Ferretti: Professor Thornton, in 1984, French philosopher Pascal Bruckner wrote Le sanglot de l’homme blanc, his essay in which he showed how the West, from the Sixties onwards, has been engulfed in an apotheosis of self-guilt. The bottom line is that Western civilization is nothing more than a tale full of sound and fury, while the Third World is the innocent victim of its rapacity and evil. What are the reasons, according to you, of this cultural landscape?
Thornton: There are three developments behind what we can call Third Worldism. First, increasing contact with the undeveloped world through colonialism exposed Europeans to exotic peoples whom they idealized as superior to their own more developed and repressed lives. Next, Marxism, having been rejected by the European proletariat, turned to the anticolonial revolutionary movements in the Third World to find a substitute revolutionary vanguard. Now the revolution would be spearheaded by Third World peoples rather than the workers. And it made the Third World into a useful club for attacking liberal democratic and capitalist countries. Finally, Romanticism and the cult of sentimentalism in the West, aided by globalized communication media, found the Third World an object of “compassion” and guilt, which mass media turned into a commodity of suffering that Westerners could consume and vicariously enjoy those feelings without any efforts to ameliorate it. The result is cheap sentiment and guilt serving the Marxist ideology of undermining Western culture.