Speculation about the possible decline of the West has been going on for the better part of a century, if it may be considered as originating in Spengler’s or Valery’s famous reflections.  Obviously, the fratricidal nature of World War I triggered pessimism, but I think the very nature of our societies constitutes a reason for being pessimistic about our future.  Modern Western societies have nurtured in their bosoms the germs that stand a good chance to kill them, all the more so as standard opinion holds these germs to be the very seeds of the West’s ability to fulfill mankind’s eternal expectations.

Let us first assess the obvious: What more and more immigrants see in the West today is a reservoir of material affluence they are eager to tap, rather than a spiritual or cultural role model.  The stock of the melting pot has lost its taste.  Not so long ago Westerners considered it their mission—their glorious burden—to Westernize a world that was more or less fascinated by their achievements.  In less than a century this situation has been appallingly reversed: Though the West is usually pictured as domineering, even despotic, today it stoops more and more to those it formerly conquered.

Demographic curves graphically reveal that Western populations no longer wish to reproduce themselves; even though they supposedly bask in their pleasant way of life, they apparently don’t want to pass it down to children.  Conversely, they show an increasing willingness to tolerate a massive influx of immigrants whose majority wishes to profit more than to contribute and is often clearly hostile to Western traditions.  The same self-denial is apparent in the supposed Western elite, whose indiscriminate enthusiasm for foreign cultures, for artistic, intellectual, or religious exoticism, constitutes a surrendering of their own soul to alien ones that they claim are deemed inferior only by dimwits.  (In a memorable show of masochistic servility, the European Union recently refused to acknowledge its Christian roots, while boasting of its cowardly ineptitude as a sign of open-mindedness and intellectual depth.)  This attitude is echoed in the political and economic realms: Under the guise of building a Society of Mankind, entering a world market amounts to becoming more and more dependent on foreign resources, workers, customers, not to mention losing employment to the Third World’s slave labor.  (Jefferson would have been horrified.)  In the meantime, barring the occasional war waged for the sake of well-known lobbies, standard wisdom among Western populations is that which prevailed in Munich before World War II: Better red than dead.  Modern Europeans refuse to have enemies; they only acknowledge having partners, who may sometimes be difficult and must be appeased by discreetly paying the ransoms they demand off and on.  Where is the time when perhaps a touchy but at least proud and dignified France dispatched troops to Algiers, because her ambassador had been slapped by the Bey?

But enough of that—no one is blinder than he who refuses to see.  So the only question is, why does such an attitude remain so distressingly widespread in the West?  There are undoubtedly lobbies whose interest it is to assist and further the West’s disintegration.  But nothing of any magnitude comes out of the will of a few: No lobby today could restore true monarchy in the Western world.  My purpose here is to pinpoint those propensities in the Western mentality that may account for the weakness of the West.

There is an obvious cause for such decay.  It is in plain sight for all to observe, were there not a tacit agreement to ignore it, for it is the new god of the West, and who would dare criticize God?  But criticize it I will, because democracy is no god; it is just an idol.

What, indeed, is democracy, if not a regime deemed to be the best, because it is the only one in which man’s right to liberty is supposed to be the basis of the social order?  Whether this is true or not, people still believe in the promise, and it is rarely realized fully that this is the promise of an utter individual freedom, bounded only—most unfortunately—by the freedom of one’s fellow men (for the limits imposed by God’s will need concern only the faithful, and no belief can be in any way compulsory in a democracy).  So even if democrats are evidently loath to acknowledge it, there is an obvious contradiction between the freedom men are allowed to dream of in a democracy and their unrestricted allegiance to their own body politic: In good logic this body ceases being democratic as soon as it claims the right to impose ties on its citizens that they are not supposed to be able to sever whenever they feel like it.  To ask a citizen to defend in earnest a political system whose only foundation is the freedom of the citizens to part with it is akin to asking him to die so that he can live.  It is sheer nonsense.  The true nature of the sovereign member of a purely democratic body politic is to be a cosmopolite, a citizen of the world.  Now why should such a man be hostile to so-called immigration?  There are no immigrants, legal or not, because all men are born migrants, freely wandering the whole earth.

On the other hand democracy is a society comprising theoretically equal members.  Again, let us not consider whether this is realistic, but simply focus on the demand for equality.  Ever since this goal started to be pursued, Westerners have been striving to implement it.  What with the previous failures of their leveling policies, it seems the idea has slowly gained credit these days, thanks in particular to the so-called personalist philosophy that all inequalities are rooted in one: the inequality of dignity, that for all men what is most important is not to be judged by any standard of any kind, but to be deemed worthy of the same respect simply as persons, as individuals whose worth is to be exactly what they are.  In other words it is not that material inequalities have become unimportant, but that recognition is just as important as the standard of living.  Instead of leading to the gray uniformity of strict socialism, the trend toward equality has thereby led to extolling a society in which no one has to comply with any norm other than letting the other be himself as well.  But again, how could this implicit denial of the superior value of one behavior over another not entail widespread acceptance of other ways of life, other cultures, of men and women claiming the right to their exoticism?  A society of self-righteous untouchables is by nature, and logic, a permissive one, abhorring all forms of what is now dubbed “exclusion”; it is explicitly an “open society.”  (A society that abides by the artificial enforcement of a specific way of life upon hapless individuals deprived of the dignity that makes them all equal is henceforth a repulsive one—a fascist one).

On still another hand, democracy claims it gives birth to a society constantly inspired by a spirit of fraternity.  Now what kind of solidarity can prevail among individuals who not only vaunt their absolute uniqueness but view any tie they have not chosen as an infringement upon their unassailable individual freedom, and have therefore entered society only because they see it as useful to their own individual ambitions?  (“No one enters society unless it is to his advantage,” as Rousseau put it in his democratic bible.)  Nevertheless, the odds are that the dividends of the system will not be evenly distributed, which makes it a natural feature of a truly democratic society to breed scores of perpetually dissatisfied citizens who feel cheated and are prone to resentment toward the fewer who are obviously better off.  So much so that it is highly likely the system is kept going only by the expectation of the have-nots to be able tomorrow to wrench off a better share of the pie, while at the same time there must logically prevail widespread sympathy for the underdogs, the weaker, all those who happen to be badly in need of bettering their lot.  Marx had accurately forecast what has now become the masses’ prevailing mood: “Proletarians of all countries, unite.”  This battle cry, far from outdated, is the rallying cry of the so-called left—the never-satisfied beneficiaries of public funds calling immigrants to the rescue, not so much to overthrow the system as simply to overcome the so-called right, i.e., what they consider the luckier plunderers of the national wealth.  The more democratic a society, the more friable its walls.

An erroneous conception of Christian charity has brought miraculous support to the inner logic of democracy.  The Enlightenment obviously loosened the Christian hold on men, who learned from democracy and the technological mastery of nature that they were free from God’s will and His nature.  Then Christians, instead of resisting the twin-sided revolution, began thinking they had to live with it, condone the Promethean impulse of men to be like gods, regard progress itself as willed by God.  Of course, they then had to find some new relevance for Christian teachings.  At this point the obvious fact that progress had not evenly showered its blessings upon mankind made charity suddenly appear as an incentive necessitated by the individual’s natural self-centeredness, and justified by the obviously collective nature of the struggle against man’s environment.  (How could it not be unfair that the cooperation of all results in some becoming overfed and fat, while others remain hungry and miserable?)  It appeared the Sermon on the Mount must be read as a Communist Manifesto simply disclaiming the necessity of violence.  And under these circumstances, there was a particularly sinful party: The sheer wealth of the West became proof in itself that the West was guilty of stealing from its fellowmen what was not of its sole making, but was actually overwhelmingly the product of their labor.  How could the West, so heavily indebted to mankind, vaunt its achievements instead of vying for atonement and begging for forgiveness?

To hold democratic ideology almost single-handedly responsible for the decline of the West suggests that this decline is not so much willed as the unfortunate or perverse effect of propensities whose lethal potential is still not realized.  But the more I think about it, the more I feel drawn to the idea that lurking behind it is something that amounts to a real death wish, the conscious rejection of the survival instinct that marks all suicides.

For behind the enthusiasm for democracy, and the almost fanatical devotion to the dogma, there is the belief that each man is endowed with a freedom that entitles him to do with himself whatever he deems right for him, according only to his whims or his purely human reasoning.  A new era began when it was claimed that the individual was not only a free being but a being entitled to question God’s wisdom, and therefore one whose liberty may be limited by circumstances, but is by nature absolute.  It is no happenstance that democracy is defined as the only regime in which all citizens (the people) are sovereign.  If the words have any meaning, they mean each citizen is supposed to be what, in the popular notion, a king is in his kingdom—the only legitimate authority—or what, according to Rousseau, he is by nature (and should therefore remain in any legitimate society), a “perfect and solitary whole,” content in the contemplation of his navel.  This is why he feels unwilling as a man to burden himself with children and, as a citizen, under no obligation toward the laws of his country unless they suit him, entitled to a perfect equality with all others in his right to behave as he sees fit, and ultimately prone to no grudge against others, as long as they basically let him be.

But to have no children is to be the fly of a summer.  To feel no obligation to a particular country is equivalent to having none, or to being a perpetual alien in the country one inhabits.  To enjoy in a narcissistic way one’s difference among narcissistic others who act the same amounts to being radically undifferentiated, because when all differences are pronounced equally worthy, all are worthless.  To entertain friendship only on the basis of a mutual indifference or similitude of interests is to have, at most, momentary allies, but no friends.  In other words, striving not to depend on someone else’s assistance—being self-reliant—is certainly a virtue, but attempting to be a world unto oneself is literally an alienation from the world, from oneself, and from the nature of man: Even God may be said to have refused to be alone in the universe that was of His own making.  Man is by nature not only a social animal but what I would call a participatory animal.  It is his nature to be vitally in need of some objective recognition of the worth of his existence but, unlike God, to derive this justification only from his participation in something he believes worth existing, something that in his own eyes provides a self-evident justification for all beings to exist, in a word, to participate in an absolute.  It is in the nature of man to be a religious animal, which our contemporaries no longer are: Their frequent love for spurious beliefs proves they feel a need to transcend their self-centered subjectivity and yet are unwilling to shed the absolute freedom that inspires it.

A man who goes against his own nature cannot be expected to be at peace with himself.  A man who wants to play God is a sick man—and he cannot end up not realizing it.  Which is exactly what is happening today in the eyes of whoever wishes to see what has become of Western societies.  Why are so many people today in need of mental therapy?  Why do so many try to take refuge in alcohol and drug addiction?  Why are the silliest TV programs eagerly watched, if not out of a conscious or semiconscious desire to escape the void of one’s existence?  Why do we witness unabated consumerism, if it is not the result of an ever-renascent hope that the next purchase will allow one to attain ever-receding contentment?  Why does Christianity so often end up furthering a sense of guilt, if not a depraved charity amounting to an absolute and unnatural denial of one’s worth?

The modern Western world is footing the bill for its sin: It was born of the belief that man could be a god to men (Spinoza), that mankind could rely on its own strength to solve all the problems its chosen course of life would raise (Marx), that man could overcome the mysteries of nature with no help other than his own reason (Descartes).  The day of reckoning is obviously due: The modern Western world is paying the price of the explicit or implicit atheism that has ever been the core of its philosophy.  The Western soul is today drifting toward suicide as the only escape from the misery of a world that has become absurd for those who yesterday lived for it and today persist in dying by it.

Which is not to say there are no longer people who still know how to read their compass, and others who are not happy with the decay of a world they still find worth dominating.