The Commentariat in Crisis
Like their counterparts across the Anglosphere, the Australian Right is unwilling to acknowledge the true nature of the crises affecting them.
The Australian’s Greg Sheridan has written a slightly bemused jeremiad against Anglosphere democracy that’s highly illustrative of the confusion of the centre-right and its commentariat. Over almost a page of the Inquirer, Sheridan laments the enfeebled state of our collective democracy as nominal conservative electoral victories are eclipsed by the dominance of the left in the public square. And whilst his summary of the errors innate to this left-liberal ascendancy is accurate enough, his remedy is almost entirely incoherent.
Sheridan begins with a brief survey of our social schisms. Australia, along with the US and the UK, is internally polarised. All three nations are witness to fractured and incoherent societies, with politics that are dysfunctional, inefficient [and] often incapable of dealing with real-world problems. As a consequence, and with no real rightist counter, the left overall is prevailing with each nation moving to the left culturally and over time politically as well.
The problems posed by this shift are well enough known and sufficiently stated. Be they the 45 per cent of Minneapolis voters who voted to abolish the police, or the scores of children across Australia and the US that are being indoctrinated into the quasi-witchcraft [and] pseudo-religious cult that is Critical Race Theory (CRT).
With education, of course, one of the more putrid pools from which many of our societal monsters emerge. As part of the long Gramscian drift to the left through movements like CRT, the Frankfurt School and postmodernism, entire generations have been taught to question notions such as natural truth, and have come to despise their own societies. A dire state of affairs of which Sheridan is well aware: the pedagogic left has been in complete control of the curriculum for decades. It has long taught that our societies are essentially evil, based essentially on evil constructs — racism, sexism, hetero-normativity, militarism, colonialism, capitalism and all the rest. These failings also manifest themselves in our educational outcomes, with Western countries — once the world’s best — now miles behind our East Asian counterparts.
Yet after acknowledging this and other maladies, Sheridan provides his causa prima and thus his remedy: what’s needed is a return to faith. In a quote reminiscent of the late American conservative, Andrew Breitbart, Sheridan cites the founder of Sydney’s Campion College, Karl Schmude, in claiming that politics is downstream of culture. And culture is downstream of faith. Hence what we require is a Christian renaissance, as it is unclear [whether] nations without transcendent belief can prevail in the long run.
However true the need for an overarching metaphysics may be — and both Aristotle and Machiavelli certainly concur — it disregards the proximate causes of our dilemmas and the more pertinent issues we face. Such a stance also exculpates much of the centre-right for their own crucial role in bringing us to this particular impasse.
Most importantly, Sheridan avoids any direct discussion of the one issue that’s produced most of the discontent to which he refers, and of which Western publics most readily complain: mass immigration. Over the past few decades the most salient feature of the societies he mentions is not that they speak English, but that they, along with Canada, have been the sites of some of the most far ranging demographic changes known to man. England, for one, went from having almost no immigration of note since the Norman invasion to being one of the most diverse societies on the planet. While the 1965 Hart-Cellar act in the US and the consequent embrace of multiculturalism in Australia tilted both of these countries away from their Anglo-European core. Whether such changes are salutary isn’t mentioned, but to act as if they aren’t destabilizing to any society qua society, and that they aren’t the driver of most, if not all, of our discontent is disingenuous in the extreme.
Indeed, as a contrast to any Christian prescription we can adduce several examples. For one, the state of California is an almost perfect refutation to what Sheridan advocates. Over the past few decades, California has doubled to more than 40 million residents, primarily due to mass Catholic immigration (both legal and non) from Mexico and the rest of Latin America. The result of this has not been an Augustinian utopia, but a degradation in the standard of living, a mass exodus by long-term residents, and waves of homelessness and crime (see Victor Davis Hanson’s Mexifornia for one illustrative example). Nor is this to mention the almost unbridgeable gap between European- and African- American Christians as manifest in the continued presence of ‘white’ and ‘black’ churches, some 400 years after the inception of US slavery.
Japan is another salient contrast and one of which Sheridan, an Asia specialist, is surely aware. That this nation of over 110 million, crammed into a space smaller than the average Australian state, is able to prosper without any recourse to Christianity should be mildly paradoxical. That Japan has a higher life expectancy, greater levels of social trust and lower levels of crime, whilst being quasi-atheistic and nominally Shinto and Buddhist, confirms that any easy Christian advocacy is misguided. There are, of course, deeper forces at play.
Not least are the waves of social and economic liberalism that have washed over us these last forty or so years. Not only has the Western demos been thoroughly transformed, so too have the cultural and social spheres in its wake. In place of the imperfect but well-intentioned push for assimilation, immigrants have been encouraged to maintain their own cultural and religious practices, often in direct opposition to prevailing norms. Added to this is the uber-liberalism of the cultural left which has sought not only to emphasize our newly-found demographic diversity, but to exaggerate its effect by throwing libertine elements like drug usage and trans-genderism further into the mix.
Alongside this cultural shift has been a vicious globalism — or economic liberalism — that has eviscerated the Western manufacturing sector, off-shored tens of thousands of jobs and reduced once-prosperous towns and their residents to states of precariousness and decay. That any solace offered by Christianity can compensate for a loss of meaningful work and the total cultural and demographic transformation of one’s home community is a notion so laughable that one almost forgets it was published in full sincerity.
What is needed is clearly not mere Christianity, but deeper reforms. As non-Christian Japan and other parts of East Asia show, what counts is social solidarity and communal harmony. A fact that many Westerners are belatedly acknowledging, given the success of Eric Zemmour in France, and Hungary and the Visegrad group in resisting the more baleful effects of liberalism.
Yet given current taboos, any hope of a change in tack from mainstream conservatism is exceedingly unlikely. Still, something approaching this stance is what’s needed and not a facile call for Christianity to somehow save us from the chasms now opening up all across the Western political landscape.