i started reading robin fox’s “The Tribal Imagination: Civilization and the Savage Mind.”
of course, me being me, i flipped right to chapter 3 — “The Kindness of Strangers: Tribalism and the Trials of Democracy” — and read that first.
it’s good. it’s very good. fox mostly talks about places like iraq and afghanistan and why the(se) united states’ attempt to “bring democracy” to, for instance, “the iraqi people” is simply futile given the structure of that society. fox is an expert on kinship and marriage stuff, so he discusses fbd marriage in the muslim world and the fact that that results in low trust societies where individuals have greater allegiances to their clans/tribes than to anything like a nation. in fact, he says we should just get that idea right out of our western heads (i.e. that for example there is, or ever was, an “iraqi nation”) — it’s simply a GINORMOUS misunderstanding on our part.
imho, though, steve sailer explained the situation more accurately and more succintly in his 2003 “Cousin Marriage Conundrum” article. while fox does point out that inbreeding leads to clannishness/tribalism, blah, blah, blah … he doesn’t really explain (what must be) the underlying mechanism: inclusive fitness (at least not in chapter 3). steve does.
here’s a bit from fox [pgs. 59-60]:
“The problem for Euro-American liberal/radical critics of Bushism is that they really believe the same thing. It is no longer fashionable in progressive circles to think that some form of communism or socialism will be the inevitable end product, except among the few remaining Marxists in the universities. But some kind of democratic open society is seen as the only alternative for the decolonized peoples of the world….
“It is hard to find any serious postcolonialist who will agree that, having thrown off the imperial yoke, the ex-colonial peoples should be free to choose dictatorship, theocracy, tribalism, nepotism, clitoridectomy, or the rule of warlords. Respect for ‘indigenous cultures’ goes only so far. The left-liberals assume as firmly as the Bushites that people everywhere really aspire to a state of liberal democratic polity where human rights and the rights of women will be assured, and tolerance and religious freedom will be institutionalized.
“It is their constant embarassment that this doesn’t happen, and fifty years later the excuse that the failure lies in the pernicious aftereffects of colonialism is wearing thin; they do not really believe it themsleves…. But the alternative is hard to bear for the progressive mentality that assumes we can indeed write our own script and exclude all those factors of ‘human nature’ that seem so stubbornly to resist our enlightened blandishments. The only allowable fact of ‘human nature’ accpeted by right, left, and center alike is the rather vague ‘love of freedom.’ This might well be true, but we all then eagerly assume that, given free choice, ‘they’ will opt for a form a freedom we recognize and approve of, namely, one leading to the liberal democratic institutions we have fought so hard to develop, protect, and preserve.”
great stuff! he continues [pg. 60]:
“Against this naive optimism of the missionaries [of democracy] of whatever stripe, we can set an opposing view that is historical and what we might call naturalistic. It sees that the institutions we so prize are not the product of a freedom-loving human nature but the result of many centuries of hard effort to overcome human nature. However desirable they may be, they are not natural to us. We maintain them with constant vigilance and the support of hard-won economic, political, legal, and social structures that give them a chance. They have taken literally thousands of years to put in place.”
meh. not exactly. i disagree with fox’s assertion that democracy and individualism and all that western civ stuff is not natural to us. it’s uncommon in humans, yes — and, yes, it’s not natural to most humans. but it is natural to europeans — because we are not (very) inbred and we haven’t been for a very long time.
democracy and individualism are natural to europeans (or, at least, more natural to us than to other peoples) because we’ve nearly eliminated, through agressive outbreeding, the genetic bonds of clans and tribes. because of this, the fundamental unit of western society has become the individual (and, maybe, the nuclear family, too, altho that seems to be disappearing as i type), not the tribe.
roger sandall said in his review of fox’s book:
“Fox knows what Tierney and most other educated Americans apparently do not: that tribal communities are the default system of human social nature.”
yes, but only because most societies down through prehistory and history have practiced some form of inbreeding. once you take that away, the tribal communities dissolve.
i’ve also read chapter 1 of fox’s book and he’s pretty convinced that human nature is largely a product of the selection pressures on our ancestors during the pleistocene (along with the fact that we’re also primates, mammals, animals, life forms on planet earth, etc.). sure. yeah. a LOT of what it means to be human was prolly shaped during that time period. but human evolution hasn’t stopped! and we’ve clearly gone through all sorts of biological changes since then, a la “The 10,000 Year Explosion,” that have affected our natures.
one such change, i think, that altered the behavior of europeans is that for some freaky reason we started to outbreed — a LOT. and we’ve carried on doing that (breaking those tribal, i.e. genetic, bonds) for many centuries (some of us more than others). that has, imho, affected all sorts of our behaviors from ideas on individualism and democracy to things like marriage partner choice and skirt length.
more comments on fox’s book anon (i’m sure!).
see also: Tribal Realism
previously: we’re doomed
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