Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Cult of Diversity


John Derbyshire explains why American dinner parties are traditionally less playful and jolly than British ones:

A lot of the fun of British life used to consist of scoffing at foreigners, whom we all understood to be comical half-wits.... Now of course you can't do that, at any rate in public.
It's a shame, isn't it? There are few better ways to liven up a stuffy party than to break out one's 78rpm copy of Uncle Josh at a Chinese Laundry (in which Punkin Centre's ambassador of goateed goodwill recounts his epic battle against "a critter with his head and tail on the same end").

But now, thanks to the Cult of Diversity, such harmless entertainments are frowned upon...in public, anyway. And honestly, where's the pleasure in laborious racialist axe-grinding if one must fear remonstrance, or - worse yet - the medusa gaze of the humorless woman? I mean to say, dash it all...it's enough to give a chap the blue devils.

As you've probably gathered, I'm fatally afflicted with the "plonking earnestness" that makes Americans such unsatisfactory company for live wires like Derbyshire. So I don't think I'll risk losing an invitation to dine chez Derb by arguing that there seems to be a link between his belief that scoffing at wogs, darkies, and spics is harmless fun, and his belief that slaughtering 'em by the million is a sovereign remedy for existential dread.

I wouldn't expect him to disagree, nor to care. But I do find it interesting that his loud-thundering lust for "punitive ruthlessness" in Iraq led him to support a war he now deplores. I wonder if it's possible that unblushing racism is as poor a foundation for political analysis as it is for dinner-party etiquette?

9 comments:

¡El Gato Negro! said...

El frotacionado Derbyshire ees also irked that eet ees frowned upon to lech after jour host's barely pubescent daughters, but what ees he supposed to do, wait until they are old hags of 20 or 21?

so.

Phila said...

EGN,

What gets to me is that he's lamenting the lack of silliness (and offhanded racial mockery) in American culture, while posting at The Corner. That's like longing for sunny skies while wandering in the Sahara.

Nanette said...

Well. I think the post is great... Derbyshire and his type long for the days of do anything, say anything, and who was going to complain while your foot was on their neck?

But, and probably needless to say, for once I really, really dislike your choice of picture for illustration.

pablo said...

I have a tube of Darkie toothpaste that my cousin picked up in Japan many years ago. It depicts the exaggerated visage of a smiling African with bright white teeth. Not the kind of thing to carry about. It sits at the back of a closet.

Phila said...

But, and probably needless to say, for once I really, really dislike your choice of picture for illustration.

Well, it's not intended as a pleasant thing to look at, of course, but it probably wasn't a good idea all the same. I wanted an image from "the days of do anything, say anything." And this seemed exemplary inasmuch as it's "silly" in Derbyshire's sense, but it's also completely appalling.

Maybe I'll see if I can find something a bit less hideous.

Phila said...

I have a tube of Darkie toothpaste that my cousin picked up in Japan many years ago. It depicts the exaggerated visage of a smiling African with bright white teeth. Not the kind of thing to carry about. It sits at the back of a closet.

I used to have a tube of that too...it's pretty awful. It's called "Darlie" now, and they've whited out the black in the character's face.

I've made a fairly long study of ragtime/vaudeville-era culture, so as you might imagine, I'm up to my elbows in this sort of imagery.

Nanette said...

Thanks much, Phila. This one is definitely less hideous and gut kicking, and still serves, I think, to illustrate your point - maybe more so, Harper's being a well respected, "mainstream" publication (at least, I assume they were in that period of time) as opposed to a "could be anybody" advertisement.

Heh. "Journal of Civilization". Just saw that.

I've not done much study of the ragtime/vaudeville culture... okay, no study at all, except maybe by accident... but when I do come across things from there, or articles/books talking about it, I find some of it quite fascinating. Seems to have been one of the "break out" times, like the 60s.

I think maybe that's what's wrong with some people these days... everything is so right out there, and changing daily, that they feel the only "innovative" thing left for them to do is revive the past.

Phila said...

This one is definitely less hideous and gut kicking, and still serves, I think, to illustrate your point - maybe more so,

Well, the golf tees seemed very appropriate, given their recreational use, their class associations, and Derbyshire's cultural baggage. I was imagining P.G. Wodehouse's golf stories reduced to a howl of ressentiment against the darkies.

Seems to have been one of the "break out" times, like the 60s.

Oh, absolutely. A very interesting and inspiring time politically, in a lot of ways.

feel the only "innovative" thing left for them to do is revive the past.

I actually have a grudging respect for Derbyshire, because he's one of the only conservatives who can be described as honest. He leaves very little to the imagination, in terms of his conservatism being a complex of racism, mommy/daddy issues, and aestheticism. It's all right there on the surface, which is kind of refreshing.

Nanette said...

Well, the golf tees seemed very appropriate, given their recreational use, their class associations, and Derbyshire's cultural baggage. I was imagining P.G. Wodehouse's golf stories reduced to a howl of ressentiment against the darkies.

Yes, I was just talking with someone the other day about how strange it is to think that that sort of thing was pretty ubiquitous and considered completely unremarkable.

I am of an age to have grown up sort of as a "middle child", culturally. The really bad stuff was mostly before I was born or old enough to be really aware, then the civil rights movement and beyond, when any number of people loved the idea of black folk (if not quite the reality), and then where we are today. Wherever that is.

I too prefer Derbyshire's honesty - well, sometimes. I could have done without knowing about his Lolita issues, but still. The notation of golf and class associations, so on, of the original photo also causes me to speculate (in the grand and respected tradition of armchair psychology) that all that is actually one of the main reasons for Derbyshire being who he is and clinging so firmly (and publicly) to his racist, imperialistic, "devil take the hindmost" type attitude.

From what I can recall of his biography, he would not have been welcome in that world, being firmly working class in Britain's then sort of rigidly hierarchal class system. He no doubt consoled himself that at least he had someone to lord it over and look down on, the "wogs and darkies" in this instance... and what happens to the poor guy? Soon as he's grown up enough to be able to do so effectively, things change, Empire dies, Britain opens the doors (somewhat) to its former colonies and he's once again far from the top of any ladder.

Almost makes one feel sorry for him ;). Okay, not really.

(this word verification thing hates me)