Godwin’s Law

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The 20th Century gave one of the most powerful historical lessons for America and the world: After the ruling class lost its moral authority and led its country into inflation, unemployment, and conspiracy beliefs, one of the most advanced, industrialized, and artistic nations was led into violence and bloody folly.

I hope the first half of that doesn’t strike close to home.

The argument about history being made by vast impersonal forces or the effect of individuals was given a profound case history in the person of a man who personally led this nation into fire and ruin. Impersonal forces dictated that something happen, but the course was set by one man and his inner circle.

These twelve years showed that some of the brightest and most industrious folk in the World could be made eager to lay down their consciences and doubts to follow a charismatic speaker. That they did abandon even their self-interest to follow their new emperor is undoubted. That his moral certainty seduced men and women across the globe is certain. That well-armed countries and armies were intimidated is demonstrated.

The leader and his European opponent are the best case study for the existence and limitations of Grand Strategy that I know. Many millions of lives were sacrificed to this lesson.

And yet, we are programmed to ignore this by the saying that ‘The first person to mention Hitler loses the argument!’

This programming is observed by all of us, yet I almost never hear anybody cavil against it. That is powerful programming.

Actually, I may be describing Hitler, Napoleon, or someone yet to come.
–                           –                               –                           –                            –

I’ve been watching the British ‘quiz show’ QI. I am fascinated. The ‘facts’ are trash. They are about as accurate and comprehensive as the old ‘Hollywood Squares.’ They even make fun of their previous mistakes. Notably the number of Moons which the Earth has. On three different episodes they have been given three different answers.

QI lost the contestants and strategy of the game show. The panel was reduced to four with only one of them a regular member. To pique the interest of the audience there is a great deal of sophomoric humor about bodily functions and sex.

All that remains is programming. We are told the host is a polymath. Maybe, but the only way we know is that he has the cards with the answers and the panel defers to him. They have a regular panel member who is there precisely to be humiliated. [All totalitarian schools need a designated victim. This prevents any blame or ridicule from ending up directed at the authority figure.] When anyone answers a question with a common sense answer they are humiliated. The set flashes black and white, an alarm sounds, they forfeit their points, and they are quietly and humiliatingly admonished by the authority figure. Perhaps ‘arbiter’ is better. Arbitrary is the proper adjective for this authority. The panel grows hesitant to answer any question. They flinch before an obvious answer and are ready to accept nearly anything the authority tells them. Any answer can be rationalized by changing the definition. The subtext is actually ‘There is no truth.’ Woe to all who do not toe the politically correct line. The panel and, by extension, the audience are programmed.

I encourage you to find it on youtube to see a nice example of programming by television programming.

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Poetry and Prayers For Engineers

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                               The Sons of Martha

The Sons of Mary seldom bother,  for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother  of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once,  and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons,  world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages  to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains, “Be ye removed.” They say to the lesser floods, “Be dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reproved — they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit — then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it,  pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden — under the earthline their altars are —
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they dam’-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s days may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat —
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed — they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessed, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet — they hear the World — they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and — the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons!

–  Rudyard Kipling

~     ~    ~    ~    ~    ~

Kipling inverts the story of Mary and Martha; there is a nobility and honor in the labor to which Christ’s curse condemned the sons of Martha; there is a vapidity in the thoughtless acceptance of the sons of Mary.

I admire Kipling’s consideration of service and creation. At times he has been the poet of engineers. Engineers and Soldiers. Those who get their hands dirty. In Canada the engineers commissioned Kipling to write a poem used in an initiation ceremony. I don’t have the actual poem but it is recited and the initiated are given rings of cold-worked iron. Somewhat classy.

Kipling was considered, in my youth, one of the great poets of the English language. During my adolescence in one of the periodic purges of the left the PL police decided he was ‘the poet of Empire’ and consigned Kipling to the outer darkness. This to the man who wrote, ‘there is neither East nor West, border, breed nor birth, when two strong men stand face to face though they come from the ends of the Earth.’ This often happens on the Left. Sinatra, Kipling, Teller, Hughes, Reagan, Hayakawa, Heinlein, Mamet, and Card were all democrats who found themselves excommunicated. Orson Scott Card is the most recent. He thought he was a proud Democrat as late as Spring 2013.

I don’t believe in ignoring truth and beauty because of what I read into the authors’ opinions.

Churches: The Dance of Forms

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Charles asked me to write about how I analyze churches.

I view churches by how they are organized. The three platonic ideals are:
congregational, presbyterian, and episcopal.

The church in which I was raised was congregationally organized. The religious analog of democracy. The local congregation owned the church building, the pastor’s house and the treasury. These churches are run by the older ladies. They are so decentralized that they are not prone to corruption. Bickering, gossip, back-stabbing, but not corruption. When dogmatic arguments happen they tend to muddle through or fission into smaller congregations. We all know church denominations so small that nobody pays them attention.

Sometimes the church is owned and run by the pastor. These presbyterian churches are run like small businesses. The congregation are essentially an audience. They can grow quickly if the pastor is very good and shrink quickly depending on his ability and behavior. They can be prone to venality. Terry’s family once sought to join a church near their house and were asked about their income. That is preaching for profit. Of course it also allows the preacher to follow his conscience. [ Guililand’s Dilemma: Once you start following your conscience nobody can trust you. ] The real challenge to presbyterian churches is when a pastor dies or retires. To whom does he pass on the congregation? Is the value of the church his retirement plan? What if his heirs disagree religiously? These do not lead to long term stability.

An episcopal church is a corporate entity. A bishop on top runs the whole thing. The priests and congregation have little input into doctrine. The church, treasury, and lands are owned by the bishopric. If the bishop on top is trustworthy then the whole of the church follows his lead. It is the analog of an empire. It is only subject to venality on a large scale. The greed of the priests does not automatically infect the whole structure. Its beliefs are stable over long periods. There is little democratic constraint. When the person or committee at the top acts badly, the congregation must either accept or leave. There is little ability for a member to follow his own conscience. If a priest disagrees with the church he must either knuckle down or schism off into a separate church. As the church grows larger it may become brutal. Even if brutality is not intended, the power discrepancy is notable. Governments favor episcopal churches because they can be controlled.

Now, no real church falls precisely in these categories. But they are useful to analyze the churches that one finds.

The Roman Catholic church started out as a congregational church. The early Popes were elected by the entire congregation of Rome. That was how one became the bishop of Rome. Augustine was similarly elected the Bishop of Hippo. It is interesting to note when the Papacy became episcopal.

The church in which I was raised has a bishopric to which the congregations send delegates. This body runs seminaries and tries to maintain an even doctrine. The Bishopric controls a surprising amount of money and has become less dependent upon the congregations. With its independence has come a tendency to do things opposed by the members. I suppose this tension is healthy and has been going on longer than I’ve been alive, but it sometimes feels as thought the nature of the church is following a path I dislike.

There you have it. Do you seek a church in which you follow your conscience? Do you believe inspiration is limited to those at the top of the church? What will the inevitable drift of the church lead to? These are eminently adult questions and they also apply to other organizations. The US government was essentially congregational before the Civil War and the 17th amendment. It is now almost totally episcopal. This is a tool I use for these analyses. Use at your own risk.