What does 'Western culture' mean anyway?

Western culture without Shakespeare, Kant and Plato?

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Giulio Meotti,

giulio meott
giulio meott
צילום: עצמי

In a Wall Street Journal column, Bret Stephens recently wrote that Western societies lack the “civilizational self-belief” that others have. Daniel Larison in the American Conservative replied to him that “in modern times, ‘the West’ has often been even more narrowly defined to exclude nations that objectively share the same intellectual and religious heritage for contemporary political reasons”. 

Larison is right: “Western culture” is not what liberals have in mind. Europe’s political establishment is still suffering from shock at the election of Donald Trump and the wave of populist movements, from France to the Netherlands. “The West”, the liberal establishment repeats as a mantra, is under threat from Russian expansionism. But what are these “Western values,” according to our élites? 

Gender ideology? Multiculturalism? Secularism? Ideological and mandatory open borders? Pacifism? Slander of Israel? Eugenics? Feminism? Cultural sanctimony?

Take Emmanuel Macron, the most Western of the French presidential candidates, the icon of the pro-European élite. He just decried French colonialism and preached more open borders for Europe. Malia Sorel-Sutter in an interview with Le Figaro explained the difference between Macron and his contender, Francois Fillon: “For one, French culture does not exist, when for the other it is part of a desire to continue France from a cultural point of view,” said the author of Decaying France. 

Think about what just happened to Charles Murray, the conservative guru, who was almost lynched at the liberal college of Middlebury. “Western culture” for these liberals means that a conservative philosopher cannot take the podium in the socialist state of Vermont.

“Western culture” for these liberals means that the Norwegian minister Sylvi Listhaug can be slammed for wearing a crucifix.

“Western culture” for these liberals is under attack if Trump defunds the shameful abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

“Western culture” for these liberals is under threat if the US Supreme Court refuses to hear the case for transgender rights in restrooms. 

Steve Bannon’s ideas about the West, capitalism and the threat of Islam to the Judeo-Christian civilization seem much better to me than the oped pages of the New York Times or the London University students’ ideology, who just asked to remove from their curricula Plato and Kant, among other Western philosophers, because they represent “colonialism”. 

“Western culture” for me means Goethe’s books, Leopardi’s poems, Bach’s cantatas, the French abbeys, the Sistin Chapel, Solzenitsyn’s Gulag Arcipelago.

For these puerile liberals, “Western culture” is a caricature to be protected by trigger warnings and safe spaces. No wonder Europe and the West are not respected today.