Pope Benedict XVI, in an address to the recent Synod on the Middle East, named three major threats to the world today, of which one was what he termed “anonymous capital”. He described this, along with terrorism and drug trafficking, as “great powers of today's history”. I provide the quote (in translation) from the Chiesa web site:
“We think of the great powers of today's history, we think of the anonymous capitals that enslave man, that are no longer something belonging to man, but are an anonymous power that men serve, and by which men are tormented and even slaughtered. They are a destructive power that threatens the world. And then the power of the terrorist ideologies. Violence is done apparently in the name of God, but this is not God: these are false divinities that must be unmasked, that are not God. And then drugs, this power that, like a ravenous beast, stretches its hands over all parts of the earth and destroys: it is a divinity, but a false divinity, which must fall. Or even the way of life promoted by public opinion: today it's done this way, marriage doesn't matter anymore, chastity is no longer a virtue, and so on.”
“These ideologies that are so dominant that they impose themselves by force are divinities. And in the suffering of the saints, in the suffering of believers, of the Mother Church of which we are part, these divinities must fall, what is written in the letters to the Colossians and Ephesians must come true: the dominations and powers fall and become subjects of the one Lord Jesus Christ.”
Interestingly, another Catholic web site, Catholic Culture, has this to say: “The translation includes an awkward phrasing of one key point in the Pope's talk. In a reference to economic affairs the Holy Father denounced the approach in which the accumulation of capital is given preference over human needs. The translation in L'Espresso muddles this passage, speaking of 'anonymous capitals that enslave man.' In context the Pontiff is clearly not saying that the capital itself is anonymous-- a meaningless phrase in any case-- but that those who manipulate capital may be heedless of how their activities affect individuals.”
Well... with all due respect to Catholic Culture, I don't think it's at all “meaningless” to call capital “anonymous”. And I don't think that the Pope was "clearly" not saying that there is such a thing. And what would the term "anonymous" mean otherwise? Would it refer to anonymous individuals manipulating known capital, out in the open? But that would make no sense. No, I think the Pope knew exactly what he was talking about here, and that the translation reflects that. So I'll stick with the “anonymous capital” idea... with the thought that someone might just possibly have gotten cold feet somewhere along the line when it came to the translation and its interpretation. After all, the Pope's remarks were “unscripted”, and he has no fear of the truth... whereas other people down the line might have found reason to pull back. It wouldn't be the first time this has happened -- for truth to be watered down a bit, in order to avoid trouble. For the Church to denounce the destructive effects of known, overt capital manipulations is one thing... but to pull the veil away from that which is hidden – that involves a whole new level of daring and risk. The Pope is willing to take that risk -- but the same cannot be said for everybody in the Church; there are too many vested interests -- and too much fear.
So to proceed with the discussion -- no one is likely to dispute terrorism – a great mover of people and a challenge to empires -- or drug trafficking – a great mover of wealth – as “great powers”. But it's striking that he referred to “anonymous capital” -- not “capitalism”, note (which, I'm sure, disappointed a lot of the “liberation theology” types)... in other words, not a theory or a system or a formal structure, but an entity, and one of great, if hidden, power. An autonomous entity, in fact -- a law unto itself (not unlike the "intelligence community"). One commentator said that the Pope's remarks were an attempt to “lift the veil in a rather bold way on what is now occurring in our world... on the hidden truth behind the appearances and lies of our time”... and that the remarks constituted an “apocalypse”, in the sense of “a revealing of something hidden from most of mankind.”
Now, if terrorism and drug trafficking represent false divinities, isn't it also possible to see anonymous capital as a divinity – albeit an evil one? The idea gives one pause. Certainly there is worship of capital... it has its high priests and its houses of worship (can you say “Federal Reserve”, class?)... but this term seems to attribute to it some demonic power – a notion I'm perfectly willing to accept. One clue is that the accumulation of wealth is an addiction, even at the highest levels; it does not satisfy, but continues to create its own need for more. Thus, it has no purpose other than itself. Even the greatest accumulator of wealth on earth is, ultimately, its victim – because, after all, what can one man do? How can a person justify, or rationalize, the accumulation of wealth beyond a certain point; how can he do it justice? There is much talk of “social justice” -- but there is also such a thing as justice to one's own resources; it's called stewardship. I don't have any problem “stewarding” my modest income, and I imagine I could do justice to a bit more... but how does one properly steward billions of dollars? And especially, how does one justify, by any criteria, the accumulation of wealth through hidden, secretive, improper means? Can it be true that, as Balzac said, “behind every great fortune there is a crime”? I don't think this is necessarily true in theory, but current events provide ample support of it in fact. Not all capitalists are corrupt, and corrupting, exploiters... but those tendencies are certainly seen in many, if not most, cases. Once again, when wealth becomes addictive – when it becomes its own justification and its own goal – things get distorted. A man buys a 50-room house. But how many of those rooms can he actually live in? How many horses can he ride? How many cars can he drive? You would think diminishing returns (psychologically) would set in – but they never seem to. I think of the scene toward the end of “Scarface” where Al Pacino is sitting at a desk heaped high with cocaine powder. It was a good metaphor: Power, money, drugs – ultimately all amounting to the same thing.
But let's analyze this notion of “anonymous capital” a bit more. All the capital that we see operating in public, on an everyday basis, out in the open – in the stock market, in commercial trade, in small businesses, in small banks and investment firms... that's not what we're talking about here. We're not even talking about the public, above-board activities of the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, or outfits like Fannie Mae. Anonymous capital, is, by definition, anonymous – no one knows where it is, in what form it's held, or who controls it. And yet it seems to exert influence – maybe total influence – on the capital that we're aware of. If you want to talk about cause and effect, anonymous capital is the cause and “known” capital the effect; it certainly can't be the other way around. And another question is, what are the relative proportions of anonymous to known capital? One point of view would be that most of what goes on in the world of finance is either known or knowable, and that wealth that has been secreted away in Swiss bank accounts (to be metaphorical about it) is in the hands of the few. And this might have actually been the case at one time, but I suspect that it is no longer – in fact, I suspect that the vast bulk of the world's capital at this time is, in fact, anonymous. What we see, and know about, is no more than the tip of an upside-down iceberg, with the vast weight of anonymous capital pressing down, and exerting massive (and highly-programmed) force on the rest.
But there is, in fact, another possibility, and I will call it “leverage”. Accumulated, concentrated wealth in the right (or wrong) hands can exert much more force on people and events than scattered, unfocused wealth. Think about a million people with $1000 each... and then about one person with $1 Billion. The same total amount – but those million people have no influence as individuals, and probably not in the aggregate either... whereas the billionaire very definitely has influence, if he's smart enough to use it (and let's assume that if he has it, he's smart enough). So perhaps the weight of the invisible part of the iceberg consists not only of sheer quantities of wealth, but of less-tangible factors – leverage, influence, connections (political, religious, family, fraternal, etc.), and just plain social dominance (through persuasion or violence, or some of each). But in any case, there are, as the Pope said, great powers at work in today's world, and anonymous capital is one of them (and possibly the dominant one).
What is my evidence? Well, for one thing, the financial and economic movers and shakers of our time all seem to be working for, and under orders from, invisible masters. They are always disappearing for days at a time to parts unknown, and coming back with new schemes. (I call it “checking in with the home office.”) We see this in the frequent and never-explained sudden changes in policy and “strategy”. What was touted as a good idea last week is suddenly off the table – and a “better” idea has taken its place. But the public is never told why – at least not in any convincing way. So this is the influence of unknown forces, and they operate in particular to put our so-called leaders – politicians – into a perpetual state of whiplash. They are forever behind the power curve, on the defensive, and trying to make up for lost time... and I believe this is an intentional ploy by the powers that be to keep them off balance... and humble. They are, after all, servants – and servants need a frequent updating as to the wishes and intent of their masters... and an occasional whipping if the occasion warrants (think: Biden in Israel).
Another piece of evidence is that anonymous capital will occasionally make a brief appearance – like a whale breaking the surface of the ocean only to descend, once more, to the depths. This happens in the financial and currency markets, when “deals” are suddenly made between known persons or entities, and persons and entities unknown. Anonymous capital rears up, mows down everything in its path, then disappears again, having absorbed and absconded with another large chunk of known resources. It's kind of like the rogue tax collectors in Medieval times, who would simply ride into a village, grab anything of value, and ride off again – and what could anybody do, because they were “government officials” with licenses and charters from the king. So much of the evidence for anonymous capital is in the frequent taking, or skimming off, of known assets – the fact that, for example, billions of our tax dollars percolate up through the system then mysteriously disappear... and no one in government seems to know where they disappear to. It's more than "government waste and inefficiency" -- it's a vanishing act. Note that the military is a particularly good conduit for this, since it provides a path for our wealth to travel overseas, where it vanishes as a matter of course. Our money lands in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan and simply vaporizes -- and no one is responsible or accountable. And as for foreign aid – well! That has to be the most intentional, and blatant, means of turning our money into someone else's ever devised. I don't think most of it ever gets to the “intended” country at all – it's simply transferred directly into the Swiss bank account of the African dictator in question (speaking only semi-metaphorically this time).
Want more evidence? And speaking of Africa – did you ever wonder where all of those rag-tag rebels, and insurrectionists, and guerrilla fighters in the Third World get all that high-tech, state-of-the-art weaponry? They have to live off the land and sleep under bushes, and poop into a hole in the ground, but their weapons are top-notch. And it is never explained where it all comes from. I mean, we know where it's made (mostly in the U.S., Russia, and Israel) but how does it get from there into the hands of guys out in the jungles of the Congo? And why? My answer: Anonymous capital. Someone buys the stuff and sees that it gets shipped to the right “trouble spots” and into the right hands. And as to the “why” -- well, let's start with “population control”. Isn't that Job One of the elite powers that be in Europe and America? To see to it that all the ravening hordes of sub-Saharan Africa are, somehow, turned back from their impending demographic triumph? I mean, you can talk all you want about mineral rights, and “blood diamonds”, and all that – and those are all factors. But I really suspect that the paramount agenda item is to – not to put too fine a point on it – kill black people. And what better, and non-controversial, way than to supply them with as much firepower as it will take for them to finish each other off?
Who, for that matter, supports any revolution anywhere in the world? Why is it anyone's business other than the people in the country in question? Because whoever you support winds up owing you a big favor – and if they win, you stand to collect. And that payback may be in the form of resources, cheap labor, or power... or maybe just submission to the Culture of Death (think: government “family planning” programs all over Latin America). And why, for that matter, does big business in the U.S. support candidates from both parties? That way they are always on the winning side. It's not a matter of principle, or ideas, but of power.
Another blessing that anonymous capital has heaped on the Third World is birth control. Who pays for it all? Certainly not us – at least not directly. And by the way, how about all those mysterious tropical diseases, plagues, and epidemics that many decades of medical aid seem to have been unable to eradicate? How about plain hunger, for that matter? Food costs money, but so does famine – i.e. the creation of situations (political, military, economic) that create a famine-friendly environment. Who's in charge of that department? Because I doubt, very much, if the situation would be as bad as it is without considerable outside influence. The fact that, at any given time, large numbers of Africans are refugees ought to tell you something.
Oh, and how about drugs and terrorism – the Pope's other two plagues? The drug trade is lucrative, no doubt... but where does all the money go? And what is it used for then? And these “terrorists” -- where on earth do they get all their weapons? From Saudi oil? Again, I think we're seeing the invisible hand of anonymous capital at work.
The generic point is this: Whenever you can't see, or figure out, where the money (from any enterprise or activity) is going, or where it's coming from (to support some other enterprise or activity), then you can suspect anonymous capital. Now... add that up, and you'll realize that anonymous capital is overwhelming in size and scope – or leverage, as discussed above -- compared to known capital. What operates in the open – more or less – is a pittance compared to what is operating in secret. It dwarfs, in quantity and/or influence, any nation's treasury, or GNP... any military budget on earth (even ours!)... any known assets of even the largest businesses or financial institutions. It's like the “dark matter” that, supposedly, constitutes the bulk of all matter in the universe – but is invisible and not directly detectable; it can only be inferred by means of indirect evidence. And yet, how can it not exert an overwhelming influence?
Now, one question that has me a bit puzzled is this. If one accepts that there is convincing evidence for the existence and influence of anonymous capital – and how can I disagree with the Holy Father on this issue? -- how is this capital held? In what form? Currency? (And if so, whose – and I don't think the answer is “U.S. dollars”.) Gold? Other metals? Gems? Certainly not perishable goods – and probably not real estate either; too bulky, too visible. (If you can see it on Google Maps, it's not anonymous.) Which reminds me – another place where anonymous capital shows itself, if only for a brief instant at a time, is the art market! That's right – and when you think about it, it's not an unlikely place. How many works of art sell for outrageous prices these days to “anonymous bidders” -- many of whom are from Russia and Asia? Are these people art lovers? Please. Twenty years ago most of them were street toughs who slept in their cars. No -- art is a good place to stash assets. They know they can get it all back, with ample interest, any time the need arises. Do you think the stuff winds up on the walls of palaces in Moscow or penthouses in Tokyo? Maybe some, but I'll bet the bulk makes it way into secure vaults, to age like fine wine until it's time to change assets again. In fact, I daresay that any commodity that is fetching completely insane prices has become a medium of exchange for anonymous capital – and art is at the top of the list, followed by antiques, vintage cars, etc. There's a lot of money chasing premium goods around these days – and I don't think there's enough gold, or precious stones, to soak it all up. When comic books start selling for a million dollars – well, you know there's a lot of desperate and lonely capital out there.
Plus, it may be a mistake to assume that anonymous capital is ever “held” in any one form for very long. Just look at the currency markets – billions of dollars change hands every day, and all it usually adds up to is a few measly percentage points (or fractions thereof). But the point is, they're preserving capital – they're keeping it “working”, hot, and liquid – and available for whatever use they might want to put it to. Of course, “cold capital” has the advantage of being hidden away from prying eyes – and in that case you can be sure it's not in anything even remotely speculative. Speculation = hot commodities = turbulence = visibility. They can afford some visibility, but there's no way they're going to expose all, or even the bulk, of their assets on a regular basis. There's the market, and there's the coffee can buried in the back yard (back to metaphors!). The hidden masters of space and time (Tom Wolfe's term) play the market, but they also have their coffee cans. There are always funds available to support wars and revolutions – call it a form of investment. The return on investment? Even more capital (the addictive part), power, and, once again, ridding the world of excess people – of “useless eaters” (or non-eaters, as the case may be). And you can see how that last part resonates with, for example, people like Bill Gates. Where does so much of his money go? No matter what it's called, what he's investing in is a combination of utopia and euthanasia – ridding the world of excess people so the ones who are left can live an idyllic life (with broadband access). Nearly every super-rich person I'm aware of... and nearly every foundation started by super-rich people... seems to have this as a primary goal – to remake the world in their own image, and turn it into an exclusive club – a global gated community. And this is just the piece we know about – the piece that makes the evening news. But is there any reason to think that the priorities of anonymous capital are any different?
The Holy Father calls it a threat to the world and a false god... a form of enslavement... a destructive power. But surely if people are making money and accumulating wealth, how can that be destructive? Aren't they bringing order out of chaos? And as to “enslavement” -- aren't most of their slaves more than willing to serve, the way the “underprivileged” in this country faithfully play their part and support politicians who keep them in moral and economic chains? What world is being “threatened” here? These are questions that might occur to a member of the power elite who happens to read the Pope's remarks in a idle moment. There's certainly nothing wrong with their world – so why is this so-called “religious leader” complaining? Well, the answer, of course, is that their world is an evil one, based on evil premises and built on evil deeds – it is a mockery of a real, natural world in which the true nature of man is respected, and in which the sort of life appropriate to man is fostered and encouraged. It is, in fact, a totalitarian world in which the vast bulk of humanity are slaves – of widely-varying levels and standards of living, certainly – but slaves nonetheless. It is the very perversity of Lucifer, who preferred to rule in Hell rather than to serve in Heaven. These people have what is to them a kind of heaven – even though it necessitates its being a kind of hell for everyone else. But until humanity recognizes this “brave new world” for what it actually is, it will continue to grow in power and dominate their existence. If only even a small portion of the human race would read, and understand, and act on the words of the Holy Father!