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White Pride, White Guilt: Part II

For years, one of the battle cries of the Political Correctness movement has been "dead white European Males." They are the bete blanc of the world today. They are the cause of most of the problems in the world today. They are the source of so much of the evil that plagues the world today. Their dominance has gone on too long, caused too many problems, led to far too much misery, and it must end.

For years, the white supremacist movement has had its battle cry: the White race is superior. It conquered the world. Its culture is dominant all over the globe. It has the greatest achievements, done the greatest good, led the world in advancements in every aspect of human endeavor.

These two factions are in eternal opposition (although neither sees each other as their arch-enemy). The irony here is that they are both right.

For the last couple of millenia, the European social and cultural model has dominated the world in pretty much every way. No other ethnic group can claim to have anywhere near the level of successes. European (and, by extension, American -- we are an all-too-logical evolution of the European model) influence -- if not outright dominance -- extends to every corner of the world and beyond.

Look around the world. English is the unofficial, unsanctioned univeral language. Western technology is ubiquitous. Western weaponry is the preferred tool of violence. Western culture is so pervasive and popular that some nations have to enact laws to try to keep it out.

On the flip side, Western culture has unleashed some of the greatest evils the world has ever seen. Socialism, Communism, and Nazism are all Western inventions. It took Europeans to do things so heinous, we actually had to invent terms like "racial cleansing" and "genocide" and "Holocaust" (as a proper noun). We might not have invented slavery, but damn if we didn't refine it and improve on it until it grew so hideous that even we couldn't stand it. Other cultures invented the caste system, but we tried to ram it down our own throats, with a sophisticated strata that put wealthy white men at the top, and other races and sexes and economic levels below them. Then we overthrew most of that, too.

How can both views be correct? Because both only want to see half the picture.

A brief disclaimer: I'm no sociologist, so this is at best a half-assed analysis. And I am deliberately struggling to avoid any moral judgments or rationales.

The European social and cultural model has achieved both because, in my opinion, it is the most aggressive. It actively seeks out others and competes with them, constantly seeking to assert its superiority through dominance. It tries more great accomplishments than any other, sets itself impossible goals and then goes to nearly any length to achieve them.

That kind of attitude lends itself to spectacles. It is almost a foregone conclusion that tremendous attempts at grandiose goals will end in either spectacular success or spectacular failure.

So, what has made the European culture so aggressive, and so successful? What factors led to that development there, with those people, and has that been overall a good or a bad thing for humanity?

On the former question, I have no idea.

On the latter, though, I'd have to say it's been overall a good thing. I'd say that the world is a better place thanks to the spread and dominance of the European culture. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it has been a great blessing, let alone an unmixed blessing, and I would never deny the evils that it has also brought. I would also never argue that the good things have been so good as to some how justify or rationalize the evils.

I simply accept them as a fact. Others may debate their relative merits and extents, but that they exist is indisputable.

I'd be curious to hear what others think might be the root causes of European aggression, and why it has worked so well.


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Comments (19)

"So, what has made the Euro... (Below threshold)

"So, what has made the European culture so aggressive, and so successful?"

Christianity.

Christianity, with its eschatological goal of establishing and then nurturing the Kingdom of God here on earth, was responsible for much of the driving force behind both colonization, and the transformation of European law into a set of charters that de-emphasized the divine right of kings and established equality and human rights among average citizens.

Granted, this took hundreds of years. And because Christianity became largely a secular affair run by governments and wealthy elites for their own gain, many of the things accomplished under the banner of the Church were nothing more than oppression for the sake of acquiring wealth and power.

Still, the fundamental precepts of Christian doctrine thoroughly transformed Europe and eventually made their way to its colonies, where a group of dead white slave owning males we call the Founding Fathers took them and incorporated them into the creation of a nation called the United States of America.

There is a continuum. Europe's heyday under the control of the Church coincided with the beginning of colonialism. That era was still largely the era of kings and nobility, so in Europe the Church is still associated with the colonial era and its class separation. Today, the disconnect between the current era and the colonial era means that most Europeans consider themselves to be "post-Christian." But here in America, where Christianity led to the creation of a government and societal structure that has been largely free of the baggage of royalty and colonialism, Christianity thrives. As Christianity's influence declined in Europe, it became very strong here in America, and is gaining strength in the Third World largely due to American missionary efforts and the collapse of oppressive Communist regimes.

Michael, I almost went off ... (Below threshold)

Michael, I almost went off on that tangent, but decided to hold that off for another piece. But you kinda jumped my gun.

I think that this agnotic's thoughts on the matter might be interesting to some...

J.

"For years, the white supre... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

"For years, the white supremacist movement has had its battle cry: the White race is superior. It conquered the world. Its culture is dominant all over the globe. It has the greatest achievements, done the greatest good, led the world in advancements in every aspect of human endeavor."

The white supremacist folks have a pretty terrible sense of human history and culture--and they also have a ridiculous understanding of human evolution and genetics. They act as if Europe was somehow disconnected from the rest of the world, and as if everything that happened in Europe had no prior histories. Lastly, the belief in some kind of "racial purity" is silly, considering the histories of human migration. The white supremacist movement is another great example of twisting history to fit an ideological agenda.

"So, what has made the European culture so aggressive, and so successful? What factors led to that development there, with those people, and has that been overall a good or a bad thing for humanity?"

I am not sure if I would argue that Europeans were any more aggressive than any other large group of people. Aggression and war are pretty common occurrences throughout history, and I don't think that the people who came from Europe had a monopoly on aggressive tendencies.

As far as understanding what lead to European conquest and power, I think a good reading of the histories of European expansion around the 15th-16th centuries (and the colonial era that followed) provides at least good some starting points. I suggest reading Eric Wolf's "Europe and the People Without History," which is a well known historical-anthropological book (at least it's well known among anthropologists).

As far as the second part of your question, I think it's almost impossible to take all of European history--wars, colonialism, science, domination, culture, etc--and give it either an overall positive or negative evaluation. History, as you say, is something that happens. And the results of European colonialism and expansion looked pretty different depending on what particular histories you focus on.

"For the last couple of millenia, the European social and cultural model has dominated the world in pretty much every way. No other ethnic group can claim to have anywhere near the level of successes."

2,000 years? Don't forget to include the Dark Ages, which was when Europe was pretty much a subsidiary region for a few hundred years.

Also, was Europe one uniform ethnic group? No, definitely not. And this is where the white supremacist folks are pretty ignorant about European history--it's not as if humanity just sprang up in Europe, after all. And it's not as if Europe (which is a cartographic construct) was disconnected from the rest of the world.

I think it's important to remember that Europe in the 1400-1500s was a series of rising and competing nations, with a lot of political and cultural differences between them. And a LOT of internal conflict (Spain and England are a great example). It wasn't as if "Europe" was just one big monolithic group that went about conquering the world. Part of the reason many of the European nations turned to exploration and expansion was because of all the internal wars and conflicts that had devastated their economies. That, and the fact that the trade routes to the East were controlled by external powers.

Like the Roman Colisemun, a... (Below threshold)
mag:

Like the Roman Colisemun, a tech triumph, even by today's standards....but look what they used it for.
The good and the bad...they story of mankind.
So in some ways I am proud of my roman heritage. Wish they used all these for good of people rather than killing and torturing, but those were the times.

I just saw this article, an... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I just saw this article, and just got up on Sunday, so I don't claim to have thought this through, but...

You erred slightly by saying that the West has been dominant the "last couple of millennia." It has really only been since about 1500 or so that the West started to pull ahead of the rest of the world. I think it was an extension of the Crusader urge, along with the Reformation and the beginnings of capitalism, that got the ball rolling.

The Spanish and Portuguese, fresh from the Reconquista that expelled most of the Moors from Iberia (and forcibly converted the rest, Jim), began to go overseas to seek more "heathens" to conquer, convert, and exploit. The Protestant powers, Holland and, belatedly, England, were compelled to join in so as not to be outdone.

The competition among the imperial powers, and the disdain for the "heathens" who lived in the conquered and dominated lands, led to a giant game of global chess. Some European powers waxed; others waned. By the time of the "Scramble for Africa," the players were Britain, France, Germany, and to a much lesser extent, Italy. Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands had been eclipsed.

Was this positive? Well, we Americans would certainly think so, having built the world's wealthiest and most powerful nation on land taken from the tribesmen who lived here. I, for one, am awfully glad to live here, now, today. But the Cherokee and Sioux of the 19th century probably had a different opinion.

As would most of the Islamic world. Most Islamic countries were never "conquered" per se, but gradually came to be exploited, powerless pawns in a Global Game between Russia and Great Britain. This exploitation, which kinda "snuck up" on a population ruled by venal, brutal, amoral potentates, is at the root of Muslim resentment today.

Islamic fundamentalism, for centuries turned inward toward the Sunni-Shia conflict, among others, has for the last 150 years been increasingly focused on a violent reaction against the "Crusaders" and secular exploiters of the people of Islamic countries.

I'll rest there.

Your article was a refreshi... (Below threshold)
Robert Ayers:

Your article was a refreshing shot across the bow of reasonable and logical thinking. Good job!
And the sequential elements that you presented in your chronicling are probably the root source to the white European success.
It's abundantly clear to me that despite the atrocities and utter horror perpetrated by white Europeans on far too many occasions, more often than not intellectual, focus of pursuit and clarity of purpose seem to trump all other groups. Having said that, I would add that because of these, as well as other admirable traits, it follows that successive generations have built on "the good stuff" and made for (generally) a better quality of life.
The white European, in the broadest sense, was and is less compromised by ethnic and political issues that stifle advancement for the common good. Think of the early African, Sino and Central American cultures. Incredibly gifted people all, but limitations of one sort or another stopped their civilizations from sustaining continuous social advancement.
It's no challenge to poke holes in my opinions since the true answers beg so many contra-
dictions. Suffice it too say, that if the bunch of malcontents who stumbled into Plymouth,Mass. could evolve into what we have in our midst this should be adequate proof of European cultural success. We try harder and do a better job,IMHO.

"...might be the root cause... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"...might be the root causes of European aggression?"

Capitalism. The good and the bad. The moving from mere subsistence to the accumulation of wealth (and thus power).

Jay-Are you actual... (Below threshold)
Trump:

Jay-

Are you actually proud of your heritage? You should be. All cultures have their great and terrible.

You can proud w/o being a Nazi

Jay,You do know th... (Below threshold)
hcddbz:

Jay,

You do know that Western Culture does not have the monopoly on vicious attacks.
China, Japan both have bloody. histories The Shinto was used by the Japanese to believe they were decedent from the Sun God and other races should bow down before them/

The Chinese had done historical atrocities against their own people that are the stuff of true nightmares. This was before the current crop of Communist brutalities.

Islam was spread by the sword for a good while.
I only bring these up because it not western or eastern or native. It is man. We have both good and bad within us. We can strive to greatness or wallow in abject brutality. When we wallow we will use any excuse, race, render, religion blood, hair color the shape of one's skull. Logic, reason and Faith are what makes us sane and those same things make us horrid.

1. Development of the phala... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

1. Development of the phalanx
2. Mounted cavalry in support of heavy infantry
3. Gunpowder
4. Ocean-class sailing ships
5. The professional navy
6. Mobile artillery
7. Snipers
8. Merit-based officer corps
9. The volunteer militia
10. Permanent high-capacity roads

I have been edumucated by t... (Below threshold)
ron:

I have been edumucated by this post. :D.

I would bet it as all of the above and so much more. How about a piece on the history by word of mouth told by the working class.

"Western culture" hardly ha... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

"Western culture" hardly has a monopoly on genocide or ethnic cleansing, although we may have coined the specific terms. Violence and cruelty between tribes, groups, families, cultures, clans - almost any way in which human beings can divide into groups - was rather the rule than the exception throughout most of recorded history (and assuredly even more so in prehistory).

In fact, it was "Western culture" which first applied any concept of human rights to civil governance. Certainly Christianity was the driving factor behind this, but it took many centuries for those principles to gain a foothold in government (monarchy, at the time).

To the more general point of these posts, there is no realistic point to either "white pride" OR "white guilt." There are just too many white people for the achievements or sins of some to apply to the many, for better or worse. White pride, black pride, transgendered Albanian dwarf amputee pride, all of these violate the spirit of the American experiment, through which both inherited nobility and "corruption of blood" (visiting the crime of one upon his descendants) were outlawed.

But the true crime is in attempting to portray "Western culture" as villainous and/or oppressive. Compared to any other significant culture humanity has yet produced, it is the least of these evils. Naturally, we should continue the good from the past and correct the mistakes where feasible, but the leftist movement against WC specifically embraces far more barbarous and evil cultures instead. That's wrong and stupid - about what we have come to expect from the left generally, though.

I should apologize in advan... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

I should apologize in advance for the hate mail you will receive from the powerful Transgendered Albanian Dwarf Amputee lobby.

Bruce Henry does make the point that global influence of European culture is only about 500 years old; we could debate the origins of "Western culture" to ancient Greece and Israel.

I probably should have spel... (Below threshold)

I probably should have spelled out that I was also including the Roman Empire in my definition of "European," as that culture held tremendous dominance for quite a substantial time, and its "heir" -- the Catholic Church -- continued its dominance.

J.

Ah, but the Roman Empire he... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Ah, but the Roman Empire held sway only in Europe and the Mediterranean, Mr Tea. Most people in China, India, North and South America, and sub-Saharan Africa, for example, were unaware of its existence. Something that could not be said of "the West" after, say, 1600 or so.

So it's still an error, albeit an insignificant one. The piece was still a good one, and the comments following intelligent and enlightening.

Really the only difference ... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

Really the only difference in the 'Atrocities' was that expanded influence allowed expanded scale. Economy of scale. Also, being explorers meant that westerners were constantly running into other cultures, and when cultures collide, quite often blood follows. We aren't unique in this, there were just many more instances of Westerners interacting with others than fvice versa - its not as if the meetings with outsiders that other cultures had was 'peaceful and noble'.

Also, we hardly invented ge... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

Also, we hardly invented genocide.

Look at the Mongols some time, and most of western civilization were absolute pikers on the subject. Especially if you correct for available technology.

"We might not have invented... (Below threshold)
Locomotive Breath:

"We might not have invented slavery, but damn if we didn't refine it and improve on it until it grew so hideous that even we couldn't stand it."

"refined and improved"? Please say exactly how.

That's a pretty backhanded slap at Westerners for being the first to realize that slavery is wrong and then devoting a huge amount of resources to putting an end to it.

Yes, exactly HOW was our sl... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

Yes, exactly HOW was our slavery worse than that of other people?




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