Summary: These articles show how the Left has taken the big step from evolution to revolution. A time of cultural polarization lies in our future, with a clash and resolution after that. I doubt that our guesses can touch the strange futures that we will create by our actions – or our passive acceptance.
The time for polarization is just beginning, as is the culture war. America’s future will be made by those that take a side and act. Such an inflection point is a commonplace in history. It happened during the Protestant Reformation, when even the greatest scholar of the age – Erasmus of Rotterdam – found that finding a middle way was like squaring the circle. Ditto with those hoping for a non-violent resolution to American slavery in the generation before the Civil War.
America was guided by complex array of social norms beyond those enforced by the government. Now all that is being dismantled, leaving our society unrooted – vulnerable to organized pressure. Institutions are being attacked and then radically changed. It began with the universities in the late 1960s, as described by Allan Bloom in Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students (1987). Political orthodoxy on campus tightens its stranglehold by leftists driving out dissenters by “mobbing”, as a recent victim explains. Our elite colleges have been reshaped, and the revolution moves on to the others, as described by Darel E. Paul in “Listening at the Great Awokening” at Areo.
“In ages past, administrators and academics believed the mission of higher education to be the pursuit of knowledge …. Today, they pursue Social Justice. Under that banner, anti-racist activists hope to do to higher education what Soviet communism did to fine art, literature and music. Under officially approved socialist realism, art was judged first and foremost by how well it depicted Soviet ideals, parroted Communist Party doctrine, and cultivated loyalty to the Soviet system. Not even science was exempted from serving a primarily ideological purpose during the thirty-year reign of Lysenkoism over Soviet biology and agronomy. Substitute critical race theory for Marxism–Leninism, whiteness for capitalism, and racial justice for dictatorship of the proletariat, and you will understand much of what the Great Awokening truly offers.
“Just as critical race theory can destroy knowledge, it can likewise destroy institutions premised upon the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge. Thanks in large part to the influence of critical race theory, Evergreen State College melted down in Spring 2017. The concrete results of that meltdown included numerous faculty resignations, a catastrophic collapse in enrollments, layoffs, budget cuts and worldwide humiliation. Every institution of higher education should learn the lessons of Evergreen, for history is wont to repeat itself – the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
Now the revolution has reached the major news media, as Andrew Sullivan describes in “The New York Times Has Abandoned Liberalism for Activism” at New York Magazine, 13 September 2019. It discusses the 1619 Project(introductory essay here), and the NYT’s town hall meeting.
“If you don’t believe in a liberal view of the world, if you hold the doctrines of critical race theory, and believe that ‘all of the systems in the country’ whatever they may be, are defined by a belief in the sub-humanity of black Americans, why isn’t every issue covered that way? Baquet had no answer to this contradiction, except to say that the 1619 Project was a good start: ‘One reason we all signed off on the 1619 Project and made it so ambitious and expansive was to teach our readers to think a little bit more like that.’ In other words, the objective was to get liberal readers to think a little bit more like neo-Marxists.
“The New York Times, by its executive editor’s own admission, is increasingly engaged in a project of reporting everything through the prism of white supremacy and critical race theory, in order to ‘teach’ its readers to think in these crudely reductionist and racial terms. That’s why this issue wasn’t called, say, ‘special issue’, but a ‘project’. It’s as much activism as journalism. And that’s the reason I’m dwelling on this a few weeks later. I’m constantly told that critical race theory is secluded on college campuses, and has no impact outside of them – and yet the newspaper of record, in a dizzyingly short space of time, is now captive to it. Its magazine covers the legacy of slavery not with a variety of scholars, or a diversity of views, but with critical race theory, espoused almost exclusively by black writers, as its sole interpretative mechanism.”
The revolution has reached the institutions of art, as described in “Marching right along” at The New Criterion – “On ‘revolutionary justice’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art.”
“The ‘long march through the institutions’ continues apace, this time with a storming of the galleries of the Whitney Museum of American Art. As Herbert Marcuse wrote in Counterrevolution and Revolt, radicals now work ‘against the established institutions while working within them.’ This past summer the New York museum found itself on the wrong side of history when artist protestors zeroed in on a board member who had given millions to the institution but whose business dealings did not conform to their political standards. In his letter of resignation to his fellow board members, the trustee Warren B. Kanders expressed little understanding of our radical age as he was fed to the mob. Did Mr. Kanders really think his Jeff Koons would save him from revolutionary justice?
‘Art, as I know it, is not intended to force one-sided answers, or to suppress independent thinking. And yet, these recent events have illustrated how a single narrative, created and sustained by groups with a much larger and more insidious agenda, can overwhelm that spirit.’”
One institution after another falls to the Left. More are under siege today. Slowly people have begun to see the process at work. Of course, some saw this long ago. Musa al-Gharbi tells of these ignored warnings in “Seizing the means of knowledge production” at Heterodox Academy. It opens with this prophetic quote from Frederick Hayek’s Law, Legislation and Liberty: The Mirage of Social Justice.
“The appeal to ‘social justice’ has by now become the most widely used and most effective argument in political discussion. Almost every claim for government action on behalf of particular groups is made in its name, and if it can be made to appear that a certain measure is demanded by ‘social justice,’ opposition to it will rapidly weaken…. It seems to be widely believed that ‘social justice’ is just a new moral value which we must add to those that were recognized in the past, and that it can be fitted within the existing framework of moral rules. What is not sufficiently recognized is that in order to give this phrase meaning a complete change of the whole character of the social order will have to be effected, and that some of the values which used to govern it will have to be sacrificed. It is such a transformation of society into one of a fundamentally different type which is currently occurring piecemeal and without awareness of the outcome to which it must lead.”
This process has run for generations with only weak resistance from conservatives, as Sohrab Ahmari explains in “Against David French-ism” at First Things – “The only way is through.”
“For French, the solution to nearly every problem posed by a politics of individual autonomy above all is yet more autonomous action. But sentimentalization of family life won’t be enough to overcome the challenges posed to it by the present economy. Calls for religious revival are often little more than an idle wish that all men become moral, so that we might dispense with moral regulation.
“Government intervention will not be the answer to every social ill. In many instances, free markets and individual enterprise can best serve the common good, albeit indirectly. But I take issue with David French-ism’s almost supernatural faith in something called “culture” – deemed to be neutral and apolitical and impervious to policy – to solve everything. Questions that are squarely political – that is, that touch on our shared quest for the common good – become depoliticized by this culture-first strategy. The libertine camp prefers the same depoliticization, of course; they’re much better at winning in the realm of culture than David French will ever be. …
“Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.”
Here are two mildly interesting articles about the debate between traditional libertarians and soft get-along-lose-slowly conservatives.
- “David French, Sohrab Ahmari, and the Battle for the Future of Conservatism” by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in the New Yorker.
- “David French vs. Sohrab Ahmari and the battle dividing conservatives, explained” by Jane Coaston at VOX – “The fight isn’t about a National Review columnist. It’s about what conservatism is, and should be.”
While the Right dithers, the Left continues to on to the next stage.
We have to make the tough, courageous changes that completely transform a political and economic system that is now built for corporations (and profits), not people.
Choosing the status quo means doing nothing and giving up.
We need a political revolution. t.co/gEBzbgQsdP
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) September 7, 2019
We have passed the point at which there are any easy solutions. We have past the point at which compromise is possible. The Left has gained sufficient power and momentum so that they feel a victory in their future. Perhaps the Left felt like that in 1930 Weimar Germany, as the depression hit its rotting culture. The blow-back produced a different result (the musical Cabaret is set in 1931, as the Nazi’s took the lead).