What is “Western civilization”? Why might it end soon? What can be done to prevent that?
These are the questions that face both the U.S. and Russia in the current standoff. The stakes could not be higher. Relationships between the two nations are the most important geopolitical issue, and the most volatile, facing the world today.
But first, some history, including concepts that may be controversial.
Speaking globally, the West is that part of the world settled by people of European descent. Racially, the original peoples of the West stem from those classified as Indo-European, though people of that race and language family also long ago penetrated into Asia, including Northern India and Persia.
Over the centuries, Western civilization has incorporated people of other races whose lands the Europeans conquered, such as the indigenous peoples of the Americas, and the peoples of Siberia and parts of central Asia taken over by the Russians.
Some nations of the West transported people as slaves from Africa. All Western nations today also include people who have freely migrated from other parts of the world, such as India, Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia. Many of these immigrants have come from countries the Western nations colonized. There have also been vast migrations from Europe to the Americas, including a large Jewish influx from Eastern Europe and Russia.
Regarding the question of whether the Indo-European conquest of lands occupied by other races was just and fair, we would have to say that it was not. But it is a fait accompli. All parties must now make the best of it.
Certainly the fact of conquest imposes obligations that are still far from being adequately recognized, as in the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rain forest and its indigenous cultures. Indigenous peoples everywhere have been badly mistreated and often subjected to genocide, including in the Western outposts of Australia and New Zealand.
But in spite of the endless variations in local and regional demographics, it yet remains possible to speak of Western civilization as a cultural and geopolitical entity, just as we can speak of an Islamic civilization stretching from Morocco to Indonesia, and a civilization of the East that includes India, Japan, China, and other Asian nations. The predominant religions of the East are Hinduism and its offspring Buddhism. In China, Buddhism melded with a compatible substrate of Confucianism and Taoism.
What defines a civilization is not only race but also its shared culture. The principal factor that identifies Western civilization as a unit is the historic prevalence of the Christian religion. Without Christianity, the concept of Western civilization would be meaningless.
But the West is divided among numerous nation-states that speak diverse languages. Its population includes many who see themselves as atheists, agnostics, or “spiritual but not religious.” Nevertheless, the West is culturally defined by the historic presence stated in the creeds of both Catholic and Protestant sects of “one holy catholic and apostolic church” (all words lower-case).
In this sense, the actual founders of Western culture are four men who personified the Judeo-Christian faith as expressed in the Old and New Testaments; namely, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and St. Paul. Yes, they were Hebrews/Jews.
In Biblical parlance, the peoples of the West who adopted Christian teachings were the “Gentiles,” starting with the Greeks and Romans.Western civilization is largely what the Gentiles forged after their conversion to a common faith.
Of course there are many who reside in Western nations who would dispute these generalizations. But what is described here is true enough and gives us something concrete to work with. History cannot be understood otherwise, including what is happening in the world today.
No matter what observers believe or disbelieve, the West still lives under laws based on the Ten Commandments and, at its best, ideals rooted in the Sermon on the Mount. From this perspective, the destiny of Western civilization can be analyzed in terms of the tension between the influence of its spiritual mentors and the characteristics of its much older tribal make-up.
Struggles for Dominance
The peoples of the West have been fighting each other since they can first be sighted in prehistory.The earliest Indo-European cultures tended to be local or regional, structured tribally, including those of the Celts, the Germans, the Slavs, and the Greeks and Romans. Tribal warfare within, between, and among these groupings was a constant. They all appealed to their tribal gods for victory.
But around 2,000 years ago, attempts began to be made to consolidate the West under centralized systems of governance, the first being the Roman Empire. Once Christianity took root, the culture of the West became that of the Roman Catholic Church, which by the High Middle Ages exercised its presence throughout much of Europe.
By the 15th and 16th centuries, today’s nation states had taken shape and had begun to compete for dominance both on the European continent and in the acquisition of colonies, filling a vacuum left by the decline in the power and prestige of the Papacy that resulted in the splitting of the West through the Protestant Reformation. The Wars of Religion that ensued were ghastly in their carnage.
Russia and parts of Eastern Europe had already split from Catholicism through religious schism, creating the culture of Orthodoxy. Also, for a millennium, Europe fought on its borders against Islam for survival. But with the Reformation thrown in the mix, the glue that held the West together dissipated, leading the most powerful nations—Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Russia, the German principalities, Poland, Denmark, and Sweden—to fight each other in wars of great savagery.
The areas of Italy and Germany remained disorganized until their unification in the 19th century. Those nations then took part in the prevailing struggles for supremacy and were joined by the U.S., the growing colossus across the Atlantic Ocean that had achieved unification through the American Civil War.
The political relations among the nations of the West since around 1500 can be fairly described as an almost continuous state of intra-civilizational civil war—with ostensibly Christian nations slaughtering each other’s populations in the millions.World Wars I and II were a phase of an old pattern.
But due to the rise of science and technology, these wars were unprecedented in their carnage and cruelty. During the modern history of the West, there were never any “good wars.” Rather it was “tribalism on steroids.”
Today it seems incredible that given the exponential growth in the power of science to create weapons of mass destruction sufficient to destroy all life on earth many times over, we stand on the brink of yet another phase in the unending saga of war among Western powers, lining up with the U.S. and Western Europe on one side and Russia on the other. We might even see in this division the residue of the Great Schism of a thousand years ago.
Both sides, of course, are marshaling allies from other parts of the world, with China and Central Asia tending to align with Russia, and the U.S. exerting tenuous control at present over Western Europe, Latin America, and nations on the Asian fringe, such as Japan and South Korea, along with Australian and New Zealand.
It does not take a great deal of insight to realize, when we approach the situation from this macro-historical perspective, that the present-day standoff between the U.S. and Russia is insane. Instigating the insanity are American financial, political, and military leaders. Cheering them on have been the truly dangerous partisans of the U.S. mainstream media.
A war between the U.S. and Russia would have to involve use of nuclear weapons, unless Russia totally surrenders to U.S. hegemony in advance. But Russia is not going to do this.
The U.S. believed that Russia had in fact capitulated through the collapse of the Soviet Union and the aftermath in the 1990s. But the rebirth of Russian autonomy in the two decades since then has proven these assumptions totally wrong.
In the hiatus between the end of the Soviet Union and the rise of a new Russia, the U.S. launched its massive series of wars against the Islamic nations in a continuing attempt to curb and control any movement toward economic and political independence in that part of the world. Russia, straddling as it does both Europe and Asia, had been ambiguous about these wars, finally taking a stand against them by supporting the government of Syria in the assault on that nation by U.S. proxies.
Meanwhile, at home, U.S. society and its domestic economy have been falling apart under the astronomical expense of endless warfare along with financial legerdemain and moral corruption. The credibility of the U.S. government has been fatally compromised by the rise of the “Deep State,” the control of government by secretive cadres of militarists and assassins, and the lies told about the false flag of 9/11.
Meanwhile, the military’s leading generals have become powerful warlords who control vast resources, extend their tentacles throughout civilian society, and trumpet provocative political pronouncements and threats that should be the sole purview of political leaders. Most of the latter are puppets who humiliate themselves by throwing ever-increasing amounts of dollars at the feet of their uniformed darlings.
Sometimes trillions of these dollars just disappear down Pentagon black holes. The tendency to fawn over the military is likely to increase, as many of the Democratic Party candidates for contested seats in the 2018 House elections are likely to be former military-intelligence operatives.
The West is staggering today under the burden of its inability to bring centuries of internecine warfare to a halt through some kind of humane and rational settlement of differences. The main beneficiary of this chaos has been China, which appears to be solving many of the problems that have baffled the West and is poised to assume global leadership by peaceful growth of its economy and the success of its social system under its oriental—some say Confucianist—brand of communism.
Thus the West is facing another tragedy that likely will be its last. There is no way out by continuing to pursue the dark byways of economic exploitation and war with which the West has been obsessed for centuries.
This obsession has been channeled through the demonic force of nationalism, abetted by hubris, greed, fear, and hatred. All movements throughout history founded upon the elevation of one nation above the rest have opened the floodgates to hell.
Every aggressor has seen itself as “exceptional.” Nationalism, always rooted in racial myths, is just a latter-day phase of the most barbaric tribalism of the ancient past—sadism and human sacrifice in the thinnest of disguises.
The best example of this throwback tribalism was Nazi Germany. In the U.S. today, we are seeing “Nazification” at work on many levels, not just through the erection of a military/police state, but also including genocidal policies against the poor, the elderly, and racial minorities.
The Anglo-American Empire
Another factor is how the U.S. has inherited the centuries-old policy of Britain to oppose by force of arms the arising of any great power on the European continent that might threaten its hegemony. In the 18th century and continuing through the wars against Napoleon, the enemy was France. After the rise of Germany and continuing through the two World Wars of the 20th century, Britain demonized and sought to crush the German nation.
Contrary to the usual misconceptions, World War I was instigated by Britain to undermine a burgeoning trade rival. World War II followed as a matter of course after Germany was forced to shoulder the entire burden of guilt for starting the previous conflagration.
After World War II, the Soviet Union was branded as the next continental enemy, beginning with the Cold War and resuming today. Of course Britain had defeated France on its own through an anti-Napoleon coalition. To defeat Germany, Britain had to rely on the U.S. To take on the Soviet Union—now Russia—the U.S. gladly assumed the lead, its elites greedily anticipating the wealth and power that would ensue.
Today the U.S. stands at the head of what we all know is essentially an Anglo-American empire, with its oligarchy living high on the hog for the last few generations. But it’s an unnatural empire that carves out a piece of the West dominated by English-speakers and claims it’s the whole. But to insist now on the supremacy of this arrangement for all time is suicidal for Western civilization. The empire must be given up.
Seeking a Solution
The solution is not for the U.S. to continue to escalate conflict with Russia, while Britain, with its retrograde“Brexit,”from the European Union, eggs us on, as does the Anglo-American client state of Israel. Of course after its intended conquest of Russia, which can never happen,the empire wants to move on to an ultimate showdown with China for global control.
But such control is an illusion. East is East and West is West, and so they shall remain. Survival of humanity on earth depends on a harmonious equilibrium between the two, with the Islamic world balanced in between.
It is time for those of us in the West to search deeply within our own souls to find the solution. Meanwhile, the cybernetic revolution has introduced an entirely new factor into the equation with instantaneous worldwide communication, combined with the ease of international travel.
Not to mention the unfathomable destructiveness of today’s weaponry and the systems available to deliver these weapons to the homes of all civilian populations on earth. This is what our misuse of the gifts to mankind from scientific knowledge has brought us—an opportunity to do even more evil on a gigantic scale.
The Time Has Come for Epochal Change
Today the nations of the West must unite in peace, with the U.S. and Russia aiming to achieve a meeting of minds across the negotiating table. But they can only do so through realization of their common spiritual heritage, not by force. Force has failed. I repeat: force has failed.
Unfortunately, conservative elements within the Western nations, including those within the dominant Christian churches, are pulling in the opposite direction, away from negotiation, unity, and peace. Fear, arrogance, and hatred are retrenching, as the demons of destruction await their next turn on the stage.These demons couldn’t care less if humanity destroys itself.
The one nation that seems to be acting otherwise is in fact Russia. If a return to earlier attempts at rapprochement is to take place, the initiative must doubtless come from Russia, as it did with Gorbachev in the 1980s.
Russian President Vladimir Putin may be doing just that today by responding firmly but open-mindedly to U.S. hostility, including the “Russiagate” farce that the U.S. Deep State is engineering. Despite daily provocations, Putin continues to refer to the West as “partners.”
But the U.S. must now respond in kind. We have already shown the ability to cooperate with Russia on a small but highly symbolic scale through joint work on the International Space Station.
As of this writing, a glimmer of hope has emerged through a letter from U.S. senators Markey, Merkley, Feinstein, and Sanders to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for a strategic dialogue made urgent by President Putin’s recent announcement of a new generation of conventional and nuclear weapons.
The senators write that despite “policy rifts” and “significant” disagreements, “… the United States should urgently engage with Russia to avoid miscalculation and reduce the likelihood of conflict.”
Certainly the Trump administration should respond positively to this request. But going further, President Donald Trump should act boldly by sending a bipartisan commission to Moscow to talk with the Russian government about immediate action across a much broader front to defuse the present crisis by working together toward a peaceful future for Spaceship Earth.
A Dream: A Council Convened to Save Western Civilization
International councils can be keys to solving problems and starting afresh. An example was the councils leading to the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years War in 1648 and created the patterns and arrangements under which modern Europe emerged.
It is suggested that the main topic of discussion of the meeting between U.S. and Russian counterparts mentioned above be the convening of a major Council to take place at a central location, such as Paris, in the year 2021. This Council should encompass all the nations of the West, from those of the Americas, to the nations of the European Union, to Russia.
Such a Council should consist of three main sections: 1) political/military; 2) economic;and 3) religious/cultural.
Political/military: Discussion should start with an agreement by the member nations of NATO to dissolve that entirely unnecessary relic of a sad history. Also called for would be a goodwill gesture by the U.S. to cut its military expenditures by at least half within five years. Discussion of political issues would then follow.
Economic: The focus should be on sustainable economic development, equity for all levels of society, and protection of the natural environment.Global warming should be addressed. A basic income guarantee for all citizens of the West should be instituted, as should a common international circulating currency of gold and silver monetary units.This currency could be issued by a new network of national public banks under a charter that would supplement or replace the post-World War II Bretton Woods agreements.
Religious/cultural: All religious denominations of the West should be invited. As a good faith gesture, the Roman Catholic Church should alter the main practice that historically has divided it from the rest of Christendom and announce that from now on its clergy will be allowed to marry.
The goal of the Council would be to take steps toward uniting those elements of Western civilization that today are obsessed with destroying each other. A major objective would be to find ways to include in the benefits of civilization the lower income levels that are threatened with genocide by economies that mainly augment the already bloated incomes of national oligarchies.
I know that many readers are pointing at the foregoing proposals and asking, “Who are you kidding?” But I am quite serious. Unless matters are addressed at this level, nothing can be expected but more catastrophe.
A start can and should be made. Deep within the spiritual history of the West, the memories, ideas,and energy are present for deep transformation to take place. These memories, ideas, and energy will eventually break through in their dazzling light, perhaps sooner than we think. The signs are all around.
It is the task of those who care to work in peace to prepare the ground. And part of the work is to keep the present travail of the West under the microscope of constructive criticism.
Richard C. Cook is a retired U.S. federal government analyst. In his 32-year career he worked for five civilian agencies and the Carter White House. While with NASA he documented the flaws with the space shuttle solid rocket boosters and testified before the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. Unable to return to NASA after his testimony, he spent the rest of his career with the U.S. Treasury Department. On retirement in 2007, he published “Challenger Revealed,” the definitive account of the multiple layers of cover-up surrounding the disaster. He went on to publish a book on monetary policy entitled “We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform,” along with dozens of internet and print articles on public policy issues. He may be reached at [email protected].
Copyright 2018 by Richard C. Cook. This article may be reposted.