Polemicscat's Weblog

Examining settled and unsettling questions.

Defend Western Civilization—-Anyone?

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Was Osama bin Laden justified in making the Pentagon a target for his terrorists?  That’s not a question that should concern American journalists according to David Westin, president of ABC News.   After the 9/11 attack, Westin told an audience at Columbia’s School of Journalism that it was not his place as a journalist to condemn the attack. “I can say that the Pentagon got hit . . . but for me to take a position that this was right or wrong . . . as a journalist I feel strongly that’s something that I should not be taking a position on.”  And he said he wanted all his reporters to think that way.

Journalists take stands on every other issue in the news, no matter how insignificant.  One wonders how a journalist could justify taking a stand on relatively trivial issues like budget controversies while remaining indifferent to threats to the nation’s survival. Mr. Westin apologized later for his statement when he was criticized for it.  But was the apology sincere or a retraction calculated to keep ABC from losing viewers to other networks?

It’s getting harder to find anyone willing to defend Western civilization.  The  intellectual leaders in American colleges and universities have undermined  belief in it, according to Dr. Allan Bloom. In his book,  The Closing of the American Mind, Bloom says our students have been taught that the highest virtue is an openness.

“There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything.”  All other cultures are represented to American students as equal to our own culture, no matter how incompatible their cultural practices are with our constitution, laws, and customs.  As a result, a generation of students has been rendered incapable of valuing and defending Western culture.

“The point is to force students to recognize that there are other ways of thinking and that Western ways are not better.”  But what students are not told is  that “every one of these [non-Western] cultures is ethnocentric.  All of them think that their way is the best way, and [that] all others are inferior.”

Ignored in the university courses are human rights abuses and atrocities being committed in other cultures.  And in some countries it’s  much worse than just depriving people of the right to vote. Slavery is still practiced in third-world countries: young girls are sold by their families. In some societies girls are castrated so that they will not be tempted to be unfaithful to their husbands.

American students are typically very idealistic but haven’t learned enough about the real world to direct that idealism effectively.  Dr. Bloom, who taught philosophy,  tells of putting this question to students to get them to think: “If you had been a British administrator in India, would you have let the natives under your governance burn the widow at the funeral of a man who had died?”  The answer he got from his students was either silence or the reply, “the British should never have been there in the first place.”

A culture’s survival doesn’t depend on whether it has superior ideas or institutions.   No, survival depends on self confidence.   The future belongs to the culture that believes in itself.  Rome was overrun by relatively primitive tribes of Huns and Goths because Rome had lost its energy and belief in itself.

What are some of the signs of a self-doubting culture?   (1) Welcoming into one’s country multiple cultures —some of which are fundamentally at odds with one’s own culture.   (2) Making no distinction between legal immigrants and illegal immigrants coming  into one’s own country and being indifferent as to whether the newcomers become assimilated citizens. (3) Encouraging the rise of a second language by publishing official documents in that language.

Historian Arthur Schlesinger in The Disuniting of America writes:  “What happens when people of different ethnic origins, speaking different languages and professing different religions, settle in the same geographical locality and live under the same political sovereignty?  Unless a common purpose binds them together, tribal antagonisms will drive them apart.  In the century darkly ahead, civilization faces a critical question: What is it that holds a nation together?”


Written by polemicscat

July 31, 2008 at 8:55 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Polemicscat: These are excellent points. I find myself in a particularly unsual place, because I am a black man who believes in Western culture. I am a Westerner. I am American. When I was at The College of William and Mary in the late 80s, I was required to read The Closing of the American Mind. Interestingly, the terms politcal correctness, multiculturalism, and diversity were not in widespread use as they are today. Colleges support far left ideology and dogma. This is not beneficial to students. Students need to be taught to think independently and critically. Regardless of race, until we see ourselves as Americans or as Westerners first, we are going to have clashes with others.


    August 5, 2008 at 5:11 pm

  2. Clyde,
    Thank you for the comment. It is interesting that Bloom’s book continues to be so relevant to our times. As you probably know, Schlesinger’s book was written in the 1990s. Yet, it continues to be important reading — perhaps for some reasons that the author would not have anticipated at the time.
    Best wishes to you and to our country.


    August 5, 2008 at 5:51 pm

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