Civilisations are not easy concepts to define, but can be seen as a mix of culture, identity, heritage and values resulting from various historical events. They are not created overnight and although civilisations change over time, they do not change overnight either without a revolution and an inevitable societal disintegration. In respect of European and more widely Western civilisation, there is often confusion or even a complete lack of knowledge about what it represents. Some pretend this civilisation does not exist or it is somehow responsible for all the world’s problems; others consider the whole debate about civilisations belongs to the political extreme right so there is nothing to discuss. If indeed the Western civilisation represents nothing or represents evil as suggested by political, economic or cultural Marxists or by others not thinking, then the West will not survive as we have known it. Indeed, no civilisation can survive in this situation for the obvious reason that there is no agreement about what constitutes its fundamental base and no wish for it to continue. Countries (or blocs of countries like the European Union) simply become geographical spaces like international airports with different people inside, but no common foundations.
How do civilisations collapse?
The answer is from a mix of internal dissent or external conquest or both when forces destroying them are more unified and cohesive than the civilisation being replaced. Historical examples are numerous and proved time and again as witnessed by the disappearance of the Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Mameluke, Ottoman, Russian, French, British, Spanish and Portuguese Empires just to name some created in or around Europe. Elsewhere, the Aztecs, Incas, Mayas no longer exist in the Americas, nor do various dynasties and Empires in China or Japan etc. Disappearing civilisations are rarely replaced peacefully. At best internal dissent leads to relatively bloodless collapse as with the Soviet Union in 1991, but more often it leads to civil wars as seen in Europe during the 20th century in ex-Yugoslavia, Greece, Spain and Portugal. Alternatively, external forces take over such as when Nazism was militarily defeated in 1945. Nearly everyone might agree that almost anything replacing Nazism is better, but sometimes the replacing system is worse and Nazi Germany itself replaced the weak, but nevertheless democratic Weimar Republic. Russian Czarism, although totally undemocratic and even feudal, was replaced by something far worse in what became the Soviet Union. Colonies of the former British/French Empires became independent mostly between 1945 and around 1970, sometimes following wars, sometimes by agreement. Without defending colonial conquest, whether the newly independent country is better for their populations than the previous status is uncertain.
The non-triumph of Western democracy
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to many to imagine that Western liberal democracy would succeed everywhere and become the final and normal form of government. Fukuyama argued in “The End of History and the Last Man” (1992) precisely that, an opinion greeted by predictable if what turned out to be naïve enthusiasm. As a response to his former student, Huntington disagreed in “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” (1993) arguing that future wars would not be between countries, but between 9 distinct civilisations: Western, Orthodox, Hinduism, Chinese, Japanese, Latin-American, African, Buddhism and Islam. Huntington suggested that Islam was the biggest, but not the only threat to the West a controversial opinion leading to much debate at the time of real free speech in the 1990s. (Today, Huntington might be ‘cancelled’ and his views possibly classified as illegal ‘hate crime’ contrary to islamophobia laws.) Fukuyama was certainly not correct since few countries have rushed into adapting Western systems of government as the failure of the Arab Spring revolutions proved a few years ago. Huntington was not correct either; wars also exist inside the same civilisation such as between Sunni and Shi’ite muslims and within Christianity in Europe both historically and even today as seen in the war between Russia and Ukraine. The issue is complicated, but the basic idea of agreeing about fundamentals is valid for any civilisation to survive.
