The Deconstruction of Western Values
Western Civilization is extraordinarily complex. From Greece to Rome to Europe and America, a long, multifaceted, and rich line of thought has dominated. In 1909 Harvard (oh, the irony) published a series called the “Harvard Classics” that began a major emphasis on what we now call “the great books”. Many universities nationally and worldwide used this book list as the basis of understanding who we were and how the West had come to be what it was. It was a list worthy of teaching each generation. In today’s jaded academic world, these courses barely exist.
This was the epitome of Western thought. From Plato, the Judeo/Christian writings, Epictetus, Augustine, Shakespeare, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and many more, and with such depth, the list was genuinely incredible. I remember asking a professor why we didn’t study more contemporary books, rather than these stuffy old tomes. He replied, “Because they have stood the test of time.” Checkmate. You could say that they once formed the basis of thought for both liberals and conservatives in the country, that they helped make America great. Post-World War II, most boomers studied the great books.
Enter the deconstruction. It had begun prior to the 1930s. It was the critical theory of the Frankfurt School that began our slow death march. Our academics fell for this critique of Western thought. Howard Zinn and the current group of “historians” all put their stamp on calling these books as the progeny of “dead white men.” The left, being who they are, readily accepted this new history. It was not necessary to debate or discuss actual historical ideas. It was more important to call them old, dead, and white. The democrat party may as well call its platform the epitome of the deconstruction of the West.
The deconstructionists have been winning. Our universities have literally gone insane, teaching every new critique about our culture that pops up. Just look at any liberal arts college course list. Most are pretty sick, intent on salting the mental constructs of their students so they can be good leftist role models. They want students spouting the aphorisms of ignorant live professors who forgot how alive the classics are, if they ever knew. If you want to know the fruit of this teaching, just look at what the universities have instituted in recent years: safe rooms, therapy dogs, crying sessions, counselling. They are still melting down. A generation lost in space, in the mentally “safe”, and very demented spaces of the professoriate.
C.S. Lewis saw this budding phenomenon back in the 1930s. In his writings, professors spouting the deconstruction theories were the villains, universities were the vehicles, bureaucracies were the model for Hellishness, and leftist politicians rounded out the whole bad barrel of apples.
In his novel, That Hideous Strength, there are powerful scenes where his hero, Ransom, battles a professor/politician who has given himself over to these new forces. Ransom watches as the professor deteriorates mentally and morally, finally realizing what this new philosophy leads to. He sees the formerly brilliant professor becoming sotted with viciousness, self-indulgence, and foolishness. Ransom finally understands he has to fight this man, and his philosophy, to the death. Literally.
These scenes are powerful foreshadowing of what has happened in our deconstructed country. C.S. Lewis and his good friend Tolkien envisioned the great earthly battles to come, writing fiction about the courage of those who would fight against deconstructionist enemies.
Donald Trump this week gave a speech in Poland lauding Western values, stating our vulnerabilities, and wondering if the West has the will to survive. He is encouraging those in the West who have the mettle to rise up and reclaim our heritage. He is engaging the battle against those who would tear it down. Trump knows the stakes. When he talks about making America great again, it’s likely because he understood the courses of great books, and knew the greatness of what was once handed to us.
Pope John Paul II gave some great speeches about what he called “the culture of death. How fitting that Trump would give his latest call to arms in Poland. How fitting that Poland, so historically war-torn, sees the battle clearly. How fitting that they are already in the fight to preserve the West, one of the few European countries to do so.
So now it comes to us here in the U.S. Will we finally realize this is a fight for a decent civilization? Or will we succumb to the petty, banal viciousness of the deconstructionist left? Will we steel ourselves to overcome this well-funded leftist blitz against our culture, or will we go out with a whimper?