The following essay from Neue Zürcher Zeitung describes the end-state of the Long March Through the Institutions, which is what we are currently seeing in the twilight of Western Europe.
Many thanks to JLH for the translation:
The Barbarians Are Lurking Everywhere
by René Scheu
October 28, 2017
Anti-racism is racism, too. How Progressives are risking the heritage of the Enlightenment — and the equality of citizens.
Progressives style themselves the ones who regard human progress as a moral task.
They intervene to force society into the direction they see as the only correct one. Magic words are: emancipation, integration and inclusion. They see themselves as the avant garde of global openness and tolerance. These same progressive comrades have become entangled lately in contradictions that give rise even among their leftist friends to doubts about the progressiveness of their positions. Is it not astonishing when logical secularists like them demand tolerance for an Islam that does not distinguish between religion and state?
How can someone who decries the attitude of the Catholic Church toward contraception and the priesthood simultaneously defend a worldview that values women less than men?
How is it that eloquent, progressive feminists advocate for the right of women to be fully veiled?
And how to explain that these same people who call themselves progressives and detect racial discrimination everywhere are themselves prone to discredit their critics in terms of skin color and gender — especially raging white men?
Just to be clear: Yes, I am a white man — not raging, but firm in my convictions. When progressives lecture reactionaries, and professed anti-racists are promoted to stooges of the racists, then something is rotten in the state. The paradoxes and contradictions in which the custodians of progressivism have entangled themselves have certainly been accentuated under the aegis of immigration from outside Europe. Considerable psychic resources and intellectual pirouettes make it possible to ignore this. In the process, the logical dislocations simply reveal the result of a far older mode of thought.
Defeat of Thinking
Alert observers such as Alan Finkielkraut have long since described its outlines. In 1987, the French intellectual published a book that is worth remembering today, thirty years later: The Defeat of Thinking. His thesis: After WWII, when they had the moral high ground on the basis of resistance to the National Socialists, the Left took leave of the Enlightenment and its postulation of a universal human reason. From a legitimate criticism of the West grew a kind of intellectual auto-exorcism whose new magic word was ethnocentrism or Eurocentrism. What Europeans call human reason — according to this — is nothing more than the hegemonic form of a breed of people who brought forth the greatest evil of the modern age through capitalism and totalitarianism.
A Culture of Debate is More Necessary Than Ever
And with that, the culture critics throw out the baby with the bathwater. The new cultural relativism, which began to take effect in the new Left milieu of the 1960s, undermined the equality of human beings and played into the hands of the new Right. It just took some decades for the effects to become noticeable. And that is where we are today.
As the most important witness to this development, Finkielkraut cites the great French ethnologist, Claude Lévi-Strauss. In 1951, Lévi-Strauss gave a keynote address to UNESCO in which he sharply rejected the “racist doctrine” of biological explanation of distinctions in lifestyles and ways of thinking. What matters, according to Lévi-Strauss, are “geographic, historical and sociological conditions,” which he encapsulates in the concept of culture. There is no uniform development of culture, so there is no general criterion to compare them. Thus, there is no hierarchy, but rather an equivalent difference among cultures. Lévi-Strauss castigates the arrogance of the West in distinguishing between civilization and barbarism. Whoever presumes to represent the apex of humanity is excluding others from it. So it follows that “a barbarian is, first and foremost, the one who believes in barbarism.”
In 1971, Lévi-Strauss was invited by UNESCO to give another speech, and this time he caused an uproar, because he said something that those present did not want to hear. Yet all he did was to delineate the consequences of his earlier talk, with no consideration for false harmony. If it is cultures that shape human beings in their lifestyle, and if these cultures cannot be compared by a general standard, then there will also be acts of exclusion among members of various cultures, which will go as far as hostility.
The differentiation of cultures will, so to speak, become absolute: It no longer signifies inferiority, but an absolute remove
Lévi-Strauss recognizes in this a natural human behavior, which contains great potential for tension. The “others” are not barbarians, but are nonetheless strangers, whose otherness has a threatening aspect. While critics accuse the ethnologist of legitimizing xenophobia, Lévi-Strauss, for his part, accuses them of trivializing the concept of racism.
Racism Without Race
According to Finkielkraut, Lévi-Strauss manages — despite this distancing — to advance a new racism, just different than intended. That is, in Lévi-Strauss’ construct, human beings are seen only as members of cultures, but not as individuals who can speak out against the customs and values of their own cultures, By this logic, the human being is no longer an entity capable of making decisions, but a cultural entity. Being rooted in the culture is absolutely definitive of actions. So on one hand, Lévi-Strauss frees the human being from the bonds of nature and, on the other hand, unwittingly makes him the prisoner his culture.
The differentiation of cultures will, so to speak, become absolute: It no longer signifies inferiority, but in its place an absolute distancing. So Lévi-Strauss’ postulated equivalence of cultures perforce comes into conflict with the equality of all people. The point, according to this interpretation, is that even human rights are just a Western invention and valid only for certain cultures (conversely — depending upon cultural context — practices like patriarchy or polygamy are also justified).
Finkielkraut calls this kind of exaltation of culture a “racism without race” and summarizes: “A racism based on differences displaces the former, colonial racism based on inequality.” What remains the same in both cases is the primacy of the collective over the individual, of homogeneity or community over individual autonomy, of belonging over freedom.
Thus Lévi-Strauss advances a new fetishism of cultural identity which sees in the individual nothing but a limb of his culture. So it is not surprising that the founder of the new Right, Alain de Benoist, invokes Lévi-Strauss early on. His bogeymen are individualism and globalism. And is it not this kind of thinking that internally binds the leftist multiculturalists (who want a peaceful co-existence of members of different cultures) and the new rightist ethno-pluralists (who dream of the disengaged coexistence of varied, ethnically pure peoples)?
Besides this kind of anti-racist racism, there is also an openly racist anti-racism. Finkielkraut cites the pioneer thinkers of anti-colonialism — Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon. Jean-Paul Sartre may be considered an exemplary, established representative of this direction in post-war France. He emerges from the chrysalis of an anti-fascist to become a passionate anti-colonialist, devoted to the liberation movements in the Third World. In the Third World, he sees the new Third Estate.
In his opinion, the use of force by the new proletariat against their colonial masters is not only permissible, but obligatory. With no trace of irony, Sartre writes: “Killing a European means killing two birds with one stone — simultaneously dispatching an oppressor and an object of oppression out of this world.”
The Left Has Destroyed Itself
(by Mark Lilla)
Sartre’s arguments against the background of his Marxist, dialectical Progressivism are openly racist. The plot is quickly explained: White men have oppressed the world in the name of a hypocritical humanism. Therefore, the anti-racism of the oppressed is legitimate and the only means to free humanity. In Sartre’s words of 1948: “The Negro is creating an anti-racist racism.”
Invoking Négritude is intended to unite the new proletariat which will be able, only after taking power, to realize a race-less society. Sartre’s fallacy is clear. Human progress does not follow Marxist dialectic. Ultimately, every classification of humanity by skin color, ethnicity and gender simply creates new conflicts by undermining universal equality.
And is that not the case today, when social groups define their singularity by visible characteristics? And isn’t this kind of aggressive racism what involuntarily connects followers of identity politics with nationalist identitarians?
Betrayal of the One Reason
The progressive discourse is in a cul-de-sac. There is no longer one Reason (rationality) but many, There is a Black Reason, a White Reason, a Masculine Reason and a Feminine Reason, a Heterosexual Reason and a Homosexual Reason, a Secular Reason and an Islamic Reason. It does not matter what someone says. What matters is who says it.
Progressives, self-described supporters of tolerance and openness, prove to be both obfuscators and trailblazers of a new inequality
It is no longer the argument that counts; it is the arguer. It has long been clear where this leads — to a new kind of fragmented society of tribes and classes, gaining strength in its passage through the filter bubbles of the social networks. Who knows, maybe a historian will describe today’s wealthy nations as diverse bodies that, with the best of intentions, voluntarily ghettoized themselves.
The Progressives, self-described supporters of tolerance and openness, prove to be both obfuscators and trailblazers of a new inequality. The fragmentation of Reason is their other heritage.
Immanuel Kant, the great Enlightener, calls reason “the last touchstone of truth.” To today’s ears, that may sound pathetic, but this pathos has what is needed. Reason means the ability to abstract from oneself, to transcend one’s own identity. It does not deny contradictions, but comprehends them with exactitude.
Human reason allows a sober view of the world, which others can share. That should enlighten the Progressives as well, even if they have to give up their feeling of superiority.
|1.||Yes, yes, I know — why did I say “him”? Well, the German word for human being — Mensch — is masculine, so I followed the German grammar. Possibly that is cultural appropriation as well as sexism. But I refuse to marshal all the many pronominal possibilities and choose from “zhir” and “zhur” or even “bleck, feck, geck and meck” (See Go With The Flow in an earlier post).|
|2.||A state of intellectual isolation.