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Lawrence Keeley’s book, War Before Civilization: the myth of the peaceful savage, is perfect. It cannot be improved upon. I shall explain.
The basic assertions of the book are that war before civilization – which means written records – was frequent, endemic, extremely violent, total, murderous, and that it engaged the whole population of the tribes and family groupings involved, men women and children, and involved high proportionate fatalities. It was not ceremonial, ineffective, and rare, nor did it touch only the young men of the tribe. Peace was difficult to negotiate for many reasons, including because the reparations involved could generate new causes of war, for non-payment. There was always another death to avenge. No sovereign interposed itself because such a sovereign required statehood, and statehood lay far into the future. So deadly and ubiquitous was the violence that many peoples accepted European colonial justice readily as the less horrible solution to endemic violence.
The author shows the archaeological evidence of bones, arrowheads, spear wounds, fortifications, mass graves of men, women and children. He also relies on the accounts of witnesses from the “primitive” tribes themselves as they were recorded by Europeans in the early stages of first contact.
He also examines the economic rationales for pre-civilized bands to wage war, which are powerful and many. Winning societies gain access to resources by driving off competitors, whether for arable land, hunting grounds, or resources, such as obsidian for weapons or salt deposits.
Professor Keeley confronts the vast efforts of denial attempted by western anthropologists to disguise the war-like history of mankind prior to European colonial contact, and the absurd denials of reality. He argues against what he calls the “pacification of the past”.
“The doctrines of the pacified past unequivocally imply that the only asnwer to “the mighty scourge of war” is a return to tribal conditions and the destruction of all civilization. But since the primitive and prehistoric worlds were, in fact, quite violent, it seems that the only practical prospect for universal peace must be more civilization, not less.” (p179)
Keeley situates the issue of war in the context of a continuing debate between the realists, who are, roughly speaking, followers of Thomas Hobbes, who felt that, tp achieve peace, only the interposition of a powerful sovereign could solve the problem of human violence, and followers of the illusory twaddle of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who felt that civilization was the source of all our discontents.
“If Westerners have belatedly recognized that they are not the crown of creation and rightful lords of the earth, their now common view of themselves as humanity’s nadir is equally absurd.”
Why is this book so perfect?
- It is directed to the general audience of intelligent readers.
- It is only two hundred pages long. Brevity is the soul of wit.
- It is does not divert from the issue into irrelevant matters, or academic asides.
- It is well researched, but not pedantic.
- It confronts an important issue – the untruth of the pacific human past – and demolishes it.
The book is an antidote to all thought that the absence of police will engender a state of peace between people and peoples.
Malcolm Nance is a former chief petty officer (senior NCO) in the US Navy. Watch as Tucker Carlson eviscerates the nonsense spouted by Nance, and which was swallowed devotedly by NBC anchor Brian Williams. “This is why we ask you all the time to come on this broadcast” said Williams.
You have to listen to Nance’s concatenation of tropes and babble: “mainstreamed”, “weaponized”, “Bannon”, “John Birch Society”, “fake news”, ” these tropes and memes became the cruise missiles of fake news and disinformation designed .. to take one third of the US population and may have resulted in’ -you guessed it -Trump.
I have seen the same anti-Russian obsession in authors as erudite as Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands, a book you must read, by the way. He has gone completely bonkers on the subject of Russian influence in the last election. I link these two articles because it shows that Tucker Carlson’s calling out of Malcolm Nance and Brian Williams is only a part of the story.
“Somehow they got to choose our president” says Snyder about the Russians (at minute 28:30). I am not disputing that Snyder is right in his suspicions of Russian intentions, actions, and strategies.
The Russians are like a bunch of bears in one’s garbage bins. They raid them, they twist off tops, wreck them, and turn into a garbage -addicted problem. Sometimes you have to chase them off, with guns, if necessary. But the capacity of Russians to undermine democratic institutions abroad is grossly exaggerated. Yes they are a real problem. Yes we have to be vigilant. But Russians are not The Problem. The left has had a major brain seizure on the subject of Trump because it was the event that ought not to have happened.
The average age of death in the United States is declining. The American working class has been devastated by the transfer of jobs overseas and to Mexico. They have been impoverished by the mortgage meltdown of 2008. The opioid crisis is killing dozens of people a day, if not hundreds.
Americans do not need a “disinformation frame” to perceive these events, they need one to prevent them from seeing it.
