The Ubiquity of Violence

Civilization suppresses violence in order to facilitate economic transactions, mostly because the government taxes transactions and the government wants more taxes.

It is easy to become blase about violence, because we usually do not experience it in our every day lives–because we live in a civilization that is actively repressing it.

What would happen if the police went away?

The otherwise probably fine police of Montreal, Canada, once performed an experiment on the subject when they went on strike to protest low pay and bad work conditions (the hazards of constantly having to diffuse Quebecois-separatist bombs.)The city quickly descended into what is known as the “Night of Terror”:

//www.cbc.ca/i/caffeine/syndicate/?mediaId=1707753042

Montreal is in a state of shock. A police officer is dead and 108 people have been arrested following 16 hours of chaos during which police and firefighters refused to work. At first, the strike’s impact was limited to more bank robberies than normal. But as night fell, a taxi drivers’ union seized upon the police absence to violently protest a competitor’s exclusive right to airport pickups. … Shop owners, some of them armed, struggled to fend off looters. Restaurants and hotels were also targeted. A corporal with the Quebec provincial police was shot and killed at the garage of the Murray Hill limousine company as taxi drivers tried to burn it down.

When Donald Trump said that women were being raped while attempting to illegally cross the border, he was correct–in places with no law enforcement, rape is even more common than it normally is. War zones are notoriously also rape zones; it may be no coincidence that we use the same word, conquest, for both sex and war.

According to Wikipedia (h/t LittleFoot):

According to Global Rights, almost 90% of women in Afghanistan experience physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse or forced marriage. The perpetrators of these crimes are the families of the victim.[43] …

Honor killing and murders[edit

In 2012, Afghanistan recorded 240 cases of honor killings, but the total number is believed to be much higher. Of the reported honor killings, 21% were committed by the victims’ husbands, 7% by their brothers, 4% by their fathers, and the rest by other relatives.[45][46]

In May 2017, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan concluded that the vast majority of cases involving honor killings and murders of women, perpetrators were not punished.[47]

Meanwhile, rape is so common in South Africa that headlines like Rape of 7 Year old Girl in South African Restaurant Sparks Outrage are numbingly common. (Does it spark outrage? Really? In the country with one of the highest rates of rape in the world, does this one bear any more outrage than all of the others?)

In a separate case this week, a 17-year-old girl who had just given birth at a hospital was raped by a man posing as a doctor.

Gauteng man arrested for rape of two young girls, including a nine year old who died: 

The nine-year-old was declared dead on the scene when police arrived. A 22-year-old man, who lived at the house where the incident took place, has been arrested.

“For now he is being charged with two charges of rape. He is also facing a charge of murder of the 9-year-old girl. Police are still on the scene, there could be more charges,” said police spokesperson, Brig Mathapelo Peters.

Medicals tests confirmed that the two children had been raped.

Another raped South African child.

Sorry, CNN–I don’t think one more raped 7 year old is going to push South Africa over the edge. You just can’t stand the fact that this is South Africa’s normal.

Of course, women aren’t the only victims of violence–men are disproportionately the victims of homicide and massively over-represented in war deaths. 

As Westhunt summarizes:

There’s a new paper out in Science – ” The genomic history of the Iberian Peninsula over the past 8000 years” .  It discusses genetic change over time, from hunter-gatherer days, the arrival of the Anatolian-ancestry farmers, and the coming of the Indo-Europeans.

The chart above [see Westhunt’s post for the chart] shows what happened when the Indo-Europeans show up. Autosomal steppe ancestry goes from zero to ~40%, but on the Y-chromosome, it goes from zero to 100% over a few hundred years.

In other words, they killed 100% of the local men.

The recent overthrow of “autocratic” regimes in Libya and Iraq led to a massive increase in human suffering as war broke out in their wake; today Libya has open slave markets:

Armed groups execute and torture civilians in Libya in almost complete impunity seven years after the revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, the United Nations human rights office said on Wednesday.

Libyans and migrants are often held incommunicado in arbitrary detention in appalling conditions, and reports persist of captured migrants being bought and sold on “open slave markets”, it said in a report to the Human Rights Council.

And don’t ask how ISIS treats its conquered peoples–you don’t want to know, but the videos are out there.

We here in civilization are so accustomed to not routinely fearing for our lives that it’s difficult to appreciate just how dangerous things were for our ancestors, or how quickly peace can break down in the absence of order.

And even here in civilization, the anti-abortion crowd will quickly remind you that not only does violence still occur, it occurs on a massive scale, committed by mothers (and doctors) against fetuses. Regardless of your stance on the necessity and legality of abortion, it is certainly infanticide, the taking of a human life.

What stops violence?

Violence in state and non-state societies
From “The Better Angels of our Nature,” by Steven Pinker

Civilization. Police. Prisons. Just knowing that there is a good chance you will be caught and punished deters a lot of crime. States execute criminals, which has the additional effect of potentially removing violent alleles from the population.

homicide_in_europe_1200_2000

According to CS McGill’s page on the Mongol Empire:

The Mongol Empire was governed by a code of law devised by Genghis, called Yassa, meaning “order” or “decree”. … On the whole, the tight discipline made the Mongol Empire extremely safe and well-run; European travelers were amazed by the organization and strict discipline of the people within the Mongol Empire.

Under Yassa, chiefs and generals were selected based on merit, religious tolerance was guaranteed, and thievery and vandalizing of civilian property was strictly forbidden. According to legend, a woman carrying a sack of gold could travel safely from one end of the Empire to another. …

Genghis also demonstrated a rather liberal and tolerant attitude to the beliefs of others, and never persecuted people on religious grounds. This proved to be good military strategy, as when he was at war with Sultan Muhammad ofKhwarezm, other Islamic leaders did not join the fight against Genghis — it was instead seen as a non-holy war between two individuals.

Note: the Mongols killed approximately 50 million people and outlawed the practice of keeping halal/kosher. So “never persecuted on religious grounds” is wrong, but it is true that he didn’t particularly care if Muslims liked a god named “Allah” so long as they paid their tribute. As they say, in the Khan’s empire, you were free to pray to whichever god you wanted for the Khan’s health.

Mongols prized their commercial and trade relationships with neighboring economies and this policy they continued during the process of their conquests and during the expansion of their empire. All merchants and ambassadors, having proper documentation and authorization, traveling through their realms were protected. This greatly increased overland trade.

During the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, European merchants, numbering hundreds, perhaps thousands, made their way from Europe to the distant land of China — Marco Polo is only one of the best known of these. Well-traveled and relatively well-maintained roads linked lands from the Mediterranean basin to China.

And here is a really interesting article on the persistence of trust in public institutions in areas formerly ruled by the Habsburg Empire vs. areas immediately next door that were ruled by the Ottomans:

Our results suggest that the Habsburg Empire is indeed still visible in the cultural norms and interactions of humans with their state institutions today. Comparing individuals left and right of the long-gone Habsburg border, people living in locations that used to be territory of the Habsburg Empire have higher trust in courts and police. These trust differentials also transform into “real” differences in the extent to which bribes have to be paid for these local public services.

We complement these main findings by looking into a series of additional aspects.

  • First, our results are robust when restricting the comparison groups to formerly Ottoman regions (instead of any non-Habsburg Empire).
  • Second and interestingly, the Habsburg effect does not vary systematically with the duration of Habsburg affiliation, consistent with models that predict persistent effects of limited exposure.
  • Third, we analyse whether Habsburg exposure fostered trust levels in state institutions in general, i.e. also in central public institutions like the president or the parliament. We find no significant evidence of such effects, suggesting that it was the local interaction with bureaucrats that was key.
  • Finally, evidence from a firm dataset, the Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey, corroborates the general pattern of results derived from the household dataset. That is, firms on the Habsburg side of the long-gone border within the same country have higher trust in the courts.

If there is no state, then individual tribes band together for protection–the knowledge that messing with one guy will bring the retribution of his brothers down on you keeps down at least some of the violence–but this is much less stable.

 

Attempting to discuss music: Deutschland, Numan

People will criticize–because people always criticize–but I see Rammstein grappling with a difficult thing: identity.

The song–intense, burning–glorifies and repudiates. At times Germania is strong; at times she is devoured; at times she is lovely; at times she is brutal. In one scene, the band members, dressed as concentration camp victims, shoot her in the face. In another, Germania makes out with a band member’s decapitated head.

Modern identities in countries experiencing massive change–technological, demographic–are fraught, particularly so in a place like Germany, whose history is so controversial:

Germany
My heart in flames
Want to love you
Want to damn you

Some will criticize the band’s decision to represent Germany as a black woman. (If you didn’t catch that before, go back and re-watch. The black woman is Germania, Germany.) Controversial, yes. But it makes her much easier to spot and thus the video easier to understand.

Others will criticize the band members’ decision to dress themselves as Holocaust victims. This is, for many, a no-go; they cannot watch or find peace with such depictions. But the band is in no way glorifying the Holocaust. I do not think they are trivializing it, nor merely trying to capitalize on it for money. They are artists dealing with a very difficult subject–German identity–and the Holocaust is part of that. It is a history that has to be dealt with, even if by shooting it in the face. If someone manages to depict the holocaust in a way that isn’t horrifying, something has gone wrong.

We should not criticize art simply because the artist is good enough at art that they get paid for it.

The lyrics are minimal; QankHD on Reddit did a nice job of translating them (I have included their notes):

You have cried a lot
In the mind apart
In the heart united

We have been together for a very long time
Your breath is cold
The heart in flames
You, I, Us, You (plural)

Germany
My heart in flames
Want to love you
Want to damn you
Germany
Your breath is cold
so young
and yet so old
Germany

I never want to leave you
One want to love you
And want to hate you
Overbearing (arrogant)
Superior
To take over (I think this is the only proper way to translate this in context here)
To surrender (giving away, can also be read as throwing up)
Surprising
To attack (to assault, raid, invade)
Germany Germany over everyone

 [some repetition]

Superior (super powerful)
Needless (dispensable, a waste)
Übermenschen 
Sick of (tired, bored)
The higher you climb, the farther you fall
Germany Germany over everyone

[repetition]

Germany
Your love is a curse and a blessing
Germany
My love I cannot give to you
Germany

Many people will mistakenly accuse Rammstein of being fascist reactionaries simply because they sound like angry Germans. No honest reading of the song supports this; everything from the lyrics to the casting of a black woman as Germania indicates pure leftism. Rammstein’s industrial beats, no matter how intense, come out of an era when the shocking was still primarily in support of liberalism.

Most songs deal with love in some way. Pop songs are about falling in love, rap about sex, goth about how the singer’s love has died and he will never love again. In Rammstein, love is death:

Du Hast (You Have) depicts the band members kidnapping and murdering a man, apparently on behalf of a woman (perhaps someone he has harmed).

The core of Du Hast:

You have asked me and I have said nothing
Do you want to be faithful for eternity
Until death parts you?

No! No!

In Rosenrot, a monk is seduced by a young woman, who convinces him to murder her husband. She then betrays him, and he is burned at the stake, the young woman throwing the first flaming torch onto his pyre.

In the lyrics, a young man falls to his death attempting to bring a red rose to his love.

Sonne (Sun) depicts the band members as the Seven Dwarves, enslaved to Snow White, who forces them to toil in the mines all day to keep her supplied with gold and drugs.

Love is a conflicted emotion for these guys; nationalism no less so. Anyone who criticizes Rammstein for being shocking has missed the entire point of the band. These are guys who regularly perform with flamethrowers and incorporate jackhammers into their songs. One band member had his cheeks pierced so he could perform with a light inside his mouth. Shock and horror are an integral part of what the band does.

The song itself, played without the video, doesn’t stand out to me. Engel combines innovative sounds (whistling) plus the high pitch of a woman’s voice against the industrial steel. Du Hast carries you on its rhythm with an intensity that makes English speakers mistranslate “have” as “hate.” Of course, songs often become more loved with repetition (which is why I listened to the song 5 or 6 times before writing this); part of the joy of music is the joy of counting without realizing it, of expectations fulfilled (repetition of the chorus) and violated–the introduction of new instruments, alteration of previous chords.

Deutschland doesn’t stand out musically to me; the song is almost just background music to the video, with sections lifted from previous works–most notably the ending, when Germania, having given birth to… a litter of puppies? is finally sent to space, in Snow White’s glass coffin, while the instrumental music from Sonne (the Snow White song) plays quietly. It is peaceful in space. The lyrics of Sonne, if you know them, translate to “Here comes the sun;” I interpret the ending as hopeful. Germania is asleep, but a new day is dawning, perhaps a better day.

In contrast to Deutschland, Gary Numan’s Basement cover of “Are Friends Electric?” was an immediate emotional punch to the gut:

The video itself is not much–mostly the band performing in a damp basement–but the song is haunting and atmospheric. The basement is decayed, almost crypt-like. Water drips, forming stalactites and puddles. Piano notes in discordant tones.

It’s cold outside–and a puff of breath in the air, damp claminess.

Words are whispered, almost inaudible. The instruments take over. The song is transformed. Loneliness. Emptiness. Hearts burst. Feelings explode. The instruments are like sirens in the night.

In the end, we are alone. Are friends electric? Mine’s still broken.

I don’t have nearly as much to say about this video, but I love the song.

Book Club: Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

chinua
After a request for “some fiction,” the Book Club picked Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

I have not read this book and know nothing about it (I’ve read some other Achebe, but that was a long time ago.) Hopefully it will be good.

After that, I hope to read Freedman’s Legal Systems very Different from Ours. As always, these can be obtained at the library; our discussion of Things Fall Apart should begin in about a month.

How do you Raise a Genius?

 

220px-littleprince
Recommended, of course.

Special Announcement: I have launched a new blog, “Unpaused Books“, for my Homeschooling Corner posts and reviews of children’s literature. (The title is a pun.) I try to keep the posts entertaining, in my usual style.

Back to genius:

“My kid is a genius.”

It feels rather like bragging, doesn’t it? So distasteful. No one likes a braggart. Ultimately, though, someone has to be a genius–or brilliant, gifted, talented–it’s a statistical inevitability.

So let’s compromise. Your kid’s the genius; I’m just a very proud parent with a blog.

So how do you raise a genius? Can you make a kid a genius?

Unfortunately, kids don’t come with instructions. As far as anyone can tell, there’s no reliable way to transform an average person into a genius (the much bally-hooed “growth mindset” might be useful for getting a kid to concentrate for a few minutes, but it has no long-term effects:

A growing number of recent studies are casting doubt on the efficacy of mindset interventions at scale. A large-scale study of 36 schools in the UK, in which either pupils or teachers were given training, found that the impact on pupils directly receiving the intervention did not have statistical significance, and that the pupils whose teachers were trained made no gains at all. Another study featuring a large sample of university applicants in the Czech Republic used a scholastic aptitude test to explore the relationship between mindset and achievement. They found a slightly negative correlation, with researchers claiming that ‘the results show that the strength of the association between academic achievement and mindset might be weaker than previously thought’. A 2012 review for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in the UK of attitudes to education and participation found ‘no clear evidence of association or sequence between pupils’ attitudes in general and educational outcomes, although there were several studies attempting to provide explanations for the link (if it exists)’. In 2018, two meta-analyses in the US found that claims for the growth mindset might have been overstated, and that there was ‘little to no effect of mindset interventions on academic achievement for typical students’.).

Of course, there are many ways to turn a genius into a much less intelligent person–such as dropping them on their head.

terman1916fig2iqdistribution
IQ score distribution chart for sample of 905 children tested on 1916 Stanford–Binet Test, from from Terman’s The Measurement of Intelligence

While there is no agreed-upon exact cut-off for genius, it is generally agreed to correlate more or less with the right side of the IQ bell-curve–though exceptions exist. Researchers have studied precocious and gifted children and found that, yes, they tend to turn out to be talented, high-achieving adults:

Terman’s goal was to disprove the then-current belief that gifted children were sickly, socially inept, and not well-rounded. …

Based on data collected in 1921–22, Terman concluded that gifted children suffered no more health problems than normal for their age, save a little more myopia than average. He also found that the children were usually social, were well-adjusted, did better in school, and were even taller than average.[25] A follow-up performed in 1923–1924 found that the children had maintained their high IQs and were still above average overall as a group. …

Well over half of men and women in Terman’s study finished college, compared to 8% of the general population at the time.[31] Some of Terman’s subjects reached great prominence in their fields. Among them were head I Love Lucy writer Jess Oppenheimer,[32] American Psychological Association president and educational psychologist Lee Cronbach,[33] Ancel Keys,[34] and Robert Sears himself.[32] Over fifty men became college and university faculty members.[35] However, the majority of study participants’ lives were more mundane.

The only really useful parenting advice IQ researchers have come up with so far is to make sure your son or daughter has appropriately challenging school work.

child_genius_chart_newsfeature_web
Source

The SMPY data supported the idea of accelerating fast learners by allowing them to skip school grades. In a comparison of children who bypassed a grade with a control group of similarly smart children who didn’t, the grade-skippers were 60% more likely to earn doctorates or patents and more than twice as likely to get a PhD in a STEM field6. …

Skipping grades is not the only option. SMPY researchers say that even modest interventions — for example, access to challenging material such as college-level Advanced Placement courses — have a demonstrable effect.

This advice holds true whether one’s children are “geniuses” or not. All children benefit from activities matched to their abilities, high or low; no one benefits from being bored out of their gourd all day or forced into activities that are too difficult to master. It also applies whether a child’s particular abilities lie in schoolwork or not–some children are amazingly talented at art, sports, or other non-academic skills.

Homeschooling, thankfully, allows you to tailor your child’s education to exactly their needs. This is especially useful for kids who are advanced in one or two academic areas, but not all of them, or who have the understanding necessary for advanced academics, but not the age-related maturity to sit through advanced classes.

That all said, gifted children are still children, and all children need time to play, relax, and have fun. They’re smart–not robots.