Western Civilization: Addition by Subtraction

After President Trump’s speech in Poland this past week in defense of Western civilization/culture, the left has predictably attacked Western civilization for what they perceive are the wrongs it has vested on the world. In response, most replies I have seen have been along the line of enumerating all the great things Western culture has brought to the world and any who choose to emulate this way of life. I think it is just as important to note what Western civilization has eliminated. Right off the bat, I can think of three very important things Western civilization brought to extinction, to wit:

  • Western civilization ended inequality as a human being. Western civilization evolves – but it does so as it rests its foundation on a set of transcendent, bedrock principles. These principles are included in all of the foundational documents – the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Arbroath, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution include them because the men conceiving these documents all understood that governance is a common activity. These all have a common thread running through them – and that golden thread is the elevation of the rights of the individual over the desires of a collective or a potentate. In recognizing that all men (all humans) are born with inalienable rights and that they are created equal, Western civilization stripped away race, creed, color, national origin, religion, economic status and social position as qualifiers for participation in one’s own government. These documents did not guarantee that socially, all men and women would be seen or treated as equals in society or culture, but when it came to governance, how one person effects rule over another, they did guarantee that one vote is one vote no matter what hand casts it. There can be no more important equality than this.
  • Western civilization ended the institution of slavery. As noted in the preceding paragraph, no document, law or regulation can mandate equality in society, it can only guarantee that in matters related to governance, the law and justice will be blind. It is a fact that conquered people throughout time have been deemed inferior and often turned into slaves – early America was no different. But as noted before, Western culture learned and evolved to correct its mistake and slavery was ended in the UK and the US after a bitter and devastating civil war. Slavery exists today – but not in countries where Western civilization is practiced to any degree.
  • Western civilization took war off the battlefield and incorporated it into governing institutions where debate replaced bullets. Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian General  who wrote “On War”, stated “that war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means.” As Western Civilization evolved past monarchies, it turned that axiom on its head and established that political intercourse is war by other means. Governments were organized with elected branches that represented various segments of the citizens (House of Lords, House of Commons, House of Representatives, Senate) where “war” became based on logic, reasons and Robert’s Rules of Order, thereby killing policies instead of people.

To borrow from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings”:

“As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn, The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return! “

As the Western word turns away from the very principles that brought success and allowed it to dominate the modern world, each of these spectres are raised from the dead. Individuals become immaterial in communist states and in others, a caste system flourishes. Slavery is resurgent, rampant and accepted in the Islamic world, and as various forms of collectivism and statolatry gain acceptance, strongmen, authoritarians and statism return.

Often cultures and civilizations achieve greatness not for what they add to the world, but for what they delete. Western civilization is one of those.

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