Thursday 12 February 2009

An Unwelcome Guest

The present day. A large town-house in Hampstead. In the lounge are seated four persons: Dr and Mrs Ashmarr, he, an academic, she a publisher; Mr Hipkins, a science-writer; and Miss Treadwell, a journalist. They await the arrival of Mr Charles Darwin, who has been brought back from the grave for the evening in celebration of his two hundredth birthday. [The reader is welcome to petition the writer for technical details on how this resurrection was effected, or why Mr Darwin would spend his brief time in such company. The writer regrets, however, that, owing to many pressing matters, he cannot guarantee that he will have the time to supply an answer.] The doorbell rings, and a Polish servant-girl goes to answer it. A few moments later, Mr Darwin enters the lounge at the sound of laughter.

Dr Ashmarr. Ah, my dear Mr Darwin, what a miracle it is that brings you here! Forgive us. You catch us in a nervous state. My wife was just amusing us with her impression of the Mayor of London. Please come in and let me introduce you. [He does so.]
Mr Darwin. You are all most kind. [He takes a seat, and so as to break the ice, begins somewhat nervously to speak.] As bearing on the subject of imitation, the strong tendency in our nearest allies, the monkeys, in microcephalous idiots, and in the barbarous races of mankind, to imitate whatever they hear deserves notice. [1]
Mrs Ashmarr. I beg you pardon?
Mr Darwin. Ah, madam, I beg yours! I did not mean to suggest . . .
Dr Ashmarr. Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, we are here to celebrate the two hundredth birthday of our honoured guest, Mr Charles Darwin, a genius, I hope you don’t mind my saying, and a man of whom this country can be justly proud. The whole world owes you a great debt.
Mr Hipkins. Indeed, you have brought great intellectual fulfilment to men such as I.
Miss Treadwell. Hear, hear!
Mrs Ashmarr. Bravo!
Mr Darwin. I thank you all for your kind words. I must say that everything has been most queer for me today. I can see that much has changed.
Mr Hipkins. It has, Mr Darwin, and you are impressed, no doubt, by the progress that has been made.
Mr Darwin. I am shocked, sir, though I dare say I have not seen the half of it. Tell me, how is our noble race faring on the whole?
Mr Hipkins. Our noble race?
Mr Darwin. The English. They are still a noble race, are they not? [2]
Dr Ashmarr. Ah, Mr Darwin, forgive me, but we do not speak of ourselves that way any more.
Mr Darwin. Then it is as I feared. ’Tis all too true that the reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members. [3] With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed. [4]
Miss Treadwell. But that is frightful!
Dr Ashmarr. Mr Darwin, are you seriously suggesting that we remove our aid from those less fortunate from ourselves?
Mr Darwin. Not at all, sir. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. . . . Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage. [5]
Mr Hipkins. It is true that many now refrain from marriage.
Mr Darwin. Well, that is splendid! Then there is hope.
Mr Hipkins. Err . . . of course.
Dr Ashmarr. But of progress, Mr Darwin, there is still much to be done. The dreadful inequality that still blights this country is enough to shame us all.
Mr Darwin. But this is far from an unmixed evil; for without the accumulation of capital the arts could not progress; and it is chiefly through their power that the civilised races have extended, and are now everywhere extending, their range, so as to take the place of the lower races. [6]
Miss Treadwell. Mr Darwin, you forget yourself. This is the twenty-first century. We do not speak of savage and civilised peoples, let alone . . . Such terms are vague and inappropriate.
Mrs Ashmarr. Oh, Mr Darwin, we are shameful — we have not offered you a drink!
Mr Darwin. That is of no consequence, madam. A small sherry should suffice, if you don’t mind.
Mrs Ashmarr (to the servant-girl). Aniela, fetch Mr Darwin a small sherry, would you?
Mr Hipkins. We understand that you have been away a long time, Mr Darwin, but I must say to you that we no longer admit race as a valid concept.
Mr Darwin. There is, however, no doubt that the various races, when carefully compared and measured, differ much from each other,—as in the texture of the hair, the relative proportions of all parts of the body, the capacity of the lungs, the form and capacity of the skull, and even in the convolutions of the brain. But it would be an endless task to specify the numerous points of structural difference. The races differ also in constitution, in acclimatisation, and in liability to certain diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very distinct; chiefly as it would appear in their emotional, but partly in their intellectual, faculties. [7]
Mr Hipkins. Not any more.
Mr Darwin. I . . .
Dr Ashmarr. We have progressed beyond all that, Mr Darwin.
Mr Hipkins. Naturally, ha-ha, we do not look to natural selection for the progress of civilisation.
Mr Darwin. I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilisation than you seem inclined to admit. Remember what risks the nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago of being overwhelmed by the Turks, and how ridiculous such an idea now is. The more civilised so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilised races throughout the world. [8] I see how the Anglo-Saxon race will have spread and exterminated whole nations; and in consequence how much the human race, viewed as a unit, will have risen in rank. [9]

[Mrs Ashmarr gives out a yelp. Miss Treadwell drops a glass. Mr Hipkins gapes in horror.]

