Sunday, March 12, 2006

Our Similarities are Killing Us

In the long view, a view that is very difficult for humans to adopt due to our short life span, there a great many more cultural similarities than there are differences.  This is true especially when considering the Western Civilization vs. Eastern Civilization.  Consideration of these two cultures ignores others in sub-Saharan Africa and pre-Columbian South America.  Let that be the case for this discussion.

As I type and you read we are still feeling the aftershocks of the Roman Empire, it is likely that this will always be the case barring the extinction of peoples wanting democracy, a certain appreciation of life and its gifts.  Admittedly Roman civilization was derived from earlier Greek, Etruscan, and most likely other not so well known cultures.  Rome refined the classical Greek thinking and lifestyle and added a mechanical logic to previous philosophies that is felt today.

The effects in Europe are obvious from the various languages and customs, nearly all of which are Latin based. The Germanic and Celtic languages are survivors of so-called barbarian tribes that did not fully assimilate the Roman ways, the same goes for Scandinavian, and even more remote peoples like the Basques.  In every other way Roman influence is obvious in architecture, legal systems, political life, commerce, and even social customs. The United States of America is, at its roots, a Greco-Roman society.

The Middle East, or Asia Minor as it was once known, is susceptible to the same analysis.  The Greeks got there before the Romans and had a tremendous impact on the area.  A Greek family, the Ptolemy’s, actually became Pharaohs, and ruled Egypt for centuries; Cleopatra being one the family’s more notorious members.  Hellenic culture prepared the way for Roman conquest and in fact Jesus Christ was undoubtedly a Hellenistic Jew whose followers longed to overthrow the Roman rule in Judea.  As Christianity blossomed it moved to the City of Rome and ultimately its liturgy, hierarchy, and laws found their basis in Roman traditions.

As Rome disintegrated slowly over hundreds of years Christianity was used as a unifying tool by Constantine in his bid to takeover the empire, he was by the way a native of Trier in what is now Germany.  He moved the empire east to Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople in his own honor.  This beginning grew into the Ottoman Empire at a much later date.  It was here that the amalgam of Christian and Jewish thought was coupled with a desert peoples need for a creed.  Thus was born Islam.  The essential tragedy of modern life is that the combatants all the same basic belief system.  It’s the bells and whistles that make the difference.

The Arabs, Chaldeans, Persians, Jews, and Christians are doomed to a death struggle if they fail to recognize the similarities that are currently driving them apart.  All are descendants of the influence of Greco-Roman thought and lifestyle; either in acceptance or denial.

The European system of monarchies and feudal lords was based on Roman governors and nobles left isolated throughout Europe by the fall of Rome.  The Caliphate, though much more centrally organized, is a direct offspring of the methods employed by the rulers of Byzantium.  The heirs saw no need to reinvent the wheel.  Modern problems are caused by a system of political and religious development that was not parallel, or to the extent it was there has been a significant lagging behind in the Islamic nations.

This is not the only explanation but it is one and it is one that should be considered and examined more closely.

No comments: