Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

Friday, September 19, 2014

Time machine in a bottle

Randall Parker has a fun post on hypothetical* time machine travel and what he fantasizes about being able to accomplish if given access to the requisite technology. In that spirit, the first three things that came to this rank amateur's mind:

- 326, modern-day Serbia. Locate the place Constantine's (probably) illegitimate but competent son Crispus was being held and hold off the assassin the irascible emperor dispatched to off him. Next, make Constantine and his court aware that Fausta framed Crispus and allow the emperor to gas her as he did.

The intent of this bit of social engineering being to avoid the in-fighting between Constantine's three succeeding sons and prevent the breakup of the empire and the eventual collapse of its western half. A contiguous empire is maintained through the time of Justinian (or whoever wore the purple as a consequence of my meddling) and the wealth secured by Anastasius isn't squandered on a quixotic and crippling quest to make the thing whole again.

Parenthetically, in a sort of wish-for-more-wishes move, I'd go back past Seneca all the way to Aristotle to inform tutors that their most important function was to instill a sense of just how damned important succession planning is. It should be the first order of business! In WEIRD societies we take the smooth transfer of power for granted in our own countries, but that's not even the contemporary global norm, and it certainly hasn't been the historical one. Staying with Rome, it barely made it 60 years after Augustus before a lack of prudent succession planning threatened imperial collapse.

- Circa 1190, England. Prince John would be informed in no uncertain terms that he was not to repeat the treachery he'd taken part, in league with his older brother Richard, against his father by doing the same to said older brother while the latter was on crusade. So doing would result in him becoming a unwilling teetotaler. Not because there wouldn't be anymore alcohol in England, but because he'd be dead (a threat I'd rather not have to make good on, because as a good little-R republican, I wouldn't want to indirectly keep the Magna Carta from coming into existence!). Instead, he would loyally and dutifully work to maintain his brother's holdings in England and Normandy until Richard had completed the third crusade's stated objective of retaking Jerusalem.

Staying in Acre for a few months longer than he actually did, Richard joyfully receives the news of Saladin's death. Taking advantage of the internecine fighting between Saladin's sons and their uncle for control of the Ayyubid dynasty, Richard reestablishes the Kingdom of Jerusalem to something like it's borders after the first crusade. If things shake out right, maybe he eventually even takes Egypt.

Perhaps this just pushes the ultimate collapse of the crusader states back a few decades, but alternatively maybe it leads to substantial amounts of Islamic territory reverting to Christianity. The fourth crusade doesn't happen--or if it does, it gets to Egypt--so Byzantium doesn't fall to the Latins. Instead, it becomes more than a moribund shell of its former self for the next three centuries before ultimately falling to the Ottomans. Obscenely optimistically, this gets us to a 21st century in which Antioch Christians in Syria and Coptics in Egypt constitute majorities of their respective countries' populations.

Less sexily, I could shoot for pretty much the same thing by pulling Frederick Barbarossa out of the Saleph river before he drowned.

- 1600, modern-day Gifo Prefecture. Prior to the decisive battle of Sekigahara, I'd appear--attempting to replicate something similar to Constantine's putative Milvian Bridge conversion experience--to both Ieyasu and Mitsunari, explaining to both in turn that promising to open Japan up to European influence would guarantee each one of them the ability to consolidate the country under his family's rule. If that results in the Tokugawa shogunate settling in as it did or if it leads to an Ishida shogunate filling the void isn't important, so long as the winning side welcomes the Dutch and Portuguese with open arms instead of keeping them at arm's length for decades and decades. Commodore Perry can force his way into somewhere in Southeast Asia instead.

Let's give Japan a two centuries' head start on what history gave her. It'll trickle down to Korea and China. We might be opening a Pandora's box, but maybe a more serious East keeps Europe from ripping itself apart in WWI.

These necessarily presume a Great Man approach to history. While I personally lean a little more in the direction of Herbert Spencer, it doesn't matter much in this context since it's presumably beyond the scope of a single time traveler to engineer meaningful changes of entire social environments. If a single man is going to change history, it's going to have to be by changing the outcomes of the great men of history.

* The specific word choice here is deliberate, since it strikes me as blatantly obvious that travelling backwards in time is impossible. If it were possible, we'd see evidence of it all the time. Yes, in the future it is conceivable that for understandable reasons there would be lots of restrictions on journeying into the past like not allowing anyone or anything to realize you were there, but that's an impossibly high standard to maintain--unless, I suppose, humanity (or whatever would travel backwards in time) had been so completely altered from humans today so as to be characterized by a nature unrecognizable to us in the early 21st Century. They'd all have to be members of the hivemind or surely somewhere some teenager would go out on a time travel joyride without his parents' permission.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

On A Troublesome Inheritance

An assortment of reactions and responses (calling it a review would be way too pretentious) to Nicholas Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance follow. First, a couple of minor quibbles:

- In the context of the eugenics movement in the US in the early 20th century, Wade equates "restrictive immigration laws" (p38) with the actions of state legislatures decreeing sterilization of the mentally infirm and the Supreme Court's decision in Buck v Bell, which allowed for "unwarranted assaults on the country's weakest citizens".

Immigration restrictionism, to the extent that it has as an objective of increasing human capital inside of the country, is only fairly described as potentially being about positive eugenics. State-mandated sterilization, on the other hand, is an example negative eugenics in practice. Positive eugenics are considerably less 'controversial' than negative eugenics are. Additionally, the implicit assertion that a nation's control over who is allowed inside its borders is as dicey as a nation's control over which of its citizens are allowed to breed, needs, at the least, a full explanation, of which Wade provides none.

- Wade asserts that in contemporary Western countries "the affluent now tend to have fewer children [than the poor do]" (p180). That may be overly pessimistic*, at least in the US.

Now, some inferred policy implications (how's that for audacity?):

- The more a society is characterized by paternal investment, the easier it is for that society to become (or maintain being) one of relatively higher trust. Paternal investment, which includes at its base identification and presence, has, by extension, an influence on the level of inbreeding in a society. Crassly, picture a scenario in the projects where paternal investment or even certainty is not a given. A child who does not know who his father is may end up mating with a relative he would not have otherwise mated with had he known previously that she was his cousin.

More importantly, however, pair-bonding creates a dynamic in which children are familiar not only with their maternal extended families but also with their paternal ones. When they enter the mating market, they then, by extension, become familiar with their in-laws. Their in-laws, of course, are people to whom they are not (outside of tribal societies) closely related to. The base of their social network is thus much wider than it would otherwise be. As Wade puts it, "Having a dad around makes all the difference to social networks" (p45).

