The End of the European Enlightenment?

Is it still too early to tell where the French Revolution will end?

Our withdrawal from Afghanistan has produced rather more mirth on Trad-Con Telegram chat groups than I would have anticipated.

If the English enlightenment gave us liberation of the agent, the European enlightenment gave us liberation of the will. Now, as the liberated will tightens its hold in wealthy urban locales, so frisson ensues at the threat of its collapse.

I can’t imagine these sorts of jokes being banded around during the retreat from Saigon or even Iraq. The West’s disillusionment with its own values is well and truly underway.

It’s about time.

We passed a point of no return at Nurenberg. The victorious powers could agree that the Nazis had done something terribly wrong but, with a jurisdiction and laws made up on the fly and applied retroactively, the best the prosecutors could do was entreat the condemned men: ‘imagine being you.’

Whether the authority of that court flowed from ideology or some sort of etherial humanist objectivity, time will continue to tell, but the same moralising is now wielded by sullen teenagers and woke schoolmarms – the ‘imagine being you’ refrain and its variants casually applied in any situation where someone needs to be checked by the entire weight of society for breaking ranks with the orthodoxy de jour.

Suddenly, all the world is a courtroom.

These rhetorical blueprints have also been adopted by the very galleries they were designed to eliminate. To take one example, many Christians are currently stuck trying to negotiate for the lives of unborn children as if a ‘right to life’ were given by God and not by Voltaire.

It is an astounding a coup, when you think about it. It also slightly draws one’s breath to hear continentals lecture the Common Law World on the dignity of man as if Gibbon, Burke and Johnson hadn’t hammered these ideas out long before any Triumphal Arch rose from the blood of their revolutions to proclaim their righteousness from Paris to Pyongyang.

Today, the lens of Women’s rights, animal rights, LGBTQ rights and carbon neutrality is gradually drawing ridicule. In reality, it was never possible to evaluate western social success by these indicators – far less that of Afghanistan.