Reviewed by Wojciech Sobanski
The crisis of Western civilization has been taking place for a long time, and now we are dealing with an entirely distinct turning point that threatens to end this civilization – writes Wojciech Roszkowski. Can we agree with his opinion?
Recently, more and more journalists and historians have been speaking about the condition of our civilization. In their opinion, a pessimistic picture of the situation in Western European countries emerges. The enormous demographic crisis, the aging of societies, thoughtless consumerism, and the departure from religion mean that there is a growing belief that the geopolitical center of gravity of our continent is shifting more and more to the east.
Prof. Wojciech Roszkowski’s publication, entitled “The Shattered Mirror. The Fall of Western Civilization,” is part of that trend. The Biały Kruk publishing house released it. Of course, the author does not hide his conservative sympathies. It is from such positions that he assesses the present state of the West. So, in his opinion, is there no hope for this civilization? Is the end of the world as we know it imminent?
Roszkowski is an economist by education and one of the most famous Polish historians. In his career, he was a Member of the European Parliament and a director of the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences. His latest publication can be described in one word – monumental. The “Shattered Mirror…” is over five hundred and fifty pages long and, in my opinion, is possibly the most exhaustive study of Western civilization, or rather its present state. The editors decided to help the readers a bit and outlined some of the publication’s author’s theses and thoughts.
The West – according to the author – is struggling with many threats: bioethical traps, liberal democracy, militant Islam, historical revisionism. He critically assesses contemporary culture. The proof of its decline are such phenomena as transgression, provocations, blasphemy – all of course in the name of specifically understood tolerance and freedom of speech.
The book consists of fifteen chapters. In the Introduction, the author tries to specify the concepts of “culture” and “civilization.” In the following parts, the author tries to formulate an answer to the question “what is Western civilization”? What can we understand by it? What does Europe mean? Is it just a geographical name? How is Western civilization pillared on Greek philosophy, Roman law, Christianity, certain economic principles?
The chapters that follow are a fascinating journey through Western civilization and a look at all its aspects. Roszkowski looks for “the roots of the present day.” He describes “the age of illusion and a world without God.” We will read about “the death of truth and the triumph of libertarianism.” The author does not shy away from controversial and politically incorrect topics. He points to the fascination of Western intellectuals with communism. One of the chapters is devoted to the revolution of the 1960s and its aftermath. It gave birth to “children of the revolution” who rejected the old world order. Modernity appeared as a break from the conventional morals, hence the promotion and advertising of sexual freedom, pornography, and moral relativism.
No wonder then that it is difficult to find a place for traditional values – God, the Church, and the family in such a civilization. According to the author, the Church also capitulates from the function of “protecting the deposit of faith and defending the foundations of Western civilization.” This situation has been increasing ever since the Second Vatican Council and “chasing the world.”
In conclusion, the author shyly indicates some positive symptoms. He encourages us to “follow the harbingers of hope” that motivate us to strive. Among others, they are signs of a slowdown in American society’s decline and the growing visibility of youth groups professing Christianity. According to the author, “hope can never be abandoned.”
Is something missing from this book? Whom is this publication intended for? First of all, it is a pity that the publishing house did not include a bibliography or footnotes. With such an extensive work, they would be quite helpful. It also seems that the book targets a conservative audience.
Regardless of this, the enormous amount of work the author has done writing this work is admirable. Prof. Wojciech Roszkowski shows himself to be an insightful observer of the ongoing historical processes, who, with this book, wants to warn Western civilization against the lurking collapse. Hopefully it’s not too late.
Wojciech Sobanski holds a degree in theology from John Paul II University in Krakow.
The original review, in Polish, can be found here: