Monday, September 06, 2004

Modern Day Barbarians

Was reading Sarah's excellent commentary on the US and the violence in its midst...
Gave me the idea for this next commentary of mine...

It's fun studying the rise and fall of the greatest civilizations of all time. Rome wasnt built in a single day, and nor were any of the other great dynasties. All of the great civilizations had made such a lasting legacy that we celebrate them in our art, literature and film.

The way they are created, was forever immortalized by Sid Meier in his great game: Civilization. Basically, the Romans, Greeks, Chinese and other early nations built their empires one small city at a time, taming the land, mastering their immediate terrain, gradually shaping their society, destroying barbaric hordes, conquering existing civilizations, founding forging alliances after alliances, founding new colonies and finally reaching the pinnacle of their society's art and technologies.

What Civilization does not show however, is how the greatest of the civilizations actually fell. It's quite simple really. After the highest point of the civilization's history, the second or third generation of rulers would become lax, incompetent and overall decadent. These generations were those who never took part in the building of the empire, but just stood on the shoulders of their ancestral giants, relishing in the richness and comfort, but forgetting the sacrifices of the ones before them.

For the Romans, these were the senators who fell into obesity and went from orgy to orgy. For the Greeks, it became pedophilia and homosexuality that finally screwed them. The great Chinese dynasties, over-abused their riches and finally fell to barbarians, Europeans, the smaller Japan and later to a new kind of threat called Communism. For all these, the values of the old were forgotten, the threats of the future ignored. In all of these great civilizations, the leaders quarrelled amongst themselves over the most trivial of things, and in the end, the great legacies of their forefathers were lost in a invasion of barbarians or that of a rival civilization's.

I realized that these two things: The founding of a civilization and the laxness which caused its fall, are pretty much standard fare for every significant history. The old adage "He who does not remember history is destined to repeat it." can't be ever truer.

What i'm thinking about is that with the advent of the global economy, the borderless world made possible by modern transportation and the internet, as well as the inevitable mixing of our cultures, this world of ours is just one big civilization.

And how long has it been since this great civilization been founded? Was the borderless world ushered in by the end of the World Wars? Or was it heralded by the advent of the Internet? Was it the introduction of Democracy to every major nation in the world? Or perhaps the death of Communism as an ideal?

...and have we reached the zenith of this age? Are we on the way down?

In any case, I'm seeing the same kinds of problems the ancients once had. Morality is probably at a record low. Almost all of the major rich nations have long since had their third generation from their greatest moments. And i see no more Gandhis, no more Lincolns or other Great Men that seek to inspire today's youth amongst us.

Will history then repeat itself?

Who then will be our modern day barbarians? Will it be the North Koreans, the Al Qaeda or maybe even the Iranians? Or will there be a breakdown in this final civilization of man? A final collapse, or the end of the world as the say?

Only time will tell.

But one thing is for certain: As long as we remember the sacrifices of heroes past, base our lives living out the values they instilled and keep from taking everything we have for granted, this modern-world civilization of ours will still stand.


de Villa said...

"homosexuality that finally screwed them" Nice pun

History does tend to repeat itself, but is not necessarily black and white. As the saying goes "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" There are reasons why 'different' wars break out and the media is presenting only one side of the story.

But in my opinion as America commits more of its budget to the cause of a 'just' war they have become the new barbarians who targets 'weaker target' eg "Iraq" and rob its resources. Ask yourself why they havent yet attack North Korea when its proven they posses WMD.

Civilisation will always stand — regardless whether or not we follow of heroes past. But depending on the action of our World Leaders will tell us very much where the world is heading.

Anyway an excellent entry nonetheless

JP said...

waaah! my favorite pc game of all time... sid's civ! :D

aYa said...

yea, the world is getting to be a scarier place to live in everyday. it feels smaller as well. seeing the news, i cant help but think what could possibly happen next? or maybe we already know but are helplessly just waiting for it to happen. our modern day barbarians are in costume. those world leaders trying to get control and power but covering those agendas up with other issues.

you're right, what we need are leaders that will INSPIRE us. not lead us on.

maybe we should start our own "project mayhem" hehe..

Mike. said...

But one thing is for certain: As long as we remember the sacrifices of heroes past, base our lives living out the values they instilled and keep from taking everything we have for granted, this modern-world civilization of ours will still stand.question is, do we remember?

April said...

You make a lot of interesting analogies. I appreciate that. I doubt however though that Americans will forget what our forefathers did. What can I say? Americans are violent natured. As you've seen in the media, our country is involved in a war that isn't technically a war. The war against terrorism is real though. I really wish we could get Osama Bin Laden. Dayum!

sparks said...

you forgot the very first civilizations in the middle east. funny how these powerful cultures have been moving westward. middle east and far east, egypt in africa, greece in asia minor, southern europe (italy, spain, portugal), northern europe, north america....after it crosses the pacific ocean...tayo na :D we might not see it in our life time, but if the trend continues...we'll have our day in the sun :D

Jules said...

i love playing the French and the Germans cuz I can make up lots and lots of foreign sounding names for the cities.. and crush all other civs around me. I enjoy playing civ2 rather than civ3. cheers!

Jac said...

I've yet to install the darn game! I already have the cd here for AGES!

Anonymous said...

What have you been smoking? --Orbital