Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Notes from a Slow Learner

With Prof. Afaa M. Weaver, 2006.

I’m white, male, heterosexual, Catholic. For most of my life I’ve been politically on the left. The virtues of tolerance and open-mindedness have always been crucial to me. I’ve had close Muslim and Buddhist friends, atheist friends, feminist friends, gay and lesbian friends, black and Asian friends. I’ve learned things from all of them.

But that was then, back in the early days. I’d like to say--back in the last century, because this new century is becoming something quite different.

The atmosphere shifted around 2010, a dark spark of some sort shot through the ether wind, and I’m ashamed I didn’t notice it when it happened. But now I get it. Because myself, now in 2017--white, male, heterosexual, Catholic--you’ve finally made it clear: I’m the Enemy.

Sorry I didn’t realize it sooner, in 2012 say. It would have saved everybody a lot of trouble. I’m a slow learner.

For the feminists around me, our 21st-century feminists, maleness itself is the root of all evil. So although I’ve long believed women and men are equal (that quaint old 20th-century notion!) it makes no difference now. I’m guilty as charged. And always will be.

For our SJWs, Europe and Western cultural traditions are to be denigrated and fought at every turn. I study and cherish European culture, and the American culture that stems from it. But the important thing about Europe now is no longer its humanistic learning, its concept of rights and law, its philosophy and literature--no, it’s this abstract evil called “whiteness”. Again: I’m guilty as charged.

For the “new atheists” and the many secularist keeners who get their soundbites from them, progress means openly and loudly mocking people of faith because, well, religions are silly, backward, and outdated, especially, of course, Western religions. This crowd has been setting the tone for more and more of our young people. Well, here you find me again: Guilty as charged.

I used to value dialogue: especially dialogue with people who disagree with me. Such a thing hardly exists now. If I’m in a group with American women present, and attempt to clarify or discuss some point, I’m “mansplaining”. Online, if I point out how Barack Obama’s pro-Wall Street, pro-corporate policies undermined his legacy, I’m “supporting white supremacists” (as I just learned today, from a friend of many years, a poet and professor actually, who informed me of this, then summarily unfriended and blocked me). Never mind that I voted for Obama twice, as my friend himself knows, never mind that I blogged for years in his favor--no, being white, I’m “racist” for daring to criticize Obama’s actual policies.

This professor friend, or ex-friend, would he unfriend black Obama critic Cornel West? I don’t know. Maybe he already has. You know: Cornel West--self-hating black man.

Then there’s the LGBT crowd, which has really changed in recent years. I was an ally in the late 1980s and 90s, even heading into this new century. I treat gays and lesbians with respect, have gay friends I openly admire, gay and lesbian writers I recognize as geniuses, but this matters nothing. If I disagree with one point on their ever-growing list of rainbow dogmas, I’m a “bigot” who must be run out of polite society, a hater who deserves to lose his career.

I know what I’m talking about here. If I were still living and teaching in the States rather than overseas (I’m an American teacher working expat) they likely could destroy my career. Which is a sad commentary on what has become of our civil liberties.

What all these so-called progressives now praise as “diversity” is not diversity at all. It’s a dogmatic new groupthink. It’s rank authoritarianism. What they mean when they say this word, in this new climate, is something like: “Agree with us on everything, sing our praises 24/7, or you’re not diverse enough. And if you're not diverse, we will ruin you.”

Well, here I am. Officially Out. Guilty as charged. Bring it on.

I believe in pluralism, the deep pluralism that recognizes possible intellectual or cultural disagreements at the most fundamental levels--but that still insists on reasoned dialogue and the right to free speech. I believe in cultural and intellectual pluralism, not in this ersatz replacement concept called "diversity", a word that now virtually sickens me whenever I hear it.

Diversity is the most inherently hypocritical social concept framed in our culture in decades.

Yes, after years of the hard-edged double standards on full display, my faith in tolerance and pluralism as a viable route has started to wear thin. Can you blame me? Civil discourse with these people is impossible. All they want is to play identity politics, and play it as a zero sum game. Bizarrely, this has become their whole idea of the left. They haven’t learned a thing from Donald Trump’s election: why it happened; how they are implicated in it; how they are in no small part responsible for the counter-reaction their behavior has provoked.

Who’s going to tell them what they’re bringing about?

Here’s what I’d tell them, if I had any hopes they’d listen:

If it’s identity politics you want, then identity politics you’ll get.

Do you hear that? Do you understand?

I know you, and even those of you capable of getting my point, you won’t heed the warning; you won't desist from your systematic demonization. And so this new century, perversely, will very likely deliver just what you're conjuring forth. Funny how that works, isn't? I think Hegel would have something to say on it.

Myself I'm saddened to the core to see dialogue die, over and over, and to be forced to write off so many friends because they can't accept actual diversity when they encounter it.