I have in recent years been reading the work of Joseph Conrad. I spent many years believing the best writers in English were George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, with Leo Tolstoy in translation as a titan and peer. Then all of a sudden, in the last five or years I discovered that Ernest Hemingway is a near peer, and that V.S. Naipaul is every bit the equal of these great ones. And through Naipaul, I met Conrad, who also merits admission to this august company.
Naipaul and Conrad both have as a main theme the encounter, the clash, between European civilization and the peoples and ways of Asia and Africa. Conrad depicts the European imperial and commercial expansion near its peak, and while it is still confident and expanding. Naipaul depicts the world after the European domination has receded, like an outgoing tsunami, which has left a transformed landscape behind.
Conrad is such a good writer that even the works that are not his best still have much good in them. An example is An Outcast of the Islands, an early novel, which is not a great success overall. Despite some weaknesses in the novel, there are some brilliant passages and sharp insights.
One of the things which the European powers accomplished in the 19th Century was the suppression of piracy along most of the worlds important routes of sea trade. This process occurred in countless forgotten fights too small to fairly be called battles, but which were nonetheless lethal to the participants. A low-intensity conflict, to use modern parlance, is quite intense enough if you are one of the people maimed or killed in it.
Conrad gives us a vivid glimpse of what it was like to be on the receiving end of this vigorous imposition of law and order. One of the characters in the book is Babalatchi, who had in earlier days been a “a vagabond of the seas … living by rapine and plunder of coasts and ships.” He managed to survive the destruction of his band of pirates and their war-canoes by an unidentified European naval bombardment by ship-board artillery, followed by a landing party to mop up.
He was brave and bloodthirsty without any affection, and he hated the white men who interfered with the manly pursuits of throat-cutting, kidnapping, slave-dealing, and fire-raising, that were the only possible occupation for a true man of the sea. He found favour in the eyes of his chief, the fearless Omar el Badavi, the leader of Brunei rovers, whom he followed with unquestioning loyalty through the long years of successful depredation. And when that long career of murder, robbery and violence received its first serious check at the hands of white men, he stood faithfully by his chief, looked steadily at the bursting shells, was undismayed by the flames of the burning stronghold, by the death of his companions, by the shrieks of their women, the wailing of their children; by the sudden ruin and destruction of all that he deemed indispensable to a happy and glorious existence. The beaten ground between the houses was slippery with blood, and the dark mangroves of the muddy creeks were full of sighs of the dying men who were stricken down before they could see their enemy. They died helplessly, for into the tangled forest there was no escape, and their swift praus, in which they had so often scoured the coast and the seas, now wedged together in the narrow creek, were burning fiercely. Babalatchi, with the clear perception of the coming end, devoted all his energies to saving if it was but only one of them. He succeeded in time. When the end came in the explosion of the stored powder-barrels, he was ready to look for his chief. He found him half dead and totally blinded, with nobody near him but his daughter Aissa:—the sons had fallen earlier in the day, as became men of their courage. Helped by the girl with the steadfast heart, Babalatchi carried Omar on board the light prau and succeeded in escaping, but with very few companions only. As they hauled their craft into the network of dark and silent creeks, they could hear the cheering of the crews of the man-of-war’s boats dashing to the attack of the rover’s village. Aissa, sitting on the high after-deck, her father’s blackened and bleeding head in her lap, looked up with fearless eyes at Babalatchi. “They shall find only smoke, blood and dead men, and women mad with fear there, but nothing else living,” she said, mournfully. Babalatchi, pressing with his right hand the deep gash on his shoulder, answered sadly: “They are very strong. When we fight with them we can only die. Yet,” he added, menacingly—”some of us still live! Some of us still live!”
The European naval artillery is far beyond anything that the native sea rovers can hope to match. The survivors are forced to give up piracy and find other ways to make a living.
Note Conrad’s unsentimental depiction of the native pirates’ “throat-cutting, kidnapping, slave-dealing, and fire-raising.” Even to the bleak and sometimes cynical Conrad, the destruction of such savages is assumed to be a progressive event, a small, incremental advance of civilization, law, order and peace.
Here is Babalatchi’s reminiscence of the days when he and Omar, his chief, roved and stole and slew:
I knew him well when he had slaves, and many wives, and much merchandise, and trading praus, and praus for fighting. Hai—ya! He was a great fighter in the days before the breath of the Merciful put out the light in his eyes. He was a pilgrim, and had many virtues: he was brave, his hand was open, and he was a great robber. For many years he led the men that drank blood on the sea: first in prayer and first in fight! Have I not stood behind him when his face was turned to the West? Have I not watched by his side ships with high masts burning in a straight flame on the calm water? Have I not followed him on dark nights amongst sleeping men that woke up only to die? His sword was swifter than the fire from Heaven, and struck before it flashed. Hai! Tuan! Those were the days and that was a leader, and I myself was younger; and in those days there were not so many fireships with guns that deal fiery death from afar. Over the hill and over the forest—O! Tuan Lakamba! they dropped whistling fireballs into the creek where our praus took refuge, and where they dared not follow men who had arms in their hands.”
Note that Omar and Babalatchi’s pirates engaged in both trade and piracy. Generally, piracy is reserved for those who can be overcome by force, or guile, or both. Trade was had with those who were too strong and alert to overcome, and whose goods could not be stolen.
Note also that the sea rovers attacked “ships with high masts” — European merchant sailing ships. No doubt preying on ships protected by European flags is what drew the attention of warships with “guns that deal fiery death from afar” with “whistling fireballs”. The Europeans “dared not follow” the pirates into their jungle lairs, until their warships arrived. Once they did, they would annihilate the pirate base altogether by pummeling it with ship-borne artillery. Then they would go ashore in the ship’s boats to finish off anything that was still moving.
There are in this world vicious savages who enjoy slaughtering and enslaving people, and who believe it is manly sport to do so. In this year of grace 2015 there is, regrettably, an ongoing revival of such conduct. The answer to such behavior is not to ponder what culturally insensitive act or utterance by the Europeans might have upset these poor suffering people so severely, and driven them to such heinous acts in response. No one would have thought so while Victoria was on the throne, and no one should think like that now.
The answer is to blow them to bloody shreds with artillery.
The British and the Dutch in the 19th Century had cultural confidence. They imposed order without asking permission. What they created in the Eastern seas was far from perfect. But it was order of a sort, peace of a sort, and it permitted the benefits of trade to accrue to many people of those islands and coasts.
Conrad depicts one of the leading traders of the region, in this marvelous word-portrait:
For upwards of forty years Abdulla had walked in the way of his Lord. Son of the rich Syed Selim bin Sali, the great Mohammedan trader of the Straits, he went forth at the age of seventeen on his first commercial expedition, as his father’s representative on board a pilgrim ship chartered by the wealthy Arab to convey a crowd of pious Malays to the Holy Shrine. That was in the days when steam was not in those seas—or, at least, not so much as now. The voyage was long, and the young man’s eyes were opened to the wonders of many lands. Allah had made it his fate to become a pilgrim very early in life. This was a great favour of Heaven, and it could not have been bestowed upon a man who prized it more, or who made himself more worthy of it by the unswerving piety of his heart and by the religious solemnity of his demeanour. Later on it became clear that the book of his destiny contained the programme of a wandering life. He visited Bombay and Calcutta, looked in at the Persian Gulf, beheld in due course the high and barren coasts of the Gulf of Suez, and this was the limit of his wanderings westward. He was then twenty-seven, and the writing on his forehead decreed that the time had come for him to return to the Straits and take from his dying father’s hands the many threads of a business that was spread over all the Archipelago: from Sumatra to New Guinea, from Batavia to Palawan.
Very soon his ability, his will—strong to obstinacy—his wisdom beyond his years, caused him to be recognized as the head of a family whose members and connections were found in every part of those seas. An uncle here—a brother there; a father-in-law in Batavia, another in Palembang; husbands of numerous sisters; cousins innumerable scattered north, south, east, and west—in every place where there was trade: the great family lay like a network over the islands. They lent money to princes, influenced the council-rooms, faced—if need be—with peaceful intrepidity the white rulers who held the land and the sea under the edge of sharp swords; and they all paid great deference to Abdulla, listened to his advice, entered into his plans—because he was wise, pious, and fortunate.
Notice that Abdulla’s far-flung mercantile empire is based entirely on family ties. “An uncle here—a brother there; a father-in-law … husbands of numerous sisters; cousins innumerable.” This is the oldest form of business organization, and it still predominates in most of the world. In the hands of a strong man like Abdulla, such an organization can be effective, and profitable, and defend itself against the many threats which beset it on all sides. In a world without formal law and the power to enforce it, such family networks are the only source of security and the only means to carry on large scale enterprises.
