Civilisation Judas - Chapter 3 - Juropean or Middle Eastern?
In the first chapter we discussed the difference between the landed aristocracy and a hypothesised city-based aristocracy. With the general theme being that "Jewishness" emerges from within culture via the development of cities. However, this idea somewhat clashes with the general idea that the Jews in Europe arrived from elsewhere, and originated in the Middle East. In this chapter I'll explain why these two ideas aren't mutually exclusive, and how the reality is probably something of an overlap between these two processes.
We may start off with a simple premise;
Cities are more genetically diverse than the surrounding countryside.
So if we take a modern example. Let's say England. Both the cities and the countryside are predominantly white native English. However, over time immigrants arrive. These immigrants have a general tendency to settle in towns and cities, as that's where the major opportunities are. As more time passes integration occurs to varying degrees, with native white people settling down and having children with the immigrant populations. Eventually leading to these immigrant populations blending into the wider population.
As a consequence, assuming the immigration isn't overwhelming, the towns and cities will remain predominantly white English, however, they'll be slightly less so than the lesser-mixed people in the countryside.
Now this is something of an oversimplification of course. It's also perhaps a slightly poor example given how quickly the demographics of England are currently changing. So forgive me if you're reading this at some point in the future and the idea of a predominantly white England seems a little passé. The point is a useful one though, and highlights how cities can have a much more international make-up than the wider country they belong too. You only need to look at places such as London and New York, and then compare the make-up of those cities to leafier or more rural parts of southern England or east coast America.
If we follow the hypothesis that Jewish people are, or were, effectively a city-based class of some description, then we may surmise that they'll be especially influenced by this cultural and ethnic mixing that takes place in cities. Trade links develop between cities, and cultural links develop between the traders and financiers conducting this trade. This in turn may lead to intermarriages between families. As a consequence of arranged marriages for economic and social reasons, or simply as a consequence of personal relationships developing naturally. A trader may travel to another town or city to do business, and then meet the daughter or sister of another trader for instance. Leading to marriage and perhaps children.
Over time this process may lead to, say, English trading families, living in England, having a slightly more diverse genetic make-up than the average English family. Due to the marriages and family ties that have developed with other trading families in other cities and towns. Perhaps even towns and cities in much more far flung places. Of course, to all intents and purposes they'll still look largely indistinguishable from most other English families. However, over time it's possible that small noticeable differences may accrue. In fact, we can see a similar thing with the traditional, landed aristocracy.
For example, the wealthy English upper-classes look to all intents and purposes like the rest of the English population. However, there are some slight noticeable differences that people will often make reference to. Either consciously or subconsciously. Such as the fact that aristocratic people tend to be taller than their poorer compatriots. People also often allude to the fact that aristocratic people tend to look a bit "horsey". The idea that the landed aristocracy look "horsey" in some way is a little bit silly, and it's a hard thing to quantify in any reasonable sort of way. However, it's something we all intuitively understand, even if it's just as a vague generalisation. We kind of understand what people mean when they point out this caricatured "horsey-ness".
So, are these slight, almost imperceptible differences a consequence of the intermarriages between European aristocrats over the centuries, and their relative separation from the lower classes of society? Or perhaps are they a consequence of the differing lifestyles these people have led over successive generations in comparison to the rest of the population? Or are they just figments of our imagination - the result of our cultural stereotypes and prejudices? It's difficult to tell, yet we carry these stereotypes and prejudices nonetheless.
I would suggest that a similar process is perhaps partly responsible for the slight differences that are noted between Jews and the wider non-Jewish populations they often find themselves amongst. The "Middle Eastern" features of European Jews could be due to the trade links (and consequent marital links) reaching across Europe and into the Middle East. Leading to a gene flow across the continents. Likewise, some of the other Jewish stereotypes could be in part due to successive generations of Jews living in urban or city conditions. Such as the stereotype that Jewish people are less inclined to physical activity, and more suited to academic and legal pursuits.
Of course, city living and city professions tend to require lots of time indoors, as opposed to agriculture and other countryside pursuits. So perhaps centuries of exposure to such lifestyles could lead to a natural predisposition towards those type of things. Or at the very least a cultural bias towards such living. The wearing of glasses and the high levels of literacy in Jewish societies are other stereotypes that could be similarly explained. In fact, this literacy aspect is something I'll be returning to in later chapters.
Now the above are all quite crude stereotypes of course. Vague generalisations that may simply disappear under closer inspection. However, the stereotypes, like the ones regarding the landed aristocracy mentioned earlier, are all ones we can easily recognise. So perhaps there are some grains of truth underpinning them. Though whether these grains be genetic or purely cultural is once again hard to tell. Either way, the stereotypes require an explanation even if they're wrong, and the explanation that they're a product of urban living is quite a rational one in many ways.
So, to summarise this brief chapter, and to answer the question its title poses, I would propose that European Jews are both Middle Eastern and European - though I would lean towards the idea that they are predominantly European, particularly with regard to the "Jewish" communities we see mentioned in medieval texts. A product of city living - a la the "city aristocracy" process - and the trade links and people flow between trading towns and cities. Trade links perhaps reaching from Europe to as far as the Middle East and maybe even beyond.
As for the commonly accepted version of history, and its view that there have been mass Jewish migrations into Europe from the Middle East, I would also consider this as a possible part of the explanation too. Though I would argue that this possible migration (of people, ideas, and perhaps also religions) is a consequence of a huge economic shift that is much overlooked. An economic shift that will require something of a revision to the commonly accepted historic timeline if its importance is to be appreciated and understood. All will be elucidated in the next chapter.
In this chapter I mentioned how it's often said that the aristocracy look "horsey". This is quite a silly idea, and I felt a little silly including it in the text, but it carries with it an inherent relatability. Oftentimes in life we recognise a concept, but can't quite articulate it in plain language to another person. Perhaps something we understand, but where we can't quite put our finger on what it is exactly that we understand, or how exactly we understand it. For things like this examples often serve as the only practical way to communicate what we mean to other people. This may be one of those things.
As I say in the text, the idea that upper class people often have a "horsey" look is something that we all intuitively understand. However, I say we all understand this, but I run the risk that this may not be the case, and that some people may be reading thinking "What on earth is he going on about?". Like a joke you either get, or don't get. Perhaps one we laugh at, but can't explain why we're laughing at it. Nor explain the joke to the people that aren't laughing. So I hope anyone reading the chapter that finds this "horsey" notion a bit of a bizarre concept at least understands what I'm attempting to do.
I must also admit that I felt a little uncomfortable discussing supposed racial traits in general in this chapter. It's a topic that can sometimes be controversial for obvious reasons, and to be honest I'd rather have just avoided it because of this. However, I don't really think it's good or helpful to do that. It's not a bad thing if there may be differences between people, or groups of people, it's only bad if people behave badly towards others because of this. So likewise I would hope that people forgive me if anything in the text comes across the wrong way or gives the wrong impression.
Returning to the "horsey" theme I must admit that I do find it fascinating how we seem to naturally ascribe animal attributes to humans, and vice versa. It seems in all cultures we find a language of animals - where animals serve as a set of reference points for human traits and behaviours. Be it tribes having their totemic animals, moralistic tales such as Aesop's fables, or the various animals of the Chinese zodiac. Even in our modern scientific age we seem to fill this need by relating ourselves to monkeys and other animals on the genetic or evolutionary tree of life.
We describe people as being "greedy as a pig" or "wise as an owl". As looking "mousey", or "sheepish" or bird-like. I remember a friend half-jokingly describing my own appearance as ferret-like (!) It wasn't the greatest compliment I've ever had, but again, as with the "horsey" aristocrats, I could see exactly what was meant. There was a kind of accuracy in the comparison. In fact, I probably remember it so well now precisely because it was so stingingly accurate. It's a strange thing. The classic, almost clichéd Native American names such as "Sitting Bull" and "Black Hawk" also spring to mind. Do these similarities or appellations hold truth in any real objective way? Or are they more just cultural memes and associations?
Even in our most basic language this animal association seems present. Take the snake-like "S" symbol in the alphabet, with its hissing "sssS" sound. The letter makes instant sense when we first start learning the alphabet in childhood. It's almost like there's a primordial link between the sound and the symbol. We also have an endless stream of words utilising this sound suggesting snake-like characteristics or behaviours - sly, slither, slide, snide, sneaky, the word snake itself. Hiss. Again, is the snake sneaky and wise in some real tangible way? Or is it just a cumulative mythology we've built up, that we could have just as easily built up around any animal?
Was the snake in the Garden of Eden a human exhibiting the traits of a snake, or a snake taking on the attributes of a human?
This seeming impulse to anthropomorphise animals. Seeing human traits in their behaviour. It's another familiar and hard to pin down concept. The countless cat and dog videos on the internet, complete with their millions of views, highlighting a humanness we can all naturally understand, adore and relate to. Are these pets of ours genuinely expressing such traits, or again, are we projecting something of ourselves on to them? Later, in the notes to Chapter Seven, I use the example of a squirrel to make a point in regard the human life experience. It's so easy and natural to pluck these common examples from nature. The squirrel collecting its nuts. The bird making its nest. The spider weaving its web.
The horsey-ness example is likewise so perfectly apt and easy to reach for. Horses throughout history for practical reasons have always been a symbol of wealth. The ability to travel and cover ground quickly and easily. Their value in waging war. The height advantage it gives you over people on foot. The wealth and land required to train and stable them. Do we associate horses with aristocratic people purely for these ingrained cultural associations. Or do upper class people actually look horsey in some way? Or is it some strange combination of the two?
It really is quite hard to tell.
Further chapters can be found here.