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Prof. Victor Davis Hanson: on the loss of confidence in the West

November 30, 2006

It has been a while since I quoted from the always trenchant Professor Victor Davis Hanson, but his column in OpinionJournal, titled Losing the Enlightenment, should not be missed. As the subtitle says, “A civilization that has lost confidence in itself cannot confront the Islamists.” Prof. Hanson’s words pose a somber warning to those of us who would listen to the political wisdom of Hollywood or the moral counsel of some of the scions of the wealthy Left:

So we are on dangerous ground. History gives evidence of no civilization that survived long as purely secular and without a god, that put its trust in reason alone, and believed human nature was subject to radical improvement given enough capital and learning invested in the endeavor. The failure of our elites to amplify their traditions they received, and to believe them to be not merely different but far better than the alternatives, is also a symptom of crisis in all societies of the past, whether Demosthenes’ Athens, late imperial Rome, 18th-century France, or Western Europe of the 1920s. Nothing is worse that an elite that demands egalitarianism for others but ensures privilege for itself. And rarely, we know, are civilization’s suicides a result of the influence of too many of the poor rather than of the wealthy.

This column by Prof. Hanson is eloquent warning of the loss of backbone in Western Civilization. A civilization that will not allow its history and traditions to be taught in schools–and free expression and debate to take place–will inevitably die, and I think Prof. Hanson’s words should be read by all in Washington, Ottawa and the capitals of Europe.

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