Wicked Words

Wicked Words

But the Earth still turns.

Galileo Galilei, recanting his recantation

Giordano Bruno might have thought it funny. Or maybe not.

He was hanging upside down, stark naked, in the Campo de Fiori in Rome. It was 17 February 1600. A crowd had gathered to watch.

He could not call out to them…nor even beg for mercy. Because his ‘tongue was imprisoned because of his wicked words’. Those wicked words had been judged heretical by the elite of the 16th century. He held opinions ‘contrary to the Catholic faith,’ they said. He doubted that the bread and wine received in communion really were the body and blood of Christ, for example. He questioned the virginity of Mary and the idea of the Trinity. And he maintained that planets circled the sun, not the other way around.

But the church could not tolerate dissent or doubt. Its grip had been loosened by both. Henry VIII of England had broken with Rome. Martin Luther had led a ‘reformation’ movement in the German-speaking world. And Galileo was already at the University of Padua carefully watching the heavens. Later, threatened with the same fate as Bruno, Galileo denied his heresy and confirmed the Earth as the centre of the universe.

A little threat

Poor Bruno. He was too early. Too outspoken. Too inflexible. In England, he allegedly spied on ‘Catholic conspirators’, using the alias ‘Henry Fagot’ for a pseudonym. Did he find it at all amusing that he was to be roasted over a pile of burning faggots?

Or would he find it gratifying that — partly because of his martyrdom — future generations generally came to believe that it was better to listen to dissenters than to fry them? After all, Bruno was right about the heavens. Maybe he was right about other things too.

Today, the church elite poses little threat. You can take it or leave it. But the profane elite — those who rule us — cannot be ignored. And they’re gathering tinder.

The ruling caste promises miracles — abolishing poverty…eliminating terrorism…making everyone richer and more ‘equal’…controlling the Earth’s temperature. But so far, their programs have all flopped. Their wars have not made the world safer. Their ‘science’ is far from “settled”. Their rigged lending rates resulted in US$300 billion in debt, worldwide.

The whole world is now trapped. It cannot go back to ‘normal’. Normal interest rates would collapse the entire global economy. It can only go forward…living with an ‘inflation tax’ that lifts prices for essential food, shelter, and energy…and threatens millions with chaos, revolution, and starvation.

But more and more, ‘the people’ — like Giordano Bruno — are beginning to notice the failures of public policy. And more and more, the elite want to shut them up.

‘They make us sick’

It’s too bad,’ began a thoughtful comment from a thoughtful wife, ‘They seem to have gotten exactly the wrong idea.

She was talking about the people who recently filled the luxury restaurants of Davos, Switzerland…and are still bellying up to bars in Washington DC and state capitals all across the nation.

She might also have had in mind all the influencers, deciders, policymakers…today’s equivalent of the Catholic hierarchy in 1600…and all those who care what The New York Times has to say.

All of human progress has come out of conflict, competition, debate,’ she continued:

Even our bodies…we competed with animals…and fended off tiny bacteria and viruses. We are rarely attacked by wild beasts anymore. But we are routinely set upon by bugs. They make us sick, but we come away with a strengthened immune system.

Our material progress comes from competition between enterprises — each trying to find better ways to please the customer and make more money.

Technological progress too comes from opposition, not obedience. Inventors and innovators try to come up with something better. Something different. Autos competed with horse-drawn carriages…iPhones competed with the pony express…central heating had to prove itself in competition with open fires.

Our intellectual progress comes from people with different ideas challenging one another’s arguments. Nobody has the complete and final truth. And our moral progress comes as bad ideas — like burning witches and heretics, slavery, hatred, the Übermensch and all — are confronted and rejected.

Our political progress is painfully slow. But if there had been no alternative, I suppose we’d all be worshiping pharaohs and pulling giant rocks across the Mojave Desert to build pyramids in Los Angeles.

Wicked words

Elizabeth was regretting the movement to prohibit ideas that make us uncomfortable. Civilisation advances by confronting unpopular ideas, not by prohibiting them, she pointed out. And yet, today, scholars are fired. Speeches are cancelled. Websites are de-platformed. Commentators are censored. Contrary opinions are blocked as ‘misinformation’.

The idea is to create a consensus, not by free discussion, but by blocking alternative views. Those who don’t go along are branded as ‘white supremacists’ or ‘Russian assets’ or ‘science deniers’ or simply ‘deplorable’.

Today’s elite,’ Elizabeth concluded, ‘is a lot like the Catholic Church during the Inquisition. It believes it has the full and final truth…that science has been “settled”…and that any contrary views must not be allowed in public.

But at least they’re not burning dissenters — like Bruno — at the stake. At least not yet.


Dan Denning Signature

Bill Bonner,
For The Daily Reckoning Australia