On the preservation of civilisation

At a time when western civilisation is in crisis, it is important to remember where it came from. Ancient Greece laid the foundations of western civilisation, and westerners are heirs to its legacy. The birthplace of democracy, philosophy, and so much of our political thought. How were the Greeks able to do all that?

The answer is because they survived against an invading hostile power. Had the Persian conquest of Greece succeeded, western civilisation would have been wiped out in its infancy. The Greeks put in dogged resistance against overwhelming odds. At the time, Persia had an empire stretching from India to Anatolia. Egypt, Babylon and Assyria all had great empires in previous centuries, were now under heel of the Persian king. It seemed inevitable that the mighty empire would conquer a handful of city states. But the Greeks prevailed.

The philosopher John Stuart Mill said, “The Battle of Marathon, even as an event in English history, is more important than the Battle of Hastings.” Imagine no Plato, no Aristotle, no democratic tradition, and without Herodotus and we wouldn’t have had the writing of history, and it is because of him that we know about the Persian Wars. Those on the far left today who despise western civilisation would seemingly like to have all of that swept away. But the rest of us who believe that western civilisation is something worth preserving have an obligation to uphold the tradition we have inherited. 

Victory brought hubris. The Athenians turned what had been a defensive alliance against the Persians into an empire by coercion. That led to the tragedy of the Peloponnesian War. The EU has made many of the same mistakes that the Athenian Empire did. We must learn from both the successes and failures of the past, so we preserve the good things whilst also avoiding their mistakes.

Today, Greece is at the epicentre of two crises. A financial crisis made inexplicably worse by the EU and now the nation is bankrupt. The EU seems determined to prolong the suffering of the Greek people in order uphold their beloved European project. The other one is the migrant crisis. Greece is the point of entry for countless numbers, and the Greek government has struggled to cope with the pressure. Hordes of people flood into Europe with little understanding of western civilisation or its values, and no desire to maintain it.

Many adherents of their religion, which is also a political ideology, are actively hostile to the west and would want to see western democracy replaced with an Islamic Caliphate, and our inherited common law supplanted by Sharia law, much as the Persians sought to make the Greek cities part of their empire. Muslims communities in Europe fail to integrate, partly as a result of the failed experiment of multiculturalism.

Those problems are bad enough, but there is also the rise in crime and the economic consequences of letting in masses of people. We are in danger of losing what the Greeks did for us and the achievements of western civilisation since. This is perhaps the biggest threat to our civilisation today. What will it look like when large segments of the population hold values that are totally alien to our own?

Walk through Athens today and one will see a dilapidated city. Buildings have fallen into disrepair and graffiti is everywhere in the city centre. This is the city that was at the pinnacle of high culture in the Age of Pericles. The remnants of that are preserved in the British Museum. Otherwise, they would have been lost at the hands of reckless Ottoman rulers. The far left criticise the British Museum for plundering the treasures from across the world, but the British Museum allows us to remember what has gone before instead of them fading into the past, which they might have done if not for those efforts. The remnants preserved serve not only as a reminder of how a civilisation can fall, but also what can be done to maintain a civilisation. We must not let our civilisation fall.

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