According to The Telegraph today, it turns out Richard Dawkins isn't in fact Britain's greatest living public intellectual and liberal secularist (as people like me believe), but he's actually a carrier of the evil slave-owner gene. That explains why he is so militant and smug; it's to distract us from the unpaid cotton-pickers he's got chained up in the cellars and stables of his vast hereditary estate. Of course he doesn't really have slaves, and nor does he have a vast hereditary estate, but let's not get facts, reality, proportion, or obvious ulterior motive get in way of a good blog post.
Is it news that a living person has ancestors who did things that would be considered unacceptable by today's standards? Aren't something like one in two hundred of the world's male population supposed to be descendants of Genghis Khan? On the very real chance that I am one of them I would like to apologise and offer reparations to all descendants of his raped and pillaged victims. Except that I'm probably descended from those people too. And what about the high probability that I'm also descended from slave-owners, and slaves. And murderers, rapists, inbreeders, cannibals, small vole-like mammals, lunatics and single-celled lifeforms. The only thing my ancestors have in common is that they all lived to reproductive age and successfully bred; an unbroken chain of billions of years of baby-makers.
And guess what. You all share that exact same line with me. You only need to go back a few generations before we all have the same names and faces in our tree. You, me, Richard Dawkins, the wacky-doodle author of the Telegraph blog, the catfish I ate from a tin yesterday, Adolf Hitler, Jackie Chan, and Justin Bieber. We all descend from slaves and slave owners (except maybe the catfish, I think it might be not guilty of that charge). Some of us can trace this directly, by being a member of historically significant, wealthy, and influential family. Dawkins is a member of a minorly significant family who made money and kept good records. Unfortunately for him, a more recent ancestor than his rich slave-owner ancestor, pissed it all away on frivolous law suits. Now the family riches is a share in a struggling working farm, and a weird attack in a broadsheet newspaper. Dawkins' money is his own, not the ill gotten gains of the proverbial father.
There are larger, wealthier, better documented, and more powerful families who owe their current wealth to a history of violence, oppression and slave-ownership. The founding fathers of America, the royal families of Europe, the Catholic Church, the Church of England, the... oh wait, it's everyone. But if everyone is a descendant of slave owners and slaves, who do we pay our reparations to? Our friends? Our family? A random stranger from across the planet? People who have inherited the surname of a slave? People currently enslaved? Do we have a mass mess of money being sent willy-nilly in the name of reparations?
A quick search into a random public figure's ancestry: I have chosen David Cameron. There is a Wikipedia page about Cameron's family with a link to his great x4 great-uncle Admiral Sir James Hanway Plumridge, KCB, MP (1788-1863). During the Crimean War, as a Rear-Admiral, Plumridge attacked Finnish settlements, receiving criticism for targeting civilian populations and destroying Finnish goods which had already been purchased by British customers (ie pillaging his own nation). Even after this he continued rising up the ziggarut. Look forward to hearing about this in the Telegraph as a personal attack on David Cameron.
The original Telegraph piece (if it hasn't been edited or deleted):
Dawkins' own response: