More on First-World Problems

To truly understand the origins of first-world problems, we need to go back to the very beginnings of Western civilization itself. When I say “the beginnings of Western civilization”, I’m not referring to the Greeks or the Romans or even the Mesopotamians, generally regarded as the very first civilization. I am referring to the Celts, an Indo-European people who inhabited much of what is now Western Europe:

Celtic expansion in Europe.png

Map of Celtic territories. Yellow areas indicate Celtic territories in the 6th century BCE, pale blue indicates Celtic territories by the early 3rd century BCE, and dark green indicates areas where Celtic languages are spoken today.

The ancient Celts are generally credited with the invention of pants– as a primarily horse-riding people, they needed clothing that would allow them to straddle their horses with minimal discomfort. But the reason why they stood out among other ancient peoples was not their clothing styles: it was their unique social structure. Ancient Roman authors who observed Celtic society were surprised to learn that nothing in their society’s norms required wives to remain faithful to their husbands:

… a very witty remark is reported to have been made by the wife of Argentocoxus, a Caledonian, to Julia Augusta. When the empress was jesting with her, after the treaty, about the free intercourse of her sex with men in Britain, she replied: “We fulfill the demands of nature in a much better way than do you Roman women; for we consort openly with the best men, whereas you let yourselves be debauched in secret by the vilest.” Such was the retort of the British woman.

To put these terms in plain English, ancient Celtic women were allowed by their socieities to openly cheat on their husbands, while their Greco-Roman counterparts were expected to be faithful. Practices such as these would have certainly raised eyebrows throughout the ancient world, where patriarchy was the norm, as it is in many human societies today. Whether these statements are an accurate reflection of ancient European socieities will probably never be known.

However, this has not stopped modern neopagan movements from drawing conclusions about ancient European society. According to these groups, pre-Roman Europeans practiced a form of radical feminism, a system where there were little or no restrictions on women’s social behaviors. This (mis-)understanding of ancient European society only incorporates part of the picture, and is shaped by an incomplete understanding of human behavior, which will be explained in future posts.

Other Obsolete Theories of Ancient History

Like most other fields of study, our understanding of history needs to be updated as new evidence comes in. Previously, it was believed that the population of prehistoric Homo sapiens was reduced to a few thousand individuals due to a massive eruption of the Toba supervolcano in what is now Indonesia. According to this theory, climate change resulting from the eruption approximately 75,000 years ago caused a near-extinction event that is observable in our genetic code in the form of a population bottleneck. Recent excavations in East Africa, on the other hand, reveal no signs of sudden climate change at the time of the eruption.

References

Map of Celtic Europe By Rob984 – Derived from File:Celts in Europe.png, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50243888

Roman History Volume IX Books 71–80, Dio Cassiuss and Earnest Carry translator (1927), Loeb Classical Library ISBN 0-674-99196-6.

News, B. B. C. (n.d.). Toba super-volcano catastrophe idea “dismissed.” Retrieved July 30, 2016, from http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-22355515

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What This Blog Is About

Now that we’ve established what topics this blog is not about, it’s time to focus on what this blog is about. Officially, this blog provides “an environmentalist perspective on issues of global inequality”. To those who are not familiar with the concept, it may sound like a lot of ivory tower liberal mumbo-jumbo theory, so I’ll try to make it clearer for my loyal readers.

Broadly speaking, this blog addresses the topic of first world problems. Those who have spent some time on the Internet may have a vague idea of what that means– first world problems arise from having a standard of living that provides more than what an average person needs to sustain themselves. Some may even have a humorous view of the topic. After all, why would someone complain about having too much food in their fridge?

The unfortunate truth of the matter, however, is that most people in advanced industrialized countries, and quite a few people living in the developing world, experience these problems at some point in their lives. They reach a state where they are facing a problem that is so difficult that they feel it is beyond their ability to solve. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the society in which they live does not feel any compassion towards them, because they are (supposedly) doing too well to deserve any sympathy.

For those who have reached this state, most of the solutions offered by society have failed. They may be wary of establishment liberalism, because any solutions that it provides are limited at best, and they may also be wary of establishment conservatism, which they correctly identify as the cause of their problems. Non-establishment conservatism, on the other hand, may be held in higher esteem, because it is able to commiserate, but it never seems to stray too far from the conservative establishment.

John Muir c1902.jpg
John Muir c1902, Library of Congress

The goal of this blog is to provide a perspective on first-world problems that is independent of both conservatism and liberalism. In the United States, the environmentalist movement traces itself back to John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club. It first gained widespread political acceptance under the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive who ran on the Republican Party ticket but later founded his own third party, independent of the existing two-party system.

Image Attribution

service, bain news. (n.d.). John Muir [photo, print, drawing]. Retrieved July 21, 2016, from https://www.loc.gov/resource/ggbain.06861/