30 March 2011

The true expression of freedom

Freedom is manifest not so much in the ability to choose as in the ability to appreciate and reciprocate in gratitude. 
To be able to be thankful is the true expression of freedom. 

Compensation replaces retribution

"In the political order ... justice replaces vengeance, and negotiated solutions abolish absolute commands." (The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, Roger Scruton, 2002; page 2). 
According to this notion of a political order, compensation replaces retribution. With this substitution, right at the outset, is where the Western way of thinking about politics runs aground.

Tempered by secular processes

The separation of Church and State is about not only the introduction of legitimacy into the domain that heretofore was dominated entirely by authority. The introduction of legitimacy forces the dialogue into purposes and objectives that must yield to reason, to expression and deliberation, to the impersonal processes of the corporate will and desires. By virtue of their impersonality, the civic decision-making process can take on the self-restraint that legitimate authority necessarily requires. 
The Bible (both Hebrew and Christian) as well as the Greek polis both posit spiritual systems that are tempered by the secular processes that are designed to represent, in part, the public weal. 

The sheep-consuming unit

As they were preparing for the exodus from Egypt, the Israelite movement of the basic national unit from the natural family to the sheep-consuming unit re-defines the national identity as being about a dedication to the Godly purpose and not about the wishes of the head of the family. 
If anything, the prerogatives of the first-born are being usurped in the national founding and are being displaced to a larger group identity, to subservience to the Old One. 

Reason, not revelation

"According to Marsilius [in his 14th century tract, Defenser Pacis] it is the state and not the church that guarantees the civil peace, and reason, not revelation, to which appeal must be made in all matters of temporal jurisdiction." (The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, Roger Scruton, 2002; page  4). 
If we ask the question why has reason been weakening along with the weakening of the mainstream religions, the answer is because the mainstream religions had made their accommodations with the state; the fringe spiritual movements had not. So if the states weaken, the mainstream religions weaken along with them while the fringe spiritual movements, having not made their accommodations with the state, are not drawn down by the weakening of the state.

The way of temperance

When (as they do in America) they say they are a nation of laws and not men what they mean is authority trumps honor, that the leader's claim to power is with respect to some objective which resides outside of, and even in opposition to, his person. 
When we move from personal to group decision-making, especially when we move to large groups such as armies and nations and international relations, we need ways to manage the carnal issues. We need both to preserve the carnal sensibility while at the same time removing or tempering the atavistic impulses. 
Language is one way to effect that temperance. That is the path of reason and deliberation, the role of parliaments, all of which belongs to the domain of the state. There are however other ways, ways which apply to the church. 
It is in the religions that those tempering media are in crisis today. They have stopped functioning well. Those are the pain points where the religious systems need refurbishing. 

Sacred power & civic power

The notion of the church being subject to the state as an incorporated body of the state is evaporating. 
In the Middle East the mosque sees itself as superior to the state; in Europe the church is evaporating and only a secular state is being left over. Europe and the Arab/Muslim world are opposite sides of the same two coins: Europe has a weak church but a strong state structure (in the event, regional rather than national), while the Muslims have a strong mosque and weak states. 
Before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire the person of the sultan or the caliph incorporated secular power and coupled it with sacred power to manage the matter of authority and honor; after the empire’s collapse, temporal power transferred to the European repository of civic power – the state – which has caused much confusion in the Arab/Muslim world. 

The prerogatives of authority

Duties are the obligations not of subjects but of sovereigns, of those who are in charge of themselves. 
Rights and duties both fall on a citizenry in their capacity to dictate and to dispatch the prerogatives of authority, which is to say the deployment of power to some common purpose in the corporate interest. 
When a subject performs a duty, they are performing it not as a subject but as a sovereign.

Benefit from the mechanisms

The primary function of the political process is not to arrive at an algorithm of decision-making but to transform each member of the polis into a citizen who would fulfill his duties faithfully. 
The ritual function of the political process is its most potent feature. It is not that a social contract subjects the citizens to the dictates of a government founded on the principles of legitimacy which is its most important attribute, it is that the political process transforms people into the sorts of people who could benefit from the mechanisms of a legitimate governmental process. 
The process shapes the people who then in turn participate in the process. It is hardly different from the evangelical process of conversion and rebirth. The act of participating as a member in the community shapes the people, energizes their souls, which in turn makes it possible for them to contribute productively to the corporate life of the community. 

