By E. Kyle Richey
As the days pass the world waits on the ballots to be counted with fraud investigations beginning, U.S. court handling disputes, and protestors marching in the streets for their cause or candidate (or both); the very legitimacy of the United States government along with the Media and Corporate America now all teeter in the balance. Whoever is elected now enters a more susceptible environment, one that may no longer be able to sustain favor of a wary public. Radicals now seek revenge regardless of who is in office. If Trump is reelected there stands a good chance that radical leftist elements will bring fire to the streets. Should Biden obtain the Presidency, it is uncertain if Trump supporters or even if President Trump himself will stand down; or if Biden himself is mentally up to the task, begging the question, under the assumption that Biden is elected, did half of America actually just elect America’s first black female president? All of these concerns are being asked. Emotions have peaked. Late Modernity’s perpetual state is here. It may be time to consider a different way forward by first stepping back.
On September 29, 2018 the following thesis statement was presented before professors at a university:
“Arising from identity-based ideologies, secular modern American colleges and universities have increasingly adopted identity politics into their institutional practices. This adoption has resulted in limited discourses and substantive debates between opposing ideological, philosophical, scientific, and theological systems and their claims. Such practices dilute knowledge which in turn reduces innovation, ideas, and the search for truth. Furthermore, identity-politics is beyond the walls of academia, influencing other public and private spheres. In the wake of these changes, a growing wave of opposition has formed, offering new ideas and possible solutions concerning identity politics. But are these solutions viable?”1
That was my thesis.
In October of 2018 I presented my theory (a model built for higher education in mind) called: “Collision at the Intersection of Ideas: The Crisis of Identity in Higher Education“2
My argument was that identity-based politics or the ideological belief that a person’s identity whether based on race, gender, sex, age, or even areas of religion were becoming a point of irreconcilable contention within higher education to such a degree that it narrowed actual learning concerning facts, knowledge growth, and differing perspectives all at the determent of the core purpose that is higher learning. I defined Identity Politics from Francis Fukuyama’s book, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment and a study by Marilynn B. Brewer titled, The Many Faces of Social Identity: Implications for Political Psychology (2001):
Individuals who, through their sense of identity, feel they are being alienated and demand recognition.3
To argue my thesis I had to present the structure of Identity Politics i.e. how it manifests in higher education, prove it existed within higher education, and present studies that demonstrated a conflict with the identity-based culture in colleges and universities (little did I grasp it was also in Christian colleges, seminaries, and churches at that point).
Using my definition of Identity Politics (IP) I proved actual mechanisms or tools within colleges that are utilized administratively by institutions of higher education including:
- Social Justice & Equity
- Hate Speech
- White Fragility
- Trigger Warning’s
- Sanctuary Campus
- Safe Space
- Phobias (e.g. Transphobia)
- Gender Pronouns
Along with studies that conflicted with the established narrative that universities hold as their position in opposition to other varying opinions (here are some examples I presented at the time):
Microaggressions and Victimhood Culture
Campbell, B., & Manning, J. (2014). Microaggression and moral cultures. Comparative sociology, 13, 692–726.
Campbell, B., & Manning, J. (2018). The rise of victimhood culture: Microaggressions, safe spaces, and the new culture wars. [No city]: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lewis, H. R. (2007). Excellence without a soul: Does liberal education have a future? New York, NY: PublicAffairs. Lilienfeld, S. O. (2017). Microaggressions. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(1), 138–169.
Group Polorization & Identity
Cikara, M., & Van Bavel, J. J. (2014). The neuroscience of intergroup relations: An integrative review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(245).
Myers, D. G., & Lamm, H. (1976). The group polarization phenomenon. Psychological Bulletin, 83(4), 602-627. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.83.4.602
Gender/Sex differences between Males and Females
Crick, N. R., & Grotpeter, J. K. (1995). Relational aggression, gender, and social-psychological adjustment. Child Development, 66(3), 710–722.
Deaner, R. O., Balish, S. M., & Lombardo, M. P. (2016). Sex differences in sports interest and motivation: An evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 10(2), 73– 97.
LaFreniere, P. (2011). Evolutionary functions of social play: Life histories, sex differences, and emotion regulation. American Journal of Play, 3(4), 464–488.
Safe Spaces and Critical Thinking
Boostrom, Robert. (1998). ‘Safe spaces’: Reflections on an educational metaphor. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 30:4, 397-408. DOI: 10.1080/002202798183549
Barrett, Betty J. (2010) “Is “Safety” Dangerous? A Critical Examination of the Classroom as Safe Space,” The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: 1:1. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2010.1.9
Even in 2018 I could see the intersection between higher education and the workplace or in politics, but I naively believed that Christian Institutions could safe guard themselves from IP.
Within my thesis I wanted to show two important factors at play within and outside of higher education:
1) A “Conflict of Visions” as explained by Thomas Sowell; a vision being “our sense of how the world works” as Sowell elaborates “Visions are the foundations on which theories are built… Visions are very subjective, but well-constructed theories have clear implications, and facts can test and measure their objective validity” (p. 4).4 From Sowell’s perspective, the place of conflict comes at the degree in which a vision is constrained or unconstrained; the more constrained a vision the less willing the society or group or person is to act on an issue of importance precisely because that action may result in a reverberation of consequences larger than the original issue. For example, ending a ban on gay marriage. An action of this kind, right or wrong, has consequences in relation to those who oppose gay marriage and are at conflict with other LGBTQ issues beyond just marriage. We see this contention between people of faith and a secular view in terms of rights. Without going into that debate, the unconstrained vision says that this is an act of justice; everyone should have the right to marry whomever they want in the name of love or some ethereal concept. A very real point of contention therefore exists between the two visions and neither vision is always right or wrong, rather Sowell demonstrates the need for logic and facts regardless of a constrained or unconstrained vision. Sowell recognizes the imperfection of reason itself as well along with the real emotional and psychological factors that come with these debates or visions of conflict. Nothing is perfect and that is the point by Sowell. There are no utopias, only gulags when a sect moves toward their utopian ideal which will eventually fail.
2) A collision concerning a conflict of visions had occurred; a collision at the intersection of ideas. Fundamental positions are now incapable of coexisting in a liberal democratic society because identity based politics that liberalism and capitalism, neoliberalism, successfully forged. The beginning decay of Liberalism started at the wake of postmodernism in the late 1940s after a disillusioned populace survived WW2 going into the 1950s with a lost sense of trust in human institutions and a desire for more in life. Old bonds, already decaying, were rupturing by the 1960s and onward. By the year 2000 society had reached a kind of peak as cultures became too convoluted and ideologies had heightened to such a degree that society, or my original focus higher education, was no longer capable of maintaining a real viability: the ability to live, grow, and develop outside an increasingly narrowing scope of indoctrination. Now I did not go as far as calling it indoctrination then, however, I maintained colleges have increasingly deduced arguments to a place of irreconcilable differences or a place of “Us vs Them” mentality.5 Conflict had become a wreckage; the ivory tower was now a rubble (a paper I wrote in the beginning of my program).6
By indoctrination I mean to suggest that institutions of higher learning, in order to preserve a status of legitimacy, had to follow and finally instill a progressive moral relativity that slowly influenced colleges which then exported those ideas back into general society. What I learned was that what happened in higher education was happening in the United States and throughout the west.
Today nearly every branch of government and workplace environment is subjected to a form of diversity, equity, and inclusion that goes beyond the boundaries of equality and merit and civil rights. Now a conflict exists to such a level that it slowly forced new convergences and divergences of groups; late modernity (1950 to the Present) was and remains a paradigm shift that now has liberal minded people either “moving” more toward the politically left or politically right; relgious beliefs are in the midst of a defragmentation as Christians and Atheists can more easily find themselves sharing similar social, political, and economic beliefs even though what roots them into their belief about abortion, gender, sex, or economics is not the same. Late modern society is rapidly diffusing but it won’t last forever because it is a paradigm shift, we are merely living in a point at which structures of authority, meaning, purpose, and legitimacy are all changing.
There are two layers concerning a principle of legitimacy as defined by the political scientist Francis Fukuyama: 1) “Legitimacy is not justice or right in an absolute sense; it is a relative concept that exists in people’s subjective perceptions” (p. 15)7 and 2) “A lack of legitimacy among the population as a whole does not spell a crisis of legitimacy for the regime unless it begins to infect the elites tied to the regime itself…” (p. 16).8 Fukuyama is directly speaking to strong-states, authoritarian states, in the latter point but the principle applies to a democratic society such as the United States.
All societies perform some kind of indoctrination in a general sense. But this was my first inklings of a radical leftist drive toward something entirely different than a “perspective” simply worth learning. No it was something much more. Prior to graduating it became clear that these beliefs aimed to throw Westernized, Christian believing, and anything considered “white” or “privileged” or “hateful” to the lions den. These were racist ideologs; Sowell’s worrisome quest-seeking Social Justice Warriors; Marxist at their core. That is not a political statement. These are real facts. Real people. Real radicals. However, after graduation it became readily apparent that QAnon conspiracies, the Alt-Right, Flat Earthers, and other far-right groups had left reality for an America that could be made great again if only they disperse “the enemy” at large.
Totalitarian movements are possible wherever there are masses who for one reason or another have acquired the appetite for political organization. Masses are not held together by a consciousness of common interest and they lack that specific class articulateness which is expressed in determined, limited, and obtainable goals. The term masses applies only where we deal with people who either because of sheer numbers, or indifference, or a combination of both, cannot be integrated into any organization based on common interest, into political parties or municipal governments or professional organizations or trade unions. Potentially, they exist in every country and form the majority of those large numbers of neutral, politically indifferent people who never join a party and hardly ever go to the polls. — Hannah Arendt, The Origins Of Totalitarianisms (1951), p. 311
As it stands a vote for Biden or Trump, however unwilling the populace may have been in their desire to vote, represents a repudiation and judgment over the other. A Biden victory is a win against hate, racism, and evil Americanism; a Trump victory is a vanguard against Woke liberalism and Socialism. Neither the ardent supporter nor the wary voter can see past the conflicting viewpoints. They see only a necessary conflict; a good versus evil. Currently Trump voters fear voter fraud in Arizona, Michigan, and other battle ground states. Biden supporters see it has a necessary reckoning after Hillary and Gore. Speculation runs rampant as major news networks and social media censors information including providing their own fact-checking creating a narrative that spins further the chaos. All the while Covid-19 continually magnifies uncertainty. Life at the moment is an upward battle; a fog of present distrust hangs low. No one knows what to believe or why except they having an appetite for politics in the midst of difficult times. Arendt further states:
The chief characteristic of the mass man is not brutality and backwardness, but his isolation and lack of normal social relationships. — Hannah Arendt, The Origins Of Totalitarianisms (1951), p. 317
Trends of loneliness, narcissism, nihilism, and fear have been rising for decades according to sociologist like Robert D. Putnam8 along with a great moral and economic bifurcation of White America as demonstrated by Charles Murray.9 America is divided and divided absolutely10 to the point it is frustrating institutions within the paradigm shift of power and authority. Rod Dreher sees the writing on the wall from his publication of Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents to last night’s (November 5, 2020) blog article, A Divided Country:
Law and order is so fundamental to the conservative stance towards the world. Had the BLM protests not been violent, they would not have stoked the Right so much. This is something that progressives deeply need to understand. On the Right, it’s not reaction against racial justice protests; it’s reaction against violence, and the justification of the violence we heard from many on the Left in the media. Joe Biden’s criticism of the protesters did not ring true…
We are going to remain a divided country. The election solved nothing. The idea, though, that if only we could have gotten rid of Donald Trump, then things would heal, was always an absurd fantasy. We are a divided country because we have lost the core narratives that bound us: a shared Christian faith (however attenuated), and a shared commitment to the historical narrative of America as an imperfect country that always strives to make life better for the next generation than the one that came before it.
We can’t even agree on what America is for anymore.
A Viable Solution
The United States of America has a real solution to resolving the pressures at present, but it comes at the cost of surrendering (a virtue few have) at at time when surrender appears as defeat. It is a mechanism designed within the very fabric of American Constitutionalism. We risk balkanization or greater tyranny if we fail to make this decision. American’s who wish to protect liberty and freedom no matter their political or religious beliefs must re-embrace a Strong Federalism.
Returning power back to the States so much power in fact that the Federal government is paralyzed from enforcing further legal decisions on the states as it has been in the last one hundred years. Believe in high taxes, enormous regulations, and progressive laws? Move to California, Oregon, New York, or Washington state. Let states decide nearly every aspect of life, make their Constitutions have meaning and purpose again. Take elections away from the national pull that desires a single leader, a hero of hope and change. America must loosen its grip by giving power and authority back to the states at the cost of ripping out the cords of a broken federal government and it’s deep state.
Next Time: A Return to Strong Federalism: A Historical and Philosophical Argument for the States
1 Richey, Edward K. 23 September 2018. Collision At the Intersection of Ideas: The Crisis of Identity in Higher Education. Thesis. University of Texas San Antonio.
2 Ibid. Presentation.
3 Brewer, M. (2001). The Many Faces of Social Identity: Implications for Political Psychology. Political Psychology, 22(1), 115-125. Retrieved November 6, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3791908
4 Sowell, Thomas. 2007. A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. NY: Basic Books.
5 Lukianoff, Greg., Haidt, Jonathan. (2018). The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure. New York, NY: Penguin Press.
6 Richey, Edward K. 6 December 2017. An Ivory Rubble: Postmodernism & The Collapse of the Modern University and its Impact on Society. University of Texas San Antonio.
7 Fukuyama, Francis. 1992. The End of History and The Last Man. NY: The Free Press
8 Putnam, Robert. 2000. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. NY: Simon & Schuster
9 Murray, Charles. 2013. Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. NY: Crown Publishing
10 French, David. 2020. Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation. NY: St. Martin’s Press