#45 On Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour

Dear Mat,

You’ve triggered me. It surely won’t surprise you that citing Jesus as an ethical exemplar does nothing for me. “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Cesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Nought.

Jesus offers spiritual balms for the dispossessed. For the powerful he offers a free pass. Worked OK for industrial capitalism, I admit, but it was even better suited to empire, feudalism and monarchy. It was a recipe for political acquiescence so good the Roman empire adopted it holus-bolus. The only piece of political action he did was to mess up the desks of some money changers, once. Jesus appears to have been a social conservative and an economic liberal. Not a great combo.

I would have been impressed if he’d said, “Render Caesar unto prison and render the Senate more representative.” But Jesus wasn’t like that. Cult leaders never are. They have given up on this world — it’s ending soon — and don’t even try to improve it, preferring to gain personal power, occasionally calling themselves the King of Israel or similar. Meanwhile they offer you an egocentric view of life as a spiritual struggle, divorced from politics.

The struggle myth is certainly real and evolutionarily useful. But according to Kahneman, the rule people actually follow is more like: struggle is important to improve your lot; when things go well it’s because of your struggling (even the share that is luck); when things go bad it’s because of luck (even the share that was your fault). Innate and useful but we’ve got way better versions in democracies, where we add the clause: if other people or the system fucks you, you should struggle for recourse. Keeps the bastards honest.

Democracies have the best of both worlds: governments do more and people have more rights. People’s rights enable them to hold their governments to higher standards. That seems as applicable to Sweden as the US.

When America created the first welfare state, Roosevelt was interfering in a complex system he didn’t understand, surely? Ditto for the granting of the franchise to all citizens over 21 and ditto for the Reform Bills in the UK — some of these drastic modern interventions seem to have worked very well. What if the non-intervention rule had been followed all along? The “don’t meddle” argument was made — as validly as I admit you make it now — at every stage of reform in modern history. (Including, always, by Christians. Lol.)

What kind of meddling are you against in this context? To bring it back to the example we were roughly discussing, Is recognising the legacy of slavery really meddling? Is paying reparations really messing too much?

Safe in the arms of the lord because I didn’t rock the boat,


PS Another real conspiracy is the writing of drug laws — with the help of the companies who own prisons — that target black communities. How? By classifying crack cocaine as a class higher than rich person cocaine, for example. There is another conspiracy theory popular in the back community that says crack was invented by the CIA and distributed to poor people to ruin them. Again, too dastardly, intricate and fanciful. The real conspiracy is out in the open. It’s a simple, almost tragically mundane, example of transparent motives and methods: profit seeking and corporations lobbying government.

PPS Also I forgot to mention that the vast majority of conspiracies are of an even more mundane kind, also overlooked by conspiracy theorists: criminal conspiracies to make money such as drug cartels, collusion rackets, tax evasion and profiteering.

Also published on Medium.