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The Contender
Con (against)

Western culture suffers from a historical narrative of self-hatred.

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roothaan has forfeited round #5.
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/30/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 493 times Debate No: 99429
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
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We all know the story: Bad, evil Europeans! Crusades, colonialism, imperialism, slavery, genocide, war, fascism, smallpox blankets, patriarchy, ABBA. I pose that European culture is not that different from the rest of the world. However, contrary to the rest of the world, Europeans are not allowed to love their own history. Through cultural marxism the Western tradition of self-criticism has turned into pathological self-hatred. This mode of thinking is part of a political ideology first developed by the Frankfurt School, and is currently promoted by universities and political parties to push a globalist agenda.


Accept. Since Pro has given sort of an argument in overview, I'll present a general argument in response.

1) Check yourself at the door. Is Pro well-informed as to how other cultures view themselves? Sunnis and Shiites don't get along so well. China destroyed its culture during the Cultural Revolution. And what does Pro mean by love? Just another world for devotion or adherence to tradition?

2) Western culture has rebuilt its own societies on the basis of ideals, rather than on the basis of a continuous tradition. Therefore we will judge ourselves against conformity to those ideals, not against conformity to our traditions. Those traditions that fall afoul of our ideals will necessarily be held in disregard.

3) In the modern era, Western culture has been the most dynamic culture in terms of political and technological change. The more our culture adopts new ways, the more differently we will regard our past. Cultures that have changed less will lean more on their traditions. Those who want to change less will see criticism as more dangerous
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting, tumeric. This is my first go on this website, so some elements of my original post might be a little messy, but this is obviously because I am still inexperienced with this kind of format. I will appreciate any suggestions you have concerning presentation etc.

I think that the three arguments you make in your first post are interrelated. As you say in point 3, Western culture has been the most dynamic in terms of political and technological change. I interpret this as a) industrialization in terms of technological change and, b) the Enlightenment as the ideals to which we judge ourselves. In this regard the development of Western culture has been different from that of other parts of the world. The question is, however, whether this is part of an internal struggle within Western culture itself or a historical anomaly. With this I am not questioning the main tenets of the Enlightenment, I am merely trying to trace back the origin of what I perceive to be a form of cultural discontinuity.
In the past few decades economic globalization (in terms of a rapid increase in cross-border movement of goods, services, technology, and capital) have not resulted in the globalization of the ideals of the Enlightenment. Cultures that have always been rather traditional, and who are now quickly catching up in a technological sense, are condescendingly admired by the West as 'exotic' and it is often argued that these cultures and their customs need to be preserved and protected. This is where we can see the double standards I referred to in my original post. When it comes to traditional European culture there is no room for this kind of exotic admiration or endearing nostalgia. There is only the battering ram of political censorship. To give you an example: in our society it is perfectly acceptable to criticize the Catholic Church, to ridicule its leaders, to attack its moral code, and to make offensive statements about Christ. When it comes to Islam, however, the same kind of criticism is considered completely unacceptable and anyone who participates in it is immediately decried as an Islamophobe. Take for instance the public debate after the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Many claimed that the satirical magazine was insanely offensive to Muslims, but nobody cared about the fact that it was equally offensive to Christians. In other words, one religious group is to be protected from public criticism, whereas the other should simply endure it.
Relating to the examples you have given above, I would say that the sunni-shiite conflict is actually a conflict within traditional Islam, and so there is no threat of a secular power hostile to the Islamic religion as a whole. In the case of China there is obviously a secular power that threatened traditional culture, but in this case the threat came (again) from Marxism which we could definitely consider to be a product of the Enlightenment. The difference is that the attacks of the Chinese government were never part of a culture of self-hatred, rather it was part of an aggressive program to try and modernize China. In fact, the Communist Party of China is currently promoting a return to traditional Confucianism.


Maybe you can pick a specific example and we can argue about that.
The Charlie Hebdo massacre isn't a good example for me because my summary of that would be totally different from what you said. I would say that this thing happened and people were quite horrified and generally defensive of the magazine's free speech rights. Maybe you can give an example, one which is fairly well-known, that illustrates political censorship.

Also I think its better to argue something specific because a discussion on a global scale is like arguing about which way the wind is blowing. I mean many parts of the world can't Americanize themselves fast enough -- I don't know how much other societies love their cultures.
Debate Round No. 2


Hey tumeric, let me start by saying that it wasn't my intention to discuss this issue on a global scale, I merely wanted to refute your comparison with Islamic and Chinese culture because I think those comparisons were not entirely accurate.
With regard to the Charlie Hebdo example I gave in my previous post, I was not trying to argue that people were questioning the magazine's free speech rights. I was trying to illustrate the double standards that the Western media use when it comes to public criticism. I argued in my previous post that criticism of Islam was not accepted, whereas criticism of Catholicism generally is. However, I admit that I failed to give you a concrete example. To give you an impression of what I mean you can read this article:
What is interesting here is that the author, Guilaine Kinouani, claims that Charlie Hebdo is responsible for the radicalization of Muslims in France. However, she fails to observe that another religious group (Christians) suffer the same kind of insults, yet a headline saying 'Charlie Hebdo said something so Christianophobic this week that I believe it will fuel terrorism' is simply unthinkable. Kinouani then continues by arguing that the biggest problem of French culture is that it is too French. In other words, the identity of ethnic minorities is more important than the culture of the host country. This tied in with your argument that we have changed our culture on the basis of ideals, rather than on the basis of a continuous tradition. My question, however, is how sustainable are these ideals when the very culture they have grown out of (that is European Judeo-Christian culture) is viewed within a narrative of self-hatred? Kinouani claims that French culture is racist, but I would argue that French culture is no more racist than Kenyan or Argentinean culture. In fact, I think that nowhere on the planet do minorities enjoy so many rights (even privileges) as in the West.
History can only function within a narrative representation, in other words, in a story. The article of Kinouani is a story, albeit an erroneous one in my opinion. But again I would like to point out the role of the ideas of the Enlightenment in the reinterpretation of historical events. For centuries the conquest of Jerusalem during the Crusades had been portrayed in Western history as one of its greatest achievements. This changed radically during the age of the Enlightenment. A good example of this is The Talisman (1825), a famous book by Sir Walter Scott. In this story the Muslim sultan Saladin is portrayed as a type of liberal European gentleman while the crusaders are presented as intemperate and childish, crudely assailing a more sophisticated and civilized Muslim society. With this example I am not trying to say that the Crusaders were actually the good guys, I am merely trying to illustrate how the European intellectual elite changed the narrative of their own history according to the new-found ideals of the Enlightenment which were, from quite early on, very anti-Christian. I would argue that after the Second World War, under the influence of the so-called 'New Left' and the Frankfurt School, this kind of historical narrative, now inspired by Marxist rethoric, got even more hostile.


I haven't read it, so this is my best attempt to BS this, but I would presume that Scott's novel is about European society -- that's why the sultan seems so European. His East is a fictional counterpart -- a utopia. The exotic ('noble savage' / Romanticism / Star Trek) is a fictional device meant to reframe a vision of one's own society without the imaginative constraints of our ideologies. And by the way, conservatives do this too, with an equally fictionalized past (Make America Great Again / the Crusades), which we're always slipping further from. But both the 'exotic' and the 'golden age' are constructs that illustrate an ideal against which we judge the here and now. And both hold that present society is lacking.

From there I would argue that on a basis of moral imperative, a doctrine of self-criticism and improvement is of higher virtue that appreciation of one's progeny and accomplishments. Jesus would agree. So does the Constitution, the purpose of which is to establish a more perfect union -- not one better than Argentinean or Kenya. A more perfect Union presumes imperfection, the awareness of which makes progress possible. The journey from a sense of victory and entitlement to one of self-questioning and the role we play in the world is a story of a maturing society. And vise versa.

RE: China and Islamic culture
You haven't qualified what you mean by cultural self-hatred, or why a Marxist mode of cultural criticism stands out in a relevant way from religious sectarianism or China's class-motivated obliteration of tradition. Or why, to draw from my commentary above, a narrative of America's decade's-long moral decline and "carnage" is not self-hatred. Part of my confusion is how you define self-hood when talking about society. You seem to be assuming that if you locate your problems within yourself, instead of identifying others to blame, it's self-hatred.

RE: Charlie Hebdo article
The article is not saying that Charlie Hebdo is responsible for radicalization, but that French society in general is forcing traditional notions of Frenchness, which exclude minority groups living there, through things like aggressive secularization that don't fit Islamic lifestyles. If true, a single standard of treatment wouldn't be appropriate because the baseline attitudes and conditions (French people vs Muslims) are uneven -- there's a strong preference for the former. But she also claims that there's something inauthentic about this Frenchness. I think that will always be true of cultures that have to sideline minorities to maintain their traditions. Its no different from prognostications about how technology or the youth are ruining everything.
Debate Round No. 3


What I define as a 'culture of self-hatred' is the attitude that Europeans should be ashamed of their Europeaness, in the way that the French should feel sorry for their Frenchness, according to Kinouani's article. If a migrant in Beijing would complain that the culture there is too Chinese, people would not even take it seriously.
It is commonly accepted that European culture is built on three pillars: Classical Antiquity, Christianity (both Catholic and Protestant) and the Enlightenment. I think that all three have contributed in positive and negative ways to the modern self-image of Europeans. In this regard self-criticism is a great good that can be helpful in discerning the path to the future.
Since the Enlightenment there has been an honest exchange of differing ideas which definitely contributed to a society that emphasizes personal freedoms. But after the Second World War, under the influence of the Frankfurter School, this exchange of ideas has been primarily destructive of the European identity and largely in favor of minority groups. What I am referring to is what the contemporary Left calls 'identity politics'. In political terms it emphasizes the identity of a person through loosely correlated social organizations based on race, gender, religion and social class. Now, in itself there seems to be nothing wrong with that; we all base our identity on categories such as these. However, cultural Marxism (the rhetorical exponent of identity politics) views these identities as being caught in an eternal warfare between ever more narrowly defined groups of offended minorities. Don't get me wrong, of course I agree that minorities should be protected, have a right to express their opinions and that they should have equal rights, but if you ask me whether they should dictate policy, my answer is strictly: 'no'. Simply because it is undemocratic. In this regard it is interesting that today the media no longer represents the opinion of the majority, but instead the ideology of a liberal elite. Not just the ideal of the 'exotic' and the 'golden age' are constructs that are lacking, reality (as it is presented in the media) unfortunately is too. Evidence of this is the 'silent majority' or so-called 'deplorables'. In other words, people who do not have a PhD and who do not have a lot of influence in the media and politics but who belong to the working and middle class. These are the people who voted for Brexit and Trump. In this respect, the silent majority is the product of an ever more omnipresent and homogeneous media landscape.

On the Charlie Hebdo: the author clearly states (in the title itself) that the magazine will spark more terrorist attacks. Denying it is something else then refuting it. About the inauthentic behaviour she observed, I'm not so sure about that. As an example she gives a younger generation (who probably know the French language better) and fake their Frenchness when in fact they grew up in France and are French. But the author sees this as a betrayal of their migrant background.

Concerning Jesus an whether or not He would agree: I think that Christ greatly valued the tradition handed down by the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. However, He would not accept any interpretation of this tradition that would be contrary of the love of God.

On Scott's novel: like any other novel, is a product of fiction. Therefore it does not abide by the rules of reality, but by the rules of the author's imaginary world. Scott's imaginary world is the product of a psychological construct which is distorted by his personal admiration of oriental civilization and the anti-Christian attitude of the Enlightenment (however unbelievable such a construct might be).


It seems you're equating tolerance with diminishing oneself. Essentially a fundamentalist position. It's like saying that if you can't legally bind other people to your religious outlook, you're religious freedom is being impinged. It only sounds ridiculous to say Beijing is too Chinese because they don't require conformity to an idea of Chineseness to belong and to operate in their sphere. They do block freedom of speech, and this is a flaw, though not one related unique to China.

On the other hand, if you came back from the Middle East and said it was 'too Islamic,' that would be taken seriously -- lots of people there hold that opinion. But that opinion is not 'self-hatred' or shame on the part of Middle Eastern Muslims in my opinion.

As far as the Frankfurt School, I'm only somewhat familiar. Remember it became prominent as Western Enlightenment ideals were giving way to totalitarianism. Maybe there's something about the Nazis that made some question Europe's cultural supremacy. Go figure. As far as our own alt-reich here in the US, don't think for a second that these self-appointed defenders of 'European Heritage' are the standard bearers of Socrates, St. Augustine, and Wordsworth. They think that stuff is too 'elite' for them -- and they're right. They are interested in a different question: who is entitled to the benefits of a social order? Fascists/fundamentalists answer this by conflating cultural identity with national belonging.

Also some parts of your argument are dated ('silent majority'). The media landscape has disintegrated into the opposite of what you describe. It now consists of the original major new networks competing alongside a variety of alternative sources that present wildly different worldviews.
Debate Round No. 4
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Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by roothaan 1 year ago
Thanks for your suggestion, will keep it in mind next time.
Posted by LuciferWept 1 year ago
You should cite the sources, as that I'm not sure all who will read this will be quite familiar with the Frankfurt school.
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