Primary Prevention and the Three Levels of Health Care

In light of what may well be remembered as the Coronavirus Crisis of 2020, I am setting aside other projects and turning more attention to issues of public health education — and, hopefully, philosophy’s relevance to public health. Although it’s not noted anywhere in my credits, I earned a public health degree back in the late ‘90s — specifically, a degree in Health Promotion and Education. I mention this only to establish credibility for what follows. Disillusioned with academia even then, I was thinking of a second career that didn’t happen. But with a few blog posts, maybe it’s not too late!

My two biggest takeaways from that two-year course of study were: (1) the importance of the idea of systems as fundamental to our understanding not just of health but of reality generally; and (2) something more health specific: what the folks at Carolina called the Three Levels of Prevention.

Later, it struck me that the phrase Three Levels of Prevention was a misnomer. Once you got above the first level, it was too late to prevent illness or worse. Then one day I hit upon the correct phrase: the Three Levels of Health Care.

Those wishing to take a major deep dive into systems theory as a foundation for health promotion should go here — to the refereed journal article Dr. Ureda and I were able (after a long struggle with the data-drivenness academic box) to have published. It’s not essential for what follows, though, and I link to it only for completeness’ sake.

We turning, then, to the Three Levels of Health Care:

Primary Prevention, Secondary Treatment, and Tertiary Care.

Each one sketched in a couple of sentences:

Primary Prevention is everything you can (and should) do to avoid getting sick, injured, etc. Like the phrase says, it is preventive, not curative.

Secondary Treatment is what the doctor does (one hopes!) when you’re sick and want to get well!

Tertiary Care is what facilities (e.g., rehabilitation clinics, and many nursing homes) do for those whose lives have been permanently disrupted by strokes, severe heart attacks, injuries, and sometimes chronic conditions. If you’re in a position of needing Tertiary Care, you’re only likely to improve marginally if at all.

Best to avoid ever getting in that position if possible. Practicing Primary Prevention can help, including avoiding personal bankruptcy or bankrupting your loved ones.

So what is Primary Prevention? As just said, and now we expand:

It is everything you can do to avoid getting sick. (If by some chance you want this in systems language, it is everything you can do to make your body systems, especially your immune system, stronger, more resilient, and therefore more able to repel or parry or neutralize invasions by outside agents — such as coronaviruses!)

Primary Prevention therefore includes eating nutritious food, obviously. Nutritious food includes plenty of colored vegetables. It includes plenty of fresh fruit. It includes nuts. It includes eggs. We won’t get into the full chemistry of the justification for these (unless someone comments and asks for supporting links). These claims are common enough. But what isn’t as common is putting them inside a larger frame of reference.

To practice Primary Prevention, there are things you should eat or drink only in moderation at best, and a few things you should avoid putting in your body at all costs.

Drink coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages in moderation, if at all (and these are things you can live without). For what it’s worth, I’m one of those people who loves his early morning coffee, but I limit myself to no more than two cups. (Well, sometimes it’s two and a half cups — but that’s all!).

For meat-eaters, white meat is healthier than red meat, which your digestive system has to work harder to break down. My nod to vegetarians: you can also survive without eating meat.

Here are the things best avoided or kept to a bare minimum: white sugar (except perhaps cane sugar), white bread, and foods made with large amounts of flour or filled with preservatives, soft drinks. Especially avoid Light (or Lite) soft drinks! And any of the many variations on that theme promoters use to lure your attention. Avoid fried foods as well. (But they taste so good, some readers will be thinking right about now. I get it. Good taste is hard to resist. They’re that way on purpose, filled with mildly addictive flavor enhancers designed to keep you coming back for more. Never forget that food corporations are not in the health business, they are in the money business.)

You may have to search far and wide for healthy food and healthy beverages. But that’s today’s marketplace.

To practice Primary Prevention, learn to read food labels. Avoid sucralose and other artificial sweeteners. Avoid frozen foods the labels for which (by law) list chemical ingredients whose names you’ll probably have trouble pronouncing. I’ve found that a good layperson’s guide to what not to purchase in stores is that if you can’t pronounce, much less identify, the ingredients in some food product, it’s probably best to leave it on the shelf.

And perhaps most importantly of all, if you want to practice Primary Prevention — do not smoke cigarettes!

I think I decided back when I was a little kid that I’d never let myself be tempted by the smoking lure, no matter what.

We had a neighbor who we watched die from lung cancer. I was maybe 5 years old. It was both my first encounter with human mortality, and with the realization that if you want to live a long and healthy life, there are certain things you just plain should not do.

And you know what? I’ve never been tempted to smoke. Not once. Not in the slightest.

You know what else? I disagree with those who say that secondhand smoke isn’t real, and isn’t a public health threat.  Therefore if local governments wish to force restaurants and bars to ban indoor smoking, I have no problem with that!

Primary Prevention is about more than eating and not smoking, of course. It includes getting exercise and training for such, if necessary. It includes managing and if possible, reducing your stress with prayer, meditation, and so on. It includes getting enough uninterrupted sleep. It includes cultivating a mindset of calm: as the Stoics would say, distinguishing what we can control from what we cannot control and focusing our minds accordingly.

Christians say God is ultimately in control. Okay, but maybe He doesn’t want us to stay in our comfort zones. (I’ve noticed: many Christians often say God is in control as a kind of mantra, designed for comfort instead of being part of an action plan. In which case, even if true it doesn’t get you anywhere.)

The Coronavirus Crisis of 2020 has added to the list of do’s and don’ts of Primary Prevention.

Do: wash your hands frequently. Wash your dishes and counters carefully. The virus can’t live for long on surfaces, but it can live long enough. Wash your clothes — daily, if possible. As for face masks, I’m unsure if they really protect you from getting an airborne virus, but they will discourage you from putting your fingers and hands near your mouth or on the covered portions of your face.

Don’t: touch objects in public (e.g., handrails) if you can avoid it. Don’t touch or mingle with strangers in public places.

Social distancing has become another mantra that wasn’t even in our vocabulary a month ago. The idea is fundamentally sound, however. The problem with this virus is its long incubation period. I don’t think anyone knows for sure how long it can gestate in your system before you show any symptoms. Most say two to 14 days, but some say longer. Some people appear to test positive for the virus, which means they can transmit it to others, but never manifest any symptoms at all.

Our systems are often quite different from one another.

As I noted last week, many of the public precautions being urged or taken (e.g., letting people into grocery stores only a few at a time) are sensible.

And by the way, in last week’s wide-ranging discussion I observed that certain populations are more vulnerable to the coronavirus than others. The elderly especially, but all those with immune systems partly compromised by chronic conditions, and those with respiratory problems. The coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, after all — a reason most sufferers complain of shortness of breath and sometimes of continued breathing problems after other symptoms have gone away.

I never meant to suggest that if you’re not in one of those populations you can’t get Covid-19. You can. So take precautions.

And if you’ve tested positive, or think you have it based on known common symptoms, do the right thing and self-quarantine after contacting a doctor for advice.

My main purpose here has been to discuss Primary Prevention, place it in context, and perhaps knock open some doors that may lead to a solution to the health care crisis in the U.S. which, again, goes beyond this particular crisis. Even if the coronavirus were to vanish into thin air, the wide range of chronic conditions managed for Big Pharma’s profits, the high cost of health care and health insurance more broadly, and in general, the realization that encouraging a healthy population is not in the interests of this society’s moneyed elites, would not go away.

Therefore I have my doubts that Primary Prevention will ever be taught as part of any public school curriculum. Nor will you see it discussed in corporate-controlled media outlets.

Unless, of course, there are vast changes in the dominant priorities in our present-day political economy, which prioritizes money and profit above all else.

You might encounter Primary Prevention for the first time in public health graduate programs administered by those damned economic lefties, on the Internet if you know where to look, and on private (nonmonetized) blogs like this one.

Be all this as it may, I think we’ve made a pretty solid case that Primary Prevention is worth learning about and worth practicing. After all, whether it is taught in schools or not, whether it’s promoted on any large scale or not, it’s one of those things you can learn on your own. You can decide, here and now, to take charge of your education for Primary Prevention, and choose to practice Primary Prevention. You can take control of your own health, that is. If you don’t,  you’re only asking for a mountain of grief, possibly long-term, but possibly immediately — especially these days!

