Although I don’t quite agree with Prof. Paul Gottfried’s take on my book, “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa,” he nevertheless makes provocative and fascinating points. Below is my response to this review, posted on Taki’s Magazine today, and titled “South Africa Today, America Tomorrow?” (My comments have been cross-posted at Taki’s.) You’ll have to read the review first to grasp the response.
I’m an individualist, not a racialist. On page 4 of “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa,” I write, “Societies are only as good as the individuals of whom they are comprised; individuals only as good as their actions. Democratic South Africa is now preponderantly overrun by elements, both within and without government, which make a safe and thriving civil society impossible to sustain. The salient feature of mass politics in the New South Africa is a government unable to control itself and unwilling to control a sinecured criminal class. As a consequence, sundered is the individual’s right to live unmolested.”
I therefore believe I made an individualist’s case for secession, not
a racialist one. In fact, if the secessionist utopia were possible, I would fully
expect Anglos and Afrikaners to admit individuals based on probity and ability,
I do discuss demographics vis-à-vis crime in South Africa and the US quite openly, as I believe this discussion is perfectly congruent with individualism—-and with the methods of the social sciences. (I received rigorous
training in statistics from my Afrikaner lecturers at UNISA, my alma mater.)
To make my point, I state the following, on page 41 of “Into the cannibal’s Pot”:
“In all, no color should be given to the claim that race is not a factor in the
incidence of crime in the US and in South Africa. The vulgar individualist will
contend that such broad statements about aggregate group characteristics are
collectivist, ergo false. He would be wrong. Generalizations, provided they are
substantiated by hard evidence, not hunches, are not incorrect. Science relies
on the ability to generalize to the larger population observations drawn from a
representative sample. People make prudent decisions in their daily lives based
on probabilities and generalities. That one chooses not to live in a particular
crime-riddled county or country in no way implies that one considers all
individual residents there to be criminals, only that a sensible determination
has been made, based on statistically significant data, as to where scarce and
precious resources—one’s life and property—are best invested.”
Again, on page 101, I state: “I am here concerned with reality, not
race. Res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself).” Since my book proceeds from reality, not race, I try never to make the mistake of reasoning backwards. Therefore, any evaluation that does not proceed from the individual is a problem, in my universe.
I’m a paleolibertarian; I accept that you think that even my brand of classical liberalism is utopian. Still, my position, articulated in the book, as to the mutual dependency developed between the whites and blacks of South Africa is based in the logic of free-market economics. Thus, I expect that if not for the ANC and its Anglo-American agitators, more blacks would have become vested in prosperity. The point I make in the book (page 127) is this:
When free-market economists say markets don’t discriminate, they are only partially right. “Rational self-interest does indeed propel people, however prejudiced, to set aside bias and put their scarce resources to the best use. But to state simply that ‘discrimination is bad for business’ (cite 125 in said chapter) is to present an incomplete picture. … The market, by which we mean the trillions of capitalist acts between consenting adults, is discriminating as in discerning—-it is biased toward productivity. Hiring people on the basis of criteria other than productivity hurts the proprietor’s pocket. Thus, we can be fairly certain that, absent affirmative-action laws, the market would reflect a bias toward productivity. In other words, what the good economists are loath to let on is that a free market is a market in which groups and individuals are differently represented. Parity in prosperity and performance can be achieved only by playing socialist leveler.”
By logical extension, blacks would likely always be differently represented in the (free) market in proportion to their numbers in the society at large. As would Asians and Jews. Given this reality, would the West have allowed South Africa to proceed toward a dispensation that privileged private property and freedom of association, instead of the populist, democratic vote? No! And it didn’t.
It is far-removed westerners, by and large, who refuse to accept individual human differences, and make war (by bombs and boycotts) on those who try to live with reality.
Further on you write that myself and “John Derbyshire, who has written a thoughtful blurb for ‘Into the Cannibal’s Pot,’ say they are sure that South Africa’s fate under black-majority rule portends the sort of apocalypse that may soon confront us in America.”
