Tagged: Benjamin Barber
XXXVII The Evolutionary Roots of the Clash of Civilizations 2
This is a sequel to xxxvi.
Suicide For Sex
The essay on the evolutionary dimensions of civilizations (xxxvi) started by recalling the hot discussion on the relationship between Islam and the West. Regarding this relationship, evolutionary psychology book Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters (2007) by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa attempts to provide an explanation of Muslim suicide bombings that I wish to discuss presently.
According to Miller and Kanazawa, suicide bombers are 1/ always Muslims, because 2/ Muslim societies are polygynous, which means that some men remain without mates throughout their lives, and 3/ Islam promises virgin mates to the martyrs in the afterlife, which is bound to be appealing to men without mates.
1/ “While suicide missions are not always religiously motivated, when religion is involved, it is always Islam.” (p. 165).
The emphasis on the word “always” is the authors’; they seem to be confident there is no exception. Yet, the statement is incorrect. Even if we dismiss WW2 Japanese kamikazes as a religious phenomenon, although the Japanese government of the time was implementing a policy of State Shintoism that emphasized the divine descent of the Emperor of Japan and thus infused patriotism with a sense of the divine, so much so that one of the first moves made by the Americans after Japanese surrender was to demand that the Emperor publicly declares to his people he was no god, we find “militant” suicides in other religions too.
Albeit the following examples, from Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, are not strictly speaking suicide missions, that is, acts aimed at provoking casualties to an enemy while sacrificing one’s own life in the very act (of which I see no other historical example beside Japanese kamikazes and Muslim Jihadists), those other suicides are similarly intended to promote the cause and interests of a religion in a confrontational context, and nothing in the evolutionary interpretation of suicide missions by Miller and Kanazawa explains per se why the suicide takes the form of a military mission rather than of something else. The promise of haur uljanati, the houris of paradise, is actually made to all male believers and not specifically to human bombs.
Martyrs are well-known characters of the earlier times of Christianity, especially the Roman times, and the suicide-like indifference to death displayed by these people during their ordeals became propaganda for the nascent religion, which certainly contributed to its success. That these martyrs did not die with weapon in hand while Muslim martyrs die with weapon in hand or rather being themselves the weapon (human bombs) is not to account for by polygyny and/or by the promise of houris but rather by the warrior ethics contained in the Quran and Islamic tradition.
This being said, Muslims can also be martyrs in the Christian sense, that is, allowing enemies of the faith to take their lives without resistance rather than in the act of fighting. Some hadiths tell how idolaters used to submit Muslims to the test trying to force them to pay homage to idols, which is against the will of Allah, and that the Muslims who, being firm believers, refused were put to the sword. This is the same as the Biblical (Catholic and Orthodox) story of the Maccabees.
Fundamentally, contemporary suicide missions are only a variant of such past acts of martyrdom. Knowing that allegiance to one’s God will be, with more or less certitude, cause of one’s death at the hands of God’s enemies and accepting it, is a form of suicide that the history of several or all religions can attest. Again, that this allegiance takes the form of a suicide commando mission rather than more passive or acquiescent forms of suicide is accounted for by the warrior ethics that is present in the Quran and Muhammad’s exemple, whereas it is absent from the Gospels and the life of Jesus.
In Hinduism, the jauhar was a form of collective suicide sanctioned by Brahmans; it was especially frequent among Rajputs during their wars with Muslim conquerors. When all chances of victory had vanished, the women first took their own lives, slaughtering their children on the occasion, and the men then went to fight to death on their last battlefield. The custom insured that no prisoner was taken by the enemy. We find a similar episode in the siege of Masada during the first Jewish-Roman war (73-74 AD): According to classical accounts, the besieged Jews eventually committed mass suicide rather than surrendering to the Romans.
Finally, there is the practice of self-immolation in Buddhism, of which recent history provides a few examples, the best-known being the self-immolation through fire by the Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc in 1963, in protest against the religious policy of the American-supported South-Vietnamese government. The legend says the monk’s heart did not burn and is now kept as a holy relic in the vaults of the Vietnamese National Bank.
So, although suicide missions as such are only found in current Muslim Jihadism and WW2 Japanese kamikazes (who could well have been performing a religious act), the will to sacrifice one’s life for one’s faith is a feature common to the history of many and perhaps all religions.
2/ “Across all societies, polygyny increases violent crimes, such as murder and rape, even after controlling for such obvious factors like economic development, economic inequality, population density, the level of democracy [“obvious factor”?], and world regions. (…) The first unique feature of Islam, which partially contributes to the prevalence of suicide bombings among its followers, is polygyny, which makes young men violent everywhere.” (p. 166)
The reason polygyny increases violent crime is that it exacerbates male competition for females. As the sex ratio is roughly 50-50, by allowing some men to mate with several women to the exclusion of competitors, polygyny forces some other men to remain without mates.
Miller and Kanazawa go on: “However, polygyny by itself, while it increases violence, is not sufficient to cause suicide bombings. Societies in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean are much more polygynous than the Muslim nations in the Middle East and Northern Africa (…) Accordingly, nations in these regions have very high levels of violence, and sub-Saharan Africa suffers from a long history of continuous civil wars, but not suicide bombings. So polygyny itself is not a sufficient cause of suicide bombings.” (p. 166).
The authors are not dealing with institutional polygyny but with what I call (see xxxvi) cryptic polygyny, that is, the practice of polygyny no matter what legal arrangements regarding matrimonial bonds are. Among the most polygynous nations in the world, as they appear listed in note 31, p. 210, we find, for instance, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Haiti (all these with the “maximum polygyny score of 3.000”). These are countries which populations are largely Christian and where the institutional form of pair-bonding is monogamous marriage and institutional polygamy is outlawed and criminalized. So bear in mind that, although the authors do not make it explicit, it is not institutional polygyny that is at stake. Other forms of polygynous practice, that is, cryptic polygyny is not in the least “unique” to Muslim countries; as Miller and Kanazawa write, “All Humans Societies Are Polygynous” (subtitle p. 91).
The violence alleged to be caused by polygyny relates to a “polygyny score” that has nothing to do with institutions and legal systems. Were we to examine these polygyny scores by country, we might find that Muslim countries do not stand particularly high. Among the twenty most polygynous countries listed page 210, I find the following to be predominantly or significantly Muslim: Morocco, Nigeria, Niger, Chad (53%). That makes four countries out of twenty.
