Sunday, July 29, 2007

Book Review: "Suicide of the West" by Richard Koch and Chris Smith (2006)

... (T)he denial of authority can engender subjective sterility, where any point of view appears as good as another. Postmodern philosophers assert that everything is relative. Truth becomes 'privatized', a matter of importance arrived at by scientific investigation and public debate. Not only is nothing better than anything else, but also we can never know the nature of truth. This dubious philosophy has been used to justify ignorance and elevate emotion and opinion above reason and science.

Relativism corrodes the sense of responsibility without which liberal society cannot work. Reasoned debate can only impose obligations on members of society if the acknowledge that there is such a thing as 'the public good' and that some policies and some forms of behaviour are better than others.


The sense of personal responsibility is also being undermined by another development. Increasingly, personal disadvantages, or the defects of society, are regarded as an excuse for antisocial behaviour. Whole swathes of Western society have come to see themselves as 'victims' who are therefore not liable for the consequences of their actions. The mass manufacture of 'victims' has done untold damage both to them and to the sense of citizens' mutual responsibility that liberal communities require. History furnishes countless examples where the human spirit has overcome war, disability, plague, oppression, famine, flood, poverty, social discrimination, and even concentration camps. It is insulting to assume that disadvantaged people cannot rise above their tribulations, that the suffering and difficulties of all human life somehow justify antisocial or criminal activity. Liberal civilization - in both its Anglo-Saxon and social-democratic guises - rests on overcoming problems and bad behaviour, not multiplying them; on taking responsibility, not denying it.


Indiscriminate respect for all cultures, all peoples and all views shades into acceptance of anti-intellectualism and anti-liberalism. If everything is relative, then anything - cannibalism, genocide - can be justified. Liberals can be soft touches. An attempt to see all points of view, filtered through the liberal mind, can lead to a belief that if fanatics such as suicide bombers hate us, then we must have done something terrible to generate this hatred. That way lies our own suicide - if fascist enemies cannot be recognized, and if liberals will not fight for liberal values, then the barbarians will won. Many Western liberals are perversely unwilling to recognize the unprecedented virtues of Western liberal society - something that other societies could not have produced, something that is worth defending and, by mutual consent, extending. Perversely, the most dangerous enemy of liberalism is liberalism.


- From "The Suicide of the West", pp. 132-133

This extremely readable 200-page essay by British entrepreneur Richard Koch and former UK Secretary of State Chris Smith takes a look at what they believe to be the six pillars of Western civilization: Christianity, optimism, science, growth, liberalism and individualism. Each one is explained historically, compared and contrasted against each other, and evaluated in terms of the dominant discourse today in the media, universities, and governments across Europe and North America. In so doing, Koch and Smith find that there is lukewarm enthusiasm on the part of elites for the values that have built and made the West into the most prosperous, free and comfortable society in which humanity has ever lived, intellectually underscoring other recent and more practical works by writers like Bruce Bawer, Melanie Phillips and Mark Steyn. The one complaint I have is that the title of "Suicide of the West" is overly alarmist as the authors themselves don't even come to that conclusion, instead issuing a warning wrapped in an examination rather than some Chicken Little-type polemic.

Worth looking for.

Overall rating: 9.25/10

2 Comments:

At 1:02 PM, Anonymous writing an essay for college said...

You know Koch graduated from Oxford University and received an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He lives mainly in Portugal, but also owns homes in Cape Town in South Africa, and in the south of Spain near Estepona.

 
At 3:45 AM, Anonymous cheap essay writing service said...

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