Monday, December 21, 2009

The Decline of the West

The New York Times published an op-ed written by Therese Delpech, a French official at the Atomic Energy Commission of France, called The Decline of the West. In the article, Delpech dismissed the notion that the West was in decline. She claimed that the fear of decline actually helped the West stay on top. She also claimed that the West’s knowledge of history gave it an edge over its competitors.

“Only reflection and memory will give us the power to see the potential for new catastrophes in the violence and disorientation of our time,” she said. “They constitute the first step in avoiding them.”

Delpech has a very pessimistic view of human nature. She said that the world had slipped into a state of “ethical numbness.” She agreed with Immanuel Kant that “nothing straight can be fashioned from the twisted wood of humanity.” According to her, the West has “spent decades trying to comprehend the abyss into which they had plunged.”

She bemoaned the fact that Europe had been unable to convince America of this true nature of humanity.

“That is a conclusion that the Europeans have never really managed to impart to the Americans, whose Garden of Eden seems to be missing a crucial actor: the snake. This absence, if we may be so bold, is especially evident in the Obama administration, which extends its arms to all winds, without fear of storms or dangerous winter drafts.”

At this time, President Obama was busy touting himself as the Pacific President. Apparently, that didn’t go over well with Delpech. When she said the Obama administration “extended its arms to all winds,” I assume she meant that America had tried to embrace East Asia. Delpech implies that America will suffer through “storms and dangerous winter drafts” if it follows this course. Coupled with her belief in the evil nature of humanity, she seems to be either implying that East Asia will do to the West what the West has done to everyone else or that Europe will come after America unless America keeps East Asia at a distance.

This is an extraordinary article. Delpech seems to be admitting that the West is responsible for all the death and destruction that has plagued the world. Not only that, but she also seems to imply that the West has benefited from those disasters.

“The great disasters of the 20th century are all part of our heritage,” according to her.

The word “heritage” refers to something of value passed down from previous generations. If those great disasters are part of the West’s heritage that means that those great disasters are valuable to the West. Furthermore, if the West has passed down those great disasters to its succeeding generations that implies the West owned those disasters in the first place. Delpech seems to be hinting that the West is responsible for them and has benefited from them.

Given that Delpech seems to think that the atrocities of the 20th century have benefited the West and given that she appears to have no morals whatsoever, it is not surprising that Delpech also seems to argue that the West should commit more atrocities.

“Those who have the best tools to make history are also those who have the sharpest awareness of its tragic character,” she said.

She goes on to say that “the future would seem less deeply unstructured if we drew conclusions from” that.

Okay, let’s draw some conclusions from her previous statement. On the surface, current events do appear unstructured. Events seem chaotic and random. History seems to be “just one damn thing after another.” But Delpech is claiming that is untrue, that you can make sense of events. She also claims that people make history and that the people that make history are the people who understand its tragedies. But why would you need to understand the tragedies of history to make history…unless, of course, you need to understand tragedies because you are going to create more tragedies in the future. I think it is reasonable to say that Delpech believes the West has been in control of history. Taken together with the fact that she says the world has slipped into a state of “ethical numbness” and the fact that she has stressed the importance of tragedies, this again implies the West was responsible for all the disasters of the previous century and is soon going to create some more of them.

You may be wondering why a French official would suggest that her country was responsible for the atrocities of the 20th century and then suggest that her country would commit more atrocities in the future. This article is basically a form of terrorism. It was meant to frighten other governments into submission. It really didn’t work. Although she sure seemed smug in this article, in her next article she sings a different tune.

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