Yet ideas can be true, although men die:
For we have seen a myriad faces
Ecstatic from one lie.
Auden, "Sonnets from China"
Among Master Jack's tribe there is a proverb, oft told, to justify Premium Services from Trusted Advisors, "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations." Tutor has seen that cycle among upstart families, in the financial centers, and now Silicon Valley, how they rise and fall, from obscurity to wealth to folly to obscurity, or worse, and some have hired him, as Tess has, to provide a patina of culture, a touch of class, to the barbaric heirs. But that beating that proverb has not been the focus of his personal brand or business model. He follows Aristotle's theory of the polis. First democracy, then the rise of the nobles and autocrats at war with one another, then the demagogue or warrior king. The people turned against one another, while their pockets are picked, or turned against a common enemy. Then consolidated power, in king, queen, emperor, or figure like Tess who already owns a controlling interest in the world's assets, then revolution. Then over again, like shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves, but on a national or planetary scale. How to beat that proverb? Tutor is Old School and has an obvious answer. When the Leader or Owner rises above the law, when her power is the law, when she can point at the sea and say it is calm when it rages, and all agree; when she can point to night, and call it day, and all put on sunglasses, what matters is the Leader's character.
Tutor sewed the diamonds into the vest of youngest heir of the Tsar, and protected her from that first fusillade in the death pit into which she and her family had been cast. It was he who taught geometry and ethics to the Princes in the Tower, and gave them last rites, as they slept on the night before the emissary of the new king, strangled them in their beds. It was Tutor who counselled restraint to the adolescent King Charles the Second, and taught stoicism to the young Sun King, or tried. For us, however, for our time, for our body politic, there is hope. In Audrey Tutor has found a Once and Future Queen who will rule, like Elizabeth in Shakespeare's time, virtuous and just, warlike and kind, magnificent, and beloved of nobles, tradespeople, soldiers, bankers, and shopkeepers of all sects. First among savage equals, he is a Trusted Advisor of Last Resort. Committed to wisdom and virtue, as are all the best Trusted Advisors, he and he alone is an ordained monk. He alone has taken vows of chastity, poverty, and silence, keeping one of the three for now over one thousand years. His ignoble peers, most rooted in law, banking, or family counselling, serve families to preserve them. They call that their "fiduciary standard," and deem that their "noble trade." Tutor serves the best families to preserve God's Will on Earth.
Teachable moments for she who will rule us all: Holidays in the Castle. Pursuant to his Learning Objectives (the inculcation of wisdom and virtue) Tutor and Audrey will cook and serve a superb meal in the Great Hall to the servants and cooks, and to Seal Team Seven. Not Momma, and not Master Jack. They will neither serve nor be served, but for one meal serve themselves, as if they were middle class, who must open a can of tuna and chop celery unaided. Our future queen and her faithful Tutor will slave in the kitchen, all Christmas morning, and by 2 pm the help will roister in the hall, calling for seconds, and demanding service, drunk on wine and power, however temporary. But what will be on the menu? Tutor suggests a whole steer, roasted on a spit, or whole pig with an apple in its mouth, or peacocks or swans with feathers intact. But that would mean butchering an animal, a thought repugnant to Audrey. Tutor suggests lobsters boiled alive. And that is rejected out of hand as totally cruel. How could he even think like that? Even Rex the Rescue Dog whines at the thought. So, they have settled on hamburgers and hotdogs. (Logic? Have I not already explained that facts are malleable to power? Stow your logic. Smile. You want a hamburger? Or would you rather starve amidst plenty?)
Sometimes I am just not sure about Tutor. I can't tell whether he is operating as a Catholic Priest (Monk), a free lance morals tutor, a satirist, a Dungeon Master, or as an employee in good standing of Wealth Bondage, Incorporated, The Metaphysic of our Age. In any case, after singing a High Mass, in the Chapel at the Castle by the Sea, complete with incense, religious regalia, a crucifix on a staff, Audrey disguised an as altar boy, and Holy Communion, Tutor sent around a Zoomerang Customer Satisfaction Survey, with a five part Lickert Scale, rating his singing, the quality of the wine, the taste of the bread, and the degree to which the Sermon addressed the Customer's greatest moral improvement opportunities, and induced a change of heart that he called "repentance." How do you read this? Maybe at age 2000 or so he is finally losing his holy mind. In any case, attendance is up at Chapel, and the weekly take in the collection basket is up 14% YTD. Tutor is buying better wine. He must be doing something right.
All of Tutor’s tutorials directed to Audrey are pointedly unheard. Yet the fate of the world is determined not by a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil but by whatever a Morals Consultant may once have said to 9.5 year old Ivanka. A missile strike in Syria, the world’s largest bomb in Afghanistan, nuclear war with Korea, Russia, or China, perhaps the End Times, pivot on the aphorisms of Pubilius Syrus, a freed slave, read to a child playing jacks as her rescue dog runs off with the red ball.
So, the Charles Koch Foundation has funded a $3.7 million Eudaimonia Institute at Wake Forest. For those Billionaire Clients in Wealth Bondage who do not read Greek, eudaimonia is Aristotle's word for a life well lived, for human flourishing, a good life in a just community. Aristotle was the Tutor (I hasten to point out) to Alexander, a prince in Macedonia, who went on to become Alexander The Great. Alexander is said to have carried Aristotle's work, including the Ethics, The Politics, and Poetics (on tragedy) as Alexander conquered the world. In Plutarch's Life of Alexander, Tutors don't come into it much, but Trusted Advisors do and so do Physicians. When Aristotle got good advice he did not like, from doctors and subordinates, he, in one case, speared the counselor, and in a second had him crucified. His doctors wondered if they would survive their treating him. Of course this is a parable about human flourishing under conditions of great power disparity, isn't it? Is it the kind of input Charles Koch wants from Jim Otteson, a professor of political economy at Wake Forest U who heads up the Eudaimonia Institute? I doubt it. I can only add that there is an unsubstantiated 2,000 year old rumor that Aristotle, Alexander's original Morals Tutor, got so fed up with his protégé's lust for power, conquest, glory and luxury, that he sent a packet of poison in a donkey's hoof, that was sprinkled by a Macedonian Patriot into the great man's cup, which may have been why Alexander died young.
You could draw similar morals from Aristotle on Tragedy. To achieve happiness... Do you know that story? How the city was sick and the cure was the conviction of the King himself for high crimes and misdemeanors, so that the King became the sacrifice, scapegoat, or pariah, the pharmakos, whose disgrace and suffering saved the town? At the end of the cycle, Oedipus blinds himself, and wanders out of the city. "When I had eyes I could not see, now I am blind and can see. Call me happy." Happy meaning it is a happy ending, a just and fair ending, since with the sacrifice of the king, the city is healed of the plague the king's crimes caused. And happy too because the king finally sees what kind of person he really is. He is redeemed because in his self-abasement he affirms the moral order by which he has finally and appropriately been crushed.
When Wake Forest convenes the conference, as I hope they will, on Philanthropy and the Polis, I will go naked, carrying a pottery lamp, in search of the honest man, not that I will have been invited, and not that I am particularly honest. But that lamp in broad daylight is just another old joke, drawn from Diogenes, whose conversation about eudaimonia with Alexander the Great is legendary. This Dumpster at the intersection of Wealth and Bondage is my homage to that great man's (Diogenes's) barrel. I even have a copy of The Ethics in here, if you want to thumb through it while I take a leak.
Family Governance for Governing Families. The role of the artist, under a patron. The role of the King's Man. Support, absorb, refactor, and subvert, for the greater good. More power than a Wise Counselor in the traditional Courtier mode. More power than Parliament. Only an all licensed Fool could do more. Were I a wise man I would join Wise Counsel, giving sage advice to families as powerful as our former Monarchs, before we broke from English rule.
The Wise make good use of literature, as of everything else. If they were wiser yet, they would be Fools. And perhaps The Happy Tutor could show them how. He is a Secular Priest, or actually a real priest, educated at Oxford as a cleric, since under Primogeniture (how our august predecessors beat the proverb, ashes to ashes, and rags to rags), he had to go into the army, become a judge, or be a priest and scholar, with a parish, or a school, or if lazy, as Tutor is, and a drunkard, and carouser, he could set up as a Morals Tutor to his noble neighbor's brats. Mentoring the Heirs, as we now say. The Happy Tutor is also the Lord of Misrule. So are our Wise Counsel, today, if by Misrule we mean the rule of the richest forever. Fool is one thing, Coxcomb, or Villain is another.
In Lear, do we pity the pauper at the base of Fortune's wheel as it turns, or the King at the top who must inevitably fall? When the highest and lowest trade places, 'handy dandy' who goes in ermine, and who in rags? Change places, and who is the thief, and who is the justice? Who is the sighted one? Who is blind? Who is sane and who mad? Riddle me that, Wise Counsel. But more importantly, can we like Shakespeare, speak truth in riddles to power, and still be awarded our four yards of red cloth to wear the King's livery at court? So far Tutor, buck naked in a Dumpster, must await future delivery. Advantage Wise Counsel.
If I were to write my own Book on Wealth and the Will of God, I would add the epigraph: "Wiser are the Children of Darkness." And believe me, I have learned that to my own cost. Let it be a lesson to us all.
Some slaves worked in the big house, some in the fields. The most trusted managed the less trusted. But in the hush arbor the "hands" could whisper on the premise they would not be heard by the Master, or those who enforced his will. In reality, it is easy to imagine Master strolling by, overhearing, and feeling quite contented and in charge. What is said "offline" does not count, even if overheard. To say it to Master's face is foolish. Hence, what James C. Scott calls, "the hidden transcripts of the oppressed." As these seep out, they become a tradition, a set of devices and variations, endlessly reinvented across civilizations under domination. If I were still in literature, as a critic, I could see creating an anthology. Not to study as one studies Greek, Roman, or Medieval, medical instruments (lancet, saw, gouge, clamps, pincers, restraints, gag, syringe, mallet, salt for the wounds, cauterizing iron, sponge, bucket, needle and twine) from a museum, but to learn the ancient healer's craft.
Roman satire was hyper-masculine. The sadistic medical imagery above is Martial's. He once noted that surgeon and undertaker give the client a double deal. Either you survive the operation, or the burial is free.
Weapons of the weak may include women's traditional ways as well. The next step forward, for the field of family governance is not satire, but home economics, done with love, of the self in family, and of the family in community. Self cannot thrive without family. Family cannot flourish in an unjust community of which it is the ruler, any more than the head can be well if the body is ill. The speaking silences in our field- when the wise women speak, the world will be healed. And then it will be us, the men who know it all, whose idea of wisdom is to pontificate, whose idea of virtue is ourselves, who will fall silent, listen, and obey. (Not apologize, that would be asking too much.)
The scene of family governance - board room? front parlor in the big house? the counting house? the surgeon's slab? hush arbor? or, kitchen? I vote for the kitchen. There the women, professionals who have mastered the professional canon and know it as well as any man, light the fire, heat the kettle, knead the dough, wrist deep, and tell who to pass what. And the wine and laughter flow. Until maybe we forget who is in charge, and who is a fine gentlemen or lady, and who is one of the noble serving professionals, and who is just rabble like us. Rabelais was a doctor. He loved women. He would understand. "Come, let us drink!"
"I love you and always will," that is the best possible use of the plain style. For the faithful husband it is a felt truth and a promise. For the seducer it is an effective means to an end. When a God, or the God, became man, and his message was love, he spoke in parables. You could say that the alternative was premature crucifixion, and that the style was meant as a cloak, or to keep the wrong people from getting saved, as St Mark says, they mustn't, but also because the natural language of moral truth is indirection. "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant -- Success in Circuit lies," as Emily Dickinson wrote, as if to herself, alone in her room. Bearing witness: the best models say the moment of truth is best postponed, if only to the end of a stanza.
Taking the medical analogy seriously. What must it have been like to operate on a patient without anesthetic? To touch the skin with the scalpel, or saw, and feel the whole body stiffen under your hand, to hear the preemptive scream, and to go on and not be distracted. Given the effect of the satiric edge, would a kind person hesitate and draw back? What if it hurts the other? Keep going. If the purpose is to heal what is deformed or corrupt, it will hurt. Surgery was consensual. Public torture was not, at least not for one dismembered.
Satire today may be as important for the health of the body politic as is judicial torture. Both require a personality type that some may find sadistic or psychopathic. But can we begrudge the professional the pleasures that come with an important social role?
The headsman, in a black tunic, tight leggings, boots, a black leather hood, and his big belly hanging out, lies on the therapist's couch. The caption reads, "I don't know, I just don't love my work that much anymore." Imagine the cartoon, licensed to The Journal of Positive Psychology. It lies open to that page on the table in the therapist's break room in Wealth Bondage, or Gitmo. Imagine the Journal's prose, its bibliography, its peer reviewers..... Somewhere in this is a joke.
To Whom it May Concern
Gifthub is an immortal work of art in theMenippean Tradition,written in a Padded Cell (he calls it a Dumpster for obvious reasons) in a state of shock by Phil Cubeta, Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, under an alias, or alter ego, The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage...... More....
Email Phil Cubeta, Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families.