Comparative Anthropology

Okay, so science has learned a lot about biology though disciplines like comparative biology and comparative anatomy so here are some things that have been rolling around my head for a few years
comment: I literally "did not know" that Comparative Anthropology was a real phrase until one minute ago - NSR 2013-10-14

Historical Events

Greece

  • While there were four primary city-states in Greece, Athens and Sparta were the two largest
  • Athens was liberal, less religious, less militaristic, mostly literate.
  • Sparta was conservative, more religious, more militaristic, not literate (everything we know about Sparta comes from non-Spartan sources; Since they left no written word, the Romans might have use the word Barbarian)
  • Not willing to live in cooperation with Athens, Sparta eventually conquered Athens. This action weakened both city-states which allowed them to be easily conquered by the Macedonians.
  • After being spread much too thin by the actions of the Macedonian leader, Alexander the Great, the Macedonian Empire was ripe for attack by the Persians then was conquered by the Romans. Rome split them up into the more manageable provinces of Achaea and Macedonia

thoughts:

  • I often recall this Greek tragedy whenever I hear American Republicans (usually more religious while more militaristic) wanting to overpower American Democrats (usually less religious while less militaristic).
  • Putting aside Greek societal differences, most people today only know the names of Greek nerds from that time: Pythagoras, Archimedes, Ptolemy, Aristarchus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. The names of the warriors remain the specialty of historians. So wouldn't Greek have been better off if they only promoted math and science while toning down their military activity? The same case could be made for humanity today.

Rome

  • Rome was both militaristic and religious (they started with their own forms of paganism then borrowed numerous gods from the Greeks).
  • Whenever Rome expanded its empire, new fears of attack from beyond their current borders were used as justification to expand the empire. (resources became ever-more thinned)
  • A slow shift toward Christianity began with the conversion by Emperor Constantine in 325 AD.
  • Constantine splits the Roman Empire into the Eastern Roman Empire and Western Roman Empire in 330. The capital is moved from Rome to Byzantium which is renamed Constantinople.
  • Christianity was made the official state religion of Rome by the emperor Theodosius I in 379 (all other religions were made illegal)
  • After Christianity dominates the western empire, it is conquered by the Goths, Ostrogoths, and Visigoths. It officially ends in 480.
  • Many religions coexisted in the Eastern Roman Empire
    • Roman Paganism, pre-Mohamed Muslims, Judaism, six Christian sects which eventually morphed into one (Greek Orthodox).
    • Christianity becomes the official state religion of the Eastern empire in 380 but all other religions are tolerated.
  • The Eastern Empire falls in 1204 during the crusades.

observations:

  1. According to historians like Edward Gibbon, after both these societies became saturated with religion there was not one single scientific development for the next ten centuries. (until the Renaissance; even though the church has been fighting progress ever since)
  2. Today we have two forms of Christianity (Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church) which is proof that either one of them, or both of them, has changed church doctrine.

Hispaniola

  • Hispaniola is a Caribbean island originally founded as a Spanish colony by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
  • French buccaneers settled in western Hispaniola, and by the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Spain ceded the (now Haitian) area to France.
  • The Republic of Haiti was formed in 1804 after a successful slave revolution from their French masters.
  • Haiti occupied Santo Domingo from 1822 to 1844.
  • The Dominican Republic was formed in 1844 after the Dominican War of Independence
  • Today, the western side of the island primarily speaks French or Creole while the eastern side of the island speaks Spanish.
  • While a formal border was negotiated in 1935, there is not much information about when and how the current barrier was built.

observations:

Germany

  • Before the end of World War 2 (1945), West Germany and East Germany were relatively similar.
  • After the war, Western allies occupied western Germany while the USSR occupied eastern Germany.
  • While the western allies released control of West Germany in 1949, the USSR did not intend to release control East Germany but reluctantly did so in 1990.
  • To make matters worse, insane politics of this time resulted in the construction of a barrier between east and west Germany, as well as a wall between east and west Berlin which was situated fully inside East Germany. Construction of the Berlin Wall began in 1961 which was broken-through in 1989.

observations:

  • West Germany is very modern while East Germany is very backward. Adding to this fact, after reunification in 1990, West Germany was able to carry (economically) East Germany through its moderation.

Korea

  • Before World War 2, Koreans were relatively similar and living under Japanese Rule
  • After World War 2, Korea was occupied by the USSR in the north and the US in the south.
  • After the Korean war (1950-1953) a physical barrier was built separating North Korea from South Korea.

observations:

USA vs China

  • this comparison will be a little more complicated since these two countries were always very separate cultures until 1972 and the observations are still running their course.

observation: 1972 to now

  • While American conservatives (Republicans) since Y2K see China as a competitive problem, it was conservative administrations before Y2K (Richard M Nixon and Ronald Reagan) that instigated, then promoted, business relations between these two cultures. Back then, conservative politicians and voters were more focused on business and finance. Historical writings from those days leave the reader with the impression that Americans naively thought "they would have the upper hand" in all business dealing between the USA and China.
    comment:
    this seems a racist attitude in hindsight; something you might expect from British citizens writing about non-British people living abroad
  • As happened when America first advised Japan the Germany how to restructure their respective economies after world war 2 (ensure all companies employed GAAP; limiting CEO wages to 25 times of the lowest paid worker; promoting labor unions; ensuring companies have two board of directors; implementing some kind of nationalized health care) Americans advised China, and China listened.
    comment:
    it now seems funny that Americans never implemented these ideas in their own society. You would have thought they might have done so after watching Japan an Germany become post-war juggernauts
  • Or I should have said "China listened until they watched an American-influenced world economy melt down between 2007 and 2010". That is when their own western-educated citizens informed China's leaders that the American economy usually implodes in one way or another every 7-10 years. China watchers from that time reported hearing the phrase "Ah, now the student has become the teacher"

 observations: religion

  • Americans are fond of telling themselves that Americans have religious freedom while Chinese do not. They also are fond of deluding themselves into thinking that their current mode of thought is always correct. For example, modern Americans continually tell themselves, and others, that "the USA is a Christian nation which was founded on Christian principles". The truth of the matter is this: the founding of America was a product of the age of enlightenment by a bunch of well educated Deists. For example, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and Hamilton did not believe that the bible was literally true. Their biographies all mention them reading, and mostly agreed with, the writings of Thomas Paine.
  • Since 1776 and 1789, American religious leaders have continually "lied to their congregations" claiming that USA is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. They all appear to avoid phrases like "Deism" or "Enlightenment" almost as if to say that discussing these words might tempt the faithful to leave their congregations. After all, organized religion is big business ($$$) in the USA.
  • Americans are also fond of saying that "religion is illegal in China" which is false, although so-called "magical thinking" is discouraged.
  • Back to China: The American media loves to harp on the factoid that Muslim Uyghur people are being held illegally in so-called "concentration camps" (a politically charged phrase) but never mention that much of this is the result of events in 2008 and 2009 where Uyghur religious leaders instigated the murders of more than 200 Chinese citizens Armchair quarterbacks have speculated that the 2009 problems were caused by the fact that Chinese officials did not properly address Uyghur problems in 2008. While I am personally against all forms of state-sponsored death, China's response includes stadium show trails of more than 1,000 people which resulted in the executions of three people. Their "reeducation camps" claimed to be an attempt to reduce/eliminate "magical thinking" in Uyghur culture.

recent (2020) observations

  • I recently watched a news item on BBC where Donald Trump's spiritual advisor, Paula White Cain, was speaking in tongues beside Trump's desk in the Whitehouse as Trump looked on in semi-bewilderment.
  • Here is a short video of Paula White Cain preaching (not at the Whitehouse). She breaks into speaking in tongues around the 45 second mark with "la-hey-hey, ha-ha, ho-ho, hunda-ha, oye-yay" (I was also expecting "shama-lama-ding-dong"). What a lunatic. Most historians agree that the common folk of Judea 2000 years ago might have been be comfortable communicating in Hebrew and/or Aramaic but when they overheard academics also sometimes speaking (unintelligible to them) Greek or Latin, they invoked magical thinking to come up with what Christian charismatics refer to as "speaking in tongues
    comment: Even evangelical Lutherans have got this wrong with their celebration of Pentecost. Folks: the holy spirit did not jump from apostle to apostle 50-days after Easter inducing them to speak gibberish as I was taught in my youth

And this got me thinking...

  • The USA has drifted from deism back to Evangelical and/or Charismatic Christianity (they rope in other religions calling their base "the religious right" but most people understand them to mean "the Christian right")
  • China is actively trying to to suppress "magical thinking" while promoting strong educations in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math)
  • How will the world look in 50 years?
  • Will the USA be recalling their past successes in the rear-view mirror the way that Britain currently does?

India vs China (2021-05-24)

I was raised and educated in Canada which (at that time) was a post-imperialistic British society. Believe it or not, we all had to stand beside our desks every morning to recite the (Christian) Lord's Prayer followed by a pledge of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain. It was during the next 15-years that all students were all exposed to the book A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens which over-simplifies differences between English-London and French-Paris just prior to the French Revolution.

If Dickens where alive today I wonder what he would publish a book titled A Tale of Two Countries comparing India with China

India China
population 1.3 billion 1.4 billion
political system democratic communist
economic system capitalism state sponsored capitalism
religion religion is encouraged (in fact, prime minister Narendra Modi seems to be transforming India from a secular state into a Hindu sectarian state; he does this with the support of the Hindu voters who elected him which seems symptomatic of underlying cultural tensions) discouraged as a form of magical thinking
COVID19 the pandemic appears to be out of control Chinese society fully recovered last year after a total lock down caused the disease to "burn out"
comments:
  • no one living in the west (including me) would ever admire communism. But when it produces better results than democracy-capitalism then we need to discus changes to our system.
  • we have seen instances in India where religious and/or cultural differences (eg Hindus vs. Muslims) see each other as an enemy. When these differences migrate into politics the problem only gets worse. There is less chance for this happening in China where religious thinking is suppressed (but I see little of this in Japan).

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Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.