Blog powered by Typepad

« It's all in yer serotonin transporter gene, innit! | Main | Bats in the belfry? No, the windfarm actually! »

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Good post and at least as feasible as Ms.Chiao's fabrications. As you say, change in Chinese behaviour may well occur and if so, the world will have to take note. Mind you, so will the Chinese rulers.

Great post D, which sets all sorts of intellectual hares running.

"...ensuring that henceforth the laws of the land governed kings as well as subjects..." Indeed. Until our current political class arose, that is, who now wish to have one rule for us and another for them - and with no small degree of success, either.


"There is nothing like private property as a baulk against over-mighty government" Indeed again. And that is why our current political class (yes, them again) are so keen to blur the edges of property, making our ownership subject to all sorts of caveats, ifs, buts and maybes. In the end, they hope, all property will be theirs, or at least held by us at their pleasure and subject to their conditions. The construction of the over-mighty government - preferably (for them) on a global scale - can then continue apace.

Interesting stuff, DD. Are you aware of the German sociologist Max Weber, and his "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism"? Weber argued that Protestant Christianity, with its emphasis on hard work, thrift, self-reliance, and asceticism, was the seed bed for early capitalism. This revolutionary economic system started in Northern Europe (there's your German connection, along with the Brits and Dutch) because of the social conditions provided by the religion. Other countries and empires had been far wealthier (China, some Mediterranean-based empires) but had not developed the perpetual re-investment and hard work required to get capitalism started.

Of course, Weber's theory was one in the eye for Marx, who believed that all religion was an epiphenomenon, incapable of creating social change. Which in my book is one reason for liking him...

Ach, Duffers, I keep telling you that for centuries the Germans were looked on as patsies, soft burgers interested mainly in their beer and tuck. It wasn't really till the rise of Brandenburg-Prussia that anyone entertained the idea that they were especially tough nuts, and only with Bismarck that they really proved to be so against first rate opponents. There just isn't the two millennia of history that you imagine there to be.

Anyway, here's my latest genetic wheeze. If the Shroud of Turin is genuine, it should be possible to extract some of Jesus's DNA and study it. Fine idea, eh? I'm sure the Vatican will expedite it. Quite positive.

There are 60 million vacant, privately owned apartments in China right now.

DM, you should try telling that to the late Publius Quinctilius Varus who, alas, went to his personal Valhalla in the year 9AD. He led three Roman legions into the Teutoberg Forest and neither he nor his 25-odd thousand legionaires were seen again - well, actually, a bit of him was seen again because his head was sent round to the various tribal chiefs by his triumphant victor Gaius Julius Arminius (aka: Herman, or, to me, Herman ze German!) You should also take a look at a map of the Roman empire and ask yourself why it was that it went as far east as the eastern end of the Black Sea and modern Syria, and as far north-west as Scotland, and yet all of what might be called northern Germany remained empty of Romans. I would also remind you that it was the German Visigoths who sacked Rome! After the Frankish empire the German territories split into a myriad of kingdoms and their strength was not felt until, as you correctly say, the Prussian-Brandenburgers were united under the Great Elector and became under him, and later Frederick the Great, a nation that 'punched above its weight'. As for your Turin shroud wheeze, I can't understand why I, a proud member of the used-car fraternity, didn't think of that one first!

Andrew, do please try and avoid mentioning "the political class", it brings on my nausia! However, I would remind you that it is 'us wot votes 'em in'!

Andra, I'm aware of the housing bubble in China, in fact I have written about it twice before - do please pay attention or you will be given a hundred lines! One of the problems, perhaps the biggest, with Chinese capitalism is that it is not private capitalism but State-controlled capitalism and therefore likely to fall victim to even greater disasters than our own version. Andrew's 'political class' in China being even more venal than ours here.

Brandenburg was a completely busted flush during the Thirty Years War and was left utterly prostrate and depopulated for many years after - totally outclassed by both the Swedes and the Austrians. The folk memories left by this experience no doubt made it easier for subsequent rulers to impose the military rigours that made it a great power.

'W', yes, I've heard of Weber (but never read him) and his theory on the Protestant work ethic. However, I would stress earlier factors. For example, the fact that northern Germany was never conquered by Rome, and that the German church was always 'semi-detached' from the Roman church made the likelihood of a Martin Luther arising that much more probable. Also, the freedom to lend money with interest was crucial. Hitherto, the preserve of the Jews on an individual basis (part of the reason why they were so hated), once the market was opened and 'collectives' of lenders became banks, then it was 'hey-ho and off to the races'!

'H', quite so, and I didn't mean to imply that the North Germans were invincible, for example, Bonaparte totally humiliated them. The 30-years war simply re-inforces my point that geographically, north Germany is wide-open, hence my proposition that it is geography which tends to make the inhabitants aggressive rather than passive. The perfect example, of course, is the Great Elector who, through birth-right, after teh 30 -years war combined Prussia with Brandenburg and then set about his 'nearest and dearest enemies' with vigor! His eventual successor, Frederick the Great, was similarly aggresive because of his awareness of Prussian vulnerability.

Interesting and thought provoking as usual!

So you're saying that factors which affect the development of local/regional culture effect cultural changes more than some supposed genetic differences (there is as much genetic variation between members of the same population as there is between populations)? Who'd have thunk it? Obviously not the experts.

I hadn't really considered geography, physical as opposed to political, before. Two areas which never appear to be emphasised enough are agriculture and technology. The shift from small 'serf' farmed fields (as still practiced in China until recently) to larger units (usually by those grasping 'rich') with the accompanying surpluses (people and product). The development, and more importantly widespread implementation, of technology (which began in agriculture).

But it gets a bit complicated doesn't it? Did the developments in agriculture occur because of political change, or did it cause that change? (transfer of people to population centres as surplus to production, development of alternative industry, expansion due to larger population, etc?). Looking at the 'Germanies', prime agricultural land almost all of it, and when they stopped all the infighting they became the 'Teutonic Powerhouse' (Hungary went the other way, didn't it?). Both China and Russia resisted the shift to 'capitalist industrial agriculture' for ideological reasons didn't they?

As you so rightly point out, the 'Wild-Card' is religion. Was it Christianity, and specifically Protestant Christianity, which allowed and encouraged these changes? The change, innovation and development of modern culture seem confined to those protestant areas on the whole. If it was it doesn't bode well for western culture with the increasing shift from Christianity (as an outmoded worship of some imaginary sky-God) to the new religions of Marxism/Socialism/Feminism (the worship of some imaginary 'superior leader' who will give us all free iPods that the 'rich' will pay for - or else!) or Eco-freakdom (the worship of some imaginary world-Goddess, with added vegan-unicorn -fart powered 'green' industries).

It seems we're headed backwards (the cyclic nature of history?). Well, if we end up back as being serfs tied to the local warlords (Euro-emplaced-enforcement-officer) fields I have decided I shall opt out and be a 'wise old hermit living in the woods' instead! (I've already bought the Nomex underwear in case someone decides I'm a witch for using 'Headology' [see Granny Weatherwax] to cure the locals aches and pains).

As usual, Able, I am not at all sure what it is I am saying! It is the friendly (and astute) interrogation by my commenters that forces me to clarify my mind!

Certainly I do think that geography plays a large part in the tendency of one nation to behave in a different way to another. I have given the example of the Prussians and I would compare and contrast their military traits with us English. Surrounded by sea we have tended to eschew European military adventures unless there is a threat to the Channel ports (Hitler/Kaiser), or, it is the French getting uppity (Bonaparte/Louis XIV) or the French getting defeated! Either way, our geo-political interest is in keeping the channel and the Atlantic ports in friendly hands. Today, of course, 'geography', or our perception of it, has changed and, to stretch a point, the Strait of Hormuz is almost as important as the English Channel.

Your question on agriculture is spot on. I heard a talk a couple of years ago on the history of English agriculture and the revolution in farming methods that took place in the 18th and 19th centuries which was the equivalent of the industrial revolution but hardly anyone knows about it.

I do think Christianity was a transforming force but it would take a greater expert than an ignorant old agnostic like me to explain all the ramifications but, as I said above, the notion that all men are born equal before the eyes of God is a fundamentally revolutionary message, or it was, 'back in the day'.

Finally, I would emphasise my belief that it is virtually impossible to stipulate with accuracy exactly the cause of this or that form of human behaviour. Despite my cheap sneer, I do think genetics has something to offer as a guide to tendencies in behaviour, it is only when they try too hard to bind cause and effect that I have my doubts.

oh duff, your brain is so alive.. ha

The comments to this entry are closed.