August 11, 2017 (Friday)

by Yule Heibel on August 10, 2018

I read a blog post about the BBC cartoon and Mary Beard’s erroneous defense of it. The author pointed out the ridiculousness of claiming “typicality” for a Roman British family headed up by a very dark-skinned sub-Saharan African, and pointed to several primary sources which describe, nonplussed, the barbarous and irrational prejudice of Romans toward black-skinned people. If one actually saw one (i.e., they weren’t exactly “typical” or in abundance in the general population), it was considered a bad omen. One account describes a black man being cut to ribbons and killed, just for the “bad luck” of being seen by the general (or emperor – I forget which) prior to an important battle.

What disturbs me of course is the irrationality. It’s difficult to hold “the Romans” up as “great” if they were also this “not-great.” That’s part one: how to “defend” our “glorious Western civilization” if it also contains this. That’s of course one of the primary critiques leveled against white civilization by all critics: look at the racism, they say; how can you call this “great,” they say.

But there’s another part I find equally creepy. It’s perhaps the reverse racism of the blinkered BBC idiots who falsify history. I have a hard time explaining this, but it has to do with how bollocks is bollocks – or, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb might say, bullshit – whether it’s originating from the left or the “right” (those who would defend Western civilization). Bullshit feels dangerous, so very dangerous, especially today. So much more at stake, it seems. The advance-and-attack on Western civilization does not feel like progress. It feels like the opposite: like superstition. I think that’s the gist, the core of my concern. The attack is a form of group-think, which is itself a hallmark of superstition.

Therefore, it’s also implicitly and even explicitly authoritarian – as Adorno showed with regard to superstitious beliefs in the compilation book, The Authoritarian Personality. It’s everything I’ve always disliked about the hard-right authoritarians, too. Except these days the left is as irrational (and hence authoritarian) as the right.

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