Civilisation or Barbarism

Civilisation or Barbarism

As a New Year Begins, We Are Confronted With the Question of Civilisation or Barbarism

The other day, my wife’s elderly friend brought over some old family papers to peruse. Among the many pictures and documents was her great-uncle’s war medal. The ribbon of the medal consisted of a double rainbow with red at the centre. The medal itself depicted the winged figure of Victory on the front. On the back of the medal, it stated ‘The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919’.

We all know that World War One was about a lot more than civilisation but the very fact that the authorities used the term to communicate what they perceived as a message of inspiration is significant. It is unimaginable that service medals today would make a reference to civilisational mission.

Civilisation is an important concept that alludes to the legacy and achievements of humanity’s journey through the ages. Paradoxically the Great War that was at least rhetorically fought in the name of civilisation led to a loss of belief in it. Numerous historians claim that the very barbarity with which this war was fought called into question the authority of the legacy of human civilisation. On the contrary, as one commentator stated ’The „victory” of 1918 destroyd our civilisation. Nothing can make that worthwhile’!

As it happens the Great War did not so much destroy our civilisation as diminish western’s society’s capacity to believe in it and uphold its values and achievements. In the decades following this important event the West has become increasingly estranged from its civilisational norms. And since the turn of the 21st century this process has accelerated to the point that within its intellectual and cultural establishment the term Western Civilisation has acquired a negative connotation. The gradual hardening of this trend over the decades eventually lead to the crystallisation of the phenomenon of the moral disarmament of the West.

Moral disarmament is the outcome of the crisis of normativity and a refusal to confront this problem. It implicitly and often explicitly rejects that values that have historically played a central role in helping society deal with the difficult challenges it faced. Moral disarmament has eroded the willingness to fight for principles. from freedom to national sovereignty. In the vocabulary of the post-heroic West there is little room for terms like courage, risk taking, patriotism, duty and responsibility.

The moral disarmament of the west has acquired its most striking expression in the sphere of socialisation and public education. Many educators self-consciously questioned the desirability of transmitting their nations historical legacy. In the United States there has been a veritable crusade designed to de-authorise the status of Founding Fathers and the very act of founding the nation. In British schools too there is a discernible tendency to avoid public expressions national pride.

As readers of Roots & Wings will know I have been preoccupied by the problems posed by the moral disarmament of the West. During the past year the civilisational consequences of this development has become abundantly clear. The convergence of Islamic Barbarism and Woke Zealotry in the immediate aftermath of 7 October indicates that we are now headed towards a territory where the pre-existing Culture Wars has acquired the form of a civilisational conflict. As the war in the Middle East demonstrates, Western civilisation is tested from without but more ominously it is threatened from within.

Human civilisation emerged through recognising the key role of the family, drawing a clear mora distinction between children and adults, understanding the centrality of the biological distinction between men and women and the moral difference between humans and animals and the necessity for drawing a boundary between public and private life. All these ideals are now called into question. Freedom itself is often culturally negated by the censorious attitude promoted by our cultural and educational institutions.

We must not give up the fight for our civilisational values. The alternative to these ideals is a form of high-tech barbarism: one that is already gaining support in parts of the western world. Unless we act there will be more 7th of Octobers and not just in faraway places.

Frank Furedi