I found this yesterday on Youtube. Despite its length, it is worth more than 1 viewing.
Towards the 2nd half, both Peterson and Shapiro discuss in depth the aftereffects of the Enlightenment and touch upon how it overextends itself thru Rousseau and his ‘Noble Savage’ idiocy, leading to the madness of Collectivism and its descendants. I believe this part of the discussion in particular is of tremendous significance.
Consider the following (and forgive me if it doesn’t all hang together cleanly, as I’m writing this from a stream of consciousness and have a hard stop at 3:30PM local time:)
Both men criticize the post-Enlightenment thinkers who proclaim that the principles of the Enlightenment are completely divorced from the beliefs and precepts of the Catholic Church and the combined body of Judeo-Christian thought. It doesn’t take much effort to realize that those who either advocate a wholesale rejection of Judeo-Christian principles or assert that Liberalism is based on an Enlightenment that is completely separated from Judeo-Christian influence are extremely silly people, as Western Civilization’s foundation is built in major part on Judeo-Christianity, a body of ideas and institutions that predates Western Civilization by at least 3000 years. One need only remember a few glaring examples of this: the response Jesus gave when asked whether one should pay Roman taxes (a response which led directly to the separation of Church and State), or the theological canon created by Augustine with regards to whether scripture or science should be consulted to answer questions about the natural world (where Augustine told the zealots to shut the hell up with their nonsense about scripture being the only source of truth and knowledge, pointing out that you can’t figure out how fast a rock will be falling from a 100 foot drop from reading the Bible, but could find the answer readily if you simply spoke to a physicist.) There are also Judeo-Christian tenets which are derived from earlier influences of Syriac culture, reducing any claims of an absolute sundering between Liberalism and the history of civilized Man to the level of the preposterous.
Peterson and Shapiro go on to point out how this idea of the ‘purity’ of Enlightenment-based Liberalism has nevertheless crept further into the fabric of Western Civilization, deeply eroding the religious portion of our culture’s foundation and, consequently, ‘bleeding out’ a great deal of what has given it meaning and purpose. These gentlemen are recognizing a critical phenomenon in the evolution of Western Civilization that was recognized by Toynbee over 70 years ago, who also saw this rising secularization of Western society as having the effect of ‘hollowing out’ the culture.
Granted: the Church held back the development of Western Civilization during the Dark and Middle Ages thru its indulging in the exercise of secular power over a fragmented polity trying to recover from the collapse of Hellenic culture and rebuild itself into a viable society. Yet the Church itself experienced tremendous convulsions during this period. Example: the destruction of the Templars in the early 14th century who, having turned from militant zealots into extortionist bankers, were crushed by France’s Philip IV. Example: the Catholic-Protestant schism of the 16th century. Nonetheless, this ‘winnowing’ of the Church had a salutary effect. It forced it back into a role as a purely spiritual institution, shaping it for maximum utility to a budding Western Civilization. Recall that after a collapse, a society will do the hard work that the previous culture did not have the will to do – it will abandon institutions that have failed and are no longer useful, retain those that are still of use, and reshape ones that need to be ‘re-engineered’ to make them maximally effective. This is what happened to the Church. One can justifiably argue, in fact, that the birth of Western Civilization would have been IMPOSSIBLE without Judeo-Christianity in its new ‘form’ included as part of the foundation.
We may be well assured, that a writer, conversant with the world, would never have ventured to expose the gods of his country to public ridicule, had they not already been the objects of secret contempt among the polished and enlightened orders of society. – Edward Gibbon, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, Chapter 2.
Note how towards the end of the discussion Peterson and Shapiro agree quite fervently that the decay of spiritual life in America is a prime component of its current malaise and that a revival of spiritual strength is essential to the revitalization of American society. They cite the adoption of spendthrift consumerism, the decline of the institution of marriage, the moronic and shameful ‘hands off’ concept of child rearing, debauched behaviors on the part of youth (drugs, tattoos, piercings, brandings, a greatly extended juvenile period, a sense of defeatism, listlessness and lack of purpose) and the fervent adoption of leftist ideological/pseudo-theological canon as proof of a lack of genuine spirituality, with its instillation of social/behavioral/moral norms, sense of belonging to a community and sense of lifelong purpose. Clearly this tracks quite well with the Toynbee Civilization theorem, but it is worth examining more closely.
Is the decline of Judeo-Christian religious observance one of the causes of the decay of Western culture?
My thoughts are that the correct answer is NO. In my view, it is not a cause, but a symptom.
Creative Minorities arise in dynamic, healthy societies to solve existential crises that the ruling clique (the previous Creative Minority) is unable to contend with successfully thru the curse of ‘comfort with the familiar.’ Whatever solution the new Creative Minority develops will, however, create a new set of problems which will fester over time and flower into a fresh crisis.
As discussed in my earlier rants, the distribution of economic wealth and power is the central problem of both Western and American civilization today. For Western Europe, this problem emerged over 300 years ago. It has resulted in three great conflicts that attempted to bulldoze the problem thru the creation of a Western European Universal State – the Napoleonic Wars, the combined cataclysm of WW1 and WW2, and finally the Cold War of the 20th century.
The outcome of each conflict provided only a partial solution to the crisis; thus, all of these stopgap resolutions ultimately failed. Of course, the French Revolution and Napoleon’s belligerent adventurism broke European aristocracy. But those whose mindsets/outlooks reflected the aristocratic character endured, rephrasing the old concept of ‘noblesse oblige’ into the ‘class struggle’ of the proletariat against the capitalist bourgeoisie. It is this movement – the same challenge with a new ‘face’ – that drove the world wars and the war by proxy between the West and the External Proletariat of Orthodox Christendom embodied by the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe’s Warsaw Pact.
With the 3 1/2 beat rhythm of response and failure having manifested itself in the last 200 years of Western European history, we can see that Western Civilization is now firmly on the road to decay. The final Universal State of the EU is proving to be ‘autoschediastic’ or ad hoc and is already disintegrating after a bare 30 years of life. The still quite youthful American Civilization, however, is encountering this problem for the first time.
The ‘face’ of the challenge that is confronting American Civilization, though at heart the same as that which has defeated Western Europe, has changed in appearance yet again. It built on the centralization of power in Federal hands that was the solution for American Civilization in the Civil War, gained strength and legitimacy in the Great Depression and WW2, and received a tremendous burst of energy from the revolt of the Baby Boomers in the 1960’s, picking up a new ‘identity politics’ mask to switch out from the already battered Marxist facade to facilitate its growth. But while the veil/mask has changed, the goals and methods remain remarkably intact – the undermining and destruction of the current order and its institutions formed by the Renaissance and Enlightenment and its wholesale replacement with a pyramidal structure of top down control by a new elite, aristocrats in all but name, who would impose their definition of societal harmony with all the political, legal, social, economic and educational/doctrinal tools and weapons of coerced conformance.
Peterson and Shapiro advocate a return to spirituality to reignite a sense of purpose and community in the American polity. I disagree. What is necessary is to shatter the vehicle of authoritarianism that Progressives have commandeered to overthrow Western and American civilization – the central government, with all the power it has unconstitutionally assumed from the States and the people.Decision-making power for 90% of today’s outstanding domestic issues must be returned to the regional, state and local level.
The Swiss show us the way today. Western Europe is instinctively exploring this path at the national level (Brexit, to be followed by Italy and Austria) and even locally/provincially (Scotland and Catalonia.) The Romans, believe it or not, showed us the way over 2000 years ago. When establishing colonies in conquered territories, the Romans limited the size of new cities and towns to about 10,000. Once a town reached that size, they would try to siphon off excess citizens by establishing a new settlement at some moderate distance from the original. Thru experience, the Romans had learned that for a city or town to be able to sustain itself comfortably thru its own local means, handle its civic problems and maintain a unified and content polity, it had to remain small.
This is the right way forward for America. Federalism needs to return with a furious vengeance, so that the concentration of legal and financial strength in Washington DC, along with all the corruption, graft, racketeering and influence peddling which such centralization of power inevitably attracts is decisively and irretrievably wrecked. We are a nation of 325M people scattered across a continent, folks. Even without the deliberate sabotage of our cultural institutions by the Left thru canards such as ‘multiculturalism’, ‘diversity’, ‘fairness’ and illegal immigration from regions of the world deliberately favored by the conformity to absolute authority inherent in their home cultures, we would be hard pressed to find complete unity amongst the people in the states of New England, the Mid Atlantic, the Southeast, the old Northwest ‘Rust Belt’, Texas (which is completely unique and beautifully so), the northern and southern Midwest, the Rocky Mountain West, the Southwest, California, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii. By reducing issues to local, state and regional concerns instead of elevating everything to a national level, a sense of community, civic duty and belonging will return, and a sense of spiritualism is sure to grow concurrently.
I like to put historical quotes and multimedia in my essays to reinforce the story and make the essay an entertaining read. However, I’m including the video below not because it really has anything to do with the treatise above; I just think it’s a super cool tune. 😉