L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 59, November 15, 1999
'Cultures' Are Not Always Defined by Skin Color
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to TLE
As advertised, multiculturalism is a fine thing.
Yes, the average inhabitant of this continent today has a longer life
expectancy and a vastly improved standard of living than if she was
still suffering 50 percent infant mortality and fending off
Athabascan raiders with flint-tipped spears.
But that's not to say the European conquest was an unalloyed triumph
of tolerance and Christian charity. By all means, let's teach our
history warts and all.
Mighty have been the contributions to modern America of the
indigenous Indians, and of the descendants of African peoples brought
here against their will. Let's give them their proper place in the
history books, and teach their descendants to be proud -- not ashamed
-- of their heritage.
Next we can start to excavate and restore the cultural pride and
proper historical recognition, as well, of our forefathers who were
Irish, Italian, Polish, Chinese, Serbian, Jewish, Arab ...
Whoa, there. Today's brand of "multiculturalism" takes no such route,
does it? Instead, our children's textbooks are increasingly filled
with the historically bankrupt fantasy that Betsy Ross and Molly
Pitcher had as much to do with winning the American Revolution as
Washington and Jefferson; that the American Indian was some kind of
mystically enlightened ecological steward; and that today's black
American is directly descended from an ancient Negroid race that
built the pyramids of Egypt and had already developed electrical
storage batteries and successful hang gliders long before the birth
The answer, of course, is that today's "multiculturalism" is in fact
a sharply limited political agenda sold under false colors. The goal
here is for a small segment of the academe with giant chips on their
shoulders to monomaniacally strip the pictures of dead white males
out of our history books and replace them with pictures of blacks,
Indians, and women. (A new American dollar coin is about the be
issued, made of base metal and tarted up with brass plating. What are
the chances it will depict a dead white male?)
Recognizing how much of the genius attributed to Thomas Edison was
actually bought at minimum wage from folks like Nikola Tesla -- that
the real cartoonist behind the entrepreneur Walt Disney was a guy
named Ub Iwerks -- is not well designed to upset white males and
advance this agenda, since it only shifts credit to other white
males. So, it's a non-starter.
And if you really want to upset a modern "multiculturalist," point
out that he or she seems curiously intolerant of some "cultures"
within modern America -- cultures with documentable thousand-year
pedigrees -- where the cultural divisions are not discernible by skin
color, at all.
I was struck, as I recently read the introduction to the 1994 Barnes
& Noble edition of the esteemed archaeologist Ewart Oakeshott's
The Archaeology of Weapons,"
by the passage where he describes the
attitude of the ancient Greeks and Romans toward their arms as being
totally different from "that extraordinary romantic veneration for
their arms so characteristic of Teuton, Celt, and Indian -- and on
the other side of the earth, the Japanese."
The Roman attitude toward arms was "actually very modern; the
civilian fears and shuns them, the soldier has them issued to him ...
keeps them clean and in working order because he will get in trouble
if he does not, and has no love for them at all."
How different from the classical Japanese, and from the German
tribesmen who repulsed the Romans in the year 9 A.D. -- from those of
our ancestors who built their warrior societies around the mastery of
arms, who gave their weapons names, endowed them with personalities,
and would pass a single, named blade down through a family for
hundreds of years. How different from the Germans described by
Tacitus, among whom "No business, public or private, is transacted
except in arms," where citizenship was bestowed when "one of the
chiefs, or the father or a kinsman equips the young warrior with a
spear and shield in the public council" and where, if the audience
approved of a speech at a public meeting, "they clash their spears.
No form of approval can carry more honor than praise expressed by
This proud culture is not dead. In peaceful, law-abiding 20th century
Switzerland, where every head of household is still considered a
militiaman and expected to keep a loaded machine gun at home, voters
in some villages still carry their swords as symbol of citizenship to
annual town meetings. Here in America, where many an American male
still inducts his son into manhood by teaching him to safely handle
weapons and helping him score his first kill in the hunt, there is
probably no more achingly compelling description of the long
sufferings of America's culture of arms than John Ross' magnificent
Unintended Consequences" (available from Loompanics at
$28.95; call 360-385-2230 or 800-380-2230.)
Ross' protagonist, Henry Bowman, protests at one point that "They
have treated me and others like me with utter contempt. They have
confiscated our property and put people in maximum-security prisons
over ownership of fender washers, claiming they were unassembled
silencer parts. ... They have shot a man's wife in the head because
his gun's buttstock was too short. ... They burned 90 people alive
over a disputed two hundred dollar tax.
"If you believe you have the right to buy, own and shoot small arms
in a safe manner, as much and as often as you want, and you exercise
that right regularly, our government has branded you as the enemy."
Here, surely, are two cultures. It's unlikely either side of this
cultural divide will ever convince the other it's "right" (in fact,
true multiculturalists would preach only understanding and tolerance)
-- though it must be observed the only thing that sets man apart is
his ability to develop tools and weapons, and the notion that men
will be left in peace if only they will lay down their arms didn't
work out so well for the Armenian minority in Turkey in 1915, the
Ukrainians under Stalin in the 1930s, the Jews under Hitler in the
1940s, or the Cambodian intellectuals under Pol Pot in the 1970s.
But what is clear is which of the two cultures practices
tolerance -- I don't believe I've ever met a gun owner who wants to
make it mandatory for everyone else to own and shoot firearms.
Of course, our modern descendants of the Romans -- whose republic
fell to tyranny after they delegated the business of war and armed
policing to hired mercenaries -- those who today "fear and shuns
arms, and have no love for them at all," call those who esteem
weapons by the same name the Romans used: "barbarians."
But before they push their pogrom against these "barbarians" in their
midst to the point where America's gun culture must choose between
fighting back or suffering genocide, these modern Romans might
remember what happened to the governor P. Quintilius Varus, when he
led his three fully-armed Roman legions into the Teutoburger Wald in
the year 9 A.D.
The Romans, virtually undefeated since the days of Hannibal, marched
into those woods, and did not emerge. So stunned was the emperor
Augustus that he commanded his successors that the frontiers of the
empire would forever be the Rhine and the Danube, and so they were.
The forest creatures fed for years on the unburied Roman dead ... and
the Romans went to Germany no more.
Vin Suprynowicz, assistant editorial page editor of the
Las Vegas Review-Journal,
is the author of
Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998,"
is available at $21.95 by dialing 1-800-244-2224, or via web site
FULL-AUTO ASSAULT CANINES
D.C. Asked to Ban Pit Bulls
'These Dogs Are Lethal Weapons,' Council Member Says
By Vanessa Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 1999; Page B01
Pit bulls would be on the District's Most Wanted list under a
proposal announced yesterday by some D.C. Council members who want to
make it illegal for city residents to own the dogs.
Residents who currently own a breed of the feisty terriers would be
allowed to keep their pets, but they would be required to register
and license the dogs, pay an annual fee of $20 per dog, and have the
animal spayed or neutered. No additional pit bulls would be allowed
in the District if the council passes the bill, which will be
introduced today at a legislative session.
A companion bill, also to be introduced today, would forbid owners to
keep all dogs chained up. Some animal experts say chained dogs behave
more aggressively. The bill also makes cruelty to animals a felony
punishable by up to five years in jail or a fine of up to $25,000.
Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7)
touted the bills at a news conference at the D.C. Animal Shelter.
They were joined by the widow of a D.C. firefighter who suffered a
fatal heart attack shortly after a pit bull attack and by a Columbia
Heights man who was set upon by a pit bull near his home.
"I think that in the wrong hands, these dogs are lethal weapons and
the legislation that we're introducing is aimed at both the dog and
the human abuser," Graham said.
Chavous said communities in Southeast Washington are "inundated with
pit bulls that terrorize our citizens. I'm tired of having senior
citizens call my office saying they do not feel comfortable sitting
on their porches or walking down the streets of their own
neighborhoods because they are afraid of pit bulls."
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