Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Someone had invited Savonarola to a Medici banquet.

Solzhenitsyn condemned the West for its assumption that all societies must conform to its democratic, pluralist model, for "the mistake of measuring them all with a Western yardstick". That criticism is even more pertinent today than in 1978. He further denounced materialism and the welfare state, while pointing out the biological analogy whereby "extreme safety and well-being", such as had come to be regarded as a birthright in the West, led to extinction. So did lack of courage, another Western weakness: "Should one point out that, from ancient times, decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?"

No, one emphatically should not - certainly not at Harvard. His hearers were appalled: someone had invited Savonarola to a Medici banquet. Solzhenitsyn offended unforgivably against the politically correct liberal consensus, especially in deploring Western man's loss of awareness of the divine and cultivation of an "anthropocentricity" dating from the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Not since Chateaubriand, Bonald and De Maistre had Counter-Enlightenment thought been so boldly proclaimed.

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