"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
The social unrest, economic gloom and austerity in Europe today mirrors one of the greatest crises in British history, says the historian Michael Wood.
The news from Europe is getting worse by the day. Economic gloom across the continent and multiple crises in the currency zone.
With rising unemployment and inflation there are riots in the streets with forecasts of anarchy in some parts of western Europe.
And along with the simmering discontent there is a worrying rise of radical groups and populist right wing movements. In the fringes, secessionists are pushing for independence, indeed for the break up of the whole European order under which we have all lived secure and comfortable for so long.
At home in Britain there are worrying signs in every town – cuts in public services have led to closures of public baths and libraries, the failure of road maintenance, breakdowns in the food supply and civic order.
While political commentators and church leaders talk about a “general decline in morality” and “public apathy”, the rich retreat to their mansions and country estates and hoard their cash.
It all sounds eerily familiar doesn’t it? But this is not Angela Merkel’s eurozone – it is Roman Britannia towards the year 400, the period of the fall of the Roman Empire.
The very real danger, today, is that important groups of workers will simply lose interest, because they find it impossible to manage on their income, and not turn up for work or they will be organised by the Unions to hold the nation to ransom. In a complex society that relies so heavily on imports and a sophisticated transport system to provide food – starvation and the rebellion that would cause – is never far away.
As we see from the Greek experience, the rich are quite relaxed to see the people, who did not create the problem in their economy, starve. That they believe that continued harsh treatment will succeed, seems to be a major misunderstanding of the human species.
It is because it is so obvious that the rich are rapidly becoming richer as the poor become poorer, that this injustice is likely to be the fuel for rebellion.
A rise in the rate of tax on the highest earners and progressively higher rates of corporation tax for businesses, the greater their profits, is likely to be the only solutions that calm these underlying resentments. However, the likelihood that such measures will be considered before it is too late, is remote in these times when greed [the desire to have far more than you need] has become the accepted and expected motive force for action.
Born February 9, 1737 - bones lost!
Author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination.