Tuesday, April 1, 2008

This is probably of no interest to most of you

Since I've gotten a couple hits recently from people Googling James Denson Sayers, I thought I'd mention something for any such future searches (also, I found the passage I'm going to share very amusing). If you were to Google this name yourself, you would see mention of "author and Esperantist James Denson Sayers".

Is this, however, the same person who wrote Can the White Race Survive?, or is it just someone with the same name? The latter is possible--the author of The Ultimate Solution to the American Negro Problem was Edward Eggleston, a Virginian who only had the same name as an author from Indiana.

This page suggests that Sayers was an author beyond just Can the White Race Survive?, writing under the pseudonyms Denver Bardwell and Dan James. Assuming this is correct--and I don't know either way--that would make him an author. But what about Esperantist?

There certainly was a fervent proponent of Esperanto by the name of James Denson Sayers around the same time. And it was almost certainly the author of Can the White Race Survive?, when you look at this excerpt from his chapter on the Jews:
I once heard an interesting series of lectures, the theme of which was to show that the three greatest men of all time were Jews: Jesus Christ, Karl Marx, and Ludwig L. Zamenhof.

Right now, some of you may be going "Who?" Zamenhof was the creator of Esperanto. I'm always tickled reading that sentence: the three greatest men of all time were Jesus, Marx, and some guy no-one remembers.

Anywho, Sayers continues:
One did not have to be a Christian, Socialist nor Esperantist to be profoundly interested by the reasoning of the speaker, who went on to outline an ideal, hypothetical world in which the teachings of Christ, the social readjustments proposed by Marx, and the neutral, simplified world language of Zamenhof were applied by the best brains of the world. A happy brotherhood of mankind was attained, in which the more fortunately endowed of intellect used their natural gifts for the common good instead of for selfish superiority. He stressed the important fact that those three Jews did their life-work without expectation of material reward and died in sacrifice for their principles.

12 comments:

Les said...

Zamenhof also reaches Dr. Brommer's top ten list. That's the crazy soap guy.

The book you mention is listed as being published in 1929. Esperanto was a gigantic social movement in the late 20's and early 30's. It had a huge amount of momentum, but tended to make the ruling class very nervous because it too easily facilitated conversation among people of different nations. Hitler thought it was a Jewish conspiracy and killed all the Esperantists he could find. Stalin wasn't too keen on the proletariat actually talking to each other and so took his own measures (there's a lot of 'native' esperantists in Siberia right now). In the US, it was crushed under a red scare. This is why ELNA - the Esperanto League for North America, only dates as far back as the 1950's. Alas, a significant portion of their membership learned esperanto originally in the 30's and are now dying off.

So a mention of Esperanto in a book from 1929 could just be a coincidence. I think it's really weird that somebody could be both an avid Esperantist and anti-Semitic and racist. The language was invented by Zamenhof, partly with the idea of fighting anti-semitism. He's practically deified among many Esperantists, even now. When he wrote his book "The International Language," it was illegal for Jews to publish, so the author is listed as "Dr Esperanto" - one who hopes. The language gets it's name from the author credit.

There's an ideology of universal brotherhood, sharing, cross-cultural communication and anti-colonialism attached to the language. I don't read dead racists, but this seems to all be at odds with racism.

I feel compelled to add that millions of people around the world speak Esperanto.

Les said...

You got me curious here and I've just learned that Sayers was one of the founders of ELNA! ( http://www.geocities.com/origlit/autor/sayers.html ) Have you contacted them to ask if it's the same guy?

Alas, the person most able to answer any questions you might have had just died.

Anyway, you can call them up. 1-800-Esperanto. No, that's not a joke, but if they got tired of paying for the prank calls (there was talk of getting rid of the number), they're also on the internet.

I've always found them to be extremely helpful as much as they were able, but I've never called up and asked if their founder was a racist lunatic. If it was the same guy, somebody there will know about it. If it's not the same guy, I'm going to feel relived, actually, since I used to belong to ELNA.

Anyway, if the guy's texts in English are fucked up, probably so are his Esperanto texts. I'm curious enough about this to offer my aid in translating. (For example, Invito al ĉielo http://www.geocities.com/origlit/roman/libr/invitciel.html is a science fiction novel taking place on Mars, according to the synopsis there.)

Skemono said...

Zamenhof also reaches Dr. Brommer's top ten list. That's the crazy soap guy.
I'm afraid I don't follow.

The book you mention is listed as being published in 1929.
Correct.

Esperanto was a gigantic social movement in the late 20's and early 30's. It had a huge amount of momentum, but tended to make the ruling class very nervous because it too easily facilitated conversation among people of different nations. Hitler thought it was a Jewish conspiracy and killed all the Esperantists he could find. Stalin wasn't too keen on the proletariat actually talking to each other and so took his own measures (there's a lot of 'native' esperantists in Siberia right now). In the US, it was crushed under a red scare. This is why ELNA - the Esperanto League for North America, only dates as far back as the 1950's. Alas, a significant portion of their membership learned esperanto originally in the 30's and are now dying off.
Interesting to know. Thanks for the lesson.

So a mention of Esperanto in a book from 1929 could just be a coincidence.
I suppose it is conceivable that there were two people named James Denson Sayers in the US in the 1920s who were both fans of Esperanto, and one is remembered "esperantist James Denson Sayers" while the other wrote the book Can the White Race Survive. I however find it unlikely.

I think it's really weird that somebody could be both an avid Esperantist and anti-Semitic and racist.
Sayers had a kind of gray view of the Jews. He bought into a lot of the anti-Semitic notions of Jews as penny-pinching, misanthropic misers who swindle everyone else, but he also recognized great achievements and philanthropy from Jews. Here's an excerpt from Can the White Race Survive?, at the beginning of his chapter on Jews:
The Jew! What a world of thought, of conjecture, of theorizing has been centered about this strange wanderer among the nations; what mountains of hypotheses have been tediously constructed about him and against him; and what strange extremes of nature have sprung from the seed of his father, Abraham: The gentle, lovable Nazarene, who could inspire unnumbered thousands to die for their faith in his teachings; and the opposite kind, the hardened, dehumanized, money-worshiping type so well portrayed by Shakespeare, in his character Shylock. The one would die for this world of weakling beings, the other would sacrifice others to gratify his inordinate craving for material gain. We have many inspired to do good, like Nathan Straus, but we have the Jewish landlord who must be forced by law to furnish heat to his tenants.
Later he suggests that the "Jewish landlord" type is just a recent phenomenon, even:
When we read the history covering the last two thousand years of the Jews, though we have recently been gouged by the Jewish landlord, cheated by the little shopkeeper misrepresenting his shoddy goods, frozen through a severe post-coal strike winter by the Jewish coal horder, we can emerge from our more immediate emotions with amazement and lofty admiration for a people who could preserve their racial integrity and their religious zeal and have such a small evidence of vengeful bitterness against their oppressors after a long nightmare of persecution.
Part of it may have been that Sayers, unlike many others, considered Jews as just a subset of Whites:
I make the unqualified assertion that the Jewish people, as a whole, are the purest surviving portion of the White race.

There's an ideology of universal brotherhood, sharing, cross-cultural communication and anti-colonialism attached to the language. I don't read dead racists, but this seems to all be at odds with racism.
Racism comes in many forms. Many racists would insist that they, too, shared ideas of universal brotherhood, sharing, and communication. They would insist that other races are inferior, but say that this was no reason not to extend brotherhood to them, nor to talk to them. Indeed, one might go so far as to say that if we cannot talk to them, how can we ever give them real civilization and religion?

Skemono said...

You got me curious here and I've just learned that Sayers was one of the founders of ELNA!
Interesting. According to one of his letters to the New York Times, he was also president of the Harmonio Esperanto Club of New York. At least in 1923.

Have you contacted them to ask if it's the same guy?
'Fraid not. I may do so later.

I've always found them to be extremely helpful as much as they were able, but I've never called up and asked if their founder was a racist lunatic.
Yeah, that... that might strike a nerve with someone.

If it's not the same guy, I'm going to feel relived, actually, since I used to belong to ELNA.
Oh, don't worry about it. I mean, have you looked at some of the people who signed our Declaration of Independence?

Anyway, if the guy's texts in English are fucked up, probably so are his Esperanto texts.
Well, I only know of the one racist text he authored. The page I linked to in the main post suggests that most of his other books were Western novels--at least, judging by the titles.

Les said...

I just emailed SFERO - the San Francisco Esperanto group, which also happens to include most of ELNA's leadership, to ask if it was the same Sayers.

Good point about the 'benevolent' white man's burden racism. Also, if he was not anti-Semitic, it does make it much more likely that it's the same person. Alas, maybe I should take my ELNA card out of my wallet.

Dr Bronner: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._H._Bronner

If you look at the picture of the soap there, you'll see the label is full of 8 or 10 point type going on and on and on about Bronner's strange, but harmless theology. It's great soap, too.


. . . And it's almost 5:00AM in my time zone, so goodnight.

Skemono said...

I just emailed SFERO - the San Francisco Esperanto group, which also happens to include most of ELNA's leadership, to ask if it was the same Sayers.
Keep me informed, please. I'm curious too.

If you look at the picture of the soap there, you'll see the label is full of 8 or 10 point type going on and on and on about Bronner's strange, but harmless theology. It's great soap, too.
Uhh... wow. That is wacky.

. . . And it's almost 5:00AM in my time zone, so goodnight.
G'night.

Um. According to Sitemeter, you're in Birmingham, ja? I may be going there myself in the near future. Any places you'd recommend I visit?

Les said...

Reply to list #1 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/esperanto-nordkalifornio/message/3689

With my bad translation (this guy s really fluent and I'm rusty as hell):

This same question shows up like every day on "ehist" - the discussion list for esperanto history.

And it shows up on this english language blog:
http://skemono.blogspot.com/2008/04/this-is-probably-of-no-interest-to-most.html

More information can be found at:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url?%5Fencoding=UTF8&search-type\
=ss&index=books&field-author=James%20Denson%20Sayers

Almost indoubtably, it's the same person.

-Firstly, James Sayers" might be the name of multiple people, but "Denson" is an uncommon middle name. If you do a google search, you get the impression that it's a rare name.

Sayers mentions, seemingly approvingly, the idea that Zamenhof was one fo the three most important people in history and I doubt that a non-esperantist would say that.

Besides, I read "Invito al cxielo" many years ago and I clearly recall that it presents a worldview based mainly on the beliefs of the Jehova's Witnesses. But including also the idea that race-mixing is a terrible thing, that undermines human diversity as ordained by god. "Invito al cxielo" is an espernato-language sci-fi novel by Sayers, which came out in 1951 or 1952.

One seller on Amazon describes "Can the White Race Survive?" thusly:

"Comments: 1929 Independednt Publishing Co HC in pink cloth with titles
blocked in white. 1st edition. Square and sound. Numerous photo ills of
individuals and groups attempt to demonstrate the downfall of prominent past
world cultures through the effects of miscegenation. Facile and specious
argument of the author used as justification by later racist groups and the
KKK. Binding sound; unmarked save for a lightly pencilled anecdote regarding
the reply of Dumas to an inquiry of his "mixed blood". Mild rub to cloth
bottom edge with one corner a little frayed. Spine lightly sunned. Uncommon.
VG"

You can't ignore the fact that a certain number of esperantists have their own "internal idea" of Esperanto, that functions as a part of a larger system for correctly (according to them) regulating international, interpersonal interracial or intercivilizational relations. Sometimes that includes the idea that concerned groups must preserve their integrity and specific identity, and not miscegenate with other groups.

Sayers' case wasn't truly unique. I remember reading in old numbers of "German Esperantists" (from the time just ahead of WW1) stating that Esperanto is the language of "white culture." A few years later, there were a surprising number (about 200) of german esperantists who joined the Association of Nazi Esperantists and noticed that was also in GEA (?) Nazi esperantists. Also, in Italy there was fascist activity in many esperanto groups in that epoch.

That affair understandably doesn't cancel the positive actions and progressive attitudes of many other esperantists. Nevertheless, it's good to learn something about these historical cases because then you can more critically examine the ideologies which contemporary esperantists identify with the language.

With friendly regards from Gary

Les said...

So the original American Esperanto Group was shut down by McCarthy. The people who picked it back up weren't the previous leaders. The most prominent Esperantists were unable to be leaders. In fact, they kind of needed right wing types to take over because any hint of progressivism would have gotten them back in front of the Unamerican Activities hearings. Anyway, now Elna is like 100% nerd, so, uh. Yeah. This is part of why Marget Mead said that a truly international (second) language had to have a non-european root. Esperanto is a romance language.

You're coming to Birmingham, England?? This must be for a convention or something, right? The center area is kind of nice to walk around. There's a canal and an old cathedral and way too much shopping. Also, there's some interesting art galleries. I'm specifically thinking of the Ikon Gallery. You could definitely keep yourself occupied for a day or two.

Oh, and there's Cadbury World. The candy company is headquartered here and apparently they have some sort of theme park? Word around school is that you should be drunk to go to it, but the Brits seem like to be drunk during all their leisure activities, so who knows.

I'll translate the second reply later. How did it get to be 1am already? I'm supposed to meet my advisor tomorrow. damn.

Skemono said...

Reply to list #1
Keen! Thanks for the investigative work.

You're coming to Birmingham, England?? This must be for a convention or something, right?
My company is sending me to Oxford for training, basically. I'm planning on maybe visiting someone in Birmingham while I'm there.

Thanks for all the suggestions!

Les said...

And #2 (I thought I saw an announcement that the guy who wrote this died. I was all sad. Apparently, you can lose fluency as quickly as you can gain it.)

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/esperanto-nordkalifornio/message/3690


Esteemed Peoples,

I am nearly certain that James Denson Sayers is the "Jim Sayers" mentioned a few places in the text "A History of the Esperanto League for North America, Inc." Jim Sayers was a member of the "North American Esperanto Reorganization Committee" in 1952, which also consisted of Howard Latham, Elwyn Pollock and Glenn Turner. In late 1952, this committee instigated (plebian - knowledged??) which resulted in a board of directors of 14 members, including Jim Sayers. The board then appointed Sayers editor of the new newsletter North American Esperanto Review. He resigned after the first issue and David Richardson was appointed editor. Coincidentally Sayers and Richardson served together in in Frankfurt, Germany in 1946. Sayers was an information officer (I think in the US Army) and Richardson worked for the American Forces Network (radio station). During that time, they helped a lot with the first post-war meeting of German Esperantists.

Sayers was vice president of ELNA 1954- 1956.

Maybe this information will help.

Bill Harmon

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact that James Denson Sayers was an author who wrote under the names of Denver Bardwell and Dan James, as well as, a few others. He was fluent in 6+ languages and help in the development of Esperanto.
And Yes, He also wrote the book Can The White Race Survive.
He was also an interpeter during the peace talks with Winston Churchhill and went through the Concentration Camps and saw the mass graves. It had a profound effect on him and he spoke of the horrors he had seen.

I know all of this because he is my great uncle.

I actually have Esperanto books written by my uncle, as well as, some of his other books.

We are very proud of him. People do change and learn from their experience.

Skemono said...

And Yes, He also wrote the book Can The White Race Survive.
Indeed! Well, thanks for the final confirmation.