The West — and, for clarification, I mean the US, Canada and Western Europe — has become so obsessed with its historical misdeeds and flaws, and unappreciative of its unique virtues and accomplishments in the grand scheme of human history, that it is reluctant to assert its moral authority to lead in the world.
The Autumn of Western Civilization
Austin Frank
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You present an interesting perspective Austin, one that, were we in a vacuum with all things being equal, I’d wholeheartedly agree with. Nationalism, patriotism, or just plain old faith in one’s country, is the foundation of and the engine that powers a nation, giving it the strength to progress towards a bigger, brighter future. I also agree that the West, particularly the U.S., has grown more cynical and doubtful of its own position on the global scale as it becomes more aware of its own flaws and immorality. And I also agree with the fact that indoctrinating courses, such as Western Civ, maintain the status quo by presenting the world through the filter of our own warped memory.

I am a Black man (if you hadn’t noticed by my profile pic). The only reason I deem it necessary to state this is because Western Civ (I’m going to focus on this course just as you did) is the story of white-Europeans, almost completely negating the African/African-American contribution to Western society and sugar-coating the many atrocities afflicted upon People of Color by the West. Before you think I’m going off the rails here, I’m not trying to make this a race thing. The point I’m trying to make is the West’s history is inevitably intertwined with the history of the modern world, including off-neglected minority’s. This neglect has created deep canyons among our population’s many demographics, and a divided nation can not achieve superiority, nor even equality.

I learned pretty late in my life that People of Color were involved in and responsible for nearly every major event and civilization in human history. The Greeks used to travel to Egypt to study at the Mystery Schools, returning to Greece with knowledge of math, astronomy, and a polytheistic religion that they eventually adapted (read: plagiarized). There were Black Roman Emperors, Black Moors in Spain and the Middle East, hell there were Africans in North America before Columbus. Western Civ doesn’t teach this. And that’s why I, personally, became jaded with the West.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi said “people are difficult to govern because they have too much knowledge.” The West took this ideology and, as any country is wont to do, unwittingly applied it to its own population. Our schools deliberately negate huge swaths of Western history that don’t have white men at the helm, as well as the many sins of white men. This nearly deifies whiteness to the detriment of every other ethnicity involved in this country’s origin (Trump’s Muslim ban is a prime example). Without slavery, there would be no America. Without the struggle for Civil Rights, we would have no moral compass with which to judge our own ethics. And yet, those centuries of tribulation are merely a footnote in Western history books, and the footnote itself is largely whitewashed (they’re calling slavery indentured servitude now; not at all the same thing).

I don’t expect you to grasp where I’m coming from completely, as our perspectives, while rooted in the history of our Western culture, might as well be night and day (not right or wrong, just different). You were raised in a society that glorified people who look like you, from history books to television shows to films. On the other hand, people who look like me have been unfairly demonized or completely exiled from those same history books, television shows and films. The worst part is I never fit the stereotypical Black thug model, but nonetheless have been cast into the role by the powers that be, collectively relegating me and folks who look like me to the outskirts of the American Dream. As much as I love this country and want to express my patriotism, it’s hard when I’m constantly reminded that my people are viewed as the children of the West; the uncivilized, barbaric, ape-like, violent thugs who must be controlled and tamed, or else. How can one fully appreciate a nation that doesn’t appreciate them?

Like I said before, I’m not trying to make this a racist talk, I’m not calling anyone out or trying to generalize you or anyone who may look like you. I’m simply recalling Western history, as it really happened, as well as the implications of that history and its subsequent whitewashing. You mentioned other countries coming to grips with and accepting their own historical misdeeds, a necessary step towards progress. America has yet to deal with her own dark past in an honest, meaningful way. Accountability is not our strong suit as a civilization, and therefore exposes our biggest weaknesses. Even Tony Soprano needed to talk about the messed up things he’d seen and done with someone (don’t judge me, I love the Sopranos), and although he was never “cured,” so to speak, it usually helped, until something else happened in the next episode. The West is the Tony Soprano of the world; bold, tough, outspoken, oft-times violent, and dedicated to our own warped view of the world, truth be damned. We can still be that; I don’t think I want to live in a world where, say, China is running the show. But if we expect to remain in a significant position of power, let alone to be number one, we have to be willing to sit down and acknowledge our faults, come to grips with the darker corners of our history, and be able to talk about it without getting riled up like teenagers. America’s biggest sin, outside of Manifest Destiny (from the Native’s perspective), slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, the War on Drugs/Terror, etc., is our lack of empathy and desire to even acknowledge that any of that happened or that those things could be the reason why we’re losing our grip as the world’s most powerful nation. As long as we have these deep-rooted contentions fueling our division, and as long as the rest of the Western world continues to look at us as an anomaly or some plague to be avoided at all costs (thanks Trump), we’ll continue to lose, both at home and abroad.

This is merely my own subjective perspective. Again, I appreciate your article and viewpoints, and look forward to your response.

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