Thursday, May 24, 2018

Kevin Donnelly: Minions denigrate penetrating legacy of the West


It is hardly surprising that the Australian National University’s National Tertiary Education Union branch president, Matthew King, has attacked the university’s decision to establish a Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.
According to King, as cited in the Campus Morning Mail yesterday, the centre is guilty of promoting “a narrow, radically con­servative program” promulgating the “alleged superiority of Western culture and civilisation”.
And King is not alone in his critique of the decision to host the centre. Student association president Eleanor Kay argues: “Western civilisation is often used as a rhetorical tool to continue the racist prioritisation of Western history over other cultures.”
This is the latest salvo in the long-running culture wars where relativism prevails and critics condemn any suggestion that the benefits of Western civilisation should be acknowledged. Since the late 1960s, when students from the Sorbonne took to the Parisian streets celebrating Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution and calling for a proletarian uprising, academics such as Louis Althusser, Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault have argued that the way to overthrow capitalism is to take the long march through institutions such as universities.
According to academics committed to cultural-left theory ­exemplified by postmodernism, deconstructionism, neo-Marxism and feminist, gender and postcolonial theories, Western civilisation is Eurocentric, patriarchal, elitist and oppressive. A university education, instead of being dedicated to the search for wisdom and truth, is condemned as a key element of the “ideological state apparatus” used to marginalise and oppress so-called victim groups.
As detailed in Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, Roger Kimball’s Tenured Radicals and Dinesh D’Souza’s Illiberal Education, students on US campuses argue that a liberal ­educa­tion grounded in Matthew ­Arn­old’s “the best that has been thought and said” reinforces ­capitalism. The result, as noted by Christopher Lasch, is a liberal arts education based on the pursuit of “universal, transcendent truth” is no longer defensible as it simply cloaks the self-serving power of “white Eurocentric males”.
Australian universities and ­humanities subjects associated with the Western cultural tradition have suffered a similar fate.
Merv Bendle of James Cook University says academics, ­instead of being impartial, advocate “politically correct positions which are widely shared and ­immune to criticism”. Detailing what he sees as the disintegration of Western culture caused by “an ideological ­contagion of shame and self-loathing”, Bendle says this “nihilistic world view is now insti­tutionalised throughout West­ern academia”.
John Carroll, an emeritus professor at La Trobe University, puts a similar case when arguing that Australia’s universities are no longer committed to rationality exemplified by “the Western tradition since classical Greece”. In a Quadrant article titled “Why I ­Became a Political Conservative”, Carroll writes: “Australia ­becomes racist, cruel to refugees, misogynist, homophobic and ­increasingly riven by ­inequality. The tropes endure, with Islam the current exploited and oppressed repository of virtue.”
As detailed in Philippe Paquet’s biography of Pierre Ryckmans, who taught at ANU and University of Sydney, such is the dominance of radical theory that the ideal of a university associated with Cardinal Newman is no longer tenable. Ryckmans argued “the university as Western civilisation knew it is now virtually dead” and that “its death has hardly registered in the consciousness of the public, and even of a majority of academics themselves”.
Not only is it entirely defensible that the ANU establish a Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation to address the imbalance caused by the cultural left’s dominance, but the reality is that there are ­existing centres promoting politically correct causes immune from criticism.
The University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute is committed to providing “leadership in the study of the ­intellectual, legal, politico-economic, cultural and religious traditions and transformations of Asia and the Islamic world”.
Monash University has a Centre of Southeast Asian Studies and Charles Sturt University the school of indigenous Australian studies where the intention is to provide opportunities to build ­“social, human and economic identity for indigenous peoples across Australia”.
In the Monty Python skit “What have the Romans done for us?”, the Roman occupation is condemned except for the realisation that, for all its faults, it provided sanitation, roads, irrigation, wine, education, health, medicine, public baths and peace.
The same can be said for Western civilisation. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr argued: “The crimes committed by the West have produced their own antidotes. They have produced great movements to end slavery, to raise the status of women, to abolish torture, to combat racism, to ­defend freedom of inquiry and ­expression, to advance personal liberty and human rights.”
The same cannot be said for those totalitarian regimes to our north, including China, Cam­bodia, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea, where the freedoms and liberties grounded in Western ­civilisation and that we take for granted are denied to millions.
Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of How Political Correctness is Destroying Australia (Wilkinson Press).

1 comment:

A.G.R. said...
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Global government demands the dumbing down of the population to ensure leadership dominance & control, without challenge.
Having indoctrinated nearly two generations now, there is not much left too be done..

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