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"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

April 04, 2007


Rob Payne just left this quote in comments here:

"The hostility of those who have power toward those who can be called inferior because they are different—because they are others, the strangers—has been a historical constant. Indeed, at times it seems to be the dominant theme in human history."

--Lewis Hanke

I was pleasantly surprised to see that, because (1) Lewis Hanke was not so well-known to the general public that people quote him often, and (2) he was my grandfather. Even nicer is that—while I first assumed Rob must have known this, and that's why he brought it up—he tells me no, he just read it in a class he was taking and remembered it. And indeed I see that, while I did bring up my grandfather obliquely here once, I didn't mention his name.

In any case, if that quote makes you hungry for more from Lewis Hanke, you might want to check out his book All Mankind is One. And here's a long speech he gave in 1974:

If American historians are fully aware of their opportunities and responsibilities in the world today, they can exert a powerful influence by their teaching and research to the end that we are able to appreciate the history of other peoples without losing allegiance to our own. By studying the history of their own tribes and other tribes as well, historians should be in the forefront of all those who would seek to understand the common elements in all cultures.

BONUS: Other people who've quoted my grandfather? Dinesh D'Souza. We couldn't be prouder!

Posted at April 4, 2007 06:16 PM | TrackBack

That quote ought to be at least as well known , and as widely disseminated, as Lord Acton's famous dictum about power.

It's an equally succinct statement of an even more salient feature of politics.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina at April 4, 2007 08:19 PM

Dinesh D'Souza seems to have missed the point somewhat.

Now we see where you get your un-American ability to remember things that happened more than three years ago!

Posted by: Nell at April 4, 2007 08:46 PM

I'd heard of Lewis Hanke, though I couldn't have told you much about him. I think I knew about him in connection with Las Casas, the 16th century antislavery activist (antislavery in the case of Native Americans--not until late in his life did he start opposing it for Africans, but still, he was as leftist as they came in the 1500's.)

Another quote that deserves wide circulation (I saw it first in Chomsky, but he was quoting Francis Jennings.) It's on page 215 in his history of the French and Indian War "Empire of Fortune" and goes as follows--

"In law, the instigator of a crime is as guilty as the performer, sometimes more so. In history, however, the man in the ruffled shirt and gold-laced waistcoat somehow levitates above the blood he has ordered to be spilled by dirty-handed underlings."

It's overstated. We have no problem condemning the people at the top if they are our enemies. But this quote goes a long way in explaining how American foreign policy works.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 4, 2007 09:02 PM

This is all very disappointing.

I thought Jon's enlightened disposition was something for which he deserved full credit.

But now I see that he inherited it through his genes.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at April 5, 2007 01:06 AM

Your Grandfather would have LOVED the net.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 5, 2007 01:30 AM

Those two links to you provided -- that of your grandfather’s speech and D’Souza are certainly some of the best things I have read in quite a while. Both great thinkers in their own right and they say things that can make you a bit uncomfortable which is a good thing in my view. I think there is always a tendency to stay with that which makes you feel comfortable yet being comfortable is perhaps not the best way to arrive at the truth though one can often wonder if there even is such a thing as the truth when it comes to the human condition. Thank you.

Is it possible to see other than through the lens of the culture you were raised in? I think so though it takes a Herculean effort to overcome that barrier because culture is such a powerful force. One thing is certain and that is once you enter the world of anthropology you can never be quite sure of what is normal and what is not.

Posted by: rob payne at April 5, 2007 04:48 AM

If your grandfather were fully up-to-date, he might have titled his book All Humankind is One.

But seriously - a historical and cross-cultural perspective seems to be essential if one is going to continue to participate in the never-ending struggle for human liberation without getting burnt out over what seems like slow progress and even regression [such as we have had in the Estados Unidos during the regime of caudillo Cheney]. And it helps to be reminded of those of previous centuries - your grandfather and grandmother, and those he wrote about, and so on - may the Creative Forces of the Universe (if any) be with us all.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at April 8, 2007 03:33 PM
All Humankind is One

In fairness to my grandfather (though I suspect he'd probably have used "Mankind" anyway at the time he wrote the book) he was quoting Las Casas.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 8, 2007 09:13 PM

After a slight delay, I, one of Lewis Hanke's two sons, enter to make comments. Dad gave me a copy of his and Gunnar Mendoza's huge three volume two column critical edition with long introduction of Bartolome Arzans de Orsua y Vela's monumental Historia de la Villa Imperial de Potosi, published by Brown University in 1965. I read the entire first volume in my dogged system of some Spanish most days but finally topped out. Interesting but not always. Opening volume one I now find a sheet of paper on which through page 403 I occasionally jotted down mention of picaresque passages, such as "first battle with Indians at Potosi," "Gonzalo Pizzaro's uprising," "la muerte lastimosa de la Senora dona Leonor Fernandez de Cordoba valiendose la maldita Claudia de un infiel criada," "dead Friar Juan de Riveros rebukes grave robber," und so weiter. My father was an industrious man of parts and you are quite right, Jon, he could not have done it without my mother's sharp brain and pencil.

Posted by: Peter Hanke at April 18, 2007 03:32 PM