One of the most successful and pernicious developments of modern academia, was the “everything is rhetoric” school of thought. In some sense it is a theory of “discourse”, in another sense it is a theory of history, in another a theory of “sociology”, and it is equally reprehensible in all these guises. This is because the “everything is rhetoric” school is always taken as a call to “deconstruct” that “rhetoric”, and in so doing, to see the real “truth” of the idea in question; the ratio below the species. Thus, the only thing the “everything is rhetoric” intellectual position could ever actually mean in an academic context is “everything except my sacred beliefs are rhetoric”. It is thus an entirely unbending attitude, which is not necessarily wrong, but it depicts itself as a “liberal” and “openminded” notion by way of being a “critical” school of thought, hence the duplicitous and dogmatic nature of “critical thinking”, but that is another issue.
Whenever there is a book or paper beginning with something like “the invention of”, as in “the invention of the Jewish people”, or “the invention of Aristotle”, this is a dead giveaway that the entire discourse will presume that it is impossible to ever meaningfully observe any truths in the past because we exist in the present, and thus that all uses of the past amount only to “rhetoric”. The implication, of course, is that the point in time at which we are, and from which we think, is somehow not itself the accumulation of the past. I consider this to be an absurd proposition, as did G.K. Chesterton in his pithy quip that…
“An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but it is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays. You might as well say of a view of the Cosmos that it was suitable to half-past three, but not suitable to half-past four. What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or century.”
This astute comment cuts to the heart of several matters pertaining to “SJW’s” and “free speech”:
“Tolerance for uncomfortable viewpoints rests secure in the *belief* that truth will win out in the end because of guidance of a higher power; and that those who seem unreasonable at first may in fact have value in their viewpoints. If one has no faith in a higher truth not yet revealed, or any yardstick but reason, then common sense dictates that you muzzle people who have unreasonable viewpoints so they don’t wreck society with their misbegotten ideas.”
I find it telling that most white people presume it to be a knockdown argument if the endeavors of a people of European descent to preserve their culture, own account of their own history, or identity, can be reduced to opposing “diversity” and “inclusion”. If one can manage to “see through” a particular groups motivations to justify a statement like “some crazies were literally protesting diversity and inclusion in their school district”, it is presumed that no more work needs to be done. That is because these are presumed to be timeless virtues whose objective moral certitude is essentially theological in nature. To doubt their moral veracity is not only considered “wrong” in terms of being untrue, about, but “wrong” in moral terms. One is not simply incorrect for entertaining doubt about these concepts and their value, but a bad person for even entertaining the possibility that one could or should do so. However, if one chooses to dispense with the theological worldview and view these concepts in time, recognizing them as products of certain cultures that only attained their unquestionable meaning in a historically contingent context, their pathological historical impact for particular peoples and cultures becomes apparent.
Both “diversity” and “inclusion” independently, but particularly together, are notions predicated on the normative imperative of societal neutrality. Any culture for which inclusion becomes the primary moral imperative will be incapable of including itself, or its founding ethnic group, as something to be valued. This is because it would be presuming there to be elements of itself apart from inclusion, which would not itself be “inclusive”. “Inclusion” and “diversity” are thus synonymous with the imperative that a people and/or culture cease to be itself and become a container for everything / everyone else.
What is interesting is that this implication is well understood in the intuitive lexicon of people of European descent when it is applied to non-European derived cultures or peoples. All that one needs to point out is that the moral imperative of societal neutrality is a colonial imposition, and thus other peoples have a right to consider whether they wish to change in order to accommodate it, or whether they wish to retain their own indigenous modes of social and moral arrangement. Everyone notices that if the Khoi-San made their ethnically and culturally particular societies “diverse” and “inclusive” of 50 million anglophone immigrants, the absurdity of expecting a people who value their own indigenous perspective on their own history, people, culture and society, becomes apparent. Indeed, for such a thing to be forced on the Khoi-San by a universalist oriented colonial British regime would be considered a moral depravity. This is because
People of European descent, however, have been inculcated with the presupposition that they are an exceptional people defined by not being discrete peoples, but in fact as timeless, placeless and thus cultureless, with no ethnic, historical, or cultural content to call their own. They thus have no cultural identity apart from the moral imperative of universal inclusion, which renders them a global default (besides being a shrinking minority), defined by nothing except accommodating “diversity” which is to say, other peoples and cultures that do define themselves in accordance with recognizable identity and content.
Ironically, the only way to sustain the double standard between the Khoi San, or Tibetans, and peoples around the world of European descent, is by placing them in different categories of human. It is thus impossible to support “diversity” and “inclusion”, post-colonial self-determination of “indigenous” peoples, and maintain the opposition to human categories that underpins “anti-racism”, all at the same time. However, this problem is never explored, because to even entertain the possibility that “diversity” and “inclusion” should be analyzed in any terms other than those who presume these things to be sacred is considered heretical in every meaningful sense of the word.
Peoples of European descent will thus remain on the road to oblivion, along with their culturally parochial, historically contingent, and temporary gods of “diversity” and “inclusion”, until they stop being Euro-centric and consider that other peoples may know how to behave more sensibly than them. Another irony is that peoples of European descent need to remove themselves from their colonial mindset or “decolonize” themselves, to begin to notice the suicidal meaninglessness of certain sacred principles that only became seen as such in the past 60 years.
Having recently gone to a seminar in a department of my east coast grad school, I noted an interesting phenomenon. There were a number of faces there who I have not seen before, all female. One was a professor I knew existed, and the others were 4 of her PhD students. Without giving too much away, the seminar involved a new way to approach species demarcation (a question that inevitably involves the application of a normative standard to define a biological population). After the talk came the questions I have heard a million times before and they revealed the reason these new faces were here. “What provision does your model make for variations between individuals”, “isn’t a normative value system exclusionary?”, “how is your idea different to rhetorical tools that enlist scientific authority to oppress ‘the other’” etc.
I had never seen them any of them at other seminars, because I go to a broad variety, and they undoubtedly only attend those they organize. They have no interest in ideas proposing new views toward questions like species demarcation, or naturalized normative models, because their ideology presumes that all of human thought and activity resolves into their frame. They only appear at seminars not directly related to their “field” when they believe the abstract prior to the seminar indicates a proposition that may weaken their ideological framework or is classed as morally objectionable by it. It is in these cases that they not only attend, but attend in force to dominate the question period with their “critique”. One full time staff hire had become a vector for an army of received morality enforcers, whose complete academic energies are dedicated to reinforcing their ideology and deploying it as the only lens through which they ever encounter other ideas. This was an SJW wolfpack.
Unsurprisingly the speaker, like all modern academics, had never interrogated his own moral frame, and as such his own implicit value structure was standard NPC morality. He was not a social justice inquisitor himself, which was why he was applying his academic work to different a subject, but he presumed tropes like “inclusion”, “diversity” and, “tolerance” to be moral imperatives. As such, the social justice enforcers didn’t have to consider the internal weaknesses of his argument to assault it. All they had to do was point out where it didn’t align with their moral framework. Being that the speaker presumed the tenets of this framework to be unquestionable, all he could do was sheepishly accept their “critique” as revealing genuine flaws in his argument, apologise for these errors, and increasingly retreat from nearly all the key points he made.
What this anecdote indicates is that the game is currently set up in a way that ridiculously advantages the social justice priesthood. The only “knockdown” argument that social justice enforcers need to employ to stop new ideas, is show where they come at the cost of their own unquestionable injunctions for “inclusion”, “diversity”, or “tolerance”. All an SJW hunter needs to do to succeed in their hunt is mumble something incoherent about “exclusion” or “oppression”, and the progenitor of any new idea, no matter how sophisticated, goes weak at the knees. The social justice critic is never required to defend their own frame, but granted social license to judge the objective moral credibility of everyone else’s. This needs to stop.
It is absurd that all arbiters of social justice need to succeed in an academic setting is show where another idea comes at the cost of “social justice”, without ever being taken to task to consider what the enforcement of this particular ideology, that is called “social justice” by its adherents”, might come at the cost of. Nor do they ever have to consider the historical contingency of their own analytical frame, while using this historicizing imperative as a blunt instrument against literally every other mode of discourse. What, for instance, is the morality of forced “inclusion” based on, I wonder? What is its history, and should it not be open to critique? Is “inclusion” and “diversity” necessarily desirable at all levels of everything at all times? If so why? No one has subjected the normative basis of “diversity” and “inclusion” to the critiques to which it subjects science and indeed all truth statements to which social justice wolfpacks take exception.
The great irony is that universal “inclusion” at every level and at all times destroys actual diversity, because each different category becomes homogenized. The same degree of “diversity” in a class of categories, makes all the categories exactly the same, thus rendering them meaningless. Yet, within each category of a larger family of things may exist an identity, way of life, or normative framework from which humans moralize and act. Forced “inclusion” and “diversity” thus, destroys all categories everywhere at all times comes, but also comes at the cost of other normative positions, from which people may derive meaning and purpose. SJW’s deploy hunters in all fields of discourse to root out what their analytical tool classes as “oppression” and “exclusion”, regardless of how such things may be framed in other systems of thought.
It is clear that families of thought that are genuinely dedicated to creatively exploring new ways to approach fundamental perspectives on the world simply do not have the ability to counteract an ideology of social justice whose adherents are dedicated to cynically “deconstructing” everything within their own frame, while closing their frame to critique. That frame needs to be challenged, and thus needs to be countered by equally intentional and targeted deployments of “deconstruction” from a different frame, whose adherents must hold it beyond critique. Social justice hunters have mastered the art of “deconstructing” all neutral parties whose discourse is in good faith, but they have no weapons against those whose discourse may be in bad faith. They know how to manipulate language, but not how to respond to their language being manipulated. To frame their analysis as rhetoric and to demand that they justify it, is to force the social justice enforcer back into the discourse of dialectic, in which they are generally incompetent. However, to accomplish this is not within the domain of dialectic itself, but rather within that of rhetoric. People will need to be trained who are dedicated to this task alone if there is to be any hope for people of European descent to live a life in which they are not forced to believe themselves to be timeless demons in a world of exorcists. Before any work can be done on building anything, we must remove their ability to destroy. This will involve identifying and deconstructing platform from which they do it.
I certainly do not purport to be able to provide a complete and sound review of Roger Scruton’s thought in a single post. However, I do intend to focus on a single shortcoming in his work, which I think he may know exists, but which he cannot in good conscience overcome.
I enjoyed Scruton’s assault on the “New Left” in “Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands”. My heart is with him, but I think I “out-pessimist” the arch pessimist (I rate its a generational thing). My key concern with Scruton (it is not a “critique”) is how he reasons about his solutions to the problems he describes.
As the Amazon blurb to FF&F outlines, Scruton “asks what can we put in the place of radical egalitarianism”. Personally, I simply see no “we” with which to even begin such a task. The only “we” I am expected to be apart of consists of peoples with different histories (upon which I may not comment as a privileged white person) who wish for me to forget my own history, except where it may confer on me (and my future children) an endless source of guilt. This “we” refuses me a place at any negotiating table for framing my own history and place in the world within a common narrative, because of my “privilege”, the denial of which only adds to the charge.
Scruton’s “we” presumably communicates a community with common “universal” anglophone axioms that regulate moral imperatives and moderation. His propositions for collective action are predicated on a common sense of morality, destiny and reasonable discourse, which simply does not exist anymore. In what colonial state, for instance, are we to find such a condition? I don’t think any such “we” could ever be made to exist again without a separation of peoples/nations and existing states.
The prevailing consensus of our society is that people of European descent must live in a permanent state of apology and forgo all narrative control of their own history, until they are consigned to oblivion. We are forced to accept, as revealed doctrine, arguments that tell those of European descent that they don’t have a genuine history (except of course where that history is one of inter-generational oppression). Any objection is classed as a moral perversion.
As such, I can only agree with John Adams that “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy”. Our situation is even more dire, in that we must study politics and war in order to simply A.) continue existing in any meaningful way, and B.) save our children from living as despised minorities who are barred from any historical identity beyond an inescapable debt to the rest of the world.
As it stands, my primary intellectual occupation is to find a way to raise my children in a world in which they will not be paralyzed by guilt for their existence, and taught that their ancestral history is uniquely savage cruel and meaningless, while they live amongst peoples who celebrate and find meaning in their own ancestral and cultural histories. I want to find a way for my children to avoid being forced to live as nihilistic, deracinated atoms with no historical legacy except inescapable guilt, in states occupied by groups who find protection, identity, and meaning in their own shared ethno-cultural trajectories through time, from which those with “white privilege” are excluded.
I simply do not see Roger Scruton offering a path toward such goals. I doubt, however, it would have been possible for him to do so.
It is time for those interested in living in their own world of meaning and beauty to realize that in global modernity, any category with internal meaning and beauty will be relentlessly attacked. Any category with meaning will by definition exclude, which will be called bigoted, and anything beautiful presumes standards, which in turn presumes a hierarchy, and will be called oppressive. Any category that sustains its own meaning and beauty could never be universal and would never be valueless. As such, the currents of humanity that desire such things above all will never rest until categories that sustain internal meaning and beauty cease to exist. This inevitable state of affairs should not be lamented, nor need anyone worry about trying to prevent or reverse it, which is impossible. It simply needs to be recognized and adapted to.