“They didn’t change with time.”
While reading an article in Tuesday’s Science Times Lost No More: An Etruscan Rebirth (registration required) I came across this passage.
“For all the Etruscans' arts and agriculture, their fine metalworking and commerce, Etruscan power and grip on the Italian peninsula began to decline in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. I am absolutely convinced one of the main reasons they weren't successful in the long run was that their society was static, didn't change with time,"
The Etruscan era lasted from about 700BC (CE) to about 100BC (CE), 600 hundred years, with the height of their civilization being about 550BC (CE). If their weakness was clinging on to their past there is a lesson for all of us to learn. As the rise of fundamentalist groups in all of the three great religions tries to drag us back into the past we should look to civilizations that faded from memory. In Iraq the Shia are trying to grab power that has been denied them by the Baath Party while the Reverend Billy Graham is intent on getting to devastated Iraq with a message of Jesus in one hand while holding food and medicine in the other. The Israelis in the meantime insist that “God” gave them the land justifying the settlements in the west bank.
How can we move ahead when we cling to our Gods of the past? How can we live in a “global” village and still claim our Gods are better than your Gods? The situation in Iraq will bring this flaw into sharp focus. The US has invoked the name of the western God in its right to bring down a government. The Shia of southern Iraq will insist on a government ruled by the laws of sharia and Israel sits in the middle of all this with government dominated by an increasingly fundamentalist and militant bent.
The Republican party of the US has been co-opted by the Christian Right and this is the government that wants to bring Iraq into the “light” of democracy.
From the Times article.
The philosopher Seneca, in the first century A.D., may have had an explanation for the Etruscans' inability to take charge of themselves and change.
“This is the difference between us Romans and the Etruscans," Seneca wrote. "We believe that lightning is caused by clouds colliding, whereas they believe that clouds collide in order to create lightning. Since they attribute everything to gods, they are led to believe not that events have a meaning because they have happened, but that they happen in order to express a meaning.”
Looking to our separate Gods to answer our deepest fears will keep us from finding a way where all people can live and grow together. The Etruscans reached their height 200 years after they first emerged on the scene. America was founded a mere 200 years ago.
In the reading list to the left you will find Karen Armstrong’s ”The Battle for God” in it she chronicles the rise of fundamentalism in all three of the mono-theistic religions. Each religion has its fundamentalists, the Muslims are not unique in this. Each religion is trying to cling to the past where life was easy to define by attributing everything to the Gods.