13 Temmuz 2014 Pazar

Dünyaya Neden Batı Hükmediyor (Şimdilik)



Kemirgenlerden Sömürgenlere İnsanlık Tarihi ve İnsanın Hikayesi'nden sonra bu tarzda okuduğum 3. kitap. Ne kadar başarılı olacağımı bilemeden bu 820 sayfalık kitabı özetlemeye çalışacağım.

Ian Morris kitabında, tarihi ele alma zamanını çok öncelere götürerek olayı homo habilis'e kadar götürüyor ama genel olarak ele aldığı zaman aralığı gerçek anlamdaki son buzul çağı bitişi olan MÖ 12000 ile günümüz dünyası. Kitabın başlangıç bölümlerinde henüz doğu-batı ayrımı yapılmadan ilk insanların hayata tutunuşları ve varlıklarını sürdürebilmek için neler yaptığından bahsediyor. İlerleyen sayfalarda Afrika'dan çıkıp Avrasya boyunca yayılmış insanların yerleştiği ilk bölgeyi bizim (en azından benim) bildiğimiz Mezopotampa bölgesinde biraz daya yukarı çıkarıp bizim Güneydoğu Anadolu, Suriye'nin güneybatısı ve İran'ın güneydoğusu arasındaki üçgensel bölgeye yerleştiriyor. (Kitap'taki adı ile Hilly Flanks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilly_Flanks) Ve batı uygarlığının başlangıç noktasını da bu bölge olarak konumluyor. Tahmin edilebileceği gibi doğunun başlangıcı da (ve batının zaman içinde değişen merkezlerinden farklı olarak taih boyunca neredeyse hiç değişmeyecek şekilde) Çin bölgesi oluyor.
Yazar avcı-toplayıcı insan gruplarından günümüz ülkelerine kadarki süreçte tarihsel olayları, kimi zaman neden-sonuç ilişki içerisinde ki mi zamanda tarihsel geçmişten feyz alarak detaylandırıyor. Tarihsel konuların gelişmişlik üzerinden soyut yansımasını da somutlaştırmak için kendi deyimi ile bir toplumsal gelişmişlik endeksi yaratıyor. Ve bu endeksteki puanlamaları da 4 ana başlık altında topluyor.
  • Enerji üretebilme kapasitesi
  • Organizasyonel bütünlük (Örneğin bir şehir kurup, yönetebilme)
  • Bilgi toplayabilme ve yorumlayabilme yeteneği
  • Savaşma kabiliyeti
Yıllar boyunca devam eden savaşlar, salgınlar, doğal afetler vb. olayların katkıları ile birlikte bu dört başlık altında topladığı konulara göre gelişmişlik endeksinin grafiğini çiziyor. Bu grafiği göre de MÖ 12.000-MS 500 arasındaki dönemde hep batı önde gidiyor. Bunun sebebi olarak da batı çekirdeğinde doğuya göre nispeten daha önce başlayan hayatın; fiziksel avantajları ile birlikte (dünya üzerinde evcilleştirilebilecek bitki ve hayvanların önemli bölümünün bu bölgede olması, iklim açısından kısmen de olsa avantajlı olması vb.) insanları daha organize bir hayata yönlendirdiği ve bu avantajların bir şekilde (muson yağmurlarındaki değişim) kaybolması ile var olma savaşına giren insanların küçük de olsa devletleşme modeline girerek içine girdikleri zor şartlara geçerli bir tepki vermesine bağlıyor. Daha sonra benzer şeyler doğuda da oluyor. Her iki tarafta da olan bir diğer ortak özellik gelişme gösteren bu çekirdeklerin düşmanlarını kendilerinin yaratması şeklinde kendini gösteriyor. Çekirdeklerinde etrafında bulunan çeper bölgelerinden gelen tepkilere gösterilebilen/gösterilemeyen direnç bir süre sonra doğunun liderliği ele almasını sağlıyor. MS 500-MS 1700 arasında devam eden doğu öncülüğü Amerika kıtasının keşfi ve Sanayi Devrimi ile birlikte batıya geçiyor ve günümüze kadar devam ediyor.

Yazar; tüm bu yorumları yaparken 3 ana belirleyiciden bahsediyor: biyoloji, sosyoloji ve coğrafya. İlk ikisinin sonucu belirlemedeki etkisinin çok olmadığını belirtmekle birlikte coğrafyanın her şeyi belirleyen etken olarak görüyor. Bu konudaki en belirgin örneğini de Amerika kıtasının doğu çekirdeğine göre genişlemiş batı çekirdeğine daha yakın olması şeklinde açıklıyor. Doğu ve batı arasındaki yarışta kazanının belirleyecek 2 temel sebep olarak ortaya atılan uzun vadeli kenetlenme ve kısa vadeli rastlantı tespitlerine karşı çıkan yazara şöyle bir soru sormak isterdim: Pangea ayrıldıktan sonra Amerika kıtasının Avrupa'ya daha yakın olması ve günümüzde batı öncülüğüne sebebiyet vermesi uzun vadeli rastlantı değil midir?

Kitabın son bölümünde de bundan sonra ne olacağının cevabını aynı yöntemleri kullanarak bulunmaya çalışılıyor. Çin'in günümüzdeki atılımının ve buna Amerika'nın kötü gidişatının da eklenmesi ile çok değil 2103 gibi bir tarihte doğunun üstünlüğü tekrar ele alabileceğini belirten yazar bu durumun gerçekleşmemesi için; Amerika'nın daha önce yaptığı gibi kendini yenileyebilme kabiliyetini kullanması olası bir nükleer savaşın çıkması gibi durumların belirleyici olacağını söylüyor. Bu bölümde dikkat çeken bir diğer husus da; günümüzdeki 900 olan gelişmişlik endeksi puanın benzer hesaplama yöntemi ile 2100'lerde 5000'e çıkması ile ilgili. Bu kadar büyük bir gelişmişlik süreci farkında olmadan insanlığının sonunu da hazırlayabilir diyen yazar bu noktada devlet yöneticilerine önceki zamanlara göre çok daha fazla sorumluluk düşeceğini belirtiyor.

Doğu ve batı arasındaki yarışta tüm kilometre taşlarını hesaba katan, tarihsel olaylar arasında güçlü bağlar kurup neden-sonuç ilişkilerini açıkça ortaya çıkaran ve geçmişte ne olmuştu ve gelecek neler olabilir sorularını en az bir kere bile kafasından geçirmiş insanlar için kesinlikle dimağ açıcı bir kitap. Her sayfasından kendinize yeni bilgiler katabilirsiniz. Şimdi bu kitabın bize ve bizim bugünümüze değen taraflarına bakalım.

Kitapta bizden (Müslüman, Türk ve Osmanlı) pek iyi bahsedilmiyor. Müslüman alimlerin belli dönemlerde önemli geliştirmelere yaptığını belirten bir dipnot dışında kitaptaki ilgili yerlerde standart göçebe, barbar ve pek de bir şey beceremeyen bir topluluk olarak gösterilmişiz. Kitabın son bölümünde Hz. Muhammed hakkında çok da masum olmayan ifadeler de var.

Kitabın bir diğer özelliği de AKP tarafından teşkilatlarına okunması önerilen kitaplar arasında yer alması.
Ayrıca kitaptan yazarları farklı iki uçta olan şu köşe yazılarında da bahsediliyor:


Yazar: Serdar Özabacı




War: What is it Good For? The Role of Conflict in Civilisation, from Primates to Robots Ian Morris
Profile Books, pp.495, £25, ISBN: 9781846684173

At the heart of this work is a startling and improbable statistic and the equally surprising and counterintuitive thesis that flows out of it. We are used to looking back on the 20th century as comfortably the most violent in all human history — the silver medal usually goes to the 14th — but if Ian Morris(a fellow at Stanford University) is to be believed, the century that could wipe out perhaps 50 million to 100 million in two world wars and throw in the gulags, the Cultural Revolution, civil wars, government-orchestrated famine, trench-stewed pandemics and any number of genocides for good measure was, in fact, the safest there has ever been.

If sometime around 7a.m. on 1 July 1916, as you waited to go over the top somewhere along the Somme, you had been tapped on the shoulder and told that you’d never had it so good, you might well have been mildly surprised at the news, but you would have been wrong to be. It would seem from the growing evidence of graves that Stone Age man had something like a 10–20 per cent chance of meeting a violent death, and if you factor in the anthropological evidence of surviving 20th-century Stone Age societies, then, as Morris puts it, Stone Age life was ‘10–20 times as violent as the tumultuous world of medieval Europe and 300–600 times as bad as mid-20th-century Europe.’

