CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS IN FITZGERALD’S THE GREAT GATSBYJanuary 8, 2008 at 2:18 am | Posted in Books, Globalization, History, Islam | Leave a comment
Theodore Lothrop Stoddard ‘s
The Rising Tide of Color (1920)
in The Great Gatsby
Lothrop Stoddard and The Rising Tide of Color:
Modern liberals like to praise W.E.B. Du Bois for predicting that race would be the defining issue of the 20th century. But another man, writing at the same time, also made that prediction. Lothrop Stoddard (1883-1950) is not as well remembered as Du Bois and his name is usually paired with words like “racist” and “white supremacist,” but perhaps a better word would be prophet. His major work, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy, was written in 1920 at a time when whites had colonized and ruled most of the world. Stoddard warned that supremacy was about to end and that whites had better prepare for the consequences.
The Rising Tide of Color was so well known in the 1920s that F. Scott Fitzgerald took a poke at it in his 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby.
One of the novel’s least attractive characters expresses enthusiasm for a book by “Goddard:”
“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read “The Rise of the Colored Empires’ by this man Goddard?”
“Why no,” I answered, rather surprised by his tone.”
“Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”
“Tom’s getting very profound,” said Daisy, with an expression of unthoughtful sadness. “He reads deep books with long words in them. What was that word we—”
“Well these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.”
“We’ve got to beat them down,” whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.
“You ought to live in California—” began Miss Baker, but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.
“This idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and—” After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod, and she winked at me again. “—And we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization—oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?”
There was something pathetic in his concentration…
Theodore Lothrop Stoddard:
Theodore Lothrop Stoddard was born in 1883 in Brookline, Massachusetts. His lineage stretched back to 17th century Massachusetts, where Solomon Stoddard held a pastorate in Northampton, Massachusetts. An only child, Stoddard attended Harvard, where he studied history, government and European languages. He graduated magna cum laude in 1905 and traveled in Europe before entering law school. Admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1908, he went back to Harvard to train for a career as an advisor on world affairs, and received his Ph.D. in 1914. His doctoral thesis was published that year as The French Revolution in Santo Domingo, and described the slaughter of whites by black slaves (with the help of French Jacobins) in what is now Haiti. To him the event marked, “the first great shock between the ideals of white supremacy and race equality.” After receiving his Ph.D. he became foreign affairs editor for World’s Work magazine and then turned his attention to writing books on race and civilization.
The Rising Tide of Color (1920) was the most successful of Stoddard’s fifteen books. In 1921 he released The New World of Islam, which further documented the spread of that religion. The Revolt Against Civilization (1922) dealt with the Bolshevik attempt to raise the “underman.” In it Stoddard displayed a hierarchical view not only of races but of individuals. He called for a “neo-Aristocracy” to usher in a progressive era based on biological realities and the findings of science. Racial Realities in Europe (1924) was a detailed comparison of the Nordic, Alpine and Mediterranean stocks of Europe. Stoddard’s ultimate solution to social problems was eugenics, which he discussed in Scientific Humanism (1926). He was a frequent contributor to Margaret Sanger’s journal The Birth Control Review—a fact often pointed out by Sanger’s current critics.
Although others were also writing books on race at this time, Stoddard seemed to have had an especially profound influence. According to the Dictionary of American Biography, “… the peculiar pungency of his style, the global breadth of his vision and his pose of informed expertise made Stoddard an influential propagandist. Invitations to congressional hearings, praise from President Harding, and many favorable reviews of his books, all suggest that Stoddard was important in rationalizing for his country its new immigration laws.”
After passage of the 1924 immigration restrictions, he wrote two more books on race. Reforging America (1927) emphasized the importance of white solidarity in building a European America. Clashing Tides of Color (1935) revisited some of the themes of his most successful work. In it he wrote, ” “The Rising Tide’ has risen portentously, these past fifteen years. Only instead of roaring in like a tidal bore up an estuary, it has become more like a rip-tide—a confused welter of swirling eddies and choppy waves dashing against one another as well as against the confining shores.” Stoddard wrote that he underestimated the impact “Western machine civilization” would have on Asia. He thought the prospect of all-out race war between whites and Asians was diminishing because of antagonisms among Asians caused by Western imports like nationalism and Communism. But whites were not to let down their guard: “That does not mean that Asia’s desire to end Western supremacy has abated. It merely means that the struggle has become much more complex.”
The outbreak of World War II took Stoddard to Germany where he was correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance from 1939-1940. He interviewed Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, and part of his Goebbels interview was published in the January 22, 1940 issue of Time. After returning to the U.S. he wrote Into the Darkness (1940), described by the Dictionary of American Biography as “a fair and honest appraisal of the Nazi state, but not without hints of admiration for Hitler’s eugenic experiments.” After the war he became an editorial writer and foreign affairs expert for the Washington Star.
Though Lothrop Stoddard is now almost always remembered as a “racist” and “white supremacist” he seems to have thought of himself primarily as a foreign affairs expert. A lifelong Unitarian and Republican, Stoddard was also a member of the American Historical Association, the American Political Science Association, and the Academy of Political Science. He died of cancer in Washington D.C. on May 1, 1950 at the age of 66. The New York Times ran an eight-sentence obituary that did not even mention The Rising Tide of Color. According to the Dictionary of American Biography (written in the 1970s), “Obituaries were rare and perfunctory: the findings of science and the sordid realities of Hitler’s Germany had discredited the racial and social views that Stoddard had proclaimed.”
“The Swarming of the Whites”
Stoddard divided whites into Nordics, Alpines and Mediterraneans. While he considered them all sound stock, in his view, the Nordic had made the race great. He argued that traditionally it was Nordics who repelled Asiatic invasions of Europe after Alpines or Mediterraneans had been defeat
Before the 16th century Europe had a civilization no better than Asia’s, but the years 1500 to 1900 marked the “white flood.” This period began with Columbus in 1492 and was established in 1497 with Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a route to India. Stoddard believed these discoveries not only opened new lands to Europeans, but had a profound psychological effect as well. The white man went from static “dead-end” to dynamic discovery:
“… [H]is inherent racial aptitudes had been stimulated by his past. The hard conditions of medieval life had disciplined him to adversity and had weeded him by natural selection. The hammer of Asiatic invasion, clanging for a thousand years on the brown-yellow anvil, had tempered the iron of Europe into the finest steel. The white man could think, could create, could fight superlatively well. No wonder the redskins and negroes feared and adored him as a god, while the somnolent races of the Farther East, stunned by this strange apparition rising from the pathless ocean, offered no effective opposition.
“Thus began the swarming of the whites, like bees from the hive, to the uttermost ends of the earth. And, in return, Europe was quickened to intenser vitality. Goods, tools, ideas, men: all were produced at an unprecedented rate. So, by action and reaction, white progress grew by leaps and bounds… For four hundred years the pace never slackened, and at the close of the nineteenth century the white man stood the indubitable master of the world.”
The thought that this supremacy could end, “never entered the head of one white man in a thousand,” wrote Stoddard. Indeed, in 1920 whites were the most numerous race on earth. Comprising one-third of humanity, they occupied 40 percent of the globe, and controlled 90 percent. He called white expansion “the most prodigious phenomenon in all recorded history… Never before has a race acquired such combined preponderance of numbers and dominion.” Though most whites could not foresee it, Stoddard warned that hegemony was about to be challenged.
Only white solidarity could stop the rising tide of color, but the First World War destroyed this solidarity and showed the colored world that whites were vulnerable through internal discord. Just as the Peloponnesian War was the suicide of Greek civilization (“the saddest page in history,” writes Stod-dard) the Great War threatened to mark the end of white supremacy.
“The war was nothing short of a headlong plunge into race suicide,” wrote Stoddard. He estimates it took 40,000,000 lives including civilians. Moreover, the conflict had a severe dysgenic effect, with the best young men of Europe dying without pas-sing on their genes. The least fit—the cowardly and physically or mentally deficient—were left behind to propagate. Thus in 1920, at the time Stoddard wrote, the heart of the white world lay in ruins. Europe was financially and physically broken, it’s racial solidarity shattered, the flower of its youth dead on the battlefield—it stood at the same crossroads as the Greeks following their fratricidal war. The decisions made then would determine the fate of the white world.
Europeans took root in Africa—at both the northern and southern extremes—in a way they never did in Asia. Over a million Europeans—mostly French—settled in Algeria and Tunisia, and a million and a half Dutch and English in South Africa. With white control firmly established in these areas, the main question for Africa was whether whites could maintain their hold on the inner continent. This would depend on how well they contained the spread of Islam. According to Stoddard, the continent would fall either to white Christians or Islamic browns; Africans themselves would never be masters in their own house.
Stoddard believed the black man’s lack of originality and history made him particularly susceptible to outside ideas and people. Africans readily accepted the religions of both browns and whites, but since blacks were a naturally warlike people, they would be more inclined to accept Islam than Christianity. Islam had not yet penetrated below the equator and Stoddard praised the efforts of Christians to convert blacks:
“In so far as he is Christianized, the negro’s savage instincts will be restrained and he will be predisposed to acquiesce in white tutelage. In so far as he is Islamized, the negro’s warlike propensities will be inflamed, and he will be used as the tool of Arab Pan-Islamism seeking to drive the white man from Africa and make the continent its very own.”
Stoddard warned that “Pan-Islamism, once possessed of the Dark Continent and fired by militant zealots, might forge black Africa into a sword of wrath, the executor of sinister adventures.”
For Stoddard, the real value of Africa lay in its rich raw materials. He believed the European powers were well aware of the brown threat and was confident they could control the spread of Islam. Moreover, whites continued to settle in Africa, making more and more of it “white man’s country.” The real danger to white control lay in potential weakness and discord within the white world itself.
CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS IN
FITZGERALD’S THE GREAT GATSBY