Yet in ‘progressive’ Western thinking, politicians and pressure groups make speeches rewriting history, statues are removed, names are changed and sometimes the central foundations of society are denied as if houses can be built starting with the roof. Identity politics sees all history from a racial or sexual orientation perspective and others see economic factors as the sole explanation. These theories are not only doubtful, but overly simplistic, the proof being that there are so many of them that by definition any one of them alone cannot be the explanation. The racial version is currently fashionable with white people supposed to be automatically racist having a privileged status compared to black people, an assertion itself perfectly racist. It leads to permanent grievance cultures and societies in this situation will also collapse for the reasons mentioned. (The same nonsense says heterosexuals automatically oppress homosexuals who in turn oppress transexuals. White male heterosexuals are the worst of all oppressing everyone else especially women and blacks with Donald Trump being the worst example. Try saying that to the record number of Black Americans who voted for him…)
‘Diversity is strength’ some say, but back in the real world, the more monocultural societies have the prima facie advantage of social cohesion since the vast majority of the population are likely to agree with its main principles and objectives. Examples include Sweden until 20 years ago and Japan, Taiwan or South Korea today. This is precisely the justification in Central/Eastern Europe against extra-European immigration in general and against Muslim immigration from anywhere. Some West European political leaders find this approach racist, but perhaps they should consider whether Central/East European countries are more socially cohesive today than their own countries. French opinion polls show 65% of people believe that Muslim immigration is not compatible with French values and poses a risk for peaceful coexistence. Indeed, Danish and Swedish politicians including those on the political left now state clearly that multicultural integration has failed and Denmark places illegal immigrants on offshore islands. Recent elections of the populist right, described as fascist by their critics is likely to see similar measures. Traditionally, immigration policy was for each country to decide rather than international institution like the EU or the UN. Some welcome this approach, but not this author for reasons of national democratic accountability. Obviously if a specific country votes for open borders, then precisely the public have voted for it; if they vote for restricted or closed borders, the same point applies.
Attempts to create monocultural societies
No society is completely monocultural and these societies either exist or not for historical reasons and can be maintained if the political leaders wish it following their democratic mandate. What cannot be done is to try to create monocultural societies artificially, the worst example being based on racial purity theories as in Nazi Germany. This obscenity led to an industrial genocide of 6 million European Jews considered as Untermenschen (sub-humans) and the execution of 1 million homosexuals, gypsies, communists, christians and mentally ill also not fitting the stereotype. (Poland has just claimed € 1,3 trillion compensation against Germany, 77 years after the end of World War 2.) Regrettably, racism seems to be a human characteristic among all peoples, (but not all people) and those suggesting otherwise are looking the other way. There are too many examples: 800 000 Tutsis were slaughtered in Ruanda by Hutus during 3 months in 1994, the millions of Chinese and Koreans massacred by the Japanese before and during World War 2 and 1,5 million Armenians killed by Turks in the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War 1.
(European Empire colonisation also led to deaths of many indigenous peoples, but not usually deliberately with an intention of creating a racially pure and artificial monocultural society, but essentially for spreading Christianity and/or gaining economic power.)
Attempts to create uniform religious opinion has been seen in numerous conflicts. European wars between Christians lasted for centuries and elsewhere millions of Muslims have died in Sunni-Shi’ite disputes over Islamic doctrine, an obvious example being Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. The much-discussed Israel-Palestine dispute has led to about 80 000 deaths since Israel was recreated in 1948, (about 25000 Jews and 55000 Muslims,) but over 5 million Muslims have died during the same time in intra-Muslim wars that continue today in Syria or Yemen with less media attention and in some cases none at all.
Attempts to create uniform political opinions has led to perhaps even worse results. The Soviet policy of forced industrialisation and farm collectivisation in the 1920/30s led to a deliberate decision to starve to death about 5 million Ukrainians who then welcomed the Nazi invasion as a liberation. In the 1950-60s, similar Chinese objectives during the ‘Great Leap Forward’ from Mao Zedong led to estimates varying from 15-65 million deaths from famine and suicide. The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s killed 25% of its own population in an attempt to impose standardised thinking. It continues today with millions of North Korean victims because of ‘Juche’ philosophy and an unknown number following Chinese repression in Tibet and among Uighur Muslims.
As a response to these atrocious examples and with people mixing more with international travel and immigration, multiculturalist ideas developed in the West by the 1980s. In the West today, (but not all over the world) it is considered normal that all citizens should be treated equally whatever their origins and various Western constitutions specifically say so. However, as a basis for society, multiculturalism is much more than legal equality and accepting cultural diversity, but proposes 3 extra ideas:
1) that any cultural mix can coexist, a theory belonging to Hollywood/Bollywood. Apart from those believing in cultural invasion and replacement of the host society, most people agree that minorities arriving should adapt to the majority and not the contrary. Therefore, minorities should integrate with the majority culture which assumes that the minorities wish to do so and that their heritage is sufficiently compatible with majority culture for it to happen. It also presupposes that the majority agree about their core values since it is hardly the fault of minorities for not integrating if it is unclear into what. This is seen with mixed messages when Western countries offer social welfare to polygamous fathers or illegal immigrants who are treated better than local, law-abiding citizens. Politicians defending these practices claim to be open-minded and generous; most are frightened of being accused of racism.
2) that societies should not be based on any specific cultural model, the ludicrous idea mentioned previously that countries have no dominant cultural heritage as if they arrived from nowhere. Both the current French President and Canadian Prime Minister have recently affirmed that there is no central cultural base in their countries. Whether they actually believe it and are totally ignorant is doubtful; a more likely explanation is woke virtue signalling by politicians trying to capture minority votes.
3) that cultural relativism should apply suggesting that if different cultures exist in a society, then necessarily they are all of equal importance and it is racist to suggest otherwise. In 2014, ex-President Obama referred to “achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation.” The speech did refer to other religions, but the claim is absurd since Muslim presence in the USA was almost non-existent until the 1980s. Worse still is moral relativism suggesting that any behaviour related to cultural origins is acceptable so perhaps cannibalism has the same value as the Enlightenment? Social Justice Warriors play the anti-racism card again when proclaiming that tolerance of minorities means accepting all their ideas and that everything is a matter of opinion. This is nonsense; if nothing is right nor wrong, there are no basic values and anarchy replaces societal cohesion.
The idea that the US melting pot proves that multiculturalism can succeed without a basic heritage is untrue for 2 reasons: firstly, as those who have lived in the USA know, the different ethnic groups in the USA do not mix as much as Hollywood suggests; secondly and contrary to ex-President Obama’s opinion, what became the USA was created on a specific civilizational model with a Judeo-Christian heritage whose basic ideas were accepted by almost all Americans whatever their personal beliefs and origins. The US Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Some Founding Fathers signing this Declaration of Independence were slave owners so the concept requires nuancing, but the objectives are noble. The Liberty Bell, used by abolitionists of slavery quotes directly from the Hebrew Bible, Leviticus Chapter 25-10 with “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”) As said, societies collapse without agreement about basic values and it was precisely disagreements about slavery that led to the American Civil War. The fact that the 10 Commandments also from the Hebrew Bible are displayed outside the US Supreme Court again shows the religious origin of the USA.
People with diverse heritages moving and settling around the world do not automatically become like those in their new host country. French people do not suddenly become Chinese by moving to China so why is it expected that those moving from African or Islamic societies to Europe suddenly become European? By assimilation or integration they could do so and their children or grandchildren even more so, but this also assumes that ‘being European’ (or Western) actually means something. Traditionally, this refers to 5 main ideas:
1) Christian (or Judeo-Christian) religious heritage
European religious heritage dates from the acceptance and/or imposition of Christianity over centuries from about 400 CE to 1200 CE, but Europe was never exclusively Christian. Islamic conquest from North Africa started in 711 CE and led to a Muslim heritage in Spain and Portugal for over 700 years until the ‘Reconquista’ by Catholic Monarchs enforced by the Inquisition from 1478. The Ottoman conquest in South-Eastern Europe until it was stopped militarily just outside Vienna in 1683 meant another Muslim heritage until the 19th century when independence movements succeeded in re-establishing Christianity in Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria and Rumania. The Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1922, but its European legacy today are Muslim majorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo. (In modern Turkey, only the region around Istanbul is in Europe.) With (legal and illegal) immigration since the 1970s, Muslims now represent about 8% of West European populations, but considerably more in some countries and considerably more in the age group producing children. Since Muslims on average have 2 x more children than non-Muslims, demographers estimate a Muslim majority in 2 or 3 generations in some West European countries.
