The 37th post on the Journal of American Greatness originally published in March, 2016.
We realize that, for most, other momentous events are deservedly taking precedence in public conversation today. We understand and sympathize. We’re not avoiding the subject, and it’s not that we don’t care; but we don’t know what we could add that would advance broader understanding or convince the West to find the will to live.
Our whole civilization seems, if not quite determined to kill itself, then at least determined not to try to stop others from doing the deed. It’s a pop culture trope, whenever a TV or movie character is lying on a hospital bed hooked up to a zillion tubes, that some doctor will tell the family “He has to fight” or some-such. This always struck us as strange. How does one fight when completely unconscious, lying still, and unable to so much as dream?
We’re too medically ignorant to say whether this trope has any basis in truth. However, it does seem an apt metaphor for civilization. A civilization, to live, must fight for its existence. And the worse its condition, the harder it must fight. A civilization that does not wish to live cannot survive. Ours seems to be in that state. It’s in the ICU, hooked up to every machine in the building. The consensus of the assembled medical professionals is to encourage it to believe that nothing is wrong. Yet some of the doctors
are urging it to fight. But it just won’t.
How many times since 9/11 has some pundit—some of them very learned and experienced
—asserted “Here, finally, is the wakeup call that will change everything”? The calls keep coming and no one ever wakes up.
Why not? The reasons are legion. For the moment, let’s try to understand just one. Decades of self-hating propaganda have been not merely internalized but in a very real sense have replaced religion as a source of unquestionable faith. There are many sources for this self-hatred. Probably the most significant is what Peter Brimelow calls “Hitler’s Revenge
.” The West emerged from World War II less with a triumphant sense of its own victory (a sizeable portion of the conflict was after all intra-Western and one of the victors was non-Western, over a Western power) than with a tremendous sense of guilt. One part of the West had perpetrated the Holocaust while another came to feel that it could have stopped it but didn’t.
In his memorable preface to Natural Right and History, Leo Strauss writes of the Allied victory and subsequent German intellectual victory that “It would not be first time that a nation defeated on the battlefield, and as it were, annihilated as a political being, has deprived its conquerors of the most sublime fruit of victory by imposing on them the yoke of its own thought.” (The other times Strauss has in mind, we speculate, would include the Romans and the Greeks, the Romans and the Jews, and the rest of Europe and Revolutionary France.)
No doubt German nihilism is a contributor to our present malaise. We wish to focus here on another, not unrelated, German import.
The left, in the aggregate and within its various subdivisions, has perfected the art of projecting its own internal conflicts outward. This has the double benefit (for them) of avoiding civil war while enhancing in-group cohesion by focusing hostile energy on an external enemy
. As Steve Sailer has put it, whatever wounds the left inflicts on itself
or on the rest of us
are “the fault of the traditional white male power structure and people in Peoria better feel guilty about it, even if they are not exactly sure what they did.”
Something similar resulted from World War II. David Goldman has written
that Angela Merkel’s insistence on welcoming millions more “refugees” even after her initial hospitality has proved a disaster to her country
, coupled with her fellow Germans’ unwillingness to stop her, amounts to a German death wish. Germany wishes to die because it thinks it deserves to die.
Why do we wish to die? Slavery, of course. Jim Crow. The Indians. Japanese internment. Colonialism. There is no shortage of reasons, and the rest of the West shares in all of them or at least in something like some of them. We are all guilty and so we feel in some subconscious way that we deserve to die.
There are so many things wrong with this notion that it would take billions of pixels to set it all straight. The sins for which the West must die are hardly unique in history or unique to the West—and in fact today are practiced
almost entirely outside the West
. And the West, alone among world civilizations, has expended blood and treasure to eliminate these sins within its own borders and even to fight them elsewhere. (That of course being denounced as the sin of imperialism. Damned either way.) Then there is the absurdity of visiting the sins of the father forever upon the sons—but only the sins of Western fathers upon Western sons.
We sense that part of the appeal of Trump is that healthy men who have never felt particularly guilty about sins they’ve not committed are finally saying, “I didn’t do that, and I don’t want to die for it.” Trump sounds to them as if he is saying “You’re not to blame, I don’t blame you, and together we are going to live.”
Is the patient, finally, fighting to survive?