Monday, April 10, 2006

Wheatcroft and Numerlogy

Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s ignorant diatribe about the Easter Rising in the Observer is so wrong-headed that one does not know where to start by way of refutation, and it isn’t really worth the effort. But one passage stands out as particularly risible: the resort to numerology. Wheatcroft tells us that Yeats eulogised those executed by the British after the Easter Rising. And Hitler built a great mausoleum in Munich to the “old comrades” who fell in 1923: “They were just the same number, 16 dead men”. QED. Perhaps this methodology should be generalised? Suppose we add the number of Kikuyu tortured or hanged by the British during the Kenyan “Emergency” to the number butchered at Amritsar, multiple that by the number of unnecessary deaths by famine in India between 1879 and 1908 (between 12-33 million), divide by the five million who died in the Bengal famine of 1945, and subtract the million odd who died in the Irish famine in the 1840’s. Then multiple this by the square root of those who died in British concentration camps during the Boer War, add the number of Africans equipped with pointy sticks who were mown down by British soldiers armed with Gatling guns all over Africa in the nineteenth century, and subtract the number of slaves shipped to the Americas by British slavers over several hundred years (and divide that by the number who died en route). Then multiple that by the number of civilians killed by loyalist assassins acting in collusion with M15 in Mid-Ulster in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and finally – lest we be here all day – subtract both the number of sepoys blown from the mouths of canons and villagers hanged on a whim after the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the number of croppies hanged after the ’98. My computational wizardry reveals the answer: 666, the mark of the Beast, which proves…bugger all, actually. Oh, and Wheatcroft says that if the Irish celebrate the Easter Rising they are in no “moral position” to criticise “violent insurrections against lawful government” in other contexts. On the other hand, Wheatcroft as an Englishman already occupies the moral high ground. By right of birth.


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