Just and the Justifier

A Christian Distinctive

The Varied Enemies of Marriage

Perusing the news nowadays becomes a masochistic exercise as we face a quickening accumulation of human folly and travesty. It is little wonder that many prefer to stick their heads in sand to safeguard their very psychological equilibrium.
So while this nation heaves a wearied sigh of relief from an electoral rebuke of the more blatant forms of petty-minded nativist bigotries in Quebec, along comes a broadside against the Estate of Marriage and by extension civil society. But from the ‘Conservative’ Party of Canada!

52. (1) Subsection 4(2) of the Canada

Evidence Act is replaced by the following:

(2) No person is incompetent, or uncompellable, to testify for the prosecution by reason only that they are married to the accused.

It was always my expectation that the bit-by-bit weakening of the spousal immunity laws over the years would invariably lead to a total blanket overthrow of this legal protection from the creeping tyranny of statism. But it was not to be expected from the ‘Conservative’ Party of Canada in this Amendment to the Canada Evidence Act as part of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

The whole point of spousal immunity is to provide one corner in this gotcha dog-eat-dog social jungle, where a person can be psychologically naked, open and vulnerable and without inhibition, that is intimated in the very metaphor of sex. Having at least one venue of protected confidentiality is a primary contributor of mental health. Having at least one person, one can trust, can act as check against one’s own folly and even criminality.

However, it is not only a matter of psychological well-being. This yet another intrusion into the bedrooms of the nation, enervates the cohesion, unity and strength of the nation’s marriages, and by extension families. It attacks trust, which is the fundamental foundation to all social relationships. Indeed, emotive and erotic passion, is, in large part, a function of such trust. Spouses must now be courageous enough to suffer judicial penalties to protect the sanctity of their marriages.

By extension, it further diminishes the distinction between all-consuming, fierce loyalties of committed and united lovers from the mindset behind atomistic hook-up sex culture. It undermines its very raison d’être for getting married.

It extends that late Roman Empire policy of pitting every man to spy on their neighbour and every man to distrust his neighbour into the very midst of erotic union. It brings to mind the state exploitation of the Hitler Youth, to report on their parents. It furnishes yet another statist assault on the private civic entities, which can provide checks against this encroaching totalitarian Leviathan.

Yes. I know that there exists this half-wit, self-righteous form of conservatism of the Vic Toews and Britain’s William Hague who pontificate that “the law-abiding citizen has nothing to be worried about”. However, this obtuse form of conservatism is ignorant of history. Even cursory perusal of Quebec politics should disabuse such a notion. It presumes the virtue of the judicio-political authorities. But why should anyone think that the propensity to folly and foible in humanity becomes transformed upon entrance into public service or that the governors will not use such overriding of immunities for less than noble ends?

The ‘Conservative’ Party of Canada has sought to radically reduce judicial discretion in sentencing because of radically widespread inconsistencies, which undermine the moral authority of justice. Does it now wish to sic these judges on married couples; giving judicial discretion as to what constitutes a valid and acceptable violation of marital confidentiality? Does the notion of rational consistency ever creep into their caucus meetings?

This type of policy emanates from the simple-mindedness of single-issue morons, who cannot balance in their mind, more than one consideration at a time.

First of all, it is the last vestiges of a very antiquated area of the law.

Peter Mackay, Justice Minister, April 7, 2014

What a curious and sophomoric argument from a ‘conservative’. The agedness or newness of a principle or attitude surely has little correlation to its virtue. Should we also abrogate democracy, rule of law, chain of command, principles of justice and due process and other concepts and practices that gave rise to Western civilization, because of their antiquarian pedigree?
Such “first of all” modernist arguments can only emanate from the arrogant stupidity of a pampered child of hardier ancestors who fought to extract such restraints on statist overreach. In what way exactly has human nature or the sociopolitical dynamics of societies changed over the last couple hundreds of years, to justify such a sophomoric sophistry?

♦     ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

I, as committed Evangelical, cultural conservative, and small-r republican, social contract libertarian, find it difficult to comprehend any silence from the Conservative Party’s religious supporters. It is too important an issue to disregard and comply with. Any professed Christian, Jewish or Muslim adherent, who fails to remonstrate against this spousal immunity provision, is unfaithful to a primary concept of marriage within their own Holy Writ; namely of the one-flesh oneness of spouses, which this abrogation undermines.

I, as committed Evangelical, cultural conservative, and small-r republican, social contract libertarian, will defy this law, if called upon; in the name of a Christian, even universal (i.e. pagan Roman, Babylonian) understanding of the ingredients, necessary to marriage.

I cannot conceive how this abrogation represents any normalized and healthy form of conservatism? Conservatism has traditionally sought to strengthen the civil intermediaries between state and individual as a bulwark against statism; whereas Rousseauian liberalism reduces all civic intermediaries to become adjuncts and executors of the public will. And the 20th Century is full of examples of the atrocities of this latter mindset.

This provision is every bit statist sentiment as those of their liberal statist counterparts, which conservatives rail about. It is not conservative in any sense. Those, who have true conservative and/or theist sentiments, should at minimum, sit on their hands and let this monstrosity of a conservative party pass into the ash heap of history.

Reformed Theology and Free Will

Packer is too good a biblical scholar to think there ever was such a thing as “free will” taught in the scripture. Thus the whole conversation between him and myself can proceed on the cordial agreement that free will is an unbiblical notion that is not part of the antinomy because it is not part of revelation.1

Standard philosophical understandings of free will includes its ability to choose and do otherwise under similar circumstances. What distinguishes “free will” from “free agency” in moral agents with content in their nature and subjective faculties is that the former deliberates and draws upon that content; while in the latter, the content pushes upon and compels our decision making process and will to the point of determining. In the former, the will ill is the active and determining agent. In the latter, the will becomes a passive.

Free will is an unbiblical notion? Such a notion cannot be found within Scriptures? If Lucifer or Adam and Eve did not have free will, for instance, does John Piper and his ilk have a coherent definition of free will? Like scientism and the objective reality of soul and spirit; free will is precluded from Calvinist systems of rationalist theology. Free will doesn’t exist; neither in God, nor in man.
If Adam and Eve did not have free will to choose and do otherwise, if “man is free [only] to choose and act in accordance with his nature”2 , then by virtue of Adam and Eve’s sin, it must indicate that Adam and Eve were always inherently evil, contrary to pontifications by the Reformed tradition that they were endowed with righteousness (“He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image” 3), or Biblical judgments of the Creation (“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”) 4.

So which is it? Is “free will” an unbiblical notion? Or, was humanity inherently evil and therefore Creation was not good from the beginning?

 

©Copyright John Hutchinson (From “Monergist, But not Calvinist”)


  1. John Piper, “A Response to J.I. Packer on the So-Called Antinomy Between the Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility”, desiringGod, March 1, 1976, Accessed http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-response-to-ji-packer-on-the-so-called-antinomy-between-the-sovereignty-of-god-and-human-responsibility on March 25, 2014.
  2. Ernest C. Reisinger, God’s Will, Man’s Will and Free Will, 1998, Chapter 3 – “Free Will and Free Agency”
  3. The Westminster Confession, 1647, Chapter 4, Article 2.
  4. Genesis 1:31

Putin: Russia’s Bismarck and the Pan-Russian Reunification

March 22, 2014

When Francis Fukuyama headily proclaimed The End of History and the final victory of Western capitalist liberal democracy over the corpse of Soviet Russia, I guffawed. Being deep in the Evangelical world, we were already bearing the oppressive onslaught of a triumphalist secularism. I had anticipated that an evident counter-reaction would lead to a global-wide theist-secularist schism, which would lead to civil strife, of various degrees and temperatures in the evenly-divided United States. I detected a widening economic disparity and centralization as the Thatcher-Reagan corrective to the sclerotic, over-regulated, over-taxed, labour-tilted 1970s was moving toward imbalance in the other direction. And I knew sufficient of Russian history and culture, (and with a little cheating from Ezekiel’s eschatology), to know that capitalist, liberal democracy lacked for a conducive cultural milieu in Orthodox Russia.

I expected that after a Weimar-like interregnum in the 1990s, the new Russia would emerge as a modern, updated version of Tsarist-like autocracy without the Tsarist trappings. At worst, this prognostication underestimated the extent of anticipated Orthodox Church collusion with the new tsars; or the social conservatism, which Putin, a modern Talleyrand chameleon, might cynically exploit, possibly even believe. Perhaps, the ghost of Solzhenitsyn has been more insidious and enduring than cursory outside observation could possibly understand. It becomes the height of irony that the modern Russia becomes the vanguard of moral virtue against a decadent West, including what was once an irritating, at least to European hearts, overzealous moralist America.

New Russia’s Putin, despite having a weaker hand to play with, has outwitted a hapless U.S. President and totally obtuse Washington Establishment on both wings of the political spectrum. That obese ‘hyperpower’ is beginning to resemble a Cathay to the Mongols and a Persian Empire to the Macedonians.

An exceptionalism-blinded, history-illiterate America with its venal and venial political class, highly credentialed but obtuse intelligentsia and fawning journalistic soothsayers, completely misdiagnoses Putin and the current geopolitical paradigm. From neocons to Rodney Clinton, their myopic historical memory seems to extend no further back than little before World War II. Conventional ‘wisdom’, such as it is, depicts Putin as some Boys from Brazil incarnation of Hitler and the new situation as a Cold War echo.

However, it would seem that Bismarck would be a more appropriate, meaningful and useful analogy. American foreign policy has engaged in hubristic overreach into the heart of historical Russia, far from its own lines, and beyond the sphere of what could be reasonably defended. A nationally proud Slavic nation, already sporting from the humiliation of Soviet disintegration, is further galvanized into the restoration of Russian greatness by this psychologically obtuse foreign policy. Putin’s Realpolitik feints into Georgia, the annexation of Crimea; all are reminiscent of Prussian efforts to unify the hitherto myriad of weak German duchies and principalities into a Pan-Germanic state in the 1860s.

And in the ongoing demise of Pax Americana hegemony, we are living in a multi-polar global version of 19th Century’s Europe; where petty national self-interests replace ideology as the guiding impetus. All jockey for geopolitical position like old Republican patrician families, contracting temporary alliances like paterfamilias contracting strategic marriages of their wards. Putin’s ambitions are far more modest and calculated than Hitler’s. And thus, we should expect further coercive consolidations with the Slavic orbit, at least initially. After all, Bismarck’s Prussia did surround Paris.

Imputed Sin? Really?

Being a perfectionist, a ‘precisionist’, often to pathological levels; I always had an acute sense of a scrupulous, exacting justice. A parent betrayed a confidentiality at ten years old, which in my adult judgment as it would have appeared to that parent, to be minor. But a child has a different estimation of such violations, which parents dismiss at our and their peril. The ‘great betrayal’ happened two years before my conversion. I never trusted either parent with any secrets throughout my teen-age years, to my great detriment. I was a different sort of holy terror, for any parent to put up with.

In my spiritual battles of the mind, it was necessary for me to perceive the justice in the Justification in order to certify to myself the truth of Christianity. This was a critical and pivotal issue. For to borrow from Apostle Paul, if the Justification does not satisfy Justice, “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”[1].

When I was in primary school, whenever the teacher could not discover the perpetrator of some minor vandalism or other misdemeanor, she (usually) would stay the whole class in detention until the culprit came forward. The latter rarely happened. However, I was fully galled. And my general contempt for public school educators had some roots in that unjust display of collective guilt. The idea of coercively ascribing guilt by association is so contrary to common human notions of natural justice.

