Last week, on October 31, 2016, we recognized the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, thus kicking off the Protestant reformation. This one event was the spark that exposed rampant corruption but at the cost of some of the most devastating conflicts in world history.
There’s something about the first twenty years of a given century that seems to be laden with conflict, violence, anger, and chaos. We can start with Luther’s actions in the year 1517 if we want. (We can go back further if we want but this is as good a place to start as any…)
101 years later, as tensions boiled over, the defenestration of Prague was the spark that began the Thirty Years War, the most violent, bloody war prior to the 20th century.
The first twenty years of the 1700s were, I concede, relatively peaceful. But by the end of that century, the American and French Revolutions led directly into the Napoleanic Wars from 1803 to 1815, completely altering the map of Europe forever.
Then, of course came June 28, 1914. The Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, setting off a diplomatic crisis that rapidly devolved into World War I. Then came the Russian Revolution and the seeds for the Second World War.
So now we’re here in the year 2016. There have been two dramatic elections this year alone: Donald Trump and Brexit. (Three if you count Colombia’s rejection of the peace in its civil war). Either of them could be seen as a shockwave to the relative peace we as a planet have enjoyed since the end of World War II (and yes, I know that there have been multiple protracted conflagrations around the planet but the reality remains that in the past seventy years, the only full-scale war where all sides can be considered either first or second world countries was between Israel and Egypt and lasted a whopping six days).
And the pawns are moving into place: Putin in Russia, the refugee crises in Syria and Iraq, North Korea’s belligerence, an emboldened Benjamin Netanyahu, Duterte in the Phillipines… Add in strains on resources caused by droughts, famines, or other natural disasters (many of which could be the result of climate change)… You get my point.
I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be (or even if it’s going to be) but there’s a lot of places where a tiny spark could quickly turn into a raging wildfire.
And it does seem like the hundred year cycle is coming back around. I hope it doesn’t happen but I for one will be on the lookout for it. May it not be as bad as it has the potential to be.