by Claudio Grass, Hünenberg, Switzerland
It will come as no surprise to friends and regular readers that I hold but a handful of contemporary intellects in high esteem, given the present Zeitgeist, the current state of state education and the level of public discourse. It will be even less surprising that Fernando del Pino Calvo-Sotelo is one of them. He is a free and independent thinker, whose original, unshackled and unadulterated ideas I have often found inspiring and stimulating, and whose writings have long served as food for thought and for enlightened debates that always leave those who engage in them wealthier in spirit once over, or at the very least, more curious than before.
The analysis that follows, entitled “The decline of Reason in the West”, which I urge you to read in full, struck a particular chord with me. I too have been thinking, talking, and writing much about Reason, its importance and its demise in the West in recent years, and I consider this issue to be one of the defining ones for this generation.
The lack of Reason is apparent today in education, in government, in the media and even in the markets – those “voting” and “weighing” machines that Benjamin Graham so extensively wrote about. Unfortunately, none of these systems have any hope of functioning in the absence of Reason. And those who seek to govern, to control and to dominate people know this very well.
By taking Reason out of the equation and by suppressing, or even totally eliminating the capacity for free, unbound, and independent thought, critical evaluation and dispassionate assessment, the populace becomes vulnerable to humbuggery, to populist nonsense and empty promises of all stripes – and it really matters not whether that void of rationality is filled by right- or left-leaning narratives. The result is always the same and it is rapid and irreversible de-civilization.
“Facts” become subjective, conditional concepts, or even worse, semantically equivalent with personal and largely uninformed opinions. Suddenly, there’s no need for any perceived authority to back up their claims with evidence, verifiable data or anything of the sort. By virtue of being presented as an “expert” alone, the need for objective proof ceases to exist. Soon enough, surreal and self-contradictory concepts emerge, such as “THE” science and “THE” truth; and nobody is allowed to challenge, or even question them. Of course, these politically convenient absolutes could ever be embraced by a rational, constantly inquiring mind and this is why it essential for the latter to become extinct before any aspiring tyrant can truly thrive.
While the optimist in me sure hopes we haven’t yet reach a point of no return, the realist sees we are worryingly close to it. As Fernando clearly outlines in his analysis, we have too many recent examples that illustrate what this decline of Reason really translates to, in very practical and tangible ways.
We saw it during the covid pandemic. The mass hysteria and the blind fear that was instilled in the population paved the way for the acceptance of the most obscenely irrational policies. It even managed to seemingly wipe the memories of the majority of the public, making them forget about all the flip-flops, the painfully erroneous predictions and the glaringly deceptive excuses used to cover them all up. A healthy respect for the scientific method almost overnight turned into a cult-like following of “THE science”.
The same phenomenon appears in every major political or social issue we grapple with today as a society. And the higher the stakes are, the more intense the attack on Reason and on any single individual who still dares to employ it in his criticism of the status quo. Those precious few become targets, “deniers”, “anti-social” elements, and it’s open season on those “treacherous” dissenters. The fate that befalls them in turn becomes a valuable lesson for the rest of the body politic.
That lesson is quite simple and straightforward: follow blindly and don’t ask questions. It seems like the easiest and most hassle-free way forward. This path is certainly very well paved and brightly lit and it leads to all the places that many amongst us find desirable – conformity, social acceptance and a quiet life. But for those seeking to reach Enlightenment, the only way to get there is to take the road less traveled.
But of course, taking this road is impossible without a clear understanding of what Enlightenment actually is, or better put, what it’s not. It’s not the delusion that so many within the Establishment and the State machine hold today, namely the idea that a few anointed, “special” people know what’s best for everyone else and have a duty therefore to force them to follow their doctrines and directives, “for their own sake”. To the contrary, true Enlightenment, in the Kantian sense, recognizes that spirit comes before matter and that nobody can ever be certain they know the Truth; we can only keep searching for it, keep questioning and keep debating. It thus goes hand in hand with humility, and with the understanding that each individual’s thoughts, ideas, property and goals in life must be respected and that there is no such thing as a benevolent dictator.
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