Back after a week and a half of pampering senryu during the first vacation she's actually taken in...I honestly don't know how long. In the nineteen (twenty this June) years I've known her? :0
Among the many things we did while not celebrating other people's holidays (or the end of other people's years) was catch some historical teevee*; the show that stands out was a breathlessly admiring piece -- broadcast on that match made in the Plain of Megiddo, the "Discovery/Times" Channel** -- about Genghis Khan. Sure, the show argued, you only know Genghis as a bloodthirsty savage with no redeeming human qualities, but the reality is quite different! The show then spent the next fifty-nine minutes, less commercials***, proving instead that sometimes first impressions are pretty accurate: turns out that Genghis Khan was a bloodthirsty savage with no redeeming human qualities.
IMAGINE! MY!! ZARPIZE!!!
For those unfamiliar with Genghis's inspiring story, he was an illiterate gorilla who, by dint of psychopathic cruelty and ambition (blent with a knack for betraying his (equally disgusting) friends, and sufficient self-denial to let him blame them for it) managed to conquer some of the most civilized peoples on earth -- often conquer rather than rule, btw, as when his men, by dint of siege, destroyed Beijing and left it to rot, or made forays into Europe to see how far they could get, only to retreat after additional pointless slaughter. His "greatest accomplishment" is itself somewhat technical -- he got tribute from the largest land-mass worth of folks in history, hence, albeit briefly, "possessed the greatest empire in the history of man" -- except if you count culture, civilization, political organization, or, well, anything other than the ability to commit war crimes, enjoy doing it, and get people to pay you protection money. His "vast empire" lasted about a century, and produced absolutely nothing at its core other than fat, happy aborigines whose exaggerated sense of their own competence led his grandson, Kublai Khan, to fail -- twice, if memory serves -- to conquer Japan, since Kublai's sailors (a) were unacquainted with some important phenomena often encountered at sea, most particularly weather, and (b) entrusted their shipbuilding to slaves gathered from conquered peoples...who, hating them, apparently sabotaged the ships.
WTG, slaves! Woo-Hoo! Now there's an accomplishment worthy of note! :)
I've said it before, I'll say it again: human beings, short-lived butterflies that they are, leave behind only two things of significance: culture and discovery. Period. The raw material of human life can produce breathtaking beauty, dazzling insight, even impressive commercial success, which is something, anyway...or a ceaseless nightmare of stupid brutality: stinking thugs grunting their satisfaction over the corpses of their betters, leaving nothing behind but needless and avoidable pain.
Until we stop lionizing in humanity -- when done on a large scale -- the sorts of behavior we execute people for when done in poverty-ridden neighborhoods, we'll have to keep echoing Stephen Dedalus's observation: "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake." This isn't a pacifist rant, btw, far from it: without the resolute application of the martial virtues every civilization is vulnerable to the next stinking thug who comes along. But the sooner we're delivered from respect for stinking thugs, historical and otherwise, the better off humankind will be.
Hope y'all had happy holidays. Welcome back. :D
93 93/93 -- AJ
* you 'n' me baby wear
nothin but flannel
so let's do it like they do
on tha History Channel
(apologies to Bloodhound Gang)
** Because nothing lessens the likelihood of accuracy in a Discovery Channel historical piece like co-sponsorship from a notoriously poor newspaper. :P
*** But also sans padding, thankfully. Too many Discovery shows (particularly the religious ones) manage to provide maybe five minutes of actual information in a one-hour slot, largely by the use of constant repetition. Urgh.