Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Golden Age

The Golden Age

In Greek Legend there is a story of an ancient Golden Age where people lived in peace and prosperity. To quote: "The first age was an age of innocence and happiness. Truth and right prevailed, though not enforced by law, nor was there any magistrate to threaten or punish. The forest had not yet been robbed of its trees to furnish timbers for vessels, nor had men built fortifications around their towns. There were no such thing as swords, spears, or helmets. The earth brought forth all things necessary for man, without his labor in ploughing or sowing. Perpetual spring reigned, flower sprang up without seed, the rivers flowed with milk and wine, and yellow honey distilled from the oaks."

After that came the Silver age, where everything wasn't so good then the Brazen age and finally the Iron age, which is really our present age of warfare and violence. The whole concept of this myth is that everything has become slowly worse and worse for human kind since the Golden Age.

Yet the myth of the Golden age doesn't only come from Ancient Greece. Probably the most ancient religion that survives today is Taoism in China. Again this religion talks about a Golden age in the past. As explained repetitively in the Tao-Te-Ching written by Lao Tzu .

The concept of the Golden Age is also in the story of the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned they were banished into the waste land and Adam had to work "by the sweat of his brow". The story of the Garden of Eden comes from a Golden age story from ancient Mesopotamia. Also in the few Aztec and Maya writing that have survived again there is a myth of a very ancient Golden Age ruled by a compassionate Mother Goddess. Which is shown in contrast to the later age of warfare and human sacrifice. In fact most ancient cultures of the world have some myth of a golden age of the ancient past.

Up until recently modern academics have rejected these legends as pure myth. Not only do they sound too good to be true. Recorded history shows a different story. It seems that the further you go back in history the more brutal and violent men seem to behave. After all we do not have human sacrifice anymore. Though it has to be admitted we still have genocide and wars as we have seen with the Nazi and Po-Pot regimes. So it has been assumed by archeologists that people in pre-historic times were even more brutal than people in historic times. But recent archeology discoveries have challenged this assumption.

In the 1960s a archeologists called Mellaart lead a team to excavate a site in Anatolia in Turkey. This site turn out to be the oldest city ever discovered. Called Catal Huyuk it goes back over 9,000 years. What was discovered goes against all assumptions archeologist have about people living in Neolithic times. They couldn't find any fortifications to defend the city or any weapons of war. Neither could they find signs of violence committed on people buried in graves. It was also a city full of feminine imagery to the degree that Mellaart was force to say that the people worshipped the Ancient Great Mother.

So unsettling was these discoveries that the site was closed down for thirty years and the academic world ignored the implications of this find. But there was on archeologist who was brave enough to challenge the accepted wisdom of the academic world.

The late Mariji Gimbutas went digging in other Neolithic sites and found similar findings. She also highlight the Neolithic findings that Soviet scientists had made in Transylvania. As well as Goddess civilizations found in Crete and Malta. All showing peaceful societies that worshipped the Great Mother. Gimbutas became a very controversial figure and her books and work was rejected by the academic world. But other archeologist were also finding similar finds. The Indus Valley civilization in Pakistan was again an Ancient society that archeologists could find no signs violence or weapons of war. Even more recently in Caral in Peru the oldest city ever discovered in South America, going back to 5,000 years, the same thing was discovered. Given the violent history of later South American civilizations with mass human sacrifice archeologists expected to find the same thing. But no matter how hard they looked they couldn't find any evidence of human sacrifice, warfare or any other indication of violence. And they had to conclude that this civilization existed in peace for thousands of years.

The overwhelming evidence of these finding have made more modern academic wonder if Mariji Gimutas might be right after all. Some are coming out of the woodwork and supporting her like Richard Rudgley in his book "Lost Civilizations Of The Stone Age".

So what is the implication of these findings?

No longer can it be claimed that we lived in the stone age as savage brutes. As it seems that violence started thousands of years after the first civilizations got started. It also brings into question if we are ourselves naturally violence.

After the second world war the American military done a study on how well their troops done in the war. They interviewed a large number of ex-servicemen and found that only a small minority admitted to killing the enemy. Most claimed that they only shot above the heads of the opposing side and didn't want the deaths of the enemy on their conscience.

In contrast in the same war the Japanese troops had a reputation of brutality and ruthlessness. But the Japanese military training was very harsh. The new recruits were beaten up by older soldiers and then after the first years training they were encouraged to do the same to the newer recruits. Later on in their training they were taught to kill by killing prisoners of war. So it seems that the Japanese military knew that to turn a ordinary Japanese male into a effective killing machine they had to completely brutalize him.

The same is true of the German soldiers under the Nazis, where again the ordinary soldier was again brutalized. Yet in spite of this, when the Nazis started their genocide against the Jews they at first just took groups of Jews into the forest and had them shot by ordinary soldiers. But the effect of shooting defenseless civilians had a devastating effect on many of the soldiers ordered to do this and some were committing suicide. This became such a problem for the Nazis that other methods had to be used to conduct mass murder that didn't involve ordinary servicemen.

During the Falklands war 250 British servicemen lost their lives. 20 years after the war 265 men who saw action during the war have since committed suicide. Even worse figure are shown for the American troops that fought in the Vietnam war. Though this is a controversial subject in USA and it is hard to get exact figures.

If the Japanese military had to brutalize their troops to make them kill. While soldiers in Britain and America as so upset by the experience of war that many have since committed suicide. It calls into question whether men are naturally violent. Yet recorded history is a history of war, genocide and cruelty. So if it is not natural for men to be violent, why is it still going on?

In all the Golden age legends they do not explain why things started to go wrong. But Gimbutas claims that the downfall of many of the peaceful Goddess civilizations as caused by violent patriarchal tribes invading them from the north. So it suggests that it was the invention of war that ended the last Golden Age. Where the early patriarchal rulers behaved like Mafia bosses in imposing a reign of terror on the people and started a protection racket that was in effect the first taxation.

So the good news is that a Golden age did exist in the past, and we are not naturally violent. Most men have to be brainwashed into being like this through brutalization. The bad news is that the Pandora's Box has been opened in that violent men have found they can rule countries and even empires by fear and violence.

But this is not what the majority of us want. Most of us do not want to live in a world of war and violence and it is up to us to not allow a minority of violent men spoilt it for us all. We have to learn how to stop our young people being brutalized by school bullies, street gangs, prisons, poverty, unemployment, violent films and video games, violent parents and the military. Then we can perhaps get back to living once again in a new Golden Age of peace and prosperity.