Was a darn good investment on my part! I am absolutely loving his look at the development of ‘civilisation’, how we went from pastoral and agricultural farmers to human beings living in apartments within a thriving polis (city-state). Why do I find that interesting? Because it seems almost fantastical to think they had apartment blocks over 6000 years ago; when you think of an apartment you think of “looking over the Thames” or “Luxurious, down-town Manhattan”, not “Middle-East desert, central Uruk c.4000-3000 BC”! So simple, but oh so intriguing. Our world’s history is alluring and seductive, continually we are realising that it goes further and further back into the depths of time than we could even comprehend. Heck, some people used to (and, unfortunately still do) believe that the world was no more than 10,000 years of age, try several billion!
In particular what has caught my eye (apartment blocks aside), is the transition from the age of Bronze to Iron. It would appear we western-Europeans have always had the tendency to plumage and conquer our eastern neighbors (the war in Iraq should be an all too familiar sight by now), and all for material gain might I add. Approximately 3000 years ago, the brute Mycenean Greeks destroyed much of the East, including much of what could be defined as ‘civilisation’. Sure they gained much plunder (which consisted of women, slaves and some shiny objects), but the world as a result lost its writing, and thus lost its History. It does not surprise me at all that Hercules (or Herakles) is typically described as being “All Brawn, No brain”, if he fathered these Bronze age beasts it is not a surprise they ended how they did.
Dozens, probably even hundreds of, what we would label, ‘super powers’ have risen and fallen in the past. It seems inevitable, power is twinned with failure, yet we still seem obsessed with obtaining it, always a craving within us for more. Persia, Sparta, Rome and The British Empire alike, followed the same predictable pattern. Some achieved greater than others, but each of them ended nevertheless; destroyed or belittled by some other body. Consumed by the greatest sin of all – gluttony, we brought ourselves down and ground progress to a halt, it would take centuries before anyone managed to crawl out of the dark ages.
Hesiod, in his Work and Days, writes of three ages of Men; Gold, Silver, and Bronze, how they came to and ceased to be. When I first heard of this legend, I thought it could be nothing more than an elaborate myth. Of course most of it is (I doubt the men of silver were literally babies forever), but just like the majority of these tales that we assume are nothing more than folklore, truth is woven within their fabric. The men of Bronze, as I have mentioned, did indeed cause their own destruction through persistent war craft. We are now supposedly the men of Iron, Ovid writes:
“Finally, in the Iron Age, men demarcate nations with boundaries; they learn the arts of navigation and mining; they are warlike, greedy and impious. Truth, modesty and loyalty are nowhere to be found.”
We have been through a Dark age AD (caused by the fall of the Roman Empire, rise in Christianity, suppression of the education of Science and Philosophy), it seems like another fall must be on the horizon. What will be this cause this time? Will the sheer lack of practiced religion mean people will lose our connection with nature, and thus cause some sort of global disaster, such as a famine or drought? Everyone can see, if they allow themselves to do so, what effects mass production is having on the world. Cutting down masses of the Amazon (Mother Nature’s lungs) to plant soya and feed the absurd, and unnecessary, amount of cattle we farm not only is inducing cancer in thousands of humans across the world, but it is effectively also inflicting the Earth with its very own terminal illness! We need our jungles, those trees are not just pretty to look at, we need them to breathe, we need them to survive. Apparently an eruption the size of Vesuvius is due any moment now, what else is due? Or what if our destruction is solely a man-made one? It has been, partially, before and it could very well be again. The difference being that now the weapons at our disposal could cause far greater, devastating damage, they certainly did not have nuclear bombs in the Bronze Age.
Whatever is to happen in our unforeseeable (or rather foreseeable!) future, for now it is almost a certainty America will fall; as will China and India, and whomever else we assume are the up and coming powers. It may be a couple of years, decades or even centuries before one temporarily puts an end to our progression. It would seem easy enough to avoid, if only those men at the top would sit down for a moment, take a history lesson and see some sense. What is to happen you can almost predict, all we do not know is the exact detail of how, and when.
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” – Karl Marx.