Landes, Landes, Taleb and the Meme Merchants Consortium – congruence on the culture of generativity vs the culture of piracy


There has been an interesting congruence this week between the workings of the Meme Merchants Consortium and Richard Landes’s, blog the Augean Stables, which has been cited here before on several occasions, most recently: Poison in the Well of Culture.  Landes’s latest article, Romney Cites Landes, Offends Palestinians is a discussion of the recent controversy surrounding US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s suggestion that key differences in Palestinian and Israeli culture are responsible for the stark divide between the two societies economic productivity.

In reading Landes’s article I was struck by the congruence between our separate conclusions about two ostensibly different societies, in Landes’s case the Palestinians of the 21st century, and in the Meme Merchants case the Barbary Corsairs of the 16th to 19th centuries.  Landes concludes [emphasis mine]:

On the other hand, Arab political culture, amply embodied by the Palestinian variety, promotes a cultue of  contempt for hard work by leisured elites, widespread commitment to zero-sum games of dominance, an distrust of intellectual openness and external influences, a strong emphasis on rote learning and respecting those older and more powerful, hostility to women in the public sphere, ubiquitous protection rackets (e.g., Arafat the PA), a violent repression of public criticism… in a phrase, a culture dedicated to taking, not making.

I reached a similar conclusion in my article, Hostis Humani Generis – reflections on the enemies of mankind… over the weekend, that pirate culture is a kind of kleptoparasitism and that a key distinguishing characteristic pirate society and civil society is that, “…it produces nothing.”

I found the congruence of the timing and analyses of our two articles interesting.

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Black Swan Bad – Tutelary Insults, the strangest beast in the world can’t be imagined – or how Cygnus atratus dreams of being a Platypus


For over two thousand years the idea of a ‘Black Swan’ has been synonymous with something that does not exist or cannot exist, and comes down to us originally from Aristotle’s Prior Analytics where the concepts: white, black and swan are proposed as predicates in syllogisms using white + swan as a necessary relations and the black + swan as an improbable or impossible one – not an entirely unreasonable position when you consider that no one had ever seen anything but white swans and seven eights of the world was unknown to the Greeks.

The Black Swan form was further popularized from the 2nd century on by Roman satirist Juvenal’s couplet:

rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno

[a rare bird in the lands, and very like a black swan]

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All Other Things are Never Equal – Pielke the Younger on the Simplified Math of 7 Billion – or what is wrong with this picture


Glass Empty, c. 1000CE

Dr. Roger Pielke Jr, [‘Pielke the Younger’ around here] my go-to-guy for science policy related topics posted a video on his excellent blog produced by NPR  entitled, “Filling Up – 7 Billion, How Did We Get So Big So Fast” a several days ago which hasn’t attracted much comment, but was particularly interesting to me in light of having spent an electricityless weekend two weeks ago reading David P. Goldman’s [the online columnist ‘Spengler’ over at Asia Times Online] very new book, “How Civilizations Die, (and why islam is dying too)” – a must read for people interested in the geo and socio-political implications of demographic trends [well worth looking at as long as you remain aware that his thesis has some theoretical limitations]  If you are frightened of the Islam angle for some reason, it is possible to  subtract out that aspect and you still come up with a fascinating thesis – which I will let you read the book to discover – or maybe I will write more at a future date.

The take away I will leave you from that book is that the radical decline in fertility rates in the Western world in the last three centuries and the currently collapsing fertility rate in the muslim [you didn’t know either?]  and much of the developing world requires a radical rethink of the neo-Malthusian paranoia, of overpopulation apocalypse we have been force fed since the Ehrlichs and their ilk made their onto the scene in the ’60’s and continues to be a core assumption of a great many people, as we grope out way forward into a global future that may be dominated by demographic decline rather than a population bomb.  In other words, it reintroduces that concept of depopulation to the modern vocabulary, which used to be a subject of great concern in the premodern and classical worlds.

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