The curious thing about Snyder is that, for all his erudition, and fancy talk of themes propagated by Facebook, he is only saner version of Malcolm Nance. It is not the American Trump supporters who are in “a total denial of reality”, but rather the Democrats who are in total denial that there is any legitimacy whatever to the people who thought Trump was the better candidate than Clinton.
Globalism is both an ideology and a culture of behavior. The creed is that the Western world, given its colonial and imperialist past, has a duty both to make amends to the former third world through magnanimously lending the global community elite Western expertise—whether through Kyoto- or Paris-like climate accords, foreign interventions guided by Western humanitarian principles, asymmetrical trade agreements, open borders, or U.N. mandates.
The globalist alone knows how global warming threatens us and how the ignorant masses must sacrifice to cool things down, how nationalism supposedly causes world wars, how sexism, racism, and homophobia have warped Western, but non-necessarily non-Western, society, and how human nature can be modified to avoid these pathologies through greater coercion, more relevant social education, improved material conditions, and greater secular ecumenicalism—a far better religion than calcified Christendom. The Western consumer—fat, “lazy,” played out—surely does not need any more affluence or income. His nation, therefore, can afford to subsidize, through his superfluous lifestyle, far nobler international crusades for mankind.
The nation-state then is passé. Transnational organizations, the larger and more powerful the better, tame mindless Western chauvinism, while enhancing and making invaluable alternative post-Western paradigms. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, the chief executive officer of the World Bank, the Secretary-General of NATO, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the President of the Council of Foreign Relations, the president of CNN Worldwide, all these are certainly to be listened to in a way an elected senator from Kansas, the nuts who stirred up the gilets jaunes, the unhinged Poles and Bulgarians who wanted to build fences on their borders, or renegade British MPs pushing for Brexit should not be.
Nothing scares the Identity Politics Left quite like an actual working class uprising. Witnessing the furious unwashed masses operating out there on their own, with no decent human restraint whatsoever, Identity Politics Leftists feel a sudden overwhelming urge to analyze, categorize, organize, sanitize, and otherwise correct and control them. They can’t accept the fact that the actual, living, breathing working classes are messy, multiplicitous, inconsistent, and irreducible to any one ideology. Some of them are racists. Some are fascists. Others are communists, socialists, and anarchists. Many have no idea what they are, and don’t particularly care for any of these labels. This is what the actual working classes are … a big, contradictory collection of people who, in spite of all their differences, share one thing in common, that they are being screwed over by the ruling classes. I don’t know about you, but I consider myself one of them.
And porn is unplugged from Tumblr. Poof! Imagine what they could do to you, what you read, and what you publish?
Set aside, for just a moment, however you feel about porn, its purveyors, and its connoisseurs. What Tumblr is doing here is really quite incredible. It is purging from its rolls one of its most defining and popular aspects—the ability to post porn.
There are hundreds of thousands, if not more, of loyal Tumblr users who have been running porn-centric blogs for years—some for more than a decade. They have built up voluminous archives to their liking, and in many cases amassed huge followings of folks with similar, shall we say, “tastes.”
Then, one day, Tumblr announced that in fourteen days it will all be gone. It is not just that users will no longer be able to post porn, it is that all porn that has been posted will be deleted—and the WayBack Machine preserves precious few Tumblrs, and in general is bad at preserving photos and videos anyway. Archive.org volunteers are trying: see The frantic, unprecedented race to save 700,000 NSFW Tumblrs for posterity |Volunteers are scrambling to download up to 800 terabytes of content from Tumblr’s adult-themed community before it disappears from view on December 17,By Sean Captain, Fast Company, December 12, 2018.
I think porn is as necessary to human well-being and happiness as toilet paper and flush toilets: they are all so much better than anything that went before. Masturbation is as necessary to human well being as blowing one’s nose or washing. The attack on porn is just the beginning. They always start with porn and the private possession of weapons. They do not stop once they get going.
That is why I am saying that we are in a pre-revolutionary situation. There are days when I can just feel it. And no, I do not have murderous intentions towards our social betters. Superficially I can blend in with upper class twits quite easily, until I spout my opinions. But listening to a few raging anti-Trump snobs, liberal élitists, Davos men and women, I can see some major political disturbances ahead. In fact they are with us now. we have just have to open our eyes. That is why, en passant, I think that Maxime Bernier may (just possibly) have a future in Canadian politics.
I got fed up with Harari after reading Sapiens and my impatience with his doctrines has been clarified by a reading of 21 Lessons for the 21st century.
Basically Harari insists we do not have free will. More importantly, he asserts that all human stories – myths, religions, creeds – are wrong answers. He uses the words “wrong answers” in the same sense as someone who dials the wrong number, or answers “42” to the question, “what is the meaning of life?”. Instead of political correctness, it is philosophical correctness.
Harari is a gay vegetarian who practices meditation for two hours a day. He is a Buddhist. In that sense, his views are the expression of what I think is orthodox Buddhism.
The core of his argument is contained in the chapter ‘Meaning’ in 21 Lessons, at page 285.
“While a good story must give me a role and must extend beyond my horizons, it need not be true. A story can be pure fiction, yet provide me with an identity and make me feel that my life has meaning. To the nest of our scientific understanding, none of the thousands of stories different cultures religions, and tribes have invented throughout history is true. They are all just human inventions. If you ask for the true meaning of life and get a story in reply, you know this is the wrong answer. The exact details don’t really matter. Any story is wrong, simply for being a story. The universe just doesn’t work that way.”
Any Christian, Jew or Muslim will tell you, if they have thought about truth and story deeply enough, that the Story they live by is the criterion of truth, that meaning in the world is given by the story, not the story given the meaning by forces extraneous to it. They have different stories and hence constitute different religions, because they link back to different ideas of what story the adherents shall be guided by.
Each religion contains disparate elements, and thus allows for different stories to be told. Try reconciling the Gospel of John with those of Mathew, Mark and Luke, if you need evidence for differing elements in the sacred texts of a major world religion. Religions spring up as new stories are told: think of Islam, Mormonism, Communism, Christianity, and so forth, without end.
Truth is not therefore a proposition, such as 2+2=4, or e=mc², though both are truthful equations.
Harari also disputes the liberal version of storytelling, that it is I who gives meaning to the world. The world has no need of meaning, he says, following the Buddha.
We do not govern our brain, our feelings, or our reactions to our feelings, he says. With that I agree, but he nowhere seems able to get beyond a truly presumptuous arrogance that, because our “truths” are embedded in stories, there is no truth, no meaning, nor need to create a meaning. This may be orthodox Buddhism. I do not know enough about Buddhism to be sure.
If I have no control over my desires, or my urges, I see no way in which to educate myself, my feelings, or my behaviours. Nor can we expect anyone else to effectively influence my behaviours. This idea is immediately refuted by the experience of every child growing up under the influence of parents and educators.
Harari constantly emphasizes our inability to tell the difference between fiction and reality, as if “reality” were itself not a fiction we have invented. I have bad news for Harari: it is all fiction. We change by having new metaphors, and guiding ourselves by them. Reality does not exist outside of our fictions. Our sufferings take place inside our maps of meaning. Some people just have different maps of meaning, but no one, not even Harari, is without his fictions. He thinks his Buddhism has brought him to the place of no fictions. Suffering without a fiction to explain its meaning: that is his remedy for dependence on stories.
Just as you cannot pick up the gross national product with a set of tongs, because they belong to two different orders of being, so you cannot pick up meaning without having the metaphorical instrument by which to apprehend it, which is a story. That is all we have had so far, and even if the stories are illusory in some sense, they are also our proven ways of getting as far as we have, from wandering the Serengeti devouring dead food to running the planet.
He concludes his book with:
“So if you want to know the truth about the universe, about the meaning of life, and about your own identity, the best place to start is by observing suffering and exploring what it is. The answer isn’t a story”.
That is as unprovable an assertion as that God manifested himself in Jesus, and it is, inevitably, just another story that Harari is peddling. Truth is found in fictions, it is such stuff as we are made of. I doubt we can do better than to try to live in better fictions and, as I have already related, our fictions are often the criteria by which we are obliged to judge the fictions, the world and its inhabitants. We need fictions by which to live as birds need feathers to fly. Some of those fictions we hold to be true, and others we hold to be self evident, even as they are the results of previous iterations of our governing fictions. If this seems circular, it is, in part, but there is a crack in everything, and that is how the light gets in. As that is yet another story, I rest my case.
Says it all.
Brian Mulroney has been tight with a number of US presidents, not because he is a sycophant, but because he is a man of exceptional talent for friendships and alliances.
“We will need character ourselves, to find character in our leaders again.”
I think you can usefully combine these takes, and describe Bush nostalgia as a longing for something America used to have and doesn’t really any more — a ruling class that was widely (not universally, but more widely than today) deemed legitimate, and that inspired various kinds of trust (intergenerational, institutional) conspicuously absent in our society today.
Put simply, Americans miss Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well….
So if some of the elder Bush’s mourners wish we still had a WASP establishment, their desire probably reflects a belated realization that certain of the old establishment’s vices were inherent to any elite, that meritocracy creates its own forms of exclusion — and that the WASPs had virtues that their successors have failed to inherit or revive.
And somehow the combination of pious obligation joined to cosmopolitanism gave the old establishment a distinctive competence and effectiveness in statesmanship — one that from the late-19th century through the middle of the 1960s was arguably unmatched among the various imperial elites with whom our establishment contended, and that certainly hasn’t been matched by our feckless leaders in the years since George H.W. Bush went down to political defeat.
So as an American in the old dispensation, you didn’t have to like the establishment — and certainly its members were often eminently hateable — to prefer their leadership to many of the possible alternatives. And as an American today, you don’t have to miss everything about the WASPs, or particularly like their remaining heirs, to feel nostalgic for their competence.
There is a wonderful moment in a movie that deals with the WASP Establishment and its intelligence agencies in the 1950s. Matt Damon plays a senior US spook on a visit to pre-communist Cuba, talking to an Italian mobster. The mobster asks what “you people” – the WASPs -get out of the deal.
National-socialist history is easy to write. Everything that our tribe does or did is glorious and justified. Everyone else’s tribe is not important. Their contributions are not contributions, and their existence among us in a vexing provocation. Take Quebec history books for example.
A recent report commissioned by historians from the English language school board said:
MONTREAL — Quebec high school history textbooks are “fundamentally flawed” and should be removed from all schools across Quebec, an expert committee formed by the province’s largest English school board has concluded.
Students in the Grade 9 and 10 Canadian and Quebec history classes are being taught a “skewed, one-sided view of the past that distorts the historical record,” according to the committee report, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.
The report is the result of work by three historians commissioned by the English Montreal School Board last June to review the controversial history program, which has been criticized by Quebec‘s Indigenous, anglophone and other cultural communities.
The program, compulsory in all high schools across the province since September 2017, “focuses narrowly on the experience of and events pertaining to the ethnic/linguistic/cultural group of French Quebecois from contact until present day,” the report says.
Of course it does. Who else matters?
In the newspaper report, it is significant that the authors dare not even mention the contributions of the two most important non-French groups to the growth of Quebec: the English and the Scotch. Streets named McGill, McTavish, Simpson, Sherbrooke, Argyle, Aberdeen, Carleton and so forth, bespeak an English and Scottish presence that changed Montreal from a collection of fur warehouses by the waterfront into Canada’s metropolis for most of the 20th century.
“The texts largely ignore the contributions of Irish, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Haitian and other immigrants while offering “no indication these groups helped to transform the city of Montreal,” it continues.
Black history is virtually ignored, the report says, “and women are relegated to a few sidebars or disconnected paragraphs in both textbooks.”
The report concludes the textbooks “are fundamentally flawed and must be withdrawn from all high schools.”
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge has no intention of removing controversial history textbooks from Quebec’s schools.
Despite critics saying the books are “fundamentally flawed” and portray a distorted view of history, especially when it comes to minorities, Roberge said other experts believe the books are just fine.
It’s all a matter of opinion, the minister said, downplaying the issue.
“The current history books were written and approved by a lot of history experts, so I don’t think I will take back the books,” Roberge told reporters Friday at the National Assembly.
Case closed. That was easy!
Two post scripts:
- The same issue was reported in the French press, in identical terms to the English language reports.
- I came across this little nugget of interesting truth. Drawing from a Wikipedia article “Histoire du Francais Quebecois“, I note that the French population of Quebec is derived from some 10,000 people, roughly.
“D’après l’étude exhaustive effectué par le Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH) de l’Université de Montréal, les immigrants fondateurs du Canada français comptent 8 527 personnes, dont 7 656 (90 %) sont originaires de France. Les autres viennent de Belgique, d’Allemagne, de Suisse, d’Italie et même d’Irlande.
Durant la période de 1730 à 1750, on note une diversification des immigrants. On compte des colons du sud de la France, 500 huguenots, quelque 1 000 fugitifs de la Nouvelle-Angleterre et 300 esclaves noirs.”
I do not think that the thousand or so from New England were “fugitifs”; they were prisoners captured by Indians on raids and rescued from slavery by French Canadians. See Francis Parkman for more details on this.
In any case, the French population of Canada is derived from a very small settler group, until more recent immigration after World War 2 began in earnest.
