It’s almost as if we could learn from history!


I had no idea that there was any relevance in ancient and medieval history to current events, but the history of the antipopes is shockingly on point and surprisingly much more complicated than I imagined. I’ll cut to the chase here, but the whole post is fascinating.

So what can we learn from this? History is full of venal, self-interested rich guys who do not take no for an answer, and the thing is a lot of the time they actually get their way. People with weaker claims to the papal throne have in fact won when they managed to get other powerful people on their side. Moreover, “official” titles and lineages are not necessarily proof of moral worth. We should approach pontiffs on a case by case basis when we start making generalisations about Antipopes. The more you know about Urban VI and his election the more you can sympathise with trying for a do-over and fucking back off to Avignon.

In the grand scheme of things, however, whether or not we think of any particular Antipope as, well, an Antipope doesn’t really matter to them. What care do they have for us hundreds of years later and how we feel, when they were able to live out their days in luxury, writing screeds about how they were wronged.

There is a lesson here, as well as a warning. Rich dudes are not good at being told no. That can mean a number of things. It can been an amusing story in a blog six hundred years later, or it can mean a destabalisation process which feeds into military conflict. The difference is largely based on clout, but one should never assume that the powerful and rich who bestow such things do so because of procedure or some sort of nebulous concept of morality. They do so based on what it gives them. It is our job to make our feelings about that clear so that poor decisions are not made and retroactively forgiven. (*cough* Bush v. Gore)

I think I already knew that answer.

Comments

  1. nomdeplume says

    It’s almost as if, throughout history, whatever the political, religious, economic structure of a country, the rich guys always win. And the winners write the history.

  2. PaulBC says

    If only Emperor Norton had had a more powerful constituency.

    KG@1 They should be kept at antipodes from each other.

  3. lumipuna says

    I actually started reading this post as referring to “the history of the antipodes”.

    I also just saw someone on Twitter refer to Wilmington as “Avignon, Delaware”.

  4. says

    No! Say it ain’t so…

    What if this is WWIII? And why shouldn’t it be? The history of history has always been the unimaginable. The only thing we can be reasonably sure of is that it won’t be like the previous one.
    Covid could be the trigger that ignites a bigger war. It doesn’t have to be relevant, it just need to piss off people that are already pissed off. And a lot of people are righteously pissed off. From my POV (from Norway) the “nobility” has risen again, and it seems to have happened in the seventies. The top 1% has made an incremental coup d’état, and managed to put the blame on it’s enemy.

  5. says

    @5 Erlend
    “Covid could be the trigger that ignites a bigger war.”

    I really hope not. Can you imagine trying to deploy tens of thousands of troops during a pandemic? We can’t even secure a cruise ship to the Caribbean much less a fleet of aircraft carriers with thousands of people onboard. This pandemic has effectively paralyzed the US military for the foreseeable future. I’m surprised some tin pot dictator hasn’t made a move yet.

  6. PaulBC says

    @7

    I’m surprised some tin pot dictator hasn’t made a move yet.

    Other than the one trying to overturn the election?

  7. says

    @Ray #6: Don’t worry, they’ll be just as fuc*ed as the rest of us. And you’re missing the point, why does a war has to be about troops and mechanized warfare? That’s been done to death. This might be about perception.

  8. garnetstar says

    Yeah, I always wondered if it was a necessary to condition to being a big rich guy to also become a sociopath? Who always screws over everyone in the pursuit of his big rich guy interests?

    Honestly, these people could not have all started out sociopathic, utterly self-centered, and devoid of any empathy: it’s just not statistically probable. (And no, I don’t think that the position of big rich guy selects for sociopaths.) But, almost every one of them I can think of ended up that way.

    That’s capitalism at work.

  9. PaulBC says

    garnetstar@10 There are studies on the cognitive effect of power. This is not the article I was thinking of, but it’s the same idea. https://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2012/03/06/study-finds-that-having-power-can-make-you-stupid/?sh=6a0e70c03288 If you’re the one who is always bossing people around, you risking losing critical habits of mind and become overconfident. This is also probably combined with the tendency (or so I’ve heard) of people to contribute their good fortune to their own efforts (I dunno. I have been pretty lucky and know it.)

    I also think sociopathic tendencies are useful in acquiring power, so while it doesn’t mean all powerful people are sociopaths, there is probably going to be a higher concentration of sociopaths in power.

    There’s also just a degree of cluelessness that comes from sustained removal from normal people. I recall a Google executive stating (and I don’t think it was a public comment) that Google wallet was really great because who has the time to think about the money you’re spending? Uh… perhaps those with a lot less of it than you have? But seriously the rich are not like the rest of us, just like F. Scott Fitzgerald said. They’re a bunch of weirdos, just rich enough to get away with it.

  10. PaulBC says

    @13 Well, that is not a belief I subscribe to. It seems a lot more like a lottery to me. I think it’s a positive-sum lottery. Most people derive some satisfaction out of living. Some people suffer horrible fates. Other people benefit way out of proportion.

    If there were an actual afterlife, I would not expect eternal reward for my half-hearted efforts to behave myself. Nor eternal damnation, because I’ve at most caused a finite amount of damage. Something more like a hotel bill would be in order. It’s been a nice stay, and now how will I pay for it all? In reality, it will be blissful oblivion. How is that a bad thing? I’ve enjoyed some decades of life and skipped the bill.

    Just world? Who believes that? I guess it helps to maintain a convenient fiction.

  11. F.O. says

    What… are you trying to tell me that it’s all about power and the rest is just cosmetics?

    That rules are meant to keep us plebs in line while the powerful can flaunt them scot free?

    I am SHOCKED! SHOCKED I SAY!

    (Now, can we try to build a society where we make it impossible for a few individuals to accumulate such power rather than worshiping them?)

  12. René says

    Completely ectopic, but extremely well covered under the title It’s almost as if we could learn from history! and even more relevant to our present predicament:

    The story of Typhoid Mary indicates how difficult it is to teach infected people to guard against infecting others

    Google her (without using Google).

  13. says

    “There’s also just a degree of cluelessness that comes from sustained removal from normal people. I recall a Google executive stating (and I don’t think it was a public comment) that Google wallet was really great because who has the time to think about the money you’re spending? Uh… perhaps those with a lot less of it than you have? But seriously the rich are not like the rest of us, just like F. Scott Fitzgerald said. They’re a bunch of weirdos, just rich enough to get away with it.”

    One has only to watch a season of “The Crown” to be made acutely aware of this.

  14. leerudolph says

    Well, we may never be able to get a satisfactory answer to the age-old question “Why is a Pope when it spins?”, but at least we can be fairly secure in supposing that when a Pope changes its spin it becomes an Antipope.

    (Some heretics believe that the question should be “Why is a mouse when it spins?”, but that’s just silly.)

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