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Like a sardonic Virgil, Muggeridge remains an invaluable guide to the world of modernity-and postmodernity. The catalogue of issues on which he continues to speak-with wit and good judgment-is long, and as urgent as a breaking news report:
POWER: Muggeridge was a brilliant analyst of why people are drawn to, and corrupted by, political power. He was an equal-opportunity critic, portraying not only the absurdities and horrors of modern totalitarianism, but also the hypocrisies and decadence that parade under the banner of democracy.
IDEOLOGY: The son of a socialist, Muggeridge as a young man looked to communism for salvation, only to be one of the first to uncover the genocidal policies of the Soviet Union. This helped to turn him not only into an expert on regimes dominated by abstract ideologies, but also on the way Western intellectuals tend to become alienated from their Judeo-Christian cultural heritage.
POLITICS: A self-confessed political junkie, Muggeridge was an old hand at deconstructing the rhetoric of party politics.
EMPIRE: While watching the British Empire crumble from various vantage points around the globe in the first half of the twentieth century, Muggeridge also kept an eye on the emerging empire known as the United States. While he admired a great deal about America, he also pointed out the paradoxes and perils of being the world's great superpower.
THE MEDIA: Though he was a pioneer on both radio and television, and one of the most experienced print journalists in the world, Muggeridge was deeply concerned with the influence of mass media on politics and culture. He predicted the advent of twenty-four-hour news stations and was convinced that mass media, projected through new technologies, would undermine the political process.
SEX: Although he was a notorious womanizer for much of his life, when he wrote of the modern era's fascination with sex-and the consequent failure of sexual liberation to live up to its promises-he wrote from personal experience and was funny, poignant, and compelling.
HUMOR: Muggeridge was the godfather of the British comedy revolution of the 1960s, which elevated hard-edged satire to the forefront of public discourse, particularly in magazines like Private Eye. He likened himself to the "gargoyle on the steeple" and felt that only those who took this world lightly could laugh at it. Paradoxically, his penchant for black humor has the power to be strangely heartening in these uncertain times.
BIOETHICS: Muggeridge was controversial when he took a public stand against abortion in the 1970s, but many thought he was just plain silly to predict that euthanasia would become the next major "life issue." He agreed with the argument made by C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man that the next major ideological battlefield of the modern era would be the human body.
RELIGION: An outsider for much of his life, Muggeridge eventually became a Christian and joined the Catholic Church in old age. As a champion of the great Christian existentialists-particularly Augustine, Pascal, Blake, and Kierkegaard-Muggeridge became a Christian apologist whose edginess has made him less popular than writers whose work is more romantic, like Chesterton and Lewis. But Muggeridge's combination of worldly wit and unworldly mysticism provides a healthy antidote to the sometimes complacent and sentimental attitudes of those who claim to be defenders of Christian orthodoxy.
Looking into the mirror of Muggeridge's writings and film documentaries, we see ourselves more clearly. It is to be hoped that more of those writings and films will become available to the public in the coming years.
I would like to thank the staff of ISI Books, especially Jeffrey Nelson and Jeremy Beer, for their support-and their patience. -Gregory Wolfe March 8, 2003
Excerpted from Malcolm Muggeridge by Gregory Wolfe Copyright © 2007 by Gregory Wolfe. Excerpted by permission.
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