“The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’,” wrote George Orwell in a 1946 essay. On campus, the same may be said of many words in leftist political discourse today. Students rally around terms such as “intersectionality” and “empowerment”, while “toxic” and “problematic” figures are fervently attacked. These words may feel comfortable and intellectual, but in reality they are almost entirely hollow. Seventy-two years ago Orwell decried the emptiness of political language. It is now high time that we scrutinized our own use of buzzwords.
This is a feminist manifesto for the Kavanaugh era. It calls for a reevaluation of the hysterical woman, an old archetype haunting our national conversation on gender relations. Both the right and the liberal establishment are uncomfortable with the hysterical woman, which is to say that they are uncomfortable with the messy ways that pain and anger get expressed and worked through. They use accusations of hysteria, a debunked nervous disorder connected to femininity, to disqualify women from civilized discourse. But for leftists and feminists, “hysteria” can still be of use. The hysterical woman represents a commitment to respecting and staying with the emotional aftereffects of trauma—a commitment to not only believing survivors, but also turning our shared experiences into a force for change.
I often find myself in the company of utopians. The most common on campus are the social-justice types: history’s on our side, folks, and it’s coming to an end… It’s progressive Stanford, proud home of the pseudo-Hegelian, and while Hegel has no place in the histories they’ll write, they will follow him, misinterpreted, to the end of time. Naturally, this being Silicon Valley, you also meet the transhumanists—true believers not just in our world’s perfectibility, but in the perfectibility of the body, mind, and soul (in a purely scientific sense, of course). Then, near and dear to my heart, we have our communists and communistically-inclined, pinning their hopes on the distant Revolution and a new world order. There are many more such groups at Stanford, but you get the main idea: I’m surrounded by lovely, well-meaning Teleologists. And they’re from all over the ideological map.
The historical annals are replete with narratives of student heroism. The global uprising of 1968 which challenged capitalism, American imperialism, and contemporary gender and sexual norms was foremost a revolt of students. In France the memory of May 1968 endures as a moment when university students almost created a revolution while, in the States, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) flourished, mobilizing hundreds of thousands at the height of anti-Vietnam protests. But tales of student activist prowess are not limited to the New Left of 1968. The two most prominent revolts against Soviet authority – the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and Prague Spring – very prominently featured students. Even Stanford has an illustrious history of student protest, having played an important role in the movement to divest from Apartheid South Africa in the late 1970s. At their most valiant, students have articulated nuanced and insightful politics, and have led national, and even global, insurrectionary movements.
Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to empowering women and achieving gender equality. International Women’s Day, like everything else, is not timeless – it has a history. And throughout this history, which began in 1909, International Women’s Day has been intertwined with socialist and anti-war movements. Indeed, it was celebrated almost solely by socialists and communists before finally reaching the capitalist world in 1975. Even today, the roots of leftism remain strong in International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to uplifting women of all races and classes. And yet, even if International Women’s Day has become more widespread and thereby commodified, it has never – and must never – become divorced from its radical roots.
‘What did Mahatma Gandhi think of black people?’ ‘The Gandhi None of us knew’ ‘The Real Karl Marx.’ ‘What did MLK think about gay people?’ A recent spate of articles has emerged across the liberal media – from the Washington post to the Huffington Post to the New York Times – tearing down the great saints of the historical left on the basis of their racist, sexist, and homophobic views. And it is indeed true that Gandhi et al. held troubling beliefs.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” These words start the American Bill of Rights and, supposedly, guarantee the freedom of speech to American citizens. While this may sound nice, America’s immemorial commitment to free speech is a simply a myth.
It’s no coincidence that the term “alt-left” seemed to come out of the national ether around the same time that anti-fascist movements—“antifa” for short—were growing in prominence. Members of antifa groups have made appearances at demonstrations since Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, but it wasn’t until the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last August that they started to be referred to as alt-left. Three days after the rally—in which a man with white supremacist ties drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman—Trump reasserted his belief that there was “blame on both sides” for the violence. When pressed to comment on the alt-right’s role, Trump responded, “What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?”
The Resistance is winning. Last Tuesday, Democrats won races throughout the country, securing the three highest elected offices of Virginia, the triple legislative crown of Washington State, and a smattering of offices in smaller level races throughout the country. Meanwhile, Robert Mueller’s pursuit of evidence of Russian collusion in the 2016 Election has begun to bear fruit, with his indictments of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and generic stooge/foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos. Trump’s presidency is in disarray, with no major legislative achievements. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act was an unqualified disaster, and the newly introduced tax plan looks increasingly at risk of a similar fate. After a first half of the year that looked increasingly dire (remember Jon Ossoff?), recent months have shown the power of the Resistance against Donald Trump.
In the 1980s, protestors at Stanford successfully petitioned the university to remove its ‘Western Culture’ requirement on the basis of the reading list’s ‘European-Western and male bias.’ When in 2016 the then-editor of the Stanford Review, Harry Elliot, tried to have the old Western Civilization requirement re-instated, he was met with similar cries of colonialism and racism. The ultimate failure of the Review’s campaign was greeted with great delight by the prevailing left-liberal consensus on campus. This was to some extent understandable; the Review’s campaign seemed to implicitly suggest that Western thought was superior to the canonical works of other regions.
Continue reading “The Left-Wing Case for a Western Civilization Requirement”