Abandon the Western Traditions At Our Peril
Cultural evolution is an outcome of thinking humans yet to an extent we take that for granted. We expect that as time passed a change in a given factor has occurred simply because that time has passed. That assumption aligns generally with our own personal dogma, even generally speaking within groups. We will never rid ourselves of atheists leveling the assertion that as enlightened as we our in learned age of humanity it’s shocking that deists and theists still exist. An existence of belief creates cognitive dissonance in people that hold a contrary belief. In a way that’s expression of its own faith. Yet human technological and sociopolitical progress does not quash the firmly held belief in the physically intangible, or the abstract concept. Mind you people that militantly disbelief in non-corporeal beings hew to abstract concepts just the same.
As it is, where an abstract concept is enforced into our physical reality, human beings tend to poke at and challenge it and question it. That’s our nature as time goes on. If nothing else it allows us to mark time as the universe breaks down.
The flow of history and time itself is about information and matter degrading into disorder, which is the process of entropy. Yet as sentient beings existing and chronicling the events within and of time we take an active role in shaping outcomes and while we do so deliberately it’s quite possible we cannot help ourselves to resist that purpose.
That’s the kind of thing we [in Western culture] do. We try to take the universe apart, to see how it works. We can’t leave anything alone, without knowing what it is. We are insatiably curious. And that’s what we defend: the right to be curious, to ask questions, and get answers. To question authority, and to remove it from power if we don’t like what it’s telling us. And that’s why we’ve changed constantly throughout history, to become what we are today. Because we’ve never stopped asking questions. — James Burke, from THE DAY THE UNIVERSE CHANGED
Novelist Brad Torgersen introduced me to the quote via the Facebook and uses it to continue a thought of his own, which naturally provokes thoughts of my own and should provoke yours. Assuming you read this. He responds:
My thought, to his: the day we sacrifice our right to question, to inquire, to seek proof of concept, to reject false dogma being dispensed by authority (even if it’s well-meant dogma) is the day we turn our backs on the very basis of Western tradition. The Enlightenment—which gifted us with the Industrial Revolution, thus our modern standard of living—began with men like Johannes Kepler and Nicolaus Copernicus refusing to settle for conventional wisdom. Even if it cost them a great price. Which it sometimes did.
We in the 21st century like to tell ourselves we’re above dogma. We’re not. One need only observe the strident sloganeering of various political and social campaigns, to realize that dogma is part of our everyday lives. Get enough people to believe in a thing, whether or not it makes sense, or even if it doesn’t work, or violates notions regarding freedom and the rights and dignity of the individual, then you can overturn parts or even all of what the Enlightenment helped to give us.
Dogma almost always insists on a single premise being invariably correct: that knowledge is relative, with truth being a function of perspective. Those with the purer or more politically germane perspective, become both dispensers and enforcers of truth. And if those dispensers and enforcers don’t like it when you or I disagree, they may insist that we’re wrong. With words. Or, sometimes, with force. In the latter case, dogma becomes zealotry. And zealotry almost invariably leads to human beings suffering.
Sometimes, as the history of Cambodia or the former Soviet Union demonstrate, suffering on a colossal, grotesque scale.
So, we abandon the Western traditions at our peril.
They are (literally) the reason we get to be who we are. All of us.
I like that his concept of Western Tradition holds free will and free thought to forefront. It’s an honest observation that things have changed after they have changed and to the point that people act, change occurs. On the other hand, there is a contemporary philosophy, ideology, that not only is change itself inevitable but change itself is the goal and that to resist a transformation from the status quo, for whatever reason, is an immoral state. There is that hard expectation, the dogma, that how we are now must be different from how we were then and that it’s a sign of stagnation and failure otherwise.
I think it’s hilarious that humans have always cited the year in which they live as proof of their enlightenment. “It’s [current year], and we’re still dealing with [current hot button issue]?” — Dennis Gaunt
I actually cite the year in my recurring annoyance when my computer freezes. The people that are shocked in this manner regarding social progress or even violence implicitly, if not deliberately and thoughtfully, reject the ideas of moral and psychic constants. People are greedy, selfish and fearful. Elements of evil are not shed from this earth and her people nor are the ramifications of that evil: acts of evil. On the other hand, as much as leftists are still aghast at concepts of poverty and crime, you’ll find Republicans surprised that socialism is still attempted or annoyed when politicians refer to our republic as a democracy, insisting that their aphorism of “it’s a republic not a democracy” is axiomatic in our culture.
Probably because everyone alive today, has only ever experienced a world in which everything is said to be moving “forward” according to notions of technological sophistication and the liberalization of social standards. — Brad Torgersen
A Marxist concept became ubiquitous.
At least part of it, IMO, is Marxist claptrap along the lines of “right/wrong side of history”, implying that history is required to move forward along a certain path which naturally (sarc) leads to Socialism. — Dan Poore
If I recall correctly, and I never promise that, Karl Marx came up with “the end of history” although he was not the only philosopher to ruminate on that, let alone the last or best one. In this case it’s the notion that there is a genuine, singular direction for historical development. Marx assumed that socialism was the natural evolution of capitalism and that even with a healthy capitalist system it would turn to a socialist revolution. As it turns out in the real world however, that socialism is embraced only by nation-states that were already in the shitter. Our country will not become socialist until it’s ruined economically first. Members of my political party may worry that socialism will ruin the United States. That’s a foolish notion. Something else will ruin this country literally before we turn to socialism. To ward off that ideological shift we need to keep our country healthy sociopolitically and economically. That’s a discussion of unconscious political ideology and its outgrowth from articulated political philosophy. Philosophy aside my Baptist upbringing taught that men are not perfectable morally and thus society is always as immoral now as it was before and as it will be in the future.
I’ve noted this elsewhere: the common conceit among most determined Leftists, is that history is a straight line trending forever upward, toward whichever utopian flavor of societal nirvana the Left is infatuated with this decade. Thus history is pulled inexorably up that ramp, by the inverse gravitational tug of human destiny.
I am pretty sure the classical Greeks and Romans felt the same.
Ancient Egyptians? You bet. And their civilization(s) lasted far longer than most. Yet, three thousand years later, Napoleon’s men shot the Sphinx’s nose off.
In other words: history is not now, nor will it ever be, a straight line going “up” but is instead a variable waveform, with peaks and troughs. And depending on who you are, the peaks and troughs will look different, based on different criteria. Such as the collapse of Al-Andalus. Big win for the West. But a major blow to the Caliphate. Set the stage for Columbus’s voyages. Which in turn set the stage for the conquest of the Americas. Major bad news, for First Peoples of the Americas. But the European settlement of the Americas, ushered along by Enlightenment ideals, was a major part of the Industrial Revolution, which gave us indoor plumbing, electric light, radio, television, and men walking on the moon. Certainly a high point in technical achievement, by a culture cribbing from all the best (we think) parts of Western civ, dating back to the classical period. Yet modern Soc Jus militants want to abolish Western civ, for being too white, too het, too cis, and too male. Right now, our world is their hell-hole.
One more thought: today’s uneducated, angry, jobless, radicalized Muslim immigrant, living in Spain or France, would seem like the worst kind of barbarian, to the Muslim scholars of Al-Andalus. In fact, the occupants of Al-Andalus might not recognize modern Islam at all. Not as professed and practiced by a great many of Europe’s Muslims, both radicalized, and “pacified” by Western traditions and material comforts. — Brad Torgersen
I comfortably find that there is no perfect moment in our history. For every moment of moral clarity where children can play outside sans adult supervision we have racial strife and separate drinking fountains. For all I see Republicans praise the Founding Fathers I imagine the late 18th century as a period where infant mortality upon birth was horrifyingly common, penicillin had not been discovered, people shat in outdoor water closets, and by and large everyone smelled far worse than now.
In either case there is cause and effect and attempts to remedy social ills generally lead to either harm or benefit. I love modern indoor plumbing. I’d prefer not to have my thinking forcibly adjusted to eradicate what is deemed to be an undesired thought. As it is Thomas Sowell covers the ideas of the constrained and unconstrained vision, divided upon contrary sets of ideas, in his most philosophical work, A CONFLICT OF VISIONS. As it is the ideas of whether human beings as whole can be morally perfectible features heavily in that work, at least as far as I recall.
Not my best but not my worst. At this rate I won’t be able to reach up to brush the lowest works of Russell Kirk, William F.Buckley, Mark Twain or Jonah Goldberg.
Best to keep trying.