Towards the end of the 17th century and continuing on into the 18th, a new intelligentsia emerged. They were The Enlightened and they gave birth to the Age of Reason; a period in which traditions and superstition were challenged by new ideas, scientific thought and the rise of individualism.
Philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau along with science researchers like Isaac Newton were joined by hundreds of other intellectuals, writers and scientists in an explosion of new knowledge that still affects western society today.
Just as it was in the 17th century, we are seeing the emergence of a new group of Enlightened only they are not philosophers and scientists. They are celebrities, activists, revisionists, media pundits and their self-absorbed followers.
We live in an era where virtually all of the world’s collective knowledge is literally at our fingertips. Simply ask Google for whatever it is you want to know and it will be delivered to you faster than an all-dressed pizza from Dominoes. The problem is, of course, that most of the information now being transmitted is superstition, pseudo-science and outright misinformation.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to ascertain the truth anymore because in this new age of The Enlightened, information is less about unveiling and advancing the truth than it is about proving a point and often those points are based on subjective bias, prejudice, greed or guilt.
Where the original Age of Reason expanded knowledge, this new period of ‘enlightenment’ clutters factual knowledge with junk science, partisan opinion and hysterical fears. It obscures understanding, trading it for continual confrontation resulting in never-ending pointless arguments about everything from climate change to war; from medical science to politics.
One doesn’t have to look very far to see examples of the modern Enlightened in action. They are everywhere, littering society with tantrums, shallow opinion and even shallower, poorly thought out solutions to the challenges we collectively face.
This is not an Age of Reason for there is no reason applied. It is an era of emotional opinion that never scratches beneath the surface of an issue to understand its root causes or connections to other issues and elements in our societies. The enlightened in the Age of Reason called themselves rationalists. The Enlightened today are anything but rational.
There are no Rousseaus or Voltaires; only Neil Youngs, Daryl Hannas and Michael Moores. There are no Issac Newtons, only Al Gores and David Suzukis.
Today it is less about promoting ideas than it is about cheap theatrics. Nothing advances our understanding of the issues around global warming, climate change and pipelines like a has-been movie actress jetting in to Washington to chain herself to the fence in front of the White House.
Canadian rocker Neil Young lectured Canadians on the evils of the Alberta Oil Sands, comparing them to Hiroshima after the nuclear bomb was dropped on that city to end the War in the Pacific. It shows a remarkable lack of understanding of both the horror and scope of the Hiroshima tragedy and the truth about the Oil Sands.
David Suzuki, Elizabeth May and Al Gore expand their ‘carbon footprint’ far beyond those they criticize as they jet about frantically wagging their fingers at the lack of enlightenment in those who do not adhere to their global warming folly. Every disastter is greeted gleefully and they tweet and pontificate about them; pointing at extreme hot weather as signs that the earth is experiencing severe climate change.
They are opposed by equally enlightened folks on the opposite side of the issue who point at extreme cold temperatures as proof that global warming isn’t happening. They are the villagers who dance hysterically in the streets relieved that their world is not going end.
Neither is correct.
The earth’s temperature has remained unchanged for almost two decades and average temperatures remain cooler than in the 1600s. Weather is weather and nothing more. Some years we experience extreme weather, other years it is moderate.
We used to know, understand and accept that until The Enlightened on both sides of the argument emerged.
Climate change is merely one example for The Enlightened are everywhere and wherever they are, harm, confusion, fear and absurd government regulation and expense usually follow.
Medical science all but eliminated diseases like polio and smallpox with vaccines that took long years to develop but enlightened folks like Oprah Winfrey and Jenny McCarthy told parents that vaccinations could cause autism and parents stopped vaccinating their children. Parents literally turned their backs on medical science to follow the wisdom of enlightened celebrities putting their children at serious risk.
Regardless of the issue today, there are enlightened folks on both sides of it arguing that only their understanding is correct and more frequently, the other side is not only wrong but stupid. Everything is boiled down to personal insult, inaccurate religious, racial and economic stereotypes. It is an era where the ability to reason has been defeated by the unwillingness to think, to listen and to learn.
Just as in the Age of Reason when many monarchs listened to The Enlightened and began to incorporate the emerging knowledge into government policy, so too do modern governments only modern governments don’t reason and consider – they pander for votes.
It is how Ontario ended up with the Liberal Government’s Green Energy Act which has all but devastated the province’s economy. It is how the Obama Administration has squandered opportunity after opportunity to unite Americans, deliver universal and affordable health care and take a leadership role in world affairs.
It is how government passes legislation so watered down it is eventually overturned by the courts as unconstitutional and develops public policy in one area that conflicts with policy in another.
Governments today simply craft quick and thoughtless policy based on whichever group of The Enlightened screams the loudest and, more importantly, seems to be influencing public opinion which can have a significant influence on how people vote. There is no thought beyond that; no vision and no long-term consistency in public policy required to move a society forward beyond the next election.
Nothing says leadership like compromising principle and ignoring good public policy simply to obtain or maintain political power.
Where the Age of Reason was a revolution of scientific, academic and political thought, this new era of ‘Enlightenment’ is regressive. We see more intolerance, more violence, more confusion and more erosion of our social fabric and fundamental rights than ever.
We have the knowledge to adapt to climate change but we waste time arguing about its cause. We have the resources to overcome poverty but waste billions on ill-conceived programs that offer little more than bandages to our consciences. We have more technology sitting on our desks than powered the first lunar space missions but we waste it on mindless computer games and constant inane messaging.
In a recent court case in Canada in which a 16 year old girl was convicted of transmitting child porn because she sexted pictures of her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend in a fit of pique, it was revealed that she and three other teens exchanged more than 35,000 text messages in a period of a few months. Beyond the maliciousness of the content of some of the messages, imagine the waste of lives devoted to spending hours texting more than a 1000 pointless messages every day.
Music is reduced to clones of American Idol winners, books are imitations of the DaVinci Code or Harry Potter and medical science has moved to become all about research rather than patient care.
We have, quite simply, all of the knowledge, technology and resources to overcome most of the world’s major problems but we are prevented from moving forward by The Enlightened; random groups of weak-minded, shallow thinking, pseudo scientists and intellectuals who prefer to dictate how others should live rather than search for truth and understanding and there all too many people willing to follow them – if they’re trending on social media.
And in the end, it is that arrogant uninformed reasoning that separates today’s enlightened from the philosophers and scientists of the Age of Reason. It is the mindless, sheep-like behaviour of those who follow them that give them a credibility they have neither earned nor deserve.
The damage it is causing our societies is a reminder of another era in history.
Keep on rockin’ in the free world as we enter the new Dark Age.
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
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