Sexual Crimes Seem to Inspire Suspension of Due Process

That was certainly the case in early Byzantium, as recorded by Procopius in his Secret History, 11:

After that he (the Emperor Justinian) passed a law forbidding pederasty, not inquiring closely into those acts committed after the passing of the law but seeking out men who had succumbed to this malady some time in the past.  The prosecution of these cases was conducted in the most irregular fashion, since the penalty was imposed even when there was no accuser, and the word of a single man or boy, even if he happened to be a slave forced to give evidence most unwillingly against his owner, was accepted as final proof.  Men convicted in this way were castrated and paraded through the streets.  At first, however, not everyone was treated in this shocking manner, only those who were thought to be either Greens (an athletic/political party) or exceptionally wealthy (so their wealth could be confiscated), or who happened to have offended the rulers in some other way.

That’s One Way to Deal with Sexual Assault

This, from Livy, 38, 24: the Romans were conquering Galatia in Asia Minor, which the Gauls (the Romans’ frequent opponent) had occupied.  This incident tells us that Celtic women were as strong willed then as now:

The wife of the Gallic chieftain Ortiago was one of a number of prisoners.  She was a very attractive woman, and charged with guarding her was a centurion with the sexual appetite and the greed of a soldier.  This man at first attempted to seduce her, but seeing that consensual sex was abhorrent to her, he assaulted her person, which fortune had enslaved to him.  Later, to temper the humiliation of the assault, he gave the woman hope that she might return to her people, but even that was not offered free of charge, as by a lover.  The centurion negotiated the payment of a certain amount of gold and, not to have any of his men privy to his dealings, he allowed the woman to send any one of her fellow-prisoners she wished as a messenger to her people.  He picked a spot near the river to which no more than two of the prisoner’s kinsmen were to come to fetch her the following night, bringing the gold.  It so happened that a slave actually belonging to the woman was amongst the prisoners in custody with her.  This man was chosen as the messenger, and the centurion took him out at dusk beyond the guard-outposts.

The next night the woman’s two relatives came to the appointed place and the centurion also came with the prisoner.  Here they were showing the centurion the gold, which amounted to a full Attic talent–the price he had negotiated–when the woman told them in her own language to draw their swords and dispatch him while he was weighing the gold.  After they killed him she cut off his head, wrapped it in her dress and came with it to her husband Ortiago who had made good his escape home from Olympus.  Before she embraced him she threw the centurion’s head at his feet.  Ortiago was wondering whose head this was and what was the meaning of such unfeminine conduct, and she openly confessed to her husband the sexual assault and the retribution she had taken for the violation of her honour.  And it is said that by the moral purity and propriety she showed in the rest of her life she maintained to the end the esteem won by this act of a decent woman.

Polybius records her name as Chiomara.  it’s interesting to note that Livy implies that the centurion has the right to sexually assault her.  By the law and custom of the time that was correct; slaves had no rights to personal integrity.  That was the case until Christianity challenged that more than two centuries later.  But whatever was accepted custom did not dim Livy’s–or our–admiration for this woman.

Bringing Back “La Regale” in the Middle Kingdom

Everything is different in China:

Under the breakthrough, Pope Francis recognized the legitimacy of seven bishops appointed by the Chinese government. Because they had not been selected by the Vatican, they had previously been excommunicated.

For centuries, the monarchs of Europe exercised authority in the choice of bishops in their realm.  The triumph of Ultramontanism in the wake of Napoleon put an end to the practice; since that time the Church has stoutly resisted bringing back what the French called “la regale.”  It has paid the price for it; relations between the Vatican and the then-newly independent states of Latin America got off to a sour start because the Vatican refused to extend la regale, which had been in place during colonial times.

The ultimate fruit of Ultramontanism, which places a heavy emphasis on the central power of the papacy, wasn’t this but papal infallibility.  Given the erratic nature of the current occupant of the See of Rome, the wisdom of that decision needs to be seriously reconsidered, although getting the #straightouttairondale types to do that won’t be easy.  But Francis’ decision to recognise these bishops, in the historical context of la regale, is a major move that may come back to haunt the RCC, especially in countries where secular governments like to exercise authority over just about everything.

Amazon.com, the Company that Could Use a Trade Union

Some of my readers are aware that I was involved in our long-term family business for about half of my working career, and still do work in that field.  One thing I left behind, however, is industrial relations, or dealing with a trade union.  Our company had one for many years in Chicago and again in Chattanooga; it outlasted my family’s time in the business, albeit not by much.

It was an experience for both me and the trade union, to say the least.  The complexities of collective bargaining under our labour laws, to say nothing about handing grievances, tried everyone’s patience.  Trade unions are interesting in that many of their goals–and in certain cases their principal goals–are “non-economic,” i.e., working conditions, termination (or lack thereof) and similar ones.  In a broader perspective, I found out that there were many de facto members of the bargaining unit, either by immediate interest, sentiment or both.

In the middle of all this, I’d hear people say that “At one time, unions served a useful purpose to improve working conditions…”  To some extent, trade unions are a victim of their own success, due to their political activity.  Today we have unemployment insurance, workmen’s compensation, OSHA and other government-mandated benefits, many of which were lobbied for by the trade unions.  But the more benefits workers have from outside the contract, the less useful unions are.

Recent events have shifted things around a bit.  What got me interested in this topic from the “other side” was the ongoing campaign by the British trade union GMB West Midlands to organise amazon.com’s distribution facility in Rugeley.  Living in an area with two amazon.com facilities, I know people who have worked there and what comes out isn’t pretty.  To cut to the chase amazon.com is a brutal place to work with fairly draconian work rules.  From the looks of it they’ve extended that to Whole Foods, which they recently acquired, and they’re thinking about organising too.  For the first time in my adult life, I publicly came out in support of a trade union organising a workplace.

That support is buttressed by the actions of amazon.com’s leader, Jeff Bezos.  Today’s tech executives are a highly moralistic bunch, and Bezos is no exception.  He plasters the Washington Post with “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” but his employees are hard pressed to answer nature’s call.  (Wonder if they get time off to vote, like ours used to?  Perhaps it depends on how they vote…)  His company has no problem butting heads with left-wing stars like Seattle city councilwoman Kshama Sawant over the homeless tax.  (It’s interesting how the most fertile ground for socialists these days is in big blue-state cities…)

The blunt truth is that progressives can’t have it both ways: they can’t blithely support social justice warriors on the one hand (well, the ones that are shilling for them) and brutally exploit their workers on the other.  Neither can they claim the moral high ground.  Bezos and his colleagues in the tech community need to stop the duplicity and face reality.  If they’re really going to claim they’re better not only than anyone else but with all who have gone before them, they need to start acting like it and not like the Second Gilded Age magnates that they really are.

In the meanwhile, Bezos has revived the need for trade unions.  I hope and pray they are successful with organising as wide a variety of his operations as possible.

Once a Fundie, Always a Fundie

In Randal Rouser’s post on village atheism, after he lists the characteristics of village atheists, he makes the following observation:

As I already noted, there are also many village Christians who exhibit similar traits. (But the way, it should not surprise us that when village Christians leave the church, they typically become village atheist.)

To put it another way: once a fundie (fundamentalist) always a fundie.  You can change the book or creed you’re working from but the mentality is the same.  Atheists who have left Christianity frequently think of themselves as “enlightened,” but that’s easier said than done.  Probably the most egregious example of that to butt heads with this blog was James Alexander, but more recently one of my church people went postal on me regarding immigration.