Historical Watch: The Greeks, Plus a Little Pontificating on History @disneyplus #GoodWatch

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So I did!

I don’t read fiction. I’d rather read a text book. Moreover, I’ve often noted that if I didn’t have to work for a living, I’d probably go back to school and earn three degrees: economics, psychology, and history. You won’t earn a PhD watching the Greeks, but there’s plenty of information to digest from the show. It’s an interesting summary of the story of the ancient Greeks, and how they shaped modern culture. If you’re a D&D player interested in the new book, Mythic Odysseys of Theros, it may provide some inspiration for your characters’ personalities.

There was, I think, a lesson from the early part of episode 1.

When navigating the present, the answers often lie in the past.

The people who raised these columns [of the Parthenon] certainly had their share of challenges. Tyranny and famine. Economic and environmental collapse. Endless wars. An abysmal human rights record. Yet somehow they invented everything from science and philosophy to drama and democracy. Greece, not Egypt, not Persia, not Rome, became the cornerstone of western civilization.

As I recently mentioned to my friend, Erik, people (and cultures) are complex, both good and bad. The further back you go, the worse they appear. This is true even of historically significant characters and cultures. It’s very easy to look back at people and cultures and dwell on either their good qualities or their bad qualities. This results in either lionization or condemnation. Lionization may be naive, but unfair condemnation is even worse. It’s unfair to the person’s memory (I know they don’t care; they’re dead) because it fails to appreciate the context in which they existed. As a concept, evolution doesn’t just require change; it’s very nature is change, and in particular, change for the better. You can’t change for the better unless you come from a place that’s flawed. Moreover, in a harsher world, one must be harsher in character in order to survive. It’s our attempts (or lack thereof) to do better that are the fairer measure of someone’s worth (i.e., it’s the thought that counts). Without those harsh characters making those changes designed to give their children a better life, you wouldn’t be in such a place to haughtily look down on them.

I have a better idea: Assume all of these historically significant characters and cultures are imperfect so we don’t make their mistakes, but don’t ignore the qualities that had the most impact on our society, and temper that with your recognition of what they were attempting to do for humanity, as well as the context in which they were living. Were they a force for positive evolution? If so, then don’t dismiss them simply because you don’t think they’re perfect. Also, don’t criticize them because they didn’t advance as quickly as you’d prefer. Isaac Newton doesn’t deserve scorn because he didn’t discover the theory of relativity shortly after he discovered calculus. Evolution takes time and requires an environment that facilitates such change.

Besides, glass houses and all that. You’re not perfect either. None of us are, and none of us ever will be. The only people on this planet that have no past behavior to regret are psychopaths that care only about themselves. I hope no on reading this falls into that category.

We owe our present to our past. We stand on the shoulders of the achievements of the past, and it’s the only reason we can take the next steps forward.

So yeah, go watch it. It’s only three, one-hour episodes. As always, YMMV.

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