Did China spark the Italian Renaissance? (Part 2)

China had been collecting tribute from south-eastern and southern Asia for some time. This process involved ambassadors from these lands being taken to China as valued guests, treated most favourably there, and then returned home with gifts. The visiting ambassadors would have delivered valuable gifts to the Emperor as tribute.

Admiral Zheng He was sent, with 7 Treasure Fleets, to identify and investigate all the barbarian lands; and to offer their leaders the opportunity to pay their respect to China by bringing tribute to the Emperor. To that end, they were given maps and shown the way to China. In this process, the Admiral or his deputies, while suffering a huge tsunami (near South Island, New Zealand) and other fatalities, calculated longitude (hitherto beyond the scope of previous mariners), and mapped the world.

The inside front cover of ‘1434: The year a magnificent Chinese fleet sailed into Italy and ignited the Renaissance’ contains these extracts.

“… Menzies makes the startling claim that in the year 1434, China – then the world’s most technologically advanced civilisation – provided the spark that set the Renaissance ablaze.”

“Fifteenth century Florence and Venice were hubs of world trade, attracting merchants from all over the globe. In 1434, a Chinese fleet – official ambassadors of the Emperor – arrived in Tuscany and met with Pope Eugenius IV in Florence.”

“… the delegation presented the influential pope with a diverse wealth of Chinese learning: art, geography (including world maps which were later passed onto Columbus and Magellan), astronomy, mathematics, printing, architecture, civil engineering, military weapons, and more.”

“The vast treasure of knowledge spread across Europe, igniting the legendary inventiveness of the Renaissance, including Da Vinci’s mechanical creations, the Copernican revolution and Galileo’s discoveries.”

Why would the Chinese delegation hand over to the barbarian Pope (and his people) more than the maps required to reach China with tribute? To show the extent to which China was ahead of other people, both industrially and culturally?

Or, did the Chinese hand over a book containing all this additional information, without realising that much of it might be plagiarised by key individuals each proclaiming his inventiveness? Menzies suggests this may be the case.

Nearly ten years have passed since 1434 was published. Have there been any factual rebuttals?

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What of institutional religion?

What place is there for the major religions (within the posited framework of an autonomous nested mesh of destinies ranging from the personal to multiple collectives)?

Divested of the detritus of dogma deliberately designed to distinguish each sect or faith from the others, and then to enable a claim of an unwarranted theological superiority, and thereby an exclusive path to heaven, two core beliefs are shared by these religions, except Buddhism. First is a claim of a creator god. The second is that, since humans are the products of this creation, we are bonded to one another.

What a wonderful concept. It is a great pity that it seems to apply only within the boundaries of each religious sect. The others are outsiders, heretics, heathens, etc. and are therefore not going to be ‘saved.’ Thus, in the name of their god, each priesthood is likely to display or even preach prejudice towards those not under its control or influence.

There will, of course, be great exceptions – priests within each religion who are truly ecumenical (accepting related sects within their religion as non-competitive), or who are freethinkers in their tolerance, even accepting other religions as comparable paths to the one God of mankind. I have enjoyed conversing with some of these enlightened exceptions.

What of those who quite impertinently suggested that my soul would remain doomed if I did not convert to their sect? My riposte to such soul gatherers is as follows: ‘When you ascend to the Celestial Abode of the Heavenly Father, you will find yourself shaking hands with Caluthumpians and members of all the other religions.’ Regrettably, some ‘wannabe’ saviours seemed discomfited by such a vision; I have watched a few dash down the road with displeasure after receiving my good news! I wonder how the atheists react on entry to this Abode.

Is it not true that institutional religion has pitted followers of one religion against another, and sect against sect within many religions, butchering fellow humans and defiling them in every way in the name of their faith? Under the pap propagated by their spin-doctors, it is carnivore-eat-carnivore, that is, dog-eat-dog! This situation continues.

The true measure of the quality of a civilisation is the way the least viable of the people are treated. This criterion, in my view, also applies to religions. On this test, the major religions, if not all of them, fail. The life chances, the quality of life, of those at the bottom of the socio-economic pile are generally ignored by their co-religionists in power, in government. It is a great pity that it was the communist nations which provided some uplift to their peasants, lifting them from their squalor. Our only hope is the secular nation, which subordinates saving the soul to filling an empty belly.

Would it not be wonderful if individual humans were able to seek succour from their god or spirits or whatever, without being caught up within an institutional religion with all its divisive binding rules, regulations and practices, as well as its priesthood; that is, without an intermediary? This is not to deny that there are many who derive some peace of mind through their priests. From observation, the two main groups in Australia are the elderly and the newly converted (mainly East Asians). This peace of mind, if associated with sectarian prejudice, may not however be the best ticket for entry to Heaven.

Yet, the real need by the majority of humans to have some hope of alleviating their suffering as they strive merely to exist, to survive, to protect their families (especially their young), cannot be denied. However, how could they accept that their prayers, their entreaties, are in vain; and that they need to work through their personal destinies in each life? Do not the alleged interventions by some kind god, or the claimed miracles brought about by saints, offer (blind) hope? Should the purveyors of this hope, the middlemen, most of whom live well and in security, therefore be tolerated? If so, at what price?

Yet, I will make it clear that I am not denigrating the kindness of most of those I refer to as middlemen. I continue to deal with them. They are worthy of respect. They have chosen to help their church-attending flocks as best they can, but within the closed framework of their dogma, and the well-trodden paths of tradition.

(The above are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’)

 

Will the West be overtaken? (Part 2)

‘Why the West rules – for now’ by Ian Morris is interesting while challenging. His representation of China as the East is somewhat selective; he ignores any significant historical developments in mid-Asia. How could the Indian civilisation be the oldest continuous culture on post-Deluge Earth? Indic philosophy, not being consumer-oriented, allegedly developed an understanding of mankind in the universe a long way back in history.

Morris also conflates West Asia (“the first Westerners”) with Europe and the USA (the latter two normally known together as the West).

Then, is consumption of food the best criterion for comparing social development? A high average figure of consumption may cover vast disparities within the community. Is there not a place for moral or spiritual progress? Man shall not live by bread alone.

Yet, the Morris thesis is worthy of attention. There is this question: Did not Europe develop industrially and philosophically much later than the core cultures of Asia? Only after the 15th century CE was Europe joined by Morris to Western Asia as ‘the West’, except for the 500 years from 250 BCE when Rome was first linked to West Asia as ‘the West.’ A new nation created by European emigrants, viz. North America, was subsequently added to ‘the West.’ Ultimately, it is the USA, as ‘the West’, which is compared with China.

Morris, who writes in a very erudite manner, is most knowledgeable about all the major events of human history. He shows how ‘the West’ was ahead of China for at least for 2,000 years until 541 CE in terms of social development (as defined by him). Then China moved ahead until 1773. Industrialisation and battle-capacity subsequently enabled the West to get ahead again. China will, however, soon catch up, he expects (a somewhat unavoidable conclusion).

The reality is that China already contributes to consumption in the USA. Its recent economic, technological, and military advances, allied to a probable future in association with most of East Asia and probably all of Southeast Asia, while simultaneously linked to Central Asia through the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, will soon equal the military and industrial might of the West (the USA and its satrapies and NATO).

While Morris’ analysis is most impressive, his scenario seems to be much ado about little. A combination of economic success and military power (subsuming the necessary information technology and organisational competence) will probably result in China, Russia, and the USA eventually forming a tripartite global system of power-based governance – – by necessity.

Like the poor in developing and developed nations, the rest of humanity will survive, hopefully in peace; with energy consumption more equitable than at present, in the penumbra of this most probable governance relationship.

How will geography, impacted also by sporadic cosmic catastrophes, respond? Would the presence of 3 powerful nations, eyeing off one another with some suspicion, provide more protection than hitherto to the smaller, weaker, and unprotected nations?

Will the West be overtaken? (Part 1)

When I watched the video on ‘Why the West rules – for now’ by Ian Morris, an archaeologist/historian, I was intrigued. Morris gives the West no more than 3 generations before it loses its lead on the East on ’social development.’

The West is initially the ‘Near East’ or Western Asia; ultimately it is the USA. This is confusing. The term ‘Eurasia,’ which seems to me to represent an ambition by some modern Eurocentric writers to expropriate for Europe the early achievements of the cultures of the former Fertile Crescent of West Asia, is also used by Morris.

The East is consistently China, because it was allegedly the first culture to grow rice. However, Stephen Oppenheimer asserts that rice growing began in the terrain of the now-sunken Sundaland of Southeast Asia. Oppenheimer’s historical cultural pathway is based on genetics, a more reliable way of reading the movements of cultures or peoples through history.

Overcoming my scepticism, I read on. What is social development? “… social development is the bundle of technological, subsistence, organisational, and cultural accomplishments through which people feed, clothe, house and reproduce themselves, explain the world around them, resolve disputes within their communities, extend their power at the expense of other communities, and defend themselves against others’ attempts to extend power. Social development … measures a community’s ability to get things done, which, in principle, can be compared across time and space.”

“The simplest way to think about energy capture is in terms of consumption per person, measured in kilocalories per day.” Then one needs to organise the energy capture, aided by information, and a capacity for war. It seems to me that, in the history of mankind, war is as important as geography, Morris’ initial causal factor in energy capture.

Geography, subsuming climate, determines social development, which then affects geography. So says Morris. Biology is irrelevant; people everywhere behave in much the same way. Sociology (group behaviour) explains how development occurred.

Further, similar things happened to both East and West; and in the same order. But the West had a 2,000 year advantage. Where was this West? West Asia, not Europe (the latter presumably recovering from the residual effects of the last ice age). Perhaps, the Universal Flood (mentioned in about 70 and more cultural histories) of about 13,000 to 15,000 years ago, had a role in enabling the lands east of the Mediterranean Sea to create what is known as the first post-Deluge civilisations.

In this context, Oppenheimer speculates that the escapees from Sundaland, not only went north to seed the cultures of Vietnam, China and neighbouring terrain, but also went west; having become skilled in managing water (rising seas), they may have been the ‘dark-headed people from the East’ to control the Tigris and Euphrates. Like so much of early history, that is mere speculation.

Morris identifies the geography of the Hilly Flanks (the re-named Fertile Crescent of yore) as the original site of energy capture. He describes this area as Western Eurasia. How so? One would expect Western Eurasia to fringe the Atlantic coast, not the Mediterranean.

However, leaving aside the challenging terminology, how credible is Morris? Refer Part 2.

Why the West rules – for now

‘Why the West Rules—For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future’ is a history book by a British historian Ian Morris, published in 2010.

The following is an extract from Wikipedia:
“The book compares East and West across the last 15,000 years, arguing that physical geography rather than culture, religion, politics, genetics, or great men explains Western domination of the globe. Morris’ Social Development Index considers the amount of energy a civilization can usefully capture, its ability to organize (measured by the size of its largest cities), war-making capability (weapons, troop strength, logistics), and information technology (speed and reach of writing, printing, telecommunication, etc.).

The evidence and statistical methods used in this book are explained in more detail in Social Development,[1] a free eBook, and by the published volume, The Measure of Civilization.

Morris argues that:
When agriculture was first invented, areas with reliable rainfall benefited most.
Irrigation benefited drier areas such as Egypt and the Fertile Crescent.

Plants and animals more easily domesticated gave certain areas an early advantage, especially the Fertile Crescent and China. (See cradle of civilization.) Development of Africa and the Americas started on the same path, but it was delayed by thousands of years.

With the development of ships in Eurasia, rivers became trade routes. Europe and empires in Greece and Rome benefited from the Mediterranean, compared to Chinese empires (who later built the Grand Canal for similar purposes).

Raids from the Eurasian Steppe brought diseases that caused epidemics in settled populations.

The Social Development Index shows the West leading until the 6th century, China leading until the 18th century, and the West leading again in the modern era.

After the development of ocean-going ships, the significantly greater size of the Pacific Ocean made trans-Atlantic exploration and trade more feasible and profitable for Europe than trans-Pacific exploration and trade for East Asia. Though the mariner’s compass was invented in China in the 11th century, Chinese exploration was less successful than the European Age of Discovery and subsequent colonization.

Eurasian diseases to which people in the Americas had no immunity were a by-product of Eurasian development that devastated Native Americans after contact, in addition to superior European weapons.

Globalization and advances in information technology are leveling differences between civilizational areas.

This is an incomplete outline. Below are extracts from a review in ‘The Telegraph’ of 25 Feb. 2018.

His theorem runs as follows. There is no biological reason why the West came to dominate. People in large groups are much the same everywhere – lazy, greedy and scared, and always looking for easier, more profitable and safer ways to do things, “in the process building stronger states, trading further afield, settling in greater cities”.

He portrays the rise and fall of empires as amoeba-like movements, in which individuals have little long-term influence. Collapses follow the same cruel pattern: conquest, riches, babies, competition, starvation. The struggle to control the core brings in people from the margin, who then take over – viz the Phoenicians, the Mongols, the Goths, the Huns.

Geography, Morris argues, is the main reason why the West rules.

Not that China didn’t catch up. In fact, for 1,200 years (between 550 to 1776), China pulled ahead of the West. Marco Polo described China’s commerce as being “on such a stupendous scale that no one who hears tell of it without seeing it for himself can possibly credit it”. Sound familiar? Long before we did, the Chinese had compasses, paper, guns – and maritime superiority.

The future that Morris anticipates is not conventional or reassuring.

He leaves us with two scenarios. In the first, China Easternises everyone by 2045. “All over the world, people will forget the glories of the Euro-American past. They will learn Mandarin, not English, celebrate Zheng He, not Columbus, read Confucius instead of Plato…”
In Morris’s second scenario, thanks to technology we stand to become machine-enhanced, post-biological creatures. We will become like Däniken’s aliens – so destroying the premise of this enjoyable and thought-provoking book. “The ancient distinctions between East and West will be irrelevant to robots.”

(Comment: In his video, Prof. Morris gives the West less than 3 generations before China catches up and overtakes the West, viz. the USA. Refer my 2 posts –to come – titled ‘Will the West be overtaken?’)

 

 

Extracts from Bernal’s ‘Black Athena’

“The main body of the book began with a description of the ways in which Classical, Hellenistic and later pagan Greeks from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD saw their distant past. I attempted to trace their own vision of their ancestors’ having been civilised by Egyptian and Phoenician colonisation and the later influence of Greek study in Egypt.”

“… up to the 18th century, Egypt was seen as the fount of all ‘Gentile’ philosophy and learning, including that of the Greeks.”

“I went on to show how at the beginning of the 18th century the threat of Egyptian philosophy to Christianity became acute. … it was in opposition to this 18th-century notion of ‘reason’ on the part of the Egyptophils that the Greek ideal of sentiment and artistic perfection was developed.

Further, the development of Europocentrism and racism, with the colonial expansion over the same period, led to the fallacy that only people who lived in temperate climates – that is, Europeans – could really think. Thus, the Ancient Egyptians, who – though their colour was uncertain – lived in Africa, lost their positions as philosophers.”

“In this way, by the turn of the 18th century, the Greeks were not only considered to have been more sensitive and artistic than the Egyptians but they were now seen as the better philosophers, and indeed as the founders of philosophy.”

“The same period also saw the Greek War of Independence, which united all Europeans against the traditional Islamic enemies from Asia and Africa. This war … completed the already powerful image of Greece as the epitome of Europe. The Ancient Greeks were now seen as perfect, and as having transcended the laws of history and language.”

“With the intensification of racism in the 19th century there was increasing dislike of the Egyptians, who were no longer seen as the cultural ancestors of Greece but as fundamentally alien.”

“The status of Egypt fell with the rise of racism in the 1820s; that of the Phoenicians declined with the rise of racial anti-Semitism in the 1880s … by the Second World War, it had been firmly established that Greece had not significantly borrowed culturally or linguistically from Egypt and Phoenicia and that the legends of colonisation were charming absurdities, as were the stories of the Greek wise men having studied in Egypt.”

(Comment: Historiography, being subject to politics, prejudice, and pride, results in history being a movable feast. Then, we have the staunch defenders of the prevailing paradigm, the status quo.

We also have modern regurgitators of historical pap. For example, there seem to be Indian writers who, like Eurocentric British writers, continue to refer to the Aryan invasion of their territory – a proven non-existent event.

Westernised Asians, whether former colonial subjects or not, and who are not aware of the writing of their own people, are likely to be misled by racist bias by white supremacists camouflaged as reporting or even learning. )

The fabrication of Ancient Greece

Over the years, I have read that:

• Greece was established as a nation only in the 1980s
• Its first king was a Dane
• Way back in time, Athens had been established by Egyptians
• At some point in time, half of the population of Athens had been Egyptians
• Many Greeks (Greek-speaking people) had studied in Egypt
• Pythagoras, in particular, had studied in Egypt for 8 years
• Egyptian gods had been worshipped by the Greeks in their Egyptian names
• The Phoenicians (who were Semites from the Levant) had also contributed to the development of Greek culture
• The rise of European colonialism then led to a claim that no ‘black’ people had contributed to the development of Western (including Greek) cultures
• The then leaders of Christianity also denigrated the role of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia, all with durable cultures, in the civilisation of mankind in the Aegean and the Middle East; especially that Egyptian gods had been revered in Greece in their Egyptian names
• European colonialism, having proven its ability to conquer and damage (if not destroy) ‘native’ cultures all over the world, began to assert the genetic superiority of the ‘white race’ (whatever that is) over all other ‘races.’
• Confronted with the longevity of the advanced civilisations of India and China, certain European scholars dated the People of the Book (the followers of Judaism) as historically earlier than these Asian cultures.
• Greece then became the intellectual ancestor of Western colonial nations (presumably the Greeks were adequately white in colour).

The title of this post was borrowed by me from the book ‘Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation’ by Prof. Martin Bernal, a multi-disciplinary scholar.

It seems to me that Greece’s rise in status was incidental to the power-grab by that terrible combination of authoritarian Christianity and the rapacity of half a dozen small nations in Western Europe.

Where lies the truth – of what had been done to whom, for whom, and by whom? Refer my posts ‘Reviews of Bernal’s Black Athena’ and ‘Extracts from Martin Bernal’s Black Athena.’