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Monday 6 September 2004

The state of the world (part 1) [Am]

Here's a thing; once upon a time someone told me that knowledge increases a great deal over time but wisdom almost not at all. The older I get, the more I think I can see the core of this axiom. It's dense, it's simple and it's just basically right.
In the last few days we have been collectively coming to terms with the savagery of the attack on the school in Beslan. There's a lot of intelligent stuff being said about this atrocity and I won't try to summarise here. Actually I deliberately don't want to talk about Beslan per Beslan.
But the point of the blog is this; when are we going to grow up? When are we going to start behaving as a human race in a fashion that won't get us laughed at two, three, eight hundred years from now as fucking savages?
Unlike the behaviour of peoples and nations of history, it's not really got anything to do with technology or knowledge any more. This is a pretty fundamental difference. We can't pretend that our knowledge of physics or causality is as incomplete as it was in the past. In the old days, the authorities could cower Gallileo into submission that he was wrong about basic astronomy. But this was always a sub / pre or supra text for oppressing the ideas that went with the discovery i.e. that the world (as already discovered by Copernicus a lot fuckin earlier) was not the centre of the universe). The authorities could smash "facts" into you to make sure your beliefs, under pressure, wouldn't hold true. That's not the case any more.
Today we're just down to basic behaviour. The only last vestige of bullshit excuses of why one should behave counter-intuitively to other humans' welfare is predicated on "religion" or "people". Now this, of course, was the first thing that people relied upon to duck knowledge and do bad shit to other people but these days it's lost all it's physical / objective "alibis".
I would like to die thinking that my time on earth would not be regarded, historically, as a time of savages. But I think that's where we're going to make our mark. Unlike the ignorants of the past we actually know a lot about our world and it's physical properties and interactions. But we deliberately fuck it over when it comes to the climate, when it comes to power and in human interactions we continue to squander our intelligence when it comes to our dealings with each other.
Looking back on past centuries, the growth of scientific knowledge has been so profound that one can see the progression of knowledge as an over-riding concern. By comparison, the progress of philosophy was derisory in the last couple of centuries - it descended into semantics as a formal study.
Now, as we are today, we understand the world, we understand how we are physically placed (more or less), we have a near totality of possible religous and philosophical statements about ourselves (believing them or not) and we fundamentally suck total shit at being decent human beings to each other.
For this reason, being in a pretty full knowledge of the facts but lacking the intellect to change our behaviour on them, I really think that the post WW2 era will be looked upon as some of the most feckless and useless of human history. In our little time frame, but as a single example of a much bigger problem ongoing, the Orwellian summary of people as "Muslim" double-plus-bad and "Western" double-plus-good ends, is going to end up with this generation as a historical laughing stock.
We will be the first few generations where knowledge was *finally* enough (but not complete) to make our behaviour totally without excuse. Our knowledge will be ok. Our wisdom will be our collective, historical, embarrassment.


  1. Thing is though, who is 'we' in what you wrote? Most of the world is few hundred years behind us westerners in terms of their thinking on most basic things like governence, religion and justice.
    In a lot of the places around the world where bad things are happening most people are still well behind us. I think we should worry about getting them up to at least our level, and not worry too much about where we are at compared to future enlightened generations who are going to take the piss regardless. :)

  2. Am, I reckon you should become a new age monk :)

  3. History is written by the victorious. If we (the west) get through this and emerge whole, then we will have been wise enough for that.
    Other wise Allah will have been proved right.
    Has there ever been an age of global enlightenment though? You're after a utopia, away and rent some Gene Roddenberry stuff :)