Wednesday, November 07, 2018

No, Mr Robinson (and Gleaner): the gospel is evidently true, the Christian faith is not mere fraudulent propaganda, and major media houses have public duties of fairness and responsible discussion

On Sunday, August 26th 2018, Mr Gordon Robinson (a Gleaner columnist) abused his privilege by unjustly, directly implying that the Church is guilty of educational and/or financial fraud. His key words:
Either the Church has NO CLUE about who/what God really is [--> educational fraud], or it deliberately misrepresents God's essence in order to frighten people into becoming church members and tithing [--> financial fraud]. Nothing else makes sense.”
In addition, among many other intemperate remarks, he wrote about alleged “dangerous dogma promulgated by the Church and its many brainwashed surrogates,” “perverse propaganda spread by Christian churches,” “sycophants” and the like.

He did manage to ask a crucial question, which is pivotal to the response below: “Who/ what is God?”

Now, the matter was brought to my attention by a colleague ("R") and we collaborated on the first stage response below; which was communicated to the Gleaner's Editors on the principle of a right of reasonable reply to unwarranted and patently false accusation. The Gleaner chose to reject that response. Similarly, the second major newspaper in Jamaica has demurred. This leaves little option but to respond in other fora. For, that major regional media feel free to put up such accusations without room for responsible reply speaks telling volumes on the impacts of the two tidal waves I have warned about for about twenty years now:

The Christian gospel and the church are clearly under increasing and deeply hostile attack across our region, and in some influential quarters our message and leadership are seen as so discredited that they see little or no reason to hesitate before publishing accusations that the church is an out and out fraud, pretending to know about God despite obvious ignorance and/or seeking to exploit the gullible financially through fear mongering in order to extort tithes.

This has to be replied to, at minimum for record.

Likewise, we have to take time to show why it is important to correct such errors, because of the harm they do to our civilisation.  

Let us continue (see backgrounders here and here), with a first direct response, the article rejected by the Gleaner:
>>The Credibility of God
R+G Sept 2018

Over the years, many millions have met and been transformed through meeting God in the face of Christ. This includes countless Jamaicans. It also includes many famed scholars, eminent scientists and leaders of powerful reformations. Logically, if just one of these millions has actually been reconciled with God through Christ, God must be real and the gospel must be true. (Where, if instead so many are deeply delusional, that would undermine the rational credibility of the human mind.)

However, for some years now various voices have tried to dismissively question God, the gospel and Christians. So, it is not unexpected to see Mr Gordon Robinson writing in the Gleaner1 recently (on Sunday August 26th), about alleged “dangerous dogma promulgated by the Church and its many brainwashed surrogates,” “perverse propaganda spread by Christian churches,” “sycophants” and the like.

Along the way, he managed to ask a pivotal question: “Who/what is God?”

Regrettably, he also implied outright fraud by church leaders: “Either the Church has NO CLUE about who/what God really is, or it deliberately misrepresents God's essence in order to frighten people into becoming church members and tithing. Nothing else makes sense.”

In fact, a simple Internet search might give a better answer. For, thinkers such as a Thomas Aquinas or an Augustine of Hippo or a Paul of Tarsus or even a Wayne Grudem or a William Lane Craig have long since credibly addressed the idea of God and systematic theology at a little more sophisticated level than Sunday School lessons or Internet Atheist web sites. In so doing, they have made responsible cases that rise above the level of caricatures of the art on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.

We may begin with Paul in Romans 1, 57 AD:

“Rom 1:19 . . . what can be known about God is plain to [people], because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” [ESV]

Here, one of the top dozen minds of our civilisation first points out how our morally governed interior life and what we see in the world all around jointly call us to God our Creator. But, too often we suppress the force of that inner testimony and outer evidence. (This, predictably, leads to unsound thinking and destructive deeds stemming from benumbed consciences and en-darkened minds.)

Crick's March 19, 1953 letter, p. 5 with a highlight (Fair use)

For one, consider how for sixty years now we have known that the DNA in the cells of our bodies has in it complex, alphanumeric, algorithmic code that is executed through molecular nanotechnology to build proteins, the workhorses of biological life. That’s why Sir Francis Crick wrote to his son Michael on March 19, 1953 that “we believe that the DNA is a code. That is, the order of bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another).”

Yes, alphanumeric code (so, language!), algorithms (so, purpose!), i.e. intelligent design of life from the first living cell on. Including, us. No wonder the dean of the so-called New Atheists was forced to admit that Biology studies complicated things that give a strong appearance of design.

1947 saw the advent of the transistor age, allowing storage of a single bit of information in a tiny electronic wonder. We have since advanced to computers based on silicon chips comparable in size to a thumb-nail, with millions of transistors. These microchips and support machinery process many millions of instructions per second and have storage capacities of many gigabytes. Coded electronic communication signals routinely go across millions of miles through the solar system. Every one of these devices and systems required careful design by highly educated engineers, scientists and programmers. The living, self-replicating cell’s sophistication dwarfs all of these; yet we question the all-knowing God, the author of life.

Next, Mr Robinson and others inevitably appeal to our known duty to truth, right reasoning, fairness, prudent judgement, etc. But, where did that inner moral law (testified to by our consciences) come from? Surely, it is not a delusion; or else responsible, freely rational discussion would collapse into nihilistic chaos: might and manipulation (= “power and propaganda”) make ‘right,’ ‘rights,’ ‘justice,’ ‘truth,’ ‘knowledge’ etc. Instead, our conscience-guarded hearts and minds clearly show the Creator’s design that we freely live by the light and law of truth and right.

Such considerations – and many more – point us to the only serious candidate for the source of reality that can bridge IS and OUGHT: the inherently good (and wise) Creator God, a necessary and maximally great being. Who, is fully worthy of our loyalty and of humble, responsible, reasonable service through doing the good. Then, we may readily draw out the classic understanding of God described in scripture and studied in systematic theology: all-good, eternal, creator and Lord with sound knowledge and full capability to work out his good purposes in the right way at the right time.

Moreover, what we most of all need to know about God is taught by Jesus the Christ, recorded in scripture within eye-witness lifetime then accurately handed down to us for 2000 years now, at fearsome cost: the blood of the martyrs. Martyrs, who had but one incentive: that they directly knew and must peacefully stand by the eternal truth – cost what it will. They refused to be frightened by dungeon, fire or sword, much less mere rhetoric. Why would thousands die horribly to promote a known lie?

Their record is that Christ is the express image of his Father, Logos – Cosmos-ordering Reason himself, prophesied Messiah, the Saviour who in love died for us on a cross. He rose from the dead as Lord with 500 eye-witnesses, precisely fulfilling over three hundred prophecies that were long since recorded in the Old Testament. (See esp. Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, c. 700 BC.2) He ascended to his Father in the presence of the apostles. He shall return as eternal Judge, before whom we must all account. (Yes, professing and “backsliding” Christians too.) The Bible also records Jesus’ prayer for us: “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and [“thy Son”] Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” [John 17:1- 5, cf. 3:16.]

That is the truth witnessed by the church, whether it was 33 AD in Jerusalem before an angry Sanhedrin, or 50 AD before the laughing Athenians (who had built a public monument to their ignorance of God), or today. We therefore confidently invite Mr Robinson et al. to join with us in a serious-minded, substantially informed discussion about “who/what God really is” and about why the gospel is just that: God’s good news that brings salvation, blessing and hope for the positive transformation for our nation. END
In short, there is every good reason to acknowledge or at least respect the credibility of the gospel and associated theology. Difference of responsible views is not educational and/or financial fraud, propaganda or brainwashing, etc. Mr Robinson et al need to acknowledge this and in all decency must retract their unjustified accusations.

Going on, God and the gospel are also highly relevant; at least, if we are concerned to recover from the malaise that haunts us and to have a sound civilisation founded on sound principles of justice. Accordingly, here is the first follow-up article (which was not submitted to the newspapers):
>>The Relevance of God
R+G Oct 2018

From time to time, we hear various voices in our media suggesting that the church is a main culprit behind Jamaica’s backwardness.

For instance,1 we saw how Mr Gordon Robinson recently implied outright educational fraud by Jamaica’s church leaders: “Either the Church has NO CLUE about who/what God really is, or it deliberately misrepresents God's essence in order to frighten people into becoming church members and tithing. Nothing else makes sense.” He also spoke of alleged “perverse propaganda spread by Christian churches,” “brainwash[ing]” and the like. Clearly, he and others of like ilk believe that the churches are largely responsible for spreading ignorance, indoctrination, mis-education, fear- and- hate- mongering (the major function of “propaganda”), incivility and the like.

Now, given the historical and ongoing sterling contribution of Jamaica’s Christian churches to education, schools and more, such a notion should instantly be utterly implausible.

Likewise, for 2,000 years the church has borne true witness to the first, foremost, central, world-shaping reality, God: the inherently good (and wise) Creator, a necessary and maximally great being with sound knowledge and full capability to work out his good purposes in the right way at the right time. One, who in love intervened through our Saviour so that “[we] might know thee the only true God, and [“thy Son”] Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” [See John 17:1- 5, also 3:16.]

Now, too, there are indeed far too many Christian voices in Jamaica and across the wider Caribbean and world who exhibit ignorance, want of sound education, poor reasoning and worse. But also, such backwardness is patently true across the board. So – especially in a nation where there is proverbially a church next door to a bar on every street corner – in strict logic, the problem cannot primarily be due to the churches.

We must look deeper for the root.

The logical place to find that root is in our formal and informal ethical and general education systems, especially as we have had universal access to taxpayer-funded public education for generations now. Similarly, we have had a mass media culture ever since cheap transistor radios, then television and now Internet and smart phone technology pervaded our society. Traditionally, major newspapers are the people’s colleges, building a national base of general knowledge and awareness of events and issues; indeed, creating the public in the modern sense. Today’s social media landscape extends that culture by turning everyman into his own publisher, journalist and pundit.

Sadly, just to list these facts is enough to indict us all: we have met the enemy and he is us.

For one, we need to rebuild the habit of serious reading – yes, reading not just viewing or listening – leading to informed discussion that rises above pooling ignorance and attack- the- source rhetorical tactics.

But, there is more: to recover from our national malaise, Jamaica needs national ethical renewal and transformation rooted in sound, God-given moral principles. We can already see this from how “Mr Robinson and others inevitably appeal to our known duty to truth, right reasoning, fairness, prudent judgement, etc.” That leads straight back to: “where did that inner moral law (testified to by our consciences) come from?” Plainly, such a known law of our morally governed nature “is not a delusion; or else responsible, freely rational discussion would collapse into nihilistic chaos: might and manipulation (= “power and propaganda”) make ‘right,’ ‘rights,’ ‘justice,’ ‘truth,’ ‘knowledge’ etc.

The pagan Roman lawyer and statesman, Cicero (c. 50 BC) gives a key clue. For, he summarised the received view in his day, on how Law is highest reason, implanted in [our] nature, which prescribes those things which ought to be done, and forbids the contrary.” He continued: “the voice of conscience is a law . . . moral prudence is a law, whose operation is to urge us to good actions, and restrain us from evil ones.” He then concluded in his own voice: “the origin of justice is to be sought in the divine law of eternal and immutable morality.” [Cf. De Legibus.2]

No wonder, the Apostle Paul (the principal figure in the Christian synthesis of the legacy from Jerusalem, Athens and Rome) adds: “when Gentiles, who do not have the law [of Moses], by nature do what the law requires, they . . . show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” [Romans 2:14 - 15 (57 AD).] Thus, we find a body of known law written on our hearts; tracing to our Creator, who is Logos, Reason himself.

So, we readily see why – in his 1594 Ecclesiastical Polity – Canon Richard Hooker so freely cited Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (and echoed Justinian’s jurisconsults in Corpus Juris Civilis): “That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain.

Then, in laying the foundations for modern constitutional democracy, John Locke cited “the judicious Hooker” on the Golden Rule:

. . . my desire . . . to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.” [2nd Treatise on Civil Government, Ch 2 Sec. 5 (1689), citing Eccl. Polity, preface, Bk I, Ch. 8.]

Following Locke, Thomas Jefferson et al. therefore wrote in the 1776 US Declaration of Independence (the rights-charter for modern constitutional democracy):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it [→ nowadays, by voting], and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Clearly, the ethics of sustainable democracy stem from our being equally created in God’s image; where, the worth of a single soul exceeds the wealth of a planet. Such ethics pivot on the enlightening, culture-transforming moral force of the positive-form Golden Rule of neighbour-love; a core law of God written on our hearts and taught in scripture by Moses, Jesus and Paul. Living by the truth in love then leads to conscience-guarded, truly enlightened reasoning and neighbourly living. Which, would transform Jamaica: “Teach us true respect for all, Stir response to duty’s call . . .” END
1See [TITLE] [LINK] {--> this was meant to link to the first article just above}
These two articles then lead to a third issue, how do we address the gospel's discipling mandate in terms of its implied challenge of godly national transformation? Not only for Jamaica, but for the Caribbean, our civilisation and the whole world?

Accordingly, article no. 3:
>>Jamaica’s Godly Transformation Challenge
R+G Oct 2018

As we have already noted,1 Mr Gordon Robinson recently wrote off the church as a damaging centre of “brainwash[ing],” “propaganda,” “dangerous dogma” and the like. Plainly, some view the church as an obstacle to the sound governance and progress of Jamaica. So, let us now address the church’s involvement in good governance and in positive national transformation.

A good place to begin such is with Plato’s Parable of the Ship of State, which is so deeply entrenched in our thought-world that the English Language word “government” comes from the Greek one for the steersman of a ship: kubernetes.

Regrettably, this parable is tellingly relevant to Jamaica’s long-standing governance challenges.

For, the idea is that the owner-merchant captain of a ship (= the people of Athens c. 430 - 400 BC) was blind and could not navigate or steer the ship. Members of the crew (= political leaders and pundits who got that city into the ruinous Peloponnesian war) then tried to befuddle him, and clamoured to gain control of the helm through having popular support; even though they plainly lacked character and competence. Meanwhile, away in a corner was a disdained, “useless” stargazer – the skilled navigator. The fate of such a “ship” was sadly predictable; a grim warning on how democracies can fail.

In Paul’s day, this parable would have been part of the mental furniture of any educated person of the Roman Empire. So, in Acts 27, we can readily see that Luke viewed Paul’s shipwreck on his journey to Rome c. 59 AD as a real-world case study on the ship of state in action, illustrating how a Christian leader can act as a model citizen by being “a good man or woman in a storm.” Thus, Acts 27 opens up the issue of the church’s call to nurture, equip and support people capable of effectively participating as stakeholders and of giving soundly prophetic, prudent intellectual, ethical and cultural leadership in society; contributing to good governance and positive transformation.

Paul was on his way to Rome as an appeals prisoner, one of 276 souls aboard a wheat merchantman standing out of Egypt and heading for Rome. Due to contrary winds, it was dangerously late in the sailing season and the ship was stuck in Fair Havens, Crete; about 40 miles short of a better wintering port, Phoenix. Luke zooms in on an ill-fated meeting:

Ac 27: 9 “Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast [of Yom Kippur] was already over, Paul [by then, already a veteran of three shipwrecks] advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot [= kubernetes] and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix . . . and spend the winter there.” [ESV]

The owner was worried about his ship and his money, the kubernetes knew exactly who buttered his bread and the people aboard were very open to a suggestion that a quick afternoon’s sail down the coast to a nicer port was not overly risky. So, Paul’s prudent concerns were brushed aside. Then, when a convenient South wind blew they set off in high spirits.

But, half-way to Phoenix, they were caught in a hurricane-force nor’easter; which instantly strained and seriously damaged the ship. (So, they had to frap the vessel.) They were also being driven towards deadly sandbars off the North African coast. (That’s why they used a sea anchor to shift the drift-direction to North of West.) Soon, they were lost as neither sun nor stars were seen for almost two weeks. Hope was given up, until Paul gave a prophetic message in answer to prayer: shipwreck but only loss of the ship, not lives.

Then, as they approached strange land by night — through a ruse — the same crew that got everyone into trouble tried to abandon the passengers. This was spotted by Paul, and the Centurion Julius — who (at great cost) now knew whose counsel could be trusted — blocked further stunts by cutting away the ship’s boat. Then, the soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to prevent their escape. Wishing to spare Paul, Julius refused. Thus, all 276 souls made their way ashore at what is now St Paul’s Bay, Malta.

Sadly, history from 400 BC and 59 AD closely parallels how Jamaica lost its way over the past sixty years. How many times did we brush aside sound but unwelcome, unpopular counsel; only to stubbornly run destructive risks? How many times have money and “bought” expertise misled us into following ill-advised agendas? Or, propaganda-driven polarised fantasies? The chaotic results are all around us. We must now raise up sound advisors; we must support independent platforms for them to speak to the nation freely (and without fear of retaliation); we must heed sound, godly counsel before the cost to our nation becomes utterly ruinous. (It’s all right there in our [--> the Jamaican] National Anthem!)

Now, “business as usual” [BAU] reflects the balance of power across factions in a community. So, even when there are strong signs of danger, powerful interests will back “steady as she goes.” Especially, if there’s “a sweet South wind.” So, an ill-advised ideological agenda may prevail, leading to a ruinous voyage of folly.

In turn, key centres of influence in a community support and are dominated by the BAU “roof”: family systems, religion or religion-substitutes, education systems, media, government, the arts and culture, business (with linked finance and sci-tech capabilities). So, to challenge BAU a critical mass of stakeholders has to come together, providing a capable platform that uses SWOT analysis to question the ill-advised agenda, gradually building support for a sounder alternative (ALT).

Of course, it is hard to build up support for change while everyone wants to “let the good times roll,” but “what sweet nanny goat mout’ run ‘im belly.” Where, by the time a major crisis is undeniably obvious to one and all, the ruinous storm has already struck. In that case, being the “navigator” who forewarned can shift the balance of credibility, but it also sets one up as a target for hostile power brokers. Thus again, the need for secure, independent platforms.

Going forward, the church in Jamaica needs to stand for sound moral, intellectual and governance frameworks; rooted in the credibility2 and relevance3 of God as the source of reality, sound law and sound ethics. Then, we must all come together as a people to do the fresh policy analysis required to provide a sustainable national alternative. This will involve understanding that we are morally governed creatures under known duties to truth, sound reasoning, fairness, prudence and right. For, our nationhood, social systems, education, economy, finances and government are all under our Eternal Father. END
1 See [title_of_no_1], [link]
2 See [link_to_no_1]
3 See [link_to_no_2]>>
Clearly, the time for keeping a dignified silence is over. 

We must stand boldly now, if we are to help to rescue our region from the abyss so many are blind to even as they insist on marching towards the cliff's edge: If not now, then when? If not here, on so central a topic, then where? If not us, then who else will think, speak and act? END

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The ship of state, 2 -- Acts 27 as a case study

On October 17, I pointed to the significance of the ship of state as highlighting grave dangers inherent to a democracy. I need to follow up.

In effect:

[T]he idea is that the owner-merchant captain of a ship (= the people of Athens c. 430 - 400 BC) was blind and could not navigate or steer the ship. Members of the crew (= political leaders and pundits who got that city into the ruinous Peloponnesian war) then tried to befuddle him, and clamoured to gain control of the helm through having popular support; even though they plainly lacked character and competence. Meanwhile, away in a corner was a disdained, “useless” stargazer – the skilled navigator. The fate of such a “ship” was sadly predictable; a grim warning on how democracies can fail.

Now, too, "[i]n Paul’s day, this parable would have been part of the mental furniture of any educated person of the Roman Empire." So it is unsurprising to see how Luke subtly reflects on the parable in his account of Paul's shipwreck on his way to Rome as an appeals prisoner, c. 59 AD. Here is how I reflected on this at new year's 2013:
[A]t this stage, I think things are going to have to crash so badly and some elites are going to have to be so discredited by the associated spreading failure, that media propaganda tactics cannot cover it up anymore.

My model for that comes from one of the red-flag sources that will give some of the objectors [to the design theory movement in science] the vapours.

Acts 27.

What, how dare you cite that, that . . . that . . . textbook for theocratic tyranny by the ignorant, insane, stupid and/or wicked followers of that bronze age misogynistic homophobic genocidal racist war god!

(Do you hear how your agit-prop talking points are enmeshing you in the classic trap of believing your own propaganda?)

Let’s start with, Paul of Tarsus, c. AD 59, was not in the Bronze Age but was an appellate prisoner in chains on early Imperial era grain ships having a hard time making way from the Levant and Asia Minor to Rome, in the second case ending up in a bay on Crete. What followed is a classic exercise in the follies of manipulated democracy, a case study that will well repay study in our time.

It was late in the sailing season, and the merchant-owner was worried about his ship in an open bay at Fair Havens, given what winter storms can do.

The passengers were not too impressed by the nearby settlements as a wintering place. (Sailing stopped in Autumn and opened back up in Spring.)

The key technico, the kubernetes — steersman, more or less like a pilot of an airliner — knew where his bread was buttered, and by whom.

In the middle was a Centurion of the elite messenger corps.

We are at ship’s council, and Paul, in chains, is suggesting that the suggestion to venture our with a favourable wind to try to make it to a more commodious port down-coast was excessively risky not only to boat but life.

The financial and technical talking heads and the appeal of comfort allowed him to be easily marginalised and dismissed.

Then we saw a gentle south breeze, that would have allowed a reach down the coast. (The technicos probably knew this could be a precursor to a storm, but were not going to cut across the dominant view.)

They sailed out.

Caught in the storm (Source)
Bang, an early winter noreaster hit them and sprang the boat’s timbers (why they tried to hold together with ropes [--> called frapping]) so the ship was in a sinking condition from the beginning.

Worse, they were heading for sandbars off the coast of today’s Libya.

For two weeks all they could do was use a sea anchor to control drift and try to steer vaguely WNW.

Forget, eating.

That is when Paul stood forth as a good man in a storm, and encouraged them with a vision from God. By this time, hope was to be shipwrecked on a coast. (Turned out, [probably] north coast of Malta [possibly, east end].)

While the ship was at risk of being driven aground and set out four anchors by the stern from midnight on, the sailors tried to abandon the passengers on a ruse, spotted by Paul and/or Luke his travelling companion.

By this time, the Centurion knew who to take seriously and the ship’s boat was cut away. He then took the decision to save Paul and refused the soldiers’ request to kill the prisoners to prevent escape (for which their lives would have been forfeit).

So, they made it to a beach on Malta, having lost the ship in any case AND nearly their own lives.

All of which is full of lessons from history for us in our own decaying democratic polities today, and in the face of polarised voices and all sorts of hidden agenda, half- truth- at- best counsels.

It is going to take a noreaster to sort out the mess, and there is going to be a lot of serious loss to those beguiled by the bewitching counsels of those inclined to tickle itching ears with what they calculate we want to hear.

Sorry if that does not sound upbeat for a new year day, but frankly things are beyond that stage with our civilisation.

Our job now is to be the voice of sense before the storm, and to prepare ourselves to be good men or women in a storm.

We need to ponder very carefully indeed on whether we are making shipwreck of democracy in our day. END

PS: My thoughts seem to parallel those of some thinkers concerned with the ongoing unravelling of the American Experiment. See here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Plato's Ship of State Parable -- how democracies can fail (a sobering lesson from history)

In the Republic, Book VI, Plato's Socrates put on the table a telling parable on how Democracies can fail. Athens, c 400 BC being case study 1. And while Plato is most often seen here as promoting elitism and as anti-democratic -- which has a point, in balance we must also face the fact that democracies can and do fail and Plato here captures one of the ways that happens. (Later, below, I will initially point to how we can stabilise democracy so that we retain freedom without going over the cliff.)

Over the cliff:

Or, more analytically:

This parable, then, can be understood as a case in point on how the lessons of sound history were bought with blood and tears. So, if we are to avoid paying the same coin over and over, let us learn. (And here, Acts 27 may be also very useful indeed. Later.)

Let me clip the parable:
>>Plato’s Socrates spoke to [the failure of democracy] in the ship of state parable in The Republic, Bk VI:
[Soc.] I perceive, I said, that you are vastly amused at having plunged me into such a hopeless discussion; but now hear the parable, and then you will be still more amused at the meagreness of my imagination: for the manner in which the best men are treated in their own States is so grievous that no single thing on earth is comparable to it; and therefore, if I am to plead their cause, I must have recourse to fiction, and put together a figure made up of many things, like the fabulous unions of goats and stags which are found in pictures.
Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain [–> often interpreted, ship’s owner] who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is not much better. [= The people own the community and in the mass are overwhelmingly strong, but are ill equipped on the whole to guide, guard and lead it; cf. here the story of the Peloponnesian War and especially Athens' ill advised invasion of Sicily.]

The sailors are quarrelling with one another about the steering –every one is of opinion that he has a right to steer [= selfish ambition to rule and dominate], though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces any one who says the contrary. They throng about the captain, begging and praying him to commit the helm to them [–> kubernetes, steersman, from which both cybernetics and government come in English]; and if at any time they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard [ = ruthless contest for domination of the community], and having first chained up the noble captain’s senses with drink or some narcotic drug [ = manipulation and befuddlement, cf. the parable of the cave], they mutiny and take possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such a manner as might be expected of them [–> Cf here Luke’s subtle case study in Ac 27].
Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain’s hands into their own whether by force or persuasion [–> Nihilistic will to power on the premise of might and manipulation making ‘right’ ‘truth’ ‘justice’ ‘rights’ etc], they compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse the other sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing; but that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, whether other people like or not-the possibility of this union of authority with the steerer’s art has never seriously entered into their thoughts or been made part of their calling.
Now in vessels which are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will the true pilot be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?

Of course, said Adeimantus.

Then you will hardly need, I said, to hear the interpretation of the figure, which describes the true philosopher in his relation to the State; for you understand already . . . . 
(There is more than an echo of this in Acts 27, a real world case study. [Luke, a physician, was an educated Greek with a taste for subtle references.] This blog post, on soundness in policy, will also help)
World-roots is always a relevant subject when we get into seemingly intractable, deadlocked deeply polarised ideological confrontations. But the point is, that too often, the things we need to cut through the tangled thorny thickets to get to the heart of the matter are exactly the things that are most unwelcome.>>
In my view, successful democracy became possible after the rise of printing, the mass circulation of the Bible, the Reformation and linked ferment that interacted with an increasingly literate public. In that context, newspapers became a very important means of public education. Indeed, sound newspapers are the people's college.

Accordingly, I have developed a model:

Okay, more to follow. END

Monday, September 24, 2018

"This case is unsafe to further prosecute; dismissed!"

That, more or less was the language used by a judge in Barbados over twenty years ago.

One of my former students had gone off to Uni, and became involved with a somewhat older student. The relationship broke up, and she filed a rape charge -- which was of course plastered all over the media. I attended, as someone from "home."

While in the waiting room, I saw an old family friend. What are you doing here? Traffic. You? Here to give moral support to a student on a dubious rape charge. But, the law forces this.

(Sitting just across from me was a young lady in somewhat provocative clothing.)

I went in, and watched. To my shock, the complainant was the same young lady. 

As the case played out, it turned out there was a study session in rented lodgings that got a bit steamy. Then, it emerged that there were several other people in the same house, so that had there been a cry for help, it would have been quite obvious.

That's when the judge stopped the case as unsafe to further pursue.

Lynching protest in India
This comes to mind as I see the current "accusation is proof" thrust. That's a recipe for lynch mobs, kangaroo courts and media lynchings. There is a REASON why due process is due process.

We have to stop the mad march over the cliff:


Anyway, as in too much of our region we do not get a balanced picture on international issues, let me clip Michele Malkin's sobering warning:

I have a message for virtue-signaling men who’ve rushed to embrace #MeToo operatives hurling uncorroborated sexual assault allegations into the chaotic court of public opinion.

Stuff it . . . .

Ivy League pooh-bah Simon Hedlin asserted: “Accusers go public not because of any supposed benefits but despite the immense costs.” He argued: “When somebody is credibly accused of sexual misconduct, the default should be to believe the accuser.”

That is a dumb and dangerous default. The costly toll of “believing women,” instead of believing evidence, can be seen in the hundreds and hundreds of cases recorded by the University of Michigan Law School’s National Registry of Exonerations involving innocent men falsely accused of rape and rape/murders.

One of those men whose plight I’ve reported on for CRTV and my syndicated column, former Fort Worth police officer Brian Franklin, spent 21 years in prison of a life sentence after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in 1995 who had committed perjury on the stand. Franklin vigilantly maintained his innocence, studied law in the prison library and won a reversal of his conviction in 2016. The jury took less than two hours to acquit him. But his name is still not clear. He recently submitted a 200-page application for a pardon for innocence and cannot do what he wants to do – return to law enforcement – unless the members of the Texas board of pardons and paroles (along with Texas constitutional conservatives who pay lip service to truth, justice and due process) do the right thing.

In Philadelphia, Anthony Wright also served more than two decades behind bars like Franklin. He was convicted in 1993 for a brutal rape and murder of an elderly woman. It was a female prosecutor, Bridget Kirn, who “failed to alert the Court or the jury to what she personally knew was the falsity of (police detectives’) testimony, or otherwise honor her ethical duty to correct it,” according to Wright’s lawyers with the Innocence Project. They have filed a lawsuit directly aimed at the prosecutor this week to hold her accountable for her criminal falsehoods.

And just this week, Oregonian Joshua Horner, serving a 50-year sentence for sexual abuse of a young girl, was exonerated after a dog that the accuser had claimed he shot dead was found alive. There had been no DNA, no corroborating witnesses and no other forensic evidence – just the word of girl whose contradictions and memory problems were explained away as “post-traumatic stress” while an innocent man nearly drowned.

The idea that all women and girls must be telling the truth at all times about sexual assault allegations because they “have nothing to gain” is perilously detached from reality. Retired NYPD special victim squad detective John Savino, forensic scientist and criminal profiler of the Forensic Criminology Institute Brent Turvey, and forensic psychologist Aurelio Coronado Mares detail the myriad “prosocial” and “antisocial” lies people tell in their textbook, “False Allegations: Investigative and Forensic Issues in Fraudulent Reports of Crime.”

“Prosocial deceptions” involve specific motives beneficial to both the deceiver and the deceived, including the incentives to “preserve the dignity of others,” to gain “financial benefit” for another; to protect a relationship; “ego-boosting or image protection (of others);” and “protecting others from harm or consequence.

“Antisocial” lies involve selfish motives to “further a personal agenda at some cost to others,” including “self-deception and rationalization to protect or boost self-esteem;” “enhance status or perception in the eyes of others;” “garner sympathy;” “avoid social stigma;” “conceal inadequacy, error, and culpability;” “avoid consequence;” and for “personal and/or material gain.”

Let me repeat the themes of my work in this area for the past two years to counter the “Believe Women” baloney:
The role of the press should be verification, not validation.

Rape is a devastating crime. So is lying about it.

It’s not victim blaming to get to the bottom of the truth. It’s liar-shaming.

Don’t believe a gender. Believe evidence.
It is time to return to sanity and soundness. We are not ultimately able to deliver justice, that remains with God the Just One. But here and now we may bear and have a duty to wield the sword of the state in honest and competent defence of the civil peace of justice. Where, mistakes can be made, with horrific consequences.

Under such circumstances, no sane community will yield privilege to any class of witnesses or accusers. No one, but God, is unfailingly right or true. So, we must ever apply reasonable tests and give the benefit of the doubt to the reasonably potentially innocent.

That's why the standard of proof in criminal court is, evidence and argument beyond reasonable doubt, i.e. moral certainty. To convict, evidence must meet the standard that a reasonable, unbiased person would be irresponsible not to convict.

And in a day of media lynch mobs ever willing to swarm down, assassinate character, destroy reputation and livelihood of those they hate on the flimsiest excuse, editors bear a double responsibility not to turn the court of public opinion into a kangaroo court. END