In 'To Think or to March' Jacques Huinck gives a philosophical view on wars. No one is interested in the cause of aggression. Of course not. No time for nonsense. After every war, cities have to be rebuilt. And so a new generation of ignorant grows up again.
“Ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to introduce myself. My name is Jacques. I am a guide of the Fort, and after this extensive life description, I will open the door for you.”
With these immensely funny words, my tour in the Fort St. Pieter in Maastricht always started. I became a guide there after my retirement.
Next, I congratulated everyone who had been born after 1960, because before that year, life all over the world had been extremely miserable. The cause of that was the fact that the pill did not yet exist. Every young couple had in no time, eight, twelve, or fifteen children. Johann Sebastian Bach even had twenty-one children, but he had a good income. Most people did not, so their poverty increased year after year. They had no money to maintain their houses, so they became slum dwellings, and their streets became backstreets. Parents had no time to raise so many children, and they became street children, who didn’t go to school. No time for this nonsense! They had to struggle for their daily food.
Because nobody had any time to think, the corn on the fields was mowed with a scythe, a typical illiterate invention. Because of that, the harvest was often scanty, and famine was always lurking. There was also the problem of the insects who tried to run away with the harvest. They were fought with holy water and Latin prayers—again, an invention of ignorant, distraught people.
If the harvest was really too small, then panic arose in the area.
Panic arises when you are in a situation where you can get hurt or sick or risk dying. This leads to a flood of adrenaline in your blood. This homemade hard drug is good for the muscles but bad for the brain. It makes good-natured people fierce and dangerous, so they lose their self-control and their ability to think clearly or do anything.
When that kind of thing happened on a large scale, all these adrenaline sufferers ran out of their houses to smash stones through the windows in their streets and destroy as much as possible.
It didn’t help at all, but their brains had been switched off by the poison of adrenaline.
Well-fed kings, seeing these scenes from the windows of their palace, wondered what to do with those people.
They used an old trick and said to the boys (who were the strongest and therefore the most dangerous), “Boys, come join my army! I have beautiful uniforms for you. The girls like that very much! And there, at the horizon, is where the enemy lives. He is to blame for everything. You are allowed to destroy everything there, but please don’t do it here.”
And so, an innocent community suddenly saw an army of dangerous savages approaching, in beautiful uniforms, sent by a relieved king.
In addition to sudden life-threatening events such as hunger, you can also get adrenaline poisoning in a slow, almost sneaky way.
Chronic lack of money and living for years in a slum house with a clogged toilet in the company of hungry mice can produce a nice amount of adrenaline.
Psychological threats can also generate adrenaline.
Being chronically ignored and humiliated has the same effect.
When torments approach slowly, the panic feeling grows slower as well, but once the measure is full, than the adrenaline bomb bursts. A small incident is then enough to get a frustrated crowd out of their homes to smash windows.
This phenomenon can occur in any country and has nothing to do with nationality or race.
Afterwards, those people are ashamed of what they have done, but they were no longer themselves. Their brains were paralyzed by the drug of adrenaline.
3. Roman adrenalin.
Already in Roman times, corn was mowed with primitive sickles, with occasional famine as a result. Then the old song was heard again: hunger / panic / adrenaline / blind rage / leader points to the horizon where ‘the enemy’ lives who is blamed for everything / the extermination begins / end-result: more hunger.
What did the Romans do after they punished and defeated all of their so-called enemies? Return home?
“Not at all!” was shouted in shock by the people in Rome.
A smart Roman came up with the idea of having the Roman army build roads. Europe is full of them. Large, heavy stones were nicely cut into rectangular blocks. As long as the Roman street fighters, plagued by misery, so full of adrenaline and aggression, were busy with these roads, they were rid of them in Rome.
Of course, these road builders caused a birth wave in the surrounding villages as a side effect, but that wave moved as work on the roads moved. (Unlike the case of the pyramid builders.)
