The Wheat and Tares Grow Up Together: Morality and Judging Historical Eras

Is the 21st century a time of great moral progress? Or is it a time of decadence? Ask different people and you’ll get different answers. In my view, the answer is “both.”

On one hand, humans are progressing. The internet and software are breaking down barriers between people and people groups. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and other great prejudices (at least in their traditional forms) are losing their entrenched hold on the human mind. Individual humans can be freer, more creative, and more generous than ever before.

On the other hand, humans are regressing. We’re putting more and more faith in centralized governments (contrary to the lessons of the 20th century) and giving up more freedom and responsibility. We’re abandoning our commitments to friends, family, and ideas of honor and the sacred. We’re allowing ourselves to be addicted by digital stimulants from porn and video games to news feeds and notifications.

We like to be able to put simple moral judgments on historical eras, and every era presents difficulties for the person who wants to put simple labels of “good” or “bad”, “progressive” or “regressive” on any time in human history.

Jesus once told a parable which amateur cultural and historical judges (like me) should consider:

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-30

Now Jesus wasn’t talking about historical eras, but the metaphor of the wheat and the tares (the King James version of weeds) is a good one.

In any and every time, no matter how much we idealize or condemn, there is always wheat, and there are always weeds. The 16th century had exploration and cultural renaissance, but it also had religious warfare and barbaric tortures. The 19th century had abolitionism and industrialism, but it also had colonialism and imperialism. The 1st century had Stoicism and Christianity, but it also had mad emperors and slavery.

For all of these eras and all times (including our own), it does us good to remember the command to “[Let] them (wheat and weeds) grow up until harvest.” I read this as a metaphor for the wisdom of reserving blanket judgment.

We may one day be able to say that the centuries in our rearview were “good” or “bad.” But the harvest of consequence has not yet happened for the 21st century, and it’s hard to say that the harvests of the 19th and 20th are fully ripe, either. It is too soon to judge. Let time do that. In the meantime, resist the urge either to burn the fields or to swallow the weeds.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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American Exceptionalism

When others do it, it’s terrorism; when Americans do it, it’s national defense.

When others do it, it’s a war crime; when Americans do it, it’s collateral damage.

When others do it, it’s torture; when Americans do it, it’s enhanced interrogation.

When others do it, it’s unprovoked attack; when Americans do it, it’s shock and awe.

When others do it, it’s imperialism; when Americans do it, it’s global defense of freedom.

When others do it, it’s lying propaganda; when Americans do it, it’s breaking news on CNN.

When others do it, they go to hell; when American do it, they go to heaven.

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Be All, End All

Nobody asked but …

There is no entity that can do it all, answer all questions.  There is no entity that can do defense, imperialism, law enforcement, infrastructure, pharmaceutical, diplomacy, security, education, politics, travel, migration, housing, care for the aged, care for the disabled, economics, finance, agriculture, stewardship, and so forth, and so on.

To the extent that modern society attempts this futility marks our failure in the evolution of our species.  These precepts may have been useful for 18th century monarchies and their colonists, but not rising above them will make us unfit for survival.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Scarcity

Nobody asked but …

It seems to me that there are 3 kinds of scarcity: 1) natural, 2) monopolistic, and 3) creative. The first and third are conducive to free markets. The second can produce horrors.

Natural scarcity arises from natural phenomena such as dispersion (difficulty of collection) or concentration (ease of control). The second case may often lead to monopolistic scarcity.

An egregious example of monopolistic scarcity arose under King Leopold II of Belgium wherein he enslaved an entire region of Africa, the Congo. This was a corruption of capitalism and imperialism. Most other examples are those of statist communism/socialism.

The third category presents the example of Disneyland. Private resources were gathered and developed so that a new category of human want was created.

With the purported discovery of water on Mars, it will be informative to see which market dynamic will apply. Also, we must consider whether it is ethical to take from Mars, according to voluntaryist principles.

— Kilgore Forelle

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They Will Be Slaves Forever

For over two hundred years, Americans have voted, and petitioned, and protested, and campaigned, and filed lawsuits against state agents and departments, and filed complaints against abusive government enforcers and bureaucrats, and voted some more. All the while, the size and power of the ruling class has grown, getting its tentacles into more and more aspects of everyone’s lives, constantly expanding taxation, regulation and surveillance, not to mention military imperialism and war-mongering all over the world.

If you think that any political or “legal” solution will ever reverse this trend, you need to stop lying to yourself. If the people are not willing to disobey and resist the ruling class–to be free without the permission of politicians and legislatures–then they will be slaves forever.

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Partitions I

Nobody asked but …

I hope to make an appearance on Skyler’s podcast soon.  I am scheduled for the evening of February 21.  Let’s hope that holds up.  I hope to talk about the historical statist practice of dividing and re-combining territory.  Our current attitude toward the Earth is a conviction that it needs to be marked up with borders, divisions, and brands.  This attitude is historical, and can be traced back in the Western world to Alexander the Great, nay even further to instances in the Cradle of Civilization, Mesopotamia.  But earlier examples are not as clearly linked to the bright web that starts with Alexander.

The biggest dog in the fight was the Roman Empire, followed by the British Empire, the European Hegemony, and the American Empire.  But the first is gone.  The second is waning.  And the last two are in full sway, regarding the Western hemisphere.

There is something in the DNA of the West that makes it OK to engage, via the elites, in a giant game of Risk.  It is appropriate that the current box for this game depicts images reminiscent of the Crimean War, for the Crimea has been a past site of aristocratic land grabs, as is the case again today, with different players.

I plan, in a series of blogs, to examine some notable aristocratic re-shuffling of land without due regard for the people thereof:

  • Iraq, from the Ottoman Empire, which had crammed Kurds, Sunni, and Shia into a single state.
  • The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, artifacts of the British Empire.
  • India and the Pakistans, more artifacts of English imperialism.
  • Catalonia, and other fragments on the edges of Spain.
  • Vietnam.

— Kilgore Forelle

 

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