Monday, October 16, 2017


     Let’s discuss “dirty money.” What’s your definition of it?

     I’m sure my Gentle Readers have noticed the...well, I was about to say flood, but it’s really more of a trickle...of persons in the political elite “donating” money they once received from Harvey Weinstein to various charities. Have you stopped to ask why they’re doing so? And why, inversely, the ones who aren’t doing so have chosen that course?

     The money itself isn’t soiled in some physical sense. Indeed, it’s entirely “virtual,” as is most money in these United States, and therefore cannot be soiled. But it came from a man now regarded as a terrible sinner, possibly even a criminal. That makes it a token of an unsavory association – and you may rest assured that anyone who received a substantial donation from Harvey Weinstein is anxious to live that association down.

     But what about the money? Why does the money itself bear any odium? Isn’t money just a medium of exchange, through which we conduct our commercial relations? How is it possible that the money bears any of the weight of Weinstein’s sins? He didn’t come by it through those sins, but by financing the making of movies that made money for him.

     Sorry folks, but there’s no parallel to Judas’s thirty pieces of silver.

     If you aren’t aware by now that I’m a Catholic, you haven’t been paying attention. At any rate, unless you’ve been living in a riverbank cave in Montenegro since birth, you’ll certainly know about Catholics’ use of holy water and the reverence we show to various relics. It’s one of the odder practices of our religion, and one that I’ve recently been pondering.

     Holy water and relics are deemed special because...why? There’s a ritual involved in the blessing of holy water that supposedly imbues it with God’s grace. How does that work, seeing that grace is defined as God’s benevolent love for His creatures? I shan’t argue that He would be unable to deposit some of that in a tangible medium such as holy water, but...why? Wouldn’t it be a shorter trip just to bestow it on those who need and ask for it? But this is mostly a digression.

     Relics, on the other hand, are physical objects believed to have some association with one or more of the saints, or in the case of bits of the True Cross, with Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and second Person of the Trinity. But why are they believed to have spiritual value? Why should fondling a relic do the holder any good? Isn’t it more about the communicant’s faith in God and devotion to His Commandments?

     Here the parallel, or antiparallel if you prefer, to Weinstein’s money is pretty close. The association with persons – or a Person –believed to have done great good imbues objects with some of that our minds at least, but possibly nowhere else. The objects themselves can’t claim any credit for the deeds done by their previous owners. Not even in the case of a fragment of a saint’s bones.

     There’s something to be said for the use of relics as objects through which to contemplate those who have demonstrated great goodness. There’s nothing to be said for deeming money to have been corrupted by those who’ve done evil deeds with it or for it. Money is an inherently good thing, and he who has earned it should always be proud to accept it. Hearken to Robert A. Heinlein on the subject:

     There arrived in the mail, from Mr. Secretary General Joseph Edgerton Douglas, a checkbook and papers; his brother Jubal took pains to explain what money was and how it was used. Mike failed to understand, even though Jubal showed him how to make out a check, gave him “money” in exchange for it, taught him to count it.
     Then suddenly, with grokking so blinding that he trembled, he understood money. These pretty pictures and bright medallions were not “money;” they were symbols for an idea which spread through these people, all through their world. But things were not money, any more than water shared was growing-closer. Money was an idea, as abstract as an Old One's thoughts — money was a great structured symbol for balancing and healing and growing closer.
     Mike was dazzled with the magnificent beauty of money.
     The flow and change and countermarching of symbols was beautiful in small, reminding him of games taught nestlings to encourage them to reason and grow, but it was the totality that dazzled him, an entire world reflected in one dynamic symbol structure. Mike then grokked that the Old Ones of this race were very old indeed to have composed such beauty; he wished humbly to be allowed to meet one.

     [From Stranger In A Strange Land]

     While money has been used to facilitate corruption, it is not in and of itself corrupt. It cannot be. However, they who have accepted it for their participation in a corrupt scheme are often at pains to separate themselves from it – not because the money itself is “dirty,” but because they are, and they seek to “hide the evidence.” When we contemplate the close association between Harvey Weinstein and the Clintons, for example, we immediately note the similarities between the two men. We can’t miss the miasma of venality that attaches to the Clintons themselves. It’s especially pungent in Hillary’s case: the “Secretary of State” who used her position to enrich herself by selling America’s uranium supply to Vladimir Putin.

     Some would make an exception for “drug money.” Yet here there be tygers. “Drug money” is money acquired through the sale of some illegal drug, right? But it was probably earned quite legitimately by the buyer, at least – and how shall we deal with the contradictions involved in changes in the laws? Would “drug money,” held to be tainted because it was earned by selling an illegal substance, lose that taint were the law to be changed to make such commerce legal?

     I know, I know: too strenuous a topic for a Monday morning. But it’s representative of the way my thoughts are trending, as I’ll be speaking to my pastor about relics and holy water later in the week.


Linda Fox said...

Much of Catholicism is mystifying, as such a transcendent religion is tightly coupled to the physical realm via use of sacramentals. Like Madonna (the 2nd one) we live in a Material World. Presumably, God has given us these to allow us to bridge the gap.

I read Stranger in a Strange Land when most of my contemporaries did - early college years. Most of them focused on the casual nudity and consequence-free sex, failing to appreciate the Libertarian slant to the book.

I may look for it in a library over the Christmas holidays - it would make interesting re-reading, in light of my political/social/cultural evolution since the first reading.

Christian Mountaineer said...

Romans Catholics use Numbers 5:17 as justification for their holy water. The problem is that this was a ritual given to Israel. It had a very limited and specific purpose: to determine if a woman was guilty of adultery when no other evidence existed and yet her husband is insistent that she was guilty. The water in this verse did not make anyone pure. As Haggai pointed out, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Now, ask the priests concerning the law, saying, "If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?"'" Then the priests answered and said, "No." And Haggai said, "If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?" So the priests answered and said, "It shall be unclean"" (Haggai 2:11-13). Holiness cannot be spread. Hope this helps. ;)

Cordolf said...

I think that the reason that the money is viewed as tainted, even though as you point out the money itself is fungible and (arguably) legitimately earned, is because the money is a proxy for the transaction. The left doesn't really want to taint the money, but the money in this case is the visible benefit of a transaction that they wish to delegitimize.

This passing of moral judgment on transactions with a moral opponent is a fundamental aspect of the current approach to dehumanizing the other side that the left (albeit not exclusively) pursues.

Consider the moral boycott as currently practiced: consider Chick-Fil-A. Those who view C-F-A as morally wrong don't just want to take their own business elsewhere; they want to make sure that anyone who chooses to transact with the targeted party (e.g., Chick-Fil-A) is tainted by virtue of that otherwise politically neutral transaction.

This is not a mere boycott - this is reading virtue into transactions, separate from the underlying virtue of the transaction proper, because of who one of the transacting parties is.

But with Weinstein, this approach (as so many things) has turned on its practioners. Those who have received benefit from any transaction with Weinstein are subject to the same transaction-based disapproval traditionally reserved for sellers of cakes and chicken.

Since money received is a clear benefit, the easily visualized way for a virtuous person to show that they didn't actually BENEFIT from transacting with the now-so-disreputable Weinstein, is to attempt to "undo" the benefit of the transaction, by disposing of the money.

The beautiful part of it (in terms of hypocrisy) is that the recipient of any donated funds need not take the same view to avoid being treated as "transacting" with the target. The presence of an "innocent" middleman removes the taint. This is an attempt at karmic money laundering. Which can then be donated to causes of the donor's choice (in place of some other money they might have donated anyway).

In a perfect world, some of those causes would choose not to accept such donations, so as to avoid their own benefit from a tainted transaction. In my opinion we (as the loyal opposition) should encourage more organizations to do so. If a public figure cannot find a receiver for their 'tainted' charity, they cannot publicly purge their guilt by transaction.

But it's all of a piece with preventing banks from loaning to businesses that handle firearm transactions, or requiring insurance to cover birth control and abortions. If you control the transaction, you control the behavior. And if you 'taint' the money, you control the transaction.

Col. B. Bunny said...

A certain one-man show about Clarence Darrow had the anecdote that Darrow refused to represent a bank robber because he did not want to take money that had been so recently stolen.