clans in the news: the lebanon

with all the excitement going on in the arab/muslim world, you may have missed in the news some clannish hostilities going on in the lebanon over the last few weeks. i present to you, the meqdad clan:

for some reason that i didn’t bother trying to figure out (prolly some argument going back to the days of fakhr-al-din ii), one of the meqdad clan was kidnapped by somebody (some clan, no doubt) in syria. in response, the meqdads of the lebanon have been kidnapping all sorts of syrians and turks in their country:

“In Lebanon, kidnapping by clans raise alarm”

“The logic of the Lebanese Meqdad clan was simple: One of the group’s fellow clansmen had been captured in Syria, and they were going to kidnap as many people as it took to barter for his freedom.

“The detained clansman, Hassan Meqdad, was bloodied and bruised when he appeared in a video released by Syrian rebels on Aug. 13. Meqdad gunmen hit the streets two days later and grabbed at least 40 Syrian hostages, along with a Turkish businessman shortly after he landed at the Beirut airport….”
_____

i don’t want to bore you with the details of whatever the h*ll is going on here. but some of the comments made by meqdad clansmen and other lebanese/arab individuals about the case are really enlightening. THEY all understand what’s going on here of course (clan/tribal warfare), so it’s nice to hear from these people “in the know” on how clannish societies work.

here are some of those telling comments:

– “According to Allaw, what needs to be understood is that the bond between clan members is very different from the sectarian bond found within certain political parties, ‘which is why there are different sects within the clans … When groups like Hezbollah and Amal tried to enter these areas in the 1980s with sectarian ideals, they were rejected.'” [al jazeera]

– “‘Clan solidarity is primordial,’ says the senior source, formerly in charge of security in the Baalbek region. ‘Regardless of disagreements the clan always comes first.'” [the daily star]

– “‘It’s just a rampant culture of impunity — the state seeing itself as one actor among many rather than the enforcer of laws,’ said Nadim Houry, the deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch.” [wsj]

– “Lebanon’s Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said in remarks published Wednesday that he refused to treat the Lebanese Moqdad clan ‘cruelly,’ due to its abduction operations in the country. During an interview with Al-Akhbar newspaper, Charbel voiced his hope that the relevant groups would ‘understand the [clan’s] situation, [because] if any of [our relatives were] kidnapped, we might have felt the same way [the Moqdads] did.‘” [now lebanon]

– “As-Safir journalist Saada Allaw – of the Allaw family – said the clans ‘don’t count their family members in the conventional way‘. ‘They say, for example, we are 15,000 rifles, which indicates how many people are willing and able to carry weapons.'” [al jazeera]

– “‘Why do my people have to carry weapons? [maher mokdad] asked. ‘We have no government. We live in the jungle, and we have to survive. If the government cared for me, then I wouldn’t have to protect myself.‘” [wsj]

– “In the Hezbollah-dominated Roueiss suburb, neighbors speak of the ‘courage and loyalty’ of the Meqdad clan. ‘If anyone is in need, they will help them and they are always present in difficult times or to pay condolences,’ says Abu Ahmad, the owner of a snack shop in the area.” [the daily star]

– “‘If there’s a happy ending for Hassan [Meqdad], there will be a happy ending for them,’ Mokdad said. ‘If there is a bad ending for Hassan, there will be a bad ending for them. All of them.’ [wsj]

(note: comments do not require an email. more death to america!)

Advertisements

16 Comments

  1. Sloppy-chic mask on the little guy to the right just adds so much flavor to the whole thing. He’s like an accidental guerrilla hipster.

    Reply

  2. @redzengenoist – “Sloppy-chic mask on the little guy to the right just adds so much flavor to the whole thing. He’s like an accidental guerrilla hipster.”

    (^_^) (^_^) (^_^)

    (i was gonna say something about his apparently “low-set” eyes being the result of too much inbreeding, but i didn’t want to be cruel…. (~_^) )

    Reply

  3. This is why I’m of two minds on this “amoral familism” stuff. It must be nice to know that whatever happens to you, there are 15000 rifles that will be picked up (and used) to either save you or avenge you. Must also be nice to still have a meaningful, substantive identity in this rootless globalized world. I don’t blame these people fo staying in the clan when the Western alternative is broken homes, atomized communities, and Anarcho-Tyranny.

    OTOH these types are personally disagreeable, unfriendly and unhelpful to all outsiders, and ar basically uncivilizable. welp.

    Reply

  4. @hbd chick “‘Clan solidarity is primordial,” That one makes sense to me. The alternative is to think that clannishness arrived out of the blue everywhere the moments records became available and then somehow declined everywhere. Also “i was gonna say something about his apparently “low-set” eyes being the result of too much inbreeding” Aw. I thouight you were going to say his high noble brow was the result of lots of outbreeding. (^_~)

    Reply

  5. @bleach – “This is why I’m of two minds on this ‘amoral familism’ stuff.”

    well, that’s the thing. there are benefits and drawbacks to both systems — familial-based vs. non-familial based societies — aren’t there?

    like you say, your clan will “have your back” if you’re ever in trouble — even in non-violent ways — financially or just assistance in other ways. but then all the stuff that emanates from the basic inter-family conflict makes it a b*tch to try to have a modern, liberally democratic, fair, trusting, etc., etc., society (not that that’s necessarily a goal — just sayin’). and, depending on how much familialism you have, you could wind up with actual clan violence, like above.

    on the flip side, if your society is composed mostly of independent individuals — if your society is “atomized” — then cooperation between those individuals becomes essential if anything is going to work at all. so all sorts of neat traits like trust and honesty and reciprocal altruism takes hold. pretty nice stuff! but the minute you plonk down lots of more familial people in that scene (maghreb peoples in france, mexicans in the u.s., the irish in england), the atomized system becomes a weakness. no one on your side will really “have your back” — until, perhaps, things reach some critical point (a Great Depression or something like that).

    Reply

  6. @linton – “The alternative is to think that clannishness arrived out of the blue everywhere the moments records became available and then somehow declined everywhere.”

    that is unlikely, isn’t it? (^_^)

    @linton – “I thouight you were going to say his high noble brow was the result of lots of outbreeding. (^_~)”

    i’m still laughing at redzen’s characterization of the guy as an “accidental guerrilla hipster.” (^_^) (that was too funny, redzen!)

    Reply

  7. @bleach – “This is why I’m of two minds on this ‘amoral familism’ stuff.”

    Think about it this way: YOU are one of the 15000 rifles.

    You have a retarded cousin, whom you’ve known since childhood. You intensely loathe the little shit. He is an evil, sniveling, conniving, talentless piece of trash. He lies by habit. He’s stupid and malicious. He married your other, beautiful cousin, via some deal between your uncles, despite her great unhappiness with the arrangement. He wifebeats the crap out of her, because she hates him. She has no power to do anything about it. YOU ARE FORCED TO BE SILENT. Forever. Because family.

    Now, your retarded cousin gets into a retarded dispute with his retarded neighbor about trying to abduct and rape a 12 year old girl in the neighborhood. You are forced to intervene: ON BEHALF OF YOUR WIFEBEATING, CHILD MOLESTING COUSIN. Because family.

    You get the idea. Being one of the 15000 rifles means “because family”.

    Yeah, amoral familialism is rarely quite so obviously evil. But acquiescence to evil is the core of all “loyalty, no matter what” ideas, forever the polar inverse of meritocracy, of the scientific method, of rule of law. Hypocrisy, thy name is family.

    Historically, societies seem to advance to exactly the extent that they abandon clan loyalty, a lot more predictive than IQ.

    Reply

    1. @redzengenoist “YOU ARE FORCED TO BE SILENT” Your point is logically valid. My own experience looking at other people’s clans is rather the opposite. The worst thing about them is how they scold each other all the time. Just my own distorted perspective, but there are two sides to this silence stuff.

      Reply

  8. @redzen – “Historically, societies seem to advance to exactly the extent that they abandon clan loyalty….”

    ah, but that’s the tricky bit right there, i think. it’s not as easy as everyone deciding “now we’re going to forget all about this clan loyalty business” — there’s the biology to deal with. even if you outlawed clans tomorrow and really made sure that people couldn’t deal with their fellow clan members anymore, the clannish behavioral traits have to be gotten rid of. and that takes time … and some biological magic (i.e. evolution).

    edit: you can take the clan member out of the clan, but you can’t take the clannishness out of him. or something like that.

    Reply

  9. I unhappily agree, Mrs. Chick.
    To be fair for the sake of fairness,

    1) even very clannish genotypes exhibit a range of behaviors, and can be goaded to exhibit a more civic phenotype, by environmental change.

    2) serendipitously, clannish genotypes will themselves try to push the local environment back to a more clannish, less civic one.

    3) Natural selection for the things “we” like is at an all-time low. Local evolution will probably favor clannishness and punish civicness for the near future. So, time ain’t on our side, far as selection goes. ;-)

    Luckily, when the cresting wave crashes, and we begin to weave technomagic upon ourselves, a few short decades will make make chaff of the slow, primate whimsy of “natural selection”. And that’s a good thing… NS is mostly a fucking charnel house of evil insanity.

    Reply

  10. bleach
    “This is why I’m of two minds on this “amoral familism” stuff. It must be nice to know that whatever happens to you, there are 15000 rifles that will be picked up (and used) to either save you or avenge you.”

    I agree there’s a trade-off and so there must be an optimum point. I think the larger countries in the modern west have gone past the optimal point and are now too atomized to be healthy but the countries that always top the lists of best countries are the smaller western ones like Denmark so i think that’s probably where the optimal point is – the western model but within a mostly endogamous population limited to the low millions. Larger nations could possibly replicate this by dividing up into a Swiss style canton model.

    Reply

  11. @Linton: Yeah, you’re right, I was oversimplifying. Per the old Bedouin saying:

    “I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers”

    If your retarded, wifebeating cousin is not strong, you and your brother might be able to change things. And even if you can’t, you may as well try, to show that you are strong.

    Reply

  12. @redzen – “1) even very clannish genotypes exhibit a range of behaviors, and can be goaded to exhibit a more civic phenotype, by environmental change.”

    absolutely. and on the flip-side, not-so-clannish societies can become all group oriented if/when the circumstances warrant it — e.g. the anglos during wwi and wwii.

    @redzen – “NS is mostly a fucking charnel house of evil insanity.”

    heh!

    Reply

  13. @g.w. – “I think the larger countries in the modern west have gone past the optimal point and are now too atomized to be healthy….”

    yup. =/

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s