It’s come to my attention recently that the 19th century German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel offered a theory of historical progression that seems somehow appropriate to our contemporary times. The general rule that history will follow, Hegel thought, is that any thesis will face its contradiction, after which a synthesis of the two will occur.
Now, I’m no scholar mind you, but I can’t help thinking about this in relation to our current political upheaval. For some time now it has seemed to me humankind was making significant humanistic strides toward pluralistic understanding and acceptance. Appreciation for cultural variety, tolerance for the other and compassion toward the less fortunate not to mention a sound scientific understanding of the threats to our natural environment seemed to be reaching consensus levels.
But suddenly the very antithesis of these ideals has reared its ugly head. We have found ourselves face to face with our most base instincts; hatred and fear of the Other, isolationist divisiveness, blatant disregard for unpopular scientific research and an anti-intellectual disinclination toward thoughtful dialogue.
So, Hegel would have us believe this dichotomous situation will work itself out, some sort of middle ground will stabilize things, compromises will be arrived at. I must admit I’m having a hard time visualizing what that peaceful compromise might look like.