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August 18, 2004

Selection Pressure: A Race to the Bottom

We're all familiar with the concepts of darwinian selection but let's for a moment consider the conseqences of a world in which we turn the model on it's head. What happens when mate selection becomes a information blind (or almost so) process? No, I'm not referencing arranged marriages because in that practice the families act as the agents in the information exchange process and are making rational (one hopes) decisions on behalf of their sons and daughters. Rather, I'm referring to the Kyrgyz practice of Bride Kidnapping:

Petr and Fatima arrive as a wedding is about to begin. Women are busy making traditional Kyrgyz bread for the occasion, and men sit in chairs outside, talking and sipping tea. The groom confesses he has had some difficulty finding a bride, but he is hopeful that "this one will stay."

When the bride does arrive, she is dragged into the groom's house, struggling and crying. Her name is Norkuz, and it turns out she has been kidnapped from her home about a mile away.

[ . . . . . ]

As the women of the groom's family surround Norkuz and hold down both of her hands, they are at once forceful and comforting, informing her that they, too, were kidnapped. The kidnappers insist that they negotiated the abduction with Norkuz's brother, but her sister, a lawyer from Osh, arrives to protest that her sister is being forced to marry a stranger. Ideally in Kyrgyz circles, a bride's family gets a price for their daughter, but Norkuz is 25 -- considered late to marry -- and the women remind her she is lucky she was kidnapped at all.

Within the space of an hour, Norkuz struggles less, looking exhausted but laughing along with the women who have placed a scarf on her head. Tradition dicates that once the bride accepts the ceremonial scarf, the matter is settled and the wedding can commence. Norkuz relents.

[ . . . . . ]

Petr learns that the origins of this strange custom are murky: "Some say Kyrgyz men used to snatch their brides on horseback. Now they use cars, and if a villager doesn't have a car, he hires a taxi for the day."

Petr and Fatima speak with a taxi driver in Osh who says he helped kidnap a girl earlier that same day. During Soviet times, bride kidnapping was banned, but in the past decade, the old tradition has revived, especially in rural areas.

Jumankul, 19, is under pressure from his parents to marry and bring home a wife who can help work on the family farm. Jumankul tells Petr and Fatima that he's seen a girl in Osh whom he likes and plans to drive to the city in a few hours to kidnap her.

"We can't afford her hand," says Jumankul's father. "They wanted too much money."

The family has hired a taxi to drive Jumankul to Osh where he and his friends plan to find and kidnap the girl he has seen at a bazaar. But when they get to Osh, Jumankul can't find the girl. The group drops by a vodka stand to try to find out where she lives, but the girl working there suspects a kidnapping and refuses to tell Jumankul's brother, Ulan, the address of the girl. "Find it yourself," she tells him.

Not wanting to return home empty-handed, Jumankul and his friends decide to change plans and kidnap the girl in the vodka bar.

Her name is Ainagul, and by the time Petr and Fatima return to Jumankul's village outside of Osh, she has been resisting a room full of women for more than ten hours. Though Jumankul's older brother claims her family has already agreed to the kidnapping, Ainagul stands in a corner of the room, crying, and continuing to fend off the women who take turns trying to put the wedding scarf on her head.

"It'll be over soon," Jumankul's brother, Ulan, tells Petr. "You'll see."

But Ainagul puts up a strong fight, and the women tire of trying to convince her. After the oldest woman in the village makes a final attempt, telling Ainagul to stay or she will be unhappy, the women give up. Her ordeal over, Ainagul is free to go.

Once she has left, the women sit outside Jumankul's home and curse the departed girl. They say that her child will be a drunk and that her mother-in-law will be cruel. Jumankul, too, is upset and worries that he will never find a bride who will stay.

The information void here is startling. The initiation of the process is made by a would-be groom who stalks an unsuspecting bride. Her fate is determined only be her resistance or acquiescence to a process of duress all while she is in an almost complete information vacuum.

Not to be outdone by such revolutionary disregard for darwinian selection processes the British are doing their best to even the cultural playing field:

A BOSS had her job ad banned - because it asked for "hard-working" staff.

Beryl King was told by a Jobcentre that it discriminated against people who were not industrious.

Yesterday Beryl, 57 - who was after warehouse workers - said: "I couldn't believe my ears. Has our world gone mad?

"I've been running my business for 27 years and it's getting harder to find people who want to do a fair day's work for a fair day's pay.

"How long before someone says you can't pay people for working because it discriminates against those on benefit who are paid for not working?"

Beryl, who owns two job agencies in Totton, Hants, offered 5.42 an hour for "warehouse packers who must be hard-working and reliable". She added: "We wouldn't dream of discriminating on grounds of race, sex or age.

"However, this is taking it too far. The ability to work hard is a talent in the same way as is the ability to type. If I advertise for a typist am I discriminating against people who can't type?"

The Southampton Jobcentre is investigating. A spokesman said: "Words such as 'hardworking' can be accepted if used with a clear job description."

Last month, optician Pauline Millican told how a Liverpool Jobcentre axed her request for a 5-an-hour hard-working receptionist on similar grounds to Beryl's.

The drive towards the lowest common denominator continues unabated, for men unable to find brides and for lazy slobs alike. Welcome to the Lowest Common Denominator World. For those who are mathematically inclined, and who wish to use this talent before it too is discriminated against, you may appreciate the significance of this mindset by considering this equivalence:

Information = discrimination.

Posted by TangoMan at 05:39 PM