Beijing wants to create a nationwide ‘social credit’ system that compiles digital records of citizens’ social and financial behaviour to calculate a personal rating that will determine what services they are entitled to - and what blacklists they go on.
- - Wall Street Journal
It has come to our notice that a system of surveillance planned for the citizens of Communist China was described in English as a ‘social credit’ system. Of course it sparked our immediate interest, not only by the term used but the underlying philosophy upon which it is based. But let’s mull over this news for a while - what does all this mean?
First why use the English term ‘Social Credit’ for such an Orwellian Chinese Surveillance System? A term that was coined nearly a hundred years ago and which the mainline media has avoided the use of, in relation to, and any reference to, Clifford Hugh Douglas’ writings and proposals.
Of course there are a number of serious issues involved with what has happened but I think we have to ‘start at a beginning’ in order to get our minds around it all.
Words and Meanings are Important
To begin with, let’s go back a few centuries:
On pp.50-51 Owen Barfield in “History in English Words” tells us that during the 5th and 6th centuries of this era the Anglo Saxons began to stream into the British Isles from the European Continent. They brought with them old Aryan words like dew, night, star and wind and Latin words which they had learnt as provincial subjects of the Roman Empire.
The Latin and Greek words which entered the language at this period are concerned for the most part with the dogma and ritual of the Church; such words as altar, candle, clerk, creed, deacon, hymn, and many others.
They also brought that peculiar Teutonic variant of the Aryan tongue which forms the rich nucleus of the English vocabulary. Their arrival was followed almost immediately by their conversion to Christianity and this moment in British history was a pregnant one – for the two great streams of humanity – Teutonic blood from the one side and the old classical civilisation bearing within its dark womb the strange new Christian impulse from the other.
Barfield also noted the importance of the alteration which now gradually took place in the meanings of many old Teutonic words but we will not venture too far from the main reason for bringing this little bit of history to the readers’ attention. I want to bring out the important point that the word ‘credit’ also changed meaning over the centuries.
COMMERCIAL SENSE OF ‘CREDIT’ FIRST USED IN 15th CENTURY
Now you are wondering why on earth I should dwell on the word ‘credit’ in this monthly journal. The reason is what happened to that little word ‘credit’ over the years. The various online dictionaries tell me:
In its commercial sense, ‘credit’ in English was first used in the 15th century : and into use in the mid 16th century (originally in the sense of ‘belief’, ‘credibility’) : was from French credit : probably via Italian credito : from Latin creditum, : neuter past participle of credere ‘believe, trust’.
Credit - Online Etymology Dictionary
Online Etymology Dictionary. 1520s, from Middle French crédit (15c.) “belief, trust,” from Italian credito, from Latin creditum “a loan, thing entrusted to another,” from past participle of credere “to trust, entrust, believe” (see credo). The commercial sense was the original one in English (creditor is mid-15c.).
Credit | Define Credit at Dictionary.com
credit. 1520s, from Middle French crédit (15c.) “belief, trust,” from Italian credito, from Latin creditum “a loan, thing entrusted to another,” from past participle of credere “to trust, entrust, believe” (see credo). The commercial sense was the original one in English (creditor is mid-15c.).
Credit | Definition of Credit by Merriam-Webster
Define credit: money that a bank or business will allow a person to use and then pay back ... The Latin word credere, meaning “to believe,” gives us the root cred.
Accredit · Creditable · Credit Rating · Bad Credit Risk
the ability of a customer to obtain goods or services before payment, based on the trust that payment will be made in the future.
“I’ve got unlimited credit”
synonyms: financial standing, financial status, solvency
“the shop would be paid whether her credit was good or bad”
the money lent or borrowed under a credit arrangement.
plural noun: credits
“the bank refused to extend their credit”
an entry recording a sum received, listed on the right-hand side or column of an account.
“the columns should be added across and down and the total debits should equal the total credits”
a payment received.
“you need to record debits or credits made to your account”
public acknowledgement or praise, given or received when a person’s responsibility for an action or idea becomes apparent.
“the Prime Minister was quick to claim the credit for abolishing the tax”
synonyms: praise, commendation, acclaim, approval, approbation, acknowledgement, recognition, kudos, hat tip, glory, merit, regard, esteem, respect, admiration, adulation, veneration, tributes;
the acknowledgement of a student’s completion of a course or activity that counts towards a degree or diploma as maintained in a school’s records.
“a student can earn one unit of academic credit”
a unit of study counting towards a degree or diploma.
“the National Certificate consists of twelve credits”
a grade above a pass in an examination.
acknowledgement of merit in an examination which is reflected in the marks awarded.
“candidates will receive credit for accuracy and style”
archaic (emphasis added…ed)
the quality of being believed or credited.
“the abstract philosophy of Cicero has lost its credit”
“John Gilpin was a citizen of credit and renown”
And so, from the original meaning of ‘the quality of being believed or credited’, the word acquired a commercial meaning and after another five hundred years it has come to mean financial debt.
But how clever of an English Oxford academic to translate the Chinese term for debt and what is really ‘discredit’ into ‘social credit’; to describe an authoritarian surveillance system to be used by the Chinese Communists to ‘keep tab’ on their citizens as a ‘social credit’.
And it is here that we come to the meaning of ‘philosophies’ and the policies from which they stem. It is important that you clearly understand what all this means. A bottle containing a pink substance may have a label stating “strawberry powder” but it is the contents that are of utmost importance. What if the ‘pink substance’ is strychnine and not strawberry powder. It is important that we have a clear understanding of philosophies and the resulting policies that stem from them.
SOCIAL CREDIT IS ‘PRACTICAL CHRISTIANITY’
The following is taken from Geoffrey Dobbs’ “What is Social Credit”:
“Social Credit is a name given to a certain movement of the mind and spirit (not an organisation) which stems originally from the mind and writings of a man of great insight and genius, the late Clifford Hugh Douglas. Its aim is to ‘bind back to reality’ or ‘express in practical terms’ in the current world, especially the world of politics and economics, those beliefs about the nature of God and man and the Universe, which constitute the Christian Faith, as delivered to us from our forefathers, and NOT as altered and perverted to suit current politics or economics, which stem from a non-Christian source.
If we define ‘religion’ as that fundamental belief about the nature of things which determines and directs a man’s life and behaviour (his life- policy so to speak), in such cases it is the ‘ideology’, whether of Left or Right or Centre, of this Party or of that, which is the man’s actual religion; his Christianity is a secondary matter, a mere opinion which he favours but does not ‘bind back‘ (re-ligare) to the real world.
It was Douglas who wrote: “Christianity is either something inherent in the very warp and woof of the Universe, or it is just a set of interesting opinions.” To those who ‘adapt’ the Faith to fit their politics or their economics, it is clearly the latter.
There is all the difference in the World between changing Christianity to fit the ‘realities’ of an artificial and man-made World, and changing the World to fit the ultimate reality of the Kingdom of God. Social crediters attempt the latter. They sometimes stray from the way…
The social credit
One of its gifts to the human mind and at least the English language is the term: the social credit (without Caps.) which is the name of something which exists in all societies but which never had a name before because it was taken for granted. We become aware of it only as we lose it.
‘Credit‘ is another word for ‘faith‘ or ‘confidence’, so we can also call it the Faith or Confidence which binds any society together - the mutual trust or belief in each other without which fear is substituted for trust as the ‘cement’ of society. Law and order is a part of it, but only a small part. King Alfred, called The Great, claimed that in his Kingdom of Wessex any woman or child could walk the length and breadth of it without fear of harm, although under the pagan Danes rape, murder and robbery were the common places of the times. But under Alfred Wessex was a Christian Kingdom, and though no society can exist without some social credit, it is at its maximum where the Christian religion is practised, and at its minimum where it is denied and derided.
The social credit is thus a result, or practical expression, of real Christianity in Society, one of its most recognisable fruits; and it is the aim and policy of social crediters to increase it, and to strive to prevent its decrease. There are innumerable commonplace examples of it which we take for granted every day of our lives:
How can we live in any sort of peace or comfort if we cannot trust our neighbours?
How could we use the roads if we could not trust others to observe the rule of the road? (And what happens when they don’t!)
What would be the use of growing anything in gardens, farms or nurseries if other people would grab it?
How could any economic activity go forward - whether producing, selling or buying - if people cannot, in general, rely upon honesty and fair dealing?
And what happens when the concept of the Christian marriage, and the Christian family and upbringing, is abandoned?
We see, do we not? - that Christianity is something real with desperately vital practical consequences, and by no means a mere set of opinions which are ‘optional’ for those to whom they happen to appeal.
Of course, social crediters are not the only people who are trying to promote the social credit. Most decent, sane people instinctively do so, including many God-fearing people of other religions, and even some atheists who were brought up in Christian homes and are living on the moral capital of their parents or teachers. But social crediters are the only people who are consciously engaged in it, and know where they are going, so that they can point the way to those who are unconscious. There could be no hope for us all if the vast majority of people did not unconsciously share in, and seek to promote, the social credit.
Social Discredit, Conscious and Unconscious
Just as there are social crediters, conscious and unconscious, trying to build up the social credit, so there are others social discrediters trying to destroy it and break it down, at present, with all too much success. The conscious ones include the communists and other revolutionaries, who quite openly seek to smash all the links of trust and confidence which enable our society to function until the Day of the Revolution dawns - the Day when all the services which support us break down, and chaos, misery, poverty, hunger and terror take over, and the rule of the most ruthless, violent and cunning can be established, and if necessary, maintained by ‘continuous revolution’.
But it is the unconscious social-discrediters who are responsible, in the West, for the present success of the conscious ones. Among these are many who operate the mass ‘media’ and the education system, who would deny that they were Marxists or atheists (though there are plenty who wouldn’t), whose language is often moralistic, or even ‘Christian’ but whose practice and policy are destructive of the social credit.
All the mass media subject us to a continuous stream of selective reports of acts or words of social discredit: murders, rapes, thefts, violence to persons and property, sadism, sexual perversion, kidnapping, blackmail, bad faith, corruption, quarrels, offensiveness, callousness, blunders, and endless political diatribe and chicanery, which we know is having a cumulative effect, notably on the young who are without defence against it, especially as its effect is too often reinforced in school…”