Sunday, 25 March 2012

Lost cities of the moderns?

You are probably going to think that this is an odd post but bear with me. Last week I watched an episode of 'Lost Cities of the Ancients' on BBC Four. 500 years ago and more the people of the remote Lambayeque Valley in the Andes in Peru, built 250 Pyramids. The programme told the story of three periods of pyramid building, each of which lasted over 100 years, ending in the 1500s. Archeologists think that the people of the valley believed that  they could appease the gods by building pyramids, and by having a priesthood which engaged in rituals to keep the gods happy. Unfortunately the first stage of this civilisation was swept away by a flood, and the people set fire to the pyramids because they had failed to appease the gods. They then started again and built more pyramids but an another ecological disaster struck, and again the new pyramids were burned. In the final phase, at a place called Tucame, they built 26 pyramids, and it was invasion of Peru by the Spanish which struck terror into the people of the valley, even though the Spaniards never actually came to the valley. The priesthood embarked on a series of desperate rituals including human sacrifice but this failed to drive the invaders away, and finally, having failed, the people burned the pyramids. After that, the civilisation disappeared.

The Pyramids of Tucame

Watching that programme made me think of neoliberalism and the current crisis of capitalism. Capitalism has only been around 200 years or so, about half the time of the civilisation of the Lambayeque Valley. In that time there have been a number of major crises and each time the priests of the 'free' market have decreed that the only solution is 'more of the same', more and more 'free' market. That is where we are now. As we are threatened by the ecological crisis of climate change, our leaders are repeating the mistakes of the past just like the Lambayeque people did, and the faith of our economic and political 'priesthood' in the market is driving our civilisation towards an ecological catastrophe. In the current economic crisis of capitalism, it is the poor, disabled, sick and unemployed, and working and middle classes who are the sacrificial victims of the market.

I just wonder if, in a hundred years time, our descendants will gaze upon the ruins of New York, Moscow and London, and wonder at the stupidity of the leaders who repeated the same mistakes over and over again and drove our civilisation to destruction.

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