Tonight, dear friends, is the eve of the Feast of Albertus Magnus. “Who he?” would be the response of most people who have gone to school since the end of World War II. Names like Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, Cicero and Cato, Alfred the Great and the Venerable Bede, while they may echo distantly in the memories of those of us who have reached the age of 50, will probably ring no bells in the minds of our children.
What did your kids learn in school today? Certainly nothing about Albertus Magnus or Leonidas and his 300 Spartans at Thermopylae or Scipio Africanus and his gallant defense of Rome against the child-murdering Carthaginians. They would have been even less likely to hear about Charles Martel, who drove the infidel Moors back into Spain, or the ragtag Christian army of John Hunyadi, St. John Capistrano, and Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Dracula, that drove the Turks back from Belgrade in one of the most glorious moments of Western history. What American under 60 can say what took place at Lepanto or Cowpens or the Alamo or Guadalcanal?
If your children are college students, and they are going to the University of California-Santa Barbara, they can attend such lectures as “Shinin’ the Light on White: An Introduction to White Privilege,” led by the cofounder of the “Challenging White Supremacy Workshops,” or a lecture performance by Roxanne Poorman Gupta “in praise of the primordial feminine,” or Alejandro Jaurez’s thoughtful presentation “F—ing with the Stereotypes: Gay Men of Color in Porn,” in which a Chicano-studies and art-studio major pays tribute to “Submissive Asians, spicy Latinos, hung Black stallions.”
At my own alma mater (Chapel Hill), incoming freshmen are required to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, a Marxist diatribe against all things American written by a 60’s feminist who has not learned a thing in 40 years of demonstrating and posturing. The poor thing actually went out and waited tables so she could suffer with the poor—before going back to her affluent lifestyle as a government-subsidized perfesser. Last fall, the same university was promoting Approaching the Qu’ran, by Haverford professor Michael Sells, a third-rate leftist quack who never tires of promoting all things abnormal or non-Western. And the Alumni Association wonders why I do not send them money.
In celebrating Islam, Sells is hardly original. Public-school students in California are put through an intensive three-week course on Islam in which they are forced to memorize verses of the Koran and pray in the name of Allah, whom they praise as “Lord of Creation.” They also study the life of Muhammad and memorize Arabic phrases, Islamic theological terms, and Muslim proverbs.
In the textbook for the course, Across the Centuries, students are also taught about the intolerance of Christians who persecuted those poor dear harmless witches and used the Inquisition against heretics. To help them learn to think like Muslims, students are even forced to dress up as Bedouins and pretend to be in a caravan. It was Muslims, after all, who “introduced rhythmic music, rhyming poetry, different courses at meals, and table manners,” according to their history book. If you have ever wondered where John Walker Lindh got the notion that conversion to Islam was a good idea, the obvious answer is that his school converted him to the religion of terror.
The Islamic propaganda being pushed in our schools is only the most perverse manifestation of the multicultural sickness. Our children are taught, as many of us were taught, that Muslim Arabs and Turks are heirs (as we are) to the civilization of Greece and Rome, that Muslims preserved Greek philosophy and mathematics in a period when barbarian Christians were persecuting independent thinkers. Islam is one of three great monotheisms, and Muslims and Christians worship the same god, only with different names. Muslims per se are not our enemy, only Islamic extremists who commit acts of terrorism—that is to say, Muslims who believe in their religion and act according to its principles.
This myth, to a great extent, defines the modern civilization not of the West but of the Anti-West, and, unlike many myths, which are a poetic means of getting at a deeper reality, there is not a particle of truth in it. The primary effect of the Arab conquest of North Africa and the Middle East was the destruction of the civilization of the Greeks and Romans. The Muslim conquerors persecuted and impoverished the Christians of the eastern empire and proved themselves largely incapable of maintaining the institutions of civilized life. The same might be said of the Franks and Goths who invaded the western empire, but those German tribes quickly accepted its religion and culture and, within 500 years, were producing a brilliant “Gothic” civilization.
The Muslims, however, came only to loot and to destroy, and the culture they built out of the ruins of Persian and Greco-Roman civilization was sterile, derivative, and uncreative. In such fringe areas as Spain, Bosnia, and Persia, Islamic principles were submerged, to a considerable extent, in a vibrant local culture, which enabled the emergence of nominally Muslim thinkers and artists who made a creative use of the classical past, but, insofar as Islam had an influence on their work, it was negative. What kind of art can there be when human beings cannot be represented? What kind of philosophy, when thinkers must accept the crudest savage fatalism as the undisputed truth? What kind of social life, when women are treated, in principle, worse than slaves in Christendom? Yet this is the religion and civilization that is being inflicted on our schoolchildren.
The cancer of multiculturalism is not quarantined in our schools. Our support for the Islamic religion in schools has been matched, at least until recently, by a willingness to permit Muslims to enter our country, set up propaganda and lobbying centers, and protest against whatever Christian symbols other non-Christian groups have failed to eliminate.
