Back to Feudalistic Values

About ten years ago I read a book of the feudalistic middle-ages in Europe for a university exam, which I failed. Nevertheless I remember the book saying that in the middle-ages society emphasized verbal agreements and oaths between people, especially between lord and vassal. Modern society does not regard verbal agreements as reliable as written ones. If someone writes it on a piece of paper, or a computer file, its binding.

Nowadays we tend to regard the feudalistic system as archaic and dated at best, and in many ways it is, but it worked for centuries in Europe and Asia, so there must have been something it did right. What is it? I would say it is tied to verbal agreements, or rather emphasizing personal relationships between people. Nowadays we peasants and working men feel quite separated from the upper class people of politicians and money tycoons. Even if the politicians are there on paper to represent us, in practice that is not the case and anyone with half-a-brain and mind not clouded by ideology can see that.

The feudalistic system can be seen, if we look at it with rose coloured glasses, as a system that emphasizes a relationship between different people, and therefore communication with others. This is a great thing. Of course in many cases feudalism didn’t work this ideally, but I’m sure there are cases when the feudal lord took his duty to protect his subjects seriously. Not every feudal lord was Prince John from Sherwood.

In China before it adopted Confucianism the land was in turmoil with wars and treachery everywhere. However by adopting Confucianism they managed to live in relative peace and harmony, for a while. Or so I’ve heard. The Confucian system reminded the people of the importance of a decent relationship with each other, instead of trying to back stab them at every opportunity for gain, as we do today. Or that is how I see it. Eventually though, naturally, the Confucian system became corrupted. Advice and reminders turned to literal dogma, which lead to new kind of oppression.

Probably also when democracy was popularized in various countries late 19th century and early 20th century it brought positive changes, because the people elected into parliament took their duty to listen to the voters seriously. That is not how it works anymore, though. But back then, even democracy worked in some cases as a tool for encouraging communication between people.

This is the lesson we should learn from history. To have a sane, moral and flourishing society we have to have communication between people. If we have an organic society it will have some sort of social classes no matter how much you try to equalize them. There will be a working class, middle class, intellectuals, probably also some sort of ruling class. The best way to protect the small guy is not to attack the big guy, but to ensure they can communicate.

I don’t think the actual political system a society has matters much in the end. If the general feeling, morality and intelligence of the people is good the system will work, not perfectly, but adequately. On the other hand, if the general values of society are greed, lust and disgust, as we have nowadays, the system will not work, no matter what social engineering wizards try to do with it. That is not to say we shouldn’t try to come up with new ideas, or how to rework old ones to work for us, but it is only secondary when it comes to society and human life. Our values and morals have to be in order before we can even attempt to make a system. To do that we need communication.


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