The Grim Consequences of Growing Wealth Inequality in the U.S.

French economist Thomas Piketty’s 2014 best seller, Capital in the 21st-Century, is a historical study of wealth inequality since the industrial revolution. He demonstrates that an increase in income inequality was inherent to capitalism. The formula was simple, if the rate of growth on income derived from invested assets (stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.) is higher than the gross domestic product (GDP — the rate of growth of the economy), then national wealth will be gradually concentrated in the hands of existing holders of investment assets.

The author’s painstaking statistical analysis was the first of its kind and his work is admired by a broad range of economists. He notes that there are troubling social consequences when inequality reaches a certain level, as it did just before WWI and WWII. He also discovered that the inequality is never corrected by economic growth. Continue reading “The Grim Consequences of Growing Wealth Inequality in the U.S.”

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“O vis aeternitatis”: The Power of St. Hildegard’s Music

One of the best online resources for the study of St. Hildegard’s music is on the blog run by the International Society of Hildegard von Bingen Studies, which includes a large collection of her works along with Latin texts and translations that can be found here. Medievalist Nathaniel Campbell, a contributor to the blog,makes the astonishing claim:

“More works can be definitely attributed to Hildegard than any other composer from the Middle Ages. The melodic variety of Hildegard’s chant, ranging from the highly florid works of her early years to the more restrained chant, reflect her intimate familiarity with chant genres and the compositional practices of late medieval chant. Where Hildegard’s musical brilliance shines brightest is the sublimity of the liturgical poetry that accompanies it.”

“…For Hildegard, music rises almost to the level of a sacrament, channeling the perfection of divine grace from the heavenly choirs down to us.”

O vis aeternitatis, “O power within eternity”, is one of her responsories:

R. O power within Eternity:
All things you held in order in your heart,
and through your Word were all created
according to your will.
And then your very Word
was clothed within
that form of flesh
from Adam born. Continue reading ““O vis aeternitatis”: The Power of St. Hildegard’s Music”

Is Social Engineering the Salient Evil of Our Time?

The term “social engineering” originated in the late 19th century and was used by early sociologists to define the attempt by governments to influence human attitudes toward certain ideas or behaviors. It is primarily associated with authoritarian governments like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Chairman Mao’s China. Using manipulative laws, re-education, and propaganda, they sought to reshape their societies according to their repective ideologies. All governments, however, practice social engineering to some extent, with the intention of producing a desirable outcome that is in the best interest of the public. Regulation of industry and financial markets, laws, and tax incentives are a few examples. But social engineering, even in free societies can have a sinister side.

jpiiPope St. John Paul II tried to warn the West about this in his 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor. Written just after the fall of the Soviet Union, something he had helped accomplish, he cautioned the West about the dangers of freedom in a society that was losing its moral foundations:

“Today, when many countries have seen the fall of ideologies which bound politics to a totalitarian conception of the world — Marxism being the foremost of these — there is no less grave a danger that the fundamental rights of the human person will be denied and that the religious yearnings which arise in the heart of every human being will be absorbed once again into politics. …Indeed, if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.”

It may not be correct to assert that social engineering itself is an evil; that would depend on whether the desired outcome is evil in nature. We get a clue about the intentions of today’s social reformers from a recent article in the New York Post. Citing Gallup Polls, the writer points out some of the dramatic changes that have affected American culture in the last decade or so. They reflect a complete shift in attitudes toward moral issues over very brief periods of time. Some examples:

  • In 2003 34% of people polled said they were in favor of legalizing marijuana; in 2013 it was over 50%. (Interestingly, only 7% said they used it).
  • In 2006, support for homosexual marriage stood at 39%, today it is 60%.
  • In 2001, only 40% of those surveyed considered homosexuality morally acceptable; today it is 63%.
  • In 2003 only 34% of people polled thought that having a child out of wedlock was morally acceptable. Today that number is 61%.

He compares the scale of these massive changes to the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and notes perceptively: “We’ve hardly taken notice of it, because it happened in people’s minds instead of in the streets.” He cannot explain how this came to be, but suspects it has to do with the degrading nature of pop culture. In my view, however, what is ultimately responsible for this is social engineering by government institutions: schools, legislatures, presidents, judges, as well as lobbyists and special-interest groups, and those that fund them. The journalist rightly poses a troubling question that should give Roman Catholics a cause for concern, “…what comes along with this mass departure of moral judgment from public life?” social10In his encyclical, St. John Paul II answers that question: “…if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power.” (note the word “easily”) Continue reading “Is Social Engineering the Salient Evil of Our Time?”

Rising Social Tensions and St. Hildegard’s Vision of the Last Days

book (2)I recently received an e-mail from someone who had just finished reading my book, The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic Symbols of Modern Society, stating that it “…sent chills down my spine”. The reason it can have that effect on readers is due to the compelling case the book presents which demonstrates that four of the five symbolic beasts, representing a succession of historical eras preceding the Antichrist, may have already occurred. If readers agree with the book’s assessment of recent history in light of St. Hildegard’s vision, then they will conclude that the events marking the fifth era are likely to be experienced by them, which also includes you and me, our children and grandchildren. An era, as described by Hildegard, that would indeed send chills down your spine.

Each of the five eras also reflect a particular social evil as symbolized by its respective beast. For example, the second era, the Yellow Lion, is an epoch engulfed in militarism and malice (1914-1945); the third, that of the Pale Horse, is identified with licentiousness and hedonism (1948-1991). The fourth is the current historical era that began after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The fifth one, the era of the Grey Wolf, the only era left before the arrival of the Antichrist, is described as a time of extreme civil violence and economic disparity. Today, certain “signs of the times” suggest that this era may not be too far off. Hildegard portrays it as a period of class warfare and revolution (in another chapter she adds that it will include persecution of Christians):

“And the last is like a grey wolf; for those times will have people who plunder each other, robbing the powerful and the fortunate. …And they will divide and conquer the rulers of those realms” (Book 3, Vision 11, chapter 6) [Hildegard of Bingen: Scivias, translated by Columba Hart and Jane Bishop. The Abby of Regina Laudis: Benedictine Congregation Regina Laudis of the Strict Observance, Inc. Paulist Press, 1990.]

riotToday we often hear concerns about income inequality and a growing “wealth gap” in America. 20% of the total income earned in the U.S. goes to the top 1% of income earners, which is double what it was a few decades ago. The distribution of wealth, however, is 10 times more unequal, with the top .01% of the population (160,000 people) owning the same amount of wealth as the bottom 145,000,000. Historically, these are recurring economic realities and there are numerous studies that demonstrate what effects they can have on a nation. One is an increase in violent crime, particularly murder. We’ve seen this in a number of American cities today like Baltimore and St. Louis. British researcher Richard Wilkinson argued that it wasn’t a nation’s overall wealth or lack thereof that determined its level of social diseases like crime, violence, mental health etc., but its level of income disparity. doorIf he’s correct, and should this inequality continue to worsen, so also will American society. This may explain why wealthy people in New York City are building safe rooms in their apartments and adding 1400 lb. doors.

A recent historical study concluded that income inequality can also lead to civil war, adding, however, that there are always other factors involved, like extreme distrust in government or a high unemployment rate. One doesn’t need to be an historian to recall some famous examples of this: the French Revolution, Russian Revolution, American Revolution, and more recently, the “Arab Spring”. Is America today headed toward a similar end? The answer is probably no, at least not for the moment. Those other factors that historically can lead to civil war, like high unemployment, extreme distrust of the government, repressive laws, etc., are not at a level that would suggest a potential revolt. The unemployment rate is currently 5.5% (though, unlike Europe, the U.S. conveniently refuses to count as unemployed those who have given up looking for work, in which case it would be about 11%).

spain1On the other hand, looking at Europe, the unemployment rate in Spain is 23%, it’s over 12% in Italy and France, and 26% in Greece. Youth unemployment is a staggering 51% in Spain, 43% in Italy, and 24% in France. There is also a high level of distrust of the government in Spain, Portugal, and an alarming level of mistrust in Italy.

The upshot of all these studies is that parts of Europe and America may be ticking social time-bombs. In a previous post I discussed the consequences of rising interest rates in America. Countries that are deep in debt like the U.S., U.K., Italy, Spain etc. are only able to service their debt because of extraordinary interventions by central banks to force interest rates down to the lowest level they’ve been since usury laws were enforced in the Middle Ages. greece1Should the banks lose control of rates and they start to rise, triggering a rise in inflation, many governments would quickly find themselves insolvent. In my view, this is mathematically unavoidable. In Tunisia, inflation and rising food prices were the straws that broke the camel’s back, setting in motion the events that led to the “Arab Spring”. The era of the Grey Wolf, particularly in Europe, strikes me as only a crisis away from its own “Spring”. Changes are coming.

Keep an eye on interest rates.

In her book, Scivias, St. Hildegard writes in far more detail about the world during the era of the Grey Wolf.

…rjt

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End of American Hegemony, Part II

titanicIn 1997, America’s former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote a book on America’s new role as the only global superpower, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives. He warned that America’s post-Cold War role in the world may not last long:

“In the long run, global politics are bound to become increasingly uncongenial to the concentration of hegemonic power in the hands of a single state. Hence, America is not only the first, as well as the only, truly global superpower, but is also likely to be the very last.” (p.209)

Eighteen years later, in a recent interview he suggests that this may have already taken place:

“The fact of the matter is that the redistribution of global power has produced a situation in which the US is no longer the sole hegemon. The US has to acknowledge the fact that the world is now much more complex.”

While the theater where the era of the Grey Wolf is to set to play out is primarily Europe, my attention for the moment is more focused on the point at which the United States officially (or forcibly) relinquishes her role as the “sole hegemon”. Why this is so important is that St. Hildegard’s five bestial era’s must align with well defined historical periods (she refers to them as “five ferocious epochs of temporal rule”) and the present one (the era of the Black Pig) that began with the fall of the Soviet Union, will likely end with a similar fall of the United States. Shifts in the world’s geopolitical power alignment, for historians, conveniently mark the end of an era and the beginning of another.

In the first part of this series we focused on the unsustainability of America’s financial condition and the consequence of the U.S. dollar losing its status as the world’s reserve currency. We did this by reevaluating the true total debt owed by the United States, combining the government’s reported “official” debt total with the present value of the country’s long-term unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare. America’s official 18 trillion dollar national debt fails to account for these future obligations. Numerous economists have calculated the true dollar figure to exceed 200 trillion, likely forcing the government to devalue its currency through inflation.

dollarBut here in Part II, we will assume that these future liabilities don’t exist or somehow become manageable, leaving the 18 trillion in debt as all the government has left to worry about. Unfortunately America, you are still insolvent!. This will have far reaching domestic and international consequences,  triggering the end, or limiting of, America’s military role in Europe and elsewhere.

Continue reading “End of American Hegemony, Part II”

Is Our Lady of Akita Controvertible?

This apparition is an excellent case study of how one should view private revelation in the akita way God has instructed us to:

“Do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)

The Japanese bishops conference had not given it’s approval to the apparition when asked by the local bishop to do so, and had discouraged pilgrimages to the convent. However, the original enthusiastic approval by the late Bishop Ito has not been negated by the subsequent bishop. The generally accepted protocol in the Church is for the decision to approve an apparition, barring intervention from Rome, initially rests with the diocesan bishop.

Donal Anthony Foley, probably the wisest voice in matters of apparition discernment, has raised a number of questions about Akita, though none of which definitively undermines its authenticity. That a Vatican spokesman stated that no decision has been made regarding the apparition does not negate the bishop’s approval. Confusion over a comment by Cardinal Ratzinger doesn’t either. So we have an approved apparition, but with some reservations being made regarding its authenticity. Continue reading “Is Our Lady of Akita Controvertible?”

Four Signs to Look for that Will Reveal St. Hildegard’s Fifth Era has Arrived

The five symbolic beasts in St. Hildegard’s vision represent unique and brief historical ages which occur in a specific sequence. They also represent a particular evil evident in the social context of each period. This affliction of evil is engineered by Satan and intended to progressively damage the Church in preparation of the coming of the Antichrist.

In my book, The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic Symbols of Modern Society, I demonstrate that the first three eras have already passed and that we are currently in the latter half of the fourth era, that of the Black Pig. Four signs will clearly manifest to us that the present era is ending and the final era, the Grey Wolf, is emerging:

1. A change in the world’s geopolitical composition.

belinwall2The five periods represent first and foremost separate historical eras. Dividing the 20th century into separate eras is very easy for historians to accomplish (it is not always so simple); the years 1914, 1945, and 1991 were natural divisions based on a change in the map of Europe, as well as its power structure. Western Europe since 1945 has been protected by America through the NATO alliance and the presence of American bases. Since 1991 and the fall of the Soviet Empire, America’s been the sole hegemon in the region. America will soon lose that privilege; the writing is on the wall. I explain why in an earlier post, The End of American Hegemony.

2. Political turmoil in Western Europe.

parisburningIn Hildegard’s description of the era she refers to revolutions but does not describe them in any detail. She makes no mention here of wars between countries, but perhaps hints at them in a later chapter in Scivias. Some Europeans can be expected to violently turn on their governments as the era of the Grey Wolf begins. Continue reading “Four Signs to Look for that Will Reveal St. Hildegard’s Fifth Era has Arrived”

The Reappearance of St. Hildegard After 800 years and Her Gift to Today’s Church

Hildegard picSt. Hildegard (1098-1179) is the perfect subject for the study of Catholic mystical literature; there are simply no red flags associated with her. We know precisely who she is, a twelfth-century nun born into a noble family and who, because of her visionary gift, was given as a child to be raised by the Church and eventually became an abbess. She is not only a saint but a Doctor of the Church. Her writing was prolific, covering her extraordinary visions of salvation history, medicine, and even music composition. We also have hundreds of her letters; she corresponded with kings, queens, popes, abbots, nuns, etc.

Hildegard was left out of the history books and it is not clear why. She fell into obscurity shortly after her death. She was rediscovered in the late twentieth century by Latin scholars looking for new material for their students; her Latin works were first translated into English in the late 1980s. She was elevated to Doctor of the Church in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. It is as though she came back after 800 years of obscurity to continue her service to the Church in a world she had described for us in her vision of five beasts, which she explained were symbols of the last days (vision 11 from her book, Scivias, Latin, “Know the Ways“)

In her letters one thing stands out as an urgent priority, the call to holiness and purity. They clearly show that for Hildegard a spiritual battle was raging in the twelfth-century, particularly with regard to corruption and immorality among the clergy. She writes with impressive authority:

“The Spirit of God says earnestly: ‘Oh shepherds, wail and mourn over the present time, because you do not know what you are doing when you sweep aside the duties established by God in favor of opportunities for money and the foolishness of wicked men who do not fear God.’  And so your malicious curses and threatening words are not to be obeyed. You have raised up your rods of punishment arrogantly, not to serve God but to gratify your own perverted will.” [Letter to Heinrich, Archbishop of Mainz. Baird, Joseph L. The Personal Correspondence of Hildegard of Bingen. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, p.42.]

The correspondence on the whole gives evidence of her personal saintliness and tireless commitment to the reform of the Church. Continue reading “The Reappearance of St. Hildegard After 800 years and Her Gift to Today’s Church”

The Era of the Grey Wolf and Islam

picture grey wolfSt. Hildegard describes the era of the Grey Wolf in greater detail than she does the other eras. I discussed some aspects of the era in an earlier post. Unlike her descriptions of the previous four, which in my book I am able to compare to the actual histories of those periods, this era lies ahead of us. Hildegard’s explanation of the symbolism of the animal gives us a glimpse of what to expect in the decades ahead.

Hildegard’s world was essentially Europe and the Mediterranean, and according to her vision, it will soon be a world marked by widespread civil unrest. It will also be a time of persecution against Christians by, she states, a specific group of people. She also gives us several clues as to who this group might be.

Continue reading “The Era of the Grey Wolf and Islam”