The Three Greatest Threats to Freedom, Civilization and Survival
For those who don't like reading, here are the three short answers: religious fundamentalism; electronic media; climate change.
I have written extensively about the first and the third, and less about the second (see my recent LOL announcement). Tragically all of these threats represent innate human tendencies that no longer have adaptive value and which in fact are counteradaptive, if not to survival then to the values and institutions that support humanity. Few people examine the implications of their belief system, their computer or their consumption habits, at least to any significant degree that might cause them to rebel or reject these.
In some cases the motivations that cause people to support one of these and oppose another are actually contradictory. For example, religious fundamentalism (and I consider that of Islam to be by far the gravest threat today) requires the suspension of reason and inquiry and the submission to an abstract doctrine that has no objective evidence of validity. On the other hand, those who believe that climate change is actually happening are relying on scientific and empirical evidence. As for electronic media, the social impact of these mirrors that of the frog placed in a pot of cold water that is slowly brought to a boil. We are now at low to medium hot and there are no signs that the temperature is being stabilized or reduced.
A minority of people are in some kind of initial rebellion against all three but lack the tools to counteract them and in most cases have not yet done a serious analysis of their implications, because the ultimate impact on them as individuals is blurred or occurs in tiny incremental steps over a long period of time when they are the frog in the pot. Another minority of people, such as Richard Heinberg, Dmitry Orlov, James Kunstler and Jan Lundberg, and a handful of organizations such as the Post Carbon Institute, have already leap-frogged into dramatic conclusions about the future of human kind, and their prognosis is not encouraging. I count myself among their number.
The ultimate extent of damage from these three threats cannot be fully perceived at this time, but it behooves us to examine more closely the impacts that have already occurred. Unfortunately these are not (yet) physically painful threats to individuals but threats to the values and institutions which shape and govern their lives. In the case of secular western democracies, in which I would include Australia and New Zealand, it is becoming quite clear that democracy itself is threatened by radical Islam and by a denial of the climate change crisis that will necessitate a totalitarian response in the not too distant future because of our failure to act today.
This may be difficult to accept for many people, and especially for those whose personal ethical and political views prevent them from being sufficiently and brutally honest, such as Political Correctness and traditional notions of peace, tolerance and cultural diversity. On the climate change front, the leftist, libertarian and anarchist conspiracy theories and responses that finger corporations and American "imperialism" preclude any sane meaningful action and explicitly exonerate the less developed world as well as American consumers and citizens from any responsibility for the environmental or human rights crises.
At this moment, in this country and to a somewhat lesser extent in western Europe, many liberals have adopted a kind of "avoidance therapy" to deny evil even when it stares them in the face. This is a flawed inheritance left over from the old peace movement of the Cold War, enhanced by the refusal of religious leaders to even admit that evil exists at all, and the abominable cultural relativism of the Marxist post-modernists who have taken control of our social sciences since the 1930s and excel at the rationalization of evil while refusing to support the basic principles of universal human rights and personal liberty, a rationalization that has codified itself into a neo-fascism of the left.
This cadre of leftist apologists for tyranny is mirrored on the right by the climate doubters and deniers. Their investment is more economic than social; these are the blind supporters of (and beneficiaries of) unbridled capitalism and the free market, who have, rightly, identified the threat of environmentalism and ecological thought as hostile to their own accumulation of wealth, status and position in society, i.e. hostile to economic growth per se. They understand clearly, as the left does not, what the battle to mitigate climate change means for them personally and for their class. This class is now much larger and more diversified than the old notion of class, which was more or less defined by inherited wealth. Today there is a vast class of entrepreneurs and self-made billionaires who emerged from the working and middle class and have thrown their lot in with the financial and technocratic classes. (See the latest issue of The Atlantic on this global elite). Their success requires a breadth of consumer conformity unprecedented in human history, hence the proliferation of cheap electronic media and devices. It is Brave New World, 1984, 2001 and Stewart Brand's space colonies all rolled in one. And nearly everyone is joining the book-burning party of this new "Nazism with a smiley face".
It is this class which is not only attracting more adherents but dripping with material and consumerist appeal to the rest of the us who are needed to buy into their dream and their products. This is the electronic "social media" threat, the new Fahrenheit 451, that is throwing out what we thought were durable, time-tested artifacts of culture like books and personal contact, in favor of mediating and surrogate electronic technologies. If you don't think this is a threat to civilization, then look at it this way: what if there had never been written or oral means of handing down information from one generation to another? Where do you think humanity would be today?
If you are one of those who think the TED debates, Aspen Institute, Institute for the Future, and electronic blogs constitute real human progress or knowledge, then you will dismiss everything I say. But you do it at your own risk. I also suspect that like the nuclear scientists of yore, a humongous amount of self-interest and rationalization has to exist in order for educated intelligent people to ignore the dark side of electronic media. The success of American economic and media culture is owed to the ability of a democratic free market society to absorb millions into its craw and thus make them dependent on and defensive of that culture. The black community is witness to this absorption; it is no longer a rarity to see blacks at the top of the corporate and investment structures. I am reminded of a wonderful line in that film "My Beautiful Laundrette" which deals with Indian immigrants to the UK. The son is now assimilated but his father, an older, philosophical and thoughtful man puzzled by this brave new world, is not, and raises the issue of race with his son, who replies: "Race does not matter in the new enterprise society". And this film was made in the 1980s!
The Cornwall Alliance (below) combines religious fanaticism with the free marketeers, though they do not overtly combine these two. Nonetheless the inference is there: that the "Green Dragon" is going to devour American capitalism and society. The undercurrent of irrationalism, anti-evolutionary and anti-science thought is quite clear. While this unholy Alliance reeks of Christianity, it is no different from fundamentalism Islam and its jihad against the entire non-Muslim world that aspires to impose the Muslim caliphate globally.
Many liberals, including some with whom I have conversed, see fundamental Christianity as a greater threat than radical Islam, but they are making a serious mistake. In this country and in western Europe, far greater inroads into our legal system, schools, media and civic institutions are being made by Muslims. This "stealth jihad" is a far greater threat to our democracy and Constitution than fundamental Christianity, against which our court system, secular traditions, separation of religion and state, and science community have proven triumphant. Fed by the Muslim Brotherhood and the bottomless wealth of Saudi radicals, radical Islamic "stealth jihad" is aided witlessly by the moral timidity and Political Correctness of our media and our present federal government who, on the one hand, are justifiably fearful of a major terrorist act against our cities or infrastructure, but apparently quite happy to allow radical Islam inroads into our civilian and military defense systems as well as permit the erosion of our legal system and civil liberties, in the name of "multiculturalism" and religious tolerance. Right now, in mosques across this country, seditious materials promoting sharia law as the supreme law of this country are daily currency but our government pretends not to notice.
It takes cojones to face down the enemy and face up to false prophets. Too many people have a stake in the status quo. Too many people are ready to sign on to the devil's deal. Too many people have no other choice. But posting to blogs is not an adequate response when the waters are crashing over the top of the dam. If ever we needed the visionaries of our founding fathers, and defenders of the principles they gave to us, it is right now.
"Resistance is fertile".