Last night I was watching this video about the Holy Roman Empire (“neither holy nor Roman nor an empire”) which is just basically Germany and France and other parts of Europe during the period in history that’s often vaguely referred to as “The Middle Ages”. And while I was watched this sincere attempt at explaining the history of the HRE I quite quickly found myself lost in a sea of characters like in One Hundred Years of Solitude—there were Henry’s IV and Henry’s IIVVII and like ten different Philips some of whom were Spanish and Dutch but also Austrian and then there were like twenty different Elizabeths. Toward the end there was this sort of offshoot comment too about how Louis XIV in France rose to the throne at the age of four which is, for the intent of governing, fucking stupid. But this period was not about governing.
What I took from this video was essentially that before some French folks had this sort of come-to-Jesus moment about democracy—particularly about how fucking stupid a political idea it was that inbred monarchical families should rule over everyone just because, even if they’re like literally four years old—there was medieval Europe. And in medieval Europe there were a ton of reasonable human beings who had some sort of coherent political philosophy that was oriented toward monarchy and the basic idea that some people are just fundamentally better than others. They just are. Maybe they can speak to God or whatever, or perhaps they’re just better—born better, worshipped because they are better, followed, liked, loved just because of who they are, what their last name is. This sacralizing of names and family is very real, defined medieval Europe, and was literally the exact dumbass shit that convinced Napoleon that going and literally conquering “the world” to bring some vague sense of democracy was better than going on like this any longer.
And today, we have Donald Trump and a lot of people who worship him like he’s Otto II of the House of Habsburg. Fortunately, Trump himself will not last a whole lot longer, but the medieval political logic of worshiping specific people who are the only people that you trust because they “are different” and better and the rest of the world is a hellscape of bad actors, cabals, and darkness is here to stay. There’s a reason people built castles and it has a lot to do with mistrust. Which is honestly really too bad because, like empirically, almost everyone in all this life here is mostly trying to live the best life they can, do as little harm as they can, help out with some shit, and mostly coming up short.
But hey, medieval political logic is back, Trump’s really good at it, and the secular version of this medieval way of understanding politics is through genetic logic. This is not to say that genetics are not real or not relevant to partial explanations of the way people are. It is just to say that if you lean too far into the explanatory power of genes, start believing again in bloodlines, believing in the idea that some people are better and more trustworthy and holy than others, well…enjoy this video.