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650. The taming power of the small (XIV)

As Rhodesia negotiated her way to independence, Ian Smith, the Prime Minister, attended a tribal Indaba—a conference where all the chiefs in the country came together. A chief who represented Matopos, among the most sacred places for the Matebele tribe, reported that a very large boulder on the hill where Cecil Rhodes, the pioneer who founded Rhodesia, and the tribe made peace had crashed down the hill—the boulder made a sound like “thunder coming from the heavens above”. This was taken as an omen that the tribe should make its own way separate from the white Rhodesians—even though, generally, the Indaba was more sympathetic to the white position than the Western-educated black politicians.

In his memoirs, Smith gives no indication one way or the other whether he took this sign seriously. To me, from the way he recounts the story, it seems that he did not: he just regarded the chief’s report as “one of those native things”—“The natives do queer things, rum things—up the Limpopo and all that, what?”. Although the left’s criticisms as regards colonialism are largely unfounded, they are true in one respect—there was real white arrogance, particularly in the last imperial years as the empires deliquesced; and this was to be expected, it was a time when Britain would conquer vast stretches of land, say the entire of northern Burma, at the cost of five soldiers. Western military discipline, logistics, and technology were advanced to such a degree that there was just no contest when Western forces met the natives. Consequently, it was hard to take anything the natives said seriously.

In this respect, the white man—to use the colonial terminology—remains impoverished in one respect: he has lost the freshness that comes with signs and omens—for sure, Salisbury, Rhodesia’s capital, was a comfortable modern city; and yet something was amiss. After all, the chief’s omen was vindicated: substantial elements in the native population were to turn against the white Rhodesians—and the peace settlement that was made between Rhodes and the Matabele was at an end, as the boulder announced. Yet, of course, you are not allowed to say “as the boulder announced” if you are a Westerner—not an advanced way to think, too primitive. Primitive, yet somehow sustaining.

All politics is a dispute about property: this includes the nation, the land as property; marriage and reproduction, whether women and children will be owned or not; and property as we generally understand it—from property ownership, as men choose who their daughters will marry, we arrive at races. The left is a recurrent move by bitter, resentful, and physically deformed people (either at birth or through decadence) to attack property ownership in some dimension—to use the state to steal.

In recent history there have been several waves, and all amount to the same thing: the Jacobins, in the name of “the citizens”; the Marxists, in the name of “the proletariat”; and the progressives, in the name of “the LGBT, women, and blacks”. The type of property has differed as technology has changed—from factories in the 19th century to intangible property today, so that the left complains about “heteronormative white supremacist themes” in Gucci ads. The property that needs to be redistributed today is abstract status, the semiotics of power.

The above account might seem entirely secular, yet it is not—Locke associated property with a divine mandate; and before him, if you consult Plato, you find that religion has always been tied up to boundaries—the boundaries, the sacred space; and the boundaries were superintended by the gods. Understood in this way, as a cyclical struggle between the forces that keep boundaries and those that would dissolve them, the judgement from the gods becomes crucial—when a boulder falls from the site of agreement, it is a sign that the boundaries are about to be redrawn; and it is this thought-mode Westerners have lost—few today can see the signs.


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