City Journal Winter 2014

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Bruce S. Thornton
Culture Matters « Back to Story

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Thanks for the book review. I for one have been very disappointed in our supposed elite intellectual classes and political leaders for their inability to stand up for basic rights. The self-censoring of the Dutch cartoons by Harvard Publishers in a scholarly book on the subject is one disgraceful example. Govt Officials and Mainstream Media personalities who respond to Islamic extremism by blaming those who exercise free speech or religious freedom rights is another. Even the writers of the Simpsons confessed that they don't have the courage to satirize Islam. When recent govts were formed in both Afghanistan and Iraq, our own govt pressed for rights for women, even quotas in the legislature, but didn't have the courage to press for religious freedom. It is no accident that religious freedom is the first right enumerated in the First Amendment followed closely by freedom of speech.
Ibn Warraq is an interesting man but not without flaws!
"Hebraism"? Is that Ibn Warraq's term? Why not give credit where credit is due and say "Judaism"?
As a resident of Japan who has traveled widely in Asia, it is obvious to me that many of the best aspects of the more democratic countries in Asia are ones they have borrowed from the West. Japan itself is a living refutation of multiculturalism. Their present governmental and educational systems are simply the West's, for example.
Sounds like a wonderful book. Change has a tendency to be bad at least for most; the West has found a unique means of fostering incremental change AND incremental restraint of change. The other large cultural groups have ways of forcing change or fosilization but not much of a way to do both, or to do either incrementally. Peasant cultures basicly.
It is worth reading this book along with Niall fergusson's latest book "Civilization: The West and the Rest" and compare
excellent and insightful review indeed.
What Dr. Thornton extracts from the Warraq book reminds me of an arresting passage from an arresting article ("War of the Worlds") written by Shelby Steele, a week after the Islamic crimes of September, 2001:

"In looking at difficulties in the black American community over
the years, it has always astounded me how much white Americans take for granted the rich and utterly decisive heritage of Western culture. There is no space here to reiterate the vast and invisible web of ideas, principles, values and understandings that have evolved over the millennia to undergird the American civilization.

"To mention only the fewest highlights, there was the magnificence of Greek thought, the Roman development of law, a renaissance of reason, the concept of a social contract, the idea of the individual as a self-contained and free political unit with rights and responsibilities, free markets, the scientific method, separation of church and state--all this and so much more converging to make the American and Western way of life successful in so many ways."

Steele's article was a Wall Street Journal op-ed, but the best current link I find for it now is this: http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/courses01/rrtw/steele.txt
Alena Hromádková,Prague February 04, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Many Czechs, Poles, Hungarians etc. have been puzzled why the West lost so much of self-esteem during the second half of 20th century. E.g. Jean Francois Revel offered many essential and principled explanations in this respect(see his book How Democracies Perish, 1984 or his Last Exit to Utopia ) but few people got interested, I am afraid.Let´s hope that voices of non-Westerners will contribute to the reflections and a revival of self-preservation instincts will follow...