Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Cultures Don’t Survive

Descent of Ganga

“Cultures don't survive, cockroaches do. The second we stopped being cockroaches, the whole species went extinct.” 

“Civilization is just a lie we tell ourselves to justify our real purpose. We're not here to transcend. We're here to destroy.” 

~ William to his host doppelgänger in Westworld (Season 4, Episode 7)

William is being cynical and nihilistic, but there is an element of historical truth in his statements. A society of cultured people seldom survives. The invaders, plunderers, and destroyers often prevail—they often manage to cause irreparable, irreversible damage to the ancient cultures.  

In the seventh century, when Islam arrived in South Asia, the population of the Indian subcontinent was 400,000,000—56 precent of the world’s population was living here. In the eighteenth century, when the Mughal Empire declined and power in most parts of the Indian subcontinent went to the British and Hindu groups, the population was just 140,000,000. (I have used the figures from Wikipedia’s “Demographics of India” page.)

Thus, between the seventh and the eighteenth centuries (the period of Islamic invasions and dominance), the population fell by 65 percent. This calamitous decline in population happened because people were dying in large numbers due to wars, riots, starvation, political prosecution, lawlessness, and psychological problems. Despite suffering terrible atrocities for more than a millennia most people did not give up their religion and Hinduism survived.

PS: I have used an image of Raja Ravi Varma’s 1890 painting, Descent of Ganga with this article. Even though this painting is not related to the subject of my article.

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