George Friedman of Stratfor lays out the arguments for nationalism. Liberalism begins with the right of national self-determination. Unless you have a nation in which you have can exercise civil liberties, you do not have civil liberties, you only have empires. Nationalism is not the opposition to liberalism, it is the expression of liberalism. If you do not believe in nationalism, you do not believe in liberalism.
I observe that Friedman is now saying what Bannon is saying. Nations are fighting for their existence and relevance against worldly technocratic elites. If you take away the consent of the governed, you take away liberalism. Nationalism is liberalism.
The contrary view leads to pan-national empires, which are an older way of organizing societies without the consent of the governed. This doctrine used to be peddled by Joe Clark, the former Canadian conservative leader, in the following form: Canada was a “community of communities”, and not a nation. Such societies could only be governed by panels of technocratic experts.
I get over-Hitlered. I have read too much about the man and I resist, in vain, yet another tome on the subject of this revolutionary modernist mass annihilator. I know that Stalin makes Hitler look like a piker when it comes to mass murder, but Stalin is fundamentally a communist, and Communism is stupid, dumb, mechanical, and eliminatory. In Communism we find the modern university, obsessed with false explanations for inequality, but with death quotas and actual mass murder.
“Fascism”, as Fran Leibowitz said, “is too exciting, communism, too boring”. So it was with some trepidation that I ordered Martin Van Creveld’s pseudo-autobiography “Hitler in Hell”. Hitler writes from a sort of air-conditioned featureless, shadowless world where the demons take his tray and keep him fed, but he faces an eternity of nothingness as a punishment for his sins and crimes.
Martin van Creveld is a military historian, an Israeli Jew of Dutch origin. He has written plenty of serious important books on warfare, logistics, and strategy.
His Hitler in Hell is a hoot. It is a way of telling Hitler’s story in an amusing way while Creveld (alias Hitler) gets to take a few shots at Joachim Fest, David Irving, Allan Bullock, John Toland and Ian Kershaw, Hitler’s historians, and, in his fictional voice, the German generals whom Hitler thinks betrayed him.
It presents Hitler in straightforward terms as acting rationally to defend and avenge Germany in the wake of World War 1, as long as you can accept the absolutely demented notion that the Jews are the world’s parasites. Van Creveld presents Hitler as sane, save only that he was obsessed with the Jews, obsessed, and ready to murder them the way you take insect spray to a hornet’s nest.
Just as Stalin was a pure communist, and sought to eliminate all capitalist-market relations in the Soviet Union, even at the price of destroying his farmers and peasantry, so Hitler was a pure anti-Semite, and sought to eliminate all Jews wherever he could get his hands on them.
All the rest of his behaviour was sincerely anti-democratic, expansionary, war-mongering, cruel, and suited for the obloquy of man, but it was rational if you accept the premises of German cultural and racial supremacy, and hatred of everything Jewish.
One other book that comes close to capturing Hitler’s mindset is the most outrageous book I have ever read, Norman Spinrad‘s “The Iron Dream”, which purports to be a book authored by one Adolf Hitler, who emigrated to the United States in 1919 and illustrated science fiction books, and who eventually turned his hand to writing science fiction. You know, with titles like “Lords of the Swastika”. I recommend it if you can find it as a book, or go to the Intertubes and find it as a pdf.
There was yet another book about Hitler in which a team of Israeli commandos find him in the jungles of Paraguay. They cannot get him out for some reason so they put him on trial before a jury of one Guarani Indian. It was The Portage to San Cristobal of AH, by George Steiner. In his self defence, Hitler is allowed to speak. The Indian juror does not understand a word of the oration, but understands his meaning perfectly. The Guarani Indian decides that Hitler is a shaman. As such he could not be guilty, since he is a magician. In his defence, Steiner’s Hitler defends master race ideology as nothing more than what the Jews believe about themselves, and claims to be the real founder of Israel. You can imagine the controversy that Steiner got himself into.
It is curious that, in reading van Creveld’s commentary on writing Hitler in Hell, found at the back end of the book, and George Steiner’s comments on writing the Portage to San Cristobal of AH, they each admit that once they got the idea, the books practically wrote themselves.
Steiner, Van Creveld, and Spinrad – all Jews – are a lot quicker and less ponderous to read than Joachim Fest and Ian Kershaw. Of the three of them, Spinrad captures the anti-semitism of Hitler as no one else ever has. I repeat my warning that Spinrad’s book is outrageous. Frankly I think only a Jew could get to the core of anti-semitism as well. Van Creveld’s take on Hitler will convey more facts and accurate chronology. If you want to read about the Third Reich for a rapid and insightful overview, van Creveld is greatly recommended.