A Treatise on Trinities

Back in the days of Thatcherism I watched a journalist interview a Conservative MP on British television. The MP had the wind in his sails and the journalist was decidedly in the doldrums. That was a scene often to be repeated.

With an arrogance which we became accustomed to the MP, I can’t recall his name, said, “Events happen in threes, don’t you know?” In my plebian ignorance I didn’t know that. But I had sussed out that of all the major political parties in the UK the Conservatives had the clearest understanding of class politics.

I’ve never voted for a Conservative in my life but this question of the “threes” has remained with me over the years.

The ancient Greeks had a word for it. Hecate, a goddess of intuition, stood at a fork in the road. With her ability to see three ways at once, to say nothing of the gift of knowing the past, present and future she was uniquely positioned to influence a traveller.

OK guys, she would say, you’ve come this far along that road, now which of these two paths are you going to take. A little sacrifice, a flask of retsina perhaps, and I can send you on the right way.

Centuries later the Christians were to take up a similar theme. They call it the Holy Trinity; the all-in-one Father, Son and Holy Spirit seems (or seem) to have been around for ages. As part of a Teaching English as a Second Language class I stumbled into this cultural domain with a group of Muslim students, some of whom were quite radical, i.e. fundamentalist. Never a great one for fundamentalism of any persuasion, nor teaching English as it happens, I’ve stayed away ever since.

For those with a thirst for such phenomena and knowledge there is a choice to be made. Forget fundamentalism, we’re back on the forked road again. Which way will it be? We’ve given up on the straight and narrow. So if we share a glass of retsina with Hecate it could well be the drinker’s trinity. Cold beer, hard liquor and plenty of both. If you Tee-total that it adds up to three.

That brings us nicely into the Enlightenment. Georg Ohm was born in Erlangen Bavaria in 1789 and went on to study at university there. But his first time round didn’t last long. He dropped out and it is said that drinking, probably beer and snaps and not retsina was a contributing factor.

However, being persistently diligent, he was German after all, he returned to the life of studies and left us with Ohm’s Law. This is the fundamental concept of electro technology. You’ve guessed it, the electrician’s trinity. This brings together the three essentials of an electrical circuit. The relationship of electrical potential, measured in volts, with the flow of electrical current measured in amps and what else? – resistance to the above, measured in ohms.

After that you probably want some light relief. Gone are Hecate and the glory that was Greece. The Bible Belt has limited appeal. The Enlightenment has blinded us with science and reason. But something is missing. Perhaps the 1970s rock musician Ian Drury brought us the trinity fix we had been craving.

Sex and drugs and rock and roll
Is all my brain and body need
Sex and drugs and rock and roll
Are very good indeed

We’ve touched on mythology and religion looked at science and rock’n’roll. What’s left? Indeed, what is Left? What about revolution?

Karl Marx left us with the almost unpronounceable trinity of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, an idea he picked up from Hegel. Take a proposition, test it by arguing against it and you end up with something different but influenced by both.

The interests of the class of labour challenge the interests of the class of capital. Then someday you end up with a classless society. Simple aint it ? Like mixing black paint with white paint and you get grey. Well, sort of.

Samir Amin was an Egyptian political economist and Marxist. While many well-meaning Marxists have sought to apply and indeed find Marx’s thoughts expressed in history and modern day life Amin went a step further.

He sought to adopt Marxism to the modern, unfolding, and can I say it, alienated world.

He identified a “triad” – not for him the trinity – of economies. These are the regions of North America, Europe and Japan. It is from here that the all-powerful oligarchies of the auto motive, Big Pharma and financial industries, to name but a few, exert influence and control over the lives of Planet Earth’s population.

With Amin you get two bites at the trinity cherry.

His second take on trinity brings together two essentials which have not always mixed well in the past. Social progress for workers, peasant and those, both in the North and the South, who have been left behind. Add to this, advances and expansions in democracy. Social progression and democratization must go hand in hand.

He had in mind a democracy, not regulated and drip fed from the triad but called for and constructed by the diverse groupings mentioned above. To make this work and the trinity complete, for Amin, a multi polar world system must be constructed.

One that takes into account and respects the differing political cultures each of us has experienced in our different communities of place and interest, country and world region. Who’s up for that?

Sam Gordon worked in a Belfast factory, then an engineer in the merchant navy, a trainer, researcher and co-coordinator of community projects in Scotland. A graduate from various universities, on a good day he claims he’s a decorative artist and sometimes writer. Most days he’s a blacksmith, welder, and painter in Nicaragua.