Fred Reed at The Unz Review wrote an interesting article on the intellectual achievements of the Mayan civilization. The punchline:
It is interesting that Europe invented neither writing, zero, nor its number system, but the Mesoamericans did all three. Perhaps the Indians were enstupidated by the admixture of Spanish blood.
Usually essays about the admirable qualities of Native American societies are at least as much about the immorality of the West, but this actually read more like an essay on medieval Islamic civilization. I’m sure you’ve encountered the type. I have no problem with Muslims having things to be proud of, and it actually fits best with my worldview if our great rival monotheists created one of the more accomplished civilizations, but I cringe every time I start reading about the greatness of Islamic civilization. I know that what I’m about to read will take a great deal of space belaboring the barbarism, illiteracy, and stupidity of Europe. And it does, every time.
Can we just lay off the shortcomings of the West for a while, dammit? After all, writing had already been invented before our civilization started, so we couldn’t have invented it no matter how ingenious we were. As for zero, that’s a rare accomplishment. Not having come up with it on our own doesn’t make the West stand out negatively among the dozen or so civilizations of world history. Pick any breakthrough, and most of the world’s civilizations will not have developed it independently.
I’ll repeat what I said before: the most astounding accomplishment of any civilization is its very existence, the fact that it created a distinct way of human life. We should never let ourselves think that our worth as a people depends on these silly accomplishment competitions.
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