People turn sour when the weather turns bad

19 July 2011

A hundred year drought did occur somewhere around 2.200 BC, and as the weather turned nasty, so did politics. Both the Old Egyptian Empire and Akkadian Empires collapsed, there was no centralized government at all. And so it goes that civilization took a break for two hundred years (the institution of civilization was closed for repairs).

Well, I don’t quite know about the extent of that; somebody must have stayed in charge, at least locally. Ancient civilizations were dependent on their Irrigation projects ; these systems have to be maintained constantly, otherwise they sustain irreparable damage . Anyway, it was nasty very nasty ; this calamity also known as the first intermediate period (nice name).

After this epic collapse, life seems to have been much more pleasant during the Middle Kingdom; One important ideological innovation of this time is Maat - The Order of Things with a capital letter (somehow the concept seems similar to the Tao ; though the concept was present in the Old Kingdom it is said to have gained in importance during the Middle kingdom.

"In addition to the importance of the Maat, several other principles within Ancient Egyptian law were essential, including an adherence to tradition as opposed to change, the importance of rhetorical skill, and the significance of achieving impartiality, and social justice. In one Middle Kingdom (2062 to c. 1664 BCE) text the Creator declares "I made every man like his fellow". Maat called the rich to help the less fortunate rather than exploit them, echoed in tomb declarations: "I have given bread to the hungry and clothed the naked" and "I was a husband to the widow and father to the orphan".\[10\] " [Source](


So it seems that after a really bad calamity the political class decides that something profound has to be done in order to strengthen political stability. Like after World War II (4000 years later that is) when there was the wider New Deal/ Social democratic consensus/Soziale Marktwirtschaft system which implied that sustained political stability would require a profound betterment in the conditions of the common man; in conjunction with the Bretton-Woods system it helped to improve living conditions in the western world at an unprecedented scale; and also real wages did stagnate ever since it was abandoned in the late seventies.

Another point is that as the climate turns bad, things turn nasty and people turn ugly; For example the Bronze age collapse is said to be due in part to a worsening climate triggered by a monumental Volcano eruption ; the Middle ages got really nasty after the onset of the Little Ice Age

I wonder what the political implications of worsening economic conditions due to global warming will look like. How will our present day enlightened political culture justify a return to a nasty order of things? I guess they will find an answer, they always do … Kurt Vonnegut said that our society is basically addicted to cheap oil now that period is clearly coming to an end.

How will change come about? Like in the twentieth century, all sort of calamities come togather with rationing; Smart electric grids will enable the powers that be to impose effective rationing of energy resources; this in turn will justify rationing of food and many other things as well. There will be social casts distinguished by differences in the rationing schema, and this in turn will introduce political inequalities.

Change we can believe in.

(Current Music: The Great Nations of Europe in the 16th Century