It’s not that long ago that the badly maligned and generally underappreciated John Derbyshire soliloquized on this subject:
In the past couple of decades we’ve seen the rise of one particular explanatory strategy [for racial differences in academic performance and social conduct]. That strategy recently acquired a name—or possibly it’s had the name for a while and I only just recently noticed. Whatever, I really like the name: Magic Dirt.
The core idea is that one’s physical surroundings—the bricks and mortar of the building you’re in, or the actual dirt you are standing on—emit invisible vapors that can change your personality, behavior, and intelligence.
That’s why, for example, you read so much about “bad schools” or “failing schools.” The thing to be explained is that schools whose students are overwhelmingly non-Asian minorities—blacks and mestizos—get much worse results on academic tests than schools whose students are majority white and East Asian. This has been so for decades, defying even extravagantly expensive efforts to change it, like the Kansas City fiasco of the 1990s.
Parsimonious explanation: innate differences in behavior, intelligence, and personality between the races.
Magical explanation: Bad schools! The bricks and mortar of these schools, the asphalt of their playgrounds, are giving out invisible noxious vapors that enstupidate the kids!...
Magic Dirt theory is a key component of immigration romanticism, too. Sure, Mexico and Central America are messed-up places, and presumably their inhabitants played some role in messing them up. If we just move thirty or forty million of those people to the U.S.A., though, our Magic Dirt will transform them into civic-minded Jeffersonian yeomen!
Now watch as the great Mark Steyn applies his clarity and intellect to Europe, with particular application to Germany:
There’s only one element to “magic dirt” thinking that these two thinkers leave largely unaddressed...which, of course, is why you’re reading this essay.
Now and then, a fiction writer will express an important idea more clearly than any pundit or “policy wonk.” Here’s a case in point:
How did they use electricity in Hell? But outside the power plant was an athletic man chained to a wheel-less bicycle set in concrete in front of the exhaust pipe of the generator. Black smoke poured around him, almost hiding him from view.
As we watched he began pedaling furiously. The hum of the gears rose to a high pitch—and the generator inside died. There was a moment of quiet. The man pedaled with sure strokes, faster and faster, his feet nearly invisible, his head tucked down as if against a wind. We gathered around, each wondering how long he could keep it up.
He began to tire. The blur of his feet slowed. The motors inside coughed, and black smoke poured out. He choked and turned his head away, and saw us.
“Don’t answer if you’d rather not,” I said, “but what whim of fate put you here?”
“I don’t know!” he howled. “I was president of the largest and most effective environmental protection organization in the country! I fought this!” He braced himself and pedaled again. The hum rose, and the generator died....
Corbett had to be guessing when he suddenly asked, “You opposed thermonuclear power plants?”
The guy stopped dead, staring as if Corbett were a ghost. The dynamo lurched into action and surrounded him with thick blue smoke.
“That’s it, isn’t it?” Corbett said gently. “You stopped the nuclear generators. I was just a kid during the power blackouts. We had to go to school in the dark because the whole country went on daylight savings time to save power.”
“But they weren’t safe!” He coughed. “They weren’t safe!”
“How did you know that?” Benito asked.
“We had scientists in our organization. They proved it.”
But of course this is Hell, a place of ironies surpassing all Earthly ironies. And so...
When I looked down, Benito was fumbling through saddlebags attached to the stationary bicycle.
The man cried “What are you doing?”
Benito took out papers. The man snatched at them, but Benito backed away. He read, “Dear Jon, I could understand your opposition to us last year. There was some doubt about the process, and you expressed fears all of us felt. But now you know better. I have no witnesses, but you told me you understood Dr. Pittman’s demonstration. In God’s name, Jon, why do you continue? I ask you as your sister, as a fellow scientist, as a human being: why?”
He began pedaling again, ignoring us.
“You knew?” I demanded. He pedaled faster, his head bent. I leaned down and put my face close to his. “You knew?” I screamed.
Big Juju wins again. Too much, but appropriate. As we walked away, Jon screamed after us, “I’d have been nothing if I gave up the movement! Nothing! Don’t you understand? I had to stay as president!”
Ponder that for a moment while I fix more coffee.
There are some things that cannot be said too often. This is one:
They’ll do anything to get and keep it.
It trumps all their other priorities.
Inversely, a politician who feels himself losing power will react to that more powerfully than to any other symptom of decline. But to appreciate the range of possible conditions under which a top-tier political figure will feel such a decline, one must appreciate the nature of political power.
Political power is power over others. The magnitude of that power varies directly with:
- Its scope: i.e., what range of behaviors and interactions with others it covers;
- Its numbers: i.e., how many persons are subject to it.
Thus, the ruler of a nation whose population is increasing, whether by birth or by immigration, can assess his power as increasing as well...but the ruler of a nation whose population is declining has every reason to feel that he’s losing power with each subject that emigrates or dies.
When Mark Steyn asks “Can you have Germany without Germans?” he asks a question that would occur to a free man, uninterested in power over others. But that’s not the question that would be uppermost in the mind of an Angela Merkel. She would think, “How can I be Chancellor of Germany without subjects to rule?” The “solution” to her “problem” is a simple one: import them.
Of course, her “solution” involves the infliction of many evils upon those native Germans that remain. Does that matter to her? If at all, only as a minor consequence to what she views as a necessity. In the mind of a top-tier politician, power trumps all other considerations. The rights and prerogatives of others barely register on Merkel’s thoughts.
Political power is, of course, a form of status. Other kinds of status appeal to other kinds of people, such as the “environmentalist” in the citation from Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno. And indeed, the sort of “status uber alles” behavior observable among politicians will be easily found among those who put some other kind of status – e.g., wealth or popularity – above all other considerations.
However, among all the relational varieties of status, only power is wholly addictive and utterly noxious. Politicians never willingly retire – and the longer they enjoy power, the more willing they become to do anything to enlarge and keep it. Consider the recently deceased Arlen Specter, or the odious Jim Jeffords, for examples of the tenacity of the power-luster’s grip. Consider further the conscienceless, remorseless drive of Hillary Rodham Clinton for the presidency. Granted, the same suspicion applies to any candidate on either side of the fence, but in Mrs. Clinton we have a particularly egregious case.
In summary: To explain European power-mongers’ willing acceptance of savage Middle Eastern hordes, a goodly fraction of them likely terrorists-to-be, for their new subjects, combine their agony over the decline of their nations’ populations with the wishful thinking that allows one to believe that “everything will be all right if I can just fix this one thing.” Sprinkle with “magic dirt” and bake in a moderate European oven for about a year...then run as far and as fast as you can.