Renaissance I: Escape from the Dark Ages

Welcome to the new Dark Ages.

Travel is expensive and newly dangerous, and thus only available to the wealthy. Bands of mercenaries vie with robber barons for control of our world. Borders and nations do not matter half as much as the machinations of secret societies, dynasties, and political factions. We have an upper and a lower class, and not much in between. The rich build corporate fortresses and congregate their vassals around them, which they use to control their other resources. The warrior class has resumed it’s role as protectors of those with money and power. Human rights like privacy and affordable health care are purchasable commodities. Your skin color, your gender and what religion you practice still matters a whole lot more than it really should.

This is the America that Bush and Cheney left us with – a corporate feudal state; a sick, twisted car accident between multinational corporations run amok and a fascist government to support them. A moronarchy, if you will.

Too many of us have refused to learn from history, and as a result we find ourselves repeating that history. Harsh and violent lessons await us if we allow this societal degeneration to continue.

Twenty seven years ago I met the man who is now my husband. He was teaching fencing at Fordham University, and I began training with him. Simultaneously I discovered we had mutual friends who belonged to the school’s medieval re-enactor organization. At a party held by some of these people I mentioned that I’d been doing blackletter calligraphy since the age of eight, and was immediately taken into the fold. Soon I learned that this re-enactment organization was only one of many, with the largest and most well-known being the Society for Creative Anachronism, which currently numbers approximately 30,000 members worldwide.

The SCA and it’s assorted spinoff organizations pride themselves, not always successfully, on “re-creating the best of the Middle Ages without the bad aspects”. While I will note that we haven’t had much in the way of black plague lately, I can speak to the presence of aficianados of byzantine politics and other less savory practices of the Middle Ages within the SCA which give that statement the lie. Indeed, many of the spinoff organizations exist precisely because of these problems. Ironically, it was ruminating on the way some of these lovers of the Middle Ages deliberately make it difficult for others to play what is supposed to be a game that led to this view of the bigger picture.

Under the heel of the Bush moronarchy, I began to watch life imitate art. Cooper’s Lake is a campground in eastern Pennsylvania that hosts Pennsic, the SCA’s largest annual event. A small dairy farmer who supplied the camp store with extremely popular chocolate milk (so popular it was referred to as “Pennsic crack”) was driven out of business by the same over-enthusiastic state regulatory agencies that were making war on other small Pennsylvania farmers while allowing large scale operations to run rampant, often taking the smaller farms over. I was overcome by cynical amusement as I watched people who within the SCA had driven new hobbyists out of the organization in the exact same manner crying out at the loss of their beloved “Pennsic crack”, or whining about the price of gasoline to get to the site, or noticing that attendance at the event wasn’t what it was because fewer people could afford to attend. And oh, the mighty pissing and moaning when McDonald’s dared to raise up it’s heraldric standard to where it could be seen above the tents and pavilions, Golden Arches glowing in the sky like a satanic sign summoning witches to their evil sabbats! Modern corporate feudalism wasn’t making the SCAdian’s lives all that fun at Pennsic that year!

As I studied the history of the brewing industry, I saw in American Prohibition a medieval style “raze and rebuild” that is currently being echoed across the world in the telecommunications, banking, housing, and transportation industries. Prohibition actually wasn’t the first such “raze and rebuild” operation to hit brewing; that was done under Henry the Eighth as innkeepers and alewives across the United Kingdom were driven out of business in favor of industrialized breweries (run by men). This was effected by mandating that all beer in the UK should only be brewed with hops, which had to be imported into the UK – therefore only those who could afford the expensive import could legally brew beer. Brewing was turned into an industry by also creating a demand in the form of the daily “tot” of grog or ale that was issued to all members of the British Navy. This behavior is very similar to what was done in America during World War II with Coca Cola.

The more I have looked at this idea of corporate feudalism the more I have seen how badly we are mired in it. Eventually I realized that history provides a way out of the Dark Ages which must be studied if we are to survive as a world and as a nation.

The Renaissance is how the Dark Ages were ended. Thus, we must study the old Renaissance in order to best effect a new one.

Future diaries in this series will study various aspects of the Renaissance and apply them to the modern situation.

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