Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fudging The Issues Part 2

Fighting vs. Warfare

People have always fought. They get angry over something and slap each other around. Such quarrels might even lead to murder. Young males with more testosterone than brains might pick a beef with other equally mindless young males of a neighboring tribe and start a long-lasting feud. But fighting is not war. To have war you must have an army. To have an army you must have a state. Warriors are not soldiers. They are independent individuals fighting as individuals to prove how brave they are or to revenge themselves for some real or imagined slight. Soldiers are part of a machine, ordered around like robots and are in the army either because they have been conscripted or for the pay.

Warriors feud, raid and take prisoners as hostages or slaves, but they don’t generally seize and hold territory and its inhabitants. An army exists to conquer the enemy and grab its land, towns and people, enlarging the power, territory and labor force of the ruling class. War is essentially an imperialist venture. War is about power and wealth accrued through violence. Fighting is about any number of things.

War requires the existence of a state. Fighting pre-exists the state.

War and fighting are usually confused. As in the case of status and class, I think the confusion is ideologically based. Since interpersonal violence is not that uncommon, and war and fighting are confused, it becomes easy to claim that humans are naturally warlike. This attitude is an apology for war and imperialism. Opponents of war are branded as naive, since "war is natural" and "they are going against human nature."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fudging The Issues Part 1

Status vs. Class Hierarchies

The other day I Googled "class division, origins" and other than the usual and expected tiresome Marxist stuff, got nothing. It figures, for when doing research on
The Primal Wound in the Concordia University Library, I looked for books on class origin, and orthodox anthropology had nothing to say on the subject. But they do have loads to say about STATUS.
The problem for me, however, is there is a world of difference between CLASS and STATUS. Luciano Pavarotti is a wealthy man and has all the status that you could ever want. Yet, he has no power to force anyone to do anything, nor does he exploit anyone. If he is rich it is because we like his music and pay to hear it. The most miserable small town petty bureaucrat has more power over us than Pavarotti.

Status is based upon respect for ability. One cannot force status anymore than one can force love. In a natural society – i.e. one that has neither state nor class, there is oodles of status. Since the notion of status is based upon ability, you thus have a wide number of statuses - the best poet, best dancer, best potter, best lover, best gardener, best carpenter, best warrior, best hunter, best conciliator, etc. And since ability generally improves with practice, most people in such a community, will in time, achieve status. Indeed, all will, if they live long enough, since the old are the repository of knowledge. Someone who might have been mediocre in everything earlier on, will still be respected as a Village Elder, late in life.

In such a society status becomes a factor for both survival and social cohesion. (The wide range of statuses makes for social cohesion – if only a tiny minority could achieve any level of status, there would be envy and destructive competition.) The best people are chosen for the job, and where community mobilization is needed, a natural leadership arises. If the leadership fails, those involved descend in status. Since they rely on the active support of their fellow villagers, they have no choice other than to hand their leadership over to others.

In a status-based society, there is no ability to coerce. The high-status cannot force others to do anything, all they can do is ask, plead, or at worst, slyly manipulate. There is no army, no police, no bureaucracy to bully people. A class society, on the other hand, is founded directly on the ability of a minority to coerce the majority.

Class society, creates a false sense of status. The king, priest or general, might well be (and usually is) the worst person in his society, both vicious and incompetent, yet having the ability to terrorize, creates the pretense of being the best, the wisest, the holiest. A chief in a status society, is often no richer than his fellows, or if he does hold the clan wealth in trust, he must give it away in a potlatch. The king, "nobility", or capitalist owns much of the wealth of society as his personal property and forces other to give him their wealth through state-enforced taxes, tithes, corvees and unequal contracts backed by potential violence.

This is not the place to discuss the origins of class society, but I wish to get back to my original point that orthodox anthropology ignores this issue. They fudge or deliberately confuse status and class. Since status is found virtually everywhere among human societies, by confusing class and status the underlying and very ideological assumption is that class society is therefore natural. Making something appear natural when it isn’t, is a common method of control. Orthodox anthropology engages in a cover-up of the origins of our present coercive and exploitative system.

Little Stevie Gets His War

Well, the Harpie got his war. How the little fellow cried when that Big Meanie Jean Cretien wouldn’t play with the Emperor George in Eye-raq. So much better now. Funny how these right-wing authoritarian types love spending on war, always money for killing, never enough for people. Just goes to show the truth of Gambone’s Law, i.e. "When it’s something WE want, there is never enough money. When it’s something THEY want, the purse is open. When it’s something WE want, the government drags its feet for decades. When it’s something THEY want, it gets rammed thru in two hours."

At any rate, this adventure should prove interesting, even if costly in Canadian lives. But what an exercise in hypocrisy. If educating women and creating a modern society in Afghanistan is what we are supposedly after, why did the US arm the Mujahiddin, overthrowing the very forces trying to bring about those changes? Until the US intervened, it looked as though the Russians and their secular Afghan allies were winning. Thanks to the US, Osama Bin Ladin got his training. Remember him, the US-backed "freedom-fighter"? The Taliwackers seem to be reviving, an ominous note. But once again, the stench of hypocrisy. After all it was the great US ally, Pakistan that encouraged the Taliwackers in the first place. Then there is that lovely bumper crop of opium . Who is going to get the proceeds from that?
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