Is the West in decline?

Some thoughts on Elias Makos’ Twitter meltdown

Graphic Myriam Ouazzani

There is such irony in paying $25 for a 300-year-old book. You’d think we would have figured this whole “public domain” thing out by now. This thought enters my head every semester as I fill my bookstore cart with tomes of classical Western philosophy. 

As a political theory student, I spend every waking day pain-stakingly combing through this jumbled pile of concepts and contradictions we call the Western canon. From Plato to Nietzsche, Hume to Derrida, I’ve been forced to read all the so-called greats for my courses.

The icky feeling I get in class when someone clearly hasn’t done their reading—yet chooses to speak anyway—is what it’s like logging onto social media these days. Whenever I open one of these god-forsaken apps, I am reminded of how many people believe that with every turn of the news cycle, our fragile concept of a beautiful, sophisticated Western civilization is being attacked.

Growing up Greek and having attended Greek school from the ages of five to 12, I was fed a steady diet of Western indoctrination. “The inventors of democracy,” “the originators of Western culture,” “the defenders of the greatest ideologies known to man” and other phrases like these were shoved down my throat at a very young age. I was raised to believe that upholding the West was part of my civic duty as a Greek—and to think otherwise is to deny my heritage.

You can imagine the eyeroll I made when I saw Greek-Canadian radio host Elias Makos from CJAD 800 make a complete fool of himself on Twitter (and yes, I refuse to call it X, despite what Apartheid Clyde in his emerald-coloured glasses wants us to call it).

On Oct. 7, the Gaza strip’s governing authority, Hamas, breached the border fence for the first time in over a decade. Rockets were launched into Israel, resulting in the death of hundreds of military personnel and civilians living near the world’s largest open-air prison. Israel’s retaliation has been nothing short of a total bloodbath.

Canadians remain nuanced and divided on the occupation, but that didn’t stop Makos from lambasting any Canadian who even remotely called out the Israeli state’s incessant bombing of the strip.

In response to Ontario MPP Sarah Jama’s call for an immediate ceasefire to the war on Gaza—a conflict in which the overwhelming majority of the Canadian government supports and aids on the side of Israel—Makos had a meltdown.

“This settler colonial nonsense is the hallmark of the anti-west, anti-capitalist, antisemitic ideology that seeks to undo the greatest societies ever built—the free liberal democracies of the West,” tweeted Makos on Oct. 10. “Canada’s extreme-left parties (the NDP, the Greens, and unfortunately half of the Liberal party—both federally and provincially) have swallowed these ideologies whole. Their wholesale regurgitation is destroying everything we’ve built. The richest, most equitable societies ever. Built by you. Being brought down by this.”

Makos pinned the blame for the Canadian left’s condemnation of Israel’s actions on “wokeness.” He criticized Canada for not being included in a joint statement by the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Germany supporting Israel’s right to wipe Gaza off the map, citing that the anti-West and anti-capitalist ideology of wokeism was to blame.

As he continued his rant, Makos brought up that defending Israel is a necessity for the Western world because it “is the one bright light in the darkness that is the Middle East. We must defend Western values and civilization, full stop. Attacking Israel is attacking the values that give us freedom.”

The idea that Western civilization is under attack from within is not a new concept in the least.

“We men of the Western Culture are, with our historical sense, an exception and not a rule. World-history is our world picture and not all mankind's,” wrote conservative German philosopher Oswald Spengler in his 1918 book The Decline of The West. “[T]here will never again be a Culture and a human type in which ‘world-history’ is so potent a form of the waking consciousness.”

Spengler’s writing influenced fascist ideologies in 1920s Germany and was favoured among members of the Nazi party. His principal argument is that the West is in a state of decay, rotted by politicians, activists and academics who seek its destruction from the inside.

Over a century later, his ideas can still be felt in our modern political discourse.

Many of us may remember the moral panic stirred up by conservatives in 2020 over critical race theory. The outrage was manufactured by American right-wing extremist and lobbyist Christopher Rufo. He argued that the only solution to getting “racial justice” concepts out of public schools is to defund and privatize the education system entirely.

Rufo’s defence of the West as a concept and his targeted attacks on leftists have had an impact in Canada. Conservative figures like Jordan Peterson and Pierre Poilievre have echoed his talking points verbatim.

“Conservatives need to create a strong association between Hamas, BLM, DSA, and academic “decolonization” in the public mind. Connect the dots, then attack, delegitimize, and discredit. Make the center-left disavow them. Make them political untouchables,” Rufo tweeted on Oct. 13. Essentially, he said the quiet part out loud.

When I left Greek school at the age of 12, I found myself at a crossroads. I was able to recognize some of the Greek nationalistic fervour that was instilled in me, but going to a French high school shifted my worldview. As I sat in history of Western civilization classes, I realized that I was still being sold the same shtick, even in a non-Greek setting. The “our” in “our history” now belonged to an even larger group; I was being sold Western hegemony.

Western supremacy isn’t the bad-boy, anti-woke outlier or exception in our social sphere, it’s the norm. Never in my five years of post-secondary education have I been taught by a professor who outright opposed the Western canon. To blame the “woke left” for destroying Western culture and its institutions is a sleight of hand.

In his shitstorm of tweets, Makos explained that he does not identify as a conservative and that he has never even voted for the Tories. It was clear to me that he was being reactionary, but his outburst tugged at something deeper.

I don’t think Makos is a right-wing extremist at all. He reminds me of so many boys I went to Greek school with—centrist, middle-of-the-road liberals who feel like they are owed something because of the might of their heritage. The glory of the West is a myth. Any society fueled by genocide and enslavement deserves no glorification in my books.

The best thing we can do when someone is having an existential fit about their political identity is leave them in their corner. We shouldn’t be engaging with people who see Stalin in every single voice even somewhat critical of Western hegemony. 

The concept of Western supremacy does not lie in the Gaza strip, it’s embedded in our minds. Whether we choose to excise the tumour of white supremacy from our culture hangs in the balance.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 4, published October 17, 2023.