The barbarians inside the gates
For the past three decades, some of us have been warning that the inevitable outcome of what the universities have been pumping out under the misnomer of “education” would be what we are indeed seeing today – a shocking and violent onslaught against the core western and civilised values that they have so systematically undermined.
It was university-based dogma that abolished objectivity and replaced it by the authority of subjective feelings. All values became relative. No-one had the right to say that the way anyone lived, or the principles or characteristics of any culture, were better or worse than any other.
Truth became a matter of personal opinion. Abolishing objective truth opened the way to the hegemony of lies. Rationality was destroyed. As Allan Bloom observed in his mordant valedictory for civilisation, the western mind was being closed.
With factual reality having been eclipsed by moral and cultural relativism, identity politics told people they were whatever they chose to be at any one time. Biological sex was abolished. Disadvantage was transformed into entitlement. Mass fatherlessness, disordered sexuality and gender-identity child abuse were all redefined as human rights.
Victimhood was identified with powerlessness, itself defined by Marxist economic and political dogma. Dissent against all such group-think was to be stamped out. So conservative commentators, as well as liberals or even radicals who dissent from the permitted thinking, have been thrown off public platforms, denounced by their media colleagues and subjected to social and professional ostracism.
Now, as we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks, white society is being vilified by anti-white racists who viciously smear as a bigot anyone who objects. Western culture is being stripped of its historical memory, with the removal by violence or under intimidation of statues commemorating those whose behaviour in a different era doesn’t conform to the enforced orthodoxy of today.
School curricula have for years systematically rewritten and trashed western society as endemically colonialist, racist, oppressive and white. Whole university departments devoted to critical theory and its offshoots in gender, queer, black studies and the like have served as little more than toxic vectors of cultural totalitarian propaganda. The university, the supposed crucible of knowledge, enlightenment and the free play of ideas, has turned instead into the epicentre of a contemporary inquisition.
Many books have been written about all this over the years. I myself wrote in All Must Have Prizes (1996) about “the deconstruction of the past” that I perceived was well under way in both Britain and America:
“The intelligentsia turned upon the culture of which they were the custodians and, like the mythological pelican which tore at its own flesh, began to consume their own raison d’être. As education and family started to crumble, a crisis revealed itself at the very heart of our culture and civilisation. National and personal identity appeared locked together in a fatal embrace as they slowly started to disintegrate together”.
And in The World Turned Upside Down (2010), I wrote about the “totalitarianism of virtue” which in certain respects had put modernity itself into reverse.
None of this analysis has made any difference. The barbarians are inside the gates and have been camped there for years.
The philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, himself a direct victim of this cultural auto-da-fé, said shortly before he died that, while university science departments should remain, the humanities departments should be shut down as the source of this civilisational rot.
In Tablet, Liel Liebowitz sharpens the point. He asks what could have motivated the two lawyers who were arrested last month for throwing a Molotov cocktail at a police car in Brooklyn during the protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. After all, they were “poster children for all that is right in America” who “worked hard, overcame adversity, and reaped the kinds of rewards that most of us can only dream of”. So why, then, did they “harbor such hate for the very same system that elevated them so quickly and so high?”
He gives a one-word answer. College.
“At Princeton and NYU, at Harvard and Columbia and Brown, no subject is worth studying unless it somehow leads to the inevitable conclusion that the land of the free is nothing more than a cruel colonialist cabal of exploiters and profiteers, happily raping the people and the land. Steep in such fetid ideological waters for four or six or eight years, and you, too, may eye a cop car and immediately reach for a bottle of Bud Light and a gasoline-soaked rag.
“Here, then, is a modest proposal: Stop hiring college grads”.
There’s now a direct correlation between those with higher education and ideas that are amoral, illiberal and socially destructive. Whether by defunding humanities departments or hiring for preference those who have not had their minds twisted by a university education, the west must now put cultural distance between itself and the source of this contagion.