Extinction Of Cultures
ncient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Medieval Islamic and Italian kingdoms, as well as latter day Iberian Twins, Spain and Portugal, Trans-Channel foes, Britain and France imploded from peaks to the pits in a short time frame. These cultures faded – and at their very apogee, started spiraling, into a terminal decline. What triggered these sudden collapses?
Most of these societies suddenly lost it all -and are non-existent or a shell of their peak form. Toynbee’s study of history led him to categorize world history into 26 civilizations. Other historians want to expand this list to about 40-50. Excepting India, with 4000-6000 years of culture, not one of these 40-50 cultures, bar none, has or had a continuous historical structure for more than 500-2000 years.
Questions – And More Questions
What is it that makes India different? What gives India such resilience?
If India was indeed so accomplished, how come there are no Indian equivalents to the pyramids or a coliseum? Why did India never build a Great Wall? Where is the Indian Parthenon? Why are there no great palace complexes? How is it that that there are no Indic mausoleums? Where is India’s Forbidden City?
How is it that after conquering nearly 80% of the landmass, the ‘Desert Bloc’ has less than 50% of the world’s (an ageing, declining) population? How is it that Indic cultures, has been prosperous without loot and conquest – unlike the ‘desert bloc.’? If Indic systems have such resilience, how come large parts of the Indian region have been ruled by invading armies? Why have Indic rulers been unable to beat back these invaders?
The One Difference
In a word. India has no indigenous practice or record of slavery for the last 3000 years. Indic rulers liberalized slave laws societies where slavery was an inherited social condition – like the Hittites and Mittanis. All societies which are extinct or in terminal decline, ‘consumed’ significant slave labour.
Asimov’s The Foundation Series
Popular theories posit (without clinching empirical evidence) that historical waves and cycles are responsible for these cultural extinctions. This does not explain non-recurrence of past glories of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Spain, Portugal – though Roman geography did see a brief and unrelated in achievement during the Pre-renaissance period. The popular press, spread these theories by the use of Science Fiction. For instance, The Foundation Series by Issac Asimov.
The one exception to these cultural extinctions is India. From the Hittites, the Mittanis and the Elamites, Indic civilization has seen uninterrupted and continuous history. With cultural roots going back (at least) 6000-4500 years, it is the oldest, continously, living civilization.
Kuch to baat hai-ke hasti mit-ti nahi hamari.
The herald of Western doom, Oswald Spengler, had a popular theory of birth-life-death of civilizations. Spengler’s Theory of Civilizations, spelt out by an expert, states “Cultures are in reality super life-forms, that is, they are organic in nature, and like all organisms must pass through the phases of birth-life-death”. Other experts on Spengler’s Theory have defined these stages as growth, breakdown and disintegration. India has grown for the last 4000 years – and has defied Spengler’s popular explanation.
Toynbee in his 395-page, book, A Study of History, avoids the issue by terming the slavery issue as a problem of the internal and the external proletariat. The subject of slave and slavery appears only on 17 pages – in the 395 pages.
On slavery, he mentions that slavery,
“was one ancient institution, no less evil than war, which the Western civilization had got rid of. A society which had succeeded in abolishing slavery might surely take heart from this unprecedented victory of a Christian ideal.” He maunders on by saying “In the hearts of the dominant White majority a Christian conscience … had insisted on abolishing Negro slavery” (ellipsis mine).
Does Toynbee even mention how the Council of Gangra onwards, the White, Christian Church had supported and encouraged slavery. Not once! When Mani, the Buddhist teacher, called for overthrow of slavery, the Vatican at the Council of Gangra, re-affirmed its faith in slavery. The administrators of the teachings of the “Lord of lords, and King of kings.” (Revelation 17: 14) at the Council Of Gangra, 325 AD, issued edicts approving slavery. Historically, abolition of Negro slavery had little to do with Christian ideal and conscience – but due to numerous revolts and uprisings by slaves.
