In this spellbinding work Melanie Phillips warns that the West's accelerating descent into irrationality represents the concluding stage of a breakdown in the culture's collective subconscious. She traces the etiology of the mental disease from those strains of the Enlightenment that dogmatically repudiated religion in all its forms. Phillips uses many examples from the UK to demonstrate the decline of Britain but her thesis is applicable throughout the Anglosphere, the West in general and even to some extent in India.
As Gertrude Himmelfarb explained in On Looking Into the Abyss
, The Anglo-Saxon Enlightenment differed profoundly from the Continental, a characteristic of which was French intellectuals' rejection of all religion. However, since humanity has a need to worship, this strain gave rise to all the subsequent utopian movements or Secular Salvation Ideologies that have afflicted humanity. The terror of the French Revolution foreshadowed the horrors of Fascism, Nazism and Communism.
The author sees things in the same way as Chantal Delsol
who describes the existential uncertainty and bleak spiritual landscape in Europe. Delsol portrays the continent's (post)modern cultural confusion in terms of an Icarus who survived his fall but now lies bleeding. The European psyche was first wounded by the loss of Christianity and then more grievously by attempts to replace it with secular salvationist substitutes that led to the 20th century's totalitarian tragedies. These experiments have left people dazed, disoriented and stripped of certainties. Utopian ideologies
weren't the only attempted replacements; they also included reason and science. Delsol elegantly likens these failures to collapsed cathedrals.
Western civilization rests on 3 pillars: Greek esthetics, Roman statecraft and Hebrew ethics. Our concepts of freedom, reason and the sanctity of life derive from the Hebrew Bible
. The spread of these values via Christianity is what put a stop to the Roman and Greek habits of exposing unwanted infants and treating murder as entertainment. Somewhere along the line an inversion took place - the law which liberates is now perceived as restrictive. In essence, the notions of "treat other people as you wish to be treated and love the Great Good" somehow limits the individual's happiness, it is believed.
Phillips examines the causes and consequences of the false beliefs that have spread like an Unlight through the western psyche. About the Middle East: that Israel is the aggressor and the Arabs the victims. About the liberation of Iraq: that the 2003 war was started on the false pretext of an imminent threat from lethal weapons that the regime was stockpiling. About the environment: consumption of fossil fuels must be curtailed in order to save the planet from anthropogenic global warming. About science: scientism as religion
will eventually solve all problems. Every one is exposed as a lie.
All the currently popular 'progressive' movements like scientism, moral relativism, anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, postmodernism, multiculturalism and environmentalism fall into the secular salvationist category. They are anti-modernist and represent a return to the primitive. Like Eric Hoffer's True Believers
they are enthused by zeal, slaves of dogma and prone to intolerance. In addition, these movements bizarrely mirror the Christian cycle of a pristine paradise, fall due to sin, guilt-driven yearning for salvation, inevitable apocalypse and ultimate redemption by the expiation of sin. This last would be, for instance, abolishing the industrial & information society in order to appease Gaia.
At the same time traditional Judaism and Christianity are demonized. The loss of belief in a God that determines standards of right and wrong has led to the substitution of truth and reason for ideology and prejudice. From that flows collective delusion as concepts like good & evil, truth & falsehood, right & wrong are distorted and inverted. In this process of decay the West is giving up its liberties and losing its will to resist Islamic expansionism. Progressivism and Islamism share a hatred for the ethical Hebrew foundations of the West - particularly as embodied in the USA and the State of Israel. Both ideologies pursue utopian goals and both are extremist. The one represents extreme absolutism
and the other extreme relativism. In many ways they co-operate, especially in the demonization of Israel.
Western leftists eagerly embrace the inverted Arab narrative of Middle East history since to them western culture
(represented by Israel) is inherently oppressive and the Palestinians - really victims of its neighbors - are transformed into victims of Israel. And the victim can do no wrong according to the doctrines of the multiculti cult. Non-westerners are blameless by definition but victimhood automatically bestows sainthood too. In the demonization of Israel there are other, more sinister factors at play too.
As Caroline Glick observes in The Shackled Warrior, the transnational progressives perceive nationalism itself as evil so they worship supranational bodies like the United Nations, European Union and International Court of Justice in their pursuit of utopia. Nationalism itself is of course neutral, it's the manner of its expression that is subject to moral judgment. Fear and appeasement also play a part owing the large numbers of people of Middle Eastern & North African origin who now reside in Europe
The question arises whether the West has completely succumbed to this suicidal pathology
. Academics in the social sciences feed the unquestioning mass media a stream of toxic ideas that the media in turn sell to the population at large, together with a relentless barrage of hedonism. Are there still enough people who care; how many of them perceive the danger and how many of these are prepared to act?