This might all have been sad news for a generation that had embraced the rosy idyll of Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa — she had clearly never watched the Samoan rugby team at play — but assuming that it’s true, the crucial question is why? Morris is the first to acknowledge the provisional and very probably inaccurate nature of the statistical evidence, but as the archaeological finds continue to dispose of any Rousseauian dream of man in his natural and uncorrupted state, Thomas Hobbes is not just back in the game — Morris’s way of writing is infectious — but quite possibly the only game in town. Morris writes:

As Hobbes saw it, murder, poverty and ignorance would always be the order of the day unless there was strong government — government as awesome, he suggested, as Leviathan, the Godzilla-like monster that so alarmed Job in the Bible … Such a government might be a king ruling alone or an assembly of decision-makers, but either way Leviathan must intimidate its subjects so thoroughly that they would choose submission to its laws over killing and robbing each other.

If the answer to a Stone Age prayer is Leviathan — and the bigger and more powerful the better — then the next question is ‘where does Godzilla come from?’, and that is the question that takes Morris to the study of the role that war has played in keeping us all safer.

t is conceivable, in theory, that there are other ways of taming man’s capacity for violence, but if the European Union (hiding behind the American Leviathan) has at least temporarily succeeded in boring and regulating a continent into relative docility, pretty well the only force through history capable of creating the Leviathans big and strong enough to cage William Golding’s ‘beast within’ and bully, bribe and coerce the levels of violence down is, paradoxically, war. ‘Lord knows there’s got to be a better way,’ Morris quotes the song,

but apparently there isn’t. If the Roman empire could have been created without killing millions of Gauls, if the United States could have been built without killing millions of Native Americans … if conflicts could have been resolved by discussion instead of force, humanity would have had the benefit of larger societies. But that did not happen … People hardly ever give up their freedom, including their rights to kill and impoverish each other, unless forced to do so, and virtually the only force strong enough to bring this about has been defeat in war, or fear that such a defeat is imminent.

‘It is a depressing thought,’ Morris acknowledges, but — plucky thing that he is — you have never seen a man get over his depression as quickly as he does here. I have no idea whether he is right in either his argument or conclusions (and I’m not sure he’s always sure either), but after about 50 pages it seemed best to stop fussing about the Arrow War or the implications of the American War of Independence and just settle back to enjoy an exuberant and wonderfully entertaining tour de force of history, archaeology, anthropology, geography, evolutionary biology and technological and military speculation that improbably combines a hardcore intellectual seriousness with a larky, almost blokeish note that would go down just as well on Top Gear as it clearly does at Stanford.

Morris is as likely to turn to TV’s Caedfael as to Clausewitz — it would be nice to think that future anthropologists might use Midsomer Murders to demonstrate that the average murder rate in a 20th-century English village was 4.3 a week — to his dog Milo or Mohammed Ali as to Mackinder; but for all the jokes, stories and neo-Benthamite calculi he never loses sight of where his argument is going.

The book opens with Agrippa and the Battle of the Graupian Mountain somewhere in the wastes of Scotland. From there, Morris tests and hammers out his theory step by step, ranging from China to Mesoamerica and from the Roman, Mauryan and Han empires to the emergence of the two great ‘globocops’ of modern history — the Pax Britannica and the Pax Americana — to demonstrate that, whatever the ‘short term’ costs (‘they make a wasteland and call it peace’, Calgacus famously declared before the Graupian Mountain), in the long run, the very, very long run, ‘productive war’ has always made the world a safer and richer place for the losers as well as the winners.

This is not much consolation to the tens of millions killed in the short term, of course — and for Ian Morris the ‘short term’ might be a 1,000-year ‘unproductive’ blip — and what happens in the future is still very much up for grabs. In Morris’s opinion these next three or four decades are going to be the most dangerous in human history. But if we do happen to survive not just all the known and unknown threats that Islamism, resources, climate change, China or a resurgent Russia might throw up, but also all the ‘unknowable unknowns’ as well — if, as he says, we get lucky with our timing and do survive all this, then that very biological predisposition to violence that has made us so good at cooperating, organising, innovating and evolving in the pursuit of better ways of waging war and wielding power will finally put war out of business.

