History interpreted as challenge & cyclical process


As a wet-behind-the-ears undergraduate during the 1960’s, there were certain theorists, historians and philosophers that together had the effect of forming my understanding of history and how events – from one generation to another, one century to another, and even one millennium to another – often reveal shared qualities that account for their successes and failures.

Writing during the early 1930’s, a time when the Western world was still striving to come to grips with the slaughter and carnage of World War I, Arnold J. Toynbee, in his multi-volume work, A Study of History, equated the advancement of societies and civilizations to the interfacing of challenge and response, and how groups of human beings would either be brought to the fore or diminished by the quality of their reactions to the challenges of existence.

For some, their response might be compared to that of an unambitious mountain climber who chooses to cling to a rocky crag rather than to continue the dangerous assent to the summit.  Others, with more prowess, and determination, continue to the top and look for other heights to conquer.  Similarly, the same is true for nations, societies and civilizations.

For Toynbee, the history of civilization may be seen as physical process.  Just as all organisms go through an evolution that takes them through birth, infancy, childhood, maturity, decline and eventual death, the same is true for the civilizations created by human beings.  However, decline, according to Toynbee, is habitually the result of applying old responses to new challenges.

Concomitant with decline, said Toynbee, is the lurking presence on the periphery of the deteriorating civilization of what Toynbee called the “external proletariat”, alien elements who are both envious of the established civilization and begrudging of its standing and power.  If these alien forces become significantly empowered, their efforts may be decisive in ultimately toppling the moribund civilization.

The Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset, in his Revolt of the Masses, foresaw a time when the traditional institutions entrusted with civilizing and refining the masses in the Western world, e.g., churches, schools and guilds, would be overwhelmed by rapidly expanding birth-rates and a popular culture ignorant of how the culture of the Western world had developed and maintained itself.  The result would be the “new barbarian,” who would know nothing of his past and would be devoid of any points of reference in the present.  Consequently, the new barbarian, in his naiveté, would be easy prey for the spurious philosophies and creeds of charlatans and impostors.

In previous articles, I have attempted to show how a resurgent Islam is very much a challenge for our Western civilization.  One need only compare the Koran with the New Testament of the Christian faith.  A mere cursory examination of the Koran reveals that Muslims are directed by Mohamed to spread their all-encompassing system of governance through conquest, duplicity and guile.  And, during our own time, Muslim nations, while condemning the worldly lifestyle of the West, have demonstrated green-eyed envy for Western technology and know-how.

In The Clash of Civilizations, the late Harvard political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington, affirmed that, from its launching on the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century, Islam has continuously shown belligerence and hostility at any time it has been adjacent to European civilization.  And, with 52,000,000 Muslims now resident in Europe and more than 9,000,000 in the United States, even more violent behavior than we have yet experienced will surely follow.

Perhaps an even greater challenge is the new barbarians in our midst, individuals with no notion of who they are and how they came to be.  Those millions with little or no grounding in the great traditions of the Western world and in the constitution and time-honored institutions of the United States have a type of cultural amnesia, which virtually leaves them with no ability to counter the insidious influences of alien belief systems.

And so we come to the very real possibility of a 13-storey mosque at Ground Zero.  Unfortunately, those authorities who will eventually determine whether or not this monument to a system even more foul and disgusting than Soviet communism and Nazi racialism, have shown that they have no understanding of the peril posed by Islam.  Instead they prefer to base their decisions on the misguided and delusional multiculturalism.

V.S. Naipaul, the renowned Trinidadian novelist and essayist, had this to say about Islamic fury and its detrimental societal effects:

“Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief.  It makes imperial demands.  A convert’s worldview alters.   His holy places are in Arab lands; his sacred language is Arabic.  His idea of history alters.  He rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story.  The convert has to turn away from everything that is his.  The disturbance for societies is immense, and even after a thousand years can remain unresolved; the turning away has to be done again and again.  People develop fantasies about whom and what they are; and in the Islam of converted countries there is an element of neurosis and nihilism.  These countries can be easily set to the boil.”

Apparently this lesson has been lost on the unschooled politicians who now lead our country.