Friday, October 07, 2011

Martin Millette's "Stormy Whether": a curious "autobiography" and history lesson; a pitch for "Certainism"

Author: Dr. Martin H. S. Millette, apparently speaking for David Tolstoy Hugenberg
Title: "Stormy Whether: Certainism: Reason over Morality"
Publication: S-Star LLC, ISBN 978-0-61540023-5  304 pages, paper, ten chapters
Amazon link:

Author’s site.   I received a complimentary copy of the book to review. The book title contains a homonym; "Stormy Weather" could have worked as a working title. 

First, I have to deal with the “observer” in the book. In the first person, it appears as though the author is telling the story of David, born in 1920 in Massachusetts, as if he had been David.  It’s not clear from what find that he is David. The author is said to have started his own career in Christian education.
The boy grows up in a home with an authoritarian father of German ancestry.  The grandfather, however, was protective, and the family had enough money for David to go to Yale, despite the Depression. However, when David, as part of class homework, finds evidence that the mother’s side of the family is partly Jewish, a family crisis ensues, but the father soon dies.

The younger brother enlists in the Marines first, skipping college, after WWII breaks out, and argues that the world would not be worth living in unless freedom is defended. David eventually is commissioned as a 2LT himself and storms the beaches on D-Day, and then is part of a party that liberates a concentration camp, accounts that are quite riveting.

Throughout this “autobiographical” narrative, the author teaches us quite a lot of history, starting with turn of the century matters that confronted him in school as term papers. Much of it is just the “usual”, but he is always adding a lot of obscure detail, such as how Jews were affected by the English civil wars in the 17th Century (part of his family secret) and how the Boer Wars affected Nazi thinking.  Gradually, he gives us his own interpretation of the two great World Wars and what drove the establishment of National Socialism in Germany. In a plain word, religion. In fact, back in 1951, Dr. Edward Pruden, the Richmond-raised progressive pastor of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC had written about some of the same problems in his Judson Press book “Interpreters Needed”.

His writing style is guilty of a lot of “author intrusion” (as literary agents call it).  The randomly alternates his theory of history with his explanation of “Certainism” as a rational answer (and agnostic) to religion. Certainism comprises familiar elements from libertarianism:  the idea of personal autonomy, of “different strokes for different folks”, of localism, and scientific pragmatism, perhaps just short of objectivism as Ayn Rand sees it.  But do all of these have to be “incompatible” with religious faith?

He spends some space talking about the Ninth Amendment of the 1791 Bill of Rights.  From that, he deduces a mid-90’s style “classically liberal” theory on gay rights, more or less centered on privacy and the right to be left alone, pretty much what would go into the 2003 decision “Lawrence v. Texas” on the sodomy laws.  All of this is put forth as he described his own personal heterosexual epiphany with “Olga”.

There are many today who question whether a society based on “hyper-individualism” is sustainable, but the context for posing these questions seems to have recirculated.  Various theories are advanced regarding getting the individual to anchor himself in goals shared by a larger (if still locally accessible) group, in order to guarantee a “sustainable” civilization. Not all of these tomes are based on religion, but certainly the “religious right” has its hands in the “natural family” movement as well as in preaching about “demographic winter.”

The author, however, pays particular heed to an aspect of National Socialism, namely, that only certain peoples would be able to carry civilization on.  We all know the horror this led to, with the eugenics and eventually the “Final Solution” which caught an incredulous world by surprise.  This sort of idea, of contraction of the people, may have been unwittingly encouraged by various “well-meaning” 19th Century intellectuals (Nietzsche  –  and Spencer more than Darwin, and of course Maltus) and the author here notes the dangerous power of the “pen”.  It’s not so clear that this idea of elimination was a critical to secular (or areligious) forms of totalitarianism – Communism, from Stalin to Mao and even Pol Pot.  Mao, however, remember, was very determined that all intellectuals (except him) would learn physical sacrifice.  And “radical Islam” seems to be carried away with the idea of self-righteousness for its own sake, to the point that anything remotely sinful is to be eliminated.

The author mentions the sacrifice of the younger brother Georg, and at least once talks about the military draft, voluntary service, and deferments.  That caught my eye as particularly interesting.

As a supplement, check out Lisa Miller's columns in the Washington Post about faith v. reason, and even as to whether atheists are "smarter"; here on Oct. 8.

I couldn't find an author interview on YouTube, but I'll offer my own video of a visit to "Occupy DC" yesterday. It's distantly relevant. 

On my TV blog there is a coordinated review today of BBC's "Nietzsche: Human, All to Human" (1999, 2007). 

1 comment:

Bill Boushka said...

Yes, I am telling another person's story in the first person. David is a fictitious character I created, the story is based primarly on two systems: The first system representes his father who's the old religious system of rigid rules and regulations. The second system is represented by David, a young philosopher who's looking for answers in the annals of history, philosophy and theology. He questions everything and everyone, since philosophy means inquiry. And this is the reason he's always, in the story, reflecting about the past e.g., history. David believes that the gay community is being rob of its civil rights by religious institutions, as it forever seeks to legislate morality. The book was originally written for my Ph.D. thesis in Christian Education. Hence, the creation of the new philosopy, "Certainism," that seeks to provoke the reader to question all things and to inquire about everything. The main theme of the story, in the end, if the reader can figure out the plot, is that, religion is now the new Nationalsozialistche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei--the Nazi Party, that emerged from the ashes of World War II. I hope I've answered your questions Bill. Sincerely, Martin Millette.