‘What Happened to the Enlightenment?’

“The greatest political and philosophical achievements of the last few centuries are being deliberately eroded. Classical liberalism and other core political and philosophical foundations supporting individualism are being turfed and replaced by a new world order:
systemic collectivism.”

“The storm has been moving in for some time, building up over decades of political and academic activism fuelled by the ideological advocacy of a long line of Leftist intellectuals and writers, from Karl Marx through Herbert Marcuse’s ‘New Left’ celebrations of the ‘60s and ‘70s to the ‘Occupy Movement’ to Naomi Klein. After half a century of torch-passing from one anti-liberal theorist to another, North America and other Western nations have settled on a final truth:
You are not an individual. 

“In the new world, people are slotted into assorted collective categories:
White or Black, oppressed or oppressor, straight or LGBQ, steeped in inequality, male or female or other, Green or a denier, young sidelined millennial or aging privileged colonialist, a Muslim or a Jew or a Christian.
From now on, these are the primary labels that define and describe your role in life and shape the content of your mind and character. Forget and submerge your individual capacities and abilities, your intellectual independence, your personal perspectives, ambitions and failures.

“Individualism is dead. In its place is a new political environment in which all people are supposedly driven by, and classified according to, their membership in one of dozens of collective categories that determine each person’s world view and behaviour that is controlled by ingrained collective bias and beliefs. You may or may not even be conscious of your motivations. In this new era, people are said to be motivated by “unconscious bias” rather than their own thinking.

“To reach this new era of anti-individualism, the greatest political and philosophical achievements of the last few centuries are being deliberately eroded. Classical liberalism and other core political and philosophical foundations supporting individualism are being turfed and replaced by a new world order:
systemic collectivism.

“The core elements of the Enlightenment, the 300-year-old philosophical breakthrough founded by the greatest minds in history — from Locke, Rousseau, Hobbes and later by Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and others — created the ideological foundation for a prosperous world:
individualism, capitalism, the scientific method, reason, logic, objectivity, liberty, globalization, secularism, free markets, the pursuit of happiness and well being, free speech, optimism and hope.

“The overthrow of these core concepts is not a secret or clandestine campaign but a calculated and highly public effort to destroy the great fundamental principles that have lifted human beings from ignorance and servitude, into a three-century explosion of freedom, growth, human progress and achievement.

“Under systemic collectivism, essentially all of the Enlightenment ideas are now branded as causes of racism and other forms of oppression that foster inequality and generate human suffering. Enlightenment ideas are held responsible for pollution, economic inequality, global warming, suppression of women, corporate tyrannies, wealth gaps and more.

“We would all agree that racism, poverty, sexism and other manifestations of human weakness need to be eradicated, but the main economic and political story of the last 300 years demonstrates how eradication has worked. Enlightenment ideas created the conditions that led to the positive transformation of human life, including the phase out of slavery. When Harvard’s Steven Pinker made that point in his 2018 best-seller, “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress”, he was widely attacked, although Pinker responded to his critics by observing that slavery and racism existed for centuries and 

It was only during the Enlightenment that people singled them out as moral blights and sought to eliminate them from the human condition.”

“But Pinker and scores of other defenders of Enlightenment principles, including Jordan Peterson, have not been able to stop the anti-Enlightenment attacks. A famous 1987 best-seller, one of the earlier warnings of the intellectual turn to anti-Enlightenment ideas, was Allan Bloom, whose book “The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students” sold a million copies. But it failed to stop the advance of anti-Enlightenmentism.

“Today minds are closed, as systemic collectivism gains mainstream acceptance. The main current effort to sideline individualism and associated economic ideas is being propelled by journalists, academics and political forces in the name of fighting racism and other ‘isms’. In this fashionable ‘woke’ world view, individual freedom and its associated ideas are vehicles of ‘white’ dominance, sexism and cultural suppression.

“If you think this is all exaggerated, polemical blather, consider the following brief review of a few of the contributors to the idea that the Enlightenment is a curse, and new forms of thinking and new political systems.

“Never mind Marx and the New and Old Left activists of the 20th century — from Herbert Marcuse to Noam Chomsky. Let’s start with a summer walk through the main promotional bookshelves of Canada’s flagship bookseller, ‘Indigo’. Lined on the walls and tables for summer reading while in COVID lockdown are the works of American and Canadian advocates for the destruction of capitalism and its associated principles — including four books on the ‘Globe and Mail’ non-fiction best- seller list:
#5 “White Fragility”;
#7 “The Skin We’re In”;
#8 “Me and White Supremacy”;
#9 “How to be an Antiracist”.

How to be an Antiracist”, by Ibram X. Kendi, a New York Times best-selling U.S. historian, is actually a primer on ‘How to be an Anti-capitalist’. Writes Kendi:
   “Capitalism is essentially racist; racism is essentially capitalist.
{What drivel!}
And, he adds,
   “To love capitalism is to end up loving racism. To love racism is to end up loving capitalism.”
The link between racism and capitalism, says Kendi, was established a century ago by Karl Marx, the godfather of socialism and communism. After quoting a sentence from ‘Chapter 31’ of “Das Kapital”, Kendi concludes
   “Marx recognized the birth of the conjoined twins.”

“While Kendi warns that socialism can be racist {!}, his economic solution leans to the radical Left. In one of his many overwrought chapters, he offers what he describes as a conservative definition of capitalism: 

The freedom to exploit people into economic ruin; the freedom to assassinate unions; the freedom to prey on unprotected consumers, workers and environments; the freedom to value quarterly profits over climate change; the freedom to undermine small business and cushion corporations, … the freedom to keep poor people poor and middle-income people struggling to stay middle income, and make rich people richer.”

“Further along the Indigo bookshelf of anti-individualism is U.S. sociologist Robin Diangelo, author of the best-selling “White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”. She argues that it is impossible to convey the depth of the racism in Western cultures such as Canada or the United States
   “because of two key Western ideologies: Individualism and objectivity.”

“Diangelo, considered to be in the “front ranks” of white anti-racist thinkers, rejects the whole idea of individuality because
   “it holds that we are each unique and stand apart from others, even those within our social groups.”

“As for objectivity, Diangelo dismisses the idea that it is possible for individuals to be free of collective bias. Those tired old Enlightenment concepts
   “make it very difficult for ‘white’ people to explore the collective aspects of the white experience.”

“Under systemic collectivism, an aging ‘Indigenous’ man can only see the world through his collective prism as an aging ‘Indigenous’ man, not as an individual with his own intellect and thoughts. A young ‘white’ woman working at a downtown Toronto bank can only grasp the world around her through her ‘white’ female privilege. She cannot think for herself.

“Not to be left out of the capitalism-bashing ritual is {Toronto ‘Black’ racist} Desmond Cole. In his book, “The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power”, the Toronto ‘journalist’ who was fired from the ‘Toronto Star’ for failing to observe journalism’s general adherence to objectivity, Cole states that
   “‘White’ power works in concert with other forms of power — including capitalism (the dominance of private profit over public benefit).”

“The physical bookshelves are filled with these ideas, as are the online services and publication lists of university presses, which crank them out by the hundreds.

“These shots at capitalism and individualism as oppressive scourges did not fly into the text of today’s best-sellers on the wings of a dove. They have been systematically implanted in the culture over the last half-century by ideological warriors camouflaged as opponents of racism, sexism, inequality, homophobia, colonialism.

“After straight-up Marxism had self-destructed by the middle of the 20th century, after the workers of the world failed to unite around a communist revolution, cabals of neo-Marxists developed new theories. If we cannot succeed with workers, maybe we can overthrow capitalism and its enabling Enlightenment individualism, by appealing to a much larger middle-class population by weaving racism, sexism, inequality, globalization and climate change into one big movement.

“Those of us who witnessed the ‘New Left’ enthusiasms of the ‘60s and ‘70s will recall the rapture heaped on neo-Marxists such as Herbert Marcuse, the German/American academic whose books, including “One Dimensional Man”, swept through university campuses.

“Marcuse and others followed many streams that failed to spark a Leftist revolution, but they eventually grew into prominence in academic circles under the name ‘Critical Theory’. The ‘Critical Theory’ movement is rarely cited in mainstream media, but it is recognized as a major influence, even a controlling influence, on current political developments.

“From ‘cancel culture’ to the current fixation on ‘systemic racism’, the fingers of neo-Marxist ‘Critical Theory’ are everywhere, pulling strings and pushing buttons. Writing in the ‘Financial Post’ last June, Queen’s University law professor Bruce Pardy concluded that today the “final conquest” of ‘Critical Theory’ is creeping through science, technology, engineering and medical faculties of Canadian and American universities.

“One of the core concepts of the ‘Critical Theory’ movement is “intersectionality” — the claim that all the struggles of race, class, inequality, sexism, colonialism, oppression can be merged and adapted into a single campaign to overthrow the Enlightenment. In her book, “Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory”, U.S. academic Patricia Collins lists some of the ‘identities’ that can be blended into a revolutionary force: 

Black people, indigenous peoples, women, Latinx, LGBTQ people, differently abled people, religious and ethnic minorities and stateless people.”

“In “How to be an Antiracist”, Ibram X. Kendi acknowledges that while the “Red scares of the 1950s” drove the Marxist offensive underground, they resurfaced in the 1960s 

and they are resurfacing again in the 21st century in the wake of the Great Recession, the ‘Occupy Movement,’ the movement for ‘Black Lives Matter’, and the campaigns of ‘democratic’ socialists.”

“In this view, the new Marxism will land on the wings of the merged intersectionalities.

An antiracist anticapitalism”,
writes Kendi,
could seal the horizontal class fissures and vertical race fissures — and, importantly, their intersections — with equalizing racial and economic policies.”

“The Enlightenment is a constant target of the Left. In her 2014 book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate”, Naomi Klein portrayed the 1776 invention of coal-fired steam power by James Watt and the simultaneous 1776 publication of “The Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith as the perverted products of the science and ideological revolution launched a century earlier by Francis Bacon, the developer of the scientific method. It is not a coincidence, agrees Klein, that the market economy and fossil fuel steam power emerged in the same year on the back of Francis Bacon’s science revolution.

“Today’s attempt to roll back the Enlightenment and install some other form of non-market governance and authoritarian decision-making takes the effort to new, unexpected levels of influence. Even high-profile defenders of the economic and social triumph of Enlightenment ideas seem to have been caught off-guard. Pinker, in his “Enlightenment Now” best-seller, failed to seriously acknowledge the growing power of ‘Critical Theory’ activists and their takeover of universities and intersecting social movements.

“While Pinker describes massive benefits of the Enlightenment, he deals dismissively with ‘Critical Theory’ only in the penultimate chapter of “Enlightenment Now”. He does not take them seriously. They are
“morose cultural pessimists who declare that modernity is odious, all statements are paradoxical, works of art are tools of oppression, liberal democracy is the same as fascism, and Western civilization is circling the drain.”

“With such a “cheery” view of the world, adds Pinker sarcastically, 

it’s not surprising that the humanities often have trouble defining a progressive agenda for their own enterprise.”

“Pinker is wrong to be so dismissive. Instead of anticipating the threat from the Left’s ‘progressive’ {actually, by Enlightenment standards, ‘regressive’} agenda, Pinker mostly focused on the rise of Donald Trump and other national leaders as the standard-bearers of what he saw as a more real threat, “authoritarian populism”.

“Pinker shares at least part of the view of Anne Applebaum, whose new book, “The Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism”, portrays authoritarian populism as personified by Trump as a greater threat to the essential elements of the Enlightenment. Trump has proven, she writes, that 

beneath the surface of American consensus, the belief in our founding fathers and the faith in our ideals, there lies another America..Trump’s America — one that sees no important distinction between democracy and dictatorship.”

“But ‘progressive’ authoritarian populism is now rising everywhere from the Left, overshadowing the threat from the Right. From ‘cancel culture’ to ‘identity politics’, from ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘intersectionality’ and ‘white’ fragility, from corporate schemes to use race and gender as a basis for hiring and promotion to the spread of the idea that individualism is a curse, systemic collectivism is becoming the way forward to overthrow capitalism.

“Fortunately, as systemic collectivists gain ground, a counter movement is also growing. Two new books document the story behind the rise of identity politics under the guidance of ‘Critical Theory’. One is “The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics is Dividing the Land of the Free”. It could also be titled ‘The Plot to Change Canada’. The author — Mike Gonzalez of the ‘Heritage Foundation’ — tracks back to the Marxist origins of identity politics and the methods of Critical Theorists. What we are facing, says Gonzalez, 

is the division of society into subnational groups along identities that can be based on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and even disability status.”

“Gonzales ends his book with a chapter that begins “We don’t have to accept any of this”. Changing the dominant culture — in universities and the education system, in politics and now, corporations — will not be easy.

“Another new book that reveals even more about the workings of ‘Critical Theory’ is “Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity ― and Why This Harms Everybody”. The two authors, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, plow through some of the same history but more thoroughly and with greater academic intensity. It too ends with a call-to-action chapter: “An Alternative to the Ideology of Social Justice: Liberalism without Identity Politics”.

“Both books, by the way, are available at ‘Indigo’ online — but not in stores.

“Andrew Sullivan, the ‘New York Magazine’ columnist who quit during this summer’s ‘cancel culture’ media storm, slammed his magazine colleagues who 

seem to believe … that any writer not actively committed to Critical Theory in questions of race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity is actively, physically harming co-workers merely by existing in the same virtual space.”

“In his new blog, Sullivan favourably reviewed “Cynical Theories” and ended with this note. 

The intellectual fight back against wokeness has now begun in earnest. Let’s do this.”

“Let’s. Systemic collectivism needs to be challenged in the name of preserving the ideas of the Enlightenment. Maybe Canada’s ‘Indigo’ could put a few copies of “The Plot to Change America” and “Cynical Theories” in bookstores alongside the ‘woke’ works “White Fragility” and “How to be an Antiracist”, perhaps in a special section under ‘The Enlightenment’.”

–‘You are not you, and other truths of the new world’,
Terence Corcoran, National Post, Sept. 02, 2020
https://financialpost.com/opinion/terence-corcoran-you-are-not-you-and-other-truths-of-the-new-world/wcm/e8eb5c34-243c-4a82-b7e8-ccbcf5e8e37d/
“Neo-Marxist dogma, long ascendant in the academy, has finally broken through into mainstream life. The damage being wrought on our democracies is substantial—and perhaps fatal.

“In October 1921, as the Bolsheviks prepared to launch a massive social engineering project that would kill millions, Vladimir Lenin, speaking at the second All-Russian Congress of Political Education Departments, coined the bedrock principle of Marxist power politics, encapsulating in two words the binary nature of tyranny: “Kto kogo?” (pronounced “KTO-KahVO” in Russian, and literally translated as “Who gets whom?” in the sense of prison yard politics.)

“Today, more than a quarter century since the collapse of the Soviet empire, Lenin’s dictum lives on, not just in post-Soviet Russia but also in the West, where it has morphed into a modern day categorical imperative of extremist politics that has all but displaced what remains of civil discourse. Though always at home with the hard Left, the ‘kto-kogo’ principle has since permeated across the political spectrum in the West. In the process, the center—once the preferred agora for democratic discourse, where the citizenry would negotiate the boundaries of political compromise—has been all but hollowed out.

“The neo-Marxist unmaking of Western politics and the attendant deconstruction of Western culture—both the fruits of the long-running and mutually-reinforcing projects of the post-1960s Left in Europe and in the United States—have reached the point where group identity politics has begun to crowd out the foundational assumptions about individual citizenship and the functioning of republican government. This is reinforced by the decomposition of discursive language across the West.

“The increased monopolization of Western educational systems by neo-Marxists, most prominent in higher education but also by now solidly entrenched in elementary and secondary schools’ curricula, continues to deepen the disconnect between what remains of the bourgeois culture and a utopian postmodern ideal of a borderless, open society of morphing identities, relativized ethics, and fluid loyalties.

“The college educated are less and less willing—or even able—to speak the language of the ‘populus’, all but ensuring that intergenerational communication across the West, so vital to cultural transmission, will eventually grind to a halt. Today, the foundational values of future Western elites and those of the mainstream of society have already become disconnected to the point where the most basic terminology concerning belief systems is fast becoming untranslatable.

“In academia, Derridean postmodern “textuality”, which not long ago used to rule the day, has been superseded by neo-Marxism, in no small part because the former eschewed larger “social justice” issues, levitating above the here-and-now into a rarified “self-referential, recursive” space. In hindsight, Marx continues to have a much more profound effect across academia than the postwar French nihilists, as faculty hires and curricular changes in humanities departments at American colleges and universities in particular have skewed in favor of ethnic and gender studies.

“The neo-Marxist ascendency is not limited to university campuses. The reluctance of a large number of politicians to explicitly tie the writings of Karl Marx and his overall legacy to the organized repression and murder perpetrated by multiple communist regimes since the beginning of the twentieth century remains puzzling, to say the least. Lest you missed it, in May an 18-foot-tall mega statue of Karl Marx was donated by China to Germany and unveiled in the city of Trier to commemorate the German’s 200th birthday, occasioning laudatory comments about the man and his oeuvre from such luminaries as the head of the European Commission. It was a bizarre spectacle protested by locals in Trier, but almost uniformly praised by the ‘commentariat’.

“Meanwhile, in the increasingly-fragmented media, serious reporting has been overtaken by politicized editorializing. In an era when bursts of ever-coarser tweeting, the intentional over- and underreporting of events, and even outright manipulation based on the outlet’s political bias are increasingly the norm, the citizenry is left with an ever-smaller pool of usable information from which to form an opinion on the key political and cultural issues of the day. Today, the West is at a point where the systemic foundations central to democracy may soon be displaced by the triumph of a set of elite norms—norms that purport to be rationalist but are adhered to by their boosters with religious fervor—making political compromises ever-harder to reach.

“To appreciate the extent to which decades of neo-Marxist dogma and practice have crept into public discourse in Western democracies, one has to factor in not just the decline of standards and manners, but the gradual disappearance of the overall sense of reciprocity that is indispensable to the functioning of a democratic society.

“The Leninist mindset has triumphed first and foremost at the level of elite culture in the West, where a growing coarseness and deep sense of entitlement have so completely poisoned the public discourse. As though channeling Vladimir Mayakovsky’s vision of what a revolutionary proletarian language should sound like, the public sphere has been brutalized by the mainstreaming of prison culture, and the lacing of music, movies, television and increasingly everyday conversations with expressions intended to shock rather than to communicate. The disappearance of the general acceptance of a dress code and other accoutrements of public engagement once deemed basic is further evidence of the overall deterioration of the public sphere now shaped by the post-1960s neo-Marxist revolutionary zeal.

At the core of the neo-Marxist agenda ascendant across the West is the implicit conviction that the individual, who is the building block of the modern democratic state, will eventually be displaced and supplanted by a collage of group identities, be they racial, ethnic, gender or class. Amidst uncontrolled immigration flows, the debasement of the value of citizenship is being presented as ‘inclusivity’ and ‘non-discrimination’. Finally, the erstwhile commitment to free speech and open debate, with the goal of persuasion through reason and the marshalling of superior arguments—the very foundation of the Western democratic tradition—has been replaced by the Leninist desire to annihilate one’s opponent. And so, amidst the deepening political chaos in the West, the ‘kto-kogo’ imperative ultimately means that the outcome is not a reasoned argument but the crude binary:
we” win, “they” disappear.

“There is still time for Western democratic societies to stop the neo-Marxist revolutionaries in their tracks. But this will require courage to speak plainly about the need to restore the value of citizenship, as well as a take-no-prisoners determination to preserve the centrality of the individual and the attendant primacy of mutuality in a democracy, over and above claims made by any groups pleading special treatment.”

–‘The Triumph of the Prison Yard’,
Andrew Michta, The American Interest, August 10, 2018
https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/08/10/the-triumph-of-the-prison-yard/
It’s absurd just how racist and sexist a person can be these days – as long as you are classified as ‘oppressed’. Find out how ‘oppressed’ you are {Aboriginal race activists will be furious, as they are not listed separately, but as ‘Person of Colour’}:

‘Intersectionality Score Calculator’
“You may have heard of intersectionality —
“the theory that the overlap of various social identities, such as race, gender, and sexuality, define your level of systemic oppression”
— but don’t know how to compare your oppression with others. Now, you can! Simply adjust the sliders below according to your ‘identity factors’ to see your intersectionality score…”
https://intersectionalityscore.com/

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