August 13, 2010

Tom Wolfe's "Back to Blood"

For a number of years, it's been known that Tom Wolfe is writing a book about immigration set in Miami. For awhile, it was supposed to be published in 2009, then in 2010, and now in 2012. Wolfe will be over 80 by then, so, we'll see.

The working title is Back to Blood, presumably based on the following passage from Wolfe's 28 page proposal that got him a $7 million advance, as reported in New York Magazine:
So, my people, that leaves only our blood, the bloodlines that course through our very bodies and unite us. “La Raza!” as the Puerto Ricans cry out. “The race!” cries the whole world. The Muslims? Their jihad? Their Islam? All that is nothing but a screen, a cover story. What they are, is … Arabs! Forget the rest of it! Arabs! — once the rulers of all Asia and half of Europe! Once the world’s reigning intelligentsia- — and now left behind in the dust of modern history! Back to blood, muhajeen! They, like all people, all people everywhere, have but one last thing on their minds — Back to blood!” All people, everywhere, you have no choice but — Back to blood!

The hereditarian theme running through Wolfe's books is a persistent one. It probably goes back to his father, a professor of agronomy and editor of The Southern Planter, a journal about breeding for the well-bred. As far as I can tell, Wolfe is an unrepentant Southern white conservative who has found the last 45 years unsurprising but thoroughly entertaining.

Heredity is likewise a major theme in many of the 19th Century realistic novels Wolfe emulates. In particular, Zola, a favorite of Wolfe's, was obsessed with heredity, as a Richard Lewontin essay in the New York Review of Books entitled In the Blood pointed out:
In the twenty Rougon-Macquart novels that form the core of his literary work, Zola is preoccupied with a problem that motivates a good deal of English and French literature of the nineteenth century: the mystery of the origin of character. It is this problem that not only appears over and over again in the novels, but that motivates the entire structure of the cycle.

The problem of character is distinct from the issue of human nature [that's an intellectually unsophisticated distinction]. The latter concerns the commonalities of human temperament and motivation, of what it is to be human. Especially after the appearance of The Origin of Species in 1859 made evolution part of public consciousness, the role that our animal ancestry plays in forming our species nature was a subject for literary concern. But the problem of character, of the origin of differences among individual human beings in temperament, intellect, emotion, motivation, morality, was a concern of nineteenth-century literature, certainly from the appearance of Dickens’s first serious novel, Oliver Twist, in 1837. How are we to understand the contrast between the gentle, delicate, moral, grammatically impeccable Oliver, born and raised in the parish workhouse, and the crude, grossly shaped, and criminal Artful Dodger, whose upbringing was no worse? Why does Estella, raised by Miss Havisham to hate and take revenge on men, soften toward Pip in the end? And what of the extraordinary career of George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, who starts life as a typical English milord and ends as a student of the Talmud who emigrates to Palestine?...

For Dickens, Eliot, and Sue, the solution of the mystery lies in an unquestioned belief in the power of blood over circumstance. Oliver is the child of middleclass parents, never seen by him; Estella is the biological daughter of the right-minded convict Abel Magwitch. Deronda turns out to be the son of a Jewish actress whom he meets only when he is an adult. 

The rest of the article is not online. My vague recollection is that Lewontin rather disapproves of all this, although he's a bit stuck trying to look down his nose at giants of world literature. He's left implying that, after all, we know so much more today about the unimportance of heredity! Oh wait, ... well, the point is too be sniffy, not to be right.

In general, most English lit types just avoid the whole topic. 

When you stop to think about it, though, it's hard to imagine how a social novelist like Zola, Dickens, or Wolfe could not be interested in heredity. But, that doesn't come up much in contemporary thought, so nobody has much noticed what Wolfe has been up to over the last 45 years.

79 comments:

sj071 said...

'$7 million...'Galling, isn't it?
Good he's getting advance.What was it Greenspan said? We guarantee promised sum but we can't promise purchase power, or something similar.
Old man Wolfe, sharp and wise.

Drawbacks said...

'The Rougon-Macquart novels of Émile Zola were deliberately written as a kind of experimental literature to illustrate the discoveries of nineteenth-century anthropology. In the preface, Zola tells us that "heredity has its laws, just like gravitation." The Rougon-Macquarts are a family descended from the two lovers of one woman, one of whom was a solid, industrious peasant, while the other was a wastrel and a degenerate. From the dependable peasant descend solid, honest stock, while from the degenerate ancestor descend a long line of social misfits and criminals, including the famous Nana, who was a nymphomaniac from early childhood, and her mother, Gervaise, the laundress, who despite beginning a solid entrepreneurial life, lapses into her natural indolence. When Gervaise's husband, Copeau, the father, was admitted to hospital with the D.T.s, the first question the physician asked was, "Did your father drink?" The public consciousness of the period both in Europe and North America was permeated with the notion that intrinsic differences in temperament and merit will finally dominate any mere effect of education and environment.
The fictional Rougon-Macquarts are seen again in the real family of Kallikaks, whose fictionalized name and history graced virtually every textbook of American psychology until the Second World War. The Kallikaks were supposed to be two halves of a family descended from two women of contrasting nature and a commmon father. This piece of academic fiction is meant to convince malleable young minds that criminality, laziness, alcoholism, and incest were inborn and inherited.'
- Richard Lewontin, Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA

Anonymous said...

Here's hoping Wolfe drops a big fat raaacist bomb on the literati before departing this life.

Grumpy Old Man said...

To coin a phrase, "You may not be interested in heredity, but it's sure interested in you."

syon said...

The American naturalistic writers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Frank Norris, Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, etc), as heirs to Zola, were fascinated by the interplay of heredity and environment in shaping the individual personality. the contemporary academy, however, prefers to only discuss their interest in social factors;when their interest in heredity is discussed, it is only in the context of a rebuke. Kevin Starr, for example, in his AMERICANS AND THE CALIFORNIA DREAM, refers to Jack London's interest in heredity as "pathological."

Anonymous said...

"So, my people, that leaves only our blood, the bloodlines that course through our very bodies and unite us. “La Raza!” as the Puerto Ricans cry out. “The race!” cries the whole world. The Muslims? Their jihad? Their Islam?"

Well, as Beavis would say after too much caffeine or sugar: "I am the Great Cornholio! I need TP for my bunghole. I claim this land for my people, for we have but one bunghole. You are a bunghole, and so am I."

Anonymous said...

Wolfe's wife is Jewish.

Brent Lane said...

Reminds me of my favorite book about race and inheritance.

No, not THAT one. This one.

jody said...

if you haven't, watch a movie called "blood in blood out". it's about mexicans living in los angeles between 1972 and 1984. probably covers the same exact stuff as this wolfe book.

the movie is also called "bound by honor" instead of "blood in blood out" in some places, so look for either title.

OneSTDV said...

But, that doesn't come up much in contemporary thought, so nobody has much noticed what Wolfe has been up to over the last 45 years.

He's a wily one. He hides his race stuff well, under the guise of "fiction".

Steve, you should either venture that road or go "Gladwellian". If the latter, maybe the SLPC will endow an award named after you and given to repentant racists.

Anonymous said...

"Wolfe's wife is Jewish."

I'll wager 90% of the people reading this blog already know that. What's your point? H.P. Lovecraft had a Jewish wife too.

Fred said...

"'$7 million...'Galling, isn't it?"

Why? Tom Wolfe is a sure thing, and he earns it. He's going to produce another 600 page page-turner that will fly off the shelves.

"if you haven't, watch a movie called "blood in blood out"."

Not a bad movie. It would be interesting to hear Steve's review of it.

"He's a wily one. He hides his race stuff well, under the guise of "fiction"."

Tom Wolfe doesn't hide anything -- he doesn't have to, since apparently not many black people read his books. I say that because I don't remember any kerfuffle about Bonfire of the Vanities when the novel was released, but for the movie version they had to make a judge character black and drain all the blood and satire out of the movie. That shows that you can get away with a lot more politically incorrect things in novels than in movies.

charondas said...

Their jihad? Their Islam? All that is nothing but a screen, a cover story. What they are, is … Arabs! Forget the rest of it! Arabs! — once the rulers of all Asia and half of Europe! Once the world’s reigning intelligentsia- — and now left behind in the dust of modern history! Back to blood, muhajeen!

ah, Wolfe gets it... subtract Arabs from Islam and the terrorist threat virtually disappears, but tell that to the Zionists and evangelical crusaders about to start WW3. HBD is our last hope.

Anonymous said...

"Tell that to the Zionists."

You think the Zionists don't know that?

Kevin said...

"but the Arabs, what tribe is that?"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_777HdrgiTM&feature=related

Anonymous said...

Tom Wolfe: All people, everywhere, you have no choice but - Back to blood!

When I see this sort of thematic material, I can't help but think of that Rosenzweigian hypothesis which Spengler used to be developing over at the Asia Times


Steve Sailer: As far as I can tell, Wolfe is an unrepentant Southern white conservative who has found the last 45 years unsurprising but thoroughly entertaining.

Wolfe isn't a "conservative" - I'd classify him in the category of old-school southern nihilists, like Shelby Foote, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Samuel Clemens, etc.


Anonymous: I'll wager 90% of the people reading this blog already know that.

I didn't know it.


charondas: subtract Arabs from Islam and the terrorist threat virtually disappears

You need to read the Koran and the Hadith.

Ron Mexico said...

Actually, Steve, I saw Wolfe speak, several months ago, here where I live in ______, and he said repeatedly and emphatically that he thought that the complaints about immigration from Latin America were overblown and misplaced. Maybe he was being clever--too clever by half?--but I rather suspect that his concentration on *Cuban* immigrants has colored his view--for better or worse. (And various members of the audience certainly tried to draw him out: true believers and dissidents alike.)

@Kevin: I was hoping someone would reference that line from Lawrence (or the sequence in Damascus at the end: "We here are neither...")

Anonymous said...

"subtract Arabs from Islam and the terrorist threat virtually disappears"

They certainly are the leaders of the terrorist threat in the West, but I think the Chinese, South Asians and other Asian people would be surprised by this notion.

David Davenport said...

H.P. Lovecraft had a Jewish wife too. ...

The marriage didn't last very long, although it wasn't because the descendant of a fine old Puritan family had it in fior Jews,

( Fine old Puritan family -- a decaying bloodline, as Howard P. himself feared. )

H. P.'s special animus was against Portuguese immigrants infesting Rhode Island. "Shadows over Insmouth" and related Cthulu tales were allegories about his loathing for the swarthy quasi-white Papists and their idolatrous cult.

Steve, Wolf's book will have to sell in awfully big quantities to recoup $7M. I assume that number is hype, don't you?

More broadly, I wonder if novel writers, at least non-celeb journeymen authors, make much money writing novels these days? Could you comment on that>

... Cue to a future-minded iStever to talk about Amazon and the Kindle and iPad.

Chicago resident said...

Arabs may have been in Spain but thats not "half of Europe". I think he's confused Turks with Arabs.Also, Arabs were never much of an "intelligentsia". They're given credit for the work done by subject peoples, Christians, Jews, converts to Islam, etc. The Arab world is rather far flung and isn't really a closely related group, being linked by language, cultural influence, etc. Most residents of the Arab world are peoples who have been arabized and are not what some might call of pure blood.

travis said...

"O. I love you, Emile (Zola), but by the time you and Darwin got hold of it, evolution had been irrelevant for 11,000 years." -- Tom Wolfe

Drawbacks said...

'The idea that blood will tell is not the invention of biologists. It is a dominant theme of nineteenth-century literature, and one can hardly appreciate the most praised and popular writers of the last century without seeing how a theory of innate difference informed their work. Think of Dickens's Oliver Twist. When Oliver first meets young Jack Dawkins, The Artful Dodger, on the road to London, a remarkable contrast in body and spirit is established. The Dodger is described as "a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy ... with rather bow-legs, and little, sharp, ugly eyes," and his English was not the best. What can we expect from a 10-year-old street urchin with no family, no education, and only the lowest criminals of London for companions?'
- Lewontin, ibid.

Drawbacks said...

'Oliver's speech, however, is perfect (he knows when to use the subjunctive) and his manner is genteel. He is described as a pale, thin child, but with a good sturdy spirit in his breast. Yet Oliver was raised from birth in one of the most degrading nineteenth century British institutions, the parish workhouse, an orphan with no education and little to eat. He is described as having spent the first nine years of his life rolling about on the floor all day "without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing." Where amid the oakum-pickings did Oliver garner that sensitivity of soul and perfection of English grammar? Oliver Twist is a mystery novel, and that is its mystery. The answer is that although his food was gruel, his blood was upper-middle-class. His mother was the daughter of a naval officer. His father's family was well-off and socially ambitious.'

Drawbacks said...

'A similar theme is central to George Eliot's Daniel Deronda. We first meet Daniel, the young stepson of an English baronet, wasting his time in a fashionable gambling spa. When he becomes a bit older, he suddenly has mysterious longings for things Hebrew. He falls in love with a Jewish woman, studies the Talmud, and converts. The reader will not be surprised to learn that he is the son of a Jewish actress whom he has never seen, but whose blood tells.'

Anonymous said...

"but tell that to the Zionists and evangelical crusaders about to start WW3."

Yeah, tell that to Poland, about to start WW2.

Anonymous said...

Possibly off topic but I was inspired by all the talk about Dickens and Pud'nhead Wilson to speculate on serialized novels.

A week or so ago you wrote something to the effect that the TV show Mad Men was intrinsically inferior to a good movie because of the serial nature of TV episodes. Well we know that in the nineteenth century a lot of novels first appeared as magazine serials. I presume that someone, maybe Dickens himself, reedited these works for when they were bound together and sold as novels.

So why, I wonder, don't we have a similar effort these days to gather together a group of TV episodes to form a single movie? A typical movie is about 120 to 160 minutes. A typical TV episode is 40 minutes when stripped of commercials. So three or four episodes should make a feature, I would think.

I once fell for a similar editorial arrangement in the eighties. The San Francisco Opera advertised a gala on Richard Wagner. We bought tickets and then sat there all day watching a European television mini-series starring Richard Burton as Wagner. Trust me, the opera house is not the place to watch TV, especially six hours of it at a time.

Lastly there is my Tom Wolfe anecdote. I had been stopped coming off the Bay Bridge for not having current registration tags. I told the officers as they called for the tow truck that the most acclaimed American novel of the day was "A Man In Full" which began with the Oakland police towing away the car of the protagonist. I warned them that this action set off a disastrous chain of events. The cops didn't seem worried. I guess they weren't literary types.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

That's funny... if the Arabs are what makes the jihad, then why is America so concerned with the behavior of Indo-Iranian(Persian, Afghan, Pakistani) Muslims?

Matra said...

My vague recollection is that Lewontin rather disapproves of all this

Since you brought up Lewontin and heredity there was a short interview clip of him on PBS's Nova this week. It was a rerun of Lord of the Ants (click link to watch the full programme) about E.O. Wilson that touches on the sociobiology controversy. Lewontin is introduced at about 30.30 and talks briefly about sociobiology and evo psych justifying eugenics. He comes across as rather commissarial.

Anonymous said...

"Tom Wolfe doesn't hide anything -- he doesn't have to, since apparently not many black people read his books."

They probably don't hide their own Henry Louis Gates, Jr. either. According to his memoir, black people in his home town loved Amos 'n' Andy and gossiped almost exclusively about sex. Who knew?

Whiskey said...

Most Muslims are not Arabs. For example, Britain, which briefly colonized Pakistan, is now being colonized BY Pakistan. Who are essentially, Muslim conquerors.

Now, some might argue that this is just desserts, Britons being White, and all, and therefore the source of original racial sin. In a debased post-Christianity formed around race. But others (myself) would argue that if colonizing Pakistan was bad, the same for Britain is no better.

Australia faces the same with Indonesia, not Arabs. India with well, Pakistan (and Bangladesh). China with Uighurs. Russia with Chechens and others.

What Islam does, very effectively, is bind race/tribe/culture into concrete or amber and produce lots of kids (by oppressing women, basically so that any man has greater status). Islamic cultures don't change -- their language, culture, habits, practices, stay the same over centuries. The Arab Development Bank issued a report to the UN in 2001 noting that in 2000, Spain had translated more books into Spanish than the entire Arab World had done in its history.

Islam bets on "quantity having its own quality" and cements race/tribe/culture into an unchanging rock, or Amber. The West, and recently some Asian nations, have embraced change to race to technology. Some more than others.

Anonymous said...


You need to read the Koran and the Hadith.


And where can one get a copy of "the Hadith"?

elvisd said...

Anonymous said...

Tom Wolfe: All people, everywhere, you have no choice but - Back to blood!

When I see this sort of thematic material, I can't help but think of that Rosenzweigian hypothesis which Spengler used to be developing over at the Asia Times


Steve Sailer: As far as I can tell, Wolfe is an unrepentant Southern white conservative who has found the last 45 years unsurprising but thoroughly entertaining.

Wolfe isn't a "conservative" - I'd classify him in the category of old-school southern nihilists, like Shelby Foote, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Samuel Clemens, etc.


Anonymous: I'll wager 90% of the people reading this blog already know that.

I didn't know it.


charondas: subtract Arabs from Islam and the terrorist threat virtually disappears

You need to read the Koran and the Hadith.


Spot on, on all counts.

Helene Edwards said...

"... apparently not many black people read his books."

I wonder how many black people you'd have to query before you met one who's read any book by Wolfe, or Bellow, or Updike, or Roth, or anyone besides Alice Walker.

Anonymous said...

The importance of nature and the limitations of nurture were starkly evident in the agrarian world of the American frontier with the observable "personality" variances among horses and dogs and other livestock on farms having families often of ten siblings or more. Watsonian and Skinnerian environmentalism never held sway in a world dominated by these conditions.

Fred said...

Re the Arabs and Islam, the only non-Arabs who are as nutty about Islam are the Pakistanis, but without Saudi money, they wouldn't be as much of a problem. So Wolfe is right.

OT, could be a case of dual loyalties at Apple.

Anonymous said...

Yes, B. F. Skinner focused on the environment because it could be changed. But reread Walden Two and you will find it reported that no change in the distribution of IQ scores has been discovered despite the individualized instructional system. Conseqences operate at both the individual and species level.

Anonymous said...

The importance of nature and the limitations of nurture were starkly evident in the agrarian world of the American frontier with the observable "personality" variances among horses and dogs and other livestock on farms having families often of ten siblings or more.

Huh?

Are you implying that the animals "learned" their bad behavior from the unruly children?

Anonymous said...

Re the Arabs and Islam, the only non-Arabs who are as nutty about Islam are the Pakistanis, but without Saudi money, they wouldn't be as much of a problem. So Wolfe is right.

I'm not certain if you meant this satirically or not, but I'm certain Wolfe's intent is satirical.

gazpacho said...

lol, @ the simpleminded neocons (sorry noble mnded counterjihadis) here defending china against the uigurs

Anonymous said...

ah, Wolfe gets it... subtract Arabs from Islam and the terrorist threat virtually disappears, but tell that to the Zionists and evangelical crusaders about to start WW3.

The victims in the Bombay (oh sorry, "Mumbai") massacres would be interested to learn that their murderers were "Arab". Also, the 50 or so Buddhist ethnic Thais killed every week (under the radar of western media) in southern Thailand would be fascinated to learn that Malays are also "Arab".

Anonymous said...

"simpleminded neocons"

lol at the simpleminded put-down of a vague entity existing only in your head

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming that Wolfe quotation is satire. Anyone who sets out to lecture you on the importance of race, and proceeds to demonstrate that he can't tell the difference between Turks and Arabs, is either an ignoramus or a parodist.

The debate in this thread about how much Islamist terrorism is perpetrated by Arabs, as opposed to other Muslims, may be interesting but it's beside the point. The relevant point in relation to Wolfe's claim is that Islamism is NOT a smokescreen for Arab nationalism. It's practically the opposite of that--Islamists reject secular ideologies like capitalism, Marxism and nationalism and assert the primacy of Islamic law as outlined in the Koran and the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad.

Whether this particular Muslim religious movement has specific appeal to Arabs, as opposed to other Muslims, is a separate question. What's clearly NOT the case is that Arab Islamists pretend to be religiously motivated when they're actually motivated by Arab nationalism. That's why Arab Islamists are happy to kill secular Arabs and die for pious non-Arabs (in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, etc.).

Anyway, thinking about this too hard gives Wolfe too much credit--he's an entertainer, not a serious person.

Victoria said...

Re: Tom Wolfe
He's a wily one. He hides his race stuff well, under the guise of "fiction".

You are so right. He is clever and wise -- and wonderful. I look forward to how he will handle the subject this time. He's been doing it, even when you're not aware he's doing it.

Tanstaafl said...

Lewontin is introduced at about 30.30 and talks briefly about sociobiology and evo psych justifying eugenics. He comes across as rather commissarial.

It's in his blood.

DYork said...

All people, everywhere, you have no choice but — Back to blood!

It's remarkable how untrue that increasingly is of White women.

They are giving birth to and adopting non-White children at a remarkable rate.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

""simpleminded neocons""

lol at the simpleminded put-down of a vague entity existing only in your head"

Neoconservatism is hardly an illusory concept:

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/neoconservatism--a-eulogy-8533?search=1

Note that in this article, Podhoretz is not saying that the movement is defunct, only that he thinks the term should be.

Anonymous said...

Not Arab nationalism; Arab supremacism. You need subject races for that.

Anonymous said...

"H. P.'s special animus was against Portuguese immigrants..."

Lovecraft once wrote a negative phrase about "the Poles and Portuguese", presumably based on his dislike of their shared Catholicism, but he didn't single out to the Portuguese for any special criticism.

Are you saying he was so afraid of the Portuguese that he felt the need to mask his alleged burning hatred behind an impenetrable and asinine series of allegories?

