No civilization ever survived by making itself stupid. And yet this is what our education system is attempting to do. There are innumerable examples of this deliberate dumbing down, but the recent revelations about the sinister instructions contained in the University of New South Wales teaching guide are an excellent illustration. These edicts institutionalize some of the worst aspects of the History Wars, enshrining an ignorant and negative interpretation of Australian society and its history while prohibiting any questioning or criticism of this arbitrarily imposed view.
According to David Dixon, the Dean of the Law School at UNSW, the guidelines are contained in students’ reading material and are common across tertiary institutions. He claims
The reason that we do this is to help our students, because of a number of incidents in the past where non-Aboriginal students have quite unintentionally said things in class discussion which have caused offence to their Aboriginal peers.
So providing something which is just a way in which people can look at and find out what is the best way to say things, which will not cause offence to people, is I think a really responsible educational approach. And that’s what we’re trying to do.
The notion that this is simply about avoiding offence is disingenuous. The guidelines are based on a radical and racist interpretation of Australian history that demonizes the everything about European settlement and the civilization it brought with it. They all but criminalize a vast range of previously innocuous terms and concepts that are now deemed offensive, and they are used to stifle free and open discussion. Students know they can be severely censured by their universities for inadvertent speech. And above all else, they are very aware of the draconian Section 18C of the RDA and the way in which it can be used by Indigenous students to target and intimidate others, on even the flimsiest pretext.
The guidelines are a blueprint for intimidation and extortion. On one hand, they encourage Indigenous students to be outraged and offended by a vast range of previously commonplace terms and concepts, while also sanctioning and inviting potentially lucrative legal action against anyone who uses them. On the other hand, they make non-Indigenous students aware that any questions they might ask, or even the slightest verbal slip, could see them dragged before the HRC and the courts and subjected to extremely expensive legal proceedings.
This situation involves a radical escalation of the History Wars, as the Left is now able to back-up its tendentious and racist interpretation of history with the threat of legal action against anyone who questions or criticizes it. At a time of massive external threats, the West is nurturing a corrosive internal critique that demonizes and immobilizes itself. Consequently, Western civilization is committing slow-motion suicide, ideologically gutted from within by its own political, academic and intellectual elites.
At the core of this crippling critique is a false but deep burden of guilt, which is imposed on Western culture by these elites, starting in the schools and universities, which promote a racist and intolerant view of history (encapsulated in the UNSW guidelines). As Pascal Bruckner observes in The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism (2010), these institutions teach that:
We Europeans are born with a burden of vices and ugliness that marks us like stigmata, for … the white man has sown grief and ruin wherever he has gone … The white man is genetically determined to kill, massacre, rape; he has split himself off from the rest of humanity in order to enslave it. He can’t help it. His skin colour is … a moral defect, an inexpiable stain [and his history is] an uninterrupted spiral of horror.
The West is “the very figure of Satan”, despite its monumental and unparalleled achievements. Indeed, as Bruckner continues, a “curse is hidden behind our civilization that corrupts its meaning and mocks its grandeur … The whole world hates us, and we deserve it”.
This grotesque vision of the West has poisoned the minds of the generations that have passed through our education systems over the past 50 years, and they routinely acquiesce to the demand that they repent continuously and unreservedly for the vast litany of sins for which they are held vicariously responsible. They shy away from discussion and debate because they have been made fearful and ashamed.
Academics are now “the penitential class par excellence … officials of original sin [and] high priests of defamation” of the West. Vast bureaucracies now burden the universities, ensuring that this secular version of original sin and abject penance is honoured endlessly with a multitude of chilling guidelines, groveling statements, meaningless ceremonies, and hollow observances. And Heaven help anyone who fails fully to observe these absurdities or refuses to embrace self-hatred or abase themselves before all things Indigenous or non-Western.
In this fashion, a vast cultural discourse of guilt, remorse, and repentance has been created and elevated to a supreme status that sees it lurk like a supernatural presence, with bureaucrats “appointed to maintain it like the ancient guardians of the sacred flame and issue permits to think and speak”, as Bruckner puts it.
The result is silence, fear, and impotence in the face of even the most monstrous evils, exemplified at present by jihadism and other Islamist atrocities. Moral and cultural relativism reign supreme: “the duty to repent forbids the Western bloc, which is eternally guilty, to judge or combat other systems, other states, other religions”, however violently they may abuse, mutilate, and attack us or their own people. But while the West cringes before its ruthless assailants, there is no sign of a “guilty conscience in Teheran, Riyadh, Karachi, Moscow, Beijing, Havana, Caracas, Algiers, Damascus, Rangoon, Harare, and Khartoum” or any of the other centres of terror and deadly mayhem, as Bruckner points out. In the face of hourly displays of hideous and sadistic violence, “our only right is to remain silent”.
Every day it becomes clearer that the West is involved in a fight to the finish with forces that want only to destroy it and build their tyrannies upon the ruins. But can a civilization crippled by self-imposed guilt and divided against itself survive? Or will it disintegrate through internal decomposition and external assault? As history demonstrates, civilizations rise and fall in a predictable rhythm, with internal decay usually preceding the final collapse. Our civilization has reached that stage and the moment is now overdue in Australia to contest the imposition of the debilitating and racist view of our history promulgated by the Left and promoted throughout our universities and other institutions. The alternative is to abjectly embrace our slow motion suicide.
Merv Bendle is the author of Anzac & Its Enemies (Quadrant Books, 2015).