I decided to give Douglas Murray another chance because I stopped reading his last book after a few chapters because it didn’t offer anything new. While I did finish this book, it definitely has similar issues, but I’ll start out with the good aspects of this book. Overall, as the title suggests, Murray focuses on how the West is often demonized for its past and many great achievements are overlooked or minimized because of some ancient transgression from a historical figure. That’s definitely a conversation that needs to be had, and I think Murray makes extremely strong arguments throughout the book that I hope opens some peoples’ eyes to some troubling things going on.
I did learn a bit more history about different figures in the West, and as an American, it was interesting learning about some other historical figures from the UK and other parts of the world. Murray also points out different hypocrisies from certain antiracist crowds, like letting racism of Karl Marx slide while attacking people like Benjamin Franklin and many others. There’s a definite problem with trying to erase history or not highlight various achievements due to the character of a person (especially when they lived in a much different time), and I think Murray defends this idea pretty well.
Now, where it lacks is the fact that so much of the book has already been said. Whenever I read a book, I always ask, “Who is this book for?”. Is it for a general audience? Or is it for people to soothe their confirmation bias? Is it going to tell us something new or repeat the same topics and stories we’ve heard about for the last six or seven years about how wokeness is bad? I imagine that this book is for the confirmation bias folk. I may be wrong, but if I am, I don’t think there’s any denying that this is exactly who is going to buy and read this book along with a small minority who hate read Murray.
Robin DiAngelo, Ibram X Kendi, and Nicole Hannah Jones…we get it. These names are repeated from the start to finish of this book, and I severely doubt many people who read this book aren’t familiar with these people or the stories associated with them. Then, you get the same stories about George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, and more random anecdotes we’ve all heard before. I get that there’s money to be made by pandering to a very specific audience, but for me, these books are such a massive waste of time. When I pick up non-fiction, I want to learn about new ideas, different perspectives, and learn something. In this book, it was extremely rare when I thought, “Interesting point that I haven’t heard before,” or “I was unaware of that story.” You could honestly just listen to Murray on any long-form podcast and gain just as much while saving hours of time.
I’m sure many people will think I just disagree with him, and that’s definitely not the case. I agree with most of what he says, and I think his arguments are stronger than most. There’s also plenty that I disagree with in this book as well. For every strong argument, there are probably more weak arguments due to the fact that it uses cherry-picked stories. And don’t get me wrong, the “woke” do this just as often, and I criticize their books just the same. I just don’t know how many more woke or anti-woke books we need that the same people keep writing and the same people keep reading. It doesn’t seem like it’s making this world any better of a place to live in.