Review: “Go Set A Watchman” By Harper Lee -
Zero Tolerance For Racism Or Constructive Engagement?
By Dr Gideon Polya
20 July, 2015
20 July, 2015
Harper Lee has followed her “To Kill A Mockingbird” (1960) with a sequel “Go Set A Watchman” (2015), actually written before the first novel but set 20 years after the events of the first novel. This novel raises the key issue of how decent people should respond to racism - with zero tolerance or constructive engagement from within. Continuing African-American and Palestinian disenfranchisement, inequality and segregation in the 21st century demand zero tolerance for racism.
Harper Lee's acclaimed, Pullitzer Prize-winning first novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” (1960) is set in the American Deep South in the early 1930s in the fictional
“To kill a Mockingbird” was made into an Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Pack as Atticus and became an American icon for so adroitly exposing racial discrimination in the
“Go Set A Watchman”  was actually written as a first draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and was recently re-discovered and published with great attendant interest and speculation in 2015. The title of “Go Set A Watchman” derives from Isaiah 21:6 in The Holy Bible (King James version): "For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth”. This Old Testament Biblical assertion is made in the context of the Assyrian invasion of
Now the world today is acutely threatened, with nuclear weapons, poverty and climate change being the greatest threats to Humanity. Informed, humane and forthright people are the Watchmen (Watchpersons) of society and speak out for Humanity and the Biosphere, whether at the level of individuals or specific species and ecosystems or at the global level in relation to humans rights abuse and, in particular, actual or potential avoidable deaths (avoidable mortality, excess deaths, excess mortality, deaths that should not happen) from state nuclear terrorism, from violence or violently-imposed deprivation, or from man-made climate change and worsening climate genocide [3, 4, 5].
The Watchpersons “speaking out” or “declaring what they seeth” is fundamental for rational risk management that is crucial for societal safety and which successively involves (a) accurate information from truth-telling , (b) scientific analysis, this involving the critical testing of potentially falsifiable hypotheses, and (c) informed systemic change to minimize risk. Unfortunately, this rational risk management protocol is typically perverted at the individual, family or local level, or at the level of the family of nations by (a) lying, self-deception, spin, obfuscation, intimidation, truth-obfuscating “constructive engagement” and censorship, (b) anti-science spin, this involving the selective use of asserted facts to support a partisan position, and (c) blame and shame that is counterproductive because it blocks reportage crucial for rational risk management and in the worst cases leads to war .
Indeed in the Western Plutocracies, Murdochracies, Lobbyocracies, Corporatocracies and Dollarocracies the truth available from informed and humane Watchmen is perverted by Big Money which purchases people, politicians, parties, policies, public perception of reality and political power. Indeed the purchase of political power provides a positive feedback to ensure ever more perversion of the truth. Thus not just the Deep South but all the Western Lobbyocracies are perverted by Mainstream media, politician and academic lying by commission or omission [6, 7], to the extent that, in relation to man-made climate change, it is now very unlikely that a catastrophic 2 degrees Centigrade temperature rise will be avoided [8, 9] .
Harper Lee in both novels is a truth-telling Watchman. Without giving too much of the story away, “Go Set a Watchman” is set in the same fictional Alabama town of Maycombe with the same key characters of Jean Louise (“Scout”) Finch, now in her mid-20s , living in New York, and visiting Maycombe, and Scout's father, Atticus Finch, now in his mid-70s and running his law firm with the help of Scout's childhood neighbour and long-time friend and boyfriend Henry “Hank” Clinton. Atticus' sister Alexandra (“Xandra”) now looks after the Finch household, the much loved and caring Black cook Calpurnia having retired from looking after Atticus and helping to raise the children. Aunt Alexandra is conscious of the high local standing of the Finch family and regards Henry as “White trash” (his father having run away and his drunken mother dying on the railway tracks ) . Another key character is Atticus' brother Dr John “Jack” Finch who is a very well-read and opinionated medical doctor and very fond of his niece. Scout's brother Jem has died young (like his mother) and Scout's childhood friend Dill, like Henry, went off to war, but Dill stayed in
However in Part 3 the mood changes. Atticus and Henry attend a meeting of the Whites-only Morecombe County Citizens' Council at the courthouse. Scout (as in the trial of “To Kill a Mockingbird”) witnesses the proceedings from upstairs in the Coloured Balcony and sees her father and boyfriend sitting on either side of a rabid racist speaker Grady O'Hanlon who Atticus introduces. Scout is appalled by O'Hanlon's bottom-of-the barrel, red-neck racist speech and feels betrayed by the father who has always been her moral guide: “The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted has failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, “He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman”, had betrayed her, publicly, grossly and shamelessly” (Chapter 8, page 113 ). Sickened to the point of vomiting, Scout tells Aunt Alexandra to tell Atticus and Henry when they come home that she is “indisposed”, and takes to her bed: “Had she insight, could she have pierced the barriers of her highly selective, insular world, she may have discovered that all her life she had been with a visual defect which had gone unnoticed and neglected by herself and those closest to her: she was born color blind” (Chapter 10, page 122, ).
It gets worse. The Finchs are breakfasting when Hank calls round to say that the Sheriff has reported that Calpurnia's grandson Frank, the son of her son Zeebo, has accidentally run over and killed a drunken White man called Mr Healy. Hank has told the Sheriff to tell Zeebo that Atticus Finch would not take the case. Atticus rejoined “You shouldn't have done that, Hank … of course we'll take it” (Chapter 11, page 148, ). Scout goes to Calpurnia's place and is shown in by Zeebo. Scout tells Calpurnia that “Mr Finch'll… help him” but ”The words died on her lips. Day before yesterday she would have said “Mr Finch‘ll help him” (Chapter 11, pages 158-159, ). Scout is shocked by Calpurnia's realistic acceptance that Frank will “Go to jail with or without Mr Finch” and when Scout says “
Scout has powerful conversations with Atticus, Alexandra, Henry and Uncle Jack, and is appalled by their complicity in the racist status quo of Black disenfranchisement and segregation that is now getting the attention of the Supreme Court thanks to the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People). Her immediate angry response is to want to go straight back to New York where she doesn't even notice if a Black person is sitting next to her on a train or in a diner. I'll leave you to read the book, the arguments and the outcome. However the bottom line is whether decent people like Scout should have zero tolerance for racism or engage in polite constructive dialogue with an overwhelmingly racist society.
The price of the pudding is in the eating. Half a century on from the heady days of the 1960s - when Black Americans finally got to have formal equality, desegregation and the right to vote - constructive engagement and tolerance of “politically correct racism” (PC racism) has meant that African-Americans are subject to massive inequality, segregation and disenfranchisement as summarized below (for details and documentation see ):
1. African Americans living in poverty is at a record high of 27%.
2. African Americans are disproportionately impoverished – 27.4% of African Americans live in poverty versus 9.6% of Whites not Hispanic, 10.5% of Asians, 12.3% of Whites, and 23.5% of Hispanics of any race (2013).
3. African American wealth is about 5 times lower than that of Whites e.g. a $75,040 average home value for Black Americans versus $217,150 for Whites (2013) and $154,285 average for household assets for Black Americans versus $783,224 for Whites (2013).
4. The Black-White discrepancy has been locked in for 50 years e.g. 2 times higher unemployment rate for African Americans than for Whites since 1963 (in the range from 1.8 times higher to 2.7 times higher).
5. Millions of African Americans are excluded from voting e.g. nearly 80% of adult males in the
6. African Americans and Hispanic Americans have about half their “fair share” of representatives in Congress and 5-6 times less Congressional representation than Jewish Americans.
7. African Americans are 8 times more likely to murder and 6 times more likely to be murdered than Whites.
8. African American males are disproportionately involved in violent crime e.g. 50% of all black males and 38% of white men will be arrested by the age of 23 and in 2008, black youths, who make up 16% of the youth population, accounted for 52% of juvenile violent crime arrests, including 58% for homicide and 67% for robbery.
9. Black Americans suffer from Educational Apartheid (aka Segregation) e.g. 40 percent of Latinos and 39 percent of blacks now attend intensely segregated schools and the average Latino and black student is now in a school with about 60 percent of students from families who are near or below the poverty line [11, 12].
10. African American Congress representatives and leaders betray African-Americans, anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, human rights and Palestinians, and back genocidally racist Apartheid
Indeed “polite constructive engagement” rather than “zero tolerance for racism” and “zero tolerance for inequity” means that 1.5 million Americans die preventably each year from deprivation in a Neocon American and Zionist Imperialist (NAZI)-dominated America that has committed to a $40 trillion longterm accrual cost of support for One Percenters, Apartheid Israel and the Zionist-backed US War on Muslims that since the US Government's 9-11 false-flag operation (3,000 killed) has involved 10 million Muslims being killed through violence or violently–imposed deprivation and 20 million Americans dying preventably at home [13, 14, 15].
For anti-racist Jews and indeed all anti-racist humanitarians the core moral messages from the Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million dead, 1 in 6 dying from deprivation) and from the more general WW2 European Holocaust (30 million Slav, Jewish and Gypsy dead) are “zero tolerance for racism”, “never again to anyone”, “bear witness” and “zero tolerance for lying”. Indeed anti-racist Jews and anti-racist non-Jews are resolute in their opposition to racist Zionists (RZs), Apartheid
(1) over 90% of
(2) 2 million Palestinians have been killed by violence (0.1 million) or violently-imposed deprivation (1.9 million) since 1936 ;
(3) of 12 million Palestinians, 6 million are forbidden to even step foot in their own country, 4.3 million Occupied Palestinians exist without human rights as hostages of genocidally racist Apartheid Israel and only 14%, 1.7 million Palestinian Israelis, are permitted to vote for the government ruling all of Palestine, albeit as Third Class citizens under the race laws of democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel;
(4) the 36% of Israeli subjects who are Occupied Palestinians cannot vote for the Government ruling them;
(5) avoidable deaths in Apartheid
(6) Apartheid Israel has 80-100 nuclear warheads (with the material for 200 more) as compared to the US (4,800), Russia (5,700), France (290), China (250), the UK (120), Pakistan (100-120), India (90-110), North Korea (6-8) and Iran (zero) [4, 21];
(7) the annual GDP per capita is $4,900 for Occupied Palestine as compared to $33,400 for Apartheid Israel, and over 4,000 Palestinians die avoidably each year from Zionist-imposed deprivation;
(8) 20 million Americans have died preventably since 9-11 linked to the huge fiscal perversion of a $40 trillion longterm accrual cost to America of supporting Apartheid Israel and the post-1990 Zionist-backed US War on Muslims in which 13 million Muslims have died avoidably from violence or from violently-imposed deprivation [14, 15, 22] .
Zionism is genocidal racism in awful theory and horrendous practice and accordingly should be sidelined from public life as have been like racists such as the Nazis, neo-Nazis, Apartheiders and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). However “polite constructive engagement” and ruthless Zionist subversion has resulted in Zionist domination of Western Mainstream media and political parties and the Western myth of a “2-state solution peace process” in a land that has been over 90% ethnically cleansed of Indigenous Palestinians. Thus the racist Zionists (RZs) – who are the world's worst anti-Arab anti-Semites (by promotion of the Palestinian Genocide and the Muslim Genocide) and the world's worst anti-Jewish anti-Semites (by false defamation of anti-racist Jews and false and defamatory conflation of all Jews with the genocidal crimes of Apartheid Israel) – have been highly successful in falsely labelling opposition to Israeli genocide and Apartheid as “anti-Semitism” and, through bribery, threats and blackmail, obtaining the resolute support of the major Western political parties (e.g. the Democrats and Republicans in the US, the Tories and Labour in the UK and the Coalition and Labor in Australia).
The key proposition in Harper Lee's marvellous new book “Go Set a Watchman” is whether decent people should respond to deadly evils like racism and gross inequality with “zero tolerance” (like Scout) or with “polite constructive engagement” (like Atticus, Henry, Uncle Jack and Aunt Alexandra).
No doubt the endlessly lying Mainstream media , politician and academic presstitutes will resolutely ignore or obfuscate this clear proposition. However the deadliness of both racism and of inequality demands zero tolerance for both these evils. Thus war is the ultimate expression of racism and 13 million Muslims have died avoidably from violence or from violently-imposed deprivation in Zionist-promoted wars since the US Government's 9-11 false-flag atrocity [13-15]. Gross inequality and imposed deprivation is deadly as seen in the 1.5 billion people (half of them children) who have died avoidably from deprivation since 1950 and the 17 million people (half of them children) who die avoidably each year from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease .
Of course we should be polite to our fellow human beings, but a policy of “zero tolerance for racism and inequality” is demanded by the horrible reality that the “polite constructive engagement” characteristic of Western political argument has meant that almost unimaginably too many people have died – and continue to die - from war and deprivation. Specifically, the continuing deadly racism and inequality imposed on African Americans and on Palestinians by the ruthless Neocon American and Zionist Imperialist (NAZI) One Percenters demands a shift from the present deadly polite but obfuscatory debate to pro-Life zero tolerance.
Harper Lee writing “Go Set a Watchman” in the 1950s says of the decent Scout that “she was born color blind” . However African-American lawyer Dr Michelle Alexander in her 2010 book “The New Jim Crow. Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindess” has exposed the profound, and destructive de facto racism of US laws that are constitutional and formally non-racial but which are nevertheless devastating the African –American community: “People are swept into the criminal justice system — particularly in poor communities of color — at very early ages ... typically for fairly minor, nonviolent crimes… [The young black males are] shuttled into prisons, branded as criminals and felons, and then when they're released, they're relegated to a permanent second-class status, stripped of the very rights supposedly won in the civil rights movement — like the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, the right to be free of legal discrimination and employment, and access to education and public benefits. Many of the old forms of discrimination that we supposedly left behind during the Jim Crow era are suddenly legal again, once you've been branded a felon” [23, 24].
How can decent Americans, decent, anti-racist Jews and indeed all decent Humanity apply zero tolerance to racism and inequality? Decent people must (a) inform everyone they can of the deadliness and utter unacceptability of racism and inequality , (b) demand a rapid end to racism and gross inequality and (c) urge and apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all people, politicians, parties, companies, corporations and countries disproportionately involved in deadly racism, war and inequity.
. “To kill a Mockingbird”, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Kill_a_Mockingbird .
. Lee Harper, “Go Set A Watchman” (Heinemann, London 2015).
. “Gideon Polya”: https://sites.google.com/site/drgideonpolya/home .
. “Nuclear weapons ban , end poverty & reverse climate change”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/nuclear-weapons-ban .
. Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, that includes a history of every country from Neolithic times and is now available for free perusal on the web: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ .
. "Mainstream media lying": https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammedialying/ .
. “Mainstream media censorship”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/home .
. “Are we doomed?”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/are-we-doomed .
. "Too late to avoid global warming catastrophe": https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/too-late-to-avoid-global-warming .
. Gideon Polya, “Truth & Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) Can Overcome Huge Inequities Suffered By African Americans Under American Apartheid”, Countercurrents, 29 September, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya290914.htm
. Educational Apartheid”: https://sites.google.com/site/educationalapartheid/ .
. Adam Sanchez, “Educational Apartheid in
. “Experts: US did 9-11”: https://sites.google.com/site/expertsusdid911/ .
. Gideon Polya, “American Holocaust, Millions Of Untimely American Deaths And $40 Trillion Cost Of
. Gideon Polya, “One Percenter Greed & War Means Over 1.5 Million Americans Die Preventably Each Year”, Countercurrents, 19 September, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya190914.htm .
. “Palestinian Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/ .
. “Boycott Apartheid
. “Gaza Concentration Camp”: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/gaza-concentration .
. “Jews Against Racist Zionism”: https://sites.google.com/site/jewsagainstracistzionism/ .
. “Non-Jews Against Racist Zionism”: https://sites.google.com/site/nonjewsagainstracistzionism/ .
. “Arms Control Association”: http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat .
. "Muslim Holocaust Muslim Genocide": https://sites.google.com/site/muslimholocaustmuslimgenocide/ .
. Michelle Alexander quoted in “Legal scholar: Jim Crow still exists in
. Michelle Alexander, “The New Jim Crow. Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindess”.
Dr Gideon Polya has been teaching science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis,
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