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[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air. Greetings, listeners, from your etymologically genial host John Derbyshire, here on Friday evening, December 30th, bringing you our last podcast of 2022.
It behooves your commentator to offer some large and general opinion on the year that is just about to pass into oblivion My opinion is that 2022 could have been worse.
I should of course qualify that with a word of caution. With 27 hours still to go, major calamity can't be totally ruled out. A supervolcano might erupt; an asteroid may strike; slave traders could be arriving in starships from Alpha Centauri even as I speak; or some damn fool politician somewhere might fire off a barrage of nuclear missiles before Saturday midnight.
Still, barring such low-probability events, the odds are good that the world will come out of 2022 tomorrow midnight in only slightly worse shape than it went in twelve months ago.
What will 2023 hold? I'm going to strive to take a positive outlook. Yes, that goes against the grain; I am, after all, the guy who wrote a book titled We Are Doomed.
We may indeed be doomed, but I'm going to turn my thoughts in the other direction, striving for optimism on the principle: "Fake it until you make it."
The main reason for that turn is baby Michael DePinto, our first grandchild, who will be one year old on January 21st. I wish and hope for the best for him and for the world he'll grow up into. Wishes and hopes aren't reality, of course, but they make reality easier to bear.
So I shall try to keep this week's podcast upbeat. First, though, as preface to all the upbeatery, let me deal with an interesting issue arising from last week's podcast.
02 — Malice or stupidity? Last week, inspired by Professor Robert Weissberg, I lamented the appalling state of our federal government, its incompetence and impotence. One listener pushed back against that. Quote from him:
It's not impotence and incompetence. The government is growing ever more powerful and competent. It's just that the power is directed against us, not them. Government officials want to eliminate the border, turn homosexual pedophiles loose on our children, and let criminals riot, rape and murder us. The goal is to eliminate the nation-state, with the U.S. leading the list.
It's a fair point, a good point for argument. Just to restate my listener's thesis:
So is it incompetence and impotence, as I lamented last week? Or is there, as my listener says, a goal, a master plan, being pushed forward with competence and ruthless power?
There is an old saying — it's usually attributed to Napoleon although scholars tell us Boney never said it — that you should never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.
That's the difference of opinion here. Can the current sorry condition of our republic be adequately explained by stupidity, or must we fall back on malice?
Having observed U.S. foreign policy this past thirty years since the Cold War ended, I strongly favor an explanation from stupidity.
Those futile foreign wars with thousands of dead Americans and trillions of dollars wasted; the purposeless, relentless insulting and provoking of Russia; the naivety of thinking that the Chinese Communist Party would yield up its power to liberal democracy if we just opened ourselves to their shoddy goods and shipped our own manufacturing base over there; all of this has been gross, suicidal stupidity. It's hard to believe that stupidity was restricted to just the sphere of foreign policy.
And yes, it is leading us in the direction of authoritarian government. Again the question arises, though: Is that a goal, a program being pursued with competence and potency? Or is stupidity an adequate explanation? Is major, unrelieved governmental stupidity bound to end in authoritarianism? Yes, I believe it is.
Authoritarian government — "despotism" for short — is, after all, the default state of human society. The great majority of human beings all through history, when they have not been in a brutish state of nature, have lived under despotic government; from Egypt and Babylon, through the Hellenic and Roman empires, the Persians and Byzantines and Chinese, the Caliphates and Emirates of Islam, the Ottomans and Moguls, the empires of Spain and Russia, … there hasn't been a whole lot of law, liberty, and constitutionalism in the human experience.
Law, liberty, and constitutionalism have been the exception, not the rule. They are the exception in the world today — look around. Wise men imbued with wise ideals can keep law, liberty, and constitutionalism going here and there for a century or two; but it may be that if the wisdom fails and the ideals are misplaced — if great numbers of citizens sink into fantasies of perfect justice, perfect equality, perfect global harmony — it may be that then society easily slips back to the historical default: corrupt, lawless despotism.
There used to be a respectable line of thought that said this didn't matter; that human happiness and human flourishing could happen under any system of government.
The canonical expression of that line of thought, at any rate in the English language, is Oliver Goldsmith's long poem The Traveller, subtitle "A Prospect of Society," published in 1764. If you make it through the first 426 lines you come to this, quote:
In every government, though terrors reign,
I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of government rather than another. It is of no moment to the happiness of an individual. Sir, the danger of the abuse of power is nothing to a private man. What Frenchman is prevented from passing his life as he pleases?
Those statements of breezy optimism were made in 18th-century Britain, where the power of the state was sometimes a nuisance but hardly ever a threat. They were made before the modern style of despotism flexed its muscles in the French and Russian revolutions.
Today, when governments are equipped with powers of surveillance and indoctrination far beyond anything that Oliver Goldsmith or Samuel Johnson could have imagined, those statements of breezy optimism are no longer tenable.
It may indeed have been the case 250 years ago that no Frenchman was prevented by government power from passing his life as he pleased. It may also have been the case in 1893, as the historian Demetrius Boulger reported, that the people of China were theoretically bound in a state of servitude while enjoying practical liberty.
Unfortunately government power over the lives of citizens has made great strides since then; ask a Chinese person today.
So, bottom line here: Yes, I believe that stupidity is an adequate explanation for our current condition; and yes, if things continue in the same direction we may slip into despotism.
Do I think we actually shall so slip? In line with my opening remarks, I'm going to choose to believe not. We'll return to our senses somehow, to our Constitution.
The Swamp will be drained; the fools and the fantasists will be sent packing; and the U.S.A. will again be a free commercial republic, minding its own business, with liberty and justice for all.
Please let it be soon. Meanwhile, in line with what every grandparent tells his grandchildren, as I shall tell baby Michael when he's old enough to comprehend, there's always someone worse off than yourself.
Let me offer some illustrative examples of that in hopes of cheering you up.
03 — Oh, Canada! Illustrative example number one is Canada, the friendly giant to our north. As hostile to its own citizens as our federal government may be, Canada's is worse.
With Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister, this is not surprising. Back in 2016, shortly after he was first elected to national leadership, Trudeau declared Canada to be the world's, quote "first postnational state," end quote. There is no such thing as a Canadian identity, Trudeau explained, only "shared values" and a "search for equality and justice."
The nation-state is an evil thing, Trudeau believes; and the most evil thing of all is a nation-state with a majority-white population.
Under Justin Trudeau's government, Canada has in fact become the beating heart of white ethnomasochism. Canada's leading intellectuals and parliamentarians have for years been accusing their nation of "genocide" in the treatment of indigenous peoples.
For example: the first Prime Minister of independent Canada was John A. Macdonald, who held office for almost a quarter century, from 1867 to 1891. Macdonald wanted indigenous people to be able fully to participate in the life of the nation. As part of that, he approved placing indigenous youngsters in residential schools, mostly run by the churches, where they'd get a European, Christian education.
In October this year a motion was put before Canada's parliament to declare that policy "genocide." The motion was passed unanimously.
As Jonathan Kay pointed out at the time on Quillette, the last of these residential schools was only closed in 1997, so that the first twenty of Canada's twenty-three Prime Ministers are all guilty of genocide, according to the Canadian parliament.
Not that Canada's last three Prime Ministers are off the genocide hook. Six years ago the federal government commissioned a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. In 2019 the report was published. It declared an ongoing "genocide" of the unfortunate squaws, so that Prime Ministers 21 thru 23 were also guilty of genocide. Justin Trudeau gave the report his full approval.
As Jonathan Kay wrote, quote:
But this is not the final tally: Given Canada's current political climate, newly discovered genocides are no doubt in the offing.
A different commentator, Canadian writer and publisher Conrad Black, delivered a blistering broadside on all this in the National Post newspaper on Christmas Eve. Sample quote:
For this country to be charged with genocide by its own government is a scandalous profanation and a blood libel against the European-descended population of Canada.
Conrad Black also notes that Canada's white ethnomasochism has speciated, producing a white-Anglo variety. The government of Quebec, Canada's second most populous province, has banned the use of English as an official language in the province. That is actually unconstitutional, says Black, but the federal government is going meekly along with it anyway.
So if the ethnomasochism of progressive whites here in the U.S.A. has been getting on your nerves, be thankful that at least you don't live in Canada.
Likewise with fussy and restrictive gun laws in blue states like New York. Beginning October 21st this year you can no longer buy, sell, or transfer handguns within Canada at all, nor can you bring newly acquired handguns into the country. Long guns are still permitted, but the government seems to have plans to clamp down on them, too.
Immigration? Quote from the Financial Post, December 19th, quote:
The Trudeau government aims to let in 465,000 immigrants next year, despite serious shortages in housing and health care. As a percentage of the population, this is higher than most other developed nations.
Higher than the U.S.A.? Well, Trudeau's goal represents 1.2 percent of Canada's current population. One point two percent of our current population would be four million.
If you count the one million and some legal immigrants, the one million and some caught-and-released border-jumpers, and the unknown number — probably well into six digits — of illegals we didn't catch, we're certainly competitive with Canada; but yeah, their proportion is probably higher than ours.
You see? Just as I told you: there's always someone worse off than yourself. Count your blessings, Americans.
04 — The great Brexit fiasco. Illustrative example number two: Britain.
Yes, the mother country is in a sorry state. The news and opinion outlets are all over it.
And so on. Sample quote from that Economist piece:
The economy is entering recession, inflation is high and pay strikes are disrupting railways, schools and even hospitals. The National Health Service … the country's most cherished institution, is buckling. Millions of people are waiting for treatment in hospitals. Ambulances are perilously scarce.
I hardly know where to start. The National Health Service is as good a place as any. I don't know whether it is still, really, "a cherished institution," but it certainly used to be.
When it was launched in 1948 the NHS was greeted with wonder and delight by ordinary Brits. Basic medical care, all paid for from general taxation! I remember when I was a kid, suffering from an ear infection, our family doctor coming to the house to give me a shot of penicillin.
The days when doctors made house calls are long gone over there, as they are here; but to see a doctor at all on the NHS you may have to join a waiting-list weeks long.
Emergency care? Even before the current round of strikes there were regular news stories about people dying after waiting hours for an ambulance. Covid of course made things worse, but the waiting-lists were growing before covid.
The political rot goes deep. If you are still glum over the GOP's lackluster showing in the midterms, pause to reflect that 2022 was the year Britain had three prime ministers, all of the Conservative Party. Those three were preceded by two others, also of the Conservative Party, for a span of control lasting twelve years.
Those five consecutive Prime Ministers from the Conservative Party accomplished just one major act of small-"c" conservative policy in those twelve years, and that only reluctantly, hesitantly, at the prompting of a national referendum. That act was of course Brexit.
Brexit was a cry from tens of millions of Brits for their nationhood to be restored. They didn't want their laws struck down by foreign judges; they didn't want their borders open to unlimited immigration; they wanted their sovereignty back, and demographic stability.
They did not get what they wanted. Why not? Here we circle back to the argument about malice versus stupidity.
It was plain in the run-up to the Brexit referendum that Britain's ruling classes hated the whole idea. Globalism had been good to them, financially and otherwise. Nationalism they thought kind of icky, championed by beery proles or class traitors, not at all the kind of people one would want at one's dinner party, my dear.
It's plausible therefore that once the thing was done, Britain's elites would strive to sabotage it. That's the "malice" argument. The stupidity argument, which again I favor, says that the post-referendum Conservative Party governments have been too incompetent and impotent to do things that should have been done.
