Occidental Origins of Race-Theory (II)

(a.3) Prominent Theorists (continued from part I)

Bernier

The first comprehensive survey and classification of the races of man of which anything is known was penned in 1684 by the French wayfarer, physician and anthropologist, Francios Bernier (1620-1688) in his Nouvelle division de la terre par les différents espèces ou races qui l’habitent (“New division of Earth by the different species or races which inhabit it”), published in 1684 (Gossett, 1997:32-33). Bernier’s treatise on race was first published in a parisian paper, Journal des Sçavans in an April, 1684 edition in which he delineated four principal races of mankind, those being:

  • Eurasians

  • Sub-Saharans

  • White Orientals

  • Lapps

Bernier makes clear in his paper that clime is a significant, but not exclusive, determing factor, as le semence (genetics) was also, according to Bernier, crucial. What was remarkable about his monograph was that, unlike so many papers of the time, it was taxinomic rather than historical and libertine rather than religious. Joan-Pau Rubies, in his paper Race, Climate and Civilization in the Works of Bernier notes, “Bernier’s analysis… did not really seek to confront Biblical genealogies one way or the other.”1 So here we can discern a clear break with the tradition of Biblical originism dating back to St. Augustine. What further distinguished Bernier’s work from many of his contemporaries was his monogenism. Monogenism (or monogenesis) is the theory that all human races originated from a common ancestor and is contrasted with polygenism (or polygenesis), the theory that all human races emerged from various different common ancestors. An example of a monogenetic model would be the creation story contained in the Book of Genesis which describes the creation of man from Adam and Eve. Another monogenetic model would be the ‘Out of Africa’ theory which is widely held in contemporary scholarship by many paleoanthropologists. A example of criticism of polygeneic models is included in the papal encyclical, Humani generis wherein Pope Pius XII noted,

When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the [Catholic] Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.”

An example of a polygenic theory is contained in the Mbuti mythology of the Congo pygmies who believed the god Khonvoum created the races of man from three different pieces of clay, one black, one white and one red2; many of the creation tales of the ancient Greeks also feature polgenic theories concerning the origins of various different creatures and groups of man (such as the titan Prometheus crafting humans out of water and clay3).

Of further importance to note is that Bernier’s racial classifications where not simply based upon skin color but upon a whole array of phenotypic traits such as facial structure, character of the hair and skin (oily/dry, rough/smooth etc) and even the teeths and tongue. Further, Bernier differentiates between superficial traits (those caused by the environs such as tan skin from sun exposure) and constitutional traits (those caused by genes; such as eye and intrinsic skin color, average height and bone structure). Despite the erection of such incisive taxonomic distinctions, certain gaps in Berniers knowledge lend to incorrect conclusions; for instance, he believed the Amerindians of the New World were of the same race as his fellow Europeans. There is no evidence to suggest that he ever meet an Amerindian and thus his knowledge thereof was purely second or thirdhand at best (which, at the time, was far more of a handicap than it is today given the lack of alternative sources of information against which to check one’s summations).

Bernier’s theories, though important, are easy to overstate due to how early along they emerge in the history of racial thought. Bernier was undoubtedly a incisive thinker and had a impressive knowledge of the Persian tongue and the Mughal Empire but his analytical framework though empirical, was not highly rigerous, as is evidenced by his classification of the Lapps (Sami4) as a seperate race based upon only one viewing of two such individuals.

Bernier’s aforementioned paper, however, was not a serious work which he expended much energy on and there is good reason to believe5 it was penned largely for the entertainment of his friends and possibly courting of local female who managed the salon (—). A much better known work by the wayfarer was his masterful 576 page travalogue Travels in the Moghul Empire (1656-1668) in which, in his opening Dedication to the King Bernier writes, “The Indians maintain that the mind of a man cannot always he occupied with serious affairs, and that he remains forever a child in this respect: that, to develop what is good hi him, almost as much care must be taken to amuse him as to cause him to study. This may he true with regard to the natives of Asia, but Judging by all the great things I hear said everywhere regarding France and her Monarch, from the Ganges and the Indus, the Tigris, and the Euphrates, unto the Seine, I have some difficulty in believing this to be a saying capable of universal application.”

He then goes on to declare his hopes that the king should enjoy his writings as reprieve from weighty matters of state but adds the cautionary, “-I hope that His MAJESTY will chiefly take into His consideration the subject [the travels], and that he will consider it nothing very extraordinary that during my long absence, whether wandering about the World, or attached to a Foreign Court, my language may have become semi-barbarous.” 6

What is remarkable about the passages, outside of their poetic character, is the frankness with which Bernier describes the natives of his travels; their character and customs. To refer to a language or the influence of a culture, or some portion of a culture, as inferior in some fashion would be high treason in the year 2018 in any industrialized western country. For an American today to speak of Pakistani or Somali influence as “semi-barbarous” would be most scandalous! For the new Iron Law states that no distinctions may ever be made which takes anything of value into account, even if the area of comparison were to be something which was able to be wholly or largely quantified (such as in the case of literacy rates, crime rates, birth rates, etc). A silly injunction of a certainty, but it’s ridiculous character has not stopped it from spreading like a plague all across the world. The problem entailed in such thinking (as Bernier doubtless understood) was that when one ceases to make value-judgments between different cultures (and by extension, different peoples) one ceases to value anything at all. To say that no culture is barbarous is to say also, “there is no such thing as collective barbarity,” which is not just manifestly false, but also profoundly foolish and, in graver circumstances, suicidal. Of course, one should be sure to make the distinction between barbarousness and the appearance of barbarous; but this is an easy distinction to make and of no real weighty concern.

1Joan-Pau Rubies. Race, Climate and Civilization in the Works of Bernier, p. 56. 2013.

2John Mbiti. African Religions & Philosophy, Heinemann, 1990, p. 91.

3The clay-creation motif is peculiar in that it recurs over and over again in numerous ancient tales.

4The Lapps or Sami are a Fino-Urgic people who dwell in Sapmi (Lapland) in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

5See Joan-Pau Rubies writings on Bernier for further reference.

6Bernier, Travels in the Moghul Empire, p. |vi

Fractal America, Kodokushi-6771, Prt.2

In Japan sometime around the month of march, 2017, a employee named Takada from a Japanese company called Mind – which specializes in the removal of indelicate material (such as sex toys or sexually explicit manga) from the abodes of the freshly deceased – recounted to American scream-sheets a most peculiar tale. During one of Takada’s cleaning missions he had encountered the body of a single, 50 year old man named Joji whom had died of a heart attack whilst alone in his two-bedroom apartment. Joji was found lying in six metric tons of pornographic magazines which he had assiduously collected and stored in piles, overflowing in labyrinthine sprawl, all about his tiny house. He had laid there for more than a month; the room, filled with the noxious odor of decaying flesh, his selfsame flesh purple-green and liquefied. His eyeballs running from his sockets.

No one had noticed.

Joji’s peculiar and depressing death is part of a increasingly problematic trend of middle-aged to elderly individuals dying without notice in their homes, or else-wise secluded places, and there remaining for weeks, months or even longer. The problem has reached such a critical threshold of commonality that the Japanese have even given it a name.

Kodokushi.

The word roughly translates into English as, “Persons who [have] lived alone, die alone.” The primary causes for ghastly and seemingly ever increasing malady have been a source of much speculation and theorizing with the general consensus being due to social alienation. Japan has recently undergone demographic shift that has placed more elderly folk home alone than ever before without anyone to look after them and with the transformation of the traditional Japanese family, young people are no longer particularly keen to stay with their parents or grandparents and look after them – there are jobs and careers to be gotten into (a mindset, largely imported from America). This family breakdown and increase in the focus on endless careerism has also created another huge social problem for Japan: suicide.

Suicide-deaths-per-100000-trend

Japan currently ranks 26th (as of 2015) in total world suicide rates as aggregated by the WHO (World Health Organization), trailing Hungary and ahead of Togo (Togolese Republic). In 2014 alone it was estimated that around 70 nationals killed themselves every single day with the vast majority being men (males are highly over-represented in suicide, both in Japan and across the world).

Whilst Americans might find all of this, perhaps, grotesquely interesting they will likely fail to see the parallels to their own society. As was shown in my first installment in this series, America is far from being untouched by the vexing scourge of social deprivation. Just as a point of demonstration, whilst Japan ranks 26th in the world suicide index, The United States of America ranks 48th (as of 2015). Whilst this is significantly less suicides than Japan one should keep in mind that the WHO surveyed, aggregated and indexed 107 different countries; 48 out of 107 is nothing to brag home about. Nor is the United States exempt from the other strange and often harmful aberrations created by social deprivation which we shall examine in finer detail in part 3.

 


Sources:

RocketNews24: Kanagawa Man’s Body Found…