The Self-Hatred Virus in Western Civilization and its Consequences

The legacy of Western culture is unsurpassed in human history; to ignore it is an act of rank self-hatred. The very greatest achievements and physical creations of other civilizations simply cannot compare to what the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian Western civilization has produced in philosophy, history, medicine, poetry, and drama, let alone democracy.

By Andrew Roberts for National Review

On Tuesday, December 3, 1940, Winston Churchill read a memorandum by the military strategist Basil Liddell Hart that advocated making peace with Nazi Germany. It argued, in a summary written by Churchill’s private secretary, Jock Colville, that otherwise Britain would soon see “Western Europe racked by warfare and economic hardship; the legacy of centuries, in art and culture, swept away; the health of the nation dangerously impaired by malnutrition, nervous strains and epidemics; Russia . . . profiting from our exhaustion.” Colville admitted it was “a terrible glimpse of the future,” but nonetheless courageously concluded that “we should be wrong to hesitate” in rejecting any negotiation with Adolf Hitler.

It is illuminating — especially in our own time of “nervous strains and epidemics” — that in that list of horrors, the fear of losing the “legacy of centuries” of Western European art and culture rated above almost everything else. For Churchill and Colville, the prospect of losing the legacy of Western civilization was worse even than that of succumbing to the hegemony of the Soviet Union.

Yet today, only eight decades later, we have somehow reached a situation in which Sonalee Rashatwar, who is described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as a “fat-positivity activist and Instagram therapist,” can tell that newspaper, “I love to talk about undoing Western civilization because it’s just so romantic to me.” Whilst their methods are obviously not so appallingly extreme, Ms. Rashatwar and the cohorts who genuinely want to “undo” Western civilization are now succeeding where Adolf Hitler and the Nazis failed.

The evidence is rampant in the academy, where a preemptive cultural cringe is “decolonizing” college syllabuses — that is, wherever possible removing Dead White European Males (DWEMs) from it — often with overt support from deans and university establishments. Western Civilization courses, insofar as they still exist under other names, are routinely denounced as racist, “phobic,” and generally so un-woke as to deserve axing.

Western civilization, so important to earlier generations, is being ridiculed, abused, and marginalized, often without any coherent response. Of course, today’s non-Western colonizations, such as India’s in Kashmir and China’s in Tibet and Uighurstan, are not included in the sophomores’ concept of imperialism and occupation, which can be done only by the West. The “Amritsar Massacre” only ever refers to the British in the Punjab in 1919, for example, rather than the Indian massacre of ten times the number of people there in 1984. Nor can the positive aspects of the British Empire even be debated any longer, as the closing down of Professor Nigel Biggar’s conferences at Oxford University on the legacy of colonialism eloquently demonstrates.

We all know the joke that Mahatma Gandhi supposedly made when he was asked what he thought about Western civilization: “I think it might be a good idea.” The gag is apocryphal, in fact, first appearing two decades after his death. But very many people have taken it literally, arguing that there really is no such thing as Western civilization, from ideologues such as Noam Chomsky to the activists of the Rhodes Must Fall movement at Oxford University, who demand the removal from Oriel College of the statue of the benefactor of the Rhodes Scholarships.

Increasingly clamorous demands by African and Asian governments for the restitution of artifacts “stolen” from their countries during colonial periods are another aspect of the attack, an attempt to guilt-shame the West. It also did not help that for eight years before 2016, the United States was led by someone who was constantly searching for aspects of Western behavior for which to apologize.

This belief that Western civilization is at heart morally defective has recently been exemplified by the New York Times’ inane and wildly historically inaccurate “1619 Project,” which essentially attempts to present the entirety of American history from Plymouth Rock to today solely through the prism of race and slavery. “America Wasn’t a Democracy until Black Americans Made It One” was the headline of one essay in the New York Times Magazine launching the project, alongside “American Capitalism Is Brutal: You Can Trace That to the Plantation” and “How Segregation Caused Your Traffic Jam.” When no fewer than twelve — in the circumstances very brave — American Civil War historians sent a letter itemizing all the myriad factual errors in the project’s founding document, the New York Times refused to print it. Yet the Project plans to create and distribute school curriculums that will “recenter” America’s memory.

None of this would amount to much if only schools and colleges were not so keen to apologize for and deny Western civilization, and to abolish or dumb down the teaching of important aspects of it. The classics faculty at Oxford University, to take one example of many, has recently recommended that Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid be removed from the initial module of the literae Humaniores program in ancient literature, history, and philosophy, giving as their reason the difference in recent exam results between male and female undergraduates, and the difference in expertise in Latin and Greek between privately and publicly educated students. The supposed guardians of the discipline are therefore willing to put social experimentation and social leveling before the best possible teaching of the humanities, a disgraceful position for one of the world’s greatest universities to have adopted.

A glance at the fate of “Western Civ” courses in the United States suggests that there is a deep malaise in our cultural self-confidence. The origin of the concept of Western civilization as a subject is found in the “War Issues” course offered to students at Columbia University in 1918, just after the United States’ entry into World War I. By learning the politics, history, philosophy, and culture of the Western world, students were given the opportunity to understand the values for which they were about to be asked to risk their lives. In 1919, the Columbia course was developed into “An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization,” which was followed by a similar innovation at the University of Chicago in 1931.

By 1964, no fewer than 40 of the 50 top American colleges required students to take such a class, which, to take Stanford University as an example, had evolved into a core canon of around 15 works, including those by Homer, Virgil, Plato, Dante, Milton, and Voltaire. While the content of the Western Civ courses was considerably more flexible, complex, and diverse than subsequent critics have suggested (as Herbert Lindenberger’s study The History in Literature: On Value, Genre, Institutions explains), the courses did indeed treat Western civilization as a uniform entity. In the last decade, that was derided as so inherently and obviously evil that Western Civ courses had disappeared altogether, miraculously holding out in their Columbia birthplace and in few other places, including brave, non-government-funded outposts of sanity such as Hillsdale College in Michigan and the incipient Ralston College in Savannah.

For all that we must of course take proper cognizance of other cultures, the legacy of Western culture, in terms of both its sheer quality and its quantity, is unsurpassed in human history. We are deliberately underplaying many of the greatest contributions made to poetry, architecture, philosophy, music, and art by ignoring that fact, often simply in order to try to feel less guilty about imperialism, colonialism, and slavery, even though the last was a moral crime committed by only a minority of some few people’s great-great-great-grandparents.

As a result, future generations cannot be certain that they will be taught about the overwhelmingly positive aspects of Western civilization. They might not now be shown the crucial interconnection between, for example, the Scrovegni Chapel by Giotto at Padua, which articulates the complex scholasticism of Saint Augustine in paint; Machiavelli’s The Prince, the first work of modern political theory; Botticelli’s Primavera, the quintessence of Renaissance humanism in a single painting; the works of Teresa of Ávila and Descartes, which wrestle with the proof of discrete individual identity; Beethoven’s symphonies, arguably the most complex and profound orchestral works ever written; and Shakespeare, whose plays Harold Bloom has pointed out, “remain the outward limit of human achievement: aesthetically, cognitively, in certain ways morally, even spiritually.” Even if students are taught about these works individually, they will not be connected in a context that makes it clear how important they are to Western civilization.

We cannot therefore know, once the present campaign against Western civilization reaches its goal, that our children and grandchildren will be taught about the living thing that intimately connects Europe’s Gothic cathedrals, which are mediations in stone between the individual and the sublime; the giants of the 19th-century novel, from Dickens to Flaubert to Tolstoy, in whose works contemporary life realistically observed becomes a fit subject for art; the Dutch masters of the 17th century such as Rembrandt, who wrestled visually with the human condition in a fashion that still speaks to us across the centuries; Versailles, the Hermitage, and the Alhambra, which, though bombastic, are undeniably ravishing expressions of the human will. Faced with the argument that Western culture is no longer relevant, it’s tempting to adopt Dr. Johnson’s argument, aim a good kick at the nearest neoclassical building, and announce, “I refute it thus.”

Mention of the Alhambra in Granada prompts the thought that any course in Western civilization worth its name ought also to include the Umayyad Caliphate, of which Córdoba  in modern-day Spain was the capital between 756 and 929. In the wake of the conquest of Spain and the establishment of the Muslim confederacy of Al-Andalus, Córdoba  became a flourishing, polyglot, multicultural environment in which religious tolerance, despite Jews’ and Christians’ being obliged to pay a supplementary tax to the state, produced an atmosphere of intellectual progressiveness that made it one of the most important cities in the world. Discoveries in trigonometry, pharmacology, astronomy, and surgery can all be traced to Córdoba. At a certain point, then, a very particular set of historical circumstances produced an equally particular set of intellectual ideas, which had significant material consequences. The study of Western civilization is therefore emphatically not solely that of Christian DWEMs.

