Archives for category: reality check

we’ve all seen headlines like this…

The 13-year-old Belgian boy fighting in Syria

…only to click through and find that this “belgian’s” name is younes abaaoud and his parents are (or at least his father is) originally from morocco. i know that most of the members of the press are hopelessly politically correct and that they must want to obscure the origins of people like abaaoud — or they really believe it when they say this kid is belgian, which is an even scarier thought — i know this, and i’ve known it for quite a while now, but it still irritates me when i read such headlines. it irritates me because it’s such misinformation. it’s unhelpful. when i read the word “beligan,” i picture a short, round little man with a curious moustache. or at least an obviously north european person making waffles.

we have words for things — give names to things — for a reason: to help in identifying those things and to communicate something about them. and — and perhaps i am and have always been misguided about this — i thought the idea of naming things was to aid in the communication process, not make it all more confused. but i’m beginning to think i might’ve been wrong about this.

at the very least, i think someone like abaaoud — a second-generation immigrant to belgium with (i don’t think) any belgian or european ancestry whatsoever — ought to be called a moroccan-belgian. to aid in the communication process.

since it’s st. patrick’s day (woo-hoo!), i’m going to use ireland as an example. (disclaimer: all of my recent ancestors came from ireland. i’m pretty sure that a very large part of my ancestry is “native irish,” but there’s also some amount of scots and maybe even some norman. i doubt there’s much anglo-irishness in me.)

once upon a time, we had names for the different populations in ireland, and they were actively used: the gaelic or native irish (the people(s) who were in ireland before the viking and norman invasions), the hiberno-normans, the old english, the ulster scots, the anglo-irish. there were even names for rival viking groups at one time (names that were eventually reused for some of the normans). more and more nowadays, however, i see everyone from ireland being called simply “irish.” needless to say, i think we should keep right on using the variety of more specific terms we have.

i can hear some of you objecting already: “but hbd chick! it doesn’t matter anymore! those norman and anglo settlers arrived in ireland so long ago!” oh, really? [links added by me – fine gael and fianna fáil are two of the largest political parties in the republic of ireland]:

“FF and FG tribal split traced back to 12th century”

“THERE ARE real tribal differences between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that date back hundreds of years before the foundation of the State, according to two political scientists.

“An analysis of the names of all of the TDs [members of parliament] who have served in the Dáil shows that Fine Gael TDs are more likely to come from Norman/Old English families while Fianna Fáilers tend to come from Gaelic backgrounds.

“The analysis was carried out by Dr Eoin O’Malley of DCU (a son of former Progressive Democrat leader Des O’Malley) and Dr Kevin Byrne of Trinity College Dublin.

“They based their research on the fact that Irish surnames are among the oldest in the world, dating back many centuries.

“The origin of almost all of those names, whether Gaelic, Norman or English, is known.

“After identifying the surname origin of every one of the 1,100 TDs ever elected, the researchers found significant differences in the distribution of surnames between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

“While 64 per cent of Fianna Fáil TDs have surnames of exclusively Gaelic origin, only 51 per cent of Fine Gael TDs do.

“The opposite pattern is seen for Old English (Norman) and New English surnames, with 22 per cent of Fine Gael TDs bearing names of that origin, but only 12 per cent of Fianna Fáil deputies.

“‘While a surname of a given origin isn’t enough to predict a politician’s party, there is a bias in affiliation toward Fianna Fáil TDs having Gaelic surnames and Fine Gael TDs having Old and New English surnames,’ say the researchers.

“They add that the probability of these differences arising by chance is very remote, so they conclude that the tribal polarisation between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is statistically significant.

“‘In addition, Fianna Fáil has significantly more TDs with Gaelic surnames than would be expected given the Irish population, while Fine Gael has more deputies with Old and New English surnames than a random sampling of Irish citizens would warrant,’ they add….”

so there. (except see here.)

furthermore, whenever you hear about some famous “irish” person, like a scientist or an author, they’re more than likely to have anglo-irish or scots-irish ancestry.

for instance, if you look at this list on wikipedia of famous “irish” scientists (*chuckle*), the vast majority are or were either of scots-irish, old english, or anglo-irish background, not native irish. one or two were even partly or fully of some other ethnic background(s) (i.e. french huguenot and sephardic jewish). i can pick out only seven who are likely candidates for having a (mostly) native irish background: louis brennan, pádraig de brún, nicholas callan, aeneas coffey, richard kirwan (“one of the last supporters of the theory of phlogiston”), william dargan, and john philip holland — and i’m not so sure about dargan or holland (both of those surnames could be either british or irish). so that’s five to seven native irish out of a list of forty “irish”, and i bet most of you have never heard of any of them.

and if we look at “irish” nobel laureates (heh — yes, there have been a couple!), of the science ones, we’ve got ernest walton (physics, 1951) aaaaaand…no, sorry, that’s it. ernest walton. needless to say, walton is an old anglo-saxon name, and ernest’s father was a methodist minister, so probably not very native irish. (maybe there are some native irish laureates in amongst the u.s. or canadian or australian winners. i didn’t get around to checking that.)

and all those famous irish authors? w.b. yeats? anglo-irish. oscar wilde? anglo-irish. bernard shaw? anglo-irish. jonathan swift? anglo-irish. samuel beckett? anglo-irish. bram stoker? anglo-irish. j.m. synge? anglo-irish. clearly overrepresented. (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

can’t even give the native irish much credit for our trademark alcoholic beverages, guinness or jameson. arthur guinness was anglo-irish, although he does appear to have had some native irish roots, so a bit of a mix he was:

“Why Guinness is less Irish than you think”

“MARCH 17th is St Patrick’s day, a celebration of all things Irish—and of one thing in particular. Around Ireland and all over the world people will celebrate with a pint or two (or three, or four) of Guinness, Ireland’s unofficial national intoxicant…. But how Irish is it really?

“Arthur Guinness, who founded the brewery in Dublin in 1759, might have been surprised that his drink would one day become such a potent national symbol. He was a committed unionist and opponent of Irish nationalism, who before the Irish Rebellion of 1798 was even accused of spying for the British authorities. His descendants continued passionately to support unionism — one giving the Ulster Volunteer Force £10,000 in 1913 (about £1m, or $1.7m, in today’s money) to fund a paramilitary campaign to resist Ireland being given legislative independence. The company was alleged to have lent men and equipment to the British army to help crush Irish rebels during the Easter Rising of 1916, afterwards firing members of staff whom it believed to have Irish-nationalist sympathies.

“The beer the company has become most famous for — porter stout — was based on a London ale, a favourite of the street porters of Covent Garden and Billingsgate markets. Since 1886 the firm has floated on the London Stock Exchange, and the company moved its headquarters to London in 1932, where it has been based ever since (it merged with Grand Metropolitan and renamed itself Diageo in 1997)….”

and john jameson was scottish.

my point here is that, given our numbers, the native irish haven’t achieved all that much. comparatively speaking, anyway. we were not the first population to go to space, and we won’t be the first to land on mars.

is any of this a problem? no. is it of any interest? h*ll, yeah! if you want to really know anything about “irish” people or scientists or authors or whatever, you might want to know their true background. same goes for terrorists and isis volunteers.

what’s in a name? INFORMATION!

some people might think that i want to single out immigrants or minority groups when i say that i want to be specific about what they’re called. nothing could be further from the truth. i believe in (can i still say this?!) calling a spade a spade. because THAT tells me something. calling a spade a shovel would misinform me.
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p.s. – there is also this theory as to why the native irish haven’t gone to mars first. (~_^)

previously: “core europe” and human accomplishment

(note: comments do not require an email. spade vs. shovel.)

i offered up this little pop quiz back in 2013, and i’m resurrecting it ’cause i want to talk about this some more. first, the quiz:

in which group does the flower at the bottom belong: group a or group b?

east west flowers

feel free to leave your answer in the comments and — only if you like — the reason(s) for your choice and/or your ethnic background. (^_^) (you don’t have to be specific — you can say “eastern” or “southern” european, etc., if you prefer.)

a lot of you responded to this last time ’round — no need to do so again! (^_^)

the correct answer (i.e. if you think like a westerner) is here. see also here. no cheating!

this is (obviously) in nisbett’s The Geography of Thought territory.

that is all. for now!

previously: do you think like a westerner?

(note: comments do not require an email. jackass [penguin].)

edit: see also this type of response (shame/embarassment) from japan – Some Japanese See Slain Hostages, Abe as Troublemakers. h/t frau katze for that one!
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make no mistake about it, there is noooo talk about forgiveness in jordan in the case of jordanian pilot lt. muath al-kaseasbeh who was killed by members of isis:

“Hostage pilot’s murder: Jordan promises Islamic State an ‘earth-shaking’ revenge”
“By: Reuters | Amman | Posted: February 3, 2015 10:38 pm | Updated: February 4, 2015 9:14 am

“Islamic State militants released a video on Tuesday appearing to show a captured Jordanian pilot being burnt alive in a cage, a killing that shocked the world and prompted Jordan to promise an ‘earth-shaking’ response.

“A Jordanian official said the authorities would swiftly execute several militants in retaliation, including an Iraqi woman whom Amman had sought to swap for the pilot taken captive after his plane crashed in Syria in December….

“‘The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan,’ army spokesman Colonel Mamdouh al Ameri said in a televised statement confirming the death of the pilot, who was seized by Islamic State in December.

The fate of Kasaesbeh, a member of a large tribe that forms the backbone of support for the country’s Hashemite monarchy, has gripped Jordan for weeks and some Jordanians have criticised King Abdullah for embroiling them in the U.S.-led war that they say will provoke a backlash by militants….

“DEMAND FOR REVENGE

“In the pilot’s hometown of Karak in southern Jordan, people demanded:

“‘I want to see Sajida’s body burnt and all the other terrorists in Jordanian prisons … Only then will my thirst for revenge be satisfied,’ said Abdullah al-Majali, a government employee among dozens of demonstrators in the centre of Karak.

“Relatives of the pilot also gathered in Karak and urged calm after anti-government protests broke out in the town. They said it was up to the government to take revenge for them….”

this is quite a different sort of reaction than the kind often seen in western nations where the families of victims often forgive — in public — whoever killed their family member(s). for example, it’s quite a different sort of reaction than the one we saw from the surviving charlie hebdo cartoonists and staff:

“Charlie Hebdo cartoonist says new cover is call for forgiveness”
“By Bob Fredericks January 13, 2015 | 12:41pm

“A French cartoonist who cheated death in last week’s massacre at Charlie Hebdo broke down in tears Tuesday as he described drawing a weeping Prophet Mohammed for this week’s cover — calling it a genuine plea to forgive the terrorists who ​murdered his colleagues in cold blood.

“The cover ​— depicting the Prophet holding an ‘I am Charlie’ sign under the headline in French​ ‘All is Forgiven’ — was drawn by Renald Luzier, known as Luz, who only survived the massacre because he overslept and showed up late for work.

“‘I drew Mohammed. I looked at him and he was crying. Above him I wrote, “All is forgiven” and then I cried, too,’ he said, according to The Times of London….

“In a Paris news conference, staffers said the cover was a call for forgiveness for the killers — and that they never had any doubt about what the front-page illustration should be….

“‘The terrorists were once kids, they drew like us, like all kids, then one day they perhaps lost their sense of humor, perhaps their child soul able to see the world from a bit of a distance,’ he said….”

different people — and peoples — are different.

see also: Tribal Loyalties Drive Jordan’s Effort to Free Pilot

(note: comments do not require an email. muhammad’s revenges.)

in my previous post on asabiyyah, i (boldly!) said: “the arab states repeatedly fell apart, not because they ran out of asabiyyah, but because those in charge didn’t manage to hold together their state in the face of all the different asabiyyahs of the various clans/tribes within their states.”

pseudoerasmus disagreed with me: “The Abbasid Caliphate, which endured in Baghdad from 750 to 1258, started out big in the 8th century but by the time it fell to the Mongols it had basically been reduced to the Tigris & Euphrates valley. That’s because foreign dynasties came to gradually pick away at the periphery of the empire. I’m not saying there weren’t internal divisions that might have weakened the Abbasid hold on power. But there’s no evidence these divisions were tribal.”

well, ok. i admit that i probably overstated my case a bit there. the clannishness of the populations of arab states isn’t the only reason those states fall apart, but it *is* a huge one, imho. but, then, i do tend to look at everything through clannishness-colored glasses. (~_^)

the point i was trying to make, though, was that i disagree with ibn khaldun’s analysis of asabiyyah (which t.greer outlined in excellent fashion in this comment!). i’m of the opinion that al-farabi had it more right: asabiyyah is clannishness and, while clannishness can and does draw clans and tribes together, it is also very much a divisive force which pulls apart arabized societies. asabiyyah is the “me and my cousin against the world” attitude. and, most importantly of course, i think that the behavioral traits that are related to asabiyyah are genetic in origin, and, therefore, it will be very difficult to get the arabized world to behave differently anytime soon.

anyway…so, by way of a few examples, i thought i’d outline some of the clannish elements of the abbasid caliphate that i think worked against it. this is far from a complete list — it’s just a few of the things i can think of off the top of my head. to be completely honest with you, i need to do a lot more reading on the medieval caliphates/medieval arab world. oh. before i get to my little exploration, i want to mention one other thing. pseudo also said:

“[I]n the actual outcomes of territorial consolidation and fragmentation in the Middle East and North Africa, I don’t see much difference between that region and Europe or any other region for that matter. — *in the premodern period*. Which region in Eurasia was not subject to repeated cycles of imperial consolidation and fragmentation?”

well, quite. but europe and other regions of the world were also clannish in the premodern period. europe didn’t move out of that phase until the end of the middle ages. so maybe it’s not fair of me to compare the medieval arab world with the modern european one (although i do the same for medieval europe all the time); however, i do think that clannishness was, and is, particularly difficult for the arabs/arabized world since these populations practice father’s brother’s daughters (fbd) marriage — they’ve burdened themselves with a social structure and a set of innate behavioral traits that makes building and maintaining bigger alliances very difficult. (they didn’t mean to, of course — it just worked out that way.) in fact, i bet that matters have gotten progressively worse over the past thousand years or so in the middle east/maghreb/afghanistan/pakistan since these populations were arabized and started practicing fbd marriage (and due to the actual introduction of arab peoples to these regions who have probably been practicing fbd marriage since the second century a.d.?). having said all that, pseudo is also quite right in saying that trying to hold an empire together is difficult in most circumstances for any population, and was especially so in the past for populations which had more primitive technologies and transport systems, etc., etc. the one set of factors does not rule out the other, though, i don’t think.

right. clannishness and the abbasid caliphate.

well, first of all, the abbasid caliphate was founded in 750 a.d. by an extended family/subclan — the abbasids — which replaced a rival subclan. it really doesn’t get much more clannish than that. (~_^) both the abbasids and the umayyads before them were subclans of mohammed’s clan, the banu hashim, these subclans being, in turn, part of the larger quarysh tribe. before i continue about the abbasids, here’s a bit about the umayyad caliphate from A History of the Arab People [pg. 30]:

“The growth of the Muslim communities in the eastern cities and provinces created tensions. Personal ambitions, local grievances and party conflicts expressed themselves in more than one idiom, ethnic, tribal and religious, and from this distance it is hard to say how the lines of division were drawn.

“There was, first of all, among converts to Islam, and the Iranians in particular, resentment against the fiscal and other privileges given to those of Arab origin, and this grew as the memory of the first conquests became weaker. Some of the converts attached themselves to Arab tribal leaders as ‘clients’ (*mawali*), but this did not erase the line between them and the Arabs.

Tension also expressed themselves in terms of tribal differences and opposition. The armies coming from Arabia brought tribal loyalties with them, and in the new circumstances these could grow stronger. In the cities and other places of migration, groups claiming a common ancestor came together in closer quarters than in the Arabian steppe; powerful leaders claiming nobility of descent could attract new followers. The existence of a unified political structure enabled leaders and tribes to link up with each other over wide areas and at times gave them common interests. The struggle for control of the central government could make use of tribal names and the loyalties they expressed. One branch of the Umayyads was linked by marriage with the Banu Kalb, who had already settled in Syria before the conquest; in the struggle for the succession after the death of Mu’awiya’s son, a non-Umayyad claimant was supported by another groups of tribes. At moments some common interst could given substance to the idea of an origin shared by all tribes claiming to come from central Arabia or from the south. (Their names, Qays and Yemen, were to linger as symbols of local conflict in some parts of Syria until the present century….)”

so the rapid urbanization of the arabs as they moved into the middle east actually exacerbated their clannishness/tribalism.

anyway — back to the abbasids. the abbasids thought that they ought to be in charge since their ancestors were more closely related to mohammed — the founder of their subclan was a paternal uncle of mohammed. the founder of the umayyad subclan was just some guy that was adopted into yet another subclan related to mohammed’s (who then went on to found his own subclan, the umayyads). the abbasids had a whole load of supporters who were not abbasids, of course, including plenty of non-muslims, but there was definitely an element of an inter-clannish spat here, as there was across the histories of all of the caliphates. for example, the founders of the fatimid caliphate in 909 a.d. claimed to be descendents of mohammed’s daughter fatimah — and, therefore, more worthy of being caliphs — so yeah…more family intrigue. from A History of the Arab Peoples [pg. 33]:

“In some ways ‘Abbasid rule did not differ much from that of the later Umayyads. From the beginning they found themselves involved in the inescapable problem of a new dynasty: how to turn the limited power derived from an uneasy coalition of separate interests into something more stable and lasting. They had won their throne through a combination of forces united only in opposition to the Umayyads, and the relationships of strength within the coalition now had to be defined. First of all the new caliph rid himself of those through whom he had come to power; Abu Muslim and others were killed. There were conflicts too within the family itself; at first members were appointed as governors, but some of them grew too powerful, and within a generation a new ruling elite of high officials had been created. Some were drawn from Iranian families with a tradition of service to the state and newly converted to Islam, others from members of the ruler’s household, some of them freed slaves.”

yup. gotta get rid of competing members of the family when you’re in a clannish society.

one of the first things the abbasids had to deal with was the alid revolt of 762-763 undertaken by a couple of brothers who, yes, claimed descent from fatimah and who thought/claimed (for various reasons) that they deserved to be in charge rather than the abbasids. so, this was more infighting between rival subclans of mohammed’s quarysh tribe. the abbasids defeated this particular branch of the family that was behind this revolt, but one of the brothers of the leaders of the revolt went on to found the idrisid dynasty of morocco, which was one of those dynasties constantly picking away at the edge of the abbasid empire, even though the idrisids always at least nominally swore allegiance to the caliphate. (one of the offshoots of the idrisid dynasty, btw, is the senussi dynasty of libya, which may or may not make a comeback one of these days.)

between 809 and 827, we’ve got the fourth fitna (civil war) over succession to the caliphate’s throne. the contenders were two half-brothers, the sons of the deceased caliph: al-amin and al-ma’mun. al-amin was caliph for a while until his brother desposed him. the caliph had named al-amin as his successor, but al-ma’mun was actually slightly older, so he was p*ssed off at not having become caliph. the thing was, al-amin’s mother, zubaidah, had been a cousin of the caliph and of the house of abbasid, while al-ma’mun’s mother was just some persian concubine.

about the aftermath of the fitna, wikipedia says:

“The long civil war shattered the social and political order of the early Abbasid state, and a new system began to emerge under al-Ma’mun, which would characterize the middle period of the Abbasid Caliphate. The most tangible change was in the elites who supported the new regime: the abnaʾ, the old Arab families and the members of the Abbasid dynasty itself lost their positions in the administrative and military machinery, and with them their influence and power. The provinces of the Caliphate were now grouped into larger units, often controlled by a hereditary dynasty, like the Tahirids in Khurasan or the Samanids in Transoxiana, usually of Iranian descent. At the same time, however, al-Ma’mun tried to lessen his dependence on the Iranian element of his empire, and counterbalanced them through the creation of two new military corps: Mu’tasim’s Turkish slaves, and the Arab tribal army of the Byzantine frontier, which was now grouped together and placed under the command of al-Ma’mun’s son al-Abbas. This system was further elaborated and acquired its definite characteristics in the reign of al-Mu’tasim, who created a tightly controlled, centralized state, and expanded his Turkish corps into an effective military force with which he waged campaigns against the Byzantines and internal rebellions alike. Its leaders came to political power as provincial governors, while the old Arab elites were sidelined.”

so the entire character of the caliphate changed — and many of the arab clans and tribes lost power — thanks to a clannish family feud. al-ma’mun probably favored non-arab groups — like the tahirids or samanids — for anti-clannishness reasons. this is a common practice in clannish societies around the world, especially the arabized world which suffers from particularly strong clannishness: to try to work around your rival clannish groups by allying yourself with some other groups. never works out, though. from A History of Islamic Societies [pgs. 103-104]:

“To win control of the Caliphate, he [al-ma’mun] had depended on the support of a Khurasanian lord, Tahir, who in return was made governor of Khurasan (820-22) and general of ‘Abbasid forces throughout the empire, with the promise that the offices would be inherited by his heirs. Despite the momentary usefulness of the arrangement, the concession of a hereditary governorship defeated the Caliphal objective of integrating provincial notables into the central government. Now the empire was to be governed by an alliance of the Caliph with the most important provincial lord.

“To offset the power of the Tahirids and regain direct control of the provinces, the Caliphs were eager to create new military forces. Thus, al-Ma’mun and al-Mu’tasim (833-42) raised two types of forces. The first were *shakiriya*, intact units under the leadership of their local chiefs, from Transoxania, Armenia, and North Africa. Though the soldiers were not directly beholden to the Caliphs, they served as a counterweight to the Tahirids. The second type of force was Turkish slaves, called the unsullied *ghilman* (pl.), who were purchased individually, but grouped into regiments. For the sake of efficiency and morale, and a balance of power between the regiments, each lived in its own neighborhood, had its own mosque and markets, and was trained, supplied, and paid by its commander. Thus slave regiments also became self-contained units which gave their primary loyalty to their officers rather than to the Caliphs….

These new regiments strenghthened the hand of the Caliphs, but the Transoxanian and Turkish soldiers soon ran afoul of the Baghdadi populace and of the former Arab soldiers in the Baghdadi army, and bloody clashes ensued. Eventually, the Caliph al-Mu’tasim built a new capital, Samarra, about 70 miles north of Baghdad, to isolate the troops from the masses. While Baghdad remained the cultural and commercial capital of the region, from 836 to 870 Samarra was the military and administrative headquarters of the Caliphate. However, the new city only created further difficulties. The Caliphs, who had hoped to avoid clashes between the populace and the troops, instead became embroiled in rivalries among the various guard regiments. The officers took civilian bureaucrats into their patronage, won control of provincial governorships, and eventually attempted to control succession to the Caliphate itself. Regimental rivalries led to anarchy. Between 861 and 870 all the leading officers were killed, and the troops fell out of control and turned to banditry. The employment of slave armies further alienated the Caliphate from the populace it ruled. While the early ‘Abbasid empire had depended upon the military support of its own subjects, the late empire tried to dominate its peoples with foreign troops….”

clannish behaviors everywhere! even in “socially constructed” clans. (if you’ve got “genes for clannishness,” whatever they might be, you’re going to behave clannishly.)

in the late 800s, the abbasids had to deal with the breakaway hamdanid dynasty in northern iraq/syria (hmmm…familiar territory) which was founded by hamdan ibn hamdun who was p*ssed off when the caliph tried to give the governorship of mosul to some turkish guy. hamdan’s tribe — the banu taghlib who were originally from eastern arabia and who waited until quite late to convert from christianity to islam — rebelled. hamdan’s son, husayn, made peace with the caliph, though, and regained the governorship of the region for the family…buuuut, he did wind up eventually being beheaded for taking part in yet another revolt. a couple of husayn’s rather ruthless nephews managed to set up “semi-independent emirates” operating out of mosul and aleppo. although they, too, like the fatimids, swore allegience to the caliph, i view all this clannishness and literal tribal behaviors as further examples of the chipping away at the caliphate. oh — another dynasty, the uqalyids, took over in mosul in 990, and they were of the banu uqayl clan out of western arabia. so, more literal tribalism.

some of the other foreign dynasties that chipped away at the abbasid caliphate were not tribal arabs, but many of them were certainly very clannish themselves. the samanid dynasty of persia, for instance, was founded by saman khuda of the house of mihran, one of the seven parthian clans of the earlier sassanian empire. al-ma’mun appointed four of saman’s grandsons governors as a reward for the family’s loyalty to the caliph. clannish! the last of the samanids, isma’il muntasir (i.e the “victorious”), who was trying to restore his family’s then-dying glory, was killed by some arab guy, so unfortunately he wasn’t so victorious after all.

many of the other central asian dynasties that conquered areas previously, or maybe better intermittantly, held by the abbasid caliphate also read like hatfield versus mccoy stories: the buyids, the ghaznavids, the simjurids, even the seljuks. much of this rather extreme clannishess — like that of the samanids above — happened before these groups converted to islam or very shortly afterwards, so probably too soon for them to have adopted fbd marriage as part of any broader arabization process. this makes me guess that these populations in persia and afghanistan, etc., were probably practicing quite a bit of close cousin marriage before the arabs got there, just presumably not fbd marriage (if the anthropologists are right). don’t know. Further Research is RequiredTM.

but clannishness didn’t just chip away at the edges of the caliphate — internal clannishness, even though the caliphs had tried to eliminate the powers of the arab clans, worked against the caliphate. from A History of Islamic Societies [pg. 105]:

By the late ninth century…numerous small cliques attached to many leading officials had become polarized into two great factions, called the Banu Furat and the Banu Jarrah. Each of these factions was built around a wazir and his relatives and clients. The families also had a larger following based on social and ideological affiliations. The Banu Jarrah faction was composed mainly, though not exclusively, of Nestorian Christians or Christian converts, often educated in the monastery of Dayr Qunna in southern Iraq. By the middle of the ninth century, this faction had already grown powerful enough to influence state policy. In 852 al-Mutawakkil (847-61) was persuaded to assure Christians freedom of religion, freedom from military service, and the right to construct churches, and to give the Nestorian Catholicos full jurisdiction over all Christians…. The other major faction, the Banu Furat, were mainly Baghdadi Shi’a.

The chiefs of these factions eventually gained control of the whole government services…. A wazir and his faction would come to power by intrigues and by bribing the Caliph and other influential courtiers. Their main concern then would be to exploit their offices, earn back the bribes, and prepare for future hard times by various frauds, such as padded payrolls, false bookkeeping, illegal speculations, and taking bribes. The officials regarded their positions as a property which they bought, sold, and exploited for private gain.”

after the late 800s, the caliph was very often the caliph only in name (it varied depending on the individual caliph). governmental officials and their extended families and clients (patron-client systems are typical of clannish societies — think: sicily) ran the show within the core of the caliphate, and virtually independent familial dynasties typically ruled the peripheral regions.

what i find even more interesting than all this clan and tribal intrigue, though, is how clannish society within the caliphate actually was. this sort-of societal arrangement is always fraught with difficulties — from A History of Islamic Societies [pgs. 61-63]:

“Local government was organized for taxation. Surveys were taken in the villages to determine the amount of land under cultivation, the crops grown, and their expected yield, and the information was passed up to the central administration. The taxes for whole regions would be estimated, the sums divided up for each district, and the demand notes sent out describing the responsibilities of each subdivision. Each sub-unit received its bill and divided it among the smaller units. At the next stage, taxes were collected, local expenses deducted, and the balance passed upwards until the surplus eventually reached Baghdad….

“How was the state to know if crops were concealed? The state came to the villages with staffs and technical specialists such as surveyors to make land measurements, weighers and measurers to estimate the size of crops, and bankers and money changers to convert currencies or to give credits. It came with legal specialists, judges to adjudicate disputes, witnesses to transactions, registrars of deeds, and the like. Alongside the technicians, it came with specialists in violence, collectors, soldiers, police extortionists, stool pigeons, and thugs. Fear was no small part of the business of tax collection.

Yet, with all this, the potential for passive resistance and the problem of inadequate information could not be solved without the cooperation of local people. These included family patriarchs, village headmen (such as the *ra’is* in Iran, or the *shaykh al-balad* in Egypt), and village landowners, who controlled a large part of the village land and were much richer than the average peasant, but not so wealthy as the great estate or iqta’ holders….

“These notables played an important intermediary role in the taxation process. As the most powerful people connected with the villages, they handled negotiations, made a deal on behalf of the peasants, and paid the taxes. The arrangement suited everyone. The bureaucratic agents were never absolutely sure how much money they could raise, and wished to avoid the nuisance of dealing with individuals. The peasants did not have to confront the exorbitant demands of the tax collectors directly. The notables underestimated the taxes to the state, overestimated them to the peasants, and pocketed the difference. ‘Abbasid officials understood perfectly well the importance of these people, whom they called their *a’wan* (helpers)….”

clannish corruption. long-standing tradition in the middle east, then.
_____

anyway…those are just some of the clannish elements of the abbasid caliphate that, imho, caused it to “collapse” — or nearly collapse — or get chipped away over time both on the edges and internally. i guess that there were plenty more such elements and that one could find similar examples from other arab states, too, both in the past and in the present.

new working theory, btw: that the populations of the middle east, maghreb, afghanistan/pakistan have become more and progressively clannish and dysfunctional (in terms of attempts to build western-style states in these places) since they’ve become more and more arabized (especially since they began practicing more and more fbd marriage) beginning at the earliest in the ca. early 600s. the actual migration of the (already at the time) very inbred, and therefore very clannish, arabs didn’t help, either.

previously: asabiyyah

(note: comments do not require an email. as-saffah, the first abbasid caliph.)

