Western civilization – the most effective major civilization in human history – has lost its mechanisms of transmission. And that’s a big problem. Civilizations are simply collections of humans who share certain ideas, and if those ideas are no longer passed down, the civilization breaks, degrades and vanishes.
Western civilization had specific and important virtues, like cooperation, initiative, creativity, curiosity, co-dominance, open inquiry and justice. If we lose those, we stand in jeopardy, and our grandchildren stand in grave jeopardy.
The Previous Organs of Transmission Have Failed
I won’t spend a great deal of space on the institutional failures of our time; we’ve all watched them become epic.
Over the past few years we’ve seen proud censorship in government, media, in the big tech complex (at horrifying levels), even in publishing. The various “rights groups” surrendered in the process.
Freedom of choice was also trashed. Large swaths of academia and nearly the entire education complex drove this, cultishly. The largest corporations jumped onboard as well, firing or punishing those who refused to conform.
So, none of these can be said, any longer, to be transmitting Western civilization. They have openly opposed it, and are more than likely to defend their choices.
The Marginalizing of The Family
Transmitting civilization used to be the job of families, but over the past century, the state has overcome society, and has even overcome many parents.
First of all, parents simply don’t have time for their children as they once did. Certainly good parents do spend time with their children, but nearly all families require two full-time incomes these days, and the ever-working parent has only a certain amount of energy. These parents, while heroic, are easily worn down, with all the negative consequences that brings.
Then comes the fact that children are shipped off to schools for the bulk of their time. And as noted above, most of those schools have become the enemies of Western civilization.
Which Leaves Us
I think our civilization can be saved. But the West’s present institutions have failed, openly and vigorously. That leaves this crucial job to us… to every serious adult available.
To assist in this effort, here’s a passage from my book, Production Versus Plunder, where I explain what Western civilization really is. I hope it’s helpful to you.
Western Civilization… might be summed-up in the belief that “Truth unfolds through time in a communal process.” (Carroll Quigley)
The quote above expresses a great core of Western civilization, if not the core. There are many facets to the formula: Truth is revealed by a communal (cooperative) process. And while this statement may be new to most of us, its effects are not. Everyone in the West faces them every day; so much so that we never really consider them.
This formulation has been assumed many times in this book already. By this, the sixth chapter, phrases like “We know that…” or “we have no information on…” have been used many times. Every time we use such words, we presume that truth is built, that all of us may contribute to this building of knowledge, and that we will certainly have more in the future than we have now. Truth is revealed by a cooperative process.
Obviously, this belief makes Western civilization optimistic, but there is more than just that; it also makes authoritarian rule incompatible with our beliefs. If the final truth is yet to be revealed, who can say that he or she has full knowledge and should be given full powers? It also makes the West open to new ideas from any source. If something contributes to the accumulation of truth, who cares where it comes from?
This idea that full knowledge comes in the future is also found in the root documents of Christianity, where Jesus talks about things that are “unknown to the son, but to the father only.” Even the most strident evangelicals, if questioned properly, will make the distinction between having some perfect truth and having all perfect truth.
Another important aspect is revealed by saying, “We know.” Who is we? It is any individual who shares in the stream of truth. That assumes a civilization based upon merit, individuality and equality. Truth does not descend from a ruler or from any authority; we all can contribute to truth and we all can preserve it. Again, dictatorships and blind faith are fully incompatible with the Western ideal: No one has full truth now, because it lies in the future. Thus, no one should be followed with blind faith.
Closely related to this ideal is the assumption that we are a community of interests. We don’t all have the same dreams and desires; we don’t all have to fit into the same mold. Even so, we all may contribute to the accumulation of truth, and so long as we do not intrude upon others, we feel we should be free to pursue our narrow personal interests. This builds civilization on a decentralized model, which is exceptionally resilient and open to improvement.
These authentic Western virtues are necessary for a prosperous humanity, and the job of keeping them alive has fallen to us. We must do this work.