July 26, 2021

The long march of mankind towards civilization

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By Jean H Charles From Caribbean News Now

The decline in civility all over the world leads us to question whether we are regressing or advancing in the long march of mankind towards civilization; as such, it is proper to look back and pinpoint the people and the nations that ignited the principles of civilization to see how we can rekindle the flame of good manners and put on track the march of civility for the next millennium.

The long march of civilization as we know it today may have started around 1792 BC or some 4,000 years ago, in a country called Mesopotamia now named Iraq. There, a ruler under the name of Hammurabi put forth some 282 edicts or code of conduct that strangely resembled the Ten Commandments given later to Moses by God. There were principles such as: an accused person is considered innocent before proven guilty, the state is organized to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and justice should be done to widows and orphans.

Before those edicts, it was pure barbarism all over the world, parents were eating their own children, kings and princes took pleasure in having their subjects being devoured by lions for spectacle. Until the very God asked Abram, who would later be called Abraham to leave Mesopotamia/Iraq, for a distant land named Palestine where he would send his own son Jesus the Christ to tame the sons and the daughters of Cain into the rule and principles of civilization: Thou not shall kill your brothers for any reason, thou shall not steal nor take the wife of your brother….

It was also the beginning of the age of rationalization, when man started to believe in one God. While before the snake, or a spring were objects of worship, the tribe of Abraham would start to share the knowledge of the worship of God as the only true God.

Later, around 400BC, in Greece, philosophers like Socrates and later Plato and Aristotle were teaching to young men principles of life like wisdom, virtue, the pleasure of a simple life that disturbed the masters of the day. Socrates was put to death for the very reason for emulating what today we call rules of civilization.

John the Baptist, the last prophet following a long list of prophets after Abraham, led us to Jesus the Christ, who formulated a whole body of principles that are codified in the Bible as the ultimate manual of human conduct. Put to death by his own citizens for bringing a new world order, the barbarians led by the Roman Emperors would have gained if not for the conversion of Saul, renamed Paul, who energized the other disciples of Christ to go all over the world to preach the new doctrine of civilization.

They were all of them put to death and the movement of civilization would have come to a full stop, except in the year 330 the Roman Emperor Constantine, at the suggestion of his mother, converted himself to Christianity after he witnessed a miracle of victory in war. He had his soldiers wear the sign of the cross on their uniform. He then went on to impose upon humankind (it was ruled then by Rome) the doctrine of rationalization of one God.

The teaching of St Augustine, an African, around 450 AD, through his opus, the City of God, adds another layer to the advancement of civility. His instruction formed the basis of today’s theology that the church is ruled by love, independent of the wickedness of even those who are called upon to lead the city of God.

From Italy, the road to civilization took a detour to Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey, where Emperor Constantine brought the seat of his empire, replacing Rome as the capital of the Roman Empire. Constantinople flourished in the arts and science even under the siege of the Muslims and the Ottoman Empire. It was the French Crusaders with St Louis the king that destroyed the immense richness for humanity that was accumulated from 330 to 1440 during more than 1,000 years.

Around the year 1550, the seat of civilization moved back to Rome with the Renaissance. At that time, in Germany a clergyman named Luther questioned the abuses made by the omnipotent Catholic Church and another German, Guttenberg, discovered the art of printing, making the dissemination of books and knowledge easier.

Later, in Italy, an adventurer named Christopher Columbus conceived the idea of sailing from east to west to reach India looking for spices. With the benediction of the queen of Spain, he then on December 5, 1492, discovered a brand new world of the Taino that he renamed the Indians. His companions, in less than 25 years, caused the annihilation of more than two million indigenous people through new diseases, brutality and oppression.

Around 1518, a Bishop named Las Cases took in pity on the Indians and obtained from the king of Spain, Charles V, the authorization to bring Africans from the coast of Guinea to the West Indies and the American coasts. Shiploads of men and women were chained in the macabre business of slavery in plantation to produce sugar, coffee and cocoa for the merchants of Europe.