When paternal investment is lacking, social networks shrink in size and trust declines. At the same time, the hole left by the absence of said investment must be filled by other suppliers, often the state. The state's role as surrogate father creates a relative material disincentive for future paternal investment, perpetuating a vicious cycle in which the decline of trust in society is but one consequence. Increasing diversity isn't the only reason we're hunkering down.

- There really is no place like home. Among contemporary European adults, 90% of people can be located to within 435 miles of where they were born, and 50% within 193 miles (p79). Among non-Europeans, the percentages are presumably even higher, and in the past these percentages were surely higher still. Feelings of homesickness and deracination experienced by those living far from where they grew up presumably has a genetic basis, and the American tendency towards migration across (and outside) the country can't be free of potentially problematic psychological consequences. Very few of our ancestors were rootless wanderers. 

In this vein, Dan's recent comment in response to the observation that empty nesters are at heightened 'risk' of experiencing boredom is worthy of reflection:
Empty nesting is a degenerate modern thing. The solution is to be engaged with one's clan so that raising kids blends smoothly into helping with grandkids.

For this you need enough descendants to begin with. My nearby parents have from one to all four of my kids over at their house on many days. There is massive mutual benefit.
You also need the geographic proximity to make it possible.

- I've whined about seemingly unnecessary semantic changes over time, one of which is the noun progression to identify people of African descent in the US from negro to black to African-American. Similar to Palestinians, Somalis, and Ethiopians (p94), blacks in the US are a mix of Caucasian and African--two of the three major racial classifications Wade favors, the third being East Asians. As "African" and "negro" are essentially interchangeable in this racial context, black is the most apt descriptor of the three since it identifies a primarily African but also Caucasian racial hybrid category (in much the same way the terms "mestizo" and "mulatto" do).

- "Language is often an isolating mechanism that deters intermarriage with neighboring groups" (p98). If one of the Cathedral's goals is biological assimilation between US natives and immigrants into the US, linguistic assimilation is a prerequisite. Yet the Cathedral has nothing but disdain for those who would have English as the official language of the land.

I suppose we could overcome these two contradictory goals by mastering every tongue now present in our New Babylon!

- How much more history of the ancient and medieval worlds can be told? Are we not at the point where all the major approaches have been exhausted, the consequence being that only niche narratives, like the history of facial hair, are left to be synthesized?

Emphatically, no. Wade explains why: "Each gene under selection will eventually tell a fascinating story about some historical stress to which the population was exposed and then adapted" (p105). The Byzantines didn't think of themselves as Byzantines, they thought of themselves as Romans. The term is a latter scholarly invention. We know said Byzantines were socially and culturally Roman. In the future, we'll know how biologically Roman (or not) they were, too.

- Wade rehashes Jared Diamond's principle argument for the nonexistence of race--that there are lots of contradictory ways of categorizing them, and many of the ways are incompatible with one another so therefore all racial categorizations are equally absurd (p117). Italians, Greeks and Nigerians carry genes for resistance against malaria while Swedes and Xhosas do not, for example. Wade demolishes this argument by stating the obvious fact that convergent evolution (though he doesn't employ the phrase) need not and in fact does not imply racial convergence.

Taking inspiration from the chickadee, lightning bolt fits well in both American control and RDW decks. The shared presence of lightning bolt in both builds, however, does not negate the fact that American control is firmly a member of the control family (ie, race) while RDW is a staple of the aggro family.

- Discussing economists' tendency to treat people everywhere as interchangeable units, Wade provides a zinger: "A few economists ... have begun to ask if the nature of the humble human units that produce and consume all of an economy's goods and services might possibly have some bearing on its performance" (p154/5). Hey Russ Roberts, I have a guest suggestion for you!

- In a perfect world, what came to be called "Social Darwinism" would have been called "Social Spencerism", after Herbert Spencer (p24), and human biodiversity would be called "Social Darwinism", since the association with a revered scientific celebrity would make it sound cool. It's not all bad, though--HBD has diversity, after all, and that's pretty hip in itself!

Relatedly, there's a sort of iridescent irony in the Cathedral's assertion that Darwin's ideas have nothing--Nothing!--to say about Malthus' England when Darwin's impetus for the idea of natural selection came from Malthus' "analysis that population was always kept in check by misery and vice" (p11).

- Writes Wade: "Interest rates, which reflect a society's time preferences, have been very high--about 10%--from the earliest historical times and for all societies before 1400AD for which there are data. Interest rates then entered a period of steady decline, reaching about 3% by 1850. Because inflation and other pressures on interest rates were largely absent, [Gregory] Clark argues, the falling interest rates indicate that people were becoming less impulsive, more patient and more willing to save" (p158).

So, to help get yourself get into the mind of a 14th century European commoner, think about the mentality and behavior of someone who takes out payday loans today.

* That society is better off if wealth and fertility are positively correlated should not be politically controversial. From the left's perspective, it means greater economic equality since the rich are spreading their inheritances across more people (and the poor across fewer, so what they are able to spend on and eventually bequeath to their children goes further than it would if they had more kids).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Gender bender

From Google's Ngram viewer, the percentage of books published in the US, by year, that contain the term "sexes" and that contain the term "genders". Both terms are plural to facilitate the making of an apples-to-apples comparison (the verb form of "sex" thus being excluded).

If sex/gender is more than just a social construction, perhaps it can still be reduced to little more than a surgical construction? Just don't look at brain scans, musculature, waist-to-hip ratio, height, vocal inflection...

Oh yeah, you're a woman trapped in a man's body, are you? Prove it!:

As the concerns of gays and especially lesbians get trounced by trannies, one wonders what even more marginal, less consequential group's hyperbolic concerns will displace those of the gender benders.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The centurion made me do it

From Jayman's post a few weeks ago chastising those who offer pet issue(s) psychoanalysis every time a tragedy with high visibility dominates a few days' worth of news cycles:
This should make clear the foolhardiness of trying to identify causal factors – especially those from life experience – that are responsible for any given individual’s behavior.
Jayman is a vociferous proponent of the importance of heredity and the correspondingly diminutive influence external environmental factors have on real world outcomes. That's what the data show, and that presumption wields Occam's Razor a lot more deftly than do all the modern epicycles that are applied (countless inconsistencies notwithstanding) in describing so many aspects of society.

It's important to keep in mind, though, that it isn't quite the whole story. There are threshold requirements--things that are necessary but not sufficient for realizing full potential--like nutritional sufficiencies, avoidance of severe physical injuries and avoidance of severely limited access to peers or exposure to language, etc.

Environmental factors need not only play a role by way of deprivation, either. After blazing a trail of destruction from modern Norfolk through to London, Boudica's bands upon bands of warriors, greatly outnumbering the Paulinus' single legion and its auxiliaries, were cut to pieces in the face of organized, disciplined Roman resistance. The ancient historian Cassius Dio:
Thereupon the armies approached each other, the barbarians with much shouting mingled with menacing battle-songs, but the Romans silently and in order until they came within a javelin's throw of the enemy. Then... they rushed forward and hit the enemy at full tilt so that at the clash they easily broke through the opposing line.
It's recorded that 80,000 Britons died in the battle; just 400 Romans did.

The legionaries' famous steely discipline might, I suppose, have a hereditary behavioral component, but the martial ethos and military culture of the Romans probably account for lion's share of their advantage at arms, and it wasn't as though Celts and Gauls adopted into the legions were markedly less efficient than their Roman counterparts--they just needed to be trained. Even if corporal punishment doesn't get results today, decimation did.

There is a point to harking back nearly two millenia, though, and it's this: The freer, more mobile a society is, the more intractable differences in behaviors and outcomes are going to be. Attempting to eradicate all the incorrigible Gaps by aspiring towards a level playing field (as the Establishment often does by word if not by deed) is a strategy doomed to failure. In fact it'll only accentuate those gaps, not reduce them. It's easier to find truly behavioralist explanations in the past (and outside the WEIRD world) than it is in the present, and it'll be even more so in the future. Liberty and equality* are not complementary; indeed, to a large extent they're mutually exclusive.

Though most HBDers have the knowledge at hand to understand this, it's not always at the surface of their minds (it wasn't at mine until rather recently). It should be.

* Beyond isonomy and the conception of the spiritual, anyway

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Amorality of selected countries

Pew recently released a report entitled "Global Views on Morality" in which respondents in 40 countries were queried on the morality of eight traditional 'values'-related issues: Infidelity, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol usage, divorce, and contraception. Respondents categorized each of them as morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not moral issues at all.

The following table ranks countries by the amorality of their denizens. The percentages who labelled each of the eight issues as not being moral are simply summed for each country:

1. France388
2. Canada353
3. Australia304
4. Spain298
5. Great Britain296
6. United States269
7. Germany264
8. Italy249
9. Greece219
10. Israel215
11. Poland193
12. Japan182
13. China177
14. South Korea172
15. Senegal170
16. Argentina163
17. Czech Republic158
18. Chile155
18. Mexico155
20. Lebanon137
21. Jordan130
22. South Africa124
23. Egypt117
24. Brazil106
24. Kenya106
26. Nigeria104
26. Turkey104
28. Russia101
29. Malaysia98
30. India94
31. Palestinian territories92
32. Venezuela88
33. Bolivia82
33. Philippines82
35. El Salvador68
36. Tunisia66
37. Uganda65
38. Indonesia49
39. Ghana29
39. Pakistan29

What Jonathan Haidt terms "WEIRD" societies (read the modern West) tend to the least judgmental, followed by East Asia and the more European nations of Latin America, with sub-Saharan African and Muslim countries the most morally righteous (!). Descartes wept.

Okay, it's tough to employ the phrase "morally righteous" here without scoffing. These are traditional moral issues whose relevance stretches back millenia into the past--the average Roman living in the reign of Augustus would recognize and have an opinion on all of them as would a builder of the pyramids before him or the subject of the Angevins after him would. A good contemporary SWPL, in contrast, feels that expressing much of an opinion on them is a telltale sign that someone is not a member of the Elect. It evinces a level of cultural sophistication befitting a troglodyte.

The historically novel moral concerns of the Cathedral--most firmly rooted in the West--are quite different, but the Cathedral is scarcely less certain of the rightness of its values than the Caliphate is. In some cases, like infidelity and gambling, it's not that the Cathedral and the Umma are on opposing sides, it's that the former doesn't recognize what the latter does as moral concerns at all. They are merely behaviors people choose to engage in or abstain from. From the Cathedral's view, there is more morality wrapped up in the question of smoking a cigarette than there is in several of these issues.

Homosexuality is the only real exception among the eight items Pew evaluated, and the homosexual rights movement is largely galvanized by opposition to opposition to homosexuality. It's anti-anti-gay, as the visceral hate directed at the late Fred Phelps so frequently illustrated, rather than a special fondness for same-sex intimacy that makes the movement attractive.

Parenthetically, the inverse correlation between amorality and total fertility is a moderate .45 (p = .0000000000001). That is, amoral countries do less breeding than morally judgmental countries do. Not surprising, although before running the numbers I would've guessed it to be a bit stronger than it appears to be.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Heil Brandenburg

John Derbyshire:
Reviewing a book about eugenics for brought home to me again what a colossal influence on our intellectual culture the Nazis were. What would our public conversation on human-nature topics—race, genetics, the Jews—be like if the Nazis had never existed? Way different, for sure.
What, indeed, would a non-German conversation on Germany be like? The observation provides a nice segue for what I saw when the family was strolling through a local bookstore the other day:

In the history section the two shelves labelled "Germany" had between them a single book that was on a subject not directly related to Germany's involvement in the second great war and/or the role the Nazi party played in getting it there.

Thomas Sowell deals with this in a chapter in Black Rednecks and White Liberals. If someone of European descent were to argue as much he'd no doubt be betraying his Nazi sympathies in the process, much as Pat Buchanan has in questioning the wisdom of American involvement in WWII!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How many lives did slavery save?

In the most recent episode of Radio Derb, the eponymous host comments:
The further we get away from the age of slavery, the more angry people seem to be getting about it.

Well, some people. You know … black people. Slavery was a nearly universal feature of human society until the early-modern period, and was no respecter of race or nationality. A few years ago I reviewed Robert Davis's fine book Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters. Davis is a professor of history at Ohio State. In his book he tells the story of Muslim slave-raiding across the Mediterranean.
I wonder how many lives the "institution of slavery" (a phrase that is probably more obfuscating than it is clarifying, since the variables have, well, varied a lot across time and place) has saved throughout anatomically modern human history.

Lots of slaves became as much as a result of capture by an opposing military force engaged in campaigns in which human booty was not the official (or primary) objective. It's often safer and almost always easier for a fighter to kill his potential captive than it is to subdue him, keep him alive, and get him to a market or trade caravan--especially civilians inside a town that has been successfully sieged--but because that captive tended to be worth more alive than dead, there was a strong monetary incentive for the fighter not to kill or maim him. It's not as though slavery came without risks--volcanic ash wasn't the only thing to explode out of Mt. Vesuvius; Nat Turner's rebellion brought slave owners' worst nightmares to life; under the Yuan dynasty, Chinese slaves apparently often targeted their direct co-ethnic owners rather than their Mongol overlords during uprisings and rebellions.

