September 21, 2020
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
LewRockwell.com Publishes Another of My Essays
On September 13, 2020, I offered a short essay in the MY CORNER series, “A New Age Is Upon Us and It Threatens To Devour Us.” With a few edits that piece was picked up by LewRockwell.com and published by his online journal on September 14. As published that essay has been one of the most read columns I’ve written in recent months. In that short piece I commented on the insights and conclusions of English philosopher John Gray, whose view of our contemporary age is, frankly, a negative one: we are, he seems to be saying, in the midst of a vast sea change, the end of the (failed) experiment in universalist (and largely secular) democratic liberalism which began in earnest in the late 18th century, now coming to a sputtering and inglorious end.
It is not just due to the unleashed (and uncontrolled) violence in the streets or the frenzied political and cultural fanaticism of our elites and in the media, it is the long-simmering quasi-religious, cultic perversion of our society, a true intellectual and social pandemic which has affected millions of people. It is, in effect, a form of madness, the dark and evil contrary of our historic Christian beliefs. Essentially, it percolates in our schools and colleges where the venom is inculcated into the tabula rasa minds of children of trusting parents who have been lulled into thinking that the key to success in society is a degree for Johnny or Mary from a “prestigious center of education.”
Those “prestigious centers of education” are hothouse centers of indoctrination. Yet, the demigod of what is called “a good education” (meaning graduating from a doctrinaire leftist college with an historically-esteemed reputation, e.g. Harvard and Yale) has been, certainly since the Puritans, an ideal that almost everyone, Democrat and Republican, buys into without reservation.
That needs to end. Now.
Rather than continuing to throw millions of taxpayer dollars at colleges where Critical Race Theory is intolerant of any other view on race, gender and class—rather than continuing to pay bloated salaries to lunatic “woke,” ideologically-perverted women professors who zealously wish (and pretend) that they are black—rather than blather on about the problem but very seldom put forward forcefully needed proposals for changes—rather than such gestures, so-called reformers must manfully stand forward. Truly radical measures are demanded if our nation, indeed our very civilization is to survive.
Certainly, there are efforts to encourage charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools. Such efforts need to be a priority. And on the level of higher education, it must be emphasized that public universities are not independent, self-governing entities but belong to the citizens of each state, and that the incestuous and oligarchic promotion of ideological avatars will end. Professors and teachers should be vetted by impartial review boards at the end of each academic year, just like the process that most professionals must undergo.
Back in October 2014 I authored an essay on the Post-War Between the States Southern writer/philosopher, Robert Lewis Dabney. For several years Dabney was engaged in a debate with Virginia’s first Superintendent of Public Education, William Ruffner. Dabney forthrightly opposed the system of free, public education which sought to impose an unnatural equality on all students. “If the State undertakes to countervail the legislation of Nature [and Providence] by leveling action, the attempt is wicked, mischievous, and futile,” he wrote. Indeed, Dabney questioned “whether the use merely of letters is not education, but only one means of education, and not the only means.”
And prophetically, he predicted the very real prospect that the new public schools would be used by “demagogues in the interests of their faction.” That prophesy, indeed, has come to pass, and with a vengeance.
Perhaps his most serious indictment of public education is this: what happens to religious instruction if the state takes over the teaching of children and the natural, God-given rights of parents are denied? Given the status of post-war relations between church and state and changing constitutional interpretations, the state could not endorse one religious belief over another. State-sponsored education would be secularized. But if education were not Christian, Dabney asserted, then it would inevitably become anti-Christian.
Dabney failed in his efforts. And in Virginia and the United States education became the worshipped Golden Calf, but also, effectively the Trojan Horse. For long ago the Marxist theoreticians of the 1920s and 1930s, the academic liberals of the 1950s and 1960s, and their progeny realized this. Education became the Achilles Heel, the means of infiltration and the cauldron from which Revolution would emerge.
I recall my days in graduate school at the University of Virginia, and I remember my friends then already infected with the Left wing revolutionary virus, brandishing copies of Frantz Fanon’s anti-colonialist and anti-white text The Wretched of the Earth (1961), or spouting slogans manufactured in Communist Cuba and penned by Saul Alinsky. I now can see what their doctorates and MA’s have brought forth: Two more generations of post-Marxist theory—the rigid applications of Critical Race Theory and “gender egalitarianism”—and presently the cultic zeal and commitment to totally destroy Western Christian civilization and culture.
But in so doing they have also exposed the weakness and corruption of the liberal democratic experiment and perhaps helped bring on its demise. This, then, is what John Gray observes. And his view, not a comfortable one perhaps, merits serious consideration.
Here is that column:
By Boyd D.
September 14, 2020
The noted English professor and philosopher, John N. Gray, is controversial for his views expressed in a number of highly-touted books. If I can summarize one of his main contentions it is this: the experiment in universalist “democratic liberalism,” unleashed by the 18 century Enlightenment (and partially fulfilled by the American Revolution in conservative fashion, but by the Socialists and Marxists in a more radical fashion), is coming to a gagging and sputtering end. In a certain—if remote—sense, what Gray is saying is what the traditionalist Christian poet and author T. S. Eliot once famously wrote in his epic poem “The Hollow Men” (1925), written in the disastrous aftermath of the devastation, both intellectual and material, after World War I: “This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.”
In the following essay, Gray examines the current woke rebellion in the streets, but also in the ivory halls of academe and among our elite government and cultural classes. The Age of Enlightenment Liberalism, he asserts, is ending.
And in reading and thinking about it, his short piece seems to go hand-in-hand with something I published recently both at The Abbeville Institute and . My essay titled, “Cancel Culture Comes South,” in a different version, was first issued in the MY CORNER series on September 6, as “Cancel Culture and the Religious Origins of the Revolution in the Streets.” I rewrote it to give it more emphasis on the effects of “cancel culture” in the South, and in that new version it was published…and it is that version that I offer today, immediately after Gray’s essay.
Gray compares the present day woke Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) to chiliastic millenarians—religious hyper-fanatics of the past—who attempted to overturn and in effect destroy the traditions of Western Christianity. Those movements, including the Cathares, Lollards, Puritans and Fifth Monarchy Men, and in particular, the Anabaptists with their supreme leader John of Leiden [AKA, Jan Bockelson], sought to either destroy those traditions, or, at the very least to completely re-invent them. And what followed was inevitably a period of social and political anarchy, and quickly the imposition of an authoritarianism more severe and brutal than anything established historic Christianity ever contemplated. They would bring on the thousand year terrestrial reign of the Deity, even if it took the massacre of every human life where they dwelt to do it.
Although there are striking parallels between those earlier millenarian movements and today’s zealots, there are also some significant differences. While both illustrate a kind of frenzied religious fanaticism, these latter day millenarians are mostly characterized by a dominant anarchism. Their religious zeal is secularized. Save for “defunding the police” and demands for total (but ill-defined) equality and reparations of some kind, much of their rhetoric betrays a lack of precision and deeper thought. And unlike earlier movements, our present SJWs are being funded and to some degree directed by our elites, ensconced many times in Silicon Valley, or Hollywood, and on Wall Street. It follows that those empowered elites wish to use the street warriors and the widely-diffused and praised Black Lives Matter campaign for their own purposes, their own well-being, and their own power. And, thus, they have literally cowed and shamed most of our political class into submission; who now dares criticize Black Lives Matter or the so-called demands for “equality” (and some form of reparations for “white oppression” and past “injustice”) without bringing down the wrath of the entirety of the media and most political leaders? And this includes Republicans and establishment conservatives who run as fast as they can to the tall grass.
Notice one more significant characteristic: many of the street terrorists are rich white kids, children of wealth and position, educated usually (and badly) at places like Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, UNC, and Duke, and with families who can afford to live in gated communities, and who, in fact, in their insouciant and sneering liberalism, disdain and despise what the Jewish writer Philip Roth once called despectively, “fly-over country.” In other words, anyone outside of those centers of power and wealth who might possibly challenge their hegemony. For them the SJWs are effective storm troopers…that is, as long as they don’t get out of control, or go into those posh neighborhoods where a Nancy Pelosi or Madonna live.
Or, if it seems that politically the street terrorism appears to get out of hand, maybe favoring President Trump politically. Ah, then those elites must offer their pro forma, generalized condemnations, just to be on record…despite their real encouragement of the revolution.
Never mind, Gray seems to say, the American faith in a secular universalist redemption and the myth that somehow we are a kind of New Jerusalem, that shining City of a Hill, is dying and we can hope only to pick up the pieces in the new age that is being born.
Copyright © Boyd D. Cathey