Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A History of Civilisation; Yeah... Ofcourse it is

Today I attended my first lecture in History of Civilization, which I was supposed to take in first year but I would have rather shot myself, figuratively at least, than sit through that. Unfortunately I could not avoid it any longer so I walked into the class after my Italian class had ended, that was an event on its own but alas that's a story for another day. I walk in and take my seat in the third quarter, which is the ideal location, too far for the lecturer to read my face when I lose interest but not near the guys who have no interest in being there. A man walks in twenty minutes before the class is scheduled to start and walks slowly past where I was so I say hi; what can I say, I'm nice. He says hi and walks to he front, turns out that the man is the lecturer.

I won't get into a discussion of the other students because the lecturer was more intriguing. One of the first assumptions about a man who lectures on history is that he would be an atheist so when the man said he was an atheist I wasn't exactly shocked. It made him a little more interesting. He mentioned how history tends to be written by the winners but in our class we would try to look at all bits of information and question everything, within reason and time frame of course. I was in. He also mentioned how he would like us to be involved in the discussion which for me; a combative Christian was like Christmas coming early. Lastly he mentioned how he would not give us notes until after the exemption exam. I add this because in my entire time at CIU he gave the best reason for this. He said "you writing the exemption is you trying to prove to the university that you know the contents of this course and don't need to attend it, so why should I give you notes when you, those who will write the exemption exam, claim to know the contents of the course." To say the least I was impressed.

Then came the bones of contention and this my one reader, in the immortal words of Agent Smith "brings us to why we are here". I will explain the issues first then my issues with the issues next. So firstly he mentioned how human or hominidae life began in Africa. Evolution and climate change necessitated the need 'for some' to migrate from one area to another till completely evolved humans were all over the globe. He also mentioned how survival of the fittest meant weaker genes got eliminated, giving the example of zebras with genes that caused them to be slower eventually died out because they were, surprise surprise slower. Lastly he mentioned that tribes and early beings could not be referred to as Civilisation because they did not have all the things that encompass life and living e.g art, alphabet, culture, style, etc.

Issue one: Life begun in Africa + Migration 
Firstly I completely agree with the idea that history is defined by the victors/winners. And this little fact is a major part of why I disagree with this first bit. The reason for the migration was that those creatures that had begun to evolve went in search of better and more. This is a major paraphrase but the principle remains true. This kind of thinking subconsciously sends the message that those who remained were not as good or evolved, i.e Africans. If history is written by the victors, which we know it is, then history is there to benefit those who would wish to plunder "the shackled continent". After all those that remained were lesser than they that moved on in search of more and better but I will come to this more in issue three

Issue two: Weaker genes or traits dying out
What is the determinant for weaker? Or better? Is it about desirability on our part or ability to survive in harsh conditions. It can't be the former because desirability depends on trends and styles that change ergo it must be the latter. I disagree with the latter by virtue of the fact that animals that could be characterized as weaker still exist. They, for all intents and purposes, could have and should died out millennia ago. Sloths still exist. Sheep still exist. Goats still exist. Chickens still exist. SHEEP STILL EXIST. If any creature should have died out because of survival of the fittest it would be sheep. These are creatures with a male population a lot less than female which means those that actually put up a fight are less. You can't tell me that we evolved to realize the value of domesticating sheep before pretty much every canivore within a 5km radius of the sheep population wiped them out. Keep in mind the assumption is we took millennia to get that civilized. 

Issue three: Early man cannot be counted as Civilisation because they lacked certain elements to their life and living
This is just flat out insulting to Africans. The view of one people group as primitive has been a plague of the historians since the beginning of the field of study, especially since there are few historians who are natively African. Historians in the "orthodox" sense if the word. Our art, music, heritage and culture have been seen, and in a lot of areas are still seen, as primitive. This is mainly because of a failure to understand African people from an African perspective but the thing is that throughout history we have been the losers. Therefore Africa and Africans cannot help but be seen for the majority of their history as uncivilized simple because they are poorly understood. Even a lot who claim to understand end up sounding condescending. History paints Africa badly because we to a large extent have been on the losing end of world history, the his cannot be reversed or refuted. The trouble is the history of origins is excluded from this debacle and this is a huge travesty.

There are definite solutions to this. The main one for me would be scrapping such a line of thought completely but that's not what I'm here for, and it's a losing battle. I'm just talking about my day in class with a lecturer who I found very interesting and the thoughts the class provoked. Shame I might never see the man again because I have every intention of passing Friday's exemption exam. But if I do not, look forward to or dread more from my conversations with the very interesting Mr Nesip

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