How To Create An Asabiya Black Hole

There are some areas of the world that seem immune to good government, that seem to anarchical that there is no hope of bringing any kind of unity to them–Sicily, Haiti, Somalia, and Afghanistan spring to mind. In these realms a strongman may be able to keep power for a lifetime, but as soon as he is dead, if his heir is not similarly vigorous, the unity forced from above does not last nor endure, and as soon as possible, chaos invariably springs up in civil disorder, ‘organized’ crime, and the asabiya black hole rears its ugly head again, prompting the next invader to take their chances or the next strongman to attempt his rise.

But there is a more fundamental question to begin with. How do asabiya black holes exist in the first place? How did Sicily, Somalia, Afghanistan, or Haiti become as they are? Let us at least briefly survey the sad history of these lands so that we may have some grounds by which to compare them to see if there are any other insights that may be gleaned from their suffering, so that if it is not possible for us to humanly undo the damage, that we may at least avoid creating further black holes through our behavior.

Afghanistan is the most difficult case of all, and so let us start with that. From the very beginning of human history, Afghanistan appears to have been an asabiya black hole, lacking in order. It is near the core area of Shamanism–central Asia, and it has never had a native lasting empire. Every once in a while outside peoples, like the Kushan [1], or a vigorous internal dynasty like the Durrani [2], would unify the clans for a while, but within a few generations the banditry and rebellion would begin again. The difficulty is that these peoples either came from elsewhere or clearly gathered their imperial interests from others, and from the beginning there was a lack of internal cohesion. Therefore it remains obscure how Afghanistan came to be the graveyard of empires in the first place.

The other cases are at least more straightforward. Let us progress to Sicily, as its history as an asabiya black hole has been well established now for two thousand years. The last “local” power there to endure for any great length of time were the Greek city states of Syracuse. Once the Roman Empire took over the territory Sicily and Southern Italy became bases for Roman elites to establish slave plantations. From that time forward the place has become a total disaster. No native rulers have prospered in the last 2000 years. Every ruler of Sicily since the Greeks has brought their power and cohesion from elsewhere and then struggled to fight against organized crime and the phenomenon of chaos, be it the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Normans, the Hohenzollerns, the Anjou, the Aragonese, the Austrians, or even the modern Italians. Sicily and Southern Italy remains a dead weight on Italy.

Here at least the cause seems pretty straightforward. Southern Italy was a colonial region of a larger empire where slavery was widespread. As early as the 1st century BC Sicily was the base of the slave revolts led by leaders such as Spartacus. The crushing of those revolts and the harsh rule of the Romans (and later leaders) seems to have deeply ingrained a chaotic disposition and no social cohesion has ever developed in two millennia. The example of Sicily would seem to indicate that once an asabiya black hole develops, its long-term reversal is nearly impossible, as the example of Afghanistan would also seem to indicate.

Let us now turn to Somalia, a well-known Asabiya black hole. In recorded history there is one major empire that sprang from Somalia, and that is Zeila, an empire that appears to have been a Somali one [3], the capital of the Sultanate of Adal, which flourished for several centuries, and then was a backwater of no sufficient importance to lead to major problems, as both Zeila and Berbera were able to enter into Somaliland and enjoy some level of social cohesion lacking from the remainder of Somalia.

The problem is that the rest of Somalia appears to have lacked a history of indiginous rulership that has made Somaliland strong. Mogadishu was part of the Omani-based empire along the Swahili coast and was a major slave trading port for the Arabian Peninsula. Here again we see, as in Afghanistan, a rigorously clan-based unstable state that has always lacked strong government, and as in Sicily, a state where slavery had a greatly negative influence on social cohesion. The result, of course, is that Somalia either must be governed tyrannically or cannot be governed as a unitary state at all. That state appears irreversible.

Now let us come to Haiti. Almost like Sicily, Haiti owes its entrance onto world military history as as result of a successful slave revolt that killed or dispossessed its entire elite (white Frenchmen) and led to a lengthy and destructive war with France where a great deal of treachery was involved. Again, the history of slavery and treachery and hostility from neighboring areas (like the Southern United States, which was horrified at the specter of a successful slave revolt) led to a total collapse of internal cohesion, which appears irreversible.

Of the four asabiya black holes we have examined, all of them have a history of foreign conquest and colonialism (probably encouraged by its chaotic state) and most of them have a history of clan identity or the negative influence of plantation slavery. These same problems are present in other places where asabiya has been lacking, like Israel during the time of the Judges and highland Scotland.

So, if you want to create an asabiya black hole, it seems important to do one of two things, if not both. First, one needs to encourage clan identity and local identity at the expense of a larger identity. Segment languages to create a large amount of dialects and judge people harshly based on their use of certain language. Show favoritism based on family origin and clan identity. Fight endlessly over the leaders one follows, and create plenty of cults of personality to divide and conquer. That way people will never be able to work together because they are divided so powerfully already and lack any kind of larger unity and identity to pull them together.

Second, if you want to create an asabiya black hole, create some kind of system of slavery or serfdom with a police state controlling it, so that no trust can develop between people, because of the constant threat of treachery. That way you can divide people by power into those who rule and those who are ruled, and prevent people from developing the sense of personal responsibility to learn how to govern first themselves and then others. Show only models of tyrannical leaders so that people have no other models of leadership to pattern themselves after, and by all means seek fallacious religious justification for the rampant injustice and tyranny present in that society. If you do this for enough time–a couple centuries is enough–then an asabiya black hole that can develop that can last thousands of years. Then you too can create your own Afghanistan, Sicily, Somalia, or Haiti, an area that is practically ungovernable and not really worth governing even if one could.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kushan_Empire

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durrani_Empire

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeila

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to How To Create An Asabiya Black Hole

  1. Pingback: A Modest Proposal For A Plebiscite To Resolve The Status Of The Republic Of Somaliland | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Mongo Darte says:

    Thank you, very informative.

  3. Pingback: The Gathering Of The Chickens: Part Two | Edge Induced Cohesion

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