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What the Coronavirus Scare Says About Us

Stu Redman: What about the folks I came in with?
Dr. Dietz:  From Arnette? All dead. Which is why we can’t affor—
Stu Redman:  What did you do? What did you people do?
                                                —The Stand (1994)

 

Amanda Dunfrey:  You don’t have much faith in humanity, do you?
Dan Miller: None whatsoever.
Amanda: I can’t accept that! People are basically good, decent. My God, David, we’re a civilized society!
David Drayton: Sure, as long as the machines are working and you can dial 9-1-1. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, you scare the s*** out of them? No more rules!
Ollie:  You scare people badly enough, you can get ‘em to do anything. They’ll turn to whoever promises a solution.
                                                —The Mist (2007)

 

[Note: submitted to NewsWithViews.com the evening of March 18, but in light of time-sensitivity and ongoing events, I decided not to wait to post a version of this here. I’ve also created a new category: Coronavirus, as there will likely be follow-ups to this post.]

I’ll start by saying that the media-inflamed hysteria over Covid-19 worries me a lot more than the virus.

Markets have tanked worldwide; the Dow has lost almost a third of its value since the start of this month, including its biggest point drop in history: 2,997 on March 16.

Panic buying has set in. Political leaders have declared states of emergency. Businesses, school districts, churches, government agencies have closed and may remain shuttered for weeks. Conferences and even major sports events have been canceled.

Frankly, the bubble on Wall Street would have popped sooner or later, but never mind that now.

Does anything justify the borderline-insanity surrounding this coronavirus?

The vast majority of people who test positive for it seem to be recovering with no ill effects, although a few are complaining of loss of lung capacity. When symptomatic, the virus attacks the respiratory system.

Yes, there have been a few thousand deaths. It’s been observed, though, that more people die of the flu or complications from the flu each year. Far more people died from the H1N1 virus during the Obama presidency. There were warnings, but not a mass panic.

Coronavirus testing has sometimes been spotty, meaning that more people have it than we know about, and the actual mortality rate is therefore lower than the official number. Public officials are worried about these “stealth spreaders.”

The greatest dangers from Covid-19 are to the elderly and to people with respiratory and immune systems already compromised by chronic conditions. Those people should take it very seriously.

But when all is said and done, this is clearly not the genetically engineered superflu which accidentally gets loose and wipes out most of the world in Stephen King’s The Stand, though there’s an worthwhile point to be made about that kind of scenario I’ll come back to at the end.

There are numerous coronaviruses. They live in animals. The official narrative is that this one jumped from bat meat to human consumers in a crowded and probably unsanitary Wuhan, China marketplace.

Yes, that can happen. It’s not impossible.

The other narrative — the one mainstream Western media wants you to dismiss as a “conspiracy theory” — is that this coronavirus (like others for which patents can be found online) was manufactured and got loose, whether by accident or by design.

Wuhan, as many reading probably know, sports a Pathogen Level 4 microbiology laboratory able to produce and study coronaviruses. It’s called the National Biosafety Laboratory and is part of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Do you believe that Wuhan’s being ground zero for the appearance of this coronavirus is a mere coincidence?

Molecular biologist and ecologist James Lyons-Weiler, PhD, of the Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge:

“I’ve analyzed the entire genome sequence of this virus and compared it to the entire genome sequences of all the other coronaviruses that we have data for, and this weird element that doesn’t belong there; I’ve found that it actually did match a vector technology that was published in 1998 in the proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

“This vector technology is a mechanism by which molecular biologists insert new genes into viruses and bacteria….

“Now it’s really unusual to find a vector technology sequence in a virus that’s circulating in humans, and so naturally, one thing we can say, I think for certain, is that this particular virus has a laboratory origin….”

Other reports are circulating suggesting that components of the virus are related to HIV and could not have formed naturally. This would explain why people with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.

So if this coronavirus is artificial, what was its purpose? Is it a bioweapon?

I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone else does for sure, either — except for those directly involved in its production.

To use against the Chinese people? This abhorrent idea has been kicked around, and one has to wonder who in his right mind would do something so reckless.

There are sociopathic mercenaries and terrorists who would do it.

The globalist Deep Establishment would surely not target its own intended global manufacturing base, though.

Or would it — if its minions knew the global economy was on a very weak and precarious footing, exemplified by the bubble on Wall Street?

And if its minions knew that Covid-19 was only life-threatening to “useless eaters” and that the bulk of those infected would recover.

And if the globalists also knew they were failing to contain the rising “populism” out here in the world’s hinterlands. “Populism” is the word pundits use for mass resistance to open borders, “free trade,” and the merging of everything and everyone into a single extended shopping mall of mass consumption and disposability — with masses of consumers buying on credit and going into debt.

Efforts to brand leaders such as Trump, Orbán, Kaczynski, Bolsanaro, etc., as incipient fascists haven’t worked outside the echo chambers of punditry and academia, after all.

Given all this, the globalists might just decide to throw a time bomb right into the middle of it all.

Enter this coronavirus, stage left.

They simultaneously pull their money out of the system while fomenting a global panic through their controlled media corporations. The latter blame the coronavirus.

Do I know all this? No, of course not. But it fits globalist psychology (or psychopathology).

Let’s not forget: these sociopaths are masters of misdirection.

What do we know?

While common people were watching their portfolios plunge, panic-buying, and even getting into fights over dwindling supplies of toilet paper:

On March 13, the Federal Reserve dropped interest rates practically to zero and initiated a new round of QE.

Translation: the big banks were bailed out again. To the tune of around $5 trillion.

Small investors, meanwhile, have been hit hard. As I noted, the Dow dropped 2,997 on March 16. That’s its biggest numerical drop ever.

Talk of a massive recession is now everywhere. Naturally, Covid-19 is being blamed, not the actions of the financial elites who dominate Wall Street.

Donald Trump’s presidency has been named a likely casualty, given the awkwardness of his initial response to the appearance of the virus in the U.S.

Meanwhile, authorities are laying in place means of tracking the movements of those quarantined because they’ve tested positive for Covid-19. Many are all for this.

A vaccine is in the works. Naturally, no one will know what is really in it.

In times of induced panic, people indeed lay down what few freedoms they actually possess before the feet of those who promise a solution.

Our financial elites are bailed out to the tune of trillions, and President Trump suggests handing $1K to each American household of peons.

“If you give us more power and you give it freely, we’ll take care of you. A little, anyway.”

What do we really learn from this “pandemic”?

Besides, that is, the obvious lessons about how easy it is to lead the masses by their noses through fear, and how easily politicians get in line in the face of total media saturation and potential shaming.

The “pandemic” has exposed, for all with eyes to see if they dare to look, the dark side of globalization.

Economists have noted how the lockdown in China has threatened global supply lines of goods ranging from food to new technology to crucial medications. Supply lines on which Americans have become dependent.

It seems worth asking, how did we get into this pattern of dependency in the first place?

It happened because corporations try to make as much money as possible by locating in places with the lowest labor costs, while economists shrug off disruptive consequences as “externalities.”

And because most people weren’t paying attention.

The idea of economic integration isn’t new. It goes back at least to post-war Europe, and further. The idea was that if nations encouraged mutual dependencies leading to a common market they would be less likely to fight one another. This seemed to make sense, and for a while, it seemed to work.

There are dangers of economic integration, however, especially if you are not in the class of moneyed elites. I don’t think most Europeans were counting on the financial-elite dominated political union they have now. Nor were they counting on being colonized by Muslims who would refuse to assimilate and start to destroy European cultures.

On our side of the Atlantic, what came to pass was corporations chasing the cheapest labor they can find while opening borders to immigrants from everywhere and driving down wages at home.

All the while a punditry in semisecret organizations like the Trilateral Commission works out an ideological rationale and promises of a coming Utopia.

The ideology was neoliberalism, the basic premises of which were: privatize everything in sight; value is limited to monetary and exchange value. The Utopia long ago turned dystopian, again if you are outside the one or two percent that has reaped the lion’s share of the profits, generally from investment — “money making money” — as opposed to real productive work meeting people’s needs.

America began to gut its manufacturing base back in the 1980s, as corporations pursued profit and shareholder interest only. During the 1990s with NAFTA, GATT II, and beyond and into the 2000s, this only got worse.

China, meanwhile, was forcibly turned from a mostly agrarian country into an industrial nation in less than two generations. Now it is the second largest economy in the world. No one may ever know the extent to which ordinary Chinese people suffered because of top-down decisions made by what is still a de jure Communist government. (We know that Mao’s “cultural revolution” murdered tens of millions. China is now a technocratically controlled society.)

