the semai

some of you have requested/hoped/prayed that, for a change already(!), i would post about some nice group of people who don’t engage in clannish fighting or tribal battles, and who aren’t so retarded when it comes to civicness or familism or corruption (other than my “core” northwest europeans, that is (~_^) ).

well, here they are! the semai of malaysia:

the semai are one sub-group of the senoi peoples who are some of the indigenous groups of malaysia (i.e. they were there before “the malaysians” got there). they’re not related to the indigeneous negritos of malaysia, but rather are another indigenous group that live in the center of the peninsula — they prolly arrived sometime after the negritos. the semai are swidden agriculturalists who also practice a bit of hunting and gathering (at least that’s what they did traditionally).

aaaaaaaand … they are famous for being peaceful. from “Two Paths to Peace: Semai and Mehinaku Nonviolence” in A Natural History of Peace [pg. 161]:

“Violence within and between Semai communities is nearly nonexistent. Husbands do not beat their wives nor parents their children. Neighbors do not fight with one another, nor do communities contest violently. There are no reliable reports of Semai engaging in intergroup or intragroup warfare or raiding. Over the past three or four decades [this was published in 1996 – h.chick], there are fewer than a half-dozen reliable reports of homicides in the entire population, and nearly all of these, in one way or another, involved outsiders (see Dentan 1988)….”

the semai pretty much don’t appear at all on steven pinker’s “deaths during warfare” scale either (from The Better Angels of Our Nature – click on chart for LARGER view):

the semai simply hate conflict. they hate, hate, hate it and do everything to avoid it. from Societies at Peace: Anthropological Perspectives [pgs. 36-7]:

“[In completing a] sentence-completion test … [t]o the item ‘More than anything else he/she is afraid of’, the model response, more frequent than ‘tigers’, ‘spirits’, or ‘death’ combined (all of which were cited), was ‘becoming embroiled in a dispute’….”

so what else characterizes the semai? their individualism and independent mindedness. from Rethinking Social Evolution: The Perspective from Middle-Range Societies [pg. 95]:

The Senoi value social and emotional isolation as well as personal autonomy. ‘From an early age, the autonomy of the will of the individual is culturally affirmed. No child can be forced to do anything he or she does not wish to do’ (Robarchek 1989, 37). ‘One of the consequences of this reluctance to surrender autonomy is an exteme difficulty in organizing any collective action unless everyone can be convinced that it is in his or her best interest’ (40). At the same time, the desire for autonomy is tempered by the recognition of interdependence between people. This is exemplified by the concept of *pehunan*, the state of vulnerability to dangers that results from frustrating an individual’s wishes. While this concept is central to Senoi attitudes of dependency, it also gives a privileged position to individual’s wishes (38-9). According to Robarchek, ‘The injunctions to share food and to avoid violence are the most important moral imperatives in [Senoi] Semai society’ (34)….”

that’s not to say that the group is ignored or neglected. quite the contrary. the group is important to the semai, but it’s the whole group, not just extended family or clan members [pg. 37]:

“The Semai ethic of sharing mandates that aid be given when it is needed (with the exception, to be sure, that it will be reciprocated by someone at some later date when the giver is in need), but any accounting or direct reciprocation is unacceptable. This was made very clear to me early in my fieldwork when I offended a neighbour by trying to make explicit return of food that had been given to my wife and me. Accepting help thus does not entail an accumulation of debt nor does it imply subordination, and is not a route to subjugation. Nor is sharing or giving help a route to dominance; it is merely what is expected, part of the minimal definition of what it is to be a member of a Semai community….

of course, a lot of the individuals in a semai village are relatives, but many are often not — or are distant relatives — due to the semai fission-fusion settlement traditions [pg. 330]:

“[L]ocal groups of Semai periodically fission, the splinter group forming a new village or fusing with an already established village.”

the big question, then, is: what are the mating patterns of the semai?! *drumroll please!* … from Migration and Colonization in Human Microevolution [pgs. 98-99]:

“Semai settlements are generally small, ranging from 25 to more than 270 persons. Semai have no formal rule regarding settlement endogamy or exogamy. There is, however, a general mistrust and fear of ‘strangers’ (Dentan 1968) and most Semai would prefer to marry someone they know or know about. This preference translates into a tendency to marry endogamously when possible and often into a family already connected by marriage (Benjamin, 1986 notes this preference for marrying affines among other Senoi of Peninsular Malaysia).

A stronger rule is that prohibiting marriage between close kin. Semai say this proscription includes *all* relatives but it seems to apply usually to kin within the range of second cousins (in a group of 129 marriages for which genealogical information was sufficient to gauge, no first cousin and only nine second cousin marriages [7%] occurred; Fix 1982a). Since relatives are often localized in the settlement of residence, and the smaller the population, the greater the likelihood of a potential spouse being kin, this rule may have a strong affect on endogamy…. Among the Semai, the strong sense that consanguineal kin should avoid marrying combined with an ideology of kin solidarity leads to an apparent conflict. Coresidents often express their unity by stating, ‘we are all kin here’, by inference, all the members of the local group will cooperate and help each other as would kin. Syllogistically, if *all* members are truly kin, then *no* member can marry any other and the group must be exogamous. When presented to them in this way, some Semai agreed that local groups were exogamous. Actual data on marriages (Table 2.2), however, showed some 45 percent of spouses were both born in the same settlement and a greater number were coresident at the time of marriage. The endogamy rate in any settlement, then, depends on the presence of non-kin in local groups. The fission-fusion structure of Semai settlement histories usually ensures that some more distantly related persons will be available within a settlement….

“To summarize, a Semai preference to marry endogamously is constrained by the proscription on marrying near kin….”

OUTBREEDERS! relatively speaking.

they’re not a large population (ca. 34,000), but they do have a tradition of generally avoiding marrying anyone closer than a second cousin, although that does happen sometimes. and if/when they do marry relatives — distant relatives for the most part — they are maternal relatives [pg. 189]:

“In contrast to the Semang, Semai prefer affinal kin [in-laws, i.e. maternal relatives] as marital partners, a practice that increases the density of the kin network locally.”

and the kicker, from “Two Paths to Peace: Semai and Mehinaku Nonviolence” [pg. 183]:

“Even in a very large and heavily acculturated settlement where consumption of inexpensive Malay palm ‘toddy’ had increased to the point where many Semai men were intoxicated nearly every night, there was little increase in the expression of emotion and virtually no expression of hostility.”

that, to me, sounds like the semai just don’t have (many) “genes for violent behavior” (whatever they might be). even when their inhibitions are drowned in palm toddy, the semai don’t become violent. sounds like it’s just not in their nature.

it should be noted that the semai live in upland, mountainous areas of the malaysian peninsula, and so seem to be a possible exception to the (possible) inbreeding mountain folks “rule.” perhaps the fact that they’re not pastoralists is a clue(?).

btw – here is the classic book on the semai – i haven’t had a chance to read it yet: The Semai: A Nonviolent People of Malaya.

update 11/12: see also random notes: 11/09/12

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familism, justifiability of divorce, and corruption

following up from the last post on familism and corruption (familism, respect for parents, and corruption), here is the second element in lipset & lenz’s “familism index”: “the percentage of people [responding on the world values survey] who think that divorce is unjustifiable.” i looked at the 1999-2002 world values survey wave. the relevant question is:

“Please tell me for each of the following statements whether you think it can always be justified, never be justified, or something in between: Divorce.”

i took the “Never justifiable” responses and plotted them against the 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index results — and got a correlation of -0.58. not as high a correlation as between “respect for parents” and corruption (-0.72), but still pretty high. so the more you feel that divorce is unjustifiable whatever the circumstances, the more corrupt you’re likely to be (click on chart for LARGER view):

here’s the data table for the above chart sorted by the “Never justifiable” responses (highest to lowest). i’ve got the fbd marriage groups (the arabs & co.) in red, and the european groups that i think have been outbreeding for the longest (netherlands, germany, great britain, belgium and france) in blue (click on table for LARGER view):

again, italians and the irish in ireland more familistic on this scale than the people in great britain. and mexicans MUCH more so.

previously: familism, respect for parents, and corruption and familism in the u.s. of a. and anglo-american vs. mexican family values and hispanic family values and familism and facebook

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random notes: 11/02/12

some eskimo groups engaged in blood feuds. ruh-roh. from Eskimos and Explorers about the mackenzie eskimos (mackenzie inuit) [pg. 195]:

“Murders committed in anger were relatively common, and blood revenge led to further retalitory murders and family feuds. In one instance a woman’s rejected suitor killed her as she slept. In another a man who refused to sell his belt was stabbed in the back and killed by a person who hoped to buy the belt.

“A feud that erupted about 1860, soon after intensive historic contact, was recorded by Nuligak, a Mackenzie Eskimo. One man hoped to marry the daughter of another, but the father of the girl refused to permit the match. The rejected suitor took a valuable steel-bladed knife from one of the father’s younger sons, and the father was furious. At the first opportunity he killed not only the thief but one of his companions. As the feud spread, a cousin of the original murderer allied himself with the thief’s relatives, and more people were killed. Finally the father of the girl and the betraying cousin killed each other, but the feud continued on. As Nuligak wrote, ‘In the olden days the Inuit slew those who killed their kinsmen. One vengeance followed another like links in a chain.’

“Terrible feuds have been reported among most Eskimos, and they often spanned a number of generations….”

dunno about the mackenzie inuit, but the yupik eskimos (are mackenzie eskimos yupik eskimos? i didn’t figure that out…) have one of the highest incidence rates of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) — and carriers of CAH alleles can show “symptoms of androgen excess” — like being more aggressive, perhaps? dunno. melykin pointed out that there are high rates of violent crime in areas of canada populated by eskimos.

from ed west in the telegraph u.k.:

“The EU was dreamed up in French and German. That’s why the British have never fitted in”

“The European project developed in the region between Paris, Brussels and the Rhineland, the heartland of the old Frankish Empire….”

isn’t THAT curious?! the modern european feudal project (for what else is the e.u. apart from feudal with a bunch of local [i.e. national] politicians playing vassals to the eurocrats?) had its origins pretty much right where medieval feudalism got going — austrasia. what is it about those people in that region?

more on extended family human traffickers (can’t we just call them slavers?) from the balkans:

“Police bust Balkan child trafficking ring in Nancy”

“French police have arrested seven people for running an international child trafficking ring in Nancy, north east France.

“The ring is thought to have bought children from Macedonia or Kosovo for €1000 to €1500 and then sold them on to Belgium and Germany for €10,000.

Seven members of a family originally from the Balkans were arrested on Tuesday after a month of police investigation.

“According to local paper Est Républicain, several other members of the family had also been arrested in Germany in relation to the ring.

“Police took in two girls, both about 12-years-old, for questioning. They say they do not believe the girls were subjected to sexual abuse or used as slaves, but traded in line with ‘local customs’ in the traffickers’ home countries.”

in line with WHAT “local customs”?!

corruption in china — it’s a family affair. from the nyt:

“Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader”

“[N]ow 90, the prime minister’s mother, Yang Zhiyun, not only left poverty behind, she became outright rich, at least on paper, according to corporate and regulatory records. Just one investment in her name, in a large Chinese financial services company, had a value of $120 million five years ago, the records show.

“The details of how Ms. Yang, a widow, accumulated such wealth are not known, or even if she was aware of the holdings in her name. But it happened after her son was elevated to China’s ruling elite, first in 1998 as vice prime minister and then five years later as prime minister.

“Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister’s relatives — some of whom, including his wife, have a knack for aggressive deal making — have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion….

“Unlike most new businesses in China, the family’s ventures sometimes received financial backing from state-owned companies, including China Mobile, one of the country’s biggest phone operators, the documents show. At other times, the ventures won support from some of Asia’s richest tycoons. The Times found that Mr. Wen’s relatives accumulated shares in banks, jewelers, tourist resorts, telecommunications companies and infrastructure projects, sometimes by using offshore entities.

“The holdings include a villa development project in Beijing; a tire factory in northern China; a company that helped build some of Beijing’s Olympic stadiums, including the well-known ‘Bird’s Nest’; and Ping An Insurance, one of the world’s biggest financial services companies.

“As prime minister in an economy that remains heavily state-driven, Mr. Wen, who is best known for his simple ways and common touch, more importantly has broad authority over the major industries where his relatives have made their fortunes. Chinese companies cannot list their shares on a stock exchange without approval from agencies overseen by Mr. Wen, for example. He also has the power to influence investments in strategic sectors like energy and telecommunications.

“Because the Chinese government rarely makes its deliberations public, it is not known what role — if any — Mr. Wen, who is 70, has played in most policy or regulatory decisions. But in some cases, his relatives have sought to profit from opportunities made possible by those decisions.

“The prime minister’s younger brother, for example, has a company that was awarded more than $30 million in government contracts and subsidies to handle wastewater treatment and medical waste disposal for some of China’s biggest cities, according to estimates based on government records. The contracts were announced after Mr. Wen ordered tougher regulations on medical waste disposal in 2003 after the SARS outbreak.

“In 2004, after the State Council, a government body Mr. Wen presides over, exempted Ping An Insurance and other companies from rules that limited their scope, Ping An went on to raise $1.8 billion in an initial public offering of stock. Partnerships controlled by Mr. Wen’s relatives — along with their friends and colleagues — made a fortune by investing in the company before the public offering….”

tptb in china NOT amused by nyt story.

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familism, respect for parents, and corruption

m.g. points out (thanks, m.g.!) that in “Corruption, Culture, and Markets,” lipset & lenz worked up a “familism index.” unfortunately, they don’t seem to have published it anywhere — at least not that m.g. or i can find. they do describe it in the above mentioned chapter, though, along with a terrific summary of familism and its related … problems. here is a longish quote from them [pgs. 119-120 – links and emphases added by me]:

“Amoral Familism

“The second major cultural framework, one derived from Plato via Banfield, assumes that corruption is in large part an expression of particularism — the felt obligation to help, to give resources to persons to whom one has a personal obligation, to the family above all but also to friends and membership groups. Nepotism is its most visible expression. Loyalty is a particularistic obligation that was very strong in precapitalist, feudal societies. As Weber implied, loyalty and the market are antithetical. The opposite of particularism is universalism, the commitment to treat others according to a similar standard. Market norms express universalism; hence, pure capitalism exhibits and is sustained by such values.

“Plato contended two and a half millennia ago that family ties, especially those between parents and children, are the chief forces underlying institutionalized social classes and ascription. He argued that to create an egalitarian society, a communist one, such ties — the family itself — would have to be eliminated. Children would have to be reared from birth in public institutions, not knowing their parents. Plato, of course, could not have believed that a society without parental ties was viable, but his discussion points up the social power he attached to the family.

“In trying to understand capitalism’s initial rise in Protestant cultures, Weber noted that the pre-industrial norms in Catholic societies were communitarian, requiring above all that the society, the family, and the dominant strata help the less fortunate. He believed that these vales worked against the emergence of a rationally driven market economy. Conversely, a stress on individualism, concern for self, is more conducive to capital accumulation. Calvinism and Protestant sectarianism fostered such behavior. Sectarians believe that God helps those who help themselves. Weber pointed out that ‘the great achievement of … the ethical and ascetic sects of Protestantism was to shatter the fetters of the sib [the extended family].’ As Lawrence Harrison notes, ‘There is evidence that the extended family is an effective institution for survival but an obstacle to development.’ Solidarity with the extended family and hostility to the outsider who is not a member of family, the village, or perhaps the tribe can produce a self-interested culture.

“Edward Banfield, studying southern Italy, carried the analysis further with the concept of ‘amoral familism’: a culture that is deficient in communitarian values but fosters familial ties. He writes: ‘In a society of amoral familists, no one will further the interest of the group or community except as it is to his private advantage to do so.’ There is little loyalty to the larger community or acceptance of behavioral norms that require support of others. Hence, familism is amoral, gives rise to corruption, and fosters deviance from norms of universalism and merit. Anything goes that advance the interests of one’s self and family. The Mafia is an extreme example of amoral familism. Banfield, in effect, argues that corruption in southern Italy and comparable traditional societies is an expression of forces similar to those that sustain the Mafia.

“The World Values Survey 1990, together with aggregate statistics from the World Bank, provide data that we employ to create a scale of familism. The first item in the scale deals with unqualified respect for parents, measured by the percentage of people who agreed that regardless of the qualities and faults of one’s parents, a person must always love and respect them. The second item is the percentage of people who think that divorce is unjustifiable. The third, from the World Bank, is the mean number of children per woman.

Those nations that score high on this scale tend to be among the more corrupt. Known for their strong familial ties, most Asian nations rank among the more corrupt. On the other hand, Scandinavians are by far the lowest on the familism scale — as noted, these countries are considered the least corrupt. Regression analysis affirms the association. The familism scale and CPI relate strongly. The relationship remains significant when controlling for per capita income. A model that includes the familism scale, the achievement scale, and purchasing power parity explains a great deal of the variation in the CPI.”

i don’t think that what we’re witnessing here — the differences between particularistic and universalistic societies — is a cultural phenomenon. i’m sure that cultural practices reinforce the behaviors that you find in these two types of societies, but what i think we’re looking at are innate behavioral tendencies that differ between these different population types due, in part, to their mating patterns histories. it’s partly mating patterns (inbreeding or outbreeding) and partly selection for which of these sets of behavioral traits worked in the various populations’ evolutionary histories (the two things are connected, i think).

lots of inbreeding over the course of many, many generations alters the relatedness between family members which, in turn, can eventually — via a little evolutionary magic — affect how altruistic these family members wind up being towards one another and/or towards unrelated individuals. so the english and other nw europeans, with their (comparatively) long history of (comparatively strong) outbreeding (see mating patterns in europe series below ↓ in left-hand column), tend towards universalism, lack of familism, low levels of corruption, high levels of civicness and liberal democracy. at the opposite end of the spectrum, arabs and other middle eastern/maghrebian/mashriqian/south asian muslims with their (comparatively) long history of (comparatively strong) inbreeding (see also here), tend towards particularlism, strong familism, high levels of corruption, low levels of civicness and difficulties with liberal democracy.

familism, then, i think — although interesting in and of itself — is a symptom of a set of underlying innate behavioral traits, namely those connected to familial altruism. the more “genes for familial altruism” (whatever they might be) your population possesses, the less universalistic, etc., etc., it is going to be — and vice versa. familism reflects another aspect of human biodiversity, and is not just an example human cultural diversity.

(sorry if i sound like a broken record, but there’ve been some new folks stopping by here lately — hi, new folks! — and i thought they might appreciate a crash course on The Theory.)

so, lipset & lenz hinted around at a familism index that they had devised, but not published anywhere(?), so i thought i’d try to reconstruct it as best as i could. the first element in their index is “unqualified respect for parents, measured by the percentage of people who agreed [on the world values survey] that regardless of the qualities and faults of one’s parents, a person must always love and respect them”. lipset & lenz looked at the world values survey for 1990 — i looked at a more recent wave: 1999-2002. the question is:

With which of these two statements do you tend to agree?:
A. Regardless of what the qualities and faults of one’s parents are, one must always love and respect them.
B. One does not have the duty to respect and love parents who have not earned it by their behaviour and attitudes.

i took the “A. Always” responses and plotted them against the 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index results — and got a correlation of -0.72 (so the more you feel you should always love/respect your parents no matter how horrible they are, the more corrupt you’re likely to be – click on chart for LARGER view):

here’s the data table for the above chart sorted by the “Always” responses (highest to lowest). i’ve got the fbd marriage groups (the arabs & co.) in red, and the european groups that i think have been outbreeding for the longest (netherlands, germany, great britain, belgium and france — there might be a few more that need to be included — like the swedes?) in blue (click on table for LARGER view):

note that the italians exhibit much more familism (79.40%) on this scale than the population of great britain (65.10%) and are also more corrupt (3.9 on the cpi versus 7.8 for the british). this appears to support what i found in my familism in the u.s. of a. post the other day — that italian-americans are more familistic than anglo-americans. (see this post for some recent history on inbreeding in italy.)

similarly, the irish (in ireland) respect their parents no matter what more than the british (71.90% vs. 65.10%), but they’re not at all as corrupt as the italians (7.5 on the cpi). and the roman catholic irish in the u.s. are more familistic than anglo-americans. (see this post for a brief history of inbreeding/mating patterns in ireland.)

and mexicans! 90.20% said they’d respect their parents no matter what. 3.0 on the cpi. and very familistic in the u.s. (see this post for a little info on the history of inbreeding/mating patterns in part of mexico.)

these, i think, are innate, not just learned, feelings (reinforced by cultural practices, i’m sure), and they’re not going to change anytime soon as shown by the fact that italian- and irish-americans are still very familistic despite living amongst the anglo-americans for several generations now.

previously: familism in the u.s. of a. and anglo-american vs. mexican family values and hispanic family values and familism and facebook

edit – see this comment below for explanation:

(note: comments do not require an email. corruption.)