Wednesday, September 12, 2007

For Samuel P. Huntington

Where have all the ideas gone?

We have academics by the droves and more graduating every year but where are the ideas that drive civilization to its highest and best uses?

As modern society specializes more and more, sub-divides and compartmentalizes to get better mastery of technique, great and grand ideas are more and more marginalized and pushed to the sides of our consciousness. Nowhere is this more true than academia where professionalization in specialities leads to promotion.

Prof. Samuel P. Huntington over a decade ago put forth an idea - is there an inevitable clash of civilizations? His vision of a problem has colored our lives and policies after the collapse of Communist and the rise of sectarian fundamentalism and ethnic zenophobias.

Sam was my tutor 40 years ago in my senior year of undergraduate study. I have kept in touch, not regularly but fondly, now and then over the years. Sam has remembered me and been warm and helpful in our subsequent meetings.

But I learned yesterday that he is not well and most likely will be unable to contribute any more "ideas" to academia and global civilization.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. All must pass and this too will pass.

But right now I feel a deeper sadness over the sumbolism of this loss - where are the ideas? How will we move forward for our children and grandchildren without ideas? How will we find courage and the will to work for a common good without profound thoughts and understandings?

If all is trivialized, then everything about us, in us, around us, will be trivialized.

I feel grateful to have worked with and been challenged by Sam Huntington.

And I hope our work at the Caux Round Table will always gather in and promote "ideas" in the face of all that seeks to marginalize our humanity.

Steve Young

1 comment:

CR Nayager said...

Steve, there are still some brilliant academics and real "thinkers" (those rare humans who think beyond the confines of the idioms of our times) around but they are few i agree. I, like you have been fortunate to meet and be guided by some in my undergraduate and now post-graduate years. But they are in decline. Look out for Desmond Manderson who writes about legal ethics...bringing Levinas back into the fold of humanity and how we construct our relationships with others.
Alex Zeigert is another. In my previous role at the UK FSA I met with a person whose corporate ethics I continue to admire -John Barber (Grey Panther) who is still at teh FSA and continues to illuminate some of the murky ways of working life to the uninitiated.
PS love the articles.