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August 15th 2017 print

Peter Arnold

A Philosopher Thinks but Fails to See

AC Grayling's new book concludes with a pipe-dream of supra-national governance. History rejects any possibility of that being a workable option -- evidence rendered irrefutable by Europe's escalating exaltation of ethnicity, language and, in the case of Islam, aggressive intolerance

graylingAC Grayling (left) is a giant in the field of philosophy’s tall poppies. Who am I, a mere baccalaureate in philosophy and politics, to dare to try to cut him down? The simple answer is that I have lived a life of science, and am therefore gravely disappointed when an eminent thinker doesn’t allow the facts to get in the way of a cherished theory.

I approached his new book, Liberty in an Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Liberties and Enlightenment Values, with high expectations, and here be aware of my background. My ‘liberal’ protest against apartheid South Africa was to emigrate as soon as I graduated. I could not, in conscience, remain and benefit from the system. Neither, in 1961, was I willing to sacrifice my career and my life in a forlorn struggle which was not for my own freedom but because I happened to live there, by chance not choice. I was not naïve enough, as were Adrian Leftwich, Costa Gazidis and John Harris, to think that an underground insurrection could reverse apartheid. It took 30 years for WF de Klerk to realise its unsustainability, and to hand over to Mandela.

So I came to an Australia rooted in liberal British Common Law. Fifty years later, my country and that of my children and grandchildren is threatened by maniacal Islam and its spawn, terrorism. We face a determined enemy, rooted in a primitive philosophy, which divides the world in two: the dar-al-Islam and the dar-al-harb – a world ruled by Islam and a “world of war” not yet ruled by Islam. Of course, this is not new. Islam swarmed into Iberia. If not for its navy’s failure at Lepanto and its army’s failure at Vienna, it is doubtful that Judaeo-Christian Europe would have survived. But that very failure, with the collapse of the Ottomans and the repeated failure to conquer tiny Israel, has, through the world’s dependence on Arab oil, fuelled a revenge-seeking and world-threatening Islamism.

So I approached Grayling with high expectations. He was posing the question challenging my own thinking. How could I maintain my liberalism in the face of indiscriminate fatal attacks by religio-political extremists, from whom I, my family and my fellow citizens needed protection? Until his last chapter, I was swept along on his familiar mantra. My life has been dominated, both in apartheid South Africa and in Australia, by liberté, egalité and fraternité, the prince of which is liberté, Grayling’s concern. Without liberty, one can, as did Mandela, Solzhenitsyn and others, have the greatest plans in the world, but one can do nothing to achieve them. Grayling’s title resonated with my very core.

But we parted company in the last chapter. My life has been in science: initially biochemistry and then, more generally, medical science. Facts are what matter in life. If theories do not fit with the facts, the theories are wrong, not the facts. Regrettably, Grayling ignores facts. He posits an unreal world, something which can be done only by ignoring facts. Hence my disappointment.

The facts he ignores, as do many Anglophone thinkers, are those inherent in non-Anglo cultures and thinking. The British sterling Empire has been succeeded by the American dollar. British ethnolinguistic culture has been all but swept away by immigration from the world which it previously dominated. What, today, is British ethno-linguistic culture? The ‘melting pot’ United States, powerful only because of its millions of immigrants, has not, since the Pilgrim Fathers, had an ethno-linguistic culture.

Herein lies Grayling’s Anglophonic bias. Europe is characterised by resurgent ethnolinguistic pride, most evident, perhaps, in the battlefields of soccer arenas. Those clashes are portentous. They are between both the men on the fields and also, more relevantly, among the screaming, painted and festooned hordes of ethnolinguistic supporters. As Michael Galak has pointed out in these columns, these are sometimes separated on opposite sides of the stadium, and by phalanges of police. Perhaps, like me, Grayling has no interest in soccer and seldom watches television. But surely, when these crowds break out into violence, he must read about it in the newspapers. Yet his last chapter takes no notice of this reality.

He and I equally deplore war. But his pipe-dream of a supra-national world government is no solution to Islamist terrorism. His fantasy ignores the facts of current world politics and, of course, economics.

The facts are real. I experienced them during a ‘roots’ visit to Lithuania a decade ago. My ancestors and relatives lived there for five or six centuries until the last of them were murdered in the spring of 1941. Apart from a brief independence between 1920 and 1939, Lithuania has, since 1791, been under Polish, Russian, German and, again, Russian rule. With their unique language and tree-god culture, they deeply resent the Russians who were settled there in their hundreds of thousands between 1944 and 1991, when Lithuania gained independence from the USSR. Above all, Lithuanians want to preserve their culture: they are currently honouring their national heroes, despite those heroes’ complicity with the Nazis.

Throughout Europe, the facts are clear: all of mainland Europe wishes to assert its ethnicity and its language. The ‘right  wing’ opposition to the recent Muslim invasion is visible, but many ‘internationalists’, like AC Grayling, are “so blind, they cannot (or will not) see.”

Comments [10]

  1. Bill Martin says:

    It is not difficult to recognise the attractions of a supranational world. There is no denying the fact that nationalism is an essential ingredient of war and conclude that the spectre of war would be no more if the whole world were ruled by an One World Government. Nor is this a new, “modern” notion. Plato was one of its noted advocates, but he attached to it an essential proviso: it was to be ruled by a Philosopher King. That is a very tall order indeed, so tall in fact, that few can grasp its meaning. Ancient wisdom explains that a Philosopher King is one who is all-wise, all-benevolent, with perfect intellect, who would accept the responsibility as a service to mankind, reluctantly suspending the pursuit of philosophy for its own sake. This is where the credibility of a supranational world collapses: no human being could possibly measure up. The only available alternative is a collection of fallible humans, headed by one of their own numbers, such as the National Socialists of Germany or the Communists of Russia of last century.

    In other words, the theory is fatally flawed, because it prescribes that people of the world, being of flawed human nature and limited intellect, need to be firmly controlled by their betters possessing superior wisdom and incorruptibility. A classic case of the blind leading the blind over the cliff.

    • Warty says:

      Quite apart from the fact that in a supranational world traditions disappear, customs become a mishmash of improvisation in response to something called diversity, history extends back no further than a decade or two, but in an entirely politically correct interpretation, where truth is doctored to conform with expediency. Family is integrated into the state, and the individual lacks initiative, responsibility, indeed intelligence.
      But you know all of this: George Orwell wrote about it back in 1949.

  2. Jody says:

    At heart these people like AC Grayling are tyrannical and just love controlling their fellow human beings. Be very afraid because what’s behind it is the innate belief that they know best and the rest of us are the great unwashed who don’t know what’s good for us.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Like a photographic film in a bath of developing solution, the future will come out of the present. But it’s early days yet. Modern humans only appeared on this planet about 200,000 years ago; not much in terms of the overall history of life. The large supra-national confederations like China and the US mainly arose through the military triumph of a significant minority: reinforced after the fact by political and legal discrimination favouring their language and culture. In China it was the Hans; in the US the British colonists.
      Those multilingual political entities that did not, like say, the EU, have had problems from Day 1 and have an innate tendency to come apart at the seams.

      • PT says:

        Ian, the US, and China are very different. In some ways, China represents what Europe and the Mediterranean would be like if Rome had pulled through. The US is, in some ways, a mirage of a better world. It was founded as a blank canvas on which the best of Europe could be painted without the worst. In the end, they were cut off a bit on both ends, losing a big of the best, and the worst. IMHO Australia was much better in having the best of Britain without the bad parts. But we’ve lost ground sadly.

      • Keith Kennelly says:

        The future comes out of the present.

        That means the past has produced today.

        So what do we need to do to ensure the tyranny of today morphs into a free tomorrow?

        Easy simply change the things we do today, that we’re practised in the past, ie the last 60 odd years. They produced the tyranny of today.

        Produce genuine thinkers rather than the know all-know nothing self interested elites educated at our universities. The ones who think they know what is best for us today and who dominate our society by talking only to each other in voices only they understand about issues only they see as important.

    • Jimbob says:

      Amen Jody! Got it in one

  3. Lacebug says:

    We already have a supranational world of sorts..,.it’s called the market. And it’s why the world today is more peaceful than at any time in history.

    • Jimbob says:

      What an interesting thought Lacebug.

      Indeed, given time, we could end up having a “universal” market while at the same time having many different and diverse nations and tribes. The only requirement for participation in “the market” will be to accept the “mark” of membership without which it will be impossible to “trade and to get gain”. A few very powerful individuals who have the most to gain from the market e.g. uncontrolled and undiluted power along with material wealth many times greater than mythical Croesus will control all means of production and distribution and in return will redistribute a small portion to all so that there is “equality” of material wealth amongst the masses and consequently no need for rebellion or revolution. And so, the earthly paradise will be established.

      Are you really sure that the world today is more peaceful than at any other time in history? Google conflicts since the second world war and you might be surprised that leaving the two recent outliers out (WW1 & WW2), it may actually be the most violent period in history. And of course, who’s to say that WW3 is not just around the corner in spite of the “market”?

      Nevertheless, great insight so thanks…worth watching this “market” space.

  4. StephenD says:

    A supranational world government really is a nightmare scenario. Only a philosopher could think this one up. Grayling of course has already written a book that he fondly imagines is better than the Bible. An easier target for him would have been to improve on Shakespeare. Sadly (for him) he has only produced derivative, hackneyed, unimaginative rubbish. Let’s hope that if (Heaven help us) there ever is a World Government he will not be involved. He really is the typical, supremely arrogant, utterly shallow, emotionally puerile British atheist. He thinks he has cornered the market on Reason. He was beaten to the very tedious World Government idea long ago by the equally fatuous Bertie Russell. But neither of them have paused to consider the problem of human nature, which, sadly, is about as irrational and untrustworthy as they are themselves. We see human nature at work in the existing supranational body, the United Nations. Even its name contains a lie.