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The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason

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But probably the best right-wing political book I’ve read is The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray.

In 2021, Oliver Dowden, then secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, “summoned” the heads of Britain’s largest heritage bodies for a telling off over their attitude to history. And so it seems that the culture war that so terrifies Murray has had no effect of any significant kind. In one revealing moment, Murray worries that the reader might regard the war he describes as little more than a “set of culture warriors battling each other in the public square without much in the way of real-world repercussions. Nevertheless, Murray makes some decent points here about black and white thinking about geopolitical history, such as the idea that colonialism can only have brought bad things and the failure of nation’s since can always be levelled wholly at the colonial powers. Embers of racism remain to be stamped out in America, but what about the raging racist inferno in the Middle East and Asia?It’s an intractable problem, but ultimately I don’t think volumes like The War on the West actually advance the conversation as it fails to reach both down into the murk to understand more fully, as well as up above towards something healing that could be draw a circle around both sides.

This, Murray contends, is because of a general ignorance about domestic and world history, which allows the narrative that the west has perpetrated everything bad and all other countries are innocent victims to proliferate.

That there is something lacking in modern life is one of the few things about which, in their way, the Left and the Right can agree. As Nietzsche thought that the very idea of justice was itself a delusion produced by resentment, there can be no distinction between “sincere” and spiteful motivations on the part of those who claim to seek it. Towards the end, he bemoans how the culture has been hollowed out by religious and cultural traditions being challenged and throughout complains about being unable to enjoy the endowments of west without the endowments being criticised.

This generation isn’t brainwashed or immature or unrealistic, it’s merely responding to the problems of the day, at a time when the old narratives have begun to crumble, and access to information is at an all-time high. In the final chapter, Spengler pronounces on the tragic and inevitable decline of Western civilisation, its yearning to unlock the mysteries of the universe gradually subverted and made hollow by enslavement to “the machine. It’s also instructive to note that he objects to the attempt to “turn a tale of heroism and glory into one of oppression and shame”—American history is neither, factually speaking, Murray merely objects to one interpretation being challenged by another. During the Cold War, the notion of “east vs west” made sense as a statement of geographic fact, and Putin’s war in Ukraine has reanimated the idea of “the west” as a unified military bloc.If there is action then that’s no bad thing because acting as though the church has never acted racist or the scientific establishment, whose ideas were used to justify eugenics, haven’t had their racist moments is ludicrous. I don’t claim to know the answer as to how a sense of the numinous can be reclaimed, but reading Shakespeare is probably a better strategy than trying to “decolonise” him. A common description of the west is that it is a set of moral beliefs and cultural norms that arose in Europe from Judeo-Christian roots and spread to the US and other European colonies during the age of discovery. Murray seems rather baffled by the writing of Frantz Fanon, a Martinique-born anticolonialist author. To pretend that the USA hasn’t meddled on the world stage in a truly spectacular way is a staggering omission, and Murray knows it.

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