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Monday, June 30, 2014

Who's the socialist?

      Of course I received much push back from the internet’s political ideologues about my theory that the earliest civilizations were socialist (The Birth of Civilization). The earliest societies had a safety net, the lame and poor and losers all received government stipends. Yes, I got push back from those who find life’s deepest secretes on bumper stickers.

      So, a small test for you. Two compositions, written 4,000 years apart. One is praise for King Shulgi of Sumer and Akkad, chanted in ancient temples. The other titled “Great Stalin, O leader of the peoples.” Published 1 February, 1935, in Pravda.

      Here is the first.
Who is as mighty as you, and who rivals you?
Who is there who from birth was richly endowed with understanding as you?
May your heroism shine forth, and may your might be respectfully praised!

      And here is the second.

Thou who broughtest man to birth.
Thou who fructifies the earth,
Thou who restorest the centuries,
Thou who makest vibrate the musical chords…
Thou, splendor of my spring,
O thou,
Sun reflected by millions of hearts.

       I am not going to tell you which was King Shulgi and which Comrade Stalin. An easy google search will answer the question…

      … Oh, alright, the first was written for King Shulgi.

      Humans are a mass of contradictions, the more I learn the more we seem impossible. We should not even exist. The last 10,000 years have shown an accelerated genetic human evolution, while at the same time the earliest writings could have been written today. Biblical writings from 3,000 years pass, listing the seven deadly sins, apply fully to the Wall Street crash of 2008. Biological evolution allowing adults to drink milk and cultural evolution creating representative government. At the same time that we have evolved, we have not changed. I find it hard to believe all this is random.

      Carl Sagan said we are the universe’s way of knowing itself. I think the universe is very confused. I am certainly confused, but loving every minute of it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Birth of Civilization

      Ur, was the first city humans build, writing was developed by these first Mesopotamians, so we can date the city and it existed at least from 6,500 BCE. Ur probably existed for two thousand years before the invention of cuneiform. Cuneiform was the first written language, the earliest was record keeping of sheep sacrificed at the temples. Slowly cuneiform developed to express ideas, record battles, and save oral traditions. Cuneiform scribes wrote of the heroic deeds and events that happened thousands of years before their time.

      I have read several history books written by eminent archeological professionals. I have read many modern translation of Cuneiform. A picture of our first civilization emerges that I found surprising.

      The first city started as a temple that farmers and shepherds would travel to for religious rites. Eventually the priest build themselves permanent residents, support personal for the temple starting living at the shrines. Slowly a city came into being.

      Other city states followed, Kisk, Uruk, Niveveh, Sippar, Assur, Lrasa, and finally Babylon. All appear to have started as temple complexes, each city was created by a God. The creation myths told of the Gods bringing “Me” to the people. “Me” being those principles of civilization.

      The first civilizations were a theocratic communism, the temple own everything, all land, all beast, and all people. The priest managed central planning, the temples collected all food stuff and redistributed as needed, all worked to their ability and all received as they needed. Of course, the priest were more equal than the farmers. The priest did not rule, they were just passing on the desires and wishes of the Gods. After the collection of the farmer’s required foodstuff, any surplus was allowed for sale in a market place. The Gods set the selling price and the qualities allowed for sale. The Gods decided who could sale and what they could sale. No one cheated on the system, the God would see you cheating and visit plagues and misery on your family.

      The Gods were a terrible and vengeful bunch, often starting wars with each other. Humans were commanded (through their priest) to attack another city, or to depopulate a desirable farming region for their God's pleasure, which priest would take over. The priest would tell that they had no choice, no input into the God’s demands, the Gods demands were duly recorded and published, and everyone accepted that this was the way the world worked. Cities were run by the Gods, and anyone defying a God died a horrible death. The smallest scratch could become infected (by the God) and you died.

      The Gods were the center of everything. Storms, floods, drought, disease, good luck, bad luck, would your child be born boy or girl, would your child survive their first year, even solar eclipses and comets were due to the Gods seeming vanity. Humans were an afterthought, we are just the flotsam of the Gods.

      The theocratic command economy and priestly ruling elite quickly passed into history. Their downfall was war. Priest make very bad generals.

      The generals redefined society’s meme, the generals became Kings. The King could talk back to the Gods, and the Gods listened. Kings ruled by divine right.

      Cities now became a hereditary communist state, the state still owned everything, including the people. The concept of citizen was thousands of years into the future. The word “Ama-gi”, which could be translated as freedom, would not appear until 2350 BCE. Central planning and redistribution became a highly refined and perfected system, a large agrarian population could be supported with specialist such as boat builders and soldiers, and of course, priest.

      Again war became the problem. The original King would be a Great War Master, a bold tactician and strategist. The son, due to the dice roll of genetics, would be great at flower arrangements.

      And so things continued for 6,000 years until Greece and then Rome rewrote the meme once more and started us to our modern form of civilization.

      Communism is the oldest and most successful of human institutions. It moved us from hunter gathers to the Roman republic. The new concepts (memes) of citizenship and freedom prevailed the old fashion way, it won wars.

      The next time someone tells you communism only works till all the money is spent, ask them why Hammurabi and Sargon the Great never ran out of money.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Forever War

     Like most, I was shocked by the latest news from the Middle East. I only have access to the news produced in America, for American consumption. This single data source comes with different flavors, basically doves and hawks, armchair generals painting a picture from the comfort of their talk show armchairs. They paint an M.C. Escher landscape, explaining that they hate us because we are free, they are mystified that the Iraqi’s are not grateful for our destruction of their society, and each new terrorist group is more extreme than the last.

     Republicans claim we had won, that the Democrats threw it all away. Same claim we got about Vietnam, from the same political parties. We hear that we must stop the terrorist in Bagdad or we will have to fight them in New York. We had to stop the communist in Vietnam or fight them in San Francisco. If the communist won in Vietnam the dominos would fall for the entire Asian continent. If the terrorist win in Bagdad the dominos fall for the entire Middle East. We trained the South Vietcong soldiers to defend their own country, we trained the Iraqis’ to defend their own country. “We will stand down when they stand up.” President Reagan’s “Freedom Fighters” became President Bush’s Al Qaeda’s terrorist.

     If this is not an M.C. Escher painting, it is a “Ground Hog day” movie.

     Some of our political elites have used the War on Terror to fuel a personal domestic win. The majority of our political elites have no idea what is happening, they do find the story politically playable. Over the last 15 to 20 years the Middle East has moved from stable secular Dictators to democratically elected leaders of a religious war. America has used its hard power to hasten this social shift, we supported one group over the other, and then we reversed our support. Yesterday’s allies became today’s adversaries, only to be changed tomorrow. This attempt to not choose a side in the religious war has only made all Middle East sides feel we are against them.

     American political elites had predicted Jeffersonian democracy populated with grateful citizens eternally supporting America, instead, our military adventures against the various Middle East Dictators created the religious strife and divisions resulting in today’s turmoil.

     Our Global War on Terror is an international military campaign against a poorly defined adversary with no definition of winning. A never ending Forever War against Islamic Terrorism, since the official start on 20th September, 2001, there has been a parade of increasingly more fanatical organizations, with ever larger membership.

     Am I the only one that thinks we have something fundamentally wrong? Since 9/11 the estimated cost of our War on Terror ranges from $3 to $5 trillion dollars.  After this massive cost in lives and treasure there are more terrorist than at the start, and no one wants us in their country.

     Carl von Clausewitz said that war is the continuation of politics by other means. If we must be involved in Middle East religious wars, our politicians should earn their pay and find political solutions. Clearly the military approach is not working.