The Greatness of Western Civilization
Western culture, claim the intellectuals, is in no way superior to that of African tribalists or Eskimo seal hunters. There are three fundamental respects in which Western culture is objectively the best. These are the core values or core achievements of Western civilization, and what made America great. The Greeks were the first to identify philosophically that knowledge is gained through reason and logic as opposed to mysticism. The rule of reason reached its zenith in the West in the 18th century – the Age of Enlightenment. “For the first time in modern history,” writes one philosopher, “An authentic respect for reason became the mark of an entire culture.” America is a product of the Enlightenment. An indispensable achievement leading to the Enlightenment was the recognition of the concept of individual rights. The individual, said Locke, has an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of his own happiness. The triumph of reason and rights made possible the full development and application of science and technology and ultimately modern industrial society. Reason and rights freed man’s mind from the tyranny of religious dogma and freed man’s productive capacity from the tyranny of state control. The result of the core achievements of Western civilization has been an increase in freedom, wealth, health, comfort, and life expectancy unprecedented in the history of the world. The achievements were greatest in the country where the principles of reason and rights were implemented most consistently – the United States of America. Pro-life cultures acknowledge and respect man’s nature as a rational being who must discover and create the conditions which his survival and happiness require – which means that they advocate reason, rights, freedom, and technological progress. Despite its undeniable triumphs, Western civilization is by no means secure. Its core principles are under attack from every direction – by religious fanatics, by dictators and, most disgracefully, by Western intellectuals, who are denouncing reason in the name of skepticism, rights in the name of special entitlements, and progress in the name of environmentalism.
“Dark Enlightenment”: The neo-fascist philosophy that underpins both the alt-right and Silicon Valley technophiles
In contrast, the tech elites in Silicon Valley look like a relatively worldly bunch, despite the calls from some quarters of the valley to break away from the plebeian masses of the US. But despite their differences, strands of the two groups share strong links to “Dark Enlightenment,” an obscure neo-fascist philosophy started by a British academic in the 1990s. The primary figure behind Dark Enlightenment is Nick Land, who was a philosophy professor at Warwick University until he quit academia in 1998. Land has never been a typical academic, and that shows in his writing. Land’s writings on in his blog and twitter can read like an alt-right rant, and comment sections on the far-right outlet Breitbart are apt to mention his work. The major proponent of the movement other than Land is software engineer Curtis Yarvin, who blogs as “Mencius Moldbug.” While most Silicon Valley techies are unaware of and uninterested in Dark Enlightenment, there are notable figures and ideas that seem to share intellectual heritage and connections with the movement. Growing Silicon Valley interest in creating a small, separate state is straight out of Land’s writing. Of course, both Silicon Valley and Dark Enlightenment are products of and devotees to internet culture. Noys notes that certain values in Silicon Valley are vaguely sympathetic to Land’s thinking. Land says that, though he expects Dark Enlightenment micro-states to first form on islands, Silicon Valley is “Bound to be involved in the process” as these societies form. The alt right and Silicon Valley are not the only two cliques with ties to Dark Enlightenment thinking. A London gallery, LD50, was shut down amid protests after Land was invited to talk at the gallery, providing a platform for Dark Enlightenment ideas. Land’s theories sound easily dismissible, and Nick Land is still largely unknown, but his neo-fascist ideas are finding niches where they flourish. Land, who has long perceived himself as a visionary, firmly believes that society and government as we know it will break down and his vision for the future will come to pass. “The crack-up is obvious to everyone,” Land writes.
A study of the relationship between the rise of democratic institutions and the development of other aspects of society may help us better understand and more effectively harness the power of democracy. In the intellectual sphere it gave rise to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, in the field of religion to the Reformation, in economy to the rise of capitalism, in politics to the rise of democracy. The idea of universe human rights and freedoms which we now identify as the essence of democracy was at first cited as a justification for redistribution of power to the commercial class and only much later as a principle for extending rights and privileges to all citizens. The people’s existence was made subordinate to the rights and arbitrary rule of monarchs, feudal lords and priests. A rigid structure of governance, economic activity controlled by feudal lords and thought defined by religion ruled society. The feudal system maintained a delicate balance between the rights and power of feudal lords and those of the central monarch. The rise of city-states undermined the power of rural, land-based feudal kingdoms and created an alternative source of support for the monarch. The shift to a new system of wage payments for agricultural labor not only increased agricultural productivity, but also freed peasants from permanent ties to their feudal rulers. Under the feudal system, ownership of land was the principle source of wealth and power. Their direct power was limited to their own feudal domain or manors. The rise of a money economy, the revival of commerce, the rise of guild and communes, the decline of feudalism and the accumulation of agricultural surpluses provided the basis for economic recovery and significant material progress. Till the 15th century, England was a cluster of counties divided among various feudal lords with a monarch dependent on them for military and financial support. The growth of the nation-state diminished the importance of feudal lords. With the growth of a money economy, the feudal lords found the serf labor less competent than free labor. Many merchants demanded communal freedom of the towns from the feudal lords.