Net-net, are there more people alive today than there would otherwise be had no person ever been held in involuntary bondage to another? Presumably it's an impossible question to answer and of course it's an evil one that only an evil person would even think to ask.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kingdom of Heaven

It's set in the years before the launch of the third crusade, culminating in the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187. The narrative contains plenty of historical errors, the most blatant being the antagonism between Sibylla and Guy, which is as backwards as it gets--she not only snubbed and scandalized all of the kingdom of Jerusalem, of which she was princess and then queen, with her incorrigible devotion to Guy, she even threw the Byzantine emperor Manuel for a loop by dropping her betrothal to his guy in favor of the Guy (pronounced "Gee", as in McGee, incidentally). Until the siege of Jerusalem near the end, the movie's primary protagonist, Balian, shares little more than a name with his eponym.

But so what? Having seen Commodus and one of the Gracchi brothers scheming against one another in Gladiator, you have no one to blame but yourself for expecting historical integrity from Ridley Scott. And there were some neat nods to what actually did happen--after Jerusalem is surrendered, Guy and Balian spar. Guy, who is portrayed about as one-dimensionally villainous as he can possibly be portrayed throughout the two-and-a-half hour film, is brought to his knees. Balian spares him, telling him to rise again, but this time to do so as a knight (chivalrous, honorable, etc). Well, ignoring the fact that he wasn't released by Saladin when Jerusalem fell, his next move was to initiate the siege of Acre, a desperate gamble that would eventually culminate in a highly improbable victory for what was left of the crusader states. Neat.

King of Heaven (KoH) contains plenty of the Brothers Karamazov-type lamentations over the putative existence of a God who would allow, and even sanction, such horror and brutality. It's stuff that enlightened western audiences love to eat up, and all of it is uttered by Latins with the exception of one ambivalent line from Saladin about Jerusalem being both nothing and everything. Some measure of balance, however, is provided in the depiction of "the Leper King", Baldwin IV (the only especially remarkable and memorable personality in the movie), a kingdom of the heart-and-mind kind of man who competently and judiciously holds power without being corrupted by it.

Kingdom of Heaven (KoH) was released in 2005, a year when anything encouraging a lessening of tensions between the nominally-Christian West and the Muslim world was understandably welcome. Christians--Latins and Byzantines both--and Muslims were more-or-less evenly matched in the 12th century. By the 21st, of course, there is no longer any contest (at least not militarily). Consequently, the Latins (for the sake of simplicity and presumably also for contemporary relevance, the movie is devoid of both Jews and Byzantines) take the fall over and over again for being zealous, bloodthirsty, hypocritical, and cynical. The cross is the vehicle used to deliver the moral of the story, that fighting over land in the name of religion is bad bad bad.

In an era when an absurdly fantastical movie like 300 elicits charges of anti-Islamic sentiments, it's expecting far too much for a big name like Scott to portray the crusader states in a neutral light, let alone a positive one.

That said, the movie deserves credit for not getting into the proto-colonialism nonsense. Crusading was extremely expensive. The first crusade was primarily funded privately, largely by those leading it. Godfrey of Bouillon, who would become the first ruler of the KoJ, sold the entire county of Verdun to the king of France and still had to mortgage Boullion itself to finance his expedition. It cost the typical crusader four to five years worth of income to set forth to the holy land. The poor, who comprised much of Peter the Hermit's following, were a constant drain on crusading efforts and were vociferously discouraged from taking part by the papacy itself. Subsequent crusades were financed in large part through taxation, first on the clergy and then on the general public.

Further, there had never been any prospect of the KoJ becoming a source of revenue for Europe. Over the course of its nearly two-hundred year existence, the kingdom was perpetually propped up by men, supplies, and massive financial transfers from Europe. If anything, Europe acted as a "colony" of the KoJ. The Templars, who rivaled the major Italian banking houses in their breadth, made money in Europe to spend sustaining their fortified castles, knights, sergeants, and squires in the holy land. In fact, likely the first ever income tax in the West was levied on those in England and France to finance the third crusade--now that's a genuinely ugly legacy of the crusading period! Returning from King Louis IX's second (and fatal) crusade, King Edward I of England would be the last person to lead a significant crusading effort from Europe. Twenty years later, with large scale support from the continent having dried up, the KoJ was, quite literally, driven into the sea by Muslim forces--the kingdom's last remnant was the Templar's island fortress at Arwad, a couple of miles off the Syrian coast.

Kudos, too, for (sort of) voicing the "we were here first" Christian polemic that played so well back in Europe. And play well it should have, since Christianity claimed Jerusalem as its holiest city several hundred of years before Muhammad was born and Islam claimed it as its third most holy. Booms Balian, "the Muslim holy places lie over your's[, Christians]".

Fortunately, the most historically egregious scene didn't make it past the director's cut:

When the first "knights of Christ" ("crusader" being a term invented long after the events they now refer to had come and gone) pushed through to Jerusalem, the city was defended by the Fatimids, a Shia dynasty centered in Egypt. The same Fatimids that Saladin--a Kurdish Sunni--would help conquer in the name of the Zengids, a Sunni dynasty based in Syria. Saladin would do so years before his military conflicts with the Latins (or, as the Arabs referred to them, the Franje). In other words, Saladin's army was full of men who'd spilled plenty of Fatimid blood of their own. It's doubtful many of them had a soft spot in their hearts for the great grandparents of their sacrilegious, recently vanquished rivals.

As far as the Muslims never forgetting goes, the first Arab history of the crusades wasn't written until the turn of the 20th century, so the Hospitaller wasn't as prescient as he thought he was--the Muslim world experienced 600 years of collective amnesia. That the KoJ is a minor detail in the histories of the Islamic world isn't surprising. The Latins never threatened Mecca or Medina and, save for the geographically limited conquests of the first crusade, were on the defensive for most of the kingdom's two centuries of precarious existence. The Franje were only one relatively minor group among many fighting for a stake in what has since come to be referred to as the Middle East. The 11th and 12th centuries are largely the story of expanding Turkish power in the Arab world and the competition between Damascus, Cairo, and Baghdad to become and remain the cultural center of the Islamic world. Jerusalem wasn't that important, and the other coastal cities even less so, especially since control of the seas was dominated by Byzantium throughout the crusading period.

Most people of European descent have heard of the Goths and the Mongols. They sacked Rome and Kiev, after all. The Marcomanni, though? Oh yeah, they caused a bit of trouble for the meditations guy when they crossed the Danube, right? Is that going to be on the test?

When Balian and Saladin meet just outside of Jerusalem to negotiate terms for the city's surrender, Balian is surprised by Saladin's offer to let the city's inhabitants take their things and leave without harm (in actuality, the historical Saladin allowed some of the inhabitants to be ransomed and the others sold into slavery; he didn't simply set them free).

Yes, that he is Saladin is why he, Saladin, did what he did. Tautology aside, he was financially strapped and was having expected difficulties holding together disparate groups of soldiers who had all been roped together under the budding Ayyubid dynasty. The siege of Jerusalem ninety years prior had been a much bloodier affair. In the context of the times, however, Balian would've expected the lives of the inhabitants to be spared since he was surrendering the city. His threat to Saladin was that if he didn't, a lot of Muslims would die.

It's highly probable that the Jewish and Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem would've been spared in 1099 if the city had surrendered. It didn't, of course, and the ensuing siege caused massive crusader casualties that Jerusalem's capitulation would've avoided. Additionally, the first crusaders faced the prospect of being trapped and annihilated by a Fatimid army on the way from Egypt. Jerusalem's refusal to open its gates to them meant they had little choice but to break in or be left to slaughtered.

The primary reason the crusades have become a rallying call across the contemporary Muslim world is because of the geographical overlap between the KoJ's ancient borders and those of modern day Israel. Maybe when Texas secedes from the US and then, instead of reinstating the Lone Star Republic, petitions to become Mexico's northernmost state, whites in San Antonio will start vociferously reminding the world of the Alamo.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I like Ike-Abdullah-bin-Abdulaziz-Al-Saud

Saudi Arabia has deported 250,000 illegal immigrants in the last several months (via the chickadee). The "Saudization" campaign has prodded over one million more to leave of their own volition, with that number expected to have doubled by year's end to two million. For every one illegal immigrant forcibly removed, another eight or so are voluntarily removing themselves.

If that ratio sounds eerily familiar to you, you're probably a crimethinker. More than half a century ago during Operation Wetback, within the San Antonio district of the repatriation program, INS apprehended 80,000 illegal aliens for deportation. Between 500,000-700,000 fled the US for Mexico on their own. Taking the middle of that range, for every one illegal immigrant forcibly removed, another seven or eight voluntarily removed themselves.

No, we can't deport the 12 million-plus illegals residing inside the US. Not unless we give them the Templar treatment, anyway. If we ever actually start to look like we're serious about enforcing our immigration laws and maintaining our national sovereignty, the vast majority will find the door long before we're able to show it to them.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Presidents, of all people, shouldn't notice things

Writes some Cathedral clone (via Steve Sailer):
[Nixon] was racist in the sense that he subscribed to an actual taxonomy and hierarchy of race—the idea that different groups possess inherent qualities. Asians are smart and industrious. Jews are crafty but lack moral fiber, and so on.
SAT math scores, by race:

From the GSS, average wordsum score by religious affiliation and the percentage of respondents from each affiliation who find it either "not wrong" or only "a bit wrong" for a person to hide some of his income in order to avoid paying income taxes on it:


Additionally, 'ethnic' Jews are more likely than others to self-identify as not having any religious affiliation than people raised in families of other religious persuasions are.

Nixon was racist in the sense that he subscribed to his own lying eyes told him.

GSS variables used: RELIG(1)(2)(3)(4)(5-13), WORDSUM, TAXCHEAT(1-2)(3-4)

Saturday, February 08, 2014

I planned how I'd use the wood from the apple tree weeks ago

Via Razib, my results from a Big Five personality traits test (executive branch edition):

Given that I reference words from his famous farewell address more than those of any other president, this seems fitting enough. I didn't delve into the methodology employed at the site, but some of the accompanying verbiage asserts that this personality profile tends to refer to a person "more likely to favor military intervention as a means of solving foreign policy problems". Sounds a little strange to describe a putatively close match with George Washington in such a way, but alas.

One can only wonder about Razib's--who is paired with Theodore Roosevelt--propensity for war-making. I suppose Razib's willingness to get intellectually pugilistic, and his approach towards the deployment and utilization of cutting edge genomics technologies could, figuratively, be seen as analagous to Teddy's approach to Cuba and the Philippines!

Every couple of years I like to indulge in one of these profile tests. Over the course of my adult life, four of the five facets have remained quite stable. The only trait that has moved much for me is agreeableness. It has declined, I suspect in no small part as a consequence of swallowing the red pill, spending so much time sifting through hatefacts, engaging in crimethink, and virtually hanging out in Dark Enlightenment circles.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Nothing new under the sol invictus

Amy Chua and Jeb Rubenfeld (she kept her own surname and enjoys the prominent first mention, yikes) write:
Strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.
I'm reading a biography on one of the most fascinating characters in Western history. While sailing to Greece in his late teens, ostensibly for educational purposes but more probably to get away from Sulla's faction in Rome, Julius Caesar was captured by Cilician pirates. As a patrician from a well-pedigreed family, he commanded a non-negligible ransom. But when the pirates agreed to one, Caesar scoffed. He was worth more than that. He demanded they up their request. They did. The ransom was met. Before being released, Caesar let his captors know that he was going to have them all crucified for having taken him hostage. They allegedly took it as a joke and let him go on his way. Without the auctoritas he'd accrue later in life or any legal authority to do so, he raised a militia on little more than charisma and patriotism. With that militia, Caesar hunted down the pirates who'd captured him and had them crucified just as he said he would. He slit their throats before they were strung up, though. The guy knew the value of clemency.

I bring up ancient Rome because one could be mistaken for thinking that Chua's description of successful groups was referring not to disparate groups in 21st century America, but to the Roman upper echelons in first century BC. In the atriums of many accomplished senatorial and equite households were ancestor rooms (imagines maiorum) where busts of clan ancestors were somberly displayed. They served to simultaneously remind those ancestors' living descendants of their clan's historical greatness and as an impetus to motivate said living members of the clan that they had a lot to live up to. It took patience and dedication to climb the cursus honorum, and time spent dawdling was time spent disgracefully.

In many ways these tribes sound similar in nature to the "groups" Chua focuses on in her newest book. They might be thought of as extended families with some level of inbreeding present. Where have we read about that before?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Beating the horse dead

From the aforementioned social media foray. One commenter to whom I posed the question, were able to choose, would he opt for his son to be gay or straight, answered thusly:
Your question to me doesn't need an answer since it is out of my control. There are of course less opportunities for homosexuals overall right now but that should continue to evolve by the time my child is older. So hopefully my child will have equal access to becoming successful regardless of their biological makeup. 
... Nurture is required to bring out the best that nature has to offer. Sure, Tiger Woods has supreme innate talent, but he still practices more than anyone else. There are countless athletes that didn't have the raw talent as others do in their field, but they work their butts off even more and are able to be just as successful in many cases. So just because you may be born into poverty and on paper you are likely to fail, given adequate developmental opportunities all people have a right to improve their socioeconomic status, and can become successful. (Or would you rather the American dream not exist?)
My respond to this dodge, which was prompted by the cheap questioning of whether or not I'd love my son if he turns out to be homosexual:
There is a real chance that it will be within your control during your lifetime. Even if it is momentarily hypothetical, it an eye-opening thought experiment. 
Regarding putative reduced opportunities, that's certainly open to argument. Diversity is the value academia, the corporate world, the political establishment, and the entertainment industries all hold up as more noble than any other, and they're all overly eager to promote those who have the right characteristics, to such an extent that people do whatever they can to look like they're members of the supposedly downtrodden group(s). Wendy Davis, Elizabeth Warren, and Barack Obama, just to name a few of the most well known recent examples of people who emphasize their minority traits when they could just as easily emphasize their more mainstream characteristics if those actually paid dividends for them. But it's hardly controversial to say if Obama was (perceived) as a white guy, he wouldn't be President. 
Nature is like an anchor, nurture like the ship's sails. The boat can move a moderate amount on the surface in this direction or that one depending on how well the sails are manned, but one can only sail the boat so far in this direction or the other before it hits its outward range and is restrained by an incorrigible, immovable weight. There are lots of people who practice things relentlessly without amounting to much of anything. And then there's Mozart.
To another approvingly noting that this was the first discussion of homosexual he could remember that didn't involve religion, I wrote:
Don't think the same hardware isn't in play, though. Morality and religion are historically quite difficult to disentangle, and contemporary Western liberal democracies--what Jonathan Haidt cleverly terms "WEIRD" societies--are definitely the exception. Guys like Richard Dawkins who hyperbolically claim that religion is akin to a virus, insinuating that it's evolutionarily harmful, could hardly be farther off the mark. As NYT science reporter Nicholas Wade has argued in The Faith Instinct, and Haidt confirms from a different angle in The Righteous Mind, religion carries with it a strong evolutionary advantage in terms of ensuring moral rectitude and social cohesion among its adherents.

They may lack supernatural elements, but there are lots of sacred precepts that exist in modern America. To figure out what a society holds sacred, consider what people are forbidden to challenge without risk to their careers, reputations, and even their lives (ie, James Watson's comments regarding Western solutions for sub-Saharan Africa, Lawrence Summers tumultuous time as Harvard's president, Jason Richwine's dissertation, John Derbyshire's realtalk version of "the talk", etc etc). Mock Christianity all you want in the most vile ways possible and no one really cares, especially among the Cathedral's inner party members, but suggest that IQ differences are why non-Asian minorities consistently underperform whites and Asians on virtually every sort of cognitive test ever comprised (from ASVAB to Raven's Matrices to Firefighter exams) or that the far higher rates of venereal diseases among gays than among heterosexuals is evidence of how biologically ill-adapted the human body is for engaging in homosexual behavior, and you'd better be prepared for a serious two minutes hate followed by blacklisting.

Read about the hell Galileo was given by the Establishment of his day for picking up Copernicus' torch and proving that our solar system is heliocentric rather than geocentric. Epicycles then, institutional racism today.
From a girl responding to the predictable mix of consternation and censure I received for putatively addressing such a sensitive issue in such a callous, clinical manner:
I feel the perspective from [those upset with assertions] is falling flat here because it's an emotional one. It's very hard to argue logic with emotion, but here goes. You have never had the terrible burden of watching disapproval and disgust enter the eyes of a loved one upon revealing who you really are. Whom you've come to find out, you can't help but be. As if you've pulled the wool over their eyes or it's somehow a cruel joke on them. You haven't grown up being told you are wrong, sick, unnatural, albeit inadvertently, by most of society and more importantly, loved ones. You haven't lost friends or family members in your life because of a simple variable of human chemistry. You haven't felt the terror or shame of hoping certain people won't find out because you know they will never see, accept, or love you in quite the same way. Keep in mind also that this is different than race or sex, it's not something that outwardly presents itself. In many cases you are left dealing with the fallout of a supposed betrayal. The majority of the time this is being processed and dealt with at tender ages and while the frontal lobe is still developing.

The desire by most leftist ( if you could get them to simply articulate their angst) is not to say sexuality cannot be changed while others can: Rather, to lift all oppressive forces, to grant understanding and allowance for one's desire to live their full potential without fear or judgement, and to create a world where this is the normal. It's hard because on one hand there is the ideal that all must be allowed their own rainbow of opinions, but when those opinions rear their ugly intolerant heads, the knee jerk reaction is to say "shut up a$$hole, I'm trying to create a better world over here."
And my rejoinder, employing a thought experiment I'm pretty confident Jonathan Haidt would approve of:
Well put, especially regarding the lifting of all oppressive forces (I know I'm beating a dead horse here, but I highly, highly recommend Haidt's Righteous Mind; parenthetically, Haidt is a moderate liberal, in case you're worried I'm trying to push personally amenable propaganda here).

The argument is, at essence, a moral one, not an airtight logical one. Take your same thought experiment, but instead of someone dealing with coming out of the closet as a homosexual, imagine it's a pederast or someone who is into bestiality struggling with his urges. Principally, there isn't much difference, other than the fact that homosexuality now enjoys around 45% moral approval among the American public while support for the other deviant lifestyles enjoys less than a tenth of that. Moral parameters can change quickly, though, as shifting societal feelings about same-sex marriage illustrate.

Presuming you're among the vast majority who find sex between an adult and an adolescent or a man and his pet to be morally wrong, how would you feel seeing it pushed on all media fronts with the insinuation that if you have a problem with it, there's something wrong with you? Well, now you have an idea of how traditionalist Americans feel about homosexuality and its persistent and conspicuous celebration in popular culture.

As an interesting aside, in ancient Greece and Rome, homosexuality between two grown men was considered scandalous and frowned upon, while sex between a man and a boy was considered acceptable and even encouraged among many affluent Hellenes. The emperor Hadrian (of Hardrian's Wall fame) deified his boy lover after the young man died. Tellingly, rumors swirled that Hadrian had lost interest in the boy after he entered puberty and had been looking for an opportunity to be rid of him so he could pursue riper pre-pubescents. And Hadrian was no Caligula--he is considered one of ancient Rome's better rulers.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

(Do not) Blame Canada, blame Canada!

What do the countries we like the most have in common with us? From Pew:

It's not just that they are our allies (a nebulous term, anyway). The Saudis are allies, aren't they? It's not geographic proximity. We like Canada but we don't like Mexico. It's not latitude, either. Again, we like Canada but we don't like Russia.

Language and culture, primarily. Anglophone countries come out on top.

The great white north, with scoring for aspiring immigrants and minimal international meddling (they sent a general to Rwanda a couple of decades ago, didn't they?) even manages to beat out the place that spawned us.

Great Britain meddles some, but at least they tend to be on our side. Israel excepted, the rest of the countries we like mostly keep to themselves (and like the Kingdom of Jerusalem nine centuries ago, its attempts to rope Europeans into bailing it out are entirely understandable if we put ourselves in Baldwin's Netanyahu's shoes).

The ones that challenge us--and I use "us" and "we" in this context for convenience, not out of a feeling of personal solidarity with our federal government and its priorities--are the ones we don't much care for: Russia with its hetero-fascism; China with its currency manipulations, cheap consumable dumps, and pushing of the military envelope; Mexico with its exportation of its unemployable social problems north of the border in return for tens of billions of dollars every year; Saudi Arabia for its inhabitants' tendencies to so often knock things down and blow things up.

Mexico is especially remarkable since our national media pays it so little mind (not for lack of demand). When it does come up, it is generally apologized for. The other bottom feeders, in contrast, are countries elites on both the left and the mainstream right aren't too keen on. No amount of sweet talking is enough to make people ignore what they're own lying eyes tell them about Mexico's contemporary contributions to the US. Additionally, Mexicans comprise a larger share of the foreign-born residing in the US (and thus participating in Pew's survey) than residents from any of the other countries considered do, yet even with this putative home team boost, Mexico still gives a poor showing. US' natives really aren't enamored of the place.

Parenthetically, from its inception in the early seventies through 1994, the GSS asked respondents how warmly they felt towards England, Brazil, Japan, Israel, China, and Russia. The higher the nation's score (which I've inverted, 0-9, for ease of comprehension from the survey's results), the warmer the feelings of the American public are:


Every day things change but basically they stay the same.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Give me the republic or give me death

Watching the two-season HBO series Rome was an enjoyable experience for this amateur interested in the history of the republic and later empire. The juxtaposition of stoicism and epicureanism in the two historically insignificant protagonists, the skillful crafting of a narrative in a world that is in some ways strikingly similar to our own but in others utterly alien to it, the immensely satisfying casting--combine for one hell of a historically fictional ride.

On that last point regarding the casting, though, a couple of the portrayals bugged me. Octavia, not for aesthetic reasons, but because in the series she's an irresponsible hedonist when the historical consensus seems to be that she pulled off quite the balancing act, managing to remain loyal, faithful, and contemporarily dignified both to her brother Augustus and her husband Mark Antony even after the two most powerful men in the moribund republic were on a seemingly inevitable path to war.

The other is Cato (the Younger), the unflinching Republican who uncompromisingly opposed Julius Caesar, and, in so doing, helped prod Pompey into forcing Caesar to march on Rome. I find affinity for the historical Cato to come easily, but the series tests that by portraying him as a bit of a stammering, quixotic buffoon.

Randall Parker's recent post entitled "Cato of the Republic was a fool", however, makes the HBO perspective more easily comprehensible:
Cato was one of the leaders in the Roman Republic who maneuvered Julius Caesar into a position where his only choices were to either get convicted of a crime by the Senate (thereby losing all power, possibly his life, and with his best outcome a life in exile) or to overthrow the Republic. Caesar's decision was not surprising. His ability to execute on his decision was also not surprising. Caesar was an incredible dynamo, a great leader of men who inspired intense loyalty and devotion in those he led. Cato, by contrast, was a fool. He helped accelerate the death of the Republic. 
Cato serves as an inspiration for the modern day Libertarians at the Cato Institute. They look up to a guy who overplayed his hand in a Rome where few deeply shared his principles and views. Cato's views found even less support among the native peoples in most of the conquered lands which the Romans ruled. Does this sound familiar? 
Why are open borders Libertarians wrong on immigration? For reasons similar to why Cato was wrong about Caesar: a refusal to acknowledge that pursuit of unachievable ideals can result in worse outcomes.
With all the caveats about enormous differences in time and place, one might make the argument that Ron Paul is a sort of Cato of our times. However, it is such incorrigibility that allows inspiration to survive two millenia and a transcontinental journey across the Atlantic.

Like Cicero, posterity might remember David Brooks as more effectual among his contemporaries than Cato then or Paul now, but history's great moderates lack the appeal that history's more committed giants do. What modern think tank takes its namesake from Cicero? What Christian denomination from Erasmus?

Saturday, December 07, 2013

White flight from the white robe?

Taking note of Alfred Clark's observations about the 'ghettoization' of Christianity, the Derb recently wrote a piece for VDare exploring the phenomenon of white flight from the religion, an abandonment distinct from the general trend towards secularization in that it appears to be occurring more rapidly among whites than among NAMs.

The GSS has data on religious self-identification extending back through the early seventies up to the present. The following graph traces, by year, the percentages of non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics who indicated they had no religious affiliation. The mean sample sizes by year are 1112, 126, and 108, respectively:

Understanding there is some noise present in the year-to-year sampling, the white irreligious rate has been higher than the NAM irreligious rate has been over at least the last several decades. While the ratio hasn't changed much over the time period in question, the fact that the irreligious proportion of the population has gone from being fringe at the margins to the sizable minority that it is today probably makes the racial disparity more recognizable now than it was then. In the seventies, someone with no religious affiliation was so rare--and the proselytizing shrillness of New Atheism not yet a thing among them--that most people's pattern recognition software didn't pick up on the racial characteristics of non-believers. Today nearly one-in-five whites professes no affiliation, so if a person knows a handful of white guys, there's a good chance he knows at least one atheist or agnostic. And among an average person's facebook social circle there are tens or hundreds of people without any religious affiliation.

GSS variables used: RELIG(4), YEAR, ETHNIC(1)(2-3,6-15,18-19,21,23-27,32-33,36)(17,22,38)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Seneca Sailer

Okay, he doesn't differentiate between genotype and phenotype, and he's unaware of epigenetics, but this isn't bad for a contemporary of the emperor Nero (and a Stoic to boot!):
No amount of wisdom, as I said before, ever banishes these things; otherwise--if she eradicated every weakness--wisdom would have dominion over the world of nature. One's physical make-up and the attributes that were one's lot at birth remain settled no matter how much or how long the personality may strive after pefect adjustment. One cannot ban these things any more than one can call them up.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Professional podcaster Jamie Jeffers, in a review of the History Channel's Vikings (which I've never seen), comments approvingly on the show's depiction of Lagertha*:
I really like the fact that they have a tough-as-nails warrior woman and they don't treat it like it's strange... they did an excellent job demonstrating that there were warrior women and warrior women were very effective. It does a good job dispelling a lot of the innate sexism that you run into.
Unsurprisingly, I don't like it.

Jeffers regularly juxtaposes the rigid gender distinctions certain ancient civilizations, like the Romans, made with the relatively more overlapping gender roles that existed among others such as the Norse or Celts, even employing the term "progressive" to describe the latter. In so doing, Jeffers projects a contemporary (and liberal, and western!) worldview to a past that was in many ways quite alien to anything existing within the prevailing mores and ethos of said contemporary worldview.

