the sun

there’s nothing new under it, is there?

just reading Before France and Germany: The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian World which picks up at the end of the roman empire, and boy does a lot of this sound awfully familiar! the scenario is not exactly the same as what we’ve got today, but a lot of the elements certainly seem to be — electing a new people, debasing the currency, robbing peter to pay paul (i.e. increasing taxes to pay off one’s pals), a general lack of foresight on behalf of so-called leaders. fascinating, but a bit depressing to see the same sorts of behavioral patterns being repeated over and over again. maybe time really is a flat circle. =/ kindle locations 234-263, 278-289:

“Political power within the Empire had long been a juggling act in which participated the senate, the army, and of course the emperor, but all three institutions up to the death of Commodus in 192 had been largely Italian. Over half of the senators were from Italy, and the remainder were, with few exceptions, drawn from the most strongly Latinized provinces-Spain, Africa, and Gallia Narbonensis. Moreover, since they had to invest a considerable amount of their wealth in Italian land, were required to attend meetings regularly in Rome, needed permission to travel outside of Italy, and tended to intermarry extensively, senatorial families of provincial origin rapidly became Italian, just as at a lower level of society, military families were becoming provincial. This senate owed its importance to constitutional, economic, and social factors. First, the constitutional tradition obliged an emperor to select senators to command all of his legions except the one in Egypt, to govern major frontier provinces, and to command the armies. Second, while the senate possessed a strong hereditary nucleus, it was in every generation open to a certain number of candidates who, along with the old established senatorial families, controlled enormous wealth, principally in land. This was especially true in the West, where even in times of crisis the poverty of the imperial treasury often contrasted with the private wealth of individual senators. Finally, through their networks based on political dependents and landholding throughout the Roman world, the influence of senators reached into every corner of the Empire. When provoked, the senate could be a formidable opponent to even the most ambitious emperor.

“Prior to the third century, the military power on which rested imperial control was still primarily found in the Praetorian Guard, that elite body of approximately 10,000 soldiers who served (and sometimes selected or eliminated) the emperor and his household. They were required to be Roman citizens, and, like the senators, were, until the end of the second century, largely drawn from Italy. Thus they too maintained the centrist Latin character of the Empire.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the emperors had all come from Italian families of senatorial rank. Whatever the differences between emperor, senate, and army-bitter, bloody, and brutal as they often were-these conflicts had been among parties that shared major cultural, social, and political values.

“With the reign of Septimus Severus (193-211) [who was only half roman-h.chick], the commander of the Danube army who was proclaimed emperor by his troops, began an important new phase of Roman history. The defenders of the provinces, and particularly those of the West, now came into their own as control of the Empire passed into the hands of those who had saved it — the frontier armies and their commanders. From the perspective of the old Italian senatorial aristocracy and the inhabitants of more settled and civilized areas, this was a period of disaster and crisis. A succession of provincial military commanders, often openly scornful of the senate, were raised to the purple by their armies, fought each other for hegemony, and were usually assassinated for their efforts when they proved incapable either of bringing victory against internal and external foes or of sufficiently enriching their supporters. The senate’s attempts to control the selection of the emperor was constantly thwarted by the tendency of the provincial armies to view succession as hereditary, particularly when the new emperor had come from the military. However, from the perspective of those in the frontier and particularly from Pannonia, it was a golden age. The Western legions had demonstrated their strength and their vitality, and as the Severans sought to consolidate their position they looked to the personnel and the models of their border armies for support.

“Initially Severus himself was willing to work with the senate of which he had been a member, but senatorial opposition led him to rely on the provincial army, which he and his successors rewarded with considerable pay increases, donatives or special bonuses, and the right to marry. The added expenses of this military largesse were financed through the liquidation of the vast wealth he confiscated from the senatorial opposition. His son, known to posterity by his military nickname Caracalla, expanded his father’s promilitary policy, raising soldiers’ pay by 50 percent. To finance this he resorted to two measures. First, as his father had done earlier, he debased the denarius, the silver coin used to pay the troops; within a few decades, this led to the total collapse of imperial coinage. Second, he doubled the traditional 5 percent inheritance tax paid by all Roman citizens, and, to expand the base of this tax, made all free inhabitants of the Empire Roman citizens. This latter measure acknowledged a largely de facto situation, since the distinction between citizen and foreigner no longer had much real significance. However it did strengthen the relative position of provincials in the Empire who, henceforth, from Britain to Arabia, looked upon themselves as Romans with the same rights and possibilities as Italians. These measures, like the increase of military pay, tended to strengthen the position of those peoples on the periphery of the Empire at the expense of those at the center, and those in a position to benefit most from these changes were soldiers and veterans….

“These crises, which led to an even more expanded role for the military, had ironically been caused by it. Because the Severans could never trust the senate to support them, they were forced to find ways to circumvent the role of the senate in commanding the military and to constantly augment the army salary to maintain its good will. This was financed by still more confiscations of senatorial property for real or imagined plots and by drastic devaluation of the silver coinage. This naturally further alienated the senate and brought about enormous problems in the financial stability of the Empire. Exacerbating all this was the fact that the provincial armies, having gotten a taste of their power as emperor-makers, set about it with tremendous vigor, assassinating emperors and raising others at a great rate. Between the death of Severus Alexander (235) and the ascension of Diocletian (284), there were at least twenty more or less legitimate emperors and innumerable pretenders, usurpers, and coregents. The longest reign during this period was that of a pretender, Postumus, who established himself as ruler of Gaul, Britain, Spain, and at times parts of northern Italy for nine years.

“The restoration of order by Diocletian solidified the increasing role of the military. Although credited with having separated civil and military administrations, under him and his successors the civil service was reorganized along military lines, hardly a surprising development given that during the third and fourth centuries the route to high office normally meant military service. Thus many ambitious civil servants either rose primarily through the military or spent some time in it. By the beginning of the fourth century, military organization and structure, along with the soldier’s cultural and political values, had become the primary model along which Roman society was ordered. But these soldiers were no longer the Italian peasants of an earlier age-increasingly they were the very barbarians they were enlisted to oppose.

which reminds me of a passage from another (very politically correct) book — Rome and its Frontiers: The Dynamics of Empire — that i quoted in a comment a while back [pgs. 205-212]:

“[I]n the later Roman Empire frontiers became softer and immigration control more lax at the same time as citizenship and ethnic distinctions within the Empire were becoming blurred. The universal grant of citizenship by the Constitutio Antoniniana of 212 AD was only a formal recognition by the state of a long process that had diminished the concept of citizenship and eroded the distinction between cives and peregrini in the provinces. By the fourth century status and wealth counted for more socially and legally than citizenship….

“To sum up, far from the homogenization of what the Constitutio Antoniniana called the patria communis, that is, the population of the Roman community, internal, social divisions became stronger. Ironically, however, the refinements of status distinctions and social divisions served as a more effective vehicle than any legal measure to allow immigrants to integrate at all levels. What mattered was not whether you were a citizen but whether you could attain equal social or economic status. In this respect, the Roman Empire of the fourth century was the reverse image of the nation-state in the nineteenth century. The juridical personality of the citizen was almost eliminated as frontier controls relaxed and as immigrants were accomodated in ever greater numbers….

“Immigrants provided substitutes for rural recruits, thus leaving agricultural workers on the land to increase state revenue, since they increased the capitation tax and added extra income through the system of adaeratio, which bought them exemption from the military levy. There clearly were concerns in the imperial chancellery for the tax regime and for the rents from imperial estates, which was reflected in contemporary legislation….

“These fiscal and economic benefits to rural production coincide with the concern expressed by the Gallic panegyricists about agri deserti and high taxes, and hence their praise for ‘so many farmers in the Roman countryside’, both as immigrants and as returning prisoners…. The essential point, however, is that…immigrants were officially perceived as good for the economy by bringing down the price of food and by servicing local markets through increased production.

“Whether the peasants of the Gallic countryside felt the same pleasure at the fall in market prices is another matter, and it may have provoked resentment. If modern experience is any guide, there is a sharp difference between economists, who calculate that immigrants are essential to economic growth, and popular opinion, which always believes that immigrants are undesirable because they depress the labor market. But there is no evidence to show that there was institutional, social discrimination against foreign-born workers, once settled inside the Roman Empire….”

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cheap labor…

…on roman latifundia undercut the native roman farmers. nihil novi sub sole, eh?:

“The first latifundia were accumulated from the spoils of war, confiscated from conquered peoples beginning in the early 2nd century BC. The prototypical latifundia were the Roman estates in Magna Graecia (the south of Italy) and in Sicily, which distressed Pliny the Elder (died AD 79) as he travelled, seeing only slaves working the land, not the sturdy Roman farmers who had been the backbone of the Republic’s army….

“The latifundia quickly started economic consolidation as larger estates achieved greater economies of scale and senators did not pay land taxes. Owners re-invested their profits by purchasing smaller neighbouring farms, since smaller farms had a lower productivity and could not compete, in an ancient precursor of agribusiness. By the 2nd century AD, latifundia had in fact displaced small farms as the agricultural foundation of the Roman Empire. This effect contributed to the destabilizing of Roman society as well. As the small farms of the Roman peasantry were bought up by the wealthy and their vast supply of slaves, the landless peasantry were forced to idle and squat around the city of Rome, relying greatly on handouts….

Pliny the Elder argued that the latifundia had ruined Italy and would ruin the Roman provinces as well. He reported that at one point just six owners possessed half of the province of Africa….” [wiki-p]

see also pliny’s natural history.

previously: the farming problem

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liberté! égalité! ivoirité!

minus the liberté and égalité, of course.

i’m talking about the civil war in the ivory coast. i don’t suppose i have to explain to anyone stopping by here that this war is not about democracy or freeing the slaves or any such nonsense. no, this is a good, old fashioned ethnic war (like pretty much all of them, come to think of it…).

and how could it not be when, in a “nation” where the borders were drawn by european statesmen far away on another continent, the country is made up of 60+ ethnic groups! here’s a map of the major tribal divisions:

everything was going along swimmingly while félix the cat houphouët-boigny was benevolent-ish dictator of the place. at least there was a fairly decent economy (based mostly on the growing of cocoa) and people could earn an ok living, compared to many places in africa that is. he was in charge for 30-something years, and then he went and died on everybody, after which the country just went to h*ll in a handbasket.

from what i gather, the basic dispute (over resources, as always) is between southern, christian peoples — like houphouët-boigny’s baoulés, one of several akan tribes — and northern, muslim peoples — like the sénoufo people, some of whom live in countries north of the ivory coast, like mali and burkina-faso. (sounds kinda like nigeria. i presume a similar sitch exists all over west africa…?)

but, there are also disputes between southerners, like the baoulés and the bétés to the west. apparently, lots of baoulés have moved west and set up successful cocoa farms in bété territory, which the bété resent. additionally, many of the immigrants from burkina faso didn’t stay up north in the territories of their fellow tribesmen, but also moved to western areas of the country to work as cheap laborers on the cocoa farms.

at the same time, other cheap laborers from guinea and liberia to the west also came to work on the cocoa farms in the western part of the ivory coast. many of them are from the same tribes as the peoples from western ivory coast (tribes don’t follow these artificial, national boundaries). so, now that there’s fighting between the baoulés vs. the bétés+other western tribes, the guinean and liberian immigrants join in in support of their fellow tribesmen in the west. meanwhile, everyone beats up on the burkinabés (people from burkina faso).

what a mess.

which brings us to another major point of this civil war. not only is it a war between different ethnic groups|tribes within the ivory coast, it’s also a war over who should be considered a citizen of the ivory coast. in other words, who should have access to the resources of the ivory coast. for, you see, houphouët-boigny apparently practiced some of the ol’ “elect a new people“** stuff by doling out citizenship to immigrants from burkina-faso (many of whom, like we saw in the case of the sénoufo people above, would be related to already existing tribes in northern ivory coast). no doubt he did this to court their, and their fellow tribemen’s, favor — but needless to say, it has p*ssed off many of the other groups in the ivory coast.

which brings us back to ivoirité. i know it sounds like i made that up, but it’s an actual term in usage in the ivory coast! it was originally coined as a sort-of politically correct, we-should-all-love-ivory-coast-multiculturalism word — i.e. “we’re all ivorians!” but it didn’t take, and was quickly co-opted and turned on its head to mean some of us are real ivorians — the rest of you have just arrived recently from burkina faso (or wherever) and don’t belong.

there was actually a law for a while saying that you couldn’t be president of the ivory coast unless both your parents were born in the country. (not a bad law, afaics.) that law was passed to block this guy from the north (a guy with familial connections to burkina faso) from becoming president, but at some point the law was overturned (don’t ask me when or how). and now it seems he has been elected president (at least that’s what the u.n. says). and, so, of course, all h*ll has broken loose.

the lesson? yeah, well, multiculturalism doesn’t work (but you already knew that). especially in a place where there are many different ethnic groups. i’d love to tell you about how inbred the ivorians are, but i don’t have any data at hand for them, and it’s too late on a sunday night for me to start looking now. suffice it to say that, no doubt, most of the tribes are endogamous — otherwise there wouldn’t be any tribes in ivory coast! also, some people in neighboring guinea have a consanguinity rate of 25.9%, while to the north in burkina faso, the fulani have a consanguinity rate of 65.8%, so inbreeding is definitely not unheard of in the region. i’m sure it must occur in the ivory coast.

the war nerd sums it all up well:

“In Ivory Coast, this latest flare-up came when the Coastal/Christian presidential candidate, Laurent Gbagbo, wouldn’t admit he lost the 2010 election. Most of the Jimmy-Carter types who like to sniff around other countries’ ballot boxes agree that Gbagbo lost to the Muslim Northerner Alassane Ouattara beat Gbagbo 54% to 46%….

“There are a lot of similarities, us and them. Ivory Coast used to be the rich country in West Africa, just like we used to be the rich country in North America. And just like us, they had tons of illegal immigrants from poorer places, landlocked sweatboxes like Burkina Fasso, with a GDP measured in scorpions and diseases. And a huge number of those illegal immigrants voted. The Burnkina Fasso immigrants were all Muslim and they voted for Ouattara. How would you feel if the US election was decided by illegal Muslim immigrants? [or, how about mexican immigrants?! – hbdchk] Well, that’s how Gbagbo and his coastal Christians felt. I mean, it’s got to be frustrating; you see that the French are the big new power and you let your own African identity get Frenchified for generations and then out of the blue the power shifts and you’re losing out to Muslim hillbillies who don’t even have citizenship. Everything you’ve built up for generations, all the stuff you’ve paid for in shame for generations getting ordered around by the whites, and now it’s for nothing?”

yup. s*cks.

**this “electing a new people” practice must be found right on page three of the standard, how-to manual given out to all aspiring leaders|politicians: “how to win friends and maintain power once you’ve got it.” electing a new people seems to be — and to have been — done EVERYWHERE!

update –

The next Rwanda? ‘In all districts of Abidjan there is gunfire’

“Early reports suggested that more than 800 people, largely from the Gbagbo-supporting Gueré tribe, were killed in a single day at the sprawling Salesian Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus mission in Duekoue, 300 miles west of Abidjan towards the Liberian border. The attackers seem to have been largely soldiers descended from Burkina Faso immigrant Muslim families loyal to Ouattara….

“The inter-ethnic violence around Duekoue that has driven the Gueré tribal people into the mission station mirrors the kind of ethnic tensions that prevail throughout most of Ivory Coast. The Gueré ancestors had possessed the land for centuries before people from the arid north and from neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali began settling there 40 years ago, seeking work as cocoa prices boomed on world markets. Ivory Coast historically has produced more than 40% of the world’s supply of beans for production of the developed world’s chocolate products.

“Ethnic tensions and xenophobic killings began when the world price of cocoa nosedived in the 1990s and some five million immigrant workers were suddenly perceived as a burden. The southern-dominated Government introduced a new xenophobic concept of ‘Ivorité’, or Ivorianess. Vigilantes began killing ‘foreigners’ – the majority of them Muslims and many of them third-generation immigrants – on plantations and in shanties on the edges of the towns as the country, once the richest in West Africa, descended into civil war.”

another update – from al jazeera:

‘African politics at a crossroads’

Q. How do these ‘fragile countries’ break out of these cycles?

“There is also a responsibility from the population to be far more educated to understand that during an election do not vote purely on tribal lines. As is ever so apparent across Africa where most vote for the man or woman that belongs to their tribe and cultural affiliation rather that the person who has the best policies. There is a need for the populace to become more educated and to choose wisely with their vote and understand the ramification of the choices they make and how best to use their vote.

“Finally the electoral process of choosing a president or a leader for a country should be organised and controlled by ECOWAS. They should work closely with the electoral commission and the decision should be final. This way disputes will be minimal and there will not be a risk that the process ha been compromised or sabotaged by tribalism or cultural affiliation.”

heh. yeah. good luck with that. where there are tribes, there will be tribalistic behaviors. a functioning, modern, democratic society will NOT happen in a tribal society.

some good comments on that article on the al jazeera website:

mandefu – “Africa is not at a crossroads, it is in a phase of phoney independence between the old colonialism of Europe and the new colonolialism of China. The only thing the average African has going for them is the safety net provided by extended family, i.e. the tribe. The state does nothing for the ordinary citizen except shake them down. In other words, tribalism is about the only positive feature of the African socio-political mess. This article spouts the usual ‘politically correct’ condemnation of tribalism. That is pernicious and would only come from the mindset of non-Africans or westernised African ‘Intellectuals’….”

nadreck – “The Nation State is an essentially Chinese and European social structure and, although it is an excellent one, it is all too often thought of as the *only* acceptable organisation. ‘One size fits all’? Bah! This is especially true in Africa where most of the borders were simply sketched out with a straight-edge ruler by some 19th century European Ruler and make no sense at all. Still what to do instead? Various alternatives such as Pakistan’s Tribal Zones have been tried and all have been miserable failures….”

update 05/11 – Lessons from the Ivory Coast

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baharnas and ajams and howalas, oh my!

so, tptb in bahrain are shooting @ the protestors:

Bahrain royal family orders army to turn on the people

“…Most of the protesters are members of Bahrain’s long-marginalised Shia majority.

