On the total banality of the Culture Wars

Between 1914 and 1918, World War I claimed the lives of over nine million soldiers and seven million civilians in one of the most devastating wastes of human potential in history.

On the Western Front in particular, technological advances had progressed much faster than military tactics. Innovations in defensive weaponry, such as barbed wire, artillery, and machine guns forced the Allied and Central Powers to engage in trench warfare. This style of combat was characterized by a drawn-out war of attrition where the front lines almost never shifted more than a few kilometers, despite the unprecedented deployment of soldiers and infrastructure.

This analogy is not an attempt to compare the “Culture War” to WWI in terms of importance or impact. Indeed, a visit to preserved areas of the Western Front (such as Canada’s Vimy Ridge Memorial) will serve as a stark reminder that we live in truly blessed times.

Instead, I am hoping to draw attention to the human ability to waste incredible amounts of resources for little to no gain. (Image Source: National Geographic)

When I started this website back in June 2017, I had originally intended to cover news and current events related to postmodernist philosophy, as well as emerging best practices for opposing PoMo’s influence in our institutions and organizations.

After six months of paying close attention to the countless headlines, controversies, and debates between PoMo and anti-PoMo activists, I find myself questioning whether or not yet another viewpoint on these issues is warranted or valuable.

I also find myself questioning whether or not any progress is being made by either “side”, or if different people are having the same conversations, over and over and over again.

As 2017 comes to a close, I have the following thoughts to offer, which are expanded on below;

  • Broadly speaking, the “Culture Wars” are centered around five central issues; the rest is noise.
  • There are only a couple of issues that the average person can actually have an impact on.
  • Free speech is not a compelling enough issue to engage the general public.
  • The only thing that effectively disillusions social justice activists continues to be excesses of the hard-left.
  • There seem to only be a couple of levers that anti-PoMo activists can pull to achieve their goals.
  • None of this is likely to change.

The five “fronts” of the Culture Wars:

Almost all of the debates, discussions, and disagreements I have seen this past year can be assigned to one of the following categories. I have provided point-form summaries of each category.

Postsecondary Education
  • Universities as alleged beneficiaries and perpetuators of racism
  • Balancing academic freedom vs. safety & equity (Laurier, Evergreen, McMaster)
  • The quality of scholarship in Women’s/Queer/Race Studies programs (The Conceptual Penis, Real Peer Review)
Sexual Assault & Harassment
  • #metoo, with arguably the strongest claim to legitimacy out of any of these issues
Intersectionality & Oppression (Race & Gender)
  • LGBTQ organizations being overrun by “intersectional” activists (PrideTO, Chicago Pride)
  • The existence and legitimacy of gender-neutral (non-binary) identities and pronouns (Canada’s Bill C-16)
  • Anti-Islamophobia vs. concerns over immigration and integration
  • Expecting white people & males to “make room” for marginalized groups (Lido Pimienta)
  • Indigenous issues, particularly in North America
  • Note: Sexuality seems to be a settled issue, aside from a few random bigots that almost everyone recognizes as bigots.
Art & Cultural Expression
Politics & Government
  • Immigration policy
  • Gender identity legislation
  • Hate speech laws

Which of these issues can regular people actually have an effect on?

By looking at the below list, it should be quickly obvious that all the time the average person spends on Twitter and Facebook arguing with people and/or trolling government officials has a limited effect.

This December 2017 article about Evergreen State College does an excellent job of illustrating this point; almost all of the major milestones in the controversy were decisions made by senior administrators at Evergreen, and the only people in a real position to oppose them were other administrators and/or faculty.

The bottom line is that unless you have actual decision-making power (or influence on people that have that authority), the best you can do is make noise and/or Twitter-shame people.

This may not be the best use of your time, although I do admit it is extremely gratifying.

Direct Influence Possible:
  • 🙁
Things people can affect through civic engagement (i.e voting):
  • Anti-Islamophobia vs. concerns over immigration and integration
  • Indigenous issues, particularly in North America
  • Immigration policy
  • Gender identity legislation
  • Hate speech laws
Wastes of time:

Note: These are wastes of time for “regular” people. By this I mean people who do not have pre-existing institutional and/or governmental influence by which they can apply direct pressure to decision-makers.

  • LGBTQ organizations being overrun by “intersectional” activists
  • Whitewashing in Hollywood (Ghost in the Shell, The Great Wall)
  • Cultural appropriation in food, music, and art
  • #metoo
  • Universities as alleged beneficiaries and perpetuators of racism
  • Balancing academic freedom vs. safety & equity
  • The quality of scholarship in Women’s/Queer/Race Studies programs
  • The existence and legitimacy of gender-neutral (non-binary) identities and pronouns
  • Expecting white people & males to “make room” for marginalized groups

The only people that care about “free speech” are free speech activists:

I plan to write a whole post on this in the near future, but one of my general observations is that the general public doesn’t seem to respond with a great deal of enthusiasm when they are encouraged to stand up for “free speech”.

The fact of the matter is that the only time the average person begins to care about free speech is when they (or people they identify closely with) are somehow affected. The general public didn’t respond with outrage when Ryerson University shut down a free speech panel, for example, and people outside of academia are pretty numb to the various campus protests that routinely erupt over controversial speakers like Milo.

Perhaps the most pertinent exception to this is the Lindsay Shepherd issue. I would humbly submit that this isn’t necessarily a “free speech” issue, at least not to the general public. It may be better understood as a “quality of university” issue, as university professors were recorded as displaying a whole host of un-professor-like behavior.

I have a hunch (which I will explore later on) that although scholars recognized this was a deeply problematic limitation of academic freedom and/or free speech, the general public probably interpreted this as “is this the garbage I’m paying $10,000 a year for my kids to learn?”.

This is just an observation and a speculation, but I suspect that free speech issues will receive more public interest if they are more elegantly framed.

Social justice activists continue to be shocked at the excesses of their peers:

As 2017 wraps up, no magic spell has been found to cure people of their adherence to PoMo philosophy. Instead, as I have said before;

“…prominent Liberals are beginning to reject mainstream social justice activism because their contemporaries are overreaching, overstepping, making wild/untrue claims, and generally being nasty people. This has profound implications for anti-postmodernist activists, namely that we have to be as reasonable and patient as possible, letting people ponder our points over time and come to their own conclusions.”

The list of deeply liberal and progressive people who are disillusioned at the “left” grows; Laci Green, Jake Tapper, Cassie Jaye, Lindsay Shepherd, Bret Weinstein & Heather Heying, etc. etc. etc.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and time is our best ally.

What might next steps look like?

Go and enjoy your life. Be kind to other people. Vote for sensible political candidates. Write letters to the ones that aren’t. Don’t financially support institutions that do things you disagree with.

I’ve observed a couple of things this past year;

Social Justice fanatics can’t govern worth a damn
  • Just one year after Black Lives Matter supporters took over PrideTO, the organization went from having a $500,000 surplus to an $800,000 deficit.
  • Evergreen State College is in shambles; enrolment is down 5% already, and the college enacted a hiring freeze in August 2017.
  • The Democratic Party in the United States is also in shambles, and continue to be rocked by controversy after controversy.
  • Laurier University has become an international embarrassment, and time will tell whether or not their enrolment will be affected.

It should be plainly apparent to people that “equity” and “intersectionality” are not viable guidelines by which one can run a business, nonprofit, or academic institutions. The ones that get taken over by such nonsense will inevitably die – just let it happen.

Obviously, this is a bit more depressing when one looks at the state of our governments, particularly in Europe. Several writers and thinkers have made a very strong case that Western civilization is currently in its death throes, which may very well be the case.

Even so, the best any of us can do is enjoy our lives and be as kind to others as possible – unless you plan to become a politician, of course.

Being a social justice activist is miserable work

This would be true even without adopting postmodernist viewpoints. As I mentioned in a previous section, people will inevitably become tired of being miserable all the time, and will then open themselves up to the possibility of a form of activism that is genuinely inclusive and community-like.

Or they’ll become murderously resentful. I think this is less likely, since most social justice warriors are massive wimps.

Predictions for 2018:

I am keeping these facetiously vague. I hope you understand the point I am making by doing so.

  • There will be one crisis or controversy on a university campus each month. It will be more of the same.
  • Some elections will happen. It will be the end of the world for a couple of days, and then life will go on.
  • People will continue to be jerks to each other on social media, wasting millions of people-hours collectively.
  • Donald Trump will continue to be President, and the Democratic Party won’t be able to get its act together.
  • Justin Trudeau will continue to be an attractive dunce, and the Canadian Liberals will continue to be awful at governing.
  • Europe will continue to be bludgeoned by millions of migrants, and politicians will refuse to acknowledge there may be integration issues.

Go and enjoy your holidays. Please.

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