How To Destroy Western Civilization Without Spilling Your Latte

By Tom Gilson & John Zmirak Published on April 18, 2018

Okay, you’re thoroughly sick of Western civilization. What you know of it, that is. Every standard you can’t live up to, every finger ever wagged at you, every twinge of inappropriate guilt — you trace it to Western Civ. Not the class in college — no one’s taking that anyway, or at least not without flipping it all on its head — but the real thing. The civilization. The one that’s sustained us, or we’ve sustained, or whatever, for hundreds and hundreds of years.

But now it’s getting in the way; you imagine that a “free” and “diverse” “global” civilization wouldn’t do such things to you. Nor would it enslave Africans, colonize Indians, or saddle sexual experimenters with fear of hellfire. Instead, it would be … mellow.

It would offer the best of every culture on the earth, with none of the ugly stuff. So hookah bars, but no honor-killings. Hindu yoga centers, but no Untouchables. Lots of porn, but no sexual harassment.

This new, post-Western world you associate with cities like Portland, Oregon, where you can’t afford to live. But you know from watching Portlandia that the place is really cool. You wish that Indianapolis or Buffalo, where you’re still stuck living, were just as cool.

There are some things about the West that you obviously value. Like modern medicine, political order, personal freedom, electronic devices, and openness to change. But you’re pretty sure those things would stick around, even after all the bad parts of Western Civ got taken away. You know, just the way all those foreign cultures will shed their negative aspects but keep all the fun, exotic stuff, once they have settled into Portland. Found a nice apartment, made some friends. Maybe joined an organic co-op.

Keep Western Civilization Secret

The worldview traced above isn’t a satire or a caricature. It is a documentary photograph of the thoughts of millions of Westerners. It’s virtually a brain scan. (Except that brain scans don’t register thoughts, but the person above vaguely thinks that they do. Or will, in a few years, anyway. “Trust science, man!”)

The only reason Western Civilization survived the fall of Rome was Christianity.

How would someone who thinks this way hollow out Western Civilization of all that offends him — without ruining his personal comfort? He could start by letting it die the death of invisibility. Just hide from the next generation what Western civilization even means.

Yes, it’s a heritage of ideas, values, and beliefs. They’re expressed through noble and worthwhile literature, visual arts, drama and music. Those ideas and this art constitute the basis for Western civilization. Without their substance and reality Western civilization cannot exist. But hey, kids don’t know that if you don’t tell them! So let’s just keep it secret. Let it freeze and starve in the dark.

This death by invisibility is now a fact, pretty much everywhere. Western Civilization is hidden from today’s students. The brilliant educator Rob Koons tried to get a course on Great Books established (reinstated, actually) at the University of Texas, Austin. After long effort he was forced to give up. The story at UT has been repeated at colleges and universities across the Western world. Sure some still teach art and architecture, but they teach them as empty shells, drained of the philosophy and theology that gave birth to them and give them meaning.

If you’re over 55 — or you watch old movies — you remember dire warnings of “the end of civilization as we know it.” Used to be that was about the Soviets dropping the Bomb on us, or Goldwater beating them to it. Scary stuff. Turned out it was easier than that: Just put an end to the knowledge of civilization. Expect the same effect in a generation or so, only less obvious, more comfortable, for now at least; no mushroom cloud required.

Teach People That It’s Evil

You could go a step beyond keeping Western Civilization secret. You could teach people just enough about it to prove that it’s uniquely evil. This process is well underway at colleges and universities that scorn “dead white men,” preferring “critical theory” instead. That’s the kind of theory that refuses to see good in any Western ideas, but only racism and sexism among the authors.

Get Rid of Jesus

The only reason Western Civilization survived the fall of Rome was Christianity. All that Classical philosophy and literature would have vanished forever if monks hadn’t thought it important enough to recopy the books by hand. And to do it over and over and over again as the paper decayed. Even the books that got preserved in Islamic countries mostly were recopied by Christian minorities there.

Take away the Christians, and the pagan tribes that overran the West would have used those old scrolls in the privy. Likewise, for most of Western history, thoughts of ethics and the common good have come to the masses through their churches.

Remake Christianity as a social club for nice people where lesbian clergy in Kente vestments lead folk songs and wave rainbow flags. That lasts one generation, tops, then you can take those nice, empty Gothic buildings and turn them into condos.

So if you want to shake the Etch-A-Sketch and start from scratch, you need to root out Christianity. At least, in its historic form, as a creed that teaches a long series of solid affirmations about historical facts and doctrinal truths. Try to make it instead a social club for nice people where lesbian clergy in Kente vestments lead folk songs and wave rainbow flags. That lasts one generation, tops, then you can take those nice, empty Gothic buildings and turn them into condos.

One great way to make this happen? Publicly humiliate and treat as thought criminals anyone who clings to the old Christian truths. Prevent them from working in public life. (See Mike Pompeo.) Boycott or ban their companies. (See Chick-Fil-A.) Just throw them in jail for being bigots. (See all those Christian florists and wedding planners.) Nobody wants to deal with that kind of trouble. Right?

Dig Up Some Other Basis for Morality

Savvy people will see that you can’t do without morality altogether. That might lead to racism. Or one of the other few things that people still admit fall under the category of “evil.” (Others include cruelty to animals, and “intolerance” of virtually any sexual behavior whatsoever.) So you need to offer them some kind of substitute. You know, like “Vegan Chicken” or gluten-free bread.

That’s where that (admittedly, 100% Western) thing called the “Enlightenment” comes in handy. Pretend (as the leaders of the Enlightenment such as Voltaire and Diderot actually did) that Europe lived in miserable “darkness” from 476 until, say, 1650. Then Descartes said, “Let there be light,” and lo, there was light.

None of this is remotely true, of course, but it’s handy that this is how history’s mostly taught already. Philosophy departments at Ivy League schools still skip from Plotinus to Descartes, leaving the murk in the middle for the muddle-heads in “Religious Studies.” Thankfully, some Christian schools (or at any rate, Jesuit ones) have begun to slavishly follow suit.

Pretend that pre-Christian values were higher and better. Skip lightly over all the slavery, genocide, misogyny, and the total neglect of the poor. (Christians opened the first schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, et cetera.) Such facts will just confuse kids. Teach them that Europe was one big fun, sexy Spring Break until those prune-faced apostles showed up to spoil the fun. You’ll be amazed how willing 18-year-olds are willing to believe it.

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Free People from the Family

Marx and Engels were post-Western enough to know that the traditional family was as big an obstacle as religion or private property to tearing down the civilization they hated. And replacing it with a brand new one, made from a brand new human nature. Luckily for you, the attack on the family and community is already well under way.

So get people to shack up instead of marrying. To divorce instead of sticking it out through rough patches. Blow up the load-bearing walls of marriage that mark it off from any other sexual connection. Let men marry each other, or women do the same. Then figure out ways to accommodate “throuples” and other polyamorous arrangements. Treat them as legal and moral equivalents of marriage. Punish anyone who doesn’t agree. With jail time, if possible!

Pretty soon there’s nothing left of the Western Civilization that was bothering you.

Don’t Have Any Kids

The “end of civilization as we know it”? It’s already happened.

Of course, it’s a big question whether you’ll still have all the side-effects of social order and moral behavior that make life anything other than nasty, brutish, and short. There is the real possibility that Portland can’t last more than a lifetime. Not without turning into something more like Baghdad or Sarajevo. That’s what those stuck-up, sourpuss conservatives are always warning us. They talk about “eating the seed corn” and “burning up social capital,” and you can’t prove that they’re wrong.

It might well happen that once you get rid of all the structural elements of Western Civilization, the amenities will crap out too. Maybe those foreign cultures that showed up will also turn out to have carried over some of their bad stuff. Maybe mobs of Muslim men will harass the cool young women you’d like to hang with. (They don’t dress “modestly.”) Maybe the next generation that grows up with vague, ungrounded moral codes will turn out a lot of criminals, extremists, or just plain bums.

The “end of civilization as we know it”? It’s already happened. But you can deal with the long-term side-effects. Let the universe die with you — and the civilization you’ve succeeded in killing off. Just don’t have any kids. Don’t leave behind any hostages to the world that you’ve created. You can boast about your decision, and shame those with large families. Just talk about “carbon footprints” and “biodiversity.” Then you can kick back and chill. Grab a pile of that seed corn, and pop it in the microwave. Here’s some organic asiago cheese we picked up at Whole Foods.

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  • Fyodor D

    Thanks, an excellent essay! I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the writings of the late Stanford anthropologist Rene Girard, but, if you’re not, I would encourage you to check them out. Girard was an atheist who became a Christian after thoroughly studying the New Testament. He admits to approaching his task with the same deconstructionist eye that boringly cranks out the “Jesus is just another myth” scholarship that is flung at Christians every Christmas and Easter. Instead, he uncovered just how radically different the Christian story is. “Reading the Bible with Rene Girard” is an excellent, accessible (his other books are written for academics) summary of his thought/work.

    Girard warns that as Christianity recedes in the world, the one mechanism for checking violence will be lost and civilization will dissolve as a result of all-against-all strife. His analysis is proving to be true…sadly. The barbarians are streaming through the trampled gate.

    • Zmirak

      Thanks, I’ve read almost all of Girard–except for the book you suggest, which I’ll go get. Appreciate the suggestion!

  • Madeline

    Great article. It reminds me of “The Screwtape Letters,” which is happening apace. John’s sense of humor helps me endure this rot.

  • Anne Fernandes

    Interesting to see the loss chronicled, but we know that our hope is in Christ in Whose strength we continue. We see it, we hear it we feel it, we see it. Our spirits and His are grieved. If this article was rendered for someone just coming into the faith, then…alright…explain the demise of western civilization. But for those who have walked with Him for a longer while, we hold His promises of salvation in Him alone aloft and abreast to pray for the lost. All of scripture, but in particular, Revelation explains the loss quite well. Thank God for God, and His continued mercy for the lost, and for me!

  • David Lawrence

    Very enjoyable “tongue in cheek” article! We were given a “free will” to make good decisions along with bad decisions and then decide the “truth and the way”. This comes sooner to some than others and may even take generations to choose correctly as the article points out that you want to be sure not to “throw out the baby with the bath water”.

  • Nathan DeParis

    I’m reminded of my 96 year old Grand father ( still living) who many years ago noticed this decline in West Civ. He attributed it to the silencing of God by those Ceasers in power, he said you can’t control anyone unless you get rid of Religion because as long as someone has a higher power they will understand the essence of free will. Then he said there are no families anymore, and in addition no children. I wouldn’t shame at all people with large families, but I believe reasons matter, and like in the P.I.G Guide to Catholicism we see that God told man to be fruitful and multiple but he didn’t say to be stupid about it. don’t get me wrong I agree fully with what this article convey’s I just don’t want some sentences to be taken the wrong way.

  • Tim H

    Awesome piece guys! It’d be sweet to get this into the NYT or maybe on Vox or Huffpo but it’s not satire for that crowd. It’s there roadmap.
    Sad but at least you made it funny.
    On a more serious note, I believe we are in fact seeing the disintegration already. Some of it is obvious, but the loss of the undergirding of our civilization is also presenting in things like these mass shooters. These folks are we get when this type of civilization dies.

    • So I just emailed John to ask him what he thought about this idea of it being satire, or another person’s comment that it was tongue-in-cheek. My question: “Were we really that subtle?” We didn’t intend to be.

      😉

      • Howard Rosenbaum

        Portlandia which is referenced in your eye opening commentary on the decline of western civilization is satire. Self deprecating satire at that . From creative liberal types no less.
        Tongue in cheek ? – well no more than what readers of Mr Z & occasionally Mr G are accustomed to anyway.
        Civilization, it’s culture, customs & concerns like the weather are subject to change. The foundations of Judeo- Christian ethics & morality upon which western civilization was ( loosely ) erected don’t.
        You just have to dig a whole lot deeper to find them. …

  • GLT

    Years ago during a discussion over dinner with the historian and lawyer John Warwick Montgomery we both lamented about the decline of civilization. In the course of our discussion we both agreed the decline of God in civilization coincided with a decline of the things which were the product and reflection of our civilization. As we lost God we lost Da Vinci, Beethoven, Bach, Rembrandt, et al. As we lost God we gained minimalist composers and art produced by paint being thrown into the exhaust of jet engines.

  • I don’t understand this fascination with ancient stuff. I mean, we have smart phones, internet, cars with GPS. People back then didn’t have plumbing for crying out loud. I read (ok, heard) the other day that most of history didn’t even have books! OMG, WHAATTT??? If I need to know the population of Peru, I FRICKIN Google it. Even dumb people are smart now. What could we possibly learn from those racist ancient people? Republicans keep talking about the lessons of history. Man, people are dumb, LOL! Millennials rule!!!
    (sarcasm. This was a great piece.)

  • Tom Graffagnino

    Sir, The Law, we’ve disregarded,
    That’s the line we’ve stepped across.
    Now erotic fury rules us,
    On its horns we’re being tossed.

    * * *

    “God created”? …..Don’t be silly!
    That’s just nonsense long disproved….
    We’re the “Naturally Selected”,
    And from Scripture far removed.

    Yes, we know now we’ve descended
    From the beasts of yesterday…
    So, embrace that long tradition!
    And in heat, sir, let us play!

    Yes, let’s root, root, root for pleasure!
    Make a statement!…Do your thing!
    Do “whatever”…It’s OK, sir…
    Now that Evolution’s King!

    * * *

    It’s insane, but we’re pretending
    We’ve been liberated….FREED!
    Now we trust in this delusion,…
    Western culture?…..Watch it bleed.

  • bbb

    Civilization has the word ‘civil’ in it. That word refers to not only societal but to behavioral conduct toward one another.
    What did God give us?
    What did Christ give us?
    More than laws or rules to live by the Bible is God’s word and God’s owner’s manual for human beings.
    Self-worshiping barbarians with a variety of idols and cultures that worship government and dictatorships and theocracies and Satanic cultures and the many variations of those lack the basic structure [the bones] for truly civil cultures or lifestyles.
    What jumps out at the reader who has read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations at least three times is the overwhelming presence of God’s love.
    The owner’s manual for human beings knows that people are largely selfish, egocentric, greedy, emotionally wired, groupies, lazy, jealous, envious, tend to get wasted on alcohol or drugs, will over-eat food they love and blame everything they are on someone or something else.
    What prevents the human race from self-destruction with traits like that?
    Obviously there should be guidelines.
    But guidelines crammed down a human throat are likely to be regurgitated and resented.
    What Christianity and Christ added to God’s love was an emphasis on the ability of human beings to exercise one of their weakest character traits: the ability to choose.
    People who voluntarily choose to live by the gentle civil codes provided by God’s owner’s manual find out they are happy and successful and able to help others because they have found the way.
    Nobody makes people become Christians. Nobody makes people establish a Western Civilization based on Judeo-Christian law. And nobody makes anyone live in such an environment.
    But people from all over the world flock to America because of its orderliness, its generosity, its opportunity, its love.

  • EB

    “More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened… Judging by the continuing landslide of concessions made before the eyes of our very own generation, the West is ineluctably slipping toward the abyss. Western societies are losing more and more of their religious essence as they thoughtlessly yield up their younger generation to atheism….Atheist teachers in the West are bringing up a younger generation in a spirit of hatred of their own society….Our five continents are caught in a whirlwind. But it is during trials such as these that the highest gifts of the human spirit are manifested. If we perish and lose this world, the fault will be ours alone.” Aleksander Solzhenitsyn The Templeton Address: May 1983, worth reading in its entirety, available on the web.

  • Jones Howell

    I get the satire. But where are the proposals to save Western Civilization?

    • tz1

      You won’t like it, but that is what one strain of the alt-Right is doing starting with Trump.

      The simplest thing we must start with is from a scene in The Silver Chair where the green witch throws some dust causing a hypnotic kaledescope from a fire and strums a fall-asleep melody. Puddleglum stamps out the fire. The witch is outraged and Puddleglum’s foot hurts.

      Basically WestCiv has three pillars: Christianity, the Greco-Roman philosophy and law, and the European Nations.

      The latter is where most have the problem and are unwilling to enforce European standards and culture.
      Should we stop subsidizing children born to single mothers? Blacks will scream “racist”. But we can’t have WestCiv without strong, stable, LARGE families. On the last point, try telling women they will be happier as Mothers and they can have the degree and career after the last fledgling has flown the coop.

      If you argue that you are going to have two or three and spend more “quality” time, you neither understand nor will restore WestCiv.

      But WestCiv needs Mothers, married to Fathers, raising large broods, perhaps more than anything else, Philosophy is nice for discussion and Libertarians have done a lot of it while government got larger and more tyrannical. I forgot which saint said “One holy mother is worth 25 of the best teachers”.

      The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. And you wonder at the anarchy? Solomon learned at his Mother’s knee. Would that every family have 4 or 5 such and train them up. The books and methods and knowledge have not disappeared. Homeschoolers are using it today. But Western Civilization needs Western Civilians with both the Christian and Western Civic Virtues.

    • cestusdei

      Start by having dinner every night with your wife and children and make sure you say grace before the meal.

      • Jones Howell

        True, but there are overarching worldview philosophies competing here and underlying foundational losses that have to be assessed and analyzed as to cause and effect. I wish it were as simple as strengthening the world one family at a time. I know that would be profound if aggregate.

        • cestusdei

          We can only do so much. This is just a start.

    • There’s only so much one can say in an article, and there is no sure-fire proposal to save Western civilization, given what we’re dealing with in these days. It will certainly require a move of God among His people. In the meantime we must be strong, courageous, and faith-filled. Please keep reading The Stream, as we do have more to say on these things. Thanks.

      • Jones Howell

        Tom, I appreciate your writing as well as that of your colleague John Zmirak. I know it takes skill to deliver biting satire. I thought the satire was great. The only thing I would say is that it was like eating salmon with rice and vegetables. The salmon is strong and overwhelms the tastebuds if you don’t intersperse it with the other parts of the meal. If you could include commentary occasionally, or a literary pause, it would help me to chew and swallow the ‘salmon.’ Ebb and flow, rise and fall, breeze and quiet. I like it that way. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  • Albion

    The left-liberal project to undermine Western/Christian civilisation is an ogre that eventually devours its own children and creators.

  • Jones Howell

    One sign of the decline of Western Civilization is the laziness and faux-cool use of the ridiculous abbreviation West Civ. If you are too sorry to write out an important word, then, yes we (and especially you) are in decline. And, yes, I am a man who believes in JC and I read the Ho Bib.

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