Wednesday 16 January 2008

Hellenes, Helots and Horses; A Knowledge Based System

This post is written as a sequel to The First Systems- Why Man Invented Tyranny, but can easily be read as it stands.

To summarise it, the world threw up many civilisations, but their contribution to Civilisation, has been unequal. Some vanished without a trace, others fell gradually to the victors.

Something very special happened between 600 and 300 BC, which saw the birth of Civilisation as we know it.
From this point on, no system could better it, except it's own children.

To understand how it was born, we need to look first to geography. And then we have a surprise entrance from non-systems man, with a very special contribution indeed.

Sometimes answers really are outside the box.

If we look at the Americas, we have the Incas and the Aztecs, both highly developed at the same time, but too remote from eachother to culturally cross pollinate.

The Old world of 600BC was a bit like that. Systems man occupies most of Europe, the southern half of Asia, about half of Africa, but Systems of the phase 2 type are isolated. We have fully fledged versions on the Nile, on the Tigris and the Yangtze and a series of smaller, less developed transition zones and peripheries scattered about.
In Greece, Phoenicia and the Holy Land, and along the Indus valley, a number of small states blossomed at the same time and are kind of federal cultures, a power balance between city states.

Each culture is isolated, each has it's own values. Each knows little or nothing of the Gods, the knowledge, or the customs of the others.

They are worlds in isolation.

But outside the world of systems man, something happens.

As I said in the previous post, the first systems were the result of adopting a sedentary life.
To adopt a sedentary life, you have to able to grow enough on the land to feed enough men to defend that land.
If the land is not fertile enough, it isn't an option.

So the First Nations people of the North American plains, the Australian Aboriginals and the Bushmen cannot be accused of being too stupid to build great civilisations.
They didn't live in the sorts of places civilisations are born.

Geography, not racial factors determined which men and women settled to till the land.

And the Eurasian steppe was not one of those places.

But the tribes of the steppe were not stupider, nor less resourceful than their city dwelling fellow man.
They too, possessed his talent, his mastery of his environment.

And they tamed an (at that point) ALMOST extinct Perrisodacytl of the steppe.

This made them fearsome raiders indeed.

At first these raiders terrified. They were not seen as human, they were half man, half animal, that is how well they mastered the beasts they rode.
Centaurs, they were to the early Greeks.
Scythians, they become to the later writers.

And no infantry army of the great empires of the Near East, could defend it's cities against a cavalry swarm from the steppe. They could only buy them off.

And one tribe earned a special place in history. So special, that nineteenth century Germans believed that these MUST be Germans.
They weren't, of course. In fact their closest European relatives are the Magyars.

These were the Aryans, the original speakers of Sanskrit and Iranian.

At some point they split in to two groups. One moved west and settled down east of the great Empire of Babylon, bought off, but comfortable.

The other flank moved down upon the culture of the Indus valley.

Now it's worth looking at a crucial difference between systems man and these non systems raiders.

Systems man has a system. I make spears, you make pottery, he makes shields, he tells us what to do.
Everyone has their function.

The world must have been so much more complex to make and amazing beings must run it.
And each of them must have a function.
One tells them all what to do, one manages the underworld, one makes rain, another runs the sea.

Not so on the steppe. Here it's simpler. Someone stocks the larder of the world and someone looks after us. He may be a bit like us, this creator.
But beyond that, who can say?

The Aryans were staunch monotheists.
And this was crucial.

The Aryans who invaded simply found a system in place. They simply took it over. And made it subject to them. They became the ruling caste, the Brahmins. And everyone else was below them. A pyramid system, created by conquerors.

And they brought everyone in and united them by a clever trick. Every state would have it's own Gods. So the Aryans/Brahmins decided that all these gods were real, but at the same time, they were all in fact, just aspects of ONE god. Their god.
And this is Hinduism.

And this was the unique strength of Indian culture. It was founded on tolerance. Live and let live. Any idea is worth trying to bring in to the framework.
It was a system capable of adapting, of being added to, of exploring life.

And as a result, it gave birth to philosophers.
It was a thought based system, and thus it was an improvement on the primitive systems mentioned before.
What it wasn't, was a knowledge based system. It never developed in quite the same way as was to happen further westwards. It never learnt how to accumulate, analyse and store crucial knowledge, in such a way as to give birth to fresh knowledge.

It was a system that could give birth to fresh philosophies, that could provide stable society that could continue indefinitely, but ultimately, when it faced the systems that developed to the west, it lost.

So what happened to the west?

