Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cold civil war

The journalist Carl Bernstein has suggested the notion of a “cold civil war” to describe the social climate of America today. While political discourse may be somewhat less polarized in Europe, we still have many of the same epistemological divides, especially with regard to immigration or feminism.

As I pour up some machine coffee and begin my work on a new paper about energy and democracy, I am thinking that one way of overcoming this polarization may be through better contextualizing the present and emphasizing the historical trends that have been driving human progress. In a remarkable speech the other day, Barack Obama expressed this as that we should “reject the notion that we are suddenly gripped by forces that we cannot control” and that we should instead “embrace the longer and more optimistic view of history and the role that we play in it”.

Obviously, nationalist politicians like Donald Trump thrive when people give in to their existential fears and demand a world of absolutes. Part of that is about projecting a sense that the world is falling apart, that there is no longer time for tolerance or curiosity. In that way, nationalists are very similar to much green political thinking. Any hope for a bright future depends on defeating such eschatological views and showing why, more than ever, we need liberal freedom and an open future.

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