jueves, diciembre 27, 2007

Una primera conclusión de la naturaleza de la guerra

En el séptimo capítulo de su War in human civilization, Azar Gat sintentiza las averiguaciones volcadas en la primera parte del libro. Antes de estudiar la relación de la cultura con la guerra en la segunda parte, plantea un esquema del hombre en estado de naturaleza regido por la mecánica evolutiva. Nuestro diseño biológico y las conductas adaptativas evolutivamente adquiridas todavía responden a un pasado que ocupó el 99.5% de la historia del homo sapiens, cuando éste se desempeñaba cotidianamente en el rol de cazador-recolector. Más adelante vendrá la agricultura, y con ella el sedentarismo y la civilización, que actuarán -culturalmente- sobre un modelo biológico predeterminado por cientos de miles de años de evolución.
Al estudio de este modelo se aboca Azar en los primeros 6 capítulos, con el séptimo como conclusión. Cada tanto retoma la discusión entre la que sería la concepción antropológica de Rousseau, según la cual es la civilización la que pervierte al hombre, bueno por naturaleza, y la de Hobbes que no es necesario recordar. Es díficil precisar quien tiene la razón en este debate extremado, pero Azar se inclina a sepultar la concepción del buen salvaje, habida cuenta los hallazgos antropológicos y arqueológicos de tribus que no entraron en contacto con la civilización y sin embargo luchaban entre sí.
¿Por qué motivos? Azar los explica en el cuarto capítulo: principalmente por comida (recursos, incluído territorios) y reproducción (mujeres). Los motivos raigales, directamente funcionales a la supervivencia de la individuo, su familia y la especie, interactúan con otros de carácter secundario como el deseo de dominación, adquirible por el establecimiento y posicionamiento en jerarquías, con status y honor.
La venganza es otro móvil de lucha, que sirve a los fines de castigar y disuadir. No es irracional, como se suele decir. Azar demuestra, con el modelo del dilema del prisionero, como la retaliación y la supremacía muchas veces es, vista individualmente, la opción más racional, lo que no equivale a la más beneficiosa para todos o si quiera para uno, por problemas asociados a escaladas incontenibles y sospechas insondables.
Azar luego explica que a menudo un móvil de la guerra primitiva es la diferencia de cosmovisiones y apreciaciones espirituales. No es raro encontrar tribus enemistadas con los dioses de sus vecinos. Los que en definitiva terminan tomando parte en el combate serán los fieles.
Se ha mencionado la causal del canibalismo, practicado por ritualismo o por atractivo nutricional, como fuente de proteína. La evolución ha tendido a abandonar la consumición de seres de la misma especie, no obstante, de la misma algunos rastros han quedado entre los hombres.
Otras razones estriban en ser la pelea una actividad lúdica, u otras veces estar movilizada por el sentido de aventura, así como el sadismo (desviación evolutiva del estímulo a dañar al adversario) y el éxtasis (el placer de las reacciones hormonales desencadenadas en la pelea, al segregar serotonina, adrenalina y dopamina).

Vamos ahora sí, con la conclusión de Azar sobre la evolución de la naturaleza humana, relativa a la lucha.

The human state of nature, examined in this part, is crucially different from the concept of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The old concept, which still underlies anthropological discussion of ‘primitive warfare’, refers to pre-state peoples, thereby lumping together hunter– gatherers and pre-state agriculturalists. However, for more than 100 years, palaeoanthropology, palaeoarchaeology, and evolutionary theory have been revealing that these two categories cannot be treated in such an indiscriminate manner. The hunter–gatherer way of life, while, of course, also evolving a great deal over the genus Homo’s two-million-year history, covers 99.5 per cent of that history. It encompasses more than 90 per cent of the history of the species Homo sapiens sapiens, depending on the particular timing of the adoption of agriculture by each group of our species, a development that in some of them, of course, never happened. Agriculture is a recent cultural invention, starting in the most pioneering groups of our species only some 10,000 years ago, and having little effect on human biology. Thus, in the light of modern scientific understanding, to speak in a meaningful manner about the human state of nature is to address human adaptations to the human natural habitats, which are responsible for the human biological inheritance. Our concept, therefore, is the evolutionary human state of nature. Primitive agriculturalists, particularly those who, similar to hunter–gatherers, lived in relatively small and dispersed groups, relied heavily on hunting for subsistence, and did not experience arable land shortage as a main somatic stress, may exhibit significant continuities with the hunter–gatherer way of life, which in many respects can make them useful for the study of the human state of nature. However, such an extension must be done with discrimination, and the similarity certainly cannot be assumed automatically.

The human state of nature is revealed to be fundamentally no different from the state of nature in general. However, what exactly either of them is has been a matter of considerable disputes. Regarding the state of nature in general, Konrad Lorenz claimed that intraspecific fighting was mostly demonstrative and stopped short of killing. He thought that this was a result of intraspecific inhibitions intended to preserve the species, and his view dominated during the 1960s and much of the 1970s. However, since then both zoological observations and evolutionary theory have turned against his thesis. It has been revealed that intraspecific killing is widespread in nature, but is mostly directed against the young who are too weak to fight back. Conspecifics are in fact each other’s main competitors, vying as they are for the same mates and resources. However, adult conspecifics are also of roughly the same order of strength and are therefore particularly dangerous to each other. Fighting generally stops when one of the sides yields, because self-preservation imposes restraint on the victor. Killing in nature is normally done against the defenceless, when the odds are heavily tilted and little risk is involved.

The argument about the human state of nature is much older, formulated in the way that it is by Hobbes and Rousseau. Concentrating on two vast pure ‘conservations’ of recently extant hunter–gatherers—the Australian continent and the American north-west coast—in which the ‘contact paradox’ with agriculturalists, civilization, or westerners can be practically eliminated, we have found that Hobbes was closer to the truth. As with other animal species, humans regularly fought among themselves in the state of nature. Thus, it was not the advent of agriculture or civilization that inaugurated warfare. During the Palaeolithic period, hunter– gatherers inhabited the richest ecological niches of the world and were not as thinly dispersed to the point of minimizing contact among them, as some of today’s marginalized hunter–gatherers are. They were never freerangers in a vast ‘common land’, but were in fact ‘restricted nomads’ within their native and jealously guarded territories. They lived in small kin groups, starting from the extended family group to the larger regional one (tribe).

Kinship predominated in determining the direction of human aggression. As the principle of ‘inclusive fitness’ or ‘kin selection’ predicts, people would tend to side with their closer kin against more remote ones. They would be willing to risk their lives in direct relation to the closeness and number of their kin who are in danger. They recognize their kin by growing up with them, living with them, being told who they are, and by all sorts of physical and behavioural similarities that they share with them. Hence, the various activations of semi-kin–group solidarity, easily replicated when the right conditions are present. For example, the famous ‘male bonding’ created in small groups of warriors has long been identified as the mainstay of troops’ cohesion and fighting spirit. Some scholars have rightly suggested that it was evolutionarily rooted in small-group solidarity, which had been necessary among Palaeolithic hunters. The only thing that must be added is that this Palaeolithic male group consisted of close kin; indeed the local group was literally composed of brethren. In sociological and anthropological parlance, they were ‘fraternal interest groups’.1 It is a sense of brotherhood of sorts that can be artificially recreated in small groups of non- (or remote) kin that intensively and comprehensively share their daily existence.

Indeed, the evolution-shaped mechanisms for identifying kin have been shown to be susceptible to misdirection under other ‘artificial’ circumstances as well. One illuminating example, often quoted in the anthropological literature, is same-group children in Israeli kibbutzim. In these communes, children used to be raised together from birth in communal nurseries rather than in their own families’ homes. It has been found that, when these children grew up, they treated each other as siblings, at least in the sense that they hardly ever intermarried. Unexpectedly, in an environment that never wished them to do so, they instinctively applied the universal, biologically rooted, taboo against incest to their pseudo-kin.2 There are other major manifestations of kin-solidarity transference. Sports teams, for example, generate intense emotions of identification, mimicking those created by the struggle of a group of one’s own people against outsiders. The sports contest fundamentally functions as a mock battle.3

In the hunter–gatherer regional group of around 500, shared culture was a distinctive mark of kinship, as well as a strong basis for social co-operation. This is the deeply engrained evolutionary root of ethnocentrism, xenophobia, patriotism, and nationalism.4 With the coming of agriculture, civilization, and modernity, as shared-culture communities expanded a thousand- and even millionfold, the sentiment of kin solidarity expanded far beyond its original evolutionary setting and scope. One’s people or nation— an extension of the original genetic cum cultural regional group—can evoke the greatest devotion, indeed, fraternity within a motherland or fatherland (the words are revealing), no matter how genetically related its members actually are (a feature that varies among modern peoples, albeit with surprising genes–culture congruity5). Individuals are genuinely prepared to risk and sacrifice themselves—not only under coercion but also voluntarily—for these large shared-culture, semi-, and sometimes pseudo- or ‘imagined’ kin groups. This is so even though the broader their concept of who their genetic cum symbolic folk are, the less can they actually influence this folk’s survival by their own self-sacrifice. The evolutionary logic of kin selection in small groups has been inflated beyond its original applicability.

This is the ‘atavistic’ element that baffled modern observers often evoke vaguely in order to explain people’s willingness to kill and get killed for seemingly remote causes. It provided an indispensable clue for understanding why, for instance, beyond all real utilitarian considerations, a Frenchman or a German was prepared to get killed for Alsace-Lorraine, the possession of which had no practical bearing on his daily life. In the great extension of culture groups and consciousness boundaries brought about by modern conditions, these provinces could be perceived by him as the close-by home territory of his immediate close-kin group. In the state of nature, this had meant possessions of essential value, evolutionarily worth risking one’s life for.

This persistence and shift of evolution-shaped behaviours in radically altered cultural settings is at the core of human historical development. Consciousness of the fact that the original conditions no longer apply often has little effect on patterns of behaviour determined by deeply engrained, evolution-shaped, proximate stimuli. To give one more simple example: people continue to exhibit a strong preference for sweet foods, even though sweetness is now ‘artificially’ added and is harmful to us, rather than being indicative of maturity and prime nutrition in fruit, as it used to be in our original evolutionary setting. The relatively recent cultural take-off and accelerating pace of human development have left our biological inheritance very little time to catch up. This does not necessarily mean that war became maladaptive when taken out of its evolution-shaped context. As we see later, nature and culture have been mixed in complex interactions throughout human history. All the same, as humanity moved away from its evolutionary state of nature, all sorts of behaviour shaped in this state, including fighting, assumed new significance and new roles that have not been fully in line with their original, evolution-shaped rationale.heritance

Conflict and fighting in the human state of nature, as in the state of nature in general, were fundamentally caused by competition. Although violence is evoked, and suppressed, by powerful emotional stimuli (which, like other stimuli, can sometimes take over), it is not a primary, ‘irresistible’ drive; it is highly tuned, both innate and optional, evolution-shaped tactics, turned on and off in response to changes in the calculus of survival and reproduction. The widespread notion that, in the extremely competitive evolutionary state of nature, fighting occurred ‘just so’ to satisfy ‘psychological’ needs— that it was essentially non-adaptive and only began to ‘pay off ’ with the coming of agriculture and the state—constitutes such a curious reversal of the evolutionary rationale as to border on the absurd. As a result of organisms’ tendency to propagate rapidly when resources are abundant, scarcity and competition are the norm in nature. Co-operation, peaceful competition, and violent conflict are variably used and intermixed—depending on the circumstances and the chances of success—to fulfil desires originally shaped by the struggle for ‘inclusive fitness’. The answer to the often-voiced puzzle of why people fight is that they fight to gain the very same things that constitute the objects of human desire in general. And throughout nature, including the human state of nature, the objects of desire are in short supply, while being vital for survival. People risk their lives in fighting—again the subject of widespread puzzlement in our societies of plenty—simply because loss and gain of the tangible and intangible goods that determine survival and reproductive success for them and their kin can be greater than the risks of fighting.

Violent conflict can be activated by competition over scarce resources. What resources were scarce and were the cause of resource stress in any particular society varied, but mostly it had to do with highly nutritious meat. Deadly violence is also regularly activated in competition over women. Although human males are less polygynous than those of some other species, they still compete over the quality and number of women whom they can have. Abduction of women, rape, accusations of adultery, and broken promises of marriage are widespread direct causes of reproductive conflict, whereas resource competition in order to be able to afford more women and children is an indirect cause as well as a direct one. As W. D. Hamilton, the doyen of modern evolutionary theory, saw: for ‘hunter–gatherers . . . to raise mean fitness in a group either new territory or outside mates have to be obtained somehow’.6 Conflict sometimes resulted in significant net gains in women and/or subsistence resources. Moreover, and this point is often missed, for evolution to work, net gains in intergroup conflict characterized by very high mortality rates are not necessary, because intergroup conflict also results in intragroup selection, as some group members on both sides get killed, decreasing the internal pressure on the resources for those who survive.From the primary somatic and reproductive aims, other, proximate and derivative, ‘second-level’, aims arise. It is not only the best providers who can subsist better and have more wives and children, but also the social arbiters within the group who can use their position to reap somatic and reproductive advantages. Hence the competition for esteem, prestige, power, and leadership, as proximate goods, which, like the primary competition itself, can also take the form of violent conflict. Again, this violence can be either direct or indirect, the latter being intended to achieve the symbolic or tangible goods that confer esteem, prestige, power, and leadership. There are highly complex interactions here, which are, however, underpinned in principle by a simple evolutionary rationale.

The fundamental state of competition and potential violent conflict produces additional causes for conflict. There is often retaliation for an offence or injury, lest it persist and become a pattern of victimization. Retaliation or ‘revenge’ is thus intended either to eliminate the rival or to re-establish deterrence against him and others by demonstrating that one is not powerless and has the means to strike back. Tit for tat may end when the balance is settled, but it may also escalate, leading to a self-perpetuating cycle of strikes and counter-strikes. Both sides then accumulate losses that are sometimes immeasurably greater than the original injuries that caused the conflict in the first place. Nevertheless, the antagonists are often locked into conflict because of all sorts of communication problems that make it difficult to reach a negotiated settlement, or because of inability to secure that the other side abides by it. In a sort of ‘prisoner’s dilemma’, their rational option under such conditions is often much inferior to their optimal one.

Similarly, in a state of potential conflict, security precautions are called for, which may take defensive as well as offensive or pre-emptive character. This ‘security dilemma’ variant of the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ again means that the very ability of the other to attack, whether or not he actually wishes to do so, poses a threat that can force one into action. In the absence of a strong central authority, a lack of information about the other and an inability to guarantee an agreement of mutual security frequently breed suspicion, hostility, and conflict, seemingly ‘imposed’ on the sides ‘against their wishes’ and best interests. Arms races, brought about by each side’s desire to get ahead or keep abreast of the other, may produce an advantage to one side but often merely produce a ‘Red Queen effect’, by which both sides escalate their resource investment only to find themselves in the same position vis-à-vis the other. As with trees growing trunks, massive investment is enforced on the competitors simply by the reality of an unregulated competition.

Thus, in principle, two major factors correlate closely with the likely occurrence of violent conflict. The first of these is scarcity. Somatic stresses and reproductive deprivation would give rise to a more desperate and risk-taking behaviour, including violence. This is the idea expressed in the proverb that hungry wolves would beat satiated dogs. Obviously, as we saw, scarcity is partly relative. Competition—and violent conflict—can intensify where opportunities and abundance increase. Hence the significance of the second factor: the existence of societal regulatory mechanisms that would keep competition within non-violent channels. As violent behaviour, while being an innate potential, is socially learnt, either pugnacity or pacificism can be habituated by experience. Anarchic systems—either interor intrasocial—would be more violence prone and more accustomed to the use of violence. It is again for this reason that wild wolves would beat domesticated dogs.

The effect of competition and potential conflict on the lives of people in the state of nature can now be more carefully defined. As we have seen, fighting broke out from time to time and was responsible for high rates of mortality, as high as 25–30 per cent of the adult males. This does not mean that all hunter–gatherer societies were equally war-like. There were differences among them as there would later be differences in this respect among states. Still, as with states in historical times, a fundamental condition of competition and plurality made fighting a norm that very few communities could escape or fail to be prepared for, no matter what their particular inclinations. Indeed, although the notions of ‘incessant’ or ‘endemic’ fighting are thereby justified, they can be partly misleading. Although actual, active fighting was in effect sparse, it is its danger that dominated people’s lives. This idea, pointed out by Hobbes (Leviathan, 13), has also been sensed by modern anthropologists.7 In an afterthought, ‘Balancing the picture of fierceness’, that Chagnon added to later editions of his Yanomamo: The fierce people, he wrote:

First of all, the Yanomamo do not spend all or even a major fraction of their walking hours making wars on neighbors. . . . Second, warfare among the Yanomamo varies from region to region and from time to time: it is extremely intense in some areas at particular times, and almost non-existent in other areas. Even the most ‘warlike’ villages have long periods of relative peace during which time daily life is tranquil and happy. . . . On the other hand, even the least warlike villages suddenly find themselves embroiled in an active war, or the peace of the temporary tranquil is shattered by an unexpected raid.8

This is more or less the picture that we have encountered everywhere among hunger–gatherers, in the human state of nature. People sometimes live in peace with their neighbours, sometimes in conflict. Competition is widespread but varies considerably in its expression and intensity. Where it exists, it can lead to more or less amicable compromises, covertly or overtly based on mutual deterrence. Where compromise is less amicable or stable, or is not reached at all, violence can break out. Thus, no less than actual fighting, it is the threat of violent conflict that shapes people’s lives in the state of nature. Fear, mutual deterrence, and insecurity bind them to their home territory and own people, and force them to adopt precautions and never to be completely off their guard. Both among other primates and among humans, field observations and laboratory tests have demonstrated that strangers trigger an initial response of high alarm, suspicion, insecurity, and aggression.9 The stark stereotyping of aliens and, even more, enemies, painted in the darkest, most menacing shades, is an all too familiar basic human response. The worst intentions are assumed and a tremendous defensive emotional mobilization takes place. Under conditions of competition and potential conflict, the evolution-shaped response is ‘better safe than sorry’. Naturally, as the other side tends to react similarly, worst-case analyses tend to be self-fulfilling. Alarm, suspicion, insecurity, and aggression decline after a while if the strangers are observed to be non-threatening, in the sense that they are non-aggressive, or make no large claim to sharing resources, or prove ready for low-cost compromise, coexistence, or even co-operation (exchange). However, a measure of alienation and xenophobia remains.We have seen that the reality of competition and conflict breeds more competition and conflict. Competition and conflict grow from a fundamental state of scarcity, but then, because of the suspicion, insecurity, and craving for power that they create, they also feed on themselves and take on a life of their own. A competition can be won by a more efficient utilization of resources, but, paradoxically, also by investing more of the resources in the competition itself. As with trunk-growing trees or with large and muscled bodies, the competition can consume much of the resources for which it is waged. At least partly, it can thereby increase the scarcity and further intensify itself. In a conflict in particular, most if not all of the so-called defence costs or conflict costs (except for some ‘spin-off ’ effects) are in effect disbursed out of the time and resources that can be directly invested in provision. As we see later, with agriculture and accumulated resources, conflict would also directly diminish resources as each side destroyed the other’s property. However, even in the state of nature, if the antagonist is not beaten, a ‘Red Queen effect’ may be created, in which both sides may lose from the competition/conflict. Conflict cannot then even be regarded as a ‘zero-sum game’, a competition in which one’s loss is the other’s gain and vice versa. It is possible for both sides to lose; in evolutionary/reproductive terms this mainly means death of kin and decreased subsistence and reproduction for the living. However, to give up the conflict unilaterally may mean even heavier losses, so both sides may be bound by the unregulated competitive/ conflictual situation to stick to their guns until agreement for a cessation of hostilities can be reached. As people have always vaguely sensed and puzzled, conflict has rarely been confined to or proportioned by the objectives that originally brought it into being.

Competition and conflict are thus ‘real’ in the sense that they arise from genuine scarcities among evolution-shaped, self-propagating organisms and can end in vital gains for one and losses for the other; at the same time, they are often also ‘inflated’, partly self-perpetuating, and mutually damaging, because of the logic imposed on the antagonists by the conflict itself in an anarchic, unregulated environment that provides no way out from ‘prisoners’ dilemmas’ and ‘market failures’, and may mean net losses for both. In a way, this justifies both of the widely held polarized attitudes to war: the one that sees it as a serious business for serious aims and the other that is shocked by its absurdity.

Finally, a few concluding remarks on the evolutionary perspective that has underpinned our study of the human state of nature. I hope that I have been able to demonstrate that evolutionary theory, our major key for understanding nature, is vital for understanding the human state of nature, fighting in the state of nature, and human nature in general. I have no illusions, however, that I have succeeded in convincing the unconvinced. For various reasons, evolutionary theory has always stirred violent, and not always informed, opposition. Today, as it is affecting a great revival in the human sciences, evolutionary theory is often received as alien by people trained in other disciplines, some of which are academically and emotionally heavily invested in different and even contradictory ideas. Fanciful and sensational echoes of ‘sociobiology’ encountered in popular and journalistic sources often do not help its cause either.

As our only grand scientific theory for understanding nature, evolutionary theory does not ‘compete’ with scholarly constructs such as psychoanalytic theories, ‘materialism’, or ‘functionalism’; in fact, it may encompass some of their main insights within a comprehensive interpretative framework. 10 For instance, we have seen how the differing elementary drives posited by Freud, Jung, and Adler, respectively, as the underlying regulating principle for understanding human behaviour—sex, creativeness and the quest for meaning, and the craving for superiority—all come together and interact within the framework of evolutionary theory, which also provides an explanation for their otherwise mysterious origin. Similarly, evolutionary theory explains why humans, and other organisms, are indeed motivated by a desire for material goods, but treats this motive in conjunction with, rather than in isolation from, other motives, shaped together by a comprehensive reproductive and somatic rationale. Evolutionary theory explains how long-cited motives for fighting—such as Sumner’s hunger, love, vanity, and fear of superior powers—came to be and how they hang together and interconnect.

‘Functionalism’ used to be a popular approach in the social sciences, which has more recently come under criticism. It is motivated by much the same questions, and comes up with much the same answers, as evolutionary theory. It seeks to explain social phenomena as adaptive regulatory mechanisms intended to keep the system working. There is, however, a whole set of interrelated problems with this approach. Functionalism does not explain how these ‘mechanisms’ came to be, or evolved; they are simply postulated to be there. It evokes function for social phenomena without making clear who gave them this function: does it arise from a divine order, or is it embedded in other ‘sky hooks’, such as transcendent harmony supposedly existing in nature and even in society? Furthermore, why should the social system, social phenomena, and social function be permeated with a desire for equilibrium? Functionalism has difficulties with change and tends to have a static picture of reality. Thus functionalism stands things on their head or approaches them from the wrong direction. Rather than explain general social phenomena and relationships from the bottom up, by contextual interactions of living agents, it purports to explain individual action by social abstracts, particularly that of ‘stability’.11

In our subject, a cultural materialist such as Marvin Harris and a cultural ecologist such as Andrew Vayda have suggested in a functionalist vein that fighting was a demographic mechanism triggered by pressure on the resources, as well as by a surplus of men in relation to women. As we have seen, both factors—the somatic and the reproductive—are indeed central to explaining fighting, so their interpretation is very much in the right direction. It is the functionalist reasoning, rather than answers, that is misconstrued. Fighting is not one of nature’s or of society’s regulating mechanisms for contending with overpopulation; rather, it is one of the strategies that people, and other organisms, employ to gain the upper hand in response to increased competition that may arise from demographic growth. The same, incidentally, applies to Malthus’s other positive checks on over-population: famine and pestilence. These are not ‘regulating mechanisms’ embedded in nature’s design. Instead, famine is actually what happens to a population that has outgrown its means of subsistence. Similarly, a denser population is simply more vulnerable to the propagation of parasites and pathogens. Obviously, if functionalist reasoning was merely façon de parler or accepted ‘shorthand’, in the same way that we speak of organisms ‘wanting’ to increase their numbers, there would have been no problem. However, for functionalists, function is regarded as a genuine explanation rather than façon de parler.12

Some readers may fail to see the advantage of the evolutionary over the functionalist interpretation of demographic pressure, or, indeed, wonder why evolutionary theory should be presented here as different from, and superior to, any other scholarly approach to the study of humans in the state of nature. Is it because it is the ruling theory in the study of nature? If so, is this not an argument from authority rather than from the theory’s own merits? However, it is my claim that evolutionary theory has won its commanding position in the natural sciences precisely because it has been recognized to be nature’s immanent principle rather than an artificial analytical construct. Indeed, from the nineteenth century, evolutionary theory has been perceived as the only non-transcendent mechanism for explaining life’s complex design. To repeat, this mechanism is blind natural selection in which in every stage those who were endowed with the most suitable qualities for surviving and reproducing remained. There is no reason why they remained other than that they proved successful in the struggle for survival. Thus ‘success’ is not defined by any transcendent measurement but by the immanent logic of the evolutionary process.

This point needs emphasizing also in order to allay other often-voiced concerns with respect to the application of evolutionary theory to human affairs. The evolutionary logic in itself has no normative implications. It can inform us about human natural predispositions, the often ignored effects of which we would be wise to take into account but which are often variable and even contradictory. (Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century social Darwinists, on the one hand, and tabula rasa liberals, on the other, erred here in two opposite directions.) We may choose to follow such predispositions or rebel against them. There is nothing sacred or morally compelling about maximizing survival for the fittest. This is merely the blind, algorithmic mechanism of natural ‘design’. The human brain—itself a product of evolution and a powerful instrument of conscious, purposeful, and future oriented, rather than blind, design—may come up with more satisfactory arrangements.

This brings us to another widespread cause of resistance to ‘sociobiology’. This is the belief that it upholds biological determinism in a subject that is distinctively determined by human culture—that it is precisely the nonbiological element that makes humans and the human achievement what they are. Darwinism may thus be regarded as our key to understanding nature but as mostly irrelevant for understanding human society shaped by culture. In fact, historians and social scientists are much more prone to disregard the biological element in human culture than are proponents of evolutionary theory to neglect the cultural. The latter emphatically do not believe in biological determinism. While bringing to light our evolutionshaped innate genetic inheritance, they have come up with illuminating insights for explaining gene–culture interactions. For once humans had evolved agriculture, they set in train a continuous chain of developments that have taken them further and further away from their evolutionary natural way of life as hunter–gatherers. Human society has been radically transformed and staggeringly diversified. Original, evolution-shaped, innate human wants, desires, and proximate behavioural and emotional mechanisms now expressed themselves within radically altered, ‘artificial’ conditions, which were very different from those in which they had evolved. In the process, while never disappearing, they were greatly modified, assuming novel and widely varied appearances. These gene–culture interactions are the stuff from which human history is made, including the history of fighting. Indeed, it is to cultural evolution and the evolution of gene–culture interactions, as humans moved out of their evolutionary shaped state of nature, that I now turn.

Conceived in liberty

En la biblioteca online del Instituto Mises está para bajar Conceived in liberty de Murray Rothbard. Es la obra de cuatro volúmenes dedicados a la historia colonial norteamericana, en la que con solidez el economista recorre el largo período desde Colón hasta la guerra de independencia, desde una óptica libertariana.
Antes de adentrarse en la lectura viene bien leer la sinopsis de Robert Klassen, quien adelanta, por ejemplo, el tratamiento dado en el primer volumen a los quáqueros de Pennsylvania.

The truly remarkable and nearly unbelievable thing that occurred in Seventeenth Century America was the settlement of Pennsylvania by the pacifist Quakers. They denounced slavery and they renounced the use of force and, once arrived, they ignored their royal master, paid no taxes, bought their land from the Indians, and worked industriously for their own individual purposes. They enjoyed twenty years of utter anarchy! But they were brought to heel in the end.

Less remarkable, but more significant for future events, was the emergence of Rhode Island as an unauthorized colony in the midst of royal estates. It became a refuge for political and religious dissidents and a defiant harbor of free trade.

Tanto Klassen como David Gordon citan este párrafo de cuarto volumen que no puedo dejar de copiar.

And so the revolutionary United States of America threw off the British yoke and won the first successful war of national liberation against western imperialism. Many factors entered into the victory, but the most important was the firm support for the war by the great majority of the American people. It was that support which harassed, enveloped, and finally destroyed the proud British armies come to conquer and occupy in the name of traditionally legitimate government. It was a revolution fueled by fervent belief in libertarian natural rights ideology and by cumulative reaction to growing British infringement on those rights, political, constitutional, and economic. Its victory was essentially a people’s victory, of guerrilla strategy in its broadest sense: not only of the small, mobile guerrilla bands of the Marions and the Sumters, but also of ephemeral and suddenly appearing militia who largely fought in their own neighborhoods and on their own terrain.

Hagan click derecho y guardar como o equivalente.

Fuente: wiki

Pio y una defensa implícita del imperialismo español

Atraído por el título llegué a un comentario de Pio Moa, quien por lo visto es todo un referente de la derecha española. Lo había oído nombrar pero nunca lo leí. Lamento que esta primera experiencia sea una decepción; mi culpa. Habiendo formulado esta aclaración, no espero que lean su la mal llamada guerra de independencia, por más corto que sea. Algunos párrafos sintetizarán su posición, no del todo digna de imitar.
Resulta que a Pío lo tiene a mal traer la ocupación francesa en las guerras napoleónicas, pues
El ejército de Napoleón, claro está, no defendía nada parecido a la libertad. Así lo entendieron pronto Inglaterra y la mayoría de las naciones europeas que sufrieron sus depredaciones. Representaba una corriente totalitaria e imperialista salida de la Revolución francesa: el nacionalismo francés exacerbado y mezclado con la "libertad" al estilo rusoniano de la "voluntad general", es decir, la tendencia totalitaria opuesta al liberalismo de estilo anglosajón y al español de las Cortes de Cádiz. Además, los invasores significaban la expansión de Francia hasta el Ebro y la conversión del resto del país en una semicolonia. En rigor, las aventuras de Napoleón recuerdan en muchos aspectos a las de Hitler.

En la misma línea de crítica -siempre en aras de la defensa contra el imperialismo francés-, postula como negativo lo que en América no podemos ver sino con buenos ojos. Resalto en negrita el lapsus.
La invasión francesa supuso para España una triple desgracia, porque interrumpió traumáticamente una evolución pacífica hacia mayores libertades, facilitó la liquidación del imperio español y dejó la herencia del golpismo militar, los "pronunciamientos" urdidos por lo común en las logias masónicas del ejército. Además, la demagogia de los invasores y los "afrancesados", combinada con sus atrocidades, empujó a una gran parte del pueblo a identificar el liberalismo con la imposición y el despotismo extranjero, y a rechazarlo todo junto, por una reacción lamentable, pero explicable, depositando una fe milagrera en un personaje tan repulsivo como Fernando VII.

Si lo de Pío no es un equiívoco, pareciera que el imperialismo sólo es reprensible cuando es ajeno. Desde aquí podemos ver las cosas de otra manera. Las ideas que formaron el caldo de cultivo de la revolución francesa y la posterior invasión y ocupación de España, con todos sus errores, excesos y lo condenable del caso aun en contexto de guerra, ayudaron en mucho a la rotura del yugo español en América. Despojar a España de si imperio y dejarlo a los gobiernos locales haya sido, tal vez, uno de los primeros pasos para acomodar a América y a la metrópoli a la nueva realidad histórica. Aunque, claro, a nadie le gusta perder su imperio.

sábado, diciembre 22, 2007

Acá hay algo raro

Cuando un lanzamiento editorial viene recubierto de palabras sugerentes, de entrada pierde cualquier inocencia pretendida. Como en el risorgimento letterario, cuando la correspondencia, libros, congresos, sociedades, todos en apariencia inocentes, encubrían la finalidad de propagar el constitucionalismo y la unificación, uno hoy se puede preguntar a qué fines o en andas de qué proyecto sirven ciertas publicaciones.
Mayor es la necesidad de encontrar una respuesta, al enterarnos que la literatura bajo sospecha es de carácter infantil. ¿Qué necesidad de meter a los chicos en esto?.
La fábula Neki, el pingüinito de las tierras blancas no tenía ningún enfado en difundir una expresión propagandística que recuerda a La Razón de mi vida.
Emulando la estrategia, hoy vemos que el suplemento de ADN publica una microcrítica de El hombrecito de la valija, para chicos de a partir de 7 años.
La presentación es por demás sugestiva:
CADA DÍA, EL SEÑOR BRAULIO TUK SALE CON SU VALIJA Y REPARTE RESPUESTAS A QUIEN ÉL CREE QUE LAS NECESITA. HASTA QUE UN DÍA LA VALIJITA LEVANTA VUELO Y SE VA... ¿QUÉ HARÁ AHORA EL SEÑOR TUK SIN SUS RESPUESTAS?
Asimismo llama poderosamente la atención la reciente publicación de Yo soy una bruja, presentada con estas palabras.
BUENO, TODAVÍA NO SOY UNA BRUJA VERDADERA DEL TODO. POR AHORA SOY SOLAMENTE UNA BRUJITA. MI MAMÁ ES LA BRUJA CAKLE-CAKLE Y MI PAPÁ ES EL MONSTRUO VERDE.


Como colofón, y aunque no sea infantil, no puede dejar de asombrar la salida de la Reina del sur, que dice
Historia criminal. Nacida en Cualiacán, Sinaloa (Méxioo).
Hija de padre español y madre mejicana. Convivió con Raimundo Dávila Parra, (a.) El Güero Dávila, piloto de aviación relacionado con el cártel de Juárez. Viaja a España. Melilla. Relacionada con Dris Larbi, propietario de clubs nocturnos. Algeciras. Gibraltar. Relacionada con Santiago López Fisterra, piloto de planeadoras. Tráfico de tabaco y estupefacientes. Detenida por el Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera. Prisión de El Puerto de Santa María.




Algo huele raro.

Se vende el auto fantástico

No este. Este.

El tercero, se lo guarda.

viernes, diciembre 21, 2007

El éxito de 2008

Cantandopatinadobailando por un sueño. Con banda en vivo.
Vamos Marce, siempre se puede llevar la TV a nuevos límites.

Interna republicana

Hay novedades en la campaña primaria republicana. Se bajó Tancredo, posiblemente el único pre-candidato de verdad xenófobo (los demás sólo aparentan serlo).
Como dice Cogito, se está cayendo Giuliani. Omitte decirlo, pero la misma suerte le toca a Fred Thompson, en contraste al rampante ascenso de Huckabee y en menor medida de Romney. McCain viene cayendo hace rato en leve pendiente y Ron Paul sigue planchado abajo, sin votos pero con buena recaudación. Es lo que refleja el cruce de encuestas de Pollster.com que, ensambladas en una, muestran un llamativo punto de contacto en la evolución de la mayoría de los precandidatos a mediados de noviembre, de donde quedaban exclúidos Giuliani (por estar arriba) y Ron Paul (por estar abajo). Se verá si los resultados de las primeras internas en enero modifican las preferencias.

martes, diciembre 18, 2007

El Churchill antropólogo

A mi edad Churchill escribió The river war: an acount to the reconquest of Soudan, relatando la experiencia de haber estado allí en la unión de los Nilos, donde lo llevaron la vida, la aventura y la vocación de servicio. La crónica que quedó es de una descripción minuciosa y precisa, si bien etnocéntrica como eran los cánones de la época, de la campaña militar y sus prolegómenos. Creo que más avanzado en edad abjuró de la pretensión de acudir a preceptos raciales -negroid, mongrel- como base de estudio de otras culturas.
La siguiente cita pertenece a las primeras páginas de la edición de 1902.

Although the negroes are the more numerous, the Arabs exceed in power. The bravery of the aboriginals is outweighed by the intelligence of the invaders and their superior force of character. During the second century of the Mohammedan era, when the inhabitants of Arabia went forth to conquer the world, one adventurous army struck south. The first pioneers were followed at intervals by continual immigrations of Arabs not only from Arabia but also across the deserts from Egypt and Marocco. The element thus introduced has spread and is spreading throughout the Soudan, as water soaks into a dry sponge. The aboriginals absorbed the invaders they could not repel. The stronger race imposed its customs and language on the negroes. The vigour of their blood sensibly altered the facial appearance of the Soudanese. For more than a thousand years the influence of Mohammedanism, which appears to possess a strange fascination for negroid races, has been permeating the Soudan, and, although ignorance and natural obstacles impede the progress of new ideas, the whole of the black race is gradually adopting the new religion and developing Arab characteristics. In the districts of the north, where the original invaders settled, the evolution is complete, and the Arabs of the Soudan are a race formed by the interbreeding of negro and Arab, and yet distinct from both. In the more remote and inaccessible regions which lie to the south and west the negro race remains as yet unchanged by the Arab influence. And between these extremes every degree of mixture is to be found. In some tribes pure Arabic is spoken, and prior to the rise of the Mahdi the orthodox Moslem faith was practised. In others Arabic has merely modified the ancient dialects, and the Mohammedan religion has been adapted to the older superstitions; but although the gap between the Arab-negro and the negro-pure is thus filled by every intermediate blend, the two races were at an early date quite distinct.

The qualities of mongrels are rarely admirable, and the mixture of the Arab and negro types has produced a debased and cruel breed, more shocking because they are more intelligent than the primitive savages. The stronger race soon began to prey upon the simple aboriginals; some of the Arab tribes were camel-breeders; some were goat-herds; some were Baggaras or cow-herds. But all, without exception, were hunters of men. To the great slave-market at Jedda a continual stream of negro captives has flowed for hundreds of years. The invention of gunpowder and the adoption by the Arabs of firearms facilitated the traffic by placing the ignorant negroes at a further disadvantage. Thus the situation in the Soudan for several centuries may be summed up as follows: The dominant race of Arab invaders was unceasingly spreading its blood, religion, customs, and language among the black aboriginal population, and at the same time it harried and enslaved them.

The state of society that arose out of this may be easily imagined. The warlike Arab tribes fought and brawled among themselves in ceaseless feud and strife. The negroes trembled in apprehension of capture, or rose locally against their oppressors. Occasionally an important Sheikh would effect the combination of many tribes, and a kingdom came into existence --a community consisting of a military class armed with guns and of multitudes of slaves, at once their servants and their merchandise, and sometimes trained as soldiers. The dominion might prosper viciously till it was overthrown by some more powerful league.

La edición de 1899 incluía estos párrafos, removidos en la 1902.

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”

lunes, diciembre 17, 2007

Friends to be friends

Salieron 2 libros nuevos. Querido Mr. Stalin reproduce la correspondencia entre FDR y el genocida. El pacto Churchill-Hitler sugiere una transa entre ambos.

La verdad, qué se yo. Me compré uno que tenía pendiente desde su salida en 2004. Límites al poder. Los papeles antifederalistas de Alberto Benegas Lynch (h). Como saben estoy bastante a full con los primeros años de la república norteamericana, así que es una ocasión inmejorable para meterme en el debate histórico de federalistas y antifederalistas.

Zulu dawn


Otra película recomendable, Zulu Dawn de 1979, con Burt Lancaster y Simon Ward. Trata la épica batalla de Isandlwana (escena) entre británicos y zulúes. En las primeras imágenes se dan a conocer ciertos términos del últimatum de aquellos hacia los nativos. En voz alta lee Bartle Frere, alto comisionado de sudáfrica, la propuesta que los zulués no podrán aceptar:
Cetshwayo's Zulu army to disband and the warriors permitted to return to their homes.
Present military system to be abandoned. New regulations concerning the defence of the realm worked out.
All who do not submit will be dealt with as enemies of the Crown. We will not permit the arbitrary killing and unjust oppression which the Zulu people have suffered from their own King Cetshwayo.

Antes de estampar el sello real, Frere le aclara al comandante Lord Chemsford que la letra del últimatum desnuda la sola decisión del gobierno colonial, y que el gobierno de Su Majestad preferiría arribar a un arreglo negociado, a lo cual Chemsford con toda confianza responde
Her Majesty's government confidentially hope that by the exercise of prudence and by meeting of the Zulus in a spirit of forbearance and reasonable compromise it will be possible to avert the very serious evil of a war with Cetshwayo.


Portando el mensaje, el emisario Mantshonga comunica al rey Cetshwayo.

MANTSHONGA: I bring greetings from your friends, the British, and from the Great Lord
Chelmsford.
CETSHWAYO: And what do your Masters say?
MANTSHONGA: They are angry and send these demands. They say you rule in old ways that are wrong, that you kill your people without triaL The Great White Queen herself cannot kill her lowliest subject though she rules forty lands, each greater than all of Zululand.
BAYELE: Kill the Traitor, Father'
CETSHWAYO: I do kill, under the customs of the Zulu, and I shall not depart from that. Do I go to the country of the white man and tell him to change his laws and customs?
MANTSHONGA: The British say your armies grow larger and they demand that you disband your lmpis of War.
CETSHWAYO: Tell the British I will not cross the river which divides our lands. But ask Lord Chelmsford if he would disarm his warriors in the face of such threats.
MANTSHONGA: I will ask him but his answer will be to start war against your 30,000 warriors.
CETSHWAYO: My armies will defend this land.

Más adelante Lord Chelmsford junto a gran parte de la oficialidad está almorzando lejos del campamento de Isandlwana, cuando el Coronel Hamilton-Brown llega a notificarlo que el mismo se encuentra bajo ataque. Sin perder nunca la tranquilidad, Lord Chelmsford lo invita a quedarse a comer.

General Lord Chelmsford: After lunch Brown, I want you to return to Isandhlwana and instruct Col. Pulleine to join us here immediately.
Col. Hamilton-Brown: If you'll excuse me, my lord.
General Lord Chelmsford: No appetite, Colonel?
Col. Hamilton-Brown: My men haven't eaten since yesterday and there won't be any suplies until I get them to Isandhlwana.
General Lord Chelmsford: Well they can sod off now and you can join them when you've eaten.
Col. Hamilton-Brown: Kind of you, my lord, but I don't think it will be proper for me to sit at your table, they with their bellies stuck to their backbones.
Col. Hamilton-Brown: [Brown leaves]
General Lord Chelmsford: [to Lt. Harford] Learn nothing from that Irishman, Harford, except how not to behave.

Entre los historiadores no hay acuerdo sobre cuál fue la mayor causa de tan estrepitosa derrota. No se discute, en cambio, que la llegada de la noticia a Londres mudó súbitamente el humor del desinterés hacia el apoyo unánime a la vindicación. (Si Galtieri hubiera leído un poquito de la historia británica de hacía un siglo, lo habría pensado mejor....; y si vio la película recién estrenada, habrá creído que la historia terminaba ahí, con la victoria zulú). En seis meses y un par de batallas los zulues serían sometidos. Mientras los imperios se terminaban de repartir lo que quedaba de Africa y el mundo, los anglos no iban a aparecer como los vencidos por unos negros en taparrabo.

domingo, diciembre 16, 2007

Uga Uga!

El otro dia paré en el bar de una estación de servicio Petrobras y en la TV pasaban una telenovela brasilera, de un doblaje tan malo que la voz no se compadecía ni remotamente con el movmiento la boca. Era casi como Uga Uga, el último orejón del tarro en telenovelas basura.
Es el estado de Canal 9. Así lo lamenta Luis Ventura, otro periodista basura.
¡Jé! Ahora lo que nos propone esta pantalla de un tal Angel González es una telenovela que se llama, llamó o no sé si está. "Uga Uga". ¿Alguien la vio? ¿Vos sabés si está en el aire, qué días va o en qué horario? Vamos a hablar en serio, ¿Puede importarle a alguien que una ficción se llame "Uga Uga"? Bueno, eso es hoy Canal 9.

sábado, diciembre 15, 2007

Gallipoli con Mel Gibson


No se pierdan Gallipoli de 1981, con actuación de Mel Gibson y dirección de Peter Weir.
La película, que dura poco más de hora y media, se podría seccionar facilmente en 3 partes: la primera, sobre la vida rural de los protagonistas en el desierto de Australia. La segunda, sobre el entrenamiento y acantonamiento en Egipto. La tercera, la batalla en sí misma en medio de las trincheras. Las 3 muestran lo típico de cada lugar.
Algunos diálogos son deliciosos. Selecciono un par.
Surcando el desierto para ir a alistarse a Perth, Mel Gibson y su compañerito Archie se pierden y tienen una discusión:
Archie: ¿Sabes montar, Frank?
Mel Gibson: Sí, ¿por qué?
Archie: Me preguntaba por qué no te has alistado en la Caballería.
Mel Gibson: No quería.
Archie: ¿Y la infantería?
Mel Gibson: No voy alistarme en nada.
Archie: ¡Pero tienes que hacerlo!
Mel Gibson: Si no quieres, no.
Archie: Tienes que hacerlo.
Mel Gibson: No, no quiero. Es un país libre, ¿o no lo sabes?
Archie: Yo estaría avergonzado si no luchara.
Mel Gibson: Eso sólo prueba una cosa; que tú y yo somos diferentes.
Dejémoslo, ¿eh?
Archie: Tú deberías ser el primero en ir.
Mel Gibson: ¿Por qué yo?
Archie: Porque eres un atleta.
Mel Gibson: ¿Qué tiene eso que ver?
Archie: Tengo amigos que serían afortunados de correr los 100 en doce segundos, y van a ir. Así que, ¿por qué tú no?
Mel Gibson: ¡Porque no es nuestra maldita guerra!
Archie: ¿Qué quieres decir con eso?
Mel Gibson: Es una guerra inglesa, no tiene nada que ver con nosotros.
Archie: ¿Sabes lo que eres? Eres un cobarde.
Mel Gibson: Aún no te he tumbado por un motivo, amigo.
Archie: ¿Cuál?
Mel Gibson: No me apetece tener que cargar contigo.
¡Ahora cállate y no vuelvas a hablar de la guerra!

