The dominant idea was that “Roman might was right”. Roman military power and technology ruled the world from Britain to Syria. The empire brought wealth and stability, but only for those who had preferment within the system. All opposition was brutally crushed. The citizenry was controlled with “bread and circuses”.
Every day, at the government’s expense, hundreds of wagons of “dole corn” rolled into Rome. In a restive population where brutality and greed reigned supreme, political restlessness was satiated by keeping bellies full and minds distracted with the endless cycle of violence on show at the Colosseum.
Christianity challenged this idea, but not by presenting an alternative set of equally unbelievable propositions. It was more than a spiritual belief. Its power stemmed from its recognition of the barbaric reality of the situation, appealing to reason – the word of God – and a common humanity.
Just as water – given enough time – can wear away rock, their gentle ideas of humility, compassion, empathy and inclusion took root in the Roman mind, and proceeded to influence the West for the next 1500 years. Just one of the ideas from this legacy is that justice is for all, not just those who are privileged: “Each and every one of us is created equal.”
The lesson is that even when the odds seem insurmountable, humans have the capacity to look beyond their own self-interest, our shared mortality and our capacity to see what is happening before our own eyes.
As Ms Thunberg has also reminded us, we need to stop clinging to old beliefs. Our way forward is to take action, through action find hope, and through hope, discover the inspiration to change.