Putting together that last blog post, about UCLA disinviting Ben Shapiro, I was struck as always by the passions on display there among the Social Justice Warriors, as typified by Prof. Weide’s offer of physical violence.
What is the fundamental nature of those passions? From which modules of the human mind do they emerge?
There has for some time been a line of thinking on the Dissident Right that these passions are essentially religious.
The late Larry Auster posted on this four years ago: “blacks,” he said, “are sacred objects.”
Steve Sailer had gotten hold of a good piece of it earlier that same year, commenting on my getting dropped by National Review:
Derbyshire is being punished for blasphemy, for articulating the secret heresies to which Americans are prey.
[Jonathan] Haidt [in his 2012 book The Righteous Mind] sometimes gets this, pointing out:
For American liberals … Anyone who blames victims for their own problems or who displays or merely excuses prejudices against sacralized victim groups can expect a vehement tribal response.
In the abstract, most liberals would say that efforts to protect children from violence aren’t wrong. But outside of The Righteous Mind, liberals (like most people) don’t think abstractly. They think in terms of “Who? Whom? Who is the designated victim group in this situation? Whose crimethink is ritually polluting us, like an untouchable’s shadow falling upon a Brahmin?” [The Self-Righteous Hive Mind by Steve Sailer;Taki’s Magazine, April 11th 2012.]
More recently, linguist (in the academic sense: not a guy who speaks lots of languages, but one who studies language) John McWhorter wrote a very good essay, “Antiracism: Our Flawed New Religion“ at the Daily Beast, July 27th 2015. I had things to say about it on Radio Derb a few weeks ago. Here’s the Radio Derb segment:
What is actually going on with the “white privilege” stuff? What’s driving it? Most baffling to me, what’s driving it in the case of white people like Z!? If they truly believe they have white privilege, wouldn’t the natural thing be to want to preserve it?
Privilege is great. Why would anyone want to give up a privilege they have? If some airline decided to gift me with first-class travel for life, and I were to respond by saying: “Nah, thanks all the same. I’d prefer to travel coach,” wouldn’t the general opinion be that this was a bit odd of me?
Black scholar John McWhorter had some good insights into this in a column he wrote titled Antiracism, Our Flawed New Religion. The column actually dates from last July, but someone just brought it to my attention.
McWhorter argues that antiracism is a religion. Sample quotes, rather long:
Of course, most consider antiracism a position, or evidence of morality. However, in 2015, among educated Americans especially, Antiracism … is now what any naïve, unbiased anthropologist would describe as a new and increasingly dominant religion. It is what we worship, as sincerely and fervently as many worship God and Jesus and, among most Blue State Americans, more so …
For example, Ta-Nehisi Coates … is formally classified as a celebrated writer. However, the particulars of his reception in our moment reveal that Coates is … a priest. Coates is ‘revered,’ as New York magazine aptly puts it, as someone gifted at phrasing, repeating, and crafting artful variations upon points that are considered crucial — that is, scripture …
This became especially clear last year with the rapturous reception of Coates’s essay, ‘The Case for Reparations’ … People loved Coates’s article not as politics, since almost no one thinks reparations are actually going to happen … People were receiving ‘The Case for Reparations’ as, quite simply, a sermon. Its audience sought not counsel, but proclamation. Coates does not write with this formal intention, but for his readers, he is a preacher …
The Antiracism religion, then, has clergy, creed, and also even a conception of Original Sin. Note the current idea that the enlightened white person is to, I assume regularly (ritually?), ‘acknowledge’ that they possess White Privilege. Classes, seminars, teach-ins are devoted to making whites understand the need for this …
The call for people to soberly ‘acknowledge’ their White Privilege as a self-standing, totemic act is based on the same justification as acknowledging one’s fundamental sinfulness is as a Christian. One is born marked by original sin; to be white is to be born with the stain of unearned privilege.
McWhorter develops the analogy much further, with antiracist versions of proselytizing the heathen, a Rapture, and a Day of Judgment. It’s a clever essay; he’s a clever guy. I think he’s on to something, too. I have sat among religious Christians listening to them apologizing to God for being such contemptible worms loaded down with sin; the White Privilege Conference does sound uncannily similar.
I really have to get right with McWhorter. He’s addressing one of my dinner clubs in March, so I’ll be chowing down on rubber chicken across the table from him. A couple of years ago I reviewed one of his books in a way that displeased him somehow; a mutual acquaintance told me he was grumbling about it. I forget the grounds of his complaint, but I’ll try to get right with him.
In a different column, also last year, McWhorter offered four policy prescriptions to help black Americans in the absence — he assumes there will be an absence — of some transformation in white attitudes. The four prescriptions were, executive summary:
- Stop the War on Drugs.
- Teach reading by the phonics method.
- Give free long-acting contraceptives to poor black women. I note with a smile that this policy was also recommended by Jared Taylor in his 1992 book Paved with Good Intentions.
- Vocational education.
That’s not a bad program; more sane and sensible, anyway, than whacking us over the head with “white privilege.” I don’t precisely agree with it. Personally I’d fight the war on drugs like a war, rounding up dealers, shooting them in batches, and feeding their corpses to wild dogs. McWhorter’s program is at least rational, though; and that’s more than you can say for the antiracist holy rollers weeping and wailing about how sinful they are. [Radio Derb, January 29th 2016.]
This seems to me a very interesting line of thinking. Evolution has endowed us with religious impulses — stronger in some of than in others, of course, as is the case with all our impulses (musical, athletic, sexual), but present in quantity in any big population.
Western liberals and Social Justice Warriors for the most part have no interest in traditional religions; but nature abhors a vacuum, so perhaps those of them in whom the religious instinct waxes strong, have seized on anti-racism as an outlet for it.
John McWhorter’s essay is well worth reading, the more so as he is by no means on the Dissident Right.