Sean Kingston, singing about Jamaica, finishes that sentence with “the slums.”
I welcome you dear reader, to my mind, which in the early hours of this cold Albertan morning is thinking about the M.Phil research of Daniel Cowdrill. He aims to show that political ‘Parties have always had to adapt to changing circumstances.’ I agree, and what is more, with this article I will offer for consideration a theory that profound change and transformation (i.e. the rise of Thatcher) often happens under the influence of an external force. No man is an Island.
The rapper Sean Kingston’s comparison of “paradise” (Western owned tourist resorts) with the “slums” (economically deprived, predominantly Black ‘shanty’ neighborhoods) brings me neatly to the profound disparities between Europe and the Middle East as described by Edward Said in his 1978 work Orientalism. Not to the rough and tumble of his arguments, but to the deeper undercurrent discussed in this work and others; the ‘asymmetrical relationship between self and other’ (Jorn Rusen, Western Historical Thinking; an intercultural debate, 2002, Pg. 2). A litany of “them” and “us” related phrases springs to mind. However I wrote this with more than platitudes and rap lyrics in my head.
Martin Bernal in his monumental 1987 work Black Athena provides a flood of evidence, analysis and arguments in support of the ‘Revised Ancient Model.’ An intellectual framework to be used in the assessment of evidence which furthers our understanding of Ancient Greece. He argues in volume I that European academia since the 1700’s worked to erode any connection between Ancient Greece, Egypt and Phoenicia. Europe, whilst undergoing economic, cultural, military and political expansion required a sturdy, a ‘pure’ intellectual framework which would justify the colonisation of North Africa and the Middle East, as well as other regions of the world. The Egyptians and Phoenicians were already wealthy, powerful and prominent when Ancient Greece was in its infancy. Bernal uses archaeology, carbon dating, mythology, etymology, linguistics, religious studies, and documentary evidence (Herodotus and Homer made no secret of the Egyptian origins of much of Greek culture) to demonstrate the ‘diffusionism’ between Africa, the Middle East and Greece.
Ancient Greece was therefore not an innocent child of Europe, but the innovative and attentive student of its older Near Eastern tutors. Herakles (son of Zeus), for example, can actually trace his lineage to the image of the ‘great hunter’ as far back as 20,000 BP (before present); the legend of Gilgamesh at Uruk; several Twelfth Dynasty Pharaohs of Egypt (known for their irrigation projects); and various interconnected cults and gods of Thebes, on the Nile. That is a summary of just one of hundreds of examples.
After reading Fernand Braudel’s famous work The Mediterranean, the theory of Ancient ‘diffusionism’ seems more obvious than shocking. It would be like Canada denying the U.S, British and French influences on its culture, political systems and economy. I believe similar arguments can be used with just as much ease with regards to Europe’s influence on America, and vica-versa.
The works of Braudel and Bernal may seem elementary or revolutionary, depending on your point of view. A larger more established force, within easy reach of a smaller weaker force, should easily be able to exert political, economic and cultural influences on said force. The ‘Ancient Model’ which explained the effects of the larger cultures (Egypt, etc.) upon the smaller (Greece) was also elementary, until European scholars turned it on its head.
There are times when the more obvious solution should not be disregarded due to the virtue of its simplicity. I propose this applies equally to the study of Thatcher, and the Conservative party in general, as much as it does to Ancient Greek studies. This should be applied in academia and politics more often.
By Dominic Tarn.