Monday, October 18, 2004

Those Dangerous NeoRomantics

David Brin has an interesting take on the similarities between Islamic fundamentalists and NeoConservatives.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell portrayed a future world divided into hostile zones, each dominated by dogmatic oligarchies that were free of accountability, keeping their nations in perpetual, futile war so that the prols would stay distracted from the real enemy, which was dogmatic oligarchy itself. (See "The Self-Preventing Prophecy.") The only beneficiaries of such artificial hostility were the oligarchs themselves. That is exactly what the neocons would do with their "cultural war" against liberalism and against the Muslim World.

We must learn to recognize this trick -- one of the most basic used by tyrants, ever since Gilgamesh. We can recognize it and then turn to our own arsenal. Calm. Patience. Accountability. Passionate eagerness to keep trying new ways to save the world, while flexibly abandoning methods that fail. Turning away from nostalgia and worship of the past, in favor of improving tomorrow, step-by-step.

And moderation. Plus a dedication to the tentative and contingent nature of truth, as it is seen by fallible human beings, none of whom will ever view the whole picture clearly.

There is a cultural war going on, all right. Not between East and West. Or between North and South. Or Islam vs. Christianity. Nor is it based on that ridiculous political metaphor and curse bequeathed to us by the French -- left versus right. Not even faith vs. humanism. All are distractions.

The struggle is between panic and confidence. Between those -- both left and right -- who preach that we must enslave our minds to simple doctrines, and those who know that free people can argue, learning from each other, using all of the tools at hand to raise a generation of human beings who are smarter and better than we are.

No comments: