Letter from the Editor-in-chief

(The Origin of Principles, 25 Mar 2013)

Sarang Shah ·

In the second issue of Distilled, we explored the debate between the organizing principles of individualism versus collectivism in the areas of politics, economics, and culture. We had a lively debate about these principles that took us from labour unions in the US and Canada, EU obstinacy in landlocked Switzerland, patchwork communities in the UAE, Maoist rebels in India, and finally, to China where it seems the Chinese are trying to have both.

Yet, we began to ask ourselves – is there more to the debate than merely individualism and collectivism? What are the other principles that underlie people’s beliefs and actions? Where do these principles come from? And how do these principles bear relevance to some of the critical problems we discussed in our first issue, “The Global Crisis of Confidence”?

Why is it necessary for us to debate principles and where they come from?

We believe that in today’s world, every individual is bombarded with constant information. Most of this information consists of too much noise, and not enough signal.

Since our inception, we have believed that the only way to truly understand our complex, interconnected global society is by telling stories. Holistic narratives about who we are, where we’ve come from, and how we intend to reach our vision for the future. Together.

But these stories require more than just a recitation of facts and figures. They need to incorporate first-hand accounts and experiences by a wide diversity of people around the world. They need to appeal to both the emotional and rational core of people’s sense of self-identity and group belonging. They need to offer a comprehensible view of the past and present, and a hope for the future.

Before we get to these requirements, however, we first need to understand the values and principles people hold, where they come from and how they’re formed, and how they influence the way we behave. Without this debate, we are left to wallow in the malarial swamps of our own stagnation and decadence – ceding what gains we achieved through our struggle for democracy, liberty, and freedom to that ancient blind leviathan, Apathy.

Distilled aims to not only be a platform for this debate and an incubator for these stories, but also a community of people around the world who yearn to join the global discourse. We are, first and foremost, an empathetic community of people from various backgrounds who seek to make sense of this world, and to simultaneously make this world a better place for everyone.

In this issue, we start off with a critical look into how virtuous we are and whether or not we need a different set of norms and morals for transhumans. After this you can delve into the world of religion by asking how a religious community can be, for better and worse, an enormous influence on a person’s beliefs and sense of belonging, and whether this religious community ought to be responsible for the education of students in a secular democracy. Following up on the question of belief, we dare you to inquire about the relationship between God and man. Diverting to more profane topics, we subsequently explore the distinction between facts and values in American political debate and the principles that underlie technocracy in Europe, America, and the rest of the world. We also ask “whatever happened to brotherly love?” in international relations, how the international defense community might gain from acting on principles, and what role human rights can play in the future. And finally, as a discussion of our core values can’t be omitted from this issue, we critically investigate Christopher Hitchens’s principles and his strong adherence to his anti-totalitarian beliefs before questioning democracy itself and the principles that lend this ubiquitous form of government credence.

A vigorous discourse is the mother of change and invention. That is why we hope you enjoy engaging the debates in our third issue, whether it’s through the comments section, letters to the editor, our upcoming podcast, our blogs Distilled Daily and Distilled Extra, our Facebook and Twitter pages, or even through your own contribution to our next issue. And as always, we remind you to stake your ground and defend it. Wisely.