Man praying in church

Hanne Nabintu Herland

INTRODUCTION

IN RECENT DECADES, Western culture has undergone dramatic changes. Radical new elites have broken down historical values in order to create a new world order with new sets of ethics. They have pushed for strong anti-traditionalist and globalize worldviews, and the current establishment now dominates the public through tight control over the media. Many of the values that once made the West a great civilization is now profoundly challenged by an authoritarian liberal extremism.

THE CULTURE WAR-1Just as capitalism won the battle as the ruling economic model, the extreme liberals won the social revolution in the West. They have brutally implemented their ideology since the 1960s, smothering opposition. The hope was to produce a utopian, internationalist society where religion no longer existed, the traditional family was dissolved, national borders disappeared, and everyone lived together in peace and harmony. Today, many grumbles that the opposite happened, we have entered yet another age of feudality, bound to the lords of debt, suffering under the break-down of marriage while mental and psychological illnesses, drug abuse and family tragedies explode. Society crumbles under the weight of financial crisis, decadence, hedonism, social upheaval and a culture of depression. This is happening while the ultra-rich Western elite assembles the wealth into their own hands. Only a few individuals now own more than half of world assets, according to Oxfam.[1] The same elite owns much of the mainstream media and may easily push the narrative to benefit their own agendas.

Many feel that our culture has been hijacked and poisoned by ideologies and collections of beliefs that have destabilized society and weakened the very fabric of who we are. The divide between the elite’s perspectives and the people’s perspectives are growing, as free speech is increasingly strangled in a culture of repressive political correctness. We have become the victims of our own rebellious age. Is this democracy? How did we end up in such poverty, despite being a society so rich in material wealth and technological progress?

The mainstream contempt for the values that once made our culture world-leading makes it hard even to be proud of historical values. Even celebrating religious festivities such as Christmas and Easter is looked upon with skepticism. We shun away from teaching our children the great stories of the founding fathers and the great kings, the very fabric of what it means to stand together as a culture. Religious values are belittled even if over 72% of European people adhere to the Christian faith[2] and approximately the same number in the US, according to Pew Research Centre Forum.[3]

The new world order seems to unify Western elites across the political spectrum. The traditional Right–Left or Republican-Democrat divide, is increasingly outdated as liberals and conservatives have downloaded the same extreme liberal narrative. The Left is not standing up for its originally constructive anti-war, solidarity with the poor, defending the working-class ideals. The Right silently accepts an increasingly hedonistic way of life combined with a ruthless Capitalism devoid of morality and neoconservative thought with no regard for the sovereignty of nations.

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Relativism and Nihilism In the West

It is quite clear that the modern definition of liberalism lay far from its original meaning. When John Locke defined the rights of men, he spoke of individual rights and corresponding duties and responsibilities carried out in society. His “liberalism” was not devoid of morality, like the permissiveness and lack of modesty that now permeate our culture. Tolerance did not mean the right to shut down and silence those who oppose the politically correct worldview. In its original form, tolerance implied both parties are respecting each other’s difference and allowing each other to coexist, with respect for the existing pluralism in the world.

The same is true for Capitalism, asserting the individual’s right to own the fruits of his labour. This economic model developed in coherence with the Protestant ethic, focusing on trust, reliability, hard work as a virtue. Capitalism functioned quite well as individuals participating in its free enterprise were largely trustworthy with the aim of helping society prosper. To a large degree, the system self-regulated, the wrongdoer was punished, the liar stopped. Today, we have a Capitalism that is characterized by an acceptance of greed and lack of responsibility. Political leaders remain in office regardless of the magnitude of the “Watergate scandals”, which is deeply problematic.

It becomes clear that the current clash of values goes between an extreme, nihilist liberalism and the historical values that once characterized the West. The current nihilist ideology views man as inherently good and traditional morality as a negative structure that prohibits man from liberties. If something goes wrong, man is not responsible, but society is at fault. Consequently, society needs constant reforms away from its traditional values.

In stark contrast, religious thought perceives man as faulty, torn between good and evil. It is his personal responsibility to choose to do justice and that which is right. Classic conservatism asserts that the remedy to problems in society is not revolutions, but subtle and quite careful reforms, to ensure continued growth and stability.  Jewish thinking speaks of man as placed on earth with the betterment of society as his normative goal. He is to help God make the world a better place, engaged not only in the pursuit of his own happiness. Evil, defined as acts that are harmful, destructive and cause injury to others, implies the absence of love. Ultimate selfishness is evil and the worst enemy of the fellowship of men. This is a deeply rooted philosophical thought both in Judaism and Christianity.

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Manifesto

This manifesto does not attempt to examine and present all the intricate pros and cons in the debate on religion and secularization, but rather outlines a generalized critical view as to why traditional values are in decline in the West. It is an angry Alarm – in an almost Oriana Fallaci manner, at what our Western culture has become, with a black-and-white approach to the topic. This method is used in order to point out the negative effects of the extreme liberalism that currently penetrates the mainstream. This author refers to books, articles, and references which are also listed alphabetically in the back. Note that the word “liberal” somehow tends to mean “leftist” in the United States, while in Europe it signifies “liberal opposition against the left.” The term “extreme liberal” or “liberal extremism” does not signify a negative attitude towards “liberalism” in its original form, but presents a critique of the lack of morality and empathy which characterizes current day nihilism and hedonism.

When speaking about cultural trends and ideologies, a certain amount of generalization is needed in order to visualize the larger picture. Yet, trend analysis and discussions on ideology, culture and comparative studies which do to a certain degree require a broader outlook, tend not to do justice to the myriad of details, minority views, and the plurality within each culture. The following chapters must be read with this in mind.

The monolithic term “the West” is equally complex and generalizing, as it fails to describe cultural complexity, yet I choose to use it to signify the nations that traditionally are viewed as part of the Western Civilization, as opposed to the East, signifying Asia, the South, Africa and so on. The term may describe the broad joint heritage of social norms, ethics, beliefs, cultural customs and technological development that originate in Europe.

This author will specifically choose to cross the boundaries between philosophy, theology, religion, history and various social sciences, attempting to show the coherent development and outcomes within a multitude of fields regarding the impact of ideological change.

It is our aspiration is that the reader will become enthused with a renewed intellectual and spiritual reflection. No man is an island. We are all interconnected and dependent on each other. Freedom has never been the right to abolish empathy and solidarity. Any society that wishes to prosper must be built on justice, mercy, and faith.

Many recognize the weaknesses in a society that does not sufficiently appreciate courtesy, civility, and respect. We need to re-examine the Western foundational values in a fresh new light, as a source for moral and cultural strength. Let us remember the words of the Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput in a Pro-Life gathering: “Changing the course of Western culture seems like such a huge task. However, St Paul felt exactly the same way. Redeeming a civilization has already been done once. It can be done again.” It is this author’s hope that these critical philosophical texts can provide a thought-provoking contribution to the debate.

[1] Oxfam http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/just-62-people-now-own-the-same-wealth-as-half-the-worlds-population-research-finds-a6818081.html

[2] Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life (August 7, 2017)

http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-regions/#europe

[3] Pew Research Centre Forum on Religion and Public Life, Global Christianity, December 2011.

http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-regions/#europe

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