Looking back at American history, there’s one big group of whites that harnessed the power of the Federal government to oppress another big group of whites, in what was likely the largest of all internal American events other than the conquering of the country itself.
600,000 white people died in the process of one group of whites imposing its values on another group of whites. I happen to agree with the victors that slavery is a great moral evil, but I note that most other western countries managed to end slavery without slaughtering their own people in the process.
Now let me stop and declare outright: I am not a Civil War historian, and I know there are thousands, perhaps millions of people more knowledgeable on the subject than I am. I do know, however, that Southern secession was motivated by fear that the North would outlaw slavery and use the power of the Federal government to enforce it.
According to Wikipedia:
The war produced at least 1,030,000 casualties (3 percent of the population), including about 620,000 soldier deaths—two-thirds by disease, and 50,000 civilians. Binghamton University historian J. David Hacker believes the number of soldier deaths was approximately 750,000, 20 percent higher than traditionally estimated, and possibly as high as 850,000. The war accounted for more American deaths than in all other U.S. wars combined.
Based on 1860 census figures, 8 percent of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6 percent in the North and 18 percent in the South. About 56,000 soldiers died in prison camps during the War. An estimated 60,000 men lost limbs in the war.
You might think that all of this was at least for the good for the slaves, but according to historian Jim Downs of Connecticut College, thousands of the freed slaves died of hunger, disease, and exposure in the aftermath of the war:
as Downs shows in his book, Sick From Freedom, the reality of emancipation during the chaos of war and its bloody aftermath often fell brutally short of that positive image. Instead, freed slaves were often neglected by union soldiers or faced rampant disease, including horrific outbreaks of smallpox and cholera. Many of them simply starved to death.
After combing through obscure records, newspapers and journals Downs believes that about a quarter of the four million freed slaves either died or suffered from illness between 1862 and 1870. He writes in the book that it can be considered “the largest biological crisis of the 19th century” and yet it is one that has been little investigated by contemporary historians. …
Downs reconstructed the experiences of one freed slave, Joseph Miller, who had come with his wife and four children to a makeshift freed slave refugee camp within the union stronghold of Camp Nelson in Kentucky. In return for food and shelter for his family Miller joined the army. Yet union soldiers in 1864 still cleared the ex-slaves out of Camp Nelson, effectively abandoning them to scavenge in a war-ravaged and disease-ridden landscape. One of Miller’s young sons quickly sickened and died. Three weeks later, his wife and another son died. Ten days after that, his daughter perished too. Finally, his last surviving child also fell terminally ill. By early 1865 Miller himself was dead. …
Things were so bad that one military official in Tennessee in 1865 wrote that former slaves were: “dying by scores – that sometimes 30 per day die and are carried out by wagonloads without coffins, and thrown promiscuously, like brutes, into a trench”.
So bad were the health problems suffered by freed slaves, and so high the death rates, that some observers of the time even wondered if they would all die out.
The echoes of this moral imposition are still with us. There are those who refer to the government as “we” and “us,” as in “We ought to do something about poverty” or “we should make healthcare a basic right” and then there are those who refer to the government as something alien and outside, as in “the government killed 85 people in Waco.” (By the way, it looks like the Branch Davidians set their own compound on fire.) or “the government is raising taxes on the middle class.”
Surely one of the most grievously forgotten authors of the 20th century is Freda Utley. In the immortal words of Rutger Hauer, Utley “saw things… you people wouldn’t believe” – she moved to Moscow as a Communist true believer in the 1930s, lost her husband to the Gulag, and never remarried. Her honesty and fearlessness did not make her popular, especially when she spoke out against American abuses in the occupation of Germany, or against Maoism 40 years before it was fashionable. …
Perhaps Utley’s most acute realization in Odyssey, though on a trivial subject, is when she notices that her friend Bertrand Russell always uses the word “we” to refer to the government. She points out that this little linguistic tic is an unmistakable mark of any ruling class.
Apparently this “nostrism” (if I can risk another obscure quasicoinage) was more unusual in the ’50s than it is now. Because, although I have tried repeatedly to break myself of the habit, I use exactly the same pronoun. It’s an unmistakable sign of my Brahmin upbringing. I can’t imagine counting the number of times I’ve heard someone say “we should…” when what they really mean is “the government should…” Language is repetition, and though my considered view is that it’s just as bizarre to define “we” as the US Federal Government, especially for someone who isn’t actually an employee of said entity, as it would be to use the first person plural for Safeway, Comcast or OfficeMax, habits die hard.
Today, Russell-style nostrism is peculiar, I believe, to the Brahmin caste. Certainly Helots, Dalits, and Vaisyas all think of the government as very much “they.” If Optimates go with “we,” it’s probably because they’re so used to having to pass as Brahmins. I find it rather hard to imagine a cardiologist or a hedge-fund hotshot genuinely thinking of Uncle Sam as “we.”
Given that this is Moldbug, this is actually a short quote.
More culturally, there are those who generally think the government is on their side and can be used to solve social problems, (or at least they did before Trump was elected,) and those who think the government is basically against them and creates social problems, and which side you’re on probably has a lot to do with whether or not the government marched in and burned down your great-great-great-grandparents’ farm in 1864. Today the South remains poorer than the North, which they blame on the long-term effects of the war and punitive reconstruction policies. (Which is about as true as the story about Japan being poor today because the US military bombed its cities to smithereens.) Nevertheless, much American politics can be simplified as a continuing conflict between poor southerners and rich northerners.
The group that currently talks a lot about “institutional racism,” “white privilege,” and the importance of using the government to correct social ills through programs like Welfare and Affirmative Action happens also to be on the side that did the marching back in 1864 (even if they are actually just the children of immigrants who only recently moved to the area.)
Let’s take a quick look at poverty in America:
(Obviously poverty is relative and few of us are living in what passes for poverty in the third world, but let’s stay on topic.) So here is the census data (pdf) on poverty rates by race:
Obviously blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans have the highest poverty rates, while whites and Asians have the lowest.
But remember that there are a lot more whites than anyone else in America. When you multiply poverty rates by actual numbers, you get 17.8 million whites in poverty compared to 10 million blacks. (source.)
And as you might have noticed, we still live in a democracy, where numbers matter.
Summary: The side that thinks it imperative that we listen to their ideas for how government should end the poverty of black communities doesn’t understand why the white communities whose ancestors were invaded and killed by that same government, who are actually the biggest community of poor people in the US, disagree with them on the matter.
This might just be coincidence. I’m certain there are other factors involved (including genetics.) But it might also be an important thing to keep in mind when trying to convince others of the importance of using the government to enforce social change.
Today’s theme is education. You probably know already that I’m pretty positive toward both public/private schools and homeschooling; I think which you should chose depends a lot on a person/family’s individual situation.
But what could we do to improve these systems? (Imagine you are given free-range to design a system from scratch.) What would you add or subtract? Would you change the focus or style in some way? (Do you have any specific recommendations for books or curriculum materials for children?)
One thing I find lacking in the modern school system is a clear path to a job. A highschool diploma ought to qualify a person for many low-level jobs, but as a practical matter, it’s basically crap. A college degree ought to qualify you for the average higher-skill job, but even still, there’s a big disconnect between getting the degree and getting the job. I’ve known people with degrees from very nice schools (HYPS-MC) who have still struggled to get good, regular employment. And many people end up working in fields well outside of what they majored in. That’s not horrible–life happens–but it does make me question what the whole point of spending 4 years and $$$ on a degree in the first place was. (If it’s signaling, we could do signaling a lot cheaper.)
Anyway, I was thinking about survival as a skill, man-vs-wild style. How to hunt/fish/trap/gather your food. How to build a shelter. How to signal SOS. Basic woodworking? First aid, navigation, swimming, boating. What would you add?
Relatedly: how to start a business and actually make money. How to fill out the necessary related forms.
How would you go about teaching that/finding people to teach it? We’re in cub/girl scouts, but I find those basically useless; I don’t think my kids have learned so much as to tie a knot there in the past 3 years. (Don’t get me wrong, they’re still having fun. They’re just not about to come home with freshly killed dinner anytime soon.)
I hear people say, “kids are natural learners, we shouldn’t force them to learn!” Well my kids are naturals at learning Minecraft, but they think multiplication is lame.
Behavioural analysis based on detailed observations, photography and video recording showed that the most common types of walrus behaviour toward a bird were approach by surfacing and splash, approach by surfacing and hit and attack from below. Immature individuals initiated 82% of encounters. … Walrus encounters with live birds showed a very low rate of bird kill. … Object play in wild walruses is reported for the first time.
This stocky shark is often included in studies on whether or not sharks play. That is because several observers have reported seeing porbeagles in groups of up to 20 individuals manipulating and tossing about floating objects, including lumber and seaweed. They seem to engage in such activity for no apparent reason other than to pass the time.
Leuconoe brings up an argument I hadn’t even thought of before regarding corn, potatoes, and exchange with the New World:
The effects of the exchange were various, on the one hand it brought deadly illneses to the new world that killed tens of millions on the other it brought many forms of food to bouth worlds that saved hundreds of millions from starvation. Chinas population grew from 150 to 400 million because of introduction of new world crops. What would have hapened to this people without the crops? They would have died from malthusian limits or killed by their parents.
So I was reading this excellent interview the other day with Napoleon Chagon, (famous for his ethnography of the Yanomamo, a formerly isolated tribe in the Amazon rainforest) and Steven Pinker, (who wrote The Better Angels of our Nature and has generally been the guy pushing the notion that humans have become radically less violent over time,) Blood is Their Argument. Serious HBDers like Peter Frost have picked up this notion; one important idea is that humans have been self-domesticating, often by getting together in groups and executing the more violent among us.
Frost goes into a great deal of detail about his theory that European states, by executing murderers and other ne’er do wells, changed the genetic distribution of traits that code for violent behavior in European pops, leading to the relatively nice, non-violent people we see today. Chagnon, in his study of the Yanomamo, not only documented that thy are super-violent, but also that the Yanomamo who had killed the most people were also the ones who had the most offspring, providing evidence for the idea that evolutionary pressures could act on human populations, pushing them to be murderous (or not.)
Chagnon has suffered tremendous pushback from his “colleagues” in anthropology because there is a very vocal myth that pre-agricultural, pre-modern people were lovely innocents in a state of nature who never did bad things like murder or hate and that these were all just invented by evil white male cishetero colonizers, and that if we were only more like the virtuous mother goddess-worshiping innocent pagans, we could all be peaceful again.
The attacks on Chagnon have been shameful and, to be frank, horrible. There are powerful people trying to destroy a man and his life’s work because it conflicts with their narrative about human nature. Note also that Peter Frost has stopped writing because he is concerned about getting prosecuted by the Canadian government and James Watson, Nobel Prize winner, getting watsoned.
Anyway, in the interview, Pinker noted that people often object to him that some of the tribes he documents are not hunter-gatherers, and he responds that limiting the inquiry solely to HGs doesn’t help matters and that the real division is between state and non-state. To quote a bit:
CHAGNON: … All I’ve been claiming in my writings is that the Yanomamö are not necessarily the modern day survivors of the Stone Age. They are, however, the best approximation that we have in the ethnographic world today of peoples living in a kind of environment—a kind of political system, okay, social system—that approximates as closely as you can find human beings today living in a condition—a state of nature, as it were—that is quite comparable to what must have happened during most of human history. And to that extent, we can learn a lot of things about politics, political attitudes, violence, agression, etc. from people like the Yanomamö. Unfortunately, there aren’t many people like the Yanomamö left, and that’s what awed and astonished me the first time I saw them.
PINKER: When I’ve cited figures on violence from a variety of hunter-gatherer, hunter-horticulturalist, and tribal peoples, I often get the criticism, “Well, these aren’t all hunter-gatherers.” My response is, “Well, that’s irrelevant.” For the purpose of testing a specific hypothesis, say, whether government reduces violence, it doesn’t matter whether they’re literally hunter-gatherers. What matters is the value of the independent variable you’re testing, for example, Is government present, or is government absent? My attitude is that the value of studying these peoples is that there are many features of our present environment that we can’t subtract other than by looking at such people. Whether or not they survive only by hunting and gathering is irrelevant to the effect of that variable.
CHAGNON: I’ve had this argument with Marvin Harris and people like that. You’re not exactly what you eat, though in some cases you might be.
The important thing that I’ve discovered about the Yanomamö is the answer to the question of a lot of highly educated people in our society who say, “Oh, it would be so wonderful if we could just go back to an earlier time when life was so much simpler, and pleasant, and neighbors cooperated…” And what I found is the further back in time you go, the more that unpleasant things are ubiquitous in your environment. Violence is just around the corner, and wishing for a return to the noble savage past is possibly one of the biggest errors that one might make philosophically. I don’t think life in the state of nature was nearly as pleasant as a lot of people would like it to be.
I also sometimes get this same objection, but the Yanomamo are so much closer to “the state of nature” than ourselves that it is really quite silly. Obviously there is not a sharp difference between societies where merely raising a few yams or bananas will automatically make you peaceful.
Anyway, so I was reading Buckley’s account of life among the Aborigines and thinking to myself, How do you get states to start forming so that criminals can be punished and revenge spirals halted? and of course thinking about Gobekli Tepi and organized religion and accounts of missionary work among the Samoans, where the missionaries and local pagan witch doctors got into conflict because the missionaries were trying to stop the violence cycles with their pleas that god doesn’t approve of murder, and the local witch doctors were trying to keep them going because they benefited from them.
And it occurred to me that an important distinction here, that I think may be helping drive state formation, is between agricultural and horticultural societies.
Okay, what is agricultural and what is horticultural?
Horticulture is gardening, often of foods like squash, yams, and potatoes. Gardens are not too intense and can be grown by women. Horticultural societies are often dependent on female labor for growing food, because you don’t need men for it.
Agriculture is full-scale farming, generally of cereal crops like rice, wheat, and corn. Agricultural work is intense, difficult, and requires men. In agricultural societies, men plow fields and women tend gardens.
Obviously there exist a wide variety of hunter gatherer, horticultural, and agricultural societies throughout the world. As Richerson et al note in Principles of Human Ecology (ch. 4):
The range of variation in political institutions is large under horticultural subsistence. Note in Steward and Faron’s (1959) maps and tables that there is a pretty close cor-relation between ecology, population density, and political and social complexity. We looked briefly at the Gebusi in the last Chapter, who are as simple politically as the simplest hunting and gathering groups (Knauft, 1985). They lack any sort of formalized political
roles. Kin relations and personal ties are all that order Gebusi society. The weak headman is also found among the simpler horticultural societies, such as those of the Amazon Basin, while full-fledged imperial states are found in the most advanced societies, such as the Inca Empire of Peru. More typically, horticultural societies are either organized around “Big- men” or Tribal Chiefs.
In the simpler horticultural societies, differences compared to hunters and gatherers are, to repeat, modest. Kinship remains the most important means of organizing social interactions, and plays almost the same role as described for these societies.
We tend to think of agricultural and horticultural systems as essentially equivalent because they both involve the technology of growing food instead of hunting it, but they are often structurally quite different. In a horticultural society, women are busy and men are not; the men have plenty of leisure time to spend hunting or raiding other villages and killing people in them. One of these raids might result in a few men dying, but may also result in a few women captured, who can be brought back to the village and then employed in further food production. To get more children (evolution’s “goal,” as it were,) a horticultural tribe sacrifiices so me of its men to get more women who’ll make food and babies, and ends up polygynous.
By contrast, the men in an agricultural tribe are BUSY much of the time, plowing and hoeing and harvesting and so on, and so have far less time for war. The death of men in an agricultural society means one less farmer to bring in crops and so hunger for his wife and children. Bringing more women into an agricultural society is not particularly useful, especially at the expense of male lives, as these women cannot support themselves by producing their own food. (The upper class is an exception, who by taxing other men can support a harem for themselves.) For agriculturalists, war quickly becomes famine.
This may be, then, the long-term beginning of the process by which agricultural societies begin to pacify their people, start developing a state that manages conflicts, etc.
There is no hard line where “pre-modern” ends and “modern” begins. It is all a process of transition from one to the next.
Hey everyone, today we are reading The Life and Adventures of William Buckley: 32 years a wanderer amongst the Aborigines of the then unexplored Country Bound Port Phillip, the province of Victoria. (That is a long title.)
Buckley, a British soldier caught stealing a bolt of cloth, was shipped out to their penal colony in Australia, ran away to the bush, nearly died, and was rescued by the Aborigines, who taught him how to live off the land. He lived with them for 32 years (from 1804 through 1835,) without sight nor sound of another Englishman, and had likely given up hope of ever returning to civilization when colonists finally arrived in the area. In 1852 he dictated his life’s adventures to John Morgan, who wrote the book, and wow is it Hobbesian.
We’ll start with Buckley’s first encounter with the Aborigines:
“…I thought I heard the sound of human voices; and, on looking up, was somewhat startled at seeing three natives standing on the high land immediately above me. They were armed with spears, and had opossum skins thrown over their shoulders, partially covering their bodies. Standing as they did, en an elevated position, armed too, and being myself totally defenceless, I confess I felt alarmed … They were however soon upon my track, and shouting what I considered to be a call for me to come out, I resolved to do so; indeed I could not have remained there long on account of the water.
“With but faint hopes of meeting with good treatment at their hands, I crawled out from my shelter, and surrendered at discretion. … After seizing both my hands, they struck their breasts, and mine also, l making at the same time a noise between singing and crying: a sort of whine, which to me sounded very like premeditated mischief. Pointing to my hut, they evinced a desire to examine it, so we entered. … One made up a large fire, another threw off his rug and went into the sea for crayfish, which, on his return, he threw alive into the flames, at the same time looking at me with an expression as much as to intimate that they intended to grill me next, by way of a change of diet. I can afford to smile, and even laugh now at the recollection; but, at the time, I assure the reader, I was by no means satisfied with the prospect before me, or with my visitors. At length my suspense ended, by their taking the fish, fairly dividing them, and handing to me the first and best portion.”
EvX: In his defense, the Aborigines in the area did practice cannibalism, though I think of the ritual variety.
Buckley parts ways with his new acquaintances, nearly dies of thirst, then encounters some more Aborigines:
“Whilst searching for the gum already mentioned, I was seen by two native women, who watched me unperceived. … Presently they all came upon me unawares, and seizing me by the arms and hands, began beating their breasts, and mine, in the manner the others had done. After a short time, they lifted me up, and they made the same sign, giving me to understand by it, that I was in want of food. The women assisted me to walk, the men shouting hideous noises, and tearing their hair. When we arrived at their huts, they brought a kind of bucket, made of dry bark, into which they put gum and water, converting it by that means into a sort of pulp. This they offered me to eat, and I did so very greedily.
“They called me Murrangurk, which I afterwards learnt, was the name of a man formerly belonging to their tribe, who had been buried at the spot where I had found the piece of spear I still carried with me. They have a belief, that when they die, they go to some place’ or other, and are there made white men, and that they then return to this world again for another existence. They think all the white people previous to death were belonging to their own tribes, thus returned to life in a different colour. In cases where they have killed white men, it has generally been because tkey imagined them to have been originally enemies, or belonging to tribes with whom they were hostile. In accordance with this belief, they fancied me to be one of their tribe who had been recently killed in a fight, in which his daughter had been speared also. …
“I remained with them all that night, but in great anxiety, not knowing their intentions; I thought several times of endeavoring to make my escape, but in my weak state, it was impossible. The women were all the time making frightful lamentations and waillings–lacerating their faces in a dreadful manner. All this increased my anxiety and horror, which was added to in J the morning, When I saw the frightful looking demons they had made themselves. They were covered with blood from the bounds they had inflicted, having cut their faces and legs into ridges, and burnt the edges with fire sticks sticks. …”
EvX: Once Buckley learned their language, he figured out that all of this lamenting was for “his” sake, since they believed him to be their family member whose death they were still sad about, and whom they thought had returned from the dead after suffering such horrible traumas that he had clearly lost his memory, forgotten how to speak their language, and become a half-starved idiot who didn’t know how to gather food.
Once the mourning ends, there proceeds a great deal of singing, dancing, and celebration:
“The reader, in these colonies, will be aware that what I had witnessed was nothing more than a great Corrobberree, or rejoicing, at my having come to life again, as they supposed. After eating some roots I lay down by the side of my new friends, and although so recently highly exited, yet I enjoyed a sleep undisturbed by dreams, either of the past, the preset, or the future.”
EvX: So Buckely is basically “adopted” into the Wathaurong tribe, taking the place of the dead man everyone believes him to be. “His” sister and brother-in-law take charge of him, making sure he has food and water, teaching him to hunt and speak, etc.
Unfortunately, the Wikipedia page on the Wathaurong people doesn’t say much about their traditional culture or lifestyle beyond:
Personally, I am extremely skeptical of any group sticking around in the same spot for 25,000 years, but I’m not in the mood to go hunting down the relevant archaeological journals to see if someone has proved conclusively how to distinguish Wathaurong artifacts from those of their neighbors and that those same artifacts were being produced in the area 25,000 years ago (or someone could dig up an ancient skeleton and test its DNA to see who it matches.) Regardless, someone was living there.
From here the book is dominated by accounts of violence, eg:
“in the mean time, the women behind the huts were all fighting with clubs and sticks. Presently the men, excepting the two with me, rushed toward them, in order to separate the combatants, after which they brought roots which they roasted and offered me. What the fight was about I could not understand, but think it must have originated in the unfair division of the food.”
“At break of day, I heard a great noise and talking; at length I saw that a quarrel had ensued, for they began to flourish their spears as a token of hostilities I should here observe, that these spears are very formidable weapons, about twelve feet long, sharp at one end; others are about half that length, being made of a kind of reed with pointed sticks joined to them; these are sharpened with hard cutting stones, or shells. …
“After a little time, and a great deal of challenging bluster, the two tribes commenced fighting in reality. When my relations, for so for convenience, I suppose, I must sometimes call them, saw what was going on, they led me a short distance off, where they remained
with me, looking at the conflict. It was any thing but play work–it was evidently earnest. One man was speared through the thigh, and removed into the bush, where the spear was drawn, A woman of the tribe to which I had become attached, was also speared under the arm, and she died immediately. At last peace was restored, and the parties separated, except about twenty of the tribe to which the woman belonged who had been killed…”
“we left this place, and joined a friendly tribe, about fifty in number, and on the evening of our meeting had a Corrobberree. The next day we all started together to meet another tribe; but on joining, from some cause or other, they quarrelled, commenced fighting, and two boys were killed. I could not then understand what all these quarrels were about, but afterwards understood that they were occasioned by, the women having been taken away from one tribe by another, which was of frequent occurrence. At other times they were caused by the women willingly leaving their husbands, and joining other men, which the natives consider very bad.”
“After the skirmish just mentioned was over, the tribe to whom the boys belonged retired farther into the bush, when we made our huts, as I have described, with boughs and bark. Suddenly in the night, the others came upon our party and drove us away. The bodies of the two boys who were killed were laying in one of the huts, so they cut off their legs and thighs, carrying them away; the remains of their bodies our people burned in the usual manner…”
“On our arrival at the battle ground, about twenty miles distant, we found five different tribes all collected together, and ready for action. The fight commenced immediately, and it lasted about three hours, during which three women were killed, for, for strange to say, the females in these quarrels generally suffered the most. These continual contests alarmed me, for the contending parties were always pointing toward me, as if I had been their origin, and I again began to think I should be sacrificed as a peace offering. Quiet was at length restored, and the tribe we had joined separated from the others, and came toward where I was standing. ”
“we were unexpectedly intruded upon by a very numerous tribe, about three hundred. Their appearance, coming across the plain, occasioned great alarm, as they were seen to be the Waarengbadawa, with whom my tribe was at enmity. … The women ran with their children into the bush, and hid themselves, and being a living dead man, as they supposed, I was told to accompany them. On the hostile tribe coming near, I saw they were all men, no women being amongst them. They were smeared all over with red and white clay, and were by far the most hideous looking savages I had seen. In a very short time the fight began, by a shower of spears from the contending parties. One of our men advanced singly, as a sort of champion; he then began to dance and sing, and beat himself about with his war implements… Seven or eight of … our opponents, then got up also, and threw their spears at him; but, with great dexterity, he warded them off, or broke them every one, so that he did not receive a single wound. They then threw their boomerangs at him, but he warded them off also with ease. After this, one man advanced, as a sort of champion from their party, to within three yards of him, and threw his boomerang, but the other avoided the blow by falling on his hands and knees, and instantly jumping up again he shook himself like a dog coming out of the water. At seeing this, the enemy shouted out in their language “enough,” and the two men went and embraced each other. After this, the same two beat their own heads until the blood ran down in streams over their shoulders.
“A general fight now commenced, of which all this had been the prelude, spears and boomerangs flying in all directions. The sight was very terrific, and their yells and shouts of defiance very horrible. At length one of our tribe had a spear sent right through his body, and he fell. On this, our fellows raised a war cry, on hearing which, the women threw off their rugs, and each armed with a short club, flew to the assistance of their husbands and brothers; I being peremptorily ordered to stay where I was, my supposed brother’s wife remaining with me. Even with this augmentation, our tribe fought to great disadvantage, the enemy
being all men, and much more numerous.
“As I have said in the early part of this narrative, I had seen skirmishing and fighting in Holland; and knew something therefore, of what is done when men are knocking one another about with powder and shot, in real earnest, but the scene now before me was much more frightful, both parties looking like so many devils turned loose from Tartarus. Men and women were fighting furiously, and indiscriminately, covered with blood; two of the latter were killed in this affair …
“Soon after dark the hostile tribe left the neighbourhood, and, on discovering this retreat from the battle ground, ours determined on following them immediately, leaving the women and
myself where we were. On approaching the enemy’s quarters, they laid themselves down in ambush until all was quiet, and finding most of them asleep, laying about in groups, our party rushed upon them, killing three on the spot, and wounding several others. The enemy fled precipitately, leaving their war implements in the hands of their assailants and their wounded to be beaten to death by boomerangs, three loud shouts closing the victors triumph.”
EvX: After a while I got tired of recording battles and decided just to count them:
I can’t promise that I caught 100% of them; some sections of the book were badly scanned and hard to read. Also, the numbers only reflect the deaths Buckley specifically reported. In instances where he merely said something like “a few people died,” or “many people died,” I recorded only that a fight had occurred, not deaths. So the real death toll must actually be much higher than my accounting.
To be fair, these occurred over the course of 32 years, but Buckley began trying to avoid fights later in the book, so there may have been many more fights his tribe was involved in that didn’t make it into the book.
Consider, for quick comparison, how many people you have personally seen murdered or killed in battle. Chances are none–only 4/100,000 people are murdered in the US every year, and most other Western countries have even lower rates.
Luckily for Buckley, his status as already dead meant that no one thought it worth bothering to kill him again.
Buckley blames the constant warfare on fights over women, but a certain aspect of magical thinking frequently at play in animist religions is also clearly present: any death, even by natural causes, is believed to have been caused by human malice. As I noted back in my previous Anthropology Friday on the Aborigines, they had quite complicated explanations for how someone could have secretly snuck into another tribe’s camp and magically killed them without anyone else noticing. As a result, any death, even by wholly natural causes, could lead to the members of one tribe deciding to exact murderous revenge on another tribe, which would naturally endeavor to return the favor.
The important thing that I’ve discovered about the Yanomamö is the answer to the question of a lot of highly educated people in our society who say, “Oh, it would be so wonderful if we could just go back to an earlier time when life was so much simpler, and pleasant, and neighbors cooperated…” And what I found is the further back in time you go, the more that unpleasant things are ubiquitous in your environment. Violence is just around the corner, and wishing for a return to the noble savage past is possibly one of the biggest errors that one might make philosophically. I don’t think life in the state of nature was nearly as pleasant as a lot of people would like it to be.
One example I give from my travels across the United States: I happen to have been invited on a trip into the Grand Canyon by the man who was then Governor of Arizona, Fife Symington, and we had the park ranger, the archeologist for the Grand Canyon area, along with us, and he took us into parts of the Grand Canyon that most tourists don’t see. One of the most astonishing things we saw, Pueblo houses built into the edge of the Grand Canyon, with a 1,000-foot drop below, and these houses were occupied by prehistoric Indians who were so terrified of their neighbors that they’d climb down vines and ropes with their kids on their back, and firewood under their arm, and the day’s catch in their baskets, because they were just terrified of their neighbors. And that’s the way the Yanomamö live. Even the missionaries who have lived among the Yanomamö the longest have pointed out repeatedly to me and other people that these people are terrified of neighbors. It’s like Hobbe’s war of “all against all” in many respects, and Rousseau is way off the mark. …
PINKER: What about standing back and saying—at some point they must figure this out—”We’re avenging that death, which was caused when they avenged the previous death, and the cycle of violence keeps going on. Is there some way that we can extricate ourselves from this cycle?” Did that thought occur to them? Because they must at some point do the math and realize, well, not every killing could be in revenge.
CHAGNON: You are asking a profound question here. And the answer to that is best explicated in an incident that happened to me when the Yanomamö began being aware of Venezuelans, for example. It was a territorial capital 200+ miles away, and some of the missionaries sent young guys to the territorial capital to learn practical nursing to come back to the village and treat snake bites, and scratches, and wounds, and things like that, and to give them malaria pills. And they taught them how to use microscopes.
But one of these guys came back and he was just terribly excited when he told me that he discovered policia. I was like, “Well, what’s policia?” “They will grab people and haul them off and put them in these little separate houses, if they do something wrong. And I think we need policia, because my brother killed a man from Iwahikorobateri five years ago, and I’m always worried that the Iwahikorobateri are going to come and kill me, because he’s my brother.” And he thought that if they had law, law would be a good thing. …
PINKER: So you discovered kind of a Yanomamö Hobbes, who discovered the Leviathan.
We’ll return to both Buckley and Chagnon’s interview (which I must credit with inspiring me to read Buckley’s account) later… Perhaps in Part 2.
Americans have a reputation for being loud, rude, warmongers–basically some of the last people you might want to have nukes.
And while we are definitely loud and probably rude, ironically, we’ve been trying to get OUT of wars since at least 1945.
Remember Truman? He succeeded to the presidency on Roosevelt II’s death in ’45, then was narrowly defeated by Dewy in ’49. Then, after 20 straight years of Democrat rule, the Republican Ike (whom everyone liked) was elected in ’53.
Truman oversaw the surrender of Nazi Germany (on his birthday, no less,) the conclusion of the Pacific war (by dropping atomic bombs on Japan,) and America’s return to peace. Nonetheless, his popularity plummeted from 85% (in 1946) to 22% (1952)–making him possibly the least popular president in history (even Nixon had a 24% approval rating when he resigned.)
Truman had a genuinely rough job: he had to oversee the end of a colossal war, then the demilitarization of the US and its economy and the return of our troops, and navigate an entirely novel role for the US, as one of the world’s two remaining superpowers. Should we prepare for nuclear war with the Soviets? Would communism consume Europe and China? Should the US help Europe and China rebuild? What about Turkey? And on top of that, North Korea went and invaded South Korea.
For the first century or so of America’s existence, such an invasion would have been none of our business–indeed, the average American likely would have heard nothing about it. Now, as the world’s only counter to Soviet hegemony, Truman thought we had to do something–and so began the terribly unpopular Korean War (1950-1953.)
Ordinary people understood very well why we entered WWII–the Japanese bombed us, an event that is still seared into our national conscience, and then Germany declared war on us. But the North Koreans weren’t attacking us–they just wanted South Korea. Yes, you can make some intellectual justification about stopping the spread of communism, but as far as the average Joe is concerned, Koreans ain’t us and their war was, therefore, none of our damn business.
When the war began, 78% of Americans approved of Truman’s decision. By 1952, only 37% agreed. The war only received the support of half the American people again when it ended.
The war’s unpopularity was Truman’s.
Eisenhower ran against the Korean War and won with an electoral margin of 442 to 89, (though the popular vote was closer.) In ’53, he brought the war to an end. According to Wikipedia, “Since the late 20th century, consensus among Western scholars has consistently held Eisenhower as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.”
All went well until Kennedy (’61-63.) His term opened with the disastrous, CIA-run Bay of Pigs invasion. By the Cuban Missile Crisis (’62,) fallout shelters were common, schools were running nuclear attack dills, and people were convinced there was a very high chance we were all going to die. (The state of Florida was particularly terrified.)
Kennedy almost immediately changed Ike’s policy on Laos & Vietnam, and one month after the Bay of Pigs went south, formally committed America to a more active role in Vietnam.
In ’63, Kennedy was assassinated by a homegrown communist and Johnson took office. Kennedy has been glorified because of his death; it is hard to speak ill of a man who was murdered by your enemies for trying to defend you, even if his policies were not the greatest.
Johnson enjoys no such halo. He increased the American presence in Vietnam from 16,000 non-combat advisors in 1963, to 550,000, mostly troops, in 1968. Crime (which people tend not to like) also soared under LBJ’s tenure, due to scaleback in policing and general integration of African Americans into US cities.
1968 is known as the year America went crazy. Students at Stanford rioted, striked, burned down buildings, torched the president’s office, and fought with the police:
April 29: Cambodia invasion protested… a day-long sit-in at the Old Union erupts into a rock-throwing, club-wielding battle between several hundred students and more than 250 police.
April 30: ROTC, Cambodia protest… demonstrators demanding immediate elimination of ROTC battle police… Property damage for the moth is estimated at $100,000, with 73 injuries in the past two nights.
Say what you will for student protesters, draft dodgers, or Marxists, America had no business being in Vietnam (we could barely scrounge up a single American who spoke Vietnamese to translate for us!) I have multiple relatives who were drafted or volunteered for service in Vietnam and one who died there, so I have opinions on the matter.
Oh, and a Palestinian Christian assassinated Kennedy’s little brother, RFK, for helping the Israeli military.
Despite Johnson’s electoral victory in ’64, his ratings tanked in ’68 (down to 35%,) and he decided not to run for re-election. Wikipedia relates:
One of the most tumultuous primary election seasons ever began as the Tet Offensive was launched, followed by the withdrawal of President Johnson as a candidate after doing unexpectedly poorly in the New Hampshire primary; it concluded with the assassination of one of the Democratic candidates, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, just moments after his victory in the California primary. …
Nixon’s Democratic opponent in the general election was Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was nominated at a convention marked by violent protests. Throughout the campaign, Nixon portrayed himself as a figure of stability during a period of national unrest and upheaval. …
He stressed that the crime rate was too high, and attacked what he perceived as a surrender by the Democrats of the United States’ nuclear superiority. Nixon promised “peace with honor” in the Vietnam War and proclaimed that “new leadership will end the war and win the peace in the Pacific”.
Nixon came into power, ended the Vietnam War, ended the draft, and opened peaceful relations with China (a major pivot from America’s previous stance.) He was reelected in one of the largest landslides in US history, before the WaPo and Judge Sirica decided to destroy him.
After the Nixon fiasco, Americans elected Carter, one of the peaciest of peaceful guys ever to peace in the White House. Carter, though well-liked as a person, had, shall we say, bad luck: the oil embargo, Iran hostage crisis, economic troubles at home. He was replaced by Reagan, who, despite his tough rhetoric got the Iranian hostages released and negotiated nuclear arms reduction treaties with the Soviets.
Bush I, Reagan’s VP and successor, won handily in ’89 and oversaw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. He entered into a new kind of warfare, the UN-backed, fast in-and-out, minimal American death removal of Saddam from Kuwait. Americans do not mind wars so long as they are fast, relatively bloodless, and we win.
Bush got done in by economic troubles and lost to Clinton, who oversaw prosperity at home and tried to broker peace abroad, from the Oslo Peace Accords to UN “peacekeepers” in the former Yugoslavia. Clinton was popular despite Republicans’ best efforts to sabotage him.
Clinton was not eligible to run in 2000, but the Republican candidate, Bush II, positioned himself in opposition to Clinton’s “nation building” and advocated for a more isolationist, less interventionist American foreign policy.
Bush turned out to be a liar. He was just telling people what they wanted to hear, and then he went and spent trillions of dollars and got thousands of Americans killed in Iraq.
Yes, Americans supported the war in Afghanistan, because they blamed Afghanistan (or at least people in Afghanistan,) for the attack on 9-11. But support waned quickly for the Iraq War II, Bush II became hugely unpopular, and the current Republican candidate, Trump, is running on his opposition to the war vs. the Democratic candidate’s support for it.
Obama ran on “Hope and Change”–a promise to pivot foreign policy away from Bush’s disastrous wars. His campaign was so successful, he was almost immediately awarded a Nobel Peace Prize (though by Swedes, not by Americans.)
