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Sixteen years since “9/11” – the “Fall of Rome” and the “Decline of the West”
By Mark Wegierski
Author’s note: An earlier version of this article has appeared in Quarterly Review (UK).
It seems doubtful that America can ever re-capture the spirit of that patriotic surge that occurred in the wake of the September 11th attacks. Arguably, all that patriotic energy was misdirected and wasted by the George W. Bush administration, in its pursuit of a misbegotten invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Comparing the Fall of Rome to the situation of the West today, while it has some merit, is also a somewhat inaccurate rendering of the situation. In the absence of any technological advantage, the conflict between Rome and the barbarians was almost entirely a purely physical and moral struggle, between a physically and morally enfeebled Empire, and more vital, healthy, prolific tribes. In comparing Rome to the West today, what is striking is the noticeable lack of any ideologies of self-hatred among the Romans (although some like historian Edward Gibbon have argued that Christianity fulfilled that role), as well as of any unusually pronounced hatred of Rome by the barbarians. Indeed, the barbarians were often enthralled by the Roman civilization, and there was often the attempt to borrow what were seen as the more admirable qualities of Roman civilization, among the new barbarian realms. A prominent example of this is the reign of the Gothic king, Theoderic the Great, in Italy – and, of course, the eventual establishment of the “Holy Roman Empire.” From a European standpoint, the triumph of the barbarians was the victory of more northern peoples (notably, the Germanic tribes), over the more southerly peoples of the Western Mediterranean, who had also heavily intermingled with Near Eastern peoples, e.g., ancient Syrians. The collision of Rome and the barbarians involved societies which, when looked at from the vantage point of late modernity, could mostly be seen as ultra-conservative, ultra-hierarchical, ultra-patriarchal, and so forth. The Romans would have wished to be powerful, warrior-like, and prolific, but their society had reached a point of organic decay, that militated against the Romans' exercise of the rough-hewn virtues which were found in abundance among the barbarians. The Fall of Rome was thus part of a commonly-observed organic pattern of the rise, decline, and fall of empires.
Where the Fall of Rome differs from the situation of the current-day West, is that there appears nothing inevitable about the Fall of the West. Although superficially resembling the organic pattern of rise, decline, and fall, our decline is in fact inorganic. It appears that the West has vast, enormous resources, and extremely powerful technologies, that, if properly utilized, would allow for the long-term preservation and flourishing of Western societies.
The problems of the West derive not from the lack of physical resources for sustenance, but rather from the triumph of a complex of extremely powerful ideologies, all of them in different ways profoundly harmful to the prospects of the continued preservation and flourishing of Western societies. Ironically, many of these ideologies arise from the very triumph of Western science and technology, which had briefly (at the end of the nineteenth century) allowed the West to attain mastery over virtually the entire planet, but now have redounded against the West, in a particularly sharp way. Thus, it might be argued that the very triumph of Western science, technology, and material progress, has thoroughly undermined the sense of spirit, culture, religion, family, and nation, in most Western societies. The traditional cultures of the West are the first victims of the onrushing triumph of science, technology, and material progress, which are in some senses both Western and universal. Indeed, the West has given birth to the powerful concept of secular universalism, which sweeps away both Western and non-Western traditional societies alike.
Among the most prominent of this complex of extremely powerful ideologies, is "minoritarianism." This is the exaltation and idolization of multifarious minorities in Western society and culture. This phenomenon occurs almost everywhere today -- in the most common, widely-circulated pop-culture, to the supposedly rarefied realms of high art, and at the most prestigious universities and foundations.
It should be stated prefatorily that "minoritarianism" is applied today, generally-speaking, only to societies where Europeans are the majority. Thus, the typical booster of minorities in European societies is not concerned, for example, about the rights of European minorities in Zimbabwe and South Africa. The attitude to European and European-descended societies with European majorities, however, seems to be that they can only be considered democratically legitimate and truly meaningful, as instrumentalities for the flourishing and advancement of the precious minority cultures. Indeed, there appears little sense of the notion that European and European-descended societies could exist in and of themselves, for their own sakes. Rather, they are to be cherished only insofar as they are receptacles for the flourishing and advancement of various minorities. It should also be pointed out that "minoritarianism" has greatly broadened its appeal and societal strength by bringing in the vast category of women as an "oppressed minority group." Various highly dynamic sexual minorities are also today emphatically part of the so-called “rainbow coalition”.
It would be a mistake, however, to see "minoritarianism" as a purely defensive cultural self-affirmation of long downtrodden minorities, or as a plea for civil and tolerant relations between majorities and minorities. Despite the obvious and hopeful possibility of more gentle interpretations of the doctrine, "minoritarianism" as typically theorized and practiced has a vast, quasi-totalitarian agenda, which almost inevitably collides with the meaningful preservation and flourishing of European peoples.
Many white Americans voted for Obama as a supposed transcender and healer of racial antagonism – a voice of moderation. Some indeed believed he would lessen affirmative-action policies. Many believers in Obama have been profoundly disappointed. Among his sharply-pointed actions there has been the undermining of control over the U.S. borders, the appointment of highly antagonistic figures to the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as his choice of and continuing support for a truly egregious Attorney General.
There are a number of highly troubling aspects of "minoritarianism." Among these is its almost infinite capacity to claim the badge of victimhood, vis-à-vis the majority. Thus, one finds minority sports or entertainment figures earning tens of millions of dollars per year, complaining of "being held back by racism." At the same time, there is the drive for the first minority "x" in every Western society, which is subject to continual extension. For example, there have now occurred appointments of women, and of African-American men, and of a Hispanic woman, as U.S. Supreme Court Justices. At some point, there will doubtless be demands for Justices from diverse minority groups, for example, a black female Supreme Court Justice, an Asian Justice, and eventually of the first gay black or gay Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. And, as identity politics intensifies, America is ever more unlikely to find figures as redoubtable as Clarence Thomas to fill the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the Left’s contempt for Thomas shows that – as far as they are concerned -- all the future minority appointees must also buy into and not challenge the Left’s victim analysis. So ultimately they would actually prefer a white liberal to a black conservative.
The process of “minoritization” appears to have no possibility of self-limitation as it occurs today across multifarious institutions and workplaces around America. It tends in the direction of an increased social grinding down of straight white males (and of white people in general), particularly those in the lower-middle and working-classes, who are not independently wealthy – as well as of people from any highly-competitive group, such as East Asians. For example, in employment situations, as firefighter Frank Ricci discovered, rigorous standardized testing results are thrown overboard when they do not produce enough “diversity.” And anything that blocks the emergence, let us say, of a black lesbian Pope, increasingly tends to be seen as simply being unacceptable and illegitimate privilege. So it could be argued that Europeans are moving towards becoming a displaced majority (and eventually a despised, pariah-minority) in their own countries. Indeed, it might be pointedly perceived that much of Western civilization today has become little more than a vast affirmative-action project, where promoting so-called diversity becomes the first goal of any institution or organization (such as, for example, at the Annapolis Naval Academy and NASA).
There are also multifarious “emotional engineering” techniques in place today for rendering nearly all of the Western and European past and present to appear as utterly hideous to so-called “decent” human sensibilities.
However, it should also be made clear that should Western civilization reach a nadir of collapse, what follows could be quite hideous for almost everyone on the planet. Food production and distribution networks (such as the vast grain growing of North America) are likely to crumble, the advancement and maintenance of technology are likely to become ever more difficult, and many classical liberal and liberal democratic freedoms are likely to disappear.
Most European societies appear to be moving towards a sharp crisis – governed by a political culture where traditionalism, conservatism, and nationalism have been all-but-expunged – with aging majority populations, a huge influx of non-European immigrants, and virtually no attempt to meaningfully assimilate the immigrants.
Whether there can occur some kind of great rallying and restoration (at least among some of the Western countries) -- what some traditionalists would call “the Third Spring” of the West -- remains to be seen. (The “Second Spring” being the eventual restoration of civilization after the Fall of Rome.) It also remains to be seen whether Christianity will be playing a restorative role in some ways similar to that which it played in the “Second Spring” – or if in fact, new thought-concepts and idea-streams, such as right-wing ecology and “hard social science” -- will possibly be playing a major role.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.