Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are fundamental rights “asserted in the face of oppression and paid for in blood,” argues Declan Ganley. They “have been the cornerstone not only of American democracy but of western civilization.” In a new article for Prospect Magazine, the chairman & CEO of Rivada Networks says that the West “needs to defend [these] shared values.”
He argues that these fundamental rights are now under attack:
We live in an age where universal values are maligned. During his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of a “dictatorship of relativism” and “an attack on truth” that defined the modern era. This is on display when a candidate with close financial ties to despotic middle eastern regimes can be the flag bearer of liberal feminists, while cultural and religious conservatives line up behind a candidate who brags about dodging sexually transmitted diseases being “his personal Vietnam” and who was recorded boasting about committing sexual assault.
It is now possible to choose media sources so as to never read or watch a news story that challenges one’s point of view. This is a problem that affects both sides of the political divide. Its consequence is first and foremost a devastating loss of empathy in our society—an increased intolerance for dissenting views and voices that is seen in the comments sections of conservative websites and the safe spaces on our college campuses. Fewer and fewer values are viewed as common, shared or universal and this is an urgent danger.
He goes on to explain why this is an urgent danger:
First, it is a danger because shared values do not just bind us together as societies, but as an international community of western nations. Whatever else one thinks of Donald Trump, his message that it was beyond time that America’s allies ceased to be so dependent on it for defence seemed to resonate with many voters. The President-Elect has signaled a far greater apathy towards Nato and a greater openness to Russia than any of his recent predecessors. This is concerning because a world in which a common system of values and beliefs is replaced with self-interested pragmatism will be a perilous one.
Second, the decrease in shared values is dangerous domestically. Twice in the last decade the European Union chose to simply ignore the result of democratic votes. Twice more it demanded that democratic votes be re-run until the correct result was achieved. Unsurprisingly, an increasing number of people frustrated at their inability to change a system now support leaving it. In the UK, some of my fellow Remainers are now arguing that the Leave vote should be overturned by parliament. In the US, millions of people have signed a petition demanding that the electoral college overturn the result of the election. In the west, we are seeing the beginning of movements that reject democracy itself. These movements share a view that the values of their group are more important than the common, shared value, of government by consent.
He ends by describing a well-known scene:
A famous photo was taken in Hamburg in the year 1936. Adolf Hitler is passing and the crowd raises their arms to salute—aside from one man, who stands with his arms folded. This image is not just an icon of resistance to Nazism, for there are many who dutifully saluted in public while working to undermine Hitler in private. It is, rather, an icon of resistance to the mob. In an age where the mob is ascendant, and our common values are under attack, schoolchildren should be shown this photo and taught what it means—that sometimes the crowd is wrong, and the lone dissenter is right.
Declan Ganley will be speaking at the Bloomsbury Hotel in London on Thursday, December 1 at the “Crisis of Liberty in the West” Conference hosted by Acton Institute and co-sponsored by the Institute of Economic Affairs and St. Mary’s University Twickenham London. The event is free but requires registration. You can sign up to attend here or for anyone not in London, you can watch a Livestream here.
Follow the conversation on social media using #CrisisoftheWest.