March 10, 2008

Why the West's Worth Defending

Justin Katz

Before giving six reasons that the West is worth defending, George Weigel writes:

In his book, "Without Roots," Pope Benedict XVI deplored the addiction to historical self-deprecation rampant at the higher altitudes of European cultural and intellectual life: a tendency to see in the history of the West only "the despicable and the destructive."

The same problem exists on this side of the Atlantic; in our universities and among our cultural taste-makers, the healthy western habit of moral, cultural and political self-critique can dissipate into forms of self-loathing. Perhaps a civilization can afford to think of its past as pathology when it has no competitors. That is manifestly not the case today, when the West is being challenged by radical Islamist jihadism and by the new and market-improved authoritarianism of China.

So, a question: What's right about the West, about this unique civilizational enterprise formed by the fruitful interaction of Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome --- biblical religion, rationality, and the idea of a law-governed polity?

Reading what follows, the modern American may feel a jolt from the audacity of confidence. Are we even allowed to risk the appearance of chauvinism — thoroughly rooted in our religious tradition?

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The problem is that West confuses defense with attack. Here in the U.S.A. we call our war machine the Department of Defense and then "defend" by invading other countries. We then mask our agression with phrases like "Mision Civilastrice" and "The White Man's Burden" - ain't we noble!

We think that the Caribbean is a U.S. lake. Invade The Dominican Republic, to name one country, destroy nascent democracies in Central America, place dictators who play ball with us in power and turn a blind eye towards the suffering of the peones to our South and seal our tax purses while 48,000,000 of our citizens have no medical coverage to speak of.

Oh, we have some good ideas. All people have good ideas. We have no follow through. You blind fools you can see it if you look, but you don't. You're afraid you might have to give up some of your toys. Learn to share and you'll enjoy life a bit more.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 10, 2008 5:06 PM

So I take it you call yourself "old time lefty" because you're still running with the script from the '80s (and before)?

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 10, 2008 7:23 PM

What would an old time lefty know about enjoying life? The political left in America is the fellowship of the miserable. I actually pity you and your self loathing. Sad!

Posted by: Tim at March 10, 2008 7:35 PM

I had been thinking along these lines over the last several months. What a marvelous column.

One item to add might be the elimination of state sanctioned corporal punishment and death by torture as a part of the justice system.

Posted by: Monique at March 10, 2008 10:28 PM

Add to the list of characteristics of Western civilization a tendency to oscillate schizophrenically between fanatical pursuit of the creative and novel and fanatical bouts of self-destruction. What other civilization is so terrified of acknowledging its unique accomplishments? What other civilization produces people who really believe that the natural desire to reproduce should be subservient to the desire for "a cleaner environment?"

Not surprising that the civilization that produced Freud would produce a populace in constant psychological crisis.

Posted by: Nick at March 11, 2008 5:21 PM

Only an unreflective dolt like you would confuse self examination with self loathing. On reflection,I suppose that if one hates oneself one would equate self examination with self loathing.

Take a good look around. You are the blind leading the blind, preaching to a very small choir.

If I'm in the 80's or before where are you? When was the last time that the Republic-rats had control of the state government?

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 11, 2008 9:40 PM

Ah yes, the government of this state is certainly something of which to be proud.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 11, 2008 10:06 PM

You asked me if I were living in 1980 and I asked you where you were living and when was the last time the Republic-rats held office. I'd really like you to supply the date. You choose to ignore my question and the best you can do is to assert that the state is poorly run. You have to do better than that.


If the alternative to the Democrats is the Republicans, I'll stick with the devil that I know.


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 12, 2008 8:23 AM

The greatest export the west has for the rest of the world is its acknowledgement of its flaws and crimes. Civil rights, labor rights, human dignity have all been exports fought and contested in the west pitting powerful establishment interests against minority interests. The legal apparatus that allowed this struggle to take place is the west's greatest achievement. Vietnam used this western concept of rights to fight for its independence. As did Cuba. I am very proud to be a Westerner when considering the efforts of some Westerners to extend basic human rights- now also defined by gay rights- to other peoples.

Posted by: David at March 12, 2008 5:13 PM
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