Too lazy to write two posts, so I will include both of these very different people here. Bishop Tutu died and the laudatory headlines were everywhere. Would anyone, I wondered, have the courage to write about his, er, uncomfortable relationship with Jews and the Jewish state? Melanie Phillips to the rescue with this must-read. (I had not been aware with just how vile some of Tutu’s views were. Now I – distressingly – am.) Apart from Phillips, though, there has been little criticism or challenging of Tutu – it reminds me of when Helen Thomas died and nobody would mention the antisemitic elephant in the room. It was all, what a feminist icon, blah blah blah zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Twenty-one scientific discoveries – in other words, the year has not been entirely about the plague, even if the headlines might indicate that it has been so. Obviously, vaccine news – both about COVID and malaria – is at the forefront, but there is more. What I find particularly fascinating (and not unrelated to Kennewick Man):
Between 23,000 and 21,000 years ago, a teen ambled across wet sand near the shores of an ancient lake in what is now New Mexico’s White Sands National Park. The fossilized prints from this slightly flat-footed youth are challenging theories of when humans first crossed into the Americas. The prints, described in September in the journal Science, date to a time when scientists think towering glaciers had walled off human passage to the continent from Asia.
The case against the Iran Deal (to which, stupidly, the Biden administration apparently longs to return) – by Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael Oren, two gentlemen I was fortunate to lunch with on a press trip I took to Israel in the aughts.
And finally, Cloris Leachman died a few days ago. Enjoy what I think is one of her funniest MTM moments (from the episode where Phyllis’ husband is cheating on her with Sue Ann Nivens – yes, I have encyclopaedic knowledge of MTM):
Friends, I posted yesterday – see my previous post, “Sunday Sanity” – about how a certain kind of article (a rational, historically accurate article that challenges a beloved-by-the-chattering-classes narrative) could never appear in The New York Times. Turns out I was wrong – Bret Stephens on the 1619 Chronicles.
Maybe we should enlarge the lens. Frankly, I’m weary of the whole category ‘white people’, which throws folks of wildly different backgrounds, from Russians to Jews to Scots, into one big indiscriminate pot. So let’s talk about people, full stop. As a species, we’ve been treating each other like shit from the year dot. The horrors to which we’ve subjected one another, including slavery but a great deal else, are so incomprehensibly dreadful that no one, as an individual, could conceivably bear the crushing weight of all that torture, mass murder and sadism. If guilt is inherited, then every last one of us should be condemned to Dante’s nine circles of hell.
None of us chose the world in which we emerged. We didn’t pick our race, sex or natal nationality; any inbuilt leg-up or disadvantage these traits conferred at birth was not of our making. We didn’t select which awful history soaks the ground at our feet. It’s insensible to feel ‘guilty’ or ‘ashamed’ about something you didn’t do. It’s entirely sensible to feel regret, sorrow and abhorrence about the likes of slavery. It’s commendable to be informed about the past and to try to understand the nature of its wretchedness, as it’s also commendable to strain to leave the world a little better than you found it. But claiming that what happened before you were born is all your fault is not only ridiculous. It’s vain.
This is a remarkable piece of writing. I don’t know the writer’s work well, but I seem to recall he did some excellent reporting on Syria and Iraq. The focus on architecture and its meaning is refreshing — I, too, am a fan of Sir Roger Scruton — and I can only hope he (the writer) isn’t entirely prophetic.
Readers, I’m in awe of this young guy. I am torn between just wanting to read everything he has written but also being madly jealous that a 24-year-old is this smart. Sheesh! When I was 24 I was still learning the alphabet. Here he is in conversation about current affairs, but you can find other clips and also, check out the link above for City Journal contributions. A special thanks to my clever nephew for introducing me to him.