While this may fill the local Walmart with cheaply produced mass consumer goods, it increases the overall fragility of economies everywhere (I am using the term fragility in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s sense). No national government or population can control what goes on halfway around the world, or even validate that what they are being told is the truth.

Today, America has millions of people whose service sector jobs fail to pay living wages, and whose standard of living has dropped. They are up to their eyeballs in debt. Most could not come up with $500 in an emergency situation without borrowing. Those working cannot afford decent health care because their wages have stagnated relative to a rising cost of living which seems endemic to advanced “capitalist” political economies. These are the reasons we have crises in all those areas whether we like to talk about them or not.

Obamacare wasn’t the solution to the health care crisis because Obamacare wasn’t really about health care. It was about how health care was to be paid for. There wasn’t a word in Obamacare about, for example, Primary Prevention.

Primary Prevention consists of all those things you can and should do to avoid getting sick: nutritional education and healthy eating; exercising regularly; practicing basic cleanliness; not smoking; avoiding sugar and excessive caffeine and alcohol; managing your stress through prayer and meditation; etc.

In the case of the coronavirus, you can greatly reduce your risk through frequently washing your hands, not touching your face and mouth especially if you’ve touched objects in public such as handrails, and avoiding proximity with strangers. Many of the precautions being urged are sensible.

Education for Primary Prevention would enable a people to avoid risky behaviors of all kinds, and if it began when they were children, avoidance would be automatic, not directed by authorities. It would be common horse sense.

But Primary Prevention is not profitable to those who make money by managing chronic conditions, e.g., with drugs. A healthy population doesn’t need to spend money on doctors, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, insurance premiums, etc.

Oops!

It leads, moreover, to personal resilience and self- and familial reliance. This does not serve the purposes of globalists who want dependent populations, which has included destroying the family unit. Even this hasn’t been enough. As amoral sociopaths, they may be willing to pull out all stops to throttle their opponents.

Up to and including dynamiting economies and impoverishing entire populations.

This “pandemic” will run its course, just as did bird flu, swine flu, West Nile, SARS, and H1N1, having turned out to be much milder than its political-economic effects.

The latter are guaranteed to leave us worse off.

Especially if they destroy Trump’s reelection chances and put borderline-senile Joe Biden in the White House, ensuring us, in a couple of years, a presidency-by-committee led by whoever his VP turns out to be. (Hillary Clinton?)

Especially if we are all faced with new vaccines and encircling “health” regulations that have nothing to do with Primary Prevention but will soon be conditions of employment, travel, etc.

Trump will be gone. But the problems that got him elected will still be around, in spades.

And full-throttle globalism will be right back on track!

My final reflection:

I opened with a pair of movie quotes reflective of aspects of sinful human nature.

Something almost no one talks about is relevant here: small but well-heeled folks in the scientific-military complex who will continue to play God with the sort of biogenetic engineering that probably created this coronavirus.

Viruses, too, can be patented and sold for profit.

Given the law of averages, it may be just a matter of time till one of these lunatics comes up with something truly lethal, with an extremely high or almost universal mortality rate — akin to the superflu in The Stand.

And carelessly lets it escape its test tube cage.

Then we’ll know what a real pandemic, a real existential threat to humanity, looks like!

——————

Steven Yates’s next book What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory has been accepted for publication by Wipf and Stock. Buy his Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons For the Decline of the American Republic here.

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I. The Origins of Liberalism.

(Author’s note: beginning a deeper read.)

Liberalism, using that term in its classical sense, assumes that most adults are autonomous and rational individuals, or that autonomy and rationality is their ideal state. The term originated from the Latin liber, meaning free.

Freeing the intellect.

The Gutenberg Press (1445) made it possible for the first time for individuals to read the Bible for themselves, and not depend on an intermediary such as a priest. This seemed reasonable to more and more people, and during the 1500s, the Protestant Reformation ensued.

With the authority of the Roman Catholic Church substantially weakened, the intellectual ground where liberalism would appear grew fertile.

Arguably, the liberal mindset began with René Descartes (1596 – 1650). With the Cartesian method of doubt, the philosopher’s abstract intellect razed all its (?) former beliefs to the ground. Ideas were suspended or set aside or seen as provisionally false if there was even the slightest possibility they could be false.

The purpose of this exercise: to find a proposition immune to doubt. Something that would be known for certainty.

The philosopher could then build anew on this foundation.

Descartes believed he found the right foundation. Cogito, ergo sum (“I think; therefore, I am,” although Descartes never penned those exact words).

The abstract intellect could then decide that only propositions that were rationally provable or able to be grounded on this solid bedrock of formal reason (logic, mathematics, physics) were admissible as knowledge.

Thus arose classical rationalism, and Western philosophy’s turn from the metaphysics and philosophical theology that had dominated for centuries to the epistemology that would dominate until the 1800s.

To the former, the existence of God was a given. Divine perfection underwrote logic as well as morality.

To the latter, God’s existence was as subject to logical proof as anything else.

Logic was suddenly epistemically prior to God. Few at the time noticed the door this opened first to skepticism and then to agnosticism and atheism.

Or, eventually, to large scale indifference to the matter.

As the scientific revolution progressed, experimental testing replaced pure Cartesian reason. The sense was growing that outside science was nothing but superstition and the stuff of poetry.

The Enlightenment and the Coming of Modernity.

Thus proceeded the Enlightenment: doubt tradition; doubt authority — especially ecclesiastical authority. All rested on unprovable and untestable assumptions. Use your individual mind. Rest your judgments on reason, replicated evidence in the emerging sciences (William Whewell would coin the term scientist in the 1830s, thus replacing natural philosopher), or on the concrete lessons of life.

Thus by the mid-1800s, what Auguste Comte would call First Stage thinking, based exclusively on faith in theistic pronouncements by ecclesiastical authorities, was mostly dead outside enclaves of believers who were being marginalized.

Second Stage thinking, dominated by abstract philosophical systems and theological proofs, was being replaced in the intellectual, cultural, and commercial centers by the emerging Third Stage of civilization. Its guiding forces were science, technology, commerce, public education, and a firm belief in human progress: all products of the later Enlightenment which gave the credit to the secularized reason of the freed, autonomous human intellect.

The result we call modernity: a state of affairs which looks to the above for both its rational and its moral consensus. Defenders of modernity point to the actual progress being made in every area, and standards of living being increased everywhere modernity penetrated.

Human beings as creatures of reason were free, within an expanding community of other free human beings.

Man could reshape the world in his image, as Utopian writers like Sir Francis Bacon had imagined long before in works like The New Atlantis (orig. 1626) which contained the germ of the modern research university.

The Third Stage consensus about what kind of world this is and how we fit into it was not limited by belief in, e.g., gods. It did not look to churches or monarchs or philosophical or theological systems. Its humanism saw us as becoming more and more akin to gods (an idea Comte actually promoted: a religion of humanity).

Political Consequences.

Before 1800, this had had political consequences. Political Cartesians, if you will, placed public institutions under the cold microscope of Reason, razing to the ground those that failed to measure up to the new standard. French revolutionaries got rid of their monarchy. Jacobinism developed around the idea that human beings freed from tradition and from a monarchy could organize and decide for themselves rationally what institutions best served human needs.

The result, as we know from history, was a bloodbath, and arguably the first modern empire, when Napoleon came to power in 1799.

A far more modest Jacobinism would begin to take root across the English Channel in the 1800s. It called itself utilitarianism, primarily a moral philosophy which understood the good as happiness. It meant by happiness pleasure and the absence of pain. Individuals and institutions should promote the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number. Autonomous individuals should be free to pursue happiness in their own ways, so long as they caused no harm to others. John Stuart Mill gave us the most significant and comprehensive expressions of these ideas in his essays On Liberty (1859) and Utilitarianism (1863).

Modernity and Capitalism.

Adam Smith had penned The Wealth of Nations (1776) — although Smith considered himself a moral philosopher, having earlier written his foundational work The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) underlying Wealth. The moral foundation Smith had takenfor granted would be set aside as unimportant except to philosophical idlers. Capitalism, its name still uncoined (Karl Marx would do that also in the 1800s), slowly became conscious of itself as the industrial revolution took on a life of its own and became modernity’s centerpiece.

Capitalism’s defenders would learn to argue that “market forces” left to themselves would determine production and distribution of goods and services, and prices and wages. Capitalists would debate among themselves how much regulation of commercial activity was necessary, with some holding that a completely free marketplace would be a self-regulating system needing no outside regulation whatsoever (Adam Smith would not have agreed).

Hence the emergence of classical liberalism as a fairly comprehensive and dominant public philosophy. Its major defenders were Third Stage thinkers by default. They looked to empirical science as the key to truth about the world. Speculating about a world beyond this one was, again, idle. Third Stage thinkers trusted results, not theory. They believed that science, technology, commerce, and education would bring about morally better humans.

Not all defenders of economic liberty were secularists. Frederic Bastiat, author of The Law (1849) was not. Others, such as Max Weber, sought to employ the Protestant mindset in the service of enterprise (cf. his The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, orig. 1905), a work to which we shall refer again.

But Third Stage secular thought was rapidly pushing aside Second Stage theism offstage, as it were — and philosophy itself. Both were being “privatized.”

The twentieth century had arrived. The abstract intellect of Descartes — which became John Locke’s tabula rasa and Immanuel Kant’s rational will — became the homo economicus or utility maximizer or “sovereign consumer” of Third Stage “economic science.”

What could go wrong? 

(To be continued. Stay tuned to this frequency.)

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Antinatalism and Our Fourth Stage Condition

9781350081093First things first. This is not a book review, as I’ve not read The Ahuman Manifesto by Patricia MacCormack, only read about it, and its author. And that, not extensively.

What I’ve read about it indicates: it’s very much in tune with the transition Western culture has experienced from a Third Stage mindset, which saw science, technology, commerce, and progress as givens, in a world that was getting better and better, to a Fourth Stage mindset, which rejects truths (except “convenient” ones), optimism, and in which hope is lost. (For more information on Stages of civilization, go here.)

From what I can gather, Professor MacCormack (who teaches philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University, in Cambridge, U.K.) believes the solution to the so-called problem of man-made climate change is for human beings to stop reproducing, to stop having kids. This idea now has a name: antinatalism. Professor MacCormack cites a study concluding that every kid adds twenty times more greenhouse gases to our human “carbon legacy” than can ever be taken away by recycling, driving electric cars, etc.

She envisions a future world of depopulation as older generations die off and are not replaced, leading to the eventual self-extinction of the human species.

For this, and not unsurprisingly, Professor MacCormack has taken some heat on social media, which she shuns. She complains, moreover, of having received hate mail of the go-kill-yourself sort. An Italian publication (not named in my primary source for this note) called her “delusional.”

In fairness, she’s not calling for children to be killed. She stated, “I simply propose people not reproduce, and it automatically translated into acts of violence…. Somehow, I’m proposing eugenics or some kind of ethnic population control … and I think that what that shows is there is an anthropocentric — or a human — impulse to read acts of grace as, automatically, acts of violence….”

Yet one has to admit … this is all somewhat bizarre. At least by the academic standards of an admittedly long-gone era.

I probably wouldn’t be as curious if MacCormack wasn’t teaching philosophy — or, at least, what are listed on her university profile as philosophy courses. Her profile does not say whether or not she has tenure. It does state that she has written on Deleuze, Lyotard, Iragaray, and a number of other folks I never heard of. Fellow Fourth Stage postmodern gender feminist types, no doubt. She has written on queer theory, body modification, cinesexuality, and more. That’s quite a list, very much in tune with the dominant academic preoccupations in the strange century we now inhabit.

Wouldn’t it be far more useful, though, to investigate whether the problem to which she claims to have the solution is even real?

Now I am more than aware, people wandering in here and reading this might claim I’m “delusional” because, over the years, I’ve developed doubts about climate change being “man-made.”

I can already hear the shrieks of “Denialist! denialist! denialist!”

Burn the heretic!

This mindset, more interested in intellectual uniformity than a careful sifting of actual evidence and coming to a rational conclusion, is also a sign of our present Fourth Stage condition.

If you have an open mind, I can direct you to this.

I do regret that the main body of Dmitry Orlov’s latest piece is behind a Patreon paywall. What I recommend that you go to his Patreon page and sign up paying your $2.50 per month and read the whole 8,000 word essay.

I believe you’ll find what a genuinely free mind has to say on the subject to be most enlightening.

While his view of the near future of the human race is hardly optimistic, he does not advise a course of self-extinction.

MacCormack Screen-Shot-2020-02-14-at-2.31.38-PM-702x459But getting back to Professor MacCormack: for whatever it’s worth, she’s “old school Goth.” Has done a little DJ-ing on top of her other activities. Nothing against that. It may surprise you, but I’ve occasionally, in the past, enjoyed the company of such folks. Nearly all were kind and peaceful people, not devil worshipers or anything. But maybe Professor MacCormack should have stuck to that.

Steven Yates is a professional writer, editor, ex-academic escapee, and independent scholar in philosophy presently living in Santiago, Chile. His latest book What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory has been accepted for publication by Wipf and Stock and will appear in late 2020 or early 2021.

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Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Science and Technology, Where is Civilization Going?, Where Is Philosophy Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review. Presstitutes: Embedded in the Pay of the CIA, by Udo Ulfkotte. Translated by Andrew Schlademan. Progressive Press, 2019.

[Author’s Note: this reproduces the article that appeared early this morning on NewsWithViews.com. I sent the editor this improved version, which fixes a couple of embarrassing typos and also rewords a few passages to achieve greater clarity, but he appears not to have seen it or to have thought the corrections were important enough. While Lost Generation Philosopher may seem a strange venue for something such as this, it isn’t, really. My plan for the site, the domain name renewed just this month, is to widen its usage to include more commentary on the strange and disturbing times in which we live, and fewer extended essays which will be marked as deep reads when they appear. And maybe widen the site’s audience. I hope this will meet with existing readers’ approval.]

Those with an interest in how mainstream (corporate) journalism really operates — if you don’t know already — need to grab this book at once! It might be unavailable soon!

Udo Ulfkotte was to mainstream journalism in Germany what John Perkins has been to international economic growth and development, and his book is as much a confessional as Perkins’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004; revised as The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, 2016) was.

In 2014, Ulfkotte published Gekaufte Journalisten (Bought Journalists). The book became a bestseller in Germany despite a media blackout. The author, excommunicated from German mass media and unofficially blacklisted, faced lawsuits and endured police raids on his house. He told family members he feared for his life. Then, on January 13, 2017, just days shy of his 57th birthday, he was found dead from what a coroner’s report said was a heart attack. Because it is possible to murder people using chemicals that will cause heart stoppage and then become untraceable, some believe he was murdered.

The fate of a genuine whistleblower who tried to stand up to one of this world’s most powerful Deep Establishment operations?

An interesting question is what happened to the original English translation of Gekaufte Journalisten. Supposed to have been published as Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News, it simply disappeared. Issued by Next Revelation Press, an imprint of U.S.-Canadian publisher Tayen Lane, it was quickly removed from the publisher’s website. Tayen Lane did not respond to inquiries about the book. It still has a page on Amazon.com, where copies have been advertised for sale for prices starting at around $1,000 (!). Those who tried to order it, though, could not obtain it. It is presently listed on the site as unavailable.

There can be no rational doubt that Journalists for Hire was suppressed. More specifically, the book was privished. What does it mean to privish a book?

In his essay “The Price of Liberty,” Gerard Colby, a former vice president of the National Book Division of the National Writers Union affiliated with the AFL-CIO, explains:

“In the 1970s, a new term came into the vernacular of industry-wise writers: privishing. According to the sworn testimony in federal court of a twenty-year Viking Press editor, William Decker, the term was used in the industry to describe how publishers killed off books without authors’ awareness or consent….

“The mechanism used is simple: cut off the book’s life-support system by reducing the initial print run so that the book cannot price profitably according to any conceivable formula, refuse to do reprints, drastically slash the book’s advertising budget, and all but cancel the promotional tour.

“The publisher’s purpose is to kill off a book that, for one reason or another, is considered “troublesome” or potentially so. This widespread activity must be done secretly because it constitutes a breach of contract which, if revealed, could subject the publisher to legal liability….” (In Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press, ed. Kristina Borjesson (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 2002), pp. 15-16).

It is clear that Journalists For Hire was privished. There would be no danger of litigation since the author was dead. Information about the book leaked out. Secrets are difficult to keep in this Internet era, after all. Writers with their ears to the ground knew about the German edition, and were awaiting an English translation. The Amazon listing garnered 20-odd five-star reviews, most written to explicitly expose the privishing or speak of censorship in our controlled media and publishing environment. (One of the reviews was by yours truly.)

Presstitutes has not (yet) been subject to that fate. I rather think this book’s enemies were aware that the privishing ploy wouldn’t work a second time. Not immediately, at any rate. With widespread exposure on well-trafficked sites like that of Paul Craig Roberts, such an attempt would provoke an outcry.

This edition offers a revealing account of how corporate journalism really works, by an author who — like John Perkins — was a respected insider. For 17 years Ulfkotte was eyeball-deep in the corruption his book exposes, enjoying the perks involved in working for Germany’s newspaper of record, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, equivalent to The New York Times or The Washington Post. During his career he visited 60 countries doing “investigative reporting” of various sorts for the FAZ, he calls it. He outlines how he accepted money to write stories with specific slants, making claims he knew full well were questionable, naming dozens of names and identifying the shadowy, behind-the-scenes organizations that held the purse strings.

He names the usual suspects: working alongside the CIA were allied globalist entities such as the Bilderberg Group, the Aspen Institute, the Trilateral Commission, the Atlantic Bridge, and others. They set the agendas that determined what was reported as fact to FAZ’s millions of readers. Ulfkotte identifies some of the ruses used to lure young and impressionable journalism students or journalists ate the start of their careers, such as grants administered through the U.S. Embassy to work on projects influencing European “public opinion.” He had been one such person, back in the day, lured by the promise of a lucrative career writing for one of his country’s most prestigious publications.

The agendas: whatever furthered the interests of U.S. foreign adventurism, NATO, and European Union consolidation; supporting U.S.-led wars; promoting the dissolving of borders in Europe and elsewhere; and minimizing reportage on the cultural disaster that has ensued courtesy of the Muslim colonization of Europe.

It is no accident that people speaking out against this colonization, or opposing open borders, or noting that entire neighborhoods are no longer safe for native Germans, are demonized as racists or white supremacists.

In other words, Ulfkotte goes well beyond Herman and Chomsky’s classic Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988). I cannot recall them documenting that literal spies, on the CIA payroll, actually sat in offices and all but dictated content to writers for major newspapers which was then passed off as objective journalism.

Ulfkotte’s account is as much personal as it is political. It is clear: he agonized over his situation for a long time. The name of the game he’d found himself playing: to get along, go along … or quit.

Get with the program, or get out of journalism.

Or blow the whistle and be blacklisted and broken — or worse.

Prestigious journalism “prizes” leading to career advances and high salaries are the rewards for cooperation.

The emphasis on German journalism is to be expected. But since the Anglophone world is the real ground zero of the practices he exposes, why would anyone expect British-American journalism to be any different?

No, there is every reason to think journalism in the English-speaking world is worse, and we come to a new understanding why President Trump has called out reporters from the Clinton News Network (CNN) and other corporate outlets as purveyors of fake news.

What can you believe that comes from CNN, MSNBC, etc., etc.?

If it involves U.S. foreign policy, or many front-burner national issues such as those that have led to repeated attempts to remove Trump from office, I’d believe nothing I couldn’t check personally.

Ulfkotte’s book has over 30 pages of endnotes and other documentation for his claims. These ought to circumvent efforts (example: Wikipedia) to portray Ulfkotte as just one more far-right “conspiracy theorist,” the weaponized phrase recommended to upper echelons media back in the 1960s by the CIA to turn readers away from documented claims of elite-led, top-down malfeasance.

The light of print is a magnificent disinfectant, however, and Udo Ulfkotte has shined a very bright light on such malfeasance.

I’d grab a copy of Presstitutes while I could. Progressive is a small press, and there’s no good reason to think this edition is going to be around and affordable for very long.

Steven Yates’s latest book manuscript What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory has been accepted for publication by Wipf and Stock and will appear in late 2020 or early 2021. He is the author of Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic (2011).

Enjoyed this content. Support it by becoming a Patron here; or you can make a one-time donation via PayPal using my email address (freeyourmindinsc@yahoo.com). Always keep in mind that without ongoing financial support in these times, the lights could go out, so to speak, at almost any time!

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Christianity and Theological Liberalism

[Author’s note: my book manuscript What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory has been accepted for publication by Wipf and Stock, and should be published late in 2020 or early in 2021. This essay contains affiliate links.]

I greatly enjoy a slim publication entitled Glimpses of Christian History put out once a month by Tyndale House, a Christian publisher. Usually it is distributed in bulletins of the English-speaking church my wife and I attend in Santiago, Chile. The publication involves just that: glimpses of church history in the form of tightly written biographies of major church figures or explorations of core philosophical-theological debates that have shaped the church over time. These vignettes frequently raise issues relevant to where we are today.

The issue that appeared this past Sunday (December 15, 2019) is worth commenting on, since the history it delves into is relevant to the core of my own philosophical work on worldviews, the role they play in contemporary civilization, and what occurs when one worldview overcomes and replaces a predecessor.

“Christianity and Liberalism” was the title that leaped out at me. It turned out to be concise summation of a work by Princeton seminarian J. Gresham Machen (1881 – 1937) entitled Christianity and Liberalism (orig. Eerdmanns, 1923), and its theme was the rise of theological liberalism or modernism, which was then splitting Presbyterianism into two factions (though the issue was hardly limited to one denomination), and which Machen traced to the European Enlightenment.

Machen as a Christian theologian resisted theological liberalism and paid dearly for his efforts, eventually having to leave Princeton Seminary and, later, finding himself having to found a new branch of the denomination from which he’d been effectively excommunicated.

Theological Liberalism.

The idea behind theological liberalism was the perceived need to reconcile Christian faith with modern science, and still have something recognizably Christian.

Machen credits (or blames) figures like Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768 – 1834) with starting the movement. The liberals emphasized not God’s transcendence but His immanence, teaching that believers become “one with God” not through Christ but through feelings such as “absolute dependence on God,” or through a “God consciousness.” God’s presence was experienced subjectively, that is. Christianity, in the hands of the theological liberals, was on its way to becoming a Christianity of feelings, not of substantive claims about a transcendent reality and that reality’s relevance to the human world. Theological liberalism embraced such tendencies as, e.g., the “higher criticism” of the Bible. It would give rise to such movements as liberation theology.

Theological liberalism, in other words, came about as one possible adjustment by Christian theologians to the clash of worldviews I’ve examined elsewhere (in my “Materialism” series on this blog; start here): between the Christian worldview and that of ascending materialist naturalism.

My conclusion was, and is, that the two cannot be reconciled, because they make claims that flat out contradict one another. You cannot be both a Christian and a materialist in your basic beliefs about what is most real (metaphysics). If you embrace one, you must give up the other. Christianity, obviously, begins by affirming God’s existence (“In the beginning, God …” Gen. 1:1). Materialist naturalism is a de facto denial that God exists, or that the issue is cognitively meaningful.

A civilization that embraces one worldview will try to destroy or at least marginalize the other. Under Mao’s dictatorship, Chinese Communists tried to eradicate Christianity. In fairness, a Christian civilization would regard materialism as dangerous and do what it could to limit the influence of materialist ideas. At present, though, there are no such civilizations anywhere in the world.

Western capitalist civilization is hardly Christian! It has effectively marginalized the Christian worldview without repressing it. It subordinates Christianity to the smorgasbord of beliefs and lifestyle choices represented in the marketplace: one commodity among many for the purchase of one’s time and resources, with no special claim for allegiance in the market-driven side of modernity.

In what Harvey Cox called the Secular City (in his book of that title), which is just the urban and perhaps suburban world of modernity, “the forces of secularization have no serious interest in persecuting religion. Secularization simply bypasses and undercuts religion and goes on to other things…. The world looks less and less to religious rules and rituals for its morality or its meanings (pp. 2, 3).”

In what we will come to call the Secular University, an aggregate term for major intellectual centers within the Secular City, the Christian worldview is an historical and anthropological curiosity, because the consequences of assuming materialism to be true has already meant the relativizing and epistemic neutering of all nonmaterialist worldviews.

Theological liberals who were taking over many seminaries in Machen’s time believed Christianity could be accommodated to this. They believed they had articulated a Christianity compatible with “modern science,” i.e., materialist naturalism.

Machen was concerned that their Christianity was a “Christianity” that saved no one, because Scriptural salvation played no role in it. Theological liberalism, as we saw above, was about religious experiences, subjective feelings, instead of substantive claims about the world, our place in it, and our nature as sinners in need of redemption.

