Saturday, November 21, 2015

How the world ended

Minoan art; all happy and nature-y and dolphins! But then the sea turned out not to be our friend.

Here’s a thought experiment: what do you think would happen if China suddenly found that no one in the West were in a position any longer to buy their export goods? Just not enough money, too much debt. What if the lending institutions, credit card companies and international global financial institutions that hold national and individual debts, were one day to find themselves insolvent and demand immediate repayment? What if they just disappeared? Swallowed, perhaps, by a titanic tsunami hitting the Eastern Seaboard? (We’ve all seen that movie.)

Next, what if enormous numbers of fighting-age single men from a culture accustomed to violence, with sharply divergent assumptions about morality and social responsibility, with no jobs, no money and no family ties, were suddenly imported into countries already suffering chronic economic, social and moral instability after a century of devastating wars? What if this all happened right at the moment when these countries had severely cut back their military budgets? What if at that very moment, global “food security” were suddenly severely tested by ongoing environmental challenges? Drought, in a word.

Would this create some kind of vast instability? Could there be some kind of collapse? There have been a lot of people throwing around terms like “civilisational collapse” and “world war three” lately. But what does it take to actually bring down such an entity? Has it happened in the past?

What if I were to tell you that most of this had already happened in another remote time in history? And that the result was the near-annihilation of a hugely successful, cosmopolitan, multi-national civilization, in many ways like our own?

The opening paragraphs of a ridiculously long piece I finally finished last night for the Remnant. Mike said he's going to put it in the print edition, and then in a couple of months online.

Earlier in November it was ancient history documentary week at Hilaryhouse after a friend of mine with a degree in classics came to stay for a couple of days and, to my great relief, didn't want to talk about Francis or the Church. We had a bang-up time going over the sudden horrifying collapse of the Minoan civilization after the Theran Explosion and all its many far reaching after effects. In brief, a whole island in the Aegean - that just happened to be the major port trading centre of the Minoan empire, like the Hong Kong of the ancient Aegean, more or less just turned instantly to dust and ash and launched into the atmosphere, followed by what they think was one of the biggest tsunamis in human history - killed 80 per cent of their population in half an hour and destroyed nearly all their cities and infrastructure and reduced them from the greatest sea-traders in the ancient world to beggars in the space of a day.

Being a life-long sci fi fan, I've been fascinated with the idea of The Big Collapse. What would we do if suddenly there were no longer available the social framework to support us that we're used to? I was astonished and fascinated to discover that precisely this has already happened, though a very long time ago.

[This guy is kind of annoying, and not-funny, but he does summarize the whole thing pretty well.}

A big part of the Late Bronze Age Collapse, according to the Egyptian and some of the Hittite and Ugaritic records was this group who have been labelled "the Sea People" who came out of nowhere one day like a horde of proto-Vikings and started pillaging the crap out of everybody. It is all tied up with the rise of the New Kingdom in Egypt, the Theran explosion causing 150 years or so of recurring drought in the Nile breadbasket, and the cessation of 100 years of war between the Egyptians and the Hittites - suddenly there was a massive group of young, unattached, unemployed single men who got laid off from the two armies after the wars ended who had nothing to do and decided to go into business for themselves as raiders.

The city states, kingdoms and empires had been weakened by the economic effects of drought and had reduced their military budgets and were left more or less helpless. Chaos followed and as the cities burned behind them, people literally just grabbed the kids and a few goats and tools, and ran for it to the hills where they stayed. What followed was 300 years of the Greek Dark Ages where no one knew about writing or history or music or art. And no one ever went back to those cities again, which were later just buried and forgotten. They had to start all over again.

What I thought was most fascinating was what happened to the Minoans toward the end. They had had their civilization completely decimated. Literally; only about one in ten survived. What was left was a pathetic vestige, and within about 80 years of the tsunami they had been brought very low, losing their whole culture, essentially forgetting who they were and what they were about. The evidence shows that they ultimately started doing child sacrifice and possibly cannibalism - something almost unheard of in the ancient Aegean societies. It was just as they reached this lowest-low that the Sea Peoples showed up - possibly a group of proto-Greeks whose fleet had been sheltered from the wave and ended up being the only sea power left - and put the Minoan survivors mercifully to the sword.

Anyway... You can guess that this article comparing all this to our time has taken much of my attention lately. I finished it and sent it last night after Vespers over a couple of glasses of wine. 3700-odd words and not a single one of them was either "pope" or "Francis".

I'm hoping to make it a trend.

There's a fantastic story about the Valnerina and Norcia and St. Benedict and 700 Syrian hermit monks that needs a wider audience.



Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading it. Cue us when it's available. Are you familiar with "1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed" by Cline?

Anonymous said...

Yeah but he who loves his life will lose it and he who loses his life for the sake of God... You get the drift.