So, those Greeks, they really had things figured huh?
I don’t mean to seem like a Graecophile to the point of irrational, and moreover irritating, fetishism (like, well, the majority of Japanophiles - yes, yes, I love Hello Kitty and Asian Schoolgirls too, but stop going on about it already) and I know that going even further back to the Egyptian civilization would showcase more fundamental differences, but seriously, if you look at the Greek civilization, at their society, and then to ours, and then back, and then forward again, you surely can’t help but wonder about what we evidently squandered about two and a half thousands years of ‘advancement’ on…
I have just recently started studying Philosophy, and even at this early stage in my studies, it is one of the key points of incongruent sluggishness in humanity’s development that simply confounds me to the point of sheer disbelief. Three Greek guys (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle), in that respective hierarchy of linear student/teacher relationship and so all interconnected, in their collective lifespans developed Western Civilization further (from it’s genesis to what we still consider very advanced study) than in the subsequent two thousand years (in which we began very slowly chipping away at what they uncovered).
Although when you actually think about it, this slackening of the rate of expected improvement is not just confined to that one area, from an even cursory examination of the macrocosm of humanity’s (supposed) progress you see it in nearly every area besides technology, and yet that one area is still held up as our champion, as if it is somehow redemption for our failure to actually genuinely advance as a people:
The more things change the more they stay the same it seems. Even though I (and contemporary society as a whole) like to revel in the delusions of grandeur that are the notion that we somehow represent the absolute pinnacle of the continuity of human civilization, what we have actually advanced seems quite meager and unimpressive in the grand scheme of things. I mean sure, in trivial external matters we have undoubtedly progressed; for instance, I have easy access to electronic devices that can wing messages back-and-forth across the globe almost instantly, for the Greeks to ferry a message across an ocean, it would probably haven take any adept courier or messenger weeks or even months to carry the message there and the reply back… I mean sure, control of electricity is great, and automobiles were a very useful invention, and computers really changed some stuff, and yet, these superficial additions to our lives don’t really matter when the human-being himself is still at the forefront of our world, and still mostly unchanged from his forefather in Ancient Greek. We should have been developing our society, our politics. Surely at this point we should have achieved some real measure of world peace? To have begun working to improve the lives of humans the world over so to be able to then move on from there? In some ways, the Greek society was liberal and forward-thinking in ways we’ve yet to even broach; their stance on homosexuality, on sex in general, on the arts, on education, on politics, et cetera. Their social hierarchy had little of the frivolous idolization that we have, celebrity was earned by great feats, by great men. If you look at the interpersonal relationship structure we still entertain today, they’re hardly much different than what could have been observed in Ancient Greece.
And then there’s war…
The Greek policy on War wasn’t especially praiseworthy of course (although when you can’t see farther than the horizon in any direction, it’s not unfeasible to suggest that any empire wouldn’t turn to some kind of conquest) but the one we’ve matured since is even less so…
We have gone from dwelling in caves alone, to occupying them with friends and family, to building artificial shelter for ourselves, to more developed housing (namely huts), to collections of huts situated near one another, to a small community living together, to villages of many house in the same place, to towns, to cities, to countries. We began with melee; crude sharpened stones attached to sticks, then to more refined stone weapons, then to metal pointy things, then more developed metal swordery, and then of course to projectiles; bow and arrows were preceded by spears and the like but it was basically the same technology, then the dawn of firearms arose with simple cannonry, and then simple guns, and then more advanced guns, machine guns and then missiles and finally the NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) trio of terror reared their ugly head in contemporary warfare, signposting the end of the frivolity of petty squabbles and heralding the beginning of petty squabbles that could result in the extinction of all life on Earth.
There has always been some sort of dispute or unrest or quarrel to be found between different, often neighboring, examples from that progression of human societies; it originally represented itself with cavemen crudely fighting for territory from one another and now manifests itself in world wars hatched by armchair generals and oil barons and unscrupulous corporations with the threat of nuclear mutually assured destruction always hovering in the peripheral.
It would seem we have devoted a lot of time to developing material distractions that cause us to err from actual productive pursuit of our lives and, of course, ways to extinguish our lives.
Marvel at the glory of our modern society.
The advancement of the actual human being, of it’s communities, it’s society, its civilization, has been fledgling and mostly half-hearted or inadvertently destructive. We turn our attention to it as an afterthought, usually when it’s already too late.
The world changes very quickly, people, seemingly, do not (want to).
Perhaps the most easily recognizable example of how our culture has gotten progressively less sophisticated and more primitive is the celebrity culture we have now. It is at once both so incredibly transparent in it’s pointlessness and irrelevant in a truly insidiously distracting way. You only need to read a tabloid newspaper to realize that, if anything, common society has regressed into a limited, petty and shallow appreciation of the world. In fact, nothing makes me more indignantly angry than reading the tabloids, and yet I still do it, it’s like a bloodletting session where I channel all my rage at the unbelievable stupidity of the people who would read or believe this nonsense and my disdain for the fools pulling the strings trying to manipulate them. Current world news reads like the footnotes of history textbooks - we have not learned from our mistakes, or even chosen to properly acknowledge them, so we are evidently doomed to repeat them ad nauseum.
Yeah, yeah, I know, if I’ve recognized all this, why don’t I ignore the material temptations and all their trivial unimportance and try to aid in the development of actual meaningful things. Well, see, I don’t want to. This vapid contempary society has already corrupted me. So now I’m content to sit back and point out the flaws in the system whilst bathing in them myself. And I’m sure I’m likely to find out some more as my studies progress….