TECHNOLOGIES & SOCIETIES LIVE AND DIE ACCORDING TO THE PRINCIPLES WHICH RULE THEM.
Examples From Tasmania, Greenland, Greece, Europe, Islam, Among Other Times And Places.
And How They Relate.
People are born free, but are soon chained within the culture that made them. A man can think of himself as a master, but remains slave to what culture he enslaves other with. Principles are to culture what genes are to life. But they can be changed, forming all the freewill that counts, as cultures live and die by them.
Abstract: TASMANIAN & GREENLAND DEGENERACIES, ATHENIAN & EUROPEAN SUPREMACIES WERE FIRST ABOUT PRINCIPLES.
What is culture? What does culture really do? How does culture arise? How does culture relate to technology? What is superstition? Why superstition? How do they relate to collapse and supremacy? Are cultures driven by principles? Are some principles more fundamental than others? And, ultimately, what is the definition of man? A few of the notions broached therein.
What drives a culture? A case in point is Tasmania. Tasmania is the paradigm of what some call the "TASMANIAN EFFECT". It should be called the TASMANIAN DEVOLUTION (devolution is evolution in reverse). It is a very general effect. The West, as Rome declined, and the area controlled by Islam, as it also declined, have been affected at least by mysterious, somewhat similar degeneracies, and devolutions (in particular in the Late Roman empire, and then Islam, people were killed, on a genocidal scale, for religious reasons, which was a barbarity unimaginable during the heydays of the Roman empire; some Roman technologies, even for procuring food, also completely disappeared for 2,000 years).
It seems that forces of devolution are strong all over the West, and in particular in the USA (many technologies are stagnating, from deliberate political decisions). Devolution when the environment is strongly evolving is no solution, but impending demolition.
The devolution of the Greenland Vikings is blatant. Greenland Vikings were in the most exacting environment. One would have expected them to evolve superbly. Instead, they devolved. Their leaders were professional religious fanatics known as bishops. Naturally enough, the Vikings suffered the apocalypse predicted by Jesus. Unable to think of anything much besides Saint Paul would freeze any mind to death. The Vikings forgot that fishes were edible. Rather curious for a Norwegian colony. Now, of course, advanced, professorial, brainy Obama’s ethical adviser does not eat shrimp either. It is all too natural for hubris to replace intelligence.
A fascinating aspect of Tasmanian culture is that it is about three times longer than the entire history of civilization. Tasmania was colonized at least 34,000 years ago, with, what were at the time, advanced paleolithic technologies. In the last 10,000 years, though, Tasmanian know-how regressed so spectacularly that Tasmania became twice more primitive than the next most primitive society. Worldwide.
One can measure the complexity of a society by looking at the complexity of its tools. For example, some Inuits up north, where the ice used to be thick, invented the toggle harpoon, one of the world’s most complex weapon before the modern age. Toggle harpoons could consist of 33 parts. Viking died from not knowing of it. Inuits thrived, thanks to it.
Various toggle harpoon heads, in different sizes to capture seals (in blowholes!), walruses, whales. Notice the different materials and the hole for the line.
The main argument against those who believe that superior numbers are what makes a superior culture is that toggle heads were evolved by extremely small populations, at very low densities. I hold instead that supremacy comes from superior metaprinciples framing culture by harnessing successfully human deep evolutionary nature. [Eskimos, Bering Sea.]
American academic Henrich proposed that the Tasmanian devolution occurred from the small population of Tasmania, in combination with its absolute isolation. Thus quantity of a population would bring quality to its culture. Although there is something to the idea, obviously, I will show that numbers, per se, are neither necessary, nor sufficient for cultural supremacy. To believe otherwise is in absolute contradiction with the most basic history of civilization, and an advocacy for termites as cultural leaders.
Henrich’s work justifies a posteriori the essential character of the USA as a society in the last 40 years: enormous immigration, metastatic globalization. The primacy of number over quality justifies the demographic built-up of the USA. Making growth of the population, and growth of the economy, of the money, of the imperium, an absolute good has been a mainstay of the politics of the USA (and also Australia and Canada). The Tasmanian Effect also informs the growth of the European Union as a club and lichen, instead of a culture, and depth (metastatic growth is another prescription of Anglo-Saxon plutocratic elite, this time for the EU).
To believe that the more one is, the more technology one has, the more clever one is, is a sorry excuse for imperialism and plutocratic rule. It also causes indirectly cultural devolution. And I do believe that the plutocratic elite views that devolution as an absolute good (the dumber the folks, the easier to reign over them!)
In particular, American authorities have viewed controlling big numbers more important than controlling cultural quality (the federal support for immigration and the expansion of globalization has been is enormous, that for education, tiny, 1% GDP). Disrespect for cultural quality is deliberate as the increasing respect for superstition demonstrate ("God Bless America!", "In Dog we Thrust", etc.; in his first Oval Office discourse, Obama invoked the Abrahamic deity 17 times). Thus the Tasmanian Effect, and how to explain it, may sound academic, but it connects to very practical principles.
Instead of mistaking quantity for quality I defend the CULTURAL SUPREMACY theory. It’s not really something new: the Greeks already believed in it, 28 centuries ago. It may be argued, and I have argued, that they believed in it so much, they believed in it too much. However, we can make cultural supremacy work much better than the Greeks themselves. Instead of just learning Homer like clever parrots, we now have at our disposal an enormous body of knowledge made of true facts, and historical errors, and terrors, of all kinds. Homer has become a detail of history, and it is not even true.
According to cultural supremacy, higher culture and domination come from the superior nature of crucial metaprinciples, and ultraprinciples, and their "well ordering"(which values are superior to others and why). For example "God Is Great" or "Fish and Shrimps Are Abominations" are inferior ultraprinciples to "Freedom" and "Equality". Because they are not ethologically compatible (as superstition tends to be).
I am perfectly aware that cultural supremacy seem to be rather more along the lines of Sade and Nietzsche, those "evil" philosophers, than along the lines of the heart throbbing conventional interpretation of "multiculturalism". But appearances can be misleading (and Sade and Nietzsche have been severely anti-understood, the former being a saint, and the later a prophetic accuser of German devolution).
Cultural Supremacy theory may sound arrogant, and it is. However, arrogance does not have only the pejorative connotation associated to it. The major root of the word arrogant is "reg", the straight line (hence "regal"). Cultural Supremacy goes straight to the core of what being human means. Human beings are quantum nanotechnological supremacy machines. It matters how concepts are connected in our minds. The core of humanism rests, deeper than wisdom, on power, just like on the rest of physics. It matters how power flows. Metaprinciples and ultraprinciples act as sources, and sinks. Choose them well, and culture thrives. Choose them wrong, and it sinks to the point it can be gobbled by a bottom feeder.
Granted, it is difficult to find out what sort of philosophy was guiding Tasmania, 5,000 years ago. So, to explain the otherwise unexplainable, we look somewhere else. Revealingly, recent examples of debilitating philosophies abound. That abundance provides with a ready explanation for devolution. Tasmania brings up the question of how low mankind can go, and why. History and ecology answer both. Lower than Auschwitz, and because of the basest ultraprinciples, is the answer.
Stupidity and superstition are be taught by elites with personal agendas of material selfishness. This is no arcane debate: one of Obama’s advisers is exhibited as the advocate of the sort of primitive superstition that brought down Tasmania, 5,000 years ago. Or brought down Viking Greenland, 600 years ago. In both cases, we have proof. It can only be horrifying to realize that such primitives are now whispering around nukes, and the great leader find them deep (how deep is the great leader?)
Clearly, within 1,000 years, Earth will be uninhabitable if we go on with the present culture promoted by the existing plutocracy to extend its power ever more. The reigning paradigm, claiming to be a way of life, has become the way to death. Why this way of life, and not another? Many cultures and civilizations have degenerated, or collapsed in the past. But this time, it’s the entire biosphere, which man has enslaved, which is at risk of eradication. Inquiring minds want to know why devolution is so attractive, surviving minds will have known.
Solace is to be found in the successful defense of the highest principles that the best of the Greeks made against gigantic Persia, and the self described Europeans did against rabid kleptocracy hiding behind superstition starting in 721 CE at Toulouse (when Islam’s armies suffered their first crushing defeat on land). Solace is to be found in observing progress against those metaprinciples which advocated devolution and regression as religion (the exhibit number one here being Christianity, which helped Rome torpedoed itself).
Tasmania used to be part of the Australian continent during the last enormous glaciation, when sea levels were much lower (then the Tasmanian region was 140,000 square kilometers, it’s 91,000 sqkm now). Homo Sapiens of the Australian variety arrived in Tasmania at least 34,000 years ago. Australia itself was colonized by sea voyage. The Tasmania peninsula which became an insula when the ice receded, about 16,000 years ago. Sea level went up about 120 meters.
Something strange happened, many millennia later: for no indisputable reason, Tasmanian technology devolved. It is not as if the Vandals, Huns, Mongols, the Black Plague, Conquistadores, or smallpox came around. Nobody, nothing came around.
When Europeans discovered Tasmania, the natives had by far the world’s most primitive technology . Tasmanians had stopped fishing for 3,800 years (although women dived for crustaceans). Tasmanians were not even wearing much clothing anymore (although Australians just 200 kilometers north, in a warmer climate, did). A clue: the Europeans offered fish to the natives, and the natives recoiled in disgust.
We are sure that the Tasmanians dressed warmly in the past, because the wetter part of the island was heavily glaciated up to 16,000 years ago. The Tasmanians also lost bone technology (hooks, harpoons, bone points for sewing). They also had lost Australian technologies such as spear throwers, nets, boomerangs.
Amazingly, the Tasmanians had lost hafted tool technology (it allows to fix a hard head such as a stone or a piece of antler to a wooden object such as a spear, arrow, or ax). Hafting was independently evolved in Europe by Neanderthals (ancestors of the Germans; see *) and Cro Magnon (ancestors of the French, before Muslims conquered France, see below). Amazingly, the Hobbits had hafted technology. Now Tasmanians were Homo Sapiens Sapiens. But the Hobbits, Homo Florensis, the tiny, super clever hominids living on Flores island, with their completely different brains, invented hafting 90,000 years ago. Homo Florensis’ ancestors had been a different species for at least 2 million years.
*[Let me specify explicitly that the French/German mock origin specified above is a misleading, tasteless, not to say racist, joke, meant to relax the atmosphere; just to keep readers awake; however, Cro Magnons, who looked, it seems, like typical tall Scandinavians, evolved in what is now France, when the place was a tundra surrounded by glaciers… They probably had some Neanderthal genes; technological advances made the specific genetic adaptations to cold characteristic of Neanderthals obsolete, that maybe why they “disappeared”.]
ARE NUMBERS IS ALL WHAT COUNTS?
Joseph Henrich argues, in an interesting essay, that complex skills will be lost in a society, if the number of individuals gets too small. In particular, if a society is completely isolated, it will devolve below a threshold in the number of its individuals. Henrich derives an equation to demonstrate that. His idea seduced science fiction writer Stross (who concluded that we would need 100 million people to found a Martian colony), or Paul Krugman (who used to have the global agenda of the more, the merrier). Henrich is an ethnologist, young and bright: he got some prize to encourage him and his kind. He is influential.
Henrich’s idea, that societies with too few people will lose their most complex skills is, at first appealing and intuitive. If a family gets too small, its tradition and knowledge will be lost. The European aristocracy and the Rothschilds knew this, and thus they intermarried heavily. So did Pharaohs and Incas. However, it is curious that survival skills such as fishing fishes and putting on clothing in a cool climate would be lost if a population falls below a few thousands. It seems that this cannot be true (as Inuits come to mind, see below).
Moreover, serious mathematicians and physicists, know one thing: one can be deluded by equations. Equations derive consequences, they do not prove assumptions. During the Middle Ages a known objection to the heliocentric theory of planetary motion is that theories of motions of planets circularly around the sun were not as precise as Ptolemy’s silly epicycles. Henrich’s mathematics is full of dubious assumptions about how and why knowledge is transmitted. False assumptions do not make a conclusion true, even if the equation is.
The idea that numbers are what matters most in cultural evolution is in blatant contradiction with ethnology and history. Let alone the theory that the values of a culture matter. The main, obvious objection to Henrich’s work: it is grossly contradicted by experimental data.
Another American scholar, Dwight Read, has already made a detailed refutation of some of the hypotheses laden assumptions allowing Henrich to write his equations (so I do not have to do this: interested readers can read Read readily).
TASMANIA DID NOT DEGENERATE BECAUSE OF NUMBERS:
Why it is unlikely that Tasmania’s technological collapse was caused by having not enough people around? First, the technological regression occurred many millennia after Tasmania became an island. Serious Tasmanian devolution incurred after a lapse of time in isolation superior to the entire history of civilization (and that’s more than 10,000 years). Henrich has to explain why, after 13,000 years, or so, of fishing the fishes, Tasmanians decided that fishes were an abomination.
The minimum number of Tasmanians was 4,000 (that’s a bit more than one individual for one kilometer of coast). It is known that some Inuits with very advanced paleolithic technology had populations of only 600. On much larger territories, with much more gigantic coasts, full of immense fjords.
Henrich will have to demonstrate that the Indonesian island of Flores (area: 13,540 square km) had more Homo Florensis than Tasmania (area: 90,758 square km) had Homo Sapiens. Because the Hobbits’ technology was not going down. Flores is equatorial, Tasmania cool temperate maritime, surrounded by seals. Seals were the most important part of Tasmanian diet.
Henrich claims that the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, similar in many ways to Tasmanians, did not similarly degenerate in their technological knowledge, because the Fuegans still communicated with people on the continent. He uses a similar argument for the Inuits. However, Henrich admits that some Pacific islanders in the northern Vanuatu lost their ship making skills. Although northern Vanuatuans were not as isolated as Inuits (and construction materials were readily available).
WHY DID TASMANIA FALL OFF THE WORLD? WEIRD ULTRAPRINCIPLES.
If Tasmania did not devolve because of low numbers, what happened? Did Tasmania devolve for the same reason as the Umayyad Caliphate in Spain devolve? It would be enlightening to find a common cause of devolution, between a paleolithic culture and one of the world’s most sophisticated civilizations (for its time), the object of bin Laden’s uncomprehending admiration.
When the Europeans arrived in Tasmania, they found seas teeming with fishes, perhaps the highest density in the world of those maritime creatures. Europeans offered fishes to the Tasmanians, but the Tasmanian, disgusted by fish, and refused to eat it. Disgust for fishes is certainly not in Henrich’s equation. Either as an assumption, or as a conclusion.
Disgust for fishes seems to be more a religious superstition, what I call an ultraprinciple, a basic element of Tasmanian culture: "fish an abomination, avoid it".
The so called "bible" ("the book", as if there was just one, as if there had been just one "holocaust") has exactly a similar interdiction about crustaceans. The Tasmanians, not having read the bible in a timely manner, ate those.
Crustaceans are depicted in the bible as an "abomination" of some sort (there are other "abominations", such as homosexuality, a subject those who wrote the bible were apparently familiar, or obsessed, with). The call against "abominations" was even wider than that: all sea foods which do not have fins or scales were abominations. I guess eating algae was out.
FISHY MINDS GO STARVING:
The history of Greenland is sparsely documented (many crucial manuscripts have been lost). The Norwegian Vikings established colonies there before 1,000 CE (during a warm episode). For centuries, those colonies were thriving. The Viking colonies faced war with the invading Inuits (who had just eliminated other natives, up north, the Dorset culture). Soon some of the survivors went starving after the climate cooled seriously, starting in 1300 CE.
Ultimately Viking cattle and sheep could not survive. Finally many Vikings probably left (at least so did they retreat from Newfoundland, where the evacuation was orderly, down to the last nail). Nevertheless many starved to death in Greenland (forensics have shown, studying the insects which ate the corpses). Consecutive to the Little Ice Age, plague, war. conquest, there was lost and confusion in Europe The fate of Greenland became a mystery for 3 centuries. Some Europeans assumed that the Vikings had somehow transmutated into Inuits!
Weirdly, as the Vikings went starving inside their farms, the rivers and lakes of Greenland were teeming with fish, all around, and seals were abundant. The dangerous Inuits who had appeared from the north, fished the fishes, ate the seals, maneuvered their kayaks astoundingly, and destroyed the Western Viking settlement. Still, as generations went by, the Viking adopted not one technology from the Inuits.
The Greenland Vikings, who were Europeans in good standing, with full contact and trade with Europe, and even Rome, the Vikings, who brought timber from North America, those literate Greenland Vikings, with its leaders who enjoyed reading the bible, proved itself more stupid than the Tasmanians, because they could not adapt to the cooling climate, even when it meant as little as going fishing, something all normal Europeans did, especially in Norway.
Why did the Greenland Viking refuse to eat fish? Viking to the east, in Iceland and other northern archipelagos, all the way to Norway, ate plenty of fish.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the fortune of Norway came from freeze dried cod exported to the rest of Europe to the south (places like the Lofoten islands specialized in it). However the Greenland Vikings behaved as if fishes were abominations. How did that come to be? It was not a superstition due to some religious stupidity: the Vikings were catholic, had bishops and at least one cathedral, and were so observant they had their own inquisition style horrors. The bible is even partial to fishes.
The repugnance of Vikings for fishes and sea mammals was definitively a strong cultural bias, but it did not originate directly from the Christian superstition (which is however responsible by rigidifying the minds of Greenlanders). Avoiding fish was a cultural bias unique to Greenland, a principle specific to Greenland, because all the rest of Europe ate fish. Religiously (on Fridays). Something really strange happened in Greenland, even stranger than what happened in Tasmania, and probably even more instructive.
THE HIGHEST PRINCIPLES GUIDING GREENLAND CHANGED:
One has to visualize the principles under which the Greenland colony was founded to understand why it collapsed. The Greenland colony had been created under what turned out to be an UNSUSTAINABLE hypothesis: GREEN land. Greenland was founded by Eric the Red. Eric was a bloody murderer, thus, "red". Eric had all the recognizable features of the most ferocious conquistador. Calling Greenland green was a good marketing ploy. The North Atlantic was in full warming as Eric showed up. Farmers were invited in, with cattle and sheep. Greenland had been pretty much ravaged by glaciers for a few million years, leaving little soil: irreversible deforestation and soil erosion resulted (as in Iceland, but even worse).
Then Green-land, not that green anymore, morphed into still another society under four working assumptions: trees from North America, money from walruses’ ivory (thanks to the Islamist blockade of Europe, walrus ivory was profitable), rich trade from Europe, and overall, the Christian religion, and its pernicious influence. All this came crashing down as the climates changed for the worst. For about a century, people have tried to plant again trees in Greenland, and there were just four of them, or so, and they barely survived. Nowadays, though, the greenhouse is bringing higher temperatures, and suddenly not only are those four trees thriving, but forests of various conifers can be grown (and even harvested).
Christianity, as understood then, meant the Semite Jesus from the desert and his palm fronds, was supposed to have all the answers for arctic Greenland and its blond, blue eyed Vikings. Vikings, like Jesus, clang to lambs and cows. And they clang more, because the church was all over Greenland, including the Western Settlement. That settlement was more north, and had a cathedral with a bishop inside, probably with his thinking cap. All the bishop could do was trust in Jesus. Instead of thinking harpoons and fishes. Archeology has demonstrated that this "Western" Settlement starved to death (after losing many to the Inuits).
The money from the walrus ivory sales was used, in turn, to import a lot of important things from Europe. Such as wine. But not hooks. The raison d’être of the Greenland colony had become that trade. At least, the elite giving the orders saw it that way. No doubt common Vikings born in Greenland saw it differently, but they were not giving the orders, not anymore than the average American would be obeyed if he told Goldman Sachs what to do, and if she required the industrial-military complex to pipe it down, so that common issues for common Americans could be addressed instead of the glory of the imperial plutocracy.
The Greenland Viking colony depended upon long range relations, both spiritually (Christianism) and materially (wood). It was not fully engaged with the reality of a cooling Greenland, anymore than the present USA is engaged with the reality of a warming and acidifying world.
Obama used the concept of the importance of climate change to help with his selection, but now that he has accomplished his personal mission, he has fallen silent, on the CO2 problem, distracting all instead with the drama of his hot fight in Afghanistan’s sand box. That’s called a change of conversation. No doubt, Greenland fell victim to a lot of changes of conversation (the king of Norway considered Greenland its private monopoly, and forbade direct private trade with it).
HIGHER PRINCIPLES DECIDE A CULTURE’S SURVIVAL:
By 1300 CE, the climate that affected the Greenland colony had changed both geophysically and geopolitically. And Jesus’ admirers were in the way.
Negotiations around the Crusades, in which Saladin, the Franco-British kings, and even the Mongols, were involved, led to a lessening of the ivory blockade. So ivory from the northern seas became much less valuable. The elite left the expensive Greenland colony to its own sad fate. It is no coincidence that the same death by disinterest happened, at the same time to the kingdom of Jerusalem. It just cost too much to maintain these outposts. Maybe the same could happen to Israel someday: death by disinterest, when the oil is exhausted or not to be used anymore, and Israel’s role as a bastion of the West is not profitable anymore.
It is true, though, that the dramatic freezing up of the seas around Greenland played the most important role: Greenland got literally cut off, and frozen off. The Inuits would not have appeared without the cooling. (Therein another important lesson: only a fraction of a degree change in temperatures over the North Atlantic can have dramatic effects. This is true both for warming, or cooling.)
The remaining Greenland Vikings’ refusal to fish is more akin to a locally evolved superstition. An irrational habit is roughly equivalent to a superstition. The Tasmanians, no doubt, evolved a similar superstition about fishes. One can imagine what happened for the Greenlanders. Somehow, it had become unbecoming for a Greenlander to fish. Better to import from Europe wine for communion and stained glass for cathedrals.
The Vikings were also spurning many sea mammals (although, the Inuits were eating whatever moved). That was probably caused by deficient Viking technology, though: an incapacity, rather than a superstition. The Inuits used advanced, appropriate technology to hunt sea mammals. To kill cetaceans toggle harpoons with lines connecting to bladders full of air fatigued the whales as they tried to dive; when the whales were exhausted, the Inuits would finished them with lances.
Seals, for millennia, were the most important part of the Tasmanian diet. So Tasmanians were not just avoiding fish, which they had all around as they hunted seals, but they studiously avoided it. Just as the Greenland Vikings were (lakes full of fishes were next to some Viking settlements, but analysis of Viking remains show basically no fish in their diet).
The Viking Greenlanders hunted seals, but not the most abundant species, the Ring Seal. That seal is very hard to catch. It makes several blow holes, hidden by snow cones. It comes to breathe below the cone. It go to another cone if the cone is disturbed.
Ring Seals were hunted by Inuits in winter, using toggle harpoons. The toggle, connected to a line, allowed to let the seal try to swim away, and die, before trying to recover it (by widening the breathing hole). The Vikings never figured out the toggle harpoon technique. It would have been most useful though, as winters got colder and longer, and starvation became ever greater, as millions of ring seals breathed heavily below their snow cones.
SO WHY DID VIKING GREENLAND COLLAPSE?
The Vikings would have survived with a few Inuits techniques. Actually when the Danes came back for good to Greenland in 1721, within the maximum cooling of the Little Ice Age, they adopted in a few years several crucial Inuit technologies that the Vikings had never acquired, including kayaks and sleds. Of course the Danes could ask the Inuits to show them, how it was done, at the point of a gun. And the Danes had plenty of steel (which the Vikings were deficient of) to further induce Inuit cooperation. negotiating skills are underestimated: I kill you, if you do not show me how it’s done.
Viking Greenland probably viewed itself as the freest country. When, and if, it became clear to survivors that fishing and hunting seals was the only way to survive, they neither knew enough about how the Inuits did it, nor could they accede to usual European technology anymore (although a lot of it would have been useless in ice choked waters). Instead it looks as if they tried to make their sheep and cattle system work until they had to eat their own hunting dogs (thus forsaking caribou meat) .
The exact mechanism of how and why the Viking colony in Greenland disappeared is a mystery. There were strong extraneous factors. A monopoly of the king of Norway for trading with Greenland (Greenland was forbidden to private boats, which were free to go to Iceland). The black plague of 1349-1350 CE, which killed half of Norway. The forceful unification of Scandinavia under the Danes (who then neglected Norway as the poorest province, hence Greenland even more so). The Inuits also invaded Greenland, replacing (and/or eliminating) the native Dorsets from the northern areas). We know, from historical records, that the Inuits did kill many Vikings, and enslaved some. As the Vikings had to live in close circuit with not enough iron, they were at a technological dead end.
But the fundamental reason is that the initial technological economy under which Greenland was founded at the top of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) became inappropriate for the Little Ice Age, five centuries later. (Something similar may well happen nowadays, as the planetary economy is not ready for serious warming, acidification, poisoning, methane eruption, and overpricing of past energy sources, among other problems.) When Eric arrived, there were (some) forests and soil. Viking activity, even before the Little Ice Age, destroyed or damaged both.
The North Atlantic, choked by ice, became mostly impassable during the Little Ice Age. If the climate had warmed instead of cooled, Greenland would have become another Norway.
LESSONS FROM GREENLAND COLLAPSE:
There are many lessons to be drawn from the Norwegian collapse in Greenland. The first one being that the Viking colony did not maximize the variety of the technologies at its disposal. Technology is not just fun, it’s capital, and insurance. Viking Greenland did not bother to develop a sustainable technological set. Instead, it clang in its highest spirituality to Christian fanaticism (a man was burned at the stake for having used witchcraft for seducing a woman in 1408 CE). This is the point: instead of worrying about sustainability, their hunting dogs on the ground, the fishes in the lakes, the seals in the sea, the Vikings worried about god, the great dog in the sky (one is reminded of Aristophanes’ "The Birds", about Athenians founding a colony in the sky). Instead of looking at what was going on, on the ground, the Greenlanders worried about what above-stood (super-stitio). Over-standing was preferred to under-standing.
Just as it is unbecoming the American way of life to save energy and reduce CO2 emissions, it was unbecoming Viking Greenland to worry about sustainability if things got worse.
Can we see a modern causative analogy to the frantic avoidance of fish by Tasmanians and Greenlanders alike? The weird Judeo-Islamist prejudices against eating some foods jump to mind. Interestingly, these are ideas which go well together with several contemporary attempted devolutions. One has to remember that people love to hate. Starting by hating fishes is innocuous looking enough an introduction to the world of intolerance.
POWER OF INTELLIGENCE VERSUS POWER OF FASCISM:
The core of the concept of civilization is that what matters most is the number and power of superior ideas and elevated emotions. Living in cities (civis) makes that CONCENTRATION OF SUPERIORITY easier. (The Internet being a recent development; cities were the Internet of the past.)
The core of the concept of civilization is not that numbers count, but that there is such a thing as mental superiority, and mastering it matters most in nearly all ways. Thus, above some obviously necessary levels, societies don’t regress because they have too few individuals, but because they become too dumb for their own good. Or because something like the Huns, the Muslims, the Mongols or the Tartars has barreled out of the desert (with a due respect, of course, for some relatively superior traits Muslims and Mongols had acquired, mainly from their victims’ prior degeneracies, a very complicated history from Al Andalus to Indonesia and Korea).
One of my master concepts is fascism as an instinct allowing a superior form of war. Arguably, chimpanzees already exhibit it when they get on the war path. They act as one, and are careful to use their numbers, acting as one, to kill aliens. human beings are better at using fascism than chimps are, and civilization is better at it than paleolithic society.
The instinct of fascism has made dictatorship possible and powerful. But not, under the best conditions, as powerful as the mind. It is a tale of two ways to use the city: one can use numbers to make superior fascism, or use numbers to make superior intelligence. The later is more difficult to achieve than the former, because its ways are more complex.
EUROPE AS THE ANTI-FASCIST PRINCIPLE:
Europe has known many major philosophers since the Enlightenment. They can be grouped in two categories: those favorable, whether they understood it, or not, to fascism (in the present sense) and/or the paleolithic (Hobbes, Rousseau, Herder, Marx, various French thinkers) and those who believed in progress, against human nature (Locke, Voltaire, Sade, Hugo, Nietzsche, being the most influential).
The later, genuine believers in progress, are of course more cynical. Cynicism has a long and honorable past, and dates at least from the classical age of Greece.
A cynical appraisal of human nature explains why the Athenians and the Franks armed themselves to the hilt, as they saw giant fascist empires blossoming in the distance.
Two defensive wars made the West, more than any other adventure: the war of the Greeks resisting Achaemenid Persia (which lasted roughly two centuries, and finished with the complete destruction of the Achaemenids), and the war of the Franks against the invading Muslim Syrian army and the Berber army that had conquered Spain (and wanted to catch Constantinople from behind). That first war in Francia lasted more than a generation: from 721CE (crushing the Muslim army at Toulouse) to 759 CE (recovering Narbonne).
Both the war of Greeks against Achaemenids, and the war of the Franks against the Muslim Abrahamic invaders, were part of a long winded confrontation between fascism and democracy (or, more exactly, the more fascist side of the political and cultural spectrum, against its more democracy side). The Greeks fought it, the Romans fought it (before becoming even more theological fascist than their Zoroastrian Persian adversaries!), the Franks and their descendant regimes fought it (for 13 centuries, and counting).
The Middle East, because of climate change, survived as a civilization through an increasing amount of fascism. Fascism makes strong: if the leadership has the right ideas, and this is a huge "if", fascism is best (as Hitler pointed out ad nauseam). Fascism in the Middle East was embodied by the well documented "hydraulic dictatorships". I did not invent the concept, Braudel had it. Judeo-Christo-Islamism, the Abrahamic religion, is the religious fruit of these conceptual entrails, as it organizes the entire universe as a macho fascist system, with no god but the only one god at its head, and the top guy as its prophet, or "successor" (which is what "caliph" means.) This all the clearer since the Abrahamic religion with its crazed males was preceded by the Great Mother cult, Cybele, with leopards crouching at her feet.
In complete opposition to fascism, as found in the struggling cities of the desertifying Middle East, the West, first with the Cretans, then the Phoenicians and the Greeks, founded a thought system, that of the navy captain and his crew, founded on private initiative, team work consent, and high technology. In other words, PROGRESS DEMOCRACY. Progress democracy went hand in hand with small command units as found throughout Anatolia (not yet desiccated), and Germano-Celtic lands.
Thus the West, understood that way, has been at war with Middle Eastern fascism since Persia started to overrun Anatolia, 26 centuries ago. The fundament of the quarrel is whether progress democracy resting on mental supremacy is better for survival than god given fascist rigidity of mind. Tasmania and Greenland are experimental part of the answer.
EUROPE UEBER ALLES:
The Asian Greeks fought Persia, but they lost, and had to submit, and were used quite a bit like Czechoslovakia and France were used by the Nazis, enslaving their industry for military use; the Persian fleet was greatly made of enslaved powers.
The European Greeks then picked the fight with Persia, with extreme ferocity, in the name of the same meta principles which made the West: liberty, equality, fraternity, life, and pursuit of happiness. Nothing about submitting to a deity, to shrimps, or to Lords of Finance and a big army. It would be the same with the Franks, 13 centuries later: after the battle of Poitier (732 CE), the Franks did not bury Muslim corpses. They let them to rot. (OK, there may have been too many, and the Frankish army was to busy extirpating the occupying Arab and Syrian forces out of south west France.)
There is an amazing similarity between the ferocity of the Greeks and the ferocity of the Franks. The reason is that the Persians and the Muslims were plunderers fighting by greed, whereas Greeks and Franks were fighting for the essence of man, knowing they were at the top of civilization and culture (actually the Franks had got more ambitious, and they called themselves "EUROPEANS", in honor, precisely, of those Greeks who had fought Persia, who were the original self described "Europeans". It is even more interesting than that: in Greek mythology, Europa was a Phoenician lady of high lineage, who was kidnapped by Zeus. no doubt an allusion to where the Greek alphabet came from.
In any case one can see here that high metaprinciples lead to the highest, strongest emotions. Man is a lion best fed by the raw meat of freedom.
Achaemenid Persia was the archetype multinational plutocratic fascist empire. It was a giant coalition of lords of all origins, all nations, ruled by the metaprinciple of money, enforced by death at the slightest pretext (Hitler’s Reich tended to become similar in its last extremity, as it attracted fascists from all over to fight with him, including French, Norwegians, and Palestinians). The top lords of Persia were immensely wealthy, immensely powerful, and could muster national armies which contributed to the giant Persian coalition.
ATHENS, TINY AND SMART, PERSIA, DUMB AND BIG:
Athens was just the opposite of Persia. Athens was a comfortable democracy, with a small gap between the poor and the rich (and even between the poor and the slaves manning the silver mines from which a lot of Athens’ riches came; we know this as slaves were used to man the fleet at some point, something unimaginable later in Rome, Roman slaves with military capability being resentful and dangerous).
Greece versus Persia is the template of the difference between a superior society with superior ideas, and its opposite. Athens embodies the physical superiority of the higher minds over the big numbers.
Athens maintained the highest high technology with a maximum of 80,000 citizens, whereas Persia failed to do it with 80 million subjects (or something of this order: Achaemenid Persia extended from Libya to India, and Central Asia to Ethiopia). Superior technology, superior emotions, superior ideas, and superior mental involvement is why Athens won. Superior everything, but for the numbers. The superior Athenian technology involved not just the construction of hundreds of state of the art triremes, but also a sophisticated financial scheme to accomplish the task (which the national assembly approved, of course).
What motivated Athens do fight to death for liberty, equality, fraternity, the pursuit of life and happiness of free individuals? It was not an easy choice. Persia was relentless, and mobilized armies which were larger than the entire population of Greece. Athens got entirely destroyed by fire. Ultimately, though, Achaemenid Persia got completely destroyed (by Alexander)… but not before fatally weakening Athens (which allowed the genocidal Alexander to seize control). Similarly, the Franks would destroy the Syrian caliphate (by destroying its armies and fleet, until the… Shiite Persians could overthrow them with the Abbasids).
Athens had made a succession of deliberate mental choices, thanks to a few men who persuaded the national assembly to reach spiritually, culturally, technologically, financially and militarily higher by discourses we still have.
Athens became, first, under the poet-philosopher statesman Solon, a land of revolution (Solon pushed for "Equality", as he organized a reform to break the back of the Athenian plutocracy which existed before him, and which had subjugated Athens). This happened two generations before building the trireme fleet. Athens brandished its superior metaprinciples, the ones refurbished by Solon, and lived accordingly. They were clamored with arrogant, dangerous hubris by Pericles.
Greece was often very anti-plutocratic. Even fascist, racist Sparta resented plutocracy so much, it refused to use anything but iron as currency (that was until Achaemenid Persia offered an envious Sparta so much gold that it was able to build an entire war fleet to destroy Athens with…)
The Athenian metaprinciples are still with us. When the Franks rose to prominence, they added to the best ideas coming from the Greeks and the Romans, metaprinciples which, they claimed, came from their distant ancestors the Trojans. Thus they justified that their equalitarianism and anti-sexism s were in no way inferior to those of the Greeks and Romans.
ROME TRIUMPHED BECAUSE OF THE METAPRINCIPLE OF TOLERANCE:
Not all societies are the same. Some are mediocre, some are exceptional. Some are even suicidal: Israeli fanatics under imperial Rome (the well named "Zealots"), the Nazis of Germany, the Assyrians of old. They had all embraced some sort of principle of the elected people at the point of their army.
Mediocre is a society with mediocre feelings and mediocre ideas, guided by mediocre principles, or dangerous principles. Such a society goes down. Israeli soldiers may take an oath where the last fanatics of some sort of Biblical creed suicided their own children (the Masada:"fortress"), but fanaticism, to that extent, for no good reason, but superstition, is a crime. Most Jews actually collaborated during the conflict with Rome. Just like most Gauls did. Or most Germans. Rome’s strength, during the republic, is that it was hiding its greed behind higher principles. Higher than the ones of the places it conquered. As exceptions to that meta strategy appeared, Rome degenerated into plutocracy.
Intolerance is learned. It starts with calling shrimps, fishes, may be pigs "abominations". Then it goes into more sinister turns. Leviticus 20:13: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them."
What is going on here? Well, one learned the metaprinciple of HATING FOR NO GOOD REASON (starting with shrimps). One is then ready for hating with some reason.
During the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the legions bombarded the temple with pigs’ heads. Tolerance is also learned. During the heydays of the Roman Imperium, all religions were tolerated (as long as they did not involve human sacrifices). After a few centuries of that, Roman citizenship was offered to all free men (that implied no torture during judicial proceedings). tolerance, just as hatred, is learned. Both are metaprinciples.
I RAGE, THEREFORE I THINK. WHAT PUTS ME TO SLEEP, MAKES ME WEAKER:
I have a much more sinister explanation than relying on numbers, to explain devolution. My explanation subtends plenty of devolutions, here, there and everywhere. I can explain Tasmania and Nazism in the same breath. Devolution is all about not being led by the most superior ideas, but the most superior idiots.
My explanation resides purely in intellectual architecture, instead of abused mathematics. Much of the Tasmanian devolution can be traced to the curious abandonment of fishing. And the lack of fishing may have been enough to make the difference between life and death in Greenland. Far from being about forgotten culture, Tasmanian devolution may have been about the learned comfort of laziness. A similar form of laziness in the definition of one’s comfort explained why the Vikings were still obsessing about the Crucified, when the Inuits and starvation were rolling them up.
The weird prejudices and obsession of the Greenland Viking and arrogant dumbness from a superstitious adviser of Obama show how much cultural behavior can overrule basic instincts in humans (cultural behavior is also called "phenotype" by those who want to distinguish it from "genotype", while correctly pointing out to its equal importance).
People think Auschwitz is strange, unexplainable, but starving with fishes teeming all around, just because Jesus rules, is even stranger, and less explainable.
As long as one has not understood that minds are organized from, and towards, meta and ultra principles. So whatever higher principles one believes in, become what we are, and not just spiritually, but even physically.
ULTIMATE METAPRINCIPLE: "LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY".
Mental supremacy is natural to man. It is the selective advantage of man. For millions of years of drastic co-evolution, it went hand in hand, literally, with technology.
Man, the genus Homo, was always free of all, but physics, so man studied physics ("physis" is nature in Greek). Both Australian natives and Inuits used spear throwers, which allowed to throw a spear further and more powerfully than without. Spear throwers: that’s physics. Experimental physics, true, but there is no physics, but experimental physics (Aztecs had extremely sophisticated dart throwers, using elasticity, and transverse waves, in several ways: even more physics). Inuit throwing arms were overdeveloped.
To use his mind fully, man needs freedom. Physical and mental freedom. Freedom is not just pleasure, it’s power. Man is more powerful when clinging to freedom, the freedom of the mind. One also needs equality, because without equality, there is no freedom, and youth does not grow mentally to the max.
When men called "leaders" want to enslave other men, they have to limit the freedom of their followers and subjects. Dictatorship, fascism, inequality, oligarchy, plutocracy all depend upon rejecting "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity". Be it in the realm of ideas, and the realm of emotions. Thus the men who enslave other men promote any thought system which goes against "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity".
It is no accident that the USA does not have "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" as ultimate metaprinciple, but instead either the vacuous proclamation of "life" as a "right", or Aristotelian notions such as "the pursuit of happiness". And then there is the essence of fascism: "E Pluribus Unum". Or, worse of all: "In Dog We Trust." This partial absence of the ultimate metaprinciples at psychological helm of the USA explains the ever encroaching invasion of the plutocracy.
If there is one meta-lesson from science, it is that ideas, far from being equally respectable, are not necessarily friendly to each other, nor to mankind. Man is a strange species which loves to destroy itself: somebody, something has got to do it. Hence the human appetite for injurious, and even suicidal, superstitions. Israel is a case in point. Hence also leaders who, like Hitler, fight wars just so that they will lose them, dragging a maximum of unfortunate into hell.
That people would starve and self destroy because they have voices in their heads, learned from their parents, and are in contradiction from the observable world is nothing new. Voices in the head allow to annihilate enemies more readily, thus the aptitude to listen to them is a strong evolutionary advantage… as long as one is smart about it.
Let’s be clear. If all Tasmanians became as stupid about fish and clothing as Dr. Zeke Emanuel, the ethical guru of Obama, is about various innocent behaviors that the bible he goes by insists are "abominations", it’s no wonder Tasmania devolved. (Therein an important difficulty for Israel, as it lets itself be dominated by superstitious crazies.)
In other words, I propose that Tasmanian devolution was caused by what, from the supremacist point of view, is an erroneous, debilitating philosophy, at the deepest level, even deeper than religion, the ultimate level of metaprinciples.
Now some, like the Crucified, claim that excrements will turn into caviar, and caviar into excrements (the first shall be the last, the last shall be first, etc.). Cute. But in contradiction with evolution, which is a fact. Evolution say that the strong eats the weak, and becomes stronger that way. So the weak is the first to gets to the bottom of the stomach of the strong. As most of the earth’s biomass is now in the service of Homo sapiens, only hypocrites can blurt that it is not so. Billions of Christians and Buddhists devouring billions of tons of rice, wheat and herbs, such is the state of affairs.
Is there anything to keep form the theory that quantity brings quality, and isolation, devolution? Yes. Obviously having more people potentially brings more ideas. But potentiality does not mean reality. There is something to the isolation theory, but it’s not about numbers. It is actually very complicated; isolation generally brings evolution, not devolution (Galapagos finches, and isolated culture tends to become more original)
Absence of fierce challenges, mental and physical, caused Tasmanian devolution. Tasmania may have been too comfortable. Not enough lions, not enough exciting opportunities, not enough evil enemies to worry about. As Nietzsche put it: "What does not kill me, makes me stronger." Smaller, isolated populations have evolved extremely strong cultures. Homo Floresiensis ("Hobbits") is a perfect counter-example.
Thus war, under all its forms, may help, when it is just so: too much, as the Maya brutally experienced, and the civilization falls apart and burns. Not enough, and it falls asleep. Erroneous, as in the Assyrian, Achaemenid Persian, Roman, German empires, and countless other empires, and war does not just cause imperial overstretch, but the smothering by political and intellectual fascism. Verily, mental war may prevent the fall into intellectual fascism the related plutocracy.
Tasmania was too cool, for too long. Tasmania was no drama, for too long. Tasmania adapted to the laziness, and some coolness, both mental and physical. It was cut off from the challenges the struggle for survival presented, probably from an arsenal of superstitions (they found fish "disgusting", although they were around fish all the time). Therein a lesson: too much blah blah, not enough drama, and evolution turns into devolution (all resemblance to the Obama administration is pure and unadulterated).
IDEAS ARE LOGICAL, BUT NOT ALL LOGIC IS SUPERIOR:
Are some cultures superior to others? The loud answer of most intellectuals in the twentieth century, many of them French, was a resounding no. It is not reassuring that Rousseau and Herder, who both mightily influenced the logical chains that led to Nazism, had that position too.
The fundamental justification for that position, blindly in love with all cultures, equally respectful of all superstitions, lays with an… emotion. Many French intellectuals had noticed, and condemned the indubitable connection between the self proclaimed crushing superiority of some ideologies (Occidentalism, Leninism, Nazism, Mussolinism) and various holocausts (Native Americans, Namibians, Jews, Gypsies), wars (WWI and WWII), and insufferable exploitation of various indigenes, worldwide (from Kirgizstan to Patagonia). But it is not because the lion is bad, that one should embrace the buffalo.
It is not also because criminal idiots of the smart type (Mussolini, Hitler, countless more mildly racist leaders in Britain and France) proclaimed some ideologies to be crushingly superior, and they were murderously wrong about what they thought was superior, that no ideology is crushingly superior.
They were actually defeated thanks to the superior ideology of democracy. Hitler made long reasonings to explain why and how dictatorship was superior to democracy. Those reasonings were erroneous, or, otherwise said, inferior, not just to other reasonings, but in violation of reality itself.
Come to think of it, the word "ideology" is a pleonasm: each and any idea is a piece of logic, a connection between unequals (as Nietzsche, a philologist, pointed out). On the largest scale, science itself is a crushingly superior ideology.
WHAT’S CULTURE? WHAT’S LEARNING? WHAT IS IMPORTANT?
Human beings have strong learning, and, I believe, even mental supremacy instincts. This being said, thinking is hard, costly in energy terms. When the thinker thinks, the thinker does not, in general, do something more directly profitable and pleasurable in an animal sense. Thus the question of the motivation for thinking, especially abstract thinking is at the core of cultural progress… or maintenance of culture (as the next generation has to make the effort to acquire it).
Advanced societies have created prizes, honors and compensations for abstract thinking, so that the animal will entice the mental. One motivation, and success, behind the Christianism of monasteries (and, later, cathedrals) was precisely to create a space for thinking, protected and rewarded. Thus the great philosophers of the Middle Ages, until Dante, were churchmen (even if they doubled as rock star as Abelard did, or prime minister, as Alcuin did).
In any case, it is impossible to separate reflection and the motivation which animates it. That, in turn, depends upon circumstances, themselves determined by prior actions and motivations. This is true, both in individuals, and in society. Some societies are clever, and want to become more clever, some are stupid, and want to become more stupid. When the president of the USA evokes god and his special relationship with the USA, that is a stupid pressure in American society, for example, because not only is it in contradiction with the secular constitution (no god amendment was passed!), but it also reminds Americans that their fate is not in their hands.
Nietzsche deemed intellectual posturing to be mere surface waves from more basic (often unconscious, and physiological) undercurrents. [This train of thought is generally attributed to Freud, who, like Heidegger, got most of his good ideas and semantics from Nietzsche. In truth, it originated with the Marquis de Sade, 100 years before Nietzsche].
Nietzsche, following Sade, thought that the most genuine communication takes place not from one’s speech, but from one’s actions and lifestyle [Sade in his writings insisted that the leaders of France led a monstrous lifestyle, so he was put in prison from a special king's "lettre de cachet"].
A culture is not just a set of achievements, but a set of moods and unconscious undercurrents. And the later lead the former. In particular, any superstitious culture, by definition, will not stand in the world as well as a secular country (other things being equal).
MODERN DEVOLUTION: DEATH PANELS & THE MIND THAT BRINGS THEM FORTH.
Zeke Emanuel, the "death panel" adviser of Obama (brother to the chief of staff of Obama and of the agent of Mel Gibson) is offended by the concept of "death panels" that has been attributed to him. Zeke was accused of death paneling by me first, and later by Sarah Palin, and other right wing funnies. the good doctor Zeke says that it is a "lie". But he does not explain what people like me or Palin are lying about in this respect.
Why should he explain himself? Explanations do not come naturally to doctor Zeke. Why? Because he is used not to explain himself at the deepest level. Indeed he does not explain, either, why he refuses to eat shrimps. In both cases, probably a communication from his god, direct. God told him to set-up death panels, and not to call them that way, and God told him not to eat shrimp, and not to explain that either.
In either case, doctor Zeke Emanuel is offensive to those who think reason ought to come before superstition.
This Emanuel, son of Emanuel, of Irgoun fame, brother to Emanuels, is the ethical director of Obama. This tells us who Obama admire ethically: the one who does not eat shrimps, because God told him not to.
You would expect that Obama wants to inspire himself with state of the art thinking. Instead Obama prefers to call ethical someone parroting something found in a book of superstition, 2,500 years old.
Not everything old is about superstition. Certainly not the work of Zoroaster, which is a full millennium older than the Bible.
So Obama admire his anti-shrimp adviser. No wonder we get a fishy mind, exactly what may have made the Tasmanians so primitive. Emanuel’s ethics rests on unreal stuff, stuff standing above the world (which is what superstition means).
I think that clinging to principles from above this world, above reality, is what happened to Tasmania. Tasmania was probably led at some point by enough influential Zeke Emanuels, complete with death panels and refusals to eat that and the other thing, because local God(s) told them not to. (Throughout the Pacific area, and many other places, many taboos were enforced by death sentences; god is not just about Iranian Muslim fundamentalists lapidating women for "infidelity". Obviously, as in Iran, often the objective of the religious taboo is for the elite to impose the terror of death, and the taboo is just a pretext.)
SUPERSTITION AS PROTO SCIENCE
Why do superstitions such as not eating fish, or not eating shrimps, or refusing technology appear? Well, even more basic than the will to know, there is the will to believe.
Superstition is important to man. Indeed , not everything can be demonstrated, but many things have to believed. Explaining science is hard, imposing superstition, easier. This is even more true when the elite guesses truths that the commons cannot possibly understand (some of the elite has time to think, the commons has neither the time nor the inclination).
Thus an instinct for gullibility, straight from so called "god(s)" has evolved, SUPERSTITIONISM. It’s easier to explain a taboo to island dwellers than establish to their satisfaction the elaborated science of ecological balance.
We need that neologism, superstitionism, because loving superstition is a more important -ism, a more important concept, and instinct than, say, nihilism, anarchism, terrorism, romanticism, sexism, capitalism, communism, socialism, or racism. Human beings cannot function without superstition. Sometimes, they call it other things, such as traditionalism, or even tribalism.
FISHY TASMANIAN SUPERSTITION:
Hence I believe that the devolution of Tasmania, especially the abandonment of fishing, was a cultural phenomenon not caused by the sheer number of cultural vectors, but by the nature of the Tasmanian culture, whilst superstitionism ran rampant, and the local Zeke Emanuel/God evoking Obama seized power on that will to devolution. Devolution is always seductive, because it is lazy: the easiest way is down.
Tasmanians could only wear small wallabies furs for clothing, which had to be stitched together (with bone point work). They could not wrap themselves in wolves and bears’ furs (which are more worth the effort!) During the 15,000 years of extremely glacial climate (until 16,000 BCE), the Tasmanians, poorly protected by their wallabies furs, had plenty of time to evolve cold adaptation, more than anyone on earth. So, when the climate warmed up, they could do with less clothing, more than anyone on earth (especially the men; the women, may be less active, wore more clothes).
Thus Henrich’s explanation cannot be the whole story, or even most of it. He forgot that men love to live by, and die for, the weirdest superstitions.
A contemporary example is presented by Israel. For superstitious reason ("Zionism") it does not hesitate to endanger its survival, by making itself appear heartless, when throwing out Israel born children of the wrong race, bringing the question of the ethical nature of Israel (see note).
This behavior against children ties in to superstitionism, and terrorism; after all Zeke Emanuel’s father was a major Zionist terrorist. Thus we have in evidence an infernal cycle of unjustified food taboos, unjustified mistreatment of children, and the fate of nation, not to say reason. Superstition can be good, but not when it does demonstrably nasty things. After all, the Jewish superstition holds certain truths about holocaust as good and self evident, and should not have been too surprised when it convinced Adolf Hitler of the same (the start of "Mein Kampf" is straight out of the Bible, except the elected people is German, and the nasties are French and Jews).
METAPRINCIPLES DO, AND UNDO, CULTURES & CIVILIZATIONS:
Sometimes metaprinciples are pretty useless. To go around saying "God is great!" or "If God wants It!, Insha’ Allah!" has no direct impact on animal behavior: one has first to define what God is. The Qur’an does this.
It is by accepting several times, very officially, to be guided by unacceptable principles, that the Nazis built up the Nazi state. Unacceptable metaprinciples, incompatible with existing Western civilization, were brandished, and then tolerated, accommodated. Germans learned not to talk of these evil principles too much, because, after all the metaprinciples in question were unacceptable, so it was better to hide it all, and that secrecy in turn made ever more crimes possible.
Everything indicates that the Germans could have degenerated for 1,000 years. However, in the end, Great Britain woke up to smell the horror, and France found finally the ally she needed to declare war to the Nazis, and the nearly 6 year effort to get rid of the Nazi metaprinciples got finally started (no thanks to the USA, though!)
Thus I hold that it is not numbers, but the exact nature of the metaprinciples which guide a society that informs the difference between thriving civilization and despondent devolution.
AMERICAN DEVOLUTION AS GOLD MAN SACKS:
Examples of my thesis, that METAPRINCIPLES RULE THE MINDS HENCE ANYTHING WHICH FLOWS FROM THEM abound, and extend all the way to Rome, or even Obama’s USA. No need for fishy math.
Charles V’s motto (metaprinciple) was "Plus Ultra" ("Plus Oultre", more beyond). When Charles learned that Spanish conquest facilitated a genocide in the Americas, he ordered the conquest stopped. English colonists would, centuries later, finish the conquest, and the genocide.
Look at the bad doctor Zeke Emanuel. When he is finished not eating shrimps, he brandishes his major metaprinciple: COST TRUMPS LIFE. This would be widely viewed as anti-civilizational in Europe, and it has become the "Death Panel" flag on top of Obama’s health plot (perhaps just so to make it easy for the republican Congress to dismantle Obamacare, but I digress).
Why is COST TRUMPS LIFE so anti-civilizational? Because our civilization rests on a few meta principles. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" (Aristotle/USA) and "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" (France). Both metaprinciples establish the sanctity of life as ultimate metaprinciple.
But not so for Zeke. He is rather biblical, avoiding shrimps, cultivating the honor of moneyed life. Shrimps have to be avoided at any cost, but not so other people’s death. People have taken the place of shrimps, and shrimps, the place of people.
What Zeke Emanuel says is that money rules all, ultimately. But, in the present privately appropriated fractional reserve system, money is created by private banks. So, ultimately, Doctor Emanuel evaluates whether the life of a child is worthy enough, according to Goldman Sachs. And if the Gold Man sacks you, you die. Like in the Bible. it’s all very biblical.
MULTICULTURALISM WITHOUT MULTIVALUATIONISM IS NEUROLOGY WITHOUT TOPOLOGY:
Some have said that Obama is strangely incoherent; it tends to be for it, before he is against it. Whatever "it" is.
Maybe Obama has an illness that has not been well identified before: multicultural disease (although it was long reproached to the Jews, and although Herder waxed lyrical about it). I have a more extensive multicultural background than B. Obama or J. Diamond, and I have discovered that strong exposure to many cultural systems requires, for neurological coherence, to establish one’s own reordering of all values, or one does not have a mind of one’s own.
What Nietzsche recommended in his books is a necessity for the cultural traveler, and patriot to all too many abodes.
The same thing is happening on a worldwide basis: civilization, confused by the interaction of so many cultures, is in danger of losing its mind from a lack of valuations. The mechanism is simple: a culture comes with a valuation system. Two cultures, two valuation systems. But how do the two valuation systems compare?
The ideology of multiculturalism, which claims that all cultures are equivalent, to be respected equivalently, rose after World War Two. (It was a reaction to colonization and the concomitant ravenous exploitation of some third world countries.)
A massive attempt has been made to establish multiculturalism as United Nation law. To its full extent, multiculturalism means, say, that abusing, excising and torturing women is all right and that, say, Idi Amin’s taste for human meat, would be viewed as a matter of cultural difference, and disapproving of it, a form of racism. MULTICULTURALISM IS VIABLE IF AND ONLY IF IT IS ORDERED BY AN OVERALL VALUE SYSTEM. Hitler said that value was given by god and the German people, his one-Germany theory. So Hitler denied Germany was multicultural.
CULTURES HAVE TOPOLOGICAL STRUCTURES, AND ARE DEFINED BY ULTRAPRINCIPLES:
A mathematical description is underlying the nature of culture. A culture is a set of ideas, emotions, images, associations, all of them more or less close to each other. And the facts of what is close to what are all important. When a set comes equipped with a set of neighborhoods, this is called a topology. Thus any culture comes equipped with a topological structure.
Now, in mathematics, to be given the set of all neighborhoods, the topology, and the set of all its ultrafilters amount to the same.
The ULTRAPRINCIPLES CORRESPOND TO THE ULTRAFILTERS OF CULTURE VIEWED AS A TOPOLOGY. No ultraprinciples, no ultrafilters, no notion of friend, foe, or even of what is close, or far. (This is a case where modern mathematics helps neurophilosophy a lot.)
This brings the question of whether what I have called often in the past "metaprinciples" ought to be rather called ultraprinciples, to fit the mathematical semantics better. That in turn leads to wonder if general ethologically given mechanisms such as fairness, or the "pursuit of happiness" should not been viewed as the real metaprinciples. A METAPRINCIPLE, SUCH AS FAIRNESS, IS ETHOLOGICALLY GIVEN. Ultraprinciples do not have to be metaprinciples, but when they are closely related to them, they are the strongest principles there are. Liberty, equality, fraternity are both ultraprinciples, and metaprinciples; Capuchin monkeys understand them, the United Nations can defend them. Metaprinciples form their own topology, and the topology of purely cultural ultraprinciples is more or less successfully grafted onto it.
"God willing", or "in god we trust" are ultraprinciples. But they are not metaprinciples, and are not even close to metaprinciples. Although they are used as such, and therein the error and the terror (see below). The reason is that to be understood, such superstitious slogans require the preliminary reading of sacred book first, which define a bit what is meant by "god".
Another obvious observation is that, just as not all topologies are equivalent, nor are all cultures. Cultures can be topologically inequivalent.
A DIAMOND LOST IN THE ROUGH OF MULTICULTURALISM FOUND SALVATION IN VALUATION:
A blatant advocacy of multiculturalism is found in Jared Diamond’s "Guns, Germs, and Steel". According to Diamond, in that book, all the superiority of Europe in particular and Eurasia in general, is all about the plants and beasts there. Diamond says that the plethora of "cargo" in the West is not about culture.
It is as if Diamond did not know how to associate the word culture, but to something pejorative. Never mind that, arguably similar plants and beasts existed in the Americas, or in Africa. Or even Australia. It is not exactly a coincidence that the boar became the pig in Eurasia, and the Aurochs, cattle, or that Indians domesticated mighty Indian elephants, whereas Africans did not. But Diamond makes long lists of supposedly untamable animals in the Americas.
However there is little doubt that the Euro-Africans had a biological advantage in that they resisted to more diseases, because the Euro-Africo-Asiatico-Pacific area is pretty much one biological block in its temperate-subtropical area, thus Euro-Africans had more immunological capability. But the argument does not hold with New Guinea. What actually happened is that all sorts of interbreeding of multicultures throughout Eurasia resulted in a superior culture, known as Western culture, which, naturally enough, appeared roughly in the center of the world, the Med-Terra.
Diamond was in error when he viewed culture only in a negative light. And so were many in the West. A multicultural event, 9/11, led many, worldwide, to question the supine acceptance for others’ quirks. Indeed, Diamond’s next book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" concluded with marked suspicion that some cultural forms invite collapse. Towards the end of "Collapse" Diamond points at aloof, physically separated oligarchies as the most prominent cause of the demise of imploding societies .
The fact is, all cultures which have ever existed have collapsed, or are twitching in their death throes, except one. we are witnessing the success of many parts of Western European culture, worldwide. Some societies, though, such as Russia and China, have not established sustainable Western European models yet… And the USA is clearly stepping back towards the abyss (with Obama looking the other way, he claims).
Many cultures have imploded. Rome and the Mayas are the most famous examples of internal collapse. Many other societies came close to collapse, and then got nudged by invaders. That part of the theory exposed here is not only not new, but was used as a pretext for holocausts (the Mongols, after mass murdering all of Bagdad, decapitating the Muslim caliphate, and most of its culture, had the impudence to accuse the Muslims of degeneracy.
KILLING FOR ULTRAPRINCIPLES IS ROUTINE:
Human beings often kill when their ultraprinciples differ. (OK, it’s the nature of man to always find something t kill about.) This is not surprising, be it only because ultraprinciples correspond to mental organization, and it costs a lot, if it is at all possible, to reorganize one’s mind. Here is an example.
Fundamentalist Islam does not maintain the highest ultraprinciples, since they can only be understood by learning a superstition first (same problem with the dying religion known as Christianity). The ultraprinciples of Islam depends upon the definition of its god’s psychology, which is described in the Qur’an. Islam is not ethological. It is even worse than that: Islam is anti-ethological, since it does not treat all human beings equally (only so called "believers", a poorly defined sub-category, are treated equally). Hence Islam, like predatory finance, had to enforce its ultraprinciples by terror.
When the Sharia was imposed on Iberia, pointing out alleged errors of Islam, criticizing Muhammad, or just depicting Him (PBUH!) was a capital crime. We know about the deadly repression in Cordoba between 850 CE and 859 CE, because Eulogius wrote about it, and one, just one, of his texts directly survived (while visiting French provided corroborating evidence; one of the executed was a 13 year old Christian boy from Albi, a French Christian, who had been captured and who then refused the Emir’s sexual advances, thus contradicting Muhammad: S 33, v 50). One of the Emir’s advisers addressed Eulogius:
"If stupid and idiotic individuals have been carried away to such lamentable ruin, what is it that compels you, who are outstanding in wisdom and illustrious in manner of life, to commit yourself to this deadly ruin, suppressing the natural love of life? Hear me, I beseech you, I beg you, lest you fall headlong to destruction. Say something in this the hour of your need, so that afterward you may be able to practice your faith. We promise that we will not bother you again anywhere."
But Eulogius clang to his principles. He kept on extolling the virtues of Christianity. On March 11, 859, he was decapitated (after that all documents were destroyed, so we don’t know what happened next).
Between 850 and 859 CE, Christian believers in Cordoba, some men, some women, some virgins, some boys, were decapitated, scourged to death, or thrown alive into molten lead. Why so many horrible deaths? Because Christians found the Quranic ultraprinciples unbearable (to have sex with prisoners is one of the commands of the Qur’an, as I already hinted: Sura 33, verse 50).
Symmetrically, the Muslim rulers had to impose the terror of their ways, if they wanted to keep on ruling. So insufferable Muslim ultraprinciples were brandished, such as having sex with children (Qur’an: Sura 65, verse 4), precisely to injure the spirit of liberty and fairness (and crush its associated metaprinciples).
There was a lasting cultural impact of the horrible martyrdom of too many innocent Christians, though, because the Muslim rulers of Iberia had to compose with the Christians and their bishops in the next two centuries to alleviate the horror. Full blown war with the Christian kingdoms to the north resumed after that, and the Muslims asked desert savages from way south to come help them. At that point it was all over for Al Andalus, because, after two centuries of Almoravid and Almohad terror, the Christian counterattack was terrible (Granada got a reprieve because of the Black Death).
Not to say that Al Andalus was not the most advanced civilization, for a few centuries. It was. Because, but also in spite of Islam. (The Umayyads in Spain were also in close contact, in close war, with Abbasids who controlled the rest of Islam, and similarly with the Franks and their march states to the north.) The richness of the ultraprinciples guiding Al Andalus was unequalled as the Muslim rulers often used crucially the Christians to rule, and fight each other (that equilibrium collapsed when the Almoravids were called in).
Conclusion: THERE IS NO CULTURE, BUT SUPREMACY, AND TRUTH IS ITS PROPHET:
Many have tried to qualify the genus Homo. Bergson coined the concept of "Homo Faber". Bergson’s idea was man was characterized by tool ("faber") usage, or tool making. We know now that the some birds actually make tools, and fly around with them. Chimpanzees not only crush nuts on well defined rocks, they make fishing rods for termites, and also spears to kill bushbabies.
Chimpanzee culture vary enormously from place to place. Far from being a pacific meditative primate, chimpanzees enjoy hunting. Some groups have been observed eating mostly meat. Exchanging meat for sex is routine among chimpanzees.
Culture is also massively present in our more distant relative, the Orangutan. In general brainy animals seem to learn by leaning on phenotype heavily (phenotype being the fancy word to express the fact that genotype without phenotype is like a button without anything to push it).
Some have claimed that love (as found in Christianity, the modestly self described religion of love) is uniquely human, but that’s obviously erroneous. Even a sense of fairness, and the associated indignation when it is not respected, is found in small monkeys.
So the real situation is not that we have culture, and elevated passions, whereas animals don’t. It is not that we make tools, and they don’t. The difference between humans and the rest of the animal realm is that culture is our tool, and we make it as we think we need it, or, absent need, as we fancy it.
Free will, the free will to make the world as we see fit, whether it fits or not, is uniquely human. Our main instrument is the fabrication of ultraprinciples that organize our value system, and sheperd our metaaprinciples. Judeo-Christo-Islamists call them "commandments". Ultraprinciples give stable topologies only when they translate, depict, or are compatible with ethological metaprinciples. Even a lion, a wolf, a bear, or a goat understands "liberty", whereas they would find more difficult to crouch down to pray five times a day, or go all around the world to turn around an old meteorite in a box.
"Liberty" is an ultraprinciple, so is submission. But the former is natural, ethological, the later is not.
Verily what characterize humans is the ability to force culture into the weirdest forms, on the most exotic soils, by planting the most bizarre metaprinciples wherever. Actually one of the world’ most successful culture was entirely founded on the anti-ethological will to submission (Islam comes from aslama "he resigned, he surrendered, he submitted"… the exact opposite cultural framework of Eric The Red). Actually Islam worked well when submission was used to submit others, from more advanced cultures. When it came to form a culture of submissives, it did not work. So Islamic cultures have been oscillating between submitting and submissiveness, invasion and prosternation, not to say prostration.
Some will say that it seems clear that Tasmanians and Greenland Vikings were too insulated, and the absence of challenges made them take it easy, until the whip came down. Sure. But that forceful devolution was principle driven (no fish!). Similarly, the great unhappiness that the Jewish Zealots caused was also principle driven (most Jews thought they were crazy and criminal). The Nazis were also ultraprinciples driven ("ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuerer"). A lot of contemporary USA’ weirdness is driven by the principle of American exceptionalism (dear to right wing fanatics, such as Rush Limbaugh, and, thus, the president of the USA, I observe).
Fighting insularity and prostration is precisely why Nietzsche was so endeared with war, and mountain climbing: "what does not kill me, makes me stronger". Or rather, why Nietzsche observed that war was the moving force of higher pursuits.r However, there are fine lines everywhere between good and bad wars, whilst climbing tends to kill, lest one is very careful, and lucky.
Some will ask: why are degenerative or suicidal metaprinciples so popular among so many cultures? Why does man have such a strange inclination? Because humans have a degenerative, and self destructive streak, this is how the species keeps in balance with earth’s biosphere. Humans do not achieve that mission of human self destruction through the Will to Power alone. It can be boring to submit submissives. But if the submissives become really outrageous, one is more motivated to go destroy them.
That is the price of the reign of man; not just predatory and self deprecating, but so self destructive that even devolution can sound like a worthy objective. (And what may look like devolution may actually sometimes be the invention of new, valid forms, as most of the history of arts shows. The line between devolution and evolution is not always clear. The Tasmanians became cold resistant, and, conversely, the cold adaptations of Neanderthals may have become overkill as they evolved new technology, and lighter forms could reproduce more; some even say the human brain has been shrinking over the last 20,000 years, which would correspond to the rise of advanced paleolithic technology, the kind the Tasmanians rejected.)
So the appropriate ultraprinciples are launched as a new axiomatics, just to satisfy the self destructive streak: don’t eat fish, impose senseless taboos, just because you can, call yourself the elected people, impose that only those who submit will be treated well, pretend that global warming is a hoax, claim that only plutocrats can create riches.
And then watch the massacre. Devolving ultraprinciples: one more trick to keep the numbers of humans low. Oligarchies are naturally favorable to them, because they make their subjects more stupid, emotionally and logically. It’s the entire idea of submitting to what is inferior. Inferior ideas and superior oligarchies go hand in hand, because the later reign from inferiority imposed (Jean Jacques Rousseau observed this already, it seems).
It is not the low numbers that make the low culture, but the other way around. The low culture fabricate the low numbers, because it brings mayhem, and, or, powerlessness: in either case, ecological balance is to be served by massacring a lot of humans, or diminishing a lot of opportunity. That is the truth, and another name for it is hell.