Jonah Goldberg newest book, Suicide of the West will be released next week. This piece in National Review of the same name is a thesis of his book:
The American Founding’s glory is that those English colonists took their cousins’ tradition, purified it into a political ideology, and extended it farther than the English ever dreamed. And they wrote it down, thank God. The Founding didn’t apply these principles as universally as its rhetoric implied. But that rhetoric was transformative. When the Declaration of Independence was written, some dismissed the beginning as flowery boilerplate; what mattered was the ending: Independence! But the boilerplate became a creed, and America’s story is the story of that creed — those mere words — unfolding to its logical conclusion. That is what Lincoln did at Gettysburg when he reconceived the meaning of America, what Martin Luther King Jr. appealed to when he called on Americans to live up to their own story’s highest principles. A civilization is simply a story: the story the people tell themselves about themselves.
It seems axiomatic to me that whatever words can create, they can destroy. And ingratitude is the destroyer’s form. We teach children that the moral of the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg is the danger of greed. But the real moral of the story is ingratitude. A farmer finds an animal, which promises to make him richer than he ever imagined. But rather than nurture and protect this miracle, he resents it for not doing more. In one version, the farmer demands two golden eggs per day. When the goose politely demurs, he kills it out of a sense of entitlement — the opposite of gratitude.
The Miracle is our goose. And rather than be grateful for it, our schools, our culture, and many of our politicians say we should resent it for not doing more. Conservatism is a form of gratitude, because we conserve only what we are grateful for. Our society is talking itself out of gratitude for the Miracle and teaching our children resentment. Our culture affirms our feelings as the most authentic sources of truth when they are merely the expressions of instincts, and considers the Miracle a code word for white privilege, greed, and oppression.
This is corruption. And it is a choice. Collectively, we are embracing entitlement over gratitude. That is suicidal. I did not call my book “Decline of the West” or “Death of the West,” because suicide is a choice. We are not victims of cold immutable forces, or suffering from the loss of God’s favor. Nothing is foreordained. There’s no excuse for coasting on the right side of history, because there’s no such thing. Our words alone can save us. When a loved one is suicidal, what do you say to him? You tell him how much he has to live for, how much he should be grateful for. We are choosing to do otherwise.