Today is the 797th anniversary of the birth of Kublai Khan. He was a grandson of Genghis Khan, the great conqueror. Kublai Khan took over the role of ruler of the Mongolian Empire from his older brother in 1260 CE. Kublai predominated in extreme sibling rivalry by defeating his younger brother in the war of succession, he went on to greater accomplishments. Or at least his accomplishments seem great according to conventional thinking.
His empire stretched over most of Asia from the Black Sea in the West to the Pacific Ocean in the East. His territory included everywhere from Siberia to Afghanistan. Kublai Khan overcame the resistance of the Song Dynasty to become the first non-Chinese Emperor to control the entire territory of China. With that stroke, he established the Yuan Dynasty. His legacy was one of culture, invasion and assimilation.
The myth of Mongolian invincibility started to become unraveled when Kublai Khan’s forces failed twice to subdue Japan and again in Vietnam. Despite greater overall territorial gains and hunger for power, the Mongolian Empire started its period of disunity and eventual downfall.
We usually study history from the perspective of power struggles. Wars of domination or liberation clutter the pages of history. Rivalries of family against family or even within the same families are frequent spectres in human history. How infrequently we concern ourselves with the impact of all this violence and struggle on average, individuals. What goes on in the minds of the average person? Why must there be such a lust and greed? Why follow up on such desires?
There is a drive to calm our own personal nagging desires through the practice of nationalism and religiosity. The vast, singular globe has been subdivided into the various nations and realms of religious rule. We have a desire to subdue other people and have them obey and behave out of fear. The drive to control the bodies and minds of humanity as one is the vain desire for personal empire.
Today, as in the past, most of humanity is blind to the ugliness of the striving for power, position and personal importance. The various partisans and politicians exult in division and control. Few, if any, have any concept of the world as a whole entity. They exult in personal and factional glory. Few, if any, sincerely envision the possibilities of having no nationality, no divisions of any sort. In their minds it is incomprehensible and unrealistic. The same belief holds sway in the minds of their subordinates and followers.
Governments and institutions must exist for as long as men and women are not lights unto themselves. These struggles for physical and mental empires will be with us as long as we do not live our daily lives with diligent work to watch and learn. We find it easier to shirk responsibility by being told what to do by the ancients, gurus and political leaders. We accept their orders with little questioning about their destructive disciplines and practices just because that is the way it has always been.
We just passively go along with the accepted ways even though this extraordinarily complicated life refuses to be shoehorned into one way of thinking. We find ourselves in constant struggle and strife in this world and within the boundaries of our own nations.
Is the barbarity, slander and partisanship the best that we can do in this election cycle in the United States? Of the election cycles and revolutions everywhere, is this our best? If so, it looks like all of us have a lot of personal work to do. Do we really want to continue the struggles to become our own personal versions of Kublai Khan?
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders the freedom gained in the shedding of tribalism and ideology.