Our Fight Continues
I have some really good news, some bad news, and some that is really bad.
The good news is that the revolution of thought that we call the Age of Enlightenment is winning. The value of reason and conscience, given life to science and humanitarianism, which we experience directly as progress in all forms of technology and the betterment of life, continues to advance around the world. Life expectancies rise everywhere. Real poverty is at an all-time low. Medical advances have eradicated or at least controlled some of the worse diseases ever. The connections of an interdependent world economy have reduced instances of war and promoted international peace and cooperation. Human rights continue to advance despite stubborn pockets of resistance.
The early rejection of Enlightenment principles by non-western nations has dropped precipitously, as they realize that reason and conscience are not the enemies of variant cultures, but actually empower unique cultures to maintain themselves by incorporating the fruits of modernity. We see this going on in Asia, India, the Middle East, and just about everywhere. There is an adjustment going on, but the important thing is that it is happening. People are realizing that the Enlightenment’s unique combination of reason and conscience is not culturally dependent. It is human to the core, and therefore trans-cultural.
We have every reason to be optimistic as schools crop up across the world that support the common themes of modernity. Some really good things are waiting for us on the horizon – if we just keep on trying with good faith.
The bad things are obvious. Some people still have the wrong perception about Enlightenment principles. They view them suspiciously, as something foreign, oppressively aligned with colonialism and culturally threatening. They resist, sometimes violently. They resurrect the worst claims of the past in order to strangle the continuation and development of what was best. Their very responses, immoral as they are, prove that they are wrong. We see this in the so-called Islamic State and al Qaeda subsidiaries, but also in Russia, an unexpected turn-around of a great nation that showed so much promise. Even Europe appears to be sliding back from its latest unifying efforts. Politics everywhere continues an unnecessary tension between progress and recession. The common thread is cynicism among loud and often belligerent individuals.
All these things, bad as they are, are actually constrasting signs that things are getting better. We are improving in spite of them. There will always be a segment of every population that fears change, even when they ultimately benefit from it. Instead of working to make change better, they fight to stop it. Over time, however, changes become commonplace, and the furor passes.
The really bad thing is that there appears to be a growing wave of malcontents in the West, where those principles first caught fire, who are not so much resisting Enlightenment principles, as rejecting them altogether! Perhaps it is just a last flame of resistance blinding people from what is really going on. If so, it is unlike any other, in that we already enjoy such obvious gains. Angry voices are openly rejecting science and such basic principles as equality, freedom of religion, and a respect for representative government. This includes a fundamental disrespect for truth. Without the strong support of these staunch, historically tried pillars of progress, the edifice of modernity cannot stand. We have become a house divided, bent on destroying thousands of years of human progress.
What brings us to this sorry point? Nothing more than a lack of vision. We have closed our eyes to reality, and listened too long to voices of unreason that stoke our fears and prejudices. There are forces in the media, the business world and in government that are exploiting us to fan an unnecessary civil war ideology. Like many civil wars, everyday people pay the price for this, while those who instigate it gather in the profits.
Good friends, think about it. We are on the verge of creating a new and better world. All of our too often tragic and bloody history, brightened by occasional leaps of progress, has been leading to a goal that is, for the moment, just beyond our reach! We must not allow those who would exploit us to stop that from happening. Too much is at stake. Their incendiary talk and conspiracy theories continually allow the escalation of climate change, income disparity, global tension and conflict, inequality, and really just about every problem that we face that could be solved by conscientious unity.
We are witnessing the last stand between ignorance and enlightened progress, and it seems that ignorance is on the rise! It is important that we see this clearly and stand up against it. Now! It has already gone too far and threatens to subvert all our gains.
The future is literally in our hands.