Michelle Bachmann Phenomenon, Renaissance, Taxes, and Serfs

 Why not hate the Renaissance? Why love it? Some politicians these days don’t care too much for the re-birth of Europe (1330-1550) Some like Bachmann even say that today’s problems in the US can be traced directly back to the Renaissance. Others say maybe these folks have read too much Francis Schaeffer.

“A number of Christian leaders, authors, and evangelists credit Schaeffer’s ideas with helping spark the rise of the Christian Right in the United States and were strongly influenced by him. Among them are Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, Focus on the Family‘s James Dobson, the 700 Club‘s Pat Robertson, Prison Fellowship‘s Charles Colson, columnist Cal Thomas, preacher and author Tim LaHaye, former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and Liberty University and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell.” — Wiki

Medieval Taxing

Let us bring everything including religious beliefs into the realm of power and taxes. Here’s a thought: maybe some folks today want to be exempt from paying taxes. Maybe these same folks wish not to stick the paying of taxes to themselves—the rich and politically powerful—in a fair and just manner. Instead, they may wish to shackle the less powerful working middle class with the entire burden while still holding to the slogan that “We are all in this together.”
But, dang it, due to the Renaissance serfdom became increasingly unpopular in most of Western Europe and eventually much the new world—not a happy turn of events if you are one of the rich and politically powerful. If one must know, a serf in addition to being property was part of the land. Included in the role as Lord’s assets in the pre-Renaissance years, serfs paid all the taxes.
“Often there were arbitrary tests to judge the worthiness of their tax payments. A chicken, for example, might be required to be able to jump over a fence of a given height to be considered old enough or well enough to be valued for tax purposes.” — Wikipedia

Who paid the taxes?

“In the centuries that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire the line separating slave and serf became less distinct. Of course, both slaves and serf lacked freedom and were subject to the will of the lord. Throughout the long history of medieval serfdom, the serf was required to perform labor services for his lord,” writes History Guide’s Steven Kreis.
Live stock is another term useful in referring to the serf.

Then the plague came.

The plague changed much about Europe.

“In this suffering and misery of our city, the authority of human and divine laws almost disappeared, for, like other men, the ministers and the executors of the laws were all dead or sick or shut up with their families, so that no duties were carried out. Every man was therefore able to do as he pleased”, wrote witness and survivor, Italian writer,” Giovanni Boccaccio.

Outside the cities, being tied to the manors may have been the saving grace for many peasants while infected major city trade centers were becoming scenes of horror. In time, however, a shift of power came about. Many serfs left the manors. As ex-serfs re-populated the now dead, charred, plague ravaged cities, they set themselves to help rebuild Europe, hence the rebirth or Renaissance. They rebuilt it in a manner that they liked full of cool beautiful stuff.

Much much much mocho more was involved and still life wasn’t heaven, mind you. Actually the serf didn’t really totally disappear in Western Europe till the mid-19th century. (As an aside, serfdom was a condition of bondage or modified slavery that freed slaves in the US found themselves trapped in after even 1865)

Out of Serfdom They Looked Back and Called it the Dark Ages

Question: So why should we hate the Renaissance as it seems Dominionists like Michele Bachmann do? We don’t. And we shouldn’t. We should not wish to be opinion-less cows, oops sorry, I mean serfs. Serfs are relatively simple to work with from a Church, or even a State, prospective. It would be helpful to own a whole nation of them, no?
Yet, a problem arises in the US since feudalism may not be the American way of doing things. It may not be the American Dream. Is there an American Dream? So what is the American Dream? Is it the economic structure of Dark Age Europe? Or is the Dream more in line with freedom from the shackles of feudalism? I’m thinking the answer lies more with freedom from. Sorry, rich and politically powerful, and, sorry, Religious right, a return to feudalism is not the Dream. And though some diluted Americans, without thinking, may think otherwise, it’s not.

“Historically speaking, this simple, if hard, life began to get shaken up with the Renaissance. In the Renaissance, people started to see humanity as the center of the universe, instead of God. In other words, we didn’t just look to the church (and other traditional establishments) for the path we were to take. Then came the Reformation, which introduced the idea of each of us being individually responsible for our own soul’s salvation.And then came democratic revolutions such as the American and the French revolutions. Now all of a sudden we were supposed to govern ourselves! And then came the industrial revolution, and instead of tilling the soil or making things with our hands, we had to sell our labor in exchange for money. All of a sudden, we became employees and consumers! Then came socialist revolutions such as the Russian and the Chinese, which introduced the idea of participatory economics. You were no longer responsible only for your own well-being, but for fellow workers as well!”, writes Eric Fromm. (1900 – 1980) German-American, social psychologist, psychoanalyst, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist.

The Christian Right’s retreat to an imagined backward moving fantasy yesterday-land is an escape from freedom.

Giving Alms to the Rich: Cargo Cult

Many people in the US still feel that the powerful rich are going to come through for them if they just give them enough time and money. In this view, like a cargo cult waiting for a boat or air shipment, the rich will eventually one day in glory show up present themselves and things will be okay fine again forever—Cinderella.
The reality is that the rich merely want masses of expendable low wage workers. They will buy any politician that will serf them. And if the US can’t give them serfs then, well, they find serfs elsewhere. This has been US history; has it not?
Stripping the middle class of all it has worked for is wrong. The anachronistic wanting of America as it was is not as wonderful as it is presented on FOX News. Few alive today really remember how labor was treated not so long ago in America. Labor was nothing. We were a third world country. And in some places around the Nation, we still are (see example of slave labor today in Florida: the True Cost of Tomatoes)

“Most assume that the Republicans want to take us back to the 1950′s, but even going back to the 1850′s isn’t enough for them. They want a return to the Middle Ages — pre Age of Enlightenment and the Renaissance, when all this independent thinking stuff started—If you listen to the main “thinkers” behind all this right-wing Christian stuff, you find people like RJ Rushdooney, who literally wants Biblical Law to supersede Constitutional Law—it’s PROFOUNDLY anti-American, and it needs to be called out as such.” –Randi Rhodes

And remember, Jesus was an out of work carpenter.

Terry Gresham

See also:

The Sins of the Renaissance, or the History that Shaped Michelle Bachmann’s World Veiw

Michelle Bachmann is Worried about the Renaissance

The True Cost of Tomatoes

Nobles Need Not Pay Taxes


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