A recent book, The Life Cycle of Civilizations By Stephen Blaha, attempts to “develop a mathematical theory of civilizations based on variables that describe a civilization.” Stephen Blaha further proclaims,”mankind appears to be in the process of developing a world civilization based on Western technology”.
And how many times, does the esteemed Stephen Blaha talk about slave and slavery?
Not once. But he does mention, colony and colonies 6 times in his 250-page book. It is this reluctance to accept history – and change that is required, which is behind the rise and fall of the Desert Bloc empires.
The problem is not just Western historians. Experts on India like By Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak, David Frawley, while writing about India, in their book, In Search of the Cradle of Civilization: New Light on Ancient India, refer to slavery just once and slave once. Their understanding of something as fundamental as the word dasa itself is wrong. They make no difference between a servant and slave.
The Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World were all monuments concentrated in the Desert Bloc geography.
The Pyramids, The Coliseum, The Great Wall, were all monuments that were raised by slave societies. To impress the slave population? India has no such monuments because India had no slave populations to build such showpieces – and no slaves to impress.
Mahabharata has interesting insight on man-nature conflict. The Pandavas, having secured a favorable award from Dhritarashtra, in their inheritance dispute, decided to set up a new capital. The divine architect Maya was retained to build this city. The site chosen for the new capital city – a forest, Khandava.
Overcome by their hubris, the Pandavas, burnt down the entire forest – and the animals inhabiting the forest. In place of the forest came up the gleaming new city of Indraprastha.
All the kings were called to marvel at the new city. And in her pride, Draupadi mocked at Duryodhana – a guest. To avenge this mockery, Duryodhana challenged Yudhithira for a game of chess (instead of a war) – which Yudhishthira promptly lost. They lost their new city – and were sent into exile by Duryodhana. Lessons duly learnt, the Pandavas after the completion of their exile, asked for five villages. After winning the War Of Mahabharat, they ruled from the ancient capital of Hastinapur. No more gleaming cities for them.
Karl Marx had a poor view about India – a ‘civilization of losers’.
Hindostan is an Italy of Asiatic dimensions, the Himalayas for the Alps, the Plains of Bengal for the Plains of Lombardy, the Deccan for the Apennines, and the Isle of Ceylon for the Island of Sicily. The same rich variety in the products of the soil, and the same dismemberment in the political configuration. Just as Italy has, from time to time, been compressed by the conqueror’s sword into different national masses, so do we find Hindostan, when not under the pressure of the Mohammedan, or the Mogul, or the Briton, dissolved into as many independent and conflicting States as it numbered towns, or even villages. (Karl Marx on The British Rule in India in the New-York Herald Tribune – June 25, 1853)
Max Mueller went ahead and built on Marx’s foundation. Brigadier General Sir Mortimer, urgently despatched from Italy, at the height of the WW2, distorted Indian history in the dying days of the Raj. And recently, VS Naipaul thought that India was a wounded civilization in perpetual retreat.
Factually speaking, Indic rule stretched from Greek borders (Hittites) to Taklamakan desert (Auriel Stern and Huien Tsang), from Central Asia (Elamites) to Bali. Thus Indic frontiers encircled a huge expanse. Some of the biggest victories in history of warfare were won by Indian armies. Thus, any assertion, that Indians are historic losers is a losing idea.
Production controllers prefer ‘free’ slave labour, compared to wage labour. Slave labour drives down wage levels and drives up unemployment. Food stamps are a consequence. Resultant discontent creates demand for unemployment benefits and a welfare state. Wastrel population is diverted with entertainment – Roman Circus. Wars are initiated, by a ‘disconnected’ army to capture new slaves, and increase the looted hoards – Julius Caesar and George Bush in Iraq.
Innovation & Invention
With disguised unemployment on one side and concentrated wealth derived from ‘free’ labor on the other, slave societies saw a culture of patrons, state support and subsidies for religion, arts, technology and science. Thus for short periods, members of the dominant segment, did (and do) produce significant intellectual output. In many cases, these ‘cultural achievements’ are simple cases of cultural expropriation.
At the core of the Indic social and political organization is the value of humans. This is evidenced by the value for babies (balagopal), feminine divinity (In India, the two most ‘important’ festivals, Diwali and Dasara are dedicated to women goddesses). Stable marriage systems, based on equity (instead of advantage) and contribution (instead of extraction) are a big part of the population growth.
The NRI Rush
It was amusing to see His Excellency Lord Baron Meghnad Desai (OBE, KBE) suddenly counting himself as one of the 1.1 billion Great Unwashed Indian Population! How much more can he come down? Never to see anything good happening in India, he suddenly counts himself as an Indian.
His drivel about India is irrelevant. But, His Lordship’s prognosis for the West is even more interesting. It is His Lordship’s belief that possibly only the USA (from the West) will make the cut. The Euro-Zone, His Excellency implies, will be irrelevant. How and Why is Lord Desai silent about the role of Euro-politicians in the decline and eclipse (His Lordship’s pessimism, mind you) of Euro-Zone. Is it that His Lordship does not dare criticize Western politicians? Or is it that the West can do no wrong? Surely, Your Lordship, does not believe that the Rise of India and the Eclipse of the West is Black Magic!
Westernized Indians, unsure about going through the grind of re-building a nation, escaped to the West. And still do. A NRI newspaper desk-editor recently wrote,
“It’s been two years since my family and I moved to India, a time span that happened to be the deadline to at least decide if our future lies here or there. (note the opportunism here) … this past summer, my husband and I would stay up late and discuss, debate, even argue. India had been great for his career, he would say. He felt creative and reinvigorated … “But I am tired,” I said. “It’s not just working at a start-up. It’s running the household, the uncertainty of water coming out of the tap, the driver showing up. And I cannot have one more parent-teacher meeting about my moral opposition to colouring in the lines. The school thinks I am crazy.” (note the desire for ready-to-eat solutions, the closed mind). Underlined comments mine.
Nations do not get built that way. The poorer country cousin of the Westernized NRI, is the desi-NRI. The desi-NRI, went out to make some money in sundry parts of the world (especially the Middle East). The desi-NRI worked hard – and never gave up on India. It is the remittances from the desi-NRI that have been bridging India’s current account deficit. For all this, the desi-NRI, the poorer brother, has never got the respect for his contributions – and the Westernized NRI is lionized.
The desi-NRI, can’t speak English, you see.
Historically, India’s gold reserves (the largest in the world) of 25,000-30,000 tons, were not built on luck (no gold discoveries) or due to loot (no looting raids or slavery). A only one of its kind, capital accumulation in the world.
It is these essential values of human equity that makes democracy a success in India. It is this ability to see all creation as one वसुधैव कुटुम्बकं ‘vasudhaivah kutumbakam’ that make the Republican India successful.
It is these values that gives India one of the lowest prison populations in the world – and practically very few positions in the Forbes ‘Most Wanted’ List.
Modern Indian Response To Slavery
A sher by Allama Iqbal is a familiar and modern response to slavery in the Indian context. Allana Iqbal wrote on Mahmud of Ghazni and his ‘favorite’ slave, Ayaz thus –
एक ही सफ में खड़े, महमूद ओ अयाज़,
न कोई बंदा रहा, न कोई बंदा नवाज़ –
(Translation – In a single line, stand Mahmud and Ayaz, as equals they stand, neither a master, none a slave – translation mine).
Poor Iqbal! He was taken in! Did they ever tell Iqbal how a number of his Kashmiri brothers (and sisters, too) were taken by the same Mahmud of Ghazni as slaves. The Central Asian region from the 10th century to the 17th century, imported Indian slaves – and exported horses.
Sahir Ludhianvi, better captures the Indian attitude to slavery, pomp and grandiose designs.
ताज तेरे लीए एक मजहर–ऐ–उल्फत ही सही, तुझको इस वादी–ऐ–रंगीन से अकीदत ही सही
मेरे महबूब कहीं और मीला कर मुझसे, बज्म–ऐ–शाही में गरीबों का गुज़र क्या माने?
सब्त जीस राह पे हो सतावत–ऐ–शाही के नीशान, उस पे उल्फत भरी रूहों का सफर क्या माने?
मेरे महबूब पास–ऐ–परदा–ऐ–ताश हीर–ऐ–वफ़ा, तूने सतावत के निशानों को तो देखा होता
मुर्दा शाहों के मकाबिर से बहलने वाली, अपने तारीक मकानों को तो देखा होता
अन–गिनत लोगों ने दुनिया में मोहब्बत की हैं, कौन कहता है के सादिक न थे जज्बे उनके
लेकिन उनके लीए ताश हीर का समान नहीं, क्योंकि वोह लोग भी अपनी ही तरह मुफ्लीस थे
यह ईमारत–ओ–मकाबिर यह फसीले यह हिसार, मुतल–कुल–हुक्म शाहेंशाहों की अजमत के सुतून
दामन–ऐ–दहर पे उस रंग की गुलकारी है, जिसमे शामिल है तेरे और मेरे अजदाद का खून
मेरे महबूब! उन्हें भी तो मोहब्बत होगी, जीनकी सन्नी ने बक्शी है इसे शक्ल–ऐ–जमील
उनके प्यारों के मकाबिर रहे बे–नाम–ओ–नमूद, आज तक उन पे जलाई न किसी ने कंदील
यह चमनज़ार, यह जमना का किनारा, यह महल, यह मुनाक्काश डर–ओ–दीवार, यह मेहराब, यह ताक
एक शहेंशाह ने दौलत का सहारा लेकर, हम गरीबों के मोहब्बत का उदय है मजाक
मेरे महबूब कहीं और मिला कर मुझसे.
– Abdul Hayee ‘Sahir’ Ludhianvi.
Translation by gyanputra
Even if the Taj for you is a symbol of great love, even though you prefer its pretty colorful setting
My dear, meet me somewhere else, what truck can the poor have with kingly courts?
The paths on which are seared the grandest Royal Arms, how can love-filled hearts journey on them?
My dear, behind the veil of this advertisement of love, had you seen the trappings of royal power and wealth
Instead of being beguiled by the tombs of dead kings, had you seen our dark homes
Uncounted peoples in this world have loved, who says their love was not true
But they did not have the means for advertising love, they were poor like us
This mausoleum, these decorations, these fort parapets, that the arrogance of kings considers symbols of Greatness
On the face of the world this is a decoration of floral vines, that has flowing in it your ancestors’ blood, and mine
My dear! they must have had loves too, those whose art granted this monument its acclaimed form
But those loves’ tombs are unnamed, untraced, no one has ever lit on them even a candle
This garden, this Jamna riverbank, this palace, these picturesque walls and doors, these pulpits, these arabesques
A king of kings aided by all his wealth, has mocked the love of us poor
My dear, meet me somewhere else.
Where Do We Go From Here
The world has looked to India for answers. But modern India looks to the West. And those Western answers are irrelevant and don’t work – or sometimes a trail of red herrings.
10 days after this post, Arvind Panagariya, a professor from Columbia University and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, wrote how “the emerging giant can accomplish something the diminishing giant couldn’t!.” While the professor admits to the reality of the ‘diminishing giant’, sadly, he equates a giant of brute force with a moral one. This seems to be very similar to Manmohan Singh’s one-point agenda to ‘to sit at the high table, in the global comity of nations.’ Both, Manmohan Singh and Arvind Panagariya seem to be infected with this strain of imported virus. The main symptom of this infection is this overwhelming desire for Western approval.