In replying to Dean Allen’s remarks (Part Two), I had intended to restrict myself to a few points, but fear I have instead written another book (lol) and can only hope readers will bear with me. While part of me wants to apologize for the length, I do believe there is only one way to approach these issues, and that is substantially, in detail, and with supporting examples. Let me first explain what doubtless looks like “pessimism.” First, pessimism is often where you find it. It is a matter of perspective. Globalists convinced that their worldview is right in all its essentials (they may be struggling with some of the details), and that TINA (There Is No Alternative), are the supreme optimists. They believe that globalization, guided by them, will one day deliver Utopia. Both of us disagree. Neither of us, therefore, wants to continue down that road. To globalists, though, disbelief in their coming Utopia, involving as it does the de-industrialization of the First World, outsourcing jobs to cheap-labor countries, insourcing immigrants for cheap labor, open borders (the primary cause of the present mess in Europe, mixing mutually unassimilable European and Muslim cultures), etc., is pessimism about the “liberal world order” they have been building for the past 70 years, and which seemed to be doing fine at one time!
I am pessimistic about secular political-economic solutions, some of which I have also participated in and seen first-hand the infighting, the jostling for position, the impatient demand for instant results, and sometimes the just-plain-pigheadness of those who can’t admit that what they are doing doesn’t work in the real world. This brand of pessimism stems from my sense of the basic sinfulness of the human condition (Rom. 3:23). While disagreement over theological specifics and their consequences is possible, I no longer understand how one can reject the basic idea that we live in a fallen world in the Christian sense. With this you have a common denominator, why every attempt we have made to organize ourselves politically / economically has ultimately failed, even if some failures are more spectacular than others. We indeed formed a political system in the original Constitutional Republic that became the envy of the world, but compromised it very quickly in ways I documented in my book Four Cardinal Errors (Yates 2011).
The truth is, we seem unable to build political-economic systems that don’t shaft somebody. Go back 175 years and you have slavery, which shafted the black man (even if it is wrong to blame that unhappy state of affairs on whites, as both Muslims and blacks themselves were involved in the international slave trade). Let us realize, moreover, that we only got rid of chattel slavery, which is not the only form slavery can take. Today it’s straight white Christian males who are being shafted, systematically demonized in media and academia. Tomorrow it might be somebody else — groups being vulnerable as long as some are able to soar ahead of others and collectivism remains the prevailing ethos.
My “pessimism” in this sense makes me doubtful of the wisdom of trusting wholeheartedly in any one person, such as Trump or anyone else, or one party such as the GOP, or even one political system (so-called democracy which is really oligarchy — see Part One), or the prevailing economic system (call it capitalism or call it something else). Principles are too easily compromised by money and power. Abstractions fail because they are usually too simple and streamlined when applied against the organic complexities of the real world and real human beings and their inscrutabilities. All leading to why I concluded some time ago, and maybe I should do more posts to emphasize this and work out the implications, our only ultimate hope is in Jesus Christ as our personal savior and in winning souls for Him.
To the extent one believes in basic tenets of Christianity, one is actually an optimist and not a pessimist at all. This brand of optimism places its hopes and faith not in this world but in the world to come. It does not suggest sitting on the sidelines, fatalistically, and allow false premises and bad tendencies to go unchallenged. But it does urge us to temper our expectations with modesty and realism. The majority of our secular efforts are bound to fall short because human nature is fundamentally at odds with that which is principled. We should instead remember that “these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:13-16).
Turning to corporations. Keeping in mind that I am talking about globe-spanning entities, not, e.g., supermarket chains with limited reach, Mr. Allen believes we should have more trust in them than my statements evidence. Following up what was just concluded, though, corporations are run by human beings and subject to whatever sinfulness human beings are prone, which may be aggravated by both a materialist philosophy of life and large amounts of money to support it. When deciding when or whether to trust corporations, this general point must be considered before we get to any specifics. The so-called private sector doesn’t have a special, sin-free status because it’s the private sector and supposedly subject to the “discipline of the marketplace,” whatever that is. The globalist power elite originated within and grew up around private banking leviathans, as Carroll Quigley observes (Quigley 1966). I believe not trusting corporations with global reach is justified. To this extent I disagree with Republicans and Libertarians who trust corporations indirectly out of the trust that their favorite abstraction, the “free market,” will control them with Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.”
