and missionaries report that in Africa and Polynesia primitive
man stops short at his earliest perception of things and never
reasons if he can in any way avoid it. European and American
educators sometimes report the same of their students. With
regard to the Mossi on the Niger Levy-Bruhl quotes a missionary's
observation: "Conversation with them turns only upon
women, food, and (in the rainy season) the crops." What
other subjects did many contemporaries and neighbors of Newton,
Kant, and Levy-Bruhl prefer?
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, II.2
state wishes to work its captive population into a war frenzy
directed against some foreign people, the notion that those
foreigners are not fully human has been an important tool. An
aspect of this effort is to assert that the minds of the foreigners
in question are so different from those of the domestic population
as to preclude the possibility of rational discussion over mutual
problems, leaving blowing the foreigners up as the only solution.
doctrine is a variety of polylogism: the idea that there
are different kinds of logic employed by different groups of
people. There are two main branches of polylogism: class polylogism
and racial polylogism. The main practitioners of the first branch
are the Marxists, who preach that different classes have inherently
different modes of thinking (and that the logic of the proletariat
is superior to that of other classes). The foremost practitioners
of the second branch in recent times were the Nazis. But racial
polylogism has recently been revived at National Review Online.
appeared when Jonah Goldberg was calling for
an invasion of the entire African continent. The Africans,
according to Goldberg, are somewhat… well, childlike in their
mode of thinking. Like a stern but loving parent, America should
not spare the rod of a massive invasion at the risk of spoiling
seem to occur to Goldberg that, while behind the West in both
technology and high culture, African societies functioned reasonably
well until the first attempt (19th century colonialism)
by the West to bring them up to snuff. I was trained in traditional
West African music by the Ghanian master drummer, Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng. From him,
I learned that Twi music is intimately connected to the structure
of Twi society, where the master drummer represented the chief,
the second drummer the queen, and the supporting drummers other
members of the society. Those structures allowed room for individual
improvisation within a sustained, traditional social structure.
British colonial rule shattered those structures, forcing the
Twi, Ga, Fante, and other tribal groups into an artificial state
called Ghana. Similar artificial states were created across
the continent during the sixties and seventies, resulting in
decades of civil war and cultural breakdown.
polylogism again reared its head in Goldberg's column in the
wake of the 9/11 attacks. Now, it is the Arabs who have a different
logical structure of mind, and can't be reasoned with. Again,
the solution seems to be to kill them until they "get it."
instructive to examine the examples Goldberg uses to "prove"
the polylogistic thesis. In regards to Africa, his favorite
source is a book called The Africans, and one of his
favorite examples from the book is a study that shows how radically
different Africans' approach to near accidents is from that
of residents of the "reasonable" West. When an African
driver does something dangerous and gets away with it, it seems
he doesn't conclude that he ought not to do that again, but
that doing it is OK, since he emerged unscathed. How wacky those
dark fellows are!
Goldberg never took driver's education. If he had, he might
recall that if you're following the car in front of you by less
than one car length for each ten miles per hour travel speed,
and the fellow in front of you slams on the brakes, you will
hit him. The combined reaction time of your nervous system and
car brakes simply won't allow you to stop fast enough to avoid
Goldberg has never driven on an American highway. If he had,
he'd see drivers within five feet of the car in front of them
while traveling at 70 miles per hour -- something we Americans
call tailgating. The rear driver is ten or twenty times too
close for safety.
who drives like that has surely had any number of close calls.
And what did he conclude from those? That what he is doing is
OK, since he emerged unscathed. How wacky those Americans are!
contending that Arabs, also, have a different structure of mind,
Goldberg sums up polylogism in one sentence: "I mean the
actual mechanisms of their thinking are different." He
uses this "fact" to explain "why American Media,
parent company of The National Enquirer, The Star,
and other tabloid magazines, may have been targeted by Osama
bin Laden's anthrax-wielding henchmen."
it seems, just aren't up to snuff on Western logic, and "don't
really understand how America works." You see, "they
sent that envelope of anthrax to 'American Media' because they
were given explicit orders to attack 'the American media.'"
Those wacky Arabs!
the FBI has concluded that it is very likely that it is a lone
American who has been shipping Anthrax around the country. When
Arab terrorists wanted to attack the U.S., they struck at the
Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and apparently tried to hit
the Capitol Building. When an American nut attempted the same,
he targeted American Media.
also note that the Arab terrorists' "mechanisms of thinking"
were sufficient to find a gaping hole in American airline security
and exploit it, while our government asserts that such an attack
that these facts won't discourage Goldberg from forwarding racial
polylogism again in the future. If we have some trouble with
Russia or Japan next year, it will turn out that the basic logic
of the Russian or Japanese mind is incompatible with ours, making
discussion impossible. We'll just have to bomb the bejesus out
meantime, we might consider whether it is actually the mind
of Jonah Goldberg that has a structure incompatible with that
of Western logic.