On why some nations flourish whereas others stay trapped in debauchery of intelligence! The preeminence of ‘Mullahs and Ayatollah’ is the principal test that the nation of Islam faces within the crescent of crisis that extends from Atlantic to Indian Ocean. It is the software that determines the performance of the hardware; it is the problem with the corrupted software that allows nothing to improve.
I wrote: ”The banking and finance capitals that could have emerged in the coastal cities and regions of Alexandria, the Yemen and Sumatra, as rivals to Europe were stemmed in their infancy; risk and calculations associated with risks were considered haram; without insurance no shipping and trade is possible. The progress of Islamic Empires was limited to and around the lake of Mediterranean instead of Ocean faring by Spain, Portuguese and others. Any belief that employs “guardians of truth” on shaping of landscape of intellect will implode.
In responses Zack asked me – ‘This is such a provocative thought; I could never have imagined that these trading ports had the potential to become banking institutions on the scale of London or Amsterdam…’
Not exactly replicating the spirit of the book, I am presently reading ‘Freedom’s Daughter: Letters between Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, 1922-39.’ I thought Zack deserved a stimulating answer to what he considers a provocative reflection. Innocuous statements like this are burdened with huge weight of history. I want Zack to know what I really meant when I wrote this…
Progressive evolution of ‘intellect and prosperity of any nation’ is directly proportional to emancipation and inversely proportional to terrorization. It is the ‘Priest and Professor’ together chart the contours of development of a nation. Where priests are distorted and professors lead the nation one way to ‘heavens’ nothing comes out of such a land. London and Amsterdam don’t appear in vacuum, human history is checkered with instances when great strides are accelerated as a result of ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man.’
Someone has daringly to nail the ‘95 Theses’ edict on the door of Alazhar or Shiite marjah in Najaf or Qum. The slumber that the faithful are enjoying is a sleep that is letting time go by. It is the ‘Priests and Professor’ together chart the contours of development of any nation. When Professors and priests have a common objective of puritanical heavenly returns the fortunes of nations decline this is the unapologetic narration of the times gone by of the world. Where Priests are corrupt and Professors guide the nation on the ideological path of “only one way to heavens,” the nation stagnates and dies.
Nations who miss the train really miss the train… Without free man no trade is possible, without extrovert, gregarious national trait no advancement is possible. Proprietary rights stem from free title of property and ability to reconstruct from ashes if calamity struck. That is what is known as insurance. No trade and shipping is possible without insurance industry. Predestination and will of God destroys the idea of risk taking that is at the fore of entrepreneurship. What were the causes of technological creativity within human society is a question that confronts every human mind?
“The Lever of Riches”, written by Joel Mokyr weaves a splendid account of the economic obscured story called technological progress. Other imposing contemporary economic commentary that are recommended David Landes’s “the Wealth and Poverty of Nations” and Jared Diamond’s sublime “Guns, Germs and Steel”.
Mokyr in ‘The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress’ differentiate between the connection of inventors and their physical environment, that determined their willingness to challenge nature and the social environment. Creativity and fresh ideas are slave of examination and lack of restrictions. Free thought is nurtured in womb of liberation, take emancipation away and ideas are still born. East maniacal fixation with what is enjoined by ‘writ of heavens’ neglect all these points. This has been the source of dominant anxiety for nations that so far are struck with talbenised medievalism.
How does technological creativity occur? There are two elements necessary in the invention-innovation sequence: “technical problems involve a struggle between mind and matter, that is, they involve control of the physical environment.” The other component is social: “For a new technique to be implemented, the innovator has to react with a human environment comprised of competitors, customers, suppliers, the authorities, neighbours, possibly the priest.” It is the ‘Priest and Professor’ that twins together the chart of progress of a nation. Where Priests are corrupt and Professor is leading the nation only one way to ‘heavens’ nothing comes out of such a nation. Papal supremacy had to be abolished for renaissance and age of discovery to take firm hold. Without Martin Luther 95 Theses edict nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg church doors an event now seen as sparking the Protestant Reformation the nations would have remained struck in medievalism. Luther confrontation changed the course of Western civilization. The supremacy of ‘Mullah and Ayatollah’ is the biggest challenge that present nation of Islam faces in the crescent of crisis. Someone has to nail the ’95 Theses’ edict on the door of Alazhar or Shiite marjah in Najaf or Qum?
According to Mokyr ‘Economic growth is the result of four distinct processes: Investment (increases in the capital stock), Commercial Expansion, Scale or Size Effects, and Increase in the Stock of Human Knowledge (which includes technological progress proper as well as changes in institutions).’ European intellectual and scientific traditions may also have favoured the emergence of industrial technology. Whatever factors responsible, Mokyr concludes that the emergence of industrial technology was probably an unusual and highly dependent incident.
Joel Mokyr correlates technological creativity with economic progress throughout classical antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and then into the later 19th century. Mokyr starts with the technologies of Greek and Roman relic, then moves on to the abandoned breakthroughs of Western Europe’s Dark Ages (the horseshoe, the horse collar, the waterwheel) and the Islamic Golden Age. But his narration obviously center on the Western European technological zenith that began around 1400.
Just rewind forward a little from here, a visit to the age of renaissance in Europe when Ottoman (under Suleiman the magnificent) hit big and monasteries produced art and literature that still remains pride of mankind, when Vinci thought of flying machines, and Medici’s supported renaissance took wings of full flight. Lorenzo de’ Medici (1 January 1449 – 9 April 1492) life coincided with the high point of the early Italian Renaissance; his death marked the end of the Golden Age of Florence. It is not an incident that “The Age of Exploration”; Christopher Columbus would reach the “New World” only six months after Lorenzo de’ Medici . Lorenzo’s court included artists such as Piero and Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Michelangelo Buonarroti who were involved in the 15th century Renaissance. Michelangelo lived with Lorenzo and his family for several years, dining at the family table and attending meetings of the Neo-Platonic Academy.
Ideological and racial shyness is a worst crime that a land can perpetrate. Nations who become recluse drop out in long run. The failure of China to develop an Industrial Revolution remains a persistent puzzle. By about 1400, Chinese civilization was the world leader in many key technologies but then slides back and is eventually overtaken and then explosively surpassed by Europe.’ An example of general introversion is Chinese decision after Eunuch Admiral Zheng Voyages to lock within, (a kind of claim of supremacy that world had nothing to give to china) they could have been supreme nation today if that decision to look within was not made. Mokyr discusses the role of technical innovation as a motor of economic growth and societal revolution.
Another book ‘1421 The Year China Discovered the World’ by Gavin Menzies narrates how China Discovered the World. ‘On the 8th of March, 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen sailed from its base in China. The ships, huge junks nearly five hundred feet long and built from the finest teak, were under the command of Emperor Zhu Di’s loyal eunuch admirals. Their mission was ‘to proceed all the way to the end of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas’ and unite the whole world in Confucian harmony. The journey would last over two years and circle the globe.
When they returned Zhu Di lost control and China was launching its long, self-imposed remoteness from the world it had so freshly embraced. The great ships rotted at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. Lost was the data that Chinese ships had reached America seventy years before Columbus and circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. They had also discovered Antarctica, reached Australia three hundred and fifty years before Cook and solved the problem of longitude three hundred years before the Europeans.” Startling new evidence suggests that not only was America discovered by the Chinese the Eunuch Admiral that discovered it supplied the world maps to the King of Portugal to give to Columbus!’
Mokyr presents some tempting results. ‘Technological innovation is not driven primarily by ordinary market forces. The Industrial Revolution was the culmination in many centuries of technological innovation dating back to the Middle Ages. Emancipation and liberty is fertilizer of intellectualism that breeds innovation. Timeline of philosophy is sparsely populated from 600 BC to 1600 AD we can count nearly 100-120 great minds, yet from 1600 onwards the productivity of minds took a new trajectory, one sees unprecedented proliferation of minds in a new uncharted territory.
