"I am his Highness' dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?”
A learned friend, in fact a Doctor of some kind, I believe, (who does family governance work with families of extraordinary wealth, and has followed the conversation with Matt Wesley over the last few weeks) expresses concern at how dark this site seems to him despite his extensive education, and says this site is hard to read, and asks me to clarify its sources in the Western Canon, Eastern Religions, or whatnot.
Generally, as matter of personal integrity, and out of respect for the truth, as well out of respect for the reader as a person of sagacity and judgment, the less said in the candid, plain-style, the better. It is the language of reciprocity, among the reasonable and educated, people of mutual good will, and our society is very far past that. But since the question was asked in the sincere, epistolary style of the honest and educated man, the style of the insider to privilege, the one above reproach, the person whose position is unassailable, to whom any urgent protest against the conversational norms supporting blindness to the sufferings of the multitude, seems outlandish, I will reply in that style, as one who was once there, among the super-smarties who consider themselves, or at least I once considered myself, God's gift. Now, that I am broken to a mean trade, that passes itself off as Noble, though I can hardly imagine a trade more servile, I do see life from a darker perspective, and it makes me laugh, mostly at myself. How could I once have been so blind? And now that I see, why have I not reformed?
So in plain, moderate, dignified, untroubled prose, writing as if I were a fully clothed, mannerly, man, in good standing, with impeccable bona fides and a good credit history, as if I had a full belly, and had slept indoors last night, and had a shave, and shoes, addressing as a peer educated people of good will, in solidarity with them against the unwashed mob, rather than spoken into silence by a morally insane beggar, a pariah naked in a Dumpster: The roots of Gifthub are Judeo-Christian, Liberal Enlightenment (Kant and Rawls), and Pagan. Sermon, Theory of Justice, and Satire. Extended answer, for the benefit of future scholars, below.
A first root of Gifthub is Catholic Social Doctrine. Finding the face of the divine among the broken, the poor, the imprisoned. Among the homeless, the cast out, the denizens of a Dumpster at the Intersection of Wealth and Bondage, where the family governance people ply their five noble professions to create, enhance and preserve for generations to come the power and privilege of a few families that these trusted advisors serve as assiduously as loyal retainers did under feudalism. This work of perpetuating dynastic wealth is done (I am told on good report) by bolstering Wisdom and Virtue. This is expressed in a dream of seceding from human society or the body politic and founding a Paradise on Earth for the Rich and the Rich alone. This ideal does not comport with the common good, the common weal, the commonwealth, or with the survival of the planet, our common home. Nor does it comport with moral or mental health. Those who carry this contagion are the wounded healers carrying the plague from wealthy house to wealth house.
Sermon works better for Pope Francis than it would for me. I have no standing to offer a sermon. I might do better as a monitory example in a sermon, or moral tale, The Fool's Progress. Or if a Buddhist, I would be one burning himself alive in front of Wealth Bondage to make a point, to no effect. Doused probably in rotgut alcohol, or going up from spontaneous combustion from drinking too much and smoking at the same time. Many claim to be a sinner in the hands of an angry God, I can prove it. My police file speaks for itself.
Kant: The Kingdom of Ends. The essence of ethics, he said, is to treat each person as an end, as a member of the kingdom of ends, not as a means to an end. I see treating others as a means to an end as the ethic of seduction, low end sales, propaganda, much marketing, war and business as conquest. I see it as habit of mind so deep in us that anything else strikes us a bad business.
Buber: "I/Thou" as opposed to "I/It." I associate I/it with metrics, means ends logic, the Taylorization of work, optimal solutions just short of final, subordination of others, the Haye System, Weber's Iron Cages, and my own rise and fall in Wealth Bondage, considered as a World Class Institution that Gets Results. I associate I/Thou with those who call me Brother. Generally, Grifters, Pimps, Highwaymen, and Fencers of Stolen Goods, and their Doxies, the fine ladies and gentlemen of the road.
Rawls: "Always ask in legislating on behalf of the rich, as part of a larger polity, how that law helps those who have least. Do not adopt a rule that helps the most advantaged unless it also raises up the least among us." (He framed his difference principle in a more recondite way, but that is the gist for purposes of family governance work. Rawls thought his difference principle would be chosen by reasonable minds operating under a "veil of ignorance," creating the groundrules of a just society, without themselves knowing yet what would be their own lot in life. In other words, if you visualize as best, a world where the rich bear it away, and the many suffer, ask how you will feel if you or your children are Born Poor, rather than Born Rich.) I recognize that intuitions differ. As my friend and mentor The Happy Tutor once said to me, "I have often noted how the maids in the biggest houses look down upon those in the smaller." I take this to mean that "serving professionals," from the Butler to the Maid, to a Man of All Work, or a Privy Counselor, are identified, even in their dreams, with the livery they wear, and would, even behind a veil of ignorance choose a world in which they might be of Service to the Family of Wealth, not only in this generation, but with the son of the Butler serving as Butler to the Wealthy Man's son, and the grandson serving the son of Wealthy Man's grandson, for 100 years. Their ideal world would be on in which they could make this happen. I do not share this vision, if only because no family has ever taken me in, except inadvertently, when I was younger, through the backdoor, left open by a maid, Suky Tawdry, before she left the home, pregnant by Young Master, apparently, and joined us in our Noble Trade.
Most consciously and via endless imitation: The work and tradition of Jonathan Swift. This demonic Divine wrote both High Anglican sermons and scabrous pagan satire. In his sermons, in the court of Queen Ann, and then in semi-exile in Ireland, he calls for Wisdom and Virtue, Moderation and Reason, Good Humor and Good Sense. In the satires, he writes as a Hack turned madman, one driven mad by complacent injustice. Or as a pompous ass, standing in for the wise and virtuous reader. That was a puzzle to me for a long time. Only by imitation did I learn how these strands are the DNA of a still living tradition, latent in our native tongue. Satire is the recessive gene of the polite plain style, with sources going back to Horace in Rome, under Augustus, and in conversation with the man then wealthiest, Maecenas. It runs through Erasmus, a monk turned humanist. I believe this truth has not yet been recognized even by academics. To understand a weapon, you have to be able to use it. And while academics are "political," they do not generally write as dunce on purpose. So they tend not to see it as a rhetorical strategy akin to pontificating, or giving a Wise lecture on Virtue, only more witty, self-aware, effective.
Such are the traditions and tensions in Gifthub: Wealth Reimagined, and in our Proud Sponsor, Wealth Bondage: An Earthly Paradise. A twisted lineage that crosses back and forth between Classical, Enlightenment, and Judeo-Christian sources, with the Judeo-Christian, and Enlightenment sources often themselves riffing on the pagan. Diogenes - Dumpster - Rabelais - Carnival - Ribaldry - Laughter - Monstrosity - Dryden - the hangman as image of the satirist - Swift - Gay - Tristram Shandy - Cabaret - Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" - Camus's The Plague, Jean Genet's "The Balcony" - Friere's Pedagogy of the Oppressed - Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness, and James C. Scott, Seeing like a State, Domination and The Arts of Resistance, and The Hidden Transcripts of the Oppressed. Foucault, in particular, Discipline and Punish. Of course, Bakhtin, on dialogism in the carnivalesque tradition of Rabelais. And, not least the work and influence of Martin Price, my dissertation supervisor at Yale, author of Swift's Rhetorical Art.
By way of negative influences, unsuccessfully evaded, the literary critics and literary theorists once called "the Yale Mafia": Bloom, Hartman, Hillis-Miller, Derrida, and Paul de Man. From these last I learned the unspeakable, disabling truth: What I had learned at great cost, as good boy and good student, from Strunk and White, from the New Yorker, and from Oxford dons, and from Martin Price and his great mentor, W.K. Wimsatt, the plain-style of the honest man, the epistolary style, the middle style of reasonable people, writing in good faith, had reached the dead end we now see in the work of so many. Like a dead thing it lives among us as a zombie. Professing truth, beauty, wisdom, in cordial concert with wealth and power, blind, as De Man demonstrated. I will not link, out of courtesy to the living dead. To make merry about another's blindness is like the man with a beam in his eye mocking the one with a mote in his.
The themes across traditions: How illness in the body politic is cured. Style as being. Style as existential decision, as ethical action. Fraud as art or as inartistic. "The Decay of Lying," Blindness and Insight. Genre and decorum as more important than specific content. ("The lukewarm he spits from his mouth.") Laughter as the best medicine. The role of pariah, the sacrificial lamb, the role of exclusion, expulsion, shunning, rustication, suppression, silence, the role of one hidden in plain sight, the role of healing and inclusive laughter. Turning the World Upside Down. And yet also postponing, since life is precious, and money too, the moment of truth. Parable, allegory, just so story, fable, nursery rhyme, the weapons of the weak. The hidden transcripts of those whose unstoried lives do not matter and whose voice will not enter recorded history. The role of women, as muses, lovers, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and role models, both personal and now professional. (Family Governance as Home Ec.)
The Dumpster is inaudible as the poor are invisible.
As for Hell, its Light is Darkness Visible (as John Milton wrote), and we need not die in the flesh to go there. My friend, do not confuse it with Paradise.
I hope these scholarly notes, in the spirit of Martinus Scriblerus, annotating the Dunciad Variorum, will help clarify things for the many scholars who will pore over Gifthub until the end of time. I am flattered and honored that the generations long process of scholarly exegesis has now begun. In time future, I hope that what now seems dark or obscure will seem blindingly obvious.
Next, I am afraid, for a reader truly committed to understanding the sources of Gifthub, both overt and covert, it might be Wise to ask me about Wealth Bondage, our proud sponsor. While I have tried to be open and honest about the mixed intellectual sources of Gifthub, these pale in comparison to the importance of Wealth Bondage itself, the over-arching structure within which Gifthub exists and has its being, both as a all consuming reality, and as a legal fiction. It is no exaggeration to say that without Wealth Bondage, and the generous support of its CEO, Mistress Candidia Cruikshanks, she who rules us all, the Spirit of Free Enterprise, where the priceless is marked to market every day, Gifthub would not exit, nor could it have been conceived, let alone funded. But the topic, "What is Wealth Bondage?" has consumed so much energy, among so many commentators, and is so hedged round with not only metaphysical issues, bearing upon the nature of reality itself, but also so many confidentiality agreements, and disclaimers, that I must leave any discussion of it for another day. It would be fair to say that those who know what Wealth Bondage is, from years of service within its precincts will never talk about it in public, for obvious reasons. Even those who have seen it, are as if blinded by the light, and are blind guides to its inner workings. I do maintain some offline conversations with the Wealth Bondage Inner Circle, but it would be tactless to say more.
Those who do talk about Wealth Bondage publicly have no idea what they are talking about. The first rule of Wealth Bondage is that Wealth Bondage does not exit. It is both the center and the circumference of all possible being or understanding. There is no "inside" of Wealth Bondage and there is no "outside" of Wealth Bondage. I would simply say, for our purposes here, that without getting to the bottom of Wealth Bondage, and it has many false bottoms, it would be impossible for even the best educated reader with the best intentions to make heads or tails of Gifthub, which is essentially a front for Wealth Bondage, as I have never denied. I am afraid that some such misunderstanding may have provoked the original question from an earnest but naive reader that led to this post.
I am sorry that I am not at liberty to address the most important issues openly. My reputation, connections, and livelihood are at stake. Certainly my sanity, perhaps my freedom, and maybe even my life itself are at risk. What I have presented here is mostly intellectual BS, designed to confuse the ordinary persons who may chance upon this site, and to throw them off the scent. I am also mindful of the regulators and the certain criminal investigations into the Nature of Wealth Bondage as an ongoing enterprise. These must take priority over Hermeneutics or literary exegesis, or intellectual history, for its own sake. I hope my revealing nothing, page after page, will keep me in good standing with my Patron. I actually don't know anything, so I can't talk, even under torture. Once a naive question is asked publicly, it is best, in my view to nip it in the bud, with a good hard shot of pseudodoxia. Those who really do seek Wisdom are obviously in the wrong place, perhaps in the wrong epoch. I can recommend some Wise Counselors, but it would cost a hell of a lot more than most readers of Gifthub could possibly pay. In this way, the Wise just get Wiser, and the rest of us Poor Fools get by in Wealth Bondage, as best we can, none the wiser. This, I am afraid, is as helpful as I can be under the circumstances. My hands are tied. I am sure you understand.