Skip to content

QUIGLEY ON TOP: Carroll I hardly knew ye.

I have never met anyone who had taken Carroll Quigley’s class at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service who has not agreed the experience was life changing, and that includes such diverse personalities as Bill Clinton and Pat Buchanan. Clinton in his Democratic Presidential Nomination Acceptance Address 16th July 1992, said this about Quigley:

“As a teenager, I heard John Kennedy’s summons to citizenship. And then, as a student at Georgetown I heard that call clarified by a professor named Carroll Quigley, who said to us that America was the greatest nation in history because our people had always believed in two things: that tomorrow can be better than today and that every one of us has a personal moral responsibility to make it so.”

I remember Professor Quigley, in the old military barracks that served us for classrooms back then, plunging down the aisle, arm outstretched as though it held a sword or a spear, shouting out the intimate details of whatever great world shaking battle we were learning about at the time. I recall also my shock when I learned that Plato was not just some Greek in a toga who was Socrates mouthpiece and talked a lot about caves and shadows, but that his ideas, for better of worse, but mostly for worse, may have shaped the fundamental beliefs of whole societies.

His book The Evolution of Civilization (1979) contains more or less the substance of his lectures. Tragedy and Hope (1966) containing over 1300 pages and the uncompleted Weapons Systems and Political Stability (1983) with over 1000 includes most of his lectures adjusted and expanded to cover the special focus of each book. The question this brings to mind of course is, given the multitude of facts and the breadth of the subject matter, how was it possible for the student to digest this knowledge. Even more remarkable is that many of us remember the specifics of the lectures, even as in my case over 50 years later.

He accomplished this feat of teaching by the immense theatricality of his lectures combined with breaking down the facts into repetitive categories and the surprising novelty of his insights. As an example of the latter, I opened Tragedy and Hope and extracted a random quote:

“Helmuth von Moltke, who had never commanded a unit so large as a company previously. Moltke’s great contribution was to be found in the fact that, by using the railroad and the telegraph, he was able to merge mobilization and attack into a single operation so that the final concentration of his forces took place in the enemy country, practically on the battlefield itself, just before contact with the main enemy forces took place.”

All I had ever known of von Moltke before was that he had humiliated the forces of Napoleon III of France. The surprise that he was an amateur and his vaunted strategy so simple, forever fixed these facts my mind.

Of course, the way it usually happens with successful military innovations, they become doctrines that others copy. The French military academies took the concept of mass assault and interpreted it as a question of morale. Unbelievably, French military doctrine following their defeat, maintained that defense was irrelevant, that mass attacks were the only strategy and the army with the highest morale would always win because the army with lower moral would run away. This also would produce fewer casualties. The Italians modified this theory to eliminate morale and opted to place machine guns at the backs of the troops instead of in front of them in order to shoot any who hesitated in the attack. Of course, at Caporetto it meant that the Italian troops charging the Austrian lines surrendered in mass when they reached the enemy’s trenches. Italian troops were not so dumb as to buy their leaders view of “Patria” as something to die for.

This military doctrine of bringing troops rapidly to a huge front for a mass attack collapsed in WW I when both sides ran into barbed wire, machine guns and trenches and died in huge numbers no matter how quickly they got to the battlefield or how high their morale.

Perhaps the central element of Quigley’s teaching is that it is the humanism of society and not its form of government that should be at its heart. For example, on the question of minority rights he wrote:

“I define democracy as majority rule and minority rights. Of these the second is more important than the first. There are many despotisms which have majority rule. Hitler held plebiscites in which he obtained over 92 percent of the vote, and most of the people who were qualified to vote did vote. I think that in China today a majority of the people support the government, but China is certainly not a democracy.

The essential half of this definition then, is the second half, minority rights. What that means is that a minority has those rights which enable it to work within the system and to build itself up to be a majority and replace the governing majority. Moderate deviations from majority rule do not usually undermine democracy. In fact, absolute democracy does not really exist at the nation-state level. For example, a modest poll tax as a qualification for voting would be an infringement on the principle of majority rule but restrictions on the suffrage would have to go pretty far before they really abrogated democracy. On the other hand relatively slight restrictions on minority rights — the freedoms of speech, assembly, and other rights — would rapidly erode democracy.”
The Mythology Of American Democracy

Teaching was Quigley’s life. Many of those he taught intended to enter the United States Foreign Service. He believed they needed to comprehend the cultures they would work in and therefore he developed a method of analysis of culture, history and society that would aid them in their vocation and hopefully create a better world.

He was always was an optimist. Later in life, however, that optimism began to wane. I guess it was like a person who builds one of the world’s most beautiful buildings and warns those who inhabit it that they must remain vigilant against rust and rot only eventually to find the residents too busy pursuing what appears important to them individually to bother with what was necessary for them all. In one of his lectures he opined:

“Many of you come to these lectures because you are intellectually frustrated, and you want to be exposed again to my insistent demands that you think about things. For example, we no longer have intellectually satisfying arrangements in our educational system, in our arts, humanities or anything else; instead we have slogans and ideologies. An ideology is a religious or emotional expression; it is not an intellectual expression. So when a society is reaching its end, in the last couple of centuries, you have what I call misplacement of satisfactions. You find your emotional satisfaction in making a lot of money, or in being elected to the White House in 1972, or in proving to the poor, half-naked people of Southeast Asia that you can kill them in large numbers.”

He ended one of his last lectures with the following:

“Now I want to say good night. Do not be pessimistic. Life goes on; life is fun. And if a civilization crashes, it deserves to. When Rome fell, the Christian answer was, ‘Create our own communities.’“

Depp, Silverheels and the Lone Ranger

Went today to see the opening of the new movie, The Lone Ranger. It struck me as I left the theater that the arc of the great golden age of American civilization can be described as extending from Jay Silverheels to Jonny Depp.

Some critics have called the movie odd. Edward Scissorhands was odd. Alice in Wonderland was odd. Dark Shadows was odd. In fact anything with Depp in white face by definition is odd. What Depp does do here is give a master’s class in overacting that would make Stanislavski cringe in his coffin. If there were an Academy Award for vamping your audience this movie would qualify Depp for a lifetime achievement award. The final 30 minutes or so is one of the finest examples of destroy the scenery and smash the sets mayhem (with humor) one can hope to see in a movie. We will not be seeing its like again soon. And of course, with The William Tell Overture blaring in the background, the image of the white hatted masked man atop the white horse rampant will always stir the heart of 70-year-old little boys.

The reviews are as odd as the film. One referred to the beauty of the images of the West Texas desert. West Texas could only hope its desert looked like that. Actually the deserts photographed are from Arizona and New Mexico primarily. Another review referred to the film as a remake of the 1930’s television program. I assume the reviewer is from generation X or whatever other generation that believes that television was always with us and that Julius Caesar had just caught his favorite reality show before stepping into that ill-fated Senate toilet.

Some reviewers complain that the movie is not a well assembled narrative. What have they been drinking? One goes to this movie to see Jonny Depp in white face as Tonto with a dead crow on his head. Everything else is gravy. Do they really think that people go to see Pirates of the Caribbean because it is the second coming of Captain Blood? No, they go to see Depp, Rush, Bloom and Knightley dress up like pirates, run around like crazy and say things like Arrragh. Narrative is so last century.

Finally, one review described it as failed irony. It’s not irony fathead, it’s slapstick. Slapstick is irony with roid rage.

Since I wrote the above I came across another review. This one criticized the film for its lack of a coherent message. Now, I do not know much about the coherence thing, but if anything the movie has too many messages. For example: We learn that bankers and board members of railroad corporations are evil criminals and have much more hair on their face than anyone else in the movie; that heroes die and have their hearts devoured by bad guys with hair lips. We learn that bad guys who are not bankers or members of the RR Board of Directors are really skinny and ugly and stare a lot and although they do not shave they have less hair on their faces; that Chinese laborers working on the RR right of way were treated abysmally and apparently it was appropriate to assure labor peace by shooting dead any Chinaman who comments on working conditions; that drunken white horses can climb trees; that US cavalry captains with curly blond hair sell out indians for money; that wise old indian chiefs speak perfect idiomatic english and you wished they were your uncle rather than the drunk who shows up at your house on holidays; that the RR not only destroyed the environment but also stole the land from the indians even though it was hard to tell where the RR was going since the rails were either buried in the sand or ran straight into a mountain; that the indians had had it with the RR stealing their land and the silver that they did not know was there, so they wiped themselves out by committing mass suicide charging a train full of soldiers with hidden machine guns; that women only dressed in gingham and whenever anything interesting happened hugged their young sons, unless they were one-legged prostitutes in red dresses who were fitted with a carved Ivory prosthesis containing a shotgun inside; that no one respected white-faced Tonto even other indians; that kids will sell out their tribe for a shiny watch then become obsessed with a crow that was mysteriously killed; that a man in a white hat actually can ride a white horse down the center aisle of a train in order to save the gingham dressed woman; and that old people lie to kids about their own youth, and much much more…

Finally, did you know that Clayton Moore who played the Lone Ranger on television, after the show went off the air always wore the costume, guns, mask and all whenever he appeared in public?

Ouigley on top:

Carroll Quigley (1910-1977), one of the great but unheralded minds of the latter part of the 20th Century, wrote a book entitled “Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Times” (1965). He believed a society’s disintegration can be explained by the gradual transformation of social arrangements functioning to meet real social needs into social institutions serving their own purposes regardless of real social needs.

Perhaps because of what it also revealed, his book mysteriously quickly disappeared from the selves of bookstores only to be replaced four years later by a heavily edited version that eliminated much the book’s disclosures. In about 2002, the original version finally was republished.

To professor Quigley’s great dismay, the revelations in the book and the facts surrounding its publication became fodder for the tin-foil hat brigade, including Alex Jones, and inadvertently inspired the conspiracy culture that still infects America today. Although “Tragedy and Hope,” became the wellspring of innumerable conspiracy theories, Quigley strenuously objected to them all. He wrote:

“This radical Right fairy tale, which is now an accepted folk myth in many groups in America, pictured the recent history of the United States, in regard to domestic reform and in foreign affairs, as a well-organized plot by extreme Left-wing elements…. This myth, like all fables, does in fact have a modicum of truth. “

After describing the “modicum of truth,” he continues:

“I have no aversion to it (the organizations and activities that the conspiracy theorists base their conjectures on) or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments. I have objected, both in the past and recently, to a few of its policies… but in general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.”

In this and following issues of Trenz Pruca’s Journal, I will write more about Quigley, discuss and at times criticize his arguments and disclosures as well as provide examples of its content and of his other writings.

As an illustration, Quigley, rightly or wrongly, maintained that until the later half of the 19th Century society as reflected in history was the story of the economic, intellectual and military elites. The peasants and proletariat were, other than for the technology they used, of little account.

“it is revealing that the ideological appeal for allegiance in the last two thousand years of Europe’s history (and, indeed, in most of mankind’s earlier history) made almost no effort to reach or to attract the peasants, who were, throughout history down to the nineteenth century, not only the most numerous class in society but were also, of course, the economic support of the power structure. This failure to make ideological appeal to the most numerous and most necessary group in the community was a consequence of the facts of power which are being discussed in this book. Whatever the number of the tillers of the soil or the indispensable nature of their contribution to the community, their power has always been insignificant, except in the few, relatively brief periods when they have been of military importance to the community. Except for the period before about 4000 B.C., and for a few centuries in Roman history and an even briefer period in some areas of Greek history, the peasantry has played almost no role in military life and, accordingly, almost no role in political life of the communities which have made history. This military and political incapacity of the tillers of the soil, so glaringly evident under feudalism or during the Thirty Years’ War, was a function of the distribution of weapons and of military organization, and is a remarkable example of the weakness of economic necessity in contrast with the role of force in any society. As we shall see, the rise in political significance of peasants and farmers in the nineteenth century, a rise which never took them to a dominant position, was a consequence of changes of weapons, a fact almost unmentioned by historians of the modern period. A similar neglect of peasants has existed in most of history, but on a gigantic scale, in Asia and in Africa, and, above all, in China,…”

Weapons Systems and Political Stability: A History. 1983, Washington DC: University Press of America.

Be that as it may, according to Quigley this élite produced a society in the West (including North and South America, etc.) that distinguished it from others and, without diminishing the values those other societies, it was something that he approved of.

“it is clear that the West believes in diversity rather than in uniformity, in pluralism rather than in monism or dualism, in inclusion rather than exclusion, in liberty rather than in authority, in truth rather than in power, in conversion rather than in annihilation, in the individual rather than in the organization, in reconciliation rather than in triumph, in heterogeneity rather than in homogeneity, in relativisms rather than in absolutes, and in approximations rather than in final answers.”

Quigley, Carroll. Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. GSG & Associates Publishers.

Quigley believed that the intolerance or rigidity often evident in the religious practices and among some secular groups in the West were in the most part aberrations from its nature of relative inclusivity and diversity. I am less sanguine about this last point. It, however, has been reported that in the last few years of his life Quigley became more pessimistic about the West’s commitment to those ideals.

Quigley also published, The Evolution of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis. First edition, 1961, New York: Macmillan, 281 pp., The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden. 1981, New York: Books in Focus, 354 pages, and Weapons Systems and Political Stability: A History. 1983, Washington DC: University Press of America, 1064 pages.
Read more…

Ronald Reagan on Tax Fairness and My Comments about Qualifications for Presidential Candidates.

“We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that have allowed some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory, some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying ten percent of his salary, and that’s crazy. [...] Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver, or less?”

“The result is that workers sometimes find themselves paying higher taxes than the giant corporations they work for, and hardworking families have to struggle under a growing tax burden while the special interests get a free ride. Now, we’re not against big corporations—they provide many of the jobs, goods, and services that keep America strong. It’s the system that’s unfair, and that’s what we’re going to change.”
Ronald Reagan

Alas, another Republican who probably could not get his Party’s nomination today. He could, however, conceivably garner the Democrat’s. Remember, Ronnie was a Democrat until Nancy clipped off his famously wandering willie. Wandering willies and a truck load of bullshit, as we all know, has been a prerequisite for several recent Democrats seeking the highest office in the land.

On the other hand the current Republican requirements for their preferred presidential candidates seem to be: at least a sixth-grade education, attendance at a Christian church every Sunday and a commitment to rifle the poor box on the way out.

When your Boss has a Vagina

Hillary Winston wrote an essay in Playboy entitled “When Your Boss has a Vagina.” From that essay a new television series is being fashioned. You can be sure its name will not be the same as the essay. In that essay Winston observed:

“As an employee, I had good and bad bosses of both sexes. They could teach you how to give a blow job or they could ask for one. So I should say gender isn’t a factor at all in bossing. But now, as a boss, I think it is a factor. It absolutely matters whether your boss has a penis or a vagina, because gender affects everything. Now, as a lady boss, I can be bad in all the ways any boss can. I’ll have a fight with my fiancé on the way to work and take it out on you. I’ll make you work on the weekend and tell you Friday night. I’ll stock the break room with snacks only I like. I’ll notice when your car isn’t there right at nine. I’ll doubt you’re really sick. I’ll resent your car trouble, out-of-town weddings and dentist appointments. And yet I’ll leave early just to beat traffic—while you’re still at work.

But the real difference between having a male boss and a female boss is social customs. No matter what our roles are, we’re tied to ones that have existed since way before anyone noticed the glass ceiling. You hold the door for me because I’m a woman, not because I’m your boss. You look at my ass because you’re a man, not my subordinate. And I wear V-necks because I’m a woman and I have nice tits.”

Now some of my readers might refer to Winston as a “Feminist.” A few of my male readers and commenters may use that term pejoratively because they fear vaginas, believe they should be beaten into submission and useful only in the bedroom and sometimes in the kitchen. Some others idolize that term because they are convinced God is a vagina. I on the other hand happen to be certain God is a Uterus.

Jo-Jo’s book report: Jo Nesbro’s “The Redeemer,” with various digressions.

I just finished Nesbro’s “The Redeemer.” It deals with events that take place before those in “The Snowman,” the previous book of his that I read. It features, as do all the novels in this series, the screwed up alcoholic Norwegian police detective, Harry Hole (pronounced Ho – Lay).

I identify with Harry because he is fucked-up, capable of turning every success into life-altering self-destruction, and a confirmed obsessive-depressive who cannot maintain a relationship. He also has undertaken the hopeless task of raising someone else’s son and massively failing at it.

In this novel Nesbro does an interesting thing. He uses changes in points of view to provide the “red herrings” and diversions that appear in most modern mystery novels. In effect he relies on the readers tendency to assume that where there is no obvious indication that there has been a change in the point of view within scene, they are experienced by a single actor.

We learn in the novel that the Salvation Army, those uniformed, buttoned up, music playing, individuals who come out at Christmastime and stand beside a hanging iron stew pot ringing a bell, are in reality at times sex-crazed perverts and serial killers. They also hold summer camps where the adolescent future officers in the Army gleefully rape one another in preparation for the inevitable competition they will experience in their efforts to gain power within the organization.

Now, I was sent to summer camp for several years during my early adolescence and the most sex I ever experienced was a brief kiss (my first) with a blond-haired girl from the girls’ camp on our the way back from watching the lights of the Village of Ossining dim as the town’s electricity was briefly diverted to Sing Sing prison’s electric chair during that evening’s execution. The only other sex I recall was standing around the campfire with the other boys jerking off into the fire. I assume they did not do this at the Salvation Army camp (or Christian camps in general) because of the number of potential Christian souls that would have gone up in smoke. That always struck me as highly inefficient. If all we do is wade through life so that God and Satan can divvy up the souls at the end with more than half those souls thrown into the fire anyway, why waste the time and effort, especially if it is all predestined? I guess you can say we wee lads at my camp were up to God’s work around those campfires.

Perhaps the primary difference between the camp in the book and my summer camp experiences was that the former was a Christian religious camp directed to saving the souls of the committed while mine was diverted to saving the disadvantage from something even less comprehensible. For example, my camp contained young people dragged out of the slums and ghettos in the area in the belief that exiling us for two weeks in a somewhat remote sylvan setting would save us from a life of crime, alcoholism and self-abuse. Actually, none of us really understood the forest setting business since we were housed in army tents set up on dirt clearings and never ventured into the surrounding woods for fear of poisonous snakes, giant flesh-eating raccoons and The Croton Creeper who our camp counselors assured us at night crept through the forests by the camp looking for little boys to devour.

I do not recall any rapes or violence like those that occurred at the Salvation Army camp in Nesbro’s book. Unless of course, one considers the violence dished out by one counselor or another who now and then for some reason no one could understand would become overcome with rage and beat the shit out of some luckless camper. One of the first things we learned upon arriving at camp was who were the counselors most likely to exhibit this brand of craziness and how best to avoid them. If one could not avoid them, then it was best to scrupulously follow whatever direction they gave you, even if it ment jumping off the bridge into the stream were the Creeper lived. This reign of terror we later learned supposedly taught us discipline.

There were several classes of boys at the camps. There were those I called the heroes. They were usually larger more athletic boys so comfortable with their own vanity that they rarely troubled anyone. They were immune from threat by the bullies. The counselors liked them also.

There were of course the bullies who preyed on most of the rest of us. It would not be summer camp if there were not a lot of them around.

Among the rest of us, the real or potential victims of the bullies, there were those boys who were socially mature and aware enough to be able to divert the bullies attentions on to others not so accomplished. Eventually, I learned that this group usually became those who later in life were considered by many to be successful.

Obviously there was also the prey themselves. These were the repeated victims of the bullies. Without them no summer camp would be complete because then there would be no bullies. The prey was usually small or fat and cried a lot and sometimes wet the bed giving the bullies one more reason to humiliate them. They often became scientists or suicides when they grew up.

And finally there were those too socially inept to divert the bully’s attention but who out of fear or some other character defect fought back. Individuals in this group were not liked by anyone, had few friends and were considered troublemakers. About the only thing this last group got out of the camping experience was the knowledge that if for some reason they chose to protect a victim from a bully, they were assured neither the victim nor the bully found their interference welcome. Many of this last group eventually became drug addicts, alcoholics and/or manic-depressive.

Note: Nesbro mentions Bangkok several time as the refuge of the parents of two of the protagonists who fled there after abandoning their positions in the Salvation Army. Nesbro is a regular visitor to Thailand and frequents the petite Bloomsbury of ex-pat mystery writers (Steven Leather, Chris Moore, John Burdett, Colin Piperrel and others) who frequently meet in assorted dives off Sukhumvit. I suspect future novels to focus more on Thailand and the Far-East.

Who Created America? (Snark alert)

Many consider the American Revolutionary War, The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution as the foundations upon which The United States of America was built. I suspect, however, that the wellspring from which the American culture and society emerged existed long before that.

It sprang into being that day when that hardy band of dour, close-minded, out of work migrants illegally slammed their Doc Martins down upon Plymouth Rock, claimed the land for themselves, evicted the existing residents and ruled supreme for the next 100 years. It is no wonder we fear immigrants so.

We honor their successful takeover at Thanksgiving and learn about it in our schools.

With their arrival, the systematic slaughter of the native Americans began in what was to become the US. Many say that this ethnic cleansing was even greater and more brutal than that visited upon the natives by the Spanish in their area of conquest – at least there many survived, subjugated and brutalized but alive. So, does anyone know why, since they both were harbingers of genocide, Columbus is vilified and the Pilgrims exalted?

Someone whose pen name is MugWumpBlues wrote a blog describing the society and morality these people brought to our shores from which emerged a significant portion of the American culture we experience today.

“Forced to flee England during the reign of Bloody Mary (according to the Protestant version), one Puritan group fled to Switzerland. There, they published the Geneva Bible in 1560. Many of this group then migrated to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Plymouth banned Christmas, gambling, maypoles, and works of drama. Drinking alcohol was allowed in moderation; selling alcohol to natives encouraged; sex outside marriage forbidden.

Martial sex was encouraged. In fact, couples were disciplined for not performing their marital duties. Woman were allowed divorce for good cause. One of every six divorce petitions alleged male impotence, many for some man named Limbaugh.

Like all true believers, Puritans disdained other religious sects, particularly hating Christian Quakers. In 1660, four Quakers were hung for entering Boston. In 1664, Massachusetts enacted an Act of Uniformity, which established worship rules.

England got involved. In 1672, King Charles II finessed the Act by granting indulgences. Indulgences had been made famous by Martin Luther, who protested about the Catholic Church selling them.”

In other words, hypocrisy, violent intolerance, hatred of dissenters, and systematic racism were among their gifts to us, along with Boston of course.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: