The twentieth century witnessed so much bloodshed in the name of ideology you might think people would be ready to give it a rest. But no, we have a new ideology whose adherents believe will usher in a new heaven on earth. If only everyone would finally get on board, if only its adherents had the right combination of money and power, if only its Neanderthal opponents would surrender their squeamishness, this new ideology could solve the world’s problems. Poverty, environmental degradation and disease would be conquered at last. The name of this new ideology? I call it “condom-ism.”
Its adherents believe we could solve all these problems, if only we had enough condoms. I exaggerate, of course. They actually believe that human salvation will require all sorts of birth control including abortion, not just condoms.
A recent edition of the widely-read British medical journal, The Lancet, spells out some of the tenets of this position. The authors opine that “family planning” still matters because population growth retards economic growth, or exacerbates poverty. They themselves admit that the economic evidence for their position is slim, because “poverty reduction is also affected…
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In the best postmodern way, I should let you know at the outset that I am not going to talk about either King Lear or Ginger Meggs. I have juxtaposed Shakespeare’s tragic monarch and the hero of the once-popular cartoon strip – as indeed I have juxtaposed Andrew Marvell, the late Metaphysical poet and Mickey Mouse – in various public ruminations about the problems associated with the reading, teaching and appreciation of literature in English in the contemporary classroom, specifically, in the current New South Wales Higher School Certificate English syllabus (but, of course, not only there).
Such juxtapositions are meant to highlight the jettisoning of value in education, in general, reflected earlier this week, for example, when the Australian Catholic University saw fit to confer honorary doctoral degrees on the Wiggles. The thinking (if it might be so called) behind such events as this reveals a degraded idea of the university – if I may use Cardinal’s Newman’s term of high conception in reference to such a debased context. It goes well beyond a modern re-consideration of (and, at times, a healthy re-valuation of received ideas about…
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Australia is not a safe place for postmodernists at the present moment. Over the past months, academics, journalists, and even Prime Minister John Howard have publicly attacked their influence on school curricula around the country.
At a recent seminar at Warrane College, a residential college at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, academics from three universities took the chance to lambaste the postmodern position. In this issue of MercatorNet, we are featuring some of the contributions that they made.
In "Your pocket guide to PoMo's history" Martin Fitzgerald provides some historical background. His paper traces two philosophical strands that have shaped postmodernism. One is the deconstructionism of thinkers like Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. This developed from the structuralist and logical positivist movements of the 20th century, which in turn sprang from the empiricist tradition. The other is the atheistic existentialism of Jean Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche. The convergence of these ideas has led to the “theory” -- or more correctly the attitude -- that characterises postmodernism.
How often have you been reading something quite pleasant and suddenly the author drops the fateful word – postmodernism? The argument begins to get fuzzy. You muddle through and hope that the rest of the article becomes clear. You also have a sneaking suspicion that a dictionary will be useless. And, anyhow, how are you supposed to know what postmodernism is if you’re not even sure what modernism is?
So let’s start with modernism. This is the philosophical term for philosophical offshoots of the Enlightenment, the complex of ideas that has shaped the modern world from the 18th century until the mid-20th century. Its characteristic features were -- and still are -- suspicion of authority and tradition as sources of knowledge and the conviction that human reason is the engine of progress. This implied that religious faith was a bad guide to understanding the world and that the unimpeded march of science and technology was a very good thing. The Enlightenment was optimistic: knowledge through reason alone would produce an ideal world which goes forever forward.
NAIROBI, KENYA: Every morning at 5.20 from my house I hear the muezzin call the faithful to prayer from the second largest mosque in Nairobi. Just over one hour later the bells of the nearby Salesian shrine follow suit and intone the Ave Maria, as if in friendly competition. This daily routine is a constant reminder that Christianity and Islam have been co-existing in Africa –- especially immediately south of the Sahara -- for many centuries: a fault line that stretches from Sudan, northern Kenya, Uganda and southern Ethiopia across to the Ivory Coast and Senegal.
Christianity is thought to have arrived in the mountains of Ethiopia as early as the 4th century. From the 7th century the Christian state of Nubia (central Sudan) began to succumb to the gradual infiltration of Islam, but Nubian Christians lingered on in the southern part until the 16th century. Sudan was crucial to the Muslims because it provided access from North Africa to Mecca.
MÜNSTER (WESTPHALIA): The anger of militant Muslims in recent weeks has stirred Europe from its slumber. Two questions must be asked in the wake of the furore over the cartoons of Mohammed in European newspapers. What, if anything, do Westerners hold holy? And, with the demographic bomb ticking away, what is the cultural and spiritual identity of Europe?
Finally, the practical consequences of a declining population are troubling Europeans. What neither rational demographers nor intellectual heavyweights have managed to achieve is now obvious to everyone in Denmark, Germany, the UK, Italy, Russia, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. Between five and ten percent of Germany’s population is already Muslim. The inner cities of the largest German cities, Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne will have a predominantly Muslim population within only 14 years. Germans will be a minority in their inner cities in the imminent future. At present there are 48 mosques in Germany, with more than 100 under construction.
Although articles on Islam appear every day in Western newspapers, it is normally treated as a political phenomenon. But Islam is a religion and its characteristics flow from its theology. To get an understanding of the underpinnings of the religion of one-fifth of today's world, we consulted Dr José Morales, a Spanish theologian and Catholic priest who has recently published a book on Islam in contemporary Europe.
MercatorNet: The Islamic world and the West have very different ways of looking at the nature of man and society. What are the fundamental reasons for these differences? Are they theological or sociological?
Morales: The Islamic world and the West are very broad realities and concepts which have very different ways of understanding man and society. It is often said that Islam is not a monolith but a mosaic. It is a very fragmented and divided world and only the Western habit of drawing concepts together can treat it as a unity. On the other hand, the Western Enlightenment and Western modernism do not accept a Christian understanding of man either.