This morning on Ricochet, I responded to a comment by another member about the elevation of religious identity above all others in many third-world conflicts with the following words:
The strategy of elevating religion over ethnicity as a means to consolidate loyalties (both internally and externally) that might otherwise divide among tribal or other cultural lines didn’t start with Afghanistan, and at least in its modern incarnation over the past century or so, hasn’t ended well.
That got me thinking, and led to a recollection of another little incident of the past few days, in which Joe Biden interrupted and corrected a Chief of the Cherokee Nation for using the word “tribes” in his speech expressing his gratification that the new “infrastructure” bill includes over $11 billion earmarked exclusively for Indian country. Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Chuck Hoskins’ exact words were:
This bill overall has more than $11 billion in investment in Indian country. That is historic. Potentially transformational investment for tribes across this country.
At which point, Joe Biden interrupted, and barked the words, “Indian nations! Indian nations!” indicating that, no matter of what else he has been rendered oblivious of by decrepitude and corruption, he’s still awoke enough to recognize a word which, like a red flag waved in front of a bull, enrages the Left.
The Chief dutifully corrected himself.
And then, the latest horrific news out of Afghanistan broke. (I can’t remember the last time a story moved so fast it led the media, rather than the other way round.)
And all those things stirred memories and personal recollections. This isn’t a carefully crafted position on anything. It’s not something I’m prepared to go toe-to-toe on with the perpetually woke, the perpetually aggrieved, or the bureaucrat-for-life officials. It’s nothing I haven’t said on Ricochet in bits and pieces over the years, and there are no stunning revelations contained herein.
But on a day when my heart hurts, it’s from my gut.
It’s from my heart.
Forget all the BS about how the collapse of the Afghani military merely shows we’re a “superior culture.” If we were, actually, a “superior culture,” how come we didn’t predict this? And avert it? Isn’t the ability to do those things, all else considered, an indication of our “superiority?” So why didn’t we?
Oh, because we’ve been overtaken, the past few decades by the Commie wokestsers? So, not a “superior culture” after all. Just a buncha stupid schlubs at the mercy of the more clever and woke.
Got it. It’s just jawboning foolishness. You go, girls and boys!
Oh! It’s all Trump’s fault. Because he inked an (I think) ill-advised diplomatic agreement with the Taliban. LOL. Lord. The Biden administration has up-chucked and over-chucked almost every other aspect of the Trump administration, apparently without a second thought: Re-entered the Paris accords. Done its best to re-up for the Iran deal. Overturned environmental, political and social regulation and agreement, no matter where it fell or mattered. Why this (the Taliban/Afghanistan initiative) should be the only Trump initiative the Biden administration insists on supporting, and which (like the Law of the Medes and the Persians) they assert “altereth not,” is just absurd.
More jawboning. That’s all. (Actually, I don’t think the assassinator of al-Baghdadi would have blenched at dropping a bomb on these guys as they processed towards Kabul. Change my mind.)
My father came from a solid middle-class family in the English Midlands. His own father was the managing director of a large butcher shop in Birmingham. His mother was stalwart in her support of local good works, and devoted herself to raising six energetic, idiosyncratic, and eccentric kids, of which Dad was the second-youngest. (The only surviving member, Auntie Pat, was 98 last month. May she live forever!)
As did most middle-class families in “trade” in the early 20th century, Granny and Grandpa Muffett engaged a nanny, a maid, and sometimes a gardener/jack of all trades to help them manage their household. Unlike my mother’s side of the family (dour Methodists all), the Muffetts interested themselves in the welfare of their employees, encouraging them on their afternoons off, and celebrating their relationships ‘walking out’ with young men or women, especially when they resulted in marriage and families, and children. Quite often, Dad and one or another of his siblings would be sent off in the summer to spend a week or so with a former servant and his or her family, and some of those episodes formed Dad’s fondest memories of the childhood memories he passed on to his children.
And then, when Dad was 20, started the War.
He’d not been deemed really fit for King Edward’s School in Birmingham (he was probably too bright, idiosyncratic, and adventurous is my guess). Both his brothers went there. And so they enjoy alumnus status with Mark Steyn, Enoch Powell, sundry Nobel prize winners and military heroes. and J.R.R. Tolkien, among a plethora of other luminaries.
Dad, however, went to Sebright School in Wolverley which (as far as I can determine) served as a proving ground for young men who might be suited for a military career. Thus, Dad.
He served his country well. He spent much of the War rushing around Egypt, Italy and North Africa, and was at (among others) Monte Cassino and Anzio. On June 5, 1944, he marched into Rome with Mark Clark’s Army having been attached to it in some way (God knows how, but that was Dad). What he had to say in subsequent years, from a position of experience, about Mark Clark, really can’t be recounted here.
And once the War was over (from Dad’s memoirs), he looked around to discover the next phase of his life:
By the end of 1945, therefore, I reckoned that “I knew a hawk from a handsaw,” and on that basis I applied for admission into the Colonial Service. As it turned out, the powers that be must have thought I was right, as I, and 239 others like me, were selected first out of the 14,200 applicants who sought to fill the 240 vacancies that were available in 1946.
We were appointed based on our record in the Services, and after undergoing an interview that lasted for two hours. The Chairman of my own interview panel was Sir Hilary Blood, who had been the Governor of Gambia (1942-1947), and later of Barbados (1947-1949). The candidate was allowed to do most of the talking, but the questioning was quite searching.
After the interview I was hustled off to Harley Street for a medical. Then I heard nothing for over three months, whereupon I phoned and said I thought I was being pushed around. To mollify me, I suppose, I was immediately told I had been accepted and that a letter would follow shortly. It did–in only two more months!
I and my fellow inductees were known throughout the Colonial Service as “The War Group” and we were expected, without any specialized training, immediately to fill in the gaps that had developed in the ranks of the Colonial Administrative Service. Between 1939 and 1945 there had been almost no recruitment into the Service, and there had also been a number of casualties incurred as the War went on, some from enemy action, some from retirement or resignation, and some from death or incurable illness.
We were intended to hold the fort until Oxbridge and the “Old” Universities, would again start disgorging streams of ‘Administrative Cadets,’ with their Classics degrees and coursework in language, law, rudimentary field engineering, surveying and tropical hygiene…
Dad’s point (ICYMI) was that he wasn’t really one of the candidates who’d be automatically approved for entry into ranks of those administering the Raj. That he wasn’t elite enough, or high-class enough. And that it was clear to him, in those early days, that he might be replaced at any moment by some doofus who’d risen to the occasion from “The Playing Fields of Eton,” once things had settled down after the War, and once the ever-plentiful pipeline of desirables resumed supply.
But, that never happened. Dad and his contemporaries (hundreds of them) were sent into Nigeria, and–just nine years later–I turned up there myself.
It was an idyllic childhood, one I’ve written about many times on Ricochet over the past decade and more. Never, in the first decade of my life, did I wonder whether or not my black-skinned friends might have been inferior to me. At no point, after Nigerian independence in 1960, and while I attended Nigerian state-run schools during some of those years, did I disrespect my teachers, or feel inferior because I was (sometimes) the only white person in the room.
And somehow, I learned the lesson taught by Dad, and by all those who’ve been important to me all my life: “Folks is folks.”
Dad really loathed Lord Frederick Lugard, considering him a sexist, chauvinistic, and rotten person who found his worth only in being supported and drooled over by women Dad considered deluded and dumb–such as his acolyte and amanuensis Dame Marjorie Perham. (Go Dad! I think she’s a nitwit, too.)
Still, Dad (who didn’t usually throw the baby out with the bathwater) admired Lugard’s concept of “indirect rule,” one in which he envisioned intelligent and culturally educated and sensitive British Colonial Officers embedding themselves among the native populations and supporting the local Chieftains in their traditional authorities, no matter how local or how different from those of their neighbors, whilst gently prodding them onward to a more Western point of view.
Dad, you did it. The Nigeria you turned over to the Nigerians in October of 1960 had every reason, will, and desire, to succeed.
And yet, somehow (to bring this back to the start of this OP), over the next five years, Western (and Russian) interests found it more useful to 1) break things apart and focus on oil reserves and selfish interests and 2) create a binary division between Eastern Nigerian (Christian) and Northern Nigerian (Muslim) interests over and above those of the dozens of indigenous “tribes.” And then, the Western Left decided that “tribalism” (that is: regional or cultural identification as opposed to national identification–a concept that many of those peoples simply don’t understand) is a bad thing.
I disagree. And I come from parents who spent a substantial portion of their lives proving this untrue. And, Good Lord, I’d like to have helped or intervened and influenced with others who thought similarly.
I don’t pretend to a scholarly perspective on this. Only to a lived one, and one of the heart. And, almost six decades later to a sadness that the West got things so utterly wrong.
God help all those caught in the middle, on whatever side, and for whatever cause. Now and always.