Thursday, January 05, 2006
On Western Civilization, and the Decline Thereof
Thanks to James Lileks, I found this crackerjack Wall Street Journal op-ed by Mark Steyn. It begins:
Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries. There'll probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands--probably--just as in Istanbul there's still a building called St. Sophia's Cathedral. But it's not a cathedral; it's merely a designation for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon Western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the West.Pretty strong stuff... and Mr. Steyn makes it deadly convincing. For once he's not trying to be funny, not at all.
His thesis is simple: our need to apologize for our very successes, and to welcome the very ones who would kill us and tear down all our accomplishments, spells doom for Western Civilization. It's a sobering thought, and a scary one.
I can't possibly spell it out as lucidly as he does; please do go and read it all.
Mr. Lileks, by the way, is no slouch himself. After writing at some length about how fashionable it is to protest against Christianity, for its evil past, while multiculturally embracing Islam (and ignoring its evil present), he says:
So you have Swedish clothing designers putting a tag on hot jeans with a skull and an inverted cross, with the express intention of pointing out the “evil” of Christianity. "It is an active statement against Christianity," Bjorn Atldax told The Associated Press. "I'm not a Satanist myself, but I have a great dislike for organized religion."Atldax insists he has a purpose beyond selling denim: to make young people question Christianity, which he called a "force of evil" that had sparked wars throughout history.Indeed. We've forgotten what Bravery means, with our nonsense about "speaking truth to power", haven't we?
It goes without saying that selling anti-Christian iconography to European fashionistas is a brave an act as reducing the food pellet allotment to your pet hamster; a true act of bravery would be yanking the dead wildebeest out of a lion’s mouth. Or selling jeans that have the international cross-and-bar NO symbol over the crescent of Islam. They don’t dare do that – partly because they are deeply suffused in the very racism they decry, and regard the inhabitants of their tall dead Corbu-inspired concrete ghettos as brown rabble beneath contempt and therefore irrelevant to relevant discussion, and partly because they have a nagging fear of editorials, hate-speech laws, tut-tuts from the thinking class, and the occasional unhinged fellow with a knife. But Christianity? Didn’t that die in a muddy hole in Ypres?
(Well, some of us have. Others remember quite well what Bravery is. They could teach us a thing or two about Honor, and Courage, and Truth.)
By all means, read Mr. Lileks as well.
UPDATE: Victor David Hanson sends the same message, worded somewhat differently, as an open letter to the Europeans: "Cry the Beloved Continent". Stephen Green has written his own letter -- and if Hanson's is written in a scholarly style the Europeans might appreciate, Green's is written as the folksy American that is no doubt expected in Europe. Both are well worth the reading. (hat tip for both: Instapundit.)
UPDATE II: Another screed from Lileks, tangentially related. It seems that a letter to the editor caught his attention; have a look at this:
But that’s not really what tickled me about the letter. It’s a fairly concise summation of a particular mindset that does not, to put it lightly, share the same peril-set I do. [...] And that’s why the letter amused. He said:Assume that violent Islamic fundamentalism, like Nazism and communism before it, is completely marginalized.Right. The Iranian sponsors, with their nuclear ambitions and support of international terror, are off the stage; the Saudi paymasters are likewise cowed or replaced with a government that seeks coexistence with Israel; Syria has had a revolution, Iraq makes the Swiss look like South Bronx (or a Paris Suburb), the Chechen rebels have disbanded in shame, the store-front sheiks of London have decided to join in the experiment of 21st century post-national continental identity, the various rag-tag bombers and separatists and fundamentalists from Indonesia to India to Pakistan have likewise stood down, and the most primitive, unreconstructed, antagonistic threat to modernity, liberalism, gender equity, religious tolerance, pluralism, and all the other right bonny boons of the Western Civ have been defeated, thwarted, or persuaded to change their ways.
Assume that, and we can get on to the issues the [Bush] apologists never consider.
Give me a call when it happens. We’ll sit down and have a nice hot cup of worry. Some scones, too. If they’re fresh.