Cross-posted with 44 Days
As with many creative expressions throughout history, life imitating art is often incredibly prescient (image by Wikipedia.org).
We still have seven months to go and 2014 is already shaping up as one of the most momentous in the new century, if not in all of modern world history. The fact that 2014 is the centennial anniversary of the March of Folly, the great European colonial war that the US just couldn't miss out on -- World War I, does not escape my attention. Two thousand fourteen will go down in the history books as the Anti-World War, the Great Euroamerican Unraveling, the time when 500 years of relentless, Western slavery and human and natural resource exploitation began to come undone. Call it the Grand Awakening.
Mind you, it is not going to happen overnight, and the suzerainty of the 1% over the 99% is as old as organized civilization itself. This social stratification and exploitation started one fine day in Mesopotamia, around 5,000BC, when there was surplus agricultural production to be managed, or more to the point, appropriated by the cleverest of the A-Type personalities in the crowd (let's be honest, they are the sociopaths and psychopaths amongst us). These megalomaniacs became and still are to this day, the vast majority of humankind's political leaders. Everything was fine as long as there were surpluses. But the inevitable drought, damaging flood, fire, other natural disaster or human foible created a food shortage. That's when the ugliness, the evil side of civilization began to manifest itself -- and it has continued to do so millions of times over the vast panoply of human history. It's the old, what's mine is mine because of who I am and because of who you are, what's yours is mine too. This is an ancient and well-worked system of 1% vs. 99% exploitation, going back for millennia,
The Goddess Inanna brought the arts of civilization from the God of Wisdom, Enki of Eridu, but it was like a Pandora's Box:
(Inanna said) Here are the delights of society, exquisite
craftsmanship, beautiful clothes, the arts of sex and music. But
civilization has a darker side, which has to be accepted along with the
good. The art of being mighty, the art of being kind, the art of
straightforwardness, the art of deceit; the art of kingship, justice and
the enduring crown; the resounding note of a musical instrument, the
rejoicing of the heart; the kindling of strife, the plundering of
cities, the setting up of lamentation, fear, pity, terror -- all of this
is civilization -- and you must take it all, you cannot refuse any of it.
And once taken, you cannot give it back.
Quoted from The Epic of Gilgamesh (circa 2,700BC, and humanity's oldest extant book), as recited in the movie documentary, Iraq: the Cradle of Civilization. Narrated by Michael Wood, Legacy Films, telecast by BBC in 1991.
Needless to say, the great Mesopotamian cultures cyclically rose like a Phoenix to greatness, only to crash into burning oblivion. By 300AD, the Fertile Crescent was turned once and for all into sand dunes and desert, undoubtedly with a little help from climate change along the way.
Mr. Wood goes on to observe in this excellent thought provoking 6-part series that,
There is a growing and profound disquiet in the West, a feeling that the Western way of life itself is no longer supportable, morally or practically, because of pollution, environmental destruction and the continuing exploitation of the mass of humanity.
The great question for the next generation is: are the values of the West alone, enough to guarantee the continuing health of the planet? For these (values) are individualistic, competitive, acquisitive, always pushing outwards, never happy in an empty room. And yet, they hold in their hands the future of the planet. The West seems to have reached that point in its development when, if a civilization is not to decline, it must transform itself by learning from others.
Obviously, this penetrating documentary series is not going to be used as lesson content in the vast majority of the West's high schools and universities. Heaven forbid if the next generation might dare to envision a saner, more rational and equitable paradigm.
The empty room bit is based on a quote from the great French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, that the problem with Westerners (the only people he knew), is that they cannot just sit in a quiet room and be happy, i.e., they have to fill it up with materialist Fluff and Stuff to achieve life's contentment. If you are American, this is true on resource-inhaling steroids: expand that quiet room into a vacuous, suburban McMansion and fill it with jet skis, gas guzzling SUVs and an endless mountain of soulless, plastic contraptions, to reduce one's physical exertion to the absolute minimum possible. Don't forget the All You Can Eat Buffets. And what the heck, now that we've spent our home equity loan on tons of mindless toys, it's time to max out the MasterCard.
Western Europe and Anglophonia are not much better. Replace the McMansion with a McFlat or a McHouse and the SUV with a Berliner. OK, we'll let the Japanese, those self-appointed, honorary Caucasians of Asia, as well as Israelis, Empire's military garrison in the Land of Islam, do their version of the very same. But the other 85% of the world's masses, those Dreaded Other 6.1 billion people in Asia, Africa and Central/South America? They are still White Man's World Bank/IMF/US dollar colonies. Sorry tawny skinned boys and girls, you know what the Russians say: tough shitsky. You give and we take. Which is why 2014 is shaping up to be so momentous and worthy of Mr. Michael Wood's comment that,