Waruno Mahdi’s

Virtual WebLOG — English IV

— Social Anthropology —

DISCLAIMER: opinions expressed on this page are those of the author alone.
Date:  11 March 2022
To: FaceBook (September 12, 2021)
Subject: Nine/eleven.

I haven’t forgotten 9/11, and I even was in New York in April 2002, and visited Ground-Zero. There was a wooden platform from which tourists could look upon the location. I remember having brought a white rose to place there, I didn’t want to just leave it on the floor of the platform, but tried to place it on a lower twig of a tree branch right above the platform. Finally, an American who was even taller than me kindly helped.

Already in those days, I was horrified by the absolute stupidity and ignorance of the terrorists who did the air onslaught on the twin towers. Wanting to do something Anti-American, they attacked an office building that was mainly used by foreign (Non-Amrican) companies. Amongst the employees and customers were many Muslims, that got killed.

And so I was always astonished, why those terrorists were (and still are) often called “Islamists”. they are not Muslims, but infidel Kaffirs. They won’t meet nymphs in heaven, but Satan in hell. It is important not to misname them “Islamists”, because that may lead young Muslims to think they should follow them. They should NOT, because those are not “Islamists”, but infidels. Islam means “peace”, and that is the very opposite of what the terrorists of 9/11 brought to Ground Zero.

Post script: This is my ticket to the WTC viewing platform:
Date:  29 August 2021
To: FaceBook (August 29 at 9:30 am)
Subject: Can 'Intelligence' services be sued?.
> worth observing that Afghans themselves — including, historically, the Taliban — have
> been unable to create a stable government for a long time now despite maximal familiarity
> with their own country. Which isn't really a single country, and that's part of the problem,
> but the lack of surplus sufficient to fund a modern hegemonic state is probably a bigger one.

The socio-political development in Afghanistan had still been at a medieval phase of warring warlords, that would end if and when one of the lords reached paramountcy and became monarch, thereby introducing law and order. Europeans too faced this development several times, until the Romans gained paramountcy, or later Charles the Great. In Arabia this happened when Mohammad gained overhand, and founded Islam (that literally means "peace"). In Afghanistan, this is a bit more complicated, but letting the Taliban gain supremacy would not only bring peace, but also strongly reduce the radicalism of their ideology. Furthermore, the Talibans seem not to be interested in a medieval monarchy, but want to empower mercantile citizenship, so that their ideology should perhaps be historically compared with Calvinism in Europe.

Date:  3 September 2021
To: FaceBook (August 11 at 4:50 pm)
Subject: “Stupidity in almost unprecedent scale” (Aug. 11, 10:48 am)
> Events in Afghanistan display stupidity by the West on an almost unprecedented scale.
> There’ll be no civil war in Afghanistan, because the Taliban are likely to take over
> the country in short order. The so-called Afghan army will give up and flee.

The ignorance amongst even academic anthropologists is unbelievable, so one can hardly blame the politics for not knowing any better.
Afghanistan was at a primitive stage of socio-political development, when numerous petty warlords are still fighting each other. The Taliban is not only a step further, when the warlords are subjugated to a single paramount, but even further than that. They are at the stage of early mercantilism, when the rulers enforce a strict and even cruel system of morality (like under the Calvinists in Europe).

Date:  31 December 2020
To: FaceBook (December 31 at 5:24 pm)
Subject: from 2020 to 2021.

Whew, the Corona year 2020 is finally coming to an end, with all our hopes looking forward to a vaccinated year 2021. But by the way, wasn’t there this thing about climate change that Fridays for Future kids have been trying to warn us? And what about all those Donald Trump fans demonstrating till the last days of his presidency?

I’m afraid, history is more than last year, this year, next year. Nonetheless, even if one looks at it as a whole, the presently ongoing old-to-new year transition may be something particular. There may be some unexpected reasons to hope for a future that is better than expected. To understand this one must look at it from an anthropological perspective.

There is one basic point in anthropology, that has been carefully kept secret from the public. Mankind almost died out at the very beginning of its appearance on the horizon. The reason is that, unlike non-human animals, in all of which social behaviour is completely regulated by instinct, human beings have the intelligence to behave in contradiction to their instincts. Those instincts developed gradually through evolution, all (sub)species with inefficient instincts dying out, leaving only those with proficient instincts to survive. The ability to suppress the rule of one’s social instincts cancelled that, and almost led to extinction of Homo sapiens.

However, mankind survived thanks to another feature of human intelligence. People thought that all objects, whether rocks, trees, or whatever, had own souls or spirits. Whenever something went wrong, one assumed that one had angered the spirits. People developed behavioural rules to be followed for fear of angering the spirits. The socially regulating role of instincts was taken over by the social ethics of religious belief in its earliest form: animism.

This had an additional advantage: it allowed for socio-economic development, because ever more advanced economic conditions led to an ever changing political hierarchy in society, and that continuously required reform of the religious social ethics. Farming meant defending one’s land, more effective with a caste of warriors, leading to further stratification, local rulers at the head of the warrior caste, then to at first temporary, then continuous supremacy of a paramount over the other rulers. With this, local religious beliefs were superseded by state religion. In the subsequent period of decadence (the paramount can let everything be done by a clergy and an army), an urban class of craftsmen grows, gradually leading to industrialisation. One could replace that paramount by an elected temporary head of state. After a period of strict mercantile discipline and work ethics, creativity required freedom of thought, and hence liberalisation of religion, one finally relied on secular ethics.

This brought a “new” problem, the actually original old problem of mankind: if there are no spirits, gods, or whatever other almighty beings, why insist on following rules? The answer: common sense. We are after all much better informed than our stone-age ancestors. We all are? Apparently not quite, and here we are in year 2020 AD again: look at how many “common sense” people deny the existence of a corona virus; and see how many even more of them are misled by populists. Are we back to the eve of the almost-end of mankind? But this time not “almost”?

Now here comes the good news (perhaps). As ever more people, including corona deniers, lost their beloved ones to that disease, they are looking forward to the vaccine. Far less people are refusing to be vaccinated, compared with the even most recent number of deniers. At the same time, ever more Trump fans must realise the simple message: he lost!

So perhaps, for the time being, ever more people relying on alleged “common sense” are realising the virtue of following rules.


Date:  17 September 2019
To: ESFO-L (September 17 at 2:01 pm)
Subject: Re: Ethical issue beyond all limits-apes, Vanuatu, Samoa.
> Yes you are right: "racist", "colonialist"!!! Comparing behaviour aspects
> between animals and humans, no problem and nothing new. But writing today that
> . . . the kind of human groups that are most designed to e compared with apes are
> "collectivist traditional societies", such as "Vanuatu and Samoa" is of course
> totally unacceptable.
>> It is difficult for me to understand what a project like this should achieve in
>> Vanuatu that cannot be achieved, say, by studying some children in Durham. . .
>> How else can we understand the notion that people in Vanuatu are somewhat
>> more comparable to apes than people in England?

It's not just "racist", it is completely ignorant. All non-human animals, apes included, are governed in the social structure of their communities by their behavioural instincts. Human beings are different, in being capable of suppressing their behavioural instincts. This almost led to extinction of mankind. However, humans not only believed that all objects around them had "souls" or "spirits" (some higher animals believe so too), but assumed that whenever something went wrong, that was because they had made the spirits angry. They gradually learned what not to do, so as not to make the spirits angry. And so their instincts in governing their social behaviour was replaced by their beliefs.

Hence, even the most primitive human communities were totally different from the most advanced apes in their social behaviour.

A classical example is the prohibition of incest in all, even most primitive human societies all around the world. One noticed everywhere, that this led to misbuildings among descendants, and concluded that the spirits did not like sibling sex. Apes do not prohibit incest.

Date:  3–4 March 2019
To: FaceBook (March 3 at 7:33 am)
Subject: Discussion religion politics in Indonesia.
> It is about time to stop this stupid and hypocrite game of control.
> Pancasila pretends that all Indonesians believe in one and only God . . . .

Comment (March 4): 
There is more than one problem here. I would not translate ketuhanan as “godliness”, but as “divinity”, which is perhaps knit-picking. However, mahaesa involves a greater problem, because the standard Indonesian spelling rules do not distinguish between /ə/ (schwa) and /ɛ/ (also pronounced /e/). For sake of clarity, the latter is transcribed in dictionaries as “é” (e-acute). The story seems to be, that mahaesa was originally read as /mahaɛsa/ “almighty”.

Only subsequently, at the initiative of some Muslim politicians, was it reinterpreted as /mahaəsa/ “hyper-singular”, although that does not seem so very sensible to me, because one would then have simply formulated it as “mahatunggal”, or even more simply and logically, as “tunggal”, because “singular” is “unique, one only”. Unlike plurality, that has no upper limit, something cannot be more singular or less singular. But might can be greater or less, so it does make sense to stress that the might of God is at the upper limit of mightiness.

> . . . . . . . . 

It's all a question of interpretation. if one inspects the problem more closely, a deity in religions is typically that which is known as a “personified God”. A “not-personified god” in religion is very rare. it was originally so in Buddhism, although many subsequent Buddhist schools practically had a personified supreme being. Buddhists originally worshiped an abstraction, like nirvana, a state of being dissociated from all feelings or sufferings.

As for atheists, one must differentiate between two groups. the one does recognize the existence of some objective, real-world laws underlying physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc., such as mechanics, relativity, etc. Important here are ethical rules based on an objective understanding of social structure. The other does not consider general ethical rules to be rational, and then follow an own understanding of “rationality”. This is typically limited by one's own capability of understanding reality, and that is ultimately dangerous for society.

To my mind, the former of these two atheist types actually do believe in god (not God), a not-personified “god”, an objective real-world supreme set of laws governing mechanics, ethics, you-name-it, that is not some subjectively operating being.

It is only the latter of the two types, those who deny the existence of any objective basic set of rules, who are a danger to society, so that it is a good thing when the national ideology takes a stand on this point. The only thing wrong in presently widespread interpretations is insisting that Pancasila refers to a personified God. One may perhaps even consider the use of the term “Ketuhanan” (divinity) instead of “Tuhan” (God) to confirm this.

> I am not sure that people who believe in god, especially personified God
> are less dangerous than those who believe in no god. . . .

Reply (March 5 at 12:00M): 
It's basically a very long story. But the gist of it is, that belief is a basic condition for human survival. In non-human animals, social behaviour is governed by instincts. Homo sapiens, however, was inelligent enough to suppress his instincts, and this almost brought our species to extinction. We survived, because our intelligence allowed for a new basis for organized social behaviour. We believed that everything had its own spirit or soul. Whenever something went wrong, people thought they had offended the spirits. An animist culture developed. It had an important superiority compared to organization by instincts: it could change. Whereas the social organization of non-human animals has to remain constant, that of humans can develop, because rules governing it can change. Advances in material culture led to changes in the social organization, from palaeolithic, via mesolithic, to the neolithic. The latter led to significant social stratification, and finally to metal-age statehood. With this, the system of animistic beliefs developed into religion. Significant for our discussion is, that social stratification and statehood also led to human exploitation and to war. Another point is, that social-political changes also required changes in the religion. This could lead to conflict within the society. Basically, they do not fight each other because they belief in God, bur because they represent different socio-political stages of development, each being governed by an own understanding of what God allegedly wants.

> . . . The idea that other animals do not have intelligence and are acting by instincts only
> is extremely outdated. . . .

Reply (March 5 at 14:00M): 
I never said that non-human animals (btw, human beings are also animals) have no intelligence. But I only made a very much abbreviated explanation of the problem. Indeed non-human animals not only have intelligence, but develop different cultures. However, these are not social cultures, but material cultures, even going as far as using different herbal medicines against a given illness. They also develop different dialects. Nonetheless, their “language” consists of two sets of “words”, the one is inherited (part of their instinct), the other learned. Their dialects only differ in the learned part. Apart from that, non-human animal language differs from human on one significant point: In non-human animal language there is a tit-for-tat relationship between utterance and meaning: every word has a single unique meaning, and for every meaning there is a single word. In human language a word can have several meanings, different words may sound the same, there are different styles, and literal and figurative speech, etc. You can even understand somebody who is drunk, or a foreigner speaking broken English (or other language).

But as I said, I had only given a short gist of the story. Even with this addition, it is still far from complete.

Date:  19–30 December 2018
To: FaceBook / Ambra Calo’ (19 December at 2:53 pm)
Subject: Discussion on what is being planned from the last 2018 COP climate meeting in Poland.
> . . . . . . . . 

Comment (December 29 at 2 PM): 
Why do I think that no aliens have shown up yet, asking to be taken to our leader? Very simple, To be able to undertake interstellar transportation, a sufficiently intelligent species has to go through all the cultural developments that our Homo sapiens went through. Then, just like us, they would industrially destroy their planet, and die out before taking off on any interstellar spacecraft they might have been developing.

> Maybe other intelligent species may have been intelligent enough . . .
> to acknowledge and value interconnectedness over blind competitiveness

Reply (December 29 at 4 PM): 
I’m afraid, competitiveness is a developmental phase leading to industrialization, without which there would not be the technological progress required for building spacecraft. It’s all interconnected, and we reached the phase we are in now not because we and forefathers were stupid.

> could have technological progress invented through creativity and care for the subject,
> without its commercialization/requiring competitiveness, and used in mutual sharing mode

Reply (December 30 at 11 AM): 
Sorry, was off-line. Human creativity has been there since the stone age. There have also been commercial emporiums since proto-historical times. But industrialization meant more, because it required a complex socio-economic structural development involving a relatively large community, typically much larger than that of one nation. For example, the success of the English textile industry depended a.o. on the colonial suppression of India’s textile manufacture. There have, of course, been serious attempts to base industrialization on social non-competitiveness by mutual sharing mode. The communists tried, and failed. I lived 20 years in the Soviet Union and know what I am talking about. Communist China managed to industrialize after Deng Xiaoping (aka Teng Siao Ping) introduced far-reaching market-economy reforms (read: competitiveness).

As I said, it is not because we are stupid. We are just subject to systematic socio-economic factors, which aliens would not be able to escape either. To develope spacecraft interstellar transportation, creativity is not enough. You need an advanced industrialized economy, and that doesn’t happen just by being nice to one another. I am not happy about that either, but real life just is not a day dream. Sorry for that.

Date:  August 19, 2018 2:59pm
To: Facebook/ Dafydd Gibbon’s comment
Subject: Muslim couple denied Swiss citizenship over no handshake (BBC, 18 August 2018)

That men and women are the same is nonsense, of course, and the attempt to introduce a legal statute that declared that they are the same was interrupted more than 100 years ago in French parliament by a loud “vive la difference”. Gender equality is not a question of men and women being the same, but that they have equal rights.

The question of how people may communicate with one another, be they of different age, different social rank, different gender, different ethnic affiliation, is a question of specific culture particularities. Upon wanting to be accepted as a member of another ethnic, social, or national community, one thereby declares one’s preparedness to accept its culture specific particularities in mutual personal communication.

Date:  August 11, 2018 3:48pm
To: Facebook/ John A. MacDougall shared a link
Subject: Aceh’s obsession with sex: why the province has its priorities wrong (Univ. Melbourne, August 7, 2018)

It is always important to stress in this connection, that shariah is not Islamic law, but caliphatic law, and that there are furthermore several versions of shariah, just as that any legal statutes of a state, whether caliphate or other, can be, and is indeed, frequently revised. It is just like the Codex Justinianus, which is not Christian law, but a Byzantine code of law. Forcing an early mediaeval code of law upon a modern social community means retrograding the socio-economic development of that community to the corresponding mediaeval phase of underdevelopment.

Date:  17 June 2018
To: Facebook/ The Economist
Subject: Some thoughts on the crisis of liberalism—and how to fix it

Liberalism to me is the principle of social, economic, and political freedom, that basically only has one limitation: the freedom of the one should not transgress upon the freedom of the other. As the latter condition is not quite unambivalent, this leaves considerable space for interpretation.

To my mind, however, the article does not provide a very convincing argument for the currently increasing success of populism. This may, believe it or not, lie in the widespread tendency towards rationalism in society.

In the non-human animal world, the social structure of a community is based on instincts of each individual. Human beings differ from all other animals in that they are capable of suppressing their instincts, which could lead to total chaos. This was the anthropological crisis, as a result of which Homo sapiens almost died out.

However, one instinct amongst the humans was that they believed that everything around them had its own soul or spirit. When something goes wrong, the human thought that he did something wrong that angered the spirits. And thus, the submission to one's instincts was replaced by a submission to what one believed the spirits wanted. The social-organisatorial function of instincts was replaced by belief-based ethical principles.

This, furthermore, had the advantage that, in parallel with ever more advanced socio-economic developement (old stone-, new stone-, metal age, early civilization, etc.), the ethical principles, be they religious, legal, or other developed correspondingly.

Now we come to our present times, in which an increasing tendency towards what each one believes to be "rational" is suppressing general submission to formal ethical rules, be they religious, legal, or other. One believes to know everything better. I like to call this the second anthropological crisis, and to be honest, I am not so sure how likely it is, that humanity will overcome this one as successfully as it did the first one.

If not, humanity will come to its end not because of global climate warming or spreading of an incurable disease, or whatever else, but simply because we will no longer be capable of retaining social peace in our communities.

Date:  29 May 2018
To: Facebook/ Waruno Mahdi
Subject: The Spiderman of Paris

Refugees are getting ever more problems, getting officially accepted in Europe or the US. This is actually very strange, because the actual interests of the latter is in accepting and quickly helping the refugees to integrate, learn the language and get a job as fast as possible, i.e. with the least bit of burocracy as possible.

Why? because useless do-no-goods stay at home, do not have the guts and energy to dare go on a long and dangerous journey over half the continent and/or across the sea on overcrowded capsizing boats. Those who do get here are courageous talented people who any employer would just love to have. Once in a while, they even end up as public heroes, like Mamoudou Gassama from Mali, who became the “spiderman” of Paris, as I read in my daily paper Der Tagesspiegel

For those of you who do not understand German, see here: BBC news.

Date:  28 April 2018
To: TIME Magazine <letters@timemagazine.com>
Subject: David Kirkpatrick’s “The Facebook Defect” (TIME [Europe], April 23, 2018, pp. 16-27)

For a month now I have been deeply amused by the entire public and medial hullabaloo around Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. All those horror stories about IT efforts to control the minds and missuse personal data.

Could somebody please whisper into their ears, that such efforts already existed since commercial advertisements appeared in the print media in the 1840s. And when one refers to efforts to “secretly control the minds”, then already in the late 1950s, research was being made to test ultra-short film commercials to be shown in cinemas before the main film, that the viewer would not consciously notice, but that would nevertheless subconsciously enter his mind.

Meanwhile, online social media such as Facebook, but also Twitter, Mypace, etc. are operating. Significant is that the service they provide is gratis. You do not have to pay to participate, because all the costs are covered by commercials. So by participating for free, one thereby agrees to the commercials. Furthermore, by participating in such a medium one automatically discloses one's opinion and tastes, no matter whether that medium is called "Facebook" or other. In fact, this was already so in public email lists.

Waruno Mahdi

Date:  23 August 2017
To: FaceBook / Waruno Mahdi (August 23 at 12 pm)
Subject: “Monkey selfie photographer says he's broke”, (the Guardian, 12 July 2017)
> A US appeals court has debated whether or not a monkey can own the copyright to
> a selfie, while the photographer whose camera captured the famous image watched . . .

How stupid can some people with a degree in law get, to think that a monkey or any other (non-human) animal has "rights"? Do hens have property rights on their eggs?, or sheep on their wool? A hen couldn't sell its eggs to buy fodder, nor could a sheep cut and sell its own wool. And this monkey too needed a human to provide a camera and train it to snap a shot just like an elephant or tiger is trained in a circus to do some tricks. The money the audience pays to watch does not become property of the elephant or tiger.

A* F* Comment (August 23, 16:## pm): 
> In my point of view, the egg belongs only to the hen and to nobody else!
> Same with wool, meat, skin/ leather. Its not property rights of humans,
> its stolen by humans.

Reply (August 24, 11:50 a.m.): 
Dear A*, I understand and respect your point of view. But as an anthropologist I know why humans are fundamentally distinct from non-human animals. The legal concept of property is a human intellectual construct that did not even exist amongst humans in the palaeolithic, let alone amongst non-human animals.

Note also that taking away eggs, and even eating meat, is not a crime against nature. Many non-human animals eat or “steal” eggs, and all carnivorous animals eat meat. Human beings are omnivorous, meaning they eat food of various origin, including animal meat, and that since the very earliest existence of human beings.

The reason why vegetarianism arose is the development of industrial production of meat (and eggs), in which the animals are maltraeted in a very cruel manner. I am also very much against that kind of animal husbandry, which is why I understand the vegetarians. But I don't agree in their method, because the problem is a political one, and the right way to fight it is legal prohibition of industrial-style holding and killing of animals.

Date:  29 April 2017
To: FaceBook / Andy Hsiu (4/28/2017)
Subject: Hold on tight
> How Western civilisation could collapse. 

One basic errror is considering industrialization to have been a feature of “Western civilisation” (whatever that might be). The same rise of middle class culture not only happens wherever the economy industrialises, it is also a condition for it. The main danger for the further development of middle class culture is when conditions of free enterprise (and competition) are overturned by monopolisation and cartels (i.e. when anti-trust legislation fails).

Date:  4 April 2017
To: FaceBook / Aboeprijadi Santoso
Subject: Zakir Naik’s Men Paid Rs. 50,000 Each To Get Hundreds To Convert To Islam,
Says Anti-Terrorism Squad <India Times>

Religious conviction is a matter between the believer and God. So, somebody who pays money to let someone convert thinks he can deceive God. He thereby demonstrates that he himself is a godless kaffir! (PS. aka infidel)

Date:  2 March 2017
To: FaceBook / Indonesian-English Prose, Poetry and Film
Subject: “Arab idol 2017” Moslems

One thing is still always bothering me about Shariah: Why do people think it is “Islamic law”? It didn't exist yet when Mohammad lived, It was only introduced as a legal codex in the Caliphats, and was constantly revised from one Caliphat to the other. It was thus a Caliphatic law, and is not “Islamic law” in any way more than that for example the Codex Justinianus is “Christian law”, or that the laws of Ashoka was “Buddhist law”.

Date:  15 July 2016
To: FaceBook / David Gil
Subject: “true” Moslems (June 15–16, 2016)
Jun 15, 2016 4:06pm
Every religion has it's historical socio-political background, and develops along with changes in the socio-political structure of the community, albeit, unfortunately very much too slowly. There were early phases of development, when homo- and/or trans-sexuality was even considered as something holy, and shamans of many ethnic groups in various parts of the world were so, including some “balian” in Kalimantan and “bissu” of the Buginese. In later phases, it was the other way round, and even under secular law in industrial countries of the West, homosexuality remained a crime till relatively late in the 20th century. Hence homophobia in our times indeed reflects a kind of retrogressive “fundamentalism”, Islamiic, Christian, or whatever else. It is for this reason, that I don't like the terms “liberal Moslem” or “"moderate Moslem”. For me they are the normal modern Moslems of our times. It is those fundamentalists, who are not true Moslems.. BTW., I'm not a Moslem, and never was one.

Jun 16, 2016 12:13pm
> They're all Muslim, by definition. You can't choose your favourite "nice" Muslims and say
> that they're Muslims while all the others aren't.
Jun 16, 2016 12:52pm

What I meant by “true” Moslems (ditto Christians, etc.) are those who are moving along with the times, i.e. with modern socio economic development. Fundamentalists (of any religion) are retrograde, and ultimately a loss for their own religious community.

Jun 16, 2016 12:57pm
> Well I also like the ones that move along more than the ones who are retrograde and fundamentalist.
> But I wouldn't call the ones that I like the "true" Muslims (or Christians or whatever).
Jun 16, 2016 1:23pm

It's not about whether one may “like” them or not. The success of a community in an ever changing world is tied with it's capacity to keep up with economic development. You can't industrialise without modern expertise and education, or by conservation of a medieval or even more primeval social structure. Religion provides the ethical basis of a given community, so that fundamentalism forces a retrograde system of ethics, thus undermining the process I referred to above. For me, that form of a religion, which does provide the ethical basis for needs of the community in its efforts to keep abreast with the others, is the contemporaneously “true” form, that being the actual function of religion. BTW, I am glad to observe, that I am apparently in agreement with the policies of catholic Pope Francis.

