Friday, July 2, 2010

The Deuce, America & Western Civ, I

If you're over 40 and went to college back in the day, you were likely required to take a couple of semesters of a course called Western Civiliation. If so, you were lucky. If not, you likely don't know where you come from nor why you are the way you are, the study of Western Civilization having fallen out of favor in the ivory towers of acadamia.

Western Civ equals The White Man's History. Understand that before you go on. The Greeks, the Romans, Charlamagne, the Vikings and Saxons and Normans. Western Civ means the legends and myths of Achylles, Odysseus and Hector; of Romulas and Remus and the birth of Rome; of Roland and Grindal, King Arthur and Camelot; Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest.

If your ancestry is other than White, then you have your own ways, history and legends, and more power to you, but know this...America was founded by and has remained for 234 years a nation of White peoples of European ancestry. Other peoples have immigrated here, or been forcibly relocated here, but European Whites have remained the majority people, and our culture quite naturally reflects that. We were not the first people here, but we were the first to build a nation-state here. We do not need to apologize for this. We do need to apologize, and have, for what it's worth, for the way we treated other peoples different from ourselves, particularly Amerindians and Blacks. We continue to try and make it right with these peoples as best we can.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking so what? It's all ancient history or kid's stories. 'Don't mean nothin' to me.' But it does...or rather, it should. After all, if you don't know history, you're destined to repeat it, and if you don't know your own history, the history of your people...well, you're just awash in the currents of time, floating here and there, heedless of the people and times and events that made you what you are.

Why do you speak English? Why is Christianity the majority religion in America? Why are we a Representative Republic ( please, not a democracy )? Why are we capitalists? Why do we believe in the rights of the individual, rather than the rights of groups? Why do we believe in primacy of "rugged individualism" rather than the primacy of "the village?" Why do we believe in charity rather than forced redistribution of wealth?

We are these things, and believe in these things, for two reasons. First, where we come from; and second, how we improved upon where we come from. We took what was good and kept it, and created other things that had never been. We got rid of everything else.

If you're having trouble understanding what's happening to America right now, you're not alone, nor are you crazy for thinking that it's all crashing down.
History shows us that all empires eventually fall. America has never been an empire in the classical sense...but in most ways we were an empire for awhile. We tried very hard to be a benevolent empire. An empire that worked and fought to spread our ideals around the world. Ideals like the God given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

What we have failed to realize all these years is that people don't like being pushed, prodded or forced to live by "God given rights" as understood by a foreign power, namely us, no matter how benevolent. Every people wants to make their own way; to live life as they see fit; to honor the history and traditions of their own people. And peoples differ on what ways are best.

This is why our way of life fails to translate to other peoples, and their ways of life to us. The American way of life is apparently ill suited to the Arabs of the Middle East, and to the Asians of the Far East and to the Blacks of Africa. We have our ways, they have theirs. There's no sin in that. We should stop trying to convert all peoples to our own way of life. They resent it, as well they should, and the attempt is bankrupting our treasury and killing our progeny. By the same token, we should resist efforts on their part to convert us to their way of life, and more importantly, we should reject outright any American who sees our way of life as faulty and attempts to forceably inject the ways of other peoples into our culture.

Aspects of other cultures that seem good to us will naturally flow into America and be embraced by us, as we have always done. Those aspects of other cultures that seem to us too alien or injurious to our core beliefs will naturally be resisted.


Bigvic said...

As someone mostly white, and a student of history (more economic history, but you must understand the history of western thought to understand the history of economic thought) I am very euro-centric (this is coming from someone who father is named after Charlemagne and Caesar Augustus, and has been to Europe and is a citizen of Europe, and can actually tell you the ancient names in Latin of most of the main Western European cities in antiquity). With that said, I must seriously disagree on your notion that American society is part of Western civilization, although America is founded on the same ideas that Modern Europe (or more so Western Europe). I hate to bring up a postmodernist argument (Baudrillard) but the idea that the ideas of Western civilization (what I would more title western European ideas, but I will call it Western civilization) post-divergence has actually fully crossed the Atlantic is very suspect.

Bigvic said...

"Rugged individualism" is not the product of Western civilization, it is the product of America. Not the spirit and idea of America, but the manifestation of the time and space of America (not to get so much into Hegel or more or so against him). "Rugged individualism" is a product of the ecology of America, the need to quickly build up and fill up America, as opposed to an over crowded Europe. "Rugged individualism" is the product of a country whose society was built by the ground up and not the top as opposed to Europe. It is the product of a society who idealized the farmer as opposed to a European society which idealized the intellectual. The Enlightenment, one of Western civilizations greatest achievements never fully made the transference across the Atlantic as obvious by the lack of any Americans in the Enlightenment. America shares the same foundation as Western civilization, but America is not Western civilization, Western civilization will always lie on the other side of the Atlantic for as long as there is such thing as a nation state (which is the gift and the curse of Western civilization).

Although from your last picture, this message is clearly political, I do not wish to go that far and discuss the politics of this as it is clear that I disagree with your politics (although was is not political). While I agree with your need for people to study Western civilization, I will argue that all people need to study Western civilization, as we need to study other civilizations, because Western civilization did not exist and grow in a vacuum. You can not have a full understand of the history of Western civilization with out taking a global view to world history. You can not understand the Renaissance without understanding the Spanish Reconquista, and to understand that you need to understand the history of the Islamcate civilization(as is the scholastic term for the middle east and other areas that fall or fell into the Islamic world). And I can find much more examples in Western civilization. This of course is not to mention that Western civilization is not a static concrete notion that has not been influenced by other civilizations. The notion that Western civilization is static and is not a dialectics is very erroneous. Take the idea of capitalism for example. While capitalism is an invention of Western civilization, if not for the "Arabic numbers" (in actuality they were India numbers, which the Islamicate civilization adopted early on) which the Italian merchants borrowed from the Islamicate civilization, Western Civilization would have been using Roman Numerals, which while beautiful to write in, was very difficult to do mathematics and accounting because of its lack of a zero and it's difficulty in doing arithmetic in. You can not understand one aspect of history without understanding all other aspects that have influenced it.

I must also disagree with your notion that the "American way of life is apparently ill suited to" the others of their respective "worlds". That is built on the fallacy that way of lives or culture is somehow born into the people of their worlds. Ways of lives or culture is nothing more then the manifestations of the abstractions of a societies adaptation to their material surroundings. This is not to say that ideas do not matter (although it is easy to figure out on which side of the Materialism versus Idealism debate I lean towards), but it is not the idea or the essences of a society, it is their historical material circumstances that make a certain way of living more prevalent. I wonder how well developed Europe would be without the Rhine and Danube river.

Bigvic said...

sorry, had to split my comment into two separate comments because of length.

Say Style said...
Maybe that's something for you?