Sunday, December 9, 2018

What Comes Of “Equality”

     When I saw this article yesterday, it filled me with sorrow:

     SOUTH Africa has set a date for when its much-criticised land expropriations can begin after a politician declared: “Your time is up, white people.”

     The country’s National Assembly approved a proposal to change the constitution to make the so-called reforms legal in a vote of 183 to 77.

     This paves the way for land to be taken from farmers without giving any kind of compensation.

     And now lawmakers have agreed to set up a committee that will write and introduce a new bill for land expropriations.

     Every African nation that has transitioned from “colonial” (i.e., white) rule to native (i.e., black) rule has followed a similar path. It calls to mind a quote from Vladimir Bukovsky:

     Is it really surprising that whenever you get striving for equality and fraternity, the guillotine appears on the scene?

     What black South Africans don’t realize is that the people they’ll be guillotining are themselves. That is what comes of such policies, as anyone familiar with the course of things in Zimbabwe can attest.

     But this piece isn’t primarily about South Africa’s auto da fe. Neither is it about race.


     I’m on record as having stated, quite plainly, that I’m a racist. That is: I believe that as statistical aggregates, the races differ in ways that are important at some times and in some contexts. Thus I cannot be cowed by being called a racist, for I admit it freely and can’t imagine, given how amply it’s supported by the observable facts, how it could constitute a condemnation. This irritates the apostles of equality and that chimera called “social justice.” If they can’t silence me by wielding their favorite epithet, what would work?

     It is observably the case that those nations founded and peopled by whites have attained greater heights of justice, prosperity, and security than those founded and peopled by blacks. It is observably the case that in America, areas in which blacks concentrate have far more crime, squalor, illegitimacy, and local disorder than those in which there are few of them. It is observably the case that American blacks score, as an aggregate, about 15 points – one standard deviation – lower on intelligence tests than American whites. Moreover, the fantasies of the rosy-glassed notwithstanding, these are not “cultural artifacts.” They are patterns that have been repeated throughout recorded history and are equally observable in every other nation with a significant black population.

     Given all the above – and whether you like it or not, those are facts, not the venom-drenched snarls of a Ku Klux Klansman – why, when South Africa rejected white rule and transitioned to a majority-black power structure, should we have expected that the Euro-American norms the white governments had maintained would continue? For it is not “equality,” an unattainable condition except in the very shortest of short terms, that the blacks of Africa desire, but the assuagement of their envy, to wit: to pull down the whites for daring to outperform them.


     The envious are not satisfied with equality; they secretly yearn for superiority and revenge. In the French Revolution of 1848, a woman coal-heaver is said to have remarked to a richly dressed lady: “Yes, madam, everything’s going to be equal now; I shall go in silks and you’ll carry coal.”

     [Henry Hazlitt, The Conquest of Poverty ]

     Envy is ineluctable, implacable and irreconcilable, is irritated by the slightest differences, is independent of the degree of inequality, appears in its worst form in social proximity among near relatives, provides the dynamic for every revolution yet cannot of itself produce any kind of coherent revolutionary program.

     [Helmut Schoeck, Envy]

     Envy is a form of hatred. It’s the capital sin of which few, if any in our time, dare to speak. Leftist activists mouth platitudes about “equality” and “social justice” as camouflage for their designs, when what really moves them is their envy and the envy of those for whom they claim to speak. Some of them are merely deluded, though they’re dangerous nonetheless. The rest employ their pearly phrases to conceal a drive for power, status, and their perquisites. Those who kowtow to them can be partitioned into two groups: persons unable to believe in their right to what they have earned, and Democrats.

     Envy is particularly valuable to that second group. They pander to it, hoping to excite it sufficiently that the envious will raise them to power. Thomas Babington Macaulay knew it:

     The day will come when [in the United States] a multitude of people will choose the legislature. Is it possible to doubt what sort of a legislature will be chosen? On the one side is a statesman preaching patience, respect for rights, strict observance of public faith. On the other is a demagogue ranting about the tyranny of capitalism and usurers and asking why anybody should be permitted to drink champagne and to ride in a carriage while thousands of honest people are in want of necessaries. Which of the candidates is likely to be preferred by a workman?

     [From a letter from Macaulay to H. S. Randall of New York. Emphasis added by FWP.]

     But who envies? Not everyone. Not necessarily Macaulay’s “workman.” For many a decade the American most scrupulous about the property rights of all Americans, high or low, was the blue-collar workman or laborer. Indeed, many such workmen, perhaps most, are still of that mind today. And well they should be, for they know from experience that no gain of any sort can be had without hard work directed toward a good end. Their pride in their attainments, however modest, is well justified.

     No, the naturally envious man is of another cut.


     It’s time for a little C. S. Lewis:

     Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose. The good work which our philological experts have already done in the corruption of human language makes it unnecessary to warn you that they should never be allowed to give this word a clear and definable meaning. They won't. It will never occur to them that democracy is properly the name of a political system, even a system of voting, and that this has only the most remote and tenuous connection with what you are trying to sell them. Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle's question: whether “democratic behaviour” means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same.

     You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal. Especially the man you are working on. As a result you can use the word democracy to sanction in his thought the most degrading (and also the least enjoyable) of human feelings. You can get him to practise, not only without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, would be universally derided.

     The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say I’m as good as you.

     The first and most obvious advantage is that you thus induce him to enthrone at the centre of his life a good, solid, resounding lie. I don't mean merely that his statement is false in fact, that he is no more equal to everyone he meets in kindness, honesty, and good sense than in height or waist measurement. I mean that he does not believe it himself. No man who says I'm as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept.

     And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority. No one must be different from himself in voice, clothes, manners, recreations, choice of food: “Here is someone who speaks English rather more clearly and euphoniously than I — it must be a vile, upstage, lah-di-dah affectation. Here's a fellow who says he doesn't like hot dogs — thinks himself too good for them, no doubt. Here's a man who hasn't turned on the jukebox — he's one of those goddamn highbrows and is doing it to show off. If they were honest-to-God all-right Joes they'd be like me. They've no business to be different. It's undemocratic.”

     [From Screwtape Proposes A Toast]

     Note that the word envy does not appear in the Lewis passage above. He speaks of the resentment of those who know themselves to be inferior in some regard. But this is envy’s natural habitat. Demagogues know it and play to it. They seize upon Thomas Jefferson’s stirring declaration that “all men are created equal” – by which he meant that we must be equals before the law, not in any other sense – and treat it as meaning that all of us “should be equal:” in attainments, in income, in property, and (may God save us from our follies) in dignity and others’ esteem.

     It’s an impossibility...but impossibilities are the stock in trade of the demagogue and always have been, which is why guillotines always appear in their wake.


     Not every man who envies – i.e., who hates others who have what he does not and would like to see them brought down – is an absolute inferior. Some have drive but lack talent, or the reverse. Some are without direction, and therefore never “get started.” And some, it must be said, are merely unlucky: not in the right place at the right time, and so are unable to put their gifts to their best use.

     None of these things, including unquestionable inferiority of talent, drive, direction, and good fortune, justifies envy. Of the seven capital sins, envy is by far the most likely to be capitalized upon: i.e., to propel action intended to assuage itself. That’s why it’s the only emotion forbidden by the Decalogue: Thou shalt not covet!

     But that will never deter the demagogues. They’d rather be shorn of their genitals than refrain from the excitation and exploitation of envy. For they are the ones best poised to reap an actual profit from that exploitation.

     One more quote, if I haven’t yet exhausted your patience with the previous ones. This one is from Katherine Anne Porter’s magnificent short story “Flowering Judas.” Hearken to her mini-portrait of “revolutionist” Braggioni:

     Braggioni loves himself with such tenderness and amplitude and eternal charity that his followers—for he is a leader of men, a skilled revolutionist, and his skin has been punctured in honorable warfare—warm themselves in the reflected glow, and say to each other: ‘He has a real nobility, a love of humanity raised above mere personal affections.’ The excess of this self-love has flowed out, inconveniently for her, over Laura, who, with so many others, owes her comfortable situation and her salary to him. When he is in a very good humor, he tells her, ‘I am tempted to forgive you for being a gringa. Gringita!’ and Laura, burning, imagines herself leaning forward suddenly, and with a sound back-handed slap wiping the suety smile from his face. If he notices her eyes at these moments he gives no sign....

     ....He bulges marvelously in his expensive garments. Over his lavender collar, crushed upon a purple necktie, held by a diamond hoop: over his ammunition belt of tooled leather worked in silver, buckled cruelly around his gasping middle: over the tops of his glossy yellow shoes Braggioni swells with ominous ripeness, his mauve silk hose stretched taut, his ankles bound with the stout leather thongs of his shoes.

     When he stretches his eyelids at Laura she notes again that his eyes are the true tawny yellow cat's eyes. He is rich, not in money, he tells her, but in power, and this power brings with it the blameless ownership of things, and the right to indulge his love of small luxuries. ‘I have a taste for the elegant refinements,’ he said once, flourishing a yellow silk handkerchief before her nose. ‘Smell that? It is Jockey Club, imported from New York.’

     The wealth the envious imagine themselves seizing from “the rich” invariably flows to the Braggionis of the world.


     Writing about this subject leaves me gloomy. It chafes me particularly to do so in Advent, when all Christian souls should be preparing themselves for the coming of the Christ Child. But that doesn’t diminish its importance, nor the imperative with which it ought to command the attention of every man of good will. Indeed, a decent definition of man of good will would run “One who despises envy, and would have none of it in himself or others.”

     The article about the South African devolution is only part of the reason it was on my mind at this time. I’ve recently seen and heard fresh demonstrations of envy and envy-powered resentment among the very people I’m supposed to act charitably toward, as a Christian should. Some of those demonstrations occurred even as those “poor people” were receiving assistance from their better-off neighbors.

     I shan’t draw the moral for you, Gentle Reader. If you weren’t intelligent enough to see it for yourself, you wouldn’t be a patron of Liberty’s Torch.

     May God bless and keep you all.

5 comments:

Unknown said...

The slave never yearns for equality with his master; he wishes only to be the master. Thus it was and always shall be until Kingdom come. Maranatha.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Indeed, Unk. Demosthenes made that exact observation more than two thousand years ago. Yet we fail to acknowledge it even so long afterward.

NITZAKHON said...

Let me be very clear: I absolutely believe, without a scintilla of doubt, that there are differences between races. That we are the same species is evident, per definition; that being said, superficial attributes like skin color, hair color, etc., breed true - so it is entirely likely that other characteristics also breed true. Intelligence is one of them.

Having said this, there is no room for discrimination in the law for race. None.

I've mentioned on my blog, and perhaps here, that my wife is not white and is a first-generation immigrant. In her job she's run into quite a few non-whites, particularly black people. She came to the conclusion very early that these people were, still, slaves. No, not physically but definitely had a "slave mentality" - the far, far more dangerous and insidious kind of chain.

(Incidentally, this is one reason G-d had the Israelites wander for 40 years in the wilderess: to get the majority of people who were conditioned to be slaves to die off.)

I've been to Africa. Kenya, to be specific. I'd love to go back, but I'm afraid that by the time it's feasible dollar and family wise it won't be viable to do safety-wise as, alas, I fear it too shall go down the rabbit hole of tribal and racial strife.

Linda Fox said...

And, posts like this are why I read you, Francis. Until I read it here, I had honestly never made that connection between coveting and envy. I needed this.

Dystopic said...

It's always envy. People will deny it until they are blue in the face. They will swear charity motivates them, not jealousy. They do not covet for themselves, you see, but on behalf of others, always.

The saying 'rob Peter to pay Paul and you have half the vote' is incomplete. You rob Peter, pay Paul, and convince a few suckers on Peter's side to side with you because they should feel guilty Peter had more to begin with.

You don't need a lot. Just a few gullible fools, and then you have MORE than half the vote.