Monday, November 28, 2016

Legitimacy of Law Enforcement and Those Who Are Governed

Lynn Rhodes, Chief (Ret) California State Parks; Vice President, International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (ISCSC)

In order to have stable civilization, to govern and be governed there must be a sense of legitimacy and trust by those who are governed. One consideration of use-of-power is not only perceived but actual legitimacy by policing forces. Police authority must have legitimacy and be a compliment to society and in place to protect (society). Increased awareness in the United States, enhanced by the pervasiveness of social media, has illuminated the disparity in which policing is undertaken and the sense of legitimacy by those governed. Police departments nationwide are reacting to impressions or mis-impressions they say are stigmatizing them as out of touch and anti-protection. They are often now characterized as carrying out the law (a judicial role), and prematurely so, as opposed to enforcing the law (fairly and without bias) for public protection and security.

Social order is not possible without a sense of real legitimacy, compliance and cooperation with the laws. For the greater good, society has allowed itself to be policed by consent. In the U.S. this condition is being more openly questioned and challenged.

Factors influencing public trust and the role of policing must be better understood by law enforcement agencies and the public partnership involved. Many agencies are now trying to reframe their roles as guardians as opposed to being known as police. A guardian is an ally, someone that watches, protects and takes appropriate action.  Discretion and trust is fundamental and essential to their role. But making a wholesale transition to an active role as guardian from that of police will not be done quickly. It will require institutionalizing new learning, training and partnerships.

In ancient societies, there was no official law enforcement function and very little, if any, attempt at organization. Instead, individuals, families and clans took it upon themselves to take revenge against those who may have inured or offended them. The idea of crime prevention was almost non-existent in the early history of law enforcement and criminology. Worldwide, civilizations throughout the ages have contributed significantly in the development of criminal justice in society as early as 8000-4000 BC in the middle east, through the rise of the Roman Republic, to Robert Peel’s 9 principles of policing in London, and how we have evolved to the current time.

Legitimacy of policing forces and permission to conduct policing services is an issue front and center for today’s free societies.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Culture Matters Part 1

Laina Farhat-Holzman
November 12, 2016

In August, I wrote several columns on how culture matters, both domestically and internationally. I have long doubted that the issue is as much racial differences as it is the practices and values of various cultures. Our recent election was a perfect demonstration of a cultural clash that shocked the world.

The US is going through the same conflict that we are seeing around the world: democratic institutions are losing the support that they have had for a long time. We know from history that when people stop believing in the laws, agencies, and protections that make self-government work, governments either fall or go dictatorial. Those of us who have always believed, as I have, that government is not the problem, but that the character of our representatives is, did not realize how widespread the anger against all of our government institutions was.

We see in our country and all over the world “culture shock,” a fear among ordinary people that their culture is changing in ways that leave them feeling alienated. Since the end of World War II, we have gone through a culture change that is unprecedented in its speed. Laws and attitudes that have been with us for centuries are suddenly being challenged and transformed.

The values that characterize the modern world include some incendiary issues: equality of women, demands for racial and religious equality, total freedom of speech that has brought vulgarity into our arts and daily discourse, science that challenges old truths including religions (brain science, robotics, ecology, medicine, technologies), and constant lecturing from the elites and educated that make the less educated angry.

Those of us on the educated and liberal side politically have trampled and insulted the values of many people we neither meet nor know. But we have heard from them in this election. They did not support Donald Trump because he was loved by all Republicans, but because he made many of them feel that they were being heard. He used language, epithets, and manners that boosted their own self-regard, language that they were never allowed to use in polite society.
Many serious Republicans did not vote for him, considering him an unqualified loose cannon, but many did vote for him only because they want to guarantee that the Supreme Court can be turned very conservative for a whole generation. Republicans believe in incremental social change, and not the sort of almost uncontrollable changes that roil ordinary lives. They may have a point.

Remember, however, that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, although losing the Electoral College, an institution that gives more voting power to small states and rural towns. Our founders feared direct democracy, setting up institutions to prevent mob rule (or popular voting majorities). There is some wisdom in this.

Abroad, Europe is going through the same kind of crisis. The EU has tried to act as a super-government, enforcing their ideas of a modern society on the unwilling and conservative classes that still make up national populations. The elites believe that it is Europe's duty to take in as many refugees fleeing wars and persecution as can arrive. I admire their generosity of spirit, but the burden of supporting this horde and trying to absorb them is on ordinary Europeans. The immigrants from the Muslim world are not only difficult to integrate into a modern western society, but many come with views and intentions that threaten their host countries. Europe's EU is starting to fall apart, certainly with the exit of the British, angry at the dictation of the EU and their own elites.

The danger of this alienation is that the global rule of law that the United States promoted and protected since the end of World War II is now in meltdown. Dictatorships are being favored once more, in Russia, Turkey, Poland, the Philippines, apparently with popular enthusiasm. But since all of their free press is being suppressed, how do we know?

President Trump is in for a steep learning curve. With luck, a meltdown of both political parties may give birth to a new centrist party that unites us once more.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or    

47rd ISCSC Conference June 30 to July 3rd 2017

47rd ISCSC International Conference
Marconi Conference Center, Marshall, California, U.S.A.
June 30 to July 3rd 2017

Marconi Conference Center is part of the California State Park System located in Marshall, California U.S.A. approximately 90 minutes northwest of San Francisco.
Please see the map on the ISCSC website:
Marconi Conference Center Website:

The 62-acre Marconi Conference Center State Historic Park in scenic West Marin County is located along the east shore of Tomales Bay near the quaint community of Marshall. The location provides dramatic views of the bay and the lush inland hills of the Point Reyes Peninsula.

Rich with the history of the ancient coastal Miwok people, and the 1912 American Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, the historical significance of the property was recognized with the classification of the facility as a State Historic Park in 1991.

We have a great package for this year’s conference! Conference Registration includes a one-year membership to the ISCSC for new and any renewing members! All lodging and meals for the conference are provided on-site.

Attendees are to make their own conference registration and lodging arrangements directly with the ISCSC before the deadline of April 25, 2017 by using a link which will soon be placed on the ISCSC website.  Lodging fee includes accommodations, all meals, and tax, for all 3 nights.  Rates are the equivalent of: $245 Single; $165 Double or $135 Triple per person, per day. Meals begin with dinner on the arrival date and end with lunch on departure date. Lodging/meal package reservations will be for the entire 3 days.  It will be important to use the on-line link via the ISCSC website to make your room/meal reservation which must be paid in advance. It is part of our conference package and ensures the agreed upon rates. Attempting to make individual reservations through the Marconi Conference Center, even if available, will result in much higher costs to participants and are not part of our conference package and activities.

Registration cost is $275. Conference registration is separate from the lodging and meal package. Conference Registration includes conference attendance, welcome reception on June 30th, invitation to submit abstracts for conference presentation, necessary technical amenities for the presentation and a complimentary year-long membership in the ISCSC with its many benefits of professional affiliation, subscription to the organization’s acclaimed journal, Comparative Civilizations Review, and, last-but-not-least, fun raffle prizes.

Attendees will most likely fly directly to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). From there, transportation to Marconi Conference Center can easily be accomplished via rental car or a shuttle service called Marin Door to Door: or telephone at +1-415-457-2717. Marin Door to Door will take you directly to the Marconi Conference Center for $115 each way. If more than one person is traveling in your group, the second person is only charged $12.00. It is beneficial to book more than one person for the shuttle ride for cost-savings. Booking the shuttle should be done at least 48 hours in advance.

