The culture war against the past: Our elites have become uncomfortable with Western civilisation itself

The culture war against the past: Our elites have become uncomfortable with Western civilisation itself. By Frank Furedi.

Almost seamlessly the numerous disputes that have erupted over identity, race, gender and family life have reinforced one another and intermeshed. But in the end the venom is directed towards one central target — Western society’s past.

It is about treating the past as if it were current, and condemning historic figures and institutions as if they were our contemporaries. In this way, culture warriors seek to demonstrate their moral superiority over the centuries-old target of their outrage. …

Recently we have seen a coalescing of all the identity politics and virtue signalling issues.

The claim that contemporary cultural institutions bear the burden of guilt for the crimes committed by their ancestors is widely internalised by the cultural elites. From their perspective, Western history is a story of unremitting violence and greed.

There are no ‘good old days’ that can serve as a focus for redemption and nostalgia. Instead of nostalgia, the current regime promotes a vision of the past as ‘the bad old days’, inciting guilt, shame and self-loathing. This corrosive orientation towards one’s history leads to constant performances of apology. …

More than just anti-white, it is anti-civilizational. It is the tyranny of the stupid. “Anything but making us think,” they demand.

It is important to comprehend that the culture war against the past is inspired by an aesthetic impulse that is not just anti-Western, but also characteristically anti-civilisational. In recent times, mathematics, philosophy and classical music have all come under attack for being too Western or too white.

The culture war against the past is increasingly directed not at flawed historical individuals, but against the civilisational accomplishments of humanity as a whole. When art, philosophy and the rules of grammar can be so casually cancelled, it is evident that far more than the fate of a statue of a Confederate general is at stake.

History has become a political issue. This is why demonstrators are able to claim that old statutes constitute a threat to their mental health. What is fascinating about this movement is that often its target is not simply a specific statue, but almost any monument that is old. This is why, for example, supporters of Black Lives Matter have vandalised statutes that have no direct link with racial oppression. The sin of such historical objects is that they symbolise the past.

Letting in masses of less able students to “university” has moved the university to them, not the other way around as expected. Dumbed down “feeling” rules over thinking, while “merit” by accident of birth is once again eclipsing accomplishment.

The result has been that effectively society has lost its universities. They used to be repositories of knowledge that passed the most advanced aspects of our culture and technology on to the next generation. Increasingly, not any more. They are now on the road to ruin. Huge mistake. Is this the root reason for why many are now taking the possibility of an emerging dark age more seriously?

hat-tip Stephen Neil