The Crisis in the 21st Century – Introduction
Every age and locality faces its own set of unique difficulties. Some of these sets are more difficult than others. Some have easily-implemented solutions, while others do not; some are resolved by the strength of empires while others are caused by such strength. Every once in a while, these problems become so entangled that they ultimately create a crisis: a situation so perilous that the whole of some multi-part entity, be it a community, nation, society, or civilization, regardless of whether or not it is recognized by those wrapt up within it, is on the verge of total collapse. Indeed, oftentimes in the life of an individual, he will encounter a precarious moment of crisis and not realize it himself as such; he may even be elated by the situation. But so may a drunkard teetering towards the edge of a fatally-high promontory.
The state of the Western world today is very comparable to that of a drunkard. Reason has been drowned beneath an intoxicating flow of pleasures, and despite having long ago passed the early signs of sickness, the flood of hedonism has not yet abated. The individual’s care for anything beyond himself has diminished continually, with the maxims of friendships, cliques, and supposedly noble causes taking on little more than the significance of the reflection of one’s subjectivized beliefs in the righteousness of something. The status quo of the Western moral paradigm has become a morbid and calcified perversion of the Kantian categorical imperative: rather than act only in such a way that you will your action to be a universal law by which all others abide, it has been adopted that the most morally righteous way to treat others is precisely as they desire. Even the notion that harming others, be it against their will or not, has been dissipating in many parts of the world. Hopefully this is an indication that the sickness of the West is at the least near the climactic point at which it will go through a painful and perhaps vile purgation; but it is significantly better for the filth to be unveiled for what it is and expunged from the body, lest it corrode from within.
That does not mean that every individual who revels in the hedonistic nonsense of a pleasure-first, self-first world ought to be held fully accountable: for it is likely that many of the pleasures in which the world has indulged were first tested with a sort of natural curiosity that lacked either intellectual or moral formation as to the limits to which such pleasures may be taken. What started as curiosity, however, has reeled into addiction and obsession. Blame for this may not be placed squarely on the shoulders of any small group of people, for the faults which have spread wide and far can only have done so through the negligence and selfishness of many.
Yet throughout the ailing of the West, there have been many voices of reason. The preceding generations, though they did not perhaps sink so low, did their ill deeds to a greater degree of culpability, having not been so pervasively inebriated; for while the moral deeds done in earlier decades may have been no less heinous than in the current, the influences of goodness and truth were more numerous and at the very least nearer in time. But regardless of when the downward march began, some minds, still sane, still sober, noticed it and did what they could to prevent it. Since early in the 20th century, a tradition of prescient analysis of the decline of Western culture has existed and developed. The sagacious authors of these analyses have outlined the symptoms and causes of moral decay a generation or more ahead of themselves. Their comments, statements, and insights, invaluable to the preservation of the fruits borne by earlier Western thinkers, and though specifically directed to Western civilization, nonetheless apply to man in any part of the world; particularly as technology quickly dims the palpable barriers of distance and communication, if only very slowly of honest dialogue and understanding.
If only such dialogue could occur! The sobriety and sincerity of other cultures, combined with their different beliefs and practices, could perhaps, as a recognized source of opposition and contradiction, revitalize Western civilization into reaffirming its moral and intellectual principles, those sempiternal truths upon which it is founded. Instead, the drunken reeling of the West does nothing other than oscillate senselessly between overindulgent gestures of saccharine pluralistic generosity and angered but incoherent aggression. This ludicrous combination of shaking hands while kicking teeth serves only to enmesh larger portions of the world in the mess. The crisis which plagues the West is lashing out to and drawing in the rest of the world.
It is therefore the aim of this series of essays to examine the chief problems which have severed the contemporary West from its foundations and its principles; to analyze not only the failures, but also to see the solutions; and finally to perceive the global ramifications of whether or not the West sinks ignominiously into the purgative cesspool which it has created for itself, or manages to totter erect and find again the roots from which it grew.
The essays will be posted over the course of the next several weeks. They will be founded upon the writings of many great Western authors, particularly of the last 100 years: G.K. Chesterton, Hillaire Belloc, Aldous Huxley, Allen Tate, Richard Weaver, Jacques Maritain, Russell Kirk, and many of the great popes who have defended the truth whenever possible. This is by no means an exhaustive list of those to whose wisdom the essays will appeal, nor will the sources be limited to those writers of the past hundred years, for the greatness of the West has consisted chiefly in its ability to build upon and preserve that which was correct from antiquity.