Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Caleb Anderson: The Decline of the Western Project

Good policy should be the goal of every government, but good policy alone will not rescue the West.  The West is engaged in a battle of ideas, not policies, and engagement needs to be at this level if the West is to be saved.

The recent vandalism of the English version of the Treaty at Te Papa, is a helpful object lesson, if an object lesson is required, that this is a battle of ideas.  

Gargantuan efforts by our last government to suppress freedom of speech, to eliminate opposing views, the censorship relentlessly practised by our media, the removal of books from our libraries, introduction of new and poorly defined words into our vernacular, attacks on the English language and Western culture, and mass immigration, are all examples of efforts to influence and undermine the ideas that sit at the substrate of Western belief.

And this is global.

Unless engagement is at the level of ideas, sensible (and much needed) policy revision will gain the West an only temporary reprieve.

So what are the ideas at the centre of this all out attack on the West?  

While there are many.  For reasons of brevity I will identify what I believe to be the fundamental ideas which have been under sustained attack, and which threaten the stability and longevity of Western democracy.  

Not all of these are attacks from outside the West, some have gestated (for decades) within the West itself.

The first is the notion that the primary duty of the nation state is to create happy citizens, not united, dutiful, diligent, independent, and resilient citizens, but happy citizens.  This has been a Western obsession for much of the last century, and its ultimate outcome has been a fragile, lazy and narcissistic citizenry, a citizenry that will make any concession necessary for a life that protects them from the burdens of commitment and sacrifice.

The second notion is that responsibility for the protection, maintenance, and advancement of the nation state rests with someone else, and not equally with each citizen.  This has produced a citizenry obsessed with pointing the finger, and it has produced governments drunk on the power that is theirs when its citizenry refuse to be responsible for their actions.

The third notion is that decisions on what is right or wrong rest entirely with each individual, customised to their circumstances and ambitions.  This asserts that there is no such thing as a collective (or universal) ethic, no such thing as national duty, no such thing as a uniting set of principles or a common good.

The fourth idea is that it is not primarily the duty of the government to protect its citizens from attacks from within and from without.  This includes a commitment to the rule of law, to the maintenance of national sovereignty, to the protection of borders (including immigration) and to the protection of shared values and identity.

So what exactly is the Western idea?

The founding fathers of the United States looked upon the mess that was Europe at the time and knew these things for certain.  They knew that the success of their new republic (and the republican idea itself) would depend on a citizenry endowed with a concept of duty, an ambition for self improvement, a commitment to certain uniting principles (and ethics), a sense of sacrifice, and a willingness to defend these ideas no matter the cost.

These uniquely Western ideas are now on life support.  

They are at risk from mass immigration by people who do not hold these ideas, who do not see the comforts and privileges of their new lands as derivative of, and dependent upon, these ideas, and who now have a significant political influence.  

And they are at risk from domestic populations who have lost any sense of how hard earned their privileges have been and of how quickly they can be lost.

But perhaps most of all, these ideas have been undermined by the post-modern lie that Western privilege is derivative, not of any inherent merit, but of its unbridled exploitation of opportunity.  

To the post modernist there is no such thing as truth, only power.

This is the lie that underpins all subsequent postmodern lies.  It has taken root in our universities and schools, throughout our media, and in the body politic itself, and it threatens the global Western project.  

The Western project, while far from perfect, and while in need of some re-thinking, has produced prosperity and freedom unknown at any other period in the history of the world.  Ninety five percent of the world's population live better lives 'than the most privileged five percent who lived pre twentieth century.  

This is the compelling counter-truth to the present assault on the West.

In this article I have used the word citizen more than any other single word, this has not been by accident. The concept of "citizen" or "citizenry" is a uniquely Western idea.  

Citizenship emphasises that which unites over that which divides, it balances rights with responsibilities, it emphasises duty over gain, and it orients toward a higher collective purpose.

While truth is hugely difficult to define, we know, unlike the postmodernists, that there is such a thing.  We recognize it by the good things it produces (better outcomes, better lives) and by the bad things that result in its absence.  This may be the closest we will come to defining it.

Truth has been embodied (in part only) in the Western project to a greater degree than any known or experienced alternative.

The choice is simple, it is one or the other, there is no middle ground, we defend the Western project, or it will ultimately be replaced by feudalism ...  whether in the guise of tribalism or Marxism  ...  with all of the horrors and attendant miseries these bring.

While good policy design and delivery are critical, and much in need, I think the resurrection, and re-enactment, of the uniquely Western idea of citizenship, and a willingness to stand in its defence, is the only way the Western project will endure.

As mentioned, there is no middle ground here.  This is the hill on which the Western project must plant its flag and fight for its very life.  

Caleb Anderson, a graduate history, economics, psychotherapy and theology, has been an educator for over thirty years, twenty as a school principal


Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

I find it quite incredible that any article on the Western project should ignore the Enlightenment, to which most of the ideas underpinning modern Western civilisation can be traced, principally that of the social contract.

Anonymous said...

Yes Barend but equally incredible that you should not go back further into the Judeo-Christian underpinning of the enlightenment itself. This article is not an assertion of starting point.

Anonymous said...

Most of us have been busy working and raising families and were slow to spot the evil political forces quietly coming after our children. Now we have a generation psychologically damaged by years of extreme left indoctrination through social media.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

Anon 9:34, the Enlightenment was a break from' amongst other things, religion as a basis for governance. Most of the great intellectuals of the Enlightenment were Deists and regarded as heretics by the Vatican and by many Protestants as well. When I look at the systems of governance that we have I see very little Judaeo-Christian but much Graeco-Roman influence.

Anonymous said...

Personally I treasure the Westminster system flaws and all.

Incidentally Ancient Greeks considered women to be imperfect men whilst the Judeo Christian views are women as temptress and whore.

Regrettably much of the world still sees women as a necessary evil, to be reduced to the greatest possible extent.

Anonymous said...

Fair comment Barend ... The Graeco-Roman influence is there, but if you look wider you will see both. You might be interested in reading historian Tom Holland on this - and he came/comes at this from an atheistic perspective (at least initially). Re the Founding Fathers, it is true that some were deists, but they were a much more diverse group than this, and the Christian influence is clearly evident - not least in the concept of covenant and its wide application.
I wouldn't put all of my eggs in the Enlightenment basket - the ideas that underpin the West were seeded way before that.