December 21, 2007

The View from Istanbul: The Future Is Ottoman

A reader in Istanbul responds to my suggestion, in the wake of the Mark Steyn censorship case in Canada, that the world will increasingly look like the Ottoman Empire: diverse but boring.

A few details about the "Ottoman" model.

As I've said a couple of times before, the world is a naturally multi-cultural place. But what is called a "multi-cultural" society is hardly that -- since that is impossible by definition. A society cannot exist where multiple tribes live entirely isolated lives without ever running into each other and clashing. The actual reality is "poly-ethnicism" and, therefore, "hetero-culturalism." And to be able to deal with the chaotic outcome of that, an oppressive "meta- culture" has to be put in place. By which I mean the masquerade of "civility" that passes for "liberal culture" when those multiple ethnies have to cohabit under a single geopolitical administrative unit.

In fact, under that configuration, not even the constituent groups are at peace with, or within, themselves. In order to deal with inter-group rivalry, everyone has to develop stealthy ways to push their agenda, even to survive. For example, "statism" is greatly favored (paradoxically) by all since that monopoly on violence is viewed as the guaranteed and the ultimate tool for protecting even so-called "natural" rights. That's because if one group "naturally" excels at anything, it instantly becomes visible to other groups and easily becomes a matter of dispute. So, what you would consider what is rightfully yours under conditions of "normalcy" becomes artificially tainted with the protection of the state, and becomes viewed as a "privilege."

Each group has to learn to be secretive (e.g. about how much property, influence, connections, etc. they have) in order to avoid the "evil eye" of the others.

If a member of one group develops a close relationship with a member of another group due to perfectly natural reasons (such as sharing the same educational, professional, residential environment), this is immediately interpreted as having a tendency to "sell out" your co-ethnics.

All in all, everyone ends up having to develop an extremely "polite" code of conduct to minimize tensions. As a result, "civilization" becomes equated and identified with "civility," and that in turn with "civil niceties." You won't believe how mind-numbingly polite -- and/or "artificially" spontaneous (read "extra inclusive") -- everyone is, especially in "elite" circles.

Moves like these of so-called Islamic "councils" -- whatever that is -- in places like Canada is the knee-jerk reaction of ethnies that are accustomed to this warped, reduced, and very narrow notion of "civilization." Since "politeness" for them is the same thing as being "civilized," and since that in turn is a kind of truce-making ("let's stop murdering each other because it is too expensive for both parties; let's, instead, continue hating each others' guts by devising intrigues and insidious games of back-stabbing with kid-gloves"), they naturally perceive any "criticism" of Islam -- or even just the Muslims and their frequently ethnically traditional ways -- not as any honest attempt to "improve" or "reform" it (God forbid) but as an attack on the group. Criticism? How uncivilized!

One of the consequences of this is the dumbing down of "critical thought." Remember the extreme example of the impact of the environment on IQ that you give now and then, Steve? Locking up someone in the basement and throwing away the key? Well, I'm not saying this to counter the data that the ex-Ottoman land's IQ average appears to be 88-90 -- in fact, that is likely to be skewed since the sample is probably from the urban environment; more likely, it is at best around 85 among the population at large. But there *is* the fact of social mechanisms and culture -- otherwise each and every European country (Germany, France, Netherlands, Italy, etc.) would be identical not only in the number but in the types of scientific and artistic advances and their historical order. So, think of this over-riding and heavy-handed culture of politeness as one form of locking you up in a social atmosphere and throwing away the key. If everyone around you is a member of this or that tribe/ethny, faith/sect, or culture, whatever you say, you'll end up offending someone, so the only thing the "elites" in the Ottoman lands is equating civilization with blandest and the blankest form of politeness. Which is hardly conducive to creativity and discovery.)

All my youth, I have fantasized that one day I could escape this stultifying pseudo-civility; that over there, on the other side of the pond, I could one day have my MLK moment. Instead, the whole world seems to be swinging in the other direction, and becoming Ottoman -- i.e. a civilizational quagmire behind the facade of a cheap, perfumed eclecticism of grandiosity barely breathing (with a case of halitosis) under the dank and oppressive pseudo-intellectualism of politeness.

It seems we -- the undead and the unescaped -- will die as slaves to this pseudo-civility.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


fifi said...

"Instead, the whole world seems to be swinging in the other direction, and becoming Ottoman -- i.e. a civilizational quagmire behind the facade of a cheap, perfumed eclecticism of grandiosity barely breathing (with a case of halitosis) under the dank and oppressive pseudo-intellectualism of politeness."

Is this a phase we eventually get to with all the ethnicities behaving in an equally polite manner? Because the current state of affairs in the good ol US of A is quite different. Only the light skinned inhabitants are expected to submit to the dictates of the "psuedo-intellectualism of politeness." Everyone else pretty much acts as if they own the place and will sue if any of the light skinned beg to differ.

dave david said...

steve, your man in instanbul has it completely backwards. as soon as the new world order can atomize every distinct nationality on the planet and produce a hostile majority-minority political environment absolutely everywhere - with no sense of community, or trust, or purpose - then, and only then, can utopia be established.

sure it sounds implausible and counter-intuitive, but the guys reading from the ancient scrolls assure me that that is indeed the case. so, let's just go with the flow here, ok?

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this letter a lot. Multiethnic *can* work under limited circumstances. For example, many science programs in us grad school shave gone from 100% white to 50/50 white and asian with no problems, and the British and the Welsh have gotten along pretty well for a long time.

The problem is when there is a large mean IQ gap between the groups. Since "civility" supposedly requires everyone to pretend the difference doesn't exist when it does, when the differences manifest themselves economically, resentment is the result.

Evil Neocon said...

Steve your commenter (and no offense, yourself) have no clue what the Ottoman Empire really was.

It was always a very violent, dangerous place where power changed hands through, well ruthless violence. Imagine an empire filled with nothing but Anton Chigurs and you get the idea.

Sultans routinely strangled all relatives upon assuming the throne, to prevent succession trouble. Wives and concubines would plot assassinations to raise their children as possible successors. Purges and pogroms were constant and hyper-violent: against Armenians, and then later Kurds (who formed the bulk of the Armenian's killers). But also Greeks, various Christian (Western) denominations, with Western Powers invited to act as protectors.

The Ottoman Empire of course was a Turkish, not Arabic Empire. And Arabs resented it as well. It was either at the throat of Europe (nearly conquering Vienna twice) or at it's feet. Other than manpower, the Ottoman Empire had nothing going for it, no innovations in any military manner whatsoever because it's society was trapped in the Amber of the firman system (essentially a tax-plantation).

If anything Multiculturalism embodies lip service to some identity while various ethnic groups plot purges and pogroms against each other, and eventually outside powers intervene on one side or another. It as you point out decreases trust, and hence innovation, as well as "affordable family formation" and a huge mass of seething underclass (which is likely the point of the elites).

It's a recipe for a violent, fading society that begs for intervention by other powers.