the succession of western civilisations

When we talk about the problems facing the world today we find ourselves talking about the fate of western civilisation. I do it myself frequently. In actual fact there is no such thing as western civilisation. There have been a series of western civilisations, differing from each other very markedly indeed.

Even if we accept that there has ever been at any time a single European civilisation we still have to accept that the history of European civilisation is the history one civilisation succeeding another.

There was Bronze Age European civilisation (the Myceneans, the Minoans etc). They left some impressive ruins but we have little direct knowledge of them. The Minoans for example were literate but their written language has never been deciphered.

These civilisations were followed by the Classical Civilisation of the Greeks and Romans. In western Europe that collapsed entirely in the middle of the first millennium AD. 

Eventually a new civilisation took its place, the Medieval Civilisation. For at least two hundred years we have been taught to worship the Classical Civilisation and despise Medieval Civilisation. Quite wrongly. Medieval Civilisation was in many ways more advanced and more dynamic than Classical Civilisation.

Then came the catastrophe of the Reformation, followed by the even greater catastrophe of the Enlightenment. There was no sharp break, as there had been when the Western Roman Empire collapsed, but there is no question that the European civilisation of the ancien régime on the eve of the French Revolution was an entirely different civilisation compared to the Medieval Civilisation that had produced Dante and Chartres Cathedral. Despite cataclysms like the French Revolution that version of modern European Civilisation was still more or less intact in 1914. It has now gone forever. We now have what might be called postmodern European Civilisation.

Of course all civilisations change over time. The point I am making is that in the case of European civilisation the changes have been so profound and so far-reaching as to represent the replacement of one civilisation by another.

Whilst all civilisations do change most are based on the principle that while change can be beneficial stability is also very desirable. The Medieval Civilisation is the only European Civilisation that really valued stability. It was not in reality a stable civilisation but there was at least an appreciation of the notion that change was often a very bad thing indeed. The European Civilisations that followed the Medieval have not valued stability at all. In fact you could say of Postmodern European Civilisation (and of Modern European Civilisation as well) that it is a process rather than a thing. It is a process whereby everything that has been proven to work and to produce good results is trashed in favour of something new that may or may not work. European civilisation is a constant search for novelty. It’s the sort of civilisation that might be produced by a society of precocious infants, constantly hurling their old toys out of the pram whilst crying for new ones.

So the problem with wanting to save European Civilisation is that any European Civilisation worth saving no longer exists. A civilisation that bases itself upon crude materialism, even cruder hedonism, a celebration of sexual degeneracy, the joyful trampling into the dust of the family, naked greed and the embrace of a variety of scientific, pseudoscientific and totally non-scientific superstitions is not a civilisation that I would consider to be worth saving.

Which means that the kind of conservatism that is based on the belief that we need to apply the brakes is worse than useless. If we are to have a civilisation that is worth saving we will first have to create one. That might mean hoping that what currently goes by the name of European Civilisation does not survive.

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a return to the 50s – an impossible dream?

Anyone who believes in traditionalism has to face the reality that the prospects for traditionalism are not good. The fact that there are large numbers of people who identify as “conservatives” is no help at all given that the overwhelming majority of these people are simply right-wing liberals. They accept the liberal program pretty much in its entirety. The fact that there are still reasonable numbers of people who identify as Christians is no help either since most modern Christians accept the liberal program to a horrifyingly large degree.
Of course there is always the chance that a major crisis will trigger a collapse of the current order but given that traditionalists have no established support base from which to work there’s no guarantee that even a collapse of the existing order will usher in a traditionalist revival.
So what do we do if a full-scale traditionalist revival proves to be impossible? Is any compromise possible?
We’ve learnt from bitter experience that compromise with liberals is dangerous. It’s a concept that liberals generally speaking do not believe in. Any attempt by traditionalists to compromise with liberals would have to be made from a position of strength, and traditionalists would need to display an implacable determination to stake out positions of principle and defend them.
What kind of compromise could be possible anyway? If you’re a full-blown traditionalist you realise that the rot set in in the 18th century with the Enlightenment. A return to a pre-Enlightenment society seems like a very remote possibility. What about a return to the 1950s? that would be OK wouldn’t it? 
The 50s weren’t too bad. Christian churches were still Christian. The congregations were mostly actual Christians and there were even actual Christians to be found in the hierarchies. Marriage was still fairly healthy. Most people got married and most people made a real effort to make their marriages work. There was plenty of pre-marital sex but that’s to a large extent exactly what it was – couples who were intending to get married jumping the gun. Lamentable but not disastrous. Divorce was still fairly unusual. Mothers actually raised their children. And those children were still being raised in a moderately satisfactory way. Schools were not vehicles for homosexual propaganda. Traditional sex roles still existed after a fashion. A woman could admit to being a housewife without being sneered at. Multiculturalism had not been invented. Homosexuals enjoyed a fair degree of de facto toleration as long as they were discreet, and as long as they refrained from proselytising and kept away from children. Children in the 50s had not been sexualised. Crime rates were low. People still believed they could trust the police, and even more surprisingly in most cases they could.
The trouble with a restoration of the 50s is that under the surface there were forces eating away the foundations of society. The process of weeding out believes in believers in traditional values had already begun in the universities, the media and the entertainment industries and anti-traditionalist were slowly gaining a foothold in the churches. There were two further dangerous anti-traditionalist forces – democracy and capitalism. Democracy isn’t something that has suddenly become broken. It was a bad idea from the outset and representative democracy was never workable. Voters make bad decisions and the whole process is largely a sham anyway. 
Capitalism is another problem. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the view that capitalism should be destroyed. I think it should be controlled. Rigidly controlled. Difficult, but not necessarily impossible.
So the 50s could never be restored in their entirety because the society of the 50s was a society already programmed for self-destruction. A society with many of the good features of that decade might be possible but mechanisms would need to be found to prevent cultural infiltration, democracy and capitalism from doing their work of destruction.
It’s probably not a likely scenario but perhaps it does no harm to toss ideas around.