WHEN TURNING POINTS TIP July 1, 2009Posted by wmmbb in Humankind/Planet Earth.
Seldom do people who live at history’s turning points caught up in events understand that a new course has been taken.
This is just another example of by being part of the process means which means I suspect for most of us we do not understand the process as a whole. The situation is paradoxical. Modern people through mass and global communication are more aware of events that occur at a distance than were people in the ancient world. Instant communication creates a fickleness. Everything that happens has a surface quality until it is taken over by a fresh event. Ancient people could not as I can walk to the kitchen to check out the calendar, for example, they had to look at the skies and know the stories that made sense of what they were seeing. These stories were so deeply imbued that it is not surprising that there are analogies between the Egyptian god, Horus and the Christ stories of the new testament, of which there were about twenty-six versions.
The perspective of time is usually required to assess the significance of an event. The tumult and storm of the moment is not a good guide for significance. In retrospect it is not the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975 that was the decisive point but rather its election in 1972. The events called 911 are principally significant because they took place in the United States rather than the far more horrendous events that have taken place in Iraq.
History as a reflective narrative to distinguish the surface events and the significance of the underlying processes. How might things had turned out had Pope Clement annulled Henry VIII’s marriage with Catherine of Aragon? Around this one matter there are a concourse of events. Adrian Pabst sees more significance behind the curtain than what was happening on stage. He observes:
By eliminating the monasteries and cutting ties with the papacy, Henry established a monarchical power vertical that commanded unprecedented fiscal control and military might – the basis for his foreign policy adventurism which further isolated England from the rest of Europe. Little wonder that Charles Dickens described Henry’s rule as a “spot of blood and grease on the history of England”. Crucially, the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and his son Edward VI redistributed one quarter of national wealth at the expense of the peasantry. The endowment of monasteries, including landed property, was transferred to the newly created Court of Augmentations – an early modern precursor of quangos, charged with overseeing monastic expropriation. The triple effect was to curb the social and educational functions of monastic orders, channel wealth and income to the Crown and concentrate land ownership in the hands of the nobility, local magnates and the newly landed gentry.
England owes the centralization of power and wealth to her son Henry Tudor whose dubious legacy has been faithfully defended by Thatcher and her heir Blair. Coupled with the forced expropriation of free peasant proprietors by feudal lords during the “enclosure movement” throughout the 16th century, land ceased to be commonly owned and became privatised. This process of “primitive accumulation” created the surplus wealth that was used for financial speculation abroad. The ruling classes diverted resources for their own enrichment and self-aggrandisement. As such, the perennial sanctity of life and land was subordinated to secular sacrality of the national state and the transnational market. Thus capitalism was born. Curiously, Henry’s quest for national sovereignty made England more dependent on foreign markets than ever before.
In reality, history can be unpacked, but not untangled. The future might yet be made. Perhaps the really significant events of our time are not the optical illusions staged for, and by television, but anthropogenic changes to the environment and weather systems which will determine whether the story of the human species, integral as it is to cosmology and planet Earth, has a future. We are dealing with dynamic physical systems that have momentum and consequence and minds that change and with insight in the consequences of actions.
As Paul Krugman observes denial of climate changes is a from of betrayal of the planet. In this case it is not a matter of turning points, mere changes in direction, but tipping points in which momentum takes over and can be influenced by seemingly trivial forces. Interesting, the opponents of the Krugman stance on climate change have come up with an article in The Timaru Herald (21 May 2007) reporting the opinions of Augie Auer who said that water vapour is the major greenhouse gas.