How the Woke monster originated
The duty of a Christian nation, so Rawlinson’s colleague had advised him, was to work for the regeneration of less fortunate lands: to play a ‘noble part’. This, of course, was to cast his own country as the very model of civilisation, the standard by which all others might be judged: a conceit that came so naturally to imperial peoples that the Persians too, back in the time of Darius, had revelled in it. Yet the British, despite the certitude felt by many of them that their empire was a blessing bestowed on the world by heaven, could not entirely share in the swagger of the Great King. Pride in their dominion over palm and pine was accompanied by a certain nervousness. The sacrifice demanded by their God was a humble and a contrite heart. To rule foreign peoples—let alone to plunder them of their wealth, or to settle their lands, or to hook their cities on opium—was also, for a Christian people, never quite to forget that their Saviour had lived as the slave, not the master, of a mighty empire. It was an official of that empire who had sentenced him to death; it was soldiers of that empire who had nailed him to a cross. Rome’s dominion had long since passed away. The reign of Christ had not…
In 1833, when the ban on the slave trade had been followed by the emancipation of slaves throughout the British Empire, abolitionists had greeted their hour of victory in rapturously biblical terms. It was the rainbow seen by Noah over the floodwaters; it was the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea; it was the breaking of the Risen Christ from his tomb. Britain, a country that for so long had been lost in the valley of the shadow of death, had emerged at last into light. Now, in atonement for her guilt, it was her responsibility to help all the world be born again.
Nonetheless, British abolitionists knew better than to trumpet their sense of Protestant mission too loudly. Slavery was widespread, after all, and one that had made many in Portugal, Spain and France exceedingly rich. A campaign against the practice could never hope to be truly international without the backing of Catholic powers. No matter that it was Britain’s naval muscle that enabled slave-ships to be searched and their crews to be put on trial, the legal frameworks that licensed these procedures had to appear resolutely neutral. British jurists, conquering the deep suspicion of anything Spanish that was an inheritance from the age of Elizabeth I, brought themselves to praise the ‘courage and noble principle’ of Bartolomé las Casas. The result was an entire apparatus of law—complete with treaties and international courts—that made a virtue out of merging both Protestant and Catholic traditions. In 1842, when an American diplomat defined the slave trade as a ‘crime against humanity’, the term was one calculated to be acceptable to lawyers of all Christian denominations—and none. Slavery, which only decades previously had been taken almost universally for granted, was now redefined as evidence of savagery and backwardness. To oppose it was to side with progress. To support it was to stand condemned before the bar, not just of Christianity, but of every religion…
The owning of slaves was licensed by the Qur’an, by the example of Muhammad himself, and by the Sunna, that great corpus of Islamic traditions and practices. Who, then, were Christians to demand its abolition?
But the British, to the growing bafflement of Muslim rulers, refused to leave the question alone. Back in 1840, pressure on the Ottomans to eradicate the slave trade had been greeted in Constantinople, as the British ambassador in the city put it, ‘with extreme astonishment and a smile at the proposition of destroying an institution closely interwoven with the frame of society’. A decade later, when the sultan found himself confronted by a devastating combination of military and financial crises, British support came at a predictable price. In 1854, the Ottoman government was obliged to issue a decree prohibiting the slave trade across the Black Sea; three years later the African slave trade was banned. Also abolished was the jizya, the tax on Jews and Christians that reached back to the very beginnings of Islam, and was directly mandated by the Qur’an. Such measures, of course, risked considerable embarrassment to the sultan. Their effect was, after all, to reform the Sunna according to the standards of the thoroughly infidel British. To acknowledge that anything contrary to Islamic tradition had been forced on a Muslim ruler by Christians was clearly unthinkable; and so Ottoman reformers instead made sure to claim a sanction of their own. Circumstances, they argued, had changed since the time of the Prophet. Insidiously, among elite circles in the Islamic world, a novel understanding of legal proprieties was coming to be fostered: an understanding that derived ultimately not from Muhammad, nor from any Muslim jurist, but from Saint Paul…
In the United States, escalating tensions over the rights and wrongs of the institution had helped to precipitate, in 1861, the secession of a confederacy of southern states, and a terrible war with what remained of the Union. Naturally, for as long as Americans continued to slaughter one another in battle, there could be no definitive resolution of the issue. Nevertheless, at the beginning of 1863, the United States president, Abraham Lincoln, had issued a proclamation, declaring all slaves on Confederate territory to be free.
Clearly, should the Unionists only emerge victorious from the civil war, then slavery was liable to be abolished across the country. It was in support of this eventuality that the mayor of Tunis sought to offer his encouragement. Aware that the Americans were unlikely to be swayed by citations from Islamic scripture, he concluded his letter by urging them to act instead out of ‘human mercy and compassion’. Here, perhaps, lay the ultimate demonstration of just how effective the attempt by Protestant abolitionists to render their campaign universal had become. A cause that, only a century earlier, had been the preserve of a few crankish Quakers had come to spread far and wide like the rushing wildfire of the Spirit. It did not need missionaries to promote evangelical doctrines around the world. Lawyers and ambassadors might achieve it even more effectively: for they did it, in the main, by stealth. A crime against humanity was bound to have far more resonance beyond the limits of the Christian world than a crime against Christ. A crusade, it turned out, might be more effective for keeping the cross well out of sight…
The more the tide of global opinion turned against slavery, so the more the prestige of the nation that had first recanted it was inevitably burnished. ‘England,’ exclaimed a Persian prince in 1862, ‘assumes to be the determined enemy of the slave trade, and has gone to an enormous expense to liberate the African races, to whom she is no way bound save by the tie of a common humanity.’ Yet already, even as he was expressing his wonderment at such selflessness, the British were busy capitalising on the prestige it had won them. In 1857, a treaty that committed the shah to suppressing the slave trade in the Persian Gulf had also served to consolidate Britain’s influence over his country. Meanwhile, in the heart of Africa, missionaries were starting to venture where Europeans had never before thought to go. Reports they brought back, of the continuing depredations of Arab slavers, confirmed the view of many in Britain that slavery would never be wholly banished until the entire continent had been won for civilisation. That this equated to their own rule was, of course, taken for granted. ‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.’ So God had declared in the Bible. ‘I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy.’ [pages 429-434]
What struck me about these pages of Holland’s book is that it places more emphasis on the axiological ‘going astray’ of the British Empire than on the American Civil War (I omitted to quote several pages). Living so close to the US, and with so many films about that war, gives the impression that the Americans caused the rampant liberalism, but in fact, the disease started in Europe.
This website looks like those movies where the heroes try to find out where the virus that caused a fatal pandemic originally came from. The only difference with the real world is that our obligation, as priests of the sacred words, is to find out where and how exactly the mental virus that has now infected all white people started.
I think the POV of The West’s Darkest Hour does a much better job of explaining the causes of white decline than, say, The Occidental Observer.