Robert W. Merry, writing in the 15th anniversary issue of The American Conservative, explains that much of the assault on Western civilization today is really a “political maneuver to favor the so-called victim class.” That victim class, especially on college campuses, has taken wholeheartedly to the idea that it has been oppressed, and that the only remedy is the complete annihilation of the presumed oppressor. But can destroying Western civilization really benefit the world? Merry points to artistic expression, scientific inquiry, exploration and civic development as areas where Western civilization broadened humanity’s horizons in ways that changed the world. Would anyone really want to give that all up? He writes (abridged):
I also don’t understand why so many liberals go bonkers at the mere mention of Western civilization or the Western heritage. When Donald Trump in his Warsaw speech last year referred repeatedly to “the West” and “our civilization,” he was castigated by two writers for The Atlantic, Peter Beinart and James Fallows, who found it “shocking” that an American president would connect his country’s values to the civilization of its heritage.
What is the West? Its fundamental elements include the theology of Christianity against the confines of nature. It wasn’t by accident that the West invented the architectural flying buttress, making possible the Gothic cathedrals that soar into the sky. In painting, Western man employed light and shadow to burst through space and time, bringing dimension to the canvas and making the background a symbol of the infinite. And just when Dutch Baroque painting was reaching its fullest flowering with Rembrandt and his contemporaries, the West’s cultural momentum was picked up by the soaring new expression of Baroque music, reflected so powerfully in the cantatas and fugues of Bach.
In literature, the West developed a penetrating “biographical” approach, dealing with the entirety of a life, as opposed to the Greeks’ “anecdotal” approach, which concentrated on a single moment.
Western science similarly pushed outward through a preoccupation with the horizon and eventually outer space. The West moved beyond the confining Euclidian geometry of Classical times and developed the soaring mathematical constructions of calculus and physics.
The West’s impulse towards pushing out into new realms led to the Age of Discovery, the period of conquest, colonial overlordship, and eventually the era of Western global dominance. And yes, that system was unquestionably exploitative and often abusive, characterized frequently by cultural insensitivity and attitudes of superiority.
It is altogether appropriate and proper that this part of the story should be told, that the human costs attending the West’s rise should be recognized and discussed. But second, this is not a distinctly Western phenomenon.
Welcome to History 101, which teaches that the story of mankind is not of exploited good guys and abusive bad guys. It is of civilizations struggling for cultural expression and fulfillment against forces and pressures from others who would thwart them.
Much of this assault on the Western heritage is really a political maneuver to favor the so-called victim class (anyone whose ancestors suffered at the hands of the West) against the so-called privileged class (those whose ancestors imposed the suffering). It’s a brilliant ploy, and it’s working in many quarters, particularly on college campuses. But it has little to do with any reasoned interpretation of history.
Read more here.
Latest posts by Richard C. Young (see all)
- American Culture is Norman Rockwell Not Constitutional Scholars - May 23, 2018
- Washington’s Best Strategy with North Korea - May 22, 2018
- Pompeo Can’t Afford His Own Version of the Iraq War - May 22, 2018