Friday, October 30, 2015

Book Review: Even Unto Bloodshed

The Interpreter posted my review of Even Unto Bloodshed. I thought the book was an excellent discussion of LDS scriptures and thought on war, and a vital resource for understanding the need and legitimacy of just war, but you should read the whole review of course.  There is already a comment there and several on Dan Peterson's blog where people want to re litigate the war in Iraq or continue to promote their anti war views.  Three cheers for doing a gospel topic search of the word peace! That should settle the matter haha.  These tendencies only underscore how vital it is that Latter Day Saints have serious and substantive discussion of the topic, without needlessly charging the issue.  (Like calling people war mongering propagandists or saying they have a "hatred and unquenchable thirst for revenge" if they disagree with you.)  Anyways, I can highly recommend the book.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Mesoamerican Anthology- The Gadianton Chapter

Neal Rappleye has a fantastic suggestion about a Mesoamerican anthology. There are many volumes written about the Book of Mormon, but no volume collects all the research into one place. He suggested a section on warfare and I replied with my thoughts below:

This would be a great volume that I would buy. Though I think instead of basically having a collection of reprints, there could be a great deal of new material added. (To which I'd love to contribute.) Some of my research that seems to be inexhaustible concerns the use of "robbers" and their place in history throughout the world. In chapter two of my book, Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents, I show that both late Roman historians and Chinese sources during the period of division use the term robber to delegitimize competing centers of power. It also illustrated the declining power of the central government, the role of predatory and protective bands of robbers, and the significant overlap between secular banditry and political military insurgency.

In my second book I look at the akuto, or "evil gangs" of Samurai from Japanese history and found supporting conclusions. They definitely represented competing between officials appointed by the rising shogunate and those from the declining central government. These officials often fought for the right to tax lands, and for exclusive economic rights. The term was rather flexible and used by both sides much the same way modern writers throw around "freedom fighter" and "terrorist." In fact, I found court records that show competing law suits where they both labelled each other as member of an evil gang. I found other instances where large landowners and their retainers were variously accused of being an akuto, and then appointed as a local manager by the same official. This is because they knew the area so well they were often both the cause of and solution to the problems. I use several specific case studies which show the intense competition among land owners and officials, economic collusion among some of them (compare to the various comparisons between the Gadianton Robbers and the mafia), and various paramilitary actions that represented gang warfare between large landowners that even rose to insurgent like tactics.

Finally, I just did some research into Mao Zedong's early insurgency in Jiangxi province (and just presented it in London) and I found so much more supportive evidence. Again, there is a great deal of overlap between remote terrain (think of G robbers in the mountains), ethnic tension (I argue the G robbers were others), lack of government control (they always appear in the BoM during times of government weakness), and the overlap between banditry, local economic interests of leading figures (the "get gain" that is labelled as the chief sin of G robbers) and political military rebellion (3rd Nephi 3). I even found sources from Communist leaders to the brethren of secret societies. Many bandit groups found the oaths of loyalty a good way to replace the familial connections of larger more well established families (and the resulting political and economic cartels they formed that controlled the provinces.) Many of these elite families had their own private militias that would fight the bandits. At various times both the private forces and bandits would be legitimized by the provincial government. (Just like the akuto in Japanese history.) The Communists in turn found than an alliance with local bandit groups offered additional muscle and intimate knowledge of local areas and successful tactics. This in turn led to intra party concerning how much weight they should give to banditry. And the Nationalists labelled called their efforts "bandit encirclement and suppression campaigns." Of course, these campaigns can be analyzed and compared to specific verses in the BoM that described the Nephites attempts to combat the Gadianton Robbers.

Well I think I've gone on enough lol. (Like I said. I've been surprised at how the more I research the more I see that applies to the BoM.) But needless to say I think there is space for at least a chapter on historical instances of robbers and secret societies. As you said, Brant Gardner has some good material on it. Though as you see, I think there is enough for a book that focuses on robbers in history. Using specific details from half a dozen time periods and locations we can tease additional information from the BoM about what this combination looked like. I have several historians that specifically cite how difficult it is to strictly define them as they seem to cross so many boundaries. Not to mention they are sometimes an existential threat to the Nephites but we have almost nothing about them.

Thanks for the great post! As you can tell I love to think, read, and write about this so I appreciate the suggestion and chance to offer my thoughts. (I love it so much, I had to post this in two parts!)

What do you think readers?  I know I have at least a few authors that regularly read my blog.  And I know I have many readers were going to be part of the proposed anthology I discussed a long time ago.  I also have at least one expert on insurgency that reads as well.  What would you include?