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Joseph Patrick Kennedy (2)

Monday May 15, 2006, continuing

(8:10 pm) Mr. Kennedy can you tell me who killed John F. Kennedy and why and how?

You aren’t going to win any friends by putting this on the internet.

I don’t care. I feel like they ruined the lives of millions of people and I would love to be able to say so.

You just are not even remotely aware what you would be doing. You still assume that there is an abstract justice and far play that would protect you, and there isn’t. If Bobby couldn’t tell people the truth with the protection his circumstances gave him at the time why do you think you could get protection just because you are unknown and helpless? It’s a beautiful catch-22, you see. If you know and remain unknown, you are no threat. If you know and you are known you can be discredited. There isn’t a need to murder everybody who knows, and in any case there are different ways to murder people. Ask Clinton about assassination by reputation.

I see the point. So what are we to do?

Do? Live your lives with your eyes open. Naming names can’t bring back Jack, and it can’t bring you back to 1963, either. Your life is lived as it is, not as it might theoretically have been.

So forget it?

No! Not at all. But you know the saying “revenge is a dish best served cold”? Wait. They always go too far, just as you say.

They seem to be doing pretty well for themselves.

Sure. And they’re going to wind up like flies on a carcass. They think their best bet is to keep people numbed and sedated with bread and circuses. How well did that work out for the Romans?

I don’t think of myself as particularly blood-thirsty but I’d like to see the bastards suffer.

Dig two graves.

[An old saying says, when you go to seek revenge, dig two graves.]

I know the saying. And I agree with it. But –

Nobody gets away with anything. It isn’t up to you to control the world any more than it is to them, though they think so. Nobody can control it, it’s too big – you know all this.

It seems sort of shameful to sit doing nothing even if it isn’t my family or my fight. It was my life, though.

What’s the point of getting into a fight you have to lose? You’d help nobody and you’d either have no effect at all or you’d get squashed like a bug. What’s your percentage?

If you had been well and vigorous, would you have taken it sitting down?

Bobby was the toughest guy I ever met, including me, and he had to take it.

It’s funny, this isn’t what I ever would have imagined your reaction to be.

Then, maybe you aren’t making it up. My reaction is just realism. It’s the difference between being a combat veteran and being somebody who has seen a lot of war movies. There isn’t any comparison. It’s real life versus make-believe. It’s the way things are versus the way things ought to be. I can hate, but what good does it do to turn hatred into self-destruction?

Even after they’ve systematically whittled down your family like Nero and Germanicus?

People get killed in war; they get killed by tyrants. There’s a difference between recognizing what is and agreeing with it or approving of it. If somebody stole a million dollars from me and did it legally and I couldn’t get it back, what was I supposed to do? What is there to do but remember and wait for an opportunity? But maybe the opportunity never comes – should I throw my life away brooding over the million bucks or should I just go on?

I understand. It does make sense.

The truth about it has been told long ago, and eventually it will be sorted out from all the lies that were planted around it. But you know what, it still won’t bring Jack back, it won’t bring 1963 back, and it won’t bring back what they broke, right out in public, though it took a while longer for people to realize it had been broken.

People withdrew their support of the government

People’s blindness! There’s nothing going on now that hasn’t always gone on, except that the illusion is gone, and so people are sitting it out, and that changes the game. When these people come looking for citizens to ride to their rescue against the invading huns, who’s going to be stupid enough to saddle up? Some will. Some will do it to try to protect their families or even their idea of what America was supposed to become. But mainly people are going to say one thing: “You own it, you protect it.” That’s when you’ll get your revenge, but it may not taste very sweet.

Surely you wouldn’t advocate our defending these bums?

You see? In your reaction you show the effect it had. In 1962 you would have said “defend ourselves.” Now you say it would be defending “them” because you know it isn’t your country in any meaningful sense, no matter how you loved it. When the majority comes to feel that way, there’s the end waiting to happen. That doesn’t mean you will necessarily like the following act, though.

Here is my scenario – critique it? Then nobody can say I said you said it. It seems to me the Mafia or part of it had to be involved, and the Secret Service or part of it, and probably the FBI and intelligence agencies – one of them – part of them in both cases, as few as possible. I’ve never seen Johnson as a prime mover even though he was a prime beneficiary. But Nixon was in Dallas the day before, and I’ve always wondered why. HL Hunt was in Texas, and the Bush family. It seems clear that Nixon was never high enough to be the prime mover. The Hunts and Bushes and I don’t run in the same social circles so I don’t know their place in it if any. Beyond that I can’t go.

That isn’t bad. What else do you need? The underworld, the Secret Service, at least part of one intelligence agency, and an unknown prime mover – who by the way probably did not decide to do this on a whim or without consultation. So what would be the use in going farther?

Well, I’ll name one for sure: J. Edgar Hoover.

Oh he was aware, but only in a deniable way. You can bet on it that Edgar wasn’t going to put his head into a noose if things went wrong. But he could outlast Bobby for another five years or until he died if need be. Edgar would be silently cheering them on, but only from way out in the sidelines.

Hence some of Bobby’s guilt? That between Hoffa and Hoover he’d given two powerful figures reason to kill his brother.

Bobby knew better. He knew it wasn’t Johnson either. Bobby could hate, but he could hate and think. He didn’t have to chose one or the other.

Didn’t Bobby see it coming if he ran for president in 1968?

Of course he did. He saw it as a threat but he figured he’d be safe until November anyway. They outthought him on that one.

He was being reckless?

He was taking a chance because he really believed he could help the country change, and he believed only he could do it because people would trust him, as Jack’s friend and heir. He couldn’t accept that there wasn’t anything he could do. His whole life told him different.

Well, I don’t know if I could talk to him. You know what I feel, just please pass the message on. By the way, do you communicate? Does a family act as a family over there? When you’ve formed such strong bonds here, do they continue to affect you there?

[Different “feel” enters here.]

[RFK:] The thing you’re feeling about contacting me should make you see what it was for Jack and me – for all of us – growing up with dad.

The wariness, you mean?

Yes. You love me or your image of me and at the same time you remember my reputation and you wonder if I’m going to swat you. That was life with dad!

Well, I did love you, it’s true, and I did feel that hesitation. The middle class gets pretty thoroughly versed in being snubbed by those who have more money or position of whatever. But God bless you for really caring about the poor.

Except for my family, that was the most warm satisfying part of my life. That all these strangers who had nothing next to what I’d always taken for granted as my right should love me – at first I said it was for Jack, because the idea overwhelmed me that it could be for me. When I finally got to believe it, it was a new day for me, a second life. I know you will believe that, but I’ll bet not many of the people you show it to will.

You underestimate your own impact, I think. We loved you because you loved your brother as we did, but we came to love you even more when you came out of that enforcer shell and showed us that you really could see – like the time you went to Mississippi. You broke fully as many hearts as your brother did and for the same reason. Not only the cutting short of so much promise, but there was a sense there, that grew with time, that you got killed just because you were trying to turn America from violence and hatred to what we were supposed to have been, and maybe still could become. So – thank you. Tell me, is it a burden – and if so, how does it manifest? – to have people love you after you’re dead?

It’s a matter of definition, really. If we stay with the soul we are impacted, if we move on, we aren’t. I’m not the person to ask about all this.

All right. Do you entirely agree with your father’s views on what’s going to happen or do you think it could be turned around?

I believe in miracles, but I believe miracles happen because people work for them. I think it would be a shame if people gave up on America just because two more people got killed for trying to do what they thought was right.

Okay, but things look pretty bleak from here. They seem to have everything all sewed up.

That’s an illusion. That’s what the East Germans thought too, but once the threat of Soviet intervention was gone it took what, three, four, five candlelit marches a month apart and the government collapsed. When they lose the ability to run things by money, there will be an opportunity. I hope it won’t be wasted in guns and rioting. What you’re doing could be an immense help, so don’t quit.

No, I’m actually starting to take it for granted, between times when I startle myself by saying – I could talk to him! In any case I can’t think what else to do.

The effective technique will involve imagination and the creation of forms.

Thank you.

 

Joseph Patrick Kennedy (1)

Monday May 15, 2006

Yesterday I found a book of Rita’s – Winter Kills by Richard Condon. A roman a clef, sort of, but mostly his idea on what has happened (as of 1974) to the country. The John F. Kennedy assassination and cover up and various sequential contradictory cover stories – as a means of confusion. There are clues to what he thinks for those who can recognize them – Don Carlo Fortunato, for instance, of Naples, formerly of New York. Charlie Lucky, in other words: Lucky Luciano. I read all of Winter Kills feeling pretty sure that the big surprise ending was going to be a revelation that the father had killed the son. Got talked out of it for about a chapter. Sure enough. But great stress on the first eleven months of the presidency – eleven months from the inauguration takes us to Joe Kennedy’s stroke. Joe Kennedy’s life reveals the corruption of his times. Say –

Well, Mr. Kennedy, do you have any interest in talking to me?

Joe Kennedy’s view of the world

Because you’re nobody, you mean? Well, there isn’t anybody in my old world who’s more nobody than a dead man. So join the club.

You want to know what – how I felt? What made me tick? I can see your judgments about me. I won’t say you’re wrong, you’re learning. I had a clearer view of what’s what than you do, that’s all. I had a better seat and I made sure I kept it. The world I grew up in wasn’t for softies, and I wasn’t about to be left behind.

You know how much pious crap is spouted by society – it’s all so much pretentious horseshit. You know, yourself – you’ve said it more than once – that what people really take seriously are money and death. You don’t put it that way but that’s what it amounts to. Well – I always knew it. I didn’t buy the bunk. Roosevelt and all those guys that were born rich – could they have done what I did? And I made sure my sons could have done it too if they’d had to. I wanted them tough and strong and wide-open-eyed, and by God that’s what I got. Teddy the least of course, but that’s because he was the baby, and it didn’t seem to matter so much then.

Young Joe and Jack

Life is funny. It takes you places you never thought you’d go. I figured Joe would be the success of the family. I expected to spend twenty years making him president. Looking at it now, I can see probably he wouldn’t have made it. Another Joe Kennedy by name wouldn’t have helped, for one thing. And he didn’t have what Jack had. People might have been dazzled by him but they wouldn’t have been bowled over. If his life had gone the way Jack’s did and he’d been killed in mid-career, I don’t see how his picture would be on the walls of poor people all over the world. Of course I didn’t see it then, nobody could and who would have guessed any of it?

Nobody stops to think what I thought when Jack got killed. At most they think what would Joe have thought? And Bobby. It might have been easier if I’d been over here when they went – but maybe I needed to experience it there, I don’t know.

Family

Well, what did you think? I was thinking you’d died before either one of them was killed, then I remembered that you hadn’t.

No. that book you just read, I know it was fiction but it’s a lot of crap. The guy thinks I’d put anything in front of my family, that just says more about him than me. That’s like saying I’d put something in front of my right arm. Sometimes you have to, because it’s the only way to save something and you have to choose what to lose, but you don’t lop off your family for the theoretical chance to make more money. Jesus Christ, what is money for? It’s so you can have a good life and give your family a good life, and have enough to protect yourself. And of course the more you have the more you need to protect, but it isn’t the same as saying that you want more, more, more for its own sake. Not unless you’re a horse’s ass or you can’t think of anything else to do but keep playing the game as if the game was life.

A red-headed Irishman

You remember somebody wrote that I was playing classical music and my [“employees?” “friends?” I couldn’t decide which was the right word] didn’t like it and I said “the trouble with you bastards is you don’t have any culture.” They told that story figuring that my saying the word “bastards” showed that I didn’t have any culture. That says worlds about them. I had culture; what I didn’t have was WASP manners. And that’s a whole different thing. A manner is a way of fitting in and showing certain others that you fit in. I got through Harvard all right. I could fit in when I needed to. But what I wasn’t, and what I had no interest in pretending to be, was a WASP. I was a red-headed Irishman, likely to kick the pillars down if I was crossed, and I didn’t let them forget it, and I’ll tell you why. If I hadn’t, they wouldn’t have let me forget it! It’s like laughing at yourself first except I wasn’t laughing, I was stopping them from putting me into an ethnic box by putting myself half-in, half-out.

Now, my boys, they might have been English, especially Jack. I raised them to come from the right schools and meet the right people and I was prominent enough and rich enough and colorful enough – and don’t think I didn’t work at that sometimes! – that I got them a sort of exception. They were as Irish as Aunt Bridget when it was convenient, and as English or as upper American as Macmillan when it was convenient, and neither thing was entirely true or entirely false. What they were, and you’ll understand this from your feeling about your own family, what they were was Kennedys first and everything else got tacked on.

Making your own rules

Made their own rules? Hell yes, and who do you suppose taught them to? In this world, I’d tell them, you have to make your own rules or live by somebody else’s.

Now, there isn’t any use pretending or fooling yourself into thinking that other people’s rules were made for anything but the convenience of the people making them. Like laws, like the rules of a club, like social etiquette – anything you can think of including morality and the ten commandments that everybody refers to and nobody can name or follow – it was all made up by somebody for some reason. I don’t mean exactly that one person made up any one rule, even laws. But there just isn’t and can’t be an impartial body that makes up rules that don’t favor anybody and come out for everybody’s benefit. Maybe God could do it but he doesn’t seem to have done it. So you’re on your own, really, and the main thing is whether you realize it. That’s what I taught my boys and I’d say they turned out all right, wouldn’t you?

So – when you saw them killed?

Reacting to Jack being killed

I didn’t actually see it, that was a mercy. What did I think? What did I feel? Well, here I am beyond the grave, I suppose there’s no harm telling.

I don’t know if you realize it but I was a very emotional man. I was in touch with myself very well. I know people think I was cold as ice, but they’re confusing cool judgment with lack of passion. Jack, same way. Well, you can see it maybe in stories about my temper – people don’t always think to connect a strong temper with strong feelings, I don’t know why. Yes I do: They think the temper comes out of an ego being blocked. But that’s too simple. And – people forget, and of course whose who never knew me don’t know it – I had enormous self-control. When reason and judgment said I had to sit on it, I sat on it, and maybe it showed and maybe it didn’t, but I was in control, not my temper. Even if I blew up, I didn’t blow up in a way to ruin anything, you understand?

How do you think I reacted? First of all, he was my son. Just like Joe, all that preparation, all that careful molding of character and experience, all that pride I had in how he’d turned out – and he was gone. It’s a bitter thing for a man to bury his children. Jack had opened a side of himself to me after my stroke that I hadn’t seen since he was a very little boy. He had been openly loving and affectionate again without what I suddenly realized was a caution, a reserve. I guess he’d spent his whole life a little bit in fear of me, or of my disapproval, anyway. And once that was gone – once there wasn’t anything I could do or say – that soft side of him came out to me again. I hated for that to be killed, too.

People think I might have been devastated that a Kennedy wasn’t in the White House any more, but that just shows that they don’t understand anything. With Jack gone, why bother? We had done it; we were at the peak and Jack’s martyrdom – for what else was it? – had sealed it. Every ambition I had had for the family I had fulfilled on January 20, 1961. Everything after that wasn’t aimed at achieving anything; it was aimed at what it would do for them to achieve it, if you see the difference. If Bobby could have gotten my opinion and I’d been up to it, I would have told him not to run for president in 1968 or ever. There wasn’t any need, and it wouldn’t do any good. But Bobby probably wouldn’t have listened anyway; that isn’t why he ran for president.

The purity of Jack and Bobby

Here’s a theme for you. My stroke liberated Jack; Jack’s murder liberated Bobby; Bobby’s murder liberated Ted, though people don’t see it. That is the downside, as you call it, to family expectations. The reason I bring it us is that after 1963 Bobby got moved farther and farther toward total rejection of the unfairness of the way things were. I could have told him that no one man can change things much, and that if he did start to change things he wouldn’t last. But Bobby probably wouldn’t have listened. He was awfully strong-headed.

I was awfully proud of what Jack had accomplished because you know it was pretty much against his grain. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if one reason people loved him as a politician was because he didn’t seem like a politician. Well, he wasn’t, not really. He learned the game and he played it as well as anybody could, but without me in the background he never would have gotten too far because he was too pure. And Bobby was even purer.

You don’t think so? Well, think again. Those boys had been to Harvard after exclusive prep schools and life as a prominent public figure’s son. They fit in, in a way I hadn’t been able to because I was the son of saloon keepers. Jack, especially, was an intellectual by temperament. He loved reading and he loved thinking about things you might not credit if I told you. He was like the second son in royalty, you see, and he could afford to be his own man. And then came the war, and his whole life there was all that sickness. It wasn’t the same kind of life I’d had at all. He didn’t need to do those things, because I had done them for him! For him and his brothers and sisters. What would be the point in my educating him into the seamy side of things when I’d made more money than he would ever need?

And Bobby, you know, seriously thought about becoming a priest. There is a famous picture of my family that shows Bobby at age 10 or 12, I think and that picture says it all. If he had been really set on being a priest I wouldn’t have stopped him – you can always use a cardinal in the family! – but I was glad he went a different way. He was a very passionate boy. What he would have done in a celibate society escapes me. Well, I don’t suppose he’d have been able to stand it. Or maybe he would have been able to sublimate it all, I don’t know. But I was still glad he didn’t go into the church. Jack needed him, for one thing.

Thank you. Loads of questions, but I’m tired now. (11:50)

America’s Long Journey: Snapshot, 1800

A few of the most conspicuous differences between 1850 and 1800, looking backward:

* The 1800 census counted the population as 5,300,000 (4,400,000 free, 900,000 enslaved). Some of the states had abolished slavery, but it was not yet a contentious, sectional issue. Slavery was an institution that seemed clearly destined to wither and die, as soon as society could find a way to deal with the problems that would result. The new Americans did not yet think of themselves as primarily free or slave states, but – as they had done during England’s long colonial rule – as one of three well-recognized types of colonies — New England, the South, and the Middle colonies of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

* The racial and ethnic composition of America was far simpler, being primarily British (English, Scottish, Welch, Scots-Irish) and German. Indians and slaves were, in a sense, invisible to their contemporaries; there, but not citizens.

* Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Samuel F.B. Morse, Francis Scott Key, Winfield Scott were names unknown. There was no railroad, no telegraph, no steam-driven travel by water. Communication was by mail or messenger, and transportation was by horse, boat, stagecoach or foot.

* The Union consisted of the original 13 states plus Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Its boundaries were compact and logical – to the East, the Atlantic, to the West, the Mississippi, to the North, British North America, to the South, East and West Florida. In 1800, nobody was dreaming of a republic stretching to the far Pacific. Given the difficulties of travel and trade across the Appalachians, it was still an open question whether the republic’s seacoast and interior sections could hold together in the long run.

& & &

In looking at the nineteenth century, we have covered a lot of territory. Here, just as a crib sheet, is a reminder of the ground we have traversed, in the order it occurred, rather than the order in which we covered it working our way back from the present.

The Election of 1800 – Jefferson’s revolution – Jefferson and Marshall – Great, forgotten, Gallatin – The shores of Tripoli – Louisiana Purchase, Louisiana adjustments – Burr – Lewis and Clark – The Embargo – Jefferson – John Adams’ Son – The War of 1812 – Westward movement – Jackson and Florida – The Panic of 1819 – The Missouri Compromise – “A Firebell in the night” – The Great Secretary of State – Denmark Vesey – The last New Englander – The Election of 1828 – Nat Turner’s long shadow – Turnpikes, canals, and steam – Jackson and the Bank – Jackson and nullification – Jackson and the Cherokee Removal – Democracy in America – Andrew Jackson – Old man eloquent – The Panic of 1837 – Tippecanoe and Tyler Too – The Republic of Texas – Sam Houston – The 1840s and Utopia – Abolition – The telegraph – The Mormon emigration – The Mexican War – California and gold – Compromise of 1850 – Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Mrs. Stowe and Mrs. Hentz – Whigs and Republicans – The politics of the house divided – Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 – Bleeding Kansas – Long-distance telegraph – Lincoln and Douglas – John Brown’s raid – The election of 1860 – Mr. Lincoln – A conflict of loyalties – The Civil War – The South in ruins – Race and Reconstruction – Vengeance – Transcontinental – Credit Mobilier and corruption – The North and the Gilded Age – Cowboys and Indians and nesters – Labor and antitrust and reform – Electricity – Telephone – Spanish American War.

An inadequate survey, of course, but perhaps better than nothing at all.

 

Bernard Baruch on three industrial revolutions

Thursday May 4, 2006

All right, for what it’s worth – that is, assuming this is real and not only imaginings, regardless if it is real within imaginative trappings – I should like to talk to Bernard Baruch[1] about our times. Mr. Baruch, is that agreeable to you?

It is, and the fact that you know so little about me may help you to overlay less and hear more.

Well, that would be good. Certainly it is what I prefer. Tell me what is going on politically and economically. I have a view of it – how much of that view is inexperience, overgeneralization and group-think?

Most of it. You are ready to be a trader!

That’s a joke, and yet it isn’t.

The scale of the problem – seen as an intellectual problem first, then as a practical problem – is such that no one can be better than comparatively informed, comparatively thoughtful, comparatively insightful. This is good news and bad. It means you succeed merely by being not quite so dismal as your competitors, and that isn’t so difficult! But it means there is precious little wisdom to be had.

Now in your particular case, you have a specialized expertise – at least, it may be looked at this way – which is an absorption in history which produces a sort of “feel” for the larger currents of your time. You have not been maximizing the advantage of this because you have not until recently been keeping abreast of the day’s news – the news other people are seeing, and so your rhythm is far out of sync with theirs without your realizing it. In other words you are exchanging your one-eyed vision for their one-eyed vision rather than enjoy the advantages of binocular or even of alternating vision.

Other successful investors have their own area of expertise, you have yours. It only takes one to give you an edge, a separate place to stand so that you don’t get blown with the wind.

Now those who have two areas of expertise, or even three, have their vision enhanced so much the more. Note that I am not discussing vocations there – although that is usually where one gets such expertise.

Mostly it involves understanding men and understanding at least the broad outlines of the way things are going – which in turn involves at least some knowledge of how things really as opposed to theoretically work. Your conspiracy theorists may go as far wrong as your uninformed patriots here, or perhaps more, or less.

I presume you did not ask me to be your personal financial advisor. What I would do is very different from what you would accept, because you like to invest in things you approve of, only, and I liked to invest in things that increased my personal freedom to do as I wished.

Here is one way to make your investment decisions in the context of the larger currents of whatever times you find yourself in. Your investment decisions are made – everyone’s are – in the context of a greater understanding of life. If you think the world is coming to an end soon you don’t go long!

All right, let me trace this out for you as I see it, and you can pass it to your friends, and for some it will have meaning and for some it will not. “I” am of course being translated through your mind, your mental habits, your linguistic habits, your accustomed channels of association. That is what makes all of your contacts sound more similar to each other, and to you, than they would on their own. So – caveat emptor, except the advice is free.

Where are you now? You have the imminent data – the urgent, the latest, the “breaking news” – and you have the overwhelming volume of so many sources of information and misinformation and disinformation – TV, radio, internet, magazines, newspapers, private-subscription advice of various kinds, inter-personal resource-sharing and a new source of information entirely (in that it allows so much access to quickly and so easily; its power sets it apart from its early incarnations as library and reference desk) which is the historical, geographic, and cultural context provided by relatively instant relatively unlimited access to information that is the web’s search facility.

With all that information pouring in, it is harder and easier to see what is really important and for that matter what is real.

Harder – because the noise overwhelms the signal. Just because “everyone” is concerned about a problem doesn’t mean anything, necessarily. It may be a set-up for someone’s agenda, it may be sincere but mistaken, it may be real and urgent but actually trivial, it may be real and important but entirely misperceived because of the context of the times, as the Shah’s overthrow was misperceived in the context of the Cold War.

Easier – because when you do get on the scent, you have so many resources to check your intuition and logic – resources undreamed of in my day, and immensely powerful. The very existence of these new resources fundamentally change the dynamics of even the most established games. (Think for a moment of the role of the telephone in the stock market of the 1920s. The telephone, the radio, the newsreels, the gossip columns – none of them may seem to have anything to do with massive stock speculation but I assure you that they did.)

So – to get the advantages of the new factors and dampen or compensate for the disadvantages, again you need an independent place to stand. For you personally, it will be history, plus your inner guidance, plus your sense that the old ways are coming to an end in a fundamental, not a superficial, way. For others it might be, say, a profound technical or social understanding of the impact of certain new technologies; for others, intuitive accord with fads, so that they naturally know what other people would be attracted to – provided they stayed aloof from that knowing, rather than merely being led by it!

So, to sketch where you are. A broad, oversimplified sketch. Any sketch of whatever detail is going to be oversimplified: that is what a map is!

You are at the end of the second industrial revolution and at the beginning of the third. First came the mechanical revolution, and it came infinitely slowly by your standards. Perhaps you should define its beginnings in the 1200s with the water mills. Certainly following windmills, then the systematic pursuit of mechanical advantage; a great spurt with the harnessing of steam power, culminating in the mid to late 19th century. Second came the electrical revolution, redefining all this mechanical advantage in ways unforeseen but now coming to their culmination; having passed it slightly, in fact. Electricity took the mechanical advantage and performed the same tasks more efficiently and more smoothly – hence more powerfully; and this improvement became a transformation in kind. It is a long way from the telegraph to the cell phone, and the electric motor, and the computer, and it took less than 200 years. Now you are in the third revolution and because it is qualitatively different from its predecessors, and in its infant stages, and scattered in what seem to you different fields, you recognize it not.

 

Your third industrial revolution – or your third phase of the one revolution – looks at first glance to be a fusion of the mechanical and the electrical revolutions: the world of electronics speeds and makes more powerful all interactions; the onset of nanotechnology and robotics makes the process of manufacturing even more different from what it once was even 50 years ago, or 100, let alone 500 or 1000.

But this is not the key to the third phase. The third phase moves away from separation and mechanization and moves toward magic. Startling?

Well, not so much startling as sort of impenetrable, so far. I know that Arthur C. Clarke famously said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Yes, but I’m talking about real magic, not merely the appearance of magic. If you define magic as the use of consciousness to shape reality in conformance with desire – magic is the third phase of the revolution, and you will find eventually that it restores humanity to relation to the world around it, after the long separation imposed by the first two phases.

Can you make that a little clearer? With examples, perhaps?

If you can turn on a light bulb by thinking, or if you can nourish your body by a certain attitude, let us say, or if you can assist your plants or purify your water by directed desire, what is this but magic? Yet this is but the merest child’s play, the thinnest edge of the wedge.

The mechanical revolution began a process of seeing the world differently. Rather than beings with their own rights and rightful place, everything around mankind came to be seen as potential tools to be used; as potential riches to be won. It started with minerals and sources of energy; it expanded to animals; it did not cease at the boundaries of the human, and so people came to be seen as factors rather than as children of God. And as to any existence that could not be fitted into a scheme of utility, it was disregarded in practice; given lip service or treated as an inconvenience.

(These things don’t to be consistent to be true. You could and did have devout Christians running vast enterprises that silently assumed the irrelevance of spiritual forces to everyday life. Perhaps it was easier for me as a Jew to see the inconsistency of the Christian position – but my life was not significantly different. In my time, it could not be. Yet I was different enough to have a place to stand.)

The electrical revolution proceeded from where the mechanical phase stood, but although its executors did not intend anything different from the executors of the mechanical phase, these things have their own logic, and so electrics brought the world into closer communication – which speeded up the strife that speeded up the change – and in due course electrics were superseded, unnoticed, by electronics, which are now so much a part of your day as to be scarcely noticed. That electronic revolution is founded, theoretically, not in Newton’s world but in Einstein’s. and although practitioners may or may not be aware of it, increasingly the theoretical end of electronics has gone through the rabbit hole, and the conventional view of the world exists for it no more. The reasons why will never penetrate the public mind to any extent but the effects will not be delayed or reduced by a jot or a tittle because of that.

Once the practical men of business and industry realize that consciousness is central, rather than matter or energy – you are into your third phase of the revolution, and everything changes once again. So perhaps we may call the third phase the reintegration phase.

Mechanical – brute force, more intelligently applied.

Electrical – power reduced to convenient personal size.

Reintegration – consciousness as the lever that multiplies.

This third phase begins as the other two began – it is seen as an acceleration and multiplier of forces for the same ends that began it. But in fact just as with the first two, so in the third phase the use of the new force – or the newly harnessed force, we should say – changes the ends for which the means are used.

Now to bring this inadequate overview sketch back to its context – how does this help you to invest? How does it help you to understand your times (which is or ought to be the basis for investing, of course)? It gives you one more place to stand, and you – anyone – can never have too many.

Keep this simple sketch in mind as you read each day’s noisy signals in whatever form you keep up with the news. Test each bit of information by fitting it into the model. The Chinese are building the Three Gorges Dam? The South Americans are forming a common market? The Europeans are inching toward an armed force separate from American-dominated NATO? Information technology jobs are flowing out of the United States? Oil is now moving from abundance to relative scarcity over time? The educational system is broken? The political parties dissatisfy, and offer no meaningful cooperation or vision? Pollution of various kinds threaten life? Species are going out of existence? The climate seems to be changing? The dollar is depreciating? Religious fanaticism is growing and tolerance may be decreasing?

It all looks different from whatever viewing point you stand at. So – I just gave you a new place to stand. For that matter, this experiment that you are conducting – in the open, live on stage as you might say – needs to be factored in as well, from that same perspective.

Investors – and anyone attempting to make sense of the times – always have and always will face the problem of distinguishing signal from noise. Nothing does that so well as context. And nothing potentially misleads so drastically as the very same process! So – don’t get stuck in one point of view if you can help it. Look at the data from a point of view – see what it seems to mean – then change points of view (as many times as you are able to) and see what it seems to mean from each new point of view as if it were your only point of view. Not half-heartedly, in other words. What if fundamentalist Christians are right? What if materialists are right? What if ideology is key? What if hidden agendas drive events? What if history is the result of the chance collision of forces? What if military might determines? What if economic, or technological, or social cohesion?

That’s enough for you to be going on with.

It sure is. Thank you. (10:50)


[1] Bernard Baruch is defined thus in the Wikipedia: Bernard Mannes Baruch (August 19, 1870 – June 20, 1965) was an American financier, stock market and commodities speculator, statesman, and presidential adviser. After his success in business, he devoted his time toward advising a range of American presidents including Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy on economic matters for over forty years; this is why Baruch was highly regarded as an elder statesman. Described as a man of immense charm who enjoyed a larger-than-life reputation that matched his considerable fortune, he is remembered as one of the most powerful men of the early 20th century.

 

Emerson on scripture and redemption

Monday May 1, 2006

Reading Emerson even in Bliss Perry’s mutilated version – I mean no discourtesy to Mr. Perry – I see how it is as Dion Fortune said, or Carl Jung – the gods do not reinhabit their old dwellings when they once abandon them. We hear of Jesus or religion in a certain context and it leaves us unmoved. We hear of them in some true, living, context and we are again set afire. But there is no way to send the advance columns into the old houses, for there is nothing there but stragglers, clinging to what is familiar rather than setting out on their own voyages.

Maybe there is nothing wrong with that. We can’t all be explorers in every field, and those who are called to explore in one area must of necessity leave other areas unexamined, and take other people’s word for it all.

[My brother] Paul made the startling suggestion that I could contact Mr. Emerson, which had not occurred to me. I have not yet adjusted entirely to this new state of things. Mr. Emerson, if you would like to say something I’d be very glad to hear it.

If you wish to know your own heart, look to what moves you in the words or recorded deeds of others. How could you resonate to a string tuned to a different note? We will leave the musical analogy as neither of us is musical, but you do get the meaning of it. It is nothing more nor less than what I said all my life: Trust what you sympathize with. There is a reason why you were made the way you were made. Your strengths, your weaknesses, your talents, your inabilities – you judge them all and you cannot rightly judge any, because of all mankind you have the worst vantage point of judgment – which implies a little distance, after all. But you have the best, and the only, vantage point for reflection and action.

When you just sent out that email quoting me on the origin and nature of religious impulse – though that is not how it was phrased – what were you doing but the same thing I did? It is startling to people – “men,” we would have said stylistically, in my day, but as you know we used “men” as you might use “human” – it is striking to people to hear someone speak of God, of spirit, of Jesus, in a context devoid of cant, of “piety,” of artificial separation from the rest of life.

It is this lack of a living faith that is killing the civilization you were born into, for what seems to your time to be a great divorce – between Christians on one side and secularists on the other – is a disagreement only when seen from the one angle of what does either side believe, or think it believes. When you look at how either side acts when it is not thinking of religion, you see that in each the same mainspring moves them in the same way toward the same goals.

Christians that are afraid to die! Christians that are afraid of accidents, that live by purchasing insurance and live their religion as a sort of insurance against eternal death! Christians that are afraid of free inquiry into religious impulses!

And their counter-pole, the materialists. What practical difference can be found? And is not “a distinction without a difference” one of the elementary fallacies in logic?

A people afraid of life is not a people to whom God is a living reality. A people afraid of God is not a people in whom God is a felt presence.

None of this is new, it is but the working-out of tendencies that have been operating for centuries, if not forever. Every generation must face the dilemma of condemning the old books, the old wisdoms, or reverencing them and living them without being imprisoned by them.

You call the Bible not a book but a library, and this is one way to loosen the bond without rejecting the value. But an entire generation has been raised up – again! – most of them dead to the living presence.

They cannot be redeemed by Jesus’ life and death. They can be redeemed only by the effect of that life and death within themselves. But what effect? Guilt? Obedience to church officials and church doctrines? Fear lest they say or do or think or suspect something they shouldn’t? Mindless – that is, unmindful – reverence of what they do not comprehend, without a corresponding faith that God will have given them the means of distinguishing truth from error?

It boils down now to what it boiled down to in the past and boils down to in the future: If you cannot trust the voice within, you are reduced to accepting outside authority. But – given that we must each decide what we believe and what we cannot believe, a moment’s thought shows that even those who accept outside authority over their own inner voice use the inner voice to decide which outside authority to obey! How else could it be?

Now, there is a difference in temperament that ought to be noted. One man – one person – will search his inner nature and follow what the inner voice prompts. Another will find an outside authority to accept and will accept it.

This is not a matter of faith or of intellect, though it may look like either; it is a matter, one might say, of style. One may go wrong or go right following either path. If the one side offers closer connection and greater confidence, it risks what you call Psychic’s Disease – unwarranted certainty. If the other side offers greater consistency and an immunity from individual error, in that the community is the keeper of the group’s conscience, one might say, it risks petrifaction and bigotry. No path is all right or all wrong. One might say no path is right or wrong in any degree – for the person in question. But the social, cumulative effect of too many people on one path may call out for compensating numbers or intensity representing the complementary approach.

Your time tends to think of the nineteenth century as Christian and settled, where in fact it was far less Christian even in name than the America of the 1700s, and that of the 1700s less so than the America of the 1600s. And all this progression had good and bad effects. We weren’t hanging witches in the 1800s, and we gradually ceased to use scripture to justify human slavery. There was a decline of the fanaticism that always accompanies a religion that has come to rely on numbers and uniformity of utterance to outface the times and the inner doubts that the times produce. Yet the more secular mode of expression was not uniformly an advance over the grim-visaged Puritans we had been. How could it be? Life is less a matter of truth and falsehood than of a prism, showing now this color, now that one, each in its turn attractive beyond all others.

I have been saying for some years now that I believe the crisis of our time is a matter of greater consciousness. It occurs to me, perhaps that sounds to some people as though I am saying it is a matter of more thought.

You will never say a sentence that cannot be misunderstood. And if it were not for the occult sympathies and ties that bind individuals outside of their sight and beyond their thought, no one would ever understand another even slightly, even so much as they do. That is why God in his mercy made man with an infallible detector of a true thing – if he may be persuaded to listen to it!

Bob Dylan says, “it’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.”

He also says “it’s a wonder that we still know how to breathe.” But it is more a wonder that we ever learned it. It is a wonder that we come into the world, and inhabit it, and leave again unscathed, shaped, enriched by the experience.

Your life was a great inspiration to people, and we thank you for it.

My life was an experiment like anyone else’s, and reasonably successful. I had honor, achievement, family, affection – even reputation. Quite an accumulation for someone who early on cast his respectability to the winds and dared to live by faith. This of course is the tie that bound me to Henry Thoreau. His path was not mine, but he too lived on faith, and in faith, and there can be no greater gulf fixed than that between those who live on faith and those who cannot. He and I were on the same side of the divide, and we knew it. And if after a time the strain of our various inequalities became almost too great, still we helped each other and I believe we never ceased to be glad that the other was in the world.

Well, it meant a tremendous amount to him that you were there to recognize him and help him early on.

I merely showed him his soul in a mirror and suggested that it came also from God. And he lived each day what I had only imagined.

I have thought that the strains between you were mostly differences of externals: you half a generation older, famous, of an old established family, and more conservative for all of those reasons; he younger, relatively unknown, always the unfavorable end of the comparison between you, and he more radical.

True enough but of course none of those differences were accidental, and none determinative. The truth is that he and I were in very loose harness and had different kinds of lives to lead. It was only in times that we forgot and sought to make the other think and feel and be like us that the awareness of difference became irksome. Otherwise it was merely spice.

I have tired and must go. My thanks.

My thanks as well, as my best wishes.

 

Emerson: both dynamite and the breath of life

Sunday, April 30, 2006

My friend Dave Garland stops in, on his way to do the Guidelines program at TMI, and delivers me a great gift, Bliss Perry’s The Heart of Emerson’s Journals, read so long ago as to be again new. Browsing it – how nice. Emerson wrote, “One thing is certain: the religions are obsolete when the reforms do not proceed from them.” Reading in it reminds me of brother Smallwood’s description a while ago of Emerson’s effect on the young men of his day.

Emerson was an ordained minister, the son of generations of ordained ministers, born into the very highest levels of society in Boston – which then meant New England . From this position conscience and circumstance dynamited him into a new and wider orbit.

His first wife – his first love — died of TB after only a couple of years of marriage. And, after a bit, Emerson, still a young man, felt obliged by conscience to resign his position with his church. He went off to Europe at age 29, spending several months there. Aboard ship, coming home to neither wife nor profession nor settled place, Emerson wrote “[I] wish I knew where and how I ought to live. God will show me.” A couple of days later, in September 1833, age 30, he wrote this:

“I believe that the error of religionists lies in this, that they do not know the extent or the harmony or the depth of their moral nature; that they are clinging to little, positive, verbal, formal versions of the moral law, and very imperfect versions too, while the infinite laws, the laws of the Law, the great circling truths whose only adequate symbol is the material laws, the astronomy, etc., are all unobserved, and sneered at when spoken of, as frigid and insufficient. I call Calvinism such an imperfect version of the moral law. Unitarianism is another, and every form of Christian and of Pagan faith in the hands of incapable teachers is such a version. On the contrary, in the hands of a true Teacher, the falsehoods, the pitifulnesses, the sectarianisms of each are dropped, and the sublimity and the depth of the Original is penetrated and exhibited….”

That is what he meant by self-reliance! Not ego and self-assertion, but finding the place within us in which to stand, and standing there, and not being swayed by the opinion of all mankind if it meet not resonance from within.

Ten years later he says (and not just about Calvinism, of course):

“It is not in the power of God to make a communication of his will to a Calvinist. For to every inward revelation he holds up his silly book , and quotes chapter and verse against the Book-Maker and Man-Maker, against that which quotes not, but is and cometh. There is a light older than intellect, by which the intellect lives and works, always new, and which degrades every past and particular shining of itself. This light, Calvinism denies, in its idolatry of a certain past shining.”

A dozen years later, in 1855, nearly 52 years old, he makes this entry:

“Munroe [his publisher and friend] seriously asked what I believed of Jesus and prophets. I said, as so often, that it seemed to me an impiety to be listening to one and another, when the pure Heaven was pouring itself into each of us, on the simple condition of obedience. To listen to any second-hand gospel is perdition of the First Gospel. Jesus was Jesus because he refused to listen to another, and listened at home.”

Can you perhaps see just from these fragments why this man was dynamite to whatever was old and rotten, and seemed the very breath of life to the young at heart?

TGU on necessary conflict

Wednesday April 26, 2006

(3 pm) More? (Or so I sense.)

It is natural to feel a sense of unease, given the conflict between the motives you ascribe to those who have the power to create wars and the motives you ascribe to those opposing the wars. The conflict is real. The question is what is the tack you can take that will best got where you want to go, given that neither you nor anyone can judge events that have not yet occurred.

Yes, exactly. If our forces and the empire are going to be defeated in any case, that’s one thing. But if the forces can be undefeated and the empire defeated (as in Vietnam) that is a second thing, and if it possible for neither to be defeated, a third. Ideally I would like to see the empire voluntarily retreat but not be replaced by something worse. Is that possible?

Ideally, then, you wish to control once you have ceased controlling. For in specifying “worse” or “better” it is of course in your judgment.

Well I guess I don’t know where to go with that.

Give over control to the other side, and live in faith. We are well able to turn men’s minds to our purpose – given that “we” are “they” as “we” are “you.”

Then whence come cross purposes?

Your lives are expressions of your threads, your values. Conflicts play out “here” and “there” – but there is nothing inherently wrong with conflict; it is just that you are tired of it. That is because the wrong conflicts are manifesting. Some conflicts are productive and some are obstructive, and which is which fluctuates according to the times and tradition. In your time, endless ideology finally devolved to a stalemate just as endless conflict about religious establishment did in the 1600s, and this present flare-up is the false dawn that is actually a sunset. We assure you no one will care about right-wing and left-wing in a hundred years, any more than they care about Catholic versus Protestant. You will have moved on to other problems. They won’t be (aren’t, from our viewpoint) arguing over nationalism, either. All sides of all current issues will be represented. None will have “won” or even lost. Is history or philosophy or English the “winner” in academic circles? Is algebra or trigonometry the “winner” in math circles? It is a matter of appropriate beliefs, appropriate priorities. Various things have to appear and be settled – if only be fatigue and indifference – before other issues can rightly arise. Are you exercised about republican versus monarchy? Or feudalism versus capitalism? Or industrialism versus tradition? Issues become settled, one way or the other.

The coming issue involves consciousness.

Of course. But it will come disguised in the leftover issues of the past, because that is where people’s mental habits remain. So, nationalism, theology, economics, ideology, power games among imperial forces – it is all distracting natural camouflage – not conspiracy, just forward-blindness. The real issue is, what shall be the new form of consciousness? Or, to put it another way, how shall the new houses of the gods be constructed? (For as Carl Jung wisely put it, the gods do not return to homes once abandoned.)