The West Fails in Five Civilisations

Problems 39 – The West Fails in Five Civilisations

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And here is an excerpt:

To lose influence over one civilisation might be a misfortune.  To lose two suggests carelessness.  But to lose five – and also outrage many of your own citizens – is vastly worse.  It must have much deeper causes: a basic false understanding of the world.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989-91, after Gorbachev’s brief attempt to reform it.  So was the bitter anti-Communism of the New Right vindicated?  Was their score for socialism proved right?  They certainly thought so.

Yet what followed was not an ‘End of History’, with Western ideas becoming global.  It undoubtedly would have, had the either the New Right or the Blair / Clinton compromise vision been correct.  But the raw facts say otherwise.

There has been a sharp fall in Western influence after its high point in the early 1990s.  Notable failures are:

  1. Losing Russia
  2. Reviving Sectarian Islam, even in highly Westernised Turkey
  3. Losing China (apart from tiny highly-privileged Hong Kong)
  4. Losing culturally in India, and not gaining much economically
  5. Facing Illiberal Democracy in Middle-Europe.

The New Right could not accept that it was a heavy draught of socialism that won the Cold War for the West.[i]  They were determined that the fragments of the fallen Soviet Union must not repeat the ‘mistakes’ of actual US policy to its former foes: Italy, West Germany and Japan.

Applying this ‘wisdom’ to Russia, they lost Russia.  Vastly weakened pro-Western elements in China: most Chinese saw Russia as a horrible example of what would have happened had the Tiananmen Protests overthrown Deng and given power to pro-Western politicians.

In the Muslim world, they failed to recognise the various secular dictatorships as the only useful agents of Westernisation.  And were certain that the populations they had ‘liberated’ would be better off without the horrible burden of state power on them.  Were utterly astonished when this multiplied crime and Islamic extremism in Iraq.  Doggedly applied the same ‘wisdom’ in Libya, and attempted it in Syria.  Remain utterly astonished at the outcomes of their own actions.  And learn nothing.

They were also unsuccessful in defending Centre-Right cultural values – if indeed they were ever sincere in their repeated claims to be defending those values.

The New Right were the most successful product of the broad rebelliousness of the 1960s.  Which included a lot of leftism and radicalism, but sentiments were always very mixed.  I remember a popular song from those days:

“The best things in life are free
“But you can keep them for the birds and bees
“Now give me money (That’s what I want)
“That’s what I want (That’s what I want)
“That’s what I want, yeah (That’s what I want)
“That’s what I want”[ii]

I remember the Chuck Berry version, but it was apparently played by many others, including The Beatles.  And there was a lot of greed bound up with the nobler sentiments.  ‘Just give me money’ was only half a joke – and Punk Rock played the same game with hyped-up vulgarity.

I remember as a student activist on the tail-end of the main movement in the early 1970s that a majority of the Baby Boomers were not idealists.  You had to push the right buttons to get radical actions, and some causes they were mostly not interested in.  A majority wanted freedom for themselves, but most were lukewarm about freedom for others.  Seldom took a moral stand that would cost them anything.

In the USA, they were keen not to risk their own precious bodies in the Vietnam war.  Callous about the likely fate of those South Vietnamese and Cambodians who had supported the US cause: people who had not been allowed to make a half-decent peace when they might have.  There were some honourable exceptions, but very few.

The US Congress cut off aid to ‘our gooks’ when it was getting too expensive.  And letting them suffer was fine with most US voters, young and old.

Among the young, the ‘rebel generation’, a ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Wonderful Me’ would have been a joke with a lot of truth in it.

And with the New Right, it became a real system of belief.  Applied dogmatically, except where the interests of the rich and powerful might be touched.