Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Night Music - Baron of Brackley

One of my hobby-horses is the biological and evolutionary underpinning of male/female relationships :

"Evolutionary psychologists postulate that the same physical and psychological drives prevail among modern humans: Men, eager for replication, are naturally polygamous, while women are naturally monogamous—but only until a man they perceive as of higher status than their current mate comes along.

Hypergamy—marrying up, or, in the absence of any constrained linkage between sex and marriage, mating up—is a more accurate description of women’s natural inclinations. Long-term monogamy—one spouse for one person at one time—may be the most desirable condition for ensuring personal happiness, accumulating property, and raising children, but it is an artifact of civilization, Western civilization in particular. In the view of many evolutionary psychologists, long-term monogamy is natural for neither men nor women."
Which in times past produced winner-take-all males - and an awful lot of losers :

Today’s human population is descended from twice as many women as men.

I think this difference is the single most underappreciated fact about gender. To get that kind of difference, you had to have something like, throughout the entire history of the human race, maybe 80% of women but only 40% of men reproduced.
A situation which Christian civilisation was destined and designed to correct and struggle against. Although sin was always with us, any male proclaiming to the world that he took whatever he wanted was likely to be given short shrift by pre-1945 Britons. That was the cry of "primitive man", as far as they were concerned - people like the Papua New Guineans quoted in the foreword to Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" :

"Woman after woman, when asked to name her husband, named several sequential husbands who had died violent deaths. A typical answer went like this: "My first husband was killed by Elopi raiders. My second husband was killed by a man who wanted me, and who became my third husband. That husband was killed by the brother of my second husband, seeking to avenge his murder."

The wife welcoming her husband's killer to her bed is a narrative with a literary pedigree and plenty of historical exemplars. The ballad of Brackley, based on a Deeside raid in 1666 by Farquharson of Inverey against John Gordon of Brackley, is a grim example where the husband's death sentence consists of the words 'if you were a man you'd go out and fight' - at odds of fifteen to one.

From Dee side came Inverey whistlin' and playin'
And he is to Brackley's gates ere the day is dawnin'
Saying, Baron O'Brackley oh are ye within?
There are sharp swords at your gates, to gar your bluid spin

Oh rise up my husband and turn back your kye (cattle - LT)
For the lads frae Dunwharrum are driving them by
Oh how might I rise up and turn them again
For where I have one man I'm sure they have ten

If I had a husband the like I have nane
He'd no lie in his bed and watch his kye ta'en
Then up spake the baron, said gi'e me my gun
Saying I may go out but I'll never win home

There rode wi' bold Inverey full thirty and three
But along wi' bonny Brackley just his brother and he
Twa gallanter Gordons did ne'er the sword draw
But against three and thirty, wae's me, what is twa?

Wi' swords and wi' pistols they did him surround
And they pierced bonny Brackley wi' monys a wound
Frae the head o the Dee, tae the banks of the Spey
Oh the Gordons will mourn him and will ban Inverey

Oh came ye from Brackley's, and was you in there?
And saw ye his Peggy a-rivin' her hair
Aye, I came by Brackley's, and I was in there
And I saw his bonny Peggy she was makin' good cheer

She was rantin', she was dancin', she was singin' wi' joy
And she swears this same nicht she will feast Inverey
She laughed wi' him, danced wi' him, welcomed him in
And she kept him while morning whae slain her good man

There's grief in the kitchen, there's mirth in the hall
For the Baron o Brackley lies dead and awa'
Then up spake his son from his own nurse's knee
If I live to be a man 'tis avenged I'll be

UPDATE - Robert Whelan, in the foreword to Patricia Morgan's "Farewell To The Family" put his finger on where modern warriors are coming from.

"We have created the classic conditions for the emergence of a warrior class: separation of economic activity from family maintenance; children reared apart from fathers; wealth subject to predation; and male status determined by combat and sexual conquest."

Presented in slightly idiotic socialese, this Atlantic piece describes urban warrior culture :

"At the heart of the code is the issue of respect--loosely defined as being treated "right," or granted the deference one deserves. However, in the troublesome public environment of the inner city, as people increasingly feel buffeted by forces beyond their control, what one deserves in the way of respect becomes more and more problematic and uncertain. This in turn further opens the issue of respect to sometimes intense interpersonal negotiation."
Ha ! That's one phrase for it.

UPDATE 2 - new blogger Hexe Froschbein ("Frog-legs the Witch" ?) points out in the comments that Christian culture was neither the first nor the only monogamous culture (never said it was, mind). Thoughtful Romans (a/c/t 'I, Claudius') considered the Germanic tribes to have a particularly strict code of sexual morality, which contrasted favourably with that of decadent Imperial Rome.
She links to this text-and-audio of Tacitus' Germania - "Tacitus’ descriptions of the Germanic character are at times favorable in contrast to the opinions of the Romans of his day. He holds the strict monogamy and chastity of Germanic marriage customs worthy of the highest praise, in contrast to what he saw as the vice and immorality rampant in Roman society of his day, and he admires their open hospitality, their simplicity, and their bravery in battle. One should not, however, think that Tacitus’ portrayal of Germanic customs is entirely favorable; he notes a tendency in the Germanic people for what he saw as their habitual drunkenness, laziness, and barbarism, among other traits."

I think we should remember, however, that from these noble savages sprang the French.


Anonymous said...

Agree with one of the commenters from last time you mentioned this 80/40 ratio.
Its not proportional, some men throughout history had way more than their 'fair share'.
Moulay Ismail for example who is thought to have had over 1200 children.

Anonymous said...

The men of the winning tribe kill/enslave the men of the losing tribe. Then they take their women.

Try to keep this in mind when watching TV, movies adverts etc.

White men, those old/young enough to fight/breed are shown as losers. Contrasted with powerful non-white men in the company of attarctive white women.

We are led to believe this about empowering women and minorities. Apparently the sisters will easily rule over those non-whites once tiresome white men are firmly in their box. After all dont these same media routinely show powerful, competant white women kicking ass and generally running the show..

Laban said...

Anon - I don't think it's quite as simple as the apocalyptic picture you paint - and what we see is not the result of some conspiracy but of cultural factors playing out.

A third of black babies in the States are killed in the womb. Not exactly a strategy for maximising the genetic legacy, is it ? Yet the same cultural trends produce, say, the 'dad-as-dork' adverts or the dopey sitcom dad.

Hexe Froschbein said...

"A situation which Christian civilisation was destined and designed to correct and struggle against."


Monogamy is way older than Christianity. See:

This is where the basic ethics of our culture come from, Christianity didn't add all that much other than self-denial and self-hatred.

Laban said...

I have never said that Christianity was the first or only monogamous culture. And I know what the Romans thought of the Germanic tribes, but thanks for the link anyway - it's a good-un.

dearieme said...

Apparently the x chromosomes of the southern Chinese are quite distinct from those of the northern Chinese, but the y chromosomes are essentially the same. That makes the history pretty bloody obvious, I'd think.

Hexe Froschbein said...

Another great link on librivox is also this:

Especially the chapter on beggars and thieves seems very contemporary... ;-D

Btw, cultures that practice monogamy have a greater genetic diversity. Anyone who is having as many kids as the guys mentioned can easily poison many bloodlines with bad genetics and of course, inbreeding will also happen much more often if the bloodlines are whittled down to a few this way. Check out the math that underlies this, take a look here: (I know it's about voles, but the same principle applies to humans)

Hexe Froschbein said...

Laban, it of course is

"Witch Frogleg"

not "Froglegs the Witch"


Ian F4 said...

An interesting footnote concerning polygyny would be to ask any mother if they would complain as much if their son was polygynous than if their husband was.

Laban said...

Froshbein - surely that's how it would be translated colloquially, if not literally ? My old German teacher gave us lots of stories about 'Die Hexe Griselda' - which would translate as 'Griselda the Witch'.

Thud said...

I lived and worked in the world of doormen in Liverpool and Manchester for 20 years and many of the people I worked with and met could in some ways have been portrayed as members of a warrior culture. They trained hard and drooled over weapons, plus money and women were readily available....throw in a named sword and a torque or two and the picture is complete...not exactly warrior poets though.

Anonymous said...

This post prompts some questions:

1. If "Christian Britain" is to be lauded for promoting monogamy, thereby reducing the violent underclass, should we not consider the fact that Christianity and its memetic legacy have contributed to the universalism which has led to our inner cities being full of non-natives, which (particularly in the case of sub-Saharans) greatly reduces trust, safety and level of civilisation.

2. In a cost-benefit analysis, would the best course of action to reduce underclass violence be to induce people to believe a debunked Middle Eastern fairytale? I would sooner see monogamy incentivised economically (reduced welfare state, which would also be anti-dysgenic, and perhaps reduced female economic independence) and approved socially (via manufactured consent if necessary) on a rational basis given the evolutionary and anthropological understanding that you demonstrated.