martes, 7 de febrero de 2017

Is the social revolution approaching its Thermidor, the point at which its progress stops or reverses?

A Turning Point in the Culture War?

By James Kalb

Is the social revolution approaching its Thermidor, the point at which its progress stops or reverses? It’s difficult to be optimistic, but recent developments raise the possibility.

Until very recently, effective opposition to globalism, open borders, and lifestyle liberalism—that is, for traditional local ties over global markets, regulatory bureaucracies, and recent understandings of human rights—had all but disappeared. Those trends still have powerful backing, but electoral reverses in Europe and the United States make them seem less invincible.

Brexit and Donald Trump’s campaign emphasized opposition to globalization and open borders rather than lifestyle liberalism, and the connection between the two sets of issues is indirect. Even so, unity is the strength of orthodoxy, including that of the Left, and progressives—who have reason to pay attention—believe that recent movements in support of national and local identity threaten their gains on issues such as abortion, “gay marriage,” and transgenderism.

They’re likely right. The issue regarding all these issues is the value of traditional and informal local connections. If we can live happily as autonomous individuals in a universal order defined wholly by markets and bureaucracies, progressives are right. If they’re wrong, and a good life requires other more local and concrete ties that bind—marriage, family, religion, local and national community—together with the distinctions and arrangements that support them, then the opponents of current public orthodoxy, including serious Catholics, raise issues that need to be addressed.

The result of recent events, which demonstrate resistance to progressivist universalism, is to allow those now considered political heretics to bring a variety of issues that seemed all but lost back into public discussion. Their situation is still very difficult. Progressives dominate public discussion, and they have absolute faith in their cause, so reverses lead them to redouble their efforts. For that reason we’re sure to see more vigorous attempts to enforce liberal orthodoxy. That’s what happened in the past: AIDs sacralized homosexuality, abortion put radical feminism beyond discussion, and 9/11 turned Islamophobia into a hate crime. If a tendency is considered politically necessary, the more problems it causes the more uncompromising the attempts to impose it.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that respected progressives claim that Brexit, Trump’s victory, and other recent developments result from bigotry and are therefore illegitimate. The evidence is said to be an outburst of hate crimes, although in America verifiable crimes motivated by group or political hatred seem mostly the work of people opposed to Trump.

In any case, hate and bigotry are partly in the eye of the beholder: some say it’s hate to deny Bruce Jenner is a woman, others that it’s hate to write off a quarter of the population as an irredeemable basket of deplorables. At bottom, “hate” now seems to refer mostly to the belief that traditional ways of organizing life have something to be said for them, so traditional connections and distinctions, such as those between the sexes, are not wholly evil.

As an alternative, liberal commentators say recent reverses are illegitimate because they result from ignorance, conspiracy theories, and manipulations or deceptions perpetrated by Fox News, the Russians, obscure web sites, or whoever. Genuine news, apparently, is made up of the stories the New York Times and other established news organizations choose to present. Even if stories such organizations play up turn out to have factual problems, they’re still considered beneficial overall because they draw attention to larger truths.

It’s evident such claims are based less on facts than the conviction progressive views are patently correct and opposition purely a matter of ignorance and ill will. It’s hard though to discount their long-term effect when the major news media insist on them and they are backed by other centers of power, such as academia. Repetition transforms accepted understandings, especially when backed by social position and the ability to guide discussion through editorial decisions and manipulation of search results and social media feeds.

For now, though, established authorities have lost credit among many people, and the future is unforeseeable. There is a new readiness to defy orthodoxy, new vehicles for dissenters to make their voices heard, and a new willingness among many people to listen and consider. We should use the situation while we have it.


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