A few days ago I finished reading The China Story by Freda Utley. Just last night I finished Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence by Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson. I began the first over a month ago, and the latter when I began my previous post. Part of the difference was that I was reading Utley’s book in pdf form on my computer, and was constantly tempted to look at other stuff on the internet. Another reason is that it’s much more boring. She was personally involved in some of the events discussed, but I did not care to read a chapter focusing on Owen Lattimore. Another blemish in my eyes is that like those she criticizes, she is an idealist with a distaste for self-interested cynical realism. She displayed that in other writings sympathetic to the Palestianians (not unlike several of her comrades of the old right) as well as the defeated Germans after the second world war (this would be sufficient proof of anti-semitism to a modern neo-conservative). Although she had opposed war with Germany (though ironically may bear some responsibility for it, as Japan blamed her for our boycott of them during the Sino-Japanese war) and sought a negotiated peace, in this book she tries to use the ill-repute of the old isolationists to analogize those who were later sympathetic to the Soviet Union and/or Chinese communists. I found that distasteful.

It is enjoyable to read just how wrong so many of the great and good were in their perceptions of the communists, but in hindsight we can see that Utley was wrong about much as well. China did indeed split from the Soviet Union to a degree even greater than Tito. The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in absolutely no diminishing of the political power of the communist party in China. The most interesting part of the book to me was a question Utley posed but never quite answered: why was our policy in Europe (such as toward Greece and Turkey) so different from the one the same people advanced at the same time in East Asia? Her answer is that Americans were more familiar with Europe and viewed its defects as understandable aberrations given the circumstances, but were more likely to look down on backward, corrupt Chinese government. My hypothesis is that they didn’t really care all that much about China, much as with Africa today. Freda cared, and so did her fellow journalists (some of whom, like her, had some affiliation with the communist party) that stayed in China while the Japanese advanced. Many of them were willing to overlook the dark side of the Chinese communists, just as Freda acknowledged Chiang Kai-Shek’s earlier partnership with the communists as well as the Soviet Union and the defects of his own government but stumped for him anyway (the possible difference in reactions may be due to the fact that while in Russia Utley’s husband was killed on suspicion of Trotskyism). One final note I’d like to make is that most histories I’ve read attribute the result of the civil war to the incohesive nature of the Kuomingtang, which was really a collection of warlords prone to break apart, which isn’t really discussed in the book.

The discussion of the next book goes on for a while with lots of summary and a critique of Mencius Moldbug, so I will put it below the fold.

I finished Demonic Males much quicker than I expected to, because I was planning on leaving enough for later, but whenever I planned on reading one more chapter it ended up being two or three. It’s not a dry science text and even has some good narrative sections. The subtitle says “apes”, but it’s mostly about chimpanzees and how they relate to human nature and history. That is because we are more similar to chimpanzees than any other species. The chimpanzees have a “party-gang” social structure, where males jockey (even to the point of two tearing of the fingers and testicles of a third) for the alpha position, resulting in favorable access to food and females. When the party reaches above a certain size it splits apart so that theere will not be too much competition over food in the area. Males form gangs and engage in raids (not merely in defense or retaliation) on neighboring territory where if they find a lone male or infertile female or a male-female pair they will beat their victim (even if it was a former friend or relative) to the point of crippling (later resulting in death) and in the last case drag the female back to their troop. These raids resemble the very common method of war among primitive peoples engaged in low-intensity agriculture and to a lesser extent hunter-gatherers. Within a troop a chimpanzee male can induce a female to become its consort by waiting until no one is around to defend it and then repeatedly battering it until it follows. Although in some related species the size ratio of males over females is similar or even larger, chimpanzees along with humans stand out for that behavior. Gorillas form large troops where a dominant silverback male protects a harem of females without needing to do violence against them or fight other adult males to the point of death. However, a bachelor gorilla may induce a female to leave her troop and join him by penetrating its defenses and killing her infants. Most female gorillas experience infanticide of one of their children at some point in their lives and perversely this makes the killer more attractive to her, as he has demonstrated that her current protector is not up to the task (lions behave similarly). Orangutans are solitary animals and a large (or flanged) male mates by making loud calls, whereupon a female will come to him and mate. As far as that goes, it seems their relationships are less morally revolting than those among gorillas and chimps. However, rape is rampant among chimpanzees. There is another variant of male which is adult but has the body of a youth, about the size of a female. Because it is not large enough to protect a female by driving away other males, they do not wish to mate with it and avoid it. However, its small size also enables it to chase females and climb trees easily so that it may rape them. Because baboons are solitary, raping is a viable strategy for these males. An alternate theory presented is that the rape is not directly advantageous but is rather a form of sexual coercion (like battery for chimps and infanticide for gorillas) that induces females to be more passive toward that male should she encounter it again, but until some evidence shows that the latter actually occurs, I would say Occam’s Razor suggests that rape is about sex in that instance rather than power.

