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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Noble Savages

As everybody knows, earlier human beings lived peaceful lives, until Civilisation, Christianity, Captialism and such like evils introduced us to the concept of being in the right, oppression and conquest. The Iron Age Celts, for example, were incredibly peaceful: singing along to gentle lyres and bodhrans, thinking up unexpected ways of pronouncing words, doing everything in threes and just occasionally cutting the heads off their enemies or burning them in Wicker People for strictly liturgical reasons. Clearly the peaceable nature of the Celts was exactly why they lived in hill forts like Maiden Castle. Because that's what you do when everything is peaceful.

Maiden Castle, Dorset
'"Here, Llewellyn! If we Celts are so peaceful,
why do I keep having to make this here earthwork higher?"

Likewise - and especially - those early Neolithic farming peoples who spread across Europe bringing with them ploughs and beakers. Surely, thought the archaeologists, they were nice kindly folk, letting campers buy pints of milk from them and singing harvesting songs? And clearly the reason that the people in Europe before them, who disappear from the fossil record at this point, just went off into the woods hunter-gathering and got a bit lost?

Or not. Turns out that they were capable, when they put their minds to it, of killing the tribe next door, children included, and carrying off the young women.

So those Nobel Savages were more savage than noble. Not surprising, really - we know what human beings are like. Why would they be any different all that time ago? And if you want to reflect that this is what ISIS have done to Christians and Yazidis; what Russian soldiers did to East Germany; what some Serbs did to Bosnian Muslims - it's not like it's unusual. People under pressure, and people bashing up against other people, did nasty things. They do nasty things. It's part of being human. To deny it, is to fall into the trap of allowing it again.

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