An important point made by Mokyr is that ‘no nation or culture was a perpetual locus of technological innovation. In Europe, innovations were most common in Italy during the Renaissance, followed by major sites in the Low Countries and Germany, followed by the British explosion. Europe, with its divided polities, may have been more conducive to the development of industrial technology.’
Technology interweaved with religious zeal is behind the age of discovery of new lands. When Columbus made his pleas for funding of trips across Atlantic it was Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon who approved the voyage by Christopher Columbus that ultimately led to the “discovery” of the Americas. By their marriage in October 1469, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile initiated a confederation of the two kingdoms that became the basis for the unification of Spain. By their support of the explorations of Christopher Columbus, they also laid the foundations for Spain’s colonies in the New World. Consequently, together with Ferdinand, Isabella initiated the chain of events that would lead to the Golden Age of Spanish imperialism. As a legacy of this empire, Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world after Mandarin, Hindi, and English.
“In the love of Christ and his Maid-Mother,” she says, “I have caused great misery. I have depopulated towns and districts, provinces and kingdoms.” They were religious zealots but were patrons of voyagers, scholars and artists. Religious persecution which is inward driven leads to disasters. History shows that religious persecution that encourages patronizing of art, culture, science and adventure led to greater successes of nation. The course of human history would have taken a different trajectory. Why Brazilian speaks Portugese?
It is because of the Treaty of Tordesillas. The easternmost part of current Brazil, when it was discovered accidentally in 1500 by Pedro Álvares Cabral, while on route to India, was granted to Portugal. The Papal Bull Aeterni regis was issued on 21 June 1481 by Pope Sixtus IV, simply confirmed the substance of the Treaty of Alcáçovas, thereby reiterating that treaty’s confirmation of Castile in its possession of the Canary Islands and its granting of all further acquisitions made by Christian powers in Africa (and eastward to the Indies) to Portugal. On May 4, 1493 the Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI decreed in the bull Inter caetera that all lands west and south of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde Islands should belong to Spain, although territory under Christian rule as of Christmas 1492 would remain untouched.
The Portuguese King John II was not pleased with that arrangement, feeling that it gave him far too little land — it prevented him from possessing India, his near term goal (as of 1493, Portuguese explorers had only reached the east coast of Africa). He opened negotiations with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to move the line to the west and allow him to claim newly discovered lands east of the line. The treaty effectively countered the bulls of Alexander VI and was sanctioned by Pope Julius II via the bull Ea quae of January 24, 1506. The Bull is the legal basis of Don Christopher Columbus’s authority as vice regal agent of the Spanish crown in the Americas and one of a series implementing the intent of Romanus Pontifex which was rescinded/redacted by Sublimus Dei.1*
Purdah from the world is/was a disaster. Adoption of technology with the aim of ‘total victory over enemy’ led to ocean going ships, galleys were replaced by carracks, at battle of Lepanto Turks lost because of 6 superior Venetian ships had far better fire power. Ocean going ships not only led to overturn the threat of Turks but spread of Gospel/Christianity in the lands far away, after all Incas and Aztecs have no idea about Jesus, it was Spanish invasions that brought them under the tabernacle of Christ. Imagine ‘Saladin’ or ‘Ottoman Suleimen’ was able to cross the Atlantic with their zeal and passion.’Cortes’ conquering Aztecs with Iron swords they had never seen could have been easily ‘Mehmed’ if he had the technology and the ships. After all even with the smaller ones they had Spain. Gibraltar comes from Jabal is Arabic for mountain. The rock/mountain of Gibraltar was named Jabal Tariq, after Tariq bin Ziyad, Moorish military leader who took his army from Morocco over to Spain. He took his ships to this mountain and burned them. The army then knew that there was no retreat.
It was technological innovation added to military abilities mixed with religious zeal of Papal holy authority that helped ‘west’ to control in all seven seas the sea borne trade and acquire 10 million sq mile of land from1878-1914. In 1800 the west controlled 35% of he world land mass, by 1914 they had increased the total to almost 85 percent. One book I would refer is ‘The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare’ it provides a unique account of Western warfare from antiquity to the present. The book treats all aspects of the subject from the Greeks to the nuclear age: the development of warfare on land, sea and air; weapons and technology; strategy and defense; discipline and intelligence. Throughout, there is an emphasis on the socio-economic aspects of war: who pays for it, how can its returns be measured, and to what extent does it explain the rise of the West to global dominance over two millennia?
Samuel P. Huntington wrote that “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.” Open minds, massive innovation and entrepreneurship leading to technological breakthroughs all collectively helped them lay the ground work of unprecedented permanent ideological expansion from 1492 to 1914. Preponderant role of west has continued from Salamis (480 BC), Lechfiled (955 AD), Tenochtitlan (1519 -21), Plessey (1757) based on superior technology and its ruthless application to wipe the opposition clean.
Coastal sea faring was the safest for ‘weak ships’ before advent of technology. It is for this reason world greatest cities are either coastal or on the banks of river. Those who failed to adopt technology like Turks or Arabs remained although they were early sea farers remain confined to Mediterranean they never crossed the oceans they didn’t have the ships. Superior Ocean going power for a world dominated by coastal living was the key of success. Mediterranean and riparian societies developed because of that- fresh river and coast combination was ideal for ‘excess food’ that was needed for freedom of man to engage in pursuit of warfare. After all, Hittite and Sumerians engaged in war fare only after they created enough excess food.
Technology with relative higher freedom of minds seeded the progress of Europeans over other societies. In a world of supercomputers, genetic engineering, and fiber optics, technological creativity is ever more the key to economic success. But why are some nations were creative than others and why do some highly innovative societies–such as ancient China, Ottomans –pass into stagnation? It was introversion, lack of freewill and disdain for technology. In Ototmans Mehmed the Fatih, Suleiman the Magnificent and Selim 1 and some other 15 minor Caliphs provided the bulk of fodder of impulse that kept the Ottomans going for 700 years. Others were left rottening in the kafes. Lack of new technology killed the Ottomans. Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technological progress, Mokyr sets the background for his analysis by tracing the major inventions and innovations that have transformed society since ancient Greece and Rome. What emerges from this survey is often surprising: the classical world, for instance, was largely barren of new technology, the relatively backward society of medieval Europe bristled with inventions, and the period between the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution was one of slow and unspectacular progress in technology, despite the tumultuous developments associated with the Voyages of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution.
If history serves any lessons, the militants across the Islamic world should take heed from the fall of the Muslim rule in Granada, Spain, in 1492. It provides a good example of the elimination of a system not keeping pace with the march of events of the period. The Muslim rule over the bulk of Spain spanned over seven centuries (711-1492) The orthodox Muslims say that Granada collapsed because the Muslims there had deviated from their faith and had become corrupt and luxury loving; they were weakened by internecine struggle for power. That is correct but only partly. The real reason was that the whole of Europe had entered a new era. New ideas, new technologies and new political systems were beginning to herald the new age. Reformation had taken roots and the concept of nation state was fast developing. This new concept was supplanting the system of different, often warring, tribal lords and kings.
The inability of Ameer Abul Hasan of Granada to see clearly this new reality and adjust his response accordingly in his domain that was already suffering from a triangular strife for power between him, his brother and son, ensured the end of the Muslim rule of over seven centuries. Abu Abdullah, the last king of Granada, and his family were exiled to the hills. As he looked at the majestic palace of Alhambra, a name still linked to Spain Islamic Era for the last time, tears came into his eyes. At this, his aged mother Aisha said scornfully, ‘Abu Abdullah, cry like a woman for a Kingdom you could not defend as a man.’
Alas part of the world still remains with what is ‘enjoined and promised’ in the next world and fancy to adjourn the possibilities of ‘this world’ to inferior man who they called a ‘worldly man,’ their Jihads are aimed at conquering ‘man minds’ and to subject them to will of Allah. The only thing that conquers mind is liberation from tenets and creed.