OpinionWorld News

Canada and the decline of Western civilization

Any student of ancient, medieval or modern history will see the obvious decay of Western institutions across the world.

"Destruction" (1836) by Cole Thomas, depicting the fall of the Roman Empire. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
"Destruction" (1836) by Cole Thomas, depicting the fall of the Roman Empire. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Jerry Grafstein
Jerry Grafstein is a retired lawyer and former Liberal senator in the Canadian parliament.

Is the history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire unfolding before our eyes in all Western democracies? Are the barbarians within and without our gates? All the symptoms and signs are evident and in full view. Let the facts speak. Any student of ancient, medieval or modern history will see the obvious decay in all Western institutions across the world.

Canada is a nation of immigrants. After World War II the West was inundated with waves of immigrants fleeing because their homelands had not provided safe physical, economic or living space to raise their families—the most intense form of physical need.

An extreme sliver of these immigrants, rather than being transformed by Western ideas of the “Enlightenment.” brought extremist views from their troubled homelands. Modern “pogroms” in Western institutions are now instigated by rabble-rousers and abetted by teachers lacking historic perspectives and replete with ancient antisemitic tropes. Synagogues and Jewish schools are now routinely vandalized. Jewish students are ostracized and bullied in high school and university classrooms, campuses and libraries. Why is this state of affairs permitted throughout Western democracies?

Most so-called thinkers in the West are influenced by the likes of Herbert Marcuse, a leftist Marxist teacher in California; Noam Chomsky, an extreme leftist ideologue; and Edward Said, a Palestinian immigrant who taught at Columbia University. Each injected waves of students, especially from elite universities, with a belief structure that concentrated on the venality of fake “colonialism” and the joy of revolution for its own sake. These thinkers and their followers took advantage of the fervor surrounding the Vietnam War and sought to channel it through revolutionary rhetoric. Academia is still reverberating with these false and misleading ideas. Only Community colleges and trade schools are not as infected with these ideas because those students are struggling to learn their trades to earn a living.

Canadians mimic Americans. So, Canadian professors imitate their leftist American colleagues out of lust to be “relevant.” It was ever thus.

Now, these false beliefs have infiltrated all our Western institutions: politics, unions, schools, academia and the private sector. Examples abound. The tech sector is led by ill-tutored agnostic youth, who choose not to correct patent falsehoods under the false rubric of the “free press” and seem fixated on avaricious gains, making fortunes never before imagined.

These flawed ideas fuel the self-glorification of celebrities on social media, who seek out digital mobs and become synthetic icons seeking even greater vapid notoriety. We see the rise of avatars who speak patent nonsense.

At the street level, go to any coffee shop in the Western world and observe youth communicating via their pervasive cell phones, feeling all alone in a crowd. Or watch youth talking on their cell phones as they mindlessly walk the streets. Once, the European tradition of coffee houses and pubs provided tolerant, comfortable venues for human interactions. This is now visibly faltering. Youth bedecked with barbaric tattoos or pierced skin take pictures of their meals in restaurants or are engrossed with their cell phone playing violent games. They engage in pantomimes of reality on TikTok. And from where comes the obsession with taking “selfies”?

What is the “root” cause of rising crime in all democracies? It certainly isn’t poverty. Do your own deep dive.

To find a kernel of truth in events rather than propaganda, one must read half-a-dozen or more newspapers. Who is fact-checking The New York Times, in which “all the news that’s fit to print” is now purposely mixed with falsehoods and opinion? The electronic media trip over themselves to promote personalities with wild beliefs aching for popular acceptance. “Balance” in broadcasting, once a touchstone in the North American media is gone. TV and movies and streaming services like Netflix glorify violence with no guardrails. When was the last time we saw a memorable romantic musical?

At the northeast corner of St. George and Harbord Streets in Toronto, an unusual brick building is dedicated to the legacy of Cardinal Newman. Academic leaders have forgotten or worse ignored Cardinal Newman’s “idea of a university,” described in lectures at Oxford in the 1850s: a place of higher learning and a venue for the peaceful exchange of different views. The ideal of seeking the truth above all else no longer exists as the organizing principle in most institutions of higher learning. Fact-finding is absent. Extreme opinions dominate, promoted by academics who are ignorant or, worse, uninterested in the grand tradition of the Western humanities or the liberal arts.

Where were Canadian law schools and banks when the Emergency Act was invoked and innocent people’s bank accounts were frozen? Why do so-called “diversity” policies at all universities exclude Jews? Do leadership elites need to be reminded that the preamble to the Constitution of Canada’s Charter of Rights states that Canada was founded on principles that “recognize the supremacy of God and the Rule of Law”? Perhaps those institutions that use the term “university” should be sued for false advertising. How does one even define a “university” today?

Canadian-born journalist Charles Krauthammer put it best in his essay “What Matters Most”: “If you can believe in anything; you can do anything.”

A famous Hasidic rabbi over 150 years ago, when asked to define Judaism, answered in one word: truth. The hardest thing is to tell oneself the truth. My favorite Hebrew quote is “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Rabbi Hillel was asked to define Judaism while standing on one foot and said simply, “Don’t do unto your neighbors what you would not have done unto you. This is the whole of the law; the rest is commentary.”

My guide to seeking truth today is best summed up by Maimonides: “This I accept as trustworthy because of tradition, this because of sense-perception and this on the grounds of reason”

How is it possible that doctors’ associations or medical schools have impugned doctors who raise scientific questions about the efficacy of Covid injections? How can Western society tolerate the widespread use of marijuana or opioids, which science shows trigger deadly damage to youthful brains? Many users even quickly lose their desire to live. We have an epidemic of youth suicides.

There are now over 100 wars raging across the globe. More than half have extreme Islamists on one side or the other. Think. Go to any airport in the world and line up to have your luggage and bodies checked for explosives. Ask yourself this question: Who caused this tax on airplane travelers and why is it continuing?

When was the last time Catholics had a Pope like John XXIII and John Paul II, who both promulgated articulate encyclicals that promoted tolerance of other faiths as an architectonic of belief?

Where are the Canadian and American Protestant and Catholic missionary movements that once taught the “social gospel” as their ideal, especially in China—the original benchmark of Canadian foreign policy? Where are the universities like the University of Chicago, which in the 1930s taught the necessity of studying the 100 Great Books of the West to grasp the delicate contours of Western civilization?

Why is the West, with the greatest military force in the history of the world, standing by as Ukraine fights alone for its sovereignty and independence?

Why are the U.N. and its institutions, supposedly dedicated to equality and democracy, so vehemently, consistently and unashamedly biased against the only democracy in the Middle East?

Why was the 18th century Ottoman Empire so skilled at capturing hostages for ransom along the Barbary Coast until they were forced to stop when U.S. President Thomas Jefferson sent American warships to bombard the pirates’ coastal refuges to smithereens?

Why did the Ottoman Empire specialize in building mosques over synagogues, churches or Hindu temples across the East? Fear? What are the new masked barbarians afraid of when they throw rocks at synagogues?

Where are the democratic leaders like Churchill who first warned against the appeasement of Nazism despite popular opinion and then warned against the spread of communism in his famed “Iron Curtain” speech? Or Harry Truman, who authored the Truman Doctrine and supported the Marshall Plan to seed democracy in Europe? Or Mike Pearson, who co-founded NATO and the Peace Corps, and introduced the maple-leaf flag and Medicare to Canada? Is the West now led by appeasers and weak leaders? If so, why?

Where are fearless democratic leaders like Charles de Gaulle, who believed in the “idea of France” and almost alone united his country into the vibrant democracy, as it fights to remain today? Why is Europe cantering to the extremes? Maybe because extremists have become skilled in the language of Western democracies and know how to infiltrate open political parties and open societies. No Western democracy today is without demonstrable malign interference from foreign interests. Why, knowing this, have Western governments not purged their parties and assemblies of this modern threat to their hard-won sovereignty?

Why are non-Jews again silent and complicit in the rising tide of antisemitism in the West? Why do they subvert words like “Holocaust” and “international law.” Elie Wiesel, a distant relative, once said that you can teach a child to love or hate. While I am a skeptic, I live in hope: Hatikvah. I recently returned from Israel and found Israel—a diverse, multiracial society—exhausted but aligned behind their democratically elected government.

When I wrote my last book The Fractured 20th Century after the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, I never would have imagined that our world would experience a renewal of medieval wars that have cracked the foundations of Western civilization. Western civilization was built on Judeo-Christian principles of tolerance and mutual respect. Why, I ask myself, has the Western community of democracies been so opposed to Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East?

This damage can be repaired. It is not too late for a return to common sense, including among our elites. It is never too late to save Western civilization from further decline.

But we are witnessing the dismemberment of the essence of Western liberalism: respect for the “other.” Read Michael Ignatieff’s majestic biography of Isaiah Berlin, Animal Farm by George Orwell or Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The word “liberalism” has been supplanted by the word “progressive”—a new definition of extremism. Another inversion of words is “values.” Beware a politician who preaches “values”; a word that means whatever they want it to mean at any given moment. Words such as these have become meaningless. Read Alice in Wonderland, whose main character says, “Words mean what I want them to mean.”

Every citizen can choose which path to follow: decline or renewal.

A final note about my Canada and the neglected working Canadian. Canadians are polite to a fault. When Canadians on the street bump into any other Canadian, they will instinctively apologize and say they are sorry. The majority of hard-working Canadians have been marginalized in Canada. This neglected majority is waiting for political and economic renewal. Politicians who neglect them will rue the day. These hard-working citizens are a bulwark against decline in Canada and elsewhere in the Western world. They know that politics and purpose march best when they march together.

National elections in the U.S., Canada and Europe are close at hand. We will see!

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates