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Conflicts of notions of freedom, order, and security in a globalized world (Part One)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted October 27, 2014

This series is a 2014 iteration of the draft of a presentation read at the 2012 Telos in Europe L'Aquila Conference -- The West: Its Legacy and Future (L'Aquila, Italy), September 7-9, 2012.

Author's Foreword (2014):

On Wednesday, October 22, 2014, shots rang out in Ottawa at the National War Memorial, and at Parliament Hill – probably for the first time ever. A soldier standing guard at the War Memorial was shot and died. A short time later, the terrorist was shot to death at the Centre Block of Parliament, by the highly adept Sergeant-at-Arms.

Two days earlier, two Canadian soldiers in Quebec had been run down by a terrorist in a car. The terrorist was shot to death after a car-chase, while one of the soldiers, who had been critically injured, died shortly afterwards.

Violent Jihad had arrived in Canada.

Despite the general rallying now occurring, it cannot be denied that there is a massive "culture war", or "ideological war of position" going on in Canada and other Western countries, the results of which will doubtless dictate our responses to the Islamist threat. This essay series attempts to put the vast forces underway into a deeper context, and examine more closely the nature of the freedom and democracy we are said to be fighting for.

This piece of philosophical and speculative writing, is an attempt to distill and synthesize over three decades of study and reading in political and social philosophy, and especially such major articles and books as Benjamin J. Barber's Jihad vs. McWorld, Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations, and Francis Fukuyama's The End of History – all of which have attempted to give a definitive explanation of the current-day world and various facets of the so-called world-historical crisis. (The term world-historical has been used in particular by Oswald Spengler, in his monumental work, Decline of the West, as well as by Hegel.) Especially since the 1960s, there have appeared a series of important articles and books that have attempted grand summations of the seemingly near-permanent crisis into which both the West and non-West have been plunged.

The delineation of a quote West and quote non-West has been established, it could be argued, as a result of centuries of highly differing political history, traditions, and culture, in the quote Western and quote non-Western societies. It could be argued that one of the main differences between the West and non-West, has been the Western emphasis on freedom and the individual.

In the 1960s, it could be argued that certain notions of radical freedom and individual autonomy that had germinated for several prior decades, reached the point of revolutionary explosion into society. In the aftermath of the 1960s, it has appeared that long-established notions of various traditions have been severely questioned, and that both Western and non-Western societies have been thrown into almost continual social, cultural, and political turmoil.

Nevertheless, much of this conflict can be explained in terms of a dynamic interplay of classical political theory notions of freedom, order, and security.

It could be seen that planet-wide cultural struggles over definitions of freedom, order, and security will determine the shape of the future.

Issues of balancing freedom, order, and security in society have clearly been given a higher profile because of the elevation of Western political philosophy in the world. Outside the West, many empires, kingdoms, nations, and peoples have been content to live for centuries in societies that mainly offered order, without much of what is today defined as freedom. This indifference for many centuries to what Westerners have considered quote natural notions of freedom is quite striking. It is something which is today quite difficult to comprehend, especially for Western people.  Also, some thinkers of current-day non-Western societies, find it difficult to account for this seeming indifference to freedom, and have elaborated various rhetorical approaches to explain or minimize it.

Even as the planet today possibly moves towards a post-Western, globalized world, the urgency for personal freedom in many countries of the world can be partially traced to the impatience with traditional arrangements which has characterized many Western thinkers and societies.

One also sees situations (as in Islamic societies) where a revolt against authoritarian, so-called dictators, may in fact be driven to some extent by forces that are inimical to most notions of freedom, possibly actually desiring, at their most ambitious, an Islamist totalitarianism. Perhaps this may be reminiscent of the situation where the Bolsheviks fiercely agitated against authoritarian Tsarism, but eventually replaced it by a far more murderous totalitarianism (after a relatively brief transition period of liberal democracy under Kerensky).

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.






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