Of late, Western Civilisation has been copping a lot of flack. It seems that the West is to blame for every wrong. In Australia, as we grind our teeth over the icing on the gay wedding cake, the rest of the world, or at least the parts not touched by the brilliance of Western Civilisation, barely manage to feed or govern themselves.
Students know little of the West’s victories against tyranny. Nor of the evils of the great communist and fascist dictatorships of the 20th century. In pursuit of identity politics, too many learn to deconstruct the Great Works and Great Moments, too many are taught to disfigure the great themes of triumph over ignorance and darkness, and ignore the essential truths of enlightenment. Postmodernists, the poster boys and girls of the anti-West intellect, held great hopes for communism in particular. They thought that they were on a winner. Disappointed that the ‘winning design’ turned out to be a dud, they look afresh at history through the eyes of losers. They rewrite the allegedly ‘repressed histories of modernity’ such as those of women, homosexuals and the colonised. The purpose is to lay claim that ‘modernism’ is, or was, ‘patriarchal and racist, dominated by white heterosexual men’. As a result, one of the most common themes addressed within postmodernism relates to cultural identity. I trust lecturers remind students that, for example, the Wesleyan, middle class white male, William Wilberforce in parliament made the great and forceful statement in freeing the slaves – ‘Christianity has been called the law of liberty.’
Indeed, Father James Grant wrote a stirring call to arms among Christians in the recent IPA Review. He argued Christianity is ‘unsure of what it stands for … Beset by its own fears.’ I was taken by his view that ‘Christianity must earn its right to speak through what it does, not from whingeing about what’s wrong.’ In particular, he says that Christianity must ‘stop supporting socialism.’ This is terrific stuff.
He argues that ‘the promotion of social justice issues has proved to be a dead end for the church.’ ‘Unfortunately, valuable organisations such as the Society of St Vincent de Paul are riddled with socialist mantra and dogma. These organisations no longer have any answers to problems, rather they make endless calls for greater welfare transfers.’ Because it does not have its own grand design, the postmodern mind starts out grouchy, and goes downhill from there. Because of the disaster of its once feted alternatives, it disdains the very idea, and picks away at the ‘best design’. In doing so, it too often throws out the baby with the bathwater.
Not a shred of gratitude
As someone recently remarked, ‘there is not a shred of gratitude’ for the achievement of the liberal society: arguably, the highest achievement of Western Civilisation. Liberty is shown the door, and celebration of difference becomes an inglorious cul-de-sac.
Postmodernism also tends to believe that dialogue across groups is not possible, that is, ‘my reality is not your reality’, and ‘you cannot know what it is like for me’, and so on. This belief is acute in the literary world where some are berated for writing about people outside their ‘group’. Of course, this silliness is easy to laugh off, but it exists, and it is a serious conversation in some university faculties and at many literary conferences.
Fortunately, Western Civ, as a prominent supporter calls it, is making a significant comeback in Australia. The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, funded by a very generous endowment from the late Paul Ramsay, has recently commenced in Sydney to promote appreciation of Western civilisation. The Centre will work with universities to create degrees in Western Civilisation, as well as offering undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships and undertaking other activities intended to enhance public appreciation of Western Civilisation. In doing so, it joins Campion College in western Sydney, which offers a liberal arts degree with a deep appreciation of western civilisation.
An allied theme (pun intended) is that of the Anglosphere. It is clear that the West faces numerous enemies, communists, Islam, and the rot within, and needs its friends more than ever. Students fed a diet of eco-gloom need a swift lesson in geo-strategic considerations and a strong sense of the Anglosphere.
Suspicions on the Right
There has been significant and at times caustic debate within the Right over the strategy employed by Ramsay: whether to establish its own university or to buy courses or student places within existing universities. Considerable angst among the Right is based on the possibility of the Centre and its courses being overrun by the Left, as is the accusation with the US Studies Centre at Sydney University.
Professor Simon Haines, CEO of the Ramsay Centre, and his board, which includes former Prime Ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott as well as former Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the ALP Kim Beazley, have the power to withdraw funds should a course run off the rails. So, relax. This is a worthwhile venture, and thank goodness it has appeared at this time.
The Centre will start accepting applications for scholarships in the BA (Western Civ) and the 2019 Summer School in the second half of 2018. There will be public lectures and a distinguished visitor program starting in early 2018.
Philanthropists would do well to think about assisting this march back into the institutions. The arts and medical research have long been favoured by philanthropy. Neither of these would thrive without a deep appreciation of, and support for, Western Civilisation and its enemies.
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