June 19, 2013

Gypsy parasitism as an outgrowth of Ottoman multiculturalism

Gypsies are notorious for relying more on parasitic strategies than perhaps any other ethnic group of any substantial size. Banditry, welfare, whatever. Part of their way of life looks like a typical pastoralist / nomadic culture of honor, but it is so exaggerated in Gypsies -- way beyond the Bedouin, the Mongols, and the Hatfields and the McCoys.

What selection pressures could have led to their uniquely parasitic way of life? There's a post at West Hunter on the topic of sneaking embarrassing truths about Gypsies into the mainstream media. In the comments sections, I floated this possible explanation. Read the whole comment, the reference, and get into the broader discussion over there.

Briefly, the Ottoman Empire forced multiculturalism on a large part of southeastern Europe, which has always been the main region of Gypsy settlement. Ordinarily, a group that preyed so brazenly and so frequently on a host population would have gotten slaughtered centuries ago if they were sedentary and couldn't flee their attackers.

Or if they were nomadic, they would still have been reduced to "mere" occasional predation like the kind visited upon settled folk by desert Arabs, Mongols, or Irish highwaymen. And before any of those groups organized themselves into a national force -- just everyday opportunistic preying on people who can't chase after you without exhausting their resources, while you know how to live on the move.

The Ottoman Empire blocked that natural response by the host populations by denying them the right to take care of their own business. Only the Ottoman higher-ups could dispense justice, and they were not very interested in it. They just wanted tax money, and group vs. group feuds and conflicts get in the way of that steady stream of money. So, use your control and force to prevent the preyed-upon group from chastening their predators, and the money will just keep flowing in.

Westerners mistakenly believe that we live in some Brave New World of government-enforced multiculturalism. But the historical examples are pretty clear for those who are curious about others who've walked in our shoes before. Or I guess we're re-treading the path that they laid down. Liberals ignore these examples because the results are a damning indictment of the forced multiculturalism that they champion. And conservatives are too damn lunk-headed and incurious to feel like putting themselves in another group's place, even if it's similar to our own in some very important way, even if the outcome of the cross-cultural mind-meld would give them some ammunition against liberals.

One thing's clear: the longer we have forced multiculturalism, the more intensely one group preys on another group within the vibrantly diverse mix, and the more the preyed-upon group is prevented (by threat of force) from retaliating on their predators, the more likely we are to set the perfect lab conditions for the evolution of Gypsies v.2.0. But just like the Ottoman pasha and his elite, our rulers won't have to live next door to them and be preyed on, so only an overthrow of the entire regime would bring the parasitism down to the "ordinary" level you find among other nomadic bandit groups.

....Very interesting times lie ahead, that's for sure.


  1. A weak point in that theory is that gypsies of Iberian Peninsula have a similar behavior (and, afaik, have a very weak relation with balkanik gypsies).

  2. A weak point in that theory is that gypsies of Iberian Peninsula have a similar behavior (and, afaik, have a very weak relation with balkanik gypsies).

  3. But things are getting better, right?


  4. I don't think it's very similar. They are romanticized more, whereas people in the Balkans and central Europe utterly despise their Gypsies.

    When I lived in Barcelona, I rarely heard people get so angry about them, whether spontaneously or if you asked them. Whereas if you bring them up to someone from southeastern Europe, they are likely to rant and curse them.

    So I think the Iberian ones are at the level of the Bedouin, Irish highwaymen, etc. Not as extremely predatory and anti-social as the ones from southeastern Europe.

  5. If communities could not respond to predation diring the ottoman empire, why was there not a mass pogrom of gypsies after southeastern europe gained its independence from the empire?

  6. I mean, I always assumed that a rising crime rate was correlated with more tribalistic behavior. Multiculturalism doesn't exist in a crime-ridden environment. For instance, you commented about the blacks vs. Italian-Americans street battles depicted in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing.

    So I assume, and hope, that as the crime rate rises(it rose in 2012), and the culture gets outgoing(as it seems to be doing), gypsy-like behavior will be less tolerated. We're on the precipice of the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Unless there's another generation to go, in which case I will lose my goddamn mind.


  7. I guess they thought they had bigger problems. Gypsies were always a nasty thorn in their side, but not the size of foreign rule and independent nation-building once it was gone.

    My vague sense is also that the Gypsies started to GTFO of there and spread more into central Europe... perhaps sensing that in the newly ethnically conscious host countries, they were probably not going to be as welcome as before.

    Just guesses though.

  8. "We're on the precipice of the fall of the Ottoman Empire."

    We're definitely past our peak of "asabiya," national solidarity, or potential for collective action. No more Indians, and no more Russkies, so there's no impulse felt to stay cohesive at such a big scale.

    But when the coup de grace comes, who knows. Regionalization will probably take awhile to get to the point of separate entities. We're not in our "sick man of Europe" stage just yet.

  9. The Irish Travellers in Britain (who share no genetic descent with Roma) are basically of the same exploitative ilk.

    There have been a number of reports of them essentially enslaving people recently:



    http://www.dohc.ie/publications/aiths2010/TR2/AITHS2010_TechnicalReport2_HR_PartC.pdf?direct=1 - "Based on the IPS estimate of Traveller prisoners, the risk of a Traveller being imprisoned was 11 times that of a non-Traveller (RR 11.0, 95% CI 9.8-12.3), and for Traveller women the risk was 22 times that of
    non-Traveller women (RR 22.0, 95% CI 13.8 - 35.1).

    When calculated using the Traveller-reported prisoner population, the risk of a Traveller being imprisoned was more than 5 times that of a non-Traveller (RR 5.5, 95% CI 4.7–6.4), and for Traveller women the risk was 18 times that of non-Traveller women (RR 18.3, 95% CI 11.1-30.1)."

    And there seems much more similarity than difference in how angry the people of the UK get about their explotiativeness and violence, compared to the Roma (when people in Britain talk about gypsies or "Gyppos" they usually mean the Irish travellers). Not much romance.

    But I don't think there is any Ottoman like history there in the evolution of that community.

  10. The Ottoman Empire blocked that natural response by the host populations by denying them the right to take care of their own business.

    Yes, you're right, though this is a general structural problem of civilization itself, rather than something particular to the Ottomans.

    Horizontal transmission evolves parasitic virulence. What counters horizontal transmission and parasitism is male aggression. The problem is that, as you suggest, civilization suppresses the right of males to commit violence and monopolizes violence in the state. Civilization prevents the subject men ruled by the state from "taking care of business" so to speak.

    This basic dynamic is also evident in Jewish diaspora history.


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