“I don’t think, in principle, that just because a movement declares itself to be religious, it should be made the object of special suspicion. In my view, one shouldn’t trust anyone who hankers after state power, whether they call themselves religious or secular. The modern state is at once one of the most brutal sources of oppression and a necessary means for providing common benefits to citizens. Whether it is secular or religious seems to me much less important than the fact that it is a state. If we look back over the twentieth century and this should become obvious.
I have felt for a long time now that we have gradually—and when I say “we,” I mean everybody in the modern world, and I’ll say more about that—worked ourselves into a situation that is truly tragic, in the Greek sense of having no real resolution. There are the most awful prospects before us, with the kind of technological warfare we now have, with the fantastic extension of consumerism and money, with the consequent growing gap between the very poor and the very rich, with the destruction of the environment, and with the ramifications of climate change and nuclear energy. I really hope that this is simply a sign of my being old. It may well be, because I don’t see things in the way that a younger person would, I’m sure. I see it all as being absolutely disastrous. But people will try to resist, and they should.
I remember talking once a long time ago with Edward Said about empire and how it might be defeated. We were just sitting and having coffee, and at one point I responded to some of his suggestions by saying, “No, no, this won’t work. You can’t resist these forces.” So he demanded a little irritably: “What should one do? What would you do?” So I said, “Well, all one can do is to try and make them uncomfortable.” Which was really a very feeble reply, but I couldn’t think of anything else.