The Marriage Lust and Hyper-Violence of Amazonian Lethal Raiding Parties

The Marriage Lust and Hyper-Violence of Amazonian Lethal Raiding Parties

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A team of archaeological researchers in Ecuador have spent almost two decades examining raiding parties and their relationship to marriage alliances in the Waorani, an Amazonian tribal society, and conclude, “The act of killing another human is a really traumatic act, which causes people to share something in common psychologically that establishes trust and fosters things like friendships.”

But how on Earth did they arrive at this somewhat morbid sounding conclusion?

Why Do People Go to War?

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B and attempted to answer, among other things, “why” people go to war when the consequences are so brutal? The scientists’ motivations were to better understand “why” warriors join war parties and how human ability to cooperate is linked “with destructive tendencies.”

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Male Huaorani. (Barefoot Expeditions/ CC BY NC SA 2.0 )

According to an article in ArchaeologyNewsNetwork, the reasons for people deciding to go to war, or to resort to ultra-violence, has traditionally been associated with an individual warrior’s greed to receive rewards, as traditionally within tribal communities the spoils of war go to the victors; and also with “coercion” within a group, for example, fear of punishment or social rejection.

The new study focused on the Waorani, 2000 indigenous Ecuadorians who inhabit the lowlands of the Amazon Rainforest , who practiced “lethal raiding” prior to the intervention of the state. It found: “Waorani are actively joining raids with people who could provide access to ideal marriage partners for themselves as well as their children.” The study also revealed that “subtle coercion from in-laws” influenced people to join in on raids.

What Is a "Lethal Raiding Party?”

Firstly, the term “raiding party” is like a scorpion dressed as a mouse. While it looks harmless, it contains a lethal sting. To ‘raid’, is to commit to willful murder and the demoralization of other humans; to surprise, exhaust and confuse the enemy through pillaging and plundering for sexual, economic, territorial or military motivations. It is always horrid, no matter how it is dressed up.

Shane Macfarlan, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Utah and lead author of the study said: “Arguments have always been about this nice band of brothers - literally brothers, uncles, fathers all fighting side-by-side with one another… But sometimes, kin are not enough. Warfare is about alliance building, relationships with other people where there might be something else to gain by fighting with one another-like marriage partners .”

Man and woman from Huaorani village. Photographed in Ecuador, May 2008. (kate fisher/ CC BY 2.0 )

This really is a story of ‘love and war’ and the new paper states that the Waorani's ideal marriage partners are bilateral cross cousins - for example a man's mother's brother's daughter or his father's sister's daughter.” And rather than using Tinder, or the old school ‘approach at a bar’ method, the chosen way for the Waorani to make marital alliances “is through Lethal raiding.”

Friends, Family, Lovers and Foes

A raid instigates many social dynamics and once someone had announced one others would become “convince[d] to join him,” according to Macfarlan. “The benefit of making an alliance outside of your direct kin is that it expands your social universe for getting the things that you need, and one of the things that people need in all societies is mating partners,” he added.

Having collected “detailed genealogical information from multiple generations, and cross-referenced the data with existing Waorani genealogies” between 2000 and 2001, co-authors Jim Yost, Pam Erickson of University of Connecticut, and Steve Beckerman of Pennsylvania State University, used marriages and births to form a ‘raid timeline’ from 1917 to 1970, which consisted of “550 raid reports… 49 separate raids that involved 81 people.”

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Macfarlan and senior author Stephen Beckerman found that “Although males had plenty of lineal kin to choose from for forming raiding parties, they selectively raided with non-lineal kin. What is more, they also discovered that men “raided more frequently with men who were generically related to them, but from different lineages - the ideal marriage exchange partners.”

The scientists’ paper concludes with saying humans generally maintain "three kinds of relationships: kinship, marriage and friendship” and it is in “friendship” that the scientists noticed “a common feature across cultures.” Friendship creates relationships between people who are neither blood relatives nor mates, which helps us “resolve conflict” within these groups.

Huaroanis. (Kleverenrique/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

King Philip's War

King Philip's War (sometimes called the First Indian War, Metacom's War, Metacomet's War, Pometacomet's Rebellion, or Metacom's Rebellion) [3] was an armed conflict in 1675–1678 between indigenous inhabitants of New England and New England colonists and their indigenous allies. The war is named for Metacom, the Wampanoag chief who adopted the name Philip because of the friendly relations between his father Massasoit and the Mayflower Pilgrims. [4] The war continued in the most northern reaches of New England until the signing of the Treaty of Casco Bay in April 1678. [5]

    ("King Philip") , chief of Wampanoags (DOW ) , chief of Narragansetts , chief of Sakonnets , chief of Nipmucks , chief of Penobscots , chief of Androscoggins
  • Gov. Josiah Winslow
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Massasoit had maintained a long-standing alliance with the colonists. Metacom (c. 1638–1676) was his younger son, and he became tribal chief in 1662 after Massasoit's death. Metacom, however, forsook his father's alliance between the Wampanoags and the colonists after repeated violations by the colonists. [6] The colonists insisted that the peace agreement in 1671 should include the surrender of Native guns then three Wampanoags were hanged in Plymouth Colony in 1675 for the murder of another Wampanoag, which increased the tensions. [7] Native raiding parties attacked homesteads and villages throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine over the next six months, and the Colonial militia retaliated. The Narragansetts remained neutral, but several individual Narragansetts participated in raids of colonial strongholds and militia, so colonial leaders deemed them to be in violation of peace treaties. The colonies assembled the largest army that New England had yet mustered, consisting of 1,000 militia and 150 Native allies, and Governor Josiah Winslow marshaled them to attack the Narragansetts in November 1675. They attacked and burned Native villages throughout Rhode Island territory, culminating with the attack on the Narragansetts' main fort in the Great Swamp Fight. An estimated 600 Narragansetts were killed, and the Native coalition was then taken over by Narragansett sachem Canonchet. They pushed back the colonial frontier in Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Rhode Island colonies, burning towns as they went, including Providence in March 1676. However, the colonial militia overwhelmed the Native coalition and, by the end of the war, the Wampanoags and their Narragansett allies were almost completely destroyed. [8] On August 12, 1676, Metacom fled to Mount Hope where he was killed by the militia.

The war was the greatest calamity in seventeenth-century New England and is considered by many to be the deadliest war in Colonial American history. [9] In the space of little more than a year, 12 of the region's towns were destroyed and many more were damaged, the economy of Plymouth and Rhode Island Colonies was all but ruined and their population was decimated, losing one-tenth of all men available for military service. [10] [a] More than half of New England's towns were attacked by Natives. [12] Hundreds of Wampanoags and their allies were publicly executed or enslaved, and the Wampanoags were left effectively landless. [13]

King Philip's War began the development of an independent American identity. The New England colonists faced their enemies without support from any European government or military, and this began to give them a group identity separate and distinct from Britain. [14]

Federal Crimes List

“Federal crimes” refer specifically to offenses that violate U.S. federal laws. They are investigated by federal law enforcement and prosecuted by United States attorneys in federal courts with federal judges. While many of these offenses are distinctive to the federal system, they also include crimes that would otherwise fall under state or local jurisdictions had they not occurred on U.S. federal property or on an Indian reservation.

The federal crimes listed here were compiled from Title 18 and Title 26 of the United States Code, among others. While this federal crimes list is extensive, it is not to be considered a complete list. It is provided only as a helpful employment background screening resource.

  • Abusive Sexual Contact
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  • Domestic Security
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  • Female Genital Mutilation
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  • Influencing Juror by Writing
  • Injuring Officer
  • Insider Trading Crimes
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  • Interference with the Operation of a Satellite
  • International Parental Kidnapping
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  • Interstate Domestic Violence
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  • Larceny
  • Lobbying with Appropriated Moneys
  • Mailing Threatening Communications
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  • Molestation
  • Money Laundering
  • Motor Vehicle Theft
  • Murder by a Federal Prisoner
  • Murder Committed During Drug-related Drive-by shooting
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  • Obstructing Examination of Financial Institution
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  • Partial Birth Abortion
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  • Solicitation to Commit a Crime of Violence
  • Stalking (In Violation of Restraining Order)
  • Stolen Property Buying, Receiving, or Possessing
  • Subornation of Perjury
  • Suits Against Government Officials
  • Tampering with a Witness, Victim, or Informant
  • Tampering with Consumer Products
  • Tampering with Vessels
  • Theft of Trade Secrets
  • Torture
  • Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods or Services
  • Transmission of Wagering Information (Gambling)
  • Transportation into State Prohibiting Sale
  • Transportation of Slaves from U.S.
  • Transportation of Stolen Vehicles
  • Transportation of Terrorists
  • Trespassing
  • Treason
  • Unauthorized Removal of Classified Documents
  • Use of Fire or Explosives to Destroy Property
  • Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Vandalism
  • Video Voyeurism
  • Violation of Prohibitions Governing Atomic Weapons
  • Violence at International airports
  • Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering Activity
  • Willful Wrecking of a Train Resulting in Death
  • Wire Fraud

