“Now I will by God show them how ugly the ugly American can be.” - William S. Burroughs, Nova Express
Say what you like about Burroughs, but old Bill did have a gift for expression. I only had to read it once to decide it was golden.
No doubt, Burroughs liked it too, even if he did put these words in the mouth of a villain. There’s a certain disarming crudity to it; one enjoys it not only for the sentiments expressed, but also for the raw power of expression. In short, it’s a gem, regardless of context or authorial intent.
I spend so much time on this one line because it seems especially appropriate and useful in these times of chaos, despair, and clashing civilizations. The West is dying, with Europe having long since degenerated into a geographical region full of aging pensioners, youthful addicts, deviants, and hostile, fecund barbarians. Demographically, politically, and culturally, Europe has collapsed and is drawing its last breath.
America, the last great power in the West, and the sole surviving member of that proud civilization, is itself on the way out. Internal factors nearly identical to those which destroyed Europe have brought us down, too, although we have a little life left in us yet.
That brilliant fraud and crank Spengler described modern Western man as “Faustian.” To summarize the story for any illiterates who somehow found this article: a great scholar, named Faust or Faustus, depending on who tells the tale, sells his soul in exchange for unlimited knowledge and power in this world. Goethe has this fellow being snatched by angels from the demons who came to claim his soul; a sort of last-minute reprieve by the Almighty as a reward for his good works.
Marlowe tells it differently: Faustus, his last hour come at last, is wracked with fear and remorse, realizing, too late, that the Devil must have his due, and that written contracts are difficult to escape. He is dragged, kicking and screaming, into Hell. I have always thought Marlowe’s version was true; somehow, it seems more believable, more honest, than Goethe’s Enlightenment fantasy.
The Classical soul saw in Nature a perfect reflection of order and reason, a model to be imitated and contemplated, a worthy object of admiration. Early Christian thought, and indeed, all serious Western thought through the Medieval period, understood Nature as the work of the Almighty. Our sufferings in this world were to be expected; disasters, both manmade and natural, were not unexpected phenomena -- they came with the territory, with our fall from original innocence. Patience and devotion were the only answers to the human condition.
But somewhere along the line, Western thought came to understand the natural world as neither ideal nor even all that useful; Man’s material poverty and weakness was simply intolerable, and some of the greatest minds in History set about the task of rectifying the situation. No more passive theorizing, no more patient meditation or waiting for the eschaton. If we were to ever get out of the mud and hunger, we would have to do it ourselves.
And get out of it we did. By applying the newly discovered mathematical physics and physical science to the practical problems of human poverty, hunger, and want, we were able to prove that our ancestors lacked both the will and the imagination to improve their condition. Their eyes dazzled by visions of the divine, they were unable to see what was truly needful: not love of wisdom, as the classical world believed, nor fear of the lord, as the Christian world thought, but rather the patient and persistent application of method.
Within a few generations, we were able to prevent famines, we could increase crop yields, we could improve the quality and length of the lives of untold millions of our fellow men. We could do more good with our systems of drainage and sanitation than all the saints combined; could feed more multitudes, and feed them better and more cheaply, than could any man with his loaves and fishes. And in doing this, we made a Faustian bargain; we sold our souls.
The West now enjoys unprecedented and unimaginable power. For this, we have paid the highest of all possible prices, trading eternity for the brief, glittering lie of the present. And there is no backing out now, no last-minute reprieve for us. We do not expect to be saved.
But if our civilization is dying, let our death be a natural one; let the end come quietly, the result of our own shortcomings and folly. If we must die, let it be, if not at our own hands -- as seems likely -- then at the very least as the consummation of, and punishment for, our god-like striving to amend Creation.
Regardless of what happens, however, I do not think that we are under any obligation to submit to the savages currently crusading under the green banner of jihad. Are they more spiritual than we, more sure of their beliefs? Certainly. We Westerners are notorious for our self-doubt; not for nothing do we all know the name “Hamlet”.
But if our entire history has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that right does not make might, and that all problems, at least in this world, are purely material in nature. If we apply the right method, if we think clearly, we can overcome any obstacle.
And that is precisely what modern, jihadist Islam is: an obstacle. If left unchecked, this movement could well metastasize into a serious threat to our very survival; Byzantium bears witness to the folly of appeasing such as these.
With all of this said, I think that the West is compelled, in the interests of its survival, even if only for a few more generations, to remember, not only its honorable traditions of tolerance and universal brotherhood, but also, and more importantly, its blood-stained history of relations with the Islamic world. Our early medieval ancestors were, in truth, little more than barbarians, but they understood that Islam must not be allowed into Europe. It must be stopped, and, where possible, driven out.
As heirs and epigones of the greatest, most powerful civilization hitherto, we have a heavy duty upon us. Where possible, we should extend and preserve our civilization, in hopes of leaving our children a world at least as good as the one we inherited, which our ancestors purchased and defended at so high a price.
If we have the strength of will to undertake this task, what amounts to an atheist-materialist crusade will bequeath to future generations the opportunity to live without the yoke of a benighted, ignorant cult upon their necks. When the civilization become a burden to great to be borne, and our descendants lapse into tribalism and primitivism, tales will be told of a great war fought to free mankind from the followers of an evil god. And in the distant lands of the East, the degenerate survivors of other tribes will repeat tales of the great war in which their god punished their pride with near-extermination at the hands of godless Americans.
Such a result would, I think, in some way redeem and even forgive, even if only in the eyes of Man, the terrible price we have paid for our power.