Dr Ashmarr. But that is monstrous! That’s not what we mean by progress at all!
Mr Darwin. Oh dear, have I said something out of turn?
Miss Treadwell. You, Mr Darwin, are a savage.
Mr Darwin. You mean I am not civilised?
Miss Treadwell. I mean precisely that. Besides, you are quite wrong. We are becoming diverse, Mr Darwin, yes, vibrant and diverse! Things are changing, progress is being made. Europe will no longer be hideously white. Your beloved race will disappear. We shall make sure of it.
Dr Ashmarr. I think, Mr Darwin, that I speak for everyone here in declaring that you are no longer welcome.
Mr Darwin. But . . .
Dr Ashmarr. Aniela, show Mr Darwin to the door.

[Aniela leads the bewildered Mr Darwin out of the room.]

Mrs Ashmarr. Oh, what a frightful man! I had no idea! He’s not at all as he appears in the Sunday-supplements.

[1] [“As bearing . . . notice.”] C.R. Darwin, The Descent of Man; and Selection in Relation to Sex, Vol. I. (London: John Murray, 1871), pp.56-7.
[2] [“a noble race.”] C.R. Darwin, Letter to Syms Covington, 23rd November 1850, transcribed and published online for the Darwin Correspondence Project.
[3] [“the reckless . . . members.”] C.R. Darwin, The Descent of Man, p.174.
[4] [“With savages . . . to breed.”] C.R. Darwin, ibid., p.168.
[5] [“Nor could . . . from marriage.”] C.R. Darwin, ibid., pp.168-9.
[6] [“But this is far from . . . lower races.”] C.R. Darwin, ibid., p.169.
[7] [“There is . . . faculties.”] Charles Darwin, ibid., p.216.
[8] [“I could show . . . the world.”] C.R. Darwin, Letter to William Graham, 3rd July 1881, op.cit.
[9] [“how the Anglo-Saxon race . . . risen in rank.” ] to C.R. Darwin, Letter to Charles Kingsley, 6th February 1862, op.cit.; minor changes made to format.


Conrad H. Roth said...

An obvious idea, but done extremely well. Thanks.

TGGP said...

Just a small quibble: "The noble race" is more specific than "a noble race". Perhaps "our noble race" would work.

Deogolwulf said...

Thanks, Mr Roth.

Well spotted, TGGP. It jars somewhat. I shall change it.

Anonymous said...

Top stuff, D! I particularly commend your restraint in not raising the issue (!) of Ashmarr's extra-marital nookie.

Deogolwulf said...

Thanks, Dearieme. As if I would be so indelicate as to raise such personal information to public ridicule! I like to think that the generic characters of the Ashmarrs partake of several persons, two of whom you have easily identified. Another is Timothy Garden Trash, as Michael Burleigh calls him.

Honorius Monkeymember said...

"The more civilised so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilised races throughout the world."

The Balkans absorbed a copious amount of blood for you Anglo-Saxons. And were soaked themselves.

(not that I'm accusing "Europe" for anything, dear me, quite the contrary... and I do/did consider myself an anglophile)

Lawrence Auster said...

Very good. Imagine this being published in the New York Times, or the London Times. It would shake the pillars of liberalism.

Lawrence Auster said...

I mentioned your satire at my website and repeated my observation that if your satirical playlet were published in prominent newspapers, it would shake the pillars of liberalism. The following exchange then occurred, which I hope you don't mind that I reproduce here:


Terry Morris writes:

... I think you underestimate the power of liberalism to overcome or conquer such difficulties inherent to Darwin's (the man's) thinking.

After all, Darwin was, at least to some extent, a product of his times. In other words, Charles Darwin was understandably a racist due to the prevailing racism of the times and place in which he lived. Certainly were he to have lived in the enlightened 21st Century West, his views on race would be much different, much enlightened, much refined.

But that's what natural selection is all about, isn't it? Darwin's racism has now been selected out of serious scientific existence.


Lawrence Auster replies:

Interesting point. On one hand, the liberals might play it as you say: Darwin had the regrettably backward racial views of those times, but he's still the man who made liberalism possible by banishing God, and so we give him a pass on his bad ideas, just as we give the American founders a pass on slavery because they put in place the system that ultimately ended slavery.

On the other hand, the extreme and frightful nature of Darwin's racial views might simply go too far for the liberals. By way of illustrating this, let's compare Darwin to Lincoln. The very worst things Lincoln ever said about race were his remarks in the debates with Douglas in 1858 that if one race must dominate the other, he naturally would prefer that it be the white race, and that while he was against slavery, he did not believe in a social equality of the races, did not believe a black man should marry a white woman, and so on. THOSE were the most racial statements Lincoln ever made, and even THEY must be covered up by the liberal powers that be, because they would upset the image of Lincoln as liberal icon. Darwin, by contrast, did not just have the normal racial views of the 19th century; he talked openly and extensively of exterminating the inferior races. His views were Hitler like. Moreover, these weren't just his personal views; they proceeded logically from his theory of evolution.

So I'm not sure that if Darwin's retrograde, or rather progressive and Hitlerite racial views (I'm using "progressive" in the earlier meaning of the word, of advancing the human race by weeding out the unfit) were brought out, the liberals would comfortably subsume them under his overall greatness as a founder of liberalism. The reaction might be more like what happens in the playlet: The liberals throw him out of their house. He stops being their god.

Unknown said...

Lawrence Auster said that Darwin is "the man who made liberalism possible by banishing God."
What a brainless thing to say!

"[R]ooted in the heart of liberalism is the Christian image of God."- Benedict XVI

Anonymous said...

Yeah, 200th birthday, but he's been dead near 116 of them. Can't the old guy be left to rest in peace? No white man ever carried a larger burden than Darwin, except, perhaps Hitler. It's not his fault if he conflated cultural and organic evolution, or ocassionally lapsed into a normative appreciation of the survival of the fittest. Just think what would have happened if he'd given serious thought to issues, like free will, that were well above his pay scale; he'd have been really confused. Overall, I still give him 7/10.

If it wasn't for dearieme's comment, I wouldn't have realised who the Ashmarrs are supposed to be. On a point of information, they live in East Sheen, close by to Upper Richmond, which is a very nice part of town, just south of the river, and full of lovely, though heavily indebted, white people.

Anonymous said...

Graeme and Auster are both wrong in this case, though I suspect at least one of them knows it: what makes liberalism possible is the Gnostic take on God. What Darwin does, it would seem to me, is make it easier for the liberal to avoid the questions of God altogether. And when one doesn't even have to get serious about the anthropological question of why we all are forever bound to/by a God concept, in the first place, it gets ever easier not to see one's Gnosticism.

Anonymous said...

Which newspaper was it that feared that the start of the 1948 welfare state would "eliminate selective elimination" and thus lead to an increase of congenitally deformed and feckless people?

Malcolm Pollack said...

Deftly done, D.

As Rex points out, Mr. Darwin's shade still has a heavy load to carry. You might not have seen this essay, which argues that we might, after all these years, allow the old fellow his rest.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

Allowing inferior genes to dominate the superior ones and replace them is the real crime against humanity. Its the end of the humanity we know. Genes, power and race can't be separated. Non-whites have no trouble understanding that at all.

Lightning Baltimore said...

It must be comforting to be able to dismiss wholesale a scientific theory simply because the author of said theory was a racist.

If only we could erase from history all the scientific contributions of men and women who may have held questionable, if not downright offensive, views on race, gender, etc.

Deogolwulf said...

"It must be comforting to be able to dismiss . . ."

I should think it is, but is that relevant to anyone here?

Anonymous said...

What up Dee dog. Ally ally akbah, dat be some goo sheeyut man, nome sane?

What a brainless thing to say!

"[R]ooted in the heart of liberalism is the Christian image of God."- Benedict XVI

Sheeyut man, dat why "Bruce Graeme", ay kay ay, Gee de Bee from emM arR, be havin so much trouble wit dis "rayss" stuff n da N-word (Nordic!), cuz he be a Kris-chen? Whinechoo say so foo? You don't gots to be hatin on no one a be rayciss or nawdisiss or yoogensiss sun. 'Sawl good dog.

Very good. Imagine this being published in the New York Times, or the London Times. It would shake the pillars of liberalism.

Awrite, da Oh-ster in da house! Why don't it be publish dog?

Libralizm be kool man -- libralizm in one rayss dog.

'Skool man, I noze: dassa hole nutha tempal dey be krashin down on dey headz like deyz woz Shimshon or sum'in dey publish dat sheeyut.

Žal ne govorim hrvatsko

Sokay sun. Dey be speakin slowveeniyan in slowveeniya eneewayz.

Anonymous said...

It's the elimination of inferior computers that have concerned me of late, in particular, my own specimen that has finally gone the way of all not-quite-as-hard-as-they-used-to-be hard-drives. Consequently, I have only just read your naughty satire which I can only describe in the parlance and sense of modern 'youf' - wicked!