03 September 2013

Arabs and Liberal Democracy: A Primer

The Arab Spring, two years on:

Since the first waves of revolt swept the Arab world two and a half years ago, we at Those Who Can See have dug into the data to find out just how likely is a series of Swedens on the Sahara.  We have looked at Arabs through observers' anecdotes, democracy and freedom indices, their peculiar marriage practices, and their opinions on Western 'human rights.'

For those who feel the media's handling of the question falls short, we thought it might be useful to present a synthesis of the data we've found so far.  

So: What is the evidence English liberal democracy will take hold in the Muslim Arab world?

First, a regional sum-up, pre-Arab Spring:

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remains the most repressive region in the world—16 out of 20 countries in the region are categorised as authoritarian [most repressive category out of four].

*     *     *

We propose there are two traits necessary for English liberal democracy to take hold, commonweal-orientation and future time-orientation:

I. Commonweal-orientation

1)  Cooperation vs.  Every clan for himself

Americans were the first Englishmen to put democracy in republican form.  What did it take for this miracle to happen?  Alexis de Tocqueville, on his famous 1830s trip to the U.S.:

Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds, religious, moral, serious, futile, general or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found seminaries, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it is proposed to inculcate some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society.  (1)

This love for cooperating with those with whom we have no familial ties was and is a planetary curiosity.  Salvador de Madariaga in his Englishmen, Frenchmen, Spaniards (1929) called the Englishman a 'man of action':

The genius for co-operation is, therefore, one of the typical features which distinguish the communities composed of men of action and must accordingly be found amongst the characteristics of the English people.

Everything ... leads us to the conclusion that the English people, composed of men of action, is endowed with the instinct of co-operation in the highest possible degree.  (2)

Is there evidence of this same society-wide cooperative spirit in the Arab world?  Raphael Patai:

Familism can be defined as the centrality of the family in social organization, its primacy in the loyalty scale, and its supremacy over individual life.

Negative and in the larger sense disruptive correlates of this type of 'familism' are interfamilial tension, competition, and enmity which, in the centuries of Arab and Muslim history, have repeatedly caused protracted and far-flung blood feuds, and have occasionally developed or, if you will, degenerated, into large-scale bloody internecine wars sapping the strength of the people in many a part of the Middle East. (3) 

David Pryce-Jones, who lived many years among them:

 'Public welfare' is a concept without meaningful application [in the Arab world]; there is no common good.  Generosity is suspect as a ploy for advantage.  Idealism and sincerity are penalized.  Self-sacrifice is akin to lunacy or martyrdom. (4)

David Lamb, after three years in Cairo:

But here's the curious thing: While Egyptians are content to live in filthy, battered buildings, the insides of their homes are always immaculate. Time and time again I trudged up darkened stairwells to apartments on the third or fourth floor, and when my host opened the door, I would step into an isolated world of elegance and cleanliness. …. When I asked friends if anyone had ever considered a neighborhood block association or an owners' association to clean up common areas, they would chuckle and say "Oh, THAT would never work here."  No doubt it wouldn't. My friends did not feel that their responsibility extended beyond their own boundaries.   (5)

Anecdotes are one thing; what do measures of civic society say?

How loyal are people to their 'in-group' (family/clan), at the expense of the larger society?

2)  Fair-play vs. The Shame-honor reflex

What is this famous English 'fair-play,' and is it needed for Liberal Democracy?


De Madariaga speaks of

...the English sensitiveness to the 'laws of things'--the law of the road, the law of the sea, the law of the hunting field. In all the spheres of pure action, the English are the teachers of the world, not merely in their quickness to perceive these natural laws, but in their cordial and sincere obedience to the restrictions which they impose upon each individual for the good of the whole.

Fair play implies an effacing of the individual before the team, and even of the team before the game. But this effacing does not mean annihilation. Far from it. It provides better conditions for the efficiency of the individual, since it makes his actions fit in with the actions of others in a perfect system of co-operation. This intuitive and instantaneous sense of balance between the individual and the community is the true essence of fair play.  (2)

What does this all mean for governance?

This case is, after all, but another illustration of that gift for spontaneous organization which we have considered as the typical feature of the English people in action. ... In the political sphere it accounts, as we shall see hereafter, for the fact known as self-government, a spontaneous growth of political institutions rather than a local freedom granted from or by a central authority. (2)

If 'fair-play' governs the English way of life, what principle dominates for the Arabs?  Some say it is the 'shame-honor reflex':

shame cover face hoodie 

Honor is what makes life worthwhile [in the Arab world] : shame is a living death.  ... Shame-honor ranking effectively prohibits the development of wider, more socialized types of human relationship. Status considerations of the kind are impervious to Western concepts of contractual relationships.

Pierre Bourdieu, the French social anthropologist, has pointed out that no dishonor attaches to such primary transactions as selling short weight, deceiving anyone about quality, quantity or kind of goods, cheating at gambling, and bearing false witness.  The doer of these things is merely quicker off the mark than the next fellow; owing him nothing, he is not to be blamed for taking what he can. (4)
What does all this mean for governance?

In the Middle East, all honor goes to the victor; the vanquished is dishonored.  There is no honor in "playing fairly," "doing your best," or "upholding the rules." [...]  Applied to state governance, this spirit advises monopoly of power, ruthless suppression of opponents, and accumulation of benefits.  In short, it is a recipe for despotism, for tyranny.  (6)

 Nicolai Sennels, Danish prison psychologist, on the country's Muslim immigrants (Arabs and others):   

My own experience is that Muslims don’t understand our Western way of trying to handle conflicts through dialogue. They are raised in a culture with very clear outer authorities and consequences. Western tradition using compromise and inner reflection as primary means of handling outer and inner conflicts is seen as weak in the Muslim culture. To a great extent they simply don’t understand this softer and more humanistic way of handling social affairs.

Expressions of anger and threats are probably the quickest way to lose one's face in Western culture. In discussions, those who lose their temper have automatically lost, ...  In the Muslim culture, aggressive behavior, especially threats, are generally seen to be accepted, and even expected as a way of handling conflicts and social discrepancies. If a Muslim does not respond in a threatening way to insults or social irritation, he is seen as weak, as someone who cannot be depended upon and loses face.

Some ways in which this principle can manifest in the man on the street (Muslims including non-Arabs here):

3)  Meritocracy  vs.  Member-of-my-family-ocracy

De Madariaga, on the value of a merit-based civil service (in 1929):

The true force behind the Cabinet is the Civil Service. It is difficult to do justice to so admirable an institution. Two of its eminent qualities must be commented upon, for they aptly illustrate the point of view here maintained. The first is its public spirit. No bureaucracy in the world can vie with the English Civil Service in its devotion to the interests of the country. The second is its efficiency. Now, this is in a way a natural consequence of the first, but it owes much also to that instinct for co-operation, that objectivity, that absence of self-seeking, of vanity and of personal passion which are typical of the whole race.

Is meritocracy valued in the Arab world?

Corruption among Arabs is nothing more nor less than the daily functioning among everyone of the power-challenge dialectic, and it is registering individual advances and retreats everywhere and at all times. Corruption plays a role approximating to competition in a democracy.
... Public examinations for admission to universities, government departments, the armed forces and particularly officer training colleges, the law, and institutions in general are therefore less meritocratic matters than a vast jockeying for place and influence. 
To take the everyday matter of wanting to obtain a job, a young man approaches the head of his family or clan, his patron.  The head of the family is under obligation to do his very best to make sure that his kinsman is given what he asks for.  The honor of the whole family is at stake. [...]  In the event  of the job going to someone else, the patron becomes the object of shame, and his standing is under threat [...] Whether or not the young man deserved the job is no kind of consideration.  Civic spirit, the good of the community, or mere consideration of who could best perform the job in hand has no part in these proceedings. (4)

Anecdotes, again, are complemented by data:

(*Noteworthy that the Arab countries whose citizens consider them least corrupt are all far from the 'English Liberal Democracy' model...)

*     *     *

Having examined our first criterion, commonweal-orientation, let us consider our second:

II.  Future time-orientation

1)  Can-do  vs.  Fatalism

De Tocqueville, on the can-do Anglo-American:

I met with several kinds of associations in America of which I confess I had no previous notion; and I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object for the exertions of a great many men and in inducing them voluntarily to pursue it. (1)

De Madariaga:

Let us watch therefore the Englishman himself. We shall see how everything in him instinctively points to action. His main preoccupation consists in being wholly at the disposal of his will at the moment when it must apply itself to the world.  (2)

The Arab view of the future?  Psychologists Helen A. Klein and Gilbert Kuperman:  

In the Middle East, planning discussions are regularly punctuated by Inshallah—“if Allah wills it.” The status of a person’s health, wealth, and safety are believed to be inevitable. Arabs tend to invoke luck and con­spiracy theories instead of expecting human actions to make a difference. Interviewees reported, “We don’t plan ahead,” “We only act when a catastrophe happens,” and “If it’s going to come, then it will come.”  

David Lamb:

An apathetic public, economic mismanagement and a wildly out-of-control birthrate have become the cancers of Cairo, sapping its strength and leaving its dazed inhabitants the victims of what is known in Egypt as the IBM syndrome: inshallah (if God is willing), bokra (tomorrow) and malesh (never mind). It doesn't matter what gets done or how it's done. If not today, then tomorrow. God decides anyway, so why worry? This sense of fatalism takes all responsibility out of human hands and puts everything—from the outcome of wars to the keeping of appointments—under the control of a Greater Power.  (5)

From the 1990s GLOBE study on future orientation:

2) Taking responsibility  vs.  Passing the buck

De Tocqueville:

As soon as several of the inhabitants of the United States have taken up an opinion or a feeling which they wish to promote in the world, they look out for mutual assistance; and as soon as they have found one another out, they combine. From that moment they are no longer isolated men, but a power seen from afar, whose actions serve for an example and whose language is listened to.  

Military trainer Norville de Atkin, from 'Why Arabs Lose Wars':


Taking responsibility for a policy, operation, status, or training program rarely occurs. U.S. [military] trainers can find it very frustrating when they repeatedly encounter Arab officers placing blame for unsuccessful operations or programs on the U.S. equipment or some other outside source. A high rate of non-operational U.S. equipment is blamed on a “lack of spare parts” — pointing a finger at an unresponsive U.S. supply system despite the fact that American trainers can document ample supplies arriving in country and disappearing in a moribund supply system.  (7) 

Danish prison psychologist Sennels:

The locus of control is central to our understanding of problems and their solutions. If we are raised in a culture where we learn that "…I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul," as William Ernest Henley wrote in his famous poem Invictus in 1875; we will, in case of personal problems, look at ourselves and ask: "…What did I do wrong?" and "…What can I do to change the situation?" People who have been taught throughout their entire lives that outer rules and traditions are more important than individual freedom and self reflection, will ask: "Who did this to me?" and "Who has to do something for me?"

How might this shirking of responsibility play out in governance?  Iraqi historian Majid Khadduri, writing after independence:

 'There is an almost nostalgic longing in the Middle East, common to all political groups, for a 'strong' regime which will tolerate neither multiplicity of political parties nor anarchy of ideas [...] Arabs yearn for strong political leaders to preside over their destiny.' (4)

Take care of us, for we cannot take care of ourselves:  
Tunisia's Ben Ali, Algeria's Bouteflika, Iraq's Hussein, Libya's Ghadaffi, Syria's Assad, Egypt's Mubarak

Raphael Patai:
Another feature of Middle Eastern nationalism is its tendency to embody itself symbolically in an autocratic father image. [...] The old Middle Eastern father image is, of course, that of the paternalistic absolute monarch, the theocratic ruler, who still [in the 1960s] functions in more or less the same sociocultural context as he used to for many centuries in the past.  (3)

III. Root Causes?

If the Arabs are really so different in values, opinions, and habits from the English as to make their adoption of English Liberal Democracy unlikely--can this be changed quickly?  Are these simple cosmetic brush-ups, as the State Dept. assures us, easy to put in place with a little Radio Free Arabia and McDonalds?  Or could they be so deeply rooted that they will likely not budge in our lifetimes?

1) All in the family

Emmanuel Todd has proposed that our government systems are merely our family systems writ large.  If so, could the origins of the English and Arab forms of governance be found there?

The English, like everyone else behind the Hajnal Line, have long had strange marriage practices.

West of this line, the average age of marriage for women was 23 or more, men 26, spouses were relatively close in age, a substantial number of women married for the first time in their thirties and forties, and 10% to 20% of adults never married.

In England, things were even stranger::

From at least the latter part of the Middle Ages until the second half of the nineteenth century or the early years of this century, it was common in rural England for young adults to leave their parental households to work as agricultural servants in other households for a prolonged period.... The extent of this practice implies that the great majority of young adults in England left their parental households more or less permanently between 15 and 19 years of age.