With the benediction of the Church and learned men of the time, the black person was not considered a true human being gifted with the divine spirit of self determination and aspiration to goodness. It lasted for 300 years.

In the meantime, around 1620, the iron hand of the church was curtailing religious freedom. In England, a radical faction of Puritans seeking to practice their faith as they saw fit, chose to sail to the New World and established a settlement in the region named Massachusetts in America.

For another century, the making of the United States took place with the vision of the great destiny conquering the Indians’ new territory and fighting the domination of the British. In 1776, under the command of General George Washington, they drove the British troops out to build the first new nation in the world under the aegis of a constitution where all are created equal, under God, albeit the black citizens were not included into the sentiment of appurtenance.

In France, French philosophers like Voltaire were pushing for the end of the monarchy as an oppressor of individual liberty. At the peak of the French renaissance under Louis XIV on July 14, 1789, the people raised their fists and abolished governance by heredity.

While in Haiti, a military genius Toussaint Louverture, instructed by the teaching of French philosophers, ingrained the notion that men whatever their color could not be a chattel for life. He outmaneuvered the British, the Spanish and the French to free St Domingue from slavery.

In the meantime, the French Revolution saw a setback with the coming of Napoleon Bonaparte to power. In the United States, the second president, John Adams, was in a dead heat re-election campaign against Thomas Jefferson in 1800. Adams lost the election and the fate of the world changed forever. He was counting on Toussaint Louverture to facilitate a full black integration in the United States.

His loss solidified the hand of Napoleon, who now had the support of the United States to organize a large military fleet to bring back slavery to Haiti. The French would have won but for the determination of Jean Jacques Dessalines, who took command of the ragged black army after the kidnapping of Toussaint Louverture by Leclerc, Napoleon’s emissary.

The Haitian victory advanced a leap forward for the march of civilization. Slavery as a world order was no longer convenient. Latin America was liberated from slavery by Bolivar with support from Alexander Petion, the third Haitian president. Abraham Lincoln went to war against the South to impose the concept the black man should be an American citizen with the inalienable rights pertaining thereto.

In Europe, mainly in England, the world of slave owners was transformed into the world of capitalism that rested on the police to protect individual rights, on the army to protect against foreign invasion and on the courts to settle the individual disputes. The free men were selling their labor for a wage that was execrable for the most part.

That situation repulsed philosophers like Karl Marx, who developed brand new concepts of socialism and state capitalism, with state enterprises designed to create profits for the general public. China has developed that model to the fullest, in competition with the old model of capitalism that failed to create wealth equally.

Mankind has certainly known some dark moments, with the Nazi doctrine in Germany under the Fuhrer Hitler advocating the promotion and the hegemony of the Aryan race. Jews, blacks, handicapped and other minorities should be eliminated. Indeed millions of Jews were exterminated through the gas chamber.

The never again policy and the coalition of the willing brought the creation of the United Nations for the preservation of peace and civility in the world. Like the Church, the United Nations has not been a good peacemaker. In Haiti, it brought cholera; the success of its peace missions has been rare if not inexistent.

Decolonization did not bring prosperity to the new nations. They are governed by rulers – old freedom fighters – mainly in Africa who kept their people in bondage as toxic as the colonial rulers. The rulers in Latin America move from left to right with the same incompetence and arrogance that most of their people dream about or act upon in creating a human caravan to move up north in the United States for a better life.

There they are facing an avenger, Donald Trump, who says the hypocritical feel good policy of the Clinton/Obama government must come to an end! America first! The mid-term election in the United States is around the corner. We will know who is right who is wrong! Donald the avenger or the bleeding hearts of the fake human rights campaign consolidating the status quo of incivility!

IMAGE: Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, is a regular contributor to the opinion section of Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at [email protected]

For more on this story go to: https://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/2018/10/28/commentary-the-long-march-of-mankind-towards-civilization/

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