DR. BOLI’S COMPLETE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

Dr. Boli really has no intention of burdening you with the whole book on this site, but another sample chapter here or there may be welcome on what the journalists call a slow-news day.

CHAPTER 2.—THE DEFINITION AND CHARACTER OF CIVILIZATION.

CIVILIZATION IS A disease to which human beings, alone among the terrestrial animals, are chronically prone. Infestations of civilization have been recorded on every inhabited continent, and there are so many clear cases of independent development without contagion that we can only regard the disorder as genetic.

Before we go any further, it may be useful to say exactly what we mean by civilization. The mark of civilization is the city, just as the mark of savagery is the village and the mark of barbarism is the suburb. Life in cities gives civilized peoples the opportunity to specialize, which is to say to set aside a considerable portion of the population to be devoted to useless pursuits. In the village, it is necessary for nearly everyone to be employed in merely assuring the subsistence of the tribe; but in the city, a man who does nothing but design magazine advertisements all day can persuade himself that he is both useful and necessary.

Of all the specialized businesses that civilization fosters, there is none so typical of civilization as the business of government. Philosophers may argue about what the true purpose of government ought to be, but there can be no doubt that the actual purpose of every government known to history has been to foster those conditions under which government can grow and flourish and give birth to more government. It would be very strange if it were not so: a government that was less than enthusiastic about the idea of governing would soon be replaced. Fortunately for the rest of the population, the ambition of a government usually ends at keeping itself in power. The surest guarantee of personal liberty in any civilization is bureaucratic laziness and inefficiency. Our general happiness is in danger only when a government rubs its hands together and decides to get something done for a change. —This is of course a digression, but Dr. Boli has never been one of those who prefer to roar down the interstate from point A to point B without stopping to see any of the sights along the way.

The government of most early civilizations was invested in a divine king, though it seems clear that, from the very outset, these royal personages were more ornamental than useful. The real business of government was carried on by a succession of more or less competent administrators, while the kings married their own sisters and produced more and more degenerate offspring, until at last the royal family was so wispy and diseased that they were practically transparent. But this unhealthy state of the royalty was itself very good for government, since it necessitated a larger and larger class of official functionaries to surround the king and keep him from blowing away in the first stiff breeze.

But keeping the king from drooling on his royal robes, laborious as it may have been, was not in itself sufficient to justify a large and all-pervasive government. Other expedients were necessary to allow the government to grow to truly civilized dimensions.

The creation of public works on a massive scale was one of the expedients that occurred to early governments. Usually some problem could be found whose solution required organizing people into enormous groups of laborers, thus justifying the existence of the government that kept them organized. For example, there was the problem of disposing of dead kings. This problem alone could consume most of the resources of even a fairly advanced civilization. Since kings were divine, they could not simply be tossed in the garbage when they died; and since they were useless, they could not be recycled either. It was necessary to send the departed king off to his apotheosis with sufficient dignity that the other gods would not spend the rest of eternity mocking him. With any luck, the king might pass his entire reign supervising the construction of his own tomb, and then die just as it was completed, leaving his successor to begin an entirely new tomb, and keeping the government in business indefinitely.

If, however, the disposal of the royal carcass did not provide enough business to keep the government going, there was always the perennially reliable expedient of war. A war is a kind of team sport specifically designed to consume as many resources as possible, and thus to require organization on a scale surpassing even what is necessary for the construction of a royal tomb. There is, of course, some risk that the war will get out of hand and destroy the government instead of perpetuating it; but, in general, a well-managed war can go on for years with mutual benefit to the governments on both sides. It does require a certain expenditure of human lives, but civilized governments can easily obtain those by conscripting the men who sit around and write magazine advertisements all day. In general, the slight inconveniences of a war are negligible in comparison to the benefits to be gained by the governments involved, and a government that is not actively waging a war is usually preparing for the next war.

