go back, and they had a fairly high reservation wage as they preferred to grow pumpkins(?). The produce was no longer competitive at world prices. Pretty sure part of the reason contemporaries argued for the British Empire to take such an active role shutting down the slave trade to other countries’ colonies was to prevent undercutting.

    “So maybe that Christian tradition is necessary?”

    If you are correct in this belief, then a quick look of opinion polls of religious belief among the young, and a glance at the religious make-up of academic philosophy departments, suggests the West is utterly stuffed.

  42. “With reference to the above, its remarkable what can be built without empirical methods”

    And rebuilt. Some of the early pyramids failed.

  43. In Our Time had a prog covering the industrial revolution 10 years ago. Unfortunately, they’d invited Pat Hudson who takes a resolutely Marxist, geographic determinist approach and so claimed that the fact it happened in Britain was merely the consequence of having coal fields adjacent to supplies of iron ore (at one point, even the præternaturally restrained Melvyn Bragg was heard to utter the word ‘rubbish’).

    One of the key early steps in the IR was the establishment of factories, and the first examples were handling textiles and powered by water, which could have been done anywhere in Europe (except perhaps the Low Countries). And here in the Chilterns, you can easily come across lumps of iron slag from Romano-British or mediæval smelting (hard to tell which, without expensive metallurgical analysis), despite there being no iron ore within 30 miles. But smelting takes 20 tons of wood for each ton of ore, so it’s much easier to bring the ore to the woods – which is what they did.

    And despite SMFS’s claim that “Neither Greece or Italy or France have coal or iron deposits worth a damn”, France had extensive coal mining in the Arras area, and iron ore in Lorraine (so German in alternate decades 🙂 ) – Zola wrote about this in Germinal.

  44. “Why did modern science, the mathematization of hypotheses about Nature, with all its implications for advanced technology, take its meteoric rise only in the West at the time of Galileo had not developed in Chinese civilisation or Indian civilisation?”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_Civilisation_in_China
    https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/collections/needham

    Like the Murray’s Oxford English Dictionary and Knuth’s Art of Computer Programming, a project without end.

  45. @Myburningears

    “I mean, if someone who happened to live in the same country as your great-great-great-granddad did something good that’s not the same as you doing something good……….”.

    If you must introduce this asinine Jordan Peterson cod philosophy, I trust you made it clear to your muslim friend that it’s not his place to bemoan long dead Arab philosophers for their failures. It would make arguments for “white guilt” problematic as well.

    Western empiricism: The scientific/industrial revolution is a Western thing, sorry but it is and no amount of wishful thinking will change that. Had the West not I doubt if you would be alive, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be and neither probably at least three quarters of the people on the planet today. Those remaining would be living far shorter lives of ignorance and want.

  46. So Much for Subtlety

    “it’s impact on the course of the war minor”

    “The Somme was the muddy grave of the German field army.” Captain Captain von Hentig of the German Guard Reserve Division.

    The attack on the Somme helped save the French at Verdun. The Somme meant more and more German troops had to be transferred to fight the British and Empire forces. This drastically reduced the ability of the Germans to undertake offensive operations. Von Falkenhayn had underestimated the ability of the British to launch an attack and when Haig ordered the British over the top, the Germans were unprepared. In order to salvage the situation on the Somme, the Germans had to move badly needed forces out of Verdun. Some four divisions were transferred from the assault in order to help defend German positions on the Somme.

    The German advance lost steam in the Summer of 1916 and were reduced to only local offensives. The commanders in Berlin were forced to use most of their strategic reserves on the Somme and the units in Verdun were starved of any reinforcements. The fighting in Verdun was intense and many German divisions became badly depleted and were unable to receive the reinforcements they needed. This prevented them from continuing with their offensive. The transfer of German units from Verdun meant they were eventually forced to adopt a defensive posture.

    Even with the negation of 500,000 German soldiers on the Western Front, the French still almost lost the battle. Their army was being bled white and was almost broken as a fighting for force, even with the Somme drawing off German reserves that would otherwise have been used to almost certainly destroy the French Army in 1916.

    The large battles of 1916–17 inflicted heavy damage on the Germans.The Somme-all five months of it- was seen as a marginal yet very costly, bloody victory. It changed the momentum against the Germans. The Germans retreated to the Hindenburg line sooner than they had planned.Ludendorff described it as ‘a heavy blow.’ If the weather hadn’t intervened the German Army might have cracked on the Somme. Ludendorff certainly feared it would.

    Together with Verdun and The Brusilov Offensive, The Somme, led to what historian Martin Kitchen called a ‘silent dictatorship’ in Germany when Hindenburg and Ludendorff took over and began to warp German strategy to its detriment.

    “Yet the Somme campaign would see those ‘improvised cadres’ of the BEF’s citizen-soldiers grow in skill and confidence, whilst, in a bloody contest of attack and counter-attack the old German Imperial Army was destroyed. In all 97 German Divisions were drawn into the fighting over the course of four and a half months. Some were withdrawn and then, of necessity, sent back into the cauldron. It was on the Somme that, as Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria lamented, “what still remained of the old first-class peace trained German infantry [was] expended on the battlefield.” (21) As the British and French bludgeoned their way forward, the Germans fought desperately to regain every yard of lost trench. Seventy-eight German counter-attacks were counted in the first two weeks of September alone, many of them repeat assaults on positions from which they had already been bloodily repulsed. German losses on the Somme are generally estimated at between 500,000 and 660,000. Allied (French and British) losses in the same battle are placed in the region of 630,000.(22) The Germans, having already been through the horrors of Verdun and the Brusilov offensives, could afford such losses far less than the British, for whom the Somme was the first major offensive of the war. The damage inflicted on the German army was not just physical but psychological. When Thiepval fell, a German soldier commented; “…it was absolutely crushing… every German soldier from the highest general to the meanest private had the feeling that now Germany had lost the first great battle.” (23)

    In 1928, the German Reichsarchive produced a series of monographs on the Somme, which passed this verdict on the battle;

    It would be a mistake to measure the results of the battle of the Somme by mere local gain of ground. Besides the strategic objectives, the British and French followed out a definite plan of exhausting the power of the defenders by the employment of great masses of artillery in constantly repeated attacks. Although … the casualties of the Entente were numerically greater than ours … this grave loss of blood affected Germany very much more heavily. Quite apart from the facts that its very loss narrowed down the limited possibilities of replacing it, and that the war industries drew off into their service able-bodied men in a constantly increasing measure, the battle of attrition gnawed terribly into the vitals of the defenders. The enormous tension on all fronts compelled the Supreme Command to leave troops in the line until they had expended the last atom of their energy, and to send divisions time after time into the same battle. In the circumstances, it was unavoidable that the demoralizing influences of the defensive battle affected the soldier more deeply than was proper in the interests of the maintenance of his fighting spirit and his sense of duty. Still more serious was it that, as the demand for self-sacrifice greatly surpassed what could be expected of the average man, the fighting largely fell on the shoulders of the best of the troops, and not least the officer. The consequences of this were a frightful death-roll of the finest and most highly trained soldiers, whose replacement was impossible. It was in this that the root of the tragedy of the battle lies. (24)

    Even as the battle was being fought, this erosion of the fighting quality of the German army was being noted. Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria recorded in his diary that “the old experienced officers and men decrease steadily in numbers, and the reinforcements incorporated in masses have not enjoyed the same soldierly instruction and training, and physically are mostly inferior.”(25) More recently Holger Hewig has echoed the same themes of damage to morale and the loss of irreplaceable veterans, noting that not only did the Somme witness “the first instances of blatant fragging…” in the German army, but also that it had “lost its last small-unit leaders: it would never be the same instrument again.”(26)

    Charles Carrington concluded that the Somme was

    where the British army fought it out with the German army, and established their superiority, inflicting casualties which Germany could ill afford. The result is patent. In August the German government dismissed Falkenhayn, their Chief-of-Staff, who had failed in attack at Verdun and failed in defence on the Somme … In September, their worse month for casualties, the new leaders, Hindenburg and Ludendorff, conceded defeat by planning a strategic withdrawal, though, with their usual tenacity they clung to their positions until the winter gave them a short respite before retreating. The German Army was never to fight so well again, but the British Army went on to fight better. (27)
    The pressure applied by both Haig’s BEF and the French on the Somme was, thus, a vital part of the process of wearing down the German army, the process of ‘destroying its arms’ and ‘breaking its will,’ the process, in short, which was the prerequisite of ultimate victory.“

    http://www.gwpda.org/comment/haig1.html

  47. @Mark

    Quite agree that the concept of feeling guilty for something a compatriot of your great-x4-grandfather did is in principle as questionable as feeling proud of the same. In practice, and perhaps just one of life’s convenient little hypocrisies, the typical person seems to feel more of the pride and less of the guilt. Or at least that was the usual pattern, some countries/generations seem to be going into a self-loathing mode.

    The fact Western empiricism was influenced by Arab empiricism is not wishful thinking, that’s something generally accepted as far as I’m aware. Why the Arabs didn’t kick on to a Western-style scientific revolution is an interesting question I’m not qualified to give an answer to. (I think my friend was perfectly entitled to feel miffed that they didn’t – he viewed those scholars who turned away from empiricism as committing an act of self-sabotage that in the long term led to centuries of humiliation, and he would far rather be living in a world in which the Islamic civilisations hadn’t dropped the baton of scientific progress that they’d made a decent fist of for a couple of centuries. If his hypothesis was correct – which I’m not sure it is – then a few influential men having a change of heart would have changed the development of world history onto a course which my mate would have been far happier with the results of. He wasn’t trying to claim any personal credit or culpability either for the achievements or failures of long ago, just disappointment that events took the course they did.)

    Overall we know the scientific revolution could happen in the West, because it did happen in the West. I’m not sure how we can know that it couldn’t have happened elsewhere, just because it happened in the West first, even if it turned up a century or two or three later. You’d have to be a very learned cross-cultural historian of philosophy to be sure that nobody else on the planet was close to the key ideas. A related issue is the extent to which industrial and scientific revolutions have to be intertwined – pretty clearly you couldn’t have anything resembling the Second Industrial Revolution without having had a major shift forward in physics and chemistry. But a lot of stuff at the beginning of the First Industrial Revolution (and indeed the Agricultural Revolution) was pretty low-tech and often developed by practical men rather than ones with abstract theoretical knowledge. On the other hand, industrialisation raises a lot of interesting questions that solutions are handsomely rewarded for – areas of ancient and medieval science that look most impressive to us, like astronomy and celestial calculations, presumably reached that stage of advancement because of the practical demands of navigation or making a calendar. And without serious practical application, the ancient automata of Ctesibius or steam engine or Heron remained little more than toys whose full potential went unexplored. I can’t help but wonder if the practical impetus of industrialisation goes some way to explaining the lag between the basic ideas of empiricism being fleshed out and the flow of new scientific ideas that noticeably intensified quite a lot later. And whether the lack of such impetus contributed to the Islamic scientific revolution fizzling out.

    @Chris Miller

    Excellent post thanks.

  48. @Myburningears

    What is your actual point and what are you trying to say? Why are you tying yourself in knots with Jordan Peterson and Wikipedia pseudo knowledge/intellectualism?

    I’m sorry, all you are doing IS making excuses for non-westerners.

    And you do seem to have self loathing pretty bad too. Stop that as well!

    Let’s forget empiricism and scientific revolutions as that’s just clouding the fundamental argument. Consider something else where Western dominance is pretty well total and unquestioned (and something in which I am totally uninterested) – sport.

    The world plays football, rugby, cricket, golf, baseball, basketball etc (and F1 which is where the thread started) Western cultural activities which the world embraces and revels in.

    Why do we not have cod philosophers saying “you mustn’t take pride in that – you didn’t invent them”. Or “well we have records of arabs and chinese kicking balls so why didn’t they invent football or cricket?” (the latter I believe, even the Taliban gave up trying to eradicate in Pakistan). “The Babylonians had chariots, why didn’t these become 200mph cars?”

