Sunday, November 4, 2007

If there was one thing I could change in history...

History is in the dead past, never changing and so unforgivingly setting the conditions in the present. It doesn't repeats itself, and seldom resembles itself again in time, but it effects resonate far out into the future. There isn't any point putting the blame on events that happened, or to hope to be able to change them, we should just make the best out of it, but just because we shouldn't, doesn't mean we can't. It could be just for the sake of pointing out what went wrong, or perhaps to draw out a better plan for future actions, or even to warn people of things that have yet to occur. Whatever my intention is, here is my list of single events that I would like changed, in chronological order.

1. Have Alexander the Great live much longer. That guy was the Great, what else could I ask for? In only a few years, he carved out a huge empire, and his conquests began only at 16.

2. Have Archimedes do more experiments, I know we were all fascinated by the time Archimedes jumped into his bathtub and then ran round the city naked and shouted 'Eureka', but the beginning of real Science could actually have began from this guy and not Galileo 2 millennium later. Besides his displacement principle, he also discovered the Archimedes screw, the principles of levers, pulleys, and even make progress in Mathematics like pi, and the area of a sphere. Now only if he had a telescope, or did experiments with gravity like Galileo did, modern Science could have sprang up so much earlier. And of course, that would continue on into the Roman empire after Greece was assimilated.

3. Have Julius Caesar choose the next successor to the throne of the Roman Empire based on merit, and not set up a dynasty. If you don't know your history, Julius Caesar chose his stepson (he didn't have a son, so he figured he adopt one) Augustus to be the first Roman Emperor. Augustus wasn't the real problem, but his descendants were, creating some of the messiest problem the Empire had to face, and future weak emperors eventually help hasten the downfall of the Empire. Up till Caesar's time the Empire was the most secular state ever established (excluding some Greek city states, but come on, they were cities) containing people of many different cultures, and as history tells us, you don't get that very often.

4. Have Christians get persecuted more often in the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was peaceful enough with their secular state, Christians were rightly a threat to the Empire, there was no need to turn it into the Christian Roman Empire. One more thing, if Christianity didn't spring up, there wouldn't exist the most dangerous religion present today, Islam, the illegitimate child who share father Abraham with the Judo-Christians.

5. Have people dig up fossils centuries earlier, again I would probably put this in the Roman Empire. Actually what I can't believe is that no one in the past actually stumbled across fossils, haven't anyone dig up a grave and saw that the skeleton was all that was left of a person? It really wasn't all that hard to find parts of a buried fossil exposed on the ground, why didn't any of the ancient people notice them? If someone had collected the fossils, then maybe someone could piece up the age of the Earth and evolution so much earlier that many superstitions of today would never have taken root.

6. Have Emperor Constantine killed. First he made Christianity the official Roman religion, which part of secular doesn't he get? Next, he split up the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western, sure let the West fall so that a new dynasty can sit on the throne of the newly built city of Constantinople. Do I need to say any more?

That's about it for the ancient world, now to move on to the Middle Ages. However, apparently I don't really have anything much to change except prevent some untimely deaths.

7. Maybe I played Age of Empires II too much, but I would like to have Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa not die. He died by drowning in a pool while trying to drink water, a pretty anti-climatic death. Without him, his army was devastated while fighting the Crusades, paving the way for the Turks to invade the remaining portion of the Roman Empire.

8. Joan of Arc was another untimely death, though France seem to manage just fine after her death.

Well, I'm pretty much contented with the situation in the Middles Ages because the tensions between countries pretty much ensure that everyone was up to date on technology, and how can I ever be angry with the Enlightenment. Now let us travel past the Industrial Revolution.

9. Have Charles Darwin find Gregor Mandel's work on genetics. The only problem with evolution at that time was that Darwin could find out what causes variation in animals and how it is passed on, something that Mandel had already worked on long before. If only they had met, then Science would have flourished.

10. Probably the last, have Britain step in when Hitler was trying to militarise Germany. All problems in the future could almost be certainly traced back to this single event. Had Britain put its foot down, there would never have been a World War II, and there are reasons to believe that the Hitler at 1933 wasn't as evil as the Hitler at 1939. In addition, Communism would never have spread so much, first of all, Hitler would allow his neighbours to be Communist, we have already seen how fast Communism was gone from Germany, and with Germany's help, from Spain too. The big difference between Communism and Fascism is that Communism has the power to last much longer, while Fascism collapse when their leaders die.

In addition, Japan would be under much more pressure to get out of China since the Allies are no longer occupied with Hitler. Korea probably wouldn't get split into 2, and would probably be democratic, since Russia have only a small border with it, and probably wouldn't invade Japan. There wouldn't be any North Korea to deal with today. Without a huge Communist threat there wouldn't be a Marshall plan which splurges money without care on any non-Communist country that existed, stopping a number of dictator from ever coming to power.

What's more is that the Europeans would still have their colonial empires and wouldn't start the whole lot of pity for their colonies. Their pity has caused them to be too tolerable to other people's believes, no matter how strange or dangerous they could be, leading to a whole lot of terrorist bombing, and the Netherlands are currently being so overrun by Muslims that Sharia law is being enforced in some places, the law that says chopping of hands is the punishment for robbery, that stoning is required when committing adultery and that women must cover all parts of their body and are not to leave house unless accompanied by a man. And of course the law which any civilised person is disgusted most at, death to any apostles.

Think, so much that we can do with just one change, yet that change was never made and we are set upon this course of history. Now, only the future can still be changed and its getting shorter all the time.

13 comments:

thrawn said...

You do realise that all Jeanne D'Arc did was wave a sword around and look pretty, don't you?? By her own admission she didn't kill a single enemy soldier. She didn't even lead, she was merely a propaganda symbol.

Agagooga said...

3. Julius Caesar didn't choose Augustus as his successor. He declared himself dictator for life and was murdered before he could do annoint a succession.

He could've set up a merit-based system but this would've fallen to dynasty succession soon enough. How do we know this? Look at Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and Antoninus Pius. Succession among them was based on merit. But Antoninus Pius handed over to his son Commodus, and everything went downhill.

4. Even if you wish to criticise religion, I would advise you not to use insults. Singapore is not a tolerant place, unfortunately.

In any case, persecution does not necessarily stamp out dissidence. It can strengthen it, in fact. Look at the Jews.

5. If the Romans had dug up fossils they would've ground them down for medicine, let them deteriorate due to rough handling and improper technology and more. I wish archaeological discoveries had come -later-, so that less would've been lost to the ravages of Man...

6. The Roman Empire was not secular. It was based on Roman paganism and Emperor worship. And Constantine did not make Christianity official, he just legalised it.

Before the division of the empire, overwork was tiring each Emperor out. That's why they divided it in the first place.

10. Colonialism was not an adulterated good. It included lots of brutality. The British were relatively benign but the Dutch were brutal. And the French weren't very nice either.

If colonialism had continued we would probably see a wave of Islamic-inspired revolutions, and this radicalism would doom the world.

The US is tolerant to other people's beliefs even though they weren't a proper colonial power.

Jan Chan said...

Julius Caesar made Augustus heir to the family throne, meaning Augustus inherits all his titles. Anyway the Roman republic have been run by more or less a Senate based system for centuries before Caesar came, and it would probably have continued if not for Augustus.

Hello, Romans inherited the Greek knowledge, and they had exceptional engineering skills and innovation. They aren't as stupid as you portray them.

Early years of the Roman Empire was secular because of the diverse cultures of the Empire which make it efficient for ruling. Voltaire even described the Roman Empire being so secular that they understood that there was no life after death and that the worst punishment was in the present life where the person can be held accountable.

The division of the Roman Empire was one of the prime causes for its fall, the East took all the wealthy provinces while the West got stuck with fierce Germanic tribes. In the end the West almost never came to help the east, if they hadn't split, resources could be polled together.

At least colonies can't get their hands on nuclear bombs and better weapons, you can just compare the damage. As for US, they are separated by sea from any of the asia/afica immigrants.

Agagooga said...

My mistake, Julius did indeed name Octavian as heir.

The Roman Senate was hardly a democratic or merit-based system. It was, rather, an oligarchy where horse-trading determined political succession. Very different from the merit-based system you have in mind.

Just because there is no hereditary transmission of power doesn't mean that there is a merit-based system of succession. Meritocracy and democracy sometimes coincide, but this is not necessarily so. And anyway democracy in the Ancient World was a very different concept from the current one.

Just because the Romans were advanced for their time does not mean they would have preserved fossils. Even in the 20th century, fossils and historical artefacts were not always preserved properly. Stupidity is not necessary for historical artefacts to degenerate. And anyway the Romans were the ones with the sacred birds and augers: "If they won't eat, then let them drink".

'Secular' government is neither necessary nor sufficient for good governance. The AK party in Turkey is doing much better than all the secular governments that preceded it. And Hamas was elected in Palestine in part because of its competence vis-a-vis the secular Fatah. In the US, many of the better schools are faith-based. Many examples of bad secular governments can be found.

Dividing the empire was a way to prevent rivalry among siblings and cousins - if you can't be Emperor of the whole Empire at least you can rule over half of it.

"Diocletian (284-305) came to the throne after a century of disorganization, internal dissent, economic collapse, and foreign invasions. A tough and practical soldier he had one ambition: to retire from the imperiate alive. And he managed to do it (an exceptional feat). To stem the descent into chaos, he decided that the Empire was too large to be adminstered by a central authority, so he divided it in half. The western half would be ruled by a colleague, Maximian, and the seat of government would be Rome; the eastern half would be ruled by Diocletian, and the seat of government was in Nicomedia. Maximian recognized Diocletian as "Augustus," or the senior ruler of the Roman emperor. Beneath these two were appointed to each two officials, called caesars, not only to help manage the administration, but to assume their respective empires on the death of the emperor. In this way, the succession was always guaranteed and the successors had already spent much of their career adminstering the empire. This would prevent both the possibility of the ambitious seizing of the imperiate by provincial generals and would prevent incompetents from assuming control of the Empire. This was a brilliant strategy and, with other innovations, stabilized the Empire."

Nuclear bombs are not necessary to deal a lot of damage. Look at 9/11 - box cutters are hardly advanced technology. And the sea is not stopping terrorists. In any case, there're lots of Mexicans streaming in. Would Mexico have been better off as a colony? The Spanish weren't very good governors. And they had their own problems - look at the 1930s Civil War and the dictatorship that only ended with the death of Franco in 1975.

Jan Chan said...

First, you misinterpreted a whole lot of things, I was advocating meritocracy, not democracy. Whatever happens, it isn't a good idea to let the people of the Roman empire to make political decisions.

Anyway, that quote you've got was from a mad emperor, who wanted a reason to throw chickens into the water.

Again you misinterpreted why I wanted a secular government, it is not for good governance, it is so that people won't get oppressed for unjustified reasons (I'm all for oppressing terrorists), and for advancement of Science.

As for dividing the Roman Empire, you still can't change the fact that after they divided, there were no cooperation between armies, effectively halfing their military strength.

You do realise that Mexicans are Europeans in the same way that Americans are. And at least that dictator get to die, not like a communist government.

Agagooga said...

The Roman Senate system was neither meritocratic nor democratic.

The quote was from a Roman general, Publius Claudius Pulcher, during the Republic. And the Senate was pissed off that he killed the chickens. This shows that superstition of some sort was well and alive in Rome.

Secular governments are very capable of oppressing people for unjustified reasons. Singapore is one example! I don't see why religion is the only reason people can be oppressed.

I have no idea what you're talking about regarding Mexicans. How are they 'Europeans'?!

Jan Chan said...

The "pagan" Roman Senate was the place where this was said "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, the wise as false and by rulers as useful". If the Romans were so religious before becoming Christians, that would never have been uttered and recorded in history books for all to see. The fact was that it was secular.

Singapore was never secular, if it was there would be free speech for criticising any religion in public. Haha, internet isn't a cultivating environment for arresting people.

And how are Hispanics not from Europeans? So many Aztecs have died in the plagues that they became insignificant.

Agagooga said...

"Christian" America was the place where Thomas Paine said "If Jesus Christ was the being which those Mythologists tell us he was, and that he came into this world to suffer, which is a word they sometimes use instead of to die, the only real suffering he could have endured, would have been to live. His existence here was a state of exilement or transportation from Heaven, and the way back to his original country was to die. In fine, everything in this strange system is the reverse of what it pretends to be." If the Americans were so Christian, that would never have been uttered and recorded in history books for all to see.

The Singapore *government* is secular. Why can't a secular government use religion for its own ends? After all, you did quote Seneca's quote above.

Hispanics are very mixed. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_America#Racial_groups. Only 9% of Mexicans are white, if this is what you mean by "Mexicans are Europeans in the same way that Americans are".

Jan Chan said...

You do realise that Thomas Paine was essentially a French atheist, don't you? Although he liked to visit the world. And you do realise that America is and was a secular state ever since it was founded don't you?

Let me explain to you what a secular government means. The government must not favour any religion over the others nor favour all religions over none.

Apparently you're too busy to read the sentences below your 9% quote. Majority of Mexicans are Europeans with some Aztec ancestors, which of course is quite hard to prevent considering that they had more then half a millennium of living together. Just looking at their skin colour can tell you that their bloodline is mostly Spanish. Spanish is the language spoken by 97% of the people, even if they were all native Americans which they aren't, that kind of numbers shows that they have essentially westernised.

Jan Chan said...

Anyway, I call him an atheist because he was so extreme in human rights that he was disowned by his fellow deists.

Agagooga said...

I give up.

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