A New novel, “Gathering the Silence”, available for free download

Posted July 23rd, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: books for free downloading

I’ve uploaded a new novel, Gathering the Silence. In a sense this is both my latest and my first novel. It’s about the fifth version of what started out as a straightforward fictional telling of my spiritual life, climaxing in my entry into the Catholic Church. Now, it’s the first half of a story about the conversion of a man into a Christian author and its not nearly so straightforward.

Enjoy.

Adopting Mathematical Reasoning in Non-quantitative Fields of Thought

Posted July 18th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: being, mathematical physics, mathematics, metaphysics, Mind

I use the term `empirical science’ to include any field of disciplined study of Creation, physics and chemistry and engineering sciences but also including mathematics and history and literature.

The modern empirical sciences have advanced ahead of philosophy and very far ahead of Christian theology. Philosophers and theologians would be wise to start borrowing from those modern empirical sciences, not the particular mechanistic models but the true reasoning underlying those models. I’ll ignore for now the fact that fields such as history and sociology are in between, going through some successful and some far from successful efforts to use more advanced and abstract reasoning at least in principle similar to the powerful abstractions of those empirical sciences which had long ago adopted mathematics because of their need for quantitative analysis and then learned in the 1800s of the power of more flexible and more qualitative forms of geometric reasoning.

Yet, I’m only speaking of the arguments which, so to speak, end an analysis. It has always been true that the fundamental forms of human reasoning, including those of all modern empirical sciences, are qualitative and not quantitative. It takes a great deal of study and the development of sophisticated thinking processes to penetrate to those fundamental forms, though they are visible in the writings of Einstein in his early works and in many of the writings of the quantum theorists. They are also visible in the writings of modern theorists of evolutionary biology, in the writings of modern neuroscientists and geneticists, perhaps even in the successful (perhaps a low percentage?) and the failed experiments of modern music and painting and sculpture. As will be clear soon, the idea that quantitative fields rest on qualitative foundations comes to the fore in the thoughts of some mathematicians including educators and famous (at least in small circles) men. There are also philosophers of science and mathematics working on this and related ideas.

Let me back away for a short while and put in my own two cents worth about the need to deal, at least ultimately, with issues of being and not to treat knowledge, thoughts, and truth, and other mental `entities’ as if they were separate from being and to be imposed upon being to establish a proper order. That order, in fact, comes from being and emerges in our own mind but only as we learn to encapsulate relatively more concrete forms of being and to move on to the more abstract forms of being from which the concrete, thing-like being is shaped.

In an early and very short essay, Einstein and Bohr’s debate on the meaning of reality:, I addressed this general issue in terms of being and not knowledge, and in terms of an important debate which took place between Einstein, advocating what was really a `high’ pagan philosophy of worldly realism where things exist in themselves and can’t be inherently changed by external relationships, and Bohr who was advocating a radical view that relationships, such as those we can express in terms of the equations of quantum mechanics, are primary over stuff. Bohr’s position, as I pointed out explicitly in Quantum Mechanics and Moral Formation: Part 1, is pretty much the view advocated in the writings of St John the Evangelist and his followers and also anticipated in the Old Testament.

If we accept that relationships can be such, then we have accepted the reality of abstract being and should learn to speak in ways more appropriate to being, to reality.

I’ll move on to a few suggestive quotations on the subject of qualitative reasoning in modern mathematics and, hence, in modern scientific and engineering thought in general. For now, I’ll let the readers use their imagination to transfer these thoughts about mathematical knowledge to those aspects of being described so well by mathematics; from there we can see how this reasoning can be applied to all forms of created being, including human being.

In the article Symplectic Geometry by Alan Weinstein and published in 1981 in Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (Volume 5, Number 1), we can read on page 1:

[G]eometry has taken a new role in mechanics through the contributions of Poincare (1854-1912) and Birkhoff (1884-1944). Now, though, the geometry is the more flexible geometry of canonical (in particular, area preserving) transformations instead of the rigid geometry of Euclid; accordingly, the conclusions of the geometrical arguments are often qualitative rather than quantitative.

In that same article, we can learn that the highly regarded 20th century mathematicians, GD Birkhoff, expressed “the disturbing secret fear that geometry may ultimately turn out to be no more than the glittering institutional trappings of analysis,” while Poinsot (1777-1859), in Weinstein’s words, “suggests that calculations are merely a tool in the service of geometrical and mechanical reasoning.” (I decided to include Birkhoff’s statement, though I can’t currently wrap my mind around it, because Weinstein indicates that Birkhoff and Poinsot were expressing the same opinion.)

In a book of writings by Soviet mathematicians, Mathematics: Its Content, Methods, and Meaning, Volume 2, the truly great Russian mathematician, A N Kolmogorov, has this to say on Page 258 of the article, The Theory of Probability:

The proponents of mechanistic materialism assumed that such a formulation [of systems describable in terms of relatively simple differential equations, such as gravitational fall] is an exact and direct expression of the deterministic character of the actual phenomena, of the physical principles of causation. According to Laplace, the state of the world at a given instant is defined by an infinite number of parameters, subject to an infinite number of differential equations. If some “universal mind” could write down all these equations and integrate them, it could then predict with complete exactness, according to Laplace, the entire evolution of the world in the infinite future.

But in fact this quantitative mathematical infinity is extremely coarse in comparison with the qualitatively inexhaustible character of the real world. Neither the introduction of an infinite number of parameters nor the description of the state of continuous media by functions of a point in space is adequate to represent the infinite complexity of actual events.

It’s interesting and enlightening and refreshing to see determinism shot down, not by probabilistic arguments but by arguments pointing to the “qualitatively inexhaustible character of the real world.”

In the article, Non-Euclidean Geometries by another highly-regarded Russian mathematicians, A D Alexandrov, we can read on page 155:

The real significance of this point of view is that it makes it possible to use the concepts and methods of abstract geometry for the investigation of diverse phenomena. The realm of applicability of geometric concepts and methods is extended immensely in this way. As a result of the concept of space the term `space’ assumes two meanings in science. On the one hand it is the ordinary real space (the universal form of existence of matter), on the other hand it is the `abstract space,’ a collection of homogeneous objects (events, states, etc.) in which spacelike relationships hold.

On page 158, we can read a description of `space’ from an abstract viewpoint:

By a `space’ we understand in mathematics quite generally an arbitrary collection of homogeneous objects (events, states, functions, figures, values of variables, etc.) between which there are relationships similar to the usual spatial relations (continuity, distance, etc.). Moreover, in regarding a given collection of objects as a space we abstract from properties of these objects except those that are determined by these spacelike relationships in question. These relations determine what we can call the structure or `geometry’ of the space. The objects themselves play the role of `points’ of such a space; `figures’ are sets of its `points’.

Abstract spaces might well be a `graphing’ of abstract forms of being in so far as they show up in properties or behaviors of concrete being, including human being.

Finally, we can read on page 1 of the book, Topology and Geometry for Physicists (Dover Publications, 2011), by Charles Nash and Siddhartha Sen:

[T]opology produces theorems that are usually qualitative in nature—they may assert, for example, the existence or non-existence of an object. They will not in general, provide the means for its construction.

Some of my readers may have better knowledge and skills in these fields than do I, but, for the others: qualitative, topological reasoning is very important in modern physics, even in fields where the goal is to ultimately produce a quantitative result.

We have hints of a greater unity, one in which knowledge is not `of’ being, but rather an encapsulation of being in a way that makes it a sharing in being. Created being is manifested thoughts of God so that Creation is certain acts, acts-of-being, of the mind of God, acts-of-being become objects in which God is ever-present because that divine presence is God’s thought. God is unified in such a way that thoughts and acts and feelings aren’t really separate, as will also be true of that completed and perfected human being, the Body of Christ.

By exercising the human ability to encapsulate large chunks of the world and even of those realms of Creation invisible to the sense organs of our thing-like being, we share in those thoughts and acts and feelings of God in His freely-chosen role as the Creator. Being able to quantify, say, the effects of gravity under relativistic or non-relativistic conditions is a part of that sharing but it is more complete and more perfect when it becomes that greater understanding in a way similar to the greater, geometric understanding of spacetime which is the General Theory of Relativity, an understanding which can be made more specific so that it is the quantitative description of a particular universe or relativistic object such as a black-hole. Yet, the more general understanding, the more abstract description, doesn’t go away even when you tighten the constraints on the field equation of General Relativity so that a specific universe/object is described and the equations can be solved.

More importantly for my purposes, if we stay at the very abstract level for a while, we can begin to better understand the being of that abstract level, being from which this concrete, thing-like world is shaped. Using abstract space and geometry, I can propose that we might be able to understand the cohesion of societies which have expanded far beyond kinship and proxy-kinship relationships in terms of a bending of the state space which brings citizens together.

There’s much work to be done and all I can say at this point is that we won’t come to better, even more exact, understandings of human communities by way of straightforward adoptions of quantitative methods from physics nor by way of more clever use of our current stock of words and concepts regarding the concrete, thing-like, directly perceptible properties of those communities.

Human Communal Being and the Shaping of Human Individual Being

Posted July 14th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Body of Christ, Christianity, communal human being, Human nature

Human being is complex, as is true of most interesting entities. Even God’s simplicity, touted rightly by ancient and Medieval theologians and their not-so-worthy successors in modern times, is only a way of speaking against very specific types of errors. Mostly, they were concerned in ages which saw change lead eventually to decay that God not be seen as a being moving, however slowly, towards decay and death.

More generally, interesting and rich entities seem to be highly organized systems of sub-systems, some of which are simple and some of which are complex. These sub-systems interact to produce various sorts of—speaking anthropomorphically—simple and complex communities.

I’ve written a little about the real nature of simplicity of complex entities, human beings or human societies or other organisms or parts of Creation—see Enriching Our Moral World: Simple Is Digested Complexity.

Responding to a New York Times overview of some recent literature discussing and, sometimes, advocating one or another position on how to raise morally well-ordered children, Razib Khan wrote an short essay in April of 2014, It Takes a Village More Than Parents, which provides some well-grounded cautions:

Two insights from behavior genetics can shed light here. First, shared-environmental effects are often the smallest proportion of the variation in behavior. This is the part which is due to the family home and the parental influence. Second, the proportion of variance explained by shared-environment tends to go down as people get older. So parental influence tends to diminish.

Obviously part of the reason you behave as you do can be put down to genes. Or more precisely genetic dispositions which express themselves. And another portion can be chalked up to what your parents teach you. But a large proportion, in fact in many cases the largest proportion, is accounted for by factors which we don’t have a good grasp of. We don’t know, and term this “non-shared environment.”* In The Nurture Assumption Judith Rich Harris posited that much of non-shared environment was one’s peer group. This is still a speculative hypothesis, but I do think it is part of a broader set of models which emphasize culture and society, and how it shapes your mores and behaviors, as opposed to the nuclear family.

[* This might actually be genetic or more broadly biological; epigenetics, epistasis, and developmental stochasticity.]

Khan was responding to a New York Times article by Adam Grant to which Khan was responding: Raising a Moral Child . One claim that struck me regarded the difference between shame and guilt:

Praise in response to good behavior may be half the battle, but our responses to bad behavior have consequences, too. When children cause harm, they typically feel one of two moral emotions: shame or guilt. Despite the common belief that these emotions are interchangeable, research led by the psychologist June Price Tangney reveals that they have very different causes and consequences.

Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person, whereas guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing. Shame is a negative judgment about the core self, which is devastating: Shame makes children feel small and worthless, and they respond either by lashing out at the target or escaping the situation altogether. In contrast, guilt is a negative judgment about an action, which can be repaired by good behavior. When children feel guilt, they tend to experience remorse and regret, empathize with the person they have harmed, and aim to make it right.

The author, Adam Grant, quite plausibly concluded: “If we want our children to care about others, we need to teach them to feel guilt rather than shame when they misbehave.” Discipline is needed but the right sort, the sort which makes it clear the child can become a better person.

One part of Grant’s discussion of this issue struck home for me in a rather personal way: “The ashamed toddlers were avoiders; the guilty toddlers were amenders.” That’s me, an avoider, and even now I have trouble facing up to my own weaknesses and figuring out how to amend; I also have trouble confessing to even non-moral failings, such as lack of knowledge of some matter that I feel I should know about or simple errors of judgment or mistakes in carrying out a task. This is a common American trait, in my experience, and Grant’s discussion raises obvious questions about the possible prevalence in this country of parents who raise their children to feel shame rather than guilt.

Another result from these particular experiments and studies discussed by Grant is the evidence that children learned generosity better when they saw adults being generous without preaching generosity. Preaching the moral lesson would decrease the effect of seeing generosity in action, though some effect remained.

On the other hand, as a modern thinker appreciative of the mind and its importance to some extent in many individual lives and its great importance in our communal lives, I think that preaching is distinct from the types of conversations—not to be forced—which can lead to understanding and to the type of mind which can respond more flexibly to the world. Stories might be even more effective in reinforcing lessons taught by action.

From here, I’ll be making a general critique which applies to nearly all human thought, including modern human thought, on the nature of human being in its various aspects. And `critique’ is the right term—I’ll propose no answers and don’t think anyone can yet properly phrase questions which might lead to plausible answers. I’m working on those questions and hope to generate a framework for proper discussion of human nature, individual and communal, so that I can fill in the rough outline in my book: A More Exact Understanding of Human Being.

Much modern thought assumes a sort of reductionism, but one allowing a privileged position to being as organized in human individual being although there is no evidence from empirical science and even surprisingly little from the Bible or serious literature and history that such privilege is real. Under bad circumstances, which might be due to genetic or environmental traits. we are deeply fragmented creatures though always—so far as I know—striving to pull ourselves together or at least justifying our fragmentation in terms that salvage something of an `I’. There is the literature on the so-called split-brain (see Split-brain). There are also creative works, such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde—where the fundamental fragmentation was caused by a poorly formed conscience but Stevenson added an factor of a drug. I’ve also written a book A Man for Every Purpose in which there was a fundamental cultural division—Mom was a Norwegian Lutheran and Dad was a Jamaican of Pentecostal practice—and an added factor of a terribly painful, mind-twisting disease.

But my goal is not so much to cast doubt on the reality of human individual being as it is to open up human minds to the possibility—as a Christian, I’d say certainty—of the reality of human communal being.

Most reductionists (see Reductionism ), and probably most Nominalists (see Nominalism) would deny on principle the reality of human communal being. “Sure,” they might say, “there are ways in which groups of people act as if they form a true entity, but this is just a way of speaking `as if’, for convenience, for shorthand.” But most reductionists and nominalists accord a privileged position to individual human being, to the `I’ they feel to be.

To me, it seems the reality of a community is no more, and no less, puzzling than the reality of a fragmented man of biological pieces yet being a true, unified entity—if far from perfectly so. For both an individual human being and a communal human being, empirical reality seems to push upon us the necessity of treating as a real entity what acts as a real entity.

As a Christian, I believe in the reality of human communal being because the Body of Christ is the ultimate human community where each member remains an individual and yet is entirely the Body, that is, entirely Christ. That Body of Christ can’t come into existence unless it be possible for human beings to form true communities of a lesser sort in this mortal realm.

This is background to informally justify my claim that our human communal being is real, yet, I think there to be a difference: I think human communal being is still more of a potential at our birth than is our human individual being. We human beings have communal being in us when born, but some can be forced into a life largely lived as a loner perhaps because of some disaster or a psychological disability. The possibilities for human community, though constrained are great if not necessarily infinite. We can live in a tribe of shared thoughts never questioned or as a more cosmopolitan person with at least the possibility of both a well-developed individuality and also a rich and complex communal life. Even when we speak of a type of life, tribal or cosmopolitan, there are uncounted ways of actually manifesting those sorts of lives.

This is the point I’m driving at: we can’t analyze the development of the total human being as if there is some sort of preset `configuration’ of a human being with a contribution of, say, 40% from individual factors and 60% from communal factors. My feeling is that not only do those percentages change in different sorts of communal life but also the very structure of the total human being.

The reader should consider my understanding of created being as levels or realms beginning with that which God first created: the raw stuff of created being, the truths He chose for Creation. From this raw stuff, He shaped successively more concrete layers of being culminating in this concrete, thing-like world of narratives, even of moral order and disorder.

This forces, or should force, a different understanding of not only being but of also knowledge of created being—see Four Kinds of Knowledge for my understanding of the actual unity of knowledge of created being and the practical need for specialized fields of knowledge. This situation leads to both problems and opportunities for those wishing to explore God’s Creation, whether as physical explorers on the ocean blue or scientists probing the elementary constituents of matter or philosophers exploring various realms of created being from speculative versions of various viewpoints. I deny the modern—often implicit—viewpoint that the divisions between metaphysics and particle physics and farming are true and absolute: when one field of knowledge advances ahead of others, those other fields of knowledge can borrow true insight at an appropriate level of abstraction and travel down the road of concretization toward their own subject matter.

This is my general suggestion for developing a Christian understanding of Creation which respects both Christian revelation and modern empirical knowledge: let’s borrow from those fields of empirical science which have advanced far more rapidly than Christian thought in recent centuries.

I’m the early stages of studying and contemplating relevant fields of mathematics and also reading works of history and literature which might lead to inspiration and insight as I try to understand on its own terms a Creation which can now be seen as far more rich and complex than prior generations of men could have imagined. I’m groping my way in what is, for now, a foggy region. In my next essay, I’ll try to better justify this idea of moving up and down through levels or realms of relatively more abstract or more concrete being in terms of modern mathematics and an apparent turn to qualitative knowledge, often geometric in a general sense.

What is an Explanation?: The Context of Thought and Language

Posted July 3rd, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Mind, Modern language, Narratives and truth, Unity of knowledge

According to a couple of dictionaries, an `explanation’ is “Something that explains” or equivalent definitions of the sort which would gain a failing grade on a junior high school test back in the days when American schools were so tough we had to write essays explaining how it was possible to walk uphill going to and from school.

According to a highly respected textbook, Theoretical Physics by George Joos with the collaboration of Ira M Freeman, an explanation provides “a reference back to simpler elements.” This is more solid but needs elaboration and more than a little expansion to cover fields beyond physics and similar sciences; in fact, a bit of expansion is needed to cover such `philosophical’ sub-fields of physics such as cosmology and also the truly fundamental sort of work done by Newton and Maxwell and Einstein and the founders of quantum physics. (I will return to the sub-topic of explanations in physics in a short while, without pretending to `solve’ longstanding problems but only the (Thomistic) intent of putting physics and other such fields of study in the context of more general human thought.)

Even within physics, such an explanation—”a reference back to simpler elements.”—relies on much conceptual, linguistic, methodological, and other apparatuses; there is much that could be labeled cultural capital in each of Newton’s simple laws. Without the entire history of ancient Greek philosophy and its battles to learn how to develop proper words and concepts and methods for abstract reasoning, without Euclid and Archimedes, without Ptolemy (whose `model’ of the Solar System was arguably the first such large-scale mathematical-physical model), without a multitude of philosophical and literary thinkers from Christian and Jewish and Moslem cultures, without the empirical thinkers and doers of the Middle Ages, Newton’s laws make no sense. Civilized thinkers realize this. Barbarian children who think the world is transparent to human thought and human language—many modern scientists and too many teachers and cultural leaders among others are such barbarian children—think that Newton’s laws, the US Constitution, ancient Christian creeds, and other complex encapsulations of thought mean exactly what they `seem’ to mean. Such an understanding of understanding is thoroughly incoherent, but we’ll gradually get to a better understanding.

When we explain something substantial, we’re a bit like acrobats who support ourselves by standing upon our own heads, but mostly we, as individuals and as communal beings, stand upon our communal heads. We rely upon not so much our individual intelligences but our intellects as defined by Jacques Barzun:

Intellect is the capitalized and communal form of live intelligence; it is intelligence stored up and made into habits of discipline, signs and symbols of meaning, chains of reasoning and spurs to emotion—a shorthand and a wireless by which the mind can skip connectives, recognize ability, and communicate truth. Intellect is at once a body of common knowledge and the channels through which the right particle of it can be brought to bear quickly, without the effort of redemonstration, on the matter in hand.

There is much more to be said. I’m trying to understand understanding within the context of my worldview and doing so in a somewhat arbitrary way, but that is also the nature of human thought. We are blessed and sometimes cursed by the personal aspects of the thought left to us by Plato and Augustine and Dante and Shakespeare as well as Newton and Faraday and Einstein.

We are embedded in a world of particulars including particular men and women and other creatures; we are further embedded along with our world in a greater Creation of realms of abstract and particular or concrete being.

I’ll be writing more about explanations and trying to write in such a way as to provide digestible pieces as part of a long-delayed effort to try to make my worldview more accessible. As is often the case with me, it is a quite idiosyncratic way to move forward and a way decided upon by a seeming impulse after thinking hard about the problem for years. I’m bound to be idiosyncratic even when I’m working in a field seeming suited for systematic thinking—after all, I’m a philosopher and theologian who writes novels even when I’m writing philosophy and theology.

The Soft Power of Corrupted Culture

Posted June 26th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Evil, Freedom and Structure in Human Life, mis-education, Narratives and truth

In a recent essay, Deep States and the Modern American Citizen, I addressed the ways in which members and gangs of members of the ruling class of the modern world, and many other ages of man, use crimes—even brutal and murderous crimes—as tools to gain control over other human beings or human communities.

In the United States, soft power, mostly the shaping of minds and attitudes along with some substantial sharing of wealth (perhaps now being reversed to some extent), has kept the ordinary citizens of past generations quiet, maybe unconsciously distracted by circuses and maybe consciously compliant with a sometimes criminal ruling class, while the power-holders committed various sorts of crimes in the political or economic realms. More recently, morally corrupt cultural products, such as James Bond books and movies and Rambo and Star Wars with its perversely adolescent depiction of good and evil, have gotten the masses off their seats at times, lining them up along the streets to cheer the troops going to or returning from another war against those who hate us for our freedoms including apparently hundreds of thousands of hateful children.

Soft power has been remarkably effective in turning the American mind into something like silly putty—see Unreliable Memories, Minds Like Silly Putty. Several of the most prominent aspects of American life have been spotlighted as factors contributing to this problem of the dumbing down of Americans. There is the hectic pace of life even when we’re neither having fun nor accomplishing much of anything. There is the related problem of constant communication and other sorts of electronic distractions. There are cars and lawns we care for as if fairways at the country club. There is a confusion of excessive information that some deal with by adopting unreasonable simplifications—such as the one about those Iranians and Iraqis and Syrians not being able to think as rationally as we Americans do.

All of this contributes to the major problem: we don’t fill our heads with good stuff. We don’t realize we shape our minds in response to what we perceive in physical terms (including our own bodily activities) and what we conceive in mental terms (including imagination). We think to watch Rambo, avoid the Bible, and somehow go to our deathbeds suited to life in Heaven.

We should put our energies into putting the good stuff into our heads and into our hearts and into our hands and feet. We should have thoughts which are drawn from those God revealed in the Bible and the thoughts He manifested in this world and its things and relationships and in all the abstractions from which this world was shaped. We should fill our heads with the stories of great men, good men, strong men, by reading serious, narrative histories and biographies or good historical novels or by recalling and retelling the story of our grandfather the fireman who entered burning buildings to save lives or our grandmother who went with a church group for part of each summer to work as a nurse’s assistant in a burnt-out coal district in West Virginia.

In that essay I referred to above, Deep States and the Modern American Citizen, I wrote something about E Howard Hunt, noting that he was a “CIA operative deeply involved in conspiracies against Castro, Watergate burglar, possibly—by his own macabre deathbed confession—a participant in the `project’ to murder JFK, and successful writer of thriller novels.” I was planning on writing in response to an essay posted on the Internet about a “shallow state”, but wasn’t impressed with that essay on a more careful reading. My thoughts and words turned instead to cultural soft power and how it helps to reinforce the deep-state. Rather than just sidelining the ordinary citizen with bread and circuses, soft cultural power has been used to recruit the ordinary citizen to the various programs, often criminal, of the ruling class, or classes, of the United States. The cultural angle is, in fact, more interesting, especially with the fascination of Americans over the previous 50 years with that elegant criminal and exploiter of young women, James Bond. And his ilk.

So, what about E Howard Hunt, most famous for being a seemingly incompetent burglar in the Watergate mess? It’s certainly interesting that Hunt was a prolific and, so far as I can tell, financially successful writer of spy novels. Even my smalltown library, missing all works of some major literary figures, has three of his novels on the shelves. This is what the wikipedia article says about Hunt the novelist:

Hunt was a prolific author, primarily of spy novels. During and after the war, he wrote several novels under his own name—East of Farewell (1942), Limit of Darkness (1944), Stranger in Town (1947), Bimini Run (1949), and The Violent Ones (1950)—and, more famously, several spy and hardboiled novels under an array of pseudonyms, including Robert Dietrich, Gordon Davis and David St. John. Hunt won a Guggenheim Fellowship for his writing in 1946. [See article referenced above for footnotes.]

My very general impression is that the article, in its entirety, is very questionable based upon reading the works of serious, non-mainstream journalists such as Russ Baker who puts up some serious investigative research at Who What Why. I’ve written of Baker’s work in Are Serious Historians Conspiracy Nuts? and Who Are the American Elites and Are They Conspirators?. Baker has also published a readily available book about the dynasty founded by Prescott Bush, father of a president and grandfather of another president: Family of Secrets.

Hunt seems an interesting case of a man who provided part of the cultural foundations for the positive attitudes modern Americans have toward spies, assassins, and other criminals as well as having himself been a spy and involved in assassination conspiracies against Castro. Hunt wrote about the life and then lived it and continued to write about the life. Something of the sort can be said of Ian Fleming and David John Moore Cornwell who wrote under the pen name of John le Carré. A host of others have written about life in the intelligence or covert operations communities with less direct experience or perhaps none at all.

The sorts of books we read, and the sorts of movies we watch, have little to do with reality. Those books and movies of the thriller genres do have a lot to do with the actions of the leaders of the United States since the beginning of the Cold War and a lot to do with the American failures to deal with realities on the ground as opposed to inside of our heads—inside our heads, we’re still on top of some world if not the one created by God. We have strayed from God’s reality, trying to build a world with an excess of covert actions and a deficit of diplomatic or other peaceful actions. By default, we bribe officials in other governments and steal secrets through them or by other means. By default, we destroy entire countries which don’t bow to our every American whim—even when those countries are, in some clear sense, rising in social order and in prosperity and are at least moving toward the sorts of values Americans claim to hold dear.

We Americans know that goodness is to be defended and maybe even spread into evil regions by use of the same criminal methods and attitudes which were advocated by Nazis and Bolsheviks and Maoists. The Bolsheviks and Maoists (many anyway) targeted some true badness, such as ignorance and poverty. They used rifles and bombs and concentration camps where education and modern farming techniques and modern medicine would have been more appropriate. Those evil Bolsheviks and evil Maoists. If only they had been good enough to spread democracy and fight evil by the methods used by the United States in Vietnam and Afghanistan and Iraq and Somalia and Libya.

Whatever is true of the American elite, so wealthy and so powerful, the ordinary American has been convinced the negative wisdom of the Stalinists and Maoists is the appropriate way to defend our country and the values we claim to hold, but we have a strange blindness that leads us to think that what we did to Iraq was morally good and not at all similar to what the Maoists did to Tibet. In fact, we adopted many of the methods of Hitler and Stalin and Mao; in our efforts to defeat them, we became their disciples. (I believe it was C S Lewis who first expressed this insight but I don’t have a reference.)

But maybe I have it wrong. Maybe Lenin and Trotsky and Stalin and Mao and his followers learned from our grandparents the brutal and amoral ways described by Winston Churchill in a quote I provided in the essay, The Final Frontier of Our Modern Moral Journey:

All the horrors of all the ages were brought together, and not only armies but whole populations were thrust into the midst of them… Neither peoples nor rulers drew the line at any deed which they thought would help them to win. Germany, having let Hell loose, kept well in the van of terror; but she was followed step by step by the desperate and ultimately avenging nations she had assailed. Every outrage against humanity or international law was repaid by reprisals — often of a greater scale and of longer duration. No truce or parley mitigated the strife of the armies. The wounded died between the lines: the dead mouldered in the soil. Merchant ships and neutral ships and hospital ships were sunk on the seas and all on board left to their fate or killed as they swam. Every effort was made to starve whole nations into submission without regard to age or sex. Cities and monuments were smashed by artillery. Bombs from the air were cast down indiscriminately. Poison gas in many forms stifled or seared their bodies. Liquid fire was projected upon their bodies. Men fell from the air in flames, or were smothered, often slowly, in the dark recesses of the sea. The fighting strength of armies was limited only by the manhood of their countries. Europe and large parts of Asia and Africa became one vast battlefield on which after years of struggle not armies but nations broke and ran. When all was over, Torture and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves, and they were of doubtful utility.

We Americans have added (often poorly) targeted murder by way of drones or special forces. We Americans have used, at least intermittently, torture which for all its “doubtful utility” seems to be a way for the righteous to inflict pain upon those evil creatures who hate us for our freedoms and for our goodness and probably for our golf courses.

To a large extent, this has been made possible by the crap we absorb from our trashy books and trashy movies and trashy songs. Disorder is us, it is in us, and we love it. So long as we feel good about ourselves, we must be doing what is right.

A Medieval theological joke:

Who will be saved?

Anyone who can enjoy Heaven.

We American Christians spurn the Bible and good poetry and we read books and watch movies about `heroic’ criminals of the elegant James Bond sort or the rather crude Rambo sort. We gather in front of the television to cheer as the missiles and bombs hit a heavily populated city, such as Baghdad.

Why would anyone think they would be happy in Heaven if they enjoy watching or even imagining the killing of any human being, no matter if he is an enemy? Why would they be happy in Heaven if they prefer Rambo to the Gospel of St John? Why would anyone who claims to be a Christian prefer the professional murderer and exploiter of young women, James Bond, to George Washington, that man who was a sinner but one who struggled his entire life to behave according to a strict code of public honor. I have to ask: was it just coincidence that the James Bond era corresponds with a period of very public denigration of George Washington? We honor a fictional character who was a coldblooded and hardhearted criminal and then spit upon the Father of our country.

In Washington: The Indispensable Man, the shorter biography by James Thomas Flexner, we can learn that Washington looked at the dead and horribly injured men being brought off the battlefields of the American Revolution and concluded that even just war isn’t glorious and is to be avoided unless absolutely necessary—though to be fought to the last ounce if necessary. He also showed in his refusal to allow reprisals against civilian populations who aided the British or the Royalists that he thought the best way to win hearts and pull together a country (or a world by extrapolation) is to treat human beings decently and maybe even better than they deserve from our viewpoint.

Perhaps we should spend more time with the Bible and with respectful biographies of men like George Washington and less time watching James Bond movies or—Lord, have mercy—Rambo movies.

We Human Beings Are a Particular Type of Organism, an Organism Sometimes a Student

Posted June 20th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Biological evolution, Brain sciences, Human nature, mis-education

I’ve written before of the modern tendency to use glossy pictures and even fast-moving images to teach, even to teach subjects requiring some concentration and some use of abstract reasoning. This is absurd. It’s been known since at least the work of the English psychologist, Richard Gregory, that the human brain—like the brains of monkeys even more than apes—places a priority on colors and movement as a means of detecting food, dangers, and sex opportunities. (The latter might be less important for humans since color doesn’t indicate fertility for human females as it does for chimpanzees and other close relatives.)

I don’t really have a good handle on the history of the efforts to understand the nature of human acts of perception and cognition and how they interact. I know a little bit about the modern effort and I know how St Thomas Aquinas anticipated much of the general findings—see How Brains Make Up Their Mind by the neuroscientist and philosopher Walter J Freeman for an excellent overview of the Thomistic understanding. In any case, I do know that Richard Gregory played an important role in the modern re-discovery of the active nature of human perception and how it interacts with thinking.

The main thrust of Gregory’s work was the nature of perception, which he saw as an act like unto cognition rather than a passive reception of images or other stimuli. Since there are only finite resources in the human brain, which is already an energy hog, the aggressive stimulation of the visual regions will come at the expense of other regions, such as those with which we reason in abstract ways. One might think that many subjects would be better taught with textbooks and other materials not being distracting to the higher-reasoning regions of the human brain, but nowadays those glossy pictures are found even in high school math books. Much is taught through videos or through rapidly changing images on the computer monitor. This isn’t to say that electronic technology, even fast-moving videos, are never good in education, but it is to say that it is often no good and we should have educators who understand enough to be able to make plausible judgments in specific cases.

This is the problem. Education, though a little more solid when I was in elementary school in the 1960s, was the domain of faddish thinking by way of ungrounded speculation for the entirety of my career as a student. Some of the fads were plausible answers to the wrong questions, such as the phase of short readings with each student working through the file of readings at his own pace. That seemed plausible to deal with the problem of varying levels of skills and talents in the typical classroom but it was really, in my opinion, a gutless dance around the problems of the ideologically driven age-cohort school system: The children advance at different rates, some eventually catching up and some never catching up, but we modern men of the West wish to socialize them as a herd so we sacrifice better education for all but the middling students who move at a rate acceptable to education college theorists.

Now, some researchers have spotted another possible problem, though it’s not a settled issue. In What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades, Maria Konnikova begins:

Does handwriting matter?

Not very much, according to many educators. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.

But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters—but how.

The article speaks of some respected researchers who think it will not turn out to be true that handwriting is nearly this important in the educational process. We’ll see, but we should be asking how major standards were promulgated on the basis of untested speculations that handwriting is unimportant in the education of children. I know that my best learning experiences have occurred when I used lots of pencil lead and lots of sheets of paper to do problems in mathematics or science or when I took notes during lectures on any subject—even when I never used those notes to study.

This is a general problem in the West. We think to be a `scientific people’ by which we are claiming to think in line with sciences dealing with the observable and, often, also quantifiable aspects of reality. In reality, we have been partially freed from traditional ways of thought and feeling and acting, some of which ways carry true knowledge and wisdom, some of those ways point to truth but need to be adjusted to reflect more recently discovered knowledge about reality, and some of those ways reflect knowledge best discarded but for those scholars needing to study the history of human thought.

We are a people with a strange mixture of scientific, magical, ideological, and other beliefs of a good and not so good sort. This comes out in our educational system, one in which people who feel awfully good about themselves and greatly overrate their understanding and intelligence have conducted experiments upon the youth of the United States and many other regions of the West as well. The experiments, on the whole, are failures. The peoples with old-fashioned ideas about learning—immerse yourself in the material, dig in, work till you’re drenched with sweat—out-perform those who have been softened in brains and often bodies to the standards of the modern American middle-class. Those more successful peoples include the ethnic Chinese and Japanese, traditional Jews, some eastern Europeans, and some immigrants from impoverished regions, though I’ve heard expressions of concern that more recent generations of even Chinese-Americans might be moving toward the trashy attitudes of the American middle-class of European descent.

The loss of respect for the activity of handwriting follows upon a similar loss of respect for such activities as memorizing addition or multiplication tables. To be sure, that was an activity useless to me since I could already handle addition and multiplication of all those relatively small numbers well before I had to endure hours of useless practice each week, but that points back to the problems with age-cohort education. We prioritize socializing, and I would even call it brainwashing, and that is perhaps the original sin of American educators. By high school, I wasn’t in the same classes as the fellows I would join for pick-up baseball games or card games in after-school hours—the only effect of age-cohort education for me was the slowing down of my mental development and perhaps of my emotional development.

In any case, though I was lucky enough to be ahead of the sheer stupidities of New Math, I can remember the upset and the complaints of some parents who had at least vague intuitions this New Math stuff wouldn’t help their children to so much as balance their checkbooks. And I wish to say that memorizing addition and multiplications tables was good in itself though I didn’t need it at the time I had to endure it. In any case, though few know this, the New Math programs back in the 1970s were adopted over the protests of various societies of mathematicians and most likely the protests of a lot of individual mathematicians and scientists and engineers and maybe some humanists possessing at least a broad understanding of mathematics.

Human beings are the result of specific processes of evolution. Those processes have somehow produced a very complex brain which allows us to shape minds, abstract relationships between us and other entities as well as `global’ regions of Creation; we shape those minds by active responses to reality. Yet the shaping process itself is a somewhat ad-hoc process as we would expect from the most basic understanding of natural selection and and other evolutionary processes.

Those who claim to have knowledge of some sort of education science overrule those who have knowledge of the specific fields of knowledge and ignore those specific fields which tell us much about the human being, an animal capable of transcending in some ways that animal status by way of processes we only partly understand, an animal capable of acquiring high levels of skill in passing on and gaining abstract knowledge of the bookish sort. He is a very particular sort of animal not `designed’ to be an animal literate in well-defined ways with well-defined additional cognitive skills in logic and mathematics and higher-level music, but rather an upright primate with skills and aptitudes selected for survival and reproduction yet capable of abstract reasoning and able to develop sounds and alphabets to communicate the number of enemy warriors approaching and also the concept of rational number. The Pythagoreans were even capable of reacting in disgust and fear against the possibility of an irrational number.

But all of this came about by development processes, some linked undoubtedly to ongoing evolutionary processes. These were development processes which occur as the human being responds to the world around himself as well as to his own body. They are also processes which themselves are the results of specific events in biological evolution.

The mathematical truths which are part of Creation shape the mind of the mathematician or even the minds of those who make instrumental use of mathematics; the mind of the student, the potential mathematician or physicist or accountant or carpenter, doesn’t access realms of abstract truths apart from this mortal realm. He accesses realms of abstract truths through this mortal realm and by way of specific events in this mortal realm. He doesn’t impose order upon chaos but rather draws principles of order from that (seeming) chaos and uses it understand that chaos—a fascinating process of often unstable iterations occurring over generations. He has the brain suited for such a world and for such activities within the world; that brain “makes up a mind” as Professor Freeman has it. Without understanding that brain, how it operates and how it interacts with the world outside of itself and how it interacts with the realms of truths it posits with increasing certainty, we can’t understand how to educate children or even how to further educate our own selves.

Deep States and the Modern American Citizen

Posted June 17th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: communal human being, decay of civilization, Economics, Evil, Freedom and Structure in Human Life, Narratives and truth

The issue of `deep states’ had drawn the attention of at least some mainstream journalists for an instant or so around February of 2014 because of a very interesting article by Mike Lofgren, a former Senate staffer; I’ll get to that article in a short while. The attention seems to have been a flash in the pan though, if deep states truly exist and if the United States has become one, it’s arguably the most important of public issues, politics and economics and even culture to a surprising extent. A deep state is a thoroughly corrupt state sure to be dangerously exploitive of its own citizenry and, if that deep state is a superpower, of many in other lands.

Since I tend to be interested in the true nature of human beings, individual and communal and in the story God is telling—the story which is this world, I don’t always respond to journalistic fads in the way of the shallow journalists or the bulk of blog commentators. Thus it is that a still inadequate stewing time of a few months has returned me to a subject of great importance in the modern world—criminal conspiracies carried out by members or servants of the power-elites, which criminal conspiracies are made possible by standing-gangs within governments or in close alliance with governments. It’s not the spectacular crimes, as such, which interest me but rather the importance of the types of men who engage in criminal conspiracies when they are holding positions of public responsibility or are part of the general power-elite; those servants, often feudalistic in their personal loyalty, are also willing to put that loyalty above any duties to God or country or their personal families. (E Howard Hunt, CIA operative deeply involved in conspiracies against Castro, Watergate burglar, possibly—by his own macabre deathbed confession—a participant in the `project’ to murder JFK, and successful writer of thriller novels, is one of those and I’ll be discussing his odd life a little in the sequel to this essay on the deep state; that second essay will deal with the shallow state, as one commentator has labeled the cultural counterpart to the deep state, one might say the brainwashing operations of an exploitive and at least partially underground power-elite.)

We modern Americans have denied that we have a power-elite or ruling class of any sort and this has made it impossible to keep that power-elite under control. This is of great importance in our time. Criminal conspiracies have often been an important tool for those who exercise power to their own interests. Political enemies, in one’s own country or in other countries, can be murdered if they refuse to do as you wish. Careers of honest men can be destroyed in various ways. Men or women who’ve made one or many mistakes in the past can be blackmailed into doing the wishes of one or more gangs inside what I’ll call the `power-elite’, the ruling class.

Criminal conspiracies need be no more exotic than the mafia involvement in labor unions and in certain industries that allowed the laundering of criminal profits—restaurants and trash-collecting were said to have been popular in past decades. The mafia was also said to have been involved with certain political powers, as seems to have been true in the case of Jimmy Hoffa. There are also Japanese gangsters said to control some labor markets and some industries; there are some journalists claiming Japanese gangsters are deeply involved in what seems to be a very corrupt Japanese nuclear-power industry which also seems incompetent in a very non-Japanese way. Crimes are crimes and criminals are criminals and power-elites of even the most publicly respectable sorts have engaged in professional murder and drug-smuggling and human trafficking. We know this is true in other countries and in other centuries; why would we think that the power-elites have suddenly developed consciences limiting what they will do in the interests of their individual selves, of their families, of their close associates, and occasionally of the entire class of the power-elite? Besides the Mafia in Sicily and mainland Italy and the US and the Japanese gangs, we can also think of the now-weakened Colombian drug-cartels, the now-strengthened Mexican drug-cartels, the Turkish organized crime syndicates which are very much in the loop in politics and business in that country, the Russian mafia—especially those driven out of Russia by Putin and said to be very close to the Israeli political class. China, India. Wherever there is wealth or power to be grabbed or large numbers of human beings to be exploited, there will be gangsters, perhaps young men just controlling the drug-dealers and prostitutes on individual blocks in an inner-city and perhaps even young men engaging in profitable crime to finance a future revolution. Perhaps young men setting up guns-smuggling operations for the sheer excitement of it all.

I’ll anticipate a later part of this essay by saying that the drug-smuggling by the CIA was motivated initially by the perceived need to fight communist insurgents around the world even if the money (maybe for the CIA operatives but certainly for their regional allies) were to come from illegal drugs. The divertable cash-flows from drug-smuggling, arms-smuggling, currency-smuggling, and perhaps professional murder operations, are immense for most purposes.

There is another complication to the issue of power-elites, one which was initially peculiar to the United States at its founding. John Adams saw that the United States was structured to assume that each generation of men was starting out fresh and as a mass of equals and knew this couldn’t work—he claimed in his correspondence with Thomas Jefferson that wealthy and powerful men would find ways to get around the various restrictions and attitudes so that they could pass on the wealth and power to their sons. In the opinion of Adams, we needed some sort of public recognition, and imposed code of public honor, to bind men of wealth and power and the sons who would inherit that great wealth. He was right and, in my opinion, the general situation in the United States has encouraged the development of an underground serving the power-elite and, at least in the 1800s through the Cold War, largely run by adventurous sons from the power-elite families, with some families serving the greater families and some families entering the ranks of the power-elite. (And, as Smedley Butler told us, the US Marines were openly used as a sort of labor negotiating team by Wall St investors in Latin America.) In fact, some of the wealthy and powerful families have been surprisingly unknown by the standards of aristocrats in most societies, certainly in the honor-hungry societies of Europe. In his American Empire series of novels, Gore Vidal, a good historian as well as something of an insider to the power-elite (he seems to have despised most of them), mentions the Paynes and Whitneys as having been perhaps the most powerful of families in the early decades of the 20th century because of intermarriages with a number of power-elite families.

True to the American experience, the class of the power-elite and the sub-class of their servants has been remarkably dynamic with such great families as the Rockefellers and Fords joining the ranks of blue-bloods. More recently, Prescott Bush became a `patriarch’, a founder of a servant family entering the ranks of the power-elite, by marrying a daughter of the wealthy and powerful financial genius George Herbert Walker. Bush, along with his blue-blood friend, Neil Mallon helped to integrate the newly rich families of the Texas oil industry into what was no longer just the `Eastern Establishment’. Mallon was interesting in that he had broken with Northeast blue-blood tradition of going into investment banking, financially oriented law-firms, the clergy of (mostly) the Congregationalist Church or the Episcopal Church, or sometimes academia or the adventurous life which too often led into the slave-trade or opium-smuggling in Asia. He entered the corporate life, eventually becoming President of Dresser Industries, an oil industry manufacturing and service company which became the core of Halliburton. Someone or a group of someones, perhaps led by Prescott Bush, brought the newly rich oilmen and water barons of California into the class of the power-elite. A reliable history of these events hasn’t really been written and the crude summary I just gave is very tentative but quite plausible—something of the sort happened. In any case, I’m not interested in the details nor in accuracy at the level of academic historians—I’m interested in the patterns which tell us about the evolution and development of human communities and especially in regards to that ultimate human community: the Body of Christ. I’m also interested personally and on behalf of those I care about because I think something went wrong and the US, indeed the West as a whole, is being destroyed in ways that aren’t even to the advantage of the main power-elite families. They’ve lost control and all the brutal forces they thought to control have been unleashed in the form of stupid wars and the use of despicable forms of torture and, generally, crimes being committed seemingly for the sake of the immediate profit and not for some focused goal, whether that goal is seemingly good or evil. Politicians drive their countries into bankruptcy and bankers steal money which will be worthless before long.

Perhaps the best business in a decade or two will be guillotine manufacturing.

We in the modern world have an irrational idea, usually implicit, that family ties are no longer important but when we need some cuddling after a failed romance; we think to inhabit a world structured according to the ideal rationality of modern, Techno-Enlightenment theories, some of which—particularly in politics—are descended from truly ancient ideas. In fact, this ideal rationality, even when heavily moderated by a recognition of empirical knowledge as was the case when the Fathers founded the United States, is opposed to reality and cannot, in the end, be reconciled with the reality of human nature or of the reality of our context as described by historians and physical scientists and novelists.

In Can a Modern Individualist Understand Who Owns America?, I wrote about the modern (usually implicit) denial that blood-ties are strong to the point of often being the dominant human relationship in political and economical and even ecclesiastical realms. (Sometimes, the relationships are proxy relationships formed to consciously or unconsciously mimic the formation of ties between siblings by, perhaps, sending children to resident schools with children from other families of the right sort.) We falsely see politics and economics in terms of organizations which individuals voluntarily join, perhaps only as a result of invitation. In fact, human nature hasn’t changed so much from those dark centuries when de Medicis used the Papacy or any other tools (including murder or criminal warfare) to gain or protect family wealth and power. When wealthy, powerful men are fighting for “what belongs to them and their children” (especially the oldest son but sometimes nephews, as was true of some popes observant of their vowed celibacy), they don’t just fight within the law or within the range of crimes acceptable to squeamish middle-class Americans. Kings have murdered powerful enemies and stolen all their property, perhaps killing all the close relatives of the original victims to cement the transfer of wealth. Popes have done much the same, though perhaps not nearly so often as some might imagine. Republics and monarchies and oligarchies alike have waged bloody, criminal wars to steal the wealth of another people or to enslave them but usually all participated in the sins and crimes while the few collected the profits. Part of Queen Victoria’s royal income came from the opium-smuggling profits of the East India Company of which she was the largest stockholder.

Brotherhoods of various sorts, shared financial interests, shared religious beliefs, and all the other human ties can provide the glue for secretive human societies, but blood-ties or class-ties of blood and marital and brotherhood relationships almost certainly will remain the most central and usually the strongest human ties in secretive human societies and other human communities. Strong blood-ties make it easier to maintain power and wealth over the generations, even to the point of most family members not using inheritance laws to break non-legal primogeniture and entailment arrangements. The many offer up their children to secure power and wealth for the children of the few, though there are periods, such the years 1800-1970 or so in the United States, when there are substantial benefits for even the least in a region or multiple regions. That is, in fact, how good societies are built—by customs and habits which allow much to the wealthy and powerful but protect the common folk.

I’m not so pessimistic as many of my writings might indicate, including this essay. I don’t think history to be merely a record of crimes and of exploitation of the poor and the powerless, but crimes and exploitation are with us always in this mortal realm and might even become dominant factors in the best of communities if the common men don’t keep watch and aren’t prepared to stand up for the rights of their children and grandchildren.

Crimes we’ve had even in the best days of the American Republic, though our public-school textbooks tell fairy-tales of a morally well-ordered, freedom loving American citizenry. As a side-comment: I can’t understand how Americans can claim to be Christians who consider the Bible to be a source of truth and then accept the view of the United States as being a better country than the Bible would indicate to be possible, the American people to be a morally superior people to any in the Bible or foretold by the prophets or Jesus Christ Himself.

Admittedly, there is a strain of American thought, very strong right now in our public schools and all colleges, which brutally depicts the crimes (and sins by at least implications) of the Southern slaveholders, but it’s pretty well established that the North tried slavery and it didn’t work up north except for household slaves and in some small-scale crafts shops. Moreover, as I have noted a few times in past writings, New Englanders from the Colonial period were selling native Americans as slaves throughout the world; Americans including some from prestigious families were smuggling opium into China in the late 1700s and the first half or so of the 1800s and a good number were working the slave trade on the West Coast of Africa throughout the 1700s and 1800s. The latter fact is one of the reasons Lincoln didn’t want to punish the South unduly after the War Between the States. So far as I can tell, this blue-blood (and more generally, Northeastern American) entry into profitable lives of crime and sin was first motivated by a desire for adventure on the part of those not equipped, emotionally or mentally or physically (restlessness), for the mundane life as a farmer or storekeeper or even that of investment banker or Wall St lawyer. But, whatever the original motivation, the profits flowed back to a prosperous region largely lacking in the sort of liquid wealth needed to fuel the sort of development that the Northeast and the Midwest would see from about 1800 into the 1900s.

Some of the mansions in Boston and New Haven and New York and Philadelphia were built with profits from the slave-trade or the Asian drug-trade. In fact, John Jacob Astor bought a strip of land heading north from the physically small village of Manhattan and developed that strip into Fifth Avenue; Astor’s money to that point had come partly from legal trading with the Indians of upper New York state and partly from selling them whiskey and guns even while they were at war with the white settlers and then those profits were increased greatly in the opium smuggling business in Asia. Criminal profits flowed also into the investment pools used to build railroads and mines and manufacturing corporations throughout the United States, though the power-elite families predominately deployed and controlled their wealth and power through investment banking and Wall St law-firms. We can exaggerate the meaning of all of this if we think that all blue-blood families or other families of distinction owned seats on a major stock exchange or held a partnership in a major Wall St or Boston law-firm, if we think all the wealth of the Eastern Establishment came from criminal activities or high-powered investment or legal careers; there were many who had quite ordinary occupations or were distinguished authors or scholars or missionaries, though David Halberstram taught us in The Best and the Brightest that some of those blue-bloods with moral integrity did as much damage to the United States as any of their criminal cousins. My point is that these criminal activities, however marginal at times and however important at other times, show a Mafia-like loyalty to one’s own family and gang/class that turns outsiders into some sort of class of subhumans to be exploited. That was also true, in Halberstram’s book, of those crews of privileged Harvard professors become advisors to John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and who brought us the wonders of Vietnam and nearly those of nuclear war.

I’ll soon be noting the work of a respected and honored historian who paints the situation in very dark terms—the power-elite of the United States operates at times in ways not all different from those of a Latin American drug-cartel, at least in the way of a drug-cartel being able to draw upon the resources of Wall St and the American government. First, I’ll turn to a man who speaks harsh truths, but has a view a bit different from and perhaps more `moderate’ than mine. Back in February, Bill Moyers published an article, Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State, which was written by Mike Lofgren, “a former congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees,” an insider of at least the American political system.

What is the `deep state’? Lofgren provides a definition in a footnote which I’ll quote in its entirety:

The term “Deep State” was coined in Turkey and is said to be a system composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services, military, security, judiciary and organized crime. In British author John le Carré’s latest novel, A Delicate Truth, a character describes the Deep State as “…the ever-expanding circle of non-governmental insiders from banking, industry and commerce who were cleared for highly classified information denied to large swathes of Whitehall and Westminster.” I use the term to mean a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.

Lofgren’s view is sufficient to puncture illusions of the average American who believes he can go about his roles as a fan of the Chargers and the Rolling Stones and also as a town and church volunteer while trusting those slightly crooked but most all-right politicians to govern the country in the best interests of all, though no one could possibly define `all’ and most especially not in the demographically dynamic and culturally chaotic United States. We are a country and a people made for moral disorder, and this is undoubtedly one of the factors contributing to the development of a criminal underground which operates as part of the power-elite and isn’t just a marginal bunch of gravely-voiced Sicilians and flamboyantly dressed African-Americans from the inner-city. In fact, as I’ll note later, there is good reason to believe that even those street criminals don’t have to launder money through the cash-registers of restaurants nowadays—they have their own special contacts at the best, or at least largest, of American banks.

In any case, I would suspect the Turkish definition to be more accurate in all modern states—organized crime in the sense of arms-smugglers, drug-smugglers, and professional murderers are embedded in the modern state and are sometimes receiving paychecks from the CIA or US AID or the private foundations and `charities’ which consciously or unconsciously work to destroy foreign cultures or political entities to some presumed (and usually imaginary) benefit of the American government. Moreover, my admittedly sparse knowledge of such matters as drug-smuggling and arms-trafficking lead me to doubt if Boeing and other major arms-merchants could possibly be free from the taint of not only arms-smuggling but also drug-smuggling and currency-smuggling. Similar comments could be made about a multitude of financial services companies and manufacturers even outside of the weapons industry. We live in a truly corrupt age, though some are inclined to see clearly only when sexual crimes or street crimes are involved.

One reason for considering the possibility that true gangsters are integral parts of the deep state, in its political and economic realms, is the reported dependence of the American economy on the liquidity supplied through the bank deposits of Mexican drug-cartels (said by some to have saved the US from a far worse collapse in 2008). In fact, Lofgren notes the importance of cash-flows to the deep state: “If there is anything the Deep State requires it is silent, uninterrupted cash flow and the confidence that things will go on as they have in the past.” Lofgren is speaking mostly of cash-flows from Wall St but even that is sometimes quite tainted beyond even their possession of vast amounts of free money from the Federal Reserve Bank and other government handouts paid for by the American taxpayer.

In an article, Global banks are the financial services wing of the drug cartels, which must be rather depressing to those holding `mainstream’ views about the modern world, we can read about the involvement of the British bank HSBC and the American bank Wachovia (now part of Wells-Fargo) in laundering money for drug-cartels. The HSBC executives lined up to apologize to the US Senate for crimes far worse than those which put street dealers in prison for years, even decades. “Wachovia was fined $50m and made to surrender $110m in proven drug profits, but was shown to have inadequately monitored a staggering $376bn through the casa de cambio [`a currency exchange house operated in Mexico on behalf of the largest criminal syndicate in the world and one of the most savage'] over four years, of which $10bn was in cash.” We also learn: “No one from Wachovia went to jail.” The same was true of HSBC.

I’ll just list three more stories on the subject and let the reader follow up:

There are lots of strange, individual stories originally mostly from mainstream journalists about the various crimes related to the Iran-Contra conspiracy, ties between the CIA, Oliver North, the Saudi Arabian royal family, the Bin Laden family, Bill Clinton, the Bushes, and various smugglers and professional murderers. One bank involved in financing the Iran-Contra smuggling, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, “handled money for Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, Hussain Mohammad Ershad and Samuel Doe. Other account holders included Medellin Cartel and Abu Nidal.” “The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency held numerous accounts at BCCI, according to William von Raab, former U.S. Commissioner of Customs. Oliver North also used and held multiple accounts at BCCI. These bank accounts were used for a variety of illegal covert operations, including transfers of money and weapons related to the Iran-Contra scandal, according to Time Magazine. The CIA also worked with BCCI in arming and financing the Afghan mujahideen during the Afghan War against the Soviet Union, using BCCI to launder proceeds from trafficking heroin grown in the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands, boosting the flow of narcotics to European and U.S. markets.” Even the venerable Clark Clifford was indicted for involvement with BCCI. [See the original Wikipedia article about BCCI for the footnotes referencing original sources.]

The US Customs was allowed to infiltrate BCCI and take it down after the Soviet Union fell and this gangster bank was no longer needed for fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Even if casual research is done and even if you only accept what is said in original sources from the mainstream press, you will soon see that drug-cartels come and go (and might disappear in Columbia to grow anew in Mexico) as do arms-smugglers and other gangsters as most think of the term but the corrupt Western banks and the Western national security agencies, especially the CIA, have been constant presences in these large-scale, international criminal enterprises since at least the beginning of the Cold War.

There is an academic who can tell us how this came to be: Alfred W McCoy, the JRW Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin and a specialist in Southeast Asia. The first paragraph of his bio sketch reads:

After earning a Ph.D. in Southeast Asian history at Yale, my writing on this region has focused on two topics—Philippine political history and global opium trafficking. My first book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (New York, 1972), sparked controversy when the CIA tried to block publication. But after three English editions and translation into nine foreign languages, this study is now regarded as the “classic” work on the global drug traffic.

Imagine that. A book about, though not only about, CIA heroin manufacturing and smuggling is “regarded as the `classic’ work on the global drug traffic.” Perhaps Lofgren should become a bit more skeptical about the power-elites of the modern world, including the ones in the United States? (We should be careful about using `power-elite’ in the singular unless we specifically recognize that it is a class made up of different groups often doing battle against each other, united only when their `right’ to exploit the naive and the weak is endangered. Otherwise it is best to use plural forms, recognizing the conflicts inside the class of `power-elite’, for example the conflict some, including me, see between the powerful, established families and some of the servants grown powerful—especially those in the national-security industries or the oil or weapons industries.)

The last paragraph of Professor McCoy’s bio sketch reads:

My current work explores the role of the “covert netherworld”—an invisible social interstice inhabited by criminal syndicates and secret services—in shaping the politics of modern states and their world order. My first publication from this project, exploring the domestic dimension of this covert realm, is titled Beer of Broadway Fame: The Piel Family, Their Brewery, and a Changing America, and will be published in 2015.

We live in a world different from and not so much different from the morally corrupt political and ecclesiastical world of the Renaissance, in Italy and a few other regions of Europe. We live in a world with a “covert netherworld”, with “an invisible social interstice inhabited by criminal syndicates and secret services.” Those who inhabit or travel through this interstice shape “the politics of modern states and their world order.”

Nasty stuff and often American nasty stuff—though there is a common sewer underlying the modern world which includes regions perhaps even nastier than the American sewers.

Was it horrible what happened to American cities beginning in the 1950s, when heroin and other illegal drugs piled on top of other factors leading to social and moral decay? Yes, but the timing and other facts point to the likelihood that much of that heroin came from operations originally started by the CIA and perhaps turned over to their allies such as two divisions of the Nationalist Chinese Army driven into Burma and turning to drug-manufacturing and drug-smuggling to finance an ongoing war against communism. Why would good American boys, likely even noble to the point of having been varsity football or baseball players, have started heroin production and smuggling operations? McCoy was told by a highly regarded OSS (predecessor of the CIA) officer that, during the years after WWII, the US Congress wanted the newly-formed CIA to engage in an extensive covert worldwide war against communism but wasn’t willing to pay the full costs. The CIA started a variety of businesses, some largely legitimate, to finance some of their operations or to help their allies finance their operations.

Lofgren seems to hold a softer view than I hold. He claims in Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State:

My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude.

I certainly know the American deep state isn’t omniscient or invincible. In fact, in recent decades it seems to have screwed up and destroyed American wealth and power more than it has added to American wealth and power. The question I raise is: how integral is that sewer (the “highly sinister aspects” as Lofgren has it) to the overall operations of the American state, underground and above ground? That is a question that can be answered only by an analysis of the structure of the power-elite class I’m certainly not qualified to make, and I’ll never be so qualified because my ultimate interests are in a more general understanding of human being allowing for both the revealed truths of Christianity and modern empirical knowledge. This business about power-elites and deep states is just a small part of that empirical knowledge.

There’s a spectrum of possibilities and I think Lofgren isn’t so far from where I sit, and McCoy and others, that is, not so far as I thought when I first read this article. I think the criminal underground of the American deep state is really integral to the entire system and it can’t be cleaned up at this point without taking down many American institutions and bringing chaos into our political and economic systems. (For those who prefer audio, see CIA complicity in the global drug trade for a discussion between McCoy and Peter Dale Scott who speaks of some interesting connections between CIA drug operations and the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan. I don’t recall he drew a strong conclusion, but it seems a possible case of the tail, CIA drug operations, wagging the dog of American war. The US Marines were once used to shoot Latin American peasants demanding better pay, why would it not be possible the entire US military was used to protect drug-cartels?)

Lofgren is right that it’s not a cabal; there is no wizard behind the screen but rather gangsters battling it out in the sewers and emerging to murder and smuggle drugs or weapons, for their own needs or those of the above ground bankers and politicians and corporate bosses who have some control over some of the criminals. There may even be, or have been, some who lived in both worlds, underground and above ground.

The important concept is that of power-elite, a class intertwined not only with powerful investment operations, Wall St law-firms, the political parties, corporations and especially in the arms-manufacturing and oil industries, and money-center banks, but also intertwined with criminal organizations which serve the powerful and wealthy and with criminal organizations which are independent profit-centers. Any cabals are parts of smaller and tighter entities inside the deep state, or the class of power-elite, sometimes really families or extended families and sometimes temporary groups such as those which came together to try to overthrow Castro. I’ve dealt with these issues over the past four years or so in a variety of articles: What is a Conspiracy?, Are Conspiracies Self-organizing?, I Have a Problem with Many Conspiracy Theorists, Are Serious Historians Conspiracy Nuts?, Conspiracies Confirmed!?, Who Are the American Elites and Are They Conspirators?, and Conspiratorial Gangsters Are the Leaders Americans Want and Deserve.

My general view on conspiracies and deep states and the like is that they are very similar to the good forms of organizations which Adam Smith saw developing by way of the useful myth of the Invisible Hand. Behind the myth is the cooperative nature of a social animal of great complexity. It’s of greater interest (at least to me) and of greater importance to deal with the underlying human being which can lead to various sorts of human communities organized by conscious and unconscious means; some of those communities might be good and some evil and many of mixed character. Human beings of some substantial moral order, such as the Christians of Scotland and England in the second half of the 18th century, will work by those conscious and unconscious means to build communities of moral order. Human beings of defective moral order, such as the barbarian children of the United States, will work by those conscious and unconscious means to build communities of moral disorder or, at best, a defective moral order working to the benefit of the few.

You can read about some of my work to date at understanding human being in a more exact way and from a fundamental level to the level of complex communities in Social and Biological: Being Honest About the Basics of Human Nature, Do We Need Heart and Hands as Well as Mind to Understand Reality?, and A Christian Sociobiology. I’ve also written a book giving an overview of my still developing ideas: A More Exact Understanding of Human Being.

Socioeconomic Inequality and Achievement

Posted June 11th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: communal human being, Freedom and Structure in Human Life, Human nature

Kimberly Noble, MD and PhD, pediatrician and neuroscientist, has written the article, Rich Man, Poor Man: Socioeconomic Adversity and Brain Development, which is posted at the website of The Dana Foundation, a foundation run by neuroscientists. There is good stuff in the article which has a properly optimistic tone to the idea that we can help people from impoverished backgrounds by providing some sort of enrichment for the environments in which their children develop. I would even add that I think brain plasticity indicates some possibility of helping the likes of adults in the early stages of dementia or those recovering from some sort of brain injury or those who have given themselves an impoverished life-style (couch-potato or failure to develop job-skills or whatever).

But the article is confusing because there’s no clear understanding proposed for human nature, even a conventional theory of nature and nurture isn’t put forth. The article is written as if we can significantly raise the achievement level of children living in perhaps barren cultural conditions even as they remain in cultures which, for example, have little or no respect for books or learning. This is not to say that illiterate parents can’t nurture a respect for learning in their children. I’ve read that a number of Chinese immigrants to the United States in the 20th century were themselves illiterate but taught their children respect for learning and would even keep the children’s chores light so they could study or read or practice music. The article also doesn’t even mention genes or epigenetic effects. Like it or not, families of adults with talents for abstract thinking tend to produce children with similar talents. There has also been some strong evidence that a child’s metabolism is shaped partly by the habits, good or bad, of not only mothers but even maternal grandmothers. Wildlife biologists have even speculated that grizzly bear mothers, responding to their own situation, send signals to their sons in particular causing them to grow big, even by grizzly standards, if the species is dominant and the males will be able to eat plentifully of meat or to stay relatively small if there is a dangerous competitor such as white men—the native Americans of the Rockies and California weren’t much of a challenge for big, predatory bears. Is it possible that children, especially boys, have slightly different personality characteristics depending upon their mother’s environment—big and aggressive in a violent setting or perhaps smaller and more sociable in a peaceful setting?

Dr Noble doesn’t say anything unreasonable. Some might wish to leave out hard truths to encourage optimism, but reality tends to bite, if only eventually, especially when true reforms require hardheaded perseverance over a lifetime or even over multiple generations—a situation likely to prevail when we deal with the characteristics of truly civilized human beings whose achievements are dependent upon at least some abstract reasoning skills as well as a large body of knowledge and customs.

The short Editor’s Note, or introduction, of the article, Rich Man, Poor Man: Socioeconomic Adversity and Brain Development. is:

Here’s a disturbing statistic that made headlines this past January: The richest 85 people in the world now hold as much wealth as the poorest half. Keeping in mind the goal of closing the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, our author examines new research that ties family income level and other factors to brain development. While socioeconomic adversity may not solely determine a child’s success later in life, its significant role in helping children develop language, memory, and life skills can no longer be ignored.

Children can’t learn well, if at all, if they are hungry and cold, but they are also not likely to learn well if they don’t wish to do so, if they don’t have the ambition to read books or at least to satisfy parents or other relatives or community leaders who value learning. Are there also children who haven’t the ability to read well or to think abstractly, even with dedicated teachers who have good resources at their disposal? Are those children likely to come from family lines of human beings with similar lack of ability? A difficult question which is silently avoided in this article and perhaps to good purpose, but part of my mission is to reach a better understanding of human being and I can’t ignore the entire bundle of often inconvenient questions connected to developing that understanding.

There are certainly some skills necessary to success in education which can be nurtured to at least some extent. Modern men, and their corporations and governments have acted as if determined to destroy one particular ability before it shows as a developed skill. This is one which has been discussed often. Our entertainment systems, general life-styles, and even some of our educational programs act to retard or even destroy the ability to concentrate beginning with the simple self-discipline to sit still while learning. This is a tricky matter because, as one complicating example, I knew plenty of young men who, as teenagers, had trouble sitting still in the classroom or concentrating on history or biology but could work intensely for hours figuring out how a car engine worked or how to make a proper joint on a piece of furniture.

There is little evidence that Americans in general are much interested in high achievement outside of sports or the acquisition of wealth and most have retreated to the couch in front of the television by their 20s, out of shape and reconciled to a very modest prosperity.

What does this mean? Can we blame the residents of for-ever impoverished regions of the earth for lack of moral order or for not delaying satisfaction or something of the sort? The sad fact that so many middle-class Americans of all ethnic groups seem to willingly travel a downward spiral into inner-city culture or the like certainly tells us that we have the freedom to damage our moral character. Until recently, it looked as if Americans would remain prosperous indefinitely. Somehow, we’ve created a society in which the children from those modestly prosperous households, having attended school systems rich in physical resources, are looking at relatively bleak futures. At best, we seem to be a people whose prosperity, however modest, is dependent upon some corporation or high-achieving individual giving us a chance in life; we don’t seem to have the inner resources to make it on our own. That’s a bad way to express matters and the actual situation is quite complex but I’ll discuss some of the issues contributing to the complexity.

Do we, as individuals or even as members of `nuclear families’ have much freedom to move from disordered environments toward a state of greater moral order which, in the modern West, has usually brought greater material prosperity as well? It’s easier to travel to the `larger’ regions of disorder in most state-spaces which are likely to correspond to human social systems, which is to say that it takes a number of generations to build a civilization or a culture but only a small number of years to destroy it. I’m always tempted to expound upon these issues but I’ll limit myself in this essay to recommending the reader explore my website, Acts of Being, and download books or essays discussing the multitude of issues related to the nature of created being, human being, and civilization. As a start, an interested reader can download A More Exact Understanding of Human Being for a summary of my understanding of human being in the concrete and the abstract, the individual and the communal.

The article. Rich Man, Poor Man: Socioeconomic Adversity and Brain Development, speaks truths in a way that can be misleading as it deals with human beings as if mostly freestanding individuals though there is recognition of the mother-child relationship, but that has been accepted by nearly all exponents of radical individualism—it’s apparently something we can outgrow to become healthy freestanding individuals. It would also seem, from the presentation and perhaps from the assumptions shaping the research protocols, that inheritance plays little or no role in shaping the mental development and consequently mature capabilities of a human being. It is comforting to modern men to take each child as a fresh start of sorts and often dispiriting to realize that child is a member of specific human communities including a (genetic) family-line.

Biology, narrowly conceived, isn’t the only problem. Some cultures don’t value human development as Greeks and Jews and Chinese do and as, once upon a time, modern European men did. Some cultures and family-lines might well be made up of human beings with limited capacity for higher learning. Still, all human cultures are rich and complex in some significant sense and all human beings have something to offer their human communities. It’s probably best that educators and the researchers and others who support them be optimistic but perhaps intense disappointment should be avoided by prudent constraints on the hopes that a child can be `raised’ from the low achievements of her parents and other adults in her culture—we should at least be aware that any noticeable improvements (of a lasting sort) might occur only after a few generations of effort. We modern men aren’t good with this business of gradual change. As the economist Thomas Sowell, himself a high-achieving African-American, has noted: it’s not just coincidence that Jews recover so quickly after periods of the most intense adversity—Jews, as a people, have been literate for thousands of years. Yet, we modern Americans expect rapid improvements within a year or two of the adoption of a new fad in educational technology. And some have managed to find statistics indicating such improvements were occurring even as the situations of at least inner-city African-Americans, and other groups, have gone from bad to catastrophically bad.

Dr Noble points to one factor, experience with language, which is surely important, but it should be seen in the complete setting I’ve recommended, the setting few have: an understanding of being and of human being, communal and individual. That includes all that pessimistic stuff about the genetic limitations of all human beings, limitations acceptable when I can’t run fast enough to make the Olympics or sing well enough to ever be the soloist in even a small church community but not so acceptable when some children can’t learn mathematics, others can’t read complex novels or history books, others can’t acquire the practical skills necessary for business success, and some can’t seem to learn much of anything in particular. Again, I’ve developed a reasonably complete Christian understanding of Creation and of human being and it can be found in the various writings at my website, Acts of Being.

Dr Noble’s article speaks of experience with language in these terms:

In a recent study in our lab, we examined brain volumes in a group of 60 socioeconomically diverse children ranging from 5 to 17 years of age. We found that, as children get older, higher SES children tend to dedicate relatively more neural real estate to areas of the brain that support language development, in comparison to their lower SES peers. This suggested to us that something about the experience of growing up in a higher SES environment likely leads to a greater investment in language-related regions of the brain.

Indeed, this something is almost certainly experience with language itself. It is well established that children from disadvantaged homes tend to hear fewer words—an estimated 30 million fewer words by age three than their higher-SES counterparts, to be precise. Lower-SES mothers are also more likely to speak to their children in a directive rather than conversational manner, and to use less complex speech patterns and fewer gestures. It is likely that differences in maternal speech input result in a cascade of effects that are directly relevant for the development of a child’s language-supporting cortex during infancy. Much as greater exposure to music may increase an individual’s perception of speech years later, greater social engagement with interactive adults may lead children to have improved abilities to perceive and discriminate among speech sounds. Thus, one mechanistic pathway would suggest that socioeconomic disparities result in large differences in quality and quantity of linguistic exposure, which in turn lead to differences in the development of language-supporting brain regions—and, finally, to the often-reported SES disparities in children’s language skills. [See original article for footnotes.]

This is good to know, but is consistent with all of my criticisms above. Some language impoverishment problems might be due to genetic issues, including epigenetic effects which can only be dealt with over generations. If so, the children having less ability to use language in rich and complex ways won’t have lasting benefit from being placed in an environment in which others use language in such ways. In fact, the result might be frustration and resentment.

Some language impoverishment problems might be due to cultural impoverishment which also can only be dealt with over generations. Thomas Sowell, the economist mentioned above, didn’t explicitly justify his cautious optimism (at least in any of his books I’ve read) that great improvements are possible for the development of minds in African-Americans but seems to feel it’s at least quite possible that the current impoverished state of the `African-American mind’ is due to some problems of an epigenetic and cultural nature, but he knows well that African-Americans, even under optimistic assumptions of long-range potential, aren’t about to catch up anytime soon to Jewish-Americans or Chinese-Americans in fields such as physics or philosophy or medical research.

Do we modern Americans or other modern men have the stamina to stay the course and help children of low-achievement and from low-achievement cultures to advance at least somewhat? Do we have the truer love and tolerance to accept it when some children and some cultures don’t prove able to reach the achievements of, say, the Americans of Ashkenazi Jewish descent? Are we capable of building societies which offer rich and dignified lives to all?

Can a Modern Individualist Understand Who Owns America?

Posted June 6th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Body of Christ, Economics, politics

A short while back Ralph Nader published an article, Who Owns America?, which begins:

There was a time in the Depression of the 1930s when conservative thought sprang from the dire concrete reality of that terrible era, not from abstractions.

They did not use the word “conservative” very often, preferring to call themselves “decentralists” or “agrarians.” Eclectic in background, they were columnists, poets, historians, literary figures, economists, theologians, and civic advocates. In 1936, Herbert Agar, a prominent author, foreign correspondent, and columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal and Alan [sic---Allen] Tate, poet and social commentator, brought a selection of their writings together in a now nearly forgotten book: Who Owns America? A New Declaration of Independence.

They believed, in simple terms, that the monopoly capitalists owned America. This analysis could be, and often should be, expanded to a more complete answer, as I did in Who Are the American Elites and Are They Conspirators? where I was responding to an article, These Are The Ten “People” Who Run The World (For The Last 20 Years), about the ten dominant corporations in the world as of last September or so—I don’t think the list has changed since then. In my essay, I wrote:

Let me turn to a historian of a recent generation, Carroll Quigley. In Tragedy and Hope—available in larger libraries and also on the Internet as a pdf-file for free download, Quigley engaged in history verging on journalism. In the early sections, dealing with the period which happens to have been the time in which the American Empire was expanding outside of North America—the decades around 1900, Quigley claimed there to be three groups of elite power-holders, the bankers and the politicians and the monopolistic capitalists. In terms of the American turn to empire, three good examples are JP Morgan, William Howard Taft, and John D Rockefeller. (By `bankers’, Quigley meant not the mortgage officers at old-fashioned local banks; he meant investment or merchant bankers and the closely allied central bankers. And note that Rockefeller’s heirs were bankers, the result of a transition he began by moving from Cleveland to New York City where he began to control his largely industrial empire through banks.)

I don’t think Quigley’s scheme works for the world after 1950 or so and I think the power-holder groups were under transformative stresses for a couple decades or so before the breakdown. Yet, it is the only analysis of this sort I find fully convincing…

What did Tate and the other Agrarians or decentralists think of the idea of government coming to our rescue by regulating the corporations and bringing them under control? Nader tells us:

Nor did they believe that a federal government with sufficient political authority to modestly tame the plutocracy and what they called “monopoly capitalism” could work because its struggle would end either in surrender or with the replacing of one set of autocrats with another. As Shapiro wrote in the foreword, “while the plutocrats wanted to shift control over property to themselves, the Marxists wanted to shift this control to government bureaucrats. Liberty would be sacrificed in either case. Only the restoration of the widespread ownership of property, Tate said, could `create a decent society in terms of American history.’”

Although the decentralists were dismissed by their critics as being impractical, as fighting against the inevitable wave of ever-larger industrial and financial companies empowered by modern technology, their views have a remarkable contemporary resonance given today’s globalized gigantism, absentee control, and intricate corporate statism, which are undermining both economies and workers.

I think we can see the issue more clearly if we define it as did Quigley, realizing that few—if any—are the times in history when one group of power-holders was in absolute control. In my essay I referenced and quoted from above, I expressed doubt that we have any good understanding of the current power-elite comparable to Quigley’s proposal that the American power-elites fell (from some time in the late 1800s to about 1930) into the three groups: investment bankers, monopoly capitalists, and politicians. Yet, there must be some way of cutting across these ways of exploiting others to find the ties that bind all the investment bankers and monopoly capitalists and politicians who summered together at Newport back in the good ol’ days. There are more dimensions to this problem than we account for with our modern theories of economics and politics and society in general; more than we can account for with our the theories of human nature underlying so many theories and practical studies in the departments of our academic institutions. Hold this thought in suspense for a few paragraphs.

Those groups, investment bankers and monopoly capitalists and politicians, remain powerful but now there is some serious confusion caused partly by the underground, `top-secret’, nature of some of the power-elite families, a nature which allowed them to move into the OSS/CIA and into various groups that carried out criminal conspiracies on a regular basis, as a `normal’ means of exercising power rather than as a readily-deployed but extraordinary means. Even J P Morgan who conspired so successfully to create the Federal Reserve Bank system generally worked by more normal means of bribes and intimidation. (For those who always doubt the existence of criminal conspiracies on the part of powerful figures in the United States—see the article posted at the website of the Federal Reserve Bank, A Return to Jekyll Island: The Origins, History, and Future of the Federal Reserve and remember this article is posted by one of the organizations created by a Morgan-selected group which gathered, secretly after being transported from New York City in a sealed train-car with blackened windows, to write legislation and propose central banks which would restructure the American economy. The article is right though that the meeting was only part of the process but fails to note that some historians think Morgan deliberately aggravated the panic and near-collapse of the American economy in 1907 at least partly because of the increasing influence of local and regional banks. I think it likely that Morgan and the other founders of the Federal Reserve Bank system were helping his fellow Americans the way that George W Bush helped the peoples of Iraq.)

Some of the agencies of the modern world might serve the groups of power-elites and some might have ascended to some sort of gathering of, say, `deep-state’ criminals embedded inside the most `respectable’ of modern governments. There are, of course, the military-industrial complex and the national security complex. Both of those complexes overlap each other greatly and also overlap the complexes run by investment bankers, monopoly capitalists, and politicians. But how do they really operate and what do the overlaps mean? And—which are servant agencies and which are actually gatherings of powerful men who have a role in calling the shots? I don’t know and we don’t seem to have a Quigley to propose a plausible structure to the exercise of power in the modern world.

In my essay, Radical Individualism and the Misunderstanding of Modern History, I had claimed there to be a blindness of sorts on the part of modern historians and I specifically discussed Barbara Tuchman’s March of Folly as a clear example. In the chapter on a string of Renaissance popes, some morally irresponsible in their duties as popes and some downright morally degenerate, she clearly noted the way in which family duties and family ties overrode their duties and ties to the Catholic Church. The intelligent or generally competent men were as busy as the nitwits in securing or increasing family wealth and power while the problems festered which led to Luther’s revolt and the damaging of the unity of Christian Europe. In the earlier chapter on Vietnam, all was presented in terms of institutional and individual failures. Blood-ties and their proxies had disappeared and the freestanding individuals were organizing themselves into groups of the sort studied in courses in the business school and political science department. A large book devoted to the American problems in Vietnam, The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstram didn’t have this problem; Halberstram saw clearly that the mistakes we made in Vietnam and in other regions of the world at the time were due to the beliefs and behaviors and self-images of the power-elite partially describable as blue-bloods and the technocrats recruited into the worldview of that power-elite. But even Halberstram didn’t “follow the money” as the modern simplification would have it. He noted class biases but not class profit-seeking.

On the whole, mainstream histories and mainstream news-media seem to assume that we defeated Karl Marx by causing the disappearance of classes and families and religious communities as he knew them and replacing those communities by metrosexual and multicultural clubs of various sorts, some to do charitable work and some to organize trips to the baseball games and some to sing hymns. And meanwhile, there are others who are building highways to take us to the malls and office complexes, military bases in central Asia to protect us, government buildings to provide good working environments for the politicians we elect from small lists—also provided by those kind and largely invisible men and women—as well as the various professional murderers and instigators of revolution and those who educate our children and provide us with health-care and so on. We have a full-blown welfare, warfare state with some profiting and many accepting, but with increasing doubts, the claim that the United States is a country of patriotic, freestanding individuals. Send your sons, and now daughters (the horror increases), to fight wars in all those oil-rich countries where the evil inhabitants hate us for our freedoms. Public policy is made by those processes described in your freshman political science course rather than the conspiratorial way of past centuries or those benighted countries such as Iran and Russia and China. Gangsters are perhaps intermingled with politicians and industrialists and bankers in Turkey but never the United States or other advanced countries where people know how to dress and talk like real human beings.

In an earlier essay, We’re All Barbarian Children on This Bus, also written in response to Tuchman’s The March of Folly, I discussed some of the foundational ideas and facts which argue rather strongly against understandings of human nature, and human history, in terms of freestanding individuals who only form communities by voluntary contract.

There are two major errors in the mainstream view of human nature:

  • Human nature has both individual and communal `components’.
  • We are tied to family lines by emotions and feelings at the deepest levels of our bodies, thoughts and acts as well but not quite as obviously.

These two factors overlap. Our first communities, the primary part of our communal natures, come from our ties to family lines, though we can be fooled, for good and bad, into treating some as being more or less related to us than they really are. We can, in fact, use our minds to `fool’ ourselves by way of proxy relationships and, thus, form ever more complex and larger communities, culminating in that most complete and perfect of all human communities—the Body of Christ.

For more discussion and a proposed framework for understanding our individual and communal human beings, download my book: A More Exact Understanding of Human Being.

So… Who owns America? Easy. The rich people, some of whom are parts of multi-generational streams of power and wealth, families and classes, and some of whom are flashes in the pan. Few there are among historians and amateur seekers of historical answers who consider families when they analyze the major events of modern times, not even those who understand the importance of families in past ages. We know how important family was for the `true’ Caesars (actually Julius Caesar was a member of the gens or family Julia, Augustus Caesar and his descendants were members of the plebeian family of Octavii though Augustus was adopted by Julius Caesar, his maternal great-uncle, into the gens Julia), for the Merovingian and Carolingian royal families, the family (loosely defined) of Mohamed and other Islamic ruling families, the large number of Chinese dynastic families, the de Medicis, the Rothschilds of Europe and the Sasoons of Asia, the descendants of Napoleon, the Morgans and other banking and robber baron families from before World War II, and others. Some of these families destroyed themselves; some great warrior families seem to have carried a brutal form of bipolar disease leading to homicidal rages, sometimes directed against their own families. Genes carry dangerous traits from one generation to the next as well as neutral or advantageous traits, but even self-destructive families might hold wealth and exercise power for a number of years.

We should expand our understanding from families to classes which are formed by acknowledgment of even distant blood-relationship or by proxy relationships which come from living together intensely, perhaps starting early at private resident schools. By such means, sibling-like friendships and loyalties are forged as well as possible marriages to the sibling of a close friend. Then we can conjecture the United States is owned by families in a way not so different from the situation a century ago described in Empire and the succeeding novels in Gore Vidal’s American Empire series—the earlier volumes partially describe how we got to that point. In any case, there were the Morgans and the Rockefellers and the Paynes and the Whitneys—the latter two families being perhaps the most powerful because of their intermarriages into other great families. Common folk, such as the children of John Hay, would marry into those great families—some of which families were well-known because of flamboyant individuals and some were quiet and hardly known to be so powerful and wealthy. I would suggest the blood-ties and proxy blood-ties to have been more important than the tools of corporations or central-banks. Tools can be invented, but human nature is what it is, for the founders of secretive dynasties or the founders of open Christian communities.

The rich who hold on to their wealth and power over generations are different from the rest of us because they don’t believe the crap common American folk do about this freestanding individual business. John D Rockefeller may have seemed to play that part of a rugged individualist but he was a rugged dynasty-founder and not a man who placed any `idealistic’ interests ahead of those of his children nor did he raise his sons and daughters to be different in that regard. John D Rockefeller would have shaken his head over those many middle-class parents who brag openly about planning to spend all their money before they die because their children are doing well enough. Americans of Jewish or Chinese descent seem to act differently—somehow the disease of individual selfishness and biologically implausible denial of blood-ties infects mostly Americans of European Christian descent. This is the disease we must fight because it makes us ready and willing victims of those centralized powers which, once in place, are to be rightly feared. It also makes it impossible for us to form stable and greater communities which build upon our biological natures rather than building self-destructive communities of the modern `liberal’ sort which deny our biological natures or even fight against them.

You cannot build good communities as if human beings were bloodless sorts of creatures who submit themselves to roles imagined by those sorts of abstract thinkers who would impose nice, neat schemas which look so good in the organization charts which can be formatted on nearly any computer or many smart-phones, nor can you properly understand human communities now or in past generations by assuming human beings to be what they clearly are not. Whether used for analysis or to reshape existing human communities, the tools of modern management sciences are inadequate and distorting. And so it is that our minds are deformed. After all, tools shape the thoughts of their users to some extent and can greatly shape the thoughts of weak or poorly developed minds and this is one major reason for the likely impending collapse of the great families of the United States and Europe—they’ve come to depend upon tools which deform human nature and sap the strength and energy of the West. Likely it is that some members of secretive dynasties actually do believe in the myths of freestanding individuals and maybe even share the bloodthirsty jingoism nearly as common among American youth as the cynicism so well-founded but so destructively dispiriting. Likely it also is that some of those semi-underground families are struggling to protect their children from these factually and morally wrong ideas so well-accepted in our days.

How do we get to an understanding which can help us to build a better country? After mostly talking about concrete matters, such as blood-ties, I’ll now claim we need good-quality abstract thought (see The Need for Abstractions in Moral Self-understanding). Good abstract thought isn’t drawn from some Neo-Platonic realm by acts of mental magic; good abstract thought draws first upon reality and then can subjected to various processes which produce understandings of a wide variety of phenomena and entities in this concrete world of things. Good abstract thought, whether it deals with possible relationships between entities of a human type or with the far more abstract relationships between formal and mathematically describable entities (group theory and the like), can then be applied to understandings of history or of nuclear particles, as appropriate. I suspect there to be a very high layer of abstract thought where relationships of the objects physicists study and the entities historians study will be the same but I know we are a long ways from being able to comfortably and sanely produce a description of such a layer of abstract thought. To impose improper and inadequate categories upon our efforts to understand human history and human communal relationships—including those of economics and politics—is to guarantee at best a shallow understanding which falls apart with the slightest change of circumstances. It is to deal with images from a hall of distorted mirrors as if they were accurate images of the flesh-and-blood human beings walking through that hall.

We need first to accept reality, to describe human beings as they are and then to try to understand the sorts of communities they have formed and can form. This doesn’t mean I deny that human political communities have their own natures nor that I deny that human beings are changed by their relationships to various sorts of human communities as they develop to ever greater levels of richness and complexity. Quite the contrary, we are creatures of complex minds and complex feelings and complex behaviors and those are formed by processes of acts-of-being, of shaping, which are the result of back-and-forth movements between abstract relationships and the concrete entities and relationships they create or shape. In our proper understanding of this formation of human beings, we encapsulate in our minds the reality of movements and changes in created being. I do deny that `groups’ of human beings which reproduce successfully will act as if they are radical individuals in a capitalist-democracy or a Marxist society or any other society shaped to wrongful understandings of human nature. We remain killer apes when we gather to try to form secure societies and we remain sex-crazed when we try to bring those societies to a state of moral order. See the essay, Repeat After Me: The Church Has Accepted Evolution and Our Ancestors Were Sex-Crazed, Killer Apes, which begins with:

I distort for the sake of modern men who have trouble focusing upon reality. Apes are our cousins, not our ancestors; the terms used for the common ancestors of men and ape seem to change every few years or so. And those ancestors were only killers part of the time, perhaps less often than modern Americans would desire for themselves—see my essay, Quietly Charitable or Quietly Murderous But Always Quietly American. The sex-crazed business is perhaps less of an exaggeration for us and for our ancestors.

We should try to nurture societies proper to our natures in the way that good parents help to nurture a child according to its own talents and inclinations so that he becomes a healthy adult and not a twisted creature superficially corresponding to some false dreams of the not-so-good parents.

We remain creatures who have certain traits even while subjected to civilizing processes just because those are the traits which allow for survival and reproduction in this world so well-described by Darwin and his successors. We carry these traits because they allowed our ancestors to survive and reproduce successfully and these traits include some which lead us to accept, even to strongly desire, the bonds and dependencies of complex human social life. It is that total human creature—individual and communal—who forms polities and economies, who is recorded in the pages of history. And he is a creature who can be deformed in the short-term so that these desires are turned to the advantage of the Nazi Party or the Comintern or an imperialistic free-market, but as someone once said (I think Eric Voegelin): the problem with human materiel is that it refuses to be treated as materiel. In most cases and at least eventually. Those groups of human beings who subject themselves to the demands of abstract forms of human polity or economy or religion not true to empirical reality will disappear. In terms used by some: their genes will disappear from the human gene pool—an oversimplification and seen as such by those who realize the gene pools are defined in terms of family-lines and successful family-lines can include individuals who act in biologically implausible ways.

Put that total human creature into a society with political systems and economic systems, educational systems and even church `systems’ (the horror of it all), which are the result of willful misunderstandings of human nature or idealistic efforts to impose dreams upon mankind and you’ll have a society and a population doomed to collapse and perhaps disappearance. In terms of a civilization once reaching out toward the farthest regions of Earth: you’ll have a dysfunctional West in which the core populations are so demoralized as to be unconcerned with reproducing and building up families and concrete communities and greatly concerned with various fads of the current crop of those with schemas but without much in the way of minds.

In the long run, the West has doomed itself by adoption of the centralized forms of organization spotlighted by Tate and his associates and by Nader. We can’t even understand our own selves at the most basic and concrete levels because we’ve been trained to view ourselves as freestanding individuals and our most important communities as voluntary associations culminating in the Hobbesian centralized state which allegedly makes possible a large-scale community of freestanding individuals while protecting them from each other. Or something like that.

We forget our human communal natures as readily as we forget our ties to our kin and to those we have come to accept as if kin, both of these characteristics being regulated by specific and now identified brain structures and hormonal flows. If we are to have expanded ideas and feelings and habits of brotherhood, we have to expand from our true flesh-and-blood selves but not by forming some ideally imagined communities pretending we’re something other than sex-crazed, killer apes—again, see Repeat After Me: The Church Has Accepted Evolution and Our Ancestors Were Sex-Crazed, Killer Apes. We must enrich and complexify our individual and communal natures, especially in those aspects we label as `moral’, but we also can’t forget the basic structures of our brain and the complex behaviors which lead us to strong ties with kin and to generally form human communities.

The West is collapsing, largely because of the corruption of the tremendously powerful United States; we Americans, other than the private organizations of the dynastic families and the communities of some family-centered ethnic groups, have tried to organize our various political and economic communities in ways that make no sense given the biological creature called man. We Americans never accepted the reality of a class forming of wealthy and powerful families and we in the middle-class and working-class taught ourselves that we are individuals forming voluntary associations such as that of the entire nation of the United States viewed as a political community of freestanding individuals born under some sort of strong duty to this community which is bound by voluntary ties despite the fact we are tied in at birth and… Don’t ask, just be a freestanding American individual ready to die at the command of the government which keeps secret it’s actions and justifications for those actions, a government poorly understood by way of the false abstractions of modern political science and economics.

The wealthy and powerful families serve their own needs and we also serve them in strange ways because we convince ourselves that there are no elites who profit from wars or from the construction of, say, the Federal Reserve Banking system. Meanwhile, most Americans are busily acting the part of freestanding, selfish individuals and we dissolve our families and our other “little platoons” as we pursue our selfish goals. (For the meaning of “little platoons”, see the quote from Edmund Burke.)

The end result of Americans seeking to be what men can never be is a nation of deformed human beings, deformed in our individual and communal natures. We Americans are a mixed population of submissive sheep and exploitive wolves in shepherd’s clothing. This general situation is far more important than the fact that the exploiters use certain specific forms of economic organization (corporations or central banks) or political organization (the political machines controlled by two national committees of men and women but imagined to be describable as `democracy’). We can’t just fight corporations or banks or the national committees of the Republican and Democratic parties—we play into their hand when we accept their `game’ as real. We have to start working toward better ways of forming communities and we need to start by paying greater respect to and nurturing our concrete communities of families and neighborhoods and churches or synagogues. I think this was what Tate and the agrarians had in mind based upon their understanding of their own concrete communities in the South.

Maybe the Catholic Church is Part of Creation?

Posted May 13th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Body of Christ, civilization

The Body of Christ is the entirety of human being, the entirety of a community including both individuals and lesser communities which is Christian civilization, I also claim the Catholic Church to be the central organ of the Body of Christ, not the whole ball of wax. To all appearances, the various Christian churches participate to various extents in this organ, but I’ll not go into any detailed speculations here on the specific natures of the Orthodox churches, the various Protestant churches, and those few which don’t fit into those standard categories.

Why would we think the Catholic Church came into existence in some sort of complete and mature state if the Body of Christ, the fullness of Christian community, is evolving and developing in a complex and seemingly chaotic manner? Why would we think the Catholic Church came into existence in some sort of complete and mature state if Jesus Christ Himself grew and developed in His human nature?

As I’ve pointed out again and again, as an echo to plenty of thinkers over recent centuries and a few from earlier centuries: we live in a world of evolutionary and developmental processes. All creatures in this world grow and develop, most certain is this true of complex human communities of all sorts.

Jesus of Nazareth, the human nature of the Son of God, was born a human baby, one who would grow and mature by way of specific responses to the world around Him. The Church was also born at an early stage of maturity, far from Her adult state, and has gone through various phases more distinct than the changes human beings go through from infancy to the states of toddler, child, adolescent, and so on. The Bible tells us the Church was granted certain, mostly limited, powers but powers which might well expand with Her knowledge and understanding of Creation, that very peculiar group of manifestations of divine thoughts. The Church has to change and mature in various ways just to Herself discover or learn from explorers the deeper and richer understandings of created being. History is consistent with these claims I’m making: the Catholic Church (and all Her separated children and brethren) grows and develops mostly in the way of other human communities.

History tells us the Church has changed, has developed in various ways, just as history told us through John Henry Newman and others that Christian doctrine has developed over the centuries. Christian doctrine in its revealed core content hasn’t changed but the totality of doctrine has been enriched and complexified. Even the core doctrines have changed in the way of understanding just as a man’s understanding of moral principles change, are enriched and completed, as he grows toward adulthood and—fallible creatures that we are—can often need more enrichment and completion even after that.

Yet, there are ever those who wish to freeze the Church, prevent Her growing and maturing, so that She be some sort of image they idealize as the true Church. One particular distortion is the exaggeration of the infallibility of the Church and the far lesser infallibility of individual popes. As I implied above, the Church’s developed faculties for finding or even seeing new truths is rarely up to the task when the world around Her changes in fundamental ways, perhaps because human beings have developed new ways of living or perhaps because human beings have discovered something unanticipated in the modern world. Sometimes the first possibility was forced upon Christians as when the Roman Empire fell and a long, slow process of developing Western Civilization began; sometimes it happened as a result of more open-minded and enthusiastic responses to new opportunities as has happened in the modern world with the freeing of so many from lives limited in ways not good. We’ve also seen changes come upon our world in recent centuries because of discoveries about the earth in regions formerly largely unreachable from Europe and because of discoveries about the nature of time and space and matter and also about human origins.

The Church hasn’t responded well to the world as it shows itself richer and more complex with each passing year Sometimes the world and, indeed, all of Creation seems to be changing with each passing day, in the reality of human communities or in improved human perception and conception of created being in its fundamental aspects or sometimes in aspects of complex, higher-order non-human entities.

Maybe the Church had, and has, no power to declare herself infallible in a more general sense? That is, maybe there is much that the Church and the clergy and other servants of the Church must learn by proper responses to God’s Creation? The Church moves through spacetime in this universe, responding well or not so well to the entirety of Creation, or perhaps trying to not respond at all. All the while, the Church and other human communities and individual human beings are changing as is our understanding of Creation.

My view of the Church is far from being entirely new, as I implied by my reference to Newman’s historical works on the development of doctrine. In a positive way, I can pull up one of my favorite quotes: The truth emerges in time through a communal process [Carroll Quigley]. I would suggest the more positive statement leads us to believe that the man is already showing in the child, but also leads us to realize the process isn’t so predetermined as we might think. That is, the Church will mature into certain powers as does a human being, but there is still much of great importance that is to be determined, some of which might well be determined by human choice. More importantly for now, the 6 year-old has not the powers of understanding that the 12 year-old has and both are short of those and other powers of their 55 year-old self.

The pope or any bishop or, indeed, any Christian leader who seems to have any legitimate authority should be regarded as historical characters, as men and women playing roles in a complex story being told by God. The Church, as I’ve said above, should be seen in the same light as the entirety of the Body of Christ, Christian civilization: as an entity yet being formed. We can only struggle to understand what emerges to view or to sometime anticipate the glorious reality of the Body of Christ and its central organ the Church when the maturing is complete, when the Body of Christ is perfect and complete.

We Westerners (and probably most modern peoples) of the early 21st century are out of sorts with reality. We can’t make any progress in solving our various problems nor can we recognize opportunities. Our institutions, being rigid and bureaucratic after generations of successful growth and then irrational growth, are in worse shape than we are as individuals. Our communities in general are in bad shape—and that includes the Catholic Church and other Christian churches and probably nearly all major religious communities.

We got into this sort of condition by not responding to reality, to the thoughts of God manifested in His Creation. Hubris set in as it always does to some extent in temporally successful peoples. We believed our own worldly fables, including those told by Catholics and other Christians. And we had become dependent upon institutions, some being true communities at one time, which had grown rigid and bureaucratic. Many of our institutions are self-serving and no longer do their job.

We Christians know the Church will survive, and likely many of Her separated children as well. We don’t know what She will look like, though She will remain an organ or member of a Christian Civilization embodying and allowing something like the fullness of good human life. Since we don’t know what the Church Herself will be in a generation or more then we also don’t know what role the Pope will take on nor the role that God wishes the Pope to take on, which often seems to have differed from the role preferred by popes of a given age.

The Church isn’t some sort of eternal neo-Platonic entity set into this world of evolution and development nor is the Pope the only human being (other than Jesus of Nazareth) with a fully predetermined role. The Catholic Church and all Her separated brethren and also the People of Israel and other peoples are living a story, a series of events which could be labeled random when we look out the front window or a mixture of random and factual when we look into the (sometimes very distorted) rearview mirror.