Gods may be crazy, as the tribal men thought when they picked up a bottle of coke dropped from an airplane. But the world is not crazy and will not be crazier unless you wish it. So you’d better lose faith in the doomsday industry that prompts you to think so because our faculty is intuitive rather than reasoning, rather physical than metaphysical. Steven Pinker points out in this book that we need rationality or a habit of rational thinking to aspire to objective understanding lest we should fall back on the doomsday scenario of a dystopian world.
To begin with, the enlighten movement is not a product of the west but rooted in human nature as the universal feature. The spirit of the enlightenment movement is “Dare to Understand,” which means applying knowledge to understanding our world to enhance our human welfare to the full effect and force. Enlightenment is comprised of Reason, progress, science, and humanism. However, the currents of modernity flow into global populist tractions that champion totalitarian relativism from individual modes of thinking to social and political policy-making in the name of progressive liberalism or conservatism, when it is not with the absence of Reason and humanism. The proponents of the ideologies described above take precedence of faith over Reason, nation, or culture over individualism and metaphysical over real because they couldn’t care less about it.
The most impressive finding that I have described from this book is Pinker’s perceptive analysis of the counter-enlightenment movements run by both conservatives and liberals, especially in the States. As many people might conjecture, Pinker is not an ultra-right-wing intellectual because his view on former President Trump and his cult is logically solid and intellectually revoking. He explains that the philosophical roots of Trumpism are a synthesis of a militant derivative of Nietzchean school of philosophy and anti-enlightenment humanism. It’s not conservatism but racism lite, shading into authoritarian populism and romantic nationalism, harping on the good ole days, which weren’t good in respects of the quality of living conditions and level of human rights.
Amid the bipartisan world of ideologies, the heightened pessimistic opinions of our planet from the environment to social services, Pinker’s education on what Enlightenment means on human progress shines like a beacon of light on Slough Despond. This book gives the world a sense of self-confidence in our cultural progress this far as a collective human enterprise. The history of the world is not cyclical or linear, but progressive and in progress as long as humanity continues. It is this humanity that Pinker emphasizes in the truest sense of Enlightenment that the thinkers such as Voltaire and Kant also professed to be an inseparable element of human progress. Progress without humanism is not progress. Humanism is not a sign of shallow intellectual culture akin to pastoral romanticism or unproductive ideals. Humanism represents the sense, as science reason, which are universal human traits common to all. That is what this book wants to teach us.
A good memoir amid the detritus of in-vogue memoirs is a gemstone, like a treasure island descried by a weary sailor. Marry Ralph Waldo Emerson’s appreciation of travails of life as the best teachers with George Orwell’s no-nonsense realistic credo for writing. You will see that Stephanie Land’s eternal spirit fills the pages at the expense of her will with a sense of purpose and a tenacious grasp on intellectual superiority. It was a tide in her affair Stephanie Land was waiting while wiping a stranger’s dirty toilet bowel due to fortune’s malice or, shall I say, whims and caprice of the supreme beings?
Land’s memoir applies to Orwell’s tenets of “Why Am I Writing?” In it, four elements of writing are (1) aesthetic purposes, (2) sheer egoism, (3) political/social purposes, and (4) historical record. Contrary to most reviews of focusing the book on her single parenthood, I deem it to be her testament to her self-worth in a society where external achievement determines your character. In fact, Americans have a Calvinistic cast of minds in a puritanical cultural foundation that poverty is a priori resultant from laziness and that it should be dealt with scorn. American Catholics are not altogether generous because of John F. Kennedy’s adage to Americans: “Ask not what your county can do for you… ask what you can do for your country….” Land feels the hostility of the skewed, confused, maligned conservatism masqueraded as patriotism in an ordinary landscape of daily life. In writing, she potently and victoriously wields her pride smothered in want of bread and roof with her daughter.
Memoirs of rags-to-riches are thought to inspire readers with can-do attitudes fused with a dangerous combination of ephemeral hope and flippant desire that Thucydides warned of his progeny. However, they are self-treaties of achievements, usually despite the biological or sociological plane, and almost always with people who help them achieve their goals. Jeannette Walls of The Glass Castle was from a low-income family, but her family was loving, and she had scholarships and went to Barnard College and became a journalist. Hillbilly Elegy was touching, but the poor white boy who had a loving mother went to Yale and became a lawyer. But Stephanie Land is intelligent and honest, down-to-earth, and her issues and circumstances are more existential and relatable than what the mentioned above have famously accounted. Forget the dialectic classicism, forget the social reform, forget the right for single parenthood. It’s all about Stephanie Land’s dignity, her right to be happy, her yearning to be what she wants to be. So be it ever the nominative determinism, and it’s in the name. All who have the name Stephanie have that feistiness. Well done, Stephanie!
