Naipaul (RIP) and the Left

The most interesting reflection on V.S. Naipaul, the Nobel Prize winner who died earlier this week, comes from Slate, a low-brow leftist publication that I sometimes peruse for book reviews. Naipaul, a Trinidadian, became loathed on the left for daring to say “what the whites want to say but dare not.”

The fact that Slate‘s author tries his hardest to piss on Naipaul’s grave is not what’s interesting about the piece, though. What’s interesting is what Naipaul’s wife, a Pakistani national and former journalist, has to say about Pakistan:

[…] she smiled and asked if I knew what Pakistan needed. I informed her that I did not. “A dictator,” she replied. At this her husband laughed.

“I think they have tried that,” I said, doing my best to stay stoic.

“No, no, a very brutal dictator,” she answered. I told her they had tried that, too. “No, no,” she answered again. Only when a real dictator came in and killed the religious people in the country, and enough of them that the streets would “run with blood,” could Pakistan be reborn. It was as if she was parodying a gross caricature of Naipaul’s worst views—and also misunderstanding his pessimism about the ability of colonial societies to reinvent themselves, even through violence—but he smiled with delight as she spoke.

“That’s so American of you,” she then blurted out, before I had said anything. My face, while she had been talking, must have taken on a look of shock or disgust. “You tell a nice young American boy like yourself that a country needs a brutal dictator and they get a moralistic or concerned look on their face, as if every country is ready for a democracy. They aren’t.”

Damn. This testy exchange highlights well what the developing world is facing, intellectually. Religious conservatives heavily populate developing countries. Liberals, on the left and on the right, in developing countries are miniscule in number, and most of them prefer, or were forced, to live in exile. Liberty is their highest priority, but the highest priority of Western elites, whose support developing world liberals’ desperately need, is democracy, which empowers a populace that cares not for freedom.

So what you get in the developing world is two kinds of autocracies: geopolitically important autocracies (like Pakistan), and geopolitically unimportant autocracies (think of sub-Saharan Africa).

That Naipaul and his wife had the balls to say this, for years, is a testament to the magnificence of human freedom; that Leftists have loathed Naipaul for years because he had pointed this out is a bitter reminder of why I left the Left in the first place.

By the way, here is Naipaul writing about the GOP for the New Yorker in 1984. And here is my actual favorite piece about Naipaul.

10 horrific ways to die (RCH)

Yes, that’s the subject of my weekend column over at RealClearHistory. An excerpt:

4. Cutting off limbs/flaying. The English version of being hanged, drawn, and quartered involved removing genitals, but did any other society in history stoop so low? Um, yes. Not only have penises and/or testicles been removed and vaginas flayed, but they have sometimes been displayed as trophies, eaten, or converted into jewelry. Genitals aren’t the only limbs to have been removed over the years. Fingers and toes, tongues, breasts, eyes, ears, lips, nipples, noses, kneecaps, fingernails, eyelids, skin, and bones have all been forcibly removed over years by governments exacting punishment. Aside from the removal of genitals, flaying is probably the worst of the bunch. That’s when you beat somebody so hard that their skin comes off.

I had a lot of fun writing this, and I suspect my ever-so-patient editor had a lot of fun reading (and editing) it. I hope you enjoy it too! Here’s the rest of it.

Nightcap

  1. End the double standards in reporting political violence David French, National Review
  2. Campaign politics and the origins of the Vietnam War Rick Brownell, Historiat
  3. Hussein Ibish on Muslim identity Irfan Khawaja, Policy of Truth
  4. Friends of freedom and Atlantic democratization Micah Alpaugh, Age of Revolutions

RCH: Imperialism and the Panama Canal

Folks, my latest over at RealClearHistory is up. An excerpt:

The political ramifications for Washington essentially stealing a province from Colombia were huge. The United States had just seized a number of overseas territories from Spain in 1898, and the imperial project was frowned upon by numerous factions for various reasons. The U.S. foray into imperialism led to governance issues in the Caribbean, where Washington found itself supporting anti-democratic autocrats, and confronting outright ethical problems in the Philippines, where the United States Army was ruthlessly putting down a revolt against its rule. So acquiring a “canal zone” in a country that was baited into leaving another country was scandalous, especially since Colombia’s reluctance to cooperate with France and the U.S. was viewed as democratic (the Colombian Senate refused to ratify several canal-related treaties with France and the U.S.), and the two Western powers were supposedly the torchbearers of democracy. To make matters worse, many elites in Panama, after agreeing to secede in exchange for protection from Colombia, felt betrayed by the terms of the Panama Canal Zone, which granted the United States sole control over the zone in perpetuity.

Please, read the rest.