Monday, August 22, 2016

How Bad is Western Decline?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Joel Kotkin writes of two dystopian novels, one about the Islamification of France and one about the Latinization of the US.

But the problem in both novels is not the Muslims and the Hispanics, but the failure of the French and the US to uphold and live their values and their culture.

Controversialist Vox Day, quoting my man Alexander Hamilton, blames the Irish and the Jews for wrecking America. Hey, why not blame the Germans? They invented everything, good and bad, since David Hume.

It is true that all the immigrants have rather mucked up the good old ideas of 18th century political science, including the separation of powers and the limitation of democracy. But the immigrants also represent an infusion of energy. The fact is that the WASPs that dominated the US northeast have ebbed noticeably since the Irish showed up in 1850 and the Jews turned up in 1900. The residual legatees of the WASP inheritance don't seem that eager to promote and spread WASPiness any more.

So, while it is true to say that the Irish and the Jews didn't really understand the virtues of the American Founding, we could also say that the descendants of the Founders don't really seem to be up to the mark set by the Founders.

The truth is that we can't keep the past, either by faithfully repeating the holy words of the Founders, or by preserving the old ways, or by keeping out newcomers. Or even by relentlessly indoctrinating the newcomers with the right thoughts and habits.

Here's my take. Given the non-stop follies and mistakes of humans, particularly humans with power, it is astonishing that the Great Enrichment of the last 200 years has been as successful as it turned out.

Don't forget: nobody really understood what was happening when the modern prosperity started. And nobody really understands what is going on today. There are fools hawking nonsense all over the place, from George Soros pushing his pro-globalist anti-nationalism, from the PC left pushing their poisonous identity politics, from the educated class pushing its climate change hysteria. Then you have the Muslims tumbling out of their disaster of the Middle East.

Meanwhile, here in the US, we are not just being influenced by the Irish immigrants of 1850 and the Jewish immigrants of 1900. Or the Hispanic immigrants of 1985. What about the East Asians that are already becoming the richest group in America and taking over 40 percent of the student body at CalTech? What about the South Asians also filling up the tech slots?

I don't think this "diverse" group is going to surrender the world to Muslim fanatics. I suggest that most of these groups take the western cultural, economic, and political heritage very seriously. There's my evergreen quote from David Aikman's Jesus in Beijing. He quotes a Chinese Christian, talking about the pre-eminence of the West.
At first, we thought it was because you have more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the last 20 years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about this.
Imagine what it takes for a son of Confucius to say that.

In all the chaos of politics and terror and economic dislocation, it is well to remember that many people from outside the northwest European culture are very interested in understanding just what it was that made the West into the world-dominating cultural, economic, and political hegemon. They don't want to tear it down. They want to understand it, they want to inhabit it, and they want to make it work for them.

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