The Very Bad Great Books (FREE)

Then, let us begin, not as Rousseau does (In his "Essay on Inequality"), by setting aside the facts, but by looking the truth in the face.  Multi-culturalism is a particularly virulent movement of cultural genocide designed to eliminate European Christian culture and its traditions.

It was not invented in the 1960’s or even in the 1920’s when French communists and surrealists “forged” all the arguments that have been repeated ad nauseam by Frantz Fanon, Edward Said and the current promoters of multi-culturalism.

The creators of this multi-cultural revolution were, in fact, among the writers included in any list of the Great Books: Michel de Montaigne and Bishop Fénelon, Voltaire and Rousseau, John Locke himself and his American disciple Ben Franklin.  Some of the revolutionaries were merely looking for weapons to use in a local war agains the power of the king or the church or as a means of defending their own sexual proclivities, but most of them—beginning with Montaigne himself—write in that sneering sophomoric tone we have all heard so many times, from high-school biology teachers preaching nothing but Darwin and him misinterpreted, or from complete ignoramuses like Anderson Cooper, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins, when they attack Christianity or American traditions.

The Suicide of the West is not simply the surrender to Bolshevism or even the refusal to confront insurgent Islam.  It did not begin with the Communist Manifesto or even The French Revolution.  It began during the Renaissance, when Western intellectuals began to chafe at the restrictions imposed by Christianity.

It was then that the myth of the Dark Age was invented, a time of religious bigotry and persecution, of intolerance to diversity and of sexual repression, when science and human aspirations to fulfillment were ignored and despised.   The revolution is a set of interlocking rebellions agains human nature or, to put it in Christian terms, against man made in the image of God—the infamy, as Voltaire termed it, of "the consubstantial"--namely, Christ.

There are many different phases and forms of  rebellion.  Let me list a few of the major ones: the rejection of the divinity of Christ, a skeptical view of religion that represents all religious sects as more or less the same and treats any peculiarly Christian doctrines as a defect, the relentless pursuit of secret wisdom that will allow the magician or scientist to control the powers of nature, the rejection of Christian morality and even common decency and the elevation of the Playboy Philosophy above all moralities, the growing conviction that while all religions and cultures are equal, some are equaler than others—hence the craze for oriental wisdom and the secrets of the Pyramid-builders.  Finally, the cult of the natural man who is identified with the savage.  There are more, such as deism and nominalism, but this will do for a start.

Viewed in retrospect and in comparison with latter-day revolutionaries, Montaigne, Voltaire, and Locke seem moderate, and downright conservative. That is partly because most self-described conservatives today are more than halfway committed to the revolution.  What counts, however, is not how they might be viewed if they were alive today, but what they accomplished in their own time.  This means, unfortunately, that the uncritical celebration of the Great Books—including the works of Montaigne and Montesquieu, Francis Bacon, Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke is a remedy worse than the disease.  Indeed, these men are the originators of the disease.  It is as if I were to develop a mild case of emphysema after smoking a pack of cigarettes every day, and the doctor were to tell me what I really needed was not to give up smoking altogether but to smoke two packs of old-fashioned Turkish cigarettes laced with latakia every day.

I am not saying that everyone who praises another culture is guilty of hating his own cultural tradition.  Herodotus took great delight in describing the customs of Egyptians, Persians, and Scythians, but he was a true-blue Greek with a great curiosity.  Praising the virtues of aliens can also  be a form of constructive criticism.  When Tacitus praised the decency and heroism of the Germans, he was making the point that Romans had degenerated from their pristine virtues, but he was not a self-hating Roman.

The yearning to search for adventure in exotic places  has been  in the blood of European man since the days of Ulysses.  The first real American is Captain John Smith, who leapt at the chance, first to fight the Turks in Hungary and then to explore the New World.  When a place becomes too civilized, some Americans may, like Huck Finn, “light out for the territory.”  Robinson Crusoe is one of our greatest literary heroes.  Crusoe’s mastery over nature--and over his savage slave Friday--expresses the West’s sometimes contemptuous sense of superiority over other cultures.  He rescues Friday from the dinner party at which he was to be the main course, and Friday becomes his slave along with other people Crusoe picks up.  As a European he is a natural master and recreates a bit of England using tools he rescues from his wrecked ship.

In the 500 year-long iconoclastic age that is just now coming to an end, icons are made only to be broken, and in such films as Man Friday (1975) and more particularly in Crusoe (1988), starring “Rockford’s own” Aidan Quinn, the European is viewed as the enemy of nature and the destroyer of all that is real and authentic in human life.  Crusoe, however, has a happy ending: Quinn finally wakes up, after being subjected to a properly multi-cultural indoctrination, joins the other side, and liberates a slave from a European ship.

The indoctrination given to Crusoe is virtually identical with the cultural education given to American (and European) students at every level.  If the old “bigotry” taught us “European good, others bad,” the new bigotry, without ever enlightening students on the facts of Chinese civilization or Aztec culture, simply reverses the terms.  There is nothing new in this argument, and anyone with an old-fashioned education should be able to trace the anti-Western tradition back to 18th century French intellectuals such as Voltaire and Montesquieu, who used oriental aliens as positive foils for debunking their own country’s traditions.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

4 Responses

  1. Allen Wilson says:

    Years ago, about 25 years in fact, I bought a volume of the writings of de Sade. In those days I had no idea, and had been led by the media to believe that de Sade was an important philosophical writer. Perusing it a couple times cured me of that delusion, but I kept it for years because I had spent money on it, but never read it. Several weeks ago, after procrastinating on the grounds that it could be used for reference, it finally went into the landfill. I perused it again first, and found a passage of dialogue between two characters where he tried to justify abortion on the grounds that the Romans exposed infants, and of course he didn’t deal with the reality of what usually happened when an infant was exposed, and only assumed that they all died. Perhaps he didn’t know the facts of the case to begin with. I was astonished and appalled at the glowing praise of the writings of de Sade which appeared on the back cover, written by some allegedly knowledgeable intellectual (saying something to the effect that de Sade “forces us to reexamine our beliefs, blah, blah”. The sewer runs deep and wide.

  2. James D. says:

    Mr. Wilson, a few years ago, some friends and I collected all of the tripe we were forced to buy and read in college. Over some drinks and more than one reference to 1984, we put them, one-by-one, into the wood stove.

  3. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Sade only has one merit: He was so sick that he actually says right out what his more timid contemporaries thought in their hearts. There is a famous story–true or not–that he was put on a revolutionary tribunal and then criticized for not sending suspects to the guillotine. Sade responded, “Kill for pleasure–yes. For justice–never.”

    He also saw that abortion rights were essential to hedonism, but, then, killing even the unborn was for him a pleasure.

  4. Alexander Coleman says:

    Wonderful piece, Dr. Fleming. I’ll never forget how you closed one article over a decade ago, that Marx and Smith, Locke and Hobbes, they are all just disparate roads to the same madhouse. It rings truer each time I peruse the “Great Books,” though some turns of phrase and bits of ideas may be commendable by themselves, the whole is dissatisfying.

    Locke’s naivete concerning Islam would make for a potentially useful subject to analyze as foreshadowing to the west’s capitulation to the religion of peace.