January 20, 2010

Haiti & Anarchism: One Cheer for Voodoo!

Economist Tyler Cowen writes:
"A related question is how well Haiti can do as an anarchistic society. Haiti is one right now and arguably many parts of the Haitian countryside have been quasi-anarchistic for a long time, ruled by either custom or gangs. ... It's evidence that the Haitian social fabric is a lot stronger than many people thought."

I suspect a belief in voodoo lessens criminal predation in situations without effective policing (which is most of the time in Haiti). If there is no law-and-order, what is to stop you from doing bad things to other people? Well, beyond payback from lynch law, family vendetta, and mafia vengeance in this world, there is the threat of your victim or victim's surviving relatives putting a curse on you in the spirit world.

Anthropologist Henry Harpending, who spent 42 months living in Africa and liked it so much that he seriously considered leaving academia to become a safari hunting guide, has said that modernity ruins morals in tribal villages in Africa. Isolated villages have a stable culture underpinned by fear of retribution by black magic. It's not a culture conducive to progress, but it's at least a culture adapted to the local conditions, such as they are. Once a road comes to town, however, and people stop fearing quite so strongly that if they do something bad to a neighbor, they'll suffer vengeance from the spirit world, things fall apart. People become more likely to do something bad to their neighbors.

Of course, voodoo has its disadvantages: it has no ethical content. Deities do whatever they feel like, and the more outrageous the bribe (e.g., human sacrifice in Africa), the more they might feel like helping you and hurting your enemies. Papa Doc Duvalier, a superbly educated doctor and intellectual, studied his patients' beliefs, and used them to position himself as a voodoo sorcerer whom you had better vote for and obey, if you knew what was good for you.

By the way, the fad for changing the spelling of "voodoo" to "vodou" in news stories about Haiti is just another example of the long-running campaign to make the American public more ignorant by cutting them off from their past learning by changing names. The intention is to make Americans' eyes glaze over when they see the word "vodou" instead of light up when they see "voodoo."

We'll know that liberals are sincere when they start referring to tax-cutting as "vodou economics."

Don't count on it.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

35 comments:

voodookoolaid said...

"Papa Doc Duvalier, a superbly educated doctor and intellectual, studied his patients' beliefs, and used them to position himself as a voodoo sorcerer whom you had better vote for and obey, if you knew what was good for you."

Boy, one could almost say

"Barack Obama, a superbly educated professor and intellectual, studied white people's hangups, and used them to position himself as hope-n-change messiah whom you had better for and obey, if you knew what was good for you."

Anonymous said...

Deities do whatever they feel like

How is that any different in Voodoo than in other, supposedly more civilized, religions?

Whiskey said...

The problem is, that the world won't stop. Even a minor amount of money (the FT estimates average per-capita income of $3,000 is enough to stimulate consumer spending) changes society.

And people WANT roads. Because they bring clean water, schools, radios, television, often better food (that is cheaper too).

Change is not going to stop to just preserve societies like an ethno-museum. Western societies have many flaws but fly-in-amber societies that cannot adapt to change is not one of them.

Indeed the "story" of human events after 1500 is comparative advantage to societies more adapted to change just drives technological (and wealth advantages) higher and higher.

Haiti is a failure because its people failed to adapt to change. Anarchy is just a recipe to being ruled by others, or depending on charity. Which I suspect is fairly limited.

stari_momak said...

Do do that voodoo that you do so well!

Anonymous said...

