January 4, 2013

"I don’t know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it."

"But I know that I cannot know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it."

Roman arch, Tebessa, Algeria.

Today, the "History of" project brings us to...

Algeria, where human beings have lived for at least 1.8 million years. There are prehistoric rock paintings in the Tassili n'Ajjer range. Like this:



The indigenous people have been called Berbers since 4000 BC, and they have been joined over the years by invaders of the Phoenician, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Arab, Turkish, and French kind.
Berber territory was annexed by the Roman Empire in AD 24. Increases in urbanization and in the area under cultivation during Roman rule caused wholesale dislocations of Berber society, and Berber opposition to the Roman presence was nearly constant....

Christianity arrived in the 2nd century AD. By the end of the 4th century, the settled areas had become Christianized, and some Berber tribes had converted en masse....

The 8th and 11th centuries AD, brought Islam and the Arabic language....

In the central Maghrib, the Abdalwadid founded a dynasty at Tlemcen in Algeria. For more than 300 years, until the region came under Ottoman suzerainty in the 16th century, the Zayanids kept a tenuous hold in the central Maghrib. Many coastal cities asserted their autonomy as municipal republics governed by merchant oligarchies, tribal chieftains from the surrounding countryside, or the privateers who operated out of their ports. Nonetheless, Tlemcen, the “pearl of the Maghrib,” prospered as a commercial center.

The final triumph of the 700-year Christian reconquest of Spain was marked by the fall of Granada in 1492. Christian Spain imposed its influence on the Maghrib coast by constructing fortified outposts and collecting tribute. But Spain never sought to extend its North African conquests much beyond a few modest enclaves. Privateering was an age-old practice in the Mediterranean, and North African rulers engaged in it increasingly in the late 16th and early 17th centuries because it was so lucrative. Algeria became the privateering city-state par excellence.....

Algeria and surrounding areas, collectively known as the Barbary States, were responsible for piracy in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the enslaving of Christians, actions which brought them into the First and Second Barbary War with the United States of America.
Colonization by the French began in 1830.
Viewed by the Europeans with condescension at best and contempt at worst, the Algerians endured 132 years of colonial subjugation. From 1856, native Muslims and Jews were viewed as French subjects, but not French citizens.

However, in 1865, Napoleon III allowed them to apply for full French citizenship, a measure that few took, since it involved renouncing the right to be governed by sharia law in personal matters, and was considered a kind of apostasy; in 1870, French citizenship was made automatic for Jewish natives, a move which largely angered the Muslims, who began to consider the Jews as the accomplices of the colonial power. Nonetheless, this period saw progress in health, some infrastructures, and the overall expansion of the economy of Algeria, as well as the formation of new social classes, which, after exposure to ideas of equality and political liberty, would help propel the country to independence. During the years of French domination, the struggles to survive, to co-exist, to gain equality, and to achieve independence shaped a large part of the Algerian national identity....

A new generation of Islamic leadership emerged in Algeria at the time of World War I and grew to maturity during the 1920s and 1930s. Various groups were formed in opposition to French rule....

The Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962), brutal and long, was the most recent major turning point in the country's history. Although often fratricidal, it ultimately united Algerians and seared the value of independence and the philosophy of anticolonialism into the national consciousness....

Between 350,000 and 1 million Algerians are estimated to have died during the war, and more than 2 million, out of a total Muslim population of 9 or 10 million, were made into refugees or forcibly relocated into government-controlled camps. Much of the countryside and agriculture was devastated, along with the modern economy, which had been dominated by urban European settlers (the pied-noirs). French sources estimated that at least 70,000 Muslim civilians were killed or abducted and presumed killed, by the [Front de Libération Nationale] during the Algerian War. Citizens of European ethnicity... and Jews were also subjected to ethnic cleansing. These nearly one million people of mostly French descent were forced to flee the country at independence due to the unbridgeable rifts opened by the civil war and threats from units of the victorious FLN; along with them fled Algerians of Jewish descent and those Muslim Algerians who had supported a French Algeria (harkis). 30-150,000 pro-French Muslims were also allegedly killed in Algeria by FLN in post-war reprisals....

On 19 June 1965, Houari Boumédienne deposed Ahmed Ben Bella in a military coup d'état that was both swift and bloodless....

Boumédienne’s death on December 27, 1978 set off a struggle within the FLN to choose a successor....

After the violent 1988 October Riots, a new constitution was adopted in 1989 that allowed the formation of political associations other than the FLN....

Among the scores of parties that sprang up under the new constitution, the militant Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was the most successful....

In 1996 a referendum introduced changes to the constitution, enhancing presidential powers and banning Islamist parties. 
Abdelaziz Bouteflika became president in 1999 and "concentrated on restoring security and stability." He remains president to this day.

36 comments:

Crunchy Frog said...

For some reason this picture reminds me of the toll booth in Blazing Saddles.

chickelit said...

I don’t know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it.
But I know that I cannot know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it.


Quitter. Suppose Bohr and Heisenberg had said about the electron: "sorry can't really know it-can't pin it down. Indeterminacy is too much of a deterrence so let's just fuggetabout."

chickelit said...

The photo reminds me of Palladian's "ruins" avatar.

edutcher said...

As Georgie Patton (or at least Larry Kasdan) said of Morocco, "A combination of Hollywood and the Bible".

Inga said...

Again, the ethnic cleansing scenario. It would seem that to be an ethnic minority who has kept their ethnicity intact and failed to adequately assimilate and intermarry, are in danger of being "cleansed" out of the adopted country when the poo hits the fan.

chickelit said...

Inga said...
Again, the ethnic cleansing scenario. It would seem that to be an ethnic minority who has kept their ethnicity intact and failed to adequately assimilate and intermarry, are in danger of being "cleansed" out of the adopted country when the poo hits the fan.

This will happen to blondes in this country.

wildswan said...

If we consider this society's demographics longitudinally over time this is a society in decline. In Algeria the Total Fertility Rate (TFR)is 2.78 births per woman - the replacement rate is usually given as 2.1 births per women. The TFR rate dropped sharply after 1975(it was 7 births per women in 1975) and is still pointing down. What's going to change or stop the birth crash in Algeria? Sharia? This is an issue those guys never touch. Interesting, isn't it?

Irene said...

I nitpick the Wiki entry a bit: "privateering" and "piracy" are not synonyms. Privateers, or "corsairs" work on behalf of a government and operate as state-sponsored terrorists. Pirates plunder for themselves.

The men who operated in the Mediterranean between the fourteenth and sixteenth century usually were privateers contracted to work on behalf of the maritime states.

Petunia said...

1.8 million years ago humans weren't quite human yet. Either Australopithecus or Homo habilis.

Palladian said...

The photo reminds me of Palladian's "ruins" avatar.

Palladio, the designer of the villa that has always been my Blogger avatar, was copying Roman architecture like the Tabessa arch.

Lem said...

'I don’t know whether Inga means something transcendental with that statement... But I know that I cannot know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it.'

Sigivald said...

chicelit said: Suppose Bohr and Heisenberg had said about the electron: "sorry can't really know it - can't pin it down. Indeterminacy is too much of a deterrence so let's just fuggetabout."

Well, in a way they did - we still can't perfectly know both location and velocity, and that's not going to change. That never had anything, really, to do with the other properties of the electron, either...

More relevantly, if a meaning is transcendent there's no way to know it from inside the thing with the meaning.

That's what transcendent meaning is, after all - and why you should never trust someone banking on it or asserting about it, unless you already share their religious* assumptions.

(* They might not be explicitly religious in any traditional sense, but that's what a transcendent meaning claim always boils down to.)

Amartel said...

Lovely prehistoric artwork. Per Wikipedia, about 9-10,000 years old, possibly less. Some of the artwork looks a lot younger than this, with people in elaborate headgear riding on horses. Apparently, the Tassili n'Ajjer range area is in SE Algeria. It was originally a much wetter climate and the area is mainly sandstone which held onto moisture, and vegetation, longer than the area around it when things started drying out. Maybe a big stopping point on the salt/gold road?

YoungHegelian said...

Ah! Algeria.

I remember as a very little boy hearing my mother crying on the phone as she spoke to her parents in France. Since she was speaking French, I understood not a word, but I could figure it wasn't good.

It turned out that my uncle (her baby brother by many years) had been arrested by the French government for being a party to the Paratrooper Coup.

Since he was just a junior officer then, he was not found to have any involvement and probably was just arrested on suspicion of sympathies, which I can well believe since my grandparents hated DeGaulle (who they saw as a squish-lefty --- don't ask-- it's as ugly as it sounds).

My uncle seemed to have got back into good graces with the government, since he ended his days high up at Cadarache, working for the French Atomic Energy Commission. I'm sure that his earlier misadventures must have been brought up at security clearance time.

edutcher said...

If it means anything, the US Army in WWII didn't have much use for Chuck, either.

They referred to him as YBSOB, YB standing for "yellow-bellied".

mccullough said...

Camus. The double alienation of being not really French and not really Algerian.

Mark said...

Top photo reminds me of Detroit.

Gahrie said...

Again, the ethnic cleansing scenario. It would seem that to be an ethnic minority who has kept their ethnicity intact and failed to adequately assimilate and intermarry, are in danger of being "cleansed" out of the adopted country when the poo hits the fan.

Probably the most intelligent thing you have said on this site.

It also happens to be one of the strongest arguements in favor of assimilation in this country. Unfortunately, the current strategy of the Left completely undermines assimilation.

Phil 3:14 said...

Algeria's great contribution to Christianity

The Drill SGT said...

Irene said...
The men who operated in the Mediterranean between the fourteenth and sixteenth century usually were privateers contracted to work on behalf of the maritime states.


you are objectively correct, however.

when push came to shove, the Barbary states claimed that the privateers were pirates and thus not their fault.

hence, the british, French, and later us, hung'em...

FleetUSA said...

Your pic made me think immediately of the Italian artist Piranesi.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Battista_Piranesi

phx said...

Quitter. Suppose Bohr and Heisenberg had said about the electron: "sorry can't really know it-can't pin it down. Indeterminacy is too much of a deterrence so let's just fuggetabout."

@chickelit Too dogmatic.

William said...

Well, the Germans of eastern Europe got cleansed after the defeat of Hitler so Inga is not arguing from a transcendent position.....The Chinese in Vietnam, the French in Algeria, the Germans in eastern Europe, the Greeks in Anatolia, the Jews in Baghdad all got to be refugees. The only refugees who get to be refugees unto the 4th generation are the Palestinians--although when you think about it maybe they're modelling their behavior after the "next year in Jerusalem" tenacity of the Jews.

Craig said...

Derrida was Algerian and so is Helene Cixous.

chickelit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chickelit said...

phx accuse:

@chickelit Too dogmatic.

Hey, I once dabbled in French Existentialism: Appartement (be sure to click on the pronunciation link :)

Chuck Currie said...

Berbers were also notorious slave traders following the Punic Wars, bring European slaves to north Africa.

The Barbary Pirates were also slave traders, selling those they captured at sea - including a few hundred Americans.

Cheers

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

The Homo Sapiens may be old in Algeria, but the land itself is largely a mountain chain named the Atlas Mountains. They contain 300 to 400 million year old fossils such as the Trilobite which is the first complex creature we have any fossil evidence on.

I have one. So I own a piece of old Algeria.

Paul Camus was one stubborn atheist. So he chose to die his own way.

Craig said...

The Romans called it Carthage.

Craig said...

St. Augustine was Algerian. He turned the cult of Christianity into a viable religion.

Basta! said...

"The indigenous people have been called Berbers since 4000 BC. . ."

What any people living in this region around 4000 BC may have been called then is impossible to know, as the first writing systems were not developed until ca. 3300 BC.

I went back and read the whole Wiki article, and I don't see this claim there.

Mitch H. said...

What's going to change or stop the birth crash in Algeria? Sharia?

That's the situation across the high-birth-rate Muslim world. Demographics seem to follow time-scales dictated by urbanization and food availability rather than culture. I keep waiting for megadeath famines when the Chinese finally succeed in out-buying the Arab world when the granary reserves give out. Algeria isn't in as bad a place as Egypt and Syria, but it's not good, and I don't think they're agriculturally self-supporting.

I nitpick the Wiki entry a bit: "privateering" and "piracy" are not synonyms. Privateers, or "corsairs" work on behalf of a government and operate as state-sponsored terrorists. Pirates plunder for themselves.

The Algerian and Tunisian pirates are a debatable legal area. Privateering is a Western concept dependent on the legal fictions of letters of marque, which none of the emirates of the Maghreb used, to my knowledge. Rather, the pirates operated on the sharia equivalent of common law, which assumed the natural right of ghazi on jihad to take slaves and seize chattel in the Dar al Harb. Potentates didn't have to license the pirates, they held that right as the faithful at war with the infidel. But as a matter of power politics, emirs and princes had to rein in the pirates for the same reason that European princes and kings had to control their barons - men under arms are a threat to central power unless brought within that power's hierarchical structure.

I'm surprised the article doesn't call the Berbers "Amazgh" or "Amazigh". Wonder if some editor is keeping that particular politically-correct usage from the page. I started seeing this usage widely during the late Libyan war.

Astro said...

I can't wait until we get to the section on India and the Bicholim Conflict!

gerry said...

They contain 300 to 400 million year old fossils

Fun with words:

They contain 300 to 400 million year-old fossils.

The place is lousy with 'em. ;)

Chuck Currie said...

Craig - Carthage was created/colonized by Phoenicians in the first millennium BC in what is now Tunisia, not Algeria.

Cheers