“The end result of the complex organization that was the efficient software of the Great War was the manufacture of corpses.
This essentially industrial operation was fantasized by the generals as a “strategy of attrition.” The British tried to kill Germans, the Germans tried to kill British and French and so on, a “strategy” so familiar by now that it almost sounds normal. It was not normal in Europe before 1914 and no one in authority expected it to evolve, despite the pioneering lessons of the American Civil War. Once the trenches were in place, the long grave already dug (John Masefield’s bitterly ironic phrase), then the war stalemated and death-making overwhelmed any rational response.
“The war machine,” concludes Elliot, “rooted in law, organization, production, movement, science, technical ingenuity, with its product of six thousand deaths a day over a period of 1,500 days, was the permanent and realistic factor, impervious to fantasy, only slightly altered by human variation.”
No human institution, Elliot stresses, was sufficiently strong to resist the death machine. A new mechanism, the tank, ended the stalemate.”
Big Data describes another war of attrition:
McNamara epitomized the hyper-rational executive who relied on numbers rather than sentiments, and who could apply his quantitative skills to any industry he turned them to. In 1960 he was named president of Ford, a position he held for only a few weeks before being tapped to join President Kennedy’s cabinet as secretary of defense.
As the Vietnam conflict escalated and the United States sent more troops, it became clear that this was a war of wills, not of territory. America’s strategy was to pound the Viet Cong to the negotiation table. The way to measure progress, therefore, was by the number of enemy killed. The body count was published daily in the newspapers. To the war’s supporters it was proof of progress; to critics, evidence of its immorality. The body count was the data point that defined an era.
McNamara relied on the figures, fetishized them. … McNamara felt he could comprehend what was happening on the ground only by staring at a spreadsheet—at all those orderly rows and columns, calculations and charts, whose mastery seemed to bring him one standard deviation closer to God.
In 1977, two years after the last helicopter lifted off the rooftop of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, a retired Army general, Douglas Kinnard, published a landmark survey called The War Managers that revealed the quagmire of quantification. A mere 2 percent of America’s generals considered the body count a valid way to measure progress. “A fake—totally worthless,” wrote one general in his comments. “Often blatant lies,” wrote another. “They were grossly exaggerated by many units primarily because of the incredible interest shown by people like McNamara,” said a third. — Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier, Big Data
Humans are reasonably smart creatures, but we so easily get stuck in terrible modes of thinking.
On a battlefield men die quickly, they fight back, they are sustained by fellowship and a sense of duty. Here I saw people dying in solitude by slow degrees, dying hideously, without the excuse of sacrifice for a cause. They had been trapped and left to starve, each in his home, by a political decision made in a far-off capital around conference and banquet tables. […] The most terrifying sights were the little children with skeleton limbs dangling from balloon – like abdomens. Starvation had wiped every trace of youth from their faces, turning them into tortured gargoyles; only in their eyes still lingered the reminder of childhood. Everywhere we found men and women lying prone, their faces and bellies bloated, their eyes utterly expressionless. Anger lashed my mind as I drove back to the village. Butter being sent abroad in the midst of the famine! In London, Berlin, Paris I could see with my mind’s eye people eating butter stamped with a Soviet trademark. “They must be rich to be able to send out butter,” I could hear them saying. “Here, friends, is the proof of socialism in action.” Driving through the fields, I did not hear the lovely Ukrainian songs so dear to my heart. These people had forgotten how to sing. I could hear only the groans of the dying, and the lip-smacking of fat foreigners enjoying our butter… — Kravchenko, Victor. I Chose Freedom: The Personal And Political Life Of A Soviet Official
Like human sacrifice and cannibalism:
The word tzompantli is Nahuatl and was used by the Aztecs to refer to the skull-racks found in many Aztec cities; The first and most prominent example is the Huey Tzompantli (Great Skull-rack) located the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and described by the early conquistadors. … Excavations at Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan have revealed many skulls belonging to women and children, in addition to those of men, a demonstration of the diversity of the human sacrifices in Aztec culture. After displaying severed heads, many scholars have determined that limbs of Aztec victims would be cannibalized
… based on numbers given by Taipa and Fray Diego Durán, Bernard Ortiz de Montellano has calculated that there were at most 60,000 skulls on the “Hueyi Tzompantli” (Great Skullrack) of Tenochtitlan. … There were at least five more skull racks in Tenochtitlan but by all accounts they were much smaller. —Wikipedia
All of the individual parts of a system can seem logical, and yet the end result can still be grotesque, inhuman, and insane.
