Thursday 22 July 2021

Civilisation versus barbarism

"It may be difficult to define civilisation, but it isn’t so difficult to recognise barbarism." Sir Kenneth Clark

"Today we can see [the loss of Christian faith]…as the active negation of all that western culture has stood for. Civilisation – and by this I do not mean talking cinemas and tinned food, nor even surgery and hygienic houses, but the whole moral and artistic organization of Europe – has not in itself the power of survival. It came into being through Christianity, and without it has no significance or power to command allegiance. The loss of faith in Christianity and the consequential lack of confidence in moral and social standards have become embodied in the ideal of a materialistic, mechanized state… It is no longer possible, as it was in the time of Gibbon, to accept the benefits of civilization and at the same time deny the supernatural basis upon which it rests."
Evelyn Waugh

“The common man wants nothing of life but health, longevity, amusement, comfort -- "happiness." He who does not despise this should turn his eyes from world history, for it contains nothing of the sort. The best that history has created is great suffering.”
Oswald Spengler

“The constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to attain them imprint many Western faces with worry and even depression.”
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

"From the universities the culture of repudiation spread to the schools, and now there is scarcely a public school in Europe devoted to teaching the culture and inheritance of Europe. We have a curriculum based on self-doubt, and a culture on the brink of suicide"
Sir Roger Scruton

"But what I think should be carefully considered by the English people is, that however important it is that Turkey should be reformed, and though they will rightly require of their government that every exertion should be made in order to carry out these reforms, yet the question of a reformed or unreformed Turkey does not affect the necessity of keeping Russia from Constantinople and from the Ægean. In past time we have not inquired what the government of a country was in deciding to protect great strategic positions which it was necessary for the interests of England and Europe should be kept from an overwhelming power. The constitution of Poland was about as detestable as any constitution could be imagined to be, yet Poland was followed by the sympathy and exertions of liberal Europe for half a century, not for her own merits, but because she was a bulwark against the advance of a power that was feared. Spain, again—when Napoleon invaded Spain, the Government of Spain was the most detestable of all the governments which the corruption of the last century left to us; yet we never hesitated for a moment to spend the blood and treasure of this country in defending Spain against Napoleon, and we were never hindered by the thought that her government was bad. The merits of governments are a matter of transitory existence which any influence may change or modify. The sympathy or repulsion which we may feel for any particular system does not justify us in handing over to any power whose aggression threatens the happiness or the interests of the world strategic positions which it can use in furtherance of that aggression."
Marquess of Salisbury, speech in Manchester, October 17 1879


  1. Salisbury was loyally defending the policy of his Prime Minister, Disraeli. I disagree with that policy - as Gladstone pointed out, to compare the Ottoman Empire (which slaughtered vast numbers of civilians in this period) to 18th century Spain or Poland was absurd - the Ottoman problem was not "corruption" it was mass slaughter.

    The words also show that, even in the 19th century, the Christian faith no longer guided British policy. Russia in 1878 had many faults (yes indeed - many faults) - but was a Christian power trying to recover Constantinople. Essentially the United Kingdom was threatening war with Russia to PREVENT this happening. In the 1850s (the Crimean War) the argument was that Russia still practiced Serfdom - that was not true in the 1870s. Nor had there ever been "peace" for Russia and the Ukraine - they faced slave raiding in 1453 (indeed long before) and were still at war (in Central Asia - and in the Caucasian mountains) in the 1870s (rightly or wrongly they considered their enemies to be the same in the 1800s as they had been in the 1400s - for there had never been a long been a long period of peace to change their thinking).
    For British people peace was the normal state of affairs - for Russians and Ukrainians war was the norm, peace was a theoretical concept (it still is) with war being the normal state of affairs. For example, the concept of a "Cossack" (ironically this may have started as a Turkish word), means people whose life revolves around war. The West knew the Cossacks (and others) from their wars with Westerners (such as Poles), but Westerners were not their normal enemies, Westerners were not the people they were normally at war with - over generations and centuries of war.

    As for British sailors and soldiers - in the First World War many had cause to regret the policies of a few decades before. For the Slavs shelled by Ottoman ships (manned by Germans), this was just a continuation of a war that went back centuries, it was not a new conflict for them. And they were utterly baffled by the British siding with their enemies only a few years before, just as they were baffled (and angered) by the charge that they were the "aggressors". British writers tend to assume that after the capture of the Helga Sophia in 1453 there had been peace - but for the Christian Slavs (both Orthodox and Catholic) there had been no peace, there had been centuries of war. Their foes had reached as far north as any of the cities of Poland and Russia - the idea that Constantinople was off limits to them (that the British would fight a war to prevent them taking Constantinople) baffled and angered them. Of course today this view seems utterly absurd - as Istanbul is now a city of many millions of people and the largest city of a great Islamic nation. But things seemed very different in 1878-9 or during the First World War - when reversing the defeat of 1453 (and taking revenge for centuries of slave raiding that went into the 19th century) seemed possible - both to the Slavs and to the Greeks.

  2. It is strange how Russian national consciousness inspires the greatest fear in the world today for the rulers of the USSR — and for your entourage. It is the revelation of a hostility to Russia as such, to her people and to the country, as distinct from the state structure, which is characteristic of a significant part of the American educated community, American financial circles, and, alas, even some of your advisers. Such a frame of mind is pernicious for the future of both our nations.

    Letter to President Reagan

  3. "La plupart des gens préfèrent faire partie de la majorité, plutôt que d’avoir raison"

    Zuby, rappeur