History has these quirks…
It all started with an innocent attempt to figure out “Why Iran? Why Syria? Why now?”
I saw the “surface reasons” (Iranian desires for a nuclear bomb to erase Israel; Syrian Bathist roots in Nazi doctrine) but that just lead to secondary reasons. The aftermath of World Wars I and II, which created imbalanced ethnic states with mixed religions. The alliance of the Axis Powers with Arabs who were peeved over French and British colonialism (and also liked the notion of “roast Jew” in the morning…) OK, I thought, maybe I can anchor “now” in “then”…
So I wandered around in W.W.II for a while, and mostly found it was the second half of W.W.I in most ways that matter.
There was a bit of a divergence as I headed off to Socialism 101 ( reading the Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, and finding the roots of “modern socialism” heading back toward The French Revolution and the British Utopians).
Oh Dear, I’m thinking… So I have to start with The French Revolution to sort it out properly… And after a bit of immersion in that, figured out that it was in many ways just a reflection of the Empires that had gone before, and how they did combat and eventually imploded. ( Starting before, and ending shortly after, the American Revolution; that in some ways led to the French Revolution, that lead to the empires just before W.W.I that lead to W.W.II that… )
At that point was a detour into the Ottoman Empire (and some of the Arab Muslim dominance of North Africa, a detour thorough how the Berber Language worked, and their odd old alphabet / abjad and potential link into Iberia, then on into Ireland, Scotland, and how the British Empire evolved)… but that was not getting me much closer to “Why this, why now?”… Even as it did explain much of the behaviour of Turks and Greeks…
I was beginning to despair.
Was EVERYTHING a necessary consequence of what went before? Were we really that tied ‘to the wheel’ of fate? Was the American Revolution so clearly and directly an outgrowth of European behaviours and Old King George (at the end of a long line of such Kings…)? Couldn’t I just find some nice ‘cut point’ and say “it starts here!”? That took a day or two to ponder.
So tonight I came back to it, deciding that I’d ‘run causality backwards’ just a bit more. Surely the path from Communist / Socialist arising from capitalism that arose in Democratic Republics that came from Kings and Empires that came from earlier Kings and Empires that… had to start SOMEWHERE! And well before two guys, a nice cave, and a fight with sticks and rocks over who got to have it…
Well, I think I found my “break point”.
To an American, we don’t really notice religion much. I’ve worked with hundreds of folks where I could not begin to tell you if they were Catholics, Protestants (and don’t even hope to figure out what FLAVOR of Protestant… Methodists vs Lutherans vs Presbyterians vs Baptists – that come in at least 3 seasonings I know of, having attended 2 of them) and thats before you even start to get into the “other bits”. Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Scientists. Then there are the Buddhists and Hindus too. Oh, and a passel Jews and Muslims (both somewhere around 6% of the US Population, last I paid any attention to it.)
As a kid, I personally spent most of my time in Baptist Church. Primarily as my Mom did not have a drivers license until I was about 12 so we walked to whatever was closest, and they were it. For a while we lived closer to a Methodist Church, so I went there for a year or two. At about 12, two things collided. Mom could drive and my sister started dating the son of the Episcopalian Minister (and they had just built an Episcopal Church the year before). So for a couple of years we went there… Mixed in along the way were sporadic visits to the Catholic Church (Dad was a Catholic) and to the Mormon Church (as they were about 70% of the town, and by then I lived 1/2 block from the Biggest Church In Town…) Also, as they have to attempt to recruit folks, and there were not a lot of folks to recruit in a mostly Mormon Town, well, it was only polite to let your friends tally a “Brought A Visitor” on their score card…
There are others. I’ve been to a Presbyterian Church a couple of times, a Lutheran a few times, and recently visited a Jehovah’s Witness church (nice folks, even if a bit persistent and literal…) My favorite has been the times I’ve gone to a Buddhist service. Shinto, especially, has something special for me. I’m sure there are more, but frankly, I kind of stopped ‘keeping score’. It is fun to sometimes go to an “alien” church. ( In town, now that I’m in a big city, is a Coptic Church that does the liturgy in Coptic; but I couldn’t talk the spouse into that one. She’s taken me to a couple of different churches that both have “Unity” or “Unified” it the name, so I now can’t keep them straight ;-) I also found a Greek Orthodox and thought listening to the whole thing in Greek would be fun, but she declined that one too…)
The point? Well, that point is that we don’t do much fighting or arguing over religion. If you want one, go ahead. If you want me to visit, well, OK, I can do that. Or maybe I’ll go fishing… Or we can all go to a friends wedding at the Synagogue (an interesting ceremony if ever I’ve seen one…) and not get worked up about it. Heck, in about the same year we had a Pagan wedding in a Redwood Grove too. Well, actually it was sort of a Pagan / Christian mix, as they were a mixed couple… Religion is sort of like hair color. Most of us grew up with whatever we had, some folks change theirs, and most folks pay about as much attention to it. Nobody argues over it. (Well, sometimes you can get an argument about the existence of God, and you can get good arguments about creation vs evolution; but try, just TRY to get an argument about Christology – the nature of Christ, the trinity and all that, or about iconoclasts vs Catholics or “ought the Apocrypha be included in the Bible?” and you find yourself talking to an empty room pretty quick.) Almost nobody knows, or cares, about the Catholic vs Protestant wars of generations ago.
Day to day, I’m as blind to it as most Americans. Religion is just wallpaper, and we just don’t notice the wallpaper much.
(Frankly, I think that’s part of why the Muslims get P.O.’s at us. We just don’t care. They want a good religious war with someone and we just say “What? No. Look, be polite and stop shouting about war or we’re gonna whack you.” which is just what someone desperately in need of an adversary wants to hear. A guy at work starts talking about being a Muslim and I’m going to ask if he knows where a good Moroccan Restaurant is in town. He gets rankled ’cause he wanted me to honor his religion, or be a foil for a spitting match, or whatever; and I’m asking about Halal Lamb… Being ignored is worse than being denigrated… We expect them to compete in the marketplace of ideas, live and let live, and they want to compete in very different ways. Oh Well. Welcome to America…)
But it turns out that I think I DID find my “Hinge Point of History”, and it is Religion. The Religion of the 16th century (that is in the 1500’s – a point that constantly bothers me… The 1500’s ought to be called the 15’s Century… but I digress… oh, heck, I’m going to whack it some more… WHY do they have the 15th Century end with 1500? That’s just nuts. YES, I know the math. Everyone forever has to be encumbered with this crap because some guy way back when forgot about Year Zero? Sheesh, fix it already…) Meanwhile, back in the Europe, on each side of the 16th Century (that makes it in the 1400s and 1600s, sigh…) it was not wise to have political meetings in tall buildings in Prague…
In 1618 they had The Second Defenestration Of Prague. Yes, not only did they toss someone out the window, they’ve done it so much they started numbering them (and then lost count!). So, if you have any meetings with Czechs in Prague, make sure you rent a ground floor conference room. They seem to like tossing folks out windows when they get cranky or don’t reach an agreement.
On 23 May 1618, four Catholic Lord Regents, namely Count Jarolslaw Martinitz, Count Vilem Slavata of Chlum, Adam II von Sternberg (who was the supreme burgrave), and Matthew Leopold Popel Lobcowitz (who was the grand prior) arrived at the Bohemian Chancellory at 8:30am. After preparing the meeting hall, an assembly of the three main Protestant estates gathered at 9:00am, led by Count Thurn, who had been deprived of his post as Castellan of Karlstadt by the Emperor. The Protestant Lords’ agenda was to clarify whether or not the four regents present were responsible for persuading King Matthias to write a letter which ultimately removed the religious freedoms that had been granted with the Letter of Majesty. According to Martiniz himself:
Lord Paul Rziczan read aloud… a letter with the following approximate content: His Imperial Majesty had sent to their graces the lord regents a sharp letter that was, by our request, issued to us as a copy after the original had been read aloud, and in which His Majesty declared all of our lives and honor already forfeit, thereby greatly frightening all three Protestant estates. As they also absolutely intended to proceed with the execution against us, we came to a unanimous agreement among ourselves that, regardless of any loss of life and limb, honor and property, we would stand firm, with all for one and one for all… nor would we be subservient, but rather we would loyally help and protect each other to the utmost, against all difficulties. Because, however, it is clear that such a letter came about through the advice of some of our religious enemies, we wish to know, and hereby ask the lord regents present, if all or some of them knew of the letter, recommended it, and approved of it.
Before the regents gave any answer, they requested that the Protestants give them the opportunity to confer with their superior, Adam von Waldstein, who was not present. If they were given the opportunity, the Protestants would get an official answer to their grievance by the next Friday (seeing as this was all taking place on the eve of Ascension Day and they all must observe the holy day). The Protestants would not accept this run around and demanded an immediate answer. The first two, Adam von Sternberg and Matthew Leopold Popel Lobcowitz, were decided innocent by the Protestant Estate holders and too pious to have any responsibility in the letter’s creation. They in turn were removed from the room, however before leaving, the supreme burgrave (Adam II von Sternberg) made it clear that they “did not advise anything that was contrary to the Letter of Majesty”. This left only Count Vilem Slavata, Count Jaroslaw Martinitz (who had replaced Thurn as Castellan), known Catholic hard-liners, and the secretary to the Regents. They eventually claimed responsibility for the letter and, assuming they were only going to be arrested, welcomed any punishment the Protestants had planned.
The Lord Count von Thurn turned to both Martiniz and Slavata and said “you are enemies of us and of our religion, have desired to deprive us of our Letter of Majesty, have horribly plagued your Protestant subjects… and have tried to force them to adopt your religion against their wills or have had them expelled for this reason”. Then to the crowd of Protestants, he continued “were we to keep these men alive, then we would lose the Letter of Majesty and our religion… for there can be no justice to be gained from or by them”. Soon after, the Regents were thrown out the third floor window along with the Regents’ secretary, Philipus Fabricius. Some texts say they fell 70 feet (21 metres) and landed on a large pile of manure in a dry moat and survived. Philip Fabricius was later ennobled by the emperor and granted the title Baron von Hohenfall (literally “Baron of Highfall”).
Now, the first thing that comes to mind is “who throws someone out a window and doesn’t notice the pile of horse poop?” and the second thing is “And then lets them live to go get friends?”…
But the point:
Folks, then, were really hung up on exactly what particular flavor of religion you were. The Arab Muslims had just been lopping of chunks of Europe (both ends…) for Islam. The Catholics were trying for European Domination. The Eastern Orthodox HAD been wanting domination, but were swallowed up buy the Ottoman Turks empire (other than some that ran off to Russia – setting the stage for THEIR feeling of being the New Roman Empire…) and the Protestants had been fighting Papal domination and corruption for a while already. (Yes, many of the Popes were made Pope by questionable means, some via purchase, and at times there were even multiple Popes… It’s a bit chaotic, that bit of history… )
IMHO, it is THAT which is the Hinge Point.
We had a long history of The King du Jour, and a long history of miscellaneous Empires (Maya, Chinese, Persian, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, etc. etc.) but things had never really changed much. Mostly just the same old same old. One guy robs another guy, one Lord dominates some other Lords and gets called King. Some King kills off other Kings and calls himself Emperor. Those things have echoes into today, but did not determine today. We could just as easily had a Byzantine Empire Redux… but for religion.
So the Turks remember their Ottoman Empire days, the direct result of the Arab Conquests. That influence runs from 700 or so AD up to about W.W.I, so is a direct root of today. But it is a consequence of the Muslim Religion and how it spread in that era. The Russians have memories of their USSR Empire, and the Russian Empire from before it; but the root is in the Eastern Orthodox religion, how it came to be the dominant form in the East, and from which they got their Alphabet. And Central Europe has dreams of the Holy Roman Empire (and France tacks on the Napoleonic Empire…) while Britain had the Anglican Church split with the Pope over the many divorces of Henry…
In essence, there was a long period of Religious War, running from about 300 AD with the conversion of Constantine to Christianity in the Byzantine Empire, through the attacks of the Turks and the Moors into Europe, through the Crusades and even with the Protestant vs Catholic wars in Europe. Those were the events that lead to the Ottoman Turk Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the Russian Empire, the British Empire; and eventually to the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and on through several other steps until we reach the W.W.I and II events, then end up in the Cold War and the mess we have today.
And that shift, from Religious Wars to wars over property, land, which Royal Family can lay claim to what, the Hapsburgs and the Mccoys, if you will, that whole silly European Privilege system; that is what leads to our present state. It is the legacy of those turf fights that shapes today.
What does this have to do with Defenestration in Prague?
Roman Catholic Imperial officials claimed that the three men survived due to the mercy of angels assisting the righteousness of the Catholic cause. Protestant pamphleteers asserted that their survival had more to do with the horse manure in which they landed than the benevolent acts of the angels.
Soon after he was officially crowned upon Matthias’ death in 1619, Ferdinand II was deposed by the Bohemian rebels. They replaced him with Frederick V, Elector Palatine, a Calvinist, who reigned for only 15 months. Ferdinand annulled this election on January 29, 1620. Ferdinand followed this on November 8, 1620 by outlawing Protestantism, executing the Bohemian rebel leaders and confiscating their estates. The Defenestration of Prague was unsuccessful in its immediate motives, but served to precipitate the Bohemian Revolt and the Thirty Years’ War.
It was the proximal cause of the Thirty Years’ War.
The Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history.
The origins of the conflict and goals of the participants were complex, and no single cause can accurately be described as the main reason for the fighting. Initially, the war was fought largely as a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire, although disputes over the internal politics and balance of power within the Empire played a significant part. Gradually, the war developed into a more general conflict involving most of the European powers. In this general phase, the war became more a continuation of the Bourbon–Habsburg rivalry for European political pre-eminence, and in turn led to further warfare between France and the Habsburg powers, and less specifically about religion.
A major impact of the Thirty Years’ War was the extensive destruction of entire regions, denuded by the foraging armies (bellum se ipsum alet). Episodes of famine and disease significantly decreased the populace of the German states, Bohemia, the Low Countries and Italy, while bankrupting most of the combatant powers.
It was that near endless bickering, astounding destruction, and the need to replenish the wealth squandered in that war which lead to several things. A load of folks, fed up with it, headed off to the New World. (So, eventually, we get the American Revolution, then the French Revolution, then all the sequale of THAT, including eventually the various socialisms (communism, democratic socialism, naziism, fascism, market socialism, etc.) AND we get a treaty at the end. It also lays out the winners and losers and lays the table for a few generations of Family Feud between various “Royal Families” of Europe (who seem best suited to greed and getting a lot of innocent folks killed trying to satisfy their power lust and greed; but I’m a Colonial, so what else would I say ;-)
Reading the link on the 30 Years’ War is well worth the time. It is just full of detail I can’t cover here. All the various Royals busy killing each other (and many innocents) in the petty rivalries. Even the Ottomans get involved:
In the east, the Protestant Hungarian Prince of Transylvania, Bethlen Gabor, led a spirited campaign into Hungary with the support of the Ottoman Sultan, Osman II. Fearful of the Catholic policies of Ferdinand II, Bethlen Gabor requested a protectorate by Osman, so “the Ottoman Empire became the one and only ally of great-power status which the rebellious Bohemian states could muster after they had shaken off Habsburg rule and had elected Frederick V as a Protestant king”. Ambassadors were exchanged, with Heinrich Bitter visiting Constantinople in January 1620, and Mehmed Aga visiting Prague in July 1620. The Ottomans offered a force of 60,000 cavalry to Frederick and plans were made for an invasion of Poland with 400,000 troops in exchange for the payment of an annual tribute to the Sultan. These negotiations triggered the Polish–Ottoman War of 1620–21. The Ottomans defeated the Poles, who were supporting the Habsburgs in the Thirty Years’ War, at the Battle of Cecora in September–October 1620, but were not able to further intervene efficiently before the Bohemian defeat at the Battle of the White Mountain in November 1620.
