Friday, 3 July 2009

Racial cringe

‘Edward Gibbon’ at the Original Dissent forum discovered this terrifying example of racial cringe in Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel, p.100:

British Prime Ministers, soon after they come into office, customarily visit Washington and Moscow to get acquainted with American and Russian leaders. When Prime Minister James Callahan made his state visit to Moscow he had two amicable meetings with Chairman Leonid Brezhnev. At the end of the second day he remarked that he was happy to discover that there were no urgent problems threatening to bring the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union into conflict. Brezhnev then replied with some emphatic words in Russian. Callahan’s interpreter hesitated , and instead of translating Brezhnev’s remark asked him to repeat it. Brezhnev repeated it and the interpreter translated: “Mr. Prime Minister, there is only one important question facing us, and that is the question whether the white race will survive.” Callahan was so taken aback that he did not venture either to agree or disagree with this sentiment. He made his exit without further comment. What he had heard was a distant echo of the Mongol hoofbeat still reverberating in Russian memory.

And the rest. Presumably this meeting took place in 1976 or 1977. Brezhnev will surely have had contemporary British and American racial strife in mind at least as much as historic Mongol invasions of Russia. In avoiding such an obvious explanation for Brezhnev’s comments Dyson shows that he’s just as uncomfortable with racial issues as the pathetic fool Callaghan.

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