The Grand Bargain Was Even Worse In France
That the looming debt and deficit crisis is fake is something that, by now, even the most dim member of Congress must know. The combination of hysterical rhetoric, small armies of lobbyists and pundits, and the proliferation of billionaire-backed front groups with names like the “Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget” is not a novelty in Washington. It happens whenever Big Money wants something badly enough.But, you know, it could be worse. In fact it has been. They call them "job creators" today and they were known as "robber barons" at the turn of the last century but long before that the were known as "cnights," and later, knights. Get King Arthur's roundtable out of your mind. As historian Tom Holland makes clear in his book Millenium, they were dangerous predators, usurpers, thugs, bandits and the Republicans of the 900s and early 1000s. Even before Obama was reelected, we looked at Holland's book to see how these early Ayn Rand types turned Europe's free peasants into serfs.
Big Money has been gunning for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for decades – since the beginning of Social Security in 1935. The motives are partly financial: As one scholar once put it to me, the payroll tax is the “Mississippi of cash flows.” Anything that diverts part of it into private funds and insurance premiums is a meal ticket for the elite of the predator state.
And the campaign is also partly political. The fact is, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are the main way ordinary Americans connect to their federal government, except in wars and disasters. They have made a vast change in family life, unburdening the young of their parents and ensuring that every working person contributes whether they have parents, dependents, survivors or disabled of their own to look after. These programs do this work seamlessly, for next to nothing; their managers earn civil service salaries and the checks arrive on time. For the private competition, this is intolerable; the model is a threat to free markets and must be destroyed.
So as the year 1,000 approached-- remember this was before they had computers and Y2K-- everyone thought Jesus might be coming back and sorting things out. So the whole place went crazy and the Christian world fell apart. Anarchy in the U.K. and everywhere else. So predators started making their move-- basically common thugs and gangstas with a psychotic streak and a will to dominate. Holland uses France as an example of the Grand Bargain they worked out at the time. The clergy was trying to tamp down the lawlessness and violence and the knights weighed agreed to sit down and negotiate.
The pledges that they were obliged to give at Verdun were indisputably stern ones. All their favorite pastimes appeared to have been proscribed. No longer were they to amuse themselves by assaulting the defenseless; by rounding up livestock; by attacking churches; by setting fire to harvests and barns. Yet forbearance might bring its own rewards-- and not in heaven alone. Upstarts as many of the horsemen were, they knew that it was no small matter to be blessed in public by a bishop. Knighthood, once it had been sanctified by oaths sworn upon holy relics, could hardly be dismissed as a criminal calling. Even the most unreasonable and thuggish henchmen of a castellan, as he stood at Verdun alongside the other horsemen of the region, and knelt before the glittering reliquaries, would surely have felt, with a surge of pride, that he was being inducted into an elite. A shared code, a shared ethos, a shared commitment to the use of arms: all were being ranted him. His horse, his spear, his mail shirt: these, in the eyes of God, were what would henceforward serve to define his role in the Christian order. The division between knight and serf, between a person who carried a sword and a person who carried a mattock, was being rendered absolute. If indeed the end days were imminent [which deluded Christians have though was the case for the past thousand years and for the next thousand years and still do to this day... and are encouraged to inflict their delusions on normal people and on society at large] , then this would hardly matter: for all the different orders of society would naturally be dissolved upon the melting of heaven and earth. If, however, Christ did not return, and if the New Jerusalem did not descend from the sky, and if the seasons had continued to revolve as they had always done, year after year after year, then the organizers of the Peace of God would have effectively set their seal upon the enserfment of their very allies: the poor. Such might not have been their intention-- and yet they would have served as the midwives of a new order, all the same. Peace, it appeared might indeed be redeemed from anarchy-- but the price to be paid for it was the last vestige of freedom of the peasantry.
Is that a model for a Grand Bargain that solves all the problems created by the rich on the backs of the poor or what? And, incidentally, the Church is still playing a similar role today as it always has-- even if they suffer small setbacks from time to time, like they did last Tuesday.
And this, as a bargain, was one that even the peasants themselves were increasingly too punch-drunk to resist. Better a master bound by the strictures of the Peace of God, perhaps, and a storehouse well stocked for the winter, than liberty and a pile of smoking rubble. [Now that was the Shock Doctrine at its purest!] Not that the master necessarily had to be a castellan. The men and women who toiled in the fields around Cluny as the serfs of St. Peter were far from the only peasants to have ended up the dependents of a great monastery. The concern of churchmen for the poor-- though it might be heartfelt-- was as likely, at least in part, to reflect a concern for their own finances. No less than the castellans, great abbots and bishops stood to profit handsomely from the wholesale enserfment of the peasantry-- as long as order and the rule of law could be upheld.