Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The silliest thing Audre Lorde ever said?

"The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House" is the title of an essay by Audre Lorde that some feminists love. I haven't read it, so I can't critique the content, but I can critique the title. Anyone who has worked with a hammer or a pick knows the master's tool are among the very best things for dismantling the master's house.

I'm reminded of this bit from Somerset Maugham's "The Philosopher", where a Chinese philosopher speaks to Maugham around 1920:
"But you, do you know what you are doing?" he exclaimed. "What is the reason for which you deem yourselves our betters? Have you excelled us in arts or letters? Have our thinkers been less profound than yours? Has our civilisation been less elaborate, less complicated, less refined than yours? Why, when you lived in caves and clothed yourselves with skins we were cultured people. Do you know that we tried an experiment which is unique in the history of the world? We sought to rule this great country not by force, but by wisdom. And for centuries we succeeded. Then why does the white man despise the yellow? Shall I tell you? Because he has invented the machine gun. That is your superiority. We are a defenceless horde and you can blow us into eternity. You have shattered the dream of our philosophers that the world could be governed by the power of law and order. And now you are teaching our young men your secret. You have thrust your hideous invention upon us. Do you not know that there are in this country four hundred millions of the most practical and industrious people in the world? Do you think it will take us long to learn? And what will become of your superiority when the yellow man can make as good guns as the white and fire them as straight? You have appealed to the machine gun and by the machine gun shall you be judged."
I checked Lorde's write-up on Wikipedia. I was amused to see that her legal name was Audrey; poets just have a streak of pretension. Apparently she did a little factory work, but she can't have done much, or she would know that if you want to change the world, you have to make the master's tools your own.

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