Many a person would be amazed if he saw what his conscience, which presents itself to him in such a stately fashion, is genuinely composed of : 1/5 fear of human beings, 1/5 fear of the gods, 1/5 prejudice, 1/5 vanity and 1/5 habit: so that he is no better than the Englishman who said plainly: ‘I cannot afford to keep a conscience.’
-Arthur Schopenhauer, Prize Essay on the Basis of Morals
I find it a never-ending delight to read Schopenhauer, because he so wonderfully takes the piss out of literally everyone. Here’s a personal favorite example, mostly for the (perhaps unintended) implication that not being able to afford a conscience is no worse that being an average person. Make of that what you will.
Last Saturday on the Jackal Hour, graaaaaagh introduced me to the above video, “Heavy Metal Parking Lot”, which is one of the most magical things I have ever seen. Beers spontaneously appeared in my hand while I was watching it. My sweater turned into a sleek leather jacket, and my hair grew 17 inches in just as many minutes.
I now understand why we won the Cold War, and I know that if the 1980’s ever showed up again they would mercilessly kick our ass and then get uproariously drunk while rocking out to heavy metal.
Blah, blah, blah…New Daily Show host…blah, blah, blah…Twitter “controversy”….blah, blah, blah how dare he say things like that? They aren’t even funny!…blah, blah, blah…
I had the most interesting experience the other day, as I ran across someone who actually believes that the Greeks and the Romans were black civilizations that became white when they were overrun by foreign invaders. Needless to say, I was greatly amused, and decided to critique their argument under the guise of being on their side (not that hard to do when people are so easy to fool).
“Hey, I think you’ve got a really interesting argument here and I think you’ve made some great points. One thing I know that people are going to press you on though, is that all the contemporary accounts and artistic representations of the period indicate that the Greeks and Romans were pale to ruddy to olive-skinned, and they describe Africans as being far darker and having very different facial features. Now listen, I’ve got to run, but good luck. It was great talking with you, and I hope we get the opportunity to do so again some time.”
Why be disagreeable when it’s so much easier to cast a spell and get inside their heads? I have no intention of ever conversing with this man again, but if I ever do, he’ll be eating out of the palm of my hand.
What did the Romans and Greeks actually think of themselves? Let’s turn to some of their historians and find out.
Hey, Suetonius! What did Julius Caesar look like?
“Tall of stature with a fair complexion, shapely limbs, a somewhat full face, and keen black eyes.”
Fair complexion you say? Interesting.
Caesar was also described in other sources as having pale skin, thin lips, and a sharp nose. Do you know what someone looks like when they have pale skin, thin lips, and a sharp nose? I do. I see it every time I look in the mirror, and there is literally no one who has ever met me who thought upon seeing me that I might be black.
But evidence like that can be contested. Fair could be argued to be a relative depiction, not an absolute one. Hell, I know some lighter-skinned black guys whom one could describe as “fair” on a relative basis to other blacks. Let’s look at some art from the time to see how Greeks and Romans viewed themselves. Maybe that will be more convincing.
This mosaic was found in the town of Pompeii. It depicts Alexander the Great as the Romans viewed him in the days of the late republic. You’ll notice that he doesn’t look all that black. I would even go so far as to say that he looks more like an owl than an African, especially with those huge eyes and that sharp nose of his.
Oh, and because the comparison is too juicy to resist:
Incidentally, this is what Plutarch has to say about Alexander’s appearance:
Apelles, however, in painting him as wielder of the thunder-bolt, did not reproduce his complexion, but made it too dark and swarthy. Whereas he was of a fair colour, as they say, and his fairness passed into ruddiness on his breast particularly, and in his face.
Not dark and swarthy, but of a fair color that was tinged with redness? That sounds northern Mediterranean to me, not African.
This is a bust believed to be of Scipio Africanus, the fabled commander who defeated the legendary Hannibal. Do you see what I see? I see a thin, sharp nose and small, thin lips (and also an uncanny resemblance to Winston Churchill).
Next, let’s take a look at an illustration of a herma of the great Greek hero Themistocles.
None of this is meant to be an irrefutable argument, of course, but from where I’m standing, these old dead white guys look a hell of a lot like at one point in time, they were young, living white guys.
Oh, and just for shits and giggles, here’s an Egyptian depiction of some very Mediterranean-looking Egyptians inspecting some African slaves.
Now, there might be some bias in the samples I’ve selected here. You would only get a bust of yourself if you were very elite and accomplished, and it has been observed that in many societies, the elites tend to be more “white-looking” than the commoners. Perhaps the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians were black civilizations, just with a white overclass that ran the show and kept the masses in line. If you’re really grasping at straws because you just can’t stand the idea of white people doing anything worthwhile or important, you could try to argue this. I wish you the best of luck. You’ll need it.
I’m sure if that was the case, though, it was totally the result of systematic oppression and institutional racism perpetuating a pernicious system of white privilege.