Tuesday, February 28, 2023


As I ponder the state of the New Zealand economy, I cannot help but see trouble ahead.

  • The central bank, realising that it had kept interest rates too low for too long, raised the official cash rate from 0.5% to 4.75% in less than a year, and warned it could as high as 5.5 percent. This is the sharpest increase in New Zealand history. I can’t see how this will not cause economic pain.

    When the interest payments on their mortgages are adjusted to the new level, many people will be shocked by the cost and will struggle to make ends meet.

    Economists assume that interest rises will reduce inflation, but when the rates that businesses pay on their overdrafts and other borrowings will rise sharply. The increased costs will prompt them to raise the prices of the things that they produce and sell, feeding into further inflation. I can’t see how this will not produce severe economic stress, especially in the construction industry.

  • People are assuming that the Covid threat is over, but I can’t see how we can avoid another round, possibly with a mutation that is more virulent. (Why would the spiritual powers of evil not push on with such an effective weapon).

I realise that the people of New Zealand are not ready for future pain. They already feel like they have been through more than enough. The politicians are not prepared. They are making big claims in order to win the next election, but none of them have any idea about how to deal with what lies ahead.

The worst thing is that Christians are not prepared either. Christian prophetic leaders are prophesying good times, not preparing God’s people for hard times.

My first thought was that God would not let dark times come if his people are not ready.

But then I realised that he has been squeezed out of New Zealand. Our choices have given a place to the spiritual powers of evil. They have power to set the direction of events in our nation.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Empire of Violence (6) Conclusion

Several things stand out about the ugly truths described in Legacy of Violence.

  • While its colonial officers and agents were engaging in evil practices, the British public believed they were engaged in a civilising mission, raising up the backward people of the world.

    Britain imagined herself a uniquely imperial nation, the standard-bearer among peers, the purveyor of the world’s greatest civilising mission, delivering Pan Britannica’s civilizing rule of law that would transform “native children” who were not ready to take their place in the modern world (p.585).

  • The atrocities were not a mistake or limited to a few bad people gone rogue. The British government deliberately circulated its officers around from one hotspot to another. They would use the methods developed in one place more intensively in the next place they were sent to bring under control. Practices got worse as time progressed, because the most ruthless officers were sent to another colony where troubles had broken.

  • News of the atrocities always leaked back to Britain. Complaints would lead to a formal inquiry of some type. The committee or commission would hear evidence of terrible incidents, but would always decide that the behaviour was reasonable given the circumstances. When it became obvious that the actions of those accused of crimes had been approved and encouraged by officials and ministers at the highest level, the violence and terror would be covered up. This happened again and again throughout the history of the empire.

  • The senior colonial officers who were responsible for managing the worst atrocities and perpetrating the worst violence were often rewarded with honours when they returned to Britain.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Empire of Violence (5) Kenya

During the Second World War many Kenyans had helped support the British war effort. When they returned home at the end of the war, there was no land available for them, because the best land had been taken by British settlers, who grew coffee to earn US dollars for the empire.

Across Britain's imperial expanse, another kind of systematic destruction was unfolding in Kenya’s one hundred detention camps. A state of emergency had been declared in October 1952, the crisis had been five years in the making (p.543).
Kenya with its European settler population and policies of land appropriation as well as harsh labour and colour bar laws, was awash in inequities. The 1.5 million Kikuyu who comprised around 20 percent of the colony's population were the hardest hit. Europeans lived on much of their appropriated land. These settlers grew coffee and tea—lucrative cash crops that only white farmers could legally produce—while the Kikuyu toiled under harsh master and servants laws, a hangover from Britain's Victorian era domestic labour laws, which criminalised labour offences.
I can remember the local newspapers being horrified by the group that were referred to as the Mau Maus, but it was really just a freedom movement seeking independence and land reform.
It was the rational response of rural people seeking to understand the enormous socioeconomic and political changes taking place around them while attempting to respond collectively to new and unjust realities. Mau Mau’s overarching objective was land and freedom...

Mau Mau antipathy targeted not only the colony’s European population but also the colonial-appointed African chiefs and their followers who became known broadly as “loyalists”. In the context of the incipient war, the government defined a “loyalist” as someone who actively fought on its side against Mau Mau and who, in turn, received a “loyalist certificate” ensuring franchise rights in local elections as well as economic privileges like trading licenses and preferred access to land. Many loyalists accumulated wealth and power at the expense of the broader Kikuyi community.

The emergency descended into another of the empire’s reprisal and counter reprisal cycles (p.548).

White supremacy had long manifested itself in Kenya through various kinds of rough settler justice, which included public floggings, beating deaths and summary executions. Most whites in Kenya placed Africans at the very bottom of humanity’s hierarchy, but the emergence inflamed the empire’s racism. Settlers and colonial administrators described Mau Mau as “vermin”, “animals” and “barbarians” (p.548).
The political power of Kenya’s twenty-nine thousand European settlers had been institutionalised for decades. The colony’s constitution was orientated around their interests, which were further ensured through their disproportionate number of seats on Kenya’s legislative council (p.549).
The all-out civilian assault began with sweeping arrests and detentions without trial combined with forced removal of Kikuyus who remained in the White Highlands. Colonial officials packed thousands into railcars and lorries and shipped them back to the reserves. In the spring of 1953, the volume of internally displaced people was staggering. In a few months, the government moved over one hundred thousand Kikuyus via transit camps. Many languished with inadequate sanitation, clean water, and rations as officials figured out how to squeeze them back into the over-crowded reserves (p.552).
White and Black agents of empire perpetrated horrific crimes in defence of British rule in Kenya. They used electric shocks and hooked suspects up to car batteries. They tied suspects to vehicle bumpers with just enough rope to drag them to death. They employed burning cigarettes, fire and hot coals. They thrust bottles (often broken), gun barrels, knives, snakes, vermin, sticks, and hot eggs up men’s rectums and into women’s vaginas. They crushed bones and teeth; sliced off fingers or their tips; castrated men with specially designed instruments or by beating a suspect’s testicle “till the scrotum burst” according to Anglican Church officials. Some used a kiboko or rhino whip, for beating; others used clubs, fists, and truncheons.

“Bucket fatigue” was a routine practice, as were various forms of human excrement torture. Mau Mau suspects and detainees were forced to clean nightsoil buckets barehanded and run for hours around a compound holding a full night soil bucket aloft, which then spilled over, encrusting the person holding it with faeces and urine (p.556).

In May 1954, Kenya was well on its way to creating the largest archipelago of detention and prison camps in the history of Britain’s empire.

Some never made it to prison. Emergency courts sent 1090 Africans to the gallows, surpassing the number of state executions for any other single conflict in the empires history.

All male detainees officially entered the Pipeline through enormous holding camps. The camp populations quickly exceeded their combined capacity of twenty thousand. White officers shouted “Beat them” to camp guards, who liberally helped themselves to the detainees’ possessions. They forced each detainee to strip down and march through a cattle dip of disinfectant, where several drowned. To those who survived, colonial officials issued diaphanous schoolboy uniforms (p.559).

In June 1954, with the Pipeline pushed beyond capacity, the War council decided to introduce a resettlement policy. The Kikuyu population was subject to collective punishments and fines as well as forced labour and other ongoing detention camp policies and practices. The Kenya government called it villagisation. Its officials forced the Kikuyu, who traditionally lived in scattered homesteads, into 804 villages that consisted of 230,000 huts.

Villagisation took less than eighteen months. During that time, Kenyan officials forcibly relocated 1,040,899 Kikuyus within the reserves and corralled an unrecorded number of squatters into private detention centres, located on Europeans estates, where Kenya’s settlers and security forces surveilled, punished and exacted labour from Kikuyu squatters using methods similar to those being deployed in the new Kikuyu reservation villages. Whereas the labour lines war less tightly controlled, barbed wire, spiked trenches , and twenty-four-hour guards surrounded the “emergency villages” that saw little formal rehabilitation on offer (p.562).

The villages became detention camps in all but name. When their numbers were combined with the estimated 140,000 to 230,000 detainees who passed through Pipeline, the British government had managed by the end of 1955 to detain nearly the entire Kikuyu population—a feat that was unprecedented in the empire save for the Chinese population in Malaya.

Life in the Kikuyu reserves became unbearable. One person remembered, “we had not been given any warning beforehand that our houses were going to be burned. No one in the whole ridge knew that we were to move. The police just came one day and drove everyone out of their homes, while the home guards burned the houses right behind us... Everything, even our clothes were burned down... During the move I got separated from my children, and I could not trace them. During the whole night I could hear a lot of shooting and screaming. I cried the whole night, knowing that my children were gone (p.564).

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Empire of Violence (4) Malaya

Following the end of World War 2, problems emerged in the Federation of Malaya. I remember these troubles, but we were only told one side of the story, and we never heard about the terrible atrocities committed by the British government. Chinese people had migrated to Malay for more than a hundred years. When the Japanese overran Malaya many Chinese went into the jungle and fought a guerrilla war against them.

Legacy of Violence explains that when the war ended, the Chinese who had fought against the Japanese found there was no land available for them. The best land had been turned into rubber plantations. The British sold rubber grown in Malaya to the United States to earn desperately needed dollars. Then plantation owners wanted cheap labour, whereas the Chinese squatted on land near the edge of the jungle.

