Monday, May 21, 2007

The Flaws of the Western Man

The Fjordman Report

The noted blogger Fjordman is filing this report via Gates of Vienna.
For a complete Fjordman blogography, see The Fjordman Files. There is also a multi-index listing here.

There are two different camps among those concerned with the problems of the modern West: Those who ascribe them to a powerful and influential minority who champion certain ideologies, and those who ascribe them to a lack of cultural confidence and structural, religious and metaphysical problems in the West in general. I personally see some evidence to support both these explanations.

An alliance of left-wingers and right-wingers, or transnational progressives and transnational capitalists as John Fonte would have said, is undermining the nation state. It is more than a little ironic that Socialists are squarely on the side of the super-rich in desiring open borders. There is plenty of evidence that mass immigration has been promoted by cultural and political elites, and that opposition to this has been silenced with sometimes quite repressive means.

The Netherlands was much less thrilled about Multiculturalism than was generally assumed in elitist circles well before 2002. The media and the politicians drew a picture that simply didn’t correspond to reality. Maverick politician Pim Fortuyn only brought popular discontent to the surface, three sociologists at the Radboud University in Nijmegen concluded. “The positive image that almost all the Dutch had the same tolerant attitude to minorities as the ‘well-thinking’ section of the nation” (as the political and media elite are often described) was kept alive for a long time,” the sociologists maintain.

I do not dispute the fact that there has been a general breakdown of cultural confidence in the West and in Europe, but I do dispute the claim that this has translated into a generally shared death wish where the masses happily embrace their own eradication. The prevalence of hate speech laws and censorship is a strong indication of the contrary. Still, let us have a look at some structural flaws in the West.

As Euripides said: “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” Well, the West is currently stark, raving mad, and sometimes actively hates itself. I’m scratching my head trying to find out where this self-loathing comes from. Maybe we feel guilty because we are so successful and rich and accomplished that we just can’t take it anymore. But where do such ideas about guilt originate from? I suspect they are somehow related to the Judeo-Christian strand of the West. They do not stem from the Greco-Roman or Germanic ones. Bad things could be said about Julius Caesar, but suicidal guilt definitely wasn’t his major problem. Maybe we need a touch of Roman ruthlessness as well as Christian compassion. But Western self-loathing is frequently directed against Christianity, and that is somewhat puzzling if we assume that it emanates from Christianity.

Utopia by HolbeinWhat is Multiculturalism? There is probably a new Great Idea for every generation. It changes just enough for people to be duped again, but it always entails some form of large-scale change for millions of people. The less it corresponds to reality, the better. The point is to outbid others in Utopian ideas. What is behind it? Well, the joy of destroying the Established Order to bring purpose into otherwise purposeless lives and the desire to immerse oneself into grandiose ideas. The desire for personal power and the joy of being able to harass opponents shouldn’t be underestimated, either. If you claim that your Utopian ideas are about justice and equality, you can also claim that those who disagree with you are proponents of injustice and inequality, in other words evil, and outside the boundaries of civilized debate.

One should always be mindful of people who profess an ideology that entails sweeping changes to society, claim that this represents the unstoppable tide of history, and yet for some reason need to shut down critics through intimidation. If their ideology is so great, how come they are so reluctant to accept criticism? Good ideas can be rationally defended. If people resist critical scrutiny of their ideas, this is usually a powerful indication of the fact that these ideas are neither truthful nor desirable.

Can our democratic system survive the 21st century? Both Western and non-Western examples of early forms of direct democracy exist. Germanic societies, especially among the Nordic nations, had regional governing assemblies called ting already in the Middle Ages. Some of the parliaments in these countries, the Althing on Iceland, the Folketing in Denmark and the Storting in Norway, have retained this legacy in their names. Still, by far the most influential example, where the word “democracy” itself was originally coined, was the ancient Greek city-state of Athens. The Athenian democracy included the practice of ostracism, in which a citizen could be expelled for a decade under pain of death, and without a trial.

Socrates drinking the hemlockOne person in democratic Athens who did face a trial, however, was Socrates, whom the oracle at Delphi had supposedly claimed was the wisest man alive. He was found guilty of corrupting the youth and drank the poisonous hemlock. The trial made a lasting impression on his disciple Plato, who concluded that a political system where a great man such as Socrates, who challenged people to think for themselves, could be sentenced for speaking his mind was an unjust system.

