Two of the most genetically distinct populations in Britain are those of north and south Wales. It is said that this has resulted in recurring tensions throughout history even if the communities involved were not entirely aware of the underlying drivers of their mutual pique.
Thursday, November 02, 2023
Memes not genes
In spite of this anomaly it can be fairly safely stated that in most cases genetics are not particularly relevant historically.
For example, there is no clear cut basis in ancestral DNA for the national identities of modern Britons: English, Scottish, Welsh.
Most of the so-called ‘native’ British subjects are ultimately descended from more ancient Britons, who settled in two groups either side of a vertical line dividing the island long before Julius and his legions turned up.
On the left side of this line were people who had arrived via the western Atlantic coast of Europe and on the right side were people we tend to refer to today as Germanic, though they had mixed with Eurasian horse nomads from the Steppe.
Celtic civilisation was largely a fiction invented in the 19th century in an attempt to unify the peoples of Ireland, Scotland and Wales in opposition to English ‘imperialism’ and/or central control from London. But crucially the peoples of these regions have NEVER yet acted as a unified group, regardless of any intellectual instigation.
But if genes don’t matter, memes, in the Dawkins sense, really do.
Some of these descendants of ancient Britons speak English and some, speak or spoke a Celtic language. That there are limited traces of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic heredity in the nation is beside the point. Cultures define identity and then the historical interactions between them establish the key boundaries.
So, back to the Middle East. I came across the statement yesterday that Palestinians have more ancient regional genes than Jews. It was not clear if this referred to Gazans or the 2m Arabs that sport Israeli citizenship but, no matter, genes are not the crux of the geopolitical issue here.
Jews themselves have long toyed with the idea that their ancestors may never have set foot in Jerusalem.
In his 1976 book The Thirteenth Tribe, Arthur Koestler pondered whether Ahkenazis were in fact largely descended from the Eastern European Khazars who had mass-converted in the early Middle Ages. His intent was to remove the racial basis for anti-Semitism, and so he found himself in that same awkward space as advocates for LGBTQ+ rights who are not sure how pre-determined they should proclaim their situation to be.
Anyway, Jewishness is essentially a meme. And the wider Judeo-Christian meme is very much indigenous to Jerusalem in ways that the Islamic meme is not.
In order to establish its own bogus native status, Islam had to come up with a fiction that, even by the well-established standards of Judeo-Christian bunkum, was pretty extraordinary, involving Mohammad and his levitating horse. But beyond the baloney there is also a fundamental claim to primacy...the finality of this revelation which supersedes all previous, and is therefore justified in its Jihad.
Palestinians may be Philistines. But their cultural impact on the world throughout history and particularly right now is as flag-carriers of an invasive Islam.
Not all Arabs or Muslims walk behind this banner, but Hamas does. The underlying ideology is politicised apocalyptic religion, influenced by twentieth century totalitarian ideology. Indeed the very notion that the Jewish state is a colonising, settler entity has been lifted directly from Marxism.
Hamas are by no means alone in this. The evangelical churches in Guatemala which proudly fly the Israeli flag are on the same path.
These situations are never as binary as their adherents would want us to believe. But the undeniable truth is that evangelical Christians might protest against minority lifestyles, but as long as they are contained within a pluralistic society, they cannot openly engage in slaughter based on a culture of hatred of stigmatised out-groups.