Archive for history

Gender, Hierarchy, Civilization & Collapse: A Few Thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2020 by jtoddring

 

What did Sumeria ever do for us? Invented writing, our concepts of time, irrigation, cities, created the first literature…little stuff like that.

Sumeria predates ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece, and Biblical times, though it was a completely forgotten civilization until very recently. The civilization spanned roughly 3,500 years, between 5,500 BCE & 1,750 BCE.

Remember, modern Western civilization is a mere 400 years old. Just a baby, by comparison.

The Sumerian civilization, mythology and writings inspired the book of Genesis and Homer, for example, and provided one of the primary the seedbeds for Western civilization, such as it is. Unfortunately they also invented or co-invented war, empire, conquest, ecological degradation, class division, hierarchy, plunder and inequality. Crappy stuff we’re still living with today. 

They did uphold gender equality, however. Mind you, this seems to indicate Eisler was wrong and Bookchin was right: hierarchy spreads as a corrosive social model that comes to infect everything, but it does not necessarily begin with gender. 

“Even so, the culture had been struggling to retain its autonomy ever since the Amorites had gained power in Babylon. A shift in cultural influence, evidenced in many respects but, notably, in the male-female ratio of the Mesopotamian pantheon, came with the rise to power of the Semitic Amorites in Babylon and, especially, during the reign of Hammurabi (r. 1792-1750 BCE) who completely reversed the Sumerian theological model in elevating a supreme male god, Marduk, over all others. Temples dedicated to goddesses were replaced by those for gods and, even though the goddesses’ temples were not destroyed, they were marginalized.

At this same time, women’s rights – which were traditionally on par with men’s – declined as did the great Sumerian cities. Overuse of the land and urban expansion, coupled with ongoing conflicts, are cited as the primary reasons for the fall of the cities. The correlation between the decline in the status of female deities and women’s rights has never been adequately explained – it is unknown which came first – but it is a telling detail in the decline of a culture which had always held women in high regard. By the time the Elamites invaded c. 1750 BCE, the Sumerian culture was already deteriorating and the [invading] Elamites simply finished the process.”

   – Joshua J. Mark, Ancient History Encyclopedia 

Hierarchy, inequality of class, empire, war, conquest, pillage and plunder, and ecological destruction: all of these things existed in Sumer alongside gender equality, it seems, and gender equality both in terms of cultural values, religion and mythology, and in practice. Therefore, we have to conclude that gender imbalance is a severe social, spiritual, and moral problem, but the evidence seems to indicate that it is not the root of all evils that it is sometimes presented to be.

That being said, when gender imbalance begins, society rapidly spirals into ever deeper problems, because the fundamental balance between agency and communion is destroyed; until the society finally collapses, or rediscovers a balance.

Sumeria was well on the way to collapse, regardless of external threats, exactly as with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Internal imbalance always brings internal decline, and finally, either an eventual renaissance and rebirth, or the collapse of the civilization.

“Sumerian was well established as the written language by the late 4th century BCE and Sumerian culture, religion, architecture, and other significant aspects of civilization were as well. The literature of the Sumerians would influence later writers, notably the scribes who wrote the Bible, as their tales of The Myth of Adapa, The Eridu Genesis, and The Atrahasis would inform the later biblical accounts of the Garden of Eden, Fall of Man, and the Great Flood. Enheduanna’s works would become the models for later liturgy, Mesopotamian animal fables would be popularized by Aesop, and The Epic of Gilgamesh would inspire works such as the Iliad and Odyssey.

The concept of the gods living in the city’s temple, as well as the shape and size of the Sumerian ziggurat, is thought to have influenced the Egyptian development of the pyramid and their beliefs about their own gods. The Sumerian concept of time, as well as their writing system, was also adopted by other civilizations. The Sumerian cylinder seal – an individual’s sign of personal identification – remained in use in Mesopotamia until c. 612 BCE and the fall of the Assyrian Empire. There was literally no area of civilization the Sumerians did not make some contribution to but, for all their strengths, their culture began to decline long before it fell.”

   – Joshua J. Mark

Their civilization began to decline long before it fell and actually collapsed. Then as now. History is repeating.

We must regain the balance, in multiple ways, or we too are headed for collapse.

“When I observe the ruts in a road, I am compelled to think, how much deeper the ruts in the mind.”

– Henry David Thoreau

But as Thoreau said, it is never too late to give up our bad habits, or our old ideas. Remember: “There is more day yet to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

JTR,

May 19, 2020

Post-Script:

On a comic note, for comedic relief, note this. Trump must have been advising the Sumerians on wall construction. Something was clearly amiss. The futility is amusing, in any case. Decline and collapse was due to internal factors, not external threats. But it surely is a Homer Simpson moment to build a wall, and not even get the basic concept right!

“The Sumerian civilization collapsed c. 1750 BCE with the invasion of the region by the Elamites. Shulgi of Ur had erected a great wall in 2083 BCE to protect his people from just such an invasion but, as it was not anchored at either end, it could easily be walked around – which is precisely what the invaders did.”

Wow. Is that how historians will look at us in 4,000 years, presuming humans are alive on Earth by then? Ending our civilization with one big, “Doh!”

Oh, Marg….

 

Critical Reading:

Rianne Eisler, The Chalice and The Blade

Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom

Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom

Ronald Wright, A Short History Of Progress

Wade Davis, The Wayfinders

David Suzuki, Elders’ Wisdom

Joanna Macy, World As Lover, World As Self

Allan Wallace, Choosing Reality

Noam Chomsky, Year 501

Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions

Henry David Thoreau, Walden and On Civil Disobedience

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Kindred Spirits & “Civilization”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 19, 2020 by jtoddring

Thinking about questions of human society and what is “civilized” or “civilization” makes me realize again how much I agree with Chomsky, Gandhi and Thoreau. They have all been deeply critical of what is called Western “civilization”. It also makes me think it’s time to read Vine Deloria Jr. All of them seem like definite kindred spirits to me. I take that thought with a great deal of comfort.

JTR,

May 18, 2020

The end of civilization? I’d like to see its beginning

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2020 by jtoddring

 

Civilization? Technology does not define it. Morality does. That makes all empires uncivilized, because they are based in conquest, plunder, mass murder and theft.

Amazing… Scholars still talking about the Roman Empire as civilized and civilizing… By what definition? Because they had sewers? I agree with Gandhi, Western civilization, “would be a good idea”. 

An otherwise thoughtful historian writes typical gibberish, which is universally accepted in Western civilization (sic) as matter of fact, common sense, and informed opinion:

“Wolfram points out that no other nationality, such as the Celts, seems to carry as much emotional and historical baggage as the Goths. They are either traditionally blamed for the destruction of the civilization of the Roman Empire that plunged western culture into a “dark age” or as heroes who refused to bear the yoke of Rome submissively (best exemplified in the figures of Athanaric, Fritigern, Alaric I, and Totila). It is entirely possible, however, to see the Goths as both these entities. Recent scholarship presents a view of the Goths which is more balanced than the either-or view, which has defined them for so long. The historian Philip Matyszak writes:

Until recently it was automatically assumed that Roman civilization was a Good Thing. Rome carried the torch of civilization into the barbarian darkness, and after the unpleasantness of conquest, Rome brought law, architecture, literature and similar benefits to the conquered peoples…There is now an alternative view, which suggests that Rome became the only civilization in the Mediterranean area by destroying half a dozen others. Some of these civilizations were as advanced as Rome’s, or even more so. Others were developing, and the form they might have finally taken is now lost forever. (9)

Since histories have relied primarily on Roman sources to present the history of the Goths, these people are frequently equated with the concept of the “uncivilized barbarian” or the “noble savage”. In fact, they were neither. As Wolfram points out, their history cannot be claimed as that of the ancient German people nor of the Slavic people nor of any people presently living (74-75).

The Goths entered history at a pivotal moment in the decline of the Roman Empire and played their part in that drama. With the empire gone, they ruled over two great kingdoms: one of Odoacer and Theodoric the Great in Italy, and the other in France (that of Theodoric I).  In Totila, the last great king of the Ostrogoths, they produced one of the most brilliant military leaders in history, a match for the legendary Belisarius of Rome, known as the “Last of the Romans’. With Belisarius’ victory, the history of the Goths ends.”

It is therefore difficult at first to determine exactly what the legacy of the Goths is to the modern-day world until one realizes that, without them, there would not be one. The kingdom of Odoacer preserved the best aspects of the Roman Empire and that of Theodoric the Great maintained that preservation. Western civilization continued after the fall of Rome, an entity that was disintegrating daily and would have fallen anyway even if the Goths had never set a single boot on Roman soil; it was the Goths who preserved the light of western civilization, even as they helped to topple the empire that had given rise to it.”

(From Joshua J. Mark’s, The Goths, though it could be almost any standard issue text)

See notes above. Think again. 

Preserving civilization? What civilization?

Again, I say:

The end of civilization? I’d like to see its beginning.

JTR,

May 18, 2020

Musings On History: Goths, the Fall of Rome, and the Future of Humanity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2020 by jtoddring

 

I love a good mystery. Who were the Goths? Where did they come from? How did they manage to sack Rome and defeat the most powerful empire the world had ever seen? What is their true cultural, mythological, spiritual, philosophical and ideological history? 

(Genetic history means little, since we are all close family, in reality; and there is more genetic variation in a single family line than between supposed “races”. But cultural history diverges widely, and that is significant, to say the least. It is as significant as it is open-ended, and it is completely open-ended. Racism, xenophobia, eugenics and Social Darwinism can all end here, should end here, if we are sane. They have no valid basis in reality, but are based only in delusion.)

How was a supposed Gothic-Germanic-Scandinavian mythology used and abused by fascists and Nazis, and corrupted and perverted into a dark poison? (There’s a good question for my anthropology and history scholar friends.) How are they really related to the Germanic peoples, and possibly to Scandinavia, or to Germanic and Norse mythology? To the Vikings and other raiders? 

A bigger mystery is this…

Every nation was a raider nation, from pre-Hellenic, Homeric Greece, through the “great” Roman Empire, the Spanish, Portuguese, French and English empires, etc., to the US empire, and the new global corporate empire, which at present, and for the moment, rules the world. 

But five thousand years of conquest mentality, empires, raiders, looting, rape and pillage, narcissistic egomania and infantile grandiosity, slaughter and slavery, is enough. We can do better.

The bigger mystery is this. Why do the people settle for so little?

Dream big. A better world is entirely possible, if we want it.

This could be the last empire, if we want it to be. We can be free, if we choose it.

All empires fall. What we need now, is an end to empire itself.

JTR,

May 18, 2020

History Repeats: The Decline & Fall of the Western Corporate Empire

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2020 by jtoddring

“The Goths remained on Roman land and would ally themselves with the Roman army. Later, however, one man, a Goth and former Roman commander, rose up against Rome – a man who only asked for what had been promised him – a man who would do what no other had done for eight centuries: sack Rome. His name was Alaric, and while he was a Goth, he had also been trained in the Roman army. He was intelligent, Christian, and very determined. He sought land in the Balkans for his people, land that they had been promised. Later, as the western emperor delayed his response, Alaric increased his demands, not only grain for his people but also recognition as citizens of the empire; however, the emperor, Honorius, continually refused. With no other course, Alaric gathered together an army of Goths, Huns and freed slaves and crossed the Alps into Italy. His army was well-organized, not a mob. Honorius was incompetent and completely out of touch, another in a long line of so-called “shadow emperors” – emperors who ruled in the shadow of the military.” 

   – Donald L. Wasson, The Fall Of The Western Roman Empire

As I’ve said, history is repeating itself.

A shadow government, a military industrial corporate security complex, rules a decaying Western empire, while the peoples’ needs are met with snears akin to, “Let them eat cake”.

An empire in decline, the Western (pseudo-democratic, crypto-fascist) corporate empire, facing both growing internal revolt and rising external competition, reacts in desperation with ever more desperate measures, like a wounded, dying beast, lashing out.

“By virtue of its unbounded aggression, Roman imperialism was responsible for its own destruction.” Peter Heather summed it up well. And again, it must be seen, it is happening again, as a new empire repeats the mistakes of the past.

The over-reaction, the hubris, the over-reach, both internally and externally; and above all, the callous and imperious, brazen heavy-handedness, will only hasten the decline and collapse of this latest of empires, which is the Western empire of corporate oligarchy.

Would-be God-kings never learn.

The Roman Empire fell for a number of reasons, including simple brain poisoning due to foolish choices of consumption (sounds familiar: lead goblets then, pesticides and junk food now). However, among the various causes, chief was internal decay. (Echoes, then as now: a culture of materialism, perpetual distraction, bread and circuses, and spiritual decay.) But a stubborn refusal to meet the legitimate desires and needs of the people, was key to the collapse and fall of the empire. (Again, a mirror image, and an echo.)

We will see the same again soon. It may take fifty years, or it may take five, but the new empire of global neofeudal corporate rule will fall, sooner or later. It is only a matter of time.

For the sake of the people, for the sake of us all, and for the sake of the Earth, let us pray it is soon. And we must do more than pray.

Let us make it so.

JTR,

May 17, 2020

The Plague: Then & Now

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2020 by jtoddring

Europe did not respond well to the biggest plague in its history, in 1347-1351, to put it mildly – with anti-semitism, pogroms, scapegoating, witch trials, burning heretics at the stake, torture, self-flagellation, misanthropy, self-loathing, death cults, cultural morbidity and dark obsessions, paranoia, highly dubious medical practices, xenophobia, soaring cultural and religious intolerance, dogma, conformity and group-think, etc.

But, to be fair, the Black Death did kill 30% of the population. Many people were sadly but understandably panicked. We have panicked, in 2020, over what amounts, statistically, to the common flu.

(Nerves of steel, I tell you. Clear-mindedness under pressure – to astounding degrees.)

By comparison, fewer than 300,000 have died globally from covid-19, which is comparable in death rates to the annual flu – with 300,000-700,000 deaths per year. That’s fewer than *one death per ten thousand people* from covid-19, versus *one in three dead* from the Plague.

We have utterly lost all perspective. The people have broadly lost their minds. Mass hysteria reigns.

“The study of contemporary archives suggests a mortality varying in the different regions between one-eighth and two-thirds of the population, and the French chronicler Jean Froissart’s statement that about one-third of Europe’s population died in the epidemic may be fairly accurate. The population in England in 1400 was perhaps half what it had been 100 years earlier; in that country alone, the Black Death certainly caused the depopulation or total disappearance of about 1,000 villages. A rough estimate is that 25 million people in Europe died from plague during the Black Death. The population of western Europe did not again reach its pre-1348 level until the beginning of the 16th century.” – Britannica

One in three dead, vs one in 10,000, or less. Yes, we have lost our minds. The response has no sane or rational connection to the reality.

Orwell would understand, as would Huxley. This is not complicated; but it does require a willingness to fact-check, to question authority, the media, the elite, and the standard narrative.

It requires a willingness to deal with reality. So far, that has been lost by the vast majority. That is the real plague: a plague of the mind. And Blake, as well, would understand that.

Everywhere, “The mind-forged manacles.”

Covid-19 is literally one ten-thousandth as deadly as the Plague – and about as dangerous as the common flu. And yet, people have lost their minds to hysteria, panic and fear. Why? Because they are easily manipulated by fear-mongering governments, elites, and the media.

And they are not only losing their minds and their perspective, but also their democracy and their freedoms, as a result.

Pretty poor showing so far. We have definitely returned to the dark ages.

Witch burning, anyone? How about a nice burning of the heretics, hmm?

Worse, we have all that, in essence, along with a modern technocratic, highly Orwellian police state.

Yes, we are in grave danger. But it is not due to a germ.

In the 1930s, the first wave of fascism arose; and the people recognized it, resisted it, and defeated it. In 2020, we have the culmination of a slow motion global corporate fascist coup – and the people see it not.

Their minds have been high-jacked. The psyops propaganda war has been perfected. And this time, the fascists are winning, while the masses are lost in panic and delusion, over an “invisible enemy” – over a germ.

But it ain’t over ’till it’s over. The people are awakening.

JTR,

May 9, 2020

Moral bankruptcy in a time of “plague”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2020 by jtoddring

 

20,000 children die a day of hunger, and nobody notices, nobody makes a peep: outcry is basically zero. But a new strain of the flu (statistically less dangerous than the typical annual flu) scares people into thinking THEY themselves are in danger, and everyone loses their mind. Clearly, we are a morally bankrupt society.

We’ve had an international social, political, and economic order based on mass looting, conquest, rape and pillage for thousands of years – and nobody raises an eyebrow. But a germ comes along that might affect the privileged, affluent regions of the world, and everyone goes insane. 

Again, we are a morally bankrupt society, without question. All pretence of caring for the sick, and ending unnecessary suffering and death, is a joke and a deceit. If we were serious about such things we would end war and poverty. Clearly, we are not serious in the slightest.

6.5% of global GDP, according to the IMF, or five trillion dollars a year, goes to subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. Another two trillion, at least, goes to war, militarism, and the growing global police state. If we were serious about human health and well-being, we would end this mass subsidy to slaughter, planetary destruction, plunder and the police state, and end poverty and war. Clearly we are not serious.

As Chomsky has said, This is a business-run society, whose cardinal value is deceit. That is the problem. Anyone who cares about human health or well-being must first start by dealing with reality.

You who scream your venomous, hate-filled attacks on anyone who questions the new global police state, and in effect beg for your chains: your moral arguments are hollow. You surely, secretly know this, in your heart of hearts; which is why the venom and the screams are so extreme, and extremely insane.

JTR,

May 8, 2020

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