Who’s in charge?

“The traditional position of the Roman-Catholic church was absolute monarchy by divine decree, meaning the king has absolute power by the will of God, and that God gives a country the king it needs or deserves. At the end of the 18th century, this idea was being replaced by the Age of Enlightenment which used reason, scientific rigor, and reductionism – examining the differences in philosophical positions and reducing them into simpler statements.”

Excerpt From
War of 1812: A History From Beginning to End
Henry Freeman

Assuming as I do that most human beings behave similarly, it is I reckon safe to speculate that, if one were to come upon a group of people gathered together for some apparent reason, it would be both topical and astute to enquire, “Who’s in charge?” Human beings, as individualistic as they may be on many levels, nonetheless are social and cooperative. We are like animals in that we congregate in packs for mutual benefit. In doing so it is seemingly further native to animals to expose two other inherent customs: 1) vie for supremacy (usually, but not always, male dominance linked in the animal world to productivity and strength both of which are naturally key elements to survival of the species); and, 2) leadership (a far more mystical feature which may be little more than so-called instinct, the innate sinew of mind and body).

Characterizing the human attribute of supremacy has, in Western culture in general and in British and American exposition in particular, evolved along the lines of wealth which in turn is frequently associated with appearance overall (whether domestic or cosmetic). The early Roman city states for example soon learned that the appointed representative of the local societies to the central body of government in Rome (the Senate) was normally a man of wealth and social elevation. Significantly, how one achieved wealth or elevation was seldom of consideration (though it was by apocryphal account frequently conjoined with yet another fabricated mysticism called peerage or any other possible lineage to antiquity as though strength of character evolved from the mere passage of time).

This refusal at the outset to qualify supremacy and leadership by anything other than appearances foretold an evolution which until recently has survived for centuries. The summary of Anglo-Saxons (relating to or denoting the Germanic inhabitants of England from their arrival in the 5th century up to the Norman Conquest in 1066) is a but a collection of blunt-minded tribes whose leaders were customarily observed with unqualified deference by their faithful followers who claimed to be of related ancestry, culture and colour. Firing up the masses was aligned with an expected mixture of artistic pretence (flags, heraldry and fortresses) and the less tangible but more spiritual persuasion of entitlement or pedigree. As I say, initially the prerogative was connected to creations of human lineage and ancestry (distinctions we’ve become accustomed to observe as legitimate authority for superiority).  When however those drawing room attributes were demonized or otherwise considered insufficient to warrant the profundity of alliance demanded by its exponents, the source of legitimacy was pushed to heavenly orbit, the outer reaches of logic and reason.

Directly or indirectly the governing bodies of Europe were all related. This meant the survival of existing monarchies (those groups with the coalition of wealth and mystique) depended upon the superlatives of birth or religion. They were obviously intertwined and more than just friends. They therefore harboured a persuasion of self-interest. They would, with a bit of reasoning, succumb to the unquestionable authority of privilege and immunity.

The added advantage of religion is, as so often quipped, that it is the opiate of the masses. Nor is it an accident that the adage derives from the social and economic theorist Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) who was notoriously an advocate for the common man.

The Enlightenment was preceded by the Scientific Revolution and the work of Francis Bacon, among others. Some date the beginning of the Enlightenment back to the publication of René Descartes’ Discourse on the Method in 1637, featuring his famous dictum, Cogito, ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”). Others cite the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica (1687) as the culmination of the Scientific Revolution and the beginning of the Enlightenment. European historians traditionally date its beginning with the death of Louis XIV of France in 1715 and its end with the 1789 outbreak of the French Revolution. Many historians now date the end of the Enlightenment as the start of the 19th century, with the latest proposed year being the death of Immanuel Kant in 1804.

What we mustn’t ignore when analyzing history is the cause not merely the result. The cause of the enlightenment or the stolid observations of the likes of Immanuel Kant or Karl Marx was a combination of writing, print and education – none of which for example would have been even remotely pertinent upon an analysis of civilizations a mere two hundred years ago. Since then however education has filtered the minds of the masses.  Granted when it comes to sustaining control and direction of current paramountcy, education has largely suffered the identical hypocrisy and fabrication of the earlier theses of wealth and pedigree, even to the point of creating universities (such as Oxford, Eaton, Harvard and Yale) having the same presence as the moated fortresses once had for the Stuarts in the Highlands.

The House of Stuart, originally Stewart, was a royal house of Scotland, England, Ireland and later Great Britain. The family name comes from the office of High Steward of Scotland, which had been held by the family progenitor Walter fitz Alan (c. 1150). The name Stewart and variations had become established as a family name by the time of his grandson Walter Stewart. The first monarch of the Stewart line was Robert II, whose male-line descendants were kings and queens in Scotland from 1371, and of England and Great Britain from 1603, until 1714. Mary, Queen of Scots, was brought up in France where she adopted the French spelling of the name Stuart.

In 1503, James IV married Margaret Tudor, thus linking the royal houses of Scotland and England. Elizabeth I of England died without issue in 1603, and James IV’s great-grandson (and Mary’s only son) James VI of Scotland succeeded to the thrones of England and Ireland as James I in the Union of the Crowns. The Stuarts were monarchs of Britain and Ireland and its growing empire until the death of Queen Anne in 1714, except for the period of the Commonwealth between 1649 and 1660.

While it is all very well to disguise one’s claim to entitlement with toleration of myth – as though deprivation were magically becalmed by the analgesic of legend or the supernatural – it is but a deceit. Genuflection is not the answer.

Genuflection or genuflexion is the act of bending a knee to the ground, as distinguished from kneeling which more strictly involves both knees. From early times, it has been a gesture of deep respect for a superior. Today, the gesture is common in the Christian religious practices of the Anglican Church, Lutheran Church, Catholic Church, and Western Rite Orthodox Church. The Latin word genuflectio, from which the English word is derived, originally meant kneeling with both knees rather than the rapid dropping to one knee and immediately rising that became customary in Western Europe in the Middle Ages. It is often referred to as “going down on one knee” or “bowing the knee”. In Western culture, one genuflects on the left knee to a human dignitary, whether ecclesiastical or civil, while, in Christian churches and chapels, one genuflects on the right knee when the Sacrament is not exposed but in a tabernacle or veiled (conversely, one kneels with both knees if the Sacrament is exposed).

The recent drama unfolding in American politics – and to a degree among global autocracies – highlights the poison of its two hierarchies wealth and appearance. Increasingly it seems that Americans of every description – from the man or woman in the street to their Hollywood idols – are responding to their mounting education, addressing the cause of global concerns like pollution, energy and racism and questioning the authentic authority of their proposed leaders (men and women of varied background and education).

It is unexpected that the current intellectual flavour will afford a complete understanding of the universe or overwhelm the lowest degree of vacuous self-interest. The fact that leaders of the GOP in addition to the likes of those who stormed the Capitol on January 6th persist to harbour and to cultivate lies surrounding the peaceful transfer of power is testament to the supremacy of ignorance and appetite. As yet there’s no question who’s in charge and it ain’t the King or God.