Tag Archives: civilization

The New Reformation?

Luther-Nailing-ninety-five-theses
The election of Donald Trump was just a symptom of a major shift of civilization. In this essay, Mike Krauss (http://thekrausscommentary.com/) compares it to the Reformation of the sixteenth century.  It seems an apt analogy.

From Martin Luther to Donald Trump: Reading the Signs of the Times


Martin Luther published his Ninety-Five Thesis in 1517. Some histories record that he nailed them to the door of the chapel of the Wittenberg Castle. His challenge to the monolithic authority of the Catholic Church in Western Europe  set off an upheaval among the governing class and peoples of the European continent that was not only religious, but was also political, cultural and intellectual.
 
That upheaval did not follow immediately on Luther’s bold action, but erupted about four years later as the Church banned citizens of all the nations from espousing, defending or disseminating Luther’s ideas, and hardened the division into what would become the Reformation and Counter Reformation, decades of strife and bloody conflict within and between the peoples and nations of the continent. Lives were unspeakably brutalized. Property was confiscated and families destroyed. Mobs desecrated or destroyed churches and pulled down or defaced their statues and relics. Justice was whatever princes and popes said it was.
 
In the end, Europe was changed and the course of western civilization altered, as more democratic norms of government gradually displaced centralized royal and ecclesiastical power and the rule of law grew stronger.
 
It is tempting at this remove to compare Donald Trump’s 2015 ride down the escalator in his cathedral to capitalism, Trump Tower, to Luther’s arrival on the scene. But with Trump, the reaction of the monolithic governing class was immediate, as they recognized the power of Trump’s challenge to their authority and mounted a fierce counter attack. It has become as brutal as that of the 16th century, as the Counter Reformers now seek to politically, socially and economically excommunicate, exorcise, punish and destroy utterly Trump and any vestige of his American Reformation.
 
Now as then, the opposing sides in the contest use the same language of centuries of a shared “faith” to claim the moral high ground, with this difference: Trump’s reformers just want to be left alone by controlling, centralized authority to live their lives as they think best, while the statist counter reformers demand conformity to their “civic virtues,” and take no prisoners in an all out war to regain and retain power.
 
Where is this leading? In the short term, to fascism and repression. The counter reformers have seized both the government and the means of communication of an entire nation. This contrasts with the Protestant Reformation; in that, as the printing press came into wider use at that time, the ideas of Luther and other reformers were more widely circulated than had ever before been possible. New technology aided the Reformation. Now in the United States, new means of communication serve the Counter Reformation and the governing class. For the foreseeable future there will be only the “party line” heard in the United States. 
 
But even the dullest of ears will by now have picked up the incessant, preening moralizing of the counter reformers. Completely self sanctified and utterly un-self aware, these elites are likely to drive the Biden administration. Biden is not strong enough to resist.  He may not want to.
 
 “Joe Biden, Savior of the Republic” may be the story Biden has going in his head. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to establish a domestic surveillance agency with authority to define any reforming thought, speech or action which challenges the governing class as “domestic terror,” the modern equivalent of heresy.
 
There is one element to this conflict today that was not present in that of 16th century Europe and is entirely modern and American: race. The resentments of some whites on the right and some blacks on the left are equally poisonous and capable of overcoming any hope of reason and accommodation among the warring parties.
 
American liberalism, the former church of the secular left is dead, having collapsed under its own failures. The two greatest failures have been the decades long reduction of the mostly white middle class, its wealth redistributed to a permanent governing class of corporate overlords and their political retainers; and the simultaneous creation of a mostly black, permanent underclass, consigned to the apartheid landscape of American cities which liberal policy created, islands of white prosperity in a sea of mostly black poverty.
 
Until these twin failures of the governing class are remedied a time of conflict and turmoil in America is inevitable,.
 
Trump simply called out the reality of the decadence of the American governing class, as Luther called out that of the Medieval Church.  Leading up to Luther’s challenge, Pope Sixtus IV began the practice of selling Indulgences to wealthy sinners  –  ecclesiastical get-out-of-purgatory- free cards  – the way Congress sells legislation to lobbyists. Pope Alexander VI enforced celibacy on the priesthood but was the father of seven  (!) children, operating with the same hubris on display daily in the American governing class today: “rules for thee, but not for me.”
 
Hubris invites nemesis: then Luther, now Trump.
 
In the weeks ahead there may be a period of relative calm, as the people wait and watch. But it won’t last long. As the government of the American Counter Reformation becomes steadily more repressive, authoritarian and fascist, it will run up against something Luther did not have to help fuel his Reformation: a people with the experience of centuries of democratic government, the protection of individual liberties and the rule of law.
 
This conflict will not be resolved any time soon.

And this assessment, That’s All Folks, from former Congressman Ron Paul, provides another take on the matter. And his latest essay, When Fascism Comes, It Will Be Wearing a Mask, spotlights actions by the Biden administration that look a lot like a counter-reformation.

Let’s see if we can find ways to enjoy the ride and take advantage of the opportunities to build a better world.

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The decay of western civilization

One of my correspondents, Irish financial advisor Christopher Quigley, recently sent me a link to his article, Civilizations Die by Suicide Not by Murder. In that article, he mentions famed historian Arnold Toynbee’s monumental work, A Study of History which describes the rise and fall of 23 civilizations throughout human history. Toynbee concluded from his study that, “civilizations start to decay when they lose their moral fiber and the cultural elite turns parasitic.” That certainly rings true for our present world—the banking and corporate elite and their political minions have clearly turned parasitic, putting power and profit above all else.

Then by some strange coincidence I happened to notice a few days ago a book on display at my public library.  The book is, The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas J. Preston, which tells the story of the search for a legendary city that was supposed to have existed several hundred years ago in the eastern part of Honduras in Central America. It is a true adventure story that reads like fiction. Preston was part of a team that went looking for, and by using some highly advanced technology, ultimately found, not only a city, but extensive remnants of a lost civilization, one that appears to be distinct from the Mayan and others of the region that are well known.

In one chapter, Preston speaks more generally about the civilizations that existed in that region and tells of the decline around AD 650 of the Mayan city of Copan. He says,

“This happened even as the ruling classes apparently swelled in size over succeeding generations…in what archaeologists call the ‘increasingly parasitic role of the elite.’  (We see the same process today in the gross expansion of the Saudi royal family into no fewer than fifteen thousand princes and princesses.) This proliferation may have triggered the vicious internecine warfare and killing among the elite.”

He goes on to say, “The commoners were willing to support the privileged class as long as they kept up their end of the bargain with effective rituals.”

What does that suggest for western civilization today? Who are those that comprise our privileged class, and what is the nature of the bargain between them and the “commoners?” I leave it to the reader to ponder those questions, but I would suggest that the bargain must at least include assurances of social justice, basic human rights, and access to a fair share of our natural and cultural heritage. But however one might define that bargain, political developments around the world in recent years seem to indicate that increasing numbers of people are feeling let down by their leaders.

Are we then doomed? Will western civilization continue to  decay and collapse to be followed by another dark age?

I think it is not “we” who are doomed, it is the global interest-based debt-money regime that sits at the pinnacle of the power pyramid, and the American imperial hegemony that are doomed. How long the collapse will take, how much pain and suffering will it cause, how can the present dysfunctional systems be displaced? These are all open questions. The optimist in me sees the peaceful emergence of a multi-polar political order and a sustainable and equitable global economy based on the devolution of power and new exchange and financing mechanisms that are interest-free, cooperative, and grounded in a spirit of compassion and mutual aid. –t.h.g.

Edit: This article from the BBC provides an excellent elaboration on the topic of this post: How Western Civilization Could Collapse.

Seizing an Alternative, Pomona College, June 4-7 – Free Plenary Sessions, Scholarships, and other reasons to participate.

Here’s a portion of the latest informational brief about the upcoming conference. You’re invited:

Don’t stay away!

(I mean, really, when is the next time you’ll be able to get together with hundreds and hundreds of people rethinking civilization from the ground up?)

            Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization             June 4-7, Pomona College, Claremont, CA

ATTEND FREE PLENARY SESSIONS at Bridges Auditorium, Pomona College, Claremont, CA:

THURSDAY, June 4
Bill McKibben: 7:00 p.m. Opening Night

FRIDAY, June 5
John B. Cobb, Jr.: 9:00 a.m.
Vandana Shiva: 7:00 p.m.

SATURDAY, June 6
Herman Daly-John B. Cobb, Jr. discussion moderated by PRI’s Warren Olney (recorded):
  9:00 a.m.
Sheri Liao: 7:00 p.m.

SUNDAY, June 7
Wes Jackson: 9:00 a.m.

Southern California Edison makes ADDITIONAL STUDENT SCHOLARSHIPS (limited) available. To apply, write to info@PandoPopulus.com.

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