Monday, September 8, 2014

The Costs Of Being Disenfranchised

In 1096-99 Pope Urban II called for a Crusade, a recapturing of Jerusalem taken by the Muslims in 1076. Because they were so close to Constantople, The Patriach there appealed for help from the Europeans (though I am sure he regretted that after they sacked the city). A great army was gathered that grew as it went across Europe and finally reached the Holy Land.

Crusaders Storming The Walls Of Jerusalem.
There are many theories why this occurred. While it was true Christian pilgrims were hassled by the Muslims, few could make that journey. There are other ideas too.

One of the more intriguing theories is that around 1090-1110,  Europe was in relative peace, there was enough food and England, France and Germany had a birth explosion similar to what is happening in the Middle East today. Families were so large there there wasn't enough land, jobs, or opportunity to use up this labor force. As the pope noticed, idleness breeds discontent and to suck up this excess energy the first of several Crusades began.

Like today, ALL over the world, you had a young hormone driven male population with nowhere to go, nothing to do. However, what became different was the effect these Crusades had on history both then and today. Over and over again there were battles between the west and east as they traded land for power and wealth. Armies take many soldiers and sadly, soldiers die.

The capture of Constantinople by Muslim forces in 1453 created a huge shift in the fortunes of both east and west. It came at a time when Europeans were beginning to master the sea and rather than pay the prices and taxes on items from the silk road, the dream began to find another, a more direct way.

Again, Europe had managed to come back from the plague in the 1300's, one that may have killed half of the population. No one worried about Crusades and there were few young men around to fight anyone, anywhere. The Age of Exploration was yet another way to again find "jobs" for these youth as someone had to man those ships.

Wars and disease over the centuries "thinned" the herd and kept things more or less under control. The population grew but slowly. Unknowingly Columbus set off one of the largest die-offs of humans ever known. European diseases were unknown in the new world and Native Americans literally died by the millions. By the time explorers reached their settlements what they saw where the survivors. I can remember as a kid we were told there were only 3 million natives in North America when the new world was discovered. The continent was nearly empty. Now the estimates are closer to 90 million. And, if that wasn't bad enough, the yellow fever and malaria brought over from Africa killed even more natives AND Europeans who had no more immunity to them than natives. Only the slaves, who had lived with these diseases for millenniums were able to work. That set the stage for slavery on a huge scale.

As the country became more and more able to produce its own produce, products, grow cotton, tobacco and rice, the demands for labor grew. The invention of the cotton gin created a unprecedented demand for cheap labor. We exported one billion pounds of cotton in 1860, over 50% of our exports yet we were only 30% of the cotton market worldwide. Even as the Civil War roared, the demand for labor was high. Losing 650,000 able bodied men was a staggering loss and had to be made up somewhere. And so they came. Italy, Norway, Sweden, Germany. However, this demand would not go on forever.

A friend gave me a book, written by a Frenchman, who in 1998 said that while the past, America in particular, always had an insatiable need for labor, the labor saving devices, many of which were American inventions, were creating a problem. There were now more people than jobs. Not only were there fewer jobs available, the salaries of those working were expensive (Europe) who had shorter work weeks, generous vacations, earlier retirements than the United States and most other countries worldwide.

After the Civil War America had around 5 million African-Americans in need of jobs. The plantations couldn't afford to hire many so they became a type of uneducated itinerant class moving from place to place or stayed on the old plantation as free men with conditions that were not much different than slavery. With the return to restrictive laws by whites, African-Americans started moving north and west. It was not easy and in many ways they were as segregated as they had been in the south.

African-Americans today have one of the worst records of advancement. You have to realize for every Michael Jordan there are thousands of black men in jail. A visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis gives you a balanced and fair accounting of what it was like to be black in the south. If we think we have moved past those outdated concepts consider Donald Sterling and Bruce Levenson. Of the two, Levenson's email left no doubt where he stood. Then to hear him castigate Sterling well...the pot calling the kettle black.

The United States and actually the EU have a problem. They are increasingly getting inundated with hordes of people from other cultures and values trying to find a better life. Toffler predicted in the 1980's that the 21st century would see the greatest migration of people in history. 14 years in, he is proving to be right. While it comes at a time, Europe in particular, that their populations are declining, they and the new residents are having a difficult time getting along. It isn't simply a matter of the Danes eating their bread differently than the Swedes. You have immigrants who don't want to change. Muslims don't understand Christians and vice versa. All westerners see on the news, now daily, are Muslim men and women, doing in the name of Allah monstrous deeds.  Beheadings, car bombs that are just as likely to kill their own people in secretariat violence as not. In many ways, they really don't need these people.

What do you do with all these people? As both the education level rises and the available jobs dwindle you have pretty much what we saw during the "Great Recession." Thousands of students graduating with degrees and no place to use them. If you think this is an American problem, guess again. Many Middle Eastern countries have and continue to educate their children for jobs they will never have. 28% of their population, nearly a third, is 15 -28, these governments have a daunting task of finding work. An enlightened government policy on job creation, encouragement of entrepreneurs along the Western model would go a long way in bringing this region into the 21st century. There is nothing in the Koran that prohibits this. Some Arab states have led the way. Buying the future with oil however, is not an option for most Arab countries. As much as they may not want to hear this, a close study of the business success in Israel would be a model and path anyone or all of them could follow.

It is the same world wide. It would be well to remember the hi-jackers of 9 / 11 all had degrees and many advanced degrees.

There is much to be done. How do you get restrictive governments, wildly restrictive "movements" to learn that your faith does not necessarily preclude following modern business practices (after all Mohammed was a merchant) and allowing all to be educated. That realization would be a first step.

That is my take on this discouraging and seemingly unsolvable problem. To not try, to not encourage all sides to enter in meaningful dialogue goes against what all the followers of Abraham, the father of Jewish, Christian and Muslim have been taught.

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