White Man’s Grave: the relationship between colonialism and wealth

It is popularly asserted that many countries became wealthy via colonialism, essentially sucking the wealth out of other countries. This claim ignores the fact that many countries that did little to no colonizing, like the US and Germany, are richer today than countries that did extensive colonizing, like Spain and Britain.

It sounds to me like the claim is backwards. Colonialism doesn’t make countries wealthy; wealth makes countries able to have colonies.

Colonies, on net, probably lose money. I don’t have a definitive cite for this and frankly, if I did, I’d be cherry-picking because I’m sure there were colonies that did make money and there are studies that show a variety of outcomes for different countries, especially given that the term “colonialism” covers a lot of different things.

Here’s an example from one article discussing the issue:

Conversely, John Keynes believed British savings would have been better employed at home in creating jobs and modernizing the capital stock of the British economy2. Marseille 1984, Davis and Huttenback 1986, Patrick O’Brien (1988), Fitzgerald 1988 and ForemanPeck 1989 followed this idea and provided evidence that colonization was costly to imperial economies. They made three arguments: first, public investments in the colonies were burdensome for French and British taxpayers3; second, the mainland private sector suffered because some private investment was diverted towards the colonies and earned lower than expected returns; and third, colonial trade led to lower productivity gains due to a lack of competition and colonial protectionism. (Marseille 1984 and O’Brien 1988). …

3 Davis and Huttenbach 1986 argue that British taxes would have been 20 percent less in the absence of empire because the United Kingdom bore most of the defense costs of the British Empire; Marseille 1984 estimates that the investment in public financial assets in the colonies amounted to 7 percent of metropolitan public
expenditures in the 1910’s, and 4 percent from 1947 to 1958; Marseille 1996 estimates that the trade deficit compensated by France’s public subsidies to the colonies represented 8-9 percent of metropolitan expenditure in the 1920s and from 1945 to 1962.

The authors of this study claim that Spain was economically retarded by its colonies.

The British also paid to enforce the ban on slave trading across the Atlantic:

For 60 years after the 1807 act, the Royal Navy was used to enforce the British ban by shutting down the slave trade routes and seizing slave ships at sea. The West Africa Squadron patrolled the seas liberating around 150,000 enslaved Africans. The majority of the British Slave Trade was suppressed very rapidly, but as the British ships withdrew from trading the French, followed by the Spanish and Portuguese, took their place. After 1815, with Europe finally at peace, British supremacy at sea was secured, but, even with a powerful navy, suppressing the trade proved difficult, dangerous and very costly.

It was a huge task requiring co-operation from the governments of all the countries involved. Heavy subsidies were paid to induce other countries to curtail their involvement through anti-slavery treaties with Britian. Smaller amounts were also paid to numerous African chiefs to cease their involvement. The cost of maintaining the British squadron was also high. Initially ships operated out of the Cape of Good Hope but in 1819 a separate West Coast of Africa Station was created. By 1825 there were seven ships on station, manned by around 660 men. This grew to around 25 vessels by 1845 manned by around 2000 British sailors and nearly 1,000 ‘Kroomen’, experienced African fishermen.

Let’s see if we can find some numbers:

In this article we develop a theory of costly international moral action by investigating the most expensive example recorded in modern history: Britain’s effort to suppress the Atlantic slave trade from 1807 until final success in 1867. Britain carried out this effort despite its domination of both the slave trade and world sugar production, which was based on slave labor. In 1805-1806 the value of British West Indian sugar production equaled about 4% of the national income of Great Britain. Its efforts to suppress the slave trade sacrificed these interests, brought the country into conflict with the other Atlantic maritime powers, and cost Britain more than five thousand lives as well as an average nearly 2 percent of national income annually for sixty years.

Lack of money is commonly cited as a reason for decolonization, eg:

The emergence of indigenous bourgeois elites was especially characteristic of the British Empire, which seemed less capable (or less ruthless) in controlling political nationalism. Driven by pragmatic demands of budgets and manpower the British made deals with the nationalist elites.

Further, we note that the end of colonialism did not cause nations like Britain and France to economically collapse:

John Kenneth Galbraith argues that the post–World War II decolonisation was brought about for economic reasons. In A Journey Through Economic Time, he writes:

“The engine of economic well-being was now within and between the advanced industrial countries. Domestic economic growth – as now measured and much discussed – came to be seen as far more important than the erstwhile colonial trade…. The economic effect in the United States from the granting of independence to the Philippines was unnoticeable, partly due to the Bell Trade Act, which allowed American monopoly in the economy of the Philippines. The departure of India and Pakistan made small economic difference in the United Kingdom. Dutch economists calculated that the economic effect from the loss of the great Dutch empire in Indonesia was compensated for by a couple of years or so of domestic post-war economic growth. The end of the colonial era is celebrated in the history books as a triumph of national aspiration in the former colonies and of benign good sense on the part of the colonial powers. Lurking beneath, as so often happens, was a strong current of economic interest – or in this case, disinterest.”

In general, the release of the colonised caused little economic loss to the colonisers. Part of the reason for this was that major costs were eliminated while major benefits were obtained by alternate means. Decolonisation allowed the coloniser to disclaim responsibility for the colonised. The coloniser no longer had the burden of obligation, financial or otherwise, to their colony. However, the coloniser continued to be able to obtain cheap goods and lobar as well as economic benefits (see Suez Canal Crisis) from the former colonies. Financial, political and military pressure could still be used to achieve goals desired by the coloniser. Thus decolonisation allowed the goals of colonisation to be largely achieved, but without its burdens.

Weirdly, the arguments in favor of colonialism are often framed in terms of “burdens” that whites ought to undertake. West Africa became known colloquially as “the white man’s grave” because so many died there, eg:

To expand on this: in the Orkneys, the land was rather barren; there were no trees because there were always gales blowing, but that didn’t bother me, I enjoyed it there, I wished I could have done my entire service there, but I couldn’t. I had to go to West Africa, which was known as ‘White Man’s Grave’, which it is. Anyone who stays there for five years can expect to have something radically wrong with them afterwards, because of the climate etc.

Another account:

The doctor, Harold Tweedy then found that I had blackwater fever, sleeping sickness, from the bite of the tsetse fly, and malaria, all together. … They thought that I was going to die so for good measure John Busby gave me an injection of triparcimide. This was specific against the sleeping sickness which normally requires a prolonged course of treatment, but in a miraculous manner the blackwater fever seemed to evaporate and the fevers subsided. I was very weak and yet I felt remarkably better and in a week I was put in a hammock and taken down to the sea-shore and carried through the water to a launch. The Paramount Chief and his Tribal Authority stood in the water to bid me farewell and I remember leaning out of the hammock to shake the chiefs hand and say to him that I would be back to talk that alleged murder case and other things. …

It was evening and as the sun went down over the sea as one looked westward I noticed the phenomenon of the green flash, an optical illusion which one sometimes saw. In the morning I was feeling all right but an orderly brought me some tea. It was dark. He then came to shave me; it was still dark. I just thought they started early here. Then he brought me some breakfast; it was still dark. I asked him the time. It was 8 a.m. when the sun was well up and I could not see it. I had gone blind overnight.  

(Note that none of this is arguing that colonialism was a net gain for the colonized. It is entirely possible for something to be a net loss for everyone involved.)

As for wealth allowing colonization:

According to the data gathered by Professor Angus Maddison in The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, in 1600 India’s per capita GDP was $550 (1990 dollar levels), which remained the same for nearly a hundred and fifty years (the period of Mughal decline), and was slightly lower at $540 by the time the British became politically active in India in the 1750s.  …

At the same time the British per capita GDP increased from $974 in 1600, to $1250 in 1700, $1424 in 1757,

In other words, India economically stagnated while Britain was zooming forward just before Britain colonized India.

So why colonize at all?

I propose that colonizing is akin to gambling. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. If you can do it with someone else’s money, all the better. Some people love to gamble and will keep doing it for years. But in the long run, the house always wins.

“Colonialism will make us lots of money” sounds great, and clearly lots of people believe it. More likely, though, colonialism made some people a lot of money at the expense of a lot of other people losing money. So long as a country has lots of money to throw around or bad accounting, they can keep going, but eventually, repeat losers face insolvency and have to stop.

Book Club: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, pt 3/3


Chinua Achebe, Author and Nobel Prize winner

Welcome back to our discussion of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Today I wanted to take a closer look at some of the aspects of traditional Igbo society mentioned in the book.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know by now that just as early modern humans (Homo sapiens) mated with Neanderthals and Denisovans somewhere over in Eurasia, some sapiens mated with archaic humans in Africa.

Unfortunately, the state of knowledge about African genomes and especially archaic African genomes is very primitive. Not only does ancient DNA not preserve terribly well in many parts of Africa, but the continent is also rather poor and so people there don’t send their spit to 23 and Me very often to get DNA tested. Thus, sadly, I do not have archaic DNA percents for the Igbo.

“Approximate Bayesian computation estimates for the introgressing population across four African populations (Yoruba from Ibadan (YRI), Esan in Nigeria [ESN], Gambian in Western Divisions in the Gambia [GWD], and Mende in Sierra Leone [MSL]),” from Recovering Signals of Ghost Archaic Introgression in African Populations
However, we do have data for their neighbors, the Yoruba, Esan, Mende, and Gambians.

Keep in mind that so far, Eurasians measure about 1-4% Neanderthal and Melanesians about 6% Denisovan, so 10% Ghost in west Africans is a pretty big deal (if you’re into archaic DNA.) The authors of the study estimate that the admixture occurred about 50,000 years ago, which is coincidentally about the same time as the admixture in non-Africans–suggesting that whatever triggered the Out of Africa migration may have also simultaneously triggered an Into Africa migration. 

If you’re not familiar with some of these groups (I only know a little about the Yoruba,) the Esan, Mende, Gambians, and Yoruba are all speakers of languages from the Niger-Congo family (of which the Bantu languages are a sub-set.) The Niger-Congo family is one of the world’s largest, with 1,540 languages and 700 million speakers. It spread within the past 3,000 years from a homeland somewhere in west Africa (possibly Nigeria) to dominate sub-Saharan Africa. As far as I can tell, the Igbo are quite similar genetically to the Yoruba, and the admixture event happened tens of thousands of years before these groups spread and split, so there’s a good chance that the Igbo have similarly high levels of ghost-pop admixture.

Interestingly, a population related to the Bushmen and Pygmies used to dominate central and southern Africa, before the Bantu expansion. While the Bantu expansion and the admixture event are separated by a good 40 or 50 thousand years, this still suggests the possibility of human hybrid vigor.

Edit: A new paper just came out! Whole-genome sequence analysis of a Pan African set of samples reveals archaic gene flow from an extinct basal population of modern humans into sub-Saharan populations:

Here, we examine 15 African populations covering all major continental linguistic groups, ecosystems, and lifestyles within Africa through analysis of whole-genome sequence data of 21 individuals sequenced at deep coverage. We observe a remarkable correlation among genetic diversity and geographic distance, with the hunter-gatherer groups being more genetically differentiated and having larger effective population sizes throughout most modern-human history. Admixture signals are found between neighbor populations from both hunter-gatherer and agriculturalists groups, whereas North African individuals are closely related to Eurasian populations. Regarding archaic gene flow, we test six complex demographic models that consider recent admixture as well as archaic introgression. We identify the fingerprint of an archaic introgression event in the sub-Saharan populations included in the models (~ 4.0% in Khoisan, ~ 4.3% in Mbuti Pygmies, and ~ 5.8% in Mandenka) from an early divergent and currently extinct ghost modern human lineage.

So the ghost population that shows up in the Pygmies the same ghost population as shows up in the Mende? Looks like it.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in this paper, but I’d just like to highlight this one graph:


I don’t really understand how they compute these things, much less if this is accurate (though their present estimate for the size of the Han looks pretty good,) but assuming it is, we can say a few things: One, before 100,000 years ago, all of the groups–except the Laal of Chad–tracked closely together in size because they were one group. Most of the groups then got smaller simply because they split up. But there seems to have been some kind of really big population bottleneck a bit over a million years ago.

The other really interesting thing is the absolute Pygmy dominance of the mid-10,000-100,000 year range. The authors note:

It is noteworthy that we observed by PSMC a sudden Ne increase in Baka Pygmy around 30 kya. A similar increase was observed in another study that analyzed several Baka and Biaka samples [25]. In addition, this individual presents the highest average genome-wide heterozygosity compared to the rest of samples (Fig. 1b). Nevertheless, such abrupt Ne increase can be attributed to either a population expansion or episodes of separation and admixture [60]. Further analyses at population level are needed to distinguish between these two scenarios.

Until we get more information on the possible Pygmy-cide, let’s get back to Things Fall Apart, for the Igbo of 1890 aren’t their ancestors of 50,000 BC nor the conquerors of central Africa. Here’s an interesting page with information about some of the rituals Achebe wrote about, like the Feast of the New Yams and the Egwugwu ceremony:

 The egwugwu ceremony takes place in order to dispute the guilty side of a crime taken place, similar to our court trials… Nine egwugwu represented a village of the clan, their leader known as Evil Forest; exit the huts with their masks on.

Short page; fast read.

The egwugwu ceremony I found particularly interesting. Of course everyone knows the guys in masks are just guys in masks (well, I assume everyone knows that. It seems obvious,) yet in taking on the masks, they adopt a kind of veil of anonymity. In real life, they are people, with all of the biases of ordinary people; under the mask, they take on the identity of a spirit, free from the biases of ordinary people. It is similar to the official garb worn by judges in other countries, which often look quite silly (wigs on English barristers, for example,) but effectively demarcate a line between normal life and official pronouncements. By putting on the costume of the office, the judge becomes more than an individual.

I have long been fascinated by masks, masquerades, and the power of anonymity. Many famous writers, from Benjamin Franklin to Samuel Clemens, published under pseudonyms. The mask implies falseness–on Halloween, we dress up as things that we are not–but it also allows honesty by freeing us from the threat of retribution.

It is interesting that a small, tightly-knit society where everyone knows everyone and social relations are of paramount importance, like the Igbo, developed a norm of anonymizing judges in order to remove judicial decisions from normal social relations and obligations (as much as possible, anyway). Since most Igbo villages did not have kings or other aristocrats to dictate laws, rule was conducted by notable community members who had effectively purchased or earned noble titles. These nobles got to wear the masks and costumes of the egwgwu.

Ok, so it’s getting late and I need to wrap this up. This moment comes in every post.

I know I haven’t said much about the book itself. The plot, narrative, pacing, structure, writing style, etc. To be honest, that’s because I didn’t enjoy it very much. It was interesting for its content, along with a sense of “I’ve been trying to tell people this and I could have saved myself a lot of time by just pointing them to the book. And if this is a book taught in schools (we didn’t read it in my highschool, but I have heard that many people did,) then why aren’t people more aware of the contents?

What was tribal life like before the Europeans got there? Well, women got beaten a lot. Children were murdered to avenge tribal conflicts. Infant mortality was high. In other words, many things were pretty unpleasant.

And yet, interestingly, much of what we think was unpleasant about them was, in its own way, keeping the peace. As Will (Evolving Moloch) quotes from The Social Structure of Right and Wrong on Twitter:

“Much of the conduct described by anthropologists as conflict management, social control, or even law in tribal and other traditional societies is regarded as crime in modern [nation state] societies.” This is especially clear in the case of violent modes of redress such as assassination, feuding, fighting, maiming, and beating, but it also applies to the confiscation and destruction of property and to other forms of deprivation and humiliation. Such actions typically express a grievance by one person or group against another.

See, for example, when the village burned down Okonkwo’s house for accidentally killing a villager, when they burned down the church for “killing” a deity, or when they took a little girl and killed a little boy in revenge for someone in another village killing one of their women. To the villagers, these were all legal punishments, and the logic of burning down a person’s house if they have killed someone is rather similar to the logic of charging someone a fine for committing manslaughter. Even though Okonkwo didn’t mean to kill anyone, he should have been more careful with his gun, which he knew was dangerous and could kill someone.

Unlike penalties imposed by the state, however, private executions of this kind often result in revenge or even a feud—Moreover, the person killed in retaliation may not be himself or herself a killer, for in these societies violent conflicts between nonkin are virtually always handled in a framework of collective responsibility–or more precisely, collective liability–whereby all members of a social category (such as a family or lineage) are held accountable for the conduct of their fellows.

And, of course, penalties so meted out can be incredibly violent, arbitrary, and selfish, but ignoring that, there’s clearly a conflict when traditional, tribal ways of dealing with problems clash with state-based ways of dealing with problems. Even if everyone eventually agrees that the state-based system is more effective (and I don’t expect everyone to agree) the transition is liable to be difficult for some people, especially if, as in the book, they are punished by the state for enforcing punishments prescribed by their own traditional laws. The state is effectively punishing them for punishing law-breakers, creating what must seem to them a state of anarcho-tyranny.

As for polygamy, Achebe seems to gloss over some of its downsides. From Christakis’s Blueprint: The Origins of a Good Society (h/t Rob Henderson), we have:

Co-wife conflict is ubiquitous in polygynous households… Because the Turkana often choose wives from different families in order to broaden their safety net, they typically do not practice sororal [sister-wives] polygyny… When co-wives are relatives, they can more easily share a household and cooperate… But while sororal polygyny is especially common in cultures in the Americas, general polygyny tends to be the usual pattern in Africa. An examination of ethnographic data from 69 nonsororal polygynous cultures fails to turn up a single society where co-wife relations could be described as harmonious. Detailed ethnographic studies highlight the stresses and fears present in polygynous families, including, for example, wives’ concern that other wives might try to poison their children so that their own children might inherit land or property.

Anyway, let’s wrap this up with a little article on human pacification:

There is a well-entrenched schism on the frequency (how often), intensity (deaths per 100,000/year), and evolutionary significance of warfare among hunter-gatherers compared with large-scale societies. To simplify, Rousseauians argue that warfare among prehistoric and contemporary hunter-gatherers was nearly absent and, if present, was a late cultural invention. In contrast, so-called Hobbesians argue that violence was relatively common but variable among hunter-gatherers. … Furthermore, Hobbesians with empirical data have already established that the frequency and intensity of hunter-gatherer warfare is greater compared with large-scale societies even though horticultural societies engage in warfare more intensively than hunter-gatherers. In the end I argue that although war is a primitive trait we may share with chimpanzees and/or our last common ancestor, the ability of hunter-gatherer bands to live peaceably with their neighbors, even though war may occur, is a derived trait that fundamentally distinguishes us socially and politically from chimpanzee societies. It is a point often lost in these debates.

I think we should read Legal Systems Very Different from Ours for our next book. Any other ideas?

Anthropologyish Friday: Oriental Prisons pt. 4 Egypt

Relevant: Outsourcing Torture and Execution

Welcome back to Anthropology Friday. Today we’re finishing up with Arthur Griffith’s oddly named The History and Romance of Crime: Oriental Prisons. Griffiths was a British prison administrator and inspector of the late 1800s. I am not sure when the book was published, but I believe it was sometime in the early 1900s, for Griffiths mentions events that occurred up to 1899 and died in 1908.


The Code of Hammurabi

“The land of the Pharaohs has ever been governed by the practices and influenced by the traditions of the East. From the time of the Arab conquest, Mohammedan law has generally prevailed, and the old penal code was derived directly from the Koran. Its provisions were most severe, but followed the dictates of common sense and were never outrageously cruel. The law of talion was generally enforced, a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Murder entailed the punishment of death, but a fine might be paid to the family of the deceased if they would accept it; this was only permitted when the homicide was attended by palliating circumstances. The price of blood varied. It might be the value of a hundred camels; or if the culprit was the possessor of gold, a sum equal to £500 was demanded, but if he possessed silver only, the price asked was a sum equal to £300. …

Compensation in the form of a fine is not now permitted. … The price of blood was incumbent upon the whole tribe or family to which the murderer belonged. A woman convicted of a capital crime was generally drowned in the Nile.

Blood-revenge was a common practice among the Egyptian people. The victim’s relations claimed the right to kill the perpetrator, and relationship was widely extended, for the blood guiltiness included the homicide, his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, and all these were liable to retaliation from any of the relatives of the deceased, who in times past, killed with their own hands rather than appeal to the government, and often did so with disgusting cruelty, even mangling and insulting the corpse. Animosity frequently survived even after retaliation had been accomplished, and blood-revenge sometimes subsisted between neighbouring villages for several years and through many generations.

“Revengeful mutilation was allowed by the law in varying degrees. Cutting off the nose was equivalent to the whole price of blood, or of any two members,—two arms, two hands, or two legs; the removal of one was valued at half the price of blood. The fine of a man for maiming or wounding a woman was just half of that inflicted for injuring a man, if free; if a slave the fine was fixed according to the commercial value of the slave. The whole price of blood was demanded if the victim had been deprived of any of his five senses or when he had been grievously wounded or disfigured for life….

“The modern traveller in Egypt will bear witness to the admirable police system introduced under British rule, and to the security afforded to life and property in town and country by a well organised, well conducted force. In former days, under the Pashas, the whole administration of justice was corrupt from the judge in his court to the police armed with arbitrary powers of oppression….

“Until 1844 the Egyptian police was ineffective, the law was often a dead letter, and the prisons were a disgrace to humanity and civilisation. Before that date the country was covered with zaptiehs, or small district prisons, in which illegal punishment and every form of cruelty were constantly practised. It was quite easy for anyone in authority to consign a fellah to custody. One of the first of the many salutary reforms introduced by the new prison department established under British predominance was an exact registration of every individual received at the prison gate, and the enforcement of the strict rule that no one should be admitted without an order of committal duly signed by some recognised judicial authority.”


“There are few notable buildings in Turkey constructed primarily as prisons. In fact there are few buildings of any sort constructed for that purpose. But every palace had, and one may almost say, still has its prison chambers; and every fortress has its dungeons, the tragedies of which are chiefly a matter of conjecture. Few were present at the tortures, and in a country where babbling is not always safe, witnesses were likely to be discreet.

“In and around Constantinople, if walls had only tongues, strange and gruesome stories might be told. On the Asiatic side of the Bosporus still stand the ruins of a castle built by Bayezid I, known as “the Thunderbolt” when the Ottoman princes were the dread of Europe. Sigismund, King of Hungary, had been defeated, and Constantinople was the next object of attack, though not to fall for a half century. This castle was named “the Beautiful,” but so many prisoners died there of torture and ill-treatment that the name “Black Tower” took its place in common speech.”

EvX: I believe this is Bayezid’s fortress, the Anadolu hisarı, which awkwardly has an i with no dot over it:

Bayezid himself was an interesting character. According to Wikipedia:

Bayezid I … He built one of the largest armies in the known world at the time and unsuccessfully besieged Constantinople. He adopted the title of Sultan-i Rûm, Rûm being an old Islamic name for the Roman Empire.[6] He decisively defeated the Crusaders at Nicopolis (in modern Bulgaria) in 1396, and was himself defeated and captured by Timur at the Battle of Ankara in 1402 and died in captivity in March 1403.

Bayezid I held captive by Timur, painting by Stanisław Chlebowski (1877)

Back to Griffiths:

“Directly opposite, on the European side of the Bosporus, is Rumili Hissar, or the Castle of Europe, which Muhammad II, “the Conqueror,” built in 1452 when he finally reached out to transform the headquarters of Eastern Christendom into the centre of Islam. The castle was built upon the site of the state prison of the Byzantine emperors, which was destroyed to make room for it. The three towers of the castle, and the walls thirty feet thick, still stand.

“In the Tower of Oblivion which now has as an incongruous neighbour, the Protestant institution, Robert College, is a fiendish reminder of days hardly yet gone. A smooth walled stone chute reaches from the interior of the tower down into the Bosporus. Into the mouth of this the hapless victim, bound and gagged perhaps, with weights attached to his feet, was placed. Down he shot and bubbles marked for a few seconds the grave beneath the waters.

“The Conqueror built also the Yedi Kuleh, or the “Seven Towers,” at the edge of the old city. This imperial castle, like the Bastile or the Tower of London, was also a state prison, though its glory and its shame have both departed. The Janissaries who guarded this castle used to bring thither the sultans whom they had dethroned either to allow them to linger impotently or to cause them to lose their heads. A cavern where torture was inflicted and the rusty machines which tore muscles and cracked joints, may still be seen. The dungeons in which the prisoners lay are also shown. A small open court was the place of execution and to this day it is called the “place of heads” while a deep chasm into which the heads were thrown is the “well of blood.”

“Several sultans, (the exact number is uncertain) and innumerable officers of high degree have suffered the extreme penalty here. It was here too that foreign ambassadors were always imprisoned in former days, when Turkey declared war against the states they represented. The last confined here was the French representative in 1798.

The Cage or Kafes, Istanbul

“Another interesting survival of early days is the Seraglio, the old palace of the sultans, and its subsidiary buildings, scattered over a considerable area. In the court of the treasury is the Kafess, or cage, in which the imperial children were confined from the time of Muhammad III, lest they should aspire to the throne. Sometimes however the brothers and sons of the reigning sultan were confined, each in a separate pavilion on the grounds. A retinue of women, pages and eunuchs was assigned to each but the soldiers who guarded them were warned to be strict. The present sultan was confined by his brother Abdul Hamid within the grounds of the Yildiz Kiosk, where he had many liberties but was a prisoner nevertheless. Absolutism breeds distrust of all, no matter how closely connected by ties of blood.”

EvX: The Kafes, strange as it sounds, was real–a prison for princes. According to Wikipedia:

Thereafter, the “rule of elderness” was adopted as the rule of succession in the House of Osmanli so that all males within an older generation were exhausted before the succession of the eldest male in the next generation. …

It became common to confine brothers, cousins and nephews to the Cage, generally not later than when they left the harem (women’s quarters) at puberty. This also marked the end of their education and many sultans came to the throne ill-prepared to be rulers, without any experience of government or affairs outside the Cage. There they had only the company of servants and the women of their harems, occasionally with deposed sultans. …

At different times, it was the policy to ensure that inmates of the Cage only took barren concubines. Consequently, some sultans did not produce sons until they acceded to the throne. These sons, by virtue of their youth at the time of their fathers’ deaths, ensured that the rule of elderness became entrenched …

Confinement in the Cage had a great impact on the personalities of the captives in the Kafes and many of them developed psychological disorders. At least one deposed sultan and one heir committed suicide in the Cage. …

The last Ottoman sultan, Mehmet VI Vahidettin (1918–22) was aged 56 when he came to the throne and had been either in the harem or the Cage his whole life. He was confined to the Cage by his uncle (Abdülaziz) and had stayed there during the reigns of his three older brothers.

This system sounds like it couldn’t possibly have produced good rulers. So after the Turkish sultans condemned their posterity to prison, who actually ran things?

That’s all for today. Everyone take care, follow the law, and stay out of prison!

Exploration Friday: Russian in the New World, pt. 4/4

I only approve of wearing non-cute animals
I only approve of wearing non-cute animals

When we left off last week with Caughey’s History of the Pacific Coast, Vitus Bering and his men had heroically crossed Siberia twice, spent about 10 hours in Alaska, gotten stranded over winter in the Aleutian Islands, a bunch of them (including Bering himself) died of scurvy, and finally a few of them struggled back to Moscow. The result of all this human effort and travail was a rush to kill every last sea otter for their super soft and cuddly pelts.

As usual, I’m using “” instead of blockquotes for readability.

“Without waiting for authorization from the czar, traders scurried from Kamchatka to the Commander and Aleutian Islands. They sailed in most unseaworthy craft, small and crude, built usually of green timber, without iron, and consisting merely of a log frame covered with planks that were fastened with deer thongs and wooden peg and calked with moss and tallow for lack of pitch. … the willingness and eagerness of these adventurers to sail n such crazy craft over the stormy waters off Kamchatka testifies as to the profits in promise for successful voyages. …

“they went chiefly to the Aleutian Island, and did not visit the Alaskan mainland again until 1761. Shipwrecks occurred frequently, the estimate being one out of three… This was the period of unregulated hunting, characterized by the vilest outrages against the Aleuts, who suffered almost as much damage as the sea-otters.

Mikhail Tikhanov, Aleut in Festival Dress in Alaska, 1818
Mikhail Tikhanov, Aleut in Festival Dress in Alaska, 1818

“The Aleuts were depended upon for the actual hunting. The Russians hunted occasionally by long distance rifle shooting, but it was more convenient to utilize the natives. In calm weather they went out in kayaks and harpooned the sea-otters as they came up to breathe. Storm hunting on the kelp beds was more customary. In this wild work some of the Aleuts pursued the sea-otter in kayaks while others clubbed them as they came ashore. The danger was great, both in the fragile kayaks and on the slipper rocks. …

“the women of a village were seized as hostages and held until a satisfactory number of sea-otter pelts was brought in. This device lent itself to abuse and there were outrageous wrongs. The most spectacular concerned a ship which was blown back to Kamchatka with twenty-five hostages still on board. Rather than come into port with such incriminating evidence, the Russians unceremoniously dumped these women overboard to drown.”

Wikipedia has an interesting account of the far-reaching effects of this coercion:

Google maps would not give me driving directions for the route from the Aleutians to San Nicolas Island
Google maps would not give me driving directions for the route from the Aleutians to San Nicolas Island

There was high demand for the furs that the Aleut provided from hunting. In 1811, in order to obtain more of the commercially valuable otter pelts, a party of Aleut hunters traveled to the coastal island of San Nicolas, near the Alta California-Baja California border. The locally resident Nicoleño nation sought a payment from the Aleut hunters for the large number of otters being killed in the area. Disagreement arose, turning violent; in the ensuing battle, the Aleut killed nearly all the Nicoleño men. Together with high fatalities from European diseases, the Nicoleños suffered so much from the loss of their men that by 1853, only one living Nicoleña person remained. (See Juana Maria, The Lone Woman of San Nicolas, also known as Karana)

Back to Caughey: “By the middle 1760’s the Aleuts were aroused by these repeated atrocities to measures of retaliation. They met treachery with deceit and murder with assassination, and Russian blood flowed to atone for the slaughters of the Aleuts. This new sort of disturbance brought the region to the attention of the czar… A governor was sent out for the express purpose regulating this fur trade. … The Aleuts received but meager protection, and the czar’s revenues were not augmented to the extent anticipated. But during the period of government regulation there as an expansion of Russian fur hunting to Alaska proper. Kodiak was settled in 1783, and Shelikoff advanced to the Sitka neighborhood soon after.

“Toward the end of the century government regulation was abandoned in favor of control through a trading company modeled after those  of the English. … Under the company conditions did improve. Missions were but slightly encouraged, but the natives received some safeguarding for the very practical reason that their perpetuation was vital to the continued profits of the fur trade.”

Saint Peter the Aleut
Saint Peter the Aleut

EvX: See my post on Kabloona, Religion and the Far Reaches of the World for more on Russian Orthodox missionaries to the Alaskan natives. Wikipedia notes:

After the arrival of Russian Orthodox missionaries in the late 18th century, many Aleuts became Christian. Of the numerous Russian Orthodox congregations in Alaska, most are majority Alaska Native in ethnicity. One of the earliest Christian martyrs in North America was Saint Peter the Aleut.

Continuing with Caughey, “Following an uprising of the natives, [Baranof] reestablished Sitka in 1803 and made it the capital of Russian America. Shipbuilding was one of his principal innovations; some fourteen vessels being launched in Alaska during his regime, 1799 to 1818. …

“Russian America’s insecurity was well revealed during the course of the inspection by Nikolai Rezanof in 1805-1806. … He found Sitka threatened with starvation because one of the supply ships from Siberia had not arrived. Scurvy had broken out, causing several deaths, and no prospect of securing supplies was apparent. He gave temporary respite by purchasing the American ship Juno with its cargo of supplies, but to develop a permanent source of supplies for Russian Alaska he decided to make a voyage to Spanish California. …

“Rezanof soon discovered that Spanish law forbade any traffic with foreigners and that the California official were not inclined to countenance trade with him. A battle of wits ensued in which he endeavored to conceal the dire straits at Sitka, …

EvX: Rezanof got engaged to the daughter of the Spanish commander of San Francisco, who convinced her father to convince the governor to let Rezanof trade for a shipload of food for the Russian colony. Rezanof set off for Moscow to report back to the Czar, but died on the way. His fiance, ever faithful, became a nun and waited thirty-five years for news of his fate.

“Besides the cargo of supplies, Rezanof carried to Alaska a very enthusiastic description of California. … Three years later [Kuskoff] returned to poach twelve hundred sea-otter skins from San Francisco Bay and to purchase from the natives enough land for a post. The price was “three blankets, two axes, three hoes, and a miscellaneous assortment of beads.”

“Kuskoff came again in 1812 with one hundred Russians and eighty Aleuts and established Fort Ross, a short distance north of Bodega Bay. … Agriculture and stock raising flourished. Eventually two hundred cows were milked, and butter and cheese could be sent to Sitka. …. Fort Ross served as headquarters for Russian fur hunting as far south as the Santa Barbara Channel.

The reconstructed Russian Orthodox chapel at Fort Ross, CA, photo by Introvert
The reconstructed Russian Orthodox chapel at Fort Ross, CA, photo by Introvert

“With the practical extermination of the sea-otter, Fort Ross’ value waned. …in 1841, the Russian American Fur Company was quite willing to dispose of the fort and its furnishings to Captain Johann Sutter, marking the termination of Russian control south of Alaska.”

EvX: The Russian presence in America, especially south of Sitka, was never more than a thread, thinly stretched, but it had a significant impact on the lives of the natives (and otters) they encountered. According to Wikipedia:

Prior to major influence from outside, there were approximately 25,000 Aleuts on the archipelago. Foreign diseases, harsh treatment and disruption of traditional society soon reduced the population to less than one-tenth this number. The 1910 Census count showed 1,491 Aleuts. In the 2000 Census, 11,941 people identified as being Aleut; nearly 17,000 said Aleuts were among their ancestors.[9] Alaskans generally recognize that the Russian occupation, while the colonists were limited in number, resulted in few full-blooded Aleuts today. Full-blooded Aleuts still exist and are growing in number, and there are also people who may be part Russian or other descent but solely identify as Aleut.

In 1942, during World War II, Japanese forces occupied Attu and Kiska Islands in the western Aleutians. They later transported captive Attu Islanders to Hokkaidō, where they were held as prisoners of war. The United States government evacuated hundreds more Aleuts from the western chain and the Pribilofs during WWII, placing them in internment camps in southeast Alaska, where many died. The Aleut Restitution Act of 1988 was an attempt by Congress to compensate the survivors.

It is often amazing just how small–on the grand scale–these first movements to reach around the globe really were. Even now, only 12 men have ever stepped foot on the moon.

It’s also amazing that anyone at all managed to survive in the Aleutian islands.

Anthropology Friday: Travels into Bokhara, pt. 2/3

16445980Today we are continuing with Alexander Burnes’s Travels into Bokhara. Oddly, the volume I am reading ends with his arrival in Lahore, which is quite a distance from Bokhara. His actual expedition to Bokhara must be in a different volume; I’ll let you know next week if I find it.

As usual, I am using “” instead of block quotes for readability and trying to correct for any mistakes in the scanning, but unfamiliar words (chiefly ethnonyms) make this difficult.

“The population chiefly consists of the pastoral tribe of Katha, or Jun, who are so called from their living an erratic life, “Jun” having that signification: few of them are found at any distance from the rivers but in the rainy season. They have immense herds of buffaloes and camels, from the milk of which they derive sustenance; hardly cultivating the soil, though some tolerable fields of tobacco, raised by irrigation, may be seen near their habitations.”

EvX: The text here says “Kattia,” but this is most likely a transcription error, as “h” is often turned into “ti,” and I haven’t found any evidence of a “Kattia” tribe, but Kathia is a last name found among Gujarati and Punjabi peoples.

Scene in Kathawar: Travelers and Escort
Scene in Kathawar: Travelers and Escort

“They are a tall and handsome race, which may be attributed to a rule among them, prohibiting marriages before their females attain the age of twenty years: they believe that the children of an early union, so common among every other Indian tribe, are puny and unhealthy. These Katha are a predatory and warlike race: few of them are free from scars and wounds. They extend from the banks of the Hydaspes across the deserts to Delhi, and are the aborigines of this country.”

EvX: Wikipedia claims:

The Kathia are a Muslim tribe classified as Rajput, who claim descent from Parmara Rajputs, found in Punjab, Pakistan. According to the Census of India 1931, their male population numbered about 200,000. …

According to their traditions, the Kathia are descended from the legendary Rajah Karan of the Mahabharat.Originally they resided in Bikaner, whence they migrated and founded the state of Kathiawar, which takes its name from the Kathia tribe, and is in modern day Gujerat State of India. From there they went to Sirsa and then Bahawalpur. In this migration, they were accompanied by a few families of the Baghela tribe. Next they crossed over to Kabula stream and went on to Daira Dinpanah. From this place they spread over to Kamalia. The Kathia, like other Neeli Bar tribes were pastoralist.

Gold coin of Diodotus, Bactrian Empire, c. 245 BC. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΙΟΔΟΤΟΥ – "(of) King Diodotus".
Gold coin of Diodotus, Bactrian Empire, c. 245 BC. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΙΟΔΟΤΟΥ – “(of) King Diodotus”.

“At Shorcote I had the good fortune to procure a variety of coins, which I long believed to be Hindoo; but my surmise regarding the antiquity of the spot received a strong and satisfactory confirmation through the intelligence of the able secretary to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, — Mr. James Prinsep. That gentlemen discovered it to be a Bactrian coin, resembling that of an Appolodotus, and shaped like a Menander, — two coins of the Bactrian monarchs, found by Colonel J. Tod, and engraved in the transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society. The Greek word Bazileos may be read; and I had, therefore, to congratulate myself on having, in my journey to the Hydaspes, found the first Grecian relic in the Punjab. …”

Map of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom circa 180 BC
Map of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, circa 180 BC

EvX: Wikipedia notes:

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was – along with the Indo-Greek Kingdom – the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC. It was centered on the north of present-day Afghanistan. The expansion of the Greco-Bactrians into present-day northern India and Pakistan from 180 BC established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which was to last until around 10 AD.[1][2][3]


“Among the inhabitants of the river itself, a creature called “bolun” was the most remarkable. We saw several of them in the mouth of the Ravee, which were of a black colour, and rolled like the porpoise. The natives class this fish with the alligator, and say it has four small paws, and a long snout like a pig. Its habits do not lead it on shore, and it lives on small fish. The large alligator is unknown here ; but the long-nosed reptile called “ghuryal” abounds. There is said to be a singular creature, called ‘* thundwa,” in this river, which is described as of the turtle species, and to have a string in its mouth, by which it can entangle a man, or even an elephant. It is mentioned in the Shasters as having seized the elephant of a god.


EvX: I’ve found nothing so far on this “bolun,” but I suspect it may have been a dugong, a relative of the manatee, which lives in coastal waters throughout the Indian Ocean including western India (though not, currently, off the coast of Pakistan.) Gharials, at least, are well-documented.

“It was a source of no small amusement to watch the love of gossip among the natives of our suite. We had a reporter sent purposely from the Court, who daily despatched an account of our employment and rides: the news-writer of Mooltan followed us from that city, and every day transmitted a Gazette. I had also letters from the news-writer at Lahore, giving me a precis of local news, and asking for a morceau in return. Our Dewan corresponded with the Chevaliers Ventura and Allard; and I was somewhat surprized to receive answers to many of my enquiries regarding the country from the former gentleman, to whom their subject had been communicated without my knowledge. Nothing, however, could exceed the politeness of all the people towards us, and the ready and happy manner they acceded to our wishes made us careful to wish for any thing.”

EvX: Wikipedia defines “Dewan“:

The originally Persian title of dewan (also quite commonly known as Diwan; also spelled -van) has, at various points in Islamic history, designated a powerful government official, minister or ruler. … The word is Persian in origin, and was loaned into Arabic. The original meaning was “bundle (of written sheets)”, hence “book”, especially “book of accounts,” and hence “office of accounts,” “custom house,” “council chamber”. The meaning divan “long, cushioned seat” is due to such seats having been found along the walls in Middle Eastern council chambers.[1]

The Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro
Mohenjo-daro, an IVC city laid out similarly to Harappa

“About fifty miles eastward of Toolumba, I passed inland [number transcribed incorrectly] miles to examine the ruins of an ancient city, called Harapa. The remains are extensive, and the place, which has been built of brick, is about three miles in circumference. There is a ruined citadel on the river side of the town; but otherwise Harapa is a perfect chaos, and has not an entire building ; the bricks have been removed to build a small place of the old name hard by. Tradition fixes the fall of Harapa at the same period as Shorkote (1300 years ago), …”

Wikipedia, again:

[Harappa] is believed to have had as many as 23,500 residents and occupied about 150 hectares (370 acres) with clay sculptured houses at its greatest extent during the Mature Harappan phase (2600–1900 BC), which is considered large for its time.[2][3] Per archaeological convention of naming a previously unknown civilization by its first excavated site, the Indus Valley Civilization is also called the Harappan Civilization.

(See also my post on the Indus Valley Civilization.)

I’m going to pause here, but I’ll leave you with a preview for next week:

The Samadhi of Ranjit Singh, Lahore, houses the funerary urns of the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 - 1839).
The Samadhi of Ranjit Singh, Lahore, houses the funerary urns of the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 – 1839).

Sikhs got pretty buildings. I hear they have nice food, too.

Anthropology Friday: Travels into Bokhara (pt.1/3)

16445980In search of something new and different (but actually old,) and not set practically within shouting range of the previous two books, I decided on a whim to pick up Capt. Alexander Burnes’s Travels into Bokhara: Being an account of a Journey from India to Cabool, Tartary and Persia. Also, narrative of a Voyage on the Indus from the Sea to Lahore, published in 1834. According to Wikipedia:

At the age of sixteen, Alexander joined the army of the East India Company and while serving in India, he learned Hindi and Persian, and obtained an appointment as interpreter at Surat in 1822. Transferred to Kutch in 1826 as assistant to the political agent, he took an interest in the history and geography of north-western India and the adjacent countries, which had not yet been thoroughly explored by the British, then he went to Afghanistan. …

His proposal in 1829 to undertake a journey of exploration through the valley of the Indus River was approved and in 1831 his and Henry Pottinger‘s surveys of the Indus river would prepare the way for a future assault on the Sind to clear a path towards Central Asia.[3] In the same year he arrived in Lahore with a present of horses from King William IV to MaharajaRanjit Singh. The British claimed that the horses would not survive the overland journey, so they were allowed to transport the horses up the Indus and used the opportunity to secretly survey the river. In the following years, in company with Mohan Lal, his travels continued through Afghanistan across the Hindu Kush to Bukhara (in what is modern Uzbekistan) and Persia.

The narrative[4] which he published on his visit to England in 1834 added immensely to contemporary knowledge of these countries, and was one of the most popular books of the time.

The book reads like excerpts from Burnes’s personal journal, edited for interest. It is sorely in need of illustrations (or at least, the version on the internet does; perhaps the original had some that weren’t uploaded,) so I’m going to try to add some. It’s been difficult picking which parts to excerpt, so I make no guarantees that I’ve picked the best or most important bits. As usual, I am using “” instead of blockquotes for readability.

Map of "Hindoostan" from the 1830s
Map of “Hindoostan” from the 1830s. Cutch–now Kutch–is part of the modern district of Gujarat; on the map it is the pink bit on the north-west coast, just south of the main mouths of the Indus.

“Among the timid navigators of the East, the Ability of mariner of Cutch is truly adventurous; he voyages to Arabia, the Red Sea, and the coast of Zanguebar in Africa, bravely stretching out on the ocean after quitting his native shore. The “moallim” or pilot determines his position by an altitude at noon or by the stars at night, with a rude quadrant. Coarse charts depict to him the bearings of his destination, and, by long-tried seamanship, he weathers, in an undecked boat with a huge lateen sail, the dangers and tornadoes of the Indian Ocean. This use of the quadrant was taught by a native of Cutch, who made a voyage to Holland in the middle of last century, and returned, “in a green old age,” to enlighten his country with the arts and sciences of Europe. … For a trifling reward, a Cutch mariner will put to sea in the rainy season, and the adventurous feeling is encouraged by the Hindoo merchants of Mandivee, an enterprising and speculating body of men. …

Ruined Shiva Temple from Kera, Kutch
Ruined Shiva Temple from Kera, Kutch

“There are many spots on [the river’s] banks hallowed in the estimation of the people. Cotasir and Narainseer are places of pilgrimage to the Hindoo, and stand upon it and the western promontory of Cutch. Opposite them lies the cupola of Rao Kanoje, beneath which there rests a saint, revered by the Mahommedans. To defraud this personage of frankincense, grain, oil, and money, in navigating the Koree, would entail, it is superstitiously believed, certain shipwreck. In the reverence we recognise the dangers and fear of the mariner. There is a great contrast between the shores of Sinde and Cutch; the one is flat and depressed, nearly to a level with the sea, while the hills of Cutch rise in wild and volcanic cones, which meet the eye long after the coast has faded from the view.”

EvX: This is one of those places where ethnonymic shift makes my work difficult. You try Googling “Cotasir” or “Rao Kanoje” and see if you find any information about these places.

“Rao” appears to be a noble title, and I have found a “Rao Khengarji” who was the “first Rao of Cutch,” but Wikipedia has no pictures. So I have picked a picture of a ruined Hindu temple from the area that might be relevant.

Jadeja Chief in Kutch attire, 1838
Jadeja Chief in Kutch attire, 1838

Burnes then quotes from Quintus Curtius on the surprising tides:

“About the third hour, the ocean, according to a regular alternation, began to flow in furiously, driving back the river. The river, at first, resisted; then impressed with a new force, rushed upwards with more impetuosity than torrents descend a precipitous channel. The mass on board, unacquainted with the nature of the tide, saw only prodigies and symbols of the wrath of the gods. Ever and anon the sea swelled; and on plains, recently dry, descended a diffused flood. The vessels lifted from their stations, and the whole fleet dispersed; those who had debarked, in terror and astonishment at the calamity, ran from all quarters towards the ships. … Vessels dash together, and oars are by turns snatched away, to impel other galleys. A spectator would not imagine a fleet carrying the same army; but hostile navies commencing a battle. * * * * Now the tide had inundated all the fields skirting the river, only tops of knolls rising above it like little islands ; to these, from the evacuated ships, the majority swam in consternation. The dispersed fleet was partly riding in deep water, where the land was depressed into dells; and partly resting on shoals, where the tide had covered elevated ground; suddenly breaks on the Macedonians a new alarm more vivid than the former. The sea began to ebb; the deluge, with a violent drain, to retreat into the fritli,* disclosing tracts just before deeply buried. Unbayed, the ships pitched some upon their prows, others upon their sides.”

Deshalji II, Rao of Kutch, 1819-1860
Deshalji II, Rao of Kutch, 1819-1860

*EvX: fritli is likely a word that was incorrectly rendered when the book was digitized–I suspect it means “froth”.

“The fields were strewed with baggage, arms, loose planks, and fragments of oars. The soldiers scarcely believed what they suffered and witnessed. Shipwrecks on dry land, the sea in a river. Nor yet ended their unhappiness; for ignorant that the speedy return of the tide would set their ships afloat, they predicted to themselves famine and death.”

EvX: At any rate, they try to get permission to head up the river, but are turned back.

“…here our civilities ended. By the way we were met by several “dingies” full of armed men, and at night were hailed by one of them, to know how many troops we had on board. We replied, that we had not even a musket. “The evil is done,” rejoined a rude Belooche soldier, “you have seen our country; but we have four thousand men ready for action!” To this vain-glorious observation succeeded torrents of abuse; and when we reached the mouth of the river, the party fired their matchlocks over us…”

“On the 10th of February we again set sail for Sinde; but at midnight, on the 14th, were overtaken by a fearful tempest, which scattered our little fleet. Two of the vessels were dismasted; we lost our small boat, split our sails, sprung a leak; and, after being buffeted about for some days by the fury of the winds and waves, succeeded in getting an observation of the sun, which enabled us to steer our course, and finally conducted us in safety to Sinde. One of the other four boats alone followed us. …”

EvX: After much negotiation, (including being told that the river is only a few feet deep,) Burnes is finally allowed to take his boats up the Indus. Burnes complains about the duplicitousness of the Ameer of Sind, who was afraid that Burnes was essentially a spy and would use information he gathered about the Indus to help the British invade–which is, of course, exactly what happened. Even if the Ameer was impolite, he was also correct.

A tomb at Makli Hills necropolis, Thatta, built in 1559. Wikipedia claims Thatta's nickname is "The city of silence."
A tomb at Makli Hills necropolis, Thatta, built in 1559. Wikipedia claims Thatta’s nickname is “The city of silence.”

“A week’s stay was agreeably spent in examining Tatta and the objects of curiosity which surround it. The city stands at a distance of three miles from the Indus. It is celebrated in the history of the East. Its commercial prosperity passed away with the empire of Delhi, and its ruin has been completed since it fell under the iron despotism of the present rulers of Sinde. It does not contain a population of 15,000 souls; and of the houses scattered about its ruins, one half are destitute of inhabitants. It is said, that the dissentions between the last and present dynasties, which led to Sinde being overrun by the Afghans, terrified the merchants of the city, who fled the country at that time, and have had no encouragement to return. Of the weavers of “loongees” (a kind of silk and cotton manufacture), for which this place was once so famous, but 125 families remain. There are not forty merchants in the city. …

Indus Valley engraving of a boat
Indus Valley engraving of a boat

“On our return, we saw much of the people, who were disposed from the first to treat us more kindly than the government. Their notions regarding us were strange: some asked us why we allowed dogs to clean our hands after a meal, and if we indiscriminately ate cats and mice, as well as pigs. They complained much of their rulers, and the ruinous and oppressive system of taxation to which they were subjected, as it deterred them from cultivating any considerable portion of land. Immense tracts of the richest soil lie in a state of nature, between Tatta and the sea, overgrown with tamarisk shrubs, which attain, in some places, the height of twenty feet, and, threading into one another, form impervious thickets. At other places, we passed extensive plains of hard-caked clay, with remains of ditches and aqueducts, now neglected. …

More recent picture of Indus River boat
More recent picture of a boat on the Indus River

“The boats of the Indus are not unlike China junks, very capacious, but most unwieldy. They are floating houses; and with ourselves we transported the boatmen, their wives and families, kids and fowls. When there is no wind, they are pulled up against the stream, by ropes attached to the mast-head, at the rate of a mile and a half an hour; but with a breeze, they set a large square-sail, and advance double the distance. …

“A Syud stood on the water’s edge, and gazed with astonishment. He turned to his companion as we passed, and, in the hearing of one of our party, said, “Alas! Sinde is now gone, since the English have seen the river, which is the road to its conquest.” If such an event do happen, I am certain that the body of the people will hail the happy day; but it will be an evil one for the Syuds, …

“I followed up the interview by sending the government presents which I had brought for his Highness: they consisted of various articles of European manufacture, — a gun, a brace of pistols, a gold watch, two telescopes, a clock, some English shawls and cloths, with two pair of elegant cut glass candlesticks and shades. Some Persian works beautifully lithographed in Bombay, and a map of the World and Hindoostan, in Persian characters, completed the gift. …

“Meer Nusseer Khan, the son of the Ameer, presented me with a handsome Damascus sword, which had a scabbard of red velvet ornamented with gold; his father sent me a purse of fifteen hundred rupees, with an apology, that he had not a blade mounted as he desired, and begged I would accept the value of one. After all the inconvenience to which we had been subjected, we hardly expected such a reception at Hydrabad. …

It turns out that there are two Hyderabads, one in the middle of India and one in Sindh, Pakistan. This is a photograph of the correct Hyderabad, from the 1800s
It turns out that there are two Hyderabads, one in the middle of India and one in Sindh, Pakistan. This is a photograph of the correct Hyderabad, from the 1800s

“On the capital itself, I can add little to the Hydrabad accounts which are already on record. It does not contain a population of twenty thousand souls, who live in houses, or rather huts, built of mud. The residence of the chief himself is a comfortless miserable dwelling. The fort, as well as the town, stands on a rocky hillock; and the former is a mere shell, partly surrounded by a ditch, about ten feet wide and eight deep, over which there is a wooden bridge. The walls are about twenty-five feet high, built of brick, and fast going to decay. Hydrabad is a place of no strength, and might readily be captured by escalade. In the centre of the fort there is a massive tower, unconnected with the works,
which overlooks the surrounding country. Here are deposited a great portion of the riches of Sinde. …

Shrine of Lal ShahBaz, lit up for the anniversary of his death
Shrine of Lal ShahBaz, lit up for the anniversary of his death

“Sehwun has considerable celebrity and sanctity from the tomb of a holy saint of Khorasan, by name Lal Shah Baz, who was interred here about 600 years ago. The shrine stands in the centre of the town, and rests under a lofty dome at one end of a quadrangular building, which is handsomely ornamented by blue painted slabs, like Dutch tiles, that give it a rich appearance. A cloth of gold, with two other successive palls of red silk, are suspended over the sepulchre, and on the walls which surround it are inscribed in large Arabic letters the praises of the deceased, and extracts from the Koran. Ostrich eggs, peacocks’ feathers, beads, flowers, &c. complete the furniture of this holy spot; and pigeons, the emblems of peace, are encouraged to perch on the cloths which shade the remains of departed virtue.

“The miracles of Lal Shah Baz are endless, if you believe the people. The Indus is subject to his commands, and no vessel dares to pass his shrine without making a propitiatory offering at his tomb. Thousands of pilgrims flock to the consecrated spot, and the monarchs of Cabool and India have often visited the sanctuary. The drums which proclaim the majesty of the saint are a gift from the renowned persecutor Alla-o-deen, who reigned a. d. 1212; and the gate, which is of silver, attests the homage and devotion of a deceased Ameer of Sinde. The needy are daily supplied with food from the charity of the stranger; but the universal bounty has corrupted the manners of the inhabitants, who are a worthless and indolent set of men.

“The Hindoo joins with the Mahommedan in his veneration of the saint, and artfully insinuates “Lal” to be a Hindoo name, and that the Mahommedans have associated with the faith of their prophet the god of an infidel creed. …

“We halted four days at Sehwun. The climate was most sultry and oppressive: the thermo-
meter stood at 112°, and did not fall below 100° at midnight, owing to scorching winds from the west, where the country is bleak and mountainous. …”

EvX: If I lived somewhere that was still 100 degrees out past midnight, I think I’d be “worthless and indolent,” too.

Seriously, I think the “people move around more in cooler climates because they aren’t going to die of heat exhaustion” theory of civilization has a lot going for it. I don’t know how humans are supposed to do anything useful in extreme heat.

“With the better orders of society we had frequent intercourse and conversation. … They were full of enquiries regarding our customs. Our Khyrpoor friend, Mahomed Gohur, was particularly horrified at our arrangements for getting a wife, and begged me in future to let my beard grow. … I delighted to hear him sing the praises of the soldiers of Sinde, who, he said, differed from all the world in thinking it an honour to fight on foot. The feelings of pity which some of the people displayed for us were amusing: they were shocked to hear that we cleaned our teeth with hogs’ bristles. I was frequently asked to lay aside the English saddle, which they considered quite unworthy, and worse than a seat on the bare back of the horse. …

Major ethnic groups of Pakistan in 1980
Major ethnic groups of Pakistan in 1980

“The Beloochees are a particularly savage race of people, but they are brave barbarians. From childhood they are brought up in arms; and I have seen some of the sons of chiefs who had not attained the age of four or five years strutting about with a shield and a sword of small size, given by the parents to instil into them, at that early period, the relish for war.

“This tribe composes but a small portion of the Sindian population; and while they are execrated by the peaceable classes of the community for their imperious conduct, they, on the other hand, hate the princes by whom they are governed. It would be difficult to conceive a more unpopular rule, with all classes of their subjects, than that of the Ameers of Sinde: nor is the feeling disguised ; many a fervent hope did we hear expressed, in every part of the country, that we were the forerunners of conquest, the advance-guard of a conquering army.

“The persons of the Ameers are secure from danger by the number of slaves which they entertain around their persons. These people are called “Khaskelees,” and enjoy the confidence of their masters, with a considerable share of power : they are hereditary slaves, and a distinct class of the community, who marry only among themselves. …”

EvX: so far I haven’t been able to find anything else on the “Khaskelees,” but apparently Pakistan, India, Haiti, and Mauritania rank very high in numbers/percentage of the population currently enslaved.

“The ladies were more curious than their husbands. They wear ear-rings of large dimensions, with turquoises suspended or fixed to them; for these stones are of little value in the vicinity of Khorasan. Among the women, I should note the Syudanees, or Bebees, the female descendants of Mahommed: they go about veiled, or rather with a long white robe thrown over their entire body, having netted orifices before the eyes and mouth. They are all beggars, and very vociferous in their demands for alms: one set of them, (for they go about in troops,) when they found I did not readily meet their demands, produced a written paper from the shrine of Lal ShahBaz, at Sehwun, to hasten my charity! Father Manrique, in his journey by the Indus some centuries ago, complains “of the frail fair ones” who molested him by the way.

Jewish-Indian (known as Bene-israel) family in Bombay, late 1800s or early 1900s.
Jewish-Indian (known as Bene-israel) family in Bombay, late 1800s or early 1900s.

“… some of the principal merchants of Bhawulpoor, who had followed the Khan. The intelligence of these people, and extent of their travels, surprised me. Most of them had traversed the kingdom of Cabool, and visited Balkli and Bokhara: some had been as far as Astracan; and they used the names of these towns with a familiarity as if they had been in India. They had met Russian merchants at Bokhara, but assured me that they never came to the eastward of that city. The intervening countries they represented as perfectly safe, and bestowed the highest commendations on Dost Mahommed, of Cabool, and the Uzbeks, who encouraged commercial communication. These merchants are chiefly Hindoos, whose disposition peculiarly adapts them for the patient and painstaking vocation of a foreign merchant. Some of them are Jews, who retain the marks of their nation in all countries and places. …”

EvX: According to Wikipedia:

The history of Jews in Pakistan dates at least as far back as 1839.[1][2] Various estimates suggest that there were about 1,000 Jews living in Karachi at the beginning of the twentieth century, mostly Bene Israel Jews from Maharashtra, India.[3] A substantial community lived in Rawalpindi.[1] A smaller community of Jews also lived in Peshawar. The Bene Israel Jews of India were concentrated in Karachi.[4] According to Bene Israel human rights lawyer, Levi M. Sankar, there are no indigenous Jews remaining in Pakistan.

Since “Travels into Bokhara” was published in 1834, I think this needs to be revised.Given the trade routes, I think it likely that Jews have been in the area of modern day Pakistan since sometime around the rise and fall of the Persian Empire.

I’m going to stop here for now. See you next Friday.

Anthropology Friday: In the Shadow of Man (pt. 2/5): War

Location of the Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania
Location of the Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania

Welcome back to our discussion of Jane Goodall’s In the Shadow of Man, an account of chimpanzee life in the Gombe National Park, Tanzania. I enjoyed this book quite a bit; my chief difficulty has been deciding which parts to excerpt for you.

Tanzania borders the DRC ne Congo ne Belgian Congo, which was (coincidentally) the location of our previous Anthropology Friday selection, Isaac Bacirongo’s Still a Pygmy.

The book begins with the difficulties inherent in setting up the research–obtaining permits and funding, overcoming the locals’ distrust, (they of course did not believe that this white woman actually wanted to live in the forest and stare at monkeys all day,) and a massive influx of refugees:

Once we reached Nairobi, however, I could think of nothing save the excitement of the eight-hundred-mile journey to Kigoma–and the chimpanzees. … When we reached Kigoma, however, after a dusty three days on the road, we found the whole town in a state of chaos. Since we had left Nairobi violence and bloodshed had erupted in the Congo, which lay only some twenty-five miles to the west of Kigoma, on the other side of lake Tanganyika. Kigoma was overrun by boatloads of Belgian refugees. …

Eventually we ran the District Commissioner to earth, and he explained, regretfully but firmly, that there was no chance at all of my proceeding to the chimpanzee reserve. First it was necessary to wait and find out how the local Kigoma district Africans would react to the tales of rioting and disorder in the Congo. …

Bernard shared his room with two homeless Belgians, and we even got out our three camp beds and lent them to the harassed hotel owner. Every room was crammed, but these refugees were in paradise compared to those housed in the huge warehouse, normally used for storing cargo… There everyone slept in long rows on mattresses or merely blankets on the cement floor, and queued up in the hundreds for the scant meals that Kigoma was able to provide for them.

… On our second evening in Kigoma we three and a few others made two thousand SPAM sandwiches. …

Two evenings later most of the refugees had gone, carried off by a series of extra trains to Tanganyika’s capital, Dar es Salaam.

Belgian refugees fleeing violence in the Congo, 1960
Belgian refugees fleeing violence in the Congo, 1960

There follows a nice description of the town of Kigoma itself, and of course there is soon a great deal of material about chimpanzees and rather little about humans. Jane doesn’t mention the refugees again. (To be fair, isolation probably meant that she had rather little knowledge about most human affairs for most of the 60s and 70s.)

So who were these refugees? Where did they come from, and why?

Obviously they were Belgians, from the Congo. We briefly covered this conflict back in Anthropology Friday: War, Violence, and More War:

Patrice Lumumba was an anti-colonialist protestor who was jailed for opposing Belgian rule in the Congo and became the first democratically elected prime minister of the DRC.

He then gave raises to everyone in the government except the military, so of course the military revolted. He asked the UN for help putting down the rebellion, but the UN sucked so he went to the Soviets.

The Wikipedia page on the Congo Crisis gives far more detail on this conflict–notably, it blames the outbreak of the crisis not on Lumumba failing to give the army a raise, but on a Belgian military commander’s speech:

Lieutenant-General Émile Janssens, the Belgian commander of the Force Publique, refused to see Congolese independence as marking a change in the nature of command.[36] The day after the independence festivities, he gathered the black non-commissioned officers of his Léopoldville garrison and told them that things under his command would stay the same, summarising the point by writing “Before Independence = After Independence” on a blackboard.

Basically, the Belgians officially proclaimed that the Republic of the Congo was independent on June 30, 1960, thirty years earlier than they had intended to. They seemed to have thought they could get people to stop protesting against Belgian rule by “officially” handing over power, but would still run everything. After all, while the colony had been advancing rapidly in recent decades–

During the 1940s and 1950s, the Congo experienced an unprecedented level of urbanisation and the colonial administration began various development programmes aimed at making the territory into a “model colony”.[10] One of the results of the measures was the development of a new middle class of Europeanised African “évolués” in the cities.[10] By the 1950s the Congo had a wage labour force twice as large as that in any other African colony.[11]

–most native Congolese still weren’t well-educated in the fields thought necessary to run a country (or army.)

The idea that the Congolese were too dumb and inexperienced to run their own country and therefore needed the Belgians to do it for them went over great with the army:

This message was hugely unpopular among the rank and file—many of the men had expected rapid promotions and increases in pay to accompany independence.[36] On 5 July, several units mutinied against their white officers at Camp Hardy near Thysville. The insurrection spread to Léopoldville the next day and later to garrisons across the country.[37]

Rather than deploying Belgian troops against the mutineers as Janssens had wished, Lumumba dismissed him and renamed the Force Publique the Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC). All black soldiers were promoted by at least one rank.[38]Victor Lundula was promoted directly from sergeant-major to major-general and head of the army, replacing Janssens.[37]

Of course, the Congolese proved the Belgians wrong by transforming their country into one of the world’s best-run economic powerhouses with an astonishing per capita GDP of $499 and reports of cannibalism. (By contrast, the nearby country of Botswana has a per cap GDP of over $6,000.)

But back to the post-independence anti-Belgian violence:

The government attempted to stop the revolt… but in most of the country the mutiny intensified. White officers and civilians were attacked, white-owned properties were looted and white women were raped.[37] The Belgian government became deeply concerned by the situation, particularly when white civilians began entering neighbouring countries as refugees.[40]

A 1960s newsreel reports:

Photo from the newsreel; no caption given
Photo from the newsreel; no caption given

Violence and chaos in the Congo. Barely 11 days after official independence from Belgium, Congolese troops begin a wave of attacks and looting throughout the fare flung sectors of the former colony. Meanwhile in Belgium and African countries bordering on the Congo, refugees are pouring in with harrowing tales of violence and of hasty flight. …

The mutiny first started only four days after independence, on July 4, 1960, in the camp outside Leopoldville. The rebels used machetes on their white officers and broke into the armory. On day eight, all 1000+ Belgian officers were removed from their positions, and replaced with Congolese. With or without an Africanized officer corps, the soldiers are running amok throughout the Congo, and panic-stricken whites are fleeing in all directions. Numerous European targets have been attacked.

The flight of officers has left the army totally uncontrolled, and the new country has no effective instrument to control the territory.

Back to Wikipedia:

… On 9 July, Belgium deployed paratroopers, without the Congolese state’s permission, in Kabalo and elsewhere to protect fleeing white civilians.[41] …At Lumumba’s request, white civilians from the port city of Matadi were evacuated by the Belgian Navy on 11 July. Belgian ships then bombarded the city; at least 19 civilians were killed. This action prompted renewed attacks on whites across the country, while Belgian forces entered other towns and cities, including Léopoldville, and clashed with Congolese troops.[40]

This one is captioned "Mike Hoare and Belgian Congo Armed Forces evacuating refugees 1969." Let me know if that's inaccurate.
This one is captioned “Mike Hoare and Belgian Congo Armed Forces evacuating refugees 1969.” Let me know if that’s inaccurate.

Then parts of the Congo started secede. UN “Peace Keeping” troops tried to get people to stop fighting but without actually defeating once side or the other, so predictably people kept killing each other. The Prime Minister, Lumumba, went to the Soviets for help, which concerned everyone because the Congo made a lot of money selling uranium to the US, which used it in atomic bombs, so the Congolese President dismissed Lumumba and Lumumba dismissed the President, at which point Mobutu dismissed both of them (leading pro-Lumumba protesters in Yugoslavia to attack the local Belgian embassy,) and had Lumumba shot. Mobutu, while awful in many ways, did end the civil war and restore a modicum of order.

“Mad” Mike Hoare was a Irish mercenary active in the Congo and elsewhere in Africa:

In 1964, Congolese Prime Minister Moïse Tshombe, his employeer back in Katanga, hired “Major” Mike Hoare to lead a military unit called 5 Commando, Armée Nationale Congolaise (5 Commando ANC) (later led by John Peters) (not to be confused with No.5 Commando, the British Second World War commando force) made up of about 300 men most of whom were from South Africa. … The unit’s mission was to fight a revolt known as the Simba Rebellion.

Later Hoare and his mercenaries worked in concert with Belgian paratroopers, Cuban exile pilots, and CIA-hired mercenaries who attempted to save 1,600 civilians (mostly Europeans and missionaries) in Stanleyville from the Simba rebels in Operation Dragon Rouge. This operation saved many lives.[3] Hoare was later promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in the Armée Nationale Congolaise and 5 Commando expanded into a two-battalion force. Hoare commanded 5 Commando from July 1964 to November 1965.[4]

Mad Mike once tried to conquer the Seychelles, but failed when customs officials noticed his groups’ weapons.

Many of the Belgian refugees, meanwhile, fled to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, which became just “Rhodesia” after Northern Rhodesia changed its name to Zambia (one of the obscurer African countries, with a per cap GDP of $1,143) The white folks + refugees of Southern Rhodesia took one look at the chaos over in the Congo, said “Nope,” and declared themselves independent of Great Britain to avoid handing over power to the black majority (97% of the Rhodesian population.)

The rest of the world (Great Britain included) never officially recognized Rhodesia as a country and hit it with a bunch of sanctions. According to Wikipedia:

Although prepared to grant formal independence to Southern Rhodesia (now Rhodesia), the British government had adopted a policy of no independence before majority rule, dictating that colonies with a substantial population of European settlers would not receive independence except under conditions of majority rule.[20][21][22]

After the federal break-up in 1963, then-Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home insisted that preconditions on independence talks hinge on what he termed the “five principles” – unimpeded progress to majority rule, assurance against any future legislation decidedly detrimental to black interests, “improvement in the political status” of local Africans, moves towards ending racial discrimination, and agreement on a settlement which could be “acceptable to the whole population”.[25][26][27][28]

Note that Douglas-Home here is the head of the British conservatives.

Harold Wilson and his incoming Labour government took an even harder line on demanding that these points be legitimately addressed before an independence agenda could be set.[24] …

However, few seemed to initially realise that Rhodesia was no longer within the Commonwealth’s direct sphere of influence and British rule was now a constitutional fiction; Salisbury remained virtually immune to credible metropolitan leverage.[15]

In October 1965, the United Nations Security Council had warned Whitehall about the possibility of UDI, urging Wilson to use all means at his disposal (including military pressure) to prevent the Rhodesian Front from asserting independence.[44] After UDI was proclaimed, UN officials branded Ian Smith’s government as an “illegal racist minority regime”[45] and called on member states to sever economic ties with Rhodesia, recommending sanctions on petroleum products and military hardware.[24] In December 1966, these measures became mandatory, extending to bar the purchase of Rhodesian tobacco, chrome, copper, asbestos, sugar, meat, and hides.[24]

Britain, having already adopted extensive sanctions of its own, dispatched a Royal Navy squadron to monitor oil deliveries in the port of Beira, from which a strategic pipeline ran to Umtali. The warships were to deter “by force, if necessary, vessels reasonably believed to be carrying oil destined for (Southern) Rhodesia”.[46][47]

Meanwhile, of course, no one is allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia, but no one seems to care about that.

You probably know the story by now: the USSR supported the black nationalists, pretty much no one supported the white Rhodesians, and eventually they got tired of civil war and gave up. According to Wikipedia:

In the ten years after independence, around 60% of the white population of Zimbabwe emigrated, most to South Africa and to other mainly white, English speaking countries where they formed expatriate communities. …

While as Rhodesia, the country was once considered the breadbasket of Africa. Today, Zimbabwe is a net importer of foodstuffs, with the European Union and United States providing emergency food relief as humanitarian aid on a regular basis.[151] The nation has suffered profound economic and social decline in the past twenty years. Recently the agriculture sector has started to do well since the availability of expertise and machines has improved supported mainly by China.[152][153]

Zimbabwe also suffered from a crippling inflation rate, as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had a policy of printing money to satisfy government debts, which introduces excessive currency into the economic system which led to the demise of the local currency. This policy caused the inflation rate to soar from 32% in 1998 (considered extremely high by most economic standards) to an astonishing 11,200,000% by 2007. Monetary aid by the International Monetary Fund has been suspended due to the Zimbabwe government’s defaulting on past loans, inability to stabilise its own economy, and its inability to stem corruption and advance human rights.[151] In 2009, Zimbabwe abandoned its currency, relying instead on foreign currencies such as the South African rand, the US dollar, the Botswana pula, the euro and the British pound, among others.[154]

Zimbabwe‘s current per cap GDP is $1,054.

I think one of the common misconceptions about NRx is that it is based on a bunch of overly-pessimistic speculations about the future of democracy in places like the US or Germany. There’s plenty of that, of course. But much of Neoreaction is actually based on observation of events that have already happened in places like the DRC, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

Chimpanzee family from the Gombe
Chimpanzee family from the Gombe

To be fair, though, we are getting really off track from our original mission of reviewing Jane Goodall’s book about chimpanzees. In the book’s Forward, David A. Hamburg writes:

The picture of chimpanzee life that emerges is fascinating. Here is a highly intelligent, intensely social creature capable of close and enduring attachments, yet nothing that looks quite like human love, capable of rich communication through gestures, posture, facial expressions, and sounds, yet nothing quite like human language. This is a creature who not only uses tools effectively but also makes tools with considerable foresight; a creature who does a little sharing of food, though much less than man; a creature gifted in the arts of bluff and intimidation, highly excitable and aggressive, capable of using weapons, yet engaging in no activity comparable to human warfare; a creature who frequently hunts and kills small animals of other species in an organized, cooperative way, and seems to have some zest for the process of hunting, killing, and eating the prey; a creature whose repertoire of acts in aggression, deference, reassurance, and greeting bear uncanny similarity to human acts in similar situations.

This bold turns out to be false.

In the Shadow of Man was published in 1971; the chimpanzees of the Kahama region of the Gombe Stream went to war against the chimps of Kasakala in 1974:

The two [groups] had previously been a single, unified community, but by 1974 researcher Jane Goodall, who was observing the community, first noticed the chimps dividing themselves into northern and southern sub-groups.[2]

The Kahama group, in the south, consisted of six adult males (among them the chimpanzees known to Goodall as “Hugh”, “Charlie”, and “Goliath”), three adult females and their young, and an adolescent male (known as “Sniff”).[2] The larger Kasakela group, meanwhile, consisted of twelve adult females and their young, and eight adult males.[2] …

The first outbreak of violence occurred on January 7, 1974,[4] when a party of six adult Kasakela males attacked and killed “Godi”, a young Kahama male …

Over the next four years, all six of the adult male members of the Kahama were killed by the Kasakela males.[5] Of the females from Kahama, one was killed, two went missing, and three were beaten and kidnapped by the Kasakela males.[5] The Kasakela then succeeded in taking over the Kahama’s former territory.[5]

I have the luxury of reading this account after already hearing, at least vaguely, that chimps wage war on each other. To Jane–despite having observed chimpanzee belligerence for years–it came as a surprise:

The outbreak of the war came as a disturbing shock to Goodall, who had previously considered chimpanzees to be, although similar to human beings, “rather ‘nicer'” in their behavior.[7] Coupled with the observation in 1975 of cannibalistic infanticide by a high-ranking female in the community, the violence of the Gombe war first revealed to Goodall the “dark side” of chimpanzee behavior.[7] She was profoundly disturbed by this revelation; in her memoir Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe, she wrote:

“For several years I struggled to come to terms with this new knowledge. Often when I woke in the night, horrific pictures sprang unbidden to my mind—Satan [one of the apes], cupping his hand below Sniff’s chin to drink the blood that welled from a great wound on his face; old Rodolf, usually so benign, standing upright to hurl a four-pound rock at Godi’s prostrate body; Jomeo tearing a strip of skin from Dé’s thigh; Figan, charging and hitting, again and again, the stricken, quivering body of Goliath, one of his childhood heroes. [8]”


I suspect that humans evolved their upright stance to be better at carrying around large sticks with which to kill other apes. This made it harder for us to climb trees, but may have allowed for our voice boxes to descend (the voice box is actually important for closing off the lungs to provide rigidity to the chest while climbing,) allowing for a greater range of vocalizations, which in turn made us better at communicating and so organizing our bashing-apes-with-sticks expeditions. Eventually we stopped hunting other primates and turned our attention to more efficient game, like mammoths.

Refugee flow from the DRC to other nations
Refugee flow from the DRC to other nations

Cathedral Round-Up #7: Colonialism 2.0

The purpose of Cathedral Round-Up is to keep track of what our betters have in store for us. This month we are headed to Harvard (and for a side-excursion, Oxford,) to witness the progressive push to expand the notion of “refugees” to include virtually everyone not already living in the West; the sheer heart-breaking difficulties of being one of the world’s most privileged black people; and Cecil Rhodes‘s pro-Muslim legacy.

Jacqueline Bhabha brings us “When Water is Safer than Land,” repeating the common claim that “no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land” that was so commonly bandied about in the wake of the drowning of 3 year old Alan Kurdi. Alan’s death is a tragedy, but his family was trying to leave Turkey, a peaceful, relatively prosperous nation, not a violence-riddled war zone.

I argued back in Newton’s Third Law of Politics that the official definition of “refugee” is already broad enough to encompass almost anyone the government wants it to; Professor Bhabha wants to do away with the concept of “refugee” entirely, in favor of “distress migrant”:

… news coverage and political attention have highlighted the irrationality and inefficiency of our outdated legal and administrative system of migration management—a system now manifestly premised on incoherent dichotomies and false assumptions.

The most fundamental dichotomy lies at the very root of modern migration law, separating bona fide “refugees” with a “well-founded fear of persecution” under the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, from spontaneous “economic migrants” seeking to take advantage of greater prosperity and opportunity outside their home countries. The former are considered legitimate recipients of international protection, the latter unlawful border-crossers.

But for more than a decade, migration experts within the United Nations, in the immigration and justice ministries of many countries, and civil-society organizations such as the Women’s Refugee Commission, the International Rescue Committee, and Human Rights Watch, have acknowledged the artificiality of this dichotomy, given the reality of “mixed migration”—distress migration prompted by multiple, interconnected factors, including survival fears and economic desperation. …

Priority in these entry categories should be given to “distress migrants,” a category that should replace the now unworkable distinction between “legal” refugee and economic but “illegal” forced migrant.

In short, Bhabha thinks it’s unfair to prevent anyone who lives in a country that’s poorer than the West from migrating wherever they want to go. Migration to the West is a human right; wanting to control who enters your country is outdated and shows that you’re not a “team player”:

But such official resettlement is sustainable only if it is a joint endeavor, agreed upon by countries that are willing to host relocated refugees and share the responsibility for doing so with others in their region. The current intransigence of relatively prosperous EU member states such as France, the UK, Slovenia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic vitiates this sort of collective humanitarian endeavor and unreasonably leaves the protection “burden” only to the exemplary few (Germany and Sweden at present).

Germany broke EU rules by inviting in a few million migrants without the consent of the other member states, but Hungary is being totally meanie pants for insisting on this weird notion of “national sovereignty” instead of just lying back, spreading its borders, and thinking of Queen Victoria.

Maybe we should adopt a policy of always letting Germany do whatever it wants to its neighbors–would have saved us a lot of effort about 102 – 71 years ago.

Bhabha also notes that the current system rewards those who break the rules by migrating illegally–if you can just get to Europe, chances are you’ll be fine–while punishing those who try to obey the rules by filling out all of their paperwork and then sitting out the multi-year process just to get rejected. This is completely accurate.

Bhabha believes that “distress migration” to wealthy countries is inevitable and unstoppable, but has several recommendations for making the immigration system more humane and less likely to involve dead children:

  1. Massively overhaul the immigration bureaucracy (this I actually agree with–bureaucratic systems tend to be awful.)
  2. Let in all of the “distress migrants.”
  3. Westerners should stop the wars in foreign countries (how, exactly?)
  4. More funding for refugee camps in places like Turkey so people will stay there instead of migrating to Europe. (I don’t know what the conditions in Turkish refugee camps are like, but I bet they could be much nicer.)
  5. Westerners need to make economic development happen in the third world so people will want to stay there, (because third worlders can’t run their own economies?)

It’s funny how people who think colonialism was evil simultaneously think Africans can’t feed their own children or run their own economies without white people stepping in.

Of course, given current fertility rates, the prospects for feeding all of Africa’s children without the rest of the world stepping in do look pretty grim:

Total Fertility Rate by Country (Wikimedia file)
Total Fertility Rate by Country (Wikimedia file)


Bhabha has left out the simplest, most humane solution: birth control.

Interestingly, Professor Jacqueline Bhabha is an English woman who obtained her last name via her husband, Homi K. Bhabha, son of an Indian Parsi family. The Parsis are interesting in their own right, but that is a matter for another day. Alas, I have not been able to figure out if Homi is the son of the similarly-named Indian nuclear physicist Homi J. Bhabha. (At the very least, if you meet a Bhabha, chances are he’s an exceptionally intelligent person.)

I have noticed that elites tend to be highly international people–born in one country, raised in another, married into a third. A highschool fiend hailed from four different countries; another attended an elite boarding school 15,000 miles away from her family. And they know each other–“Oh, you’re from Hong Kong? Do you know so-and-so? You do? What a coincidence!”

President Obama, son of a Kenyan and an American of mostly English extraction (who met while studying Russian in Hawaii,) lived for four years in Indonesia, and then ended up in Chicago.

Carlos Slim, largest shareholder of the New York Times and one of the richest men in the world, is a Mexican of Lebanese descent–“Slim” was “Salim” back when his father moved to Mexico.

And as Tolstoy notes, at the time of Napoleon’s invasion, the Russian ruling class spoke French, not Russian.

Homi K. Bhabha
Homi K. Bhabha

According to the NY Times, getting Homi K. Bhabha, who taught in the Afro-American Studies department in 2001, was a major coup for Harvard. Sure, Indian-born Homi might not look like an expert on the experiences of African Americans, but his co-professors are enthusiastic about his work:

“”He’s manifestly one of the most distinguished cultural theorists of the postcolonial and diasporic experience in the world,’ said Lawrence Buell, the department chairman.”

Other professors point out that Homi’s “expertise” may be entirely high-falutin’ smoke and mirrors:

In 1998, Mr. Bhabha won second place (Judith Butler, a gender theorist at Berkeley, took the top prize) in the annual Bad Writing Contest sponsored by the journal Philosophy and Literature for this passage from an essay on mimicry: “If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to ‘normalize’ formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality.”


A developing theme in this series is the way that elite colleges use majority-white people with a small percentage of black ancestry to pad their diversity numbers. In Homi’s case, “whiteness” is debatable, but he is clearly an elite, light-skinned Indian of Persian (aka Aryan) descent, not one of India’s dark-skinned “untouchables,” Scheduled Castes, or Dalits.

The official logic of “diversity” and Affirmative Action is that universities should correct for past oppression and reflect the racial composition of the population they serve by correcting for the negative effects of racism and poverty on test scores. The logic runs that a poor kid growing up in Detroit with one parent in jail and the other busy working two jobs just to make ends meet is going to attend fewer SAT prep classes than rich kids attending TJ, and so his SAT scores may not reflect his true potential.

In practice, places like Harvard end up with a bunch of high-class elites like Homi who can ticky-box “diversity” but are not actually part of an oppressed minority. (A bunch of white “Hispanics” get in this way, too.)

Elites love diversity–so long as “diversity” means other elites. And they can’t understand why their proles insist on icky nationalism:

“Ewww. Get it away.”

Jacqueline Bhabha on Merkel:

Germany’s Angela Merkel has emerged as the surprising heroine of the humanitarian lobby, leveraging her country’s ever-present past and robust economy to welcome more than one million refugees and to stress the potential demographic dividend of a healthy, youthful workforce for an aging continent.

Yes, I’m sure Merkel is the kind of elite who just loves spending time with the huddled masses of the third world.

And on European fears:

The notion that the magnitude of refugee arrival, on the other hand, poses any sort of threat to Europe’s future prosperity is laughable. The Syrians arriving represent less than 1 percent of the population of the European Union (EU), the world’s richest continent. In Lebanon, an incomparably poorer polity, every fourth inhabitant is now a Syrian refugee, and yet even that war-torn country is not at the brink of collapse. The current flow of refugees poses no objective threat to the future or prosperity of Europe.

Because every country wants to look like Lebanon?

Leaving aside the fact that not all of the migrants are from Syria–many of them are, ahem, “distress migrants” from Africa or Asia fleeing poverty, not ISIS–an argument that Europe can handle its current migration levels is not an argument that Europe can handle far more migrants.

Germany’s overall fertility rate is one of the lowest in the world–about 1.4 children per woman. (Slightly over 2 is necessary for population stability, neither growing nor shrinking.) This means that the population of Germany is shrinking.

As of 2014, 16.3 million of Germany’s 81.5 million people–20% of the population–were immigrants or the children of immigrants. In 2009, about 4.3 million Germans are Muslim–5.4% of the population–but due to much higher fertility rates, 9.1% of Germany’s children were Muslims.

A million migrants arrived in Germany in 2015, and more still arrive every day. Keep this up for a few years, and yes, a very large percent of the country will not be German anymore.

I know it’s unreasonable to expect Harvard professors to be able to do math, but we can:

If Germany has 81.5 million people, and about 18% of them are children, that’s 14.7 million children. Of those, 9.1%, or 1.3 million, are Muslim.

If Germany has about 4.3 million Muslims, and 1.3 million of them are children, then 3 million are adults.

Let’s suppose Germany accepts a modest 1 million refugees a year for just two more years, (for 3 million total,) and they have the same TFR as the folks already in Germany. Now 16% of German children are Muslim.

Keep it up for 9 years (10 million migrants,) and 24% of future voters are Muslim (and that’s not counting the shrinking native German population during this time.)

These are obviously extremely rough numbers, but they are not unreasonable.

If your goal is, “make Germany look more like Lebanon,” then that’s one way to do it. And perhaps the German people are perfectly happy accepting a million migrants a year. But let’s not banter about facile claims like “less than 1 percent” when advocating virtually limitless, long-term immigration policies in a world with over a billion people who would happily move to Germany (or virtually any other Western country) if they could.

Elites think that if elite migration is good for them, then the mass migration of unskilled, illiterate poor folks will be great for proles, and then are confused when the masses do not react with universal jubilation at the results:


The Daily Mail summarizes:
Alexandra Mezher, 22, fatally stabbed at migrant centre where she worked
Her family, who are originally from Lebanon, described her as ‘an angel’ …
A boy, 15, living at centre, arrested on suspicion of murder is from Somalia
Teenage killer was overpowered by other children living at the centre
Swedish police demand more cash to stem rising violence in the country


Italian police have arrested a Senegalese illegal immigrant who prosecutors believe killed Ashley Olsen, a U.S. woman who was found dead in her apartment in Florence last weekend.

“We have collected very serious evidence of his guilt,” Florence chief prosecutor Giuseppe Creazzo told reporters at a news conference on Thursday after the man was arrested and questioned in the early hours of the morning. …

She was strangled in the early hours of Friday, Creazzo said, but the autopsy revealed that she had two fractures to her skull — injuries that would also have proved fatal.



Mamadou Kamara, an 18-year-old from the Ivory Coast, allegedly slit the throat of Vincenzo Solano, 68, and then attacked his Spanish-born wife, Mercedes Ibanez, 70.

Ms Ibanez fell to her death from a second-floor balcony, during a robbery that turned violent. …

Mr Kamara was arrested after police searched his bag on Sunday as he returned to the migrant centre.

Inside they found a mobile telephone, a laptop computer, a video camera and a pair of trousers, allegedly belonging to Mr Solano, that were covered in blood.

source, translation

Of course, Professor Bhabha, living comfortably in Massachusetts, does not have to worry about being raped or murdered by “distress migrants” from Africa let in under the rhetoric that Turkey is not good enough for Syrian refugees.

But Professor Bhabha isn’t just advocating for increased African migration to Europe; she has also noticed that places like Mexico and Honduras have astronomically high murder rates, and therefore wants to let them into the US. Perhaps there is some magical quality to the soil in America that she thinks will make people suddenly be less murderous when they step over the border.


Prudencio Ramirez stands accused of killing his 18 year old girlfriend and her three year old son in Washington State, the Tri-City Herald reports.

Prosecutors say the victims were shot and then stuffed inside a burning car.

The coroner says it is likely the little boy was burned alive.

Or perhaps she is just an idiot.

Either way, expect to see a lot more people talking about “distress migration.”


Switching gears, our next article is My Harvard Education: Learning “what it means to be a walking disruption,” by Jenny Gathright, former editor of the Harvard Crimson and currently assisting Harvard Magazine’s editorial staff. She is also author of Existence as Resistance: Black Chronicles II and Hashtag #Solidarity.

Ms. Gathright starts with a quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates:

You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable…The people who must believe they are white can never be your measuring stick. I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.

I know pretty much everyone spouts vacuous “be yourself” bullshit, but it’s still annoying–everyone has “constrict” themselves to make other comfortable. Just because you feel like farting while in a crowded elevator does not mean you do it; just because you feel like yelling at your cubicle-mate every time he starts humming does not mean you do it; just because you feel comfortable wearing a bathrobe and slippers does not mean you wear them to a job interview. Living among other humans–even in hunter gatherer tribes in the arctic!–means paying attention to social norms and controlling one’s impulses in order to act appropriately.

Anyone who thinks they are special enough to avoid normal human social norms is a fucking sociopath.

Second, “must believe they are white.” ??? What does that even mean?

White person: I don’t see race.
POC: OMG how racist of you to deny my blackness and your white privilege!
White person: Oh, okay. I guess I’m white.
POC: OMG, how racist of you to insist on believing that you’re white!

Continuing on, Ms. Gathright describes a conversation between a guy handing out apples in the cafeteria and her “house tutor” (“RA” in common speak.)

He is standing in front of me, and I am standing next to Jonathan, my lovely, gentle, kind Lowell House tutor.

That sounds awfully intimate.

Ms. Gathright is disturbed because Jeremy and apple-guy are happily talking to each other instead of to her.

Maybe I am just woman enough, just brown enough, to be rendered invisible. It might all be in my head, but isn’t that sometimes just enough to make a moment uncomfortable?

Things that are “all in your head” can indeed make moments uncomfortable, like when you hallucinate spiders crawling under your skin. But that doesn’t make them real.

Apple guy talks about apples:

He is talking about seeds and grafting, about history. Did you know that hard cider was the Founding Fathers’ primary method of hydration? Did you know that they were all drunk pretty much all the time? …

I am distracted. His historical factoids about hard cider have gotten me thinking about a drunken Thomas Jefferson wandering around Monticello, and this image makes me sick and scared in a way that the two men next to me will never understand. [bold mine]

If you are genuinely “sick and scared” from simply imagining someone getting tipsy on hard cider, you need psychological help. That is not normal. If you are not genuinely “sick and scared,” then you are a liar.

There is a distance between my body and the bodies this place was built for. I feel it every day in Lowell dining hall, when I look up at portraits of white men and wonder if they expected me to be here.

Well, the folks it was built for are probably all dead, so unless Ms. Gathright is sitting in a graveyard while writing, I guess this is technically true.

Ta-Nehisi Coates uses “body” where a normal person would write “souls,” because he’s an atheist. There are times when he pulls it off, and times when the effect is horribly awkward.

This is one of those awkward times.

The Lowell House dining hall is not as fancy as Harvard’s freshman dining hall, but the chandelier is a nice touch:

Lowell House Dining Hall, Harvard University
Lowell House Dining Hall, Harvard University

According to the History of Lowell House:

In the Dining Hall are portraits of President Lowell and his wife; his sister Amy Lowell (Pulitzer prize winning poet, and a lover of scandal credited with introducing D. H. Lawrence to America); his brother Percival Lowell (the astronomer who spearheaded the search for the planet Pluto); and his grandfather John Amory Lowell (a fellow of Harvard College for forty years).

Lowell House was built in 1930; Harvard Medical accepted its first black students way back in 1850:

1869: George Lewis Ruffin is the first black to earn a degree from Harvard Law School. In 1883 Ruffin became Massachusetts’ first African-American judge.

1869: Harvard awards its first degree in dentistry to an African American named Robert Tanner Freeman.

1870: Harvard College graduates its first black student, Richard Theodore Greener, who goes on to a career as an educator and lawyer. After graduating from Harvard, Greener becomes a faculty member at the University of South Carolina. He is the first known black to be hired to the faculty of a flagship state university.

1870: George F. Grant graduates with a degree of dentistry from Harvard. He later serves as its first black instructor at the dental school from 1878 to 1889.

1895: W.E.B. Du Bois earns his Ph.D. in history from Harvard, the first black to do so at Harvard.

1896: Booker T. Washington receives an honorary master’s degree from Harvard University.

1907: Alain LeRoy Locke of Harvard University becomes the first black Rhodes scholar.

1912: Carter G. Woodson becomes the second black in the U.S. to earn a doctorate in history. His Ph.D. is from Harvard. He goes on to found the Journal of Negro History in 1916 and inaugurates Negro History Week in 1926.

1921: Amherst College graduate Charles Hamilton Houston becomes the first black editor on the Harvard Law Review.

1933: Harvard Business School graduates its first black MBA student, H. Naylor Fitzhugh, the founder of Howard University’s marketing department.

In other words, at the time Lowell House was built, black students had been attending Harvard for decades. There is no “distance” between Ms. Gathright’s body and the bodies it was built for, because people like her were in the group it was built for. So, yes, I guarantee you that the folks in the portraits expected people like you to be there.

You’d think she’d have Googled “when did Harvard start accepting black people” to find out if the folks in the portraits had black students before writing an article about how stressed out she was by her incorrect assumptions.

For goodness’s sake, this is Massachusetts.

But getting back to the article:

I am taking an economics class on libertarianism. I don’t consider myself a libertarian at all, so I took the class to challenge my thinking. …

One day, we are talking about the consequences of drug prohibition. Libertarians believe that the negative effects outweigh the positive effects. I’m sympathetic to the viewpoint, and I’m glad this policy debate is a topic of discussion. Professor Miron briefly lists “increased racial profiling” and the resulting “racial tensions” as a negative consequence of drug prohibition laws. He moves on—he has other slides to discuss, other lines of argument to explore. But I am stuck, still thinking about what it means for him to name “increased racial profiling” and “racial tensions” without naming Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland…I want to stand up and scream about how the things he is talking about tear bodies apart. [bold mine]

Geez. Psycho, much?

Seriously, this woman can’t watch two people talk about apples without wanting to know why they aren’t talking to HER; she cant look at her posh, crystal chandeliered cafeteria without wondering what the people in the portraits would have thought of HER; she can’t listen to a lecture without wanting to scream that the professor didn’t talk about exactly the things SHE wants to talk about.

I want to be clear here: I’m not asking my professor to re-write his lecture. He is teaching a class that doesn’t center on my experience in every moment, and that’s okay. This isn’t necessarily about my professor or my classmates or my syllabus.

When you feel compelled to clarify that it’s okay if a class doesn’t center on, “MY experience in EVERY moment,” that is a sign that you are hilariously unaware of just how narcissistic you are.

I am talking to my friend. He has had a tough couple of days. He is telling me about a class on race and gender that he is taking. He is feeling the course material in his body, he says. The readings are causing him pain. … Section is causing me pain.

I think people actually do this thing where, by constantly reading/watching/thinking/talking about something horrible, they prompt their brains to release far more stress hormones than their physical situation actually warrants. This is because our brains can’t really tell the difference between “picture I saw on TV” and “thing I saw in real life,” and a person being murdered before your eyes in real life would be a very concerning thing indeed that you probably ought to do something about (fight or flight,) thus prompting a massive outpouring of hormones.

Feminists do this by reading sixteen blog posts in a row about rape; white nationalists do this by reading sixteen blog posts in a row about “white genocide”; housewives do this by reading about children who’ve been abducted and murdered; etc. I do this by researching human sacrifice in animist religions.

By the end, you feel awful.

There are was to deal with this: First, realize that your brain is producing hormones in response to a threat that is not actually physically present in the room with you. Second, calm down. I find meditation helps, or prayer if you’re religious. Third, recognize that this is not a healthy thing to do to yourself. Take breaks, don’t let yourself get sucked into reading 16 articles in a row, and most importantly, don’t do it at 4 AM, because that is a quick road to nightmaresville.

Ms. Gathright then discusses Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s Atlantic article, “The Coddling of the American Mind”:

I could critique their piece on several grounds. But one of the first things I thought when I read it was, “Where is this movement, and how did I miss it?” Because here is my truth: I don’t see a ton of liberal students trying to “scrub” Harvard’s campuses “clean” of offensive or uncomfortable ideas. Instead, I see all around me students, my friends, who are willing to be made uncomfortable by words and ideas all the time. I see students who willingly walk into classrooms that will make them, in the words of my friend, feel the course material in their bodies.

Oh, honey, don’t you understand that feeling bad is exactly how the SJWs want you to feel? You feel bad because you have already imbibed a political ideology that dictates how you react to the world. You are not “willing” to be made uncomfortable by words or ideas; you make these things make you uncomfortable.

There is a difference. Being willing to be uncomfortable means being willing to consider that someone else’s POV might be right.

When I read about cannibalism, I am uncomfortable, but I am not willing to consider that cannibalism is moral. When I speak with a friend about philosophy, I am willing to consider that they might be correct. If they question some deeply held assumption, I may be uncomfortable–but I am not going to have nightmares.

Some people go through this place without having to ask and answer hard questions about the spaces they occupy. I have had to constantly articulate and question my relationship with this institution: the way I fit into its history, and the way I feel in its classrooms.

Aww, it sure is hard being at Harvard. I mean, if you can’t feel insanely privileged while siting in a cafeteria with glittering chandeliers or attending classes taught by some of the most elite professors in the entire world, I don’t think anything will.



Oxford, Rhodes, and Syria

Hey, did you hear about the “Rhodes Must Fall” protests at Oxford?

Student campaigners have condemned an Oxford college for deciding to keep its statue of Cecil Rhodes, claiming the college has been influenced by a “dictatorship” of donors.

Rhodes, not quite bestriding a plinth.
Rhodes, not quite bestriding a plinth.

Ella Jeffreys, a master’s student, told the Guardian: “We feel that the decision of Oriel College, due to the threat of withdrawing funding by alumni, shows that money talks over students. …

The campaign said in a statement: “Oriel has been rushed into this decision by the irresponsible threats of wealthy individuals. This is a decision for the short term. It is a decision made by authorities, not by students. It is a decision motivated by power not by principle.”

Welcome to real life. No one cares about you.

The statement said the decision lacked “legitimacy” and warned: “It is a decision that jeopardises trust between students and the institution.”

That’s okay. You’ll be gone in a few years. Oxford has been around for almost 1,000. They don’t need you:

Student activists said they would not be derailed by interventions such as those of Chris Patten, the chancellor of the university, who said in a recent interview that those involved with Rhodes Must Fall should “think about being educated elsewhere”.

At least someone has a spine.

I am personally uncomfortable with pulling down statues for the same reason that I am uncomfortable with burning books. There are times when a nation simply finds that it has an excess of statues of a former dictator, and people reasonably desire fewer of them, but England does not suffer an over-abundance of Rhodes statues.

Students called for a reckoning from the institution, and said their first demand was for Oxford to “acknowledge and confront its role in the ongoing physical and ideological violence of empire”. They want the university to apologise for its role and to offer more scholarships to black students from southern Africa.

Why? Did they help build Oxford? Did Oxford tear down their universities?


Then Oxford owes them nothing.

They said they wanted to hear “the voices suffocated into silence by a Eurocentric academy”.

Then get the fuck out of Oxford. What, you can’t physically listen to people talk without a professor telling you to listen to them, first?

Simukai Chigudu, a postgraduate student in international development, said Oriel’s decision “throws into sharp relief that strong power donors have in shaping the college and underscores that it is not a free, open and democratic [process].

WHY THE HELL DID YOU THINK OXFORD WAS A DEMOCRACY? It is a college, not a country.

It turns out that the money threat was quite substantial:

Oxford University’s statue of Cecil Rhodes is to stay in place after furious donors threatened to withdraw gifts and bequests worth more than £100 million if it was taken down, The Daily Telegraph has learnt. … The governing body of Oriel College, which owns the statue, has ruled out its removal after being warned that £1.5m worth of donations have already been cancelled, and that it faces dire financial consequences if it bows to the Rhodes Must Fall student campaign.

