(Sorry to those who say I don’t post enough. Afraid I don’t get time to write for the magazines that pay cash, let alone for my private amusement. But it is – Time for another Rant I think. Enjoy.)
Fundamentalism in the modern world has many forms.
Bad journalists imagine it is restricted to foaming at the mouth religious fanatics. (And many don't understand that most religious people aren't remotely fundamentalist.)
Slightly less bad academics and politicians concede that there are many forms of fundamentalism, including: radical politicians; rabid environmentalists; extremist right-to-lifers/euthanasia enthusiasts; foam flecked global warmers/denialists; anti-smoking fanatics (that last pretty much includes me by the way); and even natural birth, and ‘people who don’t feed their baby real breast milk should be publicly shamed’ fascists.
In fact any position can become a fundamentalist position, by the simple process of moving it from an ‘I prefer’ statement, to a ‘people should’ statement, to a ‘we must make people do X’ statement.
There are whole industries of lobbyists in the world campaigning for governments to ‘make people do X’. Some of them actually believe that they are doing good!
At it’s simplest level this can lead to a voluntary vegetarian, who once accepted that most people don’t make the same choice; becoming an obnoxious Vegan who preaches intolerance of meat eating; and finishing as a violent lunatic who feels morally justified in poisoning the food chain elements they don’t approve of. Any intellectual, emotional or moral position – religious, political, whatever – can become a fundamentalist position if you believe in it too passionately.
A fundamentalist position is simply that which gives you the right, or duty, to walk over other people’s rights.
In fact the only common thread that unites fundamentalists of all sorts, is their rock hard belief that their preferred way of doing things is so obviously to everyone’s benefit, that they should enforce it on everyone else for their own good.
It is intellectually very lazy to imagine that the only version of fundamentalism must be the same as it was in the sixteenth century when the insular Western European countries with little exposure to the outside world were fighting religious wars between Roman and Orthodox and Protestant divisions. Their definition – the Shorter Oxford definition – ‘Strict adherence to traditional orthodox tenets’ (usually meaning scripture), was then felt to be specifically opposed to ‘liberalism’ or ‘modernism’.
In practice of course that converts easily to Muslim fundamentalism. Fair enough.
However it converts equally easily to many other things that are ‘anti-liberal’ and ‘anti-modern’.
I attended a funeral recently for an academic who was a proud Marxist his whole life, but who nonetheless always felt that he was on the side of the angels because he also felt passionate about ‘Aboriginal separatism’ and ‘Multiculturalism’, and other trendy anti-liberal and anti-modern movements. Appalling ideological claptrap that divides and poison societies, and impoverishes the poor benighted ‘victims’ of the modern world back to the idealised illiteracy and unemployment from which they were otherwise escaping through the horrors of ‘integration’ into a modern society.
I have attended other funerals where the Comrades actually get up and sing the Internationale at the end, and shed genuine tears about the fact that the appalling mass murdering regimes of the Communist heroes of their youth still need a bit of ‘perfecting’ before the ‘Revolution’ remakes the whole world. (Yes they actually still say this stuff, I am not making it up!)
Of course none of the die-hard Socialists seem to understand when I point out that their unforgiving (and unforgivable) extremism is in no way different to that of the Nazi’s (the National Socialist Workers Party to give it it's full idealist title) or any other version of Fascism.
Lunatic political extremists, whether they pretend to be Communist or Fascist, or of the supposed Left or of the theoretical Right (and I still don’t see much difference between them apart form the quality of their tailors), are just evil.
Even when they imagine they are nobly campaigning to save us all.
ESPECIALLY when they imagine they are nobly campaigning to save us all.
My occasional writing partner – Lorenzo – makes a big distinction when he talks about the different elements of the Enlightenment. He points out that there are two types of Enlightenment.
There is the English style Liberal Enlightenment sometimes called the ('moderate' enlightenment according to sceptics like Jonathan Israel), accepts that people are people, so we can only do the best we can do to get them to all agree and play happily together.
Then there is the European style Radical Enlightenment, which believes that the only way to make people play well together is to change them, by molding them into better people. Into people who are designed, built, trained, and FORCED, to fit the correct mould.
If you are a victim of the superficial attractions of the fuzzy idealism of the Radical Enlightemnment, you probably believe that the state, and its education and punishment systems, are there to make people fit into a ‘socially desirable’ mould.
(If so, you are probably very happy with the deterioration of the Australian public school system to the point that political correctness is considered far more important than literacy or numeracy. You probably are appalled that so many parents want to put their children in private schools where they might learn to red and write. You probably campaign loudly against public funding for private schools. I bet you want to make sure no taxpayer money goes to anything that the people who pay taxes might want, but instead only to what reinforces your comfortable ideological preferences... you... you... whoops, time for a cold shower and a lie down I think...)
If you are such a person, you usually call yourself by benign titles like ‘socialist’, or a ‘multi-culturalist’; or perhaps by titles that have gone out of fashion but mean exactly the same sort of state intervention in people’s lives like ‘Eugenicist’ or ’White Man’s Burden’ worker; or perhaps you even still hang grimly on to the ultimate idealism of sickening movements like Communism or Fascism. (See any recent European news for samples of both.)
No matter which of these fantasies you are attached to, you become a dangerous fundamentalist the second you believe that ‘the world would be a better place if everyone thought the same way’.
Or, as the great social commentator of the modern media – Joss Whedon – put it, in the immortal word’s of Captian Reynold’s (in the movie Serenity)…
“Sure as I know anything, I know this. They will try again… a year from now, ten, they will swing back to the belief that they can Make People Better…”
No matter how many times they fail, or how appalling the results, 'they' keep believing that their idealistic fantasy just needs a bit of ‘perfecting’. It is simply beyond their comprehension that you cannot build a stable, or indeed sane, system on Radical Enlightenment beliefs.
The Liberal Enlightenment gave birth to the dozens of Constitutional Monarchies of the older parts of the British Commonwealth, or of the Protestant parts of Northern Europe – Scandinavia and Benelux etc. Countries that, despite their whacky, cobbled together and often unwritten constitutions, have generally had between two and five centuries of internal peace and economic development. (Unless attacked or invaded by their Radical Enlightenment neighbours.)
The Radical Enlightenment gave birth to the – literally – hundreds of ‘Republics’ that tend to break down into political chaos, dictatorship, civil war, mass murder or genocide of their own people’s, or just violent attacks on all their neighbours. Usually within twenty years of being founded.
From the French Terror to the Napoleonic wars; from the Weimar Republic to the Nazi state; from the Soviet Socialist Republics of XXX, to the Muslim Republics of XXX, to almost any post WWII African or Asian republic you care to name – including most ‘new Commonwealth’ ones; or indeed the interwar Western European or postwar Eastern European ones.
The four, FOUR, successful republics out of the hundreds of failures _ that have not been just tiny city states like Singapore – are: Switzerland, Finland, Israel, and Botswana. Three that held together mainly because they were monocultures under constant threat from invaders for most of their existence, and the third an effective tribal monarchy even if it is not called one.
(The United States is the standout weirdo of the modern world… enough English Liberal Enlightenment in its legal structure to keep it to only a single Civil War – and only 600,000 dead – despite the unstable French Radical Enlightenment elements in it’s constitution. But if you watch the US Congress – Liberal Enlightenment – and President – Radical Enlightenment – systems in conflict recently it constantly amazes that it works at all…)
You cannot build a state purely on Radical Enlightenment ideals, which is why all such states run in to trouble sooner or later. Usually much sooner. Which just reinforces why the US hybrid state and other Radical Enlightenment states (even functional Constitutional Monarchy states like Australia that should know better) trying to force illiterate tribal cultures in Central America and Asia and Africa and – more recently – the Middle East: to become ‘democratic republics’ has been so woefully unsuccessful. (And which has also dropped the average survival of modern ‘republics’ to even lower levels, because the ‘imposed’ idealistic republics are even less successful than the ‘revolutionary’ idealistic ones.)
Fundamentalism is not just political parties however, it is anything, any movement, that leaves no room for debate.
Watching once proud Universities completely give up on the idea of freedom of debate, when they ban an internationally respected group of free-thinkers from Australian campuses has been very scary. NOT banned for ‘climate denialism’ you will note, but for merely suggesting that there might be better ways to look at climate activism than the incredibly, stupidly, simplistic responses: ‘It's all carbon and only carbon, and nothing else, and there is only one possible way to reduce that, and there will be no discussion or debate no matter how much the accumulating evidence shows that all our models are wrong, wrong wrong…” Very weird fundamentalism. Stupid, dangerous, probably evil, certainly futile, fundamentalism.
Watching so called ‘Feminists’ loudly proclaim all the world’s problems as being exclusively the fault of Western White Men, while studiously referring to the many other repressive cultural practices in the world as 'culturally relevant' is perplexing. When the truly wicked misogynist, slavers and sex exploiters (and sex slavers) of the Muslim world are referred to as ‘victims', it's incomprehensible. Stupid, dangerous, definitely evil, certainly futile, fundamentalism.
Watching people who have had a century and a half of experience of just how appalling and evil Socialist regimes – whether called Communism or Fascism – are, and how they enslave, impoverish and torture their own citizens: call for more attempts at the ‘perfect’ socialism, truly makes you wonder where we could find enough padded cells to lock such pathetically intellectually lazy loonatics up.
If years… decades… centuries of historical evidence proves, PROVES, that you are wrong to keep thinking that this nice simplistic sounding solution is the obvious way to go… LEARN.
It is all very well to say that ‘if you are not a socialist at 20, you don’t have a heart, but if you are still one at 40, you don’t have a brain’. Children simply do not understand consequences (and should not get the vote until they are old enough to do so, and can prove they contribute to the wellbeing of the society… but that’s another post). But supposed adults who cling to overly simplistic idealistic claptrap because they are too intellectually limited, or lazy, to see or assess the endless evidence that they are wrong to believe in such stupidities, are very dangerous.
If they become fundamentalist believers in this crap, they are actively evil.
Myself, I am an unashamed Liberal Enlightenment follower. I think that people, good or bad, are people. We can attempt the best compromises we can to get them all to play nice. But we have to accept they are only compromises, and can only be imperfect.
If you believe that there can be no compromises, and that there should be no need for compromises, but only the one true perfect and inevitable solution to every X… then you are a fundamentalist.
No mater what you think you are aiming for, you, and concerned, well meaning (and very intellectually lazy) people like you: are in fact those most responsible for the religious persecution, political violence, enforced separatism, illiteracy, and empoverishment, that pulls against the liberal, integrating, and potentially universally uplifting efforts of the modern world.
Or at least, self-righteous smug bastards like me can believe you are.