2021-03-02

The End of Global Capitalism and the Rise of China

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

John K.

I once read a thick biography of John Maynard Keynes and a less thick book by John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society, that expressed a very high regard for Keynesian ideas, and over the years have often found myself thinking back on ideas and turns of phrase in both of those works. I suppose that’s a sign that both Keynes and Galbraith have had an ongoing influence on my understanding of economics. (An engaging high school economics teacher led me towards top marks for the subject in my senior year so maybe the influence goes back to him.) So I was not able to resist reading what looked like a promising refresher and update on the nature of economics by that same Galbraith’s son, James K. Galbraith, on the Brave New Europe website:

James K. Galbraith – What is Economics?

James K.

The end of that article asked the question, What about global Capitalism: can it survive in its current form? and his answer is a neat outline of the history of capitalism since its inception through to today:

Pure global capitalism, such as it was, developed from around 1500 to the end of the 19th century.

It was undermined by the Great War and collapsed in North America, Europe and the British Empire at the end of the 1920s.

It was replaced over the course of the succeeding decades by a mixed economy, rooted in the pragmatic reforms of the American New Deal, the exigencies of the Second World War, and in reactions and adaptations to the competing systems of fascism and state socialism.

The attempt to reconstruct a system of pseudo-unregulated global capitalism began only in the late 1970s, with waves of privatization, deregulation and austerity. That system never fully matured and it has already collapsed, first in the financial crisis [of 2008], and now in the pandemic. So the question of its survival does not arise.

The question now is, what should be built in its place?Answers to that question are already emerging, most prominently in China but perhaps also in Russia and in parts of Latin America. Europe, the UK and North America, where neoliberal ideologues prevailed for decades, must now come to grips with the urgent need for fresh thinking suited to free and democratic societies.

https://braveneweurope.com/james-k-galbraith-what-is-economics (my formatting)

Now that last paragraph set me off on a quest to find what JKG has in mind, exactly, about those countries, especially China.

[John Galbraith] . . . in the 1930s, worked on the New Deal, was charged with price control in World War II, and was a close advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson while becoming Harvard University’s longest-serving professor. But it was in the 1950s and 1960s that he became the world’s most famous economist and the first ever to reach a mass audience without the backing of any state. (foreignpolicy.com)

Here is an excerpt from a piece written in April 2020. If America in the 1950s and early 60s was Galbraithian (see the insert box), then today China comes closer to that description:

And there is China. We need not be detained by squabbles over whether the Chinese system is capitalist or socialist, whether the most influential economist over modern China is Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, or Henry George. Elements of both systems, and inspiration from all three thinkers, can be found in the way China’s economy works today. But the large Chinese state-owned corporations and China’s presence on the world stage are unquestionably Galbraithian, focused on market share, learning, new technologies, and improvement of the national capital stock. And so, in important respects, has been the Chinese state, which prizes above all autonomy, predictability, and social stability, and if not always firm control of its banking sector, the willingness to override that sector’s autonomy whenever necessary. China is no democracy, and modern China was built on many epic disasters, including the famine and Cultural Revolution, none of which appeal as models. But that it is a functioning society capable of mobilizing to meet vast challenges has never been clearer than in recent days.

https://democracyjournal.org/magazine/the-pandemic-and-capitalism/ (my highlighting)

That’s quite generalized. Here is a more detailed explanation. It is a clearer focus on what our author means by “Galbraithian”:

In America’s heyday, the dominant economic formation was the large industrial corporation. Giants like General Electric, General Motors, Ford, Bethlehem Steel, International Harvester, and IBM provided the backbone of U.S. military power and technological dominance on world markets. These firms grew up on American soil, survived the Depression, and were buttressed by the New Deal and the mobilization for World War II. In the postwar years, their power was balanced by strong trade unions, the organized voices of consumers and independent scientists, and an engaged government that weighed those voices against those of big business. This was the reality described and endorsed by my father, the economist John Kenneth Galbraith. That reality still exists out there—but America’s industrial firms are no longer the world’s leaders, and those that are, are not in the United States.

Enter Covid-19 to make for the rise of some and the decline of others:

The pandemic has now put Galbraith’s global legacy into stark relief. One can now map out the rise and decline of nations simply by distinguishing between those that have continued along the lines that once defined U.S. economic success as Galbraith saw it and those that fell under the spell of illusions about free, competitive, and self-regulating markets and under the dominating power of finance. The United States today finds itself sadly in the latter group, alongside the United Kingdom. . . .

JKG explains again what the “Galbraithian” world was like before Reaganism and Thatcher when the shareholders, the investors, have become the decisive force. In “Galbraithian” times/nations . . .

The corporation, not the mythical sovereign consumer, set the terms of economic change. It designed, engineered, produced, and marketed to the masses. It was at the same time the architect of novelty and the stabilizing factor. Government helped by keeping predatory finance under strict controls and by vanquishing mass unemployment through public spending and tax reductions, in line with the ideas of John Maynard Keynes. Progress, in a certain sense, was therefore ongoing, steady, and confidently expected to continue. . . .

Then there is China! . . .

Then there is China. In her forthcoming book, How China Escaped Shock Therapy, Isabella Weber demonstrates that China made an explicit choice in the 1980s to shun Friedman’s free market radicalism in favor of Galbraith’s pragmatism and gradualism. China’s post-Mao-era planners made a detailed study of American wartime price controls under my father’s direction at the U.S. Office of Price Administration in 1942-1943 and maintained a central role for large state-owned but autonomously managed corporations in their development strategy. Today, these firms and privately owned newcomers like Huawei are among the world’s leading Galbraithian firms . . . .

What about the Elizabeth Warrens who see the solution to America’s ills in the dismantling of the huge monopolies and Big Tech firms in order to restore a happily genuinely competitive market where individual entrepreneurship can flourish once more? Continue reading “The End of Global Capitalism and the Rise of China”


2021-03-01

Political Censorship on Twitter

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Further reminders  that  social media are  not  public, but privately owned,  spaces:

On February 24, 2021, Twitter suspended the account of CODEPINK National Co-director Ariel Gold, an outspoken feminist advocate for Palestinian rights and an end to U.S. militarism. 

(From the Codepink page)

Here are the flagged tweets. I can’t see any connection between Twitter’s stated reason for violation of rules and the content of the tweets.

This comes hard on the heels of reports of another censorship:

‘Undermining faith in NATO’ is now grounds for Twitter ban

Heresy against NATO has apparently joined the ever-expanding list of sins that will get one erased from Twitter, as Big Tech mounts a crusade against infidels at home and abroad on behalf of values of Our Democracy.

Twitter announced bans on 373 accounts it connected to “state-linked information operations” on Tuesday. Some of them, the company said, “amplified narratives that were aligned with the Russian government” or “focused on undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.”

From Twitter Safety:


2021-02-27

Restoring Trust in Science as a Source of Reliable Knowledge

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Another great program from the ABC’s Radio National, this time from the Science Friction program. The interviewer is Natasha Mitchell. This one is about 25 minutes.

Science FAIL! A perilous story of why it’s good to do

From the concluding minutes:

Dr Ben de Haas: . . . . Ideally that’s what makes the difference between science and other pursuits of truth – that we correct our errors.

Natasha Mitchell: But the current culture of science could be undermining that ideal, and is taking a toll on the mental health of early career scientists especially, — short term grants, a publish or perish culture, promotion being contingent on journal papers, job insecurity, short PhD scholarships, and a focus on only publishing positive findings.

Professor Alan Love: In recent years there have emerged movements for the publication of negative results where some journals will do that. However, it’s still clearly the case, what is expected from scientists is to break through, be the first to discover something, . . . There’s a deep tension there.  Then the only people who can secure those positions that are few and far between are the ones who “grab the golden ring” of the results that everybody wants to tweet, not the person who says, “I discovered that everything I was doing was based on an artefact.” . . . You can’t build a career on that.

artefact: something observed in a scientific investigation or experiment that is not naturally present but occurs as a result of the preparative or investigative procedure.
“the curvature of the surface is an artefact of the wide-angle view”

Mitchell: But perhaps that announcement, that everything I’ve just done for the last three years is based on an artefact, is actually the most powerful finding of all for subsequent experiments.

Love: It could be, absolutely. That’s the picture of science that we really need society to have. If they only get what they see in the movies, if they only get the sort of Era[?] stories, or the recounting of the Nobel prize lecture about how you found that amazing discovery, they’re going to really misunderstand the enterprise and why we should trust it, why we should think that it generates reliable knowledge.

If they read the front page news and they see one week, “Oh look, coffee’s good for me”, and next week, “Oh look, coffee’s bad for me” and then next week, “Oh look, coffee’s good for me again” and they become jaded if the expectation is somehow that the scientists are going to deliver some sort of inviolate factoid about coffee, can we reset those expectations? If we can, I think we can make some serious progress in how we understand the role of science in society.

And given the anti-intellectual, anti-science views that appear to be pervading very large swathes of our supposedly enlightened communities, that is surely an urgent task.

 

 


2021-02-26

Raised in a Cult

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Here’s another personal cult and cult-exit story. Among those who would learn much from listening to the interview is anyone who derisively thinks, “once a fundamentalist, always a fundamentalist”. I can relate to much of what addressed here. No doubt can many others — especially the discussion on rebuilding one’s life after the cult.

From the introduction of ABC’s program Conversations:

Serafina was born as a baby named Miriyum into a religious cult on New Zealand’s South Island.

The cult leader was a charismatic but abusive man named Douglas Metcalfe, who claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

The members lived together at ‘Camp David’, growing vegetables and reading the Book of Revelation.

For Serafina, the cult was her family and she looked forward to the day they would take part in the final battle against the forces of Satan.

When she was a young woman she was released to attend technical college on the condition she still wore her headscarf.

While she was at Polytech, revelations about Metcalfe and his adultery and abuse of young girls began to emerge, which eventually saw the cult collapse.

But leaving Camp David for a life without religious rules was more complicated than she could have imagined.

It’s a 49 minute conversation

From https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/serafina-tan%C3%A8-cult-escaping-a-cult-cycling/13174334

 


2021-02-25

Silicon Valley’s Brave New World — and Chinese Communism may be its Beacon

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

We begin with an interesting observation of Rana Foroohar, author of Don’t Be Evil: How Big Tech Betrayed Its Founding Principles – and All of Us . . . After outlining how Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, arrived at their PageRank system that became the core feature of Google, Foroohar casts light on the engineers creating this new wonder:

Now their bots could roam with impunity all over cyberspace, tagging, tallying—and potentially trespassing over the copyrights of anyone and everyone who had created the content they were linking to in the process, something that Google would eventually do at industrial scale when it purchased YouTube years later.

All perfectly innocent, right? And all for the greater good, naturally.

To Page and Brin, there was nothing nefarious about this. They simply sought to capture the knowledge tucked away in computer archives across the country to benefit humanity. If it benefited them, too, so much the better. It was the first instance of what later might be classified as lawful theft. If anyone complained, Page expressed mystification. Why would anyone be bothered by an activity of theirs that was so obviously benign? They didn’t see the need to ask permission; they’d just do it. “Larry and Sergey believe that if you try to get everyone on board it will prevent things from happening,” said Terry Winograd, a professor of computer science at Stanford and Page’s former thesis adviser, in an article in 2008. “If you just do it, others will come around to realize they were attached to old ways that were not as good….No one has proven them wrong—yet.”

In earlier pages, Foroohar opened the door to the educational and cultural background (from Montessori to Stanford) of Page and Brin that fostered this attitude.

This became the Google way. As Jonathan Taplin wrote in his book, Move Fast and Break Things, when Google released the first version of Gmail, Page refused to allow engineers to include a delete button “because Google’s ability to profile you by preserving your correspondence was more important than your ability to eliminate embarrassing parts of your past.” Likewise, customers were never asked if Google Street View cameras could take pictures of their front yards and match them to addresses in order to sell more ads. They adhered strictly to the maxim that says it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to beg for permission—though in truth they weren’t really doing either.

Oh, to have the freedom to create that only China can provide. . .

It’s an attitude of entitlement that still exists today, even after all the events of the past few years. In 2018, while attending a major economics conference, I was stuck in a cab with a Google data scientist, who expressed envy at the amount of surveillance that Chinese companies are allowed to conduct on citizens, and the vast amount of data it produces. She seemed genuinely outraged about the fact that the university where she was conducting AI research had apparently allowed her to put just a handful of data-recording sensors around campus to collect information that could then be used in her research. “And it took me five years to get them!” she told me, indignantly.

Like innocent children who believe they can create the brave new world . . .

Such incredulity is widespread among Valley denizens, who tend to believe that their priorities should override the privacy, civil liberties, and security of others. They simply can’t imagine that anyone would question their motives, given that they know best. Big Tech should be free to disrupt government, politics, civic society, and law, if those things should prove to be inconvenient. This is the logic held by the band of tech titans who would like to see the Valley secede not just from America, but from California itself, since, according to them, the other regions aren’t pulling their economic weight.

History and the humanities? Never bothered with them, but they do make a rich source of hyperlinks . . .

The kings (and handful of queens) of Silicon Valley see themselves as prophets of sorts, given that tech is, after all, the future. The problem is that creators of the future often feel they have little to learn from the past. As lauded venture capitalist Bill Janeway once put it to me, “Zuck and many of the rest [of the tech titans] have an amazing naïveté about context. They really believe that because they are inventing the new economy, they can’t really learn anything from the old one. The result is that you get these cultural and political frictions that are offsetting many of the benefits of the technology itself.”

Law? Ethics? We can’t code for those!

Frank Pasquale, a University of Maryland law professor and noted Big Tech critic whose book The Black Box Society is a must-read for those who want to understand the effects of technology on politics and the economy, provided a telling example of this attitude. “I once had a conversation with a Silicon Valley consultant about search neutrality [the idea that search engine titans should not be able to favor their own content], and he said, ‘We can’t code for that.’ I said this was a legal matter, not a technical one. But he just repeated, with a touch of condescension: ‘Yes, but we can’t code for it, so it can’t be done.’ ” The message was that the debate would be held on the technologist’s terms, or not at all.

Human things require real humans to work humanely. Google removed the “Don’t be evil” motto from the introduction to its code of conduct in 2018. Continue reading “Silicon Valley’s Brave New World — and Chinese Communism may be its Beacon”


2021-02-23

Techno-Feudalism — We are working for Big Tech for free

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Initially, Eva had considered the harvesting of data by Facebook, Google and others for the purposes of advertising a pretty innocuous way for consenting adults to trade a little bit of privacy for some rather desirable free leisure services. But as Costa would point out whenever given half a chance, Facebook and Google, Twitter and Instagram, Amazon and the rest were not mere service providers. Nor were their profits rewards for services rendered. No, they were gigantic behaviour modification machines, addicting and provoking, teasing and enraging their users in order to maximize engagement and the profiling data – and profits – that came with it.

‘Big tech only enables two people to communicate if it can manipulate their behaviour,’ Costa would insist on the rare occasions that he and Eva had argued the matter.

This was what he meant when he said that social media was proletarianizing us all. Facebook’s users provided both the labour that went into the machine and the product that was sold by it.

‘Even Walmart, a company renowned for its capacity to squeeze every drop of value out of its workers, pays out 40 per cent of its total revenue in wages,’ Costa would complain. ‘But Facebook pays only 1 per cent of its revenues to its employees and precisely nothing to its users!’

That was back in 2019. By 2025, Eva had become convinced that no self-respecting liberal could condone big tech’s mass manipulation techniques nor defend its gains as a fair reward for entrepreneurship. Its returns were only made possible by a species of techno-feudalism that made billions of people work for it for free.

Varoufakis, Yanis. Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present. London: The Bodley Head, 2020. p.144 (my emphasis)


2021-02-16

How and Why the Mandaeans Embraced John the Baptist

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

The Mandaeans live on the banks of the Tigris [see Ancient Whither for an update since Iraq war]. They must live near running water where they can practise their continual baptismal rites. When they were first discovered by [Roman Catholic missionaries] in the 17th century, and it was found that they were neither Catholics nor Protestants but that they made much of baptism and honoured John the Baptist, they were called Christians of St John, in the belief that they were a direct survival of the Baptist’s disciples [such as are mentioned in Acts 18:25ff].

(F. C. Burkitt, 1928, [1931])

Last month I posted links to recent works from a symposium on John the Baptist and expressed appreciation for a reminder from James McGrath that it might be worth taking a closer look at the Mandaean sources when searching for glimpses of “the historical John the Baptist”. This post shares what I have found of interest in my very early follow up reading.

Disclaimers:

  • What follows draws upon what only a handful of scholars have written about the relationship between John the Baptist and the Mandaeans. The views are debated.
  • I have not read the Mandaean literature, not even in translation, but am relying upon what scholars have written about that literature in summary.
  • What I write today may be (and probably will be) different from what I write another day.

Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley argues in favour of the strong likelihood of a historical link (even if that link is indirect) between John the Baptist and the Mandaeans in The Great Stem of Souls: Reconstructing Mandaean History and in her contribution to A People’s History of ChristianityOf one scholar who does not accept a historical connection Buckley writes:

Shimon Gibson’s The Cave of John the Baptist (New York: Doubleday, 2004) is much too facile in its summary dismissal of the Mandaeans as being of any possible relevance to the historical John (325-26). The idea that John was imported into Mandaeism in Islamic times is untenable.

(Buckley, Turning the Tables on Jesus, 296 – my emphasis)

Before I set out Buckley’s case let’s look at the one she protests is “too facile a dismissal” of a Mandaean association with a historical John the Baptist. Shimon Gibson asks and addresses the key question in The Cave of John the Baptist:

Could these Mandaeans be the descendants of the original followers of John the Baptist? And would it be possible to reconstruct the writings of the first followers of John based on an analysis of Mandaean literature?

Unfortunately, the answer is a negative one: they are definitely not the descendants of the original baptists. The name of the sect is derived from the Aramaic Manda d’Haiye, which means ‘the knowledge of life’. . . . 

The excitement of early researchers suggesting possible links between disciples of John, who had in some fashion preserved his heritage, and Mandaean religious writings was quickly dashed by the scholar F. C. Burkitt who was able to show that there is nothing in the Mandaean literature that could actually predate the fifth to seventh centuries AD. Moreover, those Mandaean writings pertaining specifically to John the Baptist must reflect adaptations from the Gospels and are not alternative writings on John. . . . Some of the Mandaean writings are notably hostile towards Christianity and Jesus, who is described as the ‘prophet of lies’, as well as towards Judaism [note 10.81].

(Gibson, Cave, 325f. Note 10.81 points to Albright’s From the Stone Age to Christianity that also directs readers to Burkitt, and to Lietzmann’s The Beginnings of the Christian Church.)

And so our journey begins. Next stop, some of the comments of F. C. Burkitt:

And a very little investigation makes it quite clear that the Mandaean hostility to Eshu mshiha[=Jesus Christ] is hostility to the fully developed post-Nicene Church. In several places ‘Christ’ is actually called ‘the Byzantine’ (Rumaia), and further we are told that the disciples of this Christ become ‘Christians’, and turn into monks and nuns who have no children and who keep fasts and never wear white clothes like the Mandaeans . . . . In a word, it is not the Christ of the Gospels, but the Christ of fully developed ecclesiastical organization and policy to which Mandaism is so hostile.

(Bukitt, 1928, 229)

An example of Manichean influence: The Mandaeans, then, rejected the Christ of the Catholic Church, born of a woman and crucified, but they accepted the Stranger who appeared in Jerusalem in the days of Pilate, who healed the sick and taught the true and life-giving doctrine, and who ascended in due course when his work was done to his own place in the world of Light. This Personage is called the Stranger, but he is no stranger to the modern student of Christian antiquity : it is clearly the Manichaean Jesus, a personage adopted by Mani from the Jesus of Marcion. In other words it is no new controversial figment of the Mandaeans. (Burkitt, 1928, 231)

What did the contemporary Churchmen say of the Mandaeans? Burkitt in Church and Gnosis:

We have now . . . an account of the Mandaeans by an ancient Mesopotamian writer, writing in the year A.D. 792. He tells us that their founder was a certain Ado, a mendicant, who came from Adiabene, i.e. from the district just north of Mosul. He further tells us that his teaching was derived from the Marcionites, from the Manichaeans . . .

There is no reason to reject the evidence of Theodore bar Konai. . . . It is important to consider how much his evidence comes to. There is a good deal in the Mandaean literature that recalls Marcionite and Manichaean teaching . . . .

(Burkitt, 1931, 102)

And that other cited reference in Gibson’s The Cave of John the Baptist?

The numerous writings of the Mandæans bear witness to the continued existence of the disciples of John for several centuries and perhaps the baptist sect in southern Babylonia at the present time, is the direct heir of John’s work in the days of the Herods. That is asserted nowadays by many weighty persons, and anyone who regards the Mandaean literature as sources can draw an attractive picture of the spiritual power which proceeded from John, and which influenced the religion of Judaism, and especially that of Jesus and His disciples. John’s circle then appears as the nursery of an early gnosis, which united Babylonian, Persian, and Syrian elements in a many-coloured mixture on a Jewish background, and grouped the whole round the ancient Iranian mythology of the first man, that redeemer who descended from heaven in order to awaken the soul bound and asleep in the material fetters of this world, and to open up for it the way to heaven.

This is very intriguing, and gives quite unthought-of perspectives, leading possibly to a new understanding of primitive Christianity; nevertheless we must put it firmly and entirely on one side. It can be shown that the Mandaean literature consists of various strata which come from widely different periods. And the latest of these strata, belonging to the Islamic era—i.e. at earliest, in the seventh century—are those which preserve the notices of John the Baptist; they are modelled on the basis of the gospel records, and distorted till they are grotesque. In the same way, the many sallies against Jesus and Christianity are quite clearly directed against the Byzantine church, and have not the least connection with primitive Christianity. The fragments of the earlier strata belong to a rank oriental gnosis which has run to seed, and have no bearing on the historical John and his disciples.

(Lietzmann, 1961, 43f)

To turn now to a more recent scholar and one whom Buckley engages in some depth (pp 326-330 in Great Stem), Edmondo Lupieri, author of The Mandaeans, the Last Gnostics.

One detail in Lupieri’s work that Buckley disputes that attracted my attention concerned the Mandaean account of their ancestors having migrated from Palestine to Mesopotamia. I was unaware of such an event being a literary trope that can be traced back to the flight of Aeneas with his family from Troy immediately prior to its destruction. That a narrative is a trope does not necessarily mean it cannot also be a historical event, but if a literary-ideological pattern alone offers an explanation for a narrative and there is no independent supporting evidence for historicity then we have no need to go beyond the most economical explanation. Lupieri writes

From the point of view of a comparative analysis it means also that Mandaeanism has aligned itself with those religions that allocate a flight to their beginnings, following upon a persecution. In backgrounds linked to Judaism, this flight or original migration is characterized by a flight from Jerusalem before its destruction,53 which is then explained as a divine punishment.54 The motif is well represented in Judaic traditions — for example, in the so-called “Second Book of Baruch” — but it is above all in Christian or post-Christian traditions where it has found the most ample scope for its development. Already in the Synoptic Gospels there is Jesus’ exhortation to flee to the hills, leaving Jerusalem and Judaea to their destiny of death,55 but most important of all was the legend of a flight of the entire Christian community in Jerusalem from the Judaic capital to Pella, a pagan city beyond the Jordan, shortly before the arrival of the Romans.

53. The event was so traumatic that it exercised a remarkable influence on the belief of all the religions arising from or in some way deriving from Judaism. The legends on the flights from Jerusalem are the religious parallel of the “secular” legends on the original flight-migration from a famous city of the past, afterward destroyed. This is the legend of Aeneas, of course, and of many analogies to be found here and there in virtually all cultures.

54. Also within Judaism, the only way to save the faith after the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem is to consider the catastrophe a punishment decided by one’s own God for sins committed; outside of Judaism, and in particular in Christianity and in Islam, it will be the God of each one (whether thought to be the same God as the Jews’ or not) who punished the Judaic sins.

55. Mark 13:14-27 and parallels.

Lupieri casts light on the problems that arise if that Pella flight actually happened: Continue reading “How and Why the Mandaeans Embraced John the Baptist”


2021-02-14

The Mystery of the Incarnation Solved? — Continuing the series on Nanine Charbonnel’s Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Continuing the series  . . .

.

According to the conventional scholarly view, Jesus began his career as a remarkable man who so impressed his closest associates that they came to view him as more than a mere man after his death. Admiration for Jesus grew to the extent that by the time the epistles and gospels were written he was deemed to be a heavenly divine figure alongside God, one who during his earthly sojourn had been a “new Moses”, a “new Israel” and “son of God”. This Jesus that is found in the gospels and epistles is generally acknowledged to be a mythical figure even though there was some at some point a “mere mortal” upon whom all those grandiose concepts were bestowed over time. A popular Christ myth idea today proposes the converse: that Jesus began as a heavenly figure and that his earthly career was a later “mythological/theological” development.

Nanine Charbonnel [NC] in her book Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier proposes that there is more explanatory power in replacing both trajectories (from human to divine and from heavenly to earthly) with a kind of “big bang” in which all the essential attributes of Jesus, both his core divine and human attributes, appeared together. The method by which this Jesus emerged following the same Jewish literary-theological techniques that generated other biblical figures and events: that is, by various ways of playing with word meanings, sounds, and images that were found in the “Sacred Scriptures”, and by a rich use of allegory and metaphor. See the box below for illustrations of this point.

For example: the name and character of Abraham, meaning “father of many nations”, was constructed to be representative of “many nations”; the twins Jacob and Esau, and then the twelve sons of Israel, were created to represent the twelve tribes, and several of these figures were given narrative roles to represent the historical fates of the people they were said to represent; waters were divided and gathered to let life-giving land appear, and this motif was repeated with the creation of the new world founded by Noah’s family, and again with the new nation of Israel being born through the Red Sea and Jordan River, and again when Elisha took over the reins from Elijah by crossing the brook that miraculously parted for him . . .  and again when the skies themselves were parted at the commencement of the ministry of Jesus. We see related techniques at work with the development of the Son of Man figure emerging first as a metaphor in Daniel and associated with the imagery of another metaphorical figure for Israel, Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, and how this literary Son of Man became a “real” Son of Man dwelling in heaven by the time of the writings attributed to Enoch. Paul’s idea that a saviour figure had undergone a curse by being hung on a tree appears to have been inspired by a creative reflection on the offering of Isaac in Genesis and another passage in Deuteronomy. Certain correspondences between Jezebel and Esther have led some scholars to suggest that Esther was created in part as a righteous foil to the wicked Jezebel. And so forth and so forth — examples could be multiplied many times over (and the ones listed here represent only a few of the creative methods employed). [I have mixed some of NC’s examples with a few others I have read in various other publications.]

The relevance for NC’s thesis is that the way Jesus was created was consistent with the way other figures in the Jewish scriptures were created. The main difference is that the figure of Jesus was overloaded with more layers of Scriptural tropes than others. But there was a good reason for this hyper overlay: Jesus of the gospels was being created as the personification of the new and ideal Israel itself, that is, the Israel of prophecy that was filled with the presence of God. We begin to understand here the origin of the coalescing of two natures in Jesus, the human and the divine.

So we come now to NC’s next step in her discussion of the incarnation of Jesus. Recent posts have addressed the way Jesus was shaped to represent key biblical heroes (Adam, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Elisha) and even the people of God collectively, the new Israel, the union of Jews and gentiles in the one new body. That has been only half the story, though. NC calls this Jesus’s “horizontal” personification. Jesus was also the personification of the divine and of all things ordained for the worship of God, including the temple. But NC begins with the tabernacle of the wilderness, the tent in which God first dwelt among his people. Jesus is also the embodiment of Scripture itself, the Word of God, and the very name of God. NC’s thesis is that the gospel Jesus was the unique product of these two types of personification, horizontal and vertical.

Recall, further, from previous posts the frequency of the confusion of the literal and figurative that NC points to in the Jewish Scriptures. Sometimes the reader is left wondering which is which. So it is with the gospels.

NC sees three primary horizontal-vertical “constructions” making up the figure of gospel Jesus:

  1. As the personification of the People the person named “Yahweh Saves” (= Jesus) is simultaneously the personification-incarnation of the Son of God.
  2. As the nation of kings and the messiah he is the personification-incarnation of the Temple.
  3. More precisely he is the personification-incarnation of the Presence of God, the shekinah, which was originally in the Tabernacle or Tent. Now the word that is translated tabernacle/tent (in the LXX) is used elsewhere as a reference to the human body. But we will come to that in due course.

In the remainder of this chapter draws out the depths of the above three components of the gospel Jesus and I’ll attempt to cover these in the next post (or maybe three). A later discussion explores details of Jesus as the Name, Word and Law of God.

.


Charbonnel, Nanine. Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier. Paris: Berg International éditeurs, 2017.


 


2021-02-12

Why Navalny

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

90 seconds of truth and clarity from Irish member of the European Parliament, Clare Daly:

H/t a retweet by Rania Khalek:


2021-02-06

What the Left Means by “Systemic”

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Tim Widowfield

At the end of 2020, I began to see the requisite social media posts asking what we’re tired of hearing or seeing in the news, and which words or terms we hope never to hear again. Not surprisingly, several people cited “systemic racism” (or, for that matter, systemic anything).

Throughout the previous year, pundits on the left (i.e., centrist liberals) and the right posted responses to what they see as the overuse of the term systemic racism. Disingenuous conservatives warned that blaming the system for generating racist ideas and exclusionary behavior would tend to absolve individuals for moral failings.

On the surface, they may seem to have a point. If the system causes people to behave the way they do, then how can we blame anyone? You may recognize this sort of argument when, for example, centrists and conservatives reflexively point toward the sin of greed rather than the underlying system that rewards or even requires it. They redirect our attention to failing people so that we don’t look too closely at the failing structure that nurtures and supports them. By focusing our attention on the actions of individuals they hope to prevent meaningful change.

Before continuing, we need to be absolutely clear about what we mean by “systemic.” In the mainstream press, we frequently see references to ideas, policies, and behavior that pervade the system. However, they focus our attention on the people who hold those ideas, promote those policies, and engage in that behavior. And where the right sees only bad actors, centrist liberals see bad actors working in a system that needs to be reformed. Neither view is particularly helpful; however, the notion that the politico-economic framework is a neutral playing field that just needs a fairer rulebook and better referees is comforting, but seriously wrongheaded. Continue reading “What the Left Means by “Systemic””


2021-01-31

Vridar posts delay

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

For anyone wondering why I have not posted anything for a little while, — I’ve been in catch-up mode. When I posted something about the Gospel of Mark in relation to Vespasian and the Serapis cult I became focused on finding more about the Serapis cult, where and when and in what modes it functioned. I had to wait for some of the resources to arrive from overseas, and then I have to translate some of them into English. All of that just to see if there is anything relevant to learn in relation to the context of early Christianity and the Gospel of Mark in particular.

Meanwhile, I am still exploring Yanis Varoufakis’s Another Now as it leads me to other works on alternative economic and social models. One detour that I have been led on is a new focus on North American history from the perspective of the “lower classes” from the seventeenth and eighteenth century, with a particular interest on the nature of work and civic identities. It’s an interesting contrast to early Australian and revolutionary French contexts with their British penal system and their grappling with “the ancien regime” while trying to forge a new society.

And Noam Chomsky in a recent interview happened to mention the name of Rana Foroohar in a context that led me to follow up her book, Don’t Be Evil: How Big Tech Betrayed Its Founding Principles — and All of Us, which I’m still reading. And that has led me to some other titles I have had to put in my in-tray beside me here.

Another primary focus of mine has been trying to catch up with what I don’t know about modern USA and the various movements and wider culture that lie behind what looks from here to be a very unstable and crazy place right now. One scholar says it’s all predictable and nothing to worry about in the long-run, while others are not so sanguine. One historian of Trump in the context of American populism generously sent me an electronic copy of his book that I have still to complete. But how times change so fast. It was not long ago I was reading specialist research in Islamism and Islamist terrorism and now I’m having to focus on the culture and groups on the side of the incomprehensibly extremist Republican Party right now.

Meanwhile some more French works that Nanine Charbonnel cites quite frequently have arrived so I can no get a better grasp of the context of some of her thesis points for my series on her book, Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier.

And I still haven’t really caught up with all I need to on John the Baptist. I have meanwhile requested an interlibrary loan of Rivka Nir’s book The first Christian believer: in search of John the Baptist that I want to read alongside some other works before commenting or posting again.

A couple of people have recently reminded me of James McGrath’s online presence and I see that he has posted several teasers to encourage readers to order his new book on what Jesus learned from women. I read some of his advertising posts and see that it looks like an admirable addition to any Sunday School teacher’s collection of church-classes and sermon ideas.

Another delay has been occasioned by my taking time out to read James Fallows’ Breaking the News: How the Media Undermines American Democracy. It was published in 1996 but is so depressingly relevant to today — it has made me want to scream at journalists on TV and elsewhere when they focus on political tactics instead of political substance. Have none of the journalists read that book or do they flatly disagree with it, and if so, why?

All of that [and isn’t it a law that real reasons are stated last?], along with some more than usual high-stress happenings in the “real world” around me outside books and internet, are behind the more-quiet-than-usually quiet status of the blog lately.

Oh — and I can now add one more interesting bird that has shown itself flying over my house, the black cockatoo, three of them. They are common enough in some other parts of Australia, not so much here. I recall at Darwin how they made an atrocious mess of pathways beneath the trees where they fed. They’d rip out leaves, branches, flowers, sharp seeds and scatter them everywhere and those seeds punctured bicycle tyres.

 

 

 


2021-01-25

John the Baptist Resources

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

“Authentic” hand bones of John the Baptist on display in Constantinople.

Presentations and readings are now available at the online site for the John the Baptist Enoch Seminar (11-14 January 2021)

James McGrath has additionally posted his take on many of the presentations:

Last month a lengthy discussion ensued from a post linking Greg Doudna’s suggestion about the origin of the John the Baptist anecdote in Josephus’s Antiquities to the dating of the Gospel of Mark: Another Pointer Towards a Late Date for the Gospel of Mark? In the Online Seminar page linked above one can find links to Greg Doudna’s article, or you can simply click here.

Readers who are aware of my approach to historical enquiry will not be surprised to read that I wonder who anything at all can be known about a John the Baptist figure behind the literary/theological figure(s) that long post-date(s) the early first century and offer us no clear pointers to historical sources? To that end, my interest was piqued by comments on Rivka Nir’s book, The First Christian Believer : In Search of John the Baptist. It may be a little while before I can read beyond summaries, articles and reviews, however, given the cost of it. Nir writes in her presentation,

Given the sources as we have them, I am among the few who are skeptical about our ability to reach the historical figure of John the Baptist through the Gospels.

These writings are not sources for getting acquainted with the historical heroes and makers of Christianity, but for accessing how they were perceived and presented by those generations that shaped the traditions about them.

Exactly. (Nir further argues that the detail about JtB in Josephus is an interpolation.)

McGrath continues to call for a closer look at the Mandean literature. That is something I have not attempted for quite some time so I will be interested to read what he has to say about that.

There are many articles and papers on the Seminar site and I have only glanced at the smallest sample in this post. So much catching up to do!

One more thing — I was not aware of a John the Baptist Wiki Encyclopedia before.

Thanks to Greg Doudna for alerting me to James McGrath’s series that led me to the Seminar resources.

 

 

 


2021-01-22

Conspiracy theories — true and false and how to tell the difference

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

https://www.ft.com/content/d74de6e2-a740-481e-b377-f4cece7e6288

Colin Dickey has an excellent article on GEN, How to Talk to a Conspiracy Theorist.

He stresses the importance of recognizing that conspiracies do in fact exist. Don’t come across like a condescending know-it-all and lazily resort to appeals to authority (the mainstream media sources, for example). Acknowledge that the conspiracy theorist may be motivated by a genuine concern for real injustices, so by laughing in the face of a QAnon believer in a vast pedophile ring led by the Hilary Clinton or Joe Biden, you can come across as not caring about child abuse. Colin Dickey proposes better ways to approach that kind of conspiracy theorist.

Here I would like to focus on his explanation of the differences between real and hoax conspiracies:

How Real Conspiracies Become Known

Conspiracies are real. Think of Watergate, the Iran-Contra episode, (I would add COINTELPRO and the conspiracy to lead the U.S. into the invasion of Iraq), the tobacco lobby, the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals. The more widespread a conspiracy the more effort is required into keeping more people quiet.

When comparing conspiracy theories to their real-world counterparts, what becomes clear is how conspiracists tend to see the world on a fairly abstract level. There is a purposeful lack of detail and specificity since such detail will reveal inherent problems and contradictions with the theory. The more you press for these details, the harder the conspiratorial mind will have to work to reconcile the theory with reality. . . . What are the mechanics of this conspiracy, and what is preventing the normal mechanisms of investigative journalism and law enforcement from kicking in here?

After all, even highly organized conspiracies with limitless government backing and resources can’t stay hidden forever.

Successful conspiracies take hard work to keep them secret. The bigger the conspiracy, the more people involved. Watergate became known through a bookkeeper for the Committee for the Reelection of the President, Judy Hoback Miller, who “felt frustrated” that the “truth was not coming out”.

People like Miller [are] the “so-called ‘minor people” — the secretaries, security guards, and other low-level employees who worked behind the scenes for the big players who were often the first to talk. Such people are rarely ideologues nor are they being paid enough. The complexities of QAnon likewise would require a massive number of such minor people; people who, it stands to reason, have no ideological commitment to such horrors but are nonetheless employed in carrying them out. Such people ought to be easy to get to talk. When no such whistleblowers emerge, it speaks to the thinness of the story.

Compare the exposure of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program in the early days of the war on terror. This was

documented by none other than hobbyist plane spotters, who noted the tail numbers of flights taking off and landing. 

The more wide-reaching a conspiracy — the more victims it has, the more perpetrators involved, the wider geographical distance covered, etc. — the more traces it will leave. A conspiracy theory that is widely hypothesized and yet unproven, in other words, requires a level of human infallibility that we have never heretofore seen.

 

Hiding 35,000 children

QAnon alleges thousands of victims yet has produced none. Timothy Charles Holmseth, a conspiracist who claims to be part of a (nonexistent) Pentagon Pedophile Task Force, alleged in May that this same task force rescued some 35,000 children from an underground network of prisons beneath New York’s Central Park.. . . . Who are these victims, and where are their families? Where are the obituaries, the memorials, the tearful mothers on the steps of the Capitol holding press conferences, demanding justice? “There’s not one of them out there who said, ‘Yeah, we’re glad our child was rescued from this giant underground war,’” Craig Sawyer, an anti-sex-trafficking activist and critic of Holmseth, told the Daily Beast.

Understanding

Colin Dickey’s article is worth reading for his insights into the psychology of the conspiracy theorist and for becoming aware of smart ways to approach discussions with those who may be part of something like QAnon. I mentioned above one possible concern: that people really are concerned for some injustice or crime or abuse. Another point he elaborates on is the possibility that for some of us, the idea of a vast and highly successful perfect crime is in one sense reassuring: the world is not so subject to the chaos, the randomness, the lack of controls, – the world is thereby, most ironically, made a more tolerable, safer, place.


Dickey, Colin. “How to Talk to a Conspiracy Theorist.” GEN, October 8, 2020. https://gen.medium.com/how-to-talk-to-a-conspiracy-theorist-20122a39ac8a.


 


2021-01-21

The 1776 Report: History as Political Propaganda

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Thank Clio that Biden withdrew the report on his first day but I still feel some dismay after having read it right through last night. It is the American counterpart of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, a treatise of holy writ as sacred and unquestionable Pat Robertson’s Holy Bible. My initial curiosity was stirred by having read only a few days earlier on page one of Rupert Murdoch’s leading newspaper in Australia a news item about a report by right wing “think tank”, The Institute of Public Affairs, for the incumbent Liberal Party, deeply critical of the way humanities courses are being taught in Australian universities. (The report can be found here.) The 1776 Report is more of the same, in particular more of the same of an earlier IPA report focusing on the teaching of history, or to be even more exact, many pages more of the same type sweeping bromides and absence of substance, ignorance about the nature of history, outright falsehoods about how it is taught and inability to comprehend the outcomes of history teaching today.

The 1776 Report opens by declaring that the United States was founded in “fundamental truths” that must never be abandoned. All political concerns of different sectors of society can be addressed harmoniously by a “proper understanding” of the words of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Whether you belong to the richest 1% or are one of the long-term unemployed in a slum area, you are a part of a same nation, one people, and are part of a system that is set up to “promote your happiness” that all “the nations of the world” will envy and want to emulate. The purpose of teaching history is to create a people united in their beliefs about themselves as Americans, who feel “inspired and ennobled” by what they learn about America’s past. The opening sentence points to the spirit of fundamentalism through which it enjoins readers to believe in their history. Despite mistakes and wrongs from time to time, the American people have always been fundamentally good and righteous:

. . . . Americans will never falter in defending the fundamental truths of human liberty proclaimed on July 4, 1776. We will—we must—always hold these truths. [Later, seven times, the documents speaks of America’s “self-evident and eternal truths” — implying their ultimately divine origin.]

. . . the principles of the American founding . . . have shaped our country. . . . [The founders] sought to build America as a shining “city on a hill”—an exemplary nation, one that protects the safety and promotes the happiness of its people, as an example to be admired and emulated by nations of the world that wish to steer their government toward greater liberty and justice. The record of our founders’ striving and the nation they built is our shared inheritance and remains a beacon, as Abraham Lincoln said, “not for one people or one time, but for all people for all time.”

. . . .

The facts of our founding are not partisan. They are a matter of history. Controversies about the meaning of the founding can begin to be resolved by looking at the facts of our nation’s founding. Properly understood, these facts address the concerns and aspirations of Americans of all social classes, income levels, races and religions, regions and walks of life. As well, these facts provide necessary—and wise—cautions against unrealistic hopes and checks against pressing partisan claims or utopian agendas too hard or too far.

. . . the American people have ever pursued freedom and justice, which are the political conditions for living well. To learn this history is to become a better person, a better citizen, and a better partner in the American experiment of self-government.

. . . America’s principlesare named at the outset to be both universal—applying to everyone—and eternal: existing for all time. 

No nation, we further read, has “strived harder, or done more, to achieve” “equality, liberty, justice and government by consent” than America.

It is like reading a holy book, a promise that to “truly” understand American history is to enter a sacred experience and progress towards becoming an ideal citizen, one who is part of showing the world the epitome of universal truths, becoming part of the nation that is the envy of the world.

It does not replace religion, though. At least not directly. It lays claim, in effect, to being the one sacred place where one can find the true fulfilment of one’s religion. Religion is given meaning insofar as religion allows itself to become a prophet of the American experience. “God” and “Providence” are mentioned 26 times and Providence in the Project. “Religion” and “religious” 18 and 51 times respectively. “Faith” 29 times. “Christian” and “Christianity” 12 times. “Sacred” 7 times and “divine” 6. Two Bible verses are quoted. Even “miracles” and “miraculous” make mentions — each time to describe the creation of the United States of America.

Some years back I posted on the characteristics of fundamentalism as set out by the scholar Tamas Pataki: 10 characteristics of religious fundamentalism. Among the characteristics are

  • the seeking to restore golden past;
  • the belief that they are part of an elect, a chosen;
  • the narcissistic self-perspective that they are part of something unique, special;
  • the conviction that there is only one true and correct way of life and there is no middle ground: you are either with us or against us;
  • there is a sacred founding book, a bible, (or sacred writings of the fathers,) to which literal obedience is mandatory;
  • the belief that law and authority come from God (or the worlds of nature and reason that God explicitly created as means of revelation of himself);
  • a spirit of nationalism.

I have adapted some points where I believe they apply to the perspective expressed in The 1776 Report but they all apply and so also, I suspect, do the others that I have not listed here.

The idea of fundamentalism is not that one thinks oneself is perfect but that one is “fundamentally good”, and because one is fundamentally good, one’s failures can be minimized, swept aside, excused. So when slavery is discussed it is pointed out very quickly that “slavery has been more the rule than the exception throughout history” and that the Western world only began to repudiate slavery “at the time of the American Revolution.” The same discussion takes a curious byway into a discussion of how the pro-slavery senator John Calhoun promoted a “new theory” of “group rights” (those of the slave-owners) that opposed the “unifying” “self-evident and eternal truths” of the Declaration of Independence. It is only when one reads further on and into the section on Racism and Identity Politics and one learns the purpose of this digression:

The Civil Rights Movement was almost immediately turned to programs that ran counter to the lofty ideals of the founders. The ideas that drove this change had been growing in America for decades, and they distorted many areas of policy in the half century that followed. Among the distortions was the abandonment of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in favor of “group rights” not unlike those advanced by Calhoun and his followers. The justification for reversing the promise of color-blind civil rights was that past discrimination requires present effort, or affirmative action in the form of preferential treatment, to overcome long-accrued inequalities. 

It takes some chutzpah to find a way to compare advocates for affirmative action to Calhoun-type racism. (For a discussion on racism today see Racism (without the hatred).

Other noble movements in the course of American history that have been part of making the United States the “most free” and the “envy of the world” have been

abolition, women’s suffrage, anti-Communism, and the Pro-Life Movement. 

Did you also find yourself catching your breath for a moment when you read some of those programs on a list of “great reforms” that have “come forward [to] improve our dedication to the principles of the Declaration of Independence under the Constitution”? I don’t think I need to elaborate here. Movements that oppose these, indeed, even today’s generation born from the Civil Rights movement, are condemned as being “fundamentally” anti-American:

More problematic have been movements that reject the fundamental truths of the Declaration of Independence and seek to destroy our constitutional order. The arguments, tactics, and names of these movements have changed, and the magnitude of the challenge has varied, yet they are all united by adherence to the same falsehood—that people do not have equal worth and equal rights.

Stick that, you Black Lives Matters protesters.

The 1776 Report informs Americans that

All the good things we see around us—from the physical infrastructure, to our high standards of living, to our exceptional freedoms—are direct results of America’s unity, stability, and justice, all of which in turn rest on the bedrock of our founding principles.

Clearly, the authors are all well-to-do, live in very nice surroundings and with high standards of living. What of the others? Well, the Project does happily say that Americans who are “down on their luck” (it’s luck that is to blame) are rescued by good religious folks:

Local religious leaders have been a key buttress supporting our communities. Neighborhood and parish churches, temples, and mosques still are the strongest organized centers of help for the local poor, jobless, homeless, and families down on their luck. For generations, neighbors have assisted neighbors through church networks, helping the needy avoid the dehumanization of prolonged dependency on government welfare. Today, countless men and women actively feed and care for the poor, house and speak for immigrants and the disadvantaged, minister to jailed and released criminals, and advocate powerfully for a better society and a more peaceful world, supported by the charitable funding of Americans of all faiths.

Interesting wording. Other more “socialist-inclined” nations consider it society’s responsibility to care for those who have been victims of an economic system that has penalized them through no fault of their own. That society would through the state care for these people is considered by the authors of The 1776 Report to be an act of “dehumanization”.

I could write much more but enough is enough. The 1776 Report is an odious document that would use a particular historical narrative to justify the present power structures in the United States and condemn those who would seek serious change and justice.

History as properly taught is not a single narrative designed to promote tingly feelings of being “the most exceptional people on earth”. There is no justice in promoting “unifying, inspiring and ennobliing” feelings if they hide one from the past injustices that have produced the divisions and inequities we see all around us today. I am not suggesting that one must hate one’s nation. Remember that one of the traps of fundamentalism listed above is black and white thinking. To critically understand and explore the truth, very often too long lost from view, of the past does not have to be an act of hatred but one of determination to make things better. That sort of determination is an act of love, not hatred.

There is much more to address, especially with respect to the emphasis in both the American and Australian reports on “Liberal education” (as in the sense of Classical Liberal). Maybe over time I can post more on why this kind of education is not necessarily the way to “human understanding and liberation” that it is cracked up to be, but why an education in the humanities is indeed an essential part of a just society.

Moreelse’s Clio, Muse of History