In ancient Greece it was said that Diogenes of Sinope once wandered the streets of Athens, lamp in hand, looking for an honest man. There was a time when liberalism included figures like Diogenes in it’s intellectual lineage. Today’s liberals (aka progressives) have shuttered the apertures of that lantern, narrowing it’s inquisitive glow and excluding contrary ideas from inclusion. That’s on a good day. Today’s leftists are just as likely to decry any mention of Dioceses as a racially insensitive manifestation of white privilege.
At a recent climate challenge rally in San Diego demonstrators carried signs that said “The Debate Is Over” – reminiscent of claims that “the science is settled” when it comes to climate change.
College campuses are awash in First Amendment protests. Not protests FOR free speech. Protests against it. At Amherst a group called “Amherst Uprising” recently demanded that school leadership issue a statement stating that Amherst “does not tolerate the actions of students who posted the “All Lives Matters” posters and the “Free Speech” posters”. It doesn’t stop there. The students that make up Amherst Uprising also want fellow students who displayed the posters to “go through a disciplinary process as well as extensive training for racist and cultural competency”. Another group called “San Luis Obispo Solidarity” similarly protested free speech at Cal Poly.
“The people who say all lives matter are not supporting any of the Hispanics that gotta deal with Donald Trump’s (expletive)…they’re not supporting any of the black people that gotta deal with white privilege or anything or on campus. They’re not supporting anything but they want to say all lives matter”. So said psychology junior Kristen Lee who also happens to be a member of the Black Student Union.
School leadership agreed.
Keith Humphrey, Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey noted “…our students were clear that behavior that excludes others has no place at Cal Poly”.
Recently on Twitter, this writer encountered progressives advocating more gun control laws. When reminded that criminals, by definition, don’t follow laws making it unlikely they’d take a gun law into account they became unhinged. In their view “most Americans” supported more gun laws so “the time for debate” was “over”. Twitter users like @Liberal Hippy Queen openly stated that any additional debate should involve only people who support additional gun control measures. It was “un-American” to question gun control proponents. Pressing the topic further produced a tirade of personal slander – unable and unwilling to discuss gun laws they resorted to name
calling and the like.
These examples aren’t disparate or isolated. Increasingly, these are the ways the left chooses to deal with competing points of view. It’s enough to make one long for a good ole Barack Obama strawman – the latest strawman is the notion that the only alternative to his ISIS strategy involved 50,000 U.S. troops in Syria for at least
Among progressives there is no room for dissent. There is no tolerance for ideas that aren’t pre-approved by leftist elites. Critical thinking need not be engaged as thought itself is processed by rote social formulas. Clownish caricatures define those identified as victim and villain. Victim, villain, and “the expert”, are the categories applied to everyone. Hypersensitivity is a lifestyle.
For example, the victim may be a black college student offended over a drawing or statement posted on campus. The drawing or statement itself might be innocent in nature. Hypersensitivity converts a nothing into a microaggression thus fueling a sense of victimization. The villain is the university itself, more specifically the “structural system of white oppression”. How then to reconcile this?
Liberals in past generations would have suggested dialogue. It would have been considered prudent to allow both sides to express their perceptions, and then agree upon a way to repair the situation.
Today’s left instead employs the expert to provide marching orders. The expert is never impartial; always a well credentialed progressive. Expertise isn’t dependent upon accomplishment. The expert’s dexterity when it comes to manipulating rhetoric and emotion is key. “Expert” is synonymous with “community organizer” or “activist”. In this person the confluence of progressive agenda, rhetoric, and emotion produces results that are increasingly familiar.
Shrill, simplistic monologues. The complexity of the grievance reduced to a hash tag, placard, or t-shirt. Slanderous invective to isolate and then heap abuse upon the offender and any who dare to grant him/her a voice. Repair rendered possible if and only if a list of demands are met. When demands aren’t met, and cesspool of politically charged rage is allowed to percolate and occasionally erupt in violent outbursts. When demands are met they only serve as precedents with which to pursue ever more radical objectives.
The pursuit of increasingly radical objectives is what steered the left away from traditional liberalism. That type of liberalism, allowed to atrophy, is essentially dead. In it’s place is a progressive belief system that craves conformity, and that prefers authority to independence. Dissent is intolerable. To question the dictates of experts is treasonous. Those that refuse to adhere to the agenda are to be pilloried until silenced.
That this dramatic a shift has occurred in such a short time – barely a decade – is chilling. How much further these trends will go even more so.