Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Are Jews electric?

I find it difficult to review audio books. The voice interferes with my internal monologue, and I can't mark quotes to use in the title. But I'm going to try, from now on, because why not?

Thomas Sowell's is the kind of political incorrectness I like. Not the kind that hides dumb prejudice behind smart words, but the kind that thinks freely and soundly in uncomfortable and unpopular ways.

The essays in Black Rednecks and White Liberals deal with slavery, privilege, and the causes of cultural success and failure. In one essay, Sowell argues that black American ghetto culture is an inheritance from Southern rednecks, who inherited it from the English-Scottish border region. Far from something to preserve for its African authenticity, it is something to rise above.

Elsewhere he emphasizes that slavery was not uniquely American, but a common factor in all parts of the world. What was unique to America (and Britain) was that somebody eventually objected to it on moral grounds.

The common theme of these essays is one I agree with, that we should not abuse history as a source of moral myths for our time, but accept it for the ugly mess that it is. Disadvantaged groups should not look to the past for excuses, but focus on self improvement in the present.

Some ideas here are uncontroversial, others speculative, but I'm beyond the need to fully agree or disagree with a book like this. I value it for being interesting and well argued, and reserve judgment for later.



At 26 June, 2009 17:41 , Anonymous Petter said...

I am familiar with Sowell but have never read him. However, reading your synopis of his essay on the growth of black ghetto culture, it didn't seem quite right to me, at least from what I've read of both redneck culture and the black underclass,(not that I've read that much) but I have read among other things, Nicholas Lehman's masterly piece in the Atlantic, later made into a book, The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America.
Anyway, Steve Sailer (not exactly a pansy lefty liberal) wrote a critical review of the book for VDare, again, not a lefty PC site by any means, which addressed my disquiet -specifically the connection between the Scot-Irish of the Appalachian highlands and black culture as mediated through low class, lowland whites. Sailer then goes on to dicuss a non PC view -that the problem with black ghetto culture can be traced back to the culture of the West African tribes from which they came, combined with failed American social policy.

Favorite redneck: Joe Bageant, author of Deer hunting with Jesus:Dispatches from America's Class War.

Rednecks on Obamarama:

At 26 June, 2009 19:23 , Blogger Bjørn Stærk said...

Yeah, I found the VDare review when I wrote this. I agree that Powell's theory is speculative, but in an interesting and valuable way. From now on I'll read histories that involve these groups in a different way, looking for examples for or against the theory. Even a wrong theory can be useful if it provokes the right questions.

Anyway, his overall message here is not about rednecks, but a conservative/libertarian message about the causes of success and failure for groups and individuals. All of it interesting, without being something I agree with entirely.

Btw, what's wrong with being a "pansy lefty liberal"? ;)


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