Please visit the ISCSC and Marconi Conference Center for additional trip planning references, local sites of interest, and detailed information about the lodging and dining facilities. If you have any questions, please contact Vice President, Lynn Rhodes, 831-600-5209 or or Executive Director Peter Hecht 917-494-8936 or

E Pluribus Unum?

Laina Farhat-Holzman
November 5, 2016

This Latin slogan describes the intentions of our founding father: that out of many colonies would come one nation. We Americans are very proud of this idea, and many think that we invented it. However, considering that the slogan is Latin, the ancient Romans certainly thought of it, as did others before them.

The small, scattered tribes of Homo Sapiens peopling Africa never looked beyond their tribes, related by blood. But as our ancestors left Africa and peopled the world (the only species to do this on their own-(rats and cockroaches depended on us to go global), the clans grew larger and stronger clans absorbed weaker ones.

Out of ancient Rome came the story of the Rape of the Sabine Women. The early Romans were poor and hungry and their women often died during childbirth. They invaded a neighbor's territory, conquered and killed the men, and carried off the women to become their wives. The Romans continued to absorb all their neighbors on the Italian peninsula and gave them Roman citizenship. The Roman Empire began this way. They went beyond Italy to rule territory from the British Isles, all across North Africa, the Middle East, and as far as the borders of Persia. For centuries to come, more people lived in prosperity under Roman rule than could have as struggling independent states.

China had a similar trajectory. The ancient Chinese hosted five kingdoms that fought incessantly until one finally conquered them all. This was the first Chinese Empire, a political success for centuries.

From the first empires after the agricultural revolution (Sumeria, Babylonia, Assyria, Persia), history was a cavalcade of empires that, when they overreached and collapsed, disintegrated into warlordism, famine, and death, until another warrior tribe created a new empire.

For human beings, empires, not independent states, have been the predominant global model. Centralized governments survive for centuries, periodically collapsing into anarchy until the next empire emerged. We are so used to thinking about sovereign nation states that we forget how new this concept is and how difficult it is for most of them to survive.

The horrors of two world wars (1914-18 and 1939-45) illustrated just how weak most nation states were. Neighborhood bullies, throwbacks to savage tribes, easily created new empires that they believed would endure. The Nazis and Japanese did not count on two other empires of sorts, the Russians (involuntary empire) and the Americans (voluntary empire) wiping them out. The Russians aspired to enlarging their already enormous empire by absorbing formerly independent European states (Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine) that they ruled with an iron hand.

The United States envisioned another sort of empire: one of free nation states agreeing to a set of global legal principles. Over a period of 70 years, during which we came close to nuclear war with the USSR, we prevailed, making us the single largest superpower. Over that time, our influence and economic system lifted millions of people out of dire poverty and inspired many to attempt to become modern nation states.

History shows us that huge empires ultimately collapse because the cost of sustaining peace and order becomes more than its citizens want to pay. We are seeing this phenomenon today, with state after state (particularly in the Middle East) collapsing into anarchy and one wanabe super-state, the European Union, well intentioned but under-engineered, unraveling.

The world came close, under American tutelage, to creating a global society, a super-empire. It is in trouble right now, but historically, unity out of diversity (e pluribus unum) comes back. An invasion from Mars could unify us smartly, but short of that, global warfare will remind us how bad tribalism can be.

We are living through a period of increasing anarchy: some of it generated by neofascist militant Islam, which has a talent for destruction but no talent for governance; and other wanabe super-states, such as China and Russia, imagining that their visions are better than ours. People vote with their feet. Our vision is obviously better. Ask China's and Russia's neighbors.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or

Laina At the Movies

October, 2016

Deepwater Horizon

Catastrophes test human character, ingenuity, and endurance. Nature provides plenty of tests with weather, fire, floods, and earthquakes, all considered by insurance companies as “acts of God.” But the most fascinating catastrophes are those arising from the very technologies that demonstrate the brilliance of human ingenuity. We are smart creatures, but we do worry about getting too smug about how smart we are. The earliest warning about this smugness is Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, the namesake being a scientist who tried to design the perfect man, a creature made from some diversely gathered human parts. Robert Louis Stevenson added to this genre with his book: Dr. Jeykel and Mr. Hyde, in which a drug permitted a good man to become completely evil. It was a conscience killer. And then Poe's Poisoned Garden illustrated how very bad the good intentions of a scientist can be.

Deepwater Horizon dramatizes a horrible disaster that destroyed an amazingly brilliant structure, an oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. No matter how remarkable the technology, we learn, human agency can make it fail. Carelessness, error, failure to heed warnings about technological weak spots and corporate penny pinching can undo the best of technologies. We get all of these in this film.

As always, the courage, professionalism, and general decency of the crew  aboard this platform make one proud to be a fellow citizen of these people.

The film is technically amazing in revealing both the technology and the failure of the oil industry, and the cost of failure in deaths and ecological damage. The cast of the film was excellent, with performances by Mark Wahlberg, Caleb Holloway, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, all of them heroic, and John Malkovich as a devious employee of British Petroleum.

Queen of Katwe
This Disney film claims to be an “uplifting” view of Africa, which is a real stretch!
The story is very uplifting: that a 10-year-old slum girl-child could learn to play chess and become a world chess champion is certainly uplifting. That the film shows how Africa is not as bad as we thought is not true.
The film opens with a panorama of an enormous slum in Kampala, Uganda (once Big Daddy Amin's country), a slum that looks as bad as the slums of India. These slums are a regular feature of every African city: unpaved, no plumbing, and dangerous. The film carefully avoids another reality in Africa, the sexual predators who ruin every young girl (and boy) not protected by someone.
This true story, however, is uplifting and depends on sheer good luck. A ten-year-old girl who helps her mother at the street market hears that there is a chess club where soup is served. Always hungry, this child of five youngsters of a widowed mother, joins the chess club and surprises everyone by being a chess prodigy. Against all odds, she becomes an international phenomenon and raises her family out of dire poverty.
The child, Phiona (played by Madina Nalwanga) is a new actress; the film features two other leads, both of them African with world acclaim: Lupita Nyonglo (Kenyan) who plays the determined mother desperate to keep her children safe and alive, and David Oyelowo (British Nigerian) who plays the gentle chess coach and Christian missionary who really cares about his slum children chess players.
The one good thing one can say about Uganda's always corrupt government is that there are a few people who manage to scrape up the money to offer these chess clubs to inner city children and pay for them to compete in meets.
The other good thing (which is never discussed) is that chess, the etiquette of this game (politeness), and concern for underprivileged children are not native to Uganda. They are the remnant of British colonialism. The other unaddressed issue is that this child's family and the chess coach are Christian, not Muslim. They both embrace western values. A talented girl child who is African Muslim wouldn't have a chance that this child had.
One thing that emerges from this story: talent and sheer intelligence have no skin color or geography; they are distributed among all human beings.  What differs is culture and history. Those gifts require extraordinary good luck to
Girl on the Train

I expected a good thriller when I went to see this film.  I found instead the most dreary exploration of the lives of three women, one of them a drunk, who are all connected to a very evil husband. All of the characters were repugnant, the story overwrought, and the mystery not particularly gratifying.  Can you tell I hated this movie?

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

This is one case where the sequel was even better than the original. Tom Cruise (who wears his years amazingly well) plays Jack Reacher, a former military investigator who had left that world to become a homeless wanderer who runs into a situation that gets his attention. A rural sheriff was running a human trafficking ring that Reacher dismantles, calling it in to his old friend, Colonel Bob Moorcroft. Moorcroft tells him that a woman Major, Susan Turner, who had been on his team investigating the murder of two soldiers in Afghanistan, has been accused by Reacher's old enemy, Colonel Sam Morgan, of committing espionage. Reacher's friend, Moorcroft, is murdered, implicating Reacher and Turner.

Reacher springs Turner from lockup and the two make a run for it, hoping to clear their names.
What makes this film a superior thriller is that the characters are sympathetic, the possibility of some military in Afghanistan engaged in some very lucrative smuggling is believable, and the stakes for Reacher are even more urgent when a teen-age girl turns up who may be a child fathered by Reacher 16 years ago, one he knew nothing about. She too is on the run with Reacher and Turner.
The movie was well timed, the issues seemed important enough, and it was an excellent example of a well-designed thriller.


I had read this Dan Brown book several years ago and uncharacteristically completely forgot it. The theme was that a passionate population explosion activist gave up when his idea of putting contraceptives in the water supply was rejected. He then decided to release a virus that would accomplish the same end: eradicate half of the world's population. This fanatic really believed that he would be saving the world.
The hero of all of Dan Brown's books, Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia and terrible visions, not knowing how he got there. A doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) rescues him from the hospital when it looks as if some villains are after him, and they race across Europe and Istanbul to thwart the release of the plague virus.
Inferno references the great medieval poem by Dante, Inferno, a detailed vision of Hell. This work influenced generations of artists and really gave a very frightening vision of what life after death in Hell might involve.

While I find Dante's vision tiresome, it was fun, as usual, to have this travelogue following the puzzles hidden in the painting. The World Health Organization is also involved in this chase, but it is difficult to know who might be a friend or a foe.
One interesting actor to watch is Irrfan Khan, who reminds me of Peter Lorre, with a woebegone face and sad eyes.

The movie is essentially silly, but still entertaining to see on a rainy afternoon. I like the idea of the contraceptives in the water supply better.

It Can't Happen Here?

Laina Farhat-Holzman
October 22, 2016

We are just two weeks from the US Presidential election, far too late to change minds. However, many level-headed people around the country take comfort in the thought that American government is designed with so many checks and balances that nothing really drastic can happen. Others say that their “change agent,” Donald Trump, will just shake up the government a little.

The saving grace in this country is that the president does not have dictatorial powers. No, he cannot single-handedly change laws, imprison his political opponents, shut down the “lying press,” or replace judges he does not like. And thank goodness for this! He really cannot do what he says he will, nor can he make America “great again.”

But there are things that he could do that would be very dangerous, if not irreversible. His inclination is to void a number of the international treaties that this country has endorsed: the Climate Treaty that was signed by China and India; or the treaty with Iran, that could result in an instant ramp-up of nuclear weapons. All international leaders who are our NATO allies panic at the thought of a Trump presidency. They can see the end of America projecting its power to ensure global rule of law. On the domestic level, he could try to void Obama Care, not just improve it, throwing millions of Americans out of health insurance.

Other once-democracies around the world offer examples of what can happen that is not reversible.

o     Zimbabwe. This African country was once a British colony, Rhodesia, which was a breadbasket of bountiful agriculture that fed much of Africa. When it won its independence and was renamed Zimbabwe, a national pro-independence leader, Joseph Mugabe, was elected president in 1980. That hero turned quickly into monster, where, now in his 90s, he continues to “win” elections. Dissidents are murdered.

The horror of his governance is that despite his promise to treat white and black citizens equally, he drove out the white farmers, breaking up their holdings and giving them to political cronies with no experience in farming. The result has been years of famine and a once-solid economy in shambles.
In 2001, foreign reserves of money had run out and serious food shortages began. Western donors cut aid and the World Bank and IMF cut the country off. After Parliament passed a law limiting media freedom the EU imposed sanction. In a recent “election,” the opposition candidate was jailed, just as Trump would like to do to Hillary Clinton.

The US now labels Zimbabwe one of the world's six “outposts of tyranny.” This has not deterred the African Union in 2015 from choosing Mugabe as chairman of that union. Today, there are riots and demonstrations in the streets demanding Mugabe's ouster. The population is desperate and miserable, with no chance of throwing this “president for life” out of office.

o     Philippines. This once colony of the United States did not even have to fight for their independence. The US promised it during World War II and kept their word. The country has struggled with corrupt governance and for a period during the Cold War had a President for Life (Fernando Marcos) who was ultimately dethroned by a popular revolt. Since then, elections have brought to power leaders with good intentions (and one popular actor) who were not strong enough to prevail over their country's poisonously corrupt culture.

A new election has brought them a very scary monster, Rodrigo Duterte, who has a Trump-like tendency to say vulgar and insulting things---some aimed at our own president----and then have to tread them back. He has a thuggish face which telegraphs his character. Nearly 1800 people have been murdered (drug users, he says) in extrajudicial executions.

He thinks he can get our goat by threatening to drop our bilateral defense treaties and turn to China instead.  I really hope he does. China will then be faced with trying to control two thugs, North Korea's Kim Jong-un, and what looks like another elected “president for life,” Rodrigo Duterte. And yes, the ignorant populist mobs there love him. Elections matter.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or    


Bertil Haggman

National Review on July 26, 2016 published an article on an important book by Nima Sanandaji to be published in August 2016 on the Nordic social system the American left dreams of importing. Excerpts below:
“Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism” [is about] the social success of Nordic countries…The social success of Nordic countries pre-dates progressive welfare-state policies. A common misconception is that the Nordic countries became socially and economically successful by introducing universal welfare states funded by high taxes. In fact, their economic and social success had already materialized during a period when these countries combined a small public sector with free-market policies. The welfare state was introduced afterward. That the Nordic countries are so successful is due to an exceptional culture that emphasizes social cohesion, hard work, and individual responsibility.
Today, in contrast, Nordic countries stand out as having high-tax models. Denmark, for example, has the highest tax rate among developed nations. But in 1960, the tax rate in the country was merely 25 percent of GDP, lower than the 27 percent rate in the U.S. at the time. In Sweden, the rate was 29 percent, only slightly higher than in the U.S.
In fact, much of Nordic prosperity evolved between the time that a capitalist model was introduced in this part of the world during the late 19th century and the mid 20th century –during the free-market era.
What might come as a surprise to American admirers of the Nordic countries is that high levels of income equality evolved during the same period. Swedish economists Jesper Roine and Daniel Waldenström, for example, explain that “most of the decrease [in income inequality in Sweden] takes place before the expansion of the welfare state and by 1950 Swedish top income shares were already lower than in other countries.”
…some scholars attribute [the Nordic success] to the Protestant work ethic. It is likely that climate played an equally important role in creating the Nordic success culture. Nordic farmers owned their land but struggled to survive in the unforgiving climate of Scandinavia. In order to thrive, these homogenous societies developed strict work ethics, healthy lifestyles, and a code of individual responsibility out of necessity. To paraphrase the ancient Persian king Cyrus the Great, hard lands breed hard people.
American admirers of Nordic-style social democracy argue that by copying social-democratic policies, the U.S. will copy Nordic social success. But is this true? Hard lands breed hard people.

