Oct. 7, 2011
Susan Sontag (1933-2004), an American literary figure and teacher, is credited with the 1982 utterance of these words:
"Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Balanchine ballets, et al. don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history."
Lately, I've seen and heard quite a few comments that echo this sentiment, if such idiotic nonsense may be dignified as "sentiment".
No one should deny that the white race has been the perpetrator of great abominations and evils. Immediately, Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon and Alexander come to mind in the forefront of mass-murderers. Of course, there were non-whites too, like Genghis Khan, Tamerlane and Mao Zidong. But that does nothing to lessen the guilt of the white race for its various genocides and wars.
It's obviously true that the creations of Kant, Mozart, Shakespeare, Balanchine, Pascal and Boole in no way compensate for the 50 million who perished in WWII. After all, you could live a whole life without reading Shakespeare or hearing Mozart. Anyone arguing that Hamlet or Don Giovanni makes up for Hitler or Stalin would indeed be crazy.
But what Susan Sontag apparently overlooked is the awesome technological, industrial and communications infrastructure made possible by white genius. Not only did white people invent concrete and steel, building the mills that make them, and many of the cities that stand because of them, they invented electrical power generation, petroleum refining, earthmoving and farm equipment for building transcontinental highways and multiplying the crop a huncredfold. They invented cars, buses, trucks, trains, planes, satellites and spaceships. They invented telephones, radio, television, computers and internet.
In addition to these more spectacular inventions, there has been an endless stream of smaller machines, appliances and devices undoubtedly invented by white people, like light bulbs, movie cameras, electric stoves, power saws, drill presses, printing presses, industrial looms and knitting machines, welding machines, boom lifts, jackhammers, clocks, watches, and so forth.
Billions of people throughout the world enjoy better lives than they would have without the ingenuity of great white inventors, manufacturers and industrialists, people like Ford, Carnegie, McCormack, Howe, Singer, Bessemer , Boeing, Edison, Bell , Lesseps, Benz, Goodyear, the Wrights, Volta , Tesla, Marconi, Turing, Gates and many, many more.
Surely enough, there's still a great deal of poverty and warfare in the world. That doesn't change the fact that the bulk of the human race is far better off than it would have been without the good offices of white genius.
Where would we be today if our infrastructure had been founded on the technology of Africans, American Indians or Austronesians? Instead of driving an automobile down a divided superhighway, you might be sitting in a wagon drawn by oxen along a dirt road, if that much. Even East Asia , which has become a rival of the West, began its upgrade by adopting Western devices and methods.
I can't imagine how a supposedly intelligent woman like Susan Sontag can possibly have overlooked all this.
About the author Thomas Keyes: I have written five books: ELEMENTS OF GRAMMAR and A SOJOURN IN ASIA (non-fiction); A TALE OF UNG, THE ENNUNMENT and GVAGMA (fiction).
I have studied languages for years and traveled extensively on five continents.
Visit my website here.
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