One of the most Basic Comforts of Life, the Flush Toilet, goes back to Trade with the Indus Valley Civilization

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 1st, 2011

History 101

The Earliest Discovery of an Indoor Flush Toilet goes all the way Back to India

The first First Lady to live at the White House was Abigail Adams.  Wife of the second U.S. president.  The great John Adams.  They moved into the White House while it was still under construction.  And long before it had indoor plumbing.  So when the First Lady had to do her business she did so like most everyone at that time did.  She visited the outhouse.  Which was in full view of the general public.  So everyone knew what she was doing when she was doing her business.  Not a dignified moment for America’s First Lady.

Today when a lady has to poop we spare her this indignity.  For we have indoor flush toilets.  And when they go into the bathroom they always emerged with fresh makeup and coifed hair.  So we have no idea what they’re doing in the powder room.  Pooping.  Or just making themselves beautiful.  Which makes a trip to the toilet never an embarrassing moment these days.  Like it was for poor Abigail Adams.  If only we had indoor flush toilets during Mrs. Adams time.

The funny thing is, we did.  Not in America.  But in ancient Rome.  For the Romans had flush toilets.  Some 2000 years before they had them in America.  But the Romans didn’t invent this luxury.  No.  They were great engineers.  Great builders.  But they weren’t great mathematicians and scientists.  The Greeks were.  The Romans took the great learning of the Greeks and built great things.  But the indoor flush toilet even predates the Greeks.  The earliest discovery of an indoor flush toilet goes all the way back to India.  To the Indus Valley Civilization.  And the ancient city of Harappa.

The Greeks may have Learned about Sanitary Sewers and Flush Toilets from the Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was one of the four first big civilizations.  Along with Egypt in the Nile Valley.  Sumer in the Fertile Crescent.  And the Chinese in the Hwang-Ho valley.  They started out independently.  Then their trade routes eventually crossed.  And they learned from each other.  Through their trade.

We don’t know a lot about the IVC.  For we haven’t been able to decipher their early writing.  Yet.  But what we do know is that they had a remarkably advanced city infrastructure.  And that they traded.  They had the wheel.  And boats.  They traded overland into Central Asia and the Iranian Plateau.  And over water to Mesopotamia.  Where they traded with the Sumerians.  And the people who followed the Sumerians traded with the Greeks.

The Sumerians were probably the first to map the stars and planets.  The Greeks may have used this work as the foundation for their astronomy.  And it may not be the only thing they learned from the Sumerians.  For it is likely they learned about the IVC from their friends in Mesopotamia.  And took what they learned about sanitary sewers and flush toilets back to Greece.  Where the Romans eventually learned about it.

Germanic Barbarian Tribes brought the Western Roman Empire and the Indoor Flush Toilet to an End

Trade is not just about goods and services.  We trade knowledge, too.  And the knowledge we gain makes our civilization better.  More advanced.  Giving us as higher quality of life.  All through peaceful means.  Of course those on the outside looking in, the uncivilized barbarians beyond the frontiers of civilization, prefer plunder over trade.  And less peaceful means.

It was the Germanic tribes north of the Western Roman Empire that eventually conquered this advanced civilization.  Which turned back the hands of time.  And Introduced the Dark Ages.  Plunging us back into a backward world.  Where we lost much of our knowledge.  And the modern comforts of life.  Including the flush toilet.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #32: “America is great but it can’t make bad ideology good.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 21st, 2010

We’ve Always Done Things This Way

The Old World was set in her ways.  Change didn’t come easy.  When it came it often spanned centuries.  But not always.  As the Roman Empire incorporated new territories into the empire, she modernized those new territories.  Roads.  Fresh water.  Sanitation.  Rule of law.  Markets.  The things that made cites better.  Civilizations better.  But as a civilization grows, so does its government.  And as government grows, taxes inevitably become more onerous.

A sprawling empire required a sprawling bureaucracy to control it.  And a huge standing army to protect it from without.  And to police it from within.  When you expand and conquer new territory, the spoils of conquest can fund your empire.  When your borders are relatively static, though, you have to use alternative sources of funding.  Taxation.  As the tax burden grew, dissatisfaction grew.  Fewer citizens volunteered to serve in Rome’s legions.  So Rome relied more and more on hired armies.  This increased the cost of empire.  And it increased taxation.  The tax burden grew so great that people gave up their small farms and worked for the bigger farms.  Worked for the rich landowners.  Some tried to quit farming all together.  This caused problems in trying to feed Rome’s legions.  And her bureaucracy.  The food supply became so critical that the Romans wrote new laws forbidding people to leave their farms.  Farmers were bound to the land.  They could never leave.  If you were born on the land you would farm the land.  Forever.

During the decline of the Western Roman Empire you saw the rise of the economic system that would dominate the Middle Ages.  Feudalism.  As the Western Empire declined, the power began to shift to the rich landowners.  As did loyalties.  As the empire further disintegrated, the power of Rome could no longer protect you.  Or feed you.  And thus food and protection became the foundation of feudalism.  Land owners, the nobles (i.e., lords), would let you work their lands.  The bulk of the proceeds went to the landlord.  But you also had a portion of the manor to farm for yourself.  In exchange for the use of a lord’s land you provided military service to the lord.  When needed to protect the lord and his lands.  Property rights allowed the lord’s sons to inherit the estate upon his death.  So property ownership became hereditary.  As did the nobility.   And so it would be for centuries.

England Leads the Way

From the nobles arose one.  A dominant one.  A ruler of nobles.  A king.  A king consolidated the many nobles’ estates into a kingdom.  A country.  And the king became sovereign.  The supreme authority.  The nobles pledged their loyalty to the king.  Provided for the king.  And fought for him when necessary.  Thus the few, the many and the one.  The masses (the many) served the lords and worked on their estates.  The lords (the few) were the wealthy land owners who served the king.  The king (the one) ruled the kingdom.

Thus the European monarchy was born.  In France it was absolute.  In England, in 1215, the nobles met King John on the meadow at Runnymede.  And the king reluctantly set his seal to the Magna Carta.  In England, there would be limits to the sovereign’s power.  The king may be king, but the nobles held the wealth.  And with it a lot of power.  Sometimes they saw things differently.  And the little people, the masses, often saw things differently than did the king and lords.  These different interests were reconciled, in time, by king and Parliament, a two-house or bicameral legislature (comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords). 

England was the place to be.  Rule of law.  Bill of rights.  Commerce.  Banking.  Capitalism.  Liberty.  Food.  Security.  Your common everyday Englishman had a better quality of life than your common everyday [insert any other European national here].  As transoceanic trade took off, the great European powers collided with each other.  Fought for that lucrative trade.  In the Old World.  And in the New World.  These wars became very expensive.  And some lasted for years.  Like the Seven Years War.  Which the British won.  And took many French possessions throughout the world.  But at a huge cost.  She incurred a great debt.  Especially in securing one of her colonies.  British North America.

Tea Anyone?

So England taxed her British American subjects.  Only problem was, these English subjects had no representation in Parliament.  And this was very un-English.  Taxation without representation.  This caused tension.  Also, Great Britain’s mercantilist policies were also rubbing the colonists the wrong way.  America was growing.  And she wanted free trade.  But that was impossible when the home country maintained a favorable balance of trade at your expense.  And had the Royal Navy to enforce it.  As a colony, everything had to ship to/from England ports on English ships so England could accumulate bullion.  The British protected their industries.  Her colonies fed raw materials to these industries.  And that’s all they did.

Trouble brewed for a while.  When Great Britain legislated what type of tea they could drink (only British East Indian tea), the American colonists had had enough.   There was a tea party in Boston, a revolution and formal independence.  And then a new nation.  With a bicameral legislation.  An executive.  And a judiciary.  It wasn’t quite Parliament, but was very similar in function.  The president was the one.  The Senate was the few.  And the House of Representatives were the many.  But there were key differences.  There was no king.  No hereditary nobility.  And there would be no mercantilism.  Despite Alexander Hamilton’s best efforts.

Let’s Just Agree to Disagree

Getting the colonies to come together to declare their independence was not easy.  It helped that there was already a shooting war going on.  Lexington and Concord.  Bunker Hill.  The coastal towns the British burnt and left in ruins.  They were already fighting a rebellion.  The declaration was almost a moot point.  But it was important.  And, after some arm twisting, they voted for independence and posted their Declaration of Independence.  But that was then.  After the Revolutionary War, there was no such unifying force.  Everyone was back to looking out for number one.  Well, most. 

