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 TeasersRandymac@GNXP Blogview

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There’s a depressing interview over at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Two excerpts, from separate interviews with Islamist women, are below.

Abd al-Lami: The demands raised by [secularist demonstrators]…are demands contradictory to Islam.

RFI: Why? They demand the implementation of [international] agreements that arose from decades-long fight for the rights of women and from studying the situation of women all over the world. They demand that these agreements be incorporated in the constitution.

Abd al-Lami: Yes. All of us, as women of Iraq, were oppressed for many years. Now, everybody fights for something better. Efforts should be spent on laying down a solid basis for improving the situation of Iraqi women in a complex way. We do not want that one opinion be given priority over another. We want justice, not equality.

RFI: What is your objection to equality?

Abd al-Lami: If we demand an absolute equality between men and women, that would mean depriving women of certain rights.

since apparently such a thing as paternity leave doesn’t exist. The other interview subject isn’t much more encouraging.

Sumaysim: I want to stress one point: This extreme attitude that leftist, liberal, and democratic forces have taken in handling these affairs only provokes an opposite extreme. I call for dialogue. Regarding these activists, whom I do not like to call “secularists” because I have a particular view on the problem of “secularism” but who oppose the application of Islamic law, why do they not gather with activists who support the application, or the practical implementation of terms, of Islamic law? Why don’t they try to understand each other?

RFI: Since you have called the leftists, secularists, and liberals “extreme,” what about those who have been writing the constitution draft? How about those [women] whose views have been [transparent], beginning from their [Islamic] dress and ending with the [Islamic] formulations that they want to set in the constitution?

Sumaysim: I reject extremism in all forms.

RFI: So why have you labeled as extremists those who want to defend their rights?

Sumaysim: Through my work at the Ministry for Women’s Affairs, I have noticed one very regrettable phenomenon: Those [secularist] women try to accuse all Islamic-oriented women equally, be they moderate or non-moderate. The problem is mainly that the term “secular” has come to be used in various contexts, sometimes correctly and sometimes not. “Secularism” does not mean detachment from religion. No, you can be a believer and a secularist, or, you do not want Islam be used politically. This is the right of every citizen. I believe that the prime human right is the freedom of belief. So how could I abstain from a particular religion?

Kanan Makiya described, in his 1989 Republic of Fear, just how thoroughly the Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein had atomized what would now be called Iraqi civil society, using Orwellian methods of divide and conquer and liberal applications of brute force. Makiya also described how, before the Ba’ath Party ascended to power, Iraqi civil society was decidedly majoritarian, gleefully supporting the overwhelming use of force against whichever populations and groups happened to be unpopular: Assyrians, Jews, the Hashemite dynasty, rivals for power. Iraq can move beyond this majoritarianism to levels of democracy surpassing anything ever found in Iraq. Unfortunately, it seems like the new constitution and the new regime isn’t going to enable this.

The Kurds will be protected by their autonomy; if need be, Iraqi Kurdistan can quickly pass to independence. Iraq’s million Christians likewise don’t have much to fear since, early optimism aside, are emigrating massively to such prosperous and stable places including Syria. Secularists and women, alas, and other unpopular groups, unless they can document their persecution and find welcoming governments. They can be guaranteed the first, but the second may be harder to come by given growing xenophobia in likely receiving countries. Life in the Islamic Republic of Iraq will be more tolerable for those groups deemed unpopular true. I wonder, though, whether to some extent the groups stigmatized have simply been switched.

The United States has removed terrible tyrannies in Iraq and Afghanistan, true. The United States has not implanted democracy and civil rights in either country. Rather, it has created not one, but two Islamic republics. It’s true that they are fairly traditional tyrannies, lacking the synthetic modernities favoured by Iraq’s Ba’athists and Afghanistan’s Taliban or by the early Islamic Republic of Iran. It’s still true that they are tyrannies, the one in the process of becoming a majoritarian polity marked by all forms of strife and the imposition of private mores to ensure public virtue, the other a collection of warlord states looking like Iraq writ small. Neither, I fear, is going to prove to be much of a model for the wider Islamic world.

Events in Iran, now, will have global import. Almost unique in the Middle East, Iran is a country that works well. Iran has a middle-income economy characterized by reasonably ; Iran has a reasonably high level of technology available to it; Iran has mass politics and an ambitious parliament; Iran has mass media and high Internet penetration. Iran is run by a clerical regime that verges on fascism, yes, but this regime can’t dominate everything. The life story of Shirin Ebadi is one element proving this. The widely-reported discontent among the young and the urbanites, desiring secularism and true democracy, suggests strongly that Iran’s future will be bright. Spengler was right, in June, to note at Asia Times that Ahmadinejad was elected because Iran’s conservative rural peasantry wanted to be protected. Spengler was wrong to expect this to be sustained indefinitely, since, after all, modern urban Iran can trace its origins directly to the dislocated peasantry urbanized and modernized by economic growth and the modern state. Iran just has to wait, hopefully not much longer, for the political demographics to tip in the right direction.

This is why Iran must not be invaded. Michael J. Mazarr’s observations at The New Republic on the 5th of this month are accurate, in that an American invasion of Iran would create a new garrison state. Worse still, an American invasion that shattered the Iranian state–as it would, judging by precedents in Iran’s eastern and western neighbours–would create just the right sort of opportunity for Iran’s real fascists, the reactionaries who’ve been so far limited, to imitate Iraq’s urban guerrillas and wreak havoc. If the United States wants Iran to become fully fascist, this is what the US military should do. Iran shouldn’t be sent back a generation because of a nuclear deterrent in the working that may be built only after the current regime has fallen.

And so, ¡No Pasarán!. I’ve no doubt that the United States as a whole would mean well, but an American invasion of Iran at this point would be the worst thing that it could possibly do for freedom and liberty in the Middle East.

Posted by randymac at 07:58 PM

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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I’ve just made brief post up on my blog regarding the rather virulent and violent strain of homophobia in the Muslim world, as a problem in itself and as a marker of deeper problems. Out of curiosity, how would GNXP readers go about trying to remedy these issues? What techniques of mimetic engineering would you apply?

Posted by randymac at 05:19 AM

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I’m on the record as stating that France’s Muslim community is no more likely to create an Islamic Republic of France than the United States’ Catholic community was likely to create a Papal States of America. If anything, it may well be less likely, given European-style rates of religious observance and levels of intermarriage comparable to that of American Jews in the 1950s.

One thing that this community, younger and in the middle of a minor baby boom, will do is boost the numbers of those French of Muslim background, at least until intermarriage and immigration from other sources–eastern Europe? Latin America? China?–alters the makeup of the French melting pot again. This has already had some cultural repercussions, in the popularity of couscous and North African popular musics. It’s open to question what further effect it will have, apart from continued interest in the countries of origin.

What’s particularly interesting about France is that this country, at least as much as any other European country, is a particularly dynamic one. It is in the middle of a baby boom that, some suggest, will be responsible for three-quarters of the population growth that will bring the French population up to a respectable 75 million by 2050, ahead of Germany’s projected 72 million. If this baby boom is overstated overall numbers will drop; if the amount of immigration is understated, overall numbers may well rise. (And yes, the baby boom appears to be equally distributed across France, not concentrated in a few immigrant-heavy areas.)

I’d like to pose a question to the readers of GNXP. Let’s say that France’s Muslim-origin population continues to evolve on the lines I’ve already stated, that the general baby boom will take place, and that there will be another wave of immigration to France. What will France’s Muslim community look like? What will the French population in general look like? Or am I wrong on one point or all of them, and how?

Addendum from Razib: I’ve advised in the comments that people do some research before they offer opinions on the “Islam” topic. Since 9-11 there has been a lot bloviation about this with a tendency toward letting politics and values do the guiding, rather than facts and models. You see this whenever the “right-wing blogosphere” gets frothing over some bizarro anecdote (which are numerous) which pops up about an unassimilated Muslim. You saw it when some “left liberal bloggers” seemed to cream their pants as Randy posted some hard numbers on the Muslims of France which leaned toward a more optimistic view than the “inevitable Islamic Europe” you hear about from Mark Steyn & co. I’m really tired of all that crap…I wish people would get past the latest Bernard Lewis book (which are entertaining enough) and grapple with some of the reams of historical material out there.

To do my part, check out this on the expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain ~1600 (if the link doesn’t work, it is page 144 of Infidels : A History of the Conflict Between Christendom and Islam, use the search query “Moriscos castration”).

Posted by randymac at 05:46 PM

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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Yahoo! News has reproduced Deborah Scoggins’ article from The Nation, “The Dutch-Muslim Culture War”. Starting from the person of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Scoggins goes on to examine the wider role of Islam on some of Europe’s more conservative communities.

Moors and others don’t dispute the existence of the social problems Hirsi Ali identifies. Many Dutch Muslim women do live in segregated “parallel cities” where Islamic social codes are enforced. Muslims make up only 5.5 percent of the Dutch population, but they account for more than half the women in battered women’s shelters and more than half of those seeking abortions. Muslim girls have far higher suicide rates than non-Muslim girls. Some Muslim girls, mostly African, are genitally mutilated. But in putting all the blame on Islam, they say, Hirsi Ali ignores the influence of patriarchal custom as well as the work of a generation of Muslim feminists.

A custom phrased in terms of religious necessity is, in fact, a religious custom. Trying to disclaim responsibility for the less savoury elements of a religious culture because, well, they’re not really part of the religion is a classic response by cornered reactionaries. It’s a risible response, of course, tailored. Compare the allegations of some Western communists that Stalin’s regime wasn’t really Communist, or that genocidal anti-Semitism has nothing to do with traditional Christian proscriptions against the Jews.