Recently I read an article at Takimag about Africa that made mention of the barbaric practice of "dry sex". I didn't know what this went so I went to wikipedia:

"Dry sex is a sexual practice of minimizing vaginal secretions by using herbal aphrodisiacs, household detergents, antiseptics,[1] by wiping out the vagina,[2] or by placing leaves in the vagina.[2]

The goal of these activities is to make the woman's vagina dry and tight, supposedly to increase sexual pleasure for the man.[3] However, these practices make sex very painful for the woman.[1] Dry sex is common in Sub-Saharan Africa and is of concern as it increases the chances of transmitting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV for both partners.[1] The practice has also been reported in Suriname among Afro-Surinamese women.[4]

The lack of lubrication required for dry sex causes lacerations in the delicate tissue of the vagina, increasing the risk of HIV transmission.[5] Drying the vagina of moisture also removes the natural antiseptic lactobacilli which can combat sexually transmitted diseases.[6] Furthermore, dry sex increases the odds that a condom will break because of the increased friction. It may also result in vaginal inflammation and/or traumatic lesions which in turn may increase the transmission of STDs in other ways."


The cruelty and backwardness out there in the world is much more than our betters, the great and the good, can really handle in my opinion. Thats Clockwork-Orangesque-behavior.

Anonymous said...

Modernity "ruins morals" in African villages, according to Harpending. But what exactly are their moral codes and how would an outsider have anything but the most superficial understanding of them? I would guess these codes would vary depending on how far you travel, making it even harder to get a handle on them. Is FGM part of the moral code? How about the plight of the hapless albinos? I guess it's too late for us, we've been corrupted all these many years by modernity. Christianity no longer keeps us in check. I guess I'll just go out and start up my own pyramid scam.

AMac said...

Google searches.

Voodoo - 17,300,000
Vodou - 3,170,000
18%

"Voodoo economics" - 112,000
"Vodou economics" - 36
0.03%

Anonymous said...

Uh-oh, The Derb looks to be going full-blown nihilist on us:


The Derb: ...As for the culture stuff: arguments from culture are really circular. Culture is just customary collective behavior. If I ask: "Why do people in this place behave in this way?" and you reply, "Because of their culture," you are asserting that they behave in this way because that's how they behave...


He seems to be toying with the idea that 100% of our behavior is burned into our genes at conception.

Although, given that Lynn and Vanhanen estimate an average IQ of only 67 for Haiti...

But maybe I better shut up now before I anger Komment Kontrol.

TGGP said...

Peter Leeson makes a similar point about medieval trials by ordeal.

THOR said...

VOODOO IS CRAP

thugarchy said...

There has long been a misconception that anarchism is pro-violence and chaos. Perhaps, anarchists are to blame for their use of violent means. Also, it's natural for most people to associate lack of government with social chaos.

But, in theory, anarchism was for peace and social order. It argued that social violence and disorder were the product of oppression and rebellion against oppression--and poverty caused by oppression. Anarchists saw institutional power-politcal, economic, cultural, and religious--as concentrated in the hands of a greedy few who manipulated and controlled the people through the police, media mind control, bread-n-circuses entertainment, superstition, and arbitrary laws.

So, if the people were to get rid of those institutions, people would all be equal with one another, and power and wealth would be shared equally by people of good faith.
Anarchism did believe in the necessity of human cooperation but argued this could be more easily facilitated by people working and trading in small groups than by the powerful institutions or government.

Anarchism is simplistic and naive, but its ideal or stated goal was never violence and mayhem.

But, who knows? Maybe over the yrs, anarchism has morphed into a kind of nihlistic rebel punk
destroy-everything 'fight club' ideology for all the crazy people out there.

At any rate, I would not call the state of affairs in Haiti 'anarchist'. Whatever it is, there is no ideology or -ism behind it. It's just a haphazard condition with no rhyme or reason.

Anonymous said...

"Haiti is one right now and arguably many parts of the Haitian countryside have been quasi-anarchistic for a long time, ruled by either custom or gangs"

Total BS. Where does this dumbass get his info? Outside of major cities in Haiti where are the gangs?

pan said...

"Deities do whatever they feel like"

How is that any different in Voodoo than in other, supposedly more civilized, religions?


The more advanced gods require higher and more dignified forms of sacrifice. Thus, it wsn't enough for the Babylonians or Mayans to just kill a whole bunch of people in a crazy manner in order to supplicate their gods.
They had to build grand temples and practice the ritual in an elaborate way. Bloody, but building temples calls for complex social organization. An elevated priest caste devises complex social laws.

In the case of the Yahweh, He got more moral as time went by. He tells Abram to kill the kid, but then says No. In other words, for Yahweh to be a good god--as opposed to merely a powerful god--, he too must be moral and not abuse his power. And even earlier, Yahweh did express remorse for the flood. He had acted out of anger and wiped out nearly all of his creation. He felt guilt conscience. King David feels shame for having abused his power for lust. He sneakily violated God's commandment where a man is not supposed to mess with another man's wife.

The Greek gods can be greedy, fickle, and even cruel, but they are thinking gods--and very political gods. Just as politcal leaders rationally make alliances based on their interests, Greek gods do the same. Their decisions, no matter how immoral they may seem, are not arbitrary nor out-of-the-blue. They are rational political decisions. Also, because the gods usually split into two factions on any given issue, there is a kind of order and balance in the world. If Hera is against you, Athena could be for you. And, they all have their reasons--emotionally and rationally.

A religion made up of rational and strategically oriented anthromophic gods may have had a role in the development of Greek philosophy.

Anonymous said...

"Indeed the "story" of human events after 1500 is comparative advantage to societies more adapted to change just drives technological (and wealth advantages) higher and higher."

Are you channeling Tom Friedman?

Anonymous said...

"Once a road comes to town, however, and people stop fearing quite so strongly that if they do something bad to a neighbor, they'll suffer vengeance from the spirit world, things fall apart."

Apt phrase, Steve. I'm thinking, of course, of Chinua Achibe's "Things Fall Apart." Modernity certainly did destroy his Nigerian fictional villages.

Ray Sawhill said...

Seconding (mostly) Thugarchy here ... Despite the cliches and the cartoons, anarchism has a long and interesting history, and it's a surprisingly deep, humane, and intriguing political philosophy -- it has much in common with chaos theory and evolutionary biology. A fun and easy place to start reading up on it is Colin Ward's "Anarchy in Action."

http://bit.ly/6Ekjdj

Anonymous said...

"Modernity "ruins morals" in African villages, according to Harpending."

Anyone care to speculate on "modernity" ruining morals in Western societies? Daisy of Love, anyone?

Anonymous said...

The problem is, that the world won't stop.
...
Change is not going to stop to just preserve societies like an ethno-museum...

Haiti is a failure because its people failed to adapt to change...


No, actually the problem is, you won't shut your bloody big mouth, yammering on and on about the "need for change" which, more often than not, is the kind of change that your tribe thrives on, while you bullshit others with sophistry like this -- calling their cultures "ethno-museums," calling the slow destruction of their societies through corruption by the modern liberal Western culture imposed on them from the outside at gun-point or by seduction through mass media as "democracy" ("people WANT..."), etc.

You want EMPIRE, and that's as "conservative" (assuming it is conservative in any way whatsoever) as your tribe will ever get. Because, you see, we have to bomb bomb bomb Iran to make the world safe for the Scots-Irish... sorry, to facilitate the "inevitable" change. "Audacity of change", I'll call it from now on.

For some reason, "change" is a mysterious thing that happens through, well, let me guess: over-read (and terminally confused) overzealous brainiacs like you, right? In other words, through those who constantly mess up others' cultures so that it becomes safe for.. the Scots-Irish. That is change, right? Oh, and when the impact of that change gets so dismal like the current sex relations in the US, you just blame THEM for it ("it's all SWPL values; women HATE HATE HATE betas", etc.).

And if those "ethno-museums" don't bend the knee to outside forces -- for the simple reason that "change" is not an abstraction that rains on people, and every culture is a latent/mediated expression of a specific ethny's genetic profile --, then they are "failures" because they've committed the ultimate sin of not wanting to be jerked around by the Scots-Irish.

That's definitely a very conservative way of looking at things, oh yeah.

--

Are you channeling Tom Friedman?

No, he's just channeling his Scots-Irish hyper-ethnocentricism.

You see, people WANT roads -- the way they WANT to bang blond and blue-eyed white chicks, the way they WANT plasma-screen TVs, cheap credit to spend their way into prosperity, no-down-payment 3000 ft. sq. houses, and -- ultimately -- US citizenship. Now stop being a know-nothing yahoo, empty your wallet and send your son to overseas adventures so that these people's desire for "change" can be "actualized," and the world is made safer for the Scots-Irish. Or else, the government will create a dedicated bureau to whack conspiracy nut-jobs like you.


JT

Pat Shuff said...

to make the American public more ignorant by cutting them off from their past learning by changing names.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

swamp>>>wetlands
jungle>>>rainforest
virgin timber>>>old growth
old growth>>>ancient forest

Or maybe just the surprisingly rapid evolution of lanquage where a modern day Brit can barely understand Chaucer/Olde English a few dozen generations hence.

Anonymous said...

"The more advanced gods require higher and more dignified forms of sacrifice. Thus, it wsn't enough for the Babylonians or Mayans to just kill a whole bunch of people in a crazy manner in order to supplicate their gods."

How odd to lump together the Babylonians and the Mayans. I can't think of any examples of Babylonian human sacrifice, can you? Apart from a very early example of royal burial sacrifice in earliest Ur (ie, Sumerian, not Babylonian), human sacrifice does not seem to have been a part of Sumerian or later Akkadian, Babylonian or Assyrian religion.

To the west, human sacrifice was practiced amongst the more primitive Canaanites, Hebrews, Phoenicians, etc. Egypt apparently never practiced human sacrifice, except possibly, like Ur, very very early in the Old Kingdom period as part of royal burial, and never again afterwards.

As we saw with Abraham, YHWH's chosen considers human sacrifice to be normal by offering up his own son, and the Bible contains at least one LATER example of approved human sacrifice to YHWH (Jephthah's daughter), thus negating the theory that Abraham's test of faith had ended YHWH's acceptance of human sacrifice.

Ironic that the prejudices of the Abrahamic religions always casts all "pagans" into the same category even when they are in fact, very different from each other. Lumping together the Babylonians and the Mayans takes the cake, though. I've never seen that done before.

Big bill said...

Actually the real test is when a government-funded Haitian welfare rights group insists that the MSM drop "voodoo economics" entirely as racist. You do not hear "paddy wagon" or "Jew them down". All they have to do is point out the obvious correlation between voodoo and race and the MSM will add it to their secret no-no manual.

I suspect we are almost there given NPR's touching affirmation of voodoo in a piece last night.

One seldom mentioned problem with voodoo and advanced cultures is the incomptibility between voodoo and democracy. As a white Kenyan farmer noted at thespectator.co.uk years ago, when college educated Africans commonly believe that witch doctors, politicians and evil spirits can become invisible, fly through the air to every polling station like Santa Claus, and see how everyone marks their ballot, how can you ever have a secret vote?

David said...

>But maybe I better shut up now before I anger Komment Kontrol.<

You should worry more about angering fellow commenters here in the peanut gallery with your constant whining about "Komment Kontrol." Try posting almost anywhere else if you want to know what real and painful KK is.

My strongest comments (when conscientiously phrased) are regularly posted here; only my most egregious flatulence doesn't make the cut. I suspect it's the same with you.

Reactionary said...

So, if the people were to get rid of those institutions, people would all be equal with one another, and power and wealth would be shared equally by people of good faith.

And this is where I get into it with anarchists all the time: human beings are hierarchical animals. Only an institution like the State has the weight necessary to flatten everything underneath it into non-hierarchical society. Of course, at that point you've got a two-tier society, like Cuba or Soviet Russia.

As social democracy descends inexorably into socialism and, ultimately, chaos, non-State institutions will arise to provide the services formerly monopolized by the State. Over time, these institutions will become hereditary, and will compete intensely for human and financial capital, as well as negotiating sojourners' rights for their subscribers.

Neo-feudalism, and it is coming whether the anarchists or the social democrats want it or not.

24 frames per second said...

"How odd to lump together the Babylonians and the Mayans. I can't think of any examples of Babylonian human sacrifice, can you?"

I saw it in the movies.

susej said...

"As we saw with Abraham, YHWH's chosen considers human sacrifice to be normal by offering up his own son..."

But most Jews rejected this idea.
They expected a triumphant and angry messiah to come and 'win one for the Gipper and His fans, the Jews'. This messiah would be great man with magical powers perhaps, but he could not be part-god or half god/half man. The idea of a flesh-n-blood son of God was simply unacceptable to the Jews.

The idea of Jesus as both Son of God and Son of Man caught like wildfire among the pagans because that sort of thing was common in pagan religions. Lots of stuff about Greek and Roman gods having sex with humans and begatting god-mans(like Prometheus).

Many historians think Jesus was a Jewish reformer who never claimed to be the son of God and that this mythic element was added later by Hellenized Jewish followers like Paul. Since the Near East was under Roman rule, the educated and more cosmpoolitan among the Jews may have been influenced by mythological ideas in other cultures.

The idea of Jesus as a god-man wasn't blasphemous to pagans but could only be to the Jews who maintained a clear distinction between God and man. Jews never accepted the notion of Jesus as God's son and never recognized the death of Jesus as some kind of sacrifice. As far as the Jews were concerned, Jesus went too far playing with fire. He got unlucky.

And though there's a lot of stuff in the Old Testament about punishment and suffering, there isn't much about sacrifice. God expected his people to be obedient--and the patriarchs with their women and children--, but there was a reciprocity between the powerful and the powerless.
The concept of sacrifice is selfless. It is surrendering oneself in blind devotion. So, a lower samurai would willingly and unquestioningly obey his master no matter what even if his master told him to disembowel himself. But, this wasn't so in the Old Testament. There is the promise that if Jews obey God, God will reward them with good things.
Suffering isn't noble but is punishment for man's persistent wickedness going back to Adam and Eve. Old Testament doens't say much good will come from sacrifice. It says the Jews need patience, virtue, courage, and honesty to suffer their punishments and live a more virtuous life so that God can bless them again.
Similarly, there is an understanding that if children obey their parents, parents will be appreciative and loving. It was not a one-sided thing which is usually the case involving sacrifice. This is the crucial difference between Jewish and Asian cultures--and why Asians may never match the Jews. Jewish culture could be authoritarian but it never said children should mindlessly and blindly obey their parents like dogs. Asian culture, on the other hand, produced that kind of mindless loyalty. Thus, Jews are more creative and thoughtful whereas Asians are mostly in follow-the-leader mode. It could be the product of different racial personalities too, of course.

If there is a divergence between paganism and Christianity, it is the notion of God sacrificing himself for humanity. Christians regard Jesus not only as son-of-god but also AS God. In other words, Jesus is God Himself in the guise of man. The man-part of Jesus looks upon God as his father the god-part of Jesus is God Himself. It's a case of God wanting to empathize with the suffering of man by suffering in the flesh of man. In the other religions, gods take on the guise of man but to fool people for their own pleasure--like Zeus appearing as man to have sex with a whole bunch of women. The Christian God, on the other hand, takes on the semblance of man in order suffer like man, share man's pain, and redeem man. Since life was shitty for most people, I guess they appreciated the idea of God who came down to shake their hands. Christianity turned the ideas within Judaism into a political art. To the extent that all politicians have to kiss babies today, there's some Jesus in all of them.

ricpic said...

All the foaming at the mouth from anonymous about the big bad west doesn't change the fact that backward people do want roads.

gun is good said...

"All the foaming at the mouth from anonymous about the big bad west doesn't change the fact that backward people do want roads."

True, but the question is for what. Germanic barbarians loved the roads created by the Roman Empire--all the easier to go down and sack Rome.

Same with guns. Africans want them. But, for what? For order or violence?

Anonymous said...

My strongest comments (when conscientiously phrased) are regularly posted here; only my most egregious flatulence doesn't make the cut. I suspect it's the same with you.

Komment Kontrol only allows you guys to see a teeny-tiny little fraction of my cynicism.

You have no idea how bad things are going to get over the course of the remainder of your lives.

Anonymous said...

"Komment Kontrol only allows you guys to see a teeny-tiny little fraction of my cynicism.

You have no idea how bad things are going to get over the course of the remainder of your lives."

Have you considered starting a blog?

Anonymous said...

Read it and weep, Kevin MacDonald:


What Haiti needs: A Haitian diaspora
By Elliott Abrams
Friday, January 22, 2010
washingtonpost.com


Mark Krikorian comments here.

David said...

JT: hear, hear! You nailed it home, and with a righteous sledgehammer.

The demand to "change" into mulch for international SI masters, phrased as an assertion of inevitabilty (as was the march of communism back in the day), is ubiquitous, from Postrel to Friedman, and intolerable.

Anonymous said...

Modernity seems to have disrupted social networks that used to be more stratified but functional. As such, there was some tip of IQ level within a neighborhood or local organization or kindship network that the lesser intelligent members of any such groups could borrow from or be led by. Modernity appears to have ruptured a lot of this useful stratification of ability , leaving in urban slums vast pockets of adjacent and compact small groups none of which has much ability apex but all of which appear to amount to large pockets of uniformly abject low ability & low ability that is thus compounded and aggravated--not mitigated and relieved. One ponders if the recent $100 battery operated hand-size computers designed to bring the LDC in touch with the Internet actually were operating in Haiti among slum victims in the recent tragedy? If cell phones were helping at all among the impoverished victims? While these "reach out and touch someone" means count for something, there is little indication they do much yet to help lift these pockets of low ability out of their compounded weaknesses.

Alan Reynolds said...

I wrote "What Haiti Needs is Voodoo Economics" in a letter to consulting clients in 2004. I was alluding to the brief but relatively successful (in terms of economics) regime of General Henri Namphy from February 1986 to November 1987. Effective trade protection fell from 100% to 40%, export duties were sharply reduced, and the top income tax rate was cut from 50% to 30%.

Because the military-civilian regime postponed elections at the end of 1987, however, all foreign aid and IMF-World Bank credit was cut off. After that punishment, a typically brutal 1989 IMF deal raised tariffs and the VAT and debased the currency. The results were predictably awful.

What Haiti needs is Voodoo Economics -- meaning much freer trade, much less onerous taxes, a currency board, and greater security of property rights. For starters, they could try a corporate tax like Ireland, an individual tax like Singapore, a payroll tax like China (zero), a VAT like the U.S. (ditto) and the same trade barriers as Hong Kong (namely, none). Capital and human capital would rush in, including the money and skills of expatriate Haitians.

Anonymous said...

Haiti earthquake: voodoo high priest claims aid monopolised by Christians
Haiti's voodoo high priest has claimed believers have been discriminated against by evangelical Christians who are monopolising aid sent to the earthquake-stricken country.
By Nick Allen in Port-au-Prince
Published: 7:00AM GMT 01 Feb 2010
telegraph.co.uk

Max Beauvoir, Haiti's "supreme master" of voodoo, alleged his faith's opponents had deliberately prevented much-needed help from reaching followers of the religion, which blends the traditional beliefs of West African slaves with Roman Catholicism.

"The evangelicals are in control and they take everything for themselves," he claimed. "They have the advantage that they control the airport where everything is stuck. They take everything they get to their own people and that's a shame...

Anonymous said...

By the way, that voodoo high priest is a Sorbonne-educated biochemist.

He and Khieu Samphan, I guess...