The flow of power and progress | by Imtiaz Rafi Butt

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The flow of power and progress


EARTH has existed for over 4.5 billion years and mankind is believed to have been around for nearly 5 million years according to most scientific estimates.

For most of this time, mankind has existed on the planet much like other creatures, more specifically as mammals.

Being born, living a life, reproducing, consuming and then dying after passing on genes to offspring has been the natural cycle of existence for the majority of time for mankind. Yet, there is no golden thumb rule.

Many entities are constant yet others are always in flux. Till around 10,000 BC, human beings lived like apes.

The fossil records from all parts of the globe verify that.

Human beings were social animals, who lived in families in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

The men hunted and fought off predator beasts while the women nurtured the young ones.

As a species, they were at the mercy of nature, wild animals and elements alike.

Human beings began to develop extraordinary brains. With it came the discovery of fire, tools and organization of tribes.

A journey was set in motion that would alter the face of the planet from what it had been for billions of years.
After the discovery of fire, the women invented agriculture and harvesting.

Soon, the hunter role of men was transformed to a stationery lifestyle.

Earlier, human beings were constantly on the move in search of fertile areas, rich with fruits, prey and favourable weather. Agriculture transformed human way of life.

In a few hundred years, there was ample supply of food. There was no need to move every now and then.

The main requirement was that of large area of irrigated land and virgin soil.

The agriculture way of life combined families and tribes into communities, which was to become a bedrock for civilizations and empires to come.

For a time, hunter-gatherer tribes clashed with agriculture based tribes.

The agriculturists would be raided by hostile hunter tribes. They would steal livestock, wheat, grain, maize and farm animals alike

. Earlier, clashes between tribes would occur for dominance or defending of territory. Now, it was mostly for food and livestock.

The harvesting could use more and more hands. And so, even today, basic and primitive communities based on agriculture have large families with many children as they can assist in the process of farming and agriculture at an early age.

Soon, the families grew. The communities developed small forces and armies to defend themselves against raiders trying to steal and pillage their handiwork.

Within a few thousand years, around 5000 BC, the first kingdoms began to appear.

The progenitor of them all are believed to be the kingdoms of Akkad, Sumeria and Babylon in the Middle East. Rightly referred to be the cradle of humanity.

The shortage of irrigated land and ferocity of war, famine and disease forced smaller and vulnerable communities to move and explore.

The initial kingdoms of Middle East were based on settlers who left Africa.

Exiled families ventured into Africa, Asia and Europe in regular phases.

When the kingdoms of Middle East collapsed, the lessons from these Babylonian civilizations were combined in the first formidable collection of kingdoms; the Persian empire.

In historical records, Xerxes was the first emperor who commanded the known world.

They formed complex armies and began to conceptualize religion, art, poetry, infrastructure, civil service loyal to kings and the emperor and management of farming and armaments. Economy and coins were installed.

The movement of settlers initiated small kingdoms in Greece, Egypt, India simultaneously.

Mainly, the cities would crop us near port cities based on trade and fishing or near irrigated lands for farming and agriculture.

The Persian empire existed in Asia while Egyptians with their magnificent pyramids and sphinxes ventured into Africa.

The Egyptians made great strides in the field of architecture, farming, religion, kingship and agriculture.

Stories of the Pharaoh echoed in the books of the Greeks to the sacred texts of Judaism and Christianity.

But while all this was happening in Asia, the Greeks were grappling with ideas of philosophy, wisdom and reason in Europe.

And around 300BC, the Greek world of knowledge and superior intellect exploded unto the world in the form of Alexander the Great.

He was an epoch of human understanding of nature, leadership, knowledge, intelligence and ambition. With Alexander were laid the foundations of the Roman empire.

The Greco-Roman period is referred to in history as the Hellenic period. After the death of Alexander, the Greeks and Macedonians had outdone themselves.

With icons such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Anaxagoras, Pythagoras and many others, they had etched their names in human history with golden words.

After Greeks, the Romans expanded the ideas and concepts of their neighbours but doing it much better than before.

The Romans began from Sicily and transformed Greek knowledge and improved it. They were better warriors and expert managers.

Soon, this skill of management and administration in all fields of human life helped them conquer all of Europe with their uniformed disciplined armies. Then, parts of Africa and then Asia fell under Roman control.

With names like Julius Caesar, Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, Marcus Trajanus.

The Romans dominated humanity for over 700 years, a remarkable feat.

After a long run, the Roman Empire fell to corruption, division and discord.

Christianity became the state religion under Emperor Constantine and the empire fractured into Eastern and Western halves.

In the same pattern, simultaneous to the Romans, the tribes of Arab were united under the banner of Islam around 700 AD. With the unity of God and the Holy Qur’an.

They began their empire building by conquering Arab lands and then Persia.

Like all before them, every rise has its fall and forces of nature prepared another nation for dominance while the victor lost its power gradually.

Time attempts to erase everything and what it cannot erase, it corrupts. The Arab empire became the Ummayad Empire and then the Abbasids and then Turkish.

In four phases, the Muslim dominance lasted more than the Roman era.

While the Muslims stopped at progress, the Europeans revived the old knowledge and explored new reasoning and logic.

Around the 14th Century, art, culture, knowledge and commerce found their new home in England and Europe.

And so, once again, another rise was in the works. The French and the English coined a rapturous idea; colonialism.

Instead of making empires, Europeans nations sought to pillage and ravage other nations. A reminiscent of primitive wild raiders but in improvised methods.

Colonialism wreaked havoc and gave rise to wars till the First and the Second World War when the Turkish empire ended in the first and colonialism began its sick death.

In the next 50 years, majority of nations removed their yolk of colonial masters. A new world with freedom was born.

And in the two world wars, the European powers weakened, two new powers emerged, Russia and the United States of America.

In little over a hundred years from the World Wars, first the Russian Federation was dissolved from corruption, internal dissent and counter-manoeuvres by the Americans.

Throughout the 1900s, the Americans dominated the human world.

But once again, their rise was set in motion towards a downward trend, mostly from the inside and another rising power, China.

As a civilization of over 4000 years old, China is now overtaking the Americans as a superior and dominant force.

Time is doing its wonder once again. The methods and details may have changed but the golden thumb rule of flow of power and dominance has not.

Through original ideas, reason, logic, innovation and discipline, new powers are born that overtake the previous ones only to be overtaken themselves by another power through better, improved and even more innovative ideas.

Like the circular nature life, planets, echo systems and the galaxy, the flow of power among nations in the human world is also circular in nature.

Change is inevitable and only a matter of time. A legacy will be written and time will pass, the old will die and make way for the young, whether a nation or a people agree or not.

Power and progress will change hands, perhaps, the secret lies in the acceptance of every rise and fall, and making the rise honourable and the fall dignified.
—The writer is Chairman, Jinnah Rafi Foundation, based in Lahore.

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