Douglas Murray’s book and the interview he did with Jordan Peterson made me think a lot. Every word of his statement in the interview was true. I could tell that he had done very good research for his material, and it was well presented. We live in a time when unreason prevails, not least in the violence of Putin’s war on Ukraine, but also in the conflicts within society where accusations of inherent racism are made, even among people known to have been active in overcoming racism – and have been white. We live in a time when facts matter less than feelings, when mob rule has become respectable and doublespeak normal.
Murray sees a war against the West from within the West. He calls this a capitulation in the fight for freedom of speech, democracy, and a liberal society that can only lead to a worse future for young people. I agree with him. The current atmosphere among young academics is worrisome, and although we baby boomers have been bad enough, the future responsible generation is approaching chaos and anarchy. If there is no group of people in the younger generation willing to implement with their hands what the brains have come up with, everything will dissolve into nothingness, and a vacuum will be created. What will then be sucked into this vacuum will determine the future.
But there is also another side. There are the problems in our Western society that are named by the activists, even if they are perhaps overemphasized. Racism is a problem that will not go away until white people overcome their prejudices. Violence against women, gay people and trans people will not go away until men curb their aggression. There are numerous problems highlighted by activists, and they are the reason for the younger generations’ self-criticism of the West. It is the moral arrogance of the West and its criticism of others that makes it vulnerable to criticism itself. One cannot claim the moral high ground and call for trust if one cannot prove oneself trustworthy. This seems to be the real crisis facing the West.
The problem Murray rightly points out is that self-abuse is not the way to solve the problem. If we tear our society apart, we will have nothing to fight the problems anywhere, and we would prove unreliable to those currently fighting a despotic enemy who wants to destroy any chance of an open, liberal society. It is true that if the West wants to lead people to a better future, it must embody that ideal itself. But the way to get there must be a joint effort by all political parties in a democratic discussion based on truth and evidence for the arguments put forward. Mistakes have always been made and will always be made. The context of actions taken throughout history must be considered, and we must be aware that also our well-meant decisions are likely to be criticized in the future.
As I have said in the past, the importance of credible politics, including the will to defend our society against those who see our way of life as a challenge and are willing to undermine it and even take up arms, as we have seen, cannot be underestimated. The peace marches in Germany on Mayday showed that they lack realism when it comes to cynical people like Putin. They like to imagine that he was “only provoked,” but those who are ready to destroy a country and wipe out a nation do not need to be provoked. His disregard for life, including the lives of his own soldiers, betrays his obsessive character. He hates the West, manipulates the West, undermines the West wherever he can. Every visitor from European countries was cynically put to the test by Putin, trying to cause as much discomfort as possible without it being obvious to the press.
We must focus on the real problems in the world and overcome the loss of trust in our societies. If the people in power are incompetent, they must be voted out. If they manipulate the truth themselves and find illegal ways to keep themselves in power, we must find ways to take power away from them. But trustworthiness must be restored if we are to defend our society against those authoritarian forces in the world who argue that democracy corrodes our values, leads to chaos, and that autocratic rule is better. Otherwise, we just fuel their argument.