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The West has lost its roots The less moored our identities become, the louder we shout about them

The future is not bright. Credit: LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images


September 24, 2021   7 mins

There has never been a perfect human culture, and any attempt to create one has reliably led to tyranny: to the gulag or the gas chamber, the guillotine or the mass grave. Humans are fallen, or just flawed, and the world is nailed together from our crooked timber. From revolutionary France to 21st century Afghanistan, those who thought they could draw up a rational paradise once the slate was wiped clean have always been violently disabused.

But though there has never been a human culture that is anything but flawed, all lasting cultures in history have been rooted. That is to say, they have been tied down by, and to, things more solid, timeless and lasting than the day-to-day processes of their functioning, or the personal desires of the individuals who inhabit them. Some of those solid things are human creations: cultural traditions, a sense of lineage and ancestry, ceremonies designed for worship or initiation. Others are non-human: the natural world in which those cultures dwell, or the divine force that they worship or communicate with in some form.

We need these roots. We need a sense of belonging to something that is bigger than us, across both space and time, and we underestimate that need at our peril. In her book The Need for Roots, written in 1943, the French philosopher and reluctant mystic Simone Weil puts the case like this:

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognised need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations of the future.”

Weil was writing from exile in England, as her homeland was still under Nazi occupation. She saw National Socialism’s perversion of the notion of rootedness, and the evil that was being done with it. But unlike many intellectuals of the Left, the Nazis’ racial tyranny did not lead her to reject the human need for roots in favour of some universalist flavour of “global justice.” She saw that notion for what it was: the same flavour of perfectionism that was leading the USSR to roll out a tyranny that matched that of fascism, right down to the barbed wire that surrounded the camps designated for those who did not fit into the model.

Weil saw beyond: when she looked at Hitler and Stalin, she saw two tyrants leading nations that had already been uprooted — by the industrial revolution, by Bolshevism, by the Great War, by the depression, by the wider process of modernity. Both men promised a return to, or a forward march towards, security, power and meaning through the imposition of a totalitarian ideology which they claimed would speak for the masses. Both delivered hell instead.

Weil’s book was commissioned by the Free French in London, led by Charles de Gaulle. It was intended to be a manifesto for the renewal of France, and Europe, after the scourge of Nazism. Her prescription was radical. Europeans, she said, had been uprooted by industry, by the state and by an aggressive form of pseudo-Christianity (Weil was a sometimes reluctant Christian, but was scathing about official forms of the faith which had, she said, in most cases aligned themselves with “the interests of those who exploit the people.”)

Both state nationalism and state socialism were con tricks, according to Weil: exploiters of the people posing as their liberators. The “totalitarian idol” of grand world-saving ideologies such as communism and fascism was the scourge of the twentieth century. The whole game had to be junked, the terms redefined: “The only punishment capable of punishing Hitler, and deterring little boys thirsting for greatness in coming centuries from following his example,” she wrote, “is such a total transformation of the meaning attached to greatness that he should thereby be excluded from it.”

“A transformation of the meaning attached to greatness”: perhaps this has always been the task, and perhaps it has always been urgent. But it certainly is now. Our idols today are economic conquest, unending “growth” built on turning all life into “resources” for human consumption, scientism disguised as objective inquiry, manic forward-motion, and the same old quest for perfectibility. Charles de Gaulle, when he returned to France victorious, was an effective competitor in this game. He never read the book that Weil aimed at him.

What did Weil mean by this “transformation”? Perhaps the answer explains why she is not as widely read as she should be. Her attachment was to the eternal things, and she could never be boxed in. She wrote in praise of God, tradition, roots, peoples and culture; but also of justice, freedom of speech and thought, honour and equality. She could be equally scathing about fascism, communism, established religion, liberal elites, capitalism and mass education.

One minute she is incinerating the “uprooted intellectuals obsessed with progress” who dominated the cultural elite of her time (and who have entirely conquered ours), assailing the Left for its contempt of the peasantry or asserting that “of all the human soul’s needs, none is more vital … than love of the past.” But just when you think you’re dealing with a conservative Defender of the West, you read something like this:

“For centuries now, men of the white race have everywhere destroyed the past, stupidly, blindly, both at home and abroad. If in certain respects there has been, nevertheless, progress during this period, it is not because of this frenzy but in spite of it, under the impulse of what little of the past remained alive.

Weil wasn’t wrong. We in the West invented this thing called modernity, and then we took it out into the world, whether the world wanted it or not. Once we called this process the White Man’s Burden, and exported it with dreadnoughts. Now we call it development, and export it via World Bank loans and the War on Terror.

But — and here is the point so often missed, especially by the “progressives” currently leading the charge in the culture wars — before we could eat the world, we first had to eat ourselves. Our states and economic elites had to dispossess their own people before they could venture out to dispossess others. The ordinary folk of the “developed” West were the prototype; the guinea pigs in a giant global experiment. Now we find ourselves rootless, rudderless, unmoored in a great sea of chaos; angry, confused, shouting at the world and each other.

Furthermore, this process accelerates under its own steam, as Weil explained, because “whoever is uprooted himself uproots others”. The more we are pulled, or pushed, away from our cultures, traditions and places — if we had them in the first place — the more we take that restlessness out with us into the world. If you have ever wondered why it is de rigueur amongst Western cultural elites to demonise roots and glorify movement, to downplay cohesion and talk up diversity, to deny links with the past and strike out instead for a future that never quite arrives, consider this: they are the children of globalised capitalism, and the inheritors of the unsettling of the West, and they have transformed that rootlessness into an ideology. They — we — are both perpetrators and victims of a Great Unsettling.

This is not to say that “Western” people alone are responsible for the rolling destruction of culture and nature that is overwhelming the world. We may have set the ball rolling, but the culture of uprooting is global now, and was when Weil was writing. You can see it everywhere you care to look. India has been uprooting its adivasi (tribal) people systemically since independence; its government is currently trying to undermine the power and agency of the peasant farmers of the Punjab, and have triggered a rural rebellion by doing so. The Chinese state is increasingly looking like the most efficient machine ever invented for uprooting, resettling and controlling mass populations. The Indonesian state is systematically unsettling the tribal people of West Papua, in cahoots with a cluster of multinational corporations. African governments are corralling the last of the San people. This is what states do, all over the world. It’s the ancient human game of power and control, turbo-charged with fossil fuels and digital surveillance technology.

For the past several centuries, this intersection of financial power, state power and increasingly coercive and manipulative technologies has constituted an ongoing war against roots and against limits. The momentum of the “global economy” is always forward: it demolishes borders and boundaries, traditions and cultures, languages and ways of seeing wherever it goes, and it will not stop until the world has been entirely remade. Record numbers of people are on the move as a result, and as the population increases and climate change bites, those numbers will rise everywhere, churning cultures and nations into entirely new shapes — or, worse, no shapes at all — with all the consequent turmoil and conflict. Even if you are living where your forefathers have lived for generations, you can bet that the smartphone you gave your child will unmoor them more effectively than any bulldozer.

Plenty of people, of course, are quite happy with all of this, and have no time for Romantic Luddites like me when we lament it. Even we Romantic Luddites are here on the internet, lamenting, so perhaps the last laugh is on us. But we are, I think, desperately in need of real culture. We want to go home again, but if we even know where home is to be found, we see that we can’t return. And so a void is created, and into the void rush monsters: toxic imitations of our lost roots. Identity politics, newly rigid racial categories, extreme nationalisms, intolerant strains of religion, endlessly multiplying genders and “identities” constructed online with no reference to reality. The mono-ethnic identitarianism of the far Right or the diversity identitarianism of the far Left: take your pick according to your predilections and fears. But these fake roots can never replace the real thing and the result is an orgy of anger, iconoclasm and rising bile. Meanwhile, the machine of techno-modernity pushes on, relentless.

In all the time I have spent with people who live in genuinely rooted cultures — rooted in time, place and spirit — whether in the west of Ireland or West Papua, I’ve generally been struck by two things. One is that rooted people are harder to control. The industrial revolution could not have happened without the enclosure of land, and the destruction of the peasantry and the artisan class. People with their feet on the ground are less easily swayed by the currents of politics, or by the fashions of urban ideologues or academic theorists.

The second observation is that people don’t tend to talk much about their “identity” — or even think about it — unless it is under threat. The louder you have to talk about it, it seems, the more you have probably lost. The range of freewheeling, self-curated “identities” thrown up by the current “culture war” shows that we are already a long way down the road that leads away from genuine culture.

When a plant is uprooted, it withers and then dies. When the same happens to a person, or a people, or a planetful of both, the result is the same. Our current cultural — and spiritual — crisis comes, I think, from our being unable to admit what on some level we know to be true: that we in the West are living inside an obsolete story. Our culture is not dying — it is already dead. We turned away from a mythic, rooted understanding of the world, and turned away from the divine, in order to look at ourselves reflected in the little black mirrors in our hands. Now, we are living in a time of consequences. Some day soon, we are going to have to look up and begin searching for what we have lost. I have a feeling that this process has already begun.

A longer version of this essay originally appeared at The Abbey of Misrule.


Paul Kingsnorth is a novelist and essayist. His latest novel Alexandria is published by Faber. He also has a Substack: The Abbey of Misrule.


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Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

“…When a plant is uprooted, it withers and then dies. When the same happens to a person, or a people, or a planetful of both, the result is the same…”

This is complete nonsense. Entire peoples and individuals and families adapt and survive – humans are successful as a species because they are geared to react to hugely changing circumstances. There are many who will temperamentally actively seek change – for fortune, fame, curiosity, or simply to alleviate boredom. There are many others on whom change is forced, but will survive and thrive regardless – all the while fully retaining their humanity and moral compass. All of western history provides ample proof.

Within a single lifetime, my dad was moved as a child from a tiny town in west India where he was born to Karachi (now Pakistan), then as a teen forced out across hundreds of miles to Bombay because of the trauma of partition as his family as hindoos lost everything, then went alone in his early twenties for better paying work to East Africa as my grandfather became terminally ill and he became responsible to financially support several younger siblings and my grandmother. He sent back pretty much most of what he earned to educate and marry them off until his late thirties. Then, as he finally began to build something for himself, all that disappeared in the blink of an eye as asians were kicked out of Uganda and he lost everything again. He then came with us his family in tow to the UK, we shunted back and forth between several countries for a couple of years and he then rebuilt our lives here – all by keeping his head down and grafting away earning a living, and with zero interest in getting involved in politics or activisms etc because he had the bigger priority of responsibility for providing for others.

I once joked with my dad that losing everything once can be construed as misfortune, but twice was beginning to look like carelessness – but the reference completely passed him by. I’m not saying all that was not very stressful and had no effect on many things including wealth, education and health, of course it did. But people survive.

Last edited 2 years ago by Prashant Kotak
ralph bell
ralph bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Fantastic narrative to illustrate your point.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Moving comment and does’nt your joke with your dad say it all, that all his courage and effort created a new generation embedded in what was once an alien culture.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

An individual is not a society.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

I refer you to Margaret Thatcher.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Thatcher is part of the problem. A society of just individuals is one without roots.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

Thatcher certainly thought society existed, she just didn’t think it was coterminous with the state.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Thatcher’s problem was that she was exceptionally intelligent and didn’t realise it. Consequently she thought people who did not succeed were simply not trying hard enough; true for some but far from all.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

People can survive almost anything if they’re inwardly secure.

That inner security depends on two things – a stable family life in one’s childhood and a religion (or at least a philosophy or outlook) mooring inner security.

In today’s West, people lack both these things – thus are increasingly incapable of coping with what life throws at them.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

That is precisely the point of the article.

Dave Corby
Dave Corby
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Individuals can survive almost anything – but I agree with the author that societies wither and die when they lose their roots.
The fierce battle in the USA is between the people who who have lost their roots (or rather cut them off) and those who are desperately trying to hold on to them.
If the latter lose then the country will wither and die.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

In the end, ‘family’ is often the glue that holds one together. The high illegitimacy rate and the lack of family formation is ailing the West.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Your dad was wise and special – I fear the times they are a changin

David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

A wonderful story. But I wonder if in fact your father’s experience illustrates the point. He was a rooted individual culturally and spiritually, even if he was on the move geographically.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Batlle
Simon Hannaford
Simon Hannaford
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I don’t think he was suggesting that people and peoples literally wither and die like plants. Rather, I think he was saying that severed from their roots individuals and possibly whole societies become…different, perhaps not as authentic as before.

Helen Hughes
Helen Hughes
2 years ago

Yes, that’s how I read it too.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Great story, but not sure it refutes or even addresses the main point in the article. I don’t think Ralph Leonard is disputing that people survive, rather that there should be more to human thriving than that, he says a rooted culture is a key component of human welfare, not sure your dad’s experience exactly exemplifies that.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

This might seem rather rambling but still… Several people have made similar points to yours, in some cases linking them to God, or formal old religions, or the politics of the right or left, or the multiple defacto religions that appear to be emerging right now as they fill the vaccumms left by the cultural disintegrations of older belief systems, so perhaps some clarification of my stance is due.

