Islamic Terrorism in Paris and Charlie Chaplin’s Hitler Ballet

It occurs to me this evening that Charlie Chaplin’s classic globe dance, as a means of trying to enter and represent visually the psyche of Hitler, is curiously apropos to the why question surrounding Paris tonight. The idea of violently achieving a world of perfect harmony, all devils vanquished, and living under the banner of an alpha father and ideology (religious or secular), is an apocalyptic fantasy that will always spell-cast a lot of people–and lead some of them to actually try and create it through direct action. But, of course, the fantasy enacted rarely generates a new world, but rather blows up the one that is. (Chaplin’s dance piece brilliantly concludes with a bang).

In any case, the below ballet of Chaplin’s suggests a key aspect of the “why question” surrounding the Islamic terrorism that we are witnessing in Paris. And recall that, like our 21st century terrorists, Hitler also regarded Paris as a chief prize in his battle against secular democratic politics and the Anglo-French Enlightenment. What delight he took in conquering Paris! Like the Twin Towers in New York, the Eiffel Tower is a lightning rod that attracts the psychological electricity of those who would undo the Anglo-French (and American) Enlightenment.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to Islamic Terrorism in Paris and Charlie Chaplin’s Hitler Ballet

  1. Staffan says:

    I think we’re dealing with very different phenomena here. The Germans had no desire for world domination until they were sucked dry by the Versailles Treaty. Regular middle class was literally thrown out on the street. If it wasn’t for that, Hitler would have remained a nobody ranting at some cafe.

    The Muslims on the other hand have been inbreeding for thousands of years. If you accept evolution, you must also ask yourself how this would affect their inclusive altruism and outgroup hostility. It may look like religion, but behind Islam are the sects of Islam, behind sects are coalitions of various clans. Other groups with a long history of inbreeding/endogamy are responsible for most of the organized crime in American history – Italians, Jews, the Irish. Until they assimilated they had the same attitude – we are not part of any society, non-kin are not morally relevant.

    (I hope you’re ok btw, I just heard there is a shooting in LA.)

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Hi Staffan,

      Yes, I’m okay, thanks for asking, and I’ll have to think about your analysis here. I seriously doubt that a geneticist would conclude that genetic variation in, say, Saudi Arabia, is any less than among other groups. And recall that it is not just biological variation that gets selected for, but cultural variation. Culture changes much more rapidly than genes. Only a thousand years ago, Europe was in the grip of medievalism. I don’t think that says anything of substantial importance about the genes of Europeans today–or of Europeans at that time. I do agree with you that authoritarian temperaments are heritable, but the question is: to what degree does a society start to sputter out when that trait gets spread too broadly? There are checks to these sorts of temperaments, and given the right circumstances, more “bonobo-like” traits will come forward among any group of humans (because the variation is present).

      Islam’s civilizational model is essentially parasitic on the West, which means it’s broken. It doesn’t produce scientists in sufficient numbers (or wealth in sufficient amounts) to pose more than an annoyance to the direction that global capitalist history seems to be taking our species. A century from now, I’m betting all of the religions will be profoundly weaker than they are now.

      In Iran, for example, I’ve read that mosque attendance is way down, along with fertility levels. Know anything about that?

  2. Staffan says:

    Thanks for your reply, and I’m glad to hear you’re ok.

    As for genetic variation, it’s not controversial that homozygosity is increased by inbreeding and is linked to various genetic disease.

    My point however is that as inbreeding makes you more related to your relatives it selects for traits variously called ingroup loyalty, familiar altruism and so on. It’s well documented in evolutionary psychology that when asked about who they would save from a burning building (give the last piece of food etc) people in all cultures tend to favor their closest young relatives. Most people do this because those who favored other people didn’t pass their genes to the next generation as efficiently.

    So familial favoritism is proportional to genetic relatedness. But what happens with populations that have been inbreeding for thousands of years is that the selective pressure for this favoritism increases, as you are now more related to your relatives. (Just in case you’re a SJ Gould fan and think a few thousands years don’t change gene frequencies, I should mention that the gene variant for lactose tolerance went from zero to 95% in Scandinavia in 4000 years so it’s reasonable to assume that European DNA can have changed in significant ways in the thousand years since Medieval Time as well.)

    What happens is that people become excessively interested in their extended family (as a cousin isn’t just a cousin anymore) and becoming increasingly disinterested or hostily towards other people and to society in general. Sure, culture can change fast, but only in the confines of such heritable traits, as illustrated by the ev psych research mentioned above. This is a likely explanation why people with a history of inbreeding have problems with sectarian violence, corruption, and a lack of general civic-mindedness. It’s not about religion per se. Islam is just the religion of that region. Most peoples are affected to some extent. In Europe, you have Southern Italy and Northern Ireland. Even today you’ll find plenty of signs in Belfast saying, “Room for hire, locals only,” or anti-Black graffiti.

    In contrast, the people who had the shortest history of inbreeding, those of Northwest European ancestry (especially the English, but not the Celts as mentioned above), are the least violent and corrupted – the bonobos of this world if you like. This is the region from which the Enlightenment grew and which remains its stronghold today. Individualism and human rights aren’t catching on much elsewhere. The West tries to implement it elsewhere but there is a striking rank order stability. It’s clear that others will do this for money but not of themselves. It

    And interesting TED on this here,

    The general ideas outlined here are those of a smart blogger known as HBD Chick,

    A great resource about inbreeding is, run by geneticist Alan Bittles.

  3. Ted says:

    Ah Steffan, preaching bio-genetic stereotyping on a blog about Hitler. Oh, the irony. Isis is ticked off for geo-political and neo-imperialistic (and so economic) reasons. Dna and even religion is irrelevent, especially insofar as solutions are concerned.

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