There are changes that cannot be overcome, there are inevitable ends. Sometimes, the real wisdom is to accept this reality and die on your feet as those who came before you did. The wave of technology that is sweeping over us will drown many. Few will be able to ride it. Our salvation may lie in our ability to act stoically while waiting for the grim end: with calm and detachment.
Humans Are Becoming More And More Obsolete
For some or most of us, the technological change we are witnessing will never be reversed. No matter how hard we try to keep up with it all, it’s all in vain: a world is collapsing before our eyes. The past is full of similar stories that happened in different inspiring contexts and with different disruptors. And wouldn’t looking to the past help us to live philosophically and with our heads held high in the face of this upheaval we are experiencing now?
The Black Death And The End Of Feudalism
We often forget that the episodes of medieval plague did not have only negative effects. The demographic upheaval that followed the Great Plague precipitated the Western world into a new age of greater equality and tolerance. The plague that hit Europe towards the end of the Middle Ages reshuffled the deck, so to speak, with regard to the distribution of power. The aristocracy was affected in more or less the same proportions as the lower classes. There was therefore no divine privilege granted to the ruling classes: their power could only be usurped. On the other hand, the shortage of labor following the annihilation of entire families of peasants and other serfs actually gave power back to the people: the asymmetry between supply and demand was in fact in their favor. This is also why serfdom disappeared in some regions after the Black Death. Now imagine that you were a nobleman at that time. You saw before you a world collapsing, you will never find the same privileges you had. Today, it’s much the same, you had a guaranteed job and status, but you could lose them under the threat of better or at least cheaper tools than you.
The Discovery Of The New World And The End Of Pre-Columbian Civilizations
Imagine that you are a high Aztec or Inca dignitary. You are the head of a brilliant civilization in many ways, yet your people will not be able to resist the bacteriological and technological shock caused by the arrival of the conquistadors. These centaur men are masters in the art of subjugating their enemies after more than seven centuries of Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula. You will not be able to do anything about it, their number is infinitesimal compared to your empire and its millions of souls. The diseases that have been introduced will raid in no time the millennial work of your predecessors. Your end is near, you will not have time to adapt to the brutal change you are facing. You cannot perish but you can do it with panache.
Napoleon Is The End Of European Colonization In South America
You are a Spanish nobleman. You live on the income you get from your haciendas in the New World. You live in a country that has refused to start diversifying its production: the Spaniards are proud and noble and therefore do not demean themselves to do what the rest of Northern Europe and Northern Italy do. It is better to live as a hildago, as a landowner who imports his products for consumption in a Spain frozen in feudalism at a time when everywhere in Europe one lives from trade and where one senses what will later become industrialization. When Napoleon and his troops entered Spain to settle his account with the Portuguese, two worlds met. A French army of the latest, numerous and modern, whose men are trained by decades of revolutionary and post-revolutionary conflicts. When they surge on the peninsula, the Spaniards show him however with efficiency that they know how to answer to those who defile their territory even if it is to fight in a crafty way. Alas, too late, the king is already overthrown and this change will create a snowball effect in the colonies of the Spanish crown: it will never recover them. It is the beginning of the end with it the life of the Spanish rentiers. The forced march towards modernity is imposed.
The Industrialization Of War And The Decline Of The Samurai
How could the samurais have kept their hold on Japan for so long? Probably because the country of the rising sun did not experience the same episodes of plague, but also and above all because the samurai had the monopoly of violence. The art of war was for a long time a craft discipline: only a few elements of a society had access to the long years of training necessary. The firearm will change everything. The peasant world equipped with an arquebus will be able to compete and even triumph over the best Japanese swordsman. What an infamy! Yes and no. War is no longer the prerogative of an elite abusing its powers, it reverses the codes and the social hierarchy. It is no longer the best warriors who win, but the side that is able to amass the most guns: the bourgeoisie can take power. In doing so, imagine that you are a samurai of the late nineteenth century, you are on the hot seat, your hours are counted, die with honor.