I don’t believe that this is what John or I said, or intended. I have never described the USA under black rule—or even envisaged this scenario, since this would be utterly irrational. However—-and as I am not a racialist—-I have envisaged, as I write in the Introduction to “Into the Cannibals’ Pot,” an America whose “institutions continue to subordinate their raison d’être to politically dictated egalitarianism.”
Egalitarianism is a far broader category of idiocy than is racial preference or dominance.
Indeed, and as I have discovered in the course of publishing this book, individuals who call themselves conservatives, traditionalists, or whatever, are proudly represented among the errant, old hippies who devised our system of soft expectations. These people have extended their monomaniacal egalitarianism not only to minorities, but to WASP youth so incompetent, so narcissistic, so inept—that I am now fairly convinced America will collapse upon itself like a black hole because of this idiocracy rising: our WASP youth. They are in the majority. They are what will be the death knell of the spluttering US economy.
That is, unless the homeschooled save us. (One homeschooled young man helped save my publishing project; he and I were the only hard workers with a so-called Protestant’s work ethic that I encountered in the course of what has been a punishing publishing process.) I would, moreover, rather break bread with the two gentle African ladies to which my book is dedicated, in part (Nomasomi Khala and Annie Dlahmini), than with most American, young Millennial WASPs. (I have written as much before.)
Finally, some biographical errors have crept into your much-appreciated review of “Into the Cannibals’ Pot.” While I indeed left South Africa as democracy dawned (at my husband’s wise insistence), I came straight to North America: Canada first, and then the US.
More important: While I fled the fledgling democracy, my father, Rabbi Ben Isaacson, a man of integrity, still resides in South Africa.
My father has not emigrated from the democratic South Africa!
I hope, Paul, that you and the editors can correct the error about my father’s whereabouts. For those interested in my father, I briefly trace the philosophical roots of his anti-apartheid activism in Chapter Six of “Into the Cannibals’ Pot,” “Why Do WASP Societies Wither?”.
Best to all,
UPDATE I: Paul writes: “ilana says she believes that her fellow Jews in South Africa behaved stupidly and even maliciously by allying themselves with black revolutionaries against their fellow whites.” Where is the citation for this in “Into the Cannibal’s Pot”? There isn’t one because I did not write this. My book is not about the “Jewish Question” that so plagues paleoconservatives.” So that’s another error for which, if a citation cannot be offered, a correction should.
UPDATE II (July 23): In reply to John in the Comments Section. As I wrote in my book (do read it), it is not for me to give territorial definition (or any other definition) to the secessionist movement of another people fighting for its survival.
UPDATE III: Myron, your reply is sharp. There seems to be a need for some sharp Jewish minds to counter this ghettoized take on South Africa.
UPDATE IV (July 24): Dennis: You have to buy something—anything—from Amazon in order to review books on that site. Amazon runs a reputable, amazing operation. Unlike your typical, shady government operation (mortgage sponsorship for types unworthy of credit comes to mind)—one can understand why Amazon would like to verify that individuals posting impressions have good credentials. How about purchasing an additional copy of ITCP for a friend?
UPDATE V: As Manuel Menezes de Sequeira has noted (welcome to BAB!), the hyperlink to “South Africa Today, America Tomorrow?” has indeed vanished. I can’t locate the original link.
UPDATE VI: After speaking with my father, Rabbi B. Isaacson, who resides in South Africa and is recovering from a bout of pneumonia (he’s elderly and frail), I re-read Chapter Six of “Into the Cannibals’ Pot,” “Why Do WASP Societies Wither?”. There is no “Jewey” stuff there; it simply isn’t my bailiwick. This whole paleo-Jewish obsession is a laugh. I’ve written about it so as to discharge my intellectual responsibility toward a topic that leaves me cold. To quote from “BLAME THE JEWS”:
All in all, the paleoconservatives’ attempts to blame Jews for pervasive gentile madness, such as Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq, his lingering presence in Afghanistan, multiculturalism and “mass, non-traditional-immigration,” is too silly to sustain, but, at the same time, a little sinister. (Next, MacDonald will hold Jews responsible for loading the Episcopal Church with homosexuals.)
Cross-posted at Facebook yesterday: “… It’s ridiculous how all the anti-Semites wish I had written the book they would have written. Which, not being a Court Jew, I have not. Of course a book about the “Jewish Question” would not have been nearly as fine as a manifesto for natural rights and against the populist vote/democracy, based on the analytical method (praxeology), not on anti-black or anti/pro-Jew tribalism. Perhaps this is what irks the anti-Semites? Above all these slow schmoes forget that I am an effing Jew who has written the definitive in defense of the Afrikaner based on just principles! Has a Christian borne Christian Witness, or done this small thing? No! A much-maligned Jew has. Jews have been at the forefront of many movements, good and bad. The greatest capitalist thinkers were … Jews.”
And today: “Thanks, Cuan Elgin. My book is not a biography. The custom today is for people who’ve done close to nothing in their lives to write obese bios about “me, me, me.” I didn’t do that; I talk about personal affairs some, but not that much. I believe that this is the proper way to write a tract such as I’ve written. Old school: I know.
I grew up in Israel. However, I am no longer in Israel. Is that not obvious? It is but careless assumption to write, shamelessly, that my father lives in Israel and left due to democracy. And due to his treacherous Jewishness. This so called factoid is nowhere in my book. Moreover, when we moved to Israel in the late 1960s, it was white National Party harassment that father was looking to escape!!! Not black rule, which I, but not dad, fled at the urging of my pukka WASP husband in 1995.”
Ilana Mercer, author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa, is persona non grata to the established media culture, which features debating partners who look and sound remarkably similar. Ilana’s book would be anathema to such nonstop celebrants of pluralism and diversity. She is questioning the sustainability of a Western society that slips into nonwhite (and non-Asian) hands, and she offers her former South African homeland as a frightening case in point. Only a decade after apartheid’s end, South Africa had the world’s highest intentional homicide rate. Mercer claims South Africa’s murder rate is ten times that of the United States.
Ilana shows the white Afrikaner National Party yielding to international blackmail and its own liberal Protestant conscience and finally surrendering rule irrevocably to the black majority and their leader Nelson Mandela. Since that fateful decision in 1993, rampaging blacks have murdered thousands of Boers, including many of their leaders. Economic conditions for blacks, who make up almost 80% of South Africa’s population, have grown dire; while the whites, many of whom have had their property and businesses expropriated or destroyed, are confronting a rising poverty problem. Ilana notes that whereas Western countries redefine Third World interlopers as “refugees,” they cut no such slack for those whites who are trying to escape South Africa’s diversity hellhole. Such applicants are generally viewed as spoilsports who can’t stand a non-colonial African society’s blessings.
“The Afrikaners made secession unworkable by creating their own version of diversity.”
Moreover, the American national press has interpreted the violence and chaos that have erupted in South Africa since apartheid’s end as the lingering signs of the emotional disorder created by colonial racism. To an assertion by (former) New York Times editor Joseph Lelyveld that “there is nothing new about the hideous, sadistic violent crime in SA,” Ilana responds that before black liberation the African National Party “kept the lid on the cauldron of depravity now boiling over.” The white South African government policed black areas because that’s where violent crime was occurring. The Group Areas Act of 1950, which represented the high point of Afrikaner apartheid policy, imposed absolute residential segregation. While this restriction did not look nice, it prevented black crime from spilling over into white neighborhoods. The worst crime rates are among black males, who specialize in rapes as well as murder and theft; the “Coloureds,” who include South Africa’s once sizable Indian population, are well below the blacks in murder and mayhem, and the whites—whether Afrikaner, English, or whatever—are the least violence-prone.
