how inexplicable!

this is a real head-scratcher…

Can Libya Be Saved?

“Two years ago this month, Tripoli, the capital of Libya, fell to the amalgam of rebel forces that had been closing in on the city. The country’s leader Muammar Qaddafi fled to his home town, Surt, where, on October 20, 2011, rebels stabbed, beat, and shot him to death after his convoy was hit by a NATO missile strike. Qaddafi’s eccentric, forty-two-year dictatorship was over, signalling the apparent end to a dramatic chain of events that had started nine months earlier, in the eastern city of Benghazi. There, inspired by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, in neighboring Egypt, Libyans had demonstrated against Qaddafi’s rule, and the protests had turned into a bloody national showdown with security forces. The protesters, eventually assisted by French, American, and British bombers under the NATO banner, succeeded. The smoke had not yet cleared when the victory was being touted as a shining example of what Western powers could do on a modern battleground without ever putting ‘boots on the ground.’

With no further need for war and with Western powers fussing over what was being vaunted as the oil-rich nation’s new democracy, Libya should have once again achieved peace and stability. Instead, the country, of more than six million people, seems to have been fatally destabilized by the war to remove its dictator, and it is increasingly out of control. Militias that arose on various regional battlefronts found themselves in possession of vast arsenals and large swaths of territory. Despite the orchestration of parliamentary elections and the assumption of nominal rule by civilian politicians in Tripoli, those militias have not stood down; instead, they have used their force and their firepower to try to effect change in the capital, even, on several occasions, besieging government buildings. They have also fought one another over long-held regional enmities; the most recent such battle occurred last month….

previously: libyans on democracy: meh and the nyt discovers tribes! and consanguinity in libya… and number of libyan tribes… and all tribes, all the time! and libya update and “tribes mean trouble” and inexplicable rifts in libyan rebel forces

(note: comments do not require an email. libyan tribal map.)

where do clans come from?

in “Family Structure, Institutions, and Growth: The Origins and Implications of Western Corporations,” stanford economist avner greif wrote [pgs. 308-09]:

“There is a vast amount of literature that considers the importance of the family as an institution. Little attention, however, has been given to the impact of the family structure and its dynamics on institutions. This limits our ability to understand distinct institutional developments — and hence growth — in the past and present. This paper supports this argument by highlighting the importance of the European family structure in one of the most fundamental institutional changes in history and reflects on its growth-related implications.

“What constituted this change was the emergence of the economic and political corporations in late medieval Europe. Corporations are defined as consistent with their historical meaning: intentionally created, voluntary, interest-based, and self-governed permanent associations. Guilds, fraternities, universities, communes, and city-states are some of the corporations that have historically dominated Europe; businesses and professional associations, business corporations, universities, consumer groups, counties, republics, and democracies are examples of corporations in modern societies….

“In tracing the origins of the European corporations, we focus on their complementarity with the nuclear family. We present the reasons for the decline of kinship groups in medieval Europe and why the resulting nuclear family structure, along with other factors, led to corporations. European economic growth in the late medieval period was based on an unprecedented institutional complex of corporations and nuclear families, which, interestingly, still characterizes the West. More generally, European history suggests that this complex was conducive to long-term growth, although we know little about why this was the case or why it is difficult to transplant this complex to other societies….

“The conquest of the Western Roman Empire by Germanic tribes during the medieval period probably strengthened the importance of kinship groups in Europe. Yet the actions of the church caused the nuclear family — consisting of a husband and wife, children, and sometimes a handful of close relatives — to dominate Europe by the late medieval period.

The medieval church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined kinship groups…. The church … restricted marriages among individuals of the same blood (consanguineous marriages), which had historically provided one means of creating and maintaining kinship groups….

“European family structures did not evolve monotonically toward the nuclear family, nor was their evolution geographically or socially uniform (Greif, 2006, chap. 8).** By the late medieval period, however, the nuclear family was dominant. Even among the Germanic tribes, by the eighth century the term ‘family’ denoted one’s immediate family and, shortly afterwards, tribes were no longer institutionally relevant. Thirteenth-century English court rolls reflect that even cousins were as likely to be in the presence of nonkin as with each other. The practices the church advocated (e.g., monogamy) are still the norm in Europe. Consanguineous marriages in contemporary Europe account for less than 1 percent of the total number of marriages, in contrast to Muslim and Middle Eastern countries where such marriages account for between 20 and 50 percent per country (Alan H. Bittles, 1994). Among the anthropologically defined 356 contemporary societies of Euro-Asia and Africa, there is a large and significant negative correlation between the spread of Christianity (for at least 500 years) and the absence of clans and lineages; the level of commercialization, class stratification, and state formation are insignificantly correlated (Andrey V. Korotayev, 2003).”

the presence (or absence) of clans in societies is somehow connected to the mating patterns of societies. in fact, it seems to be that a whole range of kinship-based societal types is somehow connected to a whole range of mating patterns: the “closer” the mating patterns in a society, the more “clannish” it tends to be — the more distant the mating patterns, the less “clannish.”

so we see a spectrum of “clannish” societies ranging from the very individualistic western societies characterized by nuclear families and, crucially, very little inbreeding (cousin marriage, for instance) to very tribal arab or bedouin societies characterized by nested networks of extended families and clans and large tribal organizations and having very high levels of inbreeding (specifically a form of very close cousin marriage which increases the degree of inbreeding). falling somewhere in between these two extremes are groups like the chinese whose society is built mostly around the extended familiy but in some regions of china also clans — or the medieval scots (especially the highland scots) whose society for centuries was built around the clan (h*ck, they even coined the term!). these “in-betweener” groups are, or were, characterized by mid-levels of inbreeding (typically avoiding the very close cousin marriage form of the arabs).

furthermore, not only do the degrees of extended family-ness/clannish-ness/tribal-ness in societies seem to be connected to the degrees of inbreeding in those societies, the degrees of “clannism” also seem to be connected to the degree of inbreeding — the more inbreeding, the less civicness, the less democracy, the more corruption, and so on.

it’s not clear what exactly the mechanism(s) behind this inbreeding-leads-to-clannishness pattern is, but since mating patterns are involved, and mating is a very biological process, it seems likely (to me anyway) that the explanation is something biological — i.e. some sort or sorts of evolutionary process/es — like natural selection — resulting in different/different degrees of behavioral traits related to “clannism” in different populations with inbreeding acting as a sort of accelerant for those processes.

clans and clannism, then, are not things that peoples “fall back on” in the absence of a state as mark weiner suggests in The Rule of the Clan [kindle locations 106-108]:

“[I]n the absence of the state, or when states are weak, the individual becomes engulfed within the collective groups on which people must rely to advance their goals and vindicate their interests. Without the authority of the state, a host of discrete communal associations rush to fill the vacuum of power. And for most of human history, the primary such group has been the extended family, the clan.”

rather, people’s attachments to their extended families/clans/tribes — and, more importantly, their tendencies towards clannish behaviors — are likely innate behaviors. and those behaviors likely vary, on average, between populations since (long-term) mating patterns have varied — and, indeed, still vary — between populations.

such innate behaviors cannot be changed overnight — certainly not within a generation or even two (evolution does take some amount of time — but not, necessarily, extremely long amounts of time either) — and definitely not by simply changing a few laws here and there in the hopes of encouraging individualism. as avner greif grasped, although probably not fully because he’s likely missed the underlying biology of what he’s noticed, family structures need to be altered in order to effect changes to larger societal structures (again, all via tweaks to innate behavioral tendencies). and, again, that can’t be done overnight — as greif pointed out, the process in europe began in the early medieval period (with the church’s bans on cousin marriages) and didn’t really start to take hold until the late medieval period — i.e. a 500 year (or, conservatively, a ca. 25 generation) timeline.

see also: Cousin Marriage Conundrum by steve sailer and Why Europe? by michael mitterauer (in particular chapter 3) and Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade by avner greif.

**see “mating patterns in europe series” in left-hand column below ↓ for further details.

(note: comments do not require an email. busy clan members.)

clans in the news: syria

clans and tribes are reportedly making a comeback in syria — what a surprise! (did they ever really go away?)

here are some excerpts from two articles that appeared recently in al monitor.

the first article is a translation of an article that originally appeared in the lebanese paper, as-safir. the original title of the article was (translated to english): “Tribal ‘Solidarity’ and the Role That the Clans Play in the Syrian Crisis.” when the author refers to tribes, i believe that he is referring to groups such as the bedouin tribes in (iirc) northeastern/eastern syria as well as other arab tribes which have tribal connections in other countries (like iraq). he suggests that 1) tribalism is more prevalent in northern syria than in the south, and 2) the power of tribes is weaker in urban areas than in rural. ok, here we go (links added by me)…

“Tribalism and the Syrian Crisis”
“January 18 2013

“Prominent tribal figures have become omnipresent in Syrian opposition meetings, at a time when the regime is also hosting meeting after meeting for these same leaders. All of this is transpiring amid fears that societal unity will once again become fragmented, opening the door to tribal clashes in the worst possible scenario that could face Syria.

Tribal influence has returned to the forefront of the country’s political scene. Although their presence on the ground fluctuates between weak in some areas to effective in others, the impression is that Syrian society still longs for the old days of tribal friction and polarization, despite the fact that cohesion between some of them has played a positive role in avoiding disputes. As a result, there is a new drive to monitor the country’s tribal communities, their influence and relationship with the regime, be they for or against the current government.

“Syrian tribes

“The Syrian tribes are spread throughout all the regions of the country, from the extreme northeast in the plains of al-Jazira and the Euphrates river valley, all the way to the Badiya desert, Homs, Hama and the Damascus countryside, as well as the southern regions of Hauran and Jabal al-Druze. All these tribes are interconnected and have relationships with neighboring countries, especially Iraq and Jordan, with some tribes even claiming ties in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, many inhabitants of Mount Lebanon still retain a strong connection to their places of origin in southern Syria and maintain good relations with their relatives there, while others have Turkish ancestry, such as the Abazaid clan in Daraa….

“On another note, researchers and activists in Hauran see that southern culture is based more on family relations than on tribal allegiance, because tribes are composed of large numbers of people, whereas there are many families in the plains region that have tribal connections which cross borders but whose presence remains concentrated in areas specific to each one of them. This is accentuated by the region’s agrarian character, which greatly diminishes nomadic tendencies and expands the influence of the family’s elders, who solve internal problems, reconcile disputes between people or give aid to any distressed member of the expanded Haurani family….

“Tribalism, on the other hand, leads to destructive armed conflicts and never-ending feuds. The concept of tribal solidarity might be the only one that southern families took with them to the city, a concept that Hauran‘s inhabitants point to when describing the uprising in the whole region against the regime. Everyone took to the streets without hesitation, before the Syrian crisis even erupted, to demonstrate and demand the release of some detained children. This solidarity also succeeded in thwarting any attempts to incite strife between them and their neighbors in the Jabal al-Druze, who reciprocated and snuffed out the flames of any possible conflict between themselves and the Hauranis….”

so, the tribe/clan leaders of the south pressured their members not to enter into conflict with their usual rivals? so clannishness can sometimes be a power for cooperation. hmmmm….

The region’s [i.e. the north – h.chick] inhabitants might be more prone to tribal fanaticism than their counterparts in the south. Tribal customs still prevail, especially in the countryside, which has begun to urbanize, but which still abides by many tribal concepts. This is mainly due to wide-ranging marginalization seen throughout the area, while cities seem to be in a much better state. The influence of tribal leaders there [i.e. in the cities – h.chick] waned until is became nearly nonexistent, due to two main factors: first, the large number of different tribes, and second, the urbanization of younger generations….

“The regime or the opposition: Who will win the clans?

“It wasn’t until the crisis was in its fourth month that anyone in the regime or the opposition considered playing on tribal sensitivities to mobilize clans in their favor. This occurred after organizers held demonstrations on what came to be known as the ‘Friday of the clans’….”

جمعة العشائر << "friday of the clans" — that, apparently, was a protest against the assad regime in june 2011 organized by opposition forces via facebook. a bunch of people were killed, of course.

“…As a result, a concerted large-scale campaign was initiated to win over the clans and provoke them into bearing arms against the regime, which, in turn, strove to reinvigorate tribalism and set about organizing meetings with tribal elders, mobilizing them through the media in an attempt to portray the clans as pro regime. In parallel, a tribal presence was now mandatory at all opposition meetings….

The foremost danger lies in the formation of armed militias by clans to fight against other clans based on their support for or opposition to the regime, which would surely lead the country into civil war….

“An activist in Hasakah, viewed as the perfect example of a tribal society, replied that the regime had intentionally let tribal elders rule those areas since the 1970s in return for absolute allegiance. Some of those elders even became members of the People’s Council representing their districts as a reward for that allegiance….

“But this model seemed to lose its effectiveness this time around in most areas. For despite the presence of many clans completely loyal to the regime, especially in rural Aleppo, Riqa and Hasakah, their influence remains limited when compared to the larger clans whose elders have completely lost any authority over the young clansmen. They have also lost their influence over the clans that have abandoned tribalism in favor of agrarianism, therefore succeeding in sparing themselves from any tribal conflict. The end result is a society that seems bent on trying to avoid any disintegration of its cohesiveness, regardless of political, tribal or sectarian considerations. As such, it is a true rarity in the midst of this conflict, and represents the only common goal over which both supporters and opponents of the regime agree: preventing the revival of tribalism.”

well, good luck with that. =/

and the second article:

“Hezbollah Defends Shiite Villages In Syria War”
“February 20, 2013

“Several days ago, Hezbollah fighters guarding Shiite Lebanese citizens living in and around 14 Lebanese villages located in Syrian territory clashed with armed opposition groups affiliated with radical Sunni Islamist factions. The incident, the first of its kind, portends a possible transition of Syria’s sectarian strife to Lebanon….

