Brutality and civilisation

I saw a documentary last night on the Beeb about the middle ages. Prof Robert Bartlett talked about how power structures changed over five centuries. It was a reminder of just how brutal power was then and how oppressed the masses were. Brutality for minor offences was commonplace.

It reminded me of the opening of the Old Bailey archives last month. They included the case of a 13 year old boy hanged for stealing a sheep – here in England, less than two centuries ago.

Blimey. As a species, we have come a very long way in a short space of evolutionary time. It’s an interesting sidelight on our response to other countries that today fall short on human rights. In a sense, they’re only a few generations behind us in their cultural development although that’s no reason to feel anything but revulsion at torture and abuse. (And deep concern at any attempts to legitimise them in countries that ought to know better.)

What times we live in. In some ways, human life on this planet seems so endangered; and on the other hand it seems as though we’ve made extraordinary leaps in the way we think of and value each other as human beings.

1 thought on “Brutality and civilisation

  1. earl Mardle

    The two most important advances in human development have been

    1. Learning to save the best plants for seed rather than eating them

    2. Delayed gratification or saving for a rainy day.

    In those we have embodied the idea that we don’t HAVE to use all the available resources to the maximum all the time.

    Its the one exit door from the trap that is closing around us now with energy, food and practically every other resource.

    The question is whether we can use it.


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