Into an age marked by information and uncertainty, King Charles III ascends the British throne.
Are all ages this uncertain?
Technology and globalization, two powerful forces which have shaped our collective destinies since the Industrial Age, and before, have only accelerated in recent decades.
Major breakthroughs in science, technology, engineering and medicine are happening more and more frequently, leaving us bowled over by rapid onset sea changes we never saw coming, like the internet and social media.
For 1.5 million years or so, give or take, mankind didn’t invent anything more advanced than the hand ax. And yet, those were still very uncertain times, to say the least.
Our problems were more practical back then- food, water, shelter, predators, survival- less esoteric. We had neither the leisure time nor the wealth of information and experience to debate esoteric questions like the merits of various political systems of government and moral hierarchies.
When human beings first started farming, one of the first places they did so was the fertile crescent river valley between two mighty ancient rivers; the Tigress and the Euphrates.
Some of the earliest examples of writing come from this period. They reflect a life of terrible hardship and catastrophe.
The geographical conditions which made the land so ideal for farming also made it prone to periodic flooding. In the river valley, everything was made of mud; mud bricks comprised homes, grain silos, everything. A flood meant complete and utter devastation; it also meant starvation and death.
Preparing for the eventuality of flooding was very difficult; few other building materials to choose from besides mud-brick. The floods were also impossible to predict, which was the worst part for our early ancestors.
Some of the examples of writing from that period describe a terrible flood coming early one year, only a few days before harvest time- after an entire season of planting and careful tending.
If only the community had known the flood would come early that year, they could have saved the harvest, evacuated the people; but hindsight was and is- then, now and forever- perfect 20/20.
In 2022 A.D., as in our ancient past, foreknowledge of the future would be immensely helpful. The lamentations of our ancient ancestors about unpredictable catastrophes are echoed in the hand-wringing of the leaders of the European Union today.
Energy dependence on Russia has left the nations of the E.U., Germany chief among them, facing a dire winter completely cut-off from Russian energy products. The recent subtext from Moscow has been as clear as agitprop producers of the highest caliber can make it: “Remove the E.U. sanctions on Russia, or no Russian oil and gas for Europe.”
Had European leaders known it was coming, they might have averted this crisis of economic brinksmanship now threatening to unleash famine on the poorest nations of the world, even as it continues to squeeze the working-class poor everywhere with crippling inflation, market uncertainty, and stratospheric fuel prices.
“Energy policy is always power policy, is always interest policy, is therefore always security policy,” admitted Robert Hallbeck, Germany’s economics and climate minister, at a March 2022 conference in Berlin. “And if you look back, you almost can’t understand how we could be so blind to overlook that.”
“We knew, or we could have known, that it was not only stupid to place all our security policy cards on just one country, but that it also wasn’t a smart idea to put them on that particular country,” Hallbeck admitted. “We have to acknowledge that we acted wrongly in the past.”
Great Britain’s late monarch Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away this week peacefully at the Royal Family’s estate Balmoral at the age of 96, inherited the aftermath of two world wars and the makings of another- this one a Cold War which lasted decades and brought the world to the brink of global thermonuclear war.
Has Great Britain’s newest Royal monarch, the so recently ascended King Charles III, inherited the same?
While it is certainly true the powers of the British royal monarch, as far as the actual governance of the nation is concerned, are virtually nil, the Royal Family still enjoys tremendous wealth, influence, and adoration from the British public and royal-watchers around the world.
From breathless speculation about the latest royal scandals, an outpouring of grief for the late Queen, and enough photos to break the internet, this latest changing of the royal guard in Great Britain, the only one many can remember, has been dominating the news cycle nonstop since the Royal Family announced the death of their long-serving monarch on Twitter.
“In 1947, on her 21st birthday, she pledged in a broadcast from Cape Town to the Commonwealth, to devote her life, whether it be short or long, to the service of her peoples,” said King Charles III in his first full public address as King.
“That was more than a promise: It was a profound personal commitment which defined her whole life,” the new King continued. “She made sacrifices for duty.”
“Her dedication and devotion as Sovereign never wavered, through times of change and progress, through times of joy and celebration, and through times of sadness and loss,” King Charles said in his address. “In her life of service we saw that abiding love of tradition, together with that fearless embrace of progress, which make us great as nations. The affection, admiration and respect she inspired became the hallmark of her reign.”
The King praised his late mother’s, “warmth, humor and an unerring ability always to see the best in people,” as well as her, “particular relationship and responsibility towards the Church of England.”
“In that faith, and the values it inspires, I have been brought up to cherish a sense of duty to others, and to hold in the greatest respect the precious traditions, freedoms and responsibilities of our unique history and our system of parliamentary government,” the King told the public.
“As the Queen herself did with such unswerving devotion, I too now solemnly pledge myself, throughout the remaining time God grants me, to uphold the Constitutional principles at the heart of our nation,” the King promised. “And wherever you may live in the United Kingdom, or in the Realms and territories across the world, and whatever may be your background or beliefs, I shall endeavor to serve you with loyalty, respect, and love, as I have throughout my life.”
Can the new King help guide the United Kingdom, and the nations of the European Union, to a better future than the one the world enjoyed during the worst days of the Cold War?
As much data as we have access to in the Information Age, we are more uncertain than ever. Globalization and technology have produced exploitation, a wider wealth gap, and the world’s most advanced surveillance state in addition to a larger middle class worldwide.
With Europe inching towards a disastrous winter, the Russian conflict dragging on in Ukraine, and China getting closer by the day to invading Taiwan, the next decade could bring any number of changes, from the aspirational goals of clean energy to the nightmarish possibility of a world plunged into another violent global conflict.
During her reign, Queen Elizabeth II never again saw the world descend into war and chaos. May her successor prove as fortunate.
“In a little over a week’s time we will come together as a nation, as a Commonwealth and indeed a global community, to lay my beloved mother to rest,” the King said. “In our sorrow, let us remember and draw strength from the light of her example.”
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)