Muslims, however, are only a small part of the multiculturalist assault. You cannot turn on the radio or television or go to a film without being assaulted by anti-European, anti-Christian, antiheterosexual stereotypes. In film after film, dumb, insensitive white guys are taught how to be fully human by black jazzmen, Sioux braves, Asian children, or brilliant artistic homosexuals. And, unless you attend a traditional Latin Mass or a conservative Baptist or Missouri Synod Lutheran church, you will hear the same propaganda on Sunday. It takes a good deal of Christian patience to endure the relentless clerical sniveling over the rights of immigrants and the superiority of their more authentic cultural traditions, which may include female circumcision, animal sacrifice, narcotrafficking, polygamy, and the arranged marriage of preteen girls to old men.
Our ruling class has come up with the perfect formula for cultural suicide. First, set quotas to encourage the immigration of non-Western aliens. Then, once they have arrived, give them a whole set of rights that no one else has: the right to be taught in a foreign language at the taxpayers’ expense; the right to have their religion and culture inflicted on American students who cannot pray in school or be taught the English classics; the right to preferential treatment in school admissions, scholarships, and employment—at the expense, remember, of our own children.
Multiculturalism and Western self-loathing did not begin in the 1960’s. If we look back at the imagined Golden Age of the 1950’s, where was the cultural cutting edge? Not, certainly, with such writers as Frost and Eliot, Hemingway and Faulkner, all of whom were nearing the end of their careers. No, the cutting edge was the spatter-painting of Jackson Pollock, whose “work” (though that is hardly the word for something that more resembles leaning against a wall and spitting tobacco juice on pavement) is a rebellion against all Western art and Western sanity; and, in literature, it was the so-called Beats, who repudiated the standards and traditions of the West in favor of the mysterious East.
In cultural politics, the radical voice was that of Frantz Fanon, who denounced Western colonialism, declaring that whites only defined themselves in opposition to blacks and calling for the creation of a new world in which all history and tradition had been annihilated. Neither Frantz Fanon nor the postwar Beat Generation, however, were original in anything. They were merely repeating the pre-war platitudes of Marxists and surrealists.
The surrealists had more on their minds than melting watches and unintelligible poems. Many of them were also Marxists, and some of the leaders signed a famous manifesto denouncing the French Catholic Paul Claudel. Claudel’s sin was to have called for a defense of the West’s cultural traditions, which the surrealists derided as inferior to all the cultures of the world, high and low. If the West was falling apart, so much the better: “We profoundly hope that revolutions, wars, colonial insurrections, will annihilate this Western civilization whose vermin you defend . . . ”
Seven years later, the surrealists issued their encyclical on the colonial question, “Murderous Humanitarianism” (1932), republished in the special issue “Surrealism: Revolution Against Whiteness” in the aptly named journal Race Traitor. This edict condemns not only colonialism, capitalism, and the clergy but the black middle class and liberals who collaborate with capitalist regimes.
Western “humanism,” they declare, so far from being humane, was built on slavery, colonialism, and genocide, and they proclaimed the enduring multicultural political agenda: an ethnic “civil war” against the West.
The surrealist diatribes echoing through the corridors of the academy today are only the culmination of four centuries of cultural suicide, going back at least to the nominally Christian but really neopagan Michel de Montaigne, who devoted one of his most important essays (“On the Cannibals”) to debunking all the institutions of France: the French monarchy, the French Church, French customs, French culture.
From Montaigne to Montesquieu to Voltaire to Rousseau to the surrealists to Ginsberg to the elementary-school teachers preaching Islam to California schoolchildren, there is an unbroken line of anti-Western, antiwhite, anti-Christian propaganda and a cultural amnesia so complete that we know more of Fat Albert than of Albertus Magnus.
St. Albert the Great, because of the breadth of his interests, is known as the Universal Doctor. Although he was the greatest authority of his day on the natural sciences—physics and astronomy—he is now known chiefly as an advocate of moderate Aristotelianism. Like his more famous student, St. Thomas Aquinas, he set out to refute the pseudo-Aristotelian disciples of the Muslim philosopher Averroes, whose distortions of Aristotle were incompatible with Christianity.
It is often said that Arab Muslim scholars are responsible for rescuing Aristotle. This is only partly true. It was Syrian Christians who, in the fifth and sixth centuries, translated Aristotle into Syriac and who later, in ninth-century Baghdad, retranslated him into Arabic. Arab commentators did some good in interpreting the philosophical and medical texts, but they also had an agenda of their own. The Muslim Aristotelians, who were of a neoplatonic bent, convinced themselves that God did not create the world directly but through intermediaries and that the soul was not immortal. To defend himself from a charge of heresy, Averroes came up with the theory of two proofs—that revelation and philosophy were separate avenues to truth—that inflicted so much damage on the medieval mind.
Saint Albert and Saint Thomas stood against the Islamic skeptical tide. Defending the Western mind from the invasion of Islamic thought was a very important task, as important as the task of the Crusades that were going on at this time to protect Orthodox Christians in the East and to rescue the Holy Land from Islamic oppression.
At the first John Randolph Club meeting in Dallas, I said it was time for ordinary Americans to take back their country, and the phrase was picked up for a time and turned into a political slogan. Even if we cannot take back the country in our lifetime, however, we can take back our own lives, and, instead of complaining, as the neoconservatives do, about the evil schemes of the left (which includes them), we can prepare ourselves, our minds, our children’s minds, to be men and women of the West.
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