Primitive Rhode Island, Primitive World
Not to be too much of a stereotypical conservative, but I’m not 100% convinced that there’s actually any such thing as modernity. By this, I mean that I think there’s a good case to be made that the social forces and pressures experienced by the average schlub trying to live his or her life are pretty much the same today as they’ve been for the last 2,500 years or so. People go along with some stuff because it’s the way it’s always been done, try to change other stuff when it becomes obvious to them that there are better options, work together with some folks to get ahead, and try to minimize the influence of other folks whom they believe would drag the community in the wrong direction.
There have definitely been changes over the centuries, as the scales that people are willing and able to work cooperatively across have enlarged and some of the more extreme methods of human interaction have been ruled out, but the ideas upon which those changes have been based — think of a concept like “thou shall not kill” — are not uniquely modern. The difference between now and the past lies largely in how boundaries have been expanded, so that we try to treat many of the other people we encounter as well as we are naturally inclined to treat members of our clan then tribe. This is a continuing struggle that has always existed and always will.
I bring this up on this particular day, because of the advocacy by filmmaker Michael Corrente and others on behalf of reputed New England mobster Luigi Manocchio, which is one of the clearest examples casting doubt on the existence of a distinct age of modernity that I have ever encountered. It is difficult to find much daylight between Corrente and his fellow advocates’ insistence that a mob chieftan whom they are familiar with be treated with special concern and the attitudes of early Middle-Ages Barbarian clans (using the term in its proper historical context) who took veneration of the local warlord to be a central virtue in life. Sometimes, both as individuals and as a society, we are better at resisting this impulse than at other times, but the temptation never entirely goes away.