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  1. #1
    Luctor et emergo Ezra's Avatar
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    Default Civilisations that were born out of conquering are always conquered

    This is a trend; look at Persia, Rome, Alexander's Greco-Persian empire. These civilisations who attempt to unite all nations under one banner and take over the world; they will always fail. Persia was taken by Alexander. Alexander's empire fell apart after his death, and Rome rose. Rome was inevitably sacked by the Slavs, the Goths and the Huns in the 5th century AD. And what are the civilisations that work so well? Well, Greece. Precisely why did it work so well? Because it wasn't an empire; it didn't even exist. What we know as "Ancient Greece" was a collection of city states - poleis - that were self-ruled. They worked because they were independent and they flourished because they borrowed from one another. I've used the example of Sparta many times before as a polis that did not flourish. This was because it was a xenophobic state; it refused to take from other cultures, and thus destroyed itself. However, that is a bitesize of Greece. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of city-states which certainly did flourish. And they were all indpendent. When someone like Alexander comes along, he can only mess things up, because no one individual can rule an empire alone, or even with a small council. You might argue that, currently, the example of the Russian oligarchs shows how it can be ruled by a select few. But look at Russia. It is in a shit state. Hence, my point remains.

  2. #2
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ezra View Post
    This is a trend; look at Persia, Rome, Alexander's Greco-Persian empire. These civilisations who attempt to unite all nations under one banner and take over the world; they will always fail. Persia was taken by Alexander. Alexander's empire fell apart after his death, and Rome rose. Rome was inevitably sacked by the Slavs, the Goths and the Huns in the 5th century AD. And what are the civilisations that work so well? Well, Greece. Precisely why did it work so well? Because it wasn't an empire; it didn't even exist. What we know as "Ancient Greece" was a collection of city states - poleis - that were self-ruled. They worked because they were independent and they flourished because they borrowed from one another. I've used the example of Sparta many times before as a polis that did not flourish. This was because it was a xenophobic state; it refused to take from other cultures, and thus destroyed itself. However, that is a bitesize of Greece. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of city-states which certainly did flourish. And they were all indpendent. When someone like Alexander comes along, he can only mess things up, because no one individual can rule an empire alone, or even with a small council. You might argue that, currently, the example of the Russian oligarchs shows how it can be ruled by a select few. But look at Russia. It is in a shit state. Hence, my point remains.

    The US was born out of conquering the Indian nations etc, so is that one next? England and Wales came out of England conquering Wales and they seem pretty secure (despite some separation rumblings occasionally). Do you see my point? All villages only become anything bigger by conquest, where the world is already settled. That conquest can be cultural but it is still conquest.

    So, I think your point is that all countries are doomed to fail. Are they? probably.. it's just a question of how long.

    The British empire managed to disassemble in a relatively painfree and civilised manner. India, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, South Africa etc all seem to be doing quite well.

  3. #3
    Courage is immortality Valiant's Avatar
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    Agree with both parts. Not to show a lack of respect or anything, but what damage can the indians possibly do to the U.S. ? The United States are undoubtedly coming closer and closer towards an end, though. What end? Don't know. But the whole foreign policy and the "war on terrorism", "war on drugs" and other things really pisses people off.

    The three places not currently super-happy over being a part of the UK are Northern Ireland in particular and to lesser extent Cornwall and Scotland... Don't know much about the latter two, but most non-implanted fish in the north ireland pond thinks that separation with the UK and integration with the Irish Republic would be better. Especially since the UK is in a downward spiral while Ireland is getting richer.

    Mightier than the tread of marching armies is the power of an idea whose time has come

  4. #4
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YourLocalJesus View Post
    The three places not currently super-happy over being a part of the UK are Northern Ireland in particular and to lesser extent Cornwall and Scotland... Don't know much about the latter two, but most non-implanted fish in the north ireland pond thinks that separation with the UK and integration with the Irish Republic would be better. Especially since the UK is in a downward spiral while Ireland is getting richer.
    Guess I can clarify from a local perspective. Cornwall - nope, no issues there... they have no money or jobs so rely on the rest of the country to prop them up. I live quite close to Cornwall and there is very little separation sentiment - just some local pride. Wales has more.

    You are a bit out of date with Northern Ireland - the Irish bubble has burst and the Irish economy seems to be spiralling downwards. I don't deny that it would be better for Northern Ireland to be more closely aligned with the country it is in - although personally I quite like the joint elected assembly as it seems to cut off the terrorism problem (if it was Irish there would be British loyalist terrorism to replace the IRA). But joining with Ireland isn't helpful in terms of economic reasons, not any more.

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    RETIRED CzeCze's Avatar
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    Actually I thought the Roman Empire fell because it got so huge and dispersed and lost its cultural unity and sense of national identity -- which were it's two big binders and strengths as a colonial power. That is actually one of the doomsday scenarios anti-immigration folks point too -- that too many 'different' people weaken the US.

    I've heard a somewhat parallel reasoning for colonizing. Specifically in regards to European colonizers -- that the need to take over and devour every consumable resource and therefore create a continuing need to find more and more resources (countries to colonize) came from the original colonizer's history with famine and not having enough. This fear and relationship with scarcity just fuels endless and irrational need to seek/conquer/horde/ consume, repeat.

    I kinda thought it was apologist hogwash when I first heard it but I'm more mellow these days so :shrugs:

    I also think there are more recent and apt examples of nations that conquered others that end up falling apart being as they never fully integrated i.e. truly conquered the member states. Like the former USSR, history of mainland China, etc.

    I think also civilisations that were constantly conquering had a lot of defending internally as well as externally to do and that could simply wear down your resources to the point you're unable to govern. But once you admit one area is worth too much trouble to keep, your whole empire is lost and the perceived security/dominance issue is primary. That's part of the reason countries go to such pains to keep contested territories, even 'useless' or unpopular parcels of land no matter the cost.
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    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Yep, it's a smoke screen, often. In the days of the British Empire there was actually a remarkably small army. It was more the reputation and image of the British Navy and the "Great Empire" that held it together. If the subject nations had realised how tenuous the real manpower was it would have been over quite quickly. In some senses, they followed the Roman model. Turn the subject nations into Britain - give them some infrastructure and jobs and it tends to create local support (even though there is of course brutality going on). That's probably where Napoleon and to a greater extent Hitler went wrong - they wanted to destroy places for a cause. That's never going to hold together unless one has an enormous quantity of manpower.

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    RETIRED CzeCze's Avatar
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    ^^ Yes it's a smarter way to play at conquering nations in the long run -- playing the culture and identity card as opposed to just trying to beat a nation into submission with military or martial power.

    France had what was it...offices of french language(?) as colonial headquarters in conquered nations as opposed to other bureacratic agencies. The idea is once you go French, you never go back. Ha. As in French culture is so superior it will 'eat' your current national/ethnic identity and integrate you into the collective (like the Borg!) Speaking of eating, I do like eating Vietnamese pate and dipping baguettes into my pho, though.

    Japan's colonizing philosophy was the same. It was incredibly brutal, even inhumane in their approach to Asia and practiced cultural genocide. Subjects "became Japanese", snuffing out local language, cultures, customs, and symbols.

    The difference is, when you 'assimilate' people at gunpoint it usually only lasts as long as your gun is loaded. And those people (and their descendents) generally hate you with a passion once you lose power. But when you hold a carrot in front of them and make it seem voluntary and that all these great things will come along with it -- it's much more effective and takes on the feel of privelege as opposed to subjugation. Makes a HUGE difference on how long lasting and successful said 'conquering' and true integration is.

    As a side note, an America friend studying in Italy told me that Italy is strangely tolerant and simultaneously culturally hegemonic -- folks are cool with different races and immigrants and such because everyone is culturally Italian.
    “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.” ― Oscar Wilde

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  8. #8
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CzeCze View Post
    As a side note, an America friend studying in Italy told me that Italy is strangely tolerant and simultaneously culturally hegemonic -- folks are cool with different races and immigrants and such because everyone is culturally Italian.
    Well, italian football has one of the worst racism problems in the world. There is a big problem for black players. So it's tolerant... but only to its own. Hmm.

    Interesting reading, here : Pitch Invasion

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    Senior Member matmos's Avatar
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    I guess it depends on what you mean by conquered. Civilisations come and go for a variety of reasons, not all of them by violent conquest. I'm not a historian but Rome's decline has been attributed as much to internal rather than external events.

    The Iranians (or Persians, if you will) would dispute whether they are currently in a *conquered* state. They might argue they are the victors as their culture has been around for millenia.

    When a culture no longer exists - has it been conquered or just moved with the flow?

    The *problem* with nation states now is they compete, just as centuries ago they used to fight. Same mentality different approach.

    Iraq will still be around when US gets fed up, just as Vietnam is.

    If you look at a country like Fiji (- why not?), it seems obvious that in a few decade the native Fijians will be *extinct* and replaced with Indo-Fijians. That is being conquered.

  10. #10
    Gotta catch you all! Blackmail!'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ezra View Post
    This is a trend; look at Persia, Rome, Alexander's Greco-Persian empire.
    I do not agree.

    First, you should have defined what a civilization is.

    As a matter of fact, the term has been invented and conceptualized not by the Greeks, but by the Romans.
    The western world is the direct heir of the Roman civilization: This includes laws, concepts, cities, and especially the way the land is occupied, transformed. The Roman empire empire as a political entity is no more, but as a civilization, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, UK, Spain are all its offsprings.
    Look at sociology, history, and landscapes, and you will understand.

    The greek intellectual contribution, while interesting, is in fact quite limited, and survived only because it had been assimilated by the Romans, and thus was spread on a much larger scale.
    The Romans were peace makers, city-builders, they had models, structure...

    Might I recommend you to read a great historian on the matter of civilizations, Fernand Braudel?

    Fernand Braudel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    ---

    Second point.

    You said Persia is no more, this is false, and Bananatrombones has already answered on that matter. It's much more complex than that.
    A lot of fundamental ideas were invented within the Persian empire: for instance, the fact that all men are equals, that there is an unique human specie (and not separate peoples), that slavery should be abolished, that the same justice should apply to everybody, and so on... These ideas heavily contaminated the jewish culture (Thanks to Cyrus II), and later, christianity, and then Islam.

    Thus, the influence of the persian civilization on the western world might be very huge, and yet most of us still ignore this.

    Somehow, we could say the romans shaped our lands, the greeks shaped our ideas, while the persians shaped our beliefs, our morality and ethics.
    But again, the influence of the roman world, as a territorial, spatial, linguistical, legal entity is decisive.

    ---

    Third point.

    You said no civilization based on conquest and brutality could survive. Alas, this is wrong.
    Look at China, for instance. It's one of the longest surviving civilization, and from its earlier settings within the Huang He valley, it has slowly absorbed and conquered a huge strip of lands. They ruthlessly colonized everything that was south of the Yangtze river, and eliminated almost every indigenous people who dwelt there.
    I fear you would consider towns like Chongqing, Shanghai or Guangdong to be chinese, wouldn't you?

    But the most striking example is England. England was the most cynical, greedy, barbaric colonial power that ever existed in the history of mankind. They simply wiped out every native people they met, they never respected their treaties, they never even tried to assimilate them: natives were considered as animals, sub-humans.
    No other european colonial power went as far as Britain did.

    ->Spain slaughtered a lot of native americans, but somehow, the Incans, the Mayans are still there, even if they greatly suffered.
    ->France tried to befriend native americans and to defend them, and as a consequence, lost against the more numerous British settlers who invaded their lands.
    ->Portugal managed to create a true multi-ethnic culture with Brazil, something the anglo-saxon world never succeeded (nor really wanted) to achieve.

    But in the end, England won. And even if the British empire is no more, the cultural influence af the english language is beyond compare (hence my presence here).
    So as a civilization, we could say England was very successful, even if its influence was built on millions of corpses, and an incredible amount of cynicism.

    ---

    History is a very complex process. I'm not here to say that successful civilizations are ONLY based on conquest, brute force and cruelty (the Mongols quickly vanished, for instance), but it depends on context, on the time period.

    There are counter-examples everywhere, if we look closely. The current Indian federation is a successful multi-ethnic civilization, despite a very bloody past of continuous feuds.
    And the rise of the EU is also a good hint that Europe as a political, cultural and spatial entity might emerge soon (and thus re-unify the heirs of the Roman civilization). There is a desire for it in almost every european nations (with the sole exception of England), and this desire becomes more popular with each new decade.

    So you see... complexity.
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