It had replaced the idea that Scripture-based revelation is a source of knowledge with reason and the empiricism of natural science.

In Machen’s judgment, this wasn’t Christianity at all. It was a different religion altogether.

In the history of philosophy, pure reason had sometimes been used to try to prove God’s existence but sometimes to disprove it. Both modern rationalism and modern empiricism as theories of knowledge led to doubts about God’s objective existence, moving quickly to the idea that Christianity, like any and all religion, is about subjective encounters, not salvation by faith in a Jesus Christ who had miraculously risen from the dead. Miracles, the philosopher David Hume (1711 – 1776) had argued in his classic Essay based on his British empiricist premises, could not be believed rationally nor serve as a foundation for religion.

Theological liberals also set aside the idea of sin. The door was open to one of the core tenets of modernity, that we can use modernity’s tools — science, technology, commerce, education public or private, etc. — to improve ourselves morally, by our own efforts.

Note the emphasis here. No one has ever claimed we can’t improve ourselves materially. But can any of these instruments improve us as moral agents.

That’s a whole different animal, and the crux of the issue.

“Raze It To the Ground”: The Cartesian Roots of Theological Liberalism.

My takeaway, almost a hundred years after Machen wrote and having stumbled onto this chapter of the larger debate just last weekend: the pivotal philosopher René Descartes (1596 – 1650) set the conditions for the clash of worldviews generally, and for the debate between theological liberals and conservatives — or “fundamentalists” if you prefer as they preferred Christian fundamentals they saw as nonnegotiable.

I don’t know whether Machen mentions Descartes and Cartesian philosophy, or Cartesian method. Few theologians or historians of Christianity’s decline in influence see the need for forays into Cartesianism and its legacy. They should.

Descartes, the first voice of French rationalism, believed Western philosophy needed to be started over. Both the advances of the scientific revolution in his time and the discovery of other peoples with very different beliefs during the Age of Exploration seemed to call for a new beginning. We couldn’t be sure of ourselves unless we uncovered an epistemological bedrock of certainty, something immune to doubt by any rational person, anywhere on the planet.

The way to discover such a bedrock, Descartes reasoned, was to methodologically raze his beliefs to the ground: all beliefs about experience, about God, about everything. Find something — a belief or proposition — that was immune to doubt. Start over building on that.

Hence the infamous cogito. “I think; therefore, I am” is the way this is usually rendered, although Descartes never wrote those exact words.

This is the origin of Cartesian philosophy, which took Western thought in a new direction, with epistemology at its center. That Descartes’s reasoning quickly recovered, unchanged, every belief he had relinquished during methodical doubt, ought to hint that something was wrong. Yet Cartesian ideas soon moved to the forefront of the Western philosophical tradition.

Cartesian influence was hardly limited to philosophy. This idea, that all beliefs, all institutions, all traditions, can be razed to the ground and that one can start over, building an intellectual edifice on Reason alone, lies at the heart of the European Enlightenment. All our political institutions and societal practices could be put under the microscope of Reason and, if found wanting, replaced by new ones designed and constructed by rational “experts”: in the sciences, in political economy, in administration and management.

The idea that we can do this stands at the core idea of Enlightenment liberalization, and it gradually built the Third Stage of civilization postulated by Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857; more on Comte’s thinking here).

Reason was soon embodied as empirical Science and as Technique. The church was expected to submit to the new epistemic tribunal. Liberalization substitutes Reason for God as its surrogate. Enlightenment thought promised a “philosopher’s stone” leading to better and better until we reached a veritable Utopia — provided, of course, that we mass men and women trust the  “experts.”

Revelation as a source of truth drops out of this picture.

The reason is obvious.

It cannot meet the tribunal of either liberalized method: deductive proof from absolutely certain first premises, or empirical testability and replicability in the scientific laboratory, or its sociological equivalent the data-driven study.

Hence theological liberalism.

Liberals adopted the Darwinist view writ large, that we do not live in a universe designed by a rational Creator but rather one that has evolved, with us having evolved, unguided, unplanned for, products of blind laws of nature. By the time Machen was writing, materialist naturalism underwrote almost all inquiry in the Secular University.

Morality, given materialist naturalism, can never be more than a cultural artifact with no transcendent significance. It can be studied like any other natural phenomenon, which is what cultural anthropologists like Franz Boaz (1858 – 1942) and his star student Ruth Benedict (1887 – 1948) did. Anthropologists wrote not of morality as such but mores: culturally accepted norms based on expected and socially-approved habits. The “immoral” was only those habits a culture did not use or approve of (e.g., homosexuality in Christian and other religious cultures).

Theological conservatives by Machen’s time had surely begun to wonder: is this what Christianity should accommodate? How can it do so and remain Christian???

Nietzsche’s Warning, Russell’s Plea.

One can, of course, blindly follow the moral dictates of one’s culture and peers. Most do. But in any population there is a minority that is able, mentally, to step outside the box as it were, and ask for justification other than authority and expectation.

This invites the nihilism Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) warned of.

Nietzsche, contrary to one philosophical superstition, was not a nihilist. He was warning against nihilism — belief in nothing at all, no principles able to transcend immediacy.

The essence of Nietzsche’s warning: once you’ve removed God from your map of reality, by default you remove everything that God’s existence makes meaningful.

Nietzsche was not, of course, claiming the world could backpedal to a Christian worldview. He, like other intellectuals of his time, considered the Christian worldview dead and science to have been its killer.

We could only go forward.

The onus was on humanity to develop a substantive morality suitable for life in the universe posited by materialists.

Are you up to the task? he challenged, implying that it would be a formidable one.

What Nietzsche advocated was a morality based on strength, on endurance, on empowerment: on that which stands in defiance of the material world’s indifference and death’s inevitability: a master morality instead of the slave morality of Christianity. He, like Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) and numerous others, owed this dichotomy to Georg W.F. Hegel (1770 – 1831), pivotal German philosopher and arguably the most influential thinker after Descartes.

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) reissued, for English readers, the challenge of furthering a morality for secular modernity in his melancholy essay “A Free Man’s Worship” (1903).

Russell stated that in the “dead universe” disclosed by modern science we must find a way to further our “highest ideals” of peace and justice.

Again, refusing to accept “dead universe” metaphysics as one’s starting point was no longer an option. Again, we could only go forward.

So we did. Two decades later, we arrived in the era in which Machen wrote. By that time, of course, Europe had succumbed to the most destructive war in all its history. Lenin’s Bolsheviks, further Marxist-Leninist materialism as they understood it, had marched into totalitarian control over what had been Russia. When Hitler rose to power in the subsequent decade, even more would we see the consequences of what materialism allowed, including writing entire populations completely out of the moral community so that they could be summarily exterminated.

Theological Liberalism: “Christianity” Trivialized.

To make a long story short, the history of both prior and subsequent decades reveals a world increasingly dominated by elites who answer only to each other. Some of these elites assumed dictatorial political power over their societies; many others recognized that subtle encircling controls over populations which enormous amounts of money enabled would prove far more effective than barbaric repression.

The Secular City became home to a “Sunday Christianity” that was impotent against the growing control of every institution in society by moneyed interests. Eventually it was impotent against the more visible sexual and subsequent revolutions in the name of complete personal liberation, including from all moral restraints as the good life became a life of instant gratification and pleasure.

Within the Secular City, the Secular University became home to further research into human behavior of all sorts, including how behavior could be manipulated and brought under control. Millions of foundation research dollars were thrown into research into, e.g., consumer behavior and how it could be reinforced.

To reiterate: theological liberalism allows you your subjective “God consciousness.” That is, you may believe essentially whatever your feelings tell you about who God is and what He wants. You may believe in a God whose “commands” are mere suggestions, who demands nothing of you, and whose only real purpose is to provide you with some emotional comfort in the cold, dead world of science, technique, and finance capital.

Is This Case, Why Be a Christian?

Liberalism, whether theological or more generally, defines a mindset appropriate for a society in which it is simply assumed that in the last analysis, we are on our own, to make of ourselves what we will, with or without a God in our lives, and do what we will.

The Secular City, that is.

And in the Secular University, your best bet is to learn a profession or trade. Learn to be useful, and make money. So that you and a spouse can raise children who will do the same things with better and faster technology.

