History: An Essay
"an essay" by Michael F. Nyiri
began: 10/27/2002 9:34 p.m. pst.
completed: 02/19/2005 5:33 p.m. pst
In the beginning, it happened all over again. There was that Big Bang. Energy flowed into the cosmos as with a new and renewed breath of fresh air. The air was pretty hot, and mountains rose as oceans filled.
Geologic time... took forever, and after a long time, the earth cooled. Then life shook his ugly little head. The first animals were simple, and simply animals, and then they got too complex for their own good. Instinct gave way to hierarchy, and weakness gave way to strength. The fittest tended to survive. Animals ate each other until a lot of them died off. Whole species would disappear, and life went on. Animals ruled the spinning orb for a while. Man followed in their footsteps. Man evolved slowly, through many postures and degrees of hirsuteness, but this development was pretty quick in the scheme of time, which kept on ticking, and of which no creature questioned. Man looked around. He liked what he saw, but better yet,or worse, as the case may be, soon he got to thinking. That was a blessing and a curse at the same time, and he crafted his own downfall as soon as he could develop the brain power to think about it. Man knew he possessed something the other animals didn't have when he discovered the differences between air, earth, water, and fire, and how to cultivate and use these "elements." As soon as he was given a voice, he yelled, whined, and boasted.
He had a lot of questions, too.
When he wasn't naming animals, and finding the way, he was trying to figure everything out. If he couldn't figure it out, he owed it to a higher power. He saw that patterns could be found in weather and time, and he could reasonably assess trhat since he only witnessed these miracles, but didn't understand them, that some power must be responsible for his existence. He believed first in what he could see, feel, hear, and touch, and then because he learned all he could by himself, figured out that someone else must have created all of mankind and gave him this wonderful existence. He found faith. And he was blessed and cursed by faith. Basically faith is pretending. Mankind soon developed imagination. And a sense of humor. That was good because he would eventually foul his existence on Earth when he found he couldn't agree with anyone else, and it's good he can laugh about this. Mankind revered his newfound faith, and if the people of the new societies of man couldn't agree, then they put their faith in their gods, whom they named and worshipped. Competing tribes of men worshiped competing gods. Everybody thought their god was better than anybody else's.
This basic theological and ideological difference lasted and sank in for thousands of years. A mere blink of geologic time's eye, but an eternity when you only live for a century or less. At least mankind could laugh.
Man only lived a few decades in the early part of his career on Earth. The older men became the seers and the prophets, simply because they remembered more, and they could gauge the truth of weather patterns and time passages better than the younger men. Whole tribes would revere their elders, and give them a special place in the nascent societies of Early Man.
The seers and prophets who had the strongest understanding of the weather cycles which allowed the societies to plant and harvest, thereby granting sustenance for future generations, were given the most reverence by the rest of Mankind. Eating, propagating, elimination. These could be called instincts. But there was an intelligence which told certain "chosen" individuals which times were best for performing certain tasks which would placate some of these instincts. The "higher powers" which resulted sowed the seeds for the concept of religion. This concept was certain to cause Man's downfall, because some societies became larger and more powerful than others, and it became increasingly easier for the powerful to subjugate the weaker through the tenets of "faith" and "belief in the higher power". God was on the side of the tribe that won the battle. Whole sets of Gods and Goddesses were created, morphed, or fell away, as the Warring Tribes of Conflicting Ideologies clashed, coalesced, and through time, structured themselves into civilizations.
Some Tribes which were not subjugated, and didn't agree with the budding "civilizations" and "religions", wandered off to farther and farther areas of the Earth. Geologic time, being much slower than generations of Mankind, eventually changed the face of the Globe after some of these tribes had gone so far as to "fall off the Earth" according to the pundits and scholars of "civilization", so they were hardly missed. On their own, these "forgotten tribes" would multiply, invent their own Gods and Goddesses, and prosper. After an awfully long time, through many generations, the tribes, civilizations, and groups of Men constructed great cities and regions, found ways to route water and preserve crops, and also found that as time went on, the early forging of religion and godheads gave way to dogmas and catechisms. Scrolls were written and stored. Cuneiform tablets were inscribed and archived. Whole segments of "chosen" populations were taught, propagandized, and cajoled into becoming preachers and priests, ministers and rabbis of the World's Religions. History begat Faith, and Faith begat Religion. Religion begat Churches, Synagogues, and Temples.
