Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Friday, October 22, 2004

Ancient parallels
Written by: Goemagog

National Geographic ran a show recently on their PBS program about the ancient Phoenicians. They were a set of small kingdoms who turned their natural resources into a trading empire. They sacrificed babies, created royal purple, and circumnavigated Africa. Except for the sacrificing of babies, we know almost nothing about them.

This provides the basis for most of the show. They were hated and envied to such an extent that other societies, often just as barbaric, had nothing kind to say about them. What remains of their own culture are primarily relics of their trading empire: Greek statues, Roman carvings, Egyptian coffins, etc. When it came to items, the Phoenicians weren't picky. Anything worth having was worth having, regardless of it's origins. The stuff they had tended to reflect whichever society was dominant in non-trade aspects of life.

The show never pointed this out, but the Phoenicians were a mirroring society. The Phoenicians wanted wealth, but so did everyone they traded with. If the Romans made a bunch of stylized reliefs of lion-fighting, the Phoenicians did likewise. If the Egyptians had some extra statues, they could decorate a Phoenician palace just as easily as any in Egypt. The three most distinctive aspects of Phoenician culture were the trading, baby sacrificing (unlike everyone else's infanticide), and an otherwise lack of distinctiveness.

Except for the baby-sacrificing, they're pretty easy to compare to us. We've parlayed our natural resources into a global trade network. Others trade with us to make themselves rich but are resentful that we have the same motivation. We're accused of oppression by countries that encourage slavery, and of aggression by countries hell-bent on conquering their neighbors. They want to be good farmers and we grow fat. If something useful emerges in Europe or Japan, it'll be readily adopted here.

We're a mirror society, to other coutries we are a reflection of their own desires. If something useful emerges in the world, it'll be readily adopted here, but the reverse is not true. If something useful emerges in the United States, it'll be discouraged worldwide as more American imperialism and cultural subversion. We're not the hindrance to the emergence of a global society, we are the global society. Our values, our language, every aspect of our country has been borrowed and adopted from somewhere else. Only tribalists can't find a way to make themselves successful here, because they don't think big enough.

We are the global society, and the globe hates us for it because they haven't the courage to try what works. As a general rule, the less a country or society likes us, the less adaptable and flexible they are. Being hated tells us nothing about us. India was a staunch opponent of the United States until it began to shed socialist controls and permitted it's people to be adaptable, making it one of our better allies in the world.

We are the global society because we mirror whatever works. Like the ancient Phoenicians were envied and hated by the other cultures of their world, we are envied and hated by the other cultures of ours. The root problem isn't with our success but with their envy, but not being the cause of the problem won't save us from the Phoenician's fate. To survive, we'll have to defend our flexibility, we'll have to encourage others to try ways that work instead of their customary ways, and we'll have to kill the ones who want to kill us.

Goe, cause a tradition of failure is a stupid thing to follow.

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