The exception to this pattern, and discussed in the third to last chapter of the book, are bonobos. Wrangham states that there really is another evidence to be confident that they are the “hippie ape” they have been portrayed as, just as Margaret Mead’s Samoans were not. The theory for how they turned out that way is that a drought and absence of mountains in their home long ago exterminated the local gorillas. This freed up a lot of soft herbs that gorillas had been eating for chimps (or a similar sort of proto-chimp from around the time our ancestors branched off by leaving trees and eating roots in a different area) to add as significant feature of their diet rather than focusing on fruits. This in turn enabled significantly larger and more stable parties. As species ranging from honeypot ants to chimpanzees are reluctant to attack with intent to kill without an overwhelming advantage in numbers (making this book not quite the antidote to Randall Collins someone made it out to be), this makes raids less likely among bonobos. Females that spend that much time with each other also bond through what may simply and politely referred to as hoka-hoka (which also enables friendly relations among different parties that encounter one another), and will support one another in the infrequent event of a male acting like an uppity chimp. Females do not have to worry as much about falling behind a few males in search of food while carrying an infant and thereby becoming vulnerable because as mentioned their party size is much larger and like gorillas they have plenty of herbs to munch on. Males do not display the same pattern of jealousy toward females because they appear to be unaware of when females are especially fertile. In that sense they are like the South American muriqui monkey, whose males only engage in sperm competition rather than attempting to prevent any mating. The result is that males and females are co-dominant, with status hierarchies (though associated with much less violence, usually blustering and without premeditated murder) among both sexes that intermingle to the extent that a high-status female may assist a favored male (such as a close relative) in attaining an alpha position. On a final strange note, chimpanzees love to hunt colubus monkeys and eat them, but while bonobos eat meat (such as infant antelopes, as do chimps) and are fully capable of catching colobus monkeys, they show no inclination to eat them, even after accidentally killing them through play (UPDATE: Turns out to be wrong). The authors hypothesized a reduced bloodlust and a link between war and hunting.

On a short digression, it should be noted that there are some species that are actually matriarchal. In such cases it is the females that stay in a particular territory and defend it whereas males are more likely to join other parties to avoid incest (under patriarchy it is the reverse). In some species of monkeys such as rhesus macqaues or savanna baboons females form phalanxes and fight each other for territory, though it is non-lethal and the objective is simply to induce the other group to go away. Spotted hyenas are an odd reversal of the usual pattern in that they are among the few species (such as humans, chimps, lions and wolves) where adults deliberately kill other adults, in this case generally both females. The authors emphasize that this exception serves further to illustrate the rule, as these females are significantly masculinized by androgen, with the result that their clitoris (through which they give birth and is thus prone to tear) comes to resemble a penis. The hypothesized reason for that is that they commonly give birth to twins (unless it is their first birth) and that if they are sisters they will almost immediately attempt to kill one another, and this masculinizing serves as a type of camoflage. They are not exactly a mirror image because the result of conquering territory is simply more food. The gestation period prevents females from having the same interest in grabbing extra mating partners from another group, but they can still gain from weakening the other party so that it cannot in turn threaten them.

