Loss and the Remnant
The Morning Call is feeling a bit blue
We’re not sure about the rest of you, but we’ve been in a pretty serious funk for the past few weeks. We know that we’re not supposed to care about national politics that much. Heck, we PREACH that no one should care about national politics that much. We’re not true-blue (true-red?) Trump-junkies. We have said that we don’t think Joe Biden is, in and of himself, a threat to the republic and that it’s hyperbolic to suggest otherwise. We’re pleased that the Republicans gained ground in the House and in the states. And yet….
For more than a month, we’ve felt like we suffered some sort of vague, ill-defined loss. Part of this is personal – my father is sick, which is probably most of it; the Culture of Life Foundation has been shuttered, which was a loss, and so on. But that’s not all of it. There’s something else going on here, something that we can’t quite put our finger on.
If we were to try to pinpoint the source of this ethereal emptiness, we’d start with the fact that we’re losing our business. Now, to be clear, this isn’t our usual end-of-the-year rant about how MiFID II and zero-commission trades are killing The Political Forum. “We,” in this case, isn’t “Steve and Mark.” It’s Steve and Mark – plus ALL the rest of you; everyone in the financial services world; all of you portfolio managers, and chief investment officers, and vice chairmen, and family office managers, and analysts, and economists, and heaven knows who else. And “our business,” naturally, isn’t “The Political Forum,” but the entire financial services world. We – ALL of us – are losing control of the business – ALL of it. Or at least, that’s the way it feels some days. Most days.
To make matters worse, not only are we losing the business, but those who are taking it are putting to rather nefarious and ugly ends. We’ll spare you – at least for the time being – another long rant about the World Economic Forum and its corporatist/neo-fascist economic agenda. Today, we’ll simply note that while we have long thought that top-down, soft-totalitarian, centrally planned economic stagnation was the likely end state of globalism, we never figured that we – which is to say the financial services world – would be the mechanism by which that dystopia was achieved. And yet…
Look at this massive list here. That’s the list of the businesses that have partnered with the World Economic Forum on its “Great Reset” project. And while there are businesses from all sectors included, the preponderance of companies are retail banks, investment banks, asset management firms, financial advisory firms, and so on. These are the companies that invest in, provide loans to, underwrite the offerings of, and hawk the stocks of the companies who make the rope with which the capitalists will be hanged.
And it breaks our damn, defective hearts.
The news the other day – and the subject of yesterday’s note – that Pope Francis has decided to collaborate in this Great Undoing Reset was serious salt in our wounds. For years, we wrote about how the Catholic Church would be the great bulwark against the unraveling of Western Civilization, largely because it was the only institution that could be. We’re no longer sure it has either the moral authority or the desire to play this role.
We know that the Church has been in tough spots before, beset by corruption and wallowing in the temporal, political battles of the day. But we’ll note that this isn’t the 15th century, where 99% of the Catholics in the world wouldn’t know the pope if they fell over him on their way to slop the pigs. Every word the current pontiff says, every step he takes, every stupid utterance he makes is “on the record” (which many non-Catholics think means that it’s also infallible). Everything he does is part of the public record. Unfortunately.
Additionally, as our friends the French can tell us, periods of massive Church corruption and massive Church interference in secular affairs tend to end poorly. Pope Francis should know better than to promise something temporal that he is unsure that he can deliver. He – and his flock will be held responsible if, on Tuesday, he signed onto an operation whereby his imprimatur will be used to sell the global masses a new form of serfdom. That he doesn’t know this is just…so…frustrating…dispiriting…infuriating…and countless other words that might be considered mortally sinful to utter about God’s representative on earth. If it weren’t for the fact that it has, historically, fared rather poorly during global pandemics, we might be on the first plane to Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in Vatican City, with the hope of convincing Pope Emeritus Benedict to set up shop in Avignon.
All of which is to say that if, twenty-five years ago, you had told this Catholic schoolboy just starting out at a big brokerage house that his new industry would, with the blessing of the religion into which he was born, develop and implement the mechanisms by which the global ruling class would impose its will on the masses, once and for all, we’d have thought you were completely out of your mind.
The only thing left to do now, of course, is to fight. We don’t feel like fighting much these days, especially when we realize that the new administration has already signaled its willingness to place WEF/Great Reset allies in prominent positions. Bit then we think, “if we don’t fight, who will?” And “if YOU don’t fight, who will?” And if we don’t all work on this together and figure out how to engage in this battle to win it and to take back our business from the BlackRocks and the Bridgewaters and the Goldmans and the JP Morgans and the Citis and the Banks of America, then we’re doomed. And we can only imagine that really being doomed feels a whole helluva lot worse than just feeling doomed for a few days.
As some of you may recall, about a year ago, we penned a long piece about Albert Jay Nock, his essay “Isaiah’s Job,” and its lessons for us today. We put it this way:
Nock’s starting point in this essay is a conversation with a friend who tells him that he has come up with a “politico-economic doctrine” that he thinks deserves widespread attention. “I have a mission to the masses,” he tells Nock. “I feel that I am called to get the ear of the people. I shall devote the rest of my life to spreading my doctrine far and wide among the populace.” And then he asks Nock, “What do you think?”
Nock’s reaction is to relate the story of God’s order to Isaiah to go out and warn the Israelites that trouble lay ahead; that they needed to mend their ways or face a terrible crisis. The interesting fact about this mission, Nock notes, was that God told Isaiah that the vast majority of citizens, the masses so to speak, would pay no heed to his warnings. This led Isaiah to ask the logical question, why bother? To which God answered, in Nock’s words, paraphrasing the Good Book:
Ah, you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up, because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society, and meanwhile your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.
The moral of this story, Nock told his friend, is that he should concentrate his efforts on selling his idea to the Remnant, that he would be wasting his time on the masses. He noted that by “the masses” he did not mean simply the poor, or the laboring classes, or the proletarians.
The mass-man is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to those principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct; and because such people make up the great, the overwhelming majority of mankind, they are called collectively the masses. The line of differentiation between the masses and the Remnant is set invariably by quality, not by circumstance. The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them; the masses are those who are unable to do either.
Having related this story, Nock proceeds to discuss its applicability to the society of his time. We think his message is probably even more pertinent today, when the entire world is obsessed primarily with appealing “to the masses” or “to the voters” or to “the entire nation.”
Everyone with a message nowadays is eager to take it to the masses. His first, last and only thought is of mass-acceptance and mass-approval. His great care is to put his doctrine in such shape as will capture the masses’ attention and interest. . . . The main trouble with all this is its reaction upon the mission itself. It necessitates an opportunist sophistication of one’s doctrine which profoundly alters its character and reduces it to a mere placebo. If, say, you are a preacher, you wish to attract as large a congregation as you can, which means an appeal to the masses, and this in turn means adapting the terms of your message to the order of intellect and character that the masses exhibit. If you are an educator, say with a college on your hands, you wish to get as many students as possible, and you whittle down your requirements accordingly. If a writer, you aim at getting many readers; if a publisher, many purchasers; if a philosopher, many disciples; if a reformer, many converts; if a musician, many auditors; and so on. But as we see on all sides, in the realization of these several desires the prophetic message is so heavily adulterated with trivialities in every instance that its effect on the masses is merely to harden them in their sins; and meanwhile the Remnant, aware of this adulteration and of the desires that prompt it, turn their backs on the prophet and will have nothing to do with him or his message.
As Nock describes it, Isaiah’s job of preaching to the Remnant would be a difficult, frustrating one for a politician because, he says, the Remnant is a quiet bunch of underdetermined size.
They do not write in and tell [the prophet] about it, after the manner of those who admire the vedettes of Hollywood. Nor yet do they seek him out and attach themselves to his person. They are not that kind. They take his message much as drivers take the direction on a roadside signboard; that is, with very little thought about the signboard, beyond being gratefully glad that it happened to be there, but with very serious thoughts about the directions.
But, Nock maintains, that “it is a good job, an interesting job.” He adds:
Once in a while . . . . [the prophet to the Remnant] will quite accidentally come upon some distinct reflection of his own message in an unsuspected quarter; and this enables him to entertain himself in his leisure moments with agreeable speculations about the course his message may have taken in reaching that particular quarter and about what came of it after it got there. Most interesting of all are those instances . . . .where the recipient himself no longer knows where or when or from whom he got the message; or even where, as sometimes happens, he has forgotten that he got it anywhere, and imagines that it is all a self-sprung idea of his own.
In any case, Nock contends that serving the Remnant is much more interesting than serving the masses. And moreover, he says, “it is the only job in our whole civilization, as far as I know, that offers a virgin field.”
After listing a whole host of problems in the business and, by extension, the world, we then concluded:
In the face of all of this, what can we do? What can you do? In some cases, the answer is “nothing.” The system is too big and too out of whack for anyone to fix it. In other cases, however, some things can be changed. As large shareholders and as financial professionals, you have considerable power to affect behavior. You have leverage.
Beyond that, though, you have the power to be both Isaiah to the Remnant and the Remnant to other Isaiahs. Don’t think big. Think small. Think close. Think personal. Think about your operation. Think about your firm and your clients. Think about your family, your friends, your “pack,” and your community. Don’t adulterate your prophetic message with trivialities.
Time to put it all together and get to work.