Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

History may be understood as a series of efforts to tame the disruptive intellectual and political forces of an open society

I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob I'm trying to tear through this wonderful new book by Walter Russell Mead, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World
For example, Mead gets into a subject I discussed in the Coonifesto, which is that only open systems can evolve, both individually and collectively. In a closed society, adventure is exchanged for security. Everyone knows their place or role and the tyranny of custom and tradition are complete, as in the contemporary Islamic world, or, to a lesser extent, among the ironically named "progressives." Because of their dominance, there is no place less intellectually -- let alone spiritually -- free in America than on a leftist university campus. Likewise, they represent the main organized opposition to that which, more than any other factor, has created so much progress in the world, the free market, compared to which the progressive movement has contributed essentially nil to the betterment of mankind.
As Mead writes, "the journey from East to West is a journey from relatively closed to relatively open society," both historically and geographically. For example, even in contemporary America, the world of the New York Times is the quintessence of a closed, parochial, backward-looking world view, especially as compared to the view here from Raccoon Lookout in Upper Tonga. But further east from New York to Paris, the view gets even more closed and crimped.
Later Mead notes that "History is in large part the record of efforts, more often successful than not, of the advocates of closed society to shut down open societies." For example, what is the contemporary culture war but the effort by leftist elites to strangle debate with political correctness and to enforce their narrow views on the rest of us, through the news media, through Hollywood, through acedemia, by packing the Supreme Court, etc.? Mead writes that "History may be understood as a series of efforts to tame the disruptive intellectual and political forces of an open society and restore the closed society with its stability and reassuringly eternal and absolute qualities."
Now obviously, it isn't just secular leftists who want to shut down progress and create a closed society. In the past, traditional religion has most often been the main adversary of the open society, and therefore progress. A large section of Mead's book is devoted to explaining how we in the Anglo-American world got it just right in terms of religious metaphysics, in such a way that progress not only became possible, but inevitable. But it is always a very tricky balance, and it's not something we should take for granted. Rather, as we shall see, it involves a "trinity," a three part dynamism that Mead calls tradition-revelation-reason. Societies that move too far in one of these directions become dysfunctional, and either cannot endure or cannot evolve.

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