The Roman Republic and us


Kathy and I have been listening to a pod cast concerning the fall of the Roman Republic (Hardcore History by Dan Carlin). What we’ve learned is that nothing is new. It’s still the same game … that there is, always and everywhere, an elite that is ripping everyone and everything off. And that elite will kill whomever gets in its way.
The Roman Republic existed over 2000 years ago. If one, however, should examine the history of 12,000 years ago, would the above scenario be observed? This is the period of history, as the last of the Ice Ages came to an end, that preceded the transition, in various parts of the world, to socially-stratified, sedentary societies, from small-scale, egalitarian societies. So, the answer is no – one would not observe societies that were controlled by elites. There was, in other words, no class of people that had coercive control over others or had any economic advantage over others. This was because there was very little property, and also because humans are instinctually predisposed towards egalitarianism – we don’t like to be told what to do by others – we don’t like others “lording it over us”. The shift to sedentary agriculture changed that. Storable agricultural products became the first property, i.e. the first wealth.  And the archeological record shows that this new-found wealth always ended up in the hands of a few, who immediately used that wealth to consolidate positions of power for themselves.
That was about 10,000 years ago, and nothing has changed politically since. The elite continue to lord it over us, and squash our efforts at resistance. Can one suppose that two Obama administrations will produce any real difference (assuming that Obama really gives a shit about mitigating inequality)?
The stakes have never been higher, as we confront limitations like never before. What we can count on is that people will ever and always fight for their freedom. But will whatever resistance we mount prove sufficient to save our collective asses? Perilous days lay ahead. We are faced with a challenge that may surpass all prior challenges (and living through the Ice Ages was no small challenge).
I won’t be alive to see how it shakes out. My life will have spanned the period of time that saw the invention of plastic and nuclear energy, that saw the time of post-WW II plenitude and hope, that saw the first effects of pollution and  increasing human numbers, that saw the culminating climate-changing effects of that pollution and population increase … and that saw the reluctance of the world’s political leadership (most notably that of the US) to confront the challenge of climate-change.
It is therefore very likely that we will see a diminution in the capacity of the planet to sustain human life – perhaps to the point that our civilizations collapse and the survivors are condemned to living lives that are “nasty, brutish and short”. We’ll see .. but I won’t. I’ll be in my grave before the matter is decided, one way or the other.

About believesteve

I am a photographer and have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-grand/id672492447?ls=1
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