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George Borrow, self satisfied fool, Frederick Douglass, hero

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:49 am    Post subject: George Borrow, self satisfied fool, Frederick Douglass, hero Reply with quote

Surprisingly, George Borrow admired 'Harry' Morgan, the Welsh pirate. He said he was 'a scourge, it is true, but he was a scourge of God on the cruel Spaniards of the New World, the merciless taskmasters and butchers of the Indian race.' It's rare to see a British person of this time expressing indignation on behalf of Native Americans.

But Borrow was as inconsistent as most people. He met some Johnny Foreigner type in a turban. This character said he was a Christian who had been kept in slavery by Muslims for many years. Looking at his features with distaste, Borrow inquired if he had never been of the Jewish persuasion. He obviously suffered from the Judeophobia that was universal in Europe before the Nazis put it beyond the pale.

He reluctantly and gingerly accepted a leaflet from him. It was all about the importance of sweetness and light and had a strong anti-slavery message. Borrow dismissed it with disgust as 'cant.' It only needed a temperance appeal to make it a perfect medley of 'humbug.'

Borrow obviously thought opponents of slavery were hypocrites who didn't believe their own propaganda. He gave short shrift to an African American he met who had escaped from slavery and made a living by speaking at abolitionist meetings. Borrow told him that he was himself the greatest argument for the retention of slavery. Like all Blacks he was lazy, and fit only to labour under compulsion. He was quite repulsed by the man's appearance. He perceived it as 'brutish...'scarcely resembling a human being.'

This was a time when British cartoons showed Irishmen as chimps in cages. The editor of the Irish 'Nation' newspaper was called 'Mr G O' Rilla' in these comic strips, and he looked just like a gorilla.

Frederick Douglass had been born into slavery in the southern USA. He prayed for freedom for twenty years but it was only when he began 'praying with his feet', that he achieved it. As a boy he had persuaded a white woman to teach him to read. She might not have known that it was illegal to enable a slave to become literate. Frederick's owner told her off in front of the boy as if he could not understand. Literacy would ruin the best slave in the world. The fool had inadvertently shown him the road to advancement.

To avoid recapture, Douglass came to Ireland and England. He was in Ireland on the eve of the famine, and saw 'much to remind me of my former situation.' Until recently, it had been illegal to educate Catholic children. Teachers had nervously held illegal 'hedge schools.' Douglass reminded himself that it would be unbecoming to seek liberty for himself alone. He should remember that the cause of humanity was 'one, the world over.'

Irish peasants lived in miserable mud huts called cabins. Their only food was the potato, 'their only beverage water'. But it was about to get worse, much worse. The historian, AJP Taylor was never one to mince words. He said that in 1945, British troops liberated Belsen, and found 'scenes of unimaginable horror.' A hundred years previously, 'the whole of Ireland was a Belsen.'

Back in the USA, Douglass addressed abolitionist meetings. Such was the power of poisonous propaganda, that even those who disapproved of slavery, sometimes doubted that African Americans were quite people in the way that they were themselves.

The chairman took advantage of the audience's worked up feelings to demand, "Have we been listening to a thing, a chattel personal or to a man?" "A man! A man!" exclaimed the excited audience. "Should such a man be held as a slave in a Christian land?" "No! No!" they responded, now on their feet.

George Borrow reminded himself how lucky he was to have his wife. She was so docile. He had her well trained. She knew quite a few recipes.

According to Carl Sagan in 'The Demon Haunted World', Frederick Douglass opposed the extermination of Native Americans, and was one of the few men of any ethnic background to support extending political rights to women. In the 1890s, Douglass made a rousing and inspirational speech to a women's suffrage meeting. He was given a standing ovation. That night, he had a stroke or heart attack and died. He died, said Sagan, a true American hero.

Borrow, on the other hand, was a bit of a nitwit. He didn't think so of course. He had a very high opinion of himself. As long as he and his ego were happy together, that's all that matters. But we should have an indulgent and sympathetic awareness that he was the product of another age, and even for his time, he was not especially sensible or enlightened. We should make allowances, but he was an oddity, not an inspiration.
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