I am on holiday so your normal Book Club post will resume next Wednesday.
Well, I’m glad that series on the distribution of humanity is over. It was fun to write, but I know it is all very elementary to all you regulars. Sorry about that, but hopefully it will come in handy next time you encounter someone claiming that race isn’t real because of the genetic distances between Bushmen and Bantus or something like that.
Of course, I never really get tired of musing about early human migration paths (nor will I turn down a good map!)
Speaking of which, what’s up with haplogroup D and Central America? Or more specifically, its absence in Central America? Is there something specifically going on with the Aztec/Mayan/Olmec/Pueblo civilizations?
Let’s see now, links… I don’t know, but if you haven’t read Slate Star Codex‘s post yet on Cost Disease (really who am I kidding, of course you’ve read it,) you really need to go read it now.
And I will just say (though I will go into more depth on this later) that if anyone around these parts is still wondering why Trump won and why the alt-right, broadly defined, has been growing, Cost Disease is a big part of it. IMO.
A lot of your discussion reminds me of County Durham and Northumberland in the north-east of England, which is hardly surprising given the common borderer origin. The region used to be heavily industrialised and most of the small villages in County Durham were settled in a Klondyke or Yukon gold-rush style whenever coal was found, rather than having been there since Domesday. So like Appalachia, much of the industrial geography has become obsolete, stranding people in unproductive areas. Much of the same problems exist with obesity, drug-use &c. …
…I was wracking my brain with how I was going to rail against that very quote from the article, and then I read your response. You nailed it. This whole, “if your for Trump then you probably have a great great grandparent who’s farm was burnt by the Union” nonsense is exactly why politics is so caustic these days. My grandfather likes a specific quote, the source eludes me, but it goes, “give a man a fish and he has food for a day, but teach him how to fish and he has food for a lifetime.” This gets at the heart of what most conservative people are saying. Not that the man in the quote should starve, but that just giving away food is not a long term benefit to anyone. …
Have a great week, everyone, and keep your toes warm!
The only reason why we started celebrating “Columbus Day” was to make the Irish and Italians feel like Catholics can be real Americans, too, not just Protestants.
“Columbus Day” isn’t really about celebrating Columbus. Not as a person. Nobody says, “Read this biography of a great man from infancy to dotage and try to be more like him!” Columbus day is about celebrating what Columbus did–find a New World and launch the Age of Exploration and discovery.
Do I care about Columbus Day? No. Don’t be silly. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who actually celebrates Columbus Day, but maybe the Italians are really into it. If so, I don’t begrudge them a holiday. However, I do care about Columbus’s accomplishments.
“But Columbus was an idiot who only found the New World by accident!” I hear someone protest.
Yeah, well, I don’t see you discovering any continents lately. Where does that put you on the intellect ladder? Also, Penicillin was discovered by accident, so I guess it doesn’t count, either.
Here, I’ll take all of the penicillin, and you can go play with rodents. We’ll see which of us survives the longest.
“But Columbus was an asshole,” someone protests. “He conquered and enslaved people!”
Guys, it was the 14 hundreds. Pretty much EVERYBODY in the 1400s thought it was okay to conquer and enslave people. If you start applying modern standards to people from the 1400s, you’ll discover that none of them meet your standards.
You want to celebrate “Indigenous Culture Day” instead of Columbus Day? Do you know what kind of assholes indigenous cultures were full of?
The Spaniard’s pigs, however, they just killed and threw in a well. WTF do you do with one of those things? They didn’t know. Humans, however, they knew what to do with: eat them.
The Wikipedia records many documented cases of Aztec cannibalism:
Hernán Cortés wrote in one of his letters that his soldiers had captured an indigenous man who had a roasted baby ready for breakfast.
Francisco López de Gómara (c. 1511 – c. 1566) reported that, during the siege of Tenochtitlan, the Spaniards asked the Aztecs to surrender since they had no food. The Aztecs angrily challenged the Spaniards to attack so they could be taken as prisoners, sacrificed and served with “molli” sauce.