Locked in a Philadelphia hall during a sweltering summer thick with horseflies, a collection of America’s finest worked to create a new government.  George Washington, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, to name just a few, could hardly agree on anything.  The Constitution they created was not great in their eyes.  But it was probably the best that they could do.  So acknowledged, they sent it to the states for ratification.  The odds were against them.  It would take some persuading.  And persuading they did.  Hamilton and Madison (and John Jay) wrote a series of essays appearing in newspapers to make the case for ratification.  They addressed and answered all arguments against ratification.  (You can read these today in the Federalist Papers.)  And this effort was successful.  The states ratified the constitution.  There was now a nation known as the United States of America.

Our first Secretary of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton.  A capitalist genius.  And a great admirer of the British Empire.  Being a recent transplant to the American Colonies, he had no deep-seated resentment of the former mother country.  In fact, he wanted to emulate her.  She was the greatest empire in the world.  She was obviously doing something right.  But he pushed too far.  His mercantilist plans were a bit much for some.  Especially the ‘simple’ farmers of the South.  The planter elite.  Led by Thomas Jefferson (covertly) and James Madison (overtly), they fought Hamilton tooth and nail and did everything to destroy him.  (After seeing his plans Madison switched to the opposition.)    And ultimately, did.  When Aaron Burr shot him in a duel on the field of honor at Weehawken, New Jersey, across the Hudson from New York City.  All because Hamilton tried everything within his power to keep him from becoming president of the United States and governor of New York.  Because he was on unprincipled man.  Burr took offense to that.  And, well, the scoundrel challenged him to a duel and killed him.  But I digress.

The American Ideology

The American ideology is simple.  It includes things that have been proven to work.  And excludes things that have been proven not to.  A large, diverse people make up America.  So at the heart of our ideology is that we agree to disagree. 

We don’t have kings or nobility.  We don’t have an entitled class.  No hereditary rights.  Here, it doesn’t matter who your father was.  Or what group you belong to (religious, societal, etc.).  No one person is better than another. 

We have property rights and live under the rule of law.  We honor legal contracts.  We built our nation on laissez faire capitalism.  Free markets.  With a minimum of government interference.  We do what we want and respect that others do what they want.  And we are free to do this as long as we play by the rule of law.

It was a long road getting here.  We took the best history had to offer.  And rejected the worst that history included.  Nations who did likewise went on to greatness, too (like the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, etc.).  Those who didn’t have been repositories of great suffering and human bondage (North Korea, Cuba, The People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union, etc.).  Of the latter nations, please note that life is getting much better in China and the former Soviet Union with the introduction of capitalism and free markets.  And it’s not in North Korea and Cuba where these governments stubbornly cling to failed policies to keep their governments in power.  Whatever the cost is to their people.

It’s the Ideology, Stupid

Good ideology makes good nations.  Bad ideology makes bad nations.  A good nation can NOT take bad ideology and make it good.  A good nation that implements bad ideology will only make that good nation bad.  All people have the capacity for greatness.  And that greatness will shine through if the government doesn’t suppress it.   To see this all we have to do is look to history.  It’s all there.  The good.  The bad.  And the ugly.

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LESSONS LEARNED #31: “Islam and guns are a lot alike. And yet when something bad happens, we try to ban one and forgive the other.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2010

PEACE IN OUR TIME

What do you know about the Goths?  The Visigoths?  The Ostrogoths?  The Vandals?  The Franks.  Do you even know who these people are?  The Romans did.  And they were a pain in their ass.

The Great Migration of Huns from Asia into Europe displaced these European Germanic tribes.  Which brought them into contact with the Roman Empire.  The Romans then brought some into the empire.  First into the legions that were protecting the frontier against these displaced Germanic tribes.  Then some Germans commanded these legions.  Then the Romans built entire legions from these Germanic people.  Germans faced Germans on the frontier.  Loyalties tugged between empire and blood.  When the empire began to crumble, blood often won out.  And when the Western Roman Empire fell, these Germanic tribes stepped into the void.  Picked up the Roman banner and became the Holy Roman Empire.  Some of the Germanic tribes founded nations.  Spain, France and England.  But not Germany.  Not yet.

 It took the Franco-Prussian War (1870) to unite the German people into a nation.  And into the dominate Central European power at that.  That dominance ended in 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles.  Germany lost Alsace-Lorraine (which they took during the Franco-Prussian War).  She lost territory that became a reconstituted Poland (which separated her from East Prussia).  She had to take sole responsibility for causing World War I (which was unfair to say the least).  And pay reparations to the victors that would take forever and a day to pay.  The German people were not happy.  As was a decorated army corporal.  Adolf Hitler.

Hitler made it clear that he was going to restore the German empire.  The third in the line of empires.  A Third Reich.  Successor to the Holy Roman Empire.  And it would last a thousand years.  He established the official Nazi ideology (racial purity and the Master Race).  He renounced portions of the Versailles Treaty.  Began to rearm.  These actions worried the Allies.  But Hitler assuaged their worries in a speech given 5/21/1935.  He said Germany wanted peace.  And only peace.  The Allies breathed a collective sigh of relief.  Then he remilitarized the Rhineland.  Annexed Austria.  Then came Munich.  Great Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, met with Hitler, concerned.  Hitler assured Chamberlain that this was his last territorial grab.  After all, Germany wanted peace.  And only peace.  So those at Munich gave the Czechoslovakian Sudetenland to Germany.  (Incidentally, the Czechs weren’t at Munich).  Chamberlain returned to England announcing they had attained “peace for our time.”  Soon thereafter, Germany took the rest of Czechoslovakia.  And one non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union to partition Poland later, Hitler invaded Poland, starting World War II.  So, no, they did not have peace in for their time.

FROM STETTIN IN THE BALTIC TO TRIESTE IN THE ADRIATIC AN IRON CURTAIN HAS DESCENDED ACROSS THE CONTINENT

Franklin Delano Roosevelt loved Joseph Stalin.  He liked what he was doing in the Soviet Union.  Now there was some Big Government doing big things.  Just like he was doing.  Only on a grander scale.  Then that non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany just broke his heart.  But the gods were smiling down on FDR.  Hitler turned on Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union.  Killed some 20 million Soviets.  FDR was elated.  He could embrace Uncle Joe again.

FDR said he could talk to Stalin.  Turn on the old FDR charm.  So he tried.  At the Yalta Conference where the Big Three (FDR, Churchill and Stalin) discussed the post-war world.  His plan was bold.  Give Stalin everything.  Ask for nothing.  And then Uncle Joe will work with him in establishing world peace and democracy.  He had a hunch it would work.  I mean, once he turned on that FDR charm, well, FDR got what FDR wanted.

But his administration was full of Soviet spies.  He stayed in the Soviet embassy (to show his trust of Stalin).  They bugged it.  The Soviets knew everything.  Not a strong negotiating position.  For FDR and Churchill, that is.  It was a very strong position for Stalin.  He could whisper whatever sweet nothings FDR wanted to hear.  Lie through his teeth.  In the end, he got Eastern Europe.  Instead of a Nazi occupation, it would now be a Soviet occupation.  Some saw Stalin for who he was.  Winston Churchill, for one.  Later, in 1946, he tried to warn us about Stalin.  He came to America and spoke at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.  He said:

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

The old warhorse was right.  Stalin had no visions of democracy.  He wanted to conquer.  To spread communism.  And he did.  In Eastern Europe.  Wherever the Red Army was at the end of World War II the Red Army stayed.  Where they weren’t he tried to use the local communist parties (i.e., the Fifth Columns) in their stead.  To stir up trouble.  Eat away the nations from within.  To gradually convert them to communism.  Sometimes he used blunt force.  As in the coup d’état in Czechoslovakia.   American aid helped Western Europe, Greece and Turkey to rebuff Stalin’s advances there.  West Berlin, inside of East Germany behind the Iron Curtain, was a thorn in his side.  So he tried to blockade it.  Which we relieved with the Berlin Airlift.  Our guy in China (Chiang Kai-shek) lost to Mao Tse-tung in the Chinese Civil War making most of Asia communist.  This was the Cold War.  East vs. West.  Communism vs. Democracy.  The Soviet Union vs. the United States.  The Cold War at times got hot.  As the two superpowers fought each other by proxy.  In Korea.  Cuba (the Bay of Pigs was the hot part.  The more dangerous part was the cold part, playing nuclear chicken).  Vietnam.  The Iran-Iraq War.  Nicaragua.  And in a place called Afghanistan.

MR. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL

The Soviet Union supplied a lot of military hardware that killed a lot of Americans in the Vietnam War.  We returned the favor in Afghanistan.  And helped liberate the Afghanis from the Soviet Occupation.  The Soviet mechanized army and their Hind attack helicopters fought an impoverished and ill-equipped force.  The Mujahedeen.  Who soon got international support.  And U.S. antiaircraft Stinger missiles.  And the Soviet Union had their Vietnam.

Ronald Reagan grew weary of the Cold War.  He wanted to end it.  He understood collectivism.  And he knew history.  Capitalism worked.  Collectivism didn’t.  So he would turn up the pressure.  While the Soviets bled money in Afghanistan, he modernized our nuclear forces.  Proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative.  Spent money on defense.  And gave America an unprecedented decade of prosperity.  The Soviets tried to keep pace.  But couldn’t.  They couldn’t even feed their own people.  On June 12, 1987, in front of the Berlin Wall, at the Brandenburg Gate, Reagan said:

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

In time he did.  Or, rather, stopped trying to prevent it from happening.  And Reagan consigned the Evil Empire to the “ash heap of history.”  Which left the Mujahedeen well armed, well financed and without a fight.

TO THE VICTORS GO THE SPOILS

The Western Roman Empire fell to the Germanic tribes but the Eastern Empire held on for a few more centuries.  It wouldn’t be the Germans causing her ultimate demise.  No.  The Eastern Empire fall to the Arabs.  Islam spread west from the Arabian desert into Egypt and across North Africa and up into Spain.  Saladin (revered Islamic hero) wrested the Holy Land from the Christians and then fought off the Christian Crusades when they tried to take it back.  Islam advanced across the Bosporus and into the Balkans before the European Christians finally stopped them.  A good chunk of the Christian Roman Empire was now Muslim.  And remained so for centuries.  Until World War I.  When Ottoman Turkey was on the losing side of the Great War.

After the war, Great Britain occupied some of the former Muslim lands.  Protected the Suez Canal for her shipping lanes to India and the Far East.  And to her oil interests.  Also, the League of Nations designated that Great Britain should administer the territory comprised of Palestine and Transjordan.  This British Mandate also included a provision for a future Jewish homeland in the Palestine territory.  Long story short, that happened in 1947 when the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition these territories into Jewish and Arab states.  The following year, May 14, the day before the British Mandate expired, the state of Israel came into existence. 

The Arabs didn’t agree to that deal.  Of course, the Jews didn’t like the Roman occupation.  And the Christians didn’t like the Muslim occupation of the Holy Land.  But to the victors go the spoils.  Not enjoying being on the loser’s side, they wanted Palestine back.  In fact, they want all of the land that used to be Muslim back.  Lands they gained by military conquest but later lost to military conquest.  They want to re-conquer lost land.  And conquer new.  One man in particular.  A Saudi who joined the Mujahedeen.  Osama bin Laden.  Who would lead his unemployed freedom fighters into a new line of work.  In a new organization.  Al Qaeda.

WORLD CONQUEST ISN’T NEW

The Romans conquered the known world.  Hitler had ambitious plans to do the same.  Ditto for Stalin.  (Even Mussolini wanted to restore the Roman Empire.)  And on 9/11/2001, that’s what Osama bin Laden was trying to do.  His devastating attack on the U.S. was to cause a spontaneous uprising by Muslims throughout the world.  There was none.  He failed.  He would be no Saladin.  He would rule little more than a network of caves on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.  And be remembered as just another terrorist.  But his dream is shared by others.  And they’ve no doubt learned a lot from the Nazis.  And the Communists. 

There are elements within Islam, the so-called few who pervert this great religion of peace, that want to see bin Laden’s vision realized.  They’re using force.  Lying.  Trying to convert from within.  And turn to our constitution whenever anyone confronts them.  But these ambassadors of peace won’t condemn terrorist organizations or recognize the state of Israel.  They demand that everyone accommodate Islam while Islam accommodates only Islam.  They say that the U.S. was responsible for 9/11.  Even that the U.S. orchestrated 9/11 and blamed it on the Muslim world.  There is cause for concern.

A FEW IS ENOUGH

Not all Germans were Nazis but we still fought Nazi ideology.  We fought the communist ideology because it called for the conquest of western capitalism.  Ideology counts.  Not all Muslims are ‘the few who pervert’ but we should, at least, be on our guard against Islam.  Because how do we know who is lying?  If we err on the side of caution, all Americans (including Muslim Americans) are safe.  If we don’t, Americans can die.  Including Muslim Americans.

History has shown that the descendents of empire want to restore empire.  That people who lost land want to get that land back.  And ideological purity kills people.  That tells me we should be wary of a highly ideological people who once had an empire and desperately covets land.  And if we can’t know who those few are, it would be irresponsible not to be on our guard against anyone who might be one of those few. 

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