Main text

Life in pastoralist society revolves around cattle, which are the heart of pastoralist economic and social systems, as well as a main source of nutrients in the form of milk and fresh blood (Evans-Pritchard 1940). Bridewealth in cattle is required for marriage, and herd size is often a reliable indicator of male social status as well as the status of the family into which he is marrying (Glowacki and Wrangham 2015 Small Arms Survey 2014). These structures create some of the incentives that have historically perpetuated inter-community cattle raiding in the region. Anthropologists working throughout East Africa have described similar raiding practices among pastoralist groups, including those central to the conflict in South Sudan such as the Nuer, Dinka, and Murle, as well as those on the periphery (Bollig 1990 Gray et al. 2003 Hutchinson 2000 Schilling et al. 2012 Thomas 2017). Even prior to the militarization of these practices, cattle raiding in its “traditional” form was not benign. Raids posed a significant threat to the health and wellbeing of pastoralists and to their communities in the form of mortality for young male warriors, decreased nutrition due to loss of herds, and decreased access to arable land and watering holes. In addition to acquisition of livestock, women and children were opportunistically abducted, with abducted women being taken as wives, and children being incorporated into the families of the captors (Mathew and Boyd 2011 Pike et al. 2010 Glowacki and Wrangham 2015 Akuei and Jok 2010 Small Arms Survey 2014). Raiding’s persistence and devastating consequences continue to be shocking, both in scale and the inability of the state to prevent or punish it. On November 28, 2017, the Murle staged yet another deadly attack on Dinka’s Duk Pawiel, killing 41, injuring scores, and making away with children and cattle, earning the condemnation of UN Special Representative for South Sudan, David Shearer (UNMISS 2017).

From the pre-colonial era until Sudan’s first civil war, most groups observed highly ritualized purification ceremonies following killing. Among the Nuer, these rituals were presided over by traditional authorities known as leopard-skin or earth chiefs, who were responsible for settling blood feuds. Douglas Johnson describes these chiefs’ role at the interface of the divine and the sociopolitical: “The settlement of many cases thus involved both political negotiation and spiritual atonement. The spiritual and judicial were interwoven to such an extent that Nuer did not readily differentiate between the two” (Johnson 1986, 60). Though these customs primarily governed inter-Nuer homicide, among certain Nuer communities, they extended to Dinka as well (Hutchinson 1996). A Nuer man who had killed sought refuge at the residence of the leopard-skin chief. Until the chief incised his arm to release the blood of the dead from his body, he was not allowed to eat or drink. The leopard-skin chief then negotiated with the kin of the dead an amount of restitution in bloodwealth cattle, and until this amount was paid in full, the killer was not safe from retribution. Failure to observe ritual prohibitions was believed to result in grave consequences, including death (Tiitmamer and Awolich 2014 Hutchinson 1996 Evans-Pritchard 1940). Also in this domain, prophets were another category of influential spiritual leader widely respected and feared for their powers (Evans-Pritchard 1940). Traditionally, and to a large extent still, these individuals played an important role in governing raiding behavior, wielding significant power to both sanction and initiate raids as well as to prevent them (Leff 2012 Hashimoto 2013 Hutchinson and Pendle 2015). Youth intending to mount a raid sought their blessings in exchange for a share of the raided livestock (Evans-Pritchard 1940).

Raids were first mounted with spears and, later, firearms. Indicative of the central place cattle occupy in pastoralist culture, the Nuer word for bullet, dei mac, means literally “a gun’s calves” (Hutchinson 1996: 106–7). When guns began to replace the traditional weapon of spears during the first civil war in Sudan, some Nuer were no longer confident that death caused by bullet wounds was sufficiently purified by the customary rituals alone. In order to ensure that the risk of “pollution” to the killer was eliminated, they began performing new gun-specific rites to supplement those performed by the earth chief (Hutchinson 1996). Tightly governed by ritual mechanisms for purification and reconciliation, killing was a spiritual ordeal of significant magnitude.

These practices have devolved since the Second Sudanese Civil War. Perhaps the most revealing argument for the power of these institutions is the lengths to which political leaders like Machar and Garang, Kiir’s predecessor as leader of the SPLA, went to dismantle them. As early as the 1980s, political leaders on both sides of the conflict strategically armed and mobilized pastoralist raiders to fight on their behalf, successfully disinhibiting many of the traditional checks on violence and raiding. The two most prominent historical examples are the cases of the Nuer “White Army” and the Dinka Titweng.

The Nuer White Army

The “White Army” or dec bor originally referred to groups of Nuer pastoralists that formed to protect their cattle against raids (Adeba 2015). Some accounts maintain that this group takes its name from the white ash with which young herders paint themselves to protect against mosquitoes, but White Army members state it is instead to distinguish Nuer raiders from the “Black Army” or dec char as they (derogatorily) refer to professional soldiers, whom they view with disdain (Breidlid and Arensen 2017 Young 2016). During the Second Sudanese Civil War, this decentralized aggregate of armed herders gathered for finite periods of time in order to fight, dispersing back to their cattle camps after such engagements. A loose and shifting group rather than a standing force with a fixed organizational structure, the coalition of armed herders fighting under the name “White Army” has evolved throughout the phases of conflict in South Sudan, at times more and less active with periods of quiescence and remobilization, since the time of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The White Army has had a second emergence, playing an especially active role in the current conflict. They are motivated in large part by resentment over the killing of Nuer in Juba after fighting broke out between Nuer and Dinka elements of the elite presidential guard on December 15, 2013. Today, the White Army refers to groups of armed young Eastern Nuer, separate from the formal SPLM-IO ranks, but without whom the SPLM-IO would have limited credible military force (Arnold and Alden 2007 Breidlid and Arensen 2017 Johnson 2014 Young and Mash 2007 Young 2016).

One of the most infamous large-scale mobilizations of Nuer raiders for political purposes was the Bor Massacre, led by Riek Machar in the Upper Nile region in the early 1990s around the time of his split from John Garang’s SPLA (Adeba 2015 Jok and Hutchinson 2000 Young 2016). After a failed coup attempt against Garang, a Bor Dinka, Machar split off to create a new faction, SPLA-Nasir (Hutchinson 2001). Seeking to mount a large-scale attack on Bor Dinka, the heartland of the territory under John Garang’s control, Machar sought to mobilize youth from Lou and Jikany Nuer cattle camps. The Lou Nuer were longtime neighbors with the very Bor Dinka that Machar sought to attack, and the two groups often shared grazing grounds for their cattle. Knowing that they would be unmotivated by political ambitions alone, Machar provisioned these young men with arms and promised them abundant payment in raided cattle (Young and Mash 2007).

In the period leading up to his 1991 split from the SPLA, Machar devised two mechanisms by which to take advantage of Nuer religious belief to advance his political objectives. First, concerned by news that certain groups of Nuer were categorizing deaths by gunfire as deaths by lightning, a ritually privileged category of deaths considered to be closely associated with the divine, Machar propagated the belief that there was a separate category of violence, “government” or secular violence, koor kume, that was exempt from traditional purification rituals and compensation requirements associated with traditional or “homeland” war, koor cieng (Hutchinson 2001). A killer and his community would be exempt from any claims of bloodwealth cattle from the family of the dead, and the spiritual requirement of purification from the blood of the dead was abrogated. In essence, they would bear no responsibility for bloodshed ordered down from or high from military superiors.

Second, Machar capitalized on a prophecy of the prominent Nuer prophet Ngundeng to legitimize the prospective raid on the Bor Dinka. Ngundeng, who died in 1906 but whose legacy remained influential, had prophesied that a terrible battle would take place between the Nuer and Dinka, in which the Dinka would be destroyed. The prophecy stated that this battle would be commanded by a left-handed messiah from the village of Nasir, whose forehead would be unmarked by the scars of manhood (referring to scarification performed during Nuer males’ initiation ceremonies) and who would be married to a white woman. Machar, left-handed, headquartered in Nasir, unmarked, and married to the British aid worker Emma McCune, was only too happy to fit this description (Adeba 2015). Machar has continued to try to portray himself as the fulfillment of the prophet Ngundeng’s prophesies in 2009 organizing for the repatriation of Ngundeng’s ritual stick (dang) into his possession from Britain where it had been taken by colonial authorities (Young 2016).

Machar managed to convince the Lou and Jikany Nuer that any violence they conducted under the banner of political warfare would have no spiritual or material retributions. Of the consequences, anthropologists Sharon Hutchinson and Jok Madut Jok write:

This new form of warfare transgressed all the ethical limits on violence that had been honored by previous generations of Nuer and Dinka leaders, swiftly transforming earlier patterns of intermittent cattle-raiding into no-holds-barred military assaults on Dinka and Nuer Civilian populations armed with little more than spears (Jok and Hutchinson 1999: 131).

Ultimately, Machar mobilized an estimated 30,000 Nuer youth. In the attack that followed, the infamous 1991 Bor Massacre, approximately 2000 Dinka were killed in one of the most massive losses of civilian life to have occurred during the Second Sudanese Civil War. The event severely damaged Machar’s reputation and is a source of bitter resentment between these communities to the present day (Young and Mash 2007 Hutchinson 2000, 2001 Adeba 2015).

The Dinka Titweng

Young men of Dinka cattle camps were also mobilized to participate in political warfare in units known as the Titweng, first established among western Dinka communities, and Gelweng further south. Groups of Dinka herders first organized into defense units in response to attacks from Baggara Arab militias known as the Muraheleen, who were supported by the government in Khartoum in an attempt to destabilize the support base of the SPLA (Jok 2017 Kuol 2017). By 1995, the SPLA had formally planned the organization of a civilian militia which they named Titweng, meaning “cattle guards” (Jok and Hutchinson 1999). Due to repeated raids by the SPLA-Nasir faction against Dinka communities, it was relatively easy to attract their participation. Armed but poorly trained, the Dinka Titweng fought with SPLA forces in nearly 200 military operations during the 1997 campaign for Bahr al Ghazal, a region in the northwest of what is now South Sudan (Jok 2017 Kuol 2017).

Much as it had been necessary for Machar to undermine the cultural institutions governing raiding among the Nuer, the SPLA had to disrupt such institutions in order to mobilize the Titweng. Traditionally, Dinka cattle raiders were strictly organized under a system of age sets. The age-set system defined which groups of men would raid together and also maintained intergenerational hierarchy. In order to mobilize larger groups of Dinka raiders than would have traditionally been possible under the age-set system, the leadership of the SPLA enforced a break in these deeply entrenched social systems, mandating a hiatus in the practice of age-set ceremonies and competitions. This was the first time that Dinka raiders had ever fought alongside men they did not know on a personal basis, and it was at this time that the group first began wearing uniforms—or, in the absence of clothing, tying palm leaves around their wrists—to identify their own fighters. In addition to augmenting the military force of the SPLA, the cattle kept by the Dinka Titweng provided an important source of sustenance for SPLA fighters, and Titweng herds came to be colloquially known as “the bank of Garang” (Pendle 2015).

Following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, these groups were loosely absorbed into local government. Titweng militias were used in governance activities such as tax collection, local elections, and the enforcement of court verdicts. In 2012, select groups of titweng were uniformed, trained, and salaried as community police. In April of the same year, a semi-formalized force called the Mathiang Anyoor (meaning “brown caterpillar” in Dinka) was recruited from the titweng in order to participate in government exercises in the contested region of Heglig (AUCISS (African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan) 2014 Kuol 2017). By mid-2013, a specialized force of former Dinka raiders from Salva Kiir’s home community in the Bahr el Ghazal region was integrated into the presidential guard as the Döt ku Beny (“Rescue the President”), solidifying a shift in the role of informal pastoralist armed groups from protectors and raiders of cattle to semi-integrated members of the state security apparatus. The Döt ku Beny, drawn from titweng and Mathiang Anyoor, was tasked with the protection of President Salva Kiir and was closely involved in the December 2013 outbreak of fighting in Juba (Kuol 2017 Pendle 2015 Sudan Tribune 2008, 2009).

Informal pastoralist armies and state actors

Pastoralists, historically marginalized, are often suspicious of government and organized forces on all sides. As a result, an important feature of pastoralist raiders’ participation in political conflict is that they are only ever weakly integrated into formal militias, with little in the way of consistent loyalties. For example, the Toposa of Eastern Equatoria fought both for and against the SPLA at various times throughout the Second Sudanese Civil War, depending in part on the ability of the SPLA to deliver weapons and food (Johnson 2003). Riek Machar, despite his rhetoric, is said to have little authority over the current iteration of the Nuer White Army. As one individual testified to the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, Riek Machar “took over a rebellion that was not his” (AUCISS (African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan) 2014 as cited in Young 2016). Young raiders’ primary motivation is rarely political ideology, but rather intercommunity grievances and, in some cases, the enticement of material reward. Therefore, whoever can capitalize on unhealed wounds between communities, or maintain a supply chain of material goods in the form of cattle or arms, will be able to bid for their alliance (Breidlid and Arensen 2017 Jok 2017 Young 2016). Due to political leaders’ uncertain ability to exercise firm control over the pastoralist militias who fight on their behalf, the Dinka Titweng and Nuer White Army have not been unambiguously supported by these same elites (Johnson 2003). The ramifications of this were never more visible than during attempts to disarm pastoralist militias after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. A 2006 SPLA campaign to disarm the Lou Nuer in Jonglei is estimated to have cost the lives of 1200–1600 Nuer White Army and 400 SPLA fighters—approximately as many as those who died in the Bor Massacre (Brewer 2010 O’Brien 2009).

As allegiances between the main political factions and pastoralist militias decay, major actors are no longer able to consistently secure pastoralist militias’ loyalty. Sadly, this does not mean that raiding has subsided to its pre-militarized state, when tit-for-tat raiding occurred at a relatively stable level, far from it. Instead, heavily armed, in some cases, military-trained, and completely disinhibited from any forms of cultural authority that may have once held them in check, raiders mount deadly attacks on a routine basis. Political leaders like Kiir and Machar, having undermined the traditional mechanisms that once governed violence in order to further their individual political interests, no longer have control over these raiders either. The result is a security vacuum filled with opportunistic and deadly raiding.

Implications for peacebuilding

Referring to the December 15, 2013, outbreak of violence in Juba that ignited the current conflict, a Sudd Institute Report summarized the interplay between ethnic and political violence:

Historically, conflict within South Sudan has taken three forms: the liberation wars in which the south fought the north in the old Sudan ethnic feuds over resources, especially among cattle herding communities and rivalries between political leaders…The most devastating stream is that of political wrangling among various leaders vying for power, whether at the national or state level, as politicians […] reach for the ethnic card, drawing their kin into conflict by explaining to them that it is the survival of the whole group that is at stake. In this sense, the last two trends, the ethnic composition of the country and the political rivalries, are interlinked, and they are at the root of what happened in Juba on December 15 th . (Jok 2014, 7).

Though the root causes of the political conflict are complex, on a local level, there may be measures to significantly mitigate violence and reduce civilian insecurity. At present, however, few such disincentives are in place. Disarmament would be a positive long-term goal, but it has not been a successful strategy to date, nor is it viable as a short-term or one-off solution. Disarmament campaigns have a history of being used as ad hoc, reactive responses to violence. These interventions have been unsuccessful at best and disastrous at worst, such as in the previously cited case of the 2006 Jonglei campaign, which on final tally cost one death for every two weapons recovered (Garfield 2007 O’Brien 2009). In part, it is too difficult to coordinate the simultaneous disarmament of various pastoralist groups. Even without ulterior political motivations, disarming one community without sufficient protection from state forces exposes them to threats from other raiders. Another obstacle to disarmament campaigns is that respect for state authority among pastoralist communities is insufficient to avoid encountering armed resistance (Brewer 2010 Breidlid and Arensen 2017 Small Arms Survey, 2006–2007). Finally, small arms and ammunition are readily obtained through barter of livestock and across state lines throughout East Africa. Unless something is done to address the supply of arms, there is nothing preventing pastoralists from easily re-arming themselves (Arnold and Alden 2007 Kuol 2017 O’Brien 2009). While controlling the flow of firearms is an important security measure, it is not a solution to inter-ethnic violent feuding so long as the drivers of conflict remain as potent as they have been over the past decade.

Likewise, modern law enforcement alone is unlikely to be an effective deterrent. First, pastoralist communities often view government and state forces with suspicion and generally prefer to resolve disputes within their own social structures. In a survey conducted by the Small Arms Survey’s Human Baseline Security Assessment project, an overwhelming 90% of respondents reported that the primary providers of security in their areas were traditional leaders, followed by neighbors and religious leaders, with police and SPLA forces at the bottom of the list. Of these respondents, only 11% reported they would choose to report a crime to the police (Small Arms Survey 2010). But perhaps more importantly, the conceptual underpinnings of modern conceptions of justice are foreign to the traditional forms of restitution practiced by pastoralist communities. As a World Vision International report on customary law in contemporary South Sudan states, “the Southern Sudanese people [believe] that the purpose of any legal action in regard to crime is to restore the social equilibrium rather than to punish the wrongdoer” (Jok et al. 2004, 39).

Bloodwealth payments, commonly known in Sudan as well as South Sudan by the Arabic term dia, are the pillar of traditional mediation. They are widely considered the most acceptable mode of restitution to the aggrieved party. Among most pastoralist groups in South Sudan, payment is rendered in cattle to the victim or to the family of the victim. The number of cattle is not fixed, but rather negotiated based on the circumstances behind the crime and the individual attributes or social status of the victim, and this flexibility is a key feature of customary law. Traditionally, full reconciliation combined this act of compensation with ceremonies known among the Dinka as “Achuiil” and among the Nuer as “Ca Keth Dek,” typically involving the slaughter of a white bull to forge a relationship between the two parties (Howell 1954 Johnson 1986 Jok et al. 2004 Akuei and Jok 2010 Tiitmamer et al. 2016).

The social function of bloodwealth payments points to one of the most profound disjunctions between traditional and colonial concepts of justice, namely, that “The principle of a life for a life rarely leads to a permanent peace.” (Howell 1954). The process of bloodwealth compensation is designed to restore social order and to stabilize relationships between parties to prevent the perpetuation of revenge violence. By contrast, criminal proceedings are designed to deliver retributive justice through punitive measures such as incarceration and send strong signals of deterrence (Deng 2013). But punishment was never the purpose of South Sudanese customary law, and “eye-for-an-eye” approaches may hold little meaning for many pastoralists, who have described such measures as “pointless” (Tiitmamer et al. 2016). This disjunction has been in tension since British colonialists tried to codify Nuer customary law in the region (Johnson 1986), and its implications for insecurity in rural areas are profound, since applications of statutory law without corresponding customary measures may fail to resolve the resentments that fuel devastating cycles of revenge raids if left unmediated.

Recent work by anthropologists Hutchinson and Pendle calls attention to the “supragovernmental” role that two Nuer prophets, Nyachol and Gatdeang, continue to play in contemporary Nuer society. These figures have wielded their spiritual authority to re-establish the “moral limits of lethal violence,” thereby maintaining two enclaves of relative security for their followers. They have done so using radically different strategies: Nyachol, a female prophet, employs a deterrence and offensive strategy, maintaining a heavily armed Nuer militia to deter attacks by Dinka raiders and, more recently, government forces. Saliently, given the history of Machar’s propaganda, she has also reinstituted the purification rituals surrounding all inter-Nuer homicide and traditional resolution of blood feuds. Gatdeang, a male prophet, has employed a strategy of diplomacy, fostering inter-community dialogue and “relations of peace, hospitality, and intermarriage with neighboring Dinka communities.” Both have been able to create islands of relative stability, in large part by restoring sacred authority constraining violence and rejecting the secularized forms of violence propagated by political leaders (Hutchinson and Pendle 2015).

Though beliefs are not static, and certain aspects of traditional authority have been seriously eroded by decades of militarized conflict, the influence wielded by these cultural figures is far from obsolete (Hashimoto 2013 Hutchinson and Pendle 2015). Policymakers should take cues from the caution with which Gatdeang was treated by Salva Kiir when, in 2008, word reached Kiir that cattle belonging to Gatdeang had been raided by Dinka youth. Kiir was worried enough about the potential consequences for his upcoming political campaign that he paid a personal visit to Gatdeang in his home, dispatching two SPLA battalions to guard the community and ten armed policemen to guard Gatdeang himself (Hutchinson and Pendle 2015).

Long-term, ethnographically informed community-building initiatives should be featured alongside efforts at a national level. Attempts must likewise be made to meaningfully incorporate locally legitimized civilians and cultural authorities into the peace process, because these individuals wield influence in the arena in which decisions to mount a raid or refrain are decided. The societal gatekeepers of cattle raiding should be primary targets for community-level peacebuilding efforts, and interventions attempting to work without the involvement of these figures are unlikely to have lasting success. Comprehensive studies of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms in South Sudan exist to support these efforts (Bradbury et al. 2006 Jok et al. 2004 Tiitmamer et al. 2016). Several are critical of the incautious way in which enthusiasm for “customary institutions” has been applied by outside actors in the past (Bradbury 2006 Leonardi et al. 2010). These critiques highlight the fact that nowhere is precise and accurate ethnography more urgent or of more utility. Without an accurate understanding of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, it is nearly impossible to effectively promote peace between pastoralist communities. Customary law in South Sudan is an inherently fluid process, the very value of which depends on its ability to adapt to the specificities of each individual case. Therefore, there is no “template” or formulary for conflict resolution in such settings.

Simultaneously, while guidelines have been established for practical measures to strengthen enforcement, there is little potential for such protocols to de-escalate raiding-related conflict in rural areas until gaps in the policing and judicial systems can be addressed. An integrated enforcement approach combining modern law with traditional conflict resolution mechanisms was proposed by the East Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO) in a 2008 document titled “Protocol on the Prevention, Combating, and Eradication of Cattle Rustling in East Africa” (Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO) 2008). Along with an Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)/Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN)-commissioned study, “Livestock Identification, Traceability, and Tracking,” the EAPCCO protocol proposes pragmatic measures such as standardizing livestock branding practices to help aid identification and facilitate the return of raided cattle (Ekuam 2008). However, intricate local practices for livestock branding and horn deformation already provide a functional equivalent to systematized branding. The ability to track and identify stolen livestock can unfortunately not address the fundamental state failures to establish security in rural communities and trust in its police force or to institute functional judicial mechanisms (Human Rights Watch 2009 Small Arms Survey 2010).


Comprehensive assessments of the relationship between conflict and development have highlighted the need for “inclusive-enough” coalition building in order to lift countries out of violence (World Bank 2011). In the case of South Sudan, achieving security and cohesion at the community level is one of the major obstacles to conflict de-escalation. Power sharing models between political elites do not sufficiently address local dynamics, and an approach far more inclusive than those currently being put forth will be required to build trust in state institutions and attain meaningful progress towards peace.

Neither the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement nor the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan included substantive provisions to address the grievances and crucial role of non-state actors and informal armed groups such as the Nuer White Army or the Dinka titweng/gelweng in the larger political conflict. The Security Arrangements section of the CPA (Section 7, Chapter VI) required that no armed groups allied to either party to the conflict operate outside of the SPLA or the Sudan Armed Forces. With respect to the manner in which these non-state actors might be integrated into state forces, the CPA offered only the vague stipulation that “parties agree to address the status of other armed groups in the country with the view of achieving comprehensive peace and stability…” The Transitional Security Arrangements section of ARCISS (Section 1.6, Chapter II) specifies only that all non-state security actors be “disarmed, demobilized, and repatriated by the state actors with whom they have been supporting. ” (IGAD, Intergovernmental Authority on Development 2005, 2015 Jok 2015 South Sudan’s Prospects for Peace and Security: Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 104th Cong. 64 2016).

Both agreements failed to adequately address the community-level drivers of conflict and the local dynamics which motivate the participation of informal armed groups such as the Nuer White Army and Dinka titweng/gelweng in conflict. Yet, these dynamics are inextricable from the political conflict consuming South Sudan. IGAD has recently laid out a “High-Level Revitalization Forum” in an attempt to salvage the functionally obsolete ARCISS. In order to achieve gains where the original agreement failed, this renewed attempt must broaden its inclusivity to encompass non-state armed groups and informal pastoralist armies (United States Institute of Peace 2017). This necessity is made more urgent by the fact that the number of such non-state actors proliferates as the conflict draws on, accelerating the erosion of any capacity the state retains. The conventional “recipe” of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration such as was called for by the 2015 ARCISS is not sufficient to achieve this goal. There must be a forum in which the grievances and agendas of pastoralist informal armies, in some cases dating decades into the past, may be understood and incorporated into the provisions of a renewed peace agreement. As a recent commentary on the origins of the Nuer White Army notes, pastoralist militias “do form alliances of convenience with rebellious SPLA officers and politicians, but they also disregard, attack, or even kill Nuer politicians whose positions they oppose” (Stringham and Forney 2017). The implications for the peace process in South Sudan are profound and boil down to the crucial fact that the interests of political elite cannot be treated as equivalent to those of the informal armed groups who may under certain conditions fight on their behalf.

Cattle raiding alone cannot explain the violence in South Sudan, but its role in the current conflict cannot be ignored. Cycles of raids and retaliatory counter-raids between communities sow the seeds of resentment that allow armed youth to be mobilized rapidly by political leaders. It need not be such a tinderbox. The next serious push for policies to resolve the conflict in South Sudan should begin now, and it should depart from past efforts by adopting an approach that encompasses all levels of cultural authority. Failure to genuinely integrate these actors into the process will only yield a peace constructed by outsiders and not respected by the raiders and armed groups who lend military credibility to political movements.

If Machar and Kiir could so handily dismantle the traditional mechanisms and rituals governing cattle raiding, the international community may be able to support local actors in restoring certain aspects of these practices and incorporating them into a broader peace process. To the extent that this remains feasible after decades of protracted intercommunal conflict, meaningful buy-in from cultural authorities including community elders and prophets, as well as an accurate understanding of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, is essential to understanding what aspects of these institutions might be leveraged towards a substantive peace. If any components of ARCISS are to be salvaged, the High-Level Revitalization Forum must be drastically more inclusive than the original agreement, encompassing a sufficiently broad range of informal armed groups and outlining context-appropriate provisions to create a forum to evaluate their grievances. The subsequent policy considerations are likely to require a significantly more granular and localized lens than has been applied to date in the peacebuilding process. Such an approach will be rife with its own set of complexities and challenges however, a broadening of the peace process is an urgent necessity in the push to de-escalate the violence consuming this smoldering young nation.


In May, Leonardo Perez, 20, was killed when he was shot with an arrow by tribe members who wanted his tools.

In 2011 local guide Shaco Flores, a Matsigenka Indian, was murdered by the tribe.

Shaco had given them machetes, pots and pans for 20 years and had developed a good relationship with the clan.

But it is believed he was killed with an arrow to the heart after he tried to persuade them to settle and end to their nomadic hunter-gatherer life.

‘The Mashco Piro have been present in this area for as long as anyone can remember, and have in a way been enticed out of their forest home onto the riverbanks by missionaries and other missionised indigenous people,’ Rebecca Spooner for campaign group Survival International told MailOnline.

‘They have been given pots and pans and machetes, and are now asking for more.’

The increasing contact between the Mashco Piro people and other indigenous communities is slowly peeling back the layers of secrecy that have shielded them from industrialised society.

Members of the tribe have been spotted a record 100 times already this year, Peru's deputy culture minister Patricia Balbuena said.

While others have even left the forest and now live among the neighbouring Yine Indians, who speak a similar language.

Campaign groups claimed the government’s response to the issue has been slow and inadequate, as the Mashco Piro’s habitat in the forest has been taken over by loggers, drug cartels and tourists.

‘Clearly the Mashco Piro want to continue receiving some of the goods they have become accustomed to receiving from outsiders,’ continued Ms Spooner.

‘But this does not mean they desire sustained contact or have any plan to settle permanently in the area, despite the huge amount of pressure for them to do so.’

The vast area over which the tribe wanders is relatively easy to access, as a fairly well-known tourist route into the Manu National Park.

The tribe tends to occupy one side of the Madre de Dios river, which runs through the park.

Jean-Paul van Belle, a professor at the University of Cape Town, took previously unpublished photos of the Mashco Piro while on a tour of the Amazonian rainforest in 2011.

The incredible pictures were captured from 250 metres away, through the lens of a telescope the professor was using to spot birds, after attending a conference in Peru.

Professor Belle couldn’t believe his eyes when members of the tribe, one of just 100 uncontacted tribes in the world, began emerging on the opposite bank of the river, clutching bows and arrows.

‘The first thing the guide did was get us as far away from the tribe as possible,’ the professor told MailOnline.

‘We were incredibly lucky to see them they are the most amazing pictures I’ve taken in my life.

‘They were very curious and tentative. That’s why it took them so long for the whole group to emerge from their hiding place in the forest. The men came out first and watched us for a long time, and that’s when the women and children came out.

‘They must have had ways of interacting with each other that we couldn’t detect, because the men must have told the others that it was safe to come out, but we didn’t notice any signals.

‘They didn’t seem particularly afraid of us, they just stared and us as we stared at them. And that went on for two hours.’

Killed: Shaco Flores (left) was killed by the tribe in 2011. He had built up a relationship with them over 20 years. The tribe uses weapons such as lances and bows and arrows (right) to attack

Pictured: Shaco Flores, a Matsigenka Indian, (pictured far left) is believed he was killed for trying to persuade the tribe to give up their nomadic way of life

Survival International described the photographs, some of which were released in 2011, as ‘the most detailed sightings of uncontacted Indians ever recorded on camera.’

Thanks to encounters like these, the tribe’s secrets are slowly emerging.

Their temporary camps have been photographed, so researchers now know more about how their huts are built and how they live.

As a nomadic tribe, the Mashco Piro – also known as Mascho Piro - move around the forest regularly.

But researchers studying the tribe have been able to monitor their movements and discover routes they tend to follow at points in the year.

For example, the tribe started to appear on the riverbanks in search of turtle eggs during the dry season when the turtles lay, explained Ms Spooner. In the rainy season they would retreat into the forest to hunt.

Tourists desperate for a glimpse of the elusive tribe have tried to tempt them from their shelter, with offers of food, clothes, tools and even beer.

But contact with industrialised society could mean disaster for them, as their immune systems have never developed to fight against modern diseases.

Just one of the tribe catching a cold could wipe out the entire community.

‘Any physical contact with the Mashco Piro, or the exchange of items of clothing or other goods puts their lives in immediate danger,’ said Ms Spooner.

‘Uncontacted tribes do not have immunity to common diseases and up to half a tribe can be decimated following first contact within a very short period of time.

‘That is why this situation is so critical, and why we are campaigning to protect the land and ensure the Mashco Piro have the choice to make contact if they want it, and to remain uncontacted if that is what they choose.’

Logging, oil and gas exploration, drug-traffickers and common illnesses are threatening the tribe and their ancestral land, and taking the decision whether or not to interact with modernised society out of their hands.

Hunter-gatherers: Tourists and missionaries have tried to lure the tribe out of hiding with gifts of clothes, food and even beer. But any contact with the outside world could be lethal to the whole tribe

Under threat: Members of the Mashco Piro tribe on the banks of the Madre de Dios river, which runs through their ancestral land, the Manu National Park

Nomadic: The Mashco Piro tribe are a nomadic society, and so move around the rainforest a lot. But the increased number of sightings has allowed researchers to study their movements and track their routes

The Manu National Park is their ancestral territory, and is protected by two laws that have been brought in by the Peruvian government to protect their rights.

A national Peruvian law has also been created that specifically upholds uncontacted tribal peoples’ rights to remain uncontacted, and protects their lands from outsiders. But despite these laws, the land still appears to be under threat from the 21st-century.

‘So much of the land inhabited by uncontacted tribes has been invaded by illegal loggers, gold miners, oil companies, missionaries and colonists that they are feeling the squeeze all over Peru,’ continued Ms Spooner.

‘Some other groups have recently come into contact for the first time with outsiders and told how their houses had been burnt and their families shot at by suspected drug-traffickers.’

The situation between the Peruvian government and the Mashco Piro people has been teetering on a knife edge for some time.

Curious: The tribespeople have been coming into the open more often as pressures on their land and food sources increase. They have been spotted three times already in this year, which is an unprecedented amount

Ancestral lands: The Mashco Piro tribe has lived in the Manu National Park, near the border between Peru and Brazil, for more than 600 years, but logging, drug-trafficking and oil and gas exploration are encroaching on their lands

‘The government have claimed that there are no threats to the Mashco Piro’s land following overflights of the area,’ added Ms Spooner.

‘However, it is impossible to know what pressures there are inside the park without speaking to the people themselves.’

Members of the tribe have been spotted in the open three times already this year, an unprecedented number, while others have even left the forest and now live among the neighbouring Yine Indians, who speak a very similar dialect.

Campaign groups have claimed the government has been overly slow and inadequate in its response to the situation, leaving the Mashco Piro’s land open to tourists, missionaries and other outsiders.

Britain has upgraded their Typhoons with awesome missiles

Posted On April 29, 2020 15:53:54

The Royal Air Force’s Typhoon jets have been successfully upgraded with enhanced sensors, better software, and the ability to use a new missile according to releases from military contractors and the Royal Air Force. The upgrades have taken three years and cost approximately $200 million, but the upgraded planes have already proven themselves in combat in Iraq and Syria.

The biggest change to the Typhoon was its integration with the Brimstone 2 missile. The Brimstone is an air-launched, anti-tank missile similar to the American Hellfire. It’s been developed specifically for its ability to hit fast-moving objects in cluttered environments, something that has been invaluable as it has already been deployed against ISIS and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria.

But the plane upgrades have also made other missiles work better. Software changes made the jet work better with the Storm Shadow, Paveway IV, Meteor, and ASRAAM. The Storm Shadow and Paveway IV are air-to-ground missiles while the Meteor and ASRAAM are air-to-air missiles.

Because the Typhoons were needed for missions in the Middle East and the Baltics, Typhoons that were upgraded were quickly pressed into operational missions. So the government and the contractors worked together to train pilots up in classrooms and simulators before units even received the new planes.

That’s what allowed British pilots in Typhoons to drop Brimstone 2s on targets in Syria and Iraq just a few months after their planes were upgraded, and it’s what allowed their counterparts in the Baltics to use these planes for patrols.

The completion of the upgrades, known as Project Centurion, was timely as the British Tornado is officially retiring. Typhoons will fly with British F-35s in a pairing of 4th and 5th-generation fighters, similar to America’s F-35s flying with F-18s and F-16s.

Britain’s future fighter, already in the early stages of development, will be the Tempest.

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11 Ching Shih: A Prostitute Turned Pirate Turned Lady

So, Ching Shih is still mostly a mystery. Nothing is known about her origins except that she first burst into history in 1810 where she was a prostitute aboard one of Canton’s many floating brothels. For some reason, she was carried off to be married to a notorious pirate, Cheng Yi. She, badass as she was, demanded an equal share in his loot and a say in his piracy. He agreed. Barely had they become a success that Cheng Yi was killed in a typhoon upon which Ching Shih (widow of Cheng) took command of both piracy and fleet.

So successful was she, that she became the head of one of Asia’s biggest and baddest pirate crews, the Red Flag Fleet. Rich at sea, she decided to become rich on land too, and resorted to extortion and blackmail. Finally, the governments of China, Britain, and Portugal gave up trying to defeat her and the Emperor of China offered a truce. Wherein she won amnesty for herself and almost all her men, jobs in the armed forces for any pirate, a title of “Lady by Imperial Decree” and then retired to Canton to open a gambling den, married, and died at 89, as a sweet old grandmother.

