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Monday, February 08, 2021

On "Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times"

A good article by Bret Devereaux, a Roman historian, refuting the simplistic claim that "Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times":

Hard Times Don't Make Supersoldiers

“Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.” The quote, from a postapocalyptic novel by the author G. Michael Hopf, sums up a stunningly pervasive cyclical vision of history. The idea, which I have termed elsewhere “the Fremen Mirage” after the science fiction novel Dune’s desert-dwellers, posits that harsh conditions make for morally pure and militarily strong people, while wealth and sophistication make for decadent societies and poor fighters. Dune is just one example of the numerous speculative fiction novels that use the idea, from the Conan stories to dreadful Star Trek episodes. It is so common as a popular theory of history and military power that it has spawned (like most bad ideas) its own genre of internet memes.

It also infects modern strategic thinking, especially about non-Western foes. Perhaps most famously, after the attack on Pearl Harbor collapsed complacent notions of American superiority, the Allied intelligence community swung wildly from the belief in the Japanese as weak and unmanly to notions of how the harsh conditions of training and life in Japan had churned out apparently unstoppable supersoldiers. More recently, the same trope has reemerged in the invincible insurgent, whose upbringing supposedly renders him immune to the deprivations of combat and campaigning. As the University of Birmingham researcher Patrick Porter notes, “commentators have claimed that Iraqis, Afghans, Yugoslavs, Amerindians, Somalis, Turks or Japanese are particularly predisposed to war”...

It makes a degree of intuitive sense. Westerners subject their soldiers to harsh conditions to prepare them for the rigors of combat, so why wouldn’t whole societies work the same? Shouldn’t people (although the trope often specifies men) who’ve dealt with hard conditions all their lives make the best fighters, in contrast to the flabby, decadent inhabitants of the glitzy cities?

Except that’s not how things turn out. The divide between supposedly decadent civilization and its supposedly hard and uncivilized opponents reaches back to the development of farming and the state. Early farmers, with their higher population density, seem to have outcompeted their nonfarming neighbors. It seems that in many, perhaps most, cases, it was farmers who expanded, rather than the practice of farming itself, pushing the surviving nonfarmers onto more marginal lands. Likewise, early states, with their complex and specialized hierarchies, generally outcompeted their nonstate neighbors. Urban communities first dominated their countryside and then expanded that dominion outward. Nonstate peoples were often set with a dilemma: develop their own state institutions in order to compete with the brutal efficiency of state violence, or else find themselves violently incorporated into the tributary networks of expanding states. By and large this process was one in which the “strong men” created by “hard times” lost, again and again.

This doesn’t change in the shift from prehistory to history. Occasionally the frontiers of the zones of urbanized, stratified state-societies broke. Given enough attempts, nonstate people might eventually win. But most of the time, it was the urban armies that were doing the pillaging. Take Rome’s frontiers, the limes, as an example. Rome is, after all, the byword for decadence and decline in Western discourse. Western cultural memory fixes on the Goths, Vandals, and Huns who broke the Roman frontier, but it is quick to forget the rather longer list of nonstate peoples broken by the Romans. The Samnites, Cimbri, Teutons, Ambrones, Helvetians, Eburones, Arverni, Celtiberians, Lusitanians, Pannones, Dalmatae, Catuvellauni, Iceni, Marcomanni, Quadi, Iazyges, and all of the other “hard” peoples crushed under the Romans do not become household names. Most successful large states in history can boast similar butcher’s bills.

Of course, there are exceptions, like the early Muslim conquests, the Seljuk Empire, and of course the Mongols, which overthrew long-established and long-successful empires. The horse nomad was a powerful force for a time—but one often incorporated into the armies of conventional states. But the victims of empire, out there on the fringes, left no memoirs of the disasters inflicted upon them; when the so-called barbarians won, however, it produced entire literary genres lamenting the fall of the great cities.

But if this historical trope is a poor guide to either history or modern strategy, where does it come from and why has it proved so persistent? While there are quite a few explanations for the success of nonstate actors (most historiographical traditions have at least one), this mirage has its roots in the Greek and Roman ethnographic tradition.

The literary trope goes back at least as far as Herodotus and his account of the ill-fated invasion of the Scythia by Darius I, king of Persia, in the 6th century B.C. Herodotus presents the Scythians as ruthlessly expedient, relying on a scorched-earth campaign and their own relative lack of fixed settlements to exhaust the Persian military juggernaut. Prefacing that narrative is an ethnography of the Scythians, which presents Scythia as a hard, cold land, unfit for farming—but the nomadic life it forces on the Scythians, Herodotus writes, makes them “unfightable and unapproachable.”

Except Herodotus never went to Scythia, and his knowledge about Scythian customs, culture, and even local geography is uneven at best. But, as observed by the historian François Hartog in his landmark The Mirror of Herodotus, none of that matters, because accuracy was never the point. Rather, Herodotus is using the Scythians as a prelude to the Greco-Persian wars, mirroring the Greek victory (which will also involve strategically giving ground). Herodotus’s narrative was never about the Scythians or the Persians but about the Greeks, an exercise in self-definition for a people who had not generally thought of themselves as a unified whole. That is the mirror of Hartog’s title: The Scythians and the Persians serve as foils against which Greek identity can be defined.

Likewise, in the Latin tradition, the barbaric “other” might be marshaled for political advantage or social self-criticism. By the time of Julius Caesar’s writing in the 1st century B.C., the trope of hard-fighting barbarians whose ascetic way of life made them both morally and martially superior was firmly set enough that Caesar could lean on it as a shorthand to build up his own military accomplishments...

Caesar is about to crush these Gallic and German “supermen” with an army of excessively civilized Italians who are not only exposed to all of the things that tend to “effeminate the spirit” but in fact are responsible for producing those things. Indeed, of all of the Gauls, it is not the warlike Helvetians or Belgae who give Caesar the most trouble, but the Arverni, who live in what is today Auvergne, France, right up against the areas of Greek and Roman settlement and right on the trade routes bringing supposedly effeminating Mediterranean goods and culture into Gaul. Caesar knows this, of course, but his Commentaries is a political document, and he also knows good politics: tapping into stereotypes his audience already believes to build up his military success. Better to brag about defeating the Helvetians, Belgae, and Suebi, which no Roman had done before, than the Arverni, who had fought and lost against Rome once before. Accuracy was beside the point.

Perhaps the most influential ancient work of this sort is Tacitus’s Germania, written in 98 C.E., which sets out to describe the customs and society of the peoples across the Rhine from the Roman frontier. In brief, Tacitus describes the Germans as indigenous to their lands without being intermixed with other peoples, contemptuous of wealth, beauty and luxury, singularly focused on military virtue, pious, monogamous, and chaste, if unsophisticated and uncultured—a product of the harsh lands they inhabit. Again we have our “strong men” molded by hard lives.

Except the Germania is not about the Germans at all, but a critique of Roman decline in the tradition of the Roman historian Sallust, thinly disguised as ethnography. Tacitus’s tone in his writing overall is one of frustrated discontent at the moral decay he saw in Rome, and it is nearly impossible not to see this sharping the Germans of the Germania.

Tacitus himself almost certainly never traveled north of the Alps, did not speak any German, and only possessed, at best, secondhand information about any German customs. Instead, he constructed his Germans as a foil for what he saw as Roman moral decline, with German virtues to match perceived Roman vices. Lest Tacitus’s dire moralizing be taken too seriously as evidence of an actual decline, it is worth noting that he was writing at the very beginning of one of Rome’s best centuries and an unbroken string of five capable rulers. Decadence and decline would be very slow in coming, indeed.

This vision of ancient Germans and Gauls was revived in the early modern era (Tacitus’s Germania, lost during the Middle Ages, was rediscovered in 1425) and pressed into service as part of the intellectual foundation for 19th-century nationalism, where it congealed with the so-called scientific racism of the era. Where the ancients believed barbaric strength and decadence to be caused by place, 19th-century nationalists saw it rooted in race, citing these ancient accounts as proof that this or that European racial group had always been superior. The role of decadence was explained by “racial mixing.”"

tl;dr: Basically this claim was repeatedly made in antiquity by writers wanting to criticise their own supposedly decadent societies, but in reality civilised societies ("weak men") crush barbarians ("strong men") a lot more often than the reverse, and in more modern times the claim has been revived for political reasons (often by people wanting to criticise their supposedly decadent societies)

Links - 8th February 2021

Man Blames Cat For Getting Wife Pregnant After It Poked Holes In Condoms

How constant Slack messaging has made work more taxing - "here is the thing about Slack and its growing number of rivals: Not everyone who has it uses it... To generalise greatly, workers who grew up texting or WhatsApp-ing instead of phoning or emailing gravitate easily to a system such as Slack but their bosses often do not... They splinter communication, especially inside big companies that need it more than ever now that so many staff are working from home. A friend of mine at a large firm moaned often before the pandemic about the need to constantly check for important work news on email and Slack, along with Google chat, Facebook Workplace and a slew of other platforms that had crept relentlessly into his office.Now he has gone into overdrive.That points to one of the big failures of workplace chat tools. They were supposed to replace or at least reduce brimming email inboxes. Instead, too many people must now spend time monitoring both. That is not all. Because Slack feels so similar to the pinging messaging apps we use at home, it instills a sense of privacy at work that does not necessarily exist.There are times when its use does make sense. For a one-off team assignment with a pressing deadline, it is brilliant.It can also help to keep far-flung team members in touch.But the chief reason I will always find it hard to love Slack is that it can be such a monumental distraction... once they get a message addressed to themselves, they tend to respond within an average of just 12 minutes.That adds up to a lot of interruptions, which is a problem. Researchers say it can take around 23 minutes to return to the task at hand after being interrupted.Some jobs require ceaseless communication. But most do not, meaning a lot of this activity either dents productivity or creates stressful extra work to make up for lost time.""

Matt McGorry Lost So Much Weight For Sex Scenes ‘Nothing Came Out When He Orgasmed’ - "Orange Is The New Black star Matt McGorry put his body through so much while trying to lose weight for sex scenes that his sex drive plummeted and nothing came out when he orgasmed."

Michigan Supreme Court Rules Government Can't Seize Entire Value of Home Over Property Tax Delinquency Worth $8.41 - "'In 2014, Oakland County, Michigan foreclosed on a home owned by Uri Rafaeli's business—Rafaeli, LLC—over an $8.41 tax debt. The County sold the property for $24,500, and kept profits. Ditto for Andre Ohanessian, when the County seized and sold his property for $82,000, and pocketed every penny left over from the $6,000 tax debt. While most states refund the surplus, Michigan is among a handful of states that allow property theft to fill government coffers. PLF asked the Michigan Supreme Court to strike down this bureaucratic theft and restore our clients' constitutional rights.'... civil asset forfeiture laws in many states do not require the government to prove that the owner had actually committed a crime, or even charge her with one.  They  therefore often allow law enforcement agencies to seize property without compensation even if the owner did nothing wrong, and had no idea that their property might have been used for an illicit purpose. Like excessive tax forfeitures, asset forfeitures disproportionately victimize the poor, small businesses, ethnic minorities, and others who may lack the knowledge and resources to conduct a prolonged legal battle against difficult odds."

Most Competitive Economies Ranking Puts Canada Ahead Of U.S. For 1st Time - "Canada has beaten the U.S. for the first time ever in a ranking of the world’s most competitive economies, in part because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s damaging trade war with China... Arturo Bris, a finance professor and head of IMD’s Competitiveness Centre, noted that virtually all of the countries in the top 10 are now relatively small economies. “The benefit of small economies in the current crisis comes from their ability to fight a pandemic and from their economic competitiveness. In part these may be fed by the fact it is easy to find social consensus,” Bris said in the report.“This marks a new world in which de-globalization (and) the importance of national government has increased”... The success of many of these smaller countries ― particularly northern European countries, Canada, Australia and New Zealand ― is due to “their pretty much open welfare state”"

The chork is the fork-chopstick love child that America deserves - The Washington Post - "Meet “the chork”: a fork-chopstick hybrid that is, depending on whom you ask, genius, stupid, fun or ridiculous, and most likely a mixture of these things. The internet was in an uproar earlier this month when Panda Express, America’s largest Chinese food chain, announced it will introduce the chork on some occasions. For the uninitiated, the chork can be used three ways. It can be used as a fork, for Americans who prefer to stick to stabbing and scooping, or as “trainer” chopsticks, where the ends remain attached, making them easier to use. Or the plastic can be snapped apart to make "normal" chopsticks. As we'll see, the chork represents the inevitable culmination of America’s long tradition of Chinese food apostasy.".

Thread by @Jkylebass - "China’s Three Gorges Dam is at severe risk of breaking. The chinese Communists hailed the massive dam as a “1000-year dam” once constructed in 2003. CCP messaging this week is now calling it a “100-yr dam in a 200-yr flood”. They are telling the people to prepare for collapse. The scary reality is that the overwhelming majority of chinese (and therefore US) pharmaceutical production is located on the Yangtze River just below the creaking dam. If it breaks, it could be a catastrophe for the people of china AND the United States #china #PharmaGeddon"

When Corporate Social Responsibility Backfires: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment - "This paper uses a natural field experiment to connect corporate social responsibility (CSR) to an important but often neglected behavior: employee misconduct and shirking. Through employing more than 1,500 workers, we find that our use of CSR increases employee misbehavior—24% more employees act detrimentally toward our firm by shirking on their primary job duties when we introduce CSR. Observed data patterns across the treatments are consonant with a model of “moral licensing,” whereby the “doing good” nature of CSR induces workers to misbehave on another dimension that is harmful to the firm."
More evidence for moral licensing

Loke Hoe Yeong - "I am baffled at the hue and cry from some quarters about Pritam Singh donating half of his new Leader of the Opposition salary. It reminded me of an episode from the past which I covered in “The First Wave”:In 1985, Wong Kan Seng (then a Minister of State) challenged J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chiam See Tong to donate half their MP’s allowance and their own salaries from their legal practice, to "show their sincerity in feeling for the less fortunate".Wong announced that he had written out a cheque to the Community Chest to donate half his ministerial salary and his MP’s allowance. Quite unbelievably, Wong denied that he was “blowing his trumpet” when Chiam took him to task... It's worth bearing in mind some history here before hurling accusations about Pritam's intentions"

MSF Singapore - Posts - "You may have come across a Facebook post, about a member of public’s encounter on the train with an elderly woman who works as a cleaner. The elderly woman was quoted as saying that she was seeking additional employment to earn a living.Our Social Service Office (SSO) colleagues have identified the elderly woman, Mdm L. She is staying in a five-room flat with her son’s family. The family has a domestic helper. Her son provides her with food and shelter but she works to supplement her other expenses... The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has verified that Mdm L’s elder son, a regular warrant officer, died during a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) freefall training session in South Africa, in May 2009. Full compensation was paid out to his family."
I saw many people slamming MSF. Apparently facts don't matter - it is more important to be morally right than factually correct. This ties in with the weaponisation of fact checking as a way to discredit political enemies (not least by lying either outrightly or implicitly while 'fact checking')

Tan Chuan-Jin - Posts - "The reality is that MSF Singapore’s clarification will NEVER viral the way the original criticism did. A number of folks sent the post to me because the individual who had posted it had taken the opportunity to attack me. Some sent to me to flag it up for my attention and asked me to help the lady. Some taunted and mocked me.I have no regrets about the work I do on this front. I used to share more because it helps us understand the complexities better but more critically it was to encourage folks to be proactive and approach people who appear to need help.But obviously I post less on the people I meet and assist because I know what the mob would do with it. My advice still remains. If in doubt, provide assistance. It’s ok if we are ‘taken for a ride’ because you never know, it may well have been critical. Speak to them, listen, find out more, take down details and let us know so that we can follow up and verify. Things aren’t often as it seems but we will help where needed. Don’t just take an image, write and slam but yet nothing structurally is done to help the person. Often, if things sound quite so bad, there is definitely help available."

Benjamin "Mr Miyagi" Lee - Posts - "I love what the unions in NTUC do for workers. Every time someone says 'our unions are hopeless one lah', I tell them how I've been privy to the behind the scenes work, including how Lim Swee Say used to put on this gangster hat over his nonchalantly centre-parted hair and threaten companies to comply with labour measures. Or how, once when we found out some workers were unfairly dismissed, union comms people contacted me to ask if my 'social media friends could help whack the company online'."

Arsen Ostrovsky on Twitter - "I kid you not! At Knesset hearing on Antisemitism, @Twitter rep tells me they flag @realDonaldTrump because it serves ‘public conversation’, but not Iran's @khamenei_ir call for GENOCIDE, which passes for acceptable 'commentary on political issues of the day'."
In other words: "As an example of how much Twitter is a shitshow, Twitter TnS rep answering questions at the Knesset, can't explain why they tag Trump's tweets for glorifying violence, but does nothing for Khamenei's tweets calling for genocide of Israelis."
To liberals, killing Jews is "punching up" and enforcing law and order on rioters linked to BLM is "punching down". Power relations means never having to say you're sorry (one liberal endorsed the latter as a characterisation of their racism/sexism/other bigotry)

Lucas Lynch - "It is a little interesting how whenever conservative female politicians have all kinds of scorn, specifically gendered or otherwise, heaped upon them, suddenly people aren’t rushing to say that they are connected to the struggle of every woman in society.  Which is fine. It would be strange to say that Margaret Thatcher was united in some kind of “common story“ of every woman in existence. In reality, Margaret Thatcher was just herself, the individual. "

Reproductive trade-offs in extant hunter-gatherers suggest adaptive mechanism for the Neolithic expansion - "The rise of agriculture during the Neolithic period has paradoxically been associated with worldwide population growth despite increases in disease and mortality. We examine the effects of sedentarization and cultivation on disease load, mortality, and fertility among Agta foragers. We report increased disease and mortality rates associated with sedentarization alongside an even larger increase in fertility associated with both participation in cultivation and sedentarization. Thus, mothers who transition to agriculture have higher reproductive fitness. We provide the first empirical evidence, to our knowledge, of an adaptive mechanism behind the expansion of agriculture, explaining how we can reconcile the Neolithic increase in morbidity and mortality with the observed demographic expansion."

Melissa Chen - "Dr. Kristina Schierenbeck @BotanyRules: I am trying to #decolonize my bio majors #Evolution course. Surely Darwin/Wallace ideas existed in other cultures? Any suggestions for readings? Some good resources in geography, zoology, botany, but specifically, evolution?" "I’ve fought many battles against conservative Christians over their denial of evolution.I now have to fight similar attempts at defenestrating science from the left.To paraphrase Reagan: reason is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.
Comments: "This person is a professor at Cal State University in Chico, CA"
"When I first was scheduled to teach evolutionary psych at CUNY a colleague asked me “are you getting heat from your conservative students?” Shockingly (at the time years ago), my answer was “no, my main issues come from my liberal students”"
"We should decolonize slavery, imperialism and racism. Surely these practices existed in other cultures? Any suggestions on readings?"

Resistance Movement Vows To Do Anything To Stop Trump Short Of Treating Other Half Of Country With Respect | The Babylon Bee - "This is a sentiment widely shared by all the loudest opposition to Trump—antifa, Democrats, journalists—who see Trump as a challenge to this country unlike anything it has ever faced. To them, that means every strategy must be considered to stop the rising tide of fascism short of treating their political opponents as fellow human beings and not the cartoon villains they have dreamed up in their heads.“Absolutely everything is on the table to stop the evil of Trump,” said antifa member Tommy Barker. “Get in people’s faces. Destroy property. Punch people we think are Nazis. Love has to win—unless that involves giving up my hatred for approximately half the people in this country. I’d rather Trump be dictator for life than ever do that.”"

What will hold Singapore together in a time of change?

What will hold Singapore together in a time of change?

"I decided to supplement my meagre knowledge of Islamic civilisation by studying its rise and fall a little more closely. I therefore sought the advice of Professor Hussein Alatas who promptly loaned me a massive three-volume work entitled Muqaddimah: An Introduction To History.

It was written by a man called Ibn Khaldoun whom I had never heard of and who is rarely mentioned by modern historians. Moreover, the work was completed in 1377. Of what relevance, I asked myself, could the outpourings of a man from over 600 years ago be to our times, let alone the year 2000.

I was never more wrong in my life. This 14th-century Berber, a descendant of one of the Prophet's supporters, is so contemporary that many modern historians in comparison appear traditional.

It is incredible that this 14th-century man should have anticipated ideas about man and society, about jurisprudence, geopolitics, power, religion, war and peace, and many of the great themes about the rise and fall of civilisations centuries before thinkers like Vico, Marx, Spengler and Toynbee elaborated them with greater wealth of detail.

The wrappings which conceal his basic ideas are admittedly mediaeval and unacceptable to modern minds.

He nevertheless looks on his environment with a detachment and objectivity that was not to be surpassed until centuries later by Western man. He states facts. He observes.

He knows the glorious past of his own civilisation. But he is aware too that it is gone and he does not want to restore it.

What then has Ibn Khaldoun to say about the rise and fall of civilisations that is relevant to us?

He allots to all civilisations a finite lifespan of about 120 years spread over three generations of 40 years each. In the fourth generation, the end is reached and by the fifth, the final death spasms.

He says that this is the invariable and predictable course of history, though sometimes he seems to offer an escape. For why, he asks, has civilisation proved to be so much stronger in the East than in the West, in Persia and Iraq,

Syria and Egypt than in the Maghreb which was the focus for his great work.

He had also seen the merchants of Europe who came to the Barbary ports, and had marvelled at their wealth and splendid way of life. He did not pursue this fertile path, for had he done so he might have guessed that Western Europe would soon light its torch of civilisation from the glowing embers of Islamic culture.

What sparks off a civilisation in the first place? He attributes it to a special human quality which he calls "asabiyya". It means group solidarity but it takes different forms and meanings at different stages of civilisation.

What Khaldoun means is that asabiyya has to be built up through hardship and great austerity. That is why, says Khaldoun, the Prophet Moses deliberately kept the Israelites whom he had led out of Egypt for 40 years in the desert. As slaves in Egypt, the Israelites had become subservient and fatalistic. They had been drained of asabiyya. It took a generation of exposure to the hardships of the desert to renew their asabiyya.

In more modern times, it was in Hitler's ghettos that the Israelites of today built up asabiyya. It was in the desert too that Prophet Muhammad conjured up the asabiyya which inspired the great Islamic conquests. Though Ibn Khaldoun wrote of the nomads with detestation as destroyers of culture... he admired their asabiyya - their courage, toughness, their self-reliance and above all their solidarity and fellowship.

The men with asabiyya, headed by a great leader or prophet... take over a dying civilisation and thus begins a sedentary culture - a city culture. Khaldoun makes clear that while the desert generates asabiyya, only the city can create civilisation.

As long as the spirit of asabiyya prevails, the first-generation ruler exercises power justly and wisely. The law is fairly applied. Taxation policies are designed to stimulate prosperity and personal initiative. The ruler, says Khaldoun, "does not claim anything exclusively for himself because (such an attitude) is what is required by group solidarity". Given this kind of ruler, order prevails and art and learning flourish. Out of the ashes of the old civilisation, a greater and more vibrant culture emerges.

The next four stages are of progressive decline. The easy democracy of the first stage vanishes as the new ruler claims total authority over his people. Authority is no longer shared. He becomes a tyrant demanding subjects who must manifest servility and unquestioned obedience. The asabiyya is being drained out of them. Discontent and resentment dissolve group solidarity. The tyrant is succeeded by vainglorious rulers also lacking in asabiyya. They build monuments and palaces...They hire mercenaries to protect themselves from a people they now fear and no longer trust. Nepotism and corruption become the rule of law. The burden of taxation grows and incentive for creation of wealth consequently dies. Then comes the ruler "who is content with what his predecessors have built". Since his civilisation has lost its capacity for growth, the ruler tries to arrest its decline by reviving and adhering strictly to old rituals and meaningless traditions.

And finally the death pangs of a great civilisation. Here I can do no better than quote Khaldoun himself: "The fifth stage is one of waste and squandering. In this stage the ruler wastes on pleasures and amusements (the treasures) accumulated by his ancestors through (excessive) generosity to his inner circle at their parties. Also he acquires bad, low-class followers to whom he entrusts the most important matters (of state) which they are not qualified to handle by themselves... Thus he ruins the foundations his ancestors had laid and tears down what they had built up. In this stage the dynasty is seized by senility and the chronic disease from which it can hardly ever rid itself, for which it can find no cure, and, eventually, it is destroyed."

He goes on to add that the end of the dynasty is clearly in sight when the hard-up ruler, unable to squeeze his subjects any further, takes part in trade and commerce and tries to monopolise it to the detriment of his trading subjects.

By then the asabiyya, bred in the desert, has been drained of its last drop.

What happens then? A new lot of desert nomads bursting with asabiyya take over the dying city to once again restore vigour and once again to suffer the same fate."

They don't make ministers like they used to - this is what happens when your politicians are really technocrats.

We are told that the "Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times" theory of history is allegedly wrong and fascist.

Rick Szostak notes that the Ottomans survived for 6 centuries, and they were rising to power when Khaldun was writing, and that he had ulterior motives for exaggerating "the role of royal complacency in imperial decline".

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