Friday, May 15, 2009

European influence

I've been working with various major groups of nations of the world in my latest work on the knowledge base, and sometimes I wonder how this is supposed to be interesting. As the saying goes, sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees.
So I've found it useful to step back and look at what large-scale patterns seem to be emerging.

One of them is the huge impact European civilization has made on the world in the past five hundred years or so. While much is made of the eurocentrism of various historians and social scientists, there has been an undeniably huge influence that cannot be ignored. The remedy, it seems, is not to discard Western Civilization, but to give due importance to the other peoples. I've been working with this idea for years, so it seems more or less natural to me now, and I forget that it's still controversial in some quarters. Nevertheless, there are British and American footprints and cultural imprints all over the world. Some of the gaps I'm trying to fill include knowledge of the Spanish colonial empire, or the influence of France, the Netherlands, and so on. It's evident that the coastal nations of Europe had a much larger share of worldwide influence in modern times than, say, Italy or Greece, or Hungary. There have been both virtues and flaws in Western civilization. I'll probably wind up discussing these in more detail in the future.

I love my job

Even though it doesn't pay a dime, and never has.

My principal job, or hobby if you prefer, is a self-imposed one of bringing together a compilation of knowledge in a digestible form. I've been working at least a little bit on the Knowledge Base six days a week for the last couple of years. Although a lot of it has seemed boring and mechanical, there are times when I can glimpse enough of the vision to keep me going.

Recently, on my Independent Learning Blog, I've been keeping track of my work on the base, just in case anyone is interested in seeing what I'm doing. From what I can tell, that doesn't amount to very many people. On days like today, however, I feel like telling the world what I'm doing.

One subject that has absorbed a great deal of my attention is world history. That's from the beginning of humankind to today, and into the future. Even thought he beginning is not clearly known and the future hasn't happened yet. I have it divided into slices, because you can't cover everything at once, but it's really one continuous tale. I have a general outline, and my progress consists of filling in the gaps and the details. Those gaps and details are important, because sometimes a single moment can change a larger part of history than we can predict, so there's always a need for more work.

One of the things that's been holding me back, oddly enough is a self-imposed limitation. I've been adding nations to the knowledge base in fairly strict order of present population, which works well for recent history, but increasingly badly as I go back in time. Just for an example, Greece and Portugal are fairly close in population and fairly far down the list. Neither one is especially prominent in world affairs today. But, go back five centuries, and Portugal ruled the first modern colonial empire, and its absence creates a gaping hole in the 16th century. Go back two thousand years, and you can hardly mention the classical period without discussing Greece. Just getting to the point of including them is an achievement.
(Just so long as you don't ask the Knowledge Base what was going on in Portugal in 1509 or Greece, in 9 AD...I haven't gotten that far yet, which sort of deflates the bubble of euphoria). Just having the link is a big step. As another for instance, I now have an outline of how Western Europe is linked to modern nations of Africa. (Again, just don't ask which African Colonies were French and which were British, and when they became independent, let alone why, I haven't gotten that fair yet).

There have been lots of moments of achievement like this, and there will certainly be many more. Sometimes, just enough to keep me slogging ahead.

I still don't have a clear answer to the question of what this is all good for.
(shsh), But I believe there are answers and I'm getting closer to them.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


One of the reasons I have been slow at updating this particular blog is that I've been busy working on the Knowledge Base. When I observe comments on political themes and major concerns, most of them seem to be silly, many of them based on anecdotes and personal experiences, and few of them based on real knowledge of the world, or part of it, and most of those who do comment on the broader themes seem to be better informed than I am.

For instance, I ventured to post some of my thoughts on Feminism on a Feminist blog, and got pretty much flamed for it by one of the principal contributors to the blog. I've thought of posting the discussion here, and more fully expounding on by views, but haven't yet decided to do it. Perhaps another time.