Dangerous, for she was a formidable foe – on sea, land, or even in the Emperor's palace.

Steven Pinker's Stinker on the Origins of War

They say that truth is the first casualty of war. But all too often, the truth goes missing even in discussion of war.

Imagine a high-profile expert stands before a distinguished audience and argues that Asians are warlike people. In support of his argument, he presents statistics from seven countries: Argentina, Poland, Ireland, Nigeria, Canada, Italy, and Russia. "Wait a minute," you might say, "those aren't even Asian countries—except, possibly, Russia." The expert would be laughed off the stage—as he should be.

In 2007, world-famous Harvard professor and best-selling author Steven Pinker gave a presentation built upon similarly flawed logic at the TED conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design) in Long Beach, California. Pinker's presentation provides both a concise statement of the neo-Hobbesian view of the origins of war and an illuminating look at the dubious rhetorical tactics often used to promote this bloodstained vision of our prehistory. The twenty-minute talk is available at the TED website. We encourage you to watch at least the first five minutes (dealing with prehistory) before reading the following discussion.

Though Pinker spends less than 10 percent of his time discussing hunter-gatherers (a social configuration, you'll recall, that represents well over 95 percent of our time on the planet), he manages to make a real mess of things. (Pinker's talk is based on material from his book, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.)

Three and a half minutes into his talk, Pinker presents a chart based on Lawrence Keeley's War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage. The chart shows "the percentage of male deaths due to warfare in a number of foraging or hunting and gathering societies." He explains that the chart shows that hunter-gatherer males were far more likely to die in war than are men living today.*

But hold on. Take a closer look at that chart. It lists seven "hunter-gatherer" cultures as representative of prehistoric war-related male death. The seven cultures listed are the Jivaro, two branches of Yanomami, the Mae Enga, Dugum Dani, Murngin, Huli, and Gebusi. The Jivaro and both Yanomami groups are from the Amazon region, the Murngin are from northern coastal Australia, and the other four are all from the conflict-ridden, densely populated highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Are these groups representative of our hunter-gatherer ancestors?

Only one of the seven societies cited by Pinker (the Murngin) even approaches being an immediate-return foraging society (the way Russia is sort of Asian, if you ignore most of its population and history). The Murngin had been living with missionaries, guns, and aluminum powerboats for decades by the time the data Pinker cites were collected in 1975—not exactly prehistoric conditions.*

None of the other societies cited by Pinker are immediate-return hunter-gatherers, like our ancestors were.** They cultivate yams, bananas, or sugarcane in village gardens, while raising domesticated pigs, llamas, or chickens. Even beyond the fact that these societies are not remotely representative of our nomadic, immediate-return hunter-gatherer ancestors, there are still further problems with the data Pinker cites. Among the Yanomami, true levels of warfare are subject to passionate debate among anthropologists, as we'll discuss shortly. The Murngin are not typical even of Australian native cultures, representing a bloody exception to the typical Australian Aborigine pattern of little to no intergroup conflict. Nor does Pinker get the Gebusi right. Bruce Knauft, the anthropologist whose research Pinker cites on his chart, says the Gebusi's elevated death rates had nothing to do with warfare. In fact, Knauft reports that warfare is "rare" among the Gebusi, writing, "Disputes over territory or resources are extremely infrequent and tend to be easily resolved."

Despite all this, Pinker stood before his distinguished audience and argued, with a straight face, that his chart depicted a fair estimate of typical hunter-gatherer mortality rates in prehistoric war. This is quite literally unbelievable.***

But Pinker is not alone in employing such sleight-of-hand to advance Hobbes's dark view of human prehistory. In fact, this selective presentation of dubious data is disturbingly common in the literature on human blood-lust.

In their book Demonic Males, Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson admit that war is unusual in nature, "a startling exception to the normal rule for animals." But because intergroup violence has been documented in both humans and chimps, they argue, a propensity for war must be an ancient human quality, going back to our last common ancestor. We are, they warn, "the dazed survivors of a continuous, 5-million-year habit of lethal aggression." Ouch.

But where are the bonobos? In a book of over 250 pages, the word bonobo appears on only eleven of them, and the species is dismissed as offering a less relevant sense of our last common ancestor than the common chimpanzee does-although many primatologists argue the opposite. But at least they mentioned the bonobo.

In 2007, David Livingstone Smith, author of The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War, published an essay exploring the evolutionary argument that war is rooted in our pri- mate past. In his grisly accounts of chimps pummeling one another to a bloody pulp and eating each other alive, Smith repeatedly refers to them as "our closest non-human relative." You'd never know from reading his essay that we have an equally close nonhuman relative. The bonobo was left strangely—if typically—unmentioned.

Amid the macho posturing about the brutal implications of chimpanzee violence, doesn't the equally relevant, nonwarring bonobo rate a mention, at least? Why all the yelling about yang with nary a whisper of yin? All darkness and no light may get audiences excited, but it can't illuminate them. This oops-forgot-to-mention-the-bonobo technique is distressingly common in the literature on the ancient origins of war.

But the bonobo's conspicuous absence is notable not just in discussions of war. Look for the missing bonobo wherever someone claims an ancient pedigree for human male violence of any sort. See if you can find the bonobo in this account of the origins of rape, from The Dark Side of Man: "Men did not invent rape. Instead, they very likely inherited rape behavior from our ape ancestral lineage. Rape is a standard male reproductive strategy and likely has been one for millions of years. Male humans, chimpanzees, and orangutans routinely rape females. Wild gorillas violently abduct females to mate with them. Captive gorillas also rape females." (Emphasis is in the original.)

Leaving aside the complications of defining rape in nonhuman species unable to communicate their experiences and motivations, rape—along with infanticide, war, and murder-has never been witnessed among bonobos in several decades of observation. Not in the wild. Not in the zoo. Never.

Doesn't that warrant a footnote, even?

Wonky Footnotes

* Note that Pinker's chart represents part of a chart in Keeley's book (1996), and that Keeley refers to these societies as "primitive," "prestate," and "prehistoric" (pp. 89-90). Indeed, Keeley distinguishes what he calls "sedentary hunter-gatherers" from true "nomadic hunter-gatherers," writing, "Low-density, nomadic hunter- gatherers, with their few (and portable) possessions, large territories, and few fixed resources or constructed facilities, had the option of fleeing conflict and raiding parties. At best, the only thing they would lose by such flight was their composure" (p. 31).

Nomadic (immediate-return) hunter-gatherers are most representative of human prehistory-a period that is, by definition, before the advent of settled communities, cultivated food, domesticated animals, and so on. Keeley's confusion (and thus, Pinker's) is largely due to his referring to horticulturalists, with their gardens, domesticated animals, and settled villages, as "sedentary hunter-gatherers." Yes, they do occasionally hunt and they sometimes gather, but because these activities are not their sole source of food, their lives are dissimilar to those of immediate-return hunter-gatherers. Their gardens, settled villages, and so on make territorial defense necessary and fleeing conflict much more problematic than it was for our ancestors. They-unlike true immediate-return foragers-have a lot to lose by simply fleeing aggression.

Keeley acknowledges this crucial difference, writing, "Farmers and sedentary hunter-gatherers had little alternative but to meet force with force or, after injury, to discourage further depredations by taking revenge" (p. 31).

The point bears repeating. If you live a settled life in a stable village, have a labor-expensive shelter, cultivated fields, domesticated animals, and too many possessions to carry easily, you're not a hunter-gatherer. Prehistoric human beings did not have any of these things, which is, after all, precisely what made them "prehistoric." Pinker either fails to appreciate this essential point or ignores it.

** Societies in Pinker's chart:

The Jivaro cultivate yams, peanuts, sweet manioc, maize, sweet potatoes, peanuts, tuber beans, pumpkins, plantains, tobacco, cotton, banana, sugarcane, taro, and yam. They also traditionally domesticate llamas and guinea pigs and later the introduced dog, chicken, and pig.

The Yanomami are foraging, "slash-and-burn" horticulturists. They cultivate plantains, cassava, and bananas.

The Mae Enga grow sweet potatoes, taro, bananas, sugarcane, Pandanus nuts, beans, and various leaf greens, as well as potatoes, maize, and peanuts. They raise pigs, used not only for meat but for important ritualistic celebrations.

About 90 percent of the Dani diet is sweet potatoes. They also cultivate banana and cassava. Domestic pigs are important both for currency used in barter and for the celebration of important events. Pig theft is a major cause of conflict.

The Murngin economy was based primarily on fishing, collecting shellfish, hunting, and gathering until the establishment of missions and the gradual introduction of market goods in the 1930s and 1940s. While hunting and gathering remain important for some groups, motor vehicles, aluminum boats with outboard engines, guns, and other introduced tools have replaced indigenous techniques.

The Huli's staple food is the sweet potato. Like other groups in Papua New Guinea, the Huli prize domestic pigs for meat and status.

*** To make matters even worse, Pinker juxtaposes these bogus "hunter-gatherer" mortality rates with a tiny bar showing the relatively few war-related deaths of males in twentieth-century United States and Europe. This is misleading in many respects. Perhaps most important, the twentieth century gave birth to "total war" between nations, in which civilians (not just male combatants) were targeted for psycho- logical advantage (Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki . . .), so counting only male mortalities is meaningless.

Furthermore, why did Pinker not include the tens of millions who died in some of the most vicious and deadly examples of twentieth- century warfare? In his discussion of "our most peaceful age," he makes no mention of the Rape of Nanking, the entire Pacific theater of World War II (including the detonation of two nuclear bombs over Japan), the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot's killing fields in Cambodia, several consecutive decades-long wars in Vietnam (against the Japanese, French, and Americans), the Chinese revolution and civil war, the India/Pakistan separation and subsequent wars, or the Korean war. None of these many millions are included in his assessment of twentieth-century (male) war fatalities.

Nor does Pinker include Africa, with its never-ending conflicts, child soldiers, and casual genocides. No mention of Rwanda. Not a Tutsi or Hutu to be found. He leaves out every one of South America's various twentieth-century wars and dictatorships infamous for tor- turing and disappearing tens of thousands of civilians. El Salvador? Nicaragua? More than 100,000 dead villagers in Guatemala? Nada.

This has been adapted from Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, pp 183-187.

Wife and Daughter

In February 1980, Bundy married Carole Ann Boone, a mother-of-two whom he𠆝 dated before his initial arrest, in a courtroom during the penalty phase of his trial. He proposed and she accepted in the presence of the judge, making the marriage legitimate in Florida. The couple had met six years earlier when they both worked at the Department of Emergency Services in Olympia, Washington.

Boone gave birth to a daughter, Rose, in 1982, and she named Bundy as the father. Not much is known about Rose today.

Boone eventually realized Bundy was guilty of the crimes. She divorced him three years prior to his execution, according to Rule&aposs book, A Stranger Beside Me. Boone stopped visiting Bundy during the last two years of his imprisonment.

White Riot

How racism, grievance, resentment and the fear of diminished status came together to fuel violence and mayhem on Jan. 6.

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

There is no question that out-and-out racism and a longing to return to the days of white supremacy were high on the list of motivations of the pro-Trump mob that ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

That should not end the discussion about why it happened, though. There are other questions we need to ask that do not (and could never) justify the violence and mayhem but seek instead to help us gain further insight into the lethal force that attacked Congress a week ago and is poised to strike again.

It may sound trivial at first, in light of what happened, but how important is the frustration among what pollsters call non-college white men at not being able to compete with those higher up on the socioeconomic ladder because of educational disadvantage? How critical is declining value in marriage — or mating — markets? Does any of that really matter?

How toxic is the combination of pessimism and anger that stems from a deterioration in standing and authority? What might engender existential despair, this sense of irretrievable loss? How hard is it for any group, whether it is racial, political or ethnic, to come to terms with losing power and status? What encourages desperate behavior and a willingness to believe a pack of lies?

I posed these questions to a wide range of experts. This column explores their replies.

Bart Bonikowski, a professor of sociology at N.Y.U., was forthright:

Ethnonationalist Trump supporters want to return to a past when white men saw themselves as the core of America and minorities and women “knew their place.” Because doing so requires the upending of the social order, many are prepared to pursue extreme measures, including racial violence and insurrection. What makes their actions all the more dangerous is a self-righteous belief — reinforced by the president, the Republican Party, and right-wing conspiracy peddlers — that they are on the correct side of history as the true defenders of democracy, even as their actions undermine its core institutions and threaten its stability.

There is evidence that many non-college white Americans who have been undergoing what psychiatrists call “involuntary subordination” or “involuntary defeat” both resent and mourn their loss of centrality and what they perceive as their growing invisibility.

Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, wrote by email:

They fear a loss of attention. A loss of validation. These are people who have always had racial privilege but have never had much else. Many feel passed over, ignored. Trump listened to them and spoke their language when few other politicians did. He felt their pain and was diabolical enough to encourage their tendency to racialize that pain. They fear becoming faceless again if a Democrat, or even a conventional Republican, were to take office.

Cherlin pointed to the assertion of a 67-year-old retired landscaper from North Carolina who joined the Trump loyalists on Jan. 6 on the steps of the Capitol: “We are here. See us! Notice us! Pay attention!”

White supremacy and frank racism are prime motivators, and they combined with other elements to fuel the insurrection: a groundswell of anger directed specifically at elites and an addictive lust for revenge against those they see as the agents of their disempowerment.

  • Ezra Klein writes that “midterms typically raze the governing party” and explores just how tough a road the Democrats have ahead.
  • Jamelle Bouie wonders whether voters will accept a party “that promises quite a bit but won’t work to make any of it a reality.”
  • Maureen Dowd writes that Biden has “a very narrow window to do great things” and shouldn’t squander it appeasing Republican opponents.
  • Thomas B. Edsall explores new research on whether the Democratic Party could find more success focusing on race or on class when trying to build support.

It is this admixture of factors that makes the insurgency that wrested control of the House and Senate so dangerous — and is likely to spark new forms of violence in the future. Each of the forces at work has helped drive millions of white voters to the right: working in tandem, they collectively provide the tinder for the destructive behavior we saw last week in the chambers of the United States Congress.

“It is very, very difficult for individuals and groups to come to terms with losing status and power,” Cameron Anderson, a professor at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, wrote by email. While most acute among those possessing high status and power, Anderson said,

People in general are sensitive to status threats and to any potential losses of social standing, and they respond to those threats with stress, anxiety, anger, and sometimes even violence.

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at Berkeley, agrees in large part with Anderson, describing the fury and disappointment contributing to the takeover of Congress as concentrated among whites who see their position in the social order on a downward path. In an email, Keltner wrote:

The population of U.S. Citizens who’ve lost the most power in the past 40 years, who aren’t competing well to get into college or get high paying jobs, whose marital prospects have dimmed, and who are outraged, are those I believe were most likely to be in on the attack.

When pressed to give up power, he added, “these types of individuals will resort to violence, and to refashioning history to suggest they did not lose.”

In a September 2020 paper, “Theories of power: Perceived strategies for gaining and maintaining power,” Keltner and Leanne ten Brinke, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, argue that “lower class individuals experience greater vigilance to threat, relative to high status individuals, leading them to perceive greater hostility in their environment.”

This increased vigilance, Brinke and Keltner continue, creates

a bias such that relatively low socio-economic status individuals perceive the powerful as dominant and threatening — endorsing a coercive theory of power. Indeed, there is evidence that individuals of lower social class are more cynical than those occupying higher classes, and that this cynicism is directed toward out-group members — that is, those that occupy higher classes.

In other words, resentment toward successful white elites is in play here, as evidenced by the attack on Congress, an overwhelmingly white seat of power.

Before Trump, many of those who became his supporters suffered from what Carol Graham, a senior fellow at Brookings, describes as pervasive “unhappiness, stress and lack of hope” without a narrative to legitimate their condition:

When the jobs went away, families fell apart. There was no narrative other than the classic American dream that everyone who works hard can get ahead, and the implicit correlate was that those who fall behind and are on welfare are losers, lazy, and often minorities.

In a December 2020 Brookings Paper, Graham and Sergio Pinto, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, wrote that

Despair — and the associated mortality trends — is concentrated among the less-than-college educated and is much higher among whites than minorities. The trends are also geographically dispersed, with populations in racially and economically diverse urban and coastal places more optimistic and with lower premature mortality.

What, however, could prompt a mob — including not only members of the Proud Boys and the Boogaloo Bois but also many seemingly ordinary Americans drawn to Trump — to break into the Capitol?

One possible answer: a mutated form of moral certitude based on the belief that one’s decline in social and economic status is the result of unfair, if not corrupt, decisions by others, especially by so-called elites.

In “The Social and Political Implications of Moral Conviction,” Linda J. Skitka and G. Scott Morgan, psychology professors at University of Illinois-Chicago and Drew University, wrote that “although moral conviction motivates any number of normatively positive behaviors (e.g., voting, political engagement), moral conviction appears to also have a potential dark side.”

Skitka and Morgan argued that:

The terrorist attacks on 9/11, the Weatherman bombings in protest of the Vietnam War, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, or the assassination of abortion providers, may be motivated by different ideological beliefs but nonetheless share a common theme: The people who did these things appear to be motivated by strong moral conviction. Although some argue that engaging in behaviors like these requires moral disengagement, we find instead that they require maximum moral engagement and justification.

Alan Page Fiske, a professor of anthropology at U.C.L.A., and Tage Shakti Rai, a research associate at the MIT Sloan School of Management, make a parallel argument in their book “Virtuous Violence,” in which they write that violence is:

considered to be the essence of evil. It is the prototype of immorality. But an examination of violent acts and practices across cultures and throughout history shows just the opposite. When people hurt or kill someone, they usually do it because they feel they ought to: they feel that it is morally right or even obligatory to be violent.

“Most violence,” Fiske and Rai contend, “is morally motivated.”

A key factor working in concert to aggravate the anomie and disgruntlement in many members of Trump’s white working-class base is their inability to obtain a college education, a limitation that blocks access to higher paying jobs and lowers their supposed “value” in marriage markets.

In their paper “Trends in Educational Assortative Marriage From 1940 to 2003,” Christine R. Schwartz and Robert D. Mare, professors of sociology at the University of Wisconsin and the University of California-Los Angeles, wrote that the “most striking” data in their research, “is the decline in odds that those with very low levels of education marry up.”

In the bottom ranks of educational achievement, they continued, trends in inequality are

consistent with the decline in the odds of marriage between high school dropouts and those with more education since the 1970s, a period over which the real wages of men in this education group declined.

Christopher Federico, a professor of political science and psychology at the University of Minnesota, described the key roles of education and employment opportunity in the right-wing mobilization of less-educated white men:

A major development since the end of the “Great Compression” of the 30 years or so after World War II, when there was less inequality and relatively greater job security, at least for white male workers, is that the differential rate of return on education and training is now much higher.

In this new world, Federico argues, “promises of broad-based economic security” were replaced by a job market where

you can have dignity, but it must be earned through market or entrepreneurial success (as the Reagan/Thatcher center-right would have it) or the meritocratic attainment of professional status (as the center-left would have it). But obviously, these are not avenues available to all, simply because society has only so many positions for captains of industry and educated professionals.

The result, Federico notes, is that “group consciousness is likely to emerge on the basis of education and training” and when “those with less education see themselves as being culturally very different from an educated stratum of the population that is more socially liberal and cosmopolitan, then the sense of group conflict is deepened.”

None of these forces diminishes the key role of racial animosity and racism. Instead, they intensify racial resentment.

Jennifer Richeson, a professor of psychology at Yale, wrote by email that there is

very consistent and compelling evidence to suggest the some of what we have witnessed this past week is a reflection of the angst, anger, and refusal to accept an “America”’ in which White (Christian) Americans are losing dominance, be it political, material, and/or cultural. And, I use the term dominance here, because it is not simply a loss of status. It is a loss of power. A more racially, ethnically, religiously diverse US that is also a democracy requires White Americans to acquiesce to the interests and concerns of racial/ethnic and religious minorities.

leaned into the underlying White nationalist sentiments that had been on the fringe in his campaign for the presidency and made his campaign about re-centering Whiteness as what it actually means to be American and, by implication, delegitimizing claims for greater racial equity, be it in policing or any other important domain of American life.

Michael Kraus, a professor at the Yale School of Management, argued in an email that

Racism is the key construct here in understanding why this sort of violence is possible. The other explanations would be the pathways through which racism creates these conditions. An individual experiences their standing in society as relative and comparative, so sometimes the gains of other groups feel like losses to Whites. Whites in the last 60 years have seen minoritized folks gain more political power, economic and educational opportunity. Even though these gains are grossly exaggerated, Whites experience them as a loss in group status.

Emily G. Jacobs, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California-Santa Barbara, argued that all the rights revolutions — civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights — have been key to the emergence of the contemporary right wing:

As the voices of women, people of color, and other traditionally marginalized communities grow louder the frame of reference from which we tell the story of American is expanding. The white male story is not irrelevant but it’s insufficient, and when you have a group of people that are accustomed to the spotlight see the camera lens pan away, it’s a threat to their sense of self. It’s not surprising that QAnon support started to soar in the weeks after B.L.M. QAnon offers a way for white evangelicals to place blame on (fictional) bad people instead of a broken system. It’s an organization that validates the source of Q-Anoners insecurity — irrelevance — and in its place offers a steady source of self-righteousness and acceptance.

Jane Yunhee Junn, a professor of political science at the University of Southern California, was outspoken in her view:

People of color in political office, women controlling their fertility, L.G.B.T.Q. people getting married, using their bathrooms, and having children go against the state of nature defined by white heteropatriarchy. This is a domain in which men and white men in particular stand at the apex of power, holding their “rightful position” over women, nonwhites, perhaps non-Christians (in the U.S.), and of course, in their view, sexual deviants such as gay people.

Herbert P. Kitschelt, a professor of political science at Duke, wrote in an email that “compared to other advanced countries caught up in the transition to knowledge society, the United States appears to be in a much more vulnerable position to a strong right-wing populist challenge.”

Kitschelt’s listing of some of the reasons for American vulnerability to right-wing forces illuminates current events.

The difference between economic winners and losers, captured by income inequality, poverty, and illiteracy rates within the dominant white ethnicity, is much greater than in most other Western countries, and there is no dense welfare state safety net to buffer the fall of people into unemployment and poverty.

Another key factor, Kitschelt pointed out, is that

The decline of male status in the family is more sharply articulated than in Europe, hastened in the U.S. by economic inequality (men fall further under changing economic circumstances) and religiosity (leading to pockets of greater male resistance to the redefinition of gender roles).

Unlike most European countries, Kitschelt wrote,

The United States had a civil war over slavery in the 19th century and a continuous history of structural racism and white oligarchical rule until the 1960s, and in many aspects until the present. Europe lacks this legacy.

On top of that, in the United States.

Many lines of conflict mutually reinforce each other rather than crosscut: Less educated whites tend to be more Evangelical and more racist, and they live in geographical spaces with less economic momentum.

Coming days will determine how far this goes, but for the moment the nation faces, for all intents and purposes, the makings of a civil insurgency. What makes this insurgency unusual in American history is that it is based on Trump’s false claim that he, not Joe Biden, won the presidency, that the election was stolen by malefactors in both parties, and that majorities in both branches of Congress no longer represent the true will of the people.

At the same time, hostility to Trump on the left can make it easy to overlook the shortcomings, such as they are, of the center-left political coalition in this country — and I think it is important that liberals, among whom I count myself, keep this in mind.

Bernard Grofman, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine, put it this way in an email:

We would not have Trump as president if the Democrats had remained the party of the working class. The decline of labor unions proceeded at the same rate when Democrats were president as when Republicans were president the same is, I believe, true of loss of manufacturing jobs as plants moved overseas.

President Obama, Grofman wrote,

responded to the housing crisis with bailouts of the lenders and interlinked financial institutions, not of the folks losing their homes. And the stagnation of wages and income for the middle and bottom of the income distribution continued under Obama. And the various Covid aid packages, while they include payments to the unemployed, are also helping big businesses more than the small businesses that have been and will be permanently going out of business due to the lockdowns (and they include various forms of pork.

The result, according to Grofman, was that “white less well-educated voters didn’t desert the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party deserted them.”

At the same time, though, and here I will quote Grofman at length:

More religious and less well-educated whites see Donald Trump as one of their own despite his being so obviously a child of privilege. He defends America as a Christian nation. He defends English as our national language. He is unashamed in stating that the loyalty of any government should be to its own citizens — both in terms of how we should deal with noncitizens here and how our foreign policy should be based on the doctrine of “America First.”

He speaks in a language that ordinary people can understand. He makes fun of the elites who look down on his supporters as a “basket of deplorables” and who think it is a good idea to defund the police who protect them and to prioritize snail darters over jobs. He appoints judges and justices who are true conservatives. He believes more in gun rights than in gay rights. He rejects political correctness and the language-police and woke ideology as un-American. And he promises to reclaim the jobs that previous presidents (of both parties) allowed to be shipped abroad. In sum, he offers a relatively coherent set of beliefs and policies that are attractive to many voters and which he has been better at seeing implemented than any previous Republican president. What Trump supporters who rioted in D.C. share are the beliefs that Trump is their hero, regardless of his flaws, and that defeating Democrats is a holy war to be waged by any means necessary.

Trying to explain the violence on the Hill by only talking about what the demonstrators believe is to miss the point. They are guilty, but they wouldn’t be there were it not for the Republican politicians and the Republican attorneys general, and most of all the president, who cynically exaggerate and lie and create fake conspiracy theories and demonize the opposition. It is the enablers of the mob who truly deserve the blame and the shame.

Retaliatory Violence in Human Prehistory

Homicide often spurs lethal retaliation through self-help and this response is widespread among human foragers because brothers are often co-resident in mobile bands. The roots of this behaviour can be traced back to the shared ancestor of humans, chimpanzees and bonobos, which had strong tendencies to form social dominance hierarchies and to fight, and strong tendencies for alpha peacemakers to stop fights. As well-armed humans were becoming culturally modern, they were living in mobile egalitarian hunting bands that lacked such strong peace makers and lethal retaliation had free play. This continued with tribal agriculturalists who were equally egalitarian, but they tended to live in patrilineal communities, with the males staying put at marriage, and people with such fraternal interest groups developed elaborate rules for feuding. State formation finally brought centralized social control sufficient to put an end to feuding, but self-help killing still continues in certain contexts in modern society.

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