A few years ago I read in an editorial by an editorial cartoonist the line that ‘Osama bin Laden had done for American introspection what Hitler had done for the square moustache.’ The writer of the sentence is American, so he is allowed to make such a statement whereas I cannot and would not.
However, the sentence struck a chord not only in regards to the context cited but for much of the Western world. I grew up in West Germany and for me the date of the end of Western introspection was the day of the fall of the Berlin wall. Of course the fall of the wall was a good thing but not the triumphant celebration of the event as vindication of everything Western.
The writer Pakaj Mishra believes the loss of introspection happened much sooner.
Mishra writes that “since the late 18th century, tradition and religion have been steadily discarded, in the hope that rational, self-interested individuals can form a liberal political community that defines its shared laws, ensuring dignity and equal rights for each citizen, irrespective of ethnicity, race, religion and gender.” (Reminds me of Richard Dawkins).
Mishra says that, “The problem for (…) critics of Enlightenment rationalism, was not that we “have too much intellect and too little soul”, but that we have “too little intellect in matters of the soul”.
Mishra believes ‘the ideals of modern democracy – the equality of social conditions and individual empowerment – have never been more popular, yet have become more and more difficult, if not impossible, to actually realise in the grotesquely unequal societies created by our brand of globalised capitalism.’
Mishra says the reason we scratch our heads at violence, polarization, and populist movements is not because we have simply been naive about others but also about ourselves and the world we have created.
To relearn introspection may be challenging, yet potentially not impossible for followers of Jesus who never believed in the rational human anyway but who practise confession and engage in corporate confession every Sunday, knowing that the world is redeemed through the cross of Christ.
That we won in 1989 or any other year should never have excited us because for us it’s never been about winning but about redemption.
Pakaj Mishra’s piece is worth reading. You can find it here: