When a Civilization Goes Mad by David Solway

    It begins with self-doubt; it ends with self-destruction.

Historian Arnold Toynbee, who developed the theory of challenge-and-response to account for the survivability of civilizations, has said that great civilizations are not murdered, they commit suicide — by not meeting their challenges. A variation of this historical insight may be phrased thus: When a civilization or an empire feels inwardly that it is dying, or as Oswald Spengler put it in The Decline of the West, that it wants to die and “wishes itself into the darkness,” it begins to go mad. Collective madness is a sure portent that an end is approaching, that an axial transformation is about to occur, that an entire worldview or cultural habitus is on the verge of disintegration. It signals that a people has surrendered to a mortal destiny, repudiated its sustaining tradition and condign principles, and indeed has gone so far as to regard the enemy at the gates as a form of salvation. “They were, those people, a kind of solution,” say Constantine Cavafy’s effete Romans in his celebrated poem, “Waiting for the Barbarians.”

“Western politics,” Raymond Ibrahim has said, discussing the befuddled American and European outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood with its clever, phased project for infiltrating Western society, “have descended into idealism and fantasy.” The same can be said about the state of the Western media. The media are like the neural pathways establishing connections between the various parts of the “world brain.” When they begin to transmit false representations and misleading messages, the response to world events is at best incongruous and at worst drastically contorted. Both public sentiment and public policy lurch about in a kind of no-man’s land, unable to make contact with things as they are. Obviously, there will always be a certain amount of “misfiring” in the circuitry, but when the entire system is warped and deformed, it becomes next to impossible to properly “read” the empirical world and react in appropriate ways. This creates a disjunction between mind and reality, which is one definition of madness.

The gradual but unrelenting insinuation of socialist and neo-Marxist doctrine into the liberal West, after it has been reliably shown to falter or collapse wherever it has been implemented, is still another index of severe mental disconnect and maladjustment to reality.

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