Let Them Eat Steak

Princess Marie Antionette never said, “Let them eat cake.” That didn’t matter one bit when she was being painted in libelous pamphlets as an out-of-touch, sex-crazed adulterous elitist hussy in the 1780’s, or when she was brought from a filthy prison to face the guillotine. It was what was believed of her rather than what she actually thought and said that mattered when it came time for people to decide whether she should live or die. So she died, and has been blamed for more than two centuries for something she never in fact said. But in revolutionary times the truth did not matter–because there were plenty of false accounts that were widely believed simply because they were hostile to the ‘official narrative.’

I am concerned that we are living in such times today. One could easily imagine a politician (especially a fellow conservative) being quoted as saying to those who are underwater on their mortgages or drowning in student debt, “Let them eat steak,” and being shown as insensitive to the struggles of others when they deeply care, but find that their political identity automatically considers them as being heartless and hostile to the poor, without anyone bothering to check the facts or give others the benefit of the doubt.

Nor is this problem only a left-wing one. There are plenty of people who are conservatives who are reflexively hostile to anything that appears on channels like MSNBC or CNN, or newspapers like the Washington Post or New York Times. In such a climate where rank partisanship is assumed, sources of information become extremely limited, as partisan litmus tests are placed on sources so that only those ideologically acceptable are granted credence. This is dangerous because it prevents us from even hearing, much less accepting, any other account of our world other than our own preconceived biases.

One of the conservative websites I go to on a fairly frequent basis, RedState, has a series on a secret and corrupt government program called Fast and Furious (named after the action movies, I think), which involved Obama’s Justice Department appointees selling guns to Mexican drug lords and then using the increasing violence (which has spread over the American border) to argue for stricter gun laws. Clearly, such a story will get no play on the “Lamestream Media,” as it is traditionally called by conservatives. But the fact that such a thing can be believed (and is entirely plausible) among a large group of the public suggests that our political leadership is dangerously out of touch with the mood of the American people at large.

This is true in other countries as well, just to be complete. The whole world seems largely balkanized into different groups that rely on the same (mis)information and make the same often-mistaken decisions. Trust across faction lines is nearly non-existent, to the point where little honest information passes along to others and people judge others based on their own paranoias, fears, and suspicions. In such an environment libel flourishes, because it is impossible for anyone to verify the truth, because anyone who claims to be a fact checker will be looked at and utilized for their own partisan biases. Sometimes, the truth becomes impossible to know, and ferocious battles wage over stories that are impossible to reconcile and also impossible to compromise.

Nonetheless, some people try desperately to compromise, to paper over the deep cracks in society, to put a new coat of whitewash on the walls to avoid what everyone knows to be a coming storm. And they fail, because the only moderates in revolutionary times are those who are cowards who lack moral principles and simply try to flip-flop like limp salmon in search of political office where they can aim at solutions to the divisions of society and paint themselves as transformational leaders capable of bridging the partisan divide only to prove themselves to be ineffectual and spineless hacks.

And so the war comes. So the revolution comes. So come the endless graves that never cease to hunger for the blood of the guilty, the innocent, and the ambivalent. And when the ideals of both sides have been betrayed, when exhausted and bloodied sides search for some kind of truce or peace that would have been easy to negotiate before all of the slaughter, and when winners and losers write their propagandistic accounts of what went down and who was to blame, the truth will remain elusive. It always is. History is full of lies because we make it so, and because we wish it so, because we cannot bear to hear or tell the truths about ourselves, and because we cannot discover the truths about other people simply because the full story is lacking. In order for it to be any other way we would have to be sincere and honest people, full of virtue. Since we are not, we must try to appear so, and because we lie first to ourselves, we must lie to everyone else. And our accounts, as well as the accounts we receive from others, are full of self-serving rationalizations and justifications. And after we are gone others will believe our lies and teach them to others, because they do not know any better or because it suits their own purposes. We have a lot to answer for.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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30 Responses to Let Them Eat Steak

  1. Richard says:

    It is hard to understand how some (most) people cannot tell what the true reasons are for the epidemic of depression in the world. It may be a simple situation as you state to begin first telling ones own self the truth (if one can find it) and then working outwards.
    I often wonder just how much apathy has taken hold of the common people, and how willing are they now to accept being a slave to the systems (and desire) as much as it has been throughout the history of humanity. I cannot recal where or who said it but it goes something like this, “it is funny to see how so many are led by so few”. Correct me with this one Nathan.

    • Indeed, I think that may be a large part of the problem. I don’t know who made the quote you listed about it being funny how so many are led by so few, but I will continue to try to look it up. I think that when people cannot and will not take responsibility for their choices they desire someone more powerful to make those choices for them. The slave mentality thus develops from a lack of personal responsibility and a lack of desire in developing it.

  2. Richard says:

    At the risk of sounding Gnostic and annoying you Nathan, I will say that there is a real value in getting to “know thy self”. Again I do not want to annoy you but self knowledge leads a person to underasstand others and an autonomous nature permits one with an understanding of how another person may feel in similar situations. I may apologize for this but the truth to the matter as I see it is that those who came first, saw first and thus were in the position to lead astray or confuse by argument the lesser.

    • I have no problems with self-knowledge, nor do I consider seeking self-knowledge itself to be Gnostic. A significant portion of my own writing and reading and blogging (even here) is devoted to that precise interest of self-knowledge and self-examination. What is gnostic is believing that enlightenment comes from within and that the source of wisdom and righteousness is within ourselves. There is a fairly wide difference between the mystical belief that we are capable of being our own authorities and autonomous (without higher authority) and the sober-minded approach of examining ourselves and our lives and our experiences to then put ourselves in the position of others. Free will, at least as I see it, does not equal autonomy as I define it in the gnostic sense. Free will means the ability to decide for ourselves, which is required for us to be accountable and responsible for what we do. My endless harping on personal responsibility is a clear sign of my firm belief in the free will of mankind. That said, we are still accountable to God, and therefore not autonomous, because we are not the source of our own law nor do we have the license to do what we wish without repercussions.

  3. Richard says:

    Thanks for clearing that up for me Nathan, however, now I see that it might be that some people have gotten the wrong impression of what a gnostic realy believes about “knowledge from within”

    “the source of wisdom and righteousness is within ourselves”.
    To know on’es self is to recognize that God is everywhere incuding deep within a person. In a coporation there is someone at the heart and is a person whom everyone has given their power to (devotion, recognition etc.)

    Christians believe that God is within also do they not?

    I have often said the it is not so much that we invite God and Jesus into our hearts as much as we let them out.

    As I said a while back, “the whole world is out of context” and now I will say that the whole world is backward and out of context.

    Remember, the victors get to write, or re-write history after destroying all reports and recounts. Also I imagine that the powers that be controlled the media even back then.

    If you see myself and this reasoning as completly wrong then I must have missed the gate on my way in.

    • Richard says:

      Sometimes I feel that the worlds of emotion and the intellect is a combined diversion or a distraction for the truth. As you have mentioned on many occasions that people need to develop “intuition” and rely on it more so than emotion or intellect. In scripture are we not advised to “seek knowledge and wisdom”? I ask that how can a person be sure of anything when one is enmeshed in the worlds of emotion and intellect? God has a place within our hearts and I can see how He would communicate with us in a language that is not audible to be intellectualized or on an emotional ground where we become without sense or reasoning ability. What I have gathered from the time when God wanted to talk directly to the people and they were afraid to go to the mountain is that God desires to have a personal and direct relationship with each individual man and woman on earth, and not to have any other act as intermediary as such in-betweens will always cause confusion for the lack of true communication.
      Again , if I appear to be lost, I will have to deal with that on judgement day, as of now, I, like many have a difficult time trusting the words of anyone and I tend to lean on what I can intuit within the confines of my whole being with the center being my heart.

