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How the West was lost

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THE downfall of Western civilisation has often been prophesied. The catastrophic, anti-western and illiberal response to the virus has brought into focus the question: how will we recognise when the ‘West’ is over?

To understand if it is over, we must first know what it is. I will briefly try to define it but for far better, more complete answers try: R Scruton England: An elegy; N Ferguson: The West and the rest; D Murray: The strange death of Europe.

Geographically, the West is centred around northern Europe extending across the Atlantic to Canada and the USA, with outposts such as Australia and New Zealand.

Politically, it has its roots in Ancient Greece. Socially, until the recent rise of unchecked individualism, it has been most strongly influenced by Judaeo-Christian tradition.

The free individual is not a law unto himself; individuals belong to organic social structures bound by kinship, contract, reciprocity and mutual values and trust. The characteristics of Western civilisation that define – indeed secure – his freedom include capitalism with free markets; respect for private property and the private sphere; human rights; the rule of law; free elections and representative institutions.

There seems to be little point arguing over economic supremacy. Western economies are on the wane, but western economic systems are in the ascendancy. I am, though, more concerned with culture than economic data as I don’t want a country full of merely wallets with legs.

A KGB defector, Yuri Bezmenov, has outlined the distinct stages by which his former employer destroyed countries. First, demoralisation. Attacking and actively undermining key pillars of a society: religion, education, the family are top of the list. This takes between 15-20 years (one educational generation). That generation is then the weapon; they will undermine without consciously realising what they are destroying, spreading out through society into public and private institutions.

I think Britain is gripped in the latter years of this stage. Our educational institutions produce groupthink ‘activists’ who are, for the most part, totally ignorant of their cultural inheritance apart from it being racist or a by-product of racists. The Church of England seems much happier to spew neo-Marxist doctrine and to bang the doors shut on dwindling congregations than to do its job of guiding the flock and carrying the flame. The rule of law is a mockery: instead of freeing us from interference it now actively ensnares citizens’ lives. Government is expanding and taxing at an alarming rate.

Whatever happened to limited government? Note ‘limited’: neither small nor big.

The recent blockade of printing presses in the UK is a textbook revolutionary Marxist play, this time disguised as eco-warriors. Such disruptive events certainly belong to the next KGB stage: destabilisation.

America is without doubt in this stage. Just observe the physical, flaming destruction of many cities night after night. Their institutions have been well and truly subverted – again, look at college campuses. Vigilante groups often blockade roads, attack innocent people and burn down private property.

These are incredibly dangerous forces at work, and they seem to have the upper hand.

Churchill defined the central tenet of Western civilisation as ‘the subordination of the ruling class to the settled customs of the people and their will as expressed in the constitution’. This prescient characterisation is being turned upside down. With few exceptions the West has chosen not to think for itself, not to examine its history and place its response to the virus within its traditions, but to mirror authoritarian China – top down.

Accelerated by Covid, we are fast approaching the point where we are ‘Western’ in name only, just as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is democratic in name only. Therefore, to my mind the image isn’t of the West being forcefully usurped from the outside; rather of the West sinking into the primordial ooze, its supports destroyed by those within.

Imagine, if you will, a great forest of oak. Majestic trees grown over many decades, nurtured by custodians and tested by storms. The roots of the great boughs are now being eaten away, poisoned by the very custodians whom they have sheltered. If one were to knock against the bark, far too often a hollow note would be returned. What then is the final gale that fells these rotting shells? Or does the forest stand so long as we say the forest stands – in name only?

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Edward Gifford
Edward Gifford is a second-year politics and social policy student.

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