Jews had originally settled in Europe before Christianity even developed, probably arriving in Marseille with the Greeks 2600 years ago when the city was founded and certainly arriving with the Romans 2000 years ago. However, for invented anti-Semitic reasons (Jews kill Christian babies for their blood to make unleavened bread, Jews poison Christians by infecting wells etc,) for centuries Jews in Europe suffered discrimination. This included massacres (pogroms), torture, forced conversions, having their property confiscated and ultimately being expelled, starting from England in 1290 and copied elsewhere. (Expulsions varied from a few years in parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to 450 years in Spain, but Jews were eventually allowed back into Europe for reasons developed in another blog.)
There is some debate whether Western religious heritage should be described as Christian or Judeo-Christian, but what is certain is that its fundamental principles come from Judaism and concerns 2 main beliefs: firstly, there is one unique God, literally indescribable and responsible for everything in the universe including creating mankind in His (spiritual) image. Human life requires protection as God made men and women perfectly, but gave mankind a free will to act that has most definitely not always been used acceptably. Secondly, the fundamental base of society should be the Bible’s 10 Commandments given by God to Moses on Mont Sinai, then by Moses to the Jews as God’s ‘selected’ or ‘chosen’ people for all humanity. For Jews, this part of the Bible is the Torah (‘law’ or ‘teaching’) and followers of the (Jewish) Jesus logically accepted these Commandments as sacred, becoming Christians believing Jesus to be the Messiah (‘Christ’ in Greek.) Christians consider the Torah as the Old Testament or part of the Hebrew Bible improved by the New Testament relating the life of Jesus and what became Christian faith and doctrine.
Just about everyone knows the 10 Commandments: there is only one God, you do not worship idols, you do not take God’s name in vain, you do not kill, you do not steal, you do not commit adultery, you do not lie, you honour your parents, you must not be jealous about material possessions of others and you take a day of rest every week. ‘Rest’ in Hebrew is ‘sabbath’ and is on Saturday for Jews. Since ‘Saturday’ is translated as sabato, sabado, sobota, суббоmа (subbota) in different European languages, the religious origin is clear. (Christians and Muslims changed their day of rest to Sunday and Friday later although some minority Christian groups still keep Saturday.) The 10 Commandments are always displayed in synagogues and often in or near churches, courts and parliaments in Europe and other Western heritage countries such as said above, outside the US Supreme Court. Being near courts proves the obvious point that not everyone obeys them.
It is not suggested that those of different religions, philosophies or faiths or none (Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Sheikhs, Shintoists, Confucians, atheists or agnostics etc) are unable to agree with these ideas in the 10 Commandments. The issue should be whether they accept this heritage as part of Western civilisation which equally assumes that this heritage is defended by politicians despite allegations of racism, intolerance, islamophobia etc
Some Western democracies such as France or the USA are constitutionally secular meaning there is no official state religion and secularism indeed developed from a principle that all citizens should be treated equally whatever their beliefs. However, many European countries have an official state religion of Christianity and still accept religious freedom as in England, Malta, Denmark, Italy, Iceland, Greece, Poland, Norway or Hungary. In practice, Western democracies with an official religion mean little more than the Head of State follows that religion and perhaps it is taught in public schools, but with the possibility for those from other religions to opt-out. Public holidays often follow Christian festivals, but they also do in secular France and the USA. Christianity no longer dominates daily life in much of Europe although it does in parts of the USA and Latin-America; Christian heritage and traditions exist and it influences social behaviour more than realised. (More people attend church services than go to football matches.) Public buildings such as courts and schools might have symbols like a crucifix and Sunday commercial activity is limited. Christian influence on politics has declined, but not disappeared with European political parties describing themselves as Christian-Democrat or similar even though they attract non-Christian voters.
2) Greek philosophy
The origins of Greek philosophy date from around 600 years BCE with the aim of finding answers to the mysteries of the world in a non-religious way, but the Greek philosophers were partly influenced by Jewish religious traditions since Judaism was already established. Indeed, some of these philosophical concepts already existed in the Torah/Old Testament that was first translated from the original Hebrew into Greek in Alexandria about 300 years BCE, at precisely the most important moment in Greek philosophical development. (Now in Egypt, Alexandria was then part of the Greek Empire and the New Testament was originally written in Greek as the ‘lingua franca’ at the time around 50-100 years after the death of Jesus/Christ.)
Greek philosophy emphasised the power of reason compared to religious beliefs that are sometimes illogical and absurd scientifically. Socrates developed questions and potential answers to test philosophical theories and make them more understandable. Plato, a generation later considered that justice required philosopher Kings responsible for enforcing laws and holding property in common. (Property then included women, children and slaves, so the semantic roots of democracy from demos (people) and kratos power were not as now understood.) Aristotle suggested that empirical observation of behaviour should carry more weight when organising societies. Greek philosophy gave the intellectual base to the Renaissance in Europe from the about the 14th until the 17th centuries, in particular after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the migration of Greek scholars to Italy fleeing the Ottomans. Renaissance humanism holds that mankind is the origin of most or all things and there was an enormous expansion of inventions, art, music, science, architecture and literature during this time. The huge development was partly due to the printing press developed by Gutenberg around 1440.
The Enlightenment (or Age of Reason, Lumières, Aufklärung…) developed in the 18th century at more or less the same time in various European countries. Descartes, Locke, Goethe, Bacon, Spinoza, Smith, Kant, Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Beccaria, Hume etc all argued for what could be described as liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity and constitutional government. They also all held the view that religious beliefs, outside political control, should be based on reason not superstitions nor automatically on established practice. These philosophers came from various nationalities, backgrounds and religions, but they all agreed that society should be based on a mix of scientific explanation accompanied by the freedom to interpret and to reason. Some tried to reconcile religious dogma with objective observations whereas others were more radical and tried to abolish all non-scientific thinking. Some focused on economic development as in England, whereas others were more interested in anti-religious or anti-monarchy sentiments as in France.
Modern European thought recognises the importance of ideas and reason as well as religious faith, but the exact balance between the 2 is (by definition) uncertain. Beliefs are necessary to make sense of the world as not everything in the universe can be explained by science. Since the quantity of scientific knowledge has increased vastly in recent times, this can lead to the view that everything is already known or will be discovered or the entirely opposite view that everything is not known and will never be completely discovered. Animals hear and see things that are impossible for humans so a purely rational, scientific approach is inadequate. To suggest that there are no absolute truths and that ideas can be debated is the fundamental contribution of Greek philosophy to modern European identity. A long and impressive list of philosophical concepts come from the Greek language: theory, hubris, fantasy, ethics, synonym, metaphysics, metaphor, democracy, phenomenon, analogy, mythology, analysis etc. Modern debate would be impossible without these ideas, but European Christianity did not encourage debate historically and Islam still does not.
3) The Roman Empire
In 27 BCE, the Roman Republic that had lasted 500 years and conquered huge areas around the Mediterranean was replaced by the Roman Empire when Julius Cesar’s adopted son was given unchallengeable powers following his victory and annexation of Egypt 4 years before. The apotheosis (another Greek word) was in 117 CE following wars won by Roman legions and at the time this vast empire was the most extensive and complete political and social structure ever seen until the worldwide British Empire in the 19th century. The Roman Empire became too big to be governed by one central authority in Rome so in 285 CE was divided into a Western Empire managed from Rome and an Eastern or Byzantine Empire in Constantinople. However, the Western Roman Empire disintegrated relatively quickly after from internal decadence and by immigration from what is now Germany accompanied by a lack of assimilation and refusal to accept loyalty to the Emperor. In 476 CE, the last Western Emperor Romulus Augustus abdicated to the German warlord Odoacer who placed himself under the rule of the Eastern Emperor rather than naming himself Emperor in the West. The Western part effectively ended at that point leading to a historical debate as to whether there were 2 Roman Empires or only one that was divided.
(The Roman Empire should not be confused with the Holy Roman Empire that as someone once said was none of the 3, but a heterogeneous collection of cities, principalities, regions and small states ruled by various Kings and Emperors. It covered a large region of what is now modern Germany and territories around it from about 800 CE until 1800 CE as a vague attempt to replace the Western Roman Empire, but it achieved little despite its longevity and was the theatre for many religious wars. It was replaced by nation states in the 19th century.)
