Thursday, September 29, 2016

What is Western Civilization?

Not gaming, not science fiction or fantasy... but I do read non-fiction, and I do (sometimes) review it.  This question is one for the ages—but particularly for our age.

Long ago (or at least it seems so now) I read Samuel Huntington's essay "The Clash of Civilizations."  If you haven't, you should.  In fact, here it is right here.  Go read it now.  It's OK, I'll wait...

What I haven't ever read is the full-length book that expanded on that notion.  I've recently had it pointed out to me that I should; that it's brilliant; that without doing so, I can only claim to know about the issue, not to actually know it.  The premise that Huntington proposes has been "rebutted" many times over the years, by those with a penchant for Trotskyist globalism, but in the last couple of years it's become obvious that Huntington was right.  Soon, even the dimmest, most stubborn globalist cheerleader will be forced to admit it.  Therefore understanding what our culture is, and why it is coming into conflict with other cultures, is a paramount question for today.

It's at our public library.  Sure, it's checked out right now, but I put the next hold on it, and I should have it within a few weeks.  In the meantime, I thought it might be interesting to discuss what Western civilization actually is.

Huntington spells out what he believes the major civilizations of the world are today in the essay (which you just read if you haven't already, right?) so I'll start with that list: Western, Sinic or Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Latin American, Slavic-Orthodox and Sub-Saharan African. As an aside, according to his divide, some cultures that speak Slavic languages are part of Western civilization (or even Islamic civilization) rather than Slavic-Orthodox, highlighting the paramount important of religion in determining civilization.

The earliest roots of what would become Western Civilization start out with the Classical civilizations of Greece and Rome.  Not only were these civilizations great and powerful in their own day, but they were literate, and they passed on down to us because of this much of the foundation of our own thought.  The rational pursuit of knowledge through study comes from the philosophers of the Greeks; Plato and Aristotle founding much of what academic inquiry even means, joined by guys such as Thucydides and Herodotus, etc.  Literature too, gets its start in a manner that we recognize with Homer, Hesiod, and later other Greek writers.  Even the system of government that we use throughout most of the West has its nascent form in Athens and the Roman Republic.

I have to caution against drawing too direct a line from Classical Civilization to modern Western civilization, though.  In many other ways, Classical civilization is completely alien to us.  Does anyone in Western civilization really believe that we could attempt to implement the brutal eugenic policies of ancient Sparta, no matter how much they may admire Leonidas?  Or the anti-family state-sponsored agoge, complete with the ritual hunting and murdering of untermenschen Helots?  As much as one can admire Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar as brilliant military minds and great spreaders of their civilization, is it admirable that Plutarch claims Caesar killed a million Gaulish warriors and enslaved a million more—at a time when their ability to field warriors was only three million?  That's what we call today ethnic cleansing or genocide.  Maybe one can point out that at least sometimes in the history of Western civilization we had some similar episodes; the colonization of the Americas was characterized by often very bloody civilizational clash, after all.  But uniquely in the history of mankind, did Western civilization have critics who bemoaned this for ethical reasons, and uniquely did they stop doing it, even as they approached the height of their power.  It wasn't co-civilizational sub-Saharan Africans who protested the Congo Free State (rather, they were perfectly willing to help out if it was profitable for them); it was other elements within Western Civilization that made it such a scandal.  The Classical civilizations were an important foundation to Western civilization, but clearly it is not sufficient in and of itself.

The next element that has to be layered in to the development of Western civilization is Christianity.  As Tom Holland said:
“We preach Christ crucified,” St Paul declared, “unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” He was right. Nothing could have run more counter to the most profoundly held assumptions of Paul’s contemporaries – Jews, or Greeks, or Romans. The notion that a god might have suffered torture and death on a cross was so shocking as to appear repulsive. Familiarity with the biblical narrative of the Crucifixion has dulled our sense of just how completely novel a deity Christ was. In the ancient world, it was the role of gods who laid claim to ruling the universe to uphold its order by inflicting punishment – not to suffer it themselves.
Today, even as belief in God fades across the West, the countries that were once collectively known as Christendom continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents. It is the principal reason why, by and large, most of us who live in post-Christian societies still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. It is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value. In my morals and ethics, I have learned to accept that I am not Greek or Roman at all, but thoroughly and proudly Christian.
You do not get anything that resembles Western civilization without Christianity; it is that system of belief that truly separates Western civilization from the late Classical civilization which preceded it.  If you are going to quibble with the quote above by saying, "The Crusades! The Inquisition! The Colonialism!" you probably should get more educated on all of the above before speaking up.  Plus, keep in mind my point above about Leopold of Belgium.  The same claims were made against the Spanish (who are not part of Western civilization) and others.  Only in Christendom is this condemned.  Although, of course, a parallel similarity was profoundly influential in Buddhist thought—hence the appearance of guys like Gandhi, etc.  This was a much more radical (and alien) idea than merely Christian valuation of human life, however—it was pacifism for its own sake, which doesn't make any sense to anyone in Western civilization except for highly divergent liberal hippies, who as r-strategists, constantly try to dump on Western civilization anyway.

The next element to be introduced is the customs and traditions of the Germanic people (often overlaid on a Celtic substrate.)  This is where Western civilization deviates from Slavic-Orthodox and Latin civilizations, although the tribes of Visigoths, the Rus, and other more far-flung Germanic groups gave a weak patina of this to other areas outside of the core Germanic settlement.  It's fair to say that Western civilization isn't really a development of Classical civilization per se; it's the appropriation of most classical civilization elements and Christianity and the syncretic  fusion of those elements by an alien people to their own culture; the alien people being, of course, the Northern European Germanic people (and their largely Celtic substrate over large parts of their core settlement area.)  The presence of a large population of "freemen" (or comitatus, to use the word the Romans coined to describe this alien (to them) custom) who had the right to bear arms and sit in council with their chief is one core element from the Germanics.  This evolved into Salic Law as the migration period ended and the first "empires" of the Germanic peoples started to form, which codified much of what was already happening, and then laid the foundation for legal tradition throughout Western civilization for centuries to come.

This also sets the stage for separating Core Western civilization from southern Europe, a divide that not all will make, but all will recognize the significant cultural differences between Northern and Southern (and Eastern) Europe; the influence of the Germanic tribes is this factor.  But this evolved through a particular vector, and without that particular vector, you still don't get anything recognizable as Western civilization.  This is actually only somewhat recently recognized, although the fact that it existed is no mystery.  Just that the likely causes of it were.  These divisions can be more or less described by looking at a map of the Hajnal Line (which as you'll see, leaves out southern Italy, much of Spain, especially the parts that were "Reconquistadored" late, Ireland, and Finland.  In reality, it should be much more jaggedy, should probably have spots within it that are left off (Highland Scotland and probably Wales, for example) and parts without that should be added as "islands"—the Ulster area of Northern Ireland and western Finland, probably the rest of Austria or the Sudetenland at least, for example.  I'm making the case that only the areas within the Hajnal Line truly qualify as "Western civilization" other areas (like Ireland, southern Italy, etc.) that are without it are merely dabbling in Western civilization, or imitating certain aspects of it, without fully embracing it.  They are satellite pseudo-Western nations, not truly members in full fellowship.

Of course, later colonies of people from within the Hajnal Line to areas outside it still qualify, so places like Iceland, the US and Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. are, of course, prominent members of Western civilization despite their geographic appearances outside the traditional Hajnal Line.  But their ancestors came from within it, and in all of those cases, they were successful in dominating their new homes to such a degree that they did not really hybridize either culturally or even genetically (to any significant degree) with the peoples who were there before them.

But what really happened within the Hajnal Line to cause this foundation to completely and fully develop into Western civilization as we know it?  The Hajnal Line itself describes marriage patterns, and the reason for it is the Catholic church's ban on consanguinous "cousin" marriages, which were enforced most strictly in the corest core of core Europe; the Merovingian stronghold of Austrasia, and it's later satellites in Neustria, Burgundy, Saxony, Anglo-Saxon Britain, Lombardy, etc.  In short, it spread from the capitol in Metz through all of what would become a "Greater Germania"—France, the Holy Roman Empire, Scandinavia (minus the Lapplander and Finnish areas) and the kingdoms that later emerged as England.  This ban on close relative marriage was also present in other parts of Christendom, but inside the Hajnal line, it was combined with two other developments, and these three, together, created selection pressures that created modern Western Civilization.  As Avner Greif said:
“The medieval church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined large kinship groups. From as early as the fourth century, it discouraged practices that enlarged the family, such as adoption, polygamy, concubinage, divorce, and remarriage. It severely prohibited marriages among individuals of the same blood (consanguineous marriages), which had constituted a means to create and maintain kinship groups throughout history. The church also curtailed parents’ abilities to retain kinship ties through arranged marriages by prohibiting unions in which the bride didn’t explicitly agree to the union. 
“European family structures did not evolve monotonically toward the nuclear family nor was their evolution geographically and socially uniform. However, by the late medieval period the nuclear family was dominant. Even among the Germanic tribes, by the eighth century the term family denoted one’s immediate family, and shortly afterwards tribes were no longer institutionally relevant. Thirteenth-century English court rolls reflect that even cousins were as likely to be in the presence of non-kin as with each other. 
“The practices the church advocated, such as monogamy, are still the norm in Europe. Consanguineous marriages in contemporary Europe account for less than one percent of the total number of marriages. In contrast, the percentage of such marriages in Muslim, Middle Eastern countries, where we also have particularly good data, is much higher – between twenty to fifty percent. Among the anthropologically defined 356 contemporary societies of Euro-Asia and Africa, there is a large and significant negative correlation between Christianization (for at least 500 years) and the absence of clans and lineages; the level of commercialization, class stratification, and state formation are insignificant.”
So, the end result of this was the replacement of the large, extended family with the nuclear family as the primary unit.  This lack of large extended families eventually undid the entire tribal structure of core Europe.  Large, extended, cohabiting families, on the other hand, are still very normal in places like, say, Sicily or Eastern Europe—outside of the Hajnal Line.  In these areas, there's an environment in which "nepotistic altruism"—giving favors to extended family and other forms of what we in Western civilization deem to be corruption—which was largely eliminated within the Hajnal Line.  Combined with manorialism—the founding principle of feudalism, where the Lord of the Manor had vested in himself certain legal and economic powers, and in turn owed certain obligations to the serfs or villeins as well as the free farmers who used the land of his manor, or demesne.  As hbd chick observes, manorialism "was really an almost all-encompassing socio-religious-political system which, although its features and importance did vary at different times and in different locales, pretty much regulated nearly all aspects of medieval Europeans’ lives."  Throughout "Core Europe" it existed for the better part of three quarters of a millennium; even in areas where it was adopted a bit later, it lasted nearly half of one.  What are the selection pressures that manorialism plus outbreeding and non-consanguineous marriage exerted on the developing Western Man?  Again, from hbd chick:
The working theory around here is that the Outbreeding Project set up the selection pressures for getting rid of much of what we could call “nepotistic altruism” in Core Europe, allowing for greater cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals and, therefore, a more open and “corporate” sort of society. A second working theory is that manorialism set up selection pressures for a whole suite of traits including perhaps: slow life histories; future time orientation; delayed gratification; the good ol’ protestant work ethic; a general compliant nature and even rather strong tendencies toward conformity; perhaps even a high degree of gullibility; perhaps a few extra IQ points; and even more cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals. ... The manor system also probably contributed to the selection for the reduction in impulsive violence. ... the Outbreeding Project and manorialism very much went hand-in-hand as well — the medieval European manor system could not have happened without all of the outbreeding, and the Outbreeding Project was reinforced by the manor system (since marriage was often regulated within the manor system).
Does that now sound like modern, Western Civilization?  Not the feudalism itself, of course, but the selection pressures it generated caused, after many generations, a new type of European to emerge in the northern portions of the continent.  A Brazilian with whom I communicate on occasion expressed the idea that many in Latin America see themselves as members of Western civilization, but he sees these stark differences clearly—as do I, and my oldest son, for that matter, who lived for a few years in various parts of Spanish Latin America.  He pointed out that both in Latin America and Southern Europe (the same is true of Eastern Europe) that the culture is characterized by "low trust society, weak rule of the law, corruption, weak work ethic, etc."  This is a major disconnect, and why I cannot consider Europeans of descent outside of the Hajnal Line to truly be members of Western civilization.

What does this mean for America?  Firstly, it means that the large numbers of immigrants that we took on 100-150 years or so ago from Ireland, the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and the Jews are not really members of Western Civilization, didn't understand it, and have largely undermined its success in America to greater or lesser degrees.  When first arrived, they turned quickly in large numbers to organized crime, voluntary segregation instead of attempted assimilation, tribal nepotistic takeovers of businesses, politics, and to some degree, even entire industries (media, Hollywood, etc.) and in defiance of the good of the host nation in which they were living, they agitated and campaigned for changing immigration laws both to 1) bring more of their kind that they could nepotistically deal with, and 2) change the fabric of the prevalent Anglo-Saxon with a touch of Dutch and German American society to one in which they stood out less, by inviting even more alien cultures into the fold.

If this hasn't been bad enough, the mass invasion of the US by the completely non-Western civilization members of Latin America in their tens of millions, and from Islamic civilization (a bigger deal in Europe than America, but it's growing fast here too) is a genuine crisis; an existential threat to Western civilization on the American continent.  Give or take a few tens of thousands, Switzerland has the same population as Honduras.  Because of our shared Western civilization background, America could probably absorb the entire population of Switzerland without it being too disruptive (we're way too diverse now to quibble about Anglo- vs. Germano- backgrounds now; although Benjamin Franklin and other Founding Fathers were more skeptical) but absorbing the population of Honduras will never happen successfully; they simply won't integrate and assimilate.  Ever.

If we hope to remain a bastion of Western Civilization in America, instead of being absorbed into a growing Latin culture, or continue to be held hostage to an admittedly native subset of sub-Saharan African culture, or even worse, continue to invite Islamic civilization into our homes to the extend that it becomes a significant threat, then we need to recognize who and what we are and stand up for it again.  Maybe Western civilization isn't the pinnacle of human achievement (although I kind of think it is) but even if it's not, it's ours and we have every right to our civilization, the same as every other people on Earth.

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