People usually don’t want to hear your problems, pains, and premonitions unless they know you or relate to you. In the case of Tookie’s existential distress that seems to be an inexplicable sentence on her life, I will say it’s the latter case for me to be piqued with a kind of sisterhood attached to it.
Malcolm Jones’s review of The Sentence by Louise Erdrich from the Nov. 14th issue of the New York Times Book Review was the most brilliant. I found it so straightforwardly moving and personally related to my own narratives of life, both existential and philosophical, that I felt like finding a friend in the protagonist Tookie. Jones’s interpretation of Fiona’s ghost as one of Tookie’s many as though the ghost itself were a mock to her pitiable wish to have a sense of security in the normalcy of life was particularly impressive. It created unfathomable pathos for Tookie, who seemed to believe that she was kept away from anything happy happening to her.
So thanks to the review, I will get to read more about the kindred Tookie and look forward to seeing if there is indeed plenty of light in the book that sheds upon life’s predicaments.
Voltaire’s Letters from England, originally published in 1733, is a solipsistic treatise on political, religious, and cultural observation during his stay from 1726 to 1729 of the benign nation that welcomed the thinker with open arms when he fled from persecution in his native France.
But the book is not a blinded paean to a rival country with a long sophisticated warring history with an intent to retribute his spites to his mother country as an expatriate. Instead, Voltaire takes a stance of a piqued paratactic storyteller in the fashion of Herodotus’s Histories or a trenchant journalist in the school of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. In Voltaire’s eyes, that the English are practical folk with a propensity for realism: reflective, respectful of etiquette, cool-headed, and effusively proponent of scientific discoveries are conspicuous in the overview effect of France seen across from the other side of the Channel.
From the manners of English Quakers to Isaac Newton’s (whom he admires as the brilliant sun of Halios) quantum physics and the law of the universe in great detail, the subjects of interest and the depth of knowledge demonstrate that Voltaire is more than a rebellious French enlightenment thinker. He is a true intellectual whose reason is constituted by the consilience of multidisciplinary subjects in depth. The book is a testament to a genius of a particular kind who embodies a man of letters in its truest sense.
The case of Adam v. Ape in search of where humans came from seems to have waned since Charles Darwin’s seismic theory of the Origin of Species, by which we have become distant relatives of primates, whether we like it or not. The biblical Adam as the first man of Mankind is pitchforked to the first chapter of the Old Testament. The first human ancestor is now obdurately held to come from Africa, making Africans our universal ancestors. But how are we so sure about what we are as we are told to believe? What if the modern humanoid just came into existence as in the case of the Big Bang? How do you prove that the races of Caucasoid and Mongoloid originated in Africa, on the prima facie evidence of their present physical characteristics, pace the evolutionary scale of time in such a short biological time?
The theory that all humans come from Africa has become infallible in the 21st century. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, peoples of nations have begun to worship ideology politics under the pretext of rewriting history, which in reality means upending the contemporary status quo of all social and cultural systems, even if some of them intended to remain valid. Then, for example, how would they explain the existence of the Sentinelese, the most primitive and dangerous tribe living on North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean? If all non-black races came from Africa and changed to what they look like today, why do these uncivilized people preserve the most representative features of Negroid in the most shockingly prominent way?
Then scholars will retort with the theory that we all come from Homo Erectus that branched into humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans. The missing link between the root of Homo Erectus and the branches would solve the key to what exactly our direct ancestral medium was. Would it be just another kind of primate that looked closer to humans? On the other hand, some scholars believe that modern-day humans have more Denisovan DNA than Neanderthal DNA. The latter migrated from Asia to Europe between the land bridge, just as ancient Asians crossed the Sea of Bering from Asia to North America, becoming Native Americans. Then a thesis of Africa as the cradle of Mankind requires a preponderance of onus to prove it a fact. As a matter of fact, Eurasian faces will exemplify how the ancestors of Europe would very much look like. The physical characteristics of East Asians attest to a hypothesis that the Neanderthals from the Asian continent migrated to Europe before prehistoric ears, breeding with what the population that had already existed there be it ever Denisovans or other tribes of Neanderthals.
My view on the evolutionist theory also includes Adam as the first man after prehistoric times, the dawn of civilization. Hesiod’s Golden Age is equivalent to the archeological Paleolithic age. In the period described above, humans looked like us and produced handy tools and weapons essential for developing civilizations. If we think that Adam’s progeny dispersed all over the world a myriad of times ago, then it makes sense why we look like what we do. The gist of my argument is that race is not something that can be altered by itself. Neither a climate change nor a duration of time can change racial characteristics in themselves.