In The Boscombe Valley Mystery, Sherlock Holmes warns Dr. John Watson of the dangers of circumstantial evidence. “It may seem to point very straight to one thing,” the intrepid detective tells his earnest assistant, “but if you shift your point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different.”
While it may be tempting to view recent polls showing a “silent majority” of Americans holding sane, traditional views on the American Founding and its heroes, the truth of the matter is much more dire. The stark reality is that a loud, obnoxious, and vocal minority in the country possesses civilizational confidence while the majority has lost its fight. If the current trajectory holds, it isn’t hard to predict how it’ll all turn out. And it won’t be good.
Shadows in the Sunlight
A new Fox News poll taken between July 12-15 reveals on actions like tearing down statues or seeing the Founders as heroes rather than villains, the majority of the country hasn’t totally lost its mind (yet). Seventy-three percent of those polled believe statues of men like Washington and Jefferson shouldn’t be removed; 63 percent believe the Founders were heroes, and even 48 percent preferred to see Confederate monuments and statues remain where they are.
At first glance, this seems like unabashedly good news. Yet the poll exposes undercurrents beneath the surface of this good news. Thirty percent of respondents under the age of 30 believe statues and memorials to the Founders should be taken down, with 58 percent of that same demographic holding that view regarding Confederate memorials.
Even worse, 31 percent of those under 30 believe the Founders were villains. Since these folks comprise a large component of America’s future, the fact that a sizable minority of them are willing to ax our history because they see it in light of The 1619 Project is terrifying.
Truly, a house divided against itself still cannot stand. It’s hard to envision a stable country — let alone one that prospers and thrives — in which one segment of the population believes its founders were heroes and another segment sees those very same men as the 18th-century equivalent of an axis of evil.
The Will to Power and Influence
But there is a bigger problem lurking beneath the surface of the poll’s numbers. Why is it that the less prevalent viewpoint is the one pushing society to their side? Since George Floyd’s death at the end of May, events have moved at breakneck speed. In March 2020, defunding the police was seen as a utopian daydream, even by the most radical leftist Democrats. Now, it is a pillar of the American left’s ideology.
On May 5, 2020, the idea that George Washington had no place in the public sphere was something you would find only on the fringes of the web. Now, The New York Times proudly publishes op-eds arguing that because Washington was a slave owner, he was an amoral monster, completely unworthy of adulation or even basic respect.
At the start of June, iconic brands like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and the Washington Redskins were still displayed, bought, and sold — all deemed acceptable. Now, all have been washed down the drain of cancel culture.
We now live in a world where being insufficiently enthusiastic about Black Lives Matter on your Facebook page will get you suspended from your job, where cancel culture is seen as the “expansion” of free speech, and laziness is seen as a reclamation of power.
Civilizational Confidence Is Essential to Shaping Culture
Civilizational confidence is, simply put, the belief that your culture, history, traditions, customs, and beliefs — in other words, your way of life — is better than any alternative that exists in the world. It has nothing to do with sex, ethnicity, race, or religion. Yet expressing that sort of attitude will quickly have you labeled a Hitlerian who wants to establish the Fourth Reich. We’re told that the “cultural relativity” first seriously proposed after World War I is the only way to prevent another Holocaust. Such voices, however, are dead wrong.
First, it is obvious that some civilizations and cultures are superior to others. The sun really did never set on the British Empire in 1910. It was the world’s banker, English was the language of the globe and of commerce, and it owned 25 percent of the world’s landmass. It didn’t achieve such things by having bad ideas. Since superiority is often an objective fact, it is not wrong to verbalize such beliefs. More importantly, belief in this fact does not logically or by necessity lead to a thousand-year Reich scenario.
A husband is supposed to believe that his wife, with all her faults, is the best woman in the world because she is his wife, and wives are supposed to think the same of their husbands. It is, in fact, natural for husbands and wives to think this of each other. This does not strip others’ humanity.
A man who believes his wife is the best woman in the world won’t because of this ignore the pleas for help of a woman he’s never met as she’s mugged in Central Park. In the same way, confidence in our civilization, assurance in our way of doing things is natural. Our country is our home, and to think the best of her and to believe her to be the best among all nations is a natural result of the love and patriotism we are supposed to possess for her.
Belief in One’s Culture Can Lead to Good
Of course, a belief or acknowledgment of superiority can provide malevolent temptations, and, sadly, many have given in to those in the history of our species. But it is also true that many others have seen their superiority as a responsibility to be used for the greater good.
Following the Spanish-American War, the United States kept its promise and gave Cuba its independence, even though it would have been quite easy to keep the island as part of the spoils of war. Andrew Carnegie, one of the first American millionaires, built 1,700 public libraries.
After conquering Italy in World War II, American Relief for Italy was formed so people could donate clothes, shoes, and baby supplies to save the lives of Italians ravaged by war. Superiority does not automatically lead to subjugation, because it does not naturally lead to pride and the trivializing others’ humanity.
Conversely, it is cultural relativism that naturally subjugates people, first by making people of all countries and cultures part of the same amorphous blob of faceless humanity. It is only by refusing to acknowledge the merits or demerits of genuine cultural differences that people are “allowed” to shrug their shoulders when Saudi Arabia allows women to be beaten for showing their hair, or when Amazonian tribes cannibalize children.
Ultimately, Civilization Confidence Means Survival
But most important of all is the reality that civilizational confidence is not simply a nice feature to have — it’s necessary for basic survival. Confidence is a required element for personal flourishing. As confidence is a state of mind, much peace accompanies people when they learn to trust their talents, qualities, and abilities. In the time of the Founders, such a person would have been called independent. So, just as confidence is necessary for the personal sphere, it is also required in the national sphere. Without confidence, nations stumble.
The War in Vietnam was lost, in large part, because Americans lost confidence, both in the morality of the war and the ability and virtue of the leaders conducting it. Nations that lose their confidence often do worse than stumble; they also begin to wither and decay. According to Peter Hitchens, it was after the humiliation of the Suez Crisis of 1956 that Great Britain lost its confidence in being British and thus lost its status as a world power
Joan of Arc is supposed to have said that battles are won and lost in the mind. Indeed, while believing victory is possible may not be a magic spell that guarantees triumph, not holding this belief is almost always ensures failure.
Confidence is often the reason small minorities defeat powerful majorities: confidence in their own culture and heritage is what allowed the Greek city-states to defeat the mighty Persian Empire. Confidence in their faith has allowed the Taliban to routinely stymie a world superpower. Today, it is the reason a small minority of the American population has succeeded in remolding the culture to closely mirror their depraved and warped neo-Marxist ideology.
The revolutionary moment sweeping everything away from us will not ultimately be defeated by electing a specific person to the White House, giving a congressional majority to the GOP, or confirming more “conservative” judges to the courts; nor will it be defeated by creating new think tanks. It will only be defeated when we regain our civilizational confidence as Americans. Then, we will not just be saddened or depressed by the chaos surrounding us — we will be moved to meet it, fight it, and win.