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5 Controversial Topics That Aren’t as New as You Think

We bet you didn’t know that these controversial topics have been around forever!

It’s tempting to think of controversial topics as fresh off-the-press matters, emerging exclusively from the complexities of our modern world. But what if we told you that many of these polemical issues have roots that dig deeper than we might have believed?

Join Mindbending Facts as we journey through time, uncovering the biggest controversial topics that aren’t as new as you might think.

From ethics to politics, social norms to scientific advancements, these age-old debates have persisted across generations, challenging our beliefs and sparking heated debates long before the advent of social media.

By exploring the historical backdrop of these enduring controversies, we gain a richer understanding of their complexities and how they’ve shaped societies throughout time. So continue reading as we reveal 5 controversial topics that have stood the test of time.

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Controversial topic: Did you know? Marijuana was legal up until 1937!

Recent conclusions on the legalization of marijuana have been hailed as victories against the end boss of freedom across the Western world. Many felt that the world was waking up from ancient taboos!

But if we were to go back in time, we’d find that this plant was first used as medicine in China as far back as around 4000 BC.

It was legal for most of its history, only being outlawed for the first time in 1378 by the Ottoman Emir Soudoun Scheikhouni. Despite the emir’s measures, it remained legal outside the Ottoman Empire and was only occasionally criminalized.

So, how could we have ended up in these circumstances where we’re discussing legalization? Well, it all started with the Mexican Revolution, which was from 1910 to 1920. The civil war in Mexico resulted in an inpouring of over a million refugees into the US.

This, mixed with violent spillovers of their civil war, caused an agricultural recession in our nation. Growing tension resulting from earlier disputes between the two countries leads to a so-called “brown scare.”

And because the immigrants brought recreational marijuana use with them, it was met with already-existing fear and prejudice toward the Mexican people, which was further amped up by William Randolph Hearst, who wanted hemp out of the way to further his lumber interests.

The result? A bunch of studies were produced linking marijuana with violent crime and all kinds of other unpleasant behavior, helping to finally get the plant criminalized in 1937.

Controversial topic: The concept of a “War On Terror” dates back to Ancient Rome

“Terrorism” is either the go-to strategy for heartless sociopaths or a buzzword for political fanatics who want to criticize their opponents as vicious sociopaths.

Either way, the word only came into our vocabulary sometime in the 70s, like some extremists suddenly decided over the past couple of decades that strapping a bomb to themselves was an effective military strategy. But again, no part of this controversial topic is new.

Terrorism was a thing long before any airline hijacker or suicide bomber made headlines. Even as far back as the time of Jesus, some groups violently opposed Roman rule over Judea, the region now known as Israel, even if their methods didn’t involve blasts.

The word “zealot?” It derives from those groups of extremists. A result of the group, whose ideology was considered even too radical for the Zealots, was the Sicarii, whose name emanated from their favorite tool, a short dagger dubbed a sica.

Equipped with their murder knives, the Sicarii blended into masses, looking for Romans and their sympathizers, which they then promptly shanked before fleeing the scene.

The Sicarii were also known for intimidation of wealthy Jews, hostage-taking, and the massacring of Roman POWs. And yes, they were successful at the time.

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Photo by Reshetnikov_art at Shutterstock

Controversial topic: Same-sex marriages were legal a few centuries ago

The whole debate against same-sex marriage is that, after thousands of years of “one man and one woman,” all of a sudden, a group of people want to turn this whole marriage thing on its head, right?

Well, folks, you should set your time machine back just a couple of hundred years for this controversial topic, and you’d probably be amazed about just how many gay-married couples there were in various locations, remaining un-harassed by governments.

For instance, in medieval Europe, which people mostly regard as the most prudish time in human history, same-sex marriage was pretty normal up until the 1300s. The Christian church even referred to them as “spiritual brotherhoods.”

It wasn’t until Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II banned gay marriage in 1302 that everyone decided that such a thing would surely ruin society if permitted to go on.

And a 19th-century Nigerian woman named Ifeyinwa Olinke is famous for having a harem of nine wives. Among the Nuer people of South Sudan, marriages between women are common.

And if one of the women has a child from a previous sperm donor, the other woman is regarded as the new “father.”

Controversial topic: The earliest record of a world financial crisis occurred in 1345

Countries have always had periods in which they fell on hard times. But there used to be some concrete reason for it: a long winter that wiped out the cattle, a drought that destroyed the crops, a volcano that squashed the entire country.

Now, compare that to the kind of recessions we have today. For instance, the Great Depression was, as we all learned in school, the worst downturn the world had ever seen. The collapse of 2008 was almost as harmful.

In both cases, it was something only the modern, global economy could have dreamed up. But … let’s go back in time again for this controversial topic as we look at the Florentine banking collapse that happened in the 14th century, which led to famine across Europe.

The central banks in Europe at the time were owned and run by the Florentine noble families of Bardi and Peruzzi, and the financial crisis they instituted began in a similar fashion to so many of our modern crises, with under-regulation and bad loans.

Those bad loans were given out to the kingdom of Naples, the city of Florence, and King Edward III of England, primarily to finance wars, some of which were instigated by the banks themselves to further the interests of their business.

These banks also knowingly gave out what were essentially subprime loans to merchants and farmers so they could seize all the valuable land they were sitting on.

By 1340, the kingdom of Naples, Edward III, and the city of Florence found themselves virtually owned by the two banks, as all of their income was now going to repaying their debts.

Unsurprisingly, they ultimately defaulted instead of somehow conjuring money from thin air, resulting in the collapse of the banks.

This predicament drove enough farmers to bankruptcy that it led to famine throughout all of Europe, and millions began to starve. And as if that wasn’t enough, the Plague struck and wiped out millions of poor people right after.

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Controversial topic: Smoking bans date back to the 17th century, at least in Europe, they do

In the middle of the 20th century, tobacco companies finally recognized that cigarettes carry some negative health impacts.

Since then, governments of the world have been enacting legal regulations on smoking, to the dismay of those desperate to engage in a habit that companies continue to deny might be addictive.

But how did it take so long, after all, tobacco has been around for centuries, for the world to realize that its users eventually started coughing up their lungs?

Well, let’s use that time machine again for this controversial topic! In the 1600s, the European Catholic Church began taking note of increasing tobacco usage by priests during Sunday mass.

Apparently, after one cigarette-smoking priest vomited during Communion, Pope Urban VIII passed the first documented anti-tobacco ban in public spaces, particularly near a church. Admittedly, the cost of smoking in and around churches today, the punishment is a fine.

Back then, though, it was excommunication, meaning that you were damned to spend eternity in hell. Even more extreme laws were passed in 17th-century China.

Want more interesting facts about the Catholic Church? We highly recommend reading 1054 and All That: A Lighthearted History of the Catholic Church

In 1639, Emperor Chongzhen declared a law that anyone caught smoking faced the death penalty. Ultimately, the law was modified by the next emperor, who declared that anyone even possessing tobacco would be executed.

Did you know about any of these controversial topics? Please feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

And for some more Mindbending Facts, we highly recommend you also read: 12 Shocking Law-Breaking Violations You’re Committing Without Realizing

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