Yesterday, 17 July, my wife and I celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of our marriage by going to dinner at a The Bistro, a local establishment in Oswego, New York, our city of residence, where we have previously had pleasant experiences. Not the least part of that pleasure is the affability of the establishment’s bartender, Mark, whom I know also from Old City Hall, where we both like to drink. Mark, a former SUNY Oswego Philosophy major, is a friendly acquaintance.
In any case, I tried to dress for the occasion. It was too hot and muggy for a jacket but I wore a black tuxedo-style shirt with a bow tie and I sported my new hat, a white Panama with the characteristic broad brim and a black band. When we decided to eat at the bar, I put the hat on the table behind us, where, of course, I failed to retrieve it when we got up to leave. (The two Martinis might have had something to do with it.)
Not only did I leave the hat behind, but I forgot it entirely. Then, around ten o’clock this morning, my telephone (yes – I maintain a land line) rang and when I picked it up I recognized the voice of my friend Dick Fader, who is also a regular at Old City Hall. Dick told me that he had just received a telephone call from Mark (my number not being known to him), and that Mark had told him (that is, Dick) that he (that is, Mark) had rescued my hat when he left work, and that he had left it for me at Old City Hall.
My essay A Novel for Our Timeappears at Baron Bodissey’s Gates of Vienna website. The “novel for our time” is Dark Angel (1952) by the Finnish writer Mika Waltari (1931 – 1979), a fictionalized account, drawing on historical sources, of the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Waltari’s work is today largely forgotten, but during his lifetime it received widespread appreciation and made itself available to non-Finnish speakers through translations in a dozen languages. (Waltari’s novel The Egyptian, for example, would become the basis of a lavishly produced Hollywood film of the same name.) Dark Angel is partly allegory, being a study in loyalty to civilization and its opposite; and it is partly a call to its audience to remember an event that is increasingly obscure or entirely unknown to most Western people. Most importantly – and most relevantly from the perspective of sixty years later – Dark Angel is an attempt to grasp the essence of Islam. Waltari’s characterization of Islam stands at an angle to a number of assumptions that critics of that creed at the present time make of it – and in a way that heightens the claim of radical incompatibility between Islam and the West.
The Summary of the Law is composed of two Great Commandments that both take the form “thou shalt:”
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Notice then that in the Decalogue, there are only two commandments that are likewise prescriptive:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
Honour thy father and thy mother … (Exodus 20:12)
These four prescriptives are related. Those of Exodus are corollary elaborations of those given by Jesus as the foundation of all law. Thus:
Love God, for he who is supreme deserves no less than your supreme loyalty; so, therefore: Keep holy and lively his Cult; preserve its doctrines and faithfully observe its observances, such as the sabbath, rituals, fasts and feasts, and so forth.
Love your fellow as if he were a human being like you, or there’ll be hell to pay; so, therefore: Honor your parents; likewise ergo the things that they honor: keep and honor your kin, and your patrimony.
If you are not doing these things, you have no society. If you don’t agree about First Things, you’ll have a hell of a time reaching completely harmonious and pacific agreement about anything else, including how people ought to treat each other; and if you don’t agree about that, you won’t care about keeping a patrimonial tradition; so that you won’t have a perdurant culture, or therefore a robust and durable people. No cult, no culture; no culture, no nation.
Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829 – 1869) was at least a double-threat: Half-Jewish, half-Creole (which means half-black and half-white, on his mother’s side). A fiercely proud son of New Orleans, he nevertheless proclaimed his loyalty to the Union on Secession and spent the years of the Civil War touring the Federal States, including New York State, where he played three times on the third floor of Old City Hall in Oswego, on Lake Ontario. In an interview with the Palladium Times (Oswego) in 1863, he declared that the young women of Oswego were the most beautiful in the entire geography north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Gottschalk was related by two or three removes to General Beauregard, and so, on the word of my grandmother, am I.
The West needs a peaceful, orderly way to delete inapt state institutions. E.g., the Fed, the UN, NATO, the Department of Education. We want something short of a general catastrophe – war, plague, famine, pestilence, in short, Collapse – that takes down all institutions violently and unexpectedly, killing millions.
General pervasive catastrophe is the only thing that has ever worked to cleanse the administrative systems of cultures. But devising something equally effective yet much gentler does not seem to be an insurmountable engineering problem.
Iterated ritual formal elections are OK for relatively pacific and orderly changes of leadership in the creation and modification of institutions. But so far they have not been quite adequate to the elimination of inapt institutions – to their complete deletions. Thus the bureaucracy compounds out from under the control of the executive, or of anyone else.
From a largely reliable and mainly convincing source, The Orthosphere has learned that it is at least highly likely – or otherwise only a little bit unlikely – that Russia might or might not have manipulated last November’s American presidential election, in the outcome of which Donald Trump emerged as the surprise electoral winner. The facts of the story (and once again, the likelihood of their possibility is relatively quite high) are no less than astonishing. They take us back as far as the Cold War or more precisely to the year 1980 when the nation that we today call Russia was the dominant polity of what was then called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or USSR. Although the precise details of how Russia intervened in – or “hacked” – the recent competition to become chief executive of the USA might appear like something out of a Tom Clancy novel, we assure our readers that those details are true, or more or less true, or not altogether incredible, and that they in no big way, and not even in any small way, constitute “fake news” although they might, under certain conditions, explain the emergence of “fake news” during the first one hundred days of President Trump’s administration.
As the optimal strategy for iterated games, Tit for Tat long ago became the norm and basis of human social coordination. It is manifest in our sense of fair play, in our customs and laws, and in all our economic exchanges. Tit for Tat is then a strange attractor for human societies. They all tend toward it, homeostatically. The further you push a society away from Tit for Tat, the harder will it try to get back.
Prevent a people from responding to tats for a long, long time, and eventually they will snap. The frenzy of the explosive rush to restore equilibrium will manifest in a million tits for every tat. Those who had lately done well by tatting will find themselves all tits up.