Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Renaissance of the Primitive

We live in a world of astounding technological and scientific development in which we are experiencing a kind of rebirth, or renewal, of the more primitive aspects of human thought and culture.  This renaissance of the primitive is most evident in religion, where fundamentalism and literalism seem to be in vogue.  The renaissance is not limited to Islam, though its propensity towards violence and intolerance is most apparent due to the efforts of Islamic radicals.  The anti-science, anti-reason wing of American religion is becoming increasingly vocal; we even have elected officials huffing regarding the satanic origins of the theory of evolution and the big bang and proclaiming the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

Of course, there has always been something outrageously primitive about certain of the varieties of American Protestantism.  Too many have been eager to do handsprings down the center aisle, to heal and be healed in dramatic fashion, to loudly be witnesses to their faith in this Great Republic, throughout its history.  But the peculiarities of the old tent shows and TV evangelism are becoming more and more pervasive.

Primitive thinking seems also to be prevalent.  It is perhaps inaccurate to describe what takes place before we emote, speak, text, as thinking at all, but whatever it may be it is simple and crude.  Perhaps this is inevitable given the unstoppable urge we apparently feel to do something and do it quickly.  We have become proponents of immediacy.  And these days, what we do may almost be said to be "written in stone" as it will be there, forever, for anyone to see or otherwise experience, on the Web, or video or audio.  All we do is in perpetuum.  Thus, our technology contributes to the propagation of the primitive.

I cannot help but think that the resurgence of the primitive in our society is caused, at least in part, by the exaltation of emotion and denigration of reason, the romanticism, the relativism, the "deconstruction" which have been the fixation, if not the obsession, of too many who have been considered intellectuals and some who have haunted the halls of the Academy for roughly a century and a half; at least those who have been critical of and indeed resentful of science.  All is narrative, we're told.  We all simply tell stories we call science, or philosophy, and their worth is judged through literary criticism only.  It is unsurprising that faced with such a onslaught against reason and reasonableness, many have reverted to simple beliefs which they are willing to defend and propound regardless of whether they are reasonable, for what good is reason?  We are absolved from exercising judgment, and are losing both the ability and the desire to judge intelligently.

Intolerance is inevitable when it is impossible to dispute beliefs.  When it is futile to question the soundess of claims, one claim being just as good as any other, claims are not subject to thought but instead are defended without thought, i.e. physically. 

While we employ reason in addressing certain problems, those related to our physical comfort and technology, because reason clearly benefits us in those respects in ways most of us find desirable, we ignore it in determining what we should do, how we should live and interact with others and the universe of which we are a part.

I think a bang is more likely than a whimper, now.

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