The Fast-Changing World and the Rise of Radicalism
The rapid shifts in demographics, economics, technology, science, politics, and social attitudes have sparked much fear, self-deception, and wishful thinking around the world. There are people who view these shifts as threats to their traditional way of life. These people are taking out their insecurities on others with violent and inhumane consequences.
In the United States, mainly white religious conservatives see a threat from other cultures, increased secularization, financially uncertain times, less upward mobility, the “attack” on their use of firearms, and increasing charity and tolerance towards minorities. In response, they have embraced the pride of creed and the pride of race. Brought to national prominence by Ronald Reagan, they now see the Democratic president Barack Obama as a symbol of the changing world they are not prepared to live in. Not by politics alone do they fight against suspected crimes and phantom evildoers. There have been school massacres, anti-Semitic, anti-globalist, and racist-inspired violence, an increase in arms and alcohol sales, and vociferous campaigns against the “Spawn of Satan”: sexual minorities, abortion rights, vaccines (the HPV vaccine, they claimed, was to increase female promiscuity), and stem cell therapies. The religious conservatives seem to be moving back to the worldview of their morbidly puritanical ancestors.
The pontiff has also stepped up his campaign to spread dogmas, and revive the days of the 17th century Church. The pope, as former head of the department that would still be carrying out the Inquisition, still wants: to make abortions illegal (based on the out-dated, obsolete philosophy of natural law), oppose comprehensive sex education in schools, deprive people that have been devastated by HIV/AIDS of contraceptives, and dehumanize, shame, and discourage the equality of homosexuals and women. (Not to mention the steps taken to silence criticism for its abuse of children, and its support of fascist regimes.) Yet, the pope does not receive criticism from leaders of democratic countries because they need votes. Aside from Vatican City, there is perhaps no other population in the world that is so firmly convinced it is doing such profound good for the world as it perpetuates such unimaginable harm to it. For those not blinded by cherished dogmas, it is plain that each day, the orthodox clergy get up in the morning solely to find new ways to make the lives of billions of people agonizing and miserable.
Not only in the Church has there been a rising resistance to modernity, but also in the House of Islam. There has been an increase over the past few decades in the radicalization of Muslims. What is most striking about this is that the radicals range from cave dwellers in Central Asia to affluent European-born citizens. Europe has been forced into a conflict between its Enlightenment heritage on one side and Islamic fundamentalism on the other. The radicalization of Muslims is derived from a Utopian dream to re-establish medieval Islam, and the mismanagement of Muslim countries by colonial powers since Napoleon invaded Egypt.
The vicious cruelty of those who still lead lives according to Sharia law is on display in Europe. Anti-Western and anti-gay attacks are on the rise in European cities. Theo van Gogh made a film about how women are treated in conservative Muslim societies, and was killed for it in broad daylight in Amsterdam. His friend, outspoken critic of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is now under 24-hour security after she received a death threat that was stuck on a knife impaled in van Gogh’s body. Many Muslim organizations, pretending to be harmless civil rights groups, work to silence such critics as Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Some Muslim people want Sharia law established in their own European countries of residence because they view Westerners as decadent, corrupt infidels. Blasphemy laws are being proposed by Muslim countries in the UN to protect “religions” (they mean Islam) against all criticism. Violent protests and bombings occur because of newspaper cartoons. Honor killings of Muslim women are on the rise, as are the number of women who are being forced to have genital mutilation and wear burqas in cities such as London and Paris. Support for both anti-Western attacks and Sharia law to be established in European countries is also increasing among Muslim youth.
The European Far Right has been swiftly mobilizing against non-Western immigrants and Muslims. The Left seems powerless to stop it. There are violent protests in front of mosques. Muslim-owned property is vandalized. Far right street gangs recruit soccer hooligans and poor disaffected European youth to join their ranks. Even in politics, the far right is winning seats in all European governments, including in the EU Parliament. Some prominent figures of the Far Right are Jean-Marie LePen (head of French neo-Nazis), Filip Dewinter (head of Flemish Vlaams Belang), the late Pim Fortuyn (head of Dutch LPF), and the late Jörg Haider (chair of Austrian BZÖ). These politicians proposed illiberal policies such as stopping immigration from non-Western countries, increasing government surveillance, advancing the police state, and promoting xenophobic populism.
The fast-changing world is leading some to take up arms as a defense mechanism to cope with the unfamiliarity and instability of our current situation. People accustomed to a slower-paced life are being rattled into fear of a more dynamic world. They are hankering after the past.
What we do not need is a tidal wave of irrational fear sweeping people into the moral abyss of radicalism. Mankind stands to lose much if the rise of radicalism goes unchecked. Homicidal lunatics are convinced that they should annihilate each other. Are reasonable people to simply get out of their way as the radicals bring untold misery upon innocent people caught in their struggles?
In this evermore connected world, we must learn to live together peacefully because humanity cannot survive through more world wars driven by stupid and wicked leaders who preach nonsense and hatred. Radicalism is the danger of the world. It has been so since the beginning of human history. What we need to realize to reduce radicalism is: that fear is the main source of cruelty, self-deception, and unreasonable hopes; that there is no such thing as a sound argument from authority; that all human knowledge is partial and tentative; that hatred is foolish; and that to defeat fear is the gateway to wisdom.