I am an inherently unreligious person. I find many of the concepts under discussion here to be hopelessly wooly and ill defined – for example pinning down words like ‘roots’ and ‘moorings’ in the context of other words almost as difficult to lockdown, like ‘culture’, ‘society’, even ‘race’ is like trying to hammer nails made of warm chocolate into walls made of jello. Any scientist, geneticist, mathematician, physicist etc worth the salt will tell you that most of what most people believe most of the time is outright nonsense (and I include myself as one of the deluded) notwithstanding that there are plenty of other strange but true(er) tales to tell, it’s just that they don’t mesh with human scale lived experience and so pass through people like a stream of nutrinoes without registering. In that context, I find expressions of dissatisfaction with ‘society’ because of inevitable rapid change engendered by technology and globalisation to be meaningless. That is not to deny disruptions are happening (of course they are), but my issue is attributing that to A or B which taken to its logical conclusion means ultimately taking a stance which requires not to look beyond a certain point at X science and Y technology because it leads to distressing conditions for humanity’s psyche. Such a stance is not to my taste. I believe we should face unflinchingly whatever science and technology tells us about us and our trajectory no matter how unhappy and uncomfortable that makes us as humans. At a more pragmatic level, what is to me more pin-downable (or at least more visceral) is the immediate set of people around you, the responsibilities they have towards you and responsibilities you have towards them, plus some responsibilities which are essentially non-negotiable eg between parent and child, and on a sliding scale with other family members. Acknowledging this though does not mean anyone should afford themselves the luxury of believing these are not all mere biological responses, no different to any of the evolutionary brutality happening on the Serengeti – at least, not unless you can incontrovertibly show that you are somehow different.

I find Kingsnorth’s stance to be sweet but meaningless. That in fact is a lot better than many other stances, which are lethal and meaningless. Like everyone I yearn to find meaning, but I cannot pin my colours to a particular position, say greenism (or the anodyne C-of-E version Kingsnorth seems to subscribe to), or liberalism or wokism or corbynism or anything, just for the sake of it (or because believing *something* might make me happy), because none of that seems in any way different to religion – and I can always puncture religion with a million unanswerable shards of glass.

Last edited 2 years ago by Prashant Kotak
T Gambit
T Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

All of this comes to a basic human issue, that is ignored and dissociated from, and that is trauma. Broken families, materialistic philosophies and a community-less financialised culture has been devastating. Most asians and africans will not be able to concieve of the level of emotional trauma the new generations of European are drowning in. And Europeans are very good at hiding this trauma under hobbies, addictions and overworking. I’ll give some stats; almost 50% of white English children will be subscribed an anti-depressant or anti-psychotic by the time they reach 20 years old and apparently another 25% still don’t goto the doctor. It is recorded that 9.8% of the English and Wales population is suffering psychosis, that’s one of the most harmful psychological maladies that exists and includes pschizophrenia and personality disorders. This catastrophe upon the British indigenous people is trauma and trauma unhealed is a degenerative state, so society will naturally degenerate. What caused it, why’s it so much worse than other less wealthy nations? Good question but first it needs to be accepted.

Jorge Espinha
Jorge Espinha
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

People survive. My family suffered a similar fate as yours when we had to move from Angola to Portugal. With the difference that we were coming back to our “homeland”. But the author was referring to a civilization not people. I descend from the pre indo Europeans that lived in Iberia, then the Indo Europeans came on horseback and conquered the land and killed the males and took the women. Later the Romans came and we forgot the languages of our ancestors, while the Romans were here we became Christians and the old traditions were lost forever. And then the Muslims came and later we kicked them out but left some of their culture (unfortunately). Cultures changed and the people survived and adapted.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

This is a fine essay that, imo, gets at the heart of what ails us in the West.
Some day soon, we are going to have to look up and begin searching for what we have lost. I have a feeling that this process has already begun.
That is an optimistic conclusion and I hope the author is correct. I’d certainly like to know where he sees evidence of this process of rediscovery.
As always, there are so many eloquent essayists on the internet and in books who catalogue what we have lost and how we arrived at this cultural fragmentation in the West, but they have almost nothing to say about how we address the problem, except to talk in vague generalities.
Is Western culture as we knew it up until approx. the year 2000 dead, never to be revived? If the kernel of that culture still exists, how do we revive it? If it is gone, how do we find something spiritually sustaining to replace it? Or does the West face a desolate and nihilistic future? I would like to hear the author’s thoughts on those issues.

Last edited 2 years ago by J Bryant
Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

You could do worse that look for the answers you seek in the of Simone Weil herself. A much more lovely & forgiving personality than it might seem from the essay (though she can come across as rather extreme if you only read certain parts of her work). Many of the 100+ pages in part iii of ‘Need for Roots’ are detailed descriptions of specific methods that can be employed both by individuals, and at policy level to address the cultural Malaise. Several thinkers consider Weils ideas more relevent to our current age than ever. And yes, the kernel of our Western culture still exists. There still remains embers of that fire scattered over the world by Christ. Interestingly, at least when she wrote her essay ‘A War of Religions’, Weil saw these as especially concentrated here in England.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

There is of course the solution proposed by Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre and Camus to this dilemma which strikes me as far more valiant and life-affirming than a mewling desire to cling to mysticism and ignorance.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

If you find any of those gloomy writers “life-affirming” you have my bewilderment and pity.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

the Death of God anyone ??

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

There is nothing gloomy in accepting meaning in meaningless. No one here who bangs on about ‘meaning’ that supposedly spiritual and supernatural beliefs give have answered the question why there should be meaning in the first place. How is it logical that an enormous universe full of complicated patterns of particles has some special meaning for us as humans? Where is there any evidence that we are nothing more than a bunch of hairless apes that will have gone exinct or evolved into something else in a few million years?

Undoubtedly it is helpful or psychologically or even socially beneficial to delude yourself that the universe has meaning or purpose. But it doesn’t strike me as brave or dare I say it manly attitude to the world. As Nitezsche pointed out, character for the Ancient Greeks was not looking for a cosmic daddy figure who looked after you but forging meaning in your life despite the cruel and fickle ways of the old pagan gods – this is the essence of Ancient Greek tragedy. Despite their belief in the supernatural the ancient Greeks and Romans had a far less cloying conception of the universe than the collectivistic monotheistic desert religions that dominant the world today.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The first two replies to your comment allude to a middle eastern religion or continental philosophy being at the root of British culture. I believe that these are both examples of the only constant here over the last 10,000 years, incessant waves of migration and invasion – both physical and intellectual. Maybe what we currently view as British culture is about to go the same way as countless others have over the millennia.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The author writes: ‘Our culture is not dying — it is already dead. We turned away from a mythic, rooted understanding of the world, and turned away from the divine, in order to look at ourselves reflected in the little black mirrors in our hands.”
There’s a time-honoured truth: the young do rebel against the perceived limitations of tradition, and it’s always been hard to keep ’em down on the farm after they’re seen Paree.” Even in my grandparent’s time groups of people were sailing off to found utopian communities. My brother went off in his twenties to become a hippie on a commune, and he’s still there 40 years later – but he’s been reading all that time.
Whether I was reading Herbert Marcuse or Alan Watts (those two probably at the same time) I’ve always had the rootedness of history – despite being in the great arid emptiness of Australia – I like reading history. Plus I know something of my family history. As a daily practice I always had piano practice – western classical music is an endless resource of meaning, feeling, complexity.
Layered on a Catholic upbringing were excursions into Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, existentialism etc. etc. and something from all of them is incorporated in me somewhere. Young people are still reading and still learning classical music, so the culture isn’t entirely dead, because encountering one thing leads to another.
The most disturbing new thing is what’s going on in university humanities & social sciences departments – it isn’t scholarship, and it percolates down into school education. So, for those who can be bothered, join organisations that lobby MPs to reinstate proper teaching of coherent content: not teaching odd little “themes” from history, but first teaching the broad, chronological approach that helps kids make sense of where we came from.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Do you know the cyclical idea of Owen Barfield, friend of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis? Studying how words appear and change meaning across history, he argued that civilisations/societies go through periods of alienation, when their participation in wider vitalities loses traction and meaning. This causes suffering but also the development of inner vitality, as people are thrown onto themselves for meaning. That then fosters new periods of rootedness and direction as “the inside of the whole world” is rediscovered, to use Barfield’s expression.
Barfield impressed Tolkien and Lewis, in part, because of the account this offered for the emergence of Christianity – the Hellenistic period being one of alienation, though leading to the idea that the human individual, as opposed to collective, was rooted in the divine. This was the key to Christianity flourishing, as for the first time in history it knew (at least in principle) that people are not defined by status or sex, kin or city. The individual “I am” is a reflection of the divine I AM, with notions of conscience, free will etc emerging in its wake.
The period now is one of alienation again, which will lead to new forms of participation in divine life, though just how is hard to say in the midst of the struggle. But the novels of Lewis and Tolkien are, in part, invocations of contemporary alienation, so as to promote new wellsprings. Their success speaks to how richly they respond to the times.
The model implies that the need is not revival but, to use a Christian expression, new creation. The period called the Axial Age provides historical cases, with some wondering whether we are in another axial period.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yup Welby horribly exemplifies the disastrous link between institutional Protestantism and woke white man bad doctrine.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yes. The guilt gun is the most powerful weapon of our era, but can only be used on the Western field of battle. It is utterly useless anywhere else in the world, and is wielded to great effect by those wishing to exploit the tolerance and generosity of western nations.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

“industrial revolution could not have happened without the enclosure of land”

This is a highly dubious statement. Undoubtedly it expedited the process of urbanisation, but actually enclosing was happening on various levels from the early 12th century and rose dramatically from the 16th – Thomas Moore hints of it in Utopia. And yet this didn’t trigger industrialisation. France had nearly all feudal laws abolished in the revolution and yet industrialisation there lagged behind Britain for years. The Roman Empire had no concept of rights to common land but had no impulse to industrialise.

No the common factor was the availability of resources to provide energy which Britain had in coal, sufficient wealth as capital which Britain had from profitable overseas adventures that weren’t obessed with inflation causing precious minerals or spices and the invention of new technologies that the revolution in mechanics provided by Newton, Watt etc. produced. In part due to the focus in Britain on practical engineering vs. the mathematical theory seen in France or Germany at this time. For similar reasons the Netherlands and Belgium were the next to industrialise.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago

I agree with you on this.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

An excellent article that needs to be thought about. I have never believed in God but I am coming to the conclusion that it gave us something to believe in including a higher authority in control. As the influence of religion has declined it seems we will believe any nonsense because we are not good at rational thinking or taking responsibility for ourselves. Therefore, we look to leaders to guide us. History shows it has never worked. After seeing Boris and Biden masked up we should be more fearful of the future than ever.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

I wish you the best as you enter on the path towards Wisdom!

David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Someone wiser than most of us here (Chesterton) said if you do not believe in God you will believe in anything.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

There are gods in our era. They are celebrities for many and reason for others. Both are subject to corruption and manipulation.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago

The West is not necessarily dead, though there is definitely a battle for it that must be had. The Romans did not fall at their first crisis. They went through many cycles of decline and renewal.

The backlash to the barbarians in the gates may actually create a new cultural conservatism, much as the Victorians embodied new productive mores in reaction to their decadent forebears.

There is at least some evidence that peoples in the Western World are waking from a long slumber. Germany, for example, has not repeated its invitation to refugees as it did in 2015, and Europe in general, much as it speaks of compassion and humanity for migrants, is slowly closing its doors to them.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
2 years ago

I agree that it’s too soon to write off the West. We’ve survived bigger crises, from the multiple invasions from the East to nearly obliterating ourselves twice in the last century. If you look at much of the literature of the between the two World Wars many commentators at that time were convinced that Western civilisation was hopelessly decadent and that young people had no backbone.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  David Uzzaman

The West can survive – but NOT in its current form, still less with its current outlook.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  David Uzzaman

We only survived because we remained racially and culturally homogenous.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

Culturally yes. But racially no; race is of no importance if citizens hold and admire the same values

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Race is key to holding the same values and community particularly when the going gets tough

David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago

I’m sure it helps, but it is not key. Values are key. Ask yourself who you would trust more with your life, someone of a different race who shares your values, or someone of your race who shares none of your beliefs.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Batlle
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  David Batlle

Without the element of race to underpin it values are as transient as fashion.
Also if you look at the immigrant communities shared values are about as rare as flying pigs.

Red Sanders
Red Sanders
2 years ago

We’ve wandered into a side discussion on race, which I find much more definitive and interesting than the generalites of this article.

IMHO, focus on race has many more negatives than positives. While that focus may maintain a certain “cultures”, that focus more often than not leads to exclusionary thoughts and actions. Whatever your experiences, I’m sure you can cite numerous examples, both from world history, as well as your personal one.

I am a white protestant and married (57 years) to a Catholic Philipino imigrant. We live in the deep south (U.S.). Her father brought their family here FOR change.

In my 79 years, I have watched and observed the movement AWAY from a strong focus on race. Within my lifetime, there are no more public fountains and restrooms separated by race. All are welcome to enter the front door of restaurants and be seated wherever, rather than having one race enter the back door and eat in a separate area. There are less and less churches separated by race. One may purchase a home anywhere, solely based on finances, rather than geographically restricted by race. Hospital patients receive blood based solely on chemical compatibility, with no consideration of the donor’s race. These changes are not finished, but I live in a very different setting than when I was a child.

I read and hear of a reverse movement here to return the focus on race – there is nothing good to be had of that.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago

It is too late to close the doors. What is more worrying is that the West has so little self-respect, or self-confidence if you prefer, that refugees and others assume that the West has nothing of moral or cultural value to offer them and so stick with that which they bought with them.

Last edited 2 years ago by Terry Needham
William Hickey
William Hickey
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

The bathroom floor having not yet fallen into the living room below, there’s still time to turn off the bathtub’s faucet and stop the flooding.

And only then can the mopping-up and drying out begin.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Truth. Western countries are used as economic utilities by those who quite naturally have little or no respect for people who allow themselves to be used and exploited.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago

“When a plant is uprooted, it withers and dies . . . when the same happens to a person, or a people, . . . . the result is the same.”
No, it is’nt, we are humans not plants, we’re adaptable and resilient. People have been shifting about across this planet for thousands of years, settling on foreign soils, putting down new roots (metaphorically) and creating anew. That’s how the USA came into being.
Add on 25/09: I realise now I probably took that sentence a bit too literally.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

An very fine article that may then interest one is from The Spectator, dated 31 July 21, and is titled “Everywhere Is Somewhere”, by Matthew Parris. (I bought the printed magazine at the newsagents).

In it, he states his mood to travel, and explains why it is good to do so.

On the other hand, he quotes a passage promoting rootedness early in one’s life from George Eliot’s book ‘Daniel Deronda’ which he explains by writing: “… : before we can properly look out, we must know and feel where we are looking from.”

To quote just two concurrent lines from Eliot’s passage, written in the late 19th century: “At five years old, mortals are not prepared to be citizens of the world, to be stimulated by abstract nouns, to soar above preference into impartiality; and that prejudice in favour of milk with which we blindly begin, is a type of the way body and soul must get nourished at least for a time. The best introduction to astronomy is to think of the nightly heavens as a little lot of stars belonging to one’s own homestead.”
In that context, what with what’s happening in the so-called culture wars, the learning today of several different religions by schoolchildren (when only one was necessary in the recent past) will probably not give them a grounding in anything at all. Information as opposed to knowledge! The blizzard of information in itself a veil over the land.

Later in the piece, Parris quotes a friend from England who once taught English in Japan. Travelling abroad for this friend was holding up a mirror to himself. He says:

“Change must be to the brain something like repotting a plant, limited by living in its little pot, moving into a bigger space, with new nutrients, where it can grow.” (Hence your nod to the good ‘ol USA).

Parris then explains: “Or, as Eliot would see it, not uprooting, but widening out: always, though, from where you began.”

Though, from the piece, his friend was wise enough to suggest that learning from other cultures is, or should be, a reciprocal exercise. He stated that he had “stepped beyond the walls” of his own life in central England. But Japan has always been viewed as somewhat a closed society, at least more so in the great past. The mistake the, so to speak, traditional West makes today is to elevate other cultures and tribes whilst downgrading its own.
Perhaps if we coalesce around, say, Elvis, we can spark a mutual appreciation. Everybody loves Elvis.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

People generally shifted about at the detriment of other peoples, and bringing their civilisation’s roots with them. This is true of the US.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago

It’s obviously true that colonisation of North America was detrimental to its peoples and cultures, but that doesn’t mean that all shifting about of people is a bad thing. Cultures evolve both in isolation and by mixing with other cultures. Should all borders be closed?

Rob C
Rob C
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

Yes.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

You’ve strawmanned my argument a bit. Obviously cultures can adopt and integrate other peoples, if the similarities are greater than the differences and if there’s no bar to integration. That’s how the US integrated Europeans of different religions and ethnicities. Religion is often a bar to integration. But there are others. And the host country has to be powerful enough to integrate the newcomers. The integration doesn’t just happen. Identity politics isn’t integrationist.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

Migration of different races or cultures is only viable if the migrant community remains relatively insignificant. Anything else will end in disaster.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

The USA only came into being because its inhabitants were almost all Protestants (culturally, even if not religiously).

That was still the case in 1960. It is no longer true now, hence the USA is on its last legs.

Traditionally, of course, people usually migrated in large groups. Today’ s migrations – as well as being unprecedented in numbers and speed – are far lonelier and more unsettling.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Good point but that misses the point of my argument, which is that people have frequently uprooted themselves or been uprooted against their will (the Huguenots in the 17th century for example) and they have settled elsewhere and thrived, ie, the “plant” withering and dying analogy is just plain wrong.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Mind you, arguing against myself, the Huguenots did share many of the cultural values that existed in Britain at that time.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Exactly French Protestants moving to a Protestant culture .

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

What is a cultural protestant? Were all the hundreds of thousands of Italians and Irish who emigrated to the US cultural protestants?

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

They became cultural Protestants. As did the German Catholics. In other words the pope became less important, religious differences were mitigated as well. They became more individualised.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago

I agree that there has been a dilution in recent decades – which I would categorise as a drift towards secularism rather than Protestantism, although perhaps the distinction isn’t great. But surely not in 1960 (as stated by Mr Buck), when Catholicism of a particularly Irish or Italian strain was still very much part of American cultural life, especially in New York, Boston etc?

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew D
Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Well Catholicism was still part of European culture. Even during the wars of religion in the 17th century the opponents still recognised themselves as Christians .And a way of coexisting later came about .
The islamisation of the West through immigration is something else ,with a secularised elite naively , recklessly ignoring the depth of feeling and antagonism felt by religious Muslims towards the infidel west .

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

Do the secularized elites ignore it, or regard Muslims as “the enemy of my enemy,” recognizing in them fellow anti-Christians? I see no other explanation for the philo-Islamism of elites who champion the rights of women and homosexuals: being against Christianity gives Muslims a pass on their retrograde attitudes toward women and sexual minorities.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  David Yetter

My hunch is that they expected everyone to want to become what they thought was the desirable thing to be , a secular -minded modern person .like themselves in other words .
But look at the leader of the official form of Christianity in the Uk , the Archbishop of Canterbury . The worst carrier of the woke virus imaginable . So Christianity in its institutional forms is often a big part of the problem

William Hickey
William Hickey
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

They were all white, as was 90% of America. There were regional differences, religious ones too, but those were smoothing over into a recognizable American “type,” just as the various regional accents were blending into the typical American voice you heard on network TV in 1960.

But 50 years of unrelenting, massive immigration from the most distant and unrelated corners of the globe has destroyed that cultural consensus, produced intense factionalism, made countless multi-generation Americans strangers in their own land and ended the American nation.

That’s what the author is talking about, although he doesn’t know it.

You and your family could move and your family could still stay close; many do. But if a dozen strangers from ten countries move into your home, how long will your family stay together? How secure will they feel in the kitchen at midnight?

Last edited 2 years ago by William Hickey
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Italians and Irish came in droves a century or more after the English / Scottish Protestants in the late 19th / early 20th century, but they assimilated rather quickly because they shared Judeo-Christian values with the existing population of Protestants. Since then all sorts of religions have arrived (Muslim, Buddhist, etc) that don’t necessarily mesh with the resident population and its values, re: Samuel Huntington’s, ‘Clash of Civilizations’.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I am afraid to say that the rot started with the Italians and Irish

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Tell me how dis that work out for the native Americans.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago

Very badly.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

You are correct. It’s the speed, the numbers, problematic values and the lack of expectation to assimilate that are the problem.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

So all those English and Scottish setters were going to integrate and become model native Americans

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

Interesting that this appears about the same time as Angela Merkel retires. Germany was pretty much the last European country to be Christianized, and the first to break away from Rome. The Germans are an oddly empty people and I have never been able to get past the suspicion all that these facts are not unconnected. Increasingly these days, as Christianity is pushed back, we’re all becoming oddly empty. Even the Catholic Church itself is now being overrun by the same sickness.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago

Interesting observation. It put me in mind of certain features of James Hawes’s The Shortest History of Germany, which points up the differences (in terms of culture, identity, and world outlook) between the Prussian part of Germany versus all the rest of it. Prussia seems to be broadly the part of Germany the Romans concluded were not worth the cost of trying to ‘civilise’.

In this connection, I would be interested if you could develop your impression of the Germans being ’empty’.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

I’m not sure I can. It’s like the thing that motivates the rest of us, the yearning for something, for God perhaps, is absent in them. To me, Germany looks like 80 million avatars waiting for something to occupy and animate them. It’s almost like God forgot to put in the soul when he made them and all there is is an intellectual struggle for meaning, but nothing inchoate inside to build on. I’m sorry, but I can’t make it any clearer than this.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago

Thank you. I find that clearer, perhaps, than you might think.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

Ah yes, that soulless German culture that produced Dürer, Mozart, Beethoven, Kant and Einstein.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago

The destruction of the legions of Varus by the barbarian Arminius ensured that Germany never joined the Latin world. Consequently, some have opined that they did not even fully participate in the enlightenment. It was Romes greatest defeat, but an even greater loss for the Germans. They won their freedom, but there was a price to pay. Rome had almost pulled the Germans into history, but Arminius cut the cord. And they slipped back into pre-history. Into tribalism and lawlessness. If Germany had been thoroughly Romanized, one culture would’ve dominated Europe, not two. There would not have been any Franco/German problem. No Charlemagne. No Louis the 14th. No Napoleon. No Bismarck. No Kaiser Wilhelm the second. And no Hitler. Or so says one historian, major general Charles Fuller. Maybe that explains the “emptiness” of the Germans.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Batlle
Joseph Meissner meissner and associates and Lawyers for Life
Joseph Meissner meissner and associates and Lawyers for Life
2 years ago

Great materials for discussion and thought. Also the comments are almost as good as the essay. Right now, I have been spending my spare time digging back to God. That is where the roots have to begin. Then there are the great saints throughout the ages who give encoragement and talk about “doing little things” for God. So somewhere I shall find the roots again. Take care Say a prayer. They cannot hurt. May the Good God bless all of you always,
meissnerjoseph@yahoo.com

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

God posses all kind of problems for our modern way of life and will put you on a collision course wit some sacred cows.
We have indeed sold our inheritance for a mess of potage.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

This article is one of the best I’ve read in recent memory to describe our world today. It is objective and from the heart, without bias and well written. Thoroughly enjoyable read, which will have me seeking this writer more.
On the other hand, he captures and expresses a very sad and true reality that was summed it up by Pascal way back in the year 1670:
“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made know through Jesus Christ.”
We have been falling for a long time.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
2 years ago

Come back Arnold Toynbee! All is forgiven! The historian, never swayed by sneering at historicism, argued, and to my mind demonstrated, that when civilisations/societies lose their spiritual roots and cosmological bearings, they spontaneously scramble to find ways of self-sustaining that aren’t sustainable.
Ironically, the idea of “culture” (originally, tilling the land), like “identity” (originally, sameness), is one of them – a mid-19th century self-referential notion of customs, achievements etc.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

Even more ominously than Toynbee, Oswald Spengler wrote in The Decline of the West of the inevitability of a civilisation’s fall when it became hollowed out by the loss of its founding impetus.

Last edited 2 years ago by Douglas McNeish
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

A lot of people in this discussion are determinedly whistling a happy tune.

If rather desperately so – the heartiness of their optimistic sentiments proves that !

But all their optimism is the merest Wishful Thinking, since humanity faces unprecedented problems which (without God’s help) it is pitifully unequipped to deal with, lacking both the intelligence and the goodwill to do so.

Worse, these optimists are all racketeers – they all have something heavily invested in their optimism – money, comfort, career; or a hatred of traditional religion, of God, of the past.

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Dear Tony, try doubling up on the meds.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

Dear Peter, try pulling your head out of the sand.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

The West has lost its roots, and Peter has lost his head.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Don’t you mean arse

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago

Thought provoking essay. \my take is that when a culture begins to despise its past and antecedents it loses its roots and moorings and is doomed.
Pedantic point – empire was not exported by dreadnoughts – which only appeared from the mid 1900s but more by gunboats and missionaries.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

We can certainly expect that it will lose its confidence and self belief. Though some will doubtless argue that this is a good thing.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

One minute she is incinerating the “uprooted intellectuals obsessed with progress” who dominated the cultural elite of her time (and who have entirely conquered ours) …

well, except that the critique of “progress” as a meta narrative born out of the enlightenment and imposed on others – is pretty central to the intellectual inheritance of our cultural elites. If anything they got there ahead of the author.
we certainly do see the rootlessness the author describes, as the ideal of the “anywheres” but it goes hand in hand with anti enlightenment and often anti progress thinking. It is that loss of faith in the west, in the enlightenment, in progress that has, at least in part, uprooted us.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

rooted people are harder to control.

Well yes, but this is largely because traditional societies are resistant to change and innovation of any kind. They are already controlled – by their traditions and those who uphold them.
And it depends what you mean by rooted. German peasants of the 30s were relatively rooted – but provided fertile ground for naziism.

David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

I wouldn’t completely disagree with your main thesis about change and innovation. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have been considered a conservative by the Nazis of his day, who would have considered themselves on the cutting edge of progress. Yet they proved sometimes change is not innovation. Often culture and tradition are there for a reason. Not to hold us back, but to keep us alive.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago
Reply to  David Batlle

Yes – I would say that I am arguing for a balance between tradition and innovation.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

I enjoyed the essay, but there are a few points I have to take up:
Our idols today are economic conquest ….
whose idols exactly, and are they really driving the whole process, from the top as it were? The idols I see around me are more mundane: shopping, consumption, travel, wealth, house prices, celebrities, social media, and status, status, status. Taken collectively, it is surely these (I’m sure I’ve forgotten others) that are driving things. It’s not just a top down process.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Personally I think the human brain is not evolved enough for the size of population, or speed of change, that globalisation has wrought. For millennia humans have lived in isolated, largely homogenous tribes, and absorption/integration between neighbouring ones happened on smaller scales over longer periods of time, resulting in our nation states and cultures. Wars have obviously been a constant but even then the conquerors either forcibly assimilated the conquered, or removed them entirely, becoming the new ‘indigenous’. There was none of this namby pamby stuff we see now where the conquerors are meant to treat the conquered as equals and self flagellate for their conquering. While there are vastly different value systems in the world, and while the human brain is what it is – tribal, self centred, driven by power and prone to violence and greed – conflict will be the result of globalisation and mass movement. So the question really is, what are we prepared to do to defend our place and our value system over that of others who wouid like to take our place at the top of the tree and who might not be so civilised about it?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

Interesting article, I’m not sure ultimately I agree with it. Firstly, people are nothing like as unhappy or ‘mentally ill’ in modern societies as it is fashionable to claim. Very few would turn the clock back to a largely agricultural society, which involved back breaking work for the vast majority of people, often from dawn to dusk. (Maybe more rest in the winter months, but little to do, maybe little to eat as well). Subsistence existence. You are clever, tough, such a society has little use for more than a few intellectuals perhaps in the church.

And fewer still would return to man’s truly natural state, living in hunter gatherer bands. I’m re-reading Jared Diamond’s ‘The World Before Yesterday’, a fascinating book. Forget our romantic ideas about peaceful primitive peoples, a far higher number of people get killed in wars in such non-state societies. They might be able to teach us a thing or two though, for example about raising resilient children.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago

At the same time that Simone Weill was writing her book, a fascinating institution based in a villa in the mountains above Grenoble was imagining a new “rooted” community to take its place in the new European order directed from Berlin.

The strange Vichy funded establishment at Uriage was a bizarre combination of military academy, think tank and monastery. So you had an army officer directing a brutal program of physical exercise, various clergy and laymen exploring leading edge theology (especially the ramblings of the eugenist and racist Teilhard de Chardin) and various movers and shakers thinking about the future governance of France.

Uriage lasted about as long as Vichy. But its influence is still felt in the wider Church and modern France. The first editor of Le Monde was one of the disciples there.

For all the founder’s enthusiasm about men “rooted” in their land and religion, any Uriage students would plainly be hybridised with some very weird plants.

https://thejosias.com/2015/02/17/the-question-of-res-publica-christiana-in-post-conciliar-catholic-doctrines-part-ii/

Last edited 2 years ago by William Murphy
John Fitzgerald
John Fitzgerald
2 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

Uriage began under the auspices of Vichy but it soon became apparent that De Segonzac was not singing from the approved government hymn sheet. He was a deep, serious and humane thinker. Everything that the shrill, shallow and ultimately craven regime wasn’t. The institution came under a good deal of pressure from Vichy and was shut down in November 1942. Pretty much all the leaders, if I remember correctly, migrated into the Resistance.

Pierre de Segonzac was what we might call a revolutionary conservative. He wanted to renew society – civilisation even – but that renewal had to be rooted in tradition; in eternity. ‘Primacy of the spiritual,’ as Emmanuel Mounier, one of the foremost speakers at Uriage, would say. ‘The spiritual first, and the political and economic at its service.’ He had his priorities the right way round for sure.

You can see the influence of Mounier and the ‘Personalist’ philosophy he articulated in much of the thought and writing of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Uriage has its critics, I know, and I get what you’re saying, but I regard it as prophetic in its analysis of how deep the civilisational rot was and is. Maybe it’s only now that we’re starting to see the full range and scope of this.

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago

Seeing how Mounier equated Lenin, Hitler and Mussolini with various saints as examples of people who could drive history forward, he was plainly a seriously muddled and deluded guru who we could well live without. The fact that no one can come up with a clear definition of “personalism” makes it all the more ominous that it allegedly influenced two Popes.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago

AMEN brother – we have enacted a contemporary “Fall’ ie humans have decided ,in their hubris, that God is dead and that they are the new locus of wisdom and agency – and we are now being caste out of what could have been a Garden of Eden. Pride comes before the fall !! I am personally secure in my version of spirituality and dont fear death, but am disturbed daily by the incredible arrogance , narcissism and stupidity of the human race as they slide into a slow train crash. Fortunately I will have shuffled off this mortal coil before the barbarians arrive at my my doorstep and my offspring are likewise spiritually equipped to cope I hope (having chosen not to bring further generations into this mess).

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

The west of Ireland is as rootless as anywhere, judging by the books (or speeches) of Mayo woman Sally Rooney. If you demanded a rewrite of her novels to appeal to new york whites all that would be needed is a ten second search and replace of Dublin with New York and Ballina, rather absurdly, with the Hamptons.

Ed
Ed
2 years ago

Sounds like a good argument against immigration

David Wildgoose
David Wildgoose
2 years ago
Reply to  Ed

The problem isn’t immigration, (i.e. joining our culture and society), it is colonisation by those who only seek to act as parasites or replacements.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

The problem isn’t immigration, it is continuous mass immigration.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

I am sure much of this analysis is right, but…. culture evolves. The Sassanid Persians had only a vestigial remembrance of the earlier Achaememid Persian Empire. Even the beliefs of western Christians today have little in common with those of, say, the medieval period. For example, previously Hell was a ubiquitous concept, now treated with embarrassment, far more people believe in Heaven than Hell, because presumably it is a ‘nicer’ and more palatable idea!

Post-Enlightenment Western culture led to an unusual in world historical terms questioning of earlier cultural and religious shibboleths. (The Enlightenment itself may have grown out of Western Christian roots, although it took hundreds of years to get to that point, but there is no contradiction to say it then undermined them).

But you just can’t put the genie back in the bottle, and attempts to do so are themselves modernising, very partial and selective. (They often grossly distort traditional practices; in Spain there was Franco’s lauding of a very sanitised version of flamenco, even where this had no relevance, as in Catalonia).

So, eventually, we got, via liberalism to ‘woke’. Now I realise lots of Unherd commentators practically have apoplectic fits when discussing this, and I do too, but, you see, I don’t throw all of modernity out with the bathwater. I’m a gay man, so have every reason to thank liberal values for the freedoms I have, and, personally, it is much healthier to be able to be open than have to dissemble to everyone, however close, for my entire life. Which was the position not so many years ago. (But that doesn’t mean by some automatic process I believe ‘trans women are women’ as some simplistic unchallengeable dogma).

‘Woke’ does have elements of a religious belief, certainly it is very irrational and anti scientific. The West purports to believe in science, so perhaps this particular unwelcome element of the West’s ongoing cultural revolution can be reversed or its direction changed.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

“Western Culture Is Dead”: the title here sounds like the off-the-cuff title of some Mel Brooks movie (Blazing Saddles), or some capers from the past, like It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. That’s how, bizarrely, the West might be saved. A rush of riotous, outrageous, sensational yet funny movies that will have ‘em cheering in the aisles from Khartoum to Saskatchewan. To counter and ultimately wash over the wink-in-the-eye hooting and tooting among the ranks of culture-disdaining signallers of virtue. The current waist-high culture of the West may decide to pull up its trousers to reinvigorate itself, put a spring in its step, or let them sag further down. There is therefore, by choosing well, a good use for that waist-high culture.

At the moment, with Trumpers gone, the picture is just mostly a ping war involving miniature technology: the pandemic aiding those who want to make us all uniform and nice, head below the parapet and correct. However, we’ll forget how to entertain and be entertained, if we’re not careful. You see, we can’t be too cheerful. Cheer is downright frowned upon today. What with, as Biden put it, more Americans having died from covid under Trump’s watch than died in WW2 (his inauguration speech). As if to handily signal, by way of a reason to greatly pity ourselves, in a flash, another good argument for casting the irrelevancy of the fairly distant past (even though almost 400,000 young American servicemen and women lost their lives). I wonder if the solemn tones of Laurence Olivier will be resurrected soon to narrate a new television doc, The World In Pandemic.

And then there are the doom-and-gloom headlines. Such as “Western Culture Is Dead” or “North Pole To Melt Soon”, or some such. What next? Moon To Melt Soon? It’s evidence of the vanity of Western society today. Defeatism encompasses both the Left and Right. Cynicism affects both sides. In particular, especially in America or in the Anglophone world anyway, the Left has behaved as if it believes that the harsher, restrictive, unsafe non-Western world is impatiently tapping its fingers Oliver Hardy-style, wondering when the dumb and clumsy West is going to get with the programme and begin to use its brains. It’s that bad, folks! Hence the consternation in classical music orchestras in America over their ethnic compositions!

The monks living in beehive huts (or beehive-shaped huts) on steep rocky islands off the craggier west coast of Ireland would claim, if before us today, that if they could keep the flame of Christendom burning, as they did literally alone, in the fifth century A.D., then so should we, in our tens of millions, today. Christendom? What? Well, that was the term those monks would have used and, if not for their efforts in the days of the Barbarians, western civilisation would not have come into being. Wo do away with the Bible to our peril.
Where was I? So lately the entertainment industry took over the monks’ rocky berths, some science fiction adventure or venture that ensconced itself. However, if the almost-hermit-like monks of old had miraculously emerged from the rocks, to face cast and crew, only the unflappable and chirpy R2-D2 rolling forward I fear would have recognised these ancient kindred spirits. Let the ewoke, ewok rather, busy and dutifully uniform hail C-3P0 and make it his god, as seen in Return Of The Jedi.
Simple choices people make will determine the course of the West. But the West ain’t dead. Not yet.
Now you deserve to stop what you are doing and make yourself a cup of tea.

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago

More fecking wokery from Dustshoe. Of the 400,000 ‘servicepeople’ please give a breakdown of the number of males and females who died. A further breakdown would be even more interesting viz: the numbers who died as a direct result of enemy action as against from accidents.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

Thank you for your service.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

Hooray! They changed the headline title. To the civilisation merely having lost its roots. I don’t quite understand it. It’s just not as Wild West as Western Culture Is Dead.

David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago

This Trumper isn’t gone.

David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago

Did you not get the memo, plebs? Diversity is strength.

William Hickey
William Hickey
2 years ago

The author seems to blame the West, the Enlightenment, capitalism and probably the Reformation for a civilization where “everything solid melts into air.”

Perhaps.

But what about the post-World War II United States? America is unique in that its people were uprooted by an historically unprecedented and thoughtless experiment in national demographics conducted by a native utopian elite.

That utopian contagion has spread to Europe, where continental leaders decided that their homogeneous peoples needed colorful race problems just like the kind they saw on American television. (“I’ll see your Emmitt Till and raise you one Stephen Lawrence!”) But in Europe the self-inflicted invasion is being fought in many nations.

In the US, singular once again, the elite is not only permitting a foreign invasion, they are actively hoping for the successful conquest of their own racial stock and native culture.

Come on, when has that ever happened before?

I think the author is going to have to get beyond “cut flower” syndrome to get to the bottom of this one.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  William Hickey

The Christian fascists of the late Roman Empire, after having forced the closing of the intolerable non-Christian temples, universities and Olympic and other games, all but welcomed the waves of Germanic invasions as the proof of God’s displeasure with their fellow citizens. Fast forward to the 21st century and watch the new pious of Wokery celebrate the deconstruction of white “patriarchal” civilisation under the weight of endless waves of migration across open borders. Plus ca change….

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago

My culture gives me roots – by knowing about Drake playing bowls, Clive of India, Henry Morgan, Raleigh, various kings and queens, Wars of the Roses, Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Shelley, English civil war, Cromwell, the Restoration, Dickens, Livingstone and Stanley, Cecil Rhodes, Douglas Bader, AD Wintle, Churchill, Fleming, James Watt, Nelson, Wellington – and a hundred others. I know some of their stories – I’ve forgotten more. What is left, is a good part of my culture. Yes it’s using a knife and fork instead of chopsticks or wearing a suit to meetings, or drinking pints, or not kicking a man when he’s down, or defending a woman, or admiring engineers, or being polite to a policeman, or a million other daily things, but there is also that underpinning of stories, history – men and women who loved this country and went before me. Those who know those lives know me – and I am their brother. That’s identity. Fragile, easily lost, but unique to us.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

Yes, this essay has the same aesthetic as a folk-music song.

Check the parody “Merriman Weir” – especially the song “Due Die” seems a clear parody of this.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

A Christian rock band? Is that degeneracy or progress?

Jorge Espinha
Jorge Espinha
2 years ago

For those of us familiar with the preachings of Jordan Peterson this is more of the same. Jordan Peterson in his lectures covers all that. We live on the fumes of the judeo/Christian/helenic tradition, without church attendance, without faith in the transcendent the system will crumble. Something else will take its place. But the old system is doomed as the old Roman empire was in the V century or the Persians were in the VII century. The romans gave away to what would become the great western civilization but the Persians were replaced by the brutality and stupidity of Islam. Let’s hope it’s the former and not the later that comes to be.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jorge Espinha
lguaglione
lguaglione
2 years ago

this entire article is a mic drop

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

Your perception of our dilemma–and your explanation–is profoundly true! Shades of Jordan Peterson here, and rightfully so. You take it, I discern, a step further.
Thank you, Paul.
Here in North Carolina, USA, (formerly a British colony) our western-most region–the mountainous part–gave birth to a great novelist of the the 1930’s, Thomas Wolfe. Wolfe wrote a novel entitled You Can’t Go Home Again, the message of which, you expound upon in your above analysis.
But Wolfe also wrote a novel entitled Look Homeward Angel.
Perhaps we should consider that title as a veiled message. I believe that the missing element here is. . . wait for it . . . God!
The one and only, as is symbolically implied in that cathedralistic photo at the top of this article.
And, somewhere along our contorted path of Western hegemony we shall have to apologize to brother Kipling, for taking his imagery too seriously. I suppose he meant well, but . . . no. The burden is not the white man’s; the burden is placed squarely on the shoulders of humanity itself.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

Yes, indeed, Paul, the search has begun. Thank you for leading the way.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago

“What’s the solution to high gas prices?”

Anyone, Buehler?