MORALITY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life

Written by: Professor Rufus J. Fears

Lecture by:  Professor Rufus J. Fears

J. RUFUS FEARS (1945-2012--AMERICAN HISTORIAN, LECTURER FOR THE GREAT COURSES)

J. RUFUS FEARS (1945-2012–AMERICAN HISTORIAN, LECTURER FOR THE GREAT COURSES)

Rufus Fears is an excellent story-teller.  “Books That Have Made History” is a series of lectures given by Fears that dwells too much on God but delightfully entertains all who are interested in living life well.  (Professor Fears died in October of 2012.)

An irony of Fears lecture series about “Books that can Change Your Life” is his most revered historical figures, Confucius, Socrates, and Jesus–never wrote a book.  He thematically presents a story that argues these three figures are witnesses to the truth.

Fears believes Confucius’s, Socrates’, and Jesus’s truths have been played out and proven over centuries of writings and doings.  Those writings and doings are recorded in secular and religious texts that range from Homer, to Plato, to the “Bible”, to the “Koran”, to “The Prince”, to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Winston Churchill, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  Bonhoeffer is Fears first example of one who practices what he writes about and believes.

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER (1906-1945, A GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR, THEOLOGIAN AND ANTI-NAZI DISSIDENT WHO DIES IN NAZI' CUSTODY)

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER (1906-1945, Bonhoeffer  was arrested in 1943 and transferred to a Nazi concentration camp and executed in April 1945.  Bonhoeffer is a symbol of moral and physical courage in the face of injustice.)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer insists on returning to Germany to protest Hitler’s totalitarian dictatorship.  As a Lutheran pastor and theological scholar, Bonhoeffer publicly denounced Hitler’s persecution of the Jews.  This is Fears jumping off point in arguing that theism as professed by secular and religious texts are “Books That Can Change Your Life”.

Justice, courage, moderation and belief that “wisdom comes from suffering” come from Homeric literature, the writings of Marcus Aurelius, Plato’s “Republic”, the King James Version of the bible, and the holy Koran.  Fears emphasizes the transcendent impact of “Book of Exodus”, “Gospel of Mark”, and “Book of Job” as they become memes for moral belief.

In the “Book of Exodus” Fears notes the story of Moses and how Moses leads the Israelites out of slavery, a story repeated throughout history by the courage of moral leaders.

The “Gospel of Mark” tells the story of Jesus, the sins of man, and the redemptive powers of forgiveness, and justice.

The “Book of Job” symbolizes life as a struggle but, in struggle, one gains wisdom through faith in something greater than oneself.

FREE WILL VS. DETERMINISM

FREE WILL VS. DETERMINISM

Fears draws from many cultures to explore “Books That Have Made History.  He explains how the “Bhagavad Gita” identifies truth as a divine power and how stories like Gilgamesh and Beowulf suggest life is destiny, fated when one is born, while Aeschylus believes life is a matter of free will.

Plato posits duality of being with a mortal body and immortal soul.  Religious and secular writings reinforce Plato’s concept of human duality.

PLATO'S BELIEF IN DUALITY-BODY AND SOUL

PLATO’S BELIEF IN DUALITY-SEPARATE ENTITIES-BODY AND SOUL

The immortal soul is terribly and beautifully rendered in Dante’s “Divine Comedy”.  Dante describes torments souls endure if mortal life is lived in sin, but offers belief in redemption.

danteinferno_400x606

DANTE’S INFERNO Dante describes torments souls endure if mortal life is lived in sin, but offers belief in redemption.

Buddhist belief in reincarnation offers a road to peace or continued struggle based on mortal life’s actions. 

BUDDHIST REBIRTH IN SEARCH OF NIRVANA

A Buddhist soul’s reincarnation may be as a beast if one’s former life is filled with sin.  But as each new life approaches enlightenment, it is offered opportunity for peace without struggle in a spiritual life that requires no further incarnations.

Fears moves back and forth in history to identify some of the “Books That Can Change Your Life”.  He jumps to the twentieth century to tell the story of Winston, the defeated hero in Orwell’s “1984”.

Fears explains how totalitarianism sucks struggle out of life but leaves dead bodies or soulless automatons in its wake.  Fears notes how Stalin murders twenty million in a totalitarian system similar to what Orwell wrote about in the late 1940s.

Fears reinforces his argument by jumping back in history to tell the story of “The Prince”, Machiavelli’s masterpiece about totalitarian rule.  Just as predicted in “The Prince”, Stalin lives to old age (lived to be 74, died in 1953) by following the rules set down in Machiavelli’s 16th century book.  Stalin murders or imprisons any opposition to his rule.  Stalin’s single minded objective is acquisition and retention of power.  Stalin’s objectives are achieved through a police state that controls media, arbitrarily arrests citizens, and acts without moral conscience.

ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN (1918-2008, RUSSIAN NOVELIST AND ESSAYIST)

ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN (1918-2008, RUSSIAN NOVELIST AND ESSAYIST)

Ironically, Fears notes that Solzhenitsyn returns to Russia and vilifies capitalist America for ignoring the plight of the poor by losing sight of its own values. 

DONALD TRUMP (REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. 2016)

Fundamentally, one takes from Fears’ lectures that one must internalize morality and have the courage to follow truth regardless of its cost.  This is a lesson for today in the face of an American President who cares little about truth and has no moral compass.

Stalin’s terror is revealed in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago”, published in 1973.  Solzhenitsyn dies in 2008, near Moscow, at the age of 89.

This is only a smattering of the many books Fears talks about in his lectures.

MALCOLM X

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

MALCOLM X
By Manning Marable

Narrated by G. Valmont Thomas

MANNING MARABLE (AUTHOR, 1950-2011)
MANNING MARABLE (AUTHOR, 1950-2011)

Malcolm X has been in the news lately.  Some Malcom X’ papers have been found that seem to reveal a new vision of the man.  However Manning Marable’s biography of Malcom X suggests the papers were never lost.  Malcolm X’s life became an open book.

Driving to the office the other day, while waiting for a traffic light to change, a well-dressed youngish black man offers a newspaper titled “The Final Call” to anyone willing to make a donation to its publication.  “The Final Call” is the official paper of the “Nation of Islam” (NOI) that covers news worthy events of black America and expounds the philosophy of Elijah Muhammad, the founder of NOI in the United States.

THE FINAL CALL
Driving to the office the other day, while waiting for a traffic light to change, a well-dressed youngish black man offers a newspaper titled “The Final Call” to anyone willing to make a donation to its publication. 

After reading a couple of “The Final Call” papers, one can understand its appeal because it offers news about black experience in America.  However, every edition has one page dedicated to the philosophy of the “Nation of Islam” as a religious movement.  It states blacks and whites must have separate nations with their own governments; including dedicated land for Nation of Islam’ believers, qualified by the color of their skin.

NATION OF ISLAM
After reading a couple of “The Final Call” papers, one can understand its appeal because it offers news about black experience in America. 

RELIGIOUS BELIEF
Acknowledging my personal skepticism about “organized religion”, the Nation of Islam has the same negative qualities of all organized religions; it makes claims of divine authority for humans that have the same failings of all humans; i.e. lust, and greed for money, power, and prestige.

“Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” is an educational tour de force of the good and not so good aspects of the NOI movement in the United States.  Acknowledging my personal skepticism about “organized religion”, the Nation of Islam has the same negative qualities of all organized religions; it makes claims of divine authority for humans that have the same failings of all humans; i.e. lust, and greed for money, power, and prestige.

 

Men like Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan offer a sense of pride and belief in oneself that every human being owns when they are born.  But they, like all human beings, are not perfect.  One can cast stones at Elijah Muhammad’s infidelity, Malcolm X’s incitement to riot, or Louis Farrakhan’s belief that a Black person can only be free in a Black nation, but what human being has not lusted for sex or coveted money, power, and prestige?

NATION OF ISLAM FOUNDER AND CURRENT LEADER
NATION OF ISLAM FOUNDER AND CURRENT LEADER (Elijah Muhammad left, and Louis Farrakhan center.)  One can cast stones at Elijah Muhammad’s infidelity, Malcolm X’s incitement to riot, or Louis Farrakhan’s belief that a Black person can only be free in a Black nation but what human being has not lusted for sex or coveted money, power, and prestige?

MALCOLM X (1925-1965)
MALCOLM X (1925-1965) Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965.  In the last year of his life, he split from NOI because he did not believe America could be separate and equal for black and white Americans; i.e. he endeavored to make NOI a political; not just religion-based, black organization.

Manning Marable, the author of this book, was (he died in April of 2011) a professor of African-American Studies at Columbia University. This American historian, with the help of Alex Haley (author of “Roots” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”), has written this book to educate ignorant Americans on the NOI movement in the United States.

Though “Malcolm: A Life of Reinvention” is primarily about Malcolm Little’s (Malcolm X’s) life, it tells the history of the Nation of Islam and the rise of its current leader, Louis Farrakhan Muhammad, Sr.

Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965.  In the last year of his life, he split from NOI because he did not believe America could be separate and equal for black and white Americans; i.e. he endeavored to make NOI a political; not just religion-based, black organization.  This was a contradiction to the Nation of Islam leader’s teaching, which may have led to his assassination.  Malcolm Little’s transition from uneducated hoodlum to Malcolm X, a self-educated political activist and religious leader, is a well told story in Marable’s book.

BARACK OBAMA QUOTE
With the election of Barack Obama, one is inclined to believe Malcolm X was on the right trail (the political power trail).

With the election of Barack Obama, one is inclined to believe Malcolm X was on the right trail (the political power trail) and Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam in the United States, was mistaken because he relegated the black movement to an extreme form of religion; akin to nationalism, that has the same social baggage carried by right-wing propagandists like George Lincoln Rockwell, the American Nazi Party leader of the early 60s.

 

LOUIS FARRAKHAN MUHAMMAD, SR (1933-PRESENT) BECAME NOI LEADER 1978
LOUIS FARRAKHAN MUHAMMAD, SR (1933-PRESENT) BECAME NOI LEADER 1978

GEORGE LINCOLN ROCKWELL (1918-1967) AMERICAN NAZI MOVEMENT LEADER
GEORGE LINCOLN ROCKWELL (1918-1967) AMERICAN NAZI MOVEMENT LEADER

Louis Farrakhan Muhammad continues Elijah Muhammad’s message by insisting on NOI’s adherence to religious, economic, and political separation of black and white people.  In a practical and bigoted sense, Rockwell and Farrakhan are allies in extremis.

Malcolm X is not a saint in this biography.  He is shown to be a hoodlum in transition but he touches the nerves and lives of black and white America.  Malcolm X lives and dies in America’s effort to become a true land of the free, with equality of opportunity for all.

Malcolm X’s life story kindles fear and hope in a world populated by “all too human” human beings.

DANTE’S HEAVEN AND HELL

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Modern Scholar: Dante and His Divine Comedy

The Modern Scholar-Dante and His Divine Comedy

Lectures By Timothy B. Shutt

 Narrated by Timothy B. Shutt 

timothy-shutt
PROFESSOR TIMOTHY SHUTT

Timothy Shutt’s lectures on “The Divine Comedy” are a valuable guide to understanding Dante’s masterpiece.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Alighieri is a wealthy aristocrat that represents a major leadership faction in 13th century Italy, the “White Gulphs”, which are vying for power with the Ghibelline.

The origin of the story seems simple but its meaning is complex and revelatory.  Dante Alighieri is a wealthy aristocrat that represents a major leadership faction in 13th century Italy, the “White Gulphs”, which are vying for power with the Ghibelline.  Their conflict is over the integrity of the Pope in Rome when the papal enclave is to be relocated to Avignon, France.  The move occurs in 1309 and lasts for 67 years.

POPE BONIFACE VIII (1294-1303)
POPE BONIFACE VIII (1294-1303) Pope Boniface VIII sides with the Ghibelline to over throw the Gulphs and excommunicate Dante.  Dante loses his political position, his wealth, and coincidentally, the life of the woman he loves, Beatrice.

Pope Boniface VIII sides with the Ghibelline to over throw the Gulphs and excommunicate Dante.  Dante loses his political position, his wealth, and coincidentally, the life of the woman he loves, Beatrice.  This crushing change in Dante’s life compels him to complete (between 1308 and 1321) what Shutt calls the greatest single piece of literature ever written.

Over a century before Martin Luther posts the “95 Theses” objecting to the church’s sale of indulgences; i.e. the sale of “the word” is a preeminent issue between the Gulphs and the Ghibelline.  Pope Boniface betrays the Gulph Christian community by siding with the Ghibelline who endorse sale of indulgences.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Martin Luther (1483-1546) Over a century before Martin Luther posts the “95 Theses” objecting to the church’s sale of indulgences, the sale of “the word” is a preeminent issue between the Gulphs and the Ghibelline.

The Pope, in Dante’s view, is a traitor to his community.  In the pit of Dante’s despair, he creates an image of purgatory.  He writes of a hell and heaven that crystallizes human belief in the divine.  Virgil becomes Dante’s guide on an imagined journey from earth, to purgatory, to hell, and back.

Dante meets the souls of the dead and explains where they are, what sin they committed, what fate awaits them, and why some sins are greater than others.  Dante reveals how all sins in life may only be forgiven with the grace of God.  The keys to heaven lay in asking God’s forgiveness before death.

Dante defines sin, and redemption.  Human death places souls in one of three places; i.e. purgatory, hell, or heaven.  All sins are not created equal but all humankind begins life in sin and can only be redeemed through good works, baptism, forgiveness, and the grace of God.

Good works alone do not protect one from hell, or purgatory.  It seems all transgressions can be forgiven but only with a request for grace from God before death.  Sins have a weighted hierarchy; i.e. lust as the lesser; while being a traitor to one’s community is the greatest sin of all.

danteinferno_400x606
Sins have a weighted hierarchy; i.e. lust as the lesser; while being a traitor to one’s community is the greatest sin of all. Hell is perdition for eternity with no surcease of pain or opportunity for escape.  Heaven is a place of eternal rest, peace, and love.

Dante's 3 Headed Devil
The devil does not speak but has three faces with three stuffed mouths that eternally chew on the bodies of three traitors; i.e. Brutus, Cassius, and Judas—the greatest of earth’s sinners in Dante’s poem.

Dante’s hell is sometimes hot and sometimes cold—just below the ninth and lowest circle of hell, Dante sees Lucifer who dwells in an ice-cold wasteland.  The devil does not speak but has three faces with three stuffed mouths that eternally chew on the bodies of three traitors; i.e. Brutus, Cassius, and Judas—the greatest of earth’s sinners in Dante’s poem.  Surprisingly, some say, Pope Boniface VIII is at the eighth circle of hell; presumably because his betrayal was the lesser of Dante’s selected and unrepentant traitors.

After passing through the final depth of hell, Virgil guides Dante back to the beginning of the journey; here, Dante meets the soul of Beatrice. Virgil leaves, and Dante accompanies Beatrice in a journey to heaven.

Dante’s heaven encompasses all that is known and unknown.  Dante journeys to the planets and stars.  He sees God and views an inversion of time and space.  He finds earth is the center of all that is God and that nothing exists that is not created by God.

Dante's heaven
Dante’s heaven encompasses all that is known and unknown.  Dante journeys to the planets and stars.  He sees God and views an inversion of time and space.  He finds earth is the center of all that is God and that nothing exists that is not created by God.

purgatory
Purgatory may be a way-station to heaven for a believer that is cleansed of their sin, or it may be an eternal home for the traitor, non-believer, or pagan. 

Heaven is a circle of angels that dance and spin so fast that heaven and God are everywhere at all times and in all places.  There are degrees of heaven but all who are worthy will have eternal life.  Degrees of heaven have no consequence to those who dwell in higher or lower levels because they are happy in their place–without envy; and with acceptance, and grace for the imperfection of their souls.

Purgatory may be a way-station to heaven for a believer that is cleansed of their sin, or it may be an eternal home for the traitor, non-believer, or pagan.  Hell is perdition for eternity with no surcease of pain or opportunity for escape.  Heaven is a place of eternal rest, peace, and love.

One is overwhelmed by Dante’s genius whether or not he/she is a believer.  Shutt gives one a better understanding of who Dante was and why “The Divine Comedy” is a classic.

 

 

SUDAN’S RELEVANCE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

What Is the What

By: Dave Eggers

Narrated by Dion Graham

As Ronald Reagan famously said in his successful campaign against Jimmy Carter, “There you go again”.

Dave Eggers writes another book about a tragic human event. However, Eggers avoids character controversy like that which followed “Zeitoun”, a story about the Katrina disaster.

Eggers classifies “What Is the What” as a novel, without any claim to source-vetted facts or the integrity of its primary character.

SUDAN IN THE WORLD

SUDAN IN THE WORLD 

“What Is the What” is about Sudan and its 20th century genocidal history. This is a story of the complex religious, ethnic, and moral conflict that exists in Sudan and in all nations peopled by extremes of wealth and poverty.

“What Is the What” is a tautology exemplified by a story of one who has something, knows it, and another that has nothing, and knows not why. 

Valentino Achak Deng, the hero of Eggar’s story, tells of his father. Achak’s father explains the story of “What is the What”.

God offers man a choice of cows or something called the What.  God asks, “Do you want the cows or the What? 

But, man asks, “What is the What”?  God says, “The What is for you to decide.” 

Achak’s father explains that with cows a man has something; he learns how to care for something; becomes a good caretaker of a life-sustaining something, but a man who has no cows has nothing, learns nothing about caring; and only becomes a taker of other’s something.

By mixing truth with fiction, Eggers cleverly reveals the story of Sudan’s “lost boys”, refugees from the murderous regime of President Al-Bashir in Sudan.  At every turn, Achak is faced with hard choices. 

Omar Al-Bashir is deposed in April 2019 after almost 30 years in power.

Omar Al-Bashir, a Muslim Sudanese military leader who becomes President, releases dogs of war by condoning the rape and pillage of indigenous Sudanese by Muslim extremists.  It is partly a religious war of Muslims against Christians but, more fundamentally, it is about greed.

Greed is engendered by oil reserves found in southern Sudan in 1978.  Bashir strikes a match that ignites a guerrilla war.  Eggers reveals the consequence of that war in the story of Achak, one of thousands of lost boys that fled Sudan when their parents were robbed, raped, and murdered.  Bashir’s intent was to rid Sudan of an ethnic minority that held lands in southern Sudan.

Eggers cleverly begins his story with Achak being robbed in Atlanta, Georgia.  But, this is America; not Sudan.

Robbers knock on Achak’s door with a request to use his telephone.  Achak is pistol whipped, tied, and trapped in his apartment while his and his roommate’s goods are stolen.

There is much to be taken from the apartment.  The robbers leave a young boy to guard Achak while they leave to get a larger vehicle to remove the stolen goods.

SUDAN'S LOST BOYS

Achak identifies with the young boy.  Achak recalls his life in Sudan and his escape to America; i.e.the  land of the free; the land of opportunity.  Achak sees the young boy as himself, victimized by life’s circumstances, hardened by poverty, and mired in the “What” (the takers of other’s something).

Eggers continues to juxtapose the consequence of poverty and powerlessness in Atlanta with Achak’s experience in Sudan. Achak’s roommate returns to the apartment to find Achak tied and gagged in an emptied apartment.  He releases Achak.

They call the police to report the robbery and assault.  An officer arrives to investigate.  The police officer listens, takes brief notes, offers no hope for the victims, and leaves; i.e., just another case of poor people being victimized by poor people.

The episode reminds one of the Sudanese government’s abandonment of the “lost boys”.  They are citizens governed by leaders who look to rule-of-law for the rich, and powerful; not the  poor and powerless.  They are leaders of the “what” (takers of other’s something); rather than leaders of all citizens.

Crowded emergency room waiting area.

Achak has been injured in the robbery.  He goes to a hospital emergency room for help.  Achak waits for nine hours to be seen by a radiologist.  He presumes it is because he has no insurance but it is really because he has no power. 

He has enough money to pay for treatment but without insurance, this emergency room puts Achak on a “when we can get around to it” list.  The doctor who can read the radiology film is not due for another three hours; presumably when his regular work day begins.  Achak waits for eleven hours and finally decides to leave.  It is 3:00 am and he has to be at work at 5:30 am.

As Achak waits for the doctor he remembers his experience in Sudan.  When the Muslim extremists first attack his village, many boys of his village, and surrounding villages are orphaned.  These orphans have nowhere to go.  By plan or circumstance the lost boys are assembled by a leader who has the outward-appearing objective of protecting the children.  The reality of the “what” (takers of other’s something) raises its head when the children are recruited by this leader for the “red army” of South Sudan (aka SPLA or Sudan People’s Liberation Army).

SUDAN'S BOY ARMY

The reality of the “what” (takers of other’s something) raises its head when Sudanese children are recruited by this leader for the “red army” of South Sudan (aka SPLA or Sudan People’s Liberation Army).

SUDAN'S 700 MILE WALK

These are boys of 8, 9, 10, 11 years of age.  This army-of-recruits begins a march from South Sudan to Ethiopia, a journey of over 700 miles, gathering more orphans as they travel across Sudan.  Along the way, they become food for lions, and crocodiles; they are reviled as outsiders by frightened villagers and, unbeknownst to Achak and many of the boys—they are meant to become seeds of a revolution to overthrow Al-Bashir’s repressive government.  These children are to be educated and trained in Ethiopia to fight for the independence of South Sudan.  They are led by leaders of the “what” (takers of other’s something).

The lost boys are victims of believers in the “what”.  Achak and other Sudanese’ refugees walk, run, and swim a river to arrive in Kenya, hundreds of miles south of Ethiopia.  Some Sudanese were shot by Ethiopians; some were eaten by crocodiles; some died from disease and starvation.

KENYA'S REFUGEE CAMP

Then, in 1991, Ethiopia’s government changes.  The lost boys, a part of an estimated 20,000 Sudanese’ refugees, are forcibly ejected by the new government.

The Sudanese’ refugees arrive in Kakuma, Kenya.  Achak says Kakuma is a Swahili word for “nowhere”.  In 1992, it becomes home to an estimated 138,000 refugees who fled from several different warring African nations.  The SPLA remains a part of the refugee camp but their recruiting activity is mitigated in this new environment.  The camp is somewhat better organized but meals are limited to one per day with disease and wild animals as ever-present dangers.  Education classes are supported by Kenya, Japan, and the United Nations to help refugees manage themselves and escape their past.

Achak survives these ordeals and reflects on his unhappiness in Atlanta, Georgia.  Achak clearly acknowledges how much better living in America is than living in Africa. However, Achak makes the wry suggestion that Sudanese settlement in America changed his countrymen from abusers to killers of their women.

He suggests Sudanese killing of their women is because of freedom.  He explains freedom exercised by women in America is missing in Sudan.  In Sudan, Sudanese women would not think of doing something contrary to wishes of their husbands.  Achak infers Sudanese women adapt to freedom while Sudanese men feel emasculated.  The emasculation leads to deadly force in Sudanese families; a deadly force that includes murder of wives or girlfriends and suicide by male companions.

AMERICAN DREAM

Eggers successfully and artistically reveals the tragedy of Sudan.  Cultural and religious conflict in the world and American freedom are called into question.  The cultural belief of parts of the Middle East, Africa, and America drive Achak from nation to nation.  Achak, despite misgivings, appears to love America.  But, American democracy is no utopia. Achak realizes no system of government is perfect.  His ambition is to educate himself and his home country.  Achak realizes education is the key to a life well lived.

What is the What?  Ironically, it is more than cows; it is education that combats cultural ignorance and celebrates freedom and equal opportunity for all.

Eggers story implies America needs to re-think its policy on immigration.  We are a nation of immigrants.  Achak’s story highlights what is wrong with America and other parts of the world.  But it also shows the “what” (“the ‘what’ that is for you to decide”) can be made better because it is more than cows.

ORGANIZED RELIGION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe

Written by: David I. Kertzer

Narration by:  Stefan Rudnicki

DAVID KERTZER (AUTHOR, ANTHROPOLIGIST, PAUL DUPEE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, HISTORIAN SPECIALIZING IN ITALIAN STUDIES)

DAVID KERTZER (AUTHOR, ANTHROPOLIGIST, PAUL DUPEE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, HISTORIAN SPECIALIZING IN ITALIAN STUDIES)

David Kertzer reminds society that organized religion is only human.  Religions are subject to the goodness and sins of human nature.  Whether one believes in a Supreme Being or not, actions of organized religion are freighted with human error.

Kertzer is only one of many who have exposed the perfidy of organized religion.  His target, in “The Pope and Mussolini, is the Roman Catholic Church.

Cardinal Ratti becomes Pope Pius XI during the ascension of European Fascism and Nazism in the 1920s and 30s.  Ratti is characterized as a pedantic, conservative, and sometimes bellicose Christian believer in the Roman Catholic Church.  As a religious pedant rather than trailblazer, Pope Pius XI focuses on returning Roman Catholicism to a former time of independence and influence.  No price appears too high; Pope Pius XI’s purchase price paves the way for state Fascism (total control of government and society) in Italy.

POPE PIUS XI (1857-1939)

POPE PIUS XI (1857-1939) Cardinal Ratti becomes Pope Pius XI.  Ratti is characterized as a pedantic, conservative, and sometimes bellicose Christian believer in the Roman Catholic Church.

Kertzer recounts early 19th century history of the Roman Catholic Church.  The secular government of Italy confiscates Church lands. That taking decimated Catholic wealth, restricted Popes to the Vatican grounds, and reduced Papal control of the Holy See.  More significantly, it reduced the church’s power to influence believers.  After 1860 and until the Lateran Treaty negotiated between Mussolini and Pope Pius XI, the Church is treated as a part of the state of Italy, subject to secular rule.

Pope Pius XI agrees to support the government of Benito Mussolini in 1929 in return for the creation of an independent Papal State in Rome.  Mussolini agrees to pay the church approximately $100 million for formally confiscated church land.  Pope Pius XI acquires for himself and future Popes the right of independent rule, religious interpretation, and Catholic dictation.  In return Mussolini gains the support of the Roman Catholic Church, the dissolution of Catholic political parties, and a title as II Duce, “The Leader” of Italy.   At the stroke of a pen, Mussolini becomes a hero of Italian Catholics (over 90% of the population) and the totalitarian leader of Italy.

BENITO MUSSOLINI (1883-1945, PRIME MINISTER OF ITALY 1922-1943, LEADER OF NATIONAL FASCIST PARTY)

BENITO MUSSOLINI (1883-1945, PRIME MINISTER OF ITALY 1922-1943, LEADER OF NATIONAL FASCIST PARTY)

Kertzer notes there are common goals for Mussolini and Pius XI in the Lateran treaty which separates church from state.  Both covet power.  Both dislike the idea of a Catholic party interfering with religious or state matters.  Both desire elimination of factional interference in government and religion; i.e. Mussolini’s Fascist control of government and the Pope’s control of Church doctrine.

Seeking sovereign independence of the Holy Sea. Pius XI becomes head of state of the smallest state in the world.  $100 million is paid to the church for confiscated land since 1860.

Pius XI is the first Pope to broadcast on radio in the early 1920s.  With the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the Papal State is created; after 58 years of refusal to become part of Italy.  Prisoners in the Vatican before 1929, the Lateran Treaty required elimination of the Catholic Italian Popular Party, a political organization.

DAVID KERTZER “THE RELATIONSHIP OF BENITO MUSSOLINI AND POPE PIUS XI (1922-1939):

An unintended consequence was to reinforce Fascism in Italy.  With the ascension of Pope Pius the XII, the Nazi government is solidified.  The trade-off for the Roman Catholic church  is an increase in international influence.   At the same time, pagan worship of fascism by Church youth groups diminishes the church’s moral stature. 

POPE PIUS XII (1876-1958, FORMERLY CARDINAL PACELLI)

POPE PIUS XII (1876-1958, FORMERLY CARDINAL PACELLI)
Pope Pius XI refuses to excommunicate Hitler, Mussolini gravitates to Nazism, and Pius XII ignores Nazi atrocity.

The Lateran treaty is a slippery slope for both Nazi Germany and the Roman Catholic Church.  Mussolini and Pius XI are blinded by hubris and false piety.

BENITO MUSSOLINI HANGING BY HIS HEALS NEXT TO HIS MISTRESS

Mussolini is shot by his countrymen, hung by his heals for destroying people’s freedom, and losing a war that compromised and betrayed his county.  Pius XI compromises his morals and paves the way for Pius XII, a closet Christian anti-Semite, who becomes a Hitler’ stooge by tacitly endorsing the immorality of belief in ethnic purity.

The closing years of Pius XI’s reign is marked by a closer association with democracies as the Western nations and the Vatican found both were threatened by totalitarian regimes and ideologies of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin.  However, with Pius XI’s death and ascension of Pope Pius XII, distinction between totalitarianism and democracy diminishes.

Pope Pius XII—Hitler’s Pope.  FORMER CARDINAL PACELLI Hitler and the roman catholic church: <iframe width=”854″ height=”510″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/2x_MdS88qr8&#8243; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

***IRONIC SPEECH  POPE PIUS XII SPEAKING ENGLISH TO TROOPS WHO LIBERATED ROME:

Kertzer offers insight to what really happened in Italy in the 1920s, 30s, and early 40s but the story resonates with all organized religions.  Jewish isolation of Palestinians, ISIL’s attempt to resurrect the Caliphate, Muslim repression of Kurds, Taliban Muslim cruelty in Afghanistan, Chinese suppression of Uighurs, and Protestant proselytizing around the world are cut from the same flawed fabric; i.e. the flawed fabric of human interpretation of humanly manufactured texts and religions. 

RELIGIOUS BELIEF

In the name of God, organized religion’s killings continue.  If there is a God, he/she is not evil; i.e. only humans are evil.

GOD’S EXISTENCE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

36 Arguments for the Existence of God36 Arguments for the Existence of God
By Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
Narrated by Stephen Pinker, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Oliver Wyman

REBECCA NEWBERGER GOLDSTEIN
REBECCA NEWBERGER GOLDSTEIN

Rebecca Goldstein writes like Stephen Pinker on steroids.  (Coincidentally,  Goldstein is married to Pinker.)  Goldstein’s novel is not the story one expects from its title because “36 Arguments for the Existence of God” is about denial; not affirmation of existence.

STEVEN PINKER (Cognitive psychologist, linguist, and author)
STEVEN PINKER (Cognitive psychologist, linguist, and author who wrote “How the Mind Works”, “The Blank Slate”, “Angels of Our Better Nature”, etc.)

A more apt title for Goldstein’s book might be “The Science of Human Nature Denies the Existence of God”.

Goldstein has done a masterful job of creating “fear and trembling” in believers.  This is “fear and trembling” in the opposite sense of Soren Kierkegaard’s meaning. Kierkegaard’s meaning awakens believers in God.  Kierkegaard, an author, theologian, and philosopher, argues one should fear and tremble at the truth of God’s existence.

SOREN KIERKEGAARD (1813-1855, DANISH PHILOSOPHER, AUTHOR, THEOLOGIAN)
SOREN KIERKEGAARD 1813-1855 (Kierkegaard, an author, theologian, and philosopher, argues one should fear or tremble at the truth of God’s existence.)

On one level this is a story about a man named Cass Seltzer and his personal (sometimes romantic) relationships.

On a second level it is about human ethnocentrism. Characters, including Cass Seltzer, see through myopic eyes based on who they have become and what peer group they belong to.

On a third level “36 Arguments…” is about human nature and cultural memes (Richard Dawkins defines a cultural meme as an inherited learned behavior).

