It’s the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip, the event that triggered the start of World War I. General Sherman famously said, “War is Hell.” World War I, also known as “The Great War” and “The War to End War,” was particularly hellish.
I’ve seen estimates that up to eighty percent of the young men of that generation in Europe were crippled or lost their lives, between valiant but stupid charges in the trench warfare, the poison gases, the shelling, and the disease. That is incredibly tragic, but the extent of the killing had other effects once the fighting was over – a lot of traditions and knowledge were lost because the people who maintained them either died during the war, or had no-one to pass them on to after the war.
Among the knowledge lost was most of Europe’s martial arts. There were schools and clubs for such things as quarterstaff, rapier, and the like. Japan has had a continuous martial arts tradition, but after the war in Europe, there were either no instructors or no students, because there were too few men left for any of them to have time for such activities. That’s in addition to the fact that not many people overall take such classes, anyway, so there were fewer who had the interest, let alone the time.
There are groups such as ARMA working today to reconstruct some of the knowledge that was lost. It’s slow going, but fascinating.
Now, imagine that four out of five men in their late teens and 20s die in the next few years. What might be lost? Could our society survive both the loss of manpower and the loss of continuity? Are we more or less robust than those earlier societies? Where would vacuums (of power, of people, of whatever) occur, and who would fill them?
And what would that mean for you?