On reasons to be pessimistic and optimistic about the future of Western civilization.
The distinguished tradition of art, literature, and philosophy that has defined the Western world for more than two millennia is collapsing almost everywhere. It has been abandoned in the colleges, reinterpreted according to contemporary conventions, attacked in the name of multiculturalism, and rejected all around as a “white man’s” enterprise. It is impossible to defend it without being dismissed in ruling circles as a reactionary or an old fogey enamored with the past. Students who a generation or two ago might have taken courses in Western civilization or studied Plato and Aristotle, or Michelangelo and Raphael, or Locke and the Federalist papers are now lectured by their teachers about race, gender, and sexuality. They know little of Greek philosophy, the history of Rome, the origins of the great religions, the architecture of medieval churches, or the development of Enlightenment ideas that created the modern world. They seem to know just as little about the history of the United States or how well off they are compared to earlier generations.
James Piereson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
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