Monday, June 8, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Century of Centuries

The age of our species homo sapiens in its so-called “civilized”
form is rather brief --- very approximately 10,000 years or a
century of centuries. We are much older that --- 315,000 years,
give or take a millennium --- and our direct forbears go back
much further --- 6 to 8 million years by the latest estimate.

It took us fifty centuries to invent reading and writing, and then
forty-five more to invent the printing press. Three or four more,
and we we added the telegraph, camera, telephone, and films.
In the last century, otherwise the most deadly and
self-destructive ever recorded, we managed also to create
radio, television, cell phones and the computer. Obviously,
things are speeding up!

There were so many human catastrophes and so much venal
carnage in the 20th century, we might have hoped for some
relief in our new one, but so far, it’s not the case. This century
opened with a bang on September 11, and just as happened at
the outset of the past century, waves of terror have followed.
A century ago. there was a murderous global pandemic. We
are in one now. In 1914, the most civilized nations stumbled
into what became two world wars, a global cold war, and
innumerable local and regional wars. Now we already have
plenty of the latter.

It hasn’t always gone this way.

My late friend and acute observer of history, Tony Blankley,
noted in his book The West’s Last Chance:

“.....Consider briefly the shocking shift of European
life between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
The thirteenth century experienced warm weather,
bountiful crops; a population that expanded to over
seventy-three million people; the high point of
cathedral building; the founding of the universities;
the flowering of science, theology, mathematics and
literature; and the works of Dante, Roger Bacon, St.
Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, Marco Polo,
and many others......Then the fourteenth century
brought climate change (in the form of a mini Ice
Age); depressed harvests; the Hundred Years’ War
between England and France; and the Black Death,
which cut Europe’s population by 40 percent, to
about forty-five million....Then within decades,
Europe rejuvenated itself once again and exploded
into its Renaissance, and the age of discovery.....”

The alternating currents of those centuries do not mean
that the same will happen now. Nor is History an academic
mathematician. Our dating system of centuries and
millennia is quite subjective. Nature gives us days,
seasons, and years, but decades and centuries are our
own decimal contrivances.

I suggest that these events which we live through, good or
bad, are only station stops on a very long journey whose
destination is unknown. Unlike on a train, ship or
airplane, our speed of travel in the centuries changes all
the time.

But how much faster can we, or should we, go?

Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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