Huffpost WorldPost
Jacques Attali Headshot

A Global Middle Ages

Posted: Updated:

Braving ridicule from the so-called Parisian intellectuals, I have never made any secret of my passion for some American series. First from Columbo to MacGyver, from The Sopranos to Friends, from The West Wing to ER. And then, I am glad to say, series of a even higher quality were released, that I can watch without too much remorse, which we started to get the right to say that we have become addicted to: House, with its refreshing cynicism; 24, with its sulfurous neo-conservative flavor; Homeland, infinitely subtler, based on the same underlying idea. Then came the great The Wire, which says more about America than a thousand political science courses. And, while we are at it, House of Cards, which in my view, was not better than The West Wing, but whose admitted fans were better tolerated. And so many other less well known series that I am delighted with: Mad Men (on the world of advertising and is set in the 1960s), The Good Wife (legal and political drama). And a whole lot more series, as exciting: In Treatment (on psychoanalysis, based on Israeli television series); Borgen (political drama, from Denmark); The Office (depicting the everyday lives of office employees, from Great Britain) and finally, very recently, True Detective, a jewel. There are wonderful stories, delightful lines, magnificent actors and high-level directors in this series. There is enough in each television series to talk for hours. They all are certainly a telling reflection of our times. They are also certainly a factor in speeding up the Westernization of the world. And they are, like football, global-topics of conversations.

And then comes the best television show ever, as these words are being written, which swept everyone off their feet, the most amazing also by what it says about the current times: Game of Thrones, produced by HBO, an adaptation of George R. R. Martin's series of fantasy novels, of which three seasons have already been released, and the fourth season has just debuted, in a total and global hysteria. The show is about political conflicts in a fictional Middle Ages, on the continents of Westeros (West) and Essos (East). At first the series chronicles the violent dynastic struggles among the realm's noble families for control of the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, after a decade-long drought. Then, with the impending winter, the rising threat of the mythical creatures of the North, while the last surviving member of a demised dynasty tries to win back the throne.

If all this resembles other things read and seen from J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Howard or Clive Lewis, the success of Game of Thrones is unmatched. Three elements explain this success: first the unparalleled finances which has been granted to this series -- suffice to look at the global nature of this market, ensuring that positions for writers, special effects and actors are filled with candidates of high caliber. Secondly, the use of social networks magnifies its effect: thus during Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 9, more tweets were sent than for any other global event and a YouTube cult video showed the reactions of viewers all over the world. So that nobody is combating its illegal downloading anymore, via Netflix or any other Peer-to-Peer (P2P) software, because it draws visitors and reinforces its reputation. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, because its scenario refers very precisely to what lies ahead for our planet: something of a new Middle Ages, full of violence, social disorder, natural disasters, war lords, power squabbles with very rapid twists and turns. Game of Thrones describes the world that is coming after the collapse of the American Empire, a new Middle Ages flamboyant where no power is stable, where anything can happen.

One can refuse globalization. It is easy to shut ourselves in our own little world. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it is impossible: the new Middle Ages have come. They fascinate us. They are full of good promises and inspiring stories; full of barbarities as well. They await us; it is up to us to make the best use of them.