Politicians have ignored infrastructure. It’s said spending money on bridges, water pipes, and roads isn’t sexy. (Okay, they’re right. It’s not even marginally attractive with beer goggles.) The pols don’t prioritize maintenance and think our eyes will glaze over (they absolutely do glaze over.) We won’t see them as dazzling heroes, and boy, do they want us to. Inside every politician lurks a wannabe movie star.
Congresspeoples, you aren’t the shiny objects. We have celebrities for that. You’re supposed to be boring. You’re in Washington to ensure we have clean water running through big pipes that don’t break and cause sinkholes that swallow our cars and our favorite strip mall (where the movie theater is.) We aren’t supposed to have expensive car repairs from potholes and deteriorating pavement. Yes, you’d rather open a sparkly new stadium surrounded by vapid jocks and cheerleaders, but we really, really need to not worry about bridges collapsing as we cross. Call us picky.
Human nature hasn’t changed one iota. We’re still headstrong, greedy, and power-crazed. History, schmistory. Some full-of-hubris-yahoos-in-charge think they know better and ruin everything for the rest of us. So, here’s a cautionary tale about boring, totally un-sexy, road maintenance.
The Dark Ages in Europe. It even sounds scary.
Called that because a thousand years of crucial advancement pretty much disappeared. It was like everyone but the Church and nobility (and even many of them saw no need for such a tedious thing as literacy) was abandoned and raised by wolves. No science. Or reading. Or artisans. Or hygiene. Basically, they turned rather feral. Believed bathing could kill you. Imagine wearing never-washed clothes for months. Enduring crawling lice. Can you imagine the stink? No tooth care, so toothless by twenty-five. Bad occurrences were witches’ fault. But Asia and the Arabian world didn’t suffer a backward lurch. ‘Cause the cool stuff that advanced civilization developed in the Arabian and Asian cultures.
When the sprawling Roman Empire fell in 476 C.E., western societies disintegrated. Romans had maintained roads from northern England to Portugal to northern Africa, the Middle East, and on to the whole of Eastern Europe. They sent patrols to safeguard merchants and other travelers. As Rome expanded its reach, merchants safely (relatively─for the time period) traded goods all across Europe, Asia, and through the Mediterranean Sea region. With them came Greek philosophy, Arabic number systems, advanced building techniques, public water systems, and so much more.
Once Rome lost its mojo, the roads did also. It was dangerous to travel beyond your local area. Without the Roman soldiers, roving bands of thieves had open season on the travelers. To go anywhere required sleeping by the side of the road nearly every night. Imagine the dangers that went along with that prospect. It wasn’t like the Robin Hood movies. Men in tights and jaunty hats didn’t merrily wait to come to your rescue.
Road maintenance stopped. Paving stones dislodged. Trees and shrubs grew back. Taking a cart across the countryside broke wheels or axles. There was no AAA. No Holiday Inn. Not even a Cracker Barrel. You were on your own.
So, because Uncle Ray and Cousin James never returned from a trip to sell rutabagas and buy cloth, Europeans became insular. No one wanted to travel and brave the unknown dangers that lurked. Over time, they forgot all kinds of helpful information. Became afraid of strangers and foreign ideas. And had to eat way too many rutabagas. And wear poorly made clothes made of the crummy cloth woven by old Aunt Tilly, who seriously had no gift for it.
Now, I don’t think there’s any chance that modern-day math homework will go away (sorry, kids) because of crumbling infrastructure, but being able to travel safely to other regions is a big part of what shapes us. And local produce is great, but I’m not so hot for rutabagas.
I believe the only way to get through the slings and arrows life throws at all of us is to find the humor.