Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Where the Road to Utopia Leads

 

[Lenin’s] response, formalized soon after [his return from exile] was that the Bolsheviks would support the Provisional Government “as a noose supports a dying criminal.”

The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, by John Strickland

NB: As you read this, consider inserting today’s west, especially the United States, in the story – replacing what the Russian communists would do with what is happening today in America.  I know it is a bit of a tired comparison, but it comes out well in this story – the attempt at creating utopia via creation of a new man.

After two years of war, the Russian government was brought to its knees.  Setback after setback was ascribed to the Russian army, with a speech in the Duma concluding with the rhetorical question: “Is this stupidity, or is this treason?”

On February 28, 1917, Tsar Nicolas II would abdicate the throne.  A Provisional Government was established, but it had no credibility; Russia must continue fighting in the war!  This is not what the people wanted to hear.  In any case, soon enough other parties would claw for power.

In April, Lenin would return.  By October, with the help of Trotsky and Stalin, he would arrange the arrest of those in government.  All power had passed into the hands of the soviets – the councils.  In reality, power passed to Lenin and his supporters.  When objections to this were raised, Trotsky would shout them down – you have played your role, get out, you worthless individuals.

Utopia was promised, with the complete dismissal, even attempted erasure, of Christianity.  The Russian Revolution brought this long sweep of history to its climax:

It was the outcome of an age in which indignation, once regulated by humility and subjected to sacrificial love, became completely untethered to any greater virtues.

Per Marx, Christianity was an instrument of oppression.  As long as religion existed in society, it was a sign that class oppression existed.  For this reason, the Orthodox were seen as enemies just as the bourgeoisie were seen as enemies.

Numerous martyrdoms are recounted by Strickland.  Thousands of clergy and an uncountable number of laity were put to death.  One story stands out, that of Grand Duchess Elizabeth.  Born in Germany, she was the daughter of a Lutheran prince.  She would marry into the Russian royal family, and though it was not required, she converted to Orthodoxy. 

In 1905, her husband was killed in the uprisings of that year.  Yet, she visited the killer in jail, imploring him to repent.  Elizabeth would thereafter give away much of her wealth and build a monastery in which she would spend the rest of her life, where she would spend her time in prayer and care for the poor. 

1n 1918, the Communists came for her.  Besides her royal ties and German ancestry, her compassion for the poor was seen as a challenge to the communists’ goals.  Sent east, past the Ural Mountains, she, along with others, was cast down an abandoned mineshaft.  When many survived the fall, a hand grenade was dropped to the bottom, ending all cries.

Supposedly fought for the benefit of the common man, these Soviet leaders didn’t care at all about individual common men.  They spoke in the abstract of the proletariat, but would walk past them without note, or would lump them together with the bourgeoisie if they happened to disagree with Lenin in the slightest.

Friday, February 2, 2024

An Enemy of Liberty

 

Finally, after almost four months of genocidal behavior by the state of Israel and genocidal cheerleading by Walter Block, there is a response from someone meaningful in Block’s intellectual orbit and not just from a random libertarian affiliate of Block’s or a random bug like me:

An Open Letter to Walter E. Block, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Block, to his credit, has published countless articles that pass muster by libertarian standards and there are likely many more to come…

Block has done this, no doubt.  He will remind anyone who will listen about how much he has published.  He will often write of someone with whom he has a disagreement, “we agree on perhaps 95% of all topics,” when writing of economics or the application of the non-aggression principle.

This is true for me as well: I agree with Block on all of the simple things: minimum wage, rent control, etc.  It is the important things – those things that contribute to a peaceful life that approaches and maintains liberty – where I find him an enemy of humanity and peace.  And his call for genocide is certainly one of these things.

Hoppe makes a rational, point-by-point, critique of Block’s claim that the Jews – as a group – had the right consistent with the non-aggression principle and Lockean property notions to displace Palestinians from their homes and land in 1948.  It is a topic that I covered six years ago, here.

Block’s argument hinges on, among other things, DNA and cultural continuity – neither passing muster from a libertarian viewpoint, and either opening the door for a war all against all – as we all have DNA and cultural characteristics from both past victims and past perpetrators.

On the DNA point, Hoppe makes an interesting comment:

(Interestingly, it appears that the closest genetic similarity to ancient Jews could be found among indigenous Christian Palestinians.)

Coincidentally, just a few days ago, Ron Unz wrote on exactly this point, within an article that covers extensively the DNA story of those who today are identified as Jews:

The tremendous historical irony that the current Palestinians—now suffering horrifying massacres in Gaza—are almost certainly the closest lineal descendants of the Biblical Israelites was highlighted by Sand and had been similarly emphasized by Beaty in his 1951 book.

As to the cultural continuity, I won’t – nor am I qualified to – go into much detail about the various meaningful changes in Hebrew / Jewish cultural practices through history.  It is clear that the Hebrew religious traditions at the time of Moses and Joshua and David were quite different than the traditions of Second Temple Judaism which are also quite different than the traditions that developed in the centuries after Christ.  (I touch on this second change here.)

Returning to Hoppe, he then moves on to the editorial co-written by Block about four months ago, which I had written on when I became aware of it. 

…it is this screed of his, then, that reveals Block as an unhinged, bloodthirsty monster, rather than a libertarian committed to the non-aggression-principle…

Yes, that’s how I felt about it at the time.  The evidence since then has only proven out what any thinking person knew was to come.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

When Lying is a Virtue*

*Virtue as those in the cocktail circuit see it

Proverbs 17: 7 Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.

We are told by our “princes” to believe all of the following if we are to be considered virtuous:

·         We are not committing genocide.

·         This is the most moral army in the world.

·         Palestinians are animals.

·         We care about free speech.

·         The laptop is a hoax.

·         The election was the fairest in history.

·         They tried to overthrow the government.

·         The election was stolen by the Russians.

·         Two weeks to flatten the curve.

·         Masks.

·         Six feet.

·         Safe and effective.

·         Take the shot and stop the spread.

·         You’re killing grandma.

·         A rules-based order.

·         Ukraine is fighting for democracy.

·         Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Union.

·         Climate change will end the world in [insert new timeframe here].

·         Electric vehicles reduce carbon emissions.

·         A boy can be a girl.

·         A girl can be a boy.

And this is just a sampling from the last 5 years or so.

Conclusion

John 8: 44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

To avoid confusion, that was Jesus talking.  You will never see that verse in one of those “He Gets Us” commercials.

Epilogue

Revelation 12: 7-9 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.  And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Judgement…and Suicide

 

The Christmas Truce of 1914 was a judgement upon a civilization with a supporting culture that no longer directed its members toward the heavenly transformation of the world.  But as soon as it was delivered, post-Christian Christendom’s utopian project revived.  On the day following, the thundering of cannon and crackling of machine guns quickly drowned out the memory of paradise.

The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, by John Strickland

Before getting to this part of Stickland’s work, a couple of thoughts come to mind regarding this truce and Strickland’s observation: first, that the men fighting the war on opposite sides had much more in common with each other than they did with those who were ordering them to fight.  Perhaps there was still something of Christendom within them.

Second, Stickland paints a picture of the common man grasping for a piece of paradise, of heavenly transformation.  The men may not have thought about it that way, but for a short time they had community – they played football against each other, they commemorated mass with each other. 

Today, once again we see it is the common man searching for transcendent meaning in an otherwise meaningless West, while his “betters” are doing their best, just as they did in the Great War, to strip the common man of all meaning.

Stickland opens this chapter with an examination of the move toward nationalism following the revolutionary period of 1848.  It wasn’t like Christendom was not divided previously into tribes – Europe for countless centuries was divided into almost countless tribal groups.  However, the uniting force of Europe was Christendom, overriding or sitting above the tribal divisions.

This uniting force is visible in every “old town” in western Europe.  For centuries, it was the church or cathedral building that marked the center of the village or town, holding the premier spot in the town square, where people would gather for the market or for community.

No longer.  The uniting force went from Christendom to nationalism.  France had its Arc de Triomphe, commemorating the fallen soldiers of the Napoleonic wars, and the Eiffel Tower which marked the centennial of the Storming of the Bastille.  England had Admiral Nelson’s Trafalgar Square, Crystal Palace, and, of course, its Parliament Building.

The United States was a key player here as well, with monuments to national pride, with The Apotheosis of Washington painted into the interior of the Capitol dome – a long way from the Hagia Sophia, with Christ Pantocrator.

Out of the revolutions of 1848, a new Germany would arise, the time marked by Otto von Bismark.  He would become chancellor of Prussia under King Wilhelm I in the later part of the nineteenth century, and would advocate for “blood and iron” – a combination of nationalism and militarism.  By 1871 and victory over France, a new, united Germany would be formed, held under Prussian monarchy. 

Another aside: in this victory over France, France was forced to cede the territory of Alsace-Lorraine.  This territory had a history of dispute stretching back over one thousand years.  Charlemagne’s empire did not last united for long.  By the time of his grandsons, it was divided into three parts – one for each grandson; basically, what is now France to the west, what is now Germany to the east, and right in the middle – Alsace-Lorraine…Middle Francia.  The two brothers, east and west, would fight to defeat Lothar, the third brother who was king over this middle territory.  How many times has this land changed hands since….

Friday, January 19, 2024

The Seeds of Revolutionary Destruction

 

But it was in Russia, the bastion of the old Christendom, where socialists would find conditions most favorable for resuming the liberating and violent march of progress.

The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, by John Strickland

I have recently purchased part four of Stickland’s four-part examination of the rise and fall of Western Christendom, and when preparing to begin writing on this book I discovered I did not complete my work on volume three.  So, contrary to my uninformed plans, I am going back to this prior volume.

The time is the mid-nineteenth century; the place, as you see, is Russia.  The Russian Empire was the first to defeat Napoleon; further, it did not succumb to the various revolutionary subversions of 1848.  Grounded, as it remained, in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, it had a stability and unity that began coming apart in the West since at least the Enlightenment, if not the Renaissance.

This united culture would begin to be penetrated by the secular humanism of the West.  Strickland introduces two figures, each representing a different side in the developing cultural divide, each living and dying in the first half of the nineteenth century. 

First is Alexander Pushkin.  As a child, he learned French before he learned Russian; he would write plays in the style of Voltaire; he would advocate for a westernized reform of the Russian language, as against those who held ties to the old Church Slavonic.

Exiled to the Caucasus for praising liberalism, he would conduct affairs with married women, declare himself an avowed atheist, and hold a complete disdain for the Christianity that surrounded him.  He would write blasphemies against the Eucharist, the Resurrection, and the Virgin Mary.  He would somewhat modify his views once he was allowed a return to Petersburg.

Pushkin would die as a result of a duel.  This time, instead of Pushkin dueling the husband of a woman with which Pushkin was conducting an affair, it was the other way around.  While both men were wounded, Pushkin’s wound at the hands of his lover’s husband proved fatal.  He was thirty-seven years old.

The second figure was a monk, St. Seraphim of Sarov.  As should be obvious, he was basically the opposite of Pushkin.  He was a man whose life was centered on traditional Christianity.  He spent his time in the Scriptures, supplemented by reading early Church Fathers.  Progress for him meant a spiritual transformation – call it sanctification.

Noting the benighted rather than truly enlightened character of secular humanism, Seraphim insists that humanity can find its proper fulfilment only through “the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.”

Where Pushkin’s life ended via an act of violence provoked by adultery, Seraphim’s life would end kneeling before an icon of the Mother of God.

Likely neither man knew of the other’s existence, but these two men marked the roots of the two trees that would come to tear Russian society apart.

There were others, the “intelligentsia.”  Educated regarding their civilization, and critical of the forces that brought it about.  Their solutions were maximalist; universal if you will.  Russia was decried as an ecclesiastically isolated and a cultural onlooker to the events unfolding elsewhere in the world. 

Out of this would come two groups – the Westernizers and the Slavophiles.  Both were radically critical of the status quo.  Tsar Nicholas I would react with what he called official nationality, made up of Orthodoxy, autocracy, and Russian nationality.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Avoiding the Obvious

Many people are seeing and recognizing that society is falling apart.  Many who once would have proudly claimed to be classical liberals are recognizing that something went amiss with their project, and a few, very few, of these are admitting that the derailment was built in to the system.

Jordan Peterson is one of these, sort of (well, unless you are Palestinian).  He recently held his first ARC conference.  Despite the fact that he recognizes the current system is falling apart, and despite the fact that he has done more exploring of Biblical and Christian thoughts and writings than most who came out of his classical liberal pond, the main points in the conference were: free markets, individualism, Lockean property rights, etc. 

In other words, classical liberalism.  You know, the thing that failed – in fact, the thing that opened the door to where we sit today.

Christopher Rufo has written a piece: The New Right Activism.  In it, he rightly focusses on both language and institutions.  Yet he also embraces some form of classical liberalism:

We don’t need to abandon the principles of natural right, limited government, and individual liberty, but we need to make those principles meaningful in the world of today.

