Thursday, May 31, 2012

1300 B.C: The birth of individualism

The first great civilizations of the world were in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.  These civilizations were formed by a need to master the waters in order to irrigate the land, a task that cannot be done individually.  A strong central power was needed to enforce the work and create discipline.  Thus, the need for irrigation united the people of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

These people were forced to work long hours, often 12 hours per day, on their land.  The only time off they got was during the yearly flood. At this time they partied and relaxed.  Of course those who worked in mines never got days off.  Other people worked in stores, made axes, swords, knives, food etc.  They too got time off during the flooding season

Then the only product the people were able to keep was what was needed to care for their families.  While the storekeepers were able to keep some of what they made, they were given everything else from the collective, the government, or the king.

And people lived this way willingly because they believed in evil spirits and gods, and the wealthy, the kinds, would build monuments, and make sacrifices, by offerings from the people, and this was all done to keep the gods and the spirits happy.  In this way, each person, by working hard and giving most of what they produced to the king and the few wealthy, believed they were doing their part to keep the spirits and gods happy.  In this sense, this kept the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians United as one Kingdom.*

Greece, on the other hand, is a country that doesn't require irrigation. For this reason Greece was never united, and instead developed along individual lines.  Everything about Greek culture was based on individualism.

The Greek City States are a good example.  While they did unite during times of war, they were completely independent of one another.  Sparta was a a nation that was based on war.  Children were prepared for war from the time they reached seven.  Athens was a nation based on science, reason and art.  Athens left for us many great monuments and statues that we still admire today.  Athens, in this way, gave birth to art.

Another example is Greek art and writings.  While Ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian writings and art and dramas were written for the collective -- the general good of the nation, authorship wasn't needed.  Yet in Greece a name of an "individual" was required for all arts and writings and dramas.  This was true even when the original author wasn't known, which may be the case with the Corpus Hippocraticum, Odyssey and Iliad.

Greek tribes started inhabiting the land that would one day become Greece around 2,000 B.C., a time when Egypt and Mesopotamia held hugely successful nations.  Colonization started taking place around 1300 to 1000 B.C.  So we can probably say that individualism got it's start around 1300 B.C.

Irrigation wasn't necessary, which made it ideal for farming.  Food was prevalent, and consisted of sheep, goats.  Resources were lignites, iron pyrites, lead, silver and a few other minerals.  There was the sea that provided plenty of irrigation for everyone. The temperature was generally between 56 and 68 degrees, which meant it wasn't too hard to adapt clothing and housing.

Many of the nations of Greece were further divided into individualism, and this helped create the first democracies.  Since it was surrounded by walls, a strong fleet protected the people. Instead of involving themselves in wars they were able to live in societies that concerned themselves more with hunting, games and dances.

The product of such a life was craftsmen, pottery, and jewelry.  This type of art was brought about by time brought by security, and the ability to introspect and appreciate and study the land.  This was the direct result of individualism.

One of the greatest results of Ancient Greek individualism was Greek philosophy and democracy.  A senate and a jury were allowed for people to partake in government and judge their peers, as opposed to the monarchy of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The greatest philosopher of all was Socrates, and he was sentenced to death for voicing his opinion by a jury of 501 of his peers.  Surely he was wrongly sentenced, yet it was a fair, or at least democratic, trial nonetheless.

Civilization western Europe from the Renaissance on was also individualistic, like that of Ancient Greece.  In this way Greek individualism

*An empire is defined as a nation that has taken over other lands, such as the Egyptians and British Empire.  A Kingdom is a monarchy within one original nation, such as the Egyptian Kingdom.  Later on in Ancient Egypt the form of government expanded, and the region occupied by Egypt was referred to as the Egyptian Empire.  

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