on the loveliness of the West
between a reader
and two TLD writers
To the editor ...
I just came across TLD and wanted to share some feedback. I see that it's written by some smart, very literate people, yet also that you have attached your emotional and psychological affiliation to some disheartening mythologies. I'm not talking about libertarianism or the idea that the State has become too powerful. I'm talking specifically about two ideas:
The idea that the West was once a great civilization, all liberty and beauty, which is now in decline, with TLD's contributors some of the last, lonely "old bones" sounding "Taps" for that mythical once-great world.
The idea that "Euro-American ethnocentrism" is a good thing which is a high-sounding way of embracing crude white-power racism.
Both ideas reflect a romanticized notion of "Western civilization" which is historically and scientifically unsupportable. You guys need to rethink. Are you free enough, in your "libertarian" minds, to question some of your own deepest ideological commitments? This is a question you need to ask yourselves.
I won't explain that there was never a Golden Age, or that human nature has not changed, that it has always come with a lust for power, in-group/out-group instincts, and a tendency to take advantage of others where opportunity arose. I'll leave it to you to take some social anthropology courses, and come to grips with what you learn. I will not detail how the U.S.A. is an imperial power in a similar sense to Great Britain, from which it took the imperial baton sometime between 1916 and 1950, nor will I discuss other European empires; I won't ask where and when you imagine the free, libertarian Golden Age to have been (during the time of homicidal frontiersman and genocidal wars in the American West, mid 1800s? during the Spanish conquest and enslavement of Central and South America?). I won't go into a long diatribe about how Europe is only now emerging from a constant state of internecine warfare, much of which was carried over into the New World, i.e., Euro-American ethnocentrism is a fiction based on a tribal idea which never existed, historically, and doesn't really exist today. I won't bother pointing out that Europe has never been "racially pure" or ethnically stable, not even in earliest times. Nor will I explain why the very notion of "race" is, biologically speaking, just silly. I'll leave it to you to learn from reputable scholars of history, biology, anthropology, and sociology.
I will instead say this: I live in one of the most ethnically mixed cities in the world, in a country which is becoming more cosmopolitan by the day: Vancouver, Canada. About half the population of the City of Vancouver is of Asian origin, but really there are people from just about everywhere. Toronto, the largest city in Canada, is even more "mixed." People are getting along. It's working. I see mixed Asian-European couples on the street every single day and I've been half of such couples more than once. I see beautiful children whose parents' parents come from different continents. Those children are fully alive, fully human, and fully deserving of fundamental respect as human beings, not one micro-iota less than some white-blond child of Swedish ancestry. This is the better future: a liberal fusion of the world's populations, in cities where people share a commitment to mutual respect, human decency and compassion, regardless of "ethnic origin." A widening of the circle of compassion to include all people, everywhere. An understanding that persons of Zulu ancestry, of Han ancestry, and of Swedish ancestry are equally capable of love, poetry, nobility, and compassion as well as hatred, pettiness, violence, and racism.
Consider the implications of what you seem to advocate: a retreat into ethnocentrism, mythologies of "race" and yearnings for a mythological Golden Age of Western civilization that never existed. Think of the Balkans, where people have fundamentally similar beliefs about the importance of ethnic identity and similarly mythologize history, imagining former Golden Ages of their particular tribes. Is that a model for how you want your children to live? In endless reruns of ethnic genocides, mini-World War IIs?
I know whereof I speak in a very immediate way. My parents grew up in World War II in Germany, one of the most ethnically obsessed, intolerant European civilizations in millennia. They came to the New World to seek land and greater freedom. I am one of those people who was born with platinum-blond hair, people you presumably believe to be somehow innately superior, or more worthy of your compassion by virtue of my "roots." Yet I live in Canada, circa 2003, multicultural melting-pot extraordinaire. I'm the luckier party. I don't go around worrying what "colors" my friends are, but suffice it to say, they're all human beings. I have dated women whose ancestral roots are in many different places of this Earth. My last girlfriend, whom I deeply loved and was a fool to lose, was of Vietnamese parentage, and like me, a Canadian who came to this country as a small child. She is the most vibrant, joyous and loving woman I've ever known. My best friend during undergraduate years was a near-genius engineering physics scholar of north Indian origin. I could go on, but you get the picture. I find your racism to be bottomlessly stupid and profoundly offensive to that which is graceful and good in the human spirit. If you knew the people I know, and were able to come to recognize their full humanity, as I do, then you would heave a great sigh of relief and laugh out loud at your sophomoric obsessions about "race." There is only one race, guys. The human race. A person's ancestry doesn't matter a tinker's damn. You are fundamentally mistaken about the importance of "race," and until you realize this, you are a force for hatred and evil, despite your own self-image as being intellectual white knights of high civilization.
Until you understand this, by questioning and revising your beliefs, you will not make a constructive contribution and that's too bad, because the U.S. "national security" State is indeed getting out of hand, and needs some sober, thoughful critics who can observe it and report on it honestly to the larger public, with a clear mind and sharp pen.
Question yourselves. Please.
February 18, 2003
Nicholas Strakon replies
Dear Mr. Skye:
Thanks for your comments. Some of your points have already been addressed (sufficiently, I think) in writings on the TLD site that you apparently haven't yet read. Others may deserve more treatment. I plan to circularize your letter among the principal TLD writers to see what they think. And I may wish to reply myself.
February 18, 2003
Once more unto the breach
I look forward to what you, or they, have to say especially to yourselves, and each other. I will assume for the purposes of my remarks that you are personally committed to the notion of "Euro-American ethnocentrism" but my comments apply more broadly. As you well know, people have a tendency to make a commitment to some cherished belief, and then filter all their perceptions, and rationalize furiously, to find "support" for their preconceived idea, regardless of how wrong that preconceived idea may be if examined by neutral third parties on the basis of sober evidence. Psychologists have recognized, and shown by clever experiments, that among the human mind's strongest features is a tendency to confabulate. This is how beliefs stay entrenched, including cultural beliefs transmitted from person to person like a virus religious beliefs are an example; so are tribal ideas of racial distinction or "superiority," whatever that means. If you are endowed with enough liberty of mind to actually question your beliefs, rather than find clever words to justify dogma which isn't really justifiable in the enlightenment of scientific and historical enquiry or of human decency and compassion then you will have achieved something fairly rare: a freeing of your own minds. It seems to me that your network has the resources of intelligence and thoroughness of inquiry to make a valuable contribution if it lets go of a couple of deeply wrong core shibboleths. I welcome your decision to grapple with my comments.
February 18, 2003
Dear Mr. Skye:
I will forward these comments, too, to the principal TLD contributors.
February 18, 2003
At first, as I reflected on what Mr. Skye had written, I was uncertain about the value of replying. I suspected that a reply would be either premature or pointless: premature, if Mr. Skye had not yet read the principal material on the TLD site that deals with race and civilization; pointless, if he had read it but had failed so grievously to grasp it. His messages suggested that one or the other had to be the case. I did decide that certain of his assertions, such as his Lysenkoite fantasy that the notion of race is biologically "silly," were so, well, silly, as to deserve the same response I would grant the maunderings of a Flat Earther: that is, silence.
But then I realized that Mr. Skye had, amid all his silliness, managed to provoke some thought the main criterion for our posting readers' letters though probably not the sort of thought he imagined. We defenders of the white West have some idea, which we are always trying to deepen and clarify, of what the West is or should be. Mr. Skye's messages set me to wondering once again how meaningful it can be to ask when the West was.
True enough, there was no Golden Age. In fact a Western timeline would show peaks and valleys at different times, depending on the area of endeavor under examination. Let us begin by looking at the high art and science of the white West. Without intending any disrespect for either Mediæval or 19th-century artists, most people probably would agree that Western painting achieved its zenith in the late 15th century and the 16th century. Few if any would maintain that the zenith was achieved in the 12th or 20th century. (Richard Weaver might argue for the 12th, I suppose.) Without intending any disrespect for Gregorian chant, most probably would agree that Western music began to gel into recognizable form in the 16th century and achieved its peak a broad, high plateau, actually in the late 18th to early 20th centuries. [*] (Again, pace Richard Weaver, who seems to have considered Beethoven an anti-Western nihilist.) As for the zenith of dramaturgy, to pick out only one element of literature, even non-English-speaking Westerners might vote for the early 17th century. In any event, few would deny that non-musical theater mostly dozed during the 19th century (after Goethe and Schiller) or that it reawakened during several decades of the 20th.
Western science, though owing much to early geniuses Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton began assembling itself into a juggernaut capable of carrying the West's industrial revolution only in the late 18th century. The late Middle Ages as depicted by Huizinga glowed with a specially rich autumnal beauty, but life was threadbare and wintry and brief for most ordinary people. Western science and industry changed that fundamentally (changed it for quite a few non-Westerners, as well). As our music and graphic arts and literature submerge into chaos and triviality, our science and industry continue to ride high, though corruption is chewing away at the margins, and inattention threatens the future.
Western political and economic thought reached their zenith upon another relatively broad plateau, from the late 18th century through the present. But therein lies a tale. I take that consummated achievement which I will ruthlessly sloganize as Liberty! Property! to center on the economics of the Austrian School and on free-market anarchism: yet those two complementary schools of thought are virtually without influence on the dominant movements of the Late West, which instead depend on various brands of national socialism, kleptocracy, totalitarianism, coercive tribalism, and coercive egalitarianism. It is possible, then, for some lovely civilizational summits to rise but alas! achieve their magnificent height so late in the life of their civilization that they are shrouded and rendered invisible by terminally murky weather.
