Part 4: Territory

The third causal factor in the biological case discussed in part 1 was the environment which ensured harmful mutations would be weeded out of the gene pool. Because of this members of a kind would tend not to deviate from the well-established form. The environment plays a similar role in the case of social groups; cultures existing in the polar region, or on an isolated island, or a dessert, or a rain forest, or a city, or in proximity to other cultures will have persisting factors that will need to be dealt with by recurring behavioral and cultural adaptations.   A people living in an area with annual anadromous fish runs might have yearly cultural traditions regarding the harvest of this resource, for instance. Those living in an area with cold winters can be expected to repeat distinctive behaviors whereby they adapt to this environment; they may annually make provisions to ensure adequate heat, or engage in winter sports, possess distinctive styles of architecture and dress that cope with the conditions, and the like. Those living in an agricultural region will probably have annual planting and harvesting behavior and rituals regarding them, and so on. These repeated behaviors form a large part of the distinctive character of human ethnic groups. Just as in the biological cases, the stability of these environmental factors contributes to the homeostasis of the genocide-susceptible kinds we have been discussing.

Moving to a new environment changes a people into a new kind. Polish-Americans are not Poles, they don’t (usually) speak Polish, celebrate the holidays Poles do, play the same sports, or have the same connection to Poland that those living in Poland do. They have assimilated into European-American culture and third generation Polish-American probably knows very little of Polish history or have much of a connection to Poland at all. Yes, Polish neighborhoods may have Polish festivals, but this only shows their distinctiveness as Poles in Poland don’t have Polish festivals. Likewise, American Jews are not the same as Israeli Jews, Italian-Americans are distinct from Italians, German-Americans are not Germans. They have all been transformed into something different and distinct by their new environment, like a species migrating into a new environment and being transformed over time into something new.

The presence of historically significant locations—battle sites, sacred mountains, the spot where Washington crossed the Delaware, and so on—all server to bring an historical kind in touch with the forces that formed it into what it is. Furthermore, people alter their environment in ways that contribute to ethnic continuity. Monuments to battles, place markers to historically important events, and statues of important men and women all serve to connect a people with their history and create a sense of value and sacrifice that serves to perpetuate the kind.

There is one additional factor in the case of ethnic and cultural groups that I will be discussing in part 5.