Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Let's mount an expedition?
At the most recent meeting of the Diogenes Club our sedentary wonderings and epicurian excesses made me think, when did we last actually discover anything new.
Or do I mean old.
For example, no-one apparently has found the remains or tomb of Temujin, better known as Genghis Khan, (1162- 1227) the legendary Mongol empire builder. This surely could be a task for at least some desk research, if not an expedition to garner some treasure, at least in the form of his DNA.
An excuse might be that it would be an expedition into oil bearing territories that might be of use to Western and Eastern governments seeking new plunder and/or old myths to exploit as we near a scenario of “peak oil” when we will be looking for new connections and alliances based on any fragment of similarity.
For we are all brothers. And sisters. When the oil runs out.
This phenomenon of helping those in peril seemed to operate with the recent earthquake in nearby China. We need to exploit our connectedness.
But I note that the director of the most recent Genghis film was thrown out of Mongolia for failing to get the record straight. Genghis Khan, the Master of the Blue Wolf, is revered there. Artistic licence is one thing, exploitation another, but our common heritage needs emphasis in troubled times.
And the Diogenes Club has always wanted to pay homage to the oral tradition, not just by academic training, but by instinct, for whilst error and falsehood may be repeated, so too may truth kept alive at the knee of ones ancestors and the traces they leave behind in our memories.
Millions of people (some 16 million males at least,) carry the Y chromosome unique to Genghis Khan, just as certainly as we know he was responsible for the violent deaths of 18 million people in his conquests.
As beachhutman I, even, apparently share this genetic lineage, so I felt I should explore this birthright that I share with so many.
That is one man in every 200, never mind the female descendants (who pose problems of evidence for the geneticists).
Genghis Khan was a slave once. I hate slavery. My real name, Tim Baber, given to me by my parents aware of this tradition, both reveals and conceals a custom any such connection is worthy of even only idle consideration.
Personally I have always believed the milkman is a useful antidote to such harpings, but DNA can now reconstitute a tortuous trail over the centuries. And with milkmen numbering perhaps 1 in 200 men (I made that up) this might explain their calling, for whilst Khan had many wives, he was enthusiastic in his attentions to other women. Milkmen share this trait by tradition. I share this trait. Now we know Y.
There are arguable links of lineage between Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamurlaine, Babur and Vlad the Impaler. The trail and my family’s research gets a bit fuzzy thereafter, despite the evidence of some 16, 17 or 18 million males (that is, depending on when the research was validated).
This offers some confirmation and how testing was achieved dispelling much doubt and ignorance, which are equal enemies of progress and illumination. Of course, it might cost you over £200 to get this particular satisfaction in the form of a DNA test. And even then Diogenes might ask, So What?
After most conquests in which the men were slaughtered the most beautiful women were kept for the Khan ensuring little doubt that the mechanism worked. There is some doubt of course about his DNA, his grave has yet to be discovered, hence the Diogenes efforts being mustered to establish some veracity here.
This is in the face of some secrecy in the past. Legend records the escort of the body killed anyone that strayed across their path, so as not to reveal the burial place.
The favourite location is apparently today Mongolia. I am watching events closely, and gathering research and contacts to grace my desk; This literature search is prior to a bid to the Diogenes Club to fund future expeditions.
Kubilai Khan was Genghis’s great-grandson and he managed to add 30 virgins to his harem each year, so a patrilineal pattern would emerge, wouldn’t it.
Despite that bald fact it used to be said a virgin (a woman) carrying a bag of gold could walk from one end of his empire to the other and remain completely unmolested.
On the other hand he did slaughter 18 million lives to establish his own progeny. He is quoted as having said:
“The greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters”.
Did I say he was my role model? Well the bit about others being shrouded in tears seems unnecessarily cruel.
I suspect the later introduction of Buddhism to Mongolia may have been a mixture of softening warlike tendencies and social engineering, and guess what, I would be right, according to one source I have consulted.
Various diseases and attempted monkish serfdom has had a part to play too, according to the same source, but here I am erring into the realm of politics, conspiracy theories of history and war, we should focus on the DNA, the Khan, and leave the speculation over the genetic contribution to warfare to others who actually do understand such things. This is just a bit of flag-pole waving, you understand, based on a few tantalising glimpses of areas to understand.
Of course Mongolia today is still a place of extremes. Drought can wipe out 25% of the gazelle population in a month, sending 20,000 to face death (becoming entangled recently in the border fence with neighbouring Russia).
Mongolia ‘s population is half nomadic even today, and probably find fences as annoying as I do today, (the damn things limiting my freedom and anyone else’s). I live on an island, what do I want with a fence?
The nomads (literally scratching a living from the earth or their cashmere goats) under this stunning Asian sky face winter temperatures of 40 degrees below zero and if anything things are getting worse year on year for their survival.
At the moment as I write there are 15 wildfires threatening life and property that would destroy everything and anything that has survived this long. Do we read about this in the media here, No! Yet this land needs exploration. It offers much by way of explanation of what we are, what we were, and what we may become.
Now, with the benefits of Range Rovers, satellite imagery and location finding, and modern expeditionary technology, we may even attract sponsors for such a Diogenarian enterprise with the otherwise preoccupied Mongolians.
The focus I suggest, genetic research combined with archaeology could be a skein behind which much could be revealed.
This is very much virgin territory for the West, few encounter this part of the world these days, but as I say, technology is catching up and the Diogenes Club, no slouch in its long history, should consider this question.
The Diogenes Club may have contributed to adventures in the region in the past, some yet to be found in the library, but focusing on establishing the grave of Genghis Khan seems a timely act as old and new superpowers tussle with Mongolia’s past, present and future. It might build us all up and unite us, as he once did with his empire.
Unfortunately there are signs that the treasure for the superpowers are the countries raw materials and global economics are going to pursue a path that results in a tragedy of the commons. This might be something of a rescue dig… a rescue of our common past.
The Diogenes Club seeks to extract not mineral wealth or exploit human labour, but respect the great mans last wishes, that:
” If my body dies, let my body die, but do not let my country die.”
He is, after all, a part of 1 in 200 of just our male population, so if his contribution was a poor one, we are the poorer for copying the evil that he did. We should seek the truth, not so much for any nation state, but to countenance the truth in ourselves. We are his country. We breathe the same air, something the Olympics will experience in Beijing as Mongolia’s savage dust storms are heading that way this month at least.
Of course, the oral tradition Khan’s remains are in today’s Mongolia is not without fresh challenge. Unexpectedly the oral tradition of his strong genetic links with northern Pakistan have been unexpectedly newly proved by the science, so nothing should be ruled out.
These are early days.
A fortuitous article on a similar endeavour that fell into my in box was about nearby Taklamakan. Trust me, you should follow this link,
now that you have laboured through this idle conjecture of mine. Barista is worth some attention, even if they hail from the other side of the world. We are all connected now.
Perhaps that is the real treasure of this piece, and if nothing else my wanderings were to prepare you for this new slant on world history, where NOTHING is what it seems, and EVERYTHING was more once than it now is. The trick is to go back and unravel the past to realise what we have become involved chance and choice.
The Diogenes Club could chose to ignore this subject. This is a chance to pool together not just our genes, our garlic or our wine, but our future, dismantling the fences that will trap us in our petty nation-states.
Genghis demonstrated desire and motivation to succeed, yet sought the failure of others.
He said famously,: "It is not sufficient that I succeed - all others must fail."
The secret is to seek the success of others, for we are all connected and we need to keep our enemies close to ourselves, for they are his sons, and our brothers. They may be our allies in the turbulent times ahead. And as for the daughters and wives, …they too are our sisters, it is just the proof is a little hazy for them, so we should spare them our aggression most especially. I have come to the conclusion overnight that the Y chromosome encouraging conquest and domination needs to be countered by the kinds of kindness Buddhism can inspire in the human heart for the success of others.