The Story of Democraczy: Chapter Ten

Enlightenment                 1,700 AD

and Romanticism

Very Early Modern          1,500 AD

Late Middle Ages            1,300 AD

High Middle Ages            1,000 AD

Early Middle Ages              400 AD

Pericles:                               450 BC

Ephialtes:                              465 BC

Cleisthenes:                          500 BC

Solon:                                     600 BC

Hammurabi:                        1,800 BC

Ur Nammu:                         2,000 BC

Gilgamesh:                          2,500 BC

Sumeria:                              5,300 BC

Lascaux:                            30,000 BC

Religious activity:          100,000 BC

Homo sapiens:                130,000 BC

Homo erectus:             1,500,000 BC

Homo habilis:               2,500,000 BC

You’ll find as you go through life that great depth and smoldering sensuality don’t always win.”

Woody Allen

Having read the “Bible” page in Chapter Nine (below) about Gutenberg and De Docta Ignorantia one might be reveling in the notion that the spread of knowledge would induce rapid movement toward a more equitable society. However, a familiar battle between those who already have and those who never had had simply been joined. It turned out, as we should be well aware, that power does not want to let go of itself so easily.

The relationship between the philosophies of Enlightenment and Romanticism is not easily discerned. Initially, one was seen as an outspoken reaction to the other. But, ultimately, they were both efforts to liberate the intellect and psyche from centuries of social, as well as psychological, restraint.

In retrospect it appears that the Romantic reaction to reason and logic was a perhaps unconscious attempt to add another unexplored dimension to being and toward the accomplishment of a whole personality – one that could pursue a logical analytic process while also being capable of exploring inner sensations and feelings. What seems to have tipped both of these movements away from a pure exploration and expression of the personality and into the world of partisanship is, as always, those who have a prior agenda. Contentious justification from both camps was rampant during each of their eras, even as those times overlapped, as though the whole frightening aspect – separation from church and royalty – was, except for a vociferous few, too much to contemplate.

Most surprising and distressing, it was the lower classes that exhibited a preference, in England at least, for maintaining most of the status quo as it related to royalty and to resisting the concept of independence, rule by all people, and political liberty.

An amazing consequence of all this, it appears to me, is that the concept of popular spin became manifest during this time. Intellectual freedom, while permitted, engenders argument and adherents of both philosophies spent much paper on inventing validation for why one notion or the other was more significant and important.

And yet, at the overlap of these two movements, the waning of one and the inception of the other, two huge political revolutions occurred, in the United States and in France.

There are those contemporary citizens in the United States, I believe, who have still not accepted that England did not win the rebellion of 1776. The notion of privilege and exceptionalism, (perhaps an expression of personal desire), which once was endemic to descendants of our early settlers, now reigns through the breadth of our culture. In our era, which once seemingly prided itself on critique and comprehension, there are some who see knowledge as a threat to the maintenance of their positions, and a significant number who prefer to view the notion of reason as being hostile to a functioning society. That is to say that, in terms of social change, time moves (what was once) glacially.