Fearful Symmetries

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18 June, 2013

Hey Dave Cieslewicz - Lay Off the Middle Ages

Today's column from Dave Cieslewicz at The Daily Page was disappointing. In it he accuses the Republicans that run this state of endeavoring to return Wisconsin to The Dark Ages.
Minnesota is levitating. The state is lifting away from Wisconsin and heading off into the 21st century while Wisconsin is working hard to reestablish the economy and social mores of the Dark Ages.


Soon enough our Dark Ages politics will result in a Dark Ages standard of living.

While the Republicans may not have the best interests of Wisconsin at heart, the Middle Ages don't deserve to be dragged into this squabble.

Sure, the criminalization of abortion began in the Middle Ages and many rivers were polluted as was the air of various cities but you'd think Cieslewicz would like The Middle Ages. He's a New Urbanist or at least is a big proponent of cities and cities were special places back in the day. "City air makes you free," was a saying that encompassed a bit of medieval law. If a serf could start a new life in a city and stay there for a year and a day, then he became free. Cities also had charters from the crown which gave them special privileges not enjoyed in rural areas where the feudal system reigned. Medieval cities gained some rights of self-government, got some tax exemptions, and, generally speaking, operated under rules to promote trade.

Economically speaking, cities were where the action was. A bit of global warming starting around the beginning of the second millennium C.E. boosted agriculture and, hence, trade. Cities had the equivalents of the Dane County Farmer's Market in the form of fairs. Because they were centers of trade modern accountancy originated in the Middle Ages in the great cities of Italy.

Medieval Europeans were also into renewable energy, something else close to Cieslewicz's heart. They used water mills and windmills starting in the late 13th century. As Cieslewicz gets older he might thank folks from 700+ years ago for inventing eyeglasses. What would the Fox River Valley be without paper mills which are a medieval invention? Guess when the university came into being? Indeed, it too is an invention of the Middle Ages. Look at Notre Dame Cathedral. People in the Middle Ages built it without power tools.

So, while certainly not a utopia, the Middle Ages had a lot going for them and don't deserve to be associated with today's Wisconsin Republicans.

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|| Palmer, 2:56 PM


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