Although no doubt exists on the question of “Whence,” all the greater confusion prevails on the question of “Whither.” Not only has a state of general anarchy set in among the reformers, but everyone will have to admit to himself that he has no exact idea what the future ought to be. On the other hand, it is precisely the advantage of the new trend that we do not dogmatically anticipate the world, but only want to find the new world through criticism of the old one. Hitherto philosophers have had the solution of all riddles lying in their writing-desks, and the stupid, exoteric world had only to open its mouth for the roast pigeons of absolute knowledge to fly into it. … But, if constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.
What strikes me as strange is why I should have held on so long and tenaciously to this faith in “democratic socialism.” How could we ever have believed that you could deprive human beings of the fundamental right to initiate and engage in their own economic activity without putting every other human right in jeopardy?
Where Zinn doesn’t follow Las Casas is where the priest mentions the Indians’ cannibalism — the priest reports, on the very next page after the passage Zinn has paraphrased, that the Indians eat very little meat “unless it be the flesh of their enemies.” Zinn, busy painting the Europeans as uniquely violent and oppressive, naturally never gives credit to the feature of Western civilization that is actually responsible for Las Casas’s indictment of the abuses to which many of the Spanish did subject the Indians: Christianity. It was after he heard anti-slavery sermons by Dominican monks that Las Casas gave up his own plantation and became “the Apostle to the Indians.” Thus, the priest describes the perpetrators of atrocities against the Indians as “so-called Christians.” Las Casas preaches, “Sin leads to sin, and for many years they lived unscrupulously, not observing Lent or other fasts” and eating meat on Fridays. Zinn ignores such old-fashioned religious explanations for the Spaniards’ descent into criminality against the natives and pretends that Las Casas, like himself, is a secular critic of imperialism.
The enemy is the inner me. The Bible says in the last days we’ll be lovers of ourselves. The No. 1 photograph today is a selfie, “Oh, me at the protest.” “Me with the fire.” “Follow me.” “Listen to me.” ¶ We’re living in a time where people are willing to do anything to get followed. What is the long or short-term effect of too much information? It’s going fast and it can be manipulated obviously in a myriad of ways. And people are led like sheep to slaughter.
Here’s what I discovered: Humans exert a growing, but physically small, warming influence on the climate. The results from many different climate models disagree with, or even contradict, each other and many kinds of observations. In short, the science is insufficient to make useful predictions about how the climate will change over the coming decades, much less what effect our actions will have on it.
In the seven years since that workshop, I watched with dismay as the public discussions of climate and energy became increasingly distant from the science. Phrases like “climate emergency,” “climate crisis” and “climate disaster” are now routinely bandied about to support sweeping policy proposals to “fight climate change” with government interventions and subsidies.
To many timid, albeit sincere, souls of an earlier century, the decay of the doctrine that all true and worthful science is knowledge of final causes seemed fraught with danger to science and to morals. The rival conception of a wide open universe, a universe without bounds in time or space, without final limits of origin or destiny, a universe with the lid off, was a menace. We now face in moral science a similar crisis and like opportunity, as well as share in a like dreadful suspense.
Tyranny in democratic republics does not proceed in the same way, however. It ignores the body and goes straight for the soul. The master no longer says: You will think as I do or die. He says: You are free not to think as I do. You may keep your life, your property, and everything else. But from this day forth you shall be as a stranger among us. You will retain your civic privileges, but they will be of no use to you. For if you seek the votes of your fellow citizens, they will withhold them, and if you seek only their esteem, they will feign to refuse even that. You will remain among men, but you will forfeit your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellow creatures, they will shun you as one who is impure. And even those who believe in your innocence will abandon you, lest they, too, be shunned in turn. Go in peace, I will not take your life, but the life I leave you with is worse than death.