Category: Society

Rome-Christanity and the Ending of Worlds (by )

When confronted with a graph on facebook showing the "dark ages" and the ensuing arguments over weather Christianity was the savour/cause of it... I write this:

The two events were entwined - the fall of the Empire was also plagued by natural and human fed disaster which led to desperation which fuelled the new religion which in some cases caused its own disasters but also monotheism in general was on the rise - if we'd have ended up with an Abrahamic religion which ever way we turned - the world was ending and they are doomsday/death cults on the most basic of levels. The loss of information and learning oscillated between the Christians and the Vikings with both also picking up the slack at moving education forward at various points of history as well as being the book burning racists at others ie one good period in England for education was due to Christian Missionaries from Africa (before the Norman conquest). History is a many threaded rug.


This maybe why people get grumpy with me on Facebook. Obviously this is a very very simplified statement and that in general is the issue with history - everyone wants and was taught simple narratives which not only do not paint the full picture but are often twisted to agendas and that's before you look at how biased the original sources were anyway - remember history was written by the battle winners and as writing was often the preserve of priests of one variety or another they are tinged with that element plus of cause the story telling needs and until relatively recently history was seen as something that was given to you by divine inspiration - a little factoid is missing or inconvenient? Pray and get a juicer more interesting thing to put in your script. Many of the older religions ie Judaism have mechanisms to try and prevent these copying errors/mutations but even then you are looking at scripts that spent many generations as oral transitions before they were ever confirmed in script on a page.

So yeah the Roman Empire's falling - but you know it was gradual - it became too big for it's communication network - it tried having multiple leaders which started well until Constantine decided to murder the other Empire and his son - the kid was his nephew - he let his sister live. And yes he was the first Christian Emperor due to a miracle he saw on route to battle (probably a meteor breaking up before it impacted the ground - if there was anything at all - but equally it could have been something else - maybe even the divine). But it was a political move also, a lot of the wealthy in the Empire where playing with the new religion - it was hip and trendy - it had eeking out past it's oppression (just) - it was the religion of the town - pagan comes from the latin for country side as the pantheon of gods got pushed out of the cities and was considered to only be for the unenlightened.

I think it was his mother that was obsessed with the new religion and traveled to the holy lands to find the roads that Jesus trod - she in many respects is the first archaeologists we have on record and her somewhat mythical landscape is still imprinted on the area with many pilgrims still following all that she found and was told - though this was hundreds of years after Christ had actually walked those roads.

But this was only one time in the break up of the Empire - another saw the reclaiming of the Mediterranean sea as an Imperial lake and a rejuvenation of trade and art... only to be struck down by the first virulent plague out break - the Emperor survived - his wife didn't and he was fatigued and in constant pain afterwards - many blamed his wife for being a hoar (she was a dancer when he met her and fell in love).

Yet another ending saw a sop of an Emperor, who fled the city of Rome leaving his sister as a prisoner of the Goth's - yes this was the sacking of Rome by Alaric in 410 AD - there were fires so fierce that they fused gold coin and limestone pavements - it was off course a misunderstanding - climate change and war had left the Goths with no home and little food and they considered themselves to still be part of the Empire that had still been wringing taxes out of anyone and everyone they could reach. So they fled to the capital as refugees hoping for aid - the Emperor panicked and a lot of the damage was done by the Romans themselves.

This is often seen as The End and the Emperor's sister married Alaric's bother (can't remember if it was a half/step or full brother) and it seemed to be a marriage for love and not politics.

But that wasn't The end as there was Holy Roman Empire's and time periods shift and change slowly on human time scales. And things where up and down and up and down.

The end of Roman Britain is the beginning of Anglo-Saxon/Viking Britain - but it wasn't a distinct cut off it was an overlap - and one that was gradual as the Romans pulled out the tribes come and saw no resistance, warred and then settled. The Romans took their time pulling out and didn't even really all go as many of them where intermarried and actually native born by this point.

