Metallurgy and Civilization
Makes me think of the Saudi student, himself on the darker end of the spectrum of a country almost as diverse melaninally as ours or Brazil, who, when I mentioned washing one's car, said, "We have people to that in Saudi Arabia — black people." From Saudi car-washers let's get back to Mr. Sailer's "Tuareg blacksmith/artisan caste of the Sahara" and "speculation that the Inedan are descended from an ancient black race who lived in the desert before the Berber tribes of the north came south and who were subsequently subdued and forced to work for their new ‘whiter’ overlords." Kind of dispels that whole "Asiatic Blackman" riff Public Enemy were rapping about back in the '80s, doesn't it? That said, Mr. Sailer continues:
- In contrast, in Europe, "Smith" is often the modal surname, suggesting that being a blacksmith was one of the more common occupations outside of farming and that smiths tended to have reasonable Darwinian success. And that sounds reasonable: being a blacksmith isn't a great job -- it's hot, it requires much strength.
But, as a rudimentary technologist, it's not the worst job either. A few Western blacksmiths, such as John Deere, turned into inventors or tycoons.
So it's not immediately evident why the dominant Caucasians of the Middle East often reserved blacksmithing for a black caste. Anybody know why? This is an obscure question, but trying to understand things that seem puzzling can often lead to a better overall understanding of the way of the world.
Perhaps we can learn something about the differing fates of the West and the Muslim world from their differing attitudes toward blacksmiths.
Our American attitude might be summed up in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow' poem "The Village Blacksmith," quoted by Mr. Sailer and below:
- UNDER a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.