Two pictures, one taken from an Economist book review and the other from a Times news article sum up fairly well the “civilization” differences that separate far too many of the world’s peoples into opposing ideological camps, although you would probably never see the individuals depicted in these pictures actually going to war with one another.
The first, from an article in the Economist of October 28 , entitled, In the name of godlessness, is a review of Philipp Blom’s A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment.
The principal subject matter of the book, “Atheism and the Enlightenment,” today, some 200 years after the Enlightenment’s emergence in France and elsewhere Europe in the 18th. century, is felt, if not seen or understood, by hundreds of millions of true believers, and not only those of the Islamic persuasion, as being the modern world’s principal threat to their own culture and values.
The second appeared on the front page of the digital New York Times, of October 31, the first of a series of pictures accompanying the news article, Bombs Were Designed to Destroy Planes, U.S. Believes.Students protested outside Sana University on Sunday, a day after a female student was detained by the police after being tracked down through a mobile number on a receipt for the explosives-filled packages that were found on jets in Britain and Dubai.
I could be at that table, with radical thinkers like myself, formulating the first complete or nearly complete listing of those individual rights and freedoms, as well as the basics of democratic governance, that would together become the primary stimulus for first the creation and then the strengthening of liberal democracies in Europe and America during the next 200 years.
And I know well that I could never be with those who cover themselves when in public with impenetrable walls of black clothing, allowing only mouth and eyes to show. It may be as they say, in order to shield their private selves from the view of others. In any case the public life, cherished in Athens and Rome, in 18th. century France and England, and now in America, they apparently totally reject.
And in fact we know nothing, see nothing of these people (I suppose women) in black burkas except when they are loudly protesting our ways and our laws and our justice and we see their accusatory words almost as they leave their mouths, and we see their eyes flashing before us.
And all too often we hear and read about those same burka clad women who choose to blow themselves up in horrible self-destructive acts, probably killing many more of their own people, people who share their beliefs, than those at whom their anger is really directed, us, the descendants of those enlightened but godless men seated about that table.