Lebanese Genetics sounds boring, but the Lebanese may be the most stereotypical ethnic group around, an inheritance from the Phoenicians.
Eugenics was quite popular as a field of study until the horrors of the Nazis were exposed. Since then, the topic has become anathema. It has become conflated with genocide, and both are further roughly equated with genetic behavior, which roughly correlates with sociobiology. And so all of them have taken on racist tones, and they invite attacks as political incorrectness.
So let me start with a critical point that must be established for any field of serious inquiry: There is no racist research.
Only racist researchers.
In an ad hoc strategy to silence racists, socially liberal forces have invoked political correctness as a virtue. I would argue that there is vice in political correctness, as well: it hampers open discussion and serious reflection.
So I want to talk about genetics and ethnic/racial stereotypes. Fortunately, I’m Lebanese, and for some years I have suspected that the Lebanese may be the most stereotypical ethnic group around. Further, I suspect that some of that stereotypicality may be partly due to Lebanese genetics. I suspect that, because some of those behaviors seem to match the activities of our Phoenician sea-faring ancestors.
Before I continue, a disclaimer. My observations are largely based on the Lebanese of southwestern Louisiana; and my own relatives, not surprisingly, have perhaps over-influenced my ideas. I have known Lebanese who do not fit the following descriptions. And, of course, it is not easy to know what part of the following is the result of Lebanese genetics, and what part is a result of Lebanese culture. But the following behaviors seem consistent enough that I suspect at least some of it is genetics.
Like our forbear Phoenician traders, the Lebanese tend to adapt to the local cultures wherever we locate, and are generally successful in fitting in. The Phoenicians did this as a course of business, and because of it, gave the world admiralty law, which allowed for consistent practices in ports around the Mediterranean, and beyond.
And we seem to be very successful in fiting in, despite our hard-to-miss swarthy skin, curly black hair, and other non-WASP features which, of course, are definitely the result of Lebanese genetics. But I remember visiting Prince Edward Island in eastern Canada some years back, which is an English-Scottish stronghold with a healthy serving of Acadians on the side.1)Literally on the side; the Acadians are grouped to one side of the island. I met a former Premier of the Island, who was Lebanese. He stood out like a sore thumb among all the northern Europeans, but was reportedly well-liked and well-accepted.
Perhaps as an expression of our efforts to fit in, many Lebanese seem to aim no higher than upper middle class. Even though I have known American Lebanese who were quite wealthy, most of them seem to have little desire to flaunt it. We hit the comforts of the upper middle class, and put our efforts elsewhere. This may also reflect our Phoenician heritage, with a twist. The Phoenicians (or ‘Punics’ as the Romans called them; Carthage was a Phoenician city, hence ‘the Punic Wars’) finally decided it was more profitable to pay tributes than to wage war, and chose to keep a low-key political profile.
Work & Family
The Lebanese are highly sociable, and very close to our family and friends. With that, and perhaps because of it, we generally have good senses of humor, and most of us are able to laugh at ourselves.2)I have to say, I enjoy visiting with my cousins more than almost anyone I know. But pretty much all we do is sit around and laugh about one another, and particularly about our parents and our our long-deceased grandmother.
The one point that first got me thinking about Lebanese genetics, however, is that we seem to be strongly attracted to three professions, retail, medicine, and law, with the occasional teacher or engineer thrown in.
All of this points to possible effects of Lebanese genetics. These could certainly be cultural, of course. In my family’s case, however, the lawyers and doctors only appeared in the 3rd American generation. With that, my Lebanese grandparents were largely illiterate and came from a remote village. Of course, that doesn’t mean there was no culture, just not much written culture.
Those are only the good things. Unfortunately, there’s more.
The Lebanese also tend to have short tempers. But thankfully, we generally have short memories to match: we get mad quickly, we get over it quickly.
The Lebanese are often opinionated as hell. We do not generally suffer fools gladly (and anyone who disagrees with us is, by default, a fool.) Most of us like to talk, sometimes too much. You can see how these brash characteristics might be useful to globe-trotting merchants, sailing the seas.
All of the preceding, however, synergize to produce a race that argues a great deal. This is different from say, Judaism, where disputation is a fundamental religious and cultural expression. No, the Lebanese often argue just for entertainment. In fact, on those rare occasions when one of my relatives has actually convinced another to change his/her mind, I’ve seen the first one also change his/her position, just to keep the fracas going.
And as a product of all of these, we are not always particularly refined people. Some years ago over 30 of us, family, uncles, aunts and cousins descended on a swanky hotel in Panama City for a week. We had a blast.
When we checked out, the manager requested that we never come back.
All very entertaining, I hope. But here’s the question: if these things really are expressions of Lebanese genetics, then how should we react, what are we to do about these behaviors, particularly the problematic ones? Among ourselves and our friends, we laugh about them, work to improve, and we make some progress. (For those of you who have met me only in the past decade or so, and have possibly been taken aback by some of my behavior, I can only offer this defense: I used to be worse.)
That improvement is a critical insight: genetic behavior is not genetic determinism. It would be hard to prove any of the speculations on Lebanese genetics that I discuss here. But even if such genetic influences were proven, they are only influential, but not dictatorial.
But how would the racist view such things? He would insist that any shortcomings resulting from Lebanese genetics prove that we are inferior, despite all practical evidence to the contrary. The next step from that is, he would argue that the Lebanese are expendable, certainly more expendable than those within the racist’s group. Finally, his prejudice makes it is a short step to simply viewing the Lebanese as the racist always views his victims: worthless trash, whose suffering is immaterial.
And so, attacking us militarily, enslaving us, jailing and executing us, would be of no matter. That’s the real source of problems with eugenics and genetics. It’s not whether genetic expressions exist.
It’s what you do with the information.
Picture, Phoenician ship, courtesy of Wikimedia.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Literally on the side; the Acadians are grouped to one side of the island.|
|2.||↑||I have to say, I enjoy visiting with my cousins more than almost anyone I know. But pretty much all we do is sit around and laugh about one another, and particularly about our parents and our our long-deceased grandmother.|