History can be an ugly and often embarrassing subject, especially when you come across things that your history teacher never taught you. From slavery to religious persecution, from greed to bloodlust, and from colonialism to genocide, the West has had a very colourful history that I’m sure many of us would like to forget, but as the old saying goes: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Unfortunately, we live in a time where, in the West, historical discussion has been turned into people blaming their ancestors for the worst of atrocities instead of learning from the mistakes they made, and that, I worry, has led to a state where the West lacks confidence in its own values.
Over the course of the 21st century, liberal guilt (sometimes called “white guilt”) has plagued Western culture like cancer, no doubt due to years of indoctrination coming from the media and various left-wing demagogues, and it’s certainly wreaking havoc with the way we deal with history, especially in the context of racial issues. In America, years of white guilt lead many young liberals (particularly agitated students) wag their fingers at white Americans for their alleged “privilege”, and America’s snowflake students have been censoring artworks made by white artists. In one American campus, a student activist group started a fiery protest simply because a truck bearing the Confederate flag drove by, and they felt threatened.
The UK also seems to have no confidence in its values whatsoever, just as well that they’re seen as the domain of what British society has deemed the scummiest group of all. The spread of the Rhodes Must Fall movement to Oxford University should come as a testament to how people now use their feelings to judge history. Don’t get me wrong, Cecil Rhodes was a detestable man of no real worth, but the whole movement has gotten out of hand, and it demonstrates how the West’s attitude towards its history and culture has rendered it vulnerable to the kind of cultural war now playing out in its campuses.
The European Union is perhaps the worst example of institutionalized historical revisionism in our time. Their policy is to assume that Europe itself began after the Second World War, as if nothing else ever happened (and it this point, I’m reminded of that one scene from Family Guy where the German tour guide flips out and screams “nothing bad happened!”). The EU’s educational establishment is convinced that European history before 1946 is hostile territory. Despite all of Europe’s great accomplishments, the European Union seems to focus on Europe’s ugly history, particularly the genocides and xenophobia. Of course, that means nothing when you consider that the EU usurps the currencies and cultures of its member states under the guise of holding the union together.
Of course, this points to what I would consider an easy conclusion – the West seems to loathe itself, and this atmosphere of cultural self-flagellation is ripe for a new culture of illiberalism, revisionism, safe spaces and false pretences of “social justice”. This renders today’s society inept to deal with its issues in a frank and mature way, and it serves as an easy distraction from what’s going on around the world. The political game is being dominated by lunatics, ISIS is still at large, and authoritarian leftists have hijacked the popular language of their ideology, using it to advocate censorship, but as long as we allow ourselves to be distracted by the mistakes of the past, we are doomed to repeat those same mistakes, and that’s exactly what today’s political atmosphere is thriving on.