[editor’s note: Anthony Esolen will be Credo’s St. Joseph Dinner speaker in St. Louis on Sunday, April 14th, 2013 with a talk titled Fatherhood and Freedom]
If you’ve ever wondered how Western civilization arrived at the present predicament in which it finds itself, morally, fiscally and relationally, and how it might extricate itself, and if you aren’t in a position to spend a lifetime finding answers to those important questions, this book is for you. Dr. Esolen is Professor of English at Providence College in Rhode Island. Besides knowledge of Italian, Latin, German, Anglo-Saxon, French and New Testament Greek, he has an extraordinarily broad and insightful knowledge of the history of ancient and modern civilizations. Here’s what Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D., author of Ten Books That Screwed Up the World, has to say, “With a mind and heart well-formed by the very best that has made Western civilization both civil and great, Esolen vividly portrays our four-millennia drama in thought, politics, the family, art, poetry, architecture, war, peace, and the blessed intricacies of everyday life – his eye ever trained on the true, the good and the beautiful, and rightly indignant of all that now threatens to reduce Western civilization to ashes and a new barbarism.” — all this in an entertaining and sprightly read.
This book is an excellent and effective antidote to the cultural toxins infecting government, media, music, entertainment, church, and corporate and educational institutions of our day. As Archbishop Chaput has observed, the dramatic cultural change of recent decades was no accident. In the event, it was fostered and promoted by a cabal of intellectuals. These intellectuals included John Dewey (Columbia University) and neo-Marxist transplants to Columbia from the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany who moved to New York in 1933 to advance the “Quiet Revolution.”
The book’s preface identifies Christianity, Judaism, dead white males, old-fashioned morality, the traditional family, and tradition itself as the pillars of political incorrectness and the bane of modern elites, even though they happen to have been the basis of Western civilization. Political correctness methods introduced strategically into schools at every level and in all subjects have been an astonishingly effective solvent to the foundations of American and European culture. As the author sums up,“It has been a demolition project: undermine Western civilization in whatever way possible, and build a brave new world from the rubble.” Hence, politically correct language, politically correct history, politically correct literature, even politically correct science, have become dominant in education institutions, primary through university. Esolen knows the cultural challenge is daunting. “The other side has the mainstream media, the Ivy League, the political classes, and a lot more money. Thankfully, on our side, we’ve got thousands of years of history and some pretty big guns – with names like Aristotle, Augustine, Burke, and Eliot.” Dr. Esolen’s closes his book with, “There is hope for it (Western civilization), if only because it is the only civilization founded upon hope, because it is founded, finally, upon the word of the One who keeps His promises.”
Each of the nine chapters has a Guess What? side bar on the first page stating three facts to be elucidated in that chapter, e.g. “Moral relativism brought down Ancient Greece,” for the first chapter. The text is interspersed with blocks containing relevant facts and quotes such as this gem, “It has often been maintained that Galileo became the father of modern science by replacing the speculative, deductive method with the empirical, experimental method. I believe, however, that this interpretation would not stand close scrutiny.” – Albert Einstein. Relevant “Books You’re Not Supposed to Read” are also in blocks throughout the book. If you read only what’s in the side bars and blocks, you’d have a pretty good idea of what’s been going on in politically correct cover-ups over the past fifty to hundred years. However, you’d be missing so much that makes this book well worth your time.
Not only is The Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization well-referenced and very informative, it’s downright entertaining.