The Age of Reason that was achieved in Europe originated during the Period of Enlightenment is and was not unique to the Western culture, such had occurred before and hopefully will continue to appear anyplace where it has either never existed or been lost due to decline of a civilization. The form of reason to which I refer is that which holds personhood as one of the central and most vital of all resources and as such worthy of protection and empowerment. This is the sort of reasoning upon which freedoms and liberties are based and without which civilization reverts to some form of barbarism, be it based upon tribes, clans, religion, idolatry, or other identity through which all who are considered as outside or the other are considered unworthy of protection for their lives, freedoms, liberties or even kindness. Such enlightenment is currently most prevalent in the advanced industrial nations of the West, a number of eastern cultures and is coming into its own in a select number of developing nations who are embracing the ideals of equality under the law, equality of opportunity, acceptance of differences and other central pillars of an enlightened society.
Many who preach about enlightened societies like to put forward the canard that such societies are relatively new to the civilized world. The truth of the matter is that enlightened societies have existed numerous times throughout human history; they just usually fell before the rampaging conquest by more brutal and barbarous tribe, hordes or other equally infamous descriptors. Some examples of such enlightened societies would be the Hebrews when they actually followed their biblical laws and performed mitzvah and kept their religion and its limitations as their guide in life, the Greeks (actually Macedonians) under Alexander, Rome to some extent before they went off the rails and anointed Caesars and gave them god-like stature, some of the many dynasties in both China and Japan and those societies which were guided by Buddhism in its most benevolent forms and likely others. In each of these societies the freedoms and liberties that are usually present in an enlightened society were often reserved for citizens and only rarely and most often to a lesser extent actually extended to all who resided within the boundaries of the State or Empire. The one major problem which cursed these earliest of enlightened societies was the distance between the central governance and most of the rest of the society. This allowed for some of the provinces and cities more distant to not necessarily live up to the higher standards set at the heart of the kingdom. This is one of the reasons that it is claimed that truly enlightened societies were impossible before faster means of travel and electronic communications allowed for universal application of centralized governance to enforce the laws uniformly. Where this is somewhat true, communication has been capable of sufficient speed for some time. All that was necessary was the organization and desire to set up routes of communications.
There has been a lot written and said about the need for Islam to go through a reformation such as Europe experienced with the reformation of the Catholic Church, the founding of Protestant forms of Christianity which called for a more enlightened and accepting Church, and the spread and final acceptance of the scientific revolution as a result of the Renaissance with its injection into the society of critical thinking. I like to claim that the pinnacle of achievement of the entirety of the Enlightenment, Renaissance and political evolution was the Declaration of Independence which led to the formation of the United States. The Magna Carta was a giant step forward in this evolution of societies which actually was very likely a necessary step in the processes which led to the Declaration of Independence as was British Common Law. Do not take this as claiming that the United States itself is or has been the pinnacle of human endeavor and accomplishment for that is not my intention. The United States has had a remarkable history both due to and despite its actions. The United States were not the first of governments to abolish slavery which negates their record being spotless. The mere fact that slavery was permitted leaves the United States as having been imperfect and to this day the United States can work and improve upon its current state of affairs. What makes the United States special is its unique ethics and the fact that it has accepted that it is an experiment in the self-rule by men of men and that it must necessarily continue to experiment and seek new ways to extend and broaden the freedoms and liberties for which it was intended at its formation. This was the apparent wishes of those who were the men. The political philosophers, social philosophers, pragmatists, dreamers, master of poetry and prose, and people from as varied a set of backgrounds and professions as ever collected in one endeavor, who together forged the trifecta of documents; the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights; which began what has thus far been the grandest of accomplishments in self-governance by man known as the United States. These people of great visions wrote in their diaries and the letters exchanged between them of their hopes and dreams and of what could be in the future if only those who followed them kept true to their inspired causes and dreams. They knew what they had produced was imperfect but, as stated by Winston Churchill, “Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Since the earliest of societies which contained elements of what today is recognized as an enlightened society, it was not until the latter half of the Twentieth Century that global conditions had reached a point where one ideology could conceivably rule all of planet Earth. This also means that only in the most recent period of history has the potential to eradicate all vestiges of enlightened society been a possibility, perhaps not viewed as likely, but still a possibility. Such would be the case if the central societies which are the wellspring from which such ideal and ideas flow were to be eradicated by conquest or simply through malicious destruction simply to deny these societies of having any direct influence of the future. The most obvious attempts in the recent past which had as their central pillar the replacing enlightened societies, which valued freedoms and liberties for the individual with self-determination an option for each as the driving force in their lives, with centralized power dictating every facet and decision in each person’s life were Nazism and Communism. In both of these instances it took a total commitment by the powers and protectors of enlightened rule to defeat these threats. In each case there was a great expense made in lives and treasure in order to initially slow and eventually stop the spread of these dehumanizing governances and then the eventual defeat, though some vestiges of both remain to the present day. It may be noted that communism still holds in its grip a fair percentage of the human race while, fortunately, Nazism has been eradicated from being the governing force over any country, for now. But is there a new force, or the resurgence of an old force, that is threatening the continuation of an enlightened society’s presence in the World? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Islam is the current threat and challenge to the ideal of an enlightened society where the individual is empowered and holds the largest influence over their own actions, desires, opportunities and everything else which defines them, their place in the society and their opportunities and path they follow. What makes this even more sad is that for close to half a millennium Islam served as the keeper of the enlightened view of governance and society. It was under Islam that the individual was empowered to think freely and where new concepts were not immediately dismissed out of hand as blasphemous. Now Islam is the enemy of such thoughts, freedoms, liberties and individualism. Modern day Islam has a rigid system where the society assigns the individual’s place in the order of things and dictates virtually every action from waking to sleeping. Independent thinking and personal liberties are not permitted under Sharia, Islamic Law. Islam has even gone so far as to define themselves as the antithesis of all that the West holds dear. The leaders of Islamic society have stated unequivocally that their biggest desire is to unseat the Western society’s grip on the world and replace what is today considered enlightened laws with their Sharia Law and the accompanying stringent restriction on personal actions and freedoms to do as one believes is best for themselves and instead force all into a mold of what the Quran defines as the perfect man or woman. No leeway, no wiggle room, a set in stone parched existence serving Islam and being a good Muslim exactly as written in the Quran. And the possibility that they will succeed is far higher than I am comfortable with facing.
The reason that Islam stands a better than average chance to overtake the enlightened societies of the Western industrialized nations is very simple, the industrialized Western societies are currently experiencing an identity crisis. Much of the West, especially Europe and the United States, are unsure of what they stand for and where it is they intend to proceed going into the future. And the leadership of the Islamic World has noted the confusion and weakened will of the West and knows that their best opportunity to take over not only the West, but the entire globe is very likely better right at this moment than it will ever likely be again. In Europe there is a monetary crisis that has many of the nations at each other’s throats over who can finance who and can they expect payment of these loans in the future or will they simply disappear as new debt is rolled up by the countries with the weakest economies. The United States has a President who believes that the biggest problem in the world today is that the United States was trying to police everybody else and spread their culture even where it was not acceptable to the elite or leadership of other nations. In response to the United States having been such a dominant power, President Obama has withdrawn the United States from the lead and taken the position of leading from behind. The main problem with this approach is that the rest of the enlightened and industrialized world does not have a true and real leading country other than the United States and such is not about to change in the near future. Should President Obama be reelected to a second term the West may not survive a free world without any leadership. The United States was the combination of the rudder and the keel and without these two essential parts; the free world’s ship has no direction and is threat of being capsized by a sufficiently large shock, a large wave. There was likely never a worse time for the presumable enlightened Western World to have a full blown identity crisis, yet that is apparently their state at this time. The socialists are attempting to undermine individuality and replace the individual with the collective and individual desires and pursuits with the collective good. This tug-of-war between the collectivists and the individualists, especially those rugged, go-it-alone, individualists, is simply tearing the fabric of Western enlightened society to shreds. Many on the extremist elements in the far left have gone so far as to ally with the Islamist interests as they see in them a kindred group who also seek to pull down the individualists and traditionalists of the enlightened society and replace it. Many of them are not oblivious to the fact that the Islamists are diametrically opposed to most of the leftist collective moral relativism and acceptance of alternate lifestyles, but they are betting that when the time comes they will be able to reason and compromise with those who wish to implement Sharia and thus be enabled of implementing a collective society which reflects their multicultural, morally relativist, universal acceptance, free love society and the Islamic influences will be accepting because they will have worked together. If they think that they are facing resistance from those who oppose them in the current Western society then they are going to be acquainted with something that in comparison makes their current situation appear to be all flowers and incense. The one saving grace may be that the enlightened West has been in disarray before and then faced a threat to their core beliefs and entire existence and responded in an appropriate manner with the zeal and confidence necessary to survive and defeat the efforts of those who would have completely erased their society from the face of the Earth. What they had better wake up and realize is that the current threat is actually the greatest one the enlightened Western society has ever faced. This time the forces against enlightenment actually realize and know their side is the side of death and darkness, and this time they celebrate these facts. That makes this time very different though the manner of defense may be very similar to past times. Whatever may come, if the enlightened society has a future, it has to solidify and realize that none of its internal squabbles have a nickel’s worth of meaning in the fight to come which will be for all the marbles. I know, never mix and compare nickels and marbles, it confuses people and we need to clear away any confusing fog and take a close and unobstructed scrutiny of what the immediate future is threatening.
Beyond the Cusp