It Shouldn’t Be This Hard

I just wrote a global email to my fellow parishioners. I mean, someone’s got to do it and hey, why not me?

We welcomed our priest in September of last year. There’s an adjustment period – no honeymoon period for priests; they are either hated or loved instantly, it appears. He is the most evangelical priest I have ever had and sometimes, I’m ashamed to say, that’s a little grating but gosh, he’s on fire for the Lord, he’s wonderful with people, and he’s a learned man. What’s not to like.

In January, he and I seemed to ‘click’ – I saw great humility in him and a sincere heart and without even realizing it, I was behind him 100 percent. I have done varied things to help him and he is kind enough to refer to me as his ministry partner.

Ok, so then the ‘you-know-what’ happened and things got closed right quick, very suddenly, closed faster than a door in a hurricane – including our churches, all across America. What’s a priest to do? He has even less electronic savvy than I do but I’m retired and have time so I did some research and his first stepping out into technology was doing live stream broadcasts of Morning Prayer on FaceBook. He did very well, considering he’s sitting in his home office talking to himself. There was no self-consciousness and any minor household distractions didn’t phase him. He did a great job.

When it became glaringly apparent that it was going to be some time before we could go back to church, he stepped up his game and started presenting what would have been his Sunday sermon in church to giving the sermon on Facebook. Again, he did a very good job and I was proud of him.

I went back into research mode at his request. He wanted to be able to do Bible study but wanted it interactive (or why bother? study needs give and take). I wasn’t wild about Zoom because it had only recently (at that time) been hacked and people with more time than brains were crashing meetings with porn and other types of offensive stuff. Someone other than me had suggested he use Zoom and he decided to go with that. Not a problem – it’s his message and his room, he can do as he sees fit.

Every week I send a global email to the parishioners reminding them about Zoom Bible study (including the meeting id# and the password, as well as the time we meet). Never, at any time during the Bible study have we had more than four people. One of our parishioners is a Ph.D in marine biology and a devout Anglican and he’s our official unofficial resident Koine Greek expert. I ask a lot of questions because no one else does. Fr. Ellis gives it his all and it’s really quite a good Bible study.

Today, there were only three of us at Bible study and one of the three was the priest! Give me a break! And take a wild guess how many showed up to watch the FaceBook sermon? C’mon – you can do it … Right! Three people not including the priest.

Why is it so hard to get folks to do Bible study? Surely they don’t all think they know everything they need to know about the Bible, about Jesus, about our relationship with God?

There’s only one thing I know for sure – it shouldn’t be this hard.

 

Walking …

Holy smokes. I’m just sitting here, shaking my head. What an odd morning this has been. Woke up way early, in the ‘o dark thirties’, left a funny/annoying email for a friend, scanned the headlines on the news feeds, had champion breakfast of wafers and Dew and went to the channel of a young man who does reaction videos to music he’s never heard before. And it was that video that sent me walking.

I was 17 years old then – the whole world ahead of me. But we don’t ever see that, at 17 years old. We think we’re always going to be 17 and anything beyond that seems like myth or science fiction or outright craziness. Who knew? And if someone had told me so, I would have nodded and then laughed it away. 17 is forever. It just is. I distinctly remember turning 17 – the breakfast conversation with my mom. Every year she would ask the same thing and the only time the answer changed was when I turned 17. She asked me, “Feel any older?” and I looked up at her and said yes. Because I really did feel older – like some amazing thing had happened overnight and I was suddenly this 17-year-old person – who was this new person? I remember it so clearly.

It was 1969. I don’t care what anybody says, there was only one event of import that year and that was Woodstock. Did you ever give a party and have 500,000 people show up? Woodstock did. No – I didn’t go. My dad was a cop; there was NO WAY one of his daughters was going to do something like that. It’s ok though – the documentaries are enough. The good ones, anyway. If you don’t mind the rental fee, you can view the documentary on YT (probably $3.99). I saw it free on PBS the following year. It was as good (but cleaner, lol!) as being there. The music acts – good gracious, Ignatius. Sly and the Family Stone (I wanna take you HIGHER, BOOM SHAKA LAKA), Joe Cocker – A Little Help from My Friends (I thought he had a physical impairment – turned out be the effects of drugs and alcohol), Joan Baez (I Dreamed About Joe Hill Last Night – organizer song), Jimi Hendrix – The National Anthem; Country Joe and the Fish – Whoopie, We’re All Gunna Die and the ‘F’ song, lol!, Lovin’ Spoonful (so lame against all that mega-talent). The list goes on. The music was something else. I don’t have sufficient adjectives. You either get it or you don’t.