We need specifics, of course, and they are readily available, in some cases based on personal experience and direct observation. I will cite my own, and I doubt my situation was unique. When managing the affairs of my aging parents, both of whom spent their final years in a private nursing home because they needed round-the-clock care I could not provide, it became clear to me how much of what goes on in such facilities occurs so that corporations can make money. Well, that’s capitalism, some will respond. If so, then “actually existing capitalism” (is there another?) really does have some of the structural faults the “economic left” (not to be confused with the “cultural left”) attributes to it. For starters, the emphasis of so-called “scientific medicine” is not healing but managing chronic conditions using legal drugs. This enriches the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry (Big Pharma). Many of the drugs were “approved” under dubious conditions, with Big Pharma’s corporations bankrolling “studies” that “proved” the drug to be safe. When we look at how this happens, a critical thinker is bound to see supposed scientific objectivity compromised by vested interests over and over again (Fitzgerald 2006).
There is truth to the adage that we do not have a health care system but a sick care system — because managing chronic conditions is extremely profitable! Which goes to the heart of why the most advanced civilization in the world is also now the sickest, most drug-addicted, most lethargic, most obese, etc. Unhealthy food is also extremely profitable because nutrition is not taught in schools (private or public); hence the uninformed masses have no idea they cannot live indefinitely on fast food and diet drinks without this eventually damaging their health. They spend their money accordingly. “Health care reform” has never been about health, or healing, but how the accelerating costs of managing chronic conditions are handled. This mess is systemic. I do not want to say that “socialized medicine” is the answer, because (in accordance with earlier paragraphs) that will surely come with its own train of abuses. But what we can note is that a genuinely healthy population does not need to spend money on doctors, clinics, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, etc. Most doctors do what they are trained to do, which is identify chronic conditions and prescribe drugs to manage them. Most are clueless about nutrition-based health which they consider pseudoscientific “quackery.” The truth: good health doesn’t fatten corporations’ bottom lines.
Again, I saw first-hand evidence for this. At one point, the nursing home doctor (who made two visits to the facility per week!) had my father on a narcotic, presumably to control his reactive confusion caused by vascular dementia. I told him in no uncertain terms I wanted my father off of it, and threatened to put both my parents in a different facility. Interestingly, my demand was honored and not countered by an argument that the drug was necessary for such-and-such. Both of my parents were overmedicated, and it is just possible that too much medication shorted their live spans. In the end, during the last six weeks of my father’s life (spent “in hospice”), the facility took him all his medications. Result: for those six weeks we basically had him back! He was his old self again, asking how the stock market was doing, how my classes were going, those sorts of familiar things. My mother had parallel issues, including a blood problem possibly related to her having been on blood-thinners since a 1999 stroke. The only “cures” appeared to be transfusions and, of course, more drugs!
I have no reason to believe my parents’ cases are somehow unique. It is likely that there are millions of overmedicated people in nursing homes across the U.S., and that tens of thousands of prescriptions are written every year unnecessarily, forcing patients, many fearful and therefore not thinking critically, to spend money. One of the biggest causes of preventable deaths in the advanced world is the medical / hospital system itself. There is overmedication; there is physician error including false diagnoses sometimes the product of ridiculously long shifts which can run to 12 hours; and there are hospital-acquired sicknesses, e.g., from bacteria such as MSRA which kills more people every year than AIDS. My sister died in early 2016 from complications related to an MSRA infection she acquired during an earlier hospital stay. She was only 54.
For some history of how we’ve allowed the “artificial” to triumph over the “natural” in food, public health, and medicine over the past 100 years, with the primary benefits going to private corporations often to the detriment of our long-term health, and how we have been taken to the cleaners by decades of pseudoscientific “studies” supposedly showing nonexistent benefits of chemicals additives to foods as well as insidious practices such as factory farming, all in the name of the Almighty Dollar, I recommend Patrick Fitzgerald’s The Hundred-Year Lie (Fitzgerald 2006).
That’s just one example of why people who want to be free shouldn’t trust corporations, or politicians backed by corporate donors (the mainstreams of both the Republican and Democratic Parties), any more than they should trust expansionist governments. There are plenty of others. John Perkins (2004) described how his employer, a private “consulting firm,” sent him into so-called Third World nations to cajole their leaders into accepting massive IMF loans to build up infrastructure and move in the direction of Western mass consumption. They did so, and the money went not to the country but to huge construction firms. The countries, as the nominal recipients, found themselves in massive and often unrepayable debt that could be used to control them (e.g., forcing them to allow U.S. military bases on their soil), as well as providing another means of making money, via interest payments, for the global banks that ultimately back such loans. Local political elites could do very well if they cooperated and were willing to sell out their own people. If the people elected a “populist” who saw what was happening, that a corporate noose had been drawn down around his country’s neck and began to drag his feet, the country experienced a “coup,” or the man himself had an “accident” such as a fatal plane crash. Someone “more reasonable” would then be placed in power. Has this happened? Ask informed Panamanians. Or Ecuadorians. Or for that matter, many Chileans who will tell you this kind of thing was going on here in the 1960s and explains why they tilted left and elected Salvador Allende president in 1970. They saw just two options and chose that one that seemed most likely, by kicking out foreign interests, to return the country to autonomy. (It didn’t work, but that is a long story.)
This is because common people of whatever stripe resent reaping only the most limited benefits of adopting Western mass consumption while corporate elites on another continent get rich. Note too that indigenous economies and cultures are frequently ruined by this process (cf. again Norberg-Hodge 2009). And let us remember, finally, most of these cultures never had the (somewhat) financially independent middle class that developed in America beginning in the 1950s and whose fortunes arguably were sabotaged in the 1970s. It had become harder and harder for the power elites — the ownership class, if you will — to keep themselves walled off from the expanding middle class and its rising influence, even more so their children, and prevent their challenging and conceivably hijacking their agenda for the world, as the young did with the Vietnam War (for example). The ongoing destruction of the U.S. middle class has not come exclusively from the political class, although it carries its share of the blame. Where is the locus of power? Nearly every Libertarian and Republican gets this wrong. It is with corporations, not governments, because corporations have the money: which is why we can speak of corporatism as the prevailing economic system of our time (the term neoliberalism is often used, but I believe this term is less informative). With enormous corporate donations to establishment politicians absurdly brought under the umbrella of “free speech” with the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision (2010), corporations had gained more influence over the U.S. political system than ever before until 2015-16 saw the fruits of the grassroots revolt that sent Donald Trump to the White House, whether for better or for worse (the jury, to my mind, is still out).
Final example much closer to home for all of us who think of ourselves as truthtellers, possibly through personal experience yet again: the war against so-called “fake news,” which is really a war against those of us not beholden to the corporate media leviathans. Who are truth-tellers? Those who see through and hence operate outside the premises of the secularist, materialist, corporatist, globalist 20th-21st century mainstream, which (naturally) controls the bulk of media and academic resources, and so can portray truth-tellers as purveyors of “fake news,” as “conspiracy theorists,” or as “neo-Nazis,” or by swinging any damn linguistic club they please! My point is that the war against “fake news” is again primarily corporation-driven, only this time we’re talking about media and tech leviathans. The Washington Post, which started this “fake news” meme last November with an unsourced article referencing a group whose members didn’t even identify themselves, is privately owned (by tech globalist Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com fame). Google, Facebook, etc., have redesigned their “algorithms” to effectively reduce access to certain content, using the former’s search engine so that alternative news sites simply do not come up in searches which, realistically, are usually limited to a couple of pages of links at the most. Result: by the end of the first quarter of this year we saw a dramatic drop in traffic to alternative websites — including the one I write for semi-regularly, NewsWithViews.com. The idea that something called “the free marketplace of ideas” has been at work here appears to be another myth, because although you and I are smart enough to go to these sites if we want truthful information, Joe Six-Pack typically just follows what his newsfeeds give him. His Internet usage is passive, not active, and so he is easily controlled using incentive systems psychologists (also bankrolled by global corporations and foundations like Ford and Rockefeller) worked out long ago. This has cleared the way, at least somewhat, for media corporations to try to regain some of the credibility they lost last year by (e.g.) predicting that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump in a landslide.
Is my vision as expressed in Part One dystopian? I plead guilty. But from some perspectives, a long term “decline of the West” wouldn’t be all bad, and so shouldn’t be mechanically labeled “pessimism.” As with any major development, it would have plusses and minuses, and even those depend on your point of view. The plusses might be healthier food produced locally and not filled with preservatives, cleaner air and water, and the possibility of less stressful lifestyles which themselves are unhealthy. The biggest minus might be the fact that millions of people will have to rediscover what work is, understood as physical labor as opposed to sitting behind desks tallying up numbers (or whatever) on computer screens all day. A post-collapse economy, after all, will most likely be agrarian, and this will mean: farming. If this be dystopia, make the best of it.
Truthfully, however, we are probably at least two and probably at least three decades away from any such state of affairs on any large scale. Mass consumptivism definitely has the upper hand, and has widespread support because of the ease it brings about, at least, until it makes you sick with a chronic condition, or until the avalanche of unsustainable debt destabilizes the economy.