“They say they are not demanding the abdication of Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Sunni king, but they are calling for a constitutional monarchy that would treat the Shia fairly and make them equal subjects in his kingdom.

“But they are demanding the resignation of his uncle Khalifa bin Sulman Al Khalifa, who has served as prime minister for 39 years.

“During his rule, the protesters say, the Shia have been turned into second class citizens, deprived of jobs in the army, police force and government while Sunnis from abroad have been given Bahraini citizenship to alter the kingdom’s demographic balance….”

“sunni” and “shia” are really just code words for a couple of populations of unrelated peoples that don’t get along.

in bahrain, the shia — who are probably 66% of the population — are the baharna, the arabs indigenous to the area. they happen to have as allies the ajam, some persians who settled in bahrain within the last 100 years.

i imagine that these two groups are allied together against the ruling “sunnis” just for convenience’s sake. they’d probably have a go at one another given the chance. kinda like how blacks and hispanics here in the u.s. are allied politically … for now ….

the sunni — who are probably 33% of the population — are in charge. they’re other arabs from an area in the center of the arabian peninsula. in other words, they’re really not related at all to the local baharna. they’ve been in bahrain for a couple of hundred years.

it’s kind-of like if the poles went and invaded and took over bulgaria. sure, they’re all slavs (arabs) so they’re related in one way, but clearly the poles (sunni arabs in bahrain) are not really bulgarians (baharna).


the king of bahrain, the prime minister, and roughly half of the cabinet are all members of the al khalifa clan, i.e. they’re all some of these non-bahraini arabs from central arabia.

allied with these sunni arabs that are in charge are the huwala, who were a bunch of sunni arabs from a bunch of different areas who migrated to persia at one time but then came back to the arabian peninsula. (there’s some persians mixed into that group just to add to the confusion.) and, also, the descedants of the african slaves that had belonged to the al khalifas once-upon-a-time are allied to them. oh, there’s also some bedouin tribes in bahrain that are allied to the sunnis in charge.

so, there’s the “bahrainis for dummies” breakdown for you, as far as i understand it.

don’t let THEM throw you off with all this “sunni”/”shia” nonsense. religion and religious sects ain’t got nothing to do with it. not ultimately anyway. there’s a minority of foreigners (+ their allies) ruling over a majority of natives (+ their allies), and the natives are a little fed up, especially since the rulers have been busy electing a new people.

oh, and yes the clans in bahrain inbreed, too. the first- plus second-cousin marriage rate in 1989 was 31.8%.

previously: cousin marriage conundrum addendum and aígyptos

update: from The Menas Associates Blog

“During the 1990s, there were several years of Shi’a rioting and low level violence mostly in rural areas against a constitution that allowed them virtually no representation. When King Hamad took power in 1999 he offered a new deal whereby the Shi’a appeared to be able to vote freely for a Lower House which would have the main say in parliament. He later altered this to an equal voice to the Upper House. Election arrangements for the Lower House are organised (i.e. gerrymandered) to ensure that the Shi’a are under-represented….

“There are also strong suspicions that the regime has been granting nationality to Sunni from Jordan and other countries in an effort to increase Sunni demographic size…..”

update 02/21: see also steve sailer’s Bahrain—Electing A New People…And Shooting The Old One

update 02/22: see also IAmA Bahraini Citizen, and I will tell you what’s REALLY going on in Bahrain.

update 03/11: from“The way that government officials are appointed reflects the importance of tribal connections. Members of the ruling family are accommodated first, followed by families and tribes with whom the rulers have been traditionally allied. In Bahrain, for example, the ruling Al Khalifa have given the major positions in the bureaucracy to Sunni Arabs from tribes that helped them rule the island in the nineteenth century. The Al Khalifa have given lesser positions to Shia Arabs from merchant families with whom they engaged in the pearl industry but with whom they had no tribal alliances. But the Al Khalifa have been reluctant to give positions of authority to Shia farmers of Iranian descent to whom they had neither tribal nor economic ties.”

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