one of the neatest things i learned from Albion’s Seed is that there wasn’t one american revolution, there were four! they never teach you this sort of exciting history in middle school — at least they didn’t in the working-class, roman catholic middle school that i went to — which wasn’t a middle school at all but just the seventh and eighth grades. i was sooo deprived as a child… [kindle locations 13525-13555]:

“The Revolution was not a single struggle, but a series of four separate Wars of Independence, waged in very different ways by the major cultures of British America. The first American Revolution (1775-76) was a massive popular insurrection in New England. An army of British regulars was defeated by a Yankee militia which was much like the Puritan train bands from which they were descended. These citizen soldiers were urged into battle by New England’s ‘black regiment’ of Calvinist clergy. The purpose of New England’s War for Independence, as stated both by ministers and by laymen such as John and Samuel Adams, was not to secure the rights of man in any universal sense. Most New Englanders showed little interest in John Locke or Cato’s letters. They sought mainly to defend their accustomed ways against what the town of Malden called ‘the contagion of venality and dissipation’ which was spreading from London to America.

“Many years later, historian George Bancroft asked a New England townsman why he and his friends took up arms in the Revolution. Had he been inspired by the ideas of John Locke? The old soldier confessed that he had never heard of Locke. Had he been moved by Thomas Paine’s Common Sense? The honest Yankee admitted that he had never read Tom Paine. Had the Declaration of Independence made a difference? The veteran thought not. When asked to explain why he fought in his own words, he answered simply that New Englanders had always managed their own affairs, and Britain tried to stop them, and so the war began.

“In 1775, these Yankee soldiers were angry and determined men, in no mood for halfway measures. Their revolution was not merely a mind game. Most able-bodied males served in the war, and the fighting was cruel and bitter. So powerful was the resistance of this people-in-arms that after 1776 a British army was never again able to remain in force on the New England mainland.

“The second American War for Independence (1776-81) was a more protracted conflict in the middle states and the coastal south. This was a gentlemen’s war. On one side was a professional army of regulars and mercenaries commanded by English gentry. On the other side was an increasingly professional American army led by a member of the Virginia gentry. The principles of this second American Revolution were given their Aristotelian statement in the Declaration of Independence by another Virginia gentleman, Thomas Jefferson, who believed that he was fighting for the ancient liberties of his ‘Saxon ancestors.’

“The third American Revolution reached its climax in the years from 1779 to 1781. This was a rising of British borderers in the southern backcountry against American loyalists and British regulars who invaded the region. The result was a savage struggle which resembled many earlier conflicts in North Britain, with much family feuding and terrible atrocities committed on both sides. Prisoners were slaughtered, homes were burned, women were raped and even small children were put to the sword.

“The fourth American Revolution continued in the years from 1781 to 1783. This was a non-violent economic and diplomatic struggle, in which the elites of the Delaware Valley played a leading part. The economic war was organized by Robert Morris of Philadelphia. The genius of American diplomacy was Benjamin Franklin. The Delaware culture contributed comparatively little to the fighting, but much to other forms of struggle.

“The loyalists who opposed the revolution tended to be groups who were not part of the four leading cultures. They included the new imperial elites who had begun to multiply rapidly in many colonial capitals, and also various ethnic groups who lived on the margins of the major cultures: notably the polyglot population of lower New York, the Highland Scots of Carolina and African slaves who inclined against their Whiggish masters.”

pretty sure most of you are familiar with fischer’s four american folkways and their origins. i’ve written a handful of posts on the histories of the original populations of these folkways — when they were still back in england that is.

there’s this post: east anglia, kent and manorialism — the puritans who went to new england were mostly from east anglia, or at least the eastern/southeastern part of england. the east anglians seem to have been quite outbred comparatively speaking, but perhaps not quite as much as the populations of southern and central england (i.e. the home counties). they seem to have hung on to extended families — village- or hamlet-based groups of brothers and their families — for longer than other populations in the southern half of britain, although perhaps that was more a side-effect of the lack of manorialism in the region rather than some residual inbreeding. the new englanders had fought their war of independence because they “had always managed their own affairs” — that was pretty true of east anglians, too, since they had (mostly) never been under the yoke of manorialism. interestingly, they had a remarkably (for the time) low homicide rate in the thirteenth century.

i’ve got a couple of posts related to those rambunctious folks from the backcountry whose ancestors came from the borderlands between england and scotland. libertarian crackers takes a quick look at why this group tends to love being independent and is distrustful of big gubmint — to make a long story short, the border folks married closely for much longer than the southern english — and they didn’t experience much manorialism, either (the lowland scots did, but not so much the border groups). did i mention that they’re a bit hot-headed? (not that there’s anything wrong with that! (~_^) ) see also: hatfields and mccoys. not surprising that this group’s war of independence involved “much family feuding.”

i wrote a whole series of posts on the north midlands/mid-atlantic quakers, because i knew the least about them. you might want to start with the last one first — quaker individualism — since it sorta sums up everything i found out about them. the other posts are (in chronological order): geographical origin of the quakers, on the topographical origins of the quakers, and the myddle people. what i reckoned about the midlanders/quakers is that they are some of my inbetweeners — they are some of the outbreeders of europe, but they came to The Outbreeding Project a bit late since they’re right on the edge of “core” europe (i.e. roughly the area circled in green on this map). so they don’t have the extended family orientation of the more recently inbreeding border reivers who were even further away from the “core” (to the north), but they had a very strong orientation toward the nuclear family — almost kinda freakish (not to be rude). the midlanders/quakers lean towards a strong individualism, too, reminiscent of the backcountry folk, but without the strong familism. that’s why i dubbed them inbetweeners. (the east anglians might be inbetweeners, too. not sure. Further Research is RequiredTM!) colin woodard said of the quakers [reference in this post]: “Quakers were also by nature inclined to challenge authority and convention at every juncture.” so, not surprising that they, too, rebelled against the english king!

unfortunately, i haven’t got a single post on the virginians from the south of england — fischer’s distressed cavaliers and indentured servants. they ought to be some of the most outbred of the english, which, perhaps, was why they fought for lofty ideals like life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the belief that all men are equal…except for (*ahem*) the slaves. the different origins of the settlers of the tidewater versus the deep south (per colin woodard) perhaps make a difference here — the landowners of the deep south were a self-sorted group of the second sons and grandsons of plantation owners in places like barbados (just like benedict cumberbatch’s ancestors!) — they might not have been big on universalistic ideas. need to find out more about the origins of both of these groups.

if you haven’t read Albion’s Seed, you really ought to! colin woodard’s American Nations, too, which divides up the u.s.’s folkways in a slightly different manner plus adds a whole bunch of others not considered by fischer (like french and spanish north america). and jayman has written approximately eleventeen gaZILLion posts on the american nations which you should definitely check out! i don’t even know where they all are, but you can start with one of the most recent ones, if you haven’t seen it already. (^_^)

that there were four american revolutions is a result of the fact that four (five?) somewhat different english populations settled in different regions of north america. the cultural and attitudinal differences between these regions persist to this day because, undoubtedly, there are genetic variations between the populations — probably average genetic differences in the frequencies of genes related to behaviors, personality, and even intelligence. these regional differences also persist because, since the very founding of the united states, like-minded people have been self-sorting themselves within the country so that they group together — and that sorting process has not been slowing down.

(note: comments do not require an email. albion’s seeds.)

here’s some high — much deserved! — praise for jayman from the derb! (^_^) much better reading than the last post (because the content is actually accurate!):

“John Derbyshire On JayMan — A Righteous Jamaican-American”

“JayMan writes about human nature, with particular attention to human differences. As such he has particular appeal to Us of the Cold Eye. That is to say, he’s a stone empiricist who scoffs at happy talk and wishful thinking about human nature, and goes to the research studies. Just a brief digression here on the nature and content of those studies.

“We are now at the point in our understanding where it is beyond dispute that all the interesting traits of human behavior, intelligence, and personality are heritable to some degree….

“Bill Maher, for example, in a TV spot about Amy Chua’s 2011 Tiger Mom book, swallowed the whole parenting-style-shapes-adults shtick. JayMan, who is a fan of Maher’s (more on this below) wrote Maher a long letter setting him straight. The letter is reproduced in the second post here.

“‘It is not at all surprising that bright, hard-working and successful parents would have bright, hard-working and successful children. It is the same reason that tall, freckled parents tend to have tall, freckled children: their genetic endowment. [Taming the ‘Tiger Mom’ and Tackling the Parenting Myth, November 16th, 2011]’

“Maher did not favor JayMan with a reply to his letter.

“Conservatives are even more clueless about the human sciences than liberals. It is for example a perennial theme in conservative social commentary that fatherlessness is the cause of much social dysfunction and many poor life outcomes. If only poor people could be persuaded to get married and stay married!

“Sounds nice, and gets your timid conservative commentator off the ‘racist’ hook, since ceteris paribus fatherlessness is much more common among blacks than nonblacks.

“But…’Happy talk!’ scoffs JayMan.

“‘Even if there was more marriage among those in the lower class, the next generation, having inherited all the same traits, would be no different. The poor outcomes of children who were raised in fatherless homes stem not from the much maligned single motherhood — in and of itself — but rather from the traits these children inherited from their parents, who were the type of individuals likely to have their children end up being raised by single mothers. [Liberalism, HBD, Population, and Solutions for the Future, June 1, 2012]’

“So the arrow of causation is not from fatherlessness to poor life outcomes: It is from certain features of the parental genomes inclining to single motherhood and pump’n’dump fatherhood, and thence, by genetic transmission, to similarly feckless offspring.

“This latter picture makes much more sense given what we know about the heritability of behavioral and personality characteristics. Which is a lot: JayMan has put together an excellent reference post, spelling it all out, with numerous links….”

read the whole thing @vdare! and for god’s sake, read jayman’s blog AND his twitter feed! first place i go every morning. (^_^)

edit: see also The Derb on the JayMan from jayman!

(note: comments do not require an email. jamaica!)

(ir)rational wiki strikes again! =P h/t jayman!:

Gregory Cochran

Gregory M. Cochran (born 1953) is a racist, sexist, homophobe and pseudo-scientist who is prominent in the so-called Human Bio-Diversity (HBD) movement.

Cochran claims that the phenomenon of homosexuality is “caused” by a brain-infection and/or other pathological damege [sic] to the brain. He seems to positively revel in the reaction his “theory” will cause in the LGBT community and its progressive allies.

steve sailer is apparently the “pope” of hbd. and i’m a “cochran co-conspirator.” heh!

btw, if you’re not regularly reading greg cochran and henry harpending’s blog West Hunter, you should be!

(p.s. – human biodiversity isn’t a movement.)

previously: that time nobody at (ir)rational wiki actually read my blog

(note: comments do not require an email. rational vs. irrational.)

inigo montoya sm

asabiyyah. it’s a word that was used by ibn khaldun in his work on history entitled Muqaddimah or Prolegomena (“Introduction” — here’s a version on google books).

asabiyyah often gets translated simply as “group solidarity” or “social cohesion” or “group feeling” which has led many a westerner to think that it can be applied to any old group, but that is just not so. this “group feeling” that khaldun was writing about was specifically the solidarity found in arab or arabized clans and tribes. other thinkers of the islamic golden age, such as al-farabi, also discussed the concept of asabiyyah. al-farabi, however, used the word more in its (apparently) original sense — clannishness. i kid you not! [pg. 171]:

“According to Muhsin Mahdi in his authoritative work, ‘Ibn Khaldun’s Philosophy of History’ (London: George Allen and Unwin, 195), 263 n. 1, Ibn Khaldun’s use of ‘asabiyyah differs from Alfarabi’s. The former views ‘asabiyyah both as a source of division *and* as a source of unity; the latter views it merely as a source of division. Thus, Mahdi translates ‘asabiyyah in his book on Ibn Khaldun as ‘social solidarity’ rather than as ‘clannishness.’

“But perhaps Iban Khaldun has not departed from Alfarabi in the respect Mahdi suggests. For Alfarabi, although ‘asabiyyah is a source of division between different clans, it is certainly a source of unity within the clan (or *dunasteia*). The common purpose of fighting common enemies unites the members of the clan. Once the law has unified clans into a city, the city’s common fighting purpose still derives from the ‘asabiyyah of its citizens, especially of its leading clan. Is ‘asabiyyah really a greater source of unity than this in the ‘Muqaddimah’? As Mahdi himself notes, Ibn Khaldun never identifies what he calls the ‘natural rule or governance (*mulk tabi’i*) in which one clan rules a group of other clans by virtue of its superior ‘asabiyyah without the assistance of a law (divine or ‘rational’) as a ‘regime’ (ibid., 264-265). The reason why he does not refer to it as a regime is obvious: The result of this kind of rule is not the minimum of internal peace necessary for political life but ‘constant war [i.e., civil war] and confusion’ (ibid., 265).”

asabiyyah, then, is the “group solidarity” or “social cohesion” of the clan or the tribe. it is not the social cohesion that held medieval arab/arabized societies together. asabiyyah was, in fact, the force that divided those societies — and is dividing iraq and syria today. the problem for arabized societies is not having too little asabiyyah, it’s that they have too much.

according to khaldun, part of the trick to maintaining a state full of independent clans each with their own asabiyyah is for the ruling clan to develop some sort of supra-asabiyyah and in that way reach a state of iltiham or coalesence [pg. 285 and pg. 32 here]. this is easier said than done, since each of the clans/tribes at least theoretically wants to be the one on top — if they can get there. islam itself was an excellent uniting force early on for arab tribes. until mohammed died and the infighting over who’d be in charge started (i.e. the origin of the sunni-shia split). maybe some form of radical islam will work today — perhaps whatever al-qaeda or isis has on offer. the problem is, all of the asabiyyah in arab societies is always pulling it apart.

another trick to running a country full of clans while maintaining your own clan on the top is to give enough favors to other clans to keep them happy in their subordinate positions. these are just patron-client systems writ large. this is exactly what the ruling clans did when the arabs first invaded iraq. i wrote in my last post on the arabs in iraq how the clans and tribes set themselves up in separate streets in separate neighborhoods. well, most of these newly relocated clans received stipends from the clans in charge to compensate them for their services during the invasion. this was their booty, in other words. and the financing for these stipends came from taxes — in part from the jizya payed by the non-muslims in iraq. you may have heard about jizya. [see morony on all of this.]

the patronage system — with nepotism to boot — is how arabized states are still run today. it’s the only way, because otherwise the asabiyyahs of all the different clans would tear these countries apart [pgs. 3-4]:

“Ibn Khaldun claims that power (*mulk*) is not based in the [arab] city as was the case in Greek tradition, but is instead based on an essential regroup of key ‘asabiyyah concepts. These are emotional links and blood relationships (*silat-ar-rahem*) — both tribal and familial — driven by sociological narrative rather than citizenship in public space. The roles of brothers, sons, uncles, half-brothers, wives, daughters, and mothers of the leader are defined via ‘asabiyyah in Arab political systems. These elements of analysis, beyond their anecdotal dimensions, introduce us to the heart of how authoritarian dynastical rule functions. ‘Asabiyyah acquires an incomparable force by controlling the state apparatus and carrying out public politics.

“This type of ‘asabiyyah was particularly visible in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, mainly within the security and intelligence apparatuses. It is obvious today in the republican-style authoritarian regime of Asad. We also find ‘asabiyyah applied in the Arab Gulf countries, led by large families who dominate ‘departments of sovereignty’ (*wizarat as-seyadah*), meaning all key positions in the state. Saudi Arabia could be cited as the singular example in which dynastic succession functions through internal cooptation of the al-Saud clan, but it can also be understood as a rotation of the top matrilineages — the clans of origin of the princes’ mothers.

“The princes that belong to the first circle of power and lead departments of sovereignty or hold the governorates of important provinces tend to enter exogamous marriages (which is contrary to the norms established for preferential Arab unions). The women of the al-Saud clan typically enter endogamous marital unions. The clan is therefore a taker, rather than a giver, of women, which both expresses and helps perpetuate the dominant position it holds. Here, matrimonial strategies ensure the clientelism of other clans in the country. In a tribalized and a poorly integrated society, such as that of Saudi Arabia, the paternal clan’s grip on power ensures the cohesion and stability of the ruling group.”

…by keeping subordinate clans happy by sharing with them some of the “spoils” (in the case of saudi arabia or the uae or qatar — oil money!).

some of the confusion some (many!) westerners have about what asabiyyah refers to comes, i think, from the fact that they overlook which populations khaldun was talking about. he specifically looked at the arab states in spain and north africa [pg. 214] and contrasted them with kurdish and bedouin and berber tribal populations [pg. 45]. by the time that khaldun was writing in the fourteenth century, all of these groups were well-arabized and probably had been practicing father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage for several hundred years and, so, would’ve been very clannish [see, for example, the previous post on iraq]. the arab states repeatedly fell apart, not because they ran out of asabiyyah, but because those in charge didn’t manage to hold together their state in the face of all the different asabiyyahs of the various clans/tribes within their states. the invading groups — the kurds, bedouin, and berbers — of course held together by the promise of riches if and when they succeeded in conquering the settled arabs.

most importantly, though, the lessons learned from these populations can’t be applied most other places, because different peoples are different. so, for instance, i think peter turchin’s got two out of three right: 1) yes, you need a charismatic leader to unite clans/tribes (think: mohammed); 2) yes, you need some sort of ideology to create that iltiham (islam worked great back in the day) — even better if you can throw in some spoils; but 3) no, you cannot just go to the desert, either literally or figuratively, in order for your group to acquire asabiyyah. (although dune is an awesome novel/movie! so turchin’s actually got three out of four things right….) you need to be a real clan to do that with real (close) genetic ties and enough time to allow natural selection to select for asabiyyah. the problem is, what to do with it once you’ve got it?

update: see also asabiyyah ii – clannishness and the abbasid caliphate

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

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