Where do we go from here? My first suggestion is to embrace a Christian worldview. I am at work on a book about worldviews entitled What Should Philosophy Do? which argues that what it should do is recognize, formulate more precisely, and where necessary, challenge dominant worldviews. I want to kick open the door to a viable metaphysical pluralism, or pluralism about worldviews, and challenge the supremacy of a single worldview, that of materialism, over Western political economy and Western culture. One may, of course, bypass pluralism about worldviews and simply form Christian parallel institutions, if one can fund them.
Second, work piecemeal at minimizing one’s contact, much less dependence, both on governments and on global corporations. I am not a tech person and do not want to be (I may use Facebook but rarely use Twitter and do not have WhatsApp … owned by Google whom I definitely do not trust). There is abundant evidence of how social media is distorting our social fabric and possibly worse. Instead, work at forming and nurturing communities of the like-minded who are working toward greater local autonomy and self-sufficiency, keeping in mind that this is a process and not a single decision or even strategy. Keep in mind that some of these efforts are bound to fail, as did Galt’s Gulch Chile. From failure we learn. It has taken decades of delusions about the possibilities of secular civilization and mass consumption culture, of educational dumbing down (which, arguably, systems based on mass consumption and obedience to authority require), and just plain complacency and negligence to get us into this mess. Assuming the present globalist system holds together, it might take decades to get out of it by creating viable, stable independent communities.
There are topics I haven’t taken up, such as Mr. Allen’s comments on race. It does seem to me that those of us designated “white” built something important: Western civilization, with its sciences, its advanced technological and other systems, and its many creature comforts. No other race can claim such achievements. Whether this is something specifically “white” or whether it is attributable to other factors is the question, and as we’re pushing at the limits of people’s attention spans here, I am sure, I would prefer to save this discussion for another occasion. So I will just submit the point made by historian Rodney Stark (2005), that without Christianity in place first we would not have had modern science, with presumes as its starting point the intelligibility of the universe to the human mind, the universe having had a rational Creator, the idea (integral to a capitalistic economic system) that its raw materials can be brought under our control, transformed into useful goods, or finally the Enlightenment conception of human rights which takes its point of origin at the idea that we are created in God’s image. These being ideas, nothing makes them race-specific. Western civilization, as it has developed and secularized itself, moreover, moved away from them, proving then to be a mixed bag, with its obsession with growth, which meant imposing mass-consumptivism on the rest of a sometimes-reluctant world. Is there, finally, nothing to be said about the state of affairs in which a group of people small enough to fit into a high school auditorium owns or controls more wealth than the entire bottom half of the world’s population? I don’t think one need be a collectivist, or an egalitarian, or some kind of socialist, to believe capitalism has gone off the rails when it yields such results which are bound to provoke resentment around the world, including at home (for one example see Mishra 2017).
Summing up in this case: I am not a globalist, because I do not see the likelihood of a world as diverse as ours being pulled under a single political-economic order without the necessity of increasingly authoritarian controls—already in place if one knows what to look for. I am only a pessimist when viewed through the secularist lens, because I do not believe in the long-term viability of secular solutions to human problems. I am ultimately an optimist, because I believe in a Kingdom to come. But I have no timetable for its coming (I am not the sort of Christian who expects to be “raptured” off the world any day now!). I am open to the possibility that we are in for a rough ride in the short haul, especially if the Deep State reasserts itself or if such measures as the tax bill just passed by Congress and on its way to President Trump’s desk indeed turns out to be a Christmas gift for the point-zero-zero-one percent, as its critics insist. Therefore, to the charge of having dystopian visions, I again must plead guilty.
REFERENCES FOR PARTS ONE, TWO, AND THREE
Dean Allen. 2012. Rattlesnake Revolution: The Tea Party Strikes! Hill-Pehle Publishing.
Patrick Fitzgerald. 2006. The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health. Dutton.
Francis Fukuyama. 1992. The End of History and the Last Man. The Free Press.
Martin Gilens & Benjamin I. Page. 2014. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” Perspectives on Politics Vol. 12, #3, pp. 564-81.
Helena Norberg-Hodge. 2009. Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World. Sierra Club Books.
Pankaj Mishra. 2017. Age of Anger: A History of the Present. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.
John Perkins. 2004. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Berret-Koehler Publishers.
Carroll Quigley. Orig. 1966. Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. Macmillan; GSG & Associates.
Chuck Schumer & Paul Craig Roberts. 2004. “Second Thoughts on Free Trade.” New York Times, January 6.
Rodney Stark. 2005. The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. Random House.
Steven Yates. 2011. Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic. Brush Fire Press International.