Faith keeps the centre strong

Faith is all that holds civilisation together.

Much of what we call modern civilisation is built on the rock of faith.

Much of what we call modern civilisation is built on the rock of faith.

It intrigues me that five years later in suffering and decline the people of the failing nation-state of Greece are not in civil war.  All the money thrown into Greece by outsiders is to pay off loans rather than ease the suffering of the citizen, whilst demands of further austerity cuts and tax rises have turned all the institutions and facilities of Greece into little more than ineffective ghosts.  The only people who protest and cause violence are mainly on the extreme right and left, the neo-nazis and anarchists.  In other failing states like Egypt and Tunisia it takes only one trigger to start off a full uprising leading to change of leadership.

The different reaction of the citizens of Greece compared to say Tunisia is I think down to faith.  In Tunisia they have faith in their centre where the leader and their team hold power.  Such people who have faith in their centre rise up in violence, protest and disorder in order to influence and change the leader and the team at the centre in the belief that it would benefit them, often in the face of competing factions, thus one sees a pendulum of change and discord flowing backwards and forwards over time.  In Greece the citizen lost all faith in the centre and created localised independent alternatives, returning to the land and creating barter trading systems.

There is a big grin on my face at the irony that in destroying Greece, its institutions and inflicting untold suffering on its citizens the corrupted world capitalist system has destroyed the faith of the Greek people in its centre and by default in the world capitalist system.  The Greek citizen have dropped out of the system, gone native, gone off grid.  Trouble would only happen if the centre and its agents attempted to regain control over what is now a liberated free-spirited Greek citizenship.

With regards to all other nations that are failing they go in one of two directions: a strong tyranny backed by might is right at the centre or fragmentation into smaller localised units of power as is happening in Greece. Which direction depends on faith, those with no faith in the centre create an alternative locally to them; power moves from the centre to the community, family and individual.  Scotland (UK) and Catalonia (Spain) are moving in the direction favouring breakaway from the centre.

The problem of failing nations is not due to bad leader but a bad centre, thus even a good leader is undermined by the beliefs, behaviours, structures and processes that exist at the centre.  When faith is lost in the centre then a paradigm shift emerges that can sweep the old centre away with sustainable alternatives often located in the community.  Once power shifts from the centre to the local then it is near impossible to reverse without considerable bloodshed.

All the unsustainable structures in the political, economic and social systems of civilisation rests on a paradigm of beliefs and behaviours, in turn supported by the faith of people in those paradigms.  Most world currencies are empty air with no assets supporting them, and the negative equity of debt, all that holds them together is faith.  People have faith that their next meal will still be available to them in the supermarkets, water will still run and they will get power through their electricity socket.  People have faith that the centre can deliver.  When the faith in the centre is obliterated interesting consequences are that people will have a paradigm shift to sustainable alternatives.

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19 responses to “Faith keeps the centre strong

  1. What you say is true, but the problem in Greece started because people did not want to pay their taxes. The government cannot keep up with the infrastructure if there is no money.

    • Nobody wants to pay their taxes, the problem rests with the government. The Greek government suffered many problems including inefficiency, crony-ism, red tape, duplication of roles, overpaid and overstaffed bureaucrats. If people can find a way to avoid paying tax they will, the government of Greece failed to get a grip on the tax avoidance.

    • The government cannot keep up with the infrastructure if there is no money

      … and going ever deeper into debt is no solution when it devalues government bonds to become equivalent to being worthless.

      Paying taxes to support government infrastructure and public policies is our personal civic duty, (although how much or little is always an open public debate that plays a vital role influencing electoral results). Avoiding this duty is unpatriotic, although most taxation systems are set up to claim the maximum while shifting the burden of proof to the payer to find legitimate ways to pay less. Those who can more easily afford this burden benefit by comparison to those who cannot, which is why there are good arguments both for and against income tax (graduated and flat) for both business and individuals, goods and services, property, excise, imports, and sales taxes, and so on. A government must take its long term revenue stream very seriously and responsibly, and the people who utilize any part of this stream (and all its products at all levels of government) need a much better understanding why paying taxes is vital to the community’s overall health and welfare. Avoiding taxes may seem like a good idea personally until it becomes a public disaster. And that’s Greece in a nutshell.

  2. Alex, I have no clue what you mean by ‘the centre’ (and this understanding is not essential to my criticism here). But I do know that your description of how much or how little ‘faith’ (presumably meaning ‘confidence’ rather than ‘belief without evidence’) people have in ‘it’ does not accurately describe how well or how poorly political frameworks work to create peace and prosperity. The Canadian model seems to work very well for a diverse population with strong local competing interests (and has been used with fair success in establishing both the current Irish and Iraqi political frameworks), which has no direct causal link with capitalism but espouses a particular kind of structure for political power sharing.

    To directly and causally link political instability – and the violence that often accompanies it – with what you proclaim is the ‘corrupted world capitalist system’ seems to me to be a very large stretch indeed. Counter examples abound. In fact, there is a compelling case to be made that political and social stability, as well as peace and prosperity and tolerance and accommodation in the communities that make up a nation, are more closely linked to the acceptance and integration of the ‘corrupt world capitalist system’ than by its nihilistic rejection. (Barter, for example, is capitalism in action!) We tend, however, to lend more confidence to political frameworks that deliver peace and enable prosperity than those that do not, so the proof is in the pudding, so to speak, for how much or little ‘faith’ we invest in our support of the local political system … which is the reversal of what you suggest is the case, namely, that it is the amount of ‘faith’ we have in ‘the centre’ that determines these results. Sorry, Alex: I think you have it exactly backwards.

    • Centre – government, decision-making, centre of power.
      Tildeb, with respect the world is not a rational intellectual machine, it is irrational, chaotic and emotional.

      • But that doesn’t mean we have to be irrational, chaotic, and emotional when being involved in the world.

      • It is human nature to be emotional, irrational and chaotic; it always has been, it always will be. The only things which are rational and objective are machines and robots.

      • Look, if we want to have an Egypt or Tunisia that is peaceful, prosperous, and responsive to its people, perhaps even a responsible member of the international community, then finding real solutions that work to real problems faced is rather important. Deluding ourselves about what those problems really are is a surefire way to fool ourselves into doing foolish actions. And civic unrest is a pretty good indicator that we need to revisit our assumptions – such as that democracy will fix the power imbalances – because they are wrong.

        The Arab Spring is doomed as long as it turns to mob rule (the tyranny of the majority) – fueled by a widespread supporting religious belief that is predicated on submission to religiously inspired and sanctioned inequalities, bigotries, and misogyny contrary to and in conflict with equality rights and freedoms for all members of a legitimate democracy – as the only legitimate source of political authority.

        There is a lack of peace, a lack of prosperity, because there is lack of support for secular principles that work as practical solutions to real problems. In comparison, Greece has these secular principles in place and will find a way out of their fiscal mess without resorting to tearing down the shared principles of legal equality rights and freedoms without descending further into the kind of civil wars throughout the Arab Spring ripe with sectarianism. What we find throughout the Arab Spring countries is a majority support for sharia, which is not a set of principles that recognize bottom up authority from the governed (which empowers the democratic vote to represent governing consent) but an imposition of law based on authority from above, as interpreted by the governing (which removes the consent factor from the democratic vote). Because of this lack of support for the principle of equality rights and freedoms throughout the Arab Spring countries, we have the lack of support in practice for government to respect why equality rights and freedoms matter in the legitimacy of their government. This disconnect breeds violence from both the governed and the governing. And this is what we are seeing. The imposition of democracy that empowers tyranny of the majority simply breeds authoritarianism, the elevation of a strongman to lead the mob, and the imposition of force by the state to ensure the political power of the strongman and violence from the disenfranchised public . Diverting this practice of violence away from the conflict in principles that fuels it – the lack of equality rights and freedoms – and shifting blame to a nebulous and hazy notion of misused capitalism has not, does not, and never shall address the real problem here: personal faith-based belief in public action that is incompatible with a functioning secular liberal democracy.

      • Religion is only a small variable in the ongoing problems of the Arab Spring, nor can the model of what works as so-called democracy in the West be good for every nation.

        With regards to Tunisia and Egypt the face of power changed but the corruption, police brutality, inefficiency and inability to deal with problems of food prices, unemployment, fuel prices, water shortages and basic failings in infrastructure and services remains.

      • Religion is the variable in the success or failure of the Arab Spring, and these countries will not successfully transition into a functional and stable democracy until it is removed from adversely affecting the public domain. I say that not to cause strife but to recognize the fact that unless and until religion is recognized to be a central factor in what I’ll conveniently call the muslim world and its latest convulsions, individual equality rights and freedoms cannot be politically and then legally achieved in practice. And until that is accomplished, then no amount of ‘democracy’ will magically produce freedom and replace these tyrannical governments (regardless of the local form they take). As far as islam is concerned, you cannot have your cake and eat it too (you cannot have both equality rights/freedom and sharia), and that is why the Arab Spring is doomed to failure. Why so many of us in the West don’t want to recognize the essential role religion plays (when empowered) in so much political instability, legal discrimination, and intolerance reveals the depth of fear that too many of us have from being vilified not for being right but for having the temerity to speak truth to power.

      • Oh, and in addition you write Religion is only a small variable in the ongoing problems of the Arab Spring, nor can the model of what works as so-called democracy in the West be good for every nation. This attitude is the expected product of relativistic thinking that plays down the necessary (and revolutionary) value of a bottom up authority shared by all for social organization. It too often excuses inhumanity and institutionalized prejudices because it hasn’t the power in its principles to withstand such assaults, and so it becomes an enabler of state sanctioned intolerance and legal inequalities in the name of tolerance and respect for diversity. There’s the clue…

        Our system is not an equivalent kind of democracy (as you imply) but a system founded on enlightenment values (Scottish, to be specific) envied by all who do not have it. Talk to the people of Egypt and Libya and China and Russia and Yemen and Iran and find out what truly motivates them to take to the streets. You will hear these same values expressed globally. Individual rights and freedoms are a foundational value for all secular liberal democracies regardless of culture, language, religion, age, gender, and so on. It may not be a model that is good for every nation but it is one that is good for all people and highly desired. To paint this remarkable political achievement as just another kind of “so-called democracy” shows just how insidious is this stultified version of relativity in action.

        When ‘up’ is argued to mean another kind of ‘down’ and ‘black’ argued to be another kind of ‘white’, we know we have entered the alternative universe of relativistic thinking. It is not just muddled thinking but plays an important role in undermining real and meaningful action by promoting inaction (as in, “Who are we to say….?”). Believing in the relativity of human well-being and dignity of personhood is a recipe for failing to achieve the empowering of the principled values necessary to achieve it.

      • We shall agree to disagree. To me religion is one amongst thousands of variables of a complex system in the Arab Spring. One has to see the world for what it is not for what one thinks it should be. Although you dislike religion and other non-objective variables it is how the world rolls, better to work with what is rather than try to force the world into a pattern of your liking.

  3. There was a report on Greek Reporter just recently: Scavengers Stripping Greece of Metals, that starts thus:

    Greeks and foreigners desperate for money are dismantling bridges, highways and rail transit systems that required billions of euros in European Union subsidies to build, tearing off metal for scrap to sell, much if it going to China and India.

    The Associated Press reported that Greece’s crushing economic crisis has created super scavengers stripping the infrastructure of whatever they can. Police say they now arrest an average of four metal thieves every day, compared to a few cases every month before the crisis started in late 2009.

    The thieves are accused of stealing industrial cable, power-line transformers and other metal objects – triggering blackouts and massive train delays. The profile of the metal thief is also changing, authorities say, from gypsies and immigrants living on the margins of society to mainstream Greeks who have fallen on hard times. A group of men were caught trying to take apart an entire bridge and droves of immigrants can be seen pushing shopping carts around Greek neighborhoods looking in recycling bins.

    Ergo, not sure how well that civilisation is holding together just now. Indeed, what is happening in Greece may be a foretaste of what could happen across the globe if, or perhaps better when, we run out of oil.

    Sorry to throw a gloomy note into the proceedings.

    • Paul… the same metal stripping is beginning in our country.. where whole towns are turned into dark centers because cables are stolen… this naturally then increases the amount of house break ins that happen when darkness descends on the town… too many unemployed and not much prospect of employment, with a depressed economy it leads to such degradation in the population… this is beginning to go global as more and more Government stripping of funds with high salaries and the lining of pockets takes place…

  4. What amazes me about the people in Greece is how some will still continue to get up each morning and go to work even though it’s been months since they received a pay check with no promises they will ever be paid for the work they are doing. I can’t see many here in the US that would continue to work without a promise of back pay for the hours they invested.

  5. Shades of Plato’s 5 Regimes?

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