The West: Too Tired to Defend Freedom?
After the recent terror attacks in Britain, The Spectator wrote: "After five centuries, religious war has returned to England". The reference is to 1535, when Thomas More was executed for his Catholic beliefs. Tim Farron, a British MP and party leader of the Liberal Democrats who, after refusing for several days to state whether he considers homosexual sex a sin, and gave ambiguous answers on abortion, was not brought to the Tower of London for a public execution. However, almost 500 years after More, Farron saw his political career sacrificed on an almost identical ideological altar as More.
Farron resigned his position as party leader with a dramatic speech. The Daily Mail condemned the "liberal fascism" of the "moral pygmies". The progressive New Statesman headlined its story on Farron's resignation as the "decline of liberalism". Farron said: "We are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society".
It does not matter that Farron had, on gay rights, a 90.4% "positive score", according to the Public Whip. Or that he repeatedly defended the right to abortion. What was intolerable was that Farron could have nourished, in his Christian conscience, even a minimal doubt.
Western liberalism seems to have eliminated the so-called "corridor" that had guaranteed a right to existence to those ideas that did not conform to relativism. It is bizarre that this demonization has been consumed in the Liberal Democrats, the party that has borne the torch of classic liberalism.
Perhaps Farron thought that his progressive ideas on climate change, the protection of minorities and the European Union would protect him from such vicious attacks. He was wrong. His inquisitors in the media wanted to talk about his personal social ideas, not Brexit.
The Wall Street Journal told the whole story. After taking over the leadership of the party in 2015, Farron was asked whether, as a Christian, thought that homosexuality is a sin. "We are all sinners", he said. That was not enough. During a television interview on April 18, 2017, Farron was pressed four times to respond again and four times he refused. Silence was not enough. The next day, at the House of Commons, Farron said that homosexuality is not a sin. That, too, was not enough. The media had to be sure that Farron believed it in his heart as well. So a BBC interviewer asked him again a few days later. It was a campaign to smear Farron, an easy scapegoat for a phony concept of liberalism.
Journalist Nick Cohen, writing in The Guardian noted a further paradox. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn worked for state-owned Iranian television and spoke at the Khomeinist rally in London. Wherever he went, Corbyn seemed as if he were a voluntary collaborator with a regime that executes gays. But Corbyn was never questioned about this affiliation the way the media obsessively questioned Farron.
At a time when Islamic supremacists attack the symbols of Western liberalism, liberalism shows a dangerous emptiness. Liberalism has been turned into a caricature made of mandatory gender ideology, blind multiculturalism, defeatist pacifism, anti-Zionism, feminism and critical studies. "An orgy of liberal sex and liberal guilt".
The result is what Douglas Murray called a "tiredness" of the civilization, a cultural chaos which turned into an apathy. In one month, Western Europe has been hit by four major terror attacks: Manchester, London, Paris and Brussels. Sholton Byrnes wrote in an article published by The National:
"...the definition of the West consists of far more than the security alliance that underpins it. Does it not also mean Shakespeare and Schopenhauer, liberal democracy, a progressive interpretation of human rights, all springing from the soil of centuries of Roman-Judaeo-Christian tradition? The West was once the inheritor of Christendom. Today, it is not entirely sure what it is, with many voices violently clashing over their views of what it should be. It lacks the certainty in its own civilisation that Russia and China, for instance, possess. If it is too tired or unwilling to defend itself, the US will survive for sure; but the concept of 'the West' will have dissolved through the apathy of societies who will have shown they have no courage – and not many convictions either".That is why, if we, the West, do not take our culture more seriously, Islamic terrorists will easily be able to destroy it. Every time Western symbols come under attack, the Western relativists rapidly accommodate the attackers.
Salman Rushdie is threatened with death and a $6 million Islamic bounty on his head, or Muslims supremacists attack because of cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed? Instead of defending freedom of expression, our liberals submit to Islamic blasphemy laws. Two years and a half after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, not a single European newspaper has again drawn Mohammed.
Muslim supremacists slaughter French Jews? Instead of defending them as a post-Holocaust treasure, our liberals scapegoat Israel's security policies, as did the European Union's former foreign minister, Catherine Ashton.
Muslims supremacists submit their own women to burqas and niqabs and home-confinement? Instead of protecting equality, our liberals defend the veils as symbols of "cultural diversity".
Muslim supremacists murder gays in Orlando? Instead of being proud of an open society, defending it from Islamic jihadists, and accepting the freedom to be homosexual as a positive difference between the West and Islam, our liberals make it a case for "Love wins" and "Hate will not divide us".
A year after the massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub, the mainstream media constructed a new narrative, as if murdering 49 gay people were not the product of ISIS, but of "hate". That is why the question is repeatedly asked: "Why did this happen?"
Contemporary liberalism is exhausted and irritated by the very idea of a common civilization to be defended. In a weak conception of "liberalism", the supreme goal for liberals seems to be "peace", whatever it costs -- in other words, surrender. This is how Western liberalism has become fragile, like a tree corroded by a lethal fungus.
Fifty years ago, James Burnham understood that liberalism had become "an ideology of suicide" of Westerners "who hate their own civilization, readily excuse or even praise blows struck against it, and themselves lend a willing hand, frequently enough, to pulling it down".
Civilization is not a gift; it is a breakable achievement that needs to be defended from inside and out from the many who would destroy it. Let us take the freedoms we value more seriously; they are being taken from us as we speak.
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.