The first element of stewardship

When a member of a group acts out of duty rather than out of either loyalty or honor, they are acting with the interests and the welfare and the standards and practices of the group in mind. 
That is how the decisions of the group are transformed as a resultant of the decisions of the members. This displacement of decision-making from centering on the person of the decider to centering on some other interest which the decider is keeping in mind, this displacement is the first element of stewardship. 
The 'representative' in representative democracy embodies that shift in the person's thinking when he makes his decisions out of a sense of duty, with the interests of the group paramount in his decision-making. The representative is the embodiment of those group interests and the election of the representative is the performance of civic duty par excellence. As such, elections rather than town hall meetings are the quintessential instruments of duty-engendering. 
Honor-shame societies can have meetings where everyone votes but when the group elects a representative who votes in their name, the process is tending toward the engendering of duty and the formulation of authority. 

Ruled by power

"... the difference between the West and the rest is that Western societies are governed by politics; the rest are ruled by power." (The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, Roger Scruton, 2002; page  7). 
The ability for a society to be governed by politics depends on its citizens adopting a posture of authority, which posture translates in their conduct as the doing of one's duty. 

The dictates of loyalty

Western youth today seem to consider neither duty nor honor as particularly important virtues, and conduct themselves almost exclusively by the dictates of loyalty. 

Secular involvement

Because the spiritual authority (religious leaders) has subjected itself to secular authority (government leaders) it is difficult for spiritual leaders to give secular leaders directives about what the secular leaders should be doing with respect to matters that fall under the province of secular leadership. 
Consequently the spiritual leaders can't see their way clear to addressing the spiritual malaise that results, for example, from the world's addiction to oil because that sort of problem belongs squarely on the shoulders of the secular authority. Spiritual leadership has sued for secular involvement, and has been willing to give direction to secular authority, with respect to matters that properly and traditionally belonged in the church's domain like helping the poor; caring for the sick; sexual, marital mores; etc. Spiritual leaders are not accustomed to thinking and offering spiritual counsel about the largest political and most important strategic challenges the secular leadership is facing. 
For starters the spiritual leadership can't imagine what a solution could even look like nor can they credit themselves with being able to think through all the complex practical ramifications of an attempt at a solution. So they keep thinking about the smaller issues and never even see the effect on the world's spiritual condition of the larger geo-political forces are having and imposing on societies everywhere. 
When the secular leadership gets weak the spiritual leadership needs to step in and give them guidance, and that's what's not happening these days because the spiritual leadership is itself weak. The world’s spiritual leadership needs to recognize its own weakness and to fix its own house before it could address the larger challenges facing the social order. 

Akin to love and kindness

The covenantal relationship between God and Man as it is described by the Bible contains the same respect for autonomy that was the principle concern that drove the social contract theorists in defining a mode of government that would preserve that sense of autonomy in the citizenry. 
Whereas, however, duty expresses the authority social contracts afford their citizens, the relation between Man and God is governed by something else, something more akin to love and kindness. Alongside the authority and the impulse to retributive justice that duty affords the citizens of a society governed by a secular administration, the affection for God on which a spiritual community bases itself engenders feelings of kindness, mercy and the impulse to distributive justice that fully complement that duty and fill out the members’ sense of autonomy and stewardship. 

An identity that can take responsibility

The autonomy of the spiritual covenant coupled with the authority of the secular contract engender in the individual member an identity that can take responsibility for him/herself. 
That identity is then able at once to govern society justly as well as to engage in trades and tradita in the free exercise of the self-possession the society inculcated in its citizens and members. 

The ground of inalienable property

What cannot be sold also cannot be surrendered to another and delegated. 
What is inalienable to the person or the group accrues to them as rights. It also becomes their duty to superintend that property and those rights. 
Authority is the ground of property when that property is inalienable. 

In the Middle East & in Europe

  • In the Middle East the religion is taking up the role of the state, and when that happens you get the kind of cruelty we are seeing; 
  • In Europe the state is taking up the role of religion, and when that happens you get the kind of mildness we are seeing. 
  • In the Middle East the religion is not performing its function and as a result raging vengeance is overwhelming retributive justice; 
  • In Europe the state is not performing its function and as a result compensatory justice is overwhelming retributive justice. 
  • In the Middle East case the prosecutors are unfettered; 
  • In the European case they are disabled. 

The first person plural

Once we recognize authority, honor, loyalty as orientations the lesser self takes on with respect to its identity as a greater self we understand that the social contract entails not only the pre-existence of a first person singular but that the social contract also requires a first person plural. 
The first person singular is the lesser self; the first person plural is the greater self. 

The inter-generational bond

Scruton wants to argue a separate category of greater self he calls membership, which he defines as the inter-generational bond between the dead, the living, and the unborn (or yet-to-be-born) within any given generation. 
This inter-generational sense of membership explains the sense of stewardship people feel as well as the sense of giving that goes beyond the quid pro quo of the social contract. 
We wonder whether this sense of membership is nothing more than loyalty flavored with a bit of honor. 

Leaning to authority or loyalty or honor

The West defines the secular, political order as the ground of authority (and hence duty) and autonomy for every member of society while the other dimensions of the greater self, the dimensions that fall under the rubric of membership – family bonds, religious affiliation, ethnic, linguistic, geographic, etc. – work, in some way, in tension with the secular ground of authority in a political, state-based, national social organization and collective. 
The West is that social organization that privileges this secular ground of authority; the Rest bases its social organization on the other dimensions of the greater self, those that come under the rubric of membership, what we would identify as loyalty and honor. 
It could be that the US is leaning to authority while Europe is leaning to loyalty and the Middle East to honor. The apocalypse could well mean the end of authority and autonomy in either direction, either because honor has overwhelmed it or because loyalty has. 

The personal & the political

Authority, along with the political and electoral processes that define its rights and duties, divides the personal from the political in ways that societies organized along the lines of loyalty or honor do not. 
When nothing is political then everything is political and the personal domain becomes infected with the honor-bound issues and concerns of the power structure in ways that are intrusive and dysnfunctional. Alternatively, when nothing is political then everything is personal and the common weal becomes the screen on which many of the personal pecadillos of the membership get projected, to little avail and to the detriment of that society's ability to respond to strong leadership and therefore to function resolutely, innovatively and effectively. 

An administrative authority

Tribe, creed, state: the family, the belief community, the national sovereignity of law and power: these are the historical variations of political order. 
On the other side of the equation are the present-day European societies attempting a non-religious creed where the sovereign has lost the authority to administer the law because the law has become self-administrative. The Europeans are heading into a version of rabbinic Judaism where society is governed by judges and not executives or legislatures. Judges can exercise authority but it is an administrative and not an executive authority and so it cannot do what society needs most for authority to do – to effect change in the social system. Judges can represent the will of the people but they cannot express the people's ever-shifting genius. 
So the Middle East has too much executive power and not enough legislative and judicial; Europe has too much judicial and administrative power and not enough legislative and executive. In either case, the legislative voice of the people's will is under-expressed, and that under-expression manifests in a too-strong tilt in favor of the executive or the judicial. 
In either case the legislative will does not maintain the balance of powers and under-represents, in the Middle East, the judicial function, and, in Europe, the executive. 

The law of the land – 2

The law of the land is venerable and speaks through the venerability of the people's ancestors who, over time, inhabited and occupied the land and established thereby a way of life and a way of doing things and a sense of local membership that comes from geographic proximity. It is an abiding sense of membership, in contra-distinction to the visceral membership that kinship affords or the uplifting membership that comes with religion. 
The law of the land enforces local custom. 
The law of the land consecrates the land and gives it an enchanted character. 
(Isn’t it a curious thing that the god of the Hebrews did not call Himself the One Who gave the Children of Israel their homeland but the One instead Who took them out of Egypt.)

The central authority declined

The fall of the Ottoman Empire is an event of a magnitude that is comparable to the collapse of the Soviet Union a century later or the Hapsburg Holy Roman Empire prior. 
In each case the central authority declined and made way for rival exertions of power. 

Forgiveness and self-restraint

The difference between vengeance and justice is forgiveness and the self-restraint that imbues forgiveness. 

29 March 2011

The processes of animal sacrifice

The Yom Kippur service of the scapegoat includes one (scape)goat (one medium of purification) that is outside the universe of animal sacrifice coupled with a twin goat (also a medium of purification) that is entirely inside the processes of animal sacrifice. 
The latter is sacrificed on the altar, subject to the regulations of the centrist institution; the former is left to live and to carry away the sins of the people out of the camp. 

Power, not welfare

When people worry about their status and their relative wealth and income, they are displaying concerns about power, not welfare. 
Honor and vengeance are respectively each measures and expressions of power. 

Not in terms of honor or vengeance

Wealth does not capture power. Power operates in a different dimension: it applies to the person of other actors rather than to the goods and services in which they are transacting. 
The genius of the market model is that corporations often define their legal persons exclusively in terms of the goods and services they are selling and so they measure their worth not in terms of honor or vengeance but simply in terms of revenues and costs. 

The power of judicial authority

The judicial process applies the power of the judicial authority to a society and as a result eliminates the need for the actors in that society to jockey with each other to maintain relative superior position. 

The Prince of Peace

The Christians took the notion of the scapegoat and elevated to the level of the divinity. 
That is why they call him the Prince of Peace. 

No neutral ground

"If I am attacked and turn the other cheek, then I exemplify the Christian virtue of meekness. If I am entrusted with a child who is attacked, and I then turn the child's other cheek, I make myself party to the violence. ... A political leader who turns not his own cheek but ours makes himself party to the next attack. Too often this has happened. But by pursuing the attacker and bringing him, however violently, to justice, the politician serves the cause of peace, and also that of forgiveness, of which justice is the instrument." (The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, Roger Scruton, 2002; page  38). 
Authority puts itself in the position where failing to do one's duty makes them party to the violence they are combatting. Authority takes the neutral middle out of the situation. The market allows for a space where win-win comes out of the economies of exchange. Authority is that situation where there must be a win-lose in one direction or the other, with no neutral ground to which to reatreat. 
  • The market has payment in the domain of goods and services as optional; 
  • Authority has payment in the domain of the persons of the actors as mandatory. 

The law of the land

The basis of carnality for the territorial jurisdiction and sovereignty is the home. 
The law of the land is the law of the homeland. Citizens belong to each other by virtue of their having to join together to defend their several, individual family homes as well as their joint, collective homeland. 
  • What is the basis of that carnal connection? 
  • How does the household work as an arena for hormonal bonds to grow? 
  • What is it about proximity that makes neighborliness the best basis for social, political and even ideological connection? 

The place, the people, the doctrine of piety

The place, the people, the doctrine of piety – these are the three dimensions of connectedness, the three branches of autonomy, authority and legitimacy. 
Like the bodies of government that balance and temper each other, these three dimensions of covenant bind and unbind people to and from each other in a dynamic equilibrium of carnal convolusion. 
The honor of the monarch or the tyrant or the leader or the dictator figures into none of these dimensions. 
The law shows up in each of these dimensions – the law of the land, the law of the people, and the law of God. In the Bible's story the law of God is sundered from the land and from the people and is sequestered in the sanctuary. 
The law of the ruler is modified as being tied inextricably to the law of God, and it stands in contradistinction to the law of the land and the law of the people. The law of the land, the customary conduct and cases were extirpated by the conquest of the land. Only the people had each other, and their law was tempered by the law of God in the founding rite of the nation. 

To contravene authority

The only thing that can stand up to abusive authority is legitimate authority. 
The problem with the left is that it tries to contravene authority with pure legitimacy, after the authoritative voice has been silenced. Indeed it is the duty, perhaps the first duty, of legitimate authority to stand up to and oppose the abuse of authority by the acts of illegitimate authority or by legitimate authority's dereliction of duty. 


To do one's duty is to exercise one's authority. 
To be derelict in one's duty is to surrender one's claim to authoritative action. 


A right is a claim to autonomy. 
Every right implies a duty on the autonomous agent to exercise the authority that signifies the autonomy. For any authority to become legitimate, the rights of the several autonomous agents have to have a way of coalescing into a single, corporate expression. 
There is where the duty comes in. Your duty translates into my legitimacy. Your failure to do your duty disables me from exercising my authority legitimately. Absent your doing your duty, my authority degrades into the exercise of honor, which does not require your cooperation for me to establish it; indeed, I can impose my honor against your will by exercising raw power and making you 'cooperate' with me. 
In democracies people make relations by way of mutual exercise of duty and authority. In democracies social connection is about the exercise of autonomy. In republics the social connection leads not to factional in-fighting but to a public spiritedness where patriotism animates the workings of power. A republican democracy elevates the social connection every citizen has toward strangers and makes xenobia the foundation of the exercise of power. 
The Bible's emphasis on kindness to the stranger is not for the sake of the stranger but for the sake of the citizenry. The same can be said for America's responsibility to end racism: the end of racism is for the sake of White America, and not merely the Blacks. Indeed, the ending of racism is merely an application of the principle of xenobia, and how it tempers and challenges the muscles of political power-wielding to make a society strong. 

Members & citizens

"The crucial feature of a republican constitution is not democracy, but representation, and this in turn requires a territorial jurisdiction, along with the loyalties that feed it. These loyalties become durable through the three paramount virtues of the citizen: law-abidingness, sacrifice in war, and public spirit in peace." (The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, Roger Scruton, 2002; page  55). 
A democratic society has members, a republican society has citizens. The member can conduct himself with honor and dignity but the citizen wields duty and authority. 
"The three virtues that sustain the gift of citizenship have their equivalents in Muslim societies. The Muslim must abide by the shari'a; he must be prepared to sacrifice himself in jihad; and he must pay a tenth of his goods to the zakat. But these are duties owed to God, not to strangers, and the meticulous fulfillment of them may sometimes heal society, and sometimes blow it apart." (The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, Roger Scruton, 2002; page  60). 

Powerless & power-wielding

A right is the embodiment of a particle of autonomy, and a duty is the motive for exercising the authority which derives from that right. 
The market describes the arena in which tastes and preferences for goods as the embodiments of self-interest motivates voluntary (which is to say powerless) behavior; the polis describes the arena in which duties regarding rights as the embodiments of autonomy motivates authoritative (which is to say power-wielding) conduct. 

Economic and political manifestation of autonomy

Absent the teaching of duty the citizenry would have trouble acquiring a sense of autonomy. 
When society disqualifies the role of authority it undermines the social process by which ordinary citizens acquire a sense of empowerment. The citizens then don't learn how to feel responsible for the administration of the social order, whether it be of the police or of the military or even of the judicial function, nor would they ever really acquire a sense of belonging and entitlement in the society. Rather, they would float through the society as alienated and disgruntled malcontents who would know only too well how society had failed them, and not well enough how they had failed themselves, not to mention how they had failed society. 
So, one common source of alienation is to feel unconnected to the means of production and thus unable to add to society's and to one's personal material situation; another source of alienation is to be unconnected to the means of disposition. 
People become alienated from their being stopped from directing as well as from their being stopped from making. The directing is about power and politics; the making is about technology and economics. In both cases, the individual's identity is rooted in and comes from pro-action and the feelings of mastery and control over, on the one hand, the tools (technology) of production, and on the other hand, one's fellows and their path and their ways of conduct. 
In both the economic and the political manifestation of autonomy the defense against alienation comes from the exercise of an inner motivation and an impulse both to express oneself and to exercise one's will in the spontaneous desire to manifest oneself in the world. 

Alienation – material & popular

  • People employ the means of production not because they are hungry but because they wish to shape their material environments and through the use of tools to extend themselves beyond their lesser selves; 
  • People employ the means of disposition not because they wish to aggrandize themselves (which would be the point if they were defending their honor) but because they wish to belong to a larger, corporate body and, through membership in legitimate institutions, to extend themselves beyond their lesser selves. 
  • The economic side relates and makes the lesser self greater by managing other things; 
  • The political side relates and makes the lesser self greater by managing other people. 
The individual person civilizes himself by adopting a greater personna. When the person fails to establish that greater persona, we call that person alienated. A person becomes alienated when they stop building a greater self and they relate to their world only through your lesser self. Alienated people are not part of the program of civilization. 
  • Those who are alienated on material grounds (insofar as they have been unable to extend themselves through the media of technology) become consumerist and begin to fetishize commodities; 
  • Those who are alienated on popular grounds (insofar as they have been unable to extend themselves through the media of institutions) become vengeful and begin to fetishize the institutional regulation of conduct – ritual practice. 
  • The Euro-leftists are alienated on economic grounds and they complain about their sense of alienation as it comes from corporate control of the productive sector; 
  • The Islamo-terrorists are alienated on political grounds and they complain about their sense of alienation as it comes from Western control of the institutional sector. 
  • The Euro-leftists revel in their sense of powerlessness and wish to be dominated; 
  • The Islamo-terrorists revel in their humiliation and fantasize about their future dominance over the Europeans. 
Altogether it makes for a tidy little sado-masochist-style encoupling, which is what comes of dysfunctions in the mechanisms of power. 
Both the sadist and the masochist suffer from a deficit of self-empowerment. 

The exercise of authority

Duty is the exercise of authority. 
Authority is the exercise of legitimate power, which is to say, authority wields power that is collective and judicious. 
Hence, doing one's duty empowers people, and it empowers them more than as members (the collective side of the matter). it empowers them as citizens (the judicious side). 

Technology and techniques

Self-actualization is what people do to establish their greater selves, which greatness is the antidote to alienation. 
The economic side of such personal self-actualization comes through the design and employment of technology; the political side of personal self-actualization comes through the design and employment of techniques. 
Techniques are the dis-embodied standards and practices that constitute the elements of institutional life. Techniques apply to people and spiritual things while technology applies to capital and material (non-spiritual) things. 
Institutions are constituted of technology and techniques, and they are sustained by the human impulse to ‘make something of themselves.’

The matter of authority

Marx and Engels looked at authority from the bottom up, from the perspective of the lower classes who viewed the legitimate authority of the ruling class as an instrument of oppression. 
They did not see the matter of authority from the perspective of those who wielded it, of those who were responsible for it, and of those who understood how to make it work for the good of society. 

Organization without authority

Organization without authority is the essence of emergent phenomena. 
The question is could the emergence of organized behavior happen without some sort of overarching authoritative direction that would make it possible for the individual behavior to coalesce into inter-dependent action.  


Collective ownership of the means of production does not guarantee that the ostensible owners will be able to exercise the authority the ownership implies. 
Ownership is just authority over material things. Collective ownership disperses that authority without necessarily enabling the members of the collective the experience of and the proper exercise of autonomy. 
Engels seems to be unable to see the propulsive character of authority. He sees authority as the coordinating function and fails to see the infectious quality of authority, of how leaders drive the situation rather than merely manage the situation. 
One of the chief functions of authority is to inspire. To inspire is to imbue in another a sense of their own autonomy. 
Engels considers authority as the anti-thesis of autonomy whereas authority might well be considered the highest expression of autonomy. Engels views subordination as the surrendering rather than the expression of autonomy. 

Three by three

  1. The law of the land, the law of god, the law of the people: these we call authority, dogma, honor. They denote the three manners in which power gets wielded. 
  2. The other side of the coin, the leftist side, the corresponding values of the revolution, of the isolate outside of an institutional structure, the state of grace for the individual, are liberty, equality, fraternity. 
  3. The third side of the coin, the rightist side, the corresponding values of the reaction, of the rulers outside of an institutional structure, the state of terror for the society, are the leader, the pure, the loyal. 
The question is how do the cardinal virtues fit into these schemes of power exercise and power allocation as between the institution and the individual? If authority instills, promotes and encourages prudence and temperance, and honor brings to the fore fortitude, then dogma emphasizes distributive and retributive justice. 

Autonomy registers

Autonomy comes of the coupling of authority to productivity, of being instrumental in the building of centrist institutions. 
Autonomy registers as the person being proud of him/herself. 

His place at the table

Rights and duties are only in the second place about justice. In the first place, rights and duties are about the need for every person to acquire a civic personna and become a citizen. 
Persons become citizens by participating in the building of centrist institutions. The rights are the dispositions of each person in the purposeful behavior and conduct which constitutes the collective enteprise. 
  • The rights only incidentally confer allocations of the output of the collective enterprise; 
  • more to the point the rights confer claims to have a place in the inputs to the collective enterprise. 
  • Rights entitle people to contribute and to have their contributions welcome and accepted in the devising of the social enterprise; 
  • rights entitle people to have access to the pre-requisite resources they need so as to make credible the opportunity to contribute to that collective enterprise; and then, yes, 
  • rights entitle them to get their fair share of the collective output while at the same time being subject to the same disciplines as all the other citizens. 
Think of a soldier who has the right to participate in the war effort, has the right to the gear he needs to make his participation plausible, has a claim on medals in the event he performs heroically, and is subject to no more discipline than the others in the army. These are his rights. His duties all have to do with the obligations that come with taking his place at the table. 
No good deed goes unpunished. When you save a man's life, you're obliged to him forever. The duties are what you have to do given that your input is accepted and is an inextricable part of the collective enterprise. Your duties are to your superiors, to your peers, and to your subodinates. The duties are all about the exercise of your authority in light of the exercise of everyone else's authority as well. 
  • The rights are largely in the domain of access to the building and maintenance of the collective technology, the means of production; 
  • the duties are largely in the domain of access to the building and maintenance of the collective techniques, the terms of conduct. 

When authority degrades

When authority degrades it does so by the culture's losing the connection between people's rights and duties, on the one hand, and the citizen's exercise of their autonomy, i.e., their creativity and authority, on the other. 
In a society that has lost the genius for autonomy a culture of repudiation emerges where rights become privileges, and duties become unpleasant chores. This, in contra-distinction to the conventional definition of rights and duties, which has them as chits to claims on the collective output, and restraints on the indiscriminate exercise of those claims – "my right is your duty" or "your freedom to swing your arm ends at my nose" etc. 

When a culture passes its peak

The culture of repudiation moves rights and duties from autonomy (creativity and authority) to entitlement (claims and neglect) according to how much opportunity for creative endeavor and growth the collective has, or has lost. 
After a society has passed its peak growth period, its institutions molder and decay because they can no longer activate and credibly rouse the thrill of participation in common creative purpose. The challenge of the true religions is to bring back hope when the culture is becoming exhausted. 
That is point of the story of childless Abram leaving the city of Haran seeking to fulfill the promise of a multitude of offspring and of a purchase on a new, promised land. As a culture passes its peak, therefore, its relation to its land alters from homeland to promised land; and its relation to its future and to the future generations that come of it alters from an anatomical exercise to a collective, spiritual one. 
The Old One enters the picture because the Old One is the carrier of hope. When a culture passes its peak, it has run out of hope for the taking and must now begin to manufacture it deliberately as part of the collective enterprise. The manufacturer-in-chief of hope for a culture is the Old One. The story of Abraham and the story of Israel is really the story of the perpetuation through spiritual means of the moribund but highly advanced culture of Sumer and Chaldea which originated in Ur. 
The role of the Old One is to grant old, decrepid, exhausted but venerable cultures a new lease on life through spiritual institutions that go beyond material institutions. The story of Abram is the story of turn-around, not the story of entrepreneurship and the founding of something from scratch. The story of Abram is the story of starting from the foundation of sophisticated infra-structures that do not need to be conquered because they have become exhausted and are past their peak. Abram’s story is about the mechanism of resilience at the largest scale, at the scale of the national mission and vision.

The most optimistic place

China and the Middle East have different strategies vis-a-vis Europe and the United States. 
China sees Europe as an unworthy competitor it will simply devour when the time comes; China sees the US as a worthy competitor that sets the standard, and which it will have to leap frog inch by inch wherever possible as opportunities arise. 
The Middle East sees Europe as a strategic ally that will give it legitimacy, while it sees the US as the common adversary that will give it unity. To the Muslim world, both Europe and the US serve to mask the reality that is gripping the Middle East: Europe, by making it legitimate; the US, by distracting from it. 
China is relating to the exhaustion of the European and American economy and technology; the Middle East is relating to the exhaustion of the European and American politics and techniques. 
Europe is dragging down America both economically and politically. For America to free herself from the European albatross around her neck she needs to reaffirm the American notion of autonomy as pro-active rather than as passive. Today the most optimistic place in the world is China. America needs to regain her exuberance and rid herself of the exhaustion Europe is spraying about all over the world. 

28 March 2011

Critical thinking & repudiation

Where does critical thinking shade into repudiation? 
  • The critic affirms the infra-marginal foundation of one's value system while taking issue with the values that are operating on the margin; the repudiator rejects the entire system as illegitimate, and disaffirms all except for some sliver of values at the margin. 
  • The critic embraces and extolls the value system in his attempt to improve it; the repudiator betrays the value system and wishes to take it down. 
  • The repudiator makes common cause with the enemies of the value system; the critic defends it from its enemies. 
  • The revolutionary is not a critic, the revolutionary is a repudiator. 
The ideology of revolution wishes to eliminate authority as oppressive and thus works to hasten the apocalypse. The revolutionary wishes to hurry the moment when all would know God in a post-apocalyptic, egalitarian state of grace. 

Favoring autonomy

  • Does autonomy deserve authority and is it entitled to a superior claim to the resources that would build that autonomy with the means of production over which society has control? 
  • Do we privilege a value system that favors autonomy over, say, the will of a blood-thirsty god? 
  • How do we feel about the authority of civilization's centrist institutions? 
Furthermore, the mainstream religions defend this privileging of autonomy by disqualifying honor codes in favor of authoritative systems of institution-building, and by replacing as the highest calling in society the exercise of raw power with the reproduction of the means of production. 

26 March 2011

Taking down the established order

For the Euro-leftists the prevailing authority of the Western powers is lax in its failure to impose equality for all people; for the Islamo-pagans the Western prevailing authority is lax in its failure to police morality. 
Each sees the established order as not doing its job, and each is happy to take the established order down rather than to make it work better. 
Both systems – Euro-leftists and Islamo-pagans – are alienated from the prevailing order because both have lost their purchase on authority. 

25 March 2011

Always a crisis

Because the honor code does not empower the people, and because the sharia does not empower the rulers, the only basis of civic government in the Middle East is the arbitrary edicts of the strong men. The law in the Middle East does not serve the interests of freedom. 
"On the contrary, they merely add to the constraints of the holy law the rules of a political order that is backed by no de jure authority, but only by de facto power." (The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, Roger Scruton, 2002; somewhere between pages 102-118). 
Hence change in these societies is always a crisis and always a power struggle. 

Utopian ideologies

The extremist Islamist or utopian ideologies are unstable because they do not enhance the centrist institutions.  

Innocent human life is sacred

The colonial powers supported the secular Arab powers that supported the centrist, human intermediaries of the words of the Prophet to the Islamic peoples. Al Qaeda is a network of purist Islamists who wish only to relate to the Prophet's words in its purest form, unsullied by the compromises the human intermediaries needed to make to get the Islamic system working for stable societies. 
By moving their base away from any fixed territory to a cyber-network of connections world-wide, al Qaeda believes it can nullify the military superiority the Arab puppets of the colonial powers display by virtue of their having control of the Islamic peoples’ territories. 
To free the movement from the compromises a purchase on territory entails, al Qaeda believes, is a step in freeing the movement of the corruption that attends those compromises. One of the most basic and earliest compromises the institutional intermediaries make with the purity of the doctrine, according to al Qaeda, is the designation of innocent human life as sacred. 
Uncorrupted, purist, armed doctrine (ala al Qaeda) amounts to a mandate for paganism.