I’ll first provide links and summary quotes to two of my earlier posted essays:
…that God’s Creation isn’t compatible with anything approaching complete centralization of power and authority, though centers of power and authority do exist and have their own role, often more thrilling and chilling than the roles of more modest human communities but not really more important and certainly far more dangerous when the leaders in those centers of power and authority wish to impose themselves and their thoughts and feelings and behaviors upon all the human communities they touch.
In Is God’s Creation Compatible with Decentralization?, I concluded that:
God’s Creation is quite compatible with decentralization. In fact, most of the evolutionary and developmental processes in at least this concrete world occur by processes of self-organization, decentralized processes being explored under sometimes misleading terms such as “chaos theory” or “complexity theory” as opposed to centralized design or control processes. The odd thing is that these decentralized processes do build the hierarchical structures so beloved and misunderstood by the advocates of top-down design and control processes. And so easily corrupted into centralized, top-down control structures by those meaning well or ill for their fellowmen.
All recent political and social and economic and historical thinkers I know of are at the wrong level of abstraction for understanding the basic existing characteristics and potential characteristics of human being. There are at least three categories of such thinkers:
- Those who recognize the concreteness of human being and remain at the level of concrete, thing-like being in nearly all their thoughts.
- Those who use applied mathematics directly upon the concrete relationships and actions of human beings and their immediate environments.
- Those who use forms of abstract reasoning which don’t reflect what has been learned about the being of this world in its concrete and abstract attributes.
Of course, these categories are nearly empty though a lot of thinkers can be found standing in sometimes strange postures on the boundaries. Let’s pretend there are such limited thinkers. In my opinion, the first group has the best of the arguments if our goal is to use these fields of thought to understand human being. Unfortunately, most of the (imaginary) members of that first group and nearly all the (imaginary) members of the other two groups forget that the non-human parts of this concrete world are so well understood because of the use of abstract reasoning as shown in quantum mechanics, physical theories of spacetime which are based on very abstract geometries. It seems questionable, and maybe outright silly, to try to use, for example, the uncertainty relationships of quantum mechanics to explain free-will, but there is a general principle I’d advocate:
Some of the complexity of the fundamental levels of concrete being in this universe might be smoothed out and simplified at the level of larger-scale entities such as human beings, but there is no reason to think that is always the case and perhaps some reason to speculate that those entities have their own corresponding types of complexity.
Many hardheaded men and women might claim this doesn’t matter because human individuals and human communities act at the level of concrete biological forms of being. True enough, so long as we’re sure we’re not missing some very important traits of living organisms and of human beings in particular. After all, it was not only literalistic interpreters of the Bible but also some competent or even outstanding physicists who attacked the early attempts by geologists and paleontologists to understand the chronology of rocks and living creatures. Not knowing about subatomic particles, those physicists thought the Sun had to be burning by chemical processes and, thus, the Solar System—including the Earth—couldn’t possibly be as old as some geologists and paleontologists were claiming. Even more relevantly, overly concrete thinkers never even dreamed of one of the Einsteinian insights which the great man himself probably didn’t grasp when first proposing the Theory of General Relativity: the Universe is an entity with its own properties and isn’t just the sum of what it contains. Our thing-like world is defined by two-way interactions between the global whole and the local parts. Human being is very similar with the “global whole” understood in terms of descending levels of community and the “local parts” understood in terms of individuals and their ascending levels of community.
True it is that human being arose in this concrete world. Human being remains flesh and blood. We know that flesh and blood, even that of worms, is more dynamic and more complex than even the greatest of early biologists, say Aristotle and Galen, could have guessed.
But the complexity of human being rises above that of flesh and blood and even above most of the processes studied by physicists for various reasons including the simple and non-mystical reason that human being has come to include mind which developed geometry and calculus and algebra, physics and chemistry and biology, history and fiction writing and musical composition, theology and poetry and pictorial representation. Human being has taken on abstract attributes, and these exist at particularly intense levels in human communities engaged in the conversation over the ages between the great and creative thinkers of our race. (Similar but more vague statements can be made regarding the hearts and hands of those communities which tie together the generations, but—as I’ve claimed repeatedly, the human mind leads the way into the human future.)
All entities and more elementary forms of being in this universe, certainly the universe itself, were formed by abstract streams of being—relationships. Human beings are more so, because of our various forms of awareness which rise far above even the self-awareness of our fellow living creatures on earth. Mostly, we are aware of abstract relationships. We can somewhat perceive and more clearly conceive of the abstract being which forms part of the thing-like being of this universe.
Our awareness of `political’ relationships, for example, rises far above that of the lionesses in a pride or the various bull elephants in a band of rogues. Over the millenia, our awareness of political relationships has grown, leading to more abstract being of that sort. Thousands of years ago, the Indo-Europeans seem to have developed patronage (think of it as an initially gentle or persuasive form of feudalism) and the ancient Chinese must have developed something similar which led to the First Emperor. This sort of political relationship led to better-organized bands of warriors, which bands evolved and developed over some small number of centuries into communities which could truly be labeled as “armies of conquest”. It also led to the protection of and control over miners and blacksmiths and leather-workers and horse-breeders and others necessary to those early warlords.
Since then, various forms of government and of bureaucracy have evolved and developed—not often under the complete control of even the most ruthless of political leaders and sometimes not much under any sort of control of political leaders. Various communities, political and economic and military and artistic and academic and scientific and so on, have developed and grown large and complex. They overlap and intertwine and intrude on each other’s domains; bureaucracies and entities we might call `agencies’ have grown up as part of this process. Under conditions which have held in the Modern Age—from perhaps 1500, centralized political communities have become excessively powerful. The legitimate responsibilities of these centralized political communities have not always been a high priority because such communities allow individuals of great ambition and greed to grab more power and wealth for their selves or their families or their classes than they otherwise could have even dreamed of.
This sort of situation has occurred before with the leaders of various sorts and mixtures of political and military communities we find in history. Having achieved those positions of leadership, by means fair or foul, various sorts of leaders use their dominance over violent means to grab more power and different sorts of power than is justified by the needs of the greater and encompassing communities of clan or tribe or confederation of tribes or nation or empire or whatever. There have been leaders who have refused to abuse their powers and perhaps many who were never so tempted. The ones who refused to abuse their powers include Jesus of Nazareth first and foremost but also, on a mundane level, the Roman patriot Cincinnatus and also George Washington who is often referred to as a modern Cincinnatus.
Over the generations, some larger-scale human communities have been able to grow along with their political and military communities. In a sense, the modern history of balanced powers reached a peak in the American Founding. Let me take one example: the Congress of the US (House of Representatives and Senate) was given authority to declare war and the House was given the further responsibility of funding a war or refusing to do so, at least refusing to give the President as much money as he and his military advisors wished to have.
The American system of government has broken down in various ways and the current efforts to control the world are but part of the problem. In fact, we can’t fully see the problem in terms of the US Constitution since there are some very active centers of illegitimate power—the “national security agencies” and the related, quite bloated, bureaucracies in the military services and the State Department and Justice Department and other places; the political and military authorities seem to be allied with and dependent upon these bureaucracies and agencies and willingly so. Those agencies and bureaucracies have grown like fungus on and inside a living creature with a weak immune system. And, in fact, that is an accurate analogy. The more legitimate political and military communities can perhaps be more accurately compared to cancers, legitimate parts of the greater body which went bad and began to wage war upon that greater body.
The US Constitution doesn’t consider the existence of national security agencies, though they have existed along with other parts of complex human political systems—in ancient China and in at least the later Roman Republic. Ruthless scavengers of information and those willing to commit brutal acts are often valuable to power-seekers and power-holders. Yet, they don’t seem to have come into their own until their hyper-development in the various totalitarian societies, most especially those which inherited imperial intelligence and police agencies—think of the Bolsheviks absorbing the services which spied upon the Tsars as much as upon the Tsar’s enemies. The NKVD/KGB was certainly a power-center which even worried Stalin at times—hence, the purges. There is precedence for the growth of intelligence and police agencies into self-serving power-centers. And the United States, its government and its other communities and realms, had no experience in dealing with such. The Founding Fathers had no reason to foresee the development of a CIA which kills under orders of the constitutionally elected bosses or for its own communal purposes.
The historian Carroll Quigley, circa 1950s, had identified three dominant power-holding groups in the United States: bankers (think J P Morgan), monopolistic capitalists (think John D Rockefeller), and politicians (think Teddy Roosevelt). There are complications here as Rockefeller moved to New York City and started using banks to control his various corporations and trusts into which he had thrust productive enterprises which he had built up. Ignore these sorts of complications for now. The important issue here is that Quigley seems to have been right for the period before the Great Depression and somewhat right for 2 or 3 decades after that, but the creation of the CIA from the OSS (which had been subject to military discipline and reported to George Marshall) created something new. That the CIA is nominally under the control of the civilian leaders of the American government doesn’t seem to matter any more than did the Tsar’s nominal control of his secret services—George Kennan and other commentators have noted those secret police targeted the final Tsars as much as they targeted the revolutionaries or foreign agents.
We are seeing more explicitly what has been clear to many for years. In our huge and complex modern communities, new forms of institutions have grown up: the Red Cross as well as the modern intelligence and police agencies. Some are good institutions, some have developed into true communities. There are also some bad institutions and many of mixed natures and results.
So, the United States has at least four groups which hold great power at the regional or national level.
- Capitalists of some sort.
- National security agencies and private service-providers.
There is some sense in which the educationalists and entertainers have also become a strange power-holding group, molding the minds and moral characters of young Americans in ways compatible with the ideologies of the teachers and the administrators of schools which are so compatible with the ideologies and greed of those in the entertainment industry. Those ideologies tend to strongly conflict with the needs and—maybe—desires of the United States as a whole and of most of its individual, adult residents.
We can see a major part of our problem in the split between power-holding groups which take a short-range outlook and act accordingly and those which take a long-range outlook and act accordingly. Our politicians and businessmen and church-leaders take care of this afternoon while the educationalists and other child-exploiters (the profit-seeking entertainment industry being the other important base for dangerous ideologists) like to experiment with the minds and moral characters of young human beings—those experiments have resulted in very bad, long-term results. So far as I can tell, no totalitarian society destroyed or deformed human being as successfully as have the educational and cultural communities of the West, with the Americans being dominant.
The leaders of the West, some lacking much knowledge and understanding and perhaps meaning well, some meaning to cynically or mindlessly exploit others, have responded to the opportunities of the Modern Age by badly damaging the human being which could have been greatly enriched and properly complexified. Individual human being in the West has been badly damaged and so has the communal human being.
The leaders of the West are the enemies of the West, the enemies of its individual and communal human beings, and the enemies of the God of Jesus Christ. They contribute little or nothing and live not to serve but to suck the blood out of the West. This includes not only the more active parasites but also the leaders of Christianity who have chosen to go along with the program, for example, by bringing in more human beings not suited to live in the West; by such means, the value of citizenship is stolen and many members of the middle-class are pushed down into the lower-class ranks along with immigrants from undeveloped countries.
We have to realize that the American citizenry failed to keep watch upon the government and its agencies and other parts. We and our parents and the truer public servants of recent generations failed to notice the dangers, failed to investigate signs that those dangers were there and growing—the national security thugs and likeminded creatures in the political and military communities had only to say, “There are monsters out there and they have only one desire: to destroy us and all the good we represent.” Even Stalin, a true moral monster, had at least one rational desire: to survive, but we allowed our citizen-selves to believe, or at least act as if we believed, that Stalin and his henchmen were ready to commit some sort of suicide if only it allowed them to harm us. This built upon the earlier delusion that the Tsarist Russians were bad guys because they stood in the way of the West as it tried to steal and control much of Asia and parts of Eastern Europe. The Russians were evil for desiring to take the loot, the Ottoman Empire and huge parts of southern and eastern Asia, when the British—with Americans lurking in nearby shadows—were busy doing the same things which were evil on the part of the Russians. Ironically, the Russians actually had some legitimate reasons to exercise power over some of those regions close to Russia and thousands of miles from the British Isles.
Empires were and are a fact of life in this imperfect world, but don’t pretend your country has a moral right to intervene throughout the world and control other countries while your country’s competitors are evil for doing the same. That is a path to irrationality, to foreign policy by way of hatred and fanaticism. It would be better if we were to seriously explore other ways than conquest and violent interventions to bring greater and larger-scale order to the various communities of the world, but we court various sorts of moral corruptions and other dangers when we play the intervention game in a morally dishonest way. The game may be dishonest to begin with but it has brought much good to the world—think of the order established by the Romans and the Muscovites and Emperor Qin of China. See the somewhat depressing book by Lawrence H. Keeley, War Before Civilization, which provides facts and controversial but seemingly solid arguments supporting the contention that death-rates are higher in the small-scale but constant warfare of tribal societies than they were in 20th century Europe or other times of large-scale military activities. The concentrated violence of large nation-states might well be spectacular, and often unnecessary and harmful by rational standards, but we may soon see far worse, city by city and suburban block by suburban block in the formerly peaceful and orderly regions of the West. War after civilization might well be as bad as war before civilization.
If we are to regain some order and peace in the West, we must all do a better job of trying to understand—with mind and heart and hands—our modern complex problems and opportunities. By “all,” I mean artists and authors and politicians and businessmen and generals and diplomats and scholars and pastors and everyone else. If we refuse to properly use our minds and hearts and hands for this task, we will have to endure the end of much that is good in civilization, perhaps the establishment of a brutal order by the sometime nasty processes of “mindless” or “purpose-free” Darwinian processes, and that new order might be at a much lower standard of living. We will have refused to use the human being which developed fully by the same processes to which brute animals and other living creatures are subject and we will remain subject to those processes rather than choosing to intelligently work with those processes.