Scoggins goes on to argue that Islamist misogyny is a higher-profile issue in western Europe than in the United States, owing to the former’s greater social liberalism and secularism. Partly because of this European cultural tendencies, partly because of the growth of radical feminism among Muslim women, and partly because recent events in the Netherlands and elsewhere have caused a shift in policies towards immigrant minorities, she hints that this misogyny likely doesn’t have much of a future.

Posted by randymac at 08:21 PM

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I was rather interested to come across Jonathan Edelstein’s post this afternoon asking his readers what apartheid was. While I certainly don’t deny that the empirical method has its advantages, trying to build a theoretical framework can be quite useful. And so, this evening as I ate my Bento boxed lunch at Natural Sushi on Yonge just south of Bloor, I compiled a list of apartheid’s most important features. I came up with six key characteristics.

The group favouring apartheid is either a minority population or about to become a minority population. Apartheid isn’t the sort of strategy adopted by the majority population of a delimited and secure territory. Similar policies can be and have been adopted towards unpopular groups of immigrant background and other indigenous minorities, ranging from forced assimilation to genocide, but the similarity is only superficial. These strategies are generally designed to prevent the dominant group’s contamination, to avoid its adulteration. Apartheid is a last-ditch defense of a threatened position that liberal individualism will insidiously destroy.

The group favouring apartheid believes itself to be indigenous. The myth of indigeneity is critically importance for any apartheid mythology. The group in question believes itself to be the rightful proprietor of its own territory, to be descended from the first people ever to effectively occupy that piece of land. This indigeneity trumps the collective rights of other groups on that territory, just as it denies the individual rights of people who don’t belong to the “indigenous” population.

The group favouring apartheid believes that it must act immediately. Apartheid is a strategy that appeals to those groups which see themselves as threatened, whether by a relatively benign assimilation or by destruction. Nothing can be allowed compromise the indigenes ‘ presence in their homeland; no more ground can be given without threatening the group’s very existence.

Under apartheid, each group must develop separately. Proponents of apartheid systems don’t believe in such things as porous group boundaries. If they did, perhaps they might be more sanguine about the viability of multicultural societies. The group’s territory must be defended, but this is only one element of an all-out effort intended to prevent the assimilation of the group. Individuals from different groups cannot be allowed to collaborate, not even if they want to. All the connections uniting people of different backgrounds in non-apartheid societies–cultural, economic, political, personal–must be severed immediately. The only sorts of connections permissible are those which don’t challenge the apartheid system.

The group behind the apartheid system must establish as complete a monopoly over power as possible. Some powersharing is possible with influential groups capable of posing a direct threat to the system, usually in the economic realm, but the group favouring apartheid must dominate the state. No one can be allowed to threaten the system. Separate development can be made to reinforce this goal, by limiting the development of the actual or imminent majority into a population capable of replacing the group benefiting from apartheid.

Defending the apartheid system requires constant vigilance. The marginalized population(s) within the apartheid state’s frontiers, and hostile populations outside the borders, must be kept from challenging the system. Where possible, propaganda is used, perhaps borrowing from the rhetoric of Wilsonian self-determination, making claims about historically specific patterns of development, or arguing from necessity. Where propaganda fails, the coercive power of the state must be applied, up to and including the use of military force.

Consider the prototypical apartheid state of South Africa, if you will. Afrikaners, fearful not only of the growth of South Africa’s Anglo population though immigration but the prospect of an enfranchised non-white population, instituted apartheid in order to build an Afrikaner nation-state immediately after the Second World War. Anglos, and to a limited extent Indians and Coloureds, were brought into the new structures of power in economic roles; Afrikaners dominated the political and military portions of the South African state. At great human cost, as I wrote last year, each major population group was forced to develop separately under unpromising conditions, fragmented, with as little resources as possible, and serving the dominant population. This system was fragile, and had to be defended by wars against South Africa’s neighbours, the imposition of a full-fledged police state at home, and an active campaign of foreign propaganda seeking to position South Africa as a bastion of anti-Communism.

This isn’t a definitive list by any means, and I can imagine some points where it could break down. What about empires directly integrated with their metropoles? What about multiethnic countries like the former Socialist and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia? Even so, it’s safe to say that the necessary preconditions for an apartheid system are the identification of an existential threat facing a particular population and the belief that a liberal-individualist model will destroy this population. Only illiberal and destructive policies can prevent this threat from coming to fruition.

Posted by randymac at 06:45 PM

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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In a September 2004 interview at Front Page Magazine, Bat Ye’or defines Eurabia as follows.

Eurabia represents a geo-political reality envisaged in 1973 through a system of informal alliances between, on the one hand, the nine countries of the European Community (EC) which, enlarged, became the European Union (EU) in 1992 and on the other hand, the Mediterranean Arab countries. The alliances and agreements were elaborated at the top political level of each EC country with the representative of the European Commission, and their Arab homologues with the Arab League’s delegate. This system was synchronised under the roof of an association called the Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD) created in July 1974 in Paris. A working body composed of committees and always presided jointly by a European and an Arab delegate planned the agendas, and organized and monitored the application of the decisions.

There are many problems with Bat Ye’or’s thesis. Most immediately, quite apart from assuming unrealistic motivations for everything from European foreign policy to immigrant demographics, she severely overestimates the functionality of the international organizations that she cites.

For instance, searching on Google for the keywords “Euro-Arab Dialogue” returns a bit over four thousand, up from under a thousand the last time I checked, back in 2002. There’s even a two references to the Euro-Arab Dialogue in the top 10 hits returned by Google which aren’t Ye’or’s endlessly copied articles. This compares to 33.5 million hits for “European Union,” 439 thousand for “Commonwealth of Independent States,” a bit over three million for “ASEAN,” 3.7 million for NAFTA, and almost 1.4 million hits for “Mercosur” or “Mercosul.” I’d have expected that such an important group as the Euro-Arab Dialogue–the central body behind Eurabia, after all–would have a bit of a higher presence outside of Ye’or’s literature than it does. Surely more people would have noticed by now?

Then again, reading the various non-Ye’or descriptions of what the Euro-Arab Dialogue is supposed to do and what it has actually done, I begin to suspect that accepting Ye’or’s thesis about the Euro-Arab Dialogue is something like believing that the Canada-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group is actually a mechanism intended to ensure Canadian military participation in Taiwan’s upcoming war of independence against China. As for the Arab League, I fear that it has lost whatever tenuous coherence it once had once Egypt decided to break with the League and sign the Camp David Accords. It isn’t as if the Arab League has ever been as capable a body as the European Union, mind, as the failure to unify the Arab states in any meaningful way demonstrates.

This thesis also misreads the balance of power between the European Union on the one hand and the Arab states on the other. Yes, (some) Arab states have oil. The European Union is the $US 12 trillion First World economy that is a preferred destination for immigrants from the Arab world and a necessary source of much of the civilian and military technology used in the Arab world. The European Union is a global economic power with significant cultural and political influence worldwide, hence, numerous partners apart from the Arab world: Russia, South America, China, India. If any side is the hegemon in this relationship, it’s the European Union.

While other policies–those relating to the Middle East peace process, those relating to the Persian Gulf–play a role, the European Union’s relationship with the Arab world is dominated by the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership’s stated goals are threefold: establishing “a common area of peace and stability through the reinforcement of political and security dialogue”; building “a zone of shared prosperity through an economic and financial partnership and the gradual establishment of a free-trade area” by 2010; and, encouraging a “rapprochement between peoples through a social, cultural and human partnership aimed at encouraging understanding between cultures and exchanges between civil societies.” Unfortunately, the Partnership’s lofty hopes, as Hüseyin Isiksal notes in his paper (“Security, Globalisation, and Problems within the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership in the post Cold War Era”) (PDF format) may go unfulfilled. The implementation of the Partnership has gone slowly, with declining foreign investment in the Arab world and a rather fraught relationship generally between Europe and the Muslim world generally boding ill. The goal of establishing a free-trade zone by 2010 seems to be as realizable as the European Union’s Lisbon strategy to become the world’s most competitive economy by 2010.

Central Europe has easily beaten the Middle East and North Africa into the ranks of the European Union. More, it’s quite possible that the former Soviet Union will follow the central European trajectory, with countries like Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia hoping to become member-states. The Eurabia thesis would seem to predict that the Middle East and North Africa would do rather better than either of these two regions. Even Turkey, a country with a long history of participation in European institutions, might well not get in. Although it is
as developed economically (PDF format) as the poorest entrants and has a fairly vibrant civil society, its effort could still fail given ungrounded fears of mass immigration, skepticism about the durability of Turkish democracy, and the fact that Turkey is homogeneously Muslim.

Such potential candidates as Morocco and Tunisia can expect to be eternally outside of the Union’s gates, to say nothing of such implausible candidates as Algeria, Libya, Syria, and Egypt. Quite apart from the fact of not being geographically European (and, it must be added in this era of civilizational clashes, culturally European). none of these states as yet meets any of the political, economic, or social preconditions for European Union membership. Arguably, radical republican dictatorships, conservative republican dictatorships, and conservative traditional monarchies are incapable of participating in structures like those of the European Union, lacking the flexibility and the transparency and the functionality of democratic regimes. Free-trade regimes are a different thing–China has notably achieved economic success in the past-quarter century despite its dictatorship–but as the various Arab Human Development Reports suggest, most of the non-oil economies of the Arab world are at best able to keep pace with population growth.

So. The European Union, contrary to the arguments of the Eurabia hypothesis, isn’t rushing into an ill-thought subordination under Arab rule. If anything, it’s decidedly relucta
nt to involve itself with the Arab world at all, favouring trade with China and immigration restrictions against the Third World and mandatory government assimilation programs. The most readily testable plank of the Eurabia argument is unsound.

I wrote back in January that one major failing of the Eurabia argument is its sheer danger. If it’s impossible for Europeans to agree with Arabs (or Muslims; there’s always some semantic slippage) on certain principles of foreign policy, or for Europeans and Arabs to enjoy mutually beneficial trade or to enter into grand political projects or to engage in a “dialogue of civilizations” (whatever that is), or for Arabs (and other Muslims) to be loyal citizens or honest partners, then the implications are both vast and obvious. Genocide and ethnic cleansing are two methods which have been used to control inconvenient or threatening populations within a state’s frontiers; aggressive war and colonization are two methods which have been used to control inconvenient or threatening populations outside of a state’s frontiers. If ever the peoples of the European Union bought the Eurabia thesis–if any nation-state did–we could expect bad times ahead.

Granted that Eurabia is a concept that lends itself easily to racism, people who accept it are not automatically racist. Myself, I admit that before I completed my post last year on the demographics of French Muslims, demonstrating that, in fact, they are assimilating, I thought it at least possible that Europe might become substantially Muslim and that some parts of Europe could become Muslim-majority. Fortunately, I think that there’s a litmus test that can be applied.

In the mid-2010s, a series of peaceful democratic revolutions and negotiated transitions establishes fairly secure and generally secular regimes throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Things are shaky, but no more shaky than they were in Argentina or Brazil in the mid-1980s, or in Poland and South Africa in the first half of the 1990s. The new governments respect human rights reasonably well, religious pluralism is put on a strong footing, and the rights of women are acknowledged as realities. In an environment where the fears of a threat to Europe from its southern neighbours are no longer remotely plausible in the presence of peaceful regimes, would it be a good idea for the European Union to relaunch the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership or not?

The idea behind the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership makes sense. The ideal of balanced and reciprocal relations between the two sides of the Mediterranean is a good one. Fernand Braudel was right: There really is a Mediterranean community, having transcended barriers of nationality and language and religion to form a single whole for at least a millennium. This community isn’t going to do well when everyone’s girding themselves for Huntington’s clashes of civilizations. When people aren’t afraid that their neighbours are going to descend on them and murder them, why stop this community from forming? Rules-based systems tend to produce better results than anarchical systems, after all.

Fearing and hating the idea of a takeover of Europe by Muslims is one thing. Fearing and hating all Muslims indiscriminately is quite another. Sometimes, reading Bat Ye’or and the other die-hard proponents of the Eurabia thesis say about the 21st century, I worry that they think that Europeans and Arabs should have anything to do with each other at all. Bigotry is never a good foundation for scholarship, or for policy.

Posted by randymac at 11:12 AM

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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Over at my blog, I’ve made two postings regarding interesting trends in the growth of religious minorities in two countries on the European Union’s doorstep. It seems certain that Ukraine’s Muslims are rapidly growing in number through migration; Algerian Christians, while still rarer, may also be growing sharply in number, not through immigration but through conversions. Unfortunately, hard data on both situations is rare.

If anyone has any data on either situation, I’d be exceedingly grateful to see it, in the comments thread or via private E-mail.

Posted by randymac at 07:15 PM

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My inital reaction to the virtual lesbian threeway depicted in the second edition of Masamune Shirow’s manga Ghost in the Shell, back when I first read it in January, was that it was just a throwaway scene aimed at a teenage male market. I’m not so sure now.

To be sure, the teenage-male demographic does play a major role. Consider the plausibility of a government that allows Motoko Kusanagi–an elite agent from a top-secret rapid response team–to prostitute herself in exchange for proscribed sensory technologies. The fact of her apparent heterosexuality isn’t such a major issue, considering the relative pliability of many people’s sexual orientations. The thing that redeemed this ménage à trois, even partially, was the reaction of an uninvolved fourth party to the affair. An onlooker, the male Bato, is sent to interrupt the virtual scenario, tapping into the mind-to-mind transmissions to and from Motoko, data streams which (of course) reflect the ways in which these three women feel and relate to their bodies. Bato finds himself sickened, since things aren’t supposed to feel that way, things feel wrong.

Descartes’ mind-body dualism–his separation of mind from body–seems radically untenable, given what we know in the 21st century about the ways in which human consciousness is determined by human physicality. The writings of Oliver Sacks, to name a single author of many, go into enough detail to make the Cartesian ideal of a mind detached from material reality certainly inachievable. The final failure of this ideal, though, leaves wide open the question of just how portable human experiences actually are, and how much for human personality is determined by the specific form of one’s physical self.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to invert my sexual orientation with some future medical treatment, to shift from 5.0-5.5 on the Kinsey scale to 0.5-1.0. Four necessary qualifiers: reality-based (not be a simple redefinition like that of ex-gays); safe; inexpensive; and, reversible. What is it like to feel heterosexual? I wonder. Not the least interesting possibility would be the question of how I’d relate to previous homosedxual encounters and relationships.

Three questions for further debate.

How much empathy can we actually feel for other people? I’m an individual from the species Homo sapiens sapiens, I’m male, I’m white, I wear glasses to compensate for my poor eyesight, I’m mainly homosexual in orientation, I’m left-handed. Without living within the skin of another person–and how to do this, barring truly stupendous leaps in multiple technological fields, I leave to the science-fiction writer–how can we understand what it feels like to be them? We can make estimates, yes, but only estimates.If we can inject an individual of the species Pan troglodytes troglodytes with the SIV-cpz virus in order to gain insight into the origins and epidemiology of the HIV-1 virus, why not inject a mentally disabled individual of the species Homo sapiens sapiens with HIV-1 to study the progress of the disease? Yes, the latter would be a monstrous act: Lethal medical experimentation has been recognized as a crime against humanity since the Nuremberg Trials, and there is a clear responsibility. But why is it monstrous? In both cases, you’re dealing with individuals from tool-using, language-using species which manifest a certain degree of consciousness. Should physical forms determine so much about the treatment of conscious individuals?GURPS’ Transhuman Space RPG setting is one of a variety of fictional future settings that describes the proliferation beyond the expected artificial intelligences, with animals uplifted into sentience and human personalities copied over to computer storage. This diversity is all well and good for fiction, and perhaps it isn’t an impossible goal for a relatively distant future. How will we be able to relate to these new peers of ours, though, existing as they would in subjective states so different from those of human beings? Posted by randymac at 09:34 PM

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I was fascinated to come across Deutsche Welle’s brief article on Jugendweihe, an interesting holiday in Germany (literal translation “youth consecration”) that aspires to be a secular equivalent to religious confirmation ceremonies for teenagers, marking the transition from childhood to adulthood.

The German Humanist Association advertises for young Jugendweihe recruits with the promise that “there is much to celebrate (and many presents) even without confirmation and communion.” There must be some lure in those words for the nation’s teenage population, as one in every three youngsters in the states of the former East Germany signs up to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime celebration.

The 150-year-old ritual, which was mainly celebrated in eastern Germany during the past 50 years is not without controversy: While supporters see it as a non-religious way to give teenagers a forum to expand their minds, horizons and understanding of morals, opponents see it as a left-over from communist days that merely give kids an opportunity to ask their relatives for presents.

But not everyone is as ready to accept the ritual as part of Germany’s national youth program. Andreas Matthes grew up in western Germany and said he finds the idea of Jugendweihe dishonest.

“Most kids now don’t know the meaning of Jugendweihe in communist East Germany, because their parents don’t tell them that,” he said. “They don’t tell them about the difficulties incurred for those who went to confirmation instead, and that is false.”

But both Hillig and the president of the Jugendweihe association, Werner Riedel argued that the 21st century event is a far cry from that of the old communist era. In the nine months leading up to their big day, the youngsters can participate in any number of events which are designed to expand their minds, horizons and understanding of morals.

But given that it is all on a voluntary basis, there is plenty of scope for those teenagers who want to make a quick buck with a relatively clean conscience to go ahead and do so. And that is another one of the problems, Matthes said.

“There is no moral basis for the Jugendweihe, because those who take part don’t have to do anything either before or after the event,” he said. “And that renders it all so meaningless.”

Every Easter, me and my sister eagerly searched for the sugary treats and small gifts hidden about the family living room, and how every Christmas we still more energetically unwrapped more and more expensive presents. Oh, and we went to church from time to time. Possibly my family’s experience was unique in Canada; possibly West Germans treat holidays of religious origin more seriously than Canadians do. Possibly.

This article at the Goethe-Institut makes it clear that for young East Germans, Jugendweihe is a durable and popular tradition.

Each year some 100,000 East German pupils undergo Jugendweihe, whereas in West Germany that figure is only a couple of hundred. The reason for this lies in the legacy of the German Democratic Republic, even if Jugendweihe was no invention of its ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED). The coming-of-age ritual, which has its origins in the second half of the 19th century, is rooted in free-thinking tradition and during the Weimar Republic was appropriated also by the workers’ movement. Banned by the Nazis, the SED reintroduced Jugendweihe in 1954 as a public pledge to socialism, also with the intention of repressing the influence of the churches.

Most East Germans are suspicious of the Church as an institution. ‘We don’t really have many dealings with the Church over here,’ says Julia Gräfner diplomatically. The 14-year-old is a student at the Goethe grammar school in Schwerin, the capital of the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. She is looking forward to her big day, her Jugendweihe. Julia will even have the honour of delivering a thank-you address to the parents on behalf of all 78 Jugendweihe candidates. Only four out of her 27 classmates have decided in favour of the Protestant confirmation ritual, while one has chosen the Catholic ceremony. For Julia, there is not much of a difference. ‘Although Jugendweihe is the secular variant of the ritual,’ says the young girl, ‘it has the same function – it symbolises our passage into the community of adults.’

There has been a sustained lack of interest in organized religion in East Germany since the fall of the Berlin War and reunification. Many observers expected religion to recover markedly, but as Sacred and Secular (reviewed by me here) demonstrates, most central and eastern Europeans are quite happy with being unchurched. It turns out that East Germans have developed and maintained their own communal rites, just as West Germans did theirs. The critical difference is that religion plays a much lower profile in the East. This observation leads to two conclusions, the first specific and the second general:

1. East Germans may define themselves as Germans, but their definitions and norms differ significantly from those of West Germans. As I’ve written earlier, and as Melli K. has noted recently in her latest post at Aufbau Ost, regardless of the illegitimate foundations of the German Democratic Republic and its totalitarian history, a distinctive East German culture not only developed but survived reunification. Efforts towards eliminating unwanted benign cultural elements are more characteristic of totalitarian states than of liberal democracies.

2. There is a major difference between a secularized society and an atheist society, something comparable to that between agnosticism and atheism. Members of secularized societies seem to maintain tenuous links with major religions, coopting their holidays and their other cultural elements for use when they want an in-group market or a reason for celebration, ignoring inconvenient elements of dogma at their convenience. Members of atheist societies, in contrast, often have only historical relationships with religion, creating and maintaining their own rites, their own acts of collective celebration. Too often, popular commentators seem to miss this critical difference.

Posted by randymac at 05:21 AM

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A week ago, news.google.ca began turning up links to an interesting paper: Refik Erzan, Umut Kuzubas and Nilufer Yildiz’s “Growth and Immigration Scenarios for Turkey and the EU” (PDF format), written for the Centre for European Policy Studies.

The authors make the compelling argument that even if Turkey’s bid for European Union membership is junked, Turkey will still exist as a source of migrants for the wider European Union. Indeed, if Turkey is excluded from membership in the European Union, the consequent underdevelopment may well encourage greater Turkish immigration into Europe. The authors examine first the experience of traditional southern European countries of emigration, then take an extra look at Turkey’s experience.

Firstly, Turkey’s growth record clearly shows very high rates can be achieved but cannot be sustained without political stability and inflow of foreign savings. Without the EU anchor provided by the membership perspective, a growth performance that will cope with unemployment is not feasible.

Secondly, unlike successful accession scenarios, not only growth in Turkey would be slower and unemployment higher, but also sensitivity of migration to income and unemployment differences would be greater.

Thirdly, the prevailing restrictive visa system of the EU and the absence of labour mobility provisions cannot stop immigration. EU currently receives about 70,000 (gross) migrants from Turkey, annually. (Because of return migration, net migration is about half of this gross inflow figure.) Most of them come with family unification and family formation. In the presence of a very large Turkish migrant community in the EU of about 3 million (with major trade, investment, tourism and educational links), all conceivable tight door policies short of totalitarian rules would be porous. A relative deterioration in Turkey would certainly increase this inflow considerably and reduce return migration.

Finally, it should be noted that the eventuality of political turmoil was not incorporated in the projections. With the lost EU perspective and climbing unemployment, this is more than a slim possibility. Estimations based on past record show that political and security problems lead to waves of migration. Add that on top of the 2.7 million forecast!

As Kemal Kirisci noted in his Migration Information survey, “Turkey: A Transformation from Emigration to Immigration”, Turkey has a history of receiving immigrants:

What is less well known is that Turkey has long been a country of immigration and asylum. From 1923 to 1997, more than 1.6 million people immigrated to Turkey, mostly from Balkan countries. During the Cold War, thousands of asylum seekers fled to Turkey from Communist states in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The overwhelming majority were recognized as refugees, and were resettled to third countries such as Canada and the United States by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In the late 1980s, this pattern began to change as increasing numbers of asylum seekers began to arrive from Iran and Iraq, as well as other developing nations. Turkey also experienced a mass influx of almost half a million mostly Kurdish refugees from Iraq in 1988 and 1991, as well as mass influxes of Albanians, Bosnian Muslims, Pomaks (Bulgarian-speaking Muslims), and Turks in 1989, 1992-1995, and 1999.

Now, given Turkish economic growth and demographic changes, the country might well become a country of net immigration, ironically taking forms of illegal entry familiar to students of immigration into the modern European Union:

Today, officially sanctioned immigration into Turkey has for all intent and purposes dropped to a trickle. Since the early 1990s, however, Turkey has witnessed a new form of irregular immigration involving nationals of neighboring countries, EU nationals, and transit migrants. Turkey allows nationals of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and the Central Asian republics to enter the country quite freely either without visas or with visas that can easily be obtained at airports and other entry points. A large number of these people are involved in small-scale trade. However, some overstay their visas and illegally work as household help, commercial sex workers, and laborers, especially on construction sites and in the tourism sector.

It is very difficult to estimate the numbers of such irregular immigrants in Turkey. However, figures ranging from 150,000 to one million are often cited. To these groups must be added trafficked people, particularly women. These are people who have either been coerced or deceived into traveling to Turkey for commercial sex work, and remain in Turkey against their wishes. There is also an increasing number of EU member-state nationals engaged in professional activities who are settling in Turkey, particularly in Istanbul, as well as European retirees in some of the Mediterranean resorts. They, too, constitute a relatively new phenomenon in terms of immigration into Turkey, and their numbers are estimated at 100,000-120,000.

I find Kirisci’s conclusion hard to disagree with:

One final challenge for the immediate future will be alleviating western European fears about waves of Turkish immigrants if Turkey is admitted as an EU member. One argument that could be raised is that a Turkey that becomes integrated into the EU is less likely to flood Europe with migrant labor than if it is kept outside the union. This argument is based on the fact that the EU now has a long record of stabilizing and helping to consolidate democracies and promote economic prosperity. In fact, an increasingly democratic and prosperous Turkey is more likely to become a country that attracts immigrants, particularly from Turkish communities in Europe. Greece, Spain, and Portugal, all of which saw many of their nationals return following their EU accession, are a case in point in this respect.

The precise terms of Turkish integration into the European Union seem open to debate, granted. Even so, it’s a minor irony (or perhaps a major one) that opponents of Turkish immigration might have to support Turkey’s entrance into the European confederation in order to diminish the flow of immigrants.

Posted by randymac at 08:08 PM

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Back in July of 2003, Frank Laczko (of the International Organization for Migration) wrote the interesting article “Europe Attracts More Migrants from China”.

Laczko’s article argues that the PRC-citizenship population of Europe is low, divided roughly as described in the below chart:

Substantial evidence seems to suggest a significant undercount. The data for France is particularly poor, being more than a decade out of date. This is unfortunate, since, as Hugh Schofield wrote for Expatica, the French Chinese community is quite dynamic.

From a handful of Catholic converts brought back to the court of Louis XIV, the Chinese in France have grown to a community of some 600,000 and their numbers continue to swell with new waves of immigration from Manchuria and other depressed parts of the home country.

Some 25 years after the first mass arrivals into France, the Chinese population has spread well beyond its original stronghold in the 13th arrondissement – or district – in southern Paris and is now active in all major French towns and cities.

“Like everywhere else in the world, the Chinese community in France stands out for its dynamism and its adaptability,” said Pierre Piquart, professor of geopolitics and specialist in the Chinese diaspora.

[. . .]

Numbers did not significantly increase [from a few thousand] over the next 50 years, until the expulsions of ethnic Chinese from Vietnam – the Boat People – led to a wave of immigration, and the colonisation of what Parisians now call Chinatown: the high-rise neighbourhood near the Port d’Italie in the 13th arrondissement.

And then since the 1980s has come the mass influx, as economic change in China, globalisation and the proliferation of people-smuggling networks have combined to generate persistent migratory pressure. Today the population is growing at 20 percent a year, according to Picquart.

Many of the new arrivals are “Dongbei,” escaping the large-scale de-industrialisation of northeastern China, and therefore of different origins and traditions from the long-settled communities from Indochina and Zhejiang.

It’s worth noting that the population of Dongbei–roughly corresponding to the area of Japan’s Manchukuo satellite–is in excess of 100 million. Yes, Russia is located just across the Amur; Russia’s absorptive capacity for immigrants, though, is open to doubt, particularly given the rate of China’s modernization. As Laczko argues, Europe potentially has substantial absorptive capacity for Chinese immigrants:

There are signs of a growing demand for skilled workers and students from China in a number of European countries. Shortages of skilled workers in sectors such as health services have already led to campaigns by some European countries, such as Ireland and the UK, to recruit nurses directly from China.

Educational institutions in western Europe seeking to increase their income from student fees have also been quick to exploit the growing market for Chinese students. Hundreds of Western education agencies are now established in China. They provide information about schools in the destination countries, assist with applications for admission, or even help with passport and visa applications. Over 160 institutions from 22 countries recently took part in the China International Higher Education Exhibition Tour. Some destination countries have considered easing visa entry requirements in order to facilitate the movement of students from China. Ireland’s education and science minister, for instance, recently commented that his country was prepared to simplify its visa arrangements and to speed up the processing of visas to facilitate the entry of Chinese students.

It has been recently suggested that Europe is becoming a more important destination for Chinese students because of the September 11 attacks in the United States. China is the leading country of origin for foreign students in the US (59,939 in 2000-2001). But since the September 11 attacks, a new trend — sparked by both tightening US visa requirements and growing concerns over security in America — seems to have emerged. Many American universities cancelled their trips to the biggest education fair in China last year. The change in the situation in the US has coincided with the development of clear national priorities and comprehensive strategies by European countries like the UK, France, and Germany to attract more foreign students.

In southern Europe, the de facto acceptance of high numbers of unauthorized migrant workers and the existence of ample employment opportunities for them in the informal economy have contributed to the increase in migration from China. Another important reason is that these new destinations provide fresh business niches for the Chinese. Communities of Chinese in western Europe have usually been concentrated in the catering business. The catering business has become increasingly saturated since the 1990s, however, and there is not much evidence that the communities are entering new industries. By contrast, the Chinese in eastern and southern Europe are often engaged in the import/export trade between China and Europe, and even manufacturing (e.g., the leather and garment industries in Italy), partly encouraged by the economic structures particular to these countries.

Europe is a global economic power. It only makes sense that it has the capacity to attract immigrants from all over the world. Europe’s Chinese communities are currently small; then again, a half-century ago so were its Muslim communities. A Chinese population that is already much more mobile within the frontiers of China that an Arab-Berber-Kurdish population within the frontiers of the Arab world has the potential to make a substantial impact on European demographics. Potential only, given the growing hostility to immigration that Pearsall Helms has described developing even in relatively liberal Britain, but even so.

Posted by randymac at 07:00 PM

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I really don’t like it when sloppy and inaccurate terms–worse, terms which illegitimately polarize legitimate forms of debate and create new and dangerous possibilities–enter into the popular discourse. And yet, doing Google searches I find that “Eurabia” has taken a new prominent role. Created by Bat Ye’or, “Eurabia” has come into a new vogue among conservatives (particularly Anglophone ones) who blame European reluctance to support United States foreign-policy initiatives (like, say, Iraq) on large and growing Muslim populations which will, in the end, destroy Western (read Judeo-Christian) civilization on the far shores of the Atlantic.

There are four reasons why this concept is fundamentally ill-founded.

My first–and this point deals strictly with the mechanics of the argument–is that just as there is no way for the Jewish population of New York to form a predominant portion of that metropolis’ population, given what we know about the demographic dynamics of the Jewish and general populations, so is there no way for the Muslim population of Europe to form a predomimant portion of that continent’s population. There are–what?–480 million citizens of the European Union, and there are 15 million Muslims. I have no idea what Bernard Lewis was on when he suggested that Europe would become an extension of the Maghreb, but it must have been strong enough to make him completely overlook current trends (diminishing rates of immigration, rapidly falling fertility rates among Muslims) which point to the contrary trend. If it isn’t going to happen in France, with the absolutely and relatively largest Muslim population in Europe, it’s not going to happen in Europe as a whole.

It’s worth noting that in 19th century Poland, the Jewish population grew quite rapidly:

During the years 1816-1913, the entire population of the Kingdom of Poland grew by 381%, while the Jewish population grew by 822%; as a result, their percentage within the population as a whole grew from 7.8% do 14.9%. This was in part due to the influx of Jews into the Kingdom of Poland who had been expelled from other areas of the Russian Empire, and those in search of work. In addition, this population had a particularly high natural growth rate.

Long before the Holocaust, though, this growth was reversed:

Although the numbers indicate a growth trend overall, the percentage of Jews in Poland’s total population declined during the period in question: from 10.5% in 1921, to 9.8% in 1931 and 9.7% on the eve of the Second World War. This was the result of a dwindling natural growth among Jews (in 1921-25, it was 15.6%, in 1926-30 – 12.6%, 1931-35 – 12.3% and in 1936-38 – 11.15%), as well as an increase in emigration, particularly among young people.

It’s worth noting that intermarriage wasn’t an option in states like Tsarist Russia or an independent Poland which legislated against Jews. It is an option in France, where intermarriage seems to have attained fairly high levels already. Populations which tend to boom seem also, it seems, to go bust with at least as much frequency.

The second is that the concepts of “Eurabia” and “Jew York City” impose a false homogeneity on, respectively, European Muslims and New York City Jews, assuming that all members of the two population groups behave in the exact same ways, responding to wider popular culture in the same hostile ways and all planning. Never mind that this overlooks what the organizations claiming to represent their communities actually say, and the fact that their self-appointed roles require them to make the claim to nominal authority over the populations that they claim to represent. This overlooks what people actually do. There is, on the part of the members of all communities, a gap between ideal and actual behaviours. Considering how–for instance–the vast majority of Québécois identify themselves with Catholicism while vanishingly few actually behave in accordance to Papal dictates, this gap can be big. Generally speaking, the more opportunities that people have to escape strict cultures embedded in a liberal society, the more quickly that they’ll diminish. How well would the Amish hold up if their children all attended public school? The example of Ayaan Hirsi Ali is suggestive.

A related and important point is the fact that “European Muslims” and “New York City Jews” are categories marked not only by horizontal divisions between ideal and actual behaviour, but by vertical divisions between component groups. What Turkish and Senegalese and Indonesian Muslims have in common, say, or what the secular descendants of German Jews and second-generation ex-Soviet Jews and Satmar Hassidim have in common, isn’t immediately obvious. (To say nothing of what anti-clericals like the Netherlands’ Hirsi Ali and religious conservatives have in common.) “Islam” and “Judaism” are very broad categories indeed, and next-to-meaningless as definitive categories on the ground. They do have a meaning, and in an era where mass communications allows for a homogenization of being this meaning can be adopted with greater or lesser uniformity across a wider cultural area. At the same time, though, traditional patterns of belief and disbelief are undermined by mass communications

My final, and most critical point, is that both “Eurabia” and “Jew York City” impute causal relationships between the presence of a particular population group and a set of policies that not only overrides all policy-making factors but which is fundamentally illegitimate. Thus, the presence in Europe of Muslims prevents Europeans from adopting a set of foreign-policy and domestic decisions which would see it enthusiastically support Israeli and American policies and reverse a domestic trend towards Islamization. Thus, the presence in New York City of Jews prevents New York City from recognizing the fundamental evil of Israeli policies. This argument assumes that European governments and New Yorkers don’t have reasons for supporting the policies that they do for legitimate reasons, that, for instance, the policymakers of the European Union can’t believe that Israel is undertaking illegitimate policies of colonization on lands not its own and that the Israeli state must be pressured to stop since it obviously isn’t stopping on its own, or that New Yorkers might not support Israel as a decent state trying to do the best possible in a tough neighbourhood. It’s rooted in the assumption that one’s cause is fundamentally right, and that any objections are fundamentally illegitimate. As I wrote about Bat Ye’or last January, bias should be suspected. The inability to observe what is actually going on, too, is also a factor, inasmuch as the French law on hijabs or the Anglo-Dutch backlash against ill-thought multiculturalisms don’t suggest any imminent Islamization.

Racism is, then, a critical element–perhaps a dominant concept–relative to these concepts. If European Muslims or New York City Jews are inherently subversive, undermining legitimate decisionmaking processes in political and social life, how can anyone who belongs to either category be allowed to participate at all? Eurabia and Jew York City are, at their roots, concepts which demand the ghettoization of the groups from which they take their names, their exclusion from any non-subordinate role. These terms’ use is a good marker for some sort of highly exclusionary racism.

I really, really hate sloppy thinking, particularly on cultural and demographic trends. Trends do exist; trends do require specific responses from polities and societies and individuals; trends merit discussion. It’s ver
y important to know, with as great a degree of certainty as possible, what is actually going on within a community before you can comment usefully on it. Resorting to racist and profoundly exclusionary rhetoric that has little connection with what’s actually occurring on the ground only obscures the issues being debated. Worse, racist and profoundly exclusionary rhetoric carries its own serious set of problems. Does anyone remember what happened on the last few occasions when entire national subpopulations were deemed inherently subversive?

More will follow on the topic of demographic dynamics later.

Posted by randymac at 06:49 PM

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Last month, I made a brief posting concerning my personal experiences with the relationship between non-heterosexual sexual orientation and non-typical gender norms. The relationship’s not hard and fast–I think that my own person is proof enough of that–but I would argue that some sort of positive correlation between the two does exist.

I’m completely in the dark, though, as to the reasons for this. Judith Butler might well be right about the performativity of gender, but I’m not familiar with any scientific data which can go any ways to explaining why this correlation should exist at all. I’d be interested in hearing what sources, and what reasons, GNXP thinkers can come up with.

Please, no flames in the comments area. (This isn’t because of my non-existent sensitivity, but rather because I’m interested to see what will come of this.)

UPDATE (4:54 PM, 6 January) : And in case anyone is wondering, I’m the oldest of two children, of average weight on birth after a normal Caesarian delivery, my younger sibling being a heterosexual girl. On my mother’s side, I do have at least one, probably two, non-heterosexual relatives, the former being a cousin, the latter an uncle.

Posted by randymac at 08:26 PM

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Sacred and Secular : Religion and Politics Worldwide (Cambridge UP, 2004), co-authored by Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, is one of those books that breaks new ground. Norris and Inglehart explore a seeming contradiction at the heart of sociology: The founding writers of this discipline–Marx, Weber, Durkheim–all predicted secularization as an inevitable outcome of modernization, but our post-modern world definitely doesn’t seem to be secular.

Their answer? In part, that we’re defining secularization incorrectly and reading too much into classic sociology. Norris and Inglehart deal with the apparent global failure of these secularization theses by pointing out that in almost every post-industrial nation, secularism has made significant advances. (Yes, even the United States. More on this later.)

Religion might still be strong globally; it might even be making advances, with followers of religious beliefs of one sort or another growing as a proportion of the global population. This, they argue, stems from the fact that secularism and especially human development have a negative impact on fertility. Fertility, in turn, reflects underlying insecurities in a given culture which predispose that culture’s constituents towards religiosity.

The World Values Survey, along with the European Values Survey, provide the bulk of the raw data used by Norris and Inglehart. This makes sense, inasmuch as these surveys constitute excellent sources of cross-cultural data over several decades. As with all surveys, there are serious questions to reliability, in this case mainly through self-reporting (if you think that you should go to church, will you really admit to a stranger that you don’t go)? The trends indicated by the data, though, are suggestive.

It’s nice to see the supply-side theory of religious belief and practice put to an empirical test. This theory, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, argues that there is a direct relationship between religious diversity and religious practice: The more religious choices (different denominations, different theologies) available to a population, the more religious the population is likely to be. Thus, the high level of religious practice in the United States stems from that country’s historical theological diversity; the low level of religious practice in Europe is product of that continent’s tradition of state churches and enforced religious unity.

The problem with this theory, Norris and Inglehart demonstrate quite conclusively, is that it’s completely wrong. In Europe, it’s the countries with the closest links between religion and state and the highest degree of denominational homogeneity–Ireland, Poland, Italy–which have the highest rates of religious practice. In post-Communist Europe, the relaxation of state controls on religion coincided with a religion-wide decline in religion. (Yes. There is a negative correlation between religious pluralism and religious practice.)

Why do people practice religion? The authors argue that existential concerns–Maslow’s hierarchy of needs–strongly determine patterns of religious practice. The more insecure a person within society, the more likely the person is to be religious, if only in the hope of finding some structure to manage and perhaps improve the chaos of daily life. As industrialization proceeds in a given society and knowledge of science spreads, it becomes possible to find alternative structures–to avoid premature death, for instance, or to partake in a prosperous consumer society outside of the confines of traditional agrarian culture.

This pattern of religious practice within culture, Norris and Inglehart argue, manifests itself in two sets of reproductive strategies. On the one hand, advanced societies which provide security for their members tend to see low birth rates, with significantly and historically high investments in the well-being of the relatively few children and (consequently) stronger hostility towards the idea of risking these few. Less advanced societies, though, marked by greater insecurity and lower investments per child, tend to be less risk-averse. (For the record, they divide societies into three categories: post-industrial societies with a Human Development Index rank greater than 0.900; industrial societies which rank between 0.700 and 0.899 on the same scale; and, agrarian societies are those which rank below 0.700 on the HDI.)

The relative rankings of societies on the different scales are interesting. France, Nordic countries, Estonia, and the Czech Republic regularly rank as the most secular societies in the world, with very low rates of religious practice and belief. Among post-industrial and industrial societies, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Mexico, and above all the United States regularly rank as the most religious societies. (Indeed, in terms of global comparisons the United States appears to be slightly more religious than Iran.)

There is a relatively weak correlation between secularism and support for science: Many Muslim countries (and the United States) rank as significantly more supportive of science and experimental technologies than the most secular countries of Europe. Similarly, the authors don’t find a negative relationship between religiosity and support for democracy and civil rights. In the post-Communist countries of the Orthodox world, if anything, there is a weakly positive correlation. What they do find–reported by them in the March/April 2003 Foreign Policy (PDF format)–is a strong correlation between support for democratic politics and civil rights and support for changing gender and sex roles (support for feminism or gay rights, say). The more non-traditional a country in this domain, the more likely it is to be politically democratic. They suggest that toleration of diversity on this mark–connected to relatively secure and stable conditions–might serve as a barometer.

Sacred and Secular makes other interesting observations. They remark, for instance, that even after secularization has proceeded successfully, the once-dominant religion and its culture still leaves its mark on the life of society. They demonstrate that there is a positive correlation between one’s religious practice and the likelihood of one’s support for the Right, although this is weakening. They make the point that Weber and Durkheim argues that industrialization and rationalization would undermine religion, not destroy religion entirely in every case. They do agree with Putnam’s thesis that churchgoers tend to be more active in community organizations, though they suggest that people who join organizations might simply be more likely to join churches as a demonstration of this tendency. They agree that the United States is an outlier among advanced countries, but point to significant recent secularization and suggest that the relatively high volume of immigration from traditional countries is responsible for much of this lag. Very interestingly, they demonstrate that by almost all measures, China and Vietnam are highly secular societies, and are likely to stay highly secular.

This may be a controversial book. It does provide a testable hypothesis, though, namely that societies which move towards the upper end of the Human Development Index will not only move towards below-replacement fertility rates but will see declining rates of religious practice and belief. As
a rule, advanced societies might move towards deinstitutionalized religion, away from established churches and towards more inchoate and/or non-traditional beliefs. It’s worth paying attention to the more religious countries in the upper half of Norris and Inglehart’s middle ranking–South Korea, Argentina, Chile, Croatia, perhaps also Malaysia and Ukraine and Brazil–to see what patterns of religious belief develop in these countries in the decade to come.

Posted by randymac at 08:42 PM

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GNXP’s posters have covered the Netherlands’ recent events, starting with the assassination of van Gogh and continuing through to the current unsettled and open-ended situation. My contribution? I thought that I’d take a brief look at the situation in the Netherlands, all appropriate thanks owing to Afghan Voice.

Back in April, the now-defunct blog Afghan Voice linked to my posting on French Muslims and demographics. The author went on to examine the specific case of the Netherlands.

Fortunately for him, the Netherlands Central Bureau of Statistics had already examined the question, in the article “Immigrants in the Netherlands, 2003″ (PDF format, Dutch language). His translation:

“Not-western immigrants see to for a large part of the growth of the Dutch population. Between 1995 and 2003, they grew by 490 thousand, while during the same period the total population grew by 770 thousand. … CBS expects the non-Western immigration to total 3,5 million in 2050. In 2003, they total about 1,6 million. … Starting in 2007, the non-immigrant population will decrease … [They] will total 11,9 million in 2050, down from 13,2 million in 2003.”

And as Afghan Voice adds, “[r]emember also, that these are predictions and statistics of non-Western immigrants; not Muslims (immigrants.) Only a mere 56% of non-Western immigrants are estimated to be of Islamic faith.”

As the graph on page 20 makes clear, the number of ethnic Dutch in the 1972-2050 period is expected to remain stable in the range of 12 million over this period; including other Westerners, this figure rises to just short of 14 million. Further, pages 23 through 24 explores the depth of the demographic transition, with Turkish fertility rates dropping by one child to rates marginally above replacement rates over the period of study and Moroccan rates falling more dramatically still. The relative youth of the Muslim population of the Netherlands, along with relatively high fertility rates, ensures continued growth above the Dutch average. A takeover of the country, though, is unlikely.

To be sure, the Dutch Muslim population is quite concentrated, with many projections–for instance here at Radio Free Europe–referring to an unspecified government report which indicates that “by 2010, large Dutch cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht will have Muslim majorities.” The problem, though, is that the definition of city used in all of these references is vague: is a city a legal municipality or is it a metropolitan area? The former is a rather more restricted area than the latter. If, in the urban areas of the Randstad, ethnic Dutch and assimilated immigrants tend to be concentrated on the peripheries of major cities while non-assimilated immigrants tend to be resident in urban cores, this isn’t exactly an unprecedented setup.

It’s not at all clear what exactly this means, anyway. Of New York City’s population of roughly eight million, one million are Jewish and at least two million are Hispanic. Not only are these ratios (one-in-eight and one-in-four) greatly in excess of the American average, but including all of the diverse immigrant groups from Europe, Asia, and now Africa it’s safe to say that WASPs (in the traditional narrow sense of “White Anglo-Saxon Protestants”) form a decidedly small minority of New York City’s population. And yet, New York City is considered and considers itself American, blue-versus-red rhetoric aside.

Clearly, the Netherlands needs a new policy towards its immigrant population. Calling for a pause in immigration may well be a good idea, given concerns over immigrant integration. The Netherlands’ race issues need addressing, on both sides of the fence. (If there is, in fact, pervasive misogyny and homophobia among Dutch Muslims, it should be addressed. All prejudices are bad.) Apocalypse, though, will come only if everyone concerned really wants it.

Posted by randymac at 04:33 PM

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The comments to this guest post of mine over at the Head Heeb made me curious about ethnic succession.

Can anyone think of a situation where a minority population (ethnic, linguistic, religious) in a fairly coherent social entity–a modern state, say, or a religious community–takes over entirely, purely through high fertility rates? Although there has always been a demographic differential in France between religious Catholics and more secular folk, and until the 1960s almost all immigrants to France came from more conservative Catholic countries, the trend in France has definitely been towards greater secularization. Too, in the American Jewish community the porportion of ultra-Orthodox has remained fairly constant (again, fertility counterbalanced by defection).

The only situation that I can think of which comes even close is the remarkable expansion of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States since 1783. When you consider that one of the Intolerable Acts that triggered the American revolt was the fact that the 1774 Quebec Act passed by the British Parliament granted full political and civil rights to the Canadien Catholics within their traditional territory, it’s truly a remarkable fact that now, the United States has the largest Catholic population of any First World nation-state.

Any thoughts?

Posted by randymac at 06:32 PM

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Today seems to be the sort of day when the recurrent debate here on GNXP about the importance of HIV/AIDS . Arcane did his post, I posted a reply on my own blog.

The subtopic of HIV/AIDS in the former Soviet Union–particularly the prospects for a pandemic–has also received a lot of attention. In this vein, I thought I’d link to Michael Specter’s article “The Devastation”, online at The New Yorker.

We had returned to [Dr. Olga Leonova's] office, and while we talked she stood at the window, staring at the birch trees. “I worry that aids will send us over the edge—that we will become a country too sick to cope. Most people don’t get it. Many of those who do understand have left. My five closest friends now live in the United States and Israel. My generation has no children. Husbands are dead. And now the young . . . ” Her voice trailed off. Dr. Leonova is an optimist, but she knows that the illness she encounters each day is a sign of an even larger problem—one that threatens Russia at least as seriously today as the Cold War did a generation ago. “We are on the front line of a war,” she said. “This city was under siege by Hitler for years. We lived through Stalin. We have to prevail, and I think, somehow, we will. We don’t have a choice.’’

From Tambov, the old Soviet breadbasket, to the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, and even in Moscow, which has become a world showcase for conspicuous displays of wealth, Russians are dying in numbers and at ages that seem impossible to believe. Heart disease, alcohol consumption, and tuberculosis are epidemic. So is addiction to nicotine. You won’t see many pregnant women on the streets; Russia has one of the lowest peacetime birth rates in modern history. Long life is one of the central characteristics of an advanced society; in Russia, men often die too young to collect a pension. In the United States, even during the Great Depression mortality rates continued to drop, and the same has been true for all other developed countries. Except Russia. In the past decade, life expectancy has fallen so drastically that a boy born in Russia today can expect to live just to the age of fifty-eight, younger than if he were born in Bangladesh. No other educated, industrialized nation ever has suffered such a prolonged, catastrophic growth in death rates.

Even without considering HIV/AIDS, Russia has a particularly bad demographic situation. This brief 1997 paper at RAND, and these two more detailed studies, break down the current Russian demographic situation succintly. Briefly put, until the 1980s fertility rates in the territory of the modern Russian Federation were at replacement levels. However, from the mid-1960s on, life expectancies stagnated, with male life expectancies actually declining. With the dissolution of the Soviet system, fertility rates crashed far below replacement levels while mortality rose. Overall population shrinkage, manifested by an enormous surplus of deaths over births and growing emigration (particularly of ethnic Jews, Germans, Greeks, and others to their nominal homelands), was stemmed only by a migration surplus with the other Soviet successor states and, in the Far East, with China and North Korea.

Russia’s demographic structure isn’t as unbalanced as it could be, in terms of the crude distribution of its population across the age pyramid. In part, this is because of the enormous surplus mortality among Russian men. Over time, the immense shrinkage of Russia’s young population will have serious consequences, as Specter notes.

working-age people are starting to disappear. (In the United States, fifteen per cent of men die before they retire; in Russia, nearly fifty per cent die.) By 2015, the number of children under the age of fifteen will have fallen by a quarter. There will be at least five million fewer people in the workforce. The Russian Ministry of Education projects a thirty-per-cent drop in school enrollment. Russian women already bear scarcely more than half the number of children needed to maintain the current population, and the situation will soon get worse. Between 2010 and 2025, the number of women between twenty and twenty-nine—the primary childbearing years—will plummet from eleven and a half million to six million. Unless there is sudden new immigration on a gigantic scale, fertility will fall even from today’s anemic level.

What will the outcome of the Russian HIV/AIDS epidemic be? We don’t know. Even without HIV/AIDS, Russia is pioneering a new demographic model characterized by fluctuating levels of international and internal migration and by death rates substantially higher than birth rates, with overall population aging stemmed only by low male life expectancies and accelerated population shrinkage.

In gross terms, comparing Russia’s population and level of economic development with other countries, Russia is most similar to Brazil. The similarities are only superficial. For our purposes here, the most significant difference is that while Brazil has dealt with the HIV/AIDS epidemic since the 1980s and has an HIV seropositivity rate of 0.6%, Russia has only had HIV/AIDS since the early 1990s but already has an HIV seropositivity rate of 0.9% of the Russian population.

When will the spread of the HIV virus in the general Russian population stop? We don’t know. Russia is pioneering a new sort of demographic system characterized by mortality rates much higher than anemic birth rates. Most ominously, as Specter notes now and as I noted back in August, the Russian state appears to be both unwilling to and incapable of dealing with the epidemic, owing to a popular attitude that HIV/AIDS affects only disposable people and to a state that does not place HIV/AIDS on its list of priorities.

Why does Brazil, with a comparable population and a slightly lower per-capita income, spend nearly a billion dollars on aids each year when Russia doesn’t spend even a tenth that? It can’t be poverty; Russia is not rich, but it has eighty-five billion dollars in its financial reserves. The Kremlin is certainly capable of spending money when it wants to: last year, for example, the lavish three-hundredth-birthday party for the city of St. Petersburg—Vladimir Putin’s home town—cost $1.3 billion.

[. . .]

The Kremlin demands to be taken seriously as a world power and as an active member of the Group of Eight industrial nations. The country’s leaders often mention aids in public at international gatherings, acting as if Russia still had an empire to control. At home, though, the story is different. “Russia went ahead and made a decision to contribute money to the Global Fund,’’ Christof Rühl, who was until recently the World Bank’s chief economist in Russia, told me. The Global Fund to Fight aids was set up by the U.N. to provide money for those countries which cannot on their own defeat aids, tuberculosis, or malaria.

[. . .]

Russia invested just over four million dollars in 2003 in its federal aids program, but it committed twenty million to the Global Fund to Fight aids. Two years ago, the Kremlin’s protracted negotiations effectively delayed a hundred-and-fifty-million-dollar loan offer by the World Bank on the ground that it did not wish to incur further foreign debt. “If you watch,” Rühl said, “you will see the President and all the ministers and the economic advisers going out and saying to the world, with great pride, ‘Russia is a dono
r country. We are one of you. We are going to help solve this health crisis for these poor nations.’ It is cheap and cynical. It has not been about H.I.V. at all. It was to say, ‘We are a country that helps; we don’t need handouts, like Africa.’ But the truth is that the government is so disorganized and so removed from the needs of its own people that it could not even help get one application filed for the first round of this Global Fund.

“The people just don’t care. On a very broad scale, it’s a country where people care about their family and their friends. Their clan. But not their society. Yet they have this attitude that we are a great power. A donor nation. What does that really mean? It means you pay a few million dollars to the world aids fund even though you are too stupid to attempt to profit from it when your own citizens are dying.’’

Could we see a South African-style pandemic in Russia? It doesn’t seem altogether impossible, though as always it’s important to note that projecting rates of growth inefinitely into the future is a cheap and unreliable statistical game. It seems to be beyond question, though, that Russia will shortly have rates of HIV infection much higher than those prevailing in the European Union, in North America, in Latin America, or in much of East Asia. A 5% rate isn’t out of the question.

More importantly, since HIV is a virus with a long period of latency and the Russian epidemic began at a relatively late date, the number of deaths attributable to HIV/AIDS will rise significantly. Considering the Russian health system’s current state, one can legitimately speculate whether it could survive the experience. How an atomized and fragmented Russian society would cope (or not) seems to be open to question, though past trends are suggestively bad.

Will HIV/AIDS alone determine Russia’s future? Likely not. Will it shift things in a bad direction? Almost certainly.

Posted by randymac at 03:47 PM

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science 
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The subject of the assimilation of the most recent wave of immigrants to France–largely Muslim, these mostly drawn from former French colonies in North Africa–has been a subject frequently debated on GNXP, as a subject worthy of interest on its own terms and as a bellwether for events elsewhere. Reading the Toronto Globe and Mail and other news sources, it’s been interesting to note how much of a non-issue the event has been.

For a variety of reasons, most of which I’ve written about on my livejournal, French officials, the French public, and an apparently large majority of French Muslim women support the ban on headscarves in the French public school system as a way to try to deal with conservative misogyny in their communities. As I’ve written, it’s the least bad manner; certainly, it’s better than deciding that they should accustom themselves to second-class status because they’re Muslim.

There are fears that it could prove counterproductive, mind, at least for a minority. Recently, Philippe Le Billon, assistant professor of geography at the University of British Columbia, wrote in an opinion piece his fear that the ban on headscarves

could prove counterproductive, resulting in some Muslim girls being banned from attending school — precisely the kind of exclusion the French government says its law is designed to prevent. It will also reinforce socially conservative, gender-based discrimination within Muslim communities.

And the actual results?

About 100 French Muslim girls have refused to take off their headscarves in school despite a government ban on “conspicuous” religious insignia in state schools, Education Minister Francois Fillon said Wednesday.

“There are about 100, between 100 and 120″ girls who have refused to heed the controversial “secularity law” that took effect last week with the start of the academic year, Fillon told Europe 1 radio.

This, mind, out of a total population of 12 million students, of which perhaps 15% are likely of nominally Muslim background given demographic patterns. Many of the young French Muslim women who did wear the hijab did so more as a brief challenge to authority than out of profound religious belief, as Doug Saunders, writing for the Globe and Mail, discovered:

“I’m not doing this as a protest, and in fact I do think I’ll stop wearing the hijab on Monday,” she said, using the Arabic name for the head scarf. “I’m mostly just confused — my family and my faith want me to cover my hair, but my nation wants me to keep it uncovered. I’d like to be French and Muslim, but I’d rather be French. Maybe I’ll wear a colourful bandana, which doesn’t break the law.”

So. The young generation of French Muslims–certainly women–see themselves as more French than Muslim; or, perhaps more appropriately, see their religious background as secondary to their national background. This doesn’t exactly indicate a failure of the French melting pot.

I fear we’ll have to wait a while for la République islamique de la France.

Posted by randymac at 08:43 PM

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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It’s a basic assumption among GNXP posters that the study of human biodiversity is an important contributing factor to the study of humanity in general. At the same time, though, it’s important to keep in mind that human biodiversity isn’t the only factor involved in the construction of early 21st century societies.

Take South Africa, for instance. The topic of South Africa has been frequently debated on GNXP. The main thing to remember about modern South Africa is that it’s a fundamentally unequal society. Even a decade after South Africa’s formally ended the policies of apartheid, many observers–for instance, Bryan Rostron in The New Statesman–have observed that South Africa remains a society where wealth and status continue to correlate strongly with the country’s racial divisions:

In his book A History of Inequality in South Africa, the economist Sampie Terreblanche acknowledges the growth of a new “colour-blind” middle class, but argues that the country has simply shifted from race-based to class-based disparities.

South Africa’s population of 45 million, he suggests, can be divided into three socio-economic classes of about 15 million each. The first group, an affluent middle class, comprises four million whites (that is, all but roughly 500,000 of South Africa’s whites), along with 11 million blacks, Indians and mixed-race “coloureds”. The second group is a struggling working class, mostly black. The bottom 15 million is almost entirely black: an underclass in dire poverty, property-less, mostly uneducated and still “voiceless, pathetically powerless” in Terreblanche’s words.

According to the UN Development Program’s 1994 report, South Africa’s HDI was 0.650–for whites 0.878 and for blacks 0.462 (compared to 0.881 for American blacks and 0.986 for American whites). If white South Africa had been a separate country, it would have ranked 24th in the world in income per capita rankings, just below Italy and Spain and above Portugal in per capita income rankings (6500 US dollars at market exchange rates, 14920 US dollars at PPP). Black South Africa, in contrast would rank 123rd, below Botswana, Gabon, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe (670 US dollars at market exchange rates, 1710 US dollars at PPP).

The question that many at GNXP have asked is whether or not this remarkable division of South African society, strongly correlated with race, reflects innate differences between the different racial groups of South Africa. You can argue this, I suppose, if you wanted. I’d argue that history, though, is a much more potent explanatory force; indeed, history is so dominant a force that arguing in favour of lower or higher IQs for people of different races based on genetics is nonsensical.

Consider that South Africa compares in many ways to Russia, or even Brazil. These three countries both have middle-income economies marked by extreme inequality, while they have recently emerged to establish democratic regimes (with varying levels of success) and are currently coping with a wide array of social pathologies, including exceptionally high rates of violent crime, serious income inequality, and deteriorating health standards. All three countries are marked by very serious social divisions, by extreme inequalities of wealth and health and political power.

Take violence, for instance. South Africa has, unfortunately, one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world, ranking alongside (again) Russia and Brazil. Violence, though, has a long history in South Africa. Balicki’s study of the Netsilik Eskimo and Chagnon’s study of the Yanomamo, among many other anthropological studies, have demonstrated that not only are Iron Age cultures not natively peaceable, but that they are actually prone to exceptional levels of violence by the standards of early 21st century industrial and post-industrial societies, with pervasive assault and murder. In South Africa’s case, the 19th century was particularly traumatic thanks to the mfecane, which radically transformed society in the modern Zulu homeland of KwaZulu-Natal by establishing the ancestral state to the modern-day Zulu monarchy. It also devastated African societies throughout the interior of the modern-day Republic of South Africa at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dead, sent sizable contingents of refugees at least as far as Zimbabwe (the Ndebele). Unsurprisingly, this degree of devastation allowed Afrikaner migrants armed with superior weapons technologies to enter the affected areas and create the Boer republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State.

Of course, the South African state under apartheid was quite willing to use violence in order to maintain the racial hierarchies. It’s not many governments which manage to get their own agents listed in databases of serial killers like CrimeLibrary.com. (Wouter Basson, incidentally, was responsible for the murder through biological and chemical warfare of some two hundred prisoners.) Not everything was as spectacular as Basson’s crimes, although the broad scope of the apartheid regime’s destabilization campaigns–wars against the Lusophone Marxist states of Angola and Mozambique at the cost of hundreds of thousands of civilian dead, an ongoing campaign against the Namibians protesting their colonization, support of the Rhodesian dictatorship, terrorist campaigns waged against South African refugees in neighbouring countries–comes close in a different area.

The maintenance, at every level of society, of an intrusive police state which regulated what jobs people could perform, what people they could relate to socially, what ideologies they could profess, what places they could live–in short, which sought to determine for people their proper place in life–and felt entirely justified in using massive amounts of violence to make people obey, was quite an endeavour. That it also delegitimized the police as a legitimate force was another, secondary, consequence of note mainly now that the police is needed for non-repressive activities.

Differences essentially political have caused rapid divergences between closely related populations. In Weimar Germany, for instance, East Germany contained in Saxony and Berlin some of the most advanced industrial areas in Germany. In the 1930s, Estonian living standards were in advance of Finland’s, and Czechoslovakia had a more sophisticated industrial economy than Austria. Poland, with a relatively buoyant economy and a not-inconsiderable military, was certainly on the same level as Spain, and arguably not much behind Italy. And now? How things have changed, for the worse. If politics in the form of prolonged and destructive Soviet occupation hadn’t interfered, the economic gap between western and central Europe would be substantially smaller if it existed at all.

The grand scheme of apartheid made economic progress difficult to impossible for non-whites. These policies made it impossible for non-whites to enter modern society on equal terms. The 1913 Natives’ Land Act, for instance, marked the first stage in a general dispossession of non-white lands. Residential segregation laws made it impossible for non-whites to securely own residential property:

District 6, established circa 1867 on the fringes of downtown Cape Town, was a community of character and characters. Bars and brothels competed for space with two-story homes
and shops and theaters. Dance halls were packed on weekends, and the busy cobblestone streets were used as cricket grounds and soccer fields. A boisterous carnival snaked through the hilly streets to mark each new year.

By the 1950s, shortly before the removals began, “District 6 was an exuberant and vibrant place despite its deliberate neglect by the authorities,” notes a display at Cape Town’s District 6 museum. “It was a place of warmth and gaiety, struggle and sadness, of respectability and rascality, of despair and creativity. It hummed with a zest for life.”

The passage of the 1959 Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act not only created hierarchies of local governments for Blacks and assigned them specific national territories, but it artificially froze distinctions between groups, dividing the Sotho and Nguni groups into subtribes which could supposedly be better managed and were more natural. The Group Areas Act made it impossible for non-whites to access white-dominated segments of the economy (or vice versa).

Is anyone surprised that living standards and economic output are so poor for those South Africans who aren’t white? The planners of grand apartheid could hardly have done a better job of wrecking the South Africa economy. Fortunately, things are changing.

What could have been? Well, the 1996 UN Human Development Report (drawing on 1993 data) gave South Africa a HDI ranking of 0.649, 100th place. Botswana scored 0.741, 71st place. Since then, the collapse in life expectancies caused by the HIV/AIDS epidemic has pushed HDI levels down for both countries, Botswana more than South Africa.

The Botswanan economic miracle is, admittedly, fragile, based on a single commodity, manifesting in a middle-income economy with sharp income inequality. Even so: If Botswana, with sparse human resources and a natural-resource bonanza of questionable value, was able in the space of a generation to match and exceed South African levels of human development, then what might a South Africa freed of apartheid have accomplished? Absent Communism, Czechoslovakia (or its components) would have remained in the top rank of European economies alongside Austria. Might not an apartheid-less South Africa have done a rather better job at catching up to the First World? In 1950, after all, South Africa was richer per capita than Portugal, Greece, Japan, and South Korea. Cutting out three-quarters and more of your population from any but the most menial segments of your economy is deadly.

Oh, there’s the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It’s worth noting that in the early 1990s, Thailand and South Africa were at roughly the same stages of the epidemic, driven in both countries by migrant labour and by heterosexual sex. Thailand had the benefit of abundant economic resources in the middle of a political structure which (particularly after 1992) was recognized as basically legitimate. South Africa did not. Had the transition from apartheid taken place a decade earlier, South Africa would at least have had the benefit of a legitimate government unconcerned with regime transition. Perhaps it might even have had the economic boom.

It comes down to Occam’s razor, in the end. Could human biodiversity explain South Africa’s difficult history? Perhaps. It’s much simpler, though, to recognize that, in fact, South Africa’s problems were produced by a racially-motivated pattern of systematic mismanagement that lasted for generations before its dissolution, not even having the courtesy to clean up its horrible messes for the post-apartheid regime.

Can human biodiversity explain the race-associated divergences in the South African economy? History–a simple legacy of consistent harsh neglect and oppression–does a much better job than the former. People shouldn’t turn to race to explain purely cultural phenomena.

Posted by randymac at 08:50 PM

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science 
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