“In the reaction and overreaction to terrorism [evil] comes the risk that society will lose its way.”
By far the most important example of this was the overreaction to Nazism, which has gone virtually unrecognised for decades, not least, because of its very profoundness, magnitude and all-pervasiveness, and because of the personal, professional and power-political self-interests that quickly became bound up with it.
The Nazis took the natural ethnic/racial basis of national identity and nationhood to criminally insane extremes in their efforts to exploit it for their own evil, power-political purposes. In overreaction to this we, i.e. our parents' and grandparents’, went to the opposite extreme of denying the natural ethnic basis of national identity and nationhood altogether, along with the very existence of race itself, which we are now obliged to believe, is just a “social construct”, only of importance to bigots and racists.
Only race is not a "social construct" (except when you try dividing closely related peoples from the same subcontinent into different races, as the Nazis insanely did), but real and important. Not in the way that racial supremacists, like the Nazis or supporters of Jim Crow or Apartheid, believe it is, but because central to any deep and meaningful sense of both personal and group, i.e. genuine national, identity.
The Nazis also hijacked the half-baked ideas of social Darwinism, which they abused to rationalise and justify their insane racial ideology, eugenics and euthanasia programmes, and wars of aggression, which also resulted in a massive overreaction on the part of a previous generation of academics, who made a taboo of the whole subject of applying Darwinian logic to the human situation, society and civilisation.
This was a tragedy we are still suffering under, because how else are we understand ourselves, our society, civilisation and situation if not from a human-evolutionary, i.e. Darwinian, perspective? Are we not, like other animals, a product of Darwinian evolution? Such a perspective reveals profound insights into the nature of society and the state, which academics have been unable to view objectively or dispassionately, because of their own dependency on it, and which are crying out for our urgent attention.
There will be understandable fears that to remove the taboos would once again lead to the abuse of Darwin’s ideas, which, of course, can’t be ruled out, but we can guard against it by being proactive in developing a rational and humane Darwinian ethics of our own, which is what we urgently need anyway.
Extricating ourselves from these overreactions and taboos is going to be difficult, because over more than half a century they have become deeply imbedded in the very fabric of academia, which is looked upon as a moral and knowledgeable authority, just as the church once was, whose values and attitudes are hugely influential and difficult even to challenge, let alone change.
Challenges to church authority were often condemned, not because they were considered unjustified, but because of fears of the consequences, not just for the church, but for society at large, which, it was feared could descend into anarchy; however, if those fears had been heeded by everyone the Reformation might never have happened and the Catholic Church would have kept its iron grip on western society, much as Islam has kept its grip on the Muslim world.