Sunday, December 25, 2005

A decaying empire

When there's no future how can there be sin
We're the flowers in the dustbin
We're the poison in your human machine
We're the future your future

God save the queen, we mean it man
There is no future in England's dreaming

No future for you, no future for me
No future, no future for you

The Sex Pistols -- God Save the Queen
The future will look back on us as gods, certainly in this city, lucky gods blessed by supermarket cornucopias, torrents of accessible information, warm clothes that weigh nothing, extended life-spans, wondrous machines."

Ian McEwan -- Saturday
In his review of McEwan's Saturday, Richard Rorty explores the radically diminished horizons of Western secularism and western societies. "Not just affluence will vanish, so will hope." Western society has already passed it zenith of power and influence and the best it had to offer, the ideals of the Enlightenment and the hope for a just secular society, have been tarnished and compromised beyond recall, its credibility as a model and ideal squandered.
The tragedy of the modern West is that it exhausted its strength before being able to achieve its ideals. The spiritual life of secularist Westerners centered on hope for the realization of those ideals. As that hope diminishes, their life becomes smaller and meaner. Hope is restricted to little, private things and is increasingly being replaced by fear.
Rorty argues that the increasingly difficult challenge of merely defending hard won freedoms and civilization against the medieval revival of torture, tyranny and fundamentalism makes it near impossible to sustain any grand visions of the future or even any plausible mid-size ones.

In any case, it is a good review of McEwan's book and a thought provoking essay.


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