The Attack on Western Civilisation and its relevance to New Zealand

In recent weeks, I have been in Australia visiting family and friends. It was refreshing to be away from the current divisiveness of New Zealand politics (no, I did not indulge in the Australian elections – that was a bridge too far!). I bought the Weekend Australian newspaper (very neutral, and better than the Weekend Dominion Post) and I also read an extract from the book, “The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason”, by Douglas Murray. As I read this, it evoked many of the concerns I am seeing in New Zealand. Without taking the author’s arguments out of context, I will endeavour to align what he said to what is happening here. This is simply frightening and all very real, if we want to see it.

For instance, Murray writes that “people began to talk of ‘equality’, but they did not seem to care about equal rights. They talked of ‘anti-racism’, but they sounded deeply racist. They spoke of ‘justice’, but they seemed to mean ‘revenge’”. This quote recalls Dr Lawrie Knight’s submission to the government on the new health reforms, where Māori claimed systemic racism in the health system, when none could be found. This is a case of utilising the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon of ‘racism’ to achieve an inequitable outcome.

Murray states in “recent decades, the situation in Western countries in regard to racial equality has been better than ever. Our societies have made an effort to get ‘beyond race’, led by the example of some remarkable men and women of every racial background, but most notably by some extraordinary black women.”  We continue to see our society attacked, and race issues in New Zealand are becoming more divisive.  We are heading down a system of them against us, rather than collaborating to solve problems.

This pervasive desire to focus on racism in New Zealand overlooks many good aspects Western civilisation has provided, like all societies in history, all Western nations have racism in their histories. But that is not the only history of our countries. Racism is not the sole lens through which our societies can be understood, and yet it is increasingly the only lens used”.

We are now seeing an attack on the fundamental aspects of Western civilisation and I worry we are allowing this to happen. “The war on the West is a book about what happens when one side of democracy, reason, rights and universal principles – prematurely surrenders”. Simple things like wokes in Australia, their government has banned using ‘mate’ in meetings, or in America where ‘you’re welcome’ is no longer tolerated. What is happening here?

This attack on Western civilisation began with changes at Stanford University in the US, when Rev Jessie Jackson chanted at a protest in 1987 that “hey hey, ho ho, Western civ has to go”. After this, Stanford University began to consider that there was something wrong in teaching Western civilisation. What happened here was a sign of things to come.

“In the decades that followed, nearly all of academia in the Western world followed Stanford’s lead. The history of Western thought, art, philosophy, and culture became an ever less communicable subject. Indeed, it became something of an embarrassment, the product of a bunch of ‘dead white males’, to use one of the charming monikers that entered the language. Since then, every effort to keep alive, let alone revive the teaching of western civilisation has met with sustained hostility, ridicule, and even violence”.

This process is evidenced in the new history curriculum in our schools, which partly focuses on how colonialism impacted Māori, with such core headings as “Colonisation and its consequences have been central to our history for the past 200 years and continue to influence all aspects of New Zealand society.” There is no focus on how Western civilisation enhanced our society, or what they brought to New Zealand, to make our country a better place. This is an example of denial and an attack on a very important part of our heritage. To ignore this, is a dangerous distortion of our history.

Murray highlights this issue in another way, “Historical criticism and rethinking are never a bad idea. However, the hunt for visible, tangible problems shouldn’t become a hunt for invisible, intangible problems. Especially not if they are carried out by dishonest people with extreme answers. If we allow malicious critics to misrepresent and hijack our past, then the future they plan off the back of this will not be harmonious. It will be hell.” He further adds that “they venerate every culture so long as it is not Western. For instance, all native thought and cultural expression are to be celebrated, so long as that culture is not Western”.

We saw this happen when the seven scientists wrote an open letter to the Listener regarding putting Māori interpretations on science as being equal to Western science that has been empirically tested and developed over a long period of time. They opposed the assertion in the NCEA curriculum that firstly, science had been used to support the domination of Eurocentric views, and secondly that science is a Western invention and dominates Māori and other indigenous views. When in fact, science stems from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and ancient Greece, India and the Muslim world. But they were openly ridiculed by, among a range of people, including Professor Shaun Hendy and Associate-Professor Siouxsie Wiles, two well-known leftist thinkers in the science world that indigenous knowledge was compatible with Western understandings of the scientific method. Thankfully, the Royal Society Te Apārangi had to retract their criticism of the seven scientists when the science world (outside New Zealand) thought otherwise.

We are seeing that Western civilisation is shameful and must be denigrated, while at the same time extolling the virtues of the indigenous cultures that abound, that they are in fact, far better, and more enlightened than what the West has to offer. Not only does the west get criticised for what it did wrong, it no longer gets praised for what it did right. These views are now being taught in our schools. “The culture that gave the world lifesaving advances in science, medicine and a free market that has raised billions of people around the world out of poverty and offered the greatest flowering of thought anywhere in the world is interrogated through a lens of the deepest hostility and simplicity. The culture that produced Michelangelo, Leonardo, Bernini, and Bach is portrayed as if it has nothing relevant to say. New generations are taught this ignorant view of history. They are offered a story of the West’s failings without spending anything like a corresponding time on its glories.” For example, the Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories in the New Zealand Curriculum draft has core headings such as “Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa New Zealand” and of course the impact of colonisation on Māori. The rest, or broader aspects of our history it appears, does not matter.

“Every school child now knows about slavery. How many can describe without irony, cringing or caveat the great gifts that the Western tradition has given to the world? All aspects of the Western tradition now suffer the same attack. The Judeo-Christian tradition that formed a cornerstone of the Western tradition finds itself under particular assault and denigration. But so does the tradition of secularism and the Enlightenment, which produced a flourishing in politics, sciences and the arts. And this has consequences. A new generation does not appear to understand even the most basic principles of free thought and free expression. Indeed, these are themselves portrayed as products of European Enlightenment and attacked by people who don’t understand how and why the West came to the settlement that it did over religion. Nor how the prioritising of the scientific method allowed people around the world untold improvements in their lives. Instead, these inheritances are criticised as examples of Western arrogance, elitism, and underserved superiority. As a result, everything connected with the Western tradition is being jettisoned. At education colleges in America, aspiring teachers have been given training seminars where they are taught that even the term ‘diversity of opinion’ is ‘white supremist bullshit’”. These seminars are occurring in New Zealand. Remember the issue over ‘white privilege?’.  This is the same thing as forcing people to denounce their own heritage and traditions.

Finally, “There are many facets to this war on the West. It is carried out across the media and airwaves, throughout the education system, from as early as preschool. It is rife within the wider culture, where all major cultural institutions are coming under pressure or actually volunteering to distance themselves from our own past.” Governments, like our own, and in America, are doing this. It is wrong, and we should be rightly worried about where this is headed. “We appear to be in the process of killing the goose that has laid some very golden eggs”.