Luego se encuentran a un extraño andando a camello. Tienen el siguiente intercambio:
Archie:¡Para! ¡Para!
Extraño: Es su día de suerte.
Archie: Nos han dicho que había una granja en dirección sur.
Extraño: La casa del viejo Dan. Les quedan unos 15 kms.
Él los llevará hasta Wallaby.
Extraño: ¿A dónde van?
Archie: Perth.
Extraño: Una vez casi voy allí. Quería visitar una ciudad antes de morir.
¿Buscan trabajo?
Archie: No, yo me voy a la guerra.
Extraño: ¿Qué guerra?
Archie: La guerra contra Alemania.
Extraño: Una vez conocí a un alemán.
Archie: ¿Cómo ha empezado?
Mel Gibson: No le haga hablar.
Archie: No lo sé exactamente. Pero ha sido culpa de los alemanes.
Extraño: ¿Ya estamos luchando?
Turquía: Sí, en Turquía.
Extraño: ¿Turquía? ¿Por qué motivo?
Mel Gibson: Pregúntaselo.
Archie: Turquía es aliada de los alemanes.
Extraño: Ah, bueno. Siempre se aprende algo nuevo.
Aún sigo sin saber qué tiene que ver con nosotros.
Archie: Si no los detenemos ahí, podrían acabar aquí.
Extraño: Que sean bienvenidos.

Ya en Perth, Mel Gibson se encuentra con su Papá.
Papá de Mel Gibson: ¿para qué demonios
quieres alistarte?
Los ingleses mataron a tu abuelo.
Le colgaron con su propio cinturón...
..a cinco millas de Dublín.
Mel Gibson: Papá, no voy a luchar por el lmperio Británico.
Voy a mantenerme al margen.
Aprenderé un par de cosas, y...volveré como oficial.
Quizás.
No quiero que me manipulen toda la vida.
Papá de Mel Gibson: Exacto.
Mel Gibson: Exacto.

Valor, status, distnitos motivos por los que iban a pelear por otros. Así, peleando junto a los ingleses y no contra ellos, los australianos forjaron su país e identidad nacional.

viernes, diciembre 14, 2007

Interesting, Acost

¿Sabías que el monstro de Kenneth Gilbert estudió con Nadia Boulanger, al igual que Astro Piazzola? Interesante, Acosta.
Que animalada el Suite de Händel, del cual no se le debe escapar una nota a Gilbert. Mis piezas favoritas: de la Suite 1 (HWV 426), la giga (4) en la mayor (midi). De la Suite 5 (HWV 430) en mi mayor la aria (4) y cinco variaciones -herrero armonioso- (midi). De la Suite 6 (HWV 431) en sol menor la giga (4) presto (midi). De la suite 7 (HWV 432) en sol mayor (3) el allegro (midi).
Bueno, en el clave de Kenneth Gilbert te hace volar la cabeza.

jueves, diciembre 13, 2007

Liberty!

Amén de otros temas, últimamente estoy muy enganchado con la época revolucionaria norteamericana, de la cual disfruto nutrirme como toda historia y muy en especial como historia norteamericana. Es uno de los primeros y más centrales capítulos de la historia de la jóven república, donde nacen muchos de sus mitos, y que en breve lapso jalonaría, como recuerda Gordon Wood, una sociedad democrática y capitalista pese a la ausencia inicial de industrialización, urbanización y transportes.
Entusiasmado por este espíritu -entre ilustrado y romántico- es que leo con devoción John Adams de David McCollough, una gran recomendación como sólo Mack pudo hacer, y otro librito, ya mucho más corto y antiguo. Se trata de George Washington: hombre y prócer, del historiador británico Marcus Cunliffe, encontrado de casualidad en un puesto de usados de la calle corrientes por...¡4 pesos!.
Buscando material videográfico hallé la serie documental Liberty!, the american revolution, producida para PBS con primera emisión en 1997. Después de ver el primer capítulo no tengo duda en recomendarla y bajar los restantes 5. La escena es ocupada por pinturas, grabados, filmaciones de lugares actuales, bajo una narración en off intercalada por testimonios verídicos bien actuados y comentarios de estudiosos de la época. Al que le interese aunque sea para probar, los podrá bajar aquí con bit torrent. También estoy bajando otras películas ambientadas pero no digo nada antes de verlas.
Cuando tenga suficiente de la revolución americana, reanudo con la guerra civil.

miércoles, diciembre 12, 2007

A lo macho

Al segundo día todo indica que se irá confirmando la sospecha de que el nuevo gobierno de nuevo tiene muy poco. Entre lo poco nuevo está eso de lo que, por falta de alguna diferencia más relevante hablan tanto: ahora el presidente es mujer.
Entonces, si llevados al plano de lo banal vamos a encarar la diferencia entre el presidente y la presidenta, hagámoslo en términos de género, para hacer así una aproximación más general.
Para ello echo mano al magistral War in human civilization de Azar Gat, obra magna del historiador militar israelí dedicada al estudio multidisciplinario de la violencia desde la biología más primitiva hasta la compleja sociedad actual. En el subcapítulo que me propongo copiar Azar no deja nada librado a su nombre; escudriña la genética y memética de hombres y mujeres, valiéndose de los más granados conocimientos en neurobiología, sociología, psicología evolutiva, arqueología y antropología.
Dejándoles pendiente la consigna de analizar si la violencia es un asunto sólo de hombres, aquí tienen al respecto un abordaje sin desperdicio del maestro Azar.


Interlude: Man the beast? (pp 77-86)
It would appear that up till now I have been a little vague about something. I have generally discussed ‘humans’ and ‘human warfare’, where perhaps I should have more accurately referred to men. From earliest times and throughout history, fighting has been associated with men. Crosscultural studies of male/female difference have found serious violence as the most distinctive sex difference that there is, except, of course, for child bearing itself. Is that a matter of education and social conventions, or are men naturally far more adapted to fighting than women? This question has much contemporary relevance and is at the centre of a heated public debate about women’s equality in modern society: can and should women nowadays enlist in combat roles in the armed services? The first obvious and generally controversy-free, fighting-related difference between men and women is that of physical strength. Men are considerably stronger than women, on average, of course, and all the following data are on average. To begin with, men are bigger than women. They are about nine per cent taller and proportionately heavier. Even these facts do not tell the whole story, because in muscle and bone mass men’s advantage is bigger still. Relative to body weight, men are more muscular and bony, with the main difference concentrated in the arms, chest and shoulders. Fat comprises only 15 per cent of their body weight, compared with 27 per cent in women. As athletic results and repeated tests show, men’s biggest physical advantage is in strength. Although they are less flexible than women, only about 10 per cent faster, and have a 4:3 advantage in aerobic capacity, they are doubly as strong as women (except for the legs, where the ratio is again 4:3 in favour of men).

As throughout human history fighting has been a trial of force, this sex difference has been crucial. Anatomy is not everything, however. As mentioned, the quoted data are average. It in fact comprises a wide range within each sex, and there is obviously some overlap between the scales of the two sexes. Some women are stronger than or as strong as some men. There is, however, another sex difference to consider. Are men by nature mentally more aggressive than women, especially being more predisposed to violence and, even more, to serious violence? Are the minds as well as the bodies of males and females different? This is a highly charged topic in the contemporary debate. Tabula rasa liberals and feminists during the 1960s and early 1970s believed that, apart from obvious physical differences, men and women were the same. All other differences were attributed to education and social conventions. Over time, however, as more and more women entered the ‘man’s world’ in the workplace and all other walks of social life, many later-generation feminists have come to a different position. They have come to feel that the ‘man’s world’ was exactly that—very much structured to fit the needs, aims, and norms that were peculiarly male. They have felt that mere equality of access to male-structured domains was unsatisfying for women. Gender attitudes to sex are one of the most interesting cases in point. One of the greatest achievements of the sexual revolution of the 1960s was that women in the west have earned the right to much the same freedom in sexual relations as men had always enjoyed. Soon, however, women discovered that they did not want to exercise that freedom in quite the same way as men. Thus, although latter-day feminists have continued to seek equality and opportunity, many of them now feel that these mean freedom to behave in greater harmony with women’s own particular needs and aims, and, wherever necessary, change the world in that direction. Interestingly, it has now been feminists, not only male chauvinists, who have stressed women’s qualities versus men’s. Indeed, feminists have charged that it was peculiarly male tendencies, such as overcompetitiveness, emotional coldness, faulty communication, and aggressiveness, that were responsible for many, if not most, of this world’s ills, including war. Those feminists may claim some support from the scientific research of human biology, which earlier had all too often been somehow regarded impatiently as irrelevant to the debate.

The whole trend of recent scientific research has stressed sex differences in the mind as well as the body. In this chapter, we have already referred to the biological explanation for the differing sexual attitudes of men and women, but scientists have discovered many more differences. Repeated cognitive studies have revealed, on average, male advantage in spatial orientation, which might also explain the persistently recorded male advantage in mathematics, especially at the very highest levels. Women have recorded better in spatial attention to detail and spatial memory, verbal skills, and judging other people’s moods and complex human situations—the famous ‘female intuition’. These differences have long been attributed solely to education and social expectations, but the great changes in social attitudes that have taken place in the last generationseem not to have altered them much. Indeed, one of the ‘hardest’ sciences of them all, brain research, has yielded significant sex differences.

Cognitive studies, aided by brain scanning, have revealed that men and women in fact use different parts of their brains in coping with various cognitive tasks. Furthermore, whereas the right and left hemispheres of a man’s brain are much more specialized, those of women operate in greater co-operation, and the corpus callosum connecting them is larger. Not only are the bodies of women and men structured somewhat differently but also that particular organ of their bodies, the brain, and hence their minds. The architect of these different structures is our genes, and their agent is the sex hormones, particularly the famous male hormone, testosterone. Scientists have found that its presence begins to structure the male as different from the female right from the start, from the very beginning of the fetus’s evolution in the uterus (biologically, the original form is the female). Male and female differences in identity are already largely shaped at birth, and behavioural differences between the sexes are recorded very early, before social conditioning can play an effective role. Crudely put, baby girls are more interested in people, whereas baby boys are more interested in things. Later on, despite the great changes that have taken place in educational patterns and the efforts of conscientious parents, boys and girls show differences in play preferences, with the boys much more inclined to competitive, rough and tumble, aggressive games and toys. Females also produce testosterone, only much less than males. In addition, some divergences from testosterone norms have occurred as a result of natural reasons (which produce identified medical syndromes) and owing to chemical influences caused, for example, by medication. It has been found that so-called tomboy behaviour in girls correlated closely with higher levels of testosterone. On the other side, low testosterone levels in males result in unassertive and ‘feminine’ behaviour, whereas the highest levels of testosterone to which men are exposed during adolescence result in extra aggressiveness. Traditional human insight, embodied in such concepts as the Chinese yin and yang, has been found to be not that far off the mark. Perpetration of serious violence and crime is in fact the most distinctive sex difference there is, cross-culturally. As mentioned earlier, among the !Kung Bushmen, all of the 22 killings registered in 1963–9 were committed by men. Of 34 cases of bodily assault, all but one were committed by men. In the USA, males comprise 83 per cent of murderers, a similar share of those committing aggravated assault, 93 per cent of drunken drivers and about the same percentage of armed robbers. Even though murder rates diverge widely in other parts of the world, the woman/man split remains roughly the same in favour of men. Furthermore, even that sharp split does not tell the whole story. The actual split is sharper still, because much of the serious female violence and murder comes in response to male violence or under male leadership. Thus, as a comprehensive survey reveals: Crime statistics from Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England and Wales, Germany, Iceland, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Scotland, Uganda, a dozen different locations in the United States, and Zaire, as well as from thirteenth- and fourteenth-century England and nineteenth-century America—from hunter–gatherer communities, tribal societies, and medieval and modern nation-states—all uncover the same fundamental pattern. In all these societies, with a single exception, the probability that the same-sex murder has been committed by a man, not a woman, ranges from 92 to 100 percent.

This brings us to the nature of women’s aggression and violence. Women can also be aggressive. However, their aggressiveness is much less channelled to physical violence than men’s aggressiveness is, and even less to serious physical violence. Typically, women resort to serious violence in two cases: when the danger comes close to home—in desperate defence against an acute threat to themselves and their children; or to harm the ‘other woman’ in rivalry over a man. Furthermore, in comparison with men’s violent aggression, that of women tends to be non-physical, indirect, and anonymous. What is the source of this most distinctive sex difference in serious violence? Again, the biological explanation is clear and was first elaborated by Darwin. Both the bodies and minds of women and men have been subjected to somewhat different evolutionary pressures during the millions of years of human evolution. These pressures have been most different where sex specialization and diverging reproductive roles have been most involved. As scholars have pointed out, precisely because in humans both parents invest in child rearing, sex specialization/division of labour became more possible than in some other animal species, including our closest relatives, the chimpanzees. In evolutionary terms, women specialized in child bearing and rearing and in foraging close to the home base, whereas men specialized in long-distance hunting and in the struggle to acquire and defend women and children, specializations that required, among other things, force and ferocity. Indeed, the difference was more than occupational. Not only did men compete for women both inside and outside the group, but, in case of a threat to the children, the father, although also highly significant for the children’s provision, was more expendable than the mother in this respect. For this reason as well, the men formed the group’s main line of defence, while the women covered the children to the best of their abilities. Moreover, Palaeolithic men were of no use to the enemy. For them, the options were either running away or fighting to the finish. By contrast, women were themselves a resource in competition. They had better chances than the men did to survive the day by submitting, conforming, co-operating, and manipulating.

Both the capabilities and evolutionary strategies of men and women, capabilities and strategies that were of course interconnected and mutually reinforcing, made men much more predisposed to fighting than women. But do environmental influences, most notably education and social norms, not count at all? Do genes not always interact with culture? Obviously, environmental influences matter a great deal and are responsible for a wide diversity of cultural norms. However, contrary to the fashion in much of the gender studies, cultural norms are not infinitely flexible and wholly relative. As a rule, cultural norms play, and diverge, along a scale set by our inborn dispositions. (Needless to say, the subject is extremely complex and, as we see later, it becomes even more complex with the new opportunities, interactions, and tensions created by accelerated cultural evolution.) The fact remains that among hunter–gatherers, in the ‘human state of nature’, women’s participation in warfare was extremely marginal. Even more than hunting, in which women also marginally engaged in a few societies, fighting was a male preserve and the most marked sex difference. Indeed, in this case, it can certainly be said that among hunter–gatherers social norms reinforced inborn dispositions. Even if some women were physically and mentally capable of participating in a warriors’ group, this very rarely happened. The ‘culture of war’ and the ‘bond of brotherhood’ within the warriors’ group were famously cultivated among the men. As mentioned earlier, the local groups in the human state of nature were literally composed of brethren. Furthermore, women were to be defended rather than interfere with the warriors’ group cohesion by the powerful forces of sexual distraction.

This does not mean that women had no role in warfare. In most cases they, too, had very high stakes in what the men were fighting for, or at the very least in their men themselves. Thus women in primitive warfare often accompanied the men to battle and took part in it as cheerers and providers of auxiliary services, such as the gathering and re-supply of used arrows and spears. As mentioned earlier, only in very rare cases did they actively participate in the fight, mainly by shooting arrows, and if the danger reached the inner ring of women and children, women also desperately tried to contribute to the defence. The famous Amazons, of course, were, significantly, a myth, albeit, like many myths, not entirely devoid of some basis in reality. The Scythian and Sarmatian pastoralist horse archers of the Ukrainian steppe were described by the classical Greek authors as the ‘neighbours’ of the Amazons. Some of the warrior graves excavated in the region were those of women, buried with full military gear. In one Scythian royal kurgan (mound) four of fifty warrior graves belonged to females. In the supposed Sarmatian region, 20 per cent of the warrior graves excavated were those of women. The bow made possible a marginally greater female participation in warfare. Civilization created many new, ‘artificial’ conditions and relationships, making a far-reaching transformation in the human way of life possible. Nevertheless, throughout most of history, female participation in warfare barely changed at all from the patterns described above, which had been evolutionarily shaped by physical, mental, and social constraints. Apart from desperate home defence, women’s participation in warfare was limited to auxiliary services to the male warriors as camp followers and prostitutes. To be sure, women were excluded from many activities and occupations in historical societies. Still, they were absent from the warriors’ ranks to an ever-larger degree than from any other occupation in which they traditionally did not participate. But what about modern, industrialized, and especially advanced industrial societies? These have undergone tremendous, unprecedented changes, which, among other things, greatly transformed women’s place in society.

How do these changes affect, and how can they affect, women’s participation in combat roles in the armed services? The bottom line is that they do, although overall perhaps not by a very wide margin. Physically, fighting with guns and explosives has already made a change. For example, in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Dahomey, the king’s army included an elite bodyguard unit of women, which grew in number from hundreds to thousands. The women, armed with guns, as well as with bows and arrows, machetes and clubs, were reputedly ferocious warriors. From the late nineteenth century, women began to participate actively in many revolutionary and guerrilla forces, which combined informal social structures and radical ideologies. Their participation in combat roles in the Soviet and Yugoslav armed forces during the Second World War and on the communist side in Vietnam is well known. However, even in these often-cited cases, where a radical social ideology prevailed, the home country was invaded and women were anyhow at grave risk, and an acute shortage of manpower existed, women’s role in warfare was still limited. Most women took men’s places in the factories and fields, or performed auxiliary services within the armed forces. Those who actually participated in combat roles amounted to no more than 8–12 per cent of the combat troops, not far from their estimated share in the famous Dahomey army or in those very few tribal societies that had allowed women to participate in battle, including the Scythian and Sarmatian ‘Amazons’. Furthermore, in Soviet Russia, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, and other revolutionary countries, women were excluded from combat roles once the war was over. Why is this so, and how likely is this situation to persist in advanced industrial societies? After all, the modern mechanical and electronic battlefield has created numerous tasks that involve little if any physical force. Fighting is done with firepower, and the movement of people and loads is largely mechanical. Many women can drive or fire an armoured fighting vehicle as well as many men, or for that matter command the vehicle, an armoured battalion, or an armoured army. Some women are even strong enough to be able to serve in ordinary infantry units, which still rely heavily on physical force. However, Hollywood’s G. I. Jane notwithstanding, women are rarely likely to be strong enough for elite infantry and commando units—no more in fact than they are likely to compete successfully in any serious men’s football league, let alone boxing or weightlifting. Women flew as combat pilots in the Soviet air force during the Second World War. But how many of them can successfully compete for similar capacities in the much more competitive air forces of modern advanced powers has still to be ascertained. In any case, this leaves many active combat roles that women can perform.

The mental sex differences in respect of warfare have similarly narrowed but not closed. As much of today’s fighting activity is done from afar and with little physical contact, it involves much less of the aggressive and violent attitude traditionally associated with men. Even if not wholly a matter of pushing buttons, modern fighting more than before bears the character of an occupation that requires more cool-headed professionalism and organizational discipline than aggressive predisposition. There can be little doubt that women could cope successfully with the mental task if they so wished. But would they so wish? The indications are that the number of those who would wish it is far smaller that that of men. Even if the physical aspect posed no problem, far fewer women than men are inclined to combat activity and combat careers. The reasons for this motivational difference again go back to fundamental sex-related predispositions. On average, men are more attracted to this type of competitive, high-risk, violent, machine-related activity. In the same way that the introduction of effective contraceptives, although greatly affecting women’s sexual attitude, has not closed the gap between the sexual behaviour of men and women, far-reaching changes in social and family patterns do not wholly eradicate sex-related occupational preferences. Throughout history women’s overburden with child bearing and rearing was one of the factors that precluded their active participation in warfare. Indeed, significantly, the famous Dahomey women warriors unit was only possible because its members, officially married to the king, were forced to celibacy on penalty of death. The force may have evolved from the harem guard, to which no man was allowed access. Furthermore, the women may have customarily undergone excision at childhood. Even though women in today’s developed world give birth to only two children, on average, and household duties are far lighter than before and more equally divided between the sexes, the woman’s share in raising the children still tends to be larger. (Despite the doctrine of equality, the law recognizes this by tending to prefer the woman for custody of the children in cases of divorce.) More than men, women would shrink from a highly risky career that involves long periods of absence from the husband and children. This sort of preference has long been attributed to lingering cultural inequalities in the way society is structured. Although these inequalities were indeed acute and still exist, it would now seem that their inborn element was too easily overlooked. Even if the greatest equality of access to the educational and labour markets were achieved, the sex differences would be such that the inclinations of men and women would, on average, be different in some important respects. Even in Scandinavia, where nearly 80 per cent of women are in the workforce, fewer than 10 per cent of the women work in occupations where the sex balance is roughly equal. Half of all workers are in jobs where their own sex accounts for 90 per cent of employees. The choice of a combat career is a field in which the sex difference is particularly marked.

The Netherlands is a case in point, having the most egalitarian legislation and policy in the developed world. From the late 1970s the Dutch authorities granted women equal access to all military jobs and have acted intensively to encourage them to exercise this freedom of opportunity. Nevertheless, as the feminist authors of a study on the subject have written with dismay: ‘The interest of women in the army seemed to diminish more than to increase. . . . The physical requirements remained a problem and so did the acceptance of women by their male colleagues. . . . The demands for combat jobs in the infantry, cavalry, artillery and the Royal Engineers are too high to be met by most women.’ Female participation in the army, especially in combat roles, remained in the low percentage points. In Norway as well, another country with highly egalitarian legislation and policy, the picture is very similar, partly, although not solely, because of women’s own lack of interest. But what about those women who do desire a combat role and a combat career? In the labour market as well, many occupations are unevenly divided between the sexes, but equality of access on merit has nevertheless been secured in the developed countries to any member of either sex who chooses any particular occupation. Are there any special arguments that might warrant an exceptional status to the occupation of fighting? More complex family arrangements, mentioned by reluctant armed services, have already been discussed. These may be overcome by a combination of female and military compromises. The prospect of possible captivity is a major consideration. As we have seen, women are far more exposed than men to sexual abuse, especially when out of the protection of the law and orderly society. This, too, however, is a risk that society might choose to leave to individual female choice. Finally, can men and women live close together for long periods of service in intimate combat groups without being distracted by sexual attraction that would disrupt their combat effectiveness? Does not the famous ‘male bonding’ in the combat group depend on the absence of women? Is not the ‘culture of war’ itself, those traditional qualities of warrior masculinity, best inculcated in an exclusive man’s world? Indeed, at this point some feminists form an awkward alliance with male sceptics, arguing that experience shows that participation in combat units makes women forfeit their own true nature and adopt male-type thinking and behaviour.

We lack sufficient experience to judge how significantly the dynamics created in modern mixed-sex fighting units would affect their combat effectiveness. In principle, fighting units need not, of course, necessarily be mixed for women to participate in them. Separate units for men and women are also possible. In summary, it would probably not be wild speculation to suggest that the forces that have opened the labour market for women are too irresistible for the armed services to withstand. Women are integrated in larger numbers, even in combat roles. On the other hand, women’s participation in such roles will probably remain marginal compared with that of men. The evolution-shaped physical, mental, and social factors that have made fighting the most polarized sex-related activity are unlikely to disappear.

lunes, diciembre 10, 2007

Leones para lobos, cabras para corderos, pinguinos, ¿Cómo era?

Bueno vi Leones por corderos, o como se llame, y la verdad que me dejo gusto a nada. Tan insulsa es que por momentos creía estar viendo cine argentino. Son 3 historias, 2 remotamente conectadas y una apartada. En la que no tiene relación con las otras dos está Robert Redford -profesor universitario- dialogando largo y tendido con un alumno, en lo más aburrido y deslucido de la película. Hablan...pavadas. Como dije el otro día, me convenció mas cuando Robert Redford hizo de Coronel a la cabeza de un motín en una cárcel militar. Su otra película de los 70´s a gusto de Hugo no la conozco, pero seguro es mejor que esta.
La otra historia, la del Senador Tom Cruise -un neoconservador acérrimo en ascenso- con la periodista Merryl Streep es más interesante pero no menos acartonada y exagerada en clichés discursivos. Básicamente consiste en una discusión, civilizada -¿será esa la novedad?-, entre una postura pura y netamente neoconservadora con otra muy crítica de la política norteamericana en medio oriente. En el intercambio trillado de argumentos la periodista siempre tiene la última palabra, evidenciando el sesgo anti-republicano de la película, lo que en sí no es criticable, pero de lo cual ya existe material sobreabundante en la prensa cotidiana. Vuelve al debate de cuál debe ser el rol de los medios en una guerra. ¿Apoyarla? ¿Informarla objetivamente? ¿Criticarla?. La pregunta aquí era si puede informarse objetivamente de una guerra sobre la base de información exclusivamente gubernamental, como era la proporcionada por Tom Cruise al revelar en primicia los detalles de una especie de surge aplicada a Afganistán.
La tercera historia transcurre precisamente allí, con dos soldados norteamericanos trabando combate con los talibanes, varados por el accidentado comienzo del operativo.
Un signo de corrección política: ni si quiera el neoconservador Tom Cruise, cuando alecciona con moralina sobre el insustituible papel de EEUU en la seguridad propia y del mundo, se atreve a usar la palabra Islam o musulmanes. Se habla de talibanes, wahabitas, iraníes, creencias medievales, pero nunca de Islam. Recordemos que en uno de los últimos debates entre los candidatos republicanos, Guliani y demás se apresuraron en marcar como enemigo público al islamofascismo (sobre el cual ninguna mención hacen los demócratas, casi simétricamente a las que el partido republicano puede llegar a hacer del calentamiento global).
2/5.

¡Grande gordo!

Yngwie estuvo sensacional; tiene una presencia escénica que desata el frenesí de los fans, quienes corean -como pueden- sus solos.
El show fue corto (1:30), caro (110 mangos + 10 de comisión de ticketek) pero intenso. Por el tiempo dedicado a solos y temas instrumentales, fue un ejercicio más bien introspectivo. Es que Yngwie es la verdadera vedette y todo cuanto retire la mirada puesta en él es pura distracción. Una gloria Il Maestro. El sábado se tocó 2 funciones y al dia siguiente estaba tocando en Santiago de Chile.

Dos videitos de la primera función, subidos a youtube:



sábado, diciembre 08, 2007

Cod 4

Hace unos días terminé de jugar al Call of duty 4: modern warfare, es un video juego que lo sumerge a uno en una experiencia casi cinematográfica. Véase un trailer, pero especiamente véase el video que embedeo a continuación, de una misión donde se hace de artillero de un c130. Sin palabras.


¡Hoy sabado toca Yngwie! Allí estaré.

viernes, diciembre 07, 2007

Tora Tora Tora!

Hace 66 años la idea en apariencia atractiva de destruir la flota norteamericana del pacífico atracada en Pearl harbour a la postre terminó siendo pésima.
Si Japón debía obeceder a la pulsión de atacar a un vecino, podría haberlo intentado con mayor perspectiva de éxito contra las colonias británicas y holandesas, o contra la URSS, en aquél momentos con algunas dificultades en el este de Europa... Si no fue así es porque los japoneses aspiraban a hacer del pacífico un Mare nostrum (a cuya realización EEUU era el primer y mayor obstáculo), o por qué sospechaban que tarde o temprano EEUU los atacaría. Algo semejante pasó en el mencionado frente oriental, a la postre una very bad idea que, como los japoneses, sobreestimó el peso del factor sorpresa.