The Guardian • Issue #2090


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2090

In the 18th century, there was joy among civilised people because thought had finally broken free of the cant of religion. It was hailed as “The Enlightenment.” Science had at last replaced superstition and fear of the unknown. It was thought these twin evils, having been cast aside at last would never rise again. There was much – indeed, an enormous amount – that was still unknown. But it was also clear that everything in the universe was in fact knowable. It was just a matter of time and research.

It was the age of the triumph and consolidation of capitalism, which in the 18th and 19th centuries finally took over from feudalism. And capitalism’s drive for sources of profit in turn required the rapid development of science and technology. A skilled workforce, an educated populace, was a prerequisite for the further development of this new dominant social system. Ignorance and superstition were a hindrance to it.

Except, paradoxically, when they were of use, such as in times of war. And because of capitalism’s promotion of greed and law-of-the-jungle “competition” these were frequent. They were of use too during the various economic crises that capitalism is prone to, crises that caused great misery and suffering among that same skilled, educated and increasingly secularised workforce.

Meanwhile the proponents of religion and other forms of obscurantism were not idle, fighting back with all their might to regain their lost hold on the minds of the people, to rebuild their position of influence, to undermine and overthrow the new dominance of science in intellectual life.

Today, in the period of capitalism’s decadence, this assault on a scientific world view is more vigorous, more widespread and more sophisticated than ever before. Ours is a time when political reaction is attacking democratic rights and freedoms around the globe. At the same time the people are rallying to resist these attacks and to overthrow oppressive regimes. In these circumstances, right-wing political forces have passionately embraced religious fundamentalism – Christian, Islamic and Jewish – as a potent weapon in this ideological struggle. Once again, ignorance and superstition are being promoted with all the resources capitalism commands.

PARASITE OF THE WEEK: New freedom of information documents reveal big coal companies are trying to worm out of their long-term rehabilitation responsibilities. The documents expose a coal industry wish list, and show how companies are lobbying the government to make it easier for them to abandon responsibility for “residual long-term risk” of failed rehabilitation on mine sites.

They also show companies want to be able to change what a site will look like after mining finishes without consulting the public or going through the regular assessment process.

This, as the industry wish-list reveals, would allow companies to change mine closure plans and rehabilitation commitments without having to apply to do so, allowing them to escape public scrutiny.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Steve Phillips said, “So much of the Upper Hunter is a scarred moonscape of coal pits. The rehabilitation of these sites to the highest possible standard is vital to the Hunter’s long-term prosperity in a post-coal world.

“The Minns government must not cave to coal company demands to avoid rehabilitation responsibilities – but instead should strengthen laws and protect Hunter communities and environment.”

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