Clive James on Humanism

In an edited extract from his latest essay collection, Cultural Amnesia, Clive James ponders the triumph of humanism.

The ideologists thought they understood history. They thought history had a shape, a predictable outcome, a direction that could be joined. They were wrong. Some were intellectuals who shamed themselves and their calling by bringing superior mental powers to the defence of misbegotten political systems that were already known to be dispensing agony to the helpless. The way to avoid the same error now is not through understanding less. It can only be through understanding more. The getting of wisdom is a hard road. Most of us are not equipped by nature to travel it at high speed, and some of us must crawl like babies. Our chafed hands and knees can easily make us wonder if the journey is worth it... The world is turning into one big liberal democracy anyway. Terrorism will punch angry holes in it, but in the long run nothing will stop the planetary transformation. Even if armed with a secondhand atomic bomb, an obscurantist can do nothing for the poor. Most of the poverty on Earth is caused by the number of people being born who would ordinarily never have been conceived. Prosperity gave them life. All too frequently the life seems not worth living, but when we cry out at the injustice we are asking for more democracy, not less.
James always reads better to me when he takes the high overview - when he gets down to the nitty-gritty level he loses me.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 18, 2007 9:58 AM.

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