Blue Bloods Where does aristocracy come from?
Dear Gaza, An ode to a distant land
By Abdulaziz Al Mulla
The Soapbox, March 2009
I can hear your cries and your screams. I can hear your women wailing and your men praying to God in tired, coarse voices … ever desiring justice and peace. Oh Gaza, what ails me is that young girl lying on the .0024#&,8(#;,-6#@0&'#,-#(+2#(%,2=#T(+"#'%"# her head was smashed. Oh Gaza, what drains all my strength to continue facing this heartless world, is that little boy look ing fearfully at the solider pointing a gun at him. The solider too is a human being. He was one day a child who longed for noth ing but to go out and play, to run freely in the endless horizon. Now he stands fool ishly against his own humanity. He has learned to hold guns, to load them with bullets, to point them at children, and to pull the trigger. Oh Gaza, that baby looks so blue. When his mother gave birth to him, when she dreamed to raise him well like Salaheldin, like Mahmood Darwish, like a hero, and even before that, when she promised him while he was a playful creature in her uterus, that he will live a long, happy life, did the thought cross her mind that he would die so soon? Oh Gaza, oh the place where only the scent of blood travels freely, brushing on the walls of the city and on the cheeks of the living, what else do you have to say when there is no one listening? Oh Gaza, I promise you, with every remaining speckle of humanity in me that I am listening, and that I will continue to listen. And one day, long after your children are buried in the depths of the ground, you will tell your stories to the world, and everyone will listen.
Art by Allison Zuckerman
ne of the most interesting proofs of the commonality of mankind is the development of similar political structures across the globe. Take ancient Egypt, feudal Japan, tribal Middle East and the royal IndoEuropean people as examples. In each of these societies, struc tures arose that allowed for the instillation of an aristocracy – landed gentry if you will – that were the powers to be, for all intents and purposes. The creation of this class was largely due to beliefs of human divin ity, as well as economic conditions. Peoples banded together to form a primeval politi cal entity, laying claim to a cartel of political and economic power. Over time, however, this idea of human divinity began to die out, especially amongst Christians. None theless, the idea that nobles were somehow superior remained an important idea. The etymology and development of this concept of a natural aristocracy originates in Spain. Sangre Azul was a term used to describe the Spanish royal family, which roughly translated means “blue blood”. It was used to distinguish Visigothic peoples, a group with a pure bloodline, from the Moors.. Robert Lacey, a respected British historian, explains the genesis of the blue blood concept as follows: It was the Spaniards who gave the world the notion that an aristocrat’s blood is not red but blue. The Spanish nobility started taking shape around the ninth cen tury in classic military fashion, occupying land as warriors on horseback. A nobleman demonstrated his pedigree by holding up (,'#'&02$#%23#80#$,';:%"#8(+#5:,*2++#07#@:)+# blooded veins beneath his pale skin—proof that his birth had not been contaminated by the darkskinned enemy. Under this system, many families rose to prominence. With time, however, the once clearcut line between the blue blooded nobles and the mixed peasants grew increasingly vague. Many factors led to the disintegration of the blueblooded /:%''=#C02#0-+4#8(+#-0@:+'B#+/0-03,/#;0&+24# based on agriculture, was soon no longer applicable. With the opening of trade, those of “regular” blood were able to amass per sonal fortunes due to the mobility of goods
%-$# /033+2/+=# C)28(+2302+4# 6-0&:+$*+# became more accessible, and caste systems began to crumble. In today’s society, no visible caste system exists. Yet, one particularly strik ing modern example comes to mind. That is the reform of the House of Lords in midnineteenth century Britain. This was the sight of a formal and purposeful redis tribution of power and wealth from the blueblooded rulers to a group of elected representatives. In the concluding decades of the 19th century, Sanford and Townsend published a list of thirtyone prominent English families. They argued “the political power may depart… but the social power must increase.” This is a perfect illustration of the omnipowerful bluebloods. In terms of wealth, in the late nineteenth century, these oldestablished landed families were amongst the wealthiest of England, a fact that has not changed in the 20th century. In fact, Thompson, an authority on the British caste system, has found only two or three families of the thirtyone that have not maintained their position. Having explored the evolution of blue bloods, it is interesting to consider where this idea exists in modern society. Although an outdated value, many blue bloods exist and dominate various social micro cosms. Perhaps this value is not as outdated as it would seem.
Art by Leroy Wilkes