Besides, Miller and Kanazawa overlook the fact that a good deal of Jihadists do not come from Muslim countries at all. Some of them come from Muslim communities in Western countries; many of these communities have been secularized in the course of acculturation, and the Jihadists had to undergo a sort of reconversion process from a materialist, secularized lifestyle to radicalism. Some others are even autochthonous converts from these Western countries with no previous family or any other links with Islamic traditions. The number of foreign fighters combatting today in the ranks of Daesh would be about 30,000.
Before conversion or radicalization, these people had the same access to women as other men, that is, in an evolutionary perspective, the same access as other men at the same status level. (Given that a lot of Jihadists had a delinquent career, it may even be argued that their access to mates was in fact greater than that of other men from the same city parts, thanks to the fast money such careers allow.) If the number of people from Western countries willing to resort to terrorist violence is great, then, following Miller and Kanazawa’s idea, polygyny in Western countries – by which more men are prevented from mating – must be high. By stressing polygyny as a factor in violence in general and in terrorism in particular, the authors, again, are not saying that institutional polygyny is the cause.
Institutional polygyny might in fact contribute to reduce the prevalence of actual polygyny in a society. The idea has been broached in xxxvi using the concept of reproductive climate along A.S. Amin’s lines. Institutional polygyny is a long-term institution that promotes men’s commitment to their mates and children. So is institutional monogamy, albeit the data (current divorce rates in the West, polygyny scores in Christian Caribbean and African countries) seems to indicate it fails to curb short-term strategies in some regions.
3/ “The other key ingredient is the promise of seventy-two virgins waiting in heaven for any martyr in Islam. This creates a strong motive for any young Muslim men who are excluded from reproductive opportunities on earth to get to heaven as martyrs.” (p. 166).
There is no denying that such a belief can serve as motivation. Even more than the warrior ethics I have invoked in (1/), belief in houris is doctrinal. Hence, whereas polygyny as such is not associated uniquely to Islam (see 2/), the belief in question clearly is, because you cannot rewrite the Quran, can you? Yet, houris, unless I’m mistaken, are no privilege of the martyrs but are promised to all believers, so the reason some Muslims choose death and others acquire sex slaves as war spoils, as allowed, I am told, by Daesh, remains to be explained. Suicide missions suggest that obedience is extreme in these movements, but so it is in any fanatical group.
Religions promising afterlife describe it as everlasting bliss, and although this bliss does not always explicitly entail incarnated virgins available for sexual acts, it can be appealing enough to induce the sacrifice of one’s life for one’s belief.
As far as Hinduism and Buddhism are concerned, the varied existing heavenly abodes where souls may spend some time during the course of their transmigrations are described in picturesque details, some of them being quite erotic, a fact that suggests the existence of a similar motivation in these religions. The way Apsaras, or celestial dancers, for instance, are depicted in ancient art is unmistakable (picture: Curvaceous Apsaras from the well-known Khajuraho temple). They are spouses of the celestial musicians Gandharvas, and it is possible to reincarnate as a Gandharva or as any other minor deity.
Not only these heavenly abodes entail sexual representations, but the very idea of reincarnation may serve sexual motivations. A Buddhist might be willing to commit a suicide attack in order to be reincarnated as a playboy; what would prevent him, as a playboy, from mating with 72 virgins or more? For the time being, Buddhist clerics do not promise next life in the incarnation of a womanizer in exchange of a suicide mission, although they could do so, inside the very frame of their creed, and the reason why it is only Muslim clerics who promise afterlife sexual gratifications as a reward to suicide attacks is not explained by our authors here.
Buddhists are not known to play this card, although some believers certainly aspire to a more gratifying sexual life after their next birth, as some are wearing so-called charm amulets to improve their sex life in the present already. In Thailand these amulets often depict the legendary character Kun Paen in the company of multiple nude women; other charm amulets represent women in acts of bestiality, some others are in the shape of a penis, at times anthropomorphized (penis man). Thai monks routinely bless such talismans.
As to the idea that Jihadists, on the Iraqi theater of operations, kill more Iraqis than they kill Americans because they are “unconsciously trying to eliminate as many of their male sexual rivals (fellow Iraqi men) as possible,” it is far-fetched. As stated above, Daesh counts some 30,000 foreign fighters, for whom Iraqis are no more fellow men than Americans, and that would be half of Daesh’s army. A simpler explanation is that it is more difficult to kill an American than an Iraqi in Iraq – not only because of numbers, but also because American soldiers are certainly better trained and better equipped, and they probably station their Iraqi allies on the most “strategic” positions.
All these elements suggest that Miller and Kanazawa’s explanation is somewhat shallow.
Jihad vs Panda Express
As explained in xxxvi, Jihad is not parochialism but globalism. I define it “Islam as globalism.” If you want to give Barber a better example of parochialism, I suggest you name France to him. He could have titled his book “La France vs McWorld” or “La France vs Jihad,” and that for sure would have been a better illustration of the opposition he makes between parochialism and globalism. Need I expatiate?
Islam is a global power. Some people deny the existence of “Panislamism,” arguing Islam’s diversity. They do not seem to notice the current movement toward homogenization at work throughout the Muslim world, albeit they know the movement’s name as they appropriately call it Wahhabism or Salafism or fundamentalism.
Islam is a global power. They’ve got human bombs. They’ve got petrodollars and sovereign funds. They’ve got migrant communities throughout the Western world and beyond. They’ve got sympathy among scholars and intellectuals round the world. About this last point, let me tell you the story of Professor Subramanian Swamy from Harvard Summer School.
Prof. Subramanian Swamy taught Quantitative Methods in Economics and Business at Harvard Summer School from 2001 to 2011. As an economist he wrote papers together with Nobel Prize Paul Samuelson. He is also involved in Indian politics and was India’s minister of commerce and industry from 1990 to 1991. He was president of the Janata Party from 1990 to 2013, until the party merged on with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The party is labelled Hindu nationalist.
After the 2011 Jihadist bombings in Mumbai, Swamy wrote an article in an Indian paper that was deemed Islamophobic by a few readers. After a campaign of denigration, he was dismissed from Harvard Summer School, in America, the same year. It turns out I took his class in Summer 2004. I did not know his credentials at the time and I can testify that, as a professor, he never talked about these issues, so I would never have guessed the truth about him had I not discovered it by chance years later on the Web. I disapprove of his dismissal.
Swamy and other Indian politicians are for example accused, including in the West, of demonizing Mughal rule. There is one funny argument in the views of those who defend the Mughals as tolerant rulers. They say Mughals promoted intercommunity marriages, but Hindus claim these marriages amounted to sequestering Hindu women, their war booty, inside Muslim harems. If the latter are correct, then Mughals’ defenders would be praising as enlightened tolerance and benevolent wisdom the age-old practice of all ruthless conquerors throughout history.
Here is how Swamy envisions India’s relationship with the country having the largest Muslim population in the world, namely Indonesia: “Over 90 per cent of the economic world powers’ commercial sea-traffic passes through the narrow (90 miles) Malacca Strait. If we can develop naval power to the point where we can police this strait, it will give India enormous power and leverage to influence international events. This has diplomatic implications. It is obvious, for example, that we cannot control the Malacca strait without the active cooperation of Indonesia. However through proper diplomatic moves we can obtain Indonesia’s cooperation and forge a strategic relationship with that country because we have long historical links with these islands through our cultural links of the past.” (Hindus Under Siege: The Way Out, 2007, p. 97).
Swamy is perhaps overconfident, because Indonesia, albeit often advertised as a model of tolerant Islam (Islam warna-warni, or “multicolored Islam,” as the phrase goes), is undergoing the same process of homogenization through radicalization at work round the Muslim world. One example will suffice to buttress this contention.
The following passage deals with the current situation in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces, whose population is prominently Muslim (>80%), in an otherwise overwhelmingly Buddhist country (92%). “As of September 10, 2008, there were forty-one beheadings according to the Bangkok Post. Terrorism experts argue that the style of many of these southern Thai beheadings is influenced by Muslim militant actions in the Middle East. However, there is more evidence to suggest that Thais are being trained in Indonesia or that the expertise comes from Indonesian-trained Thais who have stronger regional and local connections than countries in the Middle East. According to the Thai newspaper Isrā, in one instance a Thai ustaz (Islamic teacher) who teaches Islam in Yala Province had trained as a commando and studied Islam in Aceh, Indonesia. Among the Thai ustaz’s commando training were techniques for beheading people.” (M.K. Jerryson, Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand, 2011, p. 92).
What is striking in this piece of information, besides the gruesome facts and the trial for incompetence the author is making against “terrorism experts,” is that Thai Jihadists do not train in Malaysia but in Indonesia, although (i) Malaysia is the closest neighboring Muslim country, (ii) whose policy is more Islam-oriented than Indonesia’s. It seems Jihadists find a safer shelter and/or better logistic support in Indonesia, which hints at the latter truly being the soft underbelly of the region with respect to fundamentalist plans, in spite of the showcase of Muslim tolerance. Indonesia is a poor country, ranking 100th as to GDP per capita (at purchasing power parity) (10,517 INT$), compared to 44th for Malaysia (25,639 INT$) (World Bank 2014). In 2002 Indonesian government allowed Aceh province to enforce Sharia law and is now under pressure from other provinces to extend this policy. To summarize, it is in tolerant Indonesia that Thai (Patani) Jihadists learn beheading techniques.
Savanna Park Virtual
As my friend X says, “A life among people who fancy themselves in the savanna is not worth living.” He means that people live in a virtual savanna; they believe in the reality of an environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA) that is no more. To discuss the present point, let us return to Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters by Miller and Kanazawa.
“Since the advent of agriculture about ten thousand years ago and the birth of human civilization which followed, humans have not had a stable environment against which natural selection can operate.” (p. 26). This is why intelligence, that is, as the same Kanazawa defines it in his book The Intelligence Paradox (2012) (discussed in xxxv), the capacity to deal with “novel and nonrecurrent adaptive problems,” has become important in human societies: Human civilization, our man-made environment is unstable and requires dealing with novel problems on a much more frequent basis, almost on a daily basis. Yet, our instincts often stand in the way and prevent us (the less intelligent of us) from dealing adequately with our current environment. For instance, abusing one’s mate is an instinctually adequate behavior to intimidate her into complying and shying away from close contacts with other men that would jeopardize the man’s position; yet, this behavior is criminal and may result in incarceration, ruining entirely the position that the man intended to secure (p. 24).
Therefore, intelligence can be construed as a non-emotional path to knowledge, because our emotions have been shaped in the stable environment of the ancestral savanna in order to make us behave in the ways adaptive to that environment. In spite of some scholarly attempts to discard the dichotomy reason-emotion, no matter how you take it emotions are in the way when you try to solve an equation. This is why for all abstract problems machines will do a better job than humans in the future.
Machines would already have replaced human toil and work if humans were not intent on preventing this evolution as much as they can, out of emotions designed in the vanished savanna. In 1941 already, James Burnham contended: “Using the inventions and methods available would, it is correctly understood, smash up the capitalist venture. ‘Technological unemployment’ is present in recent capitalism; but it is hardly anything compared to what technological unemployment would be if capitalism made use of its available technology.” (The Managerial Revolution). Given the pronounced tendencies toward crime attested by the current, already massive, permanently unemployed “underclass,” decision-makers are doing their best to have low-productivity industries and services subsidized in exchange of the latter maintaining the highest possible figures of human toil, which, from the advent of division of labor through the assembly line and bureaucratic procedure in organizations on, has become unbearably monotonous and machinelike.
It would be unbearable too, in the service sector, to interact as customers with humans playing the role of machines if that would not satisfy some inner savagery and cruelty keen on seeing other people degraded and at one’s mercy – a savanna emotion. The usual person, placed in such a situation as a waiter or shopkeeper, talks back to customers, whereas machines are always well-behaved. Do not bring savanna apes to confrontation when you can have these functional operations processed by machines.
The managerial revolution that has taken place and is the real engine of our affluence has nothing to do with old-days capitalism. Entrepreneurs are gone or they stand in the way. For aught I know, the entrepreneur today is the cleaning lady I pay. The engine of economy is elsewhere, amidst organizations contracting with the state, organizations offered foreign contracts through diplomats’ bargaining, oligopolistic markets, contractors entirely dependent on organizations, organizations that are shareholders, organizations filled with interchangeable organization men whose personal value is nil as measured by their departure or removal or passing away having no effect whatsoever on the company’s market value… The human factor there is the problem – what can make the machine go awry some day or the other. So-called experts sustain the myths of capitalism, but that is spin.
Spin is the word for politics too. The spoils system is over, ended by the Civil Service Reform (USA) and the “rise of the technician bureaucracy” (Aufstieg des fachgeschulten Beamtentums) (Max Weber). Recalling the so-called “Monicagate” in their light-hearted fashion, Miller and Kanazawa explain that other politicians (men) have affairs too. Do they? “It would be a Darwinian puzzle if they did not.” (p. 144). I suggest another “Darwinian puzzle”: Why does not “the most powerful man in the world” (p. 143), as some journalists, and a few light-hearted scholars, like to call the president of the United States, have the largest harem on earth? It looks like the most powerful man is a nice and decent functionary who’s doing as he’s told. He’s there for the cameras, making believe, by his presence, in the savanna tribe. This is monkey dance. Entertainment for the savanna brain.
The profound meaning of democracy, as most high civil servants do not come and go with elections (which is spoils system) but serve any elected person and apply, each in his or her sphere of competence, any program that comes out of the ballot box, is either that bureaucrats, because they put themselves at the service of others’ ideas, live an ignoble life (construing living for one’s ideas as noble), or that ideas don’t matter in the least and our societies follow an inevitable course.
When the once most powerful man in the world named Bill was faced with impeachment proceedings for his whoopees in the White House and his lies, he said please not to make him waste his time, ‘cause he’s got a job to do. May I ask who appointed him to the job? It’s no job at all. At most we’ll have to call it an office, and one is not appointed there by competent persons for one’s competence but by the people as a good monkey dancer or a good person, depending on how you see things.
Do journalists investigate politicians’ private lives or not? If they do, do our authors mean that most affairs escape these investigators’ attention? Well, well… Why not assume that journalists are good investigators, when this assumption, precisely, is made about them in other fields? Because the scarcity of affairs would be a Darwinian puzzle…
XXXVI The Evolutionary Roots of the Clash of Civilizations
The relations between Islam and the West have been hotly discussed for decades. Milestones in this debate have been books such as The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama (1992), Jihad vs McWorld by Benjamin Barber (1995), The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel Huntington (1996). In his work Conflicts of Fitness: Islam, America, and Evolutionary Psychology (2015), Dr A.S. Amin (MD) brings new insights in the discussion by making fruitful use of the findings of evolutionary psychology (EP), and I will review his ideas at some length while broaching the evolutionary roots of the clash of civilizations.
Although “Jihad vs McWorld” has become a kind of catchphrase, in the 1996 afterword of his book Barber explains that it is a misnomer: “I made clear that I deployed Jihad as a generic term quite independently from its Islamic theological origins (…) While extremist groups like Islamic Jihad have themselves associated the word with armed struggle against modernizing, secular infidels, I can appreciate that the great majority of devout Muslims who harbor no more sympathy for Islamic Jihad than devout Christians feel for the Ku Klux Klan or the Montana Militia might feel unfairly burdened by my title. I owe them an apology, and hope they will find their way past the book’s cover to the substantive reasoning that makes clear how little my arguments has to do with Islam as a religion or with resistance to McWorld as the singular property of Muslims.” So much for the catchphrase.
By opposing these two objects, Barber sometimes appears to mean an opposition between globalization and parochialization; yet Islam is hardly a good example of parochialism, since it is itself a globalism. In fact, all civilizations, inasmuch as they possess an inherent tendency to expand, are global; it’ just that some are more global than others, and the Western world is to date the more global of all inherently global civilizations. In some other places, Barber explains that he is defending democracy against both McWorld and Jihad, against “globalizing commerce” and “the populist reaction” to it – “Demopoulos vs McJihad’s” could be the phrase – but I do not find in his book convincing evidence that would allow us to dissociate democracy from McWorld; the inevitability of their connection has not been disproved, and the democracy Barber is talking about looks more like another Utopia, a Lubberland for the intellectuals, if the discourse is not Pavlovian appeal plain and simple. Barber means that, McWorld being far from humanistic, it deserves not to be associated with the concept of democracy, because, if I understand well, anything that has something wrong about it is undemocratic. If this does not build on Pavlovian conditioning, I don’t know what does.
This is not to say that more humanistic tendencies should not be encouraged in the society, but perhaps clinging to the word “democracy” is not the best way to prepare for a humanistic future, since historically democratic institutions have contributed much in preventing counter-powers to commercial interests from being more effective, and if the future is different from the present, then new words are needed to describe it. As far as I am concerned, deeming the existence of a political class, even appointed by universal suffrage, as exploitative, and suggesting that people vote for ideas, not for men (just vote on your computer and let the administration apply the programme), I am rather inclined to drop the name altogether.
In the present essay I draw a double-entry matrix of civilizations (picture). Entry 1 is reproductive climate: long-term (“committed”) / short-term (“hedonistic”). Entry 2 is material wealth: affluent / nonaffluent. These concepts will be explained. The Western world is defined as affluent and short-term. The Far East, and especially the continuum China-Korea-Japan, is defined as affluent and long-term. For practical purposes, Islam is defined as nonaffluent and long-term. We shall not deal with wealthy Gulf states, which I call “leisure nations” due to the extreme forms of welfare state they provide their nationals with; no matter how important on the world stage, they owe many of their current attributes to the accident of the oil rent. Black Africa is defined as nonaffluent and short-term.
Reproductive climate and wealth are considered independent. A certain tendency present in the West sees in short-term (“hedonistic”) mentality the engine of affluence. The idea is that, as the constraints on production, hence scarcity, have been overcome by technology, the sustenance of abundance and of the affluence that abundance makes possible now depends on mass consumption or hedonism, the lack of which would provoke the collapse of affluence. If our assumption that East Asia is both affluent and long-term (“committed”) is correct, the preceding reasoning, albeit cogent, is unwarranted (the main impetus of mass consumption may well have nothing to do with hedonism, even broadly defined.)
The matrix is descriptive and applies to the present instant only. It does not imply, for instance, that the West is inherently affluent and short-term; in fact, the West used to be poor and long-term – and the historical conjunction of its newly accrued affluence and short-term outlook is the reason some people hypothesize a relationship of causality.
Institutional Vs Cryptic Polygyny
To understand the evolutionary roots of the clash of civilizations, one must keep in mind three basic ideas grounded on the Darwinian theory of evolution.
1/ Humans, like other animals, are designed by their genes to aim at reproduction. This is an axiom of the theory of evolution and of evolutionary psychology (as the theory applied to human behavior specifically). As a consequence, humans are involved in sexual competition, by which they intend to maximize their numbers of descendants. Maximization is said to happen usually through optimizing one’s number of children and their rearing according to the level of one’s resources, in order that the children grow up in environments that allow them to reproduce successfully in their turn.
2/ In sexual and reproductive matters, men and women are not alike. The biological costs of making a child are higher for women. It costs women a nine-month pregnancy whereas it costs merely an ejaculate to men. After parturition the woman feeds the baby, whereas it costs nothing to the man if he decides so. In some animal species, males are not involved in parenting at all. In humans, the burden of parenting is shared by both sexes.
3/ Men are sexually less discriminate than women because the cost of reproduction and the consequences of mating are not as great for the former.
Institutional polygyny, as practiced for instance in Islam, is limited polygyny, that is a departure from unlimited polygyny by which one dominant male inseminates all women in a given group. Gorillas display such unlimited polygyny. The alpha male lives with most females in the area and he is the only one to inseminate the females in the group. Other adult males live alone at the periphery of the group; their aim in life is to seize the first occasion to kill an infant gorilla belonging to the group, because then the grieving female leaves the group after a few days and mates with the killer of her infant (see Wrangham & Petersen, 1996). Groups expand and shrink according to the results of this endless infanticide. Amin explains that, in human societies, limited, as opposed to unlimited, polygyny deflates occasions for violent behavior: “Unrestricted polygyny increases the likelihood of a situation where it becomes next to impossible for even an average man to find a wife. Having many men who are unable to find a mate can be a destabilizing force in society, and it may be important that a marriage institution works to insure this type of situation does not occur.” (pp. 6-7). By insuring access to mating to a greater number of men, restricted polygyny benefits the group overall.
Considering this, it would be logical to go one step further and postulate that, as monogyny insures access to mating to the greatest possible number of men, it is the one best solution. It is perhaps the best solution for men, but Amin claims that monogyny does not benefit women overall and that limited polygyny is the best compromise. We must here take into account the notion of a man’ desirability. There is a flavor of objectivity about this notion that may put off some readers, for whom in matters of love and passion desirability would be the most subjective thing in the world. In fact, as far as evolutionary theory is concerned, things are not as subjective as they are usually fancied to be; people’s choice is determined by objective preferences and competition, i.e. one’s ranking and value on the mating market. We can therefore assume men’s desirability to be something objective. Men of a given group or population can be ranked from most to least desirable, and the same is true for women. For a man, capacity to secure resources and status is deemed particularly important; for a woman, markers of fertility and health (beauty) are.
If a woman’s fitness optimization depends on her mating with a richer and more desirable man than the man whose value equals hers on the mating market, she will mate with that man rather than with her equal. As to the more desirable man, he will mate with the less desirable woman willingly because men are less discriminate (basic idea #3 above), and as long as he has got the resources, he can provide for both (or more) women and the children they give birth to without jeopardizing their fitness. Admittedly, the most desirable woman is the loser in this scenario – she is the one loser.
As Amin explains (pp. 5-6), with polygyny a greater number of women have sexual access to men more desirable than they are; conversely, a greater number of men must accept mating with women less desirable than they are (some men even having none). Polygyny thus benefits women more than men overall, and it is advantageous to a woman as long as the advantage of mating with a more desirable man exceeds the drawback of sharing him – and his resources – with other women. The latter provision allows us to predict that polygyny is more advantageous where social inequalities are greater.
The West practices institutional monogyny, Islam has institutional polygyny, but perhaps the real difference is between institutional vs cryptic polygyny. In order to compare the two systems, we should add to the picture the advantages or drawbacks of cryptic polygyny. On which point I quote a previous essay of mine (xxxi): “The plight of low-income single mothers is the rich man’s deed [as a result of cryptic polygyny]. It is the rich woman’s also, because, in some other societies, rich men marry several women, and all these women’s children are his legal children, to whom he is bound by law to provide support during their bringing up; in our society, the rich woman doesn’t want resources to be scattered among so many children.” In terms of Amin’s thought, the more desirable woman doesn’t care to share her mate’s resources with less desirable women – and, yes, under institutional polygyny the most desirable women fare less well than their counterparts under monogyny. & “A number of the rich man’s children, perhaps most of them, are thus [as a result of cryptic polygyny] raised in low-income homes or by low-income single mothers. When a single mother finds a partner who wants to live with her, the children she had before they met are much more likely than other children to suffer abuse from the partner (see xxviii). A child raised by a single-mother is also more likely to become a delinquent (see The Bell Curve, a book already dealt with in xxx). With the acuteness of deprivation rises the likelihood of abuse, molestation, rape, and murder of children by their ‘parents’.”
Cryptic polygyny increases existing social inequalities. The man’s urge to reproduce is largely wasted for those of his children born out of wedlock after acts of unlawful insemination, because even if they inherit his genes their bringing-up in deprived or worse-off environments is likely to be harmful*. As polygyny is predicted to be greater in unequal societies, and as inequalities in Western societies have increased during the last decades with the globalization of markets and the development of the knowledge-based economy (see, for instance, Brynjolfsson and McAfee, The Second Machine Age, 2014), one may assume that cryptic polygyny has been on the rise in the West.
