Thursday, February 02, 2017

Silk and Mud

People seldom believe what they are doing is wrong, and do it anyway. The evil villain doing evil with a cackle while stroking his cat. The architects of Apartheid, and other builders of ethnically based nations, were pushing back on the idea of Empire building. They used self-determination as justification. The builders of Empires in turn had used the civilising mission. Though in direct opposition, both required founding stories to give them back bone. Both were soaked in supremacy. The 'Mud Hut Fallacy' pushes the idea of only one group of people being responsible for progress. One group owning the truth. The others were in Mud Huts. Neither the architects of Empires or Apartheid would have considered themselves evil. Both would have believed deeply they were in the right.

To believe in the Mud Hut Fallacy, you have to have a very superficial knowledge of history. Or make one up. Rome was built off the riches of Egypt after the fall of Cleopatra who picked the wrong strong Roman. When Alexander the Great went on his conquests, he didn't look to the Mud Huts of Western Europe for the greatest learning. He went east. On silk roads. Timbuktu on the trade routes through the Sahara produced the richest man to have ever lived. Mansa Musa was known only in Western Europe in legend, though able to visit Mecca on well travelled paths.

The concept of a grand march of western civilisation as white men past the baton is bonkers. Greece; to Rome; to the Enlightenment; to Spain, Britain and France; to America. This makes for a good patriotic story, but ignores the wide tentacles of knowledge. 

Stories are more enduring when they aren't built on exclusion.  Walls don't last as long as roads.

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