And so around the year zero, the Romans arrived at the river Maas, where Maastricht is now located. Part of the Roman army remained there while the rest of them moved, making roads and children along the way, to Cologne, while the people in Rome were still very relieved.
At the place where the Romans stayed at the Maas, they built a tent camp called “Mosa Trajectum” (later corrupted to Maastricht).
At that place, you could easily wade through the Maas because the river was wider there and therefore less deep. They found it unnecessary to build a wall around their camp. A vicious dog was cheaper.
But the local natives were dressed in drafty bear skins, had goosebumps from cold, and were weak from hunger. The life threats they faced filled them with adrenaline that crippled their brains to the level of foot-stamping toddlers.
So they gave the dog a kick and destroyed the Roman settlement. After the massacre that followed, the Romans built a ‘castellum.’ This was a village surrounded by a wall that contained ten towers and two gate buildings. On the other side of the Maas, on the east side, they made a smaller castellum, and a bridge was built between those two reinforcements.
Was that all necessary? Yes, to protect them from the barbarians (the soldiers were told) but primarily to keep the soldiers (adrenaline sufferers from Roman slums) as long as possible out of their country. That worked until around the year 400 when they went back home.
Dear reader, this booklet is not about the history of Maastricht. This city only serves as a test tube. The same things happened in dozens of European cities. I describe the causes and misery of wars, but while writing I also found some solutions. That will be useful, I hope.
Think with me! I am not infallible. Correct me. That is how we move forward together.
4. A new bridge.
The empty homes that the Romans left in Maastricht were quickly taken by the local population, which had meanwhile developed somewhat, after a 400-year Roman example. Bearskins had been out of fashion for years. With such ridiculous clothes, you could no longer walk the streets without being laughed at.
Because the village of Maastricht continued to grow, more and more people had to live outside the walls that the Romans built. It was already the year 1100, so it was high time to make the city wall larger.
Just when they had saved enough money, the old Roman bridge collapsed. Nobody had realized that bridges needed maintenance. It happened during a procession, and many people drowned. After that shock, people decided that the savings intended for a larger city wall had to be used for the construction of a new bridge. That became the Servaas Bridge in the Romanesque style (a style copied from the Romans). The larger city wall was built several years later.
5. New walls.
The new city wall was an extremely solid structure, recognizable by the brown natural stone. They called it ‘the first wall’ (nobody wanted to remember the broken Roman wall). This safe wall attracted many new residents to the city. Result: within a hundred years, Maastricht was so overcrowded by around 1200 that a larger wall had to be built. It was made of gray Namur stone and was higher and thicker than the first. The second wall had forty towers and five gates, and the city became four times as large. A piece of agricultural land was also reserved within that second wall so that the residents had something to eat during long sieges. (This became the gardens of the Beyard monastery.)
Again, everyone was happy with this solid wall, but not for long, because a Chinese invention came to Europe: the cannon! By standing in front of a city wall with a row of cannons and shooting at exactly the same spot the wall could collapse. It took a lot of patience to hit the same spot with such a primitive cannon, but in the end it worked. So the people of Maastricht decided not to wait to be attacked. They reinforced the back of the new city wall with a clay embankment about twenty meters thick.
6. Louis XIV is coming to Maastricht.
For the sake of convenience, I will skip a dozen sieges of Maastricht (including one by Spanish soldiers who were very, very poisoned by adrenaline and so extra dangerous).
In 1673, once again there was a food shortage in Paris. To get all those adrenaline sufferers out of the country, Louis XIV decided to conquer Liège and Maastricht “to give France more room.” That sounded nice and caring. The soldiers (and historians) had to believe that something noble was being done here. In no case should the soldiers discover the truth: that they, with their fear for starvation and therefore their dangerous adrenaline poisoning, were considered a sort of plague sufferers who had to be dressed in uniforms and sent abroad as quickly as possible.
The French king Louis XIV, who was probably bored by his wealth, came with his army to Maastricht. He wanted to see how his soldiers would conquer such a city.