Tag Archives: history

Charity v Altruism: Now & the Medieval era

Straight-out, I’m totally taking a High Medieval module this term (which was fantastic btw and could only be improved with the addition of poor neglected Wace) and this came up during my research for my essay.

Whilst reading Aaron Hostetter’s article “Food, Sovereignty and Social Order in Havelock the Dane.” (The Journal of English and Germanic Philosophy, 2011, 53-77), I was struck by the economic model he describes. Lords live on surplus, and do not labour. The lower classes, slaves, peasants and the like, labour to produce a surplus yet only consume as much as they need to survive and work (and sometimes not even that much). This model he applies to the poem Havelok, a lovely story of the rise of a king from low class work, and specifically to Aethelwold, one of the kings, who “dines in a manner that enforces his claim to rule his nation, but with the happy result that they all have enough to eat,” (57) because out of the surplus he lives on, he sends out alms to the poor so they can eat.

Now, is it just me or does this seem ridiculous?

The power dynamics here are founded upon a circulation of food and wealth that relies upon a minority to be charitable and generous enough to send on the surplus they’ve gained back to the people who produced it in the first place. Very inefficient for mass survival but very good for constructing the minority’s power.

The same thing is still going. A majority work to eat, though our standards of necessities far exceed what we need to actually survive, and produce a surplus that oligarchs, magnates and corporations live off and distribute “charitably”. It’s really no wonder such a sense of cynicism surrounds these charitable acts, though the power now constructed is that of controlling consumer power/power over consumers.

But why? Wouldn’t it be better for those lower in the chain to distribute their wealth/food/all that they produce charitably to others and shorten the circular pass-the-parcel from low to high to low? And wouldn’t this in turn reduce any gap we currently see between the high and low, as the foundation of their power would be eradicated?

Obviously, it requires relying upon a lot more people to be charitable (as crowdfunding seems to prove is possible) and that seems unlikely, but it also seems illogical to rely on a minority of people to be as altruistic and yet.. it works, doesn’t it?

Advertisements

The Problem with Polygyny

To someone who has generally been taught to blame the Church for everything, this report is actually really interesting.

A little background on me; Semi-Neopagan family upbringing. My ma always wanted us to freely choose and explore everything so whilst she was in the Neopagan way of thinking she didn’t really try to instill it; just you know morals, which she and I don’t see as being connected to religion (i.e. they’re a focus of religion but they’re their own seperate guidelines for life if you like).

My gran on the other hand, hella Neopagan, tho she’d say Pagan and wouldn’t understand that the roots of what she follows actually come from the 1970s not like 370. Not too pushy but definitely encouraging into it, so everything church related for her was condemned basically. We had a Rev friend but he ‘followed the way of the Light’ or some shit, so he was considered alright.

All but the extinction of Paganism? Church’s fault.
Destruction of ancient holy sites? Church’s fault.
Dismissal of personal magic, female power, freedom, free thought, free speech, free worship? Church’s fault.

I mean, you can see where that point of view is coming from, and it does have some basis in reality, you can see those trends. But it’s not a reason to condemn a faith for all but it’s pre-Christian Pagan morals. It really isn’t. And whilst I was never wholly condemning like my gran; I certainly picked up a lot of that attitude from her, being afraid of feeling Christian, mocking the occasional (one) devout Christian (that I wholly regret, though I was 7ish; same year I had a mock wedding held by my friend who was the daughter of a vicar \’-‘/).

So, when it came to the point where I like started actually thinking about stuff like sex, marriage, attraction in a my-entire-world-is-feminist-and-now-I’m-consciously-thinking-about-the-power-structures-and-male-hating-thought-pattern-my-gran-instilled-in-me way, I naturally blamed the condemnation of lesbians, gays and polygamy/open relationships on the Church. It seemed sensible at the time. Now I understand it’s just humans, not a religion’s fault because that’s stupid because humans make the religion (even if it’s divine inspired, they go on to corrupt or spread it).

So, humans condemn polygamy etc., yet I hadn’t moved past the thinking that it was because their religion made sexual relations like that seem immoral (if you read the right passages in the right way). Never had I considered that there may be a more natural reason for their condemnation/closed-mindedness, even though I have already put other things down to a more natural impulse (racism for example can be understood as a natural rejection of not-your-clan; this DOES NOT excuse it- there is a reason that we are sentient, reasoning beings and I firmly believe moving past no longer/never required natural impulses qualifies as one of those reasons).

The transmission of STIs as a reason to be monogamous in a large group seems reasonable, likely and regardless of what criticism is levelled at this model, seems almost unquestionably the most likely reason for polgyny and polygamy to be condemned by a lot of people by natural survival impulse. If this is the case, and I strongly believe it is, there funnily enough doesn’t seem to be much need of it now, or at least in entirely morally corrupt places that are abusing the rest of the world enough to be able to afford sti treatments and protection that prevents transmission.

Basically, let people fuck other fully informed, consenting adults and however many of them of whatever sex they please; ¬†and for gods’ sake provide them with protection to do so!