Monday, February 6, 2012

Good foggy, frosty Monday morning.  The weather people say it should clear out and we will see partly sunny skies today.  They are warning us of a change toward more normal temps for a couple of days.  I was amused when the news anchor observed that normal now feels cold because it has been so warm lately.

Glad you enjoy the commentary, Gina.  I don't often listen to talk radio but I know the kind of comments you wrote about.  They don't surprise me, again, because of my readings in history.  Most people have heard of Malthus and Darwin, and most can give a sketchy outline of their theories.  What most don't remember, however, is that Malthus was an English clergyman and Darwin, between discovering how unsuited he was to study medicine and making his mark as a naturalist, was sent to Cambridge to prepare for a career in the clergy.  The moral foundation of Malthus' economic ideas are most often overlooked.  He saw the plight of the poor as resulting from their moral failings.  Unlike the upright middle-class, the poor were unable to control their baser urges and limit their family size thereby ensuring they would have far more children than they could care for and continuing their impoverished state.  It is more difficult to see the same foundations in Darwin but they are there.  Some years ago science historian James Burke produced an episode of his series The Day the Universe Changed titled Fit to Rule.  There Burke traced the influence Darwin's theories, especially the part concerning the 'survival of the fittest,' on the three dominant -isms of the 20th century (Capitalism, Communism, and Nazism.)  In all of them, the struggle for survival and domination were raised to a moral imperative and those individuals, societies, states that failed in this struggle did so because of natural law which was, for Christians, a reflection of God's will and law. Even Christians who revile Darwin's notion of descent from an ancestral form of life embrace his struggle for existence.  And that idea meshed very nicely with the 'Puritan Work Ethic' that so many of our pundits trot out every now and then.  Calvinist doctrine, from which a number of Protestant varieties trace their origin, insisted that Christians had a duty to work hard in a socially beneficial calling.  Work became a religious imperative.  But John Calvin's followers were beset with severe anxiety.  The doctrine of predestination held that God had decided at the beginning of time the fate of each individual, damnation or salvation.  It was entirely in God's hands and the individual could do nothing to change that fate.  Even the most faithful and observant member of the church may harbor a failing that would condemn them and, worse, neither they nor their companions in the church could ever be absolutely assured of their postmortem fate.  Calvin did throw out a tenuous lifeline: a believer who worked hard in his calling and prospered may be favored by God and likely saved.  Calvin never absolutely equated prosperity with salvation; after all, many of the unGodly prospered in this world.  Others would do that for him.  And I can't blame Calvin; after all, Christ himself said 'by their fruits ye shall know them'.  I think you can see where this is going.  Though morphing over time, the connection between morality and prosperity, or fitness, or success has remained.  And we have people blasting the poor for being lazy, the foreclosed homeowner for gaming the system, the long term unemployed for preferring handouts to honest work, etc.  And of course, those condemning their fellow citizens are bolstering their own fragile egos because the implicit comparison is 'how good am I that I am not them.'

Oh, yes, Nicola.  Greece is in deep and not likely to get out any time soon.  I find it interesting that the pundits have gone from discussing whether Greece will default to when Greece will default and what the ramifications will be among the other fragile Eurozone countries.  Very few really note how pervasive debt has become over the last thirty or so years.  When the total debt of a country (individual, corporate, sovereign) amounts to several times the GDP, you are in trouble.  Most of the advanced economies around the world are in exactly that position.  I read a bit ago that U.S. debt last year equalled GDP.  Of course, government officials claim that we are still below that by excluding the debt owed between government agencies--but that is fiddling the books.

This interesting read comes from Club Orlov.  I am not much of a gambler and so it fascinates me to watch various aspects of gambling in our society.  I had to look up the 'Legion of Thebes' and the notion of repeated decimations is interesting albeit frightening.

For those who are, like me, always on the lookout for frugal living tips, check out Rhonda's latest post at Down to Earth.  We immediately bookmarked the Budget101 site.  It has a wonderful, long list of seasoning mixes you can make yourself.

1 comment:

Looking to the Stars said...

Wow, loved your post.

Glad I no longer believe in a god. Its always great to read what you know about the history. I found it fascinating.

Will have to go to the link about the herbs that you can make yourself. I always love that stuff :)

take care