John Ralston Saul: Our contemporary NGO army

John Ralston Saul does not mince words.

We are lost in a “maze of logic,” in which “solutions are the cheapest commodity of our day,” Saul wrote in 1992’s Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West.

In this summer’s Adbusters, issue #102 on spiritual insurrection, the PEN International president turns his sights on the failures of the environmental movement, “our contemporary NGO army.”

Our reality is that several generations have refused to imagine themselves as making changes. Instead, in the role of the angry outsiders, they have called for the people they do not respect to make the changes on their behalf. This is the traditional role of writers, including of course journalists, not of the engaged population as a whole. You could call this a strategic error with enormous political consequences.

Along with this there was a belief that experts with facts would shape the debate, giving the NGOs support, and so force the hand of power.

That was to misjudge the endless number of facts. Endless and shapeless. And to forget the ease with which such a jumble could create any argument or simply create a confusion which would make action impossible.

Ethics can serve the public good, as can humanist ideas, as can a clear belief in that public good. Facts and expertise are just as likely to be the whores of interest groups, whether public or private, as they are to serve the public good. This was the second strategic error.

And it leads to the third, but also to an opportunity for profound change.

More >> “Canada’s Spiritual Quest: Learning to imagine ourselves”

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