Archive for October 7, 2021

Stable Societies Cannot Exist Without Stable Families and Livelihoods

October 7, 2021 3 comments

One of the few good things about YouTube, other than looking at videos about specialized and niche topics, is the ability to re-view old movies and TV shows. One of the hidden gems in this genre is a Channel 4 BBC show, known as ‘Time Team‘, which ran from 1994-2014, or two decades. A very quick description of that show is as follows: At the start of each episode, the host (Tony Robinson) explains the reasons for the team’s visit to the site in question. Each one is usually suggested by a member of the viewing public. Time Team then uncover as much as they can of archaeology and history of the site in three days. During the excavations, Tony encourages all of the archaeologists to explain their decisions, discoveries and conclusions in a manner comprehensible to the archaeologically uninitiated.

As you might have already guessed, the vast majority of episodes are about archeology in UK and cover a very wide time range from various parts of the Paleolithic, Bronze age, Iron age, Roman occupation, Saxon occupation, Dark Ages, Norman occupation, Plantagenet and Tudor era, Regency to the Victorian era. After watching almost all episodes in past couple of years, I noticed something an interesting pattern. You see.. it is very common to find many sites with evidence of almost continuous human habitation from the late Paleolithic age, through Bronze and Iron age, Roman era and onwards to the present. In fact, almost every single site which contains Roman remains is often built on or near previous settlements from the Bronze and Iron age. And there is something else about these sites which is interesting.

There is no accurate way to measure multi-generational continuity in site before Roman era in UK (AD 43), however it becomes much easier after that because of a wealth of easily dated coins, daily objects such as standardized earthenware, standardized graveyards, fashions in design patterns for mosaics, written records etc. One consequence of this shift in archeological findings is that it is possible to actually follow the general pattern of occupation of many sites over a few generations. This is my way of saying that, even if we don’t know the names of the people, we can make educated guesses about their lifestyle and kinship. And this brings me to how a discussion about a British TV show on archeology is connected with the title of this post.

In spite of how unstable the political situation was at the core of Roman Empire (rebellions, wars, plagues, assassinations etc), the life of most people outside the few hot zones in that era was remarkably stable and relatively prosperous. For example- it was very common for the local leaders of Romanized Celts in UK to have big fancy villas with hot baths, underfloor heating, glass windows, beautiful mosaic floors and lots of imported luxury items from all over the empire. More importantly, the same families lived in these big villas, which were often expanded over the decades, for over a couple of centuries. And this is not unique to UK, as similar archeological evidence can be found in France and Spain- frequently on an even bigger scale. Even the more prosperous farmers in these places adopted many Roman ideas about comfort and luxury. But why does this matter to us today?

Consider this.. the roman way of life in UK survived for multiple centuries, and even improved and evolved over all that time despite the empire being politically unstable. Now compare it to cities, towns and infrastructure in USA which has gone down the toilet over past 40 years in most parts of the country- in spite of a very ‘stable’ government. How do you explain that? The more autistic among you might say something about this instability being the cost of technological progress and declining costs of cell phones and computers etc. But does that really explain it? The biggest leaps in technology occurred between early 1800s and 1960s. The last four decades have, if anything, been an era of technological stagnation. And what is the use of cheap cell phones and computers if most people are living paycheck to paycheck making them very susceptible to disruptions in employment and global logistic chains.

During the time it was present in UK (43 AD – 410 AD), the Roman Empire survived multiple dynasty changes, tons of emperor assassinations, at least two very destructive pandemics, a large number of adverse weather events and much more. And yet.. life went on, villas were built and expanded, yeoman farmers built bigger and better houses, trade within the empire went on, roads and public buildings were built and maintained. So why was the Roman empire far more resilient than the American empire? Here is my theory- it has a lot to do with the personal and social environment in which it existed, more specifically stable families and kingroups in combination with a system that guaranteed fairly stable livelihoods for most people in the empire, ensured that popular support for the system was high enough for it to successfully overcome multiple and often severe adverse events.

People will stay and fight together if they feel part of a system which appreciates and rewards them for their loyalty and sacrifice. On the other hand, atomized social systems which are based on the farcical ideas of autists and encourage intra-group competition or treachery will start falling apart when faced with anything beyond mild adversity. It also helped that the Roman empire and many other older long-lasting empires were far more decentralized and tolerant than their modern hyper-conformist counterparts. Did I mention that the elites of older long-lasting empires had far more contact with physical reality than the present crop of “clever” idiots pumped out of incestuous ivy league universities. But why talk only about the past.. here is a current example- Japan.

Have you ever wondered why Japan, a developed country with an aging and gradually declining population, still manages to build ambitious civil engineering projects on time, keep its dense cities clean and well-maintained, continue making high quality consumer and industrial goods despite experiencing very little “economic” growth for almost three decades now. How come the quality of life for the average Japanese has actually increased over those three decades? The simple answer is that Japan, in contrast to many western countries, still has stable families and livelihoods- at least for the majority of the population. Consequently there is far more social cohesion and sense of purpose. Even the rural areas of Japan which have experienced population loss from migration of young people to cities are kept in far better shape than their equivalents in USA and other western countries.

The point I am trying to make is that societies which offer stable families, kingroups, living environments and livelihoods will always be far more resilient than those based around social atomization, empty intellectual fads and endless rounds of competition among its people. Japan, in spite of its current demographic issues, will be still be around in 50 years- barring some extraordinary catastrophe. The same cannot be said about USA and most other western countries- including ones such as Germany and Sweden.

What do you think? Comments?