And indeed, the God of Scriptures differs not in this regard. “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.”[2]The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”[3] “He will render to each one according to his works.”[4] These are but some of the Scriptural passages that deals with the principles of (judicial) guilt

And yet, the Reformed/Calvinist traditions, in their Calvinolatry and fidelity to creeds found wanting, continue to persist in the Westminster Confession assertion that the guilt of Adam was imputed to all humanity. Read more…

The Age of the Selfie

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.1

I have long held a theory about Christian Regeneration/Conversion, which basically states that it gives a person the ability too see what is right in front of their noses. Some credit for this conclusion must go to George Orwell who wrote “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

And thus, when I heard about the lengths by which some persons sought to get on reality television, so that they could escape their anonymity; or Twitter and its use by our current age to publish every mundane motion of their bathroom endeavours to the globe, I knew that the age of narcissism had descended upon us.  

However, it seems that God has sought to rub the obvious in our faces with the Selfie; the taking of an inordinate number of self-portraits from one’s iPAD etc and posting them on the Internet. Read more…

Political Christianity

I chanced upon a headline in the New York Times Magazine this afternoon at Starbucks. Now, that statement might intimate that my political loyalties lie with the Left. However, except for a fling with the NDP, in disgust with the conservative and liberal parties’ evident selectivity in the upholding of civil rights in the War Measures Act of 1970; I could not vote for any party, whose unstated policy of laïcité would preclude Christian/religious values and principles from contending in the public square. Indeed, I belong to that great and deep chasm between conservative moralism and liberal intellectual intellectualist arrogance called True Christianity.

The Trap of Loyalty

Syria’s Alawites are caught between for their own increasingly brutal leaders and a rebellion that may want to wipe them off the map.1

I cannot help but think about the snare that conservative Christians (and to lesser extent, progressive Christians) have fallen into, as I wait for my Cappuccino. The lamentable thing is that neither Christian ‘faction’ seems sufficiently aware of their self-inflicted conundrum.

The report articles the many Alawite Muslims, targeted by the rebels, for being of the same Islamic sect as the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad. They have given that dynasty a tribalistic level of support. Some had even participated in massacres against various adversarial groups in decades prior.

Therefore, regardless of personal culpability or concurrence with the atrocities, committed by the regime, these Alawites are painted with the same brush. Were they to withdraw political allegiance due to horror at the atrocities, Bashar al-Assad might very well withdraw his protection. And they would be gunned down unprotected, without discernment or distinction because of past animosities and associations. They are stuck in their loyalty with whatever angel or devil represents the regime.

Tribal loyalties are understandable. Christian commitment to one secular sociopolitical faction or the other is declaimed by Christian Scriptures (“unequally yoked”) and imprudent.

Certainly, many of these political Christians are spiritual weeds; as Christian as the “German Christians” of the 1930s; ignorant of Scriptures; certainly ignorant of the principles, ethic, ethos and Gospel of Christ. And perhaps, it is time to call a tare a tare.

Having cast their lot with the Republican Party, conservative Christianity unnecessarily alienates the other half of America on matters of secondary consequence; on issues which have little to do with Christianity, on issues which are contrary to Christianity. Indeed, in this pact with the devil, one painfully observes conservative Christianity conscript and construe (and misconstrue) Scriptural verses to give spiritual imprimatur to matters which are ethically dubious (i.e. the political issue is too complex to pontificate moral / spiritual blessing). More so, the reputation of Christianity becomes beholden to the conduct and attitudes of their political allies and protectors.

There is a statistically significant dip in Southern Baptist membership growth in 2003, the year of the Iraq War; which shocking to me, the SBC actually gave official sanction. There membership has been on a slow wane ever since. And the SBC is wondering why it is losing its youth; not to alternative denominations; but to agnosticism and even hostility.

 And considering that the current political polarization in the U.S. will likely only worsen, only become nastier, only bring on further extremist measures on both factions; the reputation of Christianity suffers for the friends with whom conservative Christianity associates with. “God’s name is blasphemed among the nations because of you.”2

The spiritual problem is not about the sociopolitical issues themselves. The issue is about having the independence of choosing, which issues of the Republican (or Democratic) arsenal are morally clear cut. The issue is about being neutral on sociopolitical issues in which neutrality is spiritually prudent or morally complex and doubtful. The issue is about retaining autonomous independence and moral authority in speaking truth to power, regardless of whoever attains the Commanding Heights of society. The issue is about having a purifying and distinct Evangelical voice. The issue is about being free to give other sociopolitical factions credit and support in those issues in which they may be closer to the right; however rare that might appear to be. The issue is about not permitting unregenerate people to enlist Christianity in non-Christian and dubious, even corrupt, causes. The issue is about being able to retain a clarity of mind, not besmirched by the flak of worldly and unchristian thought and attitude.

The issue is about moral credibility and the reputation of God.

And in alienating the other sociopolitical faction, that other sociopolitical faction will have greater and justified cause to depredate the cause of Christ. Indeed, fear of the liberal secularist onslaught that depredates Christianity, which gave genesis to Evangelical prostitution with conservatism in the first place, will only bind Evangelicalism ever closer to their secular johns.

The taste of Christianity, emanating out of current Evangelicalism, has become painfully worldly, idolatrous, moralist and lacking in grace, mean-spirited and hateful, jingoistic, compromised and without spiritual vitality. It is social and capitalist conservatism sprinkled with God words.



NOTES

1.       Robert F. Worth, “The Trap of Loyalty”, The New York Times Magazine (Print Edition), June 23, 2013.

2.       Romans 2:24 NIV. I have replaced Gentiles with nations (Greek – ethnesin) in this quote. It is equally valid; speaking objectively and generically, rather than in relationship to the Jews.

    

Comments on ‘What Southern Baptists must do to slow their decline’

RE: What Southern Baptists must do to slow their decline | On Faith & Culture.

I have been reading various reports about ‘Hemorrhaging Faith’; here in Canada and in the United States. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada produced a report by that name last year. And the Southern Baptists have engaged in introspective navel gazing in response as statistics of declining membership etc catch up with the reality of their loss of spiritual vitality some time ago. Empirical statistics are always, at best, lagging indicators in a spiritual setting. Sometimes, they could be false indicators; as the leadership hierarchy roll out initiatives, which might inflate the numbers in a brief burst of ersatz spiritual fireworks.

I could give my own deep and comprehensive rendering of the problems. And I would probably be 90-95% correct. But my efforts would be of little use. This would be due partially to the fact that I would be perceived as an outsider in a variety of ways. Rebuke and reproach is only effective, at best, if the person addressed believes that one is, at heart, on their side; that the advice given is from someone who is genuinely interested in their welfare, apart from any personal benefit to the counselor. Loyal criticism from one’s own is always preferred. Outside criticism sends the guard goes up. The wagons are circled.

A particular problem with SBC members is that they demonstrate fierce denominational nationalism and pride; not the type of attitude that is prone to self-doubt and introspection. And I have been acquainted with this proud and unbecoming sectarianism, which is particularly unique to Southern Baptists and puzzling to outsiders; in Israel, America and back here. I see something of the same in Conventional Baptists in Canada. But that is another story.

Read more…

NSA and the Circling of the Wagons

In these weeks following the Snowden revelations, we are witnessing a coming together, a circling of wagons by the current American elites, both political operatives and pundits, regardless of political persuasion. This abrupt ad hoc unity contrasts with the all-too-familiar and perennial internecine schism that has predominated for decades. This unity, granting unmitigated justification for invasion of privacy and violation of Constitutional precepts, and which denounces and disparages Snowden for daring to confront this established consensus, defies an increasing and virulent opposition as the governed are temporarily stirred from their long somnolence with worthless baubles and silly trivialities.

Thus, Californian Democrat Dianne Feinstein sings sweet duet with House Speaker Republican John Boehner about Snowden’s treason, while Harry Reid (D-NV), John McCain (R-AR) and John Bolton amongst others, act as the choreographing Pips backup. But this must be expected since both Bush and Obama Administrations are now caught culpable with hand in cookie jar. And it bemuses to watch liberal Democrat discomfiture as leading Republican leaders become chief pom-pom cheerleaders for the Obama administration’s continuance and expansion of Bush policy. It is the political outliers (i.e. Udall (D-CO), Rand Paul (R-PA)) or repositioning opportunists (i.e. Eric Cantor (R-VA)), who are on record as outraged to varying degrees.

However, it is the supposed watchdog of mainstream media whose reactions pose a greater fascination. The immediate tenor of initial op-eds reacted to Snowden’s lack of education credentials. Having listened to this evidently thoughtful, intelligent and articulate Snowden, I thought that such cheap ad hominem will only prove counterproductive to the cause of this established political class. For, what does it say about an agency apparatus that hires such “losers”?1 What does it say about the critics, whose intellectual competence and integrity cannot stand up to this “dropout”? What does it say about a nation’s elite who, at least to this point, seems to have been outwitted by this better chess player? The ancient writers were wiser. They praised their adversaries. In vanquishing them, there was much honour to be acquired.

In the following days, the media would expose and flaunt the credentials of his ‘pole-dancing‘ girlfriend. This paparazzi pursuit, symptomatic of modern journalism debasement, serves the prurience of public decadence. It is also, without doubt, a propagandist feint to discredit Snowden through his associations to the religious and moralist segment of society. But this transparent ploy to manipulate moralist opinion loses its impact with overuse over time and jaded familiarity with these practices.

Indeed, the prospect of some shy and reserved bespeckled IT geek, landing such a voluptuous and vivacious babe who likes to philosophize and play chess bare-chested into the night, is just too James Bond! (Whether is true…) Indeed, this 29 year old must symbolize hope to every unemployed and underemployed young male, wasting away in their mama’s basement over porn and games.

One can sense that the elites are starting to regain their footing; beginning to realize the personal stakes that Snowden now threatens. And thus both factions were rustled out of their genuine and faux mutual animosities to paint a unified narrative against this whistleblower. He becomes a “deceitful and dishonest man”2 because he violated oaths in a nation with a 45% divorce rate; with academic cheating by the college student elite in excess of 75%; with Wall Street bankers and real estate charlatans circumventing the letter and spirit of regulations and almost bringing the whole economic and financial edifice down without paying due judicial recompense; with military/intelligence and administrative department heads engaged in bold-faced, unabashed perjury to Congress and the media.

How dare this “grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison”3, subject national security and individual American lives, to that of a higher “call of his precious conscience”? 4 And in what must constitute one of the most disconnected and bizarre ad hominem critiques, an aging curmudgeon suggested that Snowden will be known as a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood”; claiming that “no one lied about the various programs disclosed last week”.5 In that both National Director of Intelligence, James Clapper (congressional hearing) and Director of the NSA, Keith Alexander (American Enterprise Institute press conference) denied holding data on U.S. citizens; now known to be thoroughly untrue, it might be time to put this has-been out to pasture.

Repeating the elitist snobbery of the credentialed obtuse, Snowden is “the slacker who came in from the cold…possessing all the qualifications to become a grocery bagger” 6; irrational vitriol, which can only backfire by undermining the credibility of the judgment of these credentialed elite in the military and intelligence apparatus.

On the other hand, another pundit, David Brooks of the New York Times, will not deny the obvious (“obviously terrifically bright”7), despite Snowden’s lack of credentials. Brooks prefers to dabble in psychobabble by suggesting that Snowden represents “the atomization of society, the loosening of social bonds, the apparently growing share of young men in their 20s who are living technological existences in the fuzzy land between their childhood institutions and adult family commitments”7. The problem with this psychological profile from afar is that Brooks is prejudicially projecting a perhaps valid general sociological observation upon a particular individual for whom it does not readily fit.

The prophet, whether spiritual or secular and social, is driven into lonely social isolation by his/her scrupulous, perhaps ‘pathological’ commitment to truth telling and social conscience. But the greater mass of humanity easily and quickly compromises on truth and cannot long bear the prophet except in ornate sarcophaguses, long after the applicability of his declamations and predictions.

In David Brooks’ parallel universe, betraying an oath to the secret perpetuation of dangerous lies is the equivalent of betraying honesty and integrity. In the logic of David Brooks’ parallel universe, exposing the global Star Chamber betrays open government because it will only make the Star Chamber even more Star Chamberish. In the sophistry of David Brooks’ parallel universe, an insistence upon the plain rendering of the meaning of the Constitution is a betrayal of the Constitution.

And on and on it goes, with most of the political and pundit elite piling on, with rehearsed shibboleths, pompous opprobrium and specious argument and evidence. And many a blogging outlier exhibit incredulity and resentful disgust with these supposed watchdogs of government malfeasance and power-lust.

However, it ought not to surprise that the current elites so adamantly and seemingly unreasonably defend the status quo. One ought not to deny that there are legitimate concerns raised by the elites and their courtiers. If there were not, their message would not have had sufficient resonance to have hitherto so well deceived the general public. And thus, one’s own cause and ability to persuade the persuadable will be undermined if one does not acknowledge and address those concerns.

Nevertheless, there is another dynamic involved in this circling of the wagons by the elite members of both sociopolitical factions. It is less a matter of principle than that of vested and venal self-interest; that of concern for continued social prominence in the upper echelons and regard by general society. And because many of the members of both sociopolitical factions are on record with having supported the travesty that is this modern surveillance state and ‘architecture of oppression’, their only credible line of defense for existential social survival is to defend the indefensible.

“The poor you will always have with you.”8 In this, Christ intimated as did other apostles, that the rich also, however a given society defines that, will likewise persist. All revolutions, even if they purport a new beginning where “ev’ry man will be a king”9 merely supply a changing of the guard, an overthrow of the ranking members of society with that of another. And there is real and present danger and legitimate fear by current elites that their social prominence is at stake.

Radical revolutions, which do not necessarily lead to bloodshed, abound in history. In America, the First Great Awakening of the 1740s largely involved a changing of the sectarian guard from those denominations associated with the first and second threads of the Reformation, the established church sects (i.e. Congregational, Anglican, Presbyterian) to the third wing (Baptists, Methodists, Quakers etc), which later became the core of Evangelicalism. The fullness of that religious revolution in America was completed by the Second Great Awakening, (for good or for ill).

Jacksonian democracy (1830s) has been similarly deemed as a toppling of the gentrified generations of the Revolutionary elite for a more vulgar set of democratic ruffians. One could observe in the Russia of the 1990s, an old Communist guard, whose claim to legitimacy discredited, persisted out of resentment to loss of position to the new Russian oligarchs.

The present American situation is more reminiscent of the later stages of Roman Republic. The aristocratic patrician families were quite willing to tear down and destroy their opposite numbers in factionalism through the organs of society (i.e. scandal mongering, judicial prosecutions, proscriptions and exile). And there was a definitive ideological difference between the values of the old austere conservative Republican Guard and the Hellenized aesthetes. However, when the Social (class) and Servile (slave) Wars erupted or dictators overstayed their welcome, there were temporary ceasefires in the internecine schisms between factions and a unified circling of their aristocratic wagons.

There are very few politically astute and slippery historical characters of the likes of Ambassador Talleyrand, who could survive extreme and abrupt shifts of political opinion, from the Ancien Regime, through Robespierres Terror, Napoleon’s autocracy and again to the French Restoration of Monarchial rule. (On the one hand, one must admire such finesse, even as one detests the lack of conviction that such finesse requires.) Most human beings lack that chameleonic capacity; much more than they lack the ability to compromise their convictions.

It is amusing to watch Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wi), the useful idiot who introduced the Patriot Act, attempt to backtrack against his legislative initiative; suggesting that interpretation of that law has been so contorted to abuse its original intentions. This criticism would have, of course, been more credible before the scandal exploded in his face. If the surveillance state regime suffers a major (if temporary) reversal, Sensenbrenner will likely go down with that raft. A change of mind at this point of time is not likely to hold much credibility. That reality cannot be lost on others who have previously been sycophant toads of this architecture of oppression. Defense of the current realm will stiffen.

Except for those amongst the current elites, who positioned themselves to avoid manifesting great commitment to the Patriot Act and other policies of Bush’s and Obama’s apparatus of sociopolitical tyranny; if the current bipartisan regime goes down, virtually every supporter and benefactor of that current regime loses their current social prominence. Therefore, we witness collusion between the elites of these hitherto ‘mortal’ sociopolitical factions against a general political uprising, led by a yet undetermined new set of elites.

For those who desire change, whether or not they be part of the vanguard that takes over, it is wise to remember that one is confronting not only principle, but vested and venial self-interests. The latter may be more powerful a motive for continued resistance by those ruling elites.

It is not a given that this revolt will succeed. The elites, unified mostly by mutual self-interest, face a disparate ragtag of opposition groups; many who normally detest each other more than the elites. A temporary marriage of convenience will be inherently weak and subject to internal contradictions and divide and con tactics from the existing Establishment. The elites could seduce one ‘extreme’ faction to lose their principles with a larger voice at the table; just as members of the Democrat Party suddenly slackened their similar concerns about civil rights when they came into power.

The ends of the political continuum would need to construct a political framework, which would allow both sides to live amicably after the ‘overthrow’. Otherwise, the society would be governed by even more schismatic factionalism than exists presently. And the civil conflagration, which I have anticipated for a quarter century, will come that much closer.

Most probable, however, and something that the despairing cynicism that Snowden shares with this writer and others; this current generation lacks the ideological framework, moral fortitude (and perhaps moral framework) and civic courage to confront this unified front of vested interests that support what will invariably become a global totalitarian tyranny.

Operation Wall Street lacked a substantive and coherent idea and ideal upon which the subterranean rumblings of the underclass could rally around. In that ideological desolation, revolts are one night stands. The folk hero of the day soon becomes universally declaimed by all as soon as the Establishment has found the right key to turn a fickle public. From Hosanna to Crucifixion within a week!

 

 

NOTES

  1. Farhad Manjoo, “If the NSA Trusted Edward Snowden With Our Data, Why Should We Trust the NSA?” Slate, June 9, 2013, accessed  http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/06/09/edward_snowden_why_did_the_nsa_whistleblower_have_access_to_prism_and_other.html on June 15, 2013.
  2. John Bachman, “Interview with John Bolton (from U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.”, Newsmax TV, June 11, 2013. Accessed http://www.newsmax.com/newswidget/bolton-snowden-nsa-leaks/2013/06/11/id/509318?promo_code=11102-1&utm_source=11102Real_Clear_Politics&utm_medium=nmwidget&utm_campaign=widgetphase1#ixzz2WIIjoEGf on June 15, 2013.
  3. Jeffrey Toobin, “Edward Snowden Is No Hero”, The New Yorker, June 10, 2013, Accessed http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/06/edward-snowden-nsa-leaker-is-no-hero.html on June 15, 2013.
  4. Matt Miller, “Edward Snowden’s grandiosity”, The Washington Post, June 11, 2013, Accessed http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/matt-miller-edward-snowdens-grandiosity/2013/06/11/b87876e6-d292-11e2-8cbe-1bcbee06f8f8_story.html on June 15, 2013.
  5. Richard Cohen, “The NSA is doing what Google does”, The Washington Post, June 10, 2013, Accessed http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/richard-cohen-nsa-is-doing-what-google-does/2013/06/10/fe969612-d1f7-11e2-8cbe-1bcbee06f8f8_story.html on June 15, 2013.
  6. Roger Simon, “The slacker who came in from the cold”, Politico, June 13, 2013, Accessed http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/the-slacker-who-came-in-from-the-cold-92534.html#ixzz2WJGqqyCM on June 15, 2013.
  7. David Brooks, “The Solitary Leaker”, The New York Times, June 10, 2013, Accessed http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/opinion/brooks-the-solitary-leaker.html?_r=0 on June 15, 2013.
  8. Matthew 26:11
  9. William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude- Michel Schönberg, and Herbert Kretzmer, “One More Day”, Script: Les Miserables, 2012.

 

 

Good Riddance Microsoft

Sunday, June 09, 2013

 

 

Steve Ballmer
Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399
United States

 

Dear Mr. Ballmer:

In consequence of recent revelations about NSA spying and PRISM, I give notice that this insignificant actor of the world stage will never ever knowingly buy a product or service from your company for personal purposes ever again. (However, I cannot, with intellectual and moral integrity, furtively discourage on political grounds, any clients/employers with whom I have to do, from doing so.)

As your company was the first corporate whore out of the gates to sign onto the PRISM program; to effectively give unscreened access to NSA officials to your server information; you will be the first with whom I will boycott. Other services that I use in the virtual world will see a similar action in future, as soon as I can find an adequate replacement.

It is my desire that my country and elsewhere would begin to seek ways to circumvent having to utilize network services located in the United States and its hubristic xenophobia to undermine the privacy of other nationals. However, I doubt that other governments and their elite classes will prove any less desirous of acquiring the means for social control; for good of for ill.

It is a trivial and insignificant notification, in itself; one that can hardly cause anxious nights. However, when my grandchildren and great-grandchildren ask what I did to prevent the architecture of oppression from coming about, I will have some claim to having resisted.

I thank you for all the years through which I have made a livelihood from your products; especially the many thousands of dollars as a contractor, fixing its security holes. But I cannot in good conscience give personal approval to your actions. As student of history, I have remembrance of the corporate whores of Nazi Germany, which gave sustenance to that regime and its atrocities.

Good riddance,

 

John Hutchinson
Brampton, Ontario
Canada

Welcome to the USSA (Footnote 1)

From my earliest youth, I held excessive zeal for liberty. And thus, the Revolutionary Land of the Free to our south and the political principles by which such liberty was constructed, had always attracted me. I detested the faint residue of conservative Loyalist and Monarchist sentiment still persisting in the mid-1960s. It represented a mildly psychic oppression. During the 1967 Centennial Year, I sang with Bobby Gimby for the Queen as part of a ragtag children’s choir at Centennial Stadium in Etobicoke. I recall thinking, at 9 years old, how much of a hypocrite I was, considering that I detested the pompous falsity and pretentious decorum of the Monarchy and Imperial British sentiment.

Canadian history was a bore. While national America was fashioned out of ideas in salons, national Canada was forged out of self-interests at a business meeting. This nation has failed to contribute any unique and useful political idea or perspective to world civilization. Thus, while I was never taken in by any civic religion to speak of in this hotel room, we call Canada; I must confess that the American civic religion held powerful sway (and blighted clarity of thought) until George W. Bush completely eviscerated any remaining delusions.

But the America of my dream had really suffered its death knell with the assassination of Lincoln and the rise of the first Gilded Age. It had hitherto been a nation, largely dedicated to the commonweal by consent; in which the common man deferred to no one, to the chagrin of European aristocratic observers. I am under no illusion that it was paradise on earth or that it was bereft of its own set of travesty and atrocity. However, it retained soul and vitality, amassing an inheritance of social capital that would take over a century to completely deplete. Ronald Reagan’s ‘City on a Hill’ represented that last gasp of nostalgia for an America that was.

Because what happens in the U.S. has such huge repercussions in the rest of the West, I recall opinionating in the mid-2000s that I would have impeached Bush Jr. for deception concerning entry into the Iraq War (2003). Even as sort-of-conservative-minded orthodox Evangelical, I recall arguing against a whole family of neo-Cons, social and small-c conservatives in the Christmas period of 2004/5 about the folly of that war. I asserted that the U.S. was entering into an Islamic version of Yugoslavia; ostensibly imposing liberal democracy upon people with an underlying ideology which is irreconcilable and existentially threatened by Western thought and institutions. The Americans would retreat with tails between their legs, leaving a fragile Iraqi government, presiding over a bloodily divided nation, waiting for the next Saddam Hussein to restore a coercive unity. Meanwhile, America would have lost complete moral authority; only able to keep Pax Americana by raw force alone; thereby requiring higher exactions of its own blood and treasure than when it is perceived the imperial power is governing, to some extent, for the benefit of all. That prediction is almost fully complete.

Nevertheless, as the lesser of two evils, I would still have voted for Bush in 2004.  There is something terribly wrong with this picture!

In the aftermath of his term, I concluded that George W. Bush had been the worst president since James Buchanan (1857-1861). And I expected that Obama would be worst still; back-to-back political calamities. But Obama has exceeded expectations on that count. For, if George Walker Bush was a buffoon; Barack Hussein Obama is a barbarian. Rather than James Buchanan, one must go back to the foreign English parliament serving King George III for comparison with Obama.

◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊

The prudence of the Founding Fathers and the generations immediately preceding and following, noted threats on both sides of any narrow path or orbit. And thus they sought to maintain civil and social peace by balancing government against itself and balancing government against the medley of private interests, ideologies and factions within society.

Since then, one political party has since Woodrow Wilson completely repudiated the prudence of the Founding Fathers; believing in the goodness of humanity whose fault is occasionally intellectual incompetence. Thus, a large and encroaching state is pursued. And the arrogance of that faction is constantly imposed upon all others. The other political party has sought to return to the letter of the original Constitution, not realizing that it was merely a Montesquieun political device to balance the apparent social forces of their times. But concentration of private wealth/power becomes itself a tyrannical threat in a minimalist government. Thus, the changing dynamics of the 19th and 20th Century requires constant amending to reflect those altering realities.

But we dwell in an era of the simple-minded; who react to one threat in pendular and singular extremes; without concern for balance. Unmitigated security is pursued against the haphazard threats of largely private enemies; ignoring the insecurity against the person and nation, posed by unmitigated power of the state and state bureaucracies.

But large nations and civilizations do not fall, merely because of the loss of one battle or the collapse of tall buildings. The Roman city state with its Latin allies survived in cohesion, after ten years of Hannibal’s ravaging the Italian peninsula, while a much larger Empire had so rotted within, that barbarians with much smaller populations and resources finally swarmed it in the 5th Century.

Islamic terrorists might constitute a chaotic threat to individual safety. But they are not, in themselves, a threat to the survival of the nation. Indeed, they pose a much smaller threat to individual safety than the 15,000 murders each year or fatalities due to vehicular accidents. Get a grip people! The overreaching and increasing tyrannical power of the bureaucratic state, given much impetus in these last dozen years, is a far greater threat to individual safety and security and ultimately to the survival and welfare of the American nation.

◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊

With wholesale recording of virtually every electronic transaction (voice, email, credit card, web, chat) in a society whose livelihood and lifestyle requires considerable interaction with a virtual world; one wonders what remaining unreasonable search and seizure provisions of the Constitution are left, which U.S. Administrations could violate.

Really! Modest encroachments to privacy, Mr. President! Such a suggestion can only be a product of a consummate comedian or truly defective mind. If this was a Third Amendment infraction (quartering of soldiers in private homes), a modest encroachment in Obama’s mind would be the right for soldiers to sleep naked in the same bed as the daughters of the household; as long as it didn’t involve penetration.

Dragnets of metadata can easily provide sufficient red flags for further fishing; especially in the disingenuity of interpretations of what constitutes threat. and surely, if it easy enough to shop around for a sympathetic and/or compliant judge to obtain a blanket general warrant, how hard should it be to get judicial approval to open the package of any flagged individual item.

We witness these public officials and their courtiers, dismissing the potential dangers against civil rights infractions, totalitarianism and tyranny as alarmist; just as they did in my youth in my country. I recall the mantra. “Surely, one has nothing to worry about if one hasn’t done anything wrong.” The problem with such drivel is that it presumes upon the virtue of the public guardians.

Vice is inherent and universal in humanity. The passing of a civil service exam, or hair-brained psychological profile tests or acceptance into public service does not transform that same private individual, prone to self-interest and vice, into paragons of virtue and wisdom. Indeed, as unscrupulous opportunists survey the sociopolitical landscape, they will be times when ‘public service’ serves as the best means for feathering their own nest; through the organs of government than apart from it; as the shrewd operators of the late Roman Empire can attest

It is ironic that the NSA and PRISM revelations followed so soon on the heels of the chilling surveillance and harassment of journalists; or the preferential EPA and IRS treatment of one sociopolitical faction over the other; or the egregious leakage of records of donators to the National Organization for Marriage by IRS officials in California during the Proposition 8 referendum, so that opponents could threaten the livelihoods of employer and employees who disagreed with them. This is the stuff that begets civil war!

So it is not merely about the potential of providing “All the Infrastructure a Tyrant Would Need, Courtesy of Bush and Obama”2. Violations of constitutional protections are already presently exploited. The current administration might consider those who visit web sites about the Constitution, marriage or the history of English civil rights more of a threat to national security or the welfare of society and state. But perhaps a future administration, which represents the opposite sociopolitical faction, might deem those who frequent the porn and polyamory pages or donators to the ACLU or Planned Parenthood, to be more of a menace. Americans should be more concerned presently with the organs of the state apparatus being exploited as civic weapons in culture wars than with a theoretical tyranny.

◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊

Last year (February 14, 2012), Canada had a similar concern crop up with the aborted attempt to pass the so-called “Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act” (Bill C-30).

The bill would have granted authorities new powers to monitor and track the digital activities of Canadians in real-time, required service providers to log information about their customers and turn it over if requested, and made back door entrances mandatory allowing remote access of individuals’ electronic information, each without needing a warrant. Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show that the government desired to use the expanded powers in cases not involving criminality.3

Although, the legislation spoke nothing about pedophiles, the Harper government felt is useful to alarm their conservative base with this misdirection. We could “either stand with us or with the child pornographers”. However, I was part of that base; as is arch-conservative Lorne Gunter.

Politicians or police will talk themselves into the wisdom of using the same technology to find tax cheats, divorced parents falling behind on child support or even human-rights violators […] What if you’re a member of a faith that believes homosexuality is a sin and you send out emails arguing against gay marriage or gay adoption and you use language that is a little too strong? Or maybe you’re having your basement renovated and you boast to a friend that you’re avoiding the HST by paying cash — should that send off an alarm at the Canada Revenue Agency?4

In my youth, Conservatives were complicit conspirators with Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s War Measures Act of 1970; a legislative mallet to swat a relative fly. It made martyrs of those political prisoners imprisoned for many months without warrant or charge. It discredited the ideals of individual civil rights in Quebec, hitherto promoted by the federal authorities. And it led to the first separatist PQ government in 1976.

Bill C-30 was withdrawn after much opposition by all factions in this country. And thus, how strange and ironic that the so-called “Land of the Free” has now become the more oppressive; and my native country, which I felt had proved too dismissive of civil liberty, has a little more sensibility and backbone than I remember in my youth. It is not that Canada hasn’t also increasingly lost the important liberties to an all-encroaching state. It is just that the military-industrial complex of our southern neighbour has deteriorated all that much faster.

◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊

The secular delusion that America is a city on a hill, beaming an example to the world, is exposed to have now become a fraud. The present folly that exists there points more toward a trajectory of the black hole of Calcutta; of extreme vitriolic polarization with the collapse of the ideological middle; of extreme economic disparity (with ensuing social, legal and political injustices) with the collapse of the middle class; of loss of economic opportunity, even economic growth as consequence; of an astonishingly incompetent and foolish fiscal and monetary policy which can only lead to another financial asset meltdown, albeit with no further ability to ameliorate; even to a currency crisis. Bush and Obama have indeed provided the infrastructure for future tyranny and destruction of a free civic polity. And real and substantive causes already exist, which give reason for such a totalitarian autocracy to emerge.

I have read many comments on U.S. message boards, which perceive that to correct this devolution toward the totalitarian, tyrannical surveillance state; it will require civil insurrection and bloodshed. Unlike their ancestors however, I don’t think there exists in America, the moral fiber and civic courage to seriously challenge the oligarchic sociopolitical priesthood of both Republican and Democratic parties and their benefactors. The muted opposition to the TSA depredations of physical modesty proved that case. And it would require a rational and coherent political philosophy, which attracted both mutually suspicious wings of the sociopolitical continuum. And most citizens…er subjects will, after being momentarily irritated from their stupor of silly trivialities and confronted by truth, will return to their porn, gaming and social media after voicing their half-hearted and perfunctory outrage.

And thus I lament for the loss of liberty; not only in the Land of the Free; but also for every other jurisdiction in the world. The arrogant hyenas of tyrannical busybodies will have defeated the Lioness. Everything from then on will just be a mopping operation.

Even if you’re not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call. And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.5

And it cannot be lost on all those outside of American jurisdiction that Americans are only concerned about their own liberties, while the rest should be subject to their surveillance. Whenever, a dissident foreign critic was becoming too unwieldy to American interests, these officials could find a way to discredit or harass him/her by fair means or foul. I doubt that this xenophobic imperialist nation has even considered the blowback from that corollary consequence.

 

 NOTES

 

1.      With special thanks to a commentator with pseudonym akpat for the title, from article Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras, U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program, Washington Post, June 6, 2013, Accessed http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-intelligence-mining-data-from-nine-us-internet-companies-in-broad-secret-program/2013/06/06/3a0c0da8-cebf-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html on June 9, 2013.

2.       Conor Friedersdorf, “All the Infrastructure a Tyrant Would Need, Courtesy of Bush and Obama”, The Atlantic Monthly, June 7, 2013. Accessed http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/06/all-the-infrastructure-a-tyrant-would-need-courtesy-of-bush-and-obama/276635/ on June 9, 2013.

3.       Wikipedia, Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, Accessed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protecting_Children_from_Internet_Predators_Act on June 9, 2013.

4.       Lorne Gunter, “Want to read my email, Vic Toews? Get a warrant”, The National Post, February 17, 2013, Accessed http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/02/17/lorne-gunter-want-to-read-my-email-get-a-warrant/ on June 9, 2013.

5.       Glenn Greenwald, “Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations” (transcript of interview)”, The Guardian, June 9, 2013, accessed http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance on June 9, 2013.

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