fbpx
Home/Rod Dreher

Totalitarianism At The Bard Library

Better read these old books in the Bard College library before the woke commissars burn them

Greetings from LaGuardia Airport. I had to make an overnight trip to New York, and am now on my way back to the Great State of Louisiana, which is experiencing its coldest weather of the winter right now. I snort at Louisiana cold, because Your Working Boy stood at the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 27th today, waiting for an Uber, and observed that it was 19 degrees. Sometimes I miss living in New York, but one thing I never, ever miss is a New York City winter. Look at this post-Covid loony driven by the cold to a fugue state. At least I got to wear the ushanka I bought in St. Petersburg in 2019. Not much opportunity to do so in Louisiana, you’ll be shocked to hear.

Anyway, if you don’t subscribe to Bari Weiss’s newsletter Common Sense, you are really missing out. From today’s TGIF news roundup by Nellie Bowles, there was this:

It’s always fun to check up on what’s going on in academia. Here’s an announcement that showed up in the Bard College library newsletter (Bard tuition, $57,498 a year):

In keeping with campus-wide initiatives to ensure that Bard is a place of inclusion, equity, and diversity, the Stevenson Library is conducting a diversity audit of the entire print collection in an effort to begin the process of decanonizing the stacks. Three students, who are funded through the Office of Inclusive Excellence, have begun the process which we expect will take at least a year to complete. The students will be evaluating each book for representations of race/ethnicity, gender, religion, and ability.

So, to paraphrase this library announcement: three Bard students, chosen and paid for by the Office of Inclusive Excellence, are tasked with reviewing every book in the Bard library to evaluate how well it adheres to their moral standards. Facing outrage from library-fans, Bard quickly retracted and rewrote this announcement and clarified that the audit was more high-level analysis of each book and author.

Still I like to imagine these students marching through the stacks, pulling every spine, reading every page to examine for “representations of race, gender, religion, and ability.” Does Charles Dickens dehumanize someone with a limp somewhere? I bet he does. There’s some nasty ableism in Beowulf. Was Aristotle a feminist? This could take a while. Also, I think I kind of want to be on this committee.

The term decanonizemeansexclusion of a person’s name from a list or catalog. It’s a term most commonly associated with the church, who decanonizes to demote a saint who’s on the outs.

There’s of course a whole new intellectual underpinning for all of this. Here’s the librarian Sofia Leung, who offers trainings and workshops on critical race theory in libraries:

“Our library collections, because they are written mostly by straight white men, are a physical manifestation of white men ideas taking up all the space in our library stacks,” she writes, asking her readers to pause and think about that in her essay, Whiteness as Collections. Or watch her talk with the University of Michigan on the “‘Ordinary’ Existence of White Supremacy in Libraries.”

The announcement about decanonization came in a cheery library update. It wasn’t the top item. It’s just there between an alumna to be honored and a local cleanup effort. Decanonization is a casual, business-as-usual sort of activity, hardly anything to pay attention to or ask about.

When I wrote to ask about the announcement, Bard officials explained that this was all a big misunderstanding. Nothing the library newsletter had about this effort should be taken literally, they told me.

“It will help us understand and answer questions about representation in our collections and build a more inclusive collection going forward,” wrote Betsy Cawley, the director of Bard libraries. “Nothing is being removed, recategorized, or replaced.”

Decanonization is not decanonization at all. Judging each book does not mean judging each book (“an earlier brochure entry suggesting that has been revised”). It is just a fact-finding mission to learn more, not to remove anything.

In some cold upstate New York panic, they retracted and rewrote the whole thing. “The erroneous entry has been removed,” the school tells me now.

Regardless, if any Common Sense-readers would like to read books that three Bard students deem offensive, please turn yourself in to the local police station.

This is insane. It’s good that Bard retracted it, but it is a scandal that this kind of anti-intellectual, illiberal lunacy ever saw the light of day in the first place. I know you must be tired of hearing this, but what Bard undertook to do is Totalitarianism 101. Totalitarian regimes always try to control the memory of history and culture, for the sake of manipulating society to affirm its ideology. From Live Not By Lies:

In his 1989 book, How Societies Remember, the late British social anthropologist Paul Connerton explains that there are different kinds of memory. Historical memory is an objective recollection of past events. Social memory is what a people choose to remember—that is, deciding collectively which facts about past events it believes to be important. Cultural memory constitutes the stories, events, people, and other phenomena that a society chooses to remember as the building blocks of its collective identity. A nation’s gods, its heroes, its villains, its landmarks, its art, its music, its holidays—all these things are part of its cultural memory.

Connerton says that “participants in any social order must presuppose a shared memory.”[i] Memory of the past conditions how they experience the present—that is, how they grasp its meaning, how they are to understand it, and what they are supposed to do in it.

No culture, and no person, can remember everything. A culture’s memory is the result of its collective sifting of facts to produce a story—a story that society tells itself to remember who it is. Without collective memory, you have no culture, and without a culture, you have no identity.

The more totalitarian a regime’s nature, the more it will try to force people to forget their cultural memories. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the role of Winston Smith within the Ministry of Information is to erase all newspaper records of past events to reflect the current political priorities of the Party. This, said the ex-communist Polish intellectual Leszek Kołakowski, reflects “the great ambition of totalitarianism—the total possession and control of human memory.”

“Let us consider what happens when the ideal has been effectively achieved,” says Kołakowski. “People remember only what they are taught to remember today and the content of their memory changes overnight, if needed.”

As Kolakowski says, no library can contain all books. Some authority has to decide what goes in, and what stays out (or gets thrown out). A college library should be both as broad and as deep as possible. Even the idea that “decanonization” or “decolonization” is something worth considering ought to be forcefully rejected.

It would be worth knowing how many of these gatekeepers — librarians — in institutions and communities around the country are quietly going about the work of censoring their collections to make them conform to a radical Left point of view. The American Library Association is ferocious in defense of LGBT books on library shelves — see this statement — but as far as I can tell, has said nothing at all about “decanonization” of libraries. The ALA said:

We are committed to defending the constitutional rights of all individuals, of all ages, to use the resources and services of libraries.  We champion and defend the freedom to speak, the freedom to publish, and the freedom to read, as promised by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

We stand opposed to censorship and any effort to coerce belief, suppress opinion, or punish those whose expression does not conform to what is deemed to be orthodox in history, politics, or belief. The unfettered exchange of ideas is essential to the preservation of a free and democratic society.

Libraries manifest the promises of the First Amendment by making available the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions, and ideas, so that every person has the opportunity to freely read and consider information and ideas regardless of their content or the viewpoint of the author.  This requires the professional expertise of librarians who work in partnership with their communities to curate collections that serve the information needs of all their users.

So can we expect to see an ALA statement condemning the decanonization and decolonization of libraries? I wouldn’t hold my breath. Last month, the ALA announced that it is selling through its bookstore a new book advocating decolonization of libraries. Excerpt:

The demand to decolonize the curriculum has moved from a protest movement at the margins to the center of many institutions, as reflected by its inclusion in policies and strategies. Numerous libraries and archives are responding to the call to critically examine their historic legacies and practices to support institutional and societal change. “Narrative Expansions: Interpreting Decolonisation in Academic Libraries,” published by Facet Publishing and available through the ALA Store, explores the ways in which academic libraries are working to address the historic legacies of colonialism, in the context of decolonizing the curriculum and the university. It acknowledges and explores the tensions and complexities around the use of the term decolonization, how it relates to other social justice aims and approaches, including critical librarianship, and what makes this work specific to decolonization.

In fact, there are a number of articles on the ALA site pushing decolonization. There are links to two different ALA webinars explaining to librarians how to decolonize. There’s no way around this: the American Library Association favors censorship, but only of non-progressive books, or of books that progressives for whatever reason find to be objectionable.

You cannot argue with these people. What you can do, though, is learn about what these people are doing to libraries, and pressure officials to stop them, including threatening libraries with defunding. Again, I agree that not every book can or should be in every library. A high school library is not the same thing as a college library, for example. We can and should discuss where to draw the lines. But it appears that many library staffers are eager to surrender their responsibility to administer and curate libraries for the entire community, instead turning them over to leftist agitators and propagandists.

It is a shocking, even disgusting, abdication of scholarly responsibility. This is what you get when nearly the entire intellectual class has capitulated to ideology. Jerry Coyne, the prickly atheist scientist who is no friend of the Right, comments:

Bard’s denial is hilarious: if this is not about censorship, what is it about? How can you “build a more inclusive collection going forward” if you don’t pick and choose books for the library based on how “inclusive” they are? I don’t believe their denial at all.  After all, there are 400,000 books to sniff through!

And what bothers me most of all is that, traditionally, librarians have opposed this kind of Pecksniffery, pushing back against people’s wish to keep this and that book out of the library. In the past librarians were the most vigorous and treasured defenders of free speech, blocking the doorway between the censors and the books. That doesn’t hold any more.

By the way, Sofia Leung is not listed as a librarian at Bard College at all, nor does her c.v. does mention that position (perhaps Bowles didn’t mean to imply that). The head librarian at Bard and her email address is here. Bard’s president has an email address here, and I’ll be writing to both of them. …

If anything should anger people, even if they’re woke, it’s this kind of implied censorship. Removing books from libraries is just as bad as burning them: it removes access to the WRONG IDEAS.

Let Bard hear from you if you see this as an especially egregious violation of free speech and academic freedom.

Indeed. If it’s happening at Bard, it’s happening elsewhere, or it soon will. Be vigilant! Publicize this. Take back our libraries from these totalitarians.

UPDATE: A riff on the Bard story appears in the Substack newsletter of journalist David Rieff, a man of the Left whose father, Philip, wrote The Triumph of the Therapeutic, which, as you know, is a canonical text of this blog:

Thus, the radical librarian Sofia Leung writes that what is wrong with libraries is that they are mostly filled with books, archives, paneers, etc. “written by white dudes about white ideas =, white things, or ideas, people, and things they stole from People of Color and then claimed as white property.

One thing to be said for Leung is that she has the courage of her fanaticism. “Libraries filled with mostly white collections,” she writes, “indicates that we don’t care to hear from People of Color themselves, we don’t consider People of Color to be scholars, we don’t think People of Color are as valuable, knowledgeable, or as important as white people.”

This view only coheres if you believe that a scholar writing on physics or geology, say, is not really writing about these subjects but writing out of and in the interests of their race. Libraries, in Leung’s view, are not sites of knowledge, but rather, as she puts it, “sites of whiteness.” She does further: “library collections continue to promote and proliferate white with their very existence and the fact that they are” – I am not making this up – “taking up space in our libraries.”

In this vision, all knowledge is racialized. For Leung libraries as presently constitute are a reifications of White Supremacy. The fact that some of the greatest libraries in the history of the world have been in the Islamic world and in China and Japan does not detain Leung, anymore than the history of private property outside the Euro-American world seems to have detained Harris. Leung even puts “knowledge,” ie the knowledge to be found in US libraries, in inverted commas. The “authoritative” is a bogus category in this view – a way of maintaining White Supremacy.

In short, the binary of white and non white is what really matters, and – one assumes – until there is equity, Leung and those who think as she does will keep insisting that knowledge as a category does indeed need to be kept in quotation marks. Only someone schooled in the therapeutic understanding could possibly believe this. And that’s the problem: the therapeutic is, as I have written before, the lingua franca of contemporary America, and, indeed, of the entire Anglosphere. In this Leung’s view is, as the old saying goes, as American as apple pie.

I am encouraged that actual left-wing intellectuals like David Rieff and Jerry Coyne are speaking out about this atrocity.

leave a comment

Disinformation, Theirs And Ours

Just because Vladimir Putin says it doesn't make it incorrect (Source)

The US State Department issued today a list of Top Five examples of Russian disinformation narratives. Among them:

Theme #3: “The Collapse of Western Civilization is Imminent”

Russia pushes the false claim that Western civilization is collapsing and has strayed from “traditional values” because it works to ensure the safety and equality of LGBTQI+ people and promotes concepts such as female equality and multiculturalism. The demise of Western civilization is one of Russia’s oldest disinformation tropes, with claims of “the decaying west” documented since the 19th century.

This “values”-based disinformation narrative evokes ill-defined concepts including “tradition,” “family values,” and “spirituality.” Russia argues it is the bastion of so-called “traditional values” and gender roles and serves as a moral counterweight to the “decadence” of the United States and Western countries. For example, President Putin has claimed the West has practically cancelled the concepts of “mother” and “father,” and instead has replaced them with “parent 1 and 2,” while Foreign Minister Lavrov wrote that Western students “learn at school that Jesus Christ was bisexual.”

Well, I don’t know that Western students are learning at school that Jesus Christ was bisexual, but attendees at a London conference on “queer theology” learned from this Baptist pastor that Jesus self-transgendered:

It is certainly true that the USSR was constantly on about the “decadent” West, in its propaganda, and I don’t see that Russia, with its poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, kleptocratic politics, and collapsing population, is any kind of model civilization. That said, you have to be deep in a Blue State bubble not to see the West as truly decadent today.

Religion has collapsed in Europe, and is collapsing in the US. We are raising a generation that doesn’t know what a man and a woman are. Our young men are addicted to porn, and are struggling to form relationships. Our institutions are in the grips of left-wing ideologues who behave like Soviet commissars, and who don’t give a damn about quality and performance, only meeting ideological goals. Drug abuse is soaring. Crime in the cities is out of control. Marriages are declining. Economic inequality is getting worse and worse. People are afraid to say what they think out of fear of being fired or punished. The leaders of our country, in both public and private life, pursue ideological goals that are training Americans to hate their own history, and to loathe and mistrust each other on the basis of race. Even our military is being shot through with woke ideology.

We are a sick, sick society, even if Russia says so. Here’s the final item on the State Department list:

Theme #5:  Reality is Whatever the Kremlin Wants It to Be

The Kremlin frequently tries to create multiple false realities and insert confusions into the information environment when the truth is not in its interests.  Often intentionally confusing, Russian officials make arguments designed to try to shift the blame away from the Russian government’s role, even if some of the narratives contradict one another.  However, in time, presenting multiple conflicting narratives can itself become a technique intended to generate confusion and discourage response. Other elements in Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem, such as the abuse of state-funded disinformation outlets and weaponized social media, help push multiple false narratives.

It was clear to the world, for example, that Russia attempted to assassinate former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury, England, on March 4, 2018.  In the four weeks following that incident, Russian state-funded and directed outlets RT and Sputnik disseminated 138 separate and contradictory narratives via 735 articles, according to the Policy Institute at King’s College London.

Russia has used the same technique of flooding the information space with many false claims following other events, such as the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and Russia’s 2008 invasion and ongoing occupation of Georgia, to distract conversations from their role in the events.  Again, the purpose is to confuse and distract others and manipulate the truth to suit Kremlin interests.

They’re right: Russia lies about what it does. But come on, the official ideology of the US Government and all the major institutions in American life requires us all to pretend that a person who possesses male chromosomes and male genitalia is a woman, if that person claims to be. Do I really have to sit here and list all the lies that the US Government and the American establishment expects us all to believe are an accurate representation of reality?

Russia should keep its hands off of Ukraine, but I don’t have to believe the b.s. put out by my own government in order to oppose a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

leave a comment

The Left: ‘All Your Kids Are Belong To Us’

Melissa Harris-Perry

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Progressive commentator Melissa Harris-Perry, in an MSNBC ad:

There’s your bright red line, people. Terry McAuliffe said that parents have no business passing judgment on what their kids are taught at school. This is what so many on the Left believe: that it is their role to liberate children from the troglodytic beliefs of their parents.

They want our kids for themselves. Don’t you get it?

I think this fall, Republican candidates should just run this MSNBC clip over and over, and at the end, just add the slogan: “Had enough? Vote Republican.”

UPDATE: Hello all, I had to spend all the afternoon and evening traveling, and I only just got Internet. I have learned that this Melissa Harris-Perry spot is from 2013. Obviously it might not represent what she thinks today, so I apologize to her if by quoting it, I falsely represented her views today. The clip was massively shared on Twitter yesterday, and it’s worth considering why it sounded plausible and current: because we are watching right now, in real time, in suburban Virginia and elsewhere, the educational establishment — the progressive wing at least, but perhaps I’m being redundant — behave as if they believe that MHP spoke the truth.

Still, I wish I had known this was a 2013 clip. I still would have cited it, because I believe it shows what many on the Left really do believe about kids and parents, but I would have specified its date.

leave a comment

Soft Totalitarian Canada

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, the huggable totalitarian (Source)

Fascinating letter from a Canadian-born reader, who gives me permission to publish it. I met him last year in my travels:

I was born in Canada and spent my early years in Canada before moving to the USA in the mid-1990s. I did a political science and law degree in Canada before I moved to the US (where I then got a US law degree). Another interesting “fun fact” about me is that my mom and dad first met at one of the notorious Indian Residential School. They met there and only stayed a few months because they couldn’t stand it, and ended up getting married, etc., etc. We as kids all knew about the Indian residential schools because my parents told us.

Anyway, when I read about this new Canadian law on “conversion therapy” I had two reactions. First, the connection between this new law and Canada’s sordid history with the Indian Residential Schools, and second, the difference in constitutional law protections afforded Canadians and Americans, and how dangerously close the US is to following Canada.

As you may know, the Indian Residential Schools went from the late 1800s through the 1960s. The government wanted to stamp out Indian culture and so forcibly took Indian children and put them into church-run residential schools where they would be westernized and Christianized. Although these were never a secret, they did burst into the public mind sometime around 2008 (though I wasn’t living in Canada at the time and don’t quite remember what led to this).

Then last year, when it was reported that a mass grave was uncovered on the grounds of a former school, it brought the issue up again (see update below). I noted that the Canadian Left, including PM Justin Trudeau, encouraged placing all the blame and anger on the shoulders of the Church. Over the past few years I have more closely followed Canadian sources again and noticed the tremendous hostility last year towards the Church on Canadian discussion forums over this residential school issue. (An aside – Vancouver in the 1990s was more hostile to Christianity than California is today. When I was applying to law firms in Vancouver in 1995, my dad had me meet with a lawyer friend/colleague of his. I had on my resume that I had gone to a religious high school and had a Masters degree from a graduate theological school. This lawyer looked over my resume and told me very frankly “you need to delete anything that identifies you as a Christian on your resume because that will immediately disqualify you from consideration at almost every law firm in town.” Understand that this lawyer was a friendly atheist who knew the legal culture of Vancouver – he wasn’t a Christian imagining persecution around every corner. That was in the 1990s and has gotten far worse today.)

Back to the Canadian response to the residential schools, I have found it interesting that all the blame and anger have been placed exclusively on the Church, and nothing on the government. Someone without any background knowledge would think that the residential school thing was exclusively about the churches kidnapping Indian children, with the government having no role whatsoever. Nobody is wrestling with what the government’s or society’s role in all of this was, and I think that is telling.

I think that in order to really understand the residential school tragedy, you need to understand that the driving impetus behind these policies was progressivism (I refer here to the ideal of Western progress). The role of the churches in all this was to support societal progressivism. If you could map the ideals that led to residential schools to contemporary ideals, they would map to the Woke corporate progressivism of today rather than traditional Christianity. The ideal behind residential schools was to remove children from a traditional society that was resistant to the “progressive Western liberalism” of the time, in an attempt to make them interchangeable cogs in the Western industrial regime. Residential schools were anti-tradition, and pro-progressivism.

The proper lesson that we should learn from the residential schools is the danger of progressives forcibly taking children from traditionalist parents under government fiat, so that the children can be inculcated into progressive ideology. And yet, in the midst of the supposed self-reflection on the residential school tragedy, we have the Canadian Left -both media and government – pushing this law, and others, that empower government progressives to take children away from traditionalist parents so that they can be inculcated into progressive sexual ideology. In my view, this “conversion therapy” law, and other legal developments in Canada, is basically Indian Residential Schools 2.0. So that’s my first point.

I just saw this earlier today after I wrote the above. https://thefederalist.com/2022/01/19/not-one-corpse-has-been-found-in-the-mass-grave-of-indigenous-children-in-canada/ This is a Federalist article and so I would like to see other sources confirm, but I found this to be really interesting. Last year, when the supposed mass grave was first reported, the headlines were about the mass grave that was discovered, that it was expected that many more would be discovered, and this all pointed to genocide, and that it was all the Church’s fault. You and I both know what was meant to be implied here – “mass graves” and “genocide” were meant to whip up an emotional response. But, for those who dug deeper into the story, it was made clear that the “genocide” being referred to was “cultural” genocide, and the “mass graves” were really just graves where students who died from diseases, etc., were buried. Now, I am not suggesting that there weren’t serious problems, BUT you will agree that there is a VAST difference between “cultural genocide” and careless disposed of natural deaths verses physical genocide and mass graves of murdered persons. The Left in Canada (and you need to understand that the CBC in Canada is not only extremely Woke and Leftist, they are also much closer to the governing Liberal party than even CNN or MSNBC is to the Democrats) used a deceptively framed tragedy to whip up hatred against the Church, and so destroy a bastion of tradition in Canada. They have just updated their Indian Residential School playbook – instead of attacking traditional Indian culture as their excuse to capture children, they are attacking traditional Christianity to capture children.

My second point has to do with the different legal environment in Canada, and how their “Charter of Rights and Freedoms” is worse than worthless, and how close the US is to following where Canada has gone. As a background, I did my BA in political science in Canada in the mid-1980’s just after Canada got its new Charter of Rights and Freedoms and I wrote multiple papers arguing AGAINST the Charter. I argued (rather prophetically I might say) that the Charter would actually turn out to be a NEGATIVE development for individual rights in Canada because it would give the APPEARANCE of protecting liberties and freedoms when it would actually do no such thing.

Prior to 1982, Canadians had no constitutional protection of their rights, and the political culture was such that Parliament needed to be carefully watched by the people to ensure rights were protected. In 1982, people were told that they no longer needed to worry because now the courts would protect everyone’s rights. Except that, as I knew, the process for appointing judges in Canada had no checks and balances, and I knew that the judiciary would be solid social liberals. My worst fears were rather quickly proven right when early Charter decisions saw the Canadian Supreme Court judges substitute their own preferences for the text and history of the Charter.

Along these lines, one development in the Canadian courts has been the emergence of the concept of “Charter values” as the true governing principles over and against the actual text of the Charter. You can read a bit about this here: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/november-2018/the-charter-of-rights-and-freedoms-and-values/. I believe that this was even made explicit in recent Court decisions that pitted actual freedom of speech and association (actually guaranteed by the text of the Charter) against gay rights (not mentioned in the text of the Charter and explicitly left out of the Charter based on legislative history documents). The “Charter values” of gay rights overrode the actual text of the Charter. What are “Charter values”? They are whatever the judges want them to be, and are basically the principles of Wokism.

There is another part of the Charter that says that the rights in it are subject to “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” The Courts have simply determined that Wokeness is the measuring stick of what can be so justified. This was made clear in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on whether a Christian university could have a law school (https://www.canadiancharitylaw.ca/blog/trinity_western_university_supreme_court_of_canada_decision/).

And so, because of these two aspects of Canadian constitutional law, if you are looking to see what rights and freedoms are actually protected in Canada, the text of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms won’t tell you. Rather, you need to probe the principles of Wokism, because Woke dogma will always override Constitutional principles. I don’t think that Americans realize how close the US is to this. Another point of interest to me – since COVID I have started following on Twitter a number of former leftist Democrats who have been horrified by the turn to COVID authoritarianism on the part of the Democratic Party. They have suddenly developed a new appreciation for those “wicked and nasty” conservative judges on the Supreme Court.

If you read the recent US Supreme Court decision on Biden’s vaccine mandate, you see the three liberal judges basically adopt the same approach that the Canadian courts have taken. They first decide what policy result they prefer (which is typically guided by Leftist policy preferences), and then rationalize that back into the “Constitution.” As someone who has been in law school and legal academia in both Canada and the US, I can tell you that this is one of the big differences between Leftist judicial/constitutional theory and conservative approaches. The Left always starts with the preferred policy, and then rationalizes that into the Constitution. Thus we see non-existent rights to abortion and gay marriage created out of whole cloth, and the Second Amendment disappeared into a memory hole.

This is why Leftist judges never go off the rails when it matters. In contrast, conservative judges generally (not always, but generally) will look to what the text of the Constitution says and then apply that to the question at hand – leading to situations in which judges uphold “bad” laws, or strike down “good” laws. I don’t think that most Americans realize how absolutely critical it has been to have conservative judges on the Supreme Court, even if we don’t always like the way they rule. And that’s not to say that some “conservative” judges haven’t at times taken the liberal route and created non-existent rights (cough, cough, Kennedy, cough, cough).

One last word on Canada. As a naturally born Canadian, it really grieves me to see how Canada has now turned into one of the most authoritarian and, indeed, totalitarian nation in the West. What is so sad is how docile the population has been. Growing up in Canada, we always looked down on those crazy non-conformist Americans. What a bunch of uncouth rubes we would think. Now that I have lived in the US and transferred my heart’s allegiance to the US, I thank God everyday for these non-conformist American rubes! And I shake my head at how compliant Canadians are.

There is so much to write, but Ben Woodfinden (maybe you follow him on Twitter or Substack) is a religious conservative who writes about Canada (he’s well worth a follow). He has suggested that the Liberal Party in Canada and its House Media (aka the CBC) have successfully established the Canadian “identity” as being “very progressive” in contrast to the “conservatism” that is right-wing America. Canadians like to be polite and to do what they are told. This is very true. And there is no contrary media in Canada — all media sources in Canada are overtly anti-Christian and progressive and hostility to Christianity and progressivism have been deemed to be foundational to Canadian identity.

What is strange to me is how docile Canadian Christians are about this. My parents in Canada are socially conservative Christians. They are elderly now, and not really able mentally to fully analyze this sort of thing now, but they both cling to the idea that Canada is like what it was in the 1980’s. When I discuss politics with my dad, I won’t get any reaction from him about Justin Trudeau’s anti-Christian authoritarianism, but he will go on and on about Trudeau’s personal corruption. My sister is what one would call a “progressive evangelical”, probably very similar to a Tish Harrison Warren (I am sure you know her). My sister would not agree with gender ideology being forced in schools. And yet, that issue and all of these anti-Christian/authoritarianism/totalitarianism issues have ZERO hold on her when she thinks on governments. For her, it’s all about whatever the latest crises or emergencies (i.e. progressive issues) that the CBC has declared to be the ushering in the End of the World, and which necessitate the giving of greater power over to the State.

Canadian readers, what say you?

leave a comment

Jordan Peterson Nukes Woke U. From Orbit

Jordan Peterson to the West: 'Do you want to live? Then DEI must DIE.' (Source)

Jordan Peterson nukes the University of Toronto from orbit, explaining why he has quit his tenured position there. Excerpts:

First, my qualified and supremely trained heterosexual white male graduate students (and I’ve had many others, by the way) face a negligible chance of being offered university research positions, despite stellar scientific dossiers. This is partly because of Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity mandates (my preferred acronym: DIE). These have been imposed universally in academia, despite the fact that university hiring committees had already done everything reasonable for all the years of my career, and then some, to ensure that no qualified “minority” candidates were ever overlooked. My students are also partly unacceptable precisely because they are my students. I am academic persona non grata, because of my unacceptable philosophical positions. And this isn’t just some inconvenience. These facts rendered my job morally untenable. How can I accept prospective researchers and train them in good conscience knowing their employment prospects to be minimal?

Second reason: This is one of many issues of appalling ideology currently demolishing the universities and, downstream, the general culture. Not least because there simply is not enough qualified BIPOC people in the pipeline to meet diversity targets quickly enough (BIPOC: black, indigenous and people of colour, for those of you not in the knowing woke). This has been common knowledge among any remotely truthful academic who has served on a hiring committee for the last three decades. This means we’re out to produce a generation of researchers utterly unqualified for the job. And we’ve seen what that means already in the horrible grievance studies “disciplines.” That, combined with the death of objective testing, has compromised the universities so badly that it can hardly be overstated. And what happens in the universities eventually colours everything. As we have discovered.

All my craven colleagues must craft DIE statements to obtain a research grant. They all lie (excepting the minority of true believers) and they teach their students to do the same. And they do it constantly, with various rationalizations and justifications, further corrupting what is already a stunningly corrupt enterprise. Some of my colleagues even allow themselves to undergo so-called anti-bias training, conducted by supremely unqualified Human Resources personnel, lecturing inanely and blithely and in an accusatory manner about theoretically all-pervasive racist/sexist/heterosexist attitudes. Such training is now often a precondition to occupy a faculty position on a hiring committee.

He goes on to talk about how this crackpot mentality is destroying our society’s capabilities. More:

And if you think DIE is bad, wait until you get a load of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) scores . Purporting to assess corporate moral responsibility, these scores, which can dramatically affect an enterprise’s financial viability, are nothing less than the equivalent of China’s damnable social credit system, applied to the entrepreneurial and financial world. CEOs: what in the world is wrong with you? Can’t you see that the ideologues who push such appalling nonsense are driven by an agenda that is not only absolutely antithetical to your free-market enterprise, as such, but precisely targeted at the freedoms that made your success possible? Can’t you see that by going along, sheep-like (just as the professors are doing; just as the artists and writers are doing) that you are generating a veritable fifth column within your businesses? Are you really so blind, cowed and cowardly? With all your so-called privilege?

And it’s not just the universities. And the professional colleges. And Hollywood. And the corporate world. Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity — that radical leftist Trinity — is destroying us. Wondering about the divisiveness that is currently besetting us? Look no farther than DIE. Wondering — more specifically — about the attractiveness of Trump? Look no farther than DIE. When does the left go too far? When they worship at the altar of DIE, and insist that the rest of us, who mostly want to be left alone, do so as well. Enough already. Enough. Enough.

One more quote — a Live Not By Liespoint:

Finally, do you know that Vladimir Putin himself is capitalizing on this woke madness? Anna Mahjar-Barducci at MEMRI.org covered his recent speech. I quote from the article’s translation: “The advocates of so-called ‘social progress’ believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the flags, as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs, and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion, and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones — all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs.

“This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices — which we, fortunately, have left, I hope — in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past — such as Shakespeare — are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood, memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what color or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.”

This, from the head of the former totalitarian enterprise, against whom we fought a five decades’ long Cold War, risking the entire planet (in a very real manner). This, from the head of a country riven in a literally genocidal manner by ideas that Putin himself attributes to the progressives in the West, to the generally accepting audience of his once-burned (once (!)) twice-shy listeners.

Read it all. It is straight, cleansing fire, with a conclusion worthy of Solzhenitsyn.

It is time to take a stand. This ideology — wokeness, DEI (DIE!), whatever you want to call it — is destroying us. As N.S. Lyons wrote earlier this week, it is going to take a long time, and an immense effort, to rid ourselves of it, because it has embedded itself within institutions, and networks of institutions. The only thing we have on our side is Truth, and sanity, and the courage of leaders like Jordan B. Peterson.

Be like JBP. Live not by lies! Resist!

By the way, if you’d rather watch Jordan Peterson reading this article aloud, here you go:

leave a comment

Ukraine: Once More, Into The Breach

Vladimir Putin, who is not playing around (TASS)

I don’t have a lot to add to the discussion over what the US should do if Russia attacks Ukraine. My basic beliefs have not changed:

  1. Russia should not launch a war on Ukraine
  2. Russia’s demand that NATO exclude membership to Ukraine and Georgia is legitimate and sensible
  3. The US would be foolish to involve itself militarily in any conflict between Russia and Ukraine

Here’s an analysis that flopped across the transom this morning from John Schindler, the former National Security Agency analyst and former Naval War College professor, who published it on his Substack newsletter. I found these excerpts to be especially interesting. Schindler really lays in to Western politicians and national security elites who claim to be flabbergasted by Putin’s hostile moves against Ukraine:

Moreover, the Kremlin strongman has been admirably forthright about his aims regarding Ukraine. For years, Putin’s public statements have indicated that he does not consider Russia’s neighbor to be a bona fide country, rather an extension of Russia, no more than a “region,” while his comments last summer, including a detailed pseudo-historical tract complete with Orthodox mysticism expounding Putin’s view that Russia and Ukraine are inextricably linked, left no doubt to anyone paying attention that the Kremlin was prepared to act by any means necessary to keep Kyiv far away from NATO and the West.

The signs have been there 15 years, flashing brightly. Putin’s anger at NATO and especially the United States over Alliance expansion into the post-Soviet space burst into the public domain at the Munich Security Conference in early 2007 where the Russian leader unleashed a broadside aimed at the West. Putin’s fiery speech attacked NATO expansion, accusing the Alliance of putting “its frontline forces on our borders,” criticizing America’s “unipolar” dominance over the world, while condemning Washington’s “almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations.”

… In September 2013, Putin made his feelings towards the West transparent in his speech to the Valdai Club in Moscow, including the reminder, “Russia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity are unconditional. These are red lines no one is allowed to cross,” while casting Russia’s rising conflict with the West in spiritual as much as political terms. Putin portrayed himself and his regime as conservatives trying to protect Russia from the West’s progressive cultural pollution. As he stated:

Another serious challenge to Russia’s identity is linked to events taking place in the world. Here there are both foreign policy and moral aspects. We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan.

Putin’s describing the postmodern West as the enemies of God, in league with the Devil, got less attention abroad than it merited, no doubt in part because Western elites are highly secular and feel uncomfortable discussing religious matters of any kind. Western experts, however, could not ignore it when, at virtually the same time as Putin’s unleashed his Valdai Club speech, Obama abandoned his own “red line” in Syria, offering a needless gift to Moscow. It’s never a good idea to show weakness towards a career Chekist, and the Kremlin took Obama’s move as a green light elsewhere, as I predicted at the time, with a colleague. Just a few months later, Putin unleashed his aggressive war against Ukraine, of which the current crisis is merely an extension. Again, Western experts acted shocked and disappointed by such brazen Russian smash-and-grab behavior.

Why on earth such “experts” are surprised, in 2022, after a decade-and a-half of Putin’s angry rhetoric aimed at the West, followed by his repeated acts of aggression against Russia’s neighbors, constitutes an important question. Answering it is relatively simple if you possess the fortitude to face depressing answers.

More:

To such elites, all of whom fall on the spectrum of Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic, WEIRD for short, Putin represents an atavism whose motivations they cannot understand. The Kremlin strongman adheres to a distinctly throwback view of international relations where the use of force is normal, and countries protect their national interests unapologetically, with all the instruments of national power. Putin’s wholehearted embrace of religiously-infused nationalism, which boasts a venerable history in Russia, leaves WEIRDs befuddled yet has real resonance among average Russians. Western doubts that the former KGB man has “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” miss the point, but then the West has never understood Russian Orthodoxy very well. No matter what Putin really believes, his public embrace of religiously-grounded national conservatism provides his regime with an ideological anchor, one which happens to view Ukraine’s subservience to Russia as a spiritual as well as geostrategic necessity.

Read it all.

As you know, I am an Orthodox Christian, one with friends from Ukraine, and friends from Russia. I see the Russia-Ukraine crisis as a horrible, and avoidable, fraternal catastrophe. Let me make it clear: I do NOT believe that Russia should invade Ukraine, nor do I believe that Ukraine should be in NATO. But if Russia does invade Ukraine, this is something that we in the West are going to have to live with. Why?

The most obvious answer is because it would be insane to go to war with Russia on behalf of a nation that is on Russia’s border, and has only been an independent country since the collapse of the USSR.

Another reason: because we have depleted ourselves with these foolish wars of choice in Iraq and Afghanistan. What would we fight them with? And where is the popular enthusiasm to wage another war, this one with an actual superpower?

A reason that Schindler gets, but many WEIRD Americans don’t: the religious nationalism angle. Russians see Ukraine as the cradle of Russian Orthodoxy. Russia dates its Christianity to the year 988, when Prince Vladimir, the ruler of Kievan Rus, accepted baptism. I cannot think of an analogy from American history, including American religious history, that can convey to American observers the emotional, psychological, and spiritual importance of Ukraine to Russians.

Schindler links to this must-read essay by Nikolas Gvosdev about the role that Russian Orthodoxy plays in Russian geopolitical thinking. Consider:

Yet I remain concerned that the U.S. national security establishment still lacks the comfort level for appreciating the role of religion, especially in its collective aspect, in matters of war and peace. This is nothing new—as this was a problem Robert Jervis identified as one of the principal reasons the U.S. intelligence community was blindsided by the Iranian revolution forty years ago. Academia largely views the question of religion through secularization theory and Marxist thought—religion as a “cover” for other political or economic motives. The American approach to religious matters, best epitomized by the various Evangelical denominations, stresses the primacy of the individual’s choice and relationship to the divine, and assumes that in the absence of individual commitment (e.g. if every Russian officer and scientist does not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior) then there is no religious factor at play—because the notion of adhering to a religious community and tradition as part of communal affiliation even in the absence of personal commitment is alien to the U.S. religious experience. Beyond these two general points, there are further blind spots when it comes to Russian Orthodoxy—and these are usually papered over by assuming that Orthodoxy is Protestantism with icons or Catholicism without the Pope.

Gvosdev discusses how Putin has recapitulated a very old religious-nationalist ideology that regards the State as the protector of Christianity. He concludes:

This pattern fits into the ideological tone of the Putin administration, in which pre-Soviet, imperial and Soviet legacies are all blended into a single narrative, where Reds and Whites, Orthodox and atheist, are all part of the same team, and whose goal is the preservation of the Russian state as a guardian of a critical spiritual and civilizational legacy which cannot be allowed to perish from the earth. The Russian defense establishment now has a clear purpose and a way to motivate its personnel. If we have truly entered a new era of great-power competition, every Russian has been given a clear rationale for why he fights—and if the narrative charted by Adamsky continues to gain strength and resilience, it will provide the Russian state with the justification for why it asks its people to bear new burdens.

This alarms me as an Orthodox believer, for the same reason Christian nationalism in the US does: because I fear it compromises the mission of the Church by making it a handmaiden to state power. Nevertheless, Gvosdev and Schindler are correct that Westerners — WEIRDoes — are incapable of imagining that other peoples are motivated by things that do not motivate them.

Besides, in the passage Schindler cites above, condemning the moral decadence of the West, I agree with Putin, and I am sure a lot of you do too. Yesterday, Military.com reported:

The Defense Department has quietly begun looking into how it can allow troops whose gender identity is nonbinary to serve openly in the military, three advocates familiar with the situation told Military.com.

The Pentagon has asked the Institute for Defense Analyses, or IDA, which operates federally funded research centers, to study the issue, said the advocates, one of whom requested anonymity to disclose a sensitive topic.

Someone who is nonbinary identifies as neither male nor female, often using “they” and “them” as their pronouns and marking their gender as “X” on forms that have that option.

It is unclear exactly how long the research has been going on, but SPARTA, an advocacy group for transgender troops, put researchers in touch with several nonbinary service members this month.

SPARTA President Bree Fram, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, likened the effort to the study the Pentagon asked Rand Corp. to conduct in 2015 before lifting the ban on transgender people serving in the military.

“Speaking with non-binary troops and defense officials to understand what regulation changes may be necessary is a great first step,” Fram said in a statement to Military.com. “We are hopeful this will allow non-binary individuals to serve authentically and realize their full potential in the military.”

Yeah, send those non-binary soldiers in to free Kiev from Russian troops. Good luck with that.

Many Russians, and many people in what we used to call Eastern Europe, look to the West as hopelessly decadent, and collapsing in on itself. They’re right. You don’t have to believe that Vladimir Putin is a good guy, or any kind of savior, or that Russia represents a model for the future, to recognize that Putin has correctly taken the measure of us. Do you want your son to fight to make Kyiv safe for Blue’s Clues Pride Parades? I didn’t think so. This kind of thing is what Western liberal democracy has degenerated into (“Blue’s Clues Pride Parades” being a condensed symbol for what the post-Christian globalist West has become). As Schindler writes:

Putin’s broader aim with the Ukraine crisis isn’t about Kyiv, it’s about showing NATO’s impotence while revealing America’s paralysis and decadence.

America’s elites, in both government and the private sphere, are making war on their own people who are insufficiently woke. Again, talk to conservatives in the military right now, or who have recently left the military, and ask them about their morale. Forgive this diversion, but it’s important: a reader e-mailed me this the other day:

A few days ago, I noticed a disturbing tweet by Representative Dan Crenshaw about preferential treatment and lowered standards in the Air Force Special Tactics selection course. Having sufficient background to be fairly confident in my understanding of the matter, I’ll place links to many of my sources here, here, here, here, and here.

 

The gist of the story is that the Air Force Special Tactics community encountered wokeness, but resistance in the lower ranks sparked a backlash.

 

In 2018, a Female Special Tactics Officer entered training for Special Tactics training, where she quit in the first week of dive training. She was then not selected for continued training.  In 2019, she returned and re-took the course, did not pass again, but higher leadership dictated her selection for Special Tactics Officer training. She then went through more training while continuing to quit. She quit in Dive training, but the leadership had her retake a more relaxed version of the course. She then quit in the solo land navigation portion of her tactical training.

She encountered the physical difference between highly athletic men and women tested to their limits. In one event, “She just physically couldn’t flip the tire,” the instructor said. “The team handed her a kettlebell and she just kind of walked behind the team for the rest of the iteration.” The officer herself reportedly wrote “ I believe the change in standards invalidated me with a majority of my team, . . . the cadre ‘rioted’ when they found out the PT test was changing back to lesser standards.” Despite her repeated desire to quit – Air Force Special Operations leadership would not allow her to find a different career path. Instead, she began working directly for the commander of Air Force Special Operations Command –where she wrote a report and Equal Opportunity Complaint resulting in investigation of everyone who interacted with her. Now, according to the memo, she will return again to re-take the Special Operations Course, with instructions from above, that she will graduate, whether or not she meets standards. As of now, an investigation into this matter is being conducted by the Air Force Inspector General.

 

What I want to elucidate, is how this episode is representative of how Wokeness often works, and how it was resisted.

 

First, the project to bring women into Air Force Special Tactics is a luxury project, not a pressing need. The raids that killed terrorist leaders Bin-Laden and Al-Bagdadi demonstrate the maturity and fine-tuned edge that Special Operations has honed, with countless unheralded missions successfully accomplished in our lifetime. There are no public examples of a failed mission that would only have succeeded had a female Air Force Special Tactics Officer been present. In other words, this is fixing what ain’t broke. That said, there is an argument to be made for women in Special Operations – South Korea has a female unit for low-profile operations, and women were needed to search and question women during raids in Muslim countries. That is not, however, the role of Air Force Special Tactics.

 

Second, this is a top-down project years in the making through both Democrat and Republican administrations. In 2013, the Obama-era Defense Department set a timeline of 2016 for women to join ground special operations forces. A female officer, who was not a special tactics officer, was placed second in command of most Special Tactics airmen. She was placed there “for the first wave of female operators”. The top general for Air Force Special Operations has clearly demonstrated by his actions that he is aware and pushing for this person to pass the special operations course.

 

Third, the project relies on lack of transparency and lies or near-lies about the nature of reality and objective facts. The first lie or obfuscation of reality is that standards will be gender-neutral and will not be lowered to accommodate women. In fact, the physical standards were lowered just before the female officer arrived at the course. Her instructors all knew that her passing scores were failing scores before she arrived. The high physical standards for special operations are based on the objective needs of the mission – the need to carry heavy loads over rough terrain, the need to drag the wounded to safety, the need to swim long distances in rough seas. Lowering the passing scores does not change that. This is analogous to those failing schools where everyone graduates, but half the graduates cannot read – the scores are changed, not the underlying reality. Inherent physical performance differences between men and women mean that a standard lowered enough for sufficient women to pass may not be challenging for men. It risks turning Special Operations into Just Above Average Operations.

 

Fourth, the ramifications of such a project could result in serious damage to the national treasure that is SpecOps. Imagine the small community of rank and file Special Tactics Airmen knowing that their leader cannot physically lead from the front, and that she was willing to charge her instructors with discrimination. In other words, what should be a trusting, close-knit family forged from shared experience will become a unit without trust or mutual respect where it’s best to watch what you say and think. The rank and file must imagine if this is the lengths to which leadership is willing to take to get the demographic results wanted, how much further will this trend go? Will selection mostly be a matter of quota and not a measure of individual character?

 

Most importantly, however, a few people have been willing to not live by lies. The memo writer was willing to blow the whistle, knowing that in all likelihood he would be discovered and his career ended. This story, with its overtones of double standards, favoritism, and wokeness, appeals to a sense of injustice – and more importantly, the discussion is still based in objective reality. It was championed by a politician, Dan Crenshaw, with a stake in that community. News organizations have not stifled the issue – with the Air ForceTimes in particular, being able to find sources and credible information to back up the whistleblower. Quite simply, regardless of the outcome, it is important to stand up for reality.

The WEIRDoes who run the show — including at the Pentagon — believe that America is so strong that it can bend reality to fit WEIRD dogmas. They are about to learn the limits of American and Western power, in Ukraine. I hope and pray that the Russians will stand down, and will not invade Ukraine. I suspect that Finlandization of Ukraine is the best real-world outcome we can hope for: one in which Ukraine maintains most of its independence, but cannot allow itself to be drawn into a pro-NATO, anti-Russia stance.

To wrap up, I find it so difficult to grasp why so many liberals and conservatives are eager to fight with nuclear-armed Russia over Ukraine. Ukraine, which is adjacent to Russia, vital to the Russian nation’s sense of itself, and which has been part of Greater Russia for centuries. What is our vital national interest in this conflict, such that we risk war with Russia? I cannot stand this idea that if you don’t favor war with Putin’s Russia, then you must be a pro-Putin appeaser (rather than someone who tries to examine soberly American strengths, weaknesses, and interests). Have we Americans learned nothing from the last twenty years?

Do you people not remember how the government and the media manufactured consent for this pointless war on Iraq? I remember what it was like twenty years ago, in January 2022, when the Cathedral was building support for an American war on Iraq. I honestly thought that the only reason anybody would be opposed to that was that they were ignorant, or cowardly. I was a fool. There is no excuse at all for any of us Americans to be fools for war today.

leave a comment

The Brilliance Of Monasphère

Damien Thomas (left) and Charles Wattebled, founders of Monasphère

Last summer, when I was in Paris on a book tour, I had coffee with two young Catholic entrepreneurs, Damien Thomas and Charles Wattebled. They are businessmen who, in conjunction with their investor colleague Pierre-Edouard Sterin, were in the process of launching a project called Monasphère, a creative attempt to live out the Benedict Option. The idea is brilliant: they are trying to make it possible in practical ways for Catholic families who want to live near monasteries to make the move. As they explained to me that morning, they already had about a thousand families on their list, and had the cooperation of a number of monasteries around France. I was thrilled to hear it all. This is the kind of thing I dreamed about when I wrote The Benedict Option.

Well, they must be doing a great job, because I just did an interview with Le Figaro for a story the largest French daily is doing on the project. It caused me to go to the Monasphère website to see how they’ve progressed. Y’all, if you have a Chrome browser, it will translate the site into English for you. It’s incredible. I’m going to quote from it below, in the Chrome translated version.

From the mission page:

At Monasphere, we took the time to meet and question nearly 1,000 people, both individuals and organizations, to better understand their aspirations. Their desire to deploy a simpler way of life and resolutely focused on the essentials won us over: 62% of them aspire to settle near spiritual places located outside the big cities!
To meet their expectations, we founded Monasphere, the first company to design and carry out real estate projects near spiritual places in extra-urban areas, for individuals and organizations.

In 2021, half of the French population lives in large cities. However, many of us aspire to a better life balance: 54% of Ile-de-France residents want to leave their region as soon as possible. This growing trend is particularly notable among Catholics: nearly 80% want to reconnect in one way or another with rurality and get closer geographically to Christian spiritual places.

Monasphere is committed to this dynamic and supports the deployment of these projects, by designing suitable real estate offers near spiritual places in extra-urban areas .

Our projects combine a fully autonomous private life, fraternal neighborhood with other Christian families and anchoring within a territory, for a true relational and spiritual ecology.

Monasphere acts in a spirit of communion with monastic, religious or priestly communities, at the service of the common good, with public authorities and territories. Our ambition is to allow the deployment of 100 living spaces on a human scale in the next ten years.

You are the first and the main player in your life-changing project!

Monasphere works alongside you to help you make it happen.

The Monasphere team,
Charles, Pierre-Edouard and Damien

Here are the monasteries and other collaborators in the program:

Take a look at this page on the site: it shows you the properties that are listed as part of Monasphere, and helps you find what you’re looking for. And here are the reasons they offer to choose Monasphere:

Charles and Damien are providing the necessary link between the Benedict Option concept and its realization. Sometimes I get complaints from people who want to know why I haven’t built any Ben Op projects. Leaving aside the particular challenges of living where I do, and being a communicant of a very tiny church, the greater challenge is that I am a terrible organizer. I am pretty good when it comes to ideas, but the execution? I’m awful. Monasphere shows what can happen when Christians who buy into the vision apply their practical skills to making it possible for families to make it work.

We can’t have Monasphere in the US, at least not in the same way as the French can, because we don’t have many monasteries. But we do have some! The Clear Creek project out in rural eastern Oklahoma is an American example. I hope, though, that Americans who like the Benedict Option idea, and who have organizational skills, can draw inspiration from Monasphere, and figure out how to do something similar fit to American realities.

Again, here is the Monasphère website. Charles and Damien really are wonderful, modest, faithful Christians, and practical visionaries. To sit with them at a cafe and hear them talk about their faith, and their hopes for Monasphere, is to be filled with hope.

UPDATE: Heard from Damien Thomas, who would like me to put a link to more information about the first Monasphere “village” in L’Île-Bouchard: click here to see the properties available, and tour them via 3D. If you would like to be in touch with the Monasphere team, write them at: contact@monasphere.fr

My interview about Monasphere appeared this morning on the Figaro website. It’s in French, but if you browse with Chrome, it will translate automatically. A counter-piece ran from someone named Laurent Chalard, who criticizes Monasphere as an example of the “Americanization” of France. I did not realize until reading Chalard that this first Monasphere housing project has been built in a rural town that is declining. The Monasphere team is trying to revitalize French village life, which is dying, by doing as Pope Francis said, and “going to the peripheries.” But this offends Chalard, a devout French republican. Excerpt from the Chrome translation:

If we should not draw hasty conclusions from a case which will perhaps have no future if it does not prove to be successful, the fact remains that it reflects the influence more and more significant within French companies of Anglo-Saxon marketing models, which are based on a segmented vision of the population, leading to the offering of special offers dedicated to certain clienteles, including in the field of housing. Indeed, across the Atlantic, living with people who look like you is the norm and is one of the selling points of a property. It is not so much a question of living in a place because it is beautiful, pleasant, lively… But, first of all, we favor to a very high degree the profile of our neighbors, the objective being to meet only similar people. 

This territorial compartmentalization is reflected on the political level by increasingly irreconcilable positions on a large number of social issues between populations who do not mix and therefore do not speak to each other, sharing diametrically opposed values. All-out communitarianism ends up destroying national cohesion, membership in a “tribe” outweighing the sharing of collective values. This is one of the explanatory factors, among others, of the deep division of American society, the pros and anti-Trumps living in different societies with divergent interests within the same state. 

This territorial compartmentalization is reflected on the political level by increasingly irreconcilable positions on a large number of social issues between populations who do not mix and therefore do not speak to each other, sharing diametrically opposed values. All-out communitarianism ends up destroying national cohesion, membership in a “tribe” outweighing the sharing of collective values. 

This is one of the explanatory factors, among others, of the deep division of American society, the pros and anti-Trumps living in different societies with divergent interests within the same state. This territorial compartmentalization is reflected on the political level by increasingly irreconcilable positions on a large number of social issues between populations who do not mix and therefore do not speak to each other, sharing diametrically opposed values. All-out communitarianism ends up destroying national cohesion, membership in a “tribe” outweighing the sharing of collective values. This is one of the explanatory factors, among others, of the deep division of American society, the pros and anti-Trumps living in different societies with divergent interests within the same state.

Well, let’s begin by stipulating that I know as much about the French social and demographic situation as Chalard does about the American one. American readers, does his description of the root of American social division ring true to you? It is certainly the case that Americans have been sorting themselves for some time, but I would argue that the division in housing patterns — which he exaggerates — is not the cause of social division, but the reflection of it.

If you are like me, you live in an ordinary subdivision, but you don’t know many, if any, people who live there. We didn’t choose to live in this neighborhood because we would find conservative Christians here. I have no idea what the people who live here believe. We bought this house six years ago because it was affordable, and the neighborhood seemed safe and convenient. We Americans are certainly divided, but the idea that we are split because we sort ourselves by housing patterns is to confuse cause and effect. Remember, I lived for five years in New York City, very much as a social minority (conservative Christian). I loved it, but that was almost 25 years ago, and I would not do it now because America has changed, and I perceive that the liberal majority there would be far more hostile to people like me than they once were, and because the general ethos of our society has changed, and I would not want my kids growing up in a place where the majority believes as liberal New Yorkers do.

I perfectly understand that a liberal New Yorker may wish to avoid living in deep Red America for the same reasons. I respect that. Our children are not to be sacrificed for the sake of a small-r republican, small-d democratic, abstraction.

Besides, who is Chalard kidding? Everybody knows that France’s poor Arab and African populations are housed in big-city suburban ghettos. Is he criticizing them for being anti-republican? Does France really have the kind of social solidarity that M. Chalard idealizes?

In truth, it is perfectly normal for people to want to live around those who are like themselves. This is human nature, and though it could express itself in a negative way, it need not. I asked the Monasphere guys about this when I spoke with them last summer. They do not want their clients to be a closed-off commune, and have not designed their projects to be such. They see these communities in part as evangelistic efforts, in which French Catholics live in community, embedded within wider communities, and seek to know and serve their neighbors. What’s wrong with that?

The truth is, if Christians continue to live dispersed in post-Christian (and in some cases anti-Christian) communities, without the support of Christian fellowship, and without being able to raise kids in a habitus conducive to Christian life and formation, the chances of passing the faith along to the next generation are quite diminished. I would rather be a faithful Christian than a good American, if being a “good American” means living in a way that is likely to assimilate my family out of their faith. The same must be true in France.

Besides, it would seem to me no bad thing at all for people to move out to a dying rural town and try to revitalize it. Is the problem here the fact that they are Catholics?

In America, our divisions have far more to do with the effect of the Internet and social media, and the news media in general, heightening those divisions. We American conservatives know all too well what the Left means by “diversity”: total ideological conformity with the principles of the Left, but with a superficial sense of ethnic diversity. You can be any color or gender you like, as long as you think like everybody else. “Diversity” in America is a sham. I wonder if it’s like that in France.

leave a comment

Wokeness Is (Almost) Forever

A lot of conservatives are excited to think that the Woke have gone too far, and are going to reap a bitter harvest in the fall election. While I certainly hope for Republican victories, and believe that we should fight the Woke at every opportunity, it is beyond delusional to think that this is just a passing fad. One of the best Substack newsletters out there is The Upheaval, written by an analyst who uses the pseudonym N.S. Lyons. Today’s issue is the blackest of blackpills. Lyons explains why we are going to be fighting against the Woke Revolution for many years to come. Lyons cites a raft of conservative columns and op-eds speculating that the End of Wokeness draws nigh. Wrong! He writes:

One would think that by now all these anti-woke conservatives and moderate liberals would have learned at least some of the bitter lessons from the last decade about how political power and cultural change actually work, but I guess not. They could have taken note of all the fundamental factors driving this ideological belief system, all of which had to be painstakingly uncovered, layer by layer, even as it swept through every institution. But they have not. (Like, do they even read the pages and pages of erudite Substack anthropology on the topic? No?) They could have recognized by now that this is not a simple political issue with a political solution, but they have not.

Look, honestly I really didn’t want to have to do this. Come the New Year I had resolved to focus on the positives and all that crap. But I haven’t seen anyone else do it, so guess I have no choice and the duty falls to me to deliver the pessimistic news: no, the Revolution is far from over.

So, in what might also serve as a handy tour guide to the vast depths of the ideological abyss, catalogued at length here – in convenient listicle format! – are twenty reasons to get woke and despair.

Here are a few of my favorite ones. Lyons constructs his argument in such a way that one point follows from the previous one. I’m just going to quote the first four of his list, because you need to read them all in order to take in his argument:

1. One does not simply walk away from religious beliefs. What is called “Wokeness” – or the “Successor Ideology,” or the “New Faith,” or what have you (note the foe hasn’t even been successfully named yet, let alone routed) – rests on a series of what are ultimately metaphysical beliefs. The fact that their holders would laugh at the suggestion they have anything called metaphysical beliefs is irrelevant – they hold them nonetheless. Such as:

The world is divided into a dualistic struggle between oppressed and oppressors (good and evil); language fundamentally defines reality; therefore language (and more broadly “the word” – thought, logic, logos) is raw power, and is used by oppressors to control the oppressed; this has created power hierarchies enforced by the creation of false boundaries and authorities; no oppression existed in the mythic past, the utopian pre-hierarchical State of Nature, in which all were free and equal; the stain of injustice only entered the world through the original sin of (Western) civilizational hierarchy; all disparities visible today are de facto proof of the influence of hierarchical oppression (discrimination); to redeem the world from sin, i.e. to end oppression and achieve Social Justice (to return to the kingdom of heaven on earth), all false authorities and boundaries must be torn down (deconstructed), and power redistributed from the oppressors to the oppressed; all injustice anywhere is interlinked (intersectional), so the battle against injustice is necessarily total; ultimate victory is cosmically ordained by history, though the arc of progress may be long; moral virtue and true right to rule is determined by collective status within the oppression-oppressed dialectic; morally neutral political liberalism is a lie constructed by the powerful to maintain status quo structures of oppression; the first step to liberation can be achieved through acquisition of the hidden knowledge of the truth of this dialectic; a select awoken vanguard must therefore guide a revolution in popular consciousness; all imposed limits on the individual can ultimately be transcended by virtue of a will to power…

I could go on, but the real point is that these are faith-beliefs, and ones capable of wielding an iron grip on the individual and collective mind. And they have a strong civilizational resonance, because they are in fact not arbitrary but deeply rooted in a metaphysical struggle that effectively stretches to the very beginning of Western theological and philosophical thought. In other words, “Wokeness” is much more than just a political program. And that’s unlikely to change anytime soon, because…

2. The void of meaning still hasn’t been filled. I mean, did the gaping hole of meaning in people’s lives created by the uprooting forces of secular liquid modernity get resolved in some alternative way while we weren’t looking? You know, the spiritual void that this creepy chimeric faith-ideology and its romantic political crusades rushed to fill in the first place? Has there been some kind of genuine, organized religious revival? Has decadent nihilism stopped being the defining sentiment of the age? Did the young even become hyper-nationalists or revolutionary Marxist class-warriors instead? Have they found an alternative passionate heroic narrative to act out in some new Davos slide deck? No. And in fact, meanwhile, it also seems that…

3. Social atomization hasn’t reversed. It sure seems like the kind of robust communities, civic associations, and “little platoons” which once served to fortify society against the revolutionary (per Burke) and totalitarian (per Arendt) forces that thrive on atomization haven’t suddenly been rebuilt from the ground up. In fact even the most basic such unit, family formation, appears to be continuing to decline precipitously. And that may be because…

4. Atomization is probably the inevitable byproduct of liberal modernity. That is: liberalism made the autonomy of the individual its highest good. To maximize individual autonomy, the state therefore found itself obliged (being unable to resist claims that it must enforce an expanding array of rights) to exercise its power to help progressively liberate the individual from all limits and constraints, including from tradition, religion, geography, community, family, and nature itself. (This is certainly deserving of more argument than I have space to recap here; see “Four Big Questions for the Counter-Revolution” for a bit more.) Liberalism has thus acted as a centrifugal force, severing all the centripetal counter-forces that once kept individuals connected to recognizably human communities and launching them outward towards solitary orbits where they can drift cold and alone in their pods.

From this perspective it is more obvious why the amorphous ideology referred to as “Wokeness” so often seems mixed up and chaotically self-contradictory: it is the confused response to two opposite instincts. On the one hand it is actually a kind of anti-liberal reactionary movement, a blind, emotional scramble to grasp desperately for collectivism in the most basic, tribal sort of community seemingly still available: in identity groups, and in fixed racial identity in particular. But, on the other hand, it simultaneously attempts to continue embracing the boundless autonomy of individual choice as its most sacred principle, celebrating an individual’s right to self-define everything about themselves without limit, up to and including their own concept of material reality. (This cognitive dissonance has never been much more than an ideological speedbump, however – don’t get your hopes up.) And this hyper-individualism has now collided head first with the technological revolution, which increasingly positions itself as offering hope for the boundless potential necessary to escape from any natural limits whatsoever, including by fracturing any solid definition of what we once thought it meant to be human.

Read it all — and subscribe.Seriously, this is a terrific analysis. Oh, here’s one more:

10. All the institutional high ground is still occupied. Have the top universities already been retaken from the woke, or replaced? (No, one still imaginary university in Austin doesn’t count.) What about the elite finishing schools? The accreditation companies? Most mainstream news media? The social media companies? The publishing housesHollywood? The major foundations? The non-profits and the think tanks? The consulting and accounting companies? The investment banks? The NASDAQ? The digital service providers? The HR departments of the Fortune 500, and most of their boards? The law schools? The Bar Association? The permanent federal bureaucratic state? Heck, even Halliburton? No, at such a ludicrous suggestion the Cathedral merely echoes with the mocking laughter of the new woke high clerisy.

The hard truth is that we are living through radically transformative times. Wokeness, as Lyons discerns, is a response to the collapse of Christianity. In what I think is his best insight, Lyons points out that wokeness is a response to the failures of liberalism’s atomization and destruction of all the unchosen structures that made life livable and meaningful, and it is pursued most adamantly by people who still refuse to turn on the core of liberalism: radical individual autonomy.

I received this afternoon from a pastor friend a letter from one of his congregation. I can’t share it with you, though I might try to rephrase it to protect this writer’s identity. The pastor wrote me asking for my advice, because so much of what the congregant writes has to do with The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies. These are Red State people living through the collapse of Christianity, of society, and of the family. The Sexual Revolution, in the form of genderqueerness, is devastating her family. She wrote in great detail, and lamented that the churches aren’t saying much useful about any of this. She was begging for help. I need to think about what I’m going to say to my pastor friend, but I will tell you all this right now: if you are not now in a church where the leadership and the community are reading the signs of the times, and preparing themselves for what is here now, and what is to come, now is the time to find just such a church. And if your church is not that kind of place, by all means do whatever you can to make it one. The crisis is upon us now, and it is not going to go away anytime soon. Read N.S. Lyons, now and in the future.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

Wokeness is indeed forever, with these kinds of trends:

https://www.axios.com/youth-politics-polling-democrats-d8e7b368-15ca-48c7-8c27-29021b09670d.html?

Of course, trends can always reverse – they did before. But, since 2000, the 18-29 Left-Right gap has become a country-mile wide. It doesn’t even matter if voters, individually, aren’t Woke – if you vote for the people who espouse Wokeness and give it institutional power, is there a meaningful difference?

Voters can always become less left-wing with time. What concerns me is that this is the 18-29-year-old. If we were talking 18-22 (college-aged students), I’d be less concerned, but we’re talking about the entire cohort of adults under the age of 30. How much do people change their political views, anyway? And, as I said, it doesn’t matter what their views actually are. The problem is that they keep voting left-wing.

This is why I think we haven’t even seen the Left at its strongest yet. Our only hope is that age demographics will result in an increasingly older body politic and, in America, older voters = more right-wing voters. But, again, is there any chance today’s 18-29 will quit buying the Left’s utopianism?

 

 

leave a comment

Shock Poll On Conservatives & Family

New Gallup poll finds not even conservatives and regular churchgoers recognize how awful fatherlessness is (Source of image)

This caught my eye yesterday:

I went to the full Gallup story, and found this:

You people know me. You know that I’m a doom-and-gloomer. But this — this knocked me flat. Only 41 percent of self-described conservatives believe parents of children should marry. Only 45 percent of weekly churchgoers believe that. Only 28.5 percent of people overall believe that.

This is a catastrophe. It really and truly is. And it is as clear a sign as you can possibly want that we are no longer a Christian society. If you haven’t yet read Mary Eberstadt’s 2013 book How The West Really Lost God, now is the time. She discusses in depth the connections between religion and family stability. Here’s an interview with her from 2013 about the book’s thesis. Excerpts:

CWR: Your argument is essentially that faith and family make a double-helix and that traditional theories of secularization in which religious decline leads to the deterioration of the family are neglecting large pieces of the puzzle. Can you expand on this?

Eberstadt: The double-helix image is meant to signal a new idea: that family and faith are intricately connected, and that each requires the other to reproduce. That’s why times of family decline—like our own—are times of religious decline; and conversely, why times of religious flourishing are also times of family revival.

Let’s start with some uncontroversial facts that point toward just such a relationship. Married people are more likely to go to church than single people. Married people with children are significantly more likely to do so, especially if they’re men. Similarly, social science documents that across the world, the more religious you are, the more likely you are to have families of size; fertility and religiosity are tightly linked, any way the numbers are run.

The point is to ask why these things are so. It’s not satisfactory to answer by saying “well, that’s just what religious believers do.”

One new way of looking at these relationships is to see that there is something about living in families that inclines at least some people toward religiosity in general, and toward Christianity in particular. This fact is a hidden engine of both secularization in some circumstances, and religious revival in others.

More:

CWR: How then has the neglect of other Christian teachings on matters such as abortion, marriage, divorce, and homosexuality influenced secularization trends? Wouldn’t it make sense that as some Christian churches lighten up on these requirements, faith then becomes more appealing? 

Eberstadt: In the short run, we all want to be told that it’s fine to do whatever we choose. In the long run, though, the experiment of Christianity Lite generates insurmountable institutional problems of its own—including but not limited to the demographic one mentioned earlier.

Yet there’s another and perhaps deeper reason why trying to lighten up the Christian code hasn’t resulted in institutional success. The very strictness of the traditional code is part of what brings some human beings to the Church in the first place—because they believe that for all its demands, Christianity resonates with truth and human dignity in a way that pagan conceptions of humanity do not.

From the very beginning, after all, the Church has stood as a sign of contradiction for so many things that pagans could have and Christians couldn’t: infanticide, artificial contraception, abortion, and the rest. And from the very beginning, insistence on that strict code has not only made some people hate the Church (though of course it has). It’s also made other people love the thing, including some of the finest converts in history.

That’s why the attempt to have Christianity without the Christian code is a non-starter: because it ignores the fact that these currently unpopular yet perennially powerful teachings are among the most potent forces drawing people to the Church in the first place.

Note that Gallup finds that only a minority of weekly churchgoers believe that it is “very important” for couples with children to marry. We have lost the meaning of marriage, even among most professing American Christians. Because we have lost the meaning of marriage, we will also lose God, if Eberstadt is correct … and because we are losing God, we will continue to lose the meaning of marriage and family.

Someone on Twitter — I think it was Michael Brendan Dougherty — remarked about this that conservatives who are surprised by these numbers have ignored the reality of life among the white working and lower classes. That must be true. I am reminded of a visit I made back in 2013 to a conservative Evangelical college, which had invited me to give a speech about Little Way. In a small dinner with some professors before my talk, I asked them, as is my habit, what most concerns them about their students. One professor said: that they won’t be able to form stable families. I was genuinely shocked. How is that possible? I asked. This is a conservative Evangelical college. The professor answered, with tears in his eyes, “Because most of these kids have never seen one” — meaning a stable family.

That was the first clue I had about the bubble I live in as a conservative Christian. In this country, our religion is so lightly held, or so deformed, that even most Christians don’t perceive a vital connection between childbearing and marriage.

Why is that, do you suppose? The first thing that comes to mind for me is: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Sociologist Christian Smith warned us back in 2005 that the actual religion of American young people (and I would say not just the young) was a pseudo-Christian creed that did nothing more than baptize the pursuit of individual pleasure and happiness. Plus, if the Christian life is reduced to simply saying the sinner’s prayer, and arranging one’s emotions; or if it is reduced to simply showing up on Sunday — that is to say, if there is no rigorous formation and discipleship, and no understanding that to affirm Christian belief requires a change in behavior — then this is what you get.

Later today I’m going to write about re-reading Houellebecq’s 2015 novel Submission. People who haven’t read the novel think it’s about Islam taking over France. That’s not really it. It’s rather a novel about the total demoralization of the French people in the absence of religion. Houellebecq is not a believer, but he holds (with Auguste Comte, the atheist founder of sociology) that religious belief is required for a healthy, cohesive society. I’ll talk more about that in the post, but I just want to say here that the Gallup data seems to bolster Houllebecq’s prophetic insight that godlessness dooms a society to disintegration. In the novel, the French turn to Islam not because they are necessarily convinced of its truth claims, but because they are exhausted, and they want to survive. Again, I’ll talk about this in more detail in that later post.

I’ve talked in this space before about how mystifying it was to me to learn many years ago that after Rome’s collapse in the West, massive amounts of practical civilizational knowledge — e.g., how to build a roof, how to maintain a vineyard — was also lost. We are unlikely to lose the same kind of knowledge in our own civilization’s decline, because it is written down. But we are living through the widespread loss of a more basic kind of knowledge: the knowledge of how to form and maintain families, which is the only thing that gives us a future.

Sociologists have known for a long time that children raised in a two-parent home have far better life outcomes in general than those raised in single-parent homes. This is undeniable, though many, many educated people do deny it, because if it is true, then that has strong implications for the values of the Sexual Revolution. I have said for a long time that my fellow conservative Christians who blame gay marriage advocates for the decline of marriage are missing an important fact. Same-sex marriage was made widely acceptable because four decades of the Sexual Revolution had already destroyed society’s sense of marriage’s meaning, in particular its connection to childbearing and the future. And look, if Western society was so strong in the first place, the Sexual Revolution would not have conquered it so thoroughly. This is all in Philip Rieff, by the way, and more recently, in Carl Trueman’s great book The Rise And Triumph Of The Modern Self. 

As I explain in The Benedict Option, this catastrophe didn’t just fall on us out of the sky yesterday. It didn’t ambush us in the Sixties. It has been building for a very long time. Because it is the result of modern culture, it is not the kind of crisis that can be legislated away. Nevertheless, legislation has a role to play in saving ourselves as a civilization. Two of the greatest threats to the formation of stable families — and therefore to our civilization — are pornography, and gender theory (that is, the idea that gender has nothing to do with biology, and that one can choose one’s gender). Ban them. They are deadly poison.

However, I think this is unlikely to happen, at least not in the short term. So what do we do? This is why I wrote The Benedict Option. Nobody is going to come save us. We have to do this ourselves. We have to wake up, get out of our bubbles, and recognize the dire state of our civilization. And we have to form families, and communities, that valorize family formation, and practice a strongly familistic form of Christianity. There are no guarantees; the best we can do is grant our kids better odds. Idiotic trends like “platonic life partnerships” have to be stigmatized. As Jordan Peterson has said, marriage is not for the husband and wife; marriage is for the children. Again: this is a matter of civilizational survival. A society and a culture that is indifferent about marriage and family is a society and culture without a future.

You don’t have the power to turn an entire culture around. But you do have the power to influence your own family, and your own social circles. That is the purpose of the Benedict Option. In time, people will be ready for the Great Relearning — and those communities that have lived in such a way as to preserve the life-giving wisdom of traditional Christianity will be living examples of how to live right.

If not the Benedict Option, then what, conservative reader? Seriously, give us an answer. You can’t pass a law forcing people to marry, and stay married, and only to have children within marriage. People have to first recognize that as a good and necessary thing, and a good thing that they can achieve. As the Gallup poll shows, most of us Americans have lost this vision of both the goodness and the necessity of marriage as a precursor to childbearing. To learn more about the importance of prioritizing the natural family, check out thenaturalfamily.org. 

 

leave a comment

Chamath Tells An Ugly Truth

US venture capitalist billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya explaining why he doesn't give a damn about what China is doing to Uyghurs

All, I have been busy most of today online at a TAC editors’ planning retreat, and then did a Covid nap crash. Woke up, ate something, and am headed back to bed. I’m definitely on the mend, but holy cow, this stuff is not playing around. Before I sign out for the day, I wanted to say something about this:

Here’s a news story about the interview with billionaire investor (and co-owner of the Golden State Warriors) Chamath Palihapitiya. Excerpt:

About 15 minutes into the podcast, Calacanis pointed to the Biden administration’s steps to curb and address China’s sweeping human rights abuses when the following conversation ensued:

Calacanis: His [President Biden’s] China policy, the fact that he came out with a statement on the Uyghurs, I thought it was very strong.

You know, it’s one of the stronger things he did, but it’s not coming up in the polls.

Palihapitiya: Let’s be honest, nobody, nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay? You bring it up because you really care. And I think that’s really nice that you care but …

Calacanis: What? What do you mean nobody cares?

Palihapitiya: The rest of us don’t care. I’m just telling you a very hard truth.

Calacanis: Wait, you personally don’t care?

Palihapitiya: I’m telling you a very hard truth, okay? Of all the things that I care about. Yes, it is below my line. Okay, of all the things that I care about it is below my line.

Calacanis: Disappointing.

You can watch the fuller exchange here. Chamath says that Americans have no business speaking out on behalf of a million Uyghurs held by the Chinese in concentration camps because we have “black and brown” people held in our jails for bad reasons. Really, he says this:

There was a huge social media row, with Palihapitiya trying to backtrack on what he said. But everybody knows he was telling the truth about his feelings the first time. Years ago, this was the kind of thing we used to call a “Kinsleyan gaffe,” after Michael Kinsley, the former New Republic editor, who famously said that in Washington, a “gaffe” is when a politician inadvertently speaks an unpalatable truth.

I would like to praise Chamath for saying what he said. Oh, don’t misread me: it was as callous and hateful a statement as I’ve seen from anybody in ages. Someone on Twitter said today that this guy’s attitude must be like what a lot of Americans thought when word first leaked out about persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. I think that’s probably right. In a just and humane world, Chamath would be dogpiled mercilessly for his inhumanity.

But we don’t live in a just and humane world. We live in Chamath’s world. The Golden State Warriors put out a statement saying that Chamath doesn’t speak for them on the issue. Maybe not technically, but in terms of action, what is the difference between the NBA’s policy towards China on the Uyghurs, and Chamath’s statement? It doesn’t exist. The entire NBA is completely on the side of Chamath, as was demonstrated a couple of years ago when that unfortunate NBA head coach team manager spoke out for the Uyghurs, who are being culturally genocided by the Chinese.

See, it’s important that nobody get the idea that these sports executives and business leaders don’t care about the Uyghurs, even though they don’t. They want to be free not to care about the Uyghurs, and to keep up their lucrative business partnership with the Chinese, without receiving criticism from Americans.

You know who else doesn’t care about the Uyghurs? Most Americans — at least not enough to punish the NBA for its heartless policy towards them. You know who also doesn’t care about the Uyghurs? Leaders of Arab Muslim nations, some of which have been deporting Uyghur refugees back to China. Just a few days ago, Gulf Arab states said that what China does to the Muslim Uyghurs is China’s business. 

Few people really care about the Uyghurs. Enes Kanter, the Turkish NBA star, is one who does. May God bless him richly. The Uyghurs are a Turkic people, by the way. And to their credit, Congress passed, and President Biden signed, a recent law pressuring China over the Uyghurs by banning the import and sale of goods made in the Xinjiang region, where the Uyghurs live. Did you know about this? I didn’t, until I happened to come across it just now in researching this story. Maybe I simply happened to overlook it when it was reported.

Others who don’t really care about the Uyghurs: many (though not all!) in the US news media. In the 1980s, there was immense, and immensely critical, coverage of South Africa over its apartheid policy oppressing blacks there. As evil as that was, it wasn’t the same thing as the genocide Beijing is waging against the Uyghurs. We do get some reporting on it here, but there is no crusade to save the Uyghurs. Unlike in the case of apartheid South Africa, the plight of the Uyghurs in China can’t be typecast into a familiar American historical drama (meaning the struggle of blacks against white supremacy).

American woke capitalism absolutely doesn’t give a damn about the Uyghurs. Think of all that money they’re making doing business with China! What’s the genocide of an ancient culture and the extermination of a distinct people when there’s wealth to be built? If some Southern red state passes a law saying penis-havers should stay out of women’s toilets, corporate boards go into moralistic convulsions. But when the Chinese put two million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps, it’s crickets.

You know who else doesn’t care much about the Uyghurs? You and me. Well, I can’t speak for you, obviously, but I bet you are a lot more like me than you think — and I’m ashamed to admit that I’m a lot more like Chamath than I ought to be. Of course I was disgusted by what he said, but when I thought about it, what have I done to bring attention to the plight of the Uyghurs? Unlike most Americans, I actually have a platform — a small one, but a platform — that I could use to do something, however small, to defend those people against the butchers of Beijing. But I haven’t done this.

I should thank the heartless venture capitalist Chamath Palahapitiya for showing all of us what it means to have sold your soul, and for shaming me over seeing some of myself in him. I can console myself by saying that I’m not like Chamath, and would never say that I don’t care about the Uyghurs. I do care! I care in the sense that I wish the Uyghurs well, and hold the correct opinion about the Uyghurs. But honestly, so what? Am I morally that much better than Chamath? I don’t even pray for the Uyghurs, which would cost me nothing. They never cross my mind, except when I read a news story about them, and think, “Those poor people. China is ruled by monsters” — and then move on. Chamath is just saying the quiet part out loud about how the rest of the world really feels about the friendless Uyghurs.

Readers, let’s not be like this repulsive guy. I promise to do better here, writing more often about what China is doing to those people — and not just to the Uyghurs, but to Christians, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, and anyone who gets in the Communist Party’s way. God forbid I should be as vile as Chamath, whose billion dollars cannot buy him a conscience.

Please take about an hour and watch this 2020 episode of PBS Frontline, about the Uyghurs and the Communist Party’s persecution of them. This is what Chamath doesn’t care about. This is what the National Basketball Association doesn’t care about. This is what the Gulf Arab states don’t care about. This is what too many of us — I accuse myself — either don’t care about, or care insufficiently about. What Beijing is doing to the Uyghurs is what it would do to anyone who opposes Chinese Communist totalitarianism. [UPDATE: As you learn in the film, Beijing has turned Xinjiang province into the most heavily monitored place in world history — and is selling the totalitarian security technology it develops there to regimes around the world. The Uyghurs are guinea pigs for an AI-powered totalitarian state that steals all human freedom. The cameras on the streets of Xinjiang, for example, use AI software to monitor facial expressions of passing Uyghurs, looking for people who are anxious or otherwise disharmonious. What’s happening in Xinjiang today is moving out to the world tomorrow.) Watch:

UPDATE: A Christian reader rightly calls me out for crossing the line in a personal insult I made towards Chamath. It was wrong of me, and I apologize to him, and to you.

leave a comment

1234