Today, media commentators, intellectuals and politicians declare that western science and rationality are threatened by irrational enemies. Evangelicals, postmodernists, and Islamists are on the march, they say. The Rome that science built is under siege. But there’s a problem with these stirring attempts to defend the truth. They aren’t true.
In this urgent new book, Dan Hind confronts the great machinery of deception in which we live, and which now threatens to destroy our civilization. In particular, he takes to task a group of prominent intellectuals who have exaggerated the threat posed by the so-called forces of unreason—religion, postmodernism and other “mumbo-jumbo.” The commentators, says Hind, distract us from much more pressing threats to an open democratic society based on freedom of speech and inquiry.
This book shows that the real threats to reason aren’t wacky or foreign or stupid; they reside in our state and corporate bureaucracies — and, one way or another, they probably pay your salary. In recovering the idea of Enlightenment, Hind explores its vital importance and reveals how it can help us to achieve a truly democratic politics, in which we have a genuine say in the decisions that are taken on our behalf.
Paperback, 198 pages
$15.95 / £7.99
Although cautious of the fact that any single, unified explanation for this civil unrest is unlikely to be forthcoming, Hind urges that we cannot treat recent events as mere 'mindless' violence, devoid of political or social meaning.
[..]broadly, any breakdown of civil order is inescapably political. Quite large numbers of mostly young people have decided that, on balance, they want to take to the streets and attack the forces of law and order, damage property or steal goods. Their motives may differ - they are bound to differ. But their actions can only be understood adequately in political terms.
Hind notes that although the rioting may take on the guise of political meaning through the opportunism of politicians and commentators; root causes are at risk of being ignored in the sensationalist media reporting and political point-scoring that will undoubtedly emerge in the aftermath of the unrest.
Highlighting the high rates of youth unemployment, economic inequality, and cuts to youth services, the article draws attention to the deeper meaning of the riots. Speaking of these issues, Hind writes:
All this is the consequence of decisions made by governments and there is little hope of rapid improvement. The same politicians now denouncing the mindless violence of the mob all supported a system of political economy that was as unstable as it was pernicious. They should have known that their policies would lead to disaster. They didn't know. Who then is more mindless?
[...]Those who want to see law and order restored must turn their attention to a menace that no amount of riot police will disperse; a social and political order that rewards vandalism and the looting of public property, so long as the perpetrators are sufficiently rich and powerful.
Vist Al Jazeera to read the full article.
Visit Mother Jones for a basic summary of the causes and effects of the rioting, including a reference to Dan Hind's Al Jazeera piece.
As students at the London School of Economics are the latest to go into occupation, Dan Hind, author of The Threat to Reason and The Return of the Public, comments on the significance of the new student movements and the prospects for radical change:
The events of the last few weeks far exceed the student demonstrations in Britain in 1968, in terms of their scale and arguably their significance. The students now have the potential to develop and popularise, in partnership with other groups, a program to tackle Britain's many economic and social problems. Their insistence that education is a
"If we are to resist the tyrannical expressions of religion, we have to stop believing that hostility to religion suffices to make us enlightened. Indeed uncompromising hostility to religion, however pleasurable, will only isolate intellectuals from the rest of society, especially in America. Further, we need to recognize how hostility to religion leaves intact much more serious threats to reason. Enlightenment, in the sense of a commitment to understand the world, turns out to promise us a very worldly kind of discomfort - the very opposite of the cosy theological musings of Dawkins and Harris." Dan Hind in The Threat to Reason
"As a non-believer, I want the atheist case to be made. I want religious belief to be scrutinised and challenged. I want Britain to be a genuinely secular nation, where religious belief is protected and defended as a private matter of conscience. But I feel prevented from doing so because atheism in public life has become so dominated by a particular breed that ends up dressing up bigotry as non-belief. It is a tragedy. And that is why it is so important that atheists distance themselves from those who undermine our position. Richard Dawkins can rant and rave about Muslims as much as he wants. But atheists: let's stop allowing him to do it in our name." Owen Jones in Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/not-in-our-name-dawkins-dresses-up-bigotry-as-nonbelief--he-cannot-be-left-to-represent-atheists-8754183.html