Monday, December 10, 2018

The Collapse of Civilization

It's been said that civilization is a fragile thing.
Civilization is hideously fragile... there's not much between us and the Horrors underneath, just about a coat of varnish. ~C.P. Snow
Unfortunately, many of us now alive may well find out for ourselves.

The Dark Ages were always the Bogeyman of the Enlightened Thinkers. In my youth, teachers pointed to that time as virtually devoid of comfort, learning, and trade.

In some ways, they were right, despite the fact that the average person's life was little changed - existing as a slave or a serf - which was worse? (Hint: they both sucked).

Comfort? Little of that for the common man or woman, in either of those times. Until fairly modern times, the 'biodegradability' of most clothing left the majority of the world badly clothed. There is a reason that beggars were portrayed as ragged. Their clothes would wear out in a few years.

The petroleum industry, by raising the manufactured fiber content of clothing, has completely changed the lives of the poor worldwide. In picture after picture, people who are STARVING still can wear clothing in decent shape. It's that cheap to cover people's hides since Dupont and other manufacturers managed to 'fake Nature'.

Think of the barefoot peasants. That must have been a horrible thing in the colder climates.

Here's the situation today - plastic castoffs do not litter, but are re-used by clever poor people, and make serviceable shoes.

Some would look at that and say "How Awful!". I look at those shoes and say, "How ingenious!"

Learning? Until the Gutenburg Revolution, the average person was illiterate. They depended on their "betters" to guide them through appeals to authorities, division of their properties, and just about any interaction outside of the village.

The Gutenburg Bible is well-known. But, did you know the most common book genre next to that?

How-tos. Practical books that allowed people to do it for themselves. The Old World equivalent of YouTube. That innovation was largely what killed the Guilds, increased crop productivity, and eventually brought down the pre-Renaissance society. Part of the growth in licensing laws is a reaction to the ability of people to do it themselves, without the expensive experts.

There's also a reason that there is a default in common law for inheritance - the common man, being illiterate, would NOT leave a will. In the absence of inheritance laws, the man's widow and family would have to fight off other family members to keep any property, whether real estate or personal. The dower laws anticipated that struggle, and made it possible for the widow to avoid penury, without having to resort to hiring a lawyer and going to court.

Trade? Largely the equivalent of local farmer's market/craft fair. You sold what you didn't owe the Lord of the manor, if there was anything left over. Other than that, fish markets near the shores, individual peddlers in the back country, A few might go long distances, and risk everything on the ability of their captain and crew to return with a full load. Just as often, might lead to financial ruin; it was a long-shot bet (and the source of the insurance industry).

So, as the Nation-States EU Model is collapsing, and the United States is teetering on similar disarray, the question is:
Will we again descend into a New Dark Ages?
 I don't think we will. We may fracture as a country, we might find we need to build defenses against the many people who will try to 'Go Viking' (Viking was not their name - it was what they called the raiding parties that plundered much of the British Isles and the Low Country).

But, we have families who are literate, communications systems that extend beyond a few miles, cheap gas and energy, and a tradition of resilience and ingenuity.

We also have God. Despite the push to secularize America, large numbers of people have a heritage of belief. In hard times, the churches suddenly become filled. People take God more seriously when their life depends on it.

Pope Francis is a fool. Had he backed the natives, he could have filled the churches with those experiencing the consequences of unchecked migration. Instead, he will doom Catholicism to the fringes. God knows what will replace The Church.

1 comment:

Bob Parish said...

Christ's Church will continue. The "posers" we have seen will disappear, and deservedly so. The perception of His Church will come much closer to the reality.