Ideals and Civilization, Part 2

This is part 2 of a series. See part 1 here.

When we left off, Samantha had told us that US Republican Mike Huckabee’s phrase “the Downfall of Western Civilization” was a dog-whistle, and I’d said that if her analysis was correct, that Huckabee wants to get the attention of voters who fear the West’s most civilized ideals.

What makes me qualified to comment on this? At least as much as Sam or Huckabee, at any rate? Well, my Bachelor of Humanities degree (4 year Honours) means that I’ve read, researched, discussed, and written about a broad selection of the primary sources of western civilization, including literature, philosophy, art, music, and mythology, from Sumeria to the recent past, in an academically rigorous setting. I’m not a specialist in any of those fields, but I’ve got a good grounding in them. Critical thinking, intellectual honesty, and open-mindedness were foundations of that education.

Huckabee’s credentials on the topic are that he spent 2.5 years in the 1970s taking a major in religion and a minor in speech (bio 1, bio 2). I skimmed Ouachita Baptist University’s current catalog (p. 72–83) to get a feel for the syllabus. I didn’t see the phrase “historical-critical approach” in there, or even a course about the complex authorship and literary genres of the Bible. I noticed that OBU Christian Studies pupils study history, philosophy, languages, and literature primarily as they are relevant to Baptist theology.

When attempting to suck civilization through a straw, expect to get a trickle of juice while leaving behind the meat.

Western civilization is the accumulated cultural riches of multiple civilizations, built up over at least five thousand years, from Europe of all eras, but also the Ancient and Classical Middle East and North Africa. There is so much to take in! That’s after deliberately limiting the scope, too: what about the cultural riches of the myriad civilizations from the other three-quarters of the world? Which were also built up over at least five thousand years.