Guest Notes

Cultural notes

27 June 2020

9:00 AM

27 June 2020

9:00 AM

While the West slept

President Kennedy wrote a thesis in his last year at university that was later published under the title Why England Slept. The book examined appeasement of Nazi Germany by the UK during the inter-war years. I’ve always thought that the reasons for England’s reluctance to take on Germany in the 1930s were understandable; principally, the reluctance to enter into another conflict with the same enemy, so soon after the slaughter of the first. Who would rush into war if diplomacy or compromise could solve disagreements between nations?  As a principle it made sound sense, but on that particular occasion it displayed a profound ignorance of the nature and intent of the enemy. The West has repeated the same mistake in terms of the threat of Marxism, both as a revolutionary movement and as a Fifth Column intent on destroying Western culture. The failure to comprehend that the enemy meant what they said proved to be fatal on both occasions.

The end of the Cold War did not eradicate Marxism, it simply accelerated the process of achieving its goals by other means; namely, by the white-anting of Western institutions and the nurturing of a severe case of self-loathing among a section of its population. This self-loathing is pivotal for understanding why the West has supplied its own executors. The elites, academia, mainstream media and now the corporate world have willingly supplied the fire power to bring down the pillars supporting the West. But the question is why: why would anyone want to destroy the society they live in?

As a culture, the West is far less malevolent than a lot of others, which is why it has been so successful. It is far from perfect, but the opportunities for personal success and happiness in the West are far greater than in those societies still shackled by restrictions that keep most citizens, particularly women, in servitude and poverty.


What would a child or a young university student think if there was no challenge to the constant attacks on their culture by the adults around them? No alternate narrative, no defence of its freedoms, particularly the freedom to say what you think. The psychological result is that they identify with the ‘bad’ parts of their society and self-loathing develops. This is writ large all over the Western world with teenagers and adults apologising for the very fact of their existence. Guilt, as any psychologist worth their fifty-minute fee will tell you, is a lousy foundation for functioning adults and positive mental health.

It’s what’s been happening, however, for a very long time on a societal and personal level and it goes a long way towards explaining how the incidents of the past few weeks have occurred. Millions of the young have been robbed of their capacity to function, by elites who have told them they must do penance for the accident of their birth and destroy the society into which they were born. When destruction is the goal of your existence, there’s no time for anything else. There’s a very real psychological consequence to constant denigration of society, with no counterbalance as to its capacity to provide opportunities for its members to live happy and productive lives. It’s a virtual death sentence on hope.

If we want to feel shame, let it be for something we’re responsible for – like this devastation of the young, who are guilty of nothing. The constant condemnation of their society has left them rudderless; their role models and mentors have been destroyed and they’re looking for guidance, but the West abrogated this responsibility long ago. Standing up to the Nazis just doesn’t cut it anymore. No one tells the monument wreckers it’s easy to be a revolutionary at nineteen, but at fifty…

In the 1940s the enemy was external. One of Churchill’s greatest achievement was that his speeches galvanised the shared goal of defeating barbarism. That unity would be impossible today because the enemy is within. We’re only now realising that we’ve been asleep at the wheel. The last sixty years has seen a long expunging of Western ideals and culture by the expunging experts, and we’ve hardly noticed. The Marxists have taken the ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ dictum to heart, perhaps a necessity for an organisation known for killing off their best military minds in purges. As the Soviets found out in 1941, there are consequences for destroying your society from within, as eventually an external threat appears.

The question for the West now is how to recover, or more importantly, does it want to recover? It has become so cowered that it can’t distinguish hate speech from valid criticism, the two have become conflated, and any criticism no matter how ignorant or absurd is given serious consideration. As a consequence, it fails to mount any defence of the values for which millions have given their lives or to defend their memory, even in the public square.

When extremists take control of the process, dialogue is impossible. The West is now engaged in a frantic rear-guard attempt to hang to what is left of its culture. Perhaps we’ve never considered what the RSL motto ‘The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance’ really means, but we’re witnessing the cost of holding our society so cheaply that we didn’t bother to find out.

Joan McCaul and Tom Grein are both previous winners of The Spectator Australia Thawley Essay Prize. The 2019 prize winner will be announced shortly.

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