Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

Eugenics on action, 1995

A while ago Greg Cochran wrote a very insightful post, saying that older civilisations necessarily produce populations of cynical familial slackers, because the realities of warfare and human society mean that those more likely to fight for abstract ideals were killed off over the thousands of years of successive civilisations.

That’s why more recently civilised places like Germany or Japan are still more orderly than, say, Iraq or Egypt. Still the historical data is patchy, so many people refused to accept the theory. I however just found a piece of evidence for it.

Andrei Lankov is a Russian expert on North Korea, and he regularly writes about it in Asia Times. He being Russian he can afford to write about the reality of life in North Korea without falling in paroxisms of righteous rage like American writers. Turns out that life in North Korea has been changing rapidly, even before the death of Kim Jong  Il. The famine of the middle 90s basically destroyed the old rationing economy, and trade (smuggling) with China have created a quite pervasive market economy, which the state is powerless to control. Following the Chinese and Russian example, instead of cracking down, the government officials are cashing on the new markets, and lately you can see functioning shops and restaurants on the streets of Pyongyang.

Lankov writes in his last article how bribery has made an appearance in North Korea, in such a big way that virtually all government employees take them.

Countless times this writer has asked a North Korean whether it is conceivable that a police officer or bureaucrat would refuse a bribe. My interlocutors always look at me with some bewilderment, since the question itself sounds strange – and recently a middle-aged woman, a market vendor, said: “Are they crazy? How else would they stay alive?”

You get the point. The government doesn’t give out rations anymore, and the market works on money. And the only way to get money is from bribes. But what about Socialism? The noble teachings of Marx and Lenin!! Surely the communist officialdom, brainwashed for decades into despising money and commerce, should show a righteous disdain to accepting money from capitalist dogs.

Minor officials were hit very hard by the crisis of the mid-1990s. Many of my North Korean friends have stated that during the famine of 1996-99, honest officials – those who sincerely believed in the official ideology, and operated strictly in accordance with rules – were usually among the first people to die. In most cases, their food rations were no longer delivered and, being loyal soldiers of the Great Leader, they did not want to involve themselves in any kind of illegal and immoral capitalist market activity. So a sorry fate awaited these true believers, and their colleagues learned a lot from their demise.

So you see how Natural Selection killed off the true believers in communism. Hey it’s the best example of eugenics I’ve read in some time. While I am on the record for arguing for stronger selection pressures for IQ, I think the dying off of magical thinkers is perhaps of even more benefit to society. Just think what would happen to all those honest anti-racist, disability deniers, feminists et al. when the shit hits the fan and the economy collapses.

Huxley thought that the future would worship Henry Ford. I can see shrines for Darwin though.

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10 responses to “Eugenics on action, 1995

  1. _B_ July 13, 2012 at 19:59

    Doubt there will be shrines for Darwin, as embracing a positivist, irreligious view of the universe is a surefire way to weed yourself out of the gene pool. With no objective compass needle leading you, the only long-term outcome is paralysis by analysis supplemented by hedonism.

    Cochran is partly right . You can see that after decades of the famines, purges and wars of the Communist 20th century, Russia is left with a population of cynical drunkards who “believe in nossing, Lebovski,” who, like the Fight Club panda, won’t even fuck to save their own species, and whose women see abortion as less significant than buying a new car. On the other hand, it’s not like Japan is very virile these days, either. And there are plenty of nations whose populations have been long exposed to civilization, yet manage to be pretty good at warfare. For instance, Israel. Or Turkey, which is populated by people who are mostly of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern stock, which have been exposed to civilization for as long as it’s existed-can you come up with more altruistic self-sacrifice than that of the Turks at Gallipolli? And the Chinese soldiers fighting in Korea, from what I can tell, did not behave like the self-serving cynics Cochran suggests civilization creates.

    My personal opinion is that people are much more facile than this genetic determinism gives them credit for. That given the right circumstances, the same exact guy can be a shitbag, a coward, a cynic or a hero, and he can flop back and forth between these states. I’ve seen it.

    • spandrell July 14, 2012 at 18:24

      Well I don’t see the koreans pulling off a Gallipolli any time soon.

      Lets say there are 2 factors influencing the ability of people to sacrificr themselves: idealism and effective state coercion. Idealism is surely being bred out.

      • _B_ July 15, 2012 at 06:48

        The Koreans had plenty of Gallipolli moments during their war. I grew up with Koreans-those are some hard little fuckers.

        Whenever you see heroic self-sacrifice, usually digging a bit deeper shows BOTH idealism and coercion.

  2. ntk July 14, 2012 at 17:02

    Germany and Japan also have much higher genotypic IQ than Iraq and Egypt – that probably explains the relative levels of public order.

    And communists naturally selecting themselves out of existence? No wonder they crave running everything – they’d starve otherwise.

  3. Mark July 15, 2012 at 09:03

    It isn’t clear that this is necessarily selecting against “magical thinkers”. The surviving bribe takers could be “true believers” as well, just more hypocritical, or morally lax, or dishonest, etc. This could be selecting for hypocrisy, self-deception, moral laxity, corruption, etc., and against loyalty, honor, honesty, self-sacrifice, commitment, etc.

    • spandrell July 15, 2012 at 11:47

      I’d rather have hypocritical corrupt elites who loudly proclaimed their belief in the brotherhood of men, yet controlled immigration and cut foreign aid.

      Too much of a thing is usually bad, even if it sounds good like “honor” and “self-sacrifice”.

      • Mark July 15, 2012 at 22:08

        I guess my point is that we don’t really know for sure what is necessarily being selected for and against in cases like this, and whether or not it’s “good” or “bad”, and hence eugenic or dysgenic, which can be somewhat subjective anyway.

        Hypocritical corrupt elites could do good things like control immigration and cut foreign aid. But they could also be like liberal elites who preach diversity and promote immigration while avoiding diversity and living in their own enclaves.

        More generally though, the evolution of communication, as opposed to manipulation, is very much akin to the evolution of altruism. It’s subject to the same exploits in certain environments. So manipulation via signaling taking on the appearance of communication can be far more common in contemporary environments than in the ancestral environments in which communication evolved. We’re in an evolutionary arms race to defect faster than the other guy while maintaining keeping active his obsolete instincts to think communication is still viable.

        The end result of something like this could be the termination of communication as a genetic capacity.

  4. RS July 15, 2012 at 16:16

    > [spandrel] That’s why more recently civilised places like Germany or Japan are still more orderly than, say, Iraq or Egypt.

    It’s true that Nords are quite little civilized — short history with domestics, and modest population size during most of that time — but the Japs are practically the most civilized people of all. (Y’all know of course which characteristics I mean. I don’t mean kindness to outgroups in wartime.) One shouldn’t start the clock when they arrive on Japan, since their mainland ancestors were also civilized. Probably very deeply so, since they probably stemmed from a pretty big pop or pop complex, and evolution is mutation-limited (thus pop size limited) during immersion in a radically new environment like agriculture.

    > [B] And there are plenty of nations whose populations have been long exposed to civilization, yet manage to be pretty good at warfare.

    Yes, it’s certain that Cochran didn’t mean to include the likes of Japan — but neither would he overlook it, so it must be that he just didnt feel like mentioning it. One way or another things did turn out differently in Japan.

  5. Giovanni Dannato October 2, 2012 at 20:49

    I would suppose that while people have ingrained surival strategies both genetically and epigenetically determined, people will do in any time and place what their instincts tell them is most likely to lead to social and reproductive success.
    People can adjust to a considerable extent.

    Also, we see that even long civilized areas reach an equilibrium for certain traits rather than continuing down a slippery slope indefinitely.
    I would guess that this is because a famine or times of abundance merely causes a shift in the Nash equilibrium of genetically determined survival strategies that can correct as conditions change from generation to generation.

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