-- Don Henley, "The Boys Of Summer"
"Alas, poor Yorick; I knew him...well..."
-- John McDill as Captain Hook in "Peter Pan"
What a time it was. Learning became available beyond the monasteries, trade flourished (pirates notwithstanding), artisanry abounded, music and dance came to represent life, and morale had never been higher.
I speak, of course, of the Renaissance. The more astute of you will query, "Which one?"
Good question, for we have had several in the history of this great planet. The first Renaissance began in Europe -- specifically in Italy, somewhere around the latter half of the fifteenth century, carrying forward and flowing outward to the borders of Europe and farther, covering France, Greece, Basque, Prussia, Spain, Holland, Ireland and, at long last, England. For various reasons, I am convinced that England was the distant last to become overwhelmed by the phenomenon which was to be the Renaissance -- the joys of which were over all too soon, thanks both to Elizabeth Tudor's stranglehold on Ireland and to her demise, which left many issues in Ireland unresolved.
There are also probably far too many countries left unnamed above. But I digress.
After the first Renaissance in Europe, the world would never be quite the same, although it would not find a true glow again until sometime in the nineteenth century, when an upsurge of creativity happened again during the Industrial Revolution. This Renaissance period would last until its death in 1929, when the Stock Market crashed quickly, suddenly, taking untold fortunes with it. Castles in the sand, and all that.
The third Renaissance would have to have been the 1960s -- still more creativity, more exploration, more music, more art, more expression, and we *still* got a man on the moon in spite of it all. The third Renaissance ended, near as I can tell, somewhere in the mid 1980s.
The fourth Renaissance to date was the Technological Revolution, and some might even say it was riding on the wave of its predecessor. I'd say it was intermingled with the third one, to be sure, but it was under its own power.
The next Renaissance has yet to happen. I'll be quite surprised if it happens in my lifetime, as the thumbscrews which have been emplaced after every outbreak of creativity, expression, outrage against authority, life, for heaven's sake! have been tightened down. We have been encumbered with more rules, regulations, laws, decrees, taxes, fees, policies, acts and constitutional amendments, all supposedly for the good of the people. This is also not to mention the amazing growth of litigation over creativity.
Oh, wait -- you're reading this. I must be preaching to the choir here.
The aforementioned outstretches of the human(oid) mind and spirit have been met with such amazingly hostile repressions of late that I fear we are in for a tragic reversal of events. True, our accomplishments cannot be taken from us, but we will be forced to rest on our laurels unless we can find a way to grow from beneath this ground cover under which we now find ourselves.
Music is meant to be enjoyed, and the people who make music should surely be paid for it, but the Recording Industry of America is ensuring that they get their percentage off the top, even if the musician must then pay the RIAA. This is an insult to the integrity of music, as much of it that remains, anyway. Several musicians have decided that sharing music is the best incentive for getting people to buy it. But the RIAA is probably searching for a way to circumvent this.
Of late, the Motion Picture Academy of America has voted not to accept for nominations movies which are sent directly to Academy members. This is going to severely restrict the exposure which independent filmmakers get.
Also of late, we in California have been unfortunate to acquire yet another actor in the position of Gubernatorial Marionette. And, of course, a Good Ol' Boy, in the political sense.
Do we see a trend here? The status quo is not going away, in spite of our best efforts, because the status quo keeps changing the rules by which they play. This leaves the rest of the people at a disadvantage.
Of course, if the boat starts rocking too much, it won't take too much more to help tip it over. The timing would be critical, though.
Yes, this is rambling. I apologise.
To go back to the Renaissance, though, something to take into account:
How much of the innovation, invention, exploration, creation of all that was would have come about had there always been such creatures as, say, patent lawyers hanging around?
Think about it. The patent process is heinous. Creativity has always been borne of improvements upon existing processes or machines. Hell, if the patent laws had been around at the time of Leonardo da Vinci (and carried forward), how much innovation would have been completed?
The current copyright laws (and resultant licensing agreements) are as horrid (look them up -- they're nasty). Michelangelo could have probably gone after a number of artists for painting in a similar style as he. By current laws, his family/estate could have gone after them for eighty years after his death.
If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of congress?
I think it's ironic, incidentally, that the mechanisms of political interaction have outlived the mechanisms of social interaction. Socially, we've gone backwards. We entered a brief period of civilisation in which we actually learned to say hello to one another, and over the last thirty or so years, we seem to have forgotten it completely.
Music has gone dark. The arts and entertainment are attainable by and large only by the wealthy. Education, likewise. More people are working longer for less, and the price of living continues to rise. We have a cadre of people running the country who think, more than ever, that the genders do not deserve equivalent compensation for what they do, let alone equivalent consideration for who they are.
A difference is that we do not have a plague or a war or a blight reducing our numbers at any significant rate. Also, we have procedures in place to keep the stock market from dropping out of existence.
These, I feel, will hinder, rather than help the re-emergence of progress, creativity, life.
What we have now as a world is not life. It is existence. It is the journey, in the literal sense: Getting from day to day, hoping to see the next one, never mind the one after that.
What we have now is the Remortance: The re-death of that which was alive. No period after a Renaissance has been as dark as this.
The Great Depression left a scar on the financial optimism of this country, but that was overcome. The events which have transpired since 1980 have left more scars, and we have not yet borne them out. How will we overcome them? We will forget them, and that is the greatest travesty of all.
We must find our way through this and shine as beacons of light. We must give our children hope that the world can be better; if they enter the real world with the thought that it is hopeless, then the world is lost, and it will only be a matter of time.
Let us be light for our children. The world still has so much potential.