The Historia general… contains an illustration of an Aztec being cooked by an unknown tribe. This was reported as one of the dangers that Aztec traders faced. …Bernal Díaz’s The Conquest of New Spain (written by 1568, published 1632) contains several accounts of cannibalism among the people the conquistadors encountered during their warring expedition to Tenochtitlan.
About the city of Cholula, Díaz wrote of his shock at seeing young men in cages ready to be sacrificed and eaten.
In the same work Diaz mentions that the Cholulan and Aztec warriors were so confident of victory against the conquistadors in an upcoming battle the following day, that “…they wished to kill us and eat our flesh, and had already prepared the pots with salt and peppers and tomatoes”
About the Quetzalcoatl temple of Tenochtitlan Díaz wrote that inside there were large pots, where human flesh of sacrificed Natives was boiled and cooked to feed the priests.
About the Mesoamerican towns in general Díaz wrote that some of the indigenous people he saw were—:
eating human meat, just like we take cows from the butcher’s shops, and they have in all towns thick wooden jail-houses, like cages, and in them they put many Indian men, women and boys to fatten, and being fattened they sacrificed and ate them.
Thus there were public butcher’s shops of human flesh, as if it were of cow or sheep.
Is that what you want to fucking celebrate? THIS IS WHAT YOU THINK WAS BETTER THAN COLUMBUS?
No, hunter-gatherers were not peaceful paragons of gender equality. Stop fucking saying that. It is a lie. There is no evidence to back it up. Primitive, pre-modern societies had absolutely atrocious crime rates. There are real live fucking cannibals living right now in the Congo rainforest. They eat the Pygmies (and each other.)
And this is supposed to be my fault? “White privilege” is the magic sauce that explains why some cultures produce penicillin and others produce cannibals.
When Captain John Smith of Jamestown fame inquired about the fate of the lost Roanoke Colony, Chief Powhatan–you know, the Pocahontas’s dad, the guy who’d tried to kill John Smith–confessed to having massacred them all. Historians aren’t sure if this is actually true–Powhatan might have just confused them with some other guys he’d massacred–but the fact remains that Powhatan and his people went around massacring their neighbors regularly enough that, “Oh yeah, we killed them all,” was seen as a reasonable explanation by everyone involved.
It wasn’t too many years later that the Powhatan tried to do the same thing to Jamestown, killing about a quarter of the people there.
Celebrating Columbus was never about Columbus, and denigrating Columbus isn’t about Columbus, either. Celebrating Columbus is about celebrating American history and the contributions of Catholic-Americans to that history; denigrating Columbus is about denigrating American history and European contributions to it.
Who should be the America’s moral superior and successor? Whose successes should we celebrate instead of Columbus’s? Should the people of Mexico overthrow the culture of their evil oppressors and go back to holding human sacrifices in the middle of Mexico City?
Funny, I don’t see a lot of people trying to go live in Mexico, much less return to the actual lives of their indigenous ancestors. Most people seem to like having things like penicillin, cell phones, cars, air conditioning and sewers, and dislike things like cannibalism and constant tribal warfare. The process by which civilization was made was not pretty, but civilization is good and we should celebrate it.
We should not attack people’s cultural heroes just to denigrate their nation.
Oh, and happy Thanksgiving, since the backlog means that this post isn’t going up for a month.
I’m not actually against immigration, but I am pro-borders and prefer to live among people I find pleasant, and in this day and age, the two positions are treated as equivalent.
Why borders? Why can’t we all just go wherever we want? Why should a mere accident of birth condemn one person to live in a god-forsaken hellhole, and another to live somewhere peaceful and prosperous?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t like god-forsaken hellholes anymore than the next guy.
So I have a little garden. No trivial undertaking, by the way. Clearing out the brush, pulling up the weeds, digging holes, building rock walls and planting beds, and, of course, watering the darn thing has taken hours or work. Many of the plants are perennials started from seed, so I won’t even get to harvest them for several years.
There’s just one problem: the land isn’t mine. It’s an unattended lot that was a neighborhood eyesore. I’m trying to turn it into something nice, but the owners could come back at any point and mow it all down. For that matter, anyone else in the neighborhood could walk into the garden and take my turnips, pick all my flowers, or knock down my walls. These are problems I have had. And what can I do? Press charges against someone for vandalizing someone else’s property? It doesn’t work that way.
As a result, there are certain improvements that I’m not going to make. Why plant a tree that cold get chopped down? Or buy a pleasant little bench that could get thrown away? For that matter, even a decent lawn mower costs several hundred dollars. Who wants to invest money into something they could lose?
A proper garden requires ownership.
“Why bother at all?” you might be wondering. Because a garden is a lot nicer than as a bunch of dead weeds, and if I get lucky, some of the plants might survive to benefit the neighborhood for years to come.
Each country is a garden. Each country decides what to do with its own resources, how many people they can support, and how they want to conduct their lives. Sometimes countries need more people. Sometimes they need fewer. Sometimes the numbers are just right, but it wouldn’t hurt to switch a few people with another country, to the mutual benefit of everyone.
In no case does a country benefit from allowing in more people than it can feed. California produces a great percentage of America’s food, has had a drought for 1o years, and doesn’t have enough water for all of the crops and people already there. And yet the open-borders advocates want more people to move to California?
If California runs out of water, not only will the local farmers suffer (and no, an orchard someone’s been tending for decades is not something you can just stop watering for a few years,) but so will the rest of the country, especially those whose food budgets are already tight.
In no case does a country benefit from allowing in a bunch of people who are higher crime or lower IQ than the existing population. This should be obvious.
And then there is the more subtle matter of culture. Most people basically like their own cultures, and have little interest in radically changing them (else they would have already.) And culture, as I’ve noted before, is far more than superficial trappings of food and clothing. It’s values. It’s norms of appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
Type-A New Yorkers stuck in Seattle often report being completely miserable because they just can’t cope with the laid-back Seattle attitude. What happens when peoples with radically different values or social norms try to live together? What happens, for example, when French people who believe in freedom of the press and anti-religious values and people who think that drawing pictures of the Prophet Mohammad’s testicles is a blasphemy worthy of death live in the same country?
There is really no solution to this conflict. Either one side has to not print dirty pictures of Mohammad, or the other side has to not kill people for drawing dirty pictures of Mohammad. Better, therefore, to avoid the conflict.
For a country to function, it must be able to select which immigrants it takes in.
For that matter, I believe that a country has a moral obligation to treat its immigrants well; if you cannot guarantee that your fellow countrymen will treat well the immigrants from a certain land, then you should not encourage those immigrants. People deserve to live in places where they are happy, after all.
There’s been a lot of debate recently in the US over Mexican (and more broadly, Hispanic) immigration. Some people would like more Hispanic immigration, perhaps because it appeals to their libertarian instincts, they want cheaper labor, or they love Hispanic people and culture. Others would prefer less immigration, perhaps because they want higher wages, less crime, or just aren’t keen on Hispanic culture.
The Left generally responds to anti-immigrant sentiments by pointing out that previous waves of immigration to the US were total disasters for the people already here. When Europeans arrived in the early 1500s, their diseases exploded through native communities like atomic bombs. The death toll is generally reckoned at 80-90 percent. This was followed, of course, by warfare, enslavement, and genocide.
This seems like approximately the worst argument in favor of immigration ever.
Other waves of immigration, like the 1910 Irish/Italian/Eastern European wave, were accompanied by rising crime; immigration since 1970 has been accompanied by stagnating wages, all of which we have discussed before.
Even Bernie Sanders thinks that full open borders is a capitalist plot to destroy the American worker by forcing wages down to third-world levels.
So why bother making the worst argument in favor of immigration ever?
To imply that whites have no right to their own land. If their land was stolen from someone else, if they are just illegally occupying it, then they have no legal right to it. (And of course, no claim of adverse possession can be made, since the Indians are still around and would prefer their ancestral lands back.) And even if the Indians weren’t around, what sort of precedent does letting people get land by shooting its current owners?
But are the Native Americans the original inhabitants of this land?
No, not in the least.
If you think the Indians arrived here 20,000-40,000 years ago, sat down, and didn’t move until Columbus arrived, you’re delusional.
