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The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason

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To argue that 1619 is another foundational date in American history is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, and this reframing will throw up interesting points; to be quite so assertive in the presentation, as though 1619 could replace 1776, was clearly arrogant, but everything else Murray throws at it is just the whinging of a right-wing snowflake. When Murray moves onto the practical consequences of all this rhetoric, he does cite some disturbing cases, but these do appear to be exceptions. One can have debates about homophobia and sexism and racism in any society, but the people who militantly claim that western society is irredeemable because of these elements are fringe lunatics: they don’t have significant influence outside of fevered online circles, they don’t win elections, their ideas aren’t popular in real terms, even if they are vocal.

He makes objective claims about the best art which just sound immature, is very triumphalist about free-market capitalism, and somewhat disingenuously remarks that everyone wants to be involved with the culture and economy and politics of the west because it’s just plain better than everywhere else. Western self-flagellation, Murray claims, plays into the hands of the Chinese, allowing them to dismiss any charges against themselves as coming from countries with their own serious issues with regards to racism; that the west has no moral high ground and cannot criticise China. I felt he sidestepped the history of native American-settler relations, yes there was unintended disease spread but there were many massacres to consider as well and he sidesteps tougher questions around Churchill and racism.He says that 'few people wished to defend the maintenance of confederate statues' after the George Floyd protests erupted, yet many did defend the statues including the President of the USA. Clearly, country’s are complex and their successes and failures are deeply intertwined with their histories. Nothing speaks more strongly to the spiritual aridity of social justice extremists than their complete insensitivity to aesthetic nuance and artistic value. There are Big Caesars who set out to achieve total social control and Little Caesars who merely want to run an agreeable kleptocracy without opposition: from Julius Caesar and Oliver Cromwell through Napoleon and Bolivar, to Mussolini, Salazar, De Gaulle and Trump.

Maybe that’s the best way of summing it all up: it’s very easy to fall back on “facts” when a corrupted system supports your viewpoints. Through astonishing interviews with powerful insiders, Blood and Oil tells how MBS's cabal played the Saudi economy and capitalised on the omnipotence of feudal power while effectively stamping out dissent, before allegations of his extreme brutality and excess began to slip out.It obviously backfired but he was not praising or defending Mao unlike the shadow home secretary who really did defend Mao in a cringe inducing conversation. They’re convinced that you’re not allowed to say you’re English or that They’re trying to ban the word ‘Easter’.

After all, if we must discard the ideas of Kant, Hume, and Mill for their opinions on race, shouldn't we discard Marx, whose work is peppered with racial slurs and anti-Semitism? His critique of Kendi's circular definition of racism seems correct to me and its application invites policy confusion. If there is action then that’s no bad thing because acting as though the church has never acted racist or the scientific establishment, whose ideas were used to justify eugenics, haven’t had their racist moments is ludicrous. His answer is an astonishing several pages long monologue that encapsulates the source of Murray's angst.

In exploring the case for reparations, Murray is far more lucid, perhaps because it’s a far messier topic that he can wade into without needing to make embarrassingly unsourced claims. There is a great deal for all of us to be thankful for, but too many of us, in Murray’s view, fail to recognise this. Many people, presumably, accept the social justice nostrums propagated by activists out of a misguided but ultimately good-faith aversion to perceived structural inequities. And even if armed black men are regularly drawing their weapons on police officers that doesn’t preclude the police from acting in a racist manner towards the black community. They are also the intellectual descendants of Derrick Bell, the legal theorist, Civil Rights campaigner and originator of Critical Race Theory, a body of thought that emerged in the 1970s.

As evidence, he points to the young Americans and Europeans who “travel the world to find the temples of the Far East, while failing to spend any time in the cathedrals on their own doorsteps. Bound up in all of this is the same idea that, by reanimating the past, the present can be ennobled—Spengler confounded by Eliot. He’s certain that people are coming to decolonise maths and make it antiracist, although he can only cite some ridiculous quotes about people trying to prove 2+2=5, before telling the reader that such systems are being rolled out across the west (citation needed). The thing is that that’s exactly what had happened for years: the Colston statue was divisive within the community and had been a hot-button issue for some time and was met with no response from the owners.At the same time, Murray is a neo-con and rather too cosy with Viktor Orban, so one must take what he says with a grain of salt. Some of this is a much-needed reckoning, but much of it fatally undermines the very things that created the greatest, most humane civilization in the world. I’d be lying if I said that The War on the West hadn’t proved a thought-provoking read, though perhaps not for the right reasons.

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