Thursday, March 12, 2020

1348 vs 2020: how much mankind and leaders have degenerated

10 Good times create weak men. Weak men create bad times. Bad times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Go to 10.

This meme looks so optimistic now. We're undoubtedly in the epoch of the weak men, the bad times are starting, and the other stages of the cycle look infinitely far. No one seems strong enough to resist the numerical advantage of the weak men without character and values who have contaminated every corner on Earth.

One gets extremely depressed about the present if he compares the reactions to infectious diseases in 1348 and in 2020. I am talking about the Black Death. This 14th century pandemics was probably caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacterium. We can't be quite sure. But we know that it did plague Eurasia and killed between 75 million and 200 million people, i.e. about 30 and 70 percent of the population. Covid-19 has so far killed less than 5,000 people, i.e. less than 0.0001% of the population. Although the current percentage is smaller than the 14th century percentage by a factor of 500,000 or so, contemporary mankind has already reacted more hysterically than our 14th century ancestors.

The 14th century disease peaked in Europe between 1347 and 1351. It just happens to coincide with the Golden Era of Bohemia.

While we have 0 fatalities in Czechia as of this moment (I won't update this sentence) and we're more spared than in the 14th century (but Bohemia was largely spared then, too), we're already living in a country with suspended schools, kindergartens, and tons of other things. In the U.S., Donald Trump has surrendered to the pressures to "show that he acts" and he banned the flights from Europe. Just like the NBA ban stunt and hundreds of other stunts that tangibly lower the quality of the productive people's lives, this won't make a substantial difference to anything because the flight passengers are among the easiest ones to be traced.

Things were different around 1348. You know, sometimes after 1300, the last men of the first Czech royal dynasty, the Przemyslids, died. (The Przemyslid dynasty was allegedly founded when the female Prophet Libuše who forecast Prague and its glory married Przemysl the Ploughman, a regular enough guy.) The last adult Przemyslid king Wenceslaus II still operated just fine and founded Pilsen in 1295, among other things. But his son Wenceslaus III became a king as a child and was murdered at the age of 16. The identity and motive of the assassin remains unknown but you can imagine many could have been motivated to kill this teenager, the last man of the Czech royal family.

He still had a sister, Elisabeth of Bohemia, who could inherit the land although I don't understand the precise rules. After some temporary period, the Czech crown went to the House of Luxembourg, namely to John of Bohemia or John the Blind who is called John of Luxembourg in Czech. He may have been a good man but he wasn't too important for our country. He spent much of his energy by helping a French guy against the Englishmen during the outbreak of the Hundred Years' War. John teamed up with the losers of a 1346 battle (the English won) where he was also killed.

Fine. He had a son, Charles IV of Bohemia, with the aforementioned Elisabeth of Bohemia. Elisabeth belonged to the Przemyslid dynasty but had some Polish DNA as well. Charles' father, John of Luxembourg, had a German-like nationality. Well, the small country of Luxembourg is still around so it was his real nationality. So Charles had a rather mixed ancestry. But Czechs consider him Czech – Charles IV did speak Czech – and he was repeatedly and safely elected by huge surveys as the Greatest Czech and the Best Ruler of the Czech History (he always wins, at least if and when Jára Da Cimrman, our famous fictitious genius, is eliminated from the contest).

And it's not hard to see why.

When his dad was killed in combat in 1346, which is not a pleasant event, he was totally ready to take over the king's duties. After all, he was already participating in many events as a prince. In 1335, when the Visegrád Group (Bohemia, Poland, Hungary that used to include Slovakia) was founded, Charles was displayed as the most important Czech who should care about the agreement. His father John's attention was focused elsewhere.

At any rate, Charles IV helped some Pope in Rome against some other side, led by Louis IV of Bavaria. Louis was Charles' main foe within the Holy Roman Empire i.e. Greater Germany. Charles IV was mocked in much of Germany as the "priests' king". While Charles IV managed to gain control over Bohemia, his natural land after his mother, lots of forces were against him at the imperial level. But sometimes good events happen, too. In 1347, Louis IV the motherfudger has finally wrapped up his motherfudging campaign. During a bear hunt, he suffered a stroke. That was great e.g. because the civil war in the Holy Roman Empire was avoided.

Charles IV could become the Holy Roman Emperor. He moved the imperial capital to Prague which obviously flourished (Prague was the imperial capital under Rudolph II the Habsburg around 1600 as well, a great yet quirky sponsor of arts, sciences, and pseudosciences who didn't care about broader politics much). We're talking primarily about the four years 1347-1351 when the Black Death peaked in Europe. Charles IV continued to live a difficult life but those things didn't turn him into a weak man. His wife Blanche of Valois, his love from the childhood, died in 1348. Although only the first love is the real one, he knew that he couldn't give up. In total, he's had four wives and used the marriages to extend the Bohemian territory.

But aside from the simple territory building, his year 1348 was really miraculous from a managerial viewpoint. It brought us lots of very tangible results, especially for a "priests' king". While Eurasia could have been obsessed by the ongoing death of 1/2 of the population, he kept on working. In 1348, he

* established New Town, one of the four Cities of Prague
* founded my Alma Mater, the Charles University, the world's first university North of the Alps (March 8th)
* built the Karlštejn Castle, perhaps the first castle that most Czechs think about when you say "castle"
* he basically introduced the Lands of the Bohemian Crown (a Greater Czechia) and its new constitution
* established the Land's Court of Moravia and the Moravian Land Registry ("land boards")

Karlsbad, Czechia's largest spa town, was founded around 1350 (legend says that a dog accompanying Charles got lost while chasing a deer or a chamois and they found them in hot springs where the deer jumped) and became an official city in 1370. The construction of the Charles Bridge started in 1357 although some sources say that the previous, Romanesque bridge, the Judith Bridge, on the same place was even more spectacular and hi-tech. Add some monastery in 1340 and a church in 1347...

He did a lot at the time when 1/2 of Eurasia was perishing due to the Black Death. Instead of isolating people and territories, he was consolidating them. He founded the first university North of the Alps in much more dangerous conditions than the conditions today that lead governments to shut down the education systems. The comparison of the characters of the leaders – and probably many more ordinary people as well – looks dramatic. I doubt that before the 21st century ends, mankind will see some impact of the people whose character is closer to that of Charles IV than to the sheep that seem to be everywhere nowadays.

And that's the memo.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin

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