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PC's Opinion: The Heart of the West

EDITORS NOTE: Scoop is pleased to welcome Peter Cresswell to the ranks of Scoop columnists. Peter’s "PC's Opinion" columns will appear regularly on Wednesdays.

The Heart of the West
By Peter Cresswell

Last week my mother had a heart attack. Not a large one - in fact the cardiologist told me that ten years ago they could not even have known that she had such a mild heart attack. Only today, with the advance of medical technology, are they able to diagnose and treat such things and so stave off further dangers.

For from such small attacks are larger dangers made: my mother's weakened heart had a further and larger attack from the safety of Middlemore Hospital's fabulously well equipped new cardiology ward. There - armed with their earlier diagnosis and with abundant life-saving technology at their fingertips - the dedicated staff saved her life.

She had been saved from death, but she was still very near to it. Ten years ago she may well have died, but today she was treated to some life-saving surgery that could once have only been dreamed of, yet is now increasingly routine. She had an angioplasty yesterday (in which a small balloon was inserted into her coronary artery to allow blood to flow to the heart more freely) and this morning she walked to the telephone in the hospital corridor to say she was ready to go home. She felt reborn, she said.

An affliction that may once have meant certain death - and not so very long ago - can now be treated with a routine operation in which the patient can go home 'reborn' the next day. That is just one now-routine example of the progress medical technology has made in the last ten years, and I think it's something to celebrate. And so too does my Mum!

In fact, it's something we should all celebrate - and we shouldn't just celebrate medical technology, we should applaud the culture that values such technology. We should in fact, in these troubled times, be celebrating the Western civilisation we live in that makes such technology possible, and where such life saving is so routine. We in the West are the happy beneficiaries of the Enlightenment outlook: of a point of view that says reason can confidently understand and improve the world in which we live, and in which men and women daily research, develop and produce new ways to delight us, to cure us, and to help us flourish.

And how many of us take it all for granted? Just imagine if it all went away! Just imagine if the Enlightenment had never happened and we had stayed in the Dark Ages. Just imagine if Thomas Aquinas had never liberated thinking from the stranglehold of the church and so given birth to the Enlightenment and the green light to science, to reason, and to progress. Just imagine where we would be now!

Well, we don't need to imagine it.

We are presently at war with a culture that shows us exactly where we would be - a culture where men crash planes into buildings, call for jihads, and vilify reason as 'the mark of the devil.' Islamic culture never had the benefit of an Aquinas, and never enjoyed an Enlightenment; a spokesman for that culture yesterday exposed that culture for all to hear.

He told us that "in the [Muslim] nation there are thousands of young men who are as keen on death as Americans are keen on life"! That simple statement should be sufficient to damn the man who made it and to damn the culture he represents.

Islamic culture is keen on death. Why? Quite simply Because Arab and Islamic history never had an Enlightenment - never had a Thomas Aquinas to liberate their thinking from the darkness of the mosques. In the Arab world reason is shunned, and 'thinking' is still the hand-maiden of theology. Arab heroes as a result are not sportsmen, scientists or producers, but Islamic mullahs, suicide bombers, and a spoilt rich kid called Osama fixated on death and destruction and martyrdom.

Arab culture never enjoyed an Enlightenment, and death and the dirt-poor existence of most people in Arab countries is the direct result. While it is unfashionable in these 'multi-cultural' times to point out that one culture is superior to another, only a blind fashion victim could fail to observe that Western civilisation is measurably superior to this. For those blinded by fashion however there is a simple test with which to make that measurement: Life expectancy!

The life expectancy in most Islamic countries is low. In Afghanistan for example it is less than were western life expectancies before the Industrial Revolution. Forty-six years is a good long life in Afghanistan. Before 1979's Soviet invasion forty was considered good! This is, quite simply, because of a culture that has no respect for life or this earth - it is quite literally a culture of death, and one to which we should be thankful we do not belong.

But we in the West should not thank God for our expectations of living to a ripe old age, we should instead thank the thinkers who liberated our thought from religion - thinkers like Aquinas and his mentor Aristotle - thinkers who said that life is for living; that this earth is where that living should be done; and that with the use of reason we can become competent to provide for and to plan our own living.

Those thinkers, who liberated us from the dirt-poor existence we might otherwise have faced, empowered Western peoples to seek knowledge and happiness in this world, and to value life and living rather than death and destruction. The scientists, and producers, and technologists that they liberated have been furiously increasing the length and quality and comfort of our lives ever since, and we should all be very grateful for that. We, the people of the West, are in their debt, and so too is any refugee from Islam who has embraced these western values.

Owing the largest debt, perhaps, is anyone who is over forty - anyone who in a lesser culture may not be alive to be able to offer their thanks. In fact, - as I sat in a darkened, air-conditioned room watching my mother's weak and irregular heart-beat flicker on a brand new twelve-lead ECG monitor - I reflected that anyone who has ever had a life-saving operation, or been saved by the early attentions of a paramedic - even just spent a night in a hospital or taken a course of tablets - has very good reason to thank them.

On behalf of them all, and in particular, on behalf of my Mum, let me say it for you all now: "Thank you!"

© Libz.org 2001

This article may be reproduced anywhere, anytime, by anyone - just as long as it is reproduced in full, with attribution to libz.org, and that you let Peter know at organon@ihug.co.nz .

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