The English-speaking people are much more individualistic than most other peoples. We do not have true extended families the way that many other communities do. We form nuclear families and our ties to other family members is, on a world scale, extraordinarily weak. As a result, we have specialized in forming large organizations based on voluntary association. For example the business corporations which characterize modern economic life are impersonal and non-familial. They do not rely on family ties. In fact, it is considered corrupt if family considerations intrude on personnel decisions, which should ideally be driven by what is best for the business as a whole. Nepotism is wrongful, or at least unfair, and is resented by others who expect to be judged and rewarded based on objective criteria. The word nepotism comes from the Italian word for nephew. This shows that this sort of behavior is more common, or less frowned upon, in Southern Europe, rather than among the English, from whom we inherited much of our culture and our standards, or at least our ideals, of proper conduct.
One of the under-appreciated advantages of having nuclear families rather than extended families, is that with the smaller families it is possible for the successful ones to accumulate capital. This in turn permits investment, and creates incentives to constantly improve methods, to innovate, to increase efficiency and generally to become more productive. This creates a virtuous cycle in which greater productivity increases wealth overall, and disseminates that wealth throughout society, permitting yet further improvements.
In a society in which equality is mandated, and where family networks have the first claim on any assets, this process of capital accumulation can never happen. Any gain by any person is treated as a temporary windfall and divided among all relatives who can make a claim on it. No one has any incentive to try to improve things, gain wealth, or get ahead. In the absence of a strong leader and steward like Abdulla, and a family ethic oriented to enterprise and trade, this model leads to perpetual poverty and the inability to get much beyond bare subsistence.
Conrad depicts this process. The main character’s abandoned wife is forced to sell their house, which was valuable, and should have left her with a substantial sum of money. She is a half-caste, apparently part Portuguese, and Christian. Another character demands that she pay him money he is owed, from the proceeds of the sale of the house:
“It was sold for money, I suppose,” he said with studied and incisive calmness. “Have you got it? Who has got it?”
She looked up at him, raising her swollen eyelids with a great effort, in a sorrowful expression of her drooping mouth, of her whole besmudged and tear-stained face. She whispered resignedly—
“Leonard had some. He wanted to get married. And uncle Antonio; he sat at the door and would not go away. And Aghostina—she is so poor . . . and so many, many children—little children. And Luiz the engineer. He never said a word against my husband. Also our cousin Maria. She came and shouted, and my head was so bad, and my heart was worse. Then cousin Salvator and old Daniel da Souza, who . . .”
Her relatives, with their many needs, descended upon her at the word that she had come into some money. They, and her society generally, expected her to give it away. She was left with virtually nothing. This story has been replayed countless times, and it is like a cement slab on top of any hope of a community breaking out of poverty. The claimed needs of relatives, which are limitless, and purported fairness, and an aversion to the accumulation of capital, and a sense of entitlement, all of these doom entire societies to perpetual poverty.
A similar process occurs in these cultures when a person obtains a post of government authority. The entire extended family makes demands on that person to use his position to extract money from non-kin, and he is expected to do so. We call this corruption. But in other cultures it would be shameful and stupid not to use any power you may have to help your family at the expense of others who mean nothing to you.
Abstract notions of professional probity, or fairness and honesty in government, are a rarity in the world. Even in the places that profess to believe in them, and which have laws on the books to enforce them, they are hard to maintain. Chicago is an international disgrace in this regard, for example.
Some of the themes which we discuss in America 3.0 appear in Conrad’s work. Cultural continuity, the divergence between English norms and the traditional norms of other societies, the Anglo-American type of family, and the effect of Anglo-American culture on politics and economics, and its impact on the larger world.
I am currently re-reading Alan Macfarlane’s brilliant book The Culture of Capitalism. This book is a sequel of sorts to his most famous book, The Origins of English Individualism. Both are classics and I give them the highest possible recommendation.
Macfarlane talks about many of the topics I refer to above, in a scholarly way. Conrad is a story-teller, not a scholar. But he was a sharp observer and he was honest about what he saw. We can get an accurate glimpse of the world of his day, and of some timeless things about our own world today, through his writing.
I cannot recommend that you read An Outcast of the Islands, unless you have read all of the rest of Conrad already. I have read and enjoyed Lord Jim, Victory, Nostromo, which is brilliant, The Secret Agent, The Shadow Line, Typhoon, The Secret Sharer, Youth, Heart of Darkness, The End of the Tether, also brilliant, The Mirror of the Sea and The Point of Honor.
Also, Amazon has the Delphi Complete Works of Joseph Conrad US for Kindle, for $2.99. They can all be had for free, but it is nice to have them all together, and decently formatted.
As an addendum, I see that Outcast of the Islands was made into a movie in 1951, with a terrific cast: Robert Morley, Trevor Howard (pictured below) and Ralph Richardson. I will look for an opportunity to see it.
48 thoughts on “History Friday: Joseph Conrad and the Impact of European Culture and Technology”
Conrad’s own life was a fascinating stroy in itself. It always amazes me that one of the greatest English writers of modern times spoke English with a strong accent to his death.
“The answer is to blow them to bloody shreds with artillery”
This reminds me of Kurtz in “Heart of Darkness”. Kurtz is portrayed as an idealist who had gone to the Congo to bring the blessings of Western Civilization to the Congolese savages. When Marlowe finds Kurtz’ diary the last entry is “Kill them all.”
Kinship based societies such as Conrad described in Indonesia have in fact been the human norm for nearly all of the evolutionary history of our species. It is Europeans, particularly Northwest Europeans who are the WEIRD people.
“One of the under-appreciated advantages of having nuclear families rather than extended families, is that with the smaller families it is possible for the successful ones to accumulate capital.”
Read Theodore Dalrymple’s essay “After Empire” in City Journal.
It explains a lot and is on the same theme.
Unlike in South Africa, where salaries were paid according to a racial hierarchy (whites first, Indians and coloured second, Africans last), salaries in Rhodesia were equal for blacks and whites doing the same job, so that a black junior doctor received the same salary as mine. But there remained a vast gulf in our standards of living, the significance of which at first escaped me; but it was crucial in explaining the disasters that befell the newly independent countries that enjoyed what Byron called, and eagerly anticipated as, the first dance of freedom.
The young black doctors who earned the same salary as we whites could not achieve the same standard of living for a very simple reason: they had an immense number of social obligations to fulfill. They were expected to provide for an ever expanding circle of family members.
It is always impressive to me that Conrad wrote his books in Polish and then translated them, which might explain his wonderful style.
Mike, I recalled that very passage when I was writing this post.
Napoleon Chagnon in his description of the Yanamamo remarks on the disadvantages of a kinship based society. Your kin constantly make all kinds of demands which you have to agree to. If a member of your kinship group harms someone in another group then you are subject to retalitation from that other group even if you had nothing personally to do with the original incident. On the other hand you are totally dependent on your kinship group for protection against other groups. So if the kinship group you belong is a small one you are in deep trouble.
It is important to keep in mind that such a manner of life has been the norm for the 100,000 or so years of the existence of our species. The type of social organization found in Western Europe is vwey new even in that area and unknown in much of the present world.
Jim, thanks for the comment. I would have agreed with you even a few years ago. However, actually, the individualistic and nuclear family form is extremely old, and only survived on the periphery of Eurasia. It is, oddly, a primitive form that survived because of its remoteness which proved capable of supporting modernity, and which made the breakthrough to modernity. In turn, others are painfully, slowly, and with mixed success trying to adopt it. I mention that in this post, about my meeting with Emmanuel Todd. We discussed hismost recent book, L’Origine des systemes familiaux, which makes this argument, and which I am afraid will never appear in English.
To Lexington Green – I think this view is totally at variance with everything we know about primitive peoples and primate societies.
Jim, you are apparently part of a “we” which excludes a lot of knowledgeable people.
You will need to learn French and debate Emmanuel Todd directly.
” they had an immense number of social obligations to fulfill. They were expected to provide for an ever expanding circle of family members.”
I encounter a lot of East Asian and Indians – doctors, engineers, STEM professions, etc – who, despite commanding good compensation and moving up into leadership positions, live very frugally because they send a substantial portion of their earnings back to their home countries to be divided among family members. They end up communally investing there rather than here. This I believe is the big difference between immigration now and immigration that built the country in the 19th and early 20th century. This is bigger than cultural assimilation or lack of it. Aside from overall dearth of investment in the American economy and society from an otherwise productive group, they remain psychologically anchored to their country of origin, so their future and the future of their children in this country is in doubt.
