Friday, August 3, 2007 40 Comments

The country that used to exist

What the hell is history, anyway?

History is just a bunch of stuff that happened. Mostly to people now dead. We owe these people nothing. They're dead, after all. Sometimes we have some scraps of paper they scribbled on. Sometimes we don't.

I was reading Tacitus' Annals the other week (not for any good reason; I was just somewhere where there was a copy of Tacitus) and I was rather looking forward to the story of Caligula. (Who Tacitus quite confusingly calls "Caius Caesar" - as if there was some shortage of Romans by this name.) Suddenly, though, there was a gap. Tacitus did write about Caligula. But no one knows what he said. That book of the Annals is lost.

We have most of the Annals, though, including the opening, and here's how it goes:
Rome at the beginning was ruled by kings. Freedom and the consulship were established by Lucius Brutus. Dictatorships were held for a temporary crisis. The power of the decemvirs did not last beyond two years, nor was the consular jurisdiction of the military tribunes of long duration. The despotisms of Cinna and Sulla were brief; the rule of Pompeius and of Crassus soon yielded before Caesar; the arms of Lepidus and Antonius before Augustus; who, when the world was wearied by civil strife, subjected it to empire under the title of "Prince." But the successes and reverses of the old Roman people have been recorded by famous historians; and fine intellects were not wanting to describe the times of Augustus, till growing sycophancy scared them away. The histories of Tiberius, Caius, Claudius, and Nero, while they were in power, were falsified through terror, and after their death were written under the irritation of a recent hatred. Hence my purpose is to relate a few facts about Augustus - more particularly his last acts, then the reign of Tiberius, and all which follows, without either bitterness or partiality, from any motives to which I am far removed.
"Without either bitterness or partiality." Sine ira et studio. I doubt these words were idly chosen, and we kids these days could do a lot worse than to imitate them. No one gives a rat's ass about Tiberius now. But I see no shortage of either ira or studio.

Anyway, it's not too hard to lose a book of Tacitus. Nor is it any great tragedy. They actually made a documentary about Caligula. So obviously we know something.

It's slightly more difficult to lose a country. It happened, though, and it was not Dalmatia or Dacia, Rhaetia or Bithynia. Here's a picture of it:

(Source.) The country was called Rhodesia, and it is no longer found on any map. Earth's crust being relatively stable, the place where it was still exists. But you wouldn't want to go there.

The story of Rhodesia is in a strange category we might call "living history." Rhodesia is dead, but there are still a few Rhodesians kicking around, and some of them even have blogs. Such as this fellow - whose opinions I'm sure many UR readers might contest.

Because that innocuous little motto, sine ira et studio, acquires a slight edge when we come to the "living history" category. When Tacitus wrote about, say, Vespasian, he was writing of events of a roughly similar age. You can be sure there was plenty of both ira and studio.

History is not a list of facts. We all agree: in 1973, when I was born (nowhere near Rhodesia - I have no personal connection at all to the place) there was a country by that name. In 2007, as I write, there is not. These are facts. But they are not history. If Tacitus had merely compiled lists of facts, no one would have copied his books, and we would never even have heard of any Tacitus.

The genius of Tacitus, and his classical peers - Thucydides, for example, is even more readable - is that they actually tell us what happened. Not just the facts, but the story. And perhaps we have no choice but to believe them, but we do. Their voices are credible.

So what the hell happened to Rhodesia? Why was there a Rhodesia, and why isn't there a Rhodesia anymore? What's the story?

This is a rather large question. It involves the lives of millions of people. It's not quite as large a question as "what the hell happened to the Roman Empire." But at least no one involved in the fall of the Roman Empire is still alive and liable to send me angry email.

Before we try to answer this question, you might enjoy a few minutes immersing yourself in Rhodesian memorabilia, large piles of which can be found at For example, this is quite a typical story. This and this (more cerebral), or this and this (more lurid) represent the Rhodesian Ministry of Information's view of the conflict. Rhodesia after its unilateral declaration of independence in 1965 became quite isolated from the Western world, and as a result even the graphic design of Rhodesian publications can strike us as quite unusual - see, for example, this large PDF, which is the final issue of Cheetah, the magazine of the Rhodesian Light Infantry.

If you are willing to take a minute for this 8MB download, perhaps you will see why I find the story of Rhodesia so fascinating. It is simply an introduction to an alien world. It might as well have been printed on Alpha Centauri, except that it seems to be in English. Aside from the language barrier, I am quite sure I have more in common with Tacitus himself than with any of the odd bipeds who adorn the pages of Cheetah. Perhaps a modern German has rather the same reaction to documents from the Third Reich. (The last two pages of the PDF, which are quite artistic, may be the most unusual - don't miss the selection of past Cheetah covers.)

Of course, this does nothing to answer the question. Perhaps first we should get the official story, which we can hear from our good old friend Samantha Power. As Power wrote, in an excellent 2003 article called How To Kill a Country:
Although Zimbabwe is as broken as any country on the planet, it offers a testament not to some inherent African inability to govern but to a minority rule as oppressive and inconsiderate of the welfare of citizens as its ignominious white predecessor.
I suspect the readers of Cheetah might take some issue with the word "ignominious." But, of course, the winners write the history books. Or at least they get to teach at Harvard. And the losers are, well - losers.

In any case, Power is no fan of ZANU-PF, and she closes with this same point:
For all their differences, Mugabe and Ian Smith share a basic misconception about power: they both fail to realize that a government cannot survive indefinitely when it advances the political and economic desires of the few at the expense of the many. When I asked Smith whether he would stop leaving his front door open now that starving Zimbabweans are prowling the city, he replied, "I'm not going to change now." The same, alas, is most likely true of Robert Mugabe.
See, this is how bad Robert Mugabe is: he is just as bad as Ian Smith.

(Who, almost unbelievably, is still alive - though shortly after this article was published, Smith's home was stolen and he moved, like so many of his compatriots, to South Africa. Which presumably will survive long enough for him to at least die of old age in his own bed. You can buy Smith's memoirs here. Be warned, he's not a very good writer.)

Of course the idea that starving Rhodesians, whatever their skin tone, were ever "prowling" Salisbury, is rather surprising. And quite untrue. As the Rhodesian government put it in 1979 (bear in mind that the Rhodesian dollar was pegged 1:1 to the US dollar):
A United States State Department Agency report says that in the decade 1965-1975, Rhodesian economic growth outstripped that of almost all its neighbours; her Gross National Product rose by almost 80 per cent. and the per capita income by 26 per cent. The 1974 per capita income of $422 compared very favourably with that of $348 in Botswana, $148 in Zaire and $126 in Tanzania.

In the purely material sphere earnings have increased phenomenally: in 1958 the 652,000 workers in the industrial sector earned an average per capita income of $169, ranging from a high of $285 in the finance and insurance fields to a low of $104 for an agricultural worker; in 1965 the figures were 656,000 workers, average income $250, and by 1975, 982,000 workers had a mean per capita income of $692, with those employed in the educational, transport and communications and finance, insurance and real estate spheres, earning an average of $981, while the least paid employees - agricultural workers, domestic servants and miners and quarry workers - earned $336 on the average.
Black private enterprise is growing, particularly in the fields of transport, distribution and agriculture: black bus-owners manage highly successful businesses which provide transport between the urban areas and the Tribal Trust Lands; black retailers own and run about 2,500 stores, varying in size and sophistication; and blacks own and manage over 8,000 commercial farms.

In the professional field, there are many successful black doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, etc. In the private sector of business and commerce, there are significant examples of appropriate responsibilities offered to, and successfully discharged by, qualified blacks and many large companies employ blacks in management or trainee-management positions.

The Civil Service employs increasing numbers of blacks in established posts, especially in the fields of education, health and social welfare.
I know it seems odd, and I do not have a link handy, but one of the mainstays of the early postwar case for decolonialization was actually that European government was artificially retarding the development of black Africa, confining native populations to traditional pre-industrial economic, social and political structures, and preventing them from moving forward to a modern, centrally-planned socialist economy. Hopefully if you are a regular UR reader, I have established some credibility and you are willing to take me on trust when I say that people actually did believe this. Otherwise I'll have to dig up a link or something.

Of course this proposition is no longer uttered as such. But it no longer needs to be uttered, because so few remember Africa before decolonialization, and those who do don't exactly teach at Harvard. So it has passed into history, and fossilized in a way. It can be assumed and included in arguments without any actual thought.

In fact, what Power really means is that a government "cannot survive indefinitely" if it defies the wishes of the international community. Ie, of, well - Power. Here we have the ultimate cause of Rhodesia's destruction. I believe this is a clear and undisputed fact.

The proximate cause of Rhodesia's demise is also clear. Rhodesia was throttled by carnations, stabbed in the back by South Africa, and finished off by Jimmy Carter.

The carnations were dropped into rifles and used to overthrow the Estado Novo of Portugal, which then abandoned Moçambique, Portuguese territory for the last 500 years, which in 1975 reverted to the international community - specifically its Cyrillic arm.

The Carnation Revolution left South Africa as the last ally of landlocked, blockaded Rhodesia. As everyone in the world can surely now agree, the National Party regime in South Africa were swine, and they thought they could appease the international community by selling out the Rhodesians - for example, cutting off their fuel supply. While this did them no good at all, it essentially forced the Rhodesian government to surrender.

As this article describes, Henry Kissinger approved - or at least led the Rhodesians to believe he'd approved - a plan under which Rhodesia would adopt a universal-suffrage voting system. Rhodesia, unlike South Africa, never had an apartheid system or race-specific elections; the entire cause of the dispute was that the Rhodesian electoral system, following Cecil Rhodes' dictum of "equal rights for all civilized men," had a property qualification for elections.

However, this first plan for majority rule was designed to elect the moderate black leader Abel Muzorewa. It was boycotted by the guerrilla leaders Mugabe and Nkomo, and (worst of all) it specifically preserved the white Rhodesian civil service. In other words, at least for the time being, it was essentially cosmetic. Carter, and his advisor on African affairs Andrew Young, refused to accept the results of Kissinger's diplomacy and forced a new election, which was won (quite violently) by Mugabe.

Of course presumably Young would disagree with this perception. As one Rhodesian Ministry of Information pamphlet put it:
This weekend, in the worst atrocity committed against white civilians in the history of Rhodesia's six-year war, terrorists of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe National Liberation Army hacked and battered to death almost the entire white staff and their families at the Elim Pentacostal Mission in the Eastern border mountains.

Mr. Young is asked: "Does Mr. Mugabe strike you as a violent man?"

He replies: "Not at all, he's a very gentle man. In fact, one of the ironies of the whole struggle is that I can't imagine Joshua Nkomo, or Robert Mugabe, ever pulling the trigger on a gun to kill anyone. I doubt that they ever have.... The violent people are Smith's people and hopefully they won't be around for the new Zimbabwe."

This weekend, when local and international journalists arrived at the scene of the massacre 15 km from Umtali and less than 7 km from the Mozambique border, the mutilated and blood-stained bodies of three men, four women and five children - including a three-week-old baby - were lying as they had been found that morning.

Mr. Young is asked how he gets on with Mr. Mugabe.

He replies: "I find that I am fascinated by his intelligence, by his dedication. The only thing that frustrates me about Robert Mugabe is that he is so damned incorruptible.... The problem is he was educated by the Jesuits, and when you get the combination of a Jesuit and a Marxist kind of philosophy merging in one person, you've got a hell of a guy to deal with."
So we have the ultimate cause and the proximate cause. But do we really know the story?

All these facts are easy to assemble into the Rhodesian point of view. From this perspective, what happened is that Rhodesia, a white British nation which extended the benefits of peace, law and economic development to the Shona and Matabele nations which shared its idyllic little corner of the Dark Continent, was smashed by International Pinko Communism, which destroyed the country by handing it over to the vicious terrorist gangs its soldiers had been bravely resisting. The subsequent debacle of Mugabe's Zimbabwe was as predictable as it was tragic, and if God-fearing American and British citizens had subscribed to Cheetah and read more of those Ministry of Information pamphlets, the whole thing could have been avoided.

Do I believe this? Well, in a certain sense, I believe it. I certainly think it's a perspective that is worth appreciating, albeit in slightly less caricatured terms, as long as you also know the official story. I'd definitely pay good money to see Samantha Power debate "The Last of the Rhodesians" on the subject.

However, I don't think either of these narratives is quite how Tacitus would put it. And nor is the combination - truly ira et studio - completely satisfying.

Perhaps if there is a unifying thread to the story, it is in the life of Garfield Todd, eulogized by the Grauniad here and described from a liberal Rhodesian perspective here.

Because there was such a thing as a liberal Rhodesian perspective. Rhodesia was a country, not a cartoon, and it had politics of its own. And these politics, I think, are relevant to more than Rhodesia (which after all is dead). They are a kind of microcosm of postwar "Anglosphere" politics as a whole, in which each faction had its strange Rhodesian reflection.

Todd, basically, was the Universalist to end all Universalists. He was not just crypto-Christian - he was Christian, a representative of the powerful missionary system. He devoted himself, with typical Universalist noblesse oblige, to the uplift and education of Africans.

And he was, in fact, Robert Mugabe's boss. Mugabe got his start as a schoolteacher in the "Dadaya New Zealand Churches of Christ Mission School," where Todd was the principal. Small wonder that in 1972 Todd, the former PM of Rhodesia, was confined under house arrest for having worked underground to support Mugabe's guerrillas.

His daughter Judith Todd, who among other efforts underwent a hunger strike against Smith's government, recently revealed that during the 1983 Matabeleland massacres - in which tens of thousands of Mugabe's tribal opponents were murdered - she was raped by an officer of ZANU's North Korean-trained security forces.

At the time her father was a senator of Zimbabwe, appointed by his former protege Mugabe, whose position he had done so much to obtain - only three years previously. And Garfield Todd remained in this role for two more years.

What would Tacitus make of this? Frankly, I'm not sure he could even process it. The whole affair is just not in his philosophy. Wittgenstein said that if a lion could talk, we would not understand him. Probably Garfield Todd, simply by virtue of being born in 1908, had some Latin. But I'm not sure Tacitus would find him any more intelligible than Wittgenstein's lion.

The social relationship between Todd and Smith is particularly fascinating. Travelers to Rhodesia in its later years often remarked that it seemed like a piece of prewar Britain, even 19th-century Britain, that had somehow fossilized and failed to develop.

A figure like Ian Smith could never have achieved any political prominence in prewar Britain, because his origins were decidedly middle-class. Smith was an RAF officer in WWII, but his accent was no doubt anything but Old Etonian. Much as Todd was the ultimate missionary, Smith was the ultimate settler - and the battle between missionaries and settlers, which ended of course in the victory of the former, was the great conflict of colonialism.

Rhodesia can be seen as a sort of British alternate present. Perhaps something like a Rhodesian Britain could have existed in a Europe where WWII never happened, and middle-class right-wing movements were not considered "populist" and intrinsically dangerous. Today's British National Party, for example, is very reminiscent of the Rhodesian Front in its general cultural associations. (Note that, like the Rhodesian sites I've linked to, the BNP also has the worst possible taste in Web design. This is very petty-bourgeois.)

Smith's Rhodesian Front was a profoundly Optimate-Vaisya concoction: basically lower middle-class, with a light spattering of degenerate aristocrats. Given the BDH-OV conflict, that Smith's Rhodesia would fight a war with the Universalist "world community," or with the likes of the uber-Universalist Garfield Todd, is utterly unsurprising.

Remember that this is not just a political conflict, but a religious war. Universalism and traditionalist Revelationism are the two leading clades of Christianity in the world today. If Revelationism had any chance of extirpating Universalism, it would surely seize it, so one can't really be too shocked and offended that the project is proceeding in the opposite direction.

The United States is the only country in which any political force with even the slightest resemblance to the Rhodesian Front is tolerated as a legitimate party. For all of Europe and Britain, the analogy to National Socialism - which of course was another Vaisya party - is simply too close to home. Today's Europeans simply cannot understand why Republicans, at least populist Republicans, are allowed to exist within the American political system. They look at it rather the way you'd look at someone who kept a pet leopard in his closet.

Fortunately for Universalists, the political wind is certainly in their sails. It is increasingly difficult for "populist" Republicans to survive in the American political system, simply because the press they get is so bad. The likes of Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter could never get themselves appointed as first-tier presidential candidates, whereas John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani - all of whom have proved themselves acceptable to the Universalist press - can. Even George W. Bush outdistanced the field on the basis of his "compassionate conservatism," and (as some commenters here have observed) - neoconservatism itself contains a powerful dose of Universalism. Until a new outbreak of Middle American populism creates a new McCarthy or Reagan, the Republicans are headed back toward "post-partisan" territory, where like Willkie, Eisenhower or Rockefeller they will again serve as the Polygon's faithful lapdogs, deeply sorry that they ever even thought of digging a hole in the sofa.

In other words, my prediction for the future: more progress.

There is only one slight problem with this picture. The problem is that, basically, Ian Smith and his cronies were right. And basically, Garfield Todd and his friends were wrong.

Universalist Christianity is profoundly adaptive when it comes to outcompeting its opponents. It's very difficult for a Christian to argue against Universalism, because it is manifestly so pure and Christlike. Even in a time and place like Rhodesia in the '60s - when Universalism was blatantly suicidal - it was by no means easy for Smith's insurgent party to brush the Establishment aside. The Rhodesian Front could win the votes of Rhodesian farmers who didn't want to be murdered in their beds. It had no chance of convincing the world.

However, Universalism also has enemies. Smith never really managed to hate the likes of Todd - he thought they were misguided. I was brought up a Universalist, so obviously I have the same feeling, only more so. It was not Smith, but Mugabe, who proved the real enemy of the Todds.

And being an enemy, he saw no shame at all in feigning Christian sentiments to manipulate his enemies. This is the permanent strategy of the militarist kleptocracies against the Universalist democracies. Negotiate with us, we are really moderate, we would not hurt a fly. True, we are armed to the teeth, but we only care about social justice, all we want is our rights. We, in fact, are budding Universalists, and if you call off your dogs, disband your commandos and accept our just and reasonable demands, we too will learn to turn the other cheek.

If you are any sort of a Christian, this song cannot fail to charm your heart a little. And all the more if you are a Universalist, which after all is a very fanatical sort of a Christian. A Universalist by definition believes that the world is progressing toward a future in which everyone will be a Universalist. When he sees evidence of this, he wants to believe it.

When I think about Universalist support for Third World "liberation movements" - hardly a single one of which turned out to be anything but evil and corrupt, and certainly none of which came even close to providing better government than its colonial predecessor - of course it is easy for me, rejecting Universalism, to sneer.

But this is just evidence of the same mentality. Imagine if, say, the Congo, or Saudi Arabia, or Samoa, was taken over tomorrow by a movement which claimed to be libertarian. Possibly even by the formalist corporate-capitalist state of my dreams. I have trouble imagining this, of course. But if it did happen, presumably my first inclination would be to support it. And presumably I'd have a bit of trouble realizing that these acolytes of my preferred future were, in fact, a gang of killers and thieves.

When we read history sine ira et studio, we cannot hate the Garfield Todds. We can describe them as stupid, hubristic, fanatical and destructive, of course, and so of course they were - at least in my opinion. But any effort to rid human society of stupidity, hubris, fanaticism or destructiveness is itself so hubristic that it simply redoubles the mistake.

If certain people had thought clearly and acted effectively, perhaps Rhodesia would have survived. They didn't, and it didn't. The only lesson we can draw from this is that it's important to think clearly and act effectively. The past is dead; we owe it nothing.


Anonymous dearieme said...

"Ian Smith could never have achieved any political prominence in prewar Britain, because his origins were decidedly middle-class": what, unlike Ramsay MacDonald, who was the bastard son of a farm servant, and twice PM?

August 4, 2007 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

"Imagine if, say, the Congo, or Saudi Arabia, or Samoa, was taken over tomorrow by a movement which claimed to be libertarian."

Not hard to imagine in the US. I call that movement "the Republican party when talking to non-revelationist non-aristocrats"

August 4, 2007 at 7:45 AM  
Blogger "Cassandra" said...

Hi Moldy!

There were but a few teachers when I look back, who I can say without qualification that were extraordinary. One was a hippie-ecologist who I fondly recall rousing me from home as 600am with a couple of others and his girlfriend for trips to "Hawk Mountain", or Brigantine WIldlife Refuge, for a lazy look at the waterfowl migrations in the fall, or the warblers returning in the spring, or a weekend ramble up the Presiidential Range in NH. It is doubtful that in the 21st century, this would happen without looks of consternation, insruance waivers, and official rebukes from the local schoolboard.

The other one who stood out was my humanitities teacher - an ageless Jesuit who'd spent the previous decade as a missionary/teacher in Rhodesia. He gave his lectures from a free-standing lectern at the front of the class, upon which rested an enormous, well-journeyed and overly-thumbed OED. Whenever we ventured upon a difficult or rarefied word, failure to deliver an instant definition resulted in a trip to the lectern whereupon one was obliged to locate and read aloud the definition and origin of the offending word. Most thought him tedious and and boring, but he'd travelled, lived lots of diffferent places, and I though that he shone bright. For he tried to teach students to think critically, coaxing opinions from the shy, and teasing impressions, socratically from those whose normal fare was Kimba, The White Lion or The Jetson's. But for me, who was already addicted to the Beeb at age 10, and the thhen-proud (now-embarassing) recipient of perhaps 200 (now-ignominimous) propaganda LPs from "Springbok Radio" and various "Afrikaans By Radio" courses, listening to the personal experiences from someone who'd been to that part of the world was magical. And one of his closest friends was Bishop Muzorewa, the voice of moderation and humanity amongst the bulllies of the prevailing triumvirate, and we were frequently sprinkled with stories and anecdotes about their association - particularly as the 1980 elections made the headlines, even in the regional US press.

Seemingly, both my teacher and Bishop Muzerowa have led quiet lives in their waning years. Muzerowa apparently had not the fight or energy of Bishop Tutu, though rumours of a phoenix-like rising in 2007 have been reported.

Anyway, mention of The Bishop conjured up some forgotten memdories I wanted to share. I hope this message finds you well, and I continue to enjoy your musings !


August 4, 2007 at 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dearieme -

Smith would have failed, I believe, because he was neither lower nor upper class - he wouldn't have been home in either Tory or Labor. Middle class is in the middle, above MacDonald.

In what Mr. Moldbug illuminatingly terms the OV alliance - in its British if not American or WWII German forms - the Os do the ruling.

August 4, 2007 at 10:16 AM  
Anonymous dearieme said...

