YOUGHAL, IRELAND – It must have looked like this in 7th century Europe. Largely deserted. Overgrown. The ruins of an earlier civilization… covered in vines and trees.
We are wandering in our own woods… and exploring the downswing of civilization.
What causes it to walk backward? How do people forget how to do things… or lose track of what made them prosperous and free? Why does progress go into reverse?
Every day, here at the Diary, we see the bread and circuses – trillions of dollars’ worth of real wealth (purchased with phony “dollar” tokens) squandered – $5 trillion in the last 12 months… and more coming.
We see, too, how the fake money – like fake road signs – sends people off in the wrong directions.
Investors bet on money-losing companies. The government throws away trillions on delusions, boondoggles, and vote-buying. Households stop saving. Businesses shift from trying to create real wealth on Main Street to chasing after fast profits from SPACs, cryptos, and NFTs.
Everybody wants to get rich. But nobody wants to do the hard work of building real wealth.
Battle Against Nature
Funded by an apparently inexhaustible well of EZ money, Americans wallow in fantasies that must make the gods roar with laughter.
They think they can borrow their way out of debt… and print their way to prosperity.
And if they can create fake money, why not fake math?
Yesterday, we saw that activists are targeting arithmetic as “racist” or “patriarchal.” Two plus two only equals four, they claim, because dead white males say so.
But over in the English department, the battle against nature has been raging for years.
“Everybody believes they can” is now correct, according to the woke grammarians (to avoid using the masculine pronoun “he” to refer to a person of unknown or inconsequential gender).
And there are new “rules” popping up all the time. Jane Austen and Emily Brontë could write about “females.” But no more. Here’s Buzzfeed:
When you refer to a woman as a female, you’re ignoring the fact that she is a female human. It reduces a woman to her reproductive parts and abilities.
Also, not all women are biologically female, and the conflation of “female” to “woman” erases gender-nonconforming people and members of the trans community.
And here’s the latest trend from WND News:
Rutgers University recently determined that speaking and writing English correctly is – just like math – also totally racist. The school’s English department is altering its grammar standards to “stand with and respond” to the Black Lives Matter movement and emphasize “social justice” and “critical grammar” over irrelevancies like correct spelling and grammar. The English Department is even offering an internship titled “Decolonizing the Writing Center” to make writing “more linguistically diverse.”
What brings down an empire? These trivialities and vanities? Or the big issues – money and war? Probably both.
When the money goes, everything goes.
And now… there goes the money! Here’s MarketWatch:
Even now, the housing market is on fire, with prices surging across the world. “This is a way of spending that can also drag in some of that surplus labor,” [former Morgan Stanley managing director Manoj Pradhan] said. But the rise in house prices doesn’t show up in official measures of inflation.
The Fed already is trying to address the challenge of coming inflation readings that, into May and June, may show 3.5% to 4% year-over-year gains. “I will tell you that anything above 3.5%-4% will create a significant breakdown in correlations [between stocks and bonds], because people have not seen inflation really in a big way in the advanced economies for the last 30 years,” he said.
“The real challenge will come in 2022, when a lot of spending will have been deployed into goods or into housing, monetary aggregates will still be high with velocity rising,” he said. He expects the yield curve to steepen further, and that if the Fed implements another Operation Twist or yield curve control, it will push inflation even higher.
Also of interest… While inflation is on the upswing, sperm counts are falling. USA Today has the details:
Sperm counts among men in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand declined more than 59% from 1973 to 2011, according to a meta-analysis [Shanna] Swan co-wrote in 2017. At the current rate, half of men in those countries would have no sperm by 2045, while many others would have very low counts, Swan told USA TODAY.
Rising prices. Falling sperm counts. Innumeracy. Illiteracy. Overspending. Dumb wars. Money-printing. Claptrap. An incompetent, greedy elite?
What else do you need?
Collective human life has both ups and downs.
Exploring our own – largely derelict – farm here in Ireland, we find traces of ups from 200 years ago. Some from 500 years ago. The wood structures are long gone. But the stones – walls and bridges – are still here.
But now, they are overgrown. Tumbledown. Forgotten. Lost.
A visitor to England in 600 AD or 700 AD must have seen the same sort of thing. Broken-down villas. Markets covered in vines. Roads neglected. Roman civilization was kaput.
Both Roman-era observers, Polybius and Plutarch, noted that birthrates had fallen – first in the upper classes, later in the lower classes. Whether this was true or not, we don’t know.
But we know that Rome went broke, with its currency so worthless that soldiers refused to accept it in payment of wages. The government itself demanded tax payments in gold or silver.
So heavy was the tax burden, as the government tried to keep up with its expenses, that farmers sometimes walked away from their land and sold themselves and their families into slavery.
On Your Own
From there, things got worse. Overstretched, with almost constant civil wars, Rome was overrun by Barbarians in the 4th and 5th centuries.
Trade came to a halt. Skilled craftsmen went back to tilling the earth. No more aqueducts. No more “Roman” roads. No more high-quality goods, arriving from all over the Empire. The Empire was finished.
In the late 300s, while the Romans struggled to keep the Vandals, the Visigoths, the Sueves, and the Alans beyond the Rhine, Romanized Britannia had its own barbarians to contend with – raiding tribes of Picts, Scoti, and Saxons.
Then, around 400, the last of the Roman troops were called away to defend Rome itself. So the Barbarians stepped up their raids. And in 410, leaders in Britannia pleaded with Rome to send back the troops.
“You’re on your own,” came the reply from Emperor Honorius.
End of an Era
It wasn’t long after that that Roman rule in Britain came to an end (Ireland was never colonized by the Romans). And so did the Roman-era economy, along with its consumer goods, its money, its skills and technologies, its markets and commercial enterprises, and its comforts.
For a period of roughly 300 years, stonemasonry disappeared from England. During the period of Roman rule, there were thousands of skilled artisans, who knew how to quarry stone… how to burn lime to make mortar… and how to cut and fit the stones together to make fine villas.
They knew how to construct a house with mosaics on the floor and central heating beneath it – and a clay tile roof.
But in the 6th century, they forgot. And by the 7th century, there was perhaps not a single person in all of Britain who knew how to make a lime mortar. Or “spin” a pot.
There were no more imports from the Mediterranean – wine, olive oil, tableware, jewelry, spices, wheat. Nor was there any market to buy them in… or any money to buy them with. The mints closed. The only money still around had been minted before the Roman Empire collapsed.
People still made earthenware pots and bowls, but they were crude; the potters had forgotten how to make a pottery wheel, and how to get the fine clay they needed.
Farming techniques, tools, and organization were dealt a blow, too – perhaps because so many people died in the Barbarian invasions. Crops were stolen or destroyed. Barns were burnt. Cows, pigs, horses, and chickens were taken away or slaughtered. Fields, pastures, estates, farms, and gardens went “back to nature.”
Gone forever was the gracious, orderly life of the Roman era – with running hot and cold water, courtyards, and frescoes.
In its place, were rude wooden huts with dirt floors. Gone, too, were the books… the essays… the ideas and the histories.
Today, there are about 1,200 written works surviving from the Classical Period – Ancient Greece and Rome. There are some from the “dark ages,” too – but they are few and mostly religious texts. No Euclid. No Aristotle. No Plutarch or Pliny.
Many of these old “classical” works survived the “dark ages” only because they were hidden away in monasteries… had been translated into Arabic… or copied by monks, who may not have had any idea what they were copying.
One of those monasteries, along the Blackwater River, just down the hill from us, was called Molana.
Molana Abbey (Source: Geograph.ie)
It was founded in 510, but the ruins we see there now were built by Raymond Le Gros (Fat Raymond), one of the Norman conquerors of the 12th century. Raymond was a lieutenant of the Norman leader Richard de Clare, also known as Strongbow.
He is also thought to be the builder of the castle on the other side of the road from our lodge house. The stone work there – as well as the scale of it – is different from that of most of the buildings and walls you see in Ireland. It is older. Bigger. The walls are thicker and higher, too.
The castle walls are still there… broken in some places, bent in others. They, too, speak to the upside and the downside.
Protection from the Enemy
It must have taken an army of masons – or slaves – to put them together. Perhaps, when the last of the Viking raiders came up the river, the locals took shelter behind the castle walls. Or maybe they used them to protect themselves from the English, who invaded later.
Or from each other, for the Irish were always quarreling – the O’Briens against the O’Donnells against the O’Tooles against the McMahons… against the McSweeneys… against the McCravashys and the Sheehans… and on and on.
There were ups and downs for them, too. It’s amazing any of them survived.
To be continued…
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