Before resuming, let me announce a few new items at http://www.davidbrin.com/
First a major review (published in the Union's Book Review Section) of Jared Diamond's new tome about how societies past and present collapse or fail. I praise the book while pondering that Diamond doesn't step back enoughfor the big picture. And we need perspective if we're to avoid a collapse of our own.
ALSO there are other items like some audio file speeches to download. Enjoy.
Now back to the serialization of my draft about modernism....
Modernism: Part 2.
Despite cynical diagnoses that modernism is all-but dead, it clearly remains a vital force in the world. Even taking into account the inevitable mistakes, tragic blunders and unanticipated outcomes that accompany any bold endeavor, it would seem obvious that scientists, engineers, teachers, entrepreneurs, economists,civil rights activists, environmentalists and social reformers have a better track record at confronting age-old human problems and injustices than all of the kings, wizards and priests from past eras, combined.
Moreover, modernism suggests that bold measures - moderated by the accountability of open criticism - may even improve upon humanity itself. Perhaps not through garish means, like genetic engineering, that deserve healthy skepticism. But certainly in the incremental sense that we see as one generation after another achieves higher levels of educationand, yes, higher IQ scores.
The core belief - and one that most-rilesthe opponents of modernism - is that children can - at times - learn somewhatfrom the mistakes of their parents, and thus not repeat them. Change is not only seen as inevitable, but potentially beneficial. Moreover, the crucial difference between harm and benefit may be determined by ingenuity,hard work and good will among human beings who actively grip the tiller of change.
Modernism expresses fealty to the notion of human-generated progress.
Of course, most societies would have punished even minimal expressions of such confidence as heretical hubris. Today, that same loathing bubbles and froths from countless wellsprings spanning every spectrum, from left to right, from academia to the ill-educated,from religious to secular. The major common theme, shared among scoffers in almost every quarter, appears to be a deep distrust toward the can-do spirit of Enlightenment pragmatism.
Elsewhere (http://www.davidbrin.com/tolkienarticle1.html) I talk about how this reaction has manifested in the arts. Using as core examples JRR Tolkien’s popular Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Star Wars series, I discuss how romanticism systematically rejects a complete range of Enlightenment values and beliefs, as if from a checklist. (Even Communism and Capitalism do not glare at each other across such a complete catalogue of opposites.) This systematic rejection includes the promulgation of a cliched truism, so widely accepted that even believers in progress nod, sadly,when hearing it.
Isn’t it a shame that wisdom has not advanced at the same pace as our technology?
Accepted without question or demurral, it is one of the most insidious bits of propaganda currently in circulation, denying all of the evidence that fills our cities,schools and airwaves. Evidence supporting the notion of human improvability where it matters most. In our hearts.
In another article, I comment on this same rejection of progress in political terms. (http://www.davidbrin.com/realculturewar1.html) Across a broad front, from art to philosophy to politics and social policy,very notion of a confident future is under heavy assault.
Here I’ll take a different perspective, looking not at the enemies of modernism, but at modernism itself.
on to part 3 -->