From disaster we must build

Twenty years and the dust was still falling, not even settling, and the nation beneath it coagulating, uniting. It began though an age of nations dissolving.

America is blessed.  In the dust of the disaster, they had unity of purpose and the structure of the nation and the government was unshaken – no one could take advantage and Osama Bin Laden’s boast that the United States would become Disunited, is bizarre. It is a fractured society today in a way it was not twenty years ago, true enough, but that has nothing to do with the events of that day, and it is fracturing of ideas, not of the nation itself.

Other nations are not so blessed. Tumult has destroyed many states in the last twenty years and it is naïve to think that dissolving a tyranny will ensure a free democracy will arise naturally from its ashes. Mankind does not work like that, which millennia of experience should teach us, but we are foolish optimists. America after the chaos of revolution, rose with a working, peaceful and largely democratic state, but that was only possible because the colonies had enjoyed a century and a half of democratic engagement on their own shores born of a centuries-long English culture of freedom and participation and pew-level Protestantism and the education it brought. Without that, chaos breeds only chaos.

Democracy is unnatural: an accident sprung from circumstances of the time in a few lands and surviving only through inertia and necessary myth. It is a strong myth in nations long bathed in it, as the English-speaking word is, but we cannot assume that of other nations.

It is a necessity a Law of Nature in Hobbesian terms, that we seek protection for ourselves and our families and in this is the necessity of creating a Common-wealth. Into this step adventurers. It would be lovely to think that would-be rulers will be benevolent princes accepting the responsibilities of government for selfless reasons, or that liberal democracy would spring up naturally. As we saw though in Afghanistan and in Iraq and in Libya and elsewhere, it is just whoever manages to slay their way to the throne.

Outside the culture of the Anglosphere, a disaster may weaken or destroy a government, and they we may fear an adventurer stepping in to take advantage. A dictator is as good as any in such circumstances.

This subjection of an individual to a new government is of necessity. From disaster we must build; build something however grotesque, to provide some common keeping-in-awe for our own protection. Accordingly it is by covenant and not by a right invented by the political ideas of a moment.

So it appeareth plainly, to my understanding, both from Reason, and Scripture, that the Soveraign Power, whether placed in One Man, as in Monarchy, or in one Assembly of men, as in Popular, and Aristocraticall Common-wealths, is as great, as possibly men can be imagined to make it. And though of so unlimited a Power, men may fancy many evill consequences, yet the consequences of the want of it, which is perpetuall warre of every man against his neighbour, are much worse. The condition of man in this life shall never be without Inconveniences; but there happeneth in no Common-wealth any great Inconvenience, but what proceeds from the Subjects disobedience, and breach of those Covenants, from which the Common-wealth had its being. And whosoever thinking Soveraign Power too great, will seek to make it lesse; must subject himselfe, to the Power, that can limit it; that is to say, to a greater.

In the fall of a government, there is desire to create another, but no immediate agreement: Rousseau’s “general will” is a laughable idea. The sceptre is as likely to fall to however first grasps for it, for good or ill. It would seem scandalous to us in nations long used to participatory democracy and equal laws, but not elsewhere, in desperation, and it is not democracy but political wiles which preserve the ruler, just as they raised him to his seat.

In those Nations, whose Common-wealths have been long-lived, and not been destroyed, but by forraign warre, the Subjects never did dispute of the Soveraign Power. But howsoever, an argument for the Practise of men, that have not sifted to the bottom, and with exact reason weighed the causes, and nature of Common-wealths, and suffer daily those miseries, that proceed from the ignorance thereof, is invalid. For though in all places of the world, men should lay the foundation of their houses on the sand, it could not thence be inferred, that so it ought to be. The skill of making, and maintaining Common-wealths, consisteth in certain Rules, as doth Arithmetique and Geometry; not (as Tennis-play) on Practise onely: which Rules, neither poor men have the leisure, nor men that have had the leisure, have hitherto had the curiosity, or the method to find out.

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Let them sing

The Police are on the hunt for a dangerous gang, whose crime is – singing a traditional song.

The press have been reticent about naming the song in question but fans were Rangers supporters and it was the ‘Go Home Song’ otherwise called ‘the Famine Song’; a ditty which has for some years had the police and courts all of a flutter. The tune alone when played has caused apoplexy although it is a very popular song in the Bahamas (‘the John B Sails’).

The Famine Song can be hard-hitting, so I am not going to quote it all here, but it is not half as bad as songs belted out in stadiums elsewhere in the land (if you are of a sensitive disposition, do not listen to what is sung at Norwich City supporters, or between East End teams). Rangers’ song is a deliberate wind-up song aimed at Celtic.  The High Court itself in an appeal from the sheriff ruled upon singers of the song, condemning them for a public order offence.

Perhaps they should have considered more deeply than the faux outrage of insulted Celtic fans. After all, a court of law must recognise that Athenry Mike was indeed a thief.  Whether Large John was in fact fully briefed is an ongoing controversy, but that is another story. While that wee traitor from Castlemilk did turn his back on his own, going to play for Ireland instead of Scotland, it is only ‘traitorous’ in football terms, not legally, but we’re singing about football. The killer, for the court was not the verses about Glasgow Celtic’s great scandal and the misdeeds of the Irish Free State; it is the chorus lines, ending “Why don’t you go home?” Apparently that is an existential threat to all persons of Irish ancestry in Scotland.

A bit of background may be needed.

The man who wrote the song is no hot sectarian- he is an Ulsterman, born in a robust city, Belfast, and who grew up with good pals in both communities. He saw the sectarian divide yawning and growing in Ulster: to see it replicated in Glasgow was distressing. In fact there has been a divide in Glasgow since the ships landed in a fiercely Protestant city and disgorged thousands of left-footed Irishmen, but as it should have calmed down in the later end of the twentieth century, it was growing worse, as an echo of Ulster’s troubles.  The song-writer has explained the circumstances leading to his writing it. It was a kick-back response to the sectarians on the other side.

Trying to be more Irish than the Irish is a fault of many living this side of the sea looking back at a mythical past. (I try not to, but the Irish name was lost a couple of generations back so it does not leap out of the page.) The songs sung by Glasgow Celtic supporters were not, are not, direct attack songs, but sentimental songs of Irish nationalism, like the Fields of Athenry alluded to in the Rangers song. Really, the song condemned by the High Court in Rangers supporters’ mouths is not “the famine sing” as if it were the only one – Irish voices and would-be-Irish voices have many songs romanticising the potato famine and blaming all things British for it – that sounds like an attack upon the good citizens of Glasgow to me.

The “go home song” then is a response to the actual famine songs: it says “How much more ungrateful could you be for what your city did for your ancestors?” It does not delight in the dark chapters of modern history, but raises them to burst the bubble of sickly romanticism.

Rage at perceived injustice takes on an irrationality beyond the facts raged against; something we see in many social conflicts of politics, culture, religion or whatever, and reason will not calm the waters but only raise the tumult. I can write my take on the thing, and others will disagree, virulently. They are entitled to, and I can debate or seek nuances and find the common ground or each person’s ideas and unique emphases, because that is how a free and respectful society must work – not with cancellations and bans. You are free to be outraged too, and free to be outrageous.

Therefore, in the name of freedom, let them sing what they like and to mean the words how they like.

As to the line which so shocked Lord Carloway and even UNICEF, I see that as a challenge to the ‘Plastic Paddies’, those who are Glaswegian through and through and still pretend, on the terraces, to be Irishmen: ‘Why don’t you go home?’ has an answer: ‘because you are not Irishmen – you are Glaswegian – and this is your home.’

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Of The Beginnings And Progresse Of Philosophy

The faculty of Reasoning being consequent to the use of Speech, it was not possible, but that there should have been some generall Truthes found out by Reasoning, as ancient almost as Language it selfe.

The Savages of America, are not without some good Morall Sentences; also they have a little Arithmetick, to adde, and divide in Numbers not too great: but they are not therefore Philosophers. For as there were Plants of Corn and Wine in small quantity dispersed in the Fields and Woods, before men knew their vertue, or made use of them for their nourishment, or planted them apart in Fields, and Vineyards; in which time they fed on Akorns, and drank Water: so also there have been divers true, generall, and profitable Speculations from the beginning; as being the naturall plants of humane Reason: But they were at first but few in number; men lived upon grosse Experience; there was no Method; that is to say, no Sowing, nor Planting of Knowledge by it self, apart from the Weeds, and common Plants of Errour and Conjecture: And the cause of it being the want of leasure from procuring the necessities of life, and defending themselves against their neighbours, it was impossible, till the erecting of great Common-wealths, it should be otherwise.

Leasure is the mother of Philosophy; and Common-wealth, the mother of Peace, and Leasure: Where first were great and flourishing Cities, there was first the study of Philosophy.

The Gymnosophists of India, the Magi of Persia, and the Priests of Chaldea and Egypt, are counted the most ancient Philosophers; and those Countreys were the most ancient of Kingdomes. Philosophy was not risen to the Graecians, and other people of the West, whose Common-wealths (no greater perhaps then Lucca, or Geneva) had never Peace, but when their fears of one another were equall; nor the Leasure to observe any thing but one another. At length, when Warre had united many of these Graecian lesser Cities, into fewer, and greater; then began Seven Men, of severall parts of Greece, to get the reputation of being Wise; some of them for Morall and Politique Sentences; and others for the learning of the Chaldeans and Egyptians, which was Astronomy, and Geometry. But we hear not yet of any Schools of Philosophy.

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Despoticall Dominion, How Attained

Dominion acquired by Conquest, or Victory in war, is that which some Writers call DESPOTICALL, from Despotes, which signifieth a Lord, or Master; and is the Dominion of the Master over his Servant. And this Dominion is then acquired to the Victor, when the Vanquished, to avoyd the present stroke of death, covenanteth either in expresse words, or by other sufficient signes of the Will, that so long as his life, and the liberty of his body is allowed him, the Victor shall have the use thereof, at his pleasure.

And after such Covenant made, the Vanquished is a SERVANT, and not before: for by the word Servant (whether it be derived from Servire, to Serve, or from Servare, to Save, which I leave to Grammarians to dispute) is not meant a Captive, which is kept in prison, or bonds, till the owner of him that took him, or bought him of one that did, shall consider what to do with him: (for such men, (commonly called Slaves,) have no obligation at all; but may break their bonds, or the prison; and kill, or carry away captive their Master, justly:) but one, that being taken, hath corporall liberty allowed him; and upon promise not to run away, nor to do violence to his Master, is trusted by him.

Not By The Victory, But By The Consent Of The Vanquished

It is not therefore the Victory, that giveth the right of Dominion over the Vanquished, but his own Covenant. Nor is he obliged because he is Conquered; that is to say, beaten, and taken, or put to flight; but because he commeth in, and submitteth to the Victor; Nor is the Victor obliged by an enemies rendring himselfe, (without promise of life,) to spare him for this his yeelding to discretion; which obliges not the Victor longer, than in his own discretion hee shall think fit.

And that men do, when they demand (as it is now called) Quarter, (which the Greeks called Zogria, taking alive,) is to evade the present fury of the Victor, by Submission, and to compound for their life, with Ransome, or Service: and therefore he that hath Quarter, hath not his life given, but deferred till farther deliberation; For it is not an yeelding on condition of life, but to discretion. And then onely is his life in security, and his service due, when the Victor hath trusted him with his corporall liberty. For Slaves that work in Prisons, or Fetters, do it not of duty, but to avoyd the cruelty of their task-masters.

The Master of the Servant, is Master also of all he hath; and may exact the use thereof; that is to say, of his goods, of his labour, of his servants, and of his children, as often as he shall think fit. For he holdeth his life of his Master, by the covenant of obedience; that is, of owning, and authorising whatsoever the Master shall do. And in case the Master, if he refuse, kill him, or cast him into bonds, or otherwise punish him for his disobedience, he is himselfe the author of the same; and cannot accuse him of injury.

In summe the Rights and Consequences of both Paternall and Despoticall Dominion, are the very same with those of a Soveraign by Institution; and for the same reasons: which reasons are set down in the precedent chapter. So that for a man that is Monarch of divers Nations, whereof he hath, in one the Soveraignty by Institution of the people assembled, and in another by Conquest, that is by the Submission of each particular, to avoyd death or bonds; to demand of one Nation more than of the other, from the title of Conquest, as being a Conquered Nation, is an act of ignorance of the Rights of Soveraignty. For the Soveraign is absolute over both alike; or else there is no Soveraignty at all; and so every man may Lawfully protect himselfe, if he can, with his own sword, which is the condition of war.

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Resisting neo-feudalism

Convulsion in the normality of society is a continuous process and only future generations will know whether the changes of today will be revolutionary or are just another bump on the road.

I am not convinced that the West is being taken over irrevocably by a new techno-elite, although I would accept that it may look like it. The next decades may be characterised by this dominance of the unwanted elite. There is a fascinating book out by Joel Kotkin which suggests that the West is becoming a neo-feudal society controlled as in the Middle Ages by an elite which defends its exclusive hold on power.

It does look as if the convulsions of the power structures in Western society are moving in the way Kotkin describes as tending to a new, neo-feudal settlement. It has been observed by reviewers darkly that while the grand lords in the Middle Ages accepted that society required the acceptance of mutual obligations between themselves and the peasantry, the modern technocrats do not accept the burden of obligations: they have no need to, as long as power is secured.

All this is too dark a picture though, too close to conspiracy narratives, and while that is not what the author alleges nor intends, it should ring warning bells, as should the generalisation inherent in describing a  social trend in general terms.

Nevertheless, we are living through changes. Technology forces a social change, and those who know how to use the levers of power that appear will look to secure their own power. That is not modern; the seizing of personal power starts with Adam and Eve disobeying and opening their eyes, and runs in a consistent thread throughout humanity.

Some commentaries will look at formal systems of government, some at the power structures operating beneath and in spite of the formal ones, but most of everyday life operates outside government, at least in a free country.

A free country increasingly means ‘an English-speaking country’: that Anglosphere freedom has allowed enterprise to thrive and find new forms from which the whole world has benefited. At the same time, free enterprise without restraint from jealous government has allowed power to accumulate in those enterprises. The power of businesses which are not responsible to the electorate has been the subject of much anguish amongst commentators, but the darker warnings strike a false note.

If you want to see the new technology used for real political oppression, look at China. The government controls technology and enforces dependency upon it amongst the urban population (the only ones who matter), and if no one can receive or make a payment without going through a single, government-controlled payment system, then dissent means starvation. Combined with universal surveillance, it is a tyrant’s perfect system. This works not only within the Middle Kingdom but amongst students and workers abroad, dependent on the same payment and social media systems.

Compared with this, fears about the power of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey are petty.

Even so, corporate monopoly power is important and is a threat in the West. Books are not banned, but with just a few providers they can be delisted, and they are, for openly political reasons. Speech online is censored at the instance of activists intimidating platform providers and infiltrating their staff: all this has been too often discussed to need repetition.

This would not be an issue without technology-dependence: twenty years ago, few would bat an eyelid at someone being banned from an on-line forum, because they were the preserve of a few geeks . Really they should be still – the online world is not the real world.  It only gets serious when the online world is needed to access the real world, and those access points are limited.

A neo-feudal society would require permanent, exclusive control of  power and information. Activists do seek that, in the social, commercial and political realms, but unless they can achieve a monopoly, such a system cannot endure. The Roman Church was brought low by the printing press.

Many foreign nations may be damned in this respect: they do not have the millennium-old innate understanding of individual freedom that the English-speaking peoples do and if their language is spoken only in one country then technology and publication in that language can be controlled by one government and social structure. The Chinese are compelled to follow resources in Chinese, which are controlled. The same could be done for small national languages. Technology is written in English and translated into foreign tongues, which produces a choke-point.

English though is spoken throughout the world, in cultures which take government to be an add-on necessity, not a centre for direction. If one government clamps down, the words can be spoke in another country, the book published and read abroad, the opinion expressed; the monopoly-breaking enterprise can be launched elsewhere. When American politics was censored by Mr Zuckerberg and Mr Dorsey, new channels appeared. There is a free-market. It is not even hard to break in: Mark Zuckerberg began his world-dominating resource in a college room. If the near-monopoly providers try to regulate how we behave or speak, and what books we buy, they will not remain near-monopolies: the force of the market must liberalise them in the end.

Therefore there is good reason to think that although the new feudalism is a real trend, pushed fervently by some, they cannot prevail for long.

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