Living The New Inquisitions

By Norman E. Kjono, May 8, 2007

This month Public Broadcasting Stations (PBS) began its series "The Secret Files of the Inquisition."  An excellent outline of the four episodes in that series is available at Inquisition Productions.  The title concerning secret files arises from the fact that the series is based on information from previously-secret records created by inquisitors and hidden by the Vatican for the past 600 years. The series begins shortly after Bill Moyers' series about mainstream media, weapons of mass destruction and Iraq, "Buying the War."   Bill Moyers' broadcasts "On Faith and Reason"   provided an excellent background for the two more recent programs.  Those earlier broadcasts about faith include discussions with Joseph Campbell about the role of mythology in defining culture.  


The three series broadcast by PBS provide a valuable public service. We the people owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Moyers and the folks at PBS. The debt is due not so much for the undoubtedly hard work and commitment to excellence in content of those series, which merits its own acclaim, as it is incurred from the courage of PBS management and staff required to undertake and broadcast such programming in today's political environment.  


To my mind, value of the three series' arises as much from their subtle insights into human behavior as it does from compelling fact content about the subjects presented. In the cases of the Roman and Spanish inquisitions centuries ago and the recent "Shock and Awe" campaign in Iraq we the people find ourselves bearing the scars of self-inflicted wounds. The problem is not so much the Inquisitors of centuries past or the Deciders of today. Our wounds are self-inflicted in the sense that our positive response to the Inquisitors of the past and Deciders of today allows them to perpetrate their schemes. Having bought into the current agenda and responded as desired by powers that be we find that those who embraced and acted on dogma of the time did so for self-serving reasons, leaving a path of intolerance and destruction in their wake. Those who embrace the intolerance of dogma, whether political leaders or common folk, necessarily and inevitably impose harm on others. I believe that how others respond to the harm imposed on them is a defining variable for individual character. 


Such wounds take time, perhaps generations, to heal. Efficacious treatment for the malady is not found in bandages, splints, or surgery. Treatment requires acknowledgement that the wounds are for the most part self-inflicted. Introspection, individual examination of one's beliefs and values, is the cure. Many will find that cure difficult but persist to eventual healing nevertheless. Some will refuse to undertake the treatment, stridently proclaiming that the repugnant illness is, indeed, the cure for what ails us. But most will do so and heal themselves in the process. As a consequence of that effort by most we as a nation and a people will become the wiser and better for it. Protestations from those addicted to business as usual to the contrary, we the people will heal ourselves and therefore our nation. What an encouraging and invigorating prospect! 


Some will object to the self-healing process as unnecessary because the goals they pursue are so noble and high-minded that they merit no criticism. Many on both sides of political issues and aisles will ignore the need for self-introspection because they perceive the problem to be with "them" and not "me." Current polls tell us, however, that most have already begun to question their current beliefs about many contentious public policy subjects and will continue to explore the facts more deeply in due course.  


The Agenda Afflicted, those who enrich themselves at others' expense by pursuing allegedly noble goals, are a deeply polarized and rapidly declining population segment. Those who engage in self-denial, always finding a "them" to point their finger at, will either awaken from that state or ultimately embrace the minority's agenda affliction.  This commentary is written for those inclined to objectively explore the facts about one current issue to expand their personal understanding and growth. Ultimately, it is the right and responsibility of each person to decide where they fit in that greater scheme of things.  


This commentary explores the remarkable parallels between the Inquisitions and tobacco control. More than a mere recitation of history and current events, this commentary addresses centuries-old issues that I believe to be at the heart of our current national malaise. Having mentioned the focus of this work many, including a large number who advocate and oppose anti-tobacco, will set it aside. They will cite a variety of conflicting facts to justify doing so. However, the core reason for not proceeding is common to both advocates and opponents: they perceive the problem to be caused by "them" and refuse to consider their own participation in the escalation of an increasingly dangerous and threatening agenda. Those who read beyond this point will experience the first step of self-healing by being open new to approaches concerning an often contentious subject.  

A Brief Historical Context  

In February 1307 the King of France and the Pope joined together in military operations to remove and eliminate the influence of the Knights Templar. The day that they arrested the majority of Knights Templar in a joint operation, Friday, February 13, 1307, is the source of the superstition that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day. The Templars had grown sufficiently influential to be a threat to the Roman Catholic church. Moreover, King Phillip of France was deeply in debt to Templar bankers to finance his wars. Purging heretics became the expedient way to solve two significant problems of the day: first, the king's debt; and second, waning spiritual authority of the Pope.


In more colloquial terms, flinging negative labels at a "Target Group" of choice, smacking the crap out of them with sanctions and penalties in zealous fervor, then applying self-serving stereotypes as a pretense to loot their property became an accepted business model. It was, after all, in the targets' best interest to be treated so, the self-anointed were saving heretics' immortal souls. Those participating in the healthist frenzy of today have regressed. The current approach is to destroy targets' spirit to save their mortal bodies. In both medieval times and today the cash benefits accruing to the label flingers is apparently some thing that, well, you know, good people have the courtesy to not mention in polite conversation.   


Shortly the Templar arrests, in the spring of 1308 inquisitors arrived in Montaillou, France. Their avowed purpose was to identify and eliminate Cathar heretics. Since religious sect Cathars lived in French regions where the Knights Templar were influential, they became targets of the King and the Pope as well. So continued the Albigensian Campaign, initiated by Pope Gregory IX. The beginning of the inquisitions dates back to Pope Innocent III (1198 - 1216). Integral parts of the campaign were confiscation of property and death sentences for any who supported or protected Cathars and the refusal of Inquisition officials to permit alleged heretics to confront anonymous accusers.  


Historian estimates place the number of dead during the Albigensian Campaign to eradicate Cathars at about 2 million. In Montaillou, five were reportedly burned at the stake, several were banished, and many were forced to wear a yellow cross on their outer garments as a penance for their alleged heresy. Public scorn and ridicule, including reduction in wearer's ability to live a normal productive life, naturally followed those who wore the yellow cross. About six hundred and twenty-five years later a Chief Decider with a funny moustache in Germany adopted the same tactic, then requiring Jews to wear a yellow Star of David. That Decider was also responsible for the deaths of millions in Europe during the mid 1900s.  


A young (also quite upwardly mobile) Bishop, Jacques Fournier, began the 1308 inquisition in the Montaillou village of about 250 people at the behest of an influential and wealthy local priest, Pierre Clergue. True to his upwardly mobile inclinations, Bishop Fournier later became Pope Benedict XII.  


By the time the dust settled in Montaillou it became apparent that Father Clergue was at once a heretic in two faiths: he was a consummate and lustful philanderer, thereby breaking vows to the Catholic church, and a betrayer of Cathars, whose beliefs he also allegedly embraced. His sexual liaison with a minor noble widow, Beatrice de Planissoles, lead to his undoing. Apparently, Father Clergue believed that he was exempt from accountability for sins of the flesh and betrayal while he sought to burn and ban those allegedly guilty of unsupported charges that they were heretics. Murder by pretense was apparently quite acceptable to Bishop Fournier, so long as it smoothed his path the papal throne. Destroyed villages, cultures, families and lives left in his wake being mere collateral damage in a holy crusade to save the heretics' souls, of course. I suspect that dude had a few rather strenuous conversations with former villagers when he passed to the other side in 1334.     


When asked by chatelaine Planissoles why he brought the inquisition to Montaillou, Father Clergue responded to her by saying that it was the only way to preserve his local power, which was severely diminished by local peasants embracing Cathar beliefs. Needless to say, a reduction in influence of the priest and the church also equaled a loss of revenue to the local parish and the church. The inquisition in France continued for several centuries. 


Beyond the excellent discussion in the PBS series, an outline of the principal players in Montaillou, France and facts about inquisition activities in that village is available at Wikipedia Montaillou.   


About 170 years later, in 1478, the Spanish Inquisition was kicked off with a Papal Bull issued by Pope Sixtus IV on behalf of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, both of whom were devout Catholics. Still teens at the time of their marriage, Ferdinand and Isabella believed their inquisition was the way to consolidate power at a time of political unrest in Spain and to assure their immortality. The Papal Bull was preceded by two decades of increasing political strife. 


The contentious issue in Spain was the growing influence and political power of conversos, former Jews converted to Catholicism. The conversions were often consummated on threat of death. Once converted, the conversos were once again eligible to engage in their professions, often serving as administrators and advisors to the crown.  Since Jews were prohibited from administrative posts or serving the crown in other capacities the New Christian conversos created a growing problem for Old Christians; the problem being competition for coveted posts of influence and the growing power of the new group in Spanish politics and administration of the realm. The papal decree by Sixtus IV in 1478 represented the culmination for decades of increasing challenges to conversos by Old Christians.  


During the preceding period conversos, including judges, influential administrators and bankers, repeatedly petitioned the crown for relief with no result. The crown turned a deaf ear to converso attempts at redress. After the papal decree King Ferdinand ordered that no action was to be taken to impede the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition was administered by King Ferdinand's secular government and operated under the spiritual authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic church. A better case for separation of church and state, a requirement of the U.S. Constitution, could not be made. 


The Old Christian solution to the converso problem was to question whether their conversion was insincere and to declare them to be heretic if that were true. Needless to say, a remarkable number of Jewish conversions to Christianity were declared to be insincere and several litmus tests of genuine conversion were developed. Those who failed the tests were executed or banished. Voila: limited competition for the upwardly mobile Old Christians! As Old Christian influence waxed again, ever-expanding inquiry into the affairs of conversos accelerated and lead to persecution of all Jews. Heretic's land and personal estates were confiscated by the inquisition, their persons being executed or banished. The king participated in distribution of the estates value. Rewards were paid to many who denounced conversos as heretics. Merely leveling an accusation of heresy, with little or no proof and in the comfort of knowing the accused could not confront their accuser, became a way to garner influence and wealth.  


By 1492 (the year Columbus landed in North America) the Alhambra Decree ordered all Jews to leave the kingdom. About 40,000 Jews were forced to emigrate. They were forbidden to take gold, silver or other possessions with them, which created a fire sale environment for such commodities. Jews were forced to sell their valuables and possessions at the equivalent of pennies on the dollar. Many in positions of influence made huge profits by exploiting that artificial market. About 440 years later the same fellow with the funny moustache in Germany and his chicken farmer chief henchman, Heinrich Himmler, imposed the same conditions on Jews emigrating from Germany. Fortunes were made in that artificial market, too. Historian estimates place 1474 to 1834 Spanish Inquisition executions at about 5,000. The devastation of livelihoods and families was extraordinary. The Spanish Inquisition was definitively ended in Spain July 15, 1834. 


An interesting outline of facts and principal players for the Spanish Inquisition is available at Wikipedia Spanish Inquisition.   

The inquisitions spanned more than 500 years. It's more notable victims included Bruno, a Dominican monk, and Galileo. Bruno was burned at the stake about 1600 for, among other alleged transgressions, his work De l'Infinito , Universo e Mondi (On the Infinite Universe and Worlds) that supported Copernican philosophy. Bruno argued that the universe was infinite and contained in infinite number of inhabited worlds. Galileo also supported the Copernican Doctrine. Galileo came to the attention of the inquisition in 1611 due to his expressed views concerning the Copernican Doctrine. The Web site  reports that in 1616 a committee of consultants declared to the Inquisition that the Earth having an annual rotation around the sun was "absurd in philosophy, at least erroneous in theology, and formally a heresy." For more than 20 years Galileo unsuccessfully argued the accuracy of his views with various officials and committees of the church. Galileo lived under house arrest from 1633 until his death in 1642. The Catholic church reportedly accepted that Galileo may have been correct.  

It apparently takes a very long time for the Agenda Afflicted to change their minds about abundantly clear facts for which they are in error. In the case of Galileo it took 372 years, from 1611 to 1983.  Hopefully, a considerably shorter period of time will transpire before politicians and lobbyists choose to get their facts straight about the alleged risks of tobacco. 


A Pattern of Conduct 

Dare we hope? The Age of Enlightenment brought with it the beginning of the end for inquisitions. The inquisitions' excesses also inspired in large part the Protestant Reformation launched by Martin Luther. New thinking and the reformation produced a successful challenge to Papal authority. Many of the dissidents formed a few tiny colonies on the Eastern shores of North America about the time Galileo when was futilely arguing with the church concerning a remarkable perception of the patently obvious regarding the sun. Those colonies united to free we the people of the tyranny of royal rule and religious oppression. A few years later that new nation produced a Constitution that prohibited religious persecution and mandated separation of church and state. The constitution also propitiously includes prohibitions against special privileges or immunity and required equal protection of the law for all citizens.  


We arrive at the dawn of our new millennia with a Constitution forged on the lessons learned through five centuries of heard-earned lessons being blithely ignored by those who seek to enrich themselves by crafting new, self-serving laws for more "Target Groups." They do so in the apparently-now-holy names of anti-obesity and anti-tobacco. As the demands for cash from persons who are simultaneously taxed and banned increase the medieval paucity of spirit by those who make such demands extends the sanctions to those who accommodate or serve targets in their places of business. Just as residents of Montaillou, France faced sanctions if they harbored or supported Cathars, a bar owner in Ohio can face fines up to $2,500 per day for accommodating a patron who enjoys a smoke with their beer. Consistent with the apparent beliefs of Bishop Fournier that the rules apply to "them" not "us," those who support tobacco control and their cronies are exempt from mandates and bans they imposed on others. In Colorado, patrons of bars where folks enjoy a 25 cent smoke with a $2.00 beer are subject to smoking bans, while cigar bars that accommodate politicians who swill several $7.00 martinis with their $20.00 cigar are exempt. Meanwhile, the cash flows to and power expands for those who fid it expedient and rewarding to mandate what others must do to conform to their agenda. 


Today's Agenda Afflicted have a rich history of self-serving conduct to draw upon. Many of their ancestors provided a stunning example about saving the budget by going after peasants. At the end of the inquisitions the King of England confronted a severe fiscal problem. The problem concerned tea. When tea was discovered in China British subjects acquired a taste for it. Problem was, however, that the terms for settlement of international transactions at the time was payment in silver. Every box of tea that was imported represented a bar of silver leaving the kingdom. Since the Chinese emperor made it clear that the British had nothing to offer in exchange that was of interest there was no corresponding trade settlement silver returning to the British Empire. A taste for tea lead to subjects of the crown piddling the king's silver down the loo. Americans solved that problem in the name of "No Taxation Without Representation," at Boston by throwing the tea into the harbor and switching caffeine brands to coffee.  


Leave it to the Agenda Afflicted to create a solution for themselves and the power that be: grow opium in India, ship it to China in British East India Company ships, then sell heroin to the coolies for silver. The king was delighted with his silver balancing an enormous trade deficit and the East India Company was pleased with vast expansion of wealth and ships. British subjects were happy, too. Not only did they have their tea but the background whine about fiscal responsibility from Buckingham Palace diminished considerably. That left a few million stoned coolies in the background. Since the coolies were on the other side of the world their interests mattered naught.  


The Chinese emperor, however, had his boxers in knot about handling millions of heroin addicts, which lead to the opium wars.  By 1830 30,000 150 pound chests of opium were reportedly flowing into China each year. The Chinese government imposed high tariffs on opium distributors in an attempt to reduce the trade. The British government declared war on China to protect its interests and the interests of the British East India Company. The opium wars ended with the treaty of Nanking in 1842 and the Treaty of Tientsin in 1858. By the end of the opium wars the East India Company reportedly had more vessels than the Royal Navy. This is probably the first point in history were a stock corporation had more resources and power than its government. Their influence was sufficient to cause their government to go to war on their behalf.  


The interesting thing about Chinese opium is that it was necessary to develop a new heroin delivery device for the kings trade balancing agenda to work. Prior to that time the primary use of opium was for medical reasons and the substance was chewed or taken with water. Reports apparently surfaced about how eating or dinking opium could cause stomach problems and the new pipe was a superior form of administration. A million now-cross-eyed coolies apparently agreed that a pipe was a superior way to ingest opium, indeed (Ummmm, . . . good!). What followed was tens of thousands of opium chests being imported to China each year at ever-increasing cost to the now-addicted coolies.  


The switch to opium pipes reminds one of current tobacco control dogma where British GlaxoSmithKLine now proclaims that smoking tobacco harmful and addictive but their new Nicorette gum, NicoDerm CQ patches, and Commit lozenges are safe medicine. Johnson & Johnson chimes in to that reversal of the 'ol opium ploy by manufacturing NicoDerm CQ for GlaxoSmithKline. Philip Morris even joined the fray when it announced its "Smoke Free" Aria nicotine inhaler in late 2005. When it comes to applying influence with government to advance and protect corporate mercantile interests the one of the top five institutional shareholders of Johnson & Johnson, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, excels. $446 million in grants to tobacco control advocates 1992 to 2005 (an average of $34 million per year) assured that a strong infrastructure was created to keep the nicotine brand switching scheme going.  


Today, nearly every state health department has a Quit Line up and running to peddle safe medicine nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, and inhaler to American rubes. That infrastructure and system has apparently been so successful with nicotine that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently announced that it will commit $500 million to anti-obesity grants over the five years ($100 million per year), a tripling of their average annual investment in anti-tobacco. GlaxoSmithKline has its recently-announced Alli diet pill waiting in the wings to capitalize on that special-interest investment. Folks who gain weight when they quit smoking can rest assured that the Agenda Afflicted already have their future well in hand: they can take off

 GlaxoSmithKline's NicoDerm CQ anti-tobacco nicotine patch and start buying the company's anti-obesity Alli diet pill (Ummmm . . . good!) By doing so American consumers assure that U.S. dollars still flow to Britain, just as they did with tea more than two centuries ago.  


The Core Elements 

The central process employed by the Agenda Afflicted can be summarized as follows: 

  1. Select from current events an allegedly compelling problem that must be solved.

  2. Craft a plan whereby the Agenda Afflicted can profit and increase their power by addressing the problem.

  3. Identify a "Target Group" that is the source of the problem.

  4. Promote public intolerance of target citizens to justify imposing the solution.

  5. Define an agenda through which others can enrich themselves by participating in advancing the solution.

  6. Impose increasing penalties on targets to coerce compliance with the agenda.

  7. Expand the agenda to include as many peripheral groups as possible, thereby increasing political power.  

  8. Escalate the costs of compliance to extract optimum revenues from as many sources as possible.

  9. Run the scheme until it self-implodes as opposition increases.

  10. Walk away with the bucks, find another issue and define another "Target Group," then use one's influence to run the scheme once again.

That tobacco control is about bucks and power is given. One need look no further than 1992 to 1998 Project ASSIST's 1994 Action Plan to confirm that fact. From Project ASSIST, the Tobacco Free Washington Coalition, published Goal to Success #6 in its 1994 Action Plan:  


"Enhance the power of the Tobacco Free Washington Coalition by increasing its membership and funding."

That tobacco control is explicitly and unmistakably in the business of promoting intolerance of a "Target Group" is abundantly clear from policy and strategy published in April 1993 ASSIST booklets such as  "Planning for a Tobacco-Free Washington" under federal contract for the George H.W. Bush Administration's Project ASSIST (see TFW22.PDF).


Principles: To "Target" specific populations.


Strategy: ". . . the most effective way to reduce smoking rates is to decrease public tolerance of tobacco use."

Policy: "Changing public acceptance of tobacco use will require policy change, a critical ingredient of societal change."


Its policies include:     

Increasing the price of tobacco products.
Increasing the number of smoke-free environments.


Media: "Social change requires that people receive persistent and consistent messages from sources they trust. To this end ASSIST resources will be use to generate a variety of media messages that will foster and strengthen public support for proposed policy changes."


The above policy excerpt also makes it clear that the costs of noncompliance with the agenda would predictably  escalate and expand to include others. Cigarette taxes have now increased to where most states receive far more net revenue per pack than tobacco companies earn by manufacturing and distributing the product. The draconian consequences of smoking bans have now expanded to include most of the hospitality trade. 


Closing Thoughts 

It is unfortunate that tobacco control represents regression of the human species back to medieval times. Having apparently learned the lessons well from Father Clergue and Bishop Fournier they set about lustfully screwing consumers rather than villagers pursuit of the public health papacy. Taking a cue from the British East India Company, they even invented a new delivery device to more efficiently peddle their addictive wares of choice to the masses. And like the inquisitors of Spain, they are crafty enough to spin off a share of the looting proceeds for the ruling class in government to assure their scheme enjoys the protection of secular authority.  


Yet, the fact remains that persons who smoke are no more dangerous to their fellow citizens and the public good than the Cathars of France, the Jews of Spain, or coolies in China. As did the inquisitions and opium wars, the tobacco wars will self-implode, too. It's only a matter of time and how much additional damage we allow that agenda to impose before the current scheme arrives at its just and final end. 


There is one thing that we the people must do this time around the same old mountain of special-interest plotting and intrigue: hold the current generation of Agenda Afflicted accountable, to stop this paucity of spirit plague from continuing to the next scheme. We, humankind of planet Earth, deserve a break from now nearly 800 years of inquisitions. It is time to put our childish and foolish ways behind us, to grow in spirit and ascend to a new dimension of thought.  


The First step in doing so is to reflect on the import of a thought that echoes forward to us from the days of the wounded Fisher King, his wasteland, and lore of the Holy Grail: 


We grow in spirit as individuals and together as a people by committing ourselves to ideals that are greater than out immediate personal interests. 


The second step in that ascension is to thank those who oppose anti-tobacco and anti-obesity for providing us an opportunity to stop, catch our breath, and reflect on the endless cycle we have endured. By and large, they are a bulwark of commitment good and to reason that will prevent our further regression back to the stone age under Agenda Afflicted schemes and leadership. Those who fail to do so should begin researching whether secondhand smoke from roasting Wooly Mammoths presents a health risk.  


Choose now which path you will take for yourself and those who are important to you. That choice will make a difference for the future of humankind more than you may realize at the present time.  


Norman E. Kjono

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