Effective Progress and Illusionary Victories

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This week, the Princeton University Administration agreed to the demands of some students (and the Masters themselves) to rename the faculty leaders of their Residential Colleges from “Master” to “Head of the College.” The demand was apparently predicated on the role of “Masters” during the time of Slavery and other eras, and found the title a type of Micro Aggression making the Colleges “Unsafe Places” for Students of Color.

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Is This Change Important?

In itself, the change of title is of virtually no importance. It does not change the administration of the Colleges. In fact, the very unimportance of this change is the issue here.

Let me state very clearly: I could not care less what Princeton calls the faculty leaders of their Colleges. I also abhor Slavery and oppression, and, as I will discuss later, believe it, and race hatred, to be a lasting stain in our Nation’s history, with repercussions even today. I want our youth to be strong and empowered, youth of all ethnicities.

That is why I must ring the alarm for my fellow Ivy Leaguers: You are being duped, young, well-meaning Princetonians, and College Masters! Changing the title from “Master” to “Head” has no real effect whatsoever. It has not lessened racism one whit. You are no safer in real world terms than you were a month ago.

Students at Yale have made the same demand, among a list of other demands. I read through Next Yale’s list, and while I cannot judge as I am not active on Campus now, some of them seemed aimed at making some real changes. Just not the cosmetic change about the title “Master.” (I also don’t think the Christakises should be removed from Silliman College.)

Those who have power and influence want you to keep thinking that you are making great strides, while a cosmetic change like this does not endanger their oppression of all of us to any degree.

Words

Don’t get me wrong. Words matter. It is a Rosicrucian principle that thoughts, and words, manifest reality. That’s why I use inclusive language for human beings and God. I am seeking to manifest an inclusive world where women and men are truly equal. I do not, however, seek to impose that on anyone else. I am lucky enough to work for the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC, where inclusive language is the policy for our publications, which I have the privilege to assist with.

It’s just that the word “Master” has many other uses than as a Slave Master. The other uses are actually the reason it was used for Slave Owners, not the other way around. Should we also eliminate the word “Owner,” and “Holder,” because these words were used during Slavery?

If we want to eliminate the word “Master,” we have a daunting task before us. Just off the top of my head I can think of these:

  • Master’s Degree
  • Lodge Master
  • Master Mason
  • Mastering a skill
  • Master as the original of any document, recording, or file
  • Master’s Cup
  • Mastery of Life
  • Master Bedroom
  • Master of a craft–Master Craftsman
  • Martial Arts Master
  • Master Bruce Wayne in Gotham
  • Master Cylinder
  • “Masters in this Hall,” a Christmas Carol

You will note that I omitted “Master” as one who has a dog. We all know dogs own us, not the other way around. After all, who picks up whose waste in little blue bags?

Now, in the field of computing, we are moving away from calling systems “Master/Slave” components. That’s fine with me, as the terminology was very recent and is easily replaced.

Yale, Harvard, Princeton and other Universities with Residential Colleges can certainly rename their leaders “Heads.” It does not matter to me. I just want to make it clear that it is essentially meaningless in actually ending race hatred.

We Do Lose Words

As an aside, occasionally, we do lose words for non-linguistic reasons.

One case in particular is the word “niggardly.” Its etymology is completely different from that of “the N word.” It is from Middle English nigardnygard ‎(miser), from nig ‎(niggardly person), possibly of Scandinavian origin (Old Norse hnǫggr ‎(miserly, stingy)). Possibly cognate to niggle ‎(miser). It is an adjective and adverb meaning parsimonious and stingy.

It was already fairly rare, and its closeness to “the N word” is just too much for me to want to use it freely when I can use “parsimonious” and “stingy” just as well.

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Another is “queer.” From the Scots, perhaps from Middle Low German (Brunswick dialectqueer ‎(oblique, off-center), related to German quer ‎(diagonally), from Old High German twerh ‎(oblique), from Proto-Germanic *þwerhaz, from Proto-Indo-European *terkʷ-‎(to turn, twist, wind). Related to thwart.

It was much more active in recent times, such as in the popular 1943 song:

If the words seem queer,
A jumble to the ear…

It then became a slur against LGBT people, and for anyone who did not follow the larger societies sexual norms.  It is fairly hard to use it in its original meaning nowadays.

Oppressed groups sometimes appropriate slurs for their own use. Some in the African-American community use “the N word” in music and in conversation, but those outside that community use the word at their peril.

The LGBT community has embraced “Queer” as a name, and it is sometimes incorporated into the initialism LGBTQ.

So sometimes history changes words.

The Evil That Is Slavery

Except for the evils of human trafficking and Sex Slaves, no one has been a Slave in the United States since the end of the Civil War. It is as tragedy that many of our citizens have ancestors who were Slaves.

Since parts of my family on the Irish-Scots-English side have been here since the 1600s, I imagine I may have slave owners in my lineage. I believe their doing so was horribly wrong. On my Hispanic side, where the family has been here since the 1500s, I may have ancestors who mistreated Native Americans. That was tragically wrong too if it happened. I make no excuses for any who did. I’m a sinner too (one who misses the mark).

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European-Americans have sometimes blundered into this divide when they innocently, but naïvely, quip to an African-American  who bears the same family name, “I guess we’re related.”

“Actually,” their interlocutor says, “it means your people owned my people.” That’s a conversation-stopper. With the exception of families of mixed ethnicities, that would be true, since African Slaves sometimes took the last names of their “Owners.”

It is not healthy, however, to dwell so intensely on the wrongs done to our ancestors, that we embrace their victimhood. Our goal has to be positive, forward thinking.

Lies We Have Been Told

We have a great deal of work to do, because even though Race-Slavery no longer exists, racism and inequality are all too real. And we are being lied to about it by our High School History Textbooks, many monuments and commemorations all over the country, politicians, and our popular culture.

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The work of Sociologist James W. Loewen, in many studies, including Lies My Teacher Told Me, and Lies Across America, is invaluable in revealing the truth. I urge everyone to read both, and his other works. He has the facts to back up what he says. With regard to race in the United States, here is a summary.

White Supremacy, that is, the supremacy of European (and in particular Northern European) descendants is a lasting and continuing theme in our Land, ever since the first “colonists” (really invaders) landed on the East Coast. (I’ll talk about this and the “First Thanksgiving” next week.)

Two disclaimers: I am not Anti-American. I am, in fact, very Pro-American, and I want our Country to live up to its highest ideals. I am also not Anti-White. I simply hold that we must see the truth that the ideals of our guiding documents, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution–with Slavery now removed, and the Bill of Rights, are not equally given to all, even today. That way we can fix the situation.

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In a terrible* and shining moment, we abolished slavery in the United States, and paid for slavery in the blood of the Civil War. For a brief time, during Reconstruction, we were on the way to making equality work,  and this continued, for a decade or so after Reconstruction ended in 1877.

*I use “terrible” in its meaning of “formidable,” “fearsome, “and “powerful,” just as encountering the Living God is terrible. Hebrews 10:31:

φοβερὸν τὸ ἐμπεσεῖν εἰς χεῖρας Θεοῦ ζῶντος.
It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

The Nadir of Race Relations in the United States

Historians differ on the exact dates, but there is consensus that the United States experienced “the nadir of race relations” from the late 19th century to the mid 20th Century. Loewe argues for 1890-1940. This would be from the period when northern Republicans stopped supporting the rights of Southern African-Americans to the beginning of World War II, where we all pulled together more effectively than at any other time in our Nation’s history.

During Reconstruction, the forces of the Neo-Confederacy kept trying to undo the progress being made. After Reconstruction, and especially during the Nadir, they succeeded all too well on two fronts.

The Overt Front

First, whenever African-Americans succeeded, and they did in great numbers, their successes were taken from them. There are documented cases of successful Black business men having their houses and lands torched by white mobs. The KKK arose, and was a national force. President Woodrow Wilson (a former President of Princeton) was a racist who re-segregated the Federal Government.

A debate is going on at Princeton to remove his name from one of their Colleges, just as Yale is debating renaming Calhoun College. Wilson is a major example of an American who had a very good side and a very bad side. We need to stop “heroizing” figures from our history, Loewen argues. We must tell the whole truth about them, which is more interesting and humanizing, giving students realistic, achievable role models, not plaster saints.

Another good example is that of Baseball. African-Americans played professional baseball in the late 19th century, until they too good. In the 1880s, they were relegated to the Negro Leagues, where African-Americans and Hispanics could play. This ended only on April 15, 1947 when the Brooklyn Dodgers started Jackie Robinson at First Base.

During this period there were thousands of “Sundown Towns” in all parts of America where African-Americans (and often Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and even sometimes Jews) had to leave before sundown.

1955 Travel Guide for African-Americans to avoid prejudiced locations.

1955 Travel Guide for African-Americans to avoid prejudiced locations.

From its Statehood in 1859 until 1926, it was illegal for African-Americans to move into Oregon. They could not live, work, or own property there. This was in the Oregon Constitution, and no one called them on this blatant violation of the 14th Amendment until 1926! The State was deliberately founded as a “White Paradise” and the KKK was very active there.

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This is not to berate Oregon, they were just more open and honest about it. All across America, voting rights, success in education, success in business were actively denied African-Americans. Native Americans also suffered, as well as some Asian groups. Jews, Catholics, Orthodox (and other non-Protestant Christians) were also looked on with suspicion. Discrimination against African-Americans was more wide-spread, pervasive and debilitating than any other, however.

I rehearse this shameful history not to beat up America, or make anyone feel guilty. It’s past, and we are working to erase that legacy. I bring it up because I sometimes hear people say, “There hasn’t been Slavery for 150 years, how come so many African-Americans didn’t make anything of themselves in that 150 years?” Their assumption is that there is some inherent flaw in character or culture of an entire ethnicity that prevented them from achieving.

The reality is that African-Americans were actively prevented from succeeding during the period 1890-1940. They succeeded before the Nadir, and do today. That some of their community did succeed during the Nadir, is a tremendous tribute to those men and women. The Union might have won the Civil War, but the Confederacy’s racist attitudes dominated the Country for 50 years, and in some ways still do.

The Propaganda Front

The Second Front was the deliberate falsification of history by Neo-Confederate groups such as the Daughters of the Confederacy. Their project was, and still is, to perpetuate lies about the Civil War and Reconstruction. And they have succeeded wildly. Up until a few years ago, here was the story that High School students learned, and even African-American students bought the lie:

  1. The Civil War was not really about Slavery. It was about industrialization vs. plantation agrarian life, about the cold and moralistic northerners and the warm and genteel southerners and about States’ Rights. Abolition was a late attempt by President Lincoln to win the war.
  2. During Reconstruction, Northern “Carpetbaggers” invaded the South and forced foreign ways on them, taking rights away from whites and gave them to blacks who, just having been freed from Slavery, were unable to properly use them. Therefore Reconstruction failed.
  3. The Confederates were noble, fighting for high ideals and Southern Culture. The Daughters of the Confederacy have created monuments all over the country to their heroism. Many African-Americans fought for the Confederacy.
  4. I’m not sure if the DOC make this final point, but other Neo-Confederates do: Slavery was good for the Slaves. The Plantation owners took good care of them. The Slaves enjoyed the security of Slavery.

Historians even fell for these lies for a while. Here’s the truth, based on what the people of the day recorded:

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  1. The Civil War was precisely and primarily all about Slavery. In the bills of Succession of South Carolina and most of the other Confederate States, the preservation–and expansion–of Slavery is the primary cause of their Succession. If course there were ancillary issues, but Slavery was paramount. Further, the Southerners were against States’ Right, in that they demanded that all States and Territories accept and enforce Slavery. They didn’t just want Slavery for themselves, they wanted to force it on everyone. Their “right” to own other people trumped everyone else’s right not to.
  2. Reconstruction ultimately failed, but not for the reasons given. It largely failed because it began with Governmental rights, rather than working in the economic sphere primarily.
  3. The Confederacy fought for nothing noble since they fought for Slavery. They fought to continue the evil of Slavery, the evil of one person owning another, and profiting from that slave labor. The North was right, the South was wrong on the issue of Slavery. The Daughters of the Confederacy and other Neo-Confederates have done our Nation a tremendous disservice with their duplicitous monuments and publications. While some African-Americans fought for the South, far, far more fought against the South. Should there be memorials for the fallen Confederate Soldiers? Of course. But the monuments need to tell the truth.
  4. Slaves hated being Slaves (duh!) and the poor white southerners knew it. They were terrified of Slave revolts, and that was one reason they wanted to make the whole Country Slave-owning, to strengthen the owners’ legal protections.
"Children of the Confederacy Creed Plaque at TX Capitol" by Author - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons. This offshoot of the DOC signals its intent to lie about history.

“Children of the Confederacy Creed Plaque at TX Capitol” by Author – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons. This offshoot of the DOC signals its intent to lie about history. Confederates were not patriots, they were traitors to the United States. Yes, there were two sides to the Civil War: the right side (Union) and the wrong side (Confederacy).

Read modern histories and historiography about these issues to get a clear view. Here’s a great sourcebook to find out what Confederates and Neo-Confederates actually believe in their own words:

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Stepping Down From My Yankee Pulpit For a Moment

Now let me step down from my Yankee pulpit for a moment, and my Righteous Indignation.

First, for anyone who has read David Hackett Fischer‘s seminal work Albion’s Seed, it is clear that I have abandoned much of the Boarderer and Cavalier folkways that my genetics and my place of birth (Arizona) might have made me heir to. I have firmly embraced the folkways of my Catholic-Hispanic heritage, and the ways of Greater New England and the Quaker Delaware Valley.

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That having been said, was there anything good in the South? The answer is yes. For white, wealthy southerners, life was good. The architecture was beautiful, the pace of life was easy. Poor whites did not benefit as much. The culture had many reminiscences of the more class-conscious British. I have no doubt of the bravery of the Confederate troops, and some may have bought the party line that they were fighting for “their way of life.” They were in some sense defending their homes and families. I am sure that Ante-Bellum scholars can point to other good features of Southern Culture.

But the price for the good of the few was just too high. It depended on the cruel domination of millions of people, and the poverty of poor whites. I recommend that you read Ursula K. LeGuin’s short masterpiece “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” to understand the point better.

Was there anything Bad in the North? Yes, of course. As in all human society, there was corruption. In some ways, the North indirectly benefitted from Slavery, especially during Colonial Times. They were complicit, but decided to end that complicity. They might have been wrong about a great many things, but they came to be right about Slavery.

Facing the Truths of Our History

My parents were Texans, I spent much time there. I have many friends in the South, and relatives as well. I want all of us to be successful, happy Americans. We cannot do that if we do not face the truth of our history.

By opening our eyes about the truth of our history, we can take control of our destiny as a Nation. The recent dust-up over the “Confederate Flag” (actually the battle flag of Northern Virginia) shows how pervasive the Neo-Confederate lies are in our culture.

I am not calling for guilt or shame. These don’t get us anywhere. We must move forward, and make this a truly free and just society for all.

Therefore, Princetonians, my fellow Yalies, and students and faculty all over our Country, let’s work for real, effective change, which is not really about whether we have Masters of Colleges, etc. Students, learn history, gain skills in law, politics, communications and all other fields, and dedicate yourselves to making America the Shining City set upon a Hill (Mt 5:14) that we still can be, with all our warts and problems.

Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου. οὐ δύναται πόλις κρυβῆναι ἐπάνω ὄρους κειμένη·
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 

Godspeed!

Steven A. Armstrong, Silliman Collage at Yale 1976
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

What’s Going on at Yale?

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In light of the horrendous attacks in Paris on Friday November 13, 2015, let us send prayers and healing meditations to all those affected in our oldest ally, France, as well as to all victims of terrorism and all violence all over the world. In the discussion below, this is one of the very real evils that the college generation will be facing.

Last Week, a controversy at my Residential College at Yale, Silliman College, boiled over into National Media and Social Media. A group of my Yale friends talked about it over Facebook this week. It was a sane, deliberate and careful discussion, as I expected it would be, my friends being who they are, really great people and thoughtful. We didn’t all agree on every point, and that’s just fine. Good and smart people can disagree about things, respectfully.

Silliman College at Yale

Silliman College at Yale

My purpose here is not to reproduce or summarize that private conversation. I wanted to share my own reflections with the rest of you because I think that what happened at Silliman College at Yale brings up some vital issues for our nation, and our families.

A bit of background for non-Yalies:

In the 1930s Yale created Residential Colleges and Harvard created its residential Houses for their Undergraduates. Some other American Universities have also done this. The move was inspired by Oxford and Cambridge’s Colleges, although the parallel is not exact. The Residential Colleges break up a large University into smaller, more manageable social and familiar groups for the students. At Yale, the Colleges are at the heart of the undergraduate experience.

Yale’s Residential Colleges are led by a “Master,” one of Yale’s faculty, whose family is really “in loco parentis,” the local parents of their Colleges. Each College also has a Dean, who humanizes the academic process for the undergrads. While most classes take place elsewhere on Campus, Colleges can and do hold seminars in the College. I was in a wonderful Seminar on William Blake’s poetry with Dewey Faulkner, a relative of the famed author William Faulkner, at Silliman. One of my friends organized a Silliman Seminar with Howard Cosell.

The Silliman Seal

The Silliman Seal

For most Yale Undergrads, their identity as Sillimanders, Davenporters, etc. is lasting. I am part of Silliman for life. Those four year in Silliman, just as my four years at Brophy Prep, are largely responsible for who I am today. The Master of Silliman then, Elias Clark, and his wife welcomed this kid from Phoenix and made me feel completely at home. Before arriving, they communicated with every incoming student, making plans for our arrival, etc. I worked for the Master’s Office for three years, served as the College Librarian, and for a term, chaired the Silliman Council.

Today, there are also Assistant or Associate Masters in the Colleges apparently.

What occurred recently concerned Hallowe’en Costumes at Yale. The University’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent out a pre-Hallowe’en email recommending that students carefully consider their costume choices so as to not offend other students on cultural bases. From what I understand, this is standard operating procedure on many U.S. Campuses today.

The Silliman Assistant Master, the wife of the Master, sent an email to the committee and to Silliman students. Her email was extremely nuanced, very supportive of respecting one another, but gently decried the University Committee’s email, saying that this was something the students should work out for themselves. She was partly motivated by complaints from some students, and partly by her academic training in child and youth development.

What resulted last week was an uproar by students in Silliman and across Yale, screaming at the Master and Assistant Master for their alleged insensitivity and insult. One student yelled at the Master who willing came and tried to dialogue with the students, “I don’t want to debate, I want to talk about my pain!” There were calls for the couple’s resignation.

Silliman in Winter

Silliman in Winter

Now, as the shouting is dying down, some students are saying that academically the Assistant Master was right, but that being a Master and Assistant Master isn’t about academics, it’s about making a safe home for the students.

I’m not taking sides on this issue. However, this reaction has me seriously worried on several bases. From my detached viewpoint, I agree with the Assistant Master’s email. These are young adults and should be able to work things out on their own. Nevertheless, something has gone seriously wrong in our culture, even among the best and brightest among our youth. In retrospect, I suspect that the Assistant Master may wish she had only sent her reply to the Committee members. I don’t know.

Before listing my concerns, I have a few remarks.

There is real evil in America, and in the world. Yesterday’s terrorist attack in Paris is a stark reminder of that. Racism is at a decades-long high in America. Women are still not treated fully equally. The gap between the 1% and the rest of us is growing at an alarming rate. Homophobia has not been eliminated. White Supremacy groups abound and are armed to the teeth. Frustrated, alienated young men shoot up schools, churches, theaters on a regular basis. Young people are being seduced into terrorism. The leading Republican Presidential candidates are buffoons, and the rest of the GOP pack are despicable slaves of the 1%. Politics is ruled by money. The world is full of poverty, war and disease. ISIL, Putin, and North Korea threaten the world.

The list could go on. We are a fundamentally good nation, and still these evils abound. There are places on Earth that are living hells, such as Somalia, South Sudan, parts of Central America, and North Korea.

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I am opposed to all racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, economic disparity, oppression, etc. Actively opposed. I am a liberal gay, Christian-Pagan-Esotericist democratic socialist. Yet I have concerns about what happened.

Daniel Drezner contributed excellent reflections on the Silliman Hallowe’en controversy in the Washington post, as pointed out by one of my Yale interlocutors. I urge you to read it. Many of his concerns mirror mine, and he points to the role of social media in inflaming what is essentially a local controversy requiring local knowledge to understand.

Another Yale friend just sent this very revealing commentary from Salon. It does cast the situation in a different light, as the Master and Assistant Master, the Christakises, were involved in a similar free speech vs hate speech dust-up at Harvard in 2012. While I don’t fully agree with the author’s take on free speech, this does suggest to me that Mrs. Christakis should have had a better idea of the reaction her email might receive. The author characterizes the Time Op-Ed they wrote at the time of the Harvard Free Speech Controversy as “histrionic.” Read it for yourself. I don’t find it histrionic. It correctly calls out the Harvard Administration for not recognizing a satire, and ignoring the racist and sexists behaviors of Harvard’s Final Clubs.

My Concerns

Political Correctness

Before this controversy, I had thought that “Political Correctness” consisted of making sure to call groups what they want to be called, and using inclusive language. I’m a big proponent of inclusive language for people and for God.

In solidarity with my fellow Sillimanders, I fully know that the Rosicrucian teaching that thoughts and words manifest reality. I want a fully equal world for all genders, and so I do not use male words as representing all humanity or God, to help bring this about.

However, I now learn that PC has acquired another meaning, apparently. From what I read, it now means some or all of the following:

  • My opinion trumps your facts and you cannot comment on that.
  • My emotions and feelings are all that matters, and you cannot comment or disagree, only accept.
  • I and all others must be protected from any and all slights, real or imagined.
  • I need to be warned if anything that might offend me is about to be said/read.

The rise of the perceptions of microagressions, and the demand for trigger warnings at Universities is a sign of this. To be fair, the Yale students are making a distinction between the classroom and the Residential College. If they are anything like we were in the mid 70s, they like to debate in class, and have vigorous and healthy challenges to ideas in classes.

They are saying that it is the job of the Master and other administrators to make the Residential College a “Safe Space,” a Home, for all the students, and that the Assistant Master’s email made them feel unsafe.

It seems to me that at an academic institution, even your residence is part of the learning process. And ideas can be safely discussed at home. Parents can challenge their children’s thinking

Real and Imagined or Hurt Feelings Threats

There is a distinction that is being missed by some students between real threats (as at the University of Missouri where administrators truly sat on their hands ignoring a serious racism problem) and the danger of hurt feelings. As stated above, the world, including college campuses, have plenty of real threats.

Many years ago when I was studying Theology in Cambridge Massachusetts, we went to the school Mass on Our Lady of Guadalupe day, December 12. One of the professors preached the homily, and in honoring the disappeareds and others in Latin America who suffered oppression, she proclaimed, “I can identify with their suffering, because I too an oppressed person, a Woman in Cambridge.”

"1531 Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe anagoria" An acheiropoietos icon (not made by hands) (1531 presented by Juan Diego) - Nueva Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

“1531 Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe anagoria” An acheiropoietos icon (not made by hands) (1531 presented by Juan Diego) – Nueva Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

The Hispanic students (including me) and others inwardly groaned and rolled our eyes at one another. Yes, women are not yet fully equal in employment, etc. But to compare the life of a white, Graduate school Professor, in Cambridge with the hell that Latin Americas suffered (and still do in some places due to the Cartels) is truly insulting and ignorant.

Many of us have been discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender, orientation, etc. When I was very young, one of the little girls in my neighborhood let forth with “My mommy says that Catholic kids aren’t fit to play with human kids.” Did we quiver in fear? No. My Mother went over to Mrs. Long and had a talk with her, and that stopped. So I still remember this some 55 years later? Yes. Does it saddle me with being a victim? No. The problem got fixed and I learned a lesson: don’t let them get you–fight back.

I used that lesson soon after I moved into the USF Jesuit Community in 1987. USF was known as having a number of “Dinos,” older priests who were nasty and harsh. As I sat down for a community meeting, one of the Dinos looked at me and said “How much do you weigh?” (I am quite stout.)

I just turned to him and said, “Well, Father, it’s certainly higher than your IQ.” He turned back without a word, and no Dino gave me any more trouble. I had demonstrated that I too had claws and fangs, and could and would give as good as I got. Thank you Mom for teaching me to defend myself verbally, and with wit.

Now I am very much aware that if a group of people are harassing a person, it is a difficult situation. And cyber bullying is real, and can have devastating consequences for High School students whose egos are in formation. Bullying of all kinds is a real problem. Putin is a bully on a world scale.

Why Are the Students at Yale not Able to Deal With Hallowe’en Costumes?

I don’t have a complete answer to this, however I have some thoughts that worry me.

The Politics of Powerlessness vs. Not Staying a Victim

From what I am reading, it appears that some minority students, some LGBT students, and some female students have picked up somewhere a “politics of powerlessness.” Taking the truth of their group’s history of repression, they seem to bear the entire burden of that oppression. Put that together with real oppression they themselves might have experienced in their lives, and they seem to be stuck at the “I am a victim” stage of development.

There is no denying that people victimize one another. One of the most egregious cases is that of rape. Minority and LGBT students do sometimes get beaten up or psychologically victimized. As I have written elsewhere about trigger warnings, as far as I know, the goal of good therapy is to assist the person who has been traumatized take control and get over their fears.

For example, if I have been trapped in an elevator accident, and as a result am so fearful that I cannot step into an elevator, my therapist will not say, “Ah, well then, just take the stairs for the rest of your life.” No, she will work with me in behavioral therapy to allow me to control my fear and use elevators again.

As my dear friend and mentor, Dr. Lonnie Edwards, FRC, the Vice-President of the English Grand Lodge of AMORC for the Americas is fond of teaching, one cannot healthily stay in the state of victimhood. As a veteran pioneer in the African-American community, he knows what he is talking about. He fought the very real odds and rose as an Army Surgeon to Deputy Commissioner of Health in Cook County (Chicago) at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. A straight man himself, he was instrumental in AIDS education there in the LGBT community with loving care for all.

Cover - Spiritual Laws That Govern Humanity and the Universe

One should be honest about being victimized, and then move forward in an empowered way to work with others to positively change society to prevent that victimizing others from continuing. Staying a victim harms only me, not my victimizer. This is not easy. But it is necessary.

Achieving Mastery of Life

As children, we naturally look to our parents and authority figures to protect us, as my Mother did in our neighborhood. By the time one matriculates to any college, not to mention, Yale, one should be able to defend oneself against verbal slights. Naturally we depend on the University authorities and Law Enforcement to protect us against real dangers. That’s part of society. But if someone yells “Faggot” at me on the street, the appropriate response is “(Expletive Deleted) Off!” If it is someone in an official position, have them written up.

Now, if it is a crowd throwing epithets at you and waving baseball bats, run! In other words, use common sense and react appropriately.

One of the Yale undergrads met the Assistant Master’s suggestions that students should work these things out among themselves with something like, “Where would we even have a forum to do that?”

This seems to me to be another facet of too much reliance on “the authorities” to provide for us. Ordinary discussion and conversation is a forum. If I am Native American and someone comes dressed as “Squanto,” (actually Tisquantum, a Patuxet man in 1600s New England) in a loin cloth, engage him in conversation. Explain the real, fascinating story of the man we my wrongly mythologized in the Pilgrim Mythos. He was important in our history, important and tragic, with flaws and strong points, an actual human being. And if you think Native peoples wore loin cloths in New England Winters, think again! The European invaders quickly learned how to dress comfortably and warmly from the Peoples they met. In the end, you might find out that he chose that costume to show off his physique to the ladies (or to the guys, who knows!). Your conversation might change both of you for the positive, all over beers at the party.

Beyond simple conversations, in pairs or groups, I felt empowered at Yale to get groups together to talk, as did many of us. I remember on one occasion, we ourselves arranged for Father Peter Fagan (my Confessor), and Sister Ramona Pena (a dear friend), both on the staff of St. Thomas More House, Yale’s Catholic Chaplaincy, to meet with a group of students who had questions about life as a priest and a Religious (Nun) in the Silliman Common Room one evening. The memorable comment I remember was from one student, who after asking Sister Ramona about her vow of chastity, the student said, “Your celibacy accuses me!”

Wow! But we had a conversation like civilized adults.

I say this, not because the Sillimanders of the past were any more civilized than the Sillimanders of today. I say this to make the point that students, especially at Yale are empowered to begin to take control of their own lives, what we in the Rosicrucians we call “Mastery of Life.” There is a precedent!

My fear is that after so many years of being treated like the “Boy in the Bubble” with well-meaning Helicopter parents, students think that they need to protection of authority to do anything. I’m here to tell you: you CAN do it.

I also fear that students have been convinced that they are victims, and are filled with rage about that, causing them to act irrationally. You can certainly do stupid things in College. I sure did as my friends and roommates will be happy to tell you! But I also learned from my mistakes, as I hope the Yale students are learning.

Joining a Nation of Fighters

In New York City, where I happily spent Pride 2014, I was able to visit Julius Restaurant and Bar, where in 1966, members of the Mattachine Society successfully held a sip-in to challenge the New York State Law forbidding serving “deviants.” The law was later stuck down. I also had a drink at the Stonewall Inn with a fellow Yalie, where on June 28, 1969 a police raid sparked the Stonewall Riots for LGBT rights.  Only 49 years after the Sip-In, we have marriage equality.

Members of YAWF (Youth Against War & Fascism) carry a banner in the Fifth Annual Gay Pride Day march (Gay Liberation Day), New York, New York, June 30, 1974. It reads 'Stonewall Means... Fight Back! Smash Gay Oppression!' (Photo by Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images)

Members of YAWF (Youth Against War & Fascism) carry a banner in the Fifth Annual Gay Pride Day march (Gay Liberation Day), New York, New York, June 30, 1974. It reads ‘Stonewall Means… Fight Back! Smash Gay Oppression!’ (Photo by Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images)

I mention this because we are a Nation of fighters. Women, Ethnic Minorities, and LGBT people have all constructively fought for their rights, and made progress. Join us, get tough, don’t worry about micro-agressions, and change the world positively.

I should end this section with a disclaimer. Of course we should be conscious of others in our language, and our choice of Hallowe’en costumes. I wouldn’t wear a Hitler costume (on this, see my last section on the meaning of Hallowe’en Costumes). Hitler isn’t funny, except in The Producers and other Mel Brooks shows.

Dick Shawn in the 1968 film The Producers.

Dick Shawn in the 1968 film The Producers.

Brooks has said that one of the goals of his career is to make people laugh at Hitler. Some people didn’t get the importance of that and protested at the Broadway production of The Producers a couple of years ago, saying he was taking Hitler lightly. There’s a light-year’s difference between “taking lightly” and “laughing at.” Charlie Chaplin did this in The Great Dictator (1940).

Mel Brooks at the 1971 Tony's winning Best Musical for The Producers

Mel Brooks at the 1971 Tony’s winning Best Musical for The Producers

So, be good to one another!

Free Speech vs. My Rights and Feelings

Another concern here is the seeming ease with while my right to feel safe (I suppose that is part of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”? Maybe?) and my feelings trump the right to Free Speech. Free Speech is so easily discarded.

Free Speech is the cornerstone of a Democracy such as ours. While you can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theater, or encourage the overthrow of the Country (although people do both, the first symbolically by using free speech to cause riots in inflamed situations, and the second literally), you can say a great deal.

free-speech

White Supremacists and the Hillsboro “Baptist” Church (prime time haters) have the right to spout their hateful speech. The way to combat Hate Speech, and even more so, Hurt Speech, is by more Free Speech, not by banning words (or costumes).

This concerns me.

The Right-Wing Piles On

This whole affair has been a bonanza for the Right-Wing. They point to political correctness gone mad as an excuse for denigrating movements for Racial Justice, LGBT rights, Women’s Equality, etc.

I know that the Yale students didn’t intend this, but it is an unintended consequence. We have to oppose those Right Wing efforts, and this post is an attempt to correct this. Just now, a right-wing columnist at the Breitbart site misrepresented a Salon article, claiming that a liberal Salon columnist said that the Paris attacks were caused by U.S. Conservatives harsh language for activists. Poppycock! Read the original and the Breitbart attack piece and judge for yourself.

The Meaning of Hallowe’en Costumes

I wanted to end with an aspect of this question that I don’t think has been noticed.

Halloween’s lineage stretches back to the three day Celtic Fire Festival of Samhain (or Samhuinn) (pronounced SOW-un) (Sow as in female pig). It is the beginning of Winter, and the time that the Veil between the Worlds is the thinnest. All the accoutrements of Samhuinn and Hallowe’en were originally meant to image the scary things that might cross that Veil, in order to scare them away, similar to putting Gargoyles on Cathedrals.

samhain

Traditionally, we wore Skeleton or other monster costumes in this vein. In the 70s we wore Nixon masks because he was the scariest thing anyone could think of.

Under this rubric, the costume you wore indicates what you thought was scary. Wearing a Hitler costume would confirm how horrible he was.

Things changed, however, and now Hallowe’en has taken on the aspects of a Costume Party, as people forget its ancient origins. I’m not suggesting we try to change it back, that would be totalitarian and impossible. Things evolve. But we should understand it.

Today, people wear Hallowe’en Costumes for many reasons:

  • It’s someone they admire
  • It’s someone from Movies or Literature, or Hollywood, or other Celebrities
  • It’s a scary costume
  • They look good in the costume
  • It’s a funny costume
  • It’s a costume about a current event or happening
  • They are celebrating some part of their heritage
  • Catholics and other Christians sometimes have “Saint Costumes” Hallowe’en parties. We did at the Murray-Weigel Hall Jesuit Community in the Bronx during Philosophy. Three Scholastics came as very convincing Nuns from history! So much so that when we went over to visit the Dad’s Community (Fordham’s Faculty community), that some were fooled! I think I came as St. John Chrysostom.
  • …and probably other reasons as well

This is why dialoguing about costume choice is the only rational way to proceed.

Richard Nixon Mask

Richard Nixon Mask

My Bottom Line

Freedom of Speech does not include freedom from the consequences of my speaking freely. I have no problem that students disagreed with Assistant Master Christakis’s email. I am worried, however, about the fury with which they expressed themselves, as I have discussed above. I’m not angry with them. I see this as a symptom that something is wrong. Our young people deserve to be better prepared for the real world they will encounter upon graduation.

As for the Assistant Master, I am not imputing malicious motives to her email, which I as a 61 year old man, found thoughtful and balanced. I think it should have gone only to the Committee that issued the cautionary Hallowe’en email, administrator to administrator. Perhaps a wiser move would have been to invite the students who complained to her about the original email to dialogue with those who agreed with the Committee without taking sides herself.

Thank you everyone for reading. Here is a good recent article about l’affaire Silliman, as well.

Steven A. Armstrong, Silliman College ’76
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

ISIL’s Engame: War with Rome

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This Post was written and posted a brief time before the heinous attacks in Paris on November 13. I have added a postscript. — SA

With a number of nations now battling ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and with ISIL inspired loners occasionally attacking worldwide, it is vital that we understand what ISIL wants, ultimately, and why they do what they do.

It is not enough to write them off as just evil. They are evil, of course, but they are not stupid or random in their violence.

isis-flag

I urge everyone to read this very fine article from The Atlantic which lays out in clear terms ISIL’s strategy and purposes (they call them ISIS, while I use ISIL in deference to the Egyptian Isis), as well as its attractiveness to people all over the world.

My purpose here is not so much to restate the content of the article, although a brief summary will be necessary, but to highlight an aspect concerning ISIL’s endgame.

The 7th Century Redux

In essence, ISIL has turned the clock back to the 7th Century of our Western Common Era (or Anno Domini for Christians), which corresponds to the first century of the Islamic Calendar (AH), which begins in 622 CE, when the Prophet Muhammad moved from Mecca to Medina, the Hegira. While there is no doubt that much of Islam over the last 1400 years has become a peace-loving and peaceful faith, there can be no denying that the Prophet led armies, and that early Islam was very militant. (Judaism and Christianity were too at stages in their histories; it seems almost inevitable with Monotheistic Faiths.)

oped-mecca-slide-FWY8-jumbo

The Atlantic article outlines the necessity for early Islam to expand, culturally, religiously, and if necessary, militarily. Which is ISIL’s strategy. However, ISIL manages to pursue that goal with two additions: 21st century savagery, and the destruction of ancient ruins.

Manufacturing Outrage and Presaging the End

In the almost 1400 years since the Hegira, human beings have learned a great deal about how to savage one another. Our ancient ancestors were cruel, to be sure, but our technology and blood lust have only grown during that time. ISIL is gratuitous, to put it mildly, in its savagery. Why? To outrage other Muslims, and especially the West.

I am convinced that they are destroying the historic patrimony of most places they occupy for a similar reason. We do know that they are disingenuously selling any artifacts they can remove to finance their war. However, the–again gratuitous–destruction of irreplaceable historical ruins has another motive: to outrage other Muslims, and in particular, the West.

Destruction of Palmyra

Destruction of Palmyra

While it is true the early Muslims destroyed “pagan” idols and Christian Icons, and sometimes built Mosques over previously used holy places, they also re-purposed these edifices as Mosques. I’m no expert in Muslim history, but I don’t think I have heard of early Muslims destroying older non-religious buildings. This is what leads me to believe that ISIL is doing this to increase outrage in the West.

Why would they do that?

In Hadith 6924 it is said:

The Last Hour would not come until the Romans land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them).

ISIL occupies Dabiq (near Aleppo, where hamsters originated). The Atlantic author, understandably, following authority, supposes that “the Romans” meant the Roman Empire ruled from Constantinople, and that was certainly true in the 7th Century CE / 1st Century AH.

The Hadith then says that the Faithful of Islam will rise up against the Romans, which will trigger the Muslim view of the Apocalypse. Like the Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. and elsewhere who are trying to breed the Red Heifer, and encourage Israel to destroy the Dome of the Rock and build the third Temple in Jerusalem, they want to End the World and force God’s hand.

red-heifer

The Atlantic author then goes on to say that since the Pope has no troops, it must mean Christians in general. In one sense he is right, but there is a broader picture here he (understandably) misses. The Pope is not the only Heir of Rome.

Children of Alexander and Heirs of Rome

As my faithful readers know, I see Western History as largely the legacy and later evolution of the Roman Republic and Empire from 753 BCE to 1453 CE. On my travels, I coined the term “Children of Alexander and Heirs of Rome” for this concept, in contradistinction to other world cultures.

Alexander's Empire

Alexander’s Empire

It is through Rome (all of Roman Civilization–Romanitas and Romaiosune) that the Hellenized civilization of the Middle East, Central Asia and Northern India, Egypt, and Greece (Alexander’s Empire) was filtered to us in the West, with, of course, a distinctive Roman bent. That is why so many Western Countries (which includes Western cultural outposts like Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.) often have classical architecture in their civic buildings, use the Eagle and the Fasces as Symbols, etc.

The Tetrarchy (Rule by Four)

The Tetrarchy (Rule by Four) The Map is wrong in saying Western and Eastern Empire. It should be Empire in the West, and Empire in the East.

We should note, however, that in the 290s CE, the Emperor Diocletian created Western and Eastern administrations for the huge Roman Empire. It was still one Empire, but had two parts. It would be in 324 that the Emperor St. Constantine the Great would assume control of both parts again, and move the capital into the East, to Constantinople.

As the centuries went on, it would be the emerging Slavic states, and in particular Kievan Rus’ and later Muscovy (now Russia) would become the successors to the Roman Empire in the East, in religion, culture, and by marriage into the Imperial Family. They inherited Romaiosune, the Romanness of the East.

The emerging nations of the West also inherited Romanitas, the Romanness of the West. Much later this was passed on to the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the Western Cultural Sphere.

Although “divided” into East and West, there were never two Empires, only one. To take an analogy from Christology, it was One Empire with Two Natures, Eastern and Western.

One Empire, Two Natures East and West

One Empire, Two Natures East and West

Western History through a Roman Lens

Seeing History through this Roman lens, one can see the Cold War, and the current tensions between the West and Russia as a kind of Roman Civil War between the two side, who are both completely legitimate heirs of Rome.

The "Third Reich" had deliberate Roman themes

The “Third Reich” had deliberate Roman themes

Likewise, World War II can be seen as a time when the other Heirs of the Empire united to prevent an Heir, Germany, from using its status as a successor state to Rome to rule all in the name of evil. The propaganda title “Third Reich” sought to put the Nazi state in the line of, going backward, The German Empire (1871-1918) and the Holy Roman Empire (962-1806), which itself, as part of the West, was an Heir to Rome. “Fourth Reich” would have been smarter, but they might have been influenced by the Russian saying “The First Rome fell to the Barbarians, the Second Rome fell to the Turks. Moscow is the Third Rome, and a fourth there will never be.”

So all the wars of European civilization around the world can be seen as Roman Civil Wars.

A Roman Civil War: Constantine vs Maxentius

A Roman Civil War: Constantine vs Maxentius

The Romans Have Come to Dabiq

Back to ISIL. Who are the two primary nations currently bombing ISIL in Syria and Iraq? The United States and Russia. The Romans have come, and this is precisely what ISIL wants. All the Romans might not be Christians, as they were before, but we are still the Heirs of Rome. It would have been far better if all of the non-Roman nations of the world united to destroy ISIL, however, it looks like it’s the Romans who will do this.

Not being a believer in dire Fundamentalist Apocalyptic prophecies, Jewish, Christian, Muslim or otherwise, I don’t think a battle around Aleppo in Syria will trigger the end of the world. A Roman Civil War over Ukraine might certainly do so, but it will not be ISIL, as far as I can tell.

Thank you for reading!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

PS after the horrendous terrorist attack in Paris, Friday night November 13, 2015:

Besides wanting to bring about the end of the world, ISIL clearly wants to take all of the lands of the greatest extent of Islamic expansion:

ISIS-MAP-329655

Further, the reason for choosing to attack at the Soccer Match was given that two Christian countries were playing one another. We know that we are not at war with Islam, and that there are very few officially “Christian” countries any longer. But ISIL is at war with Christianity, Judaism, all non-Muslims, and all Muslims that do not follow their religious line.

We must not, however, play their game. All of the peace loving nations of the world, of all religions and no religion must unite to end ISIL. One of the most important ways to do that is to discover and remove their funding.

French Fasces with the nation's motto

French Fasces with the nation’s motto

This deadly provocation will most probably give ISIL what they want…war with Rome. By attacking Paris, they have attacked one of the clear heirs of Rome, and I doubt that France will not react.

We pray for the people of our nation’s first ally, France, for their protection and healing, and for peace in the world.

PPS: I just got off the phone with a Lodge brother who is a very keen observe of world affairs and history. He had some insights I wanted to share:

  1. All of the attack sites in Paris have some connection to France’s Imperialist past. Syria was under French a French mandate from 1920-1946 following the secret Sykes-Picot agreement. This was not random.
  2. Weapons are very hard to obtain in France. Someone with a long reach had to engineer their entry. The likely candidate is Putin, operating through his ally, Syria.
  3. We agreed that while an on-the-ground assault on ISIL in Syria and Iraq by France and other troops, together with the bombing will probably wipe ISIL out. However, until three key issues are solved, ISIL type terrorism will continue in the world:
    1. The Israel-Palestine struggle must end with an Independent Palestine which recognizes Israel and does not attack Israel. (As a side note: Independent and safe Israel and Palestine have every reason to be economic partners and examples of functioning democracies in the Middle East.)
    2. The Religious and Cultural civil was between Sunni and Shia Muslims must end.
    3. The Oil Kingdoms of the Middle East must be forced to become, at least, Constitutional Monarchies. (Due to global climate change, much of the Arabian Peninsula will be unlivable by 2070, with summer heat as high as 170 F. Planning has to start now.)

Thanks!

A New World and New Hatreds

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On Tuesday May 29, 1453, the Ancient World of Mediterranean civilization ended with the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Ottoman Turks as its Capital, Constantinople was captured by Sultan Mehmet II.

At left, Constantine XI, at right, Mehmed II.

At left, Roman Emperor Constantine XI, at right, Mehmed II over New Rome.

On Wednesday October 12, 1492, some 9,500 miles to the south-west, a New World began as Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Guanahani, now in the Bahamas.

This new moment was fraught with promise. Great progress had been made in the past when cultures met and cooperated. Examples such as the rich fusion of Hellenism and Buddhism in what is now Afghanistan and India, and when the cultures of Egypt and Hellenistic Greece formed the Coptic culture show what could be accomplished. Even within Christianity, the harmony of Druid Christianity among the Celts, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the indigenous peoples of Alaska demonstrate that sharing, not conquest, is possible.

St. Patrick lighting the Bealteinne Fire, associating himself with Druidry.

St. Patrick lighting the Bealteinne Fire, associating himself with Druidry

The Encounter in the New World

This harmony was not to be, however, in the New World. Unfortunately Europe had sent an ambitious, greedy, ruthless and completely unprincipled man as their explorer in the person of Christopher Columbus. All one needs to do to discovery his depth of depravity and that of the colonizers in general is to read his own journals, and the description by the horrified Priest and later Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas, O.P. (c. 1484 – 18 July 1566) of how the Spanish later treated the indigenous peoples.

Las Casas wrote: “killing, terrorizing, afflicting, and torturing the native peoples” with “the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty” and how systematic violence was aimed at preventing “[American] Indians from daring to think of themselves as human beings.” The Spaniards “thought nothing of knifing [American] Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades.” “My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write.”

Columbus himself used the native peoples as slaves, sexual objects, and other heinous acts. We often hear that you cannot judge a person of the 16th Century by 21st Century norms. On the contrary, I judge Columbus against Bishop De las Casas, and the Jesuits in Central and South America during the same time period. Columbus and those like him knew better. They chose cruelty and domination deliberately for profit and power.

De las Casas

De las Casas

The Lies They Told (and tell us) in School

This all is not political correctness speaking. Sorry. It is reality. When we discover that what we have been taught in school contains lies, we must invoke our old friend, Cui Bono? Whom does it benefit? We’ve exposed a number of lies in this blog. For example, trying to say that the Roman Empire fell in the 5th Century is of benefit to those historians, like Gibbon, who wanted to prove that Christianity destroyed the Empire. Except, that isn’t true. The Empire fell in the 15th Century, as any person from that time would tell you.

Fantasy map of a flat earth --- Image by © Antar Dayal/Illustration Works/Corbis

Fantasy map of a flat earth — Image by © Antar Dayal/Illustration Works/Corbis

Another convenient fabrication is that the Mediterranean world believed that Earth was flat in the 15th century. That’s poppycock. As far back as Pythagoras in 6th Century BCE, people knew the world was a sphere. In Hellenistic Alexandria, scholars and scientists knew that our planet was round, and they actually calculated its circumference pretty nearly correctly. Sailors were quite aware that the World was round in 15th Century Europe, as well as in many other parts of the world.

Who does this lie benefit? Modern people. It allows us to continue with the illusion that modern people are smarter and more sophisticated than ancient people. Nonsense!

Then too, we are told that Columbus “discovered” America. Ridiculous. Asian peoples discovered North and South America and the Carribean around 40,000 years ago and inhabited them. More recently, Leif Ericsson and the Vikings landed here, and possibly St. Brendan the Navigator. There might have been Chinese, Polynesian, and many other contacts.

Cui bono? The European Colonialists, of course.

happythanksgiving

Finally, we have been conned into “celebrating” the despicable Christopher Columbus himself. I’m all for having a holiday on October 12 (or the second Monday in October). Canadians have Thanksgiving Day. Many in the Hispanic world celebrate Día de la Raza. But the man himself should be pilloried. He began one of the greatest genocides and cultural extinctions in history.

Now I’m not going to go to North Beach in San Francisco, or Little Italy in New York, and try to stop the Italian-Americans from celebrating. The Roman Catholic Fraternal Order The Knights of Columbus lobbied for the national holiday in 1934 and got it. I think it is time to rename the Federal Holiday, just as many States and Municipalities already have. Those who want to celebrate the day as one of Italian Pride can do so. I just don’t want to do so or make it official under Columbus’s name.

Modern Hatreds

The second item connected to this anniversary is the two great hatreds that plague the United States, and much of the world, today: Religious Hatred and Race Hatred / Race Slavery

One sometimes hears, “It’s just human nature. People have been hating since the beginning of time.” While the sin (missing the mark) of Hatred may be deeply rooted in our ancestral past, Religious Hatred and Race Hatred, at least in the Western World, are not ancient.

Religious Hatred

Religious Hatred arose in the West primary as a result of Monotheism. In Pre-Abrahamic times, most of the Western “Pagan” religions simply identified their Gods with other people’s Gods. Take the example of Hermes in Greek religion. He was identified with the Roman Mercury, the Egyptian Thoth, and the Nordic Odin. As long as you burned some incense at the altar of the State Gods, things were fine.

9780521194167i

There is good evidence that classical “Paganism” was evolving into what would have been a kinder, gentler, more inclusive “Pagan Monotheism.”  But it didn’t get a chance. With the dominance of first, Christianity, and later Islam in the Mediterranean world, with rare exceptions, it became “My way or the Highway.” Christianity and Islam have been at loggerheads for 1400 years. And both have persecuted Jewish people. Even within each Faith, different factions warred with one another. We are currently suffering from the internal struggle of Shia vs Sunni in Islam, and we spent hundreds of years in the past as first, Catholics made war against Orthodox Christians, and Catholic and Protestant Christians fought. Those times are past in Christianity, but just listen to a fundamentalist preacher call the Roman Catholic Church the “Whore of Babylon,” and know that those horrible times aren’t that far way.

While it is sadly true that religious persecution has taken place elsewhere, as when Tibetan Buddhist leaders persecuted Shamanism, it has been perfected in the culture of the West that has spread through Colonialism.

Race Hatred and Race Slavery

Surprisingly, these evils are even more recent. In the ancient Mediterranean world there was most certainly slavery. If another country conquered your country, you were fair game for slavery. Then, too, of course, each cultural group thought of itself as the best. But it wasn’t hatred, nor was it about ethnicity. In Pharaonic Egypt, if a Black-skinned person spoke Egyptian and participated in Egyptian culture, he was fully accepted. Analogous behavior would have been typical from Persia to Éire. This continued pretty much the same until the 16th Century.

Floor inlay in the Cathedral of Siena Russian: Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, contemporary of Moses, on the left pages of the book

Floor inlay in the Cathedral of Siena: Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, contemporary of Moses, on the left pages of the book.

One sometimes sees modern movies or TV shows set in the European Middle Ages with Black actors in the cast. I often hear the comment, “Oh, that’s just political correctness.” No, it really isn’t, there were (some) non-Europeans in Western Europe, and nobody really minded, as long as they fit in with the culture.

Race Hatred, and Slavery based on Race, began with the age of Colonialism, which we associate with Oct. 12, 1492. These horrors which have scarred the world are thoroughly modern. In particular, the Indigenous peoples of the colonial world were hated and exploited by the colonialists, with varying ferocity. The Belgians were probably the worst, and the Russians might have been the kindest. In Alaska, they befriended the natives. I don’t know the history of Central Asia. Of course, the Orthodox Russians did not like Islam, but that’s not racial.

Victim of Belgian Atrocities

Victim of Belgian Atrocities

It is not surprising that the hated and exploited returned the favor against the Europeans in enmity toward their conquerors. In Eastern Asia, some governments were strong enough to resist the Europeans for a time, but gradually, most of the world fell under European domination.

As this has lifted in the de-colonialization of the world, Slavery itself is largely gone. However, economic domination and race hatreds remain endemic. I–along with many–thought that as Americans, we had fairly well eradicated racism from our midst. Boy, were we wrong. We’ve got a lot of work to do!

no-hate

Let’s take this Oct 12 to give thanks for the progress we have made, own up to our mistakes and those of our ancestors, and move forward to create solidarity among all peoples, and all creatures, of our planet! Maybe that’s what this holiday can become, Universal Solidarity Day.

Thanks for reading!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

The Pope, Kim Davis, and Conscientious Objection

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The Pope, Kim Davis and Conscientious Objection

Atypical for me, I will be concise in this post.

A lot of hullabaloo has been bouncing around about Kim Davis’s brief meeting with Pope Francis. More and more is coming out, and as it turns out, the person the Pope really did spend a lot of time with in a private audience was a gay former student of his from Argentina, and his partner. There were smiles and hugs all around.

See it here.

First and foremost, the American press and pundits don’t get this Pope. He embraces everyone, because Christ does. Embracing and loving everyone is not a political position.

Conscientious Objection and Civil Disobedience

Having put that in perspective, let’s turn to the concept of Conscientious Objection, which of course Pope Francis supports, as I do too. CO is a species of Civil Disobedience.

Here’s what I learned about CD in Alexander Bickel’s Constitutional Law class at Yale Law when I was an undergrad.

Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote the book on CD: Concerning Dissent and Civil Disobedience (1968). It’s a very good, short book, and I recommend it to all. What is germane for the case of Kim Davis is this.

Justice Abe Fortas

Fortas explains that those who practice Civil Disobedience / Conscientious Objection must be willing to accept the consequences of their actions. They don’t complain or try to get out of their punishment (usually imprisonment). That is an essential part of the witness of Civil Disobedience / Conscientious Objection. It is the original meaning of the word Martyr.

Martyr comes from from Ancient Greek μάρτυρ ‎(mártur), later form of μάρτυς ‎(mártuswitness). One who is a martyr testifies to the rightness of her/his position. While we don’t put Conscientious Objectors to death, the system does punish them. That’s how they witness to their cause.

Phil and Dan Berrigan, S.J.

I grew up in the Sixties, and so Conscientious Objection / Civil Disobedience was all around us. Jesuits, Nuns, other priests and religious protested the Vietnam War and Nuclear Weapons, spilled blood on nose cones, and went to jail. Civil Disobedience for Racial Equality was common.

Why Kim Davis is not a Conscientious Objector

What prevents Kim Davis from being a true Conscientious Objector is that she doesn’t think she should suffer the consequences for her action. She whines about her “Religious Liberty,” while denying the Liberty, Religious and Civil, of Gay and Lesbian couples to marry.

Apostolic Nunciature, Washington DC

Pope Francis was not prepped properly by the Nuncio (Vatican Ambassador) in DC, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who put together the guest list, including Kim Davis. The Nuncio was appointed by then Pope Benedict XVI, and is a doctrinaire right-winger. So it was a set-up. The Pope extended greetings and support to Ms Davis as he does to everyone, unconditionally.

Words have Real Meanings

One final note. In news reports, Ms Davis is sometimes referred to as an “Apostolic Christian.” If words really mean anything, then she is most certainly not. Churches that descend directly from the Apostles are:

— The Catholic Communion of Churches

— The Eastern Orthodox Communion of Churches

— The Oriental Orthodox Communion of Churches

— The Church of the East.

A good argument can be made for the Anglican Communion of Churches, and the High Church, Mainline Protestant Churches also being Apostolic Churches, due to their descent from the Church of Rome.

The Traditions of Christianity. © 2014 Steven A. Armstrong

The Traditions of Christianity. © 2014 Steven A. Armstrong

Pt 2...Syriac Tradition. © 2014 Steven A. Armstrong

Pt 2…Syriac Tradition. © 2014 Steven A. Armstrong

The Church Kim Davis belongs to is part of the movement of Oneness Pentecostalism called Oneness Pentecostals which began in 1914.  Since they deny the fundamental Christian belief in the Holy Trinity, the rest of Christianity would not even recognize them as Christian at all.

How ironic. By any real definitions, Kim Davis and her Church are neither Apostolic nor Christian. Of course, she has every right to her beliefs, but needs to bear the consequences of her Civil Disobedience.

Updates (10/4/15):

Here are links that prove my surmise that the Kim Davis “meeting” was a set up by right-wing forces in America and the Vatican:

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a38440/pope-francis-swindled-kim-davis-meeting/

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/10/02/_statement_on_popes_meeting_with_kim_davis/1176270

http://act.faithfulamerica.org/sign/vigano?referring_akid=719.166466.ZOG0Ac&source=facebook

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/10/05/the-shady-group-that-played-pope-francis.html?source=socialflow&via=twitter_page&account=thedailybeast&medium=twitter

Thanks for reading.

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

Published from my iPad and bluetooth keyboard, since my Mac Book Pro is ailing and will be going to the Apple Store soon for healing.

 

 

Non sum reus: I am not a Crook!

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Just a short post today.

I was reflecting on how “back in the day” the GOP was a dignified party that I didn’t agree with, but respected, when I remembered Richard Nixon, who by comparison with the crowd of candidates today, with the exception of his Shakespearean Vices which brought him down, looks good. I won’t petition to rename the Richard M. Nixon Parkway/Freeway in SoCal.

I am not a Crook!

My senior Latin composition at Yale was “Non sum reus!” “I am not a crook,” the story of Watergate written as if it were Sallust’s Cataline Conspiracy / War: Bellum Catilinae. The band of Watergate burglars became the manus Nixonis: Nixon’s “hand” (=gang).

Gordon_SallustWorks1562_TP

One of the most telling characteristics of Sallust’s style–which I played up in the essay–are his “Sallustian Tricolons.”

Et = And

In Latin, one can link two words in three ways. The first is by using the conjunction et that is, “and.” Et is from Proto-Indo-European *éti. Cognate with Old English prefix ed- ‎(anew, again). For example, we have panem et circenses, “bread and circuses.”

Here’s Wikipedia’s succinct summary:

Bread and circuses” (or bread and games; from Latinpanem et circenses) is metonymic for a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the generation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace, as an offered “palliative.” Its originator, Juvenal, used the phrase to decry the selfishness of common people and their neglect of wider concerns. The phrase also implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the commoner.

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Atque = And

The second way is using atque, from ad ‎(to) + -que ‎(and): ad from  Proto-Indo-European *ád ‎(near, at). Cognates include English at, and que from Proto-Italic *-kʷe ‎(and), from Proto-Indo-European *-kʷe ‎(and). Cognates include Sanskrit  ‎(ca), Ancient Greek τε ‎(te), Proto-Germanic *-hw ( → English (thou)gh). Alternate forms are adque and ac.

As an example, we have Ave atque Vale! “Hail and Farewell,” from Catullus’s Poem 101, his elegy to his lost Brother. The phrase is used in Military Farewells today.

Catullus_big

Catullus

multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus
Carried through many nations and over many seas,

advenio has miseras frater ad inferias
I arrive, brother, for these wretched funeral rites

ut te postremo donarem munere mortis
so that I might present you with the last tribute of death

et mutam nequiquam alloquerer cinerem
and speak in vain to silent ashes,

quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum
since Fortune has carried you, yourself, away from me.

heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi
Alas, poor brother, unfairly taken away from me,

nunc tamen interea haec prisco quae more parentum
now in the meantime, nevertheless, these things which in the ancient custom of ancestors

tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias
are handed over as a sad tribute to the rites

accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu
receive, dripping much with brotherly weeping.

atque in perpetuum frater ave atque vale
And forever, brother, hail and farewell.

— Catullus, Carmen CI

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-que = And

A third way is to affix -que (etymology above) to the second of the two terms. Therefore we have: Antiquus Mysticusque Ordo Rosæ Crucis: “The Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rose Cross.”

The Grand Lodge of the English Grand Lodge for the Americas of AMORC

The Grand Lodge of the English Grand Lodge for the Americas of AMORC

It is also in the Roman Catholic version of the Nicene-Constantinoplitan Creed, when that Church inserted the word Filioque in the original Nicene Creed without the consent of the other Christian Churches in 1014, becoming one of the major causes of Schism:

The original Creed reads thus:

Καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ κύριον, τὸ ζῳοποιόν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον
(And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, from the Father proceeding).

The Latin addition is…

Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum, et vivificantem: qui ex Patre Filioque procedit

(And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and giver of life, who from the Father and the Son proceeds).

…completely changing the theology of the Holy Trinity. See the que?

filioquediagr

Sallust’s Tricolons

Now Sallust took this last method, with -que a step further. He linked three items (I know, shocking!) with -que! These are called Sallustian Tricolons: Greek τρία (tria),“three” and κῶλον (kôlon), “member” or “clause.”

We still do this today:

Abraham_Lincoln

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. — Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural, 1865.

history_eisenhower_on_the_middle_east_speech_still_624x352

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.“ — Dwight Eisenhower, Chance for Peace speech, 1953

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the crowd during a memorial service for Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa December 10, 2013. World leaders, from U.S. President Barack Obama to Cuba's Raul Castro, will pay homage to Mandela at the memorial that will recall his gift for bringing enemies together across political and racial divides. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: POLITICS OBITUARY) - RTX16C5M

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the crowd during a memorial service for Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa December 10, 2013. World leaders, from U.S. President Barack Obama to Cuba’s Raul Castro, will pay homage to Mandela at the memorial that will recall his gift for bringing enemies together across political and racial divides.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (SOUTH AFRICA – Tags: POLITICS OBITUARY) – RTX16C5M

After this great liberator is laid to rest, and when we have returned to our cities and villages and rejoined our daily routines, let us search for his strength. Let us search for his largeness of spirit somewhere inside of ourselves. And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, when our best-laid plans seem beyond our reach, let us think of Madiba and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of his cell: “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged [with punishments] the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. — Barack Obama, Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela, 10 December 2013

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I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless and stupid. — Dorothy Parker

johnny-depp-injured-pirates-of-the-caribbean-5-filming-delayed-336459

I actually feel rather good about this. I think we’ve all arrived at a very special place, eh? Spiritually, ecumenically … grammatically. — Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean

(Thank you to John Zimmer who collected these!)

Darkness Tower at Yale

Harkness Tower at Yale

In my Senior Latin composition, which, sadly, I no longer have (it may be in some file in Yale’s Harkness Tower where the Classics Department lives), I used the Sallustian Tricolons about Nixon. For example:

Praeses mendax seductor fraudatorque erat. The President was a liar, deceiver and cheater.

Ricardulus Captiosius aliquem eum damnare latēbat ērādīcābat dēlēbatque. Tricky Dicky concealed, eradicated  and deleted (erased) anything that could harm him.

Richard Nixon in Futurama

Richard Nixon in Futurama

I think you get the idea! He still looks better than the Clown Car before us today.

Enough for today! Thank you for reading!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

Some Clear Thinking on Economics and Politics

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Dear Blogosphere,

With SO much chatter going on over social media about economic and political systems, I thought it would be a good idea to clarify the definition of terms that get thrown around, often as barbs, and offer some of my reflections on them. Naturally I am speaking from my own viewpoint, but also hope to be as factual as possible. In point of fact, that’s the first thing we need to clear up.

The Difference between Facts and Opinions

American Society right now seems to be a bit confused about facts and opinions. Both are useful.

Facts:

Etymology: From Latin factum ‎(a deed, act, exploit; in Medieval Latin also state, condition, circumstance), neuter of factus ‎(done or made), perfect passive participle of faciō ‎(do, make). Facio is in turn from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeh₁- ‎(to put, place, set), possibly through a later intermediate root *dʰh₁-k-yé/ó-. Cognates include Ancient Greek τίθημι‎(títhēmi), Sanskrit दधाति ‎(dádhāti), Old English dōn (English do).

Bernard Lonergan, S.J.

Bernard Lonergan, S.J.

Facts are things that are verifiably real. As a Philosopher, I am very much aware that in the field of Epistemology (the Philosophy of Knowledge), ever since Kant, many hold that we can only observe phenomena, not noumena (things in themselves). I am of the school of Fr. Bernard Lonergan, S.J. on this question. With shared–as objective as possible (which isn’t absolute, even on the macro-level)–observations, we can attain the “Virtually Unconditioned.” That means, I can say without fear of contradiction that there is a City of San Francisco, and one named San Jose. I live in one and work in the other.

It’s kind of like the difference between Euclidean Geometry and other, more accurate geometries. My cousin Joe Guinn at JPL could not have used purely Euclidean Geometry to send his Mars Lander to the red planet. But for designing a house, it is just fine.

Science makes observations, and reaches conclusions based on its observations of the phenomena. Nothing is ever final, as new observations may occur, but sound consensus theories can and are formed. They are as close to facts as we can get.

Gravity is a fact. It is real. While we don’t yet know exactly how it works, it does. One can have opinions or feelings about the effects of gravity (ouch! when I fall), but I cannot have an opinion about the existence of Gravity. That is Flat-Earth thinking. The round Earth is a thing. It’s real. It’s a Fact. An opinion that the phenomenon of gravity does not exist is not equal to the Fact that it does. That opinion is simply wrong.

Opinion:

Etymology: From Middle English opinionopinioun, from Anglo-Norman and Middle French opinion, from Latin opinio, from opinor ‎(to opine). Opinior is from the Proto-Indo-European *op- “to choose.”

An opinion is “a belief that a person has formed about a topic or issue.”

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Opinions are not facts, nor are they equal to facts. To say about a red rose that “in my opinion, that rose is yellow,” is just false. I can legitimately say, “I prefer yellow roses to red ones.” Somehow we have gotten the wrong-headed notion that if something is “my opinion,” it is sacrosanct. It’s not. For example, when Donald Trump asserts that Mexico is deliberately sending its criminal element to the U.S., he is quite simply wrong, since he has no demonstrable Facts to back up his statement. If he knows that he is stating something contra-factual and says it anyway for his own The Donald purposes, that is called a “lie.”

There are also several kinds of opinions, the most important two of which are Informed Opinions, and Uninformed Opinions. To have an informed opinion is to have done your research with credible sources–not just credible to you, but objectively credible–and to have come to a conclusion based on reason, not emotion.

There are also Expert Informed Opinions where someone whose expertise is in the field under consideration offers her or his judgement, free of any constraint or reason for bias. Therefore, an independent medical opinion that cigarettes cause cancer is valid, and a medical opinion paid for by Big Tobacco that they do not is invalid. It’s really pretty simple. The bought-and-paid-for “experts,” are just lying for money.

If I simply share the opinions I am given by my religious leaders, or neighbors, or political fellow-travelers, or anyone else, then I am not thinking for myself, and my opinions are a species of Uninformed Opinions, sometimes called “Knee-Jerk” opinions. They are actually a priori thinking, that is “Don’t bother me with the facts, I know what I believe.”

A good example is about the age of the Earth. Those who for religious reasons believe that the world was created in 4004 BCE cannot by any amount of argumentation and scientific proof, or even comparisons to the vast majority of Christians who do not hold that, be convinced otherwise. Any counter-argument is demonized as Satanic or Anti-Christian, and so is dismissed, contra-factually. In philosophy this state is called “Invincible Ignorance.”

quote-most-ignorance-is-invincible-ignorance-we-don-t-know-because-we-don-t-want-to-know-aldous-huxley-344841

As long as they remain willfully in that state, there is no hope of convincing them to see the factual truth. It is only when an adherent discovers that some other plank of their belief-system is false, that they may begin to say, as did Molly Ivins, “I wonder what else they have been lying to me about,” and the house of cards falls down.

And…let me interject, I defend their right to be invincibly ignorant in our free society. We should just not base any policies on their delusions or be forced to teach their delusions in our public educational systems. There is no right to try to make others ignorant.

Having settled that question, let’s look at some topics in Economics and Politics that are hot buttons in Social Media right now.

Human Artifacts

First it is important to emphasize that Economic and Social Systems are made by humans for humans. They are not part of nature, and they do not come from God (however you conceive God to be), although religions do tend to favor some over others).

My goal here is to–as factually as possible–to establish base-line understandings for these terms that get thrown around so much. We have to have a common terminology, or our discourse will go no where.

Capitalism

Etymology: From French capitalisme ‎(the condition of one who is rich). First used in English by novelist William Thackeray in 1854. Capital is borrowed from the Latin capitāliswhich in turn is from Latin caput, “head” from Proto-Indo-European *kauput-*káput ‎(head). Cognates include German Haupt and English head.

103200-o

Here is a good standard definition of modern Capitalism from Wikipedia:

Capitalism is an economic system and a mode of production in which tradeindustries, and the means of production are largely or entirely privately owned. Private firms and proprietorships usually operate in order to generate profit, but may operate as private nonprofit organizations.[1][2] Central characteristics of capitalism include private propertycapital accumulationwage labour and, in some situations, fully competitive markets.[3][4] In a capitalist economy, the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which they exchange assets, goods, and services.[5]

The degree of competition, the role of intervention and regulation, and the scope of state ownership vary across different models of capitalism.[6] Economistspolitical economists, and historians have adopted different perspectives in their analyses of capitalism and have recognized various forms of it in practice. These include laissez-faire or free market capitalism, welfare capitalismcrony capitalismcorporatism, “third way” social democracy and state capitalism. Each model has employed varying degrees of dependency on free markets, public ownership, obstacles to free competition, and inclusion of state-sanctioned social policies.

The extent to which different markets are free, as well as the rules defining private property, become matters of politics and of policy. Many states have a mixed economy, which combines elements of both capitalism and centrally planned economics.[7] Capitalism has existed under many forms of government, in many different times, places, and cultures.[8] Following the decline of mercantilism, mixed capitalist systems became dominant in the Western world and continue to spread.[9]

Capitalism as we know it arose in the West during the Italian Renaissance, and with the European conquest of the planet, was spread worldwide. Capitalism is an economic system, NOT a social system, although it has social aspects.

A controlled, ethically operated capitalism has many benefits, and as I have blogged about before, can be accepted by Christianity (and other religions) if it meets certain standards.

At the moment in the world economy, and especially in the United States, Capitalism is neither effectively controlled nor conducted ethically. Our system is “Crony Capitalism” at the moment. The deck is permanently stacked in favor of the 1%, and against the rest of us. This is not real Capitalism. The current world economic system is based on keeping all people and Nations in crushing debt, and therefore, under the control of those on the top.

The best book on the question of a just economic and social system is John Rawls, A Theory of Justice. Please read it. To boil down a massive book to one thought: In any truly just system, nothing must benefit those at the top of the system, unless it also benefits those at the bottom.

A caveat: this is not an endorsement of “trickle-down economics” which is just balderdash. As I read somewhere on the web, “Trickle-down economics is like having three dogs, and tossing one a hot dog and saying ‘He’ll share.'” FALSE!

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Socialism

Etymology: Attested since 1832; either from French socialisme or from social +‎ -ism. Social is from  Latin sociālis ‎(of or belonging to a companion, companionship or association, social), from socius ‎(a companion, ally”), which is from From Proto-Indo-European *sokʷ-yo- (companion), from Proto-Indo-European *sekʷ- (to follow). The assistant to a Jesuit Provincial is still called the Socius, which my great mentor, Fr. Al Naucke, S.J., is currently in the California Province. 

Socialism1

Socialism is also an economic system with social aspects. Here is a good standard definition from Wikipedia:

Socialism is a social and economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy,[1][2] as well as a political theory and movement that aims at the establishment of such a system.[3][4] “Social ownership” may refer to cooperative enterprises, common ownershipstate ownership, citizen ownership of equity, or any combination of these.[5] There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them.[6] They differ in the type of social ownership they advocate, the degree to which they rely on markets or planning, how management is to be organised within productive institutions, and the role of the state in constructing socialism.[7]

A socialist economy is based on the principle of production for use, to directly satisfy economic demand and human needs, and objects are valued by their use-value, as opposed to the principle of production for profit and accumulation of capital.[8] In the traditional conception of a socialist economy, coordination, accounting and valuation are performed in kind (using physical quantities), by a common physical magnitude, or by a direct measure of labour-time in place of financial calculation.[9][10] For distributing output, two alternative principles have been proposed: to each according to his contribution and from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The advisability, feasibility and exact way of allocating and valuing resources are the subjects of the socialist calculation debate.

The socialist political movement includes a diverse array of political philosophies. Core dichotomies include reformism versus revolutionary socialism, and state socialism versus libertarian socialism. State socialism encompasses calls for the nationalisation of monopolized or oligopolized corporations or other institutions, universal goal setting and planning, and legal public ownership of the means of production as a strategy for implementing socialism; libertarian socialism encompasses calls for decentralised means of direct democracy such as libertarian municipalism, citizens’ assemblies, trade unions, and workers’ councils[11] coming from a general anti-authoritarian stance.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18] While all tendencies of socialism consider themselves democratic, the term “democratic socialism” is often used to highlight its advocates’ high value for democratic processes and political systems and usually to draw contrast to other socialist tendencies they may perceive to be undemocratic.[19] Some socialists have adopted the causes of other social movements, such as environmentalismfeminism and liberalism.[20]

Modern socialism originated from an 18th-century intellectual and working-class political movement that criticised the effects of industrialisation and private property on society. The revival of republicanism in the American Revolution of 1776 and the revival of egalitarianism in the French Revolution of 1789 converged into the rise of socialism as a distinct political movement by the turn of the century. Initially, “socialism” referred to general concern for the social problems of capitalism regardless of the solutions to those problems. However, by the late 19th century, after waves of revolutionary movements, “socialism” had come to signify opposition to capitalism and advocacy for a post-capitalist system based on some form of social ownership.[21] During this time, German philosopher Karl Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels published works criticising the utopian aspects of contemporary socialist trends, and applied a materialist understanding of socialism as a phase of development which will come about through social revolutioninstigated by escalating and conflicting class relationships within capitalism.[22] Within this surge of opposition to capitalism appeared other more or less complementary tendencies such as anarchismcommunism, and social-democracy and later, the confluence of socialism with anti-imperialist and anti-racist struggles around the world. Socialism became the most influential worldwide movement and political-economic world view of the 20th century[23]Some anarchist, socialist and Marxist tendencies argue that the Soviet Union did not establish socialism, but rather established state capitalism.[24][25][26]Today, socialist parties and ideas remain a political force with varying degrees of power and influence in all continents, leading national governments in many countries.

As we can see, while Marxism and Communism were born out of Socialism, they are not synonymous with Socialism. In fact, in many ways, they are directly counter to the primary driving force of real Socialism, which includes spiritual and intangible goals which Marx wrongly eliminated, setting the stage for the horrendous scourge of the oppressive Soviet Union and other Communist countries.

In most of the developed world, Nations are running as Social Democracies, with a blending of Capitalist and Socialist economies. Kind of like back in the day in Arizona when the Gas and Electric company used the slogan: “Gas for what it does best, and Electricity for what it does best.” The equation between capitalism and socialism varies from country to country.

While some Americans see themselves as only Capitalist, that is not at all true. The New Deal set up a very effective social system. When we send our children to public schools, drive on government built roads, use the public library, mail letters, are protected by the regulations of the FDA, FCC, FAA, etc., we are enjoying some of the benefits of the socialist side of our system. A purely capitalist system would be brutal and inhumane. A purely socialist system probably would not work well either.

Given its druthers, traditional mainstream Christianity is more socialist than capitalist, as we have seen. The Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian New Testament definitely lean heavily in that direction.

The main point in this section is that “Socialism” is not some diabolical, atheist, communist menace that threatens to engulf us and take away our freedoms. It’s just an economic system that blends well with an ethical, controlled capitalism.

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To see what a Capitalist system would be like without the tempering influence of Socialism, read or view The Hunger Games, and read Mark Allen Zubro’s Alien Danger Science Fiction series! Not pretty.

Democracy

Etymology: demo- +‎ -cracy, from Middle French democratie (French démocratie), from Medieval Latin democratia, from Ancient Greek δημοκρατία ‎(dēmokratía), from δῆμος ‎(dêmoscommon people”, “assembly of the people) + κράτος ‎(krátosrule, strength). The first part is from Proto-Indo-European *deh₂mos ‎(people) (perhaps originally a feminine), from *deh₂- ‎(to divide), whence also δαίομαι ‎(daíomai). The original meaning was thus “part”. Cognate to Old Irish dám ‎(followers, crowd) and Old Welsh dauu. The second is from Proto-Indo-European *kret-. Cognates include Sanskrit क्रतु ‎(krátu), Avestan (xratu-), and Old English heard ‎(hard).

DC-Misc-Cartoon-Power-to-People-w-Men-in-Togas

Wikipedia’s definition of this social system is succinct and accurate:

Democracy is “a system of government in which all the people of a state or polity … are involved in making decisions about its affairs, typically by voting to elect representatives to a parliament or similar assembly,” as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary.[1] Democracy is further defined as (a:) “government by the people; especially : rule of the majority (b:) ” a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”[2]

According to political scientistLarry Diamond, it consists of four key elements:

  1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
  2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
  3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.
  4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.[3]
Deacon singing the Great Litany at St. Elias Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Brompton ON. (Please click to learn how to help rebuild the Church.)

Deacon singing the Great Litany at St. Elias Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Brompton ON. (Please click to learn how to help rebuild the Church.)

In the Byzantine Divine Liturgy used by the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine/Greek Catholic Churches, one of the petitions is for the Sovereign of the Land. In ancient times, the petition referred to the Roman Emperor. In the UK today, many such Churches would pray thusly:

For our sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth, her government, the royal family, and all in civil authority, let us pray to the Lord…

In the United States, it usually goes like this, which is technically inaccurate, since the prayer is for the Sovereign:

For the President, the Government, and the Armed Forces, let us pray to the Lord…

However, in some very heads-up parishes, it goes like this:

For the Sovereign American People, and for those they empower in Government, and for the Armed Forces and all who protect us, Let us Pray to the Lord…

The Government is not sovereign. The rich are not sovereign. Corporations are not sovereign. We are.

Of course, I am not making an argument for the silly and fatuous “Sovereign Citizen” movement. We are sovereign collectively, and we have a rather good checks and balances system that tempers majority rule with the rights of the minority. Our Rosicrucian and Masonic Founders of the Republic were very wise people, overall, and they created a Constitution which is flexible, dynamic, and able to adapt over the centuries.

A truly well operating Democracy must be free of Corporate, Religious, and Wealth controls.

Here’s my proposal about how to get back to that sane situation (now this is something you can have informed opinions about):

Slide1

Christianity operates well in a Democracy, and while we were founded as and remain a secular Democracy, the Separation of Church and State is a protection going both ways.

One thing I would add in closing this section is that we MUST recover the concept of the Loyal Opposition that we so treasured when I was young. “Politics stops at the Water’s Edge,” we said. The fact that we now doubt the patriotism of those on the other side of the aisle will be our destruction if we do not stop it NOW.

Citizens and members of Congress communicating ex parte with Governments with which are negotiating, and which are hostile to us and our allies, is, in plain, black letter law, Treason. If you didn’t like it when Jane Fonda did it in Hanoi, you should not like it when 47 members of Congress sent the infamous letter to Iran recently. They are as guilty of Treason as every benighted American youth who fights for ISIL, at home or abroad. That part is legal fact.

treason-page-break

My opinion about this situation is that all 47 members of Congress and every person who fights on behalf of ISIL should be prosecuted for Treason, so that we get this adjudicated in Law.

As you can tell, I am passionate about our Democracy. The Escontrias side of my family have been living here since the Conquistadores came over in the 16th Century. We waved “Hi!” to the late-comers on the Mayflower in 1620. The Irish-Welsh-English side, the Catos, Lewises and Armstrongs came over before the British starved the Irish during the falsely called “Potato Famine.” My family is part of the foundation of this Land, and I’m fighting for it!

Fascism

Etymology: From Italian fascismo, from fascio ‎(bundle, fasces), from Latin fasces, plural of fasciswhich in turn is from Proto-Indo-European *bhasko ‎(bundle, band), see also Proto-Celtic *baski ‎(bundle, load), Ancient Greek φάκελος ‎(phákelosbundle), Old English bæst ‎(inner bark of the linden tree), Welsh baich ‎(load, burden), Middle Irish basc ‎(neckband).

Fasces in the US House of Representatives

Fasces in the US House of Representatives

The word is taken from the Roman symbol of strength through solidarity, the Fasces, a bundle of sticks bound together with an Axe. As that concept, it is just fine. However, the Nazis perverted this noble symbol, as they did the mystical symbol the Swastika, during their reign if Evil in the Third Reich (They too were trying to be the Third Rome). On the other side of the political spectrum, the Communists perverted Socialism. Both can also be viewed as Christian Heresies.

Many of the Western Democracies, and some other Nations, still use the Symbol of the Fasces as part of our Roman Heritage. We do, the French so, et al.

As we have done before, let’s look at Wikipedia’s good description:

Fascism (/fæʃɪzəm/) is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism[1][2] that came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. Influenced by national syndicalism, fascism originated in Italy during World War I, in opposition to liberalismMarxism, and Anarchism. Fascism is often placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum, but some academics call that description inadequate.[3][4]

Fascists identify World War I as a revolution. It brought revolutionary changes in the nature of war, society, the state, and technology. The advent of total war and total mass mobilization of society had broken down the distinction between civilian and combatant. A “military citizenship” arose in which all citizens were involved with the military in some manner during the war.[5][6] The war had resulted in the rise of a powerful state capable of mobilizing millions of people to serve on the front lines or provide economic production and logistics to support those on the front lines, as well as having unprecedented authority to intervene in the lives of citizens.[5][6] Fascists view World War I as having made liberal democracy obsolete, and regard total mobilization of society under a totalitarian single-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict. To respond effectively to economic difficulties, such a totalitarian state is led by a strong leader — such as a dictator and a martial government composed of the members of the governing fascist party — to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society.[7] Fascism rejects assertions of violence automatically being negative in nature and views political violence, war, and imperialism as means that can achieve national rejuvenation.[8][9][10][11]

Fascists advocate a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky through protectionist and interventionist economic policies.[12] Following World War II, few parties have openly described themselves as fascist, and the term is usually used pejoratively by political opponents. The terms neo-fascist or post-fascist are sometimes applied more formally to describe parties of the far right with ideological similarities to, or roots in, 20th century fascist movements.[13]

Fascism is one of those terms that gets thrown around in Social Media, and usually I avoid it like the Plague. However, there is something disturbing happening in this interminable election cycle. Umberto Eco has a very important article on the characteristics of Fascism. I urge you to read it.

Fascism-beware-of-it-e1392821889687

Finally, in this section, I urge you to read over the 14 characteristics of Fascist Regimes. I did, and I became very concerned. Compare the characteristics listed there with some of the political rhetoric and reality of our shared life today, and you may be surprised–and worried. I am. We and others fought the largest war in history to defeat Fascism. We must not let it get even a foothold here.

Here are two other worrisome articles on this subject.

I am getting ready to read a fascinating 1989 work, Albion’s Seed, which I believe will go a long way in explaining why the current GOP base is particularly–not uniquely–vulnerable to the infection of Fascism. I’m not suggesting that we have fully fallen into Fascism, but the threat is there.

American Exceptionalism

Etymology: America, from a Latinized form of the Italian forename of Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512), the cartographer who first demonstrated that the New World was not East Asia. Exceptionalism: From Anglo-Norman excepcioun, from Old French excepcion, from Latin exceptio (take out, withdraw; make an exception, except), from ex (“out, away”) + capiō ‎(take).  Capio is from Proto-Italic *kapjō, from Proto-Indo-European *kh₂pyé-*kh₂pi- (compare Breton kavout, English haveheave, Lithuanian kàmpt, Albanian kap, Ancient Greek κάπτω ‎(káptō)).

I conclude today with a concept that I believe (my informed opinion) is creating difficulties for us today.

Shining_City_Upon_Hill-American-Exceptionalism

Once again, let’s see Wikipedia’s very cogent explanation of this concept:

American exceptionalism is the theory that the United States is inherently different from other nations.[2] In this view, American exceptionalism stems from its emergence from the American Revolution, thereby becoming what political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset called “the first new nation”[3] and developing a uniquely American ideology, “Americanism“, based on libertyegalitarianismindividualismrepublicanismdemocracy and laissez-faire. This ideology itself is often referred to as “American exceptionalism.”[4]

Although the term does not necessarily imply superiority, many neoconservative and other American conservative writers have promoted its use in that sense.[4][5] To them, the U.S. is like the biblical “City upon a Hill“—a phrase evoked by British colonists to North America as early as 1630—and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries.[6]

The theory of the exceptionalism of the U.S. can be traced to Alexis de Tocqueville, the first writer to describe the country as “exceptional” in 1831 and 1840.[7] The exact term “American exceptionalism” has been in use since at least the 1920s and saw more common use after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin allegedly chastised members of the Jay Lovestone-led faction of the American Communist Party for their belief that America was independent of the Marxist laws of history “thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions”. However, this story has been challenged because the expression “American exceptionalism” was already used by Brouder & Zack in Daily Worker (N.Y.) on the 29th of January 1929, before Lovestone’s visit to Moscow. In addition, Fred Shapiro, editor of The Yale Book of Quotations, has noted that “exceptionalism” was used to refer to the United States and its self-image during the Civil War by The Times on August 20, 1861.[8]

However, American Communists started using the English term “American exceptionalism” in factional fights. It then moved into general use among intellectuals.[9][10] In 1989, Scottish political scientist Richard Rose noted that most American historians endorse exceptionalism. He suggests that these historians reason as follows:

America marches to a different drummer. Its uniqueness is explained by any or all of a variety of reasons: history, size, geography, political institutions, and culture. Explanations of the growth of government in Europe are not expected to fit American experience, and vice versa.[11]

However, postnationalist scholars have rejected American exceptionalism, arguing that the U.S. had not broken from European history, and accordingly, the U.S. has retained class-based and race-based inequalities, as well as imperialism and willingness to wage war.[12]

In recent years scholars from numerous disciplines, as well as politicians and commentators in the popular media, have debated the meaning and usefulness of the concept. Roberts and DeCuirci ask:

Why has the myth of American exceptionalism, characterized by a belief in America’s highly distinctive features or unusual trajectory based in the abundance of its natural resources, its revolutionary origins and its protestant religious culture that anticipated God’s blessing of the nation—held such tremendous staying power, from its influence in popular culture to its critical role in foreign policy?[13]

The primary problem I see in holding fast to American Exceptionalism, besides being–I believe (informed opinion)–untrue, is that it prevents us from learning from other nations’ and cultures’ experiences. It also militates against our understanding that we are part of an interdependent family of Nations and that we need to seek solutions together.

Even though I do hold that we were the first of the New World Order, that does not set us apart from the rest of the nations of the world, some of which have joined us in this grand adventure. We certainly have some unique qualities, many of which we share with Canada, and to a certain extent, Australia and New Zealand, as I have suggested in many posts. E pluribus unum (Out of many, One) can stand for that uniqueness in some ways. But all of this still does not make us aliens. Our Nation has more in common with many other Nations, than differences.

"Great Seal of the United States (reverse)" by IpankoninThis vector image was created with Inkscape. - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(reverse).svg#/media/File:Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(reverse).svg

“Great Seal of the United States (reverse)” by Ipankonin. This vector image was created with Inkscape. – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(reverse).svg#/media/File:Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(reverse).svg

I hope that this over-long exposition will assist in clarifying terms and enabling more clear dialogue on the pressing issues of our day.

Thank you for reading!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant