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John Derbyshire Says We Are Doomed!—Good News For The Alternative Right
"Conservatism has been fatally weakened by yielding to infantile temptations: temptations to optimism, to wishful thinking, to happy talk, to cheerily preposterous theories about human beings and the human world. Thus weakened, conservatism can no longer provide the backbone of cold realism that every organized society needs".
And without the George W. Bush millstone around their necks, mainstream conservatives have the opportunity to conveniently check out what has developed in this underground during this decade: a comprehensive, coherent way to think about the world as it is.
This all sounds frightfully serious. But there's nothing funnier than realism spiced with a little acerbic caricaturization. We Are Doomed, a high-spirited romp through everything likely to ruin our children' lives, would make an excellent Christmas present for those with a sense of humor.
After all, who doesn't like a little doom and gloom? Why should Al Gore have all the fun of roaring around the world on a private jet, making a fortune telling us we are ruined due to global warming climate change, when topics like demographic change are so much more alarming that we are not even supposed to talk about them?
In We Are Doomed, Derb does talk about them, mordantly and even gleefully, in chapters such as "Diversity: Nothing to Celebrate", "War: Invading the World", "Immigration: Inviting the World", and "The Economy: In Hock to the World" (using my helpful categories).
He notes, for example, that Washington State University in Pullman, a small town on the Idaho border, has a Chief Diversity Officer who oversees a full-time staff of no less than 55. Derb even worries about the career prospects of the diversicrats:
"What will happen to all these smiley-face yuppies employed in the Diversity industry when Diversity has done its work, when … the last Diversiphobe has been hustled off to a reeducation camp? … Will not all the Diversity consultants, Diversity trainers, Diversity assessors, Diversity lawyers, writers of diverse school textbooks, distributors of grants for Diversity workshops …—will they not be unemployed?"
There are, however, limits to even Derb's capacity for concern:
"My advice would be not to worry too much about this. Diversity will be with us for a long time. Perhaps its work will never be done."
Derbyshire's interest in the politics of pessimism goes back at least to his 1997 novel Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream, in which Chai, once a Red Guard during China's Cultural Revolution, now an older but wiser Long Islander, comes to realize that Confucius would have esteemed Silent Cal over all other 20th Century Presidents (not to mention the stupendously optimistic Chairman Mao).
Derb is also unusual among political pundits in finding other topics more intriguing than politics. His bestselling book so far has been 2004's Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics, which he followed up with Unknown Quantity: A Real and Imaginary History of Algebra.
Perhaps his greatest love is poetry, as embodied in his audio CD, 36 Great American Poems.
Verse is not, though, a passion among contemporary Americans, as Derb notes in his chapter "Culture: Pooped Out". For example, President Obama, whose career as a poet fortunately terminated in college, selected as his Inaugural Poetess Elizabeth Alexander [Email her] She's the kind of person Obama is most comfortable around: a high-status member of the affirmative actionocracy without noteworthy individual talents. On January 20, 2009, she regaled the nation with such prosaic lines as:
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to preempt grievance.
Indeed! Without "grievance", where would Elizabeth Alexander's career as a Yale professor of English, African-American literature, and gender studies be?
As Derb asks:
"And with all that victimology, what is Ms. Alexander a victim of? She had a very comfortable upper-middle-class upbringing, a deal more comfortable than my working-class one, I'd guess—her father was secretary of the Army!"
We Are Doomed is written in a sort of quantitatively anecdotal style that combines ease of reading with the kind of original research that the Internet has made possible (but not terribly popular).
For instance, Derb quotes his role model, Dr. Samuel Johnson: "The chief glory of every people arises from its authors". He then quantifies that on a traditional measure of glory, Time Magazine covers, Americans aren't much interested in literature anymore. He counts the number of novelists or poets on Time covers in this decade (zero) versus the number who made the cover from the Time's founding in 1923 through 1929 (sixteen).
Similarly, to demonstrate his experience that "the single major factor determining house prices in the suburbs, we quickly discovered, was proximity to a good school; and 'good school' was universally understood … to mean 'school with … not too many black or Hispanic students'." Derb gives us the numbers on his municipality of Huntington and two neighboring burgs on Long Island:
% Non-Asian Minority
2007 mean home price
He asks: "Am I telling you something you don't know?"
He goes on to point out: "This illustrates the emerging demographic split in the United States: whites and East Asians on one side, African Americans and Hispanics on the other."
That raises a question of terminology, however. One problem with my coinage "Non-Asian Minorities" is that NAMs won't be minorities all that many decades longer. As an alternative to "NAMs", Derb suggests:
Perhaps a more specific acronym for affirmative action beneficiaries would be best, such as "Blacks, Latinos, Indians, and Polynesians", or "BLIPs".
Well, we can leave this question of nomenclature to the marketplace to decide.
He then coins a neologism that, tragically, has become even more apposite in the few weeks since its publication:
"Many immigrants of course assimilate to American society. I think I have. I hope I have; I've tried to. Many others, however, especially in the second and following generations, absimilate. …"
(When I stayed at Derb's house in Huntington five years ago, he asked me to pick out a movie at the video store for the family to view. My choice of Spellbound, the fine documentary about the National Spelling Bee finals, proved apt: my host, the recipient of an old-fashioned English education, could not only spell almost all the ridiculously hard words, but could even define them. )
"Absimilation seems to be rather common, though you don't read much about it. I noticed it years ago in England. The first generation of black Caribbean immigrants to my native land strove to be as English as possible. … It was dismaying, in the 1970s and 1980s, to see a large piece of the second-generation cohort break off and slip into crime, idleness, and social dysfunction."
In summary, American conservatives have felt themselves locked into optimism ever since Ronald Reagan's electoral successes. Yet, Reagan was realistically optimistic, in contrast to the conventional wisdom of the 1970s that held that American capitalism couldn't even out-compete Soviet Communism.
It's after 20 years of national success that you need to start really worrying.
George W. Bush, however, then tried to introduce a new, "compassionate conservatism", taking Ronald Reagan's American optimism to the global level. While Reagan's optimism focused on tapping his fellow Americans' capacities, Bush's greatest enthusiasm was reserved for foreigners. His grand strategy of Invite—Invade—In Hock placed his trust in illegal immigrants, Iraqi voters, and Chinese factory workers and bankers.
Doomed we may be, but Bush is gone, and we of the Realist/Alternative/ paleoconservative Right are still here.
With We Are Doomed, we now have a deft and delightful way of introducing ourselves.
[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]