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Humanist Archives: Aug. 8, 2020, 7:52 a.m. Humanist 34.220 - memory & bigotry

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 220.
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        Date: 2020-08-07 10:59:19+00:00
        From: Gabriel Egan 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.215: memory


A new kind of bigotry is being normalized in literary
culture. In the essay "This Vast Conspiracy of Memory"
by Khalid Warsame that Willard points us to, the author
remarks "Think of Western civilisation: 500 years of
war-making and theft and murder and for what? A barren
hothouse of a planet to show for it".

The essay recounts Warsame's thoughts from different
places he has travelled to. With no apparent sense of
irony, Warsame's very next sentence after his dismissal
of Western civilization as all bad is "On a plane, while
hurtling across the Indian Ocean, I found myself ...". Is
not that aeroplane a rather good outcome of Western
civilization? Warsame clearly travels a lot but doesn't
seem to think that has any connection to the hothouse
planet: it's all the fault of "Western civilization".

But the really objectionable part of Warsame's essay
is its casual anti-white racism. He describes the phrase
"sites of significance" as "a white phrase--it reeks of
detachment, a heinous dodge". Warsame describes Britain
as "the birthplace of all the unpleasantness of this modern
age". He says his "hope was that the British would ... feel
embarrassed about centuries of colonialism". This is the
religious notion of original sin. Warsame apparently
believes that Britain's population is comprised solely of
white beneficiaries of colonialism who ought to feel
guilty about it. It seems that travelling has not
broadened Warsame's mind or even opened his eyes. I
feel tempted to invite him to develop his theme of
British people's responsibility for colonialism by
giving a talk at my university, which is in a British
city of a third of a million people, the majority of
whom are not white.


Gabriel Egan

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