Author: Maarten Boudry

Four Flavors of Doom: A Taxonomy of Contemporary Pessimism

In his short, provocative book Has the West Lost It?, the Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani identifies a curious paradox. In many respects, the world has never been in better shape than today. People live longer, healthier, more peaceful, and safer lives than at any previous time in history. According to Mahbubani, this enormous improvement in the human condition is a result of Western ideas and practices—modern science, liberal democracy, free markets—spreading to other societies. And yet, surveys show that nowhere on Earth do people have such a bleak view of the future as in the West. Has the West indeed lost it? Westerners today are pessimistic about a whole panoply of things: overpopulation, global warming (or “global heating”), the ravages of neoliberalism, rapid deforestation and species extinction, soaring inequality, the rise of far-Right populism, mass immigration, the epidemic of depressions and burn-outs, the creeping “Islamization” of Western societies, robots taking over the world, or perhaps just the terminal ennui awaiting us all at the End of History. Looking beyond their specific concerns, it is possible …

“Liberals Have Compromised on Their Own Values”: An Interview with Ali A. Rizvi

The Pakistani-Canadian writer Ali Rizvi is a fierce critic of Islam, the religion in which he grew up. But unlike many other critics who maintain that Islam is inherently incapable of modernization, and that the Muslim world is sliding ever further into backwardness and fundamentalism, Rizvi is refreshingly optimistic about the future. The seed of a new Enlightenment has been planted in the Arabic world, he told me in Antwerp, and there’s no way to eradicate it. In his book The Atheist Muslim, Rizvi speaks directly to the many closeted atheists, agnostics, and secularists in the Muslim world. These people are obliged by the societies in which they live to present themselves outwardly as Muslims, but in private, they harbor different ideas. Rizvi’s book is often polemical in tone, but also humane and sympathetic to the plight of Muslims around the world. He is keenly aware of the consolations which faith provide to some, and he never stoops to condescension. If Rizvi is right, freethinkers in the Muslim world are more numerous than most of us suspect. Not only are their numbers growing, but …