CIVILISATION: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
What now after the cultural revolution?
, December 26, 2009
The secularist triumph has weakened the Christian foundations of Western civilisation. A new counter-culture needs to be developed by Christians and people of goodwill, one based on a respect for religion and the transcendental, the family and the small unit, argues Patrick J. Byrne."It's a war out there for me and my family," was the recent comment to me from a young family man.
He was speaking, in particular, of the difficulty of raising his children in a moral environment that reinforced his Christian values. His family regularly travels across town to meetings with other families of like mind, just to provide an appropriate cultural framework for his children.
Seldom do families find such networks of support in their local school, sporting and cultural clubs, and sometimes not even in their local church community.
For those who still hold to traditional Christian beliefs, or to a conservative, family-centred culture, today's society is hostile and unforgiving. There is a sense of deep cultural breakdown and a loss of values across society. This is seen in the dumbing-down of education, the proliferation of drugs and alcohol-fuelled violence, sexual licence, corporate advertising using the mass media to exploit youth and even toddlers, the sexualisation of all forms of the media, a general coarsening of the culture, and the rising incidence of depression and anxiety, especially among teenagers.
The internet and other new forms of communication have accentuated this coarsening of the culture. These new information systems, with all the many daily benefits they bring, operate almost unrestricted and are capable of delivering instantaneously into every home material, be it printed material, pictures or movies, that are often illegal. Their unfettered licence has proved a moral hazard to society.
Many families are under financial pressure, as both husband and wife work full-time, sometimes undertaking more than one job each, just to pay the mortgage and school fees.
Increasingly, jobs around the home that brought families together are increasingly outsourced. These include childcare, meals, entertainment, recreation and housework.
Even trying to have family time in front of the TV can prove hazardous, either because of explicit and coarse programs or because of exploitative advertising that is no longer just aimed at adults, but also at teens and even toddlers.
Indeed, America's Public Broadcasting System (PBS) exposed this highly-tuned advertisers' pursuit of the youth dollar in a disturbing Frontline
documentary it produced almost nine years ago, entitled Merchants of Cool
(February 27, 2001). It depicted the globalisation of youth culture, and the ruthless commercial exploitation of teenagers on account of their unprecedented spending power.
A handful of huge corporations now manage much of the world's news media, and conduct integrated operations in popular magazines, television, movies, internet, music and fashion. They spend millions researching what is "cool" and what is not, then market the new emerging trends or fashions back to young people.
Simultaneously, the revolution in reproductive bioethics has come to the fore and commodified children. It's now commonplace for children to be born from donor sperm or donor ova through in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Surrogacy is now more widely accepted, even though this process destroys the identity of the individual, by denying them knowledge of their biological parents.
Some children produced by IVF have formed their own organisations to now fight for the rights of children to know and be raised by their biological parents. They argue that IVF is no way to bring children into the world.
Prophetically, Australia's B.A. "Bob" Santamaria (1915-1988) wrote, in his seminal 1973 work, Philosophies in Collision,
that society risked suffering a profound social and moral decline, depending on which of the three contending philosophies won in the struggle for the hearts and minds of people in Western society.
He said there was a three-way contest underway among 1) progressive liberalism (or secular humanism), 2) Marxism, and 3) Christianity.
The secular humanist agenda was represented by the likes of former federal Labor Attorney-General and later High Court judge, Lionel Murphy, who was willing to use the law as a means to remove the Christian foundations of society.
As a lawyer, he represented those who believed in the idea that "I have a right to do as I please, without regard to others." They knew that most people believed that what was legal was therefore moral. Thus, by changing the laws on marriage and divorce, abortion, contraception, censorship, euthanasia, gay "marriage", etc., a new secular society could be ushered in. Ever since then, "reforms" in these areas of law have proceeded at an accelerating pace.
The decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria and the attempts to legalise homosexual marriage and assisted suicide are the latest of such moves.
The libertarian wing of secular humanism also had an economic form, with roots in the laissez-faire,
radical free market ideology of the 19th century. It argued for the complete deregulation of the economy, including radical deregulation of the labour market.
On the political left, Marxism gained deep roots, first in the trade unions and through them into the Labor Party, and then in the universities by the 1970s.
Marxism, as a political and economic system, was finally exposed as a moral and economic failure with the fall of the Berlin Wall and then the Iron Curtain just 20 years ago.
However, the cultural influence of Marxism has survived in the West. As a tool of social analysis, it became a potent new ideology. In the arts and social sciences, history, society and even language were deconstructed down to nothing more than competing power structures. Most other human virtues and vices that go to make up our history and language were excised from these areas of school and university studies.
Further, the famous Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, mapped out a highly successful strategy for bringing about the radical transformation of Western society and the removal of traditional Christian influences. He called on the radical Left to penetrate key institutions of society and eventually take them over by planting their ideas there and winning over and educating the young.
In fact, this is exactly what the feminist movement did in Australia. In the 1970s, they adopted the leftist strategy of "the long march through the institutions" - that is, through the universities, schools, media, law, medical profession, political parties, the bureaucracy and even the churches.
In pursuing this, they found willing allies in big business. The feminists sought to abolish the dependent spouse rebate, cut family allowance payments and increase the funding of institutionalised child-care, in order to force more married women out of the home and into the paid workforce. Big business readily co-operated as it wanted cheaper, non-unionised female labour.
When Victoria's former left-wing Premier, Joan Kirner, boasted that it took 30 years of hard work to have Victoria's abortion laws overturned, she meant that it was not just a job of lobbying and organising the numbers in parliament; first, it involved winning over all the key institutions. There were no street demonstrations in favour of that bill: they weren't necessary. Nearly all the key institutions had already been won over.
Secular humanism and Marxist social analysis, then, provided the basic philosophy. Gramsci provided the organisational method.
Radical feminists led the way, and radical environmental, homosexual and other special interests have copied their method. The secular, radical individualistic philosophy of life has triumphed in the culture and the economy.
About such a scenario, Santamaria argued that, even if secular humanism won people's hearts and minds, it could not provide a moral framework for holding society together. Its triumph would inevitably see the breakdown of the family and community, and the growth of a taxpayer-funded welfare state that would prove unsustainable.
Further, he argued that it would see the erosion of religious belief, because, he acutely observed, "where the family is strong, the church is strong; where the family is weak, the church is weak".
Ironically, this triumph of secular, radical individualism, far from enhancing human happiness, has weakened the vital family bonds that ensure the physical, social, emotional, moral and spiritual framework and support that give a person his or her identity and meaning in life.
Or, as the renowned US family researcher, Allan Carlson, has so well described, it's the widespread practice of monogamous marriage and family with children that creates concentric rings of relationships that give identity, meaning, history and purpose to a person, and then ties a society cohesively together.The task ahead
Well, what is now to be done?
The struggle we must wage is not merely political, but cultural and spiritual. More than ever, it requires the preservation of families, the revitalisation of some institutions and even the building of new, alternative communities.
Long ago, Confucius argued in The Great Learning
that if a person wanted to set his country right, first he should set his family right; and that if a person wished to make his family right, first he should work on his own heart and make his will sincere.
Pope Benedict XVI, deeply disturbed as he is by the worldwide religious and cultural decline that has come with the globalisation of Western culture, has repeatedly called for virtuous "creative minorities" to make their influence felt - that is, those people who, despite their modest numbers, can have a disproportionately beneficial effect on society because of the relative apathy of much of the rest of the population.
Or, as Santamaria stated in Philosophies in Collision,
"the future is moulded not by apathetic majorities, but by ‘creative minorities'," warning that "if Christians were too feeble to be a ‘creative minority', they cannot blame the world, but only themselves."
To that end, those with religious faith have to resist the temptation either to merge into the culture or to become a ghetto cut off from the world. They have to be strong in themselves and then active in creating counter-cultural movements.
Alongside the well-worn political trails, what else is needed? Families need to be helped to find ways to raise their children free of the toxic youth culture. They should band together with other families, creating their own family cultural life, managing the internet, television and other communications media to protect their children.
In education, home-schooling suits some families. Others have sought to set up independent schools outside of the mainstream and to focus on traditional values and a solid core curriculum.
In the United States, Australia and Europe, new tertiary institutions are being established, aimed at preserving religious orthodoxy and the great learning of Western culture and educating young professionals.
Alongside this academic formation, young people need to be trained in the dynamics of cultural and political change as described by Gramsci - and as refined by the radical feminist and other radical reform movements of the past 40 years.
Out of these small beginnings, new networks of professional organisations, artistic and cultural groups need to be established to reform existing intuitions, or to build new foundations.
At the spiritual level, it's a matter of prayer groups, youth groups and, where possible, encouraging parishes to become pro-family, pro-life safe havens.
As Santamaria concluded, it takes those with an uncompromising vision of what society should and could be like to transform the culture.
In the end, these people will succeed, because their vision can deliver what the dominant philosophy of our time cannot - the basics values and structures needed to hold society together and provide the basic necessities of a balanced family life.Patrick J. Byrne is vice-president of the National Civic Council.
B.A. Santamaria, Philosophies in Collision
(Melbourne: National Civic Council, 1973).
"Merchants of cool", Frontline
, America's Public Broadcasting System (PBS), broadcast on February 27, 2001.
Transcript available at URL: www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/etc/script.html