The Populist Revolt

Most honest postmortems of Trump’s election are by Democrats focusing on what they missed.   Usually, they are either narrow exercises in vote counting or more holistic attempts to understand Trump voters.  In the latter group are Joan Williams’s White Working Class and Ken Stern’s Republican Like Me.

The common thread in these is discovery, a dawning realization that there are people out there with legitimate, even compelling, reasons to vote for Trump. Republicans, on the other hand, haven’t engaged much in postmortems.  They have engaged in recriminations, or a facile triumphalism, but few seem to have analyzed Trump’s election in a focused, professional, way.  The Great Revolt fills that gap.

There’s nothing truly startling in this book, but it’s still interesting.  The authors’ core point is that Trump’s election is not a fluke; whatever his faults may be, they do not outweigh his good points in the view of a wide variety of voters, including groups of people who, on the surface, have little in common with each other and seem like they shouldn’t like Trump.

Moreover, most of these people were previously reliably Democratic voters.  To analyze this and to demonstrate their thesis, Salena Zito (a journalist) and Brad Todd (a Republican pollster and consultant) conducted detailed opinion surveys, and then let people talk for themselves to supplement and exemplify the aggregate results, using individuals, meant as archetypes, from ten very different counties in five different swing states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan).

Zito and Todd break the Trump voters they examine into seven groups, each with specific demographic characteristics.  “Red-Blooded and Blue-Collared” are those who “had worked a blue-collar, hourly wage, or physical labor job after the age of twenty-one, and had experienced a job loss in the last seven years either personally or in their immediate families.”  “Girl Gun Power” are women under forty-five who owns guns for self-defense.  “Rough Rebounders” are those who have overcome significant obstacles (and thus resonate with Trump’s story).  “Rotary Reliables” are Chamber of Commerce Republicans—but with a twist, that they are from smaller towns, and therefore are surrounded by, and socialize with, conservatives and the working class, thus appreciating their concerns, similar to the way that such Republicans in bigger towns and cities are surrounded by liberals and therefore function as liberals.

That is to say, these Rotary Reliables are diverse and inclusive, more so than their Republican counterparts in the cities.  “King Cyrus Christians” are religious believers who are willing to overlook Trump’s dissolute personal life, as the Jews took advantage of the heathen Cyrus the Great’s release of the Jews from Babylonian captivity.

(While I don’t understand why some evangelicals, like Franklin Graham, fawn over Trump, other than to be close to power, it is perfectly understandable, given that Hillary was the Right Hand of Satan, that devout Christians would vote for Trump, since, to coin a phrase, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”).

“Silent Suburban Moms” are upper-middle class women somewhat turned off by Trump’s boorishness, and fearful of the hatred directed at them if they openly support Trump, but who support Trump nonetheless.  Collectively, I am not sure that these really constitute the “populist coalition” of the subtitle, but they have more in common than just supporting Trump, and more in common than a casual observer might think.

In particular, in all these groups the same three specific issues keep cropping up (along with some other issues that are more or less important to specific groups).  Given the significant differences across these sets of people, this consistency is surprising.

These three issues are who controls the Supreme Court, gun rights, and, most interestingly, the habit Obama had of apologizing, purportedly on behalf of the United States.  (As all such studies find, and utterly contrary to the view of progressives, racial issues almost never crop up, and illegal immigrants less than you would expect.)  The first two have a straightforward analysis—Democrats have for decades tried to evade democratic rule by using the Supreme Court as a leftist super-legislature, and Republican voters are well aware of that.

Gun rights require even less discussion—in fact, in the past few months, driven mad by anti-Trump frenzy, prominent Democrats have begun openly declaring what they always lied about in the past, but which has always been true—that yes, they want to take away every single gun normal Americans own.

But I would not have thought the constant apologizing was so important, and so disturbing, to voters.  These people are not wrong about Obama’s habit of apologizing.

He began his term by apologizing to the entire Muslim world and then in nearly every (or perhaps every) foreign speech he made ensured that his speechwriters worked in some form of abasement for supposed past misdeeds of the United States.  Usually those misdeeds were left a little vague, such that the listeners were expected to fill in the specifics of their own particular grievance, so as to maximize the breadth and perceived impact of the apology.  The substance or rationale of these apologies, though, doesn’t really interest me.  Rather, I am curious why the voters were so upset.

It seems to me that apologies can vary on two basic axes—by whom, and to whom.  On the former axis, they can be made by the wrongdoer (Class A), or on his behalf by a legitimate representative (Class A’).  Or they can be made by a successor in interest, who did not participate in the original wrong but has a material link to that person (Class B).

On the latter axis, apologies can be made to people who are wronged (Class 1), or to their successors in interest (Class 2).  (I put into Class 2 also those who have only suffered a lesser, derivative wrong, but those could be a third class, if you wanted to complicate the analysis.)

Most people across the political spectrum would agree, I think, that apologies by Class A or Class A’ to Class 1 are unexceptional and some combination of desirable and necessary (or rather, they are unexceptional in the West, infused with Christian values—in a place like China, very different rules apply, which we will ignore here).  Apologies by Class A to Class 2 seem less required and desirable.

This is because the person wronged is the person who is “owed” the apology and is able to forgive—someone who has not suffered a wrong has neither the same right nor ability to forgive, and by the same token, is less deserving of an apology.

Even less required or desirable is an apology from Class B to Class 1, since personal responsibility only attaches to a wrongdoer.  Least appropriate of all is an apology from Class B to Class 2, where all parties involved have no actual connection to the wrong at issue.

I think what rubbed the people in this book the wrong way is that all of Obama’s apologies were in that last and least deserving category (or, arguably, were in a fifth category, of a supposed Class B person apologizing for something done earlier that was not a wrong at all).

Obama was not a Class A’ representative, although he may have viewed himself that way, because he was not representing any actual wrongdoers, either because the actual wrongdoers are dead, or because no wrong was committed at all.  And naturally, Obama never apologized for something he did—only for wrongs done by elements of the United States government, or elements of our ruling class (and sometimes even for elements of other governments and ruling classes).

Even if we assume that these wrongs were actual wrongs, and were as bad as Obama said, it is evident from what they say that the voters profiled in this book were viscerally outraged both by the stupidity of any “Class B to Class 2” apology, which necessarily humiliates the United States for no good reason.

They also were angered by the knowledge that Obama in no way blamed the recipients of the apologies, much less himself, or his cronies, or progressives, or any of their predecessors in interest, for anything.  Instead, all blame was to attach to a subset of current day Americans, who had done nothing at all to anybody—namely, the voters profiled in this book.

Hillary Clinton was more explicit on this point, but nobody was fooled that Obama didn’t think the same way—he was just smoother.  So maybe that this theme keeps cropping up as an element of Trump’s support isn’t all that surprising after all.

One claim by the authors rings false, though.  They say that Facebook, not the New York Times, “now drives the national conversation with the horsepower of its search traffic and algorithms.”

But it is the NYT, with a junior role played by a handful of media outlets equally totally under the control of leftists, that sets both what is considered to be news and what the agenda behind that selection is.  Anything not fitting the agenda is not considered to be news among the ruling classes and therefore is ignored and functionally suppressed; “it’s just Fox News.”

This indirect censorship is extremely powerful, and Facebook does not overcome it, even if it used to allow alternative new sources to rise to the top of its news feed.  And, since the election, Facebook has gotten in line, changing  its news feed from showing what people are actually choosing to view, to forcing down on people only approved outlets (that is, the NYT and its cronies), along with using leftist “fact checkers” such as Snopes and Politifact as cover for direct censorship.

Moreover, they (and Twitter, etc.) are moving, just in time for the 2018 election, to further censor “hate speech,” defined as conservative speech.  So, between a combination of Facebook not setting the agenda itself, but rather taking direction from the Left, and actively cooperating in driving the news coverage to favor the Left, nothing has changed at all.

In fact, contrary to conservatives’ hopes of the early 2000s, the NYT has much more power to set what is news and what is the agenda, since almost all alternative media enterprises of any public standing and reputation, that did not feel obliged to always toe the line, are out of business or a shadow of their former selves.

That said, again and again the people in this book say that they have completely tuned out of the news, because it is so obviously unhinged leftist propaganda.  This suggests that the impact of the NYT’s death grip on curating the news may be less than the Left hopes, or the Right fears.

Tied to this is another fact that comes up time and again—many of the interviewees self-censor on social media, afraid of the hatred directed at them by their “friends” for the political views, a problem never faced by their political opposites, who preen themselves on their alignment with the selected news they are shown and regard pouring malice on those who disagree with leftist views as a holy cause.

But when one group grows silent, they do not thereby agree more, and they are more likely just becoming submarine voters, which is the authors’ point.  True, some voters may still be soaking in the propaganda, unwilling or unable to cut the cancer out of their lives, but my guess is that nearly all have tuned out the vast majority of it.

I certainly have, even though I subscribe to the NYT—for years, now decades, I used to just ignore the editorial pages, but now I ignore all articles that are not completely unrelated to politics (an ever-shrinking group), since any article even tangentially involving politics is indistinguishable from the op-ed page.

So what does this mean for the immediate future?  Nearly all of the counties profiled voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, and then swung hard to Trump in 2016.  The authors note that this is an unstable situation—the voters could easily swing back.

In many instances, their voting for Trump was a combination of Trump’s stands and an explicit feeling that the Democrats left them, not the reverse.  (We are constantly showered with claims by supposed former Republicans that their party left them, but the media never suggests the same process is equally possible for Democrats.)

If the Republicans nominated some Chamber of Commerce blob like Jeb Bush, or even a zombie Reaganite like Ted Cruz, and the Democrats nominated someone not a shrill, hateful, decaying crone or an elderly Communist, or dialed back their obsessive focus on the politics of identity and grievance in favor of acknowledging the concerns of the people interviewed in this book, I bet that’s exactly what would happen.

Still, Zito and Todd believe that the more likely outcome is that the Trump coalition holds together, and that neither party has fully grasped this likelihood.  (On a related note, the reason that progressives want to get rid of the electoral college is precisely to avoid this outcome, by making it unnecessary for national politicians to capture any votes outside urban areas).
Naturally, this book has been ignored by the liberal media, which suggests a continuing failure to grasp this obstacle to leftist dominance.

But the core social problems that make these counties suffer are not going away anytime soon.  Unemployment might be addressed by a different economic policy, but that is unlikely to happen with the levers of economic power being held by globalists, and even if we changed our policies, it is not likely that the 1950s will come again.

And this is true not just because it’s impossible to go back—in addition, the social fabric of these counties is utterly destroyed, although the voters don’t seem to want to realize that.  The biggest single problem is opiates, followed by a breakdown in families and the same atomization of society found everywhere.

Even if $30/hour jobs returned, these problems would persist.  This suggests that to the extent voters hope Trump will make a dent in their social problems, they are likely to be disappointed.  Yes, he will protect their guns and their religious liberty; he will issue no apologies; and he will stick his finger in the eye of the liberal media.

But is that enough?  Probably to keep their votes for a while.  In the end, the question is whether substantive change is required for these voters to be happy, or merely fighting on their behalf.  We’ll find out soon enough.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The photo shows, “La fiumana [Stream of People]” by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, painted ca. 1895-1896.

Kant On Moral Law

It is in the Critique of Pure Reason that Immanuel Kant elaborates his ideas of moral law, where he studies what ought to be, as opposed to what is. In other words he examines the conditions of actual moral experience in the analysis of action.

The immediate question that Kant begins with is simply stated: What is morality founded on? Consciousness tells me that I ought to perform certain actions, and a little thought convinces me that oughtness is universal and necessary.

If I analyze the sense of obligation in the negative principle, “Don’t lie,” I find that, apart from the question of motive or utility, which are contingent determinants, it is a principle valid throughout all time and space. It is these properties, necessity and universality, that enable us to answer Kant’s initial question.

For Kant, universality and necessity affect the form, not the content, of the moral law, so that the universality of the prohibition, “Don’t lie,” is derived from the general formula, into which all obligation is translatable. Thus, the law on which our moral conduct rests must be fit to be an element of universal legislation.

However, the moral law is not founded on pleasure; for nothing is more unstable than feeling, which is the determinant of pleasure. The moral law, therefore, must rest on an unchangeable foundation, because of its universality and necessity. It is not founded on happiness; for the essential characteristic of the moral law is its obligatoriness, and so no one is obliged to be happy.

It is not founded on a moral sense; for mere sense cannot represent obligation as necessary and universal. Lastly, it is not founded on perfection of self; for perfection is, in the final analysis, reducible to pleasure or happiness.

The moral law is its own foundation; it is autonomous, being neither imposed by any external motive, nor deduced by the purely speculative reason from theoretical principles, but it is impressed on the will by the practical reason and revealed to us by immediate consciousness.

Further, the moral law is imperative: consciousness reveals it to us as commanding, not merely as persuading or advising. Its command may be categorical as, “You shall not lie,” or hypothetical, “If you want to become a doctor you should study medicine.”

The categorical imperative is the characteristic expression of the moral law. The moral law is the form which imparts to the contents of an action its goodness. The contents may be good relatively; the will, which is the form, is an absolute good.

Effects and circumstances are not of themselves determinants of moral value; the sense of duty is alone praiseworthy. Thus, the moral motive is respect for the moral law.

As well, the moral is unconditional. In the form of the categorical imperative, its voice is unconditionally authoritative and its command is unconditionally a law of human conduct. It speaks to us immediately, for we are conscious of its commands. And it is here that the freedom of the will rests.

The will is free in that the moral law, in saying, I ought, implies that I can.

We have no immediate consciousness of freedom, but we have immediate consciousness of the moral law which implies freedom. I can because I ought, and I know that I can because I know that I ought. Freedom is, therefore, the essence of the moral law, and the moral law is the consciousness of freedom.

Thus Kant asserts the supremacy of the moral law, which is not to be found in rational speculation. Oughtness is universal and necessary, and these are the qualities of the moral law.


The photo shows, “Woman Before the Sinking Sun,” by Caspar David Friedrich, painted, ca. 1818.

The Hermit’s Power

“Despising, for you, the city, I turn my back: There is a world elsewhere.” (Coriolanus, Act III Scene II)…”My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

After the middle of the 4th century AD, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire. The era of radical martyrs was setting and the age of the hermits began to dawn.

Hermit after hermit fled into the wilderness of dessert in the effort to escape from the world. But a great irony began to emerge, as people fled from the world, the more the world followed them.

Believing that these holy men attained a special wisdom and spiritual nature from their isolation, many wandered into the desert to seek their guidance.

One of these seekers was wise enough to write down the messages the hermits shared and amalgamate them into a single book known as The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

The book is full of lessons, but there is a meta-lesson to be learned here.

When you pull away from the world, the world tries to pull back, but if you stay steady then you can pull in the world.

The hermit resists being swept away by the flooding world through his mountainside retreat. There, he meditates on the nature of the world below and the future to come.

There is only one world, but it is riddled with tensions. There is a tension between yourself and the people around you. Just like there are tensions within yourself, but still you remain one.

I use the word “tension” and not “division” because nothing is truly divided. Rather, all things are sown together through their interactions which unify them into a single being.

The hermit pulls on these tensions. By running off into the wilderness, he drags society with him. The wilderness is a dangerous place to be, but is only there where transformation can occur.

Surely the world will send a messenger to knock on his monastic gates, but whom shall it be?

Will the serene solace of the acetic be torn asunder by trumpeting fiends, the very devils he once sought to surpass? Or will the cold despair of his heart be warmed with the fulfillment of his greatest hope?

What is the hope of the man on the mountain? Is it not the arrival of another who has fled as he himself had one fled, a champion who has come to fulfill the prophecy set by his own dreams?

This is the story of the first Christian hermit, St. Paul of Thebes, who fled to the desert in the face of his persecution as boy.

For almost a hundred years, Paul found refuge in a cave with God and a raven to keep him company. After making a robe from palm leaves he trained the raven to delver him bread.

The aching solitude of the hermit was interrupted by St. Anthony, who saw the hermit in dream. Driven on by his vision, he walked the earth till he came across the lonesome soul.

In joy, the two broke bread and conversed night away. But on his second visit, Anthony found the cloistered saint dead. In homage to St. Paul, Anthony took on his palm-leaf-woven robe.

St. Anthony would go forth to spread the ways of monasticism and later be known as the Father of All Monks, foremost of the desert fathers.

The monastic tradition became the backbone of Christianity. The escape of the world’s clutches, and the journey inward, became a milestone in Christian thought.

When you stop playing societies game, you give yourself the chance to start anew and play your own game. God only hopes that you will find others who will come forth play with you.

The point is not to go live in the woods, or start making a robe out of palm leaves. Rather, withdraw into the mountain of your own mind, carve away at your own space, and bear the weight of your retreat even if at first you find yourself alone.

It has nothing to do with  getting out of the city. After all, can you think of anything more lonely than being around millions of people you don’t know?

Is not the martyr, like the hermit, unshackled from society? Is not the tension between themselves and the world as tight as the noose around their neck? They have withdrawn from society’s mire in pursuit of the pure and incorruptible.

They both share the vision and likeness of the prophet. The role of the prophet is to carve out a mental and linguistic space where the shadows of idle fantasies are torn apart by the light.

If the prophet is skilled at his art, then he will be hated because the surgery of Man’s mind is done without anesthetics.

But when the hermit, the marytr, and the prophet pull into themselves and away from the world, they drag the collapsing world behind them.

This is the strength of the hermit. He is the oasis in the land of devastation. His virtue lies in his resisting of himself, which lays waste to the world.


The photo shows, “Landscape with the Temptations of St. Anthony,” by Claude Lorrain, painted, ca. 1635-1638.

Nahum The Carpenter: Second Epistle

My sister Zilpah lives at the foot of Mount of Olives, it takes a full morning to travel there. Her husband  is Joshua, his family owns an olive grove. It has been in the family for generations.

We travelled there last Friday. We took three donkeys, one for the boys, one for Ruth and one loaded with supplies and sandals for everybody. I love giving gifts, and since we are not rich, giving them something I have made seems more special!!

It is almost two months after that man Jesus was crucified. I have been bothered by that scene ever since. However there are all kinds of stories about him rising from the tomb and being seen walking to Emmaus.  It seems a bit odd to me, I have never heard of anyone rising from the dead.  We are looking forward to discussing it with Zilpah and Joshua.

We arrived just after noon, and were warmly greeted by Zilpah, Joshua and their two boys. Joshua was particularly delighted to see us, and he came over and gave me a hug, and said so nice to see you and I hope you brought your tools??? We have a lot of repair work for you!!!

I smiled and said yes, I have my tools. He asked if we could stay an extra day to do the sandal and harness repairs, as well as some baskets that were falling apart! I told him we would be delighted.

Regarding my tools, I have this really nice old bag that my father passed down to me when he died.

When I was old enough to run the shop, my father decided he would make himself two leather, waterproof bags, fill them with supplies and tools and go into the country and visit farms and villages doing repair work.  I was so appreciative when he left me the two bags! I have rebuilt the smaller one and I can now use it to carry tools and basic supplies when I take trips.

We had a nice visit and lunch, and enjoyed some vintage wine. Since Joshua’s family has this huge olive grove, they also have several small vineyards and make wine every year. It is top class!

Joshua and I took a tour of part of his property as the ladies chatted and the children played! Before we knew it the sun was going down.  Joshua has an old stone grill at his house and he had some freshly killed meat he grilled for us while the wives made some fresh salads and of course some olives.

After enjoying a delicious feast, we put the children to bed and relaxed around a nice warm fire.

I quickly turned the conversation to ask what they knew about this man Jesus. We had not spoken to them about him before.

Immediately Zilpah’s face lit up like a star in the sky and she seemed to be in a sort of trance! Even her voice was different. She replied oh I am so glad you asked!!

I told her my story, about giving him sandals, about seeing him perform a miracle on our cousin and then being part of the gang who shouted Nail him, nail him.

Zilpah was very saddened by this news and scolded her brother for what he had done! She had been following Jesus when he preached around Jericho, and was completely taken by his presence!!!! She then shocked me when she told me her friend Mary Magdalene was a friend of Jesus and she witnessed his crucifixion and went to his tomb three days later.

Ruth and I were now so excited to hear more, so Zilpah said to Joshua, put some more wood on the fire and get another jar of wine and I will tell my story. I could not wait!!!!

Zilpah said she and Mary had seen many of Jesus’ miracles and listened to his sermons.  She said, we found them very difficult to understand at first, but usually we figured them out!!!

We were heart broken when he was crucified and our grief over whelmed us. We did not sleep for 3 days. Then Mary decided she would go the tomb where he had been placed. To her shock the huge boulder that was in front of the tomb was moved away!  She went in with a friend and there was no body in there!!!

However, while in the tomb a strange thing happened!  Somebody or something appeared to the women. They said after they thought it was angels, as it had a bright glow around them.

Whoever, or whatever it was said to them the body was not there he has risen from the dead. They were in awe and shocked, they went to tell Jesus’ eleven disciples who also didn’t believe what they heard so they went to the tomb and saw for themselves there was no body there.

Nahum and Ruth were sitting in amazement at the stories as told by Zilpah, however, they had heard similar stories from other friends and were delighted to hear them confirmed.

They tried to ask Zilpah some questions, but she politely asked them to let her finish as there was more!

She told them that friends of theirs were walking to Emmaus when a person appeared out of nowhere and started asking questions,  later that night that person, who was Jesus,  appeared to the disciples and told them he would be leaving soon to return to his father in heaven as  the scriptures had predicted.

Sure enough, forty days after his resurrection, he left his disciples and disappeared like a wisp of smoke into the heavens.

Both Zilpah and Joshua said they had joined a group of friends and they were called Christ People. Later that would change to Christians! One of the disciples, Peter was telling them all about the stories Jesus had been preaching.  The idea of loving your neighbour, asking God for forgiveness and something very special, the idea that Jesus had left something for everyone who believed in him, they called it The Holy Spirit. Zilpah was still learning about it, but said it was something inside of those who believed and it was a way to communicate with the risen Jesus and with God.

It was very late now and we were tired but so excited to learn more. We made a promise to return to their place in the near future to hear more. We went to bed with a new feeling of excitement we had never experienced before.

Nahum, Ruth and the two boys left early morning after spending five productive days with Joshua and Zilpah , family and servants. Joshua treated all his employees like they were part of his family. It made for a very happy working environment as well as an opportunity for the servants to live a respectable life.

We really had a nice time with all of them, and I repaired all their broken items and did not charge them. At least none of the servants, I found out when we got home that Joshua had put some shekels in my tool bag, which I asked Ruth to put in a special hiding place where we save for the boys.

During the trek home both Ruth and Nahum thought about the story Zilpah had told them about Jesus. They did not share each other’s thoughts until later that week when they had some quiet time together.

When they arrived home the two boys went with some friends to the waterfall and pool to cool off and wash the trip dust off!  Ruth unpacked the donkeys and I went to my shop, where I found 12 pairs of sandals, several pieces of harness and a few baskets that customers had left for mending. I started work on them immediately.

The boys came to my shop late in the afternoon and I asked them to go home and ask momma for some bread and cheese and a pouch of wine for me as I wanted to finish the repairs. They returned soon after and I worked until after sunset and finished my work.

On Sunday morning we woke up and had a very nice breakfast, we did not eat a big breakfast during the week, but today we had some bread Ruth had baked the day before, some figs, olives, raisins, cheese and nuts. Most of this came from Joshua’s farms.

After breakfast the boys went out to play and Ruth and I finally started talking about Jesus.

During the trek home they had spent hours in their own silence, with much time to think about what Zilpah had told them. They both claimed to have had some form of spiritual experience during their trip.

When they started chatting, they were both surprised to hear of the other’s experience! They both felt they were being drawn towards this new Christ People movement that had started. They were unsure what to do or how to seek more information.

Their fears were short-lived!! Two days later a friend who owned a market nearby had travelled to Joshua’s farm to buy fresh produce. On his way home he stopped by as Joshua had asked him to tell Nahum and Ruth to please return to their place and to plan on staying for a few weeks. He also asked Nahum to bring extra supplies with his tools as he had many items from neighbours to repair.

Ruth and Nahum were pleased but a bit confused at this request! They had not expected it!

Nahum came up with a great idea. There was a crippled man in the neighbourhood who often spent time around Nahum’s shop, just for something to do. He lived with his sister’s family.

He had been a teacher, one day he was walking home when a team of horses pulling a cart got spooked and he got in their path of destruction and was badly injured and crippled for life. He still did some private teaching but the schools would not hire him. His name was Isaac.

Nahum had made Isaac a fitted pair of boots to assist him with his walking. With the assistance of a cane and the boots, he was able to move about much more easily.

Nahum asked him if he would stay at his shop every day and explain to customers that Nahum was away for a few weeks but would be returning next month. Nahum had already started telling his regular customers too.

Isaac was delighted. They agreed on a salary, which Isaac thought was too much for what he was going to do, but Nahum thought this was his opportunity to show his love for his neighbour as taught by the Christ People. Both men were very happy. Oh, Isaac was also asked to keep an eye on their home too.

The following Monday, Nahum, Ruth, the boys and four donkeys left for Mount of Olives. The fourth donkey was laden with leather pieces, harness fittings and a small bale of special wicker for basket repairs.

Upon arrival at Joshua’s they set up home in one of the empty servants homes and Nahum began his repairs in a farm tool shed.

Every night was spent talking about the Christ People.  On Thursday, they went to their first meeting with Peter.

John Thomas Percival continues working with wood and pondering about the early history of Christianity.
The photo shows, “At the Genisaret Lake,” by Vasily Polenov, painted in 1888.

The Memory Palace Of Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges in “Funes the Memorious” describes Funes as “not very capable of thought.” This observation certainly serves to undermine Socrates notion that knowledge is recollection of an innate wisdom. In the same paragraph, Borges continues: “To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract.”

These three categories are precisely constituents of knowledge and the process of recollection that Socrates explores, and they are precisely the processes that are missing in Funes.

Funes is a compiler of information. Bu having a perfect memory he has the capability of storing vast amounts of knowledge. However, he cannot abstract or generalize these facts. He cannot see the pattern that these facts fall into, or create.

When Socrates states that wisdom is intimately linked to recollection, he is clearly giving us a cause for consciousness. Funes, by merely recording perfectly, does is not aware as to what constitutes consciousness.

Funes is like a computer that can store vast amounts of information, yet it cannot think. Information in and of itself is not wisdom.

Wisdom comes from recollection, because when we recollect we construct patterns of thought, we seek similarities, we seek meaning that will congeal facts into a process of consciousness, allowing us to understand what it is that makes us aware.

As well, by stressing the importance of recollection in the process of acquiring wisdom, Socrates is also valorizing imagination.

Thus to possess consciousness is to possess imagination. This is precisely the difference between pure storage of information, and the imaginative use of that information.

As well, when we recollect something, we immediately re-construct that fact into a symbol or metaphor that becomes a cue to our own understanding of reality.

Because Funes has a perfect memory, and most of us do not, he cannot give the past a distinct identity, which independent from the external world that we ourselves inhabit. Socrates allows for the construction of precisely this world.

Through the imaginative process, which is also the act of recollection, we remember something imperfectly, and then proceed to construct thoughts that qualify this recollection, thereby arriving at imaginative thought.

And this precisely what Funes does not possess. He is a vast archive of information, a library, where information is certainly stored, but where imagination must be brought into play in order to transform, and therefore construct, facts into wisdom. Here we can ask, does a library have a memory? Or memory brought into the library by consciousness.

As well, it is important to realize that by stating that Funes if not capable of thought, Borges is also setting Funes as an opposite to the Socratic principle of wisdom.

Where Socrates describes consciousness as linked to memory in that recollection is an active re-construction of reality, and is therefore imagination – Funes is not part of consciousness; he is merely a “storage facility.”

Funes memory is merely an exact copy of external reality. It is perfect. Socrates’ process of recollection on the other hand is completely different from Funes’ memory. Socrates is speaking about consciousness, which is imperfect and inherently selective. Imperfect memory actively seeks out imagination and creativity – which is very the definition of thought.

In effect, Funes’ incapability of thought is in direct opposition to Socrates who links memory with recollection, and thereby consciousness and creative thought.


The photo shows, “Wedding on the Roof Garden,” by Dodo (Dörte Clara Wolff), painted in 1929.

Atheism Is Rebellion

Atheism is rebellion – it is hardly a methodology of thought, truth, or even science. Unknown to its cheerleaders is the fact that atheism cannot overcome apoptosis – it is programed to commit suicide. Its genetic contradiction kills it. This is why atheism is now regarded as a genetic mutation, slotted for destruction.

Its death sentence – is simply this – it cannot build an equitable, just and good society in which humans will want to live. Morality is not brain-washing. As recent studies clearly, infants come equipped with a sense of right and wrong. In other words, the Socratic tradition had it right all along.

While nature has its own innate laws, described by science – humans are born with natural law. In other words, because humans are naturally moral, there is God.

Thus the entire effort of “proving” God by quantifiable methods is a false one. Ludwig Wittgenstein said it best, at the end of his Tractatus: “…if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all.”

To try to answer these problems (why a human has worth, purpose and meaning) with quantifiable methods (which is Scientism) is useless. Again, Wittgenstein points out that each is purpose-specific; it cannot be extended into all areas of life. If it is, then he says, “language goes on a holiday.” Thus, scientism is simply illogical, because it cannot be rational, and therefore wrong. Simone Weil understood this clearly, for she observed: “Science is not a fruit of the spirit of truth.”

And because of moral law, atheism is also not true. Since modernity is an age of confusion, because it is an age of relativism, truth is defined as opinion, personal preference, choice, or taste. Thus, atheism is simply all that – it is not a verifiable, quantifiable fact.

Each time, an attempt is made to disprove, or prove God, by way of science, language goes on a holiday. Therefore, atheism can only be opinion, taste, preference, choice, which is the only viable explanation possible.

Atheism also seeks to replace religion – and it simply does not have the logical means to accomplish what it seeks. It is deficient in a viable language that will satisfactorily explain the “problems of life.” And “language” means ideas.

If atheism truly wants to replace religion, then it must abandon the language of science and create one that properly explains why each human life is valuable, purposeful and meaningful. Humans as creatures with an innate natural law continually need these explanations. They do not only scientific ones, which can only be true according to their own purpose of quantification.

But since atheism is scientism, it is inherently unable to formulate a language for morality- because the result would then be religion. This is the fatal flaw. Death is the only possibility. It is like asking a tree to find a way to use dental floss.

Given this problem, the only possible way out for atheism is to do what Nietzsche does – declare the death of God – and then entirely abandon morality. To fully recognize that man is only an animal, and nothing ever more, destined for the dust, like any animal dead in the forest.

Second, atheism must fully embrace Hitlerism (this term is preferable to Nazism which was the political and social practice of Hitlerism. Nazism is dead, but Hitlerism is alive and well – and embodied by every atheist, whether s/he understands this or not).

This means that atheism needs to accept what a life without God fully entails. And that life cannot then be based upon morality, since that is simply brain-washing and an expression of weakness – that life must be based upon the full consequences of man being an animal – existing “beyond good and evil.” It was Simone Weil who very elegantly understood this connection and identified it.

So, here is the challenge for atheists – if they actually believe their opinions, tastes, and preferences – they have to accept that they must Hitlerism, which is the best and most accurate (and even courageous) explanation, or program, of living a life without God and denying natural moral law. Therefore, a true atheist must be unapologetically Hitlerian, which alone had the courage to describe what life without God is like.

The corollary to this is another question – after deny God, why do atheists then proceed to live like perfectly decent Christians, worrying about human rights, social justice, tolerance, fairness?

Should they not, instead, be striving to express their will to power – the destruction of the weak, the strengthening of the species, the struggle to survive? There can be no decency in atheism – because that is weakness – and weak animal lives for too long.

There is indeed an adolescent quality to atheists who frolic about having tossed off all authority – perhaps this is why the greatest “thinkers” of atheism tend to be academics – and yet they do not understand the consequences of their “thinking.”

First, atheism is simply a preference, a world-view, an opinion, which is unable to generate a particular type of society in which humans might want to live. Why? Because atheism is no more than a critique of normative thinking; it is not an alternative to it. There is reason why ideas are normative.

Therefore, atheism can only last for the life-time of the individual atheist. And studies by Eric Kaufmann bluntly point out that atheists just do not have enough babies to keep their world-view going into the future. Atheism will die with the atheists. Religious people have more babies, and therefore religion will keep on going.

Atheism needs to answer why this is. Historically, to exist and think without God is alien to what it means to be human. Archaeology points this out continually – even that civilization is not the result of economic forces, but rather of religious worship (as, say, in Gobekli Tepe). Farming, domestication, metallurgy, cities, social hierarchies, culture are the consequences of religion alone. Doubt is neither creative, nor generative – socially or biologically.

Second, the position of atheism is arrived at by way of reason, as expressed in scientism (which says that only quantifiable probabilities exist and are therefore true). But if atheism is correct, then rationality is simply the result of random chance, which is to say, it is the product of pure irrationality. How can rationality be created by irrationality? Atheism provides no answer.

Third, the famous philosophical question – why is there something, when there could be nothing? Physics tell us that all things are forever falling into entropy, which means that all objects prefer to be at rest rather be active.

Therefore, once the first accidental burst of creation happens, and random things get created, why do all things become self-generating? Why does life keep producing more life? Why the instinct for procreation, which is an on-going waste of energy, given that entropy is the normal state? In other words, why does life need to keep on going?

Fourth, if atheism is correct, then why must humans continue to exist on the earth? They have been nothing but trouble, and highly destructive to boot. Why did nature (which is viewed as all-wise) carry on with this experiment? What good have humans ever done to the planet?

Fifth, if atheism is correct, then man is certainly animal. But why would nature, in her wisdom, let evolve a creature that is so utterly unsuited to live in nature? All man has is intellect, with which to fashion the earth into a world in which he alone can exist. Why this disconnect creature and natural world?

Such unresolved questions also build internal contradictions within atheism. For example, why is it that atheists first deny the existence of God and regard religion as ignorance, superstition, and barbarity which has oppressed and imprisoned mankind, but then promptly behave, think, act, and live like good Christians? Why can they not embrace and “celebrate” their “animalness?”

An atheist is also a Darwinian nowadays, which means that men and women must be driven by instinct, which is the urge to survive and the will to power. Thus, an atheist must be a powerful predator, who seeks to destroy the weak.

Such is the true calling of an atheist, to be a strong animal, free of morality, which is part of the prison created by religion.

Thus, why live in family groups, why behave decently, why be nice, why worry about “human rights,” why love anyone other than your own self, why object to killing and murder, why not seek to destroy charity work (which only promotes life for the feeble), why have doctors and hospital who prolong life for the sick who should rightly die, why care for the elderly who are useless, why have education for all, why not kill the handicapped and the mentally challenged, why have prisons since criminals are only being good animals and they should be free to win even more power?

Indeed, are there any true atheists in the world?

There was one, and he wrote the best manual for the atheist, liberated from the prison of religion. This book made the author an instant millionaire, with worldwide sales. The appeal of the book was that it laid bare man as a true animal who survived through strength who had no need of God and morality.

The book was Mein Kampf, the author Adolf Hitler, who was a millionaire-writer long before he became the Fuhrer. He did create a purely atheistic culture, in which man the animal reigned supreme. It six years and about fifty million lives to destroy this atheist world. It is Simone Weil who made this insightful connection between atheism and Hitlerism.

But why does modernity need atheism?

First, it captures perfectly the relativist ethos that permeates the world today, with its denial of truth, history, morality in favor of opinion, taste, preference, choice.

Second, by being in a state of denial, atheism is a rebellious throwing off of constraints which has come to define freedom.

Third, as Charles Péguy observed long ago, there really is no such thing as atheism, because what passes for the denial of God is really an “auto-theism,” a deification of the self.

By removing God, man can worship himself. Thus atheism is attractive, because it is validated narcissism, for atheism has no interest in the future – it is merely the mirror with which to gaze upon oneself – in the illusion of an unending present.

The photo shows, “Echo and Narcissus,” John William Waterhouse, painted in 1903.

Supranationalism and the Quest for Democracy

The European Union of today finds itself at a critical juncture; with the rise of euroscepticism and upcoming aftermath of British departure, it is placed in a position where it must democratize its institutions to persevere.

Doing so, perhaps paradoxically, can no longer be accomplished through European disintegration or the current intergovernmental approach, but instead requires closer integration and further federalization.

Cooperation in recent decades amongst European states has been vital to securing stability in a historically tumultuous region. In that regard, the current intergovernmental framework of the EU has been effective by enabling coordination between European states, working to mitigate conflicts, and ensuring some form of economic benefit to all member states.

While the intergovernmental framework may seem to some like a perfectly viable long-term approach, as it enables European nation states to retain a large degree of independence and the ability to opt-out of certain EU legislation, its result is that most decision-making institutions within the EU are undemocratic.

Under the intergovernmental framework, most levers of power are rested within the two Executive bodies of the European Union, the European Commission and the European Council, which are hardly subjected to the same democratic scrutiny as the European parliament.

This approach results in the democratically elected European parliament lacking the ability to propose bills or take other forms of legislative initiative, preventing the creation of the sort of feedback loop that characterizes interactions between government and constituents in federations.

The intergovernmental system between European states has provided such a level of coordination and stability on the continent, that European governments will always strive to maintain it in some capacity. The alternative of complete disintegration is unappealing, as it creates uncertainty and weakens each government’s ability to exert influence abroad.

Maintaining the current system is also not an option, as its undemocratic nature will continue to alienate and inflame constituents within each member state. Without reform euroscepticism will only grow and it becomes ever more likely that the Union collapses.

There is also the issue of foreign policy, as the world becomes increasingly multipolar between the axes of the United States, China, Russia, and perhaps eventually India; a united European power bloc provides a better means for each member state to secure their interests on the world stage.

European governments occupy a much stronger bargaining position against foreign powers when operating as a unified bloc. Individual European states are already becoming less capable of projecting influence on the global stage, but through the economic power of a unified European bloc they would have an avenue to do so.

Such a bloc united under current European ethos which prioritizes diplomacy and peacekeeping could also serve as an essential balancing power in a multipolar world. With strong economic and political influence, it is placed in a position to facilitate cooperation between large powers and display a more pacifistic model of foreign relations.

How should such a bloc come to be and why would Europeans favour it?

The answer to the former, lies not in disintegration or continued intergovernmentalism, but instead in federalism and greater integration.

Federalism in a European context would certainly share some similarities with familiar models such as the United States, however for it function in Europe, it would have work within a framework that strongly emphasize the rights and importance of the nation-state and enshrines those principles within its constitution, while also incorporating a balance of autonomy and fair representation.

A supranational European federation would not be able to operate on exactly the same principles as a traditional intranational federation, it would have to be based on inter-state cooperation and give each state the opportunity to enshrine its rights in a federal constitution that it and its constituents can agree upon.

This constitution would need encompass core points of European ideology that transcend each nation-state, with said points of ideological agreement creating the core of a reformed EU and serving as the fundamental principals under which a common, democratic constitution would be established upon.

Such a constitution could establish mechanisms to ensure stability and prosperity for European citizens that partake in the newly established supranational structure and build frameworks for them to directly interact and democratically secure their own interests within it.

A parliament with more legislative and budgetary authority than that of the current EU alongside an executive branch derived from the parliament or directly chosen by European citizens would be the most essential of these frameworks.

It would curb the excess of unchecked executive power in the current EU by rendering the European Commission obsolete, and instead, vest its power in the European parliament, an institution that can be checked and regulated by European citizens.

Once more, however, I emphasize that a European version of federalism would necessarily have to have some key differences to the American to be democratic and long-lasting.

American and other traditional forms of federalism define their union as one of “one people”, in the European context this will initially certainly not be the case. That recognition exists even within the current EU which instead aims for “an ever more closer union”.

Therefore, a federalized European Union would initially need to be based on shared ideology and a shared constitution that forms the grounds for a state bonded on civic grounds.

The rights of nation-states would need to be protected for a federalized EU constitution to be ratified, therefore it could not overtake the nation-state as a national unit in its own right, but instead would form a Supranational entity that integrates each nation as a core constituent.

Relatively autonomous nation-states alongside a strong, democratically-elected European parliament ensure that citizens of the Union could secure their interests via national and supranational institutions, with the latter being able to coordinate mutually-beneficial policies across borders.

European citizens would find themselves better represented and better able to externalize their concerns to a European Union with institutions that allow for direct feedback, which as a result would possess greater ability to respond to constituents.

Thus, a federalized and more closely integrated European Union would be looked upon more favourably by Europeans than the intergovernmental iteration that exists today, as it would give them avenues to select decision-makers and would result in the democratization of the institution as a whole.

Regardless, the European Union has reached a point where it must work to reform its institutions, whichever route is chosen, democratization is pivotal to its survival.


The photo shows, “Daniele Manin e Nicolò Tommaseo and the Republic of Venice,” by Napoleone Nani, painted in 1876.



Thomas More In His Utopia

Thomas More’s Utopia is a work that is a complex critique of sixteenth-century northern European society. This critique is accomplished by way of postulating various ideal conditions that exist on an imaginary island called Utopia, and then these conditions are contrasted with the conditions prevalent in the Europe of More’s day.