The linchpin in most of the Cities of Civilization was the Central Meeting Place of Faith. In times of good fortune, when the "Gods" smiled on Mankind, he reveled and prospered, foisting his beliefs on coming generations. When the weather was bad, and the crops failed, not knowing what to do, Man would resort to sacrificing his cattle and his brethren in order that his progeny might prosper in the future. The calendar, invented with "divine providence" became bloodied with all the sacrificing, as bad times seemed to occur at cyclical intervals as well as good times, and Man began to kill himself religiously in the Name Of The Higher Power.
As Man multiplied, and as cities and civilizations expanded across the face of the Earth, and as new technologies created vehicles in the form of wheeled carts and larger waterproof vessels, roads were built between cities, and vessels traversed the World's waterways. Trade was invented because one civilization found that another could cultivate something the first could not. Trade routes were established along the roads and although war and subjugation never went away, for a while disparate races of Man were able to trade goods, establish monetary systems, and prosper greatly. That one civilization might worship and revere a different deity from another with which they were trading rarely got in the way of the trade itself. Mankind chalked it up to diversity and regional differences. Unless of course one tribe or civilization felt cheated by what another had cultivated. Then they would pray to their Gods of War and just take the thing from the other tribe. Nothing much had changed from the beginning. There were just more men, more cities, more roads, and more problems to be solved. There were also more spoils to be had to the victor.
Because soon trade became the basis for economy, the disparate kingdoms and fiefdoms developed more complex monetary systems, and began to rely upon one another. When trade "agreements" didn't agree, wars were fought. Soon war became the greatest stimulator to mankind, and because he always wanted to win when confronted by his enemy, he poured his knowledge and know-how into making more varied and dangerous weapons. This spurred imagination and innovation even more, enabling industries such as crude manufacturing to prosper, and in turn spurring countless "inventors", who refined process after process. Soon the disparate nations could exist with or without each other, as they traded goods and services, weapons and strategy.
Always one "nation" would prosper above and beyond the rest, and utilize the technology of the age to colonize and spread it's dogmas and catechisms throughout the "civilized" world. Utilizing religion and politics, and practicing a host of "democratic", "autocratic", and "utopian" paradigms, the "superpower" nation would subjugate the populace in the areas in which it spread, and then eliminate the segments of the populace deemed unfit, and advocate art and literature of the "civilized" world it represented, eventually causing the next generation indigenous population to either "become" a member of the pax or perish.
Great "teachers" arose in the east and in the mideast, preaching tolerance and love for humankind, and humankind failed to tolerate these great teachers. All "progress" advanced in the name of "God", "science" or "fate." The bickering tribes of mankind's recent history had only started wearing the crowns of kings and the trappings of "society". As the "world stage" changed it's shape on an almost weekly basis, demagogues and dictators decided the outcome of a sometime comically tragic strategy for existence.
The ruling aristocracies of the great nations of the world found wealth and power easily obtainable but hard to hold onto. Backroom palace deals occurred frequently, and furtively signed and sealed missives were sent around the known world making and breaking alliances, forming marriages and welcoming the births of cosmopolitan kings. The many gods of early man had morphed into an ubergod who claimed to be responsible for the start of many competing factions of the same religion. One teacher had been martyred and the subsequent religion in his name eventually imprinted itself upon all of western culture. In the east, another prophet was told by angels he was chosen, and the minions who acted in his name battled the minions of the other true god. The eastern religion and the western religion soon bloodied most of the known world in their battles, and each side laid claim to the occupation of their shared holy city numerous times during the scuffles and wars, crusades, and crises.
In the forgotten part of the world, across a great ocean, other civilizations built great cities, founded great religions, and fought each other for control of the lands which gave them sustenance. Man lived in squalor and filth most of the time, and these conditions caused numerous plagues and pestilences, which further changed the face of mankind across the continents. Science and religion sought to find answers for every disappointment and disparity, and academicians praised their knowledge and wisdom. As the years passed, the rich got richer, and the poor suffered more despair. Kings taxed the populace to pay for entertainment and held grand inquisitions to ferret out the iconoclasts and freethinkers.
Inventions and manufacturing gave birth to better and more powerful weapons than ever before. Wars which had always been gentlemanly and honorable, became a bloody mess. The age of seafaring fostered more trade, more colonization, more subjugation, and more riches for the ruling parties of the world, who locked themselves behind their thick castle doors and inbred their lines until they were all blithering idiots unfit to rule.
But that didn't stop them.
Entrepreneurs crossed the oceans looking for fame and slaves. When new lands were colonized, the indigenous people were again slaughtered, and man spread his sickness and insanity to the ends of the earth. Religion couldn't help his faith anymore, as new and better religions found their members being herded like animals onto seafaring vessels and sent to the new world, where they wouldn't cause any trouble.
History seldom stopped long enough to assess itself. The twin bulldozers of progress and opportunity painted the landscape in the colors of the ruling elite. Missionaries "spread the good word", and trading beads for land became the laugh of the colonial culture. Trade fueled more and more riches for the elite, and the east and west became tolerant each other insofar as they each desired something the other had first. The east had gunpowder. The west developed easier ways of making guns with interchangeable parts. Art flourished under the most dictatorial and repressive conditions, and each succeeding national culture fed on and absorbed the cultures of those it swallowed, and though the world seldom got along, it prospered insanely. The world itself, living under the slower but nonetheless brutal ticks of geologic time, rebelled at some of man's foibles, and every river, volcano, and sea set out to make most of man's advances retreat for a while of so. But mankind proved more persistent than Earth, and in no time at all, set most of the seeds for the planet's destruction early in his stay.
Where the great civilizations and religious powers met, clashes and wars lasted for centuries. Some denizens of humanity questioned the sanity of all this religious and pseudo sociological bickering, and established far reaching think tanks which surreptitiously spread more dogmas and catechisms into the pages of history, which buckled painfully under the mistruths and propaganda.
As a rebirth of artistic splendor and scientific discovery taught man that he didn't know anything at all even after quite a few centuries laying waste to his planet, the peoples of the earth tried to ignore each other while praising the concept of diversity. Eventually, the ruling class was cut off at the head, and rebellious oppressed generations took to the streets of major capitals and danced foolishly to the end of innocence. One by one, the majority of kingdoms lost their rulers to democracies and political backstabbing. As western civilization had spread to the other side of the world, it's very foundations crumbled, and an age of even less reason came to pass.
The slave trade made fortunes for a select few, and ripped a complete continent's progeny from it's shores. The new democracies in the new world railed against oppression and inhumanity to man, as they kept their slaves "in their place". As better transportation was invented, civilization could travel at speeds until then unheard. Barrelling along at the speed of ignorance, civilization began to become more secular, but still embraced the religious faith that had sustained it for centuries. It wrote it's own rules, and then revised them to fit the situation at hand, insuring that the rules would last for all time.
The rules in the gamebook changed, and the gamebook was written by different people, but the game remained the same. Win at all costs, and damn anyone who gets in the way. Eventually the world itself became embroiled in global misunderstandings and cultural skirmishes which caused the loss of many lives. Still art and literature thrived, and the creative criticized the status quo, but the status quo held tightly to the pursestrings of artistic endeavor. Everything remained balanced precariously on the edge of tragic circumstance. Armies were trained in the latest methods of killing and torture. The god of the moment could be seen gracing the propaganda posters of both the righteous and the rascally. Acutely engineered genocides and purges took the place of ritual sacrifice, but mankind still harbored a great passion in killing himself.
Eventually technology caused most of the world peoples to be able to communicate with each other as never before. Instead of creating dialogues and understanding, however, the technology instead was used to spread more lies, dogmas, and catechisms. Truth was able to coexist with insanity and intolerance with amazing illogic. Mankind found more insidious ways in which to kill himself, and art and literature thrived as always, even in spite of this incongruity and inconsequence. New prophets arose, only to be ignored. Mankind knew by now he was doomed, and he savored popular entertainment which elaborated his demise in numerous imaginative ways. Some prophets left the earth prematurely, taking their constituency with them. Some prophets presented the obvious, and were sorely misunderstood. The cycle began to revolve to it's circular conclusion, and then prepared to turn around again.