Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

August 6, 2012

It takes a village to murder

Filed under: Postcolonialism — Razib Khan @ 10:44 pm

In a small follow up to Zach’s post on honor-killing. Let’s reiterate something: individuals are responsible for horrendous crimes, and their acts of horror reflect their own choices. But choices don’t occur in a vacuum. Most people are conformist, and deeply reliant upon social networks, and the succor which that provides. Therefore, it is not surprising that Muslim men (and to a lesser extent women), to give one example, go through a “liberal” phase, before reasserting “traditional” values. Why? Because not reaffirming a commitment to those values entails an alienation from family, kith, and kin.

This alienation is not distressing for many people. For example, if my relatives are discomfited by my life choices because of their barbaric superstitions, I don’t hesitate to tell them to fuck off. So it has been, and so it will be. But most people are not willing, or capable, of being so aggressive about asserting their individuality. Social norms matter. If we are truly horrified by acts of barbarism which are commonplace in Muslim communities in the West, then we need to address the root cause. Culture. Legal sanction won’t change the underlying dynamic.


July 4, 2012

Barbarians on the blog!

Filed under: Postcolonialism — Razib Khan @ 4:36 pm

Omar says below:

Razib Re Anurag, As someone who once more or less took for granted all that Anurag has written, I have a few observations:

1. These beliefs are integral parts of a certain “elite” Brown worldview that is so normative that it is not even visible AS a worldview. Its not just left wingers. The brown elite, right, left, fascist, all share this view. Since it is also then normative in academia, the usual method of “look it up” also doesn’t help much. So Anurag is not being personally retarded. It’s like saying Newton was retarded because he believed in alchemy. That was the normative view. Everyone believed it. Why wouldnt he?

2. Particular counter-examples mean nothing. They can be set aside and the argument continued with new books about the Congo. The list of actual crimes (as you know better than most of us) is very long. And coming from a more advanced civilization, they are also better documented. A lawyerly argument can easily be sustained for decades (and can be backed up with quotes from hundreds of well respected historians and intellectuals, not just fringe elements).

3. For many of us, somewhat distanced from our traditional religions, its is an almost religious understanding of the history of mankind and of good and evil. Anyone not fully convinced is not just challenging a particular historical fact. He is challenging beliefs that give meaning and structure to our lives (that nothing much changes if you do drop it is irrelevant…..thats not how it feels while you are within the religion).

Interesting points. This reminds me of the problem I had with some readers when this blog started: they objected that I made fun of their moronic religions, and advised that I should tone it down. This of course led to their banning. I simply don’t follow the normative view common among many brown-folk that savage ancestral superstitions should be given due deference, or that they should be organizing principles of self-identity even if you don’t accept the truth of the belief system (e.g., “cultural” Muslims and Hindus who won’t intermarry and will readily kill each other over retarded religions they don’t believe in). I am not “secular” in the way that Indians (or Pakistanis or Bangaldeshis, etc.) are. I’m secular in the way that Baron d’Holbach was secular, your gods are figments of your imagination, and I don’t feel it relevant to give due respect. Of course doesn’t mean I’m a militant atheist. I think most people are stupid and tend toward supernaturalism, so religion will always be with us like the poor and shit.

In regards Anurag’s comment, I am conscious of the fact that that perspective is normative among many brown folk. Even among Indian Americans raised in households which inculcated a sense of Indian nationalism this view is common. Obviously I don’t agree with it. Ethiopia is stinking pile of crap despite its evasion of colonialism. Additionally, in many cases the economic history seems to make it clear that colonial enterprises were a transfer of payments from the national fisc to the petite nobility, and enterprising rent seekers (e.g., Cecil Rhodes), because only the nation-state could provide the institutional infrastructure for their “adventures.” Anurag, the savage barbarian that he is, didn’t understand that when I was contrasting Spain and Scandinavia I was being sarcastic. The landfall wealth of Spain’s New World colonies resulted in inflation, and a long term disincentive toward investment in human capital, as opposed to the quest to seek rents (e.g., “conquistadores”). In contrast, nations with no overseas colonies for most of their history, such as Sweden and Germany, entered into economic take off because of their endogenous human capital. The same reason that East Asians have taken off. This is not a controversial position among economists, though rejected by many sociologists immersed in postcolonial theory.

As for people like Anurag, apologists for Islamic science, or Han Chinese befuddled with why their nation is now having to catch up with barbarians, I don’t really give a shit. They’re as interesting as a Papuan tribesman with superstitions about ghosts with a bone through their nose. Of anthropological curiosity only.


July 19, 2011

When gods become demons

Filed under: Culture,Postcolonialism — Razib Khan @ 8:36 pm

This comment is interesting to me:

—yes, a pox on poco jargon. Virtually every kind of high culture (be it performance or visual art) in South Asia has been almost entirely reinvented in the past century (with help from white devils), though in the poco academy it remains shrouded in the mists of hoary antiquity, while everything barbarous about modern life is inevitably attributed to the curiously still omnipotent hand of an inchoate colonial influence. It’s a bit like the folks who believe that man learned to do only the bad things (war, aggression) and was born with the blueprint to do only the good things (bonobo conflict resolution).

Nandalal Nagalingam Rasia here points to what seems to me the reality that post-colonial theory has within it the same tendency as the expositors of the “noble savage” concept in the 18th century. In other words, this hyper-critical school in reference to the West is in all likelihood a product of the West itself! Just as post-colonialism transforms the white gods bringing civilization to the coloreds into Promethean demons who tainted the edenic state of colored nature with their particularly pernicious discourse, so it is an inversion of the self-concept of the West. Pride becomes shame, and self-congratulation turns into self-flagellation. The contrast with the noble savage has an ancient pedigree, it is clear in Tacitus’ Germania, but the tendency is not just Western. The same inversion and elevation of the Other crops in some strands of Daoism anarchism for example.

In some ways you can think of it as a self-correcting aspect of any civilization. There must be some internal culture of critique. The problem emerges when the partisans of negation and evisceration confuse their critical role in the ecosystem of ideas for the Idea itself. It is frankly as coherent as building a society on atheism; not too coherent. Atheism is a critique, it is not a positive assertion of anything as such, and so can not serve as the ground of a society in a fully fleshed out sense.

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