This text overlaps with a few of my earlier essays like Why Muslims Like Hitler, but Not Mozart. I have had some interesting discussions with Ohmyrus, the essayist who runs the Democracy Reform blog. He is a Chinese man who appreciates aspects of Western civilization that many Westerners have forgotten or rejected. He is not unique in this regard. One of the best books about European culture is Defending the West by the former Muslim Ibn Warraq, who was born in the Indian subcontinent. As a native European it is strange to notice how some (non-Muslim) Asians apparently appreciate my civilization more than intellectuals in my own country do. The Iranian-born ex-Muslim Ali Sina denounces Western Multiculturalism in his book Understanding Muhammad, which I have reviewed online:
“If any culture needs to be preserved, it is the Western, Helleno-Christian culture. It is this culture that is facing extinction….We owe our freedom and modern civilization to Western culture. It is this culture that is now under attack and needs protection.”
Ohmyrus believes, like myself, that the West is in decline, not just in relative terms as a percentage of the global economy or population but in real terms. He points to structural flaws in our democratic political system, which “tends to divide people, pitting one race against another and one economic class against another” and is by the nature of its short election periods not well suited for long-term planning. European civilization reached its peak when it was pre-democratic, and Muslims have found it easier to penetrate democratic than pre-democratic Europe. In nineteenth century Britain, Queen Victoria and the aristocracy were not as powerful as their ancestors had been, but they wielded more power than today. Power was divided between the monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons in Parliament. This corresponds to what ancient political theorists such as Aristotle would have called a good balance between the monarchic, the aristocratic and the democratic elements of society.
Ohmyrus, who is a Christian, believes that one of the reasons why the Scientific Revolution took place in Europe and not in Asia is Christianity, which taught people that God had created the universe according rational laws which could to some extent be discovered and described by humans. While the West originally enjoyed more free speech and free inquiry than most other societies, in some critical aspects related to immigration, free discourse in the West has in recent years become stifled by ideological censorship. As he states, “Anyone suggesting that some races are more intelligent than another is labeled a racist and even threatened prosecution for a hate crime. Substitute ‘heretic’ for ‘racist’ and we are almost back in medieval times. But over here in Asia, there is hardly any problem in discussing it.”
Ohmyrus thinks that Western civilization is currently living off the cultural capital produced in earlier times when power lay in the hands of a better educated elite whose personal interests coincided with the long term interests of the country. This may be partly true, but I personally believe that one of the greatest problems facing us today is precisely the fact that the interests of Western nation states do not always overlap with the narrow interests of the elites. In previous generations, rich and influential individuals would often support nation states not only emotionally but also pragmatically in order to enhance their own wealth and power. In the age of international organizations and powerful multinational corporations that wield more power than many smaller countries, this is no longer the case. These same elites will now look to other organizations and tools to further their personal interests and careers.The democratic system has its flaws but worked to some extent as long as there was sense of being a demos, a people with a shared identity and common ethnic interests. This is gradually breaking down in Western countries, starting from the top. Powerful groups frequently have more in common with the elites in other countries than they have with average citizens in their own. Without a pre-political loyalty, emotional ties or even a pragmatic interest in supporting nation states, the democratic system becomes a vehicle for distributing favors to your friends at home and abroad, for betraying your voters and hopefully ensuring a lucrative international career along the way. You will have few moral scruples against importing voters from abroad for maintaining power or because your business friends who provide you with financial support desire access to cheap labor. This process is related to technological globalization but has gone further in the self-loathing West than in any other civilization.
In Western Europe, much of the real power has been transferred to the unelected organs of the European Union. Between 1999 and 2004, 84 percent of the legal acts in Germany – and the majority in all EU member states - stemmed from Brussels. National elections are becoming an increasingly empty ritual. The important issues have been settled behind closed doors. Our daily lives are run by a bloated bureaucracy, which is becoming increasingly transnational.
In the eyes of the left-wing American theorist Noam Chomsky, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” In most Western countries the public has a choice between left-wing candidates who champion mass immigration and “right-wing” candidates who also champion mass immigration and implement the left-wing agenda at a slightly slower pace. This is called “freedom.” The mass media present a biased and ideologically filtered view of the world. The fact that members of the media and the academia tend to be more, sometimes a lot more, left-leaning politically than the average populace is well-documented.