But in this case, there is no reason to be a Christian, to take it seriously, because there no longer is a Christian worldview as such. There is only the latent materialism underwriting every area of knowledge and human life, which by Machen’s time had already begun to spread via cultural osmosis from the Secular University and artistic enclaves to the rest of the culture, which accordingly became a culture of “do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” even if this was rarely articulated as such.

Failed Liberal Narratives.

Clearly, whatever creature comforts and technological marvels our times have unveiled, in terms of morality, Nietzsche’s and Russell’s challenges stand unmet.

For when your only “morality” is pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain (utilitarianism), or abjuring the use of force against others (libertarianism), without any viable enforcement system to ensure accountability, or just what liberates and empowers your tribe (identity politics), you have no substantive moral beliefs at all, just bald assertions suspended in mid-air as it were.

And you are in a position of wondering, whether silently or in the company of your like-minded fellows, why you shouldn’t pursue exactly what you want and adopt the most efficient methods available to achieve it, provided you are positioned to get away with it.

The wealthy and powerful are.

And if their wants and their methods run roughshod over some (many?) of those outside their immediate associations, well, then, so much the worse for them.

Do you honestly believe this has not been done? Read John Perkins, The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2016).

In many cases, the losers are all little brown people, anyway.

Or white “deplorables” in “flyover country” who couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt to global change and “reinvent themselves.” Who voted for Donald Trump.

The most important fruits of theological and other forms of liberalism over the past century have been to liberate elite thinking and activity, so that they are exclusively or almost exclusively about maximizing the three P’s of our time: power, profit, and pleasure.

From that combination, one gets Maos, Monsantos, and Jeffrey Epsteins.

As the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881) presciently framed the issue in his final novel The Brothers Karamazov (published right before his death and right around the same time Nietzsche issued his challenge):

“If God doesn’t exist, then everything is permitted.”

Except getting caught … or ensuring that if one are caught, one will have enough money and power to skate having to accept responsibility for his actions, even if they destroyed entire nations or ecosystems or killed or maimed millions of people.

Theological liberalism unleashed every other sort of liberalism. Including neoliberalism, which is just corporate elite-driven profit maximization on steroids.

The present global situation has seen the emergence of an economic cabal so small it would fit comfortably into a college lecture hall with room to spare, and yet controls more wealth than the entire bottom half of the world’s population.

There is not space in this essay to explore how this came about, or the full ramifications, except to note that — as everyone not living in a cave has surely become aware — the present world situation has begun to destabilize.

Massive inequality tends to do that, especially when the masses have sufficient access to information-dispensing technology to learn the truth and develop the suspicion that they’ve been scammed blind.

The plain truth: liberalism in whatever form is a failure: philosophical, theological, and political-economic.

J. Gresham Machen did us a service illuminating theological liberalism and its role in undermining and helping to marginalize the Christian worldview — even if he appears not to have gone all the way to the root of the crisis: in the Cartesian philosophical and political-economic paradigm that lay behind Enlightenment liberalization.

Christians should pray for the Lord’s guidance as many struggle to restore or maintain this worldview in their lives, families, communities.

Christian philosophers and other Christian intellectuals who support an actual Christian worldview should pray and work toward a philosophical program outside Cartesianism, outside the false premises and unfulfilled promises of Enlightenment “rationalism” and liberalization, outside all that materialism has unleashed in modern Secular City and Secular University cultures, and outside the control of any elite.

A program answering only to our Creator and the rules and laws of His Creation.

This may mean separating ourselves from the Secular City. So be it. We are already “strangers and pilgrims on the Earth” (Heb. 11:13).

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Posted in Academia, Christian Worldview, Culture, Philosophy, Political Economy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Protests in Chile — October 2019: End of the Neoliberal “Experiment”?

“It is easier to start a war than to end it.”
― 
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

[Author’s note: this is a slightly updated version of what was submitted to NewsWithViews.com on October 21, was marked as URGENT, but which has not yet appeared as of this writing.]

As I write this (Sunday evening October 20; Monday evening October 21), my adopted home city of Santiago, Chile is under a curfew.

What happened?

More than one narrative is circulating. On the one hand, some point to a combination of deep-seated corruption of that sort that has long plagued Latin America, combined with rising prices for everything without a compensating rises in wages.

The other narrative invokes insidious far-left figures behind this. Especially Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, and his Fora de Sao Paolo. There is a hard left presence in Chile, and in fairness to those who make such claims, they’ve done it before.

This is a developing, evolving situation. I will do my best to get events right and put them in context.

Unrest over the rising cost of living here appears to have been building for some time. The “tipping point” was an October 6 hike in Metro (subway) fare during peak hours from 800 Chilean pesos (around $1.17 U.S. dollars) to 820, the second hike of the year. This came on the heels of a 10 percent hike in electric rates just a few weeks ago.

These may not seem like much, but across the board price increases add up!

As a shopper I’ve noted gradual increases in the price of staples like bread and eggs. The price of hot water in the building where my wife and I reside has skyrocketed over the past year. I called Administration on it. They blamed the gas company.

I can absorb these price increases. Many Chileans cannot.

For their wages have remained stagnant, stretching their budgets to the breaking point. Does this sound familiar? The median income in Chile is less than half what it is in the U.S. Advanced civilizations all seem to get themselves in this kind of predicament. Chile’s economy is controlled by a moneyed elite. There is documented corruption within this elite, some of it tied to foreign corporations such as Walmart who have sunk their claws in here. Penalties for those caught red handed amount to slaps on the wrist. Many Chileans are very frustrated.

A coordinated effort by students started the melee last week, by jumping turnstiles and getting on the Metro (subway) for free. They were joined by others. On October 18 — last Friday — things came to a head when police confronted these groups. Violence erupted when they used force to remove some of the student riders. It quickly spread to the streets. Police shot a female protester in the stomach. This caused things to escalate. Protesters began starting fires in Metro stations. A public utility building was set ablaze. Vandalism spread.

All this happened before the workday was drawing to a close (typically around 7 pm in Chile). It all seemed very well coordinated. Small wonder many observers are contending that this was a planned and orchestrated event.

The Metro had to be shut down, stranding tens of thousands of people who rely on it to get home. Many had to walk long distances.

Damaging these stations was a bad move strategically! The protesters harmed their cause even if it turns out to be a just one!

I learned much of this later. Most of my work is done by remote. I’d spent most of Friday preparing for a remote-work project. So I was in my home office the whole time. While I’d been hearing about unruly students causing problems in Metro stations all week, I realized something major was amiss when the cacerolazos began. This is a traditional form of nonviolent protest consisting of unison, rhythmic banging on pots and pans. As dusk fell over Santiago, this sound, coming from hundreds of people in the streets and on balconies in buildings surrounding ours, grew to thunderous proportions.

Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera invoked Ley de Seguridad del Estado (“State Security Law”) to declare a state of emergency in the city, authorizing the military to use force to crack down on protesters and prevent further damage to public property. This did not quell the protests, which continued throughout the night and into Saturday (October 19).

Piñera declared a toque de queda, or curfew, over the Santiago area, from 9 pm Saturday night to 7 am Sunday morning. This was necessary, for while legitimate grievances may have motivated the initial protests (I’ll speak to this below), thugs who seemed interested only in stealing, breaking, or burning things came out in force. Some looted supermarkets and set them on fire. Three people were killed in a supermarket torched by looters. Five more were found dead in the basement of a burned-out warehouse.

Protests spread to other Chilean cities. A second curfew was instituted to run from 7 pm Sunday night to to 6 am Monday morning in several cities, and then on Monday from 8 am till 6 am. Over the weekend two airlines cancelled flights in and out of Santiago, stranding travelers and causing chaos at the airport.

This is the first time curfews have been imposed since 1987. Augustus Pinochet was then still in power. This bothers Chileans even if many hadn’t yet been born when Pinochet stepped down and “democracy” was restored (1990). There is a sense of history here, just as there is a anywhere.

Where this goes next is unclear as I write. Piñera announced that he was overseeing canceling the rate increase that triggered this. “I have heard with humility the voice of my compatriots,” is the English translation of his announcement to the country last weekend.

The problems in Chile, however, go deeper than a mere rate hike on a subway, even on top of a hike in electric rates.

Many I did not see for what they were.

A laundry list: very low wages as I mentioned, guaranteeing a precarious existence; higher education dangled like a carrot as a ticket to a middle class life, but priced out of most people’s reach; a health care system in which costs are going up as quality goes down (does this also sound familiar?); a privatized pension system run for profit which Chileans claim pays out a pittance despite years of paying into it. Corruption in the police force ($46 million stolen by police); collusion at the top between corporations and government enabling each to enrich himself at the expense of others; hikes in utilities; rent increases; more, and more.

And here we come to the conflicting narratives, each of which may contain elements of truth. Again: narrative (1); Communists are again on the move in Chile. Narrative (2): we are seeing the beginning of the end of what we could call the neoliberal “experiment” in Chile that began during the Pinochet era.

Narrative (1): yes, there are people aligned with Communism here, some of them fairly visible. But the extreme inequality and poverty, combined with all the above abuses, gives them material to work with. There has never been any welfare system here. One of the things I finally figured out: an advanced nation is better off with such a system than without it. The justification is pragmatic. Whether anyone likes it or not, not everyone can participate in the marketplace, for reasons that will vary. The question then is, what happens to these people, especially if they do not have family? Are they sent to charities? Such institutions also have limited resources and would soon be overwhelmed. So are they put out on the street?

Chile is filled with people who walk the streets asking passersby for money. Some sleep on the streets alongside walls or on park benches.

There is a fellow I’ve seen numerous times in downtown Santiago. He lies on his stomach on one of the sidewalks, begging for coins. He has no legs, you see. I don’t know how he gets there in the morning, or if he has family to bring him home at night. They might be poor, too.

Is anyone going to be so cold and nihilistic as to say this man is a Communist, or is allowing himself to be used by them?

Narrative (2), in that case. What is this neoliberal “experiment”? What is neoliberalism, anyway?

Pinochet knew he was a military man, not an economist. He’d inherited a wrecked economy, the legacy of the brief Salvador Allende era. He authorized a group of economists, the Chicago Boys, to attend the University of Chicago, study under Milton Friedman, and return to Chile with what they learned. They returned and employed Friedman-style economic planning, which is all about privatization.

Friedman had spoken of neoliberalism for over 20 years. He was the American protégé of the European Mont Pélerin Society, founded in the late 1940s by Friedrich A. Hayek in the wake of the latter’s highly successful The Road to Serfdom (1944), which argued that state-run central planning led to totalitarianism.

Neoliberalism is not classical liberalism any more than it is the kind of liberalism associated with America’s Democrats. Nor is it the free market absolutism libertarians defend. It does not eschew central planning. Its position is that free markets don’t come about on their own. Conditions have to be created for them to operate. There’s your central planning. Neoliberals just don’t want government doing it. Result: corporations end up at the helm of society, with government as servile. As Friedman observed, governments don’t have any money. Corporations, of course, do.

Some have called neoliberalism “capitalism with the gloves off”: political economy in which profit for corporations and shareholders is the only aim.

Back in 1970, Friedman authored “The Social Responsibility of Business Is To Increase Its Profits.” This widely-read essay got neoliberalism on the map although it didn’t use the term.

Arguably, neoliberalism only came of age after the Soviet Union collapsed, roughly the same time the Pinochet era in Chile ended. Arguably, it became the guiding economic philosophy of an important strain of globalization.

What ensued, though, was the now-familiar claims of rising costs of living everywhere while wages remain stagnant and workers’ lives grow ever more precarious. As corporate elites grow richer, most of their money made passively through investing, inequality accelerates.

We have now reached the point where less than 100 people own and control more wealth than the entire bottom half of the world’s population. I don’t believe you have to be some kind of Marxist to see something amiss with this.

The problem is not simply that this level of inequality is immoral or unjust, but that it eventually destabilizes entire societies. The situation is now such that even billionaires have grown uneasy and called for capitalism to be reformed.

In a neoliberal political economy as practiced (as opposed to academic theory), freedom is economic, not grounded in theological, ethical, or even political principles. Your freedom is proportional to your purchasing power. Values are defined in economic terms. Human beings are essentially self-interested utility maximizers, or should be.

To describe neoliberalism as postulating economics über-Alles is not entirely unfair.

The Chicago Boys brought it to Chile. And to all appearances, it made Chile seem the most stable and prosperous country in Latin America. (This relative stability and prosperity was one of the features that attracted many of us to the country.)

For a time, it works. It allows first-world infrastructure to be put in place, malls to be built, skyscrapers to rise, import-and-export arrangements to develop, and otherwise puts people to work.

It has turned out, though, that to the majority of Chileans, the promise of prosperity is a mirage. The country’s long-term stability may turn out the same unless the problems enumerated above can be addressed.

Critics charge that Chile is a very unequal society. Wealth and power has accrued to a handful of plutocrats who run the country and game the system, with no real alternatives or competition in major utilities (I discovered that only one ISP services our neighborhood; deal with that company or don’t have the Internet).

Utilities such as water, gas, electricity, and telephone cable have all been raising their rates. There is rampant price inflation here as I noted. This is because the Chilean peso is losing its purchasing power, just as is the dollar. Which means that if wages remain stagnant, people actually lose financial ground.

So is this the beginning of the end of the neoliberal “experiment” in Chile. What was that “experiment”?

Let’s take a quick detour up north, and into history.

The U.S. developed the largest financially independent middle class in history (late 1940s – early 1970s).

Hold that thought. Now think like a global elitist whose ambition is dominance.

Industrial civilization is by its nature centralized. You cannot have all the rabble running around on their own. You allow them enough freedom of choice in areas that are of no importance to you as an elite that most of the rabble believe themselves to be free. You allow them out of their cages, as it were, but keep them on largely invisible leashes.

In the U.S., this became harder and harder to do. Generations were too well educated. They asked questions. They challenged wars you wanted (think: Vietnam).

Globalists did not want to see that kind of middle class again.

So whether they undertook to deliberately destroy the American middle class or just allowed capitalism’s natural tendency to expand overseas to operate, they oversaw its slow and very painful destruction. Via NAFTA, GATT II, etc., which allowed for the outsourcing of jobs to cheap labor countries, etc.

They allowed higher education to self-destruct.

In Chile, they saw the possibility of a brand of neoliberalism that does not allow a financially independent middle class to develop. There would be a middle class to administer and manage various aspects of the system, but it would remain fundamentally subservient to economic power. Pay would not be sufficient to do more; and bureaucratic entanglements would be too great.

There would be almost no education on such things as managing one’s time and money. If people cannot do those two things they are easily controlled. At least until their lives become so miserable that they rebel — in large numbers, especially if they see others rebelling. Exercising that pent up anger, they begin smashing and burning things.

Neoliberalism served up a system that has furthered the interests of globalist power elites in various regions. But things are coming unraveled. As more and more of the masses have figured the system out, they have begun to monkeywrench it. I believe this will continue, in one form or another.

Neoliberalism is, in fact, fundamentally nihilistic. One cannot be a truly committed Christian, for example, and also be a neoliberal. Neoliberalism’s gods are money and power. It is one of the latter-day consequences of materialism having escaped the intellectual centers, seeped through the entire cultural fabric, until it dominated political and economic systems. In its quiet rejection of the idea that there is any goal to human existence beyond accumulating things, gaining power, and perhaps having as much sex as possible, for the superrich and powerful neoliberalism has been an instrument of economic and sensual liberation!

I do not pretend to know how this will play out, either in Chile or in the larger world.

I do believe we can outline where the most basic fault line is. It is not between “left” and “right,” as I’ve noted previously. Those in the upper echelons of wealth and power do not care about “left” and “right” except as tools they can use to keep us all divided and fighting one another. So we won’t look at them.

The real fault line is between this globalist power elite and those whose aspiration is to live and govern their communities as they see fit and be left alone. I am not sure what this means for Chileans, or for Latin Americans generally. Their countries have been manipulated so much by Anglo elites and plundered by Anglo corporations that they may have to find their identity all over again.

My suggestion will be that they be listened to, that their grievances against the system be documented, and that we work out a form of stakeholder capitalism that tries to address their problems. This might be a good place to start exploring ideas.

In other words, we should talk about solving problems instead of just talking about the Communists and how bad they are.

Pretending that neoliberalism will continue to work in Chile is what we should not do. For to the extent neoliberal economics is associated with the “right,” most Chileans just seeking better lives than they have now will indeed tilt “left.” This is a given. While I am not making any predictions, they could well support a Chilean Hugo Chávez, should such a figure appear between now and the next national election. The country will then go from the frying pan into the fire.

Posted in Chile and Its Future, Political Economy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments