Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Tolerant City-State

In 610 AD....city-states were pretty common.  If you were a empire builder....then you had massive stretches of land that you and your army conquered....mostly killing a bunch of folks to instill some respect and proper attention.  City-states were different.  They survived mostly through a couple of smart guys and a common need within a group for central rules.  Typically, city-states were walled-up locations.....with a business or trade theme....and a couple dozen guards who kept peace within the city-state.  It was simple to build up a city-state.  But a highly successful city-state?  Especially in 610 AD?

At this period in world history, 610 AD.....there's only one successful commerce city....where everyone is living in harmony.  The central theme?  It's an odd thing, but the council or leadership of the city....believed in tolerance.

Tolerance was preached to such a level....that you have any religious preference at all.  You could worship cows, or the sky, or a mythical wicked female character with lust written all over her.  A guy could be a Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian, or even some oddball Mediterranean religion with dolphins as a central theme.  Everything was absolutely acceptable.

The trade-off?

Well.....tolerance is a two-way street.  So the leadership of this unique city-state determined that for you to operate within your religious needs....you had to accept other folks and their religious tendencies....ever how odd they were.

Naturally, you'd say this would be harsh and difficult.  You live in your religious preferences, but you respect others for what they expect or desire.  You could trade and make a good lifestyle.....enjoying your religious worship....but you had to be absolutely tolerant of other people.  For years and decades.....this city-state made the system work.  In 610 AD....it was the ONLY city-state of this type in the world.  No one could boast of a more tolerant situation.

As part of the local custom.....the locals had a rather large black stone in the middle of town.  The black stone was part of a local religious tradition.  Supposedly, by the words of the locals....it made up roughly 360-odd religious beliefs of sorts.  So folks from far and wide in the region....would travel for days and weeks once a year....to visit this city-state, and respect the black stone.

To be honest....a guy came to the black stone for his religious, health, spiritual, and devotion needs.....as did thousands of others who did it for a totally different religious convictions.

No one today....years later....talks of how the original guy got this idea....to plow 360-odd religious figures or religious groups into one big black rock.  The guy had to be onto something in terms of tourism....thinking this would draw folks in....make some bucks for the local wine merchants, bread-makers, and street salesmen.  It was a good gimmick of sorts.

It was a great city-state.....respect, tolerance, money rolling in, and everyone in the city-state was happy.

Well.....this was the deal up until 610 AD.

This local guy showed up and decided to start his own religious community.  For thirteen years...more or less....he preached and attempted form up his "crew".  The local city-state?  They were decent about things....always tolerant in nature.  They generally just looked the other way....like they did for the dozens to hundreds of other religious groups practicing their thing.

Somewhere around 622 AD....things took a negative turn.  There's not a lot of text or written pieces over the downturn.  One piece of the local history admits they can only attribute one single death to this new guy and his religious group.....that being some older slave guy who may have gotten pushed around or stressed out from his experience with the new religious group.

The city-state made this decision.  Never before.....had they kicked any religious group or cult out of the city.  But this guy and his group....were a menace to public safety.  Tolerance?  Well.....they just weren't capable of behaving by the rules.  Intolerance was the standard he preached, and it wasn't safe for men or beast to stand against his thought process.

You'd ponder over this.  The guy was around 53 years old at the time.  He'd built up a number of followers within the city-state from day one.  A guy gets to being proud over his accomplishments....sees a bit of power and gets greedy.  Once you get kicked out of a city....it's kind like wrestling....a leave-the-state match means you leave and don't come back.  This guy was a bit upset.

The city-state was nice about this.  Down the road a piece was another town.  It's about 350 km (3.5 hours in a car today, if you were driving).  By horse or walking....it'd take around eight long days to transit over to your new town.

I'm guessing as this guy was walking around toward the new town as he was "expelled"....he was fairly angry.  Eight days is a long time on the trail.  A guy can think some awful bad things after he's been kicked out of some town for being intolerant.  The fact is....he'd likely have some very intolerant feelings brewing up.....kicking the sand and dirt as he walked along.

Payback, revenge, and a list of future despicable goals are probably the result of this eight-day march to the new city.

Folks there, in the new city....aren't as tolerant as the old place, but they seem to like this guy and his style.  Over the next couple of months....more folks sign up for his new religious group.  All he has to do....is talk....and folks buy into the theme.

For some reason, he develops this idea of robbing folks on the road to his former city-state.  Small-time robberies grow, and he gets identified as a rough character who leads a bunch of robbers.  It's not a bad deal because he claims he's robbing in the interest of his cult or religious persuasion.  Naturally, the money or loot flows back to help the followers of his group.  Kinda like the Robin Hood-theme....but more dedicated to religious feelings than helping the poor.

Roughly ten years go by while in this new chapter of his life.  Toward the last two years....he's such a menace of sorts....that the original city-state that kicked him and his crew out....decide that things have to change.  A guy is sent over and a treaty is worked out.

You can imagine the simplicity of this treaty as written....tolerance and respect probably were in paragraph one.  Religious respect might have been mentioned.  No copies of the text remain now.....fourteen hundred years later.  It'd be an interesting read....if you had a signed copy from both parties.

What happened next?  Well....around 630 AD.....roughly thirty years after he started up this whole religious episode and ten years after he got kicked out of town.....he leads his band of men onto the city of tolerance.  They establish firm control, and within weeks....had killed off a number of characters from the old days.

Anybody who'd been put on his bad-boy list....got whacked.  Simple...quick...to the point. That list probably existed from the eight-day walk, and you can imagine at least a hundred-odd characters who made it.  Interestingly enough....two slave gals who wrote up a cynical and sarcastic poem of sorts on him....made the list and were executed.

The most open and tolerant city-state on the face of the Earth?  No more.  He installed his religion as the only religion acceptable within walls of the city.  The city-state shifted in a very short time.  They became the most intolerant city-state on the face of the Earth.

The black rock experience?  Well, it's an odd thing.  This guy wasn't an idiot.  This walk that folks did....to visit the black rock with 360-odd religious meanings....simply couldn't end.  He needed new and enthusiast followers.  So he transformed the black rock deal....to simply be an extension of his own religion.  No one much fussed...otherwise, they'd be accused of being intolerant of the only religion in the city-state.  You can see the logic here.

So the black-rock continued on....with a new theme written into the text from 630 AD on.  Here in 2014, no one from this religious group is going to challenge history, or question why the black rock theme was 360-odd religions one day, and one-religion the next day.  The less history you know....the better off you are.....and no one will threaten your life over a silly little story where 359 other religions were involved in some black rock ceremony over a month long.

Times have passed, and this intolerant city-state still is around today.  Mecca.

The town where the minister got kicked into back in 622 AD?  Medina.

The guy?  Muhammad.

So, this gets you to pondering.  If there ever was a time machine developed, and one guy could be sent back to change one single element of world history....then 610 AD is the likely best time to go into....and Mecca is the town.  You'd have only one goal....to quietly eliminate this an intolerant street minister who will pose a threat to the safety of every living human....fifteen hundred years later.

It's an odd story.  Mecca....the most tolerant city-state on the face of the Earth....for a brief period.  Simple rules.....tolerance preached to everyone and expected in return.  Folks lived a good life.  And intolerance ended up being the fatal result.

Fate and history go hand-in-hand.  This is one of those classic cases.

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