This situation is intensified by the fact that globalization of communications and transportation, ironically to a large extent created by European and Western inventions, puts severe pressure on our nations in ways which were unthinkable a few generations ago. When the Christian Gospels were written down at the end of the first century AD, the population of the Roman Empire was maybe 60 million people. This mirrors the annual population growth in the early twenty-first century. In other words: The global population grows by another Roman Empire every single year. Our system wasn’t designed to cope with such numbers.
Virtually all Western countries have lost control over their borders, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the political elites, substantially aided by multinational corporations and cheaper travel, have deliberately vacated such control. This is not a sustainable situation. You can call your political system a democracy, a dictatorship, a republic, a monarchy or whatever you want to, but a country that does not control its territory will eventually die.
I am increasingly supporting the conclusion that the political and economic elites throughout the Western world are cooperating on dismantling their nation states in favor of a new, global world order. Swamping their countries with immigration is one step in this planned “creative destruction.” Author Bat Ye’or in her well-researched book Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis from 2005 documents how the European Union is actively collaborating with the Arabic-Islamic world on promoting Muslim immigration and culture in Europe. I myself wrote a book entitled Defeating Eurabia while going through her claims, and found them to be sound.A flaw frequently pointed out in the democratic system is that the “common man” is on average not smart enough to run a country, but when it comes to promoting Multiculturalism and mass immigration of alien and often hostile peoples it is in every single Western country the political, economic and academic elites who are pushing for this. Resistance to these suicidal policies comes from the common man. Another problem is that in the post-Enlightenment ideological environment, especially after Marxism, there is a tendency among some educated elites to view the common man as a guinea pig for their social experiments.
The West is a non-traditionalist civilization. We have unquestionably made great advances that no other civilization has done before us, but maybe the price we pay for this is that we also make mistakes that nobody has done before us. Organized science is a modern Western invention. Organized national suicide, too, is a modern Western invention. Our university system once represented a great comparative advantage for Europe vis-à-vis other civilizations. Today that same system is undermining the very civilization that gave birth to it.
Marxists have essentially completed their Gramscian “Long March” through the institutions of the Western world during the second half of the twentieth century, accelerating from the 1960s on with the Western Cultural Revolution. Young Westerners are at best taught indifference, at worst outright hatred, toward their own cultural heritage and civilization. The irony in this is that it is precisely the more educated groups who are the most anti-Western ones because they have spent many years absorbing anti-Western teachings.If you have one brainwashed generation then you have a problem. If you have two brainwashed generations then you have a very serious problem. If you have three brainwashed generations then you have a problem that is so big that it becomes difficult to solve, because few in living memory can remember how it was to have a sane worldview. We are now fast approaching a point where young Westerners, indoctrinated with anti-Western hatred, not only do not receive a correction from their parents, but in many cases not even from their grandparents. By then we have reached a serious cultural discontinuity.As much as I personally loathe admitting it, Marxists and other anti-Western forces have been far more successful at staging a slow, “permanent” revolution in the West than they ever were at staging an armed revolution. They have partly succeeded in their goal of eradicating Western civilization from within and are now working hard to physically eradicate the European peoples who created this civilization to ensure that it cannot be rebuilt in the future, either. They achieved this feat not by gaining control over the means of production but over the means of indoctrination, the mass media and the education system.
Out of all the criticism against Europeans, the claim of “Eurocentrism” is the most unfair. All cultures are ethnocentric to some degree. Frankly, I would be tempted to say that the default position of mankind is that “We are the best people, the others are barbarians.” I'm not going to claim that you cannot find serious cases of bigotry in European history. You can. But what is unique about Europe is our ability to sometimes transcend this basic human impulse. Even during the colonial period, Western Europeans could show an unusual degree of curiosity about other cultures and their history. This is one of the major reasons why archaeology and comparative linguistics were invented by Europeans; we were one of the least ethnocentric groups, yet for some reason the only ones who are denounced for our alleged ethnocentrism.The problem is that whites are now the only ethnic group on the planet who are not allowed to retain distinct countries or pride in their heritage. This is creating a wave of quietly simmering anger against immigration and at least as much against Western authorities, rightly perceived as indifferent or hostile to their interests. It is debatable whether supporting a “Christian revival” is the right solution to this situation since Christianity promotes altruism, self-criticism and universalism, while some of the greatest problems of the white West today are caused by deranged altruism, pathological self-criticism and excessive universalism.
You can successfully track the rise and decline of Western civilization through music. There are other ways to do this, of course, but music is as good as any, and better than most. With the likes of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, it is not bigotry to say that Europeans created some of the greatest music any civilization on this planet has ever done. During the same time period we also made advances in science and technology that no other civilization had ever done before us. There appears to be a close correlation between the sciences and the arts. Perhaps it has something to do with cultural confidence and sense of purpose, or lack of such.Europeans still made good music in the nineteenth century, but fewer great names were produced in the twentieth. By the early twenty-first century, many Europeans don’t even listen to the composers we once had. The only people who take European Classical music seriously today are East Asians and maybe some people in the eastern half of Europe, the only part of the continent that still looks like Europe. If you want to see a simple illustration of cultural decline you can listen to basically anything by Mozart and then turn on the TV and see rap stars cursing, doing drugs and bragging about their criminal “gangster” lifestyle.
Asians adopt some of the highest cultural achievements of European civilization at a time when many people of European descent themselves appear to be on the verge of forgetting them, which is symbolic on many levels. On the other hand, Asians are more or less immune to the self-loathing of the contemporary West. I see this as a sign that they appropriate the best aspects of the Western traditions but stay away from the worst ones, which makes sense.
China had fine instruments and a well-developed musical tradition at least as far back as the Zhou period (1122-256 BC). The word “music” was written with the same character as “enjoyment.” There is no direct equivalent to Mozart or Beethoven in Asia, but perhaps the fact that they have such an ancient and deeply-rooted native tradition makes in easier for East Asians to appreciate the fruits of other musical cultures. David P. Goldman, who writes under the pen name “Spengler” for the Asia Times Online, thinks that “The present shift in intellectual capital in favor of the East has no precedent in world history.” According to him, European Classical music “produces better minds, and promotes success in other fields.” A high proportion of the students at top Western musical schools are now Koreans, Chinese and Japanese, followed by Eastern Europeans. There are comparatively few North Americans or Western Europeans among the best instrumentalists.
According to Spengler, “China has embraced the least Chinese, and the most explicitly Western, of all art forms. Even the best Chinese musicians still depend on Western mentors. [Pianist] Lang Lang may be a star, but in some respects he remains an apprentice in the pantheon of Western musicians. The Chinese, in some ways the most arrogant of peoples, can elicit a deadly kind of humility in matters of learning. Their eclecticism befits an empire that is determined to succeed, as opposed to a mere nation that needs to console itself by sticking to its supposed cultural roots. Great empires transcend national culture and naturalize the culture they require.” Albert Einstein received a thorough philosophical education by studying Kant, Schopenhauer, Hume and Spinoza in addition to mathematics and the physical theories of Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and James Maxwell. This taught him how to think abstractly about space and time. He was also an enthusiastic amateur musician and would play his violin as a way of thinking through a difficult physics problem. His mother was an accomplished pianist and pushed for him to take violin lessons. At first he chafed at the mechanical discipline of the instruction, but after being exposed to Bach and to Mozart’s sonatas, music became magical to him. Author Walter Isaacson writes in his biography Einstein: His Life and Universe:
“‘Mozart’s music is so pure and beautiful that I see it as a reflection of the inner beauty of the universe itself,’ he later told a friend. ‘Of course,’ he added in a remark that reflected his view of math and physics as well as of Mozart, ‘like all great beauty, his music was pure simplicity.’ Music was no mere diversion. On the contrary, it helped him think. ‘Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or faced a difficult challenge in his work,’ said his son Hans Albert, ‘he would take refuge in music and that would solve all his difficulties.’ The violin thus proved useful during the years he lived alone in Berlin, wrestling with general relativity. ‘He would often play his violin in his kitchen late at night, improvising melodies while he pondered complicated problems,’ a friend recalled. ‘Then, suddenly, in the middle of playing, he would announce excitedly, ‘I’ve got it!’ As if by inspiration, the answer to the problem would have come to him in the midst of music.’ His appreciation for music, and especially for Mozart, may have reflected his feel for the harmony of the universe.”
Einstein was not as fond of Ludwig van Beethoven as he was of Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Schubert. According to Walter Isaacson, “What Einstein appreciated in Mozart and Bach was the clear architectural structure that made their music seem ‘deterministic’ and, like his own favorite scientific theories, plucked from the universe rather than composed. ‘Beethoven created his music,’ Einstein once said, but ‘Mozart’s music is so pure it seems to have been ever-present in the universe.’ He contrasted Beethoven with Bach: ‘I feel uncomfortable listening to Beethoven. I think he is too personal, almost naked. Give me Bach, rather, and then more Bach.’ He also admired Schubert for his ‘superlative ability to express emotion.’ But in a questionnaire he once filled out, he was critical about other composers in ways that reflect some of his scientific sentiments: Handel had ‘a certain shallowness’; Mendelssohn displayed ‘considerable talent but an indefinable lack of depth that often leads to banality’; Wagner had a ‘lack of architectural structure I see as decadence’; and Strauss was ‘gifted but without inner truth.’”
The Russian ex-pat author Alexander Boot was a philology graduate of Moscow University under the Communist system during the Cold War, lectured on English and American literature and wrote art criticism before getting into trouble with the KGB, the secret police and espionage organization of the Soviet Union. Boot emigrated to the West in 1973 only to discover that the West that he admired and was seeking no longer existed. This inspired a life-long quest for an explanation, some of it detailed in his book How the West Was Lost.
Alexander Boot has a deeply Christian way of seeing the world, which I as a non-believer obviously do not always share, but he brings fresh and unusual perspectives to analysis and to history, which can often prove fruitful. In his view, “Religion, for all the misdeeds committed by it or in its name, was the foundation on which Westman culture and civilization had been erected. Destroy the foundation, and down comes the whole structure with a big thud.”
Boot sees Western history as a prolonged internal struggle between two different beings which he calls Modman and Westman, which Modman eventually won. Saint Paul was a Roman Christian and the first Westman. Modman saw himself as close to divine; Jesus Christ, God as man, had been replaced by Modman as God. For Modman to become God the old God had to die first. Modman followers are introspective because their own self-expression has taken on huge proportions. Boot traces the development of Western civilization through art and ideas, but especially music since “nothing illuminates culture as much as music.”
He argues that you can find the early seeds of some ideological perversions already in Beethoven at the turn of the nineteenth century, post-French Revolution, which did not exist in the compositions of Mozart or Haydn, let alone Bach. There was a new type of artist: the conscious innovator. Boot is not saying that music should remain unchanged. Just like life itself, music cannot remain static. Bach was not identical to those before him, and Haydn was not like Bach. With Mozart, Classicism had been taken as far as it could go. Something new would inevitably develop, but Beethoven pushed the limits in both good and bad ways:
“Beethoven, a genius though he was, had Modman tendencies and drew not only human but even artistic inspiration from the 1789-1815 upheaval in France. This manifested itself either directly, in pieces like his 3rd Symphony and the 5th Piano Concerto, or indirectly in the bravura finales of many of his other works. In common with most Modmen, Beethoven believed that the future was knowable, plannable and rationally mouldable, which is why it had to be glorious.”
Interestingly enough I have heard a few people from former Communist countries state that they do not like Beethoven because they sense some form of ideological megalomania underlying his music. Personally, I would say that a man who could compose timeless and beautiful pieces of music such as the Moonlight Sonata cannot have been all bad, but it is undoubtedly true that he was not a humble craftsman like Bach was. Alexander Boot is not claiming that Beethoven produced bad pieces, something a genius like him was incapable of doing, but he made a conscious attempt to break the old forms just for the sake of breaking them, and by doing so paved the way for more destructive personalities of lesser talent:
“Art began to worship at the altar of subjective originality rather than objective truth. Yet, until the nineteenth century it had been universally accepted that looking for truth was the real purpose of art. Because of that, traditional forms had a liberating rather than constricting effect. The artist could take the canonical foundation of his work as a given and concentrate instead on the higher goal. As long as truth did emerge, it did not matter to the artist whether he was the first to uncover it or the thousandth. Westman did not see life as a race, and he was free of the hubristic desire to be original at any cost.”
This humble respect for tradition did not lead to artistic cloning, as an artist seeking a higher truth can only find a vision of it in his own soul, which means that his vision of truth will always be individual. He was largely immune to the self-deification of Modman.
According to Boot, “great music cannot survive in a free-market way while remaining great music” because “serious art was not designed, and cannot be produced, for large numbers. If it is, it stops being serious art.” The twentieth century was the age of mass consumers, not the aristocratic patrons who supported Mozart, and “As audiences became mass-produced, so did performers.” Consequently, “Music had to be downgraded to the status of entertainment – serious entertainment to be sure, but not something meeting any claim to enigmatic nature.”
Alexander Boot’s basic conclusion is that the West is dead, but as a Christian man he also believes in resurrection and in life after death. Perhaps that is not a bad summary.