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Illusion Of Humanity
GH (5 3 38 / leipzig)

Illusion Of Humanity

Poem By gershon hepner

Plurality of human needs
deludes so-called humanity
to self-destruct and sow the seeds
of poisonous insanity
from which proliferate the creeds
that separate all men with words
that lead to killing fields and deeds
that turn all plowshares into swords.

Inspired by Scott McLemee’s review of “Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia, ” by John Gray (“What Price Utopia? A British philosopher says it’s folly to pursue the notion of a one-size-fits-all value system, ” NYT Book Review, November 25,2007) :
As the march of events has lurched in unexpected directions over the past three decades, many a political thinker has been thrown off track and hurled into confusion, if rarely into silence. But not John Gray. He has usually been a little ahead of the zeitgeist, waxing contrarian about whatever consensus is about to form. Gray has been called a chameleon. If so, he belongs to a very peculiar species: one with precognition, able to change colors before landing on whatever patch of landscape lies just around the corner. In the early 1980s, Gray, who teaches European thought at the London School of Economics, was the most capable defender of Friedrich von Hayek as a social philosopher rather than just a propagandist for free-market policy. But he later became decidedly critical of any notion that the future belonged to liberal democracy. In 1989, as the Soviet Union was reforming itself out of existence, he wrote that this would not inaugurate “a new era of post-historical harmony” but rather “a return to the classical terrain of history, a terrain of great-power rivalries, secret diplomacies, and irredentist claims and wars.” Over the following decade, he advanced a critique of globalization that sounded, at times, profoundly anticapitalist, if by no means Marxian…
“‘Humanity’ does not exist, ” he announced in “Straw Dogs.” “There are only humans, driven by conflicting needs and illusions, and subject to every kind of infirmity of will and judgment.” This may be the key to all of Gray’s thought, and it is no accident that he echoes Margaret Thatcher’s famous statement that there is no such thing as society. (As she put it, “there are individual men and women, and there are families” — but nothing else.) The irreducible plurality of human “needs and illusions, ” Gray argues, means it is utopian to imagine that any single kind of political or social order could ever be good for everyone. “If there is such a thing as spontaneous social evolution, ” he writes in “Black Mass, ” “it produces institutions of many kinds.”

11/26/07

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