Because I have an interest in this stuff anyway and because it is relevant to my novel series I have spent my teens and adult life reading and watching and prodding at ruins (well mostly taking photographs) - not full time - not even really part time - I am not an historian or archaeologist though people keep insisting on calling me that at the moment (last night I was referred to as a "proper" medievalist when I went to speak to someone about their talk on medieval humour and art - they were worried that I would pick holes in their talk! O.o ). I have collected a kind of over view - being a geologist I tend to bring things back to the rocks and the earth systems and this is my take on it:

The plagues did a lot of damage - the plagues were caused by over crowded cities with good travel and trade interconnects - a transport networks for the disease vectors to move along. But the plagues could only get a hold of a population if and when they became malnourished as that weakens the immune system - this is the difference between it being an outbreak and it going full blow PLAGUE. Healthy individuals who are cared for have good chances of surviving even the roughest of illnesses. Weak, hungry, over crowded, tired and overworked people with little scope for cleaning, washing or just having contaminated water to begin with - they... will not recover - they will die and it will spread like wild fire.

Weather calamities muck up food production - hungry people war over resources which causes even worse resource problems as it cuts down trade - you get a sickness, starvation, war cycle - this of course results in DEATH - the four horse men are ridding out. Religion sometimes precipitated the disaster and ones that were avoidable or had the chances for some serious damage limitation where exploded into carnage (I think it was the 13th century European plague out break that saw families abandoning the sick because it was seen as a judgement from god thus increasing the death toll drastically - sick people need to be fed during the recovery period or they will die of starvation if not relapse of the illness). OF course religion at other junctures was the balm that allowed to people to care for they're stricken neighbours and to rebuild afterwards.

When proper pandemics hit with no modern medical care (possibly even with) - you have a crash in population numbers - civilisation relies on an intricate series of feedback loops that all rely on everyone doing their part of the system. If you loose a chunk of your population - you have a problem. Even 10% is going to have a huge impact - that is 1 in 10 of the farmers, the teachers, the army. You can't produce as much food, education and knowledge transfer falters and you are in a weaker position to those around you who may be having similar food issues.

So actually my conclusion in looking at history as a whole is that these turning points - the collapsing civilisations and transition appear to be connected to the weather - to climate. Whether it is an increase in drought, damp, stupid long winters that catch you expected or rising sea levels. Some of these seem to be linked to volcanic events and others to human activity ie deforestation by the meso-ammerican cultures occurred around the right time to be a factor in the mini-iceage which is thought to have been a big factor in the "dark ages" of Europe - these things are global but we often only look at the localised focal most relevant to us.

I have asked historians at talks and so on if they think this is plausible - most just look at me slightly confused so this really is just my thoughts on the subjects. I even think the witch trials and things can basically be boiled down to... something disrupted the system and people panicked. That something I think is nearly always factors beyond our control - what then happens during the disastors is very much humanities own invention... war, famine, plague loop-la-lopping around each other in diminishing loops until things have settled and are stable again. The "dark ages" is probably the last BIG one of these but it is not the only one and I don't even think it was the biggest it is just most people don't seem to realise what a wealth of very very old and advanced history there is outside of Europe.

Below the Surface (by )

Alaric discovered this amazing website Below the Surface. This is a fusion of maintaining environments, urban upkeep, archeology, social out reach and art!

Cataloguing all the finds from the river Amstel in Amsterdam during train line works they have built up an amazing image archive showing the depths and ages of the objects, you can explore this catalogue, find out things about the civil engineering around the project and create your own displays with the finds that catch your interest.

This is all free and on line - the internet is starting to have these little lovely treasure troves of sites. This was what I envisioned the Internet being used for. For me though this project is tinged with a "could have been" here in Gloucester something like this was created back in the early days of the Internet and had the scholars and volunteers and council members enthused and then... it basically got unplugged and lost (early days of the internet I did say - things were different in those call up days!).

Many museums and research institutes are also putting their photo archives on line - Below the Surface how ever is a lovely smooth and easily searchable interface which is slightly more unusual!

There are over 700, 000 finds and the time periods spanned is more than written history - it is an awesome resource!

World Refugee Day (by )

Aethelflaed Talking on World Refugee Day

Queen Aethelflaed the Puppet - Mother of England - talking about why she founded St Oswald's to a group of Scouts - she also mentions the fact that she would have been a political refugee as a child. Her father was on the run for a huge chunk of her childhood - she was probably safe living with family in a neighbouring Kingdom (the one she later ruled) but she would have been aware of what was going on and how precarious her position was.

Yesterday was World Refugee Day - a day it sickens me that we need, a day that highlights the plight and the wrong done to those in need around the world - and some of those doing the wrong are people who should be doing the protecting - people who have forgotten their own histories of persecution and fleeing in desperation. With the US lying to refugee families using rhetoric such as "you are going for a shower" to split up families - to rip children already scared and frightened from the only thing they have - their families - to use those words - that trickery... the ghosts of Auschwitz must surely stir. They are no doubt more moved than the power hungry bullies who are creating these inhumane policies.

We are all on a tiny little rock floating in space - life is so fragile, wars and war mongers create refugees - economic collapses occur due to power struggles that have nothing to do with the people who suffer - so why are they the ones punished?

And quiet frankly - it is a matter of luck and things can change so fast - you think your safe? Well so did a lot of the refugees not long ago. It could be you standing there in their place, it could be your family being torn apart.

And even if we were in an assured place - then why not help? For fear that they might use up some of our resources? One of the things I've had hurled at me over my stance on helping people is that I don't care about my children and my family - as if I am taking bread out of my own families mouths to feed the homeless/refugee. But apart from the absurdity of this - we are not struggling for food - we have done so in the past but not now and it seems to me that those with the most capacity to share are the ones that hold onto it, rigid and unrelenting.

My kids can go without ice-cream for some other kid to have a nutritious meal, my kids (though they would often argue) live in the lap of luxury - sure they have to do chores and we don't do lots of things they see their friends do - but they have food and cloths and toys and an xbox. They can go without a cinema trip to give clothing to those who need it.

From a selfish pragmatic point of view - I am protecting them - desperate people do desperate things and that leads to higher crime rates especially violent crime. A lot of the stuff I see being called a "gang", immigrant etc... problem comes down to poverty. The lesson should be that we need to care for others but people seem to take it to mean that we shut the door and well history hasn't been kind to those who did that in the second world war... but people seem to have forgotten or never known these things - those bought up in the shadow of the second world war (baby boomers) often see it as a glorious pulling together time against the damn enemy. They have often never looked at it as an actual piece of history.

I am truly scared by the uncaring, vindictive behaviour and out right hate I am seeing grow globally especially amongst the so called civilised countries ie America, Australia - Britain. But worse is the apathy and won't say that I haven't suffered from that also - so many bad things crushing down on you - demanding your attention - you kind of shut off. We don't do TV - when I go to my parents house I am horrified by the gut wrenching, emotional manipulation of the adverts that bombard most people at regular intervals through out the day - no wonder they are desensitised to it all - I'm not sure it registers as real hidden amongst all the day time dramas and things either.

Having said all this I am at a loss on how to help - a while ago now I was involved in a fundraising evening to provide clothing and things - but I became suspicious of where the money was actually going and so I am wary. If you deal with a charity and know they are doing good things - have seen what they have done - feel free to link to them in the comments.

This is an old film now but still relevant about the UN Refugee Agency.

As a writer, artist, communicator I feel it is my duty to NOT remain quiet whilst these atrocities are being performed and don't think I am being extreme here in what I am saying - the body count is mounting, and once more it is the most vulnerable who suffer - those who should most be protected.

Yes I wear my hear on my sleeve - I am a parent - I can not divide children into those to care for and those to make suffer - that is... an UNSPEAKABLE CRIME and yet I must speak it - I must highlight that that is exactly what is happening and I must fight against it. All decent people need to fight against it and too see it for what it is.

On a more positive note - many are standing and being counted - there is Harry who is in his 90's and is doing all he can.

My tweets and retweets on the matter:

Weekly Aethelflaed Twitter Round Up (by )

This year marks the 1100 yr anniversary of the death of Queen Aethelflaed Lady of Mercia and Mother of England - a Warrior Queen lost from much of our visible and accessible history in this country. Finding out that Gloucester is where she was buried and that there was going to be a festival in honour of her in June - I decided to undertake an Aethelflaed Quest and Search for All Things Anglo-Saxon. I have since ended up on board and doing things for the festival - I am having a lot of fun and there is a new puppet - Aethelflaed herself once more resides in Gloucester.

Here is the weekly tweets 🙂

The Festival is all over the city - I am doing family fun drove in stuff actually at the ruins of St Oswolds - you can find out more about the whole thing here.

Hats For Headway (by )

So this is a thing, I didn't know it was a thing - I probably did but then forgot :/ But get your fancy head gear out!

knitted brain hat

Today is #HatsforHeadway to raise awareness and cash for an absolutely brilliant charity who have helped so much with people like me who have sustained head injuries. This is the hat I knitted for the Science Showoff on Neurology and brainy things special that they did. It was a wonderful evening with Dr Carina Fearnley a fellow head injury sufferer and friend from my Geology undergraduate days. She has made a fantastic video about her experience:

The event was at the Star of Kings in London but I believe was raising money for the Bristol Headway and I made a paper mache brain and got gummy brain sweets. The hat has since appeared at various British Science Week Events, Cheltenham Science Festival and BBC Country File Live show/festival. It was an amazing night were I learnt about all sorts of things including the medical skeletons etc... lurking beneath London and what their skulls can tell us!

What I didn't say at the time was that I was struggling with knitting due to the damage to my left hand side so this whole thing was create out of loom knitting (French knitting or knitting nancy/spool knitting are all mini looms). Also for me to actually make it to the gig my dad had to come and meet me at the station - which in your 30's is pretty embarrassing, but I have only recently been able to attempt travel on my own on that sort of scale and I was still unable to cook anything other than a microwave meal safely on my own (I've set fire to pans and tried to pick up boiling pots with my bare hands...).

There is currently an Art Exhibit and series of talks etc... at Kings College about head injury including a pice on Identity after the fact. I myself had to basically learn to draw again - I always drew with both hands but now... the pictures come out distorted - I have a blind spot in my left eye, and hand coordination was hard. Add in the crisis of everyone else knowing more about me than I myself did and I ended up producing Love: A Stranger Dream. It started as distinct pictures which people asked for as colouring sheets so I put them up for free download here. Then I realised there was a kind of non-linear narrative or themes running through the works and it became a book of visual poetry. I took refuge in art - something that is quiet important in developing coping mechanisms and reducing the amount of depression that head injury victims feel - it is like having everything that is you stripped away.

I even made audio.

And video of it.

Art that started as a way to just express myself when speech and writing where hard graft ended up as something that has helped friends, it explores lots of different aspects of identity and so has ended up at GLBT+ events, dis/different-ability events, music and art installations, two different events for International Women's Day, comic book conventions, poetry events, story telling and maze festivals. I've even made a dress from the art work 0.o - ok yeah I got carried away!

(can't find the photo - if I came across it I'll add it later! but it got compared to the stuff worn by the Welsh Eisteddfod singer/bardic peeps)

As I've probably bored everyone with - I have not long been discharged from the head injury unit including physio at Gloucester Royal - still under neurology but the main chunk of it is done. Charities like Headway - the brain injury association are an absolute life line and they have local branches but head injury sufferers often struggle to get the help that's needed especially as most of the time they still look "normal". I was being mistaken for being drunk and struggling with lots of things. So yeah - hats for headway 🙂

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