Anonymous said...

"Not Arab nationalism; Arab supremacism. You need subject races for that."

Little that Arab Islamists have said or done suggests that they're motivated by a race-based desire to subjugate non-Arabs. They have been intolerant of non-Muslim Arabs (e.g., Palestinian Christians) and on good terms with non-Arab Muslims (e.g., the Taliban). Persian Islamists in Iran have cooperated with Arab Islamists in Lebanon and Palestine.

When these groups use anti-Israel, anti-American and anti-Jewish rhetoric it focuses on religion, not on ethnicity. There's a reason al Qaeda objected to the presence of Crusaders in Saudi Arabia, and not to the presence of Crackers. Al Qaeda's explanation for why it's acceptable to kill American civilians is based on an interpretation of the Koran that justifies killing non-Muslims, not any sort of ethnic or racial distinction. Al Qaeda similarly justifies its attacks on other Arabs on the grounds that they aren't true Muslims and are therefore legitimate targets.

Wolfe may be an entertaining writer but in this case the entertainment seems to derive from his impersonation of a solipsist who assumes that the entire world is interested in and motivated by the same things that interest and motivate him. Or, alternatively, Wolfe IS a solipsistic, typically race-obsessed American, and can't fathom that people in other parts of the world may have concerns that are entirely alien to him.

Anonymous said...

"Little that Arab Islamists have said or done suggests that they're motivated by a race-based desire to subjugate non-Arabs. They have been intolerant of non-Muslim Arabs (e.g., Palestinian Christians) and on good terms with non-Arab Muslims (e.g., the Taliban). Persian Islamists in Iran have cooperated with Arab Islamists in Lebanon and Palestine."

It's not that Arab Muslims want to literally subjugate non-Arab Muslims but that in the Muslim world, Arab culture and Arabic is given preference over other Muslim cultures/languages. Let's put it this way: Muslim Arabs are the deciders because to them all other Muslims are converts, unlike the Arabs who were in a sense chosen by Allah. All it takes is for an Arab imam to tell an Indonesian/Pakistani/Nigerian that a native cultural practice of his is un-Islamic and watch how quickly the latter will try to rectify that. It doesn't work the other way around because after the Prophet Muhammad's reforms, Arabic culture became harmonious with Islamic values, it's everyone else that needs to sort it out. In short, Muslim Arabs have a tremendous amount of power over non-Arab Muslims. The only exception would be Persian Shiites but even there, they do not disparage Arab culture nor Arabic, despite their personal animosity towards Arabs.

As a side note: the intolerance toward Arab Christians from Arab Muslims cannot be reduced entirely to a conflict between religions. Some Arab Christians are market dominant minorities and that causes resentment among the majority Arab Muslim population.

Svigor said...

the observable "personality" variances among horses and dogs

I knew a fella who owned a Labrador Retriever and a German Shepherd. It was hilarious to watch the different behavior sets at work. If you threw a ball, that retriever was going to get it, by God. And as she did, the Shepherd (with no interest in the ball at all) was going to see her there and back safely, yapping the whole way, by God.

Svigor said...

Not Arab nationalism; Arab supremacism. You need subject races for that.

I don't know much about the Muslim world but I have read a tad recently about Saudi Arabia and that quote reflects my response as well; it's common for non-Arab Muslims to criticize Saudis for their supremacism, and their supremacist flavor of Islam.

Graham Asher said...

"For example, Britain, which briefly colonized Pakistan..."

Britain never colonised Pakistan. It ruled the territory later called Pakistan as part of its Indian Empire. Colonisation implies a mass influx of settlers, which never happened. The term is certainly more appropriate for the arrival of large number of Pakistanis in Britain. Whether we deserve it or have a right to object to the destruction of our culture is another question.

David said...

How many non-swarthy Muslims do you know?

Anonymous said...

It's not that Arab Muslims want to literally subjugate non-Arab Muslims but that in the Muslim world, Arab culture and Arabic is given preference over other Muslim cultures/languages.

I agree with that and with the rest of your post. I just draw a distinction between the dominance of Arabs within Islamism and saying that Islamism is, in any significant sense, about Arabs seeking to assert their racial or ethnic superiority over other ethnic groups.

Maybe I'm splitting hairs here. But when Wolfe asserts (or has one of his characters assert) that everything is about race and ethnicity, and Islamism is just the name some Arabs give to their racial chauvinism, he's badly misunderstanding Islamism. Given that there are a lot of Islamists who want to kill Americans, and a lot of Americans who want the United States to be at war with Islam or elements within Islam, I think it's important not to let over-heated rhetoric get in the way of looking at things in a more nuanced way.

Anonymous said...

"It's remarkable how untrue that increasingly is of White women.

They are giving birth to and adopting non-White children at a remarkable rate."

Really? White women have been giving birth to children who aren't white?

uhhhhhhhh, lern2biology

travis said...

Or, alternatively, Wolfe IS a solipsistic, typically race-obsessed American, and can't fathom that people in other parts of the world may have concerns that are entirely alien to him.

Surely you jest.

"Even before I left graduate school I had come to the conclusion that virtually all people live by what I think of as a "fiction-absolute." Each individual adopts a set of values which, if truly absolute in the world--so ordained by some almighty force--would make not that individual but his group . . . the best of all possible groups, the best of all inner circles."

-- Tom Wolfe

josh said...

Re the idea of Muslems focusing on religion,as opposed to race;Wasnt there a weird incident a few weeks ago where the spokesmen for the Dear Leader criticized Al Qaeda for its confinement of blacks to only the lowest levels of work,i.e. blowing themselves up?Obama was mad,apparently,because blacks werent being allowed more "opportunity"!!! ( I heard this on R Limbaugh,so I cant verify the exact story.) Re Jewish wives:Ed Sullivan had a Jewish wife. ( That makes me think of Ed doing a Lenny Bruce bit,laying in bed with his Jewish wife:"Come on...just TOUCH IT!!!!!") George M. Cohan,too. But he interestingly dumped her for a much younger woman later in his career. Re Wolfe,I loved BOTV,the book. Didnt the movie star Tom Hanks? WTF? The phrase "Master of the Universe" was adopted by Wolfe from financial types who refer to themselves that way;it comes from one of the names of God(or G-d)used by Hasidic jews. Didnt Wolfe wimp out by making the protaganist a whitey,with the main Jewish character being the sympathetic DA dude? Was Judith Regan his agent?

Anonymous said...

"I agree with that and with the rest of your post. I just draw a distinction between the dominance of Arabs within Islamism and saying that Islamism is, in any significant sense, about Arabs seeking to assert their racial or ethnic superiority over other ethnic groups."

If you spend some time with non-Arab Muslims who have spent extensive time in Arab countries, they will talk your ear off about how "racist" the Arabs are towards other Muslims. As a result, Indonesians, Somalis, Turks, Persians, and Pakistanis do not like Arabs very much at all. But they do defer to them in all matters Islamic. Many people are aware of that piece of Sharia law that forbids a non-Muslim man from marrying a Muslim woman but they are not aware that a non-Arab Muslim man is forbidden from marrying an Arab Muslim woman. Also, a caliph must be an Arab of Quraishi descent. Basically, all of those non-Arab Muslims who are pining for a caliphate are begging to be ruled over by an Arab. That is why the Turks who ruled the Ottoman empire never referred to themselves as caliphs because they were not Arabs even though they had the same responsibilities as a caliph.

Wolfe may gloss over some things and I do not think he is very knowledgeable on Muslim matters but he is basically right that Islam is repackaged Arab nationalism. Michel Aflaq, a prominent Christian Arab nationalist, converted to Islam for this express reason. Muslim Arabs are also the ones responsible for radicalizing Muslims and for encouraging them into taking their struggle global. If there was little Arab contact with other Muslims you wouldn't see things such as Nigerians, Pakistanis, and Albanians plotting terrorist attacks in the West. Instead, they'd be busy with their own sectarian struggles at home. Arabs see the big picture of Islam and only the most Arabized (devout) non-Arab Muslims share this vision.

DYork said...

Anonymous said...

Really? White women have been giving birth to children who aren't white?

uhhhhhhhh, lern2biology


Happens all the time, increasingly so.

Ever heard of Barack Hussein Obama. His White mother seemed to want to "run from blood" as much as possible.

I wouldn't classify the children of Heidi Klum as White.

As Steve has pointed out we are increasingly seeing the development in America of a "mulatto elite" mainly born of White females.

We will also see a black elite inheriting the wealth and status of their White adoptive parents.

These include the children of Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Oscar de la Renta, Emma Thompson, Madonna, Sandra Bullock and large numbers of middle class SWPL White Americans.

White women are making an important contribution to the ending of White America. They are doing it at the micro-personal level while powerful White men are doing it through government and corporate policy.

TGGP said...

"Rosenzweigian hypothesis which Spengler used to be developing"
Which had very little to do with Rosenzweig.

Laban said...

Josh - "Didnt Wolfe wimp out by making the protaganist a whitey,with the main Jewish character being the sympathetic DA dude?"

Blimey. I suppose Wolfe's portrait of Kramer is sort-of sympathetic on some levels, but most of us could do without that sort of sympathy. Kramer's a man who, as Churchill would put it, "falls beneath the level of events".

Svigor said...

Really? White women have been giving birth to children who aren't white?

uhhhhhhhh, lern2biology


Uh, yes. A white person has two white parents. Half-white is half-white, not white. This is complicated?

Michael_SC said...

"That shows that you can get away with a lot more politically incorrect things in novels than in movies."

Good point; people have to know how to read in order to be offended by written material. That points to a long term strategy: communicate in silence, only by writing.

Anonymous said...

animals learning bad behavior from children

Horses and dogs are observed to inherit habit complexes that amount to rudimentary personalities. In families of, say, ten siblings, the genetic dice throw was also evident in bifurcations along lines of temperment, ability, physiogmony, etc.

Urban environments of 1.7 children and a single cat in the house do not provide "evidence of the senses" about these matters.

stam said...

I am surprised that there are so few hereditarian themed books/movies these days. It seems to be me that the ones that have the theme are pretty popular. For example:

I am told that there is a strong hereditarian theme in Harry Potter: witch power runs in the blood and personality characteristics, good and evil, repeat from one generation to the next.

"I am your father." Nature over nurture was the case for both Skywalkers who were the best Jedis despite missing out on extensive training.

Dune: Breeding a messiah.

But that is all I can think of. It seems to me that there is a cliche orphan or fatherless character who grows up to be exactly the badass dude his dad was - "you dad was a damn good cop" or something - but I just can't bring any to mind.

Anonymous said...

"Wolfe may gloss over some things and I do not think he is very knowledgeable on Muslim matters but he is basically right that Islam is repackaged Arab nationalism."

I'd quibble with this a bit. I agree that there's a lot of racism in the Arab world, and that some of the pride Arabs take in their religion is ethnic/nationalistic rather than purely religious. But the interesting questions are: which Arabs are most active in promoting Islamism among non-Arab Muslims, and which Arabs are most active in promoting an interpretation of Islam that sanctions violence against non-Muslims?

In both cases, the answer tends to be: religiously-motivated Arabs who specifically define themselves in opposition to the more nationalist/ethnic visions represented by, say, Nasser. If someone is going to argue that al Qaeda is a symptom of Arab nationalism, racism, ethnic pride, etc., he'd need to demonstrate that those motivations dominate al Qaeda and its forebears (the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.) to a greater extent than they do other Arabs. I think that'd be hard to do, since al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are dominated by men who are preoccupied by religion and not by ethnicity.

I get that, if you say that Islam is a proxy for Arab ethnicity, the distinction I'm drawing ceases to matter. But that what bothers me about Wolfe's (or Wolfe's character's) argument in the first place. There's a fairly clear distinction, in the historical record and in the statements of various Arabs, between the Arab nationalists and the Islamists. If Wolfe or anybody else wants to explain why the Islamists are actually, secretly, the most nationalistic Arabs of all, he can have at it. But just asserting that everyone is primarily preoccupied with race because Tom Wolfe is, or because Americans tend to be, isn't much of an argument. Speaking of which:

"Each individual adopts a set of values which, if truly absolute in the world--so ordained by some almighty force--would make not that individual but his group . . . the best of all possible groups, the best of all inner circles."

Leaving aside the question of whether a theory Wolfe developed to belittle American grad students is a useful way to analyze the motivations of Arab Islamists, I don't think he wrong. I'd just say that, pretty clearly, Islamist militants define their "group" as Muslims who practice the "right" kind of Islam. They don't define their "group" or "inner circle" as "Arabs." Wolfe might respond that they SAY "Muslims" but MEAN "Arabs," but that's not an argument it's just an assertion. I could just assert the opposite and it would carry about as much weight.

Anonymous said...

"'I am your father.' Nature over nurture was the case for both Skywalkers who were the best Jedis despite missing out on extensive training."

Nature beats out nurture when it comes to raw power, but there's also the theme of free will. Vader chooses to use his power for evil but Luke chooses to continue using his power for good.

"It seems to me that there is a cliche orphan or fatherless character who grows up to be exactly the badass dude his dad was - 'you dad was a damn good cop' or something - but I just can't bring any to mind."

This isn't quite what you're talking about, but isn't one of the subplots of Lord of the Rings that Aragorn--despite being basically a drifter--is destined for great things because of his bloodline?

On a less mythic note, there's also Maverick in Top Gun. He learns towards the end of the movie that he inherited both his skill and his recklessness from his father, who was an unsung hero.

Anonymous said...

"In both cases, the answer tends to be: religiously-motivated Arabs who specifically define themselves in opposition to the more nationalist/ethnic visions represented by, say, Nasser."

Let's be clear, Nasser was no Ataturk and secular Arab nationalism was rife with failures and inconsistencies. The religiously-motivated Arabs were responding to leaders whom they felt were selling out the Arab world to the Crusaders by granting too many concessions. Think Sadat, not Nasser. The argument these Arabs make against today's Arab leaders is not that they are insufficiently Islamic because they are too focused on nationalism but rather that they are insufficiently Islamic because they have close relations with the West. Secular Arab nationalism is sad joke in the Arab Muslim world today.

"If someone is going to argue that al Qaeda is a symptom of Arab nationalism, racism, ethnic pride, etc., he'd need to demonstrate that those motivations dominate al Qaeda and its forebears (the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.) to a greater extent than they do other Arabs. I think that'd be hard to do, since al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are dominated by men who are preoccupied by religion and not by ethnicity."

The Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood leadership is also dominated by Arabs. There are high ranking non-Arab Muslim leaders in similar groups but they are consigned to their native lands like Abu Bakr Bashir in Indonesia. Almost everyone who matters in Al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood is of Arab descent. This isn't a case of whether they are either preoccupied by religion or ethnic chauvinism, it's a combination of both but I would argue that there is more ethnic chauvinism than appears on the surface. Arab interests are also placed very high on their list of grievances such as the non-Muslim presence in Saudi Arabia, the sanctions in Iraq, and Palestinian human rights. They do not spend as much time complaining about Bosnia, Chechnya, or Uyghur human rights. Surely, the situation in Chechnya is far worse than the situation in Saudi Arabia!

"There's a fairly clear distinction, in the historical record and in the statements of various Arabs, between the Arab nationalists and the Islamists. If Wolfe or anybody else wants to explain why the Islamists are actually, secretly, the most nationalistic Arabs of all, he can have at it. But just asserting that everyone is primarily preoccupied with race because Tom Wolfe is, or because Americans tend to be, isn't much of an argument."

I tend to agree but I think Wolfe is correct about the nature of Islam in spite of his preoccupation with race and ethnicity. I still think Islam is repackaged Arab nationalism but unlike secular nationalisms, it has a higher purpose because it involves mystical aspects and probably goes further than any national myth would dare to go. Muslims believe that Arabic is the native language of Allah for example. Arabs are meant to rule like in the time of Muhammad. This does not mean that Arabs are free to treat non-Arab Muslims as chattel but that Arabs have a very special place in Islam and they have special privileges because of their status. And sometimes they abuse this power by using non-Arab Muslims as cannon fodder in wars like during the Soviet-Afghan war.

Stam said...

You can add Back to the Future to the list. Generations there repeating both good and bad characteristics.
The Godfather? Maybe, but it's not clear if Michael becomes his dad for social reasons or not.
Didn't see the Last Air Bender, but the commercials gave the impression that some kind of heritage made the kid special. 

Anonymous said...

Tom Wolfe goes too much over the top for his stuff to really be best. I mean I like him and all. He gets cool insights. Best thing from him was his anthology The New Journalism about intersting nonfiction writing.

Steve Sailer: Why have you never mentioned Selleck's An Innnocent Man? It's a lot like Wolfe's prison scene in A Man in Full

Anonymous said...

"Arab interests are also placed very high on their list of grievances such as the non-Muslim presence in Saudi Arabia, the sanctions in Iraq, and Palestinian human rights. They do not spend as much time complaining about Bosnia, Chechnya, or Uyghur human rights. Surely, the situation in Chechnya is far worse than the situation in Saudi Arabia!"

I agree with most of your post, but I think this is a bit off-base. It may be damn near impossible to separate ethnic interests from religious interests when it comes to Saudi Arabia and Palestine. Are Arabs offended by a Christian or Jewish presence in those places because it offends them as nationalists to have non-Arabs in their lands, or because it offends them as Muslims to have non-Muslims in what they consider to be Islamic holy places? Probably both, but I tend to think that the ferocity of the reaction against US bases in Saudi Arabia is better explained by religious objections than simple nationalism or ethnic chauvanism.

Also, while I'm guessing you're right that more Arabs want to fight for other Arabs than want to fight for other ethnic groups, I'm not sure how important that is. How many Europeans want to fight for non-Europeans, Asians for non-Asians, etc.? What's interesting is the number of Islamist Arabs who HAVE gone out of their way to fight on the side of their co-religionists in places like Chechnya and Afghanistan, places that have no conceivable connection to any kind of Arab nationalism except the Islam-as-proxy-for-Arab-nationalism you described in your post. It seems to me that, while nationalism is important, religion is the key factor that decides the goals of groups like al Qaeda and inspires their members to be so murderous (and suicidal).

"The argument these Arabs make against today's Arab leaders is not that they are insufficiently Islamic because they are too focused on nationalism but rather that they are insufficiently Islamic because they have close relations with the West. Secular Arab nationalism is sad joke in the Arab Muslim world today."

True. This may be where I could meet Wolfe's argument halfway. Clearly Arab nationalism failed dismally as a response to the pressures of European ideologies like capitalism, Marxism, and nationalism (not Arab nationalism, but European and American nationalists dominating the Arab world in pursuit of their own national interest). If Arab men were looking for something to be proud of, and for a set of recognizably Arab and non-western principles by which to live and from which to gain the strength to beat back foreign influence, Islamism was and is a much more appealing option than secular nationalism.

But here's where I'd disagree with Wolfe (or, at least, with the argument he has his character spouting): If what I've just said is in any way a valid explanation for the rise of violent Islamism, then stronger and more credible Arab nationalism might REDUCE Islamist violence by providing an alternative that's at least open to the possibility of compromise with non-Muslim peoples.

I guess Wolfe could argue that Arab nationalism finds its inevitable expression in a horrendously violent interpretation of Islam, but I don't see any reason why that would be true. Pointing to jihadism and saying, "Aha! Arab nationalism!" would be like "explaining" 19th century British imperialism by saying "Back to blood! English nationalism!" Kind of, I guess, but you're not explaining anything by saying that--you're just singling out one aspect of an enormously complex phenomenon and pretending that it's the only one that matters. I think more, rather than less, nuance is needed in the discussion of how to respond to Islamist terrorism. So I get frustrated by over-simplifications even when they're produced by Tom Wolfe, the master of the amusing broad stroke.

Anyway, that's more than enough out of me. Thanks for the exchange, I learned a lot.

Wandrin said...

I think islam was originally a copy of judaism i.e an ethnic nationalism wrapped up in a special religious status with the arabs replacing jews as the special ones.

That changed by force of circumstance after islam spread so far away from its original ethnic source but there's still an under current of ethnic one-upmanship with actual arabs first, middle-easterners who call themselves arabs second and non-arabs third - with Iranians as a separate category on their own as at heart they don't really accept arab primacy.

So i don't think it's accurate to see islam as arab religion-backed nationalism now but i think it was once and there's an element of it that still exists as an under current.

Playing on the the arab vs other muslims fault-line is a tactic western intelligence agencies can use.

Anonymous said...

"I'm assuming that Wolfe quotation is satire."

I'm assuming it's something the character he's portraying would regard as true. Wolfe is a realist fiction writer, and his characters are people you'd see out in the world. Which is why his writing keeps on being echoed in the real world.

The book will be a must-read. No critic can ignore a new Wolfe novel.

Mr. Anon said...

Josh - "Didnt Wolfe wimp out by making the protaganist a whitey,with the main Jewish character being the sympathetic DA dude?"

The jewish DA was a pretty unsympathetic character, as was Sherman McCoy himself. As I recall, the presiding judge, who was jewish, was a fairly sympathetic character in the novel.

Paavo said...

Naipaul is my favourite Nihilist/conservative leaning author:
Independet:V S Naipaul: Scourge of the liberals
"Subsequently, all his books of reportage have been shot through with varying degrees of disdain for the locals (except perhaps A Turn in the South: he rather liked the good ol' white boys of the American Deep South, which was not what The New Yoker wanted)."
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/v-s-naipaul-scourge-of-the-liberals-664440.html

Svigor said...

I am surprised that there are so few hereditarian themed books/movies these days.

4400 had the mulatto messiah thing going on, or maybe the mulatto anti-Christ thing.

Svigor said...

Oh, and Battlestar Galactica had the same thing.

Svigor said...

One of the main themes of The Sopranos was Tony's angst over the possibility of his "putrid" bloodline.