I’m with Conor:

To say that we are in the ruin of Western culture implies an age in which things were better. Does that age exist? When was it? Were we better off at the height of the Cold War? Were we better off when Jim Crow ruled the South? The rise of Islamic radicalism in Europe worries me, as does that continent’s apparent lack of confidence in Western freedoms, as evidenced by the Danish cartoon affair, for example, but how can I judge European civilization to be at a crisis point when my grandfather spent part of his youth helping a besieged West Berlin get the supplies it needed for survival? Or to take another example, it is frightening that every so often the suburbs of Paris are set aflame by radicalized youth… but infinitely less frightening than Nazis invading the city, arresting its Jews, and sending them off to ovens.

I wouldn’t, however, gloss this by saying that Western society has made “astounding progress”, since that seems to run into exactly the same sorts of problems as the line that Conor is criticizing here. The point is just this: we’re doing quite well in some ways, and quite poorly in others. Blanket statements about the “decline of the West” are indeed unhelpful in the task of articulating this truth, since they naturally invite comparisons like the ones Conor makes above. But nor is it helpful to refuse to acknowledge the ways in which the genuine gains that humankind has made have involved some significant losses, too.

Better off? Worse off? I don’t see why we should need to say.