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Mikko Sandt Mikko Sandt is offline

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  1. Daveman
    10-08-2008 09:17 PM
    Daveman
    Try citing Wikipedia in a college-level history course and tell me how it works out. Even on well-known historical events it's a really, really bad idea to use it as a source. And saying that "Wikipedia doesn't mention it" and therefore it didn't happen is a ridiculous claim. Not only is Wikipedia not trustworthy, it's not a standard location for amalgamated historical narratives to be compiled. I can tell you're smart but you're an economist and I'm an historian. I don't know if you'd trust Wikipedia for economics but it's sure as hell not reliable for history.

    And I'm not just assuming that motives for imperialism have been materialistic, historical scholarship (and the record itself) supports this. Believe it or not, history is a science and there's a lot you can glean from extant records, including motives. Yes, materialism has been the driving force in all kinds of nationalist expansion. In fact, I'm writing my senior thesis on how the Spanish drive for wealth came into conflict with (and overcame) Spanish ideas of race and purity in the New World.

    I agree that much of China's failure to expand and become a global power was its inward-focused culture. It's a really interesting case for anthropologists and cultural historians.

    I really don't think you understand what I'm getting at when I talk about value statements about cultures. Europe is not a perfect region. Hellenistic culture is not perfect. No culture is. It's difficult - impossible even - to say which culture is "the best" or "healthiest" because when you talk about how European culture is better than Native American culture, what Native American culture are you talking about? Are you talking about Native American culture before or after Europeans arrived? Saying that Hellenistic culture is good is even difficult because Hellenistic culture is constantly shifting according to who is adapting it or defining it for themselves. Culture is not an entity which can clash with other such entities. It's easy to think about it that way, but the thing you learn when you study history is that every easy generalization and mental image you thought you could make about the past is always a hell of a lot more complicated than you thought. Nothing is ever static, and culture is the same way. There is no "ideal" culture because "culture" is itself a generalized label of how people interact on personal, individual levels.

    tl;dr: Once again, I'm not saying that Hellenistic culture is the worst thing in the world. I'm saying that it's impossible to rank them in terms of "goodness". It's an absurd claim to make and it's entirely impossible to argue about it.
  2. Daveman
    09-27-2008 11:56 PM
    Daveman
    Also, you're overestimating the extent to which religion was a genuine authority in the sense of controlling people's lives in Medieval Europe. The Church was influential and certainly had a huge cultural impact, but in terms of concrete power it was more important as an economic entity than a political one. The Papacy existed because the Holy Roman Empire, France, Spain, Austria, and the Italian states allowed it to exist. When people had a problem or needed to turn to an authority, they turned to the local political authority, not the church. A lot of this has to do with the fact that Rome was more concerned with maintaining doctrinal uniformity throughout western Europe than it was in asserting its own authority, so while priests were fairly independent, they operated mostly independently from appointed bishops and archbishops. So the point of this unnecessarily long response is that the church was not the highest authority in the HRE or any European country. Not even culturally. Most priests came from the local population and local religion reflected local beliefs and practices more than collectivist ideologies.
  3. Daveman
    09-27-2008 11:14 PM
    Daveman
    Fair point about the HRE and distinction between Hellenic and Medieval cultures.

    As for the imperialism point, I'm not of course arguing that Imperialism was a smart choice - culturally, economically, or anything else, just that it was the choice made for materialistic purposes. Of course it was an inefficient system of governance and economics. Hell, Europe's economy was built around a system of slave labor for almost 400 years, and it would've been more efficient economically to enslave Europeans, but they felt more comfortable going to Africa and doing it. The point isn't that people will do whatever is most efficient and brutal in order to save the most money, it's that people will do what they THINK is the most efficient to save money, and it will happen to be brutal. Of course worker productivity increases when employees are happy, well-paid, and satisfied in their jobs, but it takes people a long time to see long-term like that because frankly, people are stupid.

    Also, Wikipedia is not an authority. Try checking modern historical scholarship for a better idea.

    I really do think you're missing my point in what I'm arguing. I'm really not saying that Western culture is more violent, repressive, or greedy than other cultures. I think it's no more violent than any other culture. I'd say you're ignoring the extent to which Western culture was shaped in modern times by its power and spread across the globe. Whatever idealized Hellenic culture you might glorify, it's meaningless to most people who live in a culture that's been shaped by hundreds of years of expansion and economic dominance and who now very often have selfish, ethnocentric views of the world.

