It’s late June and a man and his wife are shot and killed in a parade in a city in southeastern Europe. Subsequent to and because of those deaths, within 5 years, 18 million people end up dead.
The deaths and its consequences serve as an example of how easily a catastrophe of great proportions can be triggered by a relatively small cause, especially when there’s a foundation for it already in place.
The man was Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the woman was his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. And their deaths are seen as the triggering event that started World War 1.
The lead up to WW1 can be a little muddled and confusing, but here are the basic facts:
Ferdinand’s assassin, Gavrilo Princip, was a man affiliated with a group backed by the Kingdom of Serbia. This made the Austro-Hungarians less than happy with the Serbians. Left at that, this is still an issue between two countries, but there existed foundational and determinative connections that all but guaranteed the mayhem and massacre that was WW1.
The Kingdom of Serbia was allied with the Russian Empire, who was allied with the French Republic, who was allied with the United Kingdom, who had and has a special relationship with the United States; whereas the Austria-Hungarian Empire was allied with the German Empire who was allied with the Ottoman Empire.
So that’s how two deaths directly led to 18 million more.
WW1 may have started with the death of Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, but the mechanizations and foundations were put into place far earlier. This isn’t just so for global catastrophes and wars, it’s true for more localized and personal perils as well.
There are unhealthy alliances we can make in our lives.
What we do now, or what we did days, months, and years before, can be the unintended cause of our own individual catastrophe.
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