Sunday, February 24, 2008


The ability to identify significant movements in thought, and present them in a way that helps others to grasp their significance without oversimplifying, is a valuable art. I can still recall the excitement that I experienced when the works of Copernicus, Darwin and Freud were first linked in my mind as thinkers who had progressively shifted our perception of human beings, once seen as freely autonomous individuals, the crown of God's creation, set on earth, at the centre of the universe, to the much more modest position we now occupy in the cosmological, evolutionary, and psychological worlds of most people.

Sometimes though this ability can be put to the service of sinister causes. I suppose every petty dictator has a vision of the world and himself which neatly accommodates his own megalomaniac fantasies.

Jacobo Timerman, the Argentine Jewish newspaper editor who was kidnapped and tortured by the death-squad regime in his country in the late 1970s, analyzes the work of the neo-Nazi element that formed such an important part of the military/clerical dictatorship, and quotes one of the “diagnoses” that animated their ferocity:
“Argentina has three main enemies: Karl Marx, because he tried to destroy the Christian concept of society; Sigmund Freud, because he tried to destroy the Christian concept of the family; and Albert Einstein, because he tried to destroy the Christian concept of time and space.”

No comments: