Self-Destruction and the West

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I have had occasion, in various articles and books, including a previous posting on this site, to refer with approval to the work of Pascal Bruckner, a member of the distinguished fraternity of Nouveaux Philosophes, or New Philosophers, in France and a major political essayist. He was one of the radical youth who earned his popular colors in the student uprising of May 1968, marching in the streets, holding banners aloft and adopting its revolutionary slogans. But unlike the majority of his contemporaries, he managed to resist the temptation of cheap iconoclasm and antinomian fervor to emerge in the course of time as a sane, thoughtful and leading conservative thinker commanding a wide and respectful audience.

But I do not read him entirely without criticism. Regardless of a certain aphoristic flair and a gift for the memorable phrase, his books are structured in the manner of patristic exegesis: an exordium, a long development and a homiletic conclusion, which imparts a medieval flavor to his argumentation. There is also a soupçon of the classical rhetorical tradition, with its three-stage pattern, inventio (selection of a thesis), dispositio (arrangement of material), and amplificatio (concluding with a homily and an exhortation).

It is primarily in this latter portion of his texts that his romantic nature comes to the fore, culminating in a series of radiant didacticisms and preachments. There is a touching innocence about his work accompanied, for all his undeniable astuteness, by patches of unawareness: he does not seem to know what is transpiring on American campuses—rampant leftist indoctrination, Israel Apartheid Weeks—though he has taught in the United States, and his knowledge of Middle East affairs, on which he comments extensively, is woefully lacking in detail and historical background.

There is, in effect, a curious insularity in his theoretical globality. And his confidence that Europe in its wisdom has much to offer the United States in its swaggering naivety is utterly misplaced, an expression, really, of that European conviction of supremacy which Bruckner has often condemned but from which he has not been able to free himself entirely. His unhappiness over what he conceives, in his most recent political book The Tyranny of Guilt, as the American tendency “to place itself above the common law of nations,” as its “dubious guerilla campaign against the International Court of Justice in the Hague” and “against the UN which it pursues the better to reject it afterward,” reveals a strain of Gallic smugness in his thinking and a certain complacency before the facts.

Of course, he could not foresee the ascendancy of Barack Obama, who would follow his recipe for the political meringue of global accommodation. Despite the audacity of his intellectual peregrinations, it sometimes seems as if Bruckner also maintains an office in the Berlaymont Building. Although, I am glad to say, he is no propitiator, far from it, nevertheless, there is a pocket of complaisance in his thinking in which the colonies of appeasers breeding prolifically in the Western world may find a certain comfort.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    Cultural self-degradation can be reversed; not so with demography. In the end, it is infertility, not self-hatred, that will transform Europe into something unrecognizable.

    Then again, what is it about the European mindset that is so antithetical to having babies? Nihilism? Narcissism? Surely culture and mass infertility are symmetrical phenomenon. The debasement of the former leads to the latter.

    The paradox is, raising children has psychic rewards that transcend almost all others. Raising my kids has without a doubt been the happiest time of my life.

    Too bad such a self-absorbed generation hasn't got a clue.

    • EdwinS

      There is a French aphorism( I cant remember it in the original French – )
      that says ' raising children is the only one of life's pleasures that delivers more than it promises'…

  • masscon

    They are starting to have "large" families in Sweden. I know young couples with 3,4,and 5 chilldren.

    • Fred Dawes

      good news but third world people have 10 to 15 kids many die but many live and take from the children of other races.

      • Arius

        Why should we be happy about large Muzzie families in Sweden?

        • masscon

          I am talking about Swedes. The original people. 4 and 5 child families is very positive. They atleast are planning on being around for another generation.

  • Rifleman

    A culture unwilling to defend itself or reproduce, will not exist for long. But then, that's the idea and objective with the left.

    I realized early I wasn't going to agree completely with any culture, philosophy, or philosopher. I always try to bear in mind that it's an imperfect world, and even the theory of relativity has its' problems.

    • bubba4

      What's wrong with the theory of relativity (which has been proven) except when you get to quantum mechanics.

      • Rifleman

        Nothing by man can be perfect.

        • Nick Shaw

          Right on Riflemam. If relativity was absolute it wouldn't still be called a theory, hence 'exceptions".

          • bubba4

            I was interested in what Rifleman thought were the "problems" with relativity…but judging by his answer, his problem is not with the theory (which is actually several) or how it relates to science.

  • jacob

    I wonder how come that not even FOX NEWS O'REILLY, SEAN HANNITY, etc, (as I know the rest of our abject media won't) has questioned since our ANNOITED "socialist" demagogue about listing some of OUR misdeeds to the Muslim world he so contritely apologized for (IN OUR NAME OR HIS ONLY ??) at the CAIRO, Egypt conference…

    If this is not a sample of what this article points to, then I rest my case

  • Patrick Henry

    The intellectual foundation that provides the fertile soil from which a dominant culture and governing philosophy springs is philosophy.
    From one's theory of existence (what is the nature of reality…of the universe?), coupled with one's theory of knowledge (how or can we know what's real?) we derive our ethics (how should a person behave toward others and live a meaningful life?) and politics (how should mankind live together?).
    If one believes humans are irrational, and cannot know what's in their best interest, they will accept self-sacrifice (altruism) and collectivism as their ethics and politics. If they believe humans are rational and can know whats in their best interest, they will accept self-interest and individualism. The former leads to shortages, depradations and barbarism while the latter leads to freedom, prosperity and abundance. This is THE issue!

    • Fred Dawes

      the ideals of real life and real understanding is always funny.

  • Rifleman

    "And I still don't see how Obama is accomidating the world."
    Of course you don't.

    His foreign policy makes perfect sense…if you assume he's a commie.

    • bubba4

      Some of you really do think that if you believe hard enough it is reality.

      By all means, don't provide examples…

      thanks for piping were a big help.

      BTW…if Obama made a speech and didn't call Islam evil to your satisfaction…that isn't really a fact about his foreign policy…

      • Rifleman

        As if you're here to be a big help.

        If hussein made a speech about foreign policy and didn't apologize to the world for, or sleight America, or apologized for something he, rather than someone else did, it would be a new fact. I never asked him or President Bush to call islam evil, and have defended President Bush here for not doing so, because I think it would be counterproductive for our head of state to do it. That's an exceptionally weak strawman bubba, you can do better.

        I'm concerned about him accommodating the communist and jihadi worlds, while slighting us and our allies. From giving up SDI, in the dp's own view our top card in negotiations with the russians, before we even entered into negotiations, through his distancing himself from allies, especially those in conflict with commies, to his trying illegal combatants in civilian courts (Yes, I faulted President Bush for the few times he did that as well, but it's policy with hussein), hussein has accommodated our enemies, and gotten less than nothing in return.

    • Nick Shaw

      Rifleman, did you use bubba's spelling mistake on purpose? Ahh…I know it is stupifyingly petty but, he brings out the worst in me.

      • Rifleman

        Actually, I just copied and pasted, but it did work out well that way, even though it looks to be a typo rather than a misspelling. Bubba likes to stir things up, he tries to bring the worst out of people here, so he's mostly just funny to me.

  • Russell

    So too is Islamic society, bent on the production of alpha males through the ins and outs of power challenging. They represent a position–a counter-position–to the western stance. Counter-positions can only be reversed, if possible, or allowed to fall into oblivian, if not. Positions have the potential of development, containing as they do a number of fundamental truths that can be refined and improved. But counter-positions are built upon one or more falsehoods. Islam, as a counter-position on the question of the best way for humans to live, will only fail. The only question is: will their failure take us with them?

  • GBArg

    That was sure profound . . . just what the f*** was he trying to say?

    • Nick Shaw

      Yeah, I read it three times and can only conclude that Russell is a way deeper thinker than I will ever profess to be or…he drinks much too much when he comments. I prefer to believe the former but, that's just me.

  • Fred Dawes

    A people who are fools will be removed by a people who are controlled and have leaders A people who have no leaders will eaten alive. this is what is happening, one other fact is most black and browns and yellows are racists unlike that whites, God put racism in all human and to take one people and remove that fact is to remove that people that is what PC is all about.
    whites are about to be removed, fact in 1900 80 percent of the people on this earth happened to be whites after the great war it was down to 70 percent by the end of world war two 50 percent by 1970 40 percent and by 2100 the whites will be about 15 percent of this earth population.
    all do to fighting each other and making the world compatible for a third world population explosion so the west maybe dead.

  • Arius

    You are right. The West, mostly the whites, are self destructive.

  • Nick Shaw

    I don't know about whites being self destructive. perhaps it's our Christian -Judeo guilt ;-)

  • lostlegends1872

    I can see David Solway got an A in clear writing. Rarely have I seen so much self-infatuated pomposity take up so little space.

  • SenatorMark4

    Solway, from my garden maintaining view, is unreadable. He's preaching to the very people, of both sides, who believe they hold the future of the world in their soft, pampered hands. The problem the western elites have is that they refuse to believe there is any true, ever-lasting good in FREEDOM. That is why we don't spread freedom. Who can, without regret, defend the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment to 7th century muslim cultures? Not his crowd. Let's feed and clothe them and give them the pencils they canNOT make for themselve. Of course he has great respect for cultures that invented the zero…he can see it bobbing around his ideas! Loser.

  • al-Guest

    "Patristic," "exordium," "homiletic" – all in one sentence! One way to emulate the verbosity of French intellectuals: throw some words in that most people have to look up. In a word, pretentious.

    Let's break this sentence down: "his books are structured in the manner of patristic exegesis: an exordium, a long development and a homiletic conclusion, which imparts a medieval flavor to his argumentation." This basically means: "his books are strained and preachy." Talk about the kettle calling the pot …

    @Patrick Henry: "The intellectual foundation that provides the fertile soil from which a dominant culture and governing philosophy springs is philosophy.
    From one's theory of existence (what is the nature of reality…of the universe?), coupled with one's theory of knowledge (how or can we know what's real?) we derive our ethics (how should a person behave toward others and live a meaningful life?) and politics (how should mankind live together?)." What a load of twaddle. As if social praxis is derived from theory. Philosophy is also a product of a culture, produced alongside practices, in fact it is a practice, something which philosophers forget. Philosophical theories of existence do not so much lay the foundations of culture but reflect the culture from which they are produced. Even when they have some influence on broader intellectual currents and government policy, etc it is contingent on politics and other non-theoretical factors. This kind of reductionism really muddies more than it clarifies.