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Voltaire on Modern World Affair

Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778) once said that “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” and true enough, present societies face the dilemma of moving forward in a millennium marked with sophistication and advanced technologies that could either contribute to a utopian international order or the end of civilizations. Under the current international situation, Voltaire’s satirical viewpoint of human demise could at the very least prod into the issue of terrorism as one of the most potent threat to the western world and all its allies.

These threats may come from fundamentalists, radical Islamists or extremists but the reality remains that the new technologies used by nations against this threat could be deemed useless unless the social basis of this danger is addressed. Terrorism, as propagandists call evil, could be understood by employing Voltaire’s analysis of what evil is. This would lead us to the problem of evil and how this problem arises based on the conditions present.

As Voltaire criticized, evil, like suffering and vice, are not inevitable plague to mankind. These are in fact, our making, outcomes of our decisions and consequences of our action or inaction which could be solved “intelligently” purposeful human actions. Hence, Voltaire clarified that this “evil’ is but a creation of the human mind, a creation which man alone could destroy. In a passage which he used in the Candide, Voltaire expressed his disdain for violence and human mechanisms to perform such atrocities against each other.

God gave them neither huge cannons nor bayonets, and they’ve made cannons and bayonets for their own destruction. I might say the same thing of bankruptcy, and the law that snatches up a bankrupt’s property, in order to cheat his creditors. (14) If Voltaire would see the horrors in the Middle East and how the frenzy of the polarized world have become because of the threats of terrorism, he would probably express that this terrorism is not a simple manifestation that there is evil but a direct manifestations of the causes of dissent.

It could be noteworthy that a problem such as this need not only to be responded with the same gravity of despicable contempt of human nature but as a monster bred by the socio-political and economic experiences of the humanity. Again, terrorism could be seen in a two-way perspective. One is that terrorism is a danger to humanity and possesses unimaginable horror which could be unleashed anytime terrorists deem fit. It could also be an act of resisting a superior and dominant power and terror activities were just mechanisms to break free from the chains of imposed social conditions.

What Voltaire actually took part with and witnessed during the French Revolution could be parallel to the present. The revolutionary high tide was clearly evident and every action, expectedly degraded by the existing power, was justified by the revolution and was seen as necessary for the triumph of the oppressed people which could also become the case with the present issue of terrorism, hence, the variability of the conditions with respect to the notion of evil and man’s contribution to our own demise.

This assumption would still remain as part of Voltaire’s analysis of terrorism as a problem that all governments face today.

Works Cited

Lucidcafe. “Voltaire: Author and Philosopher. ” (2008). July 22, 2008 <http://www. lucidcafe. com/library/95nov/voltaire. html>. Voltaire. Candide. Trans. Raffel Burton. Ed. Raffel Burton. 5th ed. London: Yale University Press, 2005.

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