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We Will Die Tomorrow, We Survived Yesterday, So Let's Have Fun!

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Our ancestors of the fourteenth saw and survived one of the worst mass extinctions of our species in its three million years of evolution. Between 1333 and 1352, more or less, a plague like none ever seen before of after ravaged almost all of the northern hemisphere, killing at least half of humankind, plus scores of animals of various species that were also affected.The Black Death, as it became known soon afterwards was so terrible and lethal that complete families, farms and villages were utterly exterminated. It was, in fact, as if someone had thrown upon the world the worst mass destruction weapon ever devised. Mortality was so high in some areas that there were not even survivors left to dig graves to dispose of the death: there was no one to care for farm animals, crops or the economy. However, there was no famine: the plague killed some many people, so fast, that the need for food decreased accordingly with the abandonment of agriculture and commerce, at the same pace.

And within such a context all of them, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and Christians saw their minds and faiths to falter. God had punished the world, or at least, he had abandoned it. For people who lost all their friends, relatives and neighbours there was no yesterday to remember, and as they waited to be hit by the disease, for them there was no tomorrow either. So it was only natural for them to think that they should not bother anymore with matters of religion and morals. So crime soon went on the rise, as well as all sorts of 'dissolute' forms of fun, like making jokes - Bocaccio's 'Decameron' is the result of that, for example, embarking on bizarre business ventures and of course, gambling. People could only find solace in having a little fun while they still could, a fact that is indeed a very valuable survival lesson in front of situations that have simply no solution at all; this should be remembered if someone finally uses WMDs upon fellow human beings.

The aftermath of the plague in the whole world known to Europeans then went on a cultural revolution that today may seem us small, but the change of minds among medieval people led Europe to the renaissance, religious reform and major social changes. It is widely considered that this fourteenth century plague was really the end of the middle ages. Gambling became a very sound business, especially for the state and - surprisingly? - the Church itself, for all the methods and ways that they had prior to the plague to collect money by means of taxes were destroyed: there was no people to labour the cottages that paid taxes, and there were no descendants to inherit the things left, so no inheritance taxes could be obtained either; and even medieval authorities knew that they could not force the survivors to pay more for they would annihilate the remnants of society.

So kings, nobles and the clergy went on lifting bans of all sorts - including some that allegedly existed until the end the end of times - on gambling. The passion for games of all sorts could have finally disappeared after so many years - over ten centuries - of medieval doctrines of religious devotion; nevertheless, the Black Death came and revived all what priests have fought against in this regard, and soon they found themselves in need of making good use of betting money. In this sense, our modern culture that many times rejects gambling owes its survival to a handful of dice and card games.

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