The final part of the book (excepting the last chapter as merely an epilogue) imagines an “evolutionary feminism”. Even today humanity is strongly shaped by patriarchy. We display a slight degree of sexual dimorphism and the advent of modern weapons makes that muscular difference even less significant, but women in certain situations still experience anxiety and vulnerability alone in the company of males (as Megan McArdle discussed here in the aftermath of DC vs Heller). Males still form gangs, sometimes in the form of armies and empires, to wield power. The world we live in has been shaped to the advantage of the succesful alpha males (Roy Baumeister discusses the internal differences among males within a patriarchal system like ours here). Females, despite the attempt by feminists to “take back the night”, do not form similar support networks as among bonobos to restrain male power. Furthermore, evolution gives them the same perverse attraction to the demonic male as discussed by Overcoming Bias and Theodore Dalrymple. Though the demonic actions of males are harmful to her interests and therefore cause her anguish, a woman who has sons fathered by an example of that type can expect them to be similarly successful. Most cultures throughout history have accepted polygyny (only some Tibetans practice the reverse of polyandry) and even monagamous societies feature mistresses and serial monogamy. This makes traits associated with the demonic male desirable. An ambitious plan would then be to change the very nature or temperament of both males and females. A widespread eugenics program is explicitly considered, but discounted as impractical, as the most demonic males are the least likely to go gently into that good night. The authors look instead to a process they see as already taking place. That is the depersonalization and institutionalization (and to a lesser degree, centralization) of governance, to the point where power comes from the number of ballots rather than barrels of guns or a striking fist. Women already comprise a majority of the population in many countries, they simply have not come together to advance their interests as women and overturn the system. John Lott has argued that they do have diverging political interests (especially if they are not married) and that the result of female suffrage has been a detectable change in policy, more specifically an increase in the size of governemtn. Wrangham and Peterson instead think of a reduction in imperialism as being the result of female political power. However, like males female voters display a bias toward male politicians, even when females perform well (I’d like to link to the Overcoming Bias post on that which focuses on India, but can’t find it, so here is the original paper I think it discussed). Feminism aims to change that, but it hasn’t accomplished much since the mid 90s when this book was written. The very fact that many people find the bonobo model preferable and would like to move toward it would seem to indicate something significant, but the extremely violent indigenous peoples of South America and New Guinea likewise recognize the undesirable nature of their constant fighting (though the book claims at least one South America tribe abandoned their ways under the influence of a few Protestant missionaries). It is my sin that I am Pushtun!

Both books were recommended to me by Mencius Moldbug, and given the last chapters of the last book I am even more surprised that he has not yet discussed gender issues at his blog. MM opposes institutionalization, whether that means direct democracy or bureaucracies and committees. He likes monarchies, the archetypical personalized patriarchy. The authors use as a contrast the northern and southern italian city states, preferring the more republican ones of the north. MM here takes the opposite side. The stated goal of MM’s ideology of “formalism” is to minimize violence, which at first glance would seem to put him in the same camp as the evolutionary feminists. Yet he is upset at the anti-militarism of modern society and hold special ire for the “post-political” New Deal state and European Union. He argues that a hierarchical structure based on violence is inevitable, with the only question being whether it is formalized and therefore more a nature of omnipresent threat rather than actual struggle. However, the ruling regime doesn’t seem to enact much violence, even when coming to power in the so-called “hippie coup” (can you look at the bodycount and seriously compare it to Weimar Germany?). The hated State Department and university/media complex possess neither the ability nor the inclination to wreak violence on their subject populations, as the military and police forces of numerous authoritarian dictatorships have.

Here I get to a point of contention. According to what I had previously read elsewhere, very long-term homicide rates (including war deaths) show a significant, secular decline and while in the U.S crime spiked in the Great Sixties Freakout, it has steadily declined since the 90s (in the comments there it is noted that violent crime in the UK is also declining). In constrast, Wrangham & Peterson say “as we survey societies from ancient Greece to modern-day nations we can detect no clear pattern in the overall rates of death from intergroup violence, which remain between 5 and 65 per 100,000 per year”*. At the end of that paragraph they worry over the new danger of “automatic rifles, fertilizer bombs, dynamite, nerve gas, Stealth bombers, or nuclear weapons”. I found that odd as the works of military history I’ve read state that even ignoring disease (the major cause of death in war for most of its history) war deaths decreased over time even as technology increased, and not because of better medical care but because the bulk of killings in war occurred during routs and increasingly better organized armies have been able to retreat in a safer fashion.

At any rate, during MM’s idealized ancien regime of monarchical Europe, there were a good number of wars and a whole lot of people died. Yet he claims that the epidemic of crime indicates that the status quo is doomed within his lifetime, and people will be clamoring for the return of the Stuarts. He frames the crime issue as one in which largely black and hispanic Dalits wage an ethnic/racial war against white Vaisyas on behalf of the ruling Brahmins (a cosmopolitan bunch also largely white). This is complicated by the fact that the real interracial violence committed by gangs seems to be black vs hispanic, though this is in turn dwarfed by intra-racial violence which is still largely directed at other criminals, and that criminals do not distinguish between Vaisyas and Brahmins (who as a more urban caste are more likely to live nearby). Being white, female and/or without a criminal record results in a negligible possibility of being victimized. The primary hit whites and asians seem to take is in paying taxes to house criminals once they have been apprehended (a cost primarily borne by the upper class and/or blue state residents), a cost that MM indicates he will expand rather than reduce. One might also argue that they shell out more to real-estate agents as demographics move.

It is arguable that there have been larger shifts in the role of gender in our society the past century than race. Contraceptive technologies have separated sex from reproduction and changing social mores permitted large numbers of women to enter higher education and the workforce (though they are unlikely to ever be equally represented in many areas). At Gene Expression it has been argued that our society has been returning to the relative (and I emphasize that word as opposed to “absolute”) gender-egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. Emulating Burnham or Strauss, one might then claim an esoteric message behind Unqualified Reservations. He seeks a return of patriarchy, though one of the relatively civilized Optimates of the past rather than the more backward one natural selection would give us if current trends continue. This will not result in a reduction of violence, but more likely an increase. However, that would only seem bad to the feminized, emasculated men of the modern era. The best life is one of plunder by force of arms. The problem with Western civilization in the past that led it on the trajectory toward pacifism is Christianity. There was always the germ of a radical social doctrine preached by a madman that has inspired “progressivie” movements throughout time. Liberalism, even (or especially) in its atheistic form is a sect of Christianity. Unlike many self-proclaimed right-wingers, MM has not sought to disassociate himself from the Nazi regime and Hitler. He insists that Hitler was a genuine reactionary and any progressive or “revolutionary” indicators he gave off were bogus. Right-wingers that seek to disassociate themselves from Hitler (Spengler in his various forms in particular) emphasize his paganism and hostility to Christianity. Some also point out that he stated he wished Germany’s religion had been Islam or Shintoism. There is Mencius’ goal. Our society must be converted away from Christianity, and as Shinto holds limited appeal and has a short track record, the answer is Islam. Islam converted some nomadic Arabs with negligible impact on history to a world-spanning empire. Someone or other has mentioned that a society devoid of liberalism, or Christianity or feminine values is essentially one like that of the Islamic world. Islam only ran aground on the wealth and technology of the West, but it has sustained its faith despite that setback and embraced fundamentalism rather than liberalism as the Japanese did to a significant extent. Converting the West to Islam will turn the obstacle of the faith to an ally. This new civilization will both be militarily strong, technologically and economically advanced as well as reactionary and patriarchal, resistant to liberalism. The big question that then occurs to you is how this civilization deals with a rising China. MM has frequently pointed to China and other East Asian countries as models, and this is to emphasize their illiberalism. Without the germ of liberalism they do not represent the constant threat to Islam that neocons did to Iraq and Wilson did to the Second Reich. The Romans and other European powers were long able to live at peace with the Chinese, content as they were with the Middle Kingdom and uninterested in exploration. So it will be with WestIslam. Onward to outer space!

*This appears in the chapter Taming the Demon and cites footnote 19: “Sorokin (1962: 295-341) presents death rates from international war, averaged by century, for Greece (fifth to second century B.C.), Rome (fourth century B.C. to the third century A.D.) and for Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Small and Singer (1983 118 and 252) present annual death rates from wars for 176 states between 1816 and 1980”. The works cited are, respectively, “Social and Cultural Dynamics, vol. 3” and “Resort to Arms: International and Civil Wars, 1816-1980”.

Advertisements