Category Archive 'Decline of the West'
03 Mar 2019
Yale’s Brutalist Art and Architecture Building, designed by Paul Rudolph 1963.
â€œHow did it ever happen that, when the dregs of the world had collected in western Europe, when Goth and Frank and Norman and Lombard had mingled with the rot of old Rome to form a patchwork of hybrid races, all of them notable for ferocity, hatred, stupidity, craftiness, lust, and brutalityâ€”how did it happen that, from all of this, there should come Gregorian chant, monasteries and cathedrals, the poems of Prudentius, the commentaries and histories of Bede, the Moralia of Gregory the Great, St. Augustineâ€™s City of God, and his Trinity, the writings of Anselm, St. Bernardâ€™s sermons on the Canticles, the poetry of Caedmon and Cynewulf and Langland and Dante, St. Thomasâ€™ Summa, and the Oxoniense of Duns Scotus? How does it happen that even today a couple of ordinary French stonemasons, or a carpenter and his apprentice, can put up a dovecote or a barn that has more architectural perfection than the piles of eclectic stupidity that grow up at the cost of millions of dollars on the campuses of American universities?â€
â€” Thomas Merton, “The Seven Story Mountain”.
20 Sep 2018
â€œSo 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 overâ€“a weary, battered old brontosaurusâ€“and became extinct.â€
25 Oct 2017
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 â€œmeritocratic elite.â€ According to Brooks, this group is opposed mainly because of white working class cultural resentment. He believes that Americaâ€™s ruling class today is at least superior to the postwar WASPs who ran the country in the 1950s and 1960s.
But Americaâ€™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. Itâ€™s hard to see how websites like Googleâ€”or other â€œinnovationsâ€ like collateralized loan obligationsâ€”can compare, glorious though these may be in their own way. Our current ruling class, with all its computing power, human resources â€œsynergies,â€ 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.
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
Kit Wilson identifies the leading cultural disease of modern times.
We seek to make society blinkered, mindless and immature. Look at the way todayâ€™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 naÃ¯ve and cutesy: â€œFind your happyâ€, â€œBe differenterâ€, â€œThe joy of doneâ€. They make their advertisements and logos twee and ironic â€” a twirly moustache here, a talking dog there â€” 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 â€” 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 â€” having never developed the psychological mechanisms to cope with it â€” instead seek simply to ban it.
The effects of social media donâ€™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 â€” 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 â€” just as soon as theyâ€™re able to tweet a little more â€” 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. Weâ€™ll face again genuine, terrifying confrontations of a kind we can scarcely imagine today. And weâ€™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 Nietzscheâ€™s terrifying abyss with â€œKeep calm . . .â€ posters. If one were to characterise the Westâ€™s broad philosophical outlook today, it would be this: sentimental nihilism. We accept, as â€œrisen apesâ€, that itâ€™s all meaningless. But hey, weâ€™re having a good time, right?
This is gleefully expressed by our societyâ€™s favourite spokespeople â€” 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, â€œItâ€™s in the laws of common sense.â€
Read the whole thing.
19 Dec 2014
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.
â€œPolitical 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.
â€œShould one point out that from ancient times declining courage has been considered the beginning of the end?â€
23 Jul 2014
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 donâ€™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 â€œleadership.â€ â€œHarvard is for leaders,â€ goes the Cambridge clichÃ©. 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 donâ€™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. Itâ€™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. â€œWhat Wall Street figured out,â€ as Ezra Klein has put it, â€œis 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.â€ …
Letâ€™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. Itâ€™s about which one you go to. It is Penn versus Tufts, not Penn versus Penn State. It doesnâ€™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
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  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
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 oneâ€™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 â€œwomanâ€ in the narrow, traditional sense that he is capable of comprehending. But nor is she a â€œmanâ€ 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 â€œtransexualâ€ is no longer used while â€œtransgenderâ€ has become the accepted descriptor. While someoneâ€™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
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.”
â€”- Christopher Dawson, Enquiries Into Religion and Culture
23 Apr 2014
During the 3 1/2 years of U.S. involvement, hereâ€™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.
â€œDuring this same period of time, three and a half years, it should be noted that Obama couldnâ€™t put together a functioning website,â€ Neal Boortz commented.
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