Fresh Air
Friday Ephemera

Elsewhere (273)

Natalie Solent on magical thinking, then and now:

Nongqawuse was a fifteen year old Xhosa girl who in 1856 had a vision in which three ancestral spirits told her that if the Xhosa people showed their trust by destroying their crops and killing their cattle, then on the appointed day the spirits would raise the dead, bountifully replace all that was destroyed, and sweep the British into the sea. Thousands believed this prophecy and slaughtered their cattle. But the dead slept on and the British remained in place. Nongqawuse explained that this lack of action was due to the amagogotya, the stingy ones, who had kept their cattle back from slaughter. She urged everyone to greater efforts. A new date was set for the prophecy to finally come true. The rate of cattle-killing rose to a climax. Eventually the Xhosa lost patience, and, with remarkable mercy, handed Nongqawuse over to the British. By then famine had reduced the population of British Kaffraria from 105,000 to fewer than 27,000.

Do click for the ‘now’ part.

Konstantin Kisin on the unhappy realities of ‘progressive’ utopia: 

These enemies of the [Soviet] state included my great-grandparents who met in a concentration camp for political prisoners. Every morning at their camp, three people would be picked out at random from the general population of the camp and thrown into the icy waters of the lake to freeze and drown in full view of the other prisoners to ‘keep things under control.’ With this background, I am —perhaps understandably— hypersensitive to the emerging far-left in Western politics. I can’t help noticing similarities in the rhetoric about “eradicating inequality,” “smashing the class system,” and a new age of “radical egalitarianism.” And when I do, I shudder, because… it’s a reminder of the unforgiving reality that those who don’t realise how good they have it, or take their lives of plenty for granted, are vulnerable to demagogic ideologies that promise to tear it all down to build a ‘better tomorrow.’

At which point, these budding intellectuals came to mind. 

Alexander Zubatov on the importance of cultural cohesion: 

The more diverse we become, the harder we must work to achieve trust and unity… We cannot continue functioning as a nation if we do not first start thinking of ourselves as a nation once more. And thinking of ourselves as a nation means thinking of ourselves as one tribe. It does not have to be… a tribe constituted on the basis of ethnicity or race. But… liberal values of tolerance, pluralism, and equality are surely not enough to bond us together. While racial or ethnic tribalism is to be eschewed, cultural nationalism is indispensable. If our primal evolutionary biases are to be overcome, we must do more than integrate. Paradoxical though it may sound, to avoid the extremes of a resurgent chauvinism, we must assume a national identity; we must assimilate.

And Karin McQuillan on life near the border: 

Another neighbour arrived home from the hour and a half trip to the nearest supermarket. The ground was muddy, so he carried his five-year-old daughter to the front door of his small house. When he turned around with a heavy bag of groceries in each arm, there was an illegal standing in the doorway, between him and his daughter. The illegal was wearing the man’s clothes, his hat, and was holding his gun. Given the circumstances, the American father ran the guy off with no confrontation. Next day, border patrol called. They’d caught the thief — could he come by to identify his clothes and gun. The answer was sure, but it would be two hours, as he was at a doctor’s appointment. Our neighbour was told, “We’re not allowed to hold him that long. We’ll have to let him go.” And they did.

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.