"Regressive" may be a synonym of "progressive"; "repressive", however, not necessarily so. I'd argue, in fact, that--and I'm generalizing as someone with a spotty amateur's knowledge of history--from the onset of the agricultural age through the Enlightenment, or maybe even the Industrial Revolution, the contextually more progressive (in the Hegelian sense of the word) societies tended to be the ones in which gender distinctions were relatively more, not less, pronounced. It was a natural outgrowth of specialization. Rather than being Jacks and Jills of all trades by necessity, people in more 'progressive' societies were able to become especially good at certain things and leverage these more specialized skills to obtain the products and services produced by others similarly become extraordinarily skilled in other things. It's not all John Locke and Adam Smith, though--similar forces were at work at other layers of society, not just the occupational ones.

Specifically, the relatively more sexually egalitarian tribes in Gaul and Brittania for which the employment of female warriors was not exceptionally remarkable were not 'ahead' of the Romans but instead were 'behind' them (history backs me up here). They used their women to join battle with their opponents and block the retreats of their own men because they had to. For a society to use women in hand-in-hand combat isn't very efficient--women are weaker, smaller, slower, and less physically aggressive than men are. Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures, but just like arming the old, sickly, infirm, and untrained, what you gain in numbers you tend to lose in per capita fighting ability. Perhaps he used "disproportionate force", but Severus' actions become a little easier to comprehend, don't they?

Additionally, women are a more precious reproductive resource than men are. If, today, tribe Azure is comprised of 100 males and 50 females of reproductive age while tribe Fuchsia is comprised of 50 males and 100 females of the same condition, assuming no annihilation from hostile neighbors, which tribe is going to have more people--both male and female--of reproductive age a generation down the road? The male reproductive role takes fifteen minutes, the female role nine months (and a couple of decades of residual effort on top of that). At the high end, rates of reproduction are far more restricted by the number of fertile women in a society than they are by the number of fertile men.

Today, the rules of the game have changed, and it is indeed the case that in more progressive societies gender distinctions are less pronounced than they are in more regressive ones. Having shaken free of the Malthusian Trap centuries ago, the question of women assuming military roles in the contemporary West is no longer one of necessity but rather one of luxury--progressive societies are able to more easily afford putting women in harm's way. In the US, for example, the fighting capabilities of soldiers operating small arms and artillery just isn't a crucial or even important determinant of the nation's well being. We're not threatened militarily in any serious way and most of the casualties we do suffer are primarily the consequence of the ideologically-driven strategic decisions we make and tactics we forsake (ie sending marines into firefights in the mountains of Tora Bora and the streets of Baghdad rather than raining hell on these places from 30,000 feet above).

Indulging in the same sort of contemporary bias critically examined above, one might say that, in a historical context, Jeffers' take is an example of the bottom (those forced to equip everyone to fight) and the top (by those able to afford inefficiencies) uniting against the middle (those who are neither compelled by penury nor able to insouciantly engage in profligacy)!

* Anachronistic, yes, but it's historical fiction, not a documentary.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Better than one in a million, anyway

Why do those who write about Game tend to overestimate the prevalence of cuckoldry over the course of human history? Fairly recently, Roissy did just this without seemingly even realizing it. Commenting on a study showing a misattribution rate for putative biological fathers of around 1% in Germany, he deftly claimed that he wasn't surprised they were so low (!), and in fact would've estimated contemporary rates to be even lower:
I’m not here to argue that the 1% figure is wrong. In fact, the 1% figure is higher than I assumed. Look at it this way: That recorded 1% cuckoldry rate is more than 30 TIMES the US recorded rape rate of 0.03%. ... 
A flaw in assuming present-day cuckoldry rates align with historical cuckoldry rates is the fairly recent widespread availability of contraceptives and abortion. How many women who sleep with interloper males are using birth control? Probably most, and more so if those women are higher SES.
Mentioned in the comments of the post he linked to is research from geneticist Bryan Sykes showing an estimated non-paternity rate of 1.3% per generation in England extending all the way back to 1300 AD, and one of our national treasures, Gregory Cochran, mentions that similar historical results have been found in the Irish and among the Boers. While Roissy reasonably presumes that women of higher socio-economic status do a better job of keeping extramarital dalliances from producing living evidence of their cheating than prole women do, Steve Sailer asserts that it's likely those with surnames that survived over several generations (including Sykes, the surname the eponymous Bryan Sykes used on the way to concluding an estimated 1.3% cuckoldry rate) were more put together and orderly--that is, of higher SES--than those that did not survive the test of time.

So if today's upper class women are better at avoiding procreation from affairs than lower class women are when, prior to modern contraception, non-paternity occurred in fewer than 1-in-50 births, well, it has been--for at least a millenia, anyway--a marginal phenomenon, and it continues to be so today, perhaps even more fringe now than it was in the past.

Another prospective reason PUAs overestimate cuckolding rates may be due to selection bias, with susceptibility to Game tactics and class being inversely correlated to some extent. That old bugaboo the GSS shows that among married or formerly married women, those on the lower half of the class structure are more likely to cheat on their husbands than those on the upper half are (14.7% of those in the lower/working classes to 11.1% of those in the middle/upper classes, n = 10,778). And of course marriage rates are lower in the lower/working classes than they are in the middle/upper classes. Infidelity rates are presumably higher among those in unmarried relationships than they are among those in married relationships, so the overall class gap in cheating rates is likely wider still.

GSS variables used: EVSTRAY, CLASS(1-2)(3-4), SEX(2)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Depicting reality or escaping from it?

I'm finally getting around to reading Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature. The descriptions of how widespread and commonplace violence was in the 'popular culture' of the medieval and middle ages make for fun reading, but I wonder (because I don't know) how representative said popular culture was of the larger societies it existed in at the time.

I bring this up because that doesn't appear to be the case today--if anything, the inverse seems to be true. Agnostic has indefatigably documented a whole host of things, including this, in a long-running analyses of cultural differences between rising (and high) crime eras and declining (and low) crime eras. Check out comic books from the low crime mid-20th century, for example. Video games, a sort of contemporary successor to comic books, have become far more graphically violent and intentionally realistic in their depictions of said violence (having previously opted for stylized depictions of violence and a predilection for surreality) over the last few decades as actual rates of violent crime have steadily dropped.

As real life in the West has become increasingly more peaceful over the last twenty years, football has clearly surpassed baseball as America's pass time and MMA has left boxing behind. In many ways, as we've become less violent, our popular culture has become more so. Moving outside the US, the exceptionally pacifistic Japanese are into some extremely gruesome and disgusting stuff.

More generally, Quentin Tarantino is a successful director and producer, but if aliens were to try and surmise what life on earth is like for its human inhabitants by viewing Kill Bill and Django Unchained, their conceptions would be wildly off base. Western popular culture is way more violent than life in the Occident actually is.