“To Work It And Keep It” – The Real Answer To Environmentalism

simonThere is a tiny zoo in Bamako where I would go with my little boy on lazy sunny Saturday mornings, to see the animals and to get some toddler-walking practice; a rare escape from the house in a poor place with few options. Now normally I am not a fan of zoos; I get no pleasure out of observing the caged – the enslaved – which is why I suppose I’ve never been to Cuba, even after the ‘opening’. But this zoo, run by the Aga Khan and managed by western zookeepers imported ‘to work and keep’ them was somehow an oasis; in a poor land that is perilous for animals a zoo can be a sanctuary too.

Poverty. Poverty is the greatest threat to our natural world. Wickedness can be manipulated to our benefit, evil can be made to capitulate, but mindless pounding poverty knows no reason and entertains no solutions. “Poverty is the greatest polluter”, as Indira Gandhi once said. The other day NBC News published a bizarre little article, titled Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them. Now this train of thought is not new – NPR, NYT, and other culture warriors of misunderstanding have been pushing hard this un-idea for some time now. And it isn’t wrong, that humanity does the most environmental damage. Their reasoning is of course Petitio Principii, a fact that escapes them – though that should not come as any surprise; their argument is akin to saying ‘There would be plenty of food and no famine if people weren’t around to eat all the food’. In the circular nihilism of modern thought I suppose this represents an ‘aha moment’, a solution of sorts. Forget that we are concerned about animals because we are alive; and that if we weren’t alive animals might be better off; but that would not assuage our consciences because – well because we wouldn’t exist and therefore would have no consciences in the first place to be assuaged. What struck me most about this article was its appeal to morality. Putting the issue of the existence of children as an existential fight between right and wrong, they then went further, “Several years ago, scientists showed that having a child, especially for the world’s wealthy, is one of the worst things you can do for the environment.”

Um, say what?

It’s immoral to have children; and more so if you are rich… Immoral; moral – it is more moral to not exist than to exist. Which then begs the question “Why do we exist at all, if doing so is immoral – if indeed we do exist in the first place?… and since the environmental degradation we cause proves our existence (sort of, Descartes…?), as an existing entity I am either the result of immorality (I was born) or a perpetrator of immorality (I have a little boy), coming as both I and he do at the expense of the animals.” Now we are sailing upon troubled waters indeed. Naturally after the “Do I exist?” question is taken care of, the “Why do I exist?” issue becomes the greatest of all problems, and as such requires an answer, one which obviously must extend beyond the nihilistic ‘morality’ of the unenlightened because “I exist in order to cease to exist, for the benefit of the environment,” is also a bit of a mess. Thankfully, this is what theology and philosophy and the ideas emerging from very beginning of recorded thought are for. Ideas which our know-nothing generation are singularly ill-equipped to entertain, but I digress.

I’ve started a new devotional with my little boy, who is older now, little toddler legs giving way to a little boy mind that asks questions, o so many questions. We are in Genesis, “Where was that garden?” he asked of Adam and Eve, “And what were they doing in that garden anyway?” That question, formulated by a mind innocent of NBC and NPR’s un-philosophy – a place of modern ‘un-thoughts’ where bias and prejudice rule supreme as alternatives for actual ideas and real history – is the right one. So what is the answer? Because it has an answer, it must have because God cannot have put them there in order that they cease to be there, “We were put in the garden to ‘worship and obey’” I told my little boy. Adam and eveA better translation from the Hebrew (and the Greek) make it even clearer, we were ‘placed’ or ‘set’ in the garden by God “to work it and keep it”. Whether you believe the story of Adam and Eve is literal or allegorical is irrelevant; we are on the earth as the original gardeners and gamekeepers.

Then of course ‘the fall’, sin, murder and slaughter and civil war; NBC and NPR – and the messy story of humanity.

Back to my time in West Africa. There are no animals left here – an area much larger than the continental United States. They were not taken as trophies, big game hunting is actually a net positive for preserving the species (oh, I’m not a hunter – but people respond to incentives, and the fees charged for one large kill serve to fund hundreds of rangers who protect the parks from uncontrolled poaching or poverty’s degradation). No, in West Africa they were killed off because they were a nuisance to the subsistence millet farmers; because the pots of the hungry were empty. They were murdered in the endless civil wars; for food or massacred by mindless guerrillas in ungoverned spaces, an orgy of death and blood.

Accentuating this point; the last time to my little Bamako zoo was the day after the terrorist attack on the Radisson. Somehow I knew it would be my last time there; that things would change, that I would never be allowed back – the jihadis who permit no small pleasure to exist outside the radiating hate of their politics wanted to take away even the simple morning walks with my son. I often think about this little zoo. Has it become a death camp of the imprisoned, like the zoo in Caracas has (mindless poverty resulting from un-ideas not too different from NBC and NPR)? Or has the Aga Khan continued his labor of love “working and keeping” his garden of the lost animals of West Africa, until that time as humanity remembers why were put here in the first place?

I surely do hope he has.

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Floating Cities in the Sea

There are people building floating cities in the sea!!

I said the words aloud last night, to feel that little surge as my heartbeat rapped in double staccato for just a moment. Cities in the sea! Oh, I’m not a scientist, much to my chagrin. I was never good at the math. Renewable ocean fisheries? Waste recycling? Using algae farming to produce food (and in the process creating an immense carbon sink); harnessing the sun’s boundless power when not interfered with by mainland weather patterns or stupid white elephants subsidized by the unenlightened and crowding out real technology? These are not questions to which I have the answers. But how would they be governed? How would they protect themselves from rogue nations, criminal syndicates – piracy? What currency would they use and what nationality will they have – what passports will they possess; how would they trade, what laws would they adopt to protect their property, and how would they police themselves and secure their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? “There are idiots everywhere,” as a friend of mine rightly reminded me – and how do we mitigate against them? These are things I know about!

Floating cities

“If you could have a floating city, it would essentially be a startup country. We can create a huge diversity of governments for a huge diversity of people.” Says Joe Quirk, President of Seasteading Institute. “Governments just don’t get better. They’re stuck in previous centuries. That’s because land incentivizes a violent monopoly to control it.”

How would they organize, if people unbound from the violent incentives of land could self-select and proceed to build, un-opposed, their ideal world?

Would one city become a warrior city, a mercenary city – Sparta in modern days protected by austerity and viciousness? Would they float the world, martial training upon fields of turf implanted above the deep blue – for hire to the desperate governments of the third world anxious to quell the persistent rebel movements that bedraggle their besotted regimes? What about a humanitarian city, sailing to torn places to serve as aid workers to the starving or witnesses to the brutality of those selfsame despots? A refugee republic upon the waters?

Will the libertarians now finally get to build their voluntary world, away from those who have a joint claim to their productivity by that ancient accident of citizenship? Galt’s Gulch disappearing into the fog, the ‘motors of the world’ free to assemble their engines unobstructed; no longer coerced to entertain ideas they see as foolishness? And what happens with the second generation – who will grow up entitled, as second generations tend to do? And how about the commies? Do they get their chance to attempt unopposed to raise their utopias? Will they at long last call to themselves the enthusiasts of serfdom as they push out to the great beyond, forming the councils and the working groups and the redistributive committees and regulatory agencies as they try and divvy up the goods from their stacked chicken coops and rooftop carrot gardens? And consequently will a death-city of wasting unfortunates float up to the “Gulch” to display its naked need as its only claim, with no ties of sacred citizenship to chain themselves to their betters? Or perhaps it will simply vanish from the world in an explosion of imagination and nostalgia as it slips to the bottom of the sea, Plato’s second Atlantis seeding legends of utopianism and authority far into the future.

Yes, there are people building floating cities!! And it is exciting to think about!

In 2015 Angus Deaton wrote a somehow simple book called “The Great Escape”. The main sub-point (I think) of Deaton’s book is that humanity only ever innovates when it is threatened by large-scale catastrophe. Apocalypse. Disease. Extinctions. We let ourselves be led to the brink of annihilation before somebody emerges from the mists with an idea that changes everything. We certainly are approaching that moment again, aren’t we? 400 years after Westphalia saved us from religious extermination, we are at it again – our sclerotic governments becoming brittle to be answered only by the populist socialists promising “free stuff” in an ancient bait and switch in which they get power and we get nothing, and from which we never seem to learn.

Will our next great escape be to floating cities in the sea – the laboratories for the new technologies and philosophies, the new models of governance that will save us? Perhaps… Perhaps.

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A Death Foretold

“Chronicle of a Death Foretold” is a novel written by the great Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A death foretold; I wonder how Gabo would feel about the names splashed across the front of Colombia’s newspapers these days? People with aliases for use to hide ‘during illegality’, as if somebody can wake up one morning, wash the blood from off their hands, unlock the chains that bind the hostages and release them into the sunlight, don a white guayabera – and, thanks to some words on a document – everything is OK.

This is the problem with the idea of “legality” that befuddles Latin America time and again. The continent’s omnipotent, ubiquitous socialists believe ‘law’ is nothing more than words on paper – positivists who see no inherent expression of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to be represented by the rule of law, but instead a neutral contest of how to force your will, your utopian ideas on others. The gun, the vote – the result is the same; oh don’t believe me, go ask somebody in 1963 Cuba or 2017 Venezuela. There is no recognition that ‘laws’ should instead be the expression of the experiences of people seeking to live in liberty and prosperity; cementing what leads to well-being while eschewing what brings only misery. Common law like in England, a great cloud of codes that have bubbled up, proving themselves over time to be right and good and true – that which is convenient to a life more abundant. In the United States a constitution, written by wise and studied men, a ‘genius cluster’ as Peggy Noonan once called them, enshrining the ‘truths we hold self-evident’, the ‘laws of God written on men’s hearts’; proven over time by the tremendous prosperity of our political project.

But communism? A temper tantrum of blood and puss; adolescent songs played with an old guitar by a stinking gaggle of bearded idiots high in the Sierra Maestra, eating stolen food with their fingers following the execution of peasants and villagers? Sitting beside streams, piles of cellophane-wrapped cocaine under a plantain thatch, telling stories of government, abusing the word ‘justice’ as they throw the scraps from their savage dinner to the caged kidnapped behind? I wonder what the freedom-loving Colombian people would think about seeing these same souls sitting in their most sacred halls, aliases of ‘illegality’ exchanged for parliamentary immunity? I wonder how they will feel entering the silent sanctity of the voting booth only to see that name, ‘Timochenko’, emblazoned upon that delicate paper, hands trembling as they fill the little circle beside somebody else, anybody else with that one desperate plea in their hearts “Please God, not this time!”.

A death foretold; how would Gabo feel these days? My guess is he would have been happy, Gabo always had an infatuation with the commies – one of the worst kept secrets on the continent. “If you aren’t a revolutionary when you are young, you have no heart…” the saying goes. But the perpetual adolescents forget the last part of that famous French quote. Celui qui n’est pas républicain à vingt ans fait douter de la générosité de son âme; mais celui qui, après trente ans, persévère, fait douter de la rectitude de son esprit.” Gabo suffered from a want of head – a utopian, an idealist, a dreamer. The fact that the intellectuals, the writers are always the first to be murdered? No comment.

A death foretold…

Para mis amigos Colombianos, si aman la paz y la libertad, que dejan al lado su copia de “Muerte Anunciada”, y buscan una copia de mis novelas, la serie “San Porfirio” que se trata el tema de la Venezuela socialista. Cuando el realismo magico que tanto aman se utiliza para esclavizar, sabran que estan llegando al final. 

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How Deep Are The Roots?

How deep are the roots that bind us to where we are at; to what we know and even to who we are? When men are young they seek the new, the unique and the different and the bizarre. To become drenched in the sweltering rains of the monsoon on a spell-binding South Asian night; to savor the exotic on their tongues, an anticucho in a slum of Lima, cows heart marinated in spices when all they have ever known is the ordinary flavors of home. Even sometimes to sow their seed in a foreign land, a chance encounter, a exotic love – a tryst dangerous and forbidden far from the cobble stoned streets of their youth.

But that is often for the young; the passions of a heart full of energy and longing, pockets empty of responsibilities, a life to be lived during those precious years of weightlessness. Youth is reckless and carefree and untroubled – and the enraptured young cannot imagine that sometime in their future the old, the familiar will renew its claim on them. Yet the calling does abide, of that which belongs to us and to which we belong – becoming stronger and stronger as the sand flows through the hourglass. Faith and politics and connection in a Hegelian journey from the center to the left and then back right again, down the rolling road of wonder which is rarely straight.

“If you aren’t a revolutionary when you are young, you have no heart. If you are not settled when you are old, you have no brain.” The siren’s call of revolution, to the young, is not that different than the warm beckoning of conservatism; especially when those who have wandered are finally able to see the exotic and the familiar together, good and bad alike as their eyes are opened to why things are the way that they are, and why that matters. And why, after the dust settles and the drama has moved on – we return home not in defeat or desperation but with our hearts filled, bringing what we now know to that which was always there.

“On the Black Hill” is about that sense of home. To belong so exclusively to a patch of land; to know every crevice and knoll, the dark earth enriched with tears and fertilized by sweat and blood. To know what loss is, to almost lose that land, your place – to have it change before you slowly as the unrelenting march of time and technology (not progress, at least not in the way the progressives think) wash over the same green valleys and darkened windows where children once played in the days before light.

This was an odd novel; it was beautiful and sad and pregnant with meaning and significance, especially because it was about people who were insignificant. For those who don’t understand the beckoning of the land and the dreams of our forefathers; how the valleys and hills can be like the air we breathe, nourishing our ideas of home – this book would be a good place to start. There is nothing wrong with loving the earth, valuing those traditions which have held it, and eschewing those who see change for change sake as something to be desired above all else. And there is nothing wrong with looking back, to our fathers and their fathers – to our forefathers – as we learn who we are and we become only the latest of the tribe who have fought and struggled and dreamed in order to build our world, not in the Wilsonian grandiloquent sense but instead in the way of the simple country preacher who knows his flock and seasons his sermons with essences of a land, over which time passes slowly.

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Et Tu Colombia?

The specter of Hugo Chavez walks the sultry plains of South America, where the Chiguire – the world’s biggest rodent – roams; where the haunting Llanero music echoes across empty valleys and up against mountains that have never seen peace.

The specter of communism, Chavez was actually a new arrival; about twenty years too late, he missed the party; not that he didn’t throw one hell of an after-party. We’re celebrating 100 years of the first appearance of that bloodthirsty ghost; a revolution, that one Bolshevik; massacres and takeovers and Tsarist assassinations. ‘Celebrating’, its the wrong word really. How do you celebrate famine, war, totalitarianism – prison camps and bonfires of books and families riven asunder? How do you celebrate the theft of ten generations of minds? And 65 million deaths – seems the only people willing to celebrate all this are the sycophants, the media and the millennials.

Then it was over – not in a mushroom cloud nor another world war, but instead extinguished in exhaustion and bread lines and the whimpering of a political system that was used up and spent, empty brittle and cold. The leaders didn’t fight, Custer’s last stand or Gallipoli, instead wandering off to lick their wounds in academia – hoping to fight another day.

And the dream did abide. A new crowd of utopians, mentored by Gramsci, stood front and center as the politics of ‘no-skin-in-the-game’ took over a managerial world. Of the new crowd, Venezuela was the first (albeit not the latest) to rebel; and consequently the first to fail. The only people surprised are those naïve enough to still believe that somewhere else, sometime else, somehow else the stars might align, the gods might speak, the oceans might recede – and communism might actually work. They who summon the apparition of Chavez, querying the dead dictator as to what went wrong have been instructed by the shade of their new mark – Colombia.

It was always Colombia really, those who don’t know anything about Latin America are surprised by the resilience of the communists there. While we from the frigid north only think about Colombia in images of Escobar and piles of white cocaine, for South American continentals – for Chavez himself when he was alive – it is clear that the prize was never Venezuela. That backwater patio was too insignificant to satiate their thirst for significance. Though Simon Bolivar was from Caracas, the great treasure to be coveted was Bogota, capital of the Vice-royalty of New Granada. The seat of power in Simon Bolivar’s Gran Colombian political project; and the epicenter of Hugo Chavez’s Patria Grande. His plan, as I outlined in my book on the ALBA – figure out how to get the FARC to lay down their weapons, for the days of overthrowing governments by force is over; except perhaps in Africa. No, electoral shenanigans offer sufficient opportunities for the crafty. A peace deal: legitimacy and opportunity, that would be the ticket; a sponge with which to wipe off the blood from a half-century of violence.

Photo credit: kozumel via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-ND


Colombia’s democrats of course have no idea what is going on. “We have to give peace a chance,” said a new friend of mine who supported the peace deal. Now, the “Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria” (the ‘Alternative Revolutionary Party’ – gee I wonder what that could be) is a thing and Timoshenko – Latin America’s version of Joseph Kony or Abubakar Shekau or Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi or Pol Pot – is preparing to run for President of the republic. Will he win? Probably not. Might he? Sure. Will a FARC candidate eventually find the right amalgam of greed and envy and resentment to push their way to the Presidency? Of course – and with billions in cocaine money to fund their temper-tantrum, how could they not? (Oh, don’t believe me? Look at El Salvador, and Nicaragua).

The specter of Hugo Chavez must be smiling up from hell. He got lucky, dying as he did before he was forced to witness the implosion of his ‘Bolivarian Revolution’; a collapse that was only a matter of time. Better still, his premature departure allowed him to deflect the blame of communism’s latest failure onto his half-witted successor. Standing beside Fidel and Che as they lavish their undead attentions on their uncompleted project, the jewel in the crown. Bogota. “Oh, Colombia isn’t Venezuela,” my friends assure me, just as Venezuela was not Cuba, and Cuba was not USSR. “Let them stand,” they say, “and we will show them at the polls that communism has no place here.” Famous last words.

Tired as I am of writing about Venezuela, which is unsavable, I’ve decided to focus my energies for a while where there might still be time; cataloging Colombia’s flirtation with disaster. Instead of writing about a suicide, which is sort of morbid, I’m going to write now while the body is still kicking. Will future Bogota witness Caracas’s bonfires of human flesh beside a bread line? I truly hope not – but the advent of the ‘Alternative Revolutionary Party’ sure has made that end more likely.

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500 Years On – Does Our Reformation Need A Reformation?

If you go to Mali in West Africa one of the first things you will invariably hear are the stories of the great Mansa Musa and his Malian Empire; of the Hajj when he took so much gold through Cairo that he collapsed the economy for a decade and sparked a rush to find Timbuktu, that fabled university town where books sold for more than their weight in gold and great Islamic scholars arriving to teach were turned away for remedial courses in Fez before they were allowed to ply their trade. You sit quietly by, listen to the stories, and walk down the dusty streets jumping over open sewage ditches and beside naked children on your way to observe something onetime grand; a 700 year old mosque, a dusty moth-eaten book which catalogs the first medical description of tuberculosis. It’s all very nostalgic and inspiring but as the tour guide beams you can’t help ask the question, if only to yourself, “Aha, very nice. But what have you done lately?”

We are remembering tomorrow 500 years of the Protestant Reformation. You remember, that moment when some unknown monk somewhere in the German hinterlands nailed a big list to an even bigger wooden door. Boy we have celebrated that event, haven’t we – we ‘children of the kindly west’. And why not? It gave us reading which gave us science which gave us invention which gave us immense wealth which gave us – Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian.

“But what have you done lately?”

Yes, we are living better than we ever have; at least than we can remember. Lifespans have doubled; medicine is better; people have more options; better understanding of the world around us has allowed us to (sometimes) solve problems before they become ‘extinction level events’. In Angus Deaton’s amazing book (review forthcoming) “The Great Escape” he uses his not-insubstantial economic prowess to paint this picture. To be sure, all our ‘advances’ pale compared to life before the biblical great flood, when people were living 900 years (Oh, object to me referring to the Bible? Isn’t that what Luther was fighting for after all?) But, seriously, what have we done lately? The relentless march of information, our Internet which half of the world uses to surf porn and the other half to hurl anonymous insults at each other? A generation stupider than the last, which was stupider than the previous and on in a regressive shame-march through history? How about mechanization, which has given us mono-cropping and a new landlessness which has allowed the advance of, oh let’s call it ‘the politics of no-skin-in-the-game’? Modernity, which gave us – post-modernity where people deny even what is before their eyes using sense that has not been common in a long time. Truth, reason, faith, freedom – all branded tired prejudices and ancient ‘reformation era’ anachronisms to be discarded by that most bitter philosophy of all which people like to call ‘intersectionality’.

Yes, we have Netflix and Burger King; but we also have modern art (a toilet nailed to a 2X4), existentialism, nihilism and – wait for it – communism. We have mega-churches and house churches and do-it-yourself churches and exclusive churches and Bibles, oh so many Bibles – again that was pretty much Luther’s whole point, wasn’t it? But when was the last time you read one? Or have you pulled a bait and switch with Luther, taking his reformation and using it as an opportunity to read Clive Cussler or, worse, Thomas Piketty?

We have space travel and the science channel and the Cern supercollider. But we also have nuclear weapons and forced labor camps and chemical weapons and industrial-grade murder. We all have an air-conditioner and a personal computer but we also have immense inequality which, as Deaton says is sometimes “(…) unhelpful – when those who have escaped (poverty) protect their positions by destroying the escape routes behind them.”

Have we taken the vessel of tremendous intellectual nourishment bequeathed to us by Luther, emptied it of its sustaining food only to refill it with candy-corn on this October 31st, the 500th anniversary of our amazing reformation? And does that same reformation now need a new reformation?

Well that was fun, a rant is always good for the soul 🙂 I am of course being tongue-in-cheek, because ‘what have we done lately?’ — as it turns out, as Deaton has pointed out, has been a lot. But how much of it is good and true; that which is befitting a life more abundant?

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Of Calvin and Hanbal – Of Prejudice and Unknowing

I don’t write frequently about religion or faith. Perhaps this comes from my degree in theology; a childhood on the ‘foreign field’ in pews hewn and rough. When something is handled too often it ceases to inspire; the rolling road of wonder becomes mundane if you know where it leads.

Neither do I think too frequently about issues of theology. Internecine fights often poison the well that once provided sweet water; making the debates brackish and sour. “If you have four Baptists in a room, how many opinions do you have?” so the joke goes “you have five”.

I do think about humanity a lot. Humanity, ‘humanism’, this is what the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Reason and the Industrial Revolution gave us in the west – human beings free and imperfect, standing squarely at the center of our own story for the first time since the days of Aristotle. Writers often use these four periods interchangeably, and while they certainly do overlap historically each serves to give us something special in terms of our own humanity. The Renaissance reminded us of beauty, that there was more to life than Hobbes’ “nasty, brutish and short” existence. The Reformation, the Protestant Reformation wrested power from the corrupt and the elite and gave it back to people in the form of a Bible that we could read and a faith which did not depend on the dispensation of an out-of-touch humorless intermediary – sound familiar? An approachable God who gave us reading also gave us understanding and science and industry, and all of a sudden we were in a world governed by truths; rules set in place to allow us to know. The Age of Reason gave us “The truths we hold self-evident”; Locke and Jefferson who reached far back to the Apostle Paul as they channeled “The laws of God written on the hearts of men”, who in turn himself had reached deep into history to the Ten Commandments to remind us that life, liberty and property are the bedrock of human existence. That murder is wrong, that prosperous society is built on family, that theft is evil and that the worst of all sins in the world is envy. And finally, the Industrial Revolution broke the backs of the old nobilities to give us that wealth, ‘life more abundant’ and put it within reach of everybody with a good idea and the drive to succeed.

Reason, before our Protestant Enlightenment the Islamic faith had their own enlightenment; it was called the Islamic Golden Age and it was before all philosophical and Aristotelian, driven by that one idea that burns bright in the minds of men; that our faith must be informed by our reason. They called it the Mu’tazila. “The Mu‘tazalites asserted the primacy of reason, and that one’s first duty is to engage in reason and through it, come to know God. They also thought it their duty to understand revelation in a way that comported with reason, so that if something in the Koran seemed inconsistent with reason, it should not be read literally. It should therefore be taken as metaphor or analogy,” says the historian Robert R. Reilly. But the Mu’tazila and its Golden Age, its House of Wisdom – its great and prosperous empire stretching from Cordoba to Baghdad and from the Maghreb to the mountains of Persia and beyond was in the end discarded by reactionaries seeking the soothing balm of ignorance and prejudice to be found in the dark cloud of unknowing. And Islam was lost.

Photo credit: Nikos Niotis via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

Humanity. Our story is a human one, and in that way we are all humanists. Because what is the alternative? A life interpreting the whims of an angry God? John Calvin’s bonfires of human flesh; Ibn Hanbal’s severed heads? It is only our reason which allows us to move beyond these ideas – pawns of each other’s ruthlessness and sadism which we gladly attribute to an unknowing God, or even worse the new gods invented in our university dorm rooms who respond only to that most base of human conditions – victimhood, and that only of the blood running through our veins.

Are we losing our own reason? Are the civilizations built by the ‘liberal’ mind through hard work and sweat of rational debate coming to an end; a philosophy of humanity sacrificed again to our own joyful unknowing? It might appear so – as we enthusiastically destroy monuments to the lessons of our past, good and bad, and as we flirt instead with un-ideas which rest comfortably in the nouveau mysticism of the weak minded.

Back to Calvin and Hanbal, to unknowing and superstition. Somehow we freed ourselves from John Calvin and his angry God; and the neo-Mutazilites are waging a fearless new war against Hanbal’s Salafists and their tradition-worship. It would be a great tragedy if, after so great a battle with ignorance we were to surrender our planned paradise to those engaged in a bait and switch, who preach that our timeless ideas are in fact tired prejudices and worn-out superstitions to be discarded. Whose gods are just as unknowable as Hanbal’s – and just as angry and vicious. If we don’t remain vigilant we might just be in for another “Dark Night of the Soul” – and its accompanying misery.

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