Attempted Prophecies: To each their own journey

Attempted Prophecies: To each their own journey

To each generation, their own playthings. We are each, quite easily, what our generations make us. The Prehistoric Era individual was inescapably a caveman and woman—depending on tools painstakingly carved out of the earth for their very basic subsistence. From the use of stone, humankind discovered bronze and made it its principal tool of survival; and then came iron, stronger much than bronze and stone.

Having mastered the earth, we graduated from attending to our basic needs of food, shelter, to tapping into our essence. We went from tending to just our stomachs to our minds. ‘Why at all have we been placed upon this earth?’ became humankind’s query and quest. And this ushered in the Classical Era. So naturally, the Classical Antiquity human was inescapably a philosopher. We began to see vividly, the confines of our geographic borders and set for ourselves camps—nationhood was birthed. Empires sprang from all over, and those who were forward-looking enough to set for themselves means of permanently recording their existence—in writing, like Europe did (having learnt from Ancient Mesopotamia (present day Iraq)), records of their reigns are to this day, in human possession—so much so that the world’s history is infamously Eurocentric.

Empires rose as steadily as they fell.

600 B.C. saw the rise of Ancient Greece, bringing with it the concept of democracy, philosophy, mathematics, theatre, and poetry. 550 B.C. came with Ancient Persia tagging along it, the expansion of Islam, and the consequent fall of the empire to Alexander the Great. In 753 B.C., Ancient Rome showed its head, contributing to the world a structured legal system, architecture (taking the concept of shelter to a whole other level), road systems, irrigation systems, and organised religion—Christianity. Then the famous Byzantine empire rose in A.D. 285, stretching all the way to A.D. 1453, merging and incorporating into its system, the cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome, the only two empires then left undefeated.

The Middle Ages came and lasted from A.D. 475 to A.D. 1450. Humans, having gained so much in their storehouse of knowledge, courtesy of the periods and empires prior, faced a retreat after the fall of the Roman Empire and the loss of recorded history. This period marked an era of recouping. Slowly but surely, humans built themselves back up. Islam spread to the Middle East during the middle of this era; and Christianity, precisely the Catholic church, rose exponentially and indomitably, having come out victorious in the Crusades. Late Middle Ages saw the Black Plague (you and I, at this point, cannot say ‘Black’ without flinching). Europe’s population slashed down by a quarter—morbid population control by natural causes (this is sarcasm, by the way). The invention of the printing press was a highlight of this period—knowledge now had wings; it could fly.

A.D. 1450 to A.D. 1750 is dubbed the Early Modern Era. Humankind had taken a millennium to find its feet after the fall of Rome. Dedicated attention and efforts were placed towards advancement of knowledge and enlightenment. In the 15th century, there was the Renaissance movement which saw advancements in art, culture, and a political and economic reboot. The 16th century saw the Protestant Reformation movement, spearheaded by the German monk, Martin Luther. God was no longer in the pockets of the few priests—knowledge of the Creator was placed in the hands of all. The printing press, having been invented centuries prior, enabled Luther’s aim to place the Bible and knowledge of the Creator in the hands of all.

The latter part of this era saw a revision of all these storehouse of human knowledge. The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement which sought to place reason above all. The mind was to be human’s principal tool, their principal means of discerning the world around them—the Age of Reason, aptly describes this period.

The New People

This majestic era we find ourselves in, the Modern Era, started from the 1750s. And we have here, in this period, the First Industrial Revolution occurring, spanning the period of the 18th to late 19th centuries. Having had a taste of industry, and having seen an increase in wealth—with the gap between the rich and the poor becoming all the more prominent, a number of nations experienced revolutions (most of them which were coup d’états, if you will) during this period: the French Revolution, The American Revolution, the Italian Revolution, the Spanish-American Wars for Independence, the Greek War of Independence, etc. This period is aptly dubbed the Revolutionary Period and it began few years after the commencement of the First Industrial Revolution and spanned all the way to the early 20th century.

The wealth attained from industrialisation was not enough for Europe, so they set sail for other parts of the world, and wrecked unprecedented havoc worldwide—from Africa to the Caribbean, and to Asia. And just like that, the gory era of slavery and colonialism began, spanning the periods from early 19th century all the way to the 20th century, with some extending to this 21st century—the Age of Imperialism. During this same period, having amassed enormous wealth from slavery and colonialism, the West saw its second wave of industrialisation—the Second Industrial Revolution, characterised by technological advancements far surpassing the mechanisation characteristic of the first revolution. This era saw the invention of the airplane and vehicles (having travelled widely during the Imperial Era, the thirst to be mobile, arguably drove these inventions), the telephone, etc.

The firm foundations of statehoods having been established, and the human ecosystem requiring interconnectivity, and interconnectivity being characteristically plagued with the possibilities of feuds, World War I occurred from 1914 to 1918. ‘World war’ is a misnomer, as this was an European war (Eurocentrism, everywhere you go … in world history). Two decades later, Europe was back at it again, with World War II happening in 1939, and spanning a period of six good (bad) years. But this was not before the world saw the Great Depression, occurring ten years after the end of the First World War—beginning in the USA, and spreading to the rest of the West, and the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have arrived at the Contemporary Period—our world. The actual ‘modern’ era in our contest. One spanning from the end of WWII (1945) to this 2021. A period of recovery, just as periods proceeding these periods prior, for instance the eras after the fall of Rome, the Black Plague, the Great Depression, etc. Our ‘fall’ has been COVID-19. The periods following this period shall be termed our own ‘recovery era’.

In today’s article, we continue last week’s article focusing on America’s trajectory—specifically one that culminated in this art form—’movies’, and the impacts they have had on society. Or should I say rather, this series has been a study of the trajectory of American society, with its movie industry used as just one case study. A comparative inquisition into other aspects of its national life will come in due time…

Where is America in All This?

“Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.”

To each generation, their own playthings. We are each, quite easily, what our generations make us. So, in 1492 (the Early Modern Era, that is), a man in his forties, like the rest of Europe of which he was native, set sail. His aim: to find routes to the Far East, specifically, China, India, Japan, and the Spice Islands (Maluku Islands).

His journey on the Atlantic Ocean brought him to the island of the Bahamas, of which he conquered and claimed for Spain. Never mind that there were people (natives) on the land, Columbus claimed it for another nation, Spain. Each stop Columbus made, he mistook it for another country, and incorrectly referred to them however he fancied—‘Indians’ was particularly his favourite. The Bahamians, to Columbus, were ‘Indians’. He got to Cuba, and thought he was in Japan—so they too were ‘Indians’. He went to Trinidad, then to South America, and then the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, but never set foot on the land in North America where the United States of America is presently located. Yet, Columbus extensively recorded his travels—as sometimes incorrectly conceived as they were. “I have come to believe that this is a mighty continent which was hitherto unknown,” he wrote.

So, his journey inspired voyages by countless Europeans, leading to the colonisation of the American continents (both the North and South), the Caribbean, and years later, the African and Asian continent. Yet, early Americans, being then largely Caucasian, and the Caucasian being notorious for recording history however they want it—history that puts them in the best of lights—have, recorded in their books, the ‘heroic’ exploration of their ‘founder’ leading to the ‘discovery’ of America—Columbus.

Thus, inward fled Europeans from the ‘old world’. Europeans from the Britain, from Germany, Portugal, etc. came into the ‘new world’, America, specifically North America. The formation of the United States of America was to begin—but not ‘united’ just yet. The plan had been to sever ties with the old world (very much ingrained in monarchy and a hierarchical culture, one which had the monarchy at the top, reigning in some cases, with the Catholic church). The masses were very much left to fend for themselves in their squalor. So, this immigration of the early immigrant Europeans into America was an escape.

One by one, they came—from Britain, Spain, France, Portugal, etc. Thirteen colonies in all were formed in the Americas, colonising these territories, establishing trade posts, and subsequently plantations. American colonies saw an exponential increase, as the word was out, there were vast lands available in the Americas. It was around this same time that the European had discovered Africa, so inward they forcefully transported labour from our continent to labour away in these plantations. And just like that, the African, like the European, became an immigrant of America. Just that in the latter’s case, it was a forceful migration.

Part of these colonies, colonising the Americas, were themselves colonies of Britain, and remained so without complaints, for they were receiving the very much needed support from the British army against the French and Spanish powers. The French, for instance, lost their territories to Britain in the late 18th century. But this win came at a cost to Britain—they had run out of funds. To remedy this, they introduced the Stamp Act, imposing taxes (in proxy, if you will), on their American colonies. The colonies resisted; Britain responded with an iron fist, stripping Massachusetts off its independent status, and placing them under military rule.

The rest of the thirteen colonies, undoubtedly saw this as a potential threat to their own freedoms, and came together to collectively resist the British. They officially sent a request to the King, with a list of grievances praying remedy. Having been ignored, they, in 1775, made their first move of severance, and of real statehood by insisting on their independence. Having been denied this, they declared themselves independent in 1778. A nation had been born. Yet, it was not until 1783 that their independence was recognised. The American Revolution, in all, spanned a period of 1775 to 1783. Expansion in territories ensued thereafter. By the turn of the 20th century, the Union had fifty states in all. The United States of America as we know it now, had been formed.

The American Revolution, as we can see, coincided with the Industrial Revolution. So just as this ‘new world’ had been formed, a new world was, on the global plane, being formed. Manual labour was giving way to mechanisation; an agrarian economy was giving way to an industrial one. This new nation, built on mass genocide (of native Americans) had a fertile soil on which to succeed—although they chose to further fertilize this soil with blood—Black blood, with slavery. It enjoyed in abundance the fruit of industrialisation. Monarchical rule of their European past, had, in this new world, been swapped for republican rule and capitalism. This, very characteristic of the industrial era, as writers like Charles Dickens foresaw, led to an increased gap between the rich and the poor.

Crime was unavoidable. Crime was a bane, and it remains so still. In the article ‘Blurred Lines: On Leaders and Losers’, we explored how crime has been one of the inescapable road and trials each country in their national journey must traverse. Crime is every society’s cancer; plans to cut them out remain each and every country’s principal headache.

So how dare Hollywood, an industry set up to entertain the masses, choose to present themselves, in any way or form, as a medium for propagating crime?

Humankind had, during the Prehistoric era, been concerned with catering only for their basic needs (of foods and shelter in its very mundane of forms). During Classical era onwards, humankind were concerned with catering for not just their stomachs but their minds. Modern Era humans, having filled their bellies and minds, were now very keen on ‘filling their eyes’—entertainment was to be placed at the doorstep of all. That is when Hollywood slowly but steadily came in.

When One Can Afford Folly

In the movie Ocean’s 6, a remake of the Ocean’s trilogy, Sandra Bullock’s character, in drilling her gang on the heist plan, said, “You are not doing this for you. Somewhere out there, there is an eight-year-old girl lying in bed, dreaming of being a criminal. Let’s do this for her…”

Please tell me oh, what’s the use of this line? What purpose is a statement like this to serve? How does society reach a point in its national life, that in the bid to entertain, what ensues instead is, what can only be called, an indoctrination—an indoctrination into crime? Does this qualify as an incitement? What point should a people have reached in their national lives that in its bid to entertain, what ensues instead is a glorification of crime? There is reason for this, you will find—a reason utterly useless to our particular circumstances (developing countries, such as ours.)

To each their own journey ‘ampa’. Because in Ghana here, the way our ears are hot, you try something like this under the guise of entertainment and see… you will end up getting precisely what you want, and quickly—inspiring that girl and boy to take up crime.

We shall continue next week.

But let me quickly note that in this act of relating history, one cannot help but see the dispensability of the Black experience. We are, through it all, treated as mere means to an end, a nonentity; our stories, ours alone and ignored; but theirs, ours. Others’ narratives are imposed on us (perhaps as I have done to you today).

Let me also remind us that tomorrow (Thursday), the series on the Energy Sector begins.


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