Words matter. Ideologies matter. The trend of both, for the last thirty years at least, has been to push us ever further inside the whale. Leftists of all stripes are to blame, but they have no more willing footsoldiers than the media and academia.
Colleges, as I’m sure you know, preach almost exclusively the idea that reality itself is “socially constructed.” It goes by various names — “postmodernism” and “deconstruction” in Literature, “postcolonialism” and “new historicism” in History — but it’s basically the same idea: That reality, like history, is written by the victors, and thus there are no facts, only perspectives. This notion, while claiming to be neutral, in fact lionizes any group or idea that attacks Western civilization; Western civilization being, of course, the one “perspective” that is decidedly not neutral or shaped by outside forces. Those who hold this position are impervious to scientific fact, and incidents like the Sokal Hoax, which would be devastating to any intellectually honest scholar, are shrugged off. Not coincidentally, this perspective is entirely caught up in radical “progressive” politics; even less coincidentally, such “radicalism” provides many lucrative faculty posts for otherwise unemployable “intellectuals.”
The key concept of postmodernism / new historicism / whateverism is “agency.” Here’s Wiki:
In the social sciences, agency refers to the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. By contrast, structure are those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and his or her decisions. The relative difference in influences from structure and agency is debated – it’s unclear to what extent a person’s actions are constrained by social systems.
Given the political cast of the types of people who “edit” Wiki, it’s unsurprising to encounter an old, familiar weasel-word formation:
it’s unclear to what extent a person’s actions are constrained by social systems.
It’s not at all unclear, of course, to the people who throw around words like “agency” in casual conversation — heterosexual white male Westerners have agency unreservedly; all others have it only insofar as they exercise their will against heterosexual white male Westerners and all their works.
By embracing this worldview, academics have — in addition to providing themselves with endless, highly compensated opportunities to preen in public– dedicated themselves to the suppression of their own culture and society. It could hardly be otherwise; it’s immoral to continue to benefit from systematized oppression without at least making your freshman seminar students write a few self-criticisms. More importantly, it’s morally wrong not to strive for the equalization of power, for “social justice.”
Just so we’re clear: Yes, I am asserting that the entire academic leftist worldview is based on a naive moralism more appropriate to Sunday school than graduate school.
But credit where credit’s due; it’s a consistent moralism. If we embrace the notion that only heterosexual white male Westerners (hereafter, “The Patriarchy”) have unconstrained agency, then the key to achieving “social justice” must be to get The Patriarchy to constrain itself. Hence the weird, mangled, euphemistic English of the academic/journalistic left.
Examples are legion. As I’ve noted elsewhere, “gay marriage” has nothing to do with the solemnization of homosexual unions. We could grant gays the same “civil rights” as straights in five minutes, by getting the state out of the marriage business altogether. But the left would never take that deal, because “civil rights” were never the goal; the goal is to empty the word “marriage” of its sacramental context. People get together; people drift apart; we’re all just plankton in the vast ocean of Society, knocking together aimlessly as we float along through life.
So, too, with “science,” which in left-speak means something like “the exact opposite of science as traditionally understood.” Here’s the data; here’s the model. The data don’t fit the model? Change the data. This is standard procedure for everything from IQ scores to Global Warming. Trust the “experts,” because science.
The list goes on: “Free markets” (systematic exploitation). “Rights” (the aesthetic preferences of the loudest and most intransigent). “Religion” (fundamentalist Christianity as it existed in the worst excesses of the Inquisition). As Morgan points out, the net effect of this is to produce a class of people who are proud of their imperviousness to facts and reason.
Their operating credo seems to be one of, “You might as well come around to my way of thinking, for I shall never, ever, ever come around to yours.”
They’re inside the whale, and they’ve designed an entire alternative communication system to guarantee they stay there. For the first time in modern history, it’s now possible for non-aristocrats to move from adolescence to adulthood to senescence with one’s opinions entirely unchanged. The difference between the dreadlocked, tattooed, nose-ringed fortysomething in line at the farmer’s market and her dreadlocked, nose-ringed, tattooed daughter is literally the date on their birth certificates.