Part 2 – Why no nomadic societies created a great civilization?

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Oleg Matveychev:  Ok. I would like to propose a major hypothesis that still needs to be proved. I suggest that the difference between ancient great states and nomadic, wild societies is that the great civilizations had writing‒not just the set of laws, but the written language in itself. They had something that was written, counted, and “the pen is mightier than sword”. There is order, stability, institutions, governance, and continuity of traditions. Where there is nothing written down, there is nothing but tumbleweed, wind, practices that extend rather than build and horizontal growth.

Nomads do not create grand cultures because there are no levels where something is built on top of something else. Nomads do not know where the base is because they only know the mycelium, the rhizome, as Deles said. If something is recorded, on the base of mastering it something new can be created. This something new can be an interpretation or a side move or deeper exploration, but in any case it’s a new order and a start from a certain point of reference. There could be a reflection of second, third, fourth order and therefore building of a Babylon tower of culture becomes possible.

And nomads have to teach each new generation the same thing, repeat elementary knowledge from elders to children. That’s why nomads had such a great respect for elders, since they are the carriers of oral culture; it’s not separated from them in written culture like in ancient civilizations.

Anatoly Belyakov: What’s interesting is that hieroglyphic writing works in this sense better than phonetic. For example, in China now a Cantonese speaking person and a Mandarin speaker will pronounce and read the same hieroglyph differently, but it’s written identically and also in the same way as it was written three thousand years ago. So the continuity is better than phonetic writing because the latter follows the changes of the language and sound and registers it only technically.

O.M: So, getting back to what I was saying: the foundation of the state power and longevity, the greatness of its culture is a consequence of a fixed order existing there. Civilizations of Egypt and China existed longer that all following history of humanity. If you divide all history into two parts, the bigger part will be the history of Egypt and China. And the smaller part will be all the rest. Some historians think that, for example, in Egypt there was already Christianity, Islam, Judaism, mathematics, engineering, politics, basically, the entire western world.

A.B: American sociologist Lewis Mumford, for example, stated that all western science and all western rational thinking is structured according to a so called “archetypal machine” that was a liking of a model of governance in a totalitarian state of ancient Egypt. So the first was not the mechanization of tools, but the mechanization of behaviour in a mega-machine of Egyptian society. Institution is headed by a single brain with a very specific task (motor), and the impulses from it passed to each link of the mechanism down to the smallest bolt through a system of controls; intermediary functionaries. All other mechanisms of the later epochs were built according to the same principle.

O.M: So, the foundation of the power and longevity is the presence of law and order. No wonder Aristotle, Machiavelli, Gramsi and Foucault always said that the authority is supported not by force, but by agreement, not by violence and war, but by peace, by the design of the peace. Peace means order, interconnection, cosmos, harmony. Authority is always a positive process, new peace. During peace one can grow and develop, there is interconnection and trust. Jurgen Habermas and Karl-Otto Apel write about this, stating that the key is mutual reflection of expectations and positive feedback which create a basis of ethics.

Therefore I’ve written in my book The Sovereignty of the Spirit that if Russia wants to survive and have some kind of authority in the world, it should offer not a national idea “we are united against everybody else”, but an international and inter-historic one ‒ a design of peace for everybody, for the whole planet ‒ which would be competitive with other world peace concepts.

A.B: Your favourite Dio Chrysostom wrote about Nero‒who is conventionally condemned and hated ‒ that his orders were carried out happily, and even several generations after his death everyone would have liked him to still be alive. He says that this is what Nero’s power was based on and not on ferocity of his praetorians. It can be suspected though that Dio idealizes Nero on the backdrop of Domitianus atrocities, whom the philosopher had personal reasons to hate; Domitianus had expelled him from Rome and Dio had to wander around and beg.

O.M: Who knows. Anyway, what Chrysostom says about Nero is an extra illustration of the idea that the state policy does not have to be based on violence.

And I am not talking just about politics. Let’s take another human sphere. Imagine a court and jury. A defense lawyer comes out. He doesn’t say “You know, the real matter of things here is not that this evidence is right and that evidence is not; and these witnesses are good, and those are not good. The real matter is that I am speaking to you because my client needs me to and if you don’t believe me, the client will go to jail and I won’t get paid”.

No defense lawyer will ever say that. Instead they say “In the name of justice we all, as people, have and in the name of truth and fairness that should triumph, we ought to accept these facts, because if we don’t accept them we will insult the world harmony, reason, God and so on…”. So they appeal to common values. However when we enter government policy where the jury is the whole world, our diplomats, presidents and press say “this is favourable to Russia or China or US…”  It’s stupid to say what’s favourable to you. Why should the others care? That’s why they need to speak about universal values, universal justice, and appeal to universal norms. We are not just “for ourselves”, but we are there for everybody, for the world peace and order. We don’t give a damn about national interests. We are ready to die for universal values. We need universal, world historical ideas.

Our history already had these ideas. For example, Moscow as a Third Rome. Such as “we are the last Orthodox Christian true kingdom that is holding the world from falling into hell. Then came Fedorov, Ziolkovsky, Russian communism with the mission of carrying justice into the world, fighting the capitalism, colonialism and exploitation.

А.B: And we see that the ideas of Ziolkovsky and other Russian cosmologists came true. I don’t mean win over gravity and leaving our planet to build intergalactical colonies. The space exploration became possible because thousands of people in Soviet Union received the idea of cosmic flight with great enthusiasm and started creating all kinds of clubs and groups and then GIRD and Institute of Reactive Power; all with the support of major government figures.

At the same time in the West, solitary thinkers talking about the possibility of overcoming Earth’s gravity were regarded as eccentric dreamers. And that’s putting it mildly. Robert Goddard, the “father of American astronautics”, was mocked not only by journalists, but by colleagues who were very skeptical about his ideas, advising him to re-read the physics textbook and calling him “earthworm”. He tried very hard to make the idea of space flight more popular and in 1924 he scheduled a date for a Lunar rocket launch to make the newspapers write about it. We know the flight did not happen then or during the next few decades. However, we are getting distracted.

Go to Part 3 – did Lycurgus exist?