Kotkin: U.S. Elites Betray Their Nation’s Core Values, Culture and Future

Joel Kotkin, at Chapman University in Orange, California, explains how American elites are betraying their own country’s core values, culture and future.

In the aftermath of San Bernardino and Paris massacres, our cognitive leaders – from President Obama on down – have warned Americans not to engage in what Hillary Clinton has described as “a clash of civilizations.” But you can’thave a real clash when one side – ours – seems compelled to demean its traditions and values.

Leaders in America and Europe don’t want to confront Islamic fundamentalism, or other nasty manifestations of post-Western thinking, because they increasingly no longer believe in our own core values…

The dominant ideology on college campus – “cultural relativism” – leaves little room for anything other than a nasty take on Western history and culture. Many students, whether of immigrant parentage or descendants of the Mayflower, have only vague appreciation or knowledge of Western civilization, making them highly vulnerable to such pleading. They often go through college now with only the vaguest notion of our history, the writings of the American founders, the philosophy of the Enlightenment, our vast cultural heritage or the fundamental principles of Christianity or, if you will, Judeo-Christianity.

This extends beyond religion to the very basics – like respect for the First Amendment – that underpin our social order. Two in five millennials, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, believe the government “should be able to prevent people from saying … statements that are offensive to minority groups.” A third of millennials opined that government should prevent speech “offensive to your religion or beliefs.”

The media and much of the nonprofit world share this perspective. For all the talk about Rupert Murdoch – the aging last remnant of contrarian journalism – and the Koch brothers, the cultural wars have been entirely won by the far larger, better-funded and protected progressive media and nonprofit establishment. In virtually every part of the West, more traditional values, from the primacy of the family to religion and belief in the efficacy of market capitalism, are being undermined, with increasingly disastrous results…

A society that no longer believes in its core beliefs cannot prevail against rivals who, although less wealthy and far less technologically advanced, embrace their core ideals. A West that rejects (and sometimes is unaware of) its own heritage cannot overcome those who, for religious or national reasons, have a powerful belief in theirs…

Some people in Western countries are reacting to this abandonment of culture and heritage. Unfortunately, many of them are attracted to demagogues like Donald Trump or Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front whose anti-immigrant xenophobia now has potent analogues in countries from the eastern frontier of Poland, Slovakia and Hungry to seeming secure reaches of Scandinavia. Given the cultural dominance of the relativist Left and the post-Christian nature of the culture, none of these movements will likely do more than make noise and inspire “tut-tuts” among the intelligentsia

Ultimately, we can only confront the challenge from authoritarian forces – whether in the Middle East, China or Russia – when we once again embrace our cultural values as important and worthy of protection. Our opponents – and that’s what they are – may be fundamentally weaker than us, but can count on the advantage of belief in their destiny. To save ours, Western culture needs to stay, not be put away.

Read it all here.

 


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