Dear Western Civilization, Please Stop Hating Yourself

The challenges confronting America and the West are manifold and well-documented, but the biggest problem we face today is a crisis of confidence. Any problem is surmountable if you have the courage to look at it with clear eyes and act on principle. This is how we built the Hoover Dam, defeated the Nazis, secured civil rights for all races, and put a man on the Moon. But if you lack this resolve – if you are determined to blindfold yourself to the truth and wallow in apathy and self-doubt – then even the simplest task becomes nearly impossible. A gust of wind could blow you over, a pinprick result in paralysis.

This crisis of self-doubt is not confined to one country; rather it afflicts western civilization as a whole. According to Samuel Huntington, a civilization is the largest unit by which people can be divided. Beyond civilization, we all belong to the human race. Within civilization exist various nation-states and ethnic groups. Even within these states and groups, we divide further by party and ideology.

Historically, western civilization has rested on two pillars: Greco-Roman rationalism and Christianity. The first gave us the confidence to use reason to understand the world, thus freeing ourselves from superstition and fatalism. The embrace of reason led to the most advanced classical civilization in the world, and then the most powerful empire. It gave us democracy and the rule of law.

But it was not enough. For despite the technical, military, and legal prowess of both the Greeks and the Romans, such evils as infanticide and slavery were widespread. It took the dawn of Christianity to take the moral ideals first developed in Judaism and make them universal. Christianity offered protection to the weakest members of society – the disabled, the young, the ill – but it did even more than that. Christianity put forth the powerful and previously unimaginable idea that the poorest members of society were actually the most beloved by God. Women and slaves understandably flocked to this new creed. More surprising was the fact that even the powerful, who had the most to lose and least to gain, were also attracted to its teachings. The triumph of Christianity was near total in the West. Today it is the world’s most popular religion, while virtually no one still worships Jupiter or Zeus.

While some might have predicted a conflict between the Christian faith and Greco-Roman reason, the two were beautifully synthesized in the Middle Ages by such intellectual geniuses as Saint Thomas Aquinas. Classical scholarship and legal traditions endured, despite the fall of the Roman Empire and near-constant invasions from Muslims, Vikings, and other groups. Beginning in the Late Middle Ages, Europe became the birthplace of modern commerce, science, and industry. Europeans went from being relatively poor and insignificant vis-à-vis their Asian and Middle Eastern neighbors to dominating the globe by 1900, when 90% of the world was controlled by Europeans and their descendants. The twentieth century continued to see advances in technology and science, as diseases were cured and standards of living rose. But it also witnessed two destructive world wars, both originating in Europe, and the ascendancy of communism as a global threat to freedom.

Still, considering its many gifts to mankind, one would expect people in the West to be proud of their civilization’s accomplishments and eager to secure its blessings for their posterity. Instead, we see the opposite. Westerners are made to feel guilt and shame for the misdeeds and alleged shortcomings of their ancestors. Violence and greed – once understood to be flaws inherent in human nature – are now viewed by many as uniquely western, while non-western societies past and present are mythologized as utopian Edens.

European colonial powers certainly had their share of injustices. The Atlantic Slave Trade, the destruction of Native American tribes, and the use of forced labor in Africa were all inexcusable. But so was the indigenous slavery and warfare practiced by both Africans and Native Americans, by no means the “noble savages” of the romantic imagination. It has become routine every October to charge Christopher Columbus with crimes against humanity, but not Tlacaelel, the Aztec leader who sacrificed at least 4,000 and as many as 84,000 victims to dedicate a new temple.

The fact that someone is born into western civilization is no guarantee that each individual will accept or practice all of its values. Every human society has its share of deviants and criminals, as well as its heroes and saints. Consider the examples of King Leopold of Belgium and Bartolome de las Casas. The former was responsible for as many as 10 million deaths in the Congo, while the latter famously defended the human rights of Native Americans in Spanish colonies. Much less noted than the crimes of certain individuals and groups is the fact that the West was the first civilization to abolish slavery and give all people equal protection under the law.

But things are different now. We have lost ourselves. People who still champion the superiority of western values are accused of bigotry, racism, and intolerance (ironic for sure, as tolerance and equality are some of the western values its proponents seek to protect). Europe is told it must fling open its doors to millions of immigrants who do not share their values, some coming with the stated goal of replacing western civilization with Islam. Yet we would never demand that Saudi Arabia, China, or Pakistan open its doors to European immigrants (not that many westerners would want to live under sharia law or communism).

None of this makes any sense unless one understands the depths of western self-doubt and self-loathing, the roots of which are brilliantly traced in an article by Jonathan Pidluzny. The actions currently being taken or avoided by western governments appear suicidal to the outside observer. But suicide is the only rational outcome of irrational self-hatred.

Open borders and mass immigration are perhaps the clearest signs of disdain for the West by Western elites. Women in European countries are now being instructed to change the way they dress for fear of provoking harassment. Free speech is censored. Unspeakable crimes are brushed under the rug.

Where else do we see this self-hatred? First in our schools, where both world history and U.S. history curricula downplay western achievements while dwelling on their faults. This is not to suggest that we whitewash the past or replace serious inquiry with cultural propaganda, just that context is important. Yes, European colonial empires witnessed many abuses. So too did the United States, the first nation to break free from European control and the current leader of the West. But so did the Mongols, the Aztecs, the Mughals, and the Turks. These empires saw the slaughter of entire cities, the sacrifice of innocent victims to appease angry gods, and the terrible torture of rivals. Women in western civilization had to fight long and hard for equal rights. But women in Chinese, Indian, and Islamic civilization were considered little more than the property of their fathers and husbands. They are still undervalued and marginalized today.

We see this self-hatred in the climate change movement. Forget the fact that industrialization has lifted millions of people out of poverty and eradicated diseases that once decimated entire communities. Forget that western nations have done much in recent decades to reduce pollution and conserve the environment. We are made to feel irrationally guilty over our “carbon footprint.” We are offered different ways of atoning for our sins, few of them rational. We may purchase green products like electric cars that are in fact no better for the environment than traditional ones. We are told we must transfer billions of dollars from western taxpayers to corrupt governments in developing countries to help them mitigate the effects of climate change. It makes sense to blame the West for imperialism in the Philippines, but not a typhoon.

We see this self-hatred in the restrictions placed on our natural rights to speech and religion. We are not to criticize other cultures or religions, even when they explicitly call for violence against non-believers, apostates, and blasphemers. We are not to notice when people of other cultures commit crimes or propagate injustice. Instead, we are to search our speech for microaggressions and our subconscious for unrecognized biases. Even if we disavow racism and come from modest backgrounds, we are told to feel guilty over the “privilege” bestowed by our skin color.

We see this self-hatred in the fight against Islamic terrorism, the greatest external threat to freedom today. We are told by our leaders that if the terrorists hate us, we must have done something to deserve it. It is not the terrorists who are to blame, but rather our past foreign policy mistakes, our reluctance to open our borders, or our perverse attachment to the Bill of Rights. Or maybe it’s just an 800-year grudge over the Crusades. It couldn’t possibly be anything to do with Islam, and to suggest as much would be bigoted. Instead of killing the terrorists who wish us harm, we are told to shut up and disarm. Hillary Clinton blamed the murder of four Americans at Benghazi on an amateur YouTube video criticizing the prophet Muhammad (who, to anyone who has ever studied his life, certainly merits criticism). This blaming of the West for terrorist attacks on the West is tantamount to blaming a victim of domestic violence for provoking her attacker, or the rape victim for her short skirt. In fact, it seems impossible for critics of the West to find blame anywhere outside of the West.

We must understand the roots of this crisis if we are to have any hope of reversing it. Jonathan Pidluzny identifies five causes of western self-doubt and self-loathing: modern science, which made us doubt anything that could not be empirically demonstrated; romanticism, which elevated subjective feeling over objective reason, democratic egalitarianism, which led to excessive individualism and isolation from the body politic; democratic materialism, which transformed us into mundane pleasure-seekers; and the erosion of the liberal arts, which no longer satisfy man’s thirst for higher knowledge and meaning.

How can these forces be countered? How can the West regain its confidence? These are difficult questions, but there are certain things we should not do. We do not need to export our civilization to foreign lands through Iraq- and Afghanistan-style nation building. Clearly this does not work well. We do not need Donald Trump-style populism. One real danger of elite disdain for the West is that it pushes people to embrace just such demagoguery. We should also not forget the real contributions made by other civilizations, or dismiss their potential to contribute to our future advancement. Having confidence in ourselves does not mean putting others down, or forcing them to change.

Pidluzny hopes for a revival of the liberal arts as a starting point. I agree that such a movement is needed, though the recent reaction on college campuses against freedom of speech leaves me doubtful that it can be spearheaded by the university. Our culture needs nothing short of a modern renaissance, a rediscovery of the habits and values that made our civilization great. I know such revitalization is possible. The only question is, will we have to endure another Dark Age to reach it?

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Lessons on Honesty from Hillary

I don’t often use this blog to lambast the character flaws and shortcomings of individual politicians. There are usually three good reasons to avoid this:

1. It is too easy. (See: Shooting fish in a barrel.)

2. You set yourself up for charges of hypocrisy, as no party or movement can claim a monopoly on virtuous people.

3. It has the potential to detract from the essential questions at the heart of our political process. Challenges like the national debt, the economy, and immigration policy are of far greater relevance to the American people than the private sins of middle-aged men.

But lately two stories have led me to revisit a well-known conclusion: Politicians lie. They do so frequently and knowingly. For many, this will seem as obvious as the assertions that fish swim and birds fly. It is something we have all likely thought before. We see it on the news each time a new scandal pops up. So why bother spilling any more ink over the matter?

Most of my experience with liars comes not from politicians, but from teenagers struggling to pass advanced history. I and many of my colleagues have discovered a troubling pattern.

Even some of the best students—the good kids, the ones you like—will lie through their teeth when confronted with an accusation of cheating. They will swear up and down that they did not copy their neighbor, they did not plagiarize that essay, they were not looking up answers on their cell phone. They even feign outrage, trying to make you feel like the bad guy.

That is, until you present them with concrete evidence of their deception. Even then, I have been shocked when students failed to apologize. Many take an attitude of: “Oh well, you caught me. It was worth a shot.”

The object of the game is to appear virtuous while gaining an unfair advantage over the rest of the field. Machiavelli would be proud. So too, it would seem, would Hillary Clinton.

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The first story I read about Hillary recently was truly shocking. You really have to read it yourself to get a true sense of her callous disregard for the truth.

In 1975, a 12-year-old Arkansas girl was raped by two much-older men. She spent five days in a medically induced coma, months in recovery, and was told by a doctor that she was unlikely to ever have children. At the time, Clinton was a young, 27-year-old lawyer looking for her first criminal defense case. She agreed to defend Thomas Alfred Taylor, one of the accused attackers, who had specifically requested a female attorney.

Now, what would you do if asked to defend a child rapist? I think most of us would refuse. I certainly would. There might be some who would accept the case. If not, the court would have to appoint an attorney. After all, everyone is entitled to due process under the law.

But how many people would not only freely accept the case, but then use every tactic, no matter how dishonest, to ensure that a child rapist was let off as easily as possible?

The latter is exactly what Clinton did. She even stooped so low as to accuse the victim of being unreliable—essentially, a liar—with zero evidence to support this claim.

In an affidavit, Clinton writes: “I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing…I have also been informed that she has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body. Also that she exhibits an unusual stubbornness and temper when she does not get her way.”

Clinton referred to a child psychologist who told her that children in early adolescence “tend to exaggerate or romanticize sexual experiences,” especially when they come from “disorganized families, such as the complainant.”

The victim, now 52, maintains that she has no idea what Clinton was referring to. But her anger is mainly the result of recently-released tapes of interviews with Hillary for an article that was (perhaps unsurprisingly?) never published.

On the tapes, Clinton, who speaks in a Southern drawl, appears to acknowledge that she was aware of her client’s guilt, brags about successfully getting the only piece of physical evidence thrown out of court, and laughs about it all whimsically. “He took a lie detector test. I had him take a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs,” Clinton says on the recording, failing to hold back some chuckles.

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If Mitt Romney strapping his dog to the top of the family vehicle was enough to disqualify him in the eyes of many from holding the highest office in the land, how about helping a child rapist get off easy and then laughing about it, as if an innocent young girl’s life was of no importance? The prosecutors in the case ultimately dropped the rape charge and allowed Thomas to plead guilty to “unlawful fondling of a child.” He was back on the streets in less than a year.

The second Hillary story has to do with the 9/11/12 Benghazi attack, which is shaping up to become an albatross around the former Secretary of State’s neck.

An excerpt from Edward Klein’s “Blood Feud” describes how Clinton “bristled” at the Benghazi deception. She told the president that blaming what was clearly a terrorist attack on an obscure internet video was not going to fly. She debated how to respond with Bill, and allegedly even considered resigning over the matter.

“I’m sick about it,” she said, according to the legal advisor… “That story won’t hold up,” Bill said. “I know,” Hillary said. “I told the president that.” “It’s an impossible story,” Bill said. “I can’t believe the president is claiming it wasn’t terrorism. Then again, maybe I can. It looks like Obama isn’t going to allow anyone to say that terrorism has occurred on his watch.”

Then Bill and Hillary made a calculated political decision, much as they had been doing their entire lives. She could not be seen as harming Obama’s reelection chances.

Obama had put Hillary in a corner, and she and Bill didn’t see a way out. And so, shortly after 10 o’clock on the night of September 11, she released an official statement that blamed the Benghazi attack on an “inflammatory (video) posted on the Internet.”

But if Hillary had any qualms about deceiving the American public on Benghazi, they must have soon evaporated. When the flag-draped caskets of the four dead Americans arrived at Andrews Air Force base, Clinton repeated the lie that the video had prompted the attacks. She even vowed to one of the fallen hero’s mothers that they would get the man who made the video (not the men who carried out the attack).

Everyone recalls Hillary’s famous response when grilled by Congress about the nature of the attack: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

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This might be the closest any liberal politician has come to revealing their blatant disregard for the truth. Evidence does not matter. The facts do not matter. Any omission or distortion is justified by a Higher Purpose than the truth, which is to gain as much power in the short term so that it can be used for the liberal’s long-term benevolent restructuring of society.

When Clinton was a 27-year-old lawyer, that purpose was to make a name for herself, and to win at any cost. When she was Secretary of State, it was to protect her boss in the hopes that he would return the favor. As First Lady, she called the Monica Lewinsky scandal a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” when she must have known of her husband’s misdeeds. Power has always been the ultimate goal—winning it, protecting it, and growing it, all in the hopes of one day using it for a noble purpose.

All these lies remind me of the first lie, the Big One. In a certain way, every subsequent falsehood has accepted its premise: You can be God.

This was the lie the serpent told Eve, the one she repeated to Adam. They believed that eating the forbidden fruit would make them powerful and all-knowing. Doctors are often accused of playing God, as their actions determine who lives and dies. But politicians are the ones who demand more and more power over our lives, who seek to replace our God-given free will with their master plans. Like the serpent said, they believe themselves to possess superior knowledge of the nature of good and evil. They try to create heaven on earth and wind up doing just the opposite.

This is why honesty matters in politics. It is also why power should remain decentralized and limited, as our Founding Fathers intended. Power leads many good men and women to arrogance and hubris. They start to think of themselves as being above the rest of humanity, like gods. But as anyone who has ever read or watched The Lord of the Rings knows, evil cannot be used in the service of good. We must stand on principle. We must be honest about where we are going and how we are going to get there. We cannot allow ourselves to be led by people like Hillary Clinton, who has demonstrated time and again her disregard for the truth.

In 1969, a young Hillary Clinton wrote her senior thesis on Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, a primer on political immorality to rival The Prince. The dedication is noteworthy:

“Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history… the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom—Lucifer.”

There is a reason Satan is called “The Great Deceiver.” Evil only prevails by disguising its true nature. Eating the forbidden fruit did not make Adam and Eve all-powerful; instead, it consigned them to a life of toil and estrangement from God. We all inherit this original sin, a reminder that we too must learn to humble ourselves before the Lord. We must value God’s truth over our personal quests for power.