The Ubiquity of Violence

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

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

What would happen if the police went away?

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

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

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

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

According to Wikipedia (h/t LittleFoot):

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

Honor killing and murders[edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medicals tests confirmed that the two children had been raped.

Another raped South African child.

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

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

As Westhunt summarizes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What stops violence?

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

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

homicide_in_europe_1200_2000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Adoption pt 2: when Genghis Khan kills your parent and makes you his little brother

In Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford brings us a fascinating adoption account:

In the long history of steppe warfare, a defeated tribe was looted, some members taken prisoner, and the rest left again to their own devices. … In his defeat of the Jurkin, however, Temujin [Genghis Khan] followed a radical new policy that revealed his ambition to fundamentally alter the cycle of attack and counterattack and of making and breaking alliances.

(In short, he executed all of the Jurkin’s leaders.)

He then took the unprecendented step of occupying the Jurkin lands and redistributing ht remaining members of their group among the households of his own clan. … Temujin took them into his tribe not as slaves, but as members of the tribe in good standing. He symbolized this by adopting an orphan boy from the Jurkin camp and presenting him to Hoelun [his mother] to raise in her ger [yurt] not as a slave but as her son. By having his mother adopt the Jurkin boy, as he had her previously adopt one each from the defeated Merkid, Tayichiud, and Tatars, Temujin was accepting the boys as his younger brothers. …

In a final display of his new power, Temujin ended the Jurkin episode with a feast for both the victorious Mongols and their newly adopted relatives.

In Genghis Khan, Conqueror of the World, Leo de Hartog recounts a similar story:

While they were plundering a Tatar camp the Mongols found a small boy. Genghis Khan took the boy and gave him to his mother, Ho’elun, who adopted him as her son. She called the boy Shigi Qutuqu. There is another version of the story. The child was taken by Genghis Khan in 1182-3, after a raid against the Tatars. He and Borte [Genghis Khan’s wife] at that time had no children. He gave the young tatar to Borte, who brought him up as an adopted son. … Some call him a stepbrother of Genghis Khan, others his adopted son. Shigi Qutuqu, who was very intelligent, later became lord chief justice of the Mongol empire.

Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan, famous softie

Genghis Khan’s sympathy for the orphans of war may have been due to his own childhood experiences; when he was nine years old, his father was murdered by the Tatars and he, his mother, and brothers were driven out of their clan, rendered essentially homeless. Later he was captured and enslaved by the Tayichiud. (Obviously he escaped.)

Approximately 1 in 200 people today appears to be a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, making him the one of the most evolutionarily successful humans in all of history. (If not the most successful.)

If we want to get technical, some of those folk are probably descended from Genghis Khan’s brothers, making Genghis Khan’s dad history’s most successful guy, but Genghis Khan achieved that success by conquering one of history’s biggest empires, and Genghis Khan’s dad achieved his success by siring Genghis Khan.

While I don’t normally advocate “be like Genghis Khan,” simply because I like being alive, if Genghis Khan thought adoption was a good idea, maybe it can be a viable evolutionary strategy.

 

Tomorrow: A bit of historical and cross-cultural context