Systems and sructures: the Social Warrior Litmus test

Graham Hill's picture
Submitted by Graham Hill on Thu, 2020-06-18 20:35

The BLM protest last Sunday in Wellington had a highly intelligent and formidable speaker. She laid into the system and the structures of power. When you hear those words one knows that the dead hand of a wearisome ideology of critical theory, neo-Marxism. The dialectical theory of Hegel, and the unfortunate inheritance from Plato, lives on in the simplistic mechanical calculus which reduces life to the trite oppressor/oppressed calculus which concludes with its predicted premise.

Social Justice Warriors might be better advised to dump the tower of Babel and look at the matter with an authentic voice. I recall once seeing Dun Mihaka betrayed by stumbling over Marx’s dialectical materialism theory when it would have been better to hear what he had to say and propose from lived and factual experience.

It is a tower of babel because anyone who has read postmodernist texts and neo-Marxist theory knows that first, it is a jumble of jargon, hence the duping of periodicals with bogus articles and secondly the writing is endlessly loaded with citations of names: Marcuse, Horkheimer, Derrida, Lacan, Deleuze, Laclau and Foucault. The names and theory, rather than empirical data, are used as authorities and the more names the more the authority.

Laclau and Mouffe were clear that modification was required to “the notion of class struggle, to be able to deal with the new political subjects – women, national, racial and sexual minorities, anti-nuclear and anti-institutional movements etc – of a clearly anti-capitalist character, but whose identity is not constructed around specific ‘class interests’”…” Political struggle in this era must involve other groups.” ( D Murray The Madness of Crowds 2018, p 58-59). The mental dysphoria in Babel is increased and compounded by the drones of intersectionality.

The death blow to this philosophy has been effected by Stephen Hicks and especially by the feminist writer, the erudite Camille Paglia, in her article ‘Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf’, in Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics, Third Series, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring, 1991), pp. 139-212. As Karl Popper, in The Open Society and its Enemies, had labelled Hegel an intellectual charlatan, Paglia does the same for Foucault.
To sidestep the heavy intellectual lifting and labour a litmus test on social Justice warriors is proposed. This weeds out the power-hungry and the narcissistic from those who seek human decency and dignity and kosmopolitiea. Seeking justice which is about means is a bona fide pursuit and a social good, and not an exclusive secular-religious mission to one iconographic issue.

One serious area of discrimination and bigotry where people are grossly disempowered, 'othered' and where discrimination affects every aspect of life: family, housing, employment (career terminal, particularly if one is a lawyer or other professional), access to medical treatment to legal services and credibility is mental health discrimination. Occupational/workplace bullying and harassment, and even bereavement grief leading to depression, is captured- if ‘male pale and stale’ (capturing a rights trifecta) it is even worse. The litmus paper is applied: The response is a very uncomfortable silence.

Whither then social justice? The neo-Marxist view can be turned on its objectives. If the power structure is overthrown who fills the power vacuum; if a discipline is decolonised, who and what re colonises it; if the Idealist (in the Platonic sense) chimaera construct patriarchy is disestablished is it replaced by a matriarchy? One oppressor is changed for another it is not?

The fact of the matter is that reductionist philosophies descending into ever-decreasing circles, and slipping from reality and common sense, do not grasp the nuances and complexities of human life. Last week a National Review article stated: Solzhenitsyn once remarked that “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. . . . And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.” Solzhenitsyn’s message, [is] that there is virtue in the worst of us and vice in the best, is a reminder that people are morally complex. So, too, is history." An aspect of the 18thC needs to be let go and that is Rousseau. Justice is a problem of us: the system comprises humans.

Having lived in a small “heartland” town one sees clearly- and experiences- the raft of hates, jealousies and resentments at those who are different. The drive to conformity of opinion, conduct and taste; the petty “village vexations” as Edmund Burke called them can have real social and economic consequences. Ostracism: Being asked to leave town or driven out of town in the light of being different is a local ‘cancel culture’ at work.
This is human beings and human nature at work. Recourse to the “systemic” and “structures” is not needed. Instead of social justice ‘warriordom’, tolerance and acceptance of our neighbours is a better starting point.

Graham Hill
Nelson, 19 June 2020