Pagan religions in the Roman Empire meant praying to gods with rituals and sacrifice rather than any faith or dogma. Jews were hated since they believed in one literally indescribable God at the origin of the universe and not gods created by Emperors at any particular moment. Sun, moons, stars, thunder and other objects contributed to Roman Empire rituals, but Jews and later on Christians refused to accept these ideas since in monotheist religions including Islam (later), God has no form. (Christians accepted some pagan ideas later including the Sabbath on the ‘Sun day’ and the birth of Jesus on the festival of the winter solstice.)
A major legacy of the Roman Empire was the development from Latin used in the Western Empire into the modern languages of Spanish, Catalan, French, Portuguese, Rumanian and Italian. (Greek was more important in the Eastern Roman Empire until the 15th century, but declined with Muslim conquest). All the official scripts in modern Europe, (Latin, Greek and Cyrillic) descend from systems used in the Roman Empire and Latin script is the most used in the world. The modern Western calendar is a version of Julius Cesar’s calendar with days relating to planets and the moon (although there is some evidence that the original idea came from Ancient Egypt). Roman architecture made a huge impact on urban development and inventions included apartments, public toilets, locks, keys, indoor plumbing and heating plus enormous developments in road, bridge and aqueduct construction.
Another legacy of the Roman Empire concerns legal matters. Justinian’s texts, named after the Eastern Emperor, date from about 500 CE and highly influenced German civil law and the Napoleonic code which are the origins of the Roman Law system used in Europe today. (The alternative in the Western world is the English Common Law that logically spread to the previous British colonies and exists in about the same number of countries). The idea that arrests had to be justified by being written previously and not simply by arbitrary decision came from the Roman Republic 400 years before the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire’s Separation of Powers was the Senate, Assembly and Magistrates with the plebeians able to check the power of the patricians. In US and other Western countries, political life today has vetoes, filibusters, quorums, impeachments and regular elections which were all in the Roman Constitution. Another important contribution of the Roman Empire concerns public administration with its provinces and governors perfectly recognisable in Europe today.
4) Rule of Law
What is now understood as the Rule of Law originated in the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire as well as the famous ‘Magna Carta’ or Grand Charter from England in 1215. This established the idea of Habeas Corpus (‘that you have the body’) preventing unlawful detention without reason and due process, thus indirectly limiting the King’s power. Revolutionary movements such as the US and French Revolutions starting in 1775 and 1789 respectively have always emphasised the ideas of equality and a limit to governmental powers. (In dictatorships, the reality has been the exact opposite with absolute privilege for the ruling élite and discrimination or persecution against those disagreeing.)
Therefore the Rule of Law includes the fundamental idea is that of equality before the law so limiting the power of rulers. (There is also a religious connection since the idea assumes that the rulers in question are not absolutely powerful, but are subject to some kind of higher power or God. Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong were all violently anti-religious.) In Western countries today, equality before the law is more and more questioned with, for example, phobia laws protecting Muslims, but not Jews, Christians or other religions. Another example concerns laws allowing transgender men now considering themselves women to compete in sports events against women and usually winning being physically stronger. There are many examples of positive discrimination, theoretically to prevent discrimination, but leading to other discrimination, the absurd and extreme example being critical race theory where white people are said to be automatically and institutionally racist.
The Rule of law also suggests that laws are supposed to be clear and understandable with the obvious idea that citizens know what they should or should not do. An application of this involving Human Rights) is that defendants in criminal trials have the right to defend themselves and be legally represented. In civil disputes such as disputed contracts or negligence claims allegedly leading to physical harm or financial loss, this idea does not apply since the dispute is private between those concerned rather than the traditional criminal idea of a public interest. (Class or group actions to share costs of legal representation are controversial since claimants have not suffered exactly the same prejudice.) Another idea is that laws should not be retrospective since although being unaware of a law is no defence, defendants should not be guilty after doing something legal, but which became illegal afterwards such as a retrospective tax rule to catch tax avoiders who become illegal tax evaders; this is popular with the general public, but is manifestly wrong in principle.
Perhaps the best-known idea is the Separation of Powers where an executive or government tries to influence the legislative (Parliament, National Assembly, Congress), but cannot force it to act. Politicians must accept that their powers are limited not unlimited and arbitrary. (Using emergency powers for obvious non-emergencies is the obvious danger and seen in recent events concerning climate and Covid.) As the role of judges is to interpret the law as decided by the legislature, the Rule of Law therefore includes independence of judges from political interference, even if there needs to be some system of judicial selection or election with direct or indirect democratic control. This Separation of Powers exists in all Western constitutions and in the UK without a written constitution. It is a clear objective of the US Constitution with ‘checks and balances’ based on Montesquieu’s ‘L’esprit des lois’ in 1748.
5) Human Rights
All European countries are members of the Council of Europe, are signatories to the European Convention of Human Rights and accept the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and the International Court of Justice. The exact content of what constitutes Human Rights is controversial, but most agree that it includes:
- Freedom of speech with limits and exceptions including: incitement to violence, incitement to racial hatred (most countries), holocaust denial (some countries), defamation (everywhere) meaning saying or writing untruths about a person having the effect of lowering their reputation, defence secrets or breaking copyrights, patents or other legally protected intellectual property. (Private opinions are never illegal for the obvious reason that it is impossible to control private thoughts).
- Liberty for journalists to write and report what they like within legal limits as explained in the above paragraph although disagreements exist concerning interpretations.
- Protection for those unable to defend (do business) themselves (children, mentally ill, the unborn?)
- Criminal punishments that are not “cruel and unusual” from the English Bill of Rights, 1689 and copied in the 8th Amendment to the US constitution in 1791; death penalties are or are not cruel and unusual according to your point of view. ‘Enhanced interrogation’ techniques are also acceptable (or not) depending on your view when security forces deal with terrorism.
- Right to defend oneself and close family including the right to be armed to do so in the case of the controversial 2nd amendment to the US constitution.
- Right to own private property and not just to use state owned property:
- Right not to pay confiscatory taxation and not to have private property confiscated unless reasonable compensation paid and the confiscation legally justified such as for building new roads.
- Right to trade locally, nationally or internationally, to create businesses and to make profit and the right to respect contracts as voluntarily agreed by those involved.
- Liberty of association for meetings, political parties, pressure groups or trade unions including for groups with restricted and invited members such as freemasons, alcoholics anonymous or prestigious golf clubs.
- Equality between sexes for divorce, childcare and job opportunities; (women on average earn 15% less than men in Europe, but have the same salary for the same work, the difference being explained by careers interrupted when having children and choice of certain jobs)
- Protection of the rights of sexual minorities against sexual orientation discrimination
- Protection of gypsies or others with lifestyle minority behaviour
- Freedom of travel, to move inside a country or to change nationality if the rules of the host country are respected, subject to legally justified limitations such as terrorism
- Freedom to change religion, to criticise religions, to convert others, to marry outside religion, to have no religion and to deny the existence of God.
Some of these rights are contradictory and many of them very recent. Some traditionally associated with Western thinking are under attack like the right to free speech dealt with in another blog. The right to strike has to be protected, but others have the right to work. The rights of homosexuals to adopt children should be balanced with the right of children to have parents of different sexes unless sex is no longer binary. Freedom of speech might or might not include the right to blaspheme. The protection of tiny minorities against the wishes of the majority is a huge issue seen where transsexuals compete in women’s sports because that is how they identify and they usually win being physically stronger. The list of issues associated with Human Rights is long and it is the contention of this author that the right balance is no longer struck. These are controversial issues and some prefer not to discuss them at all.
CONCLUSION: will Western civilisation survive?
As said at the beginning, no civilisation survives if it is not defended by its leaders and general population. Historically civilisations usually last about 250 years and it is difficult in view of current events to be anything other than pessimistic about the future of the West. The author acknowledges the work of David Murrin and the link below since all of the contracting phase ideas shown on the diagram exist in the West today and are gathering pace. Clearly Western political leaders need to deal with this issue if they feel that the West as we have known it in modern times is worth defending. If not, it will be replaced just all like all other civilisations that have come and gone throughout history.
© Philip BLOOM, Marseille, France, March 2023
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