      • I don’t think you are necessarily lost, it is just that language makes communication tricky, because much depends on how you mean words and whether you have a proper and balanced perspective. It is my belief that coming to a godly understanding helps one develop a godly sense of intuition and judgment that is not narrowly rational, and is certainly not trusting one’s own (highly variable) emotional state. The issue isn’t God’s speaking to us without using language (I’ve never talked to God face to face, or with verbal language, as it were, and I would suspect that to be the case for the vast majority of believers), it is that Gnostics believe that this private mystical relationship with God trumps the verbal revelation of God. This is where it becomes heretical. A genuine biblical believer, on the other hand, believes that the mystical workings of God within a believer are in order for the believer to live a godly life according to the scriptural standard. Where you stand between those views is not something I am qualified to tell, or a matter about which I am qualified to judge, since you appear to have no particular hostility toward God’s ways.

    • Christians believe that God works with them from the inside out, through their heart and mind leading to changes in outside behavior. That is still viewing God as an external being. A Gnostic, on the other hand, has a mystical belief in such a one-ness with God that there is no difference between the “God within” (their own private wishes and desires and thoughts) and the God without (that is, outside) and no need or worth in following or even studying biblical codes of behavior.

  4. Richard says:

    Isn’t God reported as being “omnipresent”, and doesn’t this mean that He is “everywhere”. Jesus taught that God was within and without as the Kingdom of God is within and without and all around? So what is the truth, is God everywhere or is God confined to the heavens? Are we to go somewhere to be with God, or are we to recognize Him within our being and “let Him out” to where all people can see that we have accepted Him and no ,longer fight internally with Him trying to displace Him?

    • Omnipresent is a Greek word that does not appear in the Bible. Again, I have told you that Christians believe, according to the Bible, that God works within believers. Surely it ought to be clear that God is not limited to the heavens from saying that. On the other hand, God does not normally intervene in the course of human events because mankind has largely chosen not to follow God (whose commandments are very plain and easy to understand, as hard as they are to obey), and so God allows mankind largely a free reign to suffer the consequences of their sins. With free will comes responsibility and repercussions. Even when God works in human affairs He generally does so indirectly, so as not to remove the freedom and responsibility of the human beings involved. Pondering this line for any length of time leads one into areas that are beyond human understanding.

  5. Richard says:

    RE: “since you appear to have no particular hostility toward Godโ€™s ways.”

    How can anyone know God’s ways in such a world where trickery, misdirection, greed, envy, strife, jealousy, and all of the other good stuff reported as being the inherent property of humankind are prevelent. Sabbath means “rest” am I correct? If yes, then we go back to what I said earlier that the whole world is, “backward and out of context”, this is a strong indicator that what the world needs indeed is a “rest”. It would appear to me as logical that where the world as a whole “will not” rest, then we will be forced to rest by ther very laws of nature that I suspect God has placed in the order of the universe and what we have discovered and describe using our imperfect understanding and impure language as the second law of thermodynamics. God being heat, and the refusal to recognize and appreciate that God “is”omnipresent and dwells equally in the whole of humanity is cold, then we have entropy where it all ends with death. In the event that a person dies physically without ever recognizing (accepting as truth) God within, and appreciating (worshiping) this gift (salvation), I suspect that such a person is most definately dead on his/her feet and will remain dead for eternity. Is this gnostic, cryptic, or what is it, foolishness? No, it is a fire that burns in me like a furnace and this is what I am hostile against, that people are afraid to “go to the mountain” alone and confront God mano a mano so to speak. Humans are weak in this regard and need another person to speak to God for them. Think about it, when you want to get the truth, do you not try as hard as you can with all of your might to go to the source? Atheism is another form of weakness and some atheists are afraid to “go to the mountain” alone. It is easier to say that a thing does not exist than admit that one is “afraid” of a thing. We are to “fear” God, however this is not meant that we are to be “afraid” of Him. The fear of God is a healthy fear as much as I feared my physical father and did what he wanted me to do so as to avoid being hurt by my own ignorance.

    I am hostile, but it is with a Godly perspective I hope as God holds back my human inclinations to act out, also as it is I believe that he directs my footsteps as well He protects me from myself even.

    • You ask a very important question that demonstrates why gnosticism doesn’t work. There are two ways that one could know God. One could know God from His revealed scripture, which is very direct and plain. One could, theoretically (if one was a gnostic especially) know God from your own heart and mind. Clearly, as you comment, this world is so steeped in wickedness that it is impossible to know God accurately from “natural revolution,” or “natural law,” and necessary to learn about God and His ways through revealed scripture. Since God allows mankind the freedom to choose whether to obey Him or not, that means that mankind must be free to suffer the consequences of sin and to even innocently suffer (as Christ did) for the sins of others. This is the so-called “problem of evil” that I write about often, underlying problems like child abuse, the Holocost, and many of the evils about which bio-psychodynamics deals with, the fundamental absurdity of human experience. Among the most absurd aspects of our lives is that we, temporary and very fallible beings seek to be our own authorities and our own gods, to decide what is right and wrong for ourselves through experience and trial and error. What is more absurd than that? From that absurdity the rest of the absurdity of our existence spreads.

  6. Richard says:

    Does Christ appeal to common sense? What is “common sense” if it is not that which “can” be called “good for the whole” that can be gleaned (intuition) from the arguments of the whole of humanity. The lazy minded person is lost to ignorance and must therefore rely on instinct and wit, and rely also on the opinions and advise of others they deem more knowledgeable. How does one judge another to be a gnostic? Would the answer be found in the word “judge” itself? Would the answer be that no man truly can tell what sort of person another is unless one openly confesses to being of some sort? It is better to pay attention to the self and in this way we may become closer to God whom resides in the hearts of humanity.

    I borrowed this:
    In Jeremiah 23:24 God declares, “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” What does this mean? Is this limited to just one attribute of God, say for example, His knowledge, or just His power, or may be just His authority?

    God is present in all places; however, our conception of Him must not be of Him filling space, as water fills a jug, for He has no physical or material dimensions.

    It is as spirit that He is everywhere, in heaven, earth and hell. Although it surpasses the understanding of creatures such as we are, who are limited and bound to material bodies, God Himself is present everywhere in His majesty and power.

    “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Psalms 139:7-10). In David’s understanding, it is God himself who is there, not just his power or authority. In using the personal pronoun, “Thou,” he leaves us with no doubt. Even the abode of the dead is not apart from God’s omnipresence (cf. Revelation 14:10).
    So, by omnipresence we mean that God, in the totality of his essence, without diffusion or expansion, multiplication or division, penetrates and fills the universe and beyond in all its parts. The atheist wrote: “God is nowhere,” but his little daughter read it: “God is now here,” and it converted him.

    • Indeed, that is correct, God’s omnipresence, as it were, is not like water filling a jug but indicates that his power and knowledge and awareness is of everything. That said, it does not often make itself known. I would not expect it to appeal to common sense, or rather, that which appeals to common sense is often overlooked if it does not appeal to human lust or pride or vanity. And there is too much of these things in our world for the still small voice to be heard. All too often we try to put God in our humanly devised philosophical boxes, and use language that does not capture the full nuance of God’s activity and of his restraint in dealing with human beings. This is something that, despite my own inclination for using fancy words and rational arguments, I seek to avoid doing. What God does is far beyond any human conception or imagination, and we must remain humble before His greatness before we can show our own greatness due to God working within and through us.

  7. Richard says:

    I do not in any way believe in my heart or in my limited mind that I know all there is to know or to poesess any great secrets revealed. I have independently (autonomously) researched humanity for nearly a quarter century in order to protect my own children that God has placed in my care. I was terrified by the prospect of becoming a father to inocence being unsespecting infants. Becasue of my own ignorance I could only sit by an listen to great men argue and debate God and humanity and all things pertaining to the condition of humanity, the earth and the things in it and the universe. To sum it up in conclusion and in my own personal and ignorant opinion, I would have to say that all of humanity must stop with the constant chatter and listen for the true sounds of existence as it is in nature without contempt or judgement. It is a difficult thing for myself to understand but I feel regret that I was ever born into such a place of wanting. I have never been protected from anyone or from anything by another person, I was only misled and abused with consistency. How many people in the world feel that same way as I do? How long will it be until the epidemic of depression is reported to have reached maximuim density or proportions? Who is going to suply humanity with the right synthesised medicine in the event of an econimic collapse? On the matter of depression it can be likened to a Sabbath in that we all experience emotional and physical burnout and musr “rest” or “depress”. To seek a cure for depression is to deny what God has set in order that we do not die from emotional and physical exhaustion.

    How does this relate to the word of God? When we become overwhelmed are we not to “rest” in the arms of the angel? I love that song and appreciate that Sarah Mclaughlin was brought into this world. With this in mind I will ask another question. What type of personality should we vote for to rule over us and to govern us as we are left to the physical experience of life? Lawyers or philosopher kings?

    Personally I have found more comfort in the words of the musicians expressed in heartfelt harmonious tones than listening to an edited speech. Take me out of this body and I will be greatful.

    • Indeed, it would appear very clear that you are swayed more by emotional concerns (for your children) or by emotional means (such as music) than by rational arguments. There’s nothing inherently wrong about that. I often find that music allows me to express that which I cannot put into words, so it supplements and provides balance to what would otherwise be a very wordy (perhaps too much so) way of self-expression. One reason the Bible contains such a wide variety of materials talking about the same point–whether it is in psalms or sermons, laws and genealogies or stories. Different people are affected by different messages–I find the psalms to be immensely moving for the same reason you appreciate the song “Angel,” but I am also fascinated by the appearance of subtle details through different stories that tie the scripture together and that provide food for thought and deeper examination for my rumination.

      And I think it wise to comment that there is nothing improper or heretical about desiring to be clothed with immortality and to leave behind this body of death. No one who reads Paul’s writings in Romans 7 or in 1 Corinthians 15 would doubt for a minute that he deeply desired to find eternal life and to leave his earthly suffering behind. The same is true for many believers (see Hebrews 11), something that is true for both of us personally and many others. I just happen to think that whether one is a singer or a soldier or a lawyer or a philosopher king that there are aspects of God’s action that we can appreciate because of our focus and our interests, but we cannot assume that that small part is the whole picture.

  8. Richard says:

    Indeed, it would appear very clear that you are swayed more by emotional concerns (for your children) or by emotional means (such as music) than by rational arguments.

    If I were not “swayed” (moved to action) by my “emotional concerns” (God’s gift of agape’) for my own children, perhaps I would leave them to fend for themselves as I was. Perhaps my children would have developed a “tough skin” and go on to treat ohers as they have been treated (common cruelty). You said yourself that the “pattern must be broken”, well I believe (know) that I have done my part to try and break the “pattern” of common cruelty within the family unit to begin with. The resulting theory which came about from this “emotional” swaying has helped not only myself to find some relief from the “anxieties of life” , it has reportedly helped many others including someone we both are aquainted with at present. The fact of all matters as I have stated on many occasions is one of “appreciation”. The world as a whole for some reason cannot or will not see or admit that appreciation IS synomous with worship. It is not a hard thing to understand that humanity needs to learn to appreciate what we cannot see and that is the same in reference to worshipping God of whom we cannot see.

    To note: I know myself enough to say that I am neither an overly emotional person nor do I reject rational arguments as long as they are rational and make some sort of common sense as it is understood and in agreement with that the Christ appeals to common sense.

    • You gave a thin-skinned reply to a comment that was not meant as an insult. Different people have different motivations, or more often mixed motivations, and I was complimenting you. Nonetheless, some truths are counter-intuitive, and that makes it difficult to believe them on common sense alone. We need to have compassionate hearts and well-developed rational minds, so there is nothing wrong with being swayed by emotional appeals so long as you are not swayed or deceived into doing something incorrect because of it.

      • Richard says:

        Point taken and much appreciated to boot, thank you. This is a problem with trying to discuss things in a forum disconnected from each other in the first person face to face. I do tend to get intense but this I assure you is tempered with a sense of respect and a sense of humor so as to not let things get too far out of hand. I appreciate that you are willing to even allow me to comment.

      • I completely agree. The lack of body language makes internet language much more hazardous, and likely to be taken disrespectfully, than face to face conversation. As quarrelsome a person as I can sometimes be, I start far more fierce arguments online than I do in person, largely because my body language is not often very confrontational, even if I am a person given to fairly blunt comments regardless of what venue I speak in. Given your respect and my genuine interest in what you have to say, I am very tolerant :D.

    • Richard says:

      RE “our political leadership is dangerously out of touch with the mood of the American people at large.”

      Apathy reigns supreme even in the political arena, The problem is that the whole of humanity has allowed itself to be misled. One such cause for apathy is the rote learning system of education and religious argument.

      “Scholastic learning and polemic divinity has retarded the growth of all true knowledge” David Hume

      A major concern iof mine si that those whom lead us are not even aware themselves of the problem with rote learning as it does rob the ability to think latterally and affectively.

      • I wholeheartedly agree. People give rote answers when they have deceived themselves (and desire to deceive others) into only giving pat answers, when people do not wish to engage but only to spit back responses, and especially when teachers do not wish to encourage independent thought but simply want people to parrot back answers. As a habit it leads to people thinking they know a lot when in reality they know very little, which is extremely dangerous and hazardous for a society that wishes to be free and virtuous.

  9. Richard says:

    Society as a whole do not have the ability to even think or understand what it is to be free let alone virtuous. We all have bee victimized by the rote system for over one hundred years and it is because of this modern day “evil” (assumption) for lack of a better expression that even our leaders have no idea as to how to correct this invasive and all consuming problem. It is the resposiblity of each individual to conduct an independent (autonomous) research and investigation into all of life’s matters and concerns that will bring a person to realize that we need not continue in our autonomy with respect for the whole and for our selves being a part of what we call humanity. We must go outside and look in if we are going to have ability to see the “big picture” and then we may add commentary. Instead, people it appears as though they are content to regurgitate what the majority consensus dictates. This is dangerous as we have agreed to forefit our personhood to become like the “borg”.

    • Not everyone has neglected and forfeited their freedom to become one of the collective. I abhor being part of collectives–I’m very much an individualistic sort of person who tends to work together with others at all (and even then rather independently) only under a fair amount of ferocious external pressure to unify in the face of a common enemy. I am not quick at all to lose my identify in a faceless collective like the #Occupy movement. That said, respect and appreciation for individuals helps us respect humanity in general more. Humanity as a collective whole has worth only because the individuals that make up humanity have worth. This is where identify and collective politics, and socialized education, goes sadly astray. It is by being distinctive and different and following our own muses and inclinations to research and investigate the world we live in (and ourselves) that allow us to have something of value to provide to others, whether in the market or in education. And by so doing we are all enriched. When we are all force fed the same half-baked ideas in lame cliched form, we become nothing more than sheeple or human cattle, and that is nothing I want to be.

  10. Richard says:

    RE: “Given your respect and my genuine interest in what you have to say, I am very tolerant”

    I wish my wife could say the same thing ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Richard says:

    Such is the comic tragedy called life. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Richard says:

    I seriousely do not read, as I told you I meant what i said that my comprehension level is very low and I rely on my ability to infer what i can mostly from abstracts

    • I am a voracious reader. I was curious because I was reading a book (A World Lit Only By Fire) and it commented that Erasmus in his Praise of Folly commented how the world punishes rationality and rewards absurdity. It sounds like something you would say–and since Erasmus was a brilliant and extremely well-read fellow (who once said, as a man after my own heart, that “home is where my library is”), I will have to look it up.

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