In 1988, Jesse Jackson led Stanford students in the chant, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go!” The protests attracted national headlines and inspired a television debate between the university’s president and William Bennett, then secretary of education. Bill King, the president of the Stanford Black Student Union, claimed at that time, “By focusing these ideas on all of us they are crushing the psyche of those others to whom Locke, Hume, and Plato are not speaking. . . . The Western culture program as it is presently structured around a core list and an outdated philosophy of the West being Greece, Europe, and Euro-America is wrong, and worse, it hurts people mentally and emotionally.” He presented no actual evidence that reading Locke, Hume, or Plato has ever hurt anyone mentally or emotionally, and that was of course decades before the snowflake generation could proclaim themselves offended by the “micro-aggression” of a raised eyebrow.

In 2016, over 300 Stanford students signed a petition requesting a ballot on the restoration of the Western Civ course. Fewer people voted for the ballot than voted to have it in the first place. In his book The Lost History of Western Civilization, Stanley Kurtz places the events at Stanford center stage for what went so badly wrong later across America, as the skewed thinking behind the deconstructionist, multiculturalist, postmodern, and intersectional movements caused so much damage to education for so long.

Kurtz reminds us that what the Western Civ courses really did was to root a people in their past and their values. The trajectory of Western culture was shown to have run from Greece via Rome to Christendom, infused by Judaic ideas and morality along the way via Jerusalem, but then detouring briefly through the Dark Ages, recovering in the Renaissance, which led to the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and thus the scientific, rational, and politically liberated culture of Europe and European America. “From Plato to NATO,” as the catchphrase went.

At the center of this transference of values across time and space was democracy, of which Winston Churchill famously said, “Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” The generations who grew up knowing that truth, rather than weltering in guilt and self-doubt about “false consciousness” and so on, were the lucky ones, because they were allowed to study the glories of Western civilization in a way that was unembarrassed, unashamed, and not saddled with accusations of guilt in a centuries-old crime that had absolutely nothing to do with them. They could learn about the best of their civilization, and how it benefited — and continues to benefit — mankind.

As Ian Jenkins, the senior curator of the Ancient Greek collection at the British Museum, put it in his book on the Elgin Marbles — politically correctly entitled “The Parthenon Sculptures” — “Human figures in the frieze are more than mere portraits of the Athenian people of the day. Rather they represent a timeless humanity, one which transcends the present to encompass a universal vision of an ideal society.” The Parthenon itself set out the architectural laws of proportion that still obtain to this day, and later in the book Jenkins points out how the sculptures “transcend national boundaries and epitomize universal and enduring values of excellence.” It was no coincidence that interest in them permeated the Western Enlightenments of the 18th century.

While the Parthenon was being built, Pericles contrasted the openness and moderation of Athenian civic life with the militaristic, secretive, dictatorial Spartans in his Funeral Speech of 430 b.c., and this struck a chord with the Enlightenment thinkers of 23 centuries later, just as it should continue to do with us today, reminding us why Western values are indeed superior to those that actuate the leaders of modern China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and Zimbabwe. Marxism-Leninism began as a Western concept but was overthrown in the West, whereas it tragically still thrives in other parts of the world. And yes, we know that the architect Phidias employed slaves and metics (foreigners) in building the Parthenon, not just Athenian freemen.

“Carved around the middle of the fifth century bc,” writes Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, the Elgin Marbles “are the product of a creative culture that is credited with the invention of such aspects of modern Western civilization as democracy, philosophy, history, medicine, poetry and drama.” Of course, no one is claiming that Oriental, Persian, and Arab civilizations did not have all of those listed — except democracy, which they did not have then and most still do not today — and no one suggests that Aboriginal Australians, South Sea Islanders, the Aztecs and Incas, ancient Egyptians, or the Khmer Empire that built Angkor Wat for the god Vishnu did not have their own worthy civilizations, too.

Yet even the very greatest achievements and physical creations of those other civilizations simply cannot compare to what the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian Western civilization has produced in philosophy, history, medicine, poetry, and drama, let alone democracy.

Anyone reading Charles Murray’s superb and unanswerable book Human Accomplishment cannot but accept that the contribution made to mankind — the whole of it, not just the West — by DWEMs has statistically utterly dwarfed that made by the whole of the rest of the world combined. Whilst the transformative powers of cathedrals and concertos are relatively debatable, Nobel prizes for science and medical breakthroughs can be numerically compared, as can the fact that there is no one in any other civilization who can objectively match the sheer volume and density of the poetic and dramatic work of Shakespeare. To deny that is to start going down the route of the discredited Afrocentrist historians who were reduced to claiming that ancient African civilizations had visited Latin America and significantly influenced the cultures they found there.

“From the constitution drafted by the founding fathers of the American republic to the war-time speeches of Winston Churchill,” Jenkins writes, “many have found inspiration for their brand of liberal humanism, and for a doctrine of the open society, in the Funeral Speech of Perikles.” If Pericles had lost an election or been ostracized in the annual vote of Athenians, he would have stood down from office in the same way that Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and Emmanuel Macron would after a defeat in a free and fair election in their countries, whereas that is inconceivable in many totalitarian countries not infused by the ethics of the West. That is ultimately why we should not apologize for Western civilization, why it should be proselytized around the world and certainly taught as a discrete discipline in our schools and universities.

Western Civilization courses never pretended that the West invented civilization, as the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss emphasized in his foreword to the UNESCO International Social Science Bulletin in 1951. Considering some of the most ancient sites of human habitation in the world, such as Mohenjo-daro and Harappa in the Indus Valley, he observed straight streets intersecting at right angles, industrial workshops, utilitarian housing for workers, public baths, drains and sewers, pleasant suburbs for the wealthier classes; in short, what he called “all the glamour and blemishes of a great modern city.” Five thousand years ago, therefore, the most ancient civilizations of the old world were giving their lineaments to the new. As a new history of the world by the British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore will shortly demonstrate, the inhabitants of Egypt, China, and Persia were creating sophisticated art and architecture, legal and numerical systems, and literary and musical traditions while the peoples of Europe were still covered in woad and living in mud huts.

What might Homer have to say about being civilized? The Iliad, which describes the clash between the Greeks and the Trojans, is not a description of a conflict between two nation-states. Adam Nicolson characterizes the conflict in The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters as “the deathly confrontation of two ways of understanding the world.” In this 4,000-year-old scenario, the Greeks are the barbarians. They are northern warriors, newly technologically empowered with ships and bronze spears, who want what the Trojans have got. They are pirates: coarse, animalistic, in love with violence. They are savage, rootless nomads who trade women as commodities (a three-legged metal tripod to put vases on is worth twelve oxen; a woman, four) and lust after the treasure hidden within Troy’s walls.

The city of Troy is wealthy, ordered, graceful, and stable, and the Greeks covet it. In the climax of the poem, Achilles, the ultimate man of the plains, confronts Hector of Troy, the man of the city. In disarmingly exhilarating and violent poetry, the outsider slaughters the insider. The barbarians have won. Or have they? After the battle, Priam, Hector’s grieving father, visits Achilles in his tent. Troy is doomed but Achilles marvels at Priam’s humility, at his ability to respect the man who has murdered his beloved son. From the “mutuality and courage of that wisdom,” writes Nicolson, “its blending of city and plain, a vision of the future might flower.”

Our word “civilization” derives from the Latin “civilis,” from “civis” (citizen) via “civitas” (city). The city is the locus for human encounter and understanding, for exchange and connection, for the development of communal and peaceful coexistence, for the flourishing of both everyday exchange and sophisticated arts. Opponents of the teaching of Western civilization object that European countries built their wealth and cultural achievements on the colonial exploitation and enslavement of non-European peoples. Yet as Homer demonstrates, the development of civilization has always been predicated upon darker forces.

The Crusaders of medieval Europe were no more bloody and cruel than the wars of conversion enacted by the expanding Islamic world in the seventh and eighth centuries. The Ethiopian Empire (1270–1974) was founded upon slavery, as was the Ottoman Empire (1299–1924). If the history of the West needs to be taught critically, then so too does that of the East or the so-called global South. No civilization has been morally pure.

“Competition and monopoly,” writes Niall Ferguson sagely in his book Civilization: The West and the Rest, “science and superstition; freedom and slavery; curing and killing; hard work and laziness — in each case, the West was the father to both the good and the bad.” Those early Western Civ courses never tried to argue that it was flawless — Karl Marx sometimes used to be taught in them, after all — but in the 20th century, students had more common sense and took that for granted, and were not looking for ever-new ways to be offended.

Christianity, for all its schisms and intolerance, its occasionally obnoxious obscurantism and iconoclasm, has been overall an enormous force for good in the world. The Sermon on the Mount was, as Churchill put it, “the last word in ethics.”

Christians abolished slavery in the 1830s (or three decades later in America’s case), whereas outside Christendom the practice survived for much longer, and identifiable versions of it still exist in some non-Christian and anti-Christian countries today.

The abolition of slavery did not merely happen by votes in Parliament and proclamations from presidents; it was fought for by (and against) Christians with much blood spilt on both sides. That would not have happened without the Judeo-Christian values and the Western Enlightenment that are so central to Western civilization. The Royal Navy ran its West Africa Preventive Squadron for over 60 years with the sole task of fighting slavery, during which time it freed around 160,000 slaves, and an estimated 17,000 British seamen died of disease or in battle achieving that.

When considering “the rest” — those civilizations that did not produce what Western civilization has — Ferguson is unblushingly honest. “We must resist the temptation to romanticize history’s losers,” he writes. “The other civilizations overrun by the West’s, or more peacefully transformed by it through borrowings as much as by impositions, were not without their defects either, of which the most obvious is that they were incapable of providing their inhabitants with any sustained improvement in the material quality of their lives.” For all my earlier concentration on art and architecture, poetry and music, Ferguson is also correct to point out that “civilization is much more than just the contents of a few first-rate art galleries. It is a highly complex human organization,” which is why his book is “as much about sewage pipes as flying buttresses.”

In response to the issuing of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the American Anthropological Association released a critique that asked, “How can the proposed Declaration be applicable to all human beings and not be a statement of rights conceived only in terms of the values prevalent in the countries of Western Europe and America?” The question assumes that the 30 articles of the Declaration could not be universal, since universality of human rights was of necessity a “Western” assumption. This was intended as a criticism, not an endorsement.

Yet the West has not stolen these values, as the Greeks stole the Trojans’ gold; it has not appropriated or co-opted them. Rather they are seen as objectionable because they do, indeed, according to their detractors, inhere in Western culture. So, given that a belief in human rights is, apparently, predicated on Western culture, is not that culture worth examining and teaching?

Instead, there is an entire industry devoted to trying to topple DWEM heroes from their pedestals — literally, in the case of the British activist Afua Hirsch’s attempt to have Admiral Nelson removed from his column in Trafalgar Square in London on the grounds that he did not campaign to abolish the slave trade (which was not abolished by Britain until two years after his death in 1805).

The climate-change movement is similarly riddled with anti-Western assumptions, whereby capitalism, development, and growth are demonized, all of them supposedly primarily Western concepts. A glance at the actual carbon emissions from the new coal-fired power stations still being built every month in China should put Western climate self-haters right about the importance of development and growth, but campaigning against democratic, guilt-ridden Western governments is far easier than taking the fight to Beijing and Delhi, which now is where the real difference can be made. When Greta Thunberg denounces Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party outside the Great Hall of the People, she will be worthy of our respect; until then, she is merely playing on Western guilt, like every other demagogic critic of the West so beloved of the Left.

The self-hatred virus is a particularly virulent and infectious one, and has almost entirely overtaken the academy in its attitude towards Western civilization. We all know the concept of the self-hating Jew who instinctively and immediately blames Israel for everything bad that happens in the Middle East (and often in the wider world, too). If the term is unfamiliar, look at some of the lobbying organizations on Washington’s K Street, or the equally virulent “Jews for Corbyn” movement inside the ultra-left Momentum organization in Britain.

Western self-hatred, which is quite different from healthy self-criticism, has gone far too far in our society. American self-haters such as Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore have made hugely successful careers out of a knee-jerk reaction that whatever ill befalls the West is solely its own fault. They argue, of course, that they in fact like their country — rarely “love,” as that would differentiate it from other countries — and it’s only one particular administration or policy with which they take issue rather than the whole culture. Yet this is false. If after a lifetime one has never — as in Jeremy Corbyn’s case — once supported a single Western military operation under any circumstance, and always had a good word for every opponent of the West, whether it be a state actor or a leftist terrorist group, then the truth becomes obvious.

British self-hatred goes back a long way, via Thomas Paine and Kim Philby, but today it is not enough for the Chomskys and Corbyns merely to hate their own country; they must hate the West in general, which for them tends to mean NATO, the special relationship, the Anglo-American form of (relatively) free markets and free enterprise, and of course the concept of Western civilization itself, which they consider an artificial construct. Recently Seumas Milne, Jeremy Corbyn’s spin doctor, tried to argue that capitalism has killed more people than Communism, although of course he did not accept the figure of 100 million that most responsible historians recognize was Communism’s death toll in the 20th century.

Mention of Corbyn and Milne prompts the thought that all too often consideration of the contribution of Judeo-Christian thought to Western civilization tends to underplay the first — Judeo — part of the conjoined twins. It is impossible not to spot an enormous overlap — the shaded area in the Venn diagram — between hatred of the concept of Western civilization on one side and at least a certain haziness over anti-Semitism on the other. In America, there are unfortunately still those who believe that Western civilization is at risk from Jewish culture. This view is as ignorant as it is obnoxious. For without the “Judeo” half of the phenomenon, Western civilization would simply not exist.

Once again, Charles Murray is invaluable here in enumerating in numbers and places and names and statistics the contribution made in every field by Jews over the millennia, around 100 times what it ought to be in relation to their demographic numbers on the planet. Writing of Max Warburg’s daughter Gisela in his book The Warburgs, Ron Chernow recalls how, “once asked at a birthday party whether she was Jewish, Gisela refused to answer. When Alice [her mother] asked why, Gisi stammered confusedly, ‘You always told us not to boast.’” That might be true of her, but philo-Semitic Gentiles such as I enjoy boasting about the contribution the Jews have made to Western civilization in every sphere. Beware the hater of Western civilization; very often there’s an anti-Semite not very far away.

French postmodern theory refuses to distinguish between high and low culture, attempting to make it futile even to discuss whether this or that work of art is or is not lovely or important. If you want to argue that Kanye West’s lyrics are as good as Shakespeare, or Mongolian yurts are as sophisticated a form of architecture as Bauhaus, then Foucault will support you all the way. But if you want to understand why we do not have child slavery in the West, or disenfranchised women, or imprisonment without trial, or the imprisonment of newspaper editors, you simply have to study the cultural history that produced such an unusual and extraordinary situation in human history. It is inescapable and not susceptible to postmodernist analysis. It’s not about the aesthetic or literary superiority of certain artworks, but about the unequivocal good of human dignity. If Ms. Rashatwar finds the idea of losing her human rights so “romantic,” she is always welcome to move to Saudi Arabia, which is still awaiting its Enlightenment.

The late, very great Gertrude Himmelfarb identified three separate Enlightenments — English, French, and Scottish — at different though overlapping stages of the 18th century, with different emphases in different places at different times. Chartres Cathedral was not dedicated until 1260, so there were five centuries between then and the Enlightenments, but they were the moments when people began to throw off superstition and belief in magic and witchcraft, to look at the world afresh, unafraid of what they might find and where it might take them, even at the risk of unbelief. If the Islamic world had had such a moment, it would not have been left behind in so many areas of accomplishment since it was turned back from the gates of Vienna in 1683, with the result that its fascist-fundamentalist wing might not have existed to lash out in such fury and resentment on 9/11.

The recent Security Conference in Munich took as its theme and title “Westlessness” — an ugly word in English, worse in German — intending to prompt international decision-makers into thinking about what might happen if the Trump administration were ever to get as tough over NATO underfunding as it has long threatened to do. Another fear of Westlessness, however, should be about the eclipse of Western civilization as a subject for study, as a result of a hugely successful Gramscian march through the institutions that started long before Jesse Jackson and his megaphone visited Stanford.

For far from becoming a Kumbaya touchy-feely place, a truly Westless world would be a neo-Darwinian free-for-all in which every state merely grabbed what it could, a return to the world Hobbes wrote about in Leviathan. The Left should beware what it claims to wish for, and Western civilization should be taught once more in our schools and colleges. For as Churchill knew as the bombs were falling and London was burning in December 1940, it is worth fighting for.

— This essay is sponsored by National Review Institute.