The West is playing with fire by attacking itself from within, says Robert Tombs in The Daily Telegraph. We have lost faith in our ideas, but spurning our past could prove fatal for our future. In place of the Enlightenment narrative of progress, we now see a “nihilistic rejection” of western history and culture; what we are creating is an intellectual and moral void. Western self-confidence – “arrogance if you prefer” – has been rejected by much of the region’s own intelligentsia, its ideas and culture thought to be oppressive and hypocritical, built on shameful foundations. “Our museums are products of empire, our National Trust treasures are the fruits of slave labour, and our universities, churches and charitable foundations, tarred with the same brush.”
Of course Europe was not the source of all wisdom and progress, but to pretend western ideas can no longer claim “any universal validity” undermines any authority we might have in places such as the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan. Instead, we are returning to the world before the Enlightenment, one where great regional powers “had nothing in common but mutual suspicion and rivalry”. Chinese nationalism, militant Hinduism and fundamentalist Islam “are not merely resistant to western ideas, but indifferent to them”. If we join them in their indifference, we don’t stand a chance. The West will decline. How could it be otherwise?
Read the full article here.