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The History of Exploration, Trade and Travel


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#1    pantodragon

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 02:49 PM

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people are incompetent.  Humans have created a society which they are neither competent to live in, nor competent to manage.

History is littered with examples of incompetence.  Of course, historians (and others), as incompetent as the next person, fail to identify this phenomenon.  Thus, while the truth is that the history of exploration, travel and trade is plagued with tales of bungling ineptitude, of incompetent thugs (lads) rampaging around the world laying waste to land and people with gay abandon, people express admiration for the bravery of those hooligans who were idiot enough to “boldly go where no man has gone before”.

(The recent (6 years ago?) Star Trek film shows a wonderful lack of understanding in this regard.  It portrays the young James T Kirk as a hot-headed daredevil.  Hot-headed dare-devilry breeds incompetence.  It would have taken a miracle to metamorphose that fool into the James T Kirk of the original series.  He, at least, was portrayed as still having some of his marbles intact and was therefore a more credible character.)


Giles Milton’s book “Samurai William” describes a beautiful example of human incompetence at the end of the 16th century.

Dutch merchants financed an expedition to Indonesia and the Spice Islands which comprised a fleet of 5 ships.  This was going to be a round the world voyage which in those days might have been roughly equivalent to sending people into space today.  The scale of the incompetence surrounding this venture is staggering.

1: The ships were manned by drunks and prisoners “pressed” into service i.e. men who neither wanted to be sailors nor knew anything about the sea.  As to the volunteers (as opposed to the drunks and prisoners), well, there appeared to have been one who had first hand experience of sailing round the world. But life is cheap.  And since the financiers were expecting to make spectacular profits from the trip, using inexperienced men, with the attendant risk of loosing most of their fleet, was a risk well worth taking.

2:  It was not until the last minute that the expedition’s financiers revealed the fleet’s destination. So, no time for proper planning, then, eh?  Any volunteer who signs up for a voyage under those circumstances is incompetent and gets what he asked for.  

3: The ships’ resources were managed by incompetents: by the time the fleet reached the north African coast, the men’s food was rationed.

4: Re-stocking the ships’ food rations was always going to be well nigh impossible since the African coastline was under the control of nations hostile to the Dutch.  All the more reason to exercise care with resources.

5: The captains of the Dutch fleet were so incompetent as to antagonise even further the already hostile Portuguese and Spanish.

6: The crews were unable to cope with the climates of the tropics or the southern oceans.

7:  The Dutch ships were not fit for purpose: their timbers decayed and rotted in tropical waters.

8: The fleet’s captains were incompetent at building friendly relations with the native peoples they encountered.  Result: the crews continued to starve and were killed in skirmishes.

(In the film Independence Day enormous, black, alien spacecraft hover menacingly over the world’s cities.  Under such circumstances, it is obvious to even the dumbest cretin that the aliens’ intentions are hostile.  In the same spirit of hostility, the Dutch ships “hovered” threateningly off the coast by native villages.  Hardly surprising the natives proved to be hostile.)

9: Scurvy swept through the fleet.  Totally unnecessary.  A cure for scurvy had been discovered nearly a decade before.  (As I said, life is cheap.)

10: The ships’ pilots were operating in waters that were beyond their competence to handle.

11: As well as the “enemy without” there was an “enemy wihin” i.e. the crews fought amongst themselves as much as they fought the Spanish, Portuguese and native peoples.

12: Only a handful of men survived the expedition.

13: The entire expedition comprised bad decisions piled upon bad decisions, with fatal results.


This story is far from unusual in the history of exploration, travel and trade.  And the same phenomenon can be observed today in any walk of life.  Hardly surprising.  Incompetent behaviour is, after all, a ‘communicable disease’.  Since incompetence is built into the very foundations of human society, the rest of the structure is fatally flawed.


Finally: I’ve talked above of trade and exploration as the driving forces behind expeditions such as the one described above, and this may make some of the sacrifices seem acceptable.  For example, a country that is unable to trade is a country which may sink into poverty.  However, the REAL motivation behind these enterprises is the desire for power.  That is, they were not for the good of the country, not done out of necessity, but for POWER.  Money is a route to power.  Possessions are a route to power.


#2    The Sky Scanner

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 03:16 PM

Those that can, do, those that can't preach to others about it.

Take polar expeditions as an example, historians have written many books about it - Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen....they have all had books written about them. One man (who I won't mention as I don't want to muddy his name - yet he is strangely regarded as an 'expert') wrote a scathing attack on Scotts expeditions, yet this man has never foot in either polar region, yet when a man who has spent more time in both polar regions then any other (Ranulph Fiennes) decided to write a book about the true story of Scotts expeditions he found a far different picture to what his detractors had painted.

Edited by Sky Scanner, 04 May 2013 - 03:23 PM.

"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science". ~ Edwin Powell Hubble

#3    Child of Bast

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 01:15 PM

View Postpantodragon, on 04 May 2013 - 02:49 PM, said:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people are incompetent.  

Everyone but you, of course. :rolleyes:

'A phantom,' said my Uncle Mycroft, who had just materialised, 'is essentially a heteromorphic wave pattern that gains solidity when the apparition converts thermal energy from the surroundings to visible light. It's a fascinating process and I'm amazed no one has thought of harnessing it - a holographic TV that could operate from the heat given off by an average-size guinea pig.' ~ First Among Sequels, Jasper Fforde

#4    WaknakiTohbi

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 08:44 AM

And the incompetence of Columbus, founded the America's.. Big whoop, Ever consider that our foolish nature might be a strong point?

If everybody were intellectuals nothing would get done. Sometimes it takes a dumb*** to take that "leap for mankind"

From hagakure (Samurai proverb)

The Chinese character for "cowardice" is made by adding the character for "meaning" to the character radical for "mind". Now "meaning" is "discrimination," and when a man attaches discrimination to his true mind, he becomes a coward.


#5    pantodragon

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 03:03 PM

View PostWaknakiTohbi, on 07 May 2013 - 08:44 AM, said:

And the incompetence of Columbus, founded the America's.. Big whoop, Ever consider that our foolish nature might be a strong point?

If everybody were intellectuals nothing would get done. Sometimes it takes a dumb*** to take that "leap for mankind"



Your avatar suggests that you may be Native American Indian.  Is that the case?  If so, I am surprised to hear you support Columbus in particular and white incompetence generally.

As to the "leap for mankind", all these leaps that are taken in the name of progress are more like lemmings running off the cliffs that progress .


#6    pantodragon

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 03:04 PM

View PostKasey2601, on 06 May 2013 - 01:15 PM, said:

Everyone but you, of course. :rolleyes:

My competence exceeds theirs in that I have the competence to recognise the limits of my own competence.


#7    pantodragon

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 03:07 PM

View PostSky Scanner, on 04 May 2013 - 03:16 PM, said:

, yet when a man who has spent more time in both polar regions then any other (Ranulph Fiennes) decided to write a book about the true story of Scotts expeditions he found a far different picture to what his detractors had painted.

Well of course he would.  When you write a new book on an old subject, you need a new angle.  This is about selling and about the status of Feinnes as an expert polar explorer, not about the truth.


#8    The Sky Scanner

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 03:44 PM

View Postpantodragon, on 07 May 2013 - 03:07 PM, said:

Well of course he would.  When you write a new book on an old subject, you need a new angle.  This is about selling and about the status of Feinnes as an expert polar explorer, not about the truth.

Well, you're wrong, completely wrong, since he went through each process to show that the luxury of 21st century hindsight is of no use when trying to asses the explorations of people 100 yrs previously, and he showed this through each process by using his own knowledge of the region to explain how decisions were made. But then you'd know all that and wouldn't make an accusation of it being about the Fiennes status if you'd actually read the book before commenting on something you obviously haven't looked in to :tu:

"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science". ~ Edwin Powell Hubble

#9    pantodragon

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 03:55 PM

View PostSky Scanner, on 07 May 2013 - 03:44 PM, said:

Well, you're wrong, completely wrong, since he went through each process to show that the luxury of 21st century hindsight is of no use when trying to asses the explorations of people 100 yrs previously, and he showed this through each process by using his own knowledge of the region to explain how decisions were made. But then you'd know all that and wouldn't make an accusation of it being about the Fiennes status if you'd actually read the book before commenting on something you obviously haven't looked in to :tu:

An understanding of human nature and the way of the world is a wonderful thing: it saves you an awful lot of trouble --- like having to do everything, read everything ever written...........


#10    The Sky Scanner

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 04:05 PM

View Postpantodragon, on 07 May 2013 - 03:55 PM, said:

An understanding of human nature and the way of the world is a wonderful thing: it saves you an awful lot of trouble --- like having to do everything, read everything ever written...........

Then you would also know that part of human nature is motivation, and every persons motivation for any endeavour differs greatly depending on the character of the person - in fact the only common trait all explorers share is that they are driven people.

Do you claim to know the motivation of every individual, therefore you can criticise them all and their achievements?

"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science". ~ Edwin Powell Hubble

#11    WaknakiTohbi

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 06:39 PM

View Postpantodragon, on 07 May 2013 - 03:03 PM, said:



Your avatar suggests that you may be Native American Indian.  Is that the case?  If so, I am surprised to hear you support Columbus in particular and white incompetence generally.

As to the "leap for mankind", all these leaps that are taken in the name of progress are more like lemmings running off the cliffs that progress .
Yes I'm infact Native American, Part Chickasaw with just enough "white man" for you to question my honesty..

First of all, Columbus did nothing to my people. We ran Desoto out of North America. Then the British came, we liked them in fact a trade network was built (probably by a bunch of fools) and we exchanged goods, you know like food, skins,and most important KNOWLEDGE.

And then, this thing they called the Revolution broke out,The Chickasaw's naturally sided with their new friends the British. Subsequently, that was a bad idea and "Look at us now". I mean not to bore you with history, you apparently didn't get to far into it.

I don't particularly like how this exchange took place, but it was bound to happen. Given a few more years the Native Americans would of reached Europe by the same blundering mishaps.

As to the second part of your comment, refer to the proverb.

You think too much, therefore your left trembling on top of the cliff (coward). But don't worry, somebody will jump and you can promptly use your Logic and Reasoning to hide your cowardice.

Peace




#12    pantodragon

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 02:12 PM

View PostSky Scanner, on 07 May 2013 - 04:05 PM, said:

Then you would also know that part of human nature is motivation, and every persons motivation for any endeavour differs greatly depending on the character of the person - in fact the only common trait all explorers share is that they are driven people.

Do you claim to know the motivation of every individual, therefore you can criticise them all and their achievements?

Yes.  It's actually not difficult, since we live in a sick world, a world in which everyone is addicted to power (except Yours Truly, though not without some effort).


#13    pantodragon

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 02:28 PM

View PostWaknakiTohbi, on 07 May 2013 - 06:39 PM, said:

Yes I'm infact Native American, Part Chickasaw with just enough "white man" for you to question my honesty..

First of all, Columbus did nothing to my people. We ran Desoto out of North America. Then the British came, we liked them in fact a trade network was built (probably by a bunch of fools) and we exchanged goods, you know like food, skins,and most important KNOWLEDGE.

And then, this thing they called the Revolution broke out,The Chickasaw's naturally sided with their new friends the British. Subsequently, that was a bad idea and "Look at us now". I mean not to bore you with history, you apparently didn't get to far into it.

I don't particularly like how this exchange took place, but it was bound to happen. Given a few more years the Native Americans would of reached Europe by the same blundering mishaps.

As to the second part of your comment, refer to the proverb.

You think too much, therefore your left trembling on top of the cliff (coward). But don't worry, somebody will jump and you can promptly use your Logic and Reasoning to hide your cowardice.

Peace




What I know of Native American culture leads me to admire it greatly.  Some examples are the following:

Carl Jung, the psychotherapist, visited the USA and took the opportunity to talk to some indigenous peoples, possibly from Arizona (I do appreciate that it's a big country and that there were many nations).  When he asked what they thought of the white man, he was told "They think with this (the man pointed to his head), instead of here (pointed to his heart)."  I think this is real wisdom.  Personally, logic and reason are not my vices and I do think I understand what that Native American was telling Jung.

In a film "American Evil" made by Native Americans, there was a scene where some old Indians were sitting round a fire chatting.  When a young man arrived, in the course of explaining something to him, they gave their views of the white Americans: they were very young, and the only things the Indians could do was to wait for them to grow up.  While I do not entirely agree with this in that I think it is rather "sick" than "young", nevertheless, the sickness has the effect of reducing whites' minds to something less, reducing them to something more like children than mature adults.

Another film, Legend of the Fall: a native American features as the narrator of this film, and in the course of his narration he explains the characters behaviours.  One character saw his brother die in war but felt responsible and was tortured by guilt.  On returning home, he was unable to settle back into home life, ran wild and went off to live in the wild for a while and went to sea.  The Native American explained the beahviour by saying that "the bear was growling inside him" and that only when it stopped growling would he come out of this.  (It is probably relevant to note that the character had several deliberate encounters with bears as a child).  I entirely understand what the native American meant; but I think it would be impossible to express this in reasonable, logical terms.  A psychologist could not really tell you by what and why the character was troubled.  The bear says it.

Edited by pantodragon, 09 May 2013 - 02:35 PM.


#14    The Sky Scanner

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 05:21 PM

View Postpantodragon, on 09 May 2013 - 02:12 PM, said:

Yes.  It's actually not difficult, since we live in a sick world, a world in which everyone is addicted to power (except Yours Truly, though not without some effort).

Ah I see. Well that's one of the flaws in your thinking then, since everyone isn't addicted to power, yet even if they was that still isn't the motivating power behind every exploration.

"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science". ~ Edwin Powell Hubble

#15    pantodragon

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 02:43 PM

View PostSky Scanner, on 09 May 2013 - 05:21 PM, said:

Ah I see. Well that's one of the flaws in your thinking then, since everyone isn't addicted to power, yet even if they was that still isn't the motivating power behind every exploration.

You'd be surprised!  But unfortunately the only way you can see the truth is to come off power yourself.  You are probably aware of how alcoholics loose all awareness of the effects of alcohol and just drink it throughout the day as other people coffee.  It's only when they come off the alcohol that they know they were on it.  I know what I am talking about because I kicked power myself.  Like reformed smokers who can feel a rush of desire when the smell cigarrette smoke or see a cigarette advert, I can still experience a rush when I sense power.  I wouldn't have believed it myself if I had been told about it before I'd experienced it.  If you told me I was on power, I'd have laughed in your face, or more likely have punched your lights out!

Edited by pantodragon, 11 May 2013 - 02:44 PM.





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