The emperor, who had been preoccupied with the Uskok War, hurried to reform an army to stop the Bohemians and their allies from overwhelming his country. Count Bucquoy, the commander of the Imperial army, defeated the forces of the Protestant Union led by Count Mansfeld at the Battle of Sablat, on 10 June 1619. This cut off Count Thurn’s communications with Prague, and he was forced to abandon his siege of Vienna. The Battle of Sablat also cost the Protestants an important ally — Savoy, long an opponent of Habsburg expansion. Savoy had already sent considerable sums of money to the Protestants and even troops to garrison fortresses in the Rhineland. The capture of Mansfeld’s field chancery revealed the Savoyards’ involvement, and they were forced to bow out of the war.
So this was the point were the Ottoman Empire first aligned with the Protestants against the Catholics. Laying the groundwork for their later being allied with the Germans and the “Central Powers” in W.W.I, that has the Arab States reprise that role in W.W.II again as German Axis power members, that leads to the present Nazi Emulation by the Ba’ath Party in Syria, and the Turks being grumpy about folks, like the USA, talking about entering Syria or Iran.
We also get the Royal Family groundwork laid that later, under the Austo-Hungarian Empire, has the match lit for W.W.I with the killing of the Archduke. It is the peace and aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War that leads to the structural issues that lead to W.W.I, which really only pauses to resume in W.W.II, and smoothly transitions into the Cold War, that leads to where we are today.
By the war’s end, four major imperial powers—the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires—had been militarily and politically defeated and ceased to exist. The successor states of the former two lost a great amount of territory, while the latter two were dismantled entirely. The map of central Europe was redrawn into several smaller states. The League of Nations was formed in the hope of preventing another such conflict. The European nationalism spawned by the war and the breakup of empires, the repercussions of Germany’s defeat and problems with the Treaty of Versailles are generally agreed to be factors contributing to World War II.
Which lead to a new USSR / Russian Empire, our present “Arab Spring” and the pan-Arab Socialist movements, and, in some ways the end of the Cold War has led to a new Holy Roman Empire / Napoleonic Empire / Greater German Empire in the EU.
Which is WHY the present state seems so familiar. Seems to have that “it’s gonna blow” feeling. Because it looks a whole lot like what it has been the last few times Its blown up. The only major difference I see this time is that the USA is playing some of what had been the British Empire role in prior runs.
Peace of Westphalia
The Thirty Years’ War ended in a peace agreement that basically gave us the modern European layout.
Over a four year period, the parties (Holy Roman Emperor, France and Sweden) were actively negotiating at Osnabrück and Münster in Westphalia. The end of the war was not brought about by one treaty but instead by a group of treaties such as the Treaty of Hamburg. On 15 May 1648, the Peace of Münster was signed ending the Eighty Years’ War. Over five months later, on 24 October, the Treaties of Münster and Osnabrück were signed.
The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic.
The Peace of Westphalia treaties involved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, of the House of Habsburg, the Kingdoms of Spain, France, Sweden, the Dutch Republic, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and sovereigns of the free imperial cities […]
The treaties resulted from the big diplomatic congress, thereby initiating a new system of political order in central Europe, later called Westphalian sovereignty, based upon the concept of a sovereign state governed by a sovereign. In the event, the treaties’ regulations became integral to the constitutional law of the Holy Roman Empire.
The treaties did not restore the peace throughout Europe, however. France and Spain remained at war for the next eleven years, making peace only in the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659.
The power taken by Ferdinand III in contravention of the Holy Roman Empire’s constitution was stripped and returned to the rulers of the Imperial States. This rectification allowed the rulers of the Imperial States to independently decide their religious worship. Protestants and Catholics were redefined as equal before the law, and Calvinism was given legal recognition.
So in one swoop, we got the nations of Europe, a start down that path of ending religious wars, and the formation of the Royal Family Sovereigns (and what all THAT leads to later).
The Holy See was very displeased at the settlement, with Pope Innocent X in Zelo Domus Dei reportedly calling it “null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time”.
Which leaves me wondering what the Pope REALLY thought ;-) Nothing like being told you can’t lay claim to ALL Christianity to put a crimp in that Ultimate and Infallible Power Trip…
The 1648 Treaty of Osnabrück, part of the Peace of Westphalia, specified three types of worship, “domestic devotion”, public religious services “exercitium religionis publicum”, and ‘”exercitium religionis privatum,” and tolerated communal worship by minority faiths in clandestine churches or as private, family or individual devotions.
Now this focus on stepping away from Religious Wars was all well and good. Though I have to note that we largely just shifted into wars over Colonial Empires and over Economic Forms instead. But it does leave me with another minor “Oh Dear”…
The present move to intolerance of the practice of Christianity in any public setting is “not good” as it risks reopening this kind of Religious War. We really ought to learn from the Peace of Westphalia that religious toleration is important, included toleration In Public. Starting down the path of suppression of religion has generally lead to ‘very bad things’.
We also need to look at the present problem with “Radical Islam” vs “Jews” vs “The Christian West” and realize that it, too, has long and deep roots. We are fairly close to recreating the circumstances that existed before the Peace of Westphalia and before the breakup of the Holy Roman Empire. Do we REALY want a new Ottoman Empire (Arab Spring) vs a new Holy Roman Empire (EU) vs a new Russian Empire (Russia and allies)? Will it really be any better for having the USA playing “UK Analog”?
All those little states in “Germany” were parts of the Holy Roman Empire.
One other difference. While we still have vestiges of the historic Royal Families (and I’m sure they are just as greedy and ambitious as ever) we have added two new layers of greed and avarice. The Mega-Capitalists and the Apparatchik. I am quite certain that th power lust of a Putin or a Maurice Strong is no less strong, nor any less hazardous to the world than when those same urges came from folks with Nobility in their title.
Somehow, despite all the changes, we’ve ended up letting those folks who lust most for power and domination set the agendas of government. We are forming up into religious blocks again (though with the Atheistic religion added to the mix). And we have many of the same territorial imperatives at work again.
We desperately need to change that, and find a way to prevent doing over what has already been done a hundred times.
It looks to me like we have the Muslim Brotherhood working hard to rebuild the Ottoman Empire. Turkey is making sympathetic sounds toward the east, and away from the west, as well. We have Putin and Russia working to replay The Cold War, and we have a British Royal Prince on record as saying they expect to win The Great Game this time. W.W.I was started by a Royal getting assassinated, triggering a rats nest of interlocking mutual support treaties, much like we have a load of them today. The Thirty Years’ War (among many others) was in large part over religion. In all three ( 30 Years’, W.W.I and W.W.II) the Ottoman Empire was participant and part of the problem.
I don’t see how adding global oil dependency on the Middle East, US Dreams of Hegemony, and a Nuclear China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and shortly Iran; adds stability to this mix.
It looks to me like we are one Serbian Rebel or one Defenestration away from a dramatic change in Life As We Know It; and all our “Leaders” seem quite happy with this state of affairs.
But, on the bright side, I think I’ve figured out where our present circumstances had their foundations laid. Some Czech Defenestrations and the Ottoman Empire vs the European Empires & Royals… That, and I’m really coming to appreciate how the Framers of the US Constitution crafted that thing. And why ‘freedom of religion’ ranked so high, along with no titles of nobility and only Congress declaring war. Now if only we were to do what it says…
But somehow I think we’re going to have Madam Hillary toss someone out a window instead…