Life and death — lots of death — in Africa

News out of the Ivory Coast is that death and chaos are rising quickly.  The Obama Administration is, as always, “deeply concerned.”  (Has it occurred to anybody that the administration’s real strength might be writing sentiments for condolence cards?  They’re very good at empathetic, and occasionally bathetic, pabulum.)

Every time I read a story such as this out of Africa — whether about the Ivory Coast, or Rwanda, or Liberia, or the Republic of Congo, or any other African nation riven by violence — I ask the trite and logical question “why?”  What is it about Africa that makes significant segments of that continent prone to violence?

And what violence it is.  There’s a barbarity to the African violence that makes Westerners quail.  Africa seems to lead the world in child soldiers.  Worse (if such a thing can be worse), these soldiers don’t get indoctrinated in their youth and naturally drift into warfare (which is the Islamist way doing things).  Instead, they’re created when other soldiers slaughter the adults in the village and kidnap the children.  The girls are raped and killed, or kept as whores, and the boys, no matter how young, are put on the front lines.

The African killing gangs display unusual imagination and innovation when it comes to devising horrible ways to kill their enemies.  Squeezing tires around them and setting the tires alight, chopping off limbs, savage machete attacks, literally raping women and girls to death — Africa has seen it all.  These dreadful deaths are not confined to one geographic area.  They span the continent from the southern-most tip, to the central areas, to the furthest northeastern or southeastern coasts.

In the African way of warfare, civilians aren’t just fair game, they’re preferred game.  While Western nations discovered that some wars couldn’t be won if the civilian population didn’t feel pain (so that Sherman marched through Georgia, the Allies carpet-bombed Germany, and the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Japan), the West resorted to those tactics only when all other conventional military tactics failed.  In Africa, however, it’s the women, children and old people who are the first line of attack.  Counter-intuitively, this bass ackwards approach to warfare doesn’t end war before it starts, which one might think would be the case given how efficient it’s proven in the past at ending a conventional war.  Instead, it makes for years or decades of guerrilla warfare, with a constant backdrop of starved, brutalized, and slaughtered civilians.

I’ve heard lots of theories about Africa’s frequent forays into the worst type of savagery.  The number one charge is that Western colonialism destroyed its traditional tribal infrastructure and left it with nothing but chaos.  Certainly in the case of the Republic of Congo, which was the former Belgian Congo, one can draw a straight line from the Belgian habit of punishing recalcitrant blacks by cutting off arms and legs, to the military’s and guerrilla’s current habit of doing precisely the same thing.

Other parts of the world, though — indeed all other parts of the world but for Europe itself — experienced European imperialism without the consistency of societal decay and violence that characterizes Africa.  Sometimes, in fact, colonialism was a good thing.  As Niall Ferguson argues in Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power, British colonialism, although morally bad, ended up leaving successful nations in its wake.  That is, it did so everywhere except in Africa.

While the British colonies in Africa may have been somewhat better off than former German or Dutch or French or Belgian colonies, they still weren’t healthy.  What’s even more amazing is that even those colonies that seemed exceptionally stable could so quickly get sucked into the African morass.  The perfect example is Zimbabwe, which was for decades the poster child for a healthy post-colonial nation.  Then, Mugabe got infected with “insane African dictator” syndrome, destroyed the colonial infrastructure and, in about five years, reduced Zimbabwe from a bread basket to a basket case.  Derapage in Africa happens quickly.

Colonialism, then, doesn’t seem as if it’s a complete explanation for the myriad problems in Africa.  Another explanation is “slavery” (always with a finger pointed to the West, and especially against America).  It’s true that both Western and Arab nations have seen Africa as fertile slave territory since at least Roman times.  What people forget, though, is that part of why Africa was such an attractive place for gathering slaves was because of the same problem that plagues Africa today:  Tribalism.

Contrary to popular mythology, whites didn’t normally trek into the interior to kidnap whole villages for the slave trade (too dangerous, not cost effective).  Instead, Tribe A raided its enemy, Tribe B, and brought the captives to the coastal areas, where Tribe A sold Tribe B to the slavers.  African slavery might not have survived if the Africans had risen up en masse against the slave trade.  The problem was that, in order to achieve short term tribal goals, the Africans were complicit in the slave trade, making sure there were always plenty of bodies heading off on the slave ships.  In other words, slavery was a by-product, not a cause, of the perpetual civilian warfare that keeps parts of Africa dysfunctional today.

Another theory I’ve heard advanced is Africa’s natural situation.  None of its native animals can be domesticated, its climate is hostile (huge droughts, followed by devastating deluges), and its diseases are ferocious, demoralizing and devastating.  Certainly that would depress development, but it doesn’t explain the violence, especially in those parts of Africa such as Zimbabwe or Uganda that don’t suffer so badly from Africa’s homegrown plagues and deficiencies.

One of the things that’s definitely plagued northern Africa in modern times is Islam.  In the Sudan, while the world wrung its hands (and Samantha Power kept strangely silent), the white Islamic rulers killed off all the Christians in the usual brutal African fashion.  Then, the Sudanese killed off all the black Muslims.  I assume that, after a few years of gathering its strength, the Sudanese government will turn its attention to surrounding nations.  Somalia is no better.  Nor, judging by the news headlines, is Egypt (which, although considered part of the Middle East, is geographically African).

Keith Richburg, in Out Of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa, places part of the blame for modern African’s myriad failings on enablers in the West.  Although its been several years since I read his wonderful book, I distinctly remember one, maybe two, chapters devoted to the way in which American black leaders (Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc.) have pandered to and protected the worst dictators in Africa.  Just as bad, whites in America, fearful of being called racist, have kept quiet in the face of this disgusting behavior.

My mother, who has a lot of native common sense, thinks one of Africa’s problems is that it never developed a written history.  This kept culture oral and local.  It prevented a coherent national culture that would have depressed a lot of the worst tribal instincts.  It also prevented an overarching morality from developing, something that bound together the Jews, despite the diaspora, and Europe, despite its frequent nationalist warfare.

I’m not sure there’s a unified theory that will explain Africa’s deep and long-lasting problems.  It’s a huge continent that seems to be a magnet for all bad things, whether disease, colonialism, slavery, Islamist conquest, tribal violence, freak weather, etc.  All I know is that, when I read a story such as today’s about the Ivory Coast, all I can do is think, sadly, “Not again.”

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Comments

  1. says

      What’s even more amazing is that even those colonies that seemed exceptionally stable could so quickly get sucked into the African morass.  Even Kenya, which seemed for so long to be safe from these problems, looks to be on the precipice(sp?) and Mulims running for government positions, and encouraging riots when they lose, do seem to be a key part of the slide.

  2. jj says

    Careful – you’re getting quite close to the ultimate high peak in the alps of political correctness!  If you should ever just come right out and ask the question: what the #$%# is wrong with Africa? – you know you’ll be banned from the human race and consigned straight to everlasting flames, don’t you?  A question that WE JUST SIMPLY DO NOT ASK.

  3. says

    Poliwog:

    WordPress is either sadistic or has an impish sense of humor.  I have precisely the same problems.  Right now, WordPress is refusing to let me see my blog stats, which has sent me into a spiraling emotional withdrawal.

  4. Danny Lemieux says

    There are many things wrong with “Africa”, but Africa is a huge and very diverse area, encompassing many peoples and many cultures. True, some countries have been the sites of tremendous savagery. Others (e.g., Botswana) have been calm for many, many years.

    All the arguments that you presented above are applicable. Fact is, Africans were slaughtering Africans long before the Europeans came. They have also been at the crossroads of many competing outside forces (Islamic conquest, Western Colonialism) and many areas offer exceedingly harsh environments. Tribal culture remains a huge obstacle to development. Slavery was as well developed by Africans as it was by Native Americans (last point made for Z’s benefit).

    But then, we have to also have to remember that no groups of people have shown themselves historically more capable of efficient mass slaughter than Europeans and Asians. People are people. There are no angels. 

    I have never been to Africa. However, close friends of mine have…and many have lived there for many years. I believe them when they say that Africa offers both the worst and the best in the human experience. Africa has many demons, but many angels too.

  5. Michael Adams says

    If I might add a couple of points about African slavery, I’d point out that two thirds of the slaves went north, to the Muslim Empire, which is also where the Vikings sold their human loot, distant blood relations of mine. I heard a report on NPR, back when I still listened, about Timbuctu, and all the restorations work being done to eighth century mosques and ancient Korans.  The piece went on for a quarter of an hour without once mentioning the source of all that ancient wealth, the slave trade, of which Timbuctu was the central market.
     
    The second point was the Nigerian king, whose name I can not call up at this moment, who wrote a high-dudgeoned letter to President Madison, about his/our perfidy in abolishing the slave trade in 1809.
     
    Given these two data, I’d have to say that geography, the lack of deep water ports on the coasts, the tsetse fly and its effect on animal husbandry, the droughts and floods, and your mother’s very astute observation about the lack of history, which might be secondary to one or more of the above, might have more to do with African savagery than some other explanation offered.
     
    BTW, I hope that occasion will present itself to tell your mother how well received was her comment about ahistoricity. I heartily concur.

  6. Danny Lemieux says

    One of the big differences between Muslim enslavement and American slavery was this: if you look today at Arab Muslim societies, you see very few black people (except where black tribes made up the ethnic heritage of the nation): where did all the black slaves go?

    In Muslim society, slaves were not allowed to procreate, as raising children was considered an expensive distraction from a slave’s labor. Thus, males black slaves were either castrated or, when procreation did occur, the babies were killed.

  7. Jose says

    BW – you nailed the root of the problem.  It is tribalism.  Of course, our multiculturists encourage the same thing here.
     
    Why has Africa never developed?  I’ll trot out my favorite theory, which I’ve posted here before.  Tribalism prevents different groups from trusting and cooperating with each other.  This is known in game theory as the stag hunt game.  Hunters can go it alone, and kill a rabbit – a subsistence diet.  Or they can band together, kill a large animal, have food left over and spend time to improve their standard of living.
     
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stag_hunt
     
    A large homogeneous society where everyone knows and follows the rules will have a greater chance of cohesion and social progress.  Modern Africa has never reached the level of social stability of ancient China or Egypt.

  8. Charles Martel says

    Danny, your description of Arab Muslim treatment of black African slaves supports my contention that Arab culture has an extremely difficult time empathizing with anybody outside of clan/tribe/family. The question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is impossible to ask in such a culture.

    Also, the notion of the abolition of slavery is similarly impossible. The Qu’ran explicitly condones slavery, which only reinforces Arabs’ antipathy towards all non-Arabs, even if they are Muslims.

  9. Danny Lemieux says

    I once asked a good friend, an accomplished scientific Ph.D. affiliated with a major U.S. university, whether he ever had a wish to return to his native Ghana to start up a company (he had definite entrepreneurial interests). He told me that he could never succeed in Ghana, as the tribal culture there saw any one person’s accomplishment as being the collective property of the tribe. Thus, he could never accumulate enough capital from a business enterprise in Africa before it was siphoned off by the collective claims of the tribe. This destroyed both capital formation and incentive to create.

    Some of the same dynamic exists in some of the Indian reservations in North America, which is why, coupled with government enablers’ monies, they fail to progress.

    Jose is absolutely right: the Left is encouraging the same dynamic here. Which is interesting: Friedrich Hayek attributed much of the Left’s economic and social ideas to an atavistic longing for the perceived simplicities of our tribal past (“The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism”). Hayek saw nothing “progressive” about the Left, only a fatal regressivism. 

    Multiculturalism and the Left’s obsessive need to define people by tribes based on class, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual practices (a “salad bowl” instead of a “melting pot”) is nothing less than a regressive drive toward a diversified tribal society that will suffer all the same ills of tribal societies in Africa and elsewhere.

  10. Danny Lemieux says

    Charles, your point is spot on: the Quran condones slavery.

    In Islam, the Quran was written by the hand of Mohammed, guided by God. It is, therefore, God’s word and inviolable. You cannot oppose slavery and be a good Muslim, because to do would be to question the literal meaning of the Quran.

    Although I sympathize with the many Muslims that have tried and continue to try to accommodate the words of the Quran to modern society, I fear they are in a losing battle. They have already been preempted by the words of the Quran itself, a preemption that carries with it a death sentence.

    Here is an interesting website, Nonie Darwish’s “Arabs for Israel”, that highlights some of these philosophical contortions and exchanges:

    http://arabsforisrael.blogspot.com/

  11. says

    Danny, that is why I consider the Leftist alliance, which is comprised of many different factions and ideologies (some even mutually exclusive), as the enemy of all humanity.

    And that’s no simple exaggeration, but quite an accurate description of what they are.

  12. Charles Martel says

    I remember something Camille Paglia, my favorite leftist lesbian social observer, said: If the left, especially its shrill female component, had its way, we’d all still be living in a pleasant little thatched-hut village by a bend in the river.

  13. jj says

    On a more serious note, your mother is on to the basics of a concept, but it isn’t a concept that’s really going to hold water in Africa.  The concept of “history,” and the culturally binding aspects of that concept, really only work where there’s something to bind together disparate groups.  To take an example: The Jacobins had their hatreds, the Jacquerie hated the aristos, every group within France hated every other group within France – but they were all French.  They had, however much they may have disavowed it at the time, a commonality: their French-ness.  They were, ultimately, all part of the same tribe.  There were factions and factions and factions within England – but they were all English.  No matter how much they hated and fought each other, they were all ultimately members of the same tribe.  Bismarck was able to unite the disparate tribes of Germany because when you got right down to it, they were all German – and sufficiently _________ (put in your own word: “mature,” “organized,” “adult,” “logical”) to recognize and acknowledge that when a sufficiency of pressure was placed upon them.
     
    Not the case in Africa.  Your mother is correct when she speaks to the lack of a unifying history, but wrong in being dismayed that it doesn’t exist in Africa, because – well, because it doesn’t exist, so why be surprised or dismayed?  Africa is tribal, not national.  Tribe A and Tribe B live ten miles apart, they are therefore part of the same nation, right?  Well, not so fast – because in their world-view (insofar as they may be said to have a word-view) that’s wrong.  They share nothing.  There is no commonality.  They are not, ultimately, on the same team.  If Tribe A can put something over on Tribe B they will, because their interests are not – and never have been – the same.  There is no concept of an over-arching common interest.
     
    For them all to be rowing the boat in the same direction requires a level of what we might call “grown-up behavior” to which they have never aspired.  “Nations” are a new concept, really only about a century old.  To tell the Bantu and the Xhosa to knock it off because, “you’re all part of the same nation, South Africa” is to fail to relieve yourself to leeward: a dismaying waste of time.
     
    The issue is, everybody else on the planet – with the exception of a few of our Islamic brethren – got over that.  Africa for the most part has not.  Even in Ireland the Catholics and Protestants at least talk to each other these days, and try to row the boat more or less in the same direction – but Africa doesn’t.  So what do you say about them?  That they’re a little slow?  Well, I don’t know – but you certainly can’t say that in these PC days.  The only place in Africa that was ever genuinely organized was South Africa, because the Zulu moved in during the 1830s and beat the living hell out of the Bantu, Tsonga, Nguni, Swazi, Themba, Xhosa, !ke, Khoi-Khoi and Sotho, and said “this is how it’s going to be: you’re going to get organized and all be on the same team.”   And faced with such unkindly force majeure they were, too, until the Zulu themselves collided with the Boers and the British.
     
    But that was certainly not nice of the Zulu.  They recognized that you cannot get these people organized until you first thrash them into a complaisant jelly, and then they’ll do what they’re told – though they may indeed resent it.  To which, if you are a nineteenth-century Zulu, you say “tough.”  Nobody, these days, is willing to be as Draconian in the enforcement process as the Zulu were, nor remould the world permit it.
     
    So we have politically corrected ourselves into a corner where the world can do nothing but stand by and watch the various slaughters.  The Zulu solution – they addressed simple peoples simply -  is too unfriendly to be allowed in these enlightened days.  I do not myself advocate it, but, on the other hand, I don’t know what to do either.

  14. Michael Adams says

    I have asked various Africans, from time to time, what other African languages were related to theirs, say, Igbo, Ga, Hausa, etc.  Invariably, they told me that their language was related to no other.  This is absolutely untrue.  There are two big linguistics groups that encompass most of the African tongues. Nevertheless, one of our major motivations, OK. at least for moi,  for learning about the Indo-European tree is to facilitate our learning of other I-E languages. Ghanaians have, as a group, a reluctance to learn Benin, if they speak, Ga, etc.
     
    This tribal/language thing swings both ways. Different languages encourage a sense of the neighbor as the alien, and, of course, it is pretty hard to be neighbors to those whom you cannot understand. The ancient Israelites had tribal linguistic differences. Read the story of Shibboleth. It’s pretty funny, when you think about it.  Semitic languages are so similar that an Arabic speaker can understand a lot of words in Amharic, and Arabic speakers understand Aramaic. To me, as a member of none of those tribes, it surely does appear that they actually do like those differences, and the separations that they produce.
     
    However, all of this is really a non-answer: Tribalism, like racism, has causes. It’s much less important to me to know, not what the animosities are, but what are the reasons for them? Usually there is some kind of economic competition, as between Rednecks and Blacks, Jews and Polish peasants, Native Irish (Catholic) and Scot-Irish (Protestants)My best guess would be that there is something in traditional African agriculture that depends heavily on tribal communal labor, and tribal loyalty is reinforced by an outwardly turned animosity. A couple of very unsettling examples of this, outside of Africa, would be the violence as Yugoslavia broke apart, and the Salem witch trials.  In both cases, the stress of living in a hostile environment, increases Xenophobia and paranoia. So, Africa’s tribalism and poverty are self reinforcing. Any ideas on how to resolve this dilemma?

  15. Danny Lemieux says

    To both Mike Adams’ and JJ’s points, wasn’t America really settled by “tribes” that were in competition with each other but nevertheless found a common, unifying identity through our Constitution?

  16. kali says

    I find the same tribal dynamic revealed in the Bollywood movies I watch. Every single one, from romance to musical to adventure, has a subtext of people of different cultures and religions coming together in an overarching Indian identity. I always find it a bit sad, because it says to me wishful thinking rather than reality. But they try.
     
    And ah, that rustic existence on the banks of a river–watching as child after child dies before their first year,  as fields wash away in floods and everyone starves, as women die of puerperal fever, men of septicemia, and everybody of cholera because there’s no more clean water.
     
     

  17. says

    Bookworm: What is it about Africa that makes significant segments of that continent prone to violence? … In the African way of warfare, civilians aren’t just fair game, they’re preferred game. 

    Europe went through a similar period. During the Middle Ages, the destruction of villages as a means of warfare was common (e.g. Hundred Years War).
     
    Bookworm: Colonialism, then, doesn’t seem as if it’s a complete explanation for the myriad problems in Africa. 

    Yes. Colonialism is an important cause, but as you say, not the only one.
     
    Bookworm: Tribalism.

    Yes. Of note, in order to control large populations with very few soldiers, colonial powers pitted tribe against tribe, and purposefully drew boundaries to prevent tribes from uniting. This has left a problem where ethnic divisions straddle national boundaries. 
     
    Bookworm: Slavery.

    Yes. While slavery predates colonialism, the needs of the New World, and transoceanic technology, drove the process to a new level. 
     
    Bookworm: None of its native animals can be domesticated, its climate is hostile (huge droughts, followed by devastating deluges), and its diseases are ferocious, demoralizing and devastating. 

    Yes. Geography is an important factor. See below.
     
    Bookworm: My mother, who has a lot of native common sense, thinks one of Africa’s problems is that it never developed a written history. 

    Sub-Saharan Africa has a very rich oral tradition.

    The interior of Africa is on a high plateau with few navigable rivers to the interior. In addition, the geography of Africa is very diverse, broken up into a separate ecosystems. It’s difficult for culture, especially agricultural innovations, to be transmitted across the Sahara, or across the interior to southern Africa.

    This meant that sub-Saharan Africa tended not have good communication with the Eurasian world during most of its history. Consequently, they were not party to many of the technological developments in Eurasia, including writing and metal working. For instance, they independently developed pitched warfare (Zulu), but much later than Eurasian powers. Ironically, insect-borne diseases in the African interior significantly hindered colonisation. Europeans and their agricultural practices were not adapted to the environment. They did much better in southern Africa. 

    It’s always a problem when mismatched cultures collide. It’s almost inevitable that a small advantage becomes amplified. 
     

  18. says

    jj: The concept of “history,” and the culturally binding aspects of that concept, really only work where there’s something to bind together disparate groups. 

    That’s right. But it’s important to remember that nationalism is a relatively new concept. 
     
    jj“Nations” are a new concept, really only about a century old. 

    A bit older than that in England and France. 
     
    jjEven in Ireland the Catholics and Protestants at least talk to each other these days, and try to row the boat more or less in the same direction – but Africa doesn’t.

    Ireland is a good example of the effects of colonialism in a non-African context. The British colonized the island and enacted laws to enforce the cultural divisions between the colonists and colonized. When Ireland finally achieved independence, the British divided the country along religious lines. This led to generations of political turmoil. 
     
    Danny Lemieux: To both Mike Adams’ and JJ’s points, wasn’t America really settled by “tribes” that were in competition with each other but nevertheless found a common, unifying identity through our Constitution?

    Yes, but effective cultural unification only occurred in the aftermath of the Civil War. Even then, sectarian divisions have continued to have a divisive effect on American discourse. 
     
    kali: I find the same tribal dynamic revealed in the Bollywood movies I watch. Every single one, from romance to musical to adventure, has a subtext of people of different cultures and religions coming together in an overarching Indian identity.

    If you were a cricket fan, you would be more sanguine about the Indian national identity.
     

  19. Danny Lemieux says

    Zach says, referring to African bloodletting: “Europe went through a similar period. During the Middle Ages, the destruction of villages as a means of warfare was common (e.g. Hundred Years War).

    True. But that was so long ago. I think WWI, WWII and Bosnia offer much better examples.

    Zach presumes: “This meant that sub-Saharan Africa tended not have good communication with the Eurasian world during most of its history. Consequently, they were not party to many of the technological developments in Eurasia, including writing and metal working. For instance, they independently developed pitched warfare (Zulu), but much later than Eurasian powers. Ironically, insect-borne diseases in the African interior significantly hindered colonisation. Europeans and their agricultural practices were not adapted to the environment. They did much better in southern Africa.”

    Burkina Faso and Timbuktu are the sites (note cites) of highly developed ancient civilizations. They were at the crossroads of culture and trade, including with Europe via North Africa.

    Zach loftily time-travels through American history: “Yes, but effective cultural unification only occurred in the aftermath of the Civil War. Even then, sectarian divisions have continued to have a divisive effect on American discourse.”

    The Civil War had nothing to do with tribal, religious or any other sectarian divisions. Whether North or South, the participants considered themselves Americans first, ethnicity or regional identity second. Combatants on both sides recognized their shared cultural and Judeo-Christian values. Just because people attribute allegiances to region (Wisconsin versus Minnesota) or ethnic heritage (German-American versus Scandinavian-American) does not detract from the fact that they have a shared national identity, a national identity that predates even the American Revolution.

    I have always been amazed that, whatever the perceived differences Americans project when they are in the U.S., those differences absolutely disappear when they are together overseas. I’ve seen this happen many times.

    As far as sectarian divisions having a divisive effect on American discourse today, I agree. I put the blame on demagogues like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and organizations like the NAACP and La Raza that profit from exploiting our divisions and rubbing salt in old wounds to ensure they never heal. I blame the Left for defining and favoring Americans according to their tribal identities, be it from the census or in collega applications or government benefits. Despite this, you don’t see Americans hacking away at each other with machetes…yet.

  20. Danny Lemieux says

    On that last point, incidentally, I would also say that I have often been amazed how often I have seen Israelis and Palestinians find common roots with each other when they are overseas, be it at university campuses or in airport terminals.

  21. kali says

    Z: If you were a cricket fan, you would be more sanguine about the Indian national identity.
    So you’re saying the Indians had to find their unifying concept in a British invention? I’ll try that one on  some of my colleagues.
     
    More seriously, sports only provides a temporary bond–which in itself is highly tribal and warlike, requiring an enemy to defeat (preferably the British :) )
     
    I do think you have a point that colonialism exacerbated tribalism, but  I don’t see it as an articulated policy–more like an existing group or class cozies up to the conquerors, looking for any advantage. And then, when the conquerors leave, their useful tools inherit all the hatred.

  22. says

    Danny Lemieux: Burkina Faso and Timbuktu are the sites (note cites) of highly developed ancient civilizations. They were at the crossroads of culture and trade, including with Europe via North Africa.

    Yes, and there was trade up and down the Nile, and along the coast. But the transmission of culture was much reduced compared to, let’s say, the Hellenic Expansion, or the Silk Road.
     
    Danny Lemieux: Whether North or South, the participants considered themselves Americans first, ethnicity or regional identity second.

    Many Southerners had their first loyalty to their state, not a distant central government, and would not raise arms against their state in order to preserve the Union. The Civil War is sometimes referred to as the “War of Yankee Aggression”. 
     
    kali: More seriously, sports only provides a temporary bond–which in itself is highly tribal and warlike, requiring an enemy to defeat (preferably the British )

    Ah yes. Ronald Reagan, Alien Invasion Hypothesis, 1987.
     

     

  23. kali says

    Z: Ah yes. Ronald Reagan, Alien Invasion Hypothesis, 1987.

    Not that I see the point you’re making, but is this the quote you’re talking about?

    “Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?” RR, 1987
     
    Can’t quite see what’s controversial about this, but heck, I live in flyover country. Aliens drop into my office every day and twice on Tuesday.

  24. says

    kali: Not that I see the point you’re making, but is this the quote you’re talking about?

    As you had stated, it’s the hypothesis that people will unite when confronted with an external threat. 
     

  25. says

    Takes generations of time to erase blood feuds and tribal enmities. But those future generations must be able to live together knowing that the law protects both of them.

    The rule of law was never instituted in Africa. The Colonialists attempted to do so, and they succeeded for a time, until they lost their endurance for it. Splinter factions like South Africa and Rhodesia tried to hold it together, but they were ultimately crushed under the weight of domestic insurgencies and foreign intervention policies like the UN. Resulting in mass starvation and Zimbabwe inflation. That worked out well. Now they are no longer under the white man’s dominion. They are just going to starve to death.

  26. jj says

    Well, now I can die in peace – Zachriel has condescended to bestow a “that’s right” on me.
     
    I don’t know who the hell you are are, pal – but I’m willing to bet it’s a good deal different than who you think you are.  Though I am here on Earth primarily to seek your approval, I knew it was right when I wrote it.

  27. kali says

    Z, I’m a middle-aged nerd. Not only do I not have to follow your link,  I have that episode on beta, somewhere in my sagging bookshelves.
     
    So hungry aliens, Pakistani batsmen, and British sheep (Falklands, anyone?) are malum in se, but good in that they help overcome tribalism. But once the aliens get the sniffles, the Pakistanis slink home in disgrace, and the British sheep continue being, well, sheep, the factions rise again.
     
    I don’t have any answers, but I believe that free societies, where the government doesn’t pick winners and losers and everyone believes they have an equal chance to succeed,  is the best antidote to tribalism.
     
     

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