In our current election, people on both sides of the political aisle are concerned that the other side’s candidate is a war-monger who will get us into another war. Trump’s supporters are concerned about Hillary’s history/support for violence in Libya, Benghazi, and Syria, not to mention her aggressive stance toward Putin, leader of the world’s other nuclear superpower. Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m concerned about Hillary starting a war with Russia, something Americans have been trying to avoid since 1945.
And the pro-Hillary side is concerned that Trump is a violent hothead who will send US troops to Syria, get embroiled in a bunch of costly wars like Bush II did, and maybe launch off some nukes just for the fun of it. And they’re concerned that he’ll put illegal immigrants in concentration camps and make Muslims wear yellow crescents on their clothes.
Regardless of which side you think is right, both are trying to avoid being killed in yet another stupid war that has nothing to do with our actual interests.
America might fight a lot of wars, but we sure as hell don’t want to.
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.
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?
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. 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”. One of the results of the measures was the development of a new middle class of Europeanised African “évolués” in the cities. By the 1950s the Congo had a wage labour force twice as large as that in any other African colony.
–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. 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.
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. The Belgian government became deeply concerned by the situation, particularly when white civilians began entering neighbouring countries as refugees.
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. …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.
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:
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. 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.
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. …
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”.
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. …
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.
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. After UDI was proclaimed, UN officials branded Ian Smith’s government as an “illegal racist minority regime” and called on member states to sever economic ties with Rhodesia, recommending sanctions on petroleum products and military hardware. In December 1966, these measures became mandatory, extending to bar the purchase of Rhodesian tobacco, chrome, copper, asbestos, sugar, meat, and hides.
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”.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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. …
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”). The larger Kasakela group, meanwhile, consisted of twelve adult females and their young, and eight adult males. …
The first outbreak of violence occurred on January 7, 1974, 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. Of the females from Kahama, one was killed, two went missing, and three were beaten and kidnapped by the Kasakela males. The Kasakela then succeeded in taking over the Kahama’s former territory.
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. 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. 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. ”
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.
Peace is a government that can prevent both, but people will settle for preventing war.
I was thinking today that people are far more concerned with the harm done to them by others than the harm done by themselves. 1 in 5 of you–about 700,000 people per year–will be killed by your own over-indulgence in food, and you are three times as likely to kill yourself with your own gun as a stranger is to shoot you with theirs. And don’t get me started on cars. By contrast, the past 15 years have seen a few thousand Americans murdered by Islamic terrorists and domestic mass-shooters. These events might be terrifying, but America’s enemies could kill a lot more people by providing us with free soda, cookies, and cigarettes than by flying planes into buildings.
America has spent approximately 5 trillion dollars pursuing Bin Laden and his associates, and yet no one (sane) has proposed shooting everyone involved in the production and sale of Coca-Cola.
One of the central tenets of this blog is that people are not merely random in their irrationality; if millions of people do or think something, then there is likely to be some sort of cause.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way:
Coca-Cola isn’t trying to kill anyone, so we tend not to think they deserve to be killed.
Humans are bad at estimating risks because we are not adapted to TV. 100 years ago, if you saw a bunch of people being horribly murdered, there was a war going on and you were either killing them yourself or about to get killed. Today, you’re probably just watching a movie.
As a practical matter, this means that people do, in fact, get completely worked up and devote absurd amounts of money to fighting trivial problems. The “Satanic Daycare Scare” of the 1980s is one such case.
For those of you who don’t remember the 80s very well, or have blocked the Satanic Daycare Scare from your memory due to sheer stupidity, here’s a rundown:
A bunch of mentally ill people–that is, people actually receiving treatment for mental illness at the time or who were later discovered to be schizophrenic–began coming up with stories that their parents or their kids’ daycare workers were part of a vast, underground Satanic conspiracy, ritually murdering and torturing children, ritually sacrificing giraffes and drinking their blood, flying on broomsticks, etc.
“Estimates are that there are over one million Satanists in [the United States and they are] linked in a highly organized, secretive network.” (source)
Eventually the FBI got involved and figured out that it was all nonsense:
Kenneth Lanning, an FBI expert in the investigation of child sexual abuse, has stated that pseudo-satanism may exist but there is “little or no evidence for … large-scale baby breeding, human sacrifice, and organized satanic conspiracies”. …
Lanning produced a monograph in 1994 on SRA aimed at child protection authorities, which contained his opinion that despite hundreds of investigations no corroboration of SRA had been found.
The Satanic Daycare Scare is a fascinating subject in its own right, but beyond our current scope; for now, the important thing is that even intelligent, trained folks like lawyers, doctors, judges, and Geraldo Rivera can believe obviously false things if you just put it on TV or in a book. We are really bad at dealing with modern mass media, and probably even worse at math.
But the instinct to protect one’s children from people who would hurt them are perfectly sound, reasonable instincts. You should protect your children; you just have to protect them from actual dangers, not made up ones.The Satanic Daycare Panic of our day is the conviction that the police are brutally slaughtering black bodies in the streets. Statistically, of course, they aren’t; not only is a black person far more likely to be murdered by a fellow black person than by a police officer (of any race,) but the police don’t even disproportionately kill blacks:
Graph originally from Mother Jones magazine (and if Mother Jones can’t find evidence for disproportionate police shooting of blacks, who can?) but helpfully cited by Slate Star Codex’s extensively researched article, Race and Justice: much more than you wanted to know. I strongly recommend that article; I also wrote a rather long piece about crime statistics back in Bully Part 2: Race, Crime, and the Police.
The short version is that blacks get into a lot of conflicts with the police because blacks commit a lot of crime, much of which is aimed at their fellow black people. We know this from crime victimization surveys, which ask people who have been victims of crimes to describe their attackers.
Thousands of black-on-black murders barely make a blip on the airwaves, while one white-on-black murder can dominate the news, streets, and college campuses for months.
By contrast, when a shootout in Waco, Texas, left 9 people dead, 20 injured, 239 detained, and 177 arrested, allegations that police snipers had actually murdered the 9 victims resulted in exactly zero campus protests.
White on white violence? Snoozefest. Black on black? *Zzzzzzz* Black on white? Hate Twitter notices. White on black? College campuses explode.
People notice inter-ethnic violence in a way that they don’t notice violence committed by their own ethnic group.
Every group has its own, internal way of dealing with their own malefactors, from compelling murderers to pay a fine to the victim’s family to ostracization to stoning. This is, in short, what police are for. But sans an extradition treaty, it’s almost impossible to deal with malefactors from some other group. If a neighboring group of tribespeople starts killing your tribespeople, the only way to stop them is to kill them back until they stop.
From an evolutionary standpoint, your own criminals simply aren’t as big a deal as another tribe coming in and killing you. If my brother kills me, horrible though that may be, my genes will still live on in his children. Furthermore, my brother is highly unlikely to kill me, my children, and my parents, then burn down my village and carry off my wife and cattle. But if some guy from the next tribe over kills me, the chance of any of my genes making it into the next generation goes down significantly. Historically speaking, inter-ethnic violence has probably been a bigger deal than intra-ethnic violence.
Modern countries are, with a few Polynesian exceptions, much bigger than individual tribes. As a result, their priority becomes not just protecting their people from outside attack, but also protecting their people from each other.
In a world of limited resources (and no obvious technical advantages), a group that cooperates with itself and defects on others will out-compete a group that cooperates with itself and others. But the government of a large, multi-ethnic state has little to gain from everyone falling into default-defect scenarios; the government wants everyone to cooperate in order to maximize economic growth (and thus tax revenues.)
The Pax Romana comes immediately to mind as a famous historical example of a government conquering a whole munch of little tribes that formerly warred against each other, and using its military might to put an end to such conflicts.
The Mongol Empire, after destroying everything in its path from the Sea of Japan to the gates of Vienna (a conquest halted only by the Khan’s death,) brought about the similarly named Pax Mongolica:
[Pax Mongolica] describes the stabilizing effects of the conquests of the Mongol Empire on the social, cultural, and economic life of the inhabitants of the vast Eurasian territory that the Mongols conquered in the 13th and 14th centuries. The term is used to describe the eased communication and commerce the unified administration helped to create, and the period of relative peace that followed the Mongols’ vast conquests.
I know less about Yugoslavia than about the Mongol Empire, but Yugoslavia’s various states were clearly at peace with each other under the dictatorship of Josip Tito, and fell into civil war after Tito died, democracy came to the country, and everyone began voting along ethnic lines.
I recall–but cannot locate at the moment–an interview in which Lee Kuan Yew, erstwhile autocrat of Singapore, expounded on one of the reasons why he didn’t support western-style democracy for his own country. Given a country with three major ethnic groups, he asserted, democracy would quickly break down into each group attempting to vote for its own interests, against the interests of the others. Singapore may be a small country, but it is also a successful one.
A national government does not need to do anything about crime if sufficient local institutions exist to handle local conflicts. If the Amish want to handle Amish criminals and the Zuni want to handle Zuni criminals, that is no skin off anyone else’s nose. However, inter-group conflicts are better handled and adjudicated by an outside third party that can A. enforce its rulings against both groups, and B. does a good job of convincing everyone that it is being fair and effective–that is, a higher level of government.
This seems like the most effective and expedient way to avoid mutual defection in large, multi-ethnic societies. (The other option, I suppose, is to not have large, multi-ethnic societies.)
