It’s been funny to hear the leader of Iran talking about his nation’s natural right to exploit the secrets of nuclear physics and join the global technological vanguard. His basic argument is “You can’t stop progress” even though stopping progress, I recall, is the great goal of his theocracy. Fundamentalist Islamic futurism? Can such a strange cultural particle exist, even for a half an instant in a cyclotron? Perhaps the man should speak more carefully, lest he unwittingly split the nucleus of the system he’s trying to hold together.
The Chinese regime, in its drive to ultra-modernize while simultaneously pushing back the Internet, is falling into paradox as well (with the paid collusion of Google and Yahoo, a few of whose brightest engineering minds have been challenged, one supposes, with the task of un-enriching the Web’s uranium into a stabler, safer element: gold). China, an upside-down version of Iran, is proclaiming the dangers of one type of progress while staking its fortunes on progress in general. Its rulers, like most rulers, have confused defending themselves with helping everyone else. I’d wager that many of them truly think that intellectual stagnation is the key to material forward motion.