100 million pounds is worth about 144 million dollars.

So I decided to see how Rhodes’s colonialist legacy is working out. According to Wikipedia, Cecil Rhodes created the Rhodes Scholarships, which pay for international students to come study at Oxford, in order to:

promote civic-minded leadership among “young colonists” with “moral force of character and instincts to lead,” for the purpose of ‘extending British rule throughout the world…the consolidation of the Empire, the restoration of Anglo-Saxon unity…” and the foundation of so great a Power as to render wars impossible and to promote the best interests of humanity.”

What kinds of students win such a scholarship? Luckily for us, Harvard Magazine has a helpful article on Harvard’s winners:

The Rhodes Trust has announced that five Harvard seniors have been awarded American Rhodes Scholarships this fall. Among them, one is vice president of the Harvard Islamic Society and co-founder of the Ivy League Muslim Council, a second is pursuing Islamic studies, and a third, the son of a Syrian immigrant, is studying global human-rights institutions. …

Alacha is “concentrating in Social Studies. For his senior thesis, he is studying global human rights institutions and examining their effect on local practices in Jordan. … He is the son of a Syrian immigrant and is interested in the movement for Islamic human rights.” Alacha plans to pursue an M.Phil. in modern Middle Eastern studies at Oxford.

Huckins is “concentrating in Neurobiology and Physics. …

Hyland “majors in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (Islamic Studies). Her primary academic interest is the common intellectual heritage of medieval Islamic and Christian theologians. … She is a leader in community and campus work, especially addressing the problem of sexual assault. …

Lam is pursuing “a joint concentration in Neurobiology and Philosophy. He is interested in philosophical problems of free will, moral responsibility, and punishment, and has career interests in criminal justice reform. He is an active advocate of the effective altruism movement …

Shahawy “is pursuing a double major in History and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. He has devoted himself to working with marginalized communities to correct social injustices and improve access to opportunity, while also studying Islamic jurisprudence and global health and medicine. He worked with Los Angeles County inmates with the American Civil Liberties Union, as an intern in rural health clinics in Kenya with Vecna Technologies, and as an analyst with small-business lender Liwwa Inc. in Amman, Jordan. He has also conducted research on transplant surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and on the causes of Saudi Arabia’s private sector labor shortage at the Harvard Center for International Development. Hassaan is the Vice President of the Harvard Islamic Society and Co-Founder of the Ivy League Muslim Council. He has volunteered at the Children’s Cancer Hospital in Cairo, Egypt and mentors prison inmates in Norfolk, Massachusetts.” Shahawy will pursue an M.Phil. in Islamic studies and history.

Welcome to the new colonialism.

Cultural Marxist Happy Hour

or ragey hour, whichever emotion you want to go with.

I was recently asking myself, “What happened to drag queens? Sure, you hear about trans folks all the time these days, but what about good ol’ fashioned drag queens? Are people just not doing that anymore?”

I’m sure you ask yourself these sorts of things all of the time, so take heart! I’ve found some, and it turns out that politically active drag queens are crazy Cultural Marxists. Who knew?

I wasn't going to post a picture, and then I saw this.
I wasn’t going to post a picture, and then I saw this. (BTW, this pic got over 1,000 “likes.”)

Yup, it’s those guys I highlighted the other day, Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian, claiming that Norway was “colonizing” black people by expecting migrants to Norway to obey Norwegian laws and hosting voluntary classes to explain to the immigrants some of the ins-and-outs of Norwegian social codes.

Alok and Janani have degrees from Stanford University.

This time, they’re back to helpfully explain to us how, exactly, Norway is “colonizing” people who moved there voluntarily. I was going to just post a screencap, but I keep wanting to respond to individual lines, so we’re going to quote:

This has been said so many times but I’m reading some troubling comments about the news from Norway (https://tinyurl.com/norwaycolonialism) and I suppose it needs to be constantly pushed.

Yes, constantly push that narrative! Constantly! Push, push!

Gender based violence can never be discussed outside of colonialism because gender based violence is foundational to colonialism.

Concrete used in my sidewalks can never be discussed without discussing the World Trade Center, because concrete is foundational to the World Trade Center. It’s also foundational to almost every large building on Earth, so discussing this crack in the sidewalk outside my house is going to take a really, really long time.

Also, colonialism was about conquering land and making money.

Also, Norway hasn’t colonized anyone since the Viking era.

Norway’s training of refugees in European “sexual norms” is part of a long history of the West understanding Black & brown masculinities as “backwards” and white feminism as the answer.

Actually, it’s an immediate response to these migrants raping Norwegians.

Funny how people who are quick to proclaim that “race is a social construct” will turn around and talk about “The West” as though it were a single, coherent entity–of which Norway constitutes less than half of one percent!

Norway, with no history of colonialism and no (until now) imported minority of non-Europeans, has no “history” of “understanding” black and brown “masculinities”–at least, not until they altruistically let in a bunch of people who started raping the locals.

White supremacy would have you dwell on the particular (“But who did Norway colonize anyways?” “Isn’t it harmless?”) without addressing bigger systems and ideologies. Whiteness is the privilege to observe the particular and not experience the structural.

Who needs facts? What facts? Sure, all of the facts might actually contradict all of the bullshit I’m blathering, but that’s some kind of “white privilege” to notice actual reality! Nonwhites get to notice “structures”, even when those structures are completely contradicted by actual facts.

The West isn’t a saint because it’s taking in (a few) refugees because it was the West who drew the borders the refugees are being forced to cross to begin with!

1. Norway had nothing to do with the drawing of anyone’s borders.

2. The Syrian refugees are genuinely fleeing violence, but the black migrants are went to Norway voluntarily.

Blah blah blah…

The fact that you are unaware about the long and brutal history of the West “training” the Global South into gender and sexual norms (read: imposing Victorian sexual ethics, codifying the gender binary, importing homophobia and transmisogyny, etc.) has everything to do with colonialism. The fact that it’s easier for you to think of Black & brown masculiniteis as sexist/homopohbic moreso than white European culture (the most (trans)misogynist of all!) has everything to do with colonialism.

Oh hey, you know how people claim that whole “Cultural Marxism” thing is just a conspiracy theory? (How does anyone who has ever been to college claim such a thing?)

Marxism became a popular ideology among the de-colonializing nations because colonialism was capitalist, and Marxism is anti-capitalist. Cultural Marxism takes the original Marxism’s economic arguments and replaces them with cultural arguments. So we get this weird and completely a-historical argument about colonization having to do with gender oppression and homophobia.

Of course, no statistics are given on rates of homophobia, transmisogyny, etc. Statistics are like “facts”; things that only white people use. But hey, since I am white, how about some poll data on what Muslims think of homosexuality?

From Pew Research Center, Muslim Views on Morality
From Pew Research Center, Muslim Views on Morality

Yeah, whites are SOOO homophobic.

It reveals a deep and misplaced anxiety that white supremacy has always held: that immigration is really about penetration, that opening white imposed borders for Black & brown men is inviting in rape.

Someone here is a Freudian, and it isn’t me.

Just as economists don’t discuss Marxism anymore, especially since the major test case crashed and burned, psychologists don’t discuss Freud anymore, since his theories were found to lack predictive value.

This is the point where one might want to cite some data that proves that black and brown men rape at the same rate as white men.

Of course he doesn’t, because data is for white people he knows the data overwhelmingly contradicts him.

(Newsflash: White people already did this very thing: it’s called colonialism!) Colonialism IS rape culture.

Wait, now he’s arguing that invasion is rape?

White feminism is never the answer unless your solution to ending gender based violence involves mass criminalization, detention, torture, bombing, occupation, and war. … White feminism is never the answer because it actually can and will never be about the liberation of all women and femmes: it will always only be about the conditional safety of white women and femmes. Never forget: White men have used the alleged “safety” of white women as an excuse to occupy the whole world haven’t they?

Nope. They haven’t.

It keeps going, and going, and going, like the Energizer Bunny of made-up history and bad logic. I’m going to stop here, because it really isn’t worth continuing with this idiocy, but you can read the whole delusional thing if you want to.

The sad thing is that this is not some obscure, random voice, but a post that received over a 1,000 likes.

Some Notable Nigerians

It’s easy to roll your eyes at people demanding that we teach the history of Africa and other non-Western locales. But I support such a move, so long as the history is honest.

Of course it wouldn’t be honest; we are a society of liars.

Here is Madam Efunroye Tinubu (c. 1810 – 1887) :

From the Wikipedia
From the Wikipedia

Madam Tinubu was a wealthy and powerful chieftess of the Egba clan (Youruba people, Nigeria.) She made her money through the slave trade, and resisted the British Colonial Government because it was interfering with he ability to make money by selling humans into bondage.

Tinubu Square in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, is named in her honor.

Cosmic Yoruba has some interesting things to say about the next chieftess of the Egba, Efunsetan Aniwura:

“…she was a WSW [note: woman who has sex with women] who never married, never had any children and was referred to as lakiriboto [a woman with no vaginal opening] …

“Efunsetan Aniwura rose to become a very powerful and wealthy trader in the 19th century, she is one of the few Yoruba women that has withstood the test of history. Oral tradition states that she had three large farms, and that no less than 100 slaves worked in each at a time. Apparently she owned over 2,000 slaves in her lifetime.

“Like other Yoruba women traders, Efunsetan travelled across the land trading with all sorts of people. Her speciality was in arms and ammunition, she would lend these to warriors when they were going on military expeditions and it seems she also went to war a few times herself.”

Cosmic Yoruba notes that “oral tradition” is often dodgy, and we can’t believe everything we hear. She rejects various stories about Efunestan going crazy and terrorizing her slaves, on the grounds that they don’t make much sense, and further speculates:

“I wonder if this is a classic example of history erasing a woman’s achievements. I will never get tired of pointing out how our current ideas on how our female ancestors lived are very different from the reality. We believe that they all married, lived “under” their husbands, never divorced, spent their lives in the kitchen while the men went out to work, never enjoyed sex, were all straight and so on. Powerful women like Efunsetan, who may have never married or had children and may have even been queer will have their stories snipped and trimmed, molded to become a warning for other women…so as to discourage them from craving power perhaps.”

Cosmic Yoruba has done a lot more research about traditional Nigerian life than I have, so I am inclined to trust her. Besides, her accounts line up with most other accounts I have read.

Cosmic Yoruba ends with songs praising Efunestan:

“The woman, who instils fear in others,
the fearsome one, who slaughters slaves to celebrate Id-el-Kabir.
Efunsetan is one force, Ibadan is another.
The valiant that challenges the Almighty God,
if the most high does not answer her on time,
Efunsetan leaves the earth to go and meet him in Heaven…”


Have you heard the story that Africa was a developed, thriving place full of wealthy economies and fabulous cities, until evil Europeans showed up, enslaved a bunch of people and colonized the rest?

Cities did exist in Sub-Saharan Africa, but they were few and far between. They were in the sorts of places you would expect them to, like the intersections of major trade routes or major ports. There were a few major trade items, like gold, ivory, and human beings. There were empires with wealthy individuals.

But the overall level of economic development throughout the sub-continent was very low. Those who claim that Europeans are responsible for the current levels of African development need to explain why African development was so low before the Europeans got there.

Edited to add: hey, look, we have a new graph! It is far superior to the old one, though it covers a different time range, so well still have to use both:

I really hope I can find a better graph
I really hope I can find a better graph
with special thanks to commentator "With the thoughts you’d be thinkin" and Wikimedia Commons
with special thanks to commentator “With the thoughts you’d be thinkin” and Wikimedia Commons

Back in the year one, most of the world was engaged in hunter-gathering, small-scale agriculture, or herding. The GDP of most of the world reflects this. Africa at least has gold to export, unlike the steppe. Africa is still less developed than Western Europe (and this is including northern Africa, which is quite different from Sub-Saharan Africa.)

By 1300-1400, various estimates put British per cap GDP around $1,000, with the average for Western Europe as a whole a little lower, but still more than the current per capita GDP of many modern Sub-Saharan countries. And it’s more than SSA had in 1400, well before European colonialism began. If anything, Africa’s GDP only took off after colonialsim; there is no sign that colonialism caused economic collapse.

According to Peter Frost, “In sub-Saharan Africa, high polygyny rates are associated with ‘female farming’ societies, and such societies began to spread outward from a point of origin near the Niger’s headwaters some 6,000 to 7,000 years ago (Murdock, 1959, pp. 44, 64-68).”

In The African Outlier, Frost quotes Draper, 1989 (PDF):  “Much of rural African subsistence is based on the work of women in their gardens; men make only modest contributions. Typically, rights in land are held by men by virtue of their membership in kinship or village units. A man who wishes to add another wife is under few constraints (provided his kinship group has the land and bridewealth), since women, in effect, pay their own way. They produce food, and they rear children. In rural areas, when a man marries an additional wife, he is awarded additional fields for this woman and her children (Bryson 1981). The importance of male labor to support such households is reduced. In former times, before colonially imposed peace, the male role in defense was important. But since central governments have been present, men who remain in rural villages spend their time in leisure, in management of household labor, or in local political affairs…”

And in The Beginnings of Black Slavery and The Beginnings of Black Slavery II, Frost argues that, “… It looks like black slaves began to enter the Middle East in growing numbers some time before 0 AD, the result being a slow but steady increase in the region’s black population throughout the early Christian era and into the Islamic era.”

He goes on to argue that polygamy basically drove the slave trade. Do the math; if one man has 5 wives, then four men have no wives. What do you do with your extra men? Attack the next village over, capture their women and sell all of their extra men into slavery.

There are other possible explanations, but I happen to find Frost’s convincing.

The idea that things were going swimmingly until Europeans showed up and started enslaving everyone is pure a-historical baloney. In fact, did you catch this little bit above: “Madam Tinubu … resisted the British Colonial Government because it was interfering with he ability to make money by selling humans into bondage.”

According to the Wikipedia page on Colonial Nigeria, “British influence began with prohibition of slave trade to British subjects in 1807. The resulting collapse of African slave trade led to the decline and eventual collapse of the Edo Empire. ”

So Nigerian heroes were actively resisting British influence in Nigeria because the British were trying to stop them from enslaving people, and the slave trade is supposed to be the fault of the colonizers?


Let’s teach history.