Audit of Our Civilization

Modern Westerners stand on the shoulders of giants but seem unable to appreciate the fact



From time to time we need to take stock. The history of mankind has not a smooth progression, but more like a series of steps, sometimes short, sometimes long, separated by risers that may be shallow or dramatically steep.

Looking backwards, we took many steps that now seem with hindsight to have been obvious and intuitive, but that were extraordinary and revolutionary when they were taken, greatly challenging their societies at the time. We are indeed dwarves on the shoulders of giants, cocksure and proud of our great elevation and far-sighted vision, but in truth highly dependent on those who went before us.

A few examples of great steps are: the wheel (of course!); using wind to power ships and mills; training horses and other animals; systematic agriculture and storage of crops; living in towns and thereby enabling specialized skills to develop; learning to navigate by the stars; sharing and preserving knowledge by writing it down.

Those are steps common to most of humanity. There are many more that enjoyed peculiar success in the so-called “Western” or Christian world. Examples of these include: complex musical modes and scales; several new branches of literature including epic poetry, tragedy, and the novel; accurate perspective in painting; printing with moveable type; the scientific method; the piston engine (steam and petrol-powered); harnessing electricity; radio and electronics; anesthetics; the notion of the unity of the human race and, as a consequence, pursuit of justice, equality, and democracy, and profound awareness of the monstrousness of slavery.

I save for last the liberation of women, which has been one of those very steep steps. Yes, there was precedent for it in Roman law, the Hebrew scriptures, and the New Testament, but the truth is that for centuries the talents of most women were denied fulfilment, simply because they were women. Now more than half of our doctors and teachers are women, as well as a huge proportion of our lawyers and vets and political representatives and writers. In the latter category, women novelists have been particularly outstanding. This is all very good.

But all this good is being undermined by radical gender theory, absurd notions of sexual fluidity, a growing hostility between men and women, and an intolerance of contrary opinions.

This brings me in a roundabout way to the handling of the current pandemic. Anybody who questions current practice, particularly in relation to vaccination, is likely to be categorized as a conspiracy theorist. It is not uncommon to hear politicians accuse such people of being “anti-science” (a very common form of abuse, particularly on the lips on non-scientists!), and I predict that calls for the legal restraint of anyone judged to be a dissenter are likely to grow louder.

The Dawson Centre is not into conspiracy theories, but we are very much in favor of free and open discussion, and we deplore the escalating tendency to silence unpopular opinions.


David Daintree was President of Campion College (Australia’s only Catholic liberal arts college) from 2008 to 2012. In 2013 he founded and is now Director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Hobart.

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