…the longest average life spans among Nordic peoples are found in Iceland — the small Nordic cousin that has the most distinctly Nordic culture, but also the most limited welfare system. It is equally interesting to look at Nordic Americans, a group that combines the Nordic success culture with U.S.-style capitalism. It was mainly the impoverished people in the Nordic countries who sailed across the Atlantic to found new lives…
Danish Americans today have fully 55 percent higher living standard than Danes. Similarly, Swedish Americans have a 53 percent higher living standard than Swedes. The gap is even greater, 59 percent, between Finnish Americans and Finns. Even though Norwegian Americans lack the oil wealth of Norway, they have a 3 percent higher living standard than their cousins overseas. Perhaps even more astonishing is that Nordic Americans are more socially successful than their cousins in Scandinavia. They have much lower high-school-dropout rates, much lower unemployment rates, and even slightly lower poverty rates.
Currently, Nordic-style democratic socialism is all the rage among Democrat activists as well as with liberal intellectuals and journalists. But in the Nordic countries themselves, this ideal has gradually lost its appeal. Only one of the five Nordic countries, Sweden, currently has a government headed by social democrats. The other four countries have center-right governments. Moreover, the Swedish Social Democrats enjoy weaker popular support today than at any point in modern times. They lead a minority government, as the majority of Swedes either support one of the center-right parties or the anti-immigration party.
During the past few decades, the Nordic countries have gradually been reforming their social systems. Taxes have been cut to stimulate work, public benefits have been limited in order to reduce welfare dependency, pension savings have been partially privatized, for-profit forces have been allowed in the welfare sector, and state monopolies have been opened up to the market. In short, the universal-welfare-state model is being liberalized.
…a closer look shows that these policies are not what explain the success of Nordic societies, and that the Nordic people themselves are becoming less enthusiastic about democratic socialism. Unfortunately, the American Left is more interested in the Nordic myth than a nuanced view of the actual benefits — and drawbacks — of democratic socialism.
Nima Sanandaji is the president of the European Centre for Policy Reform and Entrepreneurship. His latest book, Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism [was published in August].

The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World's Government in the 21st Century, Michael Mandelbaum, Public Affairs (Perseus), New York 2005.

Laina Farhat-Holzman, Reviewer.

One of the favorite parlor games among the intellectual elites in our country and Europe, newly rising rivals such as China, and our acknowledged enemies in the militantly Islamic world, is to condemn the United States as an immature bully. There is considerable hypocrisy in this bad-mouthing, considering how much the world benefits from our protection. We function, according to Michael Mandelbaum (The Case for Goliath) as a sort of de facto world government from which everyone benefits.  Our sullen US allies and our obvious enemies, in private and in their actions, all recognize and depend upon America's hegemony. Mandelbaum's  book charts those services provided by the US for the benefit of the world.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, questions were raised about why we should maintain an expensive Pacific fleet; there were those who thought that it was time to mothball that institution. When Congress recognized how our presence in the Pacific provided a stability and peace that would have otherwise been absent, there was bipartisan support for funding. Imagine the naval arms race that would rage among countries with long historic hostility to each other. But thanks to us, those east-Asian countries, most of them dirt poor, have thrived and become substantial contributors to the world economy and enjoy  a growing middle class.

The same can be said of Europe, which has enjoyed more than a half-century of economic growth and socialist largesse under the security of the American umbrella-the costs borne by the American public. Would this be so if those countries had been compelled to defend themselves against historically hostile neighbors? Despite the public disdain for the United States, people do (or should) know the role we play in their safety and economies.

Even in the Muslim world, which is viscerally hostile to the United States, the worst and most authoritarian leaders send their families to the United States and their children to our schools. The words are one thing-their actions quite another.

Governance.  Mendelbaum provides a brief history of the institutions of government: empire, what government does, the role of society, and the role of consensus.

International Security.  He assesses our role in international security-including how we provide reassurance, our role in nuclear nonproliferation, terrorism and preventive war, humanitarian intervention, and state-building (one of our less successful, but well-intentioned endeavors).

Global Economy. Overseeing the global economy is one of our most important functions, with involvement in enforcement, oil, money, trade, and consumption.

International Legitimacy. There would not be any valid international legitimacy without the umbrella of the US.  We face resentment and criticism, yet we continue to provide leadership and bear the costs of having a world in which there is the appearance of legitimacy.

A World Without America.  There is no doubt that were we not today's hegemon, the world would be a much more dangerous place. It is obvious that institutions such as the UN and the European Union cannot-or do not-have force to fall back on when talk no longer has an affect. The world may resent us, but without us, most of the gains enjoyed by the developed world would not have been possible. As for the lesser developed world, there has been a surprising reduction in global poverty, to which we have contributed. However, because we do not provide security everywhere, we can see the consequences when our power is absent. Nobody intervened in the genocide in Rwanda and no one is willing to step up to forcibly stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Nobody would have intervened in the genocide in Yugoslavia-a situation in Europe's very orbit-until the US ended it and contributed to the rebuilding of those countries, which are once more flourishing.

Gratitude is not an emotion that most nation-states cherish. However, let us end the pretense that the power of the United States is an obnoxious thing. There is no model in world history in which an imperial power did as much good and took as little in return. For a resolutely anti-aristocratic country, the United States shows laudable noblesse oblige.  We do what we do because it is right-and because we can.

Why Is Georgetown University Rewriting History?

Laina Farhat-Holzman
September 17, 2016

Cherry-picking is no way to benefit from historic insight. Suddenly, it has become chic to revisit history and try to undo what was done. There is no way we can undo slavery, and this mode of rewriting history is of no benefit to the descendants of a very bad institution.

Georgetown University was financed in 1789 by the sale of slaves owned by the Jesuit fathers.  The university wants to find descendants of those slaves and give them special access to attend Georgetown. Put them in the front of the line, they say. What if they are not college material? Should we just admit people based on their ancestry? How is this helping the ongoing problem with institutional inequality facing the Black underclass? But what about those Blacks who are successful in every walk of American life today (including our President)? Why are we not recognizing and mending the real problems in less successful Black lives?

May I acidly note that nobody has ever proposed reparations for the Chinese, who built our railroads and were then hunted down, lynched by mobs, or deported back to China in the 19th century? Who is proposing to admit every person with Native American blood to universities, ready or not?  And has anyone noted that the oldest institution of slavery (much before Black slavery) is that of women, a slavery that only ended in modern Western society and those Asian societies influenced by the West? Is anyone proposing reparations for 10,000 years of female servitude?

When the UN “abolished” slavery in 1952, they didn't notice that in Muslim-majority countries (the worst being Saudi Arabia), women are de facto slaves who have no rights beyond those given them by their masters.  Furthermore, just saying that slavery is illegal does not stop that institution. Human trafficking and chattel slavery are still alive and well in Africa and India.

We can rename buildings in universities named for founders who happened to own slaves, although slavery was legal in their day. Should we rename Washington, DC, and refuse to recognize in history all the presidents who lived before Lincoln abolished the institution of slavery? Are we ready to do that?
Are we ready to rewrite history as the half-educated students of Ivy League schools want to do by eliminating the study of western civilization (because it is White), Shakespeare's plays, and American history because they are not about women and people of color? Such students, if listened to, will remain half-educated. Should Hip-Hop replace Bach? Why are their professors cowering instead of being the grownups in the room?

How about addressing the problems of our human society's long practice of slavery and inequality intelligently and in a way that will make a real difference? Rather than personal reparations for descendants of slaves (many of whom do not need this any more), spend the money on good schools, helpful mentoring, and admission to jobs and institutions to which the young are then qualified.  A helping hand is far better than a handout.

It is certainly important for us to understand our history, and to recognize that some of our ancestors' institutions are no longer acceptable today. I want my free, competent, and completely equal granddaughters to know that their lives owe something to people in the past who made this happen. I want inner city Black children to learn about people, both White (Quakers) and Black (civil rights heroes and founders of schools) who wanted to end inequality.

We women owe our emancipation to white men, as well as to our foremothers who fought for it. If the men hadn't voted for it, we would still be chattel.  Black slavery was ended by white men (Lincoln and all the senators who voted for emancipation).

However, ending an institution does not immediately end its terrible effects. We are still dealing with the consequences of institutional inequality for some of our Black (or female) citizens. We would be wise to address what is needed, rather than engaging in the meaningless activity of rewriting history more in accord with our current taste.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or

The Fuss over Headscarves

Laina Farhat-Holzman
September 10, 2016

When President Ronald Reagan stood at the Berlin wall and said: “Mr. Gorbachev, Take Down This Wall.” Some of the President's advisers were horrified that he said this, considering it very undiplomatic.  The President was very lucky---that shortly after his challenge, events converged, resulting in the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the USSR.

The PBS program Frontline recently did an investigative report on Saudi Arabia, not an easy thing to do considering how paranoid and closed off that fanatical Muslim country is. What has changed is that many Saudis have mobile phones with cameras that provide “citizen journalism” that the state cannot suppress. Almost the entire Frontline broadcast relied on these pictures. (We see the same in confrontations between authorities and the American inner-city Black population. Black bystanders and the police themselves have the means to document these confrontations.)

An older documentary on Saudi Arabia (1980) was Death of a Princess, a British film that created an international furor. The Saudis briefly cut diplomatic relations with the UK; but the damage was done. This was the story of a young royal woman who tried to flee the country with her lover.  She was caught and was executed (shot) in a parking lot, and her lover was decapitated (very badly) by a clumsy executioner.

In the current Frontline, Saudi Arabia appears much more wobbly than most analysts acknowledge. Many experts say that the country is stable, that the Royals have a firm hold, and that the Religious Police cannot be challenged. The Saudis have had money enough to buy off disgruntled sectors in their country. But now, oil money is in meltdown.

The Saudis are paranoid about Iran because 25% of the Saudi population (living in the eastern Arabian oil fields) are Shiite and badly treated. Eastern Arabia borders on Iran, their Shiite (and non-Arab) neighbor, whom the Saudis fear. Saudis regard even the most peaceful demonstrations as a threat to their power and use draconian punishments. A popular Shiite cleric, much respected by his people, was arrested and, despite global protests, decapitated as a traitor.
Moreover, it is not only Shiites or poor Saudis currently grumbling because their generous benefits have stopped (blame oil prices), but educated young elites using a new medium, blogging, on the Internet. One young man who suggested that Wahhabi Islam needed liberalization was arrested and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and a long prison sentence for his “crime.” His wife and young children fled the country and were given refuge in Canada.

What struck me was the demeanor of his wife, who was extensively interviewed for this program. She was radiantly beautiful, articulate, and a loving mother to her three youngsters.  She wore no hijab! The minute she left oppressive Saudi Arabia, the veil came off. The same is true for Saudi women artists, filmmakers, and others who find it impossible to work in that country. It is even true for most upper-class Saudi women when they fly from Saudi Arabia to London. The oppressive clothes come off, replaced by blue jeans and a face open to the world.

The most potent symbol of Islam's stranglehold on people without choices is the mandatory hijab. Saudi women must not be seen or heard. In the Frontline film, a totally veiled woman was shopping in a supermarket. A man approached her, punched her in the head and knocked her to the ground. He then walked off. He did it because he could.

My favorite scene, however, was a group of women harassed by a bullying religious cop with a whip. The women had had enough. They beat him and left him on the ground.

Something new is being born in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Women are no longer accepting their culture's oppression submissively.  At great risk, some take off their veils and drive their cars.

Even ISIS, which used to flog women for not wearing a burqa, now forbids it near any of their own security zones.  The burkatini is just silly, not dangerous. But wearing hijab defies the reasons for moving to the West, freedom from oppression.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or

Laina At the Movies

By Laina Farhat-Holzman
July 2016

Taxi (Tehran)

Jafar Panahi is one of Iran's most talented filmmakers whose viewpoint so worries his government that he has spent time in prison and has been banned for 20 years (most of his productive life) from making films. Happily for us, he has managed to continue to make films with no help from the Ministry of Culture by shooting them in his apartment, using a secret private home, or in this latest case, driving a taxi around Tehran, picking up an assortment of passengers (amateur actors).
In Tehran, the kind of taxi that picks up multiple passengers at a time is called a Jafari (jitnie). I had many rides in jitnie myself during the years I lived in Tehran, and they were always fascinating; the passengers talked and argued among themselves and with the driver. Iranians love to debate.
In one scene, panahi picks up a religious conservative, fulminating against thieves whom he would have executed. “That would teach them!” he said. Another passenger, a woman, disagreed; “They must be needy! You have no heart.” The conservative huffs and gets out of the car.
He picks up a woman with a bouquet of roses, that she is taking to a friend whose child was just released from prison. She is obviously a friend of Panahi, and we learn that she is the well known defense attorney, Nasrin Sotoudeh. She tells him that there are more people in prison in Iran than anywhere in the world except China!

A couple of quarrelsome older women carrying a huge goldfish bowl get into the cab demanding to go to a particular spring so that they can release the goldfish at exactly noon! They believe that their lives depend on it (nonsensical superstition). Traffic in Tehran doesn't allow anyone to be anywhere on time, and besides, he doesn't know where the spring is.  He flags down another cab and gets rid of them.

A street vendor tempts him with black market videos of American movies that they cannot see in Iran. Woody Allen is a particular favorite. Anything is available in Iran for the right price.
His most entertaining passenger is his young niece, whom he picks up at her school (late, of course). She is a little sarcastic motor-mouth armed with a camera. She is taking a film-making class in school, and tries to understand her teacher's instructions. Her teacher says that the film project must be true to life, except no women without headscarves, no male  characters called by their real Persian names (they must have Muslim names), no violence, no political opinions, no conflicts-----yet realistic. She cannot understand how to do this.

She has already shot one documentary in her neighborhood: a young man courting a girl was thrown out of her house by her father when he learned he was Afghan, not Iranian. The suitor kept coming back. Her brothers beat him up. But the niece knows that the teacher will not accept it. Panahi smiles.

Any Iranian films that make it into the west deserve to be seen. They are always wonderful. Stupid opposition makes them stronger.

Our Little Sister
This Japanese film will probably not be seen by many of you; it was in one of our art cinemas for a short time only.  But I do hope that you will order it on Netflix. It is like having a trip to Japan where you can spend a couple of hours with middle class people in Japan's smaller cities.
In this story, we meet three sisters who live together in a lovely old house in a seaside town. The eldest sister has been playing mother to her younger siblings when the children were deserted by their father, who has since married and divorced two more times, fathering other children. Their mother deserted them because she just did not want the burden of rearing children on her own.
Despite being deserted, the eldest sister does an admirable job of mothering, giving her siblings stability, transmitting Japanese cultural norms, and providing joy: all things they should have had from their irresponsible parents.

When they receive news that their father has died after a long illness, they travel some distance to attend the funeral. We see here the wonderful discipline of Japanese culture: absolute courtesy to their third stepmother, and she to them. They meet their little half-sister, a solemn 15-year-old who is the product of their father's second marriage. The sisters see that the young girl is not happy living with her stepmother, so they invite her to come live with them.

During the course of this film, we see what a Japanese high school is like, how the Japanese worship, how they celebrate the beauties of their country (cherry blossoms, vistas, fireworks, and foods), and how they deal with the pent-up resentments and disappointments of human behavior.
I felt almost envious to see people who, unlike some of my fellow Americans, behave beautifully, with kindness, with care for one another, with exquisite manners, and with a superb sense of responsibility. This is a lovely film!

I don't know how I missed seeing this 2015 Canadian-German thriller when it was first playing, but I was very happy to see it on Netflix. We don't often (if ever) see films about very old people, but those we see are generally full of  regret and are depressing. This one was not!  It was a genuine thriller with two very unlikely protagonists: a 90-year-old, cultured gentleman with growing dementia (Zev Guttman, played by Christopher Plummer) and his equally old, wheel-chair bound but still sharp fellow Holocaust survivor (Max, played by Martin Landau).

The two men have become friends recently when Zev is moved into a Jewish senior residence by his family. Max sends his sometimes befuddled friend on a cross-country trek to find and murder the Nazi concentration camp officer responsible for the death of their families. Max knows that the Nazi had assumed the identity of a dead Jewish inmate, so that he could avoid punishment and escape to America (or Canada) as a Jew. On Internet, he learns that there are four men with this same name, and sends Zev to visit each until he finds the right one and kills him. Because Zev has dementia, Max writes out complete instructions in a letter, arranges and pre-pays taxis and gives Max money so that he will not have to use credit cards.

The movie takes the initially fragile Zev from hesitant to increasingly competent as he goes across the continent. He buys a glock pistol, navigates buying more changes of clothes when his trip is longer than planned, and is helped along the way by many people who are very kind to this elegant old man.

The plot is marvelous.  This is not the first story to take up the theme of how some very evil Nazis assumed Jewish identity in camps and then lived out their lives in comfort, obviously suppressing their personal guilt. This one is a dilly!

Hell and High Water

I only saw this film because nothing else was playing that seemed interesting. To my great surprise, this was excellent: the story, the character studies, and the acting of every single character in the story. It is a real summer sleeper hit.

The story is about two brothers, Texans, who carry out a series of bank robberies against the Midland Banks in dreary west Texas small towns. They are clever enough to take only loose money (no packets that might have dye that would betray them). The heists are not large enough to get the feds engaged. But one Texas Ranger, a very smart fellow who is just a few weeks from enforced retirement (which he dreads), decides to catch these robbers.

What makes this film so timely is the dreary west Texas region, once part of the oil boom, but now in the bust cycle. Money is scarce. Everybody has had bitter dealings with the Midlands Banks so that few sympathize when these banks are robbed. These are the kind of people who believe that the country is going to the dogs and who just might support a political demagogue's vision of America.

The brothers are cut out of very different cloth. Toby Howard (Chris Pine) is a divorced father of two boys. He cannot find work and is desperate to save the ranch of his mother, who just died. Oil has been found on the land and the bank is eager to take it back.

Toby's brother Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) is a wild ex-convict who loves to raise hell. He is the creator of the heists to help his brother pay the bank before the ranch is lost. He loves being a hell-raiser. The whole caper is right up his alley. Foster plays this character with glee; he is obviously enjoying the danger.

Jeff Bridges plays Marcus Hamilton, the soon-to-retire ranger: a wise-cracking, Texas-talking good-old-boy who hides his intelligence behind the banter.

The film offers excitement, a sharp dose of dismal reality in parts of our country, and characters who are more than their faults. Even Tanner feels love----love for his brother. He is not just a thief and killer.

This is a very, very good movie.  You will be entertained----and informed.

Florence Foster Jenkins
This British-French biographical comedy-drama film is marginally worth seeing because of the amazing skill of Meryl Streep, she of the uncanny ear for languages.  In this film, she used that talent to learn a number of coloratura areas, and then learn to sing them really badly.

The film is about Florence Foster Jenkins, an ageing heiress in New York in 1944 who is obsessed with becoming a great opera singer. Unlike Meryl Streep herself, Jenkins had no ear at all. She was utterly unaware of how terrible her singing was, but because of her generosity as a patron of the musical arts and a coterie of elderly friends who were oblivious to her ear-shattering unmusicality, her delusions continued.  She was also aided and abetted by her younger husband, a British aristocrat (without money) who protected her by bribing people to attend her concerts and critics (with one exception) to write praises in the newspapers.

I found this film sad and painful to watch, despite the mockery of this poor woman. I don't see why this should have been a film at all.

Libya as an American Foreign Policy Problem

August 27, 2016
Laina Farhat-Holzman

Libya is a perfect example of why it is so difficult for the US to design a good foreign policy where
one-size-fits-all. The lingering ugliness of what happened in Benghazi is just a small part of the problem. The Benghazi issue, as a matter of fact, is more unique to Libya than to other Middle East countries. Analysis of Libya involves the following issues:

What Libya has in common with other Arab countries:

o     Islam. Islam itself is not a one-size-fits-all religion. The religion is responsible for the general lack of modernization in all Muslim-majority countries, but this backwardness depends upon the literalness of the believers. In all Muslim-majority countries, the educated sectors tend to be less literal, less accepting of religion and politics being one, and much more interested in joining the Western developed world.

     Modernization is far less problematic for developing countries that are not Muslim (China, India, and the former Central Asian communist countries, even when Muslim). These other countries may have problems with governance, (dictatorships and authoritarian structures), but Muslim countries have problems with both authoritarian systems and an authoritarian religion.

o     Religion as ideology. When a religion develops a militant strain, using force and violence to bring in new converts or control a population, it is little different from other militant ideologies, such as Nazism, Communism, or sects with cults of personality (North Korea). Islam is going through such a phase today, fueled by oil money and a literalist form of Islam. Religion as ideology governs Saudi Arabia, but without Saudi oil money, it would never have spread worldwide as rapidly as it has. Saudi-funded religious brainwashing schools now span the globe, from modernizing Indonesia to miserable Pakistan and Afghanistan. This training produces foot-soldiers willing to kill and die for their cult.

o     Tribalism.     Human development follows a trajectory from family clan to tribes (a collection of clans) to city-states when accumulation of wealth permits urbanization, to unification of many urban areas into a state with centralized governance. This process began 10,000 years ago and is still unfolding today. But the process is not linear. When central governments fall, the entire system can fall back into its lowest political structures, tribalism, which gives us warlords.

What Libya has that differs from other Muslim states:

o     No population explosion.  Unlike the rest of the Arab world, which has suffered from horrific population explosion, Libya is a large country with a small population (5 million) and oil wealth. It had a ferocious and batty mind-controlling dictator (Gaddafi) who kept the country under his boot. We had no idea just how much damage he had done to every institution of governance and economy.  When he was violently overthrown, we watched the country disintegrate.

It fell into three parts: Tripoli (its ancient Roman city in the west), Benghazi (least damaged intellectually by Gaddafi and influenced by neighboring Egyptian intellectuals), and mountain tribes who are Berbers, a non-Arab group, persecuted and enforced converts to Islam. The size of this country and the distances between and among these sectors has added to the alienation created by destruction of the central government.

o     The Benghazi Attack on the Consulate. This horror should not be a cause for party politics (blaming Hillary Clinton when Secretary of State). American policy demanded that we support and nurture democratic institutions, a well-intentioned bipartisan policy since Woodrow Wilson. Libya's small population, vast size, and oil wealth fooled us into thinking that a reasonable democracy could be encouraged there.

What we did not know was how damaged that population was; how, when dictatorial force was removed, there would be no national identity. Libya came apart, violently. Our brave ambassador, Stevens, was lured to Benghazi to meet with young patriots; he was instead murdered by Islamist fascists. Consulates are not protected by Marine guards. Even embassies can be overrun if the host government doesn't protect them (Iran and Pakistan).

We have too often broken a bad country and then left before fixing it. Congress was unwilling to debate intervention in Libya and Syria, leaving the President with a “mission impossible” that they can then criticize.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or

Some Memories of George Von der Muhll

Some Memories of George Von der Muhll

Many decades member of the ISCSC, our dear friend George Von der Muhll passed on this February 8, 2016, of natural causes.  He was beloved by many because of his phenomenal knowledge of civilizations past, present and debatable, and because of his relentlessly positive and erudite advocacy of civilizational perspectives on global problems.

This marks the departure of another Titan of our small and ever aging crew.  The decline of national support for humanities, much less classical studies of civilizations, has dried up the stream of junior faculty who used to replace our Titans when they retired or moved on.

George studied at Oberlin College, the London School of Economics, and Harvard before teaching at Swarthmore College, PA, the University of Chicago, briefly in Ethiopia, in New Zealand (1977-78) and in Uganda from 1965-66 and 1972-73 (before he had to flee with his young family due to dangers posed by then-ruler Idi Amin).  George was a remarkably fearless man for a tiny professor of governments and governance.  But his main academic home became the University of California at Santa Cruz where he taught politics, and rose to become provost of Merrill College at UCSC.  After retirement, he also taught and administered programs at Utrecht, Leiden and Maastricht Universities in the Netherlands from 2000-2002.

George was different from many scholars in that he actually walked on the ground of most of the modern, ancient, large and small civilizations he studied.  He had fairly pronounced scoliosis, so in his later years we would expect him to limp up, bent over with ever new and fascinating stories of his latest adventures in far off places.  To the end he was still planning excursions to near war zones like Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

George was a remarkable example of an ancient, and I fear vanishing kind of scholar.  He was a person filled with wonder at the world and a never ending curiosity about the human condition and how we got there.  And he did not just read books, of which he had thousands, but walked on the ground that books attempt to represent.

George was survived by two sons and his second wife, Lydia Blanchard Von der Muhll, who he had met at a military high school in Germany shortly after WW II.  His dad had been in the OSS and the CIA and her dad was a diplomat in Brussels.  A story fit for a Hollywood movie follows because they did not marry right away, rather decades later and in fact, she ‘stole’ him from another woman, who had been Mayor of Santa Cruz.  That is a private adventure.  But they ended up together in Santa Cruz for most of their latter years.  Lydia first joined our conference in Dublin, Ireland in 1994, came occasionally thereafter, and remains a scholar in her own right.


George and Lydia Von der Muhll in Santa Cruz     Forever 17 and 18 in their Hearts
  July, 2015.

I was very fond of George Von der Muhll.  I will remember him and Lydia forever, so I greatly regret the passing of one of our truly world-class civilizational scholars.  Life is too short to capture all the dimensions of that which George shared with us for at least 30 years.  May our remaining Titans stay as healthy and as filled with wonder as they can be.  The young can still be inspired, even though colleges don’t help them as much as once we did.

Michael Andregg
University of St. Thomas and
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

Some photos from the 46th Annual ISCSC Conference at Monmouth University, New Jersey, USA, June 29-July 1 2016

Some photos from the 46th Annual ISCSC Conference at Monmouth University, New Jersey, USA, June 29-July 1 2016

Dr. David Rosner (past President), Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman

In his monumental “A Study of History” Dr. Arnold J. Toynbee identifies 23 civilizations that have existed since the beginning of recorded history.

Benjamin Landis

In his monumental “A Study of History” Dr. Arnold J. Toynbee identifies 23 civilizations that have existed since the beginning of recorded history.  The expression “recorded history” itself implies civilization.  Societies and cultures that existed prior to recorded history are deemed uncivilized, pre-civilized.  The 23 civilizations identified by Dr. Toynbee are :
First Generation: Minoan, Shang, Sumeric, Egyptiac, Indus, Mayan, Andean (Inca), Yucatec, and Mexic
Second Generation: Hellenic, Syriac, Sinic, Indic, Hittite, Babylonic
Third Generation: Western, Russian Orthodox, Byzantine Orthodox, Chinese, Far Eastern (Japanese-Korean), Hindu
In addition, Toynbee identifies four cultures that he names “abortive civilizations”: Far Western Christian, Far Eastern Christian, Scandinavian, Syriac
(I apologize to the reader.  I am in France far from my copy of “A Study of History”, so I am relying on Wikipedia for my information.  It is obvious that the Wikipedia author of the entry “A Study of History” is not a careful writer.  He begins his article by listing 19 civilizations identified by Toynbee.  Later in the article (Section 6) he lays out a chart with a heading stating that Toynbee had identified 23 civilizations.  Interestingly, the author shows the Syriac Civilization as one of the 19; he does not show it as one of the 23; he does list it as one of the abortive civilizations.  Furthermore, on the chart of the 23 civilizations there are only 21, unless one counts the Persian and the Arabic as civilizations blending later into the Islamic Civilization.  In my opinion, this is a stretch and to the degree that I remember Toynbee he never suggested  that there existed a Persian and an Arabic Civilization, precursors to the Islamic Civilization.  In any case, these details are not germane to this blog.)
Toynbee also identifies five “arrested civilizations”: Polynesian, Eskimo, Nomads, Ottoman, Spartan
With regard to these “arrested civilizations” Toynbee, in my opinion, is way off the mark.  Except possibly for the Ottoman and the Spartan, the other three come nowhere close to meeting the conditions laid out by Toynbee to become civilizations.  I mention one crucial point: Agriculture is the sine qua non to becoming a civilization.  And not just family agriculture that meets the need of one family group, but agriculture that produces more than one family group needs.  This opens the doors to many of the essential features of a civilization.  I will get into this more thoroughly later.  There was never any possibility that the Polynesians, Eskimos, and Nomads achieve that level of agriculture.  So, they remained primitive societies, trapped by their environments, with no possibility of evolving.
The last volume of Toynbee’s study was published in 1961, five and a half decades ago.  I live in perpetual surprise that no one has thoroughly examined his work, no one has proposed modifications to his concept, no one has corrected any errors he may have made.  The only critique I know was on the minor point of Toynbee having designated Jewry as a fossil society.  I believe that there was one book published criticizing this point of view.  Yet since Toynbee finished his study there have been a number of scholars celebrated for their views and concepts on civilizations: Huntington, Clough, Melko, et al., yet compared to Toynbee their efforts are piecemeal and inconclusive.  If one goes to the home page of the ISCSC and looks into the item “Civilization Defined” one will discover a fairly lengthy “discussion” entitled “Civilizations and Recommendations.”  Reading through this, one discovers that it is not really a “discussion”, but a series of viewpoints and ruminations on civilization.  There is a section entitled “Recommended Readings on Civilization.”  Toynbee’s “A Study of History” is not included.  The various viewpoints emphasize the cultural aspects of a civilization and yet, a civilization’s culture is usually one of the last features of a civilization to be developed.  For example, the essential characteristics of Western Civilization are Nationalism and Christianity.  Western culture, such as we define it today, was developed slowly well after the creation of Western Civilization.  The United States as the last developed part of Western Civilization, as Rome was to Athens in the Hellenic Civilization, has contributed one additional essential characteristic, i. e., Constitutional Democracy.
Later, the participants in the so-called discussion are asked to recommend readings on civilization.  Only two recommend Toynbee.
I do not understand how one can perform a comparative study of civilizations if one does not define the features of a civilization.  I ask any reader of this blog to please explain that to me.
Even though Toynbee stands head and shoulders above any other scholar having published a text or texts on civilization, he was not perfect.  His understanding was sometimes clouded, as is any scholar’s, and sometimes deficient, since what he knew when he wrote has been expanded since he finished.  For example: As an “abortive civilization” a prime candidate would be the Ancient Pueblan culture as manifested at Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Hovenweep, etc.
Instead of piece mealing the study of civilization, one should be recommending young scholars to look hard at Toynbee.  Are the civilizations that he identified correct?  Should there be more or less?  Is it legitimate to talk about “abortive” and “arrested” civilizations?  What are the time spans for each of the no longer existing civilizations?  How does one determine when a civilization begins and when it ends?  The Andean (Inca) and Mexic (Aztec) civilizations should be relatively easy to fit into their temporal space, since they were both abruptly ended by Spanish conquest.  But how long did it take for the cultural aspects of these civilizations to be replaced by a Spanish culture?
The members of the “discussion” group have significant problems in determining what a civilization is.  First, with respect to a definition, all one needs to do is go to any worthwhile dictionary and look up the definition.  For example, using Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, ©1999, one finds the definition of a civilization.  There are 6 different definitions proposed.  I believe that definitions 2 and 4 are the most appropriate to this discussion: “2. the condition of being civilized; social organization of a high order, marked by the development and use of a written language and by advances in the arts and sciences, government, etc.  4. The countries and peoples considered to have reached a high stage of  social and cultural development”.  My own definition is: The most advanced and most complex social, political, economic, cultural, and military environment thus far achieved by humankind.
   What is important is that coming up with a universally accepted definition of civilization does not in the least aid the comparative study of civilizations.  A definition categorizes.  That’s all.  What is necessary to do comparative studies is to agree on the features or characteristics of the entities being compared.  The ISCSC has not done this.  Consequently it is not capable of living up to its name.  Yet, the path to a universal understanding of the features of a civilization was laid down more than 70 years ago.  I refer to V. Gordon Childe’s list of the essential characteristics of a civilization.  Not surprisingly, his name is not mentioned by anyone at any time in the “discussion”.
Let me list what Childe considered to be the essential features of a civilization.
1. Large and thickly populated settlements
2. A variety of specialized occupations
3. The ability to store surplus food and other goods
4. Large public buildings
5. A variety and ranking of social positions
6. Writing and a system of notation
7. The beginning of science
8. The development of an important art style
9. Trade over long distances
10. The beginning of social control based on a central government rather than kinship
There is something for a civilizational scholar, who has no preconceived ideas, to sink his teeth into.  Why has Childe been neglected in the field of civilizational studies?  His is the essential work.  Today’s scholars need to go over these 10 features and determine whether they are essential to distinguishing a civilization from the next lower level of social and political organization.  How do Toynbee’s 23 or 21 or 19 civilizations stack up with regard to these characteristics?  Do all of his proposed civilizations meet the standard?  One that comes immediately to mind is the Andean (Inca) Civilization.  It is a good example of the fact that civilizations do not spring full-bodied from the head of Zeus.  When it met its untimely end by Spanish conquest it had not yet developed a system of writing.  However, modern research seems to indicate that it was on the path to develop such a system.
I close, by recalling to the reader’s attention that without agricultural development beyond the family group many of the above characteristics could not, and would not, have developed.

Culture Matters: International (Part 2 of 2)

Culture Matters: International (Part 2 of 2)
Laina Farhat-Holzman
July 23, 2016

In the 1990s, Samuel Huntington first wrote an essay, then a book, called The Clash of Civilizations. This influential historian threw down a gauntlet that most liberal and idealistic scholars did not want to pick up. But this work was so important that in history conferences across the country, the book was reviewed and critiqued. He said every border between Islamic countries and non-Islamic neighbors was bloody. This was obvious between the Israelis and Arabs, but we had not realized that it was also true between Muslims and Hindus, Thais, Buddhists, and within Muslim countries themselves. Huntington was right.

Iran, a rapidly westernizing country, was the first to fall to Islamist fanatics in the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran. The educated elites fled, taking up new homes in Europe and the United States, where they enjoy much better lives in the west. This class, being indifferent to Islam, some of them also Jews or Baha'is, have integrated well.

Pakistan, founded as a secular but Muslim-majority state, was the next to be transformed into a mother-lode of Islamist violence. Its flood of emigrants to the UK, Canada, and the US, contain both elite secularists and a jihadi fifth-column. Pakistan itself has become a menace to its region, especially creating mayhem in India and Afghanistan. Our problem in dealing with Pakistan is that we needed their government during the cold war, but they no longer are a reliable ally.

In Turkey, established after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, its first president Kamal Ataturk, a respected army general and modernist, tried to free Turks from Islam. He was relentlessly secular. He changed the Arabic alphabet to the Roman alphabet; outlawed the veil and replaced the brimless fez with a western brimmed hat, making Muslim prayer difficult. He made the army the protector of the secular society. This worked for Turkey until their present leader, Erdogan, began a stealth campaign to re-Islamize Turkey. Once more, a Muslim-majority country has bloody borders and increasing loss of internal freedom.

Egypt, which was modernizing and secularizing in the past, had a close call when the ignorant electorate voted for the Muslim Brotherhood to lead them. After one year of this nightmare, a revolt unseated them. Their current leader is a modern general, but he has not been able to de-fang Islamist judicial authorities.

An Egyptian court sentenced to prison a former TV host, a researcher, for daring to suggest that certain passages of Muslim holy texts promote extremism. He said these texts need review and revision. For this, he was found guilty of “defaming religious symbols, imams and senior scholars.” This sort of thing happens every day in Saudi Arabia, but is shocking in Egypt. Elsewhere in the Muslim world, including Muslim communities in the West, “defaming Islam” or “insulting Mohammad” can get one murdered.

A new law has been passed in Britain, which until now, with misguided tolerance, had been reluctant to oppose the values of their Muslim immigrants. Traditional Muslim practices of wife battery, child abuse, and coercive bullying, practices illegal in the West, will no longer be justified as Muslim “tradition” and “religion.” If the British are serious, prosecution will greatly improve life for Muslim wives and children.

Norway mandates anti-rape training for immigrants from “more conservative societies.” “To force someone into sex is not permitted, even when you are married to that person.” Disproportionate rape numbers by immigrants necessitated these changes in law. Taking daughters out of school to marry them off abroad, taking them to Africa on summer break for genital mutilation, murdering them for dating or refusing forced marriage, is wrong and must be punished. Murdering an author for “insulting Islam,” murdering an “apostate” for leaving Islam, will get you prison or deportation.

Sweden's misguided enthusiasm for multicultural tolerance is in meltdown as public schools are rife with violence. Rape numbers, no longer hushed up, are unprecedented.

Huntington did not live long enough to see that this clash of civilizations would come for us at home. All cultures are not equal. Some are horrible. And differences lead to violence.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or