Friday, September 26, 2014

What #MuslimApologizes makes me think about: Hyder Ali and Billy Congreve

With the hashtag #MuslimApologies, people are getting a lot of snippets of things Middle Easterns (mostly Muslims) invented.  But this is what this brings to mind, for me: William Congreve.  He is considered to be one of the founders of modern rocket science but here's the thing . . .

He stole it all from Muslim Indians in Mysore.  Hyder Ali and his son, Tipu Sultan, used iron rockets to fight the English, and did so quite successfully for quite some time.  When they were finally conquered, Congreve stole the technology and rebranded it into the Congreve rocket.

But no one goes, "Oh, yeah, modern rocketry was founded by Hyder Ali."  They also ignore the incredible metallurgy used in those rockets, generally superior to the English metallurgy (which is why the English rockets were more complex - English metallurgy was broadly inferior to Mysorean metallurgy of the period; simplicity in weapons is generally a good thing).

This wasn't in some remote medieval period, either.  This was the 1780s and 90s.  This was the Industrial Revolution, which was very much also happening in India until the English stopped it.  They destroyed the schools and cast the whole country into ignorance and part of that was the conquest of Mysore and destroying Indian rocketry.

Stuff like that happened all over Asia, as with Indian metallurgy and rocketry.  After the conquest of India, England wanted to export iron to India, but it was low quality compared to the iron India was producing.  So what did the English do?  Bought up the foundries and closed them.  Capitalism in action!  That was in the 1820s, well past the era most Westerners arrogantly assert that the Muslims had fallen altogether behind the West (and by "the West" we should also remember they mean a small handful of northwestern European nations and the United States).

Then we perpetrate this by placing a European as the person who "started" something.  Rockets don't become interesting to us until an Englishman does it.  Before that?  All that work done by Chinese, Korean and Indians is irrelevant.  The history of European metallurgy is central to the story of civilization, let's ignore Indian metallurgy's superiority by materially destroying it.

This becomes part of a great cycle where the West expropriates the culture of other places, Westernizes it, and then lays perpetual claim to it.  So, universities are inherently Western institutions - I have heard this time and again - despite the model of our universities coming from the Middle East.  Now, universities are fundamentally "Western" institutions despite their Middle Eastern origins.  Mathematics seems to arrive only with calculus - Newton and Leibnitz purified the Eastern albegra and now mathematics are a Western institution.

It's one of the things that made me quit Freethought Dayton!  They were talking about the lack of intellectual accomplishments of the Muslim world, and I was talking about how much of the basis of our modern world was first learned by Muslims - much of mathematics, physics, engineering, astronomy, universities, medicine, metallurgy and so forth and so on were based on the science of Middle Easterns.  Irrelevant because around 1500 (their words, not mine), "they" stopped using the stuff and it became ours.  Except, y'know, they didn't stop using it, I went on to say.  Even to this day, there are great Middle Eastern scientists and engineers.  Ah, they retorted, most of them are in Western schools.  But, I said, those schools are based on Middle Eastern schools . . .  Irrelevant!  Now they're in the West!  It seemed a circular argument to me.  Middle Easterns in Western schools weren't engaging in the cultural activity their ancestors invented, they weren't doing a Middle Eastern thing in a Western environment, the Middle Easterness of it had been altogether stripped away.  The same with math, physics, medicine, so forth and so on.  Despite the continuity from the past to the present and the presence of Middle Easterns at every step along the way.  It's a very good trick, if you can manage it.

We are told a great many lies about the supposed collapse of education in the Asia, in particular, and a great many lies about Western technological prowess.  We both ignore those instances when non-Western technology exceeded our own and don't pay attention to any given technological development until a Western does it well and create willful ignorance about the extent of Western complicity in destroying Asian education systems, economies, etc.  It's a pretty nasty piece of work, if you ask me.

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