Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dolce Vita

Over at the Milpub in the middle of a conversation about the Paris attacks regular commentator sheerahkhan had this to say:
"...the Paris attacks, broadly laid out, were still for the most part so much like the earlier late 60's, 70s, early 80's Bader meinhoff, Red-Brigade, et al. As an aside, giving a lot of press to these guys also happens to elevate ISIS amongst inactive/unmotivated Islamist...however that works, I have no idea, but for some strange reason it does. If we treat them like criminals perhaps we can lower the charm-appeal, and keep the arm-chair Jihadist inactive/unmotivated.

At least I think we be honest, I'm not even sure anymore.

The world has gone crazy, and it just seems like we're B-lining it to WWIII."
That made me stop for a moment.

Sheer is a smart guy, and not a hysteric. But his concern flashed me back to my morning's trip to the lovely Ramada breakfast room, where the cheap and nasty buffet was underlain by a Faux News continuo of hysteria and panic over all the nightmarish dangers of the world (that were only deterred by Strong White Men, but that's fucking Fox for you...)

There's a lot of this hysteria around. Look at the Trump Silvershirts, roaring about "making America great again" as if the fucker was some sort of Somalia with more Chick-fil-a's instead of the most massive and powerful superpower on the planet.

Look at the other whackaloons of the Right, fulminating about trivial problems like abortion and gay rights and the loss of white privilege and scary islamic jihadis. I hear a lot of this "the world has gone crazy" talk from those people, too. Hell, the entire GOP presidential clown car runs on that shit.

But...seriously? Think hard about the difference between today's world and the world of the medieval period.

Is our world crazier than the world of the Black Death? Crazier than the Albigensian Crusade, or regular Jewish pogroms, or the Inquisition, or the Mongol invasions of Europe? Crazier than the wave of death and civilization collapse that followed the Europeans into Africa after the 1500s and the Americas after 1492? Crazier than WW1, or WW2, or the Thirty Years' War?

Let me put it this way. Think about the average FDChief family in Picardy in 1200AD. What were the sort of things that were likely to spoil their day?

Epidemic disease? Check or hold?


Famine? Check. Random rape or murder at the hands of outlaws or the neighboring feudal lord's men-at-arms on a raid? Check. Peonage? Check. Poverty? Check. Death from minor injuries or childbirth followed by fatal infection? Check. Massive infant mortality? Check. Powerlessness in a feudal society? Check.

Now look at us. Do we have problems and troubles? Check. Are they anything as horrible or threatening as those?


No. Our world today is nothing like the frighteningly uncertain, dangerous, and unpredictable (to the ordinary person) world of the 13th Century. So the world hasn't actually "gone crazy". The troubles and problems the world has - outside the massive problem we've created for ourselves in the form of anthropogenic global warming, pollution, and extinction - are no different from those it has always had; wars and rumors of wars, bad government, sickness, natural disasters... 1200 we didn't know all of that stuff. We would be lucky if we had news from the nearest city. The "outside world" would have been vague rumors and tales from random travelers. Now we get all those various horrors beamed straight into our lives 24/7 by an infotainment industry that has every reason to make us as frightened and whacko as possible.

The raggedy jihadis of IS, the tattered armies of Syria, the unruly clans of Somalia and Mali...these aren't "WW3". They're the same old troubles the world has always had...just all thrown at us like they are some sort of huge cataclysm by our modern electronic devices.

They're not the end of the world, and we should really act like it.
Because people panicked by the end of the world do really, really, really fucking stupid things.


Ael said...

Well, NATO aircraft shooting down Russian aircraft makes me worried.

As far as 1200 goes, were the threats faced by FDChief family unexpected, or was it part of the normal way of the world?

Today, I argue, our expectation is that we are beyond all that dangerous stuff of the past and react poorly when confronted by evidence to the contrary.

Big Daddy said...

While I understand that a lot of this is serious stuff, I can't help smiling at the image of you in 1200 as a retired mercenary trebuchet operator sitting in the tavern bitching about feckless Plantagenets and wondering why people are so willing to let feudal lords walk all over them.

FDChief said...

I'm not saying we shouldn't pay attention. I'm saying we need to stop acting like this stuff is going to bring on the Apocalypse. Yes, we should be concerned about what the hell Turkey and the Russians are doing in Syria. No, it's not the same thing as the US and the Soviets facing off over Cuba in 1961 or in Europe in the Eighties.

I think our "expectations" are far too fraught. We're primed by the teevee news to assume that the barbarians are coming through the gates. They're not. We need to chill the fuck out and start acting like citizens in the most powerful and stable democracy on the planet.

BD - Yeah, I'd have been the guy most likely to have cleared out the local alehouse. "Christ Jesus, he's here again. Get your fucking drink down you, Alleyn, or we'll have to sit and listen to him all night and likely have the bailiff's men on our asses..."