June 2nd, 2008

eyes black and white

Quote bleg

I dimly remember a quote about the fallacy of talking of countries as willful entities, I think by a French man using the colonization of Algeria as an example, and saying that things would be clearer if instead of claiming that France send so many troups, we would say that out of a territory inhabited by so many million individuals, a few hundred of those individuals ordered a some ten thousand other individuals to cross the sea and take over another territory.

Can you help me find the original?

That will teach me to not save every quote I like ASAP in my cookie jar.

Answer, thanks to Turion Lugol: it's a paragraph by Parker T. Moon, rather long for my cookie jar, as found on Liberpedia, as excerpted from an article by Bertrand Lemennicier, who like Don Boudreaux may have gotten it from Tom Palmer, unless Tom got it from Bertrand or both from a common source.

Language often obscures truth. More than is ordinarily realized, our eyes are blinded to the facts . . . by tricks of the tongue. When one uses the simple monosyllable "France" one thinks of France as a unit, an entity. When to avoid awkward repetition we use a personal pronoun in referring to a country -- when for example we say "France sent her troops to conquer Tunis" -- we impute not only unity but personality to the country. The very words conceal the facts and make international relations a glamorous drama in which personalized nations are the actors, and all too easily we forget the flesh-and-blood men and women who are the true actors. How different it would be if we had no such word as "France," and had to say instead -- thirty-eight million men, women and children of very diversified interests and beliefs, inhabiting 218,000 square miles of territory! Then we should more accurately describe the Tunis expedition in some such way as this: "A few of these thirty-eight million persons sent thirty thousand others to conquer Tunis." This way of putting the fact immediately suggests a question, or rather a series of questions. Who are the "few"? Why did they send the thirty thousand to Tunis? And why did these obey?