Excepts from the book, 'Win-Win or Lose' by Bill Bonner:
Pages 41 - 58
The central idea of this book, in its crudest and simplest form, is that economics leads morality, and that the transition to a win-win world beginning about 4,000 years ago brought modern morality with it. American journalist Robert Wright probably has it backwards when he says, “memes which manage to pass through this gauntlet of cultural selection, and come to characterize whole societies, often encourage non-zero-sum interaction.”
More likely, the success of win-win deals set the imagination to work to craft explanations, rules, and myths. As anthropologist Franz Boas explained, “It seems to be one of the fundamental characteristics of the development of mankind that activities which have developed unconsciously are gradually made the subject of reasoning.”
This is not a new idea. Nineteenth-century philosopher Karl Marx and many others were on the case long ago. Marx thought economic changes were the real source of both political and moral developments.
And American economist Mancur Olson described how morality evolved; he explained that ethical rules lagged economic developments. “Morality is what used to pay,” he wrote.
Marx and his followers then made an extraordinary and unfortunate leap. From the insight that morals are driven by circumstances (power relationships, technology, and broadly, economics), they jumped to the staggering assertion that “bourgeois” morality didn’t matter, and that they could change both the economy and morals at will. Reconfiguring economic and political systems to their liking, they thought they could dispense with the process by which they had been created and the hidden insights they carried with them.
But neither the economy nor the moral system was ever fully subject to their conscious designs. They could design a new economy, but it wouldn’t do what an economy should do – make it possible for people to get what they want. They could insist on a new moral structure, too – but, entirely synthetic, it would soon be shown to be immoral.
This is probably a good place to step back and look more fully at the point we are making.
To that end, we turn to one of the big bestsellers of recent years – a book by the aforementioned Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Right off the bat, we know that the author thinks we have a nature, and that it has good and bad angels somehow attached to it. But the gist of the book is that violence has been in decline for a long, long time.
Pinker’s contribution to this discussion is to prove it. In this, he does a masterful and thorough job. Drawing on bone records, anthropological studies, police statistics, history, folk tales, and art, he uncovers levels of past violence – as illustrated in this chapter – that modern readers will find shocking. The ancient world was unbelievably brutish and dangerous. He shows an unsteady, but unrelenting, decline in murder rates everywhere. And not just murder rates. Rape, theft, slavery – all forms of violence have become less common.
The shocking part is how common they once were. In some places, in some periods, you were more likely to be killed than to die from natural causes. Also shocking are the other forms of violence in the ancient world – tormenting animals, torture, and cruel and unusual punishments. We will not bother you, gentle reader, with the descriptions of the many torture devices used in the old days; apparently, there is a community of aficionados who collect them. And it seems that there were always people willing and ready to use them – to inflict pain… to extract confessions… or simply for amusement.
After reading a few hundred pages about the atrocities committed by our ancestors – or suffered by them – we are delighted to discover that not only are these practices in sharp decline, but the appeal of them has also mostly disappeared. That is, they’ve gone out of style. Somewhere along the way, man has developed a sense of empathy for his fellow human beings. Most people no longer delight in the suffering of others – nor even of animals. We no longer want to set cats on fire or cut off the noses of people who annoy us. Bull baiting, bear baiting, gladiator combats, stoning people to death, burning at the stake, breaking on the wheel, the Iron Maiden – most are not just illegal, but unimaginable. Even in the movies, if a man kicks a dog early in a film, you know he’ll probably be dead by its end. Something has changed; generally, we no longer appreciate the use of violence, unless it is far away and used on strangers, out of sight. That is probably how the pilot and bombardier of the Enola Gay were able to sleep at night after incinerating 185,000 innocent people; they saw no one die.
But why has the attitude to violence changed? Pinker is an optimist who believes in the perfectibility of man. He guesses that it is a triumph of reason. He believes the Enlightenment encouraged an awareness of what we do and a consideration of the likely consequences, not just for ourselves, but for others, too. According to this line of thinking, evil is merely an error. As we become more thoughtful and more knowledgeable, it will gradually disappear. He believes, too, that governments have contributed to this decline in violence. They gradually gained a monopoly on the use of violence, and they – especially democracies – use it more sparingly.
Our own guess, which we develop more fully in a later chapter, is that government violence is a different sort of violence. It is controlled and systematic… and then episodic and horrendous. Taking on the task of punishing and deterring “bad” behavior, government has probably helped to reduce private sector violence. But while it inhibits private sector theft, for example, it institutes a system of exploitation which separates far more people from far more money than freelance thieves ever could. Today, in America, for example, the practice of civil forfeiture alone costs citizens more than private thievery.
And while the government prevents and deters people from killing one another privately with Smith and Wesson handguns, it develops nuclear bombs, tanks, artillery, and huge standing armies trained and equipped to kill millions of people as a matter of public policy.
A further guess is that civilization and the decline in violence are mutually reinforcing parts of the same phenomenon, and that both are the natural consequence of what is called “gentle commerce.” Where that expression came from, we don’t know. But it describes what happens when people beat their swords into plowshares. Then, rather than kill one another in a zero-sum quest for success, they find they can get ahead by producing things with which they can trade.
Producing and trading – rather than murdering and stealing – sets in motion a whole train of ideas, attitudes, and customs that are, by nature, non-violent. That is, they are perforce voluntary, as all win-win deals must be. Thus, they are “gentle” rather than brutal.
It is no coincidence that this gentleness surged over the last 4,000 years. There were probably hundreds or thousands of codes, memes, ideas, and moral recommendations available during this evolutionary period. “Do unto others…” survived; it worked.
Then, the desire to please customers, co-workers, and employers leads to much more than the division of labor, economic progress, and a greater economic surplus. First, it leads to the basic elements of civilized commerce – property rights, money, and communication. Later, it leads to the trappings we mistake for civilization itself – smiles, handshakes, art, manners, and modern morals. The earliest writing samples we have, for example, are neither poems nor government proclamations; they are sales records memorializing win-win deals.
Once win-lose deals no longer paid off as they used to, man looked for ways beyond brute force to dominate… to be cool… to feel superior. Our most fundamental drive – beyond survival itself – is not wealth; it is mating. “It is the ultimate goal of almost all human effort,” wrote German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer of sexual desire.
Sociobiologists say money is just a “status marker” and that status markers are substitutes for genetic markers, signaling suitability for parenting. In a win-lose, zero-sum world, the use of violence was relatively straightforward and conclusive. The male who was able to get in a dominant position – whether by physical strength or group manipulation – had access to the most females. Later, in the win-win, positive-sum world that arose after the agricultural revolution, he needed to develop wit as well as strength, and an elaborate system of status markers, to replace the more conclusive use of force. That is why, today, the rich movie star probably has more mistresses available to him than the poor bodybuilder.
“The tireless pursuit of social status, even of conquest,” writes Robert Wright, “has ultimately elevated the human condition, allowing more and more people to live, on balance, better lives.” Today, most of our efforts to gain status are focused on becoming richer, smarter, more knowledgeable about Chinese porcelains and chess champions, and so forth. But humans spin out an intricate lace of status markers. They are capable of finding status in just about everything… and often, in contradictory ways. One may feel superior because he drives a big, expensive car. Another feels superior because he doesn’t. One feels superior because he is muscled-up. Another says the muscleman is a moron; he reads books instead.
All of this modern human “software” can best be understood not as the product of the Enlightenment or a moral awakening, but as the product of cultural evolution, in which social innovations adapted to the new positive-sum world. And while it would be nice to think that the death rate was in irreversible decline, thanks to the conscious efforts of enlightened governors, it may not be so. There was an explosion of state-supported violence in the early 20th century. Since then, most of the wars have been small and fake-ish. But that could change in a matter of seconds.
This is not a very popular point of view, either. Evolution has no mind, no meaning, no purpose, and no destination. What’s more, cultural evolution leaves little room for human conceits. Smart people, for example, like to think they can use their brains to craft a better public life, just as they do in their private lives. If they can figure out how to make indoor plumbing work, they reason, surely, they can also fashion a better society.
Secular authorities like to see themselves as the source of wealth and power… as well as the arbiters of right and wrong. They think they are the custodians of the economy and that they are essential to the prosperity of the people under their supervision. They claim to manage it for the benefit of the public – through regulation, taxation, and fiscal and monetary policy. Meanwhile, many religious people believe that murder is immoral because God said so. They think moral rules are divinely inspired, handed down to us by prophets who had some inside track with the Almighty.
If that were so, and it might be, you still wonder why God would take so long to announce what would seem to be universal and timeless rules. Moses waited until the Egyptian séjour was at an end before coming down the mountain with the Ten Commandments. Was it okay to murder people before then? It doesn’t seem likely, not if the rule were timeless and universal. So why didn’t God say something sooner? Not that we are second-guessing God. Rather, we are second-guessing our fellow men, whose views of history, religion, economics, and morality we regard as too simplistic to be accurate… and yet, not simple enough.
“Thou Shalt Not Kill” is a simple rule. Great exceptions are made, of course, even where it is generally honored. Babies not yet born may be murdered in most places. Criminals are often put to death. And, of course, enemy soldiers, even quasi-soldiers, such as “terrorists”… who wear no uniforms, have no military training, and even, in some cases, are incapable of doing much real mischief because they are blind or confined to wheelchairs… can be killed with no due process, no declaration of war, not even a warning.
The idea of “immorality” is a recent invention. It presumes an awareness of time and of the concept of consequences. It suggests an awakening to the notion of cause and effect; what you do today may have something to do with what happens tomorrow.
There are two types of moral rules. The first is merely an observation wherein past, present, and future are connected in a disagreeable, finger- wagging kind of way. “If you don’t save for your retirement, you’re going to be in trouble,” says the responsible spouse. “If you keep smoking like that, you’re going to end up in the hospital,” says the doctor.
The second type of moral rule is deeper and more abstract. It involves the idea of “right” and “wrong” in some way that goes beyond the likely, observable consequences. This is the key “consciousness” on which civilized life ultimately rests, the recognition of the connections between things that happen now and those that may, or may not, happen in the future.
The contribution of the Christian religion is largely to extend the cause and effect into the afterlife. So, even if you are not collared by the gendarmes, you will still pay for your crime later. Is it true that you could delight in Heaven or burn in Hell, depending on what you do on Earth? We don’t know; but like so many other myths, it could be best to think so.
Even today, there are some people with little grasp of time. The Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, for example, reportedly have only an incipient awareness of cause and effect. They eat when they are hungry. They mate with whomever they please, whenever they please. They sleep when they are sleepy. They have no creation myth, no religion, and no sense of extended time, neither remote past nor life after death. Anthropologists who studied them were surprised. It seemed almost impossible that such people have survived so long with no progress towards civilization. They guessed that they had perhaps lost their “culture” when they were chased into the bush by other tribes or European invaders.
Even among civilized groups today, tribe-based moral systems have not been completely abandoned. In April 2018, this story appeared on the news website Mondoweiss:
Rabbi Ophir Wallas of the Bnei David Military Mechina was caught on video teaching young would-be soldiers that Israelis are, from the halachaic point of view, permitted to wipe out Palestinians, and that only fear of massive retaliation prevents that.
“The laws of a mitzvah war, a war of occupying the Land. Even if I don’t conquer Gaza right now, [conquering it] is part of my ability to settle the Land of Israel, so it is also a part of the mitzvah of conquering the Land. And therefore it follows, there’s no other way; like, we’d have to kill them all. Because this is the difference between the Law of the Persecutor and mitzvah wars. […] A mitzvah war of conquering the Land, which is not limited to saving the people of Israel from their enemies, according to some of the Rishonim, I could, on the face of it and by the essential law, destroy, kill and cause to perish all of them. I will not do so, because if I were to do so, and reject international treaties, then the State of Israel shall parish, unless we shall witness a miracle of miracles – and one must not trust in a miracle. And that’s the only reason I won’t do it.” [As translated by Yossi Gurvitz.]
A few months later, Israel’s parliament passed into law a bill that defined the country as an exclusively Jewish state. It was a move right out of the Old Testament. Or 1930s Germany. The new law echoed the Nazis’ 1935 “Race Laws,” which were designed to protect “German blood and German honor.” The Germans made citizenship the exclusive right of ethnic Germans; the new Israeli law declared the country to be the “homeland of the Jewish people” who had an “exclusive right to national self-determination in it.”
This example is a modern expression of the ancient, pre-civilized myth illustrated in the Old Testament. What is especially unusual about it is that it is so obvious and unvarnished. Generally, modern governments tart up the old “us versus them” myth in the hotpants of “national security,” manifest destiny, or some other claptrap.
AN INTRODUCTION TO BAD GUY THEORY
In the world of finance, abundance – not scarcity – is the bigger risk. Nothing ruins people faster than getting too much money with too little effort. Few bank robbers, lottery winners, or sports stars can resist the temptation to extravagance, luxury, and excess. In a few years, they’re broke.
But if “too much” is a problem in the money world, perhaps it is a problem in the political world, too? Power corrupts. Perhaps it is true what they say about absolute power, too. By May 2018, in Israel, the rot seemed well advanced. Israeli troops fired on a crowd of demonstrators, hitting at least 1,300 of them. A few Jewish intellectuals with their sense of shame still intact thought they had gone too far: “We’ve gone over to the dark side,” they said. “We’re becoming decivilized.”
Why some people are more civilized than others is a subject for debate. It may be that “civilized” people have a more developed, abstract, moral sense. More likely, what they don’t do to others is, generally, what they’re afraid may be done to them. It is not abstract virtue that makes us good, in other words; it is fear of jealous husbands, determined creditors, and the Huns.
But what if we knew they could do us no harm? What if you were a giant in a race of Pygmies? What if you had an AK-47… and your enemies had BB guns? What would happen to your civilized restraint then?
Going over to the dark side seems to be what people do from time to time, when the coast is clear. They get out the thumbscrews and the water boards. They slaughter without fear of retribution. They lie, cheat, and steal without worry – because they can get away with it.
Had Israelis become the bad guys? In Israel itself, some thought so. Recalling a more innocent era, writer and politician Uri Avnery wrote:
I was a member of the National Military Organization (the “Irgun”), an armed underground group labeled “terrorist.”
Palestine was at the time under British occupation (called “mandate”). In May 1939, the British enacted a law limiting the right of Jews to acquire land. I received an order to be at a certain time at a certain spot near the sea shore of Tel Aviv in order to take part in a demonstration. I was to wait for a trumpet signal.
The trumpet sounded and we started the march down Allenby Road, then the city’s main street. Near the main synagogue, somebody climbed the stairs and delivered an inflammatory speech. Then we marched on, to the end of the street, where the offices of the British administration were located. There we sang the national anthem, “Hatikvah,” while some adult members set fire to the offices.
Suddenly several lorries carrying British soldiers screeched to a halt, and a salvo of shots rang out. The British fired over our heads, and we ran away.
But now, the gun is in the other hand. Palestinians demonstrate. Israeli snipers do not shoot over their heads. Here’s Jeremy Scahill, founding editor of The Intercept:
Israel has once again conducted a premeditated, full-scale massacre in broad daylight, in front of the cameras of the world. Once again, it took place in Gaza.
On May 14, Israeli snipers and other forces gunned down more than 60 Palestinians, and wounded thousands of others, including civilians, journalists, and paramedics. […]
Among those killed by Israeli forces was an 8-month-old infant. Her name was Laila al-Ghandour. They also killed at least seven other children and a man in a wheelchair, and that man had lost his legs after they had to be amputated following an earlier Israeli attack.
There is nothing, specifically, that you have to do to be civilized. But there are some things you shouldn’t do. Killing people is perhaps one of them.
Among the comments arising from the Gaza incident were some pointing the finger at the USA. The U.S. president’s daughter and son-in-law seemed to approve of the Israeli government. Rather than condemn the killings, the U.S. blocked an international investigation. Had Americans become “bad guys” too?
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the U.S. stood alone. It was the “end of history,” author Francis Fukuyama suggested. America was No. 1… the ne plus ultra of the 20th century. By comparison, the whole rest of the world was just one big “sh*thole.”
America’s only plausible enemy – equipped with both industrial- age factories and nuclear-age warheads – was the Soviet Union. And it gave up the competition – it even ceased to be the Soviet Union – in 1991. Still, America’s military spending continued to increase, rising, by 2018, to twice its level 30 years before. By comparison, the rest of the world had beaten its swords, its BB guns, and its slingshots into plowshares. And now, with such a big difference in military spending, U.S. foreign policy could be economically and elegantly described in three words: “We’re America, bitch.”
Power was unbalanced and disproportionate. It was all take, with no give. It was live… but not let the other guy live. The U.S. could invade Iraq; the Iraqis couldn’t invade America. The U.S. Army and the CIA could target extremists for drone assassination; but back in the homeland, Americans slept in peace. Therein lay the fatal temptation… Iran hasn’t invaded another country since the Achaemenid dynasty went on a spree in the fourth century B.C. Since then, it’s been invaded by almost everyone able to do so – Mongols, Russians, English, Muslims, and, in 1980, U.S.-backed Iraq. In the 1950s, the country also endured a coup d’état, organized by the U.S. Its democratically elected president was replaced by a CIA puppet.
And today, Iran is considered such a bad hombre that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo read it the riot act on May 21, 2018. The Associated Press followed the story:
The Trump administration on Monday demanded that Iran make wholesale changes in its military and regional policies or face “the strongest sanctions in history,” as it sought to turn up heat on Tehran after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a landmark nuclear deal. […]
Unless such a treaty can be reached, Pompeo warned that Iran would face tough sanctions that would leave it “battling to keep its economy alive.” […]
“These will end up being the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are complete,” Pompeo said…
President Trump followed up in July in a tweet inspired, no doubt, by the history of the Assyrian conquest, warning that the Iranians would “suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence and death. Be cautious!”
Moses, bringing the law down from Mount Sinai, announced 10 things Jews needed to do to keep themselves in God’s good graces. But Pompeo demanded 12 changes of the Iranians. We don’t recall Iran ordering the U.S. to make even one change, let alone 12 of them. Is that because the U.S. is already perfect… or because the Pentagon spent an amount equal to the entire Iranian defense budget every eight days?
Power has rules of its own. Win-win reciprocity isn’t one of them. When you can throw your weight around without worrying about someone else’s weight being thrown at you, what’s to stop you?
Nature, like civilization, needs balance. Harmony. “Too much” upsets it. Instead, it thrives on limits, restraints, and corrections. When there is “too much,” something has to give. Otherwise, nature tips over into chaos and claptrap. And when a nation has too much power, like a child who has had too many desserts, it becomes insufferable.
After the Cold War ended, the U.S. was master of the field… unopposed… on top of the heap. It could have brought its troops home and cut its military spending in half… or more… restoring some measure of balance with the rest of the world. It could have taken up the America First slogan, minding its own business and being a good neighbor to other countries. It could have balanced its budget, paid off its debt, and devoted its time, money, and energy to building a great country. Instead, with no debate in Congress, it took another path. And now, all over the world, it bombs, sanctions, and assassinates… bullying, bossing, and bamboozling small countries that can’t protect themselves. But who drones America’s “extremists” in Kentucky? Who assassinates “insurgent” leaders in California? Who imposes sanctions on America?
The U.S. has invaded 84 countries since its founding. Modern Iran: zero. The U.S. has weapons of mass destruction… and has proven that it is ready to use them; it dropped an atomic bomb twice – both times on civilians. No other country has used atomic weapons in an act of war. Iran has no atomic weapons. The U.S. has troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, within easy striking distance of Iran. Iran has no troops in Mexico or Canada. So who’s the bad guy?
The whole idea of “bad guys” as a focus of U.S. foreign policy came after the fall of Baghdad to U.S. troops and George W. Bush’s famous “Mission Accomplished” speech on a U.S. aircraft carrier in 2003. The war was won. But it went on. And on the shifting sands of the Middle East, amid the shifting focus from one religious, tribal, sectarian, or political group to another, military spokesmen couldn’t keep up. They began referring to the enemy du jour as simply “the bad guys.”
But who, really, were the bad guys? Our myths tell us that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. But the gods know better. If the goose is big enough, and powerful enough, the gander can just watch out.
People come to think what they need to think when they need to think it. And when people have a vastly disproportionate amount of military power, they soon find reasons to use it. They begin to see bad guys everywhere. Readers of our own daily blog – Bill Bonner’s Diary – illustrated the point. They thought they knew not only what happened in Gaza that day, but why it happened. They thought they could look into black hearts and see corrupted souls – even from thousands of miles away. The Palestinians were fiends from Hell, said one reader:
When faced with a screaming horde of fanatics who want to exterminate your existence, do what it takes. Be glad that Mexico is not dominated by Islamists. They had blood dripping from their hands, said another:
A significant number of Palestinians killed were unquestionably identified by independent sources as terrorists.
They were mass murderers, said a third:
They intend to kill indiscriminately and create a 5th column within Israel to destroy it.
In other words, they all deserved to die. They, not the Israeli gunmen who shot them down, were the evil ones. No charges were ever filed. No evidence presented. No verdict rendered. And no sentence pronounced. But the protesters got the firing squad anyway. That’s the advantage of power – you don’t need to hold a trial. And you never need to say you’re sorry.
Looking into their own hearts and minds, Americans see saints in the mirror and angels dancing on the White House lawn. Foreigners probably see something else. Some might look back, for example, to America’s bloody campaigns against the Cherokee or the Sioux… to its invasions of Mexico or Nicaragua… or to its conquest of the Philippines. U.S. troops took over the Philippines after a fake battle with Spanish forces (the two armies agreed to a mock battle in Manila to justify the handover to Americans rather than to the natives).
“Hooray,” said the Filipinos. “America is a beacon of independence. Now, we will be independent, too.”
It was still very early in the 20th century. But the U.S. was already woozy; the imperial juice was going to its head. Instead of handing over the Philippines to the “brown people,” the white people back in North America chose to hold onto their colonial prize.
Alas, the ungrateful inhabitants resisted. As many as 1.5 million of them – mostly civilians – died as a result of fighting, massacres, concentration camps, and disease. American soldiers told the tale in their letters home:
The town of Titatia was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger.
Back home, Americans had little doubt who the bad guys were. They backed their boys in the field, as they always do. But a few had second thoughts. In his diary, Mark Twain referred to American soldiers as “our uniformed assassins.” He described the war as:
…a long and happy picnic with nothing to do but sit in comfort and fire the Golden Rule into those people down there and imagine letters to write home to the admiring families, and pile glory upon glory.
After a week or so of this kind of thinking in our daily blog, we were set to heave it over the side, like a fish too small to meet the legal limit. Readers didn’t appreciate it. But reading our mail… followed by a restless night… we decided to look further. And then, we saw it more clearly – slimy and hideous. Bad Guy Theory (BGT) is the updated version of tribe-based morality. It maintains that there are some people who are good, and others who are bad. The good ones think they can spot the bad ones… and that they have the right and duty to kill them, because… well… they’re up to no good.
Many of our readers believed BGT was essentially correct; they knew damn well who the bad guys were… and thought your author was an SOB for suggesting otherwise. Wrote one, referring to Muslims, Persians, or Palestinians (we’re not sure which):
f they could, they’d kill you, me and our families.
We have some personal experience. We lived in Paris for many years and knew, casually, some Iranians. We had dinner with them once or twice in their apartment in the 16th arrondissement. Never once did they go for our throats with a butcher knife.
Another reader thought our suggestion that even good people sometimes do bad things was out of line:
You owe all of your subscribers an apology.
This reader was particularly annoyed by our suggestion that dropping an atomic bomb on civilians was perhaps not a civilized thing to do. (We’ll come back to that in a minute.)
BGT is as ancient as the Old Testament. Each generation, each culture, each tribe has had its bad guys. The neighboring village. The nation over the mountains. Spartans. Yids. Queers. Reds. Bourgeois reactionaries. Mensheviks. Kulaks. Intellectuals. Gypsies. Heretics. Papists. Prods. Huns. Gooks. Kafirs. Cathars. Sorcerers. Insurgent Filipinos. Rebel slaves. And bog-trotting, mouth-breathing Paddies. They all deserved to die… and all got the death sentence. Not that they necessarily did anything wrong. But their thoughts… their beliefs… their intentions and motivations marked them as bad guys.
But how could you know what was really in people’s hearts and minds? Use the rack and thumbscrews to find out! Or don’t worry about it. “Kill them all,” said the Count of Citeaux before the massacre at Béziers in 1209. “God will sort them out.”
As already noted, the God of the Old Testament seemed ready for any sort of mayhem. But Jesus had another idea. He didn’t care what group you were part of. He didn’t seem to care what you had done in the past either; it was what you did now and in the future that counted. “Go forth and sin no more,” said He to the bad gal who was about to be stoned to death.
Common law also emerged gradually and organically from the swamp and blood of prehistoric life. It, too, turned away from BGT. Justice was blind. Were you a Jew? Were you a Muslim? Were you a believer… or a sinner? It hardly mattered. Instead, the judge wanted to know where you were on the night of the 23rd… that is, he wanted to know what you had gotten up to, not who you were. You were judged on the basis of your actions.
So let us look at the action that brought our readers to grab a rail, feathers, and pitch and come looking for us.