Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The West and Civilization

I recently saw some of Niall Ferguson's television series on his book. Now think I can see what this somewhat self promotion was meant to do, not for the BBC but PBS audience, namely in my opinion  sell his book and make money, but frankly it was in my opinion filled with some many distortions in my opinion that one must wonder what the students walk away with.

Let me comment on but a few.

First the Protestant Work Ethic. Excuse me but did he ever hear of the Jews? What were they, chopped liver? They managed to add bundles to our civilization despite being whacked and hacked by everyone. Then the Catholics, that collection of loafers as far a Ferguson says. Dis he ever hear of the Penal Laws. The denied Catholics property, jobs, education, land, the right to vote or hold office, being in a profession, and work in any area competitive to a Protestant. One must likely be out of their "bloomin head" to ascribe anything but abject English Protestant hatred and inhuman cruelty to such actions.

Second, a forgotten or misplaced element of the West which was present from about 600 forward to today is the University. Yes, that very institution in which the good Professor seems to occupy space. The West had developed a center of learning open to anyone. It arguably can be dated back to about 600 with Columbanus, the Irish monk and his wandering scholars who established open institutes of education, for religions and lay folks, starting at Luxeuil and on to Bobbio. Here was taught languages, philosophy, and even crafts such as irrigation, water management, and agriculture. Then just after 1000 we have the formation of the great Universities at Paris, Oxford, Cambridge and the dozens of others, on grounds similar to Columbanus. Today we have in the West some of the best in the world and the envy of many outside the West. Somehow the good Professor seems to have missed this one.

I am always suspect of ad hoc propiter hoc arguments from television based preachers of the Academy. Perhaps we should all be.