Why is it important to get the story of Western Civilization straight?

WesternCivilizationby Jerry Richardson   6/19/14
Recently Brad Nelson posed a very interesting question on his review of the book, How the West Won: “Why does it  matter getting the story of Western Civilization straight?” Tantalizing question!

In my response, I have taken the liberty of unpacking Brad’s question a bit, and have made some assumptions that I deem necessary.

Please keep in mind that I am in no way trying to usurp the thoughts of Brad Nelson.  Brad is a very articulate writer, and I am confident that he will make any comments that he feels are necessary or useful pertaining to the topic of his question.

With those caveats, off we go.

First we must have clarity on the use of the term ‘story’.  A simple synonym for ‘story’ is ‘narrative’ and in my online dictionary, WordWeb Pro, both words share the following definition:

“A message that tells the particulars of an act or occurrence or course of events; presented in writing or drama or cinema or as a radio or television program”

So a ‘story’ of ‘Western Civilization’ would tell the particulars of the course of events of ‘Western Civilization’.

In addition, the ‘story’ is also a ‘message’.  And the ‘message’ of a ‘story’ is usually the sense of the overall meaning of the story.

In other words, what fundamental meaning does the story impart?

The term ‘moral’ of the story is often used; it is usually considered to be the theme or central idea of the story, or perhaps the ‘lesson’ taught in the story.

‘Western Civilization’ also needs an initial definition.  Again, WordWeb Pro:
”The modern culture of western Europe and North America”.

So to tie together the terms ‘story’ and ‘Western Civilization’ in Brad’s question means that we wish to know the ‘moral’ or the ‘lesson’ taught by the modern culture of western Europe and North America.

In other words, what have we learned from our culture?

Now we see immediately a major problem in our investigation.  Learning lessons from cultural-history necessitates value judgments.

It is here that we run headlong into post-modern notions of relative truth and multiculturalism (all cultures are morally equivalent).

I reject these two post-modern notions (relative truth and multiculturalism) on the simple basis that no one actually lives their life using these two principles.  No one actually bases their day-to-day actions on the belief that truth is relative or that there is no moral difference in existing cultures.

Relative-truth example: No one actually believes that there is no truth-difference in the statement that, ‘stepping in front of a speeding 18-wheeler is a deadly mistake’, and the statement that ‘stepping in front of a speeding 18-wheeler is a perfectly safe act.’  In the day-to-day world, truth is not relative—a statement is true, or it isn’t.

Multiculturalism-example: No woman, who has experienced both, actually believes that it is better to live in a nation with Sharia law (where a woman may be legally considered a criminal for being raped —Reference0) than to live in the United States of America. If not, why don’t numerous Muslims, who currently live in the USA, emigrate to an Islamic nation? The Muslim population in the USA has been steadily increasing.  Why is that?

To get the ‘story’ of ‘Western Civilization’ straight (straight = correct on the facts and on the meaning), we must be able to evaluate civilizations.  Such an evaluation requires criteria for differentiating between such abstracts as ‘useful’ and ‘destructive’, ‘healthful’ and ‘harmful’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘unsustainable’, ‘freeing’ and ‘enslaving’, ‘truthful’ or ‘deceitful’, in short we must be able to recognize the difference between the old Platonic realities, ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

Oh, I know full-well the confrontational-ground I’m stepping onto here: Progressives avoid the term ‘evil’ unless it is applied to conservatives or to Christians.

Here and now, I call BS on progressives’ refusal to evaluate different civilizations, with the single remarkable exception that they seem to evaluate all other civilizations as somehow superior to Western Civilization.

We cannot even approach Brad Nelson’s question (Why does it matter to get the story straight on Western Civilization?) without evaluating civilizations.

And the reason to evaluate civilizations is very simple, and can best be summarized, I think, with the famous aphorism of George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  —Reference1

In other words, civilizations (collections of people and their culture) make mistakes, and unless we learn from the past we (a collective civilization), will go right-on making the same mistakes.

But, we must have criteria for evaluating civilizations.

We do have criteria.  The criteria we have, started its development in ancient Greece (Athens): Democracy—self-rule.  It has been refined by numerous thinkers throughout the history of world civilization and Western Civilization.

It began to mature during The Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Reformation.

It was intellectually nourished over a long period of time by such capable thinkers as Cicero, Samuel Rutherford, and the very superb English thinker and writer, John Locke, who in turn influenced such thinkers as Jonathan Edwards and William Blackstone, and they in turn Thomas Jefferson.

We do have criteria for evaluating civilizations: The Declaration of Independence.

”Although we know Thomas Jefferson as the true author, the Second Continental Congress initially appointed five people to draw up a declaration. The committee included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was then given the task of writing a draft for the Declaration of Independence, which from June 11 to June 28 he worked on. Before he presented the Declaration to the Continental Congress, he showed it to John Adams and Benjamin Franklin; they made revisions. He presented the draft to Congress on July 1, 1776 and more revisions were made. On the fourth of July the delegates met in what we know today as Independence Hall, but back then was known as the Pennsylvania State House, and approved the Declaration. John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress signed the declaration along with Charles Thomson and it was sent to John Dunlap’s print shop for printing.”  —Reference2

I believe that no better criteria exist for evaluating civilizations than the criteria that is articulated in our own Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.” —Reference3

A civilization that supports and furthers the principles of liberty and self-government stated above should be evaluated as “good”, and a civilization that rejects or obstructs the above stated principles should be evaluated on a continuum ranging from ‘not-good’ all the way to ‘evil’.

Hence the reason to ‘get the story straight on Western Civilization’ is to support the understanding and furtherance of those ‘self-evident’ truths proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence.

That is the message of ‘Western Civilization’.

To sustain that message is today a daunting task, for we are faced with universities across America (and elsewhere) that are rotting with leftwing, anti-Western multiculturalism.

The same punk professors that are preaching hate toward Western Civilization are preaching hate toward The America that his given them tenured-protection along with their unchecked opportunity to spew their loathsome ideological filth into the minds of innocent and susceptible students, students that should be taught to respect their priceless heritage along with the skills of critical thinking rather than being brainwashed with hatred for the culture that has nourished and sustained their very existence.

Shame on our left-leaning universities for undermining the priceless lessons of Western Civilization! • (1544 views)

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23 Responses to Why is it important to get the story of Western Civilization straight?

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Note that the French word for “story” is histoire. And without knowing the past, we can’t learn from it. Sometimes traditions are right — there’s a reason they last so long. Sometimes they’re wrong. But only be studying them, and their history, can we decide whether they should be kept, modified, or thrown out. (Leftists, of course, hate tradition reflexively and therefore seek to throw them all out — including the traditions of civility.)

    Note that the woman in Reference 0 got off lucky. In one case (either Somalia or Sudan) a few years ago, a women was stoned to death for the crime of being raped. To be precise, as best I can tell, it’s the claim of rape that creates the problem. The claim amounts to an admission of sex, and since it’s virtually impossible to prove it under Sharia (for reasons explained quite well in the linked article), this leaves her as an admitted adulterer.

    That was a very good point, that the liberals rarely attempt to live what they propose for others. We see this in the way CAGW alarmists such as Al Gore ignore their own prescriptions on energy use. For that matter, Catherine MacKinnon (who infamously proclaimed marital sex indistinguishable from rape) eventually married, and Gloria Steinem certainly never behaved as if she had no more use for a man than a fish has for a bicycle. They don’t mean it — but they teach it and encourage others to live it. Just one more reason why liberals are the lowest form of life on Earth.

    • David Ray says:

      Not only did you compose a well written piece (the “be” instead of “by” aside), the last sentence reminded me of R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket.

      Just curious. How many useful idiots have tripped over their Che Guevara T-shirts in a rush to prostrate themselves in front of Fidel? (Robert Duvall told ’em to knock it off. That’s how I was pleasantly surprised to find out he’s a conservative.)

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Oops, I saw what you mean by that typo. There’s a reason I’m usually afraid to look at an issue of FOSFAX right after we finish it — who knows what typos escaped my frequent proofreading? (It’s always easier to proofread someone else’s work because with your own, it can be hard to see what you said instead of what you meant to say. The same sort of thing happens with debugging programs, as I know from abundant experience.)

        I’ve never seen Full Metal Jacket, but that certainly is a mental quote I’ve been using for years. I have a lot of similar ones about liberals (which doesn’t keep me from having liberal friends — I’m well aware that even a group like liberals doesn’t consist of identical individuals).

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    To get the ‘story’ of ‘Western Civilization’ straight (straight = correct on the facts and on the meaning), we must be able to evaluate civilizations. 

    That’s a great point, Jerry. And we must note that the Left (Communists, socialists, “Progressives,” etc.) have little to no interest in evaluating civilizations. They have their set of self-serving, self-satisfying principles and thus the point of “history” is not to tell a story but to re-interpret (or just fabricate) history in order to support their narrative. It’s a pure “wish” that they try to ratify by perverting the actual record. This leaves all touched by the Left confused, corrupted, and used.

    I agree with your definition of “story” in that implicit in a story of history is a moral lesson to be taught, or at the very least tangible facts regarding human societies and human nature to be learned.

    But the Left is about forwarding a “narrative,” a story more or less made out of whole cloth. And this is quite despite their showy window-dressing of a supposedly vociferous support for “science” instead of superstition. But they actually care little for facts which is precisely why so much of science has become politicized, such as with the fraud of global warming.

    I do believe that a large aspect of the Left is that it is a cult. And cults tend to be a bit creepy and dependent upon an image of themselves as morally and intellectually superior. This is one way to determine, for example, if some Christian sect is a cult or not. Do they think of themselves as “The true and only believers”? Most true Christians I know have taken to heart Christ’s perhaps most under-rated words, “I have come to serve, not to be served.” Their beliefs are not about setting themselves above others.

    The history (the story) of the Left is of a movement which has seen individual humans as dispensable because their exalted ideas are more than worth a few broken eggs. They are set above people. Whereas the Christian establishment has more or less been able to put a damper on excesses, The Left has no such thing (thus their aversion to limited government), if only because utopia does not allow it. But such limits are needed in all things. G.K. Chesterton talks about some of the bizarre excesses in religion in the East in his biography of Thomas Aquinas. He sums up a laundry list of odd practices by saying:

    In short, a real knowledge of mankind will tell anybody that Religion is a very terrible thing; that it is truly a raging fire, and that Authority is often quite as much needed to restrain it as to impose it.

    History itself ought to act as a guide, which is surely where we get the idea “Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.” Think of the bizarre nature that must exist in the people who have taken up the most horrendous and bloody movement ever to stain mankind — collectivism — and attempt to ram it down our throats one more time. They are like an unrestrained religion.

    Utopia is a strong impulse. The desire for man to imprint his mind on others is a temptation very hard to pass up. So to read the true story presented by history takes humility. Instead of striving to make history fit our desires, we must desire to simply know the truth and then move on and plan from there.

    I view all those given to the temptations of the Left to be at least slightly crazy, while I view honest Christians to be doing something good with their impulse for personal transcendence. In many ways, the story of Communism and the Left is the story of people seeking more from a movement than it can ever give. The rest, as they say, is history…if these fools and fiends would ever learn it.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    My college required everyone complete a course named “Heritage of Western Man”. It was a two semester class.

    About ten years ago, the faculty of the college voted to discontinue this requirement.

    One of the things which has happened over the last forty years, is society has become more dependent on and enamored of “specialists”. An unfortunate result of this is we are being ruled by what Germans call “Fach-Idioten”, roughly “specialist idiots” in English. I like to think of them as Idiot Savants.

    Too often, they have neither the knowledge nor wisdom to realize the narrowness of their experience. And they are too arrogant to look to others who are not like them. The broader context of life and history eludes them.

    To make any type of judgment a person must be able to put any event into a broader context. Maybe this is why the Left is always saying don’t judge this or that. They either don’t understand the need for context or they do understand it, but want the gullible of us to miss this point.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The German historian Friedrich Meinecke, trying to understand and explain the Nazi era in The German Catastrophe (which we had in one of my history courses, Problems in Twentieth-Century German History), had a chapter (“Homo Sapiens and Homo Faber”) which suggested that much of the support for the Nazis came from specialists without wisdom — particularly engineers, but note that the SD attracted a lot of intellectuals (and Goebbels after all was Dr. Goebbels, and his specialty wasn’t medicine).

  4. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    (and Goebbels after all was Dr. Goebbels, and his specialty wasn’t medicine)

    And he was a communist before becoming a Nazi.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I don’t know if he was ever a Communist, but he always remained one of those Nazis who took the “Socialist” part of “National Socialist” very seriously.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I wanted to add a few quotes I found in Theodore Dalrymple’s “In Praise of Prejudice”:

    …the best way to resolve the discrepancy between the two schools is by reference to Ranke’s famous remark—often taken as absurdly naïve from the philosophical point of view—that history is what happened, which is to say all of what happened. But a map of the world that reproduced all the details of the world, in the same size and proportion as the world itself, would not be a map of the world, but a parallel model or reproduction of the world. Some selection is therefore always necessary which, unless it be entirely at random, thus rendering it theoretically incomprehensible and practically useless, itself requires an underlying principle, or at least broad outlook.

    And…

    The Whig historians of medicine choose their facts for one purpose—if not self-glorification, then at least self-congratulation—the social historians for another, namely denigration, or at least deflation. At the very time Macaulay was writing his history, Engels was writing his Condition of the Working Class in England. How were such very different views of the same object possible by men of intelligence, learning, and talent?

    Perhaps the answer can best be appreciated in our response to the tremendous current economic growth in India and China. Some see this only as progress: the emergence of hundreds of millions of people from poverty into the sunny uplands of consumption. Others see in it only a polluted environment and the destruction of ancient ways of life, in favor of a homogenized, inauthentic, superficial, universal lifestyle, with increasing disparities of wealth and poverty into the bargain.

    Facts alone (à la Gradgrind) cannot compel the framework into which they are fitted, though they may encourage the more intellectually honest of us to reconsider our framework. Inconvenient facts usually spur us to heroic efforts of rationalization to preserve our outlook, rather than to honest re-examination.

    Dalrymple makes some interesting points when you take these two quotes together. One is that history is so big, one must necessarily condense it down and be selective. The other is that this vastness of history allows one to select details that conform to one’s preferred outlook (knowingly or otherwise).

    The consequences of this are twofold: One, it is very difficult to create a condensed and objective history, even by well-intentioned people, because we are all only human and the subject of history is so vast. Second, it is therefore easy, given the nature of the beast, to create an intentionally false history or, similarly, one that is as narrow and limited as one’s own prejudices — that is, one that is not necessarily intentionally false, but driven more by blinkered zealousness and is therefore false all the same.

    I think conservatives, such as Jerry here in his excellent essay, are honest about what their perspective is. Jerry quotes from the Declaration of Independence to show where he’s coming from. Would a “Progressive” quote directly from Das Kapital or any of the writings of Engels, Lenin, or Stalin (or their modern equivalents) to show the basis of their ideas?

    Usually not. The Left is an intentionally deceptive creature. Although a conservative author might make honest mistakes about history, or perhaps not see through all of his own biases (which is hardly a crime), he will generally not be intentionally fraudulent. As Thatcher said, the facts of life are conservative. There is no running need to be fraudulent as there is on the Left.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I’ve often suspected that liberals might actually be no worse ethically than conservatives; but the former have more of an incentive to lie (i.e., the facts almost invariably are against them), and also have relative immunity (due to the overwhelming synoptic media bias in their favor). If you don’t want a corrupt, power-abusing government, vote Republican — at least then you’ll get media scrutiny (from both sides).

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I was specifically thinking Mr. Kung when I came across this article at The New Criterion: Why Civilization Matters. The article itself is a nice condensation of this idea…quite reflective of the founding principles of StubbornThings.

    I don’t think I’ve seen the Kenneth Clark series that Drew Oliver is writing about: Civilisation. This is apparently a 13-part series.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Clark’s series was very popular when I was in high school. At least it was to people who love history, as I do. I seem to recall that he took a lot of the same views of Toynbee, but I would have to double-check to be sure.

      Oliver’s article is very good, although there are a couple of points which I take slight issue with. This is the type of thing every American should be made to read.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      A nice article. I don’t recall ever seeing the series, but this was around the time I went off to college, at which point I saw very little TV. I think I did see a book on it, but don’t recall getting it. Sounds like I might want to correct that if I happen to see it again. I have a lot of material on art (including a Paul Johnson history and numerous single-artist collections, from Hieronymus Bosch to modern SF artists.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        “The Oxford Companion to Western Art” is a good book in this area.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          The decline of Western Civilization could be seen in this year’s Super Bowl commercials. Dumb. Dumb. And dumber. Sure, I may have missed a good one taking a bathroom break or something. But it’s as if the advertising gurus have taken on as an assumption that the key to getting into the male brain is stupid.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I am happy to report, I did not see one commercial.

            I only watched about 10 minutes of the entire game. And I only watched that because I like Peyton Manning.

            I find the whole circus atmosphere somewhat tiresome.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Circus? Circus? Oh, Mr. Kung, I pine for the days when the Super Bowl was only a circus. Now it is a football game lost within the commercials, halftime show, and pre-game shows. It’s a cheap carnival act.

              If one was patient, one was able to watch one of the greatest defenses ever to take the field. Only the Steelers, and that one year of the Chicago Bears, rates in that category. The Denver defense did to he-who-won’t-go-for-a-fumble what they did to New England’s Tom Brady. What they did to Brady wan not a fluke. They did the same thing to he-who-won’t-go-for-a-fumble.

              Manning was expertly mediocre. He did exactly what he needed to do to win the game: bury his ego, don’t turn the ball over (much), and let the defense win this thing. Manning probably had one of the worst performances ever of the winning Super Bowl quarterback. But, again, had he tried to do it himself, they likely would have lost. My thought going into the game (shared by others) was that Denver could win only if their offense didn’t give Carolina any cheap points. Well, they gave them only three.

              If you like defense — and I do — this was a good Super Bowl. I’m sure it won’t be long until the NFL, in it’s infinite wisdom, outlaws whatever the Broncos are doing. They basically did that to the Steelers in the 70’s in order to punish the defenses and get more scoring. More popcorn and candy for the dolts in the seats who can’t appreciate good play on both sides of the ball.

              I was rooting for Denver and not because most people can’t stand Cam Newton. Unlike that ass-wipe, Lloyd Benson, “I didn’t tivo Cam Newton. I never watched much of Cam Newton. And, tabloid sports media, I therefore never knew that this guy was an ass.” I expected Carolina to bury Denver because, although Denver has a great defense, Carolina’s isn’t all that far behind (as they showed). But Carolina’s offense was lightyears ahead of Denver’s.

              So hat’s off to Manning for dialing it back (which surely was the plan) and grinding out a somewhat ugly (from an offensive standpoint) win. A white quarterback wins the Super Bowl. Maybe hey hey ho ho Western Civ’s time is not yet to go.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Circus? Circus? Oh, Mr. Kung, I pine for the days when the Super Bowl was only a circus.

                I knew circus was not strong enough, but could not come up with anything stronger at the moment. Perhaps I should have used the term, “freak-show.”

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Well, Rush described a very interesting Doritos commercial in which a fetus reaches for a chip as the father puts it close enough to reach for. NARAL was very unhappy at this humanizing of a fetus, and went so far as to urge boycotting Doritos. (Too bad they have too much sodium for me to eat them these days.)

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Oh, yeah. Never thought of that angle. The commercial was harmlessly cute. And if it annoys NARAL then all the better. Good for Doritos.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I just saw the actual commercial at Jim Treacher’s site at the Daily Caller. Very amusing, the child being born a bit early by reaching for the chip. (Treacher complained about them not using Cool Ranch Doritos, though I pointed out that Nacho Cheese are also fine.)

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I knew circus was not strong enough, but could not come up with anything stronger at the moment. Perhaps I should have used the term, “freak-show.”

    Freak show at times, for sure. What I was most impressed by was the girly-man singer who was the main attraction at halftime. We was jumping around like you see young boys do in the playground. These are not men. They are juveniles. Frank Sinatra would take a swig of whiskey (or something) on stage. These boys today prance around.

    These entertainers have no class. And they certainly don’t have much talent.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I must admit I haven’t watched a Super Bowl half time show for many years. I don’t know who performed for this one other than I read Beyonce’ had something to do with it. I wouldn’t walk across the street to see her if you gave me free tickets.

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