Defending Western civilization

As September 11th approaches, Americans remember the morning in 2001 when the World Trade Center turned to rubble. It is a fitting time to consider the nature of the civilizations that collided that day—and how to defend ours.

In their quest to establish a worldwide caliphate, radical Islamists invoke morality, claiming they have God’s sanction for performing their barbarous acts.

To defend Western civilization, we, also, need to invoke morality. But although the world envies the prosperity we’ve achieved, it is widely seen as the product of soulless materialism, of unbridled “greed,” of unscrupulous self-indulgence.

What moral claim, then, can we make for our way of life?

To understand the moral values of the West, let’s turn to its beginning. In her prescient 1943 work of political philosophy, “The God of the Machine,” Isabel Paterson chose as the symbol of Western man a figure from Ancient Greece: Pytheas. This enterprising merchant left his homeland to explore Britain and beyond, seeking tin to make bronze. Insatiably curious, Pytheas also discovered the relationship between the moon’s phases and the tides, and was the first to describe the aurora and other phenomena.

Pytheas epitomizes the Western spirit: a self-directed man whose free will determines his life’s course, a thinker who employs reason and science to understand the world around him, and a producer who seeks to sell goods in peaceful trade.

From its founding, America was intended to be the country where Pytheas could flourish—the first nation established to protect the life, liberty, and property of the individual. It did so by curbing government power over the peaceful activities of its citizens.

In this, the contrast between America and radical Islam could not be greater.

Whereas Thomas Jefferson exhorts us to “question with boldness even the existence of a God,” militant Islam kills people for apostasy.

Whereas James Madison proclaims that man has “a right to his property” and equally “a property in [all of] his rights,” Palestinian Islamists strap suicide belts on five year-olds, seizing their young lives for the sake of ancient vendettas.

Whereas the Declaration of Independence affirms America’s devotion to life, Osama bin Laden declares: We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the difference between us two.

“The excellence of the West” lies in its “respect for the human being, the recognition of his individuality, the liberty it has granted him,” observes Saudi Shura Council member and Muslim reformist Ibrahim Al-Buleihi.

“Humans are originally individuals,” he continues, “but cultures (including Arab culture) have dissolved the individual in the tribe, sect, or state.” It is only “with the diffusion of philosophical ideas from [Ancient] Greece” that “the human being became an individual of value for himself . . . and not merely a means for others.” (Profile of Al-Buleihi, The Aafaq Foundation, July 6, 2010)

Thus, in our civilization, a person is born free to live for his own sake and to pursue happiness. In radical Islam, a person must obey a central authority and sacrifice his life to its aims. Which society is better?

Granted the West’s superiority, why is radical Islam advancing? Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim, cites “an active propaganda campaign” in which “the Saudis invested at least $2 billion a year over a 30-year period to spread their brand of fundamentalist Islam.” (Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2010)

Why aren’t we passionately defending our civilization? Certainly, money isn’t the obstacle. Is it because we don’t understand the nobility of our individualist foundation, including the virtue of private advancement and profit?

We must never forget that we’re the country of Pytheas: a people of free will, free minds, and free enterprise. Our spectacular prosperity is not our dishonor, but the glory of our liberty.

It is said that Ground Zero is “sacred ground.” In truth, all of America is sacred ground—because the individual is sacred here.

We must assert the moral superiority of our civilization—or lose it to our enemies.

Marsha Familaro Enright is president of the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, the Foundation for the College of the United States. Gen LaGreca is author of Noble Vision, an award-winning novel about the struggle for liberty in health care today.

  • senatormark4

    Typical article by a couple of overly educated DWEEBS! You can’t defend the AMERICAN dreams of freedom by making only ONE mention of the Constitution. It’s brilliance is more apparent every day and yet you can’t find the kernels of truth on which we should base our ideological battles. The First Amendment and Second Amendment obviously because they are the guarantors or our personal freedoms. Article 1, section 2 where we elect the tax man EVERY TWO YEARS is what allows the people power over the government and makes us calm because, until this administration, we could NOT believe you could destroy the country in two years. If countries had to embrace these three policies before they were eligible for visas, aid, or anything paid for with tax dollars we’d divide up the world into friends of liberty and tyrannical foes easily. Go ahead and take Pytheas to Indonesia or Yemen where open defecation is still the norm and try to enhance their view of the West. Your left hand stinks, Loser!

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  • cupcakes

    John of Salisbury wrote in Policraticus, “It is established… that the prince is subject to the law and to justice,” and it changed the world. The key point was that the ruler was beneath the law. Policraticus set the moral foundation of what later came to be known as the rule (or sovereignty) of law. With Sovereignty of Law came the belief that the King was a worthy ruler if he upheld the law, and unworthy if he did not.

    But there is an ancient meaning to “law” that is today forgotten. Law is what is just. Legislation is simply the edict of some group of rulers. These two concepts do not necessarily correspond.

    The edicts of groups slowly displaced the findings of judges as “law,” not because they were morally or practically superior, but because they were more directly backed by force, and because legislatures were better legitimized than judges. Legislators were elected by the people; judges were merely appointed.

    When law became legislation, the old “Rule of Law” formula was ruined. Now, groups of rulers were not subject to the law—they created the law. Worse, they could change the law however they saw fit. They were no longer beneath the law. They were above it. Sovereignty was transfered to the ruler.

    We should never sacrifice our freedom for anything but “law”—meaning what is just. Whatever legislation the Congress happens to be passing at the time is by no means righteous.

    Mormons are not permitted to marry more than one person at the same time—but properly, this is outside of the realm of what anyone can properly “permit” anyone to do. By believing that two or more people’s private consensual agreement regarding their love, life, and religion is subject to anyone else’s “permission” is disgusting. He lives not to serve you, but himself and the women he loves.

    Forcing something upon someone’s body should not be allowed when they have not done you wrong, but if a woman wishes to circumcise herself, than she ought to be free to do so.

    This is where Islam and the West collide, and this is where the soul of Western civilization, and the bastardization that masquerades as it today conflict. Today people in the West believe that it is legitimate for the government to enforce righteousness, and they believe in no principle or limit to the extent that the government can legitimately plunder from the productive.

  • monkeysuit

    I would agree that we have attained things through our freedom of the individual. And in that we have always been strong. Our weakness in this is the thought that in our freedoms we have not sacrificed. Everyone would love for everything to be 100% free, but we have to be a land of laws. Because of this we alter and we do in fact restrict some freedoms in order to keep order through law. Mormons for example are not permitted more than one wife even though that is a part of their religious beliefs. So with that we will in fact require a number of restrictions to Islam in order to allow law to rule the land. We do not accept female circumcision, we do not allow stonings for adultery and we will never allow the unequal treatment of women. This is where Islam and he west collide. This is where those willing to lose those practices will be allowed to freely worship in our country.