So far we have looked at civilization in terms of general principles. When we come to examine specific early civilizations, we shall find that they present an interesting study in contrasts. For example, the Egyptians had divine kings who married their sisters and built pyramids in Egypt, whereas the Maya had divine kings who married their sisters and built pyramids in Yucatan. Sumerian kings, on the other hand, built ziggurats. So we see that there is an almost infinite variety in these early civilizations.

Another improvement that civilization brought to humanity was writing. Every truly civilized society had writing of some sort. It was not necessary to have a system of writing that could express every spoken idea, as ours can, but it was absolutely essential to be able to tally up how many cities your king had destroyed and how many thousands of people he had slaughtered in the process. Thus, for example, the Aztecs developed a pictorial historiography that was admirably suited to documenting slaughter on an industrial scale; similarly, the Incas had their quipus, intricately knotted fringes with which it was possible to keep an accurate count of how many heads had rolled. On the other hand, the Egyptians developed a system of writing that was also capable of expressing more complex ideas, such as panegyrics on the king to whom a particularly successful mass murder was attributed. The Maya also had a complex hieroglyphic script that baffled every attempt to decipher it until quite recently. As long as the Maya writing remained undeciphered, anthropologists were free to fantasize that the Maya were a nation of peaceful astronomers; but, now that the key to Maya writing has been discovered, we know that they were simply celebrating their successful slaughters in the usual fashion.

The development of writing is of paramount significance to the present work, since it marks the beginning of history, which we may define as the written record of the slaughters inflicted on one civilized group by another.

At various times, important ancient civilizations have grown up in the Nile valley in Egypt, in the Indus valley in Pakistan and India, in the Yellow River valley in China, on the plains of Mesopotamia, in Nigeria, in Zimbabwe, in various parts of Mexico, and in Peru. Most of these civilizations have left us some form of written record, and the story is always the same: this king killed that king and slaughtered all his followers. The notable exception is the Indus Valley civilization: the writing left by these mysterious ancient Indians has not yet been deciphered, and anthropologists therefore believe that they were most probably a nation of peaceful astronomers.

Next:

Chapter 3.—The Ancient Egyptians, Furnishing and Decorating the Afterlife Since 3150 B.C.

Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 8:57 pm  Comments (12)  

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  1. There are two types of ancient societies which anthropologists and sociologists tend to describe as societies of peaceful astronomers. The first, as Dr. Boli has rightly pointed out, are those whose own propagandistic writings have not yet been deciphered and translated, and thus whose genocidal wars of conquest remain lost in the mists of time.

    The second are those societies whose propagandistic tales of genocidal slaughter are easily available, but ignored and unread due to the previous generation of historians mistakenly believing that the best way to keep a conquered civilization down is to deprive it of its own history through censorship and lies. The current generation of anthropologists and sociologists, in an effort to shock their parents and former professors, tend to idolize and fixate upon the defeated foes of the former generations, and to ascribe to them all manner of unlikely virtues. Witness the Victorian British fascination with Napoleon, or the rebirth of the Neo-Nazis as the KKK in the 1950′s, or the embracing of Maoist thought by the 1960′s flower children after the Korean War. A generation from now, we will probably be facing an age cohort of young people who consider it hip and cool and edgy to flirt with Islam or Investment Banking, depending on which side of the current culture war their parents were on.

    However, such blatant revisionism is itself falling out of favor in the halls of academia, the historical community having finally realized that the true best way to keep a conquered civilization down is not to pretend it has no history, but to ostentatiously celebrate its history in as boring and repetitive a manner as possible. Their recent successes with Black History Month and Women’s History Month show the efficacy of this methodology.

  2. [...] I love Dr. Boli. Here he talks about how governments arrange to stay in power: The creation of public works on a massive scale was one of the expedients that occurred to early [...]

  3. Although I commend the author’s resolve in pursuing such a monumental undertaking, I fear that he offers little to distinguish himself from his illustrious predecessors, and has indeed fallen short of them in notable ways.

    By this point in the narrative, for instance, Will Durrant would have engaged in a discursive gloss of the artistic achievements of the peaceful astronomer societies, conceding that their crude pictograms and rudimentary cuneiform may not be to the taste of contemporary Westerners, but observing that the simple strength of their diagonal lines is extraordinary, and who is to say that this is not as great an accomplishment as the Laocoon?

    Or indeed take Toynbee, as so few are wont to do in our ignoble era. In addressing this subject matter, he would doubtless have seized upon the astute observations herewith contained regarding the institution and perpetuation of government to postulate a sweeping theory of the disintegration of the internal proletariat sustaining the Dominant Minority, i.e., the spittle-flecked monarchs and their retinue, and their ultimate displacement by beguiling barbarians at the allowance of an alienated public, undergirded by the heroic myth of the external proletariat as society of altogether more peaceful astronomers. This cavalcade of royal decedents, then, suggests a dialectic of civilization and decay, departure and return, ultimately culminating in the august person of Newt Gingrich.

    The work before us, therefore, while creditable, can boast neither the comforting traditionalism of Mr. Wells’ history or the factual integrity of George Psalmanazar’s contributions to the genre. It does, however, have promise as a useful companion to Plunkitt’s treatise on the mechanisms of civil governments, offering certain insights into the development of these forms.

    • Please don’t inform Mr. Gingrich that he is the ‘culmination’ of anything. This will only create more work for his already overstressed keepers whose ranks have been harrowed by budget cuts and can now barely keep his inflated ego from rising into the stratosphere.

  4. Dr. Boli, I would like to encourage you to continue in this new endeavor. In just two short lessons, I have gained a clearer understanding of history than from a semester’s worth of college lectures.

    • Hear hear! These essays are far above your usual writings in both educational and entertainment quality…and given the high standards set by your usual writings, that is a high compliment indeed.

    • I third the motion! And darn any Orthodox Robertsians who claim this to be impossible.

  5. Dear Dr. Boli,

    Being a person with a slight disliking for governments, war and the general pestering of the common man who usually just wants to grow some food, beat his neighbour in generating offspring and have the occasional barn dance, I have much appreciated all of your writings. It is by the way truly remarkable that a man of your age has learned to manage modern technology – I know quite a few people a third your age who refuse to learn to use anything resembling a PC.

    I was wondering if there was any chance in obtaining permission for translating this particular post, the second chapter of Dr. Bolis world history, into a strange language spoken by only about 9 million people West of the Baltic sea. While most of these 9 million people are generally afflicted with the strange brain-disease that they call the postmodern society, I have managed to find a few dozen who have sobered up from this condiditon and would likely find your writings very enjoyable.

    Best Regards (any replies to this post will be monitored for further communication)

    // hpx

    • You are very welcome to translate the article, and Dr. Boli wishes you good luck. If the language to which you refer is Swedish, however, it can hardly be called a strange language. It is commonly known among linguists that English is merely Swedish poorly spelled.

  6. [...] stage, and it is therefore with our first groping toward civilization that we shall begin the next chapter. Published [...]

  7. [...] Originaltexten har översatts av Hans Palmstierna [...]

  8. Dear Dr. Boli,

    Translation into Swedish of part two of your complete world history has now been completed, and is published on a forum for people who are a tad critical of the concept of governing. ((http://www.mises.se/2012/05/28/dr-bolis-fullstandiga-varldshistoria-kap-2/)

    If Dr. Boli has sufficient knowledge of the Swedish language he should be able to read the translation, otherwise the usage of Google Translate may be helpful. However, since the Swedish language is void of all the poor spelling known to English, Google Translate may be unable to correctly recreate these spelling errors, rendering the translation into English somewhat stultified.

    We much appreciate the insights provided by Dr. Boli, and hope to read more of them in future editions of the Celebrated Magazine.

    Thank you,

    // Hans Palmstierna


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