It was a period of great upheaval, when a comedy of tragedies beset the human race, upending a tenuous amity. It was a delicate moment; that silent time after empire-gone-supernova collapses in upon itself leaving the landscape in darkness, but before the next great renaissance of the human spirit engenders the new lights of civilization. A cruel time of violence and hatred and superstition.
Sensing a weakening of the existing state of affairs, armies Muslim and Christian fought each other across the arid lands in religious wars legendary for their viciousness; acts of barbarism and brutality laying waste to ancient sites long-preserved. From Europe, Africa and beyond volunteers and conscripts, slaves and soldiers flooded the sands to do battle with each other as they sought a reckoning for cruelties perceived and real and the always-unattainable glory. Fortunes were made and squandered and national treasure was depleted against foes little-understood over terrain little-desired; pointless ideological wars fought over opinions and beliefs that only saw their expressions in the devastation.
In poverty a pestilence with no cure made its debut amidst the urban squalor to leap from soul to spirit as the victims cringed in their homes in terror that the specter would that night darken their door. Bodies piled high, uncollected in the mayhem or were thrown into the rivers to make their way to the open oceans for the crabs and seagulls to pick at. Riots were sparked as the irrational confronted each other in ferocity, and soothsayers emerged to profit from the unenlightened. How many would die? Nobody bothered to even opine.
A period of sultry productive seasons and relative stability turned – bringing on climate change that plunged the global economy into recession. The polar ice caps expanded, the rains flooded out the crops and the peasants knee-deep in their fields whispered to each other of the return of the Biblical flood. Even the seas stopped providing – with the disappearing herring came hunger, which became famine – giving way to cannibalism.
Old empires had collapsed, new ones were not yet formed and the citizens of their unstable new world retreated into their communities to feed their superstitions in angry bitter prejudice. From far in the east a foreign authority took advantage of the mayhem to sweep across swaths of the wide open lands, annexing territory at their leisure and heralding the rise of new monarchs and a tenuous new illiberal pax.
Perhaps I am writing about the first generation of the fourteenth century. Perhaps not. Nevertheless the conditions which face the human race today are not new. Time and again history revisits itself and leaves for the world clues of what went wrong for the insightful to study; what never to repeat. However time and again in arrogance and violence the world ignores its past as it plunges headlong to create yet another catastrophe. Will it happen again? Nothing is pre-ordained – the outcomes of the future rest firmly upon the decisions of mankind in the present. It is our world, and we make of it what we will. Will humanity amend its ways? Will good decisions roll back catastrophe before it is too late? Maybe. If not, though, I fear that 700 years from now historians will be writing about our time as a time of great upheaval.