Western civilization in decline
The term Western civilization was very much the creation of American intellectuals at the beginning of the 20th century. The term denoted the world outlook that American intellectuals shared with their European counterparts. Both Americans and Europeans boasted not only of progress of science and the scientific conquest of nature, but also of the spread of democratic freedom and equality, of human rights and the rule of law, of material abundance and of unlimited progress.
And yet, hardly had the term Western civilization surfaced than Oswald Spengler wrote his Decline of the West (1918)!
Watching Western civilization decline
To update this pessimism, Professor James Kurth pointed out in a brilliant essay, “The Real Clash” (1994), that the term Western civilization is virtually obsolete. It merely signifies a geographical direction rather than any cultural essence, in contrast to Islamic, Slavic-Orthodox, Buddhist, Confucian, and Hindu civilization. And if this is not enough to make you wonder about the future of the West, Kurth informs us that what most clearly distinguishes Western from other civilizations is that religion is not the core of its ethos, even though most people who live in the West are Christians. He might even have said that the sports arena has taken the place of the church!
Actually, less than a hundred years after the term Western civilization was invented, America’s academic elites began to reject the term. They now reject not only America’s global power but also American constitutional government, capitalism, and traditional morality. Multicultural moral relativism has gained ascendancy in academe, in consequence of which America is no longer a “melting pot” but rather an aggregation of self-assertive and self-justifying racial and ethnic groups such as African Americans, Polish Americans, Latino Americans, and Asian Americans. America has entered a post-modern and multicultural world where moral relativism permeates every level of education in the West. The idea of Western Civilization is indeed passé.
The feminist attack
Kurth makes the fascinating observation that multiculturalism has coincided with feminism, and that this is an anti-Western movement. Feminists see in the Christian West (as well as in Judaism) male dominance and an emphasis on family values that restrict a woman’s freedom. Moreover, the post-World War II change from an industrial to a services economy has moved women from the home to the office and transformed the nuclear family into the “non-family” [and I’ve said nothing of same-sex marriages]. Kurth concludes: The ascendancy of multiculturalism and feminism mark the end of Western civilization.
An attack on church and state
History seems to have played tricks on mankind. The Enlightenment, a movement that began in eighteenth-century Europe with the separation of church and state, a movement that offered the nation or the nation-state as the object of one’s loyalty, has ended with utter hostility not only to the church but to the nation-state as well. The Enlightenment has thus produced a black hole from which no light can emerge. The nihilism that now dominates Europe, and which has all but conquered America – recall Alan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind – marks a New Dark Age.
Nihilism obviously underlies American pop culture. This pop culture is spreading throughout the globe as a result of America’s political and economic hegemony. Devoid of reason and reverence and manifesting man’s basest instincts, American pop culture constitutes the greatest threat to all tradition-based societies or civilizations whose core is religious. This is why Muslims regard America as the “Great Satan” – the great tempter. And this is why Israel, which behaves like a vassal of the United States, is deemed the “Small Satan,” where nihilism and nothingness hold sway.
Israel declining, too
Israel’s intellectual and political elites appear oblivious of the irreconcilable clash between the “West” and the “Rest,” in particular Islam. Influenced by their American counterparts, they believe in “conflict resolution” and have established departments in universities for the purpose. Oslo is one manifestation of this obscurantism. It was as if the conflict between the U.S. and Nazi Germany – hardly to be compared to the civilizational conflict between Israel and Islam – could have been resolved by peaceful means. If Germany is peaceful today, it’s not only because it was conquered in war, but because the desire to conquer others was bombed out of the German people.
Israel’s ruling elites refuse to take Islam (to say nothing of Judaism) seriously. Their mentality is post-modern, permeated by cultural relativism and an effete humanism. They have conditioned themselves into believing that peaceful coexistence is possible between Jews and Palestinian Arabs. (How else can these assimilated Jews appear “acceptable”?) Never mind that these Arabs are part of a 1,400 year-old civilization that despises and hates infidels, especially Jews. Never mind that Muslims have been slaughtering Jews and Christians and even each other down through the centuries. Never mind that Arab children have been taught to hate Jews and to emulate suicide bombers. Israel’s Illuminati dwell in Darkness—in a New Dark Age.
*A slightly revised version of this essay appeared in The Jerusalem Post. Bret Stephens, a University of Chicago man like myself, then served as Editor-in-Chief of that newspaper. The editorial quality of the Post, since his departure, has become philosophically trite and timid.