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The Swinging Pendulum

Coen van Wyk

Posted on June 30, 2019 11:51

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The ideas on which modern society is built grew painstakingly from distant thoughts, ancient theories. Yet people seem to be tearing down this structure of millennia today, ready to regress to slavery, monarchy and primitivism. The pendulum between freedom and authoritarianism is swinging…

It was a likely a swelteringly hot day in Rome when Galileo Galilei faced his inquisitors. The founder of many scientific methods used today, Galileo challenged accepted ideas in the 1600s. The dissent led to his censure and permanent house arrest. One of his innovations was the theory of time based on the swinging of a pendulum. He also developed the modern vision of the solar system, with the sun at its center. Forced to accept the authority of the Church and the establishment by making a public declaration that the earth was the center of the universe, it is said that he muttered: “And still, it moves…”

Galileo Galilei by Tintoretto

Two centuries later Léon Foucault used a pendulum to prove the theory that the earth rotates-- thereby implying that the earth was round. Like Galileo, he challenged strongly held societal beliefs, but by then the climate for scientific dissent was more accepting.

The pendulum swings. Photo Wikimedia


These ideas, radical at their time, are but illustrations of the growth of ideas that paralleled political and social thought. These ideas inevitably led to what we see today as the self-evident concepts of liberty, freedom, individual choice, free markets, and free associations across the globe.

Individual freedom is based on concepts developed by Ulpian and even older philosophers. More recent thinkers such as Whitman, Mill, and Locke also shaped the discussion surrounding individual freedom. There has been constant reaction from conservative thinkers, proponents of the Divine Right of Kings to rule, fascist leaders like Hitler and Mussolini. The pendulum between authoritarianism and individual freedom has swung to and fro.

This week, Russian President Putin declared the death of the liberal tradition, claiming that people prefer choices being made for them. Rika Preiser published an interesting article on the difficulty of knowing reality and the world. Perhaps this explains the link between fundamentalist ideology and the rejection of modern thought. We see this in terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and Jaesh, but also in some fundamentalist Christian movements. But is liberalism, however we define it, really dead?

The hundred years' war. Can it be our future? Photo Britishbattles.com

There is a tension between independent journalists like Jamal Kashoggi and authoritarian states. World leaders seem to perceive themselves above criticism, harking back to medieval monarchies, a lack of vaccination, and nationalism-- all which may lead to an era of economic wars, social devastation and global impoverishment. 

I wonder, would Foucault’s pendulum work in a flat earth? Or will the pendulum of freedom swing back again?

 

Coen van Wyk

Posted on June 30, 2019 11:51

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Source: Television

Hardy Son & Baker will produce crime thriller 'Pendulum' and science-fiction 'Trees.' read more

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