Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Through the Lens of History

It is very difficult to see one’s own cultural tradition in the clear, as it were. The western civilization is particularly awesome in that it balances its evils by its merits. It is easier to be objective, for example, about the civilization of which the Aztec Empire was the last decadent expression. In that case we can unhesitatingly abhor the practice of ritual human sacrifice. And it really helps our objectivity that virtually nothing of that civilization’s thought and poetry survives. As I ponder our own, its root beliefs as well as its culminating might, raining atomic bombs out of the skies, I find it eminently thinkable that in some very distant future our own will be viewed as aberrant. If my view strikes you as extreme or dubious, check with me in, say, 5,000 years; we’ll then go and have a look together.

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