Why is it that so much of what is written today in the victimhood genre strikes me and many others as parody?
One of the most notable examples of late is a screed in The Nation written by a person of color who describes how he has ensconced himself within a dense web of material and technological comforts while anticipating the day, the dreaded day, when he reluctantly will have to emerge from this cocoon to confront once again all the indignities of white society.
Incidentally, he refers to this cocoon as his “whiteness-free castle.”
Hell, forget the parody and consider for a moment the irony bound up in all of this. But then, I doubt that he perceives any irony at at all – the fact that virtually all of the contemporary comforts in which he has enveloped himself all these months were achieved by the very civilization that he so obviously despises.
It’s also worth mentioning that this writer also possesses a singular educational pedigree, having graduated with a B.A. and J.D. from the educational institution that most embodies historic whiteness: Harvard.
Well, let’s just hope that the screen door, invented in 1887 by an Iowan named Elizabeth C Harger, presumably of European extraction, and, for that matter, refined over the past century and mass produced and marketed within a global economic system regarded as one of many crowning achievements of Western civilization doesn’t hit him in the ass on his to way to his first post-covid outing.
I’ve spent the last view decades engaged in a strange intellectual pursuit: studying the conditions that gave rise to the totalitarian dystopias of the 20th centuries.
As as the first discernible fissures set into the foundations of Soviet Communism in Eastern Europe in the late 80’s, I undertook a rather assiduous study of the factors that ultimately contributed to the collapse of Soviet communism. I became an avid reader of the International Section of the New York Times, which provided superb coverage of all the subtle ways that rot was setting into this conquered domain, particularly within the Soviet Union’s imperial crown jewel, East Germany.
I complemented this with deep reading of a wide range of books dealing with how both forms of totalitarianism, Communism and Nazism, became rooted in Central and Eastern Europe in the first place.
I was also treated to a knock-on effect, because this reading yielded remarkable insight into how both of these systems invariably required bogeymen, essentially the manufacturing of existential threats, which supplied these regimes with the two essential and invaluable tools, which not only served to create a perpetual siege mentality among the masses but also provided the regimes with an effective strategy for diverting public scrutiny away from their manifold shortcomings and failures.
Indeed, this proved to be one of the major insights driven home to me via all this reading: that all ideologies require stategies that afford a means of both focus and deflection, and that is why bogeymen have proven such valuable tool.
Small wonder why I am simultaneously fascinated and repelled by the rhetoric of wokism, which evinces many, of not most, of the traits of incipient totalitarianism. But then, wokism, like all hard ideologies, is inherently weak, because it demands a radical departure from real-life realities.
Given this fact, it’s not surprising at all that one especially scabrous polemicist of wokism, Damon Young, seems to be employing language smacking of the same rhetoric that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Kulaks in the Soviet Union and millions of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.
It’s horrifying, to say the least, and should be regarded as a wake-up call – a deeply troubling portent of the dystopia that awaits the Western world, at least, what remains of it. But I wonder: How many of us not only are willing to acknowledge this rhetoric for what it is – genocidal speech – but also to speak out against it?
That remains one of the most vital questions as we move into the second quarter of what is shaping up to be a very troubled century.
“Half adolescent and half malevolent” is one columnist’s description of the self-anointed left-wing “journalistic” watchdogs, a group that I personally regard as the advance guard of the America’s incipient woke capitalist Peoples Democracy.
This apt description was supplied recently by columnist Glenn Grenwald, a self-described liberal free-speech advocate, to characterize the growing legions of young “woke” journalists, notably New York Times Tech reporter Taylor Lorenz, who have undertaken a wholesale cleansing of digital venues on the basis that they harbor intolerance.
I must confess that I detest prattling little busybodies such as these more that Hell itself. Any thinking person who cherishes the manifold freedoms, notably free speech, which have been secured across centuries through a considerable expenditure of blood, should, too.
Indeed, whenever I run across horrendous accounts such as these, which, alas, are becoming increasingly frequent, I’m prompted to ask: What compels someone to trifle with such a deeply revered Anglo-Amedican tradition, one regarded on this side of the Atlantic as a constitutional right, formally enshrined in both state and federal law? For that matter, why would anyone associated with a profession that historically has regarded the First Amendment as the cornerstone of a free, open society arrogate to onself the privilege of circumventing such a elemental right? And it’s worth stressing that this is a right that has been reaffirmed generation after generation by legions of eminent jurists – legal specialists – who possess considerably more training and insight into this subject than any journalist, certainly a tech reporter such as Lorenz.
Until recently, I’ve tended to think of the wokesters, especially self-anointed Millennial watchdogs and hall monitors such as Taylor, simply as fanatics, though writer and social critic Jim Kunstler recently offered an even more damning characterization. He believes that much of this woke zeal this is driven by sheer sadism.
“Wokery is not about principle, not even a teeny-weeny bit. It’s simply about coercion and punishment,” Kunstler contends, adding that the recent Trump impeachment trial is the first step in the setting out of a narrative through which elites will undertake the permanent persecution of the unwoke. Much of this is being driven by our elites sheer passion for vengeance, he argues.
Recently, though, the thought has occured to me that the hall-monitoring penchant evinced by Taylor and others among the oligarchy’s agit/prop apparatus stems from a social phenomenon that has garnered deepening roots within elite education for the past few decades.
Educational critic and author William Deresiewicz, a searing critic of the Ivy League, calls out all forms of elite education, particularly the Ivy League, for the way its admissions policies tend to produce apple polishers – sycophants, more commonly known as teacher’s pets.
In his book Excellent Sheep, Deresiewicz contends that the admissions policies of most highly selective universities typically emphasize two factors: stratospheric SAT scores as well as high extracurricular achievement, factors that have tended to favor the sorts of students who have perceived the advantages of attacting and endearing themselves to teachers and other authority figures.
He also contends that the marbled halls of federal power and the newsrooms of the nation’s elite media outlets teem with these sorts of people, those who feel that they not only are genetically endowed but also singled out by the people in charge to undertake lofty tasks such as ferreting out and condemning unsavory speech.
Maybe it’s this, more than a penchant for sadism, that accounts for the herd mentality among so many of the woke inquisitors, such as Lorenz.
TeenVogue is not the most intellectually sophisticated of publications but the fact that the prospect of secession, stemming from growing concern over this nation’s protracted cold civil war, is now being openly discussed by the mainstream left speaks volumes about the increasingly intractable divisions in this country.
My only problem is with their argument that a blue-state republic – or, as the case may be, peoples republic – somehow will be inherently more democratic, economically successful, humane, and progressive, not only culturally but also in terms of its commitment to scientific and technological advancement.
How can they be certain of that in light of the turmoil that has transpired almost exclusively within blue regions of the country within the past few years?
In what is turning out to be the one of the most significant demographic shifts in U.S. history, Americans, apparently fed up with the dysfunction of blue-state social and economic policies, are fleeing the most prominent blue states in droves and relocating to solid red states such as Texas and Montana, which are associated with lower taxes, lower costs of living and traditional notions of law enforcement
For that matter, can blue states even bank on the certainty they will remain paragons of scientific and technological achievement? How can they be so certain of this when far-left ideology of wokism is making what appear to be steep inroads into blue-state political and social institutions?
A crisis that transpired at a relatively obscure public liberal arts college in Oregon, The Evergreen State College, portended much of the social upheaval in the Pacific Northwest that would follow in 2020. What transpired there hardly represents an affirmation of Enlightenment principles of open inquiry and free speech. In fact the cultural struggle on this campus arguably played a significant role in the strengthening of the Intellectual Dark Web, a loose league largely comprised of center-left scholars who, while embracing many of the values of the progressive left, still affirm the Enlightenment legacy.
Much of this ideology of wokism by its own admission espouses a turning away if not a outright rejection of many of the ideals of the 18th century Enlightenment.
For years, eminent secularist scientists, notably Christopher Dawkins and Daniel Dennett have heaped scorn on the fundamental/evangelical red heartland. Yet, the culture of this region is steeped in a religious faith, a uniquely Ametican brand of frontier evangelical Protestantism, which is based on Enlightenment principles. And while the culture of much of the vast red heartland has tended to reject some aspects of 19th and 20th century rationalism, notably evolution, the region by no means is unequivocally opposed to the values and the legacy of the Enlightenment.
Yet, red state America increasingly is being drawn into what seems like a protracted struggle with its blue-state counterpart, one that has been characterized as a cold civil war and that sooner or later could morph into something resembling a full-fledged hot civil war. And much of this animosity is being stoked by elites in the blue regions of the country who regard their counterparts in the vast red heartland as intellectual obscurantists.
Yet, when one considers the issues in deep context can we really bank on the guarantee that a blue-state republic (or republics) will emerge from this protracted struggle as the most viable governing model?
Given the growing affinity of the mainstream left for the woke left, how can we be certain that a blue-state nation will prove a successful nation, one that maintains a fidelity to the Enlightenment legacy, which vaulted America and the rest of the West into the front ranks of successful nation-states?
One of the most powerful essays I have ever encountered in my lifelong reading of political classics is Vaclav Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless.”
It ranks as one of the most brilliant pieces of political writing of the 20th century. Havel, a dissident playwright who later would become the president of post-communist Czechoslovakia, observed how communist authorities in his country and the rest of Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe always were busy imposing public displays of the officially accredited ideology.
Even more significant to Havel, though, was how this official ideology deviated from common, everyday thought and behavior and, moreover, how it would take only a few acts of dissidence for this whole facade of officially accredited ideology to come crashing down.
Of course, the Czechoslovakian communist authorities were well aware of this intellectual and cultural dissonance, which is why they rooted out all acts of dissidence, even seemingly innocuous ones, mercilessly.
Havel didn’t find any of that at all surprising. Employing a rather brilliant analogy, he compared Eastern European communism to a piece of very vulnerable meat, which, despite being hermetically sealed, was prone to rapid spoilage by a mere prick of the packaging.
Communist leaders understood this all too well. They were aware of how even relatively minor acts of defiance conceivably coukd threaten their deeply unpopular regimes.
More than thirty years have passed since the collapse of Eastern European communism, which reigned, however tenuously, over tens of millions of people for two generations. Yet, I’m struck by the various ways that the U.S. left in may notable respects now resembles Eastern Bloc communism, certainly in terms of how it imposes accredited ideology in public places while demonizing unaccredited expressions of dissent as unacceptable “hate speech.”
Rather conspicuous examples of this emerging orthodoxy are the BLM phrases painted along thoroughfares of major U.S. cities, notably New York and Washington, D.C.
Fortunately, for now, at least, a few Americans, fed up to their earlobes with these impositions of elite-sanctioned orthodoxy, are pushing back. A rather fascinating example of this occurred recently in New York when participants at a block party also doubling as a small business protest furtively painted “F*ck Cuomo and DeBlasio” on a public street, presumably at least partly in response to the BLM slogan painted with the assent and active participation of Mayor DeBlasio on a street adjoining Trump Tower.
Some police purportedly were amused by this act of defiance – and, frankly, what beleaguered NYPD cop wouldn’t be – though DeBlasio and other city officials predictably were entirely unamused and ordered a quick painting over of this act defiance.
This leads one to wonder: How common will these expressions of dissent become in the future, especially if the Democrats capture the White House in November? The left undoubtedly will intensify its efforts to impose its cultural and political orthodoxy in all facets of American life – public spaces and events, basically anywhere the state can exert its heavy hand – while recalictrants, hopefully, at least, will respond equally forcefully with creative acts of defiance.
We are, after all, Americans – people who historically have displayed comparatively little patience for officially imposed elite orthodoxies.
Our forebears foreshowed a revolution by boarding merchant ships in Boston Harbor and casting tea into the water, proudly characterizing this act of defiance as a “tea party,” a term that still resounds among millions of Americans almost a quarter millennium later.
This marked only the beginning of American obstinacy in the face of tyranny. Less than a decade after the constitutional machinery of the American Republic was put into motion, farmers on the western frontier fomented an open rebellion against taxes, namely the taxes that the federal government imposed on the whiskey that they manufactured from their corn to eke out a meager living.
Early in the 19th century a newspaper editor faced prosecution under the Alien and Sedition Acts for expressing publicly the wish that a 21-gun salute to President Adams would go awry and that one of the stray cannon balls would strike the chief executive squarely on his arse.
This only scratches the surface of the historical memory of recalcitrance.
With the left standing virtually at the helm of America culture and possibly primed to acquire most of the levers of political power in the immediate future, liberty-loving Americans will be challenged as never before to decry its attempts to impose its rigid orthodoxy into every nook and cranny of American life – one that is increasingly taking on many of the contours of a totalitarian ideology. The times are calling on us to engage in acts of contemptuous defiance of leftist norms. In the spirit of our revolutionary forebears, each of us must engage as often as possible in creative acts of dissidence.
Our obstreporous colonial forebears would expect nothing less from us.