Whereas cryptic polygyny is triggered, in an institutionally monogynous society, by social inequalities and at the same time further increases inequalities, on the contrary institutional polygyny is more egalitarian. On this point I have found my intuition confirmed by Amin. I had written (Comment to xxx): “As the rich man, when impregnating a poor woman, obligates her to scatter her scant resources among a greater number of children, he increases the adverse pressures of the environment on their future status. The rich man’s children would be better off if brought up by him. In the abstract, providing the number of wives be a positive function of the man’s wealth [which is the case, as we have seen while dealing with a man’s desirability], legal polygyny is more egalitarian than monogyny, because the rich man’s resources are spent on a greater number of children (his legal children).” I have then found the following under Amin’s quill: “Polygyny [institutional polygyny] enables a society to utilize a man’s desire to maximize his reproductive fitness to achieve a more balanced distribution of wealth. For example, a man who makes $500,000 a year can provide financially for ten women twice as well as a man making $25,000 can for just one woman.” (p. 7).
Whether or not there is also cryptic polygyny in Islamic countries where institutional polygyny exists I cannot say based on data, but the following section about the concept of reproductive climate will show that these countries are serious in their attempts to prevent it.
Reproductive Climate: Long-term Vs Short-Term
Based, again, on the evolutionary basic ideas presented above (1-3), Amin explains how “the reproductive ideal for women” is best served when men’s commitment to their pair is strong: “Forbidding men to have sex while offering little or no commitment is to their reproductive detriment. Furthermore, forcing men to make a commitment to their mates and to support any children that result approximates the reproductive ideal for women.” (p. 4). The notion of patriarchy is far off the mark, given that matrimonial bonds serve women’s reproductive interests rather than men’s; of which Schopenhauer already had a clear notion, concluding on the subject by these words: “By reason of the unnaturally advantageous position conferred to women by the monogamous arrangement and corresponding laws of matrimony, because they posit the woman as the man’s whole equal, which she is in no way, intelligent, prudent men are very often wary of committing so great a sacrifice and of engaging themselves in so unequal a compact.” (Parerga and Paralipomena).
A reproductive climate, that is, the overall outlook of mating and parenting practices in a given population, can be defined as long-term when males are committed to raising their children together with their female mates, and short-term otherwise. Rather than separate worlds, the two notions are in a continuum; when we ascribe one of the two to a given group, it is only in relative terms. In this view, gorilla males (mentioned above) are long-term strategists, whereas tigers, for example, are the most short-term possible insofar as tiger cubs never meet their father, unless by accident.
Among humans, one adaptation evolved to cement the bonds between a pair, so that both partners provide good cooperative care to the children, is love, and the more enduring the more efficient, hence the romantic (but nevertheless true in an important sense) view that love is everlasting or it is not love. Another saying is that love is blind. To be more precise, love is blind to opportunity costs; when in love, a man does not leave his partner for a more desirable woman when given the occasion. (Hence the universal idea that desirability is something subjective.) I say “a man” on purpose, for a man in love is more important to a woman than a woman in love to a man, because the problem this adaptation solves is how to pair-bond men, whose instincts incline them to remain free from bonding and parenting.
In order to maximize their fitness, each person needs to assess the reproductive climate in which they are living, because their success depends on it. The more long-term the climate, the more advantageous it is, as a rule, to adopt long-term strategies, and vice-versa. Sex being secretive, one needs to rely on cues. Hence gossip: “Although far from completely trustworthy, gossip can offer at least some information on the reproductive strategies being employed by others” (p. 26). Clothing, makeup, and behavior also serve as clues (pp. 26-7).
Amin then goes on explaining the dilemma women are facing: “Before a woman can hope to get a man to commit to her, she must first attract him. Attracting a man is made easier by displaying sexual receptivity, thereby appealing to his need for promiscuity and low commitment. On the other hand, getting a man to commit is made easier by displaying sexual restraint, thereby appealing to his need for paternity confidence.” (p. 29). In long-term climates, commitment is a given, for women, but they have to attract a partner. Considering what has just been said about cues, in long-term climates at the same time women’s clothing and makeup are conservative, so if a woman takes the step to make her clothing and/or makeup slightly more appealing to the sexual urges of men, she gets an edge over her female competitors (p. 30). This fact triggers a seduction arms race between women, in the course of which women’s behavior evolves towards more and more encouraging men’s shorter-term strategies, and men are given an ever greater number of opportunities to access females without committing to them. Amin contends this is what has been happening in the US these last decades (pp. 32-3). The arm’s race is reinforced by the media, advertising, and pornography. Catering to women’s need to attract men, at the same time advertising is permanently spreading cues that a woman’s reproductive interest lies in appealing to men’s sexual short-term urges. Same with pornography, “providing the brain with false information which it then uses to come up with an inaccurate assessment of the prevailing reproduction climate” (p. 43). As the race goes on and on, the levels of paternity certainty that women are able to offer decrease and men are consequently ever more incited to decline commitment since they naturally expect paternity certainty must be part of the deal (evolutionarily speaking, it does not make sense to provide resources to a stranger’s offspring; and studies show that stepfathers are many times more abusive with their step-children).
Hence, according to Amin, the media and pornography exert a reinforcing effect. I have argued elsewhere that this effect could be more warping than reinforcing, but for the time being I will stress that I find Amin’s description of what is occurring in the West plausible. If the role of mass eroticism in the media is consumption first and foremost, consumption itself, in the EP view, is ancillary to reproductive pursuits, such as when women buy clothing and makeup to attract men. In short-term climates, part of conspicuous consumption on the part of men is aimed at making known to women who are not expecting commitment that they will receive great amounts of resources fast during the short time of an uncommitted relationship.
That the West has become short-term may be confirmed by current divorce rates in the US: “American divorce rates now approach 67 percent for those currently getting married, up from the mere 50 percent figure that alarmed many over the past two decades.” (David Buss, The Dangerous Passion, 2000). Given such figures, why people even keep marrying is difficult to understand if that is not make-believe for women’s expectations of commitment.
Another characteristic of long-term climates that is addressed by Amin are matchmakers and arranged marriages. The practice is used as an indictment against Muslim countries (and against the past of the Western world), but all long-term patterns of behavior for which Islam is being blamed from a Western point of view exist in the long-term, affluent Far East (see Matrix) as well, as we shall see. Quoth Amin: “In a long-term climate, being shy benefits both men and women when dealing with the opposite gender [men’s shyness advertises commitment, women’s shyness advertises paternity certainty]. Obviously, a situation such as this makes the formation of new relationships quite difficult. Arranged marriages offer a solution to this problem. Rather than meddlesome interference, matchmakers play a vital role in bringing together couples whose long-term reproductive strategies act as an impediment to starting a relationship by themselves.” (pp. 50-1). This insight can help us assess the reasons why numbers of Westerners renege on their civilization and convert to Islam and even to Jihad – having being dismantled, in the Western short-term context, the very institutions that would allow shy men to find a partner. No matchmakers, no whorehouses (where one can gain experience and confidence, see xxix), and sexual competition and pressure as high as ever: You can expect a good deal of men to understand they will not be able to thrive in our “emancipated” society.
Two other characteristics Amin ascribes to short-term climates are: a/ less concern for women’s age; b/ women’s careers.
a/ “Men in short-term reproductive climates do not put the same emphasis on youth than men in long-term reproductive climates do. This is often viewed as enlightened, since such men seem to be focusing more on the woman herself rather than her baby-making abilities. However, the real reason men in short-term climates do not place the same emphasis on youth is they have less reason to concern themselves with long-term reproductive utility. Instead of focusing on long-term reproductive utility, men pursuing short-term strategies are more concerned with signs of immediate fertility.” (pp. 48-9).
b/ “The more short-term a reproductive climate becomes, the less likely it is that men can be relied on, making it extremely important for women to be economically independent. Therefore, women in short-term climates place a huge value on their careers, feeling sorry for women who do not have the same opportunities that they do. Women in long-term climates tend to see things differently. Such women are often glad they have husbands who provide them with the opportunity to stay home and take proper care of the children, pitying women who are forced to play the role of provider and caretaker at the same time.” (pp. 51-2). The role of provider is all the more to be pitied that in many cases it is a dehumanizing one; and there is something frightful about business experts’ demanding “passion” for his or her repetitive toil from a worker.
Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the concept of reproductive climate, let us see how it applies to current civilizations.
The Double-Entry Civilization Matrix
We will say a few words on 1/ Islam; 2/ the West; 3/ Black Africa; 4/ the Far East.
1/ I have defined Islam as both long-term and nonaffluent. That it is long-term is evidenced by institutional polygyny, whereby a man commits to all his wives’ children, by its stance against eroticism and pornography, by standards of decency for women that impose conservative clothing, makeup and behavior, by relative eviction of women from the workplace, and in some cases (perhaps as an inherent tendency) by seclusion of women. According to Amin, the Quran has been in several instances interpreted in a manner that suits the interests of extremely long-term male mentalities, to the point of distortion (p. 56). For example, passages from the Quran on women’s share of inheritance would be ignored because they might promote women’s independence and thus trigger the seduction arms race that leads to short-term climates. Moves towards a greater independence for women are resisted because they are perceived as jeopardizing long-term climate.
As to affluence, many Muslim countries belong to the developing world, and recent international events in several Arab countries, which have plunged them into chaos, are reinforcing this situation by impoverishing them further. The Gulf states are a different case, which, however interesting, we shall not discuss here. (For those interested, and fluent in French, see my essay “Saudi Arabia the Leisure Nation,” here.)
I suggest with Amin that Jihad is not only the hostility of the have-nots against the haves, but also of the long-term against the short-term. The current appeal of Islam to some non-Muslim young people in the West (among whom many young women), and to formerly secularized second or third-generation immigrants, lies in its extreme long-term stance, as opposed to the short-term ideologies of these young people’s countries of birth and residence. The appeal of Islam lies first and foremost in his advocating of long-term strategies, not in the daily prayers nor in the ritual slaughtering, etc. The best way to dry up the stream of Westerners’ conversions is consequently to liberalize Islam and make a ritualistic empty shell of it, to which fundamentalists, of course, are firmly opposed; this opposition is predictable in the framework of sexual competition and reproductive climates.
2/ With respect to the West, as already said I have intended elsewhere to cast some doubt on the depth of our promiscuity, bringing into the picture a possible warping media effect, but Amin’s approach is convincing enough.
Another objection can be raised in case reproductive strategies were inborn, which is the contention of J.P. Rushton, based on sociobiologist E. O. Wilson’s r/K model. According to Rushton, blacks would be more short-term (r), mongoloids more long-term (K), whites being in the middle. The trouble with aggregating clues and data from various groups if their reproductive differences are inborn is that it makes an accurate assessment of reproductive climate impossible. A person is advised to assess the behavior of people from his or her own group, because assessing people’s behavior from other groups is misleading (you don’t want to mimic the behavior of a person whose idiosyncrasies are inborn). Mere aggregation would tend, if Rushton is correct, to make believe the climate is more short-term than it really is as far as the white subgroup is concerned and conversely more long-term as far as the black subgroup is concerned.
3/ This leads us to the Black African civilization in the Matrix. I have defined it as nonaffluent, which can hardly be denied, and short-term relying in part on Rushton’s use of the r/K model. Black men’s virile endowments (penis and testes size) suggest greater sperm competition, lesser paternity certainty, and shorter-term strategies.
To the credit of this classification, Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop describes ancient black civilizations, and their contemporary rests, as matriarchal and matrilinear, which suggests a lesser commitment from men. In short-term contexts, the woman’s brother is more committed to her offspring than the father himself; according to C. Anta Diop, that is the case in sub-Saharan Africa. Quoth: “African men designed matriarchy in accord with African women with a view to the greatest might of the clan. … Contrary to the social order of the Indo-European clan, it is progressively with the dislocation of the clan that lineage through males has been admitted in African matriarchal societies. In these societies this kind of linage has kept up to the present day the character of a weak kinship, less strong than that derived from women. … Among Indo-Europeans the patriarchal family structure excluded any alternative notion of authority deriving from the maternal uncle; the latter term did not even exist originally.”*** (For a short exposé on some others of Cheikh Anta Diop’s ideas and an annotated wolof glossary, see here, in French.)
Incidentally, given the basic ideas 1-3 above, such a situation is a bit of a puzzle. The current view is that our ancestors were very polygynous and a little bit (if at all) polyandrous – albeit I have stated elsewhere (xxxv) that this overlooks sperm competition. Yet, it really looks as if black men were not much concerned about paternity certainty (the reason is “the greatest might of the clan”?). Usually, short-term men adopt mixed strategies; even rap singers, whose lifestyle and lyrics exemplify, according to Amin, the most extreme forms of short-term mentality in the West, have a “wifey” (p. 75) from whom they expect certain standards of behavior upon which they can build a sense of paternity security. Conversely, the Quran allows for concubines, mostly slaves, that is, for men’s indulging their short-term urges; however the practice has fallen into disuse, although it seems to have been restored by newcomers such as Daesh.
4/ The Far East, namely a continuum China-Korea-Japan, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, offers the example of an affluent and long-term civilization. To describe it I will make use of the book Order by Accident: The Origins and Consequences of Conformity in Contemporary Japan (2000) by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa. (For a discussion of Kanazawa’s “Intelligence Paradox,” see xxxv.)
Japan has long been an industrialized, affluent country. Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore all belong to the NICs (newly industrialized countries), and China, formally a communist country, is on the verge of becoming world power number one.
The continuum China-Korea-Japan is built on Miller & Kanazawa’s model. China is the oldest civilization in the world, they argue, and its institutions are characterized by high levels of cooperation. Its culture has spread; in the process, it is the most cooperative groups from China that have taken the culture abroad, first to Korea, then to Japan: “the social institutions that the Korean inherited from the Chinese were more cooperative than the average social institutions in China, because some groups in the latter, still in the process of being replaced, had less cooperative social institutions. … These social institutions were later transmitted from Korea to Japan by the ascendant and dominant groups in Korea. Then, by the same token, Japanese social institutions should be slightly more cooperative than Korean social institutions at any given point in history.” (p. 131). Accordingly, we can see Japan as the purest example, in the sense of most thorough, in the continuum.
That Japan is a long-term country is clear from the place Japanese women occupy in the workplace. In the main, Japanese women do not work; to be precise, the workplace is replete with women employed on short-term jobs up to about age 25, when they are supposed to marry and leave (p. 47). This allows companies to provide their male employees, much overworked comparing to Western standards, with a pool of potential partners, in which they actually find a partner. This reminds one of what Amin says on “arranged marriages” and the role of third parties in long-term reproductive climates: Here the matchmaker is the company. “This, of course, provides a very practical solution to an otherwise difficult problem. With men spending all of their time at work or in the company of coworkers, they have no time to actively search for a spouse. By hiring a large number of young, single females, the company can provide their single male employees with potential mates and can also exercise some control over the types of women their male employees meet and eventually marry.” (p. 48). Moreover, divorce rates in Japan are very low (p. 57).
By comparison, in a rather rigorous Islamic country such as the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, women make up 40.3% of the workforce (Marie-Sybille de Vienne, 2012). This is perhaps not representative of other Muslim countries, especially where an extreme long-term mentality actively pursues women’s dependence, but I mean that, if some are truly concerned about the improvement of women’s position on the workplace, they would do well to broaden the scope of their indictments, for Japan holds a prominent position among long-term nations that evince women from work. I expect the same to be true, perhaps not to the same extent, though (given what has just been said about the cultural transmission inside the continuum), for South and North Korea and China.
Japan has been flooded with its own pornographic production (videos and manga comics) for decades, without its long-term mentality seemingly being altered. This could cast doubt on Amin’s view about the media’s reinforcing effect.
More recent than the West’s, East Asia’s affluence has fueled among these countries’ elites a discourse on Asian values, typically contrasted to the “decadent” West, like when Singapore’s prime minister Lee Kuan Yew told Australians they would become “the white trash of Asia” (cf. Huntington). Huntington advises Australia to coalition with Western countries, specifically with US, Canada, and New Zealand, rather than trying to define herself as an Asian nation – the latter move was all the more awkward, by the way, that Australia had only recently abandoned her decades-long “White Australia” policy (1901-1973) barring Asian immigrants from entering the country. The 2005 Cronulla riots, where rioting flaxen-blond surfers could be watched on TV beating up immigrant Lebanese pushers that had been dealing dope on the beach, has perhaps confirmed the white trash image in the eyes of Asians – yet, to my knowledge, you don’t find Lebanese pushers in Singapore (3rd richest country in terms of GDP per capita). In fact, Asian authoritarians are likely to have been confirmed in their views about the weakness of Western institutions, and on how weak institutions lead to riots and the Lynch law, among other unwanted turmoils. Undemocratic states in East Asia are at the date of today: China, North Korea, Singapore (debated), Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Burma (in transition).
In conclusion, evolutionary theory has provided us, thanks to Dr A.S. Amin, with a theoretical model for categorizing current major world civilizations, in terms of reproductive climates. The roots of the clash of civilization are the same as those of human violence; what is new in Amin’s thinking is his treatment of these groupings called civilizations.
*“Even in a developed country like Britain, a child born into a low socio-economic group has twice the chance of dying during childhood than one born in a high socio-economic group. Wealth means health, both at the individual level via diet and lifestyle and at the national level via medical services.” (Robin Baker, Fragile Science, 2001, p. 166)
** « bei der widernatürlich vorteilhaften Stellung, welche die monogamische Einrichtung und die ihr beigegebenen Ehegesetzte dem Weibe erteilen, indem sie durchweg das Weib als das volle Äquivalent des Mannes betrachten, was es in keiner Hinsicht ist, tragen kluge und vorsichtige Männer sehr oft Bedenken, ein so großes Opfer zu bringen und auf ein so ungleiches Paktum einzugehn. » (Parerga und Paralipomena)
*** « L’homme l’a conçu [le matriarcat] en accord avec la femme pour la plus grande puissance du clan. (…) À l’inverse de l’ordre social du clan indo-européen, c’est progressivement avec la dislocation du clan que la parenté par les hommes sera admise dans les sociétés africaines matriarcales. Aussi dans ces sociétés cette parenté garde jusqu’à nos jours le caractère d’une parenté affaiblie, moins forte que celle issue des femmes. (…) Chez les Indo-Européens, la famille patriarcale régnait à l’exclusion de toute notion d’autorité découlant de l’ordre maternel ; ce terme n’existait même pas à l’origine. » (Antériorité des civilisations nègres. Mythe ou réalité historique ? 1967)
April 30, 2016