Humanity’s path is strewn with dumb decisions; problems that didn’t exist, but were still solved with some of the largest and most ingenious of our wonders. These solutions also happened to cause great human misery; but are admired today as some of our greatest accomplishments.
Take the pyramids. Essentially they were built as giant spirit teleportation machines so the pharaoh dudes could get to the next realm. In other words, 20 years and hundreds-of-thousands of slaves were needed so one guy could cheat death.
Who are we to say it didn’t work? I guess. To be or not to be? Maybe Khufu’s downing a highball glass of barley wine in Valhalla as I type this, and he’s like, “Fool! Type away asshole! You’re fucked! Ahahahahahahahaha!”
The pyramids are cool, don’t get me wrong, but utterly pointless in the end. Think of how much more powerful Ancient Egypt could have been if they’d spent that cash on soldiers or farms or something.
I put the Great Wall into this category. It’s neat to look at, awesome to visit, but never fulfilled its original purpose. If you were Eurasian Steppe invaders across thousands of years, you knocked down a portion, bribed a gatehouse, or just plain rode around it. It never kept China safe despite the cash, lives, and effort that went into it.
So why did they do it? Arrogance? Desperation? Or was it a bit of pluck in the human spirit. Did the Ming emperors just point on the map and say, “Yeah, we’re doing this. We are China. I am the Emperor. We’re fucking badasses. Build this wall again. Now!” And even though it didn’t work, the Ming could still ride up there and see it, and be like, “Hell yeah.”
I don’t know. I just know that any historical perspective or military mind would tell you what a scam this was. Here, take this shot from Badaling that I took around 2005. I forget the exact year.
Uh, yeah, nobody’s riding a horse over this mountain. The mountain is your wall. Any lookout at his post here was pointless.
But still, being there, being at the Great Wall was a lot of fun. I loved it. Granted, I went to the wrong portion of it though. Badaling is where they took Nixon, where the Wall is fully restored, and tourists flood it more than a band of angry Mongols.
If I can get to the Wall again before I am a bleached skeleton, I’ll visit a portion that’s remote and run down.
Even if this Wall was a scam, it’s still well worth the visit. But yeah, definitely pick a spot that’s in the middle of nowhere. Go there, look around, and question the absurdity of the human brain. But then smile that it’s who we are: absurd, idiotic, aspirational, foolish, beautiful.