Date:  17 May 2015
To: FaceBook / Paul Sidwell
Subject: Re: Decline of Ape Language Research (May 16, 2015, 6:48 pm )
It's funny how some experts insist in using different terms for human "language" and animal "signalisation", but then speak of machine "language". Their main criterion is whether one can freely combine words into sentences (human & machine language) or cannot (animal signalisation). But even leaving aside whether doplphins can speak in sentences, the principle difference is to my mind that there is a distinct tit-for-tat correspondence between expression and meaning in animal as well as machine communication, but not in human. In the latter we have synonyms, homonyms, figurative speech, etc., all not possible in either animal signalisation or machine "language". The only particularity in signalisation of advanced animals (not only apes but even several bird species) is that one part of their vocabulary is inborn (instinctive), and the other part learned. This latter part of the vocabulary may difffer from one community to another, so that the "language" of some birds, apes, a.o. have dialects.
Date:  24 Nov. 2012
To: Gelora45 & wahana-news (mailing lists)
Subject: A*****: Iwa & Waruno Mahdi -The enemy is Islam: ..... (Nov 23, 2012, 7:55 pm )
Dear A*****,

When you ran amok on Gelora45 on November 8 (message-## 114031 and 114034) I decided I'd not excite you any further. I hoped, you perhaps had friends or a partner nearby who might help you. But this seems either not to be the case, or you proved impervious to their wellmeant efforts.

Nevertheless, I did not comment on your further antiislamic fits because that obviously would not help either, while your "arguments" were just as apparently not reaching any Islamic readers of the list either. But that seems only to have riled you even more, so that you now even felt necessitated to directly address me again by name in the subject text.

So I must apparently convince you once and for all, that you do not have the slightest inkling of a chance to convince me that you are right.

As I already said before, I am not a Muslim, but an atheist. However, on the one hand, as a traditional linguist, I am an anthropologist who knows why human society has and needs religion, and on the other hand I had the good fortune to receive a civil education that included learning to respect people of other ethnic and religious identities.

Let me therefore explain to you why your "arguments" are quite worthless, not because I hope you would understand, but just to demonstrate how absolutely pointless it is to try to convince me of the contrary.

(1) With concrete regard to Islam, your "arguments" are unprofessional and demonstrate that you have no knowldge at all about the subject. On the one hand you cite some not more closely identified "hadith" as source, apparently either not knowing from which hadith it is, or even not knowing that there are several. Furthermore. not all hadiths are canonic, and some may be recognized by one school (mazhab) but not by other ones. All this apart fom the fact, that that the hadiths were written after Muhammad was no longer there.

When you bring alleged quotations from the Qoran, you apparently do not know that only the Arabic original is canonic, whereas any translation can only serve as an approximate interpretation known as a tafsir. In each language there can furthermore be several tafsirs that are not identical. So if you want to quote the Qoran for example in English translation as argument in a religious debate, you should state which English tafsir you are quoting. But if you really want to indulge in an in-depth analysis of the Qoran, you should also know that there are several versions of the Qoran as well, because scribal variations were introduced into the text at an early period, besides that in the very earliest period after Muhammad had died, there was even uncertainties about inclusion of some of the Suras.

All this, of course, only concerns your use of formal textual quotations as arguments. Another problem is interpreting the text, because even for straightforward texts there can be various interpretations. This is particularly so because, as I will presently explain in the second part, a religion constantly develops with time, and in so doing it is also frequently compelled to re-interpret canonic texts. Just one example: Charles Darwin's theory of biological evolution was at first rejected by the Christian churches which continued to interpret the Genesis literally. Today however, Darwin'stheory is taught in just about all Christian schools, and so-called creationism is only still upheld by some fundamentalist sects.

So, you see, even if you would literally quote the Qoran from an original version of the Arabic text, you would still not be able to declare what a "good Muslim" in your interpretation should be. That would be like if you quoted the description of the first seven days from the Book of Genesis and declared therefore, that to be a "good Christian" one had to be a creationist. You would then have a second problem, of course, because you already declared that was Mother Theresa. Now Mother Theresa was a Catholic, whereas the creationist sects I know of are Protestant.

(2) Quoting excerpts from canonic texts, even if done prefessionally, quite generally cannot serve to characterize followers of a religion.

When an animal as intelligent as the human being (Homo sapiens) emerged as result of evolution, it almost died out. Why? Well all non-human animal species have one thing in common: their behaviour is completely regulated by instinct. When for example two stags (male deer) fight for a mate, they charge at each other with their antlers. But to prevent that young stags become invalids before really having fully developed, there is an instinct, that the weaker of the fighters will soon realize that it would lose, and then reveals the most vulnerable part of its neck to the superior opponent. This is a signal that says "I give up", and the opponent instinctively stops attacking. If it didn't, it would have meant total crippling, if not death, of the weaker opponent. But this never happens, because animals are fully subject to their instincts.

Humans are different from other animals in that they are capable of overriding their instincts. So when an enemy goes down on his knees and surrenders, he might still get killed. If that were not so, we would not need the Geneva convention on treatment of prisoners of war.

In general, of course, relations and behaviour within a social community of animals covers countless instincts, and the more complex the community, the more complex all those instincts become. This would be particularly so with humans. That is why, when they could suppress their instincts, that deregulated their social behaviour and almost caused total extinction.

But humans developed something that is known as "mystical logic". They believed there were spirits in all the things and beings, and when something went wrong, they assumed that they had somehow displeased the spirits. Gradually, the former system of instincts that regulated their social behaviour was replaced by a system of beliefs about what the spirits liked and what they disliked. An automatic obedience to instincts was replaced in its regulatory function by conscious obedience to a system of beliefs.

This was also necessary for another reason: the structure of non-human animal comunities is constant and invariable, it being determined by said system of invariable instincts. Human society, however, can change and develop, and the development of ever more advanced material culture and economic productivity also requires growth and change of the social structure. Consequently, the system of behavioural rules governed by belief must develop too. With development of social stratification and then of civilization, the beliefs developed into fullfledged religions.

It is clear, of course, that religions too must develop. When new socio- economic developments leads to political conflicts in the community, this will also be accompanied by religious conflict. When one part of society supports a change in the socio-economic and political structure, while the other does not, this will cause a split in the religion as well.

In short, a religion is not some stiff immutable system, but an extremely flexible one that conforms to ever newer circumstances much more than is generally realized. How long ago was it, that women were not allowed to vote in general elections, or be soldiers, or become CEO-s (chief executive officers), etc.? In these decades we are witnessing women gradually being allowed to become Christian priests and even bishops. Etc., etc.

So you see, it is pointless to try provide some fixed formal definition of a religion by literal quotations from some canonical text. And even if you insist on doing so for yourself, you I hope at least realize now from the above, that you don't have the least bit of a chance to convince me to decide what a "good Muslim" is based on some such literal quotations.

