What the vulgar feud around the Ramsay Centre doesn’t grasp about ‘Western Civilisation’ – by Andrew Gleeson

10 July 2019

The Ramsey Centre for Western Civilisation appears to be making progress in its plan to establish degrees in Western Civilisation at three Australian Universities. Just last week, it was reported that the University of Queensland’s academic board approved a plan for courses to begin next year, subject to final approval by the university’s vice-chancellor. At the same time, the National Tertiary Education Union is reported to have dropped legal action against courses at the University of Wollongong, also scheduled for a 2020 start.

Scornful critics will, of course, not abandon their attempts to scuttle the project. They have succeeded in convincing many people ― even some of the program’s advocates ― that it is little more than a conservative project aimed at glorifying straight white European male supremacy.

But nothing could be further from the truth. A perusal of the Indicative Curriculum reveals a cunning left-wing plot to subvert the established order of capitalism. Consider this selection from the curriculum’s texts.

The initial year of study includes Aeschylus’s Oresteia. The first play of this trilogy, Agamemnon, is one of the earliest works to strike a feminist blow against patriarchy, describing Queen Clytemnestra’s murder of her husband Agamemnon to usurp his throne. Students also study Plato ― that well-known champion of homoerotic love ― whose most famous dialogue, The Republic, describes an ideal state devoted to justice and ruled by a caste of progressive intellectuals.

When one gets around to authors writing in English, students are introduced to sexual politics through the notorious bawdy of Chaucer and Shakespeare. They also study John Milton, that infamous republican and revolutionary, whose greatest literary creation was an epic poem celebrating insurrection against the Christian God.

In the study of the Enlightenment, pride of place is given to radically democratic and liberal figures like Locke and Kant, feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft, radicals like Rousseau ― an inspiring spirit of the French revolution ― and Thomas Paine, the nemesis of conservative hero Edmund Burke.

As we reach the last couple of hundred years, the fig leaf of traditionalist appearances is shed to reveal an openly Bolshie syllabus: Nietzsche and Freud ― scourges of Christianity both ― black radicals like W.E.B. Du Bois, and even Marx and Foucault!

Well, this is parody, of course ― albeit parody with a point: that the canon of ‘Western Civilisation’ is more diverse than its critics suspect. More importantly, it is also far richer than anyone would think whose only knowledge of it ― like that of most students ― is sourced from the bizarre philippics of its detractors or the bland instrumental rationales sometimes voiced in its defence.

Credit: ABC Religion and Ethics website– click here to read the full article
Posted Tue 9 Jul 2019, 5:49pm Updated Tue 9 Jul 2019, 6:12pm

Andrew Gleeson is a retired academic philosopher who lives in Adelaide. He is the author of A Frightening Love: Recasting the Problem of Evil.

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If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility"
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow