Notes philosophy politics

Chapter 7: The Humanist Revolution (Homo Deus)

While the modern deal does not include deriving meaning from a cosmic plan, it does allow you to derive meaning independently – and this is how humanism succeeds what came before it.

For ages, prophets and philosophers thought that the death of God would pose a great threat to law and order. But today, Muslim Syria is much more violent than atheist Netherlands.

Humanism states that personal and universal meaning can be derived from internal experiences.

The rise of humanism was a result of centuries of hard work by writers and thinkers who dispelled the notion that humans were merely corruptible beings who could not determine what was considered good or beautiful. Today, ‘the voter knows best’ and ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ are accepted truths.

The death of God proclaimed by Nietzsche describes a world where God has become an abstract idea that people accept or reject.

It used to be that knowledge = scripture + logic, today knowledge = empirical data * mathematics

A formula for ethical knowledge appeared. Knowledge = experiences * sensitivity

This formula has also changed the way we see war. Historical narratives war of Shakespeare, Homer, and Virgil described what the emperors and heroes did. Ordinary soldiers were just a detail. But over the last two hundred years, the emperors have been pushed aside, and the feelings of soldiers have become important, as described in films such as Platoon, All Quiet on the Western Front, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and Blackhawk Down.

It is liberal politics that believes the voter knows best. Liberal art holds that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Liberal economics maintains that the customer is always right. Liberal ethics advises us that if it feels good, we should go ahead and do it. Liberal education teaches us to think for ourselves, because we will find all the answers within us.

The Humanist Wars of Religion

There are three types of humanism and each would respond differently to the following question: Who made better music, Beethoven or Chuck Berry?

Liberal humanism: It all depends on what your feelings tell you.

Socialist humanism: it doesn’t matter because musical tastes are defined social forces acting on people.

Evolutionary humanism: Clearly Beethoven, he is superior in quality.

These groups blamed each other for the world’s problems for almost a century, and battles for control. Communist and Fascist regimes took over many countries where liberal ideas were exposed as naïve if not dangerous. Just give people freedom and they will live in peace? Yeah right.

The Second World War started off has a conflict between a mighty liberal alliance and an isolated Nazi Germany. Now we remember it as a great liberal victory, but it hardly looked like that at the time. The liberal alliance had a higher GDP than Germany.

Eventually, the Germans lost because the liberal countries allied themselves with the Soviet Union, which paid a higher price for the conflict. 25 million Soviet citizens died, compared to half a million Britons and half a million Americans.

Communism deserves a lot of credit for the defeat of Nazism, it was also the great beneficiary of the war, at least in the short term.

The Soviet Union was an isolated communist pariah and emerged out of the war as one of two global superpowers, and the leaders of an expanding international bloc (Eastern Europe, China). Revolutionary and anti-colonial groups look admiringly at Moscow and Beijing, while identifying liberals as the racist European empires.

These empires, when they collapsed, were replaced by military dictators or socialist regimes, not liberal democracies. Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, famously said to the liberal West ‘Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you!”

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, many Third world leaders and First World intellectuals believed this to be true. The world ‘liberal’ was a term of abuse in many universities in the West. Students in Europe and the U.S hung Che Guevara’s heroic portrait over their beds.

 In 1968 the wave crested with the outbreak of protests and riots all over the Western world. Mexican security forces killed dozens of students in the notorious Tlatelolco Massacre, students in Rome fought the Italian police in the so-called Battle of Valle Giulia, and the assassination of Martin Luther King sparked days of riots and protests in more than a hundred American cities. In May students took over the streets of Paris, President de Gaulle fled to a French military base in Germany, and well-to-do French citizens trembled in their beds, having guillotine nightmares.

By 1970, the world had 130 countries, only 30 of them were liberal democracies.

In 1975, the liberal camped suffered its most humiliating defeat. The war ended with the North Vietnamese David defeating the North American Goliath. Soon after, the communism took over Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

People all over the world watched as helicopters evacuated the last Americans from the rooftop of the American Embassy in Saigon. Many were sure that the American Empire was falling, and this was right before Gandhi proclaimed the Emergency in India – it looked like the world’s largest democracy was turning into another socialist dictatorship.

Liberal democracy increasingly looked like an exclusive club for ageing white imperialists, who had little to offer the rest of the world, or even their own youth. Washington presented itself as the leader of the free world, but most of its allies were either authoritarian kings (such as King Khaled of Saudi Arabia, King Hassan of Morocco and the Persian shah) or military dictators.

Despite this support, the Warsaw Pact had numerical superiority militarily. Liberal democracy was only saved by nuclear weapons, NATO adopted the doctrine of MAD (mutual assured destruction), which promised to respond to any Soviet attack with an all-out nuclear strike.

After the 1970’s, which belonged to Socialism, everything changed.

Liberal democracy crawled out of history’s dustbin, cleaned itself up and conquered the world. Tge supermarket proved to be far stronger than the gulag.

It began in southern Europe, where authoritarian regimes in Greece, Portugal, and Spain collapsed, giving way to democratic governments. In 1977 Ghandi ended the Emergency and re-established Indian democracy. During the 1980’s, democratic governments replaced military dictatorships in South America and in South East Asia (Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan, South Korea). In the late 1980’s and early 1990s, the liberal wave became a tsunami, sweeping away the mighty Soviet empire.

As the Soviet Empire imploded, communist regimes everywhere were replaced.

If a liberal had fallen asleep in June 1914 and woken up in June 2014, he or she would have felt very much at home.

Once again, people belief in individual freedom, and that world peace would result from it.

The entire twentieth century looks like a big mistake. Humankind was speeding on the liberal highway back in the summer of 1914, when it took a wrong turn and entered a cul-de-sac. It then needed eight decades and three horrendous global wars to find its way back to the highway. Of course, these decades were not a total waste, as they did give us antibiotics, nuclear energy and computers, as well as feminism, de-colonialism and free sex… In the early twenty-first century, this is the only show in town.

Read Homo Deus

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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