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Ridiculousness of Permanence of Institutions

Voödoo 6 von Inyanga Profile picture

Voödoo 6 von Inyanga

@6Voodoo

Jan 23 • 22 tweets • 7 min read  Read on Twitter

1/ Humans often view the institutions of their time as permanent. This is folly. Not only is history filled with examples to the contrary, but it is our duty to shatter institutions that have outlived their purpose. The Mongol Siege of Baghdad in 1258:

2/ For those of us who have been to the Islamic world, it is difficult to picture what the Islamic Golden Age was like.

3/ Lasting almost 600 years, the Islamic world, namely the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad carried the torch of knowledge and science for humanity while Europe was mired in the Dark Ages.

4/ While Islam was far from a religion of peace, they embraced scientific knowledge, the pursuit of culture, and built libraries that would rival modern sports stadiums. The Abbasid Caliphate was the center of mathematics, science, astronomy, and art for the entire world.

5/ By 1258 the Caliphate was still a rich and powerful force, but they were coasting on the memories of their past victories. The strong Abbasids, descendants of Mohammed who had overthrown the Umayyads in 751 to take over the Caliphate, were a thing of the past.

6/ The Abbasids knew of the Mongol threat. They had watched it wipe the Khwarazmians from the earth 30 years before, and recently had seen the Mongols destroy the once fear Assasins and even encroach into Abbasid lands. But the Caliph Al-Musta’sim dawdled.

7/ Wether through arrogance or bad advice, he neither prepared his army nor agreed to the Mongol terms. He told the Mongols to pound sand, and then did nothing to get ready. 

8/ The Caliph could have been busy strengthening his alliances, and calling upon the mighty banners of Sunni Islam to stand by his side. Instead he insulted the Mongols, and played in his treasury.

9/ By the time the 150,000 strong Mongol army under Hulagu, grandson of Genghis, arrived at the gates of Baghdad at the end of January 1258 it was too late.

10/ The Abbasid army rode out to meet the Mongols and their Armenian and Georgian allies, unprepared and poorly led they were slaughtered. The Mongols wasted no time. Attacking Baghdad day and night, the Mongols quickly siezed a portion of the city walls.

11/ Realizing their predicament, 3,000 of Baghdad’s nobility went out to try and negotiated with Hulagu. They were put to the sword. Thousands of civilians tried to flee on boats on the Tigris, only to be met by Mongols who had bridged the river. All were killed.

12/ The city surrendered, hoping this act of capitulation would spare them. It would not. As the Abbasid Army laid down its weapons and begged for mercy, it was killed to the last man. What followed could easily be mistaken for the end of the world. 

13/ The Mongols began murdering every Sunni Muslim they found in the city walls. (sparing Christian and Shia civilians) Going house to house, the Mongols killed without mercy. The Mongols even dug up the bones of long dead Caliphs, and burned them in giant piles in the streets.

14/ Dozens of libraries burned, and the light of Islamic culture and knowledge was extinguished.

15/ It isn’t known exactly how many died in Baghdad, (estimates range from 100,000 to a million), but the stench of the slaughter was so bad that the Mongols were forced to move their camp up wind of the dying city. Baghdad became a ghost town for decades after.

16/ The impact of the slaughter was so extreme, that the canals and dams that once enabled a fertile Mesopotamia were destroyed forever. The engineers and labor killed or enslaved.

17/ Islam would be saved on a distant battlefield years later, but it would sink into its own dark age, from which it has yet to recover.

The sands of time run, things change, and it isn’t for us to know if that change will be better or worse. 

18/ Certainly the fall of Rome and Baghdad were worse for the people living at the time, but long term they have borne different fruits. Rome recovered, Baghdad never did 

19/ Islam, while widespread and populous, is a mere shell of a former glory it has long since given up trying to attain.
The institutions we count on, and the ones we hate, are only as strong as the ability of the people to fight for or against them. 

20/ Like the Caliphate, they are fragile, and need to be defended. It was inconceivable in 1258 that there would be a world without an Abbasid Caliphate. It had existed as long as Europeans have known North America. And then one day, it was simply gone. 

21/ People who love the state want you to believe that because a thing has existed, it should always exist. That we shouldn’t change because “that’s the way its always been”. This is how they lock you into a system of bureaucratic oppression. 

22/ That is how they lock you into a dangerous precedent where the government, and not the people, decides what will be. The same goes for the things we love. They are perpetually at risk of destruction. Change can be scary, but it is the price of freedom. 

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