Friday, July 10, 2015

Equality in the Middle Ages

Gender Equality isn't exactly a new thing. See the Cathars:

...the Cathars saw women equally capable of being spiritual leaders, which undermined the very concept of gender held by the Catholic Church...The Cathar movement proved to be extremely successful in gaining female followers because of its proto-feminist teachings along with the general feeling of exclusion from the Catholic church. Catharism attracted numerous women with the promise of a sacerdotal role that the Catholic Church did not allow.[9] Catharism let women become a perfect of the faith, a position of far more prestige than anything the Church offered.
 Societies change, but many social issues remain the same. New technology always displaces old industries. Land always becomes scarce and rents rise. The proletariat always struggles to gain access to capital and money. The banker always jeopardizes the economy with poor speculation. Women always groan about their husbands, and husbands moan about their wives.

Rarely do fundamentally new issues arise. That's why you can go back to the age of Moses and see moral treatises on homosexuality: believe it or not, they had gays back in the day.

Cultural memory fades into oblivion, and the collective id myopically focuses on more recent, more pressing, more emotionally charged issues. Why concern one's self with the Albigensian Crusade when there are micro-aggressions today about which we should worry?

I find this is one of my biggest frustrations with any discussion of policy or ethical issue, particularly when my Wife offers her two cents. I see my perspective as something spanning an entire city, and her concern a little stoop on the 3200 block.

So here I am trying to discuss whether a new highway might allow more goods and services to flow in from the docks and maybe bring in new industry, and all she sees is concrete blocking out her backyard sun.

Eventually, you buy the cultural narrative that rights for women are a new thing, despite the Vikings having No Fault Divorce and the Cathars having religious leaders. You tend to think of courtship and chivalry as inherent features of men, rather than carefully cultivated attributes less than 1,000 years old and something, say, Jesus would scorn.

You tend to think of racial tolerance as something utterly new and forget the Ummayad Caliphate in Cordoba.

And then you forget that these social experiments all failed. The Cathars couldn't compete with actual French knights, honing their jousting in actual war instead of mock tournmaents. As the Vikings settled in places like England and Normandy, and had to develop and compete with strengthening societies, they abandoned their historic gender equality and perfected feudal practices so as to raise knights. You see Cordoba gradually whittled away by a missionary Spanish population dead-set on spreading the Word of (Christian) God, and simply having more fire in the belly than some decaying Muslim kingdom, despite it standing for 700 years.

A lot of modern developments look different juxtaposed against this grand sweep of history, where "Germany" has risen and collapsed multiple times, rather than merely being a former Nazi state temporarily divided and now principally known for Oktoberfest (a practice younger than the United States itself).

These thoughts tend to pre-occupy my mind more in my settled Beta life. I've always been somewhat of an intellectual, but now, with my genetic material now in the next generation, now as a fall-back guardian for the young, the future is less a concept, and more of a real place. It is the place that my children, my nieces, and nephews will inherit.

Now I feel 10,000 years since the Neolithic weigh down my mind. Where exactly ARE we headed? What is the legacy of my family? In a world where the Hellenic kingdoms rose, stood for centuries, and were swept away in a span of decades, what does it mean to be American, and what does it take to preserve that identity?  What other identities should I foist upon my progeny? Republican? Catholic? Goth?

My Wife tends not to think about these things, and perhaps I should put them aside from my mind too, but the muse wonders aloud during the quiet hours, and suggests, softly, gently, that a world remains to be forged.

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