Vignettes From the Cultural Revolution

Have you heard the big news? Superman is now LGBT! Or, is that LGBTQ? Or perhaps, as Justin Trudeau would say, 2SLGBTQQIA+. Whatever the case may be, he's out and he's proud. But more importantly for our purposes, he's gotten really into Greta Thunberg:

I love the guy holding the "There's no Planet B" sign. Didn't Superman himself flee his home planet to come to Earth, gaining super powers in the process? Seems like emigrating to Krypton B worked out pretty well for him.

From the story:

Since becoming Superman, [Clark's son] Jon Kent has battled real-life issues in the DC Universe. Thus far, he's fought wildfires caused by climate change, stopped a school shooting from happening, and has protested refugees being deported.... Jon Kent joining the fight against climate change shows that he gets what being Superman truly means: inspiring and making the world a better place in the process.

Sounds about as exciting as an afternoon watching CNN, and roughly as fanciful. This should really help 10-year-olds escape the drudgery of their mask enforced school days and the impending cancellation of Christmas due to a virus that barely effects them.

In other news, Ford Motor Company is attempting their own Green reinvention, as they launch an electric version of their F-150 pickup, the F-150 Lightning. Year in and year out, the F-150 outsells its competitors due to their superior product and name recognition. As Car and Driver mentioned in their write-up on the best selling cars of 2019, Ram, Chevrolet, and GMC have each significantly redesigned their truck offerings, but the F-150, with hardly a change, still beats them out easily.

So why go electric? Well, it's largely an attempt to chase status and good publicity, and the hope that greenbacks will follow. As Kevin Williamson explains in his write-up on the F-150 Lightning, entitled 'Here Come the Electric Rednecks,'

If you want to know who is really packing the heat on the great American scene A.D. 2021, consider that Elon Musk could, on a good day, personally buy the Ford Motor Company three times over, even though Ford sells about twelve times as many vehicles a year as Tesla, which still loses money on its automobile business — its profits in the first quarter of 2021 came from Bitcoin investments and from selling emissions credits.

That is, Ford generates real money and Tesla imaginary money. These days the latter is preferable to the former. How long that will last, however, is anyone's guess, especially as the entire automotive industry is struggling under the global chip shortage which has stalled production and shocked the market worldwide.

Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II has now officially joined her fellow elderly monarch and religious leader Pope Francis in naming the "environmental crisis" as our most pressing political concern. The Queen, of course, rarely speaks about contentious topics, but this time she seems to have decided that there is no harm in being publicly on the side of the great and the good. And her move in this direction seems to be responsible for at least some healing, specifically that of the troubled royal family. Environmentalism is reportedly helping bring them together, from her accused sex-trafficker son to her brainless celebrity-hound grandson.

Still, with Britain being roiled by an ongoing energy crisis which is at least partly caused by the environmentalist enthusiasms of her ruling class, one wonders whether this was a prudent course of action by Her Majesty. It might not be long before her subjects come to believe that, like her uncle Edward, she'd chosen the wrong side.

So what do all of these things have in common? They are examples of venerable institutions bending over backwards to gain the approval of the environmentalist movement, and risking the good will of those who have kept them going for so long. Moreover, they're doing so at a time when the Green movement seems to be in real danger. The global energy crisis has environmentalism struggling to keep it's own head above water, but they're acting like it is their life preserver.

At the same time, they are instances of the cultural revolution, which completed its long march through western academia decades ago, colonizing a new host, like some parasitic bacteria. The revolution, which can produce nothing of it's own, is attempting to live off of the cultural capital of its newest targets. Once it's sucked them dry, of course, it will move on, leaving an empty husk in its wake, as it has with education. Before long, kids will stop buying comic books, Americans in rural areas will stop seeing F-150s as an identity marker, Catholics will become (more) alienated from the Church, and patriotic Britons won't go out of their way to speak up for the Queen, and certainly not her heir.

My advice to whoever is making decisions about the future of these institutions: Beware.

Marxist Revolution's 'Satanic Mendacity'

The British public intellectual Sir Roger Scruton passed away at the beginning of this year. If you aren't familiar with his work, do yourself a favor and watch this lengthy interview he did with Douglas Murray in 2019 on the nature of conservatism, and make it a point to read a few of his innumerable books or essays.

I've been thinking of one such essay quite often of late, as we've been watching riots and general disorder overtake so many of America's great cities. Specifically his account of the intellectual journey which led him to recognize himself as a conservative.

Scruton begins by explaining that, though roughly half of the Britain of his youth voted for the Tory party, "almost all English intellectuals regarded the term 'conservative' as a term of abuse," and that conservatism wasn't an intellectual path that he or any of his fellows seriously considered. That changed in an instant, however, when he found himself watching the May 1968 riots through an apartment window while visiting Paris. From that vantage point he witnessed Parisians, mostly students like himself, smashing windows, overturning cars, building barricades in the streets, and hurling cobblestones at the police.

That evening he found himself chatting with a friend who had spent her day on the barricades and was elated by the whole thing, which she believed to be "the artistic transfiguration of an absurdity which is the day-to-day meaning of bourgeois life." From her perspective, "The bourgeoisie were on the run and soon the Old Fascist and his régime would be begging for mercy." (The "Old Fascist," it should be noted, was Charles de Gaulle, one of history's great ANTI-Fascists, as demonstrated by his political leadership of la Résistance during World War II.)

Scruton found all of this troubling, and he challenged his friend's embrace of the bedlam in the streets:

What, I asked, do you propose to put in the place of this “bourgeoisie” whom you so despise, and to whom you owe the freedom and prosperity that enable you to play on your toy barricades? What vision of France and its culture compels you? And are you prepared to die for your beliefs, or merely to put others at risk in order to display them? I was obnoxiously pompous: but for the first time in my life I had felt a surge of political anger, finding myself on the other side of the barricades from all the people I knew.

She replied with a book: Foucault’s Les mots et les choses [published in English as "The Order of Things"], the bible of the soixante-huitards, the text which seemed to justify every form of transgression, by showing that obedience is merely defeat. It is an artful book, composed with a satanic mendacity, selectively appropriating facts in order to show that culture and knowledge are nothing but the “discourses” of power. The book is not a work of philosophy but an exercise in rhetoric. Its goal is subversion, not truth, and it is careful to argue—by the old nominalist sleight of hand that was surely invented by the Father of Lies—that “truth” requires inverted commas, that it changes from epoch to epoch, and is tied to the form of consciousness, the “episteme,” imposed by the class which profits from its propagation.

The revolutionary spirit, which searches the world for things to hate, has found in Foucault a new literary formula. Look everywhere for power, he tells his readers, and you will find it. Where there is power there is oppression. And where there is oppression there is the right to destroy. In the street below my window was the translation of that message into deeds.

Scruton goes on to explain that, while his friend is now "a good bourgeoise," like so many of the grown-up '68ers, Foucault's books have come to be enormously influential in the Western academy. "His vision of European culture as the institutionalized form of oppressive power is taught everywhere as gospel, to students who have neither the culture nor the religion to resist it." Unsurprisingly, this has inspired what our editor Michael Walsh has called (in his indispensable book The Devil's Pleasure Palace) a "lack of cultural self-confidence" in Western man, leading to

[H]is willingness to open his ears to the siren song of nihilism, a juvenile eagerness to believe the worst about himself and his society and to relish, on some level, his own prospective destruction.

This is, of course, what we are seeing play out in our streets today -- unemployed, but over-educated, young people, having been indoctrinated into the nihilistic belief that there are neither heroes nor principles, and that reason is merely a tool of oppression -- have given themselves over to iconoclasm, howling at anyone who disagrees with them on any point. You would feel bad for them if they weren't attempting to obliterate the memory of better men than themselves.

The Sorbone, '68: lift every voice in song.

True, lockdown fatigue has likely contributed to the protests and riots, but I can't help thinking that a lot of the young rioters who felt the thrill of throwing a brick through a store window or a molotov cocktail at a cop car are going to have trouble going back to living normal lives. Partly, of course, because the lockdowns are technically still in effect, and protests are the only place anyone's allowed to party these days. But also because the resentment and nihilism that animate these events are self-sustaining and self-justifying.

Still, there are reasons for hope. For one thing, there's a real possibility that the pandemic is going to bring about the long-expected destruction of America's education racket. It likely won't take down the Ivy League, unfortunately, (though the Ivyies will have to deal with their own unique challenges), but a lot of mid-tier colleges will probably close. Which means that the young adults who would have given them $80,000 in borrowed money in exchange for worthless degrees in grievance studies will, instead, have to go out and get jobs, make friends, start families, and get involved in their communities. As "bourgeois" as those things might seem, they have provided lives with meaning from time immemorial. And, who knows, maybe they'll even enjoy the occasional good book without having some Marxist professor ruin it for them.

For another, as much as it seems like the world is collapsing right now, there's some evidence that normal people are disturbed by these events. The events of 1968 drove Americans into the arms of Richard Nixon and (after a brief interlude) Ronald Reagan. They also, as noted above, motivated a young Roger Scruton to rebel against their mendacious, destructive spirit. It may well be that many young people out there are similarly disturbed by all of this pandemonium. Perhaps that will ultimately impel them to embrace instead a worldview based on that sentiment which is at the heart of conservatism, namely gratitude.

Here's hoping.