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The theme of The Great Divide is that the populations of the democratic world, from Boston to Berlin, Vancouver to Venice, are becoming increasingly divided from within, due to a growing ideological incompatibility between modern liberalism and conservatism. This is partly due to a complex mutation in the concept of liberal democracy itself, and the resulting divide is now so wide that those holding to either philosophy on a whole range of topics: on democracy, on reason, on abortion, on human nature, on homosexuality and gay marriage, on freedom, on the role of courts … and much more, can barely speak with each other without outrage (the favorite emotional response from all sides). Clearly, civil conversation at the surface has been failing -- and that could mean democracy is failing.

This book is an effort to deepen the conversation. It is written for the non-specialist, and aims to reveal the less obvious underlying ideological forces and misconceptions that cause the conflict and outrage at the surface -- not with any expectation the clash of values will evaporate, but rather that a deeper understanding will generate a more intelligent and civil conversation.

As an aid to understanding, the book contains a handful of Tables directly comparing modern liberal and conservative views across a range of fundamental moral and political “issues” so that curious readers can answer the book’s main question: “Where Do You Stand?” An interesting result in testing this exercise has been the number of people who find they “think” one way, but “live” another.    

 

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Essays (37)
« Islam in the West: Some Demographic Facts | Main | Islam, & Terrorism Against the West »
Saturday
Mar112017

The West Against Itself: Our "Civil War of Values"

The Spiritual Logic

            The secular Westerner looks at the universe and says: “Because there is no God, the universe must have created itself by purely physical means, so there is no ultimate truth, no Why.”

            But the Westerner of faith (and the Muslim) says: “As nothing can come from nothing, the universe cannot have created itself, because for anything to create itself, it would have to precede itself in existence – which is clearly a logical impossibility. Hence, the universe must have had a beginning and an eternal or uncreated creator. So absolute truth must exist somewhere, and therefore I must humble myself before this truth and strive to know it in whatever way I can.”

           Anyone can follow the logic embedded in this spiritual conclusion without necessarily belonging to an organized religion. As a purely logical conclusion it has served as the foundation of the Judeo-Christian world for two millennia, and of the Islamic worldview for 1,400 years. I was going to say the modern democratic world has rejected it. But that would be wrong. It has never been rejected, because it cannot be refuted. Rather, it has simply been ignored by preference for the weaker self-serving promises of personal liberation promised by secular individualism. It was precisely this choice to abandon our original spiritual logic that divided the West against itself. As a result, within every Western nation today we can see at least a three-way split of the population. To understand the relationship between these cohorts is to understand why and how Islam, both moderate and radical, fits into the picture.

 

Cohort 1 – Our Secular Liberal Population

          This is the largest segment in each Western democracy. Modern liberals are almost uniformly progressive, Statist, materialistic and secular, rarely religious (or if so, only nominally). They believe in the separation of church and State, support egalitarian policies and affirmative action, support moral relativism and “toleration” (are “non-judgmental”), and consider religious morality old-fashioned, Victorian, oppressive (though many will say they are good with “spiritual” values). They support homosexual rights, abortion rights, and much of radical feminism as a badge of their open-mindedness, and have flexible notions of families (plural), are easy on divorce, soft on crime, okay with pornography. These people live mostly in the big cities of the West, make good money in the free market system, with which they have few complaints. They are people of low fertility (way below replacement level), and at least in urban settings are often high livers, do plenty of partying, enjoy alcohol, sample recreational drugs, and so on. They find the attitudes expressed by people in Cohort 2 to be ignorant, bigoted, and behind the times. Theirs is the prevailing secular orthodoxy of the modern State. When Muslims, and our own faith communities say the West is decadent, they are talking about Cohort 1.

 

Cohort 2 – Our Faith Population

          This cohort comprises all people of faith who accept the spiritual logic, above, and work that out each in their own way in their own faith communities, or simply as individuals. They tend to oppose just about everything Cohort 1 supports, though there is some overlap (such as churches that support gay rights, etc). They tend toward tradition in all family, moral, and sexual matters. They drink less, smoke less, do less drugs, divorce less, and have a lot more kids than Cohort 1 people. They also tend to live in outlying suburbs, small towns, and rural areas, with one exception: The immigrant faith population that shares most of these values tends to live in the big cities where they can be with others of their cultural or ethnic kind and keep the faith traditions of their country of origin alive.

            The moderate Muslim population fits in here, too. They are “against the West” only in the sense that they are against all the values – especially the anti-family policies and the moral relativism - promoted and practiced both by Cohort 1, and 3 (below). They consider the values of Cohort 1 immoral and unnatural, and the values of our own radicals in Cohort 3 they consider fascist (whether left or right), or at best utopian, but without moral roots in any set of permanent principles or natural law. 

