Potholes and Pitfalls: The Bumpy Roads of History

“That’s how history works. The mundane things often times become the measure of a civilization.”

AFTER A month of tooth-jarring journeys over the pothole infested roads of north eastern Ohio, I’ve decided that there must be a lesson of history here. Surprisingly, there is one and not very far off.

Roads are, for the U.S. and much of the developed world, a thing to be taken for granted as they are so ubiquitous, but not always was it so. Smooth, or relatively smooth, asphalt and concrete rivers of traffic flowing across the face of the land are a product of the past century. Before that waterways, railways, and dirt tracks were the cross-continental lanes of locomotion.

What does it mean to us when road begin to degrade? Is it just an annoyance – or are there deeper implications?

Unrepaired and unmaintained roads, like wounds, begin to fester. Traffic slows, the spread of goods slows, more repairs on trucks – the price of milk at your grocery store goes up. But ultimately, it is indicative of the state of finance and stable government of any given nation. Maintenance is a strong indicator that a nation is functioning well, while disrepair suggests that dissipation, internal problems, and debt are pulling the focus away from these boring, but vital details. When Rome was falling, its roads descended into disrepair and then disuse.

THAT’S HOW history works. The mundane things often times become the measure of a civilization. Will it continue in good health or collapse in the shadow of a coming power with more nefarious and darker motivations? How many times has history repeated this scenario?

Never forget that though we may study the past – we live in history right now!

Keeping thinking history!

– Amanda Stiver

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