Thursday, November 02, 2006

Enlightenment as Discomfort

Yesterday I talked a little about how one might respond more sensibly to the challenge supposedly presented by religion to the secular liberal order. Today I want to post briefly about the secular liberals, the inheritors of the Enlightenment.

Something of the coherence of these defenders of the Enlightenment seems to come from their dislike of religion and especially fundamentalist religion. Which is all very well, up to a point. But while it is clear that the faithful are being bamboozled into acceptance of the 'War on Terror' through the the idea of a religious struggle between Jesus and Mohammed, I don't think that liberals have entirely appreciated how the idea of a confrontation between the enlightened West and benighted Islam also serves to make the 'thoughtful media' safe for American foreign policy aims.

In this respect, as in so many others, it seems that Enlightenment resides in putting an end to a certain kind of comfort and in recognising that we can also become caught up in a system of unstated resentments and inadmissible satisfactions. Though the language differs according to taste and cultural background, the temptations are not so very different - to live in a world of simple binary divisions.

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