fbpx
Home/Rod Dreher/Culture War Forever?

Culture War Forever?

Culture warrior at London Trans Pride parade (Source)

The left-liberal writer Shadi Hamid speculates that the culture war might be with us forever. Excerpts:

Various right-wing intellectuals have long fantasized about an electoral holy grail of economic populism and social conservatism. In Britain, they were known as “red Tories,” but such grand projects of realignment tended to fizzle out. They were compelling in theory but not necessarily in practice—perhaps until now. As the conservative writer and podcaster Saagar Enjeti argued in 2020: “The whole reason that the GOP has been able to even compete for so long is that despite their horrible economics, they do hold the cultural positions of so much of the American people. But they keep thinking they’re winning because of their economic policy and losing because of their cultural policy, when really it’s the opposite.”

As Democrats hemorrhage working-class support—not only among white people but also among communities of color whom the party was counting on—the new right sees an opportunity.

Yes, as a Red Tory, I hope so! But look at what the top House Republican is talking about. I agree with Rachel Bovard’s snarky line:

Shadi Hamid says that as Republican voters move farther from free-market orthodoxy, cultural conflicts are the most important way the two parties can distinguish themselves from the other. As J.D. Vance has said, “Culture war is class war.” More Hamid:

As the political scientists Adam Przeworski and John Sprague note, “class is salient in any society, if, when, and only to the extent to which it is important to political parties which mobilize workers.” But neither Democrats nor Republicans are likely to become workers’ parties anytime soon. Conservatives’ rhetorical interest in the working class remains largely electoral and opportunistic. Meanwhile, the left is preoccupied with language policing, elite manners, and a kind of cultural progressivism far more popular among hypereducated white liberals than working-class Latino, Black, Asian, and Arab Americans.

Republicans and Democrats may simply converge around a diffuse and vague economic populism and call it a day. To distinguish themselves from each other in a two-party system, they will have to underscore what makes them different rather than what makes them similar. And what makes them different—unmistakably different—is culture. This isn’t just instrumental, though, a way to rally the base and mobilize turnout. If one listens to what politicians and intellectuals in these two warring tribes actually say, it seems clear enough: They believe that civilization is at stake, and who am I to not take them at their word? If the end of America as we know it is indeed looming, then the culture war is the one worth fighting—perhaps forever, if that’s what it takes.

There is a common fallacy one observes on the Left, which holds that in instances of culture war, conservatives are always and everywhere the aggressors, whereas the Left just wants to live in peace and rationality. This is absurd, of course, but unless you live and work in heavily liberal environments, you might not appreciate how sincerely so many people on the Left believe this self-serving myth.

For the contemporary Left, the most important culture war battle is that over transgenderism, and gender ideology more generally. Here is a young TikTok berserker to give you an idea of how fanatically passionate these people can be:

I will be delivering a lecture later this week at a conference, on the five most important lies we must face today. One of them is that if you keep your head down, this battle will pass you by. It won’t. These left-wing activists who have conquered American institutions won’t let it happen. Take a look at this short video about what Amazon did to Ryan T. Anderson and his book about the transgender moment:

I’ve read the book, and it’s very, very good. You can still buy it on Barnes & Noble’s website, and at other outlets. But Amazon has so much power over the retail book market that if Amazon won’t sell books like Anderson’s, then books like Anderson’s won’t be published.

The reader MichaelGC had this to say about the war over Truth that we all have to wage with transgenderism advocates:

[Rod:] We ought to emphasize that we don’t wish to persecute trans people, and of course nobody should ever bully trans people. But this madness has to be stopped. We can and we should point out the utter hypocrisy of the new trans “live and let live” approach: that the trans movement and its allies want to force their radical view on everybody else!

I came to much the same decision you did. We must bring war to this virulently destructive cult; we must engage them and defeat them to make the world safe for sanity. Of course, when I say “bring war” to them I mean figuratively. We fight them with words of truth, It won’t be hard. Their whole side is shot through with such magnitudes of error it should be a breeze.

For example, we keep getting this outdated phrase “assigned (male || female) at birth” although such a thing has never happened and in fact cannot happen. In the first place, no one in the delivery room has the power to “assign sex.” Sex happens at conception, not birth, and depends on whether the always-X female haploid gamete was fertilized by an X or Y male haploid gamete to form a cell that will become a girl (an XX zygote) or a boy (XY zygote). Sex is decided at the moment of conception. before you can even be aware, being but a single cell without so much as a vestigial brain. At birth or (increasingly lately) ultrasound, sex is merely observed. By that time your cell has divided again and again to form the cells, tissues organs, and systems that work together as a boy or a girl. You can’t do a thing to change that regardless of how much you don’t like them apples.

Our deranged, derelict elites do not want us to know these simple facts of human conception, they want us ignorant and confused. In fact, if they do nothing more than manage to get some people confused, they consider that progress. Recently “Rachel” Levine, a man who dresses as a woman but looks nothing like one, was promoted by Biden to “4 star female admiral.” But he’s male, a father of 2 and words mean things. Two Congress people pointed out the fact and were promptly suspended. See what’s going on? “From now on, we’ll tell you what a woman is or is not. You had best agree with us or we will punish you.” Shortly after that breakdown on Twitter’s part I abandoned their platform in deep disgust.

No Twitter, no FaceBook, no any other entity. You are dead wrong and deserve to be isolated. and there are going to be some changes as sane, rational people intervene and clean up the thoughtless, sizable mess you have made. Get in there, people. Fight the good fight that is now upon you. Now is your time. Dante’s Inferno has a special place for those who cling to neutrality at a dire time like this. Not fighting is not an option. The grotesque falsehood that is “gender identity” must be kicked back to the Abyss of oblivion where it belongs.

Like I said, I came independently to the same conclusion you did just by reading and observing. I read Gabriel Mac’s [2019] essay, “The End of Straight”.Correction: I read as much as I could stomach of it. It is a Gender Identity/Transgender Manifesto as much as any other that is out there these days. As you might expect, it is based on a worldview and view of humanity that is as dark, dreary, depressing, and unhealthy as any other you would hope to avoid having to read.

Towards the end of “The End of Straight” is where it really starts to break down. For example:

I don’t need to illuminate The End of Straight with investigative reporting. By arranging, just so, scenes and quotes from experts into that argument. Heteronormativity is so dead that ringing that knell is already belated, regardless of whether the people participating in its backlashing death throes can admit it yet.

What you call “heteronormativity” is just nature running its course as it has been observed doing for thousands of years (and yes, human nature is Nature) and is going nowhere despite all the efforts of you and your ilk to kill it. Men and women still find each other and will continue to do so long after you are gone. They will participate in the cycle of life using the procreative power of their bodies. You are so far removed from reality and are so wrong, Gabriel Mac. Andrea Long Chu is another one out there who considers himself an intellectual powerhouse, though he does little but produce a lot of bad writing like this.

There’s also this:

Even homonormativity is dying, now that establishment gays are finally campaigning for poor and trans and POC queer rights. Transnormativity has forever been challenged by the nonbinary and genderqueer and genderfluid, who have more platforms than ever, and who increase the permissions for every one of us by pointing out the colonialist absurdity that the number of genders encompassing all complex humanity could be two.

“Colonialist absurdity?” Rather, reality since the most ancient of times, reality now and always, forever. It is observed that there are 2 sexes (or genders, if you will) that exist in Nature. “Gender fluid” and “non-binary” have not been observed at all, but their existence is falsely asserted, nonetheless.

Here’s something else. Nothing happens in a vacuum in this world. Lies allowed to flourish unchecked cause harm, start mocking us for our cowardice, continue to damage and undermine truth, and replace order with chaos, being inimical to the common good.

Lia Thomas, a male swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania switched from competing with males to competing with females, and is ruining girl’s sports by crushing girls’ times with his male physique. A USA Swimming official quit, saying simply ‘I can’t support this.’ Coach David Salo supported the move, saying of the NCAA “They are destroying women’s sports.” The girls who had been cheated considered boycotting final meet in protest, but decided not to lest the NCAA respond with vindictiveness and retaliate against the girls by banning them from Ivy League championships going forward. Fear and intimidation works.

That’s not the worst of what is going on. In California, State Senator Scott Wiener wants anyone who uses conventional pronouns with self-identified transgenders thrown in jail according to his hideous piece of legislation, SB 219. Shot down unanimously and emphatically last year for being unconstitutional, Wiener and the State attorney general appealed and secured a hearing before the CA Supreme Court.

Another piece of mischief Wiener is responsible for is SB132, about the transfer of men purporting to be women to female prisons. Wiener wants wildly violent felons to be housed with women who will have no choice but to have their intimate privacy and security invaded and will have no escape.

Even worse, certain senators want this rolled out nationwide without further delay. Read the document to see how twisted it is. Excerpt:

The most egregious change made to the revision was to import the novel and undefined term “biological sex” into the policy as the initial consideration when making housing and programming assignments. But the term “biological sex” is an imprecise term that is often used to redefine “sex” to exclude transgender people from legal protections and considerations.

One’s sex is not valid, only their stated “gender identity” is, and it doesn’t have to mean anything. This is the doings of cruel, ill-intentioned people, and it is going to get very ugly. Getting rid of this is our test and our challenge.

Is this aspect of the culture war civilizational? You might not think so, but I was present at a private meeting seven years ago, shortly after Obergefell, in which a political scientist said that the true civilizational challenge was not from homosexuality, but rather from transgenderism. He said that “if we lose the gender binary,” we are finished as a civilization. Someone asked him why, and he said that the binary is present in so very many of our civilization’s structures, but we have never had to think about it. Should it disappear, he said, we are going to find things collapsing around us that we never imagined were vulnerable. Since then, I have tried several times to get him to talk to me about it, even on background, but he won’t answer my e-mails. My guess is that he is too frightened within his institution to say more about the subject.

Why might one think of the challenge as civilizational? Well, look at population collapse around the world. Global fertility decline is a massive problem. If you don’t understand why this is something Americans should care about, read this. Excerpt:

[R]apidly declining population causes all sorts of social problems. We’ve already seen it in many American cities victimized by de-industrialization — Detroit became a byword for economic disaster in large part because its population fell by two thirds between 1950 and 2010.

Population collapse means services and infrastructure designed for a large population have to be downsized or (more realistically) left to rot. It means a strain on the tax base and intergenerational tension as a smaller proportion of workers has to shoulder the tax and work burden of caring for a larger population of retired people. The way America loads a terrific financial burden on families compounds this problem by forcing people to delay having kids until well into their 30s or even 40s. Where young parents can usually tap grandparents for free child care, middle-aged parents often have to care for both babies and declining parents at the same time. Is it any wonder so many millennials just don’t feel like procreating?

The thing is, European countries have generous welfare state benefits for families, but they haven’t really been able to arrest population decline either. The decision to have or not to have children is not simply a matter of economics. Even in times of poverty, people have chosen to have families, because having children is just what one does. But that is no longer the case. We are forgetting why family matters, and how to form and sustain families. Radically individualist and hedonist modern culture is as anti-family as it can possibly be. If a people comes to believe that not even the sex binary is stable, it will become even more difficult, psychologically, to couple and form families.

Richard Dawkins — yes, that Richard Dawkins — says that it is nuts to deny the reality of the sex binary in nature. Dawkins writes sympathetically about people with gender dysphoria, and makes sure to get a crack in at the expense of Christians. But he also says:

Sex transition is an arduous revolution—physiological, anatomical, social, personal and familial—not to be undertaken lightly. I doubt that Jan Morris would have had much time for a man who simply flings on a frock and announces, “I am now a woman.” For Dr Morris, it was a ten-year odyssey. Prolonged hormone treatment, drastic surgery, readjustment of social conventions and personal relationships—those who take this plunge earn our deep respect for that very reason. And why is it so onerous and drastic, courageously worthy of such respect? Precisely because sex is so damn binary! Changing sex is a big deal. Changing the race by which you identify is a doddle in comparison, precisely because race is already a continuous spectrum, rendered so by widespread intermarriage over many generations.

Changing your “race” should be even easier if you adopt the fashionable doctrine that race is a “social construct” with no biological reality. It’s less easy with sex, to say the least. Even the most right-on sociologist might struggle to argue that a penis is a social construct. Gender theorists bypass the annoying problem of reality by decreeing that you are what you feel, regardless of biology. If you feel you are a woman, you are a woman even if you have a penis. It would seem to follow that, if feelings really are all that matter, Rachel Dolezal’s claim to feel black, regardless of biology, should merit at least a tiny modicum of sympathetic discussion, if not outright acceptance.

Changing the subject to something much more interesting, the binary nature of sex very nearly handed Charles Darwin the key to discovering the genetic laws now correctly attributed to Gregor Mendel. What we call “Neo-Darwinism” (see below) would not have had to wait till the twentieth century, and would indeed be just plain “Darwinism”—the great naturalist came that close. And it was the binary nature of sex that brought him there.

The sex binary is a biological fact, one that cannot be gotten around. The trans revolution is trying to deny that our nature as humans is inextricably tied to our biology. Nobody can deny that some people are genuinely distressed by gender dysphoria. They should be treated compassionately, but we are fools to deny a fundamental truth of biology for political reasons. And, as Andrew T. Walker points out, to require people to affirm something they know is a lie is profoundly corrupting. Excerpt:

The psychologization and politicization of gender are not just at odds with our biology, they have disastrous social consequences. For one thing, women are simply erased. The New York Times engaged in an act of female erasure by noting that Schneider was the first “woman” to amass that sum on Jeopardy!. Or, take the recent example of the University of Pennsylvania swimmer who is biologically male but identifies as a female and is smashing female competitors? In both examples, we see men robbing women of things that are owed to women. To deny something to someone who is owed it has a definition: injustice. That is what today’s leftist conspiracy theories concerning gender are doing under the self-serving guise of the left’s own unchecked power.

The hypocrisy of our ruling class reaches no higher zenith than on occasions like this. The champions of social justice, equality, fairness, and feminism contradict each with the self-deluded lies they peddle to those who they believe will listen with supple attention. Denouncing conspiracies, they traffic in their own. The only difference between the conspiracy theories of the left from the right is that the ones from the left are buoyed by political correctness and often entertained by the media. The conspirators in this instance are a powerful confluence of media, academic, legal, and entertainment forces that mutually reinforce one another’s narrative in service to progressive power structures. Power at the expense of truth is a notorious play of ideologues.

In terms of creation knowledge, everyone knows the transgender narrative is false. As one of my friends often says, “If you can get society to believe a man can become a woman, you can get society to believe anything.”

But never go along with the madness of crowds. Not only are we encountering Orwellian power grabs, but we are also undermining the dignity of womanhood and threatening the common good of society. We cannot be a society organized around lies.

Gender ideology is a lie, but it is built on a deeper lie, which is the lie that made the Sexual Revolution possible: that we are what we desire, and that to deny sexual freedom is to deny full personhood. A reader e-mailed over the weekend to ask if I had heard of the work of J.D. Unwin. I had not. Unwin was an Oxbridge social anthropologist who in 1934 published a book called Sex And Culture, the thesis of which is that cultures that control and channel sexual desire flourish, while those that allow it to be freely expressed waste their energies and decline within generations. The reader sent me this interesting blog post by Kirk Durston, explaining the basics of Unwin’s book. Excerpts:

Here are a few of [Unwin’s] most significant findings:

  1. Effect of sexual constraints: Increased sexual constraints, either pre or post-nuptial, always led to increased flourishing of a culture. Conversely, increased sexual freedom always led to the collapse of a culture three generations later.

  2. Single most influential factor: Surprisingly, the data revealed that the single most important correlation with the flourishing of a culture was whether pre-nuptial chastity was required or not. It had a very significant effect either way.

  3. Highest flourishing of culture: The most powerful combination was pre-nuptial chastity coupled with “absolute monogamy”. Rationalist cultures that retained this combination for at least three generations exceeded all other cultures in every area, including literature, art, science, furniture, architecture, engineering, and agriculture. Only three out of the eighty-six cultures studied ever attained this level.

  4. Effect of abandoning prenuptial chastity: When strict prenuptial chastity was no longer the norm, absolute monogamy, deism, and rational thinking also disappeared within three generations.

  5. Total sexual freedom: If total sexual freedom was embraced by a culture, that culture collapsed within three generations to the lowest state of flourishing — which Unwin describes as “inert” and at a “dead level of conception” and is characterized by people who have little interest in much else other than their own wants and needs. At this level, the culture is usually conquered or taken over by another culture with greater social energy.

  6. Time lag: If there is a change in sexual constraints, either increased or decreased restraints, the full effect of that change is not realized until the third generation.

Have Unwin’s predictions panned out? Pretty well, Durston says. Read it all. 

As Philip Rieff observed half a century ago, sexual individualism is at the center of our therapeutic culture. We should not be surprised by the multifarious collapses we are living through now. Transgenderism is simply the next logical stage of the Sexual Revolution. We will have the culture war forever because the Sexual Revolution is ideological, and will not accept that its ideals destroy community and disintegrate the human personality.

UPDATE: Reader Jonah R.:

UPenn has a biologically male swimmer competing on its women’s swim team—a mediocre male swimmer, but one who can break records against other women. The actual women on the women’s team are reportedly despondent. Then Yale steps in with another dude on the women’s team who crushes the dude on the UPenn team. (All of this has happened in accordance with conservative prophecies and despite progressive denials that it would ever happen.)

But something interesting is happening: Neither the New York Times nor NPR, the two major information sources for a certain kind of professional progressive elite, has reported one word about this. Instead of heralding transgender victories, they’re utterly, conspicuously silent. They know this is wrong, and so it doesn’t fit the narrative. If you rely on the NYT and NPR for your news, it’s possible you’ve never even heard this was going on.

And then today, in response, Harvard’s athletics department tweets out a denunciation of “hate” and support of transgender athletes….and virtually every reply is negative.

Rod, this is the exposed scale on the underbelly of Smaug the dragon. If conservatives can’t fire a deeply injurious arrow on this issue here and now, when most people think having dudes in women’s sports is ludicrous, wrong, and anti-woman, then conservatives will lose, and will deserve to lose for not being able to read and respond to the screamingly obvious in the culture.

 

 

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

leave a comment

Latest Articles