Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The Festival of Dangerous Ideas
The festival's opening address was given by atheism advocate Christopher Hitchens on the topic of "Religion Poisons Everything", which was countered by Australian Roman Catholic Cardinal George Pell in a session titled "Without God We Are Nothing". The Crikey, the erstwhile controversial Australian electronic magazine, summed up the event in these words: "For the Darlinghurst secular-liberals most of these ideas were either safe, or so ridiculous as to be of no interest. Really dangerous ideas — ones that people might act on — didn't get a look in."
I don't know about the guys at The Crikey, but I watched the debate on "Democracy is Not for Everyone" and I was impressed with the arguments for and against the motion. It was filled with intellect, wit and more importantly a realism contributed by the speakers' honesty, analysis and experience. I would so much as go ahead to encourage everyone to watch these debates but I am afraid they can be classified as the stuff of intellectuals. Apparently that stuff is boring to most people, a notion I find silly because anyone who has the inclination and capacity for reason is an intellectual. I personally believe the average farmer is more of an intellectual than the average acolyte of the revered "corporation".
I find myself playing around with these dangerous ideas, I ask myself what is the true essence of "Life"? What truly is "Liberty" and how can I engage in "the pursuit of happiness"? I am delving into ideas that are merely given lip service these days so as to lend credence to mercantile misadventures.
A member of the audience remarked that it was high time humanity got back to the business of thinking and extending mental boundaries. It has become apparent that these ideas that we praise without reservation, ideas like "Capitalism", need to be revisited and fine tuned to fit the needs of all society and not just a select few. Perhaps the greatest coup d'état of our time has been the one on Liberty by the unrelenting greed that drives mercantilism. I personally believe we need to revisit the entire idea of capital as a factor of production and figure out a way of a giving it a social dimension from the ground up and not the half hearted handout that "corporate social responsibility" is. Don't get me wrong and assume that I'm advocating for a radical shift to "Socialism" or some other form of government; all I'm saying is that we would be better served by a combination of different ideologies than just one. The idea that to have a meaningful life, one must engage in the unending pursuit of "money", something that is by definition meant to be scarce, is fallacious at the least. It simply cannot be true because to say so would mean that more than half the world's population, including myself, lives a meaningless existence and will be doing so for a long time to come unless we do something about it.
I wish to teach my generation that as long as we dream and use our imaginations, we can achieve anything. The simple truth written in all these self help books is that we are what we think we are and all that's left for us to change is our thoughts and opinions.