Iran News ...


10/05/08

Enquiries: End of History, 42 & Year of the Golden Frog...

By A.J. Cave

 


   According to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Deep Thought was a super computer built by a super race of beings to calculate 'the Ultimate Answer to the Great Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything'. 

   After seven and a half million years of computing cycles, Deep Thought's answer was 42.
  

"I think the problem is that the question was too broadly based..."
   "Forty Two?! Is that all you've got to show for seven and a half million years' work?"

   "I checked it very thoroughly," said Deep Thought, "and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem,
to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what the question is."


 

   Douglas Adams was asked many times during his career why he chose the number 42 and this is what he said:
 

"The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. 
I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought '42 will do.' I typed it out. End of story."
 

   Funny!

   Ironically, this might very well have been how the historians of the 19th and 20th centuries came up with their image of the Imperial Persian Achaemenids, when they could not grasp the nature of their empire: 
   

"They were not Hellenes. They were not democrats. They were Orientals.  End of story."

 

   Instead of attempting to ask meaningful questions, inquire into historical accounts known to be biased, and dig deeper behind the hostile Hellenic veil, they chose the path of least resistance and looked the other way... they gave up half of their own rich inheritance.

   Well...

   Then came year 1989.   
 
   1989 was an interesting year. It was the Year of the Snake; Emperor of Japan died; George Bush [the Elder] became the President of the United States; Soviet Union finally left Afghanistan; and Ayatollah Khomeini offered $3M for the head of a British-Indian writer. Georgian demonstrators were massacred by the Red Army. Students protested in Tiananmen Square and the Chinese declared martial law in Beijing. Ayatollah Khomeini died and no one collected the bounty. The Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco and a portion of the Bay Bridge collapsed. 

   The Berlin Wall fell too without an earthquake and a small article in a conservative magazine by an unknown American policy analyst predicted the "End of History": the struggle between the East and West was finally over; Western democracy had won; rock and roll had become pervasive; human nature had changed and human thought had stopped to evolve. Materialism, even in fanatic theocracies would eventually lead to a universal homogeneous state. Western democracy would spread and the globe would not be able to resist its awesome power.  

   This would have been one of the stories that Herodotos would not have believed it himself: That the Hellenes and Persians had killed and died for nothing: they should have just waited for the western shopping malls and rock and roll music to reach Hellas and Persia.

   What Herodotos had started, Fukuyama had ended: history had ended the way it had started: by words of men who thought they understood a world that was beyond their comprehension.  

   Hmmm...

   Hubris rings a bell?

   The article was inspired not by the Hellene 'father of history, but by Hegel, a German Philosopher of the 19th century, who did not look like the sort of a man who had many friends: not too many people had read him and fewer had understood.  "For our purposes," the author wrote, "it matters very little what strange thoughts occur to people in Albania..."  No enquiries were necessary. We knew!

   The article was translated into many languages and the unknown writer became not famous, but known well enough in the circles of intellectuals who waxed and waned about the article. They say the conservative magazine outsold pornography in Washington D.C. in the summer of 1989. Everyone else in the country was watching Seinfeld, not that there was anything wrong with that. Soup Nazi was a lot more interesting than German philosophy. Nothing like hunger realigns real priorities.

   Nothing further happened for the remainder of 1989 that is worth mentioning compared to the end of history.

   1989 was a good year for the man who predicted the end of history. He went on to become a college professor and predicted the end of other things. Mercifully, he stayed away from the history of the Achaemenids and stuck to public policy.

   1989 was a bad year for the Golden Frog.  It became extinct. It was the end of the road for the famous shinny little toad with dazzling mating rituals. Discovered in 1966, it starred in colorful posters about the biodiversity of Costa Rica and became the subject of the book: In Search of the Golden Frog. They say it was because of global warming. 

   I am obliged, however, to tell you that I have heard rumors from the white mice that all the Golden Frogs hitched a ride to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe in 1989, waiting to hear 'the Ultimate Question'. 'The Untimate Answer' is still holding at 42.

   Douglas Adams had a daughter when he was 42. He died in 2001 of a heart attack. He was 49.

   Řakata... Time passes...

   2008 has been a good year for history thanks to Zeus and Apollo and the rest of the Olympians who didn't take too kindly to the human proclamation about the 'end of history' and swiftly punished hubris. Only great gods and fat opera singers can decree 'The End'. Russians have swaggered back into Georgia; Chinese have proudly demonstrated their might with fireworks over Beijing Olympics, and Iranians have told the West: "If you want our toys, come and get them. Bring cash and cigarettes."

   Nothing ever changes much in the eternal Iran. It constantly changes in order to remain the same. After thousands of years of surviving bloodshed and brutality, it knows how to burn, die, and rise again like phoenix from the heap of ashes.

   When a world ends, another one begins...

Related article by the author:

Battle over Persepolis Fortification Archive: Achaemenid Administrative Archives
 

About the author: A. J. Cave is a San Francisco Bay-Area Iranian-American writer. Her first novel, Roxana Romance: Roshanak Nameh [Book of Roshanak] was published in 2008.

Roxana Romance is the story of Roxana who married Alexander the Great, King of Macedon, who defeated the last Great King of the first Persian Empire. They say it was a love match.

The third chapter of the novel: 'Axis of Empire' is about the horror of burning of Parsa [Persepolis] by Alexander. It puts Achaemenid Administrative Archives in context of time and place.  It is provided here by the author in pdf format.

 

... Payvand News - 10/05/08 ... --



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