What we really, really want

Brad Allenby writes,

…consider two of the primary dialogs of our times that, while superficially quite different, are in fact disconcertingly similar in intent and tone. One is the current U.S. Administration’s insistence on a continuing and constant threat of ubiquitous and unpredictable terrorism, a campaign which appears designed to (and does) create continuing fear and insecurity in the population…

The second is the significant acceleration in stories and publicity regarding predictions of planetary disaster as a result of human activities, especially global warming…

…it is striking how such visions are being generated by the elites on the right and left to advance their idea of an appropriate society…

Behind these goals lie quite different teleologies: in the first case, a Golden Age that seems to include in somewhat jumbled order components of American exceptionalism, a relatively unsophisticated Christianity, and a medieval reintegration of religion into all aspects of life. In the second case, the teleology appears to be Edenic, a return to a Golden Age in a much simpler world strongly resembling Rousseau’s idyllic state of nature…

There is nothing idyllic about Rousseau. We may or may not agree with Isaiah Berlin that he is “the most sinister and most formidable enemy of liberty in the whole history of modern thought”. But doomsayers do at times sound as if only they know and express the General Will. They are quite prepared to tell us what we really, really want, even if we don’t know it. From there it is only a small step to want to force us to to agree with the General Will for our own good.


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