Featured Image: Montreal, Canada – 14th Sept2017: The Illuminated Crowd by Raymond Mason, stands outside the McGill University. It shows a group of people looking forward whilst behind them everything slips into chaos. Permission and Purchased, ID 125223410 © Rixie | Dreamstime.com
The recent and horrible event in Christchurch, and its far reaching aftermath, has sharpen our thinking on ideological extremism, but I fear the focus misses important factors on what leads to the state of mind which commit violent acts on other groups of people (other than one’s own identified collective). In other words, the motivating ideology, with personable responses of hatred and envy, are scaffold by larger frames of thinking.
First, there is the concept of race. The problem is that the concept sits much on appearance, and, in the twist of discussing the idea of race, it is too easy to have the appearance of being racist, the stance where the racial category has more importance than it really deserves. The problem is that historians are starting with a very misconstrued category. And yet it ought not to be ignored when the idea has played a significant role in how people thought in the past. The issue is that any history around appearance will only be skin-deep. The historian has to dig deeper, and hence, we have a difficult question in any social history, of how important is the concept of race as the historical force we apply to the past.
Secondly, there is the concept of religion. In several places of past work, I have written on the problem of finding modern meaning in religion and secularity. Big belief systems are poorly understood in our society. And hopefully as my essays have shown, and contrary to religious ritualists and secular behaviourists, belief, and doubt, does matter. With the wrong mix of personable responses, ideas can kill. Of course, the issue is not to ban the idea, but it is rather doing better education on beliefs and doubts.
Thirdly, there are many political conceptions of society. In my historical sociology thesis, I have endeavoured to provide both the tools and the philosophical ideas to think through any conception of society, and in doing so, avoid ideological extremism. My thesis achieves this outcome because it both unmasks how thinking strays into the extreme reinforcement of the hatred and envy, and it also provides the strategies for moderating thinking towards more humane and holistic outlooks.
Many of the problems in a misconstrued concept can be avoid if we start with a larger framework of what it is to be human. And this is a matter of taking the radical postmodernist argument and placing it on its head. The radical postmodernist took the wrong turn in denying the category of human, and played hard in the world of fragmentation. However, for fairness to all living things (including that which is not human), what is the most important category in history – race, religion, society, or what it is to be human? That was the question of the European Enlightenment, and for having its historical origins there (and that’s debatable about its originality), it should not be characterized by any appearance from a presumed hatred and envy in the other, and ignoring those thoughts and feelings in ourselves.