Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How to Invent a New Religion: Re-Edit the Dictionary


Yesterday we looked in general at how to start your own religion for fun and profit.  The issue today is how to make certain you do it successfully, or at least until people start thinking for themselves and realize what’s going on.  Since people without property tend to think the way those in power tell them to think, that’s usually not a problem once you’ve abolished property.
Just in case people do start to think, though, it’s a good idea to manipulate the symbols with which people think: language.  Once you can seize control of language, you can dictate what people think, or whether they think at all, as George Orwell tried to show in 1984.
People have a natural loyalty to old ways, or at least a certain laziness that often keeps them from doing something stupid just because it’s New & Improved.  Get people confused enough, however, and people will gravitate to new things at first because it just has to be better than the current mess, but ultimately because change for the sake of change has become an engrained habit.
At that point you’ve won.  People will accept anything you say simply because you are The Authority, and whatever you say, goes.  And if you think that’s farfetched, just look at the following extract from the opening passages of John Maynard Keynes’s A Treatise on Money (1930), a work he intended as his magnum opus:
Keynes: absolute power to the State
It is a peculiar characteristic of money contracts that it is the State or Community not only which enforces delivery, but also which decides what it is that must be delivered as a lawful or customary discharge of a contract which has been concluded in terms of the money-of-account. The State, therefore, comes in first of all as the authority of law which enforces the payment of the thing which corresponds to the name or description in the contract. But it comes in doubly when, in addition, it claims the right to determine and declare what thing corresponds to the name, and to vary its declaration from time to time — when, that is to say, it claims the right to re-edit the dictionary. This right is claimed by all modern States and has been so claimed for some four thousand years at least. It is when this stage in the evolution of money has been reached that Knapp’s Chartalism — the doctrine that money is peculiarly a creation of the State — is fully realized.  (John Maynard Keynes, A Treatise on Money, Volume I: The Pure Theory of Money. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1930, 4.)
And what does that passage mean in plain English?  That the State has the power to change reality itself simply by seizing control of language and “re-editing the dictionary” so that words mean what the State wants them to mean.
Nonsense, you say?  But isn’t that what Orestes Brownson and G.K. Chesterton said socialists do?  Change the meaning of words until they get what they want?  And Pope Pius X, referring to the modernists, claimed they presented their teachings in so confused a manner and with vague meanings, so that nobody could figure out what was going on.  And the New Age?  Try and pin down something with a specific meaning.  The New Agers will simply laugh at you, and declare you’re so stupid that you can’t understand them just because they won’t tell you what they mean in any coherent fashion.
All three groups — socialists, modernists, and New Agers — excel at doubletalk.  Back in 1909, the Fabian socialist George Bernard Shaw, claimed that the Fabian’s greatest strength was the fact that it was easy for the Fabian Society to raise money because nobody could figure out what they were talking about:
"Socialism is that thing, you know, that thing that isn't that thing."
No doubt the Fabians have made an impression in London and in England that is not recognizable as their work.  By the very law of their being, these Opportunists are not to vaunt themselves openly — least of all to claim the exclusive leadership of the social movement of British politics at present.  At a recent meeting, quite fully reported in the official organ of the society, Mr. Bernard Shaw congratulated the Fabians on there being in most people’s minds a certain vagueness and confusion as to what the Fabians really stand for: “You get a good many subscriptions [i.e., donations] from people who would not subscribe if they were entirely clear on the subject,” he said, “and you also get a certain width of sympathy, a broad idealism which is helpful.” (“The Fading Fabians,” The Boston Evening Transcript, November 27, 1908, p. 10.)
Shaw then said that this vagueness was also a danger to the Fabians.  It might even (gasp) divert them from their goal of imposing socialism on the world, just as (in his opinion) Christianity wasn’t Christian because it wasn’t socialist:
As there are all sorts of stripes of Liberals and of Conservatives, there are of Socialists.  He [Shaw] admits that there is this danger to the Fabians in their vagueness, that such a society may be captured for purposes foreign to its ends, “just as Christianity has been captured by commercialism, so that there is nothing in the world less Christian than what is called Christianity.” (Ibid.)
Interestingly, Shaw then declared that even Chesterton not only didn’t know what socialism is, he never did know, even when he was a socialist!
Gladstone: "How did I get dragged into this?"
But these quips and brilliants of Shaw’s cannot conceal his real concern, showing throughout this address, over the schisms and secessions that have taken place among the Fabians.  With his characteristic candor he owns up to the loss of half a dozen sorts of Fabians — one typified by the prominent member who “left us because we did not adore Mr. W. E. Gladstone”; another who wanted the abolition of marriage in their programme; and another (the son of a clergyman) who wanted anti-clericalism made a part of the faith.  Mr. Gilbert Chesterton, it appears, once called himself a Socialist, “but he did not know what Socialism was then, and he does not know now when he says he is not a Socialist.”  (Ibid.)
Of course, the jab at Chesterton comes across as not only weak, but a bit malicious, particularly since at no point did Shaw himself demonstrate that he knew what socialism is, and had just declared that nobody else did, either!  It would seem safe to conclude, then, that socialism is whatever you need it to be at the moment in order to get what you want . . . just as religion is whatever you need it to be, and anything else is whatever you need it to be.
At some point, then, you necessarily cross the line from mere expedience over into pure moral relativism and, finally, nihilism.  And why?  Because once you’ve changed the definition of private property, or even property, you have changed what it means for something to be a right, or even to be true.
Anything goes.  Your new religion turns out to mean nothing more than Might Makes Right.
#30#

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