From a distinguished journalist and award-winning novelist, an extended essay with an urgent warning: The world is on the brink of disaster, and humanity must act now to avert it.
Maalouf (Origins: A Memoir, 2008, etc.), a Lebanese Christian living in Paris, looks at the tensions between the Western world and the Arab world from a unique perspective, and what he sees is more than a clash of civilizations. Both, he writes, have reached their limits and are morally bankrupt. Now is the time for human beings to build a common civilization that respects and benefits from cultural diversity; not to do so, he warns, means that we will "descend together into a common barbarity." In chapters aptly titled "Hollow Victories" and "Lost Legitimacy," he writes knowledgeably of the history of relations between the Arab world and the West. In his third chapter, "Imaginary Certainties," Maalouf explores the relationship between politics and religion and between countries and their immigrant populations, and he gives his arguments for taking collective action now to deal with the grave threat of global warming. He presents two visions of the world's future: one in which humanity is divided into tribes that detest one another but share a bland global culture, and another in which humanity is united around common values but continues to develop rich, diverse expressions of culture. Doing nothing leads to the first; to achieve the second requires making what he calls a step-change. Maalouf describes himself as in a state of worried anticipation, but with a measure of hope. He gives four reasons for his hopefulness about humanity's ability to ward off the decline: the increasing pace of scientific progress, the continuing emergence of populous nations from poverty, the example of cooperation shown by the European Union, and the election of Barack Obama, which he sees as an indication of the reawakening of a great nation.
Eloquent and full of passion.