The universities, under the banner of hollow diversity and the even more hollow and self-contradictory banner of tolerance, are mutating into thought-suppressing machines. Any flag raised in the name of identity or marginalization has them prostrate in anxiety and fear. The idea of undergraduate life as a rooting out of intellectual predispositions, of history as anything but a huge case file of oppression, of testing minds as opposed to flattering feelings, is lost.In The Weekly Standard, Jonathan Last suggests this will not last.
The universities are running a risky race. The more they quiver before the onslaught of the cause-mongers, refuse to take clear and bold stands against protest intimidation tactics, the more they lose their centuries-old prestige. It is a situation that should concern everybody. The ability to think clearly, and the absorption of the best that has been thought and said, have given the world all the moral and scientific progress — real progress — it has ever known. As universities become more and more the willing hostages of the anti-thought brigades, the more they will diminish in both esteem and worth.
If you pay any attention to the ways in which radicalism dominates the culture of the university these days, you're likely to feel as though you've gone through the looking glass. "White privilege." "Trigger warnings." "Rape culture." All of this (and much else) has turned academia into a bizarre, Orwellian simulacrum of itself. And not only that, but the radicalism has migrated outward into the broader culture, too. It's the kind of insanity we haven't seen in America since the bad old days of the early 1970s.Not yet the beginning of the end, but certainly well-past the end of the beginning.
The good news is that these sorts of perversions always burn themselves out-they're too untethered to reality. Eventually people realize that the radicalism is really about just one thing: power. And once people begin to challenge the dogmas, they collapse in a cascade. Because as they lose their power to exact a price for criticism, they attract more of it.
What intrigues, though, is that in the middle of a Chris Hedges rant doubling down on the freakazoids asserting themselves, comes this.
I confronted the sickness of a predatory society. A meeting between me and students arranged by the university had been canceled. Protesters gathered outside the hall. Some people stormed out of the lecture room, slamming the doors after them, when I attacked the trafficking of prostituted women and girls. A male tribal leader named Toghestiy stood after the talk and called for the room to be “cleansed” of evil—this after Audrey Siegl, a Musqueam Nation woman, emotionally laid out what she and other women face at the hands of male predators—and one of the conference organizers, English professor Stephen Collis, seized the microphone at the end of the evening to denounce me as “vindictive.” It was a commercial for the moral bankruptcy of academia.Perhaps, though, if the Perpetually Aggrieved wage perpetual Oppression Olympics on each other (how dare that whitemale Christian Hedges comment on capitalism's treatment of women of color?) normal people will obtain breathing space to reclaim the academy, and other institutions.
Moral collapse always accompanies civilizations in decline, from Caligula’s Rome to the decadence at the end of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Dying cultures always become hypersexualized and depraved. The primacy of personal pleasure obtained at the expense of others is the defining characteristic of a civilization in its death throes.