Essays: Current Articles of Interest |
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Current Articles of Interest

Terror and extremism are the two main themes of all the articles in this introductory group, but really they are the same topic. Extremism is the wish to make your will prevail by silencing your opponent, and terror is the expression of that wish by silencing anyone at all. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to extend that contention very far without being branded right wing by purported left-wingers whose own position echoes totalitarian fanaticism in every respect. In the atmosphere of diffidence, not to say nervousness, which is generated by such a threat, there is a terrible temptation to deal with these questions by brushing them under the carpet; and perhaps, in the aggregate if not separately, they are anyway simply too daunting to face. In my essay on Isaiah Berlin, I conjectured that to a certain extent even he, one of the most prominent political thinkers of his time, dodged the issue. It could just be – you can hear the suspicion forming in the distance – that wishful thinking is an occupational hazard of liberal democracy.

One or two of the essays here date back into my collections The Revolt of the Pendulum and The Meaning of Recognition, so they can be found again in the Current Books section. But I wanted to get them up front, in a group of writings which is meant to make a first impact, especially on young people world-wide who will be forced to think about these things in the upcoming century, after our generation, still shaking our heads in disbelief at what we lived to witness, sink into the dust. One of the two of the letters to the editor are vintage numbers too. I should have included them in books long before, but I was slow to realize that the letter to the editor is always a kind of article, and an especially intense one, because it is emotion, and not a commission, that leads you to write it. “Slow to realize”, I slowly realize, could be the motto of this website. How can it have taken me all this time to spot something so elementary?