So … yeah, it was a long walk this morning. A walk I seem to be taking a lot lately. Walking … down memory lane.

 

Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke’s Political Economy

This is a little strange, a post based on a book review. by Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute and published in Law and Liberty. And yes, I ordered the book yesterday.

It is however a long review so if you don’t read the link you won’t get even all the highlights, so read it! Here’s some with my comments appended.

If there is any moment which marks modern conservatism’s beginning, it is the publication of Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). Central to Burke’s critique of the events occurring across the Channel was his insistence that France’s revolutionaries were seeking to construct a new world based on abstractions deeply at variance with the hard-won wisdom of experience. That has become the standard interpretation of Burke offered by admirers and critics alike. It is, however, at variance with Burke’s most extensive economic treatise. His Thoughts and Details on Scarcity (1795), written as a private memorandum to Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, invokes many of the same highly-theoretical ideas articulated by eighteenth-century thinkers on both sides of the Channel in favor of economic liberalization and against the mercantilist systems which dominated the European world.

I do think it important to compare Burke’s comments on the French Revolution with his on the American Revolution, only`13 years prior, in which he supported the proto-Americans. Be that as it may, Reflections on the Revolution in France, foresaw all too clearly what was to befall France and affects its history to this day. And for that matter increasingly, ours.

Much of Collins’ analysis is framed by his exploration of this “Das Edmund Burke Problem.” It somewhat parallels what mid-nineteenth century German thinkers called the “Das Adam Smith Problem.” This alleged a contradiction between the moral philosophy underlying Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments and the economic thought expressed in his Wealth of Nations. Collins’ ultimate conclusion is that there is no essential conflict in Burke’s thought “between traditional virtue and modern economies that could not be integrated and reconciled.”

I’ve never really understood the problem per se. To me, it is the difference between long and short range perception. If you’re trying to get rich irregardless of those around you, you do one thing, if you intend to remain in the community as a respected member you do otherwise. But maybe that’s the German’s problem, I don’t know.

In the first place, Burke did not regard himself as a type of professional economist. Such a designation, Collins points out, hardly existed in the eighteenth century. More significantly, like most of the period’s leading minds, Burke was free of the excessive specialization that distorts much academic inquiry today. Second, Burke studied these questions with a view to understanding and critiquing prevailing practices and promoting reforms (Burke was, after all, a Whig) which facilitated what Enlightenment thinkers called “improvement.”

Third, and perhaps most importantly, Collins highlights how Burke recognized that the general principles underpinning the case for broadening commercial liberties were never applied in a political vacuum, a morality-free zone, or culturally-empty settings. Those who thought such considerations could be ignored when it came to policy design were the people that Burke had in mind when he used the word “oeconomists” negatively in his 1790 Reflections. Context was not everything to Burke, but it did matter. […]

On the one hand, Collins notes, Burke unambiguously affirmed the economic advantages and prosperity associated with a growing liberalization of commerce between nations. He made this point repeatedly: so much so that it brought him into direct conflict with those merchants who resented competition. Burke was deeply skeptical of mercantilist vehicles of empire like the East India Company which epitomized an unhealthy blending of the commercial and the political. They were, Burke believed, of little benefit to Britain and contributed significantly to the corruption of British politics. Burke was also remarkably free of the obsession with bullion that underpinned mercantilist conceptions of wealth and which had fueled the expansion of Spain’s empire in the Americas. […]

The following is what decided me to spend the $50 for the book:

There was, however, another dimension to Burke’s economic thought which Collins’ book brings into full focus. Burke insisted that commercial liberties needed to be embedded in what Collins calls “pre-commercial pillars of religious instruction, social affection, and aristocratic moderation.” Here we find what Collins calls the “manners” part of Burke’s political economy.

On one level, this implied the wealthy embracing the Jewish and Christian teaching that they had concrete responsibilities to the poor. In many places, Burke emphasized the political and economic dysfunctionalities associated with delegating these obligations to the state. But he also maintained that declining to privately assist those in genuine need was morally wrong and corroded those more-than-contractual bonds which bound communities together.

For Burke, commercial societies needed to embody decidedly non-commercial imperatives, many of which stemmed from what we would call pre-modern ideas and institutions. If they didn’t, Burke feared, people’s horizons would become degraded and enfeebled by the single-minded pursuit of lucre. Such moral and intellectual corruption could not be magically confined to the private sphere. There was no way to cordon it off from public life.

Part of Burke’s complaint against mercantilism was how it had facilitated widespread venality in British political life. Members of Parliament and the King’s ministers became very susceptible to undue influence from merchants seeking the monopolies and privileges which were integral to mercantilist policies. He also understood, Collins illustrates, that what was denoted as “economy in government” reduced incentives for such behavior.

Unless people also behaved in accordance with what the eighteenth-century Anglo-American world associated with what Burke called “the gentleman,” commercial societies would come undone. By “gentleman,” Burke had more than mind than noblesse oblige; it also involved civility, cultivation of the virtues, generosity, a commitment to improvement, and “a fidelity to helping others.” This idea of the gentleman and the mixture of pre-modern and Enlightenment expectations which Burke invested in it will seem quaint to some people today. For others, it smacks of paternalism. Nonetheless it was indispensable, to Burke’s mind, for the long-term sustainability of commercial societies.

I, for one, agree.

As do I, wholeheartedly, and the two centuries of experience that we have since Burke wrote these thoughts, only emphasizes them, for we have seen what happens when they are disregarded.

This is long enough to give the flavor of the review and a taste (I hope) of the book. I hope many of you will read one or both because unless we know where we think we should be going, we’ll never get there, and Edmund Burke is one of our best guides.

 

Sunday Funnies; No Holds Barred

And so this week, AG Barr testified, or at least tried to, since the Demonrats wouldn’t let him speak.

The more things change…

Ahead of the curve

Write your own caption

And, of course

Not Polls

I’ve written about polls and why I don’t pay attention to them. The information they provide does not include the thousands of folks who won’t take a poll survey.

We’ve always known that the Silent Majority exists so this video was very interesting to me. I sort of like Tim Pool but I can’t watch a lot of his videos – I have trouble getting through one – because he talks too much. He exhausts my ears. Ben Shapiro talks a lot as well but he does it so quickly, he’s done before my ears complain about assault.

So the title of this video surprised me and I watched it. I fast forward when I need a break from him talking. In an instance like this, where he is sharing an article, moving the red bar allows me to get past him and into the purpose of what he is talking about.

I did a piece for NEO awhile back about the art of glass blowing and a Netflix program about that. I was sort of on a rant and after censoring myself (on my own, no coercion), the point of the piece was misdirected and the piece itself was weaker than my intention. I sent an email to NEO and basically apologized because I had self-censored and it damaged the article. Neo replied that I didn’t have to censor but then I’d have to take the flack that might have ensued and simply mentioned that going too far out of bounds might possibly put the site at risk.

Until I had written – and then watered down – that article, I didn’t realize that I censor myself a lot. The Cato article that Tim Pool shares in the above video was reinforcement of how far the Left has won on the use of words, and how even someone like me, with no particular axe to grind, moderates themselves just because we don’t want people ‘in our faces’. There is another aspect as well, I believe.

The idea that I can use the weakest, most gentle words to describe someone or something to which I may take exception, and those words could be used to support someone’s claim that I verbally abused them or a group. I am a full-grown adult; I take full responsibility for the things I say, do, and write.

In today’s climate, where does that leave me? Who do I talk to? Who do I share my opinions with? I proudly belong to a site in the United Kingdom that shares my views and right here, at our beloved National Energy Observer, I can share my thoughts and insights. That’s two places – only two places – where I feel safe enough to take a shot at airing my outlook on life and politics. In the whole big world. Two places.

This place, NEO, is my ‘not poll’.

 

America: What Others See

Sometimes we should back off on our concerns and see what others think of us. Two “others” have written about America this week. I think we should take note.

The first is Nikola Kedhi writing on The Federalist. Most of the people we quote here are pretty well-known and we don’t elaborate, but here we should. According to his bio at The Federalist, he is:

Nikola hails from Albania and studied International Economics, Management, and Finance at Bocconi University in Milan. He obtained his Master’s in Finance from Carlos III University in Madrid. Currently, he works as an Associate at Deloitte in Albania, one of the Big 4 consultancy firms.

So no close ties to America other than perhaps, his job. Let’s see what he says.

America is much more than a country. It is much more than a land or a group of people that came together to form a nation. Ultimately, the United States is a symbol. It is the world’s fullest and greatest embodiment of capitalism, democracy, and freedom. It is the land of the free, the home of the brave, a source of hope, and a defender of justice.

Many may not understand the significance of America as an ideal. Some in the United States and Europe have lived comfortably for decades, never been invaded, never lost their land or property, nor their freedom to think or speak. As a result, they can’t value what they already have. It’s an unfortunate reality that you often have to lose something to fully understand its worth.

My country, Albania, is small today, but in the past, the ancestral lands of my people once spread throughout the Balkans. We had the first queen in Europe, gave the Vatican four popes, provided emperors who shaped history and survived through the strong men and women who died for their country, their traditions, and their families.

Nevertheless, neighboring countries with the help of larger empires and states in Europe slowly took our territories and forced into flight large parts of our population. More than 100 years ago, only one country stood up for us, fought for our territorial integrity, and helped us retain the borders we have today: the United States of America.

One doesn’t need to travel further back in time than a few generations to find Albania at the mercy of the red terror known as communism. […]

Despite 45 years of propaganda demonizing the United States, the Albanian people never forgot what President Reagan often referred to as the “shining city on a hill.” Indeed, no matter the torture and the brainwashing the regime tried, it could never remove the desire for freedom. The desire for freedom, meritocracy, and justice are deeply ingrained in the human soul. […]

Still, hope remains. I see it every day and not just in America. President Trump stands in front of the advance of the radical leftists in the United States and he inspires others to follow his example in Europe. He has vowed that America will never be a socialist country. The history of America is filled with inspiring stories of those who stood up, never gave up hope, and resolutely worked for a better future. A strong and prosperous United States means a safer and better world.

Read it all. Then there is this from The Spectator, by Robert Taylor who is based in London.

At a time of crisis, we need hope more than ever. We need positivity and optimism. We need the American Dream. What is the American Dream exactly? Being a Brit, I didn’t really know, though I had a foggy notion of a can-do, anyone-can-make-it, over-the-rainbow sort of spirit. So I looked it up on Wikipedia, and it turns out I wasn’t too far wrong. To summarize, the American Dream is a national ethos that fosters prosperity and success on the basis of social mobility and rewards for hard work and enterprise.

That sounds good and noble to me. But I’d suggest it should apply, especially now, not just to America, but far beyond its shores, to all those willing to embrace it. {…}

To repair the massive damage, to dust ourselves down, recover from the shock, and get back up on our feet, we need cooperation between leading states in terms of economic intervention and health resilience.

And who can lead this cooperation? Well, let’s think. The UN? No way — too many competing interests. China? Nope. There’s no trust, especially since this whole thing appears to have started in or near some filthy live- animal market in Wuhan, followed by weeks of obfuscation and denial.

The EU? Are you kidding? Once the coronavirus hit, the sham that is the European Union was rapidly laid bare to anyone who cared to look. […]

No. Just as in 1945, with the establishment of Bretton Woods as a basis for the global economy and international security, only the USA can lead us out of this crisis. The American Dream must become an international reality. […]

Dare I say that there are few nations that trust each other more, and have a stronger recent history of standing side by side, than the U.S. and UK? […]

For years, a range of academics, economists, and politicians across the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, recognizing their common language, history, cultural understanding, head of state, and deep- rooted, intertwined identities, have advocated closer cooperation between their respective nations in the CANZUK movement (it’s an acronym — get it?). While Britain has been pulling away from the EU, it has quietly been moving towards its English-speaking brethren.

The U.S. is the logical fifth, and most important, partner in this movement. Can these five countries work together now, not just for mutual benefit but to lead the world towards a new global order? Of course they can. […]

Maybe I’m an idealist, but I see a massive opportunity from this crisis for old friends, pulled apart by a decades-long narrative that encouraged crude, regional trading blocs while derisively snorting at the nation state and historic trading links, to come together once again.

Read this one too. I agree completely with both of them. When we say that if the US goes down, there is no place to run to, this is what we mean. It is true for us and it is true for all those who love freedom and liberty, not to mention a chance to get ahead in this life. We are the last ditch in defense of that city on the hill with its beacon burning bright. Others will follow, and help but we must lead. Because we are “The Keepers of the Flame”.

Whatever must be done, and I think many of us have some knowledge of that, must be done.

Some things are worth living for, and they are the things worth dying for

Those sunlit uplands that Churchill dreamed of still beckon, and the journey may be tough but it will be worth it.

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