In 1948, while Britain suffered from an overall $1.8 billion deficit. Malaya bought in $170 million, followed by the Gold Coast at $47.5 million, the Gambia at $24.5 million and Ceylon at $23 million. Malaya was the empire’s cash cow, and worker protest and local communal violence threatened it (p.468).
The British changed citizenship rules to penalize the Chinese by setting the bar incredibly high for them.
A non-Malay had to have lived in the Federation for fifteen years, with both parents born in the Federation... The vast majority of those born in any of the nine Malay states were considered “aliens”. In contemporary terms, they were stateless (p.468).
At the start of the emergency, looking to arrest and detain the Federation’s Communist leadership and any local leader who defied Britain’s attempt to control the political economic future of the region, security forces launched Operation Frustration, a clamp-down on all forms of democratic activity. It effectively decapitated political organizations, except for the United Malays National Organisation...

The British government at home reckoned there were between 2,200 and 6,100 armed insurgents in the jungles. Britain’s mission was to destroy them and guarantee that “the economic life of the country continues.” Such a move, according to British external reports, “entails the protection of the rubber and tin industries, and the personnel employed by them... But with the police force grossly under strength and military reinforcements delayed, the situation deteriorated rapidly (p.472).

From the start of the emergency in June 1948, destroying Chinese villages was a go-to punitive measure. Paramilitary forces stepped up their work sending fifty or more to detention camps daily, quickly exceeding their six-thousand person capacity until the detainees were deported to China clearing the way for more. Entire villages were collectively arrested and detained for the smallest infractions (p.495).
The British government relentlessly tightened its coercive legislation.
Approximately 25 thousand people were deported. Transit camps soon overflowed from the mass purges (p.498).
At Ipoh Camp, among the worst, thirteen hundred detainers resorted to hunger strikes and rioting, demanding the release of all female detainees and better camp conditions. In some instances guards “lost their heads” and opened fire with live ammunition; in other cases, the situation, according to the deputy commissioner of Malaya’s criminal investigation department “was now worse than that experienced under the Jap regime.

Another repatriate told how interrogators tied ropes to one finger of each of his hands as well as to one toe on each of his feet. The British torturers then hoisted him to the ceiling, after which they let go the ropes. They then starved him for several days.

Another was sent to a dark cell where integrators “inserted 2 inch pins under his finger nails and burned these pins with fire”.

Guards “took off the clothes of female prisoners and pricked their breasts with pins” (p. 501).

They launched the British Empires’ largest forced migration since the era of trade in enslaved people. Five-hundred seventy three thousand people, nearly 90 percent of whom were Chinese, were relocated into 480 settlements it was not only the scale of the forced migration but also its speed that created massive bureaucratic challenges and hardships.

They created “labour lines”, which were effectively resettlement areas and a labour pool for the Federations’ dollar producing industries, much as the resettlement camps were sources of “casual labour” for the Federations’ estate owners. In total, officials displaced and relocated approximately 650,000 workers in the “labour lines” which brought the overall forced migration and resettlement of British subjects and alleged aliens to nearly 1.2 million (p.505).

The government did not warn villages of their impending removals. The first thing was suddenly at dawn, all of the police, all of the soldiers came in and surrounded the village. It was pretty terrifying. The rapid-paced operation meant villagers often fathered few possessions before they were loaded into trucks awaiting their transfer to resettlement camps. Families were separated in the confusion and villages dispersed (p.506).
After they departed the village would be burned to the ground.
Occasionally government barracks were hastily erected for habitation though temporary shelter often consisted of little more than a lean-to. Local officials expected refugees to build their own permanent dwellings with whatever materials they had bought with them, or with items they purchased using the government “upheaval allowance”.

The government had burned their crops and confiscated some of their livestock during the forced removals, yet in the resettlement areas, “the huts were squeezed tight together and there was no room for poultry runs, no room for pigsties, not room for vegetable plots. There were few clinics or schools during the early 1950s (p.507).

After they departed the village would be burned to the ground.
The government did find funds, however, to ensure a twenty-four hour regime of control, surveillance, and discipline. During the early months of the operation, officials needed 770 tons of barbed wire to secure the resettlement areas. This was hardly surprising since a seven-and a-half-foot double apron fence surrounded most villages. While electricity was often non-existent in the refugees’ makeshift dwellings, multiple watchtowers with spotlights eventually dotted the resettlement edges, fanning out from the police post located in the areas’ centre.

Federation officials painted a number on each household door and listed alongside it the names, ages and occupations of those who lived inside. The government strictly controlled the villager’s movements with dusk-to-dawn curfews within the settlements’ gates. Guards monitored these gates and lined up men and women in gender–divided queues for throrough searches every time villagers entered or exited the barbed-wire compound.

In some areas, colonial officials introduced twenty-two-hour house lockdowns as a form of collective punishment for “non-cooperation”. They also introduced food control. Rubber tappers who worked in the estates by day recalled the resettlement years as ones of semi starvation. The resettlement areas became one of the many sites for screening, or interrogation, further exacerbating a problem festering since the emergencies in the spring of 1948 (p.508).

Torturing of prisoners was common place in Malaya.

This was all happening, while the British were helping conduct war crimes trials against Germans who had worked in concentration camps in Europe. The hypocrisy is stark.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Empire of Violence (3) India

A revolt occurred in India in 1857. Some of the British Empire's actions are described in Legacy of Violence.

Large swathes of the region remained uncontrollable for over a year, and only suppression restored colonial order. British forces tied suspected Indian rebels to the mouths of canons, lit the fuse and blew them to pieces. They levelled villages and towns as their murderous campaigns against the local population spread (p.54).
When two local leaders were arrested in India in April 1919, mass protests occurred in Amritsar. British colonial troops opened fire and killed twenty-five people. Indian protesters retaliated by looting and burning shops and cutting telegraph and telephone wires and damaging railway tracks. When thousands of protesters gathered in Jallianwala Bagh, the British governor announced that all meetings and procession were forbidden. With two armored cars and fifty riflemen, he went to the park (with only one exit) where fifteen thousand unarmed civilians were gathered.

Without warning, he commanded his men to fire. Within ten minutes they discharged about 1650 rounds and left nearly four hundred dead. At least twelve hundred civilians lay wounded in the blood-soaked earth, where they remained as the soldiers retreated, making no attempt to assist those survived the massacre.

The violence was the start of several days of widespread British-led reprisals. With no recording of evidence and limited cross–examination, a martial law commission tried 852 suspects, convicted 581, sentenced to death 108, and sentenced to “transportation for life” or banishment to a remote penal facility, another 264. By the time massive public protest led to reintroduction of the right to appeal, eighteen men had already been publicly hanged.

Collective punishments unfolded through the region. Raj agents confiscated personal property for the troops, cut off electricity and water supplies, expelled students from schools via a quota system, and prevented peasants at gun point from harvesting their crops. Public floggings, a routine punishment in India, skyrocketed.

Raj forces flogged an entire wedding party for being part of an illegal gathering and throughout the region they physically and mentally coerced Indian eyewitnesses into giving false evidence that exonerate European repression.

Security forces compelled men and women to skip, touch their noses to the ground, and recite poetry; they literally whitewashed local peasants; and they made men undertake the work of untouchables, which according to the Hindu population considered a religious pollution… Security forces made persons who failed to salute lick their officers’ boots as punishment (p. 132).

This behaviour cannot be justified as by saying it was a different age. These events happened at the same time as the British government was introducing humanitarian social reforms in England. So they did know better.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Empire of Violence (2) Boer War

During the South African war (1899 to 1902),

The British introduced a new blockhouse strategy that combined with barbed-wire fences, divided the massive interior into smaller areas. A scorched earthy policy systemically burned crops and dumped salt to prevent future cultivation. Thirty thousand prisoners of war were deported to remote corners of the empire. British troops also razed homesteads, poisoned wells, and corralled into concentration camps Afrikaner women and children as well as African labourers.

British forces herded into camps more than one hundred thousand Afrikaners who died at alarming rates. Malnutrition, starvation, and outbreaks of endemic diseases wiped out approximately thirty thousand, the disproportionate number of whom were children… The establishment of British concentration camps in South Africa represent the first time a single ethnic group had been targeted en masse for detention and deportation (p.86).

The conditions in the sixty-four black concentration camps were worse than in those of the Afrikaners. Emaciated and disease-ridden Blacks undertook forced labour for reduced rations, and their death rates climbed to over ten percent of camp populations (p.90).

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Empire of Violence (1)

I have just read Legacy of Violence: a History of the British Empire by Harvard professor Caroline Elkins. I think that it is one of the most disturbing books that I have ever read.

When I was in primary school during the 1950s, we had a picture of the queen on the wall and here were taught about the glories of the British Empire, which had more recently become the British Commonwealth. In our school atlases the parts of the world which had been controlled by Britain were coloured red. We marvelled at the scope of its influence.

We were taught the narrative that the British were the best colonizers, because they had brought civilization, freedom from superstition, true religion, Christianity, education and economic development to the nations they conquered. We were taught that we were privileged to be part of this great endeavour.

I have read enough history since those days to realize that this narrative was not true. I came to realise many British leaders were morally flawed and many of their practices were harmful, but I had not realized the fall extent of the harm done to the people colonised. Elkins uses information from various archives to demonstrate the full horror of the way that the British treated the people in the colonies that it controlled.

The worst feature of what happened is that throughout the era, the British trumpeted the goodness of what they were doing in their colonies. Unlike other imperial countries that did terrible things, they claimed that they were bringing education and civilization to people that were not ready for it. They claimed to be ruling "children", so they needed to use violence to establish “moral force” from time to time.

The British government loves to stand in judgment on the human rights records of other nations, particularly those that they do not like. Once you understand their own history, it is clear that they have no moral ground to stand on. What they did, and what they continued to do right up into the 1960s, was far worse than anything done in the countries like Iran and China that the British grandstand against today. This is a bad case of the pot calling the kettle black.

If the British people understood what their leaders had done down through the years (and covered up) they would be hugely embarrassed. They would want their leaders to hide, rather than judge other nations. The following posts will give examples from the book.

The well-known philosopher John Stuart Mill argued in 1861 advocated for a narrative of human development that was intimately bound with Britain’s civilizing mission.

Britain, having already climbed the arduous civilizing scale, sat secure in their position atop the hierarchy of civilisations and in their role as self appointed shepherds of reform. In contrast, he endowed the non-Europeans of the empire with child-like qualities and juxtaposed them with the progressive images of the British. Like children, non western populations were not yet ready for liberty (p.50).
Before Mill wrote these words, Britain had declared martial war in Ireland (1798 and 1848) Barbados (1805 and 1816) Ceylon (1817 and 1848) Demerara (1823) Jamaica (1823-1824) Cape Colony7 1835, 1846 1850-53) And Canada (1837-38). This legalised extraordinary acts of coercion and suspension of due process (p.51).

Jamaica is just one small example of the violent legacy. Disputes about justice caused clashes between blacks and whites in Jamaica in 1864. According to the official report,

439 Blacks died, many summarily executed, one thousand dwellings were burned, no fewer than six hundred Blacks were flogged. At first an ordinary cat was used for flogging, but afterwards, for the punishment of men, wires were twisted around the cords, and the different tails so contracted were knotted (p.58).

Friday, February 10, 2023

How Did the Fall Happen?

Adam and Eve did not wake up one day and say, “Let’s disobey God today, because I am tired of obeying his stupid rules.” Something more was going on. To understand our situation, we need to understand what happened to Adam and Eve.

The Genesis account begins with the bad behaviour of the serpent (Gen 3:1), not with human disobedience. It does not fully explain what was happening, but clearly, it was something important. The key to understanding this event is realising that the Old Testament provides a two-agent view of reality. It mostly records the actions of two agents in the world: God and humans. The New Testament explains that we live in a three-agent universe. The main actors are God, humans and the spiritual powers of evil. To understand any event, we need to take cognisance of what each of these three actors is doing.

Apart from a few glimpses into the spiritual realms by Job, David and Daniel, the Old Testament writers mostly ignore the activities of the spiritual powers of evil. They took this approach because the Holy Spirit did not want to give unnecessary glory to these evil powers. God preferred to be blamed for evil at times over bolstering the credibility of the spiritual forces that are always at work in the world doing evil. To fully understand the Old Testament, we need to read it through a New-Testament, three-agent-lens. Therefore, to understand the Genesis account of the fall, we need to take into account the reality that the spiritual powers of evil were actively working to undermine the authority and freedom of the first humans.

Genesis 3:1 does not explain why the serpent was so cunning, or why it had become an instrument for undermining evil, but given their objectives, it is reasonable to assume that spiritual powers of evil were working through him. The Revelation of John explains that the serpent was being used by the devil/satan (Rev 12:9; 20;2).

The scriptures do not explain how or when, but a massive spiritual rebellion had occurred in the spiritual realms. I presume that this occurred before the human failure recorded in Genesis 3. The scriptures never claim that Adam’s sin caused the powers of evil to rebel against God. On its own, such an event on earth would not have such a serious effect in the spiritual realms, whereas a rebellion in the spiritual realms could be expected to have a significant impact on the earth.

God had given authority over the earth to humans. By getting control of humans, the spiritual powers of evil could gain authority on earth and establish a domain where they were free to operate. Once they had rebelled, they had a strong incentive to persuade humans to rebel. I presume that this is the order that the rebellions happened: the spiritual powers of evil rebelled first, followed by human rebellion.

Following the rebellion of the spiritual powers of evil, Adam and Eve got caught up in a terrible spiritual battle in which the serpent was an unwitting participant. By giving humans authority on earth (Gen 1:28), God had taken an enormous risk, because it allowed humans to constrain his actions (this was real grace). The spiritual powers of evil understood the risk that God was taking, and they realised that if they could steal the authority that God had given to humans, they could constrain his activity on earth. The stakes were high, but God knew that humans would mess things up with terrible consequences, but he had a plan to put things right.

Large numbers of spiritual beings had rebelled against God. Naturally, they attacked Adam and Eve with a vengeance. They did not have much chance against such a powerful onslaught. They had no children when they lapsed, so they can’t have been in existence very long when the attack occurred. They were still learning their role, as the Holy Spirit taught them how to care for the world that had been entrusted to them. They had access to all the resources of the Holy Spirit, but they probably had not learnt how to draw on them under intense battle conditions. They would not have been prepared to handle such a massive spiritual assault.

We tend to assume that Adam and Eve disobeyed God because they were rebellious. That is a distorted view of what happened. They came under such an intense spiritual attack that few humans would have been able to resist it. Paul records that Eve was deceived.

Eve was deceived by the serpent’s craftiness (2 Corinthians 11:3).
The serpent lied to Eve. He said that the humans needed to eat the fruit of the tree to be like God, when they were already created in the image of God, and as like to God as humans can be.

Of course, it was not just the serpent at work, but the spiritual powers working through him. Their attack was so intense that Eve believed something that was not true. That kind of deception does not just happen, without spiritual interference. Obviously, Adam was pushed towards disobedience too.

Given the intensity of the battle (because authority over the earth was at stake), Adam and Eve succumbed to the attack. Could they have remained strong despite the pressure? Maybe? But it is easy to understand why they didn’t. Rather than calling it “The Fall”, we should describe it as a massive spiritual defeat. Perhaps we should call it “The Rout” because it gave the spiritual powers of evil authority over the earth. They would use this stolen authority to do terrible things to humans and the rest of God’s creation.

This understanding of what happened changes the nature of the solution that is required. The cross does not just cover our sins, as is usually taught. We did not need the cross to stop God hating us. We needed the cross to rescue us from the authority of the spiritual powers of evil. Jesus' death is the ransom that rescues us from the control of the spiritual powers of evil, who gained control over us when Adam and Eve were defeated and manipulated into disobedience.

This understanding also shifts some of the responsibility. Adam and Eve’s disobedience was not a totally free choice. They were provoked and manipulated without being aware of the power that they were up against. They don’t fully deserve the condemnation that is heaped on them by Christians. They are still responsible for their actions, but it was harder for them than we realise, so they also deserve more sympathy.

There is a bit of blame passing going on here. If the fall was Adam and Eve's fault, it gives us an excuse for our disobedience. We can say, “It's all their fault, not ours”. A more productive response would be to acknowledge the difficult struggle they faced. That would help us to understand the spiritual battle that we are engaged in.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023


I have just read a book called Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet by George Monbiot. I dont agree with all of his proposals, but I did glean some interesting information about agriculture, and particularly about the costs of meat production.

Four companies—Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Louis Dreyfus—control, on one estimate, 90 percent of the global grain trade. They are consolidating vertically as well as horizontally, buying into seed, fertilizer, processing, packing, distribution and retail businesses. They continue to snap up their smaller competitors.

Another four companies—ChemChina, Corteva, Bayer and BASF—control 66 percent of the world's agricultural chemicals market, while a similar cluster (with BASF replaced by Limagrain) owns 53 percent of the global seed market. Three corporations—Deere, CNH and Kubota—sell almost half of the world's farm machinery. Another four companies control 99 percent of the global chicken-breeding market... (pp.35-36).

In Europe, maize farming is probably the greatest danger to soil health. The plants are slow to develop in the spring, and are generally harvested too late to follow with a winter group. The stubble is widely spaced and sparse. As a result, the soil in these fields tends to be exposed to the elements at the time of year when rain and wind are most likely to strip it from the land. Most maize is grown in Europe to feed dairy cattle (p.52).
Soy is a key ingredient in chicken feed. One report estimates that it takes 109 grammes of chicken breast. Over three-quarters of the world's soy is fed to farm animals. Much of the rest is used by industry or to make cheap vegetable oil. Only 7 percent is turned into substitutes for meat and milk (p.69).
As farming has intensified, the amount of land used for grazing has slightly but steadily shrunk. But the expansion of grazing land remains the world's greatest cause of habitat loss. It's responsible for 40 percent of the deforestation caused by the food industry, making it almost three times more destructive than palm oil. .. Because 92 percent of the world's natural grasslands have already been occupied by livestock or crops, most of this expansion destroys tropical forests (p. 81).

In 2018, Brazil became the world's largest beef exporter. Large volumes of beef are imported from places where the rainforest was illegally cleared by ranchers (p.82)

Another paper calculates that if a magic switch were thrown, causing the entire world to shift to a plant-based diet, and the land now occupied by livestock were rewilded, the carbon drawn down from the atmosphere by recovering ecosystems would be equivalent to all the world's fossil fuel emissions from the previous sixteen years (p.83).
Kernza is a perennial intermediate wheat grass. Although it is still being developed, the breeders hope to match wheat yields within thirty years. Kernza is at least halfway to success.

At Yunnan University in China, they have crossed an annual Chinese rice variety with a wild African plant of the same genus to produce a perennial crop. Already yields match, and in some cases exceed, those of modern annual rice breeds. The cultivar goes by the name of PR23, and has now been planted across 70000 hectares of China, as a fully-fledged commercial crop (p.183).

As 63 percent of beef demand in the US is for ground meat (the kind that goes into hamburgers and most ready beef meals, the proportion of the carcass that gets minced has risen to match it (p.196).
Monbiot does not see organic farming as a practical solution, because it always seems to produce low yields, usually thirty percent less than conventional farming.
The systems we should favour are those that deliver high yields with low environmental impacts. The systems we should reject are those that deliver high yields but with high environmental impacts, or low yields. Low yields necessarily mean high impacts, because of the area of land they need to produce a given volume of foods (p.228).

Monday, February 06, 2023

More on the Pharisees

A reader commented of my previous post about Scot McKnight’s talk on the Pharisees that "Jesus did call the Pharisees hypocrites". His right. Jesus did call the Pharisees “hupokrites” (only in Matthew, I think), but Scot McKnight mentions in passing that the Greek word has a much broader meaning than the English word “hypocrite”. However, he does not elaborate further in his talk, so you will have to go to his book to fully understand what he meant.

A quick look at Strongs indicates that the word “hupokrites” also means “actor” and “interpreter”. These meanings are linked. Actors interpret the world to the people who watch their plays. The Pharisees did see themselves as interpreters of the Torah for the Jewish people, so I guess that is what Scot meant.

Jesus confronted the Pharisees. He did accuse them of not practising what they preached. “They say and do not do” (Matt 23:3). However, his critique goes much further than that. He said that many of their interpretations of the Torah were wrong and made the faith extremely difficult for new disciples. Their interpretations also pushed the Jewish people away from the Kingdom of God.

Interestingly, Scot suggests that the modern equivalent of the Pharisees in the United States are the evangelicals. They believe that their interpretation of the gospel is the correct one, and they come down hard on anyone who disagrees with their interpretation. They believe that their nation needs their interpretation of the gospel to become strong again.

Scot says that he would not call evangelical hypocrites, because although some of their beliefs are wrong, they are sincere in their beliefs.

I presume that any religious group that sets a high standard for themselves will inevitably fail to meet that standard at times, soi will be open to the charge of hypocrisy. The higher your standards, the more likely it is that you will fail. It is better to aim high and miss occasionally than to set easy goals.

Saturday, February 04, 2023


Scot McKnight has an interesting talk about the Pharisees. They are not quite what many Christians assume. He says we should not accuse any religious group of being hypocrites. It is not fair, and never true of everyone in the group.

Scot translates the word Greek word for Pharisees as “The Observants”.

  • The Dead Sea Scrolls called the Pharisees “Seekers of Smooth Stones”. They were looking for interpretations that made the law easier to follow.

  • The Essenes were conservatives. They thought the Pharisees were too liberal.

  • The Sadducees were also conservative. They were the “sons of Zadok”, so they were the true priestly families. They also held political power in Jerusalem.

  • The Pharisees were a reformed movement reacting to encroaching hellenisation (Greek influence through Jews in the Greed Diaspora).

  • The Pharisees were trying to help the ordinary people obey the law. They believed their nation must go back to obedience to the law, and they expected the people to accept their interpretations. Religious groups have a tendency to claim that they have got things right and that if the people follow their guidance, they will be right with God.

  • The Pharisees sometimes added to the law. For example, they suggested fines instead of stoning. For the Sabbath, they made rules that would help the people know what they could and could not do on the Sabbath. They were trying to make the law practical for ordinary people to understand and apply.

  • The Pharisees were a populist movement. They had pastoral and social skills, because their teaching was popular with the people (until Jesus came along with better interpretation and greater authority).

Friday, February 03, 2023

Aurelien (5) Weak Economy

The nations of the West are facing many political challenges at a time when they are economically weak. Aurelien has not written about this issue so much, but he makes some pertinent comments.

In the last thirty to forty years, the Global West has largely offshored its productive capacity, and so its way of life now depends overwhelmingly on imported goods. Such industry as still exists is itself greatly dependent on raw materials and components supplied by countries with which it is not necessarily on good terms.
This is a huge problem because the Western nations have created a dangerously vulnerable financial system. Artificially low interest rates have created a massive financial superstructure that looks good in GDP statistics, but produces nothing of value, while it sucks wealth out of the economy and feeds it up to the already wealthy.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Aurelien (4) Weak Military

Political weakness is compounded in the West by military weakness. The West has invested too much in the wrong weapons. It has also over-extended its attempts to control other nations at a time when the fragility of its weapon's choices is being exposed.

Given that they worked in World War 2, the United States has focused its defense on aircraft carriers and attack aircraft and helicopters. This has worked reasonably well because all its wars since World War 2, have been expeditionary attacks against weaker nations and rebellions in other parts of the world. Actually it did not work that well in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.

In the current world, missile technology makes aircraft carriers and airplanes vulnerable, and this is an area where the US has underinvested.

In spite of spending a collective fortune on defence capabilities, the West is only capable of operating successfully in a limited number of scenarios, and it is not obvious how this can change. We can list some of the principal ones. (Nuclear forces exist in a different conceptual category, and I’m not going to say any more about them here.) Western aircraft could successfully gain and hold air superiority against, say Russia or China, provided the enemy agreed to limit the engagements strictly to air-to-air combat out of the range of anti-aircraft missiles. Western submarines, surface ships and carriers could probably prevail against, say the Chinese Navy, provided the latter agreed to fight outside the range of land-based missiles. Reasonable amounts of force could be projected by sea and air into permissive environments where air superiority could be guaranteed. This could include combat operations with mechanised forces and artillery, provided that operations did not last for more than a few weeks. And peacekeeping missions could still be undertaken, though probably not on a large scale. There are, of course, very important differences and nuances among western nations, but all of them, at different levels, are trapped in a process of smaller and smaller forces with smaller and smaller numbers of increasingly expensive and sophisticated equipment which is more and more expensive to maintain, and impossible to replace once a conflict has begun. The latter point has political consequences that are often ignored: under what circumstances are you going to risk your entire fleet of perhaps 100 front-line combat aircraft in a war which could leave you disarmed in a few days, and unable to rebuild your forces in less than a decade?

These force structures today did not develop by accident: they reflected beliefs about the missions that military forces would be likely to undertake. Essentially, western forces have a lot of super-sophisticated capabilities, and a fair amount of low-intensity and counter-insurgency capabilities, but not a lot in between. But they cannot fight a major conventional land/air war, or even a limited one that goes on for more than a few weeks. They also face the twin problems of the widespread proliferation of relatively cheap and accurate cruise and ballistic missiles capable of overwhelming defences and destroying highly expensive and complex weapons systems on the one hand, and their own lack of investment in sustainability, on the other. There is nothing magical about the technology involved in the new missiles; it is just that the West saw no virtue in developing that technology itself. Likewise, the West saw no virtue in large and expensive stocks of ammunition. As a result, from now on, the West will simply not be able to rely on automatic air superiority in any serious conflict, nor will its navies be able to operate safely anywhere near an enemy coast, or within the range of air-launched stand-off missiles, nor will it be able to conduct sustained operations on land...

To repeat, none of the above would necessarily have been a problem, provided the overall security policies of western nations had been consistent with these limitations. But they weren’t, and in essence they have provoked a situation where military problems are starting to arise to which the West has no adequate response.

So the existing force-structures of western states are going to have problems coping with the likely domestic security threats of the near future. Most western militaries are simply too small, too highly specialised and too technological to deal with situations where the basic tool of military force is required: large numbers of trained and disciplined personnel, able to provide and maintain a secure environment, and enforce the monopoly of legitimate violence.

This decline in influence will also apply to the United States. Its most powerful and expensive weapons—nuclear missiles, nuclear submarines, carrier battle groups, high performance air-superiority fighters — are either not usable, or simply not relevant, to most of the security problems of today. We do not know the precise numbers and effectiveness of Chinese land-based anti-shipping missiles for example, but it’s clear that sending US surface ships anywhere within their range is going to be too great a risk for any US government to take. And since the Chinese know this, the subtle nuances of power relations between the two countries are altered. Again, the US has found itself unable to actually influence the outcome of a major war in Europe, because it does not have the forces to intervene directly, and the weapons it has been able to send are too few and in many cases of the wrong kind.

More at https://aurelien2022.substack.com/p/the-west-is-weak-where-it-matters