One of these ideal concepts that Utopia gives us is the description of how perfection has been achieved, namely, through the eradication of pride – the root of all evil in humankind.

By the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Renaissance was coming into its own in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and England (although it was waning in Italy), by way of humanist thinkers.

These northern humanists are sometimes called, “Christian humanists” in that they believed that it was a human being’s privilege to seek happiness in this life, and that this true happiness was based on reason; however this happiness was only truly attained by divine grace.

The northern Renaissance particularly focused on a program of practical reform in a wide range of areas, including religion, education, and government. But there was an inherent tension in this position, since often these humanist reformers were also members of the political establishment – in brief, most were courtiers.

The key ideology of the Renaissance was a conscious turning away from scholasticism and the espousal of particular models. But this turn to the Classics was not a rejection of Christianity; rather it was an attempt to find material with which to reinterpret the essential message of Christianity – the destruction of pride that leads to estrangement of man from God and man from man.

In fact, for the Christian humanists, pride was the root of all evil; it was the grand paradigm wherein the Fall of Man and his salvation could be explained.

Thus rhetoric (the study of communication and persuasion) was associated with eloquence – and to a humanist, eloquence presupposed a nobility in the communication of one’s ideas as well as wisdom, as eloquence was the outward sign of inner wisdom. Beauty was derived from the Classics and wisdom acquired from Christianity.

Therefore, for the humanists, reason was innate in man’s soul, and through reason man could free himself from the grosser bonds of pride and become a creature not far below God himself.

Of course, the program of reform was greatly enhanced by the availability of the printing press. Thus, Desiderius Erasmus wrote continually for the printing press, and the humanists were generally able to promulgate their ideas (and propaganda) more widely than had been previously possible. They also utilized Latin, which served as an international language of Europe. It is within this context of Renaissance humanism that More’s Utopia needs to be read.

The important theme within this context is the use of pride both as an example of what is to be avoided in order to arrive at the perfected state, and as a tool to critique the idea of society itself, which is built upon the largely evil manifestations of pride. More attempts to put his humanist vision within the parameters of practical application, by way of social critique.

In Utopia three characters converse: Thomas More appears as a fictionalized version of himself; Raphael Hythlodaeus is the fictional traveler to exotic worlds; and Peter Giles, More’s young friend from Antwerp, throws in an occasional word or two. The premise of the work seeks to dispense with the entire order based on private property, which is an extension of greed and rooted in civic pride.

More also takes the liberty to suppose a commonwealth based on the pessimism that there is a real need for secular government, which keeps fallen mankind from hurtling into the vortex of perpetual violence.

Of course, the prime source of violence among mankind is pride: sinful human beings have an insatiable desire for things, and this desire translates into pride when those that have more look down upon those who have less, social pride.

Thus we have in Utopia a play on how life might develop in a state that tries to balance human depravity of pride and a communal system that aims to check the destructive individualism of corrupt human nature.

Raphael entertains us by bringing our experience in the ordinary world up against an ideal that we cannot really reach, but one that has about it a certain plausibility. Utopia is a mirror held up to nature, and we see ourselves reflected in it.

The key question that Utopia asks concerns the relationship between our possessions and our souls. Are the conspicuous illusions of wealth (pride) a type of injustice? They are, according to Utopia: “In fact, when I consider any social system that prevails in the modern world, I can’t, so help me God, see it as anything but a conspiracy of the rich to advance their own interests under the pretext of organizing society.”

If pride is measured by a sterile metal like gold, are the people who wear chains of gold not prisoners of their pride? And is it possible, in a zero sum world, where one person’s gain is another person’s loss, that the people who sport such finery are not in fact beggaring others? Thus the root of man’s injustice to man is pride, a conspiracy of those who seek to further their own egos.

If we measure worth by possession, are we not driven by a peculiar and implacable logic to put people to death for theft? More’s work raises this very fundamental question in regard to pride: what is it about possession that distorts vision and makes one person feel better than another?

The six-hour working day in Utopia also represents a perpetual check on an acquisitive society to turn human beings into beasts of burden to be worked as if they had no claim over themselves. For life is an end in and of itself, and not merely an instrument to be used for someone else’s gain.

Without pride, the force of such an imperative to use other people’s lives for personal gain is completely blunted. Thus for More, the root of human depravity is pride, and by eliminating private property, the root of civic and social pride is vanquished.

However, it is important to keep in mind that Utopia, from the beginning is an artificial construct. Some 1760 years earlier, Utopus had dug a channel to separate Utopia from the corrupting lands nearby. As the wise lawgiver, he imposed laws on people who could not or would not create those laws themselves.

But Utopia is afloat in world that is not Utopia: the fear of contamination is very much prevalent. Thus even if civic and social pride within is eliminated, it can still come from without.

This is why the Utopians give great weight to military matters, for a virtuous nation unarmed is quickly swallowed by the voraciousness of the outsider. Thus, there are massive walls around their towns on their island.

Since pride of possession has been vanquished, no locks bar Utopian doors, which open at a touch. The only reason Utopians can imagine the need for privacy is if they had pride: to guard what other do not have. Therefore, conformity is the rule of every house: “When you’ve seen one of them, you’ve seen them all.”

Raphael believes societies other than Utopia are merely conspiracies of the rich. These societies are realms of greed and pride. And pride causes men to measure their welfare not by their well-being, but by having things that other lack, which is irrational and unchristian. Only in Utopia has pride and all its attendant vices been eviscerated from society.

It is because of this evisceration that Utopian polity rests upon common ownership. Through this idea, More could have it both ways: he could explore the implications of a communal way of living without necessarily proposing it, however much he may have felt emotionally or intellectually inclined towards it.

Raphael’s summation of the general advantage of the Utopian way of life betrays the reason for its attractiveness: although no man owns anything, all are rich – “for what can be richer than to live with a happy and tranquil mind, free from anxiety?”

In effect, the Utopians’ repudiation of private property is a remedy that frees them from pride and allows them to live a life that is at once religious and secular, private and public.

Consequently, their world consists of: equality of all things among citizens; love of peace and quiet; and contempt for gold and silver. In short, they have imported the ideals of the monastic life into political and social affairs.

A large part of Book 2, then, describes the happy place freed from the vices of the real world. But here we see that pride is also used to critique the Europe of More’s day. As happy as Utopia is, it is also “No place,” a land that will never be.

At one level, particularly with respect to geography, England and Utopia share a shadowy identity. Utopia is an island separated from the continent by a channel (Amaurotum), its capital city, together with the tidal river Anydrus, and the magnificently arched stone bridge across it, resemble London and the Thames, and the houses reflect those in England.

Thus it is not long before the Utopian illusion dissolves into the reality of England and Europe – places where pride certainly holds sway, and governs all aspects of civil, private, political, and social life.

The importance of pride comes through strongly in Raphael’s description of the Utopians distrust of treaties. In fact, the Utopians never make treaties with any nation, because “in those parts of the world treaties and alliances between kings are not observed with much good faith.”

He then draws a satiric contrast with Europe, meaning the exact opposite of what he says: “In Europe, however, and especially in those parts where the faith and religion of Christ prevails, the majesty of treaties is everywhere holy and inviolable, partly through the justice and goodness of kings, partly through the reverence and fear of the Sovereign Pontiffs.”

Of course, the reality in Europe is otherwise: pride makes all treaties cheap. Thus Utopia gradually describes the polity that an optimistic humanist might envision for England in the context of the contemporary historical Renaissance, through the eradication of pride.

However, the perfected state of Utopia is not without its contradictions, and these contradictions arise from the paradox that lies at the very heart of the book: that rational action can give rise to unreasonable consequences; the Utopians most determined efforts to fulfill the most laudable of intentions often meet with failure.

The most striking example of this is the war they fight on behalf of the Nephelogetes against the Alaopolitans – the Utopians are being good neighbors. Thus the Utopians went to the assistance of the Nephelogetes, who claimed that they had suffered injustice at the hands of the Alaopolitans under the pretext of law.

The outcome was catastrophic: “…whether right or wrong, it was avenged by a fierce war. Into this war the neighboring nations brought their energies and resources to assist the power and to intensify the rancor of both sides.

Most flourishing nations were either shaken to their foundations or grievously afflicted. The troubles upon troubles that arose were ended only by the enslavement and surrender of the Alaopolitans. Since the Utopians were not fighting in their own interest, they yielded them into the power of the Nephelogetes, a people who, when the Alaopolitans were prosperous, were not in the least comparable to them.”

Thus, what people experience is often very different from anything they intend, desire, seek, or foresee. Does the eradication of pride really lead to freedom from all evil?

How is Utopian society kept from reverting to pride? Again, we see many paradoxes. For example, the suffocating constraints on individual liberty required to effectuate the Utopians’ attempt to secure more liberty and leisure for all, or the moral injustice of the rational justice by which they regulate numbers in their families and colonies.

The cost of eradicating pride is the deprivation of some portion of an individual’s will, however rationally or virtually that person might act. Utopia thus contains an inbuilt ambiguity; it represents to a large extent what More wished for, even while he saw that if it could be, which it never could, the human condition would remain essentially unchanged in its character and function.

This point brings us to examine religious pride in Utopia. The essential feature of Utopian religion is that it is not definitive, and it resides in the responsive condition of mind rather than an elaborate and arbitrary dogma.

Its main precepts were instituted by Utopus, who allowed for a range of beliefs and provided for the possibility of wise doubting: “On religion he did not venture rashly to dogmatize. He was uncertain whether God did not desire a varied and manifold worship and therefore did not inspire different people with different views.”

The Utopians must, however, accept two fundamental tenets: that the world is governed by providence, not chance, and that the soul is immortal and will receive rewards and punishments after this life. To believe otherwise is to fall from the dignity of human life.

In practice, they let their faith instruct their reason, so that they are capable of modifying the rational rigor of their epicurean philosophy to allow for the justified existence of their ascetic religious order as well as those who wish to enjoy honest pleasures in marriage.

Thus, for the Utopians, religion is not a source of pride: they cannot say that their belief is better, truer, more righteous than any other belief – a position impossible in the Europe of the day, where to doubt the basic tenets of Christian amounted to heresy.

This point is highlighted if we consider that the Utopians profess a willingness to contemplate the possibility that all their assumptions about God and religion may be false: “If he [a Utopian] errs in these matters or if there is anything better and more approved by God than that commonwealth or that religion, he prays that He will, of His goodness, bring him to the knowledge of it, for he is ready to follow in whatever path He may lead him. But if this form of a commonwealth be the best and his religion the truest, he prays that then He may give him steadfastness and bring all other mortals to the same way of living and the same opinion of God – unless there be something in this variety of religions which delights His inscrutable will.”

Thus we see that the Utopians’ prayers manifest immediate faith and hope, while acknowledging doubt about the verity of faith itself. It is this doubt, therefore, that eradicates pride, since one faith system is no truer than another.

Of course, just a year after Utopia was written, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of Wittenberg Church and began the Reformation, which would see Europe being plunged into blood, and would cause the death of Thomas More himself. European reality and Utopian idealism stand at opposite ends of what could be and what really is.


The photo shows, “The Family of Sir Thomas More,” by Rowland Lockey, painted 1592.

Roman Dictatorship: Some Observations

The relevance of the relationship between the powers granted by states of emergency and the transition to authoritarianism and dictatorship is perhaps self-evident to any student of political science aware of history and contemporary events.

We will define authoritarianism broadly as a regime maintaining obedience through the use of the fear of coercion, and thus the foundation of the state is not legal authority but rather power exercised through an informal dictate. Dictatorship will be defined as the exercise of a like dictate, except under a public, systematic and formalised power rather than a hidden one.

Both types of regimes are characterised by elites of converging interests as well as the use of crisis in order to justify the power of the regime, and the loss of individual liberties. As such, these states have been characterised as crisis states which function in a nigh perpetual state of emergency despite professing outward belief in rights and the will of the people.

Thus, the struggle to preserve the sanctity of sovereign laws over arbitrary mandates of power depends precisely on the separation between normal legal and political procedures and those of the state of emergency.

It is precisely this struggle and conundrum over the distinction between the state of emergency and the normal rule of law which is made evident by the historical case of the Roman Republic and the transformation that occurred in its state of emergency procedures.

This will allow us to demonstrate such transformation as exemplified by the early institution of Dictatorship and the Senatus Consultum Ultimum, what they demonstrated of Roman politics and law in terms of the blurring between the previously strict lines of the state of emergency and normal legal procedure, and taking special note of the incident of the Catiline Conspiracy.


Roman Dictatorship

Arguably the original and thus most famous state of emergency in western political history, Roman Dictatorship presents the first ever attempt at addressing what in political philosophy ever since Aristotelian thought has been the problem of equity; equal applications of the law in all circumstances may be inherently unjust or inadequate, hence calling for a temporary suspension or alteration of laws and legal procedure

In principle, the dictatorship in Republican Rome was magistral office like no other exercising for a limited period of six months the power of imperium or in other words supreme administrative and coercive power in order to immediately deal with an external state of crisis, though it was restricted both legally and through political and religious precedent.

Nevertheless, the description alone cannot do the office justice unless it is situated in its proper historical, legal and functional contexts before one can even approach it ultimate political dimension.

The first paradox brought about by trying to put Roman Dictatorship in a proper historical context is how it could have even arisen in Rome in the first place. It is no great mystery that the city of Rome ever since the foundation of the Republic in 509 BC was weary of monarchy, which it had violently deposed, so much so that word king itself was an insult and a much despised word.

Yet, in the office of the dictator one seemingly finds the closest conjuring to monarchy that could be conceived in a republican government, as the dictator wielded the war powers of the monarchy, superseding those of the consuls and initially having command over all other magistrates.

If one takes Livy’s Histories at face value, the mere purpose of the office as a means of averting crisis and fulfilling a function which could not be carried out by the elected magistrates provides proper justification for the installment of the office in 500 BC, less than ten years since the institution of the Republic in the first place.

The dates themselves cause an issue, as it would have been a precarious action indeed for the people of Rome to have reinstated virtually in every way but name the monarchy they so desperately deposed less than ten years before.

In ​The Origin of Roman Dictatorship, D. Cohen seeks to explain and rationalize the origins of this extraordinary office both in terms of an interregnum, positing that it served as a transition from monarchy to republican government, but also a religious function in the early Republic which required the highest authority. Similar offices were to be found in the other city states of Latium, such as Alba and Caere, though with year-long terms of office.

In particular, the act of religious purification carried out by dictators and last performed in ​363 BC in the driving of a nail ceremony (a religious rite likely of early Indo-European origins) as a response to a pestilence carried out by Manlius Imperiosus demonstrated the nigh-sanctity of the office, above that of the Pontifex Maximus (head priest).

The sanctity of the office is further exemplified by the custom of silence which other magistrates were meant to obey before the dictator, and in conjunction with the dictator’s role as a saviour figure, one can understand how the Roman people accepted the existence of such an office in the early years of the Republic.

Beyond this period, and especially following the course of the Punic Wars in the Middle Republic, the office of the dictator lost further and further independence vis a vis the Senate and its authority to overreach the imperium of the Consuls, and eventually tribunes could veto the dictator’s measures just as those of the consuls.

Having approximated the origin of Roman Dictatorship, situating it in terms of Roman constitutional law is necessary. The procedure appointing the dictator appears at first sight as a simple consultation, whereby the Senate would agree that a state of emergency existed give leave of the consuls to appoint a dictator in order to deal with it.

The dictator’s powers were thus to deal with the specific state of emergency at hand; whether it was an insurrection or an invasion, yet the dictator was also charged with recruiting, assembling and leading the army to deal with the threat at hand. At this point, the legal aspect of the appointment is significant, because after the consuls had chosen a candidate for dictator, the ​Lex curiata de imperio granting the dictator his power of imperium had to be passed by the assembly of the people of Rome.

The dictator’s legal mandate was a popular one, and not senatorial. Indeed, the connection of the office of dictator to the people was also represented in its original title ‘magister populi,’ which translated to magistrate of the people, or more practically of the infantry in war, whereas the second in command of the dictator was the ‘magister equites’ or master of cavalry.

Leaving these military vestiges aside, it must be noted that after the carrying out the task demanded of him, the dictator was supposed to relinquish power and after the ​Lex Repetundarum of 300 BC they could be put on trial directly if they had overstepped their mandate in purpose or time.

What this kind of legal precision shows is the ability of Roman law to adapt to states of emergency in that it is able to preserve the rule of law even when limits to power are temporarily suspended. For if one is to believe in the rule of law, a principle by which the laws are universally applicable, public and their power vested in the state and not the individuals; one must precisely have such limitations and controls over states of emergency.

In addition to formal and legal checks on the powers of the Roman Dictatorship, Naomi Lazar points out in her essay ​Making Emergencies Safe for Democracy: The Roman Dictatorship and the Rule of Law in the Study of Crisis Governmentthat informal controls over the dictatorship were just as important; Rome’s strong republican political culture, the choice of appointees (men with a long and spotless record), and the Senate’s control over the treasury.

Nevertheless, Lazar also points out that 7 of more than 90 dictators passed legislation; the ​Lex Ameliana in 434 BC which enforced term limits on Censors, and the right to hold the consulship for plebeians in 367 BC by Camillus (5 times dictator and named second founder of Rome); showing that dictators favoured reformism while in office.

Roman Dictatorship, then, as a state of emergency shows a surprising level of continuity and formality on the part of Roman law and politics to adequately deal with states of emergency; which is why all appointed dictators relinquished power after the crisis was averted, whether they were motivated by religious and political precedent, legal restrictions or just the belief in the SPQR.

As such, the self-appointment as dictators at the head of private armies by both Sulla and Caesar in the late Republic demonstrate not the lapse of Roman dictatorship into a authoritarianism due to states of emergency; but rather the abuse of that old title to legitimize the illegal seizure of the state. One can thus conclusively say that it is not in the emergency powers of the Roman Dictatorship that the pitfall of autocracy can be identified.


The Senatus Consultum Ultimum & Catiline Conspiracy

However, the office of dictatorship was not the only response to states of emergency which the Roman Republic employed, as there was another in the form of the Senatus Consultum Ultimum, which was not enshrined in Roman law, with a loose definition of its limits at best.

Before an explanation of the emergency procedure can be made, one must take a step back and look at the institutional history of the Senate. Founded in the monarchy, the Senate was originally an advisory body to kings until it gained greater powers and independence to make laws after the deposition of the monarchy in 509 BC.

Membership into the senate camy by consular appointment of ex magistrates, until 318 BC when the plebiscitum Ovinium took the power away from consuls and gave it to the office of the censor under the condition that once elected, a magistrate was immediately a member of the Senate.

Thus, the it became less exclusive and at the same time gained some elective legitimacy, yet its members enjoyed a mandate for life; an electoral mandate for life which in of itself is characteristic of oligarchical and elitist governments.

In addition to passing laws, the Senate enjoyed control over the treasury and state finances, as well as the ability to give consultations to the consuls which were not binding but by long precedent were obeyed.

It must be noted that the bureaucratic power of the Senate grew after the end of the Punic Wars with the beginning of the Late Republic period in order to keep up with the overseas territories that had been gained in Iberia, Sicily and the west Balkans.

Likewise, individual Senators became immensely wealthy landowners and property speculators due to the gains of the war.

It is precisely this more numerous and powerful Senate which after the Punic Wars first employed the Senatus Consultum Ultimum (SCU). Following the death of Tiberius Gracchus at the hands of an angry mob of patricians accusing him of trying to make himself king while he was passing reforms against huge agrarian estates, the Senate realised both that the Republic’s military resources were greater enough to defeat any external threat, and that the disaffected mob of Italian refugees left by the wars constituted the only legitimate threat of insurrection.

In other words, a state of emergency potentially prone to giving power to the people through an elected dictator was insufficient and potentially dangerous to state sovereignty. The fear materialised itself in the form of Gaius Gracchus, the younger brother of Tiberius who worked to finish the earlier reforms as tribune of the plebeians, and who had an armed bodyguard.

In 121 BC the Senate first used the Senatus Consultum Ultimum to declare a quasi state of emergency similar to martial law in modern terms, which gave power to the Consuls to deal with the threat after one of Gaius’ bodyguards commited a murder. The consul Opimius used the army to apprehend and execute Gaius Gracchus along with several others, leading to a total death count of over 3000 Roman Citizens.

This went against the Lex Valeria and ​Lex Porcia which forbid the execution of citizens without a trial, and trials without the right of appeal. When put on trial for his crimes, Opimius agreed that he had broken the law but justified his actions based on the SCU as it gave him greater powers of imperium under a state of emergency and with Senatorial decree. Opimius’ acquittal would serve to set a precedent for future use of the SCU despite it not being a written law nor having any previous precedents.

Framing the legality of the SCU was difficult for the Romans themselves, not least of which Cicero who helped expand and define its powers and even used it in the course of his consulship. Indeed, the way in which Cicero defined the SCU by the example of Opimius’ act was that magistrates could indeed overstep the written laws under senatorial decree in a state of emergency and in the defence of the country.

Yet, the authority of the decree and thus the act itself lay in the hands of the Senate, not the magistrates themselves as their power depended on the Senate’s prior approval. In other words, the Senatus Consultum Ultimum meant that a temporary state of war was declared against internal threats to the Republic, but without a temporal restriction, a clear definition of what constituted an emergency, nor a religious or political precedent as was the case with Dictatorship.

The most scathing critique that one could make, and justly so, is that the SCU served as little more than a means of carrying out extra-judicial killing, as was demonstrated by the killing of another tribune in 100 BC, whose executor Cicero defended in a trial 37 years later.

It would be an understatement to say that the SCU demonstrates a direct step in the extra-legal and political use of emergency measures, but before that can be done one must look at the most famous case of the use of the SCU which demonstrates to the fullest its legal limitations; the case involving Cicero himself that of the Catiline Conspiracy.

The events are described most poignantly by Livy as such: ​”​L. Catiline failed twice in the consular elections. He conspired with the praetor Lentulus, with Cethegus and many others, in order to assassinate the consul and the senators, to oppress the Republic and set fire to the city. An army was prepared in Etruria, but thanks to Cicero’s watchfulness the conspiracy was discovered.​” (Livy 102).

Although there is much to be questioned with this pithy description of events on the part of Livy, not the least of which that it was a description made by Catiline’s enemies after his defeat, there is some truth. It is indeed true that Cataline did fail to win elections and pass reforms, and that he plotted to overthrow the Republic during Cicero’s consulship with an army of 10.000 to 20.000 armed men.

Those prominent politicians with whom he plotted with were indeed caught with incriminating written evidence proving the necessity of the state of emergency which had already been declared.

Yet, it was Cicero’s response at this point in the course that is puzzling. Instead of having the prisoners immediately executed, Cicero proceeded to put their fate upt to a vote by the Senate, thus showing that he saw the act of executing them as being founded on weak legal grounds, and furthermore that their fate was the responsibility of the Senate.

​In response to this, Julius Caesar responded in a speech calling for the life imprisonment of the conspirators, rejecting not the evidence of their crimes but the authority of the Senate to sanction their killing without a trail, even in a time of crisis. Caesar’s response can’t be seen as a rejection of the emergency powers, but rather a rejection of Cicero’s interpretation of Roman law and especially the Senatus Ultimum Consultum giving the Senate authority to determine life and death in emergency situations.

Regardless, Cicero acquired a majority vote in Senate and had the conspirators executed, but when Caesar and several other senators tried to leave the senate house in order to protest the vote, Cicero had them threatened by his armed guards, which was illegal but permissible under the SCU. The last SCU employed was that against Caesar in 49 BC, which started a civil war that would bring the end of the Roman Republic.

Ultimately, the SCU demonstrates exactly what one would expect from emergency measures granting limitless power to a single branch of government and robbing the others of their sovereignty, as it took away the authority of elected magistrates and gave supreme authority to the Senate.

The problem is indeed obvious from a legal standpoint as the Senate has the power to declare a state of emergency, determine the scope of threat needed to justify the measures taken, and judge legality of events. In a historical sense, the SCU served as a means of permanently silencing political opposition and the very threat of it created such fierce factionalism that it regularly incited murder.

Yet all this was carried out on the legal basis of a mere senatorial consultation for which there was not even a written law. Such extreme laxity of political procedure demonstrates directly how the laws and functions of the state can be hijacked by political elites and lead to authoritarianism and autocracy.



While these examples may be brief and their impact minimal of the modern question of the role of states of emergency in the rise of authoritarianism, the capacity to learn from them is undeniable.

In sum, Roman Dictatorship provides neither the precedent for resembles in any way the conception of dictatorship established at the beginning, whereas the SCU proves a tentative step toward the path of autocracy in loose interpretation and limits.

The conclusion that can be made from this is that without a sacrosanct guarantee of rights protection and the independent mandates of political offices, the rule of law can be disintegrated from within the government and a democratically elected state can transform into authoritarianism.


The photo shows, “Cicero Denounces Catiline,” by Cesare Maccari, painted in 1889.