Friday, 14 October 2005

Some cultures deserved to die out

Not every culture is worth saving or preserving. There are some cultures that deserved to die out -- the Maya were just one, and on this as so much else Jared Diamond's book Collapse has it wrong again. As a tragic loss, they weren't, and Roger Sandall is right on the money. "I don’t care if the Maya civilization did collapse. I don’t think we should shed a single retrospective tear":
The ripples of Greek civilization spread globally, and deserved to. There were no ripples from the Maya. No enlightenment. Nothing. Just art and masonry [some of it above] and the dried blood of long-dead sacrificial victims. That is not nearly enough.
Inca culture was another blot on the landscape of history, and Tibor Machan is one who sheds no retrospective tears over its demise. Under the Inca for instance: "As many as 200 children used to be killed to please some god or another. And sometimes the sacrifice would involve cutting out the heart of a living individual." Nice culture that, the Incas. It brings to mind my favourite quote from Thomas Sowell:
Cultures are not museum pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives.
Too true. As Tibor concludes:
The only thing that can be done that will make a difference is to stop all this collective praise and blame and to recognize that justice requires looking at and judging all human beings individually, based on their own choices to act well or badly.


  1. michael fasher14 Oct 2005, 18:41:00

    the aztecs were wiped out precisely because their culture was so bad
    They captured sacreficial victims from out lying areas,when hernanez cortez arived he defeated the aztecs not just with his 180 odd conquestadors but with several thousand nativeswho joined to topple the aztecs.The Spanish formed the the right flank with superior weaponry in a battle between mostly natives from the coastle regions and the aztecs from what is now mexico city
    Basicaly a similar sitioation happened in the eastern front in WW2 where one million Rusians defected to the Nazis in spite of the Nazis raping ang pillaging

  2. Can't agree more PC. And what should happen to cultures that cuts babies to pieces while still in their mothers womb?

  3. But, what about the ancient Roman culture that was wipped out by the barbarians from Briton and Europe for almost a thousand years?

  4. As a lot of our law codes and literature is still Latin, and was partially continued by the Roman Church, I think we lost something.

    On the other hand, a slave society could never have produced capitalism, you need protestantism for that as some have claimed.

    But I think PC's post is more an answer to people who find it a tragedy that certain primitive cultures were "wiped" out by us white man.

  5. Interesting but the final Machan quote suggests a question. Is culture a collectivist notion? How would you define culture?

    As one who considers himself an individualist (classical liberal) and yet concerned with the requisite culture required to sustain a liberal order, I find these questions interesting and wonder how others would answer them.

  6. Also, among the existing cultures, can you predict which one deserves to die out? A case at hand: the Tibetian culture.

  7. Still, I think there is a danger in this line of thought - the notion that dog-eat-dog, survival of the most economic, represents progress.

  8. I find myself wondering what will be the legacy of this age of civilsation. You condemn the Maya for human sacrifice yet many many more people die nowadays of wars, disease, plain starvation and neglect Than were ever killed by ritual sacrifice. Just because we dont personally witness it safely insulated in a coccoon somewhere does not make us anybetter tahn the Maya. All this while a wealthy minority, yes you whitey, looks on tut tutting.

  9. Nice try, anonymous coward. Can you respond to these points?

    *The average life expectancy today is as high as it has ever been, and climbing. In Mayan times you would be *very* lucky to reach 30. (I wonder how a 10 year old native child would feel if he were told that his impending sacrifice was OK because it was culturally sanctioned, and all cultures are equally valid? Bullshit.)

    *All the problems you talk about (disease, war, starvation, etc) existed in Mayan times, only 10,000 times worse. The concept of "medicine" barely existed, getting food was often a day-to-day struggle, the legal system was arbitrary and unfair, etc.

    *Today, the average "poverty-stricken" person in our culture lives better than a Mayan Priest-King. I say that with little sense of hyperbole.

    Face it, our Western culture IS, objectively, the best culture the world has ever seen. Mayan culture may have been interesting in its own way, but there is no reason to lament its passing.


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