A Sentimental Journey To The Junkyard of Great Ideas
Excuse our innocence. We used to think that great ideas have influence. But they seem to have been tossed in the junkyard by an alarming number of people, who are evidently guided by ideas that are pretty much the opposite of the ones we have in mind.
We missed the originals and grew sentimental about them. So we reflected on their fate. Here is a selection of them, along with what seem to be their current replacements.
Great Idea: The Sanctity of Life
Current Replacement: The Cheapness of Life
Great Idea: Life According to Reason
Current Replacement: Life According to Unreason
Great Idea: The Golden Mean
Current Replacement: Extremes of Every Kind
Great Idea: Thou Shalt Not Kill
Current Replacement: Kill to Make a Point
Great Idea: Love Your Neighbor
Current Replacement: Hate Your Neighbor
Great Idea: Perpetual Peace And Progress
Current Replacement: Perpetual War And Regression
Great Idea: Live and Let Live
Current Replacement: Die and Make Die
Great Idea: The Greatest Happiness for the Greatest Number
Current Replacement: The Greatest Misfortune for the Greatest Number
Great Idea: Sex is Beautiful
Current Replacement: Sex is Shameful
Great Idea: Self-Realization
Current Replacement: Self-Indulgence
Great Idea: Fellow Feeling
Current Replacement: Fellow Indifference
Great Idea: Magna est Veritas
Current Replacement: Minor est Veritas
Obviously, weíre witnessing a historic turn for the worse.
Imagine. Ever since the Renaissance, much of the innocently optimistic human race has assumed that it is, though haltingly, on the road to ever-better days.
Oh, there was always the haunting thought that what collapses once might, in fact, collapse again. But we felt that modernity had built a pretty firm floor under what we consider civilization.
Surprisingly, however, weíve sagged uncomfortably close to a new but curiously different Dark Age. While itís technically competent and scientifically revelatory, itís as brutal and imbecilic as ever.
In fact, technology and science, which are redemptive when used in the service of life, are, as you well know, widely employed all the better to blow your neighbor up.
Clearly, these are times that persuade an optimist to take the long view.
Letís look at the general conduct of the world as we primarily experience it: through the media.
Itís superbly reactive. Let a malefactor or a moron misbehave anywhere, and the occurrence is immediately presented for our reliable outrage.
But, well-intentioned as much of it is, the media is only proactive at the level of uninformed bluster. Itís hardly the enlightened bastion civilization needs against the encroachment of ignorance resurgent.
Even the most highly regarded exponents of reasoned argument who populate the media donít reveal a working knowledge of the ideas necessary for the enlightened guidance of society. Itís as if weíre all supposed to pretend weíre hapless victims who donít know any better.
By default, most of the ideas that civilization is supported by are nowhere present in our everyday global conversation.
Whatís even more troubling is that we donít see a likely remedy.
While the media spreads the conflagration of civilization like yelping idiots bearing torches, the world leaders we have in place seem incapable of showing up with a credible fire hose. At best, they function at the level of point-counterpoint disputation with the barbarians of the age.
Most regrettably, our cognoscenti apparently canít ring the bell on their fire truck and drive to the rescue. What have we but scientists with a babbling childís knowledge of philosophy and art, and philosophers and artists with an antediluvian knowledge of science and its benefits?
So the conflagration of civilization proceeds apace.
If the reversion to barbarism continues, we may have to decide that the human race is a transitional species that is too violent and dumb to last.
Or we can take the long view. As a species, weíre only about 100,000 years old and, despite the trappings of modernity, camped just outside the cave. Maybe in a million or so years weíll leave our invented differences and assorted idiocies behind and actually become the human race.
In the meantime, we can only hope that enough people miss the ideas in the junkyard to reclaim them and make them part of the everyday guidance of what is, without them, a global village in the thrall of violence, superstition, and nuclear dynamite.
By Tom Attea