Thursday, May 20, 2010

Where I outbark the Aardvark

Was yesterday an Aardvark fail?

Or was I being particularly - and egregiously - obtuse?

For the past four or five months, I've been answering random questions (they're only nominally reference-y in scope) on Aardvark - which Google picked up about a month ago. At first, it was really fun. Some of the questions were Yelp-like: best location for X in the City, doctor recommendations, etc... And then there were the host of students trying to get homework done in about 100 characters or less.

But I think, in hindsight, I went a little crazy with this poor guy from California yesterday. X asked:

Rome was so successful for so long and,why is it that great civilizations,like Rome, seem destined to fail? I ask this question, in reference to the United States of America.

Something about the question just set me off. I mean, how audacious is it to be the arbiter of US failure? As far as I know, I still live in the United States of America. Nor do I recall seeing barbarian hordes raping and pillaging (metaphorically?) the landscape during my morning commute. So I responded with this:

I think that is a very wide sweeping generalization on civilizations that are extremely distinct in composition. The idea of something "destined to fail" presupposes that there was a master plan inherent in their foundation (if, in fact, "destiny" exists at all). This is not true of either Rome nor the United States.

X responded with:

You are absoltely right I was new to aardvark and was more interested in asking a question than actually thinking to ask a intelligent question. Thank you for your answer.

Which made me feel like a first class heel. And a bad librarian. Siggghhhhh. So I'm trying to make it up to X from California with this:

In hindsight, I think my answer was a little obtuse ;) There are many, many reasons why there is no longer a Roman Civilization - although the US is still chugging along. Was there a particular facet that you wondered about: bureaucracy, food logistics, barbarian incursions, etc...?

Hoping that the use of an emoticon will reveal that I am actually a nice librarian... hopefully.

1 comment:

  1. My Classics History degree, which I completed in 1992, was somewhat dependent upon the grades required by a professor who, beginning with the 1970s (he said), had a standardized question on his Roman History final exams:

    "Describe patterns of civil government and the treatment of law occurring in tandem between the United States and Rome. Be specific and give examples."

    This particular professor was loved by this commentor and was internationally respected as a scholar. His name was Dr. Barry Baldwin.