After a while, when interviewers and reviewers would request an interview or ask me about “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America,” I’d reply with little enthusiasm:
“What in particular about The Cannibal would you like to cover?”
The replies would invariably be these: “Oh, how relevant it is to the US.” “Diversity, multiculturalism, affirmative action, immigration, quality of life before and after “freedom”; this or the other population index.”
“Since you must have read my book,” I’d retort—initially, in hope—“how about discussing the often frayed thread of natural vs. political rights that runs throughout? Let’s look at the origins of Apartheid? Did you know these were firmly rooted in existential, largely non-racial, considerations? I really like the section about the ‘Colonialism Canard’ in the context of Chapter 5, the ‘Root-Causes Racket.’ Also a favorite of mine is the examination of case studies in current South African jurisprudence as an example of the “indigenization” of what was once a Western system of law. Oh, and my absolute best: the moral questions floated in the sections, “Intra-Racial Reparation” and “Recompense or Reconquista.”
Needless to say, the focus of the reviewer or interviewer was always so foreign to how I understood my book—that I lost interest in speaking about it, or concluded that my points had not been picked up due in some measure to my failures.
Enter Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. (Who never even requested a review copy of The Cannibal.) The fact that Kerwick levitates in level of abstraction and understanding above most might not be a good thing for his career as a popular writer, but I’m enjoying it.
Dr. Kerwick’s “Reflections on Ilana Mercer’s ‘Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa'” appeared in Intellectual Conservative. Once again, Kerwick exposes the tortured tension vis-a-vis natural rights that I experienced and, apparently, Burke did too. As does he commend the absence of biological reductionism, a textual strength that drew derision from racialist quarters (I reject reductionism, in most spheres.)
The neglect with which this book has been treated is as sore as it is tragic. Cannibal is a woefully underappreciated book. A not inconsiderable number of otherwise astute reviewers seemed to have missed its main significance. This work is not primarily about “diversity,” “democracy,” “egalitarianism,” or “collectivism.” And it is certainly not about any conflicts within the Jewish community (Mercer is herself a Jew who remarks upon the role that South African Jews, including her father, played as critics of apartheid, as well as the role that Israel assumed as a stalwart ally of the Old South Africa). Cannibal isn’t even a book about inter-racial conflict.
….Neither, however, does Mercer countenance any reductionist biological accounts of black-white differences … Such an approach is problematic for more than one reason, but especially because it would, ultimately, amount to but one more “root-cause.” …
…Mercer’s thought is distended between universal natural rights and particular cultural traditions, it is true. Yet as is the case with so many works of genius, this tension is as much one of Cannibal’s strengths as it is a weakness, for from it there springs an energy that is notable for its sense of urgency.
… Like Burke before her, Mercer, it is clear, is on a mission. Burke was consumed with the conflagration of the French Revolution that he believed threatened to tear European civilization asunder. Far from obscuring his ethical vision, I believe that much of the passion that informed it stemmed from a conflict in Burke’s consciousness between a recognition of both the universal demands of morality and the partiality that we owe to “the little platoons”—our local attachments—from which we derive our individual identities. This, though, is precisely the same war that rages within Mercer, and as it aided Burke in his contest with the evil of the French radicals, so too does it aid Mercer in her contest with the wickedness of the African National Congress and its supporters.
The complete review, “Reflections on Ilana Mercer’s ‘Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa,'” is on Rachel Alexander’s Intellectual Conservative.