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Are we ‘liking’ this today?

We’re an opinionated bunch, we humans. We feel it is our right to speak out about what we like and don’t like. We even have software that does it. If we were willing to leave our likes and dislikes alone, then it would be fine. After all, freedom of speech is at least an aspiration of democracy, even if it is not de facto.

Often, however, we are not just willing to leave it there. Some are willing to ascribe physical, mental and spiritual attributes to those liked and disliked things. The next step is being willing to build entire communities based on those likes and dislikes.

It’s another form of ‘them’ and ‘us’, which has contributed to more wars, human suffering and genocide. It’s also contributed to torture, the dark ages and made the Renaissance possible.

Murdering the Mathematician

The upcoming movie “Agora” is about the life of Hypatia, an astronomer, mathematician and philosopher. We know about her because she is the first such woman of whom we have an almost complete record. She lived from 355 to 415 CE. (For those of you who are old enough to remember – that would be AD rather than CE!)

Hypatia was murdered. Rather brutally. As an example. She was murdered by the early Christians under the local Bishopric of Cyril, who was bent on seeking political power. It’s wasn’t enough that these early Christians already lived in Alexandria, then the most liberal city in the world. It wasn’t enough that they had been drawn there because it was a place where they could worship as they were compelled by their beliefs to do. They killed Hypatia because she was offensive to them. This woman who was a philosopher, and astronomer, inventor of the astrolabe; the instrument which allowed us to first know the size of our planet. Do I think she was killed because she was a woman? Not really. As I understand it, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

An additional tragedy here is that the inflamed civil unrest caused the famous library in Alexandria to be burned and destroyed – along with close to a half million pieces of original documents outlining all of the scientific, philosophic, philanthropic and cultural material known in the world at that time. Including the writings of many of the Greek philosophers. Only a very tiny fraction remains today.

Millennia later, we can still be induced to destroy everything and anything for the sake of a ‘like’.

Whatever Cyril, the Bishop, was after it wasn’t justice, or equality. He chose to incite riots and unrest in order to have it. Over history he wasn’t the first to use this tactic, and he certainly won’t be the last.

Which begs the question: Who is doing this today?