The western Aryans, with their horses.
The Persians.

For one day, the Persians had enough of being paid off. They went on the rampage.
And every culture in their vicinity fell to their horsemen.

The Aryans weren't Germans, and the Germans weren't Aryans, but the Persians were the Nazis of their day.
They never built civilisations, they stole them.

But the result was earthshattering.

The Persian Empire.
The cultures of the Tigris and the Nile, of Asia Minor (where money was first invented), under one roof, stretching even to the Greeks.

The horse had made the world smaller.

And the Greeks sometimes fought, sometimes paid the Persians off, but either way, they took advantage.

In three hundred years, a knowledge revolution took place.
The Greeks compared and contrasted. In this new world where horse drawn chariots made Babylon not so very far from Thebes, knowledge could be accumulated, the dross sifted from the gems.

The Egyptians understood quantitative relationships, the Babylonians understood the stars, the Lydians understood trade, the Greeks knew how to think.

Goodbye Flat World, Goodbye rainmaking Gods.

Solon, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle.

Compare the knowledge, accumulate what people know.

And soon it is agreed we line on a globe, 25,000 miles in circumference, that the world is governed by physical processes.

The square on the hypotenuse will always equal the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

But it is more.
Systems themselves can be studied in relative terms.
And what do we learn?
That responsibility is the key.

Monarchy is responsible, Tyranny is not.
Aristocracy is responsible, Oligarchy is not.
Democracy is responsible, Anarchy is not.

So which is best?

Sparta or Athens?

We look back now and say Athens, but the truth is different.

It was the blended models that won the day.
It was the Greek periphery state of Macedon that took the Persians on at their own game- cavalry- and overthrew them.

And whilst Alexander's Empire fell apart, he made a large portion of the world Greek.

In Alexandria, a city built by Greeks, Greek Kings ruled over Egypt.
And treasured a GREEK translation of HEBREW texts.

Knowledge is power.
Mankind had learned a valuable lesson.
Never let knowledge die. Preserve it and pass it on.

Mankind had defined it's existence in a new way.

Life exists, by the passing on of genetic information.

Now a species existed which lived by carrying that rule further.
It had ensured that it's knowledge would never die.
And once that is done, the future becomes secure.

Did they know very much?
Compared to us, No.
Even Aristotle was wrong about most of what he said.

But we'd started to think.

And we knew the value of knowledge.

Thoughts were preserved.
It was a system which had within it the chance to develop.

And its pinnacle was Rome.

And yes, in some ways, Rome is no improvement.

It's economy is built on plunder and slavery.

It is an Empire that exists to serve but one city.
Life gets better for those under it's rule, as a fortunate byproduct.

But a Million people living together, in a city that WORKS, and not only works, rules the most fertile portion of the globe. Here, the best of Athens AND Sparta, form a system of values, that even in it's decline, are based on sound principles of delivering, as far as is possible, a good quality of life for as many as possible.

This is no primitive system.
It uses the knowledge it has acquired to physically change the world.

Compare the Odyssey to the Aeneid. Reading the Odyssey, you might think Odysseus went on a vast voyage. No. He sails round the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Aeneid is set at the same time, but to the Romans, these places were all BETWEEN themselves and Greece. Aeneas' voyages seem less impressive, though he travels further.

It is a system built on genuine knowledge. And the most important point is, it PARTLY understands ITSELF.
Republic, or Empire?

It sees the point. Too much power concentrated in too few hands is bad. But how else do you make quick decisions which affect the lives and prosperity of millions?
There is dim conceptual understanding of the issues that need to be addressed in perfecting the way of live of the species.

But as yet, no real understanding of how to take that forward.

It stores the knowledge of the great knowledge interchange, it adds what it discovers from it's conquests, but it does not analyse it and generate fresh thought.
If Aristotle said that anvils fall quicker than sticks, why check it?
If Galen says there is a network of blood vessels in the back of the neck, why check it?
The system acquires knowledge and stores it. It is poor at experimenting and developing knowledge FROM knowledge.

But look at Rome. And not just Rome, look at the cities it has enslaved.
Better, in material terms, to live as Roman subjects, than free Britons.

And so, the prosperity of Rome is worth the odd Caligula.

At least, it is if you are a Patrician of Rome.
Because nobody is asking Slaves, Gauls, Britons or Jews.

But the great thing about this system, is that one day it ceases to matter if anyone is asking.

This system is still doomed to decay, but fortunately, it will not decay until something better is already in the ascendant.
It decays, because it is a core-periphery system. It depends on the will of the core, and the resources of the periphery.

