Monday, July 10, 2006

No Bull Savage

It's been too long since I linked to a Spengler column. Here's a doozie:

Two billion war deaths would have occurred in the 20th century if modern societies suffered the same casualty rate as primitive peoples, according to anthropologist Lawrence H Keeley, who calculates that two-thirds of them were at war continuously, typically losing half of a percent of its population to war each year.

This and other noteworthy prehistoric factoids can be found in Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn, a survey of genetic, linguistic and archeological research on early man. Primitive peoples, it appears, were nasty, brutish, and short, not at all the cuddly children of nature depicted by popular culture and post-colonial academic studies. The author writes on science for the New York Times and too often wades in where angels fear to tread. A complete evaluation is beyond my capacity, but there is no gainsaying his representation of prehistoric violence.

Part of me wants to know who this is, what paths he trod, and why an observer so good writes for the Times of Asia and not New York or London. But a bigger part of me just enjoys him as the anonymous voice that enlightens and infuriates by turns but can't ever be simply dismissed as thoughtless or ill-informed. So if you know, don't tell me. Unless he's someone I know.