Thursday, 27 April 2017

Is John Horvath II a Calvinist? Or a Fan of Romanides Version Eastern Orthodox?

I get worried due to this article It’s Time For an About-Face on Facebook to which the below is my answer.

Ivy league, like Cambridge and unlike Oxford are Calvinist territory, spiritually.

OK, if an Ivy League professor writes about historic linguistics, I will trust him on the attested historic forms. I might be less trusting of his reconstruction of non-attested forms. If an Ivy League cardialogist has sth to say about cardiac health, my mother would no doubt be fairly trusting. Unless it were a recommendation of heart transplants. We are against that.

But when Ivy league speaks of the human soul, I for my part feel like citing Chestertonian lampoons on Lord Ivywood. You will find them in The Flying Inn, if you want a look. Same obviously goes for Cambridge.

While I was a refugee from the obediences of both "Benedict XVI" and "SSPX" into Romanian Orthodox jurisdiction, between 2006 and 2009, there was one thing I liked less about certain Orthodox than about any other ones. It was the people who believe in Romanides.

I was ready to term Romanidismos a new heresy threatening the Orthodox Church with apostasy.

Romanides was an Ivy league man, of Harvard. Christakis is an Ivy league man, of Yale.

John Horvath II today cited him as an expert on "Internet addiction".

John Horvath II seems to have confidence that mere quantitative measures will tell you if a frequent habit is a harmful addiction or sth good. Because he calls the methodology of Christakis "stringent" when the link he gives cites "many parallels to existing recognized disorders".

The problem is, are these "recognised disorders" such as should be recognised as disorders? Or are they recognised as disorders because that gives power and employment to psychiatry, and social power to the allies who can wield psychiatry as a social threat? If the latter is the case, well, the observation may be correct, but it is useless, factually correct, but morally not to the point Christakis is making.

Another problem is, so far - back in 2010, when Christakis wrote the article - internet addiction is NOT a recognised disorder. In other words, Christakis is going into the forefront of making a behaviour classified as a disorder, John Horvath II is applauding him, AND not telling us what he is doing. John Horvath is writing as if internet addiction were unproblematically a legitimate diagnosis. Here is a sample sentence, from what he says about FB:

It has been found to discourage face-to-face relationships, cause internet addiction or erode self-esteem.

Discourage, erode, cause are verbs which are not medical terms, but moral ones - or in the case of "cause" a usually non-moral one. Cause is the only positive of the verbs, the other two being privative.

The two things of which someone is deprived are recognised moral items, namely face to face relationships and self esteem. Both of these have a somewhat lesser role in normal Christian moral theology than in the estimate of doctors meddling in such matters. So, not only is the privation possibly unproven, but it is also unproven if the privation, if actually there, is a bad thing and the things lost, if actually there before FB came in, were good things.

I'll expand on that in a minute, but first, this : the one positive verb, cause, is causing what? "Internet addiction". Is that a recognised moral item? No, since you will not find it in the moral theology of St Alphonsus. Is it a recognised medical item, then? No, because the article of Christakis is arguing it should be recognised, or could possibly be recognised, it is first of all admitting that so far it is not recognised. Here is from the abstract:

"Internet addiction, while not yet officially codified within a psychopathological framework,"

Repeat after me : "while not yet officially codified". In other words, you do not have any business referring to it as if you were referring to a recognised physical condition like cirrhosis or lung cancer. Caused by excessive drink or tobacco smoking. Which arguably have some, but not a totally clear, relation to compulsiveness in drink and smoke. A binge drinker may in fact be having his binges so seldom that they are not causing cirrhosis. Someone getting cirrhosis may be a very sober person, who simply got used to drinking much wine using it as an energy drink. Ma has heard - physicians, please treat this as anecdotic, and keep in mind alcohol strength in Austrian white wines is typically 10-11 %, it is not a question of 13 %, usually - that vineyard owners used to drinking 1 litre each day did not get it, those who drank 2 litres always got it (unless ran over by a car too early), those drinking 1.5 litres were sometimes getting and sometimes not getting it.

But cirrhosis has a clear meaning. It also has an unpleasant meaning - it is one in which you risk to die.

"Internet addiction" does not have a clear meaning - to a normal mind. It perhaps has to a mind like that of Christakis, perhaps has to a mind like John Horvath II (in which case I doubt we can consider him a Catholic). But it does not have that. You can say 20 cigarettes per day is bad for your health, it is a symptom and reinforcement of nicotine addiction and it causes lung cancer. Perhaps less decisive than believed, perhaps cigs have been blamed in many cases so unhealthy work places could keep on, like asbestos exposure, but it is one cause of lung cancer. And lung cancer is not an addictive behaviour, it is a disease, and will lead to an unpleasant death, usually. No such things are known about any physical side effect of internet addiction. So. Called. That is why you cannot on purely quantitative grounds say someone is addicted. If someone is smoking 20 cigarettes, that is arguably an addict, since those doing so have a hard time quitting even when they are getting warning symptoms about cardiac conditions (lungs are not the only thing which takes a strike from tar and nicotine). But you cannot on a purely quantitative basis looking at how much someone uses internet decide he is using it so much he is getting ill. That is why the word "internet addiction" is meaningless.

So, let's look at the other two.

Some lose self esteem on FB. Some gain it. Suppose we put a library and a baseball field side by side, it happens in many campuses all over US. You will find people who lose self esteem in the library and gain it on the baseball field, you will find people who lose self esteem on the baseball field and gain it in the library. Some people who are losing self esteem on FB are doing so, because of the face to face (or former) relationships involved in also being FB relationships. A school class may all, or all girls, or all boys, or both separately, or in other groups, be friends on FB. Someone who is harrassed by them on the school ground will be pressured into having them as FB friends. Then he or she is harrassed by them on FB too, and one such case committed suicide.

Is FB to blame, or is school? In a normal society, a normal father would not leave his son or daughter in a school where they were harrassed. In the modern society since 1917, more and more parents over the world have for longer and longer not been able to do so, not without grave risks to themselves. But one more story illustrating how evil this is, and FB gets the blame. Of course, the big business of Zuckerberg has not been around as long as the big business of compulsory or near compulsory schools for longer and longer of the time growing up.

A 13 year old girl got pregnant AD 1300 in Croatia, you bet that if the guy who had made her so was of fairly equal condition, he was marrying her. Unless he already had done so. Some guys these days talk of shot gun weddings as "primitive". A 13 year old girl got pregnant in US AD 2000, you know the stats of how many of them who were forced to abort. Let me tell you a thing. It is not that, not obeying their parents, not staying chaste to marriage (when this, not due to Church law, but secular law and customs of work places comes later and later), not making a wise choice in boyfriend, she is necessarily so callous that she thinks it doesn't matter if she aborts. It is rather, in modern society, she is facing a lot of Puritans who are telling her she cannot possibly dream of marrying, and notably, she has to finish school first.

Apparently one of the blessings of compulsory school is that a pupil going on FB can be surrounded on FB by real friends (these days no doubt encouraged by saying her or his use of FB could be discretely monitored for their own good) and feel so harrassed that she or he considers suicide. I did at least twice due to school and once more due to not having a girl friend. Even without FB. And why is that a blessing? Well, getting through school apparently means you have social abilities - of which some mean laughing when ten other people are harrassing you (reminds me of what happened this night, though they weren't ten) and make them believe it before they make you cease laughing. A situation which per se is not FB related and per se is also not related to face to face relationships in fewer numbers than classrooms and some modern workplaces, key word modern, offer.

And if one cracks, well, why not blame FB? It's easier to forbid a young person FB than to allow a young person to quit an even very abusive school. These days.

Suppose I have few face to face relationships and often go to FB - did FB cause that?

I would rather say, I had as few before. FB is a place where I can get relationships, even while before and after internet, I beg for food and sleep where I can find a place - which is why I had an unpleasant encounter this night, but that is a story for a French article, but FB perhaps has stopped me from getting more of them. You see, I have at St Nicolas du Chardonnet (when I returned from Orthodox, I went to SSPX) given diverse hand printed business cards about my blogs. One of which is H. G. Lundahl's FB Writings, URL see footnote*, which of course implies that I am using FB a lot. However, there were already before Christakis people who were concerned about "internet addiction", some pioneers** being Chinamen who tested what happened to brains of gamers who spend 20 hours per week on games.

Not quite comparable, since these people, whether they spent other hours on screen or not, were really adding the 20 hours in spare time, meaning they were burning midnight oil. Hence, the effects on brains could simply be the effects of a sleep privation which was voluntary on their part, both for gaming and for doing experiment. If so, the effects had nothing to do with spending time before the screen, and even so there is a difference between gamers and me, since I am not on the alert for things moving on the screen, other than forefront of letters I am writing.

If my brain lacked as much blood conduction (whatever the medical term is) it could also be due to sleep privation - voluntary by the will of others who chose not to be hospitable. Or semi voluntary by the will of those inviting me to a foyer, if they should succeed in getting me there : I sleep ill aming strange males. So, the earlier studies from China on internet addiction were debunkable, I have as for my entourage on FB and elsewhere done some to debunk it.

Here we get Christakis, and therefore Calvinism and Romanides.

It is not proven that an adult sitting by a computer for hours causes himself brain damage***, but a Calvinist, as many are at Yale or Harvard (including Anglicans who are Anglican in a Calvinist spirit) and the Romanidists - as I suspect Christakis to be - can invoke "mental health" concerns.

And when John Horvath II listens to these guys, I get another kind of concern, namely about his Orthodoxy. Mental Health could be one of the errors of Russia which Our Lady warned about at Fatima, since the Czars had a Serbski Institute for criminal psychopathologies, and were thus, even before Communism, mixing health matters and moral matters in a manner reminiscent of Erewhon. Don't panic, this homeless guy has some lacunae in his general eductaion, I haven't read the book by ... Samuel Butler (had to look it up) ... and I did not know even it was published in 1872, when psychiatry was on the rising elsewhere than Russia as well.

While I embraced for a while Orthodox view on bishops as successors of St Peter, I never got used to Romanidism. That is why I coined the term. You see, he was a priest, and his pastoral involved a too great concern for mental health - since he was willing to relegate any and every religious life, except Orthodoxy lived in Hesychaistic or Philocalic form, to the category of mental or "psychophysical" disorders. This is not how Church Fathers were arguing about the matter, even when for rhetorical parallel they made observations about "madness" when it came to mortal sins.

This is of course reinforced by living in a spirituality where at least the T of TULIP° is concerned with "x likes y, but x is a human, all humans are T-otally corrupt, therefore liking y is probably corrupt". Which is if not in full force, about their own likes even, at least somewhere in the background about likes of less well paid people, when it comes to Ivy league professors. Or at least I suspect it is fairly often the case.

Update: I originally probably signed this on 27.IV.2017, on the day of St Peter Canisius. At least, since this blog is set on Pacific Daylight Time and the publishing is "four o' clock" it could also have been 28.IV? Nah, that would have been if Pacific Daylight Time had been later. It seems my original signature may have been hacked away.°° (Gaslighting, you know!) I could theoretically ALSO have been tired between preparing and publishing the post. And I certainly have other things to keep me tired than going to FB, in case someone was going to blame that.

This gives me the opportunity to react to the fact that John Horvath II has since then tried to, not answer me as per me, but answer what I said above. He has been trying to show he is not Gnostic. Here is a new article by him:

How Material Things Can Lead Us to God

A quote or two might be in order:

The fundamental assumption of the question I was asked is that somehow the material universe is in contradiction with the spiritual world and, therefore, bad. Such was the position of the ancient Gnostics who viewed all matter as evil. ... Obviously, our fallen nature is such that we can abuse material things and develop exaggerated attachments to them. However, this can also happen to spiritual things. The balanced position is the practice of the virtue of temperance whereby man governs his natural appetites and passions in accordance with the norms prescribed by reason and faith. When we use things with temperance, they help us become holy.

Very correct, as far as it goes.

However, it leaves out the question where the measure is to which temperance should attend. Obviously, it is a very different question for very different things. And unfortunately, John Horvath II has so far not changed the wrong answer (Calvinistic or Gnostic or whatever the inspiration might be) about Facebook or internet. The wrong answer he gave is "one is intemperate when there is an addiction". This is wrong because addiction, properly speaking is a medical term, if even as much, and because this medical term does not exist for internet. It is also wrong, because it involves a conception according to which an outsider could at some point look at the mere quantity per se and conclude there is an addiction.

Quantity per se is not the measure beyond which any act becomes intemperate. Proportionate quantity is. If I drink up to three glasses wine with a meal (I mean 1/8 litre glasses, so we are speaking of 3/8 of a litre) and after it, enjoying them slowly, then I am temperate. I am an adult of fairly great bulk. If I were to drink same quantity without the meal, even so I would be intemperate, because without stomach content the alcohol comes faster into the blood. If I had drunk that quantity at age 5, I would have been very intemperate. Or sexual enjoyment, if you are married, about once a night is not too much (as long as you are faithful and open to fertility, and ideally excluding certain periods ecclesiastic or biologic), but if you are not, every deliberate seeking of it is intemperate. When it comes to alcohol, I have here spoken about the aspect of sobriety, which is distinct from the medical aspect of addiction.

Suppose I were a wine producer outside Vienna. Suppose I had the habit of drinking one full litre of wine per day. It would not get me drunk, so I would not be intemperate as to sobriety, because I would have the habit. It would arguably (according to autopsies and comparison to available information in Vienna) not give me a cirrhosis either. The one possible medical aspect is "addiction" in so far as I might be hard set to not drink my daily dose. With one litre every day, it is even a fairly probable complication. But would this render drinking one litre wine per day intemperate? No, because I would neither be risking sobriety nor long term risking cirrhosis. I would be intemperate, though, if I drank two litres of wine per day, as per knowledge this basically guarantees a cirrhosis. I would be less intemperate, though still somewhat so, if I drank 1.5 litres, knowing this is a risk for cirrhosis.

Hence, not only sheer quantity, but also the specific proportionate quantity called "addiction" are no good clues on whether I was intemperate or not. Sobriety is one good clue. So are religious duties, and they are related.

However, I am neither using FB in a way interfering with my sobriety, nor using specifically internet so much that THAT interferes with my religious duties. I also do not have duties of a professional kind to which internet would be a lure away from duty - and for those who have, who abuse FB access on their work computer, in some cases getting rid of the professional situation is a better solution than getting rid of FB. In my own case, as an internet writer, I have a professional duty to be only enough to write and also, insofar as my posts reflect interactions with others, to interact sufficiently with others on internet to fulfill this duty.

Nevertheless, those who dislike my writings in general or one of the themes specifically, might have a really great interest in submitting me to diagnoses like "internet addiction" when and if they become available, so as to stop me from doing my work.

This is a very good reason why "internet addiction" should not be put on the list of available diagnoses. And why I am thankful that so far it is not.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Pope St. Pius V

* HGL's F.B. writings

I note that abbreviation HGL was not just restricted to URL, but in title too.

** Reference lost. *** If it were, lots of companies using employees for doing work on internet or on word would have to change routines, and change them drastically, unless work protection legislations get even looser than now. ° I like both jasmin tea and rose tea, on occasion, I don't think I'll add TULIP T to the tea flavours any time soon! °° I own no computer, so my sessions are of course hackable.

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