November 27 2012

The Victim's Revolution and the Closing of the Liberal Mind

Charlotte Hays

One of the disheartening aspects (there were many) of the presidential race was the balkanization of the electorate by the Obama campaign: instead of pitching an American ideal, the winning team appealed to slivers of the electorate.

Politicians have always done this, but this time around it was more pronounced. The targeted groups included women, Hispanics, and African-Americans, all of whom were encouraged to see themselves as victims.

The result was a more polarized electorate and coarsening of political debate. In an egregious lapse of good taste, first-time female voters were urged to vote for the president because doing so would provide a frisson comparable to the thrill of losing one’s virginity.

Bruce Bawer has a new book out that explains what is behind much of what we saw in the campaign. Bawer’s book is entitled The Victim’s Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind.

It’s cheating to quote a review rather than the book—which is now on my list—but Claire Berlinski’s take on Bawer’s opus in City Journal is a gem. Berlinski writes charmingly about the intrepid Bawer’s research:

In what must be reckoned a martyrdom operation, Bawer has spent countless hours not only reading the collective oeuvre of the leading luminaries in Black, Women’s, Gender, Queer, Fat, and Chicano Studies, but also traveling America to attend their conferences.

 At a gathering of the Cultural Studies Association at the University of California, Berkeley, for instance, Bawer encounters the young Michele, who’s “like, a grad student at UC Davis?” She’s “sort of reviving a Gramschian-style Marxism,” involving the idea that global warming is “sort of, like, a crisis, in the human relationship to nature?” Bawer claims that his heart goes out to her. (His heart is bigger than mine.)

Bawer attributes the inability of many of our young to speak grammatically or coherently to the kind of education they are receiving. Postmodernism, which became the rage in the 1980s, led to “a form of crude cultural relativism” that…

… achieved the ignominious trifecta of insipidity, incoherence, and blithe ignorance of a philosophical literature treating the idea of relativism from the Sophists to, at the very least, G. E. Moore. From this followed the conclusion that values, such as individual liberty, were not universal, and as the Canadian poet David Solway put it, that we must perforce believe that “[t]here are no barbarians, only different forms of civilized men.”

Education in the humanities today apparently consists primarily of learning about the “hegemonic” power to which we are subject and using “theory” to decode its workings.  Students learn that, based on such factors as skin color, they are either benefactors or victims of this system.

While giving the book a glowing review, Berlinski doesn’t agree with Bawer that the universities are the fount of our troubles. You can read her review here.

I am inclined to buy Bawer’s thesis (as translated through this review). Wonder which candidate the Gramschian-Marxist-environmentalist supported?

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