    The point is, any culture would likely develop the same characteristics given the opportunity, but Europe was given excellent resources and geographical features that allowed it to spread overseas and expand (with some cultural influence, granted). The problem is that making value judgments about any culture is a bad idea, both because it idealizes a culture that allows for violence or oppression to take place and because it's downright impossible to know just how much other cultures would have developed the same way given the opportunity.
  4. Daveman
    09-24-2008 07:21 PM
    Daveman
    Saying that Smallpox was just an unfortunate accident completely overlooks the fact that as soon as the Europeans knew Native Americans were susceptible to smallpox, they took deliberate attempts to expose them to it. Genocide can be deliberate in many forms, and the historical record is quite clear that it was a very deliberate effort. And it's not hard to see, considering the fact that these same Europeans were also at the time deliberately subjugating or exterminating all societies they encountered. There's no defense for that. None. If they were culturally "superior" they would have taken control through nonviolent means, but the trend through all of Western modern and pre-modern history has been to subjugate violently or subversively rather than interact on a respectful level.

    And if you think the Holy Roman Empire was even an "entity" that could be collectivist you need to study more Medieval history. The HRE wasn't even a major player through much of pre-modern history because it was entirely disunified. The reason Prussia and Germany became such huge, frightening powers in the modern era is because political unification finally caught up with cultural unification, right on top of a giant area with a wealth of natural resources.

    Anyway, the point is Christianity and other collectivist have for a LONG time been used rhetorically to justify political, economic, or military action. The Spanish went to the New World for money while telling everyone they were doing it for the Church. Europeans of almost every nationality colonized Africa brutally in pursuit of wealth, while justifying it by saying they were "civilizing" the Africans. Apartheid is a construct of the "White Man's Burden" philosophy, which was itself a post-hoc justification for exploitation. It's the same as Europeans altering their perceptions (and popular depictions) of native Africans once the Slave Trade started to prove lucrative.

    You seem to be under the impression that "collectivist" ideologies have always been to blame for atrocities when in fact personal greed has always been a driving force in such things.
  5. Daveman
    09-23-2008 05:14 PM
    Daveman
    You absolutely cannot, cannot blame Native American societies for the genocide in the new world. Not only is it arguably the most offensive thing imaginable (would you blame the Jews who died in the Holocaust for their own deaths because their grandparents didn't convert to Protestantism and marry into German families?), it's historically moronic. Native American societies were not Stone Age societies. You don't know the meaning of the term or else you'd know that. You're also ignoring the deliberate spread of smallpox by white settlers and soldiers. If you're going to be historically revisionist and say that it wasn't all the white man's fault, you absolutely cannot excuse the whole thing. Again, it's you who made the value judgment of Western culture and that's all that needs to be challenged. I don't have to say that Western culture is worse than any other culture in order to disprove your points. In addition, I would argue that the majority of atrocities committed in the name of "collective ideologies" were, for the most part, collectively ideological in name. "God, Glory, and Gold" is a stupid phrase that ignores the fact that Western expansion has always been about wealth first and any other reasoning second.
  6. Daveman
    09-23-2008 10:46 AM
    Daveman
    Well I was thinking it was maybe there for ironic purposes in that you might find it to be pretty disgusting. It's awfully optimistic about Western culture. Ya know, the culture that found it acceptable to commit genocide in the Americas and establish an entire economy around race-based slavery and environmental destruction. And the militarism. Ya know.

    Not that other civilizations are necessarily better, but if you're going to quote that kind of a value judgment about all societies and cultures, expect to be criticized for it.
  7. Daveman
    09-22-2008 01:56 PM
    Daveman
    I can't tell if you have the quote in your signature to be ironic but it's fairly disgusting.
  8. Spiker
    02-23-2008 04:04 PM
    Spiker
    No messages? What have happened to them? I know, they burned!

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  • About Mikko Sandt
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    Student of Economics
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    The West is not simply better than non-Western cultures, it is vastly, fundamentally better. Hellenic culture is the only truly human civilization, the only one for which human reason, not animal stultification, is the ideal. –Greg Swann
    http://m-sandt.blogspot.com

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