Category Archive 'Decline of the West'
20 Sep 2018

Self-Abolition of Western Man

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Malcolm Muggeridge:

“So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilisations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, laboured with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”

25 Oct 2017

The West’s Senile Elite

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Costin Alamariu thinks most Third World dictators have more real “merit” than today’s elite representatives of the alleged meritocracy.

The dim, grey technocrats who have taken hold of America and much of the West for the last few decades are feeling cornered and exposed. Their PR men are coming up with new and weird excuses. David Brooks in The New York Times argued recently that for all its faults, America has a “meritocratic elite.” According to Brooks, this group is opposed mainly because of white working class cultural resentment. He believes that America’s ruling class today is at least superior to the postwar WASPs who ran the country in the 1950s and 1960s.

But America’s Protestant establishment ran the country before World War II, as well. They won that war. They built the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Empire State building in less than two years at the height of the Depression. After the war, they took the country to the moon. It’s hard to see how websites like Google—or other “innovations” like collateralized loan obligations—can compare, glorious though these may be in their own way. Our current ruling class, with all its computing power, human resources “synergies,” and vibrant diversity, took seven years to build an on-ramp to that same Golden Gate Bridge. …

The purpose of meritocracy was to prevent occasional and unfortunate discrimination against men like Richard Feynman. Instead, we get Sonya Sotomayor and Neil deGrasse Tyson. In politics, we get sorority creatures Marie Harf and Barack Obama, a man apparently assisted by affirmative action at every stage of his life.

RTWT

Schools like Yale have been blowing smoke for generations about how this year’s freshman class is the brightest, most competitive, most marvelous ever to come down the pike. And Ivy-League-ers of the present uncritically accept all the compliments and think themselves to represent the absolute apex of human evolution.

The current generation of Yale undergraduates fondly imagines that entering classes of my day were overwhelmingly comprised of Cadwalladers, Wickershams, and Tafts who all had millionaire fathers, who all graduated from St. Grottlesex, and who spent their time at Yale sipping Mint Juleps at the Fence Club between polo matches.

In reality, the majority of my entering class was made up of graduates of public high schools. A large percentage of us were on scholarship and were the first representatives of our families to attend college. And, in fact, we had it soft.

In still older times, Yale was really unequal. Student rooms varied in quality depending on your means, guys working their way through college worked full-time jobs, roomed in slums, and lived on beans. The Catholic, Jewish, or merely impecunious Yale student never even got into Mory’s.

But it was precisely those kind of guys who built giant corporations, erected the wonders of the 20th Century, and won America’s wars back in the days when we made a policy of actually winning wars.

When I read of one of those aggrieved snowflake demonstrations at Yale demanding some outrageous and offensive concession to the amour propre of today’s spoiled, ignorant, and immature poseurs, I often wish that I could wave my hand and bring back one of the all-male classes of the first few decades of the last century to demonstrate their opinion of the conduct of the classes of today. How about the Class of 1930, whose football team was unbeaten, untied, and unscored upon? What do you suppose they’d say if they were told they could not wear certain Halloween costumes because certain people might be offended?

01 Jul 2015

Sentimental Nihilism

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ReligiousFreedomAct

Kit Wilson identifies the leading cultural disease of modern times.

We seek to make society blinkered, mindless and immature. Look at the way today’s businesses choose to market themselves. They invent names that imitate the nonsense words of babies: Zoopla, Giffgaff, Google, Trivago. They deliberately botch grammar in their slogans to sound naïve and cutesy: “Find your happy”, “Be differenter”, “The joy of done”. They make their advertisements and logos twee and ironic — a twirly moustache here, a talking dog there — just to show how carefree and fun they are.

Those in our society who actually still have children have them later and in smaller numbers than ever. Many simply choose to forego the responsibilities of parenthood altogether. Marriage is an optional extra — one from which we can opt out at any point, regardless of the consequences for the children.

Students expect to be treated like five-year-olds: one conference recently prohibited applause for fear it would, somehow, trigger a spate of breakdowns. Many of my fellow twentysomethings reach adulthood believing they can recreate in their everyday lives the woolly comforts of social media. They discover, with some surprise, that they cannot simply click away real confrontation, and — having never developed the psychological mechanisms to cope with it — instead seek simply to ban it.

The effects of social media don’t end there. A Pew Research Centre study last year found that regular social media users are far more likely than non-users to censor themselves, even offline. We learn to ignore, rather than engage with, genuine disagreement, and so ultimately dismantle the most important distinction between civil society and the playground — the ability to live respectfully alongside those with whom we disagree.

Social media assures us that the large civilisational questions have already been settled, that undemocratic nations will — just as soon as they’re able to tweet a little more — burst into glorious liberty, and that politics is, thus, merely a series of gestures to make us feel a bit better. Hence the bewildering range of global issues we seem to think can be somehow resolved with a sober mugshot and a meaningful hashtag.

In reality, our good fortune is an anomaly. We’ll face again genuine, terrifying confrontations of a kind we can scarcely imagine today. And we’ll need something a little more robust than an e-petition and a cat video.

Sadly, our philosophical approach seems to have been to paper over Nietzsche’s terrifying abyss with “Keep calm . . .” posters. If one were to characterise the West’s broad philosophical outlook today, it would be this: sentimental nihilism. We accept, as “risen apes”, that it’s all meaningless. But hey, we’re having a good time, right?

This is gleefully expressed by our society’s favourite spokespeople — comedians, glorifying the saccharine naivety of a culture stuck in the present. When the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat asked the comedian Bill Maher to locate the source of human rights, he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s in the laws of common sense.”

Read the whole thing.

13 Jan 2015

Aesthetic Confusion

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Tweet71

19 Dec 2014

“A Decline in Courage”

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NorthKoreaAllows

Bill Kristol quotes Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 speech at Harvard.

A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.

“Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable, as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and with countries not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

“Should one point out that from ancient times declining courage has been considered the beginning of the end?”

04 Nov 2014

Trick or Treating Today

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PCTrickorTreat

23 Jul 2014

Deresiewicz Attacks the Ivy League

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Yale’s University Commons, the freshman dining hall

William Deresiewicz criticizes American elite education from what might almost be a conservative perspective, but in the end he thinks the answer has to be a Utopia in which “you don’t have to go to the Ivy League, or any private college, to get a first-rate education.” Good luck with that, Bill.

If there is one idea, above all, through which the concept of social responsibility is communicated at the most prestigious schools, it is “leadership.” “Harvard is for leaders,” goes the Cambridge cliché. To be a high-achieving student is to constantly be urged to think of yourself as a future leader of society. But what these institutions mean by leadership is nothing more than getting to the top. Making partner at a major law firm or becoming a chief executive, climbing the greasy pole of whatever hierarchy you decide to attach yourself to. I don’t think it occurs to the people in charge of elite colleges that the concept of leadership ought to have a higher meaning, or, really, any meaning.

The irony is that elite students are told that they can be whatever they want, but most of them end up choosing to be one of a few very similar things. As of 2010, about a third of graduates went into financing or consulting at a number of top schools, including Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell. Whole fields have disappeared from view: the clergy, the military, electoral politics, even academia itself, for the most part, including basic science. It’s considered glamorous to drop out of a selective college if you want to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, but ludicrous to stay in to become a social worker. “What Wall Street figured out,” as Ezra Klein has put it, “is that colleges are producing a large number of very smart, completely confused graduates. Kids who have ample mental horsepower, an incredible work ethic and no idea what to do next.” …

Let’s not kid ourselves: The college admissions game is not primarily about the lower and middle classes seeking to rise, or even about the upper-middle class attempting to maintain its position. It is about determining the exact hierarchy of status within the upper-middle class itself. In the affluent suburbs and well-heeled urban enclaves where this game is principally played, it is not about whether you go to an elite school. It’s about which one you go to. It is Penn versus Tufts, not Penn versus Penn State. It doesn’t matter that a bright young person can go to Ohio State, become a doctor, settle in Dayton, and make a very good living. Such an outcome is simply too horrible to contemplate.

Deresiewicz is right and he is also wrong.

Elite culture in America always worshipped money and success. What is different today is that elite culture no longer respects its past or feels any meaningful connection to the rest of the country or the rest of society, except for recognized victims groups, patronage of which is useful for credentialing of the elite.

He’s right that race-based affirmative action is silly, and efforts at egalitarianism ought to be based on family finances and geographic representation. But, he fails to recognize that the education of national elites is not, in the end, about leveling. It is about building a leadership class, and our problem today is that American society has lost touch with its own identity and has replaced everything including conservation and transmssion of culture and paideia itself with left-wing power games based upon ressentiment.

06 Jul 2014

Perhaps Not Complete Untergang

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NewZealanderLondonRuins
Thomas Babbington Macauley: “[The Roman Catholic Church] saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.”

Oscar Halecki, The Limits and Divisions of European History, 1950 is ultimately optimistic.

It has been frequently stressed that, from the point of view of the historical method, ancient history is so instructive to study because it is completed;we are able to contemplate the whole process of its evolution from beginning to end. The same can be said today [1950] of European history. That comparison with the ancient, Greco-Roman world is both suggestive and comforting, for it shows that the end of an age, and even of a whole cultural world, need not necessarily mean complete extinction like that which occurred, for instance, in the case of the pre-Columbian civilizations of America. Europe’s present decline need not lead to what Oswald Spengler calls an Untergang, although the crisis is much more acute today than it was when he wrote his sensational book. Nor need Macauley’s gloomy vision of a New Zealander meditating over the ruins of London ever come true, although this time seemed so near in 1940. …

Europe came into existence as an historical community because numerous peoples entirely different from each other, without effacing their particularities and without ever uniting politically, joined in a co-operation based upon common cultural conceptions, traditions, and principles. The individual nations which developed within that community were rather small if compared, for instance, with the peoples of India or China. Likewise small was the area in which they had their home; and compared with the length of other histories –to mention only that of Egypt– the age of their common greatness was of rather short duration.

But within these narrow limits of time we see the same variety of events in rapidly changing periods that is so striking in Europe’s physical and ethnical backgrounds. This certainly is an unusually dynamic history, whether proceeding through evolution or through revolutionary upheavals. And that is the first argument in favor of the conviction that the end of the European Age in history is not necessarily the end of Europe, or of a civilization which, though inseparable from the European heritage, has ceased to be exclusively European.

01 Jun 2014

Some People’s Delusions are Allegedly a Civil Right

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TIME-Laverne-Cover

That whirring sounds you hear faintly in the background are Henry Luce and Briton Hadden, both Y’1920, the founders of Time Magazine, spinning in their graves as Nancy Gibbs, Y’1982, Time’s current managing editor, celebrates a very special “tipping point” by identifying Transgender-ism as a Civil Rights Movement now officially recognized by the national bien pensant establishment as a worthy cause entitled to receive public celebration and state-enforced privileges and immunities.

Sexual deviance and perversity were racking up lots of victories this week. The National Park Service announced that it was going to make places and people of significance to the history of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual Americans part of the national narrative. (That bronze historic marker in the public lavatory where so-and-so was once arrested may look a little out of place, but there you are.)

The Spirit of Enlightenment leaped suddenly from California to Texas as Houston’s mayor and city council announced that that city’s bathrooms, showers, and dressing facilities will henceforward be unrestricted by gender.

And the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services’ Departmental Appeals Board opened the door to tax-payer funded sexual reassignment surgery by eliminating a Medicare ban on consideration of such coverage dating back to the Dark Ages of 1981.

The self-congratulatory smugfest was, however, unkindly interrupted by National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson’s “nasty” and “offensive” “takedown” of Time’s munificent gesture. Williamson deliberately spoiled all the fun by noting that Time’s latest covergirl Laverne Cox is not actually a woman, and even the consensus of the community of fashion aided by the all powers of modern science cannot really make him into one.

Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.

Genital amputation and mutilation is the extreme expression of the phenomenon, but it is hardly outside the mainstream of contemporary medical practice. The trans self-conception, if the autobiographical literature is any guide, is partly a feeling that one should be living one’s life as a member of the opposite sex and partly a delusion that one is in fact a member of the opposite sex at some level of reality that transcends the biological facts in question. There are many possible therapeutic responses to that condition, but the offer to amputate healthy organs in the service of a delusional tendency is the moral equivalent of meeting a man who believes he is Jesus and inquiring as to whether his insurance plan covers crucifixion.

The most amusing response to this unanswerable argument came from Mediate’s Matt Wilstein.

Williamson is right. Cox is not a “woman” in the narrow, traditional sense that he is capable of comprehending. But nor is she a “man” in the way he insists on describing her throughout his intentionally offensive screed. Cox proudly identifies as transgender. …

This passage demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about the difference between sex and gender. There is a reason the term “transexual” is no longer used while “transgender” has become the accepted descriptor. While someone’s sex may be defined by biological characteristics, gender is essentially a psychological identification.

Ah, yes! The difference between sex and gender. Sex is an unalterable physical reality. “Gender” is a social construct, invented by academic sophisters, which is optionally chosen and modifiable at will. In other words, gender is BS.

22 May 2014

The Current Crisis

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PaulDelvauxCityWorried1941
Paul Delvaux, City Worried, 1941, Private Collection.

“Western civilization at the present day is passing through a crisis which is essentially different from anything that has previously been experienced. Other societies in the past have changed their social institutions or their religious beliefs under the influence of external forces or the slow development of internal growth. But none, like our own, has ever consciously faced the prospect of a fundamental alteration of the beliefs and institutions on which the whole fabric of social life rests.”

—- Christopher Dawson, Enquiries Into Religion and Culture

Via Zerogate.

23 Apr 2014

Evidence of Decline

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WWIIProduction

Rare:

During the 3 1/2 years of U.S. involvement, here’s what we manufactured:

8 battleships, 22 aircraft carriers, 48 cruisers, 349 destroyers, 420 destroyer escorts, 203 submarines, 4 million tons of merchant ships, 100,000 fighters, 98,000 bombers, 24,000 transport aircraft, 58,000 training aircraft, 93,000 tanks, 257,000 artillery pieces, 105,000 mortars, 3,000,000 machine guns, 2.5 mil military trucks 16.1 million men in uniform, and we developed the atomic bomb.

Simply astounding.

“During this same period of time, three and a half years, it should be noted that Obama couldn’t put together a functioning website,” Neal Boortz commented.

03 Mar 2014

What Will Happen Next?

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Anonymous tourists in Simferopol

Kevin Drum, writing from the perspective of the Left in Mother Jones, predicts the US response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine:

Republicans will demand that we show strength in the face of Putin’s provocation. Whatever it is that we’re doing, we should do more.

President Obama will denounce whatever it is that Putin does. But regardless of how unequivocal his condemnation is, Bill Kristol will insist that he’s failing to support the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people.

Journalists will write a variety of thumbsuckers pointing out that our options are extremely limited, what with Ukraine being 5,000 miles away and all.

John McCain will appear on a bunch of Sunday chat shows to bemoan the fact that Obama is weak and no one fears America anymore.

Having written all the “options are limited” thumbsuckers, journalists and columnists will follow McCain’s lead and start declaring that the crisis in Ukraine is the greatest foreign policy test of Obama’s presidency. It will thus supplant Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, and North Korea for this honor.

In spite of all the trees felled and words spoken about this, nobody will have any good ideas about what kind of action might actually make a difference. There will be scattered calls to impose a few sanctions here and there, introduce a ban on Russian vodka imports, convene NATO, demand a UN Security Council vote, etc. None of this will have any material effect.

Obama will continue to denounce Putin. Perhaps he will convene NATO. For their part, Republicans will continue to insist that he’s showing weakness and needs to get serious.

This will all continue for a while.

In the end, it will all settle down into a stalemate, with Russia having thrown its weight around in its near abroad—just like it always has—and the West not having the leverage to do much about it.

———————————-

“Theodore Dalrymple”, writing from the perspective of the Right in Taki’s Magazine, predicts the European response.

[T]he Ukrainian crisis has once again revealed the European Union’s complete impotence. Physiognomy is an inexact science, but it is not so inexact that you cannot read the bemused feebleness on the faces of people such as Van Rompuy, Hollande, and Cameron, the latter so moistly smooth and characterless that it looks as though it would disappear leaving a trail of slime if caught in the rain. Mrs. Merkel has a somewhat stronger face, but then she has the advantage of having spent time in the Free German Youth (the East German communist youth movement), which must at least have put a modicum of iron in her soul.

Be that as it may, Russia holds all the trump cards in this situation. It can turn off Western Europe’s central heating at a stroke, and for Europeans such heating is the whole meaning and purpose of life—together with six-week annual holidays in Bali or Benidorm. Therefore Europe will risk nothing for the sake of Ukraine, except perhaps a few billion in loans of no one’s money, a trifle in current economic circumstances. If Bismarck were to return today, he would say that the whole of Ukraine was not worth the cold of one unheated radiator.

17 Feb 2014

The Worst of It

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The worst thing about living under liberals isn’t the deliberate erosion of the Constitution, the disastrous nationalization of medical insurance, the ever-shrinking percentage of Americans in the workforce, the monstrous debt, the looming hyperinflation, America’s diminished status in the world, the degradation of military preparedness and morale, the disintegration of education, or the horror of realizing that the insolent, self-satisfied punk who pokes a finger in your eye every time you turn on the TV is the President of the USA.

The worst thing is what they are making us into as a people.

From Happy Acres via Vanderleun.

03 Jan 2014

Decadence and Statism

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Eric Fischl, The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog, 1982. –Our time’s version of The Raft of the Medusa.

Charles Hill identifies our time, the age of Decadence, as the period of time lying between the decline and the fall of a great civilization.

Toynbee [predicted] that the creative minority behind great civilizations will, as the civilization begins to decline, transform itself into a dominant minority that takes on the vulgar and promiscuous behaviors of society’s low-life. So in the post-Cold War period America’s “cultural elite”… adopted distinctly coarse attitudes and practices. A Vice Presidential case in point: When the wife of Senator and later Vice President Gore attacked the violence and misogyny of some rock and most rap lyrics, she was scolded by most of her social and political peers. Why were four-letter words, formerly seen by the upper-middle class as déclassé, now appearing in glossy upscale magazines? How had “the hooker look” become a fashion trend among nice girls from the American suburbs? How had multiple body piercings and tattoos, which a few decades ago marked only sailors and motorcycle gang thugs, become trendy?

Toynbee would have shrugged and said simply that we are witnessing the self-proletarianization of the American dominant minority. Happens all the time. Yet there is reason to suspect that the primary cause of this vulgarization may rather be the adoption of a broad cultural style that enhances the elite’s power. In a polity that has been shedding its Founding Fathers-designed barriers against Athenian-style direct democracy, the power elite ever more requires the protective camouflage of proletarian class superiority. Flaunting coarse conduct and a combat boots dress code adds heft to the elite’s domination. So in place of the classically tripartite elements of the soul—reason, desire and spirit, according to the parable of Leontias in Plato’s Republic, or in earlier America, self-reliance, Christian-Roman virtues and patriotism—a new triad emerges: claims on government, vulgar behavior and a yearning for relief from world leadership.

This vast societal transformation might be called “The Great Virtue Shift.” Almost every act regarded in the mid-20th century as a vice was, by the opening of the 21st century, considered a virtue.Almost every act regarded in the mid-20th century as a vice was, by the opening of the 21st century, considered a virtue. As gambling, obscenity, pornography, drugs, divorce, homosexuality, abortion and sneering disaffection became The New Virtue, government at all levels began to move in on the action, starting with casinos and currently involving, in several states and the District of Columbia, an officially approved and bureaucratically managed narcotics trade.

The Great Virtue Shift has produced among its practitioners the appearance of profound moral concern, caring and legislated activism on behalf of the neediest cases and most immiserated populations at home and around the world. To this may be added the panoply of social agenda issues designed to ignite resentment and righteous indignation among the new “proletarian” elite. All this works to satisfy the cultural elite’s desire to feel morally superior about itself regarding collective moral issues of large magnitude even as they, as individuals, engage in outsized self-indulgent personal behavior. This is Reinhold Niebuhr’s “moral man and immoral society” turned on its head, where hedonism takes cover beneath a superficial global moralism.

The virtue shift has been paralleled by a governmental shift. As gifted politicians have sensed the changing psychology and national character of the country, they have learned to constantly scan the political horizon to identify each special interest group, make the necessary promises and then move to satisfy each group’s claim on government largesse, or its demand for deeper government intervention to enforce adherence to each group’s behavioral choices. Throughout most of American history people were preoccupied with how to prevent government from becoming corrupt. In our time, governments have discovered how to corrupt the people. It then follows that the more corrupted the people become, the more numerous the laws must be, thus further aggrandizing government’s indispensability.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

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