Unwittingly, Luke Smith ’04 acknowledges his own folly in his op-ed “Bring Back the Dead White Men” (Nov. 6). He condemns Aztec religious philosophy for the “ritual sacrifice of war prisoners” while ignoring the fact that more people have died in conflicts started by the modern westerns he extols than an any other inter-country conflicts in world history. If veritas is indeed his aim, why stress the importance of the Constitution, a document fraught with hypocrisy from the opening lines of “all men created equal” following up with the decision that black slaves are equivalent to three-fifths of a man (a dirty secret is that Thomas Jefferson lost the popular vote but won the presidency on the backs of the extra votes given southerners by their slave holders). He claims that the Western “truth” has shaped a society where women and ethnic groups are treated equally, while ignoring the fact that the governorships and Senate seats (as well as presidencies) remain a largely lilly white affair, not only in this country but in most enlightened western societies.
The problem Smith demonstrates should be familiar to him through his economics classes as the survivor bias and the network effect, whereby the idea that western literature and ideas are superior is self-perpetuating and anyone skeptical of such a claim is dismissed as a multiculturalist out of touch with western reality. I suggest that before Smith continues extolling Western forefathers as veritas he challenge his ingrained beliefs, perhaps reading Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States or Diop’s The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, and only after learning other perspectives make the case for Locke and Hobbes exclusively as required reading.
As last month’s holiday celebrating a mass murderer and racist bigot (Columbus Day) demonstrates, the veritas Smith wants to perpetuate is deeply ingrained in American society, and perhaps a critical look from another perspective might serve all of us well in our quest for truth and knowledge.
Matthew H. Espy ’03
Nov. 6, 2003