             I have direct experience with this moral cleavage myself. In the middle of the night, in summer of 2008 I received a phone call from a Muslim woman in Iran informing me that her pro-family women’s rights group had translated my book The War Against the Family into Farsi (Persian). That book was a full-on assault against the anti-family program in the Western world. She was in complete sympathy. I am no Muslim. But I applauded her Cohort 2 pro-family and pro-children values.  I still do. Every sociological or psychological study ever done on this cohort tells us these people as a cohort have stronger and bigger families, less divorce, happier children, suffer less illnesses and neuroses, far less alcoholism and tobacco diseases, almost none are in poverty or on welfare, they have very respectable educational and occupational levels, and on it goes.

 

Cohort 3 – Our Radical Leftist Population

             Let us dismiss as disturbing, but to be watched, the small number of right-wing radicals, skinheads, and the like. That done, we can say that the far larger Cohort 3 consists mostly of well-to-do educated radicals, many of an alienated, extremist anti-Western nature who are uniformly leftist in their politics, if not openly Marxist, socialist, or anarchist. They are also libertarian (anti-authoritarian) in their morals. They can be found employed by the thousands in the universities and media outlets of the West, as well as many government bureaucracies (as the Trump administration is discovering!), where they exercise a powerful influence on the broader public, and in our schools, on the young. They oppose the values held by both Cohorts 1 and 2. The first, because they see them as complacent well-fed, undiscerning materialists (okay, capitalist pigs); the second, because they hold to wht radicals consider a holier-than-thou oppressive religious morality (fundamentalist rednecks).

            Although they are against capitalist society as a whole and prefer an egalitarian socialist utopia, they live very well themselves. The vast majority of radicals in this cohort have higher pay, drive better cars, and live in more expensive neighbourhoods than the populations they seek to radicalize. They are equivalent to what the writer Milovan Djilas, halfway thru the last century, described as "The New Class" of the Communist nations. In their anger at the West, even though they do not share Islamist theology, they are often sympathetic with radical Islamist attacks on the West. Radical Islamists want to destroy the West because it is run by unholy infidels, but our home-grown radicals want to destroy the West in order to build a secular-socialist Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. They are secularized radicals who happen to have a lot in common with … Muslim hatred of the West. That is why the late Osama Bin Laden said: “The interests of Muslims [he meant his kind of radical Islamists] and the interests of the socialists [these Cohort 3 folks I am describing] coincide in the war against the crusaders.”  For him, “crusaders” was his description of all those the cozy liberals in Cohort 1 who have brought the world today’s brand of unholy secular capitalist democracy (phew!)]. This analysis tells us that smack dab in the middle of all Western nations today we have two powerful cohorts that are partly or wholly in sympathy with the Muslim (if not always the Islamist) revolt against the West.

           First, we have radicals of our own making who want to bring Western society down through revolution or anarchy. Here are some of the heartless things they said just after the mass-murder of their own fellow citizens by Islamists on 9/11.[1] Keep in mind that in most nations throughout history, these people would have been prosecuted and jailed for sedition for saying such things in public.       

           Second, we have a very large faith population which, although without such revolutionary motives is in strong passive sympathy with the Muslim disapproval of sexual licence, homosexuality, gay-rights parades, abortion rights, pornography, social saturation with drugs and alcohol, violence in film, TV and advertising, anti-family legislation, court rulings against religion by secularizing judges, and more. By the same token, most Muslims (unlike Islamists) everywhere express strong support for devout Christians (as distinct from nominal ones), because of this sharing of the same moral views

           To summarize: A weakened western civilization has become so divided against itself that we now fail even to recognize, much less defend our own deep culture. More often than not we attack it ourselves. This has exposed us to radical Islamists who have no such doubts about their own foundations, and who are prepared to use terrorism to defeat and replace Western culture.

 


[1] From Jamie Glazov, “From the Left With Hate,” National Post, April 21, 2009, being an excerpt from his book United in Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror, WND Books, 2009. 

Reader Comments (1)

Hi Bill:

Nice piece except that using the term "values" itself gives the game away. George Grant knew of what he spoke when he told David Cayley in a CBC interview many years ago:"values language is an obscuring language for morality used when the idea of purpose has been destroyed."

I've written on the problem of "values" language and it's masking of the elevation of techne over telos.

You may find the paper and some others online or on my SSRN site.

All best from Sydney Australia where I am now teaching.

Iain Benson, PhD
Professor of Law
Notre Dame University
Sydney Australia
March 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterIain Benson

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