What makes Ilana’s exposé all the more remarkable is her South African Jewish background. The Jews in South Africa (like their co-ethnics here and in Canada) were disproportionately on the left, and several white leaders of the South African Communist Party were of Lithuanian Jewish extraction. Ilana’s family, including her rabbi father, held the characteristic political views of other South African Jews. But once they saw the fruits of their revolutionary agitation, many of these formerly radical Jews, including Ilana’s father, asserted their right of Jewish return by moving to Israel. Ilana did the same as early as 1994, but she later moved to North America and now resides with her husband in suburban Seattle. She says she believes that her fellow Jews in South Africa behaved stupidly and even maliciously by allying themselves with black revolutionaries against their fellow whites. She expresses profound admiration for the traditional Afrikaners and treats these stern Calvinist farmers and citizen-soldiers as Christian embodiments of ancient Hebrew virtues. She says she regrets that the descendants of South Africa’s Dutch and French Huguenot settlers have deteriorated into liberal, guilt-ridden multi-racialists, and she pays me the honor of quoting my works on the “politics of guilt” to describe the Dutch South Africans’ changed mentality that led to their disastrous surrender of power. Ilana says that one cannot understand why Afrikaner President F. W. de Klerk threw in the towel unless one takes into account the diversion of Calvinist guilt into an antiracist pathology.
What would have been the alternatives to the mess that South Africa has become under black-majority rule? The only one I can think of, besides an Afrikaner-ruled country armed to the teeth against both leftist world opinion and a restive internal black majority, would have been a more serious approach to political and ethnic separation. The Afrikaners did not go far enough in separating themselves from the black tribes around them. They should have made themselves economically and politically independent, and they should have never come to depend on their black neighbors as a cheap labor source.
Ilana is correct that the great Afrikaner Treks into Africa’s interior, which led them across the Vaal River in the 1830s, were explicit acts of secession from English rule. In 1815 the Dutch handed over the Cape Colony and its Dutch-speaking inhabitants to the British as part of the Treaty of Vienna, ending the Napoleonic Wars. The Dutch farmers living around the Cape did not want to suffer alien rule and so they moved north, into Africa’s heart. This was an assertion of their independence, but when gold was discovered in their territory, the English followed them and appropriated their land. The continuing British encroachments led to the Second Anglo-Boer War, which began in 1899 and entailed the brutal subjugation of the Afrikaner freedom fighters.
Unfortunately, the Afrikaners became dependent on black labor, whether it was that of slaves or, later, black wage-earners. Native tribes and residents of adjacent regions came to the white settlers in search of work, and the newcomers stayed. This movement of labor destroyed whatever chance the Afrikaners had to achieve permanent control in a particular region. To make matters worse, the white non-Afrikaners and until recently the Coloured often made common cause with black revolutionaries against the majority-white population. By the time the Afrikaners won total independence from the British in the 1960s, they had to deal with unfriendly non-black minorities as well as the black majority. Although the cry of secession, which Ilana as well as many South African whites and ethnic Indians are now sounding, seems eminently just, the horse has already bolted. The Afrikaners made secession unworkable by creating their own version of diversity. They should have carved out a region inhabited entirely by their own citizens. Everything else could have been left to the Xhosas, Zulus, and other black tribes.
Ilana and John Derbyshire, who has written a thoughtful blurb for her book, say they are sure that South Africa’s fate under black-majority rule portends the sort of apocalypse that may soon confront us in America. The South African case, however, has only limited applicability for the United States. It is unlikely that black-majority rule will ever be our fate. What may be more likely is a power struggle among Hispanics, Asians, and those whites who have been awakened from political niceness and democratic universalism. Blacks will not likely be major contestants in this war for influence and assets unless white liberals continue to give prominence to their grievances and unless their numbers vastly expand. At less than 15% of the total population and still dependent on white leftist support, blacks are not plausible contenders for power in our multicultural society.
White madness may not be causing on these shores exactly the kind of disaster described in Into the Cannibal’s Pot, but it is taking its toll here as well as in the heart of darkness.