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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Spiritual East, Materialistic West

The East has never created an ideology; the West has never created a religion. Every religion that has become popular in the West in the last 3000 years has originated in the East. Every ideology that has become popular in the East in the last 150 years has originated in the West.

The East is spiritual, otherworldly, conscientious, traditional, altruistic, territorial, and introspective—it has the sensibility and wisdom to develop and propagate religions like Judaism, Paganism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, Christianity, and Islam. The West is materialistic, technical, selfish, revolutionary, extrovert, brutal, power hungry, and expansionist—it has the mentality and knowledge to create ideologies like militarism, imperialism, communism, socialism, fascism, racism, nazism, conservatism, liberalism, and libertarianism. 

When the East tries to develop an ideology, it comes up with a personality cult. When the West tries to develop a religion, it comes up with a materialistic cult like scientology. Eastern religions rule the West; Western ideologies rule the East.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Western Propaganda of Cannibalism

Cannibalism is such an effective propaganda tool that the Western political appetite for it will never be satiated. Wherever the Western imperialists went during the Age of Imperialism, they found cannibals. They didn’t need to offer scientific evidence to prove the allegation of cannibalism. Just a rumor started by anyone was sufficient to tar any community in the Americas, Africa, and Asia with the label of cannibal. 

The Western chroniclers have claimed that the people in Congo fatten their prisoners before cooking and serving them. They have claimed that the Fijians and New Guineans dined on exquisitely cooked human flesh. They have described the recipes that Brazil’s Tupinambá people use to cook human flesh. In the Americas, any tribe that fought with the conquistadors was branded as cannibals. They have branded the caribs as cannibals. They have written about the cannibalistic feasts of the Aztecs.

These allegations of cannibalism were aimed at creating the impression that the people of the Americas, Africa, and Asia were more akin to animals. Thus, they could be looted, enslaved, and killed with impunity. The strange thing is that cannibalism used to be reported in any area before the Westerners conquered and plundered it—once they had conquered the land, looted the gold and silver, and enslaved the people, cannibalism magically disappeared. 

The conquistadors lived in close proximity to the Aztec and other indigenous tribes of the Americas for decades—if cannibalism was rampant, then how is it that no one from Spain got eaten? The cannibal epithet was stuck on the Aztecs on the basis of one letter in which Hernán Cortés claims that he once saw an Aztec eating human flesh. After the conquistadors conquered the Aztec Empire, they did not find any evidence of cannibalism. The purpose of the allegations of cannibalism was to justify their brutal conquest and plunder of the Aztec community.

Since the fifteenth century, the Western fiction writers have been conjuring lurid tales of cannibalism in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. In the twentieth century, many of these tales have been turned into movies which take the propaganda against the non-Western regions to a new level. The stray incidents of cannibalism due to insanity, psychological maladies, or extremely bad survival conditions can happen anywhere, in any culture, including Europe. These incidents are a rarity, they are criminal acts, and they are unfortunate.

The Western obsession with cannibalism did not begin in the Age of Imperialism. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote about a tribe called Androphagi who were the “only people who eat human flesh.” Herodotus had never encountered the Androphagi. He did not know anyone who had encountered them. He does not clarify where the Androphagi could be found. He has blamed them for cannibalism for one reason: they existed far from the Ancient Greek world. His logic was that since they were far from Greece, they must be cannibals.

The sixteenth century French essayist, Michel de Montaigne, gave some thought to cannibalism in his essay, “Of the Cannibals.” He says that “we are to judge by the eye of reason, and not from common report.” But he goes on to assert that the cannibalism in far flung areas could be excused since people there were savages. 

Montaigne was influenced by the account of Hans Staden who has claimed that he lived among the Tupinambá people and witnessed them cooking and consuming human flesh. Staden’s account is so bizarre that it would take a first rate idiot to believe him. He describes the females in Tupinambá tribe as a sort of Amazonian women who have a taste for man’s flesh and play a central role in torturing, killing, and cooking men. The question is: Why didn’t the Amazonian women of the Tupinambá tribe cook Hans Staden? He was with them for years. 

History is written by the victors. The vanquished lose their land, property, dignity, and culture. Their voices are silenced. They get branded as cannibals. After the 1950s, anthropological studies have emerged which show that there is no evidence to back the allegations of cannibalism. These allegations were the outcome of the twisted imagination of some Western imperialists, chroniclers, and fiction writers. The branding of communities in the Americas, Africa, and Asia as cannibals is a pernicious legacy of Western imperialism.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Carnage of the Conquistadors

“And when they have given them the gift, they appeared to smile, to rejoice exceedingly, and to take great pleasure. Like monkeys they seized upon the gold. It was as if then they were satisfied, sated, and gladdened. For in truth they thirsted mightily for gold; they stuffed themselves with it, and starved and lusted for it like pigs.” ~ An Aztec’s description of the reaction of the conquistadors to gold. (Recorded by Friar Bernardino Sahagun, who was missionary for 50 years in Mexico in the sixteenth century) 

Similar words could be used to describe the Western lust for liquid gold (petroleum) in the twentieth century. How many lives in poor countries has the West sacrificed in the last five hundred years to satiate its gargantuan appetite for slaves, land, gold, silver, and petroleum? The human cost of the rise of the West is unimaginable. In my article, “The Western Empires and Slavery,” I wrote: “The West appeals to democracy and liberty when it is weak. When it was strong it conquered, colonized, and enslaved.”

In November 1519, when Hernán Cortés, the Spanish warlord, arrived with his four or five hundred conquistadors, he was personally received by the King of the Aztecs, Moctezuma. The Aztecs were awed by the war horses and the ferocious mastiffs that the Spanish had brought with them. Moctezuma is supposed to have said: 

"Our lord, you are very welcome in your arrival in this land. You have come to satisfy your curiosity about your noble city of Mexico. You have come here to sit on your throne, to sit under its canopy, which I have kept for awhile for you… For I am not just dreaming, not just sleepwalking, not seeing you in my dreams. I am not just dreaming that I have seen you and have looked at you face to face. I have been worried for a long time, looking toward the unknown from which you have come, the mysterious place. For our rulers departed, saying that you would come to your city and sit upon your throne. And now it has been fulfilled, you have returned. Go enjoy your palace, rest your body. Welcome our lords to this land.”

Moctezuma was naive and superstitious. He feared that Cortés was an exiled God who had returned to claim his lands. He made several serious miscalculations. Much to his later chagrin, he allowed Cortés and his men to live in his palace. He pampered Cortés by giving him a tour of his city. He showed Cortés the gold and silver artifacts in his temples and palace. In January 1520, he formally accepted vassaldom to the King of Spain and agreed to become a Christian. 

Cortés made a series of cunning and ruthless moves and took control of the Aztec palace. On his orders, the conquistadors decapitated the Aztec Empire by boldly seizing Moctezuma. With their King a hostage of the conquistadors, the Aztecs were paralyzed for months. But when the conquistadors slaughtered hundreds of unarmed civilians (including women and children) during a religious ceremony, the Aztecs launched a ferocious attack. Seeing that Moctezuma had lost the power to control the Aztecs, Cortés had him strangled. 

In early 1521, the conquistadors found a new deadly ally: smallpox. The disease moved swiftly and decimated the Aztec population. The Aztec Empire became a land of the dead and dying. By August 1521, the conquistadors had captured the capital city of Tenochtitlan. They tore apart the palaces, temples, and other important buildings to get their hand on Aztec gold. In 1520 when Cortés arrived in Mexico, the Aztec population was 25 million—a century later it was one million.

The same kind of massacre, loot, and vandalism happened at the Inca Empire, located in Peru. The Inca ruler Atahualpa, like Moctezuma, made the foolish mistake of trying to pamper the conquistadors, led by the Spanish warlord Francisco Pizarro, by showering them with gold and silver. The conquistadors captured him and held him hostage in Cajamarca. They demanded and received a famous roomful of gold and silver as ransom. They melted down seven tons of gold and thirteen tons of silver, and then they refused to release Atahualpa. 

In July 1533, the Spanish executed Atahualpa and began their march to the Inca capital of Cuzco, high in the Andes. Cuzco was the center of the universe, according to Inca cosmology. Here there was a series of bloody battles, first between the Inca soldiers and the conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro, and then between the rival factions of the conquistadors. There was a massive slaughter on all sides. Smallpox and other diseases played a role in devastating the Inca community. From 1520 to 1571, the Inca Empire lost a major part of its population.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Three Defeats Which Shaped the Imperialist West

The first clash (in the post-Roman era) between the East and the West happened from 711 to 718 AD. The West was defeated—the Umayyad Caliphate conquered a major part of Eastern Europe (they ruled Southwestern Europe for nearly 800 years, till 1492). The second clash happened in the time of the crusades, between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. The West was defeated—the Crusaders lost Asia Minor, North Africa, and most of the Levant, including the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The third clash happened in 1453. The West was defeated—the last outpost of the Byzantine Empire, the city of Constantinople fell to the Ottomans.

Ironically, these three defeats pushed the West into a new direction and transformed it into an imperialist power.

From the time of the Roman Empire, the West had aimed to create a land route which would place its traders in direct contact with the Indian producers of spices and the Chinese producers of silk. They were paying a massive premium to the middlemen who brought these products from India and China. A lot of foreign exchange could be saved through a direct connection between Western traders and Asian producers. The failure of the crusades and the fall of the Byzantine Empire meant that the West could not enter the Middle East and take a land route to India and China. The only way by which the West could reach India and China was by sea. 

The first European nation to launch a major sea expedition was Portugal, and the second was Spain. In the fifteenth century, these two nations were Europe’s most diverse societies—with a large number of Jews, Arabs, and Africans living alongside the Christians. The Islamic powers had ruled Portugal for more than 500 years, and Spain for about 800 years. They had turned Portugal and Spain into Europe’s trading centers. A significant part of the products from Africa, India, and China would arrive in Portugal and Spain before being shipped to other parts of Europe. 

During the period of Islamic rule, the Portuguese and the Spanish had mastered several eastern innovations, including compass, astrolabe, lateen sail, and gunpowder. They used these innovations to create navigational systems, large ships, and guns and canons. Around 1410, Prince Henry of Portugal (better known as Prince Henry the Navigator) brought together a team of Arabs, Africans, Jews, and European Christians to devise the technological systems for improving Portugal’s maritime capacity. The famous cartographer Jehuda Cresques (who was a converso, better known as Cresques the Jew) was part of Prince Henry’s team. 

In 1415, the Portuguese made their first overseas conquest—the port of Ceuta which lies on the North African coast across the Straits of Gibraltar from the Iberian Peninsula. They used Ceuta as a trading post for transporting goods from Africa to Europe. In 1488, they rounded the Cape of Good Hope (the voyage of Bartolomeu Dias). In 1498, they found the sea route to India (the voyage of Vasco da Gama). When large European plantations came up in the Americas, the Portuguese became their slave suppliers. They transported about five million people forcibly taken from Africa to the Americas. The Portuguese founded the world’s longest running empire—the last outpost of their Empire, Portuguese Macau, was handed over to the Chinese in 1999.  

When Columbus sailed in 1492 to find a sea route to India, he was using the knowledge developed by the Portuguese. He went in the wrong direction and ended up discovering the Americas. To the indigenous people that he encountered in the Americas, he gave the name indios (“Indians”). This wrong name is still being used.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Western Empires and Slavery

The major Empires of the Western civilization are: Ancient Athens, Ancient Sparta, the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Portuguese Empire, the British Empire, the Dutch Empire, the French Empire, and the American Empire. The common feature of these empires is that they were founded on slave labor. 

The number of slaves in Ancient Athens, the so-called bastion of philosophy and democracy, was ten times more than the citizens. The Athenian philosopher Aristotle has posited that without slave labor an intellectual life is not possible. In the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire the slaves were ten to fifteen times more than the citizens. Wherever the Roman military went, the Roman slave traders followed. Whenever the Romans won a battle, the defeated side was sold to the slave traders. For more than 600 years, the Romans held their gladiator spectacles in which thousands of slaves were butchered—no other civilization has forced its slaves to fight to the death for the entertainment of the masses.

From the 1440s to the 1860s some 12–15 million Africans were brought to North and South America in chains and made to labor in the mines and plantations. This was the largest forced migration in history. All the European imperialist powers—Spain, Portugal, England, France, and Holland—profited from the slave trade.  It is estimated that more than 750,000 slaves from Africa were brought to the thirteen colonies of the United States. In 1660, the British Monarch Charles II granted the monopoly on Atlantic slave trade to the Royal African Company. His brother James II was the commander of the company before he ascended to the throne of Britain in 1685—the irony, a slaver became the King of England. 

During the journey from Africa, the slaves were kept below deck, where tropical temperatures would be above 100 degrees, and the conditions would be extremely cramped, unhygienic and rife with disease. They were given minimal food and water, and there were frequent punishments. About 20 percent of the slaves used to die during the Atlantic crossing. 

The Western empires tend to fall when they lose control of their slaves. The Athenians and the Spartans were weakened by the frequent rebellion of their slaves. The Roman Republic fell within 50 years of the great slave revolt led by Spartacus and other gladiators. The Roman Empire fell after the Goths, Gauls, Vandals, Alans, and other tribes of Europe united into a militaristic group and started attacking the Roman slavers. The empires of Spain, Portugal, England, France, and Holland fell when their colonies started fighting for independence. The American empire has started declining after the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

The non-Western empires have used slaves too—but in far smaller numbers. Most importantly, the non-Western empires do not indulge in virtue signaling by claiming that they are the bastions of liberty and democracy. Since the 1950s, the Western cries for liberty and democracy have become shrill and desperate—this is because the non-Western cultures are now economically and militarily powerful. Now the West does not have the power to impose its imperialist hegemony on the world. The West appeals to democracy and liberty only when it is weak. When it was strong it conquered, colonized, and enslaved.

The claim that the USA was created by a small group of elites—people like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Monroe, and Franklin—is a fantasy crafted by the one-sided historiographers and propagandists (the chauvinist intellectual elements) of the West. The blood, toil, and tears of millions of natives of the Americas and of all those who were brought from Africa has played a role in the rise of the USA. The people of all the colonies of the Imperialist powers have paid a heavy price for the rise of North America and Europe.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Mongols and the Rise of the Ottomans

The Mongol foreign policy in the time of Genghis Khan and his sons and grandsons can be expressed in a single sentence: “If you surrender and pay us tribute, we will spare you; if you fight us, we will wipe you out.” In the thirteenth century, the Mongols became the worst nightmare of the Islamic states in Asia Minor and the Levant. 

After the disastrous sack of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204, the military power and prestige of the Byzantine Emperors was finished. The Seljuk Sultans of Konya were now in a position to capture the Byzantine Empire. Had they made a daring military move, they could have taken the city of Constantinople. But they failed to capitalize on Byzantine weakness and the chaos created by the unruly crusaders, though they captured some important Byzantine ports, particularly the city of Alanya on the Mediterranean Sea, and the city of Sinop (which became a naval base in the time of the Ottoman Empire) on the Black Sea. 

When Kaykhusraw II became the Sultan of Konya in 1237, he started receiving messages from Mongolia that the Mongol Great Khan wanted him to come to his court to pay homage and accept the position of Mongol Darughachi (governor or vassal). Kaykhusraw refused. In June 1243, a Mongol army led by Mongol General Baiju Noyan smashed into the Seljuk Empire and took control of the city of Erzurum. Baiju’s intention was to provoke a decisive battle with the Seljuk army. Kaykhusraw had no alternative except facing the Mongols in the battlefield. 

The battle between the Mongols and the Seljuk Turks was fought at the defile of Köse Dağ (in modern Northeastern Turkey) on June 26. The Mongol army was about half the size of the Seljuk army. Immediately after the first round of skirmishing, the Mongols pretended to retreat. The Seljuk forces thought that the Mongols were fleeing. They broke their formation and rushed forward to chase the enemy. After retreating for a short distance, the Mongols circled back and surrounded the disorganized Seljuk army and started slaughtering them. 

Kaykhusraw realized that his army was defeated, and he left the battlefield with his commanders. Most of their soldiers fled from the battlefield. The Mongols took control of the cities of Sivas and Kayseri. Kaykhusraw fled to Antalya. Eventually he paid a significant tribute to Baiju and became a vassal of the Mongol Great Khan. 

On their way to Asia Minor from Mongolia, the Mongol army had attacked several Turkish settlements and they had forced the Turkish tribes to flee to Asia Minor. Tens of thousands of Turks had poured into Asia Minor before the Mongols. They refused to go back to their homeland. They were adamant about practicing their tribal customs. It was difficult to control them and align them to the Islamic way of life. In the wake of defeat by the Mongols, the Sultans of Konya could not muster the economic and military resources to assimilate these migrants from Central Asia. The pressure of the migrants, led to the disintegration of the Seljuk Empire into a number of principalities.

Ironically, by defeating the Sultans of Konya, the Mongols helped in the spread of Islam. Among the Turks that they drove into Asia Minor, there were Islamic theologians, mystics, artists, craftsmen, and merchants who contributed massively in the propagation of Islam. Jalal ad-Din Rumi was one of the Turks who fled to Asia Minor with his family during this period. Rumi would eventually start the Sufi movement which would inspire many Christians to adopt Islam. 

Another consequence of the decline of the Sultans of Konya was that the space was cleared for the rise of the Ottomans. The founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman Ghazi was a minor chieftain (Bey) of the Sultans of Konya. In the final decades of the thirteenth century, no one could have believed that Osman’s successors would one day forge an empire that would control much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. He was able to build a formidable army by incorporating the Turks who had arrived in wake of the Mongol invasion. In 1302, he gave a demonstration of his military strength by defeating the Byzantines in the Battle of Bapheus. 

Osman’s successor, Orhan Ghazi, became the Bey in 1326. In the same year, he captured the city of Bursa from the Byzantine Empire. In 1337, he took the title of Sultan (the word means guardian) and made Bursa the first Ottoman capital. In 1354, the Ottomans marched into Europe and conquered the Balkans. They conquered Constantinople in 1453. 

The Ottoman Empire started declining in the late eighteenth century, and in the twentieth century, they were no longer an expansionist force. After the First World War, if the Ottoman Empire was not dismembered by the greedy Western powers, who wanted to create new nations in the Middle East where they could install their puppet regimes and have access to cheap petroleum, the Ottomans could have ensured peace and stability in the region. The dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire is the West’s great mistake.

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Collision of the Three Worlds: Europe, the Americas, and Africa

The collision of the three worlds—Europe, the Americas, and Africa—that took place between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries is responsible for the creation of the USA and Canada in North America and several nations in South America. The first act of the collision of these three worlds was initiated by the Spanish—in 1492, the Spanish Conquistadors smashed into the Indies (Hispaniola and other islands), and unleashed a cataclysm into the life of the tribal communities that had been living in isolation in these islands for thousands of years.

Within fifteen years of the arrival of the conquistadors, the independent kingdoms of Hispaniola were destroyed, the leaders of most tribes were killed, the indigenous population was sent into precipitous decline, and the tribal way of life was wiped out. The barbaric methods of the conquistadors was the primary reason for the decline in the native population, but now they faced a new problem. With most natives dead, the conquistadors didn’t have the slave labor to operate the gold and copper mines, and do the construction and farming work.

When King Ferdinand II of Aragon was made aware of the decline in the indigenous population of the Indies, he authorized the use of African slaves. The first batch of 100 people enslaved in Africa was brought to Santo Domingo colony on the island of Hispaniola somewhere around 1510. They were put to work in the copper and gold mines. As the native populations continued to decline, more African slaves were brought to take their place.

During his second voyage to the Americas, in 1493, Columbus brought with him sugarcane stalks from the Canary Islands. In those days, sugar was a luxury product. But with slaves to do the backbreaking labor of sugar production in the Americas, sugar would become an article of mass consumption. When large-scale commercial sugarcane farms began in the Americas, during the 1550s, Spanish and the Portuguese were using people who had been enslaved in Africa. The entry of other European powers, the English, the Dutch, and the French, led to a vast increase in the number of people being enslaved in Africa and shipped to the Americas.

The spread of smallpox in South and North America killed more than twenty-five percent of the indigenous population between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The death of such a large number of indigenous people freed a lot of territory which the European colonists quickly captured for establishing their cities and plantations. More cities and plantations meant the influx of more European settlers and African slaves. The continuous arrival of people from Europe and Africa led to a massive transformation in the demography of the Americas. 

Wars broke out between the European powers for control of North America. Freedom movements and revolutions broke out in South America. These wars, freedom movements, and revolutions gave birth to the countries that exist today. In 1776, the USA was created, but its borders continued to expand for more than a century. Canada was created in 1867. The European powers were forced to retreat from South America between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries.

Colonialism and slavery came to an end in the nineteenth century, but they have left behind scars which will not go away for a long time. In the twentieth century, the black population of America found its political voice and, in the current century, they have captured a major slice of political and cultural power in the USA. America’s Latino population has also become very assertive. The 1619 Project (spearheaded by the NYT) can be seen as a recognition of the growing cultural and political might of the African and Latino communities in North America. 

After 1990, the political situation in North America has been transformed by the entry of a fourth world: the Asians (the Chinese and Islamic forces). Now North America is a battleground of four worlds: Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. By 2035, the European West is certain to lose power in North America.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Legacy of Isabella I and Ferdinand II

Queen Isabella I of Castile died in November 1504. Immediately after her death, her fifty-two year old husband King Ferdinand II of Aragon was looking for a second wife. He married eighteen year old Germaine of Foix in July 1505. Germaine was obsessed with having a male child who could inherit the throne. She used to feed Ferdinand love potions made from bull testicles to increase his virility. A male child John was born to them in May 1509, but he died within hours. They did not have a second child. The bull testicle medicine was clearly a failure—it probably damaged Ferdinand’s heart. He died in January 1516 due to heart complications. 

The rule of Isabella and Ferdinand saw some of the worst massacres ever recorded in history—the minority population of Spain was wiped out and millions of natives in the Americas died within 20 years of the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. The population of Hispaniola declined by ninety percent. Isabella and Ferdinand were very religious. They used to say that they wanted to impose their religion on people in every part of the world. If that was the case, why did they send to the Americas their worst killers and psychopaths? They knew what was happening in the Americas but they did nothing to stop the cruelties, depravities, and massacres. 

Isabella and Ferdinand were quite successful in purely geopolitical terms, but in moral terms, theirs is a blood-soaked legacy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Queen Anacaona and the Conquistadors

In 1503, when the Spanish Governor of the Indies (Hispaniola), Nicolás de Ovando, arrived in the kingdom of Xaragua with his conquistadors, Anacaona, the Queen of Xaragua, did whatever she could to charm the Spaniards. She summoned about a hundred of her nobles and caciques (tribal leaders) and several other important people from her tribe. A lavish feast was organized in honor of the Spaniards. There were a series of entertainments—performances of native dancers, a game of sticks, a parade of horses, and music of Spanish guitars.

Anacaona and her subjects did not realize that they were doomed. The Spanish had already taken the decision that they were going to extend their domination over all of Hispaniola. They intended to take all the land and divide it among the new Spanish settlers who would undertake to stay for at least five years. The native population was to be reduced to subjection. The conquistadors had arrived in Xaragua to bring an end to Anacaona’s tribal kingdom.

Ovando proclaimed that his men would give a display of Spanish arms. The natives were pleased to hear this. They congregated in a small area. Ovando wore around his neck the gold cross of the Order of Alcantara. When he placed his hand on the cross, his conquistadors opened fire. At the same time, the Spanish horsemen and foot soldiers surrounded the large house in which the caciques and nobles had been lured by Ovando. They set fire to the house and prevented anyone from escaping the inferno. All the caciques and nobles were burnt to death. Anacaona was captured. She was accused of rebellion and executed in the Plaza de Santo Domingo.

The killing of their queen and caciques provoked the natives. They attacked the conquistadors. But their weapons, made out of wood, were no match for Spanish swords and guns. They fought ferociously and managed to kill forty conquistadors. There is no estimate of how many natives were killed. The conquistadors chased the natives all over the place, corralling them in fields and then cutting them down with swords. In their desperation to escape, many natives died by leaping into ravines. A number of native women killed themselves to avoid the fate of falling into the hands of the conquistadors. 

The Spanish victory was complete. Spain was now in control of Hispaniola’s western part. But the reports of the massacres in Hispaniola created a controversy in Europe. In 1509, Ovando was recalled by the Spanish monarchs (Queen Isabella I, King Ferdinand II) to answer to the charges of cruelty towards the natives. The Spanish monarchs did not incarcerate him. He was allowed to keep the property that he had brought with him from the Americas. Bartolomé de las Casas, the Spanish bishop, landowner, and chronicler, has described the carnage that took place in Xaragua in his 1542 book A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies.

The seven year reign of Ovando (1502 to 1509) proved more disastrous for the natives than the reign of Columbus. There was a precipitous decline in native population. It has been estimated that in 1492, the time of the arrival of the Spaniards, the population of Hispaniola was 500000, and by 1507 only 60,000 were left. This ninety percent decline in population was not due to smallpox, which arrived in Mexico in 1519, during the time of Cortés.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Columbus and the First Record of Love Making in the New World

In November 1493, a raiding party led by Christopher Columbus killed some natives and kidnapped some in the island of Guadalupe. Among the kidnapped natives, there was a beautiful young girl. Columbus gifted the girl to a conquistador called Michele da Cuneo. In a letter, dated Oct 28, 1495, da Cuneo has described his experience with the native girl. This excerpt from da Cuneo’s letter could be the first record of love making in the Americas:

“When I was in the boat, I took a beautiful Cannibal girl and the admiral gave her to me. Having her in my room and she being naked as is their custom, I began to want to amuse myself with her. Since I wanted to have my way with her and she was not willing, she worked me over so badly with her nails that I wished I had never begun. To get to the end of the story, seeing how things were going, I got a rope and tied her up so tightly that she made unheard of cries which you wouldn't have believed. At the end, we got along so well that, let me tell you, it seemed she had studied at a school for harlots. The admiral named the cape on that island the cape of the Arrow for the man who was killed by the arrow.”

Michele da Cuneo calls the girl a cannibal, but historians have not found any evidence of cannibalism in these islands. Columbus and his conquistadors had the policy of denouncing as cannibals every tribe that was not submissive, and resisted and fought. Once a tribe was denounced as a cannibal tribe, they could be enslaved under Spanish law. It was in the interest of Columbus and his followers to enslave people after branding them as cannibals—the slaves provided free labor and their sale brought revenues.

Columbus was the Spanish governor of the islands that he had discovered in the Americas. But he had no experience with civil administration. He could not control the rapacity of his followers. The two obsessions of his administration were to find gold and sell slaves. The indigenous Taíno population of Hispaniola was wiped out within years of the arrival of the Spanish. In his official letters to the Spanish monarchs, Columbus often brags about the profits that can be made from the sale of slaves. 

Even the Spanish monarchs were appalled by the brutality and incompetence with which Columbus was administering the American islands. If the Spanish regime, which was itself quite brutal, was accusing Columbus of brutality, then that should tell you just how bad his administration was. When Francisco de Bobadilla, a senior functionary in the Spanish regime, arrived in the Americas, he arrested Columbus and his chief associates for irregularities. Columbus and his brother were put in chains and taken by sea to Spain. But they were released by the Spanish monarchs. 

Those who celebrate Columbus Day, should remember that they are glorifying a man who: profited from slavery, had natives in the Americas maimed or killed for flimsy reasons, presided over the ethnic cleansing of some native tribes, and did nothing to stop the abuse of native women by the conquistadors. The notion that Columbus facilitated the spread of “liberty, democracy, and culture” to the Americas is just political propaganda. While the Europeans gained from the rampage of the conquistadors, the indigenous tribes of the Americas were sacrificed.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Victor Davis Hanson’s Blinkered View of Western Warfare

“This book attempts to explain why that is all so, why Westerners have been so adept at using their civilization to kill others—at warring so brutally, so often without being killed.” ~ Victor Davis Hanson in Carnage and Culture. This is such a sadistic sentence. Only a sadist would brag about the lands that his civilization had invaded, the brutal tactics that they used to subjugate the natives, and the ease with which they slaughtered the natives.

Why did a disproportionate amount of territory, wealth, and power go to the West during the Age of Imperialism? The irony is that Hanson glorifies invasion and carnage (as long as the West is doing it) while professing a religious belief in liberty, democracy, and culture. If the Western side is committing the invasion and carnage, then people like Hanson will brag about it and justify it as the progress of “liberty, democracy, and good culture.”

To make the case that Western military power is the best, Hanson describes nine battles: Salamis (480 BC); Gaugamela (331 BC); Cannae (216 BC); Poitiers (732); Tenochtitlan (1521); Lepanto (1571); Rorke’s Drift (1879); Midway (1942); and Tet (1968). He presents only the Western account on these battles and ignores the account of the non-Western side. It is disconcerting to read the false claims that he makes to glorify his side, and the innuendoes, outright lies, and biased analysis that he uses to tarnish the record of the non-Western side.