It may be that a study of any civilization would reveal different summits being attained at different times and some of the highest summits rising too late to be seen. On the other hand, the West may be especially subject to "asynchronous summits" because of its size, power, and fecundity. Although much degraded in our time, it is still in many ways the defining world civilization, as it has been for the past 500 years. Perhaps other civilizations have been able to enjoy a better synchronized Golden Age because their achievements, overall, were so much smaller, less sustained, and less diverse.
I do think that for much of its life the West succeeded better than others in keeping its summits visible, which is to say, highly influential in the civilization in general. Austrian economics and free-market anarchism (both indigenous creations) arose too late to escape the terminal shroud, but as I have written elsewhere:
Arab civilization gave the West some astronomy and some mathematics; the West and only the West built out of those things a bridge that took Westerners to the Moon. Chinese civilization gave the West gunpowder and printing; the West and only the West transformed those things from toys into tools. Those great alien civilizations were, like ours, heavy on brainpower, but they were missing some other necessary piece of the dynamo some persistence, outward-looking vision, energy, or restlessness that only our race and civilization seemed to have. ("Gene-mapping: Geek meets analyst," Strakon Lights Up, #53, June 28, 2000)
Those summits thrown up by the Arab and Chinese civilizations were relatively invisible to most of their own members; it took Westerners to see them and reveal them to all.
If the West's summits have been highly asynchronous, how meaningful is it, then, to speak of the West?
I will try to carry off this final observation without leaving great muddy tracks in Mr. David T. Wright's garden before you reach it. The West would not have continued to be recognizable even as recognizable as it still is, despite its crazed self-mutilation had not distinctive virtues, tastes, folkways, and habits of mind continued to mold the lives of a distinctive kind of people, generation after generation. The high art and science of the West rise and fall, but these life-ways, though continually "edited" by cultural evolution, have molded the lives of our people throughout.
The European and American theater of the 19th century, while diminished in terms of high artistic achievement, still tended to reflect distinctively Western themes, at least in comparison to the art of other civilizations. Just so have ordinary people's lives continued to reflect Western ways, supported as they are by the distinctive racial temperament and intellectual gifts of our people, even as they have come under attack from other quarters.
The various Western ways are distinctive, describable, and always present to a significant degree. Or at least that is how it has been, insofar as there has been a West: perhaps I use the present tense ill-advisedly.
Beyond their value for thought-provocation, I have another reason for not letting Mr. Skye's observations languish unattended: I believe we must re-sound the clarion from time to time on behalf of the white West, for the benefit of those who unlike Mr. Skye are actually within earshot. I am grateful to Mr. David T. Wright for doing just that.
March 24, 2003
David T. Wright replies to Mr. Skye
Mr. Skye makes some interesting points, but I'm not sure he has caught the gist of what we're trying to say at TLD. I don't consider myself superior to people from other societies. I've had many friends from different cultures, and I married a woman from South America. In many ways, she is much more civilized than your average TV-addled American.
I don't think anyone on the site has said that the West or America were once "all liberty and beauty," or that an ideal Golden Age has come and gone. Certainly, our society has always had a lot of warts, including various genocidal and other atrocities against its own and various other peoples: the U.S. genocide of the Indians is perhaps the worst example, but the enslavement of blacks and the massacre of Filipino, European, and Vietnamese (and now Iraqi) civilians are others. (See my article "Israel and the lessons of empire.") I shouldn't have to mention the European empires in the Third World, or that Fount of All Evil, the Nazis. (I don't include the various Stalinist regimes, because they don't really seem to me to be Western in nature.)
However, just as bad, or worse, have been all the other major civilizations throughout history. Certainly none can claim to be less brutal than the white West, and many, if not most, have been much worse; only those peoples who have never had the ability to do so have refrained from killing, raping, expropriating, and enslaving their neighbors. Many are doing it right now. What they all have in common, of course, is a powerful state, with the means to steal resources from the people and use them to deal death and destruction at home and abroad.
The Final Solution to the Indian question was a project of the new United State, born of the War of Northern Aggression, and it was prosecuted by the generals of that war. Even slavery was kept on life-support by the state: in the early 19th century, the rate of manumission of slaves was greater than the growth of the slave population, until anti-manumission and other laws were enacted to prevent slaves from being freed and preserve the status quo.
But the West does or did stand out from the rest in a number of ways. The first is the set of ideals "values" they call them nowadays that sprang from the Christian religion. However honored in the breach they were, the notions that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, and each take responsibility for our own actions, along with the rest of the Christian message, were and are revolutionary. And most revolutionary of all is their corollary: the principle of personal freedom. Christianity teaches that Man has been given free will so that he may freely choose to love and serve God. From that, it follows that we each have the right to be free to pursue our own affairs. I believe that no other civilization has developed that principle.
No other civilization has developed anything like the English common law codified by Blackstone, which guaranteed property and other rights that later became the basis for the Bill of Rights, as well as making possible the most massive expansion in prosperity and freedom the world has ever seen. Other societies have imperfectly copied or (more often) paid lip service to these ideals, but they came from our ancestors.
In fact, the very arguments that Mr. Skye uses are based on Western ideals. No other "value system" developed the legal principle of equal rights under the law or indeed, the rule of law instead of men. None other, except possibly Buddhism in some of its forms, came up with the moral principle of respecting and treating people equally regardless of who they are or where they come from. That principle, as received by the white West, comes straight from the parable of the Good Samaritan. (As for the notion that Islam teaches similar ideals albeit very imperfectly remember that Islam originated as a heresy of Christianity.)
I would argue, too, that Western high culture far outshines any other. None other produced a Michelangelo, a Mozart, a Shakespeare. Mr. Skye may not agree, and it's an arguable point. But that's what I think. Mr. Skye is free to agree or disagree about how beautiful the West is, but here's what is most important. The culture and heritage of the West, and especially heartland America, are ours. They're what and where we come from. And we don't like seeing them swept away. Indeed, they have their bad points, but from my viewpoint, they are superior to all the others.
A Chinese man might tell you the same thing about his culture, and I wouldn't blame him for doing so. Let him have his culture, and let me have mine. What I lament most bitterly is the downgrading of literacy and culture that socialists and other friends of the state have been able to inflict on us. The average eighth-grader a hundred years ago was better educated in many important respects than the average college graduate of today. And that means that the average college graduate is woefully lacking in the reasoning skills, sense of who he is, and knowledge of basic principles that are necessary to be a free man.
I keenly miss, too, the courtesy and good manners commonly practiced when I was young. They are almost gone now, and it's a huge loss.
The problem with "multiculturalism" and non-Western immigration, as they are promoted and subsidized by our masters, is that they are calculated to complete this destruction of our heritage, with its unacceptable traditions of individualism, self-reliance, and free expression, and turn us into sheep who can be easily coerced. The inevitable result will be not different cultures blended together into a harmonious whole but rather a society divided into innumerable factions, each with its own grievances, demands, and unquenchable hatreds. It will be the Balkans writ large, and it will enable an ever-more-powerful, ever-more-corrupt state.
We may never have had a Golden Age, but what we had was better than that.
March 24, 2003
Strakon recommends ...
First, here's a brilliant article by Sam Francis at VDare: "Are We Better Than They Are?" (October 4, 2001).
Visitors to the TLD site who are curious about where we stand on race and civilization should explore the following:
Nicholas Strakon, "Sweeping Rand's barnyard: Racism and individualism," reprinted from TLD 14, 1996.
Ronald N. Neff, "Repatriating the West," reprinted from TLD 19, 1997.
Ronald N. Neff, "The two churches: Power and sanctity in forging the West," reprinted from the March 1995 issue of TLD. Those who are mystified about how anyone can praise a civilization containing some Bad Men may benefit from Mr. Neff's perspective. (Incidentally, the question of Bad Men, and Evil in general, applies equally to the non-Western civilizations that Mr. Skye seems to prefer.)
Nicholas Strakon, "Still too many white people: A homily for the new St. Martin's Day" (Strakon Lights Up, #113), January 20, 2002. If you want to cut to the chase, go straight to the conclusion.
Chase-cutting, too, is this chunk of several paragraphs in Nicholas Strakon, "A civics lesson for the New Americans" (Strakon Lights Up, #88), November 26, 2000.
I was not always so silent on the "silliness" of the concept of race. See this chunk in Nicholas Strakon, "UFOs to blame for racial differences, scientist declares" (Strakon Lights Up, #55), July 5, 2000. I still savor the wisecrack of my friend that I quote. Perhaps Mr. Skye can answer his question.
Finally, here is a thoughtful and eloquent hurrah for the West courtesy of Virginia Dare: "Dragons and giants and bears, oh my!" (from TLD 13, 1996).
Posted March 24, 2003.
Mr. Strakon's and Mr. Wright's comments
© 2003 WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.
Do you have a comment of your own?
All comments will be subject to the usual editing, and we will be looking for those that are the most thought-provoking, pro or con.
Notice to visitors who came straight to this document from off site: You are deep in The Last Ditch. You should check out our home page and table of contents.