The Uses of Diversity: Recovering the Recent Past

One of the more interesting recent books of popular history, Paul Johnson's Modern Times, stakes out the period between the outbreak of World War I to almost the present. In Johnson's intellectual framework, the boundaries of modernity are marked by two great revolutionaries: Albert Einstein, who threw the thinking world into a turmoil of doubt over man's place in the universe, and Edward O. Wilson, who has restored humanity to a place in the natural scheme of things. However, the sociobiological revolution has had to be fought every inch of the way against the established world view of modernism, one that can only be described as Utopian.

What strange times they have been, these modern times. In the 1880's most Americans and Europeans were looking forward to an era of democracy, social justice, humanitarianism, and peace. Instead, we modems have witnessed two appalling and barbaric world wars that saw. the introduction of poison gas, unmanned rocket bombs used against English cities, the Dresden fire bombings, Hiroshima, an d Nagasaki. There is no need to go into trifles like the Korean "police action" or the Malayan "emergency." So much for peace, so much for humanitarianism.

Politically, the century was dominated by the great thugs-Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Brezhnev—and a cast of little thugs. Malcolm Muggeridge, who had the dubious privilege of meeting many of the...

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