The achievements of the British and of Western Civilization in the 19th century

The ruins of Chersonesus, an ancient Greek colony founded approximately 2,500 years ago in the southwestern part of the Crimean Peninsula

There is one thing that I’m looking forward to seeing in the upcoming remake of The Lion King. I can’t wait to see Pumbaa’s farts in live-action (or is it in CGI?). Hopefully, this is something that will be featured in the film, though I don’t feel like seeing the film in a cinema. I might see it on home video. I can confess that I haven’t yet seen any of Disney’s live-action remakes of the company’s “classic” animated films. No, wait. I have seen The Jungle Book (2016). It was fine, I suppose. It’s definitely not a film that I’d want to see again. There was nothing in it that I found to be particularly memorable. But today’s post won’t be about Disney films. It will be about the fact that the cars that were made in the 1990s look better than the cars that are made nowadays. In other words, the cars from back then don’t look like eggs on wheels. I’m thankful that the film Captain Marvel (2019) reminded me of this. But today’s post won’t even be about this interesting matter. It will be about books. My interpretation is as follows. When it comes to the West, the books (fiction and non-fiction) that have been released in the last several decades aren’t particularly good. This is because Western Civilization is slowly but noticeably in decline, and, therefore, people in the West are no longer brought up to be creative and productive. The education system in Western countries is bad. This is why there’s almost no scientific progress and intellectual progress in the West anymore. Because of this, when it comes to literature, Western authors write books that are unoriginal, uninspired, dull, and badly-written. And I’m not just talking about books that are meant for mass consumption. Even the best-written books these days are usually dull, not very memorable, and without flair. Such is the situation not only when it comes to books. This applies to all of the arts and sciences in the West. According to Carroll Quigley, the latest Age of Expansion (under industrial capitalism) of Western Civilization came to an end in 1929. It’s only in the Age of Expansion of a civilization when the greatest and most original works are made. So, if we take the latest Age of Expansion of Western Civilization as an example, the great works in the arts and sciences were made particularly in the 19th century and definitely before the beginning of the second half of the 20th century. Since the industrial revolution began in England, the British forged ahead in the 19th century. In this way, the British (and also the French) were kind of like the Greeks in Classical Civilization or the Arabs in Islamic Civilization. In the “Victorian Era”, and even earlier, the British made outstanding contributions to the arts and sciences. In addition, they dressed well, they were cultured, and they colonized places. It’s no wonder that people used to say that one Englishman is worth as many as ten Americans or fifteen Canadians. Well, people allegedly used to say this. The same can’t be said about the British today, though, even now, in the presence of many gross, vile, and useless Brits, they remain some of the most cultured people in the West. Notable British writers of the Victorian Era include Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, and H. G. Wells. But let’s not forget about Jane Austen. Charles Darwin wrote his hugely influential book, ‘On the Origin of Species’ (1859), at that time as well. Well, the point that I’m making is that if you’re going to read something by, for example, British writers, you’d better read what they wrote in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, when they could still write well. In addition, the great Western philosophers lived at that time. These people can be thought of as intellectual giants if one compares them to today’s philosophers, who are intellectual midgets. I’m not even sure if there are any philosophers from the present time that are worth mentioning. If we take the Dutch as an example, it’s naturally worth looking at what the Dutch made in the “Dutch Golden Age”, when commercial capitalism functioned as an instrument of expansion in the Dutch Republic. At that time, Christiaan Huygens discovered Saturn’s moon Titan, Joost van den Vondel wrote Lucifer (1654), and Johannes Vermeer painted “The Milkmaid”. When it comes to scientific contributions, Carl Sagan, for example, went over what the Ancient Greeks and the Dutch achieved in his book Cosmos (1980). But an even better introduction to science is William Cecil Dampier’s well-written book ‘A History of Science’, which was first published in 1929, when there was still significant scientific progress in Western Civilization. The following is a part of what Dampier wrote about the “Islamic Golden Age”.

“Between 620 and 650, under the stimulus of Muhammad, the Arabs conquered Arabia, Syria, Persia and Egypt. A hundred and fifty years later, Harun-al-Rashid, the most famous of the Abbasid Caliphs, encouraged translations from Greek authors, and thus helped to initiate the great period of Arab learning. At first the advance was slow, for new terms and constructions, suitable for the expression of philosophic and scientific thought, had to be formed and incorporated into the Syriac and Arabic languages. As in the analogous revival of learning which took place in Europe in the later Middle Ages, the first task of the Arabs, and of the races under their influence, was to recover the hidden and forgotten stores of Greek knowledge; then to incorporate what they recovered in their own languages and culture; and finally to add to it their own contributions. For two centuries after the death of Muhammad, there was intense theological activity in Islam. The atomic system of Epicurus, and the problems of time and space raised by the paradoxes of Zeno, stimulated the Muslim mind, which may possibly have been influenced also by the Buddhist atomism of India.”

With all of this in mind, I’m not saying that only the best of literature is worth reading. I myself enjoy reading different books that were written by popular English and American writers before the 1990s. The same applies to music, films, and art. I find that I can’t enjoy most of what has been made in the USA after the 1980s. Therefore, my favorite novels by popular establishment writers like Clive Cussler, David Morrell, or Stephen King were written before the 1990s. For example, Doctor Sleep (2013) is a novel by Stephen King that was praised by some people, particularly by the bought and paid for professional critics. But, when I read this novel, I found it to be rather dull, like the rest of King’s novels from the last two or even three decades. The same applies to science-fiction, but, in this case, because I very much like the genre, I enjoy reading pretty much everything up to the 2000s. Sometimes, out of curiosity, I even read what has been written in the last two decades. But quality and originality aren’t the only standards that have gone down in the last several decades. I find that there’s more and more irrationality as well, to say nothing of propaganda. This isn’t surprising to me, as someone who reads sociology from time to time. Here’s something that Quigley wrote about the matter in his book ‘The Evolution of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis’ (1961). This is taken from the chapter about Classical Civilization. This chapter, by the way, seems very relevant if we think about what has been happening in the USA for the last several decades.

“There were three basic ideas of this oligarchic group: (1) that change was evil, superficial, illusory, and fundamentally impossible; (2) that all material things were misleading, illusory, distracting, and not worth seeking; and (3) that all rationally demonstrable distinctions, including those in social position (especially slavery), were based on real, unchanging differences and not upon accidental or conventional distinctions. These three ideas together would serve to stop all efforts at social change, economic reform, or political equality.

These ideas, which we might sum up under some such comprehensive term as Pythagorean rationalism, were, of course, not irrational, yet they led, ultimately, to mysticism and served the same purpose of providing an ideology for the vested-interest groups that irrational thinking usually does in the Age of Conflict of any civilization. In the Age of Conflict of Classical antiquity these idea generally triumphed, although they were challenged, generally with little effect, by the later Aristotle (after 343 B.C.), by Epicurus and Lucretius, and by numerous minor thinkers in the late Hellenistic and Roman periods. When, in the latter period, some of the sophist ideas, such as the conventional nature of slavery, became widely accepted, they were combined, as in Stoicism, with resignation and acceptance of the external appearances of things to a degree that entirely canceled the dynamic and progressive influence they had possessed when advocated by the Sophists.

It might be pointed out at this time that the triumph of the vested-interest groups (the oligarchy) in the struggles of the Age of Conflict of Classical civilization resulted in the social, political, and economic triumph of the oligarchy over the progressive and revolutionary forces. This led to the survival of the works of the intellectual supporters of oligarchy, such as Plato, Xenophon, and Cicero, and to the loss of most of the works of the opposite side, such as the writings of the Sophists and Ionian scientists; the rich were willing to pay for making copies of works favoring their position and would not pay for the copying of opposition works. Thus we have today the writings of Pindar and Xenophon, but have lost those of Anaxagoras and Epicurus.

Moreover, it should be pointed out that the oligarchic victory over the forces of progress and equality did not ensure survival to the victors in the long run, or the ending of the opposition’s ideology. Quite the contrary. The military tyranny that arose as a consequence of the oligarchy’s efforts to maintain slavery and social inequality by force eventually took over the control of Classical society in its own name and liquidated the oligarchy and the Classical culture it had maintained. In a similar way the ideological writings of the supporters of oligarchy survived, but many of the ideas of their nominalist opponents became generally accepted. Thus individualism, the natural equality of all men, the conventional and unnatural character of slavery, and the belief that social distinctions rested on force rather than on real differences became generally accepted in the Stage of Universal Empire, but without in any way destroying the continued existence as institutions of slavery, social inequality, law, or public authority. Of course, in the very long run, with the disappearance of these institutions it might be argued that the ideas that challenged them won out, but this occurred only with the death of Classical society as a whole.”