Intolerance, Individualism, and the Paradox of Dogma

Did you hear about the 18-year-old Utah girl, Keziah Daum (non-Asian), who did nothing wrong last month?

And yet she was harassed like hell, inadvertently sparking an outrageous and indefensible left-wing backlash merely by wearing in celebration and total homage a beautiful prom dress of qipao (Chinese) provenance.

Her putative crime? “Cultural appropriation.”

Let me tell you something:

This is a kind of lunacy.

Let me tell you something else:

The rightwing lunatics who bomb abortion clinics have nothing — and I mean nothing — on the left-wing lunatics who bomb ski resorts and blow up bridges, who are no different fundamentally from the zealots who set meat-trucks on fire and destroy “by whatever means necessary.”

Having tasted firsthand a little of the venom from both sides, right and left, I can tell you without any shred of hesitation or doubt that, in terms of sheer vitriol and sheer numbers, the left is by far the most shrill, hostile, intolerant, blindly dogmatic, and closed-off-to-rational-discussion of any group I’ve encountered firsthand — in fact, the numbers don’t even compare — and I, who am atheist and no right-winger, would sooner talk to a room full of fundamentalist Christians about why abortion should be legal, rather than talking to even moderate enviro groups about, for instance, the many, many environmentally hazardous materials that go into making a single silicon cell for a solar panel, who will sometimes try to shout you out of the room for the very subject-matter of your talk, before even hearing a single word you’ve said.

Henry Wismayer, a self-described “lefty,” just wrote an article titled Liberals: Please Chill Out — and though the article is fairly well-written and he does make a few good points, what his article reveals most tellingly of all, in my opinion, is how even someone aware enough to write such an article, who glimpses that something is wrong in this depth of blind zealotry and dogmatism, is himself so indoctrinated in the fundamental tenets of that same dogma that he cannot conceive his fundamental premises might be wrong (which many of them are): he merely thinks that how “lefties” react is what’s in need of modification.

To even consider, for instance, the notion that climate change is not catastrophic or that human ingenuity can solve it doesn’t even enter into the equation, or his brain.

That is frightening.

It’s as thorough an indoctrination as any religion, and it’s why I’ve long held that dogma (and not God or gods or a belief in the supernatural) is the distinguishing characteristic of religion.

As The Onion (which I’m not really a fan of) once well expressed it:

“College Encourages Lively Exchange of Idea: Students, Faculty Invited to Freely Express Single Viewpoint.”

This excellent writer (and individualistic thinker, and no Republican) put it even better:

The cultural and political left is cocooning itself in a bubble of ideological uniformity. This is intended to totally suppress dissent on key issues by making it impossible for anyone to even express a divergent opinion. The result is to entrench leftist dogma, in the hope that a whole generation will graduate from college unable to engage in thoughtcrime.

That’s the dilemma for anyone trying to overturn any aspect of this dogma. How can you debate an issue and change anyone’s mind, when the discussion has been rigged so that your viewpoint is dismissed as illegitimate before anyone has even heard it? So the new orthodoxy seems impenetrable and its hold on the young unbreakable.

If I were to come up with one idea for how the left could cripple itself over the long term, it would be: teach your young adherents that ideological debate is an abnormal trauma and that it is a terrible imposition to ever expect them to engage in it. It is a great way of raising a generation of mental cripples. And that is exactly what they have set out to do.

“Intersectionality” is one of the more recent examples of this new dogma to cross my ken.

Intersectionality is a neologism coined by Columbia law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, and it is the latest variation on so-called identity politics: believing, as it does, that you and I are not fundamentally individual human beings, but rather that our identity is determined by how many (minority) groups we belong to. This, says intersectionality, is what unites (and divides) us.

Ultimately intersectionality, like all forms of anti-individualism — which is to say, collectivism — is the impossible attempt to define something by means of non-essentials.

The thing that defines humans — our common denominator, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender, color, or class — is our human faculty of reason.

Our defining characteristic is our rational-conceptual faculty.

Thus, the attempt to make anything else the essential or defining characteristic, whether sex, sexual preference, skin color, gender, or anything else, is to define by means of non-fundamental characteristics: i.e. it is to incorrectly define.

The consequences of this are enormous.

Because accurate definitions are our means of understanding reality and are the guardians of reason and cognitive clarity — “the first line of defense against the chaos of mental disintegration” — defining humans by means of non-essential characteristics serves to divide humans endlessly. It balkanizes and confuses — “first, confuse the vocabulary” — and it pits humans against one another, negating the natural kinship that exists among us, far more than it unifies.

Proper definitions — i.e. defining by means of essential characteristics — is not to say that our secondary characteristics do not matter at all. It’s only to say that these characteristics don’t fundamentally define us, and the attempt to make them fundamental is to make them the tail that wags the dog.

Dogma is the problem.

That’s why the most rebellious thing any human can do is reason and think for herself.

The paradox of dogma is this:

If you successfully shut down all public debate and discourse, is this a way of making sure that you win? Or is it an admission that you’ve already lost?

I’ll leave each individual reader to answer that for him or herself, and I’ll close with this quotation:

“The imposition of dogma succeeds in getting everyone to mouth the right slogans, even as fewer and fewer of them understand the ideology behind it,” wrote Robert Tracinski.




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