Fair enough.  But there are important questions to be answered.  On what basis?  What will provide the foundation?  Why will it be different this time?  What went wrong last time these were tried?  In other words, how will we make these both meaningful and sustainable?

Before coming to this…He makes important points: get this idea of neutrality out of your head.  There is no such thing as “neutral.”

Following a libertarian line, the conservative establishment has argued that government, state universities, and public schools should be “neutral” in their approach to political ideals.

The libertarian approach is neutral.  The property owner is free to decide the rules for his property, the behavior, values, etc.  Hans Hoppe cites Murray Rothbard, writing:

…logically one can be—and indeed most libertarians in fact are: hedonists, libertines, immoralists, militant enemies of religion in general and Christianity in particular—and still be consistent adherents of libertarian politics.

Every property owner will be something; what he will not be is neutral. 

Returning to Rufo, a second important point:

The popular slogan that “facts don’t care about your feelings” betrays similar problems.

Just the “facts” of the last few years demonstrates that feelings win out over facts.  Covid, George Floyd, mostly peaceful riots, 2020 election, January 6, Ukraine, Israel.  The list is endless, and in each case, the facts lost.  (And if the last four years – to say nothing of the last 125 years – doesn’t bury the Enlightenment idea of placing reason as the god in control, nothing will.)

Finally, the conservative establishment has appealed to the “free marketplace of ideas,” and the belief that the “invisible hand” will rectify cultural and political problems organically.

Ideas have to be defended, even more than property or person – it is because we value more foundational ideas that we came to embrace the idea that property and person must be defended.  In other words, there is a foundation on which rights in person and property are valid rights.

I agree with all of these observations – these shortcomings in thin-libertarian thought and non-libertarian conservative thought that have left the door open to the disaster in which we are living and the greater one that we are headed toward that will make today look like a day in paradise.

Rufo’s answer?

Saturday, December 30, 2023

My Ever-Shrinking Intersection

 

Given the ever-widening and fragmented divisions in a society gripped in revolution, I guess this should be no surprise….

Where to start this tale?  For simplicity, a return to 2008 and the financial crisis.  I found myself on the side of those who contacted congress to vote against TARP.  I remember Maria Bartiromo, then on CNBC, whining to the camera, “come on people…”, blaming the people for being against bailing out the institutions that, after the Federal Reserve and federal government, were most responsible for the financial calamity then realized.

After going down in defeat, the real arm-twisting began in congress, and the TARP bill was passed on the next vote – despite overwhelming public opposition (I recall 80% - 90% or more calls to congress against).

Even though by this time, September 2008, the media had done its job of burying the Ron Paul presidential campaign, it was clear that this uprising by voters reflected the economic views advocated by Ron Paul. 

Not that many of these same voters appreciated some of Paul’s other views at the time…. I was firmly against the earlier invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and it wasn’t clear that these notions were shared by those who also were against the TARP bailout.  Many booed Paul when he spoke of the adventurism of US foreign military action.

Shortly thereafter, Occupy Wall Street.  Whatever the origins of this events, I understood and sympathized with the objective.

What camp did this all place me in?  Certainly, my views were influenced by the non-aggression principle, but the divisions in society were not yet nearly as clear as they are today.

However, the signs were already there, even before TARP and Occupy Wall Street.  Barack Obama first verbalized the divide he worked so hard to thereafter create, when, in April 2008 on the campaign trail, he offered:

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

So, he dumped on the workers who had lost their blue-collar jobs, he dumped on gun owners, he dumped on those concerned about unchecked immigration, and he dumped on religious people (and clearly this meant Christians).  Obama’s statement perhaps most clearly describes the divide in America today – but not quite all of it.  And I was on the wrong side.

But, again, this didn’t really make clear my place – as war and military worship didn’t quite fit into my picture.  Many of those same people who were clinging to their guns and religion worshipped the military, went to churches on Sunday that sang military songs and paraded the US flag.  I wasn’t on their side.  But even the left was no longer protested the wars, not once Obama was warmonger-in-chief.

Picture my ever-shrinking intersection in the Venn Diagram of all US residents….

Basically, this divide remained stable but grew more secure through Obama’s term in office, now starting to offer clear evidence of the addition of the rainbow.  In the 2016 election campaign, Hilary Clinton labeled Trump supporters a basket of deplorables. 

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And, unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

Clinton completed the picture of the divide, to ensure inclusion of the rainbow.  Now, she noted that many of his supporters wanted a change, but this didn’t clean the stink of her larger comment – and she didn’t really want it cleaned up.