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Paths for freedom and progress
   
 
   
Civilization ?
NOTICE ARCHIVE - 10/04/2020

When crisis come, the weak succumb and the strong survive. After the WWII, a propaganda often heard was that the American Marshall help saved Europe, especially the ruined and bombed Germany. Germany built up surprisingly fast and stood some decades later as the leading European industrial nation. If we can thank the Americans for something, is that they and their allied this time not plundered Germany like they had done after the first World War. Forget that money is the motor in any progress, it is rather counterproductive if we believe in money as the source of propulsion. The financial part is only the tool or the oil, used by the skilled and prepared human being. The German uprising stood on culture and civilization.  What is civilization? Is it satisfied by wealth and progress in technology? Or is it measured in degree of social behaviour, complex and ancient culture, polite behaviour, family ties?

After we know the answer of this first question, we ask further; how do we get this important merit called civilization? How long time to construct a solid civilization and finally, how is the relation between the inherent resistance of this civilization and the time and force it takes to destroy it?

As an example of a strong survivor in the present crisis 2020 we have Turkey. Behind Turkeys success are sure social and cultural items, which has existed in centuries and burst out in flower in the right time, taken in advantage by a strong leader. The journalist Karagül has written more details about this issue:

https://m.yenisafak.com/en/columns/ibrahimkaragul/everything-turkey-prepared-for-has-become-reality-will-the-faces-of-those-who-caused-disorder-burn-from-shame-how-will-the-epidemic-change-the-world-is-an-old-question-now-the-world-has-already-changed-countries-will-become-introverted-the-epidemic-will-certainly-be-overcome-but-the-american-dream-eu-model-will-cease-to-exist-2047410

The second question, specially the final part of it, can be illustrated by the fate of Florence, known as one of the more wealthy cities from the Renaissance.

By the midst 1300s, the Republic of Florence in modern day Italy had experienced one of the greatest

 economic booms in human history. In less than a century, Florence had grown from a tiny, irrelevant backwater to become one of Europe’s largest cities and preeminent financial center.

The expansion was truly impressive. Florence’s population had grown 10x. It had become a leading manufacturer in both weapons and textiles.  Florence’s phenomenal economic success is quite similar to what the United States experienced in its early history.

At the turn of the century in the year 1300, the Republic of Florence’s public debt was quite manageable at just 50,000 gold florins. That’s less than $100 per capita in today’s money. By 1338, after a series of costly wars and expensive public works projects, Florence’s debt had ballooned to 450,000 gold florins. Four years later (after yet another war) it had grown to 600,000 gold florins. This was crippling to public finances given that the government of Florence was paying between 10% and 15% interest on its debt.

To make matters worse, some of Florence’s most prominent banks had made bad loans to foreign governments-- most notably to King Edward III of England, who had suffered terrible defeat against France in what would become known as the Hundred Years War. King Edward would ultimately default on his Italian bank loans, sparking a terrible banking crisis in Florence. News travelled quickly that the most powerful financial center in Europe was in trouble. The government was near ruin, and the banks were collapsing.

And then came the plague. In 1348, the Black Death ravaged Florence, wiping out at least 25% of its population. The famed Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio was living in the city at the time, and he wrote about his first-hand experiences in the Decameron:

“Such terror was struck into the hearts of men and women by this calamity, that brother abandoned brother, and the uncle his nephew, and the sister her brother, and very often the wife her husband. What is even worse and nearly incredible is that fathers and mothers refused to see and tend their children, as if they had not been theirs.”

Business and commerce ground to a halt. Tax revenue dried up. Florence’s government was unable to pay its debts. People were wiped out. Amazingly enough, Florence’s misfortune didn’t stop there.

In the late 1340s, torrential rains destroyed local agricultural production, resulting in widespread famine.  City managers tried desperately to import food, but because Florence’s credit was so poor, few traders were willing to do business with them. It was a historic and unprecedented fall from power; Florence had gone from being one of the wealthiest cities in Europe to literally begging for food in less than a decade.

Civilization is in our spirit, not in our wallet. The strong has much more power in his mind and in his society, than just the clink of money and rattle of weapons. One of the more important things that distinguish a successful civilization and its leaders, is to know the height to put the rib. Not too high, not to low.  If a civilization is able to develop equipment necessary to travel and search for bacteria on Jupiter’s satellites, but the same civilization is left helpless against, first, a virus that is wreaking havoc in their homes, streets and cities, next, helpless against the economic consequences of a virus who was allowed to turn pandemic, then maybe the investments and decisions have been made by the wrong people? And if a civilization not have the competence to present skilled leaders, how is the rest of it?

 

 


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