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  • Hi, I'm John Green. This is Crash Course World History, and today we're going to talk about civilization.

  • Oh, Mr. Green, Mr. Green I have that video game. I like to play as the Assyrians!

  • Yeah, Me From The Past. It was a video game. In fact, that is still is a video game; they've continued to update it.

  • But, you know, like actual civilization, its best days are probably behind it.

  • So those you watched our first series will remember that civilization is a complicated and controversial concept.

  • Like to describe an individual or a group as civilized is to give them a privileged status that they maybe haven't earned

  • while to call someone uncivilized is an insult, right?

  • And according to the usual mythology about civilizations, there are these uncivilized barbarians often from the hills

  • or the forest or the steppe, and they realize the benefits of settled agriculture

  • and give up their barbaric ways to settle in the valleys, eventually assimilating into civilized society.

  • That's a really neatly packaged story, right? Like people all around the world come to the same realization

  • and they all make progress and become civilized, but what if it's not actually true?

  • So today a little something for the anarchist historians among you. We're going to look at

  • The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia by James Scott.

  • Scott argues that our view of hill people as primitive, tribal barbarians has it all wrong,

  • and he calls into question much of what we assume about civilization.

  • So as you know, here at Crash Course History we like to approach history from many different perspectives

  • because history isn't just about what happened, it's also about how we think about what happened.

  • So here you go anarchists, we are finally going to address your burning suspicion that civilization does not actually require a state.

  • So long time Crash Course usual remember that many of the earlier civilizations were founded in river valleys,

  • probably because the rivers brought water and made agriculture easier and more predictable.

  • You know, you got the big 3: ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley civilization- all near river valleys.

  • In fact, one of them is named after the Indus River, and because the land was so fertile for agriculture,

  • you could finally have large, concentrated populations because there was a food surplus.

  • Everything that we associate with civilization : from the idea that different people can have different jobs to like this video camera, all a result of food surplus.

  • Because if some people couldn't create enough food for all people, then, like, all people would be very focused on getting food.

  • Having a food surplus was a huge change compared to like the first 100,000 years of humanity when everyone was a hunter-gatherer.

  • Food surplus led to population growth and population concentration

  • which led to states and what we tend to call civilizations

  • which are characterized by good things like writing and arts and grocery stores,

  • so that's the traditional narrative, but I'm not sure that it's the whole story. Let's go the Thought Bubble.

  • Now we might equate civilization with high culture, but historically it's probably more accurate to equate it with state control.

  • Like The Han Chinese who were a pretty successful civilizing empire back in the day, wrote of barbarians as people who were beyond state control.

  • Some of these so-called barbarians were pastoral nomads whose raiding posed a genuine threat to the Chinese,

  • but others were people who lived in the hills.

  • So the opposition of civilized agricultural societies living in the valleys and barbarian hill people is as old as, you know, like, the hills.

  • And one of the earliest and most famous examples of the town vs. country debate is the Epic of Gilgamesh

  • where Enkidu, the wild man from the hills, goes to town, spends seven days with a prostitute,

  • joins civilization and becomes Gilgamesh's best friend.

  • In Southeast Asia, the story that hill people were dazzled by civilization and joined up circulated as well.

  • Here, though, the civilizing force was the reading of religious or philosophical texts.

  • But more important than either access to Classical age texts, or civilizing experiences in the city,

  • was that civilizations were based on settled agriculture and were associated with states.

  • In a way, it can be argued that without a state, there's no such thing as a barbarian.

  • But because we live in states, we tend to think that they are A) Necessary B) Timeless, and C) overall a pretty good thing,

  • and almost all civilizations are associated with states, like ancient Egypt, or China in the remote past or France if you're into Western civilization.

  • Thanks Thought Bubble. I mean it's telling that the Mongols were arguably the greatest conquerors of the premodern world,

  • but we usually don't call them a civilization. They weren't just agriculture-y and state-like enough.

  • Although of course the Mongols being the Mongols, there is an exception to the rule:

  • the Mongols DID settle in a recognizable state in Yuan China. Ughhh, history, even your exceptions have exceptions.

  • So when we talk about states, we need to remember that it's pretty common for the creation of states to involve some form of coercion

  • like in ancient, and sometimes, not ancient societies. The power of the state rested primarily on two things - the army and taxes.

  • And if you want to create an army or raise taxes, or both,

  • it's helpful to have a sedentary population that spends most of its time producing food because food is very valuable to a state.

  • I mean, while gold and palaces are beautiful, you can't feed them to your army.

  • Anyway, agricultural production and the creation of states are deeply intertwined.

  • Agricultural surplus and control over it leads to other aspects of civilization like property rights and patriarchy.

  • Well, I guess it doesn't have to be the patriarchy, but it usually has.

  • So while states rely on the exploitation of agricultural labour and the subjugation of their citizens,

  • then the civilization narratives that barbarians were drawn to civilizations by their obvious superiority is kind of problematic.

  • Because there's a big downside to all that state control and taxes and conscription and servitude.

  • And this leads us to James Scott's big idea

  • that rather than primitive hill tribes being attracted to the glamour and stability of valley settlements,

  • hill cultures are formed by people running away from civilization; basically, Scott argues that people flee to the hills

  • because it makes it hard for states to find and conquer them. The Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun remarked that

  • Arabs can gain control over flat territory and do not pursue tribes that hide in the mountains.

  • Then you have the Franco-Hungarian military officer, Baron de Tott, poetically exclaiming that "The steepest places have always been the asylum of liberty",

  • but the great French Historian Fernand Braudel probably summed it up best when he wrote,

  • "The mountains as a rule are a world apart from civilizations which are an urban and lowland achievement.

  • Their history is to have none, to remain always on the fringes of the great waves of civilization..."

  • And you may have noticed from the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan to people in Colorado with their legal marijuana,

  • it's still kind of difficult for states to control hill people. This idea turns the civilization narrative on its head.

  • Hill people are not barbarians waiting to become civilized. They're refugees from civilization itself.

  • And this brings up the possibility that life in the hills is actually better than settled agricultural states with their

  • wars and taxes and forced labor. Furthermore, cities and settlements breed epidemic diseases

  • and when the next Spanish flu comes for all of us, it's going to be good to be in the mountains.

  • That said, I'm not a 100% sold on the argument, which is why I'm living in very flat, very civilized Indianapolis.

  • I mean, as I said earlier, without agricultural surpluses, we wouldn't have the Internet, which I'm fond of,

  • also I have tried the hunter-gather paleo diet and it did not suit me. I like Doritos.

  • Stan just told me that the paleo diet is not in fact, the diet the people of the hills have, apparently the kind of agriculture they used was called swiddening?

  • It means shifting cultivation, and apparently it's great because it provides a more varied diet with less effort.

  • Score another one for the hill people. Maybe I'll try to popularize the swidden diet. Ohhh! Time for the Open Letter!

  • Oh my God, the new globe opens and food comes out of it!! Is it my birthday? Man, I love our new globe!

  • Anyway, an open letter to fad diets. Dear fad diets, you know what doesn't work? Eating unheathily.

  • You know what does work? Eating healthily. Your noble prehistoric heritage as a scavenger has

  • prepared you to eat anything, anything that is food. So the idea of eating only one kind of food is just sort of inherently ludicrous.

  • I mean the average freegan is literally healthier than I am, and they just eat whatever is in the dumpster.

  • In short, fad diets, eating discarded food is much more in line with most of human history than the paleo diet.

  • Best wishes, John Green.

  • All right, so far, much of what I've said can be applied to hill people from all over the world at various times,

  • but the focus of Scott's book is the region of upland Southeast Asia and southern China that he calls "Zomia."

  • Zomia is mountainous and jungle-y and home to between 80 and 100 million people. It'a a little hard to conceptualize

  • because we're so used to thinking of history in terms of states, and this region is, to quote him,

  • "relatively stateless." Zomia was at least partially created by slavery actually because flight from slavery

  • is one of the main reasons that people head for the hills. According to Scott, "Southeast Asian states were slaving states,

  • without exception, some of them until well into the twentieth century. Wars in pre-colonial

  • Southeast Asia were less about territory than about the seizure of as many captives as possible

  • who were then resettled at the core of the winner's territory."

  • I can just hear all you Crash Course viewers saying "Wait, is there any evidence that any of that is true?" Kinda...

  • But like if one of the main reasons people create hill cultures like Zomia is to avoid civilizations and one of the hallmarks of civilization is writing?

  • Then, it stands to reason that there won't be much written evidence from Zomia, as writing is kind of like the bread and butter of traditional history.

  • Off-topic, but bread and butter is really no longer the staple of any diet. We should really change

  • that to phrase like the Doritos Locos Tacos and Chipotle burritos of traditional history.

  • So the evidence that we can look at is flawed because it's mainly what other people have written about Zomians

  • and their hill-dwelling brethren.Like this Portuguese friar Father Sangermano wrote around 1800 that the people of the area,

  • quote, "Unable any longer to bear witness to the heavy oppressions and continual levies of men and money

  • made upon them have withdrawn themselves from their native soil, with all their families..."

  • So basically, he thought, at least, that they were leaving because of conscription and taxes you know,

  • hallmarks of civilization. And then there are also later colonialists like Sir Stamford Raffles who,

  • despite his name, was not a clown. He was the founder of British Singapore. Here's what he said about

  • colonial rule in Indonesia: "Here I am the advocate of despotism. The strong arm of power is necessary to

  • bring men together and to concentrate them into societies... Sumatra is, in great measure,

  • peopled by innumerable petty tribes subject to no central government..."

  • "At present, people are as wandering in their habits as birds of the air, and until they are congregated

  • and organized under something like authority, nothing can be done with them."

  • Raffles there makes an accidental but pretty damning indictment of civilization to say that the reason that people exist is so

  • that something can be done with them. Now admittedly this isn't particularly strong evidence,

  • and it doesn't touch on pre-modern history or the state formation activities of Southeast Asian rulers.

  • But if Europeans' attitudes and activities drove some people to the mountains, it's possible that earlier rulers,

  • especially if they founded their states on war and slavery, and we know in many cases that they did, that

  • they may have had a similar effect. So can we finally conclude that hill people as well as nomads

  • and other cultures that attempt to live outside the state structure are not primitive people left behind by civilization,

  • but those who have made a conscious choice to avoid it. Well, in the absence of extensive written records, we call history "anthropology."

  • That's a joke for all the anthropology majors out there.

  • And a number of anthropologists have suggested that people who live separate from our ideas of civilization

  • did indeed make that choice consciously in a wide variety of situations. Like in his book

  • Society Against the State, Pierre Clastres argues that the so-called primitive Amerindian societies of South America

  • were not in fact ancient societies that had failed to invent settled agriculture or state forms,

  • but previously sedentary cultivators who abandoned agriculture and fixed villages in response to the effects of conquest.

  • So are all these stateless social orders finally a response to civilization

  • or just people who haven't realized the bounty of civilization yet?

  • I don't know, and studying history isn't really about providing answers. It's about providing context.

  • The question of what's the best and most just way to organize our social orders is a big question and a very old one.

  • But it's something we still need to be asking because we're all still making choices about how we're going to organize ourselves into communities.

  • Scott's idea of Zomia introduces us to a different way of thinking about things,

  • and equating civilization with coercive state control calls into question the idea of what it even means to be civilized.

  • But I'm not enough of an anarchist

  • to let this episode go without acknowledging the extraordinary accomplishments of civilization,

  • not just agriculture but every thing from antibiotics to the ability to be connected to people who live half a world away from you.

  • The deep and growing interconnectedness among humans has its risks for sure, but it also provides tremendous opportunities.

  • We can collaborate, we can play each other in FIFA,

  • and we can also do THIS together. But then again, there's an extraordinary freedom to Zomian-style social orders,

  • and vitally, their way of life is far more sustainable than ours.

  • Thanks for watching. I'll see you next week.

  • Crash Course is made with the help of all of these nice people, and it exists because of your support at Subbable.com.

  • Subbable is a voluntary subscription service that allows you to directly support Crash Course,

  • so we want to say thank you to all of our Subbable subscribers, and thanks to every one who watches Crash Course.

  • I hope that you enjoy our World History series. And as we say in my hometown,

  • don't forget to be awesome.

Hi, I'm John Green. This is Crash Course World History, and today we're going to talk about civilization.

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文明の再考 - クラッシュコース世界史201 (Rethinking Civilization - Crash Course World History 201)

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    羅志林 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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