Although the topics of the Cashless Society and the Gold Monetary Standard have been discussed previously on this and other sites, we feel that further discussion on these pressing issues is warranted.
The Cashless Society
Earlier we speculated that there might be a glorious return to sound money, such as a precious metal standard. But you can forget about gold as a real standard to moderate the issue of money. Not because it’s not a good idea. A gold standard is a fantastic idea, but it will not come about, because the finance industry has something else in mind. We all know it’s coming, but it has been somewhat forgotten as a discussion point. Yes, we mean the Cashless Society. Every monetary transaction is moving to electronic form.
Back in 2007, credit card Visa chief Peter Ayliffe predicted that a cashless society (in the UK) would come into being by 2012. It may not seem like a sure thing, but the timing of such a prediction is worth making a note of. The problems of electronic transactions at the moment are that financial institutions are making too much money from surcharges and fees, keeping cash as a more attractive way to buy small to medium priced products than plastic. During the current artificially created economic crisis, there has been a contraction of credit, but the idea of eliminating cash is still high on the agenda, even at the UN. The impediments to a universal cashless system can be removed overnight: remove fees on electronic transactions, and impose unreasonable fees on obtaining or depositing cash. Within a couple of years the system will be locked in, and nobody will take cash any more.
Introduced as part of the national e-Governance initiative, the e-Purse, embedded on national ID and resident cards, is the first of its kind in the region. Implemented by the Royal Oman Police (ROP), in association with the Information Technology Authority (ITA) and BankMuscat, the national e-Purse project will revolutionise cash transactions.
“Being an identity card, the e-Purse always remains with citizens and residents. Whenever e-Purse is used, the identity of the user is verified and the government can track each transaction. The support from ITA to the e-Purse project is in line with the directive of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said to enhance e-government services in Oman,” [Dr Salim Al Ruzaiqi, chief executive officer, ITA] added.
The cashless society is a government’s dream. Tax evasion becomes practically impossible, resulting in substantial gains in tax revenue. In theory, the purchase of dangerous substances and weapons becomes more easily traceable to individuals, making criminal activity increasingly difficult. Except for bartering, which is difficult to conduct on a large scale, the economy becomes completely accountable. Not a cent is lost, and society becomes unable to avoid policy changes. No more armoured cars, bank robberies, muggings, bribes, illegal drugs, and so on. All of this has been claimed by proponents of the cashless society. They tend not to mention certain other obvious points which might coincide with this phenomenon, such as the storage of personal information together with the electronic money devices (be they cards or some other form of identification), such as medial information, license details and biometric data. They are already being introduced.
The cashless society would likely accompany the introduction of a single world currency. Without the need to exchange physical coins or notes, all money becomes completely arbitrary. All money would reside on computer accounts, can be given any unit value, and can be created or destroyed at will (unlimited credit). Potentially, all money could reside on a single supercomputer, to save energy.
Banks are especially poised to benefit:
“Banks are very excited about replacing cash. Smart Cards give them the opportunity to make some big bucks off interest-free loans from their customers. Once a customer transfers credit to a cash card, the bank can stop paying interest but gets to hold on to the cash until it’s billed by a merchant. If 100 million people used a card with an average of only 10 unspent dollars on it, the banks would reap $1 billion a day of interest-free money to invest.” (Forbes Magazine, 1998)
Then of course is the argument for the implantation of microchips, or some other physical and permanent means of identification. The technology is indeed ready and has reached a mature status. It is only society that is not yet ready.
The truth of the matter is, of course, different. Many of the arguments in favour of the cashless society are false, where the truth in many cases is diametrically opposed to what is claimed. So what problems might exist with the Utopian dream of universal electronic funds transfer?
Most of the logistic problems are covered elsewhere, and can be easily thought about. Aside from the fact that private transfer of money becomes impossible without the involvement of the universal infrastructure, the other problems are identical to those that plague electronic money transfers already. Identity theft is the biggest problem, and it continues to occur as computing systems become ever complex and bug-ridden.
From our point of view there are three major threats to ordinary people arising from a cashless monetary system. Some of these can already be appreciated, if you just imagine your life suddenly without any access to your credit or bank cards.
(Out of) Control
Could it be said that the quality of governance is directly proportional to the likelihood that the governor is deposed should he or she fail to perform? The easier it is to block the government, the better.
The motivations for a cashless society are really those of making the government of the population easier (for government) and not to ‘enable’ or ’empower’ ordinary people. Supposedly, it would cost less to collect taxes, to police fraud, to run after escapees, because all you need to do is look up the individual’s number and instantly you can see practically every interaction the person has had, each hour of each day. Tracking the movements of people becomes a trivial matter. It’s no secret that even the rudimentary magnetic strips on credit cards can be read from a distance, particularly at doorways if the appropriate magnetic coils are installed (which, in most first world retail stores, they are).
Any electronic device designed to act as a portable electronic wallet will also serve as an access key and unique identifier. It is merely natural progression to bundle passport, wallet, driver’s license, medical alerts and personal details into one key, which is synchronized both locally (on the person) and centrally (on the supercomputer). The same can be rigged to allow key-less entry to house, car, workplace, and airport departure gate. The benefits are a seamless, keyless, paperless, and no-touch life from the apartment door, to the secure car-park, into the car, into work, through the shops, to one’s overseas holiday, and all the purchases and movements there, and back. All of this can be achieved with a single microchip, either as a card, embedded in a wristwatch, or implanted under the skin.
The great weakness of a centralized, integrated and unified key system is that people can be ‘unplugged’ instantaneously and effortlessly, even arbitrarily. Physical papers, a wad of cash and a set of metal keys is a robust, low-tech and redundant way of doing things, yet the tiny gains in convenience of electronic keys (and money) come at great personal risk, because the power is completely out of the hands of the individual. Any failure of the supporting infrastructure is a total failure. It can happen at the hands of a disgruntled or corrupt employee, a hacker or an out-of-control government. The temptation to abuse such a system is immeasurable. If it can happen, it will happen.
In essence, by “holding” all of an individual’s money for him, the electronic monetary system robs the individual of all of his power. This is the ultimate form of population control. In particular, since populations now live in cities and are totally dependent on common infrastructure for their survival, the cashless society permits any kind of political and social change to be effected with no way for people to resist effectively, nor to organize against the system without being found out at a very early stage. The cashless society has the potential to transform what today appears to be a free society into a prison that is tighter and more oppressive than has existed in any totalitarian system in the past, including the Soviet Union under Stalin.
Black Box Economy
It is already problematic that the vast majority of money that is “out there” exists in the form of electrons on magnetic and solid state devices, and not as tangible wealth. We read in the news about billions of dollars being “wiped off” stock markets, and trillions of dollars sitting “on the sidelines”. All of it is meaningless sensationalism, and only illustrates the absurdity of fiat money. The fact that central banks can magic trillions of dollars of new funds into the economy in the space of a few seconds, and that the supply of credit is limited only by people’s willingness to borrow, means that the number that represents your life savings can be wiped out in seconds, by the sudden dilution of the global money supply (to name but one example). The fact that company shares are mostly traded by computers, with the value of shares fluctuating every millisecond as a result of computer algorithms and not human decision making, makes the whole business of market investment a farce.
There is no way of being certain, in an electronic economy, that anything is real. There is not necessarily any paper trail to account for the volume of transactions that exists, and a corrupt elite (which, conveniently enough, already exists) can line its pockets with limitless money, with no way of detecting or proving the crime. Forensic information can be planted or removed all too easily. Without cash, there is no way for an individual to opt out of the system by holding his money in physical form. In a cashless society, there remains only one certainty: hard assets. Everything else will have made the full transition to becoming make-believe.
In many ways, the electronic economy reflects the modern approach to morals. There is great emphasis on civics, and on the conduct of individuals in public (looking good in public), but there is no emphasis on personal moral integrity and the proper conduct of thoughts and deeds in one’s private realm. Modern society encourages personal moral depravity, and teaches a perfect hypocrisy, whereby people in public behave impeccably, yet frequently their private lives are as corrupt and vile as can be imagined. An electronic economy looks squeaky clean on the outside, but there is no telling what manipulation, corruption and wholesale theft is going on beneath. There is also no way to trust the individuals maintaining and governing the monetary infrastructure, since they are as likely to be soulless, amoral and opportunistic as society itself has become.
The Apocalyptic Vision
It is easy to laugh at religious zealots when they harp on about St. John’s Apocalypse, on things such as the Mark of the Beast, and so on. In their rush to sell a message they don’t understand, they undermine the value of the Sacred Texts, leading others to miss out on the wisdom contained therein. We quote the passage that appears to be relevant to the idea of the cashless society:
And he shall make all, both little and great, rich and poor, freemen and bondmen, to have a character in their right hand, or on their foreheads. 17 And that no man might buy or sell, but he that hath the character, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast. For it is the number of a man: and the number of him is six hundred sixty-six.
These dramatic passages are full of symbolism and, to some extent, allegory. Throughout the last two millennia, people have tried to torture the words to fit the situation of the day. The lesson we draw from the passage is that the restriction to trade, imposed on individuals because of a religious or political attribute, is always a bad thing. The point to be taken from the Apocalypse, however, is that the predictions apply to the entire world, not just the situation in one or another country at a given time. The point of our article, in part, is that the cashless society is a phenomenon which is capable of being imposed globally, perhaps over the space of a decade or so.
If the G20, for example, met for another “crisis meeting”, and decided, once and for all, to coalesce their currencies, they may simultaneously claim that it is cheaper not to issue any notes or coins, but to issue electronic keys, as described above. Once some heavyweight economies adopt the idea, all else will follow, or face the sword. The scenario is plausible, even though in 2009 it still seems like a pipe dream.
It ought to be noted that think tanks that guide global policy have attitudes which resemble those described by St. John.
In the closing plenary session of the [San Francisco, 1996] forum, philosopher/author Sam Keen provided a summary and conclusive remarks on the conference. Among the conference participants, said Keen, “there was very strong agreement that religious institutions have to take primary responsibility for the population explosion. We must speak far more clearly about sexuality, about contraception, about abortion, about the values that control the population, because the ecological crisis, in short, is the population crisis.
Cut the population by 90 percent and there aren’t enough people left to do a great deal of ecological damage.”
It’s had to imagine just how so many people could be killed without leaving the planet itself uninhabitable, but there is no limit to human ingenuity. There is also, clearly, an insanity at work that makes Nero look like a dull boy.
Gold Has No Place
To go back to material matters, we think once again of gold. Even if a single world currency is purportedly based on a precious metal, because this currency is likely to be cashless, the metallic standard is nothing more than an empty promise. You are trusting the same men in the same suits who are this very day swindling the planet without rest. Just as there is no living soul within the body of the modern man (in a suit), there can be no golden heart to an electronic currency.
We conclude that whatever actions can be taken to limit the progression towards the elimination of cash, should be taken. More importantly, however, it behoves every person to consider the implications of such a system coming about, and to have contingencies in place (a topic in its own right).
The problems of the modern world do not merely revolve around whether money is based on faith, or gold, or seashells, nor whether the US has the weapons, or Russia, or China. All the problems persist, while wrong ideas persist. So it is our pleasure to add a link to our site in promotion of Chesterton.org. As the name suggests, it contains the collected works of what was arguably the greatest author of the 20th century. To that end, we quote from the website, with our emphasis in bold:
Chesterton is the most unjustly neglected writer of our time. Perhaps it is proof that education is too important to be left to educators and that publishing is too important to be left to publishers, but there is no excuse why Chesterton is no longer taught in our schools and why his writing is not more widely reprinted and especially included in college anthologies. Well, there is an excuse. It seems that Chesterton is tough to pigeonhole, and if a writer cannot be quickly consigned to a category, or to one-word description, he risks falling through the cracks. Even if he weighs three hundred pounds.
But there is another problem. Modern thinkers and commentators and critics have found it much more convenient to ignore Chesterton rather than to engage him in an argument, because to argue with Chesterton is to lose.
Chesterton argued eloquently against all the trends that eventually took over the 20th century: materialism, scientific determinism, moral relativism, and spineless agnosticism. He also argued against both socialism and capitalism and showed why they have both been the enemies of freedom and justice in modern society.
And what did he argue for? What was it he defended? He defended “the common man” and common sense. He defended the poor. He defended the family. He defended beauty. And he defended Christianity and the Catholic Faith. These don’t play well in the classroom, in the media, or in the public arena. And that is probably why he is neglected. The modern world prefers writers who are snobs, who have exotic and bizarre ideas, who glorify decadence, who scoff at Christianity, who deny the dignity of the poor, and who think freedom means no responsibility.
We think it ought to be part of every educated person’s task to be familiar with Gilbert Keith Chesterton, his writings, his thinking and his witty humour. It is becoming ever more important to promote clear, critical thinking in the face of our increasingly murky world of vague ideas adrift in a sea of insanity.
Several rather unconnected reports give a poignant lesson on the importance of true principles. That is, if you follow a correct idea through to its conclusion, it does not matter what the established facts may be at a given time, your hunch will come good.
In a not unexpected report (Financial Times), it’s announced that the G20 Summit is set to deliver a coordinated removal of the various stimulus packages that have, for the past year or so, “rescued” our economy from the “the Abyss“, as our beloved Rudd called it.
Jean-Claude Trichet, European Central Bank president, writing in Friday’s Financial Times, has outlined for the first time the principles the ECB would use to unwind the exceptional steps it has taken.
The OECD is forecasting that in 2009, the contraction in output among G7 nations will be 3.7 per cent, less severe than the 4.1 per cent decline forecast just a few months ago. The OECD downgraded the outlook for the UK, which will be the only G7 nation not to show growth in any single quarter of 2009.
The idea still holds true that, had there not been any stimulus packages, and had the market been allowed to take its natural course (as a side effect of an untenable and unnatural way of doing things over the past several decades), then we would have reached the bottom sooner. Arguably, more villains would have been caught off guard and not given the precious time they’ve now gotten to re-manoeuvre themselves before the safety net is removed. And the idea of saving the Government splurge money instead of spending it has once and for all proven correct. It was never going to last anyway.
Still, it’s frightening to see such unison in global economic policy. The more this happens, the more you can be assured that Democracy is dead. They have decided that, through their artificial economic “stimulus”, they have convinced enough rabbits that the sky was not really falling in. The cute little bunnies have come out of their warrens, raising their furry ears once more. They are ready once again for the slaughter, and the big slaughter machine (the Stock Market) has had its blades resharpened.
The voice of experience and wisdom is well heard in Bill Bonner’s latest Daily Reckoning article, where he says that the market (and the economy) never reached its true bottom:
We say that because stocks never went low enough to qualify for a genuine bottom…and investors never showed the kind of disgust that you usually get at real bottoms.
We say that, too, for a second reason – the economy. In order to have a booming stock market, you need a booming economy. Earnings need to go up. That justifies higher prices. It also contributes to the positive mood among investors that persuades them that things are getting better and better…and that stocks deserve not only higher prices corresponding with their higher earnings, but also higher P/E multiples. That was the kind of mood that sent the Dow up from under 1,000 in August 1982 to over 14,000 twenty-nine years later.
The market is headed south (chances are it will declare itself as early as next week), yet our neighbours decided to pull up their veggie patch and plant flowering bulbs – good times are back again, after all. So we sat back and wondered, why are people such fools? Why do people sit, day after day, watching the television (or reading the tabloid newspaper), taking it all in, reciting it like it’s some kind of deep, irrefutable truth? Why don’t people think any more?
Well the fact is, most people never really did any thinking. Humanity, on the whole, has always outsourced its thinking, more or less. It has to, because the human intellect is not really capable of processing all of the information all at once and getting it anywhere near right. This is a strong point of Christianity. It gives a template for life which, applied properly and widely enough, leads a society to flourish in every respect. The proof of this is everywhere.
So it brought a chuckle and a smile to read in the Telegraph of a bit of new, kitschy research that reveals how “Men lose their minds speaking to pretty women“. But it’s worth remembering something about what Western Civilisation has become – an ordered, scientifically tested and heavily manipulated social system. It’s plainly obvious how much sex is being used in the media, more and more, to manipulate the mindsets of both men and women, and even boys and girls. There is a general massaging of minds to doubt and disregard the ages old principle of heterosexual monogamy, of the obvious advantages of family unity, and so forth.
The biggest predator of the innocence of children is television and radio. And now, of course, the Internet. People instantly think of a dirty old man with his greasy nose against the monitor, trying to talk his way into the pants of an under-aged schoolgirl, but this is a problem that pre-dates electricity. It’s not the Internet’s fault. The real danger is the recording and advertising industries, with their psychologists, sociologists, artists, and marketing gurus, designing material intended to fleece the unassuming of their money, morality, spirituality, their freedom and even their lives.
As it is with the poisoning of relationships, where people are misled by false ideals and moral relativism through psychology and deception, so it is with money. People are led to believe that there is such a thing as a free market, universally fair accounting, and so on. They forget that Some People Are Created More Equal Than Others. Commentators on the economy always fall back to the same erroneous assumptions which perpetuate the problem, namely that some how Government policy is directed towards the interests of its people, or that market movements are a result of “sentiment” (whereas they are now almost entirely computer generated, driven by word searches on media reports). On the contrary, more than ever, it is the whistle blower who can provide the real information on where things are headed.
It’s like this. Since the majority of traded share volume is electronic and driven by supercomputers, basing their decisions on split-second price movements and news reports coming out of Reuters and other mainstream agencies, an inevitable predictability develops in market movements, because even a clever computer is predictable. Editors of news articles can now influence stock prices by the mere wording they use, and owners of media conglomerates can flood the news with fear stories, and the market jumps (even though no human being jumped). So it’s no surprise that researchers have noticed patterns revealing the hidden hand behind the stocks. There are algorithms which now reasonably predict stock market crashes. But this electronic milking machinery is counterbalanced by the ongoing human factors of insider deals and trading, which compounds the futility of a slow-coach, honest human being trying to win in the greatest casino of all time – the Stock Market. “You can only win if you know the agenda behind the agenda behind the agenda”, is what we overheard in a busy coffee-shop once. It’s rung true ever since.
We found one more article this week that was noteworthy. Eric Hommelberg at goldseek.com suspects that gold prices are about to go through the roof:
The simple truth is that GATA has done such tremendous research and has come up with so much evidence that even some major banks like Credit Agricole and CITI Group have published bullish reports on gold projecting $2000+ gold based on GATA’s findings. As John Embry of Sprott Asset Management once said, everyone with a IQ higher than a grapefruit should admit GATA has a point. Obviously GFMS Chairman Philip Klapwijk fails to meet Embry’s IQ criteria since he refuses to debate GATA on grounds you shouldn’t deal with terrorists.
The reason I quote his article is because he smells a rat. Gold prices are heavily manipulated, a point that is now well and truly proven. Gold is not a money generating asset in and of itself, but a purely speculative item. It need not be avoided like the Plague, but it ought to be treated with the same respect and caution as a vial of Plague. It’s a morally neutral metal which is there to be understood and taken advantage of, should there be any advantage to be taken. Eric puts it like this:
A decrease in gold demand is simply a myth being kept alive by desperate gold bears sitting on huge short positions that can’t be covered at current price levels.
The whole system [of US money] is based upon faith and backed by nothing. A skyrocketing gold price would set off all kinds of alarm bells which could lead to a dollar collapse. This is the one and only reason central banks have been dumping gold (through sales and leasing) into the market for so long.
The US can’t reveal its strong dollar policy without undermining its own credibility. Admitting they have been suppressing the gold price for so long would have had devastating consequences for the US dollar. Therefore at all costs, gold policies must be kept secret for the public.
GATA has long argued that gold has been oversold by banks, and that they are likely short of it (stated inventories overstate real inventories). The article might well be on the money. Gold looks set to skyrocket within days, as the stock market looks set to crash at about the same time. Might the US dollar collapse also? Food for thought, and perhaps it’s worth a quick lottery ticket (in the form of a lump of gold, that is).
Well, back to the point of our own article: Principles.
The principles we follow are those of monogamy, family, avoidance of debt and the respect for real work and genuine merit, and a distrust of all things bankish. If the government is stupid enough to throw free money at you, take it and shove it up the bank’s anatomical equivalent of a backside by paying off your debts. If the media tells you to dump your kids in a creche, look after them at home instead. If they say you should buy a flat panel screen, go and sell your old TV and go to a second hand bookshop and buy a classic, like something by Mark Twain or G.K. Chesterton, and shove the rest of the spare cash up the bank’s backside. If the government says put all your spare money away into your superannuation fund, don’t, and once again shove it up the bank’s backside. And so on. If, at the end of it all, the backside is full, use the money to build real wealth for yourself.
The recipe for success in this era is to hold to old, proven principles, despite every message to the contrary. Reduce the difficulty of doing so by not permitting the media to bombard you with uninvited propaganda. Pick and choose your own reading, and clear your mind.
The past week saw some important stories break on the mainstream media, including revelations of an explosion in funding of intelligence services in the UK, which reportedly are poorly run, targeting the innocent more often than the guilty. Clearly, the perception of the British Government is that the massive funding boosts are necessary in anticipation of coming major developments around the world.
We found out this week that those calling the latest stock market rise a “sucker’s rally” were right. The pessimists are back in business, with predictions of a fall in the Dow Jones Index to 2,000. It’s a big deal, as the conditions for such a fall in stocks are unlikely to be imaginable for most Americans, even now. Yet two groups in America are conscious of the possibilities: the Government (which has been quietly expanding its prison system and domestic law enforcement) and civilians who are arming up and buying ammunition. But to say that this is merely an American problem would be very narrow minded. Indeed, some of the greatest shifts in economies around the globe are outside the US, such as Japan, having just recorded a record 4 percent contraction in the first three months of 2009.
In a G2 world (the United States and China), he who is the piper calls the tune, and China holds a US$2-trillion mortgage on the United States and is not happy. This country, along with others that lend money to the United States, such as Saudi Arabia, will determine the value of the U. S. dollar and gold. And they have spoken. They are not buying more U. S. treasuries and are buying gold as a new asset class.
It’s estimated (by John Ing) that the gold price will reach US $9000, which is not a reflection of a meteoric rise in the value of gold, but a total debasement in the value of the American economy. The unmentioned and possibly unmentionable thing in all this is that such a debasement in US currency cannot occur without a significant change in the global military balance. Indeed, if this change is not taken into account, assessments tend to conclude that China (and others) will not recover quickly to take the global lead away from the US. The same degree of extreme economic instability is forecast (and is already coming) for the UK (and other first world countries), although it will likely take different forms. The interesting thing is that talk of conspiracies of world government and globaly tyranny, once only conducted in hushed tones by people suspected of having paranoid delusions, is now the stuff of the regular press, making simple arithmetic easier than ever. Perhaps this is because the notion of coming social upheaval is now a foregone conclusion, making it an acceptable thing to discuss in the public arena.
On a cultural level, the undermining of British social structure appears to be complete, with the sexual equality war now having been lost well and truly in favour of Feminism, where it is reported that advertisers now consider mocking maleness as an advantageous strategy. The significance of advertising trends should not be underestimated, since it is one field where sciences of psychology and sociology are applied effectively, where the current status of a society is accurately assessed. It marks a total disorientation in British society from what could be termed a natural social order.
There is very little left in Western society that reflects the biological realities of being a human being. The lives of men and women are distorted, artificial, medicated. This false way of life guarantees their unhappiness and vulnerability to social pressures. As such, Western society is weaker than it was during the first Great Depression, which is likely to make matters much worse in coming years. Even if people woke up to these facts tomorrow morning, it would take generations for them to relearn what has been lost. It’s unlikely that this will occur, in any case. That particular civilisation has passed its turning point.
There isn’t much anyone can do now to avoid the problems which will arise in the next couple of years. If this were to be compared to the story of Noah and his Ark, then the time now would be that of the first rains of the coming deluge. That said, the people of the world who have been quietly preparing themselves, mentally, spiritually, and materially, are in a position of great advantage. This “advantage” is not the kind that is understood by opportunists or materialists. Indeed, those who only view current events as a way to make some money are going to be rather surprised.
When visiting the elderly sick in Hospital, or in nursing homes, many different scenes can be observed. A few hours of sitting, listening and looking around reveals much about the society in which one lives, and in a short time, the most important lessons of ageing can be learnt. Just look and you will see old people with sons, daughters and grandchildren filing in and out of their hospital rooms, surrounded by flowers, cards and gifts. Next to them, people gazing blankly at the ceiling, having not met a familiar face since falling ill. It is the latter scenario that most people fear in their old age. Unfortunately, it is a growing minority that is destined for this situation.
Many elderly are practically childless. They may have several sons and daughters (whom they already rarely see), but in hospital, they are totally alone. Not a soul visits them and it is only the nursing staff who will spend any time interacting with them. But hospitals are busy places and the nurses come and go, and the doctors are even less accessible, since they are spread thinly between so many and inundated with paperwork. These poorly paid and seriously overworked hospital staff become the surrogate family for a time. When old people get sick, they rarely recover to their original state of health. When they go home, or “to the Home” things are never the same.
In hospital, they all appear rather alike – frail, depressed, sick and all dressed in patient gowns. But talk to them and you will hear a surprising variety of histories. Among them are former professionals, tradesmen, housewives, labourers, the educated and the uneducated. Why they are so alone is not usually a simple matter, but, despite their differing backgrounds and stories, several themes tend to run in every case. While people describe annoying traits such as rudeness and crabbiness as a reason for the problem, they don’t distinguish these as being a cause or an effect of one’s predicament. The reasons for their loneliness go beyond personality.
Loneliness in old age is associated with depression, dementia, suicide, higher blood pressure, substance abuse (alcoholism, heavy smoking, etc.) and generally poorer outcomes from an episode of illness. It’s no surprise, since people are social beings and most people, without social interaction and the responsibility that comes with it, become slothful and fall into self neglect. People need people. Growing old gracefully has little to do with material wealth, but everything to do with being surrounded by loving people.
So who should look after you when you are old? Who will come and visit, bring you the things you need and help out without taking away your dignity and freedom?
Socialists would argue that governments have the role of ensuring that all the social needs of the elderly are catered for in an institutionalised manner, and that anyone who had made better preparations (by saving, working hard and avoiding debt) would be called upon to help out those who had made none (by being taxed). Capitalism teaches that if people failed to save for their old age, then it’s solely their problem. In both ideological systems, the idea of family rarely comes to the fore. In the U.K., for example, the emphasis in the debate is on Meals On Wheels type services, organised and paid for by local government agencies. These services end up being run in a similar way to every other service – impersonal, cost orientated, and usually of a consistently low standard. The result is crappy food at home, crappy food at the hospital, and unenthusiastic, distant people providing said food (and other services) to unenthusiastic recipients. Nobody wants that.
The fear of being institutionalised is powerful and has been used to great effect, particularly by the Australian Government. Using this fear, successive governments have driven people to increasing superannuation contributions, pursuing the home ownership ‘dream’ and buying up private health insurance. All of these are ultimately geared around the assumption that children won’t look after their parents, the Government will stop the pension and the health system will be unable to look after the elderly. None of these assumptions is fact, but, as prophecies, they are self fulfilling.
As a result of fear and Government policy, people preparing for retirement invested in financial instruments such as shares and superannuation funds. A lot of this money has evaporated, wiping out years of hard work and savings. Before the financial crisis, people would speak of investing in superannuation and shares as a way of making sure they were not dependent on their children in retirement. They assumed that children had no desire to help their parents in their old age, that they would rather lock them up in a nursing home, never to be visited. The older generations view their own children as avaricious, selfish and disloyal, but the finger of blame frequently turns upon itself. Paradoxically, by their greed, people are ensuring their own poverty.
What people should be doing is investing in real things and real people – the ones who matter most. The practice of trusting one’s own welfare to strangers has never proven to be wise. Refugees, for example, are at much higher risk of separation, loss of wealth or even death than people who try to survive a conflict by staying and hiding in their own, familiar environment. Yet this goes against what many may assume to be true, but just as it is better to avoid becoming a refugee, it is similarly foolish to throw one’s self on institutions for support. As much as people may detest the idea of becoming a burden on their children, as a rule they are better off in such a situation than becoming dependent on faceless organisations whose priorities are based in accountancy and legalism, not humanity.
In many ways, the people who do not think so much of the future but put their resources into supporting their children and close relatives are the ones taking the path of wisdom. Several hundred thousand dollars on an investment account is a mere promise of material support when compared with the same, invested in one’s children and their families. By placing their money, emotions and priorities in favour of children, parents are buying into their children’s success, with the reasonable expectation for reciprocal support later on. This is far better than the default scenario of entrusting one’s self in government pensions or private superannuation fund returns.
Of course, there is more this than money. If the approach of trusting one’s children is to succeed, then the children have to be trustworthy, yet this can only come from leadership by example. The onus is on families to build a culture of trust and accountability, of straight talking, straight thinking and keeping promises. Traditional families are well placed to survive economic and social upheaval because they are based on these principles and their reliance on institutions for survival is minimal. By building ties with the children in meaningful ways as they move from being dependent to independent, to being family builders themselves, the older generation ensures that it is looked after and respected. Avoiding loneliness in old age comes from engaging in the lives of the grown children (as equals), in showing respect as well as giving guidance. It’s that simple, yet perhaps the reason this does not occur as often as it should can be attributed to children wanting to rebel against their parents, and the poor way in which this is dealt with by parents themselves. A cycle of animosity develops which perpetuates itself for decades, during which important events in the children’s lives pass by without the parents’ involvement. Eventually the parents become elderly frail, at which point it is too late to make amends.
Loneliness in old age, by rights, should be a rare problem. Becoming old, though itself not a particularly pleasant thought, should come with the great compensation of feeling satisfied what one’s life has achieved. There is no greater source of this than to see one’s own children and share in their success. Family life, therefore, should be the “superannuation fund” of first choice, since its returns are of an enduring and fulfilling quality that institutions cannot match.
In The Australian newspaper is a report on revelations on CIA torture methods employed on “terrorism” suspects. It’s now fairly evident to most that the term “terrorist” is arbitrary and is usually taken to mean anyone who is unliked by a given regime, be it a Western democracy, a Fascist or Communist dictatorship, or whatever other flavor you prefer – sweet, sour, hot or spicy.
…the Justice Department memos released last month indicate the method involved forcing chained prisoners to stand, sometimes for days on end, the report said.
The prisoners had their feet shackled to the floor and their hands cuffed close to their chins the paper claimed.
Detainees were clad only in diapers and not allowed to feed themselves. A prisoner who started to drift off to sleep would tilt over and be caught by his chains, according to the report.
Once again, medical personnel were in attendance to try to prevent permanent injury to the prisoners. That this kind of news is no longer surprising is, in itself, a sign of how bad things have gotten. It’s also a stupid move by the US Government (and the CIA) to keep doing this to detainees. To the ancient Art of War:
Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State. …The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger. …
How can the Western world expect to have a victory over any perceived enemy when it reduces itself to the lowest moral level on what seems to be every aspect of social life? It would appear that modern statecraft does not take into account moral superiority over the enemy. That is a grave mistake, perhaps it will even prove to be a fatal one.
While in the short term it might look clever to strike pre-emptively, to grab land without pretext from a weaker foe, to impose one’s own cultural values on the conquered population (however debased and morally bankrupt one’s own culture may be), it is not ultimately sustainable. Each time a wrongful act is performed in this way, our own society is weakened,our people corrupted. With the fall in moral standards with respect to the treatment of the enemy comes the fall in discipline, loyalty and honesty. These are the foundations on which a civilization is built.
Obama’s regime may understand this, but its approach to the matter is not to purge the departments responsible for this moral bankruptcy, but to reclassify, rename, reword and resume the activity.
Catholicism, contrary to the libraries of explanations and discussions that exist, is, by and large, a simple religion. It’s not an easy religion, but fulfilling its various requirements is quite straightforward. There is a single God, ten Commandments, the need for prayer, and seven Sacraments which cover all the essential parts of religious life. That’s about it. You can be born, live and die by these basics and go directly to Heaven. Dogma surrounding things including the Trinity, the Immaculate Conception, and others, while important to accept in faith, is totally unnecessary to understand. Whether these ideas are true or not ought to make no difference to one’s actions. If life is conducted in accordance to the above principles, earthly life becomes much more manageable and pleasant than it otherwise would be.
God’s ideas are simple and elegant. It’s people who make things complicated and ugly. It’s people who manage to twist and mangle what was once simple, in order to make it fit whatever perversion they seek to justify. A good example of this is the current Pope, who continues to show his lack of (or incorrect) understanding of Catholic dogma and basic theology, this time in the area of human rights.
Zenit news reports that Pope Benedict XVI espouses and wishes the world to promote the concept of Universal Human Rights:
Benedict XVI is urging members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences to defend and promote those “non-negotiable human rights” that are based in God’s law.
He goes on to say:
“The modern period helped shape the idea that the message of Christ — because it proclaims that God loves every man and woman and that every human being is called to love God freely — demonstrates that everyone, independently of his or her social and cultural condition, by nature deserves freedom.” … The Pope stated that the Church’s action in promoting human rights is “supported by rational reflection, in such a way that these rights can be presented to all people of good will.”
One has to wonder why there cannot be a simpler way to say “I’m making this into Church teaching, even though it’s new teaching. It seems to make sense to me except I can’t claim that it’s supported by Scripture or Tradition.” This is, after all, what the Pope is doing. He is not merely saying that people have a right to be Catholics (which is arguably the only ‘human right’ that Catholicism espouses), but that they have rights to believe whatever god they choose, rights to have property, rights to this, rights to that. While they sound nice, these ideas are not part of Catholic religion.
While mankind is important, and human beings are important, even sacred, insofar as they are temples of God and part of his plan, they are still capable of being trust into Hell at the end. As such, a human soul (and body) has no right to anything. Everything given to it by God is a thing undeserved. This is fundamental to understanding the theology of grace. Therefore, to suggest that a human being has a right, before God, not to die, or not to suffer, is incorrect. It is simply not a Christian idea, as it places man at the center and not God. Yet from the other end, we have an obligation towards one another to show respect, give dignity, relieve suffering and ease the burden of life. That, however, is not what Human Rights are about.
What the Pope is proclaiming is something which is a man made invention and not part of authentic Catholic teaching. Human beings have no rights whatsoever, no freedom rightly exercised except that which is in accordance to God’s will. Nobody has an inalienable right to live, or to die, or to walk, or to talk or to do anything. Everybody has a right to worship God and to obey his Commandments, and so forth. That’s the correct Catholic view, notwithstanding the teaching on natural moral law.
The concept of Human Rights, though useful, is not a religious one. It can be used as a legal tool, or used to measure the usefulness of a social intervention, but it can never become a part of orthodox Catholic teaching. Whatever his motives, Pope Benedict XVI shows (and sows) confusion on many areas of Catholic teaching. His lack of orthodoxy impedes the recovery of Catholicism in modern times, which would otherwise have occurred, had he simply stayed with sacred Tradition.