"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Cult Of Inclusivity And The Decline Of Nationhood–The Orwellian Gulag Of Race, Gender, And Ethnicity

The cult of identity is by now well known in the United States.  Race, gender, and ethnicity have become the only markers of social legitimacy in a nation in which a sense of universal values, core beliefs, and national integrity has given way to individual group ethics, morality, ambition, and activism. Being an American is secondary to belonging to particular groups best characterized by their victimhood.  Social progress, advocates say, can only be achieved if focus is placed squarely on the discrimination, prejudice, and marginalization to which minority groups, gays, and women have been subjected; and on the reformative measures necessary to eliminate these damaging and destructive elements of society.  This can only happen through an invincible solidarity – an absolute allegiance to the group, to its purpose and principles, and to its agenda for radical change.  There can be no overarching allegiance to country or nation for such patriotism would not only detract from the particular, unique struggles of individual groups; but would be consorting with the enemy.  It is the white, male, patriotic, corporate American majority which is the problem and at the root of all social ills.

The obligatory if not forceful inclusion of people of color, of non-traditional sexuality, women, and  minority cultures into separatist groups which are Orwellian gulags of groupthink requires the suppression of individual character, integrity, and personal worth in the interest of the group and its political ambitions.  Intellect, talent, creativity, humor, spirituality, compassion – in fact any of the very human attributes that have been historically valued as essential to the survival and prospering of society and civilization – have been devalued, set aside, and dismissed as irrelevant. 

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Orwell, Solzhenitsyn, Koestler, Brecht, and Kundera all understood the nature of totalitarianism and wrote more about its moral, ethical, and spiritual damage than its anti-historical attempts to restructure society, government, politics and economics.  Under such totalitarian systems, the individual was reduced to a cipher, supernumerary, hands and arms only, a minor cog in a large wheel, laboring for the State, deprived of religion, family, and personal community.  The totalitarian state was a gulag of the mind, one of mental concentration camps where freedom of thought was condemned, personal expression suppressed, and individual enterprise of any kind eliminated.

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If one is categorized first, foremost, and exclusively as black, gay, female, or Latino; and if any other personal signifiers are denied as disruptive to the political purpose of the group, then those associations which publicly advocate progress and social justice are no more than Solzhenitsyn’s gulags – places of mental and spiritual internment designed to reform the anti-progressive nature of all those who enter and deny their individuality and their being.

Perhaps the worst example of the social gulags of today’s progressivism is deaf culture, one as hierarchical, demanding, and politically motivated as any.  The profoundly deaf are the respected elders, the expression of the centrality of a culture which is proudly independent of the hearing world.  Lip-reading and cochlear implants are retrogressive, retrograde, destructive expressions of cultural weakness.  There is nothing wrong with being profoundly deaf, say this faction’s leaders for it is not a disability but simply the marker and signifier of an important culture.  Assimilation into the hearing world is considered traitorous and must be challenged and eventually eliminated, otherwise deaf culture will gradually disappear and eventually cease to exist.

How can this possibly be, ask those who can hear?  How, if surgical implants and innovative high tech interface with neural electronics can enable deaf children to hear, could any parent possibly refuse?  And how could any leader of the deaf community ever attempt to prevent them?

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When and how did this happen? When did individualism become replaced by group identity? When did those attributes of high civilization espoused since Ancient Greece and Rome become marginalized?  Cato the Elder, a philosopher and educator, known especially for his diptychs, simple pedagogical aphorisms about the indispensable characteristics of a Roman leader, promoted a moral and ethnical package, all the precepts of which were necessary for good leadership to follow – courage, honesty, respect, compassion, diligence, and honor.  In Cato’s mind these were universal codes of behavior.  Although they were most important for those in positions of authority and leadership, he knew that they were fundamental for the success of society, culture, and civilization. 

These same principles have characterized all most Western civilizations ever since.  In fact, Jefferson and his colleagues referred to them in the earliest documents of the new republic.  The nation required an unquestioned moral, spiritual, and ethical foundation.

He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler, if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science. For one man of science, there are thousands who are not. What would have become of them? Man was destined for society. His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object. He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong merely relative to this. This sense is as much a part of his nature, as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of morality... The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body. This sense is submitted indeed in some degree to the guidance of reason; but it is a small stock which is required for this: even a less one than what we call Common sense. State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules." (Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1787. ME 6:257, Papers 12:15)

In addition to Jefferson’s sense of God-given rights and the necessary spiritual foundation of the nation, individual morality, a sense of duty and right and wrong, was even more fundamental.  The nation would thrive on individualism, but never at the expense of the large community.  For Jefferson there would always be a balance between individual spirit, character, and enterprise and social integrity.  The rights of Man might be God-given, but they did not come automatically.  ‘Science’ – reason, logic, and rationality would only go so far.  Being principled was not a matter of cognition.

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This delicate balance so well expressed by the Founding Fathers seems to have been lost.  Individualism in the best sense of Jeffersonian morality has given way to crass individualism, a selfish, self-centered abusive ambition; and his sense of a community made up of moral individuals each unique and uniquely able to contribute to the commonweal, seems all but lost.  When speaking of community Jefferson was not thinking of exclusive, narrowly-defined, proprietary groups, but of the community at large – community in general, a philosophical construct.  Sadly, his vision seems to have all but disappeared.

Those who argue for identity politics insist that a more perfect, fair, and just world, Jefferson’s ideal, can never be achieved without the struggle between antithetical forces – Marx’s dialectic.  Progress towards a better if not utopian world will only happen if those who are fighting for justice keep their eyes on the prize, subsume any and all personality and personal ambitions within the group. 

Opponents argue that such exclusiveness in the name of inclusivity and group power is dangerous and corrosive to national integrity, identity, and strength.  Every loud, defiant, non-negotiable demand from one group necessarily outrages every other; and promotes divisiveness, antagonism, and hatred.  While history is filled with social, class, and political struggles; and the desire for reform, liberation, and justice are universal, there is always a price to be paid.  More importantly history has always been shown to be a zero-sum affair.  For every action there is a reaction; and in the end life goes on as it always has, following the dictates of human nature.   What has enabled great civilizations to prosper despite their wars, civil conflicts, and injustices, has been a set of core, universal values, a respect for individualism, and an acknowledgement of the importance of family, community, and nation.

In other words, societies without core, mutually respected, moral, civic, and ethical values would be no more than chaotic, perpetually divided, strife-ridden places.  A delicate balance between Cato’s principles and human nature.

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