WHEN EVERY MAN A KING, SLAVERY IS NOT FAR.
Abstract: An American historian paid by the hyper rich, exhumed again the old fallacy that material riches matter more than anything else. He points at recent electronic gadgetry, and attributes it to Reagan. This article of faith in Reagan and American plutocracy amusingly gives, obviously without knowing, prominence to recent French and German governmental research, which allowed to make such gadgets.
I skewer this lamentable, not to say corrupt, piece of dismal propaganda which was published all over the American media, for Christmas. I use the occasion to give a new metric to evaluate riches over the last 100,000 years, explain why the USA does not use the metric system, and what European kings were really about.
Too great a disparity of riches is another name for plutocracy. Indeed, money is power, and thus, too much money is too much power.
Hopefully this starts a series on the elements of plutocratic propaganda. Today it is the one bit where gullible people are told to believe that only material riches, glass beads, in other words, matter. And it is of no consequence if they happen to live on their knees, serving the rich, and averting their eyes, if not their minds.
PLUTOCRACY WANTS KINGS:
To rule over people, terror does wonders. So, nowadays on American TV, one can see personalities and presidential candidates call for the death of Mr. Assange, an Australian who reveals to the world what the government of the USA wants to hide from its own people. Even the Nazis did not cross the line of calling officially, let alone explicitly, for the death of people they did not like. Calling for the execution of people without due legal process, is against the law, national or international. But the principle of the rule of law is increasingly quaint in the USA. The law applies only to small people (those below the plutocratic class). In the last few weeks, G. W. Bush, the preceding president, was gloating about torturing people, on all TV channels. Another violation of national, and international law. But Bush does not have to worry: he is a major plutocrat, he makes the law as he goes.
The message: we don’t care what you think, we don’t care what the world thinks. If you displease us, we will call for your execution, and you can imagine what else. So the American people is supposed to be petrified. And petrified it is.
A softer way to control people is by the basest, most unreal flattery. So every day Americans are told they are exceptional, and they never had it so good. Eisenhower, or Nixon, never went on TV to gloat about torturing people. This, the torturing presidents of America, smirking on TV, is obviously much better.
In “Every Man A King“, the historian Victor Davis Hanson opines that “In sum, Americans are richer, healthier and have more options than at any time in their history — and in ways that do not usually register in our outdated metrics of what constitutes being wealthy or poor… In the last three decades, the United States — through technological breakthroughs, improved worker productivity and the importation of globalized production from abroad — has achieved a level of material prosperity for its 300 million citizens unmatched at any time in the history of civilization.
Quite simply, yesterday’s royalty would not make it into today’s middle class.”
Mr. Hanson exhibits here one of the sacred elements of plutocratic propaganda: you are richer than ever, stop whining. The Roman emperors made the same point, as they threw gold to the people, and built giant game arenas (“Colosseum”, “Circus Maximus”, etc.) Roman emperors also outsourced employment and power outside of the city of Rome and the core of Italy, and held exactly the same reasoning as Hanson about globalized production. The Mediterranean was crisscrossed by 10,000 cargo ships. Roman emperors were not going to reveal to the People of Rome (“Populus Romanus”) that the real reason for outsourcing was that the weaker the People, the stronger the plutocrats. The Roman emperor was pretty much emperor to the plutocrats (or at least that is how most emperors come across, as one reads the conversations they held with senators and top politicians).
Hanson lists a plethora of recent electronic gadgets , and grandly claim they were not founded by “government program”. This is factually incorrect: the rise of electronics in the 20C was closely connected with the military (electronic breakthroughs such as radar, the sinking of a major allied battleship by a Nazi cruise missile, or purely electronic computers, all during WWII, are remembered by the cognoscenti).
Hanson also claims that American health has never been better. He forgets to mention that American life expectancy actually went down in 2009, by a month, or so. This is the first time that this happens in at least 5 decades. This wilting of American health was major news in Europe. Most American media overlooked it. (Reduction of life expectancy was a characteristic feature of the collapse of the Russian empire.)
WHY THE USA IS NOT METRIC:
Hanson claims that we do not have the correct “metrics”. “Metric” is a fashionable word in the USA, because the USA is the only country in the world which does not use the metric system. So “metric” for Americans is often a bit like “cargo” for the natives of the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, 50 years ago. Science fiction. If you use the word, you have powers denied average Americans, who are lost in inches, fluid ounces, non fluid ounces, miles, pounds, quarts, gallons (How many feet in a mile? They don’t know, and that helps to explain that Americans have little appreciation of proportions: they don’t know how much richer their rich lords are, because they can’t grasp the relative sizes as much as those steeped in the metrics of the metric system can!)
This why the USA is the only country in the world not using the metric system; because the lords of the USA do not want their subjects to get an appreciation for proportions. The absence of metric in the USA is not just a symbol of obsolescence, it is a device for subjugation (for the same reason, in reverse, the French revolution instituted the metric system, just as it did the rights of man and the citizen).
REAGAN STYLE SENILITY:
Metrics are actually attached to “metric spaces”. A Riemannian manifold with a connection has only one metric compatible with said connection (the “Levi-Civitta” connection). So, a lot is known about metrics, that most historians know nothing about. There is more to “metrics” than brandishing the word, hoping that sounds professorial. It is always amusing when the sub-informed gets dressed up like the chimp in a three piece suit.
So the problem is not the metric, but the space. Hanson’s mental space is all about Reagan. That is why Hoover pays him. The USA is in the grip of Reagan style senility. Reagan happened 30 years ago, and instituted a tax system which allows and encourages the hyper rich to become even more hyper rich (hence the outsourcing of the USA to China, and the ever more towering rise of the health and military complexes). So now when the economy is in trouble, taxes get lowered on the rich, and the rich, the hyper rich, more exactly, pays the lowest tax rate in the USA. Unsurprisingly, the middle class of the USA has seen its real purchasing power of important things (such as schools, health, convenient housing, job with a future, etc.) collapse in the last decade (notwithstanding the gross propaganda to the contrary).
Hanson apparently believes that everything good that happened in the last 30 years is all about Reagan. So when a Frenchman and a German discover “Giant Magnetoresistance”, crucial to several of the gadgets Hanson feigns to venerate, Hanson attributes implicitly the paternity of such a discovery to Reagan. Never mind that the Frenchman and the German were both government funded, by European governments. It is Reagan who should have got the Physics Nobel Prize, to keep company to that Peace Nobel Prize of a president the USA presently enjoys.
RICHES ARE NOTHING NEW:
Hanson is familiar with classics. I always buy, read and appreciate his books (with a grain of salt). However, he did not reflect, or had no interest to reflect, that riches, especially relative riches, have everything to do with chains. Rousseau pointed this out, and made a name for himself that way.
People, in Greco-Roman antiquity, lived much better than in the early Neolithic, in some senses to be explored. Similarly, people lived much better in the early Neolithic than for the several million years prior. But, in the Americas, as corn was invented, the natives became much richer in calories. but poorer in nutrition (as skeletal studies have shown). So one has to be careful when one talks of riches. One of the richest billionaire in the USA used to drink expensive radium preparations, which were vaunted at the time, because they improved short term health. After he lost his jaw, and then his life, the FDA was created. The pain of the plutocrat is always greater.
It is not because the Greeks were a thousand times richer than Cro-Magnon man, in some sense, that they were sheltered from tyranny, abuse, torture and arbitrary execution. It is the other way around. Chains, technological marvels made of steel, did not exist under Cro-Magnon. And nobody was around to bind him. The closest band was 50 kilometers away.
Hanson’s metrics is made from recent tech gadgets which, he believes, were invented thanks to Reagan’s influence. So he cannot compare Cro-Magnon’s iPad with the Greeks’ iPads, and he does not know what to do. Thus Hanson would be completely confused if one told him that the Greeks were 1,000 richer than Paleolithic people.
One metric I use to evaluate riches over the last 100,000 years is human density. (Although I just said that calories are not enough, I have to start somewhere more clever than Hanson.) In the Greco-Roman area we have presently perhaps ten times more people than under the Greco-Roman empire (which was around 60 million strong). The densities of human habitat, pre-Neolithic, were very low (a thousand times less dense than classical civilizations). The technology was not as nourishing as it would become in the Neolithic.
PLUTOCRACY IS ONE OF THE PITFALLS OF TECHNOLOGY:
Other pitfalls are ecological and mental devastations, but they will not be considered here (although the second one was familiar to Prometheus).
The sad history of Greece is that, after a terrible war between free, proud, fascist, racist Sparta and democratic Athens, the second Athenian civilization was cut down by the common effort of fascist, plutocratic Macedonia and the richest Athenians. Macedonia was led by atrocious fascists who loved holocausts and terror. After Alexander’s death, these butchers inherited the world. This period came to be known as the “Hellenistic kingdoms”.
Those kingdoms had vanquished democracy everywhere, except in Massalia (Μασσαλία), a Greek republic, and Rome. Rome was not a full blown democracy, but had been getting there. Rome got savagely interrupted by all sorts of savages. Rome was a republic, and that gave it immense power. Rome was able to destroy Hannibal and its allies, the Hellenistic tyrannies. Unfortunately, so doing, during those terrible wars, the old Roman culture and upper classes attached to it, got destroyed, and replaced by the arrivistes of rampant plutocracy. Attempts were made to block the plutocrats, most notably by those aristocrats, the Gracchi brothers, and prestigious individuals, such as Marius, Cicero, Caesar. But they came to nought, such is the power of the exponential.
Roman plutocracy degenerated ever more, and fought for control of the ever dying republic, with the army, like hyenas fight with lions. In the end, plutocracy came to consider all and any thinking as the enemy. Emperor Domitian (circa 93 CE), started the first “war against the philosophers”, and against “atheism”. It was not going to be the last: anybody with philosophical tendencies, or free thinking pretense, was executed (such as the philosopher Maternus, who wrote an essay on tyranny, before a conspiracy saw the assassination of Domitian in 96 CE).
So the problems of civilization do not go away as riches are piled up. It is the other way around, as Rousseau could have guessed. Plutocracy did not exist during the Paleolithic (the “Old Stone”). It could not have. One had to wait for the “New Stone” (Neo-Lithic), with its herds of domesticated animals, and nourishing fields of bioengineered plants. The very fact riches could be piled up allowed for the possibility of plutocracy. The exponential function, which depicts riches growing proportionally to themselves, came into play because of the advantage that borrowing riches presented to the poor. But with that advantage came the pitfall of the interest that the rich needed to be enticed to lend.
(That is why the religions of Abraham prohibited payment of interest when lending to co-religionists, and one of the, well, interest, for Christians and Muslims, to have Jews around to borrow from.)
WHEN KINGS WERE REAL KINGS:
Hanson is flippant. Quite simply, yesterday’s royalty would not make it into today’s middle class.” He says, and he preens. He only shows his ignorance of what true kings were, in European history. I am not talking here about the more or less constitutional royalty of the last few centuries. England has been a republic, in all but name, for the last 4 centuries or so.
Hanson seems to have little idea of European kings in their heyday during the fall of Rome known as the “Dark Ages”. Hanson uses the wrong metrics when he evokes real kings. He would have offered them one of his miserable gadget, and told them that was the metric. They would have split him in two as a Satan worshipper. Kings were more akin to war presidents in an apocalyptic world brought by Roman corruption and Christian superstition. Because the situation was desperate, they took desperate measures, starting with the nationalization of the Church in all ways imaginable.
The Roman state became highly dysfunctional as the plutocracy reached the ultimate stage: disintegration of order and the rule of superstition. The Franks, long deliberately secular, took control.
The Franks, who were the legal Roman army, elected kings, who were then endowed with imperial power (more formal remnants of the Roman state were based in Rome, Milan, or Ravenna. Constantinople was most powerful under Justinian, and made the Oriental part of Rome; seven centuries later, it was snuffed by the Franks).
The overall elected king of the Franks who headed the state that formally replaced the Roman state was Clovis (Chlodovech, which evolved in the present day Louis). Clovis was named Consul for life by the Roman state. He dressed in the fabulously expensive purple mantle of the imperators, and was called “Augustus” (the highest type of Roman emperors). As a Roman imperator, and Consul, Clovis pretty much had right of life and death on all and any of his subordinates (subordinates, not “subjects”: Clovis was at the head of the Roman army, not a Persian satrapy). This was illustrated by the Vase de Soissons incident.
Kings were not about material riches, inasmuch as raw power in the name of a new secular civilization with higher ethical standards than Rome (hiding behind Jesus). The Frankish kings chose and nominated bishops. They taught their men the new ethics, which was an alluring mix of German and Greco-Roman culture. They lived in a world where famous Saints existed in flesh and blood, and managed the local church. Jesus was barely talked about.
The ferocity of the times was other-worldly. During one his wars against the Saxons, King Lothar of the Franks was beaten up for refusing, for the third time, to go to war against the Saxons (he depicted the war as unjust at that particular point). His property was destroyed, and he was beaten by his own men, and forced to conduct battle. Later, in an unrelated story in Brittany, Lothar’s own treacherous son Chramm engaged him in battle, after allying himself with the count of Brittany. The Bretons and Chramm were no match for the main Frankish army. They lost. Chramm, his wife, and daughters were seized before they could sail away. Under Lothar’s explicit orders, all of them were burned alive. A year later, Lothar died in 561 CE, from a fever, having reigned 51 years. Yes, more than half a century. One of his last orders was to cover some important churches with tin roofs (not something the Japanese could have afforded to do).
Morality? Europeans Kings of old could live long, and lived strong. The best of them were working relentlessly, brandishing whatever it took to stabilize the situation ethically, politically, and civilizationally. They were incredibly brutal. They would die, and kill, just about the length of hair (kings and prospective kings wore it long, religious wore it nought). Even small children, if viewed as potential kings, would be presented with the scissors and the sword (if they did not go for the former, they would get the later).
So of course, kings of old would have made it to today’s highest class. Kings were often the richest people around, and they got there, or stayed there, by killing, in the name of new, and higher principles. This only happened because their subordinates agreed to strive towards the same new and higher principles. Hanson misses completely the spiritual dimension of the kings of old. Kings of old led an ethical revolution, which was their reason for being in power, and why people elected them (or elected to follow them).
Kings of old lived very comfortably by their metrics, with residences all around Europe, and wives, concubines, nobles under oaths to serve them (to death). Some, such as Charlemagne, were very healthy into old age. What’s more fun than to make war for decades, mostly winning, as Charlemagne did?
Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.
That appurtenance, too, tells volumes. Hanson has tales to tell, and they sing of American plutocracy. It remains to be seen if history will sing along. Two things, though: history does not tell lies, and human beings are not reducible to gadget loving midgets.
Note on the Hoover Institution. The Hoover is one of the many Academic conspiracies instituted in the USA to foster, as Herbert Hoover himself described it, studies “showing the devilish nature of Karl Marx theories, Communism, Socialism, Economic Materialism or Atheism in order to protect the American way of living from these ideologies, from its complots and to validate the American system”. It collaborates with CIA, trained G. W. Bush in 1988, with the likes of Stanford dean Condoleezza Rice, and has been financed by enormous budget from various corporations, and plutocrats such as Rockefeller. The extremely “conservative” institutions of learning of the USA are prestigious there, and animate American civilization. However, they are fooling others ever less (see Polanski’s movie “Ghostwriter”, which depicts Harvard as it richly deserves).