Friday, February 1, 2013

Civilizational Structures

Bill Whittle of PJTV gave a speech last September at St. Michael’s College Toronto. A friend linked it on Facebook this week, and I ended up listening to the entire hour and 44 minutes, it was so well done. Particularly I’d like to recommend the first 37 minutes or so. It piqued my interest because it reinforced, using different terminology, the Spherical Model.

Whittle asserts that Western civilization is “is the best civilization in the history of the world.” That’s a big assertion, but I think he’s probably right. Certainly it is provably the best in the world today, and historically as far as we have knowledge to compare. People are treated better within Western civilization than in any other. People are more likely to enjoy freedom, prosperity, and safety.
He claims there are three basic foundations Western civilization is built on:
I think you can probably define the West’s success, and the West’s magnificence by looking at three different qualities about Western civilization. And those three different foundations of Western civilization are: Judeo-Christian morality, Greco-Roman philosophy, and Anglo-Saxon law. You understand these three foundations, and you’ll understand why this civilization is unmatched in history [at about 27 minutes in].
In the Spherical Model, there are three overlaying spheres: civilizational (or social), economic, and freedom. As I listened to his speech, I think we are in agreement; he is simply describing the underlying historical sources for the three spheres.
What does he mean by Judeo-Christian morality, and why is it important? Judeo-Christian belief is that there is one God. “If there’s one God, then there’s absolute truth” [at 28 minutes in]. Absolute truth means there is right and wrong, and God is the judge. Things like the Ten Commandments list the barbaric, uncivilized behaviors you must not do. And you judge yourself, with your conscience. Even if the police do not catch you stealing, you are guilty of stealing because you know you did it. You are responsible for governing your own behavior.
He boldly uses the word virtue.
Virtue is the ability for individual people to do the right thing most of the time. And the entire theory of our system of government (meaning the United States, Canada, the Anglo sphere, the British system of government), the entire theory of government is that virtuous people can be trusted to rule themselves. They don’t need to be governed by other people, because they govern themselves. And the more virtuous a people are, the more freedoms they can be given [at about 30 minutes in].
I believe this coincides with the Civilization vs. Savagery Sphere. To be in the northern hemisphere, where civilization thrives, requires a religious people, who recognize the rights and responsibilities God requires for basic harmonious living—civilization.
Next, what is it about Greco-Roman philosophy that is important? In short, he says that Greco-Roman philosophy made the leap to understanding that the world is not chaotic, but there are natural laws at work in the world:
The Greeks and the Romans believed that the universe was understandable, that there were laws at work that were beyond the ability to interfere. And that it was up to us to figure out what these laws were. And if we developed a way of looking at the universe, which eventually became known as science, we might be able to interrogate nature, and we might be able to isolate these laws. And once we isolated these laws, we could wield those laws [about 33 minutes in].
He is referring specifically to the progress and development of science. But I think that is an outgrowth of free market economics. If a person, or a people, is kept within the constraints of subsistence day after day, with no surplus, there is neither time nor resources to make capital improvements. With surplus time, wealth, and knowledge, there is the possibility of development—and science is a form of capital. So I think the Greco-Roman philosophy fits in the Spherical Model essentially within the Economic Sphere.
What does he mean by Anglo-Saxon law, and why is that important? Briefly, it is God’s natural law, which is above any political human-organization-imposed law.
For instance, there’s not a person on this earth that wants to be murdered. There’s not a father or mother on this earth that wants to see their daughters raped. There’s not a person in the world that wants to have their hard-earned property taken from them. Not one. Natural law says that these are universal truths [about 35 minutes in].
You might notice the connection here with the Ten Commandments. God gives us our rights, and also gives us the responsibility to govern ourselves so that other’s rights are also protected. A political law can only protect our God-given freedoms when it does not usurp authority over those rights. And all members of the society—governors, kings, presidents, or street sweepers—all are subject to the same rules. Laws aren’t what the potentate decides they are; laws are what is aligned with natural law. So his reasons for valuing Anglo-Saxon law line up pretty neatly with the Political Sphere, with freedom up north and tyranny down south
Life, liberty, and property (along with the choice of how to pursue property, or how to spend our time and enjoy our lives) are protected within Anglo-Saxon law. With those protections of our natural rights, we have the opportunity to build wealth and invent capital improvements, as you see coming out of Greco-Roman philosophy. All of these societal benefits come out of a virtuous people, who govern themselves with accountability to God, as you see in Judeo-Christian morality.
The connections of these historic ingredients are the subject of Hillsdale College’s free online History 101: Western Heritage. The lesson list includes:
1.      Jerusalem, Athens, and the Study of History at Hillsdale College
2.      The Hebrew Legacy
3.      The Greek Miracle
4.      The Greek Legacy
5.      The Roman Legacy
6.      Early Christianity
7.      Church and State
8.      Renaissance, Reformation, and Counter-Reformation
9.      The Scientific Revolution
10.  From Elizabeth I to the Glorious Revolution
You can see you’ll be getting the three ingredients of civilization with even more detail.
This is only the first third of Bill Whittle’s speech. The rest of it covers the deterioration we’re seeing in civilization—in all three of these structural ingredients. I think there is no question we are seeing decay—just as past civilizations have experienced decay. How do we solve this? I don’t know. I’m not sure Whittle completely covers the answer either.
Glenn Beck was commenting on the overwhelming nature of our many problems the other day, and he said, “The problems are so big, the solutions are basic” (Glenn Beck radio program, 1-30-2013). Basic, or simple, is not necessarily easy. But the simple answer is that each of us needs to govern ourselves.
That’s fine for those of us who already do. But I think we need to understand why we do what we do, understand the value of the magnificent heritage that brought about our phenomenal civilization, so that we inculcate these ideas into the understanding of those that aren’t paying attention. Start with ourselves and our families—don’t expect the schools or even the churches to do it; parents must do it. And then in our choices of entertainment, literature, and ways we choose to spend our time, we can, with God’s help, move our communities, and then larger entities like states and nations, back up where civilization thrives.

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