What should have been done? Well, the Northern Ireland conundrum should have been solved by either (a) building a formidable border wall to separate the province from the Irish Republic, with strict customs controls, or (b) expelling Northern Ireland from the U.K., with blessings and all good wishes, to make its way as an independent nation or to unite with the Irish Republic, as its people chose.
I favor (b); but either option would demand bold, decisive action. Such action is not forthcoming from the incompetent, impotent jellyfish of Britain's Conservative Party, any more than it is from our own GOP.
Mass illegal immigration should likewise have been confronted boldly, fearlessly.
Jellyfish, jellyfish: incompetent, impotent jellyfish.
So again: as bad as things may look here across the fruited plain, they could be worse. Count your blessings, Americans.
05 — Remembering a brave dissident. If you pay attention to the news at all you know that things are getting pretty dire in China.
For nearly two years the ChiCom government practised a Zero Covid policy. Citizens were liable to be tested for the virus anywhere, at any time. If the test was positive the citizen would be hustled off to strict quarantine or locked in his apartment with the door welded shut.
That had dire results, economic, social, and epidemiological. The economic and social results led to widespread public discontent and protests. The epidemiological result was a population the vast majority of which had immune systems totally unacquainted with the virus and its numerous variants.
Economics and social order won the argument, and early this month Zero Covid was scaled back. The covid viruses were free to wander in a population that had no prior experience of them. Party time! The crematoria can't keep up.
And China is still, of course, under despotic government. There is really no Chinese nation, only the Party. The Party is the State and the State is the Party.
Chinese people who would like to have a modern nation with liberties of opinion, association and movement, with fair laws fairly applied, are treated very brutally.
Today, December 30th, I am thinking of one such person in particular. His name is Wang Bingzhang, and today is his 75th birthday. It is also midway through his 21st year of imprisonment in ChiCom jails. He is serving a life sentence on charges of espionage and terrorism.
What he actually did was campaign for democracy in China: consensual government, with the common liberties and a fair, open system of justice.
I can speak personally to this. I met Wang Bingzhang and interviewed him for the London Spectator in mid-1989. This was just as the Tiananmen Square protests were gathering steam in Peking after the funeral of the reforming Party leader Hu Yaobang the previous month. You can read all about it in the archives on my personal website.
Here's a sample from that Spectator article, just a brief extract. Quote:
Dr Wang is actually a medical doctor (like Sun Yatsen, comes the echo), and one cannot help thinking that he would, in fact, make rather a good family practitioner. Forty years old, dapper, mild and well-spoken, he is an attentive listener and carries with him a kind of calm assurance which, while it falls somewhat short of charisma, seems to inspire great loyalty in his followers. On the evidence of his career so far, he can certainly be credited with courage. The week before the press conference he and a colleague attempted to enter China to participate in the 4 May demonstrations. They had valid air tickets to Peking and got as far as Tokyo, but were then refused boarding passes by every airline they tried, apparently at the request of the Chinese government. "They fear us," said Dr Wang with a chuckle, when I asked him about this.
I believe it may have been me that coined the term "dissident right" to refer to us un-respectable conservatives at outlets like VDARE.com. Whether it was me or not, I always feel a twinge of guilt when I deploy the term.
Yes: we sit apart from establishment conservatives, from what Peter Brimelow has memorably called "Conservatism, Inc.": people in positions of power, cultural or political, here in the U.S.A., who call themselves conservatives, but only on issues where there is no social cost to them in doing so.
We sit apart from them. That's what the word "dissident" means, etymologically: sitting apart. It's a fair descriptor in this context.
The occasion for guilt is, that when we call ourselves "dissident" it sounds as though we are equating ourselves with moral giants — giants of courage and conviction — like Wang Bingzhang, enduring decades of solitude, silence, and cruelty while we relax in our rather comfortable lives.
The best recompense I can make is to be sure that I never speak or type the word "dissident" without pausing to remember these brave souls suffering, like Wang Bingzhang, in the dungeons of despotism.
Count your blessings, Americans. And for Dr. Wang: Happy birthday! You are not forgotten.
06 — Heart of Darkness. There is a reason why the Chinese people are susceptible to despotic government. The reason is that in their historical experience the alternative to despotism has not been constitutional democracy; it has been anarchy, and anarchy is worse than despotism.
Anarchy has usually taken over China following the collapse of an imperial dynasty. That was the case a hundred years ago after the Qing Dynasty fell in 1912. There was an attempt to establish republican government, but it failed and by 1922 China was well and truly into the Warlord Period of anarchy.
Seen from a distance, the Warlord Period had its charms. Some of the warlords were very colorful characters.
If you want to catch some of the color, I refer you to the Wikipedia entry for the warlord Zhāng Zōngchāng, the Dogmeat General. Zhāng had many other nicknames, including General Three Don't Knows: he didn't know how much money he had, how many concubines he had, nor how many soldiers he commanded.
Colorful, yes; but for ordinary people trying to live a normal life — modest prosperity, useful work, and the chance to raise a family — anarchy is worse than despotism.
At least under despotism there is some kind of order. Under anarchy there is only gang warfare: amoral bandits fighting each other for land, property, and women. The strong and ruthless rise; the rest of us are trampled underfoot.
And anarchy is still the rule — or mis-rule — over much of the world today. A couple of weeks ago here at VDARE.com I posted about Haiti, quote:
The country today is run by criminal gangs who, says the Daily Mail "are free to kidnap, murder and commit atrocities such as gang rapes at will."
It's not only Haiti that's in a state of anarchy. The New York Times on Christmas Eve ran a long report on the Central African Republic, which is in even worse shape than Haiti, if that's possible.
Illustrative quote, quote:
The Central African Republic, a country slightly bigger than Ukraine, has only two traffic lights. Neither of them works.
The CAR is, like Haiti, a former French colony. (If you think you can spot any other feature shared by the two countries, you must be a very bad person.) It was given its independence in 1960, although France maintained a garrison there to help keep social order and protect commercial interests. France withdrew the last few of its forces just this month.
So who's keeping order in the CAR now? Believe it or not, it's Russia — more precisely the Wagner group of Russian mercenaries.
What's Russia's interest in the place? [Ker-ching!] CAR may be the world's third poorest country but it has stuff: diamonds, gold, uranium, cobalt, and timber. The Russians want that stuff, and the Wagner mercenaries are there to make sure they get it, preferably without paying for it.
To judge from the New York Times story, the people of the CAR don't mind the Russians much. The Wagner brigades are brutal and lawless, of course, but they maintain a kind of order. When native warlords make trouble, the Russians just kill them all.
There is a force of U.N. peacekeepers in the country, but a local woman told the Times reporter than they don't engage the warlords, only take photographs.
The Russians and the ChiComs are both looting Africa for all they're worth. How about us?
The best that can be said here is that the wizards and geniuses who run U.S. foreign policy are doing their best to get us thoroughly entangled in Africa's problems, at American taxpayers' expense.
December 15th the President himself hosted a meeting in Washington, D.C. with leaders of 49 African countries. From the BBC report, quote:
He said that the crises facing the world today needed African leadership, ideas and innovations, and promised to build on the "vital" investments in Africa made by previous U.S. administrations.
I have no doubt that will prove to be money well spent; oh, I'm sure it will!
Meanwhile, for a well-illustrated account of human misery on a national scale, check out that New York Times report on the Central African Republic.
Yes: There are far worse things in the world than anything we Americans have to put up with. Count your blessings this New Year's Eve, my fellow citizens, count your blessings.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: There's a midwestern trucking firm named Sutton Transport, and they sponsor a website named FreightWaves, which covers all kinds of supply-chain issues and stories.
Wednesday this week they ran a story on the Mystery of the Derbyshire. A Radio Derb listener sent me a link — thank you, Sir!
You may think that the Mystery of the Derbyshire is: How can it be that a guy as smart, accomplished, well-read, well-travelled, and good-looking as John Derbyshire isn't rich?
That is indeed a mystery, one I have spent considerable time pondering, but it's not the one that the FreightWaves website is reporting on.
Their Wednesday report concerns a merchant ship, the MV Derbyshire, which disappeared in the South China Sea in September 1980 on her way from Canada to Japan with a cargo of iron ore — nearly 160,000 tons of the stuff. Forty-four people disappeared with the ship, 42 crew members and two of their wives.
The mystery is: Why was the Derbyshire lost when she was:
The wreckage of the Derbyshire was located in 1994 in water 2½ miles deep. After six years of investigations — and so twenty years after the sinking — the cause was finally established. The Derbyshire had been hit by an exceptionally severe typhoon, with waves possibly a hundred feet high.
So since year 2000 there has no longer been any mystery about the sinking of the ship. As to the other mystery … research continues.
Item: A brief follow-up on my comments back there about Britain's National Health Service, the NHS.
Apparently the horrid blight of DEI — Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — has struck the NHS. When staff are interviewing applicants for jobs in the Service — presumably including doctors and nurses — and decide to hire a white applicant over a nonwhite, they must explain their decision in writing, and offer suggestions as to how the nonwhite might improve his future interview prospects.
Quote from the Daily Mail story, with reference to one big North London hospital, quote:
Failure to do so sees them named and shamed in the [hospital's] monthly Workforce Race Equality progress report.
And apparently this is a mere glimpse of the wokery now taking over the NHS at a cost of billions per annum, while of course NHS administrators complain constantly about shortages of funding.
Whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad.
Item: And a follow-up on that New York Times story about the Central African Republic.
There may be no working traffic lights in the CAR but a different and just as poor African country, Gambia, has an excellent network of paved roads.
That's a legacy from His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa — "Jammeh" for short — who served as President of Gambia for 23 years, 1994 to 2017.
All those fine roads did not result from Jammeh's concern for his subjects' transportation needs but from his love of automobiles — luxury automobiles. Jammeh owned at least a hundred such, particularly favoring the Hummer H2 limousines, of which he owned seven. Those paved roads facilitated his passage from one presidential palace to another.
After losing an election in 2017, Jammeh went to exile in Equatorial Guinea, taking 13 of his luxury limousines with him, along with the contents of Gambia's treasury.
Gambia has a population of 2½ million, of whom half live on less than two dollars a day. Total Fertility Rate: 3.79 children per woman. Oh, I didn't give you the TFR for the Central African Republic? It's 4.04 children per woman.
And fie! on Oryx, the Dutch English-language website I took that story from, for referring to Gambia as The Gambia. That's in plain defiance of Radio Derb's longstanding campaign to eliminate the "The" from country names. It's not The Ukraine, The Lebanon, The Czech Republic, The Argentine. For goodness' sake!
I guess the Dutchmen running the Oryx website have had their minds warped by seeing rearguard fighters for the "The" refer to their country as "The Netherlands." Here at Radio Derb it is and always will be Holland.
08 — Signoff. With that, ladies and gentlemen, I wish goodnight to you and to the year 2022. The Mrs and I are going to party the year out with dear old friends visiting from England. We aim to have a good time, and I hope you do likewise.
January 5th is our daughter's birthday; January 21st, our grandson's; so we shall be starting the year, those first three weeks, with stuff that really matters. To return to Oliver Goldsmith's splendid poem, we shall glide the smooth current of domestic joy. Yes: "Theory is gray, but green is the tree of life"
Here is Peter Dawson to sing us out. Happy New Year!
[Music clip: Peter Dawson, "Auld Lang Syne."]