Also, Jim, Alan Macfarlane, in The Culture of Capitalism, talks about the cultures of hunter gatherers and other very simple organizations along the same lines. So, you should delve into his work for English language references on this point as well.
My only argument with your list is with Hemingway who, in my view, reeks of the bogus. Of American writers I particularly admire Mark Twain. And congratulations on omitting Dickens. Sound man – you, I mean, not him.
As for Conrad, he was raved about when I was a schoolboy and presumably for many decades before that. I always admired Orwell, but was still blown over by how tremendous his Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters is.
“… their future and the future of their children in this country is in doubt.”
It lasts about a generation. Their children and grandchildren will marry other people, start tehir own families, and without the social and legal pressure to participate in extended families, they will drift away from it. This happened with prior groups who came here. We discuss this in America 3.0.
The Absolute Nuclear Family culture dissolves other more complex family types when they settle among us. This has happened repeatedly.
Arab Muslims in England have to resort to honor killings and intimidation to prevent their females from out-marrying. Only physical threats can keep the system going, and only where that is implicitly endorsed by government power, by refusing to police it.
“…blown over by how tremendous his Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters …”
Hemingway is loved or hated by many, with few neutrals.
Dickens, I have read Bleak House, which is brilliant. But I don’t know him well enough to spring to his defense.
Twain, I need to visit. We read Huck Finn in high school and it made no impression. I recall Richard Weaver, in The Ethics of Rhetoric, talking about Twain’s masterful style, citing passages from Life Along the Mississippi. So, God willing, I will one day start with that one.
“Of American writers I particularly admire Mark Twain.”
When my British friends were here a few years ago, I introduced them to Jack London, of whom they had never heard. We traveled to the wine country and then John and I and my son hiked down to London’s “Wolf House” or the ruins of it as it burned before he moved in.
I gave them a couple of his books to read but forgot to ask if they had read them when we were there last week.
To dearieme – Good choice – Mark Twain.
The claimed needs of relatives, which are limitless, and purported fairness, and an aversion to the accumulation of capital, and a sense of entitlement, all of these doom entire societies to perpetual poverty.
A similar process occurs in these cultures when a person obtains a post of government authority. The entire extended family makes demands on that person to use his position to extract money from non-kin, and he is expected to do so. We call this corruption.
As I read this, I was struck by how very much it resembles the outlook of the Democratic Party. It also explains the appeal their politics have to so many. It’s a very tribal outlook and appeals to our more primitive social hardwiring. Even the idea that government contracts are given to those politically connected to your party is a given among leftists. When they are in power, they do it with a smirk, and a “Hey! We won!” attitude. And any company or corporation that receives a contract under a GOP government is assumed to have been awarded for the same reason (BushCheneyHaliburton!).
According to Chagnon any Western type individual with just a nuclear family would be in really deep shit in Yanamamo society. The smaller kinship groups are often wiped out. A single individual with just his nuclear familty would not last long. I suspect that in a society divided between kinship people and individualists the latter are toast.
To the extent that a Western individualist type of person in Yanamamo society accumulated capital that would just seal his fate. If you do not belong to a kinship group of some size then your best chance of survival in Yanamamo society is to have virtually nothing so that killing you is not worth the bother.
I suspect that any Western type individualistic person living in the territory of what used to be Iraq or Syria who does not have the suppost of a kinship group is in deep shit.
Life Along the Mississippi is an interesting window in mid 19th century western America in the same way Sherlock Holmes is a window into late Victorian England. Not great literature, but interesting and fun to read.
Interesting note, Mark Twain’s budding career as a Mississippi riverboat pilot came to an end when the Union Navy blockaded the Mississippi in 1861. Out of a job, he headed to Nevada to prospect for silver. Failing at that, he took a job at a newspaper in Virginia City (near Reno) writing about the boomtown and miners on the fabulously rich Comstock Load. It was then that he first wrote under the name Mark Twain. He did it to create plausible deniability, to protect Sam Clemens from anything that no good feller Mark Twain had written in the paper. Tough town.
Jim, you are attacking a straw man. The type of society that the English derived from had nuclear families grouped in proximity for mutual defense and assistance. Of course there were not individuals all by themselves, and of course we do not disagree about that. This type of primitive family structure developed into more complex community types in most of Eurasia, but on the periphery (including around the North Sea) it developed toward more individualistic types, a retained archaism. See the map in this post.
Also, as James Scott correctly notes, we cannot look at contemporary but apparently primitive peoples like the Yanamano and assume they look much like earlier forms of social organization.
The Yanamano are, in their own way, modern.
“I suspect that in a society divided between kinship people and individualists the latter are toast.” That is the obvious initial conclusion, but it is wrong. The English speaking people, among the least kinship oriented people in the world, have overcome this by creating voluntary associations which can scale massively beyond what kin-based groups can achieve. The United States Marine Corps or the Special Air Service are more than a match for any kin-based tribal military, certainly to secure our own countries, and often enough in their own backyard. We talk a lot about this in America 3.0. Alan Macfarlane talks about it in his Modern World series, and Fukuyama discusses it in interesting detail in Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity . Further we create large-scale entities, such as entire legal systems, which permit cooperation and coordination on a scale many orders of magnitude beyond what a kin based community can do.
It is a paradox that the modern world relies for its foundation on an archaic family structure, but that is the case.
“As I read this, I was struck by how very much it resembles the outlook of the Democratic Party.”
Yes. It is a mindset that is widespread, deeply rooted, has cultural affinities with many people who come to America, and it is pernicious and destructive and cuts against everything that makes our culture work.
“If you do not belong to a kinship group of some size then your best chance of survival in Yanamamo society is to have virtually nothing so that killing you is not worth the bother.”
I just noticed this. This is exactly correct. It is what I say in my post, and it is the cement slab holding most communities back from making any kind of material progress.
Further we create large-scale entities, such as entire legal systems, which permit cooperation and coordination on a scale many orders of magnitude beyond what a kin based community can do.
This is a part of what Joel Mokyr writes about in “The Gifts of Athena” in which he describes the development of property and law, especially patent law, as the reason why the Industrial Revolution did not occur in Roman Times. They had many of the early inventions like a steam engine.
You are talking about wars between Western societies and non-Western societies. In such contests Western societies do very well. But Western societies work because most people in them, being Westerners, follow the rules. When non-Western groups such as the Roma live in Western society but do not follow the rules the native Westerners are easy prey for such groups. The Roma are too few in numbers to destroy the West but large scale migration to Europe of non-Western peopes could very easily destroy the West.
To Lexington Green – Many anthropologists try to explain away Yanamamo violence as some kind of pathology due to the contaiminating influence of Westerners on Noble Savages. It’s all nonsense.
That was also the theme of Niall Ferguson’s book, Civilization: The West and the Rest. He lists the ‘killer apps’ that led to Western supremacy, and property rights was one of them. In that part he contrasted the settling and development of North American under the English with South American under the Spanish.
The Roma have lived among Westerners for a very long time. But they have not become Westerners. They are organized into extended families of several generations often living together and into larger clan/tribal groups. They are not individualistic. They have been very successful over centuries in Western societies living by stealing, swindling, begging, welfare scams, etc. They are not very productive and have made very few positive contributions to Western societies.
The Roma have something of a moral code among themselves but their attitude to the gadjo or non-Roma is “anything goes”. Stealing from, fooling or swindling the gadjo is not just tolerated, it is positively admired. The gadjo are “unclean” and are viewed by the Roma as simply prey.
Because their numbers are not great the Roma have been able to live as parasites in Western societies for centuries. Their success in doing so shows how vulnerable Westerners are to alien groups who do not adhere to the rules of Western societies.
I meant to say “Because their numbers are not great the Roma have been able to live as parasites in Western societies for centuries without destroying the West.”
Itinerant groups are not just gypsies but also include Westerners. Ask any Deadhead. We had some burglaries in our neighborhood last year attributed to “Travelers”.
Jim, agreed about Yanamano violence. That is their practice and it apparently has been for a very long time. Blaming it on Westerners is incorrect.
Further the archeological evidence for high levels of violence among our ancestors is compelling. We don’t need to abstract from the Yanamano or the New Guinea highlanders of today to reach that conclusion. The dream of an Edenic time before the evils of modernity and European world dominance is just that, a dream. It did not happen that way.
As to the Roma, I don’t know how well they assimilate in the USA. “The West” is not a useful category for this purpose. The Continental European countries are not like the English-speaking countries. Countries with Absolute Nuclear Families are exceptionally open to permitting foreigners to assimilate. A quick glance at Google suggests that the total Romani population in the USA is small and does assimilate over time. But others may have more knowledge.
I should add that they were the Irish Travelers. I’ve never seen or heard about any Roma around Chicago.
“the archeological evidence for high levels of violence among our ancestors is compelling.”
Yes, I was exposed to the myth of Rousseau’s Noble Savage when doing a Master’s program at Dartmouth about 20 years ago. I had gone back to school when I retired to learn some methodology in health policy. I encountered the outriders of PC when I wrote a paper on the violence of pre-histpric societies. The “Iceman” for example was murdered. A mass gave was discovered in the Schnals Valley which is where he may have come from.
It wasn’t the only one, although each one is called “rare.”
large scale migration to Europe of non-Western peopes could very easily destroy the West.
Only so long as the Western peoples were unwilling to destroy the migrants. If the migrants continue to come in a volume that creates an existential, or perceived existential, threat to the West, it will quickly abandon its self-righteous reservations and act to protect itself. The holocaust, wasn’t that long ago and human nature has not changed in that short a time.
How well do the Roma, to use the PC term, assimilate? The Gypsy Lore Society page on additional resources begins:
Sounds to me like every other ethnic group in America that is afraid of losing its heritage. I wonder if every Saturday morning all the Gypsy families force their children to go to Gypsy school like all the ethnic groups I saw in Fremont CA.
The only ethnic groups that seem to be able to resist becoming assimilated are those that choose to live apart, like the Amish and Native Americans. And these suffer plenty of defections.
Ultimately we will assimilate everyone.
Anonymous was me again. I’ve been having Mac trouble and purged all the cookies and cache. Maybe I picked up a Muslim bug in Europe.
Anyway, the Fernandez column I linked to before still seems to me to offer the best explanation of what is going on.
The West is filled with millions of people like Alex, all of them waiting for Someone. They are the product of a multi-decade campaign to deliberately empty people of their culture; to actually make them ashamed of it. They were purposely drained of God, country, family like chickens so they could be stuffed with the latest narrative of the progressive meme machine. The Gramscian idea was to produce a blank slate upon which the Marxist narrative could be written.
Too bad for the Gramscians that the Islamists are beating them to the empty sheets of paper. And they are better at it too. Maybe the old Bolsheviks could have given ISIS a run for its money, but today’s liberals have declined from their sires. George Orwell observed the takeover of hardcore Bolshevism by the periphery in the 1930s.
The first thing that must strike any outside observer is that Socialism, in its developed form is a theory confined entirely to the middle classes. The typical Socialist is not, as tremulous old ladies imagine, a ferocious-looking working man with greasy overalls and a raucous voice. He is either a youthful snob-Bolshevik who in five years’ time will quite probably have made a wealthy marriage and been converted to Roman Catholicism; or, still more typically, a prim little man with a white-collar job, usually a secret teetotaller and often with vegetarian leanings,
This is who is running our country.
We are probably lost. The “typical Socialist” is probably a CNN commentator with Soviet posters on his walls.
Thanks for the Conrad post. I’ve not read Outcast Of The Islands, but some of the other work. Must have a look. I was excoriated for publicly admitting I admired his writing some years back, when I lived in DeBlasioville. I then compounded the sin, by mentioning yet another apparent pariah, Ryszard Kapuscinski, whose works I enjoyed. So, I’ll go one better and state that I prefer my V.S. as Pritchett vs. a Naipaul. “Vidia, vidia when will we be ridya?”
To Mrs. Davis – Go to East Baltimore and see how successful we have been at assimilating everybody.
I’d say East Baltimore is a lot further along than West Baltimore, but in either case, The people you are talking about did not immigrate to this country voluntarily to seek its benefits, and have been encouraged for the last 50 years not to assimilate. That they have failed to do so is no surprise. Next up Dearborn.
Mrs. Davis – Some years ago I read of an IQ study of children in the Baltimore black ghetto which found an average IQ of 75. According to Linda Gottfredson’s studies of the relation between IQ and occupation a person with an IQ less than 75 is essentially unemployable in the present US economy (at least in legal occupations). It’s not easy to assimilate a population half of whom are economically useless in the US economy. Robotics will make this problem even more acute in the future.
By the way the few IQ studies of the Roma that I have heard of indicate that they have low IQ’s. The average IQ of the world’s population is 90. The average IQ in Sub-Saharan Africa is 70.
Mrs. Davis – A people like the Yanamamo cannot be assimilated into a modern Western society. The best they could do is to live as beggars, prostitutes, criminals and welfare recipients.
Speaking of piracy, and East and West, I came across this little gem the other day.
summary from the site-
In the summer of 1627, Moorish corsairs from the north coast of Africa raided Iceland. In four ships, they attacked settlements on the eastern and southern coasts, and on the Westman Islands off the south coast, taking close to four hundred captives away into slavery. Among those captured on the Westman Islands were the Reverend Ólafur Egilsson, a Lutheran Minister in his sixties, and his family.
The Travels of Reverend Ólafur Egilsson (Reisubók Séra Ólafs Egilssonar) is Reverend Ólafur’s own account of his capture in Iceland, his time as a slave in North Africa, and his subsequent travels across Europe to Denmark to raise ransom money for his wife and children. Along with Reverend Ólafur’s first-hand account, the book also includes a series of letters written by the captives themselves and by eye witnesses to the raid.
The Reisubók describes both Christian and Islamic civilization in the seventeenth century and tells a powerful, altogether remarkable story. The letters bring to life both the details of the raid itself and the conditions the Icelandic captives endured as slaves.
None of this has ever before been translated into English.
It is a somewhat difficult book to find, and the authors seem to have disappeared off the web for some reason. The descriptions are compellingly similar to current events. The letters written home ,in secrecy, by the captives describing their ordeals and tortures are quite horrific.
A very good and available book about the Muslim raiders along the Mediterranean coast and out into the Atlantic (to Iceland, Ireland and the coasts of England) is Giles Milton’s “White Gold”. A bit of an eye-opener, to those Americans who only knew of the Barbary Coast slave traders taking American sailors captive in the late 1700s.
The amazing thing about the part of the slave trade that involved Muslims enslaving Europeans: Even among the educated, very few know that it ever happened, even though it is the social background of two well-known operas. Of course, Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio and Rossini’s Italian Girl in Algiers are comic operas, but they are built on the factual basis that Muslims did in fact enslave Europeans in large numbers over hundreds of years, and used the prettier captives as sex-slaves. At least one very well-known historical figure was a galley-slave for five years before he was ransomed: Miguel de Cervantes, who went on to write Don Quixote. That so few of our contemporaries are aware of this part of the history of slavery, despite the blatant evidence for it, suggests that there is quite a bit of psychological denial involved. They don’t know because they don’t want to know.
“The amazing thing about the part of the slave trade that involved Muslims enslaving Europeans:”
I don’t know if anyone read Clavell’s novel about Iran called, “Whirlwind.” It’s about the revolution. In the novel there is a scene of a mountain warlord in modern times (1979) who had a TWA stewardess in his harem.
One of my crew on the sailboat had a girlfriend who was a TWA stewardess flying to Egypt. She told us that they were warned NEVER to go shopping alone. Always in groups of four or so. She knew several stewardesses who had vanished in Egypt.
That novel is excellent and takes place in a few days.
I’ve put Whirlwind on my wish list – thanks, Mike.
My daughter was in Egypt for Bright Star in 2001 as a Marine. Yeah, just a couple of months after 9-11. There was one very unnerving incident where she was driving a military vehicle (I think near the seaport in Alexandria) with two junior officers in back, and the vehicle was stopped by Egyptian police (possibly military also) who held them all at gunpoint, and demanded that my daughter go with them. The officers had their side arms, and she had an M-16 on the floor where she couldn’t get to it quickly. Impasse, for a few minutes — until another NATO vehicle full of military police hove into view, and the Egyptians backed off.
My daughter was then twenty-one, and very blond. It was pretty obvious that the Egyptians did not just want to invite her to a tea dance or something. Whatever they did have in mind, it was not good. At best, it might have been on par with the vanishing TWA stewardesses.
“I’ve put Whirlwind on my wish list”
The book is $0.01 on Amazon for the hardcover.
There is another version that is an excerpt. Avoid that one. Different title. I forget what it is.
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