Posted by: Harold Knight | 06/27/2010

The Law of Supply and Demand, Oxymorons, Gaza Blockades, and the Mystery of Ignorance

Look up “mystery” in the Online Etymology Dictionary, and you get a plethora of meanings:

(A.) early 14c., in a theological sense, “religious truth via divine revelation, mystical presence of God,” from Anglo-Fr. misterie (O.Fr. mistere), from L. mysterium, from Gk. mysterion “secret rite or doctrine.”
(B.) from mystes “one who has been initiated,” from myein “to close, shut,” perhaps referring to the lips (in secrecy) or to the eyes.
(C.) The Gk. word was used in Septuagint for “secret counsel of God,” translated in Vulgate as sacramentum. Non-theological use in English, “a hidden or secret thing,” is from c.1300. (1)

When I was a Freshman at the University of Redlands, I wrote a paper for the required course in the history of civilization (the faculty were not a bit over-reaching, were they?). In the second semester the topic of study was everything A.D. The professor (a Baptist missionary recalled from China after Mao took over) put an “F” on the paper, the only such grade I ever received in decades of education. He wouldn’t say so, but I know the reason was that I had dared to propose that the initiation rites (Baptism) in the early christian church were influenced by the Greek mystery religions. This was an idea up with which a Baptist missionary could not put!

Never mind that the connection creeps into current scholarship as it did then (I didn’t make up the “research paper” from whole cloth). “As with churches in our own day, varied voices are pulling at the Colossians, especially perhaps a confusion of religious beliefs that threaten to water down the gospel core by meshing three Greek influences dealing with nature worship, astrology, and mystery cult teachings” (2).

I belong to my own private one-man mystery cult. I was initiated into it many years ago. The cult celebrates not the mysteries that I understand and others don’t. They are the mysteries that others seem to understand and I don’t.

For example, I don’t understand (or have not been initiated into) the mystery of the belief in the “Law of Supply and Demand.” I don’t get it. Did Nature or Nature’s God put this “law” in motion? Did Einstein or one of his minions discover it? Is it truly (objectively) verifiable. It seems to me that if only one merchant, for example, simply didn’t raise prices on goods of which she has a limited supply—no matter how many people needed/wanted the goods—the “law” would cease to operate. And that would mean that is not a “law” at all, but a theory, a convention by which greedy people run their businesses.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the “law” of supply and demand went to hell in a hand basket. The demand for food was unending (no one had any way to get any). Did the prices of food go up? Well, no. In fact the merchants who had the supply started giving it away. (3) They broke the “law” of supply and demand. Huge demand, little supply, lower the price to ZERO. So much for the inviolable theory taught as Truth sent from God at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. The “law” is a choice. That means, by my reckoning, it’s not a “law.”

If I carry that to its logical extreme (you’re probably saying its “illogical extreme”) I confess that another tenet of my mystery cult (something else that’s a mystery to me) is the oxymoronic combination in American society of the two words “healthcare” and “industry.” I won’t go into detail here, but I’d like to know by whose logic Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas should be making money off of my Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. That’s just crazy to me. And what if I had a life-threatening condition (mine is, somewhat, because it has the ability to drive me to suicidal depression)? Why should Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas make a killing (pun intended) off of my friend J’s cancer. It’s a mystery to me. Want to join my cult?

So here’s the most important tenet of my mystery religion. It is a mystery to me that anyone does NOT understand this:

A people whose society is being wiped off the face of the earth as they are being ethnically cleansed from their homeland have the right to defend themselves and try to prevent the destruction of everything they hold dear, beginning with life itself.

Thomas Jefferson, as every American knows (well, that’s a lie—almost no Americans know it any more), wrote in the document that began the formation of the United States as a country and a society:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men . . . That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it . . . . when a long train of abuses and usurpations . . . . evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

I don’t get it. The mystery to me is that this is such a mystery to so many other people. This is such a mystery to me that I get quite testy about it from time to time. I want to scream! Americans, of all people, ought to understand—because our nation was conceived in the proposition that “it [was our] DUTY to throw off [a despotic] government.” It was the DUTY of the colonists to throw off a government that did not understand the natural rights of LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

I sent one of my dearest friends (in some ways my closest associate since 1963) a couple of books trying to help him understand my mystery cult. One was The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappé (4). The book documents the reasons the Palestinians have a DUTY to throw off a despotic government. I have been, for about twenty years, proclaiming the tenet of my mystery cult to my friend (and to anyone else I can corner). He began reading the Pappé book and another one I sent him. He emailed me yesterday to say:

As for depression, I find the hopelessness and inhumanity of the Palestinian situation as clarified in the two books you sent me sufficiently depressing that I have had to refrain from reading all of them thoroughly as yet.

Perhaps I have made a convert. At the very least perhaps one more person understands why I find it such a mystery that Americans do not know the DUTY of a people to “to throw off such government,” that is, one that has become “destructive to these ends,” destructive of the very reason, according to our Declaration of Independence that “governments are instituted among men.”

“To secure these rights.”

(1) Douglas Harper. “mystery.” Online Etymology Dictionary. 2001-2010 Web. 26 June 2010.
(2) Lutheran School of Theology Chicago. “Proper 11 July 18, 2004.” Currents in Theology and Mission 31.3 (2004): 230+.
(3) Gourmet Retailer. “Food Industry Donates More Than $30 Million to Katrina Relief.” Thursday, September 8 2005 Web. 26 June 2010.
(4) Pappé, Ilan. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oxford: One-World Publications. 2006.



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