Thursday, January 08, 2015

Charlie Hebdo .. and internal colonies

France, like the UK, has lots of Muslims - probably in excess of 5% of its population (exact numbers are not counted by the rigorously secular state). The Muslims tend to derive ethnically from France's ex-colonies in North Africa. As many of them are geographically concentrated, they constitute internal colonies.

Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, started out as a religion of pastoralists. Lots of references in the key texts to shepherds, and sorting out sheep from goats. Christianity was refashioned into a docile religion for the subjects of empire (another Roman achievement) while those same Romans dispersed the Jews after AD 70 and 135 so that their subsequent history was mostly within the empires of others - pastoralism was then not really their thing.

Islam, not so much.

What do we know about pastoralists? They keep animals (cattle, horses) in environments which don't support farming. Cattle are easy to steal and relatively low-maintenance. If you lose your cattle you don't get to have many descendants, so pastoralists are a might touchy about showing personal weakness, do not respond well to slights and have been known for their endemic blood feuds.

The more cattle you have, the wealthier you get so there are returns to scale. However, keeping the pastoralist "empire" together is tricky: it's just too easy for one clan or tribe to steal off the others. Islam is helpful to pastoral empire-builders, a 'glue-religion' which creates a framework for inter-tribal cooperation under a common deity and set of rules. However, as a cursory examination of Islamic world history shows, even a binding religion can't suppress the inherent centrifugal forces of pastoralism. And it always ends in violence.

So not all internal colonies are equal. A Chinese internal colony would, no doubt, be industrious, non-violent and successful; ditto the Jewish equivalent, historically the ghetto. History supports such observations. Again, Islamic internal colonies .. not so much.

This is not fundamentally a discussion at the level of values: free speech is pretty abstract and always circumscribed; it's about the norms and protocols of the way we organise society, the ways we relate to each other. People sometimes model social organisation using the game-theoretic model of "hawks vs. doves". The secularised West is ideologically a "dove" culture; Islamic culture, following its pastoral roots, is in most variants "hawk".

In the absence of any easy answers*, I would predict selective and enhanced surveillance and containment are going to be the outcome of all of this, across Europe.


* So what are the alternatives? Historically, socially-deprecated internal colonies have either been expelled (the Jews pretty much everywhere, the Muslims in Spain) with much suffering - or forcibly assimilated. The two policies were often pursued simultaneously.

Naturally any such operation in contemporary Europe would be met with the most ferocious and violent opposition from the said internal colony, together with a collapse of social cohesion on the part of the state attempting the ethnic cleansing.

That is not to say that it hasn't happened within recent history (Balkan wars, Soviet Russia under Stalin, the Nazis): just that a liberal democratic state can't do it. **


**  That's not to say we won't get gradualist or 'at-the-margins' versions of these policies advocated by populist parties amongst others: a kind of 'Reconquista-lite'.