As I was saying yesterday, functional societies are places where people cooperate rather than defect (prisoner’s dilemma style), but now people are trying to advance their own personal interests by accusing others of defecting–that is, in effect, defecting against them. Our particular class and racial dynamics have exacerbated–or perhaps caused–this dynamic.
So how to change things? A few thoughts:
1. Government has the most obvious power to curb defection and increase cooperation, and indeed, this should probably be thought of as one of the prime functions of government. All societies require cooperation merely to exist, and more cooperation => more society.
Libertarianism has many fine points in its theory, but it deals poorly with multipolar traps. In cases where someone can profit themselves by being a free rider (defecting,) chances are they will–and they will pass on this advantage to their children, until you have a nation of cheaters. I remember an example from my own school days: A group of farmers gets together one year to higher a crop-dusting plane, and they all enjoy a larger harvest as a result. But the next year, the guy with the field in the middle of the area being dusted decides not to pay in. His field gets dusted anyway, just because it’s impossible not to dust it in the process, and so he gets all of the rewards of crop dusting without paying the price.
The government effectively solves this problem by eliminating the possibility of being a free rider. Everyone now has to pay a tax that goes to hire the annual crop-dusting plane, and you must pay your taxes or go to jail.
2. The vague–or not so vague!–sense that others are defecting while you are cooperating may just be instinctual. Therefore, it is probably in the interests of any government to put in place some kind of measures to make sure people aren’t defecting and to reassure people about this.
However, it is critical that such systems not get turned into further vehicles for defection.
For example, many (if not most) of the lawsuits corporations lodge against each other are totally bogus and exist for the sole purposes of A. inconveniencing the opposition and B. benefiting the lawyers. Millions upon million of dollars and hours of human labor are poured each year into activities that only serve to mutually weaken corporations.
In lawsuits over patents that actually get all the way to court, to give a sub-example, it is extremely common for the patent itself to simply get thrown out on the grounds that it is a bad patent that should have never been granted. (I’ve seen estimates between 25% and 77%.) In many of these lawsuits, a company will just scatter-shot sue a dozen or two different companies all at once over a clearly bogus patent, in the hopes that the sued companies will cut their losses and settle out of court. There are even businesses whose entire model is just to buy crappy old patents companies don’t want anymore before they expire and then sue everyone in sight. It’s called “patent trolling.”
Assuming we want patents to keep existing, then people have to be able to sue others for infringement, but patent trolls need to be shut down. The obvious solution here is to identify patterns of patent troll behavior and then punish the trolls for it. First, once a lawsuit has been filed, don’t allow the parties to settle out of court. They must go before the judge/jury. Second, companies that lose due to patent invalidation must pay the sued-party’s legal costs.
I could go on, but people who are actually trained in legal matters can do a far better job of recommending fixes to the patent system than I.
To make another example: there’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about whether or not the police are killing and imprisoning black people at higher rates than whites. The police should be (and be perceived as) trustworthy. This is a matter that the government should solve–figure out who is actually doing the defecting, publicize the results, and then do some trust-building between the police and their communities.
3. If white Yale professors think Yale needs fewer white professors and more black ones, the easiest way for them to demonstrate that they are not defecting against other white professors (who might otherwise receive those spots) is to give up their own professorships in order to make room for black candidates. Alternatively, they could just give up their paychecks to provide funding for the new positions.
4. People seem most willing to cooperate when they are all ethnically similar. Not only are they surrounded by people who are obviously behaving the same as they are, thus reducing concern about misbehavior, they have a genetic interest in cooperating. Defecting against your children or your siblings is a bad strategy in the genetic sense, because fewer copies of your genes end up existing, so people who defect against their own families tend to weed themselves out of the gene pool, leaving behind people who are good at cooperating with their kin.
Japan is an example of a society that is extremely ethnically homogenous. Just look at their little section in the graph at the top of the blog! (They’re on the far right.) Compare the smooth transition from yellow to cream with the jagged lines of the Uzbeks or the Bedouins. And the spirit of public-minded cooperation in Japan is extremely strong. The Japanese are clean, helpful, polite, and commit vanishingly little crime.
By contrast, high levels of ethnic diversity are correlated with high levels of violence, civil war, etc. in countries. There are a few exceptions to this rule, in countries that are so shitty that no one wants to move there, like Haiti. But in general, where people see themselves as ethnically different from their neighbors, they tend to defect on their neighbors.
Hartshorn ran a computer simulation of ethnic cooperation and defection strategies, with colored tiles on a board randomly assigned to cooperate or defect with tiles of their own color and to cooperate or defect with tiles of different colors. (4 different strategies in all.) In every simulation, the tiles that cooperated with their own colors and defected on other colors eventually took over the entire board.
So if two ethnic groups are living in close proximity, there’s a good chance that A. one or both of them will in fact be defecting, B. The group that defects more will actually benefit itself at the expense of the other, thus “winning”; and C. that both groups will become hyper paranoid about watching the other group for possibilities of defection, even if it isn’t happening. This is how wars get started.
The obvious answer to ethnic conflict is don’t have ethnic conflict. Only let people into your country who you would be willing to marry (in the hypothetical sense, not the literal,) and in such numbers that you can absorb them. You might also be able to let in people who are similar enough in behavior that you don’t really notice that they are ethnically different–for example, the Mormons are polytheists who tend to marry other Mormons, but they are generally polite, clean, hardworking, and easy enough to get along with. You could live next door to a Mormon and never even notice.
If the groups in a country do not effectively merge, you end up with two separate groups in one nation, which more often than not results in a bunch of people living in ghettos, and then you are very likely to fall into the mutual-defection trap. If having two (or more) separate groups in your country is inevitable (say, because they’re already there,) then I see two possibilities: A. try very hard to get everyone to think of each other as brothers and sisters in a metaphorical sense, perhaps through national holidays or forced conscription; or B. Give each group a bit of space so that they have fewer opportunities to defect on each other, and don’t set up systems that make people think defection is happening. Letting the Mormons live in Utah, for example, solved the problem of everyone thinking Mormons were weirdos back in the 1800s; letting the Amish be basically self-contained keeps them from getting into too much conflict with their neighbors today. (I think. I don’t have much experience with the Amish.)
Federalism was thought up as a way to let different people in different places effectively manage their own affairs. This system requires, however, that people actually abide by it. If we all agree that each community can educate its own children as it sees fit, and then one community decides it doesn’t have enough money for its schools, then the other communities have to be able to withstand the pressure to bail it out. Once you start bailing out other communities, they aren’t independent communities anymore but your wards, and they have to start abiding by your rules just as children obey their parents, or else we’re back to defection.
(Obviously helping each other out in times of environmental emergency may be perfectly reasonable.)
I’m not actually against immigration, but I am pro-borders and prefer to live among people I find pleasant, and in this day and age, the two positions are treated as equivalent.
Why borders? Why can’t we all just go wherever we want? Why should a mere accident of birth condemn one person to live in a god-forsaken hellhole, and another to live somewhere peaceful and prosperous?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t like god-forsaken hellholes anymore than the next guy.
So I have a little garden. No trivial undertaking, by the way. Clearing out the brush, pulling up the weeds, digging holes, building rock walls and planting beds, and, of course, watering the darn thing has taken hours or work. Many of the plants are perennials started from seed, so I won’t even get to harvest them for several years.
There’s just one problem: the land isn’t mine. It’s an unattended lot that was a neighborhood eyesore. I’m trying to turn it into something nice, but the owners could come back at any point and mow it all down. For that matter, anyone else in the neighborhood could walk into the garden and take my turnips, pick all my flowers, or knock down my walls. These are problems I have had. And what can I do? Press charges against someone for vandalizing someone else’s property? It doesn’t work that way.
As a result, there are certain improvements that I’m not going to make. Why plant a tree that cold get chopped down? Or buy a pleasant little bench that could get thrown away? For that matter, even a decent lawn mower costs several hundred dollars. Who wants to invest money into something they could lose?
A proper garden requires ownership.
“Why bother at all?” you might be wondering. Because a garden is a lot nicer than as a bunch of dead weeds, and if I get lucky, some of the plants might survive to benefit the neighborhood for years to come.
Each country is a garden. Each country decides what to do with its own resources, how many people they can support, and how they want to conduct their lives. Sometimes countries need more people. Sometimes they need fewer. Sometimes the numbers are just right, but it wouldn’t hurt to switch a few people with another country, to the mutual benefit of everyone.
In no case does a country benefit from allowing in more people than it can feed. California produces a great percentage of America’s food, has had a drought for 1o years, and doesn’t have enough water for all of the crops and people already there. And yet the open-borders advocates want more people to move to California?
If California runs out of water, not only will the local farmers suffer (and no, an orchard someone’s been tending for decades is not something you can just stop watering for a few years,) but so will the rest of the country, especially those whose food budgets are already tight.
In no case does a country benefit from allowing in a bunch of people who are higher crime or lower IQ than the existing population. This should be obvious.
And then there is the more subtle matter of culture. Most people basically like their own cultures, and have little interest in radically changing them (else they would have already.) And culture, as I’ve noted before, is far more than superficial trappings of food and clothing. It’s values. It’s norms of appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
Type-A New Yorkers stuck in Seattle often report being completely miserable because they just can’t cope with the laid-back Seattle attitude. What happens when peoples with radically different values or social norms try to live together? What happens, for example, when French people who believe in freedom of the press and anti-religious values and people who think that drawing pictures of the Prophet Mohammad’s testicles is a blasphemy worthy of death live in the same country?
There is really no solution to this conflict. Either one side has to not print dirty pictures of Mohammad, or the other side has to not kill people for drawing dirty pictures of Mohammad. Better, therefore, to avoid the conflict.
For a country to function, it must be able to select which immigrants it takes in.
For that matter, I believe that a country has a moral obligation to treat its immigrants well; if you cannot guarantee that your fellow countrymen will treat well the immigrants from a certain land, then you should not encourage those immigrants. People deserve to live in places where they are happy, after all.
There’s been a lot of debate recently in the US over Mexican (and more broadly, Hispanic) immigration. Some people would like more Hispanic immigration, perhaps because it appeals to their libertarian instincts, they want cheaper labor, or they love Hispanic people and culture. Others would prefer less immigration, perhaps because they want higher wages, less crime, or just aren’t keen on Hispanic culture.
The Left generally responds to anti-immigrant sentiments by pointing out that previous waves of immigration to the US were total disasters for the people already here. When Europeans arrived in the early 1500s, their diseases exploded through native communities like atomic bombs. The death toll is generally reckoned at 80-90 percent. This was followed, of course, by warfare, enslavement, and genocide.
This seems like approximately the worst argument in favor of immigration ever.
Other waves of immigration, like the 1910 Irish/Italian/Eastern European wave, were accompanied by rising crime; immigration since 1970 has been accompanied by stagnating wages, all of which we have discussed before.
Even Bernie Sanders thinks that full open borders is a capitalist plot to destroy the American worker by forcing wages down to third-world levels.
So why bother making the worst argument in favor of immigration ever?
To imply that whites have no right to their own land. If their land was stolen from someone else, if they are just illegally occupying it, then they have no legal right to it. (And of course, no claim of adverse possession can be made, since the Indians are still around and would prefer their ancestral lands back.) And even if the Indians weren’t around, what sort of precedent does letting people get land by shooting its current owners?
But are the Native Americans the original inhabitants of this land?
No, not in the least.
If you think the Indians arrived here 20,000-40,000 years ago, sat down, and didn’t move until Columbus arrived, you’re delusional.
Humans move around.
Modern Indians are most closely related to the peoples of north east Asia, a point in favor of the Bering Strait hypothesis.
“To summarize, analyses of individual skulls against reference samples suggest that the early Mexican fossils studied do not share a common craniofacial morphology with Amerindians or East Asians, as reported elsewhere for South Paleoindians, some North Paleoindian specimens […] and some modern groups like Fuegian-Patagonians and the Pericúes from Baja California.”
I know nothing about the Pericues, but the Fuegian-Patagonians are really interesting. IIRC, they’re a language isolate living in a very cold environment, and when Europeans first arrived, they basically had no clothes. They just carried fires around with them everywhere they went–in their canoes, while hanging out, everywhere. Hence the region’s name, “Land of the Fire.” One imagines they must have been cold a lot, but maybe they were perfectly happy with the temperatures.
Of course, people have been saying that the giant Olmec stone heads look like Africans for approximately forever, and they have a point:
Further north, a third (or fourth, or whatever Nth,) wave of people, the Dorset, survived in the arctic for over 4,000 years, until the Thule (ancestors of today’s Inuit/Eskimo) showed up. It’s unlikely that the Dorset suddenly forgot how to live in the arctic, nor do the Thule show any signs of having intermarried with the Dorset. The Dorset, as they say, were “replaced.” The Thule killed them.
Take a look around, and you’ll find conquering everywhere. The Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs created empires by conquering the people around them. The Aztecs marched home their prisoners of war and sacrificed them to their gods, ripping out their still-beating hearts. Lovely people, I’m sure.
Of course, the Americas are not the only places this has happened. The historical occupants of South Africa were the Bushmen, hunter-gatherers who’d been isolated from the rest of humanity for almost 100,000 years before anyone else showed up in the area. South Africa’s dominant group today, the Bantus, are more closely related to Koreans than Bushmen.
Distribution of art attributed to the Bushmen vs:
Bantus are newcomers, having only arrived in northeastern South Africa within the past couple millenia, and having been largely absent from the cape when Europeans settled there. (That is, most of the people in the area of Cape Town were Bushmen, and after them, most of the people in Cape Town and its surrounding area were Dutch. Major Bantu presence in the area came later.)
The Chinese who moved to Taiwan following the Chinese Civil War are distinct from the Taiwanese Chinese, who displaced the ethnic Taiwanese, who have legends about the darker (perhaps Melanesian) people they displaced.
Replacement has happened virtually everywhere on Earth.
“There have been periods where the folks who were already here suddenly say, ‘Well, I don’t want those folks,’ even though the only people who have the right to say that are some Native Americans.” –President Obama, Nov, 2014
Which Native Americans? The ones who wiped out the Dorset? The ones who wiped out the Melanesians? Or maybe the folks in the Amazon rain forest and a few other isolated tribes should get to determine immigration policies for both continents?
Or maybe that sort of thinking is really fucking dumb?
The people who are in France right now have a right to their country and their culture. If they want to let in people from elsewhere, that’s their business. If they decided they don’t like Freedom of Speech anymore and they’d rather make sure no one produces dirty pictures of Mohammad, that’s their business. But if they want to have Freedom of Speech and decide to not let in people who would have an issue with this, that is also their business. If Americans decide they want more Hispanic immigrants to work in their fields and bake enchiladas, that’s their business. If Americans decide they don’t want more Hispanic immigrants, that’s also their business.
Bhutan is one of the hardest countries in the world to visit (much less immigrate to), because the Bhutanese government doesn’t want a bunch of outsiders ruining their way of life. The Andaman islands are even harder to visit, because the islanders have a habit of killing anyone who gets too close. (And well they ought, because after being isolated for so long, any outsiders would most likely be carrying diseases to which the Andamanese have no defenses. Contact with the outside world would probably kill them all.)
The fact that people in the past have waged wars and often lost them does not make me eager to lose a war. The fact that people in the past have been replaced does not make me want to be replaced. The fact that my ancestors might be related to some guys who won a war or might just look kind of like those guys does not mean it makes any sense to suddenly declare that we (by which I mean everyone currently here, regardless of ethnic background) do not have a right to decide where we should go from here.
It seems like people are always trying to use hunter gatherers to further some wacky theory or other. The Paleo Diet isn’t too bad; it is at least a reasonably accurate representation of what hunter-gatherers actually eat, though your chances of replicating hunter-gather food at home are slim–which is why we end up with things like “Paleo Bread.” But then you have the far less accurate theories, often pushed by people who really ought to know better. Like the theory that hunter gatherers had no wars, or that they were all gender egalitarians. Or that there was once a global civilization of feminist goddess-worshipers who were wiped out by evil agriculturalists.
Oh, those evil, evil agriculturalists:
But let’s backtrack a minute. Where do these wacky theories come from?
The short answer is that they come from Marxists. You may laugh or roll your eyes, but I was actually assigned Das Kapital twice in college–once in my major, political science, and once in my minor, anthropology. I was also assigned explicitly Marxist papers in my Feminism class. This was a reputable university where many of my professors were identifiably conservative, not an obvious liberal bastion like Berkley or Reed.
Marx is deep in academia.
You do not have to be explicitly citing Marx or realize that you are using theories of the world derived from Marx to be using one of Marx’s theories, anymore than you have to have studied the Chicago School of Economics or the Austrian School to pick up one of their theories and start using it. But most academics of the past 100 years or so have known the intellectual provenance of their ideas, because like me, they were assigned it in class and no one in academia is shy about explicitly citing Marx.
To be honest, I don’t hate Marx’s theories. I enjoy Bakunin better than Marx, but I understand Marx’s attempt at making a science out of economic history. Not a terribly rigorous science, unfortunately.
This isn’t the time or place for a full explanation of where exactly Marx went wrong–there are far better authors than me who have spilled plenty of ink on the subject if you want to take a look. But suffice to say, real-life experience has not been terribly kind to Marx’s theories. Nonetheless, they still undergird a great deal of academic thinking and were formative in the educations of many, many anthropologists.
And the basic thought process went like this:
Jesus Effin’ Christ, WWII was the most awful, worst thing ever. Nazis are horrifying, racist scum. We need different theories.
Marxism explains human behavior through entirely environmental means, namely the means of production (ie, whether you live in a hunter-gatherer, agricultural, industrial, etc., kind of society.)
Marxism says that humans have wars because capitalists make them–that is, war is a side effect of capitalist society.
Therefore, in the pre-capitalist society, people didn’t have wars.
And then academics went and wrote a lot of things about how they now realized that pre-state people didn’t have wars or violence or were ever mean to each other.
Alas, many a beautiful theory has been destroyed by an ugly fact, and the ugly fact in this case is that pre-state people killed each other all the damn time. Take the Dorset, completely wiped out by the Thule (Inuit) about 700 years ago:
Science 29 August 2014: Vol. 345 no. 6200 DOI: 10.1126/science.125583, Maanasa Raghavan et al.
Those blue bars represent Dorset DNA found in ancient gravesites around the arctic. The red guys represent Thule (Inuit) DNA. The Dorset are gone; their DNA did not make it into the Thule.
Anthropologists and archaeologists have spent the last 70 years or so arguing that if you find one kind of pots in one layer of your excavation, and radically different pots in the next layer, all it means is that people traded for some different pots. In the case of the Dorset, it means the Thule killed them all, a good 200 years before Columbus even set foot anywhere near Cuba.
Speaking of Columbus, he wrote of the Indians he met in the Bahamas, “Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves.”
“[The Bushman’s] courage is remarkable, and Fritsch was told by residents who were well qualified to speak that supported by a dozen Bushmen they would not be afraid of a hundred Kaffirs. The terror inspired by the Bushmen has indeed had an effect in the deforestation of parts of Cape Colony, for the colonists, to guard against stealthy attacks, cut down all the bush far round their holdings.
Marriage is a matter merely of offer and acceptance ratified by a feast. Among some tribes the youth must prove himself an expert hunter. Nothing is known of the laws of inheritance. … As among other African tribes the social position of the women is low. They are beasts of burden, carrying the children and the family property on the journeys, and doing all the work at the halting-place. It is their duty also to keep the encampment supplied with water, no matter how far it has to be carried.”
Yes, clearly they are bastions of peaceful gender egalitarianism!
“A recent study… gave some astonishing cross-cultural figures. The homicide rate in modern Britain is roughly 0.5/100,000; in the USA it is about 20 times as high, at about 10.5. The highest death rate recorded in a nation, as opposed to a tribe, is 34 / 100,000, in Colombia. Though it is difficult to calculate exact correspondences for much smaller populations, about whom much less is known, it is still clear that Stone Age tribes make up in enthusiasm what they lack in the technology of murder. Even the !Kung bushmen, popularised as “The Harmless People”, had a had a homicide rate of 41.9 on this scale; the Yanomamo come in at 165. The record appears to be held by the Hewa people of New Guinea, with a score of 778. … the Murngin hunter-gatherer aborigines of Northern Australia come in with a score of 330.” –from The Darwin Wars, by Andrew Brown, (you can find excerpts on Brown’s promotional website for the book.)
Of the Yanomamo, Brown notes, ” There are fashions in noble savages as in other things, and the Yanomamo, a warlike and intermittently cannibal tribe living on the borders of Brazil and Venezuela, are one of the most heavily studied and nastiest in their habits of all the unspoiled people in the Seventies and Eighties. …
The tribes are quite exceptionally violent and sexist. The Yanomamo term for marriage translates literally as “dragging something away”; their term for divorce is “throwing something away.” [My emphasis, not Brown’s.] Villages war with villages; villagers with each other. They use poisoned arrows, spears and wooden clubs. When nothing much seems to be happening in the world outside, villagers will fight with long poles: two men will stand facing each other, and exchange insults. Then they will take turns to punch each other in the chest as hard as possible. Finally they take up long flexible poles, and — once more taking turns — smash each other around the head with them until the loser is felled, unconscious and bleeding all over his head. To quote one lurid description: “A man with a special grudge against another challenges his adversary to hit him on the head with an eight foot long pole shaped like a pool cue. The challenger sticks his own pole in the ground, leans on it, and bows his head. His adversary holds his pole by the thin end, whipping the heavy end down on the proffered pate with bone-crushing force. Having sustained one blow, the recipient is entitled to an immediate opportunity to wallop his opponent in the same manner.”
And if we go back to the data cited at the top of the post, Steven Pinker estimates, in The Better Angels of our Nature, that about 15% of people died of violence–murder or warfare–in pre-state societies.
This is about the same % as the Russians lost in WWII, if we go with the high estimate of Soviet casualties–about half that if we take the low estimate. Of course, hunter gatherers live to be about 45, while WWII was compressed into 6 years, so the death rate was rather faster during WWII, but if you did manage to survive, you lived the rest of your 60 or 70 years in relative peace.
In short, Marx obviously missed some major factors that lead people to kill each other, and anthropologists, not necessarily trained in things like analyzing crime statistics, ran with the idea, producing books with titles like “The Harmless People” about the Bushmen.
Unfortunately, wanting something to be true is not the same as it being true.
So what’s the real story?
Put yourself in the bare feet of a hunter-gatherer, unfettered by the rules and oppressions of the modern state. You meet a random stranger. Kill him, and you can take his pile of nuts, his gourd of water, and his wife. Don’t kill him, and he can kill you and take your nuts, water, and wife. There are no police in your society, so who’s going to stop you?
Throughout pre-history, the men who killed their neighbors and took their wives became your ancestors, and the men who didn’t got killed.
“Citing recent DNA research, Dr. Baumeister explained that today’s human population is descended from twice as many women as men. Maybe 80 percent of women reproduced, whereas only 40 percent of men did.”–Is There Anything Good About Men?
This is, literally, evolution in action. This is survival of the fittest, the struggle to reproduce and pass your genes on to the next generation.
Interestingly, Genghis Khan’s empire, after the massacres, was supposedly very safe–it was said that a woman carrying a bag of gold could walk unmolested, alone, from one end of the empire to the other. Probably an exaggeration, but in general, you did not mess with Genghis Khan’s money-making trade routes unless you wanted to be dead.
As has been said many times, the State demands a monopoly on the use of violence, punishing–often killing–those who would take the ancestral route to paternity. This is a novel evolutionary pressure–the collective pressure of the state against the violent.
Thus violent crime rates have plummeted in state-societies over the past 5,000 years or so:
(Look, if you find a better graph, let me know.)
Peter Frost lays out this argument excellently in his post, “The Genetic Pacification of Europe“–basically the idea that European governments have been executing their violent criminals (or otherwise letting them die in jail) for centuries, resulting in a drastic reduction in the prevalence of genes coding for violence in areas with long histories of strong, organized state rule.
According to Wikipedia, monoamine oxidase A, also known as the “warrior gene”, is associated with several types of antisocial behavior. “…individuals with the low activity MAO-A gene, when faced with social exclusion or ostracism showed higher levels of aggression than individuals with the high activity MAO-A gene. Low activity MAO-A could significantly predict aggressive behaviour in a high provocation situation, but was less associated with aggression in a low provocation situation. Individuals with the low activity variant of the MAO-A gene were just as likely as participants with the high activity variant to retaliate when the loss was small. However, they were more likely to retaliate and with greater force when the loss was large.”
Also, “The frequency distribution of variants of the MAO-A gene differs between ethnic groups. 59% of Black men, 54% of Chinese men, 56% of Maori men, and 34% of Caucasian men carry the 3R allele. 5.5% of Black men, 0.1% of Caucasian men, and 0.00067% of Asian men carry the 2R allele.”
Now, as HBD Chick has pointed out, we aren’t just looking at states at agents of pacification, we’re looking especially at a specific sub-set of states. Like those inside the Hajnal Line, where the Catholic church forbade cousin marriage (one of the preferred forms of marriage throughout the rest of the world, actually,) a thousand and a half or so years ago, leading to the breakup of the barbarian tribal/clan systems and the genetic prerequisites for living in modern states (I assume something functionally kinda similar has happened in China and Japan, since they also have low crime rates, but that requires more research.)
“According to a survey of 93 nonindustrial cultures, men were expected to dominate their wives in 67% of them, the sexes were expected to be about equal in 30%, and women were expected to dominate their husbands in 3% (Whyte, 1978). Sex roles differ to varying degrees even among hunter-gatherers, who correspond to the earliest stage of cultural evolution. In the tropics, women provide more food through gathering than men do through hunting. The reverse is true beyond the tropics, where women have few opportunities to gather food in winter (Kelly, 1995, pp. 128-132; Martin, 1974, pp. 16-18).”
“English psychologist John T. Manning has pioneered the use of this digit ratio as a way to measure how prenatal male and female hormones influence various behavioral traits. In a recent study, he looked at how prenatal hormones might influence gender equality in different populations. After measuring the digit ratios of participants from 29 countries, his research team averaged the score for each country and compared it with indices of gender equality: women’s share of parliamentary seats; women’s participation in the labor force, women’s education attainment level; maternal mortality rates; and juvenile pregnancy rates. To ensure comparability, all of the participants were of European descent.
… the more similar the two sexes were in 2D:4D, the more equal were the two sexes in parliamentary and labor force participation. The other variables were not as strongly correlated. (Manning et al., 2014)
In general, women from Northwest Europe have more masculine digit ratios, whereas women from farther east and south have more feminine digit ratios. This geographical trend is more pronounced for the right hand than for the left hand. Since the right-hand digit ratio is associated with social dominance, Northwest Europeans may be less sexually differentiated for that particular trait, as opposed to being less sexually differentiated in general.
Presumably, this isn’t a new tendency. Women must have been more socially dominant among Northwest Europeans even before the late 19th century and the earliest movements for women’s suffrage. So how far back does the tendency go? To medieval times? To pre-Christian times? It seems to go back at least to medieval times and, as such, forms part of the Western European Marriage Pattern:
‘The status of women differed immensely by region. In western Europe, later marriage and higher rates of definitive celibacy (the so-called “European marriage pattern”) helped to constrain patriarchy at its most extreme level.
[…] In eastern Europe however, the tradition of early and universal marriage (usually of a bride aged 12-15 years, with menarche occurring on average at 14) as well as traditional Slavic patrilocal customs led to a greatly inferior status of women at all levels of society. (Women in the Middle Ages, 2014)’ ”
If you’re looking for a peaceful, gender-egalitarian society, don’t look to prehistory, hunter gatherers, or non-state societies. Look at your own country. It’s probably pretty good.