UI – Part 561 – Morphing Societies – History in Short (Thru the Ages)
History, if you read and study, offers a large lens view of the past and the transitions, or progress, that have taken place. There are many eras, centuries, where time seemed to stand still. Populations grew without much change to the nature of the indigenous base. From history we learn what appears to constitute the right, or conservative viewpoints, and the left, the more liberal ideas.
Hundreds of years before Christ, after the Maccabees, there is little recorded, the areas around Israel were quiet as the Roman Empire grew and suddenly we are aware of the presence of Roman authorities in Jerusalem (Pontius Pilate) with a watchful eye on the Jewish leaders, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots. After Christ this Empire further grew, destroying the Temple (70 AD) and casting the Jews about as seeds to be planted everywhere but in Israel.
After Christ a movement began as citizens began to embrace a universal truth guided by the church Peter built, the Catholic Church. Rome and Constantinople became Christian, at times by force, but primarily on a volunteer basis. The Pax Romana of Rome wanted people to be free in their thinking and choice of a religion, having a preference for a secular society and governance for all the people. The Catholic Church became a beacon and authority with significant influence and the dictates from the pulpit created a conservative base, today referred to as the ‘right.’ Those in opposition were on the ‘left.’ This may have come about from the Biblical reference to Christ sitting at the ‘right hand’ of the Father. The right hand had ‘righteous’ implications. “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you with my righteous right hand” ((NIV, Isaiah 41:10). And “But from now on, the Son of Man (Christ) will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God” (NIV Luke 22:69).
Rome and what is Europe today fell into darkness, the period referred to as the Dark Ages or Middle Ages. Rome’s decline was a time of ‘intellectual darkness,’ as referenced by many. Dark because few records of the period are available, but what is known is that the Empire that was Rome fell. From a decadent era light began to shine as Christianity emerged. Clergy and scholars discovered old manuscripts and began to read and share. History came to light. From stagnation reeds of hope sprung forth from the marshes of despair. Petrarch, a 1330’s Italian scholar, wrote, “This sleep of forgetfulness will not last forever. When the darkness has been dispersed, our descendants can come again in the former pure radiance.”
During Western Europe’s Dark Ages, progress continued and cultures were established towards the East, Turkey, and Asia, China and Japan. The Renaissance followed as literature and art became as flowers on a landscaped laid fallow for too long began to emerge. The gardener was Petrarch, so too da Vinci and Michelangelo.
The Reformation and period of the Age of Enlightenment followed. Protestantism emerged as well, providing an anti-Catholic perspective, while respecting Biblical moral and ethical values. There were extreme elements whose interpretation of the Bible led to man-made laws that restricted freedom of independent thought and interpretation. Over time the more convicted in their faith demonstrated the error of the ways of the strident fundamentalist by being more an example of what they believed, not a watchman or policeman. Reason became antithetical to religion. We see this in the 17th and 18th Centuries as philosophers and free thinkers emerged and found their voices heard through the advent of the printing press, a greater availability of the written word, and increased literacy.
Eastern Europe and Asia did not go through the same transformation as Western Europe, but remained on the periphery of the emergence of great minds and opinions, recorded expressions of reason or logic. Barriers to entry into China and Japan prevented the intrusion of new ways to consider the world, people’s surroundings, and avenues for living differently. Autocrats prevailed in those nations.
From the Desert
In the 7th century from south of the eastern Mediterranean in Arabia, pagan bedouins and tribes accustomed to doing battle for control and treasure, experienced the emergence of a charismatic trader who become a follower of one god, which in his tongue was Allah. He sought to have everyone align with his ideology and unite as followers. The area had Christians, Jews and pagans scattered about. Conversions, voluntarily or using coercion, even violence, were sought. No prophet walked the earth since Christ until this self-declared instrument for the almighty. He succeeded in growing an army that continued after his death consciously creating Scripture for a new ideology to be enforced upon all those in lands conquered. Surrounded by believers in God, this Scripture (Quran), served a valuable purpose, that of attempting to cause people to accept the conditions of this imposed ideology as if it were also a religion. Converted, or born of a family of this ideology, those, once they referred to themselves as followers, or Muslims, were contained and constrained as to never leave. Death was the punishment for apostasy. Such judgment insured growth of this ideology group.
Islam was a “right’ sided movement in the extreme and when aware of the evil, diabolic, commanding nature of this Mohammadian force, areas more developed enforced barriers to entry. The Age of Islam was held at bay and contained as long as possible. Then came the Age of Oil. The wealth of the Middle East enabled a mostly ignored ideological base of millions upon millions to have a voice. Muslims, political Islam, became more known and more intrusive.
Europe became a new world of architecture and beauty. Education was made more available, primarily to the privileged class and ministry due to cost and access. Scholars and professors shared their insight and interpretation of guiding ideals, the Bible an instrument used by many as foundational to how to live one’s life. Political differences arose as to interpretation, even belief in a deity, to the extent of becoming an intellectual, and political, civil war. The Catholic Church was a political power, as too the Lutheran Church in Germany and with a separation in England during the reign of Henry VIII, the Anglican and in time the Episcopal Church. People wanted the freedom to believe or not, and to believe as they interpreted the Bible and Christ’s salvation. Many readily accepted the equality of rights and freedom of thought of every human which the Bible provided, but had doubts as to the existence of God.
Man’s purpose, even existence, was daily conversation in thinking circles.
Islam was not a factor in that area, having been curtailed at an attempt to invade Europe through Spain in 732 at the Battle of Tours. But forays into Persia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Turkey were successful.
An adventurous spirit, seeking greater opportunity, and for some greater religious freedom, found America. There were civil wars and wars of independence. But the United States and Canada became nations.
Weapons and military methods were the same for centuries until the age of the airplane and the rocket and delivery systems that could transport more powerful and sophisticated (meaning more deadly) munitions and bombs. Then we had the atomic and now the nuclear weapon.
War had a great impact on the world in the 19th and 20th Century.
Many ‘Ages’ describe the evolution of society’s mindset. Dark Ages, Bronze Age, Green Dark Ages, Early Middle Ages, Middle Ages, Reformation, Late Middle Ages, Age of Enlightenment, Byzantine Dark Ages (age of the earlier Muslim conquests – 700-800’s), Golden Ages, High Middle Ages, Renaissance, Age of Reason, Age of Faith, Age of Discovery, Early Modern, Industrial Age, Nuclear Age, Digital Age, Age of Social Media, and so forth. Many overlapped and reflected cultural, locality, language or religious movements.
We are now living in many Ages at once, the Digital, Information, Social Network, and Nuclear Age. With transport systems moving at greater speeds the world is shrinking and more accessible to millions. For autocrats it is becoming harder to hide from the outside world those they oppress, they use, they cage and control. Democracies are faced with intrusion from ideologue zealots that find freedom anathema, thus seeking change. Over a billion people are on the outside looking in to modernity where progress has rewarded citizens with living standards others can only dream about. Hard work has its rewards, but laziness and indolence, when formed in a cabal, can demand wealth be transferred from the doers to the lazy, the successful to the not so successful, and from haves to the have-nots. Weaponizing those less advantaged, as a result of society or lack of industry, has become a political tool for elitists seeking power and control.
The Ages were impacted greatly by immigration.
From ‘the world is flat’ to ‘Christ saved sinners, of which we (mankind) are all sinners” to Luther, the infallibility of the Pope, and the rise in Arabia of Mohammadians, Europe’s history was cast. China and Asia have their own Ages, but it was events in Western and Eastern Europe that eventually bled into America as it emerged from it’s founding in and around the 17th Century.
Over the ages societies changed. Cultures were established and new empires were born.
The British Empire with its many possessions or colonies grew from the late 16th century to become a global power. It was war that brought this empire to its knees, WWI and WWII were devastating to the maintenance of the Empire as millions of lives, able-bodied men and potentially world leaders were lost in the trenches. The ‘stiff upper lip’ of the Brit, defended by Churchill his entire life, remains only today as a symbol of what was once British. They were supreme in their posture, right in their opinions, and effective in their military imposition of conservative values. There was prejudice and a preference for the business class over the working class at home and abroad.
Wars are costly. La belle époque (1872-1914), the period of the (British) Empire, ended with war, the first World War. Quoting Winston Churchill, “War now is nothing but toil, blood, death, and lying propaganda.”
But conflict and a need for aide from third parties, especially in the fight against Naziism, changed how Brits viewed others. Debt, dependency and greater access to the news and world events caused habits and practices to change. Slavery and colonization came to an end. The middle class grew, and a need for workers given the depleted available indigenous work force opened borders to foreign workers, mostly from Muslim majority nations (after WWII). In the case of England it was Pakistan and Bangladesh, areas once part of the colonial structure of the Great Empire.
Other countries suffered a similar fate to that of the U.K. France lost millions in the wars, after which migrants from Algeria and Mali were needed to help produce goods and provide services. Italy tied its future to Libyans, while Germany found additions to its labor force from Turkey. Every one of these countries believed those coming for work would stay only as long as needed and they would want then to return to their homelands. No effort was made, or insistence, that assimilation occur, the local language be spoken, or these workers become educated in the history of their host country, even patriots. It was expected they would leave. But they did not. They kept their culture, their religion, their ideology and their language. To do so they needed their own areas, forming societies within the societies of their host nations. They were different; they did not need to change. They were not asked or required to adapt.
Those Who Govern
How people are governed and who governs them are essential to understand as to appreciate changes in societal structures.
Governments have small cadres of elected officials or appointed leaders that make decisions for hundreds of millions of people. The power of the office of President or Prime Minister is compelling to politicians, even to heirs to monarchies. They fight hard to gain a foothold, then a stronghold, on the most important and influential positions of governance. Doing whatever it takes, to include lying, deceiving, vilifying, blaming, falsely accusing, investigating, impeaching, incarcerating, and writing false news articles is all considered fair game for politicians. It has gotten ugly out there. But the power of the throne is for some an addiction.
We the People to whom promises made are but pawns to the overtures to appeal to those that cast ballots. Promises kept is not an objective for most. When in office it is not always the people that are foremost in their deliberations or considerations. It is the power or position of their Nation relative to the rest of the world, or it is seeking expansion via emigration and introducing adverse cultures in new lands, or it is growing the presence and dominance of an ideology, imposing the will of a few on the preference and independence of many. Does chaos trump stability when seeking to gain the upper hand?
….to be continued. The next blog will focus on political sides, the aisle between, and the shift over time in societal attitudes.
Grace and Peace