Thursday, November 26, 2015

A few words on fundamentalism

Fundamentalism is an outlook that habitually fuses religious and worldly motivations, so we should be extremely cautious before taking the self-justifications of any fundamentalist at face value. 

Just because the Paris attackers claimed to be acting in the interests of their faith should not blind us to the fact that a purely religious interpretation of what they did is perhaps the least plausible. 

Relevant thinkers in our own political back-story such as Hobbes and Harrington looked upon the partisan fanatics of their own days and understood that much of their assertion of divine sanction was most often a mere cloak for barely-sublimated earthly objectives. 

On this day that Americans cast a rose-tinted glance back at their fundamentalist founding fathers, let us remember that the great irony of Puritanism was that in seeking to impose a fixed and intolerant vision on society, it created just the right amount of abject chaos that pluralism and tolerance were able to take shape, largely inadvertently, and to be accepted as important elements of social cohesion. 

Up until this point the only known solution to the largely negative impact of competing worldviews in post-medieval Europe had been autocratic rule. Nobody really pushed freedom of conscience as a political programme until it became rather a fact of life by default. In banning dancing, music and the like, the Puritans were in some senses Talibanesque, but they were beset by so many theological contortions, that they ended up with little option other than grudging mutual acceptance. 

In a week in which the British Parliament gets ready to vote on whether bombing should be part of the long-term solution to fundamentalism in the middle east, it should be noted that in many instances totalist systems are inherently self-degrading. It's just a shame that the Nazi metaphor continues to trump all those others, where all the pluralists had to do really was sit and wait. 

Anyway, it's a matter of record tat out of the intolerance of the men and women who sat down to munch on the first Thanksgiving turkey, there would emerge a current within western thinking where noncomformism and dissent could mean something more like common sense than customised delusion and bloodymindedness.  

Of course, in much of America it still means...