Plato may have been overly critical of democracy, but he wasn’t entirely wrong. Suppression of dissenters asking legitimate but bothersome questions about sensitive matters has remained a problem in democratic societies to this day. Democracy does not always ensure that wise people are allowed to be heard or that bad ideas are not implemented, as can clearly be seen in the case of Multiculturalism and Muslim immigration in the West. In hindsight, it is easy to notice that sweeping and possibly irreversible changes were implemented without proper debate. Those who objected were simply ignored or harassed into silence.
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The Bill of Rights

Securing the right to individual freedom of speech, as the US Founding Fathers did in the Bill of Rights, is a necessary step to remedy this flaw, but there are other forms of indirect censorship that may prove more difficult to combat. The culture of debate, which is absolutely essential for politics of reason to be possible, has been declining in the West for decades into a shouting match where the most aggressive groups frequently win.

Alexis de ToquevilleAlexis de Tocqueville, the French author of the classic book Democracy in America, was surprised at how religious average Americans were, and linked the culture of democracy there partly to its religious base. In an interview with FrontPage Magazine, Hugh Brogan tells about his new book about de Tocqueville. Tocqueville was afraid that individual self-respect might succumb to the pressures of majoritarian conformism in the democratic system.

According to Brogan, “He would, I think, admit that in Democracy in America he should have recognised, even in 1835, the importance of lobbies and pressure-groups; and would find their fantastic power, based on the commercial manipulation of public opinion, quite unacceptable. His first and last principle was that you cannot have law without liberty or liberty without law, and these were his two supreme values.”

One of the challenges de Tocqueville didn’t deal with was the rising power of the Fourth Estate, the press, which has become so powerful that it dominates the three official branches of government. One of the pitfalls in our modern, complicated and fast-changing society is that we are bombarded with such large amounts of information every single day that it is hard to decide which information is important and which is not. We have to rely on “gatekeepers” to filter out important information, and if those “gatekeepers,” the mass media, are heavily infiltrated by people with an anti-Western agenda, this creates very serious problems.

The writer Christopher Lasch in his book The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy from the 1990s talks about how certain elite groups such as lawyers, academics and journalists threaten the democratic system by cutting themselves off from their own people. They all make a living from treating words and information as commodities, and the market for these commodities is increasingly international. He also warns against the consequences of the breakdown of religion.

I have recently started to fear that our democratic system, as it is currently fashioned, cannot survive this century. Cynically speaking, there are two basic tasks a government needs to perform in order to claim legitimacy for collecting taxes:

1. Keep criminals off the streets and maintain public order, so citizens can go about their affairs and conduct trade in reasonable safety. If this fails, and if ordinary citizens do not feel a minimum amount of security for their lives and property, trade and investments suffer, and the economy breaks down.
2. Uphold the territorial integrity of the country, and defend its borders and its citizens against external threats.

Right now, governments all over the Western world are performing poorly on the former, and failing abysmally on the latter, while still collecting obscene amounts of taxes. This situation simply isn’t sustainable for much longer. Our nations need to regain control over our own borders. The problem is, we are faced with the most massive migration waves in the history of mankind, at the same time as international law and human rights fundamentalism is crippling our ability to maintain our integrity, and while our political and business elites care less and less about their own people.

Have we reached the end of the Golden Age of governments accountable to the people? I hope not, but we have to make significant changes to the system to make it work, and I must admit that I cannot yet envision how all of these changes will look like, nor how we will go about to get them implemented.

Viking longboatI have debated the issue of Vikings vs. Muslims with some Scandinavians. Some have claimed that they were the Al-Qaida of medieval Europe. But Vikings valued truth and keeping their word to maintain their honor, instead of saving face. They had blood feuds, kept slaves and raided the Christians of Europe. Yet even though the Vikings could be brutal (“Thou shalt not kill” is a Christian concept), they still had an honor codex that was tied to acts of courage.

I’ve seen many examples of gangs of Muslim immigrants attacking lone victims, homeless people, handicapped people, etc. I’m not sure the Vikings would have done that. Not necessarily because it was wrong to use violence, but because the manner would have been dishonorable. Which means that we were superior to Muslims even during our most barbarian periods. Besides, most of us have evolved from such brutality. Muslims haven’t.

Scandinavian women also enjoyed far greater freedom than Muslim women in the pre-Christian Viking Age, which they retained in the Christian period afterwards.

According to Bernard Lewis in his book What Went Wrong?, “The difference in the position of women was indeed one of the most striking contrasts between Christian and Muslim practice, and is mentioned by almost all travelers in both directions. Christianity, of all churches and denominations, prohibits polygamy and concubinage. Islam, like most other non-Christian communities, permits both. (...) Muslim visitors to Europe speak with astonishment, often with horror, of the immodesty and forwardness of Western women, of the incredible freedom and absurd deference accorded to them, and of the lack of manly jealousy of European males confronted with the immorality and promiscuity in which their womenfolk indulge.”

This is all good, and we should be proud of it. But we now have a situation where men and women are presented not just as equal but as identical. At the same time women are implicitly and sometimes explicitly treated as better than men. This same illogical double standard mirrors that of Multiculturalism, where all cultures are equal yet Western culture is evil.

The Chinese talk about yin and yang, the feminine and the masculine aspects of nature, which are complementary and should ideally be in a state of balance. In modern Scandinavia, we have yin in abundance, but will shame yang and make him feel guilty for existing if he ever shows up. But a society cannot survive without an element of traditional masculinity.

As the columnist Jack Kelly says, “It is the soldier, not the priest, who protects freedom of religion; the soldier, not the journalist, who protects freedom of speech. History teaches that a society that does not value its warriors will be destroyed by a society that does.”

As I’ve demonstrated before, the ancient Greeks were pioneers in accurately depicting real life in arts. In modern times, linear perspective was developed during the Italian Renaissance, starting with Giotto, but developed fully in the early 15th century into the geometrical method of perspective by Filippo Brunelleschi. Something similar had never been produced by any other artistic tradition, be it Chinese, Indian or Middle Eastern. This totally different view of art probably reflected a totally different view of the world in general, and a break with previous traditions and authorities.

Leonardo da Vinci studied nature scientifically and used his own eyes to ensure that his work corresponded to reality as accurately as possible. This can be seen in his studies of the proportions of the human body depicted in his famous drawing The Vitruvian Man. He went beyond the authority of tradition and past masters, which is why the lady portrayed in the Mona Lisa looks so amazingly lifelike. This mentality is why the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions took place in the West.

Niccolò MachiavelliIn the early 16th century, writers such as Niccolò Machiavelli and painters such as Leonardo da Vinci were trying to describe the world as it actually is. In the early 21st century, Westerners have abandoned any pretense of doing so, and are instead living in an imaginary reality of how an ideal world should be. We could perhaps learn a thing or two from our ancestors. But is it conceivable that this Western desire to experiment, to disregard tradition and go beyond what has been done in the past can also in some cases be a flaw?

Maybe some of those traits which previously used to be our greatest assets, such as our respect for women, for human rights, individual freedom and our openness to outsiders have been carried into such extremes that they have become liabilities. Perhaps even initially good ideas can turn bad if practiced without moderation. The key word, which we seem to have forgotten, is “balance.” According to a conservative Swedish friend of mine, many of the seemingly crazy excesses now on display are not so much a perversion of Western civilization as a fulfillment of it. What has happened is that Westerners have carried many of the seeds of our culture into their theoretical (and extreme) limits. This has left us confused; we have fulfilled our civilizational mission, and don’t know what to do next.

The Canadian writer Naomi Klein believes that the terror attacks of September 11th 2001 were caused by Western racism. On the contrary, they were triggered by excessive anti-racism. If you believe the story of Michael Tuoheya, a former U.S. Airways ticket agent, he checked in terrorist leader Muhammad Atta for a flight that day. According to Tuoheya, “I said to myself, ‘If this guy doesn’t look like an Arab terrorist, then nothing does.’ Then I gave myself a mental slap, because in this day and age, it’s not nice to say things like this.” Atta joined three other hijackers and crashed into one of the World Trade Center’s towers in New York City.

Modern Westerners are increasingly unwilling to risk our lives for anything, but we are willing to die for anti-discrimination any day. Anti-racism is the new God, an angry God requiring your unquestioned submission and if necessary death — a bit like Allah, incidentally.

It is possible to view the history of the West as one of freeing oneself from the constraints of the past, and of granting equality to ever-expanding circles of people, starting with universal suffrage for men, later for women, then equality for all ethnic, religious and sexual subgroups and eventually even for non-citizens and enemies. The West has led the world in innovation for centuries. Yet perhaps this disposition, which has been the Western Man’s greatest strength, can also be his curse. Perhaps he sometimes breaks down restraints that are needed, and insists on equality where no equality naturally exists. His self-image has been to question tradition on every level, to always move forward. The Western Man has freed himself from the restraints of his traditions, his religion, his culture and the memories of his past. More recently, he has also rid himself off his sex, his skin color, his very physical being. He is, in essence, nothing, and is thus constrained by nothing. The Western Man is thus free at least.

The Western man was the first to create parliamentary democracy, the first to reach the North and the South Pole and the first to travel to the Moon. He always likes to go where no man has gone before him. The sad thing is that there is now so little unchartered territory, so few boundaries left to breach. What to do? Well, embracing organized national suicide is something no man has ever done before, presumably for very good reasons. The Western Man smells an opportunity to once again lead mankind into unchartered territory, and boldly seizes it. He may not be sensible, but at least he’s first, and to the Western Man, that is what matters above all else.


History Snark said...

"I’ve seen many examples of gangs of Muslim immigrants attacking lone victims, homeless people, handicapped people, etc. I’m not sure the Vikings would have done that. Not necessarily because it was wrong to use violence, but because the manner would have been dishonorable."

I'm not sure about this. The Vikings raided monasteries, which (eventually) they must have realized were essentially undefended. I also find it hard to believe that if a band of Vikings was roamning through the fields of Northumbria, and they saw a lone woman, they would leave her alone.

Otherwise, not bad. I still suspect that the desire amongst the Liberal Westerners is not any type of "social suicide", but rather the fact that they truly, in the depths of their being, believe that A) Western society is the most repressive ever; and B) That embracing all other societies, norms, beliefs, etc will make our society "Better". And at the same time, it will force those of us who are not as enlightened as they are, to atone for the sins of our forefathers. Preferably with our treasure, but if no other way exists, with our blood.

Thus there will be a return to harmony and balance in human society. The repressors are now the repressed, have admitted their guilt, and repaid the debt.

And thus the promises of a New Age in human history will be fulfilled.

Profitsbeard said...

Multi-culturalism means: you do not understand you own culture.

Because, if you did, you'd respect it enough to not want to dilute it.

Enriching it with alloyed elements of other cultures, and making them your own, is the healthy way of integrating new ideas and arts.

Trying to 'ride' two cultures (or more) at the same time is as absurd as trying to mount two horses simultaneously.

All you'll get, metaphorically, are a pair of pants with a gaping hole ripped open at the rear end, for foolishgly trying to straddle the impossible.

And an ass showing through for the endeavor

Mr. Spog said...


(1) I'd second Wacko's doubts about the superiority of Viking culture over Islam. For example, the Vikings practised ritual human sacrifice (though the victims appear to have been volunteers in some cases).

(2) "Western self-loathing is frequently directed against Christianity, and that is somewhat puzzling if we assume that it emanates from Christianity."

But it might be that Christianity contains unreconciled elements, and that Western self-loathing reflects conflict among these; the phenomenon could then be entirely Christian in origin, despite its apparent anti-Christian orientation. (Though if Christianity were sufficiently self-contradictory, it would become meaningless to identify anything as "Christian".) This is a big question which I haven't studied adequately.... However, consider for example the Christian precept, "judge not, lest ye be judged." Or even more to the point, "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" Western self-loathing is not directed against this aspect of Christianity; on the contrary, it seems to provide a kind of ideal for self-loathers. Rather, isn't the opposition directed against rigid Christian moral rules? But such antinomianism has always been an element within Christianity itself.

(3) "The Western man was the first to create parliamentary democracy, the first to reach the North and the South Pole and the first to travel to the Moon. He always likes to go where no man has gone before him. The sad thing is that there is now so little unchartered territory, so few boundaries left to breach. What to do? Well, embracing organized national suicide is something no man has ever done before...."

I think you're on to something here. The belief in progress became virtually a Western religion in the 19th(?) century and is still very powerful, though now it coexists with a widespread contrary belief that "progress" is actually a deterioration from a primitive paradise (Rousseau). A more valid belief is that recent Western history provides evidence that progress is not effortlessly assured, as it seemed to be in the 19th century, and probably social leaders sense this. So how does the believer in progress react?--by desperately trying to prove that progress is still underway. (Does the stream of half-baked, destructive policy measures coming out of the Blair government in Britain, for example, reflect such desperation?) A more reasonable response would be to attempt to consolidate the progress that has already been achieved. But this would represent a big adjustment for Western man -- a possible transition to a mature society from a youthful one.

Anonymous said...

Fjordman -- one of the best thinkers and bloggers around, and one of my personal favorites -- asks where does the West's apparent self-loathing come from...?

He suggests that our feelings of guilt do not stem from Greco-Roman or Germanic roots, but he couldn't be more wrong. It is
precisely from these backgrounds -- populations characterized by individualism and moral universalism -- that our collective guilt has arisen....

The rest here.

David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 05/22/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

A Jacksonian said...

The concept of an internal, self-generated order to which society held those that lead it accountable is something that was a major change from all of the equivalents of 'Divine Right' rulership and the head of the religion and State in a Caliphate. The early Greeks *also* practiced human sacrifice and I would say the Roman Gladitorial games and Breads and Circuses were quite barbaric also. The difference between the Vikings and Islamic cultures is that internal self-rule and individualism was able to relegate and then eliminate human sacrifice while in Islam it is still practiced from simple mortifications to 'honor killings'. Pre-christian era Vikings were as set on trade than anything else, and it was, by and large, communities that would not trade peacefully with them that would start to see raids. Mind you the North Umbrians at that same era were not exactly what one would call 'friendly, outgoing and peaceful' either. Complaining about monastaries being plundered by Vikings must also be set against the much later Medieval Crusader plunder of Byzantium, something which Christiandom cannot be all too proud of, that. And were, indeed, peasant girls safe from *any* wandering band, tribe or Noble that fancied her? In the Nordic climate that answer was *yes*, and the Thing, locally, would address that all the way to reprisals against other cultures that did such things.

It is that internalized accountability to society and individuals, not to a Divine order, that allows the Kings of Norway and Sweden to understand their accountability to the people. That did allow for the easy adoption of Christianity and change in outlook that also went with the change in climate that coincided with it. Yet it was those same, pre-Christian Vikings that took that cultural outlook to the British Isles, Northern France and other places a bit more scattered that sowed the seeds of accountable governance and individual freedom not beholden to any Church and yet still having community in common. Islam still has its elements looking for Islamic Empire, and complaining forevermore that they have *lost* so much of it. More than willing to compare the cruelty of everyday Islam of the first or second century after its founding with Viking culture of the exact same time and then point out where the seeds of development towards things that would make Western Civilization possible as a basis were founded, while pointing out the lack of same within Islam which requires submission *to* authority...

I will stick with those that see the individual as basis for authority and self-rule. And the Vikings looked towards a future, even when it turned harsh and chilly, as it would be a future made by man for good or ill.

Anonymous said...

Fjordman is right about the difference between Vikings and Muslims. The important thing is not if some Vikings might kill unarmed people. The difference lies in how these actions was seen by themselves.

Vikings might kill unarmed people or rape unarmed woman, as the stories told by Christians, who had great interest in placing them in a bad light, tell us.

Would the Vikings tell stories at the kings court about how they killed unarmed Monks?, I think not. Or would they pride themselves at having raped a woman?, not very likely. Would they tie an unarmed man to a chair an have 4 men stab him with knifes and consider it a great dead, that the whole world should hear about?, hopefully you are getting my meaning by now.

The vikings had a sense of great deeds that has survived to this very day. That doesn't mean that they where without faults. But a lot of our ideas about personal courage and honor comes from the Vikings. We of the west are descendants of the Viking way of thinking, as well as other ways of thinking of course.

But when it comes to honor truthfulness and personal courage, there is a direct line from the Sagas to good Hollywood action movies.

Captain USpace said...

Another great one! Maybe the Libs will start waking up more when more of their kids and friends' kids start getting raped and mugged by members of the superior and peaceful religion of Islam. But before that happens many of these so-called Liberals will be ostracized and shunned by their fellow elites...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
rewrite history

make kids hate their country
defend evil regimes