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A Crisis of Self-Doubt
By Kate Burch

A little-noted recent event was the call by Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, for a “post West world order.”  He made his remarks, also including denunciations of the current “post truth” state of international relations, at the Munich Security Conference.  Does the failure of our media to remark or object imply their agreement?

The intellectual and cultural traditions of Western Civilization are clearly superior to any others in the history of mankind.  The ideas and values of the West underlie a society in which people are free to think, read, write, and speak as individuals; to practice religion as it fits our values and beliefs; to live in liberty within the law; and to strive for and achieve our aspirations and ambitions.  Western civilization has lifted mankind out of poverty and into a life that was, up to little more than a century ago, unimaginable prosperity.  In countries that have recognized the practical value of Western ways, such as South Korea, Japan, and India, their citizens have benefited greatly.  The countries of the West, despite the imprecations of some, have been largely forces for good in the world. 

Now, in what we may fervently pray is a temporary spasm of human stupidity, the countries of the West reject their rich cultural tradition in favor of the perverse tenets of political correctness.  In the name of egalitarianism the intelligentsia demand that we treat everyone the same, regardless of who they are or what they have achieved—even regardless of demonstrated unwillingness to conform to the social compact and let the rest of us live in peace. 

Four and five decades ago, many universities, succumbing to the demands of leftist radicals, abandoned the Western canon.  Education was no longer a search for beauty and truth, but an indulgence of whatever the clamoring youth said they wanted or thought was “relevant.”  Legitimate authority was weakened as students were given specious authority to evaluate their professors—a recipe for disaster, since good evaluations tended to be given to professors who made things easy and gave high grades.  Misguided notions of virtue and compassion made people believe that honoring one who demonstrated excellence denigrated those who did not.  Giving everyone trophies deprives people of models to emulate, but—worse—lowers the standard of achievement to the least common denominator. 

The arts, also, have been largely loosed from their classical mooring, the striving for beauty.  So much of contemporary music, and not just popular music but also much that is in the vein of “serious” or “classical” music, is just unlistenable.  Some, with its vulgar, brutal, and violent content, is degrading.  How often, viewing contemporary art works, do you feel uplifted or inspired?  The last contemporary dance production I attended, in which the lead performer was a dancer of international reputation, seemed frankly masturbatory to me, there was so little communication between the performer and the audience.  Greatness endures, however; just being inside the East Wing of the National Gallery, designed by I.M. Pei, is a transcendent experience. 

Rejection of Western culture by the opinion makers in our society has caused many to feel that they no longer have a firm foundation.  One hears people speak of “the world turned upside-down” or saying that they no longer recognize their country.  Incivility is rampant.  Lawlessness prevails, sometimes even at the top.  Sanguine acceptance of Mr. Lavrov’s obituary for Western culture shows how bad it has become. 

The ray of hope is in the great uprising that we have seen in our politics.  Not only in the United States, but in Europe, the people are insisting on reclaiming and preserving their identity, their culture, and their values.  It will be a rocky road, this re-alignment with the values that have empowered and uplifted us, but I think we are seeing a propitious beginning. 

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