    You can argue the the British empire and its American successor helped these sports spread which is undeniable. But (I have no idea) did football, cricket etc displace existing sports or where they new?

    The empire is gone but the sports remain and have put down roots. But nobody does question it.

    The world is quite good at football, rugby, cricket. Rather better in most cases than the originators.

    Maybe that’s it.

  49. @MBE

    why West had “failed” to ever produce an empire as large as the Mongols

    Western countries saw little need to. UK empire was to do with trade, not conquest

    As Mark correctly points out “All I’m reading is excuses for why non-whites didn’t achieve X, Y or Z couched in terms of supposed advantages”

    UK is cold, wet, windy small islands in the North Atlantic; so unpleasant it was depopulated many times. Not a paradise environment

    As for 1400/1500s, UK was way ahead of Europe & RoW even then

    I’m grateful for the huge accomplishments and sacrifices our ancestors made. Those from further south are embarrassed & jealous and seeking ‘not our fault’ excuses for their failures

    @SMFS, Mark
    Many +1s

  50. @Mark

    Britain in particular been remarkably successful both at “inventing” sports (in practice usually more about standardising a variety of pre-existing, related, more localised pastimes that had developed essentially organically) and then exporting them to the rest of the world. The Empire, yes, but also other outlets such like British railway engineers, who got sent all over the place. The rise of sports was an economic phenomenon linked to greater leisure time, but there often were local games that were displaced by the new, more popular sports (including lots of regional traditions in the UK). A few countries have retained a modernised version of their traditional national sport without ever managing to persuade other countries to play it. It’s an interesting topic – and does attract disputes. Plenty of Indian nationalists claim, rather bizarrely, that cricket developed from the Indian bat-and-ball game of Gilli. And in some cases, “foreign” sports have become politically inflammatory markers of imperial domination – until 1970 in Ireland, for example, Gaelic sports administrators would ban from involvement in their sport anyone participating or even caught watching the “British sports” of football, rugby, hockey or cricket. So it’s not as if the history and spread of British sports has been uncontroversial.

    As to what my point was, I’m not disputing that the West had an unprecedented period of economic, cultural, scientific and political dominance that has transformed the world. (Though it isn’t an original observation to note that it hasn’t been three millennia of untrammelled Western dominance and there are no guarantees how much longer this period might last.) But if you want to understand why things happened where they happened when they happened, then at some point you have to grapple with the counterfactual as well as the factual. A simple story can be very attractive: “the West developed an empirical tradition, and therefore experienced overlapping scientific, agricultural and industrial revolutions that created the modern world”. But for that story to pass muster, if empiricism is so determinative, why did the Arab empirical tradition – which the Western one heavily borrowed from – produce a fizzled-out scientific revolution but not the rest of it? And what aspects of empiricism are necessary – many of the key ideas of empiricism were in circulation among the ancient Greeks (who influenced the Arabs) so how come it took so long to come to fruition? Did other conditions need to be met first or was a particular package of ideas required which the Greeks hadn’t quite put together? I was puzzled by your insistence nobody else could possibly have developed empiricism (and therefore the world today would have still be stuck in a medieval technological stasis had European civilisation been wiped out by plague and/or invasion circa 1000 AD, or indeed perhaps if Christianity had been successfully suppressed and never left the Middle East so that a unified “Western” cultural-philosophical tradition hadn’t been forged at all). Bearing in mind how often ideas and inventions develop in parallel between civilisations, and the fact Western empiricism borrowed from Arab empiricism, that struck me as a very strong claim indeed – one that would require significant expertise in at least a dozen philosophical traditions to really assess.

    I think a big part of the problem is, as Chris Miller alludes to, people who look for a particular story tend to find one. Someone who wants to construct a geographically materialist explanation is going to be able to do so, but no doubt someone seeking to situate causation in terms of economics or social structure or the world of ideas will find grist for their mill in the same facts the geographer uses to advance their argument. As a result I’m intensely suspicious of any simple narrative that explains why things happened “just so”, particularly in settings that look multifactorial.

    Not sure what that scepticism has to do with me having “Western guilt”, other than that a sufferer of Western guilt would also be uncomfortable with the a simple narrative of inevitable Western supremacy. But their discomfort is coming from a different place than mine, and Western guilt complex is one of the sins I’d plead not guilty to. I’m very glad to be British – in all of geography and history, there are countless worse spots to have been born into than 20th-century Britain, and on balance I’m thankful of what Britain and its people have achieved at various times, not least because I’m such a big net beneficiary. When it comes to Waterloo or the Spanish Armada or Agincourt, they’re part of the British story and therefore I can’t say “nowt to do with me”, but I just can’t get myself as excited as some folk do. (Even the most patriotic Brits usually have a limit – few swell with such joy and pride at the thought of Boudicca’s revolt or the nation-defining Battle of Brunanburh, perhaps because they experience less sense of personal attachment to something so distant in time. I’m afraid I just lack their deep personal attachment to even more recent aspects of British history, and that’s a matter of personal sensibilities rather than because I see it inherently irrational.)

    The flip side is that I don’t feel responsibility for the grubbier side of Empire either. A subcontinental mate of mine has bookshelves of history texts on that era, and is never short of berating material: “the British were so bad in India, they even executed people by blowing them out of cannons! And yet they claimed they were the civilised ones!” Well I’m glad we don’t blow people out of cannons today, but my personal response is pretty much “so what?” I didn’t do it. None of my direct family were involved in colonial India, so far as we can trace the line 150 years back, and I’m not sure why that would make any difference even if some distant relative had been there. If it hadn’t been the Brits, no doubt some other colonial power would have taken their place (the Portuguese were also cannon-blowers so there’d be no respite there) and it’s a technique the Brits learned from the Mughals anyway. The subcontinent would have been perfectly capable of gory warfare with or without us. If the new political order is going to expect me to feel guilty about this stuff, it’s going to be as unsuccessful as pink-shaded maps were at making me feel proud of it.

    Apologies if I missed something clever in the references to Jordan Peterson. Not a figure I have ever paid any attention to.

  51. @Pcar

    At its greatest extent, the British Empire was nominally bigger than the Mongols managed – though how much of that territory’s interior was actively controlled, when in many colonies the important trading posts were on the coast, I’m not sure. Not sure how actively the Mongols controlled theirs either, to be fair, seeing as most of it would have been pretty empty. The point I was making was about how by early medieval times, it was Asia that had produced the really big empires in territorial and population terms. There were a variety of metrics by which Europe wasn’t looking so exceptional or supreme back then.

    “As for 1400/1500s, UK was way ahead of Europe & RoW even then”

    This claim is frankly bizarre. Technologically it simply wasn’t true that Britain was substantially more advanced than all of Europe and Asia in 1400. It wasn’t even the main centre of learning in Europe. It wasn’t militarily or politically the world’s greatest power. And economically, while not dirt poor, it was a long way behind other places, particularly on the continent – GDP per capita was about twice as high in Italy than Britain, for example.

  52. @MBE

    Still can’t see what your point is and I suspect you can’t either.

    You’re lining up and knocking down numerous strawman but alas Westerm man isn’t made of straw.

    It’s still “arabs and Chinese kicked balls but never got to football” Sorry, I can find nothing else in your posts.

    It true that India never blew people out of cannons (actually stretched somebody out in front of one) but if you never invented a cannon that would be problematic. I believe an elephant would squash your head instead. This is not an argument about unpleasantries, or a pissing contest about who’s (empire) was phyicslly biggest, or whether in times past other civilisation exceeded the west (who is denying the truth of the last. Nobody is denying that other cultures influenced the west either)

    Something happened in the West and without that something we would have no technology or engineering to speak of and nobody on the planet – no god appointed king, no conqueror of empires – would even have a 40W bulb.

    West is best. You clearly don’t want to say this. I’m quite happy to as are a number of other posters here.

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