What's been hardly noted in the Year 2000 media blitz is the important developments in human consciousness that have occurred during the past one thousand years. Perhaps, it's because the powers-that-be, will be forced to see the back-slide of social development in the last two decades.
Many issues were in play at the beginning of the 2nd millennium that we're still working through today. One is human rights, another Western bias towards the Middle East. It was a time of Lords and serfs, when large estates gobbled up small farmers. Land was forfeited because of indebtedness or the need for protection then leased back to the very same farmers. They were now at the mercy of land barons who could evict them if the rent was late or bound them to labor with little or no pay. In a sense, isn't that what's going on today with outrageous mortgages and low wages?
According to Edward McNall Burns' WESTERN CIVILIZATIONS, Feudalism is defined as "a decentralized structure of society in which the powers of government are exercised by private barons over persons economically dependent on them." It was the tendency of these barons to ignore or defy the central government and to assign themselves the power of ruling over their estates, levying taxes and making laws. These fiefdoms were usually inherited along with the power to govern them.
It was the rise of the merchant class that changed things around and allowed for greater education among the masses and a rise in living standards. The middle class became established. Manufacturing became an important. With them came jobs away from the oppression of the feudal lords.
While the landholders didn't work, according to Burns, they were expected to lead active lives engaged in war, adventure and sport. War was declared on the flimsiest excuses, often against next door neighbors. However, it was the Catholic Church which in launching the Crusades, eased destructive local terrorism. The Norman conquest of England occurred in 1066.
The Crusades began in 1096 and continued through 1204. It's important to also realize that the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches occurred in 1054 causing great anxiety in the Roman sector towards the Byzantine Empire. In 1071, the Seljuk Turks shattered the remnants of the once powerful Byzantine empire. The Emperor Romanus Diogenes was kidnapped and his government asked for help from the West. The Roman Pope responded and thus began the Crusades and the general attitude still common today that the Holy Lands were in the hands of infidels and must be liberated. Arabs are still considered the "bad guys."
From that time on, however, with the establishment of the merchant and manufacturing classes, Western civilization moved steadily towards true democracy, through numerous revolutions and civil actions, signing of the Magna Carta, the American and French revolutions and the rise of unions; reforms of government were enacted giving more rights to "the little guy."
Up to the 1980s, the idealized overall theme of America was any kid born in the USA could become president, that we had to raise all Americans to the level of the middle class and everyone was equal. This last idea came from at least two sources; the Grecian/Roman traditions of Senators and the legends of King Arthur and the Roundtable. The concept everyone worldwide deserves to sit at the table is still a core liberal belief. It was the basis of the recent WTO demonstrations in Seattle.
That ideal, however, has gone the way of locally owned businesses in this brave new world of money as God. In fact, a look at Republican causes over the past twenty years shows a direct link to an effort to return to Feudalism. One of the most prominent is the fight for States Rights which came to a fore in the sixties. Brought about by southern states and led by Jesse Helms, the movement was an attempt to stem the Feds ability to shove integration down the throats of segregationists.
An obvious reason why States, especially certain Southern States and their politicians, want the Feds to simply hand over the money with no strings attached, is to ensure the states run things the way they want. That can be a good thing and in certain instances is a necessity.
The concept here, however, seems to be to decentralize, and in effect, set up little fiefdoms run by powerful families. The new Bush dynasty is one example. With little regard to a system put in place to ensure individual rights called voting, the Republican presidential nomination of George W. Bush was a done deal before the public ever heard of it.
Another move towards feudalism among conservative policies has been the refusal by most companies (owned and run by power barons) to pay living wages to their lower ranked employees. Even Microsoft with its reputation of making millions for its upper-level employees is being threatened with unionization by low wage earners within the company. Come to find out Microsoft earns some of its vast profits by employing temp workers with no or little benefits. All the "rip off the worker" games are in play.
We're not even touching on the threat to the public school system, the only means the lower class has of getting out from under. Why don't Republicans want public schools? The reason schools are in such bad shape is the "right" voted down school bonds. Now they're telling us schools are no good. Of course they're no good. The legacy of Pete Wilson has been to destroy the structure. The only possible result is a slide back to serfdom with uneducated citizens ruled by a small vicious band of Lords and Barons.
There is only one way to stop this decline, and that's not to depend on the rich to aid the poor. Too many of them think in terms of Divine Right to Rule and the lower depths deserving what they get. What has to happen is those of us who care must stand up and let our light shine. Otherwise the years 2000-3000 could slip us back into the dark ages.