It remains fragile, once the core starts to ossify.
And when the tob job is a commodity to be bought and sold by the Praetorian guard, the necassary vigour neeeded to maintain the greatest infrastructure that had ever happened, had gone.
But it left a legacy. It left an infrastructure of amazing proportions, a legacy to it's heirs which kept society alive, largely unchanged once Rome had fallen.

And the new guardians of society knew what a treasure they were taking on.

And who were they? The products of a new outlook. An outlook that started with a man being nailed to a cross, but ultimately resulted in a movement whose primary aim was the Kingdom of the Creator of the Universe himself.
But who also founded a system based entirely on the storage and development of knowledge.

Preserving the knowledge now becomes priority number one.
And with the collapse of Rome comes the Religion based system.
Where knowledge truly is power.

From now on, things can only get better.


Anonymous said...

Nice round up of history. So much to think about and digest. Reminds me of history class, but more palatable. At one point Greeks did inherit the earth.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't you a teacher, Crushed?!

Anonymous said...

... and it all ended with the University of Google and wikipedia which in ten short years destroyed the value of knowledge, and is it became ubiquitous it also became worthless...

Anonymous said...

Ha, and again Mutley rounds out the effect. I wonder though how the communication has not made it into your synthesis, for the dissemination of knowledge is--to a degree--more important than knowledge herself. Again where Mutley's wisdom becomes relevant.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the clip you put up yesterday...

as for today's post ... the 2 ORIGINAL monotheistic religions (as I see)

are Zoroastrianism (Indian Parsees)

and Judaism (which PREDICTED CHRISTIANITY though the Jews prophetically REJECTED Jesus... running into Christianity)... Islam claims to be, in a sense, the crowning all-explaining thesis of the "Abrahamic" "faiths of the book"... o blah blah I just thought I'd throw that 2p worth in

Anonymous said...

Very interesting way of looking at this, well new to me.
As to Mutley's comment, I'm delighted with the ubiquity of knowledge and the ease of access that the computer has brought us because it is available instantly, it is kept up to date and it means that learning can go on long after formal education ends. It means that knowledge is not a power held by the few, for once you can read knowledge is there for the taking.

Is this series continuing?

Anonymous said...

Alexys- Mre paltable, I guess because I try to look at the overall sweep, and see what's actually.
These eras are less controversial. Unfotunately, as you see, for me to what I'm attempting involves sincere analysis of human thought.
This does mean that I in forthcoming posts, I will doing exactly the same with a lot of still extant ideas and will probably offend just everybody at some point.

Welshcakes- They tend to like people who were better behaved in their youth :).
And I don't have the patience. When I warm to subject, I talk quite fast and quite impassioned. And whilst here, I can go over it and see I need to clarify passages, the poor class wouldn't be that lucky.

Mutley- Not at all.
Do you know why computers will NEVER have minds like ours?
Ability to spot in patterns.

This how human deduction works.
Scienctific leaps forward are ALWAYS obtained by a polymath spotting identical patterns in apparently unrealted topics.

Like Darwin releasing that evolution was driven by NATURAL ECONIMICS.

Like Einstein realizing that you could if you that force = half mass times speed and assume that mass and energy are related, you get e =mc².

Computers will never link such apparently co-incides to make deductions.

You have to have GENES to rule this universe.
Think about it.

Helen- Communication is the basis of it.
The most efficient system at any time is the most free and equal, that human technology permirs.
Communication is the key to the state.
As better communication means that more people can be brought in, without dangerously delaying decision making processes, than the wider system, always becomes more efficient.
Simply because of the amount of human minds it adds.

The entire basis of my ideas, and which I am using this series to explain.

Gledwood- Which it was survived and flourished under the Persians.
The Persians had a soft spot for the fellow monotheists.
These fancy city dwelling decadents did have some righteous folk after all.

Of course, monotheism is far more satiafactory to the scientific mind, which is why, amogst rational Greek thinkers, the idea of one God was so much more belieavable.

Christanity is NOT a montheist religion as such, it is the highjacking of that cause by Greek thought.

The Catholic Church is really the world's first ideology.
But that's for the next post of the series.

jmb- Ah. You got the point I made to Helen just.
Yes, progress is always acheived, when the system allows more minds to be added to the mix.
The more minds come across more knowledge, the more of us have their heads solving human problems.

It is.
Three more at least planned, then we kind of come to a related tpic, projecting the future on the basis of follwing the systematic development.