Comparing and Contrasting Medieval and Modern Society
The difference between today’s Western world and the Middle Ages is immeasurable. The workings of society and the ways of thinking are directly in contrast to one another, ranging from the role of religion, to the advancement of technology and art. It makes one wonder what a person from Medieval times would think if they could see how far the world has progressed and how different things are now.
Religion was what the medieval life was based on and things were done for the purpose of fulfilling time on Earth to get passage into the afterlife. Today, religion plays a different role, one that is not as important. For most, it is optional to attend church and worship a god, and is only part of one’s life, instead of the main focus. People are not governed by their religious conviction and may chose which faith they want to pursue. This most definitely would come as a shock to the medieval person, as religion was the principle of their life and they lived to satisfy the teachings of God.
The political structure that exists today would be something very strange in The Middle Ages, a system completely unimaginable. The first point of amazement would be the separation from the church. The government leader and his party rules over a country instead of a religious head such as the Pope. The church today, has no say in how a secular, western country is run, and is viewed as a completely independent faculty from the government. People are used to democratic rule, where they have the right to vote and chose a leader for their country. This individual
freedom and responsibility for one’s self would be very hard for the medieval mind to comprehend. These people were not used to thinking for themselves, always being told what to do and how to live by their lords or masters. If given these new rights and freedoms, they would not know what to do with them or how to behave.
Today’s world is moving at an extremely fast pace when it comes to the advancements made in science and technology. New innovations and products are constantly being created, replacing many old ways and correcting past beliefs. Current society is used to this unceasing change and mostly accepts new knowledge and advancements as better. This way of thinking and rapid progression of civilization is quite the opposite of the stationary and nonmoving way of life in The Middle Ages. There was no need for people to make advancements in thinking because everything was based on the words of God, who was not to be questioned. It would be hard for these people to accept new ideas and expand their thinking outside of the church.
As many new things have been created and discovered, medicine and the study of anatomy are two things which people in the medieval times lacked. They would be astounded at the curability of common diseases that they found fatal, and at the hygienic procedures which are practiced regularly.
An important difference in the culture between The Middle Ages and today’s Western world is that of
education. In present society, education is one of the most valued steps in attaining a good life. Schooling is mandatory up to a certain grade level, and then can be pursued to further one’s learning, the preparation for a career. This system places great significance on individual accomplishments, something unknown to medieval society. People from this time period would not understand how so much importance could be placed on learning new ideas and gaining knowledge that is not related to the teachings of God. Also, it would not make sense to them why one person would be so significant and work so hard for their own benefit.
Art is something that dominates much of today’s culture, but was not something that held much importance for the medieval people. Art for them was a way of depicting religious stories or themes, and they painted to satisfy the needs of the church. The quality of the paintings produced during the middle ages were not up to modern standards because of the people’s lack of knowledge on the subjects of perspective and anatomy. They would view Western society strangely as they would not understand the need for art that did not fulfill the purpose of religious instruction.
What would come as the main shock to a medieval society viewing today’s world, would be the type of lifestyle people live today. Modern culture focuses on the idea of humanism and the importance of the individual. This would be a very tricky concept for the medieval mind to grasp, as their civilization values the opposite. Their society regards the soul in afterlife as vital, not life on Earth. This life is for pleasing and worshipping God, not for satisfying one’s self. They would also not understand the openness and acceptance of current Western society, how so many types of people could get along, without regard to race, intelligence, or abilities.
Today’s Western world in comparison to The Middle Ages is a very different place; these are two time periods with opposite values. The medieval mind would not be able to deal with the extreme difference in culture and alteration of thinking. People from this time would not be able to adjust themselves to the lifestyle of individual importance, the shift in religious roles, and the fast paced advancement in technology. More than just believing in all that has been created, they would have to have a shift in mindsets to understand the workings of today’s society.
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