Friday, 19 August 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 13: Evil. (iii)

Driven pendulums resonance
(for explanation follow link)
animation: Geek3
I did not fully appreciate George Orwell's 1984 until I took a trip back to England after being away for 33 years: there, I watched a TV show one night about the evil of colonialism. It was delivered with the same fervor and rhetoric style I remembered from being taught about the good of colonialism at a north London school 38 years earlier. The school stood on the grounds of Cecil Rhodes' house and part of its facade with its four pillars was preserved just inside the entrance to the grounds. The school badge depicted these pillars and each pillar was supposed to represent a different human virtue. I don't remember what those virtues were, but I suspect that current popular opinion would not ascribe any of them to Rhodes.

The pendulum has swung to the opposite side now and we see another aspect of nationalist "cultural heritage" with various repatriations of antiquities back to the modern nations now occupying the territory of the culture from which they were last found. So a Greek painted pot that was originally sold to someone in Magna Graecia goes to Italy. The factory that originally produced such pots represented a cultural frame that believed very strongly in trade and export. Such factories not only existed in places like Athens and Corinth where shipments of pottery left for far-flung colonies all around the Mediterranean, but were also produced at these colonies. The fact of one of these pots sitting for sale in a Manhattan gallery perfectly preserves its original cultural frame.

Why did Greece become so great? You can understand that by looking at its mythology. Let's take a fairly specific example, Homer's Meleagros. He is already fairly syncretized by the time Homer wrote about him in the Iliad but when you look at him much later, as the Romanized Meleager in Ovid's Metamorphosis, his story is far more "fleshed out" and quite a number of deities have joined him on his adventure. It was not just pots that travelled widely in Greece, people did too. One of the main ethnic groups in ancient Greece were the Ionians who originally hailed from Asia Minor. Quite a number of culturally Greek Ionians also left Asia Minor at a later time as their homeland started to become annexed by Persia. Many went to join the Etruscans in northern Italy, and a number of these people were artisans. Their products also found their way through trade and gifting to the Celts along the Rhine and their designs evolved into early Celtic art. Along with the pots, ideas also travelled with the people, not just from within the Greek Culture but from very different ethnic groups lie the Egyptians: the Greek Hermes became syncretized with the Egyptian Thoth and became Hermes Trismegistus. He is the claimed author of the Emerald Tablet, an important work in European alchemy, although its earliest manuscript is an Arabic. Isaac Newton first translated a Latin version into English. Isaac Newton was an alchemist. Alchemy, besides, Hermetic alchemy, also took the form of Neoplatonic alchemy. Both influenced Wolfgang Pauli in physics (more Hermetic) and C. G. Jung in psychology (more Neoplatonic). Do you see where I am going with this? Greece, with its widespread ethnic groups, its colonialism, and its trade not only syncretized a wide variety of mythological elements, it also assimilated a wide variety of thought. It had to achieve greatness. Eventually, though, it declined because a new form of nationalism swept through the Mediterranean from Rome. But even Rome carried much of it along as Greece had impressed the Romans, too. Upper class Romans spoke to each other in Greek and not Latin, and much of their art was copied from the Greek although not very well and it soon went into decline. Rome became rather too regulated in all things and Mythos gave way to Logos.

So why the pendulum swing away from colonialism? It is a religious phenomenon: repentance. After riding rough-shod over the natives, guilt sets in and with it regret and repentance. You can see the same attitudes with the televangelist who gets caught with a sixteen year old girl in a motel room, and then goes through this tear-filled public repentance, and yet even more money floods in from his followers.

Evolution, which cares for nothing but survival, handles war and invasion in an interesting way: when people returned from battles with the spoils of war, cultural objects of the people who had been previously demonized by the military leaders interest and influence everyone back home. Slowly, the people who made these things seem less "barbaric" and alien. A demand arises from this interest and, after the war, people from the defeated country start exporting more of the same; and even travel to the once conquering country to start new lives. After some more time has gone by, the cultures start to blend in some ways and remain the same in others. This lessens the likelihood of future wars. Meanwhile, the once invaded country has take up certain characteristic of the invading force, perhaps in government structures, architecture, even language changes. The world gradually becomes more cosmopolitan. Only religious fervor and the pendulum swing of repentance and its reversion back to an imagined past keeps the pendulum swinging widely. In Jungian psychology, this pendulum swing is called enantiodromia and I quoted Jung about this in part 9.iii. It is marked by fanaticism, more war and cultural destruction.

If you look at the pedulum animation at the top of the page, and read the linked explanation you will see that the degree of force on the pendulum is what makes it swing wider. Picture this in an economic and societal analogy: if the pendulum swings too far in one direction or the other, you can  get what here is called a "Dragon King"  which is strongly  related to a "Black Swan Event", but you do not see it very clearly in the animation. what you first have to do is to picture yourself and the animation moving forward together in another dimension: that of time. Now you can see that pendulum swing as a wave travelling forward in time. At each moment the pendulum is in a different position and it keeps going in that direction until there is an enantiodromia and it turns to the opposite direction. If the time is moving fast, the changes are just too dramatic  to be stable with the wide-swing pendulum and time must slow down to compensate. Very little, if any, cultural evolution can take place except over a very long time, and you have a situation like a war between equally matched forces that goes on with little chance of a favorable outcome for either side, just more death and destruction. However, if the force is only slight, as in the other two pendulums, there is a gradual evolution and a self-righting system that does things carefully and avoids conflict altogether. But this diagram just shows one pendulum and even though it might be behaving like a wave, it appears more like a particle and we don't get it.

There are many pendulums in our cultural and societal analogy. each pendulum standing for a different aspect of the whole. See what happens in the following video: the pendulums adopt a clear wave pattern and quite often form into opposing forces and then patterns that do and do not appear as waves at from certain perspectives (you have to imagine some of those angles, but you can pause the video at various places to see the many patterns). Failure to look at the situation in a holistic manner; to become a victim of the "cultural heritage" neurosis "wide swing of the pendulum" only changes conflict from one form to another, but more importantly, it perpetuates conflict and slows adaptation and evolution. It can sometimes even result in extinction. Think deeply about these matters, you never know where it might take you.

I'll be back on Monday with more in this series. Have a fun weekend, go to the park, but don't fall off the swing.

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