Could be that you're right about Smith, but I see no reason to think so. British experience is that the strangest people can become PM: a woman, a Jew, a bastard, the son of a failed circus performer.....
But I'm dragging the conversation away from its point.

August 4, 2007 at 12:17 PM  
Anonymous dearieme said...

Sod it, I'll continue to drag it. What is the relevance of pre-war British politics to Smith? He was contemporaneous with Ted Heath's spell as 1960s and 1970s Leader of the Conservatives, and then PM, in Britain. Smith's background was probably a bit more prosperous than Heath's, who was the son of a carpenter and a maid. Previous 20th century middle class PMs had included Asquith, Lloyd George and Bonar Law. I think your point fails. It deserves to - it's not social origins that matter, it's mindset; which is, I think, your big point.

August 4, 2007 at 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Stirner said...

Quite timely and fascinating. A few comments:

I had always assumed that Rhodesia had adopted some sort of quasi-apartheid system. Interesting to learn that instead they seemingly adopted the much more elegant and sensible system of restricting suffrage to property owners. Something to consider for Fnargland?

Lawrence Auster argues that non-discrimination is the highest principal of modern Liberalism/Univeralism. His argument sometimes seems a bit over the top, but I have to admit he might be on to something after seeing that the only times the West gangs together to intervene in the affairs of post-colonial Africa are in formerly white-run African countries like Rhodesia and South Africa. Apparently discrimination on the part of African whites will bring down the sanctions, but tribal genocide, kleptocratic rulers, and general post-colonial squalor merit only some muted tut-tuting.

Mugabe seems to be using Atlas Shrugged as his political playbook, only he has managed to draw every wrong lesson from it. I used to think that Ayn Rand was being overdramic in the book (in her typical fashion), but the case of Zimbabwe seems to back up her contention of what happens when "the looters" get uncontested control of a country, and the "engines of the world" depart (in this case in the Rhodesian diaspora).

August 4, 2007 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


I have not forgotten that I owe you an email! I'm afraid I have taken something of a detour away from economics to History, the Universe, and Everything. But I shall return, with interest. I hope Mrs. Watanabe is not boring you.

There is a difference between canned "multiculturalism" and an actual interest in the thoughts and ways of others, which I think your comment demonstrates as well as any issue of the Cheetah...

August 4, 2007 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


Okay, you're right - "origins" was wrong.

It is the combination of origins and mindset that really sets off the alarm. McDonald was of course a prole - but he was a Labor PM, for God's sake. The more prole the better. Heath was supposedly a Conservative. But so is David Cameron.

Where we come the closest is, of course, Maggie. What saved her - at least to some small extent - is that she ran and governed mostly as a neoconservative.

If Mrs. Thatcher had had the same platform as Enoch Powell, that's what would have really set off the five-alarm return-of-the-stormtrooper fire. Not that Powell was exactly beloved by the powers of the press. But I think his blue blood and stellar intellectual credentials produced a little bit of slack.

August 4, 2007 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


Auster is always over the top. His saving grace is that he's so reliably over the top that he's easy to filter.

The fact that I don't believe in suffrage at all mercifully saves me from the debate over voter restrictions, so recently reopened by Mr. Caplan.

August 4, 2007 at 3:02 PM  
Anonymous dearieme said...

Enoch Powell blue-blooded, MM? Not according to Wikipedia:
"Powell was born and raised in Birmingham, England, the only child of Albert Enoch Powell (1872–1956), elementary school headmaster, and his wife, Ellen Mary (1886–1953; daughter of Henry Breese, a Liverpool policeman, and his wife Eliza), who had given up her own teaching career after marrying. The Powells were of Welsh descent, though by the time of Enoch's birth had lived in the Black Country for four generations, working first as miners and then in the iron trade.[1]"
I wonder whether your estimation of the social origins of leading British politicians are perhaps relevant to the wrong century?

August 4, 2007 at 4:03 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

Auster's arguments and most of his premises, are sound. The problem is his temperament.

Derbyshire calls Auster's site VFR "the humor-free zone." I can't trust a guy who is that angry, even if his excellent arguemnt are red meat to my loathing of Universalism.

August 4, 2007 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


Cripes, you're right again. I should be more accurate.

Again, it's really not the blood but the background. You could be born in a sewer to a baboon and a marmoset if you make a First at Cambridge.

Similarly, I thought of Mrs. Thatcher as a red-brick girl, but it turns out she went to Somerville College, Oxford. Which perhaps qualifies as red-brick anyway, I don't know. I think the fact that she studied chemistry was what preserved her grocer's daughter mindset.

You are right, of course: it is the mindset. Shame on me for indulging my American stereotype of Britain as the land of immovable castes.

August 4, 2007 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


There is no doubt: Auster is entirely humorless. But then again, if I wanted humor, that's not hard to find.

What I have never, ever seen out of Auster - and I read VFR every day - is anything that even came close to intellectual dishonesty. The man appears to have no filter at all between his brain and his keyboard. This is what's truly remarkable about him. Next to this, humor is a dime a dozen.

I also disagree with Auster on a huge number of subjects. As far as I can tell, for example, he doesn't even believe in evolution. Is he a maniac? Definitely. But the world would be far poorer without him.

August 4, 2007 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Not believing in evolution requires massive intellectual dishonesty.

And what of the intellectual honesty of Auster's circular arguments that the sky will fall if two men marry?

August 4, 2007 at 9:37 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

The fact that I don't believe in suffrage at all mercifully saves me from the debate over voter restrictions, so recently reopened by Mr. Caplan.
That is a cop-out. We are so far away from various imagined systems, like your formalism, that focusing on them is like insisting that we talk about what may hypothetically occur long after our grandchildren are dead rather than what is going on now. Always remember to think on the margin. Should more or fewer people vote? What restrictions or encouragement should be provided?

How do you know if Auster is honest or not? Do you actually know what goes on inside his head? If you claimed that he has been caught fewer times than other pundits, I would accept that. But here you seem to presume much more than you could possibly know. Perhaps you just did that to rile up the falsifiabilist side of me.

This is off-topic, but perhaps my favorite commenter at Overcoming Bias and other blogs has set up his own blog at and I think you should check it out.

August 4, 2007 at 10:43 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

There's a difference between being dishonest and just being wrong.

If Auster actually believed gay marriage was just fine, that would make him dishonest. I think this is true of many Republicans, actually.

Intellectual honesty is that when you believe X, you say X. You don't ask yourself whether the people you're saying it to would rather hear Y.

I can tell that Auster is intellectually honest because his style of commentary is completely humorless and autistic. He has no interest in alliance-building. He will ruthlessly attack anyone who disagrees with him even slightly. These are not the acts of the trimmer or glad-hander.

August 4, 2007 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

We are so far away from various imagined systems, like your formalism, that focusing on them is like insisting that we talk about what may hypothetically occur long after our grandchildren are dead rather than what is going on now. Always remember to think on the margin.

My goal in posting here at UR is to convince people of exactly the opposite. You don't have to think on the margin. You can think for yourself, and it feels good.

My goal is not to convince armies of supporters to go out and vote for me or my ideas. If you are willing to think for yourself, perhaps you'll get the same results that I get. Perhaps you won't.

But the Internet provides us with a truly unique opportunity to separate ourselves from historically-constructed groupthink. In a conventional publishing environment, you can only think or at least write thoughts that are similar enough to at least someone's conventional wisdom that you can attract a certain minimum audience. On the net, all you have to be is interesting.

If reality is as described by "the center," or even "the margin," then pretty much everything I have to say is wrong.

But if the center is crazily, wildly wrong - if, oh, just for example, it remembers destruction and murder as "liberation" - than thinking outside the margin is rather useful, wouldn't you agree?

August 5, 2007 at 12:02 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Mencius: OK then, we differ *Completely* with respect to what we believe intellectual honesty to mean. We really should have different words for those concepts. Intellectual dishonesty, to me, is when you don't follow proper rules of inference, especially when you are able to call others out for not doing so. As for beliefs, the posts at overcoming bias over the last week have been all about belief. Do you think Auster anticipates the results his "beliefs" imply, even those implied through only a single small inferential step or two? Do you think he can confabulate reasons why he doesn't have to believe those results when challenged? Well then...

You also don't seem from your comment to TGGP to know what "thinking on the margin" means, though I find it very unlikely that this is the case. A Newtonian physicist in an Aristotelian world could think that the majority was Wildly wrong, but if they couldn't expect to convince them they could still use what they knew to better aim a catapult or to design a better clock. Doing so would be useful. Spinning tales of the wonderful world that would exist once everyone was a Newtonian would not.

Thinking on the margin is far less common and far more useful than doing what comes naturally to nerds, e.g. inventing castles in the sky and beloved models which one gets by moving what one should think of as independent rather than dependent variables.

August 5, 2007 at 3:13 AM  
Blogger Lore said...

Hi there,

What a great article and many thanks for using me as material. I received an extra 18 hits!

Any one interested in the last years of Rhodesia should get a hold of Peter Godwin and Ian Hancock’s ‘Rhodesians Never Die, The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia’. It is a brilliant historical account. It is also now a bit of a rarity.

Rhodesia as a physical land is dead, and would have normally been long ago buried. Two things happened that brought the ghosts out the coffins. The advent of the cheap access to the internet and Robert Mugabe loosing the plot (or, took them all over).

When the internet for the masses kicked off, just over 10 years ago, I was one of the first to surf anything ‘Rhodesian’. Before long I was a regular contributor to what was then arguably the hottest place to meet ‘Rhodies’, The Bush Telegraph forum. The timing was amazing. All of a sudden, thousands of middle aged whites, going through various degrees of mid-life crisis or downright bored with their lot, could gather together in virtual Rhodesia. No matter where they lived or for how long, once again they were Rhodesians, who now would spend happy hours swapping anecdotes of the ‘good old’ days. The majority of the men folk would have all at some time been in the security forces and thus have a common bond.

Well, that was the plan. At its peak about 5 years ago, the forum was already disintegrating into petty squabbles, bickering, flaming and sexual overtures, as complete strangers threw Bush Telegraph parties, which saw many marriages placed under strain. At the time I lived in Germany, and whilst surfing a German language search machines, I came across an obscure scientific paper released by a University in Berlin. I stupidly didn’t keep the URL, but I may find it again because it was a basically a psychiatric report about the White Rhodesians in this forum. What I did read was not very flattering. I did find it amusing that we were being ‘examined’.
The Bush Telegraph is now just a shell of its former self, frequented by just a few boring souls, with nothing really to contribute. Just as in the real Rhodesia, people searched for like minded Rhodies and the virtual Rhodesia broke up into niche pockets.

Rhodesia could have then have stayed a quaint quirk of African history if Robert Mugabe had not trashed Zimbabwe. In ‘Rhodesians Never Die’, the authors make a very extremely poignant point. White Rhodesians were drawn from many socio and varied ethnic origins. They mixed badly, but one thing united them through the 70’s, and that was their hatred of terrorism. Now once again Rhodesia is a hot topic. What fun they have now going around saying ‘we told you so’, but all weep deep in their hearts to see the country destroyed.

Many web sites and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe blogs have sprung up. The daily, well documented, collapse of Zimbabwe may be unique. The complete destruction of a sovereign nations economy, not at war, whilst being observed through out the world, with almost complete impunity, is amazing. Once again the White Rhodesians are unified against the common enemy, but this time they don’t have guns, they only have words. Can the pen be really mightier than the sword?

Recently, it is no co-incidence; there has been a massive surge in Rhodesian memoirs. They are as diverse as the people who lived there, which is great, because it leaves the readers completely and utterly confused trying to work out what the hell is a Rhodesian anyway? There are the military style memoirs, full of heroic deeds and shoot em up action. We have the well educated style of Peter Godwin’s best seller ‘Mukiwa’. Then came Alexander Fuller came along with her hit, ‘Don’t Lets Go To The Dogs Tonight’, which I thought was so-so. I will get around to reading Judith Todd’s memoirs one day and I read Cathy Buckle’s ‘African Tears’ and also Doris Lessing’s ‘African Laughter’. After that dose of left wing liberalism there is nothing like reading Red Zambezi by Joe Hale, which describes very vividly what the White and Black armed forces were rather good at doing – mainly, killing terrorists.

Another book has just come out recently, had a write up in The Times of London. I can’t remember what the title is, as it sounds boring. Another of those, ‘I had a Farm in Africa’ done with a Rhodie accent. Oddly enough, the majority of White Rhodesians lived in the cities and yet I still haven’t come across a book depicting the adventures of the ‘average’ Rhodie, growing up not surrounded by bush, lions, snakes in the kitchen and a stable of horses in the back garden but was useless at school, not very good at sport and went to war dreaming of owning his first motor car and was given a medal just for turning up!

I guess that’s my job!

Lore. Last of the Rhodesians.

P.S. How did you come across my site?

August 5, 2007 at 3:49 AM  
Blogger Lore said...

I just remembered, this bit you wrote –

“Note that, like the Rhodesian sites I've linked to, the BNP also has the worst possible taste in Web design. This is very petty-bourgeois.”

I hope you didn’t mean my blog as well. I think my design is quite cool! Do I get qualified as being one of the cerebral type blogs?

Check out this -


The Intelligence of White Rhodesians

Were we really that clever? I went to school with Bruce Grobbelar. Mount Pleasant School in Salisbury was at its peak in ’73. My class age of 15 years at the time had 3 A streams, 2 B streams (I was in B1) and 3 C streams. Bruce was in the thick-shit streams. He went on to be Liverpool FC goal keeper and for Zimbabwe. I suppose that makes him clever. Another C streamer was my partner for a couple of years in the gymnastics team. He was killed fetching fodder for the horses used in his mounted unit during the war. Not so clever. In my class was a kid who was a stereotype Rhodie macho. He died when the anti-personal mine blew up he was defusing. They say they found bits of him hanging like drying biltong from the surrounding trees.
My best friend was in A2. She was part of a nest of closet lesbians, moved to London and became a very successful architect.

What a great, crazy mish-mash we all were!

August 5, 2007 at 5:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mencius, you overstate the Vayisa-ness of Nazi Germany. That's like painting a left-leaning social democracy with the Pol Pot brush.

A more accurate model of an OV rule would be something like Franco's Spain, or, in the American context, the United States circa 1950.

August 5, 2007 at 5:17 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Just speculating here, but Nazi Germany may be better described as a D-OV rule. The propaganda was OV on steroids, but the actual power wsa held by highly successful Dalits and other misfits.

This is similar to what happened in various Eastern European countries after WW2.

In a nutshell, the Communist minorities (B's), backed by Soviet bayonettes, won the post-war struggle against the OV majorities who were written off at Yalta, but it was mostly crooks, gangsters, and confidence men, not too dissimilar in profile from Saddam Hussein, who filled the various slots in the new power structure.

August 5, 2007 at 5:24 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...


Aye, Nazi Germany was definately a gangster state, and one that sustained its domestic appeal by remarkably old fashioned plundering.

Pure OV rule seems very rare outside of monarchies. The only example I can think of would be Pinochet. As for America in the 50's, well it seems OV to us today, but would be completely alien to the last real OVs in the 20s.

August 5, 2007 at 6:28 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

"Pure OV rule seems very rare outside of monarchies. The only example I can think of would be Pinochet."

I think pure examples of anything are rare. In monarchies, you mean a feudal order, the V component is negligible. And in constitutional monarchies the O's are mostly symbolic and have no power.

"As for America in the 50's, well it seems OV to us today, but would be completely alien to the last real OVs in the 20s."

I don't necessarily disagree, but then again, things are relative. The American South was OV-ruled, antebellum through the 1950s. Eastern European and East Asian countries are solidly V, with O ideals.

Apologies for drifting quite far from the topic of Rhodesia, but it also seems to me that -- and this is broad strokes -- Brahmins are not good at power. They are good at thinking and playing but incompetent at fighting, which is why they have to rule by proxy via alliances with DH's, for example. But when they find themselves in a state of anarghy of their won making, they come in competition with the much more ruthless Dalits and become mincemeat.

This explains how revolutionary intellectuals are purged by gangsters in just about every case. Or why liberal Apartheit-era writers all live in New Zealand today.

The present-day Brahmin rule is critically dependent on a robust but complacent Vaysia class. Vaysias are not only material for recruitment, as Brahmins don't breed (another weak point for them as a class), but Vaysias also promote the kind of legalistic stability within which Brahmins thrive.

Which is why the Brahmins' war against Vaysias will be suicidal, if not tempered soon. In their quasi-genocidal war against Vaysias ("one-world" immigration, racial provocations, denigration of V values), Brahmins are destroying their own habitat.

Having said all that, I don't have a problem with Brahmins as such. I fancied myself one all through my 20s, though I've always been repelled by what this blog recognizes as Universalism.

End rant.

August 5, 2007 at 8:07 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Hmm... in this post Mencius says that Mugabe, a Dalit, not Todd, a Brahmin, was the real enemy of Smith.

Might we generalize this?

Would it be fair to say that the main problem with Universalism, not the only one by any means, but the problem that brings Mencius into such a frothing rage, is that has an immune weakness?

Might it be fair to say that Optimates frequently can't distinguish Brahmins from Optimates Brahmins frequently can't distinguish Dalits from Brahmins, Vayisyas almost universally can't distinguish Dalits from Optimates without divine right as a marker, and Helots can't keep Dalits from assimilating their children, leading to a tendency for the most cunning Dalits to take over, which is bad for everyone, even the majority of Dalits?

The problem is greatly aggravated by the fact that after WWII the Anglosphere's Universalists decided, with a level of coordination that I find difficult to account for even with NAZIsm as a partial cause, that it was herasy to talk about human nature, especially innate differences, and thus that all of the Dalits were axiomatically Dalits due to the pernicious influence of the Optimates. 20 years later, with almost equal suddenness, the Optimates seem to have abdicated the majority of their power and all of their "noblesse obligee".

August 5, 2007 at 8:11 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Auster is entirely humorless. But then again, if I wanted humor, that's not hard to find.

Mencuis, I'm not so much looking for humor in an otherwise first-rate writer like Auster as I am looking for evidence of a balanced mind, humor being an important component of one.

August 5, 2007 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


Thanks for your comment! is in a different category, but to my eye: still too flash. Drink half a bottle of gin and spend some time on the left side of the Internet. Left-wing blogs are almost always more attractive than right-wing ones. (They need to be.)

Um, dude, where do you get most of your traffic from? Special Air Service on the case again. I want TRR back, though.

Presumably my blog will now be overrun with hordes of Rhodies correcting tiny errors in the above. They do seem to be smart, though, so it could be worse.

August 5, 2007 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


I agree with your comments, although in retrospect I definitely wish I'd picked a more spellable word than "Vaisya," whose vowels seem to be almost infinitely intermixable.

I wouldn't say there was any Dalit in the Nazi state. They dealt very ruthlessly with any such sector of the population. They were gangsters, no doubt, but the line between good and evil runs through all of us. (Not all Dalits are evil by any means, either - it is a caste, not a condemnation.)

I definitely would not describe Auster as a person with a balanced mind! Dear god, what a terrifying thought. The man is a nutcase. I respect his talents and his sincerity, that's all.

August 5, 2007 at 5:09 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


Coordination - or apparent coordination, since we don't talk about the Elders of Zion on this blog, though they may well talk about us - is a fascinating subject. I will get into it more later, I promise.

August 5, 2007 at 5:11 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

I can tell that Auster is intellectually honest because his style of commentary is completely humorless and autistic.
Does the humor in your blog indicate intellectual dishonesty? No, as I see it it is just a different style of writing.

He has no interest in alliance-building.
He's a blogger, not any sort of power-broker, what kind of an alliance would he be building?

He will ruthlessly attack anyone who disagrees with him even slightly. These are not the acts of the trimmer or glad-hander.
Plenty of intellectually dishonest people ruthlessly attack those who slightly disagree with them. Wasn't it you who previously promoted this from Theodore Dalrymple?

August 5, 2007 at 11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For an interesting meditation on the "sine ira et studio" approach, including ironic references to Wittgenstein, see recent Nicholas Hytner movie "Histroy Boys".

August 6, 2007 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


I'm afraid I am struggling to express a character judgment that cannot be rationalized in evidentiary terms. No, you're right - none of the descriptions I mentioned are any kind of proof of honor.

I stand by my claim, though: Auster is sincere. In my opinion. I'm afraid the point is not really arguable in either direction.

August 6, 2007 at 7:25 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

In case I gave the wrong impression, I am not trying to argue whether or not Auster is sincere. I am mostly agnostic on the question, although if forced to give an up-or-down vote I would guess he is more sincere than the average non-anonymous blogger. It was just your certainty over something you really don't have enough knowledge to know all that well.

August 6, 2007 at 9:40 PM  
Anonymous LT Clardy said...


Mencius is using the classical (and, in my own rarely humble opinion, correct) definition for intellectual honesty. You seem to be confusing honesty with a blend of rationality and correctness.

An honest person is not significantly less likely to be wrong than the most duplicitous of self-proclaimed experts, but you will not find them adjusting what they say to suit different audiences. That consistency is one of the key identifying characteristics of honest pontificators and politicians.

August 7, 2007 at 12:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

rhodesians ...still live..this one drives a truck in the USA...I was born in the USA but my family went there when I was 8...stayed 4-5 yrs
and I went back after university

Rhodesians were doers..not few of them built quite a nation in 75 years..most were suburban in lifestyle..very progressive in the old sense of the word..I am Jewish and never felt isolated in civvie life or the military..(Ian Smith's closest friend I beleive was a mining engineer named Goldberg.)

a good source on Rhodesian politics
is a book called "Rhodesia: Astudy in the deterioration of a White Society" by Frank Clements ( a former mayor of Salisbury)

I miss my adopted country...

Morristown NJ USA

August 11, 2007 at 2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Rhodesia, unlike South Africa, never had an apartheid system or race-specific elections"

This is rubbish. I'm from South Africa and I never met an old Rhodesian who wasn't at least as racist as the average Afrikaner. Rhodesia didn't need Apartheid because the Brits were in charge there for 90 years.

In South Africa the Afrikaner had been heeled by the Brits until 1948, so they devised Apartheid to get back on their feet. Apartheid was more about Afrikaner animus toward Brits than about blacks.

The black issue only came to the fore when the communists discovered it as a great way to indirectly attack colonial powers such as Portugal and Britain, and by extension the US.

August 14, 2007 at 1:17 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...


I didn't say the Rhodesians weren't racist, I said that they didn't have apartheid or anything like it, and that their electoral system used property qualifications.

You're right, however (how could you not be?) that race relations in South Africa were often more about the Boer-Brit relationship. Isn't that why the Great Trek happened in the first place? Plus ca change...

August 14, 2007 at 6:28 PM  
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