The Big Picture: Relics

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Well here's the thing though... Europe's dark ages were fairly brief and followed up with booms in education and culture.
Asian is the same but they usually experienced some apocalyptic event and used previous tech to forward just a little more depending on seclusion...

Africa is (supposedly) the oldest inhabited continent on earth with the most resources and minerals.
and yet when they went backwards....they STAYED backwards. there are still tribes of African living in mud huts using stones. Tribes in Asia and south america use technology when they come across it, i remember seeing a documentary where they met up with cannibals in like Brazil and they wore friggin' shirts with logos on them and have metal and lighters.

So why is Africa the exception here?

Huts aren't actually a technological step backwards though for that area. Castles, while impressive architecturally, are actually pretty horrible to live in that environment for several reasons. Huts are better for your health because of how they let air in, you have less garbage to take care of in them, and they're actually better to use for your environment.

And the places where huts are used? It generally makes the most sense to use them instead of giant buildings like we have everywhere else. Just because a house is a good idea in Tennessee doesn't mean it's a good idea in parts of Africa.

Also, Africa has had, and still has, more war ravaging the continent than pretty much everywhere else on the planet and so people don't really have the time to put into making better structures while they're avoiding being murdered by their fellow man. Food is also still very hard to get in a lot of places, so that's going to get more attention than architecture too.

hmm, very true....but war ravaged? that in its self brings up some questions.
if you look back on history almost every society has had a huge benefit frow war (long term anyway) through the 'necessity is the mother of innovation' idea. thats true from almost every culture, even the ones who lost. in an odd way, war (or just competition) has been one of the biggest driving forces for man in history right next to religion (different topic but i digress), so why didn't Africa ever innovate? with all the tribal conflict and competition, other civilizations would either adapt or innovate.
So why didn't Africa? its still kind of baffling to me.

Well, no, actually a lot of civilizations didn't adapt well to war. There were a lot of civilizations and tribes that have been destroyed completely because of war, we just tend not to think about them since not a lot of history is left about the people our ancestors completely wiped out and not many people are going to care about people they can't be related to. And there are still groups everywhere that are suffering because they didn't win wars.

Look at Native American tribes in the U.S. in the modern day, they were war ravaged and most tribes still haven't recovered from it in one way or another. Parts of the ruling population still treat them pretty terribly too, kind of like in Africa where the groups with control you will notice have a lot of nice stuff going for them whereas the people below them have relatively nothing, so they can't recover as well as groups that don't have such things to deal with.

Also, history does show that there are actually more nations that do poorly after war than not. If you're using the U.S. as an example for countries that have done well after war you're using a very rare example and need to keep in mind that part of the reason the U.S. has done so well is that the wars didn't happen on U.S. soil. After WWI Germany, and other European nations, did terribly with everything they had and then it of course helped lead them into WWII. WWII did at first revitalize the economy for some of Europe, but after the war the economy began to tank for awhile. The U.S. was saved in economy because our entertainment industry boomed right after the war, but if you look at stuff now we're actually losing economy and technological advances right now partly because we're still in war (which is expensive) and there's no boom here to save us because we already have an entertainment industry, so we're not suddenly spending money on something newish and exciting, and because it's unfortunately not adapting to modern technology and the way it's being used.

War is actually very damaging for the most part and it's not really worth it unless you manage to pull resources from it that are worthwhile.

In the past Europe took a long, long time to adapt to war before any real innovations were made. The Viking raids on Europe actually destroyed a lot of things for Europeans and they didn't really adapt to survive them until they got the Feudal system going and even then the Feudal system was in many ways a step back from the things they had before and part of the reason it worked was that people had some land to retreat back into whereas people in Africa don't. They don't have other places to go and hide whereas most civilizations that have survived and made great innovations with war have had at least a few cities to retreat into. This only applies to the parts of Africa where that's happening though.

There actually parts of Africa that are extremely well developed in terms of buildings, health care, and several over things, but people tend to mistakenly still attribute all that development to people who aren't native or they just don't know about it. Johannesburg is a pretty impressive city, it's one of the largest cities in the world and it is the largest city that isn't next to a river, lake, or coastline (this is really impressive if you know how unlikely it is for cities to grow without bodies of water such as these), but people often unfortunately don't give the credit to native people there that they deserve for this city and they also just tend to not hear about the place.

But, none of that, of course makes it so that Africa as a whole is any less ravaged than it is or makes it so the people under attack there can automatically develop perfectly against it. The other thing to keep in mind is that a lack of education is also making it harder for most people to adapt. Even other places have had sanctuaries where people like monks could keep knowledge alive, without monks and nuns after the dark ages in Europe I can promise you that not nearly as many advances that needed to be made in technology to survive would have been made and we might even have had different civilizations dominating the world at this point. In Africa that's not really the case, sadly, and a lot of good knowledge isn't being passed around and the good knowledge being given to people is being given alongside some really awful ideas (like that there's actually a cure for AIDS and it's super easy to fix).

Funny this should crop up just now. It just so happened not more than a few days ago I downloaded a game on the app store called, strangely enough, The Lost City. With environments not that far removed from what Bob was describing here. Figures.

Did I see racial stereotyping of the British in your mockery of the invading colonists there, Bob?

Oh ho ho, how very droll!

Actually when I hear "lost city" I think more of "I a am legend" or Racoon City with less zombies.

I dunno why I jump to more modern day cities rather than national treasure style stuff.

Pretty sure you are finding racism in your own assumptions of what these colonial explorers were thinking.

Surely if you were walking through a vast area of land, populated by many people living mostly in tribal communities of earthen and wooden huts/houses, when you came across a massive stone ruin, you would definitely wonder where it came from.

NOT because you are racist and don't think the local population could have done such a thing.
It was through simple observation of the fact that the local population no longer built things in that way, and that the cities which were built in that way were left to ruin! People think the same thing of stone henge fo goodness sake.... ugh, such an annoying episode

My mail bag question: What movie or movie genre hasn't been portrayed well or lacks portrayal in the current entertainment industry?

It seems a lot of the same themes are played up again and again, is there anything you can think of that you feel would be a good change up or shake down?

Thanks again Bob. Really interesting episode.

I don't know how funny it'd be, But since the SPC was this week i thought a thing on abridging would be funny. Maybe just a whole episode on Team four star?

When Bob first mentioned lost cities I thought of temples in South America, rather than Africa. I guess Aztec and Incan temples filled with treasure just seemed more likely.

Anyway the assumption that the Africans didn't make these lost cities isn't a racist as Bob makes out. Firstly it should be pointed out that Europeans never claimed that South American, Middle Eastern, Indian, or Asian cities were made anyone other than the people living there. The reason for this was that the natives lived in these cities or lived in similar cities. The natives were able to demonstrate they had the technology to build these cities.

By contrast the sub-Saharan African people were tribal, lived in mud huts, and lacked basic technology. So either the Africans originally built these cities then suddenly regressed and lost all their technological knowledge, or someone else built them. The absence of any records left by the Great Zimbabwe civilisation didn't help, nor did the long history and Arab and Europeans colonising parts of Africa. Had Great Zimbabwe not been abandoned when the Europeans arrived then the European would never have doubted that it was built by the Africans.

Pretty sure you are finding racism in your own assumptions of what these colonial explorers were thinking.

Surely if you were walking through a vast area of land, populated by many people living mostly in tribal communities of earthen and wooden huts/houses, when you came across a massive stone ruin, you would definitely wonder where it came from.

That's what I was thinking, though I won't deny colonialists were racist I would think it was simply the fact they saw a ruined castle and then they saw people who weren't even using a lot of stone and thought "hmmm, well evidently this isn't the sought of thing they built.

I mean sure they were, by all accounts, pretty racist but I wonder if you've just applied that assumption of constant racism when it wasn't there.

I saw the movie title "Relics," saw it was about RACISM, heard Bob talking about how most societies simply assumed it as a matter of course...

...aaaaaaaand I didn't hear the words 'genetic' or 'biological' used once. Just a whole dissertation on how RACIST it was for the European explorers to assume that because the African tribes living in the area had no written language, no knowledge of stonework, no social organization beyond the tribe, and nothing beyond oral tradition, that someone else must have built the cities.

Pop quiz: If society collapsed today, who would be more likely to survive: the intellectual guys who had the intellectual capacity to specialize themselves into a single field like nuclear technology or masonry or systems analysis or optical fabrication or aeronautics, or the guy who had none of that, so he spent most of his time impressing chicks by mastering everyday status-games, playing football, stealing from the productive citizens on the sly, lying and taking credit for others' work to advance himself in a managerial make-work career, and being Buster Friendly to everyone but useful to none?

My guess is the second one would find others like him and kill off the productive group, and his descendants would inherit his thieving and lying characteristics, both genetic and cultural. But Bob's probably a blank-slater who thinks evolution stops above the neck. The Great White Nerd explorers of the past were a bit smarter than that.

I should have turned this off at the disclaimer. Waste of my time.

Also when I think Lost City I think South America, not Africa.
Also, regarding European impressions of Africa, um, the fact that they found ruined cities but similarily found no cities built by the africans wasn't cause for them to you know, assume it was someone else?

There's a broken castle here!
These people are all living in grass huts
Who built the castle?

It's not illogical to assume that a continent of people who don't display the means to build a castle had nothing to do with it's construction. I mean if there's some castles in say Kenya, that are occupied, and then some ruins in south Africa that are unoccupied then there's a greater case for an african civilization dying off. But when there's castle ruins in one place, and in every other place no one else lives in a castle that's a bit odd.

It's not irrational to assume that a foreign power built the castle not the ancestors of the current residents.

Very good episode as usual. Finding out that benign racism still exists to a large extent in society and pop culture was really interesting. It does make me wonder what else in popular culture is remnants of overt racism of the past.

This was actually one of your better episodes. Very fascinating, the concept of fiction genres and tropes to come out of humanity's... inferiority.

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