Today and tomorrow, The Pipeline concludes its series of excerpts the essays contained in Against the Great Reset: 18 Theses Contra the New World Order, which was published on October 18 by Bombardier Books and distributed by Simon and Schuster, and available now at the links.
History’s place at the fore of culture wars is no surprise. The destruction of alternative values, of the sense of continuity, an appreciation of complexities, and of anything short of a self-righteous presentist internationalism, is central to the attempt at a ‘Great Reset.’ Moreover, in a variety of forms, including cultural Marxism and, particularly and very noisily at present, critical race theory, such a “reset” is part of a total assault on the past, one that is explicitly designed to lead the present and determine the future.
This assault is a long-term process that owed much to the Marxist side in the Cold War that began in 1917 and continued until the fall of the Soviet bloc in 1989–1991, but this process has been revived and given new direction in recent years. The relentlessness of the struggle; the Leninist approach; that the core true believers and committed will lead the rest; that there is to be no compromise, no genuine debate; and that the end result must be power for its own sake attacks, through prejudging groups as inherently racist, the notion of every human being having intrinsic value, a notion that is central to the Judeo-Christian tradition. In part, this revival reflects the extent to which those who were the rebels of the late 1960s are now very much in the driving seats of intellectual and cultural would-be direction, and thereby able to move from protest to proscription. Thus, the “long march through the institutions” beloved of the Left has succeeded.
In part, this was because conservatives devoted insufficient attention to trying to contest this march. In particular, the degree to which institutions and companies controlled by, and for, the “soft Left” could become the means for propaganda, indeed indoctrination, by the “hard Left,” while appreciated by many right-wing commentators, was given far too little attention by conservative governments. This was true of Reagan/Thatcher/Bush Senior, all of whom understandably focused on international relations and economic affairs, including the development of neoliberalism, and then again of Bush Junior/Cameron.
Other issues thus came to the fore but so also, in a lack of adequate response to the culture wars waged by the Left, did an understandable wish not to use the power of the state in order to limit the autonomy of institutions such as museums and universities. Neither did they come up with any other solution to the problem. That approach, however, left conservatism at a serious disadvantage, one that has become increasingly apparent and one that there is still a difficulty in facing.
This situation was very much of concern before the storm of protest and aggressive virtue signalling associated with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement of 2020. However, the latter helped rapidly to drive forward the pre-existing tendency, not least by leading many organisations, institutions, and companies to endorse and adopt attitudes and policies that were at best tendentious and at worst extremely damaging to any practice of rational enquiry. Thus, a survey circulated by Oxfam in June 2021 to its staff in Britain stated that racism was deeply embedded in society and that all echelons of power, to some degree, exist to serve whiteness (whether by legacy, the presence of neocolonialism, or cultural imperialism).
Leaving aside the question of what whiteness means, and the difficulty of determining how somebody thinks, which is a crucial aspect of charges of racism, the past is defined in terms of a hostile legacy. The emphasis throughout is on whiteness and blackness in oppositional terms and with a clear primacy for both across time. This is fundamentally ahistorical as it acts to downplay all other identities and causes of tension, most notably rivalry within these supposed opposites—for example, the tribal conflicts within Africa that were the major sources of the Atlantic slave trade, and what also can be seen as tribal conflicts in Europe. Indeed, the role of tribalism is seriously downplayed by the drive for a racist dichotomy in analysis. There is an endless number of aspects of a question, and the ambition ought to be to cover as many aspects as possible, not to take one a priori.
The abandonment of any support for rational enquiry, indeed, was unsurprising, as there was an explicitly anti-Enlightenment argument at play, and notably and aggressively so with critical race theory. This theory acted to deny rationality, presenting it somehow as racist and an imperialising project, whatever that is held to mean. This theory was a deeply ironic ally for the companies and others that offered endorsement as their entire ethos was based on rational planning. In a resumption of the postmodernist hash, objectivity has become a term of abuse and objection, as has teaching in a linear fashion. The “progressive” or “woke” agenda can be advanced by such a wide coalition because all its elements have adopted the social constructivist position that facts are irrelevant or disposable.
Thus, for many, history becomes part of a continuum in which gender activists can adopt the mantra of “transwomen are women” because they dismiss the fact of biology as subject to the social construct of gender. Race activists can seek to do the same. Moreover, data suggesting that the white working class faces difficulties is ignored because it does not fit with the prevailing socially constructed view that white men are the “problem” and oppress others. In the same way, history activists, a category that includes many history academics but does not deserve the designation “historians,” can construct an account of the past that is not supported by evidence but is how they want it to be. If everything can be constructed on the basis of whim, history as a discipline is in real peril.
As a related point, education in the West increasingly becomes a matter of emphasising therapy and feeling better. In line with this, the desire by some academics to ‘self-medicate’ intellectually and feel better has become the motivator for decolonization of the curriculum. Such decolonisation is at core both political and a therapeutic initiative (larded with the language of “feeling safe”), which enables the decolonisers to feel virtuous. Critical race theory says nothing new in so far as it points, as when it was advanced in the 1970s, to an interconnectivity among many elements contributing to the historical animosity toward African Americans. More seriously, the theory has a bleak outlook and appears to state that there has been little or no progress in ameliorating racial discrimination. This is mistaken. Moreover, in applying the past to the present, the theory is misconstrued and ossified, falling into the ethnic-blame fallacy trap in its focus on retroactive, collective ethnic guilt. This was initially an American phenomenon reacting to specifically American societal and historical problems. This element makes its simple adoption in Britain and elsewhere in the West all the more problematic. In part, this adoption is the result of an increasingly monoglot and ahistorical society. Using empire to make some sort of bridge is problematic not in small part due to the “transracial” alliances involved in empire. For Britain, this was prominent in the case of slave-sellers, while the British empire in Asia was essentially an Anglo-Indian enterprise.
The wash of protest in 2020 was given concrete form by being taken on board in mission statements, hiring policies, and other such mutually supporting practices that are backed by the designation and filling of new posts. Thus, ideology was focused accordingly. In Britain, as a result, historical issues, such as the slave trade, empire, and the reputation of Winston Churchill, have received attention to an unaccustomed degree, and history of a type was thrust into public debate. However, as an empirical basis for critique, “history wars” has scarcely been to the fore, and the situation has not changed. In particular, there is a tendency among critics, for example of empire, to write in terms of undifferentiated blocs of supposed alignment, to move freely back and forth across the centuries, and readily to ascribe causes in a somewhat reductionist fashion...
Tomorrow: an excerpt from "Dueling Faiths: Science and Religion under the Great Reset" by Richard Fernandez.
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