“Since the start of the turmoil in Syria — which was accompanied by sectarian categorization between the Sunni Muslims, most of them against the Syrian regime, and the Alawite and Shiite Muslims who support it — the Sykes-Picot Agreement has had negative effects on the demographic balance in that region. Security incidents have taken place more than once during recent months among these Shiite villages, which are located in the middle of the smuggling line in the countryside between the Lebanese town of Arsal, Al-Qa’, Lake Homs, Al-Qusayr and Talkalakh.

Shia citizens from the adjacent Lebanese region of Hermel quickly became involved in these tensions. They belong to large clans, which have a social system that values ​the ‘support of relatives.’ In the current situation, they are Lebanese Shiite villagers living on Syrian territory, who complain that they are being subjected to attempts of forceful displacement by their Sunni Syrian neighbors.

“Last summer, military skirmishes took place between the Sunni town of Al-Qusayr, which is located behind the Syrian border and considered a stronghold of the armed opposition in its countryside, which is also the northern part of the countryside of the city of Homs — and between Lebanese residents in the Hermel region.

“Private sources have revealed to Al-Monitor that during one of these skirmishes, Jabhat al-Nusra militants attacked a Hezbollah training camp in the Hermel region from the Al-Qusayr countryside, killing and wounding 10 Hezbollah members. This was followed by a retaliatory operation by Hezbollah, which resulted in the killing of many members of the Syrian opposition.

“In general, Hezbollah is cautious about stepping into the sectarian strife raging in Syria. However, the issue of providing protection for the 14 Shiite villages located inside Syrian territory within the Al-Qusayr countryside arose as a challenge for the party before its social base in the Hermel region. It seems that the party has made the decision to protect these villages and prevent the people’s displacement based on the following considerations:

First, there are familial links between the residents of the Hermel region and those of the 14 Lebanese Shiite villages located inside Syrian territory. It should be noted that Hermel, in Lebanon’s Bekaa region, is considered as a popular reservoir for Hezbollah and its resistance apparatus. Accordingly, the party cannot turn its back to their appeal for help to save their relatives inside Syria from killing and displacement. Moreover, the Hamadah clan, one of the major clans in Hermel, owns vast areas of Lebanese territories that were cut off in the Sykes-Picot Agreement in the interest of Syria, and they still have the documents proving their ownership of these lands….”

yeah, i bet they do. old (clannish) grudges die hard.

it’s really irritating (if i bother to think about it, which i mostly don’t anymore) that the msm fails to mention ANYthing about clans/tribes in the middle east. EVER. or almost never anyway. rarely. instead it’s all just “arab springs” and “freedom fighters” in syria or bahrain or wherever. what a bunch of nonsense! i wonder if they (teh msm journalists) are really that clueless, or what?

previously: clans in the news: aleppo and clans in the news: the lebanon and syria and syrian tribes and more on syrian marriage and family types

(note: comments do not require an email. cool syrian music.)

“the tribal imagination”

so, i’m still reading robin fox‘s “the tribal imagination” (reviewed in the american interest here). it always takes me forever to finish a book ’cause i’m always reading about a dozen at the one time (bad habit — impatient) — and then there’s all the knitting and baking projects that need to be done, too (you think i’m kidding, right? i’m serious!).

if you remember, i read chapter 3 first (another bad habit) and i talked about that, and chapter 1, here. lemme go back, now, and look at the other chapters i’ve read (i’m reading them in order now!).

first of all, maybe i should say that when fox uses the word “tribes” in this book he’s referring broadly to pre-modern groups of people. he’s not, necessarily, talking about alliances of clans or any more specific definition of the word. he’s just looking at — yeah — groups of people as we were before we lived in any sort of civilization or state. more-or-less. he does sometimes bring up modern tribes, too, though.


chapter 2 is about “human rights.” i liked chapter 2. chapter 2 was good. in it, fox takes a look at what we mean by “human rights” and if any such class of things actually exists in the known universe(s) — like, independently of us making it up. he comes pretty close to saying, no — “human rights” or “rights” don’t exist in nature, altho he hedges a bit by saying that, perhaps, there is a right to participate in reproduction.


i, myself, like to go all the way with this one and have simply concluded (a while ago) that there are no “rights” in life and whatever actions or activities our drives are inclining us to do — well, you just gotta fight for the “right” to do them. sometimes the fight is easy, or there is no fight at all, ’cause everyone more-or-less agrees that, for instance, we won’t just all go around murdering each other all the time. modern humans are kinda silly in claiming that this is because we all believe in everyone’s “right to life” when it’s really just a behavior that has, obviously, been selected for ’cause it works. on the other hand, some “human rights” might be hard to come by, depending on the circumstances. i dunno — the “human (or, maybe, political) right” for everyone to participate in elections. doesn’t come so easy in all places in all times. (and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.)

chapter 4 was also really interesting. it’s entitled: “Sects and Evolution: Tribal Splits and Creedal Schisms.” in this chapter, fox takes a look at the existence of thousands and thousands of religious sects (iirc, 34,000+ christian ones alone, for example) — and he also, amusingly, examines academic sects — and points out that, principally — biologically — the academic sects are no different than the religious ones. heh. here’s a great quote [pgs. 109-110]:

“The school is to the academy, what the sect is to religion. Functionally it is the same thing, and demands the same explanation. In the modern setting of science, with many large research universities, the opportunities for sect formation are almost too tempting. Potentially every department is its own sect, with tenure and grants and lavish resources to fund the prophet and his followers. And it is perhaps remarkable [no it’s not – hbd chick] that despite the influx of women into the universities, almost all the prophets are still men.

“A modern pioneer of ideological dispersal gets his PhD, moves to a new department, sets up his school with the proper flourish of ritual publications, and starts to attract disciples — graduate students — and to disperse them in turn. As Englels fortold, modern communication, now instant with e-mail, texting, and social networking sites, enables the disciples to stay in close touch despite physical dispersal, and this may well prolong the life of scientific sects. Or it may just facilitate great segmentation; we shall have to see how this turns out. But there are several distinct requirements for the process. The prophet has to make certain promises, the main one being novelty. The old prophet could preach a return to ancient and pure ways, but his progressive counterpart has to declare something new. What use is there in science for anything old; it is ipso facto out of date, which is the worst of scientific sins. Try to get graduate students to read anything more than five years old. To do so give them genuine physical pain.

“Thus we find novelty paraded in book titles: ‘Evolution: The Modern Synthesis;’ ‘Sociobiology: The New Synthesis;’ ‘Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind;’ ‘Evolutionary Psychiatry: A New Beginning.’ (Remember that these remarks were first addressed to a meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.) Very often this newness is simply a reinvention of the wheel, redefined by the prophets as a ‘circular motion-facilitation device’ (or ‘standard social science model,’ or for that matter, ‘meme’). No matter: the claim must be made. The sectarians then go to work on the prophet’s new list of normal science problems, reading only each other’s publications and citing only each other, thus maintaining the purity of sect doctrine. The exception to the ‘nothing older than five years’ rule is the ritual citation, in every paper, of the canonical works of the founders. That these citations are mostly ritual can be seen in the case of the original work of William Hamilton, where early on a mistake occurred in the cited pagination, and this has been faithfully repeated by the disciples down to the very present. Nevertheless, the names and works must be ritually intoned: In the name of Williams, and of Hamilton, and of Robert Trivers, Amen.”

ha! i have to say, i lol’d at that last sentence there. (^_^)

fox explains all this sectarianism that pops up everywhere in human societies by claiming that this is a reflection of a basic biological urge (really basic — like, microscopic organisms even do it) to disperse. sexually reproducing organisms are, apparently, particularly prone to it ’cause the whole point (maybe?) of sexual reproduction is to get, or increase, the genetic variation — and that will work even better if at least some members of the population disperse elsewhere. altho it makes sense to me, i’m not so familiar with this topic so i can’t really comment on it. further reading for another summer vacation maybe. i like his theory, tho, ’cause it’s pretty reductionist, and i like reductionism. ’cause reductionism works (often).

chapter 5 — “Which Ten Commandements?: Tribal Taboo and Priestly Morality” — kinda lost me, even though it was also interesting. fox examined at length the two sets of the ten commandments in the old testament (who knew?! i didn’t.) and how that whole scenario came about. one — the set most of us (christians) are prolly most familiar with — is the set from the movies (here and here) and is a set of moral codes; the other is, apparently, a set of ritual codes. fox argues that the ritual codes were the earlier version that were later replaced by the moral code version.

part of the reason for the initial ritual codes, he claims, was to keep the early hebrew tribes distinct from other tribes in canaan, i.e. you shouldn’t cook the meat of a calf in its mother’s milk, like those other tribes do. iow, these ritual codes were a cultural method of keeping the hebrew tribes hebrew. pretty straightforward stuff — most peoples have cultural rules (norms) to keep them separated from unrelated peoples. that’s (usually) one of the main points of having a culture, after all. fox says that the moral codes were later inserted into the old testament at a time when the hebrews started living in a larger community — when it became more important to not kill your neighbor rather than to be concerned about cooking meat in milk.

i think those were the major points of that chapter, altho i have to admit that it wasn’t the most gripping chapter for me. interesting, but not profoundly so. your mileage may vary.

and … that’s as far as i got when i got distracted by cavalli-sforza, et. al., and inbreeding in italy. (^_^) i’ll (try to) get back to reading fox now. and, of course, i’m also still “reading” todd … and mitterauer … and jack goody … and, omg, i have to start knitting christmas presents!!

previously: what else i did on my summer vacation

(note: comments do not require an email. knit one…)

libya update

been a while since i checked on events in libya. so, how are the rebel alliance those democracy-loving freedom fighters doing in libya, anyway?:

“Libyan rebel leader is killed, and tribal fissures emerge”

ruh roh.

“The top rebel military commander in Libya was killed yesterday [july 28th], and members of his tribe greeted the announcement with gunfire and angry threats. The violent outburst stirred fears that a tribal feud could divide the forces struggling to topple the Libyan dictator, Moammar Khadafy.

“The leader of the rebels’ provisional government, Mustapha Abdul Jalil, announced yesterday evening that assassins killed the commander, General Abdul Fattah Younes, and two other officers. But he provided few details.

“Younes, a former officer and Cabinet member in the Khadafy government, had long been a contentious figure among the rebels, some of whom doubted his loyalty. He had been summoned to Benghazi for questioning by a panel of judges, and members of his tribe – the Obeidi, one of the largest tribes in the east – evidently blamed the rebel leadership for having some role in the general’s death.

The specter of a violent tribal conflict within the rebel ranks touches on a central fear of the Western nations backing the Libyan insurrection: that the rebels’ democratic goals could give way to a tribal civil war over Libya’s oil resources….”

see also: “Assassination of Libya’s rebel military leader brings tribal divisions to forefront”“The murky death of Gen. Abdul Fateh Younes, who led Libya’s rebel forces, has called into question rebels’ ability to transcend tribal divisions and their credibility to lead a democratic transition.”

previously: inexplicable rifts in libyan rebel forces and libya – land o’ tribes and consanguinity in libya…

(note: comments do not require an email. or a rebel alliance tattoo.)

what else i did on my summer vacation

i started reading robin fox’s “The Tribal Imagination: Civilization and the Savage Mind.”

of course, me being me, i flipped right to chapter 3 — “The Kindness of Strangers: Tribalism and the Trials of Democracy” — and read that first.

it’s good. it’s very good. fox mostly talks about places like iraq and afghanistan and why the(se) united states’ attempt to “bring democracy” to, for instance, “the iraqi people” is simply futile given the structure of that society. fox is an expert on kinship and marriage stuff, so he discusses fbd marriage in the muslim world and the fact that that results in low trust societies where individuals have greater allegiances to their clans/tribes than to anything like a nation. in fact, he says we should just get that idea right out of our western heads (i.e. that for example there is, or ever was, an “iraqi nation”) — it’s simply a GINORMOUS misunderstanding on our part.

imho, though, steve sailer explained the situation more accurately and more succintly in his 2003 “Cousin Marriage Conundrum” article. while fox does point out that inbreeding leads to clannishness/tribalism, blah, blah, blah … he doesn’t really explain (what must be) the underlying mechanism: inclusive fitness (at least not in chapter 3). steve does.

here’s a bit from fox [pgs. 59-60]:

“The problem for Euro-American liberal/radical critics of Bushism is that they really believe the same thing. It is no longer fashionable in progressive circles to think that some form of communism or socialism will be the inevitable end product, except among the few remaining Marxists in the universities. But some kind of democratic open society is seen as the only alternative for the decolonized peoples of the world….

“It is hard to find any serious postcolonialist who will agree that, having thrown off the imperial yoke, the ex-colonial peoples should be free to choose dictatorship, theocracy, tribalism, nepotism, clitoridectomy, or the rule of warlords. Respect for ‘indigenous cultures’ goes only so far. The left-liberals assume as firmly as the Bushites that people everywhere really aspire to a state of liberal democratic polity where human rights and the rights of women will be assured, and tolerance and religious freedom will be institutionalized.

“It is their constant embarassment that this doesn’t happen, and fifty years later the excuse that the failure lies in the pernicious aftereffects of colonialism is wearing thin; they do not really believe it themsleves…. But the alternative is hard to bear for the progressive mentality that assumes we can indeed write our own script and exclude all those factors of ‘human nature’ that seem so stubbornly to resist our enlightened blandishments. The only allowable fact of ‘human nature’ accpeted by right, left, and center alike is the rather vague ‘love of freedom.’ This might well be true, but we all then eagerly assume that, given free choice, ‘they’ will opt for a form a freedom we recognize and approve of, namely, one leading to the liberal democratic institutions we have fought so hard to develop, protect, and preserve.”

great stuff! he continues [pg. 60]:

“Against this naive optimism of the missionaries [of democracy] of whatever stripe, we can set an opposing view that is historical and what we might call naturalistic. It sees that the institutions we so prize are not the product of a freedom-loving human nature but the result of many centuries of hard effort to overcome human nature. However desirable they may be, they are not natural to us. We maintain them with constant vigilance and the support of hard-won economic, political, legal, and social structures that give them a chance. They have taken literally thousands of years to put in place.”

meh. not exactly. i disagree with fox’s assertion that democracy and individualism and all that western civ stuff is not natural to us. it’s uncommon in humans, yes — and, yes, it’s not natural to most humans. but it is natural to europeans — because we are not (very) inbred and we haven’t been for a very long time.

democracy and individualism are natural to europeans (or, at least, more natural to us than to other peoples) because we’ve nearly eliminated, through agressive outbreeding, the genetic bonds of clans and tribes. because of this, the fundamental unit of western society has become the individual (and, maybe, the nuclear family, too, altho that seems to be disappearing as i type), not the tribe.

roger sandall said in his review of fox’s book:

“Fox knows what Tierney and most other educated Americans apparently do not: that tribal communities are the default system of human social nature.”

yes, but only because most societies down through prehistory and history have practiced some form of inbreeding. once you take that away, the tribal communities dissolve.

i’ve also read chapter 1 of fox’s book and he’s pretty convinced that human nature is largely a product of the selection pressures on our ancestors during the pleistocene (along with the fact that we’re also primates, mammals, animals, life forms on planet earth, etc.). sure. yeah. a LOT of what it means to be human was prolly shaped during that time period. but human evolution hasn’t stopped! and we’ve clearly gone through all sorts of biological changes since then, a la “The 10,000 Year Explosion,” that have affected our natures.

one such change, i think, that altered the behavior of europeans is that for some freaky reason we started to outbreed — a LOT. and we’ve carried on doing that (breaking those tribal, i.e. genetic, bonds) for many centuries (some of us more than others). that has, imho, affected all sorts of our behaviors from ideas on individualism and democracy to things like marriage partner choice and skirt length.

more comments on fox’s book anon (i’m sure!).

see also: Tribal Realism

previously: we’re doomed

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fbd marriage in germanic tribes?

eh — i don’t think so.

giorgio ausenda in “Kinship and marriage among the Visigoths” and “The segmentary lineage in contemporary anthropology and among the Langobards” thinks yes, although he admits that there’s not much evidence either way. i already posted about the first article here; now here’s my summary of the second one:

ausenda examines the types of marriage, lineage and kinship systems in pastoralist societies that have been studied in modern times in order to infer what these structures may have been like in germanic tribes, since the germanics were also pastoralists. he discusses the father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage system that’s found in the arab world, but he also points out that some pastoralists practice mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage [pg. 23-4]:

“Endogamous pastoralist populations are those belonging to the ‘Arab sphere’. These populations are considered endogamous because of their preference for patrilateral first cousin marriage, i.e. FBD marriage which, in fact, occurs with a very high frequency.

“Anthropologists explain such alliances in terms of the necessity of maintaining a close cooperation between an individual and his father and brothers for the benefit of the joint property, their livestock, and to further lineage stability.

“Many authors stress the considerable importance that sons have for the furtherance of the household’s pastoral economy. The endogamous practice stems from the fact that ‘the lineage group aims, primarily, at keeping a young woman to betroth her to one of its own young men’. The priority of a close kinsman’s claim to a girl is so stringent that among most populations marriage requests must be approved by close kin to make sure that no closer relative with a claim to the girl may come forward later….

Outside and bordering with the above areas some populations are exogamous, e.g. Central Asian nomads, the Toubou of Chad, Somali nomadic populations. While the features of Middle Eastern and North African endogamy have been carefully studied, the exogamy of other populations has not received a satisfactory explanation. In these cases the prevelant type of marriage is with MBD, i.e. with women belonging to the Mother’s clan, different from the agnatic one. Spencer pointed to this lack of explanation and ventured that the search for a mate outside one’s own group may be due not only to demographic reasons, i.e. lace of a suitable bride in one’s own clan, but also:

“‘…for more positive considerations, such as the need to maintain reliable relationships with other groups in ecologically strategic places, both nomadic and settled.'”

again, ausenda concludes that the pre-christian germanic tribes practiced fbd marriage, but i can’t see that he offered any good reason for his conclusion.

there are a few points that weigh in favor of mbd marriage, in my opinion:

1) that, according to tacitus, there was a strong, almost sacred, bond in early germanic society “between a mother’s son and a mother’s brother” [pg. 10]. mother’s brother? mother’s brother’s daughter marriage? it doesn’t seem like such a stretch to imagine that mbd marriage was pretty common when there was such a strong relationship between a man and his maternal uncle.

2) tacitus also noted [pg. 10]: “‘The larger a man’s kin and the greater number of his relations by marriage, the stronger is his influence when he is old.'” well that sounds like what spencer, quoted by ausenda above, said about mbd marriage and building alliances with outside clans. i talked about this in another post, too — marriages with maternal cousins offer greater alliance building opportunities than marriage with paternal cousins. paternal cousin marriages (fbd and fzd) keep everything and everybody in the same patrilineage. if you want lots o’ alliances and lots o’ extended family members, maternal cousin marriage is the way to go.

the next two points have to do with the status of women in fbd versus other societies. in fbd marriage societies, women have quite a low status — not just your usual secondary status to men (like in most traditional societies) — but really kinda freakishly low. think burqas and honor killings and not being allowed to drive in saudi arabia (altho maybe that’s a good thing!). so:

3) from wiki-p: “The weregild or recompense due for the killing or injuring of a woman is notably set at twice that of a man of the same rank in Alemannic law.” this is exactly the opposite of fbd marriage societies today — in saudia arabia and iran, for instance, the diyya (weregild) for a muslim woman is half that of a muslim man.

4) in all (i think) contemporary fbd socieites, women are required to follow purdah to some extent or another. head covering for women in northern europe, on the other hand, seems to have been introduced by the church. it does not appear to have been a pre-christian practice.

women obviously had a secondary status to men in pre-christian germanic society, but i don’t think they were shut away and were treated so much like “possessions” as women in most fbd societies are.

i’m goin’ with mbd marriage for pre-christian germanic tribes.

why on earth do i care? i dunno. i just got kinda stuck on the topic (in an aspergian sort-of way). i promise i’ll move on to some other groups/topics now! (^_^)

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: inbreeding amongst germanic tribes and whatever happened to european tribes?

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tribes and types of cousin marriages ii

in the previous post on tribes and types of cousin marriages, i posted a couple of graphics illustrating father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage and mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage, showing how fbd marriage is a closed system while mbd marriage enables alliances with other lineages/clans.

here now are the last two forms of cousin marriage: father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) marriage and mother’s sister’s daughter (mzd) marriage. they’re not very different from the other two — fbd and fzd marriage are both closed systems, and mbd and mzd marriage both enable alliances with other lineages/clans — it’s just that the connections are slightly different, i.e. ego marries the daughter of his one of his aunts (fzd & mzd) versus his one of his uncles (fbd & mbd).

note that the coefficients of relatedness in cousin marriage are highest for mzd marriage; next highest for mbd marriage; and lowest for both fbd and fzd, which are the same (if i’ve done my maths right!). mbd marriage is the most common form of cousin marriage around the world; fbd marriage is the most common in arab countries and places like iran, afghanistan and pakistan.

here we go. father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) marriage over several generations (triangles are boys, circles are girls. compare with fbd marriage):

and mother’s sister’s daughter (mzd) marriage over several generations (compare with mbd marriage):

the thing with either mbd or mzd marriage is that the bride is always being brought in from an outside lineage or clan. fbd and fzd marriage is diametrically the opposite — the bride is from the same patrilineage as ego.

also, in mbd and mzd marriage, in each generation a bride can be brought in from a different lineage or clan, so ego’s lineage can build up many alliances with many other lineages/clans over time. some societies apparently have, traditionally, had arrangements in which several lineages would swap brides over several generations in a cyclical system, thus building up extended familial connections and, therefore, alliances. i imagine that very large tribes could be built up this way, whereas the fbd/fzd system results in segmented lineages, i.e. clans and sub-clans and sub-sub-clans that always seem to be squabbling.

previously: tribes and types of cousin-marriage and genealogical terminology and what is a tribe?

(note: comments do not require an email. happy hour, anybody? (^_^) )