A weekly column of eclectic commentary featuring the wit and wisdom of a garrulous geezer. A brand new column every Saturday. "We are here and it is now. Further than that, all human knowledge is moonshine." -H.L. Mencken " ~~~~~~~~~~ "As I can, not as I would." -Flemish saying
In our last episode, we covered the period of time stretching from the Big Bang (Bigus Bangus) to the invention of agriculture (the Burgeriniumbun Finalae era) to Mesopotamia, where history really got cooking.
Next, depending on how you look at it, an awful lot of history happened, or, a few things happened over and over again and once in a great, great while something really cool happened. Kind of like the life of the modern day average Joe/Joan Bagadonuts, but much more violent.
They attacked us or we attacked them in the name of cash, conquest, revenge, God, the gods, hunger, honor, slaves et cetera. Fortunately, God was on our side or it would have been even worse. As Thomas Hobbes pointed out, life is indeed, “...solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Mr. H. was arguing that this is the natural state of man (he was right) and that’s why we need an all-powerful ruler to keep us on the straight and narrow (he was wrong, but we do need some form of gubmint). That way we can direct our energies to defend our playground and/or slaughtering them instead of each other.
Once in awhile, peace would break out but Mother Nature provides us with a way to stave off boredom and complacency, natural disasters and disease. For example, say King Bob is sitting in the privy waiting for nature to take it’s course and his mind starts to wander because the only copy of The Dark Ages Digest at hand is more than a year old. He’s been giving a lot of thought to attacking a kingdom just down the road because he’s got his fair share of bloodthirsty warriors and greedy nobles to keep happy and if he doesn’t keep them busy they may turn on him or each other for entertainment and booty.
He’s been through that before and knows that even if he and his allies triumph, invariably lots of innocent serfs, peasants and slaves are slaughtered. Collateral damage, sure. But since they're the ones that do all the heavy lifting and since most of the population live out their lives at this level and die by the time they’re 30, you need to be blessed with a good inventory to dodge some significant downsides. He’s still short of virtual slaves, actual slaves and cash from last season, not one of his better ones, and short of potential solutions as well. Things are so bad he’s considering hiring one of those expensive consultants his buddy King Steve favors. He’s heard good things about a firm called DPD, Diabolical Plots by the Dozen, founded incidentally, by a distant ancestor of Vladimir Putin.
His ruminations are interrupted by a hysterical minion pounding on the door and screaming, “Your majesty, your majesty there are reports of plague (or flood, or fire, or hairy weather, or insects, or blight, or famine, etc.) in the kingdom!” This solves the problem, short term at least. Now, everyone's job one becomes survival. Assuming this isn’t an apocalyptical level crisis and assuming that King Bob is one of the survivors, he can deal with his other problem later.
This is how things rolled most days in most places. Why? Well, it’s either because we’re naked apes living in a dangerous world, or, someone screwed up the paradise we were provided with by God and he’s still mad (details depend on which creation myth you subscribe to). It wasn’t all bad though. Once in awhile Joe or Joan B. was fortunate enough to have an actual boring day. Also, as mentioned above, once in a great, great while, something truly cool happened.
Somebody came up with the wheel, someone perfected bronze, then iron came along, the printing press was invented, Mr. and Mrs. Vermeer had a baby - that sort of thing. Being the clever creatures that we are we even came up with all sorts of ways to use these breakthroughs for things other than killing each other. If you’re religious, an entity or their messenger(s) may have stopped by to light the path to paradise. This phenomenon continues apace, right up to this very moment. These days the entities and/or their messengers may be politicians, pundits, environmentalists, etc. The field has broadened considerably. Being a much more sophisticated creature than our ancestors, we may even seek to strive for seemingly unrelated utopian goals via the same person or movement. We are the ones we have been waiting for! Indeed.
And then, in 1776, the planet Earth finally caught a break. To be continued... Have an OK day.