The ideals of The Enlightenment brought us freedom of conscience, liberal democracy, free markets, the astounding success of the scientific method; and reductions in violence, poverty and ignorance unprecedented in human history.
Dr. Steven Pinker: Defending the Enlightenment.
In Enlightenment Now, the Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker defends [Enlightenment] ideals…
[N]o country had an average life expectancy above 40 years in 1800; now the global average is above 71. In 1947, 50 percent of the world’s population was undernourished; now the number is 13 percent. “The gross world product today has grown almost a hundredfold since the Industrial Revolution was in place in 1820, and almost two hundredfold from the start of the Enlightenment in the 18th century,” Pinker points out. In 200 years, the rate of extreme poverty (living on less than $1.90 per day) has declined by 90 percent, with half of that decline occurring in the past 35 years…
And in the last two centuries, literacy has risen from less than 12 percent of the world’s population to over 83 percent today. The global literacy rate for young adults—ages 15 to 24—stands at 91 percent.
Most people would think this huge improvement in the human condition was a good thing. How much defense could it require? Well, apparently we’ve been doing it all wrong.
Enlightenment values today are under attack by postmodern cultural Marxists. Patriarchal oppression is supposedly baked into the very fiber of Enlightenment values and, therefore, Western Civilization. Academiots denounce capitalism and freedom of speech; they contend that “‘traditional science’ is rooted in racism”, that science, as and because it is defined by Western civilization, is a tool of racism and sexism, and lament “the emphasis on academic “rigor,” calling it a “dirty deed” that upholds “white male heterosexual privilege””.
From this reasoning, comes one more ‘logical’ conclusion: Elon Musk’s idea to colonize Mars – a feat of the scientific method and rigorous engineering – springs from a desire to rape and pillage.
The desire to colonize — to have unquestioned, unchallenged and automatic access to something, to any type of body, and to use it at will — is a patriarchal one…
It is the same instinctual and cultural force that teaches men that everything — and everyone — in their line of vision is theirs for the taking. You know, just like walking up to a woman and grabbing her by the pussy.
[T]he impulse to colonize — to colonize lands, to colonize peoples, and, now that we may soon be technologically capable of doing so, colonizing space — has its origins in gendered power structures. Entitlement to power, control, domination and ownership. The presumed right to use and abuse something and then walk away to conquer and colonize something new…
As if history hasn’t proven that men go from one land to the next, drunk on megalomania and the privilege of indifference.
The raping and pillaging of the Earth, and the environmental chaos that doing so has unleashed, are integral to the process of colonization. And the connection of the treatment of Mother Earth to women is more than symbolic: Study after study has shown that climate change globally affects women more than men.
“Women in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood,” a 2013 United Nations report noted. “Women charged with securing water, food and fuel for cooking and heating face the greatest challenges. Women experience unequal access to resources and decision-making processes, with limited mobility in rural areas.”
Before the Enlightenment, women in developing countries had nastier, more brutal and shorter lives. Those arguing against core Enlightenment values simply assume that their epistemology (“a different way of knowing”, in feminist jargon) would have resulted in greater progress. Exactly how this would have happened is explained with some vacuous hand-waving and reference to feminist principles, like these, charges of cultural appropriation, and condemnation of any act judged imperfect.
Well, the jury is still out on whether women in developing countries are warmer, but there’s no question they are generally better off. Even if their cultures reject Enlightenment ideas.
The ways in which they are not better off primarily involve female genital mutilation, beatings sanctioned by certain non-Western cultural traditions, and forced isolation – like confinement to the house absent male accompaniment and enforced dress codes. These markedly misogynistic anti-Enlightenment cultural quirks draw little fire from the feminists, postmodernists and cultural Marxists, because they consider all cultures morally equivalent: Except for those based on Enlightenment values, which are inferior.
I think Camille Paglia has the right of it:
“If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts.“
But there would be nice curtains.