How to Reframe, Reconstruct, and Revise Reality – for Dummies

One of the primary rhetorical and philosophical tactics of the Left, whether within the Church or outside it, is to attempt to show that the core objections to progressive ideology are themselves bathed in hypocrisy.  This was once a favorite strategy of the sexual revolution in the late sixties and early seventies, to claim that proponents of “traditional morality” were base hypocrites because they actually, subconsciously or in repressed form, harbored the same desires for unconstrained sexual adventure as did the social radicals of the time, save that the social radicals were simply open and honest about their true, inherent natures and desires.

This essay, published at Rational Faiths, is interesting because of the way in which it both grossly misrepresents the phenomenon of “political correctness” and reframes it as a way to enhance civility and dialogue between opposing perspectives, a claim I’ve heard before, here and there, but never taken seriously, because it can’t possibly be taken seriously by a serious, educated mind save that mind has already absorbed and digested the philosophical nutrients the rhetorical, legal, and social pressures of political correctness seek to protect and preserve from the antibodies of truth and from fundamental respect for the institutions and ideals of free intellectual inquiry in a free, open society.

Our author, one Jeff Swift, begins thusly:

“The terms “politically correct” and “political correctness” have appeared in a number of recent general conference addresses, and come up frequently in some Mormon circles. Political correctness is almost uniformly critiqued in both venues. A problem arises, however, when different definitions of the phrase are used in different contexts. I will go over three distinct and different definition of the term, discuss where each definition is predominantly used, and conclude with an assertion that Mormon teachings embrace political correctness, at least in the way most people uses the term.”

So then, we re to be presented with two distinct definitions of the term, the “original,” and the modern LDS version.

“The term “politically correct” was first used in the 1940s to designate people who toed the Communist party line. It was a way for radicals to criticize the more strict Communists for following the agenda set by organized political parties rather than staying true to the cause of empowering workers. It is safe to say that Church leaders are not using this definition of the term in their conference talks, and this understanding fell into disuse and was replaced a few decades ago by a significantly different understanding:”

This may be true, but for modern purposes of the history of ideas and political movements/ideologies, its of little relevance.  The origins of political correctness within modernity take us back at least two centuries, to the  French Revolution and ideas/terms such as the calling of each individual by the other “citizen” and the abolishment of the past symbolized by beginning French society from “day 1” and so on, dating it from the completion of the revolution.  Political correctness can be found wherever and whenever the Left takes power or is in process of taking power in any society, and under whatever pretentious labels.  It was found in Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and throughout the socialist/communist world the length and breadth of the Cold War.  It is predominate and most aggressive where the modern Left holds cultural, legal, and ideological sway, or in other words, in academia, public education, the foundations, the mainstream news media, Hollywood and the arts, and much of the administrative state.

Swift’s idea of the “original” ideas is taken from a book that is, itself, a kind of manifesto and tactical manual for leftist activists, and belies the actual reality that internal ideological strife between totalitarian factions of the same core ideology, produced, not factions more open and amendable to alternate perspectives, but simply a larger sectarian body of rigid dogmatists each convinced of their own grand theory of social reconstruction.

The real origin of political correctness, as it is understood today, particularly by its opponents, is to be found primarily in the exiled Frankfurt School in America and its project of “critical theory.”  The reach, scope, effects, and importance of this idea, and particularly its effects upon modern academia (most saliently in the area of the plethora of “studies” programs and courses that festoon much of modern higher education) cannot be underestimated.

But the Church itself has its own unique interpretation, according to Swift:

“The term (“politically correct” and “political correctness” being combined into one “term” for the purposes of this article) first showed up in General Conference in a 1996 address given by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Since then, it has shown up in general conference addresses a over a dozen times. In almost every case, excluding Elder Maxwell’s original use, the term is used as a synonym for engaging in or justifying immorality. For example, here is President Faust critiquing the idea of political correctness:

“We have always been regarded as a peculiar people. However, being spiritually correct is much better than being politically correct. Of course, as individuals and as a people we want to be liked and respected. But we cannot be in the mainstream of society if it means abandoning those righteous principles which thundered down from Sinai, later to be refined by the Savior, and subsequently taught by modern prophets. We should only fear offending God and His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the head of this Church.”

So, in President Faust’s nicely parallel turn of phrase, political correctness is the opposite of spiritual correctness, and means “abandoning those righteous principles . . . taught by modern prophets.” Elder Oaks agrees with this definition of political correctness:

“Some model themselves after worldly ways because, as Jesus said of some whom He taught, “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). These failures to follow Christ are too numerous and too sensitive to list here. They range all the way from worldly practices like political correctness and extremes in dress and grooming to deviations from basic values like the eternal nature and function of the family.”

“Political correctness,” then represents actions of disobedience. It is, by Elder Oaks’ definition, a failure to follow the Savior. Elder Scott agrees, clarifying that “political correctness” means using majority rules or popular fashions as our metric to define what is right:”

There is little to argue with here.  Swift is essentially correct that “political correctness,” from within a gospel frame of references, is, as Elder Oaks said, a “failure to follow Christ.”  What Swift misses here is that “political correctness” indeed encompasses a wide variety of beliefs, values, philosophies and ideologies, including “pc” itself, which is not an ideology but a way of silencing, marginalizing, eradicating, and morally delegitimating  all speech, dissent, critique, and opposition to a prevailing vision, dogma, or ideological “party line” within any institution the Left has come to dominate or has completely absorbed.  That’s what, indeed, political correctness is, i.e., a relentless war upon culture and cultural institutions for the control of language.

“To further complicate matters, others try to persuade us that our decisions must be socially acceptable and politically correct. Some pondering of that approach will reveal how wrong it is. Since social and political structures differ widely over the world and can dramatically change with time, the folly of using that method to make choices is apparent.”

And yet, the Church does not teach this idea.  In fact, of course, what is often “socially acceptable” which is very often political correctness itself, is precisely that which the Church opposes the most.

For Elder Scott, political correctness is a “method to make choices,” in line with what is “socially acceptable” as opposed to what is acceptable to God. Basically, what’s right and wrong shouldn’t be decided by majority vote. Elder Ballard throws a bit of a wrinkle into the definition:

“But one thing is certain: the commandments have not changed. Let there be no mistake about that. Right is still right. Wrong is still wrong, no matter how cleverly cloaked in respectability or political correctness.”

For him, political correctness is less of a method of decision-making or an action of disobedience, but a disguise that makes what is bad look good. This increasingly nuanced definition of “political correctness” is useful, but things get sticky when we consider the way the term is used everywhere but the Church.

This is accurate as far as it goes.  Political correctness is, indeed, a kind of “disguise” (as the vast oceans of love and compassion talk, and the rise of the “precious snowflake” phenomenon of safe spaces and trigger words attests) for the true face of the Gorgon.

But let us continue:

In the early 90s, conservatives co-opted the term to mean something entirely different from its original 1940s communist meaning. For example, this article talks about political correctness after the Boston bombings, and the author explains the term:

“Political correctness is a broad term with several meanings, but it generally concerns watching what you say, especially around issues of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. But it can also express a broader willingness or desire to avoid “rocking the boat” on subjects that affect racial or religious minorities.”

This is the understanding of the term most widely accepted today. For example, here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

“Political correctness is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and, as purported by the term, doing so to an excessive extent. In current usage, the term is primarily pejorative….

Since the 90s, political conservatives have been using the term negatively, suggesting that it is excessive and overly concerned with feelings at the expense of blunt honesty. For a succinct definition, let’s turn to one of Brother Glenn Beck’s attacks on political correctness:

Truth is offensive sometimes, but when the truth is said because it’s true and because it’s important to know . . . It’s important to say those things, even if they are offensive.”

Now, conservatives didn’t “co-opt” the term in the 90s.  The original cries of intellectual and cultural alarm regarding the rise and maturing of this phenomenon, particularly in America’s colleges and universities, came beginning in the early eighties, with such major conservative works as The Closing of the American Mind, published in 1987, Profscam, in 1988, Tenured Radicals, in 1990, Imposters in the Temple, published in 1992, and Higher Superstition, published in 1994, among many others. Magazine articles chornicalling what was happening is higher education well predate the publication of Bloom’s watershed book, and the genre, even before the term “political correctness” was in use, can be traced back to William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale and Russel Kirk’s Decadence and renewal in the higher learning, published in 1951 and 1978 respectively.

But Swift’s task, as we shall now see, is not to correctly comprehend and interpret political correctness (which he partially, if grudgingly succeeds in doing), but to attempt a thorough sanitization and provide us some sugar to help its totalitarian medicine go down.

Glenn Beck isn’t the only one who takes such a negative stance toward avoiding offensive speech and actions. There are many others today, including the President-Elect, who decry a concern for watching what we say and how we say it. It’s definitely tempting to just say whatever we think whenever we want, regardless of whose feelings we might hurt.

Church leaders, on the other hand, have called for thoughtful civility and kindness in the way we talk about and with others (behavior that Brother Beck and Mr. Trump might call “political correctness”):

But, of course, this begs so many questions and contrasts so starkly with decades of observed reality, both in word and action, that our difficulty now becomes know where to start.  Political correctness is not, and never was, about civility, respect, or “kindness.”  Nor was it ever about avoiding offense or offense speech in some broad, generalized ethical sense (what used to be called civility, “manners” or “couth”). Political correctness is a means of enforcing ideological and political conformity, of neutralizing dissent and heterodoxy, of morally discrediting alternate views, and, when possible in the political and legal realm, criminalizing speech and expression outside the orthodox dogma and its claims to settled, unquestioned truth.

“Offense” within the political and cultural Left has a very specific and deeply channeled meaning, and it has to do strictly with speech, ideas, arguments, and intellectual dissent of any kind, even the most vague and subjective (i.e. “microaggressions”) inconsistent with or in conflict with accepted “progressive” orthodoxies across a plethora of issues affecting or underlying the human condition and the questions of politics and culture.  It is  not “offense” in a broad lexical sense, but in highly specified and ideologically charged political sense in which “offense” is interchangeable with nothing more than speech and ideas the left has determined is offensive, i.e., which the Left cannot tolerate in any space which it has colonized and come to dominate and has monopolize intellectually.

Political correctness, especially as it has developed in American higher education, is a means of both controlling language and weaponizing it.  The substantial arsenal of ists, isms, phobias, and other personality disorders or mental illnesses that the Left employed, not to disagree with its philosophical opponents, but to morally remove them from the realm of decent humanity, are deployed not to call out that which is offensive, but to remove entire classes of human beings, ideas, and arguments from the marketplace of ideas as morally legitimate, thus circumventing any need to actually philosophically defend and support their own views intellectually at all.

“The final definition,” Swift writes, is “the definition most commonly used in political discussions, water cooler arguments, and debates about current events, reflects a desire for careful sensitivity rather than blunt thoughtlessness.”

No, that’s not the definition of political correctness.  “Political correctness” is what Orwell originally described as “thoughtcrime” in his famous dystopian book, 1984.  Its purpose, as several decades of its rampage of intellectual debasement through American education has shown, is not ” a desire for careful sensitivity rather than blunt thoughtlessness,” which, if true, would not be enforced, or enforcible, in an open, free society, by screaming mobs, legal punishment, expulsion from college, and moral character assassination for holding views termed  “counterrevolutionary” in societies of the recent  past in which the dominance of the Left was complete, but a desire to marginalize and eradicate all thought but “progressive” thought through public moral shaming, legal sanction, and the intimidating force of the democratic mass.

Swift makes the great leap into his ultimate logical fallacy here:

“The leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is very explicitly in favor of civility, love, compassion, and thoughtfulness. In other words, Mormons believe very strongly in political correctness.”

No, the church believes in “civility, love, compassion, and thoughtfulness,”  but political correctness, for anyone who actually understands its origins, meaning, and purpose, believes only in the fundamental aim, goal, and focus of political correctness as a strategy of political and cultural struggle: the acquisition of power.

Swift himself may not understand any of this (and so many of the Snowflakes who are the puppets and tools of the intellectual core of the Left, often don’t), or, on the other hand, he may.

That, after all – feigning innocence – is also one of the elemental tactics of political correctness, followed by wails of righteous moral indignation and calls for the expulsion of all heterodox or dissenting ideas from the “safe space” the Left now controls and has cleansed of all offensive, i.e. non-leftist thought or any assertions, positions, arguments, or propositions inconsistent with the vision and conceptual prism of “social justice.”

There is no mystery here, and Mr. Swift’s attempts at mystification have been less than compelling.


 

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Why Environmentalism is a Part of the Great and Abominable Church of the Latter-Days and why the Left is at the Root of Both.

 

 

Firstly, I should make clear that I am and always have been what was once known as a “conservationist.”  I love and stand in awe of nature and the natural world, in both a aesthetic and scientific sense.  I am a firm and unwavering proponent in uncoerced free market contractual economic relations within an environment governed by the rule of law, but also believe strongly in cleaning up the pollution and or environmental degradation that may be created by human industrial activities, and that “capitalism” provides the only means of wealth creation and technological innovation adequate to that task.  I do not believe in mindless or unconcerned pollution beyond what in any given era will be the natural and unavoidable (for awhile) externalities imposed on the environment at a given level of technological development by the requirements of economic growth and spread of general affluence and rising living standards (including longer and healthier lives and far greater scope for human and individual development and potential across many dimensions of the mortal experience).

I am perfectly at home with rational, scientifically justifiable, economically feasible, and civilizationally sustainable mitigation of real, definable, empirically  discernible  environmental problems with proper cost/benefit analysis, an understanding of where real improvement ends and diminishing returns for ever vaster outlays of money for ever tinier gains in environmental quality begin, and the point at which environmental concerns displace concern for human health and well-being and corrode or even deeply threaten the standards of living and wealth creation – the only actual ultimate answer to poverty in the mortal sphere – necessary to both human flourishing and environmental quality,  and remove to a fearful degree the last shimmering limitations on the size, scope, powers, and prerogatives of the state necessary to the preservation of our constitutional liberties and inalienable rights.

I stand and have often stood in unspeakable awe of the wonders and beauty of God’s creation as well as in contemplation of our stewardship over it, including the command to subdue – to control, channel, tame, domesticate, modify, and manipulate – nature for our benefit, well-being, health, and temporal progress and security as mortal beings.  I stand in awe and, like the tiny human figures in ancient Chinese landscape paintings, in humble  awareness of the incomprehensible size, extent, powers and numbing complexity of the works of God’s hands.

I look on in awe, yes, but I do not romanticize nature, nor do I see nature and the natural world as sacred (though “good” in a scriptural and surely cosmic and eternal sense), and in this we come to the crux of this essay.  Nature can often seem like an Edenic garden (including in our own backyards) and yet, it is equally a “howling wilderness” that is “red in tooth and claw” and which, in a moment, can kill as well as provide sustenance and life, and contains, all around us, at all times, the most hideous cruelties and horrors, and lurks in the depths of the earth or ocean with forces that may suddenly burst forth in a spasm of cataclysmic destruction.

The gospel of Jesus Christ requires us to look at the natural world through a gospel prism, which means, while finding joy, inspiration, and intellectual fascination in nature, approaching it in a philosophically and scientifically balanced and realistic way, as well as a way that avoids one of the fundamental human tendencies of God’s children from time immemorial, most prevalent when a people lose or reject the gospel but still retain the impetus and desire to worship and find meaning beyond the pervasively mundane and trivial, and that is to spiritualize nature and seek an identification with it that is unhealthy and potentially disastrous in a spiritual, intellectual, and psychological sense.

Modern environmentalism emerged from the incandescent foment and upheaval of the late 1960s and transitioned to its mature developmental phase with the first Earth Day in 1970, a milestone of America’s and the West’s roiling cultural revolution for multiple reasons, not the least of which was that environmentalism provided both an extension of and, perhaps unforeseen at the time, a rolling away of the stone from the tomb of Marxism and utopian collectivism that was exposed for what it was (as many had long known) as the Berlin Wall was dismantled by its prisoners but the salient ideas of which continued to hold sway to an astonishing extent within American and Western academia, within the major American foundations, and to an equally astonishing degree, within the mainstream print and electronic news media.

Modern environmentalism (or the “green” movement) provides, less the quasi-religious mythopoeic narrative and grand historical and epistemic sweep of Marxism in its various forms, an alternative religious  vision and commitment that provides an all-encompassing narrative of the human condition, a cultus of worship, and a god – the earth and nature itself – that can be worshiped and venerated but which can also, unlike traditional gods, be destroyed by its worshipers; the religion of the natural world in which humankind plays the serpent offering the apple representing the taming and subduing of the earth – the human “footprint” – and all that that flows from it: affluence, prosperity, technological control of nature to increase human felicity and standards of living, and economic inequality (the natural concomitant of agency  combined with liberty in the economic realm, as in all other realms), a node at which environmentalism absorbs and recasts Marxism and neo-Marxism as eco-socialism or socialism as an ecological imperative.

In another sense, however, environmentalism, understood as a kind of militant gnostic neo-pantheism grafted to radical politics, is an integral part of the cultural shifts of the late sixties and early seventies in that a critical aspect of that shift was a severe and dogmatic hostility to traditional religion from within the broad Judeo-Christian tradition and an explosion of interest in forms of “alternative spirituality” including fascination with Eastern religion and philosophy, often in eclectic form, as well as ancient pagan nature religions of various kinds (again mostly in eclectic form) and a growing romantic fascination with the primitive.  Baby boomers, seeking “spirituality” without the traditional disciplines and refining sacrifices associated with the cultivation of the spiritual for thousands of years and/or grasping for passive, effortless spirituality  (through LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs) equally without what could with any seriousness be termed discipleship,  or a process of the cultivation and training of the will, desires, and mind, landed upon environmentalism as both the “consuming fire” of Paul’s characterization of complete conversion to the gospel and as a religious commitment that demands little from its devotees save, as is so often the case on the Left, symbolic expressions of values, ideology, and solidarity with others of similar perspectives as found in rallies, marches, concerts, and candle light vigils.

There are no Abrahamic challenges here, and except for the periodic fund raising letter and donations to the cause, no ascetic practices, sacrifices of the baser passions, or “remaining unspotted from the world” to disturb one’s “lifestyle.”  What there is is a messianic, all-encompassing world-historical cause (in concert with glittering celebrities and eminent academics who tell us it is) within which to lose oneself and experience absorption in a movement and universe of meaning larger than the self-contained, transcendently autonomous island ego that was the subject of so much theoretical excrescence in that era and which has continued, in ever more amplified and strident forms, to the present.  One can become, within environmental religion, as much or more so then within the cult of utopian egalitarianism, a messiah, and savior, and an anointed moral Atlas holding the fate of the planet within one’s hands and carrying the moral weight of humanity upon one’s shoulders.

When God is abandoned, and serious religion (religion, in other words, that asks much from the individual in the way of refinement and cultivation, but does not seek such vicariously in the externalization of religious disciplines in the coercive manipulation of others not of one’s faith through political pressure and legal mailed fists) is ignored in the perennial quest for self – not in relation to God but in relation only to that self as a subject of solipsistic reverie – it follows from this that self, and self in relation only to the narrow bandwidth of reality we term “mortality” that impinges on us between birth and death, becomes the fundamental focus of the innate need and desire to worship and immerse ourselves in something greater than self, which, ironically then, becomes that very something.

Modern progressivism, in forging the self as that very focus of worship and immersion in a transcendent cause or purpose, has given modernity its particular cast as a time of radical self-absorption imbued, at the same time, with an overwhelming desire to mold, shape, restructure, reconstruct, and reimagine all of human society and human relationships in harmony with this vision of the self at the root of progressive or leftist philosophy.

These movements, of which modern environmentalism is a critical one, are messianic because the radically autonomous self has become, to use again that much overused ancient  maxim, “the measure of all things.”  Being the measure of all things, the modern progressive self can be a messiah because messiahship is self-constructed and self-referential, as are all values, morality, and ethical concepts.  The modern messiah-self finds itself in a world of strict limitations, contingencies, injustices, suffering, and imperfections, and determines to right them that this messiah-self may both perceive itself as a messiah-self, but also that it may, as an integral aspect of its self-anointed messiahship, dispense justice, judgment, and righteous indignation upon those who are at the seat of the limitations, injustices, and suffering that it sees about it.

If there is no God, in the traditional and, specifically, Judeo-Christian sense, then humans themselves must take up the torch and the scepter from Nietzsche’s dead god and Marx’ opiate; they must become what they have rejected to avoid the abyss of pure nihilism (also a going concern among those who have accepted the progressive vision, but who have not found, like the postmodernists, any new metanarrative to replace the old, and would prefer not to).

Modern environmentalism is one of two central catechistic structures of the modern great and abominable “church” of the Adversary in the latter or last days, a “church” because, although for us, it comprises a plethora of movements, organizations, philosophies, and beliefs about the world, all centered in, to one degree or another, moving human beings away from Christ and the truths of his gospel (wherever they may be found), when in concentrated form, they are religious in the sense that they form to core or nucleus of an individual’s fundamental worldview, and when organized and systematized, they become religious doctrines and commitments that  form the central organizing principles of the lives of their adherents.

Environmentalism is two things, among other peripheral aspects of this general movement: (1) a kind of militant fundamentalist neo-pantheism and (2) the pouring of the old wine of the grand revolutionary socialist dream of a “better world” into new, green bottles.

The central religious vision of this “church;” a “pristine” natural world in which “pure” air, water, soil, and other elements exist in “harmony” and “balance” with the biosphere and with the cosmos, but which is then “disrupted,” distorted, corrupted, and progressively destroyed by the presence of humans and their central original sin: technological progress and the search for higher living standards above bare subsistence (i.e., in modern parlance, capitalism and all its antecedents) is the vision now accepted and promoted by the Left across the entire spectrum of its various sects and sub-sects, and forms the basis for all its calls (primarily through the medium of its primary call to repentance and penance, anthropogenic global warming, second only perhaps to its perennial preoccupation with population control and abortion) for a thorough transformation of all human systems, political, cultural, educational, and religious in the name of “saving the planet” the modern secular gnostic equivalent of the biblical injunction to save oneself through acceptance of God, and then to convert others through persuasion and example.  Human messiahs facing the end of the world in a world without God, however, are on their own in a vast, cold, meaningless cosmos and therefore have little patience – and no faith – in the benevolence and condescension of an all-loving and merciful (and omniscient) being who will not let everything simply end in an all-enveloping and generalized disaster, and hence, have little patience with alternative or contrary views – or with freedom, liberty, or inalienable rights.  The stakes, after all, are too high.

“The planet” has now become, for many, a surrogate god and object of worship, and nature itself a sacred and transcendent state, process, and idea, in which “pristine” and “fragile” things exist “connected to everything else” in a “web of life” that is pure, sacral, and eternally static, stable, and unchanging.  Human “interference” in this state of things represents an intolerable “rape” of the natural world, in which the most egregious sins are committed if, due to human influence, one blade of grass now grows where two were before, forest floors are cleaned up of dry tinder and underbrush to help prevent devastating forest fires, or if a town exists where once there was a malarial swamp.

The earth itself may be conceived of as in some sense a living being (and no, the church does not teach this as a matter of established doctrine) that is under constant assault and violation by human beings (often conceived of as a virus, bacterium, or disease pathology) who do not live “lightly” enough on “her” (this being is always conceived of in feminine, earth goddess-like terms, with the ancient Greek goddess Gaia being common as a metaphor or symbolic reference) and who’s very ability and desire to improve their temporal conditions and live in material comfort (with all that implies) is the very definition of “sin” to a people who have otherwise abandoned that idea entirely.

Utopian egalitarian collectivism in various forms (socialism, communism, commuitarianism etc., or whatever else one wishes to term it) is deeply integrated with environmentalism either as a core feature of a “sustainable” world or as a hidden agenda buried under the rhetorical and philosophical frosting of planetary catastrophe brought about by man’s original sin, free-market economic relations and the desire to create wealth from bare scarcity, and the other sins closely related to it: individualism, unalienable individual rights and liberties; the family, traditional religion (which seeks to tame, domesticate and subdue – alter, manage, and control nature and natural principle of the earth for human benefit (and survival) the earth – and limited government, perhaps the core complaint of the entire Left regarding the nature of classical liberalism.

The reinforcing desires to create a world government of some sort capable of the governance of all the world’s people and of planning the economies and social systems of billions of human beings, including the temporal standards they will be allowed to achieve, down to the smallest details of human life and choice) and to deindustrialize (primarily though the decarbonization – the effective dismantling of virtually the entire modern industrial economy of the Western world while, through various mechanisms, preventing the Global South from phasing into that realm) America and the West in the name of “sustainable growth” or of a static, socialized, non-growth oriented economy (combined with vigorous family planning and “population stabilization” goals), is at the very heart of the “green” vision of humanity and humanity’s future.

Of all the sects and cults within the great church, this one, the green church – the green and spacious building – the gnosis of the earth and that it is not (to paraphrase an old and well-worn environmentalist bromide) the earth that belongs to us, but we who belong to the earth, poses, in my view, the gravest threat to humanity and human felicity we perhaps have ever seen, and which too will pass, but not without the dire consequences of its passing.

We live, indeed, in perilous times.

 

Alas, Political Correctness

The idolatry of ideology – the idolatrous fascination with and worship of human moral hubris and infatuation with moral self-congratulation and peer affirmation – otherwise known as “progressivism” – has begun, in recent years, to take a heavy toll among members of the Church.  We may (as we should) look at this as a wheat and tares dynamic as prophesied among the ancients and present throughout our scriptural record, but the toll is still all-too real, and all-too consequential.

Black Americans are, as always, perhaps the single group most victimized, defrauded, and intellectually swindled by this idolatrous worship of the modern gods of the progressive faith, a faith, not in God, but in the “arm of flesh” and which, in essence, claims that God “hath given his power unto men” (2 Nephi 28:5).  “Cursed,” however, says Nephi, “is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost”(2 Nephi 28:31).

This is the faith in the power of academic learning, “social science,” abstract theory, a pure, unconstrained, selfless, transcendent human will and equally transcendent politics to reshape, reconstruct, redesign, and redeem humanity from the Fall.  The eminent political scientist Eric Voeglin termed this the “imminantization of the Christian Eschaton,” and saw in it a kind of modern gnostic seeking for transcendent if fundamentally secular or secularized transcendent knowledge – saving knowledge.

The Salt Lake Tribune report analyzed here, by Peggy Fletcher Stack, is an outstanding textbook example of the manner in which identity politics corrupts and decomposes everything it touches, or which stands even in close proximity to it, as well as the way in which so many minorities and sub-groups within the American melting pot (not to mention standardized “indigenous peoples” of the Global South) have become, as Thomas Sowell has observed, the “mascots” of the political and cultural Left.

The first thing one will (or should)  notice about this article is that it is, in most ways, nothing more than a prose listing of formatted bromides, shibboleths, and stock cant cobbled from the intellectual tombs of progressive race ideology; a kind of intellectual and cultural graveyard of ideas, concepts, and ideologically-bathed (but rarely questioned critically) preconceptions about America, white Americans, blacks, and the nature of culture and of the human condition that bespeaks, in many ways, very much the zero-sum vision of the sociocultural world the same Left clings to in the realm of economics.

“Johnisha Demease-Williams,”  we are told, underwent a “culture shock when she arrived at Brigham Young University last fall.”  This culture shock, at the outset (and this is the point) might lead a reader to think that being black, or in some underlying, metaphysical sense, “blackness” as a genetic, biological, and ontological phenomena, is indelibly imprinted and associated with a certain kind of culture.  We all know this progressive drill.  Virtually all black Americans are assumed, unless otherwise specified (and marked) to come from the following social/cultural environment and manifest the following cultural attributes:

1.  Urban/inner city
2.  Working poor or underclass
3.  Speaks a distinct, urban English brogue with specific kinds of phraseology, terms, inflection, and slang.
4.  Listens to and appreciate specific genres of music, art, and cinema, most having strong connection to what is known as “hip-hop” culture, while disdaining and/or feeling alienated from other forms of art not considered “authentic.”
5.  Hold certain rigid, culturally prescribed political, social, and cultural views and perspectives.
6.  And, like the two cousins on the old Patty Duke show, laugh alike, walk alike, and talk alike.
7.  Even if middle or upper middle class, any given black American is expected to express his racial authenticity by manifesting at least some of these cultural stereotypes.

This is neither natural nor inevitable in an open, free, melting pot society like the United States, which is not, and can never be, while retaining its character as a free, open, rule of law-based society, a multicultural society, but which has flourished as a multiracial and multiethnic society of Americans sharing the same fundamental civic values, ideals, and sense of Americanness (not whiteness, blackness, Hispanicness etc.).

This state of affairs (the concept of blackness being the sine qua non of one’s core identity, as opposed to one’s individual humanness and Americanness) is what happens when race, as with other aspects of the human condition, become politicized and politics replaces culture – or, perhaps, becomes culture – and displaces the core institutions of civil society: the family, the home, the church, and the local community, as the central organizing principles of civic and individual life

“In her Texas home,” Stack writes, “many members were converts from other religious traditions whose backgrounds were understood and celebrated. They seemed more aware and accepting of cultural differences, she says. They knew about world and national events like the police killings of unarmed citizens. Whether or not they embraced Black Lives Matter, they understood what drove the movement.”

Now, while the term “culture” may surely be deployed to conceptualize the social environment from which Johnisha comes, the BLM and its wholly fictional narrative of a nation teeming with murderous police officers hunting innocent black men for no other reason than fiendish racial animosity, and a white society that looks on in disinterest if not support, is an ideology, an ideology with a cultural and intellectual pedigree and history that is known and can be well understood by anyone willing to do the homework.  Such ideas (as with others such as “the patriarchy” or “late stage capitalism” are independent of genetic endowments such as skin color, but political and cultural warfare (and the need to congeal individuals of like genetic endowment into lumpen masses) requires that certain ideas be associate with certain identity collectives.

This is, in other words, wholly about politics and political ideology, and a correct political ideology understood to be held – as a cultural requirement and assumption – by blacks qua blacks, with whites looking on in a mixture of slack-jawed ignorance and humble racial penance as young, college age blacks “educate” them on “what its like to be black in America” and on the BYU campus.

Given that some two thirds to three quarters of American blacks now live within the middle to upper middle class, not the urban inner city, and given the large number of black CEOs, entrepreneurs, and highly successful blacks in the entertainment, political, legal, and professional realm, and given what we know, empirically, about the economic and personal condition of blacks who follow the same principles of success and development as whites, Asians, Hispanics, or any other American group, being black in America has no bearing at all upon one’s life circumstances…unless.

Unless one allows oneself to come under the  influence of progressive doctrines of “structural inequality” and “institutional racism” and succumbs to the progressive ideology of permanent victimhood, racial paranoia and cynical suspicion that has driven a substantial subset of black America, in somewhat over forty years, into a cultural, moral, and civilizational iron cage from which it is not at all clear it can recover, and which recovery the Left and the vast poverty and race industry that thrives and gorges itself upon the very misery it has been so active in creating and sustaining, has no interest in promoting.

“By contrast, BYU’s 325 blacks account for fewer than 1 percent of the 33,000-strong student body, according to spokesman Todd Hollingshead.”

The inference here being…what?

“Because blacks make up such a tiny minority at BYU, Demease-Williams says that produces a kind of cultural indifference to their needs.”

What are the special “needs” of American blacks at BYU that are not required of other groups?  It appears there are “challenges” encountered at BYU not encountered by others.  What might these be?  Johnisha’s YouTube video, ““The Black Student Experience — BYU,” is apparently an attempt to answer that question.

“In the independently made video, Demease-Williams and a couple of other interviewers pose questions to white and black students about hurdles, perceptions, racism, white privilege and dating.”

One notes the standard begged questions, pre-assumptions, and unexamined axioms the film seeks not to analyze but only to expose.  Is there white racism at BYU, and even enclaves of white supremacy?  Of course.  Is there “white privilege,” a cultural Marxist theoretical construct that it would be interesting to study to see if it exists at all in some broad, overarching sense, but which this film takes as an assumed given?

“Most of the Anglo students interviewed deny that “white privilege” exists, but they do recognize that donning “blackface” is “not chill.””

Note two things here, (1) the white students probably deny “white privilege” because they’ve never experienced any such thing (perhaps they actually had to get good grades to get into BYU?) and because they have never taken a course in black studies, multicultural studies, post-colonial studies, or Hip-Hop pedagogy, and (2) the inner city underclass slang, which, on the Left, functions vary much on the Left as white racial stereotypes in a long vanished era once functioned (such as that blacks have rhythm), as a way to collectivize an entire group of  human beings and erase their unique individuality – the essence of both bigotry and socialism, a concept which extends far beyond mere economics.

“Coming from more diverse places and Mormon congregations, BYU blacks feel “disconnected from their community,” says Smith, co-author of “Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons,””

Again, here is what forty years of relentless indoctrination in K-12 schooling, college, the mainstream news media, and countless hours of the consumption of Hollywood product has generated: American blacks have a “community” separate and tribally insulated from the “white” community and from the core, main currents of American life.  All blacks, virtually by definition and by ideological requirement, come from or are at least in some sense umbilically connected to this “community” by the very reality of their skin color.  No individual uniqueness or individual, personal, self-determined, let us say it, diversity of culture, belief, values, speech, mannerisms, tastes, predilections, or self-concept – as with all collective conceptions of the human subject – can be allowed even the slightest manifestation against “the community” and its sociopolitical structures, totems and taboos.  The individual, within progressive ideology, is not an individual at all, but only black, or white, or Hispanic, or a “person of color,” or gay, or “working class” etc.

As in medieval times, when a person’s trade or craft were their  identity (baker, cooper, smith etc.) so now, in the modern progressive city of politically correct man, one’s individuality is swallowed in one’s identity in racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, and,s still lingering, class lumpen masses from which exit can be difficult and even wrenching.

The progressive scythe swings wide.  Indeed, Stack has used this particular story to highlight some of the other pet preoccupations of the NOM counterculture within the church, including the church’s essay on the priesthood ban, which she says that the film “doesn’t probe” and which, according to the article, “explained that the priesthood-temple ban was formalized during the presidency of Brigham Young and influenced by society’s racism at the time.”

No, actually, the essay says no such thing.  What was influenced by the racism of the time were the opinions and explanations promoted to explain it, not the ban itself, which still stands as a divinely instituted policy, albeit still a poorly understood one.

And of the rest?  The standard calls for “education,” more talk, discussions, dialogue and focus (i.e., endless sessions, seminars, teach-ins, conferences, and an entire department dedicated to leftist indoctrination and public Caucasian self-criticism and self-flagellation on maters of white privilege and structural racism) on race and the horrors black students “endure” at the BYU campus, and open cheer leading for the viscerally racist, anti-American, neo-Marxist BLM.

Perhaps what we really need to discuss is not what it means to be black or white, but what it means to be human, what it means to be a part of the American experiment and idea, unique in all of human history, what it means to be educated (let alone intelligent), and what the meaning and purpose of a university.

But alas, in my colorblindness, I am a racist, and in my plea for common Americanness and content of character, not color of skin, being the defining characteristic of our post-Adamic sojourn on earth, I wallow in white privilege.

Let there be no more human sacrifices to the idols of ideology.

  • A few things we learn from the psychology literature:
  • How the 2015 LDS LGBT policy changes impact these factors:
    • Declaring same-sex marriage an act of apostasy (on par with murder, incest, adultery) and rejecting children of SSM’d Mormons seems to:
      • ….lead to: 1) increased family pressure and sometimes increased family rejection by many believing loved ones, and 2) more LDS LGBT youth self-rejection/self-shame – with the added pressure of feeling like God (through his prophets) is rejecting not only who they are, but who they hope to become (happily married Mormon gay men/lesbian women with a family).  The combination of these two factors could contribute to the spike in LGBT Mormon suicides (dozens).
      • …shut down the healthiest relationship pathway for LGBT Mormons (same-sex marriage) and instead continues to elevate the least healthy pathways (celibacy and same-sex marriage).
      • …lead many LGBT Mormons and allies to leave the church, depriving them of an otherwise positive association (e.g., loss of community, spirituality), but has a silver lining in that it is also removing them from a non-affirming, sometimes toxic religious and social environment.