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Sunday
Dec212008

Chickens and Modernity

The root of the conflict in Afghanistan stems from the clash of agrarian and modern lifeways.  To be more precise, agrarian societies that have come into the modern world (and all have) redefine customs in a way that distorts them because their original context is now missing.  In parts of the world that were not in the vanguard of modernity (where modernity has been less jarring because it has been felt to be an indigenous process) and hence have the short end of the global political stick (everywhere that the West colonised basically), defence of these pre-modern moral and social systems becomes defensive if not also violent (anti-modernity is often misread, by supporters and opponents alike, as anti-Westernism).

The classic example is fornication.  In agrarian societies sex outside the rules was dangerous and threatened the societies with collapse.  In agrarian Europe, for example, power and authority were bound up in heredity which in turn was a foil for legitimacy, all backed by the divine authority of an axial god (popular legitimacy did not exist because mass society did not exist and was not technically feasible).  Like everything else in agrarian society, this was fudgeable; new dynasties took control, but when they did so the assumption was that the losing party lost the favour of god and the underlying basis of the system was not felt to be challenged.  In the modern context that entire web of assumptions disappeared as societies adapted to new technical and material possibilities.  The significance was that when a society that had developed more aspects of modernity encountered one with its roots still firmly in the agrarian age, the moderns they seemed permissive and immoral.  Because the more agrarian society is also modernising and forming its own mass society and national identity, it latches onto the most salient differences between it and the moderns to define itself.  These differences are not those that existed from one agrarian culture to another or even from one modern one to another but rather they encapsulated diachronic change as synchronic juxtaposition.  "What people did" in agragrian societies came to be redefined as a cultural artefact and emblem of distinction, and, unlike in the past, intended to be followed to the absolute fullest.  Coming back to my example, restrictions of fornication were a common area in which later-modernising societies have come to define themselves as different.  The results are harmful to the society in question because it is embracing activities which are at odds with the modern social relationship which is emergency.  Invariably people start forming modern kinds of relationships (dating, love marriage) while the social elite is backing the reactionary morals (in this case a modern more which is based on a reinterpretation of a perceived agrarian norm).  Not only are the new elite-back morals contradictory and harmful to individuals in the society, they're harm is increased but they are, with the resources of modern society, being implemented much more thoroughly than they ever could have been in agrarian society.  This process is exemplified by the Taliban regime and the numerous abuses that occurred as they tried to pound a square peg into a round hole.

Modernity has altered ethics and morality in human life without altering the human, and one of my goals is finding away that explains these underlying shifts to people in an intelligible way.  A lot of moderns reject ethics and morality because for them they are tied to the old way of doing things, whereas I think that these things are not only still important but in fact more important.  What we have to do is realise that we are developing a new morality for our new world.

One concept I've long entertained is a collection of fables, echoing what Aesop and Gilgamesh when societies had to explain to each other how things would be done in the new agrarian world in which they then lived.  Events do not occur in clean narratives, but consicousness seems to string them together as such.  And let's face it, some people are just not entertained by social philosophy.

The linked story (from the Chicago public radio show This American Life) could be one example of such a fable.  It is a very vivid illustration of how pre-modern social ways cannot hold their own in a modern world (spoiler alert).  The story involves a youth in Balochistan and his father, who's a pretty high on the social ladder.  The father wants to break an old friend out of jail, so he plans to stage a raid on the prison.  To ensure his friend isn't his with any stray bullets, he buys a tawiz which is meant to protect him against such things.  To make sure the tawiz works, they buy a chicken and try shooting at it.  The father and his friends touch the chicken no matter how many times they try.  The youth, in the meantime is insisting that these are a new kind of gun has to be held and aimed a different way, which makes him the subject of ridicule.  After the old guys finally give up the kid takes a shot and, aiming properly, gets the chicken the first time.  It later emerges that over US$1k was spent on the tawiz.  The story demonstrates (and the reporter himself goes on to comment) how this event reflects the power shifts brought on by the modern revolution and also on how emasculating it must feel to be on the wrong end of the transformation.

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    monster earphone The age of your river's lake is gentle, the Monster Beats By Dre well-known 4 fingers, and he's only four killer fingers. The world has believed is four refers to defect, but are typically flaws, grow to be fatal come to be advantage. For liana, must say he is ...
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    Chickens and Modernity - The Global Californian - Scott Bohlinger
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    Response: Joseph Chinnock
    Chickens and Modernity - The Global Californian - Scott Bohlinger
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    Chickens and Modernity - The Global Californian - Scott Bohlinger
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    Chickens and Modernity - The Global Californian - Scott Bohlinger
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    Chickens and Modernity - The Global Californian - Scott Bohlinger
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    Chickens and Modernity - The Global Californian - Scott Bohlinger
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    Chickens and Modernity - The Global Californian - Scott Bohlinger
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    Chickens and Modernity - The Global Californian - Scott Bohlinger
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    Chickens and Modernity - The Global Californian - Scott Bohlinger
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