Is 2021 an Echo of 1641?
Is 2021 an Echo of 1641? by Charles Hugh Smith for Of Two Minds
If you don’t discern any of these dynamics in the present, what are you choosing not to see?
The reason why history rhymes is that humanity is still using Wetware 1.0 and so humans respond to scarcity, abundance and conflicts over them in the same manner.
I am struck by similarities between the conflict-torn mid-1600s and the present: global climate change (The Little Ice Age in the 1600s), political upheavals and wars which intertwined civil and imperial conflicts. Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the 17th Century is a fascinating overview of this complex era which disrupted regimes and empires from England to China.
Climate change (The Little Ice Age) generated scarcities of grain in a time of burgeoning human populations. As in the present day, everyone assumed ample harvests would continue forever–expanding abundance is the New Normal. Alas, Nature is not a steady-state system and cycles are not tamed by our desire for ever-expanding abundance.
Humans respond to scarcity by assessing who’s getting the biggest pieces of the shrinking pie. When hunger begets desperation, various dynamics are set into motion as those without agency and capital, i.e. political and financial power do whatever they can to get enough to survive while those holding the majority of political and financial power, jockey to maintain or expand their power.
These dynamics are fluid and prone to non-linear flows in which relatively small actions unleash enormous consequences that are not predictable. If we squint, however, we can discern some repeating patterns in this chaotic swirl:
1. Private owners of capital (i.e. elites) seek to influence the state to protect / expand their holdings.
2. The dispossessed / disenfranchised masses seek redress / succor from the state.
3. The geopolitical balance of power becomes increasingly precarious as competition for control of resources and political power heats up.
4. The state’s resources are diminished by famine, decline of trade, etc. as pressures from geopolitical rivals, elites and the masses are spiking, reducing the state’s ability to respond to the multiple challenges / overlapping crises.
5. The overlapping crises reveal and exploit the weaknesses in the political, social and economic structures, and in the competing elites.