asher63 (asher63) wrote,

The War Horse

'The Buz Kashi is a war game. What makes it electric is the cowboy ethic: riding as an act of war. It expresses the monomaniac culture of conquest; the predator posing as hero because he rides the whirlwind. But the whirlwind is empty. Horse or tank, Genghis Khan or Hitler or Stalin, it can only feed on the labours of other men. The nomad in his last historic role as warmaker is still an anachronism, and worse, in a world that has discovered, in the last twelve thousand years, that civilisation is made by settled people.'
- J. Bronowski, 'The Ascent of Man' (1973)

This excerpt from Chapter 2 summarizes the main points of the chapter: that the path to civilization began with settlement and agriculture; that the next step occurred "when man first harnessed a power greater than his own, the power of animals", beginning with draft animals such as the ox and the ass, creating a surplus of produce; and that, paradoxically, the domestication of another animal - the horse - gave temporary ascendancy to mounted armies of warrior tribes, which first appeared to the Greeks (as later to the natives of Peru) as some strange new creature. Bronowski sees echoes of the ancient conquests in the Afghan game of Buz Kashi, where the use of a headless calf as the play object may be seen as "making sport of the farmers' livelihood".

A fascinating read, and just as fresh as when the series first aired on television some 45 years ago.
Tags: books, science, taom

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