The oddness of mixing up one's population like this cannot be overstated.  It can only have hastened the Church's ban on in-breeding, which had taken hold strongly in the Germanic lands. Avner Greif  (via HBD Chick):

By the late medieval period the nuclear family [in Europe] was dominate. 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.
“The practices the church advocated, such as monogamy, are still the norm in Europe. Consanguineous marriages in contemporary Europe account for less than one percent of the total number of marriages.

From Hanawalt, via HBD Chick:

“Kinship terminology in English is not very diversified. ... Even Anglo-Saxon had few words to describe any ties but those to the nuclear family. They did not even have a word for cousin until the introduction of French.....The lack of words for extended kin indicates that they were not a part of daily parlance because they were not needed.”

The result, according to De Madariaga:
As for the family in its wider sense, it is in England little more than a loosely built association of friends, or, better still, of acquaintances, divided, rather than united, by their common interests.  (2)

Indeed, from a genetic standpoint, one is left to wonder if the Englishman feels at some level related to everyone, and if that could explain his intense out-group altruism.

Unlike the extremely outbred English, the Arabs followed an opposite path:  They are in fact known not only for in-breeding, but for the most in-bred kind of in-breeding: FBD marriage. (A young man marries his Father's Brother's Daughter.)  Most cousin-marriers in the world (and that's most of us, originally) practiced MBD marriage. (A young man marries his Mother's Brother's Daughter.)  What's the difference?

The two systems look like this (from HBD Chick):

(Images by HBD Chick)

As one can see, MBD marriage tends to bring in 'new blood' regularly, while FBD marriage recycles the old blood, again and again.  Anthropologists Robert F. Murphy and Leonard Kasdan:

Patrilateral parallel cousin marriage is, we maintain, an essential factor in the structuring of Arab society.

Parallel cousin marriage may well contribute to the temporary unity of minimal segments, but it is also effective in inhibiting the formation of corporate groups on higher levels of segmentation. It follows then that parallel cousin marriage [FBD] has the opposite effect of cross-cousin marriage [MBD], which is generally considered to be a means by which kin groups interrelate and thus become integrated into the larger society.

While consanguinity has all but disappeared in most parts of the world today, there is one area where it is still going strong:

How did cousin marriage, especially the peculiarly intense FBD type, reach all these peoples?  It came with the Bedouin Arabs of the Peninsula who brought it with them everywhere they conquered.


In the seventh and eighth centuries, an explosive diffusion of this [FBD marriage] pattern took place when Arab tribes, backed by Islam, spread throughout the whole of the Omayyid Khalifate.

*       *       *

If in perusing the above one has come to the conclusion that English Liberal Democracy is unlikely to take root quickly in the Muslim Arab world, the U.S. State Department couldn't disagree more strongly.

The Advance Democracy Act of 2005 is the most important bill to come out of Congress on democracy promotion since the 1983 initiative to establish the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). [...] The bill's introductory observation is that the continued lack of democracy in some countries is inconsistent with the universal values on which the U.S. is based, and that this situation poses a national security threat to the U.S. and its friends.

Ethnic NW Euros' excessive out-group altruism--the very thing that makes their democracies the envy of the world--has also led them into error.  Their belief that Arabs are just like them, only darker-hued, is not based on evidence.  It is based on a religious belief known as blank-slatism.  The data we have compiled here runs counter to it, and thus continues to be ignored.

There is room in life for necessary illusion. But when my and your tax dollars are shelled out for endless 'democracy promotion' in fields where such a seed is unlikely to grow, we may be forgiven for wanting to keep our wallets closed.

Samuel Huntington  warned us twenty years ago that

"Western ideas of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, the separation of church and state, often have little resonance" in other cultures.  Furthermore, "efforts to propagate such ideas produce instead a reaction against 'human rights imperialism' and a reaffirmation of indigenous values."

We finish with De Madariaga:

Ultimately, this mystery [the cooperative urge] has to be solved in that individual sanctum sanctorum in which the claims of the self and those of the community are weighed and balanced. The observation of English life amply shows that, in the immense majority of such cases of weighing and balancing, the claims of the community win.

The same cannot be said of Arab Muslims today.  Until it can, we strongly urge the U.S. government to let them keep living by their indigenous values, and keep our 'universal values' in that universe where they belong--The West.

(1) De Tocqueville, Alexis,  Democracy in America, 1840.
(2) De Madariaga, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Spaniards:An Essay in Comparative Psychology. London: Oxford U. Press, 1929.
(3) Patai, Raphael, Golden River to Golden Road: Society, Culture, and Change in the Middle East, Philadelphia, U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1962.
(4) Pryce-Jones, David, A Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs, New York: Harper and Row, 1989.
(5) Lamb, David, The Arabs. New York: Vintage Books, 2002.
(6) Salzman, Philip Carl, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, Amherst: Humanity Books, 2008.
(7) De Atkine, Norvell B.,  'Why Arabs Lose Wars,' Middle East Quarterly, Dec. 1999, Vol. 6, No. 2.

*Special thanks to HBD Chick, on whose research informed much of this post.


Ivan .M said...

Very good summary, M.G.

I often contemplate whether the English and other Northwest Europeans are now so outbred that population suicide comes naturally to them. This disturbs me, and it's easier to view their communal altruism as having simply been hijacked or misdirected. "Outbreeding depression" could take on a new meaning should the former prove true.

Arabs routinely fail at getting large-scale democracy off the ground, but if the reactionary analysis prevails, NW Euros can only make it work for two or three centuries before implosion occurs. Still, the feats managed within that historical eyeblink were remarkable to say the least.

freedom hayak said...

This is all fascinating information, but bottom line, I think Sweden has much more of a chance to engender little (or big) "Saharas" across its land - but only because of social engineering and the assumption, which you describe, that eager Syrians and others will eagerly adopt the liberal outlook of the modern Swede.http://freefabulousgirl.com/2013/09/04/death-watch-sweden/

M.G. said...

Ivan M.--

I often contemplate whether the English and other Northwest Europeans are now so outbred that population suicide comes naturally to them.

It's not a popular opinion, and I'm no genetic determinist, but I lean more and more toward this being true. Maybe you've heard the saying, 'It is man's fate to out-smart himself.' I wonder if it's just NW Euros' fate to out-breed themselves / race-replace themselves from existence.

"outbreeding depression"

You made me think of this study about Iceland, which found maximal fertility in couples who are sixth or seventh cousins. You also made me think of Greying Wanderer, who often comments at HBD Chick, and his idea about a 'sweet spot' of outbreeding--outbreed enough and you get a cooperative, homogeneous society; outbreed too much and you get suicidal altruism / end of your people. I fear we NW Euros really are headed for the latter.

M.G. said...

freedom hayak--

From your link:

AFP - Sweden on Tuesday became the first European Union country to announce it will give asylum to all Syrian refugees who apply.

... The move came as the United Nations said the number of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria had passed two million,...

Each story I hear about Sweden these days is more unbelievable than the last. It is grotesque but riveting to watch a people annihilate themselves in real time. Will there be a huge wake-up at some point, followed by mass deportations, or will the Swedes simply blink out like the last bulb on a string of dying Christmas lights?

Ivan .M said...


I wonder if it's just NW Euros' fate to out-breed themselves / race-replace themselves from existence.

Perhaps we are witnessing the results of additional heavy doses of outbreeding that might have occurred long after the Middle Ages. Industrial urbanization between the late 19th and early 20th century is one possible culprit. Even more recent developments like national highway systems and affordable air travel could've had a genetic impact.

You made me think of this study about Iceland, which found maximal fertility in couples who are sixth or seventh cousins.

I'm reminded of the kin influence hypothesis and its proponents' attempts at explaining fertility decline in modernized societies. However narrow this idea may be (in terms of human biodiversity), it provides a useful hint.

Should you people overcome your unfolding crisis, long-term survival would probably demand some return to smaller, more organic communities, encouraging healthier breeding practices. Thwarting that NW Euro inclination toward ever larger polities entails restriction. I think such can be done without imposing draconian controls on human mobility and capital formation.

You also made me think of Greying Wanderer, who often comments at HBD Chick, and his idea about a 'sweet spot' of outbreeding--outbreed enough and you get a cooperative, homogeneous society; outbreed too much and you get suicidal altruism / end of your people.

Similar thoughts have been bouncing around in my head, especially when observing curiosities like the Japanese. Relevant data is scarce, but they appear to be outbred in comparison to other East Asians, which shows in Japan's orderliness and civility.

If an outbreeding "sweet spot" cannot account for Japan's great ethnocentrism, then a preceding group difference from NW Euros is our only other guess. To offer a conjecture, maybe extreme phenotypic homogeneity was selected for in East Asian populations? The IQs of these folks cluster heavily around their means, and they are known for their historical tendency to chlorinate gene pools of any troublemakers. It's not much of a stretch to imagine individuals who merely looked or sounded too different being weeded out as well.

How surprising would it really be if Danes turn out to vary much more than Han Chinese in height or voice?

About the Swedes: Well, there were those nationalists responding in kind to the Stockholm rioters. Let's hope they procreate like bunnies.

Luke Lea said...

Slightly off topic, but I was struck by this sentence from the US Dept. of State:

"The bill's introductory observation is that the continued lack of democracy in some countries is inconsistent with the universal values on which the U.S. is based, and that this situation poses a national security threat to the U.S. and its friends."

How do explain the ancient Hebrews, a tiny semi-nomadic people living on the fringes of late-Bronze Age Mesopotamian civilization, coming up with the idea of a universal ethic as described in the Patriarchal Narratives in the middle parts of Genesis? Here was a clan of a couple of hundred persons -- and polygamous at that -- the head of which came up with the idea of a "maker of heaven and earth" who judges every human being according to his deeds by a single standard of equity --9tzadik and tamim -- which he proceeds to communicate to the foreign tribes around him! And not only communicate but put into practice the principles of justice and equity upon which every man is to be be judged. Thus after successfully helping defend a neighboring tribe in battle, when offered a reward, Abraham says:

"I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord, God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread nor a shoe latchet nor ought that is thine [his ally], lest thou shouldest say, 'I have made Abram rich.'"

The leader of another tribe addresses Abraham as follows:

"God is with thee in all that thou doest. Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and unto the land wherein thou hast sojourned."

And so on . . .

JayMan said...

Great post! Here's something to compliment it:

How Inbred are Europeans? | JayMan's Blog

hbd chick said...

@luke - "'Be thou whole-hearted [tamim]. And I will make my covenant between me and thee....' (Genesis 17:1-2).

"'...do righteousness and justice [zedeq] to the end that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken....'" (Genesis 18:19)."

was god telling the ancient hebrews to be whole-hearted and righteous and just to everyone, or just to each other? (or even back to god?)

Nelson said...

@M.G. Interesting post, especially in light of the Syria conflict. (FTR, I'm against the proposed U.S. intervention; has the potential to be a quagmire on par with the Iraq war.)

@hbd* chick:

It all depends on the context. You quoted Genesis 17:1-2; reading down to verse 14 reveals details regarding God's covenant with Abraham, the significance of the Circumcision, and the fate of those who don't honor His commands (ESV snippet):

9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Linking this with Genesis 18:19, one can infer that the righteousness and justice God requires of His people doesn't just extend to the Hebrews; see here for more supporting Scriptures (note the parallel between Lev 19:34 and Mark 12:28-31 and similar verses in the Gospels re: loving neighbor as oneself).

M.G. said...

Ivan M.--

Should you people overcome your unfolding crisis, long-term survival would probably demand some return to smaller, more organic communities

This really seems key, but I'm a bit more pessimistic than you--I don't see it happening unless driven by a cataclysmic event or a really long, deep civilizational decline beforehand.

It's not much of a stretch to imagine individuals who merely looked or sounded too different being weeded out as well.

This sounds quite plausible for the Japanese, studies I've seen show that conformity levels there are really high even compared to other 'ice peoples.'

The kin influence paper looks interesting, here is a teaser for anyone who is interested:

The kin influence hypothesis proposes that economic development disrupts the social mechanism that keeps the culture of pre-modern societies on the track of genetic fitness. In pre-modern societies, virtually all communities and social networks are kin-based; most people acquired most of their beliefs, values and knowledge from their relatives. Individuals have an “inclusive fitness” (Hamilton, 1964) interest in the reproductive success of their sons, daughters, cousins, nephews, and grandchildren. This interest has the effect of supporting norms and values that encourage converting resources into offspring rather than “wasting” time and resources on other life goals. However, if social networks become less dense with kin and social interactions are mostly between people who have no interest in each other’s reproductive success, the social support for fitness-enhancing norms disappears. This does not cause a sudden change in culture or behavior but norms, beliefs and values begin to increasingly diverge from those which would ensure the active pursuit of genetic fitness.

noone said...

excellent stuff

M.G. said...


Thanks for reading.