The Qoran was written during the early Middle Ages, and contributed to socio-political stabilization of feudal statehood in Arabia. The long period of colonialism caused a conservation of feudal relations in large parts of the Middle East. Commodity economy and an urban middle class only began developing slowly, so that even today, we witness besides a modern Islam also substantial fundamentalist forms. That has nothing to do with being either "good" or "bad" Muslims, but merely with cultural adaption to modern socio-economic culture or failure to do so.

I will now stop here, and hope you don't expect me to react to any further attempts to explain to me what a "good Muslim" is supposed to be like in your opinion.



Date:  4, 6, & 7 Nov. 2012
To: Gelora45 & wahana-news (mailing lists)
Subject: A*****: Jihad-martyrdom suicide killer's mother: "My son was ..... (Nov 4, 6:26 am & 7:51 pm; &         
6, 2012, 7:45 pm)
< I have deleted three items here, because I considered them not interesting >
Date:  6 Dec 1997, 17:21 MET
To: EvolutionLanguage (mailing list)
Subject: Re: on humanness of language
> Sent by: R.G.
> > Sent by: Waruno Mahdi
> >
> > Yes, for some reason, people say "language" when they mean "human
> > language", but then think nothing of saying "machine language"
> > (which is quite "non-human").
> What is non-human about machine language? It is invented by humans
> for devices used/designed by humans. Humans input to the machine, the
> machine communicates in its own way (machine language) to other
> components, the machine outputs to varying degrees of user-friendly
> formats. All these are very human stories seems to me.
The stories are human alright (even very much so :-)), and the machines are human-made and human-operated, so far so good. It is the "language" of these machines that is non-human, for many reasons. The trivial ones are: 
(1)  words in machine language, like in non-human animal signaling, have strictly defined meanings, in human language they are characterized by polysemy (as a consequence, machine language and non-human animal signaling cannot tolerated homonyms/homographs). In non-human animal and computer signaling systems there is a finite, concrete number of well-defined meanings for each of which there is a defined expression. In human language the meanings are not strictly defined and numerable like that, and there is no such strict tit-for-tat relationship between symbol and symbolized (we have synonyms, metonyms, homonyms, figurative speech, etc.). 
(2)  machine language, like non-human animal signaling systems, cannot change without loss of functionality. When a new version of a machine language is introduced (new dialect in animal signaling), it cannot be used with older machines, whereas the new machines cannot handle old programs unless the old language persists as subclass of the new version. Human language, on the other hand, not only changes without stop, but each speaker is constantly code-switching between several social dialects, including the age-group dialect of the own generation, that of the previous generation, and optionally a professional slang, a regional dialect, etc. (S)He can also cope with situations in which several of these dialects are mixed. Machines would go into a stupor, from which they can only be extricated with a reboot. Analogically, we may even understand a foreigner speaking broken English, or a drunkard. Machines likewise play dead in such situations. In some European languages you can say "he didn't go, they went him" (meaning "they made him go"), although it is just as ungrammatical as it is in English. Machines don't put up with such disdain for syntax. 
(3)  machine language does not distinguish styles (archaic, poetic, bookish, colloquial), and I don't think non-human animal signaling systems does either, although it is imaginable for the animals, that signal quality may express emotionality or some other condition. 
So you see, machine language is much more animal (non-human-wise), than it is human. After all, you can also talk with your pet. In fact, I've seen pet dogs and cats communicate with their owners much more "human"-ly than my computer does with me (or anybody's computer with anybody :-)). When compared with human languages alone, machine language comes closest to artificial languages (e.g. Esperanto), but this will only last so long one doesn't use such an artificial language as natural language. The moment one does that, it will transform into any normal flexible, variable, changing, idiosyncratically irregular, dialect-diversifying natural language (look what happened to Hebrew since the founding of Israel), because only then does the "human touch" come in. 
Those were the trivial points. The point that I see as being the principle (not just principal) one is: 
(4)  Every utterance in a human language first of all establishes a social relationship between speaker and listener/reader, i.e. it is an act of social communication, and only secondly, optionally, does it convey some informative content that can be inferred by a formal analysis of the code. Even when you are reading a lecture, you are establishing yourself as lecturer and your listeners as students, and, depending upon whether you strike a more mentoring or a more jovial tone, you also indicate how you would like to see this lecturer-student relationship. It doesn't matter, how many percent of your students will understand your lecture. They'll all understand the social part of the message. Being impersonal in one's speech is not easy (or, when it comes naturally, one should perhaps consult a psychiatrist). That is perhaps one reason why speaking announcements into the intercom requires appropriate training (try let some unschooled layman announce something over the intercom). In machine language it is the other way round. It is the formal content that counts. The flowers may be inserted after special "comment" signs for the benefit of the (human) programmer. Such a "comment" sign indicates to the machine that it should ignore everything that follows in that line.... 
And connected with this point is another: 
(5)  withdrawal from human language communication can lead to mental depression. One form of mobbing is that none of the colleagues speak with the victim anymore. But if nobody uses a computer, it doesn't suddenly break down. Non-human animals, in this regard, seem to be closer to humans than machines are.

The main reason why people consider machine language to be closer to human language, seems to be that both have syntax and, as a consequence, the limited number of available words can be organised into more or less complicated meaningful sentences, and varieties of these can in turn be ordered in sequence to build lengthy monologues (programs). But, although we do not seem to know of any non-human animal signaling system with elaborate syntax, I don't think we should as principle exclude the possibility of syntax in animal signaling at sub-human levels. I don't know, for one, whether one can safely exclude syntax in whale and dolphin signaling (I'd be grateful for comment from biologists in the know). I also don't know what came first in human evolution, syntax or conscious social organization (other than by biological instinct).

Apart from that, of course, machine language syntax differs from human language syntax as indicated in (2). When Sapir said that all grammars leak, he meant grammars in human language. Machines cannot cope with leaking grammars. Theirs don't .

Regards to all, Waruno

Date:  Mon, 24 Nov 1997 18:07 MET
To: EvolutionLanguage (mailing list)
Subject: Man or Woman?
Hi, I just subscribed and was pleasantly surprised to see a lively discussion on whether "Man" or "Woman" invented language going on.

I not so long ago answered a query on LINGUIST List about men's and women's language style. To avoid cluttering up space here with an encore, here's where anybody interested can find it:

(see next message below)

I fully agree that women are considerably more proficient in the use of language, and that one reason for that is indeed perhaps that hunting and stalking requires quietness and patience. Another factor perhaps is, that although hierarchies exist in both gender groups, arguments about who has the say are much more detrimental in hunting and domain-defence than in foraging and child-care. So here too, it seems important for men to learn to hold their tongue until the opportunity comes when it is safe to speak out.

Nevertheless, I don't think this has any bearing upon which of the two genders started it all. I think that human social behaviour, insofar as it differs in principle from the animal, was first learned in child sibling heirarchies resulting from over-long childhood. Human language, insofar as it differs in principle from animal signalization, must too then, have begun among children. As a woman would give birth again long before her previous child(ren) reach(es) adulthood, the ratio of number of children to number of women is too high for women alone to care after the children, and sibling hierarchies must take over part of the chores.

I think therefore, that youth slang and the tendency among children to form PigLatin-style secret language are attavisms of an early state, when children started modifying vocal signalization in a social organisatorial context (animal social structure is taxonomically invariant, in humans it is culturally variable).

Regards to all, Waruno

Date:  Sat, 11 Oct 1997 20:11:00 +0100
To: The LINGUIST List <linguist@linguistlist.org>
Subject: Discussion: women`s language
Archive: linguistlist.org/issues/8/8-1475.html#1
This was originally meant as response to the query by K* E* in LINGUIST 8.1463 #1, but as it got longer and longer, I thought it might interest others too, so I'm volunteering it as discussion topic to open opportunities for critical comments from which perhaps not only the queriant and I myself would profit.

> 1.Do you believe that it is women who do all the gossiping? I feel
> at times that men gossip as well and not less than women.

No, gossiping is probably just as important for men as it is for women. It is just that men are perhaps less talkative than women, and, perhaps more important, men are in the average less proficient than women in expressing themselves linguistically (and when words fail us, we may be prone to letting fists speak).

In my opinion, gossiping is a biologically ingrained human (male AND female) characteristic, and performs the same function among humans as "grooming" does among apes. It is a way of maintaining friendly social relations. There was a major publication which touched on the topic recently:

Robin Dunbar, 1996, Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language.
(I'm merely citing him for your information. I don't necessarily agree with everything that is said there).

Some years earlier, there was a French book on the role of gossip in a socio-linguistic perspective. I unfortunately do not remember the names of the author(s) or the title, but I remember that there was an elaborate review article on it in the news magazine Der Spiegel (Hamburg), somewhere between 5 and 12 years ago. Perhaps you can still find it by going through the annual indexes of Der Spiegel from 1985 till 1992. (actually I've not missed a single number of Der Spiegel since May 1977, but I don't think it was before 1985).

> 2. Do you think that women`s speech styles differ from that of men
> due to biological reasons or solely due to socio-cultural factors?

I think that there are both biological as well as socio-cultural factors, so that one should perhaps be careful about jumping too quickly to conclusions about giving either the one or the other the priority. To begin with, one must of course be careful when one speaks about "men" and "women", because such classifications typically contain generalizations which have much in common with popular clichés. In reality, both "men" as well as "women" encompass extremely wide ranges of temperament, character, behaviour, which partly overlap, so that you will find members of the one group, behaving like the more typical ones of the respective other group.

So, when I talk about "men" and "women", I'll simply assume that there is something like a "typical man" and a "typical woman", serving as "archetype" of their respective gender groups. Basically, the idea is like this: I assume that one needs two logical stages to construct the actual situation. Stage one involves gender polarization in personality characteristics of "men" vis-a-vis "women". Stage two involves diversification within each of the two groups, resulting in a partial overlap. Both stages I see as consequence of Darwinist evolution which led to the formation of Homo sapiens sapiens. But in the concrete context of your question, we can tentatively limit ourselves to the theoretical state resulting from stage one alone.

Now, the gender polarization of economic roles at a certain stage in the evolution of hominid subsistence seems to lie at the beginning of the way towards Homo sapiens sapiens. It seems to have been a direct consequence of upright locomotion, leading to a narrowing of the pelvic bone and hence also a narrowing of the birth passage. Hominids, developing ever larger brains because of additional motoric problems to be dealt with in manipulations with hands which became free (bipedal locomotion only needed the feet), had to have smaller heads at the moment of birth. The solution of this contradiction was an ever more prematurely born baby, which was totally helpless at birth, and fully occupied the mother for a long period after birth. The lengthened period of childhood (premature birth, in combination with more to learn to be adult) had as consequence, that females became pregnant again before earlier-born children could vie for themselves. Consequently, females were fully occupied with newborn babies and tied down in their movements by children at various ages. This required a differentiation of economic roles. Hunting and defence of territorial domains, requiring greater mobility became the responsibility of males, whereas females specialized in more stationary pursuits, particularly foraging of vegetable food (and care for mentioned children). This economic cooperation within the community, between hunting males moving at large, and foraging females representing the community's "homebase", combined with the circumstance that mothers of newly-born babies, needing additional food while stilling the baby, is physically handicapped in gathering food, and thus depends on food sharing, all this must have served as the basis for the development of a "humane" form of community, being in contrast to "animal" community where the strongest one typically snatches the lion's share of the food.

What does this have to do with gender-specific speech behaviour? It would take too much space to answer that in detail, but there are two basic moments:

(1) The basic difference between humans and animals seems not to be intelligence, use of tools, affinity to art, or many other criteria which may have formerly been brought into consideration, but that the social organization of an animal community is biologically determined (and thus specific for each species), but in human communities it is culturally determined (in one and the same species of Homo sapiens sapiens one may find monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, exogamy, endogamy, etc., matrilinear/patrilinear descendance reckoning. matrilocal/patrilocal organization, etc., egalitarianism, despotism, etc.). As literature reference for the basic proposition one may probably take

Sherwood Washburn in Scientific American 203/3:63-75 (1960),
Marshal Sahlins in ibid., 76-87 (1960).
(2) Vocal and other signalization in animals serves as a basic medium for maintainance of social relations within the community, and it is my contention, that this is also true in humans. In view of point (1) it is obviously clear, that vocal signalization of humans (i.e. "language") must be just as totally more complex and flexible (and just as much an exponent of culture rather than of the biological taxon) than animal signalization, as the culturally variable social organization of humans is in comparison to the taxonomically invariant one of animals.

One aspect of this is that speech variation served as social markers. At early stages of development, there apparently was age-group specific and gender specific speech variation, and soon afterwards also profession-specific speech variation (the secret language of shamans probably the oldest). Even today, there still are languages, in which some words in the vocabulary are different, depending upon whether the speaker is a man or a woman. With development of civilization, and further differentiaions in society, there appeared also further variations, particularly social class speech varieties and the interaction between these and regional or local dialects. I am preparing a paper on this point (2), scheduled for presentation in April 1998.

I think, from this one can gather a rough idea of why male and female characteristic speech developed on biological principles. In all this, please don't forget that I have only restricted myself to "stage one". Including "stage two" only makes things more complex, and more confusing, but essentially, one will always have to return to "stage one" to arrive at the essential biological principles that are operative in the matter. Now about the socio-cultural factors.

This is actually also partly clear from the role of language in social organization, and the culturality of this latter. There is a further moment which is perhaps important here. The division of economic roles between males and females, animal-hunting by males, plant-foraging by females, apparently had as consequence that animal husbandry originally became a male profession, and plant agriculture a female one. And although there practically are no communities which are purely plant agricultural or purely cattle growing, it did happen that either the one or the other was economically prevalent in various neolithic communities. It has been suggested, that this may have led to patriarchal or matriarchal principles becoming prevalent in the social organizations of the respective societies. But as war became an ever more determining factor in the maintenance of social and ethnic supremacy, and war, like hunting, was typically (though not always) reserved for males, this seems to have led to the male social preponderence we find throughout history since the beginnings of civilization.

> 3. Do you think that women should change their style of talking to
> gain more respect?

I don't think so. That which the French call "la difference" not only underlies reproduction since pretty low in the evolutionary scale, but, as I tried to explain above, it also led to the development of that particular something by which humans differ from animals. In human society, language plays an essential role in the maintenance of social organization, and the relationship between male and female is an extremely complex and contradictary one. But when we speak of the respectedness of men and the respectedness of women, we should perhaps differentiate between some culture-independent basics resulting from the biological, and secondary culture-specific features which have been superimposed.

Let's begin with the former. Here, men are respected as men, amd women are respected as women, each having their own respective roles. The differentiation of economic roles at the beginnings of the evolutionary development of Homo sapiens sapiens seems to have given men the greater physical strength, and women the greater physical endurance. A women may seek the protection and provision only a man could give her, and a man may seek the security and comfort only a woman could give him, both being vital for the respective other. In cultures, in which neither gender has exclusive social preponderance, mature women enjoy a respected status just as much as mature men, but again, the woman will not normally be repected the way a man would be, and vice versa (here too, with some exceptions). Their economic roles too, serving as basis for the social respect they get, may be different. In some communities in Africa and in Southeast Asia (perhaps elsewhere too?) men do the manual productive labour, and women trade at the market and bring in the money (it is usually safer kept in their hands anyway, as they are less prone to squander it, philandering through the pubs etc.).

From a purely biological point of view, the only actual problem comes from "stage two", the differentiation among members of the same sex, as a result of which one may find an efemminate minority in men, and a masculine minority in women. These may be inclined to achieve the respected position normally accorded to members of the respectively opposite sex. In an open and democratic society it is probably their good right to do so. But they are the exceptions which prove the rule (otherwise they would not need to strive for that other status). In any case, however, men-specific and women-specific speech style would be crucial in maintenance of the respective male-specific and female-specific respected status, and the cross-over candidates will only have to take up that respectively opposite speech style, and it will probably be in their biological nature to be inclined to do so.

As for the super-imposed culture-specific element, it may of course seem opportune, in societies with marked male social preponderence, for women to "copy" male speech style in order to achieve equally respected status. But this would be a most unsatisfactory solution, first of all for the women themselves (unless they belong to that masculinely inclined minority), because it would mean denying one's own natural inclinations and leading an artificial life. The attempt would perhaps deserve double respect, but it is not something I would recommend or consider preferable. The actual problem here lies in the social organization, not in the speech style, and any real progress in the social position of women in such cases would in my opinion have to be fought out on the social rather than on the linguistic front, so that women may be respected as women, and not as imitation men.

Sorry if this got too long.

Regards to all, Waruno

Date:  12 Mar 1997 17:07
To: Linguistic Prehistory Archaeology mailing list <arcling>
Subject: Evolution of language: how much?
Thanks to Larry Trask for pointing out the problem. I've been meaning to get hold of that book, because from the title it seemed to me to be on the right track. Language (human) is in my opinion too, not primarily to convey information (that's just a means or carrier for the primary function), but to establish and maintain social relations.

I'm disappointed now to hear that the author fell for the clichee that human language differs from animal only in the articulateness of phonology and intelligence of content. Give a chimp or a dolphin the eloquence of a parrot, and lo we have human language. But already at first approximation one must note, that dialects in animals variate only in the plane of expression (symbols), not in the plane of content (symbolisée). Even in the vervet monkeys, the clan-specific aggression alert cries differ only acoustically, not semantically. Human languages differ even in expression of physically fixed phenomena (what _blue_ is in English, is expressed as _sinii_ and _goluboi_ in Russian, being here two NOT synonymous names of colours, "deep/dark blue" and "clear/ /royal blue" respectively, just as that that which English calls _blue_ and _green_ is apparently one colour in some languages)

The "closest" animals come to humans here can perhaps be seen in the higher primates which have been observed to develop a somewhat more sophisticated system of acoustic and gesticulative signalization (even in the plane of content) in captivity, as compared with conspecifics in their natural habitat. But then, we did after all evolve from apes, and our forbears must obviously already have had some screws loose topside as regards signalizational capacity, in order that something like us could develop.

In my opinion, the difference between human and animal language lies in the difference between humans and animals, and the crucial criterion here seems to be neither intelligence, nor use of tools (an animal always uses a tool only to facilitate the fulfillment of a task or to have fun, only a human uses it to make life difficult, like eating noodles with chopsticks (China) or a fork (Italy), without even cutting to size(!)), or aesthetic affinity (see bower bird, weaver bird), etc. It is that the social structure of an animal community is taxonomically given, whereas that of a human community is culurally variable (see Sahlin in Scientific American of 1960). It evidently takes language of the human variety to maintain a culturally defined social structure (monogamic/polygamic/endogamic/exogamic/matrilineal/patrilineal/ ...).


© Waruno Mahdi.