It seems like we’re all stuck in the R.E.M. song, ‘It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’.  The leader of the great power in the Western world, Donald Trump, has just given a speech in which he openly raises the prospect of the decline of Western civilisation.
And everyone is singing that they know it.
And everyone is dancing that they feel fine.
We’re partying like there will be no tomorrow. And for the West that may well be the case.

     This is part of what Donald Trump said ahead of the G20 in Poland:

“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilisation in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

     It’s really quite amazing when you think about it.  The President of the United States has openly questioned whether the West has the will to survive.  And no one is contradicting him. No one is claiming that he’s mistaken.  Instead, the anti-Trumpers are upset at his Twitter account while the world burns around them.

     Trump’s central point is a given. The decline we face has become so rapid, so obvious and so seemingly inevitable that it’s taken for granted.  Let me give you two examples of recent commentary from Australia, a world away from the United States but linked closely as a sister nation born of Western Europe.
These examples merely repeat and highlight President Trump’s main point.

     The first comes from The Australian’s Paul Kelly. Over the weekend he wrote about the decline of Christianity in Australia, stating:

“In the litany of words about the census the core issue has been avoided — the almost certain link between the generational decline in the Christian faith as guide to the common good and the collapsing relationship between the people and the political system.  The reality is staring us in the face. Yet it cannot be spoken, cannot be entertained, cannot be discussed because there is no greater heresy and no more offensive notion than that the loss of Christian faith might have a downside.  Christianity has fallen from 88 per cent of the population in 1966 to 52 per cent today, and seems sure to slide soon below the 50 per cent threshold. It would be absurd to pretend this epic change does not have profound consequences for society since it constitutes the eclipse of a particular conception of human nature.  At the same time the past decade has witnessed a shattering of trust across the Western world including Australia between the people on one hand and politicians and elites on the other. This dysfunction in Australia has multiple causes within politics itself:
the identity crisis of the major parties, the rise of negative politics, a self-interested Senate, leadership failures and internal disunity.
It is obvious, however, there is a deeper problem, that something more profound has gone wrong. The sense of a community of shared values is disintegrating. The most fundamental norms, accepted for centuries, are now falling apart as disputes erupt about family, education, gender, sexuality, marriage, tradition, patriotism, life and death.”

I highly recommend that you read the rest of his article:

     Paul Kelly might as well have delivered these words from a podium in Poland. He’s simply added flesh to Donald Trump’s question.  Does the West have the will to survive?  Take out Christianity and Paul Kelly says no. I agree with him on that point entirely. The West is nothing but a civilisation built on Christianity. Take out Christianity and the civilisation is a hollow, crumbling shell.

     The ABC’s Chris Uhlmann provides the second example. He was scathing of Trump’s performance in Poland but still accepted his main point: the West is in decline.  This is part of his assessment:

So, what did we learn this week?  We learned Mr Trump has pressed fast forward on the decline of the US as a global leader. He managed to diminish his nation and to confuse and alienate his allies.  He will cede that power to China and Russia — two authoritarian states that will forge a very different set of rules for the 21st century.  Some will cheer the decline of America, but I think we’ll miss it when it is gone.  And that is the biggest threat to the values of the West which he claims to hold so dear.

     I think Uhlmann is entirely unfair on Trump. The man has raised the prospect of civilisational collapse and Uhlmann has not only accepted that proposition but then pinned the blame entirely on Trump.  Whatever the US President’s faults may be, he can hardly be held responsible for the collapse of Western civilisation across the globe in just a few short months.
No. If the West is failing (and that seems to be the general consensus even from Trump critics) then the blame lies with everyone in Western society.  We all need to shoulder responsibility for failing to hand to our children that which we received from our parents.  But there’s not a lot of that going on.  Like I said, it’s party time. But things have become so bad in the West that we can’t even do that properly any more.

Western Europe’s leaders are childless
     The President of France has no children. The German Chancellor is barren. The British PM will never be a grandmother because she chose not to be a mother. The leaders of The Netherlands and Sweden don’t have a succession plan. Nor do the prime ministers of Italy and Luxembourg or the First Minister of Scotland.  European politics is a child-free zone.
So there’s not much hope that the West will survive if its leaders are unprepared to make any investment of themselves in the future.

     Japan might not be ‘Western’ but it provides a glimpse into the future of the Western world. Basically, this nation is the ‘progressive’ dream. It has little Christian influence but has imported wholescale Western consumerism and atheism.
And it will increasingly rely on imported ‘human capital’ to survive.
     Things are so bad in Japan that they’re simply unable to complete the most basic biological urge of any adult society. Pornography is pervasive yet almost half of Japan’s 18-34 year olds are virgins. It really is a remarkable statistic from a society in which less than 40% of people claim any organised religious belief at all.
This year Japan’s population fell by more than 300,000 and by mid-century its population will be a third smaller, a lot older and much less Japanese.  And we can all see that the West is rapidly following suit.

President Trump finished his speech with these words:

“Just as Poland could not be broken, I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken.  Our values will prevail.  Our people will thrive.  And our civilization will triumph.”

     Unfortunately, while Trump may believe them the actions of millions of individuals across the Western world should temper his confidence.  Civilisation is built on society and society is made up of people. If there’s no people there’s no society and no civilisation either. If there’s people with vastly different views filling the vacuum then the society they build will be vastly different too.

     Australia’s most recent census tells a story that should surely curb President Trump’s optimism. Its most religious suburb is Greenacre. This suburb represents the future of the nation because it is having children.
Its families are 27% larger. Its households are 30% bigger. Its average age is 13% lower and there are between 15% and 40% more children growing up there than in other suburbs across Australia.
And the one key statistic about Greenacre that points to the growing decline of the West is this: Greenacre is not just the most religious suburb in Australia – its inhabitants are overwhelmingly Islamic.

Greenacre may be in the West but it cannot be described as Western.  Instead, it represents the end of the world as we know it. And I don’t feel fine. We’re headed for a world where everybody hurts.
There’s an R.E.M. song for that too. But I very much doubt you will hear it playing in Greenacre…

THE NEW BARBARISM by Eric D. Butler, On Target 28...