Happiness

The point of technological development and social change

Whether this universe emerged by accident or has been created intentionally doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t exist to please us. The universe either exists to please no-one or it exists to please our creators. The same is true for technological advancements and social changes. These things don’t happen to make us happier. For instance, humans switched to agriculture, not because it made them happier but agriculture could feed more people so that farmers soon outnumbered hunter-gatherers, even though farmers were more miserable.1

So what’s the point of technological development and social change? What’s the point of agriculture, cities, writing, money, empires, science, industry, human rights and democracy if these things don’t make us happier? Making people happier is often not the reason why things happen. For instance, private property, individual rights and independent courts emerged because countries that had these things did better economically and came to dominate the planet.

Technological advances happen because investors expect to profit from new technologies or because governments see some use of it. And so scientists fetch budgets for their research and get busy. Efficiency considerations do the rest. More efficient designs win out. This is for instance the reason why Natural Money may be the money of the future. Making people happier may be a side-effect of Natural Money but economic efficiency is the reason why it may become the money of the future.

Social reforms may make people happier, but it is a lot harder than you might think. For example, equal rights for women and minorities, and many other social justice issues have a long history, and are yet to be fully resolved. It is difficult to alter views and attitudes from the majority as well as the minorities as cultural differences are an underlying cause of these issues. Trying to resolve them can lead to social conflict.

Social reforms don’t necessarily make people happier. If there is a social norm, for example of the man being the head of the family, then women may be happy with this arrangement. Introducing feminist ideas can produce tensions and women may not always become happier as a consequence, let alone men. Perhaps propaganda can help. If people are taught that women and men should have equal rights, people can be happier with such an arrangement.

So what makes people happy? It is an important question. There are several issues that seem to have an effect on our sense of happiness:

  • chemical processes in the body
  • human needs
  • money
  • expectations
  • desires
  • having a sense of purpose
  • social and political environment

Chemical processes in the body

Some people are always happy despite adversity and poor living conditions. Some people are always angry even when they prosper and have no serious problems. That has something to do with chemical processes in the body. But if happiness is about chemical processes in the body then making people happy is about inventing the right pills and distributing them. Indeed pills can help to end a depression. Many people believe that pills give a false sense of happiness, but more and more people take pills to feel better.

maslovpiramid
Maslov’s hierarchy of human needs

Hierarchy of human needs

Abraham Maslow came up with a hierarchy of human needs. He thought that basic needs such as food and shelter are paramount. If these needs are fulfilled then people become interested in security. Maslow thought that if you don’t have food, security becomes of secondary importance, and if you have food and security, love and attention become more important. And if you have all that, it becomes more important to be respected and have a sense of purpose in your life. And even though the hierarchy is contested, the needs Maslow identified aren’t questioned.

Money

Does money make you happier? A lot of research has gone into this question. The results aren’t surprising. If you are poor then more money will probably make you happier. Poor people often worry about making ends meet. As soon as you can buy the things you need and have no financial worries, the picture becomes confusing. In that case more money can make you happier, but only if you spend it right. What is right is a personal consideration. So if you have the money, you should go on that vacation or go to that concert, but only if that is what you really want to do.

Expectations

Expectations can be important. If you expect to get a small car, and you get a medium sized car instead, your expectations are exceeded. That can make you happy for a while. But if you expected to get a big car, and you get the same medium sized car, your expectations are not met. And that can make you sad for a while. In both cases it is the same car. If you expected less, you are happy with the car, but if you expected more, the same car makes you feel bad. People tend to adapt to a new situation so after a while the happiness or the sadness from missed expectations is gone.

Similarly, if you are better off than others, it can give you satisfaction. Alternatively, if you are worse off than your peers, it can displease you. Happiness can depend on the people you compare yourself to. The attention given to celebrities, their riches, and their beautiful husbands and wives can give you the unpleasant feeling that you have to keep up with them. This can make you go to the gym or the plastic surgeon and buy things you can’t afford and turn down potential spouses that don’t look so great. The advertisement industry aims to make us unhappy so that we will buy more stuff. It can also explain why people in more equal societies are happier on average.

buddha
Rock cut seated Buddha statue, Andhra Pradesh, India

Craving

Gautama Buddha also weighed in on the issue. He was the founder of Buddhism. You may have seen a statue or a picture of him because he has become quite popular in recent decades. Buddha taught that people are always craving for temporary feelings and things. This craving causes a permanent state of dissatisfaction. As soon as you have achieved a desired feeling, for example love, or acquired a desired object, for example a car, you will start to crave for something else. That probably sounds very familiar.

Buddha also taught that this craving will tie us up in this world so that our souls will continue to reincarnate and suffer from craving. Only when we stop craving for temporary feelings and things and disengage ourselves from this world, we can disappear into nothingness, which is a state of eternal peace. This is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.  This type of happiness is a tranquillity caused by detachment from mundane affairs that may come close to not caring.

Meaning

Last but not least, if you think that your life has meaning, that can make you happy. Religious people may be happier than atheists because they may believe that they play a role in the great cosmic scheme of God while atheists may believe that their life has no purpose. The psychologist Daniel Kahneman came up with a similar conclusion. He researched a group of women and interviewed them about their daily activities, and which activities gave them pleasure. He also asked the women what made them happy.

It turned out that caring for their children were amongst the activities that gave them the least pleasure. But when he asked these women what made them the most happy they answered that their children made them the most happy. Perhaps the children gave meaning to their lives. Perhaps these women were just deluding themselves like religious people. Similarly, if you think that your job is important, that may give meaning to your life, but that can be a delusion too. If you didn’t do your job, someone else probably would. Delusions can make us happy so it may not be irrational to have them.

Social and political reforms can be worthwhile

If we contemplate social reforms we might need to ask ourselves: “Will they make us happier?” Perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much from political and social institutions in this respect. That doesn’t mean improvements aren’t worthwhile. If they aren’t then it doesn’t matter where you live. So why do so many immigrants come to Europe or to the United States? Most immigrants try to escape poverty or flee for oppressive regimes.

Perhaps people in Africa and South America learn about the life in Europe or the United States and become dissatisfied because they are worse off. Whatever their motives might be, it appears that prosperity and social institutions do matter. And that is why it can be a good idea to engage in social and political reforms, and to aim for the highest standards everywhere around the globe.

In ‘advanced’ countries the roles of the state and the market economy have increased at the expense of the family and the community. This may cause alienation and stress as humans have evolved to live in smaller groups, not in the anonymity of the state and the market. Reducing the role of governments and markets may require enlarging the role of communities and families. Life in communities and families wasn’t ideal either so people may not become happier if that is going to happen.

Pictures:
– Rock cut seated Buddha statue, Andhra Pradesh, India CC BY-SA 3.0. Adityamadhav83. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22764139

NASA mission control celebrating successful return of Apollo 13

History’s oddities

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams

US Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were both involved in drafting the US Declaration of Independence that was signed on 4 July 1776. Henceforth, the forth of July became Independence Day in the United States. Jefferson was Adam’s Vice-President until he himself became President in 1800. They were the last surviving members of the American revolutionaries. They had been bitter enemies but were also friends for many years. Both died on 4 July 1826, fifty years after the Declaration of Independence.1

Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler

Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler were the only two persons that ever conquered nearly all of Europe. There is a series of parallels between them. Napoleon and Hitler both came to power by a coup ending an unstable republic. They both turned Europe into a battlefield. They both ventured into Africa and both were repelled in Egypt. They both waged a war on two fronts because they both attacked Russia while England had not been defeated.

Napoleon was born on Corsica, an independent island that became part of France. Napoleon became the leader of France. Hitler was born in Austria, an independent country that became part of Germany. Hitler became the leader of Germany. Napoleon came to power after a coup to overthrow the government on 9 November 1799. Hitler was involved in a failed coup to overthrow the Weimar Republic on 9 November 1923.

The Titanic

The Titanic was the tallest ship in the world. It had compartments that could be sealed remotely. For that reason it was deemed unsinkable. Nevertheless the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage. In 1898 Morgan Robertson wrote the novel Futility. It described the maiden voyage of a transatlantic luxury liner named the Titan. Although it was touted as being unsinkable, it struck an iceberg and sank with much loss of life. In the book the month of the wreck was April like in the real event.2

The similarities between the Titanic and the Titan are striking:

  • similar names of the ships
  • both were described as the largest craft afloat and the greatest of the works of men
  • the sizes were similar: the Titan was 45,000 tons and the Titanic was 46,000 tons
  • both were deemed ‘unsinkable’
  • both had a triple screw (propeller)
  • both had a shortage of lifeboats
  • both struck an iceberg: the Titan, moving at 25 knots, struck an iceberg on the starboard side on a night in April, in the North Atlantic, 400 nautical miles from Newfoundland while the Titanic, moving at 22½ knots, struck an iceberg on the starboard side on the night of 14 April 1912 in the North Atlantic, 400 nautical miles from Newfoundland.
  • both sank and most of the passengers and crew died.2

In April 1935, the cargo vessel Titanian sailed in the North Atlantic. A sailor claimed that he had an uneasy feeling because of the similarity of the ship’s name with Titanic. That caused him to sound a warning. He claimed to have done this before ice was seen and that the vessel stopped just in front of an iceberg. Reports showed that the Titanian was slightly damaged on the voyage.3

One hundred years later a luxurious Italian cruise ship, the Costa Concordia sank after hitting a rock. The accident was on Friday 13 January 2012. The ship had thirteen decks. Some passengers claimed that the Titanic theme ‘My Heart Will Go On’ was playing in a restaurant when the ship hit the rock.4 On 27 February 2012, another cruise ship of the same parent company, the Costa Allegra, ran into trouble near the Seychelles.5

The John F. Kennedy assassination

“We’re heading into nut country today,” President John F. Kennedy said to his wife on the morning of 22 November 1963. She had just seen an advertisement of the John Birch Society in the Dallas Morning News suggesting that he was a communist. The advert was bordered in the black of a funeral announcement. “But, Jackie, if somebody wants to shoot me from a window with a rifle, nobody can stop it, so why worry about it?”6

A few hours later he was killed by someone shooting him from a window with a rifle. The date of the assassination, 22 November (22/11), consists of two multiples of eleven. There are some parallels between John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln:

  • Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.
  • Lincoln was elected President in 1860. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.
  • Both Presidents were concerned with Civil Rights.
  • When Lincoln became president in 1861, one of the persons that worried about his safety was John Kennedy, Superintendent of Police in New York. When Kennedy became president in 1961, one of the persons that worried about his safety was Evelyn Lincoln, his personal secretary.
  • Both presidents were shot in the back of the head in the presence of their wife.
  • Lincoln was shot in the Ford Theatre while Kennedy was shot in a Ford Lincoln.
  • They were both shot on a Friday.
  • Both assassins were killed and not brought to trial.
  • Lincoln’s successor was Andrew Johnson, born in 1808, while Kennedy’s successor was Lyndon Johnson, born in 1908.7

It has been suggested that these similarities are a coincidence and that there are similar similarities between other US Presidents.7

Kennedy’s brother Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot a few years later. He died in 1968 on June 6 (6/6), just after Martin Luther King was murdered on April 4 (4/4). That is a bit peculiar because of the coincidences surrounding D-Day (6/6/44). There is a series of tragedies related to the Kennedy family called the Kennedy Curse.

The Lincoln connection

The son of President Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln, had his share of coincidences too. A few months before John Wilkes Booth murdered his father, he was rescued by Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes. The Booth family and the Lincoln family were not neighbours, which makes the incident remarkable. Robert Lincoln was in the vicinity when his father was shot. He was also present at the assassination of President Garfield in 1881 as well as the assassination of President McKinley in 1901.8

From William Henry Harrison through John Kennedy, every President elected in a year ending in zero has died in office. The presidencies of Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, Warren Harding and Franklin Roosevelt all ended prematurely. The pattern has been called ‘The Zero Year Curse’. It ended with Ronald Reagan who survived an assassination attempt. First Lady Nancy Reagan reportedly had hired psychics and astrologers to protect her husband from the curse.9

Apollo 13

The number 13 is often considered to be an unlucky number. The voyage of Apollo 13 was haunted by accidents. The launch was on 11 April 1970 at 13:13 CST from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The departure time combined with the number of the spacecraft appears to be an attempt to challenge fate. The lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded on 13 April. The crew made it back alive.10

Featured image: NASA mission control celebrating successful return of Apollo 13. NASA. Public Domain.

1. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die. History.com (2009). [link]
2. Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan. Wikipedia. [link]
3. Titanian – Echo of Titanic. Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) [link]
4. Costa Concordia disaster. Wikipedia. [link]
5. MS Costa Allegra. Wikipedia. [link]
6. Three surprising details from the JFK assassination – and why they matter. James L. Swanson (2013). The Globe and Mail. [link]
7. Lincoln–Kennedy coincidences urban legend. Wikipedia. [link]
8. Robert Todd Lincoln. Wikipedia. [link]
9. Curse of Tippecanoe. Wikipedia. [link]
10. Apollo 13. Wikipedia. [link]

God is love

Christians believe that God is love. Only, there may be something about this love that the church fathers found to be so troubling that they didn’t want us to know about it. If you know what it is, Christianity suddenly makes a lot more sense, and you may be able to guess what the future religion will look like. Love is such a central theme in Christianity that this religion came to be known as ‘the religion of love’. According to the Gospel, Jesus said we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”1

Paul is believed to be the author of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. It probably was written around 54 AD. There is little doubt that Paul wrote this letter himself, except for a passage claiming that the man is the head of the familiy, which several scholars believe to be a later addition. This letter may therefore be one of the earliest written sources of Christianity. It contains a remarkable poem:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.2

According to Paul, love is more important than faith and good works. But why? Christians believe the answer is:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.3

Christians believe in eternal life. The question is why? Jesus may have died on the cross but Christians believe he still lives because God loves the world. The author of the Gospel of John, who probably was not the Apostle John according to several scholars, may also have written the First Epistle of John, but scholars don’t agree on that either. In this epistle the author shares his views on the love of God:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.4

If you’re not a Christian, you might wonder why this was necessary? The idea that God loves us, and the proof being that God sent his one and only son into the world as an sacrifice for our sins, doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Christian claim is that Adam sinned and that we are all cursed for that, but then came Jesus who allowed himself to be crucified, so that we can all be saved. It seems that God could easily have chosen another path. And what about the peculiar phrase ‘born of God’? Could God be a woman?

Jews and Muslims don’t believe that God has a son. They also don’t believe that Adam’s transgression requires such a sacrifice. When God allegedly ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son and Abraham was about to comply, God allegedly called it off. So what might justify this? There may be something about the relationship between God and Jesus that is removed from the scriptures. The odds are that it has something to do with love because that is what Christianity is all about. Ephesians gives a possible clue:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.5

Christians believe that Jesus was married to the church because of this verse. There is a an issue with this view. The church didn’t exist when Jesus lived. A historian might call this an anachronism. It is inconsistent in time. The verse suggests that this was a love like in a marriage. The Gospels imply that Jesus was married6 but the identity of the bride is never mentioned. And the verse claims that husbands have to love their wives just like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, a peculiar thought.

There is a possible explanation that makes sense. God could be a woman. This universe could be a virtual reality created by an advanced civilisation to entertain someone we call God. And God could could use avatars in Her own story and appear like an ordinary human to us. The love the Gospels expound on is the love of God. Hence, the bride may have been God. God appearing in a human form may have been another issue the early church fathers had to deal with. And so they may have deified Jesus.

The most likely candidate for being the avatar of God is Mary Magdalene. She may have convinced Jesus that she was the reincarnation of Eve and that he was the reincarnation of Adam and that Eve was not made out of a rib of Adam but that Adam was a son of Eve. And so Jesus may have believed he had eternal life and would not die.

Perhaps this view can shed some light on Jesus’ views on marriage. It appears that Jesus believed marriage to be a bond forged by God:

Have you not read that He Who made them in the first place made them man and woman? It says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will live with his wife. The two will become one.” So they are no longer two but one. Let no man divide what God has put together.7

At this point Jesus deviated from Moses’ law:

Because of your hard hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives. It was not like that from the beginning.8

Jesus’ followers then argued that it would be hard for men to love their wives in this way. Jesus replied:

Not all men are able to do this, but only those to whom it has been given.9

Jesus appeared to have had a high standard on marriage. Surviving records of Jesus’ words and teachings suggest that Jesus believed women to be equal to men. The equality of the sexes appears peculiar within the context of a patriarchal society. Paul saw women as equal partners in the Christian movement. The Didache, an early Christian text dating from the first century, implies equality of the sexes.

At some point patriarchy has been re-established. The letters of the early church father may have been rewritten for that reason. For instance, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 has been added later.10 It claims that the man is the head of the family. A similar claim is made in the First Epistle to Timothy.11 Scholars believe this letter was written later on and not by Paul like the letter claims.

A woman might like to see a man sacrifice himself to prove his love for her. And you may never love God enough. Christians see Jesus as a sacrificial lamb.12 It might appear that God didn’t even care for Jesus. So if someone ever finds himself in the same position as Jesus may have found himself in, he might at first not be enticed by the proposition, until he realises that he may have no choice. Perhaps he should look at the bright side of life. After all, we may all just exist to entertain God.

Life’s a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true
You’ll see it’s all a show
Keep ’em laughin’ as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you
And

Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the right side of life

– Monthy Python, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Monty Python perhaps tried to mock Jesus but a short and happy life may be preferred to a long and miserable one. It may be easy to love someone who has taken you hostage and has total control over you. It is called the Stockholm Syndrome. It seems that no other man ever experienced a love like that and life may not have much of a purpose once that love is gone. But it doesn’t have to end badly for him. Many things can happen. In fairy tales a toad can be kissed into a prince by a princess charming and they may marry and live happily ever after. Only, counting on that would be a bit premature to say the least.

Featured image: SpongeBob SquarePants. Nickelodeon. [copyright info]

1. Mark 12:30-31 [link]
2. 1 Corinthians 13 [link]
3. John 3:16 [link]
4. 1 John 4:7-10 [link]
5. Ephesians 5:25 [link]
6. John 3:29 [link], Matthew 9:15 [link], Mark 2:19 [link], Luke 5:34 [link]
7. Matthew 19:4-6 [link]
8. Matthew 19:8 [link]
9. Matthew 19:12 [link]
10. Forgery and Counter-forgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. Bart D. Ehrman (2013).
11. 1 Timothy 2:12 [link]
12. 1 Peter 1:18-19 [link]

When Jesus returns

Never again

After 2,000 years a lot of people still expect Jesus to return. But what do they expect to happen when he does? Will Jesus make things right? Will there be a showdown between the forces of good and evil? And will evil people burn in hell forever and will there be no mercy? And how may this work out in practice?

Who are the good people and who are the evil people anyway? What about Buddhists and atheists? They don’t believe in a god. And Hindus? They believe in many gods. Or Jews, Christians and Muslims? Who of them are right? Perhaps Jesus already returned, sort of, at least. And perhaps you don’t want it to happen again.

The personification of evil

Jesus is considered to be the personification of good while Adolf Hitler is seen as the most evil person that ever existed. Closer inspection reveals some intriguing parallels between them. Many Germans considered Adolf Hitler as their saviour and he was worshipped like one. Some Christians believe there will be a rapture when Jesus returns.1 Rapture is a combination of ecstasy, enchantment, enthusiasm and admiration. Few persons ever caused as much rapture as Adolf Hitler did.

Adolf Hitler told the Germans they were the chosen people because of their superior race. Many Jews believe they are the chosen people too because of a special relationship between God and the Jewish people. Like Moses, Hitler promised that he would end the unjust oppression, in this case caused by the Treaty of Versailles. He claimed that the Third Reich would last a thousand years while the Bible tells us that the reign of Christ will last a thousand years too.2 It may not be surprising that a British intelligence report noted that Hitler had a messiah complex.3

The Bible states that the bond between the people and the land that cannot be broken and that the land cannot be sold.4 This is similar to the Nazi ideology of Blood and Soil that focuses on ethnicity and homeland. Blood and Soil stresses the importance of the land people live on and it celebrates rural living. Selected lands were made hereditary, to pass from father to eldest son. Those lands could not be mortgaged or sold.5

You think that Hitler was naturally born evil but that is not correct. The Adolf Hitler from the history books emerged out of circumstances as the following short animation picture demonstrates:

Eva Braun

Eva Braun was the mistress and later wife of Adolf Hitler. Most historians consider her to be an insignificant figure who didn’t take part in political decisions.6 But opinions differ. There is a letter demonstrating she knew of the concentration camps and the gas chambers. Some Nazi-officials close to Hitler have stated that Braun was at the centre of Hitler’s life for most of his twelve years in power. She was committed to Hitler, won his affection, enjoyed a healthy sex life with him, and gave him moral support.7 After learning about a failed plot to kill Hitler in 1944, she wrote to him:

From our first meeting I swore to follow you anywhere even unto death. I live only for your love.

As the end of the Third Reich neared Braun appeared to become merrier. Her ambitions may finally have been realised when she married Hitler and committed suicide together with him. More than twenty assassination attempts on Hitler had failed,8 some of them sponsored by the Pope, so it may always have been the plan that he would end up being her husband. Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn. Braun is the German word for brown while brown is the colour associated with the Nazi ideology. These things may not be mere coincidences. Braun may have been the mastermind behind it all. She may have been an avatar of God.

Hitler’s political views

Like many Germans Hitler considered the Peace Treaty of Versailles to be unjust. The treaty stipulated that Germany accepted responsibility for causing World War I and had to pay massive reparations. The economist Keynes already warned for the harsh peace terms imposed upon Germany shortly after World War I as it might provoke a reaction.

Hitler opposed interest. He had attended a lecture of Gottfried Feder, named The Abolition of the Interest Servitude. It was the reason for Hitler to join the National Socialist Party. Hitler’s views on interest were similar to those expressed in the Bible and the Quran. The ideas of Feder became central in his views on international finance.

Hitler believed that the Germans were racially superior to other peoples and that Germany had to conquer territory to create more living space for the German people. That may have been the reason to start World War II. Hitler hated the Jews. He believed that Jews form a cult that is secretly conspiring to gain world leadership.

View on Auschwitz concentration camp
View on Auschwitz concentration camp

How did it end?

Hitler was good at doing speeches, which were more or less angry rants that inspired his followers. Hitler was seen as a messianic figure by some of his sponsors long before he became famous. During the Great Depression he managed to gain popularity and to grab power in Germany as the following short animation picture shows:

Fifty million people were killed during World War II. Ten million were exterminated in the Holocaust. Six million of them were Jews. When American troops entered Germany in 1945 they were horrified by what they found in the concentration camps. Until then few people imagined that it could be that bad, even though reports about the concentration camps came in as early as 1943.

Words can never describe the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. It is hard to imagine that people can be that cruel. Exterminating millions of innocent people is beyond anything that has ever been done before, but the Nazis believed they did the right thing. For humanity to survive, they believed, the human race must be improved, so there is no place for the weak and the unfit. It is ‘survival of the fittest’ taken to the extreme. History is full of tales of brutality and slaughter but the Nazis topped them all. They may have been the closest thing to pure evil that ever existed.

In several ways Hitler was like Christ as some of his followers expect him to be. These expectations amount to a final reckoning amounting to an atrocity one hundred times worse than World War II. Billions of people might lose their life or be tortured eternally in hell for not having the right beliefs. Only a few people will be saved. If you come to think of it, being tortured eternally in hell may be worse than Nazi concentration camps, because there is no end to it. And so Hitler was in some ways like the expected Messiah, but if anyone was the Antichrist, it must have been Adolf Hitler.

Was it all planned?

It is hard to imagine that God allowed it to happen, let alone that God planned it all. But if you presume there to be a script, such a conclusion is inescapable. The licence plate number of the car in which Franz Ferdinand was killed refers to the end date of World War I so World War I may be planned in every detail. The peculiar coincidences surrounding D-Day indicate that the same may apply to World War II. And World War II includes the Holocaust. A coincidence in history may support this suggestion.

There have been prophetic references to a number of six million Jews in danger of being exterminated or a coming Holocaust of Jews long before World War II. This is not as remarkable as it might seem. The six million figure emerged because there were six million Jews living in Russia before World War I. Jews in Russia suffered under a hostile government.

What is remarkable however, is that these claims appeared melodramatic at the time they were made, and that the six million figure remained circulating in Jewish media after the Russian Empire had collapsed, while it subsequently became the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.9 A few prophetic statements are listed below:

  • In 1911 Max Nordau, co-founder of the World Zionist Organisation together with Theodore Herzl, pronounced at the tenth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, that 6,000,000 Jews would be annihilated.9
  • In 1919, shortly after World War I, Zionists feared that a Holocaust of six million Jews is imminent in Europe.9
  • In 1936 the New York Times reported that Zionists were lobbying for the creation of a Jewish nation in Palestine to save the Jews from a European Holocaust. This was three years before World War II and five years before the extermination camps came into existence.9
  • In 1939 The Jewish Criterion predicted that the coming world war would mean the annihilation of six million Jews in East and Central Europe.9
  • In 1940 the Jewish leader Nahum Goldmann predicted that if the Nazis achieved victory, 6,000,000 Jews were doomed to destruction.9

Conclusion

If the Holocaust was part of the script then this also applies to Hitler’s demise as well as the creation of the state of Israel. To God we may just be virtual reality characters that exist for entertainment. That doesn’t make God evil for this world might be a realistic simulation of a real world. Few people see a problem in killing virtual reality characters in a computer game. Killing animals is generally deemed more reprehensible.

All the good things that happen may also have been part of the script. Another conclusion that seems to present itself is that it may be impossible to oppose the plan of God. There may be a script and your thoughts may be controlled so you may still act according to the plan even when you try to oppose it. And you might find yourself on the losing side if you do. You have been warned.

Featured image: Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler

1. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 [link]
2. Revelation 20:1-6: [link]
3. WWII Adolf Hitler profile suggests ‘messiah complex’. BBC (2012). [link]
4. Leviticus 25:23 [link]
5. Blood and soil. Wikipedia. [link]
6. Eva Braun. Wikipedia [link]
7. Nazi loyalist and Adolf Hitler’s devoted aide: the true story of Eva Braun. The Guardian (2010). [link]
8. Assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler. Wikipedia. [link]
9. The Six Million Jews. [link]

Beautiful countryside in southern California

Capital for the future

Making the economy sustainable may require an unprecedented amount of capital in the form of knowledge and outfits like solar panels, sustainable farms and energy-efficient transportation systems. It is hard to imagine that it can be done. And imagining it is still a lot easier than really doing it. It is going to require some economic magic to divert investment capital from destructive activities to the future of humanity. We may need more useful capital and less consumption.

Perhaps the invisible hand can be of some help. It is easier to finance a great endeavour from investments than from taxation because nobody wants to pay taxes but everybody is happy to invest. It is the secret of the success of the European empires that conquered the world after the Middle Ages. England, France, Spain and the Netherlands were much poorer and smaller than China, India or the Ottoman Empire, but they didn’t finance their conquests with taxation, but with the use of investment capital.1

Europe won out because European conquerors took loans from banks and investors to buy ships, cannons, and to pay soldiers. Profits from the new trade routes and colonies enabled them to repay the loans and build trust so they could receive more credit next time.1 The same logic may need to be applied to making the economy sustainable. The challenge is so enormous that it may never be possible to finance it by taxes. Nowadays interest rates are so low because there is plenty of investment capital.

It’s the economy stupid!

It is often argued that the economy is unsustainable because of short-term thinking. The economy must grow in order to have positive returns on investments. And it is believed that returns on investments need to be positive otherwise the economy would collapse. The economic time horizons of individuals are reflected in their time preferences. The time horizon of the economy as a whole is reflected in the interest rate.

The lower the interest rate, the longer the time horizon of the economy could be. The following example from the Strohalm Foundation can illustrate this:

Suppose that a cheap house will last 33 years and costs € 200,000 to build. The yearly cost of the house will be € 6,060 (€ 200,000 divided by 33). A more expensive house costs € 400,000 but will last a hundred years. It will cost only € 4,000 per year. For € 2,060 per year less, you can build a house that lasts three times as long.

After applying for a mortgage the math changes. If the interest rate is 10%, the expensive house will not only cost € 4,000 per year in write-offs, but during the first year there will be an additional interest charge of € 40,000 (10% of € 400,000).

The long-lasting house now costs € 44,000 in the first year. The cheaper house now appears less expensive again. There is a yearly write off of € 6,060 but during the first year there is only € 20,000 in interest charges. Total costs for the first year are only € 26,060. Interest charges make the less durable house cheaper.2

Without interest there is a tendency to select long-term solutions. Interest charges make long-term solutions less economical. Interest promotes a short-term bias in the economy. It may explain why natural resources like rainforests are squandered for short term profits. If interest rates are high, it may be more profitable to cut down a rainforest and to put the proceeds at interest rather than to manage the forest in a sustainable way.

Only, things are not as simple as the example suggests. For example, the building materials of the cheap house might be recycled to build a new house. And technology changes. For example, if cars had been built to last 100 years, most old cars would still be around. This could be a problem as old cars are more polluting and use more fuel. Nevertheless, the example shows that long-term investments can be more attractive when interest rates are lower.

This also applies to investments in renewable energy. For instance, a solar panel that costs € 100, lasts 15 years, and generates € 150 worth in electricity in the course of these 15 years, is feasible at an interest rate of 5% but not at an interest rate of 10%. Many investments in making the economy sustainable may have low returns and are only feasible when interest rates are low. Low and negative interest rates can also deal with low economic growth. That may be needed for living within the limits of the planet.

Living within the limits of the planet

When interest rates are negative, the time horizon of the economy could go to eternity so that it makes sense to invest in making the economy sustainable. A few examples from history can illustrate this. In the Middle Ages some areas in Europe had currencies with a holding fee like Natural Money. As there hardly was economic growth, interest rates were negative. It was the era of Europe’s great cathedrals. These cathedrals were built for eternity. As better investment opportunities were absent, wealthy towns people spent their excess money on cathedrals.3 For similar reasons, the people of Wörgl planted trees as the proceeds of the wood were expected to occur in the distant future.3

A bit of calculus shows why. At an interest rate of 5%, putting € 1 in a bank account turns into € 1,05 after a year, so you would rather have € 1 now than in one year’s time, even when you need the money in one year’s time. That’s because you can put the money on a bank account at interest. At an interest rate of 5%, € 100 in one year’s time is worth € 95.25 now. The distant future has even less value. The same € 100 in one hundred year’s time is worth only € 0.59. And € 100 after 1000 years has no value at all in the present.

At an interest rate of -5%, you would prefer to have the money when you need it, otherwise you would end up with less. At an interest rate of -5%, € 100 in one year’s time would be worth € 105. The same € 100 in one hundred year’s time would be worth € 13,501 now. And € 100 after 1000 years would be worth more than everything there is in the present. Income in the distant future is also very uncertain, so it is unlikely that investors will shift their time horizon to 1,000 years, but this logic may help us to come into terms with the limits our planet poses on human activities.

Living within the limits of the planet may require unprecedented investments in the future. These investments may require low or even negative interest rates as their returns may be low. Only low and negative interest rates can make these investments economical. Everyone who has money to save can help by shifting money from consumption to saving and investing. The more people act like capitalists, the lower interest rates may go, and the more sustainable the economy may become.

Capitalists think that money spent on a frivolous item is money wasted, because when you invest your money, you will have more money that you can invest again. Capitalists hardly care about interest rates. They will save and invest anyway because of their capitalist spirit. Rich people may be encouraged to save even more if luxuries that use a lot of natural resources and energy aren’t available any more. One can think of luxury yachts, private jets, but also of travel by airplane for holidays. When energy becomes a constraint, local products may replace long-distance trade.

Featured image: Beautiful countryside in southern California. James McCauley (2005). Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

1. A Brief History Of Humankind. Yuval Noah Harari (2014). Harvil Secker.
2. Poor Because of Money. Henk van Arkel and Camilo Ramada (2001). Strohalm.