Where is the historical West? Part 1 of 5

Kevin MacDonald

Over a year ago I completed a 5000-word draft offering an answer to this question.  A few months later, after recurrent visits to VDare, American Renaissance, The Occidental Observer, and Counter-Currents my answer seemed naïve, adolescent; one more paper carved out under the “tyranny of liberalism” and the belief that the Western world was different from the Rest in its cultivation of universal values and transcendence of ethnic identities.  I no longer accepted the claim that humans around the world could become Western through proper guidance in the merits of civic equality, free markets, and tolerance.

I had been inching my way in this direction for some years, but never to the point of allowing the word ‘race’ to enter into my writings. In the draft I emphasized the ancient and medieval pre-liberal social context upon which the historic success of liberalism was predicated, but the convergence of my view with liberalism was obvious: the triumph of universalism was the high point of the West. I thought that identifying the location of the West was a matter of tracing the historical evolution of this ideology, beginning with the rise of citizenship and rational discourse in ancient Greek times, through the Roman invention of the legal persona, the Catholic fusion of reason and faith, the discovery of the individual in Renaissance times, the Newtonian Revolution, the Enlightenment, and so on, until the Allied victory in 1945 or even the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

What concerned me above all (in the draft) was challenging the leftist liberal idea that the historic West was a social construct without definite geographical and cultural boundaries. I rejected the view that all cultural expressions were equally valid and that a proper liberal attitude required an egalitarian view of world history. I was reacting to an academic environment in which the teaching of Western civilization had been replaced by a new curriculum emphasizing “the unity in diversity” of the world’s peoples. Only a handful of universities were still teaching the history of Western civilization. Everyone was captivated by the postmodernist claim that “no concept is by itself, and consequently in and of itself”: ergo the West must be conceived only in relation to the rest of the world.   Ancient Greece was an outgrowth of the Near East, or, as Martin Bernal put it, “Afroasiatic”.  Greek civilization was not founded by Aryan settlers but was instead the product of Egyptian and Semitic influences.

Even the landmass of “Europe” was found suspect. How can a small straggling peninsula on the western end of a much larger and richer Asian landmass be called a “continent”? The “the racist privileging of Europe” (on Mercator-derived maps) should not be allowed; accordingly, the Peters projection was promoted, where Europe was “considerably downgraded.”   The TV serial drama, The West Wing, created by Aaron Sorkin, endorsed this new projection as a great way to raise the status of the Third World against Western privilege. A variety of other projections were soon announced; the one world historians were most enthused over was the “Hobo-Dyer Equal Area Projection Map,” in which the world was turned upside down with  Europe occupying a marginalized corner in the south east. No one cared to mention that Europeans were the ones who discovered and mapped the entire geography of the earth.

The Hobo-Dyer Projection

Facing this challenge, I thought it was important to identify the West as the birthplace of liberal universalism. The key was to delineate geographically the expansion of Western liberal values and institutions. I concluded that Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand were currently the most deeply Western; whereas Eastern (Catholic) European countries were  closely Western but not entirely due to their lack of well-developed democratic institutions. Latin America was unevenly progressing in a Western direction but was not yet quite ready to be allowed in the universal club. So were the Orthodox countries, Russia and the Balkans.  

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On what grounds did I exclude countries such as Japan, South Korea, and India with their established representative institutions, scientific inquiry, and market economies? By insisting that those non-Western countries remained culturally different in the degree to which they lacked the Western background of Greco-Roman humanism, Christianity, and European high culture. Their histories were very different. At the same time I was persuaded by Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” argument that there was a convergence in the world toward a liberal democratic culture. Samuel Huntington’s observation that the world was becoming more modern and less Western seemed inconsistent with the fall of the Soviet Union, the spread of Western popular culture, and the opening of China. Non-Western countries needed to Westernize in order to modernize.

Yet, not long after completing the draft, I was agreeing with Huntington’s thesis that the very success of modernization in non-Western countries was encouraging indigenization and ethnic confidence, rather than Westernization. Upon learning about “cultural Marxism,” I concluded that Western liberalism had undergone a major ideological change away from its earlier “Victorian” commitment to middle class family values, national pride, and high culture. Present-day liberals were not only devotees of the doctrine that “working men have no country,” they were avidly promoting the idea that Western nations had become places with indefinite ethnic boundaries founded on discursive statements for the benefit of humanity.

This Marxist takeover of liberalism was so sweeping that no one was even asking: what about the liberals in the nineteenth century who were fervent supporters of nationalism and the essential importance of being part of a community with shared traditions, language, and customs? Eric Hobsbawm’s claim, in The Age of Capital (1975), that nations were “ideological constructs” created without a substantial grounding in immemorial lands, dialects, folkways, and ethnos, should be contrasted to the ideas of such liberal nationalists as Camillo di Cavour (1810–61), Max Weber (1864–1920), and even John Stuart Mill (1806–73) and Ernest Renan (1823–92). While these liberals emphasized a form of nationalism compatible with liberal values, they were firm supporters of national identities at a time when a “non-xenophobic nationalism” was meant to acknowledge the presence of white ethnic minorities within European nations. None of these liberals ever intended to endorse mass immigration from Africa. Hobsbawm directed his argument specifically against the peoples of Europe, the very same people who contributed the idea and practice of nation-building, one of the West’s most neglected contributions to the world.

The “patriotic” emphasis on education and assimilation left me totally unsatisfied. I kept thinking about the Muslims who already made up 25 per cent of the population in Marseilles and Rotterdam, 20 per cent in Malmo, 15 per cent in Brussels and Birmingham and 10 per cent in London, Paris and Copenhagen. Calmly identifying Europe as “Western” when “a fifth of Europeans will be Muslim by 2050” made no sense. My apprehensions went far beyond “radical” Islam; I was coming across the writings of forbidden authors never mentioned in academia, and one of them, Guillaume Faye, persuaded me more than anyone in his valuation of Muslim immigration:

Islam corresponds to nothing in the European soul and temperament. Its massive introduction into Europe would disfigure a European culture already damaged by Americanization. An assertive dogmatism, an absence of the Faustian spirit, a fundamental denial of humanism (understood as the autonomy of the human will) in favor of an absolute submission to God, an extreme rigidity of social obligations and prohibitions, a theocratic confusion of civil society, religion and the political State, an absolute monotheism, a profound ambivalence toward artistic freedom and scientific inquiry — all these traits are incompatible with traditional European patterns of thought, which are fundamentally polytheistic. Those who believe that Islam can be Europeanized, can adapt to European culture, can accept the concept of secularism, make a dreadful error. Islam, essentially, does not understand compromise. Its essence is authoritarian and bellicose.

I was also wondering about “Black flash mobs,” “the color of crime,” “race and IQ,” but it was Paul Kersey’s Escape from Detroit: The Collapse of America’s Black Metropolis (2012) which brought home the knowledge that a place is a function of its current racial makeup more so than even its previous (Western) institutions or current politics. I could not help asking: was Detroit with its 82.7 percent black population, or Jackson, Miss. (79.4 percent), or Baltimore (64.3 percent), or New Orleans (67 percent), or Flint, Mich. (56.6 percent) places that could seriously be identified as Western? Were these cities “the end of history,” showcases of liberal-democratic achievement? How about the intense demographic transformation of Los Angeles, with its 48 percent Mexican population), of Houston, (41 percent), San Antonio (61 percent), Phoenix (42 percent)? Were these places better identified as future members of the Nation of Aztlan?

The liberal elites would have us believe that anyone can become American simply by accepting liberalism and the same multicultural ideology which, by its nature, cannot envision the American nation except as a culture that is inclusive and celebrates the traditions of everyone and, in effect, says that the Europeans who founded the nation have no other identity but to open themselves up to the rest of the world.

With these new thoughts, reading the “conservative” liberals I used to favor not long ago, it was crystal clear that they were not really for the West. Rather, they were promoters of a borderless civilization without heritage. I could now see that what Niall Ferguson was sponsoring in his bestseller, The West and the Rest (2010), was that historians and schools should appreciate Europe merely for being the first place to witness industrialization, mass consumption, and democratic institutions. The West was a showcase for a future world in which different ethnic groups would co-exist and interbreed in an atmosphere of liberal affluence.  The West was a construct, a discourse with “borders that [were] blurred in the extreme” (p. 15). Less conservative but typically liberal and “scientific,” Ian Morris, in his highly acclaimed book, Why the West Rules – For Now (2010), brushed aside all prior identifications of the West with Europe, claiming that the Islamic world was not less central to Europe’s identity, celebrating the rise of Asians, and telling Westerners not to worry about their eventual demise since, after all, “wherever you go, whatever you do, people are all much the same;” “humanity’s biological unity rules out race-based theories” (p. 61). Books I had welcomed enthusiastically two years ago — Walter Laqueur’s, The Last Days of Europe (2007), Pascal Bruckner’s The Tyranny of Guilt, An Essay on Western Masochism (2010) — for their criticism of multiculturalism, were evidently defending a thoroughly multiracial Western universalism against those who were “hostile to the diversity of physiognomies and the plurality of ways of life…the great mixtures of [Western] cities.” Muslims and Africans need not fear the West, Bruckner insisted: “monochrome Europe, which was mostly white, is gone” (p. 154). Immigrants should be educated to join the melting pot, Laqueur said, instead of perpetuating their “separateness…by not mixing with the local population, only seldom marrying outside their community” (p. 71).

In short, today I no longer deny that the West was a civilization consisting of nations with similar “genetic” unities. It is very simple, race, the one factor academics were compelled to ignore except in opprobrium, was/is central to the West’s historical identity and geographic location. Traditions, customs, and national particularisms are also important to the long term preservation of Western countries in the face of relentless globalization.

Go to Part 2 of 5.

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