Sane, Calm, Reasoned, Useful,
There are many books that I have reviewed here for Amazon that support this author’s personal reflections, and his citations of those books that did stimulate him are more than adequate. A few themes made by the author strike me as worthy of emphasis, for they provide a road-map for any Western society that wishes to survive into the 22nd century:
1) Morality matters. It is a historical force. Will and Ariel Durant emphasized this in their “Lessons of History,” and many strategic confrontations have borne out the point. Tribes and nations that become amoral ultimately decline and fall.
2) Western myopia cannot be understated. The ignorance of the West regarding global realities and the relationship between Western behavior (inclusive of US support for 44 dictators, immoral and predatory capitalism, virtual colonialism, and the general view of others that the West is “barbaric” in sexual and other matters of fidelity and integrity) and how others view is simply unrealistic.
3) The West fails to understand that the rest of the world, where faith and integrity and loyalty to the family and tribe are often all that keeps the entire society from disintegrating in the face of more primitive environments that we ourselves experience, wants to be modern but not Western–modern with cultural cohesion, not modern with the commoditization of the individual, which both the author of Lionel Tiger (“The Manufacture of Evil”) credit with destroying family, community, tribe, and nation.
4) The author excels at discussion how Western individuals today have lost the context of history, the reverence for tradition, the utility of specified morality. Westerners are “out of touch” with the lessons of history, out of touch with the implications of our selfish decisions in the present that have implications for the future generations.
5) The author discusses competing concepts of legitimacy, and here he goes into nuances all too often lacking in “objective” Western analysis of competing social models. He sees the value of personal versus impersonal authority in the context of societies where bureaucracy is not yet developed and kinship remains the foundation for trust.
6) The author, educated at Oxford, would agree with Philip Alcott, brilliant Cambridge scholar and author of “Health of Nations,” in dismissing most nations as false constructs inconsistent with their tribal and religious networks and beliefs. This is as true of the “Nine Nations of North America” (Joel Garreau) as it is of most of Africa, where colonialism heritage is that of inevitable genocide.
The author concludes, as one would expect of a Christian moralist, that “Nothing less than a massive cultural reversal is necessary. We need to rejoin the rest of the human race.” He focuses on the renewed relevance of religious and moral vision, and here he would find common cause with David Johnson, distinguished author of books on “Faith-Based Diplomacy” and the vital role of religion in fostering reasoned dialog between West and East.
Apart from restoring the role of morality within our over-all culture, the author concludes that we must become informed–like it or not, our lives are bound up with those of everyone else all over the world. Here he is in tight agreement with both President David Boren (former Senator) of the University of Oklahoma, and David Gergen, advisor to multiple Presidents of the United States (most of whom did not listen too well). We must internationalize and modernize our educational system, restore the importance of history and international studies, and give life to the finding of E. O. Wilson from “Consilience,” to wit, that the sciences demand the humanities if they are to be in the service of humanity.
This is a most thoughtful book, reverent in its arguments, one that reminds us all of the value that can be had from listening to or reading the careful reflections of a man of the cloth, born in Wales, educated in England, and now speaking to all of us.