January 07, 2010
Arnold Toynbee read Spengler’s The Decline of the West as a young historian at the University of London and had the same reaction I did when I first read Hemingway. It blew his mind. He found it both exhilarating and dismaying. Exhilarating because of its historical insights, dismaying for it disposed of the questions he was formulating in his mind about the West and its culture. He nevertheless went on to write A Study of History, all twelve volumes of it, eclipsing Spengler as the numero uno assessor of Western civilisation’s place in history.
I looked up old Arnold and his cosmic despair while recovering from probably the worst hangover ever, but that’s another story altogether. (Schopenhauer and Toynbee go well together the day after the night before). However depressed and self-absorbed, Toynbee got religion right, lecturing at Oxford that “If our secular Western civilisation perishes, Christianity may be expected not only to endure but to grow in wisdom…” He uttered these words in 1940, during the Battle of Britain, and also suggested (privately) that surrender might be preferable to more hatred and violence.
Toynbee was no anti-Semite, but blamed Judaism for the West’s crass materialism, “a consummate virtuosity in commerce and finance,” and that the Jewish claim to be the chosen people had encouraged a Judo-Christian Western attitude of arrogance toward other cultures. Where he mostly got it right was the United States. He saw her as the new Rome—brutal and expansive—and put his trust in the U.N. That was as dumb and wrongheaded as trusting Anwar al Awlaki to address young Muslims in Britain at venues funded by taxpayers. After the war Toynbee let it rip. During the Korean War he described the West as “radioactive,” whose culture when in contact with non-Western societies “threatens to poison the life of the society whose body social is being penetrated.” Looking at Africa today, Arnold sure hit the spot. Big oil has corrupted everyone, and while billions in Western aid go straight into dictator and kleptocrat pockets, Africans are dying from hunger, malnutrition and disease. Not to mention tribal slaughters of the Rwanda kind.
Many agreed, and Toynbee’s ideas inspired a plethora of works centered on the West’s diminishing role in the world. The great Greek philosopher-historian Taki has always been of two minds where Toynbee is concerned. On the one hand I’ve always believed that the West, actually America, would always find a way to turn the rise of the Third World to our own advantage; on the other, the lack of spiritual and ethical matters would eventually prove our downfall. “Our own descendants,” wrote Arnold, “will cease to be Westerners in the traditional sense and will gradually be relegated to the modest place history had originally assigned it.”
Recently Toynbee’s predictions have rung awfully close to the truth. We first had a Nigerian who any moron would have arrested on sight in view of his lack of luggage, one-way ticket paid for in cash, and all-round appearance. Then we have a thoroughly dishonest prime minister expressing outrage at a heroin dealer being put to death in a country on which Britain foisted drugs in the past and went to war with in order to continue foisting. Finally, and this is the best, a low life, odious so called playboy by the name of Gaddafi, beats up his wife at Claridge’s , breaks her nose and cuts up her face, has his bodyguards resist police attempting to investigate, then has the Libyan ambassador call off the fuzz by claiming diplomatic immunity for the scumbag. And what does the brave British prime minister do? He remains outraged over the execution of a major heroin dealer and cannot get involved.
This diseased poor excuse of a man, Moutassim Gaddafi, likes to be called Hannibal, as outrageous a slur on the name of a brave man as is possible, has a long record of violence against those who cannot defend themselves. Last year he held hostage and beat up two Filipino servants. The Swiss arrested him but folded almost immediately. The Swiss president flew to Libya and begged forgiveness. The thug has been involved in similar-like fracases in Paris, in Rome, and I’d hate to think what he’s been up to down south, where he makes the unlamented Udai Hussein resemble Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind.
But just think what the family of Yvonne Fletcher and relatives of those who were cowardly brought down over Lockerbie by a Libyan bomb must feel. When the scumbag was about to be arrested in Claridge’s he called his ambassador and got away with diplomatic immunity. But since when is diplomatic immunity used to cover crimes? Since Gaddafi’s thugs shot down a female policewoman in London and walked away smirking. We all know that it was Libyans who fought to the last in Thermopylae, and it was Libyans who coolly rode against the Russian guns in Balaklava, and that it was Libyans who charged the Union canons in Gettysburg, and it was a Libyan general who took France in six weeks back in 1940. Despite such accomplishments, it doesn’t excuse our lameness once the brave Hannibal broke his wife’s nose.
Toynbee was right. We have been relegated to our rightful place. We are a fourth rate power in a fourth rate continent eager to please any criminal who spends money.
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