Then human beings (or at least the ‘trans-humans’ and ‘post-human’ hybrids that will succeed us in about 2050) will find themselves at the end of the 10,000-year-long trek that has taken our species from Stone Age violence to that mythical Happy Valley of tolerant, inclusive, multi-cultural, crime-free civilisation that social scientists like to label ‘Denmark’. Nice thought, and a terrific book; but tell that to Sarah Lund.

War. What Is It Good for? review – the productive role of military conquestTaking an evolutionary approach to history, Ian Morris argues that humanity has benefited from centuries of warfare


War is good for absolutely nothing; it means "destruction of innocent lives" and "tears to thousands of mothers' eyes" – so go the lyrics of the classic 1970 pop hit. Ian Morris does not agree. War is essential tohistory, he argues in his new book. Only through warfare has humanity been able to come together in larger societies and thus to enjoy security and riches. It is largely thanks to the wars of the past that our modern lives are 20 times safer than those of our stone age ancestors.

This proposition is not as startling or paradoxical as it might at first seem, especially as by "war" Morris means conquest or nation-building. Nor is it particularly original. Back in the 17th century, Thomas Hobbes set the ball rolling with his vision of life as nasty, brutish and short; much more recently, the Israeli historian Azar Gat has set out the evidence at length in his War in Human Civilization. Morris's book is essentially a popularisation of Gat's monumental, if forbidding work.

To prove his case, Morris reviews the history of warfare, carrying the reader confidently from bows and arrows to ballistic missiles, and sketching in the parallel development of social forms, from hunter-gatherer groups to the EU.

He is particularly good on the role of military innovation in the long process of European colonisation, which began in the 15th century and ended in 1914. His neat formula about the productive role of war works best for the classical period but falters by the time it reaches the 18th century, as ideology, high finance and diplomacy enter the equation. Morris's response is to bolt on extra elements – such as the model of global conflict produced by the geographer Sir Halford Mackinder in the 1900s – or simply to concentrate on the military narrative.

As in his Why the West Rules – for Now, Morris combines extraordinary erudition with light, manageable prose. He bestrides the oceans and continents, leaps nimbly across the disciplines, and works hard to keep the reader engaged. We learn that "if an elephant rampaged in the wrong direction, the only way to stop it from trampling friends rather than foes was for its driver to hammer a wooden wedge into the base of its skull"; that Robert Clive, after winning the Battle of Plassey in 1757, helped himself to a reward of £160,000 (about $400m in today's money); and that during the first world war, Britain and her allies spent $36,485.48 for every enemy soldier they killed, whereas Germany and her allies spent only $11,344.77 per corpse. As the success of Jared Diamond's books shows, there is now a huge public appetite for this sort of brew of history, anthropology, archaeology, evolutionary psychology and biology – particularly when served up as tastily and intelligently as it is by Morris.

What, though, does it all add up to? Big History of this kind is often more interesting for the cultural assumptions behind it than for its content: Hegel thought the function of history was to produce the Prussian state; Toynbee saw the hand of God everywhere. Morris is a typical modern academic: a materialist, but not a Marxist, with a strongly evolutionary approach. He favours geographical explanations, discounts the role of ideas and downplays the "western intellectual tradition".

So, when he gets to what he calls "probably the most important question in the whole of military history" – why did China not keep its early lead in firearms ? – he dismisses Victor Davis Hanson's argument that a longstanding western cultural stance towards rationalism, free inquiry and the dissemination of knowledge led Europe to forge ahead, and prefers the simpler answer that Europeans got good at guns because they fought a lot and that the topography of Europe encouraged its population to invest in guns.

Again, as an archaeologist, Morris takes the long view and a rigorously quantitative approach. This means that he can dismiss Hitler, the Holocaust and the second world war as minor blips in the real story of the 20th century – the quantum leap in living standards and life expectancy. So what if 50 million died? That is a tiny amount compared to the growth in the Chinese population over this period.

Which, some people might think, only goes to show that the quantitative approach is intellectually worthless. What is more, some of Morris's quantitative assertions don't bear close scrutiny; as he himself concedes, the statistical evidence for the violence of early society is based on impressionistic evidence and fraught with methodological difficulties.

In his conclusion Morris speculates on the future of warfare when the current Pax Americana runs out. I wish I shared his faith that "the computerisation of everything" will make war redundant.

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