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War Before Civilization: the Myth of the Peaceful Savage

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”.

He writes:

“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?

  1. It is directed to the general audience of intelligent readers.
  2. It is only two hundred pages long. Brevity is the soul of wit.
  3. It is does not divert from the issue into irrelevant matters, or academic asides.
  4. It is well researched, but not pedantic.
  5. 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.

Making decisions – about riots

I was watching a video of US Marines about to attack a town in Afghanistan. The Captain addressed his battalion. At about 2:20 into the video he said (I paraphrase) : “The plan we have gone over and over – as soon as you land, it will fly out the window. You will be called upon to make a hundred decisions that there is no right answer to. But guess what? you will have to decide; you will have to act.”

I enjoyed the approach, and it ought to be better understood. You will have to act, you will have to decide. I wish it were more broadly understood in society. You have to decide and you have to act. Make a wrong decision? Go ahead and make another. This one may be better. This approach is utterly contrary to the bureaucratic mindset which fears decision-making.

A former boss of mine was a judge. He said: “Make ten decisions. Eight will be right. One will be wrong. One you win or lose on appeal”. But the message was” keep making decisions.

This brings me around to Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s book on the newest generation, and it is not pleasant reading.  The Coddling of the American Mind 

chronicles the increase of neurotic levels of fear among American college students: how good intentions and bad ideas are generating a generation of weak people. As he says: prepare your children for the road not the road for the children.

 

The message Haidt is giving in his YouTube lecture is that we are heading for tribal war. That was in 2019. Look around you. What do you see? Dogmatism, groupthink, a crusader mentality and anti-intellectualism [at 42:40]. The riots and revolt we have been witnessing these last few days have been long prepared by the erosion of cultural and educational standards. The failure of the forces of order to act, because they have been told to lay off by mayors and governors, is yet another signof the scale of  the rot inside our institutions.

 

Someone, possibly Jonathan Kay, said that this could be Trump’s Reichstag Fire moment. I avoid the connotation that Kay would like to put on these riots. These are an excuse for  looting and for anti-fa to break windows. Everyone is seeing far too much disorder to be enthusiastic for kneeling before the black race and beseeching forgiveness, as the Left would have us do. Time for some violence from the state against Antifa and the looters. And yes, Derek Chauvin disgusts me. But so does mass break down of order.

 

 

The mind of Steve Bannon

I would like you to direct your attention to the speech of Steve Bannon, given a few weeks ago. He is one of the very few who see the relationship among several events and forces: the colossal failure of the financial system in 2008, shipping jobs to China, low interest rates, the party of Davos, and what Trump is doing or expected to be doing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqrjaUC3oak

Bannon constantly tells us to sift the noise from the signal. The Russian collusion nonsense is the noise. Dealing with a mercantilist dictatorship like China is the signal. Controlling immigration is the signal, because without it the wages of the US working classes are continually driven downwards. And because of the economic crash and the flood of money used to bail out the rich, no one can save money.

He says China is exporting deflation and de-industrialization of the United States. A multi-decade project is required to turn back the growing power of the administrative state, and that will take a Supreme Court able and willing to comprehend the issue.

This edition below of one of Bannon’s recent speeches is even better, though its production values are worse.

He predicts that information war, cyber war and economic war with the Chinese mercantilist dictatorship is beginning, indeed it is underway. He finds it absurd to assume that free trade can possibly work with such an entity. For the Chinese, foreign relations are in essence the management of barbarians. The US can export swine, canola, wheat and ore to China, but aircraft and smart-phones, never. China wants tributaries, and the idea of equality between nations, or a rules based order, is absurd, un-Chinese, and contrary to nature.

At an earlier stage of life, I had an ethnic Chinese Canadian brother in law. His first words to me of any seriousness were that “The Chinese idea of democracy is ‘you do as I say’”. I have never forgotten what he said, because Chinese state behaviour has exemplified the insight throughout the years.

“The whole object is to shift the world’s supply chain back to the industrial democracies of the West” (including Japan and Korea). Getting a trade deal with Mexico and Canada is key to this, as well as special deals with Japan and Korea. “You must be a manufacturing juggernaut if you want to be a serious power”.

You can question the premises of his position, and I am certain many think he is drumming up war. What you cannot assert is that Bannon lacks strategic vision.

“The deplorables are mad because they are rational human beings.” Amen.