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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Greatness Of Kings, Shoguns, Shahs, And Emperors–Progressive Cancelling Of White High Culture

Louis XIV, the Sun King, was responsible for achievements in law, governance, and the arts.  His Code Louis established a system of uniform and universal laws governing every aspect of French society, economy, and finance.  He was a patron and supporter of the arts, and he gave protection to and encouragement of Moliere, Racine, La Fontaine and others.  

He established the Royal Academy of Dance, the Paris Opera, and the French Language Academy.  He built the Palace of Versailles, known for its formal gardens, Baroque salons, banquet halls, and elaborate chambers for princes, courtiers, and visiting royalty.  His achievements extended far beyond France, and under his long reign France became worthy of its historical legacy, the nation that defeated the Muslim invaders from Africa at Roncesvalles and so became la fille ainee de l'Eglise, the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church, and became primus inter pares among the nations of Europe.

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Abbas I, Abbas the Great, was one of Persia’s greatest shahs and like Louis XIV instituted the legal, commercial, financial, and social reforms necessary for the unification of the country, thus giving it a foundation for the emergence of empire.  Under his rule the arts thrive, and during his reign Persia experienced perhaps the greatest expression of painting, sculpture, architecture, and textiles in its history.

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The Chinese Emperor Kangxi was similar to other enlightened monarchs, and during his reign arts, culture, poetry, and science thrived.  As importantly – and not unlike Abbas or Louis – Kangxi reformed China’s system of governance, incorporating Confucianism into political rule.  He brought together scholars, religious leaders, philosophers, and jurists to provide the intellectual foundation for his initiatives and reforms.

Image result for Emperor Kangxi. Size: 121 x 101. Source: www.thefamouspeople.com

The Japanese Ashikaga shoguns combined art, philosophy, religion and culture.  While always aware of their status as warriors and need to maintain their military prowess, the shoguns of the Ashikaga era recognized the importance of a strong military, and the development of new administrative and cultural talents to rule the country effectively.  From the beginning, the shogunate promoted a culture that combined aspects of samurai culture and the arts of the imperial court, with the balance between the two shifting in accordance with the interests of individual shoguns and their advisors. With the ascendancy of Zen Buddhism and the interest of many prominent monks in Chinese culture, the shogunate absorbed the arts of Chinese literature, Confucian studies, the ritualized consumption of tea, ink monochrome paintings, garden design, and calligraphy.

Ashoka, Emperor of India was similarly responsible for unifying his country through culture, language, arts, and law.  He promoted efficient public administration and cultural interaction between the developed Gangetic basin and distant backward provinces,; and under his rule the culture of his palace, characteristic of his empire, spread to Kalinga, the lower Deccan, and northern Bengal.  As importantly Ashoka is important in history for his policy of peace, non- aggression, and cultural conquest; and despite the strong, well-armed, and disciplined military under his control, he preferred a strategy of peaceful engagement and reward.

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We descendants of these great civilizations are legatees of the best that human society has produced.  We are the heirs of Ancient Greece and Rome which provided the philosophical, intellectual, and administrative foundation for European civilization and by extension America’s.  We Christians are equally heirs to the preeminence of the Catholic Church – an institution which was responsible not only for its political influence, but its management of a world spiritual empire and the promotion of art and architecture which reflected its principles. Although we are not direct descendants of Persian, Japanese, Indian, or Chinese culture, European civilization was influenced by shahs, shoguns, and emperors and the cultural civilizations they created, expanded, and led.  Our lives have been formed by this international culture.

The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution itself owe much to the English Enlightenment which itself was based on the principles of Sophocles, Plato, and Aristotle.  Our nation was not created on political grounds – an objection to taxation without representation and the authoritarian rule the oppressed individual enterprise and reward – but on spiritual ones.  The rights in the Bill of Rights are ‘God-given’, divinely inspired, universal, and absolute.  The influence of Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Montesquieu is evident throughout.

The current political culture in America today runs counter to this legacy.  European civilization, rather than the foundation for American culture, arts, science, jurisprudence, and philosophy, is derogated, dismissed, and relegated.   Europeans, say progressives, were exploitative colonizers, oppressors, slavers, and brutal, entitled aristocrats.  However much England may have contributed to American arts, culture, and political philosophy, such contributions are negated given the overwhelmingly negative influences of his reactionary politics. 

The early Spaniards who discovered and developed America were little more than white entitled marauders who plundered for gain, killed native populations with arrogance and impunity, and lied, cheated, and manipulated them for profit.  Ferdinand and Isabella, despite their initiatives to explore the New World, to bring many kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula together to form what Spain is today, and through this unification, to strengthen Spain into an economic and dominant world power, enabling the spread of Christianity and the colonization of a New World, are excommunicated from the commonwealth of right nations because of the genocide committed by their soldiers and clerics. 

The French who ruled Haiti and were influential in Louisiana and the Florida panhandle were no different – slavers, racists, gunrunners, and pirates.  The Dutch who settled New York acted according to the same European rules of conquest, exploitation, oppression, and intimidation with no respect for native populations. 

Not only do today’s political progressives want to cancel individuals (e.g. Winston Churchill, despite his historic defense of Britain during the blitz and his moral courage and steadfast opposition to the Nazis, has been removed from historical consideration because of his unwavering support of Empire), they want to cancel entire countries.  Because European 19th century societies were exclusively white, racist, elitist, opportunist, and exploitative, progressives say, they have nothing to teach.  Their legacy is tainted; and we, their heirs have been corrupted, and defiled. 

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Worst of all, say progressives, European societies were responsible for the spread of slavery throughout the Americas; and that alone justifies their removal from history’s archives.  It matters not that slavery is an ancient enterprise, practiced in Ancient Greece and Rome, Persia, India, and China; and that Spain, England, France, and Portugal were following historical imperatives of the past and subject to them, and that their moral universe did not include the less-developed and -evolved societies of Africa.  Different standards, moral assumptions, and very different ethical principles applied.  Those living in the heart of darkness could not and would not be considered or treated as those of the developed, highly-evolved West.

Condemning slavery and those who perpetuated it may be justified on moral grounds even when such judgements occur within a relative historical context; but lionizing those enslaved as more morally just, and of higher value because of their victimhood, is not.  Cancelling those countries which engaged in the slave trade and are ipso facto morally renegade and socially derelict is absurd. 

If the cancel culture has its way, most of history will be expunged and only post -1965 America will take its place. All statues of Jefferson, Washington, and Hamilton will be toppled and destroyed.  Names of the Confederacy will be erased, all traces of the Civil War will be removed.

Cancelling white, European high culture on the basis of one issue is wrong.  Raising tribal culture – whether in Africa, Borneo, or the Amazon - to an equal position of cultural significance to that of Imperial Japan, the courts of 18th century Europe, or the great Chinese dynasties, is shortsighted and anti-historical.  

There is no permanence to any culture.  Human governance has moved beyond monarchy to democracy, and such democracy has become more democratic as time has gone on.  The difference – the inequality – between European, Japanese, Indian, or Persian high culture and tribal culture of the 19th century and before cannot be ignored or wished away.  To distort it and transform it to fit modern perceptions is fiction.  The tables may someday be turned and the cultural saga of human societies in the future may be altogether different.

Cancel culture is wrong, racism in the form of attacking white empire, courts, and nations is wrong.  Attacking whiteness per se is wrong; attacking blackness per se is wrong, but elevating blackness to a higher status is misguided, historically myopic, and intellectually irresponsible.  

Respecting and understanding history, reserving judgement and always assuming cultural relativity, and committed to inevitable social, cultural evolution is the only sane, rational way to view the world.

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