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Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses." 
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Post Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
This thread is for discussing Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses.

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Wed Jun 08, 2005 11:59 am
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
(4/25/05 11:22 am) misterpessimistic said...

The beginning of this chapter presents the Maya civilization with the wonder and romanticism of modern day people since the re-discovery of this lost civilization. The passage from John Stephens's writings is very poignant in regard to this approach.

One thing disturbed me in the early pages of this chapter and that is the story of the Spanish conquest and domination of the Mayan civilization, in particular, the religious arrogance that resulted in the loss of the majority of Maya manuscripts. Whatever the excuse anyone gives, it still makes me ill.

When Diamond applies his 5 point framework to this societal collapse, I find myself a bit surprised that he does not include the conquest of the Spanish. He does include the 'Hostile Neighbors", but applies this to the Maya when he states: "Hostilities among the Maya themselves did play a large role." Does this mean the Spanish did not count as a "Hostile Neighbor"? Did the Spanish conquest play no part in the Maya collapse? I cannot see how this can be the case.

Mr. P.





Wed Jun 08, 2005 12:00 pm
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
(4/25/05 9:08 pm) MadArchitect said...

The Mayan civilization had collapsed by the time the Spanish invaded. The Spanish still encounted the Mayan people, but they were disparate rather than unified. This from the article in the online version of the Columbia Encyclopedia:

The period following A.D. 900 was one of rapid decline, and many of the major cities were abandoned. In the heartland of the lowland Maya, most major centers had been abandoned, probably more gradually than has been supposed, by around A.D. 1100. In the Yucatan highlands settlement persisted, with a probable colonization of the site of Chichen Itza by Toltec from Central Mexico. By the time of Spanish conquest, most Mayan populations were centered around small villages.





Wed Jun 08, 2005 12:01 pm
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
(4/25/05 10:27 pm) misterpessimistic said...

I just got to this part in the chapter...that is what I get for posting early in a chapter. With that said, can we say the Spanish conquered them at all? They just moved in basically.

Mr. P.





Wed Jun 08, 2005 12:02 pm
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
The Spanish decimated the Aztec civilization that was flourishing at the time of the arrival of the Conquistadores. The Maya civilization even then was only a memory and a legend.

Because I don't have the book, and now The Hack, I have lost the cohesion of this discussion.

There is some pretty sound research that indicates that a ten year period of extreme drought (is that a redundancy?) brought on the downfall, at least in the central Mexican and coast area. There is evidence of rather complex systems for water storage and movement, and it is thought that as the drought worsened, the outlying farmers etc, moved closer to the central cities, putting a greater strain on an already overtaxed water supply system. Eventually, it all gave out, crops disappeared, farm animals died, the food supply evaporated, and the population scattered in search of water and food.

This is a scary scenario, because even today, with all our high technology, Mexico is having problems regulating water, and is quickly using up it's acquafiers at an alarming rate. Water from far north is being sent to Mexico City, that city of 23,000,000 yes that's MILLION people. Mexico is a dry dry country. I believe that fact will eventuall lead to it's downfall.

Are we watching the onset of a collapse here again?

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

- T.S.Eliot

Marti in Mexico

Edited by: marti1900 at: 6/14/05 9:10 pm



Tue Jun 14, 2005 8:06 pm
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
Marti:

Even though you do noth ave the book, you seem to have paraphrased part of Diamond's exposition on the Maya collapse...the drought, the move of a majority of the population into the cities after the viability of outlying regions declined...on the nose!

Mr. P.

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Tue Jun 14, 2005 9:43 pm
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
A couple of riveting quotes from the conclusions section of this chapter on the Maya:

As on Easter Island, and at Chaco Canyon, Maya peak population numbers were followed swiftly by political and social collapse.

The passivity of Easter chiefs and Maya kings in the face of the real big threats to their societies completes our list of disquieting parallels.


It seems to me that this is a point, the swiftness of decline, that is very much underappreciated by the American public, and by our popular media.

It reminds me of Rachel Carson and the outstanding job she did with Silient Spring, probably the most effective, and most popular, environmental book in our culture.

Unfortunately, I don't see that Collapseis having near as much impact in the public mind so far.

WW




Wed Jun 15, 2005 7:57 am


Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
Diamond is arguing by excerption. In selecting the Maya as a focus for his attention Diamond is ignoring a more general pattern of Amerindian cultural growth and decline.

Many civilizations rose and fell in the history of Amerindian America. The puzzle is that they seem swiftly to have developed into civilizations of impressive architectural and astronomical sophistication, endured for a long time in a period of ossification and then collapsed.

A factor ignored by Diamond in the collapse of these civilizations is their failure to develop or innovate technology which was in any way comparable to their astronomical and architectural sophistication.

The main reason for the pattern of persistent collapse in Amerindian history was an inability to escape from the paradigm of religion.

An investigation of religious practices in Aztec and Mayan civilization suggests that these people existed in a "bicameral" state of pre-consciousness, as postulated by Julian Jaynes.




Wed Jun 15, 2005 9:03 am


Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
The passivity of Easter chiefs and Maya kings in the face of the real big threats to their societies completes our list of disquieting parallels.

How does he know the Maya kings were passive in the face of these threats? From what I understand, there isn't all that much original source material that can tell us anything about the Maya, hence the decades of speculation of why they disappeared.

And Bad, you beat me to the punch about their astronomy and architecture. It was all done for religious reasons, whereas the European model of progress is a story of people thinking, working, inventing outside the confines, and often in spite of the religious system/structure.

Which leads me to be forming (ok, I'm a slow learner) a shadowy theory that all or most of the collapses stem from the religious structure/system repressing or surpressing or forbidding any widening scope of thought or culture that would have allowed for better management of resources, etc. Consider the Maya, all those Amerindian civilizations gone, the people of Easter Island, the Norse, even the glory that was once Japan, or Greece. Can I be on to something here?

I have to go teach a class in about 4 and a half seconds, but I will try to reformulate my thoughts and make a clearer posting.

Marti in Mexico




Wed Jun 15, 2005 12:51 pm
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
Quote:
Which leads me to be forming (ok, I'm a slow learner) a shadowy theory that all or most of the collapses stem from the religious structure/system repressing or surpressing or forbidding any widening scope of thought or culture that would have allowed for better management of resources, etc. Consider the Maya, all those Amerindian civilizations gone, the people of Easter Island, the Norse, even the glory that was once Japan, or Greece. Can I be on to something here?



Ohh! Very interesting...please expound on your theory!!

Was it adherence to a religion, or those who controlled religion? Can we extrapolate religious strictures to political ideologies of our leaders?

Mr. P.

Mr. P.

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Wed Jun 15, 2005 1:19 pm
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
Hari Krishnas?

Moonies?

Marti in Mexico




Mon Jun 20, 2005 4:51 pm
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
Uh...Christianity?

Stigmatizing homosexuality, holding back scientific progress (stem cell research), encouraging high birth counts and lack of birth control methods (self-perpetuation of the disease)...

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Mon Jun 20, 2005 6:35 pm
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
On the whole, I'm interested in the common wisdom that religion is a form of social control, most popularly expressed by Marx's quip that "religion is the opiate of the masses." What would you guys list as clear examples of religions that are first and foremost social control in the service of a distinct political aim?

Islam. I think that it is the only religion with multiple theocracies based upon it. A theocracy is by definition social control. Off the top of my head I can think of several examples of Muslims seeking a distinct polictical aim - al Qaeda, the Taliban, wars with Israel, attitudes towards women, etc.




Mon Jun 20, 2005 9:20 pm


Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
I would like to see one example of a religion that is NOT primarily aimed at social control, and legitimization of the societal power structures.

Pie in the sky, by and by, is the very epitome of religion, no matter which way it is sliced.

In the meantime, just suck it up and do the part you have been assigned in our culture.

Never fear, you will be rewarded.

::70

WW




Tue Jun 21, 2005 8:58 am
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
To my mind, both Islam and Christianity have too long and varied a history to conform to the criteria of my question. Neither can really be nailed down to a particular political aim, nor to a particular society, let alone a social agenda. The socially conservative agendas that have been listed so far in this thread are contemporary issues for the most part, but the histories of the two religious traditions belie any attempt to nail them down to a fixed position. They may have more or less fixed moral positions (even those tend to waver over the course of centuries) but it's important to bear in mind that what are regarded as moral issues are not always regarded as social or political issues, and vice versa.

As for Moonies and Hari Krishnas, I'd have to know a little more about their traditions and methodology to really come to a decision. Any background?

Depster1978: Islam. I think that it is the only religion with multiple theocracies based upon it. A theocracy is by definition social control.

The association of theocracy with social control is acceptable, but Islam is not universally characterized by theocracy. To my mind, it's perfectly legitimate to oppose theocracy without extending that opposition to a religion as a whole, or to religion in general.

And my point is not as to whether or not religious members, groups or even religions as a whole seek a particular political agenda as a secondary motive. What interests me is the claim that religions are first and foremost a form of social control, and not as an incidental effect but as its modus operandi.

That seems to me like one of those easy myths some people tell themselves in order to justify a fixed position concerning religion. The actual circumstances are likely far more complex and far less sinister.

wwdimmitt: I would like to see one example of a religion that is NOT primarily aimed at social control, and legitimization of the societal power structures.

Considering the number of religions that began with revolutionary content, I would say that there's a strong argument against the idea that religion routinely substantiates the status quo. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism -- nearly all of these were incompatable with the standing social systems in their infancy, and if they've come to dominate the social scene, it's only by the long spread of their beliefs. We tend to make much of the fact that dominant paradigms often spread their domains even further by the enforcement of belief, but the early history of all three religions shows the necessary and diametric form of growth, the accumulation of adherents who simply find the foundling religious program more resonant.

As for social control, let's draw an important distinction here. Any social institution or group is bound to have an impact or influence in society. The question is whether or not the group's primary concern is to determine the very fabric of society, and the means they use in achieving that goal. I wouldn't deny that there are elements in ours and other societies who seek power and control under the auspices of a given religious program -- my question is whether those are the aims of the religion as a whole or merely of certain factions within the religion.




Tue Jun 21, 2005 9:59 am
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