Using one-sided analysis of just nine battles to prove that the “West is the best” is such a naive approach. Anyone with knowledge of history can quickly develop a counter-list of battles and do his own one-sided analysis of these battles to prove that some other civilization is the best. Perhaps I should write a book on the following twelve battles to prove that the Western armies fail to make headway against determined non-Western armies:

1. Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC): Persians versus Athenians. The Persians managed to evict 7000 well-entrenched Athenians in just four days. After that their way to Athens was wide open.

2. Athenian War in Egypt (460 BC): Egyptians (backed by Persians) versus Athenians. The Egyptians and Persians defeated the Athenians. The Athenians lost most of the army and navy that they had sent to invade Egypt.

3. Battle of Lake Trasimene (217 BC): Carthaginians versus Romans. The Carthaginians wiped out an entire Roman Army numbering of around 25000 soldiers. The Romans were also defeated at the Battle of the Trebia (218 BC), and in the Battle of Cannae (216 BC). 

4. Battle of Carrhae (53 BC): Parthians versus Romans. The Parthian army of just 10,000 soldiers wiped out a Roman army of 50,000 soldiers led by the Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus. Crassus and his son were among those who were killed.

5. Battle of Adrianople (378 AD): Goths versus Romans. An army of 20,000 soldiers led by Roman Emperor Valens was destroyed by a Gothic army of 15,000 soldiers. Valens was killed.

6.Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (451 AD): Huns versus Romans. The Roman army consisting of Visigoths and the Alans could not defeat the Hun army led by Attila. The battle ended in a draw.

7. Battle of Guadalete (711 AD): Arabs versus Spanish. The Umayyad Caliphate’s army of 2000 Arab soldiers conquered a large part of Spain after defeating the army of the Visigothic King. The Islamic movements would rule Spain till 1492.

8. Battle of Manzikert: (1071 AD): Seljuk Turks versus Romans. The army led by Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes was defeated by the Seljuk Turks. Diogenes was captured.

9. Battle of Hattin (1187 AD): Saladin versus Crusaders. The Islamic army of Saladin defeated the crusader army and took control of Palestine, including the city of Jerusalem.

10. Battle of Mansurah (1249 AD): Mamluks versus Crusaders. The crusader army led by Louis IX of France was defeated by Egypt's Mamluk army. Louis IX and most of his soldiers were captured. They had to pay a ransom for their release.

11. Battle of Constantinople (1453 AD): Ottomans versus Romans. The Ottomans conquered the last bastion of the Byzantine Empire after a fifty-three day siege.

12. The Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922): Turks versus Greeks. Despite the fact that the Ottomans lost the First World War, the Turks decisively defeated the Greek forces and imposed their sovereignty over Anatolia, Istanbul, and Eastern Thrace. They created the nation of Turkey.

There are other battles in which Western armies have been defeated by non-Western armies. After 1950, the USA has failed to win a decisive victory in most battles. The USA lost in Vietnam and Cambodia. It got bogged down in South Korea and the Middle Eastern conflicts. Its interventions in South America and Africa have failed. Recently, the USA had to retreat from Afghanistan.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Last Phase of the Roman Empire

“If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus.” ~ Edward Gibbon in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon is talking about the period between 96 and 180 AD, the reign of  Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius—who are collectively known as “The Five Good Emperors.”

Marcus Aurelius buried the Roman Empire when he made the stupid decision to designate his insane son Commodus as his successor to the Roman throne. Commodus inherited a reasonably fine empire in 180, but by 192, when he was assassinated in his bathtub, all characteristics of the Roman Empire’s power and culture were tottering, crumbling, and vanishing. When the Roman Empire entered the third century, its political structure was ossified and its military was demoralized. The barbarians from Eastern Europe to Central Asia realized that the Empire was not capable of defending itself, and they started sacking Roman cities and towns.

The Romans had a premonition that their civilization was coming to an end. They lamented about their fate in letters, plays, poems, and treatises. They blamed the politicians, the military leaders, the barbarians, and the Gods for their travails. What actions did they take to save their civilization? Hardly anything was done to reform the political system, cure the economy, and strengthen the military. Assassinations, coups, civil wars, and massacres became the accepted way of bringing about a change in the government. 

The Romans became prone to depression and escapism. Many became addicted to drinking, gambling, and watching gladiator spectacles and chariot races. There was a surge in prostitution. Most prostitutes were slaves, but the Roman citizens were free to engage in the profession of prostitution—and many did, due to economic pressures. Brothels became a popular place of entertainment and relaxation for Roman men. A law passed by Augustus consigned the women accused of adultery to the brothels. Some large brothels were probably state owned. 

Mystic cults from Europe, North Africa, and the Levant flocked into Rome in droves. Many Romans had become convinced that they were powerless to achieve anything, and that the intervention of the supernatural powers was necessary for saving their world. More prayers was their answer to the misery that they saw around them. They became easy prey for the mystic cults.

In the last three centuries of the Roman Empire, the notion gripped the Romans that Italy was the land of weakness and decadence, and that it could not produce a strong Emperor. Political power moved out of Italy, into the provinces of the Empire. Spain, the Balkans, North Africa, and the Levant (Eastern Roman territory) became the new centers of power.

Most Roman Emperors who followed Commodus were born outside Italy. Septimus Severus from Africa, Alexander Severus from Judea, Maximinus the Thracian from Thracia, Philip the Arab from Syria, and several others of non-Roman background became the Emperor one after another. If we define “Romanness” by geography, then it can be argued that even the powerful emperors like Diocletian and Constantine were non-Romans, since they were born in Illyria. In the Eastern Roman Empire, it can be argued that none of the Emperors were of Roman descent. 

The toughest legions were stationed in the provinces. They had the power to decide who became the Roman Emperor, and they always selected one of their own. In the late third century, an attempt was made under Diocletian and other emperors of a militaristic background to stabilize the political system, fight the barbarians, and safeguard the borders. The army that these military emperors used was partially Roman—it had a large number of non-Roman and even barbarian soldiers. These militaristic Roman emperors were using barbarian soldiers to fight the barbarians. Roman militarism was gone. The Romans did not want to die on the battlefield.

In 378, the Goths proved their superiority over Rome in the Battle of Adrianople by defeating the Roman army and killing the Roman Emperor Flavius Valens. In 410, the King Alaric of the Visigoths sacked Rome. In 455, the Gaiseric and the Vandals sacked the city. In 476, when Odacer, King of Visigoths, deposed the last Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus and proclaimed himself the King of Italy, the extent of the Roman Empire was confined to just the city of Rome. This last vestige of the Roman Empire had now fallen.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Live by history, die by history

Live by history, die by history. The civilizations which write one-sided history texts, which project their side as virtuous and their rivals as wicked, have an advantage when they are in the phase of growth. Their history texts give rise to the feeling that the past was happy and glorious. People are galvanized by the stories of past heroes, innovators, leaders, explorers, and thinkers. They are inspired to equal the achievements of their ancestors. Filled with optimism about the future, they are motivated to work together to take civilization forward.

When civilization is on the decline, then its people are confronted with a new interpretation of the same one-sided history. Its intellectuals pore into the history texts and they manage to ferret out the details of the instances when the civilization has acted wickedly for the achievement of geopolitical goals. They make the case that in the past, when civilization was in the phase of growth, it did not practice the moral values that it preaches in the present. They present history as a compendium of the immoralities and crimes that the civilization has committed in the past.

Thus, history is no longer optimistic. It is pessimistic. It is no longer a praise of the past. It is an accusatory finger pointed at the past and the present. Instead of making the case that good civilizations are created by the just efforts of virtuous and strong people, the chapters of history reveal that good civilizations are made by enslavers, invaders, mass murderers, and looters. This negative sense of history demoralizes the population that is bred on the modern notions of morality. It makes them feel alienated from their past. 

In the twenty-first century, the West is in the phase of steep decline. The Western history is no longer an optimistic record of their past accomplishments—it is a pessimistic record of their past immoralities and crimes. Most people who read Western history are likely to become alienated from the West. That is why the humanities students in most Western universities are virulently anti-West. They feel disgusted by their civilization’s past. They see no heroes in their past, only monsters who violated the tenets of morality for making geopolitical gains. 

There exists a contradiction between Western history and Western sense of morality and the pretension that the West stands for liberty. This contradiction cannot be resolved. Either the West will have to give up its sense of morality, its pretension of being a bastion of liberty, and revert to the barbarism of the Age of Imperialism, or it will have to discard its sense of history. The West cannot avoid falling into the chasm that divides the past and the present. History helped the West in making gains during the Age of Imperialism. Now history is leading to its downfall.

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand

Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon were cousins. Under Catholic law, they were not allowed to get married. When they (in consultation with their powerful families and supporters) decided to get married, probably for political reasons because they had not met before their marriage, Isabella was less than eighteen and Ferdinand was sixteen. The Papal representative in Spain, Antonio Veneris, forged a document which made it possible for Ferdinand to marry his cousin. The document which made the marriage legal was signed in January 1469.

With this marriage, Castile and Aragon were united into a formidable kingdom, jointly ruled by Isabella and Ferdinand. During their reign, the Nasrid kingdom of Granada was destroyed, the Reconquista was completed, Spain was aggressively Christianized and united, Columbus was sent on a voyage in which he made the discovery of a new world of fertile territory, gold, and slaves, the Americas, and the foundation of the Spanish Empire was laid. This marriage launched the Age of Imperialism which brought territory, slaves, and wealth to the imperialist nations and resulted in Europe marching far ahead of all other civilizations. 

There was a bit of sin involved in his marriage, since Isabella and Ferdinand were within third degree of cousinage. But Pope Alexander VI granted them the title of “Catholic Monarch.” From the point of view of Western history, the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand is the most important one—it is the West’s marriage of the millennium. Had they not married, then it is possible there would be no Western power today and history could have taken a different course.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Victor Davis Hanson’s Neoconservative History

Victor Davis Hanson’s book A War Like No Other is neoconservative drivel. He claims that the Peloponnesian War contains wisdom that can help America (the West) in dealing with problems like Islamic fundamentalism, the civil war in Lebanon, and the rising trend of anti-Americanism in the Middle East. He wrote this book in 2005, when America was fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In that period, I remember watching a TV debate in which Hanson had lambasted the Islamic thinkers for their tendency to take a flight to Late Antiquity, the era of the first four Caliphs, to find answers to the problems that the Islamic nations face in the present. Apparently, Hanson thinks that he is being rational when he takes a flight to the Ancient Age. But if others take a flight to Late Antiquity, he will vilify them as fundamentalists and madcaps.

He compares America with Athens, and Sparta with the fundamentalist regimes of the Middle East and, in a few passages, with Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. He wants his readers to believe that there are parallels between the challenges that America faces in the twenty-first century and the Athenians faced during the Peloponnesian War of the fifth century BC. To be effective, the propaganda must be subtle—it must be written in a style which will beguile the reader into believing that this is a work of real scholarship. But Hanson is not subtle. He is not scholarly. Anyone who has read Greek history and knows about the Peloponnesian War will easily see through Hanson’s feeble propaganda. He writes history like a neocon activist. He wants his readers to believe that the “West is the best military power.” Of course, he gets to define what is the West: Athens is the West, while Sparta is not.

He ignores the fact that both the Athenians and the Spartans were Greeks. They worshipped the same Gods. They celebrated the same festivals. They followed the same traditions. They ate the same kind of food. They drank the same type of wine. They spoke the same language. They engaged in the same kind of hoplite land battles and trireme-based sea battles. Due to his ideological bias, Hanson distorts the reasons for the Peloponnesian War. He claims that Sparta was responsible for the war since it was an oligarchy, and that Athens desired peace since it was a democracy. This is not true. In his history books, Donald Kagan gives a better explanation for the causes of the war. The war was fought over economic and political issues, and not ideological ones. Athens was probably more to blame for the war than Sparta.

Hanson uses phrases like "roughneck Lacedaemonian granddads" and "oligarchic fundamentalists” to describe the Spartans. No serious historian will use such terminology without offering justification. Hanson offers no justification. He labels, the Athenian democratic system “Athenianism”—which is an absurd term, since the Athenians were not ideological. He asserts that Alcibiades was “Kennedyesque”—this term might seem fine in a magazine article, but in a history book it makes no sense. To describe the impact of the Peloponnesian War on Greek life, he uses the phrase “Lebanonization of Greece”—what a silly phrase.

He presents Sparta as a slave society that is alien to the West. He presents Athens as the “hyperdemocracy” and the fountainhead of the West. He ignores the fact that the Athenians had more slaves than the Spartans and that the Spartan women could inherit property while the Athenian women could not. He ignores the fact that the Spartan league was larger than the Athenian league and that the Spartans had support in Southern, Central, and Northern Greece. They controlled access to the critical Isthmus of Corinth. He tries to present the Spartans as bumbling oligarchs who could not understand the power of Athenian democracy. He ignores the fact that the Spartans were better strategists. The Spartans showed the ability to interact with not just the oligarchic institutions but also the Athenian type democratic institutions.

In the early section of his book, Hanson tries to establish the credentials of Thucydides as a trustworthy historian. He asserts, without providing any justification, that much of what Thucydides has written in his book, The History of the Peloponnesian War, is correct—this view makes no sense. No serious scholar of Greek history will rely on a single chronicler from the past for developing his thesis. They usually cite multiple resources to make their case. Hanson's book is almost entirely based on the account given by Thucydides. For the last seven years of the war, Hanson has relied on the work of Xenophon (since Thucydides's account ends at 411 BC).

Hanson ignores the fact that in Ancient Greece, history was a branch of literature. Its objective was to entertain and inspire. In Greek literary tradition, historians were allowed to invent speeches. They were allowed to assign popular figures of their time at the scene of major battles. They were allowed to invent the sacking of cities and massacre of citizens. They were allowed to amplify the number of soldiers involved in any battle. For instance, Herodotus says that there were 2.5 million soldiers and an equal number of support personnel in Xerxes’s army when he attacked Greece. Modern historians estimate that the number of soldiers in Xerxes’s army cannot be more than 200000. Some historians have suggested that Xerxes had just 20,000 soldiers.

Thucydides’s account could be as off the mark in many of the claims that he makes as the work of Herodotus. But Hanson has a blind faith in Thucydides.

Hanson has been in the business of distorting Greek history for a long time. In his 2001 book Carnage and Culture, he offers a one-sided account of the Battle of Salamis to establish his naive theory that democracies always prevail over tyrannies. How did the Persians view the war? Hanson ignores the Persian perspective. In his account, the Persians come out as tyrannical warmongers. He ignores the fact that the Athenian attack on Persian territories prompted the Persians to retaliate. He ignores the larger context of the Greco-Persian conflicts. He ignores the fact that the Athenians were defeated by the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War, and were conquered by the Macedonians, who were barbarians and monarchists. By focusing on the war between the Greeks and the Macedonians, a conclusion that is opposite of Hanson’s thesis can be drawn: that a barbarian monarchy can beat a democratic state.

For writing history, you have to examine evidence from multiple resources. Hanson is incapable of conducting in-depth research. He is incapable of making a fair assessment of the perspective of the people who are non-Western. In the beginning of every book he reveals that his agenda is to prove that the “West is the best military power.” How can you write a serious work of history if you are prejudiced from the beginning? You cannot. Hanson’s books are a laughing stock among the serious scholars of history.

Related:

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Roman Way: Carnage and Entertainment

The Romans built the Colosseum to hold gladiatorial games, they built the Circus Maximus to hold chariot races, but they never built a proper zoo. The Romans didn’t want to watch the beasts in a peaceful environment; they wanted to watch them in the act of killing or being killed. In the Empire’s later period, spectacles featuring beasts and gladiators were being held for half of the days of the year. Every year traders brought thousands of beasts from the Middle East and Africa to be slaughtered for mass entertainment in Rome: rhinoceros, hippopotamuses, elephants, bulls, hyenas, giraffes, lions, panthers, leopards, bears, tigers, crocodiles and ostriches. 

Commenting on Roman Gladiator sports, historian W. E. H. Lecky writes: “Four hundred bears were killed in a single day under Caligula… Under Nero, four hundred tigers fought with bulls and elephants. In a single day, at the dedication of the Colosseum by Titus, five thousand animals perished. Under Trajan… lions, tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, giraffes, bulls, stags, even crocodiles and serpents were employed to give novelty to the spectacle.” In another passage, Lecky writes: “It is related of Claudius that his special delight at the gladiatorial shows was in watching the countenances of the dying; for he had learnt to take an artistic pleasure in observing the variations of their agony.”

In 107 AD, Emperor Trajan celebrated his victories in Dalcia by hosting a three month gladiatorial festival at the Colosseum. About 11000 gladiators (slaves and criminals) were killed in this festival. The number of animals killed is the same. The festival attracted five million spectators during the course of three months. In another gladiator show 32 elephants, 10 elk, 20 mules, 10 tigers, 40 horses, 60 lions, 30 leopards, 10 hyenas, 10 giraffes, 6 hippos, a rhino, and several dozen gazelles and ostriches were slaughtered in a single day. 

The bloodbath at gladiatorial games and chariot races went on for centuries with hardly any protest. Why didn’t the Romans build a proper zoo? One reason could be that they were a warlike culture. Perhaps the Roman emperors were trying to sustain the military spirit of the Empire by giving the populace the opportunity to watch the slaughter of men and beasts in gladiator shows. But there are other warlike cultures which have built proper zoos and gardens.

The ancient Egyptian capital of Hierakonpolis had a zoo in 3500 BC. King Solomon of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah had collected several animals for his zoo. The Babylonian Kings built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the sixth century BC. All major rulers in Ancient India have built gardens which held a variety of plants and animals. The Chinese Emperors have been building zoos since the ancient period. The Persian Empire had zoos and gardens in most of its cities (including Babylon). During his conquest of Persia, Alexander the Great was impressed by the Persian zoos and gardens, and he sent several animals to Greece.

The Circus Maximus, where the Romans held their chariot races, was designed to maximize collisions. The racing track would narrow suddenly after the sharp turns and this increased the likelihood of collisions between the chariots which were racing each other neck to neck. The collisions were often fatal. Most charioteers died not in the collision but from being dragged around the track after the collision. This is because the charioteers used to tie their arms to the reins. The Circus Maximus often became the venue for beast hunts and gladiatorial fights.

The bloodiest Roman gladiator sport was the naumachia which featured naval battles for mass entertainment. The first naumachia was organized by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. He made 2000 warriors and 4000 oarsmen (all of them prisoners of war) fight a naval battle in a basin dug near the Tiber river. Most of Rome's population came out to watch the 6000 people fighting to death. The largest naumachia was organized by Emperor Claudius in 59 AD, on a natural body of water, the Fucine Lake. 19000 combatants (all of them prisoners) were put in 100 ships and made to fight. Roman historian Tacitus said: “After much blood had flowed, the survivors were spared.”

Stupidity or Malice

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” ~ Hanlon's Razor (Robert J. Hanlon). People believe that the intellectuals and politicians are malicious. What if the intellectuals and politicians are plain and simple stupid? The disasters that they cause are not due to their malice but because their stupidity makes them incapable of taking the right decisions. They are not out to get you—they are acting insanely because they are stupid. Goethe has said something similar in his 1774 book The Sorrows of Young Werther: “Misunderstandings and lethargy perhaps produce more wrong in the world than deceit and malice do.” Here’s a comment that Churchill made about Charles De Gaulle: “His ‘insolence… may be founded on stupidity rather than malice.’” (From Churchill’s letter to King George VI in February 1943)

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Conservatives: The Inheritors of the Empire

The conservatives didn’t build the modern West. They inherited it from their imperialist ancestors. Being born and bred in an empire that has already achieved a certain standard of living, the conservatives are used to an easy life. They have developed a sense of entitlement and they regard themselves as the sole guardians of their culture. They can be pompously verbose while talking about the virtues of their civilization but they are lousy political fighters since they are incapable of making sacrifices, suffering discomfort, and taking risks. Most conservatives are pro-war when their nation is winning, and when their nation is losing, they turn anti-war. 

The conservative doctrine evolved in England and America in the nineteenth century, at a time when the Age of Imperialism was at its peak and Western power had already taken the world in a vice-like grip.

Before the Age of Imperialism, Western power did not exist outside Europe. Even within Europe there were serious rivals to Western power. The Age of Imperialism was the factory in which the modern West was built. The Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, were not conservatives. They were revolutionaries and religious zealots. They were prepared to risk everything in savage wars for propagating their faith, acquiring new territories, and gaining access to gold, silver, slaves, and other resources. The next monarchs of Spain, Charles I and his son Philip II, had a similar mindset. The English Protestant Queen, Elizabeth I, was not a conservative either. She was a conqueror like the Spanish monarchs.

Europe’s Age of Imperialism began under the leadership of Isabella I, Ferdinand II, Philip II, Elizabeth I, and the leaders of Portugal and the Dutch Republic. The conquistadors of Spain, the privateers of England, and the merciless generals and warriors of Portugal and the Dutch Republic were the builders of the imperialist empires. By the nineteenth century, when conservatism began to evolve into a movement, imperialism had already transformed the West into a prosperous world power. The conservatives had no role in creating the West. After the conservative movements became popular in Europe (around 1850), imperialism started to decline. Conservatism was at its peak in 1945, when the Age of Imperialism came to an end. 

William Pitt the Younger was the first conservative Prime Minister of England. He became the Prime Minister at the age of 24 and is often credited with saving England from a French Revolution kind of bloody civil war. But Pitt saved England from a bloody revolution by sacrificing civil liberties. During the two phases of his rule (1783 to 1801; 1804 to 1806), there was a massive loss of civil liberties in England. Marxist historians E.P. Thompson and Eric Evans have castigated Pitt for unleashing a “reign of terror” in England—this is certainly an exaggeration but under Pitt there was a great expansion in the powers of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and many people who held politically undesirable views were persecuted.

Misusing the law enforcement machinery of the government to suppress dissent, and misusing the military to exploit other countries has always been the conservative way. The conservatives impose restrictions on their own people and they wage wars on other nations. Under conservative regimes, there is generally an expansion in government’s size, expenditure, and power. The conservatives empower the law enforcement and intelligence agencies at the cost of civil liberties. They increase taxes. They wage unnecessary wars. The conservatives do everything that they accuse the leftists of doing. Those who expect the conservatives to improve civil liberties, reduce taxes, and avoid unnecessary wars are ignorant of the performance of the conservative governments since the nineteenth century.

The conservatives differ from the communists in one respect—communism leads to a quick demise of the nation while conservatism leads to a slow demise. A slow demise is more cruel since it prolongs the agony.

Empire's Slogan: après moi le déluge

An empire, to deserve our support, should practice what it preaches. There has never been an empire that is not hypocritical, that is not savage towards the outsiders while expecting kindness, economic benefits, and respect in return, that does not indulge in propaganda to hold the outsiders culpable for the crimes that it has knowingly committed for making petty geopolitical gains, and that is not disrespectful to the outsiders. Lastly, there has never been an empire that does not believe in the French slogan, “après moi le déluge” (after me, the deluge)—the empires like to brag that they are indispensable for mankind. It is due to such attitudinal problems that the empires lose support of the outsiders and of their own people. They get mired in civil wars and external conflicts. All empires have fallen within 50 years of reaching the peak of their power.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

On the Ramayana

There are two great dynasties: the Surya Vamsha (solar dynasty) and the Chandra Vamsha (moon dynasty). The Ramayana is the story of Rama, the descendant of Ikshvaku, the first king of the Surya Vamsha. Ikshvaku and his descendants ruled over the Kingdom of Kosala, which was located in North India and had its capital in two cities, Ayodhya and Shravasti. Rama had two sons, Lava and Kusha. After Rama, Lava ruled over South Kosala, whose capital was located at Shravasti, and Kusha ruled over North Kosala, whose capital was located at Kushavati. Lava founded the city of Lavapuri, today’s Lahore. 

It is impossible to date the Ramayana. By using the information on star positions and eclipses that are mentioned in the Ramayana, researchers have come up with widely varying dates for Rama’s birth, ranging between 7323 BC and 1331 BC. In his 1991 article, AK Ramanujan asserted that there were 300 versions of the Ramayana. But it is not right to call these stories different versions, since they are a different retelling of the same story. Over several centuries, most local languages in India have developed their own retelling of the Ramayana. The religious and philosophical movements (primarily Buddhism and Jainism) have developed their own retelling. There are modified versions of Ramayana available in the neighboring countries: China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Iran. 

The Sanskrit version of the Valmiki Ramayana is regarded as the authoritative text by the modern scholars. Between 1951 and 1975, the Oriental Institute of Baroda developed a Critical Edition of the Valmiki Ramayana after consulting about 2000 ancient manuscripts. The text contains 24,000 shlokas (verses) which are distributed across seven Kandas (parts): Bala Kanda (Book on Youth), Ayodhya Kanda (Book on Ayodhya), Aranya Kanda (Book of the Forest), Kishkindha Kanda (Book of Kishkindha), Sundara Kanda (Book of Beauty), Yuddha Kanda (Book on the War), and Uttara Kanda (Book on the Sequel). 

The Mahabharata, which is the story of the Chandra Vamsha, includes a lengthy presentation of the story of the Ramayana in its Ramopakhyana section. In this version, when Yudhishthira was in exile in the forest, he asked if anyone had suffered the kind of fate that he had, and then he is told the moralizing story of Rama and Sita. Since there is reference to the Ramayana in the Mahabharata, it can be surmised that that the Ramayana is an earlier composition. The incidents described in the Ramayana happened in the Treta Yuga (age), while the incidents of the Mahabharata happened in the Dvapara Yuga. In the Puranas, Rama is the seventh avatara (incarnation) of Vishnu, while Krishna is the eighth. 

The action in Ramayana happens along India’s North-South axis, while the action in the Mahabharata happens on the East-West axis.

Machiavelli’s Impossible Advice

“He who establishes a dictatorship and does not kill Brutus, or he who founds a republic and does not kill the sons of Brutus, will only reign a short time.” ~ Machiavelli in Discorsi. I believe that Machiavelli is wrong. He is assuming that it is possible for a dictator to kill Brutus and that the republican leaders can identify the sons of Brutus and kill them. No dictator, no group of republican leaders, can achieve this feat. Brutus and his sons are not a few people. They are a legion. They are unlimited men. They cannot be suppressed. The fate of every dictatorship and every republican nation (or a democracy) is to decline and fall. Brutus and his sons are the tools of history. Their purpose is to ensure that no civilization lasts forever.

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Myth of “Classical”

The word “classical” is probably the most abused word in philosophy and history. This word is the favorite tool for the pseudo-historians and propagandist-philosophers who are convinced that they can influence the politics and culture of the present by promoting certain empires and movements of the past as the outstanding achievements of humanity. Their method is to first append the word “classical” to the name of an empire or movement and then proclaim that this empire or movement is exceptional because it is classical. The word “classical” is supposed to offer a demigod kind of status to anything to which it gets appended.

The name “Classical Greece” is often flung around by the pseudo-historians and propagandist-philosophers as the exemplar of a perfect society from which all societies in our time ought to seek an inspiration (even though Ancient Greece was extremely unstable, economically backward, feudalistic, brutishly patriarchal, and mired in slavery and warfare). There is “Classical Athens” which is presented as the fountainhead of the world's rational philosophies (even though Athens was the biggest cause of senseless wars, enslavements, and massacres in Ancient Europe). There is “Classical Liberalism” which is supposed to be the ultimate method of creating a free society (even though in every country where the classical liberals have gained influence has fallen prey to nihilism, socialism, communism, nazism, and fascism). Classical music is the kind of music (noise) that people will often praise in public though they might not want to hear it in private.

There are several other instances where the word “classical” has been abused for propaganda purposes. Beware of this fraudulent word. Distrust any empire or movement which is labelled “classical.” If you become awed by the word “classical,” then you will be mentally enslaved.

Who Were the Etruscans?

Etruscan culture began in Northern Italy between the eighth and ninth centuries BC—about three centuries before the year of the birth of the Roman Republic. Their language and customs were alien to Europe. Since the last Roman kings seem to have Etruscan sounding names, some historians have surmised that the Etruscans had became the rulers of the ancient Roman village (founded in 753 BC). They might have played a role in the evolution of the Roman village into first a kingdom and then a republic in 509 BC.

The debate about the origin of the Etruscans has been raging for centuries. The eighth century BC Greek writer Hesiod has described the Etruscans as the people who live in Central Italy. One of the oldest historical accounts of the origin of the Etruscans comes from Herodotus. He says that the Etruscans migrated from Lydia, an Iron Age kingdom in present day Western Turkey.

Herodotus says that in Lydia there was a 18-year famine, which led the King of Lydia to order half the population to leave the country and find a better life elsewhere. These people sailed from Smyrna (now the Turkish port of Izmir) to look for a new home. After several adventures, they reached Umbria in Italy where they founded their colony which developed into a sophisticated culture and expanded to cover much of Northern Italy. Herodotus claims that the Lydians invented the game of dice to divert their mind from the misery of the famine.

The Roman notion of gladiator games probably originated with the Etruscans. In Etruscan custom when an important political figure died, two warriors fought to death at the funeral ceremony. This tradition was imitated by the Roman Kingdom, and the later Roman Republic institutionalized it. For much of the period of the Republic, the gladiator games remained a minor affair and took place mostly at the funerals of the leaders. The first large-scale gladiator game was held by Pompey the Great in 57 BC at Rome’s Circus Maximus.

There are Hindu texts which claim that the Etruscans were a lost Indian tribe. Some words that the Etruscans used are related to Sanskrit and other Indian languages, and many of their customs have parallels in Hinduism. But there is no historical evidence to back this claim. DNA testing is currently going on to trace the origin of the Etruscans. Mitochondrial DNA has been extracted from 30 individuals buried in Etruscan sites in Italy. But this testing has been challenged by some scholars who argue that the DNA in these remains would be contaminated by modern DNA.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Athenian Propaganda Against Dionysius I

Who was the worst tyrant in Europe during the classical age? Most texts from the Classical Age suggest that it was the Greek ruler of Syracuse, Dionysius I (ruled from 406 to 367 BC). He is described as a cruel, ruthless, corrupt, suspicious, and capricious ruler. The source of the information on the basis of which he has been branded as the “Tyrant of Syracuse” is Ancient Athens. The Athenians were the masters in the art of writing one-sided history for propaganda purposes. They knew how to promote themselves as the best people to ever walk on earth, while sullying the reputation of their political rivals by hurling innuendoes.

The relation between Syracuse and Sparta in the fifth and fourth centuries BC was positive. The Athenians followed the policy that every nation which cooperated with Sparta was their enemy, and they were suspicious of Syracuse. In 416 BC, ten years before the accession of Dionysius I, they launched the Sicilian expedition, with the aim of capturing Syracuse. But the expedition was a disaster. The Athenian side was decisively beaten. Almost all the Athenian soldiers (about 50,000) who had participated in the expedition were killed. Since the Athenians could not defeat Syracuse militarily, they resorted to vilifying its rulers in their literature and history texts. 

Much of the negative material on Dionysius I was produced by Timaeus of Tauromenium who lived in Athens for fifteen years, which was the time when he completed his work of history, the Histories. Timaeus belonged to a political family in Sicily and he had a grudge against the rulers of Syracuse. He is unfair to Dionysius I and is full of praise for Timoleon, the Corinthian general who took advantage of the chaos created by the civil war between the Syracusan general Hicetas and Dionysius II to usurp power in Syracuse in 343 BC.

Dionysius I was a well educated and philosophically inclined ruler. He possessed considerable rhetorical powers and was the author of several works of literature and history. In his writings, he speaks against tyranny. He states: “Tyranny is naturally the mother of injustice.” He has referred to the “gazing eye of justice, regarding all equally.” He has made a number of philosophical comments in his writings: “Anxiety is for every man,” “only the Gods are happy,” “no mortals can ever judge themselves until they have seen their happy end,” “the dead alone is secure and happy.” In one of his plays, Dionysius has given a negative portrayal of Plato. The play is not extant but there are some references to it in ancient texts. 

If Syracuse was being ruled by the worst tyranny in Europe, then why did Plato decide to create an ideal society there during the rule of Dionysius II, son of Dionysius I. Plato could have selected Athens for his political experiment. He could have selected Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, and Delphi. He could have tried Macedon or Thrace. He could have ventured into the Greek states in Southern Italy or the Ionian states in the Persian Empire. He selected Syracuse, because he knew that Syracuse was the best administered place in Europe of that time. He first visited Syracuse in 388 BC on the invitation of Dionysius I who wanted to engage him as a tutor for his son.

Plato’s method of creating an ideal society was to work through a monarch. In the Republic, he argues that the world was being ruled by monarchs because the demos were incapable of grasping the truth. Plato tried to influence Hermias of Atarneus, when Hermias was studying philosophy at Plato’s Academy. Plato was supportive of the Thirty Tyrants (the pro-Spartan oligarchy that took power in Athens after its defeat by the Sparta led alliance in 404 BC). He was critical of the failure of the Thirty Tyrants to cure Athenian society but he did not oppose their overthrow of the Athenian democracy.

The Imperialist Roots of the West

British imperialism is the father of the modern West and Spanish imperialism is its mother. Before the Age of Imperialism, the West was not a global power. The Classical Greeks and the Romans were not global powers—they were powers in an Europe that was deeply divided and mired in unending wars and massacres. The West held some territories in the Levant and North Africa during the Ancient and the Middle Ages, but the empires of the Levant and North Africa too held territories in Europe for centuries.

The first teachers of the Romans, the Etruscans, were conquerors who had arrived from the Levant (according to Herodotus, they were from Anatolia). Carthage dominated the Spanish territories and Sicily for centuries. The Islamic powers dominated Spain till the fifteenth century. The Ottomans controlled Eastern Europe till the twentieth century. The barbarian tribes from central Asia controlled large parts of Europe during the time of the Roman Empire. The barbarian raids were a regular feature in Europe till the Middle Ages.

The modern West became wealthy and powerful during the Age of Imperialism. In 1945, the Age of Imperialism came to an end and the West started losing power. Without imperialism, the West cannot be a global power—I doubt that it can even be a European power for long.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Athenian Disaster: The Sicilian Expedition

Ancient Athens was the most violent place in Europe and the Levant. The Athenians were not a stable society—they did not believe in peaceful coexistence. There was never a time when they were not at war but they were incompetent strategists and warriors. Despite suffering massive casualties and economic losses in their wars, they could not conquer even an inch of land outside Greece. The war in which the Athenians made the most brazen display of their militaristic incompetence and absolutist politics was the Sicilian Expedition.

In 416 BC, Alcibiades became a champion of sending a fleet to aid the Sicilian city of Segesta which had been an Athenian ally since 420 BC. Segesta had lost the war to Selinus, which was allied to Corinth, a component of the Sparta led Peloponnesian league.

Nicias took a stand against Alcibiades. He argued that the war would be an ill-advised adventure. There was a heated debate between him and Alcibiades. Nicias attacked Alcibiades, calling him an inexperienced and self-aggrandizing man who was trying to lead Athens into a futile war. In his response, Alcibiades recounted his own virtues and talked about the successes that he had achieved for Athens in the past. Alcibiades was a much better talker than Nicias, and he managed to convince the Athenian Assembly to vote for war. Having failed to stop Athens from going to war, Nicias recommended that the departure of the expedition must be delayed but Alcibiades insisted that this was the right time to launch the war.

In 415 BC, Athens sent out its largest overseas expedition since their 455 BC expedition to Egypt (which too had ended in a disaster for the Athenian side). The Athenian thinking was that they needed to make gains in Sicily since that area had the potential to become a decisive theatre of operations for the Peloponnesian War, which had been raging since 431 BC.

The original plan was to let a board of three generals—Alcibiades, Lamachus, and Nicias—lead a naval expedition in which too many Athenian lives would not be put to risk. But in the second meeting of the Assembly, the Athenians vastly increased the scope of their expedition. They voted for a massive fleet of 135 triremes, several cargo ships, and a large army. Now there was no doubt that under the guise of aiding Segesta, the Athenians were aiming to capture Syracuse.

On the night when the expedition was about to depart, there was an incident in Athens that was interpreted as an ill omen. Someone mutilated the stone markers representing Hermes, the guardian male figures that stood around the city for good luck. The mutilation could have been the work of the Athenian faction which was against the war and wanted to delay the expedition. The rumor was spread that the associates of Alcibiades were responsible. But he was not charged and the expedition was allowed to leave the next day. In 415 BC, Syracuse was divided. The Syracusans did not believe that Athens would send a massive expedition to Sicily and they had not made any preparation to defend themselves. A united Athenian military leadership might have captured Syracuse. But the Athenians were not united.

Since the Assembly had failed to define the aims of the war, a clash between the three generals was inevitable. The three generals came up with three different strategies. Nicias proposed a minor battle, followed by return to Athens. Alcibiades proposed that they should try to win over allies in Sicily and then attack Selinus and Syracuse. Lamachus proposed that they should directly attack Syracuse. The Athenian fleet was divided into three sections, one for each general.

Contrary to what the Athenians had expected, most cities of Sicily did not welcome the Athenian expedition. Only two cities, Leontini and Segesta, received the Athenians. Another problem was that Segesta, which had earlier promised that it would pay for the expedition, declared that it did not possess the funds. On learning this, Nicias recommended that they should make a show of force in the area and then proceed to Athens. But Alcibiades advised that the right course of action would be to encourage revolts against Syracuse, and then attack Syracuse and Selinus. Lamachus continued to insist that Syracuse must be attacked immediately.

Alcibiades managed to conquer Catania, but before he could conquer more cities in Sicily, a ship arrived from Athens and he was informed that he was under arrest for the crimes of destruction of the Hermai and profaning the Eleusinian Mysteries. Alcibiades promised to return to Athens to stand trial. But he gave the prosecutors a slip and took a ship to the Peloponnese, where he sought refuge in Sparta. His flight to the Spartan side was taken by the Athenians as a proof of his guilt, and an Athenian court passed a death sentence against him.

Now only two generals remained in Sicily: Nicias, who was against the war and had a reputation for inaction, and Lamachus, who was not a popular figure though he had a credible military record. A significant part of the summer had been wasted and in the fall of 415 BC, Nicias finally agreed to attack Syracuse. They faced no opposition while entering the harbor and managed to land their army at river Anapus. There was a hoplite battle between the Athenian and the Syracusan side. The Syracusans lost around 260 men, and the Athenians lost 50. After this encounter, the Athenians moved to Catania to spend the winter.

In the spring of next year, the Athenians were back in Syracuse. This time they landed on the Epipolae, the cliff above Syracuse. In the fighting that ensued, 600 Syracusan soldiers were killed. The Athenians began the construction of a series of walls known as “the circle,” with which they hoped to blockade Syracuse from the rest of the island. The Syracusans responded by building their own series of counter-walls to connect their various forts. The Athenians managed to destroy one counter-wall but the Syracusans built another wall, this time with a ditch which blocked the Athenians from extending their own wall to the sea. A group of 300 Athenian soldiers attacked the new Syracusan counter-wall and captured it but in a short time, they were beaten back by the Syracusans.

Lamachus was killed during the Syracusan counteroffensive, leaving Nicias as the sole commander of the expedition. The Syracusans destroyed about 1000 feet of the Athenian wall, but they could not destroy the circle, which was defended by Nicias. The Athenians managed to extend their wall to the sea and tightened their blockade of Syracuse.

The Syracusans appealed to Sparta for help. The Spartans nominated their general Gylippus to command their expedition for Syracuse. The failure of Nicias to finish construction of the wall provided Gylippus with an opportunity to land the Spartan forces at Himera and march them overland to the Syracusan city. Gylippus immediately put his men to work in helping the Syracusans in building the counter-walls. In the first engagement between the Athenians and the Spartans, the Athenians managed to drive the Spartans back, but in the second attempt the Spartans defeated the Athenians. The work for building the counter-walls went on. When the Syracusan counter-walls were completed, the Athenian walls became useless. The Syracusan and Spartan side was bolstered with the arrival of a fleet from Corinth.

The Athenian expedition was now in trouble. Nicias should have called off the expedition and returned to Athens. But he sent a letter to the Athenian Assembly claiming that he was too sick to command the expedition and he needed assistance. He was hoping that the Assembly would call off the expedition but to his surprise they responded by sending another expedition to Syracuse, commanded by the military general Demosthenes (not the philosopher).  In 413 BC, Demosthenes arrived with 73 ships and 5,000 hoplites. He was shocked to see that Nicias had allowed the situation in Syracuse to deteriorate to such an extent.

Demosthenes realized that there were two options left: either capture Epipolae or retreat to Catana. In a risky night-operation (which was opposed by Nicias), Demosthenes attacked the Syracusan counter-walls on Epipolae. His troops breached the wall but they were defeated by the Spartans on the other side. In the darkness many Athenians became disoriented and, according to Plutarch, around 2000 of them fell to their death from the cliff. After this debacle, Demosthenes advised Nicias that they should return to Athens and defend their homeland. But now Nicias became worried that if he retreated at this stage, the Athenians would have him executed for cowardice and incompetence. He insisted that they should continue to fight.

In a series of naval engagements, the Syracusans destroyed several Athenian ships. In the battles being fought on land, the Spartans led by Gylippus inflicted heavy casualties on the Athenians. The Athenian situation became perilous. They decided to burn the rest of their ships and march towards Catana through the river Anapus. On the way, they were continuously attacked by the Syracusans. The ferocity of the Syracusan attacks forced Demosthenes and Nicias to change the direction of their retreat to the south. But the Syracusans continued to come after the retreating Athenians and in the next two days hundreds of Athenians were slaughtered.

At the river Erineus, Demosthenes and Nicias became separated. After a short battle, Demosthenes and his 6000 soldiers surrendered to the Syracusans. The troops with Nicias fled towards the river Assinarus with the Syracusan soldiers in hot pursuit. There was a breakdown of order on the Athenian side—in their rush to find drinking water, many soldiers were trampled to death. Tempers flared and fights broke out between the Athenians. They ended up killing a large number of their own soldiers. When the Syracusan soldiers caught up with the fleeing Athenians, there was a great slaughter. Thousands of Athenian soldiers were cut down. Nicias surrendered with a small band of Athenians.

Against the orders of the Spartan general Gylippus, both Demosthenes and Nicias were executed by the Syracusans. A few Athenian soldiers who had survived the massacre were kept for days in a horrible prison, where they slowly died of disease, thirst, and hunger. Most accounts suggest that Athenians had lost 10,000 hoplites and 30,000 experienced oarsmen. Considering the fact that the Athenian population was just 150,000, this was a massive loss. They had lost most of their triremes. The population of Athens revolted. In 411 BC, the Athenian democracy was overthrown and power went to an oligarchy.

The Hyena With A Fountain Pen

Jean-Paul Sartre admired the Soviet Union, while Albert Camus despised it. In 1950, when North Korea, backed by the Soviet Union and China, invaded South Korea, Camus said to Sartre: “What will happen to you when the Russians invade France? Perhaps the hyena with a fountain pen would not be allowed to have the last laugh?” Stalin’s cultural commissar, Alexander Fadayev, had earlier called Sartre, “a jackal with a typewriter, a hyena with a fountain pen.”

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Importance of Mythologies

In times of great crisis, mythologies can be more inspiring than history. The more unbelievable the story, the more believable it seems to the people who have become overwhelmingly nervous about the future. Mythologies might appear totally irrational in stable times, but when the times are bad, they are readily embraced by the people.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Who is the Better Savage: The Civilized or the Primitive?

Civilized people are more violent, tyrannical, rapacious, and discourteous than primitive people because they believe that their civilization grants them the privilege to invade any land, take control of the natural resources, destroy the local way of life, kill hundreds of thousands of people, and kidnap men, women, and children to be sold as slaves. On the basis of my reading of history, I can surmise that about 80% of the killing and enslaving during the civilizational clashes of the last 1000 years has been committed by civilized people.

Civilization is supposed to make people compassionate, wise, and erudite. It is supposed to make people capable of empathizing with cultures different from their own—this is what the books on philosophy and religion teach us. Instead, we find that throughout history most civilized people (not all) have acted as merciless invaders, killers, destroyers, and slavers. More brutality, immorality, and sinful acts have been committed in the name of civilization than on anything that the primitive could conceive. This is the paradox of civilization.

On October 12, 1492, when Columbus made a landfall in San Salvador, he was greeted with respect by the locals. They gave him and his men their food and their traditional gifts. Columbus took the niceness of the locals as a sign of their weakness and savagery. He kidnapped ten of his local hosts and transported them to Spain, where he displayed them before the Spanish elite as specimens from a tribe of weak savages who lived in a land that he had discovered. Within a decade of Columbus’s voyage, the Conquistadors arrived in the Americas.

History is written by civilized people. The civilized depict themselves as the epitome of culture, compassion, and progress, and they portray the primitive as savages, killers, and philistines. It is due to such one-sided accounts of history that people in our time harbor the notion that civilization makes a man cultured, compassionate, wise, and peaceful. The truth is that civilizations have made maximum territorial, technological, and economic progress when they were being led by people who were violent, tyrannical, rapacious, and contemptuous of primitive ways of life. 

Who pays the highest price for progress—the civilized people who conquered, enslaved, and slaughtered, or the primitive people who lost their land, culture and, in many cases, life? The carnage and destruction committed by civilized people in their lust for land, natural resources, and slaves can be defended by invoking the notion that what leads to mankind’s progress is good; it can be defended by invoking the ideas of “might is right” and the “manifest destiny of the civilized to rule over the primitive.” But it cannot be defended by using the tenets of any existing moral and religious theory.

Being civilized means being focused solely on the territorial, technological, and economic progress of one’s own ethnic group. It means being violent, tyrannical, rapacious, and discourteous. It means being unconcerned about the life, propriety, and culture of the people who are deemed primitive. It means being free of moral and religious constraints.

The empire on which the sun never sets

In his Histories, Herodotus says that before invading Greece in 480 BC, Persian Emperor Xerxes made a speech in which he said, “We shall extend the Persian territory as far as God's heaven reaches. The sun will then shine on no land beyond our borders.” During the Age of Imperialism, these words spoken by Xerxes became an inspiration for the Spanish and the British—they started bragging that they were an empire on which the sun never sets.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

How to Overthrow a Superpower?

If China intends to usurp America’s position of superpower, then it will not use military means. The cost of militarily defeating America will be too high and no nation, which is ruled by wise leaders, will attempt to precipitate a war with America. The world is not in a mood to fight a great war (though things might change in the future if the American side becomes weaker). There are non-military ways of forcing the American order (Pax Americana) to fade out of the world.

While America possesses considerable military strength, it is not a military power. Its key strengths are economic, technological, diplomatic, and bureaucratic. The four instruments through which America exercises power over other nations are: (1) The dollar which is the default currency in international transactions; (2) the financial markets; (3) the American patent system; (4) the geopolitical bureaucratic institutions—the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, the WEF, and the WTO.

Through its control of the dollar and the bonds and securities markets, America has the power to meddle in the financial sector of most countries. Since the dollar is not pegged to gold, America is in a position to raise any amount of debt. Other countries are forced to pick up American debt and allow American inflation to percolate into their economy because they need access to dollars and the financial markets. America’s most lucrative export is the dollar.

The patent system was established to protect intellectual property in case the invention was novel, non-obvious, and useful. But after 1990, the patent system was corrupted to serve the interests of the American multinationals. These multinational companies have filed a massive number of dubious patents which give them a stranglehold over most sectors. The world’s digital industry is now dominated by oligarchs who have cornered the important patents.

The geopolitical bureaucratic institutions were founded by America and its allies to preserve a world order which would offer them a distinct advantage. Occasionally, it might seem that the UN is not passing resolutions which safeguard the geopolitical interests of America and its allies, and the institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, WEF, and WTO are not doing enough to safeguard their trading interests, but the actions of these institutions are generally aimed at empowering Pax Americana.

If these four instruments are compromised, America will lose its economic, technological, diplomatic, and bureaucratic power, and will not be in a position to dominate the world. 

China has made some solid gains in these four areas in the last 15 years. If China can convince a significant number of nations to use another currency for their International transactions, if it can take control of the global financial markets, if it can provide patents which will counter the power of American patents, and if it can provide a new global bureaucratic system, then American power will decline and Pax Americana will become irrelevant.

The transition from Pax Americana to another geopolitical system (which might be led by China and its allies) during the next 20 to 30 years will be largely bloodless. A few minor military engagements cannot be ruled out, but these will not impact the global balance of power. The important contests for world dominance are right now happening in the economic, technological, bureaucratic, and diplomatic areas.