Humans move around.
Modern Indians are most closely related to the peoples of north east Asia, a point in favor of the Bering Strait hypothesis.
“To summarize, analyses of individual skulls against reference samples suggest that the early Mexican fossils studied do not share a common craniofacial morphology with Amerindians or East Asians, as reported elsewhere for South Paleoindians, some North Paleoindian specimens […] and some modern groups like Fuegian-Patagonians and the Pericúes from Baja California.”
I know nothing about the Pericues, but the Fuegian-Patagonians are really interesting. IIRC, they’re a language isolate living in a very cold environment, and when Europeans first arrived, they basically had no clothes. They just carried fires around with them everywhere they went–in their canoes, while hanging out, everywhere. Hence the region’s name, “Land of the Fire.” One imagines they must have been cold a lot, but maybe they were perfectly happy with the temperatures.
Of course, people have been saying that the giant Olmec stone heads look like Africans for approximately forever, and they have a point:
Further north, a third (or fourth, or whatever Nth,) wave of people, the Dorset, survived in the arctic for over 4,000 years, until the Thule (ancestors of today’s Inuit/Eskimo) showed up. It’s unlikely that the Dorset suddenly forgot how to live in the arctic, nor do the Thule show any signs of having intermarried with the Dorset. The Dorset, as they say, were “replaced.” The Thule killed them.
Take a look around, and you’ll find conquering everywhere. The Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs created empires by conquering the people around them. The Aztecs marched home their prisoners of war and sacrificed them to their gods, ripping out their still-beating hearts. Lovely people, I’m sure.
Of course, the Americas are not the only places this has happened. The historical occupants of South Africa were the Bushmen, hunter-gatherers who’d been isolated from the rest of humanity for almost 100,000 years before anyone else showed up in the area. South Africa’s dominant group today, the Bantus, are more closely related to Koreans than Bushmen.
Distribution of art attributed to the Bushmen vs:
Bantus are newcomers, having only arrived in northeastern South Africa within the past couple millenia, and having been largely absent from the cape when Europeans settled there. (That is, most of the people in the area of Cape Town were Bushmen, and after them, most of the people in Cape Town and its surrounding area were Dutch. Major Bantu presence in the area came later.)
The Chinese who moved to Taiwan following the Chinese Civil War are distinct from the Taiwanese Chinese, who displaced the ethnic Taiwanese, who have legends about the darker (perhaps Melanesian) people they displaced.
Replacement has happened virtually everywhere on Earth.
“There have been periods where the folks who were already here suddenly say, ‘Well, I don’t want those folks,’ even though the only people who have the right to say that are some Native Americans.” –President Obama, Nov, 2014
Which Native Americans? The ones who wiped out the Dorset? The ones who wiped out the Melanesians? Or maybe the folks in the Amazon rain forest and a few other isolated tribes should get to determine immigration policies for both continents?
Or maybe that sort of thinking is really fucking dumb?
The people who are in France right now have a right to their country and their culture. If they want to let in people from elsewhere, that’s their business. If they decided they don’t like Freedom of Speech anymore and they’d rather make sure no one produces dirty pictures of Mohammad, that’s their business. But if they want to have Freedom of Speech and decide to not let in people who would have an issue with this, that is also their business. If Americans decide they want more Hispanic immigrants to work in their fields and bake enchiladas, that’s their business. If Americans decide they don’t want more Hispanic immigrants, that’s also their business.
Bhutan is one of the hardest countries in the world to visit (much less immigrate to), because the Bhutanese government doesn’t want a bunch of outsiders ruining their way of life. The Andaman islands are even harder to visit, because the islanders have a habit of killing anyone who gets too close. (And well they ought, because after being isolated for so long, any outsiders would most likely be carrying diseases to which the Andamanese have no defenses. Contact with the outside world would probably kill them all.)
The fact that people in the past have waged wars and often lost them does not make me eager to lose a war. The fact that people in the past have been replaced does not make me want to be replaced. The fact that my ancestors might be related to some guys who won a war or might just look kind of like those guys does not mean it makes any sense to suddenly declare that we (by which I mean everyone currently here, regardless of ethnic background) do not have a right to decide where we should go from here.