“Today, words are routinely used as political weapons rather than as good-faith attempts to describe reality. Physical and moral truth can be inconvenient for certain factions trying to shape political and media narratives. At the end of the Second World War, economist Friedrich Hayek wrote, ‘Once science has to serve, not truth, but the interests of a class, a community, or a state, the word truth ceases to have its old meaning . . . it becomes something to be laid down by authority.’
This is the reality crisis: a moment at which it seems unappealing, inconvenient, or even naive to believe that some things are more real than others. The reality crisis presents the age-old question: is truth independent of authority, including the authority of ‘experts’ and of majority opinion?” (How to Save the West, page 8)
This past weekend I attended an engagement party at a microbrewery where a friend observed that political discourse over the last ten years has gotten so bad that whenever one political party loses the presidential election—Democrat or Republican—the other party lapses into an Apocalypse Now mentality.
His observation is sadly true; the times are extremely depressing for some with memories going back forty or more years. Is it too late to save America?
Though many national problems exist on personal (a David French article) and political (a highly-recommended Victor Davis Hanson video on California) levels, Spencer Klavan’s just published How to Save the West: Ancient Wisdom for Five Modern Crises (2023) is not another Apocalypse Now. No, not at all.
I agree with the video above: How to Save the West presents simple problem statements and suggested solutions, containing very few weaknesses. Its breadth and economy at only 178 pages are astounding, and it’s additive to books we have reviewed on the same subject. It will act as a centerpiece for all of your supplemental news and opinion reading. The worst and best of times are always with us; God and human nature remain unchanged.
Spencer Klavan is a widely published Greek scholar (Yale and Oxford educated) and an editor at the Claremont Institute. He exudes the wisdom demonstrated by other, similar scholars like Victor Davis Hanson, Jordan Peterson, Allan Bloom, Leo Strauss, C.S. Lewis, and J.R. Tolkien.
As a scholar of ancient times, Klavan comforts readers with the knowledge that mankind has faced many severe problems equal to or greater than what we face today. To get the maximum benefit from history, we must seek to understand the past on its own terms.
If they can do it, so can we.
How to Save the West (HSW) is a worldview book without using the word. It describes five related Western crises in their logical order, and in each case presents a problem statement chapter before describing thoughtful solutions in the next.
These five crises are of: reality (can virtual reality replace objective reality?), the body (can trans-humanist existence replace actual existence?), meaning (can materialism offer meaning in life?), religion (is the supernatural plausible given natural science?), and regimes (will the destructive, consistent cycles of regime change ever end?). The ancients first observed these problems, each connecting to the next. Disconnection from reality and an emphasis on pure fantasy divorces us from our bodily selves, others, meaning in life, God, and proper governance. It takes common sense and wisdom to know the difference.
Klavan describes three social phenomena with a clarity and economy not found elsewhere:
(1) The role that Silicon Valley or Big Tech plays in distracting us from reality via virtual reality, video games, social media, and the Internet. They are interested in coin, not our welfare. We continuously trust these self-interested code monkeys to fix our increasingly miserable actual reality they’ve created by following them further into their own degrading and hopeless fantasies. At some point we can only blame ourselves;
(2) The role that extreme Identity Politics plays in distancing us from our natural bodies and accompanying spirt, so critical to forming normal, healthy families and other essential forms of human relations. Again, no healthy traditional family, no Western civilization;
(3) The role that the religion of science or scientism plays in blocking us from proper relations with God, objective reality, and morality. We cannot fix ourselves unless we connect natural reality to supernatural reality—which, obviously, is just as “real.” Few ancients doubted this, and they were correct. We Americans must reconstruct the bridge between the two to survive as a nation.
As mentioned in the quote at top, a major theme is postmodernism’s, critical theory’s, and Marxism’s (otherwise known as “Wokery’s”) corruption of language and crisis of American governance or regime. Humanity encountered this phenomenon numerous times prior to the end of the Roman Empire, and it has continued countless times since.
Fortunately, the vast majority of Americans today live and breathe between the radical Woke and alleged “Fascist,” radical right elites, fascist being just one of countless terms the Left misappropriates to the Right, in a space inhabited by common sense. There, necessity with good Christian or related worldview often connects with the good.
Dr. Klavan skillfully weaves a presentation of Greek, Roman, and Judeo-Christian historical figures, events, philosophy, and biblical theology into the book’s development. As examples, he highlights Greek and Latin words like eide (things seen by the soul or pure ideas), hule (stuff or matter), morphe (shape), hylomorphism (matter and form being intertwined), qualia (experiences not reducible to the body or how things are), phronesis (practical wisdom), eudaimonia (flourishing or fulfillment), meta or super (beyond or highest degree), physis or natura (being at rest or change), aitiai (causes), mimesis (imitation), mimema (replicated thing), sema (signs of ideas or reality), and poiema (poetry). “The fundamental mechanism of life is not just reproduction but symbolism.” (page 83) His entertaining treatment supplements better known concepts like sophia, dike, logos, and imago Dei. We created beings are God’s poetry. Plato’s allegory of the cave suggests we can perceive ultimate reality via intellectual freedom but become slaves without it. Klavan refers to Western culture today as chronological chauvinism. Finally, he describes how the West used reason and truth after Christ to integrate ancient philosophy with Judeo-Christian worldview.
All ancients recognized how critical human imitation of God, nature, and other humans is to religion, culture, social practice, politics, and economics. Imitation of what is the key question. Good answers like God and parents are fundamental to human flourishing and happiness, as life imitates art. The Creator God project established the West as we know it today, and the Man God project, pushed with effective force since the early 1800’s, will most certainly destroy us (as it almost did in the 20th Century).
Klavan builds his argument steadily and leaves until the end his pitch for the best of ancient Greek philosophy, the Creator God of the Bible, and the Republican rule of law established by our American founders (based on their extensive knowledge of Greece, Rome, and Western history).
If the book has any issue (and I agree with Michael Knowles above that it has few), one might be the amount of space given to science as the new, dominant religion.
It has become increasingly clear since the 1990’s that the “war between science and religion” is and always has been bogus, that science is doing much to display the mind of God and nothing to disprove or explain away God, and that science can only talk about “is” in a cause and effect way, having nothing to say about “ought” or morality. Dr. Klavan clearly explains how many scientists today are desperate to maintain their authority by denying any attachment of truth to morality or God. Indeed, many are even willing to sacrifice basic scientific knowledge and principles to identity-based power.
Ultimately, HSW shows us how our minds have manufactured problems by detaching from reality, a consistent theme at Praxis Circle. Making the right choices will work, but they require brave and consistent support. One ancient scholar is predicting the time of America’s turnaround is nearing, so let’s hope he is right.
In the meantime, please consider Dr. Klavan’s concluding advice to take our world back from elites who mostly have their own interests at heart. His counsel is this:
“Salvation is not going to come from one grand election. It will come gradually, among people doing the daily things that have always built the West: starting families, going to church, working, saving, investing, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and comforting the afflicted.” (page 177)
“To defend the West itself, we must be the West: we have to live it in our everyday lives. You are a thing made for the glory of God, and you can live like it . . . Nothing is more real than that.” (page 178)
In sum: May you buy How to Save the West, may you read it, and may it be so.
PS – In a recent post we made an important argument for sex-realism, highlighting that humans are not seahorses. Accordingly, we noted that a critical start to the West happened when the Greeks tried to rescue a woman named Helen from Troy, who must have looked a lot like Megyn Kelly. Well, the true story told there involving Ms. Kelly came to mind a couple of weeks ago when I read her quote on the back of Dr. Klavan’s book jacket, reproduced in part below:
“This book is an invaluable resource for anyone who’s worried about where this country is going and looking for a brilliant friend to guide the way.”
The point is: Ms. Kelly, a regular Helen of Troy, also really likes How to Save the West, and I hope her opinion might put you over the top and, ultimately, carry the day. Go you crazy Greeks!