The Civilizationists

There is a new word I’ve come across lately: civilizationist. I don’t know who coined it and it’s an awkward word but communicates well enough I may take to using it. Those who do signify by it someone who is more than merely in favor of civilization. After all, a secular left liberal may claim to prefer civilization to its opposite, barbarity, even if it’s the latter that he spreads in all his doing.

The civilizationist is an individual who embraces the history, customs and traditions of a place and people — his homeland or region and countrymen — in contrast and opposition to the economic and political globalist. He believes in rootedness and identity. He also thinks fences make for good neighbors. The globalist wants to “tear down barriers” with all peoples homogenized into their “shared humanity.”

Where the civilizationist sees a man attached to, and nurtured by, family, community and religion, the globalist aims to dissolve such attachments and reduce him to a consumer who will wind up shopping not merely for goods and services but also a creed, a spouse, even a gender. It is also common for this consumer to abandon one thing for another (a spouse, for instance) in the same way a car-owner will trade an old vehicle for a new model or a social-media addict will discard last year’s smartphone for this year’s iteration.

Notable civilizationists include, perhaps first and foremost among Western European ones, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban. He has repeatedly declared his nation under his leadership to be Christian and a bulwark against globalism. As a civilizationist, Matteo Salvini, Interior Minister and dominant personality in the Italian government that came to power last spring, is almost as weighty a figure as Orban. If elections next May for members of the European Parliament go as many now predict, Orban and Salvini together could be running a new E.U. of sovereign nations (if it isn’t simply scrapped) in place of the present globalist one that gets its directions from Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda is another important civilizationist, as is Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, at 34 the youngest head of government in the world.

Among the things these and other European civilizationists have in common is opposition to their lands being overrun by Middle Eastern and African Muslim aliens who are classified by the E.U. as “refugees” or “immigrants”.

Not all civilizationists are men of the West. The political party headed by Prime Minister Abe of Japan runs schools where children are taught reverence for the emperor and appreciation of the nation’s pre-World War II customs and traditions. In Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is rolling back Kemalist secularism, invoking the country’s glory days when it was the center of the Ottoman Empire and seat of the Islamic Caliphate.

Another leader who does not hail from Western Europe but of whom we must speak is Vladimir Putin. As President of the only major power left in which Christianity, albeit in schismatic form, plays a visible role in the public life of the nation, he certainly counts as a civilizationist. At some times more than others he seems to share Dostoyevsky’s old vision of Russia rescuing Western Europe from the liberalism that came to dominate it as the Revolution begun in France in 1789 unfolded, culminating finally in the formation of the E.U.

“Some times more than others,” I said. A recent time was last month when Sebastian Kurz flew to Russia to meet with Putin, not in Moscow but St. Petersburg, where the men opened an exhibition at the Hermitage Museum that recalled the days when St. Petersburg and Vienna were the capitals of two great empires allied against Napoleon and his drive to impose the Revolution everywhere on the Continent by military force.

Some would probably count Donald Trump among civilizationists. Should he be? Let it be remembered that he made Saudi Arabia the first country he visited on his first trip overseas as President, just for the sake of a “huge” (his word) arms deal. Nothing, in my view, could more epitomize the principal result of the Revolution: the aristocracy replaced by the bourgeoisie as the ruling class of society with the agricultural way of life of nobleman and peasant replaced by commerce, followed by a methodical weakening of family, community and religion, institutions that can stand between the individual and the power of the state when they are strong.

Trump, who has said classical music bores him and boasts that he doesn’t read books (and proves it by his inability to speak in complete sentences), also lacks the culture to be a true civilizationist. However, he is the President we have, and even if it is only because he wishes to please and be admired that he often aligns himself with civilizationists, it is to be hoped that the forces of globalism represented by the “consensus of the intelligence community” do not succeed in toppling him or rendering him utterly impotent. U.S. society can ill afford such an upset of constitutional order, or what is left of it.

Francis I is the Pope we have. Trapped in a 1960s/Vatican II time warp, “puzzled” (his word) that any young persons prefer the Mass of all time to the one of Paul VI for worship, and apparently unable at his advanced age to adjust to new realities, he fantasizes that the Church was at her best in the heyday of liberation theology. This is not grounds for despair. Francis I won’t be Pope forever. When he is gone it may take a time for the Barque of Peter to reverse course, but it will eventually — as it always has whenever its captains have let themselves be deflected momentarily from that which is their function: to uphold and defend constant teaching, not try to change it. Think of when renegade bishops and priests led millions out of the Church into Protestantism. The catastrophe was followed by the Counter-Reformation, and with it that apogee of civilization the Age of the Baroque complete with all its glorious music, painting and architecture.

It is something to which we can aspire. Let us be civilizationists. Forget going to Walmart on Sunday. Stay home after Mass and listen to some Vivaldi instead. Even dream of Walmart being closed on the Sabbath, as are its stores in Poland now that a law passed this year by the country’s retraditionalizing government requires places of business to close on the Lord’s Day. Such things can be done! The civilizationists are doing them.