Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Where usury isn't enough

In the aftermath of some minor dust-kicking at Zippy's, I'm still trying to better express where I think usury goes off the rails as a harbinger of ills to come, or a source of the Church's problems in the world.

A key difference between usury and modern sins is that usurers don't particularly care what you think of them, so long as you get out of their way. They'll jump through some hoops - they'll morally justify what they do, they'll rail against 'bad' usurers. They'll say they aren't involved in usury but something else via a technicality. So long as they make their money, so long as their business prospers, they'll deal with a lot of bullshit. Cost of doing business and all.

That doesn't really 'work' for modern liberal sins. Tell me about how you'll have Catholic priests turning a blind eye towards sodomy, refusing to talk about gay marriage at all, even serving communion to the gay couple in the church because Who Am I to Judge and for all we know they're a celibate couple of close friends who every now and then slip up and wham, anal sex. In theory, it's possible.

In practice, it's not, because these groups are not after second-class citizen status. The usurers don't care - Team LGBT cares very much indeed. They won't let your teaching merely go quiet. They will not accept being tolerated, even tolerated to an absurd degree. They want complete parity and condemnation of the unequal past. Hell, they want beyond parity if they can swing it, complete with talk about how (if only in some ways) the same-sex couple is -superior-. Same with the feminists. Same with most of the modern social justice warriors.

Let me put that another way: if the most LGBT proponents could ever hope to achieve in the Church was usury-status, it would be defeat. If the most feminists could ever achieve was some fake sweet-n-low 'near enough' version of the priesthood - "Hey look, women can dress up like priests and do some things but they're not REAL priests" - it would be defeat. At least in their eyes. And they are not groups who will settle for 'the best we can do'.

These are people who burn their own organizations to the ground rather than capitulate. They will not settle for a generous tolerance, as obnoxious as that would be.


Anonymous said...

I dunno; I feel as if the pattern has repeated itself so exactly with usury, down even to specifics, that to say that usury isn't useful as a warning of things to come seems somewhat shortsighted.

Zippy has a good point: Current same-sex advocates, or whatever you want to call it, would actually love the position usury is in today - where almost literally everyone has something directly to do with keeping same-sex marriage and relationships institutionalized, and the definition of marriage to society had morphed so much that people don't even realize or remember that people once thought of same-sex marriage as a grave evil.

The reason you're able to voice views about usury that you can't about same-sex marriage isn't because the same-sex advocates are so much more rabid. It's because the usury people have already won a complete and unambiguous victory; who cares what a few internet curiosities think?

They would LOVE if that were the case.

Crude said...

There's no such thing as a complete and unambiguous victory with a social issue. But even beyond that - I don't think usury has even won as much as you think. You're effectively telling me that no one has any moral criticisms of bankers and banking, of loans and interest, which just won't fly for obvious reasons. You may complain that those attacks don't amount to a full and unambiguous attack on mutuum loans, full stop, but I think it's a mistake to frame that consideration in such terms. It's very imperfect, but it strikes me as complaining about the mere legal existence of some guy having anal sex.

Again, a big difference between same-sex marriage and usury is that usurers don't care what people think at all, so long as they can do what they're doing. They'll wage fights against 'bad usury', and they do - people will talk openly about predatory loans, payday loans, even about debt forgiveness in some instances. They pay for people's silence. LGBT activists will ruin a middle of nowhere pizza parlor, because for them personal acceptance and bending of the knee is absolutely vital. Usury has never gone through even a brief period of that kind of zealous attack on dissent on its path to its current 'victory' status, because it just isn't that kind of issue to begin with.

There's a lot to learn from the path usury took in some ways. But there are some grave differences as near as I can tell, and ignoring those would be a bigger mistake.

Anonymous said...

Crude: Still, I admit he does a bang-up job fighting the excesses of usury, since my interest has vanished.

Man, it was worth ploughing through all eight-hundred comments just for that line.

I think there was certainly some talking at cross-purposes, at least to start, but apparently Zippy really is claiming that usury led to the collapse of sexual mores, which is... surprising. That the strategy used in the one led to the strategy used in the other would be more plausible, or some connection along those lines, but otherwise that's extraordinarily far-fetched. I wonder if he's taking Dante's metaphor too literally.

Anonymous said...

They will not settle for a generous tolerance, as obnoxious as that would be.

I suppose there is a correspondence between those who distort personal relationships and want personal approval, and those who distort the financial relationship and want financial approval — where "financial approval" just is paying the usurer his interest. ...Or maybe not. It's fine to draw parallels where it's productive, but it's possible to stretch things too far. I'm not sure the parallel works in this case.

It works better if we compare like to like, and the individual usurer should be compared to the individual seducer: Don Juan doesn't care whether his conquests approve of his behaviour as long as they co-operate. Similarly, the usurer cares only whether you make deals with him. The distinction we need to draw is one you have drawn many times before, between the individual and the activists — those who explicitly seek societal approval. They are in the converse situation of not caring what you actually do or do not do, as long as you pay obeisance to their position.

Now, I think Zippy is right that we as a society approve of usury — but the word has effectively been redefined (like "marriage"?). What people nowadays object to is extortionate interest, even on a type of loan where interest is morally permissible; and they do not object to tiny amounts of interest on a mutuum loan. But "traditional" usury is about the kind of loan, not the degree of interest. I think most people would indeed agree that (modest) interest on any kind of loan is perfectly acceptable; although again, I'm not sure the parallel with sexual morality can be stretched all that far.

Crude said...

I will say Zippy does a good job of highlighting the usury issue, and I think he's got informative things to say about it. But he seems pretty convinced that usury is THE problem from which all else flows, and not being into that means he bristles fast. And I don't respond well to bristling. It's a pity, but what can be done.

I agree that people don't object to 'mutuum loans' but to 'excess', whereas the sin of usury is about any interest at all, not just excess. On the other hand, I also don't think people think about it at all, which is important here. The way usury is tolerated and the way sexual sins are 'tolerated' are different right now. VERY different. They do not interchange very well.

I actually do think some in the church think they can get by by just casually ignoring the church's teachings on sodomy, etc. And I think they are in for a rude awakening. It won't fly. Usurers will accept second class citizen status so long as they make their profit. These people won't.