On multiple levels, Goldstein’s writing is about the elephant in the room; i.e. mankind’s belief in a Supreme Being.

The story of Cass Seltzer’s life is absorbing.  The women he loves are monumentally independent, fantastically alluring, and maddeningly self-centered (as self-centered as Cass Seltzer).  Each character believes what they believe with conviction that directs their lives.

The introduction of Felix Fidley exemplifies tribal ethnocentrism and conviction; i.e. a believer who says one way is the only way.

RELIGIOUS BELIEF
Goldstein’s introduction of Felix Fidley in her novel exemplifies tribal ethnocentrism and conviction; i.e. a believer who says one way is the only way.

Ms. Goldstein cleverly introduces the town of New Walden.  Its isolated belief system reflects the heritability of good and bad genetic markers and memes that trap people in worshipful repetition.  One might categorize it as a cult or, more politely, a commune.

Finally, Goldstein creates a straw man debate about God,  The debate is conducted in the next to last chapter.  It pits Cass Seltzer against a purportedly renowned debater. Seltzer beats his debate opponent.  Believers in God lose.  In the last chapter, 36 arguments for belief in God are stated and refuted.

SCIENCE AND RELIGION
One doubts Goldstein will change the world with her book but its rational arguments are a big add to the non-believing world’s arguments for a scientific theory of the world that explains everything about everything.

One doubts Goldstein will change the world with her book but its rational arguments are a big add to the non-believing world’s arguments for a scientific theory of the world that explains everything about everything.

PREACHER PREACHING
Faith is always a refuge but is it enough?

If you are a believer, “36 Arguments…” is a clear explanation of your battleground; it reveals the manifesto, strategy, and tactics of a non-believer.  Faith is always a refuge but is it enough?

“36 Arguments for the Existence of God” is a fascinating piece of literature.

RISE AND FALL

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Asabiyyah: What Ibn Khaldun, the Islamic Father of Social Science, Can Teach Us About the World Today

Written by: Ed West 

Narrated by:  P. J. Ochlan

ED WEST (ENGLISH AUTHOR, JOURNALIST, BLOGGER)

ED WEST (ENGLISH AUTHOR, JOURNALIST, BLOGGER)

IBN KHALDUN (STATUARY SYMBOL OF ISLAMIC HISTORIAN BORN 1332, DIED 1406 AT 73 YEARS OF AGE.)

IBN KHALDUN (STATUARY SYMBOL OF ISLAMIC HISTORIAN BORN 1332, DIED 1406 AT 73 YEARS OF AGE.)

Ed West offers a brief introduction to the life of an ancient historian.  His name is Ibn Khaldun.  Khaldun describes the first known evolutionary theory of human origin.  West also notes this 14th century scholar creates the first known socio/political theory of the rise and fall of civilizations.

Khaldun explains life’s origin as a aggregation of chemicals and minerals that create organic life and, in turn, evolve into different species. 

DESCENT OF MAN

West notes that Khaldun suggests humankind evolved from monkeys. This is four centuries before Darwin’s “Origin of Species”.

Ibn Khaldun is considered by some to be the first person to write foundational theories for modern sociology, economics, and demography.  West notes that Khaldun explains how nations are formed, maintained, and destroyed by sociological, economic, and demographic forces.

Khaldun offers counsel to the great conqueror, Amir Timur (aka Tammerlane), who plans to resurrect the 13th century Mongol empire built by Genghis Khan.  

TIMUR (AKA TAMMERLANE, 1336-1405)

TIMUR AKA TAMMERLANE IS COUNCELED BY IBN KHALDUN  (1336-1405–(Timur is said to have caused the death of over 17 million people in the effort.)

West suggests that Khaldun explains how Timur and other rulers, from the Roman empire to Genghis Kahn to Timur successfully conquered great areas of the known world.  His explanation is “Asabiyyah” (aas-sah-bee-ah), a theory that all successful conquerors establish a social environment that creates solidarity among a group of people sharing understanding, purpose, and achievement.

West explains that Khaldun expands “Asabiyyah” to a theory of civilization’s rise and fall.  Humans proliferate based on family affiliations.  Religion widens family relationships to create tribes. Tribes become a congregation of different families with common beliefs.  Tribes come into conflict and eventual settlements that grow into larger groups based on evolved common beliefs. 

At each step of widening common interest, a leader rises from the ranks.  With an accretion of social ties, villages, towns, and cities are formed with a leader at its head.  As the ties that bind continue to expand, nation-states are formed.

RISE AND FALL OF CIVILIZATIONS

Ibn Khaldun’s explanation is “Asabiyyah”, a theory that all successful conquerors establish a social environment that creates solidarity among a group of people through shared understanding, purpose, and achievement.

West shows that Khaldun goes on to explain how civilizations decline. First, Khaldun notes that sons and daughters of great leaders rarely exceed their parent’s leadership success.  Khaldun posits the current social and scientific belief of “reversion to a mean”. 

REVERSION TO THE MEAN

Each subsequent offspring of a great leader comes closer to the average of a civilization’s population.  Leadership diminishes in succeeding generations.

Second, Khaldun suggests diminished common beliefs lessen a civilization’s cohesion.  Religious differences rise, economic circumstances change, social groups fracture, family ties reassert themselves as ties that are more important than community.  The example that Khaldun gives is Rome’s decline as a world power. West suggests the same may be said of the United Kingdom’s decline.

AMERICAN DREAM

Has the American Dream become a lie few believe in?  Are elected officials withdrawing to their families at the expense of nation-state’ leadership?

West’s “Asabiyyah” makes one think of America.  Does today’s political conflict reflect diminishment of commonly held nation-state belief?  Is the increasing gap between rich and poor destroying the social fabric of America?  Is the divisiveness of former President Trump a reflection of a nation in decline?

Is nationalism dead, or are we crossing a threshold where the principals of nation-state need to be expanded to include a wider community?  Is the next step reflected by the E.U. or some similar congregation of nation-states?

EUROPEAN UNION

According to West, Khaldun believes nationalism is critically important for a civilization to remain strong.  In the time of Khaldun, there was no vehicle for common beliefs except a leader’s influence over conquered nations. 

Today, there is an internet.  It seems the human family may once again be expanded.  Nation-states may not be prepared for “space-ship-earth” but there may be an interim step.

That interim step was tried during the cold war with the U.S.S.R.  It failed.  The E.U. is facing challenges today.

U.S.S.R. BREAK-UP

Trump’s America is regressing from comity to disparity with emphasis on making itself great again.  A leading question today is whether civilizations are competing to be in decline or ascendance?

Of course, leadership is key to any future.  Right now, there seem few leaders that can make civilizations grow beyond their borders. Khaldun seems as relevant today as he was in the 4th and early 5th centuries.

HEARTACHES, HEARTBREAKS, AND BELIEF

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Canterbury Talesthe canterbury talesBy Geoffrey Chaucer

Narrated by Charlton Griffin

What value does a 14th century book have for a 21st century person?

GEOFFREY CHAUCER (1343-1400)
GEOFFREY CHAUCER (1343-1400, AUTHOR, POET)

“The Canterbury Tales” is a rhyming entertainment (except for Christian preaching at the tales end) that recalls romantic heartaches, heartbreaks, and belief in divine justice that is as present today as yesterday.  The unchanging nature of men’s lust for women and women’s superiority is comically and tragically told and repeated in Chaucer’s travelers’ tales. Though women play a primary focus in “The Canterbury Tales”, belief in Christianity and its power to heal and destroy is a paramount subject.

FIGHTING KNIGHTS
In the Knight’s tale, two brothers lust for the same woman.  They plan to fight each other to the death but are interrupted by the King

In the Knight’s tale, two brothers lust for the same woman.  They plan to fight each other to the death but are interrupted by the King.  The woman wishes to retain her maidenhood and appeals to her deity to insure continued chastity.  The two brothers and the woman have different agendas with each agenda appealed to a different god.  The tale progresses with the three appellant deities determining the brothers and woman’s fates.  It is an ironic pagan tale of Chaucer’s disbelief in many gods rather than the One.

In Chaucer’s tales, men are shown to be the weaker and dumber sex.  Old rich men marry young beautiful women and become cuckolds.  Powerful and rich young men choose poor and beautiful women to be their wives and treat them horribly to test their love and loyalty.  Male insecurity and desire drive men to make foolish decisions about whom they should marry and how they might measure their worth through earth-bound pleasure.  Men foolishly seek revenge at any cost while women seek justice through diplomacy and prudence.

WIFE OF BATH
In Chaucer’s tales, men are shown to be the weaker and dumber sex.

THE NUN'S TALE
THE NUN’S TALE–The incredible power of religion in Chaucer’s time is illustrated in the Nun’s tale of a chaste bride that convinces her betrothed to forego conjugal relations for the sake of eternal life in heaven.

The incredible power of religion in Chaucer’s time is illustrated in the Nun’s tale of a chaste bride that convinces her betrothed to forgo conjugal relations for the sake of eternal life in heaven.

The husband asks for proof of an angel that visits his wife and, if he can see the angel, he agrees to forever forego sex with her.  She refers her husband to the Pope.

The Pope convinces the husband to become a Christian; he returns home and sees the angel and agrees to his wife’s demand.  The husband then convinces his brother to meet with the Pope and the brother also becomes a Christian.  Her husband and his brother are executed because they refuse to obey their Overlord when he insists that they sacrifice to pagan idols.

After the brothers’ execution, the Overload summons the wife.  The chaste wife is sentenced to be burned in her house because she also refuses to sacrifice to her Overlord’s deities.  The fire fails to kill the wife so the ruler has an executioner sent to cut-off her head.  The executioner strikes her neck with an ax three times but is unable to remove her head; a fourth strike is not allowed and she continues to preach her beliefs.

Neither mammon nor the Pope seem the equal of this wife. 

JEWISH PREJUDICE
PERMITTED PREJUDICE

Prejudice comes through Chaucer’s strong Christian beliefs; i.e. “The Canterbury Tales” endorses Christianity as the salvation of mankind with vilification of Jews which is presumably justified by Christian’ belief in Jewish betrayal of Christ.

It is perplexing to think that much of what Chaucer says about Christian believers remains true today but Chaucer’s understanding of women’s superiority to men in the 14th century seems quite enlightened in the 21st.

INDICTMENT

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Tears We Cannot Stop-A Sermon to White America

Written by: Michael Eric Dyson

Narrated by:  Michael Eric Dyson

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON (AUTHOR, BAPTIST MINISTER, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY AT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY)

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON (AUTHOR, BAPTIST MINISTER, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY AT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY)

Michael Eric Dyson is a graduate of Princeton who teaches at Georgetown University.  “Tears We Cannot Stop” is an indictment of white America.  The indictment accuses white Americans of serious crimes stemming from today’s bigotry, neglect, permanent injury, and murder of black Americans. 

Examples of police violence against black Americans, a history of ethnic isolation, forced conformity and denied equal opportunity strongly support Dyson’s accusation.

Each accusation and the evidence gathered by Dyson confront the conscience of every white American.  What he writes rings of truth.  The more Dyson explains, the greater is white America’s guilt.  It is a message missed by white Americans because they do not live the life of black Americans.  White privilege is taken for granted in America because money, power, and prestige are held by mostly white American males.

RODNEY KING (APPEARANCE 3 DAYS AFTER BEATING 3.6.92--KING DIES IN JUNE 2012 @ 47 YEARS OF AGE)

RODNEY KING (APPEARANCE 3 DAYS AFTER BEATING 3.6.92–KING DIES IN JUNE 2012 @ 47 YEARS OF AGE)

The institutionalization of racism makes black Americans afraid.  Out of that fear comes distrust, anger, apathy, and isolation.  Black mothers and fathers fear for their children whenever they leave home.  Regardless of education, fame, or fortune, Dyson notes an honest and law-abiding black American is subject to a different set of social rules.  From birth, black Americans are told by their parents not to disagree with police for fear of being beaten, arrested or shot.

Truth does not matter in a black person’s response to accusation.  Most black Americans live with fear; most white Americans do not.  When stopped by the police, a black American thinks–what can I do; where can I go; what can I say; who can I trust other than myself and my race?   When unjustly accused, black Americans have limited recourse.  Those limits are tinged with frustration, and/or anger.  No wonder some feel disrespected and alone in America.

RUDY GIULIANI (FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY)

RUDY GUILIANY (FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY) Dyson attacks pundits who suggest black Americans are their own worst enemy.  The white pundit’s argument is they kill each other.  The argument ignores two monumental facts.  One, the toll that poverty and unemployment play in poor communities; and the truth that whites murder whites nearly as often as blacks kill blacks.

Dyson attacks pundits who suggest black Americans are their own worst enemy.  Some white pundit’s argue blacks  kill each other more than whites kill blacks.  The argument ignores two monumental facts.  One, the toll that poverty and unemployment play in poor communities; and two, the truth that whites murder whites nearly as often as blacks kill blacks.

The real difference between black and white victimization is whites have more opportunity in America.  White, mostly male, Americans write the history of America and create the rules for “democratic” governance. 

Dyson encourages white Americans to become more involved with black Americans.  The social disconnect between races promotes ignorance of common goals and aspirations.  Who does not want to live in peace, provide for themselves and their families, raise their children to be better off than themselves?  Part of the difficulty is that there is little trust between black and white Americans as is noted in the following social experiment.

Leaders in America, consciously or subconsciously, treat non-white Americans as “others”.  When humans treat someone as an “other”, they become less human.  Minorities and other nation’s populations become “gooks”, “spics”, “towel heads”, “niggers”; i.e. something identified as less than human.  This human categorization institutionalizes discrimination.  It leads to this American dilemma and to world wars. 

Leaders of America, who are mostly white males, ignore the plight of black Americans.  One wonders how many white Americans thank their God for not being born black.  That is Dyson’s reason for concluding black Americans shed “Tears We Cannot Stop”.

POWER OF IDEAS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Written by: Scott L. Montgomery, Daniel Chirot

Narration by:  Stephen McLaughlin

SCOTT L. MONGOMERY (AUTHOR, AMERICAN GEOLOGIST, AFFILIATE FACULTY MEMBER UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON)

SCOTT L. MONGOMERY (AUTHOR, AMERICAN GEOLOGIST, AFFILIATE FACULTY MEMBER UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON)

DANIEL CHIROT (AUTHOR, PROFESSOR OF RUSSIAN AND EURASIAN STUDIES @ UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON)

DANIEL CHIROT (AUTHOR, PROFESSOR OF RUSSIAN AND EURASIAN STUDIES @ UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON.)

“The Shape of the New” is about the power of ideas.  Scott L. Montgomery (a geologist and professor) and Daniel Chirot (a winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences) write about three ideas rarely argued in polite conversation; e.g. economics, politics, and religion.   

Montgomery and Chirot capsulize the importance of their subject by paraphrasing Victor Hugo’s line in “Les Miserable”.   “One can defeat an army but not an idea”.  (The actual quote is: “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.)

The essence of the author’s augment is that Smith’s, Marx’s, and Darwin’s ideas are seminal beliefs that define the modern world. 

Among others, Montgomery and Chirot profile the ideas of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Jerry Falwell, and Sayyid Qutb.  Each represents ideas that are part of modern world socioeconomic and religious thought.  Smith’s, Marx’s, and Darwin’s ideas largely standalone, but Hamilton, Jefferson, Falwell and Qutb rest on the shoulders of others.

Adam Smith (1723-1790, Scottish economist)

KARL MARX (BORN TRIER, GERMANY 1818-DIED LONDON, ENGLAND 1883)

Marx’s dialectic suggests capitalism is just a phase in an economic cycle that will evolve into communism. 

CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1882)

CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1882) FOUNDER OF THE THEORY OF THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES.

JEFFERSON AND HAMILTON

Hamilton grasps the importance of centralized control of money and national debt to support mercantilism, and free enterprise.  Jefferson tempers Hamilton’s nationalist control with arguments for states’ rights that reflect on concerns raised by Smith, and then Marx, about unregulated economic power.

JERRY FALWELL (1933-2007, AMERICAN EVANGELICAL SOUTHER BAPTIST PASTOR, FOUNDER OF THE MORAL MAJORITY)

Jerry Falwell begins the evangelical Moral Majority that decries homosexuality and abortion, and posits belief in salvation only through faith in a Christian God. 

SAYYID QUTB (1906-1966, EGYPTIAN AUTHOR,EDUCATOR,ISLAMIC THEORIST,POET,AND LEADING MEMBER OF THE MUSLIM BROTHEHOOD)

SAYYID QUTB (1906-1966, EGYPTIAN AUTHOR,EDUCATOR,ISLAMIC THEORIST,POET,AND LEADING MEMBER OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD) Qutb (pronounced “kootube), like Falwell and Christianity, believes only in his faith, a Mohammedan God.

Smith’s, Marx’s, and Darwin’s ideas play out in religions and nation-states that deeply influence the modern world.

Hamilton, Jefferson, Falwell, Qutb, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and other leaders adopt, adapt, and distort Smith’s, Marx’s, and Darwin’s ideas; figuratively leading humanity to heaven and hell.

What Montgomery and Chirot do is return to original texts of Smith, Marx, and Darwin to show how their ideas penetrate Hamilton’s, Jefferson’s, Falwell’s, and Qutb’s thoughts and actions.  As Smith’s ideas are more widely disseminated and read, America’s economic policy changes. The world’s economy evolves.

Falwell and Qutb reflect on unleashed sectarian beliefs consequent to Darwin’s idea of evolution.  If there is no God, then what in life is not permitted?  Qutb disapproves of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s westernization of Egypt because it violates the Quran and Muslim Arab identity. 

Gamal Abdel Nasser 1918-1970 (Egyptian politician, 2nd President of Egypt 1954-1970).

Montgomery and Chirot note that much of the religious right is reactionary.  The religious right challenges the socioeconomic belief of Smith’s sectarian vision of the invisible hand.   To a Christian, the invisible hand can only be God’s hand.   Marx and Darwin’s science only has relevance if it fits God’s plan.

To Qutb, the true path for humankind is through the word of the Koran.  The authors question the good works of the evangelical movement when it infringes on human freedom and ignores scientific evidence.  On the other hand, the authors note that religion plays an important role in the history of morality.  Many question the direction of evangelicals but religions continue to shape morality in good and bad ways.

China’s rapid advance may not be exactly what Marx predicts but it is a kind of capitalist evolution that incorporates some of the tenants of communist centralized control. 

Just as Deng’s and Xi’s interpretation of Marxism distorts communism, Keynes’ and Hayek’s belief in free enterprise distorts Smith’s economics. 

Darwin’s view of evolution is morphing into arguments for genetic manipulation to create more perfect human beings.  One questions whether this is a step toward Nazism or nirvana.

As Victor Hugo notes, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”  Montgomery and Chirot have written an informative and interesting history of “..Big Ideas and How They Made the Modern World”